George Soros To EU: Fight Populism, Regulate Social Media

Echoing a sentiment that was one of the defining points of his hour-long speech to the world’s financial and political elite at Davos, billionaire hedge funder (and supporter of far-left causes from Eastern Europe to the US) George Soros is taking his rhetoric a step further and calling for supranational governments to intervene and regulate Facebook, Google and other large social media websites.

Per Breitbart, Soros is demanding that the European Union regulate social media because voters’ minds are being controlled and “manipulated”.

Soros is claiming the reach of social media firms made them a “public menace” while arguing they had led people to vote against globalist causes, including electing President Trump (all his ramblings about “open societies” aside)…

“They deceive their users by manipulating their attention, targeting them to their own economic interests and (…) depending on their services (…)

The platforms are similar to gambling companies (…) and force people to renounce their freedom (…). …), to renounce what John Stuart Mill called the freedom of thought “

Soros – who recently became the subject of a “anti-Soros” bill in his native Hungary that seeks to limit the activities of groups that for which he’s provided funding – accusations about manipulation are blatantly hypocritical, as anybody familiar with his 30-year campaign to push open borders, multiculturalism and a generally globalist tenor of government would know.

Soros

Media websites and populist groups have been prolific on social media, using the platforms to bypass the mainstream media and broadcast their message – which Soros and his allies oppose – across world. Soros has a cozy relationship with the leaders of the European Union, meeting with them 11 times since the Brexit vote. Prime Minister Theresa May, in contrast, has had just three meetings during that period.  She has also mimicked Soros’ call for responsible regulation of social media, but with the aim of suppressing terrorist recruiters.

He then proceeded to cycle through a “greatest hits”-style mix of his favorite rhetoric: Europe is being overrun by the “mafia-state”-style leadership of Vladimir Putin, which President Trump would like to mimic, according to Breitbart.

Due to social media use, he claimed people are losing “freedom of mind”, adding: “This danger does not loom only in the future; it played an important role in the 2016 US presidential election.”

“President Donald Trump would like to establish his own mafia-style state,” he said, claiming the President was part of the same problem as North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un.

“In the US, regulators are not strong enough to stand up to the monopolies’ political influence. The EU is better positioned, because it doesn’t have any platform giants of its own,” he continued.

“The EU commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager is the champion of the European approach,” he added, praising the bureaucrat who recently visited Communist Cuba without condemning human rights abuses in the nation.

Mr. Soros, who has been convicted of insider trading, is also suspected of attempting to interfere in U.S. elections, and his name came up around 60 times in emails released by WikiLeaks relating to the recent presidential race.

As we noted previously, the question arises: is Vestager adequately controlled by the European Parliament?

Soros called in Davos a danger that American tech companies allegedly bring with it:

 “It could create an alliance between the authoritarian states and these big high-tech monopolies, in which the emerging control systems within the large corporations would be connected with the existing state regulatory agencies , This can lead to the emergence of a system of totalitarian control that even Aldous Huxley or George Orwell did not dream of. 

Circling back to his widely lauded speech at Davos (which is something of an annual tradition), Soros touched on many topics, but his barbs against Trump drew most of the headlines. The octogenarian billionaire declared that Trump would be a “temporary” phenomenon, and predicted that Democrats would win overwhelming victories in 2018 and 2020.

“I consider the Trump administration a danger to the world but I regard it as a purely temporary phenomenon that will disappear in 2020 or even sooner,” he said.

…He added that relations between the US and North Korea have deteriorated…a phenomenon he laid on Trump’s shoulders by arguing that the US is exacerbating the situation by “refusing to accept” that North Korea is a nuclear power…

“The United States is set on a course towards nuclear war by refusing to accept that North Korea has become a nuclear power. This creates a strong incentive for North Korea to develop its nuclear capacity with all possible speed, which in turn may induce the United States to use its nuclear superiority pre-emptively; in effect to start a nuclear war in order to prevent nuclear war.”

The speech lasted for an hour…

And even as he dedicated nearly $20 billion of his fortune to his “Open Society” foundations last year, Soros’ family office was busy investing in the fourth quarter after unwinding its modest Amazon stake, it added 2.47 million shares of Overstock or 9.9% of the outstanding stock worth $158MM, making him the third largest holder of the innovative online retailer. One wonders if Soros, aside from his political activities is becoming a believer in blockchain and bitcoin-supporting online vendors?

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The Worst Threat We Face Is Right Here At Home

Authored by Chris Martenson via PeakProsperity.com,

The Federal Reserve is ruining us…

Last week, volatility made a long-overdue return to the US and global equity markets.

It began with a 2-day back-to-back violent drop. Day 3 saw a big rebound, swiftly followed by two more days of gut-wrentching losses. And then finally, last Friday, the day saw massive swings both high and low, ending with a huge upside run.

During this period the S&P 500 lost more than 300 points.  Since then, though, the market has been steadily rising.

Is the danger past?  Are the markets safe once more?  

And if so, did the markets recover organically? Or were they rescued by The Plunge Protection Team (PPT)?

The answer matters.

If such intervention was rare we could almost justify it, if it took the form of simple, pre-arranged circuit breakers that shut the market down for a “cooling off” after they’ve moved too far, too fast. Indeed, these already exist, and are sufficient in our view.

But if such market interventions are routine, persistent, and generally depended on by the major market participants, then they’re highly destructive over the long term. 

Sadly, we live with the latter.

Insiders get stinking rich by front-running the scheme (check). Normal adjustments are prevented (check), allowing dangerous bubbles of extreme overvaluation to form (check), while fostering malinvestment (check).

Do this long enough and you end up with a deformed economy, an eroded social structure, and markets that no longer function as appropriate mechanisms for capital distribution and economic signaling. 

This is where we find ourselves today.

Modern-Day Soviet Crop Reports

In the former Soviet Union, the communist method of assuring economic progress was to set targets for production. Famous among them were the crop reports.

In these, year after year, the various regional oblast (province) authorities would declare having met or exceeded the crop targets, despite rarely ever truly doing so. 

These crop reports were so famously unreliable that the Kremlin leadership eventually took to obtaining their information from US satellite reconnaissance data rather than their own internal reporting from local Communist Party bosses.

Basing next year’s crop planting decisions on these reports often led to famines, and sometimes even mass starvation of entire regions.

Poor data = Bad decisions. 

The Soviet crop reports are now a famous example of an unreliable measure that led to disastrous consequences. Because of the false reporting, poor decisions were made. Eventually it became clear to even the Soviets that attempting to centrally micro-manage a major economy is an act of folly.   

Too much of this and too little of that were produced.  Cement, steel, and auto quotas harmed rather than helped for obvious reasons; poor information flows assured that production decisions were late or flawed or both. All this contributed dearly to the Soviet economy’s collapse.

The lessons here are instructive and simple:

  1. centralized management of complex systems doesn’t work, and
  2. bad data leads to bad outcomes

Today’s stock and bond markets are no different than the Soviet crop reports of old.  They mainly represent what a small committee of central planners believe are the right numbers to achieve very broad macro-economic goals. 

Enormous damage has already been done by the interventions and distortions resulting from the pursuit of the delusional aims of todays central planners (with the world’s central banking cartel being the most culpable).

But it’s poised to get a lot worse from here.

A Great Irony

The ironic parody of all the current US concern over the possibility of Russian meddling in US elections is that virtually nobody from either political party seems the slightest bit concerned that the US is actually recreating the very worst mistakes of the now-defunct Soviet empire. 

In point of fact, the Federal Reserve has done far more self-inflicted harm to long-term US interests than anything that Russia has been accused of, let alone been proven to have done. At this point, there’s no contest between the two. 

If the damage inflicted by the Federal Reserve had been done by a terrorist organization, it would for certain be public enemy #1.

Consider that, under the Greenspan/Bernanke/Yellen Federal Reserve, the following has occurred:

  • Pension plans, both public and private have been ruined.  Millions of future retirees and taxpayers will not have trillions of dollars they would and should otherwise have to support them in their later years.
  • Income inequality is at the highest its been in over 100 years
  • Wealth inequality is also at historical extremes
  • Student debt is now nearly $1.5 trillion, up ~ $1 trillion since 2007
  • More than a trillion dollars of interest payments on savings accounts has been forfeited  — denying funds to the next generation for use in business creation, household formation, and education.
  • Total debt in the US and globally is up massively since the 2008 Great Recession (itself a central banking accident), and now stands at more than $233 trillion worldwide.

These are among a few of the destructive results of the Federal Reserve’s decision to lower interest rates to 0% in order to reward the big banks, well connected private equity firms, and unrestrained government borrowing.

Of course, when you print money (as the Fed does) you cannot create wealth; you only transfer it from one party to another. 

Put another way, the Federal Reserve and its foreign partners (the BoJ, ECB, etc.) have been picking winners and losers.

Losers have been seniors dependent on a fixed income, Millennials and every generation following them, and savers, pensioners, and taxpayers. The winners have been the banks, the ultra-rich, entrenched political parties, rentiers, and baby boomers with sizable financial portfolios.

Here’s just one example of the kind of devastation the Fed’s deeply unfair actions have wrought. A simple Google search on “pension” brings up the following spate of alarming headlines:

The catastrophic losses that will result from these massive pension shortfalls is nothing less than an act of domestic terrorism by the Federal Reserve. They will haunt the US for generations.

There should be serious consequences for destroying the futures of tens of millions of retirees, on purpose –and knowingly — simply so big banks could not just enjoy fat profits, but record fat profits, for nearly ten years in a row:

Put more bluntly: approximately 90% of US citizens have been financially and economically tossed under the bus simply so that the already-rich could get a little richer. If that’s not a form of terrorism, I don’t know what is.

This chart shows the future burden amassed under the last three Federal Reserve Chairmanships:

None of that could have happened under responsible banking practices. Instead, such excess was enabled and encouraged by an activist Federal Reserve that loosened and loosened some more whenever reality began to exert itself. 

They did this to reward themselves and their colleagues and banking associates.  It has been a series of self-dealings and unchecked conflicts of interest.

My point here? None of this was done by accident. It has been deliberate and done with full intent to create exactly the conditions in which we find ourselves.

Sure, we could go ahead and obsess over the claim that somehow an insignificant $100k worth of Facebook ads purchased by Russia are somehow responsible for our current misery and overall state of domestic neglect. But we’d be focusing on entirely the wrong parties.

The worst threats we face are right here at home.

Conclusion

As bad as the damage done so far has been, the real pain has not yet begun.

The entire command-and-control system of the US and other western economies and markets has resulted in several decades of increasingly poor decision making and mal-investment. 

When it comes to repaying the current global debt levels of ~310 % of GDP, we can confidently predict that such a debt load can never be repaid. They can only try to roll it over as long as they can — which can’t go on much longer without real consequence. Mounting losses are certain at this point.

When it comes to underfunded promises and entitlement programs, such as pensions and social security (clocking in at nearly 800% of GDP!), there’s really only one all-important question that matter at this point: Who’s going to eat the losses?

In Part 2: It’s Even Worse Than You Think, we reveal the much further extent of the racket being run against the public by the world central banking cartel, and how it’s efforts to continue this racket have sentenced us all to another massive financial/economic crisis — one that is both now inevitable, necessary, and overdue.

By preventing that which should happen, the central banks have set the stage for an enormously dangerous and disruptive market crash.  The kind that forces markets to close for days and weeks on end.  The kind that leads to major banking crises punctuated by ‘holidays’ where depositors can not access their money.  The kind where disorder and social unrest becomes a real risk.

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

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“There Is An Acute Crisis Coming”: Apartment Developer

On Friday, the housing market received a strong bullish jolt from the latest starts and permits data, which however showed that while traditional single-family units barely budged, there was another sharp spike higher in multi-family, i.e. rental unit construction.

And, in light of prevailing asking rent prices, this rise in multi-family supply is a welcome development: with most Americans (and certainly Millennials) unable to afford traditional housing, demand for rental housing is off the charts, pushing average asking rents to all time high with supply sure to follow, which in turn will eventually push prices back down again. 

All that is Econ 101. There is just one problem: developers are putting up the wrong kinds of buildings, focusing almost entirely on the luxury segment. However, as discussed here recently,  the luxury market is by now largely overbuilt, while the shortage of affordable rental housing is growing, as developers remain hamstrung by the now record-high cost of construction.

Here are the facts: in 2017, apartment completions in the 150 largest U.S. cities jumped to 395,775 units, higher than 2016 production by a staggering 46% and more than doubling the long-term average, according to RealPage. However, instead of focusing on the mid-range, luxury, upscale buildings accounted for between 75 and 80% of the new supply in the current cycle.

Why is the sub-luxury segment being ignored? Simple: the need to maintain high margins amid rising input costs:

“It’s really tough to deliver product at those lower price points. The cost of land, the cost of building materials, the cost of labor. It’s really about the same regardless of what product you’re doing and it’s just tough to make a deal work financially if you’re going toward that middle-market price,” Greg Willett, chief economist at RealPage, told CNBC.

To be sure, demand for luxury apartments remains strong, but that “is by choice, not necessity.” Tenants in luxury buildings are often renting a second or third home or perhaps downsizing from a larger suburban home. They are not struggling to afford the monthly payments. It’s everyone else that is in trouble, in this polarized world of two extremes.

The outcome? An “acute crisis” is headed our way as a result, according to the head of one of the biggest regional developers.

“In our portfolio, which represents 70,000 units mostly in the luxury space, we’re seeing that our renters are spending a relatively low amount of their income on rent despite rents being perceptively high,” said Toby Bozzuto, president and CEO of The Bozzuto Group, a multifamily management and development company operating in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. “That being said, it is a tale of two cities. In the middle income and the lower income markets, people are spending proportionally more on their rent — so much so I believe there’s an acute crisis headed our way.”

How much are they spending on rent?

Well, despite the so-called recovery and rising incomes (although as we showed last week, real incomes adjusted for inflation are once again falling), nearly half (47%) of all renter households (21 million) pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing, including 11 million households paying more than 50 percent of their income for housing, according to a late 2017 report from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies…

… which also found that soaring rental costs have rapidly eroded overall disposable income for the US middle class.

“While the market has responded to rental housing needs for higher-income households, there are alarming trends that suggest a growing inability to supply housing that is affordable for middle- and working-class renters, let alone those with very low incomes,” said Christopher Herbert, the center’s managing director.

Meanwhile, as the sub-luxury segment is facing an imminent crisis, the luxury segment is about to crack as rents on the high end flattened in the last year, and landlords are starting to offer concessions, like high-end amenity packages or a month’s free rent.

“We’re getting a pretty competitive leasing environment in select locations at those really high-end price points, and we’ve already gotten to flat to slightly declining rents,” said Willett.

To be sure, none of this is happening outside the luxury market, where rent increases are still strong due to low supply. Developers say they simply can’t afford to add anything but luxury.

“The two-by-four doesn’t care whether it’s in a luxury building or in an affordable building. It costs the same,” said Bozzuto. “The differential of course, is the rent and there’s a huge disparity in high-end rent versus low-end rent. So the issue is for us to develop an economically viable, feasible project, it has to be, by its very nature, high end. The rents have to be high to support the cost.”

And for those who have troubling finding input cost inflation, here is where it’s hiding: the cost of that two-by-four, lumber, is now at a record high. Other products like steel and concrete are more expensive, but the real cost spikes are in land and labor. Skilled construction labor is not only expensive, it is extremely difficult to find.

The biggest problem, for developers, is passing on these soaring input costs to renters, something which is virtually impossible when nearly half have zero incremental capacity to absorb even higher rents.

That’s why developers are battening the hatches in anticipation of an inevitable pricing crisis that will sweep the entire rental industry.

“Those are finite and many, many of us are competing for those very finite resources,” said Bozzuto, adding that the luxury market is, “on the precipice of oversupply, but I think macroeconomic conditions are actually going to keep us this year from developing much further. Costs in particular, land costs, hard costs mostly driven by labor, will ultimately make it harder to build new buildings.”

Investors, according to Bozzuto, are now moving away from new construction and instead rehabbing older rental stock. These so-called value-add projects just raise the rents on current tenants even more.

Meanwhile, the Fed is unable to find inflation anywhere it looks or, as Janet Yellen recently said, it “remains a mystery.”

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India seeks stake in Iranian oilfield, to raise oil imports

New Delhi, Feb 17 (PTI) India today sought from Iran a stake in a producing oil field and said it will raise crude oil import from Iran in the financial year … Visiting Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, after talks with his Indian counterpart Dharmendra Pradhan, said he was "optimistic" about …

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US Missile Defense Agency Wants Laser-Drones & Hypersonic-Weapons In Biggest-Ever Budget Boost

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has requested the largest-ever budget increase of $9.9 billion in funding for the 2019 fiscal year, citing growing intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) threats from North Korea and ballistic missile threats from Iran.

In fact, the request for the 2019 fiscal year is the single most significant request from the Agency since 1985, when President Reagan first established the Strategic Defense Initiative.

MDA fully supports President Trump’s National Defense Strategy of increased deficit spending, which allows the nation to: “Compete, Deter, and Win,” in the next world war.

The agency also wants to spend $269 million on laser drones to shoot North Korean ICBMs out of the sky, along with upgrading the nation’s defense systems against hypersonic threats.

The increase in MDA funding will allow the continued developments and deployments of integrated, layered missile defense systems to combat against missiles threats on the homeland.

MDA highlights their ten easy steps to intercepting a missile headed for the continental United States:

An ICBM can travel at extremely high speeds—at times more than 15,000 mph, or almost 20 times the speed of sound. Kinetic energy interceptors can travel fast enough to create closing speeds exceeding 25,000 mph. The speeds, trajectories, and points of launch that must be considered always change. In missile defense, everything is about precision. The BMDS must not only work in terms of milliseconds, but the missiles and warheads the system is targeting have bull’s-eyes measured in centimeters.

“Recent escalation of the threat from North Korea has demonstrated an advanced and accelerated capability,” the Agency’s Budget Estimates report notes. “North Korea is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States.”

“Iran is fielding increased numbers of theater ballistic missiles, improving its existing inventory, and is developing technical capabilities to produce an ICBM, and this effort is benefiting from its ballistic missile and space launch vehicle programs,” the Agency’s report wrote. Iran’s ballistic missile program has not tested any missile capable of striking intercontinental ranges, but its rockets can strike as far as southeastern Europe which is concerning to NATO forces.

To combat the threats of North Korea and Iran, the MDA states the United States must continue developing new defense capabilities to tackle the future of risks. That means increasing investments in advanced technologies that bring upgraded capacities to the warfighter.

  • Technology Maturation Initiatives (PE 0604115C):  MDA requests $148.8 million to build on the foundational successes in Weapons Technology and Discrimination Sensor Technology. MDA will integrate an advanced sensor into the tactically proven Multispectral Targeting System and MQ-9 combination to address precision track and discrimination performance of this technology with the goal of eventually migrating to a space sensor layer. MDA’s plan is to continue the design to begin fabrication of a UAV-borne laser to address boost phase missile defense risks. Scalable, efficient, and compact high-energy lasers can be game –changing capabilities within missile defense architectures.

  • Hypersonic Defense (PE 0604181C): MDA is requesting $120.4 million in FY 2019. MDA will execute a rigorous systems engineering process, identify and mature full kill chain technology, provide analysis and assessment of target of opportunity events, and execute near term sensor and command and control capability upgrades to address defense from hypersonic threats. This effort will execute the Defense Science Board’s recommendations to develop and deliver a set of material solutions to address and defeat hypersonic threats informed by a set of near-term technology demonstrations. An integrated set of enhancements will provide incremental capability measured by progress and knowledge points in the following areas: establishment of systems engineering needs and requirements to identify alternative material solutions; execution of a series of sensor technology

The Hill outlines where the MDA plans on spending the remainder of its budget on modernizing the nuclear arsenal and missile defense systems across the United States.

That would buy 43 Aegis interceptors for $1.7 billion, four Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptors and 10 silos for $2.1 billion, 82 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptors for $1.1 billion and 240 Patriot Advanced Capability Missile Segment Enhancement interceptors for $1.1 billion.

The Pentagon also says the budget would allow it to develop an additional missile field in Alaska for the GMD and puts it on track to have a total of 64 deployed and operational GMD interceptors by 2023, 20 more than it has now.

The GMD is the system in Alaska and California that would defend against a long-range missile attack such as from North Korea. The system’s most recent test last year was successful, though critics have said it is too costly and has a spotty testing record.

And lastly, we will leave you with David Stockman, the former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, who warned that the out of control spending at the United States military will contribute to the coming economic problems in America.

The fact that the US military is “conducting seven wars that we don’t need to have,” said Stockman, is why there are the troubles with the military readiness that warmongering politicians are using to justify further war spending increases.

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Is John Brennan The Mastermind Behind Russiagate?

Authored by Mike Whitney via Unz.com,

The report (“The Dossier”) that claims that Donald Trump colluded with Russia, was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign.

The company that claims that Russia hacked DNC computer servers, was paid by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign.

The FBI’s counterintelligence probe into Trump’s alleged connections to Russia was launched on the basis of information gathered from a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign.

The surveillance of a Trump campaign member (Carter Page) was approved by a FISA court on the basis of information from a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign.

The Intelligence Community Analysis or ICA was (largely or partially) based on information from a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign. (more on this below)

The information that was leaked to the media alleging Russia hacking or collusion can be traced back to claims that were made in a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign.

The entire Russia-gate investigation rests on the “unverified and salacious” information from a dossier that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton Campaign. Here’s how Stephen Cohen sums it up in a recent article at The Nation:

“Steele’s dossier… was the foundational document of the Russiagate narrative…from the time its installments began to be leaked to the American media in the summer of 2016, to the US “Intelligence Community Assessment” of January 2017….the dossier and subsequent ICA report remain the underlying sources for proponents of the Russiagate narrative of “Trump-Putin collision.” (“Russia gate or Intel-gate?”, The Nation)

There’s just one problem with Cohen’s statement, we don’t really know the extent to which the dossier was used in the creation of the Intelligence Community Assessment. (The ICA was the IC’s flagship analysis that was supposed to provide ironclad proof of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.) According to some reports, the contribution was significant. Check out this excerpt from an article at Business Insider:

“Intelligence officials purposefully omitted the dossier from the public intelligence report they released in January about Russia’s election interference because they didn’t want to reveal which details they had corroborated, according to CNN.” (“Mueller reportedly interviewed the author of the Trump-Russia dossier — here’s what it alleges, and how it aligned with reality”, Business Insider)

Bottom line: Despite the denials of former-CIA Director John Brennan, the dossier may have been used in the ICA.

In the last two weeks, documents have been released that have exposed the weak underpinnings of the Russia investigation while at the same time revealing serious abuses by senior-level officials at the DOJ and FBI. The so called Nunes memo was the first to point out these abuses, but it was the 8-page “criminal referral” authored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham that gave credence to the claims. Here’s a blurb from the document:

“It appears the FBI relied on admittedly uncorroborated information, funded by and obtained for Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign, in order to conduct surveillance of an associate of the opposing presidential candidate. It did so based on Mr. Steele’s personal credibility and presumably having faith in his process of obtaining the information. But there is substantial evidence suggesting that Mr. Steele materially misled the FBI about a key aspect of his dossier efforts, one which bears on his credibility.”

There it is. The FBI made a “concerted effort to conceal information from the court” in order to get a warrant to spy on a member of a rival political campaign. So –at the very least– there was an effort, on the part of the FBI and high-ranking officials at the Department of Justice, to improperly spy on members of the Trump team. And there’s more. The FBI failed to mention that the dossier was paid for by the Hillary campaign and the DNC, or that the dossier’s author Christopher Steele had seeded articles in the media that were being used to support the dossier’s credibility (before the FISA court), or that, according to the FBI’s own analysts, the dossier was “only minimally corroborated”, or that Steele was a ferocious partisan who harbored a strong animus towards Trump. All of these were omitted in the FISA application which is why the FBI was able to deceive the judge. It’s worth noting that intentionally deceiving a federal judge is a felony.

Most disturbing is the fact that Steele reportedly received information from friends of Hillary Clinton. (supposedly, Sidney Blumenthal and others) Here’s one suggestive tidbit that appeared in the Graham-Grassley” referral:

“…Mr. Steele’s memorandum states that his company “received this report from REDACTED US State Department,” that the report was the second in a series, and that the report was information that came from a foreign sub-source who “is in touch with REDACTED, a contact of REDACTED, a friend of the Clintons, who passed it to REDACTED.”

It is troubling enough that the Clinton campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility.” (Lifted from The Federalist)

What are we to make of this? Was Steele shaping the dossier’s narrative to the specifications of his employers? Was he being coached by members of the Hillary team? How did that impact the contents of the dossier and the subsequent Russia investigation?

These are just a few of the questions Steele will undoubtedly be asked if he ever faces prosecution for lying to the FBI. But, so far, we know very little about man except that he was a former M16 agent who was paid $160,000 for composing the dubious set of reports that make up the dossier. We don’t even know if Steele’s alleged contacts or intermediaries in Russia actually exist or not. Some analysts think the whole thing is a fabrication based on the fact that he hasn’t worked the Russia-scene since the FSB (The Russian state-security organization that replaced the KGB) was completely overhauled. Besides, it would be extremely dangerous for a Russian to provide an M16 agent with sensitive intelligence. And what would the contact get in return? According to most accounts, Steele’s sources weren’t even paid, so there was little incentive for them to put themselves at risk? All of this casts more doubt on the contents of the dossier.

What is known about Steele is that he has a very active imagination and knows how to command a six-figure payoff for his unique services. We also know that the FBI continued to use him long after they knew he couldn’t be trusted which suggests that he served some other purpose, like providing the agency with plausible deniability, a ‘get out of jail free’ card if they ever got caught surveilling US citizens without probable cause.

But that brings us to the strange case of Carter Page, a bit-player whose role in the Trump campaign was trivial at best. Page was what most people would call a “small fish”, an insignificant foreign policy advisor who had minimal impact on the campaign. Congressional investigators, like Nunes, must be wondering why the FBI and DOJ devoted so much attention to someone like Page instead of going after the “big fish” like Bannon, Flynn, Kushner, Ivanka and Trump Jr., all of whom might have been able to provide damaging information on the real target, Donald Trump. Wasn’t that the idea? So why waste time on Page? It doesn’t make any sense, unless, of course, the others were already being surveilled by other agencies? Is that it, did the NSA and the CIA have a hand in the surveillance too?

It’s a moot point, isn’t it? Because now that there’s evidence that senior-level officials at the DOJ and the FBI were involved in improperly obtaining warrants to spy on members of the opposite party, the investigation is going to go wherever it goes. Whatever restrictions existed before, will now be lifted. For example, this popped up in Saturday’s The Hill:

“House Intelligence Committee lawmakers are in the dark about an investigation into wrongdoing at the State Department announced by Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Friday. …Nunes told Fox News on Friday that, “we are in the middle of what I call phase two of our investigation. That investigation is ongoing and we continue work toward finding answers and asking the right questions to try to get to the bottom of what exactly the State Department was up to in terms of this Russia investigation.”…

Since then, GOP lawmakers have been quietly buzzing about allegations that an Obama-era State Department official passed along information from allies of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that may have been used by the FBI to launch an investigation into whether the Trump campaign had improper contacts with Russia.

“I’m pretty troubled by what I read in the documents with respect to the role the State Department played in the fall of 2016, including information that was used in a court proceeding. I am troubled by it,” Gowdy told Fox News on Tuesday.” (“Lawmakers in dark about ‘phase two’ of Nunes investigation”, The Hill)

So the State Department is next in line followed by the NSA and, finally, the Russia-gate point of origin, John Brennan’s CIA. Here’s more background on that from Stephen Cohen’s illuminating article at The Nation:

“….when, and by whom, was this Intel operation against Trump started?

In testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in May 2017, John Brennan, formerly Obama’s head of the CIA, strongly suggested that he and his agency were the first, as The Washington Post put it at the time, “in triggering an FBI probe.” Certainly both the Post and The New York Times interpreted his remarks in this way. Equally certain, Brennan played a central role in promoting the Russiagate narrative thereafter, briefing members of Congress privately and giving President Obama himself a top-secret envelope in early August 2016 that almost certainly contained Steele’s dossier. Early on, Brennan presumably would have shared his “suspicions” and initiatives with James Clapper, director of national intelligence. FBI Director Comey… may have joined them actively somewhat later….

When did Brennan begin his “investigation” of Trump? His House testimony leaves this somewhat unclear, but, according to a subsequent Guardian article, by late 2015 or early 2016 he was receiving, or soliciting, reports from foreign intelligence agencies regarding “suspicious ‘interactions’ between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents.”

In short, if these reports and Brennan’s own testimony are to be believed, he, not the FBI, was the instigator and godfather of Russiagate.” (“Russiagate or Intelgate?”, Stephen Cohen, The Nation)

Regular readers of this column know that we have always believed that the Russiagate psyops originated with Brennan. Just as the CIA launched its disinformation campaigns against Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadhafi, so too, Russia has emerged as Washington’s foremost rival requiring a massive propaganda campaign to persuade the public that America faces a serious external threat. In any event, the demonizing of Russia had already begun by the time Hillary and Co. decided to hop on the bandwagon by blaming Moscow for hacking John Podesta’s emails. The allegations were never persuasive, but they did provide Brennan with some cover for the massive Information Operation (IO) that began with him.

According to the Washington Times:

“It was then-CIA Director John O. Brennan, a close confidant of Mr. Obama’s, who provided the information — what he termed the “basis” — for the FBI to start the counterintelligence investigation last summer….Mr. Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee on May 23 that the intelligence community was picking up tidbits on Trump associates making contacts with Russians.”

It all started with Brennan. After Putin blocked Brennan’s operations in both Ukraine and Syria, Brennan had every reason to retaliate and to use the tools at his disposal to demonize Putin and try to isolate Russia. The “election meddling” charges (promoted by the Hillary people) fit perfectly with Brennan’s overall strategy to manipulate perceptions and prepare the country for an eventual confrontation. It provided him the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, to deliver a withering blow to Putin and Trump at the very same time. The temptation must have been irresistible.

But now the plan has backfired and the investigations are gaining pace. Trump’s allies in the House smell the blood in the water and they want answers. Did the CIA surveil members of the Trump campaign on the basis of information they gathered in the dossier? Who saw the information? Was the information passed along to members of the press and other government agencies? Was the White House involved? What role did Obama play? What about the Intelligence Community Assessment? Was it based on the contents of the Steele report? Will the “hand-picked” analysts who worked on the report vouch for its conclusions in or were they coached about what to write? How did Brennan persuade the reluctant Comey into opening a counterintelligence investigation on members in the Trump campaign when he knew it would be perceived as a partisan attempt to sabotage the elections by giving Hillary an edge?

Soon the investigative crosshairs will settle on Brennan. He’d better have the right answers.

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Crude oil finds buyers following upbeat US inflation, WTI sees 61.00

Crude oil is staging a comeback following positive inflation figures from the US yesterday, with WTI lifting to 61.35/barrel from a low of 58.05 just four days ago. WTI Crude has slumped recently, falling from a January peak of 66.60, but commodities firmed up following better-than-expected US CPI data, …

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The World’s Largest Migration Is About To Begin

This Friday, China is going to celebrate its new year, kicking off one of the planet’s great migrations.

Also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, Statista’s Niall McCarthy notes that this the event sees hundreds of millions of people leave their cities in order to visit their families in more rural parts of the country. In fact, practically all of China takes holiday at once, making the new year the biggest human event on earth.

Infographic: The World's Largest Migration Is About To Begin | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

This year, the number traveling to welcome the Year of the Dog will be approximately 385 million, marking a 12 percent increase on 2017 according to China News. 

Comparing China’s largest annual migration with North America’s is a good way to gauge its sheer size.

Thanksgiving 2017 saw 50.9 million travelers negotiate long tailbacks on the interstate and overcrowded airports. Even though Thanksgiving is a major travel event, China’s new year is still seven times bigger, with its massive population making a big difference of course.

Known as “chunyun”, the annual new year migration in China also easily surpasses the world’s biggest pilgrimages in scale with Arba’een and the Hajj not even coming close.

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Williams: “It’s The Long-Term Insolvency Of The US Government That Markets Don’t Like”

Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

Economist John Williams sat down with USA Watchdog‘s Greg Hunter to discuss the dire state of the dollar and United States economy.  The monetary path the US is on is out of control, and the unwillingness of government officials to reduce the deficit and stop spending money will cause major problems in the very near future.

Years of socialist policies and reckless spending will eventually end in a complete collapse. Williams is not the only economist to sound the alarm either. As the tax cuts are always positive (people keeping more of their money is always good for the economy) the unwillingness to decrease the size and scope of the government with an expanded deficit will be the downfall of a once great nation.

The interview with Williams begins with him declaring the drop in the stock market to be the fault of the federal reserve. “Did the Fed trigger this most recent round of selling?” asks Hunter.

“It looks like it. If you recall, the story was, bond yields are rising. Rising bond yields means someone’s selling bonds. The Fed wasn’t actually selling bonds, they just were not rolling over the bonds that they normally would…I think you’re gonna see the dollar selling off very rapidly and gold rallying as a flight to safe haven.”

Then the discussion of the tax cuts comes up, as Hunter asks Williams to deliver his take on the lower taxes.

The tax cuts are generally positive. Anytime you cut taxes that is generally a plus for the economy. The problem is the average guy is still not making ends meet. Anything that increases the disposable income is a plus. This does not necessarily go to the guys at the lower end of the income scale, at the moment, but generally there should be a little economic pick up here from it. The problem is what happens to the budget deficit. We just went through a round of the government shutdown and a package that supposedly lays things out for the next two years, but it widens the deficit.

The deficit is beyond control…We have $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. That means you need $100 trillion in hand right now to cover the federal obligations going forward…

Printing money to meet obligations is what happened in the Weimar Republic in Germany. This happened in Zimbabwe. This kind of thing eventually gives you a hyperinflation. . . . Ongoing budget deficit and debasing of the dollar will give you global selling pressures in the currency markets. . . . We haven’t seen much selling in the dollar, but that is going to change. You are going to see flight from the dollar and flight from the markets as well.”

Hunter then said that the government must make massive and deep cuts to salvage the economy, but no one in Washington wants to make the difficult decision.

“It’s the long-term insolvency of the US government that the markets don’t like.”

Then Hunter asked if Williams thinks there’s a “pretty severe hit” to the economy coming because of the expanding deficit, which will expand the national debt by $10 trillion. Because there are no plans to cut the deficit, Williams simply responds, “right.”

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Killer Millennials: The Era Of Destruction Has Started

According to Neil Howe, the Fourth Turning is a crisis and it’s happening right now.

The United States is in an era of great destruction, as the old institutional way of life created by past generations is being systematically destroyed by the incoming generation i.e. the millennials. This transitional period is cyclical and has happened before – most recently during the Great Crash of 1929. Creative destruction is essential for the nation’s survival, as the millennials are rewriting America’s next journey – much different than before.

Already, the preferences of millennials’ are killing dozens of industries such as department stores, diamonds, food chains, and real estate. Life decisions such as marriage and a starter home are being delayed or totally abandoned. Millennials are swamped with student- and other forms of toxic-debt in a period of wage stagnation that makes their financial mobility limited.

They will be the first generation not to achieve the American Dream, along with a lower standard of living than their parents.

Given the backdrop of America’s transition induced by millennials in a fiat system that is considered late-stage. Cracked provides a 3-minute breakdown of why millennials are killing industries.

The video focuses on the diamond industry and provides various motives of why millennials aren’t buying the precious stone.

In particular, the video makes the point millennials are heavily in-debt and cannot afford marriage, thus breaking the long lasting cycle of tying the knot, which usually involves buying a diamond ring. Not anymore, millennials are broke.. And there goes the diamond scarcity that was produced by prior generations who could afford to get married.

Soon the American Dream will have to be redefined in accordance with the millennials.

Spoiler alert: there will be no family, goldendoodle, and or white picket fence in the new normal Millennial American Dream. It will be the attempt to go debt-free.

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