Former Marxist Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was arrested for questioning in an anti-corruption probe called "Lava Jato", or "Car Wash". Although Da Silva contends allegations that he and current Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff took kickbacks from oil companies while president are politically motivated to block him from running for president again in 2018, it appears that da Lula will be indicted and his fellow traveler Rousseff will be impeached.
Federal police acted on at least 33 search warrants and arrested 11 people across the nation over widespread allegations of corruption and money laundering linked to Petrobras state-owned energy giant, according to Stratfor Global Intelligence.
The arrest of da Silva followed Rousseff's firing of the nation's Minister of Justice Jose Eduardo Cardoso, who headed up the corruption investigation. The President alleged that Cardoso had lost control of the investigation, but the real issue is that Cardoso has sufficient evidence of corruption to start prosecutions.
Arresting da Silva would seem to indicate the federal police and prosecutors are determined to bring charges. Coupled with nationwide Pro-impeachment protests scheduled for March 13, the end seems near for Brazil's 13 year experiment with the Marxism.
Apple Inc. (AAPL:NASDAQ) is currently in a war with the FBI and public opinion. The company claims the FBI wants Apple to build a special version of iOS that would weaken the device’s security and install it on the device.
CEO Tim Cook has cast himself as a Libertarian warrior on the side of justice, but he or another Apple executive could end up with a contempt order from a federal judge on Feb. 26 and end up spending a few days behind bars.
Apple probably has achieved a marginal win with members of the tech community that believe his fighting the FBI and the Justice Department’s efforts to force the Apple to write an app to unlock the mobile device of a known murderous terrorist’s iPhone is a sign of Cook’s respect for their privacy.
But the reputation of Apple’s brand may suffer a loss with consumers, since a Pew poll indicates that the majority of Americans and a plurality of every single age demographic in the U.S. believe Apple should follow a federal court order to assist the FBI in unlocking the iPhone.
The legal case pits issues of national security against Constitutional rights of privacy. The standoff with the FBI brings to a boil the simmering battle between law enforcement and Silicon Valley over encryption technology that can permanently scramble data to prevent unauthorized readers from seeing it.
The Justice Department's Feb. 19 Motion to Compel argued that their court order would not create a “backdoor” that could contribute to a general decrypting of any of Apple’s phones or serve as a carte blanche for government to compromise the security of personal information.
But in an interview, Cook told ABC’s David Muir that his fear is that enabling backdoor access to the iPhone, which he described as “the software equivalent of cancer,” sets a dangerous precedent that would risk both the “privacy” and “public safety” of over 700 million iPhone uses in 130 nations around the globe.
Cook highlighted that Apple clearly stated outlined their opposition to the court order in a letter to customers and an internal note to staff released to the general public.
FBI Director James Comey in Congressional Intelligence Committee testimony responded to Apple’s public relations campaign by stating:
“The Order requires Apple to assist the FBI with respect to this single iPhone used by Farook by providing the FBI with the opportunity to determine the passcode. The Order does not, as Apple’s public statement alleges, require Apple to create or provide a “back door” to every iPhone; it does not provide “hackers and criminals” access to iPhones; it does not require Apple to “hack [its] own users” or to its own phones.”
But Comey did concede for the first time that future judges will look to the FBI’s battle with Apple as a precedent for law enforcement access to locked or encrypted mobile devices. James Comey commented on Feb. 18 that the outcome of his battle with Apple will “guide how other courts handle similar requests.” But the FBI Director three days later tried to tone that the court decision will “set a precedent”.
In a last ditch effort, Apple filed a 35-page brief on Feb. 25 titled, “Motion to Vacate the Order Compelling Apple Inc. to Assist Agents in Search, and Opposition to the Government’s Motion to Compel Assistance.” Apple argued the government’s reliance on the “All Writs Act,” that traces its roots to the Judiciary Act of 1789, cannot serve as a basis to “conscript” Apple to make an app to enable the government to hack its phones.
The ‘ars technical blog’ broke a story that in November 2014, the Oakland Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office used the All Writs Act to try to leverage Apple Inc. into writing an app to extract data from a locked iPhone 5C, as part of a criminal case.
In that case, Magistrate Judge Kandis Westmore ordered that Apple to “provide reasonable technical assistance to enable law enforcement agents to obtain access to unencrypted data,” but she did not specifically mention the All Writs Act as a precedent.
But she did add, “It is further ordered that, to the extent that data on the iOS device is encrypted, Apple may provide a copy of the encrypted data to law enforcement but Apple is not required to attempt to decrypt, or otherwise enable law enforcement’s attempts to access any encrypted data.”
The desired iOS app would allow the FBI to “brute force” by trying millions times to crack the device’s pin code without delay or the device erasing itself to open the iPhone memory. A federal court has been given a Feb. 26 deadline for Apple to comply with its order. Although Tim Cook’s outspokenness could get him sent to the slammer, most legal experts believe if Apple losses the Motion to Compel, they will be allowed to appeal.
Google’s motto is “Do no evil.” Maybe that explains why the multi-national behemoth used sophisticated schemes to cut the evil tax rates they pay down to 2.4 percent.
Reuters just reported that Google, Inc. (NYSE: GOOGL) used a complicated game of spiriting cash around the world from 2012 to 2014 to cut the tax rate paid on $13 billion in profits to 2.4 percent, rather than the 39.6 percent U.S. tax rate and 22.6 percent European Union tax rate. The move saved Google $2.9 to $4.8 billion in taxes.
Known in the devious world of tax shelters as a “Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich,” Google moved all its U.S. and other patents into a shell company in Ireland, where foreign royalty payments are taxed at about 3 percent. Google then had its subsidiaries from around the world pay massive royalty payments to the Irish shell to shelter profits.
But in an effort to make sure it didn’t have to pay an evil 3 percent tax rate, Google then flew the cash to the company’s Dutch subsidiary, Google Netherlands Holdings BV. From there it was whisked to Google Ireland Holdings in Bermuda, further washing away more tax liability down to 2.4 percent.
In response to a Forbes request for comment on the fairness of the scheme, a Google spokesperson asserted in an email response: “Google complies with the tax laws in every country where we operate.”
None of this multi-national corporate tax scam is a secret to the Obama Administration that jacked-up the U.S. corporate tax rate to 39.6 percent in their first term to supposedly fight income inequality.
But in response to numerous articles by Breitbart News on income inequality becoming much worse under the Obama Administration, the White House stated:
The best available data on incomes refute the baseless claim recently made by some that income inequality is worse under President Obama than it was under President George W. Bush. More fundamentally, whereas the previous Administration’s policies were tilted towards the wealthiest Americans, President Obama has been focused on the middle class and those working to get into the middle class.
It is fair to say that Google spending $51,230,000 from 2012 to 2014 to become the second largest investor in Washington DC lobbyists might have had something to do with the company wanting to get into a middle class tax bracket.
The British Empire began its collapse 74 years ago this week with the surrender to the Japanese of Singapore, a fortress Prime Minister Winston Churchill referred to as the “Gibraltar of the East.”
Eight days earlier on February 8, 1942, Allied engineers rocked the island city when they blew a huge hole the causeway linking Singapore to the Malay Peninsula, in an effort to slow the advance of Imperial Japanese Imperial troops coming down the coastline. As the echo of the blast rumbled throughout the city, 19-year-old university student and future prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew was walking across campus. When his British headmaster came passing by and asked what the commotion was, Lee answered, “That is the end of the British Empire.”
The defeat was crushing to the British homeland, because Winston Churchill had claimed that Singapore was an impregnable fortress that guarded the heart and wealth of the British Empire. Japan success symbolized to Asians the European powers were decrepit and became the launch code for liberation movements throughout the region.
Although outnumbered by almost 4 to 1 was by Allied troops in Malaya and Singapore, the Japanese were superior in close air support, armor, coordination, tactics and experience. Despite conventional British military thinking that the Malayan jungles were “impassable”, the Japanese repeatedly crossed jungles to outflank the British defenses.
The 85,000 British, Indian and Australian troops lasted for just 7 days against an invading force of 36,000 Japanese. When the British had suffered 5,000 killed to the Japanese 1,714 deaths.
After their surrender, 30,000 Indian troops defected to the Japanese and only 6,000 of the other 50,000 Singapore defenders would survive the WWII. Churchill called the debacle the “worst disaster” and “largest capitulation” in British military history.
The year of the defeat was monumental, because the British Imperial dominance of Asia was cemented a century in the 1842 during the First Opium War with the defeat of 200,000 Chinese Imperial troops by a combined United Kingdom and British East India Company force of 19,000. The Chinese suffered about 20,000 deaths to the British losses of 69 dead.
Libertarians should chuckle that competing U.S. studies were just released that show the global ranking of America on the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index has plunged to #11 and on the liberal Stanford Poverty and Inequality Index has plunged to #10.
It should not be surprising to Libertarians that the “conclusions” from the competing reports are the polar opposites. The free markets Heritage Foundation is funded by business contributions and the socialist Stanford ‘Center on Poverty and Inequality’ is funded by an Obama Administration grant through the “U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, awarded by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Service Administration.”
The Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Index of Economic Freedom released on Feb 1 documents that “millions of people around the world are emerging from poverty thanks to rising economic freedom. But in contrast, America’s economic freedom has been on a declining path for a decade” as a result of rapidly rising government spending, subsidies, and bailouts.
Heritage points out that when President Obama took office in early 2009, the U.S. had the 6th freest economy in the world. But after government spending has exploded to $29,867 per household, the national debt has risen to $125,000 for every tax-filing household in America, the government takeover of health care is raising prices and disrupting markets, bailouts and new government regulations have increased uncertainty and resulted in stifling investment and job creation.
The Index of Economic Freedom in fell 2015 by -.8 points to an all-time low of 75.4. Although the US showed a strong gain in the “Rule of Law,” the score was hammered on measures of regulatory efficiency and limited government. The Heritage IEF study warned that America could soon face a crisis regarding the funding of the public debt.
Having fallen out of the top ten for the first time in the twenty years Heritage has been calculating the Index of Economic Freedom report, the US has fallen behind the United Kingdom and just ahead of Denmark’s welfare state.
The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality also released their Poverty and Inequality Report 2016 report on Feb. 1. The report assessed how the U.S. stacks up against its peer countries across 9 key domains: labor markets; poverty; health, income, and wealth inequality; segregation; education; mobility; and the safety.
America’s unheralded natural gas boom has destroyed China and the emerging market's competitiveness to the point that the cost of shipping a container from Asia to the U.S. has collapsed over the last two years by -84 percent to new all-time-low.
Breitbart News reported in July that ‘Baltic Dry Freight Rate Index’ (BDF), the measure of the cost of containerized ocean shipping, had crashed by -61 percent from 2,227 at the end of 2013 to 874. We stated that the BDF price plunge meant that emerging market export competitiveness was on the verge of collapse, led by China.
Since our July article, the BDF has continued to crash; breaking its all-time-low of 500 in December; before hitting a new low of 354 on January 26. According to the ‘gCaptain’ shipping website, demand for the largest container carrying vessels, referred to as 7,500-9,500 teu ships, is “next to zero.” Lack of demand is so bad for this “zombie fleet” of idled vessels that the value of selling them for scrap steel has fallen from $500 to $300 per ton in the last year.
Americans are keenly aware that the U.S. fracking boom has hammered crude oil prices in the last two years, because they are pocketing huge savings with the average price of regular gasoline falling from $3.52 to $1.82 a gallon. But since natural gas is mainly used for industrial and electrical production, few Americans are aware the price of natural gas fell faster from $6 to $1.92 per thousand cubic feet over the same period.
On a worldwide basis, industry uses four times the amount of electricity versus residential consumers. Because coal is usually much cheaper than clean burning natural gas, about 40 percent of worldwide electrical production comes from coal and only 20 percent generated from natural gas.
This ratio was true for the U.S. through 2008. But the fracking boom over the last 7 years has made natural gas cheaper in the U.S. than coal. Beginning in July 2015, America for the first time in history produced more electricity from natural gas than coal.
In August, Breitbart News reported ‘U.S. Factory Construction Hits Highest Level Since 1958.’ Despite a -68 percent plunge in investment in petroleum and mining due to the plunging U.S. energy costs, spending on all types of U.S. production facilities increased +65 percent for the 12 months ending June 2015.
We explained that the biggest driver for America’s factory building boom was U.S. natural gas prices at $1.92 per thousand cubic feet had fallen to about a quarter of $8.40 per thousand cubic feet cost in Asia. Given labor is 8.5 percent and 13.5 energy of global manufacturing input costs, we suggested “Asians could give away their labor and still not be competitive with the U.S.”
Unlike crude oil that can be transported on massive oil tankers for pennies a gallon. But transporting natural gas costs about $4.50 per thousand cubic feet, because it requires huge amounts of energy to drop the temperature to -160 degrees to condense the gas 600 times to form a liquid. The Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) then must be transported in specially designed tankers that use massive amounts of energy to maintain the super-cooled liquid. The unload and heat the liquid to form a gas again.
America’s new cheap energy boom has re-created America’s “comparable advantage” that existed from 1870 to 1970. During that period, the U.S. dominated worldwide manufacturing and created the first middle class society built on manufacturing wages that averaged a third higher than other industrialized nations.
But once America lost its energy advantage, manufacturers began moving production off shore to benefit from cheap wages. By the March 2009 depths of the Financial Crisis, over half of U.S. manufacturing jobs had moved offshore. As a result, America's US balance of payments imploded, national debt ballooned from 30 percent to 100 percent of GDP, “Disposable Personal Income Per Capita” after-inflation fell by $3,437, and income inequality soured.
Many economists predicted that the U.S. was in a terminal financial decline and would soon suffer a currency crisis. But since the depths of the crisis in March 2009, the U.S. Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 182 percent. In contrast, China’s stock market is up only 38 percent and their industrial profits drop by 4.7 percent over the last year.
The most recent U.S. data for October revealed that natural gas powered 34 percent of U.S. electrical production and coal fell to just 28 percent. With a natural gas boom providing a massive cost advantage over emerging market competitors, American manufacturing is headed for a boom.
It is naive to not expect Russian and Chinese spies hacked Hillary Clinton’s personal server to compromise U.S. Security.
Over 3,500 died and 30,000 were wounded as security contractors for U.S. State Department since the 1960s. Although embassies around the world purport to focus on facilitating trade and building friendship, libertarians know their prime directive is a global effort is to coordinate intelligence gathering on America’s enemies and friends. As U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was the CEO of the planet’s most powerful spying organization.
Hillary Clinton maintained State Department data forwarded to her personal server that was maintained by a mom-and-pop outfit — run out of an old bathroom closet in a downtown Denver loft, according to London’s Daily Mail. Data on the server included national security treasurers such as spy satellite imagery of North Korea’s nuclear sites.
Despite Clinton’s years of saying “nothing sensitive” was forwarded to her server, the Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough and other investigators have concluded that the contents of Clinton’s personal server contain Imagery Intelligence (IMINT), Human Intelligence (HUMINT), and Signal Intelligence (SIGINT).
Clinton has also said that if there was classified data on her server, it was not classified at the time she received it. But all State Department members know IMINT is always classified “SECRET//NOFORN” (no foreign national), regardless of the absence of classification markings. Documents containing or referencing HUMINT are always classified “SECRET”, and if specific names of sources or handlers are mentioned, they are “SECRET//NOFORN”. SIGINT is always known to be at the Top Secret level.
Recently my wife and I saw two movies: “Spotlight” and “Concussion.” Both are hard-hitting movies that focus upon perceived large-scale damages being perpetrated upon many people by two large and powerful institutions: the Catholic Church and the National Football League. Whether the facts depicted in these movies are true, recklessly false or true-but-exaggerated I leave to your conclusions and our various laws covering libel and defamation. But the ability for movie makers – or any of us – freely to publish arguments like these is fundamental to Liberty.
Impoverished Los Angeles residents of Chinatown were saddened when they learned on January 17 that the Walmart they pleaded for years to get, shut down at 7 pm that evening due to the $15 minimum wage and continuing union harassment.
Asian and Hispanic residents of downtown Los Angeles campaigned for years to get a big box retailer to locate in their economically depressed neighborhood to compete against liquor stores that sold a limited number of food items at very high prices. Walmart in September 2013 opened a 33,000-square-foot grocery and drug store in central Chinatown.
Poor residents flocked to the store for lower food costs, substantially cheaper pharmaceuticals, and ethnic offerings. But labor leaders immediately started protesting against the store for refusing to unionize, despite the 100 Walmart employees refusing to sign union organizing cards.
Thousands of protesters were bused in to protest against Walmart destroying downtown, during the November 2014 Black Friday protests in downtown Los Angeles led by the union-funded Movement Generation's Justice and Ecology Project, even though the company only had the one store in Chinatown.
Movement organizer Brooke Anderson thundered, “As people deeply committed to environmental and climate justice, we condemn Walmart as a climate criminal and we stand side-by-side with Walmart’s workers organizing for $15 per hour, full time work, and the respect they deserve.”
During last summer’s union-led 'Fight For 15' minimum wage movement in Los Angeles, Walmart was portrayed on giant banners proclaiming, “Walmart Wages War on Workers” and “Walmart Wages War on Planet Earth.”
But after succeeding with passing a minimum wage that was set to start on January 1 at $10 an hour and jump in steps to $15 in 2018, unions and liberals have begun to panic that spiking wages might actually cause the 15 percent rate of unemployment among those with a high school diploma or less to rise.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office most recent in-depth analysis on minimum wage hikes estimated that President Obama’s proposed federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10 an hour would raise wages for 16 to 24 million people, but it would kill 500,000 existing jobs.
Liberals piously called this negative impact a “reasonable trade-off worth embracing,” whereas conservatives and business owners called it proof that risky government interference would destroy jobs and put more people on welfare. But there are no independent studies of what a 50 percent, let alone 100 percent increase would do.