The annual Presidents Club Charity Dinner has a seedier side, an FT investigation has discovered
As Q4 GDP data looms this week, we are reminded just how important ‘weather’ is in the narrative of economic growth in America.
Q1 may fare far worse as the last few weeks saw the East Coast of the United States endure a brutal winter storm which caused the deaths of 16 people. It also led to widespread power outages and the cancellation of thousands of flights.
As Statista’s Niall McCarthy notes, thick snow is common in the Northeast during the long and dark winter months but the cold snap came as more of a surprise in Florida. The 40 degree weather even caused iguanas and other reptiles to “fall out of trees”, immobilized by the cold.
As shocking at the blast of cold was for Floridians, they can certainly count themselves lucky to live far away from the coldest areas of the U.S. where cladding yourself in layers of winter clothing is a normality.
You will find more statistics at Statista
Website 24/7 Wall St. found that Fairbanks, Alaska, is America’s coldest city with minimum average temperatures in the coldest month a very chilly -16.9° F. The historic low is -66° F.
The fact that the country’s coldest city is in Alaska probably comes as little surprise.
Elsewhere, North and South Dakota dominate the list of America’s ten coldest cities. Three cities in North Dakota – Grand Forks, Williston and Fargo – follow Fairbanks with all having average temperatures at or below zero degrees.
North Korean officials are ransacking homes and raiding farms in order to feed their starving army.
Not only has the drought taken its toll on the nation, but this newest harsh seizure of food is causing internal clashes between the civilians and the army.
Soldiers for the communist regime had already been given long periods of leave in order to try to find food and make money to purchase food. However, it hasn’t been enough. Collective farms are suffering due to drought and poor harvests, leading officials to ransack farms and homes in order to find any stored food or money that might benefit the army, Daily NK reports.
While North Korean citizens are used to officials searching for food and asking for bribes, their use of increasingly brutal tactics to feed a starving army has led to reported clashes between troops and citizens. Farms in the country have not been able to meet quotas, and in response, officials are giving them new assignments.
“We are suffering because collective farms in our region did not have a good harvest last year and so we were unable to fulfill the mandatory quota for military provisions. All individuals who weren’t able to meet the demands have been receiving additional assignments since the very beginning of January,” a source in South Hamgyong Province reported to Daily NK.
“This year, we have to postpone our farm work due to this ‘extremely urgent’ task of gathering food for the military,” the source said.
In the past, individuals were allowed to take leave from farm work to obtain money for fertilizer or farm equipment. But this year, any money is being used to procure food and other items for military use.
“Last year, most of this region, including the Taehongdan, Pochon, Samjiyon, and Paekam areas, were not able to meet their military provision quotas. These demands are pushing people to their wits’ end,” said a separate source in the Ryanggang Province.
“Sometime in spring, the collective farms that are behind on their quotas will have some of their constituents provide frozen potatoes, which are processed by peeling and drying before presentation to the authorities. But many also call the season the ‘time when thieves (in this case, the farm authorities) rear their ugly heads,‘” he added.
Famine is believed to have previously killed millions of people in the hermit kingdom. The communist regime prioritizes sending food and resources to the military and high ranking government officials over its general population.
A video that first surfaced on Twitter and has since made the rounds on social media, appears to show a moored Russian Kilo-class attack submarine’s stern-engulfed in thick, black smoke.
— Capt(N) (@Capt_Navy) January 21, 2018
The striking footage was filmed in the Russian Pacific port city of Vladivostok, facing the Golden Horn Bay, near the borders with China and North Korea. The port of Vladivostok happens to be the home port of the Russian Pacific fleet and the most significant Russian port on the Pacific Ocean.
Shortly after the videos were uploaded to social media, the Russian Navy swiftly came out calling the fire part of a “damage control exercise.” Russia’s news outlet TASS quoted the Russian Navy as stating:
“Exercises to extinguish a fire on the pier using imitation were conducted on the territory of the connection of the Pacific Fleet submarines among personnel.” The contingent fire was eliminated in six minutes. “The personnel coped with the” excellent .”
Another report from Interfax News states that the Russian military has denied reports of a fire on the submarine base in Vladivostok.
Военные опровергли сообщения о пожаре на базе подлодок во Владивостоке https://t.co/gpVYHzh39f
— Интерфакс (@interfax_news) January 21, 2018
Five submarines and a dozen Russian naval ships are seen moored in close quarters to the high-volume, ultradense, thick, black smoke spewing from around the stern of the submarine.
Black fires can reach temperatures of more than 1,000°F. Material Safety Data Sheet published by ConocoPhillips shows the flashpoint of diesel fuel is between 125 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit, which indicates the fire in the video could indeed provide a hot enough flashpoint to ignite petroleum or diesel.
Why mention diesel flashpoints? Because diesel-electric motors drive the Kilo-class attack submarine’s propulsion system. From the angle of the video, the position of the fire is around or within the stern of the sub, where the propulsion drive systems are located.
A view of the incident from across the harbor:
Another vantage point of the incident from across the harbor: if indeed an exercise, where are the support teams to control the situation?
According to Popular Mechanics, the Kilo-class attack submarine has a history of technical difficulties.
In 2013, the Indian submarine INS Sindhurakshak caught fire and sank portside in Mumbai. A fire in the forward weapons bay triggered explosions of torpedoes and cruise missile warheads in the fully stocked bay. The accident killed eighteen sailors and rendered the ship unrecoverable, and it was finally stricken from Indian Navy rolls in 2017.
The incident in Vladivostok has gained so much internet notoriety in the past few days, it has prompted the Russian military to officially deny it and call it a “damage control exercise”, which of course is the fastest way to confirm it happened. Because if the billowing black smoke was “planned”, we would hate to see what an out of control submarine incident would look like.
Just read a great article by Caitlin Johnstone over at Medium where she discusses the automation of censorship tools by companies like Twitter and Google.
Putting paid Julian Assange’s warning last year on this, Ms. Johnstone details just some of the abuses that Twitter and Google engaged in to subtly and not-so-subtly shift public perception of major issues that run counter to the narrative the power structure wants us to believe.
And it is for this reason that projects like Steemit are so very important.
I talked about how important Steem is after James O’Keefe’s latest expose of Twitter (read it here). Watching people like Mrs. Johnstone wake up to the problem is great, but she also needs to take the next step.
You can’t hack something whose underlying content is stored in a distributed blockchain. Because the blockchain’s ledger is immutable, what you wrote is preserved in all of its glory (ignominious or otherwise) forever.
As she points out, type of censorship is far worse than simply throwing books into piles and burning them. With DRM and all digital assets, inconvenient truths can be memory-holed off your Kindle never to be seen again.
Abridged versions of books can be substituted for the original text and worse.
So, the blockchain as it pertains to how we communicate is a fundamental need to disrupt this communications super-state they are building.
I can’t stress enough how important this is today.
Now, more than ever, the information war is heating up. And the ability to control not just the validity of what people produce but what everyone consumes is the single most important issue of the age.
If we are to finally break the backs of the people working so hard to maintain their gravy train, we have to build systems that are beyond their control.
This is an ideological war.
One in which those that feel they have a right, nee a duty, to guide humankind to their preferred outcome for society.
On the other side is the force of the individual and chaos and the beauty of decentralization to create order versus forcing it to.
The essence of the authoritarian mindset was expressed beautifully in the much-maligned film, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
At his lowest point a paranoid, angry and bitter Batman is trying to kill that which he can’t control, Superman. And he says with all the fury of a frustrated villain, “The world only makes sense if you force it to.”
As a long-time Batman fan I died a little inside to see him brought to that low. But it was always there. That’s the problem when you fight for something without remembering what it is you are fighting for.
It’s so easy to become that which you think you’re fighting against.
And there is a better way than using their methods, which are inherently violent. What they do is commit fraud in the name of progress. And fraud is just another form of theft.
Steem is the way to beat them at their own game, without using their methods. Simply speak the truth and record it for all time.
Moreover, it takes earning power of the idea-creator and puts it in their hands, not the hands of the distributors and the rent-seekers, like Google and Twitter.
The growth of the platform is the way to claw back the capital they have been taking for themselves because before this we were just happy to have a platform to express ourselves.
Now those platforms have become chains around our necks. Tools of censorship and oppression; spreading false narratives and suppressing the truth while making them billions.
The worst part is that we are so inculcated in this abusive system that we come to devalue our own work. That it’s not worth $2 or even $20 for us to produce something that changes the course of someone’s life.
And so people’s first reaction to Steem is that it’s a scam. It is nothing of the sort. The scam is Twitter. The scam is Facebook. Your life, ideas and work have value. But, they’ve taught you to think that it doesn’t.
That is the true power of ideas… and you know what the man said about ideas right?
Properly managed and protected, so are blockchains created to hold those ideas, preserve them in digital amber and allow us to find our own way to the truth.
This could well be one of the most epic less-than-60-second devastating take-down of just about every mainstream media lie on Syria… In case you missed it, an entire panel of guests revolted against well-known conservative commentator S.E. Cupp’s demands that the US “do something” to remove the Assad government during a segment on her CNN HLN show late last week, but it was a comedian that delivered the final death blow, calling Cupp’s recycled regime change talking points “insane”.
Cupp has for years argued that “US inaction” is to blame for Syria’s woes and has been a consistent and prominent voice on the right calling for increased and more direct military action in the Syrian war – even as top US officials and Pentagon and intelligence insiders have since been very blunt in stating the obvious that only al-Qaeda and ISIS would fill the vacuum should the Assad government be removed by military force.
During a recent Syria panel discussion on “SE Cupp Unfiltered,” she revisited the idea of regime change, posing the question for the panel: “isn’t it time to do something in Syria in a full-throated way?”
For hawks like Cupp, nothing is ever enough apparently, even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has pledged that US forces will
occupy… remain in Syria for an indefinite amount of time to support proxy SDF forces on the ground, primarily to “counter Iran” while seeking “political transition” in Damascus.
She introduced the segment with a heatedly emotional appeal to her guest panelists, pleading we “must do something” because “500,000 people died while we did nothing” and arguing that “ignoring all of this… the chemical weapons, ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iran, Russia… it just gets worse”. Cupp later answered her own question, saying that solving the crisis “is completely possible if you get rid of Assad“.
But the panel wasn’t buying it. In a rare moment for mainstream network television, the entire group of panelists revolted with each commentator getting more blunt in their pushback against Cupp than the last – until finally stand-up comedian and libertarian commentator Dave Smith apparently couldn’t take Cupp’s smug clichéd and recycled talking points anymore.
Smith – though not some usual think tank blowhard that frequents such foreign policy debate panels – expertly schooled Cupp and dismantled her every assumption, demonstrating that it has been precisely US action in the region that has fueled the crisis in Syria, starting with the 2003 invasion of Iraq and continuing with the CIA program to arm the anti-Assad insurgency in Syria. And he did it all in under 60 seconds.
“…The most ridiculous plan that I’ve heard yet… This is insane… ISIS rose because we overthrew Saddam Hussein and then we armed ISIS,” Smith said.
Watch the full clip below (stand-up comic Dave Smith comes in at the 1:55 mark):
— SE Cupp Unfiltered (@UnfilteredSE) January 19, 2018
Smith’s epic diatribe met with no resistance. He said:
“Regime change has been an absolute nightmare everywhere that we’ve had it. And the idea that we’re going to go into a civil war and take both sides out is of all of these wars the most ridiculous plan that I’ve heard yet.
And as far as standing back while hundreds of thousands of people die – no one seems to have a problem with doing that in Yemen right now because it’s not the regime that we want to overthrow, it’s the regime we support doing it.
This is insane! ISIS did not rise because we pulled out of Iraq because of a bad decision – we pulled out on Bush’s timeline because we had to because the government of Iraq was no longer going to protect our troops against war crimes.
ISIS rose because we overthrew Saddam Hussein and then we armed ISIS. We need to not intervene in this part of the world – it’s an immoral war, it’s an illegal war. Syria has not attacked America. We have no legitimate reason for our defense to be there, and this is exactly what Obama promised not to do, and what Trump promised not to do.”
Apparently, S.E. Cupp couldn’t come up with any better response other than to half-heartedly say, “I disagree”… before quickly ending the segment.
The Senate backs the president’s choice, Jerome Powell, for the world’s most powerful economics job.
For the first time since December 2014, the Dollar Index has tumbled below 90.00 tonight as the greenback-bloodbath continues in early Asian FX trading…amid US trade policy concerns.
2017 was an ugly year for the dollar, but 2018 is starting off worse with the Dollar Index down 2.43% so far – the worst start since 2003.
In fact it has been a one-way street since The Fed hiked rates in December.
Also of note tonight, the dollar weakness has sent USDJPY back below 110
As Bloomberg reports, the dollar dropped to a three-year low, weighed by concerns over U.S.’s trade policies and a report that President Donald Trump may be questioned in the Russian investigation.
The Dollar Index is poised for its third day of losses as investors await China’s reaction to Trump’s trade tariffs on solar panels and washing machines.
Special counsel Robert Mueller wants to question Trump about his decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey as well as the removal of Michael Flynn.
“While at this stage Trump’s protectionist rhetoric is being applied sparingly and not drawing a reaction from China, there is the threat of Trump ramping up protectionism,” said David Forrester, a strategist at Credit Agricole SA’s corporate and investment-banking unit in Hong Kong. That will weigh on the dollar, he said.
The question is – will the lagged correlation continue?
Across the 31-Mexican states, there were 29,168 homicides in 2017, the federal government published in a brand new report on Sunday, making last year the most murderous year on record.
You will find more statistics at Statista
The latest homicide data from the interior ministry is the highest ever to be reported since records were first kept in 1997 and represents a whopping 27% surge over 2016 figures.
The interior ministry details last year’s per capita homicide rate at 20.5 per 100,000 inhabitants, up more than one point from 19.4 in 2011.
Last week, President Trump tweeted that Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. He cited the “massive inflow of drugs” and alluded to the out of control cartel violence across the nation, as a great sales pitch to the American people of why his proposed Mexico–United States border wall needs funding.
Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department warned U.S. citizens and U.S. government employees to exercise increased caution while traveling in Mexico, and even restricted some regions from access because of “violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery.”
While the U.S. State Department discouraged all travel to 31 Mexican states, the new travel warning elevated five states to a level-4 status, otherwise known as a war-zone like some countries in the Middle East.
The U.S. State Department defines Level-4 as :
Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Level-4 states in Mexico:
- Colima state due to crime.
- Guerrero state due to crime.
- Michoacán state due to crime.
- Sinaloa state due to crime.
- Tamaulipas state due to crime.
A majority of the level-4 states reside in the western region of Mexico, where violence between drug cartels is out of control.
CNN describes that outside the world’s war zones of the Middle East, Mexico is by far the most dangerous place for journalists.
Last year six journalists were killed in Mexico, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a US nonprofit. That was the highest number since at least 1992. Since that year more than 40 journalists have been killed in the country.
Despite 16% of the Mexican states classified as a war-zone or “shithole” by the U.S. State Department, there is even more death and destruction in South American countries. El Salvador reported a homicide rate of 60.8 per 100,000 inhabitants last year, which is three times the rate of Mexico. Brazil and Colombia recorded more violent rates than Mexico in 2017, with both countries averaging around 27 per 10,000 inhabitants. The rates for several U.S. cities, including St Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans and Detroit, were also higher than the overall rate for Mexico, AP said.
Nevertheless, the homicide rates were wildly disturbing in level-4 states in Mexico. Take, for instance, the small Pacific coast state of Colima had 93.6 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants last year, while a non-level-4 region of Baja California Sur logged in 69.1 per 100,000 inhabitants last year.
Here is what CNN had to say about the Mexican “shithole”-
In Guerrero — the state where Acapulco is located — murders rose to 2,316 last year, about the same as 2016, but up from 1,514 in 2014.
In Sinaloa, the former turf of notorious, imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, homicides in 2017 soared 39% over last year to 1,332.
In Baja California Sur, an area filled with popular tourist destinations such as Cabo San Lucas, the number of murders nearly tripled last year to 560.
Security and crime look set to be among the top issues in Mexico’s presidential campaign season, which officially begins in March. The election is July 1. President Enrique Peña Nieto can’t run again due to term limits. He and his political party have been heavily criticized for their inability to tame drug-related crime.
His administration has also called on the United States to help more, arguing that Americans’ demand for drugs is partly fueling.
Mexico is preparing for the general elections in July. Voters will elect a new president, 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies, and 128 Senate members. The current Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto had pledged to end drug cartels violence throughout the country in 2012, but that turned out to be a wishful campaign promise as homicides in 2017 surged to record levels. The left-wing and former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the current frontrunner, as cartel violence and drugs will be a pivot topic during the election.