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Monday, 1 September 2014

U.S agricultural inspectors seize 1,304 giant African snails

Agricultural inspectors have seized 1,304 giant African snails, one of the world's most destructive invasive species, from sites around the United States, the Department of Agriculture said on Friday. The slimy pests, which can grow as big as rats, eat up to 500 different kinds of plants and can damage buildings and humans' health. They are a particular problem in Florida, where an extermination campaign is under way. The Agriculture Department said in a statement that officials with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service seized an adult giant African snail and 284 juvenile snails on New York's Long Island on June 26. The snail came from a seller in Georgia who owned 949 of them. He told officials they were originally bought from a British source and were sent to the United States by mail. All the snails were seized. Based on information from the Georgia man, the inspection service also confiscated one giant snail apiece in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Albany, New York. Inspection service officials also seized 67 snails in July that had been imported from Nigeria to theUnited States via Los Angeles.

Revealed: Pennsylvania fracking has contaminated 243 wells in 22 counties

For the first time, Pennsylvania has made public 243 cases of contamination of private drinking wells from oil and gas drilling operations. As the AP reports, Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection posted details about the contamination cases online on Thursday. The cases occurred in 22 counties, with Susquehanna, Tioga, Lycoming, and Bradford counties having the most incidences of contamination. In some cases, one drilling operation contaminated the water of multiple wells, with water issues resulting from methane gas contamination, wastewater spills, and wells that simply went dry or undrinkable. The move to release the contamination information comes after years of the AP and other news outlets filing lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests from the DEP on water issues related to oil and gas drilling and fracking. The Pennsylvania DEP has been criticized for its poor record of providing information on fracking-related contamination to state residents. In April, a Pennsylvania Superior Court case claimed that due to the way DEP operates and its lack of public record, it's impossible for citizens to know about cases where private wells, groundwater and springs are contaminated by drilling and fracking.

Lightning strike at New York City beach injures three as heavy thunderstorms sweeps through city

The fire department says the men were injured at Orchard Beach on Pelham Bay in the Bronx on Sunday evening as bad storms rolled through the area. The men are being treated at a hospital. The extent of their injuries is unknown. The lightning strike happened as heavy thunderstorms swept through the city. Torrential rain, thunder and lightning interrupted Labor Day weekend celebrations, halted play at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Queens and forced the early end to a musical festival on an East River island. Dozens of commercial flights into the city's airports were delayed because of the severe weather.

Rapacious Israel announces 'unprecedented' land seizure

Israel announced on Sunday it was seizing 988 acres of land in the West Bank, an amount described as 'unprecedented' by a peace organization. The appropriation is reportedly in retaliation for the kidnapping of three Israeli teens in June. According to reporting by Haaretz, "The appropriated land belongs to five Palestinian villages in the Bethlehem area: Jaba, Surif, Wadi Fukin, Husan and Nahalin." Ma'an News adds: Part of the lands being confiscated are already home to the illegal Jewish settlement of Gvaot, part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. Local settlers moved into the area and took over Palestinian land with military support more than a decade ago, but have been living in an area technically unrecognized by Israeli authorities despite their armed protection.

Power trips cloud thinking, lead to illusions of superiority and control

In life and in fiction we see power "going to the head" of a leader or other person in a position of authority over others. We've all watched this happen in our experience. Some of the most common effects are feelings of superiority and the poor treatment of subordinates. We also see the more dangerous aspects of power trips, such as when those in power make mistakes on a large scale due to what we might consider their arrogance. The heads of large corporations ignore common sense or advice and make big moves that prove disastrous, for example. The underestimating of the costs of wars by political and military leaders is another example. Comment: Most of these heads of state and corporations are actually psychopaths. They have risen to positions of power because that is what they crave and they will do anything to achieve their aims, no matter the cost to society. In most of these cases, these are not 'mistakes' or 'underestimating' the costs of war because they could not care less.Their arrogance and feelings of superiority often lead to their demise, but during their monstrous reign and fall they force the society of normal humans to suffer the devastating consequences of their actions. Psychopathy and the CEO: Top executives have four times the incidence of psychopathy as the rest of us Psychopaths run the world How much does power really affect our thinking though? It's a question that recent research has looked at. More specifically, researchers have asked if power creates illusions of control. Does it cause the holder to overestimate his or her ability to control or affect outcomes? The answer seems to be a definite yes. To some extent we actually lose our ability to realistically assess matters and our ability to control events when we are put in a position of power.

Death under strange circumstances: Small plane, headed for Manassas, crashes into Atlantic Ocean off Virginia coast

A single-engine airplane that was scheduled to land in Manassas crashed Saturday into the Atlantic Ocean off the Virginia coast, authorities said. The Coast Guard said the pilot, the only person on board, appeared unconscious as the plane flew southeast, at about 13,000 feet, through Washington's restricted airspace and eventually across Virginia's eastern shore. The plane eventually ran out of fuel and crashed about 50 miles southeast of Chincoteague, the Coast Guard said.

Injuries as neo-Nazi march provokes clash with anti-fascists, police in Stockholm

Seven people suffered injuries after riot police clashed with anti-fascists at a neo-Nazi rally in Stockholm. Police say four law enforcement officers needed treatment, along with three civilians. The march was organized by the Party of Swedes, a far-right organization, and attracted around 150 members. They were far outnumbered by those protesting against the gathering, with thousands gathering in the city center. The vast majority of protesters were well-behaved, but a minority attacked the police with firecrackers, bottles, eggs and panels from a security fence. Comment: Agents provocateur? "We have had violent riots with people throwing objects at police," police spokesman Lars Bystrom said, according to AP. He also mentioned that two arrests were made, one for "preparation of aggravated assault," and another for climbing onto the roof of the Royal Opera House, where the neo-Nazi group started and ended their march. The rally took place with Swedish parliamentary elections set to take place in two weeks. Just last week, on August 23, violence broke out at another march held by the Party of Swedes in Malmo, which has a high immigrant population with 31 percent of the city's residents having been born abroad, according to the city's official website. The trouble started after anti-fascists tried to block the neo-Nazi march and clashed with the police ahead of a speech by Stefan Jacobsson, the leader of the Party of Swedes. Ten people were injured during the clashes, with many of the demonstrators critical of the heavy-handed tactics used by the police, which includeda charge by officers mounted on horseback at the participants.

If half of all species go extinct, will humans be next?

How many animal species do you think go extinct every year? Last week I conducted a highly unscientific polling of around 20 of my Facebook and Google Chat contacts, asking that same question. I'm not trying to brag, but I have some really smart friends, many of them with degrees in biology. Typical answers ranged from about 17 to a seemingly ludicrous 400. They were all wrong though - off by orders of magnitude*. In July, a summary article of nearly 80 papers, published in Science, stated that, "Of a conservatively estimated 5 million to 9 million animal species on the planet, we are likely losing ~11,000 to 58,000 species annually." If that finding is true, then every year, between .12% and 1.16% of all the animals on Earth vanish. Rodolfo Dirzo, the lead researcher on the Science study from Stanford University, points out that we've already lost 40% of the Earth's invertebrate species in the last 40 to 50 years. Almost half the animals without skeletons have gone extinct within half a human lifetime. The wide range of these estimates reflects our own uncertainty on this subject, but even our low-end assessments are alarming. Bugs and worms are gross, though; who cares if there are fewer spiders in my house now than in the arachnid-infested '60s? Unfortunately the future looks just as bleak for mammals. Dirzo says that if current trends hold, "in 200 years, 50% of the [mammal] species are going to be driven to the very edge of extinction."

Junk food in disguise: 15 'health foods' that will ruin your health

Unhealthy foods are the main reason the world is fatter and sicker than ever before. Surprisingly, some of these foods are considered healthy by many people. Here are 15 "health foods" that are really junk foods in disguise. 1. Processed "Low-Fat" and "Fat-Free" Foods The "war" on saturated fat is the biggest mistake in the history of nutrition. It was based on weak evidence, which has now been completely debunked (1). When this started, processed food manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and started removing the fat from foods. But there's a huge problem... food tastes horrible when the fat has been removed. That's why they added a whole bunch of sugar to compensate. Saturated fat is harmless, but added sugar is incredibly harmful when consumed in excess (2, 3). The words "low-fat" or "fat-free" on a packaging usually mean that it is a highly processed product that is loaded with sugar. Comment: It's not just rotting teeth and obesity you're risking: From dementia to liver damage, the real toll of sugar

New underground structures still being found at ancient Armenian city of Ani, first discovered by Georges Gurdjieff in the 19th century

For the first time in history, the academic world is paying attention to the spectacular underground world of Ani, a 5,000-year-old Armenian city located on the Turkish-Armenian border. Hurriyet Daily News reports that scientists, academics, and researchers have just met at a symposium in Kars titled 'Underground Secrets of Ani' to discuss the city's underground world mentioned in ancient parchments as the location of an ancient Mesopotamian esoteric school. Located on a hilltop near the bank of the Akhuryan River, Ani is the most famous among the Armenian capitals. Renowned for its splendour and magnificence, Ani was known as 'The City of 1001 Churches' and 'The City of 40 Gates'. At its zenith, Ani rivalled the likes of Constantinople, Baghdad and Cairo in size and influence. By the 11th Century Ani had grown to over one-hundred-thousand people. It would later become the battleground for various contending Empires, leading to its destruction and abandonment. Today, hundreds of ancient churches, Zoroastrian temples, and other buildings, most of them in ruins, remain scattered across the rugged and desolate landscape. Excavations have revealed that the area has been inhabited since ancient times, from at least as early as the Bronze Age, but the first historical records that mention 'the Fortress of Ani' trace back to the 5th century AD. By the end of the 8th century Ani, with its nearby estates, got under the control of Bagratid dynasty. Ani began growing since 961 AD, when the Bagratid king Ashot III transferred his capital from Kars to Ani. During the period of only 40-50 years Ani transferred from a little fortress town to a big medieval city.

SOTT FOCUS: Israeli Collaborators, Provocateur Rocketeers and Cynical Ceasefires

Did anyone else notice that the 'ceasefire' in Gaza sort of came out of the blue? Pundits put this down to 'war weariness' on both sides, but the precise timeline of events leading up to the ceasefire has me a little perplexed. On Monday, 18th August, a 72-hour ceasefire was declared as part of the talks in Cairo. The following day, Tuesday, the Israeli delegation left at 4 pm, precisely the time when the IDF would later say that Hamas had fired rockets at Beersheba, thereby "breaking the ceasefire".

The worst Ebola outbreak in history is moving into Africa's cities, confusion and terror spread in its wake

The dreaded Ebola virus came to the children's hospital in the form of a 4-year-old boy. His diagnosis became clear three days after he was admitted. The Ola During hospital - the nation's only pediatric center - was forced to close its steel gates. Fear swelled. The boy died. The 30 doctors and nurses who had contact with him were placed in quarantine, forced to nervously wait out the 21 days it can take for the virus to emerge. And remaining staff so far have refused to return to work. They, along with millions of others, are facing the worst Ebola outbreak in history. Already, the hardest-hit West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have reported more than 3,000 cases, including the infections of 240 health-care workers.

More Scare-mongering?: German security official warns of terror threat



IS raqqa city

© Reuters

An Islamic State militant uses a loud-hailer to announce to residents of Taqba city that Tabqa air base has fallen to Islamic State militants, in nearby Raqqa city.



Germany's domestic intelligence agency expects that Islamic extremists who have traveled to Syria and Iraq will return and commit terror attacks.


Unlike Britain, Germany hasn't raised its national threat level for terrorism recently. But Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said in an interview broadcast Sunday that there was an "increased abstract threat" of attacks in Germany.


At least 400 people from Germany have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic extremist groups, though the real figure may be significantly higher, Maassen told


Deutschlandfunk

radio.


"We have to assume ... that there may well be people who return and commit attacks," he said, adding that his agency is aware of at least 25 jihadists with combat experience who have already come back to Germany.


Maassen said that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group, which has swept into northern Iraq from Syria in recent months, has huge appeal among Muslim extremists.


"(They are) far more attractive than Jabhat al-Nursa, the al-Qaeda offshoot in Syria. What attracts people is their high brutality, their radicalism, their strictness," Maassen said.


German news weekly


Der Spiegel

reported Sunday that there are about 20 former German soldiers among the jihadists who have left from Germany to fight in Syria. Citing unnamed security officials,


Der Spiegel

reported that they were former conscripts who are more valuable than untrained recruits for groups such as ISIS.


Maassen noted that his agency wants to improve its cooperation with Turkey, a key transit country for Europeans seeking to join extremist groups.


He cited the high number of Germans traveling to Syria, including at least five known to have committed suicide attacks, as "simply not acceptable from a German point of view."


"I know the Turks are doing quite a bit, but we're also in the process of improving our cooperating with Turkey on this issue," he said.




'Paranoid' FL divorce judge accused of punishing woman who refused Facebook 'friend' request



Judge Linda Schoonover

© via official Florida court webpage

Judge Linda Schoonover



A Florida judge who is being investigated for sending a Facebook "friend" request to a woman whose expensive divorce case she was deciding is asking the state's Judicial Qualifications Commission to dismiss the charges against her,


The Orlando Sentinel reports

.


In an August 25, 2014 hearing, Circuit Judge Linda Schoonover was charged with three dozen counts of improper conduct. Schoonover claims that all the charges should be dismissed because three allegations were removed from official court documents, which she believes means the Judicial Qualifications Commission needs to formally restart its entire investigation.


The charges stem from behavior that fellow lawyers and judges described to


The Orlando Sentinel

as "bizarre," "inexplicable," "disruptive," and "paranoid."


For example, Schoonover secretly installed a camera in chambers because she believed employees at the courthouse had bugged her office, and she wanted to record video of them retrieving the recording equipment. She contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and turned over the video. The FDLE reported that there were men in the crawl space above her courtroom, but they were heating and air conditioning contractors.


She also punished a local real-estate agent with a harsh debt and property ruling after the woman refused her Facebook "friend" request. Schoonover is also accused of refusing to listen to the testimony of a litigant because "he annoyed her."


Russell Hershkowitz, who is one of 17 lawyers whose cases Schoonover is barred from hearing,


said

that "she's got too much power and lacks the ability to control herself."


Another attorney whose cases Schoonover is barred from hearing, Harry Roen, said "she's in over her head. She doesn't know what she's doing."




War: The State's worst atrocity




© Mises.ca



"The lamps are going out all over Europe," Sir Edward Grey famously said on the eve of World War I. "We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime."


It was 100 years ago last week that Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, setting in motion the unspeakable calamity that contemporaries dubbed the Great War. Well in excess of ten million people perished, and by some estimates, many more.


Numbers, even staggering ones like this, can scarcely convey the depth and breadth of the destruction. The war was an ongoing slaughter of devastating proportions. Tens of thousands perished in campaigns that moved the front just a matter of yards. It was World War I that gave us the term "basket case," by which was meant a quadruple amputee. Other now-familiar tools of warfare came into common use: the machine gun, the tank, even poison gas. Rarely has the State's machinery of senseless destruction been on more macabre display.


The scholarly pendulum has swung back in the direction of German atrocities having indeed been committed in Belgium, though perhaps not quite as gruesome as the tales of babies being passed from bayonet to bayonet that were disseminated to Americans early in the war. In turn, a vastly larger number of Germans, with estimates as high as 750,000, died as a result of the British hunger blockade that violated longstanding norms of international conduct, even during wartime.


The machinery of State propaganda reached heights never before seen. Whole peoples were systematically demonized in the service of the warmakers. Sound money was abandoned, to return only briefly and in a hobbled form during the interwar period.


To be sure, some socialists opposed the war, since it


pitted the working classes of the world against each other

. Others, intoxicated by the spirit of nationalism, abandoned socialism (at least in its internationalist aspects) and plunged into the war with gusto. Among these: Benito Mussolini.


And yet there is scarcely an atrocity that States cause that another State, in the name of peace, cannot make


indescribably

worse.


The intervention by Woodrow Wilson,


against the wishes of most Americans - were that not so, neither the draft nor the ceaseless propaganda would have been necessary

- was one of the most catastrophic decisions ever made, by anyone. It set in motion a sequence of events whose consequences would reverberate throughout the twentieth century.


One can make a case, not merely plausible but indeed quite compelling, that in the absence of Wilson's intervention, the entire litany of twentieth-century horrors could have been avoided. Without a punitive peace, which only Wilson's intervention made possible, the Nazis would have had no natural constituency, and no path to power. The Bolshevik Revolution, which succeeded only because of the unpopularity of the war, might not have occurred if the promise of coming American support had not kept that war going.


Even George Kennan, a pillar of the establishment, admitted in retrospect: "Today if one were offered the chance of having back again the Germany of 1913 - a Germany run by conservative but relatively moderate people, no Nazis and no Communists - a vigorous Germany, full of energy and confidence, able to play a part again in the balancing-off of Russian power in Europe, in many ways it would not sound so bad."


Meanwhile, the Turkish collapse, writes Philip Jenkins, led some Muslims to seek a different basis on which to unify, and that in turn has encouraged the most illiberal forms of Islam.


Oh, but everyone is against war, right?


Yes, just about everyone makes the perfunctory nod to the tragedy of war, that war is a last resort only, and that everyone sincerely regrets having to go to war.


But war has been at the heart of much modern ideology. For years, Theodore Roosevelt had exulted at the prospect of war. Peace was for the weak and flabby. The strains of war were a school of discipline and manliness, without which nations degenerate.


Fascists, in turn, urged their countries to adopt for domestic use the patterns of military life: regimentation, limitations on dissent, the common pursuit of a single goal

,


proper reverence for The Leader, the subordination of all other allegiances in favor of loyalty to the State, and the priority of the "public interest" over mere private interests

.


If the fascist right has been rightly associated with militarism, that isn't because the revolutionary left has been any less dedicated to organized violence. Robert Nisbet wrote,


"Napoleon was the perfect exemplar of revolution as well as of war, not merely in France but throughout almost all of Europe, and even beyond. Marx and Engels were both keen students of war, profoundly appreciative of its properties with respect to large-scale institutional change. From Trotsky and his Red Army down to Mao and Chou En-lai in China today, the uniform of the soldier has been the uniform of the revolutionist."

For their part, those people we associate with progressivism in the United States, with only a handful of exceptions, overwhelmingly favored intervening in the war. They favored it not only out of the bipartisan sense of American righteousness that goes back as far as one cares to look, but also precisely because they knew


war meant bigger and more intrusive government

.


They knew it would make people accustomed to the idea that they can be called upon to carry out the State's program, whatever it may be

.


Murray N. Rothbard drew up the indictment of the Progressives on this count. He added that the standard view of historians that World War I amounted to the end of Progressivism was exactly backward: World War I, with its economic planning, the impetus it gave to government growth, and its disparagement of private property and the mundane concerns of bourgeois life, represented the culmination of everything the Progressive movement represented.


By contrast, war is the very negation of the libertarian creed. It disrupts the international division of labor. It treats human beings as disposable commodities in the service of State ambition. It undermines commerce, sound money, and private property. It results in an increase of State power. It demands the substitution of the great national effort in place of the private interests of free individuals.


It urges us to sympathize not with our fellow men around the world, but with the handful of people who happen to administer the State apparatus that rules over us

. We are encouraged to wave the flags and sing the songs of our expropriators, as the poor souls on the other side do the same.


In the hands of commerce and the market, the fruits of capitalist civilization improve living standards and lift people out of destitution. But the political class cannot be trusted with these good things. The very success of the market economy has meant more resources to be siphoned off by the warmakers. As Ludwig von Mises wrote in


Nation, State, and Economy

(1919):


"War has become more fearful and destructive than ever before because it is now waged with all the means of the highly developed technique that the free economy has created. Bourgeois civilization has built railroads and electric power plants, has invented explosives and airplanes, in order to create wealth. Imperialism has placed the tools of peace in the service of destruction. With modern means it would be easy to wipe out humanity at one blow. In horrible madness Caligula wished that the entire Roman people had one head so that he could strike it off. The civilization of the twentieth century has made it possible for the raving madness of the modern imperialists to realize similar bloody dreams. By pressing a button one can expose thousands to destruction. It was the fate of civilization that it was unable to keep the external means that it had created out of the hands of those who had remained estranged from its spirit. Modern tyrants have things much easier than their predecessors..."

Nothing in the world is easier than opposing a war that ended long ago. It takes no real courage to be against the Vietnam War in 2014.


What takes courage is opposing a war while it is being fought - when the propaganda and intimidation of the public are at their height - or even before it breaks out in the first place

. With the memory of the moral and material catastrophe of World War I before us 100 years later, let us pledge never again to be fooled and exploited by the State and its violent pastimes.




Al Gore predicted Arctic would be ice free: Ice cap now covers 1.7million square kilometres more than 2 years ago




© Unknown



The speech by former US Vice-President Al Gore was apocalyptic. 'The North Polar ice cap is falling off a cliff,' he said. 'It could be completely gone in summer in as little as seven years. Seven years from now.'


Those comments came in 2007 as Mr Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaigning on climate change.


But


seven years

after his warning, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that, far from vanishing, the Arctic ice cap has


expanded for the second year in succession

- with a surge, depending on how you measure it, of between


43 and 63 per cent since 2012

.


To put it another way, an area the size of Alaska, America's biggest state, was open water two years ago, but is again now covered by ice.

The most widely used measurements of Arctic ice extent are the daily satellite readings issued by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is co-funded by Nasa. These reveal that - while the long-term trend still shows a decline - last Monday, August 25, the area of the Arctic Ocean with at least 15 per cent ice cover was 5.62 million square kilometres.



© Reuters

Paid to lie.



This was the highest level recorded on that date since 2006 (see graph, right), and represents an increase of 1.71 million square kilometres over the past two years - an impressive 43 per cent.


Other figures from the Danish Meteorological Institute suggest that the growth has been even more dramatic. Using a different measure, the area with at least 30 per cent ice cover, these reveal a 63 per cent rise - from 2.7 million to 4.4 million square kilometres.


The satellite images published here are taken from a further authoritative source, the University of Illinois's Cryosphere project.


They show that as well as becoming more extensive, the ice has grown more concentrated, with the purple areas - denoting regions where the ice pack is most dense - increasing markedly.


Crucially, the ice is also thicker, and therefore more resilient to future melting.

Professor Andrew Shepherd, of Leeds University, an expert in climate satellite monitoring, said yesterday: 'It is clear from the measurements we have collected that the Arctic sea ice has experienced a significant recovery in thickness over the past year.


'It seems that an unusually cool summer in 2013 allowed more ice to survive through to last winter. This means that the Arctic sea ice pack is thicker and stronger than usual, and this should be taken into account when making predictions of its future extent.'


Yet for years, many have been claiming that the Arctic is in an 'irrevocable death spiral', with imminent ice-free summers bound to trigger further disasters. These include gigantic releases of methane into the atmosphere from frozen Arctic deposits, and accelerated global warming caused by the fact that heat from the sun will no longer be reflected back by the ice into space.


Judith Curry, professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said last night:


'The Arctic sea ice spiral of death seems to have reversed.'
Comment:

The big picture continued: from the article, "


Antarctica is it melting or not? Man made global warming can't explain this climate paradox

"


It's not just Antarctica bucking the [global warming] trend, but the whole globe. In the last 17 years there has been no 'global warming'. As IPCC lead author Kevin Trenberth said: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment, and it is a travesty that we can't."



Yes, it is a travesty! Climate models are only as good as the assumptions they're based on. The authors of climate papers are trained to frame everything in terms of one factor: a carbon dioxide increase they attribute to human activity, which obscures awareness of being part of a much larger system that surely has multiple influences acting on the planet's complex climate.



Take this recent discovery, for example. Scientists were 'spooked' to learn that apparently simultaneous weather effects take place at both poles, the result (they think) of upper atmosphere 'teleconnections'. Noctilucent cloud intensity at the poles, it seems, is a precursor to changes in global weather patterns.



This discovery, in turn, was founded on the discovery a couple of years ago that one of the principal ingredients for noctilucent clouds is 'meteor smoke' from meteors entering Earth's atmosphere. Knowing that both noctilucent clouds and meteor fireballs are increasing in intensity and frequency, the way is open for scientists to connect the 'planet-wide-climate-change-dots' between the weak current solar cycle, loading of the atmosphere with meteor smoke a.k.a. comet dust, volcanoes erupting all over the place, and more earthquakes than ever before.

Will scientists connect the dots? Not as long as they are paid not to.



Those who just a few years ago were warning of ice-free summers by 2014 included US Secretary of State John Kerry, who made the same bogus prediction in 2009, while Mr Gore has repeated it numerous times - notably in a speech to world leaders at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, in an effort to persuade them to agree a new emissions treaty.


Mr Gore - whose office yesterday failed to respond to a request for comment - insisted then: 'There is a 75 per cent chance that the entire polar ice cap during some of the summer months could be completely ice-free within five to seven years.'


Misleading as such forecasts are, some people continue to make them.


Only last month, while giving evidence to a House of Lords Select Committee inquiry on the Arctic, Cambridge University's Professor Peter Wadhams claimed that although the Arctic is not ice-free this year, it will be by September 2015.

Asked about this yesterday, he said: 'I still think that it is very likely that by mid-September 2015, the ice area will be less than one million square kilometres - the official designation of ice-free, implying only a fringe of floes around the coastlines. That is where the trend is taking us.'


For that prediction to come true it would require by far the fastest loss of ice in history. It would also fly in the face of a report last year by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which stated with 'medium confidence' that ice levels would 'likely' fall below one million square kilometres by 2050.


Politicians such as Al Gore have often insisted that climate science is 'settled' and have accused those who question their forecasts of being climate change 'deniers'.


However, while few scientists doubt that carbon-dioxide emissions cause global warming, and that this has caused Arctic ice to decline, there remains much uncertainty about the speed of melting and how much of it is due to human activity. But outside the scientific community, the more pessimistic views have attracted most attention. For example, Prof Wadhams's forecasts have been cited widely by newspapers and the BBC. But many reject them.


Yesterday Dr Ed Hawkins, who leads an Arctic ice research team at Reading University, said: 'Peter Wadhams's views are quite extreme compared to the views of many other climate scientists, and also compared to what the IPCC report says.'


Dr Hawkins warned against reading too much into ice increase over the past two years on the grounds that 2012 was an 'extreme low', triggered by freak weather.


'I'm uncomfortable with the idea of people saying the ice has bounced back,' he said.

However, Dr Hawkins added that the decline seen in recent years was not caused only by global warming. It was, he said, intensified by 'natural variability' - shifts in factors such as the temperature of the oceans. This, he said, has happened before, such as in the 1920s and 1930s, when 'there was likely some sea ice retreat'.


Dr Hawkins said: 'There is undoubtedly some natural variability on top of the long-term downwards trend caused by the overall warming. This variability has probably contributed somewhat to the post-2000 steep declining trend, although the human-caused component still dominates.'


Like many scientists, Dr Hawkins said these natural processes may be cyclical. If and when they go into reverse, they will cool, not warm, the Arctic, in which case, he said, 'a decade with no declining trend' in ice cover would be 'entirely plausible'.


Peer-reviewed research suggests that at least until 2005, natural variability was responsible for half the ice decline. But exactly how big its influence is remains an open question - and as both Dr Hawkins and Prof Curry agreed, establishing this is critical to making predictions about the Arctic's future.


Prof Curry said: 'I suspect that the portion of the decline in the sea ice attributable to natural variability could be even larger than half.


'I think the natural variability component of Arctic sea ice extent is in the process of bottoming out, with a reversal to start within the next decade. And when it does, the reversal period could last for several decades.'


This led her to believe that the IPCC forecast, like Al Gore's, was too pessimistic.


Comment:

The problem isn't pessimism or optimism, the problem is that the IPCC forecast, as revealed by the Climategate scandal, is based on


lies

:


[Climategate] email fragments instantly began flying through the blogosphere. Perhaps the most sensational came from a Nov. 16, 1999, email from Phil Jones, head of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), in which he referred to having "completed Mike's Nature trick" to "hide the decline" in temperature.



These words, now famous around the world as the core of Climategate, are in fact the grossest possible oversimplification of what the emails contain. The Phil Jones email and other choice email fragments are really just microscopic particles taken from a massive collection of material that will, in time, come to be seen as the greatest and most dramatic science policy epic in history.


'Ice-free in 2050 is a possible scenario, but I don't think it is a likely scenario,' she concluded.



© Alamy



The apparent recovery in Arctic ice looks like good news for polar bears.


If there is more ice at the end of the summer, they can hunt seals more easily. Yet even when the ice reached a low point in 2012, there was no scientific evidence that bear numbers were declining, with their estimated total of 20,000 to 25,000 thought to be higher than in the 1970s, when hunting was first banned.


In many Arctic regions, say scientists, they are in robust health and breeding successfully.


Computer model predictions of decline caused by ice melt have also failed to come true. In 2004, researchers claimed Hudson Bay bear numbers would fall from 900 to fewer than 700 by 2011. In fact, they have risen to over 1,000.


However, the main international bear science body, the Polar Bear Specialist Group, admits it has no reliable data from almost half of the Arctic, so cannot say whether numbers are falling or rising.




China wisely opposes additional sanctions against Russia by EU




© Cctvupload channel / YouTube

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.



China opposed additional sanctions against Russia on Monday over accusations Moscow was sending troops into Ukrainian territory, saying the European Union's push to draw up more measures would only complicate the crisis.


The EU on Sunday threatened Russia with new trade sanctions, but sharp divisions among leaders at a summit in Brussels left the timing of any measures uncertain.


"A political solution is the only way out, sanctions do not help to solve the underlying problems in Ukraine," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a daily news briefing. "It may lead to new and more complicating factors."


China has adopted a cautious response to the crisis, not wanting either to alienate key ally Russia or comment directly on the referendum in which Crimea voted overwhelmingly to join Russia, lest it set a precedent for its own restive regions, like Tibet.


But China has also said it would like to continue to develop "friendly cooperation" with Ukraine and that it respects the ex-Soviet state's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.


As a permanent member of the Security Council, China has used its veto power many times over the imposition of sanctions.


Qin called on the parties to remain calm and restrained and "avoid taking further actions that could lead to an escalation of tensions."




Kurdish 'ghost' oil tanker with $100mn cargo reemerges near Texas coast




© Reuters / US Coast Guard

A still image from video taken by a U.S. Coast Guard HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft shows the oil tanker United Kalavyrta (also known as the United Kalavrvta), which is carrying a cargo of Kurdish crude oil, approaching Galveston, Texas July 25, 2014



A "ghost ship" oil tanker carrying approximately $100 million of disputed Iraqi Kurdish crude oil has reappeared on satellite imagery near the US coast Monday, after disappearing for several days. The tanker seems not to have offloaded its oil.


According to the US Coast Guard and Reuters, the tanker, United Kalavrvta, is still 95 percent full and has not yet unloaded its cargo. The vessel was anchored Monday in the Galveston Offshore Lightering Area, close to its previously known position.


The Iraqi government has deemed this shipment of Kurdish crude oil illegal. Baghdad filed a lawsuit in the US in June, preventing any purchaser from unloading the Kurdish shipment.


When Iraq's government initially filed the law suit, US District Judge Nancy K. Johnson ordered the seizure of the tanker's $100 million payload, but only if the tanker entered the territorial waters of the US.


This isn't the first time Kurdish oil tankers have switched off their electronic transponders to avoid detection - essentially making their movements impossible to track.


Approximately a week ago, a Kurdish tanker carrying crude disappeared from satellite tracking north of Egypt's Sinai, only to reappear empty two days later near Israel.


As recently as June, Iraq's central government made an attempt at illegalizing Kurdish oil sales but it was ultimately rejected by Iraq's Supreme Court.


Kurds have argued that the sale of their crude is essential to their dreams of an independent Kurdistan - while the US State Department has publicly backed Baghdad's stance.


Given the recent violence and uncertainty in Iraq, this makes for a hard decision for both the stranded tanker and its would-be US buyer.




In case of new sanctions Russia reserves right for response




© AR-TASS/Gennady Khamelyanin



Russia will take retaliatory measures in case the EU imposes new sanctions, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.


An analysis of the European Council's latest conclusions of August 30 shows that EU member states cannot overcome the inertia of unreserved support for Kiev authorities. "The hysteria at the European Council meeting about mythical 'Russian aggression' in Ukraine has brought fruit."


"Based on absolutely unsubstantiated statements about presence of Russian armed forces in the country's territory and laying responsibility with Moscow without grounds for what is happening there, Brussels, instead of demanding an immediate ceasefire and creation of conditions for an inter-Ukrainian national dialogue between the warring parties, continues to evade acknowledging the real causes of the dramatic situation in the southeast of Ukraine.


"Factually there is no assessment of the humanitarian situation in the Ukrainian region, which has, as a result of Kiev authorities' actions, a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe and a growing death toll among civilians. The number of refugees from Ukraine in Russia nears one million.


"Regrettably, the European Council, contrary to its member countries' interests, gives in to countries interested in implementation of geopolitical schemes to increase confrontation with Russia.


"We hope the EU will be able to independently look at the situation above stereotypes of the last century and begin constructive work to help settle the internal Ukrainian conflict," the ministry said.


If new anti-Russian sanctions are imposed, Russia reserves the right to take retaliatory measures to defend its rightful interests, the ministry added.




Will the Ferguson shooting bring about a change in the police state?




© (Reuters/Larry Downing)

We remember Michael Brown and all the other victims of police brutality, including dogs



Only time will tell, but is it too soon to guess whether the Ferguson, Missouri shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown will mark a turning point in our march toward tyranny in America? There are signs that this could be the case. Yes this could be an overly optimistic assumption about the current direction of the police state in America, but there is a slight chance that the consciousness that came with the Ferguson shooting may have been a badly needed cure to the


metastasizing police state problem

.


Before anyone makes assumptions of how naive I'm being or overly optimistic, let's clarify. We are in a battle of competing paradigms and competing consciousness. One important thing to note about the police state is that authority, control, intimidation and police state madness is itself a real-time live form of consciousness. In this police state consciousness we can confirm the typical officer becomes consumed in their role. This disconnected behavior had been confirmed in previous


psychology

experiments, and we know how governments carefully train police to do as they are told. Add to that, the influence of the culture of police and what we see is a group of people acting within their own (twisted) consciousness to oppress others without consequences. We saw this in Nazi Germany and many other examples throughout history.


Comment:

Let's not forget that law enforcement agencies in the U.S. receive training from Israeli security forces. If you have been wondering why some police officers apart from murdering black (and white) people beat up and sexually assault women, kill dogs, threaten, handcuff and arrest young children and so on, there is your answer.


"


Israeli forces and US police departments are so entrenched that the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has opened a branch in Tel Aviv .

"


See:


Psychopathic Israel-trained police "occupy" Missouri after killing of black youth

This powerful competing consciousness, the police consciousness, took a step back after the Ferguson shooting. How do we know?


Some indicators are alternative and social media's coverage of the images and sounds of the Ferguson police state brutality on American protesters. This mass media coverage of the police state forced mainstream media to pay attention to the police state brutality. Together, this brought an even greater mass awareness of police brutality in America that the control system wasn't prepared for. The result?


a. In San Antonio police launched a new program called 'I Pledge to do the Right Thing' campaign.

b. In Ferguson a cop was actually suspended for illegally pointing a rifle at innocent protesters and threatening to kill one.

c. In Davis, California the city council just ordered police to get rid of their military MRAP vehicle given to them for free by the federal government.

d. St. Louis police officer (and Glendale police officer) suspended for violent hate talk.

e. The (same) cop who threatened to kill a reporter in Ferguson officially resigns.

f. Some police are speaking out. It is now revealed that the Pentagon forced military gear on local police departments

Does this mean that the police state problem is finally being addressed? Some optimists may see it this way, but it is far too soon to celebrate any long-term victories. At least this shows that the media is willing to give attention to this issue, and that officers and police departments nationwide have been served with a dose of consciousness. This consciousness of deliberately spewing hate needs to be exposed; and this idea that police have the right to do whatever they want has to be contained - perhaps the Ferguson shooting has contributed to this.


On the optimistic side of things it is possible that this attention brought to the violent out-of-control police state could be a starting point to limiting the equipment the local police receive from federal government. Yes, the Obama administration has stated concerns about this issue but this is inconsistent with what we know about federal government's role in all of this. Perhaps this incident, however, will eventually force local communities to end their participation in the controversial


1033 program

enacted in 1994 which made it possible for the Pentagon to dump military equipment on local police nationwide.


Perhaps we are finally reaching the initial point of critical reasoning that will allow us to debunk the argument that police need military gear to be "safe". On the pessimistic side of things, however, perhaps these events will be used to engineer a new justification for brutal police force and militarization down the road. That is, perhaps we are being set up for a new series of false flags which will be designed to once again justify why police need military equipment. Perhaps they will stage a massacre involving police deaths (note to police!) and then make the argument that if they had access to military equipment none of this would have happened. Unfortunately, all victories must be taken with a grain of salt.


For now, we can't live in a world overly-anticipating the new world order's next move. We have to take our lessons from the real-time events and find ways of improving our experience. Those of us alive today have the power to use the Michael Brown murder in a positive way and take note of the things that went wrong.


Let's remember Jake Tapper and CNN staging scaremongering political signs behind the crowd to twist Ferguson into ISIS scaring and warmongering. Let's remember the mainstream media desperately trying to spin the shooting into a race issue. Let's remember the psycho cop who threatened reporters with death if they didn't listen to him. Let's note the staged violence and the militarized presence of police treating peaceful American protesters as terrorists. Let us remember the images and sounds of a gun firing eleven times in a matter of seconds on an unarmed teenager. Let us remember the dead body thrown into an SUV as if it were a dead dog or road kill.

Everyone has their own memory of this incredible event as this event does carry the potential to be a game changer in the police state madness that has gripped the United States since the Occupy revolution of 2011. We all saw how the U.C. Davis officer who sprayed innocent peaceful student activists with pepper spray was demonized


then later financially rewarded

. Let us not allow these corrupt cops to be rewarded again.


We all know that the shooter, officer Darren Wilson, has been unusually quiet, out of sight and given protection by his police constituents from the general public and media. We know that he has been preparing his defense using mystery voices and sporadic spot supporters all spinning the narrative into one that paints Wilson as the victim instead of the aggressor. Let us not allow this narrative to open the door to injustice. Wilson supporters would sell you a narrative and philosophy that states that if Wilson felt in any danger or felt attacked, then he has the right to empty out his gun on an unarmed teenager.


That is not what policing is all about. That is not what living in America is all about. Officers are equipped with radios, cameras, batons, tasers and mace to record, disable and potentially capture someone they want to question. Shooting someone to death execution style with eleven shots, six of which actually landed on the body is an execution any way you look at it, not a defensive action.

Hopefully the police defense argument, which holds the power to potentially divide America further, will be allowed to prove its case soundly. Hopefully, this story will culminate with reasonable justice based on the facts. Either way, we can expect the control system and its eager mainstream media mouthpiece to use the final verdict to create division amongst Americans. This should remind us that the end game is to destroy America, kill freedom, strengthen the police state and bring tyranny to America.


Let us use the circumstances we have now to turn this police state agenda in a different direction. This story has proven that we-the-people and the alternative media have the power to do just this. We have the power to share information and expose the new world order and its corrupt police state. Let us keep doing what we are doing and hope for the best. With events happening so fast, let us appreciate and focus on the bigger picture. As these events happen, practice thinking on your own.


We saw a lot of independent thinking in Ferguson and that was one of the great things. We saw and heard from people who are sick and tired of the police state brutality and the mainstream media coverage of it. Let's keep this theme moving forward, for in this type of thinking is how we will find the answers and the solutions that we are looking for. Like the Bundy Ranch confrontation involving patriots willing to die for freedom and the Constitution, the Ferguson shooting ("hands up don't shoot") confrontation showed the power that peaceful demonstrations can have on the psyche of the police state.


In the end, hopefully the Ferguson shooting will be talked about years from now as a key point in the awareness of the police state; and hopefully the path that it leads to will be one that many of us will be proud to look back on.


Bernie Suarez is an activist, critical thinker, radio host, musician, M.D, Veteran, lover of freedom and the Constitution, and creator of the Truth and Art TV project. He also has a background in psychology and highly recommends that everyone watch a documentary titled

The Century of the Self.


Bernie has concluded that the way to defeat the New World Order is to truly be the change that you want to see. Manifesting the solution and putting truth into action is the very thing that will defeat the globalists.


Flash floods and extreme rainfall cause chaos in southern Sweden




© Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

A car in Malmö on Sunday.



The Skåne region of southern Sweden was hit suddenly by extreme rains on Sunday morning, with houses flooded, buses evacuated, and people having to swim to safety from their cars.

Malmö, southern Sweden,


received 20 millimetres of rain in under an hour on Sunday morning.

One area near the town of Falsterbo rececived as much as 43 millimetres of rain during the night and early morning.


"We usually issue a warning if there will be 35 millimetres within 12 hours," Lovisa Andersson, meteorologist at Sweden's weather agency SMHI, stated.


A Danish weather agency, DMI, issued a warning for extreme rains in the Copenhagen area at around 10pm on Saturday night. There was no such warning on the Swedish side.


"It may have rained a lot over Malmö locally, but for a warning the rains have to cover a large surface area," Andersson told regional paper Sydsvenskan.


The agency has now issued a class 1 warning for all of Skåne, saying that up to 50 additional millimetres may pour down on Sunday.


Police have received more than one hundred SOS calls, and over 500 households have been left without power.


Emergency services have had to evacuate buses filled up to the windows with water. "Some cars are filled with water up to the roof. A man called us at 6:30am and said that he had been forced to swim from his car,"

Stephan Söderholm, Skåne police spokesman, said in a statement. "We have serious problems on the roads in western Skåne right now."


Highways 585 and E6 have been partially blocked due to flooding. Police have stated that people should stay home and not venture into traffic.


Police also reported that several manhole covers on the streets of Malmö had been lifted by the waters, as there was simply too much water to run off the streets.


Henry Kissinger's psychopathic view of a New World Order




© European Pressphoto Agency

The concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis, writes Henry Kissinger. Above, a pro-Russian fighter stands guard at a checkpoint close to Donetsk, Ukraine in July.



Libya is in civil war, fundamentalist armies are building a self-declared caliphate across Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan's young democracy is on the verge of paralysis. To these troubles are added a resurgence of tensions with Russia and a relationship with China divided between pledges of cooperation and public recrimination. The concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis.


The search for world order has long been defined almost exclusively by the concepts of Western societies. In the decades following World War II, the U.S. - strengthened in its economy and national confidence - began to take up the torch of international leadership and added a new dimension. A nation founded explicitly on an idea of free and representative governance, the U.S. identified its own rise with the spread of liberty and democracy and credited these forces with an ability to achieve just and lasting peace.


The traditional European approach to order had viewed peoples and states as inherently competitive; to constrain the effects of their clashing ambitions, it relied on a balance of power and a concert of enlightened statesmen. The prevalent American view considered people inherently reasonable and inclined toward peaceful compromise and common sense; the spread of democracy was therefore the overarching goal for international order. Free markets would uplift individuals, enrich societies and substitute economic interdependence for traditional international rivalries.


This effort to establish world order has in many ways come to fruition. A plethora of independent sovereign states govern most of the world's territory. The spread of democracy and participatory governance has become a shared aspiration if not a universal reality; global communications and financial networks operate in real time.


The years from perhaps 1948 to the turn of the century marked a brief moment in human history when one could speak of an incipient global world order composed of an amalgam of American idealism and traditional European concepts of statehood and balance of power. But vast regions of the world have never shared and only acquiesced in the Western concept of order. These reservations are now becoming explicit, for example, in the Ukraine crisis and the South China Sea. The order established and proclaimed by the West stands at a turning point.



© Getty Images

In the Middle East, religious militias violate borders at will.



First, the nature of the state itself - the basic formal unit of international life - has been subjected to a multitude of pressures. Europe has set out to transcend the state and craft a foreign policy based primarily on the principles of soft power. But it is doubtful that claims to legitimacy separated from a concept of strategy can sustain a world order. And Europe has not yet given itself attributes of statehood, tempting a vacuum of authority internally and an imbalance of power along its borders. At the same time, parts of the Middle East have dissolved into sectarian and ethnic components in conflict with each other; religious militias and the powers backing them violate borders and sovereignty at will, producing the phenomenon of failed states not controlling their own territory.


The challenge in Asia is the opposite of Europe's: Balance-of-power principles prevail unrelated to an agreed concept of legitimacy, driving some disagreements to the edge of confrontation.


The clash between the international economy and the political institutions that ostensibly govern it also weakens the sense of common purpose necessary for world order. The economic system has become global, while the political structure of the world remains based on the nation-state. Economic globalization, in its essence, ignores national frontiers. Foreign policy affirms them, even as it seeks to reconcile conflicting national aims or ideals of world order.


This dynamic has produced decades of sustained economic growth punctuated by periodic financial crises of seemingly escalating intensity: in Latin America in the 1980s; in Asia in 1997; in Russia in 1998; in the U.S. in 2001 and again starting in 2007; in Europe after 2010. The winners have few reservations about the system. But the losers - such as those stuck in structural misdesigns, as has been the case with the European Union's southern tier - seek their remedies by solutions that negate, or at least obstruct, the functioning of the global economic system.


Comment:

Obstructing the economic system by going against the Central Banks is not what the


psychopaths

want.



The international order thus faces a paradox: Its prosperity is dependent on the success of globalization, but the process produces a political reaction that often works counter to its aspirations.


Comment:

Prosperity for the


1%

has nothing to do with the prosperity for the 99%.



A third failing of the current world order, such as it exists, is the absence of an effective mechanism for the great powers to consult and possibly cooperate on the most consequential issues. This may seem an odd criticism in light of the many multilateral forums that exist - more by far than at any other time in history. Yet the nature and frequency of these meetings work against the elaboration of long-range strategy. This process permits little beyond, at best, a discussion of pending tactical issues and, at worst, a new form of summitry as "social media" event. A contemporary structure of international rules and norms, if it is to prove relevant, cannot merely be affirmed by joint declarations; it must be fostered as a matter of common conviction.


The penalty for failing will be not so much a major war between states (though in some regions this remains possible) as an evolution into spheres of influence identified with particular domestic structures and forms of governance. At its edges, each sphere would be tempted to test its strength against other entities deemed illegitimate. A struggle between regions could be even more debilitating than the struggle between nations has been.


The contemporary quest for world order will require a coherent strategy to establish a concept of order


within

the various regions and to relate these regional orders to one another. These goals are not necessarily self-reconciling: The triumph of a radical movement might bring order to one region while setting the stage for turmoil in and with all others.


The domination of a region by one country militarily, even if it brings the appearance of order, could produce a crisis for the rest of the world

.


A world order of states affirming individual dignity and participatory governance, and cooperating internationally in accordance with agreed-upon rules, can be our hope and should be our inspiration. But progress toward it will need to be sustained through a series of intermediary stages.


To play a responsible role in the evolution of a 21st-century world order, the U.S. must be prepared to answer a number of questions for itself: What do we seek to prevent, no matter how it happens, and if necessary alone? What do we seek to achieve, even if not supported by


any

multilateral effort? What do we seek to achieve, or prevent,


only

if supported by an alliance? What should we


not

engage in, even if urged on by a multilateral group or an alliance? What is the nature of the values that we seek to advance? And how much does the application of these values depend on circumstance?


For the U.S., this will require thinking on two seemingly contradictory levels. The celebration of universal principles needs to be paired with recognition of the reality of other regions' histories, cultures and views of their security. Even as the lessons of challenging decades are examined, the affirmation of America's exceptional nature must be sustained. History offers no respite to countries that set aside their sense of identity in favor of a seemingly less arduous course. But nor does it assure success for the most elevated convictions in the absence of a comprehensive geopolitical strategy.




Tax revolt? When high taxes lead to revolution




© Mises.org



History is full of tax revolts. It's a fairly popular pastime, if historians are to be believed. But when do they come? What's the spark and what's the gasoline?


In Sun-Tzu's


Art of War

, he argues that long military campaigns are unwise because they exhaust the people, and he says that long campaigns exhaust "seven tenths" of the wealth of the elites.


This is one of those oddly-specific claims that sometimes strike westerners as hilarious. But Sun-Tzu was a historian, and lived in an era with plenty of case studies of war's destruction. So it's worth exploring his rule of thumb here.


One of the problems we immediately face is a lack of good statistics for most historical periods. Even in the twentieth century, statistics can be incomplete, biased, or poorly collected. Before then, all bets are off - the statistics stink in history.


So we have two choices: either we completely ignore the past, and reinvent every wheel. Or else we estimate the past using these kinds of subjective commentaries like Sun-Tzu's. The model is a radar, used not to "see" something but to estimate its location with fragments of data.


So let's use this "radar" method on Sun-Tzu's "seven-tenths." One interpretation is that he thinks there's an upper limit to the devastation that can be imposed on your own citizens. This would be consistent with modern economic "marginal analysis," where people value a loss more as it grows bigger. For example, if you take $10 from a billionaire, it's not a big deal, but if you take his last $10 in the world he'll fight you to avoid going hungry.


In this light, Sun-Tzu is saying that once you pass the 70 percent threshold,


people become desperate enough to shift from sheep to wolf

.


We can translate this into a modern hypothesis, that the people will accept up to a 70 percent tax rate with manageable protest, but go much beyond that and you're likely to have problems. Now, we're still a way off this mark in the US: spending at all levels of government in 2014 was about 42 percent. The highest spenders in the world, according to the


OECD

, are the Scandinavians at about 50 percent.


While these are high numbers, they're still well below Sun-Tzu's 70 percent. And the trends are not as bad as they might seem. While the trend is worsening, we've still got a ways to go: OECD average tax take grew about 4 percent between


1975 and 2010

. At that rate the US wouldn't get to 70 percent for another 250 years. Fortunately we'd have a "canary in the coalmine" as the Scandinavians would hit this threshold about 100 years earlier.


One caveat for Sun-Tzu's scenario is that regulation was pretty primitive in his day.


By one estimate

these regulations add another 11 percent to government's "take," bringing the number up to 53 percent, but still below 70 percent.


A second big caveat is that this is all assuming past trends continue. History doesn't have perfect case studies, so we don't know what happens when an internet-and-computer wielding state gets the upper hand. So we could get to 70 percent


much

faster.


On the other hand, the State has become much more clever at hiding its taxes. Payroll withholding and hidden regulatory costs might not stir the people the way that a direct requisition might. And then, of course, there is the hidden tax in a central banks' inflation of the money supply.


Taking it all in, my guess is that this back-of-the-envelope "radar" tally suggests that current tax trends are plenty sustainable, for better or worse. Unless the trend changes significantly, taxes will likely continue rising slowly and, like the frog in boiling water, people will grumble and that's that.


There may be other catalysts, of course - the


"culture wars" or incessant stoking of ethnic and racial animosity could come to a head

. But on current trends taxes won't be the spark.




Copenhagen under water after rain pummels the city




© Jens Astrup/Scanpix



Streets, basements and landmarks like Tivoli were flooded from the 100mm of rain that soaked the capital region in the early Sunday hours.

Parts of Copenhagen were a wet mess on Sunday


after more than 100mm of rain pummelled the city in the early morning hours.

Historic amusement park Tivoli, the prison Vestre Fængsel and the fortress Kastellet were among the locations reported as flooded by the Copenhagen Fire Brigade (Københavns Brandvæsen), which received 44 calls about water problems overnight.



© Jens Astrup/Scanpix



"We have pumped water from Kastellet and Tivoli also received a lot of water. It is unclear how bad the damages are. Vestre Fængsel's basement is also flooded and we have asked [the Danish Emergency Management Agency] for assistance," Fire Brigade spokesman Kristian Næsted told TV2 News.


A spokesperson for Vestre Fængsel told TV2 News that the flooding has not compromised the safety of the facility's 400-500 prisoners.



© Jens Astrup/Scanpix



Private emergency assistance company Falck received nearly 100 calls reporting water damage and predicted that there could be many more as residents woke up on Sunday to find flooded basements.


Traffic problems were also created by flooded streets and photos on social media revealed severely flooded roads, including this shot of a car almost completely submerged in water on Lyngbyvej.



© Jens Astrup/Scanpix



Status pt fra lyngbyvej. Bil helt under vand. http://ift.tt/1vEvoW3

- Johan Wang (@prakwang) August 31, 2014


© Jens Astrup/Scanpix



The meteorology institute DMI said that parts of Copenhagen received up to 104mm in a span of under three hours, while other areas were hit with 50-80mm of rain. It was the heaviest downpour since July 2nd, 2011 when 135mm of rain drenched the city.


NOTE: This story was updated with new rain totals from DMI.



© Jens Astrup/Scanpix





Jewish ID politics and my criticism of Jewish 'left'

Extraordinary Tales, Extraordinary Writers: My name is Cara St.Louis and this is my show. Conversations with some of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. You will be seeing it as an acquisition elsewhere later. Please feel free to share. I bring you World Class Illustrator and Writer, Bridget Marzot and World-Renowned Jazz Artist and philosopher, Gilad Atzmon. Part 1 Part 2 Comment: Readers might be fascinated to read Gilad's book, The Wandering Who?

Donetsk and Lugansk state their terms for staying part of Ukraine



novorossiya

© ITAR-TASS/Zurab Dzhavakhadze



Comment:

Russia has started using the term 'Novorossiya' to refer to the People's Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in its official statements and documents these last few days. Putin even went so far as to refer to the


'state' or 'statehood'

of the Republics in a recent interview, which was immediately picked up by media as an endorsement for the republics' independence. While Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said there was


no official endorsement

independence, adding that the areas should remain part of Ukraine, we wonder if this was Putin's subtle hint to Kiev: if it comes to it, Moscow will officially recognize Novorossiya. That could lead to more substantial support. Now, DPR and LPR, who have been pounding Kiev forces (retaking Lugansk airport and in the process of taking Donetsk's) -- and who have just recently called for nothing less than


full independence

-- come back with this compromise.



Representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics (LPR and DPR) said on Monday


they will make every effort to preserve Ukraine's unity if Kiev accepts their demands

.


Representatives of LPR and DNR have made public their position for the meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine in the Belarusian capital Minsk that begins later on Monday.


They say "


equal talks are the only acceptable means for the settlement of the conflict and restoration of peace

". They also base on principles worked out at the Geneva meeting of representatives from Russia, the US, the European Union and Ukraine on April 17, 2014.


Vice-Premier of the DPR Andrei Purgin said on Monday he brought proposals for the contact group's meeting to reduce the duration of combat operations and the number of victims. "I've arrived here with proposals to find common points. They contain eight or nine points," Purgin said before the contact group's session. "These are initial proposals for the consultations," he added.


Purgin said he did not expect a major breakthrough at the Minsk meeting. "This is an initial stage. It can hardly end with something drastically big," he added.


What Donetsk and Luhansk demand

The list of demands that was made public ahead of the meeting of the Contact Group for Ukraine includes


the recognition of the special status of the republics' territories and the Russian language, as well as the end of Kiev's anti-terrorist operation and holding free elections in the region.

Donetsk and Luhansk have also demanded


amnesty for militia and political prisoners, along with a special status for their military units and right to appoint judges and prosecutors

.


DPR and LPR speak for preserving common economic, cultural and political space with Ukraine, if their conditions are accepted. They want special


foreign economic status

, considering its deeper integration with Russia and the Customs Union.


Contact Group on Ukraine

A new round of consultations of the so-called Contact Group on Ukraine opened in the Belarusian capital Minsk on Monday to search for ways to settle the crisis in the war-torn south-eastern Ukraine.


The Contact Group is represented by Ukraine's former president Leonid Kuchma, Russia's Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov and representative of the OSCE chairperson-in-office on Ukraine Heidi Tagliavini. Taking part in the consultations are vice premier of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic Andrei Purgin and the chairman of the Supreme Council of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, Valery Karyakin.




Tourist nearly drowns during vicious geese attack in Guizhou, China




© CEN / australscope

Tourist Lu Chen is attacked by two geese.



A hapless tourist nearly drowned in a vicious attack by two geese when he strayed too close to their river nest in southern China.


Stunned Lu Chen had been paddling in the stream to cool down in Gaowen Village in China's Guizhou province, when the two large birds flew at him.


"I didn't know what was happening at first. There was a tremendous hissing and then they came straight at me," he said later.





Lu Chen strayed too close to their nest.



"I tried to scare them off, but they just kept coming. They managed to knock me down in the river and I am sure they were trying to drown me. I just couldn't get them away.



He had been paddling in the stream to cool down in Gaowen Village.



"They were pecking my legs, my hands, anything they could get their bills on. They're big, powerful birds and it hurt. I really began to panic."


Laughing locals in the village - who are used to the birds' aggressive behaviour - helped to pull struggling Lu to safety.





“There was a tremendous hissing and then they came straight at me," he said.



One local said: "They won't allow anyone to walk in their stream. They are very territorial. This is where they raise their chicks, where they feed, and they do not tolerate intruders of any kind in their home.





They pecked his legs and hands



"Anyone who lives here knows that and we never let our children play there. We should put up a sign to warn off tourists, but it's quite fun to watch."





Locals know the birds are dangerous.





Book Review: The Big Reset by Willem Middlekoop




Summary

  • Middlekoop provides readers with a broad history of banking and money before discussing the unsustainability of the current Dollar-based global financial system.

  • He argues that we are close to a tipping point at which actions by politicians and central bankers cannot prevent this debt-laden system from a game-changing restructuring: a "big reset".

  • He proposes numerous scenarios which all mean the end of the Dollar's reserve currency status.

  • While he doesn't provide investment advice, it is clear that Middlekoop is bearish of bonds and fiat currencies, and bullish of hard assets.


I recently had the opportunity to read through Willem Middlekoop's


The Big Reset

, a title I came across after reading Duane Poliquin's - chairman of Almaden Minerals (NYSEMKT:


AAU

) -


blog

. I read the book on his recommendation and it turned out to be such a good one that I went through twice.


While the language and structure is fairly simple, this is actually a fairly complicated work with a lot of references, and had I not come into it with a lot of knowledge of money, banking, gold, and debt, this would have been a difficult read. But as it turns out I was quite pleased to find that it was a succinct summary and bibliography of my views.


The book is divided into 6 chapters which are again subdivided into very short sections that are a couple pages each. Middlekoop essentially does four things in this book. First, he provides readers with a history of money, banking, debt, and the Dollar. Second, he argues that the current monetary system is unsustainable given the amount of debt that has accumulated relative to the size of the global economy. Third, he shows what central bankers and politicians have done in order to miraculously maintain the Dollar's reserve status despite the fact that we have been off the gold exchange standard for 43 years, 11 days. Fourth, he concludes by saying that a new financial system is inevitable and proposes some scenarios that our political and financial leaders might wind up implementing.


Let's look briefly at Middlekoop's argument.


1--The Historical Context

One essential element in demonstrating the fact that the current debt based fiat money system is unsustainable is to demonstrate that


such systems have failed in the past

. Banking and money go back thousands of years. So does currency debasement. Middlekoop explains how, for instance, currency debasement in Ancient Rome - whereby the government replaced silver with base metals in the coins it paid to soldiers - coincided with the fall of the Empire. He further shows how this process started out slowly and imperceptibly until it spiraled out of control,


much like a modern-day hyperinflationary scenario

. The following graph shows the silver content in the Ancient Roman Denarius.



Readers of my work that share my interest in the gold market and my skepticism in the long-term value of the Dollar have probably seen a similar chart of the Dollar's value since the Federal Reserve's inception.



The fact that we have seen seemingly countless currency collapses and debasements throughout history, coupled with this chart, gives us proper perspective regarding Middlekoop's point that the current Dollar based global financial system is unsustainable.


Middlekoop goes on to explain how currency debasement seems to be the norm throughout history. Governments often start by having a gold or silver backed currency such as the Dollar in 1944 or the Roman Denarius 2000 years ago. But for good reason this is restrictive, as it means that governments cannot spend more money than they take in. Governments wishing to spend more than they have use their power to debase money or to dub paper money as valuable by fiat, a practice first initiated in China.


As time went on, we saw the development of modern banking - i.e. fractional reserve banking - emerge from the gold smith business when gold smiths realized that they could issue more claims on gold than their total reserves on the assumption that at any given time most of the gold that they held for clients wouldn't be redeemed. This led to a very lucrative business model that grew to the point that wealthy bankers wanted to lend this money to governments, which had the power to tax its citizens. It also led to economic theories similar to Keynesianism and the idea that governments and bankers could generate economic prosperity by increasing the money supply. Middlekoop recounts the story of John Law - an 18th century Dutch businessman who convinced the French King - Louis XIV - to give him a monopoly on currency creation similar to that of the Feds today. By increasing the money supply he created prosperity in a struggling France.


But he also created a massive bubble which inevitably burst

.


This is an all too familiar story that we have seen throughout history from the stock market bubble of the 1920s to the housing bubble of the early 2000s. Easy money and an increase in the money supply generates near-term prosperity that enriches many people who in turn laud their "brilliant" politicians who wind up being pariahs. John Law was effectively banished from France. Herbert Hoover and George Bush became pariahs and among the most hated presidents in American history as these bubbles burst on their watches.


Ultimately, this historical context shows us what we should expect going forward - governments and bankers can create temporary prosperity by manipulating the value of the currency,


but this inevitably ends in disaster

.


2--The Dollar Is No Exception

While this hasn't happened with the Dollar yet, it is inevitable. Since Bretton Woods and the end of World War 2, the United States has been the most powerful nation on Earth and the Dollar has been the world's reserve currency. The rest of the world accepted the first point given America's military might, and the second on the condition that the Dollar would be backed by gold, which it was. But since then the U.S. has abused its reserve currency status by borrowing more money than it can ever hope to pay back.



We've reached the point where foreigners are largely unwilling to finance our enormous debt and where this debt load has engendered skepticism regarding the Dollar's value. As our historical context has shown us this is to be expected.


3--The Cover-Up

Where we have a deviation from history is in the ingenuity that politicians and bankers have displayed in covering up the inevitable demise of the Dollar. The Dollar was officially taken off the gold exchange standard in 1971 and 43 years later it remains the world's most important currency.


Middlekoop discusses how this can be the case at length, but basically there have been two strategies: finding new buyers of Dollars and Dollar-based assets


and gold price suppression

.


Comment:

Lately, this gold price suppression has been accompanied by a policy of financial repression.


Financial Repression

is a term that describes measures by which governments channel funds to themselves as a form of debt reduction, measures such as:



  • Caps or ceilings on interest rates

  • Government ownership or control of domestic banks and financial institutions

  • Creation or maintenance of a captive domestic market for government debt

  • Restrictions on entry to the financial industry

  • Directing credit to certain industries



Let's start with the second strategy. Middlekoop actually devotes an entire chapter to the topic of gold price suppression and for good reason. Despite talk over the past several decades that gold is a barbarous relic, it has been and remains central to the global monetary system. The Bretton Woods agreement was only accepted because the Dollar was backed by gold with American politicians - led by the plan's mastermind Harry Dexter White - hoping that the gold backing would be forgotten.


As Americans took advantage of the reserve currency status in the late 40s and through the 50s, some foreigners, notably the French, were becoming skeptical that the Americans couldn't meet their obligations. This was true, but at the same time the Western world was heavily invested in the success of the Bretton Woods system, and so the first attempt to preserve it was a joint effort. As foreigners accumulated Dollars, they began to redeem them for gold. As you can see on the following chart, this led to a rapid depletion of America's gold reserves starting in the mid 1950s.



This started to put upward pressure on the gold price despite the fact that it was technically pegged at $35/oz., and as a result the London Gold Pool was set up. This is a topic I discuss


at length

, but in short 8 central banks acted in concert until 1968 - when France balked - to maintain the $35/oz. gold price.


After the London Gold Pool failed, the $35/oz. level was maintained for 3 more years before Nixon denied Britain some gold in exchange for Dollars, and on August 15th he imposed capital controls and defaulted on the Dollar's gold backing.


Since then the U.S. has done an amazing job of retaining faith in the Dollar, although the gold price is up 3,500% since that time.


Gold price suppression has been a continued tool for supporting the Dollar. This has taken two forms. The first has been talking down the importance of gold. The Americans and interested Western powers have not been buyers of gold, and their officials have openly spoken out against gold's importance to the financial system. As Middlekoop points out, there have been laws restricting pension funds from owning gold, laws against banks recommending gold as an investment, and other similar measures that keep gold out of the mainstream financial discussion.


We have also seen a substantial amount of gold leasing whereby central banks lease gold out and justify doing so by claiming that they can earn some interest on what is otherwise a dead asset. They conveniently forget to mention that they don't differentiate between gold and gold receivables on their balance sheets, and so to an outsider looking in it appears as if there is more gold on central bank balance sheets - and by extension in the world - than there actually is.


The second means by which the U.S. has kept the Dollar afloat is by getting foreigners to buy Dollars and to trade using Dollars. Since the value of a currency, or any asset for that matter, depends on both supply and demand, you can increase the supply of an asset without decreasing its value so long as you can keep demand up. America's great breakthrough on this front was Henry Kissenger's ingenious petrodollar idea, whereby he convinced Saudi Arabia, and eventually other OPEC nations to trade their oil only in Dollars. This creates an enormous global demand for Dollars and it has kept the Dollar from totally collapsing in value.


4--The Big Reset

These measures, however, were only temporary. While the gold price remained in a bear market for the 1980s and 1990s thanks to the aforementioned policies, we have seen a new secular bull market. While the price has corrected over the past few years in the broader scheme of things, this is hardly a trend reversal, as the following chart - courtesy of Middlekoop - illustrates.



In addition to a rising gold price, we have also seen several oil producing countries try to get out of the petrodollar system.


Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi wanted to trade oil in Euros and in a gold-backed North African currency, respectively

. These leaders' fates, and the fact that the American military was brought into both Iraq and Libya upon these developments speaks to the fact that the Americans, who are now desperately trying to hold the Dollar system together, were having none of this.


More generally all of this speaks to the fact that the Dollar's role as the world's most important currency is waning, and quickly at that.

We don't know how the transition is going to play out, and we don't know how the new system will look, but Middlekoop does propose some ideas, and there are some aspects that are relatively constant. Two in particular are increases in the role of gold and in the role of the Chinese Renminbi in the new financial system. The two are interconnected. The Chinese have been accumulating gold and have become the world's leading producer of gold despite the fact that they don't export any of it. The PBoC along with Chinese citizens are accumulating gold, and while the amount is down in 2014 over 2013 - a point that bears are quick to point out - this misses the bigger picture, which we can see in the following chart.



Even a sizable decline in 2014 demand puts it multiples above where it was just a few years ago. We have also seen a rise in bilateral trade agreements between the Chinese and its trading partners, whereby these countries are agreeing to trade in their own currencies (e.g. Renminbi, Australian Dollars, Brazilian Real, and so forth). China has even bought oil with gold from Iran,


demonstrating that gold is, in fact, still money despite the propaganda arguing to the contrary

. In fact, Middlekoop points out statements from Chinese officials that indicate that they are well aware of the shenanigans that are going on in the gold market, and while Middlekoop doesn't discuss this point, there have been allegations that the Chinese are complicit in gold price suppression efforts so that they can accumulate the physical metal at a lower price.


The Chinese have also suggested that the Euro could play a significant role in the new global financial order

. The EU is China's largest trading partner, and despite all of the troubles we have seen in Europe over the past few years, the Euro has outperformed the Dollar considerably since its inception, and this is in part due to the fact that it is taking on an increasing role as a reserve currency.


So, while we don't know the specifics, we do know that the new financial order will feature gold, the Renminbi, the Euro, and the Dollar in a more limited role. Whether we get there suddenly or gradually, with or without war, in 5 years or in 15 years is up in the air, but they are all possibilities.


Conclusion

I found this to be a phenomenal book given how Middlekoop is able to succinctly outline such a complex topic. As somebody who was admittedly familiar with a lot of the topics found within, I was still able to get something out of the way that Middlekoop puts the ideas together. And last, but not least, he provides readers with an extraordinary bibliography that will probably keep me busy for years.


While


The Big Reset

contains a lot of ideas that people don't want to hear, they need to hear them.


People are far too invested in the current financial and political paradigms and it leaves them without perspective of the broader picture. Once you can take a step back and realize how seriously flawed the current system is then your existing investment and political paradigms (stocks vs. bonds or Democrat vs. Republican) will be shattered

. I can't say definitively that this is a book capable of giving you that perspective because I've already started from a place where I find these paradigms to be relatively useless as an investor and as


homo politicus

, but Middlekoop is a clear writer with a wealth of information, and this is a book that every intelligent English speaking individual should read