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Updated: 4 hours 46 min ago

Oil Surges As Washington Prepares To End Iranian Crude-Export Waivers

4 hours 51 min ago

Expectations that the Trump administration would extend export waivers on Iranian oil have been dashed after the Washington Post reported late Sunday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was preparing to announce on Monday that the US would move to end the exemptions early next month, when the initial 180-day waivers offered to eight countries are set to expire. The news sent oil prices surging in early Easter Monday trade.

Unsurprisingly, crude futures for May delivery climbed as much as 74 cents to $64.74/bbl in New York on the news the US would end the practice of allowing certain countries to import Iranian oil without facing sanctions.

On Monday morning, Pompeo plans to announce that as of May 2, the State Department will no longer grant sanctions waivers to any country importing Iranian crude or condensate, WaPo said.

The decision to end the waivers will impact recipients in different ways: Three of the eight countries that were granted the 180-day waivers back in November - Greece, Italy and Taiwan - have already reduced their Iranian oil imports to zero.

The other countries that will need to cut off imports or face serious repercussions include China, India, Turkey, Japan and South Korea. As of now, China and India are the largest importers of Iranian oil, and if they don't swiftly act to cut down on their imports, bilateral relations with the US could suffer.

"China has consistently opposed the US implementation of unilateral sanctions and reaching beyond its jurisdiction," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday at his regular briefing in Beijing.

South Korea and Japan aren't as dependent on Iranian oil and have already been working to pare back their imports. Meanwhile, a Turkish official has said Ankara expects another waiver. But it's looking like it won't get one.

America's decision to reimpose sanctions have had the desired effect: Iranian oil exports were measured at about 1 million barrels a day in March, down from 2.5 million barrels per day in April of last year, the month before Trump revealed that the US would withdraw from the nuclear deal. The sanctions have cut the supply of oil to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and also contributed to Hezbollah's recent funding shortages, experts said

However, threats against adversaries and allies are not without risk: European allies have been working with Tehran to circumvent sanctions as part of their efforts to save the deal, something that has led to an alternative payments network to US-dominated SWIFT that some fear could accelerate de-dollarization in the oil trade.

At least for now, the US still has enough clout in international energy markets to force compliance. In response to the reports, Saudi Arabia said they would be 'open' to ramping up production to compensate for the shortfall - in accordance with President Trump's demands that OPEC do more to curb rising oil prices.

And although US crude is too light to serve as a suitable substitute for Iranian oil, the fact that the US has now established itself as the world's largest crude oil producer is something to keep in mind.

The New Worldwide Political Trend: Reparations

5 hours 46 min ago

Authored by Laura Valkovic via Liberty Nation,

European parliament approves African reparations resolution, ignores ongoing injustice at its own hands...

The major emotion driving the direction of politics today must be guilt. As moral codes have changed over the centuries, many have come to view Europe’s colonial past as a terrible mistake, and shame over now-reviled practices seems to motivate the worldview of millions of people across the West. In 2019, the topic of reparations for slavery has been propelled back into the mainstream discussion; several Democrat 2020 presidential contenders have indicated support for the idea, and students at Georgetown University recently voted to contribute every semester to a fund for the descendents of slaves sold by the institution in the 1800s.

The policy appears to be gaining traction across the Atlantic too, and the European Union parliament has passed a resolution that promotes equality for people of African descent facing “structural racism” in Europe, while hinting at future reparations. But for all this posturing, is the E.U. a force for good in today’s Africa? Or, like so many proposals today, does it just make politicians feel good about themselves and their immediate surroundings, while ignoring the ongoing suffering their policies continue to cause only a short distance away?

Reparations For Colonial Europe

The resolution, though non-binding, “calls on the Member States and the EU institutions to recognise that people of African descent are subjected to racism, discrimination and xenophobia in particular, and to the unequal enjoyment of human and fundamental rights in general, amounting to structural racism.” It provides a historical framework based on the colonial empire-building and “encourages the EU institutions and the Member States to officially acknowledge and mark the histories of people of African descent in Europe, including of past and ongoing injustices and crimes against humanity, such as slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, or those committed under European colonialism.”

It posits that the atrocities committed during this period of history “remain largely unrecognised and unaccounted for at an institutional level in the Member States” and that current-day cultures continue to perpetuate Afrophobic ideas. In addition to various suggested solutions that aim to promote racial equality, the document “calls on the Member States to declassify their colonial archives” and proposes that making amends “may include some form of reparations such as offering public apologies and the restitution of stolen artefacts to their countries of origin.”

Although a pity for European museum-goers, repatriation of historical artifacts is a reasonable and oft-suggested form of “reparations,” but why limit this to Africa? The European empires spread far beyond Africa to the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific, yet these regions are not mentioned.

The man behind the resolution is British Member of European Parliament (MEP) Claude Moraes, who claims he was inspired by the experiences of MEP Cécile Kyenge, who says she experienced racist abuse upon her appointment as Italy’s first black minister. But while the majority of MEPs supported this resolution, they seem to have a few objections to the E.U.’s economic policies, which continue to drive current-day Africans into poverty. What is the point of reparations for past wrongs, if exploitation continues to this very day?

EU Crushes African Farmers

In 2017, Ghanaian and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan seemed to imply that E.U. agricultural subsidies were unfair and that African farmers were struggling to compete. “Here I am in Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, which provides more subsidies to its farmers than any other region, except perhaps America,” he said. “And I come from a continent where these poor farmers with limited resources are trying to compete.” It is certainly within the E.U.’s rights to subsidize its own farmers, but why pretend that African wellbeing is of any concern?

Sam Akaki, Director at the Democratic Institutions for Poverty Reduction in Africa, called the E.U. an “ongoing disaster for Africa” due to trade practices that force African farmers to sell their crops at a loss, or which drive them out of the market and make it “impossible for Africa to trade itself out of poverty.”  He wrote in The Guardian: “Despite their rhetoric about supporting Africa, no other continental bloc administers a more comprehensive trade protection against Africa than the European Union.”

The BBC reports that the E.U. gives poor African nations breaks on tariffs, but those goods that remain subject to tariffs are usually farm produce. However, according to advocates for African agriculture, the reality is that large, government-run industries get all the benefits of E.U. free trade while the real workers and small business owners receive none. The tariff rate is also seasonal in some cases. For example, when oranges produced in Europe are in season, the tariff rate raises for African oranges, so that during the high time for producing oranges (which is the same in both continents), African growers lose the most.

Protectionist tariffs are imposed mostly on raw produce and materials and not on processed goods, meaning that multi-national organizations with bases in Africa can sell their finished products cheaply into the European Union. “Germany made more money from coffee exports in 2014 than all African nations combined despite the fact it did not grow a single bean. That is because eurocrats slap high tariffs on 7.5 to 9 per cent on roasted coffee beans but allow growers to export raw ones for free, propping up Berlin’s highly processing industry,” reported The Express newspaper.

One pro-Brexit researcher claims these “unscrupulous” trade practices are “stunting the development of poorer countries,” with European companies capitalizing on unfair deals. Joseph Hackett, research executive at Get Britain Out, accused the bloc of hiding behind a veneer of virtue and charity. “The truth is much uglier,” he told The Express.

“Eurosceptics have long known of the EU’s practice of dumping subsidized agricultural products on developing countries, especially Africa. Small wonder hundreds of thousands of Africans are embarking on long and often dangerous journeys every year in an attempt to make it to Europe. All the while, the EU salves its conscience with foreign aid spending, attempting to fool the world into thinking it genuinely cares about the growth of poorer countries.”

European nations have also been accused of illegally plundering African fishing waters. According to a 2017 report by Oceana, an environmental group that seeks to protect and restore the world’s oceans, Mediterranean nations had unlawfully authorized their own vessels to fish in West African waters for over 30,000 hours, under private agreements, putting local fishing industries at risk. In addition to environmental devastation, a report by Frontiers in Marine Science indicates that the area loses over $2 billion per year in illegal fishing by European, Asian, and other African boats.

All Show, No Substance

The elite of Europe may indeed feel remorse over slavery and the other wrongdoings committed by their ancestors, and they may even be right that the echoing legacy of those crimes can still be felt today. But it is easy to pay lip-service to African equality in Europe, but difficult to give up the economic benefits of today’s exploitation.

Guilt is not a constructive emotion on a personal level – it prevents us from letting go of the past and moving on with life. Could this be true on a societal level, too? The phenomena of virtue-signaling – fooling ourselves and others into thinking we are making a positive difference with ostentatious displays of do-gooding – is a common way of temporarily allaying this social guilt without requiring the sacrifice or work of genuinely creating change in the world. Thus, we remain stuck in a downward-spiral of self-loathing, while simultaneously failing to correct the ongoing injustices we see around us.

NYT: The Tables Have Turned -- Time To Investigate The FBI, Steele And The Rest Of The 'Witch Hunters'

6 hours 26 min ago

As we now shift from the "witch hunt" against Trump to 'investigating the investigators' who spied on him - remember this; Donald Trump was supposed to lose the 2016 election by almost all accounts. And had Hillary won, as expected, none of this would have seen the light of day

We wouldn't know that a hyper-partisan FBI had spied on the Trump campaign, as Attorney General William Barr put it during his April 10 Congressional testimony

We wouldn't know that a Clinton-linked operative, Joseph Mifsud, seeded Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos with the rumor that Russia had 'Dirt' on Hillary Clinton - which would later be coaxed out of Papadopoulos by a Clinton-linked Australian ambassador, Alexander Downer, and that this apparent 'setup' would be the genesis of the FBI's "operation crossfire hurricane" operation against the Trump campaign. 

We wouldn't know about the role of Fusion GPS - the opposition research firm hired by Hillary Clinton's campaign to commission the Steele dossier. Fusion is also linked to the infamous Trump Tower meeting, and hired Nellie Ohr - the CIA-linked wife of the DOJ's then-#4 employee, Bruce Ohr. Nellie fed her husband Bruce intelligence she had gathered against Trump while working for Fusion, according to transcripts of her closed-door Congressional testimony. 

And if not for reporting by the Daily Caller's Chuck Ross and others, we wouldn't know that the FBI sent a longtime spook, Stefan Halper, to infiltrate and spy on the Trump campaign - after the Obama DOJ paid him over $400,000 right before the 2016 US election (out of more than $1 million he received while Obama was president).  

According to the New York Times, the tables are turning, starting with the Steele Dossier. 

[T]he release on Thursday of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, underscored what had grown clearer for months — that while many Trump aides had welcomed contacts with the Russians, some of the most sensational claims in the dossier appeared to be false, and others were impossible to prove. Mr. Mueller’s report contained over a dozen passing references to the document’s claims but no overall assessment of why so much did not check out.

Now the dossier — financed by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, and compiled by the former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele — is likely to face new, possibly harsh scrutiny from multiple inquiries. -NYT

While Congressional Republicans have vowed to investigate, the DOJ's Inspector General is considering whether the FBI improperly relied on the dossier when they used it to apply for a surveillance warrant on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The IG also wants to know about Steele's sources and whether the FBI disclosed any doubts as to the veracity of the dossier

Attorney General Barr, meanwhile, said he will review the FBI's conduct in the Russia investigation after saying the agency spied on the Trump campaign

Doubts over the dossier

The FBI's scramble to vet the dossier's claims are well known. According to an April, 2017 NYT reportthe FBI agreed to pay Steele $50,000 for "solid corroboration" of his claims. Steele was apparently unable to produce satisfactory evidence - and was ultimately not paid for his efforts:

Mr. Steele met his F.B.I. contact in Rome in early October, bringing a stack of new intelligence reports. One, dated Sept. 14, said that Mr. Putin was facing “fallout” over his apparent involvement in the D.N.C. hack and was receiving “conflicting advice” on what to do.

The agent said that if Mr. Steele could get solid corroboration of his reports, the F.B.I. would pay him $50,000 for his efforts, according to two people familiar with the offer. Ultimately, he was not paid. -NYT

Still, the FBI used the dossier to obtain the FISA warrant on Page - while the document itself was heavily shopped around to various media outlets. The late Sen. John McCain provided a copy to Former FBI Director James Comey, who already had a version, and briefed President Trump on the salacious document. Comey's briefing to Trump was then used by CNN and BuzzFeed to justify reporting on and publishing the dossier following the election. 

Let's not forget that in October, 2016, both Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman John Podesta promoted the conspiracy theory that a secret Russian server was communicating with Trump Tower. 

Computer scientists have apparently uncovered a covert server linking the Trump Organization to a Russian-based bank. pic.twitter.com/8f8n9xMzUU

— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 1, 2016

Donald Trump has a secret email server set up to communicate privately with the Russian Alfa Bank. https://t.co/7b3E8VbT6c

— John Podesta (@johnpodesta) October 31, 2016

The report was debunked after internet sleuths traced the IP address to a marketing server located outside Philadelphia, leading Alfa Bank executives to file a lawsuit against Fusion GPS in October 2017, claiming their reputations were harmed by the Steele Dossier. 

And who placed the Trump-Alfa theory with various media outlets? None other than former FBI counterintelligence officer and Dianne Feinstein aide Dan Jones - who is currently working with Fusion GPS and Steele to continue their Trump-Russia investigation funded in part by George Soros

Dan Jones, George Soros, Glenn Simpson

Russian tricks?

The Times notes that Steele "has not ruled out" that he may have been fed Russian disinformation while assembling his dossier. 

That would mean that in addition to carrying out an effective attack on the Clinton campaign, Russian spymasters hedged their bets and placed a few land mines under Mr. Trump’s presidency as well.

Oleg D. Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general who now lives outside Washington, saw that as plausible. “Russia has huge experience in spreading false information,” he said. -NYT

In short, Steele is being given an 'out' with this admission.  

A lawyer for Fusion GPS, Joshua Levy, says that the Mueller report substantiated the "core reporting" in the Steele memos - namely that "Trump campaign figures were secretly meeting Kremlin figures,” and that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, had directed “a covert operation to elect Donald J. Trump."

Of course, when one stops painting with broad brush strokes, it's clear that the dossier was fabricated bullshit. 

The dossier tantalized Mr. Trump’s opponents with a worst-case account of the president’s conduct. And for those trying to make sense of the Trump-Russia saga, the dossier infused the quest for understanding with urgency.

In blunt prose, it suggested that a foreign power had fully compromised the man who would become the next president of the United States.

The Russians, it asserted, had tried winning over Mr. Trump with real estate deals in Moscow — which he had not taken up — and set him up with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel in 2013, filming the proceedings for future exploitation. A handful of aides were described as conspiring with the Russians at every turn.

Mr. Trump, it said, had moles inside the D.N.C. The memos claimed that he and the Kremlin had been exchanging intelligence for eight years and were using Romanian hackers against the Democrats, and that Russian pensioners in the United States were running a covert communications network. -NYT

And after a nearly two-year investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller and roughly 40 FBI agents and other specialists, no evidence was found to support the dossier's wild claims of "DNC moles, Romanian hackers, Russian pensioners, or years of Trump-Putin intelligence trading," as the Times puts it. 

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, and key Democrats backing away from talks of impeachment, let's see if lady justice will follow the rest of us down the rabbit hole. 

Electric Car-Owners Shocked: New Study Confirms EVs Considerably Worse For Climate Than Diesel Cars

6 hours 31 min ago

The Brussel Times reports that a new German study exposes how electric vehicles will hardly decrease CO2 emissions in Europe over the coming years, as the introduction of electric vehicles won't lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions from highway traffic.

According to the study directed by Christoph Buchal of the University of Cologne, published by the Ifo Institute in Munich last week, electric vehicles have "significantly higher CO2 emissions than diesel cars." That is due to the significant amount of energy used in the mining and processing of lithium, cobalt, and manganese, which are critical raw materials for the production of electric car batteries.

A battery pack for a Tesla Model 3 pollutes the climate with 11 to 15 tonnes of CO2. Each battery pack has a lifespan of approximately ten years and total mileage of 94,000, would mean 73 to 98 grams of CO2 per kilometer (116 to 156 grams of CO2 per mile), Buchal said. Add to this the CO2 emissions of the electricity from powerplants that power such vehicles, and the actual Tesla emissions could be between 156 to 180 grams of CO2 per kilometer (249 and 289 grams of CO2 per mile).

German researchers criticized the fact that EU legislation classifies electric cars as zero-emission cars; they call it a deception because electric cars, like the Model 3, with all the factors, included, produce more emissions than diesel vehicles by Mercedes.

They further wrote that the EU target of 59 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2030 is "technically unrealistic."

The reality is, in addition to the CO2 emissions generated in mining the raw materials for the production of electric vehicles, all EU countries generate significant CO2 emissions from charging the vehicles’ batteries using dirty power plants.

For true emission reductions, researchers concluded the study by saying methane-powered gasoline engines or hydrogen motors could cut CO2 emissions by a third and possibly eliminate the need for diesel motors.

"Methane technology is ideal for the transition from natural gas vehicles with conventional engines to engines that will one day run on methane from CO2-free energy sources. This being the case, the German federal government should treat all technologies equally and promote hydrogen and methane solutions as well."

So maybe Elon Musk's plan to save the world with electric cars is the biggest scam of our lifetime...

 

Holy Week And WikiLeaks

7 hours 16 min ago

Authored by Hugh O'Neill via Off-Guardian.org,

"There is nothing new under the sun” - Ecclesiastes

I was sent a humourous Birthday card, depicting Jesus holding his mobile phone; his thought bubble reads: “Twelve followers so far. Sweet!”. As a Catholic, one often thinks of historical parallels and what insights into the Human Condition can be gleaned from old stories – looking for parables? It is Holy Week this week, a rapid 7 days in which Christ goes from the celebrity status of Palm Sunday, through to the Last Supper, Agony in the Garden in which he pleads for this chalice to pass his lips, betrayal by Judas, arraigned before the religious courts, and then delivered to the Romans for their judgement.

When Pilate can find no guilt, the crowds are influenced by temple agents to demand his crucifixion. Christ is duly tormented, humiliated and put to very public and agonising death on the cross, but with his last words, he pleads for his tormentors: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Meanwhile his followers go into hiding, terrified that they will be next.

But what has this story got to do with us now? Although the cartoon depiction of Jesus doesn’t look much like Julian Assange, it provoked a thought exercise: imagine being witness to those events 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem. There is something biblical about fleeing into exile for 7 years.

One overarching parallel is the dominance of the Roman Empire akin to that of the American influence and the craven subjugation of the British Establishment – and other territories under Roman/American Rule. Many supporters of Assange have already labelled Lenin Moreno as Judas having sold his soul for 30 pieces of silver. (Note to Moreno: it didn’t end well for Judas).

Imagine how the tabloids and MSM would treat Jesus today: “He mixes with lepers and is probably leprous himself”; “What about that long-haired Mary Magdalene who seems overly attentive to his needs?” “His hair looks like he just spent 40 days in the wilderness”. Meanwhile, the alternative media has become the voice in the wilderness, unsettling Herod’s peace of mind.

So the question for me is why did the Jewish authorities influence Roman power (and subvert the democratic vote put by Pilate) to do their dirty work? Why was Jesus, King of the Jews such a threat to the status quo? Was it his antipathy to market place materialism and seeking a kinder world (as expressed in The Beatitudes)? One might ask the same questions behind the persecution of Julian Assange, who is hated for having exposed the war crimes and lies of the ruling classes.

For those who can only see a smelly unkempt rapist, perhaps we might recall that there used to be a commandment not to kill, just as there was one about coveting one’s neighbour’s wife. From my perspective, the killing of innocents seems the greater crime. Jesus (allegedly) issued a caveat against judging sexual offending: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.

Finally, let us return to Christ’s followers who were hiding in mortal terror. They were eventually empowered with the “Gift of Tongues” which allowed them to be understood by every nation.

Somewhere in there is a metaphor for the alternative media, but like the dyslexic agnostic, I lack the gift of tongues to complete the metaphor. Whether one is religious or atheist, If we should ever lose hope, then evil will indeed triumph.

Air Force Deploys Stealth Fighters To Middle East For First Time 

8 hours 1 min ago

Amid the threats of war with Iran, the U.S. Air Force has forward deployed Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets to the Middle East, reported Air Force Times

Air Force Central Command (AFCENT) announced last week that F-35s from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, have arrived at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates to continue air superiority missions across the region.

It's the first time Air Force F-35s have been sent to the Middle East.

"We are adding a cutting-edge weapons system to our arsenal that significantly enhances the capability of the coalition," Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, commander of AFCENT, said in the release. "The sensor fusion and survivability this aircraft provides to the joint force will enhance security and stability across the theater and deter aggressors."

"The F-35A provides our nation air dominance in any threat," added Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. "When it comes to having a 'quarterback' for the coalition joint force, the interoperable F-35A is clearly the aircraft for the leadership role."

The F-35's deployment comes one month after Rockwell B-1 Lancer bombers completed their deployment at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which left an operational gap of planes in the Middle East. The F-35s will support regional allies in airstrikes against the Taliban and Islamic State in Afghanistan.

The F-35 is expected to replace aging airframes such as the F-15, F-16, and A-10. The stealth jet's advanced sensor package is designed to integrate and share data with other assets on the modern battlefield.

"The F-35A provides our nation air dominance in any threat," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in the release. "When it comes to having a quarterback for the coalition joint force, the inter-operable F-35A is clearly the aircraft for the leadership role."

AFCENT spokeswoman Maj. Holly Brauer told the Air Force Times that upcoming missions would be on behalf of Operation Inherent Resolve.

"During their deployment, the Airmen will fly operational and other missions as assigned," she said. "Consistent with operations security, we will not discuss employment details in advance. The F-35A and their crews will bring the advanced capabilities to the CENTCOM commander’s wide range of options.”

The deployment comes as the Trump administration formally designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. Thus setting the stage for potential escalation with Iran.

Spain: Does The Term 'Islamist' Constitute Hate Speech?

8 hours 46 min ago

Authored by Soeren Kern via The Gatestone Institute,

Vox, a fast-rising Spanish populist party, describes itself as is a socially conservative political project aimed at defending traditional Spanish values from the challenges posed by mass migration, multiculturalism and globalism. Vox's foundational mission statement affirms that the party is dedicated to constitutional democracy, free-market capitalism and the rule of law.

Pictured: Santiago Abascal, President of Vox, arrives at a party rally in Granada, Spain on April 17, 2019. (Image source: David Ramos/Getty Images)

Spanish prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation to determine whether the secretary general of Vox, a fast-rising Spanish populist party, is guilty of hate speech for warning of an "Islamist invasion."

The criminal inquiry, based on a complaint from a Muslim activist group, appears aimed at silencing critical discussion of Islam ahead of national elections on April 28. More broadly, however, the case poses a potentially immeasurable threat to the exercise of free speech in Spain.

Prosecutors in Valencia, the third-largest city in Spain, said that they were investigating Javier Ortega Smith, the second-ranking leader of Vox, for an alleged hate crime after they received a complaint from a Muslim group called "Muslims Against Islamophobia" (Musulmanes Contra la Islamofobia).

At a rally in Valencia on September 16, 2018, Ortega Smith declared that Europe's "common enemy" is the "Islamist invasion":

"Spain is facing threats from internal and external enemies. The internal enemies are perfectly identifiable: the [Catalan] separatists, the friends of [Basque] terrorists, those who want to tear our nation apart....

"The external enemies want to tell us how to run our country.... Angela Merkel and her fellow travelers, George Soros, the immigration mafias, believe that they can tell us who can and cannot enter our country. They demand that our boats pluck so-called castaways out of the sea, transfer them to our ports and shower them with money. Who do they think we are? We say enough is enough....

"We will unite our voice with those of millions of Europeans who also are standing up. Those voices are saying, long live Germany, long live Switzerland, long live France, long live Great Britain. These Europeans understand the need to respect national sovereignty and national identity. They have no intention of being diluted into the magma of European multiculturalism.

"Together we will be stronger against the common enemy that has a very clear name. I will not stop saying it. Our common enemy, the enemy of Europe, the enemy of freedom, the enemy of progress, the enemy of democracy, the enemy of the family, the enemy of life, the enemy of the future is called the Islamist invasion.

"What is at stake is what we understand or know as civilization. It is under serious threat. We are not alone. More and more Europeans are standing up because they are suffering in their cities, on their streets and in their neighborhoods due to the application of Sharia law. They are not willing to have their cathedrals torn down and forcibly replaced with mosques.

"They are not willing to have their women cover their faces with a black cloth and be forced to walk ten steps behind — to be treated worse than camels. They are not willing to extinguish what we understand as civilization and a respect for rights and freedom."

The founder of Muslims Against Islamophobia, Ibrahim Miguel Ángel Pérez, saidthat Ortega Smith's comments are "completely untrue and undermine social peace and coexistence" by "encouraging the creation of an atmosphere of fear and rejection towards Muslim communities." Pérez, a Spanish convert to Islam, added:

"We believe that the content of the video, which is circulating on the Internet, is highly alarmist and could threaten coexistence and social peace, which is why we have decided to act, to determine if the content could be constitutive of an alleged hate crime."

Prosecutors must now determine whether Ortega Smith is guilty of a hate crime as described in Article 510.1 of the Criminal Code, which establishes prison sentences of between one to four years for those found guilty of "publicly fomenting, promoting or inciting, directly or indirectly, hate, hostility, discrimination or violence against a group [...] for racist, anti-Semitic or other motives associated with ideology, religion or beliefs."

Ortega Smith said that he would be "delighted" to explain to prosecutors what the "Islamist invasion" means, namely "the attempt to end freedoms, to end respect for family, life, women and democracy." If the prosecutor determines that there is some alleged crime, "there will be no problem to explain that Europe and Spain are facing an attempted Islamist invasion because of the Europeans themselves and their erroneous policies regarding national borders and their control," he added.

Vox, founded in December 2013 in response to the degeneration of Spanish conservatism, has been soaring in the polls — in large measure because it is filling a political vacuum created by the center-right Popular Party (PP), which in recent years has drifted leftward and is viewed by many Spanish voters as having abandoned its role as standard bearer of conservative values.

Often derided by Spain's political and media establishment as a "far right" party, Vox does not fit the traditional left-right paradigm. During regional elections in Andalusia in December 2018, for instance, Vox was catapulted into the Andalusian Parliament by voters from across the political spectrum: 45% of those who voted for Vox in 2018 backed the PP in 2015; another 15% of Vox voters previously supported the centrist party Citizens (Ciudadanos); and a whopping 15% of Vox voters previously opted for center-left and far-left parties.

Vox (based on the Latin word for voice) describes itself as is a socially conservative political project aimed at defending traditional Spanish values from the challenges posed by mass migration, multiculturalism and globalism. Vox's foundational mission statement affirms that the party is dedicated to constitutional democracy, free-market capitalism and the rule of law. In foreign policy, Vox is pro-Israel, pro-American and pro-NATO. Party leaders have called for Spain to double its defense spending to meet its commitments to the transatlantic alliance. In domestic policy, Vox's stated priority is to enact constitutional reforms aimed at preventing the territorial disintegration of Spain from threats by Basque nationalism and Catalan separatism.

Vox's growing appeal also rests on the fact that it is the only political party in Spain to fundamentally eschew political correctness. Vox leaders speak with a frankness and clarity of conviction long unheard of in multicultural Spain.

"We are neither a fascist party, nor the extreme right, nor do we eat children, nor are we totalitarians," Ortega Smith recently said in an interview with the Espejo Público television program.

"We are the only party that is defending the constitution and democracy [against Catalan separatists]."

Vox could be described as "civilizationist," a term coined by historian Daniel Pipes to describe parties that "cherish Europe's and the West's traditional culture and want to defend it from assault by immigrants aided by the left." In an essay titled, "Europe's Civilizationist Parties," Pipes wrote:

"Civilizationalist parties are populist, anti-immigration, and anti-Islamization. Populist means nursing grievances against the system and a suspicion of an elite that ignores or denigrates those concerns....

"Civilizationist parties, led by Italy's League, are anti-immigration, seeking to control, reduce, and even reverse the immigration of recent decades, especially that of Muslims and Africans. These two groups stand out not because of prejudice ('Islamophobia' or racism) but due to their being the least assimilable of foreigners, an array of problems associated with them, such as not working and criminal activity, and a fear that they will impose their ways on Europe.

"Finally, the parties are anti-Islamization. As Europeans learn about Islamic law (the Shari'a), they increasingly focus on its role concerning women's issues, such as niqabs and burqas, polygamy, taharrush (sexual assault), honor killings, and female genital mutilation. Other concerns deal with Muslim attitudes toward non-Muslims, including Christophobia and Judeophobia, jihadi violence, and the insistence that Islam enjoy a privileged status vis-à-vis other religions."

Since Vox's inception, party leaders have warned against creeping Islamization. In December 2014, for example, Vox President Santiago Abascal criticized the Spanish government's decision to approve a law that promotes Islam in Spanish public schools. In an essay entitled, "Trojan Horse," Abascal wrote that the government was conceding a "dangerous privilege" to Islam:

"The Spanish state is allowing the Muslim community to preach in schools and propose Mohammed as a role model.... This law, according to experts, has been drafted in its entirety by the heads of the Muslim community in Spain, with little review by the competent ministry. The law surprises by its markedly confessional character in each of its articles, and it develops a proselytizing vocation, covering with tolerance the most controversial aspects of a strict theocratic system. The controversial preaching of the imams in our mosques, often bordering on the criminal, is well known. And we all know about the lack of freedom, if not direct persecution, suffered by women and Christians in Islamic countries, while here they enjoy the generosity characteristic of freedom, democracy and reciprocity, of course, all of which they systematically deny....

"We already know that a part of the Western world is determined to commit suicide and many governments know that, to achieve this, they must destroy their own foundations. The beautiful multiculturalism of the progressive myth — reflected in nonsense such as the Alliance of Civilizations, or false notions of peaceful coexistence of the 'Three Cultures' in al-Andalus — is fed above all by the contempt for one's own culture. The best ally of intolerance is the relativism of those who have no principles.

"Today we have to face two fundamentalisms that, as we are seeing, are allies: Islamism and radical secularism. Every day they seem less opposed to each other and more complementary."

After members of the Muslim community accused Abascal of being "anti-democratic," "Islamophobic," and "reactionary," Abascal replied:

"It is somewhat curious that the Islamic Commission of Spain accuses me of trying to 'create permanent confusion' by identifying the political dimension of Islam with the religious dimension, when, precisely, the mixture of the religious and the political is so obviously constitutive of the Muslim world. It is worth remembering in this regard that, while our Christian civilization was built precisely on the separation of the civil and religious, you cannot say the same about yours....

"Of course, not all who profess Islam share the most extreme expressions of Islamist intolerance or support terrorism; but it is also true that the failure of multiculturalism is clearly visible throughout Europe. I reiterate that there are better and worse civilizations, a view that, I'm sure, you share. As I said, putting them all on the same level is just paving the way to barbarism.

"Finally: you refer the 'myth' of the invasion (I suppose that refers to the year 711), historical evidence that you seem to question in line with the darkest historical revisionism. We Spaniards, however, know very well that such a 'myth' is an unquestionable historical reality, for which we must thank the formation of a deep sense of national identity forged during the eight centuries of struggle for the recovery of the fatherland of our ancestors."

In an August 2017 interview, days after the jihadi attacks in Barcelona and nearby Cambrils, in which 14 people were killed and more than 130 injured, Abascal was asked if Spain is at war. He replied:

A: "We are in a global war. They have declared war. It's not a war between regular armies. It's a war that is distinct and very different from the wars we have known unto now. It is a global war against radical Islam."

Q: "Is Spain responsible? Are Spaniards responsible? Are Europeans responsible? Do we have to ask for forgiveness for something?"

A: "Those who have to ask for forgiveness are the politicians for their failure to protect us. The politicians are guilty for accepting the massive Islamic invasion, for failing to value the importance of borders, for providing migrants with economic assistance paid for by Spanish taxpayers."

Q: "Are we responsible for people who see no other option than to immolate themselves?"

A: "Are we responsible because they want to kill us?"

Q: "An MP from the far-left party Podemos said that we have to assume responsibility."

A: "We are not responsible. My children are not responsible. I am not going to accept that my children have to bow the knee to Mecca. I am not going to accept that my daughters are forced to wear a veil. If the far left like these guys, fine. If they like these jihadis, they should invite them into their homes and have them force their daughters to wear the veil. These politicians lack the courage to defend our borders and they lack the courage to defend Spaniards."

Q: "What about Islamophobia?"

A: "The danger is Islamophilia. I am tired of this constant preoccupation with Islamophobia. Muslims do not face persecution in Spain. I do not like that Muslims are incapable of making a distinction between religion and politics. I don't like the way they treat women. I don't like their concept of liberty. I don't like it. And to say this I'm called an Islamophobe. I can criticize a Communist and they don't call me a Communistphobe. If I criticize the separatists, they don't call me a Separatistphobe. But if I criticize a Muslim because I don't like their worldview, they call me Islamophobe. Why?"

In a radio interview in November 2018, Abascal commented on the growing popular support for Vox:

"I am very aware of the responsibility we are assuming. More and more people trust us. People are disappointed because the other parties have failed them. We have been able to connect with people who say in their homes the same things we say in public. This is the key to the great support we are getting. We know that people who come to our meetings do so not because of Vox, but because they are worried about their country and because we are not ashamed about talking about Spain.

"Vox is not ashamed to use words such as 'Reconquest.' To a large extent, the success we are reaping is because we have rescued words that seemed to be proscribed. From a historical perspective, the Reconquest is not a bad thing. On the contrary, we avoided Islamization and we live in freedom."

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Miguel Ángel Pérez, the man who reported Ortega Smith to Spanish prosecutors, says that he is dedicated to imprisoning those who, according to him, "profess the discourse of hatred against Islam." Pérez, who married a Moroccan woman before converting to Islam, is a member of the far-left party Podemos. He has bragged of his efforts to force the closure of the social media accounts of dozens of people who are critical of Islam.

A blogger named "Elentir" wrote about the significance of the hate crime allegations against Ortega Smith:

"For years the left has maintained a curious double discourse on religious matters: it promotes hatred of Christianity, calling it retrograde and macho, while it is friendly with Islam.

"With the same ease with which they accuse you of the crime of 'micro-machismo' if you compliment a woman, the left defends the use of the Islamic veil and does not dare to criticize the atrocious discrimination suffered by women in Muslim countries.

"While here in the West the left does everything possible to uproot our Christian heritage, the left considers it respectable that there are countries that have Islam as their official religion and that treat religious minorities as second-class citizens, or even subject them to persecution.

"Likewise, the left defends any gratuitous offense, even the most beastly ones, against Christians as 'freedom of expression.' At the same time, the mere criticism of Islam is branded as 'Islamophobia.'

"Note that Ortega spoke of 'Islamist,' an adjective used to refer to Islamic extremism.

"Apparently, now they do not just want us to stop all criticism of Islam: they do not want us to oppose the more extreme version either. On April 4, many media outlets reported that the Prosecutor's Office will investigate Ortega to verify if there is such a 'hate crime.'

"That is to say, that public resources will be used to investigate whether a person had the audacity to meddle with Islam.

"Is this still Spain or are we in Iran?

"It was to be expected that sooner or later some Muslims would try to transfer to Spain an environment of intolerance to any criticism of Islam such as that which exists in most Islamic countries.

"When a Muslim association tries to censor a critique of Islamism, the political and media left remains silent as a grave. It is more: yesterday the progressive media loaded their inks not against the denunciating association, but against the denounced politician.

"Every time that the Association of Christian Lawyers makes a denunciation against acts of Christianophobia, the leftist media speak of an 'ultra-Catholic group.' Yesterday, not one progressive used the term 'ultra-Islamic group' to describe an organization that is trying to impede the right to criticize Islamism.

"Rather, the news seemed designed to imply that the mere fact of being investigated by the Prosecutor's Office already makes Ortega guilty. No presumption of innocence, no freedom of expression or tolerance. When it comes to Islam, the left changes the relativist 'anything goes' for an authoritarian 'shut your mouth.'"

Meanwhile, popular support for Vox is higher than ever, according to the Center for Sociological Research (Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas, CIS), a Spanish public research institute. A recent poll found that Vox is projected to win around 12% of the vote in the upcoming national election on April 28. Vox would win between 29 and 37 seats in the next parliament, positioning the party as king-maker in any potential center-right coalition government.

America's "Triumph Of Evil" Exposed, PCR

11 hours 46 min ago

Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

On Wednesday, April 17, I heard a NPR “news” report that described the democratically elected president of Venezuela as “the Venezuelan dictator Maduro.” By repeating over and over that a democratically elected president is a dictator, the presstitutes create that image of Maduro in the minds of vast numbers of peoples who know nothing about Venezuela and had never heard of Maduro until he is dropped on them as “dictator.”

Nicolas Maduro Moros was elected president of Venezuela in 2013 and again in 2018. Previously he served as vice president and foreign minister, and he was elected to the National Assembly in 2000. Despite Washington’s propaganda campaign against him and Washington’s attempt to instigate violent street protests and Maduro’s overthrow by the Venezuelan military, whose leaders have been offered large sums of money, Maduro has the overwhelming support of the people, and the military has not moved against him.

What is going on is that American oil companies want to recover their control over the revenue streams from Venezuela’s vast oil reserves. Under the Bolivarian Revolution of Chavez, continued by Maduro, the oil revenues instead of departing the country have been used to reduce poverty and raise literacy inside Venezuela.

The opposition to Maduro inside Venezuela comes from the elites who have been traditionally allied with Washington in the looting of the country. These corrupt elites, with the CIA’s help, temporarily overthrew Chavez, but the people and the Venezuelan military secured his release and return to the presidency.

Washington has a long record of refusing to accept any reformist governments in Latin America. Reformers get in the way of North America’s exploitation of Latin American countries and are overthrown.

With the exceptions of Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, and Nicaragua, Latin America consists of Washington’s vassal states. In recent years Washington destroyed reform governments in Honduras, Argentina and Brazil and put gangsters in charge.

According to US national security adviser John Bolton, a neoconservative war-monger, the governments in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua will soon be overthrown. New sanctions have now been placed on the three countries. Washington in the typical display of its pettiness targeted sanctions against the son of the Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega. 

Ortega has been the leader of Nicaragua since for 40 years. He was president 1985-1990 and has been elected and reelected as president since 2006.

Ortega was the opponent of Somoza, Washington’s dictator in Nicaragua. Consequently he and his movement were attacked by the neoconservative operation known as Iran-Contra during the Reagan years. Ortega was a reformer. His government focused on literacy, land reform, and nationalization, which was at the expense of the wealthy ruling class. He was labeled a “Marxist-Leninist,” and Washington attempted to discredit his reforms as controversial leftist policies.

Somehow Castro and Ortega survived Washington’s plots against them. By the skin of his teeth so did Chavez unless you believe it was the CIA that gave him cancer. Castro and Chavez are dead. Ortega is 74. Maduro is in trouble, because Washington has stolen Venezuela’s bank deposits and cut Venezuela off the international financial system, and the British have stolen Venezuela’s gold. This makes it hard for Venezuela to pay its debts.

The Trump regime has branded the democratically twice-elected Maduro an “illegitimate” president. Washington has found a willing puppet, Juan Guaido, to take Maduro’s place and has announced that the puppet is now the president of Venezuela. No one among the Western presstitutes or among the vassals of Washington’s empire finds it strange that an elected president is illegitimate but one picked by Washington is not.

Russia and China have given Maduro diplomatic support. Both have substantial investments in Venezuela that would be lost if Washington seizes the country. Russia’s support for Maduro was declared by Bolton today to be a provocation that is a threat to international peace and security. Bolton said his sanctions should be seen by Russia as a warning against providing any help for the Venezuelan government.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo and vice president Pence have added their big mouths to the propaganda against the few independent governments in Latin America. Where is the shame when the highest American government officials stand up in front of the world and openly proclaim that it is official US government policy to overthrow democratically elected governments simply because those governments don’t let Americans plunder their countries?

How is it possible that Pompeo can announce that the “days are numbered” of the elected president of Nicaragua, who has been elected president 3 or 4 times, and the world not see the US as a rogue state that must be isolated and shunned? How can Pompeo describe Washington’s overthrow of an elected government as “setting the Nicaraguan people free?”

The top officials of the US government have announced that they intend to overthrow the governments of 3 countries and this is not seen as “a threat to international peace and security?”

How much peace and security did Washington’s overthrow of governments in Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, and the attempted overthrow of Syria bring?

Washington is once again openly violating international law and the rest of the world has nothing to say?

There is only one way to describe this: The Triumph of Evil.

“The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” — William Butler Yeats

Watch: Shocking Video Shows Parked Tesla Spontaneously Exploding In Chinese Garage

12 hours 11 min ago

Karma can be quite the funny thing.

About 24 hours ahead of Tesla's coming "Investor Day" and just moments after we broke the news that Tesla had been granted a restraining order on a short seller who has been critical of the company on Twitter, stunning video has surfaced of a Tesla catching fire and exploding, while parked.

It did not appear that anyone was in the vehicle at the time of the explosion. 

A self proclaimed Tesla owner in Shanghai that Tweets under the name @ShanghaiJayIn posted video on his Twitter moments ago of what appears to be a Tesla Model S, 1st generation, catching fire spontaneously in a Chinese parking garage.

Good or bad, negative or positive I will post anything about Tesla or EVs in China. This happened today in Shanghai, China

Here Are The Richest Zip Codes In America

12 hours 16 min ago

Personal finance site GoBankingRates has published a new report identifying the wealthiest zip codes in America.

The report shows that Sagaponack, a community in the Town of Southampton in Suffolk County, New York, is the most expensive zip code in the nation. GOBankingRates studied how much an upscale lifestyle would cost in the town, the result: more than $850,00 per year. On top of that, the median home price jumped from $5,125,000 in 2015 to $8.5 million in 2018, with the most expensive homes and recent sales being logged around Daniels Lane.

GOBankingRate calculated the annual cost of necessities and the annual income needed to live luxuriously in each zip code using the traditional 50-30-20 budgeting method.

Coming in at number three is Alpine, New Jersey, with a cost of living of $499,244 per year.

Fisher Island, Florida, located on a barrier island south of Miami Beach, ranked fourth with a cost of living of $452,630 per annum.

Aspen, Colorado, number five on the list, costs $380,590 to live comfortably, due in part to the region's $3 million median home price.

Sea Island, Georgia, ranked sixth, with a $354,366 annual cost of living. The privately owned, unincorporated area of Glynn County, Georgia, has a median home price of $2.75 million.

Greenwich, a town in Fairfield County, Connecticut, is in seventh, with an annual cost of living around $340,000.

Nantucket, an isolated island off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, came in eighth, with a $331,558 cost of living that exceeds living expenses that of Martha’s Vineyard.

Sullivans Island, South Carolina, placed ninth, with a cost of living around $300,000. The area is a town and island in Charleston County, has a median home price of $2.2 million.

And number 10 was the 96821 zip code in Honolulu, where residents needed $288,000 to live a lifestyle of comfort.

Last on the list, coming in at 51, was Brookhaven, West Virginia, which only required a yearly income of $79,786.

Here is the complete list of the wealthiest zip codes in America:

 

Seattle's Revolt Of The Elites

12 hours 46 min ago

Authored by Christopher Rufo via City-Journal.org,

With residents fed up by the homelessness crisis, city leaders and their allies coordinate a PR campaign to convince them that everything is fine...

In Seattle, people are losing patience with city leadership over the homelessness crisis, but the frustration is running in both directions: the city’s political, cultural, and academic elites are conducting their own revolt—against the people.

Since the release of Eric Johnson’s documentary Seattle Is Dying, which depicts an epidemic of street homelessness, addiction, crime, and disorder, city elites have launched a coordinated information campaign targeted at voters frustrated with the city’s response to homelessness. Earlier this month, leaked documentsrevealed that a group of prominent nonprofits—the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Campion Advocacy Fund, the Raikes Foundation, and the Ballmer Group—hired a PR firm, Pyramid Communications, to conduct polling, create messaging, and disseminate the resulting content through a network of silent partners in academia, the press, government, and the nonprofit sector. The campaign, #SeattleForAll, is a case study in what writer James Lindsay calls “idea laundering”—creating misinformation and legitimizing it as objective truth through repetition in sympathetic media.

The key messages of the campaign include a number of misleading claims, including:

“Seattle is making progress to end homelessness,”

“1 in 4 people experiencing homelessness in our community struggle with drug or alcohol abuse,” and

“[62 percent of Seattle voters believe] we are not spending enough to address homelessness.”

All three contentions fail to meet basic scrutiny:

  • street homelessness has increased 131 percent over the past five years;

  • King County’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma admits that “the majority of the homeless population is addicted to or uses opioids” (not one in four);

  • and 62 percent of Seattle voters agree to the statement “we are not spending enough” only when it is directly prefaced in the polling questionnaire by the phrase “other cities of the same size are spending 2 to 3 times the amount that Seattle is and are seeing significant reductions in homelessness”—itself an unsubstantiated claim. (When the same question is presented neutrally, without the framing, support for “we are not spending enough” drops to 7 percent).

Nonetheless, the media have widely circulated or echoed Pyramid’s talking points. “New poll shows the majority in Seattle say we have a moral obligation to help homeless people, and we need to spend more,” declared Seattle Timesdata journalist Gene Balk. Catherine Hinrichsen, director of Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness, published “6 reasons why KOMO’s [Seattle’s ABC affiliate, which broadcast Seattle Is Dying] take on homelessness is the wrong one” in the local magazine Crosscut, arguing that the documentary “conflates homelessness with drug use, mental illness, and crime.” And Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan told reporters that “we have made a lot of progress” and dismissed the documentary as “an opinion piece.” Her office pushed the #SeattleForAll messaging on government social media channels.

Many of the authors and news outlets that published the #SeattleForAll messaging failed to disclose that their work is funded by the same group of foundations that hired Pyramid Communications, and that their content is distributed in direct coordination with Pyramid and the City of Seattle. For example, in her story, Hinrichsen neglects to mention that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the sole funder of her work at the Project on Family Homelessness; the publisher, Crosscut, does not reveal that the Gates and Raikes foundations are major funders of their operations and their homelessness coverage.

In its own widely circulated story on the polling data, the Seattle Times does disclose that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Campion Advocacy Fund, and the Raikes Foundation support their homelessness coverage—but not that Pyramid commissioned the polling and coordinated the campaign with the city and the mayor’s office. (Pyramid’s Chris Nelson confirmed via email that the #SeattleForAll coalition works in tandem with “City and County advisors working in the homelessness space,” but he refused to answer whether the coalition deliberately withheld this information from the Seattle Times and other media.)

The inner workings of the #SeattleForAll campaign tell a clear story: a group of well-funded philanthropies hired a PR firm to produce misleading polling results, distributed them through the city’s main newspaper and other media outlets (many of which enjoy generous donations from those same philanthropies), and then concealed the fact that the messaging was part of a broader campaign coordinated with the city. The “counter-narrative” to the Seattle Is Dying documentary was not a spontaneous reaction of a diverse group of experts; it was a planned effort by Seattle’s philanthropic, academic, media, and governmental elites to steamroll critics. Seattle’s institutional powers, in other words, attempted to quash the emerging public consensus that the city’s approach to homelessness is failing.

A quarter-century ago, social critic Christopher Lasch observed the beginnings of this kind of phenomenon, arguing that America’s political and cultural elites were starting to revolt against the people. While during Lasch’s time this elite contempt was directed against “middle America”—an early iteration of today’s “deplorables”—coastal progressivism has now reached the point that the new elites have gone into revolt against themselves. In Seattle, the emerging activist class—billionaire philanthropists, multimillionaire politicians, and like-minded commentators in academia and prestige media—has begun an information offensive against the liberal, wealthy, educated residents of a city that gave Hillary Clinton 92 percent of its votes. Scolding the public to be more “compassionate,” this new hyper-elite has shown only contempt for middle-class residents in Seattle’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.

The biggest problem with such top-down management of public knowledge is that it prevents honest debate—which Seattle desperately needs. The gap between elite rhetoric and on-the-ground reality continues to widen. In the most recent polling, 68 percent of Seattle voters say that they don’t trust the mayor and city council to solve the homelessness crisis—yet the foundations, the communications firms, and the mayor’s office keep lashing out at dissenters. In The Revolt of the Elites, Lasch revealed the danger of ignoring public opinion and limiting debate to elite influencers: “Since political debate is restricted, most of the time, to the ‘talking classes,’ as they have been aptly characterized, it becomes increasingly ingrown and formulaic. Ideas circulate and recirculate in the form of buzzwords and conditioned reflex.”

The #SeattleForAll campaign is destined to fail. The more that majority opinion gets muzzled, the stronger the eventual backlash will be. Seattle Is Dying spoke to the anger of hundreds of thousands of residents whose voices haven’t been heard. City leaders would be wise to give the PR efforts a rest and do some listening. The residents of Seattle are demanding change.

Telepathic Russian Troops Trained For Psychic Warfare - Something The US Has Studied For Decades

13 hours 16 min ago

Earlier this month, it was reported that the Russian military has been training "psychic" special forces to use in combat to "defeat the enemy with non-contact methods," according to the official magazine of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Armeysky Sbornik (Army Digest). 

"Fighters can see right through the enemy soldier: what kind of person they are, what their weak and strong sides are and whether they can be recruited [as a spy]," read the magazine. 

"By force of thought, it is possible to shut down computer programmes, burn crystals in generators, listen in on conversations and disrupt radio and telecommunications," the article continues. 

These 'goat-staring' specialists in "parapsychological" warfare are said to have honed their skills during combat in Chechnya, using their purported abilities for applications ranging from managing the amount of pain felt by a wounded soldier, to locating caches of enemy weapons 

Russia's chief skeptic, Yevgeny Aleksandrov who chairs the Russian Academy of Science's committee for combating "false science" called claims of psychological warfare capabilities "complete rubbish," according to Sky.com

"Such research did indeed exist and was developed in the past but it was made secret. Now it's being brought out into the light again but such research is recognised as a false science," Aleksandrov added. 

Screenshot: The Men Who Stare At Goats

Long history of parapsychological research

The study of parapsychology began in the mid-1800s with the founding of the London Society for Psychical Research in 1882, research which has continued for over 100 years in some form or another. 

The United States as been officially conducting forms of parapsychological research since the 1930s within various government agencies, however in the 1970s a specific emphasis was placed on "remote viewing" - a technique which purportedly allows one to project their consciousness over vast distances and even time. Physicists Russell Targ and Harold Puthoff of Stanford Research Institute (SRI) received a $20 million government grant for the "Stargate Project" in 1975.

How does one get $20 million to study "the men who stare at goats?" A film of Russians performing telekinesis is a good start. From a declassified CIA document: 

In April of 1972, Targ met with CIA personnel from the Office of Scientific Intelligence (PSI) and discussed the subject of paranormal abilities. Targ revealed that he had contacts with people who purported to have seen and documented some Soviet investigations of psychokinesis. Films of Soviets moving inanimate objects by "mental powers" were made available to analysts from OSI. They, in turn, contacted personnel from the Office of Research and Development (ORD) and OTS. An ORD Project Officer then visited Targ who had recently joined the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Targ proposed that some psychokinetic verification investigations could be done at SRI in conjunction with Puthoff. 

These proposals were quickly followed by a laboratory demonstration. A man was found by Targ and Puthoff who apparently had psychokenetic abilities. He was taken on a surprise visit to a superconducting shielded magnetometer being used in quark (high energy particle) experiments by Dr. A. Hebbard of Stanford University Physics Department. The quark experiment required that the magnetometer be as well shielded as technology would allow. Nevertheless, when the subject placed his attention on the interior of the magnetometer, the output signal was visibly disturbed, indicating a change in internal magnetic field. Several other correlations of his mental efforts with signal variations were observed. These variations were never seen before or after the visit. 

...

For a cost of $874, one OTS and one ORD representative worked with Targ and Puthoff and the previously mentioned man for a few days in August, 1972. During this demonstration, the subject was asked to describe objects hidden out of sight by the CIA personnel. The subject did well. The descriptions were so startingly accurate that the OTS and ORD representatives suggested that the work be continued and expanded. -CIA Reading Room  P.7 (link goes to CIA website)

Eventually, the program run by Targ and Puthoff was formally given code name PROJECT STAR GATE, with the goal of evaluating "potential adversary applications for remote viewing" at Fort Meade, MD. 

1995 evaluation of remote viewing program (via scribd)

The Gateway Process

In order to induce remote viewing and other psychic phenomenon, The US Army studied the "Gateway Process" - essentially perfecting meditation techniques developed by the Monroe Institute which allow humans to harness their own electromagnetic energy waves, control them, and effectively traverse time and space. 

The procedure is performed by synchronizing both hemispheres of the brain. 

Fundamentally, the Gateway Experience is a training system designed to bring enhanced strength, focus and coherence to the amplitude and frequency of brainwave output between the left and right hemispheres so as to alter consciousness, moving it outside the physical sphere so as to ultimately escape even the restrictions of time and space. The participant then gains access to the various levels of intuitive knowledge which the universe offers

...

the Gateway process is designed to rather rapidly induce a state of profound calm within the nervous system and to significantly lower blood pressure to cause the circulatory system, skeleton and all other physical organ systems to begin vibrating coherently at approximately 7–7.5 cycles per second. The resulting resonance sets up a regular, repetitive sound wave which propagates in consonance with the electrostatic field of the earth

...

To enter these intervening dimensions, human consciousness must focus with such intense coherence that the frequency of the energy pattern which comprises that consciousness (i.e. the brainwave output) can accelerate to the point where the resulting frequency pattern, if displayed on an oscilloscope, would look virtually like a solid line. Achievement of this state of altered consciousness sets the stage for perception of non-time-space dimensions because of the operation of a principle in physics known as Planck’s Distance. 

...

Moreover, once the individual is able to project his consciousness beyond time-space, that consciousness would logically tend to entrain its frequency output with the new energy environment to which it is exposed, therein greatly enhancing the extent to which the individual’s altered consciousness may be further modified to achieve a much heightened point of focus and a much refined oscillating pattern.

Declassified document below (searchable here)

In short, the US Government has been intimately involved in psychic research, and has devoted untold resources towards developing it as a tool for various uses. 

Former President Jimmy Carter admitted that the CIA had once consulted a psychic without his knowledge to help locate a missing government plane in Zaire. .

According to Carter, U.S. spy satellites could find no trace of the aircraft, so the CIA consulted a psychic from California. Carter said the woman "went into a trance and gave some latitude and longitude figures. We focused our satellite cameras on that point and the plane was there." -CNN (archived)

Meanwhile, one can read examples of remote viewing sessions at the following links: 

The race of Martians - who wore "cut to fit" silken clothing, were apparently hiding in some sort of underground bunker while the planet's environment was slowly killing them. They were able to escape in a "shiny metal" craft "to find another place to live" - where the remote viewer saw "a really crazy place with volcanos and gas pockets and strange plants."  

Whether or not you think this is all tin foil, the US Government took it very seriouslyand thought it might even led to breakthroughs in human potential. 

1991 Star Gate summary (via MediaFire)

A declassified 1991 summary of Star Gate reveals that the "primary mission of the STAR GATE project is to pursue a broad range of parapsychological activities to include external research and foreign assessments," and was described as "a new dynamic approach for pursuing this largely unexplored area of human consciousness/subconsciousness interaction." 

1991 Star Gate Summary from CIA archive, P. 16 (alternate download via Media Fire)

Research has been conducted at various locations across the United States, including Duke University, SRI International, Princeton University, SAIC and elsewhere since 1930. 

Project Star Gate summary from CIA archive, P. 15 (alternate download via Media Fire)

It's a real, yet unreliable phenomenon

The declassified materials make clear that "remote viewing is a real phenomenon," with potential applications in counternarcotics, counterterrorism and counterintelligence - with limited potential for predictive intelligence.

According to a declassified 1981 threat assessment, "Laboratory demonstrations have shown that gifted individuals using remote viewing can describe small details in a room or describe a SIGINT site and particular types of antennae."

Project Star Gate summary from CIA archive, P. 16 (alternate download via Media Fire)

Telekinesis too

The 1981 memo describes telekinesis as well - noting that "Laboratory demonstrations have shown that gifted individuals using telekinetic abilities can alter the state of objects or change electrical or magnetic fields.

Declassified memorandum via CIA.GOV. One can find on their own by googling the alphanumeric sequence starting with "NSA" at the top right. 

In 1973, meanwhile, the CIA studied the cryptologic aspects of ESP (link goes to CIA website). 

Meta analysis

In a 1995 executive summary of the government's remote viewing experiments to that date, a "blue-ribbon" panel was assembled which included two noted experts in parapsychology; Dr. Jessica Utts of the University of California at Davis, and Dr. Raymond Hyman of the University of Oregon - who was more skeptical of the phenomenon. After reviewing "all laboratory experiments and meta-analytic reviews conducted as part of the research program" they concluded: 

  • A statistically significant laboratory effort has been demonstrated in the sense that hits occur more often than chance.
  • It is unclear whether the observed effects can unambiguously be attributed to the paranormal ability of the remote viewers as opposed to the characteristics of the judges or of the target or some other characteristic of the methods used. 
  • Evidence has not been provided that clearly demonstrates that the causes of hits are due to the operation of paranormal phenomena; the laboratory experiments have not identified the origins or nature of the remote viewing phenomenon, if, indeed, it exists at all. 

Utts concluded that "anomalous cognition is to some extent possible in the general population," it also appears that "certain individuals possess more talent than others, and that it is easier to find those individuals than to train people." 

Hyman pushed back, arguing that Utts' conclusion was premature and that the findings needed to be independently replicated, and suggested that the psychic abilities could be "nothing other than reasonable guessing and subjective validation." 

In short, the 1995 report does not confirm or deny whether remote viewing is an actual phenomenon, despite a Defense Intelligence Agency summary which clearly states that it is. The program was officially terminated in 1995 after it did not produce reliable intelligence, and was featured in the book (and movie) The Men Who Stare At Goats

And so while the phenomenon is real according to the US Government, it is also fairly unreliable. In 1988, the Defense Department called in researcher Ed Dames and two psychics to use remote viewing for the location of Marine Lieutenant Colonel William Higgins - who was kidnapped by Hezbollah. 

While the psychics were able to pinpoint the village Higgins was held in, they were wrong that he was alive, along with that he was being held "on water." Subsequent reports revealed that Higgins was already dead - while Hezbollah later released a video of his corpse with a noose around his neck, according to New Republic. That said, his body was kept on ice for months - possibly the "water" seen by the psychics. 

According to the same project summary that the above screenshots came from, remote viewing was also used with some success during Operation Desert Shield/Storm, and explored for applications within Joint Tactical Force support. 

If one wants to hear directly from the horse's (goat's?) mouth - Russell Targ did an interesting TED Talk about his experiences. 

Controversial TEDTalk about Psychic Abilities | Russell Targ from SuzanneTaylor on Vimeo.

23.2 Million Hack Victims Used '123456" As Their Password

13 hours 46 min ago

A shocking number of people who have been hacked used mind-numbingly simple passwords, according to a breach analysis conducted on behalf of the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). 

According to data obtained from the website "Haver I Been Pwned," more than 23 million people who were hacked used the password '123456,' followed by '123456789' (7.7 million) and 'qwerty' (3.8 million). 

Top 10 most-frequently used passwords by hack victims: 

  • 123456 
  • 123456789
  • qwerty
  • password
  • 111111
  • 12345678
  • abc123
  • 1234567
  • password1
  • 12345

Separate of the release, the NCSC conducted its first "UK Cyber Survey" ahead of their CYBERUK 2019 conference in Glasgow this week, which found among other things; 

  • Only 15% say they know a great deal about how to protect themselves from harmful activity
  • The most regular concern is money being stolen – with 42% feeling it likely to happen by 2021
  • 89% use the internet to make online purchases – with 39% on a weekly basis 
  • One in three rely to some extent on friends and family for help on cyber security
  • Young people more likely to be privacy conscious and careful of what details they share online
  • 61% of internet users check social media daily, but 21% report they never look at social media
  • 70% always use PINs and passwords for smart phones and tablets
  • Less than half do not always use a strong, separate password for their main email account

"We understand that cyber security can feel daunting to a lot of people, but the NCSC has published lots of easily applicable advice to make you much less vulnerable," said NCSC technical director Dr. Ian Levy." 

Password re-use is a major risk that can be avoided - nobody should protect sensitive data with somethisng that can be guessed, like their first name, local football team or favourite band.

Using hard-to-guess passwords is a strong first step and we recommend combining three random but memorable words. Be creative and use words memorable to you, so people can’t guess your password. -Dr. Ian Levy

"Given the growing global threat from cyber attacks, these findings underline the importance of using strong passwords at home and at work," said David Lidington, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office. 

"This is a message we look forward to building on at CYBERUK 2019, an event that reaffirms our commitment to make Britain both the safest place in the world to be online and the best place to run a digital business." 

Read the cyber survey below:

The Student Debt Conundrum

14 hours 16 min ago

Authored by Laurence Vance via The Future of Freedom Foundation,

Using data from the Federal Reserve, Student Loan Hero — an organization that provides “resources, tools and information” to help “student loan borrowers understand their student loans and make intelligent repayment decisions” — reports that

Among the Class of 2018, 69% of college students took out student loans, and they graduated with an average debt of $29,800, including both private and federal debt. Meanwhile, 14% of their parents took out an average of $35,600 in federal Parent PLUS loans.

Americans owe over $1.56 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 45 million borrowers. That’s about $521 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt.

11.5% of student loans are 90 days or more delinquent or are in default.

Average monthly student loan payment (among those not in deferment): $393.

What makes the statistics even more alarming is that only about 15 percent of student debt is private debt. Most of the money borrowed by students was borrowed from the deep pockets of Uncle Sam.

But it gets even worse.

According to the Final Audit Report of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General, “Federal Student Aid: Additional Actions Needed to Mitigate the Risk of Servicer Noncompliance with Requirements for Servicing Federally Held Student Loans,” Federal Student Aid (FSA), the agency within the Department of Education responsible for servicing all federal student loans, has not been doing a very good job:

FSA had not established policies and procedures that provided reasonable assurance that the risk of servicer noncompliance with requirements for servicing federally held student loans was mitigated.

FSA’s oversight activities regularly identified instances of servicers’ not servicing federally held student loans in accordance with Federal requirements.

FSA management rarely used available contract accountability provisions to hold servicers accountable for instances of noncompliance.

FSA did not provide servicers with an incentive to take actions to mitigate the risk of continued servicer noncompliance that could harm students.

FSA employees did not always follow policy when evaluating the quality of servicer representatives’ interactions with borrowers.

FSA management did not have reasonable assurance that servicers were complying with Federal loan servicing requirements when handling borrowers’ inquiries, borrowers might not have been protected from poor services, and taxpayers might not have been protected from improper payments.

Naturally, the FSA “strongly disagreed with the overall conclusion that it did not establish policies and procedures that provided reasonable assurance that the risk of servicer noncompliance with Federal requirements was mitigated.”

“It’s hard to look at this as anything other than completely damning,” says Seth Frotman, the former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) student-loan ombudsman who is now executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center.

This is the most damaging in a long line of investigations, audits, and reports that show the Department of Education is asleep at the switch, when it is responsible for over a trillion dollars of student loan debt.”

Frotman resigned last August after issuing a scathing letter accusing Mick Mulvaney (acting director of the CFPB at the time) and the Trump administration of undermining the agency and its ability to protect student borrowers. “Unfortunately, under your leadership, the Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting,” it read. “Instead, you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America.”

Needless to say, the federal student loan program is a mess, and millions of recipients of its loans are mired in debt. So mired, in fact, that, according to two recent studies,

  • 40 percent of borrowers may default on their student loans by 2023

  • 250,000 borrowers default on their federal student loans each quarter

  • It takes 19.4 years, on average, to pay off student loans

And it should be noted that, unlike other forms of federal debt, which are dischargeable in bankruptcy, student-loan debt cannot generally be discharged in bankruptcy.

According to LendEDU — a website that helps consumers learn about and compare financial products, including student loans — the precursor of the federal student-loan program is the GI Bill. Established in 1944, the GI Bill allowed World War II veterans to attend college at a reduced cost or for free. Federal student loans were instituted in 1958 under the National Defense Education Act. High-school students “who showed promise in mathematics, science, engineering, and foreign language, or those who wanted to be teachers, were offered grants, scholarships, and loans.” Under the Higher Education Act of 1965, banks began “to provide government subsidized and guaranteed loans to students.” The Pell Grant was created in 1972. Yet, even getting free money for college did not deter students from also taking out student loans. Finally, under the Student Loan Reform Act of 1993, the federal government began directly lending “to borrowers, as opposed to through a private institution.”

From an economic perspective, federal student loans distort the market. Government’s backing or issuing student loans causes the price of higher education to artificially rise. Thanks to ever-increasing government largesse, there is no incentive for colleges and universities to ever lower their prices. Many schools have become completely dependent on federal student loans to keep their enrollment up. Consider the case of ITT Technical Institute (ITT Tech). It was once one of the largest for-profit educators in the United States. But after years of investigations and lawsuits, the U.S. Department of Education, in August 2016, prohibited students from using federal student loans at any of the school’s 130 locations. Just two weeks later, all ITT Tech campuses were closed and the company filed for bankruptcy.

From a fiscal perspective, federal student loans are not based on sound financial principles. Students with no credit or bad credit have just as much of a chance of getting a government loan as students with a good credit history. Students pursuing majors such as engineering or computer science that can lead to high-paying jobs are just as likely to receive government loans as students who major in women’s studies or gender studies.

From a philosophical perspective, federal student loans are an illegitimate purpose of government. The government is not a bank. It has no money of its own. All the money in the federal treasury has been taken from Americans in the form of taxes. No American should be forced to pay for the education of any other American. Even so, it is not the proper role of government to make loans or subsidize industries.

From a practical perspective, federal student loans don’t make any sense. Why should the federal government subsidize one industry? And if the federal government is going to lend Americans money for college, then why not for cars, boats, vacations, houses, and weddings? Why doesn’t the federal government just issue Americans credit cards to borrow money as they see fit?

What, then, should be done about the student-debt conundrum?

Many solutions to this conundrum have been proposed. Most recently, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a former U.S. Secretary of Education, has proposed that employers be required to deduct student-loan payments from employees’ paychecks and remit them to the government like payroll and income taxes that are withheld. But all of the proposed solutions suffer from two fatal flaws.

  • The first is that no proposed solution recognizes that the student-debt conundrum would never have arisen in the first place if the federal government had simply followed its own Constitution and had never had anything to do with education: no loans, no grants, no mandates, no subsidies, no funding, no school breakfast and lunch programs, no regulations, no standards, no vouchers, and no Department of Education.

  • The second is that no proposed solution calls for the federal student-loan spigot to be turned off. Like Senator Alexander’s proposal, they all call for reforming the federal student loan program instead of ending it.

The federal student loan program must be recognized for what it is and ended completely before any real solutions to the student debt conundrum can be offered.

Boeing's Nightmare Continues: Dreamliner Workers Warn Of Defective Manufacturing, Dangerous Quality Lapses

14 hours 46 min ago

Just as it looked like the fallout from the Boeing 737 MAX crashes was finally fading into the background, the New York Times is raising new questions about an entirely different Boeing plane, the Dreamliner 787. Workers at a Boeing plant in South Carolina are complaining about "defective manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure to not report violations".

An investigation that incorporated reviewing hundreds of emails and documents, as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees, has arrived at the conclusion that Boeing pushed speed over quality when it came to its Dreamliners - a story similar to the 737 MAX, which we reported faced similar critiques. This has lead to the question whether the issues at Boeing are limited to the 737, or if they are systemic.

According to the report, Boeing's North Charleston plant has come under fire for safety lapses, and the facility has also drawn the scrutiny of airlines and regulators. In fact, Qatar Airways even stopped taking planes from the factory after "manufacturing mishaps damaged jets and delayed deliveries".

787 plant in SC. Photo: NY Times

On top of that, there have been nearly 12 whistleblower claims about the plant with regulators. They describe issues like manufacturing, debris left on planes and pressure to not report violations. Additional whistleblowers have skipped that step and gone right to suing Boeing, claiming that they were victims of retaliation for bringing up manufacturing mistakes.

Joseph Clayton, a technician at the North Charleston plant claimed he often found debris dangerously close to wiring beneath cockpits. He said: "I’ve told my wife that I never plan to fly on it. It’s just a safety issue."

Kevin McAllister, Boeing’s head of commercial airplanes, said in a statement: "Boeing South Carolina teammates are producing the highest levels of quality in our history. I am proud of our teams’ exceptional commitment to quality and stand behind the work they do each and every day."

Among other things, employees have claimed that faulty parts have been installed in planes, tools and metal shavings have routinely been left inside jets, often near electrical systems, and aircraft have taken test flights with debris in an engine and a tail, risking failure.

John Barnett, a former quality manager who worked at Boeing for nearly three decades said that he found metal slivers hanging over the writing that commands the flights controls. Barnett said if the sharp pieces penetrated the wires, it would be "catastrophic". He was so concerned that he filed a whistleblower complaint with regulators. He said he had repeatedly urged his bosses to remove the shavings, but they refused and then transferred him to another part of the plant. 

John Barnett/NY Times

An FAA spokesman said the agency conducted inspections on several plans certified by Boeing as free of debris, but found the same metal slivers. It is a problem that can lead to electrical shorts and cause fires. Officials also believe the shavings may have been the cause of damage for an in-service airplane on an occasion in 2012. The FAA wound up issuing a directive in 2017 that Dreamliners needed to be cleared of shavings before delivery. 

Barnett said: "As a quality manager at Boeing, you’re the last line of defense before a defect makes it out to the flying public. And I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I’d put my name on saying it’s safe and airworthy."

787 Plant in SC/NY Times

But wait there's more: another issue popped up right after the 2nd 737 MAX crash: customers were finding random objects in new planes.

The North Charleston plant called a meeting to discuss the issue, where a Senior Manager urged the team to check more carefully, stating: “The company is going through a very difficult time right now.”

Employees are supposed to clean the aircraft as they manufacture it so they don’t contaminate the planes with shavings, tools, parts or other debris. But it has still been a problem in SC. Brad Zaback, the head of the 787 program, reminded the North Charleston staff in an email this month that debris “can potentially have serious safety consequences when left unchecked.”

Customers like the Air Force have also been turned off by the manufacturing sloppiness. In March, they stopped deliveries of the KC-46 tanker after finding a wrench, bolts and trash inside new planes.

Will Roper, an assistant secretary of the Air Force, said: “To say it bluntly, this is unacceptable. Our flight lines are spotless. Our depots are spotless, because debris translates into a safety issue.”

Workers at the SC plant said debris is a continual issue. 

Rich Mester/NY Times

Rich Mester, a former technician who reviewed planes before delivery said: “I’ve found tubes of sealant, nuts, stuff from the build process. They’re supposed to have been inspected for this stuff, and it still makes it out to us.” Mester has been fired and a claim on his behalf was filed with the National Labor Relations Board. 

He continued: "Employees have found a ladder and a string of lights left inside the tails of planes, near the gears of the horizontal stabilizer. It could have locked up the gears.”

Dan Ormson, who worked for American Airlines said he used to "regularly" find debris when inspecting Dreamliners. The debris included loose objects touching electrical wiring, rags near the landing gear and once finding a piece of bubble wrap near the pedal the co-pilot uses to control the plane’s direction. He also once saw that a bolt was loose inside one of the engines, which could have caused it to malfunction. 

Another Dreamliner built for American Airlines suffered a flood in the cabin so bad that ceiling panels, seats and electronics had to be replaced.

Cynthia Kitchens/NY Times

One current technician at the plant recently found chewing gum holding together a door’s trim. He said: “It was not a safety issue, but it’s not what you want to present to a customer.”  Several former Boeing employees also told the NYT that managers pushed quality inspectors to stop recording defects.

Cynthia Kitchens, a former quality manager, said: “It was intimidation. Every time I started finding stuff, I was harassed.”

Mester concluded: "They’re trying to shorten the time of manufacturing. But are you willing to sacrifice the safety of our product to maximize profit?"

You can read more troubling details in the extended NYT report here

Veteran Intel Officials Blast Mueller Probe Over Refusal To Interview Assange

15 hours 11 min ago

The bug in Mueller’s report released on Thursday is that he accepts that the Russian government interfered in the election.  Trump should challenge that, says VIPS...

Via ConsortiumNews.com,

MEMORANDUM FOR: The President

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: The Fly in the Mueller Ointment

April 16, 2019

Mr. President:

The song has ended but the melody lingers on. The release Thursday of the redacted text of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” nudged the American people a tad closer to the truth on so-called “Russiagate.”

But the Mueller report left unscathed the central-but-unproven allegation that the Russian government hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails, gave them to WikiLeaks to publish, and helped you win the election. The thrust will be the same; namely, even if there is a lack of evidence that you colluded with Russian President Vladimir Putin, you have him to thank for becoming president. And that melody will linger on for the rest of your presidency, unless you seize the moment.

Mueller has accepted that central-but-unproven allegation as gospel truth, apparently in the lack of any disinterested, independent forensic work. Following the odd example of his erstwhile colleague, former FBI Director James Comey, Mueller apparently has relied for forensics on a discredited, DNC-hired firm named CrowdStrike, whose credibility is on a par with “pee-tape dossier” compiler Christopher Steele. Like Steele, CrowdStrike was hired and paid by the DNC (through a cutout).

We brought the lack of independent forensics to the attention of Attorney General William Barr on March 13 in a Memorandum entitled “Mueller’s Forensic-Free Findings”, but received no reply or acknowledgement. In that Memorandum we described the results of our own independent, agenda-free forensic investigation led by two former Technical Directors of the NSA, who avoid squishy “assessments,” preferring to base their findings on fundamental principles of science and the scientific method. Our findings remain unchallenged; they reveal gaping holes in CrowdStrike’s conclusions.

We do not know if Barr shared our March 13 Memorandum with you. As for taking a public position on the forensics issue, we suspect he is being circumspect in choosing his battles carefully, perhaps deferring until later a rigorous examination of the dubious technical work upon which Mueller seems to have relied.

Barr’s Notification to Congress

As you know, the big attention-getter came on March 24 when Attorney General William Barr included in his four-page summary a quote from Mueller’s report: “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” Understandably, that grabbed headlines — the more so, since most Americans had been convinced earlier by the media that the opposite was true.

There remains, however, a huge fly in the ointment. The Mueller report makes it clear that Mueller accepts as a given — an evidence-impoverished given — that the Russian government interfered in the election on two tracks:

Track 1 involves what Barr, echoing Mueller, claims “a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA)” did in using social media “to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election.” A careful look at this allegation shows it to be without merit, despite Herculean efforts by The New York Times, for example, to put lipstick on this particular pig.  After some rudimentary research, award winning investigative reporter Gareth Porter promptly put that pig out of its misery and brought home the bacon. We do not believe “Track 1” merits further commentary.

Track 2 does need informed commentary, since it is more technical and — to most Americans — arcane. In Barr’s words: “The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election.”

We are eager to see if Mueller’s report contains more persuasive forensic evidence than that which VIPS has already debunked. In Barr’s summary, the only mention of forensics refers to “forensic accountants” — a far cry from the kind of forensic investigators needed to provide convincing proof of “hacking” by the Russian government.

But They Were Indicted!

Circular reasoning is not likely to work for very long, even with a U.S. populace used to being brainwashed by the media. Many Americans had mistakenly assumed that Mueller’s indictment of Russians — whether they be posting on FaceBook or acting like intelligence officers — was proof of guilt. But, as lawyers regularly point out, “one can easily indict a ham sandwich” — easier still these days, if it comes with Russian dressing.

Chances have now increased that the gullible folks who had been assured that Mueller would find collusion between you and Putin may now be a bit more circumspect — skeptical even — regarding the rest of the story-line of the “Russian hack,” and that will be even more likely among those with some technical background. Such specialists will have a field day, IF — and it is a capital “IF” — by some miracle, word of VIPS’ forensic findings gets into the media this time around.

The evidence-impoverished, misleadingly labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment” of January 6, 2017 had one saving grace. The authors noted: “The nature of cyberspace makes attribution of cyber operations difficult but not impossible. Every kind of cyber operation — malicious or not — leaves a trail.” Forensic investigators can follow a trail of metadata and other technical properties. VIPS has done that.

A “High-Class Entity?”

If, as we strongly suspect, Mueller is relying for forensics solely on CrowdStrike, the discredited firm hired by the DNC in the spring of 2016, he is acting more in the mold of Inspector Clouseau than the crackerjack investigator he is reputed to be. It simply does not suffice for Mueller’s former colleague James Comey to tell Congress that CrowdStrike is a “high-class entity.” It is nothing of the sort and, in addition to its documented incompetence, it is riddled with conflicts of interest. Comey needs to explain why he kept the FBI away from the DNC computers after they were said to have been “hacked.”

And former National Intelligence Director James Clapper needs to explain his claim last November that “the forensic evidence was overwhelming about what the Russians had done.” What forensic evidence? From CrowdStrike? We at VIPS, in contrast, are finding more and more forensic evidence that the DNC emails were leaked, not hacked by the Russians or anyone else — and that “Guccifer 2.0” is an out-and-out fraud. Yes, we can prove that from forensics too.

But the Talking Heads Say …

Again, if Mueller’s incomplete investigation is allowed to assume the status of Holy Writ, most Americans will continue to believe that — whether you colluded the Russians or not — Putin came through for you big time. In short, absent President Putin’s help, you would not be president.

Far too many Americans will still believe this because of the mainstream-media fodder — half-cooked by intelligence leaks — that they have been fed for two and a half years. The media have been playingthe central role in the effort of the MICIMATT (the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think-Tank) complex to stymie any improvement in relations with Russia. We in VIPS have repeatedly demonstrated that the core charges of Russian interference in the 2016 election are built on a house of cards. But, despite our record of accuracy on this issue — not to mention our pre-Iraq-war warnings about the fraudulent intelligence served up by our former colleagues — we have gotten no play in mainstream media.

Most of us have chalked up decades in the intelligence business and many have extensive academic and government experience focusing on Russia. We consider the issue of “Russian interference” of overriding significance not only because the allegation is mischievously bogus and easily disproven. More important, it has brought tension with nuclear-armed Russia to the kind of dangerous fever pitch not seen since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, when the Russian provocation was real — authentic, not synthetic.

Sober minds resolved that crisis more than a half-century ago, and we all got to live another day. These days sober minds seem few and far between and a great deal is at stake. On the intelligence/forensics side, we have proved that the evidence adduced to “prove” that the Russians hacked into the DNC and Podesta emails and gave them to WikiLeaks is spurious. For example, we have examined metadata from one key document attributed to Russian hacking and shown that it was synthetically tainted with “Russian fingerprints.”

Who Left the Bread Crumbs?

So, if it wasn’t the Russians, who left the “Russian” bread-crumb “fingerprints?” We do not know for sure; on this question we cannot draw a conclusion based on the principles of science — at least not yet. We suspect, however, that cyber warriors closer to home were responsible for inserting the “tell-tale signs” necessary to attribute “hacks” to Russia. We tacked on our more speculative views regarding this intriguing issue onto the end of our July 24, 2017 Memorandum to you entitled “Intelligence Veterans Challenge Russia Hack Evidence.”

We recall that you were apprised of that Memorandum’s key findings because you ordered then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo to talk to William Binney, one of our two former NSA Technical Directors and one of the principal authors of that Memorandum. On October 24, 2017, Pompeo began an hour-long meeting with Binney by explaining the genesis of the odd invitation to CIA Headquarters: “You are here because the president told me that if I really wanted to know about Russian hacking I needed to talk to you.”

On the chance Pompeo has given you no report on his meeting with Binney, we can tell you that Binney, a plain-spoken, widely respected scientist, began by telling Pompeo that his (CIA) people were lying to him about Russian hacking and that he (Binney) could prove it. Pompeo reacted with disbelief, but then talked of following up with the FBI and NSA. We have no sign, though, that he followed through. And there is good reason to believe that Pompeo himself may have been reluctant to follow up with his subordinates in the Directorate of Digital Innovation created by CIA Director John Brennan in 2015. CIA malware and hacking tools are built by the Engineering Development Group, part of that relatively new Directorate.

Obfuscation’

A leak from within the CIA, published on March 31, 2017 by WikiLeaks as part of the so-called “Vault 7” disclosures, exposed a cyber tool called “Marble,” which was used during 2016 for “obfuscation” (CIA’s word). This tool can be used to conduct a forensic attribution double game (aka a false-flag operation); it included test samples in Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, and Russian. Washington Post reporter Ellen Nakashima, to her credit, immediately penned an informative article on the Marble cyber-tool, under the catching (and accurate) headline “WikiLeaks’ latest release of CIA cyber-tools could blow the cover on agency hacking operations.” That was apparently before Nakashima “got the memo.” Mainstream media have otherwise avoided like the plague any mention of Marble.

Mr. President, we do not know if CIA’s Marble, or tools like it, played some kind of role in the campaign to blame Russia for hacking the DNC. Nor do we know how candid the denizens of CIA’s Directorate of Digital Innovation have been with the White House — or with former Director Pompeo — on this touchy issue. Since it is still quite relevant, we will repeat below a paragraph included in our July 2017 Memorandum to you under the sub-heading “Putin and the Technology:”

“We also do not know if you have discussed cyber issues in any detail with President Putin. In his interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, he seemed quite willing – perhaps even eager – to address issues related to the kind of cyber tools revealed in the Vault 7 disclosures, if only to indicate he has been briefed on them. Putin pointed out that today’s technology enables hacking to be “masked and camouflaged to an extent that no one can understand the origin” [of the hack] … And, vice versa, it is possible to set up any entity or any individual that everyone will think that they are the exact source of that attack. Hackers may be anywhere,” he said. “There may be hackers, by the way, in the United States who very craftily and professionally passed the buck to Russia. Can’t you imagine such a scenario? … I can.”

As we told Attorney General Barr five weeks ago, we consider Mueller’s findings fundamentally flawed on the forensics side and ipso facto incomplete. We also criticized Mueller for failing to interview willing witnesses with direct knowledge, like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

Political Enemies & Mainstream Media (Forgive the Redundancy)

You may be unaware that in March 2017 lawyers for Assange and the Justice Department (acting on behalf of the CIA) reportedly were very close to an agreement under which Assange would agree to discuss “technical evidence ruling out certain parties” in the leak of the DNC emails and agree to redact some classified CIA information, in exchange for limited immunity. According to the investigative reporter John Solomon of The Hill, Sen. Mark Warner, (D-VA) vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, learned of the incipient deal and told then-FBI Director Comey, who ordered an abrupt“stand down” and an end to the discussions with Assange.  

Why did Comey and Warner put the kibosh on receiving “technical evidence ruling out certain parties” [read Russia]? We won’t insult you with the obvious answer. Assange is now in prison, to the delight of so many — including Mrs. Clinton who has said Assange must now “answer for what he has done.”

But is it too late to follow up somehow on Assange’s offer? Might he or his associates be still willing to provide “technical evidence” showing, at least, who was not the culprit?

You, Mr. President, could cause that to happen. You would have to buck strong resistance at every turn, and there all manner of ways that those with vested interests and a lot of practice in sabotage can try to thwart you — with the full cooperation of most media pundits. By now, you know all too well how that works.

But you are the president. And there may be no better time than now to face them down, show the spurious nature of the concocted “evidence” attempting to put you in “Putin’s pocket,” and — not least — lift the cloud that has prevented you from pursuing a more decent relationship with Russia.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Bogdan Dzakovic, former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

James George Jatras, former U.S. diplomat and former foreign policy adviser to Senate leadership (Associate VIPS) 

Larry Johnson, former CIA Intelligence Officer & former State Department Counter-Terrorism Official, (ret.)

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units (JSOC)

John Kiriakou, former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former Senior Investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003

Clement J. Laniewski, LTC, U.S. Army (ret.)

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.)

Edward Loomis, NSA Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, former Senior Estimates Officer, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA presidential briefer (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Peter Van Buren,U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Robert Wing, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (former) (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel (ret) and former U.S. Diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War

Easter And Why Government Is Not Our God

16 hours 51 min ago

Authored by Leesa Donner via Liberty Nation,

The American people have a love-hate relationship with their government. This is as it should be, primarily because government is not our God. Easter Sunday seems an opportune time to remember this and renew our commitment to a republic under God rather than one that displaces or subjugates the creator.

James Madison Had It Right

In 1785 James Madison wrote, “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” Born in King George County, Virginia in 1751, Madison’s words seem prescient when applied to our day and time. Often referred to as the “Father of the Constitution,” Madison rightly expressed caution and concern for the power that government can assert over its people. It could be said that this quote of his captures the principle difference between the political left and right in America today. Ronald Reagan echoed Madison’s fear when he asserted that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

The Bible speaks of power this way. In Matthew 22:29 Jesus said, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.” Real power rests with the creator and not His creation (Job 38-42), and certainly not in the governments of any era which, after all, are appointed by God (Daniel 2:21). Thus true power cannot be attained by governments; it rests with One who will not abuse it (Psalm 86:5).

Ayn Rand’s Pithy Pointers

The mother of objectivism, Ayn Rand, penned yet another perceptive concept that demonstrates why government is not our God. And it cannot be said that Rand adhered to any sort of established religion. Yet the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged was able to put her finger on a dilemma that has reared its head in 21st century America:

“We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.”

An era of government tyranny does seem to be fast approaching if it has not already arrived, as many would argue that, indeed, it has. When people labor under such laws as to which straws they are permitted to use and a tax code that is 60,000 pages – an estimated seven times the length of the Bible – one can safely say that the hand of tyranny is upon us, pushing its way into every aspect of our lives.

Thus, individual liberty and freedom suffer under myriad regulations that are tantamount to oppression. Step out your door, get in your car, and head on down to the McDonald’s drive-thru; you will likely be violating one law or another. Yes, government can be suffocating, which again shows us that it cannot and should not be our God.

In contrast, Paul wrote in his epistle to the Galatians: “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” Of course, Paul was talking about the religious laws of the day, and some non-Christian enthusiasts may counter this with the verse where Jesus says,  “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” (Mark 12:17, KJV), but they would be reminded to read the second part of this verse, which adds “and give to God what belongs to God” (NLT). Even a tyrannical government does not own its people,  though some have tried to sell this assertion to their people.

Milton Friedman Puts Bounty In Perspective

Economist and Nobel prize winner Milton Friedman said: “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.” Here we recognize how tyrannical governments are effective in taking rather than giving to their people. While this comment is a bit satirical, as is often said, the truth is in the joke. The leftist politicians of our day are always “running out of” and “requesting more.” There is never enough money to do all the things we don’t want and always a desire to take from those who toil for what they own.

In contrast, Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Professing Christians will attest to the fact that life under the power of God is one where their “cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5, KJV) – not necessarily with earthly things, but The Things that Matter Most.

Is Easter calling you to throw off the yoke of an all-powerful, tyrannical government whose raison d’être is to rule, take, and enslave?

During the last supper, Jesus said the following to His disciples: “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.” (Luke 22:25)

And so today – Easter Sunday, 2019 –  may be a time to ask yourself a central question: Who would you rather reign over your life – the liberating, loving, and truly powerful presence of Jesus Christ, who showed humility and sacrificial love in His life, death, and resurrection. Or do you prefer to worship at the altar of a tyrannical government?

Simply put: Who is your God?

Chinese Politburo Meeting Signals "Less Dovish" Policy Stance

17 hours 13 min ago

If your bullish thesis to buy stocks in recent months has been anchored by the expectation of aggressive monetary easing by China reinforcing the narrative that "bad news is good news" for the market, you may consider selling.

On April 19th, China's Politburo held a regular meeting on economic affairs, and following last week's blowout Chinese economic data and recent explosion in new loan and total social financing creation, the meeting statement emphasized that "economic performance year to date has been better than expected, market sentiment has shown visible improvement, key economic indicators are within the comfort zone, and the economy is broadly stable."

In short, as Goldman writes in a Sunday research note, the "politburo meeting signaled a less dovish policy stance."

Digging into the details of what may be one of the most important documents for the near-term outlook of the global economy - where China has clearly emerged as the marginal growth, and contraction, setter - the statement recognized that downward pressures on the economy exist but these pressures are more structural than cyclical, and the government should enhance economic and social stability by structural reform and further opening up of the economy. Incidentally, to appreciate just how critical the role China plays in creating/exporting inflation/deflation around the world, what Chinese importers will pay for their goods and how the yuan plays a role in everything is this chart from Morgan Stanley showing that "China remains at the center of the world for global economics", as the head of research at Pepperstone noted...

... while this chart from TS Lombard shows once again the only key variable for the global economy is the Chinese credit impulse, something we have discussed for years.

Back to the Politburo statement which found that proactive fiscal policy should improve effectiveness and efficiency, "while prudent monetary policy should be appropriate in terms of looseness and tightness." A notable change from the October, December and February meetings, is that there was no mention of the goal of maintaining "6 stabilizations" (on employment, trade, financial markets, investment, foreign capital, and expectations). This suggests that Beijing is now less worried about weakness in these areas, and the likelihood of aggressive easing has sharply declined.

Here is a recap of the three key highlights announced in the meeting, courtesy of Morgan Stanley:

  • Policy-makers gaining confidence in growth outlook ... The quarterly Politburo meeting on Friday, April 19, concluded that 1Q growth was largely stable and better than expected on the back of "appropriate countercyclical efforts", with growth remaining within a reasonable range and market confidence improving significantly. Reflecting growing optimism, the meeting statement removed from the policy objective such wording as “six stabilizations” (stabilization in employment, finance, trade, foreign investment, investment,and expectations).
  • ... will maintain pro-growth stance with meaningful fiscal stimulus and moderate monetary easing… While acknowledging growth improvement in 1Q, policymakers remain cautious in light of still rising external pressures and downward pressures on growth owing to both cyclical and structural factors. They pledged to "step up with proactive fiscal policy" while keeping monetary policy “not too tight or too loose”.
  • …while staying watchful of potential risks: Both structural deleveraging and housing policies, which were not discussed in the previous two meetings, were mentioned again. The meeting also included a pledge to adopt supply-side structural reforms to stabilize domestic demand.


The meeting also reiterated the goal of making financing easier and cheaper for private enterprises and SMEs. This is consistent with the recent State Council meeting which stated that the central bank should step up the use of tools such as relending to achieve this goal. But the recent rise in interbank rate indicates monetary policy has been turning less supportive. As Goldman notes, the policies aimed at achieving this goal can be viewed as structural and can co-exist with a less dovish overall policy stance. An example would be overall TSF supply falls but the share given to private enterprises and SMEs rises.

Also of note is that regarding the property market there was no mention of property prices. Typically the statement would mention preventing a rise or overly rapid rise in property prices. Instead, the statement just reiterated the policy of requesting that municipal governments manage the local markets to prevent speculation, and re-introduced the line on homes being for living but not for speculation. Some may see this as a tentative green light from Beijing to boost real-estate prices.

The statement also said that the government should use high level opening up to proceed with facilitating deep structural reforms. Foreign capital entry restrictions should be relaxed and foreign enterprises should be treated the same way as domestic enterprises. Progress on this could be meaningful, but only if and when a US-China economic deal is finalized.

The statement also highlighted there has been an increase in work safety related accidents. The government should learn from the lessons and prevent them from happening. This is a new focus of the government which will likely lead to a negative supply shock and push up upstream prices as reflected by PPI.

Also worth noting is the return of China's stated (if not actual) intention to reduce debt: the statement mentioned the term “structural deleveraging” which first appeared this time last year but has been absent in policy statements since then. This suggests that the massive credit creation spree of the first quarter is now over for the foreseeable future.

There was also no mention of the need to boost consumption. In recent days there has been speculation that the government may roll out a consumption stimulus package boosting auto and household appliance consumption. Goldman does not believe this is likely given the state of the economy and financial market.

Overall, Goldman writes that "the tone of the meeting statement was mildly less dovish than before", which is consistent with the bank's expectations following the recent release of March data.

As Goldman cautions, the leadership might have intentionally sent a warning shot to the market, which has become visibly more optimistic about the outlook of the economy in recent months:

As much as they fear a weak economy and market, they are also concerned about potential bubbles, especially in the equity market. Given the performance of the market in recent months, the risks are tilted towards the upside. The current leadership is particularly sensitive to these risks because of the experience of a boom and bust in 2015, which is not that far back.

To conclude, Goldman expects the government to “take the foot off the accelerator” mildly but not to “step hard on the brake” because of the risk of a double dip in the economy and market, especially because of the 70th year anniversary of the founding of the PRC (which will be on October 1st and there will be a major celebration). As the state of the economy has been changing quickly in recent months, it should be expected that not all policymakers will have the same view about what to do going forward. The bottom line: this meeting provides a useful anchor, without which a further loosening of policy may lead to overheating as growth has become visibly stronger and inflationary pressures are building up already, not just food (read pig) prices.

America's Love Affair With Cars Nearly Finished

17 hours 41 min ago

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

At increasing rates, millennials and generation Z see no need to get a drivers license.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article that strikes right at the heart of the auto industry: Driving? The Kids Are So Over It.

About a quarter of 16-year-olds had a driver’s license in 2017, a sharp decline from nearly half in 1983, according to an analysis of licensing data by transportation researcher Michael Sivak.

Whereas a driver’s license once was a symbol of freedom, teenagers are reaching their driving age at a time when most have access to ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to shuttle them around town. At the same time, social media and video chat let them hang out with friends without actually leaving the house. When they reach their 20s, more are moving to big cities with mass transit, where owning a car is neither necessary nor practical. And of those who do buy a car, many more than in older generations opt for a used one, according to J.D. Power.

A new mind-set among many Generation Zers—roughly those born after 1997—is confounding parents and stumping auto makers at a time when new-vehicle sales in the U.S. are slowing. J.D. Power estimates that Gen Zers will purchase about 120,000 fewer new vehicles this year compared with millennials in 2004, when they were the new generation of drivers—or 488,198 vehicles versus 607,329 then.

“That freedom of getting your own wheels and a license—and that being the most important thing in life—is gone,” said Brent Wall, owner of All Star Driver Education in Michigan, a chain of drivers’-ed schools. He said the average age of students in his class is rising. “It used to be the day they turned 14 years and eight months, everybody was lining up at the door. Now I’m starting to see more 15- and 16-year-olds in class.” He frequently hears from parents that they’re the ones pushing their children to enroll.

Cooling on Cars

Cost vs Convenience

Cost is an issue. Detroit is busy churning out SUVs that cost well over $30,000. The cost of insurance is rising.

One can forgo a car but not a place to live. Housing costs have risen far more than the stated rate of inflation.

Death of the SUV

So who has been buying all those large SUVs? Retiring boomers and those flush with assets from the latest Fed-sponsored bubble.

Boomers won't live forever. Nor will the stock market bubble. And just around the corner are fleets of driverless cars and a wave of new services around those cars.

Attitudes

At the heart of this shift is huge change in attitude about cars and housing coupled with amazing technological advances.

Millennials and Generation Z saw what happened in the the Great Financial crisis and the first few years of the rebound. They saw their parents arguing over debt in fear of losing their house. They do not want to fall into the same trap.

We boomers did not have social media outlets when we were in high school and college. Nor did we have cell phones. If you wanted to do something you had to drive or get your parents to take you.

I spent countless hours as a high-schooler, even on weekdays, just driving around going nowhere. Gas was 20 cents a gallon.

The Future

The auto industry will soon not look like what it does today. Cars will be smaller, lighter, electric, and self-driving. Boomers will be gone. Those living in big cities will not need to own a car at all, and most won't.

Boomers are the primary force keeping the current auto trends alive. Demographically-speaking, it won't last.

Expect massive change within a decade, on multiple fronts, including outright ownership.

"Hollow And Laughable": Russia Issues Own Scathing 120-page Reaction To Mueller Report

18 hours 57 sec ago

One day following last Thursday's bombshell Mueller report — or rather we should say the report which ended three years of nonstop 'Russiagate' hysteria with a not-so-dramatic whimper — the Russian embassy in the US issued its own scathing report, calling the collusion conspiracy which Mueller's team sought to uncover "hollow and laughable"

The Russian embassy also said it was "no surprise" that the investigation delivered "no tangible result" in its own massive 120-page study, released online Friday, even the title of which pulled no punches  The Russiagate Hysteria: A Case of Severe Russiaphobia.

Image via AFP

The publication blasted a list of "groundless accusations" repeated since Trump's 2016 election, including allegations of Russian election meddling, the Kremlin's supposedly being behind the DNC hack, as well as Trump's working with Russian intelligence. 

It concluded in the wake of the Mueller report:

The investigation... didn't show any real evidence to back up claims of Moscow's cyberattacks and attempts to "subvert democracy".

Though Mueller's report failed to deliver on much of what the mainstream hyped over the years, it did point to efforts of Russian "interference" in US elections and alleged that Russian military intelligence was complicit in “hacking” the DNC.

"An obvious conclusion is reached – there was no collusion" the English language Russian report asserts. 

The report reads:

After three years, more than 8,000 publications in just four main outlets (Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and MSNBC), endless congressional inquiries, 22 months of the work of Robert Mueller that cost taxpayers an estimated $32 million, more than 2,800 subpoenas, 500 witnesses interrogated, and as many search warrants, an obvious conclusion is reached – there was no collusion.

The report also outlines multiple instances where Moscow had "fruitlessly" asked Washington to provide "hard proof" of the allegations, even going so far to offer cooperation in any investigation, but “the US refused every single time.”

During the entirety of the ordeal, the embassy report finds, “All this time, Russia pointed to the obvious made-up nature of these insinuations.”

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov ripped continued lack of US cooperation related to already agreed upon US-Russia initiatives to foster US-Russian economic and business ties. 

#Lavrov: our side submitted proposals and candidates to

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