Charleston Chopper Crash Blamed On Private Drone

Officials at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating a serious helicopter crash that may have been triggered by a drone Wednesday near the southern tip of Daniel Island, South Carolina, in what could be the first-ever drone-related crash of an aircraft in the United States.

The crash was initially reported on Wednesday by WCSC-TV, a CBS-affiliated television station for the Lowcountry area of South Carolina in the United States that is licensed to Charleston, which obtained a copy of the incident report from the police stating that a Robinson R22 helicopter struck a tree and crash-landed.

The private helicopter instructor told police, he was conducting a training exercise at approximately 3:30 p.m, when the incident occurred on the tip of Daniel Island. His student was practicing “low impact and hover taxi maneuvers” above undeveloped land on the island, as a white “DJI Phantom quad-copter” breached their airspace, the report states. The instructor immediately commandeered all flight controls from the student and attempted to avoid a potentially deadly air collision, that is when the tail rotor of the helicopter struck a tree, triggering a crash landing.

The student told the police they were at a maximum altitude of 50 feet when the quadcopter breached their airspace.

She said when the helicopter’s tail struck the tree, “several pieces of the helicopter hit surrounding brush causing the helicopter to turn on its side when it landed,” reported WCSC. Luckily, neither the pilot nor the student was injured, though the helicopter sustained severe damage.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced Friday it is opening an investigation into the accident, spokesman Chris O’Neil said. “The NTSB is aware of the pilot’s report that he was maneuvering to avoid a drone, but the NTSB has not yet been able to independently verify that information,” O’Neil said in a statement.

Bloomberg quoted a statement from drone maker DJI which said:

“DJI is trying to learn more about this incident and stands ready to assist investigators,” the company said in a statement. “While we cannot comment on what may have happened here, DJI is the industry leader in developing educational and technological solutions to help drone pilots steer clear of traditional aircraft.

The accident investigation is the second incident involving a drone in less than two weeks. Earlier this month, we reported the FAA is investigating an incident in which someone piloted a racing drone feet from a commercial jetliner on approach to land at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. The video below is quite startling:

According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Michael Huerta said back in March 2017 that more than 777,000 drone registrations have been filed with the agency. Bloomberg notes that the FAA is having trouble monitoring all the consumer drones in the sky.

The FAA in a study based on computerized models last fall concluded that drones would cause more damage than birds of similar size because they contain metal parts. Significant damage to windshields, wings and tail surfaces of aircraft was possible, the study found. The surging number of episodes combined with a regulatory system that makes it difficult to monitor drone flights has alarmed traditional aviation groups.

“The likelihood that a drone will collide with an airline aircraft is increasing,” said a letter to U.S. lawmakers earlier this week from Airlines for America, a trade group representing large carriers, and the Air Line Pilots Association and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the unions that represent pilots and controllers.

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Doug Casey On Why Gold Could Go “Hyperbolic”


Justin’s note: Volatility has come storming back.

Just look at the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), which measures how volatile investors expect the market to be over the next 30 days.

It’s up 89% since the start of the year. Last week, it hit the highest level since 2016.

Investors aren’t used to this. After all, last year was the least volatile year ever for U.S. stocks. That lulled many investors to sleep. It led them to take risks they would normally never take.

Now, those same people are wondering what to do. They aren’t sure if this is just a run-of-the-mill pullback…or the start of something much worse.

To help answer this question, I called up Doug Casey. I knew he would have an interesting take on this matter…

Justin: Doug, U.S. stocks took a beating recently. Where do you see things going from here?

Doug: Well, I hate to make a firm prediction of timing. The fact that things have held together, against all odds, since 2009, has underlined the old saying about just because something is inevitable doesn’t mean it’s imminent. Predictions of disaster, and all these things unwinding, have been wrong over the last half a decade. And the smart bet is always for muddling through, in the direction of progress. But it seems that we’ve finally reached a peak, a major turning point.

Justin: So, what have you done to protect your wealth?

Doug: At the beginning of the year, I took all my original capital out of cryptos, plus 150% profits. I also took profits on crypto stocks. I got in late, and out a bit late. But it was a happy experience.

They were bubbly. Every company that could possibly do so has gotten into this game. Now XYZ ice cream company is XYZ blockchain company. That was one tipoff.

Another was that everybody and their dog was talking about them. Because it had gone up 1,000% in the last year, they expected a repeat performance. It’s always that way in financial markets.

Look, the last time I saw anything quite this goofy was during the internet bubble. Dozens of failed mining companies in Vancouver were turning themselves into internet companies. It was happening weekly, almost daily.

That was the bell ringing at the top of the market for the internet companies. It was also the bottom of the market for the mining companies.

So, I’m frankly trying to liquidate at this point. I really only want to own gold, silver, and other commodities to preserve capital. And mining stocks, as speculations. And more cash than I’m accustomed to. But that only leads us to another problem. The dollar itself is a hot potato.

Justin: What do you mean?

Doug: Keeping dollars in banks is very dangerous. The whole world is like Cyprus a few years ago. You don’t actually own anything in a bank or broker anymore—your assets are the unsecured liability of an institution that’s likely bankrupt. This is especially true if you have more than $250,000 in any given account, which the FDIC insures. But it’s bankrupt too, with assets that cover like a half percent of their liabilities.

The problem is systemic risk, and it’s worldwide. It’s like Joe Louis said: you can run but you can’t hide. The only place you can hide today is gold and silver. That, and cheap real estate, if you can find it.

Justin: Yeah, gold is doing quite well. Its price is up 12% since July.

What do you attribute this to? Is it because investors are taking shelter? Is it due to the weak dollar? Or is it simply because we’re in the early innings of a new commodity bull market?

Doug: Well, I think all the indications are aligning at this point. It’s been a rough bear market. As a group, commodities are 50% below their 2011 highs. It’s been a deep bear market as well as a long bear market.

As a result, commodities have never been cheaper relative to financial assets like stocks and bonds.

It’s a great time to be in commodities. And gold is the foremost commodity. It’s historically been used as money. And it will continue to be used as money because none of these governments should, or do, trust each other. Or each other’s phony paper fiat currencies.

There could be a buying panic in gold and it could go much higher. We’re in a new bull market for gold at this point, but nobody cares. Or even knows that’s true. The same is true for silver. Although, silver is primarily an industrial commodity. It’s the poor man’s gold for many reasons.

Justin: How much higher could gold head?

Doug: Well, these things usually move in a hyperbolic curve. They start out slowly. Then, they accelerate. Same type of thing we saw with cryptocurrencies.

I think gold will do the same, although not to the same extent. My prediction by the end of this year is that gold will hit $2,000. In 2019, $3,000. In 2020, $4,000. By the time this bull market peaks, gold could reach $10,000. But I hate to say things like that…because it sounds so outrageous.

But look at the number of dollars in existence ($3.635 trillion in the M-1 money). Divide that by the 260 million ounces of gold the U.S. Government is supposed to own, and you get a gold price of $13,982/ounce.

Look at the number of dollars that are outside the U.S.—$10 trillion, $20 trillion, who knows?—and that liability is growing by $50 billion annually with the balance of trade deficit.

At $1,300 per ounce, the U.S. gold holdings can’t even cover a year’s deficit. And consider the fact that at some point those dollars will need to be redeemed by something if they’re going to retain any value.

The price of gold—if gold is going to be fixed to the dollar again, at least for the purpose of trading with foreigners, with foreign governments—is going to have to be much higher than it is today. Of course, I don’t think the dollar should exist, nor should the U.S. government even be in the money business; it just confuses the issue.

Money is a medium of exchange and a store of value—it shouldn’t also be a political football, and a means for the State to finance itself. Gold itself should be used as money. Remember that the dollar—like the franc, the pound, the mark, and what-have-you—were just names for a specific quantity of gold.

So a six-to-one shot from here is not at all unreasonable over the next several years. And that would mean very good things for gold stocks.

Justin: So, it’s safe to assume you’re buying gold stocks?

Doug: Resource companies are essentially the only stocks that I’m buying right now. And that’s because nobody’s interested in them. They’re very cheap. Of course mining itself is a crappy business. You can’t invest in it, only speculate. But it’s a great speculation now.

I probably do, on average, a private placement a week in mining stocks, which is quite a lot.

The only thing I’m afraid of is having too many stocks. You can’t effectively monitor more than 15 or 20 stocks. And then you lose track of them. You can’t keep up. You forgot why you bought them.

Unless I really like the stock and I’m planning on following it in particular, I sell the basic stock after the four-month hold period and keep the warrants in case I get lucky.

Justin: What else are you buying right now?

Doug: Well, I buy gold coins whenever the opportunity presents itself. I try to be disciplined about that. I just put them away and forget they exist. Unlike gold stocks, you can do that with gold coins.

I think it’s wiser to buy small gold coins, of a quarter-ounce or less, as opposed to the one-ounce-size coins that are so popular today.

Paying the premium is worth it. Incidentally, I also prefer to buy semi-numismatic coins, like British sovereigns, French Louis d’or, Danish crowns, and the like, as opposed to the currently minted ones.

I treat gold, physical gold, as a savings medium, an insurance medium. To speculate, I buy small mining exploration issues. Because they’re so cheap. But if we have a 1929-style credit collapse, however, I’m sure most of them are going to get washed away.

But the odds are much better that the dollar’s going to lose value at an increasing rate over the next few years. Because we have Keynesian academics at the helm of the financial world. People with no experience in the real world. They shouldn’t even be allowed to teach a freshman class in economics. Some of them should be, and quite possibly will be, hung by their heels from a lamppost when things come unglued.

The world economy is going to wind up crashed on the rocks. It’s going to be very ugly. And soon.

*  *  *

Each month, Doug shares his unique insights in The Casey Report, our flagship publication. And beyond Doug’s timeless political and market commentary, you’ll get stock recommendations designed to help build your wealth—even in today’s uncertain market environment. To learn more about a subscription to The Casey Report, click here.

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Rick Gates To Plead Guilty, Testify Against Manafort As Part Of Mueller Deal: Report

A former Trump campaign aide and longtime business partner of Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, will plead guilty to fraud-related charges in the coming days, and has indicated that he will testify against Manafort in upcoming proceedings, the LA Times reports.

“Rick Gates is going to change his plea to guilty,’‘ the LA Times quoted a person “with direct knowledge of the new developments”, who added that the revised plea will be presented in federal court in Washington “within the next few days.”

The move follows weeks of speculation and a change in legal representation for Gates, who dropped lawyers Shanlon Wu, Walter Mack and Annemarie McAvoy for Sidley Austin senior counsel and personal acquaintance of Robert Mueller, Thomas C. Green. 

Mueller is prosecuting Gates and Manafort in conjunction with his wide-ranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and whether crimes have been committed by Trump or members of his campaign before, during or since the election. 

Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign manager for approximately two months, was fired within 48 hours of Trump’s first classified intelligence briefing as a candidate – leading some to speculate that Trump found out about an active investigation against the lobbyist in relation to his activities in Ukraine with Gates and Tony Podesta – who stepped down from his now-defunct lobbying firm after Manafort’s indictment.

Paul Manafort, Rick Gates (sans beard)

Last October Manafort pleaded not guilty to eight counts of money laundering and failing to register foreign lobbying and other business, while Gates – who faces 10 years in prison – pleaded guilty to nine counts in the same case.

According to a person familiar with Gates’ new plea bargain, the longtime political consultant can expect “a substantial reduction in his sentence” if he fully cooperates with the investigation, thought to be around 18 months, however the agreement will not be specified in writing. 

Gates “understands that the government may move to reduce his sentence if he substantially cooperates – but it won’t be spelled out.” –LA Times

Gates, a 45-year-old married father of four, does not appear to be able to financially sustain a high-powered legal defense. “He can’t afford to pay it,” said one lawyer who is involved with the investigation. “If you go to trial on this, that’s $1 million to $1.5 million. Maybe more, if you need experts” to appear as witnesses.

The October 27 indictment reveals a mountain of evidence against Manafort and Gates – who were longtime business partners in political consulting for around a decade – engaging in a series of complicated and allegedly illegal transactions rooted in Ukraine. Both men operated as unregistered agents of the government of Ukraine, and hid millions of dollars of payments from U.S. authorities according to the indictment. 

Additional Charges?

As we previously reported, Paul Manafort was hit with a new bank fraud claim revealed in a court document unsealed on Friday related to the lobbyist’s bail hearing. “[T]he proposed package is deficient in the government’s view, in light of additional criminal conduct that we have learned since the Court’s initial bail determination,” reads the court filing. “That criminal conduct includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies.”

“Conspiracies” indicates that more than one person – ostensibly Rick Gates, was involved in the “additional criminal conduct” Mueller’s team has discovered. 

Manafort, Podesta and Ukraine

Manafort worked closely with Tony Podesta – co-founder of the Podesta Group lobbying firm with his brother and Clinton campaign manager, Tony Podesta. Mueller subpoenaed the Podesta Group last August along with four other public relations firms who worked with Manafort on a 2012-2014 lobbying effort for a pro-Ukraine think tank tied to former president Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych fled from Ukraine to Russia after he was unseated in a 2014 coup.

Manafort’s firm earned $17 million consulting for Yanukovych’s centrist, pro-Russia ‘Party of Regions.’ During the same period, Manafort oversaw a lobbying campaign for the pro-Russia “Centre for a Modern Ukraine,” (ECMU) a Brussels based think tank linked to Yanukovych which was pushing for Ukraine’s entry into the European Union.

The Podesta group, operating under Manafort, earned over $1.2 million as part of that effort.

While the Podesta group and Paul Manafort both failed to file paperwork related to the Pro-Russia Centre for a Modern Ukraine, retroactive disclosures filed by the Podesta group on August 17 reveal dozens of previously unreported communications with high level democrat officials related to the lobbying campaign – including Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the office of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Peddling Oligarchs

A former longtime executive of the now-defunct Podesta group who has been “extensively” interviewed by Robert Mueller’s team revealed to Fox  that Manafort and the Podesta group had been working together since at least 2011 on behalf of Russian interests, and that Manafort was at the Podesta Group offices “all the time, at least once a month,” peddling influence through the ECMU think-tank. Manafort allegedly brought a “parade of Russian oligarchs” to Congress for meetings with members and their staffs, however, Russia’s “central effort” was to get to the Obama administration.” 

The former PG exec also told Tucker Carlson (and presumably Mueller’s team) that the Russians, believing that Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 election, considered the Podesta Group’s connection to Hillary highly valuable. Moreover, Carlson’s source said payments and kickbacks could be hard for investigators to trace, describing it as a “highly secret treasure trove.” One employee’s only official job was to manage Tony Podesta’s art collection, which could be used to conceal financial transactions.

It appears that while the 68-year-old Manafort is likely to spend the rest of his days behind bars, his business partner Rick Gates may end up serving 18 months after flipping his plea to guilty on the advice of his new, Mueller-pal attorney Tom Green. Meanwhile, nobody has heard a peep about Tony Podesta. We wonder if he’s vanished to some undisclosed Japanese island.

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Florida School Shooter To Romantic Rival: “Iam Going To Fu*king Kill You”

Three students who knew the Florida high school shooting suspect reported him to school administrators for threats and erratic behavior after an ex-girlfriend broke up with him and began seeing another teenager, reports BuzzFeed News. 

Nikolas Cruz, charged with the premeditated murder of 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had been suspended in 2017 for “disciplinary reasons.” While some reports say he was expelled for getting into a fight with his ex’s new boyfriend, others say he was kicked out for carrying a knife to school. 

The students who spoke to BuzzFeed News — Dana Craig, 16; her boyfriend, Matthew Rosario, 16; and Enea Sabadini, 17 — said that such a fight happened, and that it was the culmination of a jealous and angry period for Cruz because Enea began dating Cruz’s ex-girlfriend. Three other friends who asked BuzzFeed News not to use their names, for privacy reasons, confirmed their accounts.

Im going to watch ypu bleed,” read an Instagram message sent under Cruz’s name to Enea in 2017, when students said Cruz was no longer at the school. “iam going to shoot you dead.” Another message said Enea “stole my ex.” –BuzzFeed

Enea Sabadini dated Cruz’s Ex (Remy Smidt/BuzzFeed News)

In addition to the FBI having received several tips over Cruz’s threats of violence which they completely botchedthanks to the way previous administration(s) designed the tip-line, a simple look into Cruz’s social media history reveals a disturbing obsession with weapons and violence.

Following the shooting, a Broward County public defender for Cruz, Melissa McNeill discussed the “underdeveloped” brain of a 19 year old, telling reporters “He’s sad. He’s mournful. He’s remorseful,” before saying of Cruz, who is 19 and a legal adult, “the child is deeply troubled and has endured significant trauma that stems from the loss of his mother.”

Love Triangle

In August of 2016, Enea Sabadini began dating Cruz’s ex girlfriend, who declined to be named. Shortly thereafter, Cruz sent Sabadini a series of increasingly threatening text messages over Instagram – at first threatening to beat Sabadini up, and eventually progressing to death threats and then two physical altercations:

The first fight began as an argument on the sidewalk next to their school. Nikolas yelled “Stop talking to her!” Enea said. Enea said he responded: “No, I’m not going to stop talking to her.” Matthew said he witnessed this fight.

Enea said Cruz ran at him. “While he was chasing me down the street, he also called me a nigger multiple times,” Enea said. “He was also trying to stab me with pencils.” Cruz couldn’t catch him, and Enea said he taunted him. “I remember telling him that I was a gazelle, because I was much faster than him,” he said.

Enea also said he doesn’t think Cruz disliked him because of his race. “I don’t think he was mad at me about race. But I don’t get why he was so mad over a girl,” he said. –BuzzFeed

The second fight didn’t go so well for Cruz. 

“My friends and I were laughing. Talking to each other, laughing and everything, and as we’re talking a water bottle flies by. I remember it going right between my legs,” said Sabadini. Then Cruz “charges me and hits me in my left arm.”

Sabadini, a rugby player, proceeded to slam, Cruz to the ground and repeatedly punch him in the face.  

“I was just done. I can’t believe you actually decided to fight me during lunch. I really don’t want to have any problems with this guy. Can we just get over the situation already?”

During their text exchange, Sabadini tried to reason with Cruz – deflecting Cruz’s threats and then sending him humorous videos and memes. 

The text messages are below. Suffice it to say, Cruz clearly had mental problems: 

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How To Kill 300,000 Americans (And Get Away With It)

Authored by Trey Goff via The Mises Institute,

If someone wanted to kill 300,000 Americans and get away with it, they could not have accomplished it more effectively than our government has accomplished it with the opioid epidemic.

If someone— let’s say good old Uncle Sam—wanted to kill 300,000 Americans, they would go about it as detailed in this step-by-step guide. This also just so happens to be precisely how our government did go about it.

Step 1 – In 1996, Uncle Sam would award a 17-year government patent monopoly to Purdue Pharma to be the exclusive supplier of OxyContin, an addictive and potentially deadly opioid painkiller. This would ensure that they had a massive multi-billion-dollar profit incentive to get as many people addicted as possible without any generic competition to keep this profit motive in check.

Step 2 – To further fuel the use of OxyContin, Uncle Sam would cover the cost of it through Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This would ensure that there were billions of dollars available to fund the purchase of massive quantities of the addictive and potentially deadly substance.

Step 3- For further assurance more people become dependent on opioids, Uncle Sam would enact growth-retardant public policies such as mountains of regulation and exorbitant taxation, exacerbating the link between depression, poverty, and opioid dependence.

Step 4 – Uncle Sam would make pain the “fifth vital sign” and financially penalize any hospital that got poor reviews or ratings for not adequately treating pain, encouraging hospitals to hand out opioids like candy.

Step 5 – Uncle Sam would ban medical marijuana, depriving those in pain of a viable non-opioid alternative.

Step 6 – Uncle Sam would allow doctors to be sued for medical malpractice for not adequately treating pain, ensuring they prescribed even more opioids.

Step 7 – Uncle Sam would then move many opioid painkillers to Schedule 2, which would prohibit refills. This would ensure that doctors prescribed a 30-day supply for patients that needed a 3-days’ supply, just to “keep the patient from having to come back to get a new prescription if they need it.”

Step 8 – Uncle Sam would then allow the profit motive of the patent monopoly, the free money of Medicaid and SSDI, the “fifth vital sign,” and the fear of being sued for medical malpractice to continue to fuel an increase in OxyContin prescriptions until the year 2010, leaving many millions of Americans addicted to opioids.

After having created a sufficiently massive pool of addicted individuals, it would then be time to turn the “prescription epidemic” into an “overdose epidemic” and drive the death rate up into the stratosphere.

Step 9 – Knowing that many of the millions of OxyContin users were crushing the pills and snorting them, Uncle Sam would go to Purdue Pharma and convince them that they needed to make OxyContin “abuse-deterrent” by making the pills difficult to crush. This would cause a large number of people who were currently crushing the pills and snorting them to start instead melting the pills and injecting them (which is much more dangerous and deadly). This change would also cause many of the users to switch to heroin since it is cheaper and more available than prescription opioids. This would start the process of killing as many of the addicted as possible.

Step 10 – Uncle Sam would then demand that Purdue Pharma remove the old formulation of OxyContin from the market. Considering that Purdue Pharma’s monopoly patent was about to run out, they would be all too happy to oblige and get a brand-new patent on the abuse-deterrent formula, effectively restarting the 17-year monopoly period. Uncle Sam would also prohibit generic versions of the old, crushable formulation since that would allow a crushable generic to remain on the market, which would render the abuse-determine formula superfluous, undermining the efforts to get people to switch to injection and/or heroin.

Step 11 – Knowing that the death rate would rise as people switch to injecting and to heroin, Uncle Sam would then steadily reduce the supply of legal prescription opioids, leaving the millions of Americans that were already addicted with no place to go other than heroin and injection drug use. Uncle Sam would do this by threatening or prosecuting doctors who “prescribed too much.” Uncle Sam would also recommend or mandate the use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP’s) and drug tests to catch and shut off anyone who appeared to be using more opioids than the state-sanctioned arbitrary cutoff amount.

Step 12 – Uncle Sam would also ban doctors from prescribing opioids as maintenance therapy or for gradually tapering patients off, and require doctors to abruptly cut off anyone they suspected of using too many opioids.

Step 13 – Uncle Sam would further decrease the supply of legal opioids for those already addicted by mandating a constant year-over-year reduction in the prescriptions of opioids. 

Step 14 – To increase the death rate even further, Uncle Sam would ensure that the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) options that work, like Buprenorphine (Suboxone) and Methadone, were so heavily regulated and controlled that they were effectively unavailable to the vast majority of addicted Americans. Uncle Sam would also require “prior authorization” by managed care providers to ensure that it took as much as four weeks to get Medication Assisted Treatment. This would ensure that the vast majority of opioid users switched to injection and street heroin before their MAT prescription could be filled. Uncle Sam would also send opioid users to prison or abstinence-only rehab where they would be forced to detox cold-turkey. This would ensure that the patient’s opioid tolerance decreased to the point that when the patient came back from prison or rehab, the patient would easily overdose. Uncle Sam would also ban the use of Medication Assisted Treatment in most drug court programs, also ensuring low opioid tolerance and a high risk that relapse would result in death.

Step 15 – Uncle Sam would ban supervised consumption facilities, ensuring that drug use happened alone, unsupervised, and beyond the reach of most first-responders.

Step 16 – After vast numbers of Americans had switched to injection drug use and street heroin, and were using drugs alone and unsupervised, Uncle Sam would then make the street drugs as deadly as possible. Uncle Sam would do this by “cracking down” on the supply side of heroin, knowing full well that illegal drug manufacturers would respond by making their drugs ever more potent, or finding ultra-potent additives to substitute into their street drugs to decrease the size and weight of the trafficked substance (this is known as the Iron Law of Prohibition). That would ensure that heroin was laced with fentanyl (a substance 100 times more potent than morphine) and that eventually fentanyl was replaced by the even more potent carfentanil (a substance 10,000 times more powerful than morphine). Uncle Sam would then ban drug checking under drug paraphernalia laws, ensuring users had no idea if the substance they were about to use was laced with fentanyl. With each increase in potency and adulteration, the death rate would continue to climb higher, and higher, and higher.

There you have it: the perfect guide to killing at least 300,000 people and getting away with it. It is an absolute tragedy that this also happens to be the precise course of action the US government has taken over the past few decades to create this perfect storm of addiction and death.

Heightening the tragic nature of the crisis is the fact that the government was entirely unaware that the consequences of each step in this plan would lead to the eventual death toll currently mounting in America. This was by no means an intentional, deliberate plan to kill people; however, kill people is exactly what it has done.

It is also worth noting that, although these governmental actions listed above take the lion’s share of the blame for the problem, I am by no means asserting that other factors were not at play. Purdue Pharma clearly deserves much blame for making billions of dollars intentionally rendering people addicted and steadily supplied with opioids. Doctors deserve some blame for blindly following prescriber guidelines without reference to the unique situation of each patient. The economic malaise we currently face that has so exacerbated this crisis is the result of an astoundingly complex myriad of factors that extend far beyond just government meddling in the marketplace.

Still, though, the fact remains that the United States government has enacted and pursued a variety of policies that are directly, tangibly responsible for the severity and intensity of this crisis. It is not a stretch to say the opioid crisis would not exist were it not for the government actions listed above.

In light of this realization, a sharp change in the course of policy is in order. The government can take some actions to immediately alleviate many of the problems it has caused:

  • Follow the recommendations of Human Rights Watch and end the drug war immediately. Although there are a plethora of other reasons to do this, addicted individuals need medical care, not jail time, and bringing the drug trade out of the shadow economy and into the formal market would solve many of the consistency, purity, and quality problems currently causing so many of the deadly overdoses.

  • Along with ending the drug war, legalize supervised consumption facilities so that addicted individuals can utilize the drugs under safe, clean conditions, enabling them to lead relatively normal lives. These have been wildly successful in other parts of the world.

  • Abolish all intellectual property laws, especially patent and copyright laws, immediately. Not only does intellectual property stymie economic prosperity and innovation to an astounding degree, but it is also philosophically incoherent. Without a patent on Oxycotin restricting the supply of alternatives and generics, the opioid crisis would never have occurred in the first place.

  • Considering the admittedly difficult prospect of ending IP law, a good intermediary solution could be to abolish all patents on addictive substances. This would prevent the creation of the circumstances wherein a firm like Purdue Pharma can so aggressively market their product and have such an outsize influence on the formation of medical policies. This would also have the happy side effect of massively increasing the levels of innovation of new, more effective drugs in the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Remove all legal restrictions on the use of medication-assisted treatment programs for opioid dependency so that people can receive the help they truly need.

  • Remove any and all legally enforceable prescriber guidelines (especially laws against maintenance therapy doses) so that doctors are free to adjust their prescribing habits about the latest peer-reviewed guidelines and the unique circumstances of each

  • Abolish Medicare and SSDI entirely, allowing mutual aid societies to re-emerge and innovative market healthcare solutions to take their place.

  • Alternatively, reform these entitlement programs to preclude the use of government funds to purchase addictive substances.

Although many of these solutions sound quite radical, it takes a radical solution to rectify a radical problem of this magnitude. It’s time to stop pursuing the same failed policies that created this crisis in the first place. It’s time to start for the government to start saving lives instead of ending them.

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ECB Governor Detained For Corruption

Back in May 2016, Lithuania central bank head, and ECB governing council member, Vitas Vasiliauskas said that contrary to widespread perceptions of central planners as clueless hack economists who would not survive one day in the private sector and who can only inflate asset bubbles, then watch them burst and replace them with even bigger asset bubbles, central bankers are really “magic people.”

“Markets say the ECB is done, their box is empty,” Vasiliauskas told Bloomberg in the spring of 2016. “But we are magic people. Each time we take something and give to the markets — a rabbit out of the hat.”

It now turns out they also appear to be corrupt, criminal people because on Saturday, Vasiliauskas’ next door peer, Latvian central bank Governor, Ilmars Rimsevics who is also a member of the European Central Bank’s governing council, was detained by Latvia’s anti-graft bureau, prompting calls for him to step aside to prevent harming the country’s financial sector.

In a statement to Reuters, Latvia’s Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis did not say why Rimsevics had been detained or what he was being investigated for. However, he attempted to reassure people that the economy was stable.

Latvia’s Central Bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics

Rimsevics, 52, has worked at the Baltic nation’s central bank since graduating with an MBA from Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, in 1992. After first taking the role of deputy governor that year, he was promoted to governor in 2001. He’s been a member of the ECB governing council since 2014, when Latvia adopted the euro.

Hardly encouraging confidence, the statement said that “there are no indications that would suggest threats to the financial system of Latvia,” Kucinskis said, confirming that it is very likely that there are copious threats to the financial system of Latvia, whose central banker may soon be in prison for graft.

As a result, finance minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola said Rimsevics should step aside for the time being to protect the Baltic country’s reputation.

“Given that the governor of the central bank is a symbol for every country, [then] I think that it would be sensible at this moment that Mr. Rimsevics, at least during the investigation, steps down,” Reizniece-Ozola told a news conference.

“Under the current circumstances… every day that Mr. Rimsevics remains in the post of governor of the central bank, the situation (for the reputation of Latvia’s financial system) substantially worsens,” she said.

Latvia’s Economics Minister Arvils Aseradens, speaking on Radio Latvia, also said the governor should consider resigning. The home and office of the central bank’s governor were searched on Friday, the state broadcaster said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Rimsevics’ lawyer told local media that the detention was unlawful. “A complaint is being prepared at the moment,” the lawyer, Saulvedis Varpins, told news agency LETA without elaborating. Varpins, who spent more than eight hours at the anti-graft bureau in Riga with Rimsevics before the governor was taken away in a bureau van, said his client was being held at the state police station and hasn’t been charged, according to Leta. Varpins, who didn’t answer repeated calls and text messages, cited the reason for the detention as alleged acts from years ago.

Reiznice-Ozola said the country was suffering a crisis of reputation over ABLV, which has denied all accusations from the U.S. Treasury and said it will work with U.S. officials and provide information so that doubts about it can be laid to rest. Latvia has asked the U.S. Treasury to discuss and share data on ABLV, she said. The central bank is helping the lender with liquidity, said Edvards Kusners, a member of the monetary authority’s board.

As Bloomberg adds, this is the latest setback for Latvia’s banking sector, which last week was hit by allegations by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network that its third largest financial institution by assets, ABLV Bank, has institutionalised money laundering, claiming it helped entities allegedly linked to North Korea’s missile program process transactions — charges the lender denies.

The ECB declined to comment, according to Bloomberg. Another ECB governing board member, Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras, is also being accused of bribery, an accusation he vehemently denies, alleging political persecution aimed at forcing him to resign.

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Trump Lashes Out At FBI And HR McMaster In Saturday Night Tweets

President Trump took to Twitter Saturday night and laid into both the FBI and his National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster – shredding them within 15 minutes of each other over recent failures. 

First, Trump excoriated the FBI for missing “all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter,” and knocking the agency for “spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion.” 

The FBI was warned about Cruz after he posted on YouTube saying he was going to become a “professional school shooter.” The agency said they couldn’t identify the user who made the threat, despite Cruz posting under his own name.

The FBI also received a more recent tip on January 5 from someone close to Cruz that he owned a gun and had discussed committing a school shooting. The bureau acknowledged on Friday that it failed to investigate the tip – saying that the call should have been assessed and forwarded to the Miami FBI field office, according to the New York Times. Less than six weeks later, Cruz pulled the fire alarm at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and began shooting his former classmates with his AR-15. 

With calls for Trump-appointed FBI Director Christopher Wray to step down in the wake of the shooting, one has to wonder if Trump’s tweet is foretelling of yet more shakeups at the FBI. 

H.R. McMaster

President Trump’s second scorching Saturday night tweet was directed at H.R. McMaster, after the National Security Advisor told an international audience at the Munich Security Conference that Russian interference in the US election is “now incontrovertible” following Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments of 13 Russian nationals. 

Trump shot off an angry tweet, noting that McMaster failed to mention that “the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians,” as told by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein,” adding “the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!” 

Recall this from Rod Rosenstein on Friday:

With incontrovertible evidence that the FBI has been both criminally inept and criminally conspiratorial against Trump and his associates, one has to wonder if Trump is about to leverage recent developments to clean house.

Is there a sheriff in town who could possibly take action against criminal elements within our intelligence communities? Because this guy has conveniently recused himself, allowing Rod Rosenstein – who signed off on one of the FISA warrants used to spy on the Trump team – is now calling the shots. 


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In Raging Tweetstorm, Trump Says Russians “Laughing Their Asses Off”, Mocks “Leakin’ Monster” Schiff

After  excoriating the FBI for failing to act on multiple tips about “professional school shooter” Nikolas Cruz’s murderous intentions, and criticizing National Security Adviser HR McMaster over his Russia collusion comments, President Donald Trump shifted his focus toward one of his favorite targets, House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff, whom he “congratulated” for finally acknowledging that the Obama administration is responsible for any attempted interference by Russia during the 2016 election.

In one of his more memorable turns of phrase, Trump lauded “Liddle Adam Schiff“, whom he branded the “leakin monster of no control“, for finally “blaming the Obama Administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 Election. He is finally right about something. Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing. Thank you Adam!”

Trump also expressed his amazement that nobody in federal law enforcement or Congress tried to stop the Obama administration from handing over nearly $2 billion in cash to Iran. The cash transfers were first reported by the Wall Street Journal in September 2016. The administration defended its actions by saying it was merely returning the money, which belonged to Iranian entities, but had been frozen because of sanctions.




Trump also repeated that he “never denied” the Russians tried to interfere in the election – he only denied that the Trump campaign in any way coordinated with the Russians…

… and he lamented that Schiff was probably only now blaming Obama for Russian interference to create another Democratic excuse for why Hillary Clinton lost to Trump, a “great candidate.”

Putting it all together, given the hysteria surrounding Russian interference during the 2016 election, the multiple investigations and countless public resources wasted, if it was Russia’s intention to create chaos in the US, then they’ve “succeeded beyond their wildest dreams”, Trump claimed.”They’re probably “laughing their asses off in Moscow,” he added.

Taking a swipe at recent reports that CNN’s ratings have tumbled over the past year, Trump tweeted a cartoon of Wolf Blitzer and the never-ending coverage of the “Russia probe.”

He ended his ranting (at least for now) with a tweet about a Republican pollster tabulating that the odds of the GOP retaining its Congressional majorities during the coming mid-term elections have been climbing, which the president attributed to his tax cut reform.

Trump has gone silent, but with Adam Schiff scheduled to appear on CNN’s State of the Union this morning – and Attorney General Jeff Sessions set to be interviewed by Maria Bartiromo – it’s likely we haven’t heard the last from the president during this long, President’s Day weekend.

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Citi’s “Four Crazy Market Targets”

Forget the February 5 VIX eruption: there is another critical shift that is taking place right now, and which matters far more to the US and global economy and capital markets. According to Citigroup, the most important transformation at the start of 2018, has little to do with the move in volatility, which is merely a symptom of underlying causes, and everything to do with the transition away from “Goldilocks” and to “Reflation”, a moment in the cycle which Citi calls pivotal.

And so, if we are indeed at a pivotal point, transitioning from goldilocks to reflation, from low to somewhat higher inflation, from low to higher yields and from post crisis to broadening expansion, how far could markets move?

In a note released by Citi’s cross-asset group, the bank answers and while it diligently caveats that “these are not Citi house views” – which usually tend to be worthless anyway, and instead represent “four crazy market targets”, the bank’s best and brightest explicitly warn that we could see “10y UST yields at 4.5%+, EUR at 1.40, JPY at 95, oil at $95-100 and US HY credit 650-700bp over USTs as tail risks.”

Here are the details on these “far from Citi house view” targets that might be possible under some circumstances, a caution which Citi further urges to “please take the health warning seriously. These are not Citi house views but may still present a danger to your wealth.

10y UST yield to 4.5% (+)

Given the current (not all completed) base formations in 10y USTs, if 10y yields breach 3% technicians will call for medium to long term targets well above 4% with the 2012-2016 double bottom (if confirmed) signaling 4.5%+.

4.5% yields were last seen in November 2007. Could they go there again? Many analysts will argue this is impossible given debt loads, lower savings rates, lower R*, secular stagnation and a plethora of other, often ex-post, arguments for lower yields.

But, assuming yields break 3% decisively this year, the base in yields will have taken seven years to complete so the target needs only be hit by say mid-2025. And the same economists who will now say it’s impossible to go above 4% were also saying in 2007 that a move from 5% to 2% was impossible when technicians made that call from the top of the channel.

* * *

2. EUR/$ to 1.40, $/JPY to 95

Citi makes the case for not merely a cyclical lower $ but a more structural one too. For now, the bank’s targets on the downside have been fairly conservative not least because it has been fighting the “higher Fed rates = higher $” crowd. But if the $ is really back in a ten year bear market, Citi says that it should at least consider more bearish $ targets long term. And so it does:

For EUR, we think 1.28 offers immediate resistance as the connection to the EUR/$ downtrend since the GFC. But longer term, we are still struck by the similarity in the price action over the 1992-2001-2004 EUR cycle and the current one. First a highly volatile topping process, then a sharp fall followed by a two year basing period and then a rally. Overlays of these suggest EUR could reach 1.40 in 2019.

And this is what the euro’s “crazy” move to 1.40 would look like:

As for $/JPY, recent price action has breached the whole Abenomics uptrend. Technically speaking, at a minimum this opens up the chances of 100 again but the low end target really becomes 95 or below. Note: citi assumes that BoJ YCC policy would have to be modified or scrapped along the way for this to be achieved.

Also worth noting: these targets would leave EUR/JPY almost unchanged. Citi explains: “EUR at 1.40 and JPY at 95 would imply some appreciation in real effective exchange rates. This would be relatively small if all other currencies keep pace and it’s only a $ move of around 14% with trade weights for $ of 14% in EUR TWI and 17% in JPY TWI respectively. On the more likely assumption that $ depreciation is resisted by some EM countries to some degree, REERs will move higher but not to levels that seem excessive.”

* * *

3. Oil to $95-100

Citi house forecasts are for lower oil prices in 2018H2, essentially driven by higher US supply. Brent is forecast to $50/bl or a bit lower by early 2019.

While this makes sense if one assumes that OPEC supply is more or less unchanged, with geopolitics in the Middle East still uncertain, the broad base in oil prices over 2014-2017 might signal a pull back to the Citi target first followed by renewed strength in later years, maybe back to $95-100 again. There are a number of political scenarios where this would be possible (some discussed on this website recently). But unexpectedly higher oil prices might be one reason that yields also breach current expected ranges.

* * *

4. Credit Re-Pricing. US HY to USTs +650-700bp

Finally, we go back to what many consider Citi’s biggest strength: credit. Here, the bank’s models have long shown credit spreads to be tight to underlying fundamentals. If we are in a strong growth but higher yield environment, the reach for yield dynamic that has driven yields hugely below model fair value levels will likely reverse, especially in the context of reduced Central Bank accommodation (tapering/ tightening where we both corporate and sovereign spreads become more volatile), a topic discussed in depth overnight  by Deutsche Bank’s Aleksandar Kocic.

So in terms of soft targets, Citi writes that while its model fair value is currently a spread of 567bp, having traded rich by more than one sigma, we may next see the reverse happen, and HY switches to the cheap end of the range in this environment, somewhere around 683bps. It goes without saying that such a blow out in HY spreads would send thunderous shockwaves across global equities.

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Retail Apocalypse Accelerates: 200 Winn-Dixie Stores To Close As Parent Goes Bankrupt

After shutting down more than 5,000 stores in 2017, store-closings are accelerating in 2018 with news that Bi-Lo LLC, the supermarket company that owns the Winn-Dixie chain, is preparing for a potential bankruptcy filing as soon as next month, and is planning to shut almost 200 stores as part of the move – either before or after the filing.

Winn-Dixie joins JCPenney, Bon-Ton, Toys R Us, Sam’s Club, Macy’s, Sears, Kmart and others in the growing list of 2018 shutterings as the ‘great economy’ that stocks foreshadow fails to show up in the retailer landscape.

As details, the new year is shaping up to be another difficult one for traditional retailers.

J.C. Penney – 8 stores 

After closing more than 140 stores in 2017, J.C. Penney is shutting down one of its distribution centers and eight more stores nationwide, The Dallas Morning News reports.  Around 670 jobs will be cut with the closing of the distribution center in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, this summer. Meanwhile, around 480 employees will be affected by the eight stores that are closing, which follows a post-holiday review. The locations will be shut down between now and May, according to CNBC.

Bon-Ton – 42 stores

The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., a department store chain, is closing more than 40 underperforming locations this year, including stores under all of the company’s nameplates. Store closing sales are scheduled to begin on February 1 and run for approximately 10 to 12 weeks, the company said in a news release. Associates at the affected locations will be offered the opportunity to interview for available positions at other stores.

Toys R Us – Up to 182 stores

Toys R Us, the iconic Wayne, New Jersey-based toy retailer, has announced that it will shut down up to 182 U.S. stores. Store closing sales are likely to begin in early February, with the bulk of the closures expected to take place by mid-April, according to a letter from the company’s CEO. However, some closures may be avoided if the store can negotiate more favorable lease terms.

Sam’s Club – 63 stores

Bad news for Sam’s Club members! The Walmart-owned warehouse club has abruptly shut down multiple locations across the country, according to local media reports. The retailer has confirmed that 63 clubs are closing and up to 12 of them will be converted to e-commerce fulfillment centers. Walmart said the impacted clubs will close over the next few weeks, leaving 597 Sam’s Club locations.

Macy’s – 11 stores



Nearly a dozen Macy’s department stores will soon be closing their doors forever. In a news release, the company announced the closure of 11 Macy’s stores. It’s part of the retailer’s plan to close approximately 100 stores, which was announced back in August 2016.  Macy’s intends to close an additional 19 stores as leases or operating covenants expire or sale transactions are completed.

Sears and Kmart – 103 stores

Just days after the holiday shopping season ended, Sears Holdings announced that it’s closing more than 100 stores.In a news release, the struggling retailer said it told associates at 64 Kmart and 39 Sears stores that the locations will be shut down between early March and early April 2018. Liquidation sales will begin as early as January 12 at the impacted department stores. Sears Holdings previously announced plans to shut down 63 Kmart and Sears stores this January. The company closed more than 350 locations last year.

J. Crew – 50 stores

After reporting a 12% sales drop for its third quarter, J. Crew said it will close dozens of stores by the end of January 2018, CNN Money reported. In a news release, J.Crew said it expects to close 50 stores during fiscal 2017, which ends in January.

And now Winn-Dixie plans to shutter 200 of its 500 stores…

Winn-Dixie’s parent, Bi-Lo LLC, which went bankrupt in previous incarnations in 2005 and 2009, may still find a way to restructure its debt out of court.

However, as Bloomberg reports, with low margins and ample competition, the grocery business has always been challenging. But now the industry is contending with a more aggressive push by big-box retailers and Inc., which acquired Whole Foods last year to give it a larger brick-and-mortar presence. The moves threaten to force older chains to either consolidate or revamp their operations.

Bi-Lo is laboring under more than $1 billion in debt following its 2005 buyout by Lone Star Funds.

The company and its creditors have held talks to discuss a possible debt-to-equity swap, as well as alternatives such as asset sales, Bloomberg reported last year.

Lone Star piped in $150 million when the grocer exited Chapter 11 the first time, and invested $275 million to help fund the purchase of Winn-Dixie in 2012. But it probably will still come out ahead, having paid itself at least $800 million since 2012, along with management fees it’s collected, according to regulatory filings.

Southeastern Grocers, based in Jacksonville, Florida, says it’s the fifth-largest supermarket chain, with more than 700 stores and 50,000 employees. It also operates the Harveys and Fresco y Mas chains.

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