The Average Commute In America Is 26 Minutes – How Does Your City Stack Up?

The average person is awake for 15.5 hours per day, but once you subtract hours committed to work, eating, chores, personal care, and errands, there’s only so little much free time leftover.

That’s why, as Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins notes, the amount of time spent commuting, either in a car or via transit, can be a massive difference maker towards a person’s quality of life.

THE AVERAGE COMMUTE

Throughout the United States, the average commute time works out to about 26 minutes one-way.

However, as today’s infographic from TitleMax shows, the average commute varies considerably between individual states, and also between major cities as well.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

In South Dakota, a state with fewer than one million people, congestion is not a problem for most. The state is home to the shortest average commute in the country at just 16.6 minutes one-way.

Meanwhile, as you may imagine, New York is the polar opposite of South Dakota for getting to work. The Empire State has the longest average commute in the country, which is double the length at 33.6 minutes.

COMMUTES BY CITY

Every city is different, which means that data can have high amounts of variability within each state.

New York again is a great example for this: NYC has the longest average commute in the nation at 34.7 minutes, but go upstate and Buffalo actually has the shortest average commute for all major cities at 20.3 minutes per trip.

Here are the 10 shortest commutes in the country, for major cities:

Many people living in places like Buffalo or San Diego are able to hop to their place of the work in 20 minutes or less, giving them a little extra flexibility with their free time in comparison to bigger cities in the country.

Here are the 10 longest commutes in the country, for major cities:

While it’s surprising to see that Los Angeles didn’t make it onto the list of cities with ultra-long commutes, the largest city in California does have the distinction of being the most congested city in the world.

It’s there that citizens spend an unfortunate 104 hours each year stuck in traffic jams.

Oceania, ‘Tis For Thee: The World Of “1984” Is Forming Now

Authored by Jeremiah Johnson via SHTFplan.com,

“Oceania” was a nation described in George Orwell’s “1984” as being comprised of Britain (called “Airstrip One,”) and the United States. There were two other superpowers, namely Eurasia and Eastasia. Other lands rich in resources were contested over, such as Africa and assumingly South America…lands never kept by any of three Super-states for any significant period. The “flux” in conquests was exactly what the MIC (Military Industrial Complex) of our time would have termed “necessary” to justify large expenditures: War as the focal purpose, rather than the exceptional event.

We see a parallel in today’s world with huge defense budgets and troop deployments keeping the contracts on the move and siphoning off a considerable amount of national revenues to keep the patriotic war machines moving…irrespective of each nation. The psychology: keep the population agitated and on a continual war-footing, using a “threat” (either real, created, or imagined) to accomplish this.

You are witnessing the final alignment of those spheres of influence that are almost identical to the novel that Orwell wrote. Look at the situation with the alleged Russian poisoning of an intelligence operative and his daughter in Britain. The United States showed “solidarity” with Great Britain by expelling 60 Russian diplomats and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle, Washington. Russia countered by ordering the expulsion of an equal amount of American embassy personnel.

Yet the interesting fact is that the other nations who followed suit in the “humanitarian crusade” of the alleged Russian poisoning of former FSB agent Skripal and his daughter? The poisoning may have been done by the British, not the Russians. The U.S. State Department has made several statements to the tune that the Russians do not “see eye to eye with us or share our values of freedom and democracy.”

Really, now…in the surveillance state that inexorably draws to its conclusion with the country losing its rights while being monitored in every activity…what “values” do we have anymore?

I’m not characterizing the entire populace of the United States…but our government, that holds most of the “forms” that the country was founded upon without any true leadership, statesmanship, or representation of the American people. I’m characterizing much of the population…flitting from one reality show to the next dose of Hollywood propaganda and paradigm shift labeled as “movies” and only loyal to the country as long as the handouts (labeled “entitlements”) keep flowing.

The formation of the Super-states…each with their spheres of influence in the novel…that formation is taking place now. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and Romania have expelled Russian diplomats in-line with the U.S. actions. All those nations are heavily-invested in NATO militarily, with tremendous amounts received of American money, materials, and troops. Poland is purchasing U.S. missile and anti-missile systems. Romania already has a U.S. missile base.

Ukraine expelled Russian diplomats. Ukraine is a vassal state of the United States and the IMF. Most of the European nations such as the Netherlands (The Hague is there, go figure), Germany, France, Britain, Spain…followed suit. The battle right now is to see who will align with the U.S.-British Western hegemony [Oceania] against Russia and her allies (such as Iran, Syria, etc.) [Eurasia] with China being the “top banana” in the Orient [Eastasia]. The English-speaking countries will head the U.S.-British conglomerate…also including Canada and Australia…the former having participated in the expulsion.

It’s even deeper than the geographical and political distinctions paralleling “1984” when you examine it further. Little by little, as the U.S. becomes more repressive, more controlling, with a “nationalistic” bent driving the framework, the citizenry is becoming isolated. After World War I the United States pursued an isolationist policy, and the policy was reflected in the mindset of the citizens. This current isolation is one that is forced.

Oh, we’re building a wall to keep out the illegal aliens? Possibly, but look how late in the game it is. Look at how illegal incursions have taken place without any true resistance for more than a century unchecked and unabated.  Why? To satisfy the U.S. corporations’ demands for cheap labor that could be off the books…and the government that turned a blind eye to it because of the taxable revenues made from the corporations. The taxes were paid, and kickbacks were undoubtedly delivered to government officials who managed to look the other way when faced with 100 illegal aliens working in the fields in front of their eyes. Everyone looked away, the corporations made profits, and everyone was happy.

The main reason to build the wall will not be to prevent illegal aliens from coming into the U.S., but to appear to prevent illegal aliens from coming in. That will be the main reason…subtly swathed in the name of the sacred “interests of national security” phrase we’ve all come to know and love. All the construction will be subject, of course, to taxation, kickbacks, and contracts to keep the flow of taxpayer monies moving out of their pockets and savings accounts into the hands of the rich and powerful. There is also another reason…purposed and insidious they wish the wall.

A wall will work in the opposite direction as well: to keep the taxpayer-serfs in.

Slowly but surely, a forced isolation policy is being pursued, and more: the ones traveling will be pursuing a government agenda in their endeavors and it will be limited to those with capital and wealth. We’re seeing it already: the new laws (Don’t you just love that? New laws?) that restrict those with a certain amount owed in taxes, in child support, or whatever…keep them in the country. How about that? The firms and corporations, and their employees…with the “trusted traveler” status…basically a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. Trusted to keep paying the taxes and conform to the existing social, political, and religious order…to be a “nark” on behalf of the government.

To be the “guy with the watch” in the movie “They Live,” selling out to the aliens.

All your communications are monitored: every e-mail, every telephone call. Talk to your friends in Moscow from college, and you’ll come up on a watch list. Talk to anyone outside of the U.S. and it’s a guarantee that you’ll be recorded and monitored. The new “Cloud Act” that slid surreptitiously between the thighs of the Omnibus $1.3 trillion spending bill (really…$1.3 trillion, can you imagine all the kickbacks on that one?). The harmless-sounding Cloud Act…giving foreign nations the ability to carry out U.S. government directives “in cooperation,” or “in partnership” …to surveil and monitor U.S. citizens and bypass the U.S. Constitution.

Marbury vs. Madison is extinct.  Go ahead and take them to court, protest, and write to your Congressman or Senator (accomplishing nothing except identifying and marginalizing yourself). Your suit, your protests, and your letters will go nowhere…and eventually they’ll break you…and you’ll go somewhere…in the middle of nowhere…indefinitely (synonymous with forever). The need for a chargeable offense to arrest you is gone, along with the 4th Amendment…now you just need to be a “suspicious person” and be placed “under investigation.”

All of this is crafted to make the populations poorer, keep them monitored, and prevent them from interacting with one another as before. Limit their freedom of movement and therefore limit their freedom. This is happening in the other two “spheres of influence” as well. China has a Draconian police state where cameras and stoolies monitor and report every move of the people. China is the “model” (in the words of Kissinger and other globalist-Communists). The police in this country are becoming as the ones in China, with a capitalist agenda: To protect and serve the taxable, corporate entities, and oppress the common taxpayer.

This is the end-state desired by the creators of the Global Governance. They follow Milton’s words to a tee: “It is better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven.” They will have three spheres, just as in the novel “1984,” and keep the flames of ethnic difference fanned just enough to make War not an eventuality, but a managed, controllable event. War translates into industrial output, use of supplies and materials, and largesse that ends up “boomeranging” and turning into raises and bonuses for politicians (look at Congress “voting” themselves raises and bonuses in the Omnibus bill while simultaneously increasing the “defense” budget).

War enables favors, contracts, and immunity for oligarchs. A self-sustaining war machine that keeps the three spheres of influence at each other’s throats…while “managing” the people and tying them up in a never-ending loop of consumption, production, impoverishment, debt, and always directed by patriotic fervor.

In the end, the world will not notice its enslavement, because the generations capable of creative thought and reason will have been replaced by a stultified, obedient mass of humanity only capable of acting in a manner predetermined by the rulers. The world of “1984” is forming today. The Gulags are just around the corner. They’ll have “occupants” as soon as the time is right. Not at gunpoint. The people will enter the camps of their own accord, enslaved with the baits of entitlements and material conveniences. The world of “1984” was written about years ago, but it is upon us, now, and before we know it, we will be in it.

AI Researchers Boycott South Korean University Over Plan To Build “Killer Robots”

It looks like Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Russian President Vladimir Putin aren’t the only ones who’ve envisioned a nightmare scenario where “killer robots” stalk through neighborhoods murdering innocent Americans (or Russians).

A group of artificial intelligence researchers from nearly 30 countries is boycotting one of South Korea’s most prestigious universities over concerns about a recent partnership with an “ethically dubious” arms manufacturer with the stated purpose to design and manufacture “autonomous weapons systems”.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and its partner, the weapons manufacturer Hanwha Systems, one of South Korea’s largest arms dealers, are pushing back against the boycott, saying they have no intention of developing “killer robots” – even though the description of the project clearly states its goals, per the Guardian.

“There are plenty of great things you can do with AI that save lives, including in a military context, but to openly declare the goal is to develop autonomous weapons and have a partner like this sparks huge concern,” said Toby Walsh, the organiser of the boycott and a professor at the University of New South Wales.

“This is a very respected university partnering with a very ethically dubious partner that continues to violate international norms.”

What’s worse, the scientists say, is Hanwha’s history of manufacturing and selling cluster munitions and other arms that are banned in more than 120 countries under an international treaty that South Korea, the US, Russia and China have not signed.

Killer

Walsh, an Australian professor, became aware of the project after reading a Korea Times article about the partnership. He said he promptly wrote the university asking for more information – but never received a response.

Walsh was initially concerned when a Korea Times article described KAIST as “joining the global competition to develop autonomous arms” and promptly wrote to the university asking questions but did not receive a response.

Participants in the boycott have promised not to visit KAIST or host or collaborate with any of its faculty “over fears it could accelerate the arms race to develop autonomous weapons.”

KAIST opened the controversial research center on Feb. 20. At the time, university leaders said it would “provide a strong foundation for developing national defense technology.”

The announcement of the initiative, which has since been deleted, said it would focus on “AI-based command and decision systems, composite navigation algorithms for mega-scale unmanned undersea vehicles, AI-based smart aircraft training systems, and AI-based smart object tracking and recognition technology.”

However, for all their effort, it appears the boycotters are already too late to prevent the creation of killer robots, though the group is still agitating for governments to promise to ban the manufacture, use and distribution of these weapons.

South Korea’s Dodaam Systems already manufactures a fully autonomous “combat robot”, a stationary turret, capable of detecting targets up to 3km away. Customers include the United Arab Emirates and Qatar and it has been tested on the highly militarised border with North Korea, but company executives told the BBC in 2015 there were “self-imposed restrictions” that required a human to deliver a lethal attack.

The Taranis military drone built by the UK’s BAE Systems can technically operate entirely autonomously, according to Walsh, who said killer robots made everyone less safe, even in a dangerous neighbourhood.

“Developing autonomous weapons would make the security situation on the Korean peninsula worse, not better,” he said.

“If these weapons get made anywhere, eventually they would certainly turn up in North Korea and they would have no qualms about using them against the South.”

The idea that governments should do more to prevent, or at least regulate, increasingly advanced smart weapons is gaining traction around the world. Last year, Elon Musk surprised his twitter followers by conjuring up an image of robots walking down streets murdering people. While Putin once jokingly mused “how long until the robots eat us?”

How To Recognize When Your Society Is Suffering A Dramatic Decline

Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.com,

When historians and analysts look at the factors surrounding the collapse of a society, they often focus on the larger events and indicators — the moments of infamy. However, I think it’s important to consider the reality that large scale societal decline is built upon a mixture of elements, prominent as well as small. Collapse is a process, not a singular event. It happens over time, not overnight. It is a spectrum of moments and terrible choices, set in motion in most cases by people in positions of power, but helped along by useful idiots among the masses. The decline of a nation or civilization requires the complicity of a host of saboteurs.

So, instead of focusing on the top down approach, which is rather common, let’s start from the foundations of our culture to better understand why there is clear and definable destabilization.

Declining Moral Compass

There is always a conflict between personal gain and personal conscience — this is the nature of being human. But in a stable society, these two things tend to balance out. Not so during societal decline, as personal gain (and even personal comfort and gratification) tends to greatly outweigh the checks and balances of moral principles.

People often mistake the term “morality” to be a religious creation, but this is not what I am necessarily referring to. The concepts of “good” and “evil” are archetypal — that is to say they are psychologically inherent in most human beings from the moment of birth. This is not a matter of faith, but a matter of fact, observed by those in the field of psychology and anthropology over the course of a century of study.  How we relate to these concepts can be affected by our environment and upbringing, but for the most part, our moral compass is psychologically ingrained. It is up to us to either follow it or not follow it.

Watching how people handle this choice is a bit of hobby of mine, and I do take notes. You can learn a lot about the state of your environment by observing what people around you tend to do when faced with the conflict of personal gain versus personal conscience. It is saddening to admit that even though I live in rural America, where you are more likely to find self-reliance and cultural stability, I can still see a faltering nation bleeding through.

I have seen supposedly good people act dishonestly in business agreements. I have seen local institutions scam hardworking citizens. I have seen a court system rife with bias and a “good old boy” attitude of favoritism. I have seen local companies pretend to be benevolent contributors to the community while at the same time running constant frauds and rackets. I have even seen a few people within the liberty movement itself put the movement at risk with their own avarice, gluttony, narcissism and sociopathy.

Again, it is important to make a note of such people and institutions, for as the system continues its downward spiral it is these people that will present the greatest threat to the innocent.

As Carl Jung notes in his book The Undiscovered Self, there is always a contingent of latent sociopaths and psychopaths within any culture; usually about 10% of the population. In normal times, they, at least most of them, are forced into moral acclimation by the rest of the populace. But in times of decline, they seem to leak out of the woodwork like a slimy fungus. During heightened collapse, they no longer have to pretend to be upstanding and they show their true colors.

Most dangerous is when latent sociopaths or full blown sociopaths assume roles of leadership or power during the worst of times. With everyone distracted by their own plight, these people can become a cancer, infecting everything with their narcissistic pursuits and causing destruction in their wake.

Disinterest In Rewarding Conscience

During wider cultural collapse, it can become “fashionable” to see acts of principle as something to be scoffed at or ridiculed or to even see them as threats to the status quo. The concept of “going along to get along” takes precedence over doing what is right even when it is hard; this attitude is not relegated to the less honest people within society.

As a system collapses, a fog of apathy can result. Good people can become passive, scrambling to their individual corner of the world and hoping evil times will simply pass them by. The phrase “I just want to put all this behind me” is spoken regularly; but as we ignore the trespasses of terrible men and women, we also enable them. How? Because by doing nothing we allow them to continue their criminality, and we subject future persons and generations to victimization.

When doing the right thing is treated as laughable or “crazy” by what seems like a majority in the midst of widespread corruption, you are truly in the middle of a great decline.

In Christian circles, the idea of “the remnant” is sometimes spoken of. In Christian terms, this usually represents a minority of true believers surviving a tumultuous and immoral era. I see “the remnant” not so much as a contingent of Christians alone, but as a contingent of people that continue to maintain their principles and conscience when faced with unprecedented adversity. In the worst of times, these people remain stalwart, even if they are ridiculed for it.

Disinterest In Independent Effort

It is said that in this world there are two kinds of people — leaders and followers.  I’m not so sure about that, but I can see why this philosophy is promoted; it helps evil people in power stay in power by encouraging passive acceptance.

I would say that there are in fact two kinds of people in this world — people who want to control others and the people that just want to be left alone. In life sometimes we are both leaders and followers; we just have to be sure that when we lead we lead by example and not by force, and when we follow, we follow someone worth a damn.

In any case, passivity is not a solution to determining our roles in society. In most situations, independent action is required by every person to make the world a better place. Yet, in an era of systemic crisis, it is usually independent effort that is the first thing to go out the window. Millions upon millions of people wait around for someone, anyone, to tell them what they should be doing and how they should be doing it. In this way, society finds itself in stasis, frozen in a position of inaction.  Poisonous collectivism wins through mass aggression, but also through mass passivity.

In fact, when individualists do take action they can be admonished for it during times of societal breakdown, even if their actions have the potential to solve a problem. The idea that one man or woman (or a small group of people) could do anything about anything is sneered at as “fantasy” or “delusion.”  But mass movements of citizens working towards a practical goal are rare, and even more rare is when these movements are not controlled or manipulated to benefit the established order. It is not mass movements that change the world for the better, but individual people and small organizations of the dedicated, acting without permission and without administration.

It is these individuals and small groups that, over time and through relentless effort, inspire a majority to do what is necessary and right. It is these people that inspire others to finally take leadership in their own lives.

Individual Self-Isolation

I write often on the plight of the individual and individual rights within society, and I continue to see the factor of the individual as the most important element in any culture. A culture based on protecting and nurturing individualism and voluntarism is the only culture, in my view, that will ever be successful at avoiding full spectrum collapse. That said, the downside to overt individualism is the danger of self isolation. That is to say, when true individuals only concern themselves with their personal circumstances and ignore the circumstances of the rest of the world, they eventually set themselves up to be crushed by that world.

Organization on a voluntary basis is not only healthy but vital in the longevity of a society. The more people turn in on themselves and only care about their own general conditions, the easier it is for evil people to do evil things unnoticed. Also, self isolation in the wake of collapse sets individuals up for failure, as no one is capable of surviving without at least some help from a wider pool of knowledge and talents.

In a system based on corruption, the establishment will encourage self isolation as a means to control the populace. Or, they will offer a false choice, between self isolation versus mindless collectivism. The truth is there is always a middle ground. Voluntary organization and individualism are not mutually exclusive. I call this the “difference between community and collectivism.” A community does not supplant the individual, while a collective requires the complete erasure of individual pursuits and thought.

If you find yourself surrounded by people who refuse any organization, even practical and voluntary organization in the face of instability, then your society may be in the latter stages of a collapse.

Disaster Denial

Even as a crisis or collapse unfolds, if a society actually reels or reacts to it and takes note of the problem, there is hope for that society. If, however, that society willfully ignores the danger and denies it exists when presented with overwhelming evidence, then that society will likely suffer complete disintegration and will probably have to start all over from scratch — hopefully with a set of principles and ideals based on conscience and honor.

The strength of a culture can be measured by its willingness to self reflect. Its survival can be determined by its willingness to accept its flaws when they arise and its willingness to repair the damage done. Self-aware societies are difficult to corrupt or control. Only in denial can people be easily manipulated and enslaved.

If you cannot accept the reality of the abyss, you cannot move to avoid it or prepare yourself to survive the fall. I see this issue as perhaps the single most important element in the fight to save the portions of our society worth saving. Educating people on the blatant facts behind our own national decline can dissolve the wall of denial, and perhaps we will find when disaster strikes that there are far more awake and aware individuals ready to act than we originally thought.

Obama State Department Spent $9 Million With Soros To Meddle In Albanian Politics

President Obama’s State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) spent nearly $9 million on an Albanian political reform campaign coordinated with billionaire George Soros, according to 32 pages of State Department documents obtained by Judicial Watch via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. 

Working with Soros’ Open Society Foundation, USAID channeled the funds into a “Justice for All” campaign aimed at reforming the socialist government’s judicial system in 2016. 

“The Obama admin spent at least $9 million in tax dollars in direct collusion with left-wing billionaire George Soros to back socialist gov in Albania,” wrote Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a statement. “The records also detail how the Soros operation helped the State Department review grant applications from other groups for taxpayer funding,” Fitton added. 

“George Soros is a billionaire and he shouldn’t be receiving taxpayer support to advance his radical left agenda to undermine freedom here at home and abroad,” said Fitton.

A memo from April 2016 also reveals that the U.S. Embassy in Tirana “sponsored” a survey with the Open Society Foundation to determine whether Albanians had “knowledge, support and expectations on judicial reform.” The survey revealed that 91% of respondents believed in the need for judicial reform. A corresponding memo obtained by Judicial Watch dated February 2017 corroborates the arrangement.

The State Department pushed back following the Judicial Watch publication – telling Fox News that the agency did not directly provide grants to Soros’s Open Society Foundation (OSF) in Albania. Instead, as the documents show, the US embassy in Tirana and the OSF “each provided funding to a local organization to conduct a public opinion poll on attitudes towards the Judicial Reform effort,” according to a February 2017 document. 

Last year Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and five other Senators called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to immediately investigate how US taxpayer funds ended up supporting Soros-backed, leftist political groups in several Eastern European countries including Macedonia and Albania.  According to the letter, potentially millions of taxpayer dollars are being funneled through USAID to Soros’ Open Society Foundations with the explicit goal of pushing his progressive agenda.

Foundation Open society-Albania and its experts, with funding from USAID, have created the controversial Strategy Document for Albanian Judicial Reform,” the letter read. “Some leaders believe that these ‘reforms’ are ultimately aimed to give the Prime Minister and left-of-center government full control over the judiciary.”

As the Daily Caller’s Andrew Kerr notes, Albanian opposition leaders to the ruling left-wing party took to calling the judicial reform effort a “Soros-sponsored reform.”

USAID and Soros

As Fox News pointed out at the time, USAID gave nearly $15 million to Soros’ Foundation Open Society – Macedonia, and other Soros-linked organizations in the region, in the last 4 years of Obama’s presidency alone.

The USAID website shows that between 2012 and 2016, USAID gave almost $5 million in taxpayer cash to FOSM for “The Civil Society Project,” which “aims to empower Macedonian citizens to hold government accountable.” USAID’s website links to www.soros.org.mk, and says the project trained hundreds of young Macedonians “in youth activism and the use of new media instruments.”

The State Department told lawmakers that in addition to that project, USAID has recently funded a new Civic Engagement Project which partners with four organizations, including FOSM. The cost is believed to be around $9.5 million.Fox News

Similar efforts in Hungary were blasted in early 2017 by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who expressed concern about Soros meddling in his country’s political fights, and warned about Soros’ “trans-border empire.” Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told Fox News last month that they hoped that with a change in administration in Washington, the Soros-led push against their government would decrease.

“I think it is no secret and everyone knows about the very close relationship between the Democrats and George Soros and his foundations. It is obvious that if Hillary Clinton had won then this pressure on us would be much stronger. With Donald Trump winning we have the hope that this pressure will be decreased on us,” he said.

Widely cited as an example of Soros’ influence during the Obama administration was a 2011 email, published by WikiLeaks, in which Soros urged Hillary Clinton to take action in Albania over recent demonstrations in the capital of Tirana.  Among other things, Soros urged Clinton to “bring the full weight of the international community to bear on Prime Minister Berisha and opposition leader Edi Rama.”

Dear Hillary,

 

A serious situation has arisen in Albania which needs urgent attention at senior levels of the US government. You may know that an opposition demonstration in Tirana on Friday resulted in the deaths of three people and the destruction of property. There are serious concerns about further unrest connected to a counter-demonstration to be organized by the governing party on Wednesday and a follow-up event by the opposition two days later to memorialize the victims. The prospect of tens of thousands of people entering the streets in an already inflamed political environment bodes ill for the return, of public order and the country’s fragile democratic process.

I believe two things need to be done urgently:

1. Bring the full weight of the international community to bear on Prime Minister Berisha and opposition leader Edi Rama to forestall further public demonstrations and to tone down public pronouncements.

2. Appoint a senior European official as a mediator.

While I am concerned about the rhetoric being used by both sides, I am particularly worried about the actions of the Prime Minister. There is videotape of National Guard members firing on demonstrators from the roof of the Prime Ministry. The Prosecutor (appointed by the Democratic Party) has issued arrest warrants for the individuals in question. The Prime Minister had previously accused the opposition of intentionally murdering these activists as a provocation.

After the tape came out deputies from his party accused the Prosecutor of planning a coup d’etat in collaboration with the opposition, a charge Mr. Berisha repeated today. No arrests have been made as of this writing. The demonstration resulted from opposition protests over the conduct of parliamentary elections in 2009. The political environment has deteriorated ever since and is now approaching levels of 1997, when similar issues caused the country to slide into anarchy and violence. There are signs that Edi Rama’s control of his own people is slipping, which may lead to further violence.

The US and the EU must work in complete harmony over this, but given Albania’s European aspirations the EU must take the lead. That is why I suggest appointing a mediator such as Carl Bildt. Martti Ahtisaari or Miroslav Lajcak, all of whom have strong connections to the Balkans.

My foundation in Tirana is monitoring the situation closely and can provide independent analysis of the crisis.

Thank you, George Soros

Not surprisingly, within a few days, A U.S. envoy was dispatched.

Syrian Showdown: Trump Versus The Generals

Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org,

With ISIS on the run in Syria, President Trump this week declared that he intends to make good on his promise to bring the troops home.

“I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home,” said the president. We’ve gotten “nothing out of the $7 trillion (spent) in the Middle East in the last 17 years. … So, it’s time.”

Not so fast, Mr. President.

For even as Trump was speaking he was being contradicted by his Centcom commander Gen. Joseph Votel.

“A lot of good progress has been made” in Syria, Votel conceded, “but the hard part … is in front of us.”

Moreover, added Votel, when we defeat ISIS, we must stabilize Syria and see to its reconstruction.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been even more specific:

“It is crucial to our national defense to maintain a military and diplomatic presence in Syria, to help bring an end to that conflict, as they chart a course to achieve a new political future.”

But has not Syria’s “political future” already been charted?

Bashar Assad, backed by Iran and Russia, has won his seven-year civil war. He has retaken the rebel stronghold of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. He now controls most of the country that we and the Kurds do not.

According to The Washington Post, Defense Secretary James Mattis is also not on board with Trump and “has repeatedly said … that U.S. troops would be staying in Syria for the foreseeable future to guarantee stability and political resolution to the civil war.”

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who fears a “Shiite corridor” from Tehran to Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut, also opposes Trump. “If you take those (U.S.) troops out from east Syria,” the prince told Time, “you will lose that checkpoint … American troops should stay (in Syria) at least for the mid-term, if not the long-term.”

Bibi Netanyahu also wants us to stay in Syria.

Wednesday, Trump acceded to his generals. He agreed to leave our troops in Syria until ISIS is finished. However, as the 2,000 U.S. troops there are not now engaging ISIS — many of our Kurd allies are going back north to defend border towns threatened by Turkey — this could take a while.

Yet a showdown is coming. And, stated starkly, the divide is this:

Trump sees al-Qaida and ISIS as the real enemy and is prepared to pull all U.S. forces out of Syria as soon as the caliphate is eradicated. And if Assad is in power then, backed by Russia and Iran, so be it.

Trump does not see an Assad-ruled Syria, which has existed since the Nixon presidency, as a great threat to the United States. He is unwilling to spill more American blood to overturn the outcome of a war that Syria, Iran and Russia have already won. Nor is he prepared to foot the bill for the reconstruction of Syria, or for any long-term occupation of that quadrant of Syria that we and our allies now hold.

Once ISIS is defeated, Trump wants out of the war and out of Syria.

The Israelis, Saudis and most of our foreign policy elite, however, vehemently disagree. They want the U.S. to hold onto that slice of Syria east of the Euphrates that we now occupy, and to use the leverage of our troops on Syrian soil to effect the removal of President Assad and the expulsion of the Iranians.

The War Party does not concede Syria is lost. It sees the real battle as dead ahead. It is eager to confront and, if need be, fight Syrians, Iranians and Shiite militias should they cross to the east bank of the Euphrates, as they did weeks ago, when U.S. artillery and air power slaughtered them in the hundreds, Russians included.

If U.S. troops do remain in Syria, the probability is high that Trump, like Presidents Bush and Obama before him, will be ensnared indefinitely in the Forever War of the Middle East.

President Erdogan of Turkey, who has seized Afrin from the Syrian Kurds, is threatening to move on Manbij, where Kurdish troops are backed by U.S. troops. If Erdogan does not back away from his threat, NATO allies could start shooting at one another.

As the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria are both uninvited and unwelcome, a triumphant Assad is likely soon to demand that we remove them from his country.

Will we defy President Assad then, with the possibility U.S. planes and troops could be engaging Syrians, Russians, Iranians and Shiite militias, in a country where we have no right to be?

Trump is being denounced as an isolationist. But what gains have we reaped from 17 years of Middle East wars – from Afghanistan to Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen – to justify all the blood shed and the treasure lost?

And how has our great rival China suffered from not having fought in any of these wars?

Global Trade War Could Not Have Come At A Worse Time

Despite all the propaganda that the world had reached utopian levels of ‘globally synchronous recovery’ growth last year, 2018 has seen that narrative collapse as China’s credit impulse dries up, The Fed continues on its path to ‘normalization’, and the world wakes up to Europe’s smoke and mirrors economic renaissance…

And, as if that was not enough to spook even the most ardent bull, Bloomberg notes that rapidly accelerating trade ‘battles’ are focusing minds on that simmering threat to markets: the eventual easing of synchronized global growth.

The U.S. version – which includes economic, credit and corporate indicators – is close to its 2007 peak.

The trade war tensions have arrived at a risky time, with Morgan Stanley’s cycle gauge for the developed world nearing levels last seen before prior recessions.