Saturday, August 27, 2016

“I’ve Never Seen Anything Like This Before" - The Housing Markets In The Hamptons, Aspen And Miami Are All Crashing


One month ago, we said that "it is not looking good for the US housing market", when in the latest red flag for the US luxury real estate market, we reported that sales in the Hamptons plunged by half and home prices fell sharply in the second quarter in the ultra-wealthy enclave, New York's favorite weekend haunt for the 1%-ers.

Reuters blamed this on "stock market jitters earlier in the year" which  damped the appetite to buy, however one can also blame the halt of offshore money laundering, a slowing global economy, the collapse of the petrodollar, and the drastic drop in Wall Street bonuses. In short: a sudden loss of confidence that a greater fool may emerge just around the corner, which in turn has frozen buyer interest.


A beachfront residence is seen in East Hampton, New York, March 16, 2016.

We concluded this is just the beginning, and sure enough, several weeks later a similar collapse in the luxury housing segment was reported in a different part of the country. As the Denver Post reported recently, high-end sales that fuel Aspen’s $2 billion-a-year real estate market are evaporating, pushing Pitkin County’s sales volume down more than 42 percent to $546.45 million for the first half of the year from $939.91 million in the same period of 2015.

The collapse in transactions means that Aspen’s high-end real estate market "one of the most robust in the country, with dozens of options for buyers ready to spend more than $10 million" finds itself in its first-ever sustained nosedive, despite "dense summer crowds, soaring sales tax revenues and high lodging occupancy."

Like in the Hamptons, the question everyone is asking is "why"? There are many answers:

Ask a dozen market watchers why, and you’ll get a dozen answers. Uncertainty around the presidential election. Fear of Trump. Fear of Clinton. Growing trade imbalances with China. Brexit. Roller-coaster oil prices. Zika. Wobbling economies in South America. The list goes on.

“People are worried about all kinds of stuff these days,” says longtime Aspen broker Bob Ritchie. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

The speed of the collapse has been stunning. Until just last year, the local market was beyond robust, with Pitkin County real estate sales hitting $2 billion in 2015, a 33% annual increase driven largely by sales of homes in Aspen, where prices average $7.7 million.

This year, however, "a slowdown in January turned into a free fall." Sales volume in Pitkin County is down 42%, according to data compiled by Land Title Guarantee Co.

Almost all of that decline is coming from Aspen, where the market is frozen. Sales in the Aspen-Snowmass market in the first half of the year were the bleakest since the first half of 2009, and inventory soared to levels not seen since the recession.

High-end sales that fuel Aspen’s $2 billion-a-year real estate market  are evaporating

The statistics are stunning: single-family home sales in Aspen are down 62% in dollar volume through the first-half of the year. Sales of homes priced at $10 million or more — almost always paid for in cash — are down 60%. Last year, super-high-end transactions accounted for nearly a third of sales volume in Pitkin County.

“The high-end buyer has disappeared,” said Tim Estin, an Aspen broker whose Estin Report analyzes the Aspen-Snowmass real estate market.

"Aspen has never experienced such a sudden and precipitous drop in real estate sales," according to the post.

Worse, it's not just the collapse in the number of transaction: even more disconcerting for brokers who have always trumpeted Aspen as a safe and lucrative place to park a huge pile of money: Prices are dropping.

In the first half of this year, the average price per square foot of Aspen homes dropped 22 percent to $1,095 from $1,338 in 2015. Recent Aspen sales also closed at more than 15 percent below listing price, a rare discount.

Some brokers suspect that the frenzied sales and pricing pace of 2015 was not sustainable. The present decline is a correction, they say. “I think a lot of people thought we would go to the next level in 2016. Take the next step up and that step got resistance from buyers,” said longtime Aspen broker Joshua Saslove, who just put an Aspen home for more than $10 million under contract. If it closes, it will be just the fourth sale above $10 million in Aspen this year, compared with more than a dozen by this point last year.

“I think a lot of developers thought they would push their, say, $5 million properties to $6 million this year, but no one is buying,” Saslove said. “I don’t see that nonchalance or cavalier attitude any more.”

To be sure, Saslove is hoping that a rebound is coming; that however, may be overly optimistic and first far more pain is in store especially if one considers what is taking place in yet another formerly red-hot housing market, where suddenly things are just as bad, because as Mansion Global reports...

Luxury condo sales in Miami have crashed 44%.

According to the latest report by the Miami Association of Realtors, the local luxury housing market is just as bad, if not worse, than the Hamptons and Aspen.

The latest figures out of Miami this week showed residential sales are down almost 21% from the same time last year. But as bad as this double-digit decline may seem, it pales in comparison to what’s happening at the high end of the market.

A closer look at transactions for properties of $1 million or more in July shows just 73 single-family home sales, representing an annual decline of 31.8%, according to a new report by the Miami Association of Realtors. In the case of condos in the same price range, the number of closed sales fell by an even wider margin: 44.4%, to 45 transactions.

The Miami housing market, and its luxury segment in particular, has been softening for the past year with high-end condos sitting on the market for twice as long as they did a year ago and sellers offering bigger discounts amid an increased supply.

Number of closed sales for Miami condos priced over $1 million fell by 44%

In July, townhouses and condos of $1 million or more waited, on average, 162 days for a buyer, a 1.9% increase over a year ago and the longest time of any other price range, according to the report.

As in the previous two markets, the locals want something to blame, in this case the strong dollar, which has significantly increased the value of properties in other currencies, has been blamed, and perhaps rightfully so as sales to foreigners—an important client base, since international buyers  acquire more homes in Florida than in any other state, according to the National Association of Realtors - have tumbled.

Real estate appraiser and data expert Jonathan Miller said that Miami is behaving like most of the rest of the U.S. housing market, which is in fairly good shape overall “but soft at the top.”

As noted here over the years, In the case of Miami, like in other most other coastal markets such as New York and Los Angeles, the housing boom was heavily boosted by foreign buyers, who used US luxury real estate as their new form of anonymous "offshore bank accounts" courtesy of the NAR's exemption from Anti-Money Laundering Provisions. However, after the recent drops in commodity prices and the spike in the USD, they have scaled back their purchases.

“The international component is not as intense,” Mr. Miller said.

Depsite the slowdown deals are still being done, with cash the preferred form of payment of foreign buyers in the U.S., - some 43% of all sales in Miami in July were closed in cash, however down from 48.1% the same month last year, according to the latest figures.

Other potential buyers are also stepping back: cash sales for townhouses and condominiums, an indicator of investor activity, hit their lowest level in a year last month: 633 transactions, representing a 30.4% year-over-year decline, according to the report.

As for the forecast for the coming months, sales activity doesn’t look likely to surge. There were 1,272 pending sales of townhouses and condos in Miami in July, which means 25.4% fewer transactions waiting to close than in the same month in 2015 and the lowest number so far this year. Meanwhile, as a result of a building boom, luxury condo inventory is up 47.8% from last year, with 2,482 units worth $1 million or more waiting to change hands; this means that sellers of high-end condos will continue to face stiff competition, prompting even fewer transactions and/or lower prices.

So far, the collapse at the luxury end has failed to transmit to the broader market, less impacted by lack of foreign demand, however as we documented two weeks ago, it is only a matter of time before the overall US housing market suffers as well. The only question is whether the NAR and the US Census Bureau, who tabulate the "goal-seeked", seasonally adjusted data, will admit it before or after the presidential elections. The likely answer: it depends on who the next president is.


GMO Maize Triggers Tumors in Rats: New Email Leak Shows How Monsanto Stifles Criticism

The Seralini debacle is a perfect case study of how industry conspires with cooperative scientists to help bury information that is harmful to its commercial interests. Monsanto is one of the most hated companies on the planet. …Unless you ask …


Friday, August 26, 2016

The Clinton’s Bogus “Humanitarian” War On Serbia—-Stunning New Evidence



By John Pilger The exoneration of a man accused of the worst of crimes, genocide, made no headlines. Neither the BBC nor CNN covered it. The Guardian allowed a brief commentary. Such a rare official admission was buried or suppressed, understandably. It would explain too much about how the rulers of the world rule. The International…


Most Scientific Findings Are Wrong or Useless


ScientistYanlevDreamstime"Science, the pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble." So begins "Saving Science," an incisive and deeply disturbing essay by Daniel Sarewitz at The New Atlantis. As evidence, Sarewitz, a professor at Arizona State University's School for Future Innovation and Society, points to reams of mistaken or simply useless research findings that have been generated over the past decades.

Sarewitz cites several examples of bad science that I reported in my February article "Broken Science." These include a major biotech company's finding in 2012 that only six out of 53 landmark published preclinical cancer studies could be replicated. Researchers at a leading pharmaceutical company reported that they could not replicate 43 of the 67 published preclinical studies that the company had been relying on to develop cancer and cardiovascular treatments and diagnostics. In 2015, only about a third of 100 psychological studies published in three leading psychology journals could be adequately replicated.

A 2015 editorial in The Lancet observed that "much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue." A 2015 British Academy of Medical Sciences report suggested that the false discovery rate in some areas of biomedicine could be as high as 69 percent. In an email exchange with me, the Stanford biostatistician John Ioannidis estimated that the non-replication rates in biomedical observational and preclinical studies could be as high as 90 percent.

Sarewitz also notes that 1,000 peer-reviewed and published breast cancer research studies turned out to be using a skin cancer cell line instead. Furthermore, when amyotrophic lateral sclerosis researchers tested more than 100 potential drugs reported to slow disease progression in mouse models, none were found to be beneficial when tested on the same mouse strains. A 2016 article suggested that fMRI brain imaging studies suffered from a 70 percent false positive rate. Sarewitz also notes that decades of nutritional dogma about the alleged health dangers of salt, fats, and red meat appears to be wrong.

And then there is the huge problem of epidemiology, which manufactures false positives by the hundreds of thousands. In the last decade of the 20th century, some 80,000 observational studies were published, but the numbers more than tripled to nearly 264,000 between 2001 and 2011. S. Stanley Young of the U.S. National Institute of Statistical Sciences has estimated that only 5 to 10 percent of those observational studies can be replicated. "Within a culture that pressures scientists to produce rather than discover, the outcome is a biased and impoverished science in which most published results are either unconfirmed genuine discoveries or unchallenged fallacies," four British neuroscientists bleakly concluded in a 2014 editorial for the journal AIMS Neuroscience.

Some alarmed researchers refer to this situation as the "reproducibility crisis," but Sarewitz convincingly argues that they are not getting to the real source of the rot. The problem starts with the notion, propounded in the MIT technologist Vannevar Bush's famous 1945 report Science: The Endless Frontier, that scientific progress "results from the free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity for exploration of the unknown." Sarewitz calls this a "beautiful lie."

Why it is a lie? Because it makes "it easy to believe that scientific imagination gives birth to technological progress, when in reality technology sets the agenda for science, guiding it in its most productive directions and providing continual tests of its validity, progress, and value." He adds, "Technology keeps science honest." Basically, research detached from trying to solve well-defined problems spins off self-validating, career-enhancing publications like those breast cancer studies that actually were using skin cancer cells. Yet no patients were cured of breast cancer. The "truth test" of technology is the most certain way to tell if the knowledge allegedly being generated by research is valid. "The scientific phenomena must be real or the technologies would not work," Sarewitz explains.

Sarewitz points out that the military-industrial complex—the very force from which Vannevar Bush was eager to escape—generated the targeted scientific results that led to many of the technologies that have made the modern world possible, including digital computers, jet aircraft, cell phones, the internet, lasers, satellites, GPS, digital imagery, and nuclear and solar power. He's not suggesting that the Department of Defense should be in charge of scientific research. He's arguing that research should be aimed more directly at solving specific problems, as opposed to a system where researchers torture some cells and lab mice and then publish a dubious paper. An example of the kind of targeted scientific work he favors is the National Breast Cancer Coalition's Artemis project, whose goal is to develop an effective breast cancer vaccine by 2020.

"Academic science, especially, has become an onanistic enterprise worthy of Swift or Kafka," Sarewitz declares. He wants end-user constituencies—patient advocacy groups, environmental organizations, military planners—outside of academia to have a much bigger say in setting the goals for publicly funded research. "The questions you ask are likely to be very different if your end goal is to solve a concrete problem, rather than only to advance understanding," he argues. "That's why the symbiosis between science and technology is so powerful: the technology provides focus and discipline for the science."

And there's a bigger problem. In his 1972 essay "Science and Trans-Science," the physicist Alvin Weinberg noted that science is increasingly being asked to address such issues as the deleterious side effects of new technologies, or how to deal with social problems such as crime and poverty. These are questions that "though they are, epistemologically speaking, questions of fact and can be stated in the language of science, they are unanswerable by science; they transcend science." Such trans-scientific questions inevitably involve values, assumptions, and ideology. Consequently, attempting to answer trans-scientific questions, Weinberg wrote, "inevitably weaves back and forth across the boundary between what is known and what is not known and knowable."

"The great thing about trans-science is that you can keep on doing research," Sarewitz observes, "You can...create the sense that we're gaining knowledge...without getting any closer to a final or useful answer." Some contemporary trans-scientific questions: "Are biotech crops necessary to feed the world?" "Does exposure to synthetic chemicals deform penises?" "Do open markets benefit all countries?" "What will the costs of man-made global warming be in a century?" "What can be done about rising obesity rates?" "Does standardized testing improve educational outcomes?" All of these depend on debatable assumptions or are subject to confounders that make it impossible to be sure that the correlations uncovered are actually causal.

Consider climate change. "The vaunted scientific consensus around climate change," notes Sarewitz, "applies only to a narrow claim about the discernible human impact on global warming. The minute you get into questions about the rate and severity of future impacts, or the costs of and best pathways for addressing them, no semblance of consensus among experts remains." Nevertheless, climate "models spew out endless streams of trans-scientific facts that allow for claims and counterclaims, all apparently sanctioned by science, about how urgent the problem is and what needs to be done."

Vast numbers of papers have been published attempting to address these trans-scientific questions, Sarewitz observes. They provide anyone engaged in these debates with overabundant supplies of "peer-reviewed and thus culturally validated truths that can be selected and assembled in whatever ways are necessary to support the position and policy solution of your choice." It's confirmation bias all the way down.

The advent of big data also worries Sarewitz. Dredging massive new datasets generated by an already badly flawed research enterprise will produce huge numbers of meaningless correlations. Since the integrity of the output is dependent on the integrity of input, big data science risks generating a flood of instances of garbage in, garbage out, or GIGO. Sarewitz warns, "The scientific community and its supporters are now busily creating the infrastructure and the expectations that can make unreliability, knowledge chaos, and multiple conflicting truths the essence of science's legacy."

Ultimately, science can be rescued if researchers can be directed more toward solving real world problems rather than pursuing the beautiful lie. Sarewitz argues that in the future, the most valuable scientific institutions will be those that are held accountable and give scientists incentives to solve urgent concrete problems. The goal of such science will be to produce new useful technologies, not new useless studies. In the meantime, Sarewitz has made a strong case that contemporary "science isn't self-correcting, it's self-destructing."


Most Research Results Are Wrong or Useless: New at Reason


ScientistYanlevDreamstime"Science, the pride of modernity, our one source of objective knowledge, is in deep trouble." So begins "Saving Science," an incisive and deeply disturbing essay by Daniel Sarewitz at The New Atlantis. As evidence, Sarewitz, a professor at Arizona State University's School for Future Innovation and Society, points to reams of mistaken or simply useless research findings that have been generated over the past decades.

Some alarmed researchers refer to this situation as the "reproducibility crisis," but Sarewitz convincingly argues that they are not getting to the real source of the rot. The problem starts with the notion, propounded in the MIT technologist Vannevar Bush's famous 1945 report Science: The Endless Frontier, that scientific progress "results from the free play of free intellects, working on subjects of their own choice, in the manner dictated by their curiosity for exploration of the unknown." Sarewitz calls this a "beautiful lie." Why is it a lie? Read the article and find out.

View this article.


The Real Threat... Violence From The Left


Submitted by David Galland via,

The impetus for today’s musings is my growing annoyance with the factoid (something touted as fact, but false) that “conservatives” are violent nuts.

According to new and old media alike - from Google and Facebook to the New York Times and the Washington Post - it’s the Trump supporter we must fear the most.

In support of that factoid, the media shrilly points out the affection Trump’s cheering squad has for the Second Amendment. And there’s no doubt Trump’s supporters like the idea of being able to defend themselves in an emergency.

While not the primary theme for today’s musings, I would like to share a quick personal aside about why private gun ownership might not be such a bad idea.

Help on Hold

It was the 1970s, and I was living in Playa del Rey, California, a co-joined suburb of Greater Los Angeles.

It was there one bright California morning that I awoke to discover the only asset of any real value I owned at the time, a souped-up Camaro, had been stolen off the curb.

Instinctively, I hot-footed it into the house and dialed 911. My expectation was that Officer Friday or, if he was otherwise engaged, one of his associates would answer on the second ring, note the details, and dispatch a patrol car pronto.

What actually occurred was that my call was answered by an automated voice confirming I had indeed reached the Los Angeles Police Department. The soothing female voice then cooed assurances that my call was important to them, and so I should remain on the line for the next available representative.

A bit surprised, but accepting that the Los Angeles Police Department must be a busy place, I held on for what I was sure would be just a matter of seconds. The seconds dragged on into minutes, and by the time a representative answered, a full 20 minutes had passed.

To be crystal clear, the number I dialed was 9-1-1. You know, the emergency line. I recall thinking to myself at the time, surely there must be another number, maybe 9-9-9, that meant it was REALLY an emergency, as opposed to a non-life-threatening car theft.

But there wasn’t, and there still isn’t.

Which is to say that if the problem hadn’t been a missing car but rather a deranged maniac hacking through the door with a serrated knife, I would have been a sitting schmuck.

Within a week I bought my first gun, a Remington 22 Magnum revolver, a gun I own to this day.

I could go on, as I am wont to do, with all sorts of relevant examples where law-abiding citizens were able to protect their belongings or selves by waving around a gun, but in the interest of time, I’ll resist.

So, no, being in favor of being able to defend yourself with something other than a broomstick in an emergency doesn’t seem a sign of insanity to me. Quite the opposite.

But I digress, sort of.

The Real Threat

The meme that somehow Trump’s supporters are not just armed but prone to violence is one of those ideas that, if explored with even a small corner of the cranium, would be revealed as utter nonsense.

For starters, you might wish to revisit press coverage of the events hosted by Trump vs. Mrs. Clinton during their respective campaigns.

As far as I can tell, there was not a single case of Trump supporters circling Clinton events like feral dogs in order to harass her supporters as they tried to enter or leave the venues where the events were being held.

Yes, there were a couple of isolated incidents where Trump supporters were overly enthusiastic in assisting security as they subdued protesters inside Trump events, and those were shameful.

But that was nothing compared to the violence committed against participants at Trump rallies in cities such as San Jose, Richmond, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.


The latest such incident occurred this past week in Minneapolis where a pack of cowards, unhindered by police, took turns sucker punching and robbing people trying to enter a Trump event.

It is equally disturbing when individuals are being targeted simply because they display symbols indicating they are pro-Trump.

The always erudite John Derbyshire recently asked whether Clinton supporters would be concerned for their personal safety as a consequence of placing a pro-Clinton placard on their lawn?

Of course not.

But what about a Trump supporter?

The answer is completely obvious in the affirmative.

If you accept the populist narrative, to plant a Trump sign in front of your home is the same as announcing to the world you’re a crazy white racist.

For certain demographics—in which I include brainwashed young white hipsters—that makes you and yours fair game.

At this point, there are too many examples of violence against Trump supporters to recount here, but I’ll toss into the ring a 62-year-old man beaten with a crowbar for wearing a Trump T-shirt, and a recent assault against Trump supporters in West Hollywood. If you read that article, you’ll note that prior to the attack, the Trumpsters were refused service and asked to leave a restaurant solely because of their political affiliation.

Oh, the irony of watching people who profess to worry about Trump being a fascist… trying to silence him and his followers. You know, because the defense of free speech extends only to their free speech.

Want to debate the Second Amendment, trade policies, the legal process for orderly immigration, the size of government, monetary policy? Pull a Trump T-shirt over your head, and all bets are off. It’s like waving a red cape in front of a herd of bulls.

Of course, it’s not all that one-sided. The odds of a dedicated Trump supporter listening with an open mind to someone making a case for electing Hillary are roughly equal to those of Bill Clinton taking a pass on an attractive and willing intern.

But based on the evidence, acts of violence toward those expressing an opposing view—in this case, pro-Trump—appear to come almost exclusively from the left.

This is only conjecture, but if you polled a wide swath of Clinton supporters as to whether they thought it a good thing if Trump were to die on the spot, I suspect the majority would answer solidly in the affirmative.

Okay, okay. I guess a similar poll directed at Trump’s supporters and having to do with Hillary Clinton’s immediate demise would probably have the same results.

Face it, the nation is divided, and dangerously so.

But as to who is more likely to actually open fire, you’ve got to place your bet on the anti-Trump crowd.

A Disturbing New Reality

In researching the violence and threats of violence against Trump supporters, I googled “Trump Supporters Attacked.” What I got was a page of listings about Trump verbally attacking someone or another.

I finally had to go to the far less rigged search engine in order to find a report, by Breitbart - the only semi-major media outlet actually reporting on this stuff - about the latest attacks in Minneapolis.

Do you remember the overenthusiastic Trump supporter who helped subdue a protester at one of his events by sucker-punching the man as security was taking him out of the venue?

The reason you probably do is that it was all over the news for the better part of a week.

Yet the latest attacks in Minneapolis were buried in the equivalent of the back pages, in small print, by the big search engines and mainstream media.

Now, imagine if it were the other way around… that a group of Trump supporters blocked the doors of a Hillary event and made the participants run a gauntlet of fists and spit.

This new reality of the media and Google (among others) acting as unindicted co-conspirators for the takeover of the American government is highly disturbing.

Their manipulation of the news is so aggressive and so overt (as well as covert) in this election that I suspect this era will be looked back on in history as an inflection point signaling the end of democracy as we know it. That is, if history won’t likewise have been rewritten by the mega-manipulators.

It’s clear the media is determined to deny Trump a fair shot at winning the election, but this continued pounding of the drums about violence could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. In which case, everyone loses.

Frankly, I’m appalled at what’s going on in this country. Which is why some years ago I voted with my feet, a decision I have never regretted, not for a minute.

If you’d like to experience what life is like on the other side of the curtain, consider attending the upcoming Discover Cafayate event hosted by Doug Casey here in the quaint wine-growing Argentine valley where we live. The dates are November 1–6, and there is a limit to the number of guests who can participate.

If you’re interested, drop my friend Juan Larranaga a note at

Here Come the Clowns

Save the Planet, Take Over the Economy! Another recent example of the socialist mindset is provided in a New Republic article by Bruce McKibben, a true believer of the most dangerous sort.

In his article entitled, “A World at War,” he calls for a takeover of the American industry and property by the government, similar to that in WWII, but in this case in order to fight the war against weather.

Here’s a telling quote:

Mark Wilson, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has just finished a decade-long study of the mobilization effort, entitled Destructive Creation. It details how the federal government birthed a welter of new agencies with names like the War Production Board and the Defense Plant Corporation; the latter, between 1940 and 1945, spent $9 billion on 2,300 projects in 46 states, building factories it then leased to private industry. By war’s end, the government had a dominant position in everything from aircraft manufacturing to synthetic rubber production.


“It was public capital that built most of the stuff, not Wall Street,” says Wilson. “And at the top level of logistics and supply-chain management, the military was the boss. They placed the contracts, they moved the stuff around.” The feds acted aggressively—they would cancel contracts as war needs changed, tossing factories full of people abruptly out of work. If firms refused to take direction, FDR ordered many of them seized. Though companies made money, there was little in the way of profiteering—bad memories from World War I, Wilson says, led to “robust profit controls,” which were mostly accepted by America’s industrial tycoons.

Remarkably, McKibben and a number of similarly dangerous socialists are thought-leaders for millions of Americans. As the useful idiots increasingly take the reins of political power, could we see this enviro-fascism lead to calls for arresting climate-change skeptics? You betcha.


WhatsApp Isn’t Only Giving Your Information to Facebook — and No, You Can’t Opt-Out


(ANTIMEDIA) When Facebook purchased the encrypted mobile messaging app, WhatsApp, for $19 billion in 2014, some users were concerned about the security of their information and the implications of their private correspondence being handed over to the largest data mining operation in human history. At the time, WhatsApp founder Jan Koum claimed there would be no changes in operations, claiming:

There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.”  

Surprise! WhatsApp announced Thursday it would be sharing all user information with Facebook, compromising the core principle that defined the company — privacy.

The blog notes an update to “WhatsApp’s terms and privacy policy for the first time in four years, as part of our plans to test ways for people to communicate with businesses in the months ahead.” It’s important for everyone who uses WhatsApp, or is even considering using it, to read the terms and privacy policy in their entirety — because all you’ll get from the official announcement is that it’s “coordinating with Facebook” to make your life awesome. But there’s a lot to be learned from the fine print.

Below are some important highlights from the new “privacy policy.” The constant reminders that the messages are still encrypted are present throughout the new policy but will be omitted in this article for the purpose of highlighting the changes, specifically.

When you agree to the Terms of Service, you are agreeing to share your information with Facebook and “other companies in the Facebook family,” which includes Atlas, Instagram, Onavo, Parse, Moves, Oculus, LiveRail (now operating as Facebook Audience Network), and Masquerade. The reasons (listed below) for sharing your information consist of a string of verbs that sound professional and positive but remain vague enough to cover almost any use of your information.

From the new policy [emphasis in text added]:

“Affiliated Companies: We joined the Facebook family of companies in 2014. As part of the Facebook family of companies, WhatsApp receives information from, and shares information with, this family of companies. We may use the information we receive from them, and they may use the information we share with them, to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings. This includes helping improve infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our Services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities. Facebook and the other companies in the Facebook family also may use information from us to improve your experiences within their services such as making product suggestions (for example, of friends or connections, or of interesting content) and showing relevant offers and ads.”

The new policy details information WhatsApp intends to share with Facebook and its family companies, which includes the information you provide to them, information about you provided by other users, contacts in your mobile address book, who you interact with, when you interact with them, information given to them by third parties, your location, when you are online, and when you read your last message.

“Your Account Information. You provide your mobile phone number to create a WhatsApp account. You provide us the phone numbers in your mobile address book on a regular basis, including those of both the users of our Services and your other contacts. You confirm you are authorized to provide us such numbers. You may also add other information to your account, such as a profile name, profile picture, and status message.”

In the “Your Messages section, WhatsApp stresses that communications are definitely still encrypted.

They go on:

“Your Connections. To help you organize how you communicate with others, we may create a favorites list of your contacts for you, and you can create, join, or get added to groups and broadcast lists, and such groups and lists get associated with your account information.”

The new policy further details more reductions in privacy:

“Usage and Log Information. We collect service-related, diagnostic, and performance information. This includes information about your activity (such as how you use our Services, how you interact with others using our Services, and the like), log files, and diagnostic, crash, website, and performance logs and reports.”

It addresses real-time tracking, as well:

“Status information – We collect information about your online and status message changes on our Services, such as whether you are online (your ‘online status’), when you last used our Services (your ‘last seen status’), and when you last updated your status message.”

(Okay, that one is not totally unexpected but it’s still a bit creepy).

It explains how others can provide additional information about you:

“Information Others Provide About You. We receive information other people provide us, which may include information about you. For example, when other users you know use our Services, they may provide your phone number from their mobile address book (just as you may provide theirs), or they may send you a message, send messages to groups to which you belong, or call you. (So even if you don’t have WhatsApp or Facebook, your information is still available to them through any family, friend, or business contacts you may have.)

“Third-Party Providers. We work with third-party providers to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services. For example, we work with companies to distribute our apps, provide our infrastructure, delivery, and other systems, supply map and places information, process payments, help us understand how people use our Services, and market our Services. These providers may provide us information about you in certain circumstances.”

Some sites have advertised that they can help you “opt-out” of this information-sharing, but these are ultimately just efforts to get you to click on their page; you can’t actually opt-out, short of deleting the app altogether. It’s easy to be confused, however, because the top of this WhatsApp FAQ page reads:

“How do I choose not to share my account information with Facebook to improve my Facebook ads and products experiences?”

WhatsApp responds:

“If you are an existing user, you can choose not to share your account information with Facebook to improve your Facebook ads and products experiences.”

Well, that sounds promising! It’s not, though. It’s more than misleading. After detailing two ways to stop your information from being used to target Facebook ads, this disclaimer adds:

The Facebook family of companies will still receive and use this information for other purposes such as improving infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities.”

It’s not as if any of this is some big secret. It’s not hidden, it’s just cleverly-worded in a lengthy agreement that not everyone takes the time to read.

There is a lesson to be learned here, and that’s that the days of privacy are long gone. Our information is flying around cyberspace whether we like it or not. If that is a concern for you, there are some things you can do to attempt to keep your information safe, like setting up two-step notification on your email and social media accounts, putting a “fraud alert” on your credit report, installing a mobile security app, using a password manager, being careful about what you click on, and as we learned today, always reading the fine print.

This article (WhatsApp Isn’t Only Giving Your Information to Facebook — and No, You Can’t Opt-Out) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Josie Wales and Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. Image credit: Sam Azgor. If you spot a typo, please email the error and name of the article to


Why There's A Media Blackout On The Native American Oil Pipeline Blockade


Submitted by Nick Bernabe via,

As the Lakota Sioux continue their peaceful blockade of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, the story’s absence from the national media narrative is palpable. Considering the corporate media’s chronic quest for controversial stories on government versus public standoffs, you’d think this situation would garner the typical media frenzy invoked during a right-wing militia occupation of a federal building, for example, or a tense standoff between the Black Lives Matter movement and police. But it’s not.

As of late, the media has faced criticism for its selective coverage of certain events — like, say, focusing on single terror attacks in Western Europe that garner thousands of headlines while basically ignoring similar or worse attacks that occur on a constant basis in Muslim-majority countries.

But the confrontation unfolding in North Dakota, in particular, is strikingly similar to the recent standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, which involved a right-wing militia advocating land rights against the federal government. The militia was led by the controversial Bundy family, which previously drew sensationalized coverage during a similar standoff in Nevada in 2014. So why were these stories covered extensively while the other — also centered around land rights — has been mostly ignored?

The first point is actually very simple: Native Americans standing up for themselves is not polarizing. In an age of institutionalized media divisiveness and hyper-partisanship, the story of Native Americans in North Dakota fighting for land and water rights just doesn’t fit the script of deep, societal divides plaguing the nation’s law and order, nor does it fit in with the left-right paradigm. People from both sides of the political spectrum pretty much agree that Native Americans have been screwed by the U.S. government and resource-snatching corporations long enough. Considering this sentiment, there’s really no exploitable controversy on this issue from the mainstream media perspective, which inherently drives topical, superficial news narratives.

It’s easy to create a controversy out of right-wing white nationalist militias occupying an obscure federal wildlife preserve building (if that sounds petty and not exactly newsworthy, that’s because it was petty and not exactly newsworthy). I witnessed liberals so incensed by the Oregon occupiers they were calling for the FBI to literally gun them down. Meanwhile, the alt-right movement hailed them as heroes and harbingers of the second American Revolution. It made for a great, divisive controversy. But in the end, nothing was accomplished. It was topical. It was superficial. It was essentially meaningless — and the media loved it so much it dedicated a month’s worth of prime time TV coverage to it.

In contrast, the only thing the mainstream media would accomplish by publicizing the growing tribal opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline would be to effectively kill the prospects of the pipeline. Providing ongoing coverage would likely inspire national outrage toward the oil company, Dakota Access LLC, and the government agencies currently trying to evict the indigenous people from their own ancestral lands.

It’s important to understand that the media doesn’t always cover certain stories just because they’re actually newsworthy. Often, the media’s coverage is intended to promote and drive narratives, and the divisive flavor has been a top seller for a long time. This coverage has accomplished at least one thing in the United States: the country is now the most divided it’s been in a very long time. Maybe that has been the media’s intention all along.

The second and more obvious reason why mainstream outlets have not focused on the situation in North Dakota is money — oil money, to be exact. The corporate media in the United States is deeply in bed with oil interests. From fracking advertisements on MSNBC to individuals on Big Oil’s payroll literally working for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, the ties cannot be understated. Why would mainstream media publicize a standoff that could potentially kill an oil pipeline when their own financial interests would be negatively affected? The answer is they wouldn’t.

And there you have it. That’s why right-wing militias pointlessly occupying a wildlife refuge is one of the biggest stories of the century but Native Americans stopping the construction of a multibillion-dollar pipeline isn’t worth a single headline on CNN.


Entire Russian Paralympics Team Banned: Carefully Engineered US Anti-Russian Propaganda

The banning of the entire Russian team at the Paralympics in Rio is the latest example of how sport has become a front in the US-led propaganda war against Russia. Russian Paralympians who have never done anything wrong have been…


Non-Religious Fundamentalists


France's recent crackdown on a garment known as the "burkini," popular among Muslim women who want to remain modest while enjoying a swim, has accrued ample criticism from all over the world this week. But it's just one example of a wave of non-religious fundamentalism, in which the allegedly patriarchal print of Islam and other faiths must be destroyed by the righteous benevolence of public officials.

In Germany this week, a Muslim woman was fired from her government internship when she refused to remove her headscarf. In Tajikistan, a country long hostile to Islam, some officials have begun keeping lists of women who sport hijabs, the traditional head-covering worn by Muslim girls and women. "The country's staunchly secular authoritarian government disapproves of attire or grooming that would suggest supposedly radical Islamic beliefs," reports The Washington Post.

True, Tajikstan is an extreme example: its government has been known to shut down mosques at random, ban parents from giving their children Arabic names, and otherwise go hard on quashing religious expression. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, "the government of Tajikistan suppresses and punishes all religious activity independent of state control."

But France, an allegedly liberal and democratic country, also takes a pretty authoritarian line toward religious expression. Secularity is its own sort of religion there, at least to those in power, who have banned religious symbols such as crosses, yarmulkes, and hijabs in all government buildings and public schools. More recently, some 15 towns voted to ban burkinis on public beaches.

This week, the sight of French police publicly forcing a Muslim woman at the beach to remove clothing has (understandably) drawn a lot of outrage, with many rushing to point out why such policies go against the spirit in which they're intended. This takes the state at its word on why Muslim women's garments have been banned: they're a symbol of women's ongoing inequality in some cultures. That is not the culture of France, say leaders, and hence its zero-tolerance policy for such symbols of female oppression.

It's a silly scheme for several reasons. For one, it's unlikely to make the lives of actual oppressed women any better; for those whom husbands or families force headscarves and burquas in public, a ban on these items will simply mean many Muslim have to forgo the beach and other public outings entirely. (It's also unlikely to inspire goodwill among Muslim communities already alienated from mainstream French society.) For another, it's contradictory: in the name of women's equality, France is literally forcing women to wear less clothing than they're comfortable in and passing laws that target female attire but not male.

And these policies are also hypocritical in how they define symbols of female oppression. As many, many Muslim women have pointed out, hijabs and other traditional Muslim garments don't necessarily signify second-class status, and women may choose to wear them for cultural reasons or personal beliefs about modesty. Some folks counter that the "cultural reasons" are rooted in sexism, so what difference does it make? But surely we could say the same about many women's garments, from the habits worn by Catholic nuns to the wigs worn by Hasidic Jewish ladies to the stiletto-heels and string-bikinis worn by some secular women. Certainly not every woman who dons a skimpy outfits or slaps on bright-red lipstick is doing so to please men, or fulfill cultural norms, but many are, and you don't see France rushing to ban Forever 21 or L'Oréal.

But of course this is about more than just women's clothing. France's burkini-beach-party crackdown is rooted in a geopolitical zeitgeist that includes the rise of ISIS, the influx of Syrian immigrants to Europe, and the escalation of "lone-wolf" terrorist attacks in Western cities. The battle over burkinis, hijabs, and other outward symbols of Muslim womanhood has become a proxy battle for bigger conflicts over immigration and assimilation, terrorism and state control.

Emphasis on state control, though. While feminism and fear-of-terrorism may flavor this au courant crackdown—giving liberals and conservatives alike something to latch on to—the French ban on Muslim womenswear is based in good old-fashioned authoritarianism and toxic nationalism. The start of France's opposition to Islamic head-coverings came during the French-Algerian War of the 1950s and '60s, in which Algeria gained its independence after more than 100 years as a French colony.

At various times during this era, the French undertook campaigns to "liberate" Algerian women by making them remove their headscarves and veils, something Katherine Bullock details in Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil. The last push came during Algeria's struggle for independence, as those who wanted the area to remain a part of France campaigned to convince Algerian women they were better off under French rule. In 1958, the French army rounded up around a hundred Muslim Algerians—mostly maids, sex workers, and other poor women—and unveiled them in a public square to cries of "Vive L'Algerie francaise!"

With that, the veil took on new significance as a symbol of anti-colonialist resistence. So, does that mean veiled French Muslim women are all subversive freedom fighters? Of course not. But it illustrates nicely how the same object or article of clothing can take on different meanings in different contexts, or hold multiple meanings for the same individual. Setting our Western gaze on women in hijabs and seeing only oppression isn't some new-fangled feminist awareness, it's a perfect extension of imperialist legacies.

At USA Today, Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero points out that the U.S. was fond of exerting the same sort of state force against Catholics not too long ago. "In the late 19th century, several states passed laws, obviously aimed at Catholic nuns, that forbade teachers from wearing clerical garb in public schools," writes Prothero. "Today, such statutes remain on the books in Pennsylvania and Nebraska, where they effectively bar not only many Catholic clerics but also Muslim women with headscarves from serving as public school teachers."

Overall, however, separation-of-church-and-state took a different path in the U.S. than it did in France from the get-go. France set out to ensure the separation by more or less banning all religious expression in the public sphere, while the U.S. (generally) went the opposite route, stipulating that the state couldn't ban any particular public expression of faith. The result, writes Prothero, is that "a spiritual free market emerged. Here the power of any one denomination would be restrained by the presence of other denominations competing for adherents in full public view."

One only need look to the story of Catholics in America to see we got it right: once an outcast, suspicious, and non-assimilating crew, Catholics are now no less mainstream in America than apple pie. It turns out that when you let people assimilate at their own pace, picking and choosing from the dominant (liberal, secular) culture and their own smaller communities as they go along, most people will eventually begin to blend the two. The process can work in reverse, as well, with a minority group shifting dominant cultural views through time and tolerance—something we've seen in America over the past few decades when it comes to same-sex relationships and rights.

The lesson here for secular, socially-liberal Americans (and one I'm afraid few progressives pillorying France right now will entertain) is not to be like the burkini banners and other non-religious fundamentalists when it comes to spreading "tolerance" in America. Just as forcing French Muslims out of their comfort zones via state force has and will backfire, attempting to eradicate the last vestiges of homophobia, speed-up the destigmatization of transgender people, or otherwise encourage compassion, acceptance, and social tolerance through government force will always be a losing strategy.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

CNN Cancels Dr. Drew's Show One Week After He Voiced "Grave Concern" For Hillary's Health


One week ago, board-certified medicine specialist, TV personality and CNN employee Dr. Drew Pinsky broke the mold of conformity, when he said that he is "gravely concerned" about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s health, pointing out that treatment she is receiving could be the result of her bizarre behaviors.

Appearing on KABC’s McIntyre in the Morning, Pinsky said he and his colleague Dr. Robert Huizenga became “gravely concerned….not just about her health but her health care,” after analyzing what medical records on Hillary had been released. Pinsky pointed out that after Clinton fainted and fell in late 2012, she suffered from a “transverse sinus thrombosis,” an “exceedingly rare clot” that “virtually guarantees somebody has something wrong with their coagulation system.” “What’s wrong with her coagulation system, has that been evaluated?” asked Dr. Drew.

Pinsky described the situation as “bizarre,” and said that Hillary’s medical condition was “dangerous” and “concerning”. Dr. Drew also went on to add that it was a sign of “brain damage” when Hillary had to wear prism glasses after her fall.


Just as stunning as Pinsky's assessment which promptly went viral and led to the immediate takedown of the original interview webpage by KABC-AM radio, was that it came from an employee of HLN, which is part of the pro-Clinton CNN network.

As such it is probably not surprising that earlier today, just one week later, CNN executive vice president Ken Jautz announced Thursday that "Dr. Drew and I have mutually agreed to air the final episode of his show on September 22."

"Dr. Drew and his team have delivered more than five years of creative shows and I want to thank them for their hard work and distinctive programming," Jautz said in a statement. "Their audience-driven shows, in particular, were innovative and memorable TV. And Dr. Drew has been an authoritative voice on addiction and on many other topical issues facing America today."

"It has been a privilege working at HLN," Pinsky said in a statement of his own. "My executive producer Burt Dubrow and our outstanding staff and contributors were consistently exceptional. I am very excited to stay within the CNN Worldwide family as a contributor."

There was no mention of the Hillary fiasco in the official parting statement; it was deemed redundant.

HLN will air reruns of "Forensic Files" and episodes of CNN originals in the "Dr. Drew" 7 p.m. ET time slot.


John Pilger – The Bogus ‘Humanitarian’ War on Serbia


The exoneration of a man accused of the worst of crimes, genocide, made no headlines. Neither the BBC nor CNN covered it. The Guardian allowed a brief commentary. Such a rare official admission was buried or suppressed, understandably. It would explain too much about how the rulers of the world rule. The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has quietly cleared the late Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, of war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including the massacre at Srebrenica. Far from conspiring with the convicted Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Milosevic actually “condemned ethnic cleansing,” opposed Karadzic and tried to stop the war that dismembered Yugoslavia. Buried near the end of a 2,590-page judgment on Karadzic last February, this truth further demolishes the propaganda that justified NATO’s illegal onslaught on Serbia in 1999. Read more

The post John Pilger – The Bogus ‘Humanitarian’ War on Serbia appeared first on Progressive Radio Network.


Another Cog In The Exploding Resentment Wheel


By Chris at

Market dislocations occur when financial markets, operating under stressful conditions, experience large widespread asset mispricing.

Welcome to this week's edition of “World Out Of Whack” where every Wednesday we take time out of our day to laugh, poke fun at and present to you absurdity in global financial markets in all it's glorious insanity.


While we enjoy a good laugh, the truth is that the first step to protecting ourselves from losses is to protect ourselves from ignorance. Think of the "World Out Of Whack" as your double thick armour plated side impact protection system in a financial world littered with drunk drivers.

Selfishly we also know that the biggest (and often the fastest) returns come from asymmetric market moves. But, in order to identify these moves we must first identify where they live.

Occasionally we find opportunities where we can buy (or sell) assets for mere cents on the dollar - because, after all, we are capitalists.

In this week's edition of the WOW we're covering rising inequality

Warning signs are flashing everywhere that the status quo isn't being tolerated anymore. We know that the elites are getting a little nervous and the natives... well, they are getting restless.

Seemingly left field events such as Brexit, the rise of right-wing political parties in Europe, and the "surprising" popularity of Trump are concerning the establishment and so they should.

I discussed in "World Out Of Whack - The Shifting Zeitgeist" one element contributing to this. In that post I discussed the fact that a shrinking middle class is a key puzzle piece to the political changes unravelling in front of us. A shrinking middle class, however tells only half of the story.

Another aspect is how people view their position in societies. How Joe Sixpack thinks of himself relative to the rest of his countryman is really important in understanding behavioural economics. Let's dig in.


Remember when your parents told you that talking to the schoolyard bully was the best way to deal with him, and after a blood nose and black eye you realised that, no, their theory was rubbish and the only way to deal with him was a sharp unsuspected kick in the nuts?

Well, the truth is standard economic theory is rubbish too. Human behaviour is far from rational.

Universities teach standard economics where we're led to believe that all human decisions are rational and informed, motivated by an accurate concept of the worth of all goods and services and the utility all decisions are likely to produce.

This is of course where the efficient market hypothesis nonsense stems from.

I've made a point in these pages of discussing relativity before because it's so important in behavioural economics. Standard economics doesn't speak of it.


We value things on a relative basis, which is to say we search for a benchmark. It's how we find a way of "grounding" our decisions and finding a justification allowing us to get comfortable with them. Often decisions are irrational and predictably so.

One of these irrational behaviours relates to relativity. Independent studies have shown that when a test group is given money they are happy. All good and completely understandable. Rational.

In the same study a separate test group was given money but then it was revealed to them that a group of their peers was given substantially more money. The test group reported feeling unhappy and cheated. Irrational.

Rationally we could argue that this group should be happy with the fact they've received money which they never had before, and the fact that their peers received more than them should not decrease their happiness with receiving something, but that's not how we work.

Ever given one of your kids a slice of cake which is smaller than the one their brother or sister got? Well, it turns out adults are no different.

People don't want to be wealthier, they want to be wealthier than the next guy. At heart we're a competitive species and envy is widespread and a powerful force.

When this happens at a national level the effects are felt both politically and economically.

This brings me to...

Wealth Inequality

The average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10% across the OECD today.

For much of the 20th century this wasn't the case. Everyone got richer together and in fact the income gap in developed countries narrowed progressively until around the 1970's and 1980's before the pattern began to reverse.

Since the 80's the wealth gap has been growing consistently in most OECD countries and since the global financial crisis this inequality gap has exploded higher. Taking massive amounts of taxpayer money and doling it out to a tiny minority will do that.

OECD Income Inequality

According to an OECD report published last year:

"Since the 1980's income inequality has risen in most OECD countries. A quarter of a century ago disposable income of the top 10% of earners was on average around 7 times higher than that of bottom 10%; by 2010, it was around 9.5 times higher. Since the mid-1980's, average inequality in OECD countries has risen by almost 10% to just under 32 Gini points, the standard measure of inequality.


The shift was even more pronounced overroughly the same period among the top 1% of earners, especially in English speaking countries. In the United States for example, the share of pre-tax income going to the richest 1% more than doubled, reaching almost 20% in 2012."

This trend is strong and growing stronger. In the US between 1975 and 2012 statistics show around 47% of the total growth in pre-tax incomes went to the top 1%. In Canada this figure was 37% and it was over 20% in both the UK and Australia.

The realisation by citizens that this inequality exists is exacerbated when they see blatant corruption allowing for and feeding the inequality. It's one thing seeing someone get richer than you by hard work and it's entirely something else seeing them get there via corruption.

Remember this guy?


Corzine isn't the problem of course. Sure, he deserves a bat to the head but he's a product of a deeper problem. A system which allows for and encourages many Corzines is what Joe Sixpack is fed up with.

The symbiotic relationship between politicians and special interest groups is surpassed only by the parasitic relationship between both of these parties and citizens.

As example upon example of crony capitalism has been layered upon the citizenry, they've begun to realise that promises for heavier regulation and tighter controls don't work when business and politics are in a partnership to plunder.

The rise of and role of government in the free market is directly correlated with income inequality, and across the developed world we're experiencing a dramatic shift in trust. Voters across the developed world are showing signs that they've had enough.

No More Free Enterprise

A problem not often discussed is that even though what we have today in much of the developed world is free market capitalism in the same way that McDonald's is health food, the majority don't necessarily understand that. This distorted, heavily managed, controlled, and regulated interventionist welfare state entangled with a web of corrupt government-private sector relationships is still labelled as capitalism and that worries me.

I spoke a few weeks ago about Tesla. Here we have a company which would simply not exist without special deals struck with the establishment. These are not some backdoor deals done far from the spotlights. They are detailed in the companies financials for all to see. It makes one wonder what the backdoor deals look like if this is what the front door deals look like.


Why is Kyle Bass (along with 5 other world's investing giants) placing big bets on gold?

Find out in a free report called 'Six Great Reasons To Own Gold'


The threat of a backlash against capitalism is what worries me most. True capitalism, that is. The rumblings are there and growing stronger. In the UK we watched that manifestation of true economic ignorance: Jeremy Corbyn elected to lead the labour party. This is what the public are voting for. Scary!

What the electorate may get could be worse than what we have, but Joe and Jane Sixpack increasingly no longer care and are prepared to step into the unknown for something... anything... just not what exists now.

There are sectors that will benefit should this accelerate and take place and I've got many on my watch list but my question for you today is this:  

Wow Poll 11

Leave your comment here.

Investing and protecting our capital in a world which is enjoying the most severe distortions of any period in mans recorded history means that a different approach is required. And traditional portfolio management fails miserably to accomplish this.

And so our goal here is simple: protecting the majority of our wealth from the inevitable consequences of absurdity, while finding the most asymmetric investment opportunities for our capital. Ironically, such opportunities are a result of the actions which have landed the world in such trouble to begin with.

- Chris

"Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man, and our politicians take advantage of this prejudice by pretending to be even more stupid than nature made them." — Bertrand Russell


Liked this article? Don't miss our future articles and podcasts, and

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Trump Slams Clinton Foundation As "Most Corrupt Enterprise In Political History" After Latest Donor Revelations


Yesterday's report that more than half, or at least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or spoke to Hillary Clinton while she led the State Department, donated at least $156 million to her family charity or pledged commitments with at least 16 foreign governments donating as much as $170 million, has become the latest goldmine for Donald Trump and Republicans who finally have a break in the anti-Trump news cycle to pounce on. 

"It is now clear that the Clinton Foundation is the most corrupt enterprise in political history," Trump said in a statement, reiterating a claim he made earlier in the week. "We've now learned that a majority of the non-government people she met with as secretary of state gave money to the corrupt Clinton Foundation. ... It was wrong then, and it is wrong now -- and the foundation must be shut down immediately."

As CNN reports, Trump kept up the attack while speaking at a rally in Austin, Texas, Tuesday night. "It is impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins," he said, adding, "The specific crimes committed to carry out that enterprise are too numerous to cover in this speech."

Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, reiterated Trump's call for a special prosecutor to investigate possible corruption. "The fact Hillary Clinton's official schedule was full of meetings with Clinton Foundation donors is further evidence of the pay-to-play politics at her State Department. No one is above the law," Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's running mate, said in a statement.

The Republican National Committee also cited the report to hit Clinton. "This is among the strongest and most unmistakable pieces of evidence of what we've long suspected: at Hillary Clinton's State Department, access to the most sensitive policy makers in U.S. diplomacy was for sale to the highest bidder," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement.

A Clinton spokesman, however, said the AP's report relies on "utterly flawed data" and "cherry-picked a limited subset of Secretary's Clinton's schedule to give a distorted portrayal of how often she crossed paths with individuals connected to charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation." The spokesman, Brian Fallon, also said the report does not account for more than half her tenure leading the State Department and "omits more than 1700 meetings she took with world leaders, let alone countless others she took with other US government officials, while serving as secretary of state." To be sure, AP prefaced that saying it was only her private meetings that were in focus; as for her head of state, public meetings, AP also noted that those particular meeting were with at least 16 people who donated some $170 million.

Fallon added: "Just taking the subset of meetings arbitrarily selected by the AP, it is outrageous to misrepresent Secretary Clinton's basis for meeting with these individuals."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said a "wide range" of outside individuals and organizations contact the State Department through both formal and informal channels. "Individuals, including those who have donated to political campaigns, non-profits, or foundations -- including the Clinton Foundation -- may contact or have meetings with officials in the administration," Toner said.

As we noted yesterday, "the good news for Hillary - if bad for Donald Trump - is that the meetings between Hillary and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. However, as AP puts, it, "the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton."

Even CNN agrees: "Clinton critics have not proven that Clinton or the State Department materially granted any favors to possible donors, but the report and other emerging information is reigniting the firestorm over the foundation. Trump's campaign and Republicans have sought to cast suspicion over Clinton's tenure as secretary of state and argued that foreign donors' contributions to the foundation created inevitable conflict-of-interest questions."

The only question now is if the American public will care.


American Pravda: Was General Patton Assassinated?

Once again, we must distinguish the two issues. Whether or not I am correct in believing that the case for Patton’s assassination is overwhelming might certainly be disputed. But the fact that the American media has completely failed to report these revelations is absolutely undeniable.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Jill Stein: In A Time Of Universal Deceit, "WikiLeaks Founder Assange Is A Hero"


Authored by Green Party candidate for President, Jill Stein, originally posted op-ed at The Hill,

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is a hero. Like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and other whistleblowers facing government persecution, Assange has sacrificed his personal comfort and safety to bring us the truth.

George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Thanks to WikiLeaks, we know that powerful institutions have been abusing their power and lying to the public. For example, redacted State Department communications published by WikiLeaks revealed that Secretary Clinton identified Saudi Arabia as a leading funding source for terrorist groups around the time she approved a whopping $29 billion arms deal with the Saudi dictatorship.

WikiLeaks courageously published the infamous “Collateral Murder” video showing an American helicopter gunning down Iraqi civilians, viewed over 15 million times on Youtube alone, it revealed just one of the many shocking war crimes whitewashed as “collateral damage” by the US government.

WikiLeaks’ stunning revelations of how top Democratic National Committee officials conspired to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, in collusion with the media, shattered the illusion of a fair electoral process and confirmed what millions Americans already knew in their gut: we live under a rigged political system.

What WikiLeaks actually does — to political parties, the military, and other powerful entities — is pull back the curtain of censorship, spin, and deception to show the public what’s really going on. Unlike pundits in the mainstream media, WikiLeaks doesn’t tell us what to think. They invite us to read the emails, watch the footage, and decide for ourselves.

The political and economic elite, used to controlling information, see this unprecedented transparency as a tremendous threat. They have mercilessly persecuted a series of heroic whistleblowers. Chelsea Manning, convicted of leaking the Collateral Murder video among other revealing materials, was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison.

Manning, a transgender woman, has been subjected to treatment that the UN described as “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” in violation of the Convention Against Torture. Shockingly, after a recent suicide attempt, Manning faces disciplinary charges that could land her in indefinite solitary confinement.

The security state would like to make an example of Assange, as it has done to Manning and others. In fact, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined. And the persecution of whistleblowers is often accompanied by ruthless character assassination to discredit them.

Many have asked how Greens, who count feminism among our ten key values, can support Assange when he’s been accused of rape. As a strong advocate for victims of sexual violence, I take this question seriously.

While countless media reports highlight the allegations against Assange, most people have never heard that an official UN report has declared the case against Assange to be unfounded. Three investigations have been dropped without charges ever having been filed. And the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated that Assange has been unlawfully detained and should be released. In light of these facts, it appears the allegations against Assange were a false pretext used by those who want to give him the Chelsea Manning treatment — or worse.

As the Presidential candidate of a party that has maintained principled criticism of powerful political, military and corporate institutions, I’ve gotten a first—hand look at how the establishment attacks people who challenge the status quo. These attacks are intended to brand their targets as pariahs and stigmatize anyone who dares to challenge this narrative. The truth is a frequent casualty to political vendettas.

On that note, one of the strangest developments this year has been seeing journalists attack WikiLeaks for doing what journalists are supposed to do: reveal the unvarnished truth to the public. WikiLeaks has done us an invaluable service by shining a light into the dark corners of power where corruption and wrongdoing fester.

The economic and political elite have targeted Assange not because his hands are dirty, but because he’s given us a glimpse of how dirty their own hands are. WikiLeaks’ revelations are inspiring countless people to mobilize against corruption and wrongdoing at the highest levels, and for that, Julian Assange is a hero in my book.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Our Society Is Sick, Our Economy Exploitive and our Politics Corrupt

Any society that tolerates this systemic exploitation and corruption as "business as usual" is not just sick--it's hopeless.
In noting that our society is sick, our economy exploitive and our politics corrupt, I'm not saying anything you didn't already know. Everyone who isn't being paid to deny the obvious in public (while fuming helplessly about the phony cheerleading in private) knows that our society is a layer-cake of pathologies, our economy little more than institutionalized racketeering and our politics a corrupt auction-house of pay-for-play, influence-peddling, money-grubbing and brazen pandering for votes.
The fantasy promoted by do-gooders and PR hacks alike is that this corrupt system can be reformed with a few minor policy tweaks. If you want a brief but thorough explanation of Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform, please take a look at my book (link above).
If you want an example of how the status quo has failed and is beyond reform, it's instructive to examine the pharmaceutical industry, which includes biotech corporations, specialty pharmaceutical firms and the global corporate giants known as Big Pharma.
I hope it won't come as too great a surprise that the pharmaceutical industry isn't about cures or helping needy people--it's about profits. As a Big Pharma CEO reported in a brief moment of truthfulness, We’re in Business of Shareholder Profit, Not Helping the Sick
Here's an excerpt from the article:
"Already this year, Valeant has increased the price of 56 of the drugs in its portfolio an average of 66 percent, highlighted by their recent acquisition, Zegerid, which they promptly raised 550 percent. Not only does this have the unfortunate side effect of placing the price of life-saving drugs out of reach for even moderately-insured people, but it has now begun to call into question the sustainability of this rapidly-spreading business model.
Since being named CEO in 2008, Valeant has acquired more than 100 drugs and seen their stock price rise more than 1,000 percent with Pearson at the helm."
Longtime correspondent John F., M.D. has been sending me a steady stream of media accounts of pharma companies jacking up prices by 400% and 500%, even though the medications are off-patent and have been around for years or even decades.
John F. explains the context:
"The Epi-Pen (or the generic equivalent) is the only thing that people with severe allergies - including many children - can carry that will save their lives if used at the start of a severe allergic reaction. There is no substitute. The maker, Mylan, has increased the price six-fold over the past few years. Epinephrine is a very old generic drug. It is the packaging that makes it patentable. There is absolutely no reason for the cost to make Epi-Pens to have increased.
People who have had a life-threatening allergic reaction to food or insect stings need these - they are absolutely essential to save their lives. Epinephrine has been generic since I was in medical school in the '70s, yet the FDA have allowed the manufacturer to increase the price 600% in the last few years.
There is a generic substitute for the Epi Pen now, but they jacked the price of it up to around $400 (it's near the end of the article). These kits are cardboard boxes with two plastic syringes with one needle each, with a little medicine in them. I can't imagine they cost more than $10 to make, and they have been around since I was in medical school in the '70s, so it's not like they must recoup extensive research costs."
"I wrote to you about the huge increase in price of colchicine, an excellent drug for people with gout, and sometimes the only drug they can use, which is generic, but the FDA allowed a manufacturer to jack the price to the sky in the past 12 months. Now, the two major pharmacy benefit companies are dropping it from coverage. I can't emphasize this enough - this is the only drug some patients can take for a disease that sometimes is life-threatening (can cause kidney failure), and by all rights should be ten cents a pill or less."
Unsurprisingly, pharma sales have been soaring. Take cheap generic drugs and jack up the price by 400%, and it's no surprise that sales have risen from $550 billion annually in 2004 to over $1 trillion in 2014.
All of the exploitation, deception and corruption has been well documented in dozens of reports and books. Here is a small sampling of recent titles on the sickness of our pharmaceutical/"healthcare" systems, the political system that funds and enforces these pathological systems and the tragic consequences of these pathologies.
The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It(Dr. Marcia Angell, The New England Journal of Medicine)
How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America (Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical and scientific officer of The American Cancer Society)
Less Medicine, More Health (Dr. H. Gilbert Welch)
Here is a sampling of the reviews posted by readers on Amazon re: Overdosed America:
I have been a physician for 10 years. I have seen my profession gradually being taken over by the pharmaceutical industry. I have seen countless patients harmed - alas even killed - by drug reactions and polypharmacy.
I have sat and listened to countless drug representative presentations that were outright falsehoods and misrepresentations. It has been months - maybe even years that I have had available to me a medical education conference that was not somehow tainted by drug company money and therefore propaganda.
I have repeatedly had patients in my office begging me for medication that they do not need. They want it simply because it was on TV News last night - and came with a promise of metaphysical salvation. I spend much time every day dissuading patients from taking medication they simply do not need - indeed may even cause real medical problems.
The issues that are discussed in this book are very very real - and the scary part is I do not see my fellow physicians doing a single thing to address these huge problems.
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Abramson gives specific examples where published drug studies focus on recipients non-representative of typical (target) users - eg. younger, and less prone to adverse reactions. Sometimes the reported data show (if one has the time to read carefully) that the true targets do WORSE with the medication, and this finding is obscured by positive results with the more numerous (atypical) younger selected test patients.
Other medical research reporting ploys utilized by drug companies include: 1)reporting initially positive results, while omitting adverse subsequent outcomes, 2)combining serious (when increased) and minor (when decreased) adverse event numbers to cover up problems, 3)comparing a strong dose of a new medicine with an inappropriate weak dose, comparing a new drug with a placebo, instead of existing efficacious drugs, 4)not reporting negative drug trials, 5)failing to point out that lifestyle changes often provide much better results than drugs, and 6)pulling advertising from medical journals running unfavorable articles.
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As a consumer who believed until recently was an "informed consumer," I was shocked to discover that the information I was getting on the National Institute for Health's website "" was less than definitive when it came to clinical trials. With Dr. Abramson's book, I now understand that those clinical trials, which most doctors depend on in helping them treat their patients are wildly distorted.
I applaud Dr. Abramson for writing this book. Just as Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" served as a catalyst for supporting changes in how we respect our environment, physicians, consumers and politicians should read this book and take action to protect our nation's health.
The political corruption that enables and enforces this sick, exploitive system society is equally obvious and well-documented. Sir Angus Deaton, recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in economics, recently summarized the innate corruption of the American status quo in a Scientific American article (Sept. 2016 issue): How Inequality Threatens Civil Society: A spiral of slow growth and rent-seeking by powerful interests pose a danger to democracy (subscription required; or try to find a print copy at a library)
"In the U.S., we spend enormous sums on health care, much of which has little or no effect. This system is fiercely defended by those whose incomes and power come directly or indirectly from the nearly one-fifth of American GDP that health care absorbs.
The very size of the health care and financial sectors gives them political power that makes them very difficult to control. These sectors then become engines of inequality, generating huge rewards for some while slowing growth and undermining innovation."
Any society that tolerates this systemic exploitation and corruption as "business as usual" is not just sick--it's hopeless. No, you can't fix this layer-cake of pathological deception, exploitation, corruption and racketeering with the usual pathetic "reforms" offered by lobbyists, insiders and think-tank lackeys: the status quo is itself the source of the sickness and the rot.

My new book is #18 on Kindle short reads -> politics and social science: Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform ($3.95 Kindle ebook, $8.95 print edition) For more, please visit the book's website.

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