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Australia and Europe Should Conduct a Trade Reset …

… and Would Be Wise to Unite with Russia and China

by Brian Cloughley

Strategic Culture Foundation (February 08 2017)

Reports in the US and international media indicate that the President of the United States hit a new low in spiteful animosity when he tweeted about Federal Judge James Robart that “the opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!”

The policies of Trump America are confrontational. Unlike Judge Robart, who said during his confirmation hearing that he would treat people with ‘dignity and respect”, his President treats those with whom he disagrees with scorn and contempt, and his increasingly erratic behaviour is causing concern. For example, earlier indications that he would speedily engage in dialogue with President Putin have been negated by several of his senior appointees, including his ambassador to the UN who “offered a strong condemnation of Russia in her first appearance at the UN Security Council”.

Nobody knows what lies ahead.

Since the tragi-comic Inauguration Day on 20 January it was mildly amusing to read Trump’s bizarre tweets illustrating his vulgarity and insensitivity – until it was reported on 2 February that he had been offensive to the Prime Minister of Australia a few days before. As an Anglo-Australian I consider Trump’s insolence repugnant, and now begin to understand a little of what Mexicans are thinking.

Prime Minister Turnbull of Australia is a man of many parts, having been a brilliant scholar, a lawyer of marked competence, and a most successful businessman. Unlike Trump, he did not inherit wealth, but achieved riches through his own ability, and he leaves Trump at the starting gate where intellect, character and principle are concerned.

He has been trying to play down the widely-publicised derision displayed by Trump, who delights in bullying anyone he considers can be intimidated, but although Turnbull said he wasn’t “going to comment on a conversation between myself and the President” it is obvious that he and his country have been insulted.

So Mr Turnbull has to reassess where Australia stands with Trump America and rethink commercial relations, because Trump couldn’t care less about old, long-trusted allies if they might adversely affect his “America First” policy, especially as 61 percent of Americans agree wholeheartedly with his firm intention to “buy American and hire American”.

The US-Australia Free Trade Agreement came into force in 2005 and in 2016 the US exported goods worth twenty billion US dollars to Australia while some nine billions’ worth went the other way. Both figures are nothing compared to Australia’s trade with China and the EU, with its exports being 75 and sixteen billion respectively, with imports at 47 and 37. The message is that if Trump’s America First policy goes against Australia, there wouldn’t be much of a problem Down Under, because expansion in its trade with the Asia-Pacific region and the EU would benefit everyone but Trump, and that’s an attractive thought.

On the other side of the globe from Australia there is another Donald, the EU Council’s Polish President Donald Tusk, who is described as being quiet, unassuming and firm, and he’s another clever fellow, in spite of being on the paranoid side about Russia. He is also “politically ruthless and pragmatic”, and that has been evident in his latest statements, as he has been forthright in reacting to Trump’s comments about the EU.

Trump was less than supportive of the European Union before his election, and was especially critical of the EU’s attempts to deal decently with the flood of refugees flowing mainly from countries bombed, invaded or otherwise impacted by Washington’s military meddling. In an interview with The Times of London he said that “the EU is going to break up [after Britain leaves – the ‘Brexit’] … you watch : other countries will follow”.

Just before he was sworn in he continued to encourage collapse of the EU, declaring that Brexit was “a great thing” because “people, countries, want their own identity, and the UK wanted its own identity … I believe others will leave”. So yet another crassly unconstructive and most unsettling message was sent to the world, and The Donald forgot it and went off to play with his next lot of toys.

He may think that his casual insults and international fidgeting with things he doesn’t understand will be disregarded as just more trivial Trumpisms, but this is not so. No matter how much ignorance and inconsistency are evident in his statements, they have got to receive attention because – amazingly – they may be transformed into US national policy, with unpredictable but almost certainly dire consequences.

So now is the time for international reset, as suggested by Mr Tusk before the EU leaders’ meeting in Malta in early February. He told his fellow Europeans that “in a world full of tension and confrontation, what is needed is courage, determination and political solidarity” in Europe and regretted that “the change in Washington puts the European Union in a difficult situation; with the new administration seeming to put into question the last seventy years of American foreign policy”.

The way ahead will not be easy, said Donald of Europe, but the opportunity should be taken to “use the change in the trade strategy of the US to the EU’s advantage by intensifying our talks with interested partners, while defending our interests at the same time”.

EU nations would be wise to follow the advice of Donald Tusk when resetting their joint political and economic path in the light of the erratic fandangos being performed across the Atlantic. As he observed sagaciously: “free trade means fair trade”.

The EU should pursue mutually beneficial trade deals with Asia-Pacific countries, notably China, and especially Australia. And it should also reflect on the advantages that would accrue from trade with Russia, while bearing in mind the wise words of the CEO of Alibaba, Jack Ma, in Australia on 4 February that “if trade stops, war starts”.

Trump doesn’t want any trade agreements that don’t put America First. His slogan of “buy American and hire American” might sound good at home, but it’s the downward path to even more international confrontation. Australia, Europe, Russia and China should avoid that by getting together, because there is no better way to establishing and maintaining peace than involvement in mutually beneficial trade.

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/02/08/australia-europe-should-conduct-trade-reset-would-wise-unite-with-russia-china.html

Categories: Uncategorized

The US Is Out and China’s In

The Trans-Pacific Partnership

by Valentin Katasonov

Strategic Culture Foundation (February 09 2017)

In the last two years, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) project has been a hot-button issue in global politics. The Obama administration pushed for negotiations to finalize the TPP agreement between the US, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia, and New Zealand. These countries are responsible for forty percent of the global economy and a third of global trade. In February 2016, the TPP pact was officially signed in New Zealand.

But then the process of creating the partnership began to stall. Obama never managed to get Congress to quickly ratify the TPP. Donald Trump was part of the obstacle – as a presidential candidate a year ago, he was already loudly insisting that the TPP did not serve American interests and that he would withdraw from that partnership if elected. And on January 23, three days after Trump’s inauguration, the new US president signed an executive order to pull out of the TPP.

Japan has the most to lose from a US exit from TPP, as its cars and electronics might lose their competitive edge in the enormous US market. Only six countries (Mexico, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Singapore) have stated that they are ready to move forward with TPP, regardless of whether the US is involved. I think that in time the partnership’s circle of solid supporters will shrink even further.

But after Washington lost interest in the TPP, the remaining signatories came up with the idea of inviting China to join. Australia in particular hopes to make up for its losses from the US pullout by stepping up its economic relationship with China. But now it’s possible that everything will turn out differently, meaning that China can invite the remaining members of the TPP to join its own “club”, without the US. Beijing’s initiative has kicked off the furious process of creating a new international trade organization, namely: the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (“RCEP”).

The core members of RCEP are the ten members of ASEAN (Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines), plus six countries with which ASEAN has already signed free-trade agreements (Australia, India, China, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan). RCEP includes four economically developed states and twelve developing countries. RCEP could potentially be comparable to TPP: the members of the first partnership are responsible for approximately thirty percent of global GDP and approximately fifty percent of the earth’s population. Thirty percent of the countries in the world are currently involved in the RCEP negotiations over global exports. The leading exporters are China, Japan, and South Korea. The members of the new organization are also blessed with significant investment potential. In 2014, 29% of the world’s total foreign investment outlays went to the economies of the RCEP nations, and the outflow of investments was equal to 24%.

In 2014, trade within the group of countries we call RCEP totaled $4.4 trillion. By comparison, trade between the countries of the North American Free Trade Agreement (“Nafta”) – specifically the US, Canada, and Mexico – did not hit the $1 trillion mark until the beginning of this decade.

China is the undisputed leader within the group of RCEP countries, responsible for 28% of intra-group trade in 2014, followed by Japan (15%) and South Korea (11%). These three countries account for more than half of all trade within RCEP.

It is interesting to see the importance of a common market within that regional partnership for individual RCEP member countries. First let’s look at China. In 2014, 26% of China’s exports went to RCEP countries and 34% of China’s imports came from those same nations. This means that the RCEP market is extremely significant for China. And although it’s true that, for China, America is just as significant a trading partner as all of the RCEP countries put together, given Trump’s protectionist threats, China’s outlook for trade with the US could change dramatically. Therefore, Beijing is rushing to promote the RCEP project, which could at least partially offset China’s losses when it comes to the US.

The country leading the RCEP negotiations and boasting the second greatest trade potential is Japan. The RCEP market is even more significant for Tokyo than for Beijing. In 2014, 45% of Japan’s exports went to RCEP countries and 48% of its imports came from those same nations. Although Japan is the only country to have ratified the TPP agreement, it might prove to be second only to China as a driving force behind the partnership.

This means that the RCEP market would be even more significant for the other potential members of the partnership. Here is a list of countries that send over fifty percent of their exports to the RCEP market: Brunei (94%); Myanmar (93%); Laos (83%); Australia (76%); Malaysia (64%); Indonesia (62%); Singapore (59%); New Zealand (58%); the Philippines (57%); and Thailand (56%).

And this is a list of countries that are greatly dependent on the RCEP market for their imports: Laos (95%); Myanmar (94%); Cambodia (84%); Brunei (81%); Vietnam (74%); Indonesia (68%); Malaysia (61%); Thailand (58%); the Philippines (58%); New Zealand (57%); and Australia (55%).

The launch of the RCEP negotiations commenced on November 20 2012 at the ASEAN summit in Cambodia. As long as there was progress on the TPP project, the global media paid almost no attention to the RCEP project, believing that it was ill-considered and could not compete with the TPP. RCEP’s ratings have soared in the last month.

Just a few days before the US presidential election, the ministers of the RCEP member nations made an announcement at their meeting in Manila stressing the urgency of reaching a new agreement, due to the rise of protectionist sentiments around the world. There is a looming prospect that China will use Trump’s refusal to support TPP as a pretext to seize the initiative and create the biggest trade and economic association in the world.

Some of the countries that are currently taking part in the RCEP negotiations – or planning to do so – believe that they will be able to have their cake and eat it too, by being active in both partnerships. At the recent APEC summit, the Peruvian Minister of Foreign Commerce and Tourism, Eduardo Ferreyros K├╝ppers even said, “China is our friend, the United States is our friend, and everyone else is our friend”.

Experts note that the RCEP project differs in some fundamental ways from the TPP project. For example, the first has an open membership policy (in contrast to the TPP, which has closed its doors to China and Russia). Second, the first partnership does not make undue requirements of its members. Specifically, unlike the TPP, there are no rigid rules or provisions that regulate environmental issues, the social setting of the workplace, government purchases, investment disputes, et cetera. RCEP is primarily a commercial partnership. Its conceptual foundation does not make provision for requirements that would significantly exceed the scope of any obligations under the WTO. The main idea behind the new partnership is to liberalize trade regimes, taking into account the particulars of each nation and the differences in the levels of development of the participating economies.

Due to these distinctions, RCEP may eventually expand from a regional to a global partnership.

Of course, there are serious obstacles on the path to signing the RCEP agreement. First of all, it is impossible to ignore the glaring differences in the economic development of the countries that are currently involved in the negotiations. On one hand, there are countries that are highly developed economically, including Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan. On the other hand are countries that are less economically developed. These differences make it difficult to reach a consensus over tariffs, access to the services market, customs procedures, and much more. In addition, some of the more developed countries (particularly Australia and New Zealand) tried at one time to include in the RCEP format issues pertaining to patent law, judicial rulings on investment disputes, and environmental and social standards (all of which are important elements of the TPP), but then, however agreed not to overload the negotiations at this stage and elected not to include these issues in the agreement.

Political in addition to economical obstacles may emerge. In particular, territorial disputes between the two biggest economic powers in RCEP – China and Japan – may result in Tokyo being jettisoned from the new partnership.

Although this new partnership is an open one, it is hard to imagine the United States signing up. As for the Russian Federation, it has not yet issued any statements in this regard.

China has unexpectedly emerged as the leader of the process of economic globalization. Speaking in Davos on January 17, Chinese President Xi Jinping made it clear to the participants in the International Economic Forum that Beijing is ready to seize the reins of globalization from Washington. On January 26, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang once again reaffirmed China’s commitment to the principles of multilateral trade liberalism.

China’s leaders well remember the words of Barack Obama, who stated last May 14 that the TPP’s basic premise “allows America – and not countries like China” to shape the rules of international trade. Now China has the opportunity to make a retaliatory move, by claiming that it has become the arbiter of international trade.

Beijing plans to complete the RCEP negotiations by the end of the year so that a multilateral agreement can be signed in early 2018.

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/02/09/trans-pacific-partnership-us-out-and-china.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Is a Global Wide Cash Ban Coming?

by Graham Summers, Chief Market Strategist, Phoenix Capital Research

Zero Hedge (February 05 2017)

Anyone who has been paying attention over the last four years knows the Europe is ground zero for Central Planning insanity.

Europe was created as a union with open borders [and] with the open flow of capital. However, the elites have clearly demonstrated that they are willing to lie, cheat and steal in order to maintain their agenda.

Case in point, Europe has already seen:

1. The implementation of border and capital controls during a crisis (2012~2013).

2. The confiscation of bonds or savings deposits to “bail-in” insolvent entities (Netherlands in 2011, Spain in 2012, Cyprus in 2013).

3. The implementation of Negative Interest Rate Policy or NIRP in which savings are taxed by banks (2014 until today).

Put simply, Europe is where Central Planners in the developed world first implement their policies to see if they can get away with them.

Which is why the following should be on everyone’s radar.

 

 

Proposal for an EU Initiative on Restrictions on Payments in Cash

As preventing the anonymity linked to cash payments is the main driver, the objective can be attained by restricting cash payments through an EU legislative instrument, and thereby forcing payments through means that are not anonymous (bank transfers, checks, et cetera). But the same objective could also be attained by, while still allowing unrestricted cash payments, imposing a declaration to a competent authority. This would allow the continuous reliance on cash payments, with its benefits in terms of simplicity and cost.

http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/roadmaps/docs/plan_2016_028_cash_re… {1}

 

 

Put simply, Europe is now proposing a potential “threshold” on cash payments for the EU as a whole.

Individual EU member countries have already passed similar laws: France has banned any transaction over 1,000 euros from using physical cash. Spain has banned transactions over 2,500 euros. Germany is now proposing banning cash from transactions of 5,000 euros or higher.

However, the above proposal marks the first such proposal for a cash ban that would exist across the entire EU.

As we have been stressing for the last few months, the elites war on cash is not over, by any means. If anything it’s about to intensify.

Indeed … we’ve uncovered a secret document outlining how the US Federal Reserve plans to incinerate savings.

We detail this paper and outline three investment strategies you can implement right now to protect your capital from the Fed’s sinister plan in our Special Report “Survive the Fed’s War on Cash”. We are making 1,000 copies available for FREE the general public. To pick up yours: {2}.

Links:

{1} http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/roadmaps/docs/plan_2016_028_cash_restrictions_en.pdf

{2} http://www.phoenixcapitalmarketing.com/cash.html

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-02-05/global-wide-cash-ban-coming

Categories: Uncategorized

The Reason the Elite Hate Trump So Much

He Is Opposed to the One World Agenda of the Globalists

by Michael Snyder via The End of The American Dream blog

Zero Hedge (February 10 2017)

Have you ever wondered why the elite hate Donald Trump so much? There have certainly been many politicians throughout the years that have been disliked, but with Trump there is a hatred that is so intense that it almost seems tangible at times. During the campaign, they went to extraordinary lengths to destroy him, but it didn’t work. And now that he is president, the attacks against him have been absolutely relentless. So why is there so much animosity toward Trump? Is it just because he is not a member of their club?

The truth, of course, is that it runs much deeper than that. Ultimately, the elite hate Trump because he is opposed to their demonic one world agenda. Many among the elite are referred to as “globalists” because their eventual goal is to unite the whole world under a single planetary system. These globalists truly believe that they know better than all the rest of us, and they want to impose their way of doing things on every man, woman and child on the entire planet.

So they get really angry when Donald Trump talks of “building a wall” or establishing a travel ban from certain countries because they eventually want a world without any borders at all.

And they get really angry when Donald Trump says that he wants to pull the United States out of international trade deals, because the elite were using those international trade deals to slowly integrate all nations into a single one world economy.

And they really don’t like when Donald Trump criticizes Islam, because Islam is going to be a key component of the one world religion that they plan to establish.

For quite a while the globalists were on a roll, but recently they have experienced some tremendous setbacks. Britain’s vote to leave the EU and the election of Donald Trump were not supposed to happen, and this has left many globalists searching for answers. In fact, just today I came across a New York Times article entitled “Besieged Globalists Ponder What Went Wrong” {1} …

 

 

Until recently, you didn’t hear people being referred to as “globalist” very often. But in a time of rising nationalism, those who see the upside of globalism have become a distinct – and often embattled – tribe.

Last week, the globalists had a big family reunion in New York. The gathering was focused on the United Nations General Assembly {2}, but a growing array of side conferences and summits and dinners also attracted concerned internationalists of every stripe: humanitarians, leaders of nongovernmental organizations, donors, investors, app peddlers, celebrities.

 

 

As you can see, even The New York Times uses the term “globalists” to describe these elitists.

At one time you would have been considered a “conspiracy theorist” is you spoke of “globalists”, but at this point the elite are not even trying to put up a facade any longer.

And of course Donald Trump made opposition to globalism one of the central themes of his campaign, and it really struck a chord all across America. As Dr Jim Garlow noted in an article that went viral just before the election {3}, Trump’s opposition to globalism was one of the key things that set him apart from Hillary Clinton …

 

 

Trump opposes globalism. Hillary thrives on it. Globalism is far more than “geographical” or “eliminating national borders and boundaries”. It is spiritual and demonic at its core. Few – very few – understand this. This is quite likely one of the main reasons why Trump is hated. Do your homework on this one. Think “principalities and powers”. Serious. Extremely serious.

 

 

The reason why the threat of globalism is so serious is because if a single global system is ever established there will be no escape from it.

Just think about it – where could you go to escape a government that literally rules the entire world?

These globalists are completely convinced that if they could just get control of everyone and everything that they could establish some sort of environmentally-friendly socialist utopia where war and poverty are eradicated. But in order to do that, they would need to be in a position to micro-manage the lives of every single person on the planet.

In their minds it would not be tyranny, but for those of us that love freedom that is precisely what it would be.

The globalists want a one world government, a one world economy and a one world religion. Those of us that are Christians know that the Bible speaks of a time when this will happen, but even many that are not Christians are deeply concerned about what the globalists are pushing for. Just consider the words of George Mason University Law School Professor Jeremy Rabkin {4} …

 

 

George Mason University Law School Professor and author of the 2004 book The Case for Sovereignty: Why The World Should Welcome American Independence {5} Jeremy Rabkin argues that globalism fundamentally stands at odds with democratic forms of government.

In a Tuesday CP interview, Rabkin, a Jew, expressed his distaste for Donald Trump. But on globalism, he said, “beyond that it is not democratic, there’s something about it that is a little creepy, a little uncanny”.

“It’s basically saying ‘We are going to organize the world in a way that establishes an artificial consensus’. It’s not enough to say it’s undemocratic. It’s threatening; it’s almost demonic. It is a world organized independently of people’s fundamental religious convictions”, Rabkin said.

 

 

I think that when Rabkin chose the word “demonic” that he was right on point.

The global elite have already had a tremendous amount of success in promoting values, systems and laws that are “anti-Christian” around the globe.

The globalists control the mainstream media, they control Hollywood, they control our education system and they control most of our politicians.

They thought that they were almost ready to move into the final stages of their agenda, but then Donald Trump happened.

For the moment, the momentum toward a one world system has been stopped cold.

But that doesn’t mean that the globalists will stop trying. Just because Trump won the election does not mean that they are going to roll over and die.

The elite are going to use all of the resources at their disposal to try to destroy Trump, even if that means creating a tremendous amount of chaos.

If you study the globalists, you will quickly discover that one of their favorite tactics is to create order out of chaos. So in the months ahead I think that it is quite likely that we may see quite a bit of chaos as the globalists attempt to get their program back on track.

But if we understand what they are doing, we will be able to see through their games. So let’s keep shining a light on these globalists, because they always prefer to operate in the darkness.

Links:

{1} https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/27/us/politics/globalism-un-assembly-nationalism-populism.html?_r=2

{2} http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/g/general_assembly/index.html?inline=nyt-org

{3} http://www.charismanews.com/politics/opinion/59206-if-you-re-on-the-fence-about-your-vote-this-pastor-clarifies-how-the-very-future-of-america-is-at-stake

{4} http://www.christianpost.com/news/globalism-antichrist-demonic-theologians-wallace-henley-fay-voshell-jim-garlow-jeremy-rabkin-170131/

{5} http://amzn.to/2k9tCsP

http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/the-reason-the-elite-hate-trump-so-much-is-because-he-is-opposed-to-the-one-world-agenda-of-the-globalists

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-02-10/reason-elite-hate-trump-so-much-he-opposed-one-world-agenda-globalists

Categories: Uncategorized

From New World Order …

… to Hazy Global Disorder

by Wayne Madsen via Strategic Culture Foundation

Zero Hedge (February 10 2017)

The Donald Trump administration and the Brexit severance of ties between the United Kingdom and the European Union have, in a matter of a little over a half year, changed the world from a post-Cold War “new world order” based on American supremacy to a global “disorder” of altered alliances on a multipolar geo-political chessboard. In many respects, the new global disorder has also placed in jeopardy various post-World War Two contrivances, including Nato, the Organization of American States (“OAS”), and the Australia-New Zealand-United States (“ANZUS”) alliance.

Every international relations textbook and playbook can be thrown away with the advent of the new global disorder. Trump has kicked off his foreign policy by introducing an incoherent foreign policy. On one hand, Trump claims he wants to partner with Russia on the war against “radical Islamic terrorism”. Yet, Trump has also indicated, through his UN ambassador Nicky Haley and Defense Secretary James Mattis, that he is committed to Nato and wants Russia to withdraw from Crimea. It is well known that the annual National Football League’s Super Bowl coordinates its patriotic military-oriented events with the Pentagon. In recent past years, US troops serving in places like Afghanistan and Iraq were featured during and after the game on the host stadium’s jumbotron television screens.

The 2017 Super Bowl in Houston was different. This year the live shot of US troops with the 3rd Brigade Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, was from a military base in Zagan, Poland. The Pentagon’s psychological operations specialists wanted to convey the message that under Trump, the new US front lines were no longer in Afghanistan and Iraq in a war against Muslim radical insurgents but in Poland with Russia as the new “enemy”. The optics simply do not match Trump’s statements about seeking closer ties with Russia.

Trump has indicated he hopes to increase the US “defense” budget to accommodate a 90,000 troop increase in Army ranks; a 350-ship Navy, including new aircraft carriers at $12 billion per vessel; an increase in Marine Corps battalions from 23 to 36; and 100 additional advanced fighter planes for the Air Force. That is equivalent to an increase in the military budget from $500 billion to $1 trillion over a ten-year period.

Essentially, Trump’s national security team desires a military that can fight both Russia and China and that can be able to match every Russian and Chinese warplane, tank, and naval vessel in a battle space.

Trump and his national security team of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Mattis, and other war hawks are also laying the ground for a military confrontation with Iran. Team Trump has helped ratchet up tensions with Iran by authorizing the sale to Saudi Arabia of $300 million worth of precision-guided missiles and billions of dollars of advanced F-16 fighters to Saudi Arabia’s vassal state of Bahrain. These packages were suspended by the Obama administration because of Saudi war crimes in Yemen and Bahrain’s bloody suppression of its Shi’a majority. Trump is greenlighting continued Saudi genocidal aggression in Yemen’s civil war. The Saudis and Bahrainis are now being positioned by Trump to gain a military advantage over Iran. Trump’s executive order banning Iraqis with valid US visas, refugee documents, and, originally, permanent US resident “green cards”, irritated the Iraqi government, an ally of Iran, to the point that it vowed to limit Iraqi visas for US contractors and journalists. That will only embolden Islamic State and Al Qaeda irregulars fighting US military forces in the country. Anything that threatens the Baghdad government is welcome news to the Saudi regime.

Trump, in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, emphasized close US-Turkish relations. In July 2016, after an attempted coup against Erdogan, Trump, in an interview with The New York Times, praised Erdogan’s handling of the insurrection. Since the coup attempt, Erdogan has ordered the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of journalists, military and police officers, professors, civil servants, politicians, and businessmen for allegedly supporting the so-called Fethullah Terrorist Organization (“FETO”), a pejorative term for those affiliated with Turkish exile leader and former Erdogan ally Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen is currently exiled in Pennsylvania and has been under the protection of the Central Intelligence Agency. However, Flynn and others part of the Trump security apparatus favor extraditing Gulen, a political refugee, to Turkey to face trial and certain imprisonment, torture, and possibly, execution.

Trump’s dalliance with Erdogan will also jeopardize the safety of the Kurdish forces in Syria, which have been allied with the United States against the Islamic State, and the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil in Iraq. Turkey considers the Syrian and Iraqi Kurds to be supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (“PKK”) and if Trump sides with Erdogan against Kurdistan it will represent another double-cross by Washington of that beleaguered unrecognized nation. US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger abandoned the Kurds in the 1970s when he sacrificed their interests to the Iraqi military regime.

Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon is believed to have gotten involved in an internal “civil war” within the Vatican and which saw a virtual takeover of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (“SMOM”) in Rome by Pope Francis. Bannon opposes what he considers the Pope’s “socialist ways”. The Vatican may be a micro-state without a grand army, but a fracture in Vatican-Washington relations can only have a negative impact on the EU, Nato, and other traditional alliances.

Trump’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) trade deal has thrown the Asia-Pacific region into “controlled chaos”. Mattis’s first foreign trip as Secretary of Defense was to reassure South Korea and Japan of America’s military commitment. But the abandonment of the TPP by its largest cheerleader, the United States, has provided impetus to China’s alternative trading bloc, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (“RCEP”). America’s longtime ally Australia, a supporter of the TPP, is now anxious to join the RCEP. Trump’s bellicose phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee swap, has Australia incensed with Trump. While they are friendly adversaries with Australia over sports and national pride, New Zealand came to Australia’s defense in its spat with Trump. The bottom line is that the ANZUS alliance is now severely damaged but, in any event, it had long outlived its usefulness.

Other testy phone exchanges between Trump and German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande also shook Euro-Atlantic bonds with Washington. Trump thundered to Hollande that the French and other Nato countries should pay the US back for Nato expenditures. European Council president Donald Tusk called Trump a “threat” to the European Union.

After a meeting at the White House with Jordan’s King Abdullah, Trump shocked the Israeli government when he told Israel that it should stop announcing new settlements in the West Bank. While Trump’s rhetoric suggests that he is the most pro-Israeli president to ever occupy the White House, his mercurial attitude toward Israel has some Middle East observers wondering whether Trump’s promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is merely window-dressing for a different US policy in the region.

The venerable, but relatively staid and useless OAS, headquartered in Washington, is not likely to survive Trump’s promise to build a wall on the US-Mexican border or his saber-rattling toward Cuba, which has returned to the OAS and the Inter-American political system. Latin America and the Caribbean have more worthwhile alternatives to the OAS, including the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, Southern Common Market (“MERCOSUR”), and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (“CELAC”), all of which are free of US membership and influence.

It is a new global disorder but in this chaos, a return to a multipolar world and the end of “sole US superpower” status may be a blessing in the long run. In the short run, however, the chaos will confuse every foreign ministry and international organization bureaucracy on every continent.

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/02/10/from-new-world-order-hazy-global-disorder.html

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-02-10/new-world-order-hazy-global-disorder

Categories: Uncategorized

Cash No Longer King

Europe Accelerates Move to Begin Elimination of Paper Money

by Shaun Bradley via TheAntiMedia.org {1}

Zero Hedge (February 10 2017)

In the shadow of Donald Trump’s spree of controversial actions, the European commission has quietly launched the next offensive in the war on cash. These unelected bureaucrats have boldly asserted their intention to crack down on paper transactions across the EU and solidify a trend that has been gaining momentum for years.

The financial uncertainty amplified by Brexit has incentivized governments throughout Europe to seize further control over their banking systems. France and Spain {2} have already criminalized cash transactions above a certain limit, but now the commission has unilaterally established new regulations {3} that will affect the entire union. The fear of physical money flowing out of the trade bloc has manifested a draconian response from the State.

The European Action Plan {3} doesn’t mention a specific dollar amount for restrictions, but as expected, their reasoning for the move is to thwart money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Border checks between countries have already been bolstered {4} to help implement these new standards on hard assets. Although these end goals are plausible, there are other clear motivations for governments to target paper money that aren’t as noble.

Negative interest rates {5} and high inflation {6} are a deadly combination that could further destabilize the already fragile union in the future. With less physical currency circulating, these trends ensure that the impact of any additional central bank policies {7} will be maximized. If economic conditions deteriorate, the threat of citizens pulling cash out of their accounts and starting a bank run {8} is eliminated in a cashless system. So long as the people’s wealth is under centralized control, funds can be shifted at will to conceal any underlying problems. But the longer this shell game is allowed to persist, the more painful it will be when reality overrides the manipulation.

Since former Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”), Kenneth Rogoff {9}, published a paper last year advocating for the US $100 bill to be removed, governments around the world have pushed forward their agendas towards a cashless society. He wrote {9}:

 

 

There is little debate among law-enforcement agencies that paper currency, especially large notes such as the US $100 bill, facilitates crime: racketeering, extortion, money laundering, drug and human trafficking, the corruption of public officials, not to mention terrorism. There are substitutes for cash – cryptocurrencies, uncut diamonds, gold coins, prepaid cards – but for many kinds of criminal transactions, cash is still king. It delivers absolute anonymity, portability, liquidity and near-universal acceptance.

 

 

This announcement comes just months after the 500 euro note was discontinued {10}, and it follows India’s {11} lead in subverting the financial independence of their citizens. The incremental steps currently being taken may look trivial in isolation, but the ultimate end is to lay the foundation for an entire network for economic repression.

The German people have placed themselves in strong opposition to the action and previously pushed back {12} hard against domestic legislation that would have limited cash. Nearly eighty percent of all transactions in Germany are made with paper currency, putting Europe’s economic engine in direct conflict with the vision coming out of Brussels.

The spillover effect has affected new forms of investment, like Bitcoin, which witnessed an astronomical rise {13} over the last months and has been brought back into the discussion as a viable alternative to fiat currencies. Of course, the EU Commission is also attempting to impose similar limitations on crypto-currencies {14} to make sure no transactions fall outside of their domain. The ECB and BOJ {15} are working towards a trojan horse blockchain network that will serve only to entrap those naive enough to trust it.

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers wrote {16} last year that the EU would likely be the trailblazer of the West towards this new digital model:

 

 

But a moratorium on printing new high denomination notes would make the world a better place. In terms of unilateral steps, the most important actor by far is the European Union. The 500 euro is almost six times as valuable as the $100. Some actors in Europe, notably the European Commission, have shown sympathy for the idea and European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi has shown interest as well.

 

 

Since the public’s attention has been drawn to emotional manipulations and political stunts, the threat the war on cash represents has gone unrecognized. Instead of feeding energy into systems meant to divide and conquer, individuals must educate themselves to secure their own financial futures. By submitting to the hive mind and following the media down whichever rabbit hole they choose, the most important issues of today will go unnoticed. The value of advocating for decentralized {17} and physical {18} alternatives to the banking system may not be easily grasped by the activists of today, but few other things have the potential to erode freedom on such a massive scale.

Links:

{1} http://theantimedia.org/cash-europe-moves-elimination-paper-money/

{2} http://www.europe-consommateurs.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/eu-consommateurs/PDFs/PDF_EN/Limit_for_cash_payments_in_EU.pdf

{3} http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/roadmaps/docs/plan_2016_028_cash_restrictions_en.pdf

{4} http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-eu-security-financing-idUKKBN14A17P

{5} http://fortune.com/2016/03/14/negative-interest-rates-european-central-bank/

{6} http://www.cnbc.com/2016/10/13/inflation-in-venezuela-seen-hitting-1500-in-2017-as-crisis-goes-from-bad-to-worse.html

{7} https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-07-07/lautenschlaeger-says-ecb-should-consider-qe-only-in-emergency

{8} http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bankrun.asp

{9} https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-sinister-side-of-cash-1472137692?mg=id-wsj

{10} https://www.wsj.com/articles/500-euro-banknote-being-phased-out-1462381987

{11} http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-india-currency-20161115-story.html

{12} https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/08/german-plan-prohibit-large-5000-cash-transactions-fierce-resistance

{13} http://www.businessinsider.com/bitcoin-price-rises-against-the-dollar-on-december-28-2016-12

{14} http://www.coindesk.com/european-commission-transaction-limits-digital-currencies/

{15} http://asia.nikkei.com/Tech-Science/Tech/BOJ-ECB-team-up-on-blockchain-research

{16} https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/16/its-time-to-kill-the-100-bill/?utm_term=.d82e5aa167cd

{17} http://www.forbes.com/sites/laurashin/2016/06/02/4-reasons-why-bitcoin-represents-a-new-asset-class/

{18} http://www.investopedia.com/university/safety-and-income/real-assets.asp

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-02-10/cash-no-longer-king-europe-accelerates-move-begin-elimination-paper-money

Categories: Uncategorized

Game-Changers Ahead …

… on The (Long) Maritime Silk Road

by Pepe Escobar

CounterPunch (February 03 2017)

From the Bab al-Mandab to the strait of Malacca, from the strait of Hormuz to the strait of Lombok, all the way to the key logistical hub of Diego Garcia 2,500 miles southeast of Hormuz, the question pops up: How will the unpredictable new normal in Washington – which is not exactly China-friendly – affect the wider Indian Ocean?

At play are way more than key chokepoints in an area that straddles naval supply chains and through which also flows almost forty percent of the oil that powers Asian-Pacific economies. This is about the future of the Maritime Silk Road, a key component of the Chinese One Belt, One Road (“OBOR”), and thus about how Big Power politics will unfold in a key realm of the Rimland.

India imports almost eighty percent of its energy from the Middle East via the Indian Ocean. Thus, for Delhi, protection of supply chains must be the norm, as in the current drive to develop three carrier battle groups and at least 160 naval vessels, including submarines, before 2022. That also implies boosting a cooperation agreement with the nations bordering the strait of Malacca – Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia – and developing military infrastructure in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

China for its part advances a relentless economic / infrastructural drive from Myanmar to Pakistan, from Bangladesh to the Maldives, from Sri Lanka to Djibouti – a counterbalance to the impossibility of fully implementing “escape from Malacca”, the complex, multi-pronged Beijing strategy for diversifying energy supplies.

The privileged infrastructure connectivity hub remains the megaport of Gwadar in the Arabian Sea – which will be controlled for the next forty years by a Chinese company. Gwadar is the naval destination of the US$46 billion (and counting) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (“CPEC”) originating in Xinjiang, which will be the economic New Silk Roads game-changer in South Asia.

This implies everyone jumping aboard the new Karakoram highway, currently under construction in Pakistan’s sublimely mountainous northern Gilgit-Baltistan, with the military watching over a frantic maze of Chinese engineers.

Islamabad/Rawalpindi took no prisoners in offering a sprawling support system to prevent possible interference by Uighur separatist groups. For all practical purposes, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (“ISI”) is now focused on resident Uighurs in Pakistan like a laser, while not forgetting Balochistan’s separatist groups, who, with the right “incentive”, might also derail CPEC further on down the road.

Beijing treads a very fine – soft power – line. Islamabad offered the Chinese Navy a base in Gwadar, but was politely declined: the graphic message would totally freak out both Delhi and Washington. Gwadar will be inevitably developed over time as a trade hub for a vast swathe of South Asia, but Delhi’s anxieties relate to its virtually ready-to-roll capability for monitoring the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean and the US Navy in the Persian Gulf.

Go North-South, Young Eurasian

Gwadar happens to be not far away from Chabahar, in Iran – which is being designed as an Indian trade hub towards the markets of Central Asia, connecting India with Afghanistan via Iran and thus bypassing Pakistan. That’s the Southern – or Indian – Silk Road in action. Gwadar and Chabahar are the top two new hubs bound to link the Indian Ocean to central Eurasia, with Iran, India and Russia featuring as key members of the slowly-developing but potentially spectacular International North-South Transport Corridor (“INSTC”).

Moreover, Iran, China and India may all eventually converge towards a free trade zone with the Russia-led Eurasia Economic Union (“EEU”), as the CPEC for its part will allow Russia and Central Asia to boost trade with the Indian Ocean Rimland.

Then there’s the fascinating case of Sri Lanka. According to the
Institute of Policy Studies in Sri Lanka, from 2006 to 2015 China invested over US$5 billion, with Sri Lanka’s minister of development strategies and international trade adding that China has pledged over US$10 billion more up to 2019.

The key project is the deep-sea port at Hambantota – plus an international airport in nearby Mattala. Sri Lanka struck a deal with China Merchants Port Holdings at the end of 2016 to sell eighty percent of Hambantota for US$1.1 billion and to lease 15,000 acres of nearby land for 99 years.

Needless to add, the proverbial “concern” with this Chinese win-win was registered in both Delhi and Washington. The possibility that China will eventually acquire a permanent naval military base in the Indian Ocean is a full-time obsession of US Think Tankland. Colombo, though, has always been adamant: Chinese-financed infrastructure does not imply basing rights for the Chinese Navy.

In fact, any Chinese move – from leasing a Maldives island for fifty years for US$4 million to building a military base in Djibouti (officially a base for “technical and logistical support” to the Chinese Navy) by the end of 2017, close to the Americans and the French, is a source of “concern”.

Where China in South Asia is concerned, the Pentagon / Naval War College always fall back to the “string of pearls” threat. Especially now with the Maritime Silk Road, a “string of pearls” is a categorical imperative for Beijing. But that does not imply Chinese military hegemony.

For Beijing, conscious of cost-efficiency, the logistical nightmare of maintaining naval bases in foreign lands far, far away from the Middle Kingdom is definitely not a win-win. So the notion of having a Chinese carrier battle group in the Indian Ocean ready to confront the Indian Navy is idle geostrategic speculation. The very long game is all about establishing key trade nodes for the Maritime Silk Road.

I Got a Naval Offer You Can’t Refuse

It will be fascinating to watch how mechanisms such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (“SAARC”) develop.

Let’s see what Delhi – deeply committed to an official Make in India campaign – may offer in the way of “free” markets to Nepal (which is leaning towards China), Bangladesh (always in a complex relationship with Pakistan) and Sri Lanka.

Since 2008, China has been India’s largest trading partner. China and India will be involved in deeper cooperation inside the BRICS, and in managing the New Development Bank (“NDB”). Moreover, India is about to become a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

The notion of Delhi reigning supreme in the Indian Ocean is misguided. From now on, with the emphasis on the Maritime Silk Road, it will be more a case of serious India-China economic competition and/or cooperation, as both countries invest in the protection/expansion of their extensive, complex supply chains.

The Pentagon, under James “Mad Dog” Mattis, will, of course, be watching closely. India’s NDTV recently reported that the US Pacific Command had tacitly admitted the obvious: that the US and India are sharing intel on Chinese warships and submarines in the Indo-Pacific. Moreover, there was a hint that Beijing could deploy a carrier battle group in the Indian Ocean today if it saw fit.

It’s unlikely Beijing will accept the challenge – just to be slapped with more charges of “Chinese aggression” and “threatening freedom of navigation”. Better invest in non-stop, cumulative Maritime Silk Road deals.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/03/game-changers-ahead-on-the-long-maritime-silk-road/

Categories: Uncategorized