"It's Very Apocalyptic": Workers Return To Untouched Office 'Time-Capsules' 4 Months After Locking-Down
"It's Very Apocalyptic": Workers Return To Untouched Office 'Time-Capsules' 4 Months After Locking-Down Tyler Durden Sat, 08/08/2020 - 09:55 In many ways, lockdowns and quarantines have become "the new normal". Which is why it's eerie to return back to offices several months after they were abandoned for a glimpse as to what life was like prior to the pandemic. Kevin Dorse, a communications professional in Ottawa, told Bloomberg: “It was like opening the lamest time capsule imaginable.” Offices were scattered with winter clothes, expired food products, calendars on the month of March and newspapers proclaiming "the worst stock market crash in decades," the article notes. As we know now, things have changed wildly since then - well, at least for the stock market. But the trickling back to the office is starting to become a reality around the country as a few brave workers dare to head back into the abandoned and deserted buildings. In the last week of July, only 6.9% of employees had returned to offices in Manhattan that are managed by CBRE Group, Inc., the company said. As restrictions start to lift, some people are braving returning to pre-pandemic life, taking to the subway like normal and making their way to their old office digs for the first time in months. The spaces are "exactly as they left them" back in March, Bloomberg notes. Jennifer Wallner, the events manager for the War Memorial Center, said she had to cancel a year's worth of activities. Upon returning to the office, she was greeted with flyers for an event - VetFest - that was supposed to take place on July 30, including 1940s style music and war reenactors. We're sorry we'll miss it this year. “That was really a punch in the gut. Our year just went from all of these exciting events that we were thrilled about. They were going to be great. And here they are just sitting in a pile of garbage,” she commented. Michael Arciero, an investment banking analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., was a little more upbeat. He was excited to find six dress shirts in a dry cleaning bag at his desk at his Manhattan office. Winter coats were still everywhere, he said. Other workers are finding their browser tabs on their computer were still where they were three months ago. One Microsoft employee said his work computer still had a page open from March that said “15 days to slow the spread of coronavirus.” Rebecca Buckman, vice president of marketing communications at venture-capital firm Battery Ventures LP, was greeted upon her return to the office with copies of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times from March. She commented: “It was a little bit eerie. People had just left things. There was still food in the fridge. But the most striking thing was the newspapers.” Tony Knopp, chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based software company TicketManager, has been going into the office by himself after sending his workers home, since March. He said: “It feels like ‘I Am Legend’ or 'The Walking Dead'. It’s very apocalyptic. If I don’t go in for a few days, I open the door and it pushes a stack of mail. And nothing moves. Whatever I need, I grab from someone else’s desk. We’ve run out of batteries, so now I just go to another desk and grab batteries out of their keyboard.” Lewis Parker, a strategy director at a communication agency in London, said: “Even though it was only at the start of March, it felt like a lifetime ago. It felt incredibly abnormal to be back after so many months of home working.” And then there's notes like this one. Congressional office time capsule from ~mid March. Three and a half months later, it’s just under 29,000. pic.twitter.com/oWoKHX9bKF — Ian Mariani (@ian_mariani) June 29, 2020 Nick Case, director of athletic video communications at Charleston Southern University, concluded: “It felt like a different world. The warmth and energy that comes from having all our people there was gone.”
Bullion Banks Have "No Way Out" From Big Gold Shorts Tyler Durden Sat, 08/08/2020 - 09:20 Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com, There appears to be no way out for the bullion banks deteriorating $53bn short gold futures positions ($38bn net) on Comex. An earlier attempt between January and March to regain control over paper gold markets has backfired on the bullion banks. Unallocated gold account holders with LBMA member banks will shortly discover that that market is trading on vapour. According to the Bank for International Settlements, at the end of last year LBMA gold positions, the vast majority being unallocated, totalled $512bn — the London Mythical Bullion Market is a more appropriate description for the surprise to come. An awful lot of gold bulls are going to be disappointed when their unallocated bullion bank holdings turn to dust in the coming months — perhaps it’s a matter of a few weeks, perhaps only days — and synthetic ETFs will also blow up. The systemic demolition of paper gold and silver markets is a predictable catastrophe in the course of the collapse of fiat money’s purchasing power, for which the evidence is mounting. It is set to drive gold and silver much higher, or more correctly put, fiat currencies much lower. This is only the initial catalysing phase in the rapidly approaching death of fiat currencies. Introduction Measured in dollars, the current bull market for gold started in December 2015, since when the price in dollars has almost doubled. Other than the odd headline when gold exceeded its previous September 2011 high of $1920, only gold bugs seem to be excited. But in our modern macroeconomic world of government-issued currencies, which has moved on from the days when gold operated as a monetary standard, it is viewed as an anachronism; a pet rock, as Jason Zweig of the Wall Street Journal called it in 2015, only a few months before this bull market commenced. Despite almost doubling, Zweig’s view of gold is still mainstream. His comment follows the spirit of today’s macroeconomic hero, John Maynard Keynes, who called the gold standard a barbaric relic in his 1924 Tract on Monetary Reform. Keynes went on to invent macroeconomics on the back of his 1936 General Theory, and whether you profess to be Keynesian or not, as an investor you will almost certainly kowtow to macroeconomics. It has been well-nigh impossible to have a successful career in the investment industry unless you subscribed to inflationist Keynesian theories. You are required to substitute the economics of aggregates for those of the human action of individuals, upon which classical economics was based. And with it, you must unquestionably accept the state theory of money. Well, we are now witnessing the cataclysmic ending of the Keynesian fallacy; the destruction of macroeconomics in a systemic failure centred on paper markets for gold and silver. The rescue attempt has already failed You may have missed the establishment’s last-ditch attempt earlier this year to save itself. Figure 1 below shows its failure. Comex open interest peaked in January, when the gold contract was being overwhelmed by global demand. Never before had open interest been this high: the previous all-time record had been in July 2016, when it hit 658,000 contracts. At that time, the market had recovered strongly from a deeply oversold condition, the price rallying from the December low in our headline chart, from $1049 to $1380. That was successfully crushed with open interest taken down to 392,000 and the gold price to $1120. However, the take-down which commenced in earnest in January this year did not succeed. There is no question it was a coordinated attempt by the bullion bank establishment to contain a developing crisis. From its peak of 799,541 contracts on 15 January open interest fell to 553,030 on 23 March. Initially, the gold price continued rising to $1680 on 9 March, but by 18 March it finally reacted, falling to $1471 in only nine trading sessions. But while open interest went on to fall to 470,000 in early-June, the price exploded higher with unprecedented price premiums developing on Comex from 23 March onwards. The bullion banks’ short exposure net of longs on Comex in a rising market had risen to $35bn and the gross position was $53.5bn before the attempt to drive the market lower. Today, the respective figures are $38.3 and $53bn. The failure of this well-worn tactic precludes it from being used again. We look at the seriousness of the current position on Comex and the LBMA later in this article. The financial system depends entirely on inflationary fiat In the investment industry it is monetary debasement that gives you your living. For the rise in the general level of prices of financial assets, measured by various indices, is little more than a reflection of the loss of purchasing power of your state’s currency. The world has been enjoying the phenomenon particularly from the mid-1970s, four years after the last vestiges of Keynes’s barbarous relic, when President Nixon removed pet rocks from the monetary scene. A continual decline in the dollar’s purchasing power ensued. Apart from the occasional hiccup, from 1982 when the S&P500 Index rose from 291.34 to today’s 3,270 the general public has appeared to make money. It has not been an easy environment to convincingly challenge, being populated by group-thinkers believing their stock and property gains have been the consequence of their individual financial acumens. But one of those periodic hiccups is now upon us, threatening to be more disruptive than anything seen hitherto in our lifetimes, which the macroeconomists in the central banks and governments tell us will require virtually unlimited inflationary finance to resolve. The distinction between unlimited fiat currency being issued by the state compared with gold is important, because gold was always the money of the people, disliked by governments because its disciplines are limiting. History has always seen the right to issue money taken away from the failures of kings, emperors and governments and handed back to the people, so the empirical evidence is that it will happen again. But macroeconomists argue that their science is an advance on former economic science, so what went before is irrelevant. Therefore, so is gold. For these reasons, the investment industry is not attuned to gold. Physical gold is not even a regulated investment, which means that government regulators do not permit the funds they license to hold physical metal beyond, if permitted at all, a small exposure. The uncontentious position, taken by nearly all compliance officers, is for investment managers not to hold any. But besides mining stocks, today there are exchange-traded funds that do offer some investment exposure to gold for fund managers. Assuming, that is, they are willing to contradict the Keynesian views of their colleagues. But even then, the context is wrong. Gold is not an investment but money, driven out of circulation over the last hundred years by the steady encroachment of gold substitutes evolving into pure unbacked fiat. It is no one’s liability, unlike the dollar, for instance, backed only by the full faith and credit in the Donald — or will it be Joe Biden. In the case of the euro or the yen, with negative interest rates and having banking systems arguably on the point of collapse, their central banks are similarly committed to accelerating debauchment of their currencies. Even semi-official gold bugs, like the World Gold Council, promote gold as a portfolio investment, with its income arising from the securitisation of gold through the GLD ETF. An audience of professional investment managers, which subsists on an intellectual diet of macroeconomics, does not readily accept that gold is money, and if the World Gold Council argued that it is money and not an investment, they would doubtless fail to attract institutional investors. But an understanding that gold is money is a vital distinction. When you regard it as an investment, you expect to sell it when its positive trend ends. You assume your government’s currency will always have the objective transactional value and gold is the subjective variable. Accounting conventions force investment managers and advisors to ignore the reality that it is the currency failing and not the price of gold rising. Even the overwhelming majority of gold bugs cheer a rising gold price, instinctively treating it as an investment which rises in value, measured in fiat. The objective/subjective confusion is the most important concept to understand when it comes to gold. If the wider public begins to understand that measured in goods, the state’s currency is no longer fit for an objective role in day to day transactions, it will be doomed. For that marks the point where fiat money begins to be discarded, and the public then ultimately decides what is its preferred money. That is where all this is going. Forget currency resets In recent years, suggestions that a monetary reset, centred on the dollar, is planned by the monetary authorities have been made by a number of observers. Central bank research into blockchain solutions have added to this speculation, but a recent paper by the IMF shows there is no consensus in central banks as to how and for what purpose they would use digital currencies — the central banking version of cryptocurrencies. In any event, it is likely to take too long for a central bank digital currency to be implemented, given the speed with which monetary events are now unfolding. Empirical evidence suggests that once initiated, a fiat currency collapse happens in a matter of months. Today, the Fed has tightly bonded the future of financial asset values to the dollar — one goes and they both go. The credibility behind financial asset values is already stretched to the limit, and the inevitable collapse, taking fiat money with it, is likely to be sudden. As a side note, the last time a collapse in financial assets took the currency down in similar circumstances was exactly three hundred years ago — in 1720 when John Law’s Mississippi bubble failed. Interestingly, Richard Cantillon made his second fortune by shorting Law’s currency, the livre, and not his shares. His first fortune was made acting as a banker lending money to wealthy speculators taking in Mississippi shares as collateral, which he then promptly sold, pocketing the proceeds. An attempt at a currency reset, with or without blockchains, can only be contemplated after the public has begun to abandon existing currencies. But the speed with which events unfurl when fiat currencies die precludes advance planning of currency replacements. Any attempt to produce a new fiat money after the existing one has failed will also fail — rapidly. The idea that the state can take control of the valuation of a new currency in a fiat reset in order to make it durable is the ultimate conceit of macroeconomics, the denial of personal freedom to make choices in favour of the management of the aggregate. One of the specious arguments that arises time and again is that inflation reduces the true burden of debt. This is true for existing debt, but its advocates as a remedy for government indebtedness fail to understand that it also increases the cost of the government’s future debt. And while it similarly reduces the burden on private sector debtors, by destroying savings inflation leads to capital starvation and hampers any recovery. It is possible, and desirable, that the ills of fiat currencies will be properly addressed. But that will require an abandonment of inflationism, and a commitment to balanced budgets. It requires governments to rein in their spending, reducing their role in the economies they oversee. Statist interventions, both regulatory and mandated by law have to be axed, and full responsibility for their actions handed back to the people. And only then, sound money, preventing governments from reverting to their inflationary ways, can be successfully introduced. Assuming all this is possible, the only sound money is one with a track record and where governments have no control over it as a medium of exchange. In other words, metallic money. They will have no alternative to turning their currencies into substitutes fully convertible into gold, with silver in a subsidiary coinage role. Coins in both metals must be freely available on demand from all banks at the fixed rate of exchange for gold, and for silver equating to its monetary value. The circulation of gold and silver coins ensures the public fully understands their monetary role, thereby deterring future governments from inflationary policies. Bank credit must also be backed by gold, and not expanded by banks out of thin air. But the pervasive and mistaken beliefs in macroeconomics appear to be an unsurmountable impediment to an orderly change towards sound money. Imposing their fervent denial of economic reality, macroeconomists are in charge of both economic and monetary policy in America, Europe and Japan — and by extension those of almost all other nations. It is not even certain that a currency collapse will dislodge them from their position of power, prolonging the chaos that will ensue. Talk of a monetary reset only makes any sense if those doing the resetting understand what they are doing. And one thing will become immediately clear: the Americans, who stand to lose power over global affairs, will be the most reluctant of all nations to accept that the days of its hegemonic currency are numbered and that a return to a credible gold standard is the only solution. Transition pains on Comex Only through knowledge of why fiat currencies’ days are numbered can one understand what is happening to the gold price. For now, those who do not appreciate the fallacies behind macroeconomics and think of gold as an investment see gold’s move from December 2015 as a bull market which sooner or later will probably come to an end — perhaps when interest rates or bond yields rise. But those who see gold as sound money and no one else’s counterparty risk will understand that a rising price for gold should be regarded as part and parcel of a fall in the purchasing power of their fiat currency. In fact, it is a change of purchasing power for both. As fiat money loses purchasing power, gold gains it disproportionately because of its relative scarcity, while the collapse in fiat money progresses. In the increasingly likely event that fiat currencies will lose all function as money, measured in them the gold price will trend to infinity. It is now difficult to see how the dollar can avoid this outcome, or something close to it. That being the case, in this context a price move for gold above $2000 per ounce is an insignificant event, except for those trapped with short positions, which brings us to the chaos on the Comex futures market. Figure 2 shows the position in US gold futures markets on 28 July (the last Commitment of Traders information available) with the spread positions removed. The swaps are bullion bank trading desks, which typically take positions across more than one derivative market, notably London forwards settling unallocated accounts. Together with the Producers and Merchants category, they almost always run net short positions on Comex. Producers, miners and their agents acting for them, hedge against falls in the gold price and make up the bulk of the short positions in their category. Merchants, typically jewellers and buyers for industrial and other purposes, hedge against price rises by holding long contracts. The concept of futures markets did not originally include banks in the non-speculative category, because futures markets were a means for farmers to unburden themselves from price risk, due to seasonal factors, to speculators willing to take the risk upon themselves. However, banks managed to persuade the CME to be categorised as non-speculators, on the basis they often acted as agents for producers in non-agricultural contracts. And in gold, which is what concerns us, they also ran positions in London which they wished to hedge on Comex. But as has been seen in Figure 2, the bullion banks now account for 70% of the shorts, when in the past they would typically account for significantly less. And as we show later in this article, they have no physical gold in London to hedge. The result is their gross short position of 262,796 contracts is now an uncovered commitment of $53bn spread between 27 traders. Figure 3 puts this in an historical context over the last ten years. Bullion banks’ shorts net of longs (the blue line) are at record levels, and gross shorts are almost at record highs, only exceeded at the beginning of the year when open interest had risen to an unprecedented level of 799,541 contracts on 15 January. On the speculator side, the dominant category is nearly always Managed Money, which is predominantly hedge fund traders. They are rarely interested in taking delivery and will close or roll their positions. They are nearly always biased to the buy-side, and over the long term have averaged a net long position of about 112,000 contracts, which we can call the neutral position. But currently, they are an unusual minority 42% of the speculator longs and are only moderately positioned above their neutral net long average. Far from being the masters of the investment universe, hedge funds have proved to be an easy target for the bullion banks, regularly spooking them out of their long positions. And by acting in the fashion of committed macroeconomists, hedge funds have used the current strength in the gold price to take profits, reducing net longs from the previous week’s COT report by 21,362 contracts. They seem unaware of or disinterested in a bigger picture. Furthermore, at 42,758, the level of their short contracts is above average, which could contribute to the bear squeeze in the coming weeks as they realise their mistake. The Other Reportable category is for traders that do not fit into the other three categories described above. The longs in this category are close to a previous record level, which was on 24 March at 158,963 contracts. Unusually that was recorded two business days after the market turned higher following the price collapse in early March from $1700 to $1455. We can therefore count the Other Reportable category as smart money, at least in the current climate, less likely to be shaken out of their positions by swap dealers trying to trigger stops. We can only conclude that swap dealers have not only ended up nearly record short, but the liquidity on Comex provided by hedge funds, which normally enables them to close their shorts, is restricted. Furthermore, mark-to-market losses come at a time when their banks’ wider operations are cutting back on risk exposure to financial commitments where they can. But these near-record losses are likely to increase significantly as central bank money-printing accelerates in an attempt to prevent an economic slump and to maintain financial asset prices. If something else does not break before, a full-scale banking crisis could evolve from the paper gold market. The authorities can be expected to do everything to avoid a failure on Comex, because the damage to the wider market would be extremely serious. Instead, banking members of the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) would probably be expected to bid up the gold price in the forward market in an attempt to square their books and for banks to swallow the losses. That cannot happen as will be explained in the next section. In short, over the coming weeks, we can expect a transition phase as the crisis refocuses on London’s forward settlement market, which is the casino hidden from view. London’s hidden liabilities Trading in London for forward settlement is a far larger market than Comex. According to the Bank for International Settlements, at the end of 2019, the notional amount of over the counter (OTC) gold forwards and swaps outstanding stood at $512bn, which compares with Comex open interest of $120bn on the same day, noting that open interest at 786,166 futures contracts at that time was an elevated level. The London Bullion Market Association makes great play of its liquidity, in its last press release claiming total physical backing for its forward market was 8,424 tonnes in April. But of that total, 5,464 tonnes are gold vaulted at the Bank of England, of which perhaps 95% is earmarked for central banks and foreign exchequers. We have discovered from the SPDR Gold Trust’s quarterly filing with the SEC (the GLD ETF) that 45.91 tonnes of its gold was held at the Bank of England on 27 April. The fact that GLD’s custodian, HSBC, was forced to use the Bank of England as a sub-custodian suggests a serious lack of available bullion in LBMA member vaults. To explore this issue, Table 1 below shows the notional bullion position in London, confirming the lack of free float. While admittedly simplistic, these figures show that there is no liquidity in London. According to the World Gold Council, total ETF physical holdings at end-April were 3,364 tonnes, of which, according to Paul Mylchreest’s Hardman report, over 70% is vaulted in London, or 2,390 tonnes in Table 1. To this figure must be added gold privately vaulted by sovereign wealth funds, institutions, family offices and agglomerating businesses on behalf of retail customers. These bullion stocks are held with the vaulting companies (Brinks, G4S, Loomis and Malca-Amit), and are likely to amount to a further 400-500 tonnes. Since April, ETF holdings have increased by a further 387 tonnes, of which we will again assume over 70%, 275 tonnes, is stored in London (24 July – source WGC). While there are some guesses concerning underlying changes in these figures since end-April, they could easily result in a negative figure, as Table 1 suggests. Furthermore, if ETF and private demand for bullion escalate further a crisis in London is bound to emerge. It is here that the Bank of England might have intervened by leaning on its central bank clients to lease some of their earmarked gold – vide the 45.91 tonnes reported to be held for the GLD ETF in April. But there is a further problem: the notional lease rate has been negative since March, which means that a central bank leasing at the market rate has to pay the lessee for the privilege. This suggests that leasing can only occur if market rates are ignored and a fee is paid instead. It is important to note that under a lease agreement, ownership remains with the lessor. Gold leased through the agency of the Bank of England is unlikely to leave the Bank’s vaults, merely credited through book-entries to lessees. Therefore, for the lessor there is no counterparty risk because if the lessee defaults, the Bank of England merely reallocates the bullion back to the lessor. But in a wider bullion crisis, the double counting of bullion “ownership” through leasing will be exposed, the liabilities falling entirely on the bullion banks. Holders of the GLD ETF should seek confirmation that none of its gold in the Bank’s vaults is so leased. The alternative to central banks providing liquidity is unthinkable: that bullion banks obtain their liquidity by illegally using bullion held in their custody. Unfortunately, suspicions are compounded by the LBMA’s secrecy over market operations, only releasing selected information when it is no longer relevant. The LBMA’s press releases are also misleading; headlining total gold vaulted in London creates the impression of physical liquidity, which is patently untrue. For their wealthier customers, bullion banks offer gold accounts in two forms: allocated and unallocated. They are discouraged from opening an allocated account, through expensive fees, notionally covering the vaulting and insurance of physical metal and administrative costs. The real reason is that banks prefer their customers to open unallocated accounts, encouraging them with minimal fees, because these can be fractionally reserved if they are reserved at all. In other words, a bullion bank can hold enough just enough gold to cover the random demands for withdrawals. But as Table 1 above demonstrates, not even that physical liquidity now exists. While physical settlement involving allocated gold accounts obviously does occur, it is unallocated accounts settling through the AURUM electronic settlement system which accounts for almost all day to day London trade settlements. AURUM is the means of settlement between members of the LBMA through the London Precious Metal Clearing Limited. Transactions for settlement in unallocated form are funnelled through one of the five members who net them down into a single settlement through AURUM. The five members of LPMCL (JPMorgan, UBS, HSBC, ICBC Standard Bank and Scotiabank) all have unallocated accounts with each other, and the settlements determined by AURUM are for currency on one side and unallocated bullion on the other. Therefore, the massive quantities of gold being settled are divorced from physical settlement, and amount to nearly all the BIS derivative estimate quoted above of $512bn in positions outstanding at the end of last year. But depositors with unallocated gold accounts undoubtedly believe they have exposure to the gold price, otherwise they would insist at the least on their accounts being allocated with their bullion bank acting as custodian. As the current crisis in paper markets evolves, loss of faith in the ability of bullion banks to settle unallocated accounts in gold will risk generating a run on these accounts and a rush to secure physical gold before prices rise further. While the authorities in America will do everything to avoid a gold and silver crisis on Comex, any thought that it can be buried behind closed doors in London is fanciful. The same bullion banks trade both markets. A crisis in the bullion banks threatens to leave at the last count about $500bn of unallocated gold accounts in London plus a further 262,796 Comex contracts ($53bn at $2,030 – see Figure 2 above) swinging in the wind. The expansion of paper gold since the early 1980s which has put a lid on the gold price is coming to its end, and the removal of this obstacle will only serve to push the price significantly higher. Conclusion We appear to be witnessing the early stages of a breakdown in the paper gold markets on Comex and in London, brought forward by central banks committed to accelerating their inflationary policies in an act of macroeconomic desperation to save their government finances and their economies. The method employed is a dead ringer for an earlier experiment in France exactly three hundred years ago when John Law’s Mississippi bubble imploded, destroying his currency, the livre. If you bind the fate of financial assets to that of your fiat currency, as John Law did, and which is now the policy of the Federal Reserve, when the bubble pops the currency goes pop as well. This outcome is so obvious that the smart money is now getting out of fiat and into physical gold and silver, as witnessed through deliveries on Comex active contract expiries and the disappearance of all physical liquidity in London. This being the case, a gathering stampede out of paper currencies and derivative contracts into physical bullion has just started. Unless it is somehow stopped, it will destroy paper markets and with them the banks that have benefitted from them over the last forty years. The acceleration in the destruction of fiat money will gather pace in the next few months, and anyone who spouts macroeconomic nonsense instead of acting in the face of these developments will end up with nothing.
Are Airlines About To Get New Social Distancing Seats? This Startup Thinks So Tyler Durden Sat, 08/08/2020 - 08:45 A startup company by the name Zephyr Aerospace has designed a "social distancing compliant seat for airlines." The company launched a funding round on Republic Note, offering accredited investors under Rule 506(c) to buy into the dream of revolutionizing airline seating for a post-virus world. So far, the startup has raised $266,000 out of its $1,070,000 top goal. The seats are easily retrofittable into Boeing and Airbus commercial aircraft will also increase ancillary revenue for airlines by at least 30%. The startup said there's a significant problem with airline seats. They haven't changed in nearly five decades. All Economy Class seats are fixed upright and difficult to sleep in, forcing "unnatural postures over long periods of time and can damage health," the startup said. The new double-decker seat design allows travelers the ability to lie flat while maintaining social distancing compliance. The startup said, "we are currently in direct discussions with commercial airlines, seating manufacturers, and OEMs (Airbus, Boeing) to bring the Zephyr Seat to market." We noted a couple of months ago that the future of economy class cabins could be reshaped in a social distancing world. It's unlikely airlines will adopt Zephyr's double-decker lie-flat, social distancing seats until after or right before a recovery in the air travel industry, which could take 2-3 years.
World's Top Epidemiologists - Masks Don't Work! Tyler Durden Sat, 08/08/2020 - 08:10 Authored by John Miltimore via The Foundation for Economic Education, Denmark boasts one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the world. As of August 4, the Danes have suffered 616 COVID-19 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. That’s less than one-third of the number of Danes who die from pneumonia or influenza in a given year. Despite this success, Danish leaders recently found themselves on the defensive. The reason is that Danes aren’t wearing face masks, and local authorities for the most part aren’t even recommending them. This prompted Berlingske, the country’s oldest newspaper, to complain that Danes had positioned themselves “to the right of Trump.” “The whole world is wearing face masks, even Donald Trump,” Berlingske pointed out. This apparently did not sit well with Danish health officials. From left to right: Professor Henning Bundgaard, Tamara van Ark, Anders Tegnell | Composite image by FEE (Rigshospitalet, Wikimedia Commons) They responded by noting there is little conclusive evidence that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of respiratory viruses. “All these countries recommending face masks haven’t made their decisions based on new studies,” said Henning Bundgaard, chief physician at Denmark’s Rigshospitale, according to Bloomberg News. Denmark is not alone. Despite a global stampede of mask-wearing, data show that 80-90 percent of people in Finland and Holland say they “never” wear masks when they go out, a sharp contrast to the 80-90 percent of people in Spain and Italy who say they “always” wear masks when they go out. Dutch public health officials recently explained why they’re not recommending masks. "From a medical point of view, there is no evidence of a medical effect of wearing face masks, so we decided not to impose a national obligation," said Medical Care Minister Tamara van Ark. Others, echoing statements similar to the US Surgeon General from early March, said masks could make individuals sicker and exacerbate the spread of the virus. “Face masks in public places are not necessary, based on all the current evidence,” said Coen Berends, spokesman for the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. “There is no benefit and there may even be negative impact.” In Sweden, where COVID-19 deaths have slowed to a crawl, public health officials say they see “no point” in requiring individuals to wear masks. “With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top infectious disease expert. What’s Going on With Masks? The top immunologists and epidemiologists in the world can’t decide if masks are helpful in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Indeed, we’ve seen organizations like the World Health Organization... CDC does not currently recommend the use of facemasks to help prevent novel #coronavirus. Take everyday preventive actions, like staying home when you are sick and washing hands with soap and water, to help slow the spread of respiratory illness. #COVID19 https://t.co/uArGZTJhXj pic.twitter.com/yzWTSgt2IV — CDC (@CDCgov) February 27, 2020 ...and the CDC go back and forth in their recommendations... For the average person, it’s confusing and frustrating. It’s also a bit frightening, considering that we’ve seen people denounced in public for not wearing a mask while picking up a bag of groceries. Opening day at Trader Joe’s in North Hollywood, Ca. Karen is mad she was mask shamed... pic.twitter.com/pF3Zgj3w2E — Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) June 27, 2020 The truth is masks have become the new wedge issue, the latest phase of the culture war. Mask opponents tend to see mask wearers as “fraidy cats” or virtue-signalling “sheeple” who willfully ignore basic science. Mask supporters, on the other hand, often see people who refuse to wear masks as selfish Trumpkins … who willfully ignore basic science. There’s not a lot of middle ground to be found and there’s no easy way to sit this one out. We all have to go outside, so at some we all are required to don the mask or not. It’s clear from the data that despite the impression of Americans as selfish rebel cowboys who won’t wear a mask to protect others, Americans are wearing masks far more than many people in European countries. Polls show Americans are wearing masks at record levels, though a political divide remains: 98 percent of Democrats report wearing masks in public compared to 66 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Independents. (These numbers, no doubt, are to some extent the product of mask requirements in cities and states.) Whether one is pro-mask or anti-mask, the fact of the matter is that face coverings have become politicized to an unhealthy degree, which stands to only further pollute the science. Last month, for example, researchers at Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy responded to demands they remove an article that found mask requirements were “not based on sound data.” The school, to its credit, did not remove the article, but instead opted to address the objections critics of their research had raised. First, Do No Harm The ethics of medicine go back millennia. The Hippocratic Oath famously calls on medical practitioners to “first, do no harm.” (Those words didn’t actually appear in the original oath; they developed as a form of shorthand.) There is a similar principle in the realm of public health: the Principle of Effectiveness. Public health officials say the idea makes it clear that public health organizations have a responsibility to not harm the people they are assigned to protect. “If a community is at risk, the government may have a duty to recommend interventions, as long as those interventions will cause no harm, or are the least harmful option,” wrote Claire J. Horwell Professor of Geohealth at Durham University and Fiona McDonald, Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Health Law Research at Queensland University of Technology. “If an agency follows the principle of effectiveness, it will only recommend an intervention that they know to be effective.” The problem with mask mandates is that public health officials are not merely recommending a precaution that may or may not be effective. They are using force to make people submit to a state order that could ultimately make individuals or entire populations sicker, according to world-leading public health officials. That is not just a violation of the Effectiveness Principle. It’s a violation of a basic personal freedom. Mask advocates might mean well, but they overlook a basic reality: humans spontaneously alter behavior during pandemics. Scientific evidence shows that American workplaces and consumers changed the patterns of their travel before lockdown orders were issued. As I’ve previously noted, this should come as no surprise: Humans are intelligent, instinctive, and self-preserving mammals who generally seek to avoid high-risk behavior. The natural law of spontaneous order shows that people naturally take actions of self-protection by constantly analyzing risk. Instead of ordering people to “mask-up” under penalty of fines or jail time, scientists and public health officials should get back to playing their most important role: developing sound research on which people can freely make informed decisions. See the World Health Organization's Latest Guidelines on Masks and COVID-19...
Feds Uncover "Most Sophisticated Tunnel In US History" Along Southern Border Tyler Durden Sat, 08/08/2020 - 07:35 Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have uncovered an incomplete drug smuggling tunnel stretching from Arizona to Mexico, reported AZ Family. Agents are calling the tunnel "the most sophisticated [drug] tunnel in U.S. history" after finding a rail cart system, ventilation ducts, electrical wiring, and water lines, along with extensive wall reinforcements. "This appears to be the most sophisticated tunnel in U.S. history, and certainly the most sophisticated I've seen in my career," said Carl E. Landrum, acting chief patrol agent with the Border Patrol's Yuma Sector. The tunnel is 3 feet wide and 4 feet high and runs from a Mexican neighborhood to San Luis, Arizona. Agents sent a camera 25 feet underground to investigate the tunnel. Here's what they found: "Homeland Security Investigations and our esteemed law enforcement partners swiftly and effectively worked together to uncover and dismantle a cross-border tunnel for smuggling purposes into the United States," said Scott Brown, HSI special agent in charge in Phoenix. [email protected] along with @CBPArizona 's #Yuma Sector are investigating a cross-border tunnel discovered near a residential area of San Luis, less than 600ft from the U.S.-Mexico border. Story: https://t.co/TxCuZ579CO pic.twitter.com/g446cGtCrx — Brandon Mejia (@Brandon_MejiaTV) August 7, 2020 Brown said, "despite the international pandemic, HSI and our law enforcement colleagues remain resilient and committed to pursuing dangerous criminal trans-border smuggling activities along the southwest border." The tunnel was discovered in mid-July when U.S. Border Patrol agents found a sinkhole near the U.S.-Mexico border. HSI was called in to investigate, and that was when they found the tunnel.
How Europe’s Pandemic Response Reduced Market Uncertainty Tyler Durden Sat, 08/08/2020 - 07:00 Submitted by Jarsolav Baran of the European Stability Mechanism Implied uncertainty in European government bond futures, extracted from option prices, has declined sharply since March, following rapid and powerful European Central Bank (ECB) intervention and a coordinated fiscal response at national and European level. The range of probable outcomes for long-term yields, extracted from option prices, has narrowed, and market uncertainty, as measured by new implied volatility indices for European bond markets, has returned to low, pre-pandemic levels. This blog is based on a recent ESM Working Paper, where my co-author Jan Voříšek and I describe some practical ways to measure bond market uncertainty using options, and discuss how this could be useful for investors. Why measuring uncertainty matters Market prices reflect where supply and demand meet. However, they do not reveal what different buyers and sellers may be anticipating. Individual investors have diverse views which market prices aggregate and show as an average. The level of conviction about expectations varies in time as well. Sometimes larger price moves are expected, other times prices are expected to remain stable. This anticipated market volatility cannot be observed directly in bond or equity prices either. Option prices can shed light on these blind spots. Options have desirable features: they are forward-looking, they show how much market uncertainty is priced in, and they capture the whole range of outcomes, from less to more probable. In this blog, we look at the impact of recent policy measures on market implied uncertainty, based on option prices, and introduce new volatility indices, which measure implied volatility in the European government bond futures market. We show that the European policy response to the pandemic restored confidence and brought calm to the market at record speed. March spike in uncertainty quickly recovered When the ECB announced its unscheduled bond-buying package on 18 March 2020 to support countries and economies hit by the pandemic, an impressive risk rally followed. Government bond yields dropped and the difference between the yields of euro area countries’ bonds contracted sharply. One less frequently monitored part of financial markets, the options market, staged an even more striking recovery. During a dramatic market decline in March, option-implied uncertainty in long-term German bond futures reached a multi-year peak. At the height of the crisis, options maturing on 24 April 2020, about one month ahead, showed the range of possible moves in Bund yields - the benchmark yield for the euro area - between +27 basis points and -35 basis points, with 60% probability. At 80% probability, the range spanned over 100 basis points. Such uncertainty suggests that the market experienced a tail risk event in March (Figure 1). Figure 1: Historical cheapest-to-deliver bond yield of Bund futures and their option-implied quantiles as of 19 March 2020. Many parts of the financial market were temporarily disrupted in March as investors rushed into cash and short-term safe and liquid assets. The ECB successfully launched a number of flexible measures to restore market functioning and to provide liquidity to both shorter and longer-term funding markets. The measures in concert achieved the goal of calming markets, decreasing volatility, and easing financial conditions. Implied uncertainty receded as quickly as it jumped. In less than three months, it reversed most of its upward move. It is back to its low, pre-pandemic levels. On 20 July the range of future outcomes, as priced by the option market (Figure 2), narrowed markedly, suggesting relative calm expectations despite uncertainty about the speed and shape of the ensuing economic recovery. For options maturing on 21 August 2020, about one month ahead, the range of possible moves in Bund yields narrowed to -10 and +9 basis points, with 60% probability. The distribution became almost symmetrical, pricing roughly equal chances of rising and falling Bund yields. Figure 2: Historical cheapest-to-deliver bond yield of Bund futures and their option-implied quantiles as of 20 July 2020. The speed of the market reaction highlights, in many ways, the progress made by the euro area since the previous crisis to react quickly and decisively to bring back market confidence. New European government bond volatility indices Figures above help us visualise probabilities associated with future outcomes at different option maturities. We proposed new volatility indices for European government bond futures in our recent ESM Working Paper, in order to condense option-implied uncertainty into a single forward-looking measure. Volatility indices, built upon the VIX methodology, have become popular measures of short-term market uncertainty across a range of underlying asset classes such as equities, foreign exchange, or commodities. VIX methodology reigns as the most popular measure of market-implied volatility, but it is specific to US equities and derived from options on S&P 500 index. We expanded the family of volatility indices to track implied volatility of European government bonds. Active exchange-traded option markets exist for German, French, and Italian government bond futures. We utilised these options to construct new volatility indices, which reflect market pricing of subsequently realised volatility, over the next 30 days. For example, Bund volatility index, a “Bund VIX equivalent”, tracks the implied volatility of Bund futures over the next 30 days using out-of-the-money options. To help interpretation, we expressed these indices in basis points annualised, corresponding to the underlying security of the bond future. Bund volatility index briefly spiked in March to the highest level seen since the European debt crisis a decade ago, as Figure 3 shows. But this time, thanks to prompt and substantial liquidity support from the ECB as well as fiscal responses on national and European level, volatility was quick to recede and normalise. Volatility index for Italy jumped by similar magnitude, while in the case of France, volatility was more contained (Figure 4). Currently, option markets are not pricing any excessive Bund yield swings in either direction. The same behaviour is observed for France and Italy. Volatility indices have been trending downwards and reached pre-pandemic lows. Realised volatility has declined together with implied volatility and European government bond yields have recently fluctuated in tight ranges. Figure 3: Bund volatility index jumped to multi-year highs, and quickly normalised. Source: Bloomberg, authors’ calculations. Figure 4: Implied volatility indices for OAT, BTP, and Bund futures are back at pre-pandemic lows Source: Bloomberg, authors’ calculations. Prospects for economic recovery and the path for growth and inflation remain uncertain, although they received a major boost with the EU summit’s agreed terms of a new Recovery Fund in late July.  The high uncertainty around the economic outlook is evident in the broad range of growth projections, and their frequent revisions. Investors will continue to assess carefully how governments respond. Despite high uncertainty around the economic outlook, option markets anticipate the European bond market will remain stable in the near future, and yields are expected to stay in a narrow range. The ECB’s substantial balance sheet expansion and commitment to keep rates low as long as necessary, together with European policy response, effectively compressed volatility and prevented market fragmentation. Streamlining the implied uncertainty into a single measure, new volatility indices from option prices on German, French, and Italian government bond futures provide insights into investor sentiment and forward-looking market uncertainty in the underlying European sovereign bond market. Footnotes1 ECB Press Release. ECB announces €750 billion Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP). 18 March 2020.2 Lane, P. R., The monetary policy response to the pandemic emergency. ECB Blog. 1 May 2020.3 European Council, Special European Council, 17-21 July 2020.
The Hiroshima Myth Tyler Durden Fri, 08/07/2020 - 23:45 Authored by John Denson via The Mises Institute, Every year during the first two weeks of August the mass news media and many politicians at the national level trot out the "patriotic" political myth that the dropping of the two atomic bombs on Japan in August of 1945 caused them to surrender, and thereby saved the lives of anywhere from five hundred thousand to 1 million American soldiers, who did not have to invade the islands. Opinion polls over the last fifty years show that American citizens overwhelmingly (between 80 and 90 percent) believe this false history which, of course, makes them feel better about killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians (mostly women and children) and saving American lives to accomplish the ending of the war. The best book, in my opinion, to explode this myth is The Decision to Use the Bomb by Gar Alperovitz, because it not only explains the real reasons the bombs were dropped, but also gives a detailed history of how and why the myth was created that this slaughter of innocent civilians was justified, and therefore morally acceptable. The essential problem starts with President Franklin Roosevelt's policy of unconditional surrender, which was reluctantly adopted by Churchill and Stalin, and which President Truman decided to adopt when he succeeded Roosevelt in April of 1945. Hanson Baldwin was the principal writer for the New York Times who covered World War II and he wrote an important book immediately after the war entitled Great Mistakes of the War. Baldwin concludes that the unconditional surrender policy was perhaps the biggest political mistake of the war….Unconditional surrender was an open invitation to unconditional resistance; it discouraged opposition to Hitler, probably lengthened the war, cost us lives, and helped to lead to the present aborted peace. The stark fact is that the Japanese leaders, both military and civilian, including the emperor, were willing to surrender in May of 1945 if the emperor could remain in place and not be subjected to a war crimes trial after the war. This fact became known to President Truman as early as May of 1945. The Japanese monarchy was one of the oldest in all of history, dating back to 660 BC. The Japanese religion added the belief that all the emperors were the direct descendants of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. The reigning Emperor Hirohito was the 124th in the direct line of descent. After the bombs were dropped on August 6 and 9 of 1945, and their surrender soon thereafter, the Japanese were allowed to keep their emperor on the throne and he was not subjected to any war crimes trial. The emperor, Hirohito, came on the throne in 1926 and continued in his position until his death in 1989. Since President Truman, in effect, accepted the conditional surrender offered by the Japanese as early as May of 1945, the question is posed, "Why then were the bombs dropped?" The author Alperovitz gives us the answer in great detail which can only be summarized here, but he states, We have noted a series of Japanese peace feelers in Switzerland which OSS Chief William Donovan reported to Truman in May and June . These suggested, even at this point, that the U.S. demand for unconditional surrender might well be the only serious obstacle to peace. At the center of the explorations, as we also saw, was Allen Dulles, chief of OSS [Office of Strategic Services] operations in Switzerland (and subsequently Director of the CIA). In his 1966 book The Secret Surrender, Dulles recalled that "On July 20, 1945, under instructions from Washington, I went to the Potsdam Conference and reported there to Secretary [of War] Stimson on what I had learned from Tokyo — they desired to surrender if they could retain the Emperor and their constitution as a basis for maintaining discipline and order in Japan after the devastating news of surrender became known to the Japanese people." It is documented by Alperovitz that Stimson reported this directly to Truman. Alperovitz further points out in detail the documentary proof that every top presidential civilian and military advisor, with the exception of James Byrnes, along with Prime Minister Churchill and his top British military leadership, urged Truman to revise the unconditional surrender policy so as to allow the Japanese to surrender and keep their emperor. All this advice was given to Truman prior to the Potsdam Proclamation which occurred on July 26, 1945. This proclamation made a final demand upon Japan to surrender unconditionally or suffer drastic consequences. Another startling fact about the military connection to the dropping of the bomb is the lack of knowledge on the part of General MacArthur about the existence of the bomb and whether it was to be dropped. Alperovitz states, MacArthur knew nothing about advance planning for the atomic bomb's use until almost the last minute. Nor was he personally in the chain of command in this connection; the order came straight from Washington. Indeed, the War Department waited until five days before the bombing of Hiroshima even to notify MacArthur — the commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces in the Pacific — of the existence of the atomic bomb. Alperovitz makes it very clear that the main person Truman was listening to while he ignored all of this civilian and military advice was James Byrnes, the man who virtually controlled Truman at the beginning of his administration. Byrnes was one of the most experienced political figures in Washington, having served for over thirty years in both the House and the Senate. He had also served as a United States Supreme Court Justice, and at the request of President Roosevelt, he resigned that position and accepted the role in the Roosevelt administration of managing the domestic economy. Byrnes went to the Yalta Conference with Roosevelt and then was given the responsibility to get Congress and the American people to accept the agreements made at Yalta. When Truman became a senator in 1935, Byrnes immediately became his friend and mentor and remained close to Truman until Truman became president. Truman never forgot this and immediately called on Byrnes to be his number-two man in the new administration. Byrnes had expected to be named the vice presidential candidate [to FDR] to replace [Henry A.] Wallace and had been disappointed when Truman had been named, yet he and Truman remained very close. Byrnes had also been very close to Roosevelt, while Truman was kept in the dark by Roosevelt most of the time he served as vice president. Truman asked Byrnes immediately, in April, to become his secretary of state but they delayed the official appointment until July 3, 1945, so as not to offend the incumbent. Byrnes had also accepted a position on the interim committee which had control over the policy regarding the atom bomb, and therefore, in April 1945 became Truman's main foreign policy advisor, and especially the advisor on the use of the atomic bomb. It was Byrnes who encouraged Truman to postpone the Potsdam Conference and his meeting with Stalin until they could know, at the conference, if the atomic bomb was successfully tested. While at the Potsdam Conference the experiments proved successful and Truman advised Stalin that a new massively destructive weapon was now available to America, which Byrnes hoped would make Stalin back off from any excessive demands or activity in the postwar period. Truman secretly gave the orders on July 25, 1945, that the bombs would be dropped in August while he was to be en route back to America. On July 26, he issued the Potsdam Proclamation, or ultimatum, to Japan to surrender, leaving in place the unconditional surrender policy, thereby causing both Truman and Byrnes to believe that the terms would not be accepted by Japan. The conclusion drawn unmistakably from the evidence presented is that Byrnes is the man who convinced Truman to keep the unconditional surrender policy and not accept Japan's surrender so that the bombs could actually be dropped, thereby demonstrating to the Russians that America had a new forceful leader in place, a "new sheriff in Dodge" who, unlike Roosevelt, was going to be tough with the Russians on foreign policy and that the Russians needed to "back off" during what would become known as the "Cold War." A secondary reason was that Congress would now be told about why they had made the secret appropriation to a Manhattan Project and the huge expenditure would be justified by showing that not only did the bombs work but that they would bring the war to an end, make the Russians back off, and enable America to become the most powerful military force in the world. If the surrender by the Japanese had been accepted between May and the end of July of 1945 and the emperor had been left in place, as in fact he was after the bombing, this would have kept Russia out of the war. Russia agreed at Yalta to come into the Japanese war three months after Germany surrendered. In fact, Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945, and Russia announced on August 8, (exactly three months thereafter) that it was abandoning its neutrality policy with Japan and entering the war. Russia's entry into the war for six days allowed them to gain tremendous power and influence in China, Korea, and other key areas of Asia. The Japanese were deathly afraid of communism and if the Potsdam Proclamation had indicated that America would accept the conditional surrender allowing the emperor to remain in place and informed the Japanese that Russia would enter the war if they did not surrender, then this would surely have assured a quick Japanese surrender. The second question that Alperovitz answers in the last half of the book is how and why the Hiroshima myth was created. The story of the myth begins with the person of James B. Conant, the president of Harvard University, who was a prominent scientist, having initially made his mark as a chemist working on poison gas during World War I. During World War II, he was chairman of the National Defense Research Committee from the summer of 1941 until the end of the war and he was one of the central figures overseeing the Manhattan Project. Conant became concerned about his future academic career, as well as his positions in private industry, because various people began to speak out concerning why the bombs were dropped. On September 9, 1945, Admiral William F. Halsey, commander of the Third Fleet, was publically quoted extensively as stating that the atomic bomb was used because the scientists had a "toy and they wanted to try it out." He further stated, "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment….It was a mistake to ever drop it." Albert Einstein, one of the world's foremost scientists, who was also an important person connected with the development of the atomic bomb, responded and his words were headlined in the New York Times: "Einstein Deplores Use of Atom Bomb." The story reported that Einstein stated that "A great majority of scientists were opposed to the sudden employment of the atom bomb." In Einstein's judgment, the dropping of the bomb was a political-diplomatic decision rather than a military or scientific decision. Probably the person closest to Truman, from the military standpoint, was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William Leahy, and there was much talk that he also deplored the use of the bomb and had strongly advised Truman not to use it, but advised rather to revise the unconditional surrender policy so that the Japanese could surrender and keep the emperor. Leahy's views were later reported by Hanson Baldwin in an interview that Leahy "thought the business of recognizing the continuation of the Emperor was a detail which should have been solved easily." Leahy's secretary, Dorothy Ringquist, reported that Leahy told her on the day the Hiroshima bomb was dropped, "Dorothy, we will regret this day. The United States will suffer, for war is not to be waged on women and children." Another important naval voice, the commander in chief of the US Fleet and chief of naval operations, Ernest J. King, stated that the naval blockade and prior bombing of Japan in March of 1945 had rendered the Japanese helpless and that the use of the atomic bomb was both unnecessary and immoral. Also, the opinion of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, given in a press conference on September 22, 1945, was reported as: "The Admiral took the opportunity of adding his voice to those insisting that Japan had been defeated before the atomic bombing and Russia's entry into the war." In a subsequent speech at the Washington Monument on October 5, 1945, Admiral Nimitz stated, "The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and before the Russian entry into the war." It was learned also that on or about July 20, 1945, General Eisenhower had urged Truman, in a personal visit, not to use the atomic bomb. Eisenhower's assessment was, "It wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing….[T]o use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting [negotiations], was a double crime." Eisenhower also stated that it wasn't necessary for Truman to "succumb" to Byrnes. James Conant came to the conclusion that some important person in the administration must go public to show that the dropping of the bombs was a military necessity, thereby saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, so he approached Harvey Bundy and his son, McGeorge Bundy. It was agreed by them that the most important person to create this myth was Secretary of War Henry Stimson. It was decided that Stimson would write a long article to be widely circulated in a prominent national magazine. This article was revised repeatedly by McGeorge Bundy and Conant before it was published in Harper's Magazine in February of 1947. The long article became the subject of a front-page article and editorial in the New York Times, and in the editorial it was stated, "There can be no doubt that the president and Mr. Stimson are right when they mention that the bomb caused the Japanese to surrender." Later, in 1959, President Truman specifically endorsed this conclusion, including the idea that it saved the lives of a million American soldiers. This myth has been renewed annually by the news media and various political leaders ever since. It is very pertinent that in the memoir of Henry Stimson entitled On Active Service in Peace and War, he states, "Unfortunately, I have lived long enough to know that history is often not what actually happened but what is recorded as such." To bring this matter more into focus from the human tragedy standpoint, I recommend the reading of a book entitled Hiroshima Diary: The Journal of a Japanese Physician, August 6–September 30, 1945, by Michiko Hachiya. He was a survivor of Hiroshima and kept a daily diary about the women, children, and old men that he treated on a daily basis in the hospital. The doctor was badly injured himself but recovered enough to help others and his account of the personal tragedies of innocent civilians who were either badly burned or died as a result of the bombing puts the moral issue into a clear perspective for all of us to consider. Now that we live in the nuclear age and there are enough nuclear weapons spread around the world to destroy civilization, we need to face the fact that America is the only country to have used this awful weapon and that it was unnecessary to have done so. If Americans would come to recognize the truth, rather than the myth, it might cause such a moral revolt that we would take the lead throughout the world in realizing that wars in the future may well become nuclear and therefore all wars must be avoided at almost any cost. Hopefully, our knowledge of science has not outrun our ability to exercise prudent and humane moral and political judgment to the extent that we are destined for extermination.
Airline Will Pay Medical & Funeral Costs To Get People Flying Again In COVID-19 World Tyler Durden Fri, 08/07/2020 - 23:25 At a moment the trade union for the airline industry, International Air Transport Association (IATA), has issued a dire prediction laying out that it doesn't expect air travel to recover to pre-pandemic levels until at least after 2024, one major foreign carrier is rolling out with an unexpected, deeply unorthodox policy to gem up business and attention. Emirates, the Dubai-based state-owned airline and flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, is now offering passengers a 'safety net' of sorts, telling customers that if they catch coronavirus while traveling on their flights, the airline will cover all costs related to medical treatment, hotel quarantine, and even their funeral in the event of death. Emirates file image The desperate measure — and no doubt costly in terms of the airline's insurance premiums — comes as Emirates says it expects to cut as many as 9,000 jobs in the coming weeks. Billing itself as "the first airline in the world to offer free, global cover for COVID-19 related costs," it announced the policy on its website late last week: Emirates customers can travel with confidence, as the airline will cover medical expenses of up to EUR 150,000 [$175,000] and quarantine costs of EUR 100 per day for 14 days, should they be diagnosed with COVID-19 during their travel, while they are away from home. Emirates Group Chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum described that the measure can give travelers some assurances during extremely unpredictable times, hopefully getting them back to flying long distance routes. "We know people are yearning to fly as borders around the world gradually re-open, but they are seeking flexibility and assurances should something unforeseen happen during their travel," he said. Flying in a COVID-19 world, via "Airline Ratings" The airline said the policy will remain in effect through the end of October, and is valid for up to a month from the beginning of a passenger's journey. Though it's only been in effect for a few days at this point, it's unclear if anyone has made a claim yet through the "free" COVID-19 insurance policy. The New York Post notes that the available medical coverage for passengers who become hospitalized for the virus is significant: "Even sick passengers who don’t pass away after traveling with the airline can receive up to $176,000 in expenses as well as $118 per day to cover quarantine accommodations for up to two weeks," according to the Post report. And given the resulting positive media coverage the Emirates is getting from the unusual initiative, it's likely other international carriers will follow suit, though most may not want to take the hit insurance-wise.
"I Started A Local Gun And Preparedness Club... And Leftists Tried To Interfere" Tyler Durden Fri, 08/07/2020 - 23:05 Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.com, I live in the mountains outside a small town in rural Montana, a place you might assume is conservative through and through, and it is, for the most part. However, one rule I have found to be universal no matter where in the US I live or visit is that regardless of how conservative the population of a place is, leftists are almost ALWAYS entrenched into city politics and they almost always run the local newspapers. In the past I found this to be a strange thing; why are the viewpoints and ideals of most of the city government and the local journalists the complete opposite of the majority of the citizenry in conservative communities? I did not understand until later that this is a product of misaligned priorities. Leftists (specifically extreme leftists) seems to gravitate to positions of influence, even those we might consider small and inconsequential, because they see these positions as an opportunity to exert power over others. Conservatives tend to not care as much about having power over others unless they are a direct threat, and so we don't have any interest in wasting our precious free time climbing our way through a faceless bureaucracy. I actually prefer that mindset. I like the fact that conservatives aren't always scrambling for position or power. That said, it might behoove us to pay better attention to who is in control of our local governments, because it may cause serious problems for us down the road. For many years now I have been working with a group of people who have been preparing for the events that are happening today, including economic crisis, supply chain disruptions, civil unrest and government overreach. While many of these groups seek to remain private, I feel it is time for bigger discussions with the wider community on what people plan to do if the dangerous situation does not improve. In other words, are they going to work together? Or, are they going to remain isolated from each other? This is a vital question, because it is becoming increasingly possible that a full spectrum collapse will strike the US in the near term. It is time for preppers and liberty minded people to start gauging the sentiment of the community around them and seeking out like-minded individuals. The more active the community is in its own survival, the less likely they will be to conform to draconian rules or fear. Private groups should remain private, and so should the extent of your preps. But, it is foolish to think that you are going to survive a collapse on your own without working with others in the community. Think of it this way, if your circle of security is only the size of your property, when trouble arrives it will already be on your doorstep (in other words, you are dead if the attackers are organized and prepared). If your circle of security is your entire town or county, then when trouble arrives you might actually have time to respond. Going “gray man” is an extremely short term solution. Eventually, you will be caught alone and unaware and then all the energy and time and money you put into your preps will have been wasted and someone else will be enjoying the fruits of your labor. Another problem I see is that conservatives are far less adept at organization than the political left; we tend to be more spontaneous when we group together for a cause. I'm not saying we need our own Antifa or BLM, but we do need to put more effort into working together locally and minimizing our exposure to threats. Conservatives and liberty activists often feel alone, even though there are millions of us out there, and it's because we refuse to organize in any practical way for fear of ending up on a “list”. It's the threat of being on “the list” that controls conservatives. The list doesn't even need to exist in real life and we are still dominated by it. I hear it all the time, the “nail that sticks up will get hammered down”. I say, the nail that keeps its head down is more easily stepped on. These are some of the reasons I decided to engage with the larger community by starting a local club that discusses firearms, preparedness and current events. I put the word out in as many places as I could, including tacking up fliers around town. These days, it's hard for anyone to argue that prepping is a “silly idea” for “kooky conspiracy theorists”. We have been proven right, everyone else has been proven wrong, but that doesn't mean our work ends here; we have to continue to educate as many people as possible on how it's done while there's still time. The more we do this, the safer everyone is. The initial response was overwhelmingly positive. A lot of people are ready for this kind of information, and setting up the discussions in a more public forum gives people a greater sense of involvement and shows them they are not alone in their concerns. To that end I decided to hold the discussion at a local public park. Then, I started getting emails and friends of mine started getting angry Facebook responses when discussing the club... Officials from the city council using the primary city government email were not happy, though they did not identify themselves by name. They claimed the club could not hold an “event” in the park unless we got permission and permits from the city council, along with insurance. If we did not, then police would be sent to kick us out of the park. I thought this was rather bizarre; I didn't expect hundreds of people to show up to the club meeting, maybe a couple dozen at most. The requirements these people from the city council demanded were traditionally for large events with hundreds or thousands of people. Getting permission would have taken weeks, and the emails suggested that permission was not guaranteed by stating “IF we approve”. I could have held a meeting on private property, but using the city park was symbolic of open community engagement; the people of the area were supposed to feel welcome to participate and maybe this is what annoyed the lefties the most. They feel like they own that wheelhouse. Frankly, parks are public property paid for with public dollars and the community has every right to use them for free assembly. But if you think this is common knowledge think again; some politicians and officials think otherwise. I responded as I usually do to these kinds of things, by digging my heels in. I thoroughly researched the use and legality of public parks for free assembly and found that as long as your group is not blocking access to the park for other people, blocking roads or engaged in criminal activity then the demands for permits do not usually hold up in court and removal by police is not justified. Constitutionally, you are protected. I emailed the official or officials back and reminded them that they risk a civil court issue by trying to stop people's free speech on public property, and warned them that the city would be subject to bad press as well. I was perfectly ready to refuse removal and to be arrested if it came to that. Another interesting discovery: The park in question was host to a bunch of BLM protesters only two weeks earlier. Did they have to get permits and insurance to hold their “event” in the park? I decided to reach out to the only conservative member of the city council that I knew of and talk with him. He confirmed my suspicions. There were multiple hard leftists in the city government, but no one had actually brought up the issue of my club and the use of the park to rest of the council before sending me the threatening emails. So, it was probably only a couple of weasels trying to make it look like they represented the entire city council's position. He also confirmed that the BLM protesters had no permits or insurance, and that certain council members KNEW ahead of time that their protest was going to happen. In other words, the lefty council members were acting unilaterally to give BLM open access to the park, and then tried to interfere with my gun and preparedness club. This was clear political bias applied to the usage of public property. I have learned from past experience that these types of people do not like a stand-up fight; so they prefer to try to frighten you away from doing a thing through intimidation instead. They try to get you to give up voluntarily by painting a host of consequences in your mind. You start to worry about all the things that MIGHT happen; no one wants to have confrontations with cops these days, you don't have to be insane like BLM to have concerns. Luckily, my brain doesn't really think in terms of risk over reward. I only really think about what is necessary. I held the club meeting in the park anyway and I made sure that whoever it was in the city council that was trying to interfere knew I was going to do it. Long story short, the meeting was a success. I met a lot of locals that I had not talked with before that had the same concerns I did, and we discussed primarily the issue of community security if the system completely breaks down. The meetings will continue, perhaps even in the same park for a while just to make a point. The police never showed up, so the people making threats either didn't want to risk a lawsuit and confrontation, they realized they didn't have as much power as they thought they did, or the cops refused to bother with something that was clearly legal and constitutional. The only confrontation happened a hundred yards away. A man looking for the meeting approached a group across the street that was organizing a separate community event. He told me that when he asked them if they were part of the gun club, a woman yelled at him “No, those people are across the street at that ILLEGAL MEETING!” And there you have it. I highly recommend you hold an “illegal meeting” of your own for your community. These discussions need to start now, and people need to know that they are not alone during this crisis. It is time for conservatives to start banding together and planning ahead. * * * If you would like to support the work that Alt-Market does while also receiving content on advanced tactics for defeating the globalist agenda, subscribe to our exclusive newsletter The Wild Bunch Dispatch. Learn more about it HERE.
"No Difference Between John Bolton, Brian Hook Or Elliott Abrams": Iran FM Tyler Durden Fri, 08/07/2020 - 22:45 “There’s no difference between John Bolton, Brian Hook or Elliott Abrams,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a tweet with the hashtag #BankruptUSPolicy on Friday. “When U.S. policy concerns Iran, American officials have been biting off more than they can chew. This applies to Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump and their successors,” Mousavi added. Indeed in perhaps one of the greatest symbols or representations of the contradictions and absurdity inherent in US foreign policy of the past few decades, and a supreme irony that can't be emphasized enough: the new US envoy to Iran who will oversee Pompeo's 'maximum pressure' campaign remains the most publicly visible face of the 1980's Iran-Contra affair. Elliott Abrams has been named to the position after Brian Hook stepping down. This means the man who will continue to push for the extension of a UN arms embargo against Iran once himself was deeply involved in illegally selling weapons to Iran and covering it up. Most famously, or we should say infamously, Abrams pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 1991 following years of the Iran-Contra scandal engulfing the Reagan administration; however, he was also pardoned by outgoing president George H.W. Bush at around the same time. "Pardoned by George H.W. Bush in 1992, Abrams was a pivotal figure in the foreign-policy scandal that shook the Reagan administration, lying to Congress about his knowledge of the plot to covertly sell weapons to the Khomeini government and use the proceeds to illegally fund the right-wing Contras rebel group in Nicaragua," NY Mag reviews. Some are noting this heightens the chances that Washington could get dragged into a war involving Israel and Iran. New Iran envoy Elliott Abrams raises the risk that Israel will provoke Trump into conflict with Teheran https://t.co/G1zgSJUqVy — Joe Catron ✊🏽 (@jncatron) August 7, 2020 Recall too that Abrams has been Trump's point man for ousting Maduro from Venezuela, and it appears he'll remain in the post of special envoy for Venezuela as well. this is how you write a headline pic.twitter.com/Ce6inYdCRS — John Carl Baker (@johncarlbaker) August 7, 2020 The Grayzone journalist, Anya Parampil, who has frequently reported from Venezuela, alleged this week that Abrams will "try and destroy Venezuela and Iran at the same time".
The 1958 "Psychological Warfare" Plan Playing Out Before Us Tyler Durden Fri, 08/07/2020 - 22:25 Authored by Annie Holmquist via IntellectualTakeout.org, I recently wrote about an old 1984 interview with former communist Yuri Bezmenov, who described the “ideological subversion” that could eventually take down America. It sounds like the stuff of conspiracy theories - until one realizes that his predictions of “demoralization,” “destabilization,” and “crisis” are all unfolding before our eyes. Pondering his prophetic words, I hunted up an old book a friend mentioned to me years ago: “The Naked Communist.” The title, I admit, is chuckle-worthy, but the words inside are no laughing matter, particularly when one reads the section titled, “Importance of the Psychological War.” Written in 1958, some of the “current strategy goals which the Communists and their fellow travelers are seeking to achieve” seem dated and read like a history book from the past. But then one comes to item number 17: “Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers’ associations. Put the party line in textbooks.” (Emphasis added.) That part in bold especially caught my attention. Haven’t Americans been suspicious for years that public school curriculum has been dumbed down? Prominent public figures have certainly made this claim, while a comparison of middle school reading lists from today’s schools and those of 100 years ago provides further evidence. Things take a step closer to home by encouraging the use of “student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.” We’ve had not a little experience with riots and protests lately, many of which have been heavily attended by young people. Are they mere tools in the hands of an ideology we don’t realize is pulling the strings? Even more terrifying, the list progresses from student riots to the cancel culture and statue bashing we are also currently experiencing. “Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression,” item number 22 commands, while number 31 calls for Communists to “[b]elittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history….” The document also suggests discrediting both the Constitution and the Founding Fathers. Of the latter, it says, “[p]resent them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the ‘common man.’” Sounds similar to the “slave-holding racists” that the Founders are now portrayed as, does it not? The list is extensive and many of the items listed as eventual goals are now accepted parts of our culture. There is one more, though, that deserves a closer look: “Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition; that students and special-interest groups should rise up and use ‘united force’ to solve economic, political or social problems.” Since the death of George Floyd, protests and violence have become commonplace. The large gatherings banned by our governments during the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly became necessary for fighting racism. Indeed, systemic racism is increasingly labeled as a “public health crisis” that Black Lives Matter must wage war against. Furthermore, complete unity is demanded from the public. Those who refuse to go along—or fail to say anything at all—are immediately ostracized. Where does this leave us? Should we start running around screaming, “The Communists are coming! The Communists are coming!”? No. Now isn’t the time to lose our heads. Rather, we should look at this historical list, recognize the parallels it has with our current culture, and ask ourselves whether there’s an ideology working to undermine the values, history, and ideas upon which America was founded. If we conclude that there is, we have a decision to make. Do we accept that ideology and allow it to take over America? If so, it’s time to join the throngs of corporations, politicians, and average citizens in agitating for change. But if we decide that ideology isn’t in line with what we believe, nor with the direction we want to see America go, then we must be ready to choose the road less traveled. This road is one of standing up for truth and justice. It also involves warning others of the consequences that come from giving way to an ideology completely opposed to what America has sought to protect and advance over the years. As “The Naked Communist” implies, the alarm bell has been sounding for many years. Now, we just need the ears to hear and respond to it.
Meet The RVs That Are Literally "Driving" Our Country's GDP Tyler Durden Fri, 08/07/2020 - 22:05 The impact that recreational vehicles have had on GDP has rocketed to all time highs, as the pandemic has Americans looking for new ways to vacation after many traditional summer trips have been cancelled. In fact, as many as 50% of Americans cancelled their summer vacations, according to Inside Hook. The site also noted that the main RV-sharing website had “the highest recorded booking numbers in company history.” We noted the aberration in a Tweet we put out last week after the U.S. released its historic 32.9% GDP plunge.: Everyone is either trading stocks or cooking meth pic.twitter.com/Re4Ji7O1ys — zerohedge (@zerohedge) July 30, 2020 RV companies are having trouble keeping up with demand and dealers are quickly going out of stock. RV Industry Association President Craig Kirby told Reuters that he thinks "more people will start to work out of RVs come fall." Jon Ferrando, CEO and President at RV Retailer said: “All models are in high demand and hard to keep in stock. Many models are on order for deliveries in December of 2020, as the demand has been unbelievable for the product over the past 90 days.” To give a taste of exactly what is now officially driving U.S. GDP, Inside Hook released information on some of the more popular RVs being sold. This Bushwhacker Teardrop model starts at just $8,990 and is only 13 feet long. It can be "configured with two separate mattresses, wall-mounted air-conditioning, a two-burner cooktop, a built-in sink and one of those electric Coleman coolers that acts like a mini fridge." This TAB Teardrop Trailer starts at $27,262 and boasts "a seriously spacious bathroom, off-road tires, extra exterior cargo storage and roof racks, and a 'pitched axle' which provides better clearance. Starting at $38,400, this Airstream Basecamp model "can sleep up to four people with a bathroom onboard." This $225,000 Bowlus Road Chief Endless Highways model costs as much as a small house. The retro design is "because the company traces its roots back to 1934, when designer Hawley Bowlus built a trailer that would go on to inspire the household name." Then there's the EarthRomer LTi, which starts at $590,000 and has been called the "best doomsday vehicle". It sports a "carbon-fiber body, solar power and the ability to go off-grid instead of from RV hookup to RV hookup." Finally, if you want to go full "Motley Crue on tour", there's the Foretravel Realm FS6 Presidential Luxury Villa Bunk with Spa, which starts at about $1.4 million. With this model you get "a 45-foot condo on wheels that’s bigger than many New York apartments, two full baths featuring a massaging, Chromatherapy and a VibrAcoustic tub." “High end luxury continues to improve year after year,” Ferrando concluded. It sure does - though we're guessing not too many of these $1.4 million models are the ones driving GDP... Regardless, here's what $1.4 million gets you: