On the heels of two of the largest intelligence breaches in American history, the Pentagon reportedly plans to roll out new rules requiring military contractors to more stringently monitor the activities of employees who work with sensitive materials.
Although the intelligence leaks attributed to United States Army Private Chelsea Manning and former contractor Edward Snowden have already spawned significant changes in the way sensitive information is seen and shared by workers with access to classified data, Politico’s Joseph Marks reported this week that the Pentagon plans to put into place further mechanisms intended to diminish the odds of another major breach anytime soon. Continue reading »
The United States’ top intelligence official said Thursday that he’s disappointed to continuously have his integrity disputed over an unsound remark he made before Congress more than a year ago concerning the National Security Agency’s spy tactics.
Eighteen months after he told lawmakers that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect and store data pertaining to US citizens, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said during an event Thursday morning in Washington, DC that he still takes heat for his infamous answer.
The gaffe in question occurred when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) asked DNI Clapper during an intelligence hearing in March 2013 if American citizens are immune to surveillance programs undertaken by the NSA. Although Clapper responded “not wittingly,” classified documents leaked to the media by former contractor Edward Snowden later that year proved that Americans’ communications are indeed collected by the NSA.
“It has been very disappointing to have my integrity questioned because of a mistake,” Clapper said during an event on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Dan Froomkin, a reporter for The Intercept, tweeted that Clapper complained “bitterly” of being “accused of lying.” Continue reading »
In an unusual turn of events, ISIS has released a ‘news’ video – absent gruesome beheadings and threats – that features ISIS captive UK report John Cantlie explaining, calmly, how “there are two sides to the story,” in Iraq and Syria and attempting to “dispel the manipulated truths” of the Western media… “think you’re getting the whole picture.. as history repeats itself yet again.”
According to Cantlie, this is the first in a series – “You may be surprised at what you learn.”
In a passionate speech to a joint meeting of Congress, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko dropped some tape-bombs:
*POROSHENKO SAYS RUSSIA `HAS NOW INVADED UKRAINE’
*POROSHENKO SAYS UKRAINE `URGENTLY’ NEEDS LETHAL AID
*POROSHENKO WARNS RUSSIANS WILL NEXT CROSS EUROPEAN BORDER
Supported by rounds of applause by US politicians, Poroshenko called for the US solidarity and to lead the offensive against Russia as they “fan the flames of war.” Stocks dipped (but recovered) though PMs are higher still.
What is our society going to look like when our faces are being tracked literally everywhere that we go? As part of the FBI’s new Next Generation Identification System, a facial recognition database known as the Interstate Photo System will have collected 52 million of our faces by the end of 2015. But that is only a small part of the story. According to Edward Snowden, the NSA has been using advanced facial recognition technology for years. In addition, as you will see below, advertising companies are starting to use Minority Report-style face scanners in their billboards and many large corporations see facial recognition technology as a tool that they can use to serve their customers better. Someday soon it may become virtually impossible to go out in public in a major U.S. city without having your face recorded. Is that the kind of society that we want? Continue reading »
When earlier today, the Fed released its latest Z.1 (Flow of Funds report) for the second quarter, there were few surprises: thanks to the relentless liquidity injections by global central banks (charter here) resulting in record stock market levels, total household net worth rose once more, increasing by $1.4 billion in the quarter (up from a downward revised $1.2 billion in the previous quarter) to a record $81.5 billion. This was the result of a $95.4 trillion in total assets, offset by $13.9 trillion in liabilities, mostly mortgage debt of $9.4 trillion, as well as some $3.2 trillion in consumer credit.
Which means that yet another quarter has passed in which the bulk of “wealth creation” has benefited only the richest component of US society, something that even French economists have finally noticed. As for the non-rich… well, recall: “America’s Poor Have Never Been Deeper In Debt.”
How much longer can the stealthy wealth transfer of the Fed and its central bank peers, in which only the super rich benefit, continue? The answer is unknown, but if nobody has noticed yet, after some $26 trillion in net worth increases benefiting only the wealthiest Americans, then we doubt anyone will ever notice.
Fishletter Issue 335, July 24, 2014 (emphasis added): There is a massive pool of warm water in the Gulf of Alaska, NOAA scientist Nate Mantua said in an email. It is unprecedented in the historical record, he added… the past year is way out of the historical range — “so who knows what will happen?“
NOAA Fisheries, Sept. 2014: Scientists across NOAA Fisheries are watching a persistent expanse of exceptionally warm water spanning the Gulf of Alaska that could send reverberations through the marine food web. The warm expanse appeared about a year ago and the longer it lingers, the greater potential it has to affect ocean life… “Right now it’s super warm all the way across the Pacific to Japan,” said Bill Peterson, an oceanographer with NOAA… “it’s a very interesting time because when you see something like this that’s totally new you have opportunities to learn things you were never expecting.” Not since records began has the region of the North Pacific Ocean been so warm for so long… The situation does not match recognized patterns in ocean conditions such as El Niño Southern Oscillation or Pacific Decadal Oscillation… “It’s a strange and mixed bag out there,” Mantua said… warm temperatures are higher and cover more of the northern Pacific than the PDO typically affects… cold near-shore conditions in the Pacific Northwest also don’t match the typical PDO pattern. Continue reading »
As we discussed earlier in the week, Janet Yellen has released a speech this morning explaining how sorry she is about ‘the poor’ and why they need to get rich. In the speech below, she stresses, “how important it is to promote asset-building, including saving for a rainy day, as protection from the ups and downs of the economy,” despite falling incomes, rising costs, and extending credit, we assume she means. The Fed Chairman has some words of encouragement for the tens of millions of Americans who live at or below the poverty level, including that threatened with extinction class, affectionately known as “the middle.” Her message? It is important to build assets, or said otherwise… get rich and she promises to “continue to promote asset-building.”
*YELLEN SAYS FIGURES ON POOR AMERICANS’ ASSETS IS `SOBERING’ (indeed! but not the rich eh?)
*YELLEN SAYS HOUSING CRISIS LEGACY STILL HURTING POOR AMERICANS (need another bubble)
*YELLEN: HOUSING IMPROVING, WILL STAY KEY FOR FAMILY ASSETS (as homeownership tumbles)
*YELLEN SAYS AMERICANS NEED MORE DIVERSIFICATION OF ASSETS (buy stocks too)
*YELLEN SAYS FED WILL `CONTINUE TO PROMOTE ASSET-BUILDING’ (count on the Fed to lift prices)
*YELLEN: CRISIS SHOWED VULNERABILITY OF LOW-ASSET HOUSEHOLDS (poor people should save more!)
Events last month in Ferguson, Missouri (read my detailed thoughts here) forced Americans to confront the frightening reality that many of of the nation’s police departments have been quietly, but consistently, militarizing over the past couple of decades. It’s one thing to intellectually understand that this has happened, it’s quite another to see cops deploy tanks and point sniper rifles at peacefully protesting U.S. citizens.
Just as disturbing as the scenes themselves, is the fact that this has been happening for so long under the 1033 transfer program with only muted criticism. The program was originated in the late 1990′s under the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 (recall that the NDAA is also being used to allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens without trial), and it allows for the transfer of excess Department of Defense equipment to domestic police. In other words, it has been public policy for almost two decades to militarize the police.
With the issue squarely still in the public consciousness, it would behoove us to understand that this program is not only arming police with weapons of war. In fact, public schools are also receiving such items, including grenade launchers, M16s and MRAPs.
It’s sort of an obscure story, but it’s also incredibly instructive.
That’s the story of how Eritrea—a tiny, mostly unheard-of country in East Africa—taxes its citizens who live abroad.
Eritrea is one of only two countries in the entire world that taxes its nonresident citizens on their global income. Specifically, Eritrea levies a flat 2% tax on the income of its citizens who reside abroad.
Nearly every other country in the world bases its tax system on residency rather than citizenship. Continue reading »
As if the drought was not disastrous enough for California, a consequence of the state’s dryness is that nearly 6,000 firefighters are battling 12 separate wildfires raging across the Golden State.
As the Cal Fire chief notes, “We’ve seen a lot more fires, and with those fires, more and more people are at threat. Every day we continue to see new fires ignite, forcing hundreds to evacuate,” and the following images from the infernos suggest there is no end in sight as “we start to see winds pick up and conditions are at their driest.”
What in January 2012 was a 2014 GDP forecast range of 3.7%-4.0% collapsed to 2.1%-2.3% in June (because clearly the Fed couldn’t possibly forecast snow in the winter), and three months later is now 2.0%-2.2%. In short, a 43% forecasting error. Continue reading »
Exceprted from Seth Klarman’s Baupost letter to investors,
We don’t know now (nor do we ever know) what the overall market will do. As we’ve discussed in recent letters, there are reasons for investors to be frightened but also numerous individual opportunities worth seizing. Today’s limited opportunity set means that we are still holding sizable cash balances, about 35% of the portfolio at June 30. This dry powder will become more valuable if the markets become more turbulent.
Equity markets continue to hit successive record highs, volatility remains strikingly low in equity and most other markets, and inflation is ticking higher. Investors have clearly grown weary of worrying about risky scenarios that never seem to materialize or, when they do, don’t seem to matter to anyone else. U.S. GDP, for example, was recently restated to minus 2.9% for the first quarter of 2014. Normally, this magnitude drop signals recession. Equities, nevertheless, marched relentlessly higher. Continue reading »
Just over ten days ago, as the pro-independence forces in east Ukraine were on the march with significant gains on the battlefield, a ceasefire was signed in Minsk, Belarus. According to the terms of the ceasefire, the pro-independence fighters were to lay down their arms, cease their offensive to regain lost territory in the Donetsk and Lugansk region, and disband. Continue reading »
The Fed Chairman has some words of encouragement for the tens of millions of Americans who live at or below the poverty level, including that threatened with extinction class, affectionately known as “the middle.” Her message? Build assets, or said otherwise… get rich.
We can probably “thank” ISIS for having distracted everyone from the ongoing spy scandal. A new barbaric and powerful terrorist group the danger of which is blown out of all proportion by politicians and the media is no doubt a Godsend for the national security apparatus and the military-industrial complex. In fact, this reminds us that ISIS looks suspiciously like an artificial creation anyway, one that has at some point undoubtedly received assistance from one or more states.
In a previous missive (see “Equal Opportunity Spy-Fest” for details), we discussed an article in German news magazine Der Spiegel (which has by the way done some excellent sleuthing beyond merely reporting on the content of the Snowden files). The article at Der Spiegel inter alia mentioned occasions when representatives of the “national security” apparatus or government spokesmen speaking on its behalf were caught in blatant lies and noted in its conclusion: Continue reading »
Who could have seen this coming? In yet another example of untruthiness, it appears, according to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning, President Obama would back U.S. advisers accompanying Iraqi troops in battle to combat Islamic State militants if necessary. For now, Dempsey noted, Iraqi security forces are “doing fine,” but as Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe noted, “it is foolhardy for the Obama administration to tie its hands and so firmly rule out the possibility of special operators on the ground.” Following Hagel’s remarks that the fight will “not be an easy or a brief effort,” Dempsey said if it doesn’t succeed, he would not rule out advising Obama to use U.S. ground forces.
The ongoing water crisis in California has sparked an apparent crime wave in some parts of the state, with desperate residents illegally taking water from fire hydrants in the middle of the night to keep their lawns green and their animals happy. Reports indicate that, in some areas, as much as 10 percent of the water supply has gone missing, presumably due to theft, a premonition of much worse things to come if rains remain at bay.
The city of Lemoore, for instance, a community of some 25,000 people south of Fresno, has seen numerous water thefts in recent weeks — a growing black market for water amidst one of the worst droughts in California history. According to The Hanford Sentinel, thieves are believed to be attaching hoses to fire hydrants throughout the city and pumping water into large plastic tanks affixed to the back of trucks. Continue reading »
The idea that the Obama administration has the budget deficit under control is a complete and total lie. According to the U.S. Treasury, the federal government has officially run a deficit of 589 billion dollars for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2014. But this number is just for public consumption and it relies on accounting tricks which massively understate how much debt is actually being accumulated. If you want to know what the real budget deficit is, all you have to do is go to a U.S. Treasury website which calculates the U.S. national debt to the penny. On September 30th, 2013 the U.S. national debt was sitting at $16,738,183,526,697.32. As I write this, the U.S. national debt is sitting at $17,742,108,970,073.37. That means that the U.S. national debt has actually grown by more than a trillion dollars in less than 12 months. We continue to wildly run up debt as if there is no tomorrow, and by doing so we are destroying the future of this nation. Continue reading »
Democratic Presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, who oversaw the State Department during the Benghazi attacks that led to the deaths of four Americans, may soon face Federal charges for tampering with and destroying evidence.
According to retired State Department whistle blower Raymond Maxwell, he caught Clinton’s Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff shredding documents in a State Department basement. When he asked the aids, who worked directly for then-Secretary Clinton, what they were doing he says they were told to remove any documents that could be politically damaging. The remaining documents were then turned over to an independent committee that was investigating the attacks. Continue reading »
“Papers, please?” That’s a question you might hear from authorities trying to verify who you are if you lived in an authoritarian police state. It’s not likely that Americans will be asked to prove who they are anytime soon because, after all, we’ve got a Constitution, and it protects us against unjustified invasions of our privacy.
The same is true of a so-called “national ID card,” right? That could never happen in America. Only it has happened — or will happen, depending upon which state you currently reside in.
The U.S. State Department has just put out a bid for 160,000 Ebola hazmat suits, announced a U.S. manufacturer called “Lakeland Industries.” The company’s press release, published at Yahoo Finance, reads:
With the U.S. State Department alone putting out a bid for 160,000 suits, we encourage all protective apparel companies to increase their manufacturing capacity for sealed seam garments so that our industry can do its part in addressing this threat to global health. Continue reading »
Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey say US is ‘at war’ with Isis, which will ‘threaten our homeland’
The US defense secretary told senators on Tuesday that America is “at war” with the Islamic State (Isis), while the senior US military officer suggested US ground troops might directly join Iraqis in combat.
Stripping away an earlier reluctance by the Obama administration to declare its airstrikes against Isis a full-blown war, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said Isis will “directly threaten our homeland and our allies” unless the US confronts the jihadist army militarily.
“This will not be an easy or brief effort,” Hagel said, who defined victory as “when we complete the mission of degrading, destroying and defeating” Isis. Continue reading »