FILE PHOTO: A Venezuelan flag hangs from a building near the national election board as acting President Maduro registered as a candidate for president in the April 14 election in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: A Venezuelan flag hangs from a building in Caracas March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As the United States makes its biggest diplomatic push in Latin America in years to try to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the U.S. military is zeroing in on a byproduct of the crisis: a strengthening of Colombian rebels on both sides of Venezuela’s border.

U.S. Admiral Craig Faller, the head of the U.S. military’s Southern Command that oversees U.S. forces in Latin America, told Reuters the United States had sharpened its focus on the rebels and increased its sharing of intelligence with Colombian officials. 

U.S. officials see a growing threat from both Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) and factions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that refuse to adhere to a 2016 peace agreement to end five decades of civil war.

The United States believes the rebels are taking advantage of Venezuela’s crisis to expand their reach in that country and the scope of long-standing illegal activities, including drug trafficking.

“Our principal role working with our Colombian partners is to assist in intelligence sharing. What we know, we share,” Faller said. Asked whether the intelligence sharing on the rebels had ramped up as Venezuela’s crisis deepened, Faller responded: “Absolutely.”

The risks from the insurgents on both sides of the Colombia-Venezuela border add another layer of complexity to the crisis in Venezuela, where U.S. President Donald Trump says all options are on the table to remove Maduro from office.

U.S. officials have uniformly emphasized diplomatic and economic tools to accelerate Maduro’s departure, like sanctions, but Faller acknowledged the U.S. military stood ready to provide options if needed.

At the same time, he noted that no U.S. allies in the region were seeking a military solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

“My job is to be ready, be on the balls of my feet, at all times. But we’ve been talking to our partners and no one, no one, thinks that a military option is a good idea,” Faller said.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido says the May 2018 vote in which Maduro won a second term was a sham and he invoked a constitutional provision on Jan. 23 to assume the interim presidency. Most Western nations including the United States have backed Guaido as head of state.

Maduro, a socialist who has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet seeking to foment a coup, retains the support of the armed forces and control of state functions.

Jeremy McDermott, a Colombia-based expert on the insurgencies and co-founder of the Insight Crime think tank, said he believed the Colombian insurgents were operating in Venezuela with at least the blessing of Maduro.

The rebels’ aim is to exploit Venezuela’s lawlessness for safe haven and for economic gain, he said. But he noted there could be an added benefit for Maduro.

“If the Americans invade, or if Colombia promotes a military intervention, then they (Maduro’s supporters) would be able to call upon an insurgent force with more than 50 years of combat experience,” McDermott said.

Asked whether the United States had any evidence of communications between Maduro and the guerrilla groups, Faller said: “I’d rather not discuss the details of the exact connections but we’re watching it very closely.”

Venezuela’s Information Ministry and ELN contacts did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Colombia’s ambassador to Washington, former Vice President Francisco Santos, said ELN and FARC factions had long been present in Venezuela but had grown stronger and more integrated into the country as a result of Venezuela’s crisis.

“They have become the paramilitary groups of the Maduro administration,” Santos told Reuters.


A Cuba-inspired Marxist insurgency formed in 1964, the ELN claimed responsibility for a January car bomb attack against a police academy in Bogota that killed 22 cadets. It was an escalation by insurgents who have kidnapped Colombian security forces, attacked police stations and bombed oil pipelines.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the ELN is increasingly using Venezuelan territory to carry out narco-trafficking and illegal mining of minerals like gold and coltan.

The Venezuelan security forces were believed to be getting kickbacks from the guerrillas, they said.

One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. collection of intelligence on the guerrilla groups had increased in recent weeks, including looking at the militants’ activities on the Venezuelan side of the border with Colombia.

Several U.S. officials said they believed senior leaders of both the ELN and the so-called FARC dissidents who do not adhere to the peace agreement were now located inside of Venezuela.

“Their leadership is there,” a second U.S. official said, who also declined to be named, without providing evidence.

An International Crisis Group report cited estimates that the ELN had been active in a minimum of 13 of Venezuela’s 24 states, “absorbing new recruits and shifting from a guerrilla force that embraced armed resistance against Colombia’s ruling elites to one with many core operations in Venezuela.”

Opposition lawmakers in Venezuela also regularly denounce growing ELN activities in Venezuela, but Reuters has been unable to independently verify the extent of its presence or its operations.

Faller declined to discuss any specifics about the collection of U.S. intelligence or identify which insurgent leaders were in Venezuela.

But he acknowledged the trend and added that the flow of illegal narcotics “from Colombia into Venezuela, and then from Venezuela out in the region, has risen as the misery of the Venezuelan people has risen.”

“It’s essentially a lawless region now inside Venezuela along the border and the FARC dissidents and the ELN have taken advantage of that,” Faller said, adding: “They operate with impunity inside Venezuela.”

Santos said the big concern for Colombia was that the strengthening rebel forces would upend efforts to crack down on narcotics trafficking.

“That’s a big worry because in this situation of chaos, obviously they are going to grow. They are growing,” he said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Caracas and Helen Murphy in Bogota; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

The West Virginia legislature has approved a bill that would take an important first step towards treating gold and silver like money instead of a commodity by repealing sales and use taxes on bullion.

Sen. Craig Blair (R-Martinsburg) sponsored Senate Bill 502 (SB502). The proposed law defines “investment metal bullion” as “elementary precious metal which has been put through a process of smelting or refining, including gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, and which is in such a state or condition that its value depends upon its content and not its form.” It defines investment coins to include numismatic coins or other forms of money and legal tender manufactured of gold, silver, platinum, palladium, or other metal and of the United States or any foreign nation with a fair market value greater than any nominal value of such coins.

The West Virginia Senate passed SB502 by a vote of 33-0. The House concurred by a 90-9 vote. If Gov. Jim Justice signs the bill, it will go into effect July 1.

Enactment of this law would eliminate a barrier to investing in gold and silver and enable West Virginians to better protect themselves from the inflationary practices of the Federal Reserve.

Several other states are considering legislation to repeal taxes on gold and silver, including Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Gerald Celente reveals what’s ahead as the Federal Reserve is crashing the debt & real estate bubble it created worldwide.

In Practice

Fundamentally,  gold and silver are money. But most governments treat precious metals as a commodity. They don’t accept it as payment. Worse than that, they tax it. Think about the absurdity of this policy.

Imagine if you asked a grocery clerk to break a $5 bill and he charged you a 35 cent tax. Silly, right? After all, you were only exchanging one form of money for another. But that’s essentially what West Virginia’s sales tax on gold and silver bullion does. By removing the sales tax on the exchange of gold and silver, West Virginia would treat specie as money instead of a commodity. This represents a small step toward reestablishing gold and silver as legal tender and breaking down the Fed’s monopoly on money.

Former Congressman Ron Paul testified during in support of a bill to eliminate capital gains taxes on gold and silver that passed in Arizona in 2017.

“We ought not to tax money – and that’s a good idea. It makes no sense to tax money.”

Paul has been a vocal supporter of this movement. He produced a video urging the Wyoming governor to sign a 2018 bill that repealed all taxes on gold and silver. He noted that things move agonizingly slow in Washington D.C. Passing bills like this at the state level are an important step toward real monetary reform.

“It’s just to me sad that we are so far removed from the Constitution. But a little bit here and a little bit there, there is going to be a revolution in monetary policy.”

Paul emphasized that monetary reform is an important step toward reducing the power of the federal government.

“Believe me, the size and scope and interference of government would change a whole lot if we could rein in the monetary system, rein in the Federal Reserve and rein in this spending.”

Practically speaking, eliminating taxes on the sale of gold and silver would crack open the door for people to begin using specie in regular business transactions. This would mark an important small step toward currency competition. If sound money gains a foothold in the marketplace against Federal Reserve notes, the people will be able to choose the time-tested stability of gold and silver over the central bank’s rapidly-depreciating paper currency.

(Photo by Eric Golub / Flickr)

Background Information

The United States Constitution states in Article I, Section 10, “No State shall…make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts.” States have simply ignored this constitutional provision for years. It’s impossible for a state to return to a constitutional sound money system when it taxes gold and silver as a commodity.

SB502 tales a step toward establishing gold and silver as legal tender in the state and that constitutional requirement, ignored for decades in every state. This sets the stage to undermine the monopoly of the Federal Reserve by introducing competition into the monetary system.

Constitutional tender expert Professor William Greene said when people in multiple states actually start using gold and silver instead of Federal Reserve Notes, it could create a “reverse Gresham’s effect,” drive out bad money, effectively nullify the Federal Reserve, and end the federal government’s monopoly on money.

“Over time, as residents of the state use both Federal Reserve notes and silver and gold coins, the fact that the coins hold their value more than Federal Reserve notes do will lead to a “reverse Gresham’s Law” effect, where good money (gold and silver coins) will drive out bad money (Federal Reserve notes). As this happens, a cascade of events can begin to occur, including the flow of real wealth toward the state’s treasury, an influx of banking business from outside of the state – as people in other states carry out their desire to bank with sound money – and an eventual outcry against the use of Federal Reserve notes for any transactions.”

Once things get to that point, Federal Reserve notes would become largely unwanted and irrelevant for ordinary people. Nullifying the Fed on a state by state level is what will get us there.

Stewart Rhodes joins Matt Bracken & Alex to break down why patriots must be aware of false smears and remember their personal values.

Source: InfoWars

A wastewater injection well is seen at a facility operated by On Point Energy in Big Spring
A wastewater injection well is seen at a facility operated by On Point Energy in Big Spring, Texas U.S. February 12, 2019. Picture taken February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

March 18, 2019

By Jennifer Hiller

BIG SPRING, Texas (Reuters) – Mike Christensen strides among rows of gleaming steel tanks, pointing to pipelines that arrive from miles around to this corner of former farmland near Midland, Texas, the heart of the largest oil patch in the United States.

His company is one of dozens opening sites like this one that handles, not the lucrative oil, but the shale industry’s dirty secret: wastewater.

While U.S. oil production has reached record levels on account of the shale revolution of the last decade, much of the supporting infrastructure has failed to keep up, including how to transport the large quantities of water used in the hydraulic fracturing process and the water that is produced from wells alongside oil and gas.

Once managed individually by energy producers, the job of supplying, collecting and disposing of water is a rising cost, and has spawned a $34 billion a year business in the U.S. that has lured investors including TPG Capital, Blackstone Energy Partners LP and Ares Management Corp to back these firms.

Oil production in the Permian basin that spans West Texas and southeastern New Mexico is expected to rise to rise 35 percent to 5.4 million barrels of per day (bpd) by 2023, requiring even more water supply and disposal, said analysts. In two New Mexico counties, firms produced 505 million barrels of oil from 2016-2018, and five times that in water, a Reuters analysis of state production data showed.

“You can’t bring production online until you have a solution for the water,” said James Lee of Riveron Consulting.

There are 5,500 Permian wells to be drilled, requiring 2.75 billion barrels, or 115 billion gallons to complete, a Morgan Stanley report estimated.

While much of the water in the Permian is transported for high fees by trucks, which also exacerbate traffic congestion around production sites, midstream companies build and use pipelines which energy producers pay to utilize.

Christensen’s company, On Point Oilfield Holdings, owns a water disposal network that this year will take up to 375,000 bpd of wastewater. Some of that water will be recycled, but millions of gallons will eventually be sunk deep underground in West Texas. “Water was always an afterthought for producers,” said Christensen, who stretches him arm and draws a 360-degree arc to show the locations of lines carrying oilfield bilge to the site. “Now it’s a business plan in itself.”

Raising cash at a time when the industry is under pressure to restrain spending and improve returns has also fueled the trend, prompting some producers to cash in on their water projects.

In December, Hess Corp got $225 million for some of its water handling assets from a joint venture with Global Infrastructure Partners, while Halcon Resources received $200 million in cash and up to another $125 million over five years from WaterBridge Resources LLC for its water infrastructure assets.

“When capital discipline is higher on the priority list, it’s very attractive to monetize” water management assets, said Benjamin Shattuck, an analyst at consultancy Wood Mackenzie.


The average frack job now consumes 13 million gallons (49 million liters), up 40 percent in two years, according to a Reuters analysis of Permian producers’ data reported to

That translates to water bills in the Permian Basin soaring 17 percent this year to $14 billion, according to consultancy IHS Markit, more than three times what North American producers spent last year on sand to frack their wells.

That lure is attracting investors who once viewed oil and gas as the prize.

TPG last week agreed to pay $930 million for a majority stake in Goodnight Midstream’s water pipeline network, which consists of more than 420 miles (670 km) in three U.S. shale basins.

Other private equity firms, including ARM Energy Holdings and Ares Management, have committed $4 billion to buy or start water management firms over the last four years, according researcher Global Water Intelligence. {nFWN1UM0IP]

Water management at this scale is in its infancy compared with the business of moving oil and gas by pipeline, but more private equity firms are looking for investments, said Jim Summers, chief executive of Houston-based water company H20 Midstream.


Acquiring and disposing of water costs between 50 cents and $4 per barrel, depending on whether it moves by pipelines or more expensive trucks, and can be a steep cost for producers when oil dips as low as $40 a barrel in the Permian, as it did late last year.

The cost has inspired some companies to shift gears.

ARM Energy formed a company, Salt Creek Midstream, to gather oil and gas and was quickly pulled into offering water management, said CEO Zach Lee. By hiring Salt Creek, shale producer Lilis Energy expects its water disposal costs to fall to 48.5 cents per barrel from $2.

Not all producers, however, want to let go of their water management.

Diamondback Energy Inc is considering selling shares in a subsidiary that manages its water, oil and gas transport, but would retain control of the subsidiary.

“If I have to wait on somebody to get a pipeline built or a saltwater disposal system put in place, that is going to be a bad day. I need to be in control of that, not the other way around,” said Diamondback’s CEO Travis Stice.

Parsley Energy Inc spent $150 million to develop a water system that can handle up to 1 million bpd, which helped cut its wastewater costs by two-thirds, to 50 cents per barrel, CEO Matt Gallagher said.

“If you want to be a good shale operator you have to be excellent at water sourcing and management,” said Gallagher. Otherwise, “the whole operation could come to a screeching halt,” he said.

(GRAPHIC: U.S. finishes 2018 as world’s top crude oil producer as shale output scales new highs –

(GRAPHIC: In top U.S. shale field, output per-well falls, even as overall production rises –

(GRAPHIC: Rising shale production turns the United States into energy exporter –

(Reporting by Jennifer Hiller; editing by Gary McWilliams and Marguerita Choy)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Naotoshi Yamada poses for a photo at his office in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Naotoshi Yamada poses for a photo at his office in Tokyo, Japan, October 3, 2018. Picture taken October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

March 18, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Superfan Naotoshi Yamada, famous in Japan for having been to every Summer Games since 1964, has died aged 92 with an unfulfilled dream of watching the Olympics when it returns to Tokyo next year.

Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on Monday that he died last week following heart failure.

Yamada, known to his Japanese compatriots as “Olympic Ojisan”, or “Olympics Grandad”, first experienced the Games when Tokyo last hosted the gathering in 1964.

He had been a colorful presence at every Summer Games since, in his distinctive gold top hat and red jacket to pair with his beaming smile.

In an interview with Reuters in October, Yamada had expressed his desire to live long enough to see the Tokyo 2020 Games [nL5N20S0MG].

“It will be the culmination of all my years cheering the Olympics,” Yamada had said.

Yamada’s haul of flags, stamps, photographs and other items collected on his Olympic travels are on display at a gallery in his hometown of Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO : A man looks at an electronic stock quotation board showing Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO : A man looks at an electronic stock quotation board showing Japan’s Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian share markets crept ahead on Monday while bonds were in demand globally on speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve will sound decidedly dovish at its policy meeting this week.

Japan’s Nikkei led the way with a rise of 0.7 percent, and MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1 percent.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were just a fraction lower. The S&P 500 boasted its best weekly gain since the end of November last week, while the Nasdaq had its best week so far this year.

There is much talk Fed policymakers will lower their interest rate forecasts, or “dot plots”, to show little or no further tightening this year.

Also expected is more detail on a plan to stop culling the Fed’s holdings of nearly $3.8 trillion in bonds. The two-day meeting ends with a news conference on Wednesday.

As a result, yields on three and five-year Treasuries are dead in line with the effective Fed funds rate, while futures imply a better-than-even chance of a rate cut by year end.

“Long-term bond yields remain noticeably lower across a wide range of countries,” said Alan Oster, group chief economist at National Australia Bank.

“Markets are pricing in little or no chance of a rate hike by the major central banks this year, outside of the Bank of England. The Fed is indicating that it will be patient and we don’t expect any rate hikes this year.”

Data on Friday showed U.S. manufacturing output fell for a second straight month in February and factory activity in New York state hit nearly a two-year low this month, offering further evidence of a sharp slowdown in economic growth early in the first quarter.

A marked decline in Treasury yields has dragged on the dollar, leaving it at 111.55 yen from a top of 111.89 on Friday. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was pinned at 96.583 having shed 0.7 percent last week.

The euro was holding at $1.1321, well up from the recent trough of $1.1174 which was hit when the European Central Bank took a dovish turn of its own.

Sterling was steady at $1.3292 as markets await some clarity on where the Brexit drama was heading.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is scrambling to get support in parliament for her Brexit deal.

May has only three days to win approval for her deal to leave the European Union if she wants to go to a summit with the bloc’s leaders on Thursday with something to offer them in return for more time.

In commodity markets, spot gold was supported by the widespread decline in bond yields and stood at $1,300.35 per ounce.

Oil prices were near their highest for the year so far. U.S. crude was last off 6 cents at $58.46 a barrel, while Brent crude futures added 2 cents to $67.18.

(Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

Guns and Gear | Contributor

By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters

People think and say some pretty dumb things about ammo on occasion. Sometimes it’s due to not understanding the way the real world works and sometimes it’s due to romantic notions about the prowess of handgun rounds. Sometimes it’s due to other reasons entirely.

While we’re on the topic, let’s discharge (ha!) some of the harebrained ideas that some folks have about ammunition.

First, complaining that a gun won’t run steel-case ammunition, though with a caveat that I’ll get to in a bit. In the broad strokes, it’s stupid to whine about it. Folks, there are plenty of brands of hardball that are cheap, widely available and cased in brass. Blazer brass is $10 for a box of 50 in 9x19mm at the store close to me; does it really matter for me to spend only $9 on Tul?

No, it doesn’t. Besides, most of that Surplus Ammunition For Make Benefit Of the Glorious Former Socialist Republics is dirtier than Congress anyhow.

Where I will grant some leeway is with 5.56 or 7.62x39mm. When you get into rifle ammo, saving a few bucks per box makes a big difference; I’ll give you that. But with handguns? Come on. Herters, UMC and Blazer brass are cheap.

On a related note, “a gun’s not reliable if it doesn’t run everything!” is a load of crap. If it won’t run hardly anything, sure. But if your gun doesn’t like, say, HST hollow points but feeds Gold Dots or Winchester PDX just fine – zip it. If you have a gun that will run a widely available and known effective defensive round, who cares?

Some of my cars over the years seemed to prefer Valvoline; the Toyota I owned preferred Castrol. A five-quart jug runs about the same, so who gives a rat’s behind?

Now onto ballistics.

Folks, the word has been out for some time. There is no such thing as “stopping power” in a handgun. Maybe – MAYBE – with a .454 Casull, .460 S&W or .500 S&W or something like that. But even the mighty .44 Magnum doesn’t stop criminals 100 percent of the time with the first shot. Newton covered this some time ago; action, equal and opposite and all that.

If you want stopping power, you need a gun that practically knocks you over when you shoot it because those are the laws of physics. The guns that do that are the big safari magnum rifles, which are A.) usually pretty darned expensive B.) so are the bullets and C.) aren’t fun to shoot unless you’re used to it.

Let us also reflect that .45 ACP is not the manstopper some folks like to think. First, it’s not that powerful; it’s just big. Most loads carry less than 400 ft-lbs of muzzle energy so get the heck out of my office. Second, let’s stop it with the “it lets in more air and blood loss and stuff!” bit. You see, tissue is elastic. The hole almost closes up after a gunshot wound. Unless you hit a major artery, blood loss will not be catastrophic.

Don’t get me wrong. .45 ACP is a great round and I shoot a good amount of it myself. It’s proven to work. But it’s not a one-shot-stopper. “But muh expansion!” you say? Only matters on paper.

Yes, increasing the diameter of an expanded hollow point does increase the wounding potential, but real-world results confirm over and over again that what matters is where or who the bullet hits, not how big it got. What stops hostile hairless chimps is usually the psychological shock of being shot. Breaking a few select bones can hamper ambulatory function (knees, pelvis or spine) and of course, one to the brain stem does the trick every time. Blood loss is rarely a factor in gun fights.

Oh, and everything I just said about .45 ACP? The same goes for 10mm. And .357 Magnum. And .357 Sig. And just about every other handgun round you can think of.

Now we come to novelty ammunition. Every couple of years, some new ammo design comes out of the woodwork claiming it’s the new tactical devastation. Tactical Steves go crazy, buying it for their carry gun, and carrying it while they wear their plate carrier vest in the car on the way to their office job selling insurance. Granted, they drive in a very tactical fashion.

Folks, incremental improvements happen, but nobody reinvents the wheel. Carry what you want, but don’t go drinking too much of the Kool Aid.

Rant over, now go have some fun at the range.

Click here to get your 1911 Pistol Shopping Guide.

Click here to get The Complete Concealed Carry Training Guide

Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit

Source: The Daily Caller

Retired NBA player Kobe Bryant draws teams for FIBA World Cup in Shenzhen
Basketball – FIBA World Cup Draw – Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China – Retired NBA player Kobe Bryant draws teams. March 16. 2019 REUTERS/Stringer

March 16, 2019

The United States will open its defense of its FIBA World Cup championship this summer against the Czech Republic.

The draw for the 32-team tournament was held Saturday in Shenzhen, China.

The United States – the tournament’s top seed – also will face Turkey and Japan in Group E.

The FIBA World Cup will be held Aug. 31 to Sept. 15, with play in eight cities across China. The United States is the two-time defending champion.

The American squad will be coached by Gregg Popovich. He is taking over for Mike Krzyzewski, who led Team USA to three Olympic gold medals. The team has not been selected, but 15 NBA All-Stars are in the player pool.

The second-ranked team, Spain, headlines Group C, and will play Puerto Rico, Iran and Tunisia in pool play. Spain won the World Cup in 2006.

France, the third-ranked team, was placed in Group G with the Dominican Republic, Germany and Jordan.

The United States will play all of its group games in Shanghai. The championship game will be played in Beijing.

Seven nations will qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics based on their World Cup finish. Host Japan has an automatic berth, and the four other teams that will compete in the Olympics will earn their way to Tokyo through qualifying tournaments.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - 2018 Internationaux de France
FILE PHOTO: Figure Skating – ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating – 2018 Internationaux de France – Exhibition Gala – The Polesud, Grenoble, France – November 25, 2018 Nathan Chen of the U.S. performs during the Exhibition Gala REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

March 16, 2019

(Reuters) – Sickness forced Nathan Chen to train in New Haven but the 19-year-old says he is rested and ready to defend his figure skating title at next week’s world championships in Saitama.

Chen, who last year became the youngest world champion since Russian Yevgeni Plushenko in 2001, had his preparation for a follow up derailed a bit by a cold that kept him near his college at Yale University.

But that setback will not keep him from showing up in Japan as a favorite when this year’s world championships begin on Monday.

“I got a little bit sick so I decided to recover (in New Haven) and make sure I didn’t get any of the other athletes sick,” Chen told reporters during a teleconference on Friday.

“The entire college got sick, so it was inevitable. I’ve been training well for worlds. I’m looking forward to competition.”

Chen showed strong form at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships where he took a third consecutive gold in January.

He said that his performances have been continually building, which is a strong sign for the rest of the season.

“That’s always my goal every season. I want to be able to improve in some degree from competition to competition,” Chen said.

“It’s more evident in the short program from where I started out (to now), each one has progressively gotten better. I hope that continues in the worlds and further on in the season.” Chen has managed to balance his skating with his studies thus far, but said a return to Yale next fall is not guaranteed.

“My skating at this point is such a team effort. I really have to take into account everyone else’s thoughts and opinions,” Chen said.

“I have to make sure everyone else is on board with what I’m deciding. I haven’t made any decisions yet. Right now my focus is on the worlds and nothing else.”

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Source: OANN

Cheltenham Festival
Horse Racing – Cheltenham Festival – Cheltenham Racecourse, Cheltenham, Britain – March 14, 2019 Bryony Frost celebrates with a trophy after winning the 2.50 Ryanair Chase Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

March 16, 2019

CHELTENHAM, England (Reuters) – Women jockeys impressed at this week’s Cheltenham Festival, claiming four wins including an unprecedented two in top-level Grade One races, highlighted by Bryony Frost’s breakthrough triumph on Frodon.

Frost collected the biggest cheer of the week when she became the first female jockey to win a Grade One race over jumps at The Festival on Thursday.

The 23-year-old claimed one of the hardest fought battles to win the Ryanair Chase by little more than a length over Charlie Deutsch and Aso.

“I can’t explain how much I love that horse. He is Pegasus, he has wings and he is the most incredible battler,” Frost said.

Lizzie Kelly won the Handicap Chase later on Thursday with a bold front-running performance.

Irish jockey Rachael Blackmore claimed another Grade One race victory on Gold Cup Friday, her second win of the week.

The 29-year-old is currently second in the battle to become Ireland’s Champion Jockey having claimed 84 winners on Irish turf.

(Editing by Toby Davis)

Source: OANN

Life after death for asset inflation: this is what happens when “speculative fever” remains high even after monetary inflation has paused.

This may well have been the situation in global markets during 2019 so far. But history and principle suggest that life after death in this monetary sense is short.

Readers may find it odd to be talking about a pause in monetary inflation at a time when the Fed has cancelled programmed rate rises and the ECB has embarked (March 7) on yet further “radical” policy moves. Moreover, the “core” US inflation rate (as measured by PCE) is still at virtually 2 per cent year-on-year.

Yet we know from past cycles that in the early stages of recession many market participants — and, crucially, central banks — mistakenly view a stall in rate rises or actual rate cuts as stimulatory. Later with the benefit of hindsight these policy moves turn out to be insufficient to prevent a tightening of monetary conditions already in process but unrecognized.

Even had monetary conditions been easing rather than tightening, it is highly dubious whether this difference would have meant the powerful momentum behind the business cycle moving into its recession phase would have lessened substantially.

(As a footnote here: under a gold standard regime there is no claim that monetary conditions will evolve perfectly in line with contracyclical fine-tuning. Both in principle and fact monetary conditions could tighten there at first as recessionary forces gathered. Under sound money, however, contracyclical forces would emerge strongly into the recession as directed by the invisible hand.)

Under a fiat money regime, monetary tightening can occur in the transition of a business cycle into recession, despite the opposite intention of the central bank policy-makers, due to endogenous factors such as an undetected increase in demand for money or a fall in the underlying “money multipliers.” Quite possibly, what the markets first celebrated as a seeming Fed put eventually turns out to be a sick joke.

Like the policy of the central bank, the reported trend of officially measured inflation in goods and services market is a notoriously poor indicator of turning points in monetary inflation.

Fluctuations up and down in goods prices sometimes have nothing to do with monetary inflation. Students of Austrian school economics know that under sound money, prices would fluctuate in both directions for sustained periods. For example, there could have been a sustained period of falling prices under the influence of accelerated digitalization and globalization.

In the late stage of a business cycle expansion an upward drift of prices can form under the hypothesized sound money conditions and this may be happening in the present even as monetary inflation has waned.

Labor market normalization (return to balance) goes along with some pick-up of wages and productivity growth may coincidentally slow (perhaps related to a breather in the hectic pace of new technology application. In this cycle we could argue that the pace of globalization has slowed somewhat (of especially as the US confronts Chinese abuse of free market order in international economy). Maybe also the pace of digitalization has slackened (the “online” revolution surely does not proceed forever at the same hectic pace).

In sum, a late cycle rise of prices could be a false positive test of monetary inflation.

Moreover, just as official inflation data can be a lagging indicator of monetary inflation, so it is with the continuing symptoms of monetary inflation in the asset markets. Indeed, a Fed put may have inflamed those symptoms.

In searching for the presence (or not) of asset inflation we look for evidence of irrational forces under such banners as “search for yield” or “positive feedback loops.” A key focus is the carry trade, especially in currencies and credit. Alongside, we focus on the spread speculative narratives about which investors would be highly skeptical in sober rational mood (but monetary inflation erodes such skepticism). These characteristics can all outlive for some time monetary inflation, especially if the Fed has sought to exercise a put.

Even so, in this late stage the discerning monetary analysts can detect some tiredness about the narrative-telling. The chickens are coming home to roost from growing cumulative mal-investment – translating into pre-tax earnings peaking or going into reverse. Some disturbing counter narratives have emerged concerning the one-time hot speculations.

In many past business cycles, analysts in search of when the expansion and asset inflation are set to wane look for areas of unsustainable rises for key economic aggregates. In the last cycle, one example was residential construction in the USA. In other cycles it has been business spending overall — which would be broadly in line with Austrian School literature on the business cycle focusing on how monetary inflation distorts the relative price of capital goods in terms of consumer goods.

In this cycle though there has been no obvious such overall unsustainability at the level of broad economic aggregate in the US economy. In the emerging market economies by contrast, including China, that would be an easier case to make. In Europe or Japan, we could talk of the unsustainability of export sector growth based on emerging market bubble and their own manipulated cheap currencies.

Back to the US, the lack of obvious non-sustainability in a broad spending aggregate does not mean there is no recession danger — just the searchers for this must dig deeper. In particular, the overall mal-investment might be even greater than usual but concentrated in a few sectors where the speculative narratives have been intense — whether Silicon Valley or shale oil and gas. Mal-investment only shows up in many cases once the asset inflation and cycle expansion have come to an end.

In talking about main economic aggregates, the case can be made across the advanced economies that consumer spending might be in for a big fall once households realize that all was fantasy. Specifically, the high returns during the asset inflation from risk-assets including booming carry trades while they lasted made them tolerant of the manipulated low and widely negative returns on safe assets. Once gone, alarm sets in.

Even so there is a paradox to address about the present cycle. How has it been that such monetary wildness has gone along with apparent real economic moderation (no obvious unsustainable rise of broad economic aggregates)?

Fearing the Long Term

A plausible part-answer is that everyone and their dog know what the Federal Reserve and other central banks have been up to and all along have feared the eventual crash and great recession. Hence there has been a tendency for business owners to eschew long-gestation investments and focus on generating high returns via financial engineering instead (camouflaged leverage, momentum trading, carry trades).

Another part answer is the growth of monopoly power across the US economy as described by the star firm literature or more specifically in accounts of Big Tech. Specifically, the star firm theorists tell us that there is something about present technological advance — most likely its high specificity of investment much of which is intangible to the given firm with little scope for selling in a secondary market — which retards the percolation of progress beyond.

Monopolists respond often more sluggishly in their capital spending plans to manipulations down in the cost of capital than would firms in a competitive setting. Limiting supply is the name of their game.

Whatever the causes for subdued business capital investment overall in this cycle and more broadly for “real economic moderation” there is every reason to expect the real economic moderation which has coexisted with a wild monetary environment to end in immoderation. The illusion of economic moderation has fanned the carry trade into high yield credit and more broadly equity market valuations – and so the fall will be all the greater.

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Source: InfoWars

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