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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Much Bigger Economic Collapse Coming as Fed Keeps on Printing Money

Gold Surges Over $40 As COMEX Shorts Collapse To 7-Month Low

Spot gold prices have surged over $40 from Sunday's knee-jerk lows as once again lower prices have encouraged demand. Gold had shfted back to unchanged from Friday's close before Boehner spoke but since then has accelerated over $20 higher.

Gold shorts in the futures and options markets have dropped for 6 of the last 7 weeks. The 60% drop in the non-commercial short position represents a massive 81,700 contracts(8,170,000 ounces or ~$10.6 billion worth of notional 'paper' gold).

Gold's 21% rise from the lows in the last 2 months is among the fastest rises since 1999; and GLD holdings have risen for the last 6 days in a row.

Charts: Bloomberg

Bonus... Spot the difference...
From Zero Hedge

UN chief warns U.S. strike on Syria could unleash more turmoil

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Tuesday that any "punitive" action taken against Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack last week could unleash more turmoil and bloodshed in that nation's civil war.

Ban also cautioned nations such as the United States and France that may be considering such strikes that they are legal only in self-defense under the UN Charter or if approved by the UN Security Council.

He said that if UN inspectors confirm the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Security Council, which has long been deadlocked on the two-and-a-half-year Syrian civil war, should overcome its differences and take action.

"If confirmed, any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances will be a serious violation of international law and outrageous war crime," he told reporters. "Any perpetrators must be brought to justice. There should be no impunity."

Russia and China have used their veto power in the council multiple times to keep it from taking action against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

U.S. President Barack Obama received key support from leaders in Congress on Tuesday for a potential strike.


Obama wins backing for military strike

President Barack Obama has won backing from key US political figures on his plans for a military strike on Syria.

Mr Obama said a "limited" strike was needed to degrade President Bashar al-Assad's capabilities, in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack.

Key Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor both signalled their support for military action. Congress is expected to vote next week.

The UN earlier confirmed that more than two million Syrians were now refugees.

More than 100,000 people are thought to have died since the uprising against President Assad began in March 2011.'Broader strategy'

President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden met House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen and ranking members from the national security committees in Washington on Tuesday.

Mr Boehner signalled his support for Mr Obama's call for action, saying that only the US had the capacity to stop President Assad. Mr Boehner urged his colleagues in Congress to follow suit.

Mr Cantor, the House of Representatives majority leader, said he also backed Mr Obama.

Mr Cantor said: "Assad's Syria, a state sponsor of terrorism, is the epitome of a rogue state, and it has long posed a direct threat to American interests and to our partners."

Ms Pelosi said she did not believe Congress would reject a resolution calling for force.

Mr Obama said that Mr Assad had to be held accountable for the chemical attack and that he was confident Congress would back him.

He said he was proposing military action that would degrade President Assad's capacity to use chemical weapons "now and in the future".

"What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional," the president said.

"At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition."

Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and the top US military officer, Gen Martin Dempsey, are to appear later on Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

From BBC

'I didn't join Navy to fight for Al-Qaeda': US servicemen against Syria strike

5 Reasons Humans Should Never Become Machines

Are humans doomed to a machine-like future of radically-enhanced lifespan and intelligence, but without the intangibles that have made our 200,000 year-old species so unique?

Using technology to stave off Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other neurological maladies is easy to justify. But is it inevitable that humans and machines will meld into a Borg-like future?

That is, something akin to the “Trekian” villains who appear to have all the personality of a side-by-side refrigerator.

“I don’t think it’s inevitable, but there are powerful forces pushing us in that direction,” said Nicholas Agar, a philosopher at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington and the author of the books, “Humanity’s End” and the forthcoming “Truly Human Ehancement.”

“Whether we want that future is often presented as a simple picture,” he said. “But we need to practice defensive ethics and think about what could go wrong.”

For perspective, Forbes.com asked Agar to address five possible reasons humans will never and should never become machines.
— We are already irreplaceable biological “machines.”

And even if we could be replaced, says Agar, we shouldn’t, because we’d risk losing the intangibles that make us human.

— Humanity should never go along with being totally usurped by human-machine hybrids.

“Humans may be tricked into that process,” said Agar, “but if they think about it, they will recognize that that process deprives us of a lot of what we think is important.”

— Humans have too many intangibles to be effectively replaced.

Advocates of radical cognitive enhancement view humanity in a very simplistic way and goal-oriented way, says Agar; who says such proponents simply just want posthumans that are smarter and that live longer.

But creative processes such as art, music and dance are not goal-oriented, says Agar. Even higher levels of mathematics require creativity.

— There’s no reason to totally replace human brains with artificial ones.

“I’m looking forward to a [world] without Alzheimer’s,” said Agar, “but there’s a lot that’s worth preserving.”

— It’s arguably technically impossible.

As Agar notes in “Humanity’s End,” by some by some estimates the brain may have quadrillions of neural connections. Thus, replacing human brains with artificial ones may be technically impossible. And if not, he says there are some things that are technically possible that simply shouldn’t be done.

Even so, a prosthetic hippocampus brain implant could in effect offer a way out of Alzheimer’s; since, in theory, it would provide sufferers of such neurological disorders with new ways to encode and retrieve memory.

But is such an artificial hippocampus the first step toward radical enhancement?

A lateral view of the hippocampus highlighted in blue. Modified from Gray's Anatomy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Agar says it’s certainly one of them, but notes it would be irrational to upload one’s brain to external hardware, even if you were “pretty confident” it would work.

“It would be a bit like playing Russian roulette,” said Agar.

He says when technologists like Ray Kurzweil talk about our machine futures, Kurzweil imagines that the machines that we become will be interested in artistic and emotional aspects of human existence.

“But I think that would be ditched,” said Agar. “Poetry is about human vulnerability and emotion. If you didn’t feel that vulnerability, why bother writing it?”

How could a Borg-like future be precipitated?

“If you could upload the activity of your prosthetic hippocampus then it’s all there,” said Agar. “That’s the last bastion of privacy that the NSA [National Security Agency] or some successor organization could have access to.”

The mere act of uploading our brains into hardware opens up the potential for outside monitoring of our most private thoughts. This, in turn, could open the door to Borg-like outside brain control.

Such radical cognitive enhancement could also rob us of the natural process of neurological evolution.

Advocates of this radical enhancement, says Agar, ask — Why trust nature when we can choose our future?

“It almost sounds unsophisticated, but I like being human,” said Agar. “Radical cognitive enhancement could actually set back our attempts to understand the universe rather than accelerate it.”

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (Photo credit: Lucie Bluebird-Lexington)

Science proceeds by selective simplification and idealization, says Agar who argues that cognitively enhanced science could cause humans to lose our innate human sense of curiosity about our place in the cosmos. That’s the very thing that has long driven man to set sail and peer into the heavens.

And as for entertainment on long night drives?

A generation of radically-enhanced poets, playwrights, songwriters and singers might be about as inspiring as sheet music. Would a radically-enhanced Robert Frost still be compelled to stop by those “woods on a snowy evening”?

Don’t bet on it.

From Forbes

I was surrounded by vipers in Vatican, claims cardinal removed by the Pope

Rome: The Vatican's de facto prime minister has hit out at his enemies a day after being ordered out by the Pope, claiming that he was surrounded by "crows and vipers" who undermined him.

Defending his record despite a series of scandals, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, 78, also appeared to suggest that any blame for errors should be shared by Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed him as secretary of state, effectively his number two, in 2006.

After taking over a Holy See allegedly characterised by gossip and back-stabbing, Francis equated gossip with murder

The backlash followed the surprise announcement on Saturday that Pope Francis had named Archbishop Pietro Parolin, 58, currently nuncio in Venezuela, as Cardinal Bertone's replacement, with a handover due next month.

Cardinal Bertone's tenure culminated with the leaking by Benedict's butler of papal correspondence last year. Among the documents were claims that Cardinal Bertone ran a Vatican riven by petty rivalries, corruption and mismanagement.

But speaking on the sidelines of a mass being celebrated on Sunday in Sicily, Cardinal Bertone chose to fight back. "On balance I consider these seven years to have been positive," he said. "Naturally there were problems, particularly in the last two years, they have made many accusations against me... A mix of crows and vipers."

He said while it might seem like the secretary of state "decides and controls everything", that was not the case. "There were matters that got out of control because they were problems which were sealed within the management of certain people who did not contact the secretary of state," he said.

"I always gave everything but certainly I had my shortcomings and if I could relive certain moments now I would act differently. But that does not mean that I did not try to serve the Church."

Cardinal Bertone should have stepped down upon turning 75, but was kept on by Benedict, reportedly to the displeasure of a rival faction of bureaucrats within the Vatican's walls.

On his relationship with Benedict, who made history earlier this year by stepping down from his post as head of the Roman Catholic Church, he said: "An honest assessment cannot but take note of how the secretary of state is the first assistant of the pope, a faithful executor of the tasks with which he is entrusted. Something I did and will do."

In a further attempt to show he had not acted alone, Cardinal Bertone added that "the secretary of state works in a team of five, a fine group that works very much together" - a reference to the senior officials at the secretariat of state who worked alongside Cardinal Bertone, and who, unlike him, have been reconfirmed in their roles by Pope Francis.

Also reconfirmed at his post by the Pope this weekend was Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, even as he continues to act as assistant to Benedict, a set-up which will ensure a direct line of communication between Francis and the Pope Emeritus.

After taking over a Holy See allegedly characterised by gossip and back-stabbing, Francis equated gossip with murder during a mass he held on Monday at his residence at the Vatican.

Referring to the jealousy that swirled around Jesus, the Pope said: "It happens every day in our hearts... it is said in a community 'how great this person is who has come to us'... but then gossip starts and it ends in skinning the person.

"Where there is God, there is no hate, envy or jealousy. Nor are there those who want to kill with gossip."

Telegraph, UK

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/world/i-was-surrounded-by-vipers-in-vatican-claims-cardinal-removed-by-the-pope-20130903-2t20a.html#ixzz2dqH2rbqd

Assad's arsenal: 100,000 missiles and rockets

While the US is bolstering its naval force in the Mediterranean with additional warships ahead of a possible strike in Syria, the Middle East is preparing for the aftermath of such a strike, if and when it occurs. Israel in particular is raising its alert level, as Syria's retaliation may include an attack on Israeli targets.

According to estimates, the Syrian army has in its possession some 100,000 missiles and rockets. Several thousand of them, such as the Scud-D missiles, are considered very powerful and accurate and can reach any target in Israel. President Bashar Assad's army also has Russian-made SS-22 medium-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, which can carry some 120 kilograms of explosive material.

The Syrian army is not only weary from fighting the rebel forces over the past two-and-a-half years, it has also used up a fair amount of its weapons. However, Russia continues to send arms shipments to Syria and is making certain the regime is Damascus receives more rockets, anti-tank missiles, small arms and ammunition. The Syrian army also receives logistical support from Iran.

The events of the past week have raised fears in Israel that Assad will use chemical weapons not only against his own people. The Syrian army is capable of arming its missiles with chemical agents, as it did this week prior to the attack on rebel strongholds on the outskirts of Damascus, and use them against Israel, although such a scenario seems unlikely at the moment.

Soldier in Assad's army (Photo: AP)

Assad has moved his chemical weapons stockpiles form the desert in eastern Syria to more protected areas on Syria's coast that are ruled by his Alawite sect. These stockpiles, among the largest in the world (some 1,000 tons of chemical warfare agents) are under the complete control of Assad's regime.

Not only Syria; Lebanon, Gaza as well
A response to an American attack could also come from Syria's regional allies. Israel is convinced that Hezbollah will not take action against "the Zionist enemy" without a direct order from Iran, and thus, in the event of a Western attack that may break the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis, Israel may take a blow from the north.

IDF chief Gantz tours northern border (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Hezbollah currently holds approximately 70,000 projectiles; dozens of them are guided missiles that can reach Beersheba, but are targeted for more strategic objectives: Accurate hits to national facilities such as power plants or important bases such as the Kirya compound or Israeli Air Force bases.

Hezbollah also has an advanced system that includes dozens of drones that can carry explosives and detonate on targets in northern Israel, before interception by the IAF.

USS Mahan (Video: Reuters)

Hamas in Gaza, on the other hand, suffered a critical blow during Operation Pillar of Defense and is in distress due to the demise of its patron in Cairo. Hamas decided a year ago to break away from the Iranians and choose the Muslim Brotherhood, and is not expected to intervene in favor of the Syrians. This will leave several hundreds of rockets (mainly short-ranged), belonging to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, together with an unknown number of rockets in Sinai, in the hands of global jihad, which currently focuses its fighting efforts against the Egyptian army.

The Israeli opening blow
The Israeli response will start with an attack which will be primarily based on intelligence that will allow the IAF to launch a powerful opening blow to Hezbollah's strategic assets in southern and central Lebanon.

IDF training in Golan Heights (Photo: AFP)

The Intelligence Division has gone through unprecedented upgrades and improvements, including in the field of tactical intelligence that will be provided to the paratroopers' commander who will arrive at a Lebanese village to seek hidden launching pads.

The military intelligence has also taken a major role in the updating of operative plans against Syria. Only two months ago, The Times reported that according to Israeli sources, if Assad will be removed from power, 18 storage sites of weapons of mass destruction will be attacked. However, the time needed to complete this action will be derived primarily by the home front: The sixth Iron Dome battery is currently being deployed by the IAF, and within one year four more batteries will be installed.

The system's improvement over the past few months will allow the army to intercept longer-ranged rockets and cover a larger area. However, the scenario of rocket attack from up north will be completely different than the one seen in Pillar of Defense. The 80% success rate of the Iron Dome batteries in November is far from being guaranteed in light of the mass of rockets and populated area that will need to be protected in northern and central Israel (a snap preview was noted last Thursday with two hits in villages and one successful interception).

And we have yet to discuss the debate within the security establishment whether or not Iron Dome batteries should protect villages and cities or important military bases and strategic establishments.


Increasing lava emission at Fuego volcano in Guatemala

A phase of increased lava flow activity occurred this morning at Fuego volcano, Guatemala, generating a series of pyroclastic flows that descended several ravines on different, but mostly the southwestern side of the volcano. An ash plume rising as a by-product of the pyroclastic flows was reported to about 12,000 ft (3.6 km) altitude.

The volcano has been in moderate effusive activity for at least the past two weeks, feeding relatively small lava flows on the upper steep slope. A sudden increase in effusion rate seems to have caused the destabilization of the lava flows, generating rockfalls that turned into pyroclastic flows. The longest runout distance was reported as 2 km (INSIVUMEH). This is suggested by the appearance of strong tremor pulses the previous night.

In the meanwhile, explosive (strombolian) activity from the summit vent has remained weak.

Mediterranean 'Ballistic Targets' Were Part of Israeli Test

MOSCOW, September 3 (RIA Novosti) – Two “ballistic targets” detected Tuesday in the Mediterranean by the Russian military were launched by the Israeli military as part of a joint US-Israeli test of its missile defense system, an official in Tel Aviv said.

“The launches we’re talking about were a test of the Anchor target missile that is used for testing our missile defense system,” an Israeli Defense Ministry representative told RIA Novosti.

The launch was part of joint tests with the US military and were successfully tracked by radars in Israel, the official added.

The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier Tuesday its ballistic missile early warning system had detected the launch of the two "ballistic targets" in the Mediterranean.

The launch was detected at 10:16 Moscow time (06:16 GMT) by a radar in the southern Russian city of Armavir, a Defense Ministry spokesman said. The targets’ trajectories ran from the central to the eastern Mediterranean, the spokesman said.

A diplomatic source in the Syrian capital, Damascus, told RIA Novosti that the targets fell in the sea.

The Russian Embassy in Damascus said it did not have any information about the launch. The streets and residents of the Syrian capital appeared calm, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported the launch to President Vladimir Putin, the spokesman told Russian journalists.

RIA Novosti

Russia Spots 'Ballistic Attack' in Mediterranean – Defense Ministry

MOSCOW, September 3 (RIA Novosti) – The launch of two "ballistic targets" has been detected in the Mediterranean, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday citing its ballistic missile early warning system.

The launch was detected at 10:16 Moscow time (06:16 GMT) by a radar in the southern Russian city of Armavir, a Defense Ministry spokesman said. The targets’ trajectories ran from the central to the eastern Mediterranean, the spokesman said.

A diplomatic source in the Syrian capital, Damascus, told RIA Novosti that the targets fell into the sea.

The Russian Embassy in Damascus said it did not have any information about the launch, and the streets and residents of the Syrian capital appeared calm, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported the launch to President Vladimir Putin, the spokesman told Russian journalists.

The Defense Ministry's press service was not immediately available for further comment.

RIA Novosti

Iran, Russia advise Assad to transfer chemical stockpile to Tehran to avert US attack

The Iranian parliamentary delegation visiting Damascus Sunday, Sept. 1, advised Bashar Assad to move his chemical stockpile out of Syria and deposit it in Tehran under Iranian and Russian military supervision, to save himself from an American military strike, DEBKAfile’s exclusive military and Iranian sources reveal.

Chairman of the Majlis Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ala-Eddin Borujerdi, who headed the delegation, explained that Presidents Hassan Rouhani and Vladimir Putin had discussed the stockpile’s removal ad hoc, as the basis of a Iranian-Russian plan for presenting to US President Barack Obama at the G-20 summit meeting in St. Petersburg later this week.

After the Americans accept the plan and the crisis blows over, the stockpile could be quietly returned to Syria, the Iranian lawmaker explained.

Another option was for Iranian and Russian teams to destroy the stockpile in return for US-Arab League guarantees that the Syrian rebels would not use this process for strategic war gains. The chemical agents would be destroyed in stages in accordance with rebel compliance with such guarantees.
DEBKAfile’s military sources explain Tehran’s quest for a deal on two grounds: One - Iran supplied Syria with most of the formulae and substances for the manufacture of the poison agents and fears exposure if they fall into American hands.

Another is anxiety lest an American military strike on Syria’s chemical stores – if it is allowed to go through – would serve as a precedent or prequel for a similar attack on Iran’s nuclear assets.
Tehran is therefore willing to put on an amenable face and meet the United States half way on the disposal of Syria’s chemical arsenal. The offer would be presented as good for President Obama and let him give the American people the glad tidings that he had managed to defuse the Syrian chemical crisis by procuring a joint Iranian-Russian guarantee to eliminate Syria’s chemical arsenal. 

He could then call off an attack Syria with honor, or postpone it indefinitely to avoid disrupting the process of Syria’s chemical disarmament.
Both the Russians and the Iranians saw an opening for their plan in a phrase President Obama used in his surprise announcement Saturday night, Aug. 31 that he would ask Congress to authorize a military attack on Syria before going ahead. It was this: “…the Chairman [of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff] has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or a month from now.”

The Russian-Iranian plan would turn those words back on the US president by offering him guarantees that if he was not satisfied that Syria’s chemical stocks were gone - either by transfer to Iran or destroyed - he had left himself with time to play with for reverting to his military option.

The Iranian lawmakers told Assad that Tehran is not fully in the picture of the secret Russian-US dialogue on Syria, but Tehran had reason to believe that the Russians had put out feelers to the Americans on the proposition and were not initially turned down.

Russian and Iranian intelligence experts on US politics expect Obama’s limited offensive plan for Syria to run into major obstacles in Congress. They hope the opposition will find added support for its counter-arguments in the Iranian-Russian proposition. And even if it is eventually turned down, the deliberations on its pros and cons would buy time for the Syrian ruler's war effort.
The Iranian parliamentary delegation also included Javad Karimi Qodusi and Fath-o-Allah Hosseini, two other prominent members of the Majlis foreign affairs panel.

From DEBKAfile