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11.23.14 –  Afghan parliament approves NATO presence deal

  • The parliament of Afghanistan approved an agreement that allows troops of the NATO-led coalition to say in the country beyond 2014. The agreement was suspended in mid-air for months, as former President Hamid Karzai refused to sign it during his term.
  • The new agreement, ratified Sunday, allows the ISAF to maintain a total of 12,000 troops in Afghanistan next year. After a 152-5 vote, Nazifullah Salarzai, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said the foreign troops will “train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.”
  • “Afghan forces are responsible for the security and defense of the Afghan people, and in the fight against international terrorism and training of our national security forces we count on the support and assistance of our international partners,” he said, AP reported.
  • Ghani signed the deal with NATO immediately after taking office in September, following weeks of squabbling over the election results. His predecessor, Hamid Karzai, repeatedly refused to sign the deal in the latter part of his presidency, sparking periodic quarrels with Washington.
  • In ratifying the deal, Afghan MPs have not mentioned the possibility of foreign troops taking combat mission against Taliban fighters. A secret order extending the direct combat role for US troops was signed by President Barack Obama, according to a New York Times report.
  • Publicly, Washington said the US troops would not be sent into battlefield operations anymore and their engagement would be limited to training of Afghan security forces and reconnaissance missions.


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11.22.14 –  ‘Biden get out!’ Turks protests US VP visit to Istanbul

  • Turkish protesters have rallied against the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden under banners saying ‘Yankee Go Home’. In Istanbul Biden has been encouraging Europe to reduce energy dependence on Russia and announced aid to Syrian refugees.
  • Around 300 people chanting “Biden get out. The country is ours,” took to the streets in Istanbul on Saturday. The event had been organized by the Youth Association of Turkey which also “greeted” three US Navy sailors last week stating a similar “Yankee, go home!”.
  • Biden was lucky not to witness the protests himself, as the sailors last week were doused in paint meant to symbolize blood while calling the victims “murderers.”
  • Speaking at the Atlantic Council’s energy security summit in Istanbul on Saturday, Biden called on Europe to continue diversifying its energy supplies to reduce dependence on Russia.
  • “Now, now, now is the time to act,” Biden said according to AP. “We have been aware that this single source of energy has been a problem for a long time… But my message is not that Europe can or should do away with Russian imports.”

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) speaks next to Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan during a news conference following their meeting at Beylerbeyi Palace in Istanbul November 22, 2014 (Reuters / Murad Sezer)

  • U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) speaks next to Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan during a news conference following their meeting at Beylerbeyi Palace in Istanbul November 22, 2014 (Reuters / Murad Sezer)
  • “Russia can and should be a player, but Russia has to play by the rules,” Biden stated, while Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu said vaguely that “energy is a tool for peace.”
  • Students staged the protest as Biden was meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the summit and announced nearly $135 million of extra humanitarian aid to the country to cope with the influx of civilians on account of ongoing turmoil in neighboring Syria.
  • Turkey has some 1.6 million refugees within its borders from Syria. Among them are more than 190,000 Syrians from Kobani which has been the site of ongoing battles between predominantly-Kurdish forces and Islamic State militants who have been attempting to seize the area.
  • Biden told reporters that he had spoken at length with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the situation in Iraq and Syria and affirmed that the US-Turkey relationship is “as strong as it has ever been.”
  • “We need Turkey, and I think that Turkey believes that it needs us as well,” he said. Turkey has been somewhat reluctant to fully engage against the Islamic State. Erdogan has resisted over fears of empowering Kurdish factions in his own country that could push for independence.
Left wing demonstrators shout anti-U.S. slogan during a protest against the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, in central Istanbul November 22, 2014 (Reuters / Can Erok)
  • Biden also stated that the status of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was discussed.
  • “On Syria, we discussed … not only to deny ISIL a safe haven and roll back and defeat them, but also strengthen the Syrian opposition and ensure a transition away from the Assad regime,” Biden stated.
  • On November 15, the US and Turkey agreed on plans to train 2,000 members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) on Turkish territory, but the sides failed to agree on the question of training Kurdish groups, which Ankara has labeled members of a terrorist organization.


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11.22.14 –  Obama Administration Dispatches 100 FBI Agents to St. Louis, Missouri, Ahead of Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

  • he Federal Bureau of Investigation has dispatched 100 agents to the St. Louis, Missouri area ahead of an expected grand jury decision over whether to bring charges against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August.
  • The move underscores the extent to which the Obama administration is taking a leading role in the police crackdown in Ferguson, coordinating behind the scenes with state and local officials.
  • On Friday evening, CBS News reported that two men had been arrested by FBI agents in a sting operation for allegedly “buying explosives to be used during protests.” The two men are allegedly members of the New Black Panther Party. These arrests and the dispatch of FBI agents to the area have the aim of intimidating and terrorizing the population into accepting the decision of the grand jury, which is broadly expected not to bring charges against Wilson.
  • An intelligence bulletin from the FBI to local police departments earlier this week warned that “extremists” are planning to carry out “attacks” against “critical infrastructure” in connection with the grand jury decision. ABC News has reported, based on undisclosed sources, that the FBI has set up a temporary field office to coordinate its activities.
  • As part of the nationally coordinated campaign, ABC News aired an excerpt of a television interview with President Barack Obama Friday evening in which he warned demonstrators to “keep protests peaceful.”
  • “This is a country that allows everybody to express their views,” Obama said, “Allows them to peacefully assemble, to protest actions that they think are unjust. But using any event as an excuse for violence is contrary to rule of law and contrary to who we are,” Obama told reporter George Stephanopoulos.
  • These remarks parrot the standard line used by the political establishment to justify the police crackdown against demonstrators: While “peaceful” protests are acceptable, these protests are being co-opted by “violent” and “extremist” elements, sometimes denounced as “outside agitators,” who are intent on using the demonstrations as an excuse to break the law.
  • This creates the fraudulent justification for the state to respond to peaceful demonstrations with massive police repression, on the grounds that “violent” and “extremist” elements forced them into taking such actions. In reality, it is the government, not demonstrators, that is the instigator of violence. In August, police responded to peaceful protests against police violence with tear gas, rubber bullets and mass arrests of protestors and journalists.
  • Similar plans are in the works for responding to the grand jury announcement, which is expected within days. Hundreds of National Guard personnel are already being deployed to the region following the declaration of a state of emergency by Governor Jay Nixon on Monday, and area police are switching to twelve-hour shifts beginning this weekend.
  • Police carried out arrests against protestors for the second night in a row Thursday evening, chasing demonstrators into a parking lot considered to be a “safe zone” and detaining individual protestors.
  • Also on Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced he was issuing new guidelines for police, outlining rules on “How to Maintain Order During First Amendment-Protected Events.” The basic theme of Holder’s remarks was that there exist two types of political opposition, one legitimate and another illegitimate. Even the title of the announcement expresses the conception that some events are “First Amendment-protected” while others are not.
  • “Over the past few months,” Holder said, “we’ve seen demonstrations and protests that have sought to bring attention to real and significant underlying issues involving police practices, implicit bias, and pervasive community distrust. And in most cases, these demonstrations have been both meaningful and responsible, and have brought vital issues to the attention of the public at large.”
  • But what about concerns that are not aimed at overcoming “community distrust,” or do not advocate trivial changes in police practices, but rather contradict the fundamental interests of the state? What about the demand that killer cops be prosecuted, or that the government stop spying on the people, prosecute officials responsible for torture, and end the bloody and disastrous wars into which the US population has been dragged?
  • These, by implication, are not “meaningful and responsible.” They are therefore invalid and not under the purview of “First Amendment-protected” demands. Anyone making such demands, it is implied, falls under the FBI’s definition of a “violent extremist” and forfeits the rights enumerated in the US Constitution.
  • Holder, echoing Obama, also called on protesters to “adhere to non-aggression and non-violence.” It is worth noting that the US military-intelligence apparatus is the greatest purveyor of violence all over the world. Holder himself will go down in history as the attorney general who spelled out the doctrine that the US government has the right to assassinate American citizens, both abroad and within the borders of the United States, without due process.
  • What is becoming increasingly clear is that these extrajudicial powers are being asserted by the federal government for use not primarily against Islamic fundamentalists, but against any social movement that makes demands that the government does not accept as “meaningful and responsible.”


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11.22.14 –  US, EU ‘Actively Discussing’ Further Sanctions Against Russia: State Dept.

  • Washington and its allies remain in contact on further restrictive measures they want to impose on Russia, the US State Department has announced.
  • “We will increase the costs to Russia if it doesn’t take steps on its own,” Jeff Rathke, a spokesperson for the US State Department said at a press briefing Friday, adding that the United States is “actively discussing” the matter with its “European and international partners”.
  • “We have a broad understanding and similar point of view with our European partners with respect to steps Russia needs to take, and the ways in which the costs to Russia should increase if they fail to abide by the agreements,” Rathke stressed, adding that the United States and the European Union “remain on the same page” on the issue.
  • Rathke emphasized that the United States will continue to sanction Russia unless it changes its position with regard to Ukraine.
  • “There is a continuing ratcheting of the pressure, and raising of the costs,” Rathke said, adding that “that’s going to continue” until Russia changes course.
  • In October US Vice President Joe Biden stated that the United States and US President Barack Obama personally forced EU members to introduce sanctions against Russia.
  • The West has imposed several rounds of restrictive measures on Russia over its alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, a claim Moscow has repeatedly denied.
  • Moscow has stressed that sanctions “threaten international peace and stability” and run counter to the principles of international law.
  • In a response to the imposed sanctions, Russia has introduced a ban on certain food imports from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.


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11.21.14 –  Are You Better Off This Thanksgiving Than You Were Last Thanksgiving?

  • Are you in better shape financially than you were last Thanksgiving?  If so, you should consider yourself to be very fortunate because most Americans are not.  As you chow down on turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce this Thursday, please remember that there are millions of Americans that simply cannot afford to eat such a meal.  According to a shocking new report that was just released by the National Center on Family Homelessness, the number of homeless children in the U.S. has reached a new all-time high of 2.5 million.  And right now one out of every seven Americans rely on food banks to put food on the table.  Yes, life is very good at the moment for Americans at the top end of the income spectrum.  The stock market has been soaring and sales of homes worth at last a million dollars are up 16 percent so far this year.  But most Americans live in a very different world.  The percentage of Americans that are employed is about the same as it was during the depths of the last recession, the quality of our jobs continues to go down, the rate of homeownership in America has fallen for seven years in a row, and the cost of living is rising much faster than paychecks are.  As a result, the middle class is smaller this Thanksgiving than it was last Thanksgiving, and most Americans have seen their standards of living go down over the past year.
  • In 2014, there are tens of millions of Americans that are anonymously leading lives of quiet desperation.  They are desperately trying to hold on even though things just keep getting worse.  For example, just consider the plight of 49-year-old Darrell Eberhardt.  Once upon a time, his job in a Chevy factory paid him $18.50 an hour, but now he only makes $10.50 an hour and he knows that he probably would not be able to make as much in a new job if he decided to leave…

For nearly 20 years, Darrell Eberhardt worked in an Ohio factory putting together wheelchairs, earning $18.50 an hour, enough to gain a toehold in the middle class and feel respected at work.

He is still working with his hands, assembling seats for Chevrolet Cruze cars at the Camaco auto parts factory in Lorain, Ohio, but now he makes $10.50 an hour and is barely hanging on. “I’d like to earn more,” said Mr. Eberhardt, who is 49 and went back to school a few years ago to earn an associate’s degree. “But the chances of finding something like I used to have are slim to none.”

  • Of course you can’t support a family on $10.50 an hour.
  • You can barely support one person on $10.50 an hour.
  • But there are many men out there that would absolutely love to switch positions with Darrell Eberhardt.  At this point, one out of every six men in their prime working years (25 to 54) does not have a job.  That is an absolutely crazy number.
  • And of course just because you “have a job” does not mean that things are going well.  The number of Americans that are “working part-time involuntarily” has risen by over 50 percent since the beginning of the last recession.  There are millions of hard working Americans that would love to get a full-time job if they could land one.  But these days “decent jobs” are in short supply.
  • For example, CNN recently profiled the story of college graduate Meghan Brachle…

Meghan would love to be a music teacher or play full-time in an orchestra. She studied music at Loyola University in New Orleans and plays the flute.

Instead, Meghan works a slew of part-time jobs and receives no benefits.

She is a cashier at Whole Foods, a substitute teacher, a flute tutor and an administrative assistant at a non-profit.

  • Even with all of her hard work, Brachle and her husband often really struggle to pay the bills…

With inconsistent hours, Meghan monthly income fluctuates between $1,000 and $3,000. Even with her husband’s teaching salary, the couple sometimes struggles to cover the $3,600 of monthly expenses they have.

“It’s very stressful,” Meghan, a college graduate, says. “I think about all the job applications I’ve turned in and all the interviews I’ve been on and all the other people who are in the same situation, looking for those same [full-time] jobs. It’s frustrating.”

  • Sadly, a lot of these part-time employers know that their employees desperately need these jobs and are using that leverage to treat them very poorly.
  • For example, it is being reported that any KMart employees that do not show up for work on Thanksgiving will be automatically fired.
  • What kind of nonsense is that?
  • And around the country at Wal-Mart stores, food drives are being held for “needy employees“.
  • So why wouldn’t Wal-Mart just pay their workers enough so that they could afford to take care of themselves in the first place?
  • Most people don’t realize this, but approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is currently living below the poverty line.  Many of them are working as hard as they can and still can’t make enough to take care of themselves.
  • Meanwhile, our paychecks are getting stretched further and further with each passing month.
  • When you don’t make much money, every dollar is precious.  And when food prices go up substantially, it can be very painful.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what is happening right now…
  • -From September to October, the price of a pound of Turkey rose from $1.58 to $1.66.  That represents a 5.2 percent price increase in just one month.
  • -The price of a pound of ground beef has just risen to a brand new record high of $4.15 a pound, and more price increases are on the way.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting that U.S. beef production will drop by another 1 billion pounds next year due to a variety of factors including the horrific multi-year drought out west.
  • -The entire planet is bracing for a huge chocolate shortage, and this threatens to push the price of chocolate beyond the reach of many American families…

Start hoarding those Hershey’s Kisses and stockpile your Snickers: The world could soon experience a chocolate shortage.

Mars Inc. and Barry Callebaut, two of the world’s largest chocolate makers, say that’s the path we’re headed down. They cite a perfect storm of factors: Less cocoa is being produced as more and more people are devouring chocolate.

In 2013, consumers ate about 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than was produced, The Washington Post reports, and that deficit could go up to 1 million metric tons by 2020. The Ivory Coast and Ghana produce more than 70 percent of the world’s cacao beans, and both countries are experiencing dry weather that limits growth. To make things worse, a fungal disease called frosty pod has destroyed 30 to 40 percent of global cocoa production.

  • As a result of all of the things that I have just discussed above, more Americans than ever are being forced to turn to the government for assistance.  Today, the number of Americans getting a check from the government each month is at an all-time high, and at this point Americans collectively get more money from the government than they pay in taxes.


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11.21.14 –  Have Central Banks Entered An Undeclared War?

  • The monetary tectonic plates are shifting, and predicting the next global financial earthquake is relatively easy.
  • I recently suggested that the devaluation of the yen was Japan’s Monetary Pearl Harbor: a direct attack on the currencies of its major trading partners: the euro (European Union), the won (South Korea), the Australian dollar (AUD) and the U.S. dollar (USD), which affects both the U.S. and China since China’s currency, the renminbi, is pegged to the USD.
  • Though there have been no overt (that is to say, public) counter-attacks, this may not reflect monetary peace so much as an undeclared war. Correspondent Mark G. observed that the current geopolitical backdrop is considerably more unsettled than the relatively benign global chessboard in 2008:
  • “The Eurozone and the Pacific Rim now have a pair of regional wars being fought out primarily by financial and monetary means. We can infer that the major central banks won’t be anywhere near as cooperative during a crisis as they were in 2008.”
  • While the American-European financial sanctions against Russia and Russia’s counter-moves are being waged in public, the public response of the Korean and Chinese central banks to Japan’s massive devaluation has been limited to grumbling.
  • But it is unlikely that other central banks are limiting their response to Japan’s aggressive devaluation to words.
  • Let’s start by noting that central banks play two games: one is pure public relations: marionettes on strings beat deflation with sticks and declare they’ll save financial parasites with “whatever it takes” monetary policies.
    Meanwhile, their actions may be mere shadows of the bold policies being trumpeted, or they may be extremes nobody dares make public, for example the Federal Reserve’s $16 trillion bailout of literally the entire Western banking sector in the last Global Financial Meltdown.
  • The U.S. Fed has remained mute, but the yen devaluation has destabilized the global monetary order, whether the Fed acknowledges it publicly or not.
  • Unsurprisingly, central bank public statements don’t mention that competing devaluations share certain characteristics with circular firing squads. Beggar thy neighbor policies destabilize currency flows, and from there, imports and exports, and from there, domestic regimes.
  • Is there a beneficiary of devaluations and shadow currency wars? It’s not too difficult to imagine gold will eventually be revalued to reflect the decline in purchasing power of devalued currencies. It’s also not too difficult to anticipate capital flows into whatever currency isn’t being actively devalued–for example, the U.S. dollar.
  • One peculiar consequence of choosing not to devalue one’s currency is the resulting inflows of capital fleeing devaluing currencies act as a form of quantitative easing: some of that capital flows into Treasury bonds, effectively replacing the Federal Reserve’s QE bond purchases.
  • The monetary tectonic plates are shifting, and predicting the next global financial earthquake is relatively easy. Predicting the timing and the winners–now that’s tricky.


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11.21.14 –  Gold Repatriation Stunner: Dutch Central Bank Secretly Withdrew 122 Tons Of Gold From The New York Fed

  • A week ago, we penned “The Real Reason Why Germany Halted Its Gold Repatriation From The NY Fed”, in which we got, for the first time ever, an admission by an official source, namely the bank that knows everything that takes place in Germany – Deutsche Bank – what the real reason was for Germany’s gold repatriation halt after obtaining a meager 5 tons from the NY Fed:
 … the gold community paid great attention to the decision of the German Bundesbank to “bring German gold home”. At the beginning of 2013, the Bundesbank announced it would repatriate 300 tonnes of gold stored in the US by 2020. It is well behind schedule, citing logistical difficulties. Yet diplomatic difficulties are more likely to be the chief cause of the delay, especially seeing as the Bundesbank has proven its capacity to organise large-scale gold transports. In the early 2000s, the Bundesbank incrementally repatriated 930 tonnes of German gold held by the Bank of England.
  • Some took offense with this, pointing out, accurately, that the gold held at the NY Fed in deposit form for foreign institutions had continued to decline into 2014 despite the alleged German halt. Well, today we know the answer: it wasn’t Germany who was secretly withdrawing gold from the NYFed contrary to what it had publicly disclosed.  
  • It was the Netherlands.
  • This is the stunning statement made by the Dutch Central Bank earlier today, and which, all compliments to China’s rate cut, is truly the biggest news of the day, as it shows that one doesn’t need a referendum to repatriate their gold, nor does one run into logistic or diplomatic problems if one is truly set on procuring their physical.
  • As to why the DNB decided it was time to cut its gold held at the NY Fed by 122 tons? “”It is no longer wise to keep half of our gold in one part of the world,” a DNB spokesman told Telegraaf. “Maybe it was desirable during the Cold War, but not now.”
  • From the source:
 De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) has adjusted its gold stock location policy and has shipped gold from the United States to the Netherlands to spread its gold stock in a more balanced way.

Under the previous policy, 11% of the gold stock was located in the Netherlands, 51% in the United States, with the remainder held in Canada (20%) and the United Kingdom (18%). Under the new policy, the breakdown by location is as follows: 31% in Amsterdam, 31% in New York, with the relative holdings in Ottawa and London remaining unchanged at 20% and 18%, respectively. Following this adjustment, DNB is in line with other central banks holding a greater part of their gold stock in their own countries. Beyond realising a more balanced distribution of the gold stock across the different locations, this may also have a positive effect on public confidence.

Changing the distribution of the gold holdings across the different locations is not without precedent. From the end of the Second World War until the early 1970s, for example, DNB increased its gold reserves following the Bretton Woods Accord, mainly in New York. Since then, there have been other movements in DNB’s gold stock. The main reasons for this being the gold sales in the past few decades and the closure of the vaults of the Reserve Bank of Australia, as a result of which DNB shipped gold from Australia to the United Kingdom in 2000.

  • Sure enough, AP confirmed:
  The Dutch Central Bank says it has recently shipped 122.5 tons of gold worth around 4 billion euros ($5 billion) from safekeeping in New York back to its headquarters in Amsterdam.

In a statement Friday morning the bank said that its 612.5-ton national gold reserve is now divided 31 percent in Amsterdam, 31 percent in New York, 20 percent in Ottawa, Canada and 18 percent in London.

“With this adjustment the Dutch Central Bank joins other banks that are keeping a larger share of their gold supply in their own country,”the bank said in a statement. “In addition to a more balanced division of the gold reserves...this may also contribute to a positive confidence effect with the public.”

  • This is how the Old and New gold allocation of the Dutch Central Bank look currently:

  • Note: the reallocation has already taken place, and is not – like Germany – subject to a 5 year period during which the NY Fed is expected to recoup the gold. So it can be done!?
  • As to when it was done, here is the NY Fed’s monthly reports of gold deposits by foreign entities: here we can see that while the 5 tons outflow in 2013 was most likely Germany, the recent surge in gold repatriation from Liberty 33 was the Netherlands. That said, only 57.5 tons of NY deposits gold has been officially repatriated through September, which means the October update, when it comes out, will be a doozy.

  •  Some more details from the Dutch Telegraaf, google-translated:
 In the vaults at the Amsterdam Frederiksplein was until recently 11% percent of the total of 612 tons of government gold. That is screwed up to 31%.

For years there were major concerns of the gold was still there. This months of almost military organized gold shipments from Manhattan DNB wants a ‘balanced’ distribution of the national gold buffer.

In addition, DNB expects Dutch citizens more confident that enough of our gold is in their own ‘home’ to guide the country if necessary following major crises.

At that effect also highlights the German Bundesbank, which are gold also partially recovered. De Nederlandsche Bank has great silence in recent months retrieved 130 tons of gold bars.

Last week drove armored trucks back and forth towards the Amsterdam Frederiksplein. “It is no longer wise to keep half of our gold in one part of the world,” the DNB spokesman on the massive operation with gold bars to Amsterdam says. “Maybe that was during the Cold War still desirable, not now. ”

In Amsterdam is recently 31% of the gold. In the vaults of New York is 31%. It remains. De Nederlandsche Bank carries no gold bars back from the protected storage in Ottawa, Canada, where 20% of the gold remains. In London, the Netherlands keeps 18% of all Dutch ‘sandwiches’ gold as nest egg.

Netherlands moved his gold in the past frequently. In the period after the Second World War until the early seventies the Dutch central bank bought gold to replenish its reserves. That was mainly focused on the vaults in New York, which are built to earthquakes and bomb attacks endured. Since then bought and sold DNB gold and earned it every robustly.

  • Another curiosity: the gold was repatriated by ship. From Dutch News:
 In total, 120 tonnes of gold valued at €4bn has been brought back to the Netherlands by ship, Nos television said. The high security reparations for the move took months.
  • Luckily, that particular vessel did not suffer any “boating incidents.”
  • And now that the Dutch have shown just how “easy” it is to repatriate one’s gold when not entangled in shifting alliances, diplomatic feuds, or suffering from “logistical problems” preventing one from collecting their gold, we wonder just how much more eager Germany or Switzerland will be to collect their own gold, or whether the Swiss November 30 referendum will decide to let countries like the Netherlands have a right of first refusal of whatever gold may still be held at the vault located 90 feet below street level at the New York Federal Reserve Bank (which as we reported a year ago, is connected by an underground tunnel to the JPMorgan precious metal which was located just across the street).


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11.21.14 –  Obama extends deportation reprieve to 5 million undocumented immigrants

  • President Barack Obama announced an executive order on immigration reform Thursday, which he will sign on Friday. The actions will affect up to 5 million undocumented immigrants in the US, many of whom are the parents or spouses of legal residents.
  • Obama announced his plan for unilateral action on immigration via a prime-time address from the White House. He will sign the executive order during a rally in Las Vegas on Friday. Because the plan will not be passed by Congress, it could also be easily reversed by a new president after Obama’s term runs out in just over two years.
  • The president called his actions “a commonsense middle ground approach,” as he continued to push Congress to pass a comprehensive bill reforming the country’s immigration system. Under the terms of his order, undocumented immigrants who have lived in the US for five years or more, and are parents of American citizens or lawful residents, will be subjected to criminal and national security background checks. Once these are completed, they can pay taxes and defer deportation for three years at a time.
  • The US will also increase security at the borders and focus deportation efforts on criminals and potential security threats rather than families.
  • “”Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character,” Obama said in his remarks. “If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the US illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.”

They know he & it are ratings LOSERS: “@RT_America: TV networks snub Obama’s immig address″
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) November 20, 2014

  • Obama will also defend his decision to issue an executive order against Republicans and those who claim he is overreaching, arguing that every Republican and Democratic president in the last 50 years has used his authority similarly.
  • “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill,” he said.
  • Already, the president’s plan has come under fire from conservatives. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) criticized Obama ahead of his speech, saying he is acting like “an emperor.”
  • “Instead of working together to fix our broken immigration system, the president says he’s acting on his own,” he said in a video statement. “That is just not how our democracy works.”

“What I’m describing is accountability—a common-sense, middle ground approach.” —President Obama #ImmigrationAction
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 21, 2014

  • The plan will include a temporary reprieve from deportation for as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants ‒ which includes parents and spouses of US citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for at least five years. Those people may also be made eligible for work permits, but will not have a path to citizenship. Officials said the eligible immigrants will not be entitled to federal benefits ‒ including health care tax credits, food stamps, Medicaid coverage or other need-based federal programs ‒ under Obama’s plan.
  • The plan will cover parents of legal residents, but not the parents who brought their children to the US illegally. In 2012, Obama authorized the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals via executive action, which delayed deportation for the young undocumented immigrants, often referred to as DREAMers. The actions will create a similar program for undocumented parents of children who are in the country legally, the Washington Post reported. Expansions include raising the eligibility age beyond the current limit of 30 and allowing more recent arrivals (those who came after 2007) to apply, among other things.
  • “These people – our neighbors, our classmates, our friends – they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life,” Obama said Thursday. “They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.”
  • “Whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.

Pro-#immigration reform advocate translating President #Obama’s speech in Spanish, per @brennawilliams:
— Phillip M. Bailey (@phillipmbailey) November 21, 2014

  • Notably, visas for migrant farm workers will not be expanded, reportedly over concerns about justifying the way that group would be treated compared to other workers, like construction workers.
  • Obama’s orders will make up to 4 million undocumented immigrants eligible for temporary protective status and provide relief to another 1 million through other means, a senior Democrat familiar with the plans told the Post. There are roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the US currently.
  • The president’s plan also includes a program to facilitate visas for people who invest in the United States, as well as for those who pursue degrees in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math. It will also modify federal immigrant detention procedures. Concerns were raised by immigrant rights activists over the summer, after current facilities were overwhelmed by an influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minor children and families with children illegally entering the country.
  • The actions also include steps to further secure the United States’ border with Mexico, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at a Wednesday appearance at the National Press Club. The administration’s lawyers have concluded that the president can legally issue these executive actions, despite intense opposition from Republicans, he noted.
  • “Legislative action is always preferable,” Johnson said. “But we have waited for Congress to act, and the Congress has not acted. The president has waited.”
  • Last Wednesday, following the Republican Party’s takeover of the US Senate, Obama warned that he would take whatever lawful actions he feels are necessary to “improve the function of our immigration system,” following years of unsuccessful efforts from Congress to accomplish as much on its own. The White House says that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has previously pushed back on efforts from Democratic lawmakers to introduce immigration reform, and the results of November’s midterm elections will soon see to it that the GOP has a majority in the Senate as well next session. Republicans have threatened to impeach the president over the immigration executive actions.
  • By taking executive action, it is likely that Obama will derail any opportunities to cooperate with the GOP majority in Congress during the rest of his term, including on bipartisan initiatives like tax reform, among other issues.


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11.20.14 –  After the USA Freedom Act fails, those who voted against it explain why

  • The vote to reform how the NSA collects bulk phone data and other types of data failed to pass by a slim margin, but two voters against the USA Freedom Act explain why they voted ‘nay.’
  • Those two who voted against the bill are Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who was the only Republican to vote against the bill, and Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, who co-sponsored the bill.
  • Paul has fought against surveillance bills for some time now, most notably in 20011 when he sent a letter to his colleagues in DC explaining his opposition to the Patriot Act. He stated he did not think the Patriot Act was necessary to “achieve valid law-enforcement goals…”
  • In a similar fashion, Paul voted against the USA Freedom Act on the basis that the bill did not go far enough to strip the NSA of its surveillance powers.
  • One aide for Paul also discussed with the Daily Beast how Paul also voted against the bill because some parts of the bill would reauthorize parts of the Patriot Act.
  • Doug Stafford, the aide in question, said, “Senator Paul said, repeatedly, that the bill was not simply an NSA reform bill, that it also as part of the bill, reauthorized other expiring parts of the Patriot Act… he didn’t believe that could vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act, which is what he would have been doing had he votes yes.”
  • Amash also voted against the bill, which he said he was proud to have worked on and promote, but he also said he could not support the bill as it is currently written.
  • On Amash’s Facebook page, he wrote how the bill “claims to end ‘bulk collection’ of Americans’ data only in a very technical sense…” Amash further claims the bill was watered-down so much from its original form that it would allow the government to request phone data from phone companies “without probable cause.” He also said the bill “mocks” the Constitution.
  • “The American people demand that the Constitution be respected, that our rights and liberties be secured, and that the government stay out of our private lives,” said Amash according to the Washington Examiner. “Fortunately, there is a growing group of representatives on both sides of the aisle who get it… We will succeed.”


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11.20.14 –  Eurozone manufacturing outlook weakest for 16 months, as France and Germany lose steam

  • A new survey of manufacturing and service companies across the eurozone shows the area is now a footstep away from recession, as key economies France and Germany remain weak.
  • The speed of growth in the eurozone slowed down in November, according to the preliminary Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) released Thursday.
  • The eurozone’s composite PMI came in at 51.4, the lowest in 16 months. Analysts had expected the figure to come in at 52.3 overall, an improvement from October’s 52.1. The figure is still above the neutral 50 mark, anything below that signals recession.
  • France and Germany remain the main drags on the European economy.
  • The report said France remained a “key area of weakness,” suffering a drop in business activity for a seventh consecutive month and a further month of job cuts. The country’s PMI index has remained below 50.0 since May.
  • Germany’s manufacturing PMI dropped to 50.0 in November, down from 51.4 in October and the weakest since July 2013.
  • Germany is an export-oriented economy and has been largely hit by tit-for-tat sanctions with Russia over the Ukraine crisis.


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11.20.14 –  Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe

  • The Dutch government has refused to reveal details of a secret pact between members of the Joint Investigation Team examining the downed Flight MH17. If the participants, including Ukraine, don’t want information to be released, it will be kept secret.
  • The respected Dutch publication Elsevier made a request to the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) agreement, along with 16 other documents. The JIT consists of four countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine – who are carrying out an investigation into the MH17 disaster, but not Malaysia. Malaysian Airlines, who operated the flight, has been criticized for flying through a war zone.

Ministerie weigert geheime deal MH17 openbaar te maken
— Pieter Omtzigt (@PieterOmtzigt) November 19, 2014

  • Part of the agreement between the four countries and the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, ensures that all these parties have the right to secrecy. This means that if any of the countries involved believe that some of the evidence may be damaging to them, they have the right to keep this secret.
  • “Of course [it is] an incredible situation: how can Ukraine, one of the two suspected parties, ever be offered such an agreement?” Dutch citizen Jan Fluitketel wrote in the newspaper Malaysia Today.
  • Despite the air crash taking place on July 17 in Eastern Ukraine, very little information has been released about any potential causes. However, rather than give the public a little insight into the investigation, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice is more worried about saving face among the members of the investigation.
  • “I believe that this interest [international relations] is of greater importance than making the information public, as it is a unique investigation into an extremely serious event,” the Ministry added, according to Elsevier.

Could anyone call #MH17 investigation independent, if it runs by NATO and denies Malaysia, the owner of the plane, participation??
— Vera Van Horne (@VeraVanHorne) November 20, 2014

  • Other reasons given for the request being denied included protecting investigation techniques and tactics as well as naming the names of officials who are taking part in the investigation. The Ministry said it would be a breach of privacy if they were revealed. “If the information was to be released then sensitive information would be passed between states and organizations, which would perhaps they would be less likely to share such information in the future,” said the Ministry of Security and Justice.
  • Dutch MP Pieter Omtzigt, who is a member of the Christian Democratic Party, has made several requests for the information to be released to the public. “We just do not know if the Netherlands has compromised justice,” he said in reaction to the ministry’s decision. The MP was surprised that this agreement was even signed, never mind kept secret.
  • Journalists walk behind parts of the Malaysia Airlines plane Flight MH17 as Dutch investigators (unseen) arrive near at the crash site near the Grabove village in eastern Ukraine on November 11, 2014 (AFP Photo)Journalists walk behind parts of the Malaysia Airlines plane Flight MH17 as Dutch investigators (unseen) arrive near at the crash site near the Grabove village in eastern Ukraine on November 11, 2014 (AFP Photo)
  • Malaysia is the only country to have directly negotiated with the anti-Kiev militias in the East of Ukraine, while the country’s Ambassador to the Netherlands said he was unhappy that Malaysia had not been included within the JIT. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte flew to Kuala Lumpur on November 5, but Malaysia says it still did not receive an invitation to join.
  • “We must first be included in the JIT, otherwise it would be hard for us to cooperate in the investigation. The parties inside the investigation must include us in the team, right now we are just a participant,” said the Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, which was reported by the New Straits Times.
  • A preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board, which was released September said the MH17 crash was a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing from the outside.
  • Dutch investigators added that “there are no indications” that the tragedy was triggered “by a technical fault or by actions of the crew.”


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11.19.14 –  Not Just Ferguson: Protests Scheduled for 83 Cities, “Direct Action Trainings” Held for Protesters

  • Everyone knows the government, with its lapdog mainstream media in lockstep, has whipped up the Ferguson situation into a total frenzy.
  • It doesn’t matter what the grand jury decides now. Fear and anger are very powerful weapons and everyone who has allowed the powers that (shouldn’t) be to steer their emotions on this one has taken the bait.
  • The cops have stocked up on nearly $200k worth of riot gear, less-lethal ammunition and the like. Ferguson residents have been advised to go get guns because the cops won’t be able to protect them all from what’s coming. Firearm sales in the area have skyrocketed. Everyone is on edge.
  • Missouri’s governor has now preemptively declared a 30-day state of emergency and called out the National Guard — and the grand jury hasn’t even made it’s decision yet!
  • Basically, it’s on.
  • Ferguson, however, is not the only city set to hold protests immediately following the Darren Wilson grand jury announcement.
  • Actually, they aren’t even being referred to as protests anymore. They are now being called “planned responses.”
  • A Tumblr page for something called the “Ferguson National Response Network” has posted a very organized list with graphics for each location (which must have taken a lot of time and effort) detailing these “planned responses” that have been scheduled for a total of 82 cities across the U.S. and one in Canada after the grand jury announces their decision (something which, if it’s as scripted as the rest of this situation has been and continues to be, will be expertly timed with the holidays coming up).
  • Organizers are also holding something called “direct action trainings.”
  • fergusonproteststraining
  • Here’s what that looks like:

Community. We train. We protest. #Ferguson

— deray mckesson (@deray) November 15, 2014

  • The organizers have also released a list of 19 “Proposed Rules of Engagement.”
  • Wow. Just wow. This is not your average civil disobedience. Martha Stewart has thrown less organized birthday parties than this. There are White House functions with less planning and training involved.
  • Anyone else get the sense that this whole thing has been co-opted? Think about it.
  • When you’re mad about something that’s wrong with the system, what do you do if you want to protest it? You pull out a black marker, get a poster board, call up your friends, maybe send out a few Tweets or Facebook messages, then you find a corner and start protesting.
  • You don’t get so angry with the system that you first a) write a proposed rules of engagement list, b) start fundraising campaigns, c) set up highly coordinated protests in 83 cities, d) coordinate mass informational meetings and finally e) hold direct action trainings then get ready to protest.
  • What average, random person has the time and money to pull off all that off properly?
  • Sure people have been protesting this for months now, but still. What monster has Ferguson now mutated into? Who is ultimately behind it, driving the agenda?
  • Many of the people who showed up to protest in Ferguson from the beginning were coming from out of town. There were definite provocateurs among the crowds trying to incite violence.
  • At this point, people are apparently quitting their jobs and flocking to Ferguson to devote all their time and energy to this.
  • A little over a week ago, The Washington Post ran an article titled, “Ferguson protest organizers: ‘I sleep, eat and breathe this.’”
  • Really?
  • Here’s an excerpt:
  • But a common thread runs through some of the most influential organizers. They are black, relatively new to civil rights activism and technologically savvy, masters of social media. Using Twitter, Vine and Instagram, they mobilize their peers, document every twist and turn, and annotate history in real time.
  • New to activism, huh? And yet, wow, they just so happen to be influential, savvy tech masters of social media who know how to mobilize everyone? No, that doesn’t stink of George Soros-funded phony color revolution stuff at all… (That was sarcasm, of course.)
  • On the same day as the WP article came out, The Daily Sheeple published an article about the fact that cops kill an average of THREE PEOPLE EVERY DAY in this country.
  • Three people a day!
  • Where’s the outrage from all Americans on all sides, all races, colors and creeds, on the bigger police state growing all around all of us EVERY SINGLE DAY in America? Where are the organized protests for all those who have died at the hands of an ever-increasing, ratcheted up tyrannical system enslaving us all?
  • There is a highly organized, scripted, funded, targeted agenda playing out in Ferguson, and people are basically falling for it.
  • The list of cities set for these “planned responses” to the Darren Wilson grand jury decision is below. If you live near one of these things, heads up.
  • When this all goes down, it’s not going to be pretty…which is exactly the way the people ultimately engineering this situation want it. Can you say “martial law?”
  • Albany, NY
    Albuquerque, NM
    Atlanta, GA
    Austin, TX
    Baltimore, MD
    Bangor, ME
    Beavercreek, OH
    Blacksburg, VA
    Boston, MA
    Buffalo, NY
    Carbondale, IL
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Chattanooga, TN
    Chicago, IL
    Cleveland, OH
    Columbia, MO
    Columbus, OH
    Dallas, TX
    Denver, CO
    Des Moines, IA
    Detroit, MI
    Durham, NC
    Ferguson, MO
    Gainesville, FL
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Greensboro, NC
    Greenville, NC
    Grinnell, IA
    Houston, TX
    Indianapolis, IN
    Iowa City, IA
    Jackson, MI
    Kansas City, MO
    Kennesaw, GA
    Lawrence, KS
    Lexington, KY
    Longview, TX
    Los Angeles, CA
    Louisville, KY
    Meadville, PA
    Memphis, TN
    Milwaukee, WI
    Minneapolis, MN
    Mobile, AL
    Monpelier, VT
    Monroeville, OH
    Nashville, TN
    New London, CT
    New Orleans, LA
    Newark, NJ
    Northampton, MA
    NYC, NY
    Oak Ridge, TN
    Oakland, CA
    Olympia, WA
    Oshkosh, WI
    Phoenix, AZ
    Philadelphia, PA
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Portland, OR
    Providence, RI
    Raleigh, NC
    Rochester, NY
    Rocky Mount, NC
    San Diego, CA
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Seattle, WA
    South Hadley, MA
    Spring Valley, NY
    Springfield, MA
    St. Paul, MN
    St. Petersburg, FL
    Stroudsberg, PA
    Tallahassee, FL
    Tampa, FL
    Toledo, OH
    Toronto, Canada
    Tucson, AZ
    Washington, D.C.
    West Hartford, CT
    West Palm Beach, FL
    Williamsburg, VA
    Worcester, MA


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11.19.14 –  Hungary to start South Stream construction in 2015 despite western pressure

  • Hungary plans to break ground next year on its stretch of the South Stream pipeline to send natural gas from Russia to Europe. It is in defiance of EU and US calls to halt the project over frosty relations with Moscow.
  • One major reason Hungary has thrown its support into South Stream is the lack of a better option since the EU-backed Nabucco pipeline, which was supposed to deliver gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, failed.
  • “Nabucco will not be built and after nearly 10 years of hesitation, and especially in light of the Ukraine situation, we need to act. This is a necessity,” Hungarian Energy Minister Andras Aradszki told Reuters.
  • Earlier Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that Washington is putting pressure on Budapest for cooperating with Russia over energy.
  • Gazprom’s $45 billion South Stream project will deliver about 64 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe, Russia’s biggest client, without unreliable passage through Ukraine.
  • Russia is Hungary’s biggest source of natural gas, and in 2013 the country bought 6 billion cubic meters. Hungary hopes the pipeline will be complete by 2017.
  • Ministers from Russia also confirmed construction will begin in 2015.

  • “Today the sides confirmed all their commitments signed under the South Stream project,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday after talks with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Szijjarto.
  • Hungary, along with Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Austria, still support the project despite EU attempts to stall it due to the political rift with Moscow, said Energy Minister Aradszki.
  • Proponents inside the EU argue the project is critical for EU energy security as it will provide a direct and reliable pipeline to Russia. Opponents argue that it is a step backwards for EU energy independence, as it deepens reliance on neighboring Russia.
  • On November 4, the Hungarian parliament approved the construction of the South Stream pipeline without European Union agreement.
  • The EU says South Stream will violate its Third Energy Package, which doesn’t allow one single company to both produce and transport oil and gas.
  • In September Hungary indefinitely halted gas shipments to Ukraine after securing a new deal with Russian gas major Gazprom, which the West saw as a move towards Russia’s orbit.
  • In 2013, Russia sold 162.7 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe and expects to sell at least 155 billion cubic meters this year.


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