|Doug Casey on His Favorite Place in the World|
|by Doug Casey | September 30, 2015|
|If you’re interested in international diversification, you’ve likely taken the time to think about where your favorite place in the world is.
If there’s one person’s opinion on this subject that’s worth hearing, it’s Doug Casey’s. Doug is a friend and mentor, so naturally I’m a little biased. But even if I didn’t know Doug personally, I would honestly say the same thing.
Having been to over 145 countries, Doug is by far the most well-traveled person I know. But it’s not just a contest of how many countries a person has been to. Doug’s unique and historically informed point of view is what really sets him apart.
Doug, of course, has thought long and hard about his favorite place in the world. He concluded that, for him, it’s Argentina, the location of La Estancia de Cafayate, Doug’s sporting and lifestyle estate in beautiful Salta Province.
Which naturally gives rise to the question, “Why, of all the places in the world Doug could have built his vision of a freedom lover’s paradise, did he and his partners choose a remote pueblo in Argentina, a country with a famously dysfunctional government and which is once again in the news for thumbing its nose at the international financial community?”
To provide the answers, I got in touch with Doug for an interview, which you’ll find below.
While the average person might instinctively (and ignorantly) dismiss Argentina off the bat, I’d suggest you read what Doug has to say about it.
Here are a couple more facts about La Estancia de Cafayate:
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I’ll be joining Doug this November 11-14 for a unique opportunity to experience life at La Estancia de Cafayate.
There are only a handful of spots left, so if you would like to join Doug and me, email Juan Larrañaga at JoinNick@LaEst.com.
Juan will send you all the information you need to begin your trip planning.
I hope to see you there.
Until next time,
Nick Giambruno: Let’s start with the big question. Why, of all the places in the world you could have selected to build your vision of a freedom lover’s paradise, did you choose Argentina?
Doug Casey: For some time now, I have stressed the importance of diversifying internationally. I wanted to diversify outside the United States because, although every country in the world is headed in the wrong direction, at this point in time, the U.S. is heading there more quickly and with far more serious consequences, especially for me as a U.S. citizen. So, I have spent a lot of time looking all around the world – and I’ve been to over 145 countries – in what was basically a process of elimination.
I ruled out Africa, which is where I would go if I were 30 years younger and I wanted to make a bunch of money. But as a lifestyle choice, it’s a nonstarter.
I ruled out most of Europe, though there are still some interesting places there, because it’s likely to be on the front lines of what may resemble WWIII, as well as the unfolding conflict with Islam. Plus, it’s overtaxed, overregulated, completely corrupt, and the population has an extremely socialistic mind-set. Further, all the European countries are members of organizations such as NATO, OECD, and the EU, which carry the potential to drag them into every fresh crisis that arises in that historically troubled region, the current dust-up with Russia being a good example.
I’m a big fan of Southeast Asia. The problem is that the region is full of people, which is fine if you want to live in a city, but I also like wide open spaces. And if you aren’t Thai or Chinese, they will never truly accept you into their society. They may treat you as an honored guest, but more likely as a white ghost; you’ll never truly integrate. That isn’t always a bad thing, but I like to at least have the option.
So that brings us to Latin America. I ruled out Central America because, frankly, it has no class…the land of the Frito Bandito and all that. I’ve been to every country in Latin America numerous times and I could talk about all of them at length, but by process of elimination, it basically boiled down to Argentina.
Of course, Argentina has problems, but regardless of the tremendously bad press its current government gets, it has fewer problems than any other place I can think of, and far more advantages.
Nick: Since you mention the government, there’s no question the Argentine political class skews socialist. How does that impact you on a daily basis?
Doug: Not very much at all, because you have to remember that Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, but has a population of only 41 million people, most of them concentrated in and around Buenos Aires.
So once you’re out of the capital, it’s truly wide open spaces. When people are widely dispersed, it tends to be much more relaxed, almost an Old West kind of atmosphere. So that’s point number one.
Point two is that, although it’s true that everybody who goes into the government in Argentina – just as in the United States or Europe or anywhere – has a very statist and collectivist mind-set, of all the countries in Latin America, Argentina has by far the strongest libertarian, or classical liberal, tradition. There isn’t even a second-place contender when it comes to that. It’s a very sophisticated, well-educated, outward-looking country.
So while it’s true that, politically, the country has been captured by Peronism and populism, the basic culture is far superior to any other place in Latin America. And, frankly, the government doesn’t bother me, at all, when I’m there. I’m viewed as a valuable foreign investor, which is quite different from the way I’m treated in the United States: as a milk cow on the way to becoming a beef cow.
Look, every country in the world has its problems, but from the point of view of living there, Argentina actually has fewer of them. In addition, from a cultural point of view, it’s one of the most desirable places in the world.
Nick: You’ve written a lot about the coming Greater Depression – which, from where we sit, seems to be approaching like a slow-motion avalanche. In that scenario, how does a place like Cafayate rate as a bolt hole?
Doug: Well, that’s one of the fundamental reasons I zeroed in on Cafayate.
Put it this way: When I’m in the U.S., I live in Aspen, Colorado, and everybody in Aspen is looking for the next Aspen, because the house prices are $5, $10, $15 million, or more. But although everyone is looking for the next Aspen, the next Aspen doesn’t exist in the U.S., or even in North America. Even taking the whole world into account, there are just a handful of candidates, and it turns out that Cafayate is one of those.
For starters, although it has its own jet airport, it’s in a very isolated part of Argentina, sited in a stunning valley surrounded by mountains, with not much of anything there other than the town of Cafayate. And that is surrounded by thousands and thousands of acres of vineyards. Of course, wherever wine grapes grow, generally the climate is perfect, and people love it.
So, we have this little town of 10,000 people, a tourist town, a wine town like a young Napa Valley – it’s ideal for pleasurable living. But to expand on your question, on a macro scale, Argentina isn’t involved in any entangling foreign alliances or conflicts. This is also a very important plus.
Well, there is the problem with the Falklands, but there’s nothing the government can do about it because the average Argentine despises both the army and the police. This is a very good thing compared to, say, a country like Chile, where they actually love their army and police, which I don’t find a good thing at all.
I’ll illustrate the point by relating that the Argentines had a destroyer, and three years ago that destroyer actually sank at its moorings at the dock and keeled over 45 degrees from lack of maintenance. That’s how competent the Argentine military is at this point.
So, Argentina isn’t going to get involved in any conflicts, either with its nearby neighbors or countries further afield, and I like that.
Nick: What about the state of the Argentine economy?
Doug: The economy is a disaster, but in the past, investing in countries where the economy is the dumps has treated me very well. I like bargains. It’s a huge plus for those with foreign currencies.
For example, when I moved to Spain, not so long after Franco left, the economy was a disaster, and things were very cheap. Then it boomed, so I was effectively paid for living there.
When I moved to Hong Kong, it was considered an extremely risky place because the Chinese were about to take over. I bought an apartment that I later sold for over 20 times what I paid for it. That was only possible because people were fearful then. It’s precisely why I wouldn’t buy in London, New York, or Sydney today – people are optimistic, and prices are insane.
Negative attitudes ruled when I moved to New Zealand; it was becoming the shallow end of the gene pool, and anybody with half a brain and the money for airfare had left for Sydney or London or Los Angeles. But since I moved there, the currency has gone up two and a half times and the price of property within that currency has gone up another four times, more or less. Time to move on…
You’ve got to buy when things are cheap and, of all the countries in the world I look at, right now Argentina is the best bargain. By far. And that’s just one reason I’ve moved to Argentina. It isn’t a risky place to go; it’s actually a very low-risk place to go for that reason.
Nick: Few people have wandered the globe as much as you have over the years. Is there something about the Latin culture or, more specifically, the culture of Argentina that you find more appealing than other places people might look at as potential expatriate destinations?
Doug: Well, it’s an immigrant culture, which I find a very positive thing. The Argentines have a saying: “The Mexicans came from the Aztecs, the Guatemalans came from the Mayans, and the Peruvians came from the Incas, but we come from the boats.”
That reflects the fact it is actually the most European society in the world today. Argentines don’t view themselves as being Latin – they view themselves as being Europeans. Another saying which is worth repeating is that an Argentine is an Italian who speaks Spanish but thinks he’s British.
Most of the Argentines are of one of those nationalities, plus German and Irish and many others. So, like only a few other places in the word, most notably the U.S., it’s an immigrant culture.
It’s also a very well-educated society, unlike a lot of other countries in Latin America or Asia, where the average person is unsophisticated, unknowledgeable, and burdened with a peasant mentality. Not so with the average Argentine. It is a very outward-looking and well-educated society, far more than any other place in Latin America. And perhaps with the exception of Panama, which is almost a U.S. colony at this point, in Argentina, a surprising number of people speak two or three languages, a sign of a general level of cultural sophistication.
And there is no other city in Latin America that compares to Buenos Aires. I love BA, though I don’t spend much of my time there.
Nick: What do you love most about Argentina?
Doug: For me, it’s the personal freedom.
Of course, with my middle-class values, I appreciate the low cost of living in Argentina, but what I really love is that nobody bothers me. There is a very limited and nonthreatening police presence, and outside the bad parts – which every big city has – of Buenos Aires, a very peaceful country.
On a more personal level, I love that I can get up in the morning in Cafayate and work out in the Athletic Club for an hour, followed by an hour-long massage for $25, then maybe ride my horse for a while before doing some business on the Internet.
In the evening, I might decide to wander over to the Grace Cafayate hotel for a drink and to smoke a cigar in the cigar bar there. Then maybe play a game of poker with some of the gang.
So the lifestyle there is perfect. And I speak as somebody who spends a lot of time in Aspen, which is supposed to have the best lifestyle in the world. But I find Cafayate a huge improvement. Several of my friends from Aspen have actually made the move.
Where will YOU be this November 11-14?
This is your invitation to a truly unique opportunity to enjoy the best life has to offer at La Estancia de Cafayate, Doug Casey’s lifestyle and sporting estate in the remote wine country of Northwest Argentina.
It will be a week filled with exciting social events, including cocktail parties at the new Grace Cafayate hotel, horseback riding adventures, golf, tennis, luxuriating at the Athletic Club & Spa, dining out on Cafayate’s scenic plaza, and generally enjoying springtime in Argentina…
The only way to fully appreciate the opportunities in Argentina and what’s going on at La Estancia de Cafayate is to visit in person. It will be an experience you will remember the rest of your life.
Space is extremely limited. For an itinerary and more information, email Juan Larrañaga at JoinNick@LaEst.com.
What I love are a certain type of book and movie. In many cases they are not a huge commercial success. But they are well done and really touch your heart. Right now I’m reading a short book from Zimbabwe written by a man who went from Zimbabwe to become a doctor in Scotland. It’s called The Hairdresser of Harare. It is a simple story line about what happens in a hair cutting salon in Harare, Zimbabwe. The writing is intricate and beautiful. It has really touches my heart. This one is a “must read!
September 28, 2015
NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars
Dark, narrow streaks on Martian slopes such as these at Hale Crater are inferred to be formed by seasonal flow of water on contemporary Mars. The streaks are roughly the length of a football field. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.
Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.
“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”
These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.
“We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” said Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 by Nature Geoscience.
Ojha first noticed these puzzling features as a University of Arizona undergraduate student in 2010, using images from the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). HiRISE observations now have documented RSL at dozens of sites on Mars. The new study pairs HiRISE observations with mineral mapping by MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).
The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren’t as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.
Ojha and his co-authors interpret the spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. Some perchlorates have been shown to keep liquids from freezing even when conditions are as cold as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius). On Earth, naturally produced perchlorates are concentrated in deserts, and some types of perchlorates can be used as rocket propellant.
Perchlorates have previously been seen on Mars. NASA’s Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover both found them in the planet’s soil, and some scientists believe that the Viking missions in the 1970s measured signatures of these salts. However, this study of RSL detected perchlorates, now in hydrated form, in different areas than those explored by the landers. This also is the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.
MRO has been examining Mars since 2006 with its six science instruments.
“The ability of MRO to observe for multiple Mars years with a payload able to see the fine detail of these features has enabled findings such as these: first identifying the puzzling seasonal streaks and now making a big step towards explaining what they are,” said Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
For Ojha, the new findings are more proof that the mysterious lines he first saw darkening Martian slopes five years ago are, indeed, present-day water.
“When most people talk about water on Mars, they’re usually talking about ancient water or frozen water,” he said. “Now we know there’s more to the story. This is the first spectral detection that unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses for RSL.”
The discovery is the latest of many breakthroughs by NASA’s Mars missions.
“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”
There are eight co-authors of the Nature Geoscience paper, including Mary Beth Wilhelm at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California and Georgia Tech; CRISM Principal Investigator Scott Murchie of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland; and HiRISE Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona. Others are at Georgia Tech, the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique in Nantes, France.
The agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin built the orbiter and collaborates with JPL to operate it.
More information about NASA’s journey to Mars is available online at:
For more information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, visit:
‘Mars mystery’ solved: Free-flowing water discovered on Red Planet, NASA says
Where there is water, there’s likely life.
An enhanced color image sequence of seasonal water flows in Horowitz Crater on Mars. NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Water is flowing on the Martian surface! Just as many predicted, the scientific breakthrough that NASA hinted at over the weekend is the discovery of water on the Red Planet.
On Twitter, NASA declared a “major scientific finding had been made” and “Mars mystery solved.” Now, that mystery has been revealed.
In a new study, NASA scientists detail what they say is the strongest evidence yet of the presence of water — flowing salty streaks of water that come and go with the Martian seasons.
Scientists have speculated that streak-like erosion may be caused by seasonal springs, but now researchers say they have direct chemical evidence.
Satellite instruments were able to detect the presence of waterlogged molecules, hydrated salts called perchlorates.
“Something is hydrating these salts, and it appears to be these streaks that come and go with the seasons,” Lujendra Ojha, one of the lead scientists responsible for the discovery, said in a press release. “This means the water on Mars is briny, rather than pure. It makes sense because salts lower the freezing point of water. Even if RSL are slightly underground, where it’s even colder than the surface temperature, the salts would keep the water in a liquid form and allow it to creep down Martian slopes.”
There was plenty of speculation on what exactly would be revealed, but most in the science community believe the announcement detail detail the discovery of free flowing water on Mars — not the discovery of alien life forms. Though, such a discovery may not be far away.
“Water is essential to life as we know it,” the researchers wrote in their new study on the subject, published on Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience. “The presence of liquid water on Mars today has astrobiological, geologic and hydrologic implications and may affect future human exploration.”
Enhanced color images of flowing water in the Newton Crater on Mars. Scientists say the water melts as part of a seasonal pattern on the Red Planet. NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
There has been plenty of indirect evidence of water’s past presence on Mars, but proof of free-flowing water now changes the discussion about life on Mars, making the presence of living organisms more than likely.
The announcement will also embolden those working to establish some sort of human colony or outpost on the Red Planet.
NASA’s big announcement was streamed live on NASA TV.
© 2015 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
By William Harwood CBS News September 28, 2015, 11:40 AM
Mars secret revealed: First “unambiguous” signs of water
|Click here to Reply or Forward|
14.76 GB (92%) of 16 GB used
Last account activity: 0 minutes ago
Sir Richard Branson always extols the virtue of keeping a notebook where you write your personal thoughts and observations. I keep such a notebook. on Saturday I reflected on the most incredible people that I have personally met or worked with in almost 67 years of life. I shared my results with Elena at lunch yesterday as follows:
1) I told Elena that she was in an incredible category by herself. She is the most wonderful thing that has happened in my life.
2) James Baker: He served as Secretary of The Treasury and secretary of State. I got a 90-day internship with him after getting out of the US Navy in 1972. He was from a wealthy family and head of one of the most powerful law firms in Houston. He was a friend of everybody with any power in politics. He always dressed like a fashion model from a classy men’s magazine. When he came into the office in the morning, he took off his coat and hanged it on his chair. He loosened his tie and rolled up his shirt sleeves. He became one of the most modest, warm, human and compassionate people that I have met in my life. His door was always open and anyone could come in and talk to him. Later when he became a powerful cabinet officer, I knew that our country was being well-served.
3) The late President Ronald Reagan:Thanks to Mr. Baker I got to sit in with President Reagan in a 90-minute briefing in 1972. He literally is the most charming human being that I have met in my entire life. He was also very intelligent. He connected well with his audience. He truly was a great communicator. Even if you violently disagreed with his political ideology, you fell madly in love with him as a person.
4) H. Ross Perot: I had a one hour meeting in his office in Dallas in 1972. He was already a billionaire. In person he was a very modest and humble person. If you were talking to him he made you feel like the most important person in the world. In back of his desk was a huge credenza with the pictures of every family member; even obscure cousins. Under all of that warmth and humility I could sense that he had a brilliant mind that worked at twice the speed of a normal person’s mind.
5) James C. Lewis: He was of Afro-Cuban ancestry. When the family came to the US, they changed the name to a gringo-sounding name. Despite being a humble immigrant family, they sent their son to Columbia University. After finishing his studies, he could have had a great career in many areas. Instead he joined the US Air Force and was a pilot of transport planes for 20 years. Along the way Jim worked for the CIA Airline Air America and had adventures all over the world. He flew mercenaries in the Congo, for example. One could have written an incredible adventure book about him. After the US Air Force, he went into the seafood business in Los Angeles. Jim was literally the most honest and decent man who I have met in my entire life. He was a wonderful employer and a dear friend.
6) Nichols Humy: He is an incredible lawyer who represented me in a contempt of court action over my book Laguna. Nicholas was the best court room lawyer that I have seen in my life. He had compassion for people and always worked harder than expected. He pulled off a legal miracle for me that no one thought was possible. Sadly he died of cancer at age 53.
Elena and I had an incredible day yesterday. We did the walk for lung cancer. I did the standard 5K walk and Elena and the dogs did a 4-mile walk. We were tired but felt great. Later Elena and I went to El Torito. We had a great dinner and tried to photograph the eclipse. We drove all around the area but could not avoid a cloud cover that obscured the beautiful event. We came hoe and Elena saw and photographed part of the eclipse from home. We watched the season finale of CSI. It’s amazing that it’s ending after 15 years. I also bought out tickets to go to see The Martian next Friday. Luah is coming with us.Now it’s back to work today!
I would never go to China, even if someone paid for the trip and all expenses.
My reason can be explained in one headline: China Arrests US Citizen for ‘Endangering National Security’.
An American businesswoman has been formally arrested in China on suspicion of “endangering national security” just days before Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in the US for his first official state visit.
Phan Phan-Gillis, 55, who also uses the name Sandy, disappeared in late March while traveling as part of a delegation made up of local officials from her home town of Houston, Texas.
Her husband, Jeff Gillis, told US media he later discovered she had been detained by China’s Ministry of State Security and that she was suspected of espionage and stealing state secrets.
Judging from news reports and corporate websites, Ms Phan-Gillis has been an active promoter of Sino-US ties.
During her trip to China in March she identified herself as executive president of the America Asia Trade Promotion Association (AATPA) and president of the Houston Shenzhen Sister City Association.
Missing Since March
Gillis went missing on March 19. We are only hearing about it just now because her husband was afraid publicity might jeopardize her chances of being released.
Since then, he has awakened to reality: He is at the mercy of merciless, corrupt Chinese leaders.
As noted by the Financial Times, “In China the definition of state secrets is broad and vague and often encompasses things that would be considered public information in other countries. Authorities regularly detain foreign citizens they suspect of spying but ethnically Chinese foreign citizens are far more likely to be held and charged.”
When I write about China I frequently get comments along the lines “What do you know about China? Have you ever been there?”
In the not-so distant past, such questions were accompanied by comments like “China is booming. Have you seen all the building cranes? They are everywhere. Every city is expanding …”
My reply was along the lines of “There were cranes all over Florida as well, right before US real estate collapsed.”
Now reports of vacant cities, malls, and corruption are all over news about China. Capital flight is the order of the day. China has to prop up the yuan or it might sink.
One does not need to go to China to see the pollution or understand the untenable fraud inherent in its massive State Owned Enterprise (SOE) schemes.
National Security Risk
I am an outspoken critic of planned government, GDP lies, pollution, and in general everything associated with China’s corrupt central planning model.
It is questionable whether I could last a day without being arrested.
In regards to Gillis, I have to ask: WTF was a delegation from Houston in China for in the first place? Most likely it was a taxpayer boondoggle.
Regardless, Gillis was no more danger to China’s “national security” than I am. But that’s the problem, isn’t it?
I do not get to decide, nor does an unbiased jury get to decide what constitutes “national security”. In China, some unelected Communist bureaucrat attempting to prop up his regime gets to decide what constitutes not only national security, but anything and everything else.
If the state decides to burn Gillis at the stake, then that’s precisely what will happen.
How China is Ruled
The BBC explains “How China is Ruled“.
The Chinese Communist Party has ruled the country since 1949, tolerating no opposition and often dealing brutally with dissent.
The country’s most senior decision-making body is the standing committee of the politburo, heading a pyramid of power which tops every village and workplace.
Politburo members have never faced competitive election, making it to the top thanks to their patrons, abilities and survival instincts in a political culture where saying the wrong thing can lead to a life under house-arrest, or worse.
The idea that a centrally planned communist country will soon be the preeminent economic power and its currency the world’s reserve currency is laughable.
No one in their right mind believes Chinese growth estimates. And much of the growth we do see is nothing but malinvestment. China does not have a large, open, or liquid bond market that a global reserve currency requires. Heck, China dare not even float the yuan.
As noted above, those in China better be careful about what they say. Anyone who bothers to bluntly speak the truth, like I just did, would not last a day in China.
China may be a big economic power, but at the heart of it all, China is nothing but a two-bit, scandalous, central planning dictatorship when it comes to property rights, human rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of press.
Those who gloat over China’s miracle growth and think the yuan will soon supplant the US dollar are mistaken on both counts.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
Saudi Arabia: Stampede at hajj kills 717 pilgrims
Updated 6:11 am, Thursday, September 24, 2015
MINA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — A horrific stampede killed at least 717 pilgrims and injured hundreds more Thursday on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the deadliest tragedy to strike the annual hajj pilgrimage in more than two decades.
At least 863 pilgrims were injured in the crush, said the Saudi civil defense directorate, which provided the death toll. The tragedy struck as Muslims around the world marked the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday.
It was the second major disaster during this year’s hajj season, raising questions about the adequacy of measures put in place by Saudi authorities to ensure the safety of the roughly 2 million Muslims taking part. A crane collapse in Mecca nearly two weeks earlier left 111 people dead.
Saudi Arabia takes great pride in its role as the caretaker of Islam’s holiest sites and host to millions of pilgrims annually. But the hajj poses an immense logistical and security challenge for the kingdom given the sheer number of hundreds of thousands of people — from differing linguistic and cultural backgrounds, many of whom have saved for years for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity — intent on following the same set of rituals at about the same time.
Thursday’s crush happened in Mina, a large valley about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Mecca that has been the site of hajj stampedes in years past.
Mina is where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil by throwing pebbles against three stone columns. It also houses more than 160,000 tents where pilgrims spend the night during the pilgrimage.
Thursday’s tragedy struck during a morning surge of pilgrims at the intersection of streets 204 and 223 as the faithful were making their way toward a large structure overlooking the columns, according to the Saudi civil defense directorate.
The multi-story structure, known as Jamarat Bridge, is designed to ease the pressure of the crowds and prevent pilgrims from being trampled.
Ambulance sirens blared as rescue crews rushed the injured to nearby hospitals.
More than 220 rescue vehicles and some 4,000 members of the emergency services were deployed soon after the stampede to try to ease the congestion and provide alternative exit routes, according to the directorate.
Amateur video shared on social media showed a horrific scene, with scores of bodies — the men dressed in the simple terry cloth garments worn during hajj — lying amid crushed wheelchairs and water bottles along a sunbaked street.
Survivors assessed the scene from the top of roadside stalls near white tents as rescue workers in orange and yellow vests combed the area.
International media covering the hajj, including The Associated Press journalists in Mina, were restricted from visiting the site of the accident for several hours and from immediately leaving an Information Ministry complex where the press is housed during the final three days of the pilgrimage per government rules.
Photos released by the directorate on its official Twitter account showed rescue workers helping the wounded onto stretchers and loading them onto ambulances near some of the tents.
Some 2 million people are taking part in this year’s hajj pilgrimage, which is an obligation of every able-bodied Muslim. The pilgrimage began in earnest Tuesday.
Saudi authorities take extensive precautions to ensure the security of the hajj and the safety of pilgrims. There are about 100,000 security forces deployed this year to oversee crowd management and ensure pilgrims’ safety during the five-day pilgrimage.
At Mina specifically, authorities have put measures in place over the years to try to alleviate the pressure posed by masses of pilgrims converging on the site of the stoning ritual.
Officials use surveillance cameras and other equipment to limit the number of people converging on the site, and the Jamarat Bridge has multiple exits to facilitate the flow of people.
But tragedies are not uncommon.
The death toll from Thursday’s crush far exceeded that of a similar incident in 2006, near the same site, when more than 360 pilgrims were killed in a stampede. Another stampede at Mina in 2004 left 244 pilgrims dead and hundreds injured.
The deadliest hajj-related tragedy happened in 1990, when at least 1,426 pilgrims perished in a stampede in an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel leading to holy sites in Mecca.
The latest tragedy is certain to have touched many different countries as the victims likely included pilgrims of different nationalities.
At least 41 Iranian pilgrims perished and at least 60 were injured in Thursday’s crush, according to the chief of the Iranian hajj organizing agency. Saeed Ohadi blamed Saudi Arabia for “safety errors” and said in comments to Iranian state TV that “mismanagement by the Saudis” led to the tragedy.
Thursday’s crush happened less than two weeks after a giant construction crane came crashing down on the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the focal point of the hajj. The Sept. 11 accident killed at least 111 people and injured more than 390.
Authorities blamed the crane collapse on high winds during an unusually powerful storm, and faulted the construction giantSaudi Binladin Group, which oversees construction at the mosque, for not following operating procedures.
Schreck reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed to this report.
Big Picture Science has an excellent podcast this morning. It is taking about facial recognition software. To make a long story short, right now we do not own the rights to our own face!
ft.com > world >
Middle East & North Africa
September 20, 2015 11:53 am
Iran desperate for nuclear deal dividend as economy stagnates
Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
EDITORS’ NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to film or take pictures in Tehran. A worker assembles a vehicle at a production line of carmaker Iran Khodro, west of Tehran June 20, 2011. Iran Khodro, Iran’s biggest car maker which runs what it says is the largest car factory in the Middle East, sees sales rising at home and abroad, despite economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl (IRAN – Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS)©Reuters
A worker at a car factory near Tehran. Sales of locally made vehicles have declined 15 per cent in five months
“Don’t buy cars; prices will go down!” “No to new cars,” blare the headlines in an Iranian social media campaign that some government officials blame for fuelling the country’s economic malaise.
ON THIS TOPIC
Philip Stephens Obama muddled on Iran
‘RouhaniCare’ set to boost Iran president
Roula Khalaf The real cost of the Iran deal
The World Barenboim Iran visit piques Israel’s far-right
IN MIDDLE EAST & NORTH AFRICA
Saudis place sanctions on Binladin Group
Security forces kill tourists in Egypt
Egypt and Tunisia row back on corruption
Syria refugees access legal advice by text
Sign up now
FirstFT is our new essential daily email briefing of the best stories from across the web
“Shoddy and expensive domestically made cars should be reasonably priced and have appropriate after-sales service,” insists a Facebook post.
The motor industry — Iran’s biggest non-oil sector and employer of half a million people — has become the latest symbol of the country’s economic stagnation and the public’s declining purchasing power after years of international sanctions and political populism under the previous government.
With hopes high that Tehran’s nuclear accord with world powers could lead to the lifting of international sanctions, consumers are holding back on spending in the expectation of price drops and the arrival of better quality imported goods. The motor industry has been badly hit, with sales of domestically produced cars dropping by 15 per cent over the past five months, according to official figures.
Officials warn the carmakers’ crisis is having knock-on effects across the economy, hitting sectors from parts-makers to the critical steel industry, the second-biggest non-oil sector, which is already struggling amid a housing slowdown.
Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, Iran’s minister of industries, even accused anonymous online campaigners of “treason” for undermining local production — before setting up an inquiry into their complaints.
But any dividends from the nuclear deal will take many months to materialise, and Iran’s economy remains mired in stagnation.
The centrist government of President Hassan Rouhani has managed to cut inflation from about 40 per cent to 12.6 per cent over the past two years and end three successive years of economic contraction, with growth of 3 per cent in the year to March. But economists believe the economy has now stopped growing and may even be contracting.
“The economic growth rate has not been positive in the first half of this Iranian year [since March] and will probably be negative in the second half, which makes negative economic growth this year almost inevitable,” said Mohsen Safaei Farahani, a former deputy economy minister.
Iran under Rouhani
‘Iran after Rouhani’ in depth
After nearly a decade of isolation Iran has agreed a breakthrough deal with six world powers to wind back its progress towards building a nuclear bomb in exchange for a sweeping reversal of international economic sanctions
Plunging oil prices have added to the strain on a budget already depleted by a halving of oil revenues, the country’s economic lifeblood, and the freezing of tens of billions of dollars of assets held in overseas banks under EU and US sanctions.
“The pressure of sanctions over the past four years, which is going to continue at least to the end of 2015, the dramatic fall of petrodollars in an oil-dependent economy, and mismanagement over the past decade have put Iran’s economy in the worst situation ever,” said Mr Safaei Farahani.
The economic situation is so grave that even the expected unfreezing of more than $100bn in Iranian assets in foreign banks under the nuclear deal will do little to help, according to economists.
“The unfrozen assets may not have much impact on Iran’s economy,” said Mr Safaei Farahani. “What Iran needs the most is lifting of sanctions to bring in investments, technology and know-how from foreign investors and the Iranian expatriate community, to help renovate and upgrade the management of big industries, such as car-producing factories and petrochemical plants.”
Mr Rouhani’s government lacks the resources needed to boost domestic industry by itself, economists say. Even as depleted oil revenues constrain its budget, Tehran remains obliged to pay IR480tn ($16.6bn) annually to individuals to compensate for a cut in energy subsidies, a populist measure inherited from former president Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.
“The best the government has been able to do so far is to pay state employees and monthly cash payments for subsidies on time,” said one economist. “There is no budget for development projects.”
Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Iran’s oil minister, said state officials were “in tears” at the end of each month as they struggled to find the cash for compensation payments.
Mohammad-Ali Najafi, secretary of the state-owned Economic Co-ordination Headquarters, which co-ordinates economic policy across ministries, expects a budget deficit of IR550tn this year, making it “probably the worst over the past 37 years”.
Meanwhile, as consumers across Iran feel the pinch and the campaign against local cars continues, business leaders fear bankruptcy.
“Nobody is buying anything and people are waiting for prices to go down after sanctions are lifted,” said Ali, whose business making balcony fences has dramatically declined. “But it is wishful thinking for people to think their campaign will lead to higher quality and lower prices any time soon.”
Real Median Earnings for Men at 1971 Level, Women at 2001 Level; Household Income at 1996 Level; What About the War on Poverty?
If you are looking for evidence that QE has done anything to improve income for the bottom half of the nation you will not find it in data released today from the Census Bureau.
Please consider the census report on Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States for 2014.
- Median household income was $53,657 in 2014 [down 1.5% from 2013]. This is the third consecutive year that the annual change was not statistically significant, following two consecutive years of annual declines in median household income.
- In 2014, real median household income was 6.5 percent lower than in 2007, the year before the most recent recession.
- The real median income of non-Hispanic White households declined 1.7 percent between 2013 and 2014. For Black, Asian, and Hispanic-origin households, the 2013-2014 percentage changes in real median income were not statistically significant
- The real median income of households maintained by a foreign-born person increased by 4.3 percent between 2013 and 2014. In contrast, the median income of households maintained by a native-born person declined 2.3 percent.
Real Median Household Income
Household Income Progress
- Real median household income for all races is where it was in 1996.
- Real median household income for white non-Hispanics is where it was in 1997.
- Real median household income for blacks is where it first was in 1995.
- Real median household income for Hispanics is where it first was in 1998.
- Real median household income for Asians is where it first was in 1995.
Real median household income for all races is 6.5 percent lower than 2007, and 7.2 percent lower than the median household income peak ($57,843) that occurred in 1999.
Earnings of Men vs. Women – Fulltime Workers
- The female-to-male earnings ratio is at an all-time high of 79 percent
- Real median earnings of male fulltime workers is at a 1971 level
- Real median earnings of female fulltime workers is at a 2001 level
By the way, those “real earnings” numbers assume you believe the government’s measure of inflation. Note that the CPI does not reflect home prices or property taxes, and is at best a crude, inefficient, measure of prices.
The poverty rate is where it was in 1966.
On August 20, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the “Economic Opportunity Act” kicking off his “Great Society” and the “War on Poverty“.
Johnson stated “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it“.
Until Johnson declared a war on poverty there was actually progress on poverty.
In 1996, president Bill Clinton signed the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act” on a mission to “end welfare as we know it“.
President Clinton succeeded, in a perverse way.
For details of Clinton’s success, please see States Have an Incentive to Promote (Not Stop) Disability Fraud; So How Much Fraud Is There?
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
Often overlooked, small caps have a track record of outperforming large caps, and they could be a valuable addition to your clients’ diversified portfolios. Read our white paper to discover how small-cap stocks may enhance your clients’ risk/return profiles.