Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Today's Links

Today's quote: "“America’s long-term scheme for the region is detrimental to all nations and countries, particularly Iran and Russia, and it should be thwarted through vigilance and closer interaction,” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told Vladimir Putin during the Russian’s visit to Tehran last November.

1--Revealed: ECB Secretly Hands Cash to Select Corporations

2--Obamacare is Rapidly Becoming the Poster Child for American Inequality

The best thing about Obama (from an oligarch’s perspective), is his uncanny ability to push through upward redistributive wealth policies while still maintaining a phony aura of caring about the little guy amongst so many of his apparently lobotomized supporters.
...what’s most embarrassing for the President’s legacy, is the fact that Obamacare itself is rapidly becoming the poster child for the dramatic wealth and income inequality that has so characterized his entire administration.

3--The average American family had the same amount of wealth in 2013 as it did in 1989

...theCongressional Budget Office.
The analysis shows the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans now hold three-quarters of the nation's wealth, up from two-thirds in 1989, and a three percentage-point increase from the start of the recession. Most Americans found themselves with less wealth in 2013 than Americans of a similar age had in 1989; the only age group doing better than its counterparts from a quarter-century ago was senior citizens.

4--The Economist wants to re-privatize the mortgage market--How America accidentally nationalised its mortgage market (Hey, let's let the banks blow up the system again!)

At $26 trillion America’s housing stock is the largest asset class in the world, worth a little more than the country’s stockmarket. America’s mortgage-finance system, with $11 trillion of debt, is probably the biggest concentration of financial risk to be found anywhere. It is still closely linked to the global financial system, with $1 trillion of mortgage debt owned abroad. It has not gone unreformed in the ten years since it set off the most severe recession of modern times. But it remains fundamentally flawed....

Some 65-80% of all new home loans are repackaged by organs of the state. The structure of these loans, their volume and the risks they entail are controlled not by markets but by administrative fiat. (so we should hand over the mortgage business to the crooked banks?)....

The vacuum left by the thrifts was filled by the new technology of securitisation, which seemed, for a while, to make the risk vanish altogether. There are several steps. Mortgages are originated, or agreed, with millions of homeowners. The loans thus underwritten are then spruced up to look more attractive or realise some profits; for example sometimes insurance may be taken out against defaults, or the rights to “service” loans (collect interest payments) sold off. Next the loans are guaranteed and securitised. The bundles of bonds thus produced are then flogged to investors. After all this, derivatives contracts are created whose value is linked to these bonds.
The machine blew up in 2006-10 for a host of reasons, the most important of which was wild and sometimes fraudulent underwriting. There was a run on mortgage bonds and on the firms that issued or owned them. (Repeat: The system blew up because of fraud!)...

First, banks have partially withdrawn from the mortgage game after facing swathes of new rules and $110 billion of fines for misconduct. (The banks paid $110 billion of fines while the US taxpayer paid trillions in losses)

American officials who served during the crisis tell war stories about trying to persuade their counterparts in China and elsewhere not to dump all their mortgage bonds. As a result of their efforts foreign central banks, private banks and financial firms still hold 15% of all mortgage bonds; Barclays’ mortgage-bond holdings are worth 22% of the bank’s core capital. The rest are mainly owned by domestic investment funds and the Federal Reserve which, due to its asset-purchasing scheme, holds $1.8 trillion of government mortgage bonds, or 27% of the total. (a mortgage bond firesale could still blow up the system)

More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. It's an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million

6--Hillary Clinton parties with Cher, while Jill Stein meets with flooding victims in Louisiana

7--Turkey formally requests US to extradite ‘coup-plotting’ Gulen – State Dept

8--Washington's Conundrum in Syria: Russia, Iran and China Team Up

10--Turkey invades Syria


The Syrian government has condemned Turkey’s decision to send forces across the Syrian border and considered this move a violation of Syria’s sovereignty, SANA news agency reported Wednesday citing a senior Foreign Ministry source.
“Syria condemns the movement of tanks and armored vehicles from Turkey across the border toward the town of Jarablus, with air support from the US coalition, and considers this to be a blatant violation of sovereignty,” the source said. “What is happening in Jarablos now isn’t fighting terrorism as Turkey claims; rather it is replacing one type of terrorism with another.”
According to SANA Syria requests putting an end to this aggression and calls Turkey and the US-led coalition to respect international resolutions, particularly those related to closing borders and drying up the sources of terrorism.....

On August 24, Turkish military, accompanied with some 1,500 Turkish-backed militants from the Free Syrian Army, launched a military operation to liberate the strategic city of Jarablus in northeastern Syria. According to Turkish authorities, the operation is also supported by the US-led coalition air power. Since August 24 morning, the Turkish army’s artillery has hit ISIS targets near the city over 400 times. The military advance began at around 4 a.m. local time with Turkish special forces crossed the Syrian border. In case of the success, the Turkish operation will undermine any hopes of the US-backed Democratic Union Party (PYD) to expand control along the Syrian-Turkish border and set a de-facto independent state in northeastern Syria

11--Houthi forces encircle Saudi Army in strategic city (Najran Dam)

12---Biden’s blank check to the Baltic states: US will wage war on Russia in your defense 

On Tuesday, US Vice President Joseph Biden traveled to Latvia to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to go to war with Russia in the event of a conflict between Moscow and the Baltic states.

“I want to make it absolutely clear to all the people in the Baltic states: we have pledged our sacred honor, the United States of America… to the NATO treaty and Article 5,” Biden said, after meeting with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and other Baltic leaders.

The plain meaning of Biden’s words is this: Should any one of these tiny states, headed by fanatically anti-Russian regimes, stage a provocation against Russia leading to a border clash, the “sacred honor” of the United States requires that the American people be plunged into war against the world’s second largest nuclear power

13---The tangled web we weave: New flashpoint in escalating war: Turkey shells ISIS and Kurdish forces in Syria

This latest explosive turn in the tangle of shifting alliances and conflicts among the global powers intervening in Syria threatens to bring Turkey into direct conflict with Washington’s chief proxy force in northern Syria, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Earlier this month, the SDF, backed by intensive and deadly US air support, drove ISIS out of the strategic town of Manbij. This alarmed the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which is waging a brutal war against the Kurdish separatist Kurdistan Workers Movement (PKK) within Turkey. It fears that the YPG victory in Manbij will further consolidate a de facto Kurdish enclave in northern Syria that is being set up with the tacit support of the United States.

Turkey and the US, NATO allies, are increasingly working at cross purposes in Syria, further frustrating Washington’s central aim in the horrific war it has inflicted on the country, the removal of the pro-Iranian and pro-Russian regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the installation of a US puppet government. The looming confrontation in Jarablus follows Turkey’s accusations of US complicity in the failed military coup of July 15, Erdogan’s turn to a rapprochement with Russia and Iran, and Ankara’s softening of its opposition to Assad.

It also coincides with the visit today of US Vice President Joseph Biden to meet with top Turkish officials under conditions that were already fraught with tension...

The New York Times on Tuesday quoted Nasswer Haj Mansour, an SDF official on the Syrian side of the border, as saying the forces gathering in Turkey included “terrorists” as well as Turkish Special Forces. A statement from the SDF declared that “we are prepared to defend the country against any plans for a direct or indirect occupation.”...

On Tuesday, Syrian state media and the Kurdish Hawar News Agency both announced the implementation of a cease-fire in Hasakeh, evidently brokered by Russia. However, while the Kurdish statement said government forces had agreed, as part of the cease-fire terms, to withdraw from the town and leave it under the control of the local Kurdish police force, the Syrian statement made no mention of a withdrawal.

There were other indications of a moderation of the animus between the Assad regime and Turkey. On Friday, the Syrian military’s General Command, in an evident concession to Turkey, released a statement referring to the Kurdish Asayesh internal police in Hasakeh as the “military wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party.” Turkey has long pressed Damascus to declare the Syrian Kurdish forces to be an extension of the PKK.

From the other side, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, speaking to foreign media Saturday in Istanbul, spelled out a shift in Turkey’s posture toward Assad, saying for the first time that while Assad could not be part of a long-term solution to the crisis in Syria, Ankara was willing to accept a role for him in a transitional government. At the same time, Yildirim stressed that Turkey would intervene more actively in the Syrian crisis and would not permit the country to be divided along ethnic and sectarian lines—an implicit criticism of US policy toward the Syrian Kurds....

(Plan B?)  On Monday, the new US commander, General Townsend, said Washington would step up its operations in support of its proxy forces as they prepared offensives to retake Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria from ISIS. He said the escalation would include intensified air and artillery strikes and increased efforts to equip and train local forces. He left open the possibility of an enlargement of the US troop presence in the two countries


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