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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Iranian leader says missiles more important than talks

Image result for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday that his country needs its controversial missile program in order to negotiate from a position of strength and that those who oppose rocket development are treasonous.

The comments came as Western powers called on the UN to take action against Iran over recent tests of ballistic missiles, noting they threatened Israel.

Khamenei, who supported talks with the West over its nuclear program, said negotiations could not replace military might in Tehran’s international relations.

“That they say the future of the world is one of negotiation and not one of missiles, if that is said out of ignorance, well it is ignorance, but if it’s said knowingly, it is treason,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

The comments were seen as pushback against Iranian reformers who support negotiations as key to improving Tehran’s standing in the world.

“If the Islamic establishment seeks technology and negotiations but lacks defensive power, it will have to back down in the face of any petty country that threatens [Iran],” the Khamenei said.

Khamenei made the comments during an event to mark the birthday anniversary of Prophet Mohammed’s daughter, Fatimah, the semi-official Iranian Press-TV reported.

The nuclear deal, passed in July and implemented in January, lifted punishing economic sanctions and has allowed Iran to forge fresh economic and diplomatic ties with the West.

Under a UN Security Council resolution passed alongside the nuclear deal, the country is forbidden from developing weapons that can carry nuclear weapons.

That would seem to include ballistic missiles, including two which were tested earlier this month with the words “Israel must be wiped off the earth” emblazoned on one, according to the US and other Western powers.

On Tuesday, the US, France, Britain and Germany and three allies called for a United Nations Security Council meeting to formulate an “appropriate response” to Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests, which they say were carried out in defiance of a UN resolution and to threaten Israel.

The letter called the launches “destabilizing and provocative” and says the Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile and Qiam-1 short-range ballistic missile that were fired are “inherently capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”

Credit to Times of Israel


Image result for “Idiocracy”

Ten years ago, a major Hollywood film entitled “Idiocracy” was released, and it was an excellent metaphor for what would happen to America over the course of the next decade.

In the movie, an “average American” wakes up 500 years in the future only to discover that he is the most intelligent person by far in the “dumbed down” society that he suddenly finds himself in. 

 Sadly, I truly believe that if people of average intellect from the 1950s and 1960s were transported to 2016, they would likely be considered mental giants compared to the rest of us. We have a country where criminals are being paid $1000 a month not to shoot people, and the highest paid public employee in more than half the states is a football coach.

Hardly anyone takes time to read a book anymore, and yet the average American spends 302 minutes a day watching television. 75 percent of our young adults cannot find Israel on a map of the Middle East, but they sure know how to find smut on the Internet. It may be hard to believe, but there are more than 4 million adult websites on the Internet today, and they get more traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.

What in the world has happened to us? How is it possible that we have become so stupid? According to a brand new report that was recently released, almost 10 percent of our college graduates believe that Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court…

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni publishes occasional reports on what college students know.

Nearly 10 percent of the college graduates surveyed thought Judith Sheindlin, TV’s “Judge Judy,” is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. Less than 20 percent of the college graduates knew the effect of the Emancipation Proclamation. More than a quarter of the college graduates did not know Franklin D. Roosevelt was president during World War II; one-third did not know he was the president who spearheaded the New Deal.

It can be tempting to laugh at numbers like these until you realize that survey after survey has come up with similar results.

Just consider what Newsweek found a few years ago…

When NEWSWEEK recently asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 29 percent couldn’t name the vice president. Seventy-three percent couldn’t correctly say why we fought the Cold War. Forty-four percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights. And 6 percent couldn’t even circle Independence Day on a calendar.

Even worse were the extremely depressing results of a study conducted a few years ago by Common Core…

*Only 43 percent of all U.S. high school students knew that the Civil War was fought some time between 1850 and 1900.

*More than a quarter of all U.S. high school students thought that Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean after the year 1750.

*Approximately a third of all U.S. high school students did not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

*Only 60 percent of all U.S. students knew that World War I was fought some time between 1900 and 1950.

Of course survey results can be skewed, and much hinges on how the questions are asked.

However, even studies that are scientifically conducted confirm how stupid America has become. In fact, a report from the Educational Testing Service found that Americans are falling way behind much of the rest of the industrialized world. The following comes from CBS News

Americans born after 1980 are lagging their peers in countries ranging from Australia to Estonia, according to a new report from researchers at the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The study looked at scores for literacy and numeracy from a test called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, which tested the abilities of people in 22 countries.

The results are sobering, with dire implications for America. It hints that students may be falling behind not only in their early educational years but at the college level. Even though more Americans between the ages of 20 to 34 are achieving higher levels of education, they’re still falling behind their cohorts in other countries. In Japan, Finland and the Netherlands, young adults with only a high school degree scored on par with American Millennials holding four-year college degrees, the report said.

Out of 22 countries that were part of the study, the Educational Testing Service found that Americans were dead last in tech proficiency, dead last in numeracy and only two countries performed worse than us when it came to literacy proficiency

Half of American Millennials score below the minimum standard of literacy proficiency. Only two countries scored worse by that measure: Italy (60 percent) and Spain (59 percent). The results were even worse for numeracy, with almost two-thirds of American Millennials failing to meet the minimum standard for understanding and working with numbers. That placed U.S. Millennials dead last for numeracy among the study’s 22 developed countries.

So why has this happened?

Why have we become such an extremely stupid nation?

Well, at least a portion of the blame must be directed at our system of education. The following is an excerpt from an article written by reporter Mark Morford. In this article, he shared how one of his friends which had served for a very long time as a high school teacher in Oakland, California was considering moving out of the country when he retired due to the relentless “dumb-ification of the American brain”

It’s gotten so bad that, as my friend nears retirement, he says he is very seriously considering moving out of the country so as to escape what he sees will be the surefire collapse of functioning American society in the next handful of years due to the absolutely irrefutable destruction, the shocking — and nearly hopeless — dumb-ification of the American brain. It is just that bad.

Now, you may think he’s merely a curmudgeon, a tired old teacher who stopped caring long ago. Not true. Teaching is his life. He says he loves his students, loves education and learning and watching young minds awaken. Problem is, he is seeing much less of it.

And of course things don’t get much better when it comes to our college students. In aprevious article, I shared some statistics from USA Today about the rapidly declining state of college education in the United States…

-“After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.”

-“Students also spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago”

-“35% of students report spending five or fewer hours per week studying alone.”

-“50% said they never took a class in a typical semester where they wrote more than 20 pages”

-“32% never took a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”

I spent eight years studying at some of the finest public universities in the country, and I can tell you from personal experience that even our most challenging college courses have been pathetically dumbed down.

And at our “less than finest” public universities, the level of education can be something of a bad joke. In another previous article, I shared some examples of actual courses that have been taught at U.S. universities in recent years…

-“What If Harry Potter Is Real?

-“Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame

-“Philosophy And Star Trek

-“Learning From YouTube

-“How To Watch Television

Could you imagine getting actual college credit for a course entitled “What If Harry Potter Is Real?”

This is why many of our college graduates can barely put two sentences together. They aren’t being challenged, and the quality of the education most of them are receiving is incredibly poor.

But even though they aren’t being challenged, students are taking longer to get through college than ever. Federal statistics reveal that only 36 percent of all full-time students receive a bachelor’s degree within four years, and only 77 percent of all full-time students have earned a bachelor’s degree by the end of six years.

Of course our system of education is not entirely to blame. The truth is that young Americans spend far more time consuming media than they do hitting the books, and what passes for “entertainment” these days is rapidly turning their brains to mush.

According to a report put out by Nielsen, this is how much time the average American spends consuming media on various devices each day…

Watching live television: 4 hours, 32 minutes

Watching time-shifted television: 30 minutes

Listening to the radio: 2 hours, 44 minutes

Using a smartphone: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Using Internet on a computer: 1 hour, 6 minutes

When you add it all up, the average American spends more than 10 hours a day plugged into some form of media.

And if you allow anyone to pump “programming” into your mind for 10 hours a day, it is going to have a dramatic impact.

In the end, I truly believe that we all greatly underestimate the influence that the mainstream media has on all of us. We willingly plug into “the Matrix” for endless hours, but then somehow we still expect “to think for ourselves”.

There are very few of us that can say that we have not been exposed to thousands upon thousands of hours of conditioning. And all of that garbage can make it very, very difficult to think clearly.

It is not because of a lack of input that we have become so stupid as a society. The big problem is what we are putting into our minds.

If we continue to put garbage in, we are going to continue to get garbage out, and that is the cold, hard reality of the matter.

Credit to Infowars

This "drill" proves all mainstream news should be considered fake

This (Crashing) Trend Is Not Your Friend

Despite Yellen's best efforts today to basically dismiss any and all data as irrelevant going forward in The Fed's decision-making process, we suspect all eyes (and algos) will be firmly glued to this week's payrolls' data. Will it be another record month for Obama to crow about? Will Mark Zandi do the "told you so dance" to all the trump supporters who seem less exuberant about the recovery? One look at this chart  - and the disastrous trend - and we suspect, sooner-rather-than-later, the fecal matter will be striking the rotating object in America...
As Bloomberg notes, a growing gap is developing between corporate profits and job growth in the U.S. 
Company earnings, a key driver of business spending and employment, tumbled in the fourth quarter and history shows that when they retreat, the economy often follows.
So we wonder just what kind of seasonal-adjustments are being used to ensure this gap remains. Notice the "gap" in 1999... that did not end well.
BofAML's Michael Contopoulos adds that it is no surprise that falling corporate earnings is a leading indicator for economic recessions – when corporates struggle to grow their bottom lines, they are forced to source liquidity through either the capital markets or cost cutting methods. And when funding either becomes unavailable or too expensive, companies must scale back through capex and/or personnel reductions.
Although a US recession is not a necessary precondition for a turn in the credit cycle, but matters only so much as its influence on the shape of the next wave of defaults, we still look closely at how macroeconomic factors could affect corporate health. And it becomes concerning to us that after a 2nd consecutive decline in year over year corporate earnings, coupled with a lack of worker productivity and higher wages, that soon the very rosy jobs numbers may begin to disappoint.
With personal spending increasing by a paltry 0.1% for each of the past 3 months, we believe consumer spending habits are already more conservative than they should be given low gasoline prices and currently favorable employment statistics. Should jobs numbers begin to disappoint, in our opinion consumers would be quick to pull back and save more of their income.
Even a marginally weaker spender could have a substantial impact on the most vulnerable companies, forcing these weakest links to liquidate, fire and default. The potential for this added labor slack could lead to a further pullback in consumer spending and produce stress within the next weakest links in the chain. This self-perpetuating cycle, should it continue, could create a rolling blackout as defaults migrate from one sector to the next. And while Energy and Materials are currently in the crosshairs, we could envision a number of sectors that could come into focus and prove unable to withstand the added stress of a weaker consumer.

To this end, we believe more attention should be paid to the current fundamentals of US corporates and the vulnerability of what are now considered ‘healthy’ high yield sectors to a wave of defaults that has the potential to spread into all industries. Although technicals are currently keeping the market afloat, we are not buyers of the market at current levels and believe fundamentals will ultimately force spreads wider.

Credit to Zero Hedge

"Bad News Is Great Again" - Global Stocks Soar After Yellen Admits Global Economy Is Much Weaker

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At the end of the day, it was all about the dollar.

Starting March 18, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot had risen as much as 1.9% as Fed officials including Lacker, Williams and Bullard noted upside risks on rate-hike projection and suggested a rate hike may be imminent as soon as April. And then Yellen unleashed the latest round of dovishness, when she made it very clear that the Fed is no longer just the U.S. central bank, but that of the world (but mostly China) and as such its prerogative is to not only keep stocks high, but to also assure there is no currency crisis in Beijing (where a month ago she met other G-20 central bankers to decide precisely this).

The result of Yellen's much discussed speech, was an immediate plunge in the Dollar spot index of 1.2% to 8 month lows, its worst month in 5 years, a drop which has continued this morning, and is on par to equal the dollar's tumble from the first week of March when Bill Dudley likewise came out very dovish, and when the index dropped 1.7% within a week.

What is notable about these two crying doves is that both have roundly ignored the simmering "mutiny" by the Fed's hawks (remember Hilsenrath's humorous "The Decline of Dissent at the Fed" last week) advice of central banker incubator Goldman Sachs, that it is in the US interest to push the dollar higher (it had a report just last week titled "Inflation Finally Begins to Firm"). It will be very interesting to see how this particular conflict is resolved.

For now, however, the die has been cast, and the result is a surge in risk assets around the globe: stocks jumped in Asia (except in Japan where the Yen strength pushed the Nikkei lower by 1.3%, however the Shanghai's 2.3% jump just over 3000 should more than make up for that) and Europe, with US equity futures 0.6% higher at this moment. Commodities climbed as the dollar extended its worst month in more than five years.

The reason for this stock surge, as we noted last night, is absurdly delightful: Yellen signaled "weakening world growth" and "less confidence in the renormalization process." In other words, the "bad news is good news" mantra is back front and center.

Credit to Zero Hedge

Iran Test Missile / N. Korea Threatens USA