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The US Taxpayers Have Spent Enough on the War in Afghanistan

Former Navy SEAL and Blackwater founder, Erik Prince, recently penned an Op-Ed for the Wall Street Journal calling for a MacArthur Plan for Afghanistan that rests on two pillars: a central Viceroy acting with complete authority to direct development activities and a privatized East India Company model for securing key areas to bolster economic growth. He goes on to posit mineral resource extraction and agriculture cultivation as the means of funding Afghanistan’s rise into the ranks of civilized nations.
Of course, leftists immediately denounced the idea as war profiteering and corporate undermining of state authority. In terms of political economy, Prince is correct to point out the tremendous waste of money the US led coalition is costing the taxpayers of participating countries. After more than 16 years of occupation, the military campaign has become a quagmire and preventing the rise of future threats emanating from Afghanistan requires a comprehensive redesign and philosophical approach. Citing the expected $45 billion investment projected for 2017, Prince claims that his privatized security plan under a unified governor would cost only $10 billion. While this would be a significant savings and an improvement from the status quo, it still places the American taxpayer on the hook for subsidizing someone else’s security while adding nothing to their own. It still rests on a justified notion of foreign interventionism that makes every American an accomplice to aggressive invasion.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on June 13, 2017.

Another Red Flag Emerges in the Auto Securitization Market

Irresponsible and dangerous lending practices in the U. S. automobile market have been flagged by many people for a long time, but nobody knows exactly when it will all come to a head and create real problems. Today, I want to flag the latest warning sign.
Bloomberg reports:
Subprime auto bonds issued in 2015 are by one key measure on track to become the worst performing in the history of car-loan securitizations, according to Fitch Ratings.
This group of securities is experiencing cumulative net losses at a rate projected to reach 15 percent, which is higher even than for bonds in the 2007, Fitch analysts Hylton Heard and John Bella Jr. wrote in a report Thursday.

This post was published at Liberty Blitzkrieg on Jun 12, 2017.

U.S., Russia hold secret talks over south Syria safe zone

U.S. and Russian officials have quietly stepped up contacts in recent weeks to try to advance a deal on the creation of a safe zone in southern Syria, Al-Monitor has learned.
The talks included a meeting in Jordan in late May, a former diplomat from the region said on condition of anonymity. Russia, Iran and Turkey negotiated the creation of four zones aimed at de-escalating tensions between Bashar al-Assad’s forces and the armed Syrian opposition in early May, and the Donald Trump administration is now trying to see what role the United States can play.
‘Last week, the Americans and Russia met in Jordan with the Jordanians to discuss these zones in the south,’ the former diplomat said. ‘The meeting in Jordan was one part where the U.S. and Russia, Israel and Jordan can work together to have de-escalation zone in the south of Syria.’
The United States is particularly concerned that any deal over the future of Syria preserves the stability of its close allies Israel and Jordan. Israel for its part has said it would not tolerate an Iranian presence on its border with Syria.
The source said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “in charge of dealing with Russia” amid allegations that the Trump presidential campaign conspired with Moscow. The former diplomat said Brett McGurk, the U.S. special presidential envoy to the global coalition against the Islamic State, and U.S. Syria envoy Michael Ratney participated in the Jordan talks. Neither official responded to queries.

This post was published at ALMONITOR

Oil Tumbles After OPEC Ends With A Whimper; Agrees Only To Nine Month Extension

Two delegates say: consensus reached for 9 month extension #OOTT #OPEC but other items on addenda
— Amena Bakr (@Amena__Bakr) May 25, 2017

The OPEC Vienna meeting has not officially concluded just yet, but moments ago a delegate told the WSJ and Reuters that the oil producing cartel had decided to do what had been widely telegraphed previously, and merely extend output cuts by nine months to March 2018. While the full quota breakdown has not been released yet, the cuts are likely to be shared again by a dozen non-members led by top oil producer Russia, while several nations like Iran and Nigeria will remain exempt from production caps.
OPEC cuts had helped push oil back above $50 a barrel this year, giving a fiscal boost to producers, many of which rely heavily on energy revenues and have had to burn through foreign-currency reserves to plug holes in their budgets, however in recent weeks oil dropped to the mid-$40s again, forcing OPEC to agree to the production extension in hopes of creating backwardation in the oil strip, in order to eliminate shale producers from the question. The rebound in oil prices has in turn spurred growth in shale output, which is not participating in the output deal and whose breakeven prices have tumbled, slowing the market’s rebalancing with global crude stocks still near record highs while US producers steal market share from Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on May 25, 2017.

Global Collapse: Children Are Literally Starving To Death In Venezuela And Yemen

Venezuela and Yemen were both once very prosperous nations, but now parents are literally watching their children starve to death as the economies of both nations continue to utterly collapse. Just like so many here in the United States, most of those living in Venezuela and Yemen would have called you completely crazy if you would have warned them that this was going to happen five years ago. In particular, Venezuela has more proven oil reserves than almost anyone else on the planet, and so to most of their citizens it was unimaginable that things could ever get this bad. But it has happened, and the collapse that has already begun in parts of South America, Africa and the Middle East will soon spread elsewhere.
When I said that children are literally starving to death in Venezuela, I was not exaggerating one bit. The following comes from the Wall Street Journal…
Jean Pierre Planchart, a year old, has the drawn face of an old man and a cry that is little more than a whimper. His ribs show through his skin. He weighs just 11 pounds.
His mother, Maria Planchart, tried to feed him what she could find combing through the trash – scraps of chicken or potato. She finally took him to a hospital in Caracas, where she prays a rice-milk concoction keeps her son alive.
READ MORE

This post was published at The Economic Collapse Blog on May 5th, 2017.

Student Loans and Healthcare – Two Issues that Will Define American Politics Going Forward

Poverty demoralizes. A man in debt is so far a slave; and Wall-street thinks it easy for a millionaire to be a man of his word, a man of honor, but, that, in failing circumstances, no man can be relied on to keep his integrity.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Wealth
Liberty Blitzkrieg readers know that I’ve been extremely critical of our modern U. S. economy for nearly a decade now. I’ve used harsh, but entirely appropriate language, such as rent-seeking, parasitic and criminally corrupt to describe our current financial/economic system. These are not words I use lightly.
I have absolutely no problem with wealth differences within a society, even large discrepancies are fine as long as the general population is benefits substantially from overall growth trends. This is not the case in today’s economy.
I support a real free market economy where barriers to entry are low, and in which small business and competition thrives. Unfortunately, this is not the case in today’s economy. Rather, America has largely become a neo-feudal society where a mass of debt slaves are lorded over by government protected, monopolistic, rent-seeking oligarchs and racketeers.
Societies work when people think the system is fair enough and have genuine opportunity for success and standard of living improvement. Societies work when the people who become fabulously wealthy are individuals who have created a product or service that benefits society at large. In contrast, people shouldn’t become wealthy by preying on their fellow citizens and driving them into destitution and debt bondage, but that’s precisely what is happening in many industries today. Our society rewards the worst sort of behavior, and as we observed in the aftermath of the financial crisis, protects and further empowers white collar criminals for destroying the global economy.

This post was published at Liberty Blitzkrieg on May 4, 2017.

I never knew how screwed up global banking was until I started my own bank

By late 2014 I’d finally had enough.
After so many run-ins with the bitter incompetence and bureaucratic indignity of the banking system, I decided once and for all that I would start my own bank.
I probably should have had my head examined, but instead I called one of my attorneys to talk through the options.
Had I known then what I know now, I think I still would have made the same decision… but in total honesty I was completely unprepared for the torrential shit storm I was about to enter.
The deeper I went, the more overwhelming my discoveries of how shockingly inept, obsolete, and out of touch the industry is.
It’s one thing to read about it in the headlines. It’s quite another to experience it first hand as an insider.

This post was published at Sovereign Man on May 2, 2017.

Baby Boomers Borrowed $100BN In Student Loans For Their Children And Now Defaults Are Soaring

America’s snowflake millennials aren’t used to being told ‘no’, especially by their parents. Perhaps that’s why, as we pointed out a few days ago, more millennials than ever are now living at home with mom and roughly one quarter of them don’t even both to enroll in classes and/or find a job (see “A Quarter Of Millennials Living At Home Neither Work Nor Study“). But, when it comes to racking up massive student loans for their lazy, millennial, snowflakes, we suspect a healthy portion of about 3.5 million Baby Boomers are wishing they had a do-over to do just that.
Unfortunately, rather than making some difficult decisions about affordability and/or forcing their kids to pay for their own education, Baby Boomers have incurred nearly $100 billion in student loans so that little Johnny and/or Susie could get that Anthro degree they always wanted.
In fact, as the Wall Street Journal notes today, so-called “Parent Plus Loans” have soared over the past 15 years as parents have increasingly found it impossible to cover college tuition costs.
Parent Plus, created by Congress in 1980, allows parents to borrow to cover tuition and living expenses – often after their children borrow the maximum in undergraduate federal loans, capped by law at $5,500 a year for freshmen, $6,500 for sophomores and $7,500 for juniors and seniors. There is no limit to how much parents can borrow. Supporters say the program ensures students can go to schools of their choice.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 24, 2017.

Where Are The Handcuffs? (Drugs)

Note the nostrum here….
One of Donald Trump’s few universally welcomed campaign promises was to do something about the prices of pharmaceutical drugs. Most Americans recognize that prices are too high, and are bothered by the rise of pharmaceutical price gouging…..
The key power is found in the ‘import relief’ law – an important yet unused provision of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 that empowers the Food and Drug Administration to allow drug imports whenever they are deemed safe and capable of saving Americans money. The savings in the price-gouging cases would be significant. Daraprim, the antiparasitic drug whose price was raised by Mr. Shkreli to nearly $750 per pill, sells for a little more than $2 overseas. The cancer drug Cosmegen is priced at $1,400 or more per injection here, as opposed to about $20 to $30 overseas.
The remedy is simple: The government can create a means for pharmacies to get supplies from trusted nations overseas at much lower prices.
In other words Trump has the ability to administratively put a stop to the drug-price rape.
But let me point out that while this article is informative and points out a means by which Trump can irrespective of Congressional interference put a stop to the scam in one area of the medical system it ignores — intentionally — a much-larger and more-powerful hammer that every President has had available to them for the last 30 years and yet has refused to use.

This post was published at Market-Ticker on 2017-04-23.

Ocwen Crashes Over 50% After N.C. Bank Commissioner Issues Cease And Desist Letter

Former hedge fund hotel-darling and mortgage servicer Ocwen Financial plunged over 50% after the North Carolina Commissioner of Banks and state mortgage regulators from over 20 states issued a Cease and Desist order to subsidiaries of Ocwen to address mishandling of consumer escrow accounts and a deficient financial condition. Specifically, the order prohibits the acquisition of new mortgage servicing rights and the origination of mortgage loans by Ocwen Loan Servicing.
The summary findings from the C&D (link)
The Commissioner of Banks (‘Commissioner’) having determined that Ocwen Financial Corporation has engaged in, or is engaging in, or is about to engage in, acts or practices constituting violations of state and federal law and applicable regulations, hereby issues the following FINDINGS OF FACT and ORDER TO CEASE AND DESIST.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 20, 2017.

China, India, and Japan Are Very Interested in Sri Lanka – Here’s Why

Increased international interest in the Indian Ocean comes at a convenient time for Sri Lanka, as the country continues to recoup after the end of its decades-long civil war which ended in 2009. The island nation is being courted (and courting in turn) by various major powers, each seeking a stake in developing Sri Lanka’s strategic location midway between the Middle East and the Straits of Malacca. While opportunities present themselves, all this attention also comes with its own set of complications.
International actors, notably India and Japan have become increasingly concerned about the level of Chinese investment and influence in Sri Lanka. This has, in turn, set off a flurry of activity among all parties to secure Sri Lanka’s favors. On April 12th, Prime Ministers Abe and Wickremesinghe met to discuss furthering bilateral cooperation. This is PM Wickremesinghe’s second visit to Japan since coming to power in 2015, and his ninth overall. The meeting resulted in $410 million in Japanese loans for Sri Lankan infrastructure projects, as well as $9.2 million in grant aid for the development of the Trincomalee port.
Other recent developments include Japan’s decision to appoint a special representative to coordinate development in Sri Lanka, as well as a code sharing agreement between Sri Lankan Airlines and JAL which will help facilitate six new routes between Japan and South Asia, aiding trade and tourism ties between Colombo and Tokyo.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 04/17/2017.

Latest “Shadow Brokers” Leak Reveals NSA Hacked Most Windows Platforms; SWIFT Banks

Other interesting thing is these SWIFT files date to at least a month AFTER Globo and Spiegel exposed TAO's hacking of SWIFT in 2013.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) April 14, 2017

One week after the “Shadow Broker” hacker group re-emerged when in a Medium blog post it slammed Donald Trump’s betrayal of his core “base” and the recent attack on Syria, urging Trump to revert to his original promises and not be swept away by globalist and MIC interests, it also released the password which grants access to what Edward Snowden dubbed the NSA’s “Top Secret arsenal of digital weapons”, it has made fresh headlines by releasing data which reportedly reveals that the NSA had hacked the SWIFT banking system of several banks around the globe including in the EU and middle east.
As a reminder, last year the Shadow Brokers claimed to have stolen files from the NSA’s cyber-espionage group known as the Equation Group. After initially putting up the tools up for auction (ultimately nobody was interested in paying the price of 1 million Bitcoin, or around $570 million at the time), Last week, the Shadow Brokers dumped the password for the files they had put up for auction last summer. Missing from last week’s dump were the Windows files they put up for individual auctions over the winter.
Fast forward one week, when on Good Friday the Shadow Brokers dumped a new collection of files, containing what appears to be exploits and hacking tools targeting Microsoft’s Windows OS and evidence the Equation Group had gained access to servers and targeted banks connected to the ubiquitous SWIFT banking system.
The tools were dumped via the Shadow Brokers Twitter account and were accompanied by a new blog post. As Bleeping Computer’s Catalin Cimpanu, who first noticed the release, points out, the blog post is called “Lost in Translation,” and in addition to some premeditated ramblings in broken English…

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 14, 2017.

Millennials Are Homesteading, Buying Affordable Homes, Building Community

Real solutions have two parts: changes in values and operational changes in habits and processes. While it’s certainly good sport to mock “snowflakes,” not all Millennials are snowflakes. Many are homesteading, buying affordable homes and building communities that get stuff done. I discuss these trends with Drew Sample, who is living them in Ohio. ( hear a 60-second excerpt or listen to the full podcast on Drew’s site.) Although the mainstream media focuses on bubble-priced Left and Right coast homes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, there are perfectly serviceable houses that can be had for $50,000 or less elsewhere in America. Drew just bought one, and rather than go through a bank for the mortgage, he arranged (with the help of a real estate attorney) for a family member to put up the mortgage. This arrangement is win-win: the family member earns a much higher return on the cash than a savings account or equivalent, the loan is secured by the property, and Drew cuts out the bank/lender.

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 2017.

CIA Director Accuses Wikileaks Of Being A “Hostile Intelligence Service”

And so Donald Trump flips on yet another issue.
One day after the President reversed his core stance on a broad range of policies including the US Dollar, interest rates, the futures of Janet Yellen, the Ex-Im bank, the obsolescence of NATO and whether China is a currency manipulator, on Thursday afternoon he took aim at Wikileaks and Julian Assance, when CIA Director, Mike Pompeo, in his first public appearance since taking the top intel post in the Trump administration, called the whistleblower organization a “non-state hostile intelligence service” abetted by state actors like Russia.

“It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia” Pompeo said.
“WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service,” Pompeo told an audience at a Washington think tank, adding that Russia’s GRU intelligence service had used the anti-secrecy group to distribute hacked material during the 2016 U. S. presidential election.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 13, 2017.

Two Charts Why The Middle East’s Largest Oil Producer Is In Serious Trouble

The Middle East’s largest oil producer is in serious trouble as it continues to burn through cash. Not only is Saudi Arabia burning through its foreign exchange reserves at a rapid pace, its future net oil exports will continue to decline. Why? Because Saudi Arabia is using more of its own oil.. and that is a BIG PROBLEM.
Matter a fact, Saudi Arabia’s net oil exports were higher in 1980 than they there were in 2015. According to the 2016 BP Statistical Review, Saudi Arabia produced a total of 10.2 million barrels a day (mbd) of petroleum liquids, while its domestic consumption was only 592,000 barrels per day (bd). Thus, Saudi’s net oil exports were 9.7 mbd in 1980.

This post was published at SRSrocco Report on APRIL 8, 2017.

Gary Cohn Backs Reinstating Glass-Steagal, Breaking Up Big Banks

In an unexpected statement made by the former COO of Goldman Sachs and current director of Trump’s National Economic Council, Gary Cohn told a private meeting with lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday evening that he could support legislation breaking up the largest U. S. banks – a development that could provide support to congressional efforts to reinstate the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law – and impact if not so much his former employer, Goldman Sachs, whose depository business is relatively modest, then certainly the balance sheets of some of Goldman’s biggest competitors including JPM and BofA.
According to Bloomberg, Cohn said he generally favors banking going back to how it was “when firms like Goldman focused on trading and underwriting securities, and companies such as Citigroup Inc. primarily issued loans.”
What Cohn may not have mentioned is that with rates as low as they are, issuing loans – i.e., profiting from the Net Interest Margin spread – remains far less profitable than trading and underwriting securities in a world in which virtually every “developed world” central banker is either directly spawned from Goldman, or is advised by an ex-Goldman employee,
The remarks surprised some senators and congressional aides who attended the Wednesday meeting, as they didn’t expect a former top Wall Street executive to speak favorably of proposals that would force banks to dramatically rethink how they do business.
Yet Cohn’s comments echo what Trump and Republican lawmakers have previously said about wanting to bring back the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that kept bricks-and-mortar lending separate from investment banking for more than six decades.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Apr 6, 2017.