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[l] at 7/16/19 7:45pm

Records obtained by CBS 17 North Carolina show that a Raleigh, North Carolina man is facing multiple child sex charges stemming from a case dating back to January.

The 32 year old man, Alejandro Duarte Aldama, was arrested last week and charged with "indecent liberties with a child and statutory sex offense – child less than 13; defendant 18+" according to a Wake County arrest warrant. 

The warrant claims that he “attempt[ed] to engage in a sex act with…a child who was under the age of 13, namely 6 years old ” on Jan. 4.

A follow up report by Breitbart says that law enforcement officials said Aldama "entered the U.S. without inspection, which indicates that he is in the country illegally". Raleigh, where he had been living, is a sanctuary city that protects illegal aliens from being deported. 

As the article points out, this isn't the first case out of North Carolina this year involving illegal aliens and sex crimes against children: 

North Carolina, this year, has seen a number of cases in which illegal aliens have been accused of sex crimes against children. In February, an illegal alien was charged with raping a 14-year-old girl in Harmony, North Carolina, before attempting to flee the U.S. Likewise, two illegal alien teenagers were charged last month for allegedly gang-raping a 13-year-old girl in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Aldama is currently being held on $1 million secured bond. 

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[l] at 7/16/19 7:25pm

Authored by Simon Black via SovereignMan.com,

There seems to be an unwritten rule with lawmakers that, every time they create a terrible piece of legislation, they give it the most noble-sounding name.

The USA PATRIOT Act from 2001 was a great example. It sounds great. Who wouldn’t love a law named for Patriots?

And yet that was easily among the most freedom-killing laws ever passed in US history, giving the federal government nearly unlimited authority to wage war and spy on its own people.

There are so many other examples– the USA FREEDOM Act from 2015 (which renewed many of the worst provisions of the PATRIOT Act).

Or the HIRE Act from 2010, which created some of the most heinous tax rules of the last fifty years.

The names of these laws all sounded wonderful. But their effects were absolutely terrible.

The new SECURE Act will likely be no different.

If you haven’t heard of SECURE, it’s a new piece of legislation aimed at ‘fixing’ the US retirement system.

SECURE stands for “Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement”, which is pretty clever when you think about it.

People want to associate their retirement with a word like ‘secure’. So even without knowing anything about the law, most people will probably have good feelings about it based solely on the name.

But if you actually read the legislation, SECURE contains a number of predictably terrible consequences.

For starters, SECURE is a basically a gigantic tax increase. And it’s a tax increase that will particularly affect your children when you pass away.

Under current law, you could leave your IRA to your children in a fairly tax efficient way. That’s actually one of the nice things about an IRA.

If your kids inherit your IRA, they’re required to pay out a small portion of the funds each year… and those distributions would be taxable income.

But the current rules only require tiny distributions; your kids are allowed to stretch out the annual payouts over the course of their lives, resulting in very minor taxation.

The new rules completely eliminate this benefit.

Under the SECURE Act, your kids would have ten years to pay out (and be taxed on) the entire value of your retirement account.

This means that the annual payouts would be MUCH larger… thus bumping your children up to a higher tax bracket… meaning that they’ll end up paying much higher taxes on your retirement savings.

This is tantamount to a huge estate tax increase. And it’s one that primarily affects the middle class.

For wealthy people, retirement accounts typically only comprise a small percentage of their assets. So this rule change won’t have much of an impact.

But for the middle class, retirement accounts are often one of the largest sources of their estates. And this legislation will be a significant hit for them.

The US House of Representatives already passed the SECURE Act. And just in case you’re about to start hating on your least favorite political party, you should know that it was passed with almost unanimous support from both parties.

(though I have my doubts whether most members of Congress even read the legislation…)

It’s currently in the Senate and seems likely to pass, so this is a reality to prepare for.

In related news, Congress also made some movement on the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act.

Sadly this one doesn’t have a catchy acronym. But in essence the legislation is their comical attempt to address the multi-trillion dollar problem of unfunded pension plans in the Land of the Free.

We’ve talked about this before a number of times– the vast majority of state, local, and even corporate pension plans in the United States (and worldwide for that matter) simply don’t have enough money to keep their promises.

Moody’s Investor Service estimated last year that the total pension funding gap in the US is $4.4 trillion. A few months ago the American Legislative Exchange Council estimated it at nearly $6 trillion.

Bottom line, it’s a big number.

Pension plans in the United States are currently guaranteed by a quasi-government agency called the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.

The PBGC is sort of like an FDIC for pension funds… so that if a pension plan goes bust, the PBGC will step in with a bailout.

Problem is, the PBGC itself is nearly insolvent and will run out of money in 2025. And its balance sheet is trivial compared to the multi-trillion dollar pension problem.

So Congress came up with a solution: go into DEBT!

According to the new legislation, whenever a pension plan runs out of funds, Congress wants them to borrow money in order to keep making payments to beneficiaries.

This raises an obvious question: who would be insane enough to loan money to an insolvent pension fund?

Well, you’ll be pleased to know that your esteemed members of Congress have courageously signed you up for the task, putting the American taxpayer on the hook for this potential $6 trillion liability.

Clearly this plan is the work of genius.

If nothing else, these two laws point to an obvious conclusion: it’s more important than ever to get your house in order when it comes to retirement planning.

Pension funds aren’t going to be able to keep their promises. Even Social Security, according to its own annual report, will run out of money in 15 years.

And even when you responsibly set aside your own money for retirement, lawmakers will suddenly change the rules and impose a major tax increase on the middle class.

Just imagine the things they’ll do if the Bolsheviks come to power next year…

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[l] at 7/16/19 7:05pm

The top 25 metro areas make up half of the U.S. GDP. The other 359 smaller cities account for a little over 38 percent of national GDP. As Statista's Sarah Feldman points out, it only takes 19 of the biggest powerhouse cities to make up the same percent of total GDP as the other 359 cites.

The rural-urban divide gets a lot of press, while the divide between major metropolises and smaller ones often gets overlooked.

The Top 25 Metro Areas Make Up Half of U.S. GDP | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

These smaller cities often face the struggles of aging populations, young workers leaving to coastal cities, and shrinking economies, once bolstered by manufacturing jobs and industries. These U.S. cities, like Cleveland, Columbus, and Buffalo have been struggling to jump start economic development.

The division between bigger cities and smaller cities has a geographic component to it too. Over half of the top 25 economic powerhouses are located on one of the coasts, further playing into the divide between coastal metro areas and the interior of the country.

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[l] at 7/16/19 6:45pm

Authored by Michael Snyder via The End of The American Dream blog, 

Why are we suddenly seeing so many cases of flesh-eating disease all along the east coast of the United States? 

For years, flesh-eating bacterial infections were so rare in the U.S. that even a single case would make national headlines.  But here in 2019 the news is telling us that we are seeing flesh-eating infections “at a rate much higher than in previous years”, and this outbreak really seems to have escalated dramatically over the last couple of months.  In fact, I found so many cases as I was doing research for this article that I had to simply stop reading at one point or I would have never gotten this article done in time.  So in this article I will be sharing quite a few examples with you, but it is far from an exhaustive list.

Let’s start with a Tennessee man that was just killed by flesh-eating bacteria after a trip to the Florida panhandle.  This is what his daughter had to say about his death

“About 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning, 12 hours after we were in the water, he woke up with a fever, chills and some cramping. … They got to the hospital in Memphis around 8 p.m.,” Wiygul said in the post. “They took him back immediately. As they were helping him get changed into his hospital gown they saw this terribly swollen black spot on his back that was not there before.”

The man’s condition worsened over the next several hours. His immune system had been weakened by a bout with cancer, the daughter said, and he died Sunday afternoon.

That is how fast flesh-eating disease can kill you.  If it is not treated immediately, there is a good chance you will die.

And it doesn’t take much.  One woman that had just moved to Florida recently died after getting a small cut on her leg “while walking along the coast on Anna Maria Island”

A woman died two weeks after cutting her leg while walking along the coast on Anna Maria Island, Florida, according to her family. Her leg became infected with necrotizing fasciitis, commonly called flesh-eating bacteria.

A life in Florida had long been the dream of Carolyn “Lynn” Fleming, who was originally from Pittsburgh but was most recently a resident of Ellenton, Florida.

I apologize in advance if I am ruining your future Florida vacation plans, but the truth is that a lot of these cases are happening along the Florida coastline.

And one man recently contracted flesh-eating disease in Florida without even going in the water

Tyler King was at work in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, last week, when he noticed his left bicep starting to swell. He tried taking Benadryl but just a few hours later his arm had nearly tripled in size. He rushed to the emergency room.

“When I was a little bit younger, I probably would have tried to tough it out. Well, that would have been the worst thing that I could do,” King said. “If I had gone to sleep … and had woke up with it at the rate it was spreading, I might not have an arm right now.”

If your immune system has been compromised by another illness, that is certainly not going to help, but even very young, very healthy individuals are being attacked as well.  According to Inside Edition, a 12-year-old girl almost lost her leg recently after getting infected by flesh-eating bacteria while on a family vacation…

A 12-year-old girl who was infected with an often deadly flesh-eating bacteria is walking again, just weeks after contracting it while wading in the ocean on a family vacation.

Kylei Parker knew something was wrong a few days after the Indiana clan arrived in Florida. Her leg hurt and she was running a fever.

When the family got home, her mother took her to the doctor after her temperature spiked at 104.5 degrees. The physician sent them straight to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with necrotizing fasciitis, a fast-moving, flesh-eating disease that could have killed her, doctors said.

If you think that you may have flesh-eating disease, you will want to take action as quickly as possible.

According to the CDC, common symptoms include “a fever, dizziness, or nausea soon after an injury or surgery”…

Necrotizing fasciitis (NECK-re-tie-zing FASH-e-i-tis) is a rare bacterial infection that spreads quickly in the body and can cause death. Accurate diagnosis, rapid antibiotic treatment, and prompt surgery are important to stopping this infection. See a doctor right away if you have a fever, dizziness, or nausea soon after an injury or surgery.

And most of the time the bacteria are able to enter through a break in the skin

  • Cuts and scrapes

  • Burns

  • Insect bites

  • Puncture wounds (including those due to intravenous or IV drug use)

  • Surgical wounds

Unfortunately, that would cover just about all of us.

After all, who among us doesn’t have a single cut, scrape, sore, wound or insect bite?  During the summer, insect bites are exceedingly common in warm weather areas, and all it takes is one for the bacteria to gain entrance.

And I know that all of my examples so far have been from Florida, but let me give you some from farther north along the east coast.

For example, one woman recently got attacked after “just ten minutes in the water” at a beach in Virginia

Amanda Edwards can laugh today thinking back on her potentially fatal health scare after spending just ten minutes in the water at a Virginia beach.

“I was just like, ‘Oh my goodness… my leg is gonna fall off,'” Edwards chuckled. “That’s the only thing I could keep thinking.”

She told WTKR she contracted a flesh-eating staph infection during a day of fun at Norfolk’s Ocean View Beach. She said the infection spread quickly.

In another instance, a young boy “had red spots all over his body by the next morning” after a trip to a beach in Maryland

A woman says a trip to a Maryland beach left her son covered in wounds from flesh-eating bacteria. The Daily Times of Salisbury reports Brittany Carey says her son went swimming off the coast of Ocean City last week and had red spots all over his body by the next morning.

And it is exceedingly rare to see any cases at all along the Delaware coast, but according to Scientific American one recent report noted five “severe” cases…

The report authors described five cases of severe flesh-eating bacterial infections in people who were exposed to water or seafood from the Delaware Bay, which sits between Delaware and New Jersey. Such infections have historically been rare in the Delaware Bay, as the bacterium responsible for the disease, called Vibrio vulnificus, prefers warmer waters, such as those in the Gulf of Mexico.

So what is causing this extraordinary change?

Could it be possible that we have stumbled upon another element of “the perfect storm” that I keep talking about?

We seem to have entered a time when nature is behaving in some extremely strange ways.  It would be great if the experts could explain all of the weird things that we are seeing, but they can’t.

I don’t know about you, but for now I am definitely staying out of the ocean.  If something is causing a population explosion of flesh-eating bacteria along our coastlines, I don’t want to mess with it.

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[l] at 7/16/19 6:25pm

YouTube is headed for a significant antitrust confrontation with its ex-partners, now turned rivals, that seek trustbuster attention on the video giant's advertising platform, Bloomberg reports.

AppNexus Inc., founded by Brian O'Kelley in 2007, helped companies advertise anywhere on the internet. The software was easy to use, was able to be integrated into Google, the biggest ad seller, and Google's YouTube video service.

By 2015, Google halted companies from buying ads on YouTube using external software, which would eventually collapse AppNexus because its clients could no longer advertise on the video platform.

"They crushed our growth and ruined our product," said O'Kelley, who stepped down as AppNexus chief executive officer last year. YouTube represented a large portion of the video inventory that AppNexus offered to advertisers. Those marketers couldn't just ignore YouTube "because it's pretty much a monopoly in that space," he added. "It's not a supply-and-demand problem. It's a 'You just broke our entire business' problem.'"

Bloomberg notes advertising and media entrepreneurs created multi-billion dollar operations around YouTube, only to be crushed by the video giant after a change in the rules of engagement.

Rivals and former employees, who remained anonymous, said Google used YouTube's popularity to attract media and tech firms onto the platform, gaining exclusive access to more videos and ad space.  YouTube then used that supply to, manipulate ad prices, and harvest data about viewers, crushing anyone that tried to compete.

People familiar with this said YouTube didn't wipe out the competition right away. Instead, the video giant made decisions to consolidate the video ad-buying process, with no consideration for its partners and regulatory checks. This triggered a tidal wave of failed companies and fewer choices for advertisers, sources said.

YouTube has no competition in the video advertising space. Interactive Advertising Bureau estimates the video advertising space was roughly $16.3 billion last year. BMO Capital Markets said the video giant accounts for $16 billion in 2018 sales, efficiently commanding the entire industry.

YouTube disagrees with this depiction of its video ad dominance, said it pays out a little more than half of its ad sales to contributors.

Regulators and politicians have taken notice about YouTube squeezing its partners. The Department of Justice is considering an antitrust investigation of Google/YouTube.

YouTube is preparing for upcoming antitrust investigations, its executives contacted its partners to ask how its practices have affected their ad sales, according to another source.

Vevo is one of the best examples of how YouTube squeezed its partners with the intent of crushing them into near bankruptcy.

Vevo was founded in 2008, collected music videos and original programming from creators and distributed the content across the internet -- on Facebook, YouTube, and Vevo.com. The goal of Vevo was to be the MTV of the internet to get higher advertising rates.

As YouTube experienced rapid growth, the relationship with Vevo faltered. Vevo music video were some of the hottest videos on YouTube, and advertisers paid more to advertise on those videos. But YouTube came across a significant problem when Vevo featured a video on its platform: it couldn't advertise because Vevo had exclusive rights. The google unit explored ways to correct this error; it first tried to renegotiation with Vevo, then tried to buy it outright, sources said.

YouTube proposed a new contract in 2012 that would have enabled it to also sell ads on Vevo videos operating on its platform, which would effectively crush Vevo's share of the revenue from those ads. Vevo executives declined YouTube's attempt to buy it, and what followed next was shocking: YouTube said it would delete Vevo videos from its platform before the existing contract would expire.

Vevo executives then filed an injunction describing what they said was bullying tactics, and asked a judge to prevent the video giant from removing its videos. The ploy worked. YouTube agreed to a new deal that would keep Vevo videos on the platform and keep exclusive rights to its ad inventory.

Google then acquired a minority stake in Vevo.

YouTube's attempts to kill Vevo continued for years, according to sources. With no way in accessing Vevo's ad inventory, YouTube effectively reduced its influence on the platform.

In 2018, Vevo discontinued its effort to compete with YouTube for a broad consumer audience, "shutting its app and website, and cutting product and engineering staff," Bloomberg said. Months later, YouTube signed a deal with Vevo in what industry sources said it wanted all along: the right to sell ads on Vevo videos.

The Justice Department's top trustbuster Makan Delrahim recently discussed how some tech companies have become too large, and their influence on competition is dangerous. Sort of like when oil refineries declined to sell themselves to Standard Oil about a century ago, the giant cut prices to drive rivals out of business.

YouTube said its tactics were reasonable - industry insiders disagree.

O'Kelley said that the Department of Justice is more attentive than ever before in investigating if YouTube violated antitrust laws. In May, he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on digital advertising. "This is not a functioning market," he said. "It enables Google, which doesn't produce content, to monopolize all aspects of the programmatic business and take a disproportionate tax for its trouble."

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[l] at 7/16/19 6:05pm

Authored by Andre Vltchek via Off-Guardian.org,

The United States believes that it is so invincible, exceptional and so frightening that no one would ever dare to protest, let alone defend its people against constant humiliation, economic embargos and military threats.

It used to be like this for quite some time. In the past, the West used to bully the world before and after each well-planned assault. Also, well-crafted propaganda used to be applied.

It was declared that things are done ‘legally’ and rationally. There were certain stages to colonialist and imperialist attacks: “define your goals”, “identify your victim”, “plan”, “brainwash your own citizens and people all over the world”, and then, only then, “bomb some unfortunate country back to the stone ages”.

Now, things are slightly different.

“The leader of the free world” wakes up in the middle of the night, and he tweets. What comes from his computer, tablet or phone, (or whatever he uses), is spontaneous, unpolished and incredibly dangerous. Similar in substance to what made him wake up in the middle of the night, in a first place.

He does not seem to plan; he shoots off from the hip. Today, as I am writing this essay, he has declared that he has “five strategies for Venezuela”. Go figure. Bravo!

Earlier, as he was about to land outside London, he embarked on insulting the Mayor of the British capital, calling him names. A bit like we used to do to each other, when we were five years old, in the neighborhood playground.

He has been regularly offending Mexico, and of course Iran, China and Russia.

He basically tells the leader of the most populous nation on earth – China – to “be there”, at the G20 Summit, or else.

Whenever he and his lieutenants are in the mood, they get busy antagonizing everyone: Cuba and Nicaragua, DPRK and Venezuela, Bolivia and Syria.

Of course, the main “culprits” are always the ‘biggest bad boys’, Russia and China.

Anyone, at any time, could easily land on the proverbial hit list of President Trump, and hawks of his United States of A. It could be India (which, during ‘good submissive times’ is called by the West the “biggest democracy”, or perhaps Turkey (militarily the second mightiest NATO country). The world had been converted into an entity which appears to be run by a bloodthirsty and unpredictable dictatorship. The world is an entity where everyone is terrified of being purged, imprisoned, starved to death, or directly attacked, even liquidated.

It was always like this, at least in the modern history of the planet. Colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism: they have many different faces but one common root. A root that has been often hidden deep under the surface.

But this time it is all in the open, raw and brutally honest.

*  *  *

Both George W. Bush and Donald Trump have one thing in common: they are honest.

Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama were both ‘suave’ presidents. They were loved in Europe, as they knew how to speak politely, how to dine elegantly, and how to commit mass murder in a ‘rational, righteous way’; ‘old-fashioned, European-style’.

The brutal, vulgar ways of W. Bush and Donald Trump have been consistently shocking all those individuals who are pleased when things are done ‘stylishly’ and ‘politically correctly’; be it a coup or the starvation to death of millions through embargos. Or be it invasions or ‘smart’ bombing (practically, ‘smart’ meaning very far from the inquisitive eyes).

But it is not only the ‘offended sensibilities’ of predominantly European population, that matter.

The danger is that someone might take Donald Trump seriously, and respond accordingly.

In the past, verbal insults similar to those unleashed now by the US President, could easily have led to a war, or at least to the breaking up of diplomatic relationships.

And now?

In case Westerners have not realized it, yet – people all over the world are indignant. I talk to Libyans, Afghans, Iraqis, Venezuelans, Cubans, Iranians: they hate what comes from Washington; hate it with passion. They know that what is being done to them is terrorism, thuggery. But for now, they do not know how to defend themselves. Not yet, but they are thinking.

The entire world now resembles a brutal ghetto, or a slum, where a heavily armed gang controls the streets, and in fact every corner and alley.

At least in the past, subjugated people were able to hide behind decorative words and ideological pirouettes. They were able to ‘save their face’. They were sodomized in the name of ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’. Now, a horrible reality is flying directly into all directions: “You will do as you are told!” “It is us who will decide.” “Obey, because we said so”. Entire proud nations are being reduced into states of slaves or even worse – lap dogs.

*  *  *

As everyone is well aware, even lackeys and slaves often hold grudges. And abused dogs can bite.

Throughout history, slaves rebelled. True heroes came from rebellious and enslaved nations.

This, what we have now on our planet, is not good, not a healthy situation.

The more countries that are being intimidated, the higher the chances are that somewhere, soon, things will let go; collapse.

Only terrible fear, so far, assures that if a Syrian or a Libyan or an Afghan city is leveled to the ground, there is no real retaliation: urban areas in the USA stay intact.

Only incredible patience of the Russian or Chinese leaders guarantees that, so far, even as their economies are being battered by ridiculous sanctions, the two powerful nations do not retaliate and ruin the US financial system (which is only a paper tiger).

Trump dares. He tortures and humiliates more than half of the world, then looks straight ahead and laughs: “So what are you going to do now?”

So far, the world is doing nothing.

Even the proud and mighty Iran is not ‘crossing the line’. As millions of its people are suffering because of insane sanctions, the Iranian navy is not yet engaging the US battleships that are sailing very near its shores.

Even as more and more US bases are being built right next to both Russia and China’s borders, so far there are no substantial military bases being erected by Moscow or Beijing in places such as Nicaragua, Cuba or Venezuela.

*  *  *

All this may change, soon.

And the so much dreaded (by Washington) “domino effect” may actually take place.

Non-Western leaders have also their ‘bad days’ and terrible nights. They also wake up in the middle of the night, and think, want to communicate and to act.

Imagine an Iranian leader, waking up at 2AM, and suddenly feeling overwhelmed by wrath, because Iranian men, women and children are suffering, for no reason, as a result of the perverse sadism being regurgitated by the West. What if he Tweets an insult, too? What if he just orders, on a spur of the moment, to have all those obsolete US aircraft carriers and destroyers that are floating in the vicinity, be sunk? Iran can do it: everyone knows that it can! Technically, militarily, it is easy: those ships are just sitting ducks.

Then what? Will Washington nuke Iran?

Someone may say: The West is killing millions every year, anyway. Better to fight it, in order to stop it, once and for all. Others may join. And then, then what? Will Trump give orders to kill tens of millions, just to maintain control over the world?

What if the US navy vessels bump into a Russian or a Chinese ship, as they almost did in the South China Sea, recently? What if a Russian or Chinese ship sinks, dozens of sailors die. And there is a retaliation? Then what?

What if Syria has enough and begins shooting down Israeli military jets that are bombing it, and attacking North American and European ‘special forces’ that are still located, illegally, on its territory?

The US is engaged all over the world. France and the UK, too. And if you talk to the people in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, you very soon realize what the real feelings towards Washington are!

If you provoke the entire world, something very terrible may happen!

Now, there is an entire coalition of powerful nations, ready to defend themselves, and also defend each other. Militarily, economically, and ideologically.

The world is not a slave of the West, or the United States. It is not a latrine.

This is the new world. Considering the horrors that were spread by the West, for many long years and centuries, Asia, Africa, “Latin America”, the Middle East and Oceania, are unbelievably patient and forgiving. But the USA and Europe should not take this tolerance for granted. They should not provoke its former and present victims.

Now, we (the people from the previously ruined part of the world) are beginning to speak up: about what is being done to us – to China and Russia, to South America and Africa, and the Middle East. With awareness comes courage. With courage comes pride.

Do not misinterpret our kindness. It is not a weakness. Not anymore. Think twice before you speak (or Tweet). Think a thousand times, before you act!

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[l] at 7/16/19 5:45pm

After the chaos of the last few hours, climaxing in the House passing a resolution - largely along party lines - condemning Trump for suggesting that four progressive freshman congresswomen of color "go back" to their countries, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) introduced, for the third time in two years, articles of impeachment against President Trump.

The Texas congressman, who notified Democratic leaders of his decision on Tuesday, said the House must impeach Trump for racist remarks.

"What do you do when the leader of the free world is a racist? What do you do? Well, here's what you do. You file a resolution condemning the president for racist comments directed at members of Congress. What do you do? You file Articles of Impeachment,” Green said.

"These two things are not mutually exclusive, we can do this — condemn for the comments who have been made — and we can do this, impeach for the harm that the comments have done."

While this is Green's third attempt to impeach the president, it is the first time since Democrats took control of the House .

"I think that we should not have this level of bigotry emanating from the president of the United States of America," Green said in an interview with The Washington Post.

"He is clearly making racist comments... The question becomes: What do we do about it?"

Green added:

"To tolerate bigotry - racism in this case - is to perpetuate it. We should not perpetuate this kind of behavior coming from the president, and if we don't check him, he will continue."

As The Washington Post reports, Green's move will force House Democrats to deal with the issue in the near term because of the privileged nature of the resolution.

Under House rules, Democratic leadership can decide to try to table the impeachment articles, effectively killing them for now and risk criticism from the party's liberal base; refer them to the House Judiciary Committee for possible consideration; or allow the vote to proceed.

If leaders do nothing, Green can force a vote on the impeachment articles in two legislative days.

The move comes as more than 80 members of the House have called for launching an impeachment inquiry, but the floor vote will also force all House Democrats to go on the record about an issue where they have yet to reach consensus.

However, as NBC News notes, some Democratic leaders have resisted impeachment, fearing that it would distract from the party's policy agenda, could rally Trump's base, isn't popular with the public and is doomed to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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[l] at 7/16/19 5:25pm

Authored by Serban V.C. Enache via Hereticus Economicus blog,

Zimbabwe is once again facing rampant inflation, a rate of almost 100 percent recorded in the month of May.

I felt the need to investigate its macros. As usual, the graphs are based on info from tradingeconomcis. An important development is that last month, the Government removed the legal tender status of foreign currencies and made the new Zimbabwean Dollar [RTGS] the sole legal tender.

The country dropped its national currency back in 2009, and replaced it with a multi [foreign] currency system in efforts to combat hyperinflation at the time. The recent reverse measure, taken by Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration, comes in response to dire commodity shortages across the country. Mnangagwa replaced Robert Mugabe as president two years ago in a coup. However, without sufficient US dollars to pay for imports, the country’s fuel stations have frequently run out and gasoline prices more than doubled between the months of January and April.

Fuel going up, coupled with the currency’s depreciation, made the cost of food, transportation, and housing utilities to soar. Due to the lack of confidence, as expected, more and more vendors set prices in US dollars.

In a milestone deal with the IMF last month, the Government agreed to cease net money creation [deficit spending] in order to pay its bills, which was a root cause of the sudden hyperinflation. The IMF is monitoring economic reforms for a year under a mutually agreed program. Debt relief was promised at the end of this year, provided the Government respects the deal. Companies are meant to trade RTGS dollars on an official market, but there were few takers. Analysts said that the Government’s gamble to force greater adoption of the RTGS might very well backfire, pushing transactions in foreign currencies underground.

With all these developments in mind, let’s see Zimbabwe’s flow of funds, and later on we’ll look at other indicators. The country has been a net exporter of Aggregate Demand and a net importer of goods for ten years straight. The Domestic Private sector [composed of domestic firms and households] has been going severely into debt for those same ten years. Only in the last two years was it able to net save financial assets, when the Government seriously expanded fiscal deficit spending.

We also see how the country’s money supply shot up, especially in 2018 and 2019. The M2 measurement [which includes cash and checking deposits + savings deposits, money market securities, mutual funds, and other time deposits] reached an all time high of 10.55 billion US dollars last March.

The unemployment figure has remained stable throughout years, but I don’t put much faith in the accuracy of this data, simply because of how the State defines being unemployed. For example, people like subsistence farmers, who consume all of their own output, are categorized as employed. And more to the point, the graph below is based on the “strict unemployed” definition [one who has been without work, is available for work and is actively seeking work]. The broader definition doesn’t require the latter condition.

Those working in the grey [informal] economy include people who do unpaid labor for a family business or paid employees who are not entitled to sick leave or paid holidays. In Zimbabwe, there are a great many who work in these circumstances. If we count as employed those workers on a payroll with taxes deducted at source and pension coverage, then the unemployment estimate is huge.

On to trade. South Africa owns the largest share of Zimbabwe’s exports. In my opinion, the country is far too dependent on its southern neighbor for commerce, and South Africa’s socio-political stability looks bleak these days. It would be better to seek out markets in different countries, in order to minimize risk and better handle potential negative demand shocks [for Zimbabwean exports] and negative supply shocks [for Zimbabwean imports].

The graph below shows Zimbabwe’s exports by countries of destination.

The graph below shows Zimbabwe’s imports by countries of source.

According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe’s exports sector as percentage of GDP last year was 22.9 percent and its imports sector 25.5 percent.

It’s safe to say that strategic bilateral relations cannot be formed, so long as Zimbabwe’s political class doesn’t compromise on a certain vector the country needs to maintain long term. Foreign investors [state and private agents] won’t be willing to come in, if they believe their investments will be at risk at the next election cycle, or if the chances for political instability and social upheaval are high. In recent years, Russia has been paying more attention to Africa, the northern states in particular, investing mostly in oil rigs and nuclear power plant deals. That’s one potential partner state with which the Mnangagwa administration should seek to do business.

Going back to Zimbabwe’s main trade partner, South Africa… that country is experiencing serious problems in rising criminality, and Ramaphosa’s land reform [confiscation without compensation] is bound to fail. In South Africa, since 1994, 21 percent of farms were put into Black African ownership. But more than 80 percent of those farms failed to remain economically active. If you ask Black farmers the reason for that miserable success rate, they blame the Government, and that’s absolutely true. That’s how you know it was a simulation of reform and not a legit effort behind it; because a singular reform, in and of itself, can’t be successful when everything else remains the same. In order to be a commercial success, an agribusiness requires access to infrastructure, to financial and physical capital, crop insurance, skilled labor, competent management, and access to markets capable of absorbing its output at a price which covers operation costs plus the markup.

South Africa [and Zimbabwe] needs a holistic approach to its national problems, and that means a combination of measures. Changing ownership doesn’t fix anything. The goal should be to decommodify land, which can be done via nationalization or [my personal preference] through site value taxation. Complementary measures should include: community land trusts, community banking, a national infrastructure investment plan, a national health care and education service, a national trade strategy, and last but not least, asset-side reform of the financial sector.

Reducing bureaucracy should be a priority as well. Currently, Zimbabwe is ranked 155th in 190 countries in the category of ‘ease of doing business.’ The more complex the laws and regulations are, the more wasteful and corrupt the system is. The State-dirigist method and Single Tax philosophy don’t require more time spent between citizen and bureaucrat, quite the opposite!

After Mugabe’s land reform, Zimbabwe isn’t out of the woods, and its population is growing too.

Using the printing press without any regard to budgetary rules, without any clear goal in mind, will only make the situation worse. The Zimbabwean Dollar [RTGS], in order to appreciate in value, requires a combination of tighter supply and higher demand for it. The Government’s specialists need to determine the country’s potential output vis-a-vis actual output and adjust fiscal policy in consequence. A negative output gap occurs when actual output is less than what the economy can produce at full capacity – while a positive output gap is the reverse and is inflationary.

The Government should aim for a near zero fiscal deficit; should temporarily ban the importation of luxury items, at least for a few years if not several years; should prioritize the importation of vital commodities – fuel, water, pharmaceuticals, grain, milk, and the like. The Central Bank should be ordered to run permanent zero interest rate policy. Reduced interest payments into the economy means a smaller supply of Zimbabwean currency. And the Government should only accept RTGS in payment of its exports, and it should only guarantee bank deposits denominated in RTGS. This combo would be sufficient to halt inflation, bring price stability and political confidence in state institutions and fuel hope for a better tomorrow.

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[l] at 7/16/19 5:05pm

The saga of the UAE "mystery" tanker which seems to have disappeared after its transponder went dark late Saturday night, and which no one has heard from since it drifted toward Iranian waters in the Strait of Hormuz over the weekend, has deepened after Iran contradicted US media reports of IRGC involvement. 

The semi-official news agency ISNA said hours after initial reports on Tuesday suggested Iran's military "forced" the vessel into Iranian waters that Iranian navy vessels actually came to the assistance of the disabled foreign oil tanker. The statement indicated the vessel was partially disabled and in desperate need of repairs. 

"(Spokesman) Abbas Mousavi said... that an international oil tanker was in trouble due to a technical fault in the Persian Gulf... After receiving a request for assistance, Iranian forces approached it and used a tugboat to pull it toward Iranian waters for the necessary repairs to be carried out," ISNA said, as cited by Reuters

UAE-owned oil tanker Riah, via The Daily Mail

The AP reported how it all started over the weekend:

Tracking data shows an oil tanker based in the United Arab Emirates traveling through the Strait of Hormuz drifted off into Iranian waters and stopped transmitting its location over two days ago, raising concerns Tuesday about its status amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S.

The report detailed that the Riah, a 58-meter oil tanker which operates frequently in the region, switched off its transponder for the first time in three months after 11pm on Saturday, based on tracking data. 

As of Monday "red flags" were raised as US officials began inquiring of the Riah's status. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbarra Starr had this to say based on intelligence sources: "US intel increasingly believes UAE tanker MT RIAH forced into Iranian waters over the weekend by  # IRGC naval forces. UAE isn't talking."

Via Marine Traffic/The Daily Mail

Summarizing the statements of anonymous US intelligence and defense officials, the Jerusalem Post reported:

US officials believe that the Panama flagged tanker M/I RIAH was seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on Saturday night, when it was crossing the Strait of Hormuz in international waters. Information from the US intelligence agency indicated that the IRGC troops forced the tanker to enter Iranian territorial waters before withdrawing the vessel to Iran's Qeshm Island.

#UPDATE: This is the last known position of the UAE (Panama flagged) oil products tanker in Iranian waters near Iran’s Qeshm island 44 hours ago. CNN’s @barbarastarrcnn reports US intel belives IRGC Navy may have forced the vessel into Iranian waters, no contact with crew. pic.twitter.com/GRHTt6bzi9

— ELINT News (@ELINTNews) July 15, 2019

However, this could be another case of hawkish US intelligence and defense officials hyping a false threat. Starr continued based on her source: "Some Gulf sources say ship simply broke down/towed by Iran. US says though no contact with crew. Last location Qesham Island."

Following the UK's controversial and aggressive move to seize a tanker carrying 2 million barrels of Iranian oil of Gibraltar earlier this month, Tehran's military has threatened to in turn intercept UK vessels.

This also comes after repeat pledges over the past year by Iran's leaders following a US sanctions campaign that if Iran is blocked from exporting its oil out of the gulf then no country would be able to traverse the vital oil shipping lanes either. 

The question remains: is this yet another knee-jerk attempt of US officials to immediately "blame Iran" in order to ramp up pressure? Could the "missing" UAE vessel just be the result of an accident or being disabled at sea? 

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[l] at 7/16/19 4:45pm

Authored by Daisy Luther via The Organic Prepper blog,

How many times have you seen a gun control debate in which someone chimes in, “Nobody needs an AR-15. What are you going to do, hunt deer with it?” It’s been a busy year for gun control advocates, passing draconian law after draconian law.

Sometimes it’s part of a heartfelt essay, like this, which is just another essay where a man bloviates about his views on high-velocity weapons.

There is no place for high-velocity weaponry in the hands of the citizenry. No number of lengthy oratories by National Rifle Association leadership and pandering politicians will ever justify the deaths this nation has already endured. “Every Marine a Rifleman” is an adage for Marines, not for civilians. We are no longer under the oppressive rule of a foreign king, and it is folly to think that by keeping civilians from such weapons that we risk our republic. We risk nothing more than offending the bloated gun lobby in Washington. But by doing nothing, we continue to risk our children’s lives. (source)

The author of that piece feels that since a pistol isn’t a match for an AR-15, nobody but police and military should be allowed to have one.

But that’s exactly why we should be able to own guns like AR-15s.

A disabled gentleman in Summerfield, Florida demonstrated exactly why one needs an AR-15 last Wednesday when he handily dealt with four home invaders who thought he was a soft target.

Deputies got the call at 8:21 p.m. Wednesday and went to the home at 14999 SE 32nd Court Road in response to a report of shots fired.

Sgt. Micah Moore found Doyle with a gunshot wound and a shotgun next to him on the ground. Deputies entered the home and found Jackson dead on the dining room floor. Detectives said he was wearing a “Jason” mask on top of his head, gloves on both hands, jeans and a black shirt.

Near Jackson’s head was a semi-automatic pistol, detectives said.

Continuing into the home, deputies found the 61-year-old homeowner in a bedroom.

He had an AR-15 rifle on his legs and was bleeding from a gunshot wound to the stomach, according to sheriff’s officials. Doyle and the homeowner were transported to Ocala Regional Medical Center, where Doyle died.

Deputies continued to search the area.

Deputy Austin Coon and K-9 Deputy Alberto Gago, with his dog Nitro, found Rodriguez and Hamilton in the 15000 block of Southeast 36th Avenue, according to arrest reports. Rodriguez was hiding in tall grass on the side of the road.

He was wearing sweat pants and a purple shirt. Hamilton was wearing all black clothing.

Deputies said the men were sweating. (source)

I’ll bet they were sweating when they discovered how outmatched they were. Here’s what went down. Police have opted not to name the brave homeowner.

The homeowner told Detective Travis O’Cull that, about an hour before the shooting, a male who he barely remembers from a past Craigslist transaction, knocked on the front door, according to sheriff’s officials.

The homeowner said he did not open the door but saw the male peering through a back sliding-glass door. He said he asked the male what he was doing and was told he needed help with his vehicle.

The homeowner said he told the individual he was disabled and couldn’t help him. That person then left and [the] homeowner went to sleep.

The homeowner told the detective he was awakened by a loud noise and grabbed his AR-15, which was near his bed. He saw a masked person inside the home, he said, and he and the intruders exchanged gunfire. He said he shot at the man in the mask and at a second person coming toward him.

The homeowner said it was Jackson who shot him. (source)

If ever there was a case for being ready to defend one’s home, this is it.

The other two suspects were interviewed and then placed under arrest.

Two of the four of the suspects have criminal records. Local police say that the homeowner faces no charges and that he’s done nothing to prevent him from owning guns. He is in stable condition, recovering at the hospital.

Here are the mug shots of the alleged home invaders.

photo credit: Ocala.com

Are you prepared to defend YOUR home?

I’ve written before about why preppers need guns, but it’s important to note that you need guns in good times too if you intend to defend yourself. This story is a perfect example of why. There’s no ongoing disaster or SHTF event happening in Summerfield, Florida. It was just an ordinary night in July…until 4 people allegedly decided to invade an innocent man’s home.

If the homeowner had not had greater firepower, this story probably would have had a very different ending. Imagine taking on 4 armed home invaders with a Glock.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why people actually do need AR-15s. We must be prepared to defend our homes and our families because when you need the police in seconds, they’re only minutes away.

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[l] at 7/16/19 4:25pm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan celebrated the delivery of the first S-400 anti-air missiles on Tuesday, even going so far as to suggest that Turkey and Russia (the system is made by Russian defense contractor Almaz-Almaty) might collaborate on building weapons. But across the Atlantic, President Trump was less than amused.

Washington has repeatedly insisted that if Turkey bought the S-400 over a steeply discounted Patriot missile system, that the US would block the sale of Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jets - and unprecedented punishment for a NATO member. And as it turns out, that's exactly what President Trump is planning to do.

Trump

During a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Trump said "we are now telling Turkey...we're not going to sell you the F-35 fighter jets."

Trump added: "It’s a very tough situation that they’re in. And it’s a very tough situation that we’ve been placed in the United States," Trump said. "With all of that being said, we’re working through it. We’ll see what happens, but it’s not really fair."

But Trump was mum on a more pressing issue: Whether Washington will subject Ankara to sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA. While Erdogan has suggested that Trump would find a way to avoid the sanctions, last year, Congress set a high bar for waiving sanctions under CAATSA.

And what's more, if Washington doesn't make an example of Ankara, it could have a full-blown mutiny on its hands, as New Delhi is also eyeing the S-400.

Trump isn't the only senior US official talking tough about the S-400. During his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, Esper said that he has told his Turkish counterpart that "you can either have the S-400 or the F-35, you cannot have both."

But who knows? Maybe one one-on-one phone call between Erdogan and Trump will resolve everything.

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[l] at 7/16/19 4:17pm

Update (1900ET): Despite the chaos earlier in the day, the House voted on Tuesday to formally admonish President Trump over his "racist" tweets targeting four progressive Democratic congresswomen. 

The 240-187 vote fell largely along partisan lines, as GOP leaders had rushed to the president’s defense in whipping against the measure. 

Just four Republicans broke with party ranks to join every voting Democrat, revealing the extent to which Trump’s incendiary remarks had jarred Capitol Hill and forced even some of his closest allies to denounce his behavior. Six Republicans missed the vote. -The Hill

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) who recently abandoned the GOP platform over Trump, backed the resolution. 

***

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was briefly banned from speaking on the House floor on Tuesday after she made disparaging comments about President Trump's 'racist' behavior, sparking chaos in the chamber. 

GOP lawmakers fumed after Pelosi slammed Trump as "xenophobic" for a Sunday tweet in which he told progressive Democrats to "go back" and "fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." 

"How shameful to hear him continue to defend those offensive words, words that we have all heard him repeat, not only about our members, but about countless others," said Pelosi, adding ""There is no place anywhere for the president's words, which are not only divisive but dangerous, and have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.

In response to Pelosi's comments, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) claimed that her remarks violated House rules forbidding personal attacks against the president or lawmakers. 

After Collins asked Pelosi if she would like to rephrase her comments, Pelosi said she had cleared them with the parliamentarian in advance. 

I would like to make a point of order that the gentlewoman's words are unparliamentary and ask they be taken down,” Collins said. 

Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who was presiding over the floor then reminded members “to refrain from engaging in personalities toward the president.” -The Hill

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, said "The words used by the gentlewoman from California contained an accusation of racist behavior on the part of the President," adding "The words should not be used in debate. 

Hoyer's comments technically banned Pelosi from speaking on the House floor for the rest of the day, while the debate over Pelosi's comments caused the House to come to a standstill as lawmakers debated what to do next.

Rep. Cleaver dramatically 'abandoned the chair' and dropped the gavel on the dais while the situation unfolded. 

Rep. Cleaver: "We don't ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate, and that's what this is. I dare anybody to look at any of the footage and see if there was any unfairness. But unfairness is not enough, because we want to just fight. I abandon the chair." pic.twitter.com/pvfJL54kw1

— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 16, 2019

Ultimately, Pelosi's comments were allowed to stand after a motion to strike her comments failed 190-232. Every Republican voted in favor of the motion.  

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[l] at 7/16/19 4:17pm

Update: Despite the chaos earlier in the day, the House voted on Tuesday to formally admonish President Trump over his "racist" tweets targeting four progressive Democratic congresswomen. 

The 240-187 vote fell largely along partisan lines, as GOP leaders had rushed to the president’s defense in whipping against the measure. 

Just four Republicans broke with party ranks to join every voting Democrat, revealing the extent to which Trump’s incendiary remarks had jarred Capitol Hill and forced even some of his closest allies to denounce his behavior. Six Republicans missed the vote. -The Hill

Unsurprisingly, Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) who recently abandoned the GOP platform over Trump, backed the resolution. 

***

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was briefly banned from speaking on the House floor on Tuesday after she made disparaging comments about President Trump's 'racist' behavior, sparking chaos in the chamber. 

GOP lawmakers fumed after Pelosi slammed Trump as "xenophobic" for a Sunday tweet in which he told progressive Democrats to "go back" and "fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." 

"How shameful to hear him continue to defend those offensive words, words that we have all heard him repeat, not only about our members, but about countless others," said Pelosi, adding ""There is no place anywhere for the president's words, which are not only divisive but dangerous, and have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.

In response to Pelosi's comments, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) claimed that her remarks violated House rules forbidding personal attacks against the president or lawmakers. 

After Collins asked Pelosi if she would like to rephrase her comments, Pelosi said she had cleared them with the parliamentarian in advance. 

I would like to make a point of order that the gentlewoman's words are unparliamentary and ask they be taken down,” Collins said. 

Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who was presiding over the floor then reminded members “to refrain from engaging in personalities toward the president.” -The Hill

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, said "The words used by the gentlewoman from California contained an accusation of racist behavior on the part of the President," adding "The words should not be used in debate. 

Hoyer's comments technically banned Pelosi from speaking on the House floor for the rest of the day, while the debate over Pelosi's comments caused the House to come to a standstill as lawmakers debated what to do next.

Rep. Cleaver dramatically 'abandoned the chair' and dropped the gavel on the dais while the situation unfolded. 

Rep. Cleaver: "We don't ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate, and that's what this is. I dare anybody to look at any of the footage and see if there was any unfairness. But unfairness is not enough, because we want to just fight. I abandon the chair." pic.twitter.com/pvfJL54kw1

— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 16, 2019

Ultimately, Pelosi's comments were allowed to stand after a motion to strike her comments failed 190-232. Every Republican voted in favor of the motion.  

[*] [-] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 7/16/19 4:17pm

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was briefly banned from speaking on the House floor on Tuesday after she made disparaging comments about President Trump's 'racist' behavior, sparking chaos in the chamber. 

GOP lawmakers fumed after Pelosi slammed Trump as "xenophobic" for a Sunday tweet in which he told progressive Democrats to "go back" and "fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." 

"How shameful to hear him continue to defend those offensive words, words that we have all heard him repeat, not only about our members, but about countless others," said Pelosi, adding ""There is no place anywhere for the president's words, which are not only divisive but dangerous, and have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.

In response to Pelosi's comments, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) claimed that her remarks violated House rules forbidding personal attacks against the president or lawmakers. 

After Collins asked Pelosi if she would like to rephrase her comments, Pelosi said she had cleared them with the parliamentarian in advance. 

I would like to make a point of order that the gentlewoman's words are unparliamentary and ask they be taken down,” Collins said. 

Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who was presiding over the floor then reminded members “to refrain from engaging in personalities toward the president.” -The Hill

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, said "The words used by the gentlewoman from California contained an accusation of racist behavior on the part of the President," adding "The words should not be used in debate. 

Hoyer's comments technically banned Pelosi from speaking on the House floor for the rest of the day, while the debate over Pelosi's comments caused the House to come to a standstill as lawmakers debated what to do next.

Rep. Cleaver dramatically 'abandoned the chair' and dropped the gavel on the dais while the situation unfolded. 

Rep. Cleaver: "We don't ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate, and that's what this is. I dare anybody to look at any of the footage and see if there was any unfairness. But unfairness is not enough, because we want to just fight. I abandon the chair." pic.twitter.com/pvfJL54kw1

— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 16, 2019

Ultimately, Pelosi's comments were allowed to stand after a motion to strike her comments failed 190-232. Every Republican voted in favor of the motion.  

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[l] at 7/16/19 4:05pm

Authored by Tom Luongo,

It’s not news that China and Russia have been buying gold by the hundreds of tonnes. It’s not news that Russia divested itself of most of its U.S. Treasury holdings last year in response to Donald Trump’s sanctions on Rusal, upsetting the global Aluminum market.

Russia has led the charge on central bank gold buying, having increased its official holdings from 400.3 tonnes in Q1 of 2007 to 2168.3 tonnes as of the end of Q1 2019. That’s a 442% increase in gold reserves.

China, on the other hand, has only in the past couple of years joined Russia’s party of announcing its gold buying on a monthly basis. Previously, China would simply drop a 500-600 tonne bomb on the markets and see what would shake out of it.

Now, few people who follow this stuff believe China’s government only owns 1916.3 tonnes of gold. Estimates range from 4000 to 6000 tonnes. Like Russia, very little of China’s domestic production of gold (404 tonnes in 2018) leaves China and makes its way into the global market.

It is mostly absorbed by the Chinese population via purchases off the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE). And the PBoC itself uses Chinese banks as proxies to buy its gold overseas from the U.K., Singapore and Switzerland.

Russia’s gold buying consumes most, and sometimes all, of Russia’s domestic production (297 tonnes in 2017). The same is true for Kazakhstan (68.4 tonnes) and a few other countries.

It’s easy when looking at these trends to see that something big may be on the horizon, that gold is on the verge of being re-monetized and a major shakeup to the world financial system is imminent.

That the multi-polar world is here. It’s not, but it’s coming.

The boys at The Duran had a fascinating (if a bit forward-looking) video recently where they discuss the situation brewing between the U.S. and China.

The basic thesis is that the U.S. and China are headed for a mostly amicable divorce of their economies, a disentangling as it were. And that that would then allow for the emergence of the so-called multi-polar world that both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping are working towards.

On this point I don’t disagree. It’s a strong point Alex Mercouris makes here that the U.S. and China have acknowledged their growing contention in the global economy but that there is no need for a completely antagonistic relationship.

The U.S. doesn’t have to extend the unipolar moment into infinity to ‘win’ this ‘war’ with China. That is globalist thinking, maximalism to the extreme.

The U.S. and China can, strategically, disengage from each other while cultivating different paths for their futures. And this is the essence of the phrase ‘multi-polar.’ If that is Trump’s vision on this that is an improvement over the globalist Davos Crowd perspective so entrenched in Europe, which brooks no dissent from its Borg-like behavior.

It’s neither optimal nor likely but it sets a tone that will shift the future outcomes in the right direction. To do this Trump has to win re-election and be successful in confronting the Swamp via Jeffrey Epstein like I believe he’s doing.

However, and this is the bigger point coming back to gold, I do think Russia and China setting up their part of the multi-polar world based on a gold standard similar to Bretton-Woods is not workable.

There are a number of reasons for this but the main one is that Bretton-Woods never worked in the first place. The discipline of the reserve currency nation, the U.S., was never in observed. We violated the terms of the $35/ounce gold peg immediately.

First, by selling off the greatest hoard of silver ever amassed and then by simply printing the money during the Johnson and Nixon Administrations. It is insane to think that Russia and/or China will for any length of time exhibit any real fiscal discipline that would allow for a Bretton-Woods-style currency regime to work.

This is libertarian critique 101, folks. Just because the U.S. can’t keep its hand out of the cookie jar, doesn’t mean Russia post-Putin will. And the less said about the Chinese shadow banking bubble the better.

Moreover, the U.S. and the EU still have their gold reserves. Even if some or all of it has been lent out to suppress the price at times. I don’t believe that’s been the case since China opened up the Shanghai Gold Exchange and Russia began accumulating in earnest.

That would have put explosive upward pressure on the price of gold as thousands of tonnes would have had to be sourced to settle those positions. Instead, the U.S. and the EU were likely allowed to unwind any short positions over time which allowed years of annual production to flow east.

And this is the fundamental problem of a government-backed gold standard. It will not ever last. Governments create market interventions which have to be paid for via money printing or debt. And both of those things belie the discipline of the gold standard.

There is an infinite gap between the intention of China and Russia to build a multi-polar global financial system between East and West and the re-emergence of a gold-backed currency regime.

Because, for a moment, let’s get real about who owns what gold.

On the West side of the world we have the U.S., EU, BIS, the IMF and the Gulf states.

On the other side we have the central banks in the Russia/China orbit who are currently accumulating gold or are becoming independent actors on the world stage. It’s a bigger list than in the past twenty years, but that list is still small (The BRI Bloc (as defined by me herein) consists of the following countries: Russia, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Qatar, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Malaysia, Serbia and Brazil).

Going through World Gold Council numbers for Q1 2019 we get the following numbers. Just over 7000 tonnes of gold for what I’m calling Eastern BRI Bloc, those countries that are both accumulating gold in their reserves and are important partners in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It’s impressive that they have added more than 3000 tonnes over the past six-plus years.

Total Belt + Road Bloc Gold Holdings Still Dwarfed by U.S. Reserves.

However, that’s still less than the U.S.’s 8133.5 tonnes let alone the more than 10,000 tonnes that make up the reserves of the European Union countries and doesn’t include the 2814 tonnes owned by the IMF, the 504 tonnes owned by the ECB itself or the 102 tonnes owned by the Bank of International Settlements.

For any discussion of this bloc challenging the reserve status of the U.S. and European systems, There would have to be at least another 6000 tonnes available between China and Russia that are not on their official books to even being to make that argument look realistic.

Let’s use M1 money supply figures for a proxy of what gold backing would look like, just to get a lay of the land.

For all of the talk of the U.S.’s imminent bankruptcy, the gold reserves at current prices make up 9.6% of M1 at current prices ($1415/oz). China’s official gold reserves make up just 1.0% of M1. Even if you believe the upper end of China’s estimated real gold holdings it’s still only 3.3% of M1.

If you count the estimated 16,000 tonnes held privately in China and that was convertible into currency that would still only get China up to 12.2% backing of M1 with gold.

Russia is the closest there is to a gold-backed currency there is. The ruble by that metric (M1) 84.0% backed by Russia’s official gold reserves.

That is an eye-popping number and it tells you that the Russians have very prudently saved over the past fifteen years or so. They have built what we Austrian economists like to call a ‘pool of real savings’ to lever into higher order investments.

Russia is now ready to deploy a significant part of its trade surplus and even some of its pool of real savings to build new and needed infrastructure for Russia. Putin mentioned in his annual 4-hour direct line that he was ready to begin spending some of Russia’s oil revenues, drifting away from neoliberal and monetarist Alexei Kudrin and towards the nationalist/Keynesian Sergei Glazyev.

Given the state of Russia’s finances and a 10+ billion per month trade surplus, this is a no-brainer really. It’s their down-payment on the multi-polar world.

And it marks a specific shift in attitude which will assist China in building out Belt and Road but it will do nothing to allow for a return to any kind of gold standard until China gets its financial house in order.

To sum up, what killed Bretton-Woods was the same thing that killed the British pound post-WWI, a refusal to price gold accurately by the governments printing the money. Britain could have kept the gold standard and more of its empire had it re-valued the pound to reflect the money supply in 1918.

It didn’t and it destroyed the British post-war economy. The same thing is happening now. And the U.S. will either have to allow the world’s assets to plunge by 50-90% or allow the price of gold to rise to reflect the amount of money in circulation.

Given the numbers I just laid out that should give you an idea of just how much higher gold has to go to balance the books of the world. And no one in power, other than the Russians, are prepared for that kind of event.

Because until that happens there is no incentive for gold to circulate as money, or the discipline of the gold standard to be observed.

What China is doing, like Russia and the rest of the BRI Bloc, is they are building gold reserves to build the confidence of the world for the day when trust in the Western system fails. By having significant gold ‘backing’ but without convertibility those countries today adding to their rainy day funds will be the places capital will flow towards to avoid the whirlwind.

That is when the multi-polar world can be inaugurated.

*  *  *

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[l] at 7/16/19 3:54pm

When it comes to attempts to explain why the market just keeps rising, few case studies are more notable - or comical - than the in-house feud that appears to have developed between JPMorgan's "good cop", head quant, Marko Kolanovic, and JPMorgan's "bad cop" flow strategist, Nikolaos Panigirzoglou.

For the latest example of how two financial professionals can reach diametrically different conclusions, look no further than the latest note published by Kolanovic on Tuesday morning, in which the JPM strategist tries to justify the levitation of the S&P above 3,000 not in the framework of overly dovish global central banks (as that would make his job redundant - after all, just buy everything when central banks are injecting liquidity, and sell when they are draining it), but in terms of investor positioning, as in not enough of it.

Specifically, in explaining which way the market will trade now that it is above 3,000 Kolanovic writes that "over the past month, equity exposure increased" following "record low positioning in equities and other risky assets" earlier in the year when Kolanovic predicted that the S&P would hit 3,000: "In particular, the equity beta of all hedge funds increased to ~60th historical percentile." However, he notes, "equity long-short investors still have relatively low exposure, in their ~30th percentile, despite running high gross exposure."

This is problematic because as we wrote over the weekend, just last Friday, JPMorgan's other quant and fund flow strategist, Panigirtzoglou came to the opposite conclusion, writing that he finds "little support for the idea that there are prevalent equity underweights and “bears everywhere”. Focusing on the key equity long-short investor class, Panigirtzoglou wrote that "Long/Short hedge funds which represents the most important equity hedge fund universe produced a return of 3.2% in June according to HFR and 9.5% in H1, with the two largest L/S sub-categories fundamental growth and  fundamental value returning 3.9% and 3.5% in June, respectively. This implies a beta at or higher than 0.5, which is the historical average relative to the MSCI AC World index. Equity Long/Short hedge funds would struggle to produce such returns if they were underweight equities."

Incidentally, the above observation was in the context of Panigirtzoglou's forecast that there is only roughly 8% of S&P upside, suggesting" limited upside for equities from here even if the 1995/1998 insurance-rate-cuts scenario plays out over the coming months" and, worse, "any equity upside would become even more limited if bond markets fail to sustain their H1 gains."

Amusingly, just hours after Panagirtzoglou wrote down those words, JPM completely ignored its in house "bad cop" and as if to rub salt in the wounds of bears and skeptics, upgraded its 12 month price target to 3,200.

And while the recently uberbullish Kolanovic is quick to temper his optimism, noting that "given that the S&P 500 returned over 20% in 6 months, 3,200 in 12 months implies quite a bit lower rate of returns", the quant instead brings attention to what he calls an "unprecedented divergence" between various market segments, which "offers a once in a decade opportunity to position for convergence."

So what is this unmissable opportunity Kolanovic refes to?

As he explains, there has emerged "a record divergence between value/cyclical stocks on one side, and low volatility/ defensive stocks on the other side" with "the level of divergence much more significant even when compared to the dot com bubble valuations of late ’90s." The valuation difference (in forward P/E turns) between value and the broad market, as well as between value stocks and low volatility stocks, is shown below. 

One can claim that this divergence is entirely the result of central banks taking over the market, injecting trillions in the global economy and stocks, thereby crushing all value propositions, while the destruction of volatility by central banks whether direct or indirect, has made low vol stocks spectacular winners.

As Kolanovic adds, while there is a secular trend of value becoming cheaper and low volatility stocks becoming more expensive due to secular decline in yields, "the nearly vertical move the last few months is not sustainable", and "the bubble of low volatility stocks vs value stocks is now more significant than any relative valuation bubble the equity market experienced in modern history."

So what could catalyze such a convergence of low volatility/defensives and value/cyclical stocks? According to Kolanovic, several possible triggers are:

  • Stabilization of economic numbers (e.g. recent US retail sales, China IP, etc.),
  • progress in the trade war,
  • the Fed cutting short term rates and related yield curve steepening would help.

That said, given the extreme divergence, the JPM quant thinks that as little as hedge funds increasing net and decreasing gross exposure during the summer rally could trigger this rotation. Hedge Funds’ net is low due to the high level of shorts, most of which come from cyclical and high volatility stocks.

This could, in turn, trigger a chain reaction of short covering, fundamental flows, and equity long-short quant rebalances in a low liquidity environment. This rotation would push significantly higher all the laggards such as small caps, oil and gas, materials, and more broadly stocks with low P/E and P/B ratios.

Whether Kolanovic is right remains to be seen - after all countless traders have bet the house on value outperforming "any minute", only to get carted out feet first. We are, however, delighted regardless, as the "old" Kolanovic, the one who looked for - and found - unique arbitrage opportunities and dislocations in the market, appears to be making a tentative return and whose presence will be far more valuable and greatly appreciated compared to his current stock bubble-chasing 'at all costs' successor.

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[l] at 7/16/19 3:25pm

Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org,

President Donald Trump’s playground taunt Sunday that “the Squad” of four new radical liberal House Democrats, all women of color, should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came,” dominated Monday morning’s headlines.

Yet those headlines smothered the deeper story.

The Democrats are today using language to describe their own leaders that is similar to the language of the 1960s radicals who denounced Democratic segregationist governors like Ross Barnett and George Wallace.

Consider what the four women have been saying.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has accused Speaker Nancy Pelosi of attacking “newly elected women of color.” Was she calling Pelosi a “racist”?

“No!” protested AOC. But it sure sounded like it.

AOC’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti attacked Native American Rep. Sharice Davids for her vote on a Pelosi-backed bill that sent $4.6 billion in aid to the border but lacked the restrictions on Trump policies progressives had demanded.

Chakrabarti described Davids’ vote as “showing her … enable a racist system,” adding that some Democrats “seem hell bent to do to black and brown people what the old Southern Democrats did in the ’40s.”

The House Democratic Caucus ripped Chakrabarti, “Who is this guy and why is he explicitly singling out a Native American woman of color?”

At a Netroots Nation conference this weekend, African American Rep. Ayanna Pressley declared: “We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice. … We don’t need any more black faces that don’t want to be a black voice.”

This comes close to calling members of the Black Caucus “Uncle Toms.”

Monday, the president doubled down, tweeting:

“We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of Communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own Country, they’re calling the guards along our Border (the Border Patrol Agents) Concentration Camp Guards, they accuse people who support Israel as doing it for the Benjamin’s”

The “Benjamins” recalls the accusation of Somali-born Ilhan Omar of Minnesota that the Israel Lobby buys the votes of members of Congress.

“It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

Rashida Tlaib of Michigan is the other congresswoman in Trump’s sights. Together, the four have achieved a prominence that almost exceeds that of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer or Majority Whip James Clyburn.

The four — AOC, Tlaib, Pressley, Omar — have no clout in the Democratic caucus. But because of the confrontations they have caused and the controversy they have created, they have a massive media following.

Paradoxically, their interests in winning cheers as the fighting arm of the Democratic Party coincide with the interests of Donald Trump. He entertains and energizes his base by answering in kind their attacks on him and by adopting incendiary rhetoric of his own. He is now assuming the old “America! Love it or Leave it!” stance in going after the four women as anti-American ingrates.

They, by calling Trump a criminal, racist and fascist for whom impeachment proceedings should have begun months ago, elate and energize the outraged left of their party.

Among the presidential candidates, some have begun to side with the four, with Bernie Sanders saying Pelosi has been “a little” too tough on them.

On “Meet the Press,” Bernie added: “You cannot ignore the young people of this country who are passionate about economic and racial and social and environmental justice. You’ve got to bring them in, not alienate them.”

Trump’s Sunday attack forced Pelosi to stand with her severest critics, and she re-elevated the race issue with this tweet: “When Trump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again.”

Do Democrats believe that refighting the racial battles of the 1960s that were thought to have been resolved is a winning hand in 2020?

Does Pelosi think that demeaning white America is going to rally white or minority Americans to Democratic banners?

The race issue had already arisen in the first debate when Sen. Kamala Harris called out front-runner Joe Biden for befriending segregationist Senate colleagues in the ’70s and ’80s, and for colluding with them to block court-ordered busing to achieve racial balance in the public schools.

Observing the clash between Trump and these women, the rank and file of the Democratic Party are being forced to take sides. Many will inevitably side with the fighters, as Democratic moderates appear timid and tepid.

Trump is driving a wedge right through the Democratic Party, between its moderate and militant wings. With his attacks over the last 48 hours, Trump has signaled whom he prefers as his opponent in 2020. It is not Biden; it is “the Squad.”

Sunday, Pelosi recited again her mantra, “Diversity is our strength; unity is our power.” It sounded less like a proclamation than a plea.

We see the diversity. Where is the unity?

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[l] at 7/16/19 3:05pm

A NATO-affiliated body accidentally published a document which revealed the locations of US nuclear weapons throughout Europe, according to the Washington PostThe document was subsequently deleted and replaced with a final version of the report which omits where US bombs are stored. 

A version of the document, titled “A new era for nuclear deterrence? Modernisation, arms control and allied nuclear forces,” was published in April. Written by a Canadian senator for the Defense and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the report assessed the future of the organization’s nuclear deterrence policy.

But what would make news months later is a passing reference that appeared to reveal the location of roughly 150 U.S. nuclear weapons being stored in Europe. -Washington Post

A copy of the document was published Tuesday by Belgian newspaper De Morgen, which reads "These bombs are stored at six US and European bases — Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi-Torre in Italy, Volkel in The Netherlands, and Incirlik in Turkey." 

As a matter of practice, neither the US nor its European partners disucss the location of America's nuclear weapons on the continent. 

"We do not comment on the details of NATO’s nuclear posture," said a NATO official cited by the Post, who added "This is not an official NATO document."

A number of European outlets, however, viewed the report as confirmation of an open secret. “Finally in black and white: There are American nuclear weapons in Belgium,” ran the report in De Morgen. “NATO reveals the Netherlands’s worst-kept secret,” said Dutch broadcaster RTL News.

The presence of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe was indeed “no surprise,” Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat-reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, said in an email. “This has long been fairly open knowledge.” -Washington Post

And while there has never been an official disclosure of this nature regarding the US stockpiles, a diplomatic cable from a US ambassador to Germany revealed concerns over how long the weapons would be stored. 

"A withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Germany and perhaps from Belgium and the Netherlands could make it very difficult politically for Turkey to maintain its own stockpile," reads the November 2009 memo written by then-US Ambassador Philip Murphy. 

As the Post notes, the placement of US weapons around Europe stems from an agreement reached during the 1960s, designed as both a Cold War deterrent to the Soviet Union, as well as to convince European nations that they don't need to develop their own nuclear weapons programs. 

But times have changed. In 2016, after a coup attempt and the rapid spread of the Islamic State extremist group next door, analysts openly wondered whether Turkey was really such a great place to store nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, near Germany’s Büchel air base, the failure of arms-control treaties with Russia has prompted fears about a new arms race. -Washington Post

"The military mission for which these weapons were originally intended — stopping a Soviet invasion of Western Europe because of inferior U.S. and NATO conventional forces — no longer exists," according to Reif. 

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[l] at 7/16/19 2:46pm

Submitted by Eric Peters, CIO of One River Asset Management

“Imagine Congress appropriates $1BN to refurbish Air Force One,” said Warren Mosler, pioneer of Modern Monetary Theory.

We were discussing the financial architecture that allows the Fed to create money. “The Department of Defense hires General Dynamics to upgrade the airplane. The US Treasury instructs the Fed to credit General Dynamic’s account at JP Morgan with +$1bln.

The Fed simultaneously debits the US Treasury account with -$1bln and the books are balanced.” Notice, the government did not need to collect taxes or issue bonds.

“The US Treasury basically now has a -$1bln overdraft at the Fed. There’s no practical limit to how high the US Treasury overdraft at the Fed could become, but politicians don’t want the Treasury balance to be negative, so the Treasury issues $1bln in bonds, and deposits those proceeds at the Fed to eliminate its -$1bln overdraft.”

The $1bln the Fed created is trapped in the banking system and finds its way to purchase the $1bln in bonds the Treasury issued to balance its Fed account.

“Even if General Dynamics chooses to move the $1bln into Euros, it will do so by instructing JP Morgan to buy Euros from Deutsche Bank, which also has a Fed account. The Fed will debit JP Morgan’s account by -$1bln and credit Deutsche Bank’s account by +$1bln. The ECB will debit Deutsche Bank’s Euro account by -$1bln and credit JP Morgan’s.”

The dollar’s exchange rate may fall, but that’s what Washington wants.

“People misunderstand debt and money. Government debt is simply money the government has spent that hasn’t yet been used to pay taxes. Holders of that debt prefer saving over consuming or they wouldn’t own bonds. At some point, these people may choose to spend more than they save, and if that sparks excess demand and inflation (in Warren’s experience, large inflations are caused by other factors), then that’s easily dealt with. The government simply raises taxes or cuts spending.”

Easy eh?

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[l] at 7/16/19 2:36pm

Oil prices plunged today as Trump and Pompeo defused some tensions with Iran and geopolitical risk premiums were squeezed out suddenly.

“Bullish catalysts are in short supply,” analysts at London-based broker PVM Oil Associates Ltd. said in a note to clients.

“The Gulf Coast of Mexico hurricane premium is fading as offshore operations in the region resume. At the same time, the U.S. shale engine continues to give oil bulls a sleepless night.”

API

  • Crude -1.401mm (-3mm exp)

  • Cushing -1.115mm

  • Gasoline -476k

  • Distillates +6.226mm - biggest build since Jan 2019

After last week's big crude draw (the 4th week in a row), expectations were for another sizable draw but API reported a smaller than expected 1.4mm draw. Also a major distillates build weighed on sentiment.

WTI bounced back up to around $58 ahead of the API print but slipped lower after the smaller than expected draw...

 

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[l] at 7/16/19 2:33pm

The latest TIC data for the month of May, released just after the close, showed that China continued to sell US Treasurys for the third straight month, bringing its total to just $1.11 trillion, down another $3 billion, and the lowest since May 2017...

... Even as Japan bought a whopping $37 billion in US paper in May, its largest monthly purchase since August 2013, and bringing its total to $1.101 trillion, just $9BN shy of China's $1.110 trillion.

Meanwhile, in a surprising development, the UK - which has been aggressively buying US paper either for itself, or in proxy for other purchasers - saw its holdings jump once again, rising to $323.1 billion, an increase of $22.3 billion in the month.

Similar to Belgium and Euroclear, it is far more likely that this surge is simply the result of some offshore fund serving a sovereign, but based in the UK, is doing the buying. Whether it's China or someone else, will be revealed in due course.

Yet despite the occasional purchaser, foreign official institutions (central banks, reserve managers, sov wealth funds) have seen their holdings of US TSYs slide by another $22 billion, the 9th consecutive drop in the holdings of foreign official institutions, and yet because the decline this May was smaller than the drop in May of 2018, the LTM net sales posted a modest drop.

Overall, May - and the past 12 months in general - were not good for US Treasurys, as foreigners, both public and private sold a total of $33.8 billion in US Treasurys and $1.4 billion in corporate stocks, offset by purchases of $15.1 billion in Agencies and $14.9 billion in Corporate bonds.

However, for yet another month, the real action was away from the bond market, and in US stocks, where TIC data showed that foreigners sold US stocks for a record 13th consecutive month and 153 of the past 16:

The aggregate $215 billion in sales in the past 13 months, is the largest liquidation of US equities by foreigners on record.

And while it is perhaps not surprising that in May foreigners dumped US stocks - after all it was the worst month for the S&P in 2019 - what is odd, is that in June and July, US stocks barely noticed the ongoing liquidation, and after several attempts at taking out 3,000 in the S&P, finally pushed right through in July, despite what we showed just this weekend continues to be relentless selling by both individual and institutional investors, and - now - also by foreigners.

So with the S&P at all time highs, are we going to find out in two months that foreigners continued to dump anything that wasn't nailed down?

Which again begs the question, just how powerful are stock buybacks - which were the only official buyers of stocks in the past few months - to not only offset selling by virtually everyone else, but also push the market to new highs?

As of 7/16/19 8:10pm. Last new 7/16/19 7:40pm.

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