Judge Halts Shkreli Trial

The trial of former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli has been temporarily halted by Judge Kiyo Matsumoto after Shkreli’s lawyer objected emphatically as the prosecution planned to show jurors documents it claims are evidence of fraud committed by Shkreli, without calling witnesses to back them up, according to CNBC.
The documents allegedly detail payments that Shkreli's drug company made to investors in two hedge funds he ran, as well as supposedly bogus consulting agreements he signed with some of his former investors entitling them to a salary and shares in Retrophin, a pharmaceutical company he co-founded and briefly led, according to CNBC. Jurors were given the rest of Wednesday off, as well as Thursday, to allow both the defense and prosecution time to file legal briefs on their arguments for and against requiring witnesses for the relevant documents. Testimony is expected to resume Friday, CNBC reported.Benjamin Brafman, the celebrity defense attorney representing Shkreli, said denying him the opportunity to cross examine people involved with the documents would be tantamount to denying Shkreli his constitutional right to confront witnesses against him.

The documents included settlement agreements that Shkreli reached with investors at two of his hedge funds, as well as consulting agreements with some of those investors. Among the settlement agreements in dispute Wednesday included the terms of what investors received from Retrophin in exchange for dropping any claims against Shkreli and his hedge funds.
Shkreli is facing eight counts of wire and securities fraud stemming from his brief stint as a hedge-fund manager. Specifically, the prosecution is examining communications between Shkreli and several former investors in his fund for evidence Shkreli misled them about his qualifications, investment returns and other details like his investing track record and the amount of money he managed.  The prosecution also alleges that Shkreli falsified documents and backdated payments to corroborate his lies. Finally, prosecutors claim Shkreli defrauded Retrophin, which he founded in late 2012 just as his career as a money manager, CNBC reported.
Many of the witnesses called by the prosecution so far have described feeling betrayed by Shkreli. Some described Shkreli’s repeated evasions – he allegedly told one witness that he was “too busy” to give him his money back after starting Retrophin. Judging by the witnesses who’ve testified so far, it appears that many of Shkreli’s investors were small business owners who had invested between $100,000 and $300,000. After several investors threatened to sue, Shkreli allegedly offered to repay them using Retrophin’s resources. In addition to criticizing Shkreli for his dishonesty and strange behavior, many of the witnesses also admitted that they ultimately made money investing with Shkreli.
Matsumoto, the judge, indicated that she was sympathetic to the defense's argument that settlement and consulting agreements should only be shown to jurors if a person who received those agreements takes the witness stand.
"I do think the fundamental right to confront the witnesses and question the witnesses is important," Matsumoto said.
If prosecutors are allowed to introduce the documents to jurors without calling related witnesses, they could rest their case soon. The trial began late last month, and is expected to last as long as six weeks. But if Matsumoto bars that method, prosecutors could be forced to call additional witness stand, meaning they would be unlikely to rest their case until next week sometime.

Source: Zerohedge – Judge Halts Shkreli Trial

Don't Be Fooled – The Federal Reserve Will Continue Rate Hikes Despite Crisis

Authored by Brandon Smith via Alt-Market.com,
Though stock markets in general are meaningless and indicate nothing in terms of the health of the economy they still function as a form of hypnosis, or a kind of Pavlovian mechanism; a tool that central bankers can use to keep a population servile and salivating at the ring of a bell. As I have mentioned in the past, the only two elements of the economy that the average person pays attention to in the slightest are the unemployment rate and the Dow. As long as the first is down and the second is up, they aren't going to take a second look at the health of our financial system.
Historians and economists often wonder after the fact how it was possible for so many "experts" and others to miss the flashing red lights leading into market implosions like that which occurred in 2008. Well, this is exactly how; within any casino there is an inherent bias towards false hope. Meaning, many people will invariably ignore all negative factors and past experience because positivism is more pleasant. Central bankers are keen to take advantage of this condition.
When observing from the outside-in, this attitude rings of desperation. Investors, with no positive fundamental data to turn to in the economy, have now been relegated to scouring press releases and speeches for ANY indication that the central bank might not take the punch bowl away as they have been doing slowly over the past few years. In fact, in most cases negative data has actually triggered spikes in equities because the assumption on the part of investors is that bad data will cause the Fed to second-guess its stimulus reduction policies. In this way, central bankers can, at least for now, fake-out investors with a simple word or phrase released in a strategic manner.
An example of this occurred last week as Fed Chair Janet Yellen threw investors and aglo-trading computers a bone with an admission (finally) that inflation (as the Fed measures it) may not be as strong as the Fed had hoped. Investors cheered. Their assumption now is that the Fed will not continue with its steady interest rate increases. But, if one examines the central bank's past behavior this is a foolish assumption.
The Fed will indeed continue its interest rate hikes unabated, and here's why…
The tone set by the central bank on interest rates has been overwhelmingly "hawkish" over the past six months. Minutes from the Fed's June meeting mention a concern over stocks being "too high," and the potential for "market risks." Fed officials also cite concerns that markets have been ignoring rate hikes with blind exuberance. The Fed has continued rate hikes through 2017 despite a constant barrage of negative data, causing confusion in the financial world.
I covered elements of this deluge of bad data in my article 'Peak Economic Delusion Signals Coming Crisis'.
First, it is important to understand that everything the Fed does and says publicly is highly calculated. When there is confusion surrounding Fed rhetoric, it is often strategic, not random. Yellen's admission to the U.S. House Financial Services Committee that low inflation is a concern conflicts with numerous Fed statements made previously.
For example, last month Yellen surprised analysts with her claim that she "expects no new crisis in our lifetimes." This is an extremely confident and hawkish sentiment on top of numerous other arguments in favor of interest rate hikes regardless of low inflation. Only weeks later, inflation is suddenly a concern?
Investors immediately interpreted Yellen's mention of low inflation to mean that the Fed was backing away from its hard stance on rate hikes, as well as its pursuit of reductions in its balance sheet. What they completely ignored was the fact that Yellen also reiterated to the same Financial Services Committee the Fed's intention to CONTINUE rate increases at the current pace.
The Fed has used this method of mixed messages before. During the lead up to the taper of quantitative easing, central bankers sent mixed messages to the investment world leading everyone to believe that the taper was a no-go. Investors, of course, celebrated, while many alternative analysts were patting themselves on the back for their prediction that the Fed would "never" taper QE.
In the midst of rising potential for interest rate increases, the Fed pulled a fast one on analysts once again. Citing growth concerns, Yellen bamboozled mainstream economists and alternative economists alike, sowing the seeds of assumption that rate hikes were going to fall by the wayside.
In every case, the Fed insinuated it had "doubts", while at the same time stating that the removal of stimulus will march onward. This time will be no different. Interest rates are going up up up, and the only question is, how long will it take before market investors accept this as reality and equities crash in response?
I believe that Yellen's latest pronouncement of "no new crisis within our lifetimes" is a signal that this reversal in the stock bubble will take place very soon. I am reminded immediately of these quotes from prominent names in the economic world just prior to the crash of 1929:
John Maynard Keynes in 1927: "We will not have any more crashes in our time."
 
H.H. Simmons, president of the New York Stock Exchange, Jan. 12, 1928: "I cannot help but raise a dissenting voice to statements that we are living in a fool’s paradise, and that prosperity in this country must necessarily diminish and recede in the near future."
 
Irving Fisher, leading U.S. economist, The New York Times, Sept. 5, 1929: "There may be a recession in stock prices, but not anything in the nature of a crash." And on Sept. 17, 1929: "Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau. I do not feel there will be soon if ever a 50 or 60 point break from present levels, such as (bears) have predicted. I expect to see the stock market a good deal higher within a few months."
 
McNeel, market analyst, as quoted in the New York Herald Tribune, Oct. 30, 1929: "This is the time to buy stocks. This is the time to recall the words of the late J. P. Morgan… that any man who is bearish on America will go broke. Within a few days there is likely to be a bear panic rather than a bull panic. Many of the low prices as a result of this hysterical selling are not likely to be reached again in many years."
 
Harvard Economic Society, Nov. 10, 1929: "… a serious depression seems improbable; [we expect] recovery of business next spring, with further improvement in the fall."

Yellen seems to be echoing the bewildering rhetoric of past economic catastrophe; offering prophecies which she knows are false while purposely increasing instability through interest rate hikes. As I have noted many times, this is the classic modus operandi of the Fed. The Fed raises rates into economic decline and ignores all evidence that they are bursting a bubble they engineered — this is what they do.
During recessionary conditions in 1927, the Fed increased the money supply exponentially through open market purchases and a reduced discount rate, which many economists argue was a primary catalyst for the artificial liquidity that created the stock market bubble of 1929. Once the crash occurred and the depression set in, the Fed RAISED RATES and made matters worse (as openly admitted by Ben Bernanke decades later in 2002). The Fed thus prolonged the depression for years beyond the normal deflationary cycle.
Using history as our guide, central bankers like to conjure an environment of fiscal dangers, then they warn of those danger too little too late, and then claim ignorance of their own activities after the crash.
This is nothing new in our era. Former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan publicly admitted in an interview that the central bank knew an irrational bubble had formed, but claims they assumed the negative factors would "wash out."
Once they are ready to allow their planned implosion to occur, the central bankers are more than happy to throw investors to the wolves. That is to say, the investment world's optimism is only useful to the Fed for a time. If rhetoric and behaviors previous to the crash of 1929 are any measure, today we are only meager months away from a similar event. For further explanation, I outline in detail the reasons why the globalists would instigate a fiscal crisis in my article 'The Federal Reserve Is A Saboteur — And The "Experts" Are Oblivious.'
I suspect that the central banks and the globalists that control them are hoping to bide their time in terms a complete equities crash in preparation for a geopolitical event — a distraction massive enough to draw attention away from the bankers and their culpability for any economic disaster. They certainly will not allow stocks to crash in a vacuum.
In conclusion, I would like to leave readers with a quote from Great Depression era Federal Reserve chairman Roy Young. Perhaps investors should consider that they are being duped by central bank ploys, and that they are useful idiots in a game designed to keep the public under control with fraudulent markets until the Fed is ready to pull the plug. When the crash takes place, the Fed will find a way to remove itself from any blame. In the meantime, make no mistake, the interest rate hikes will continue into next year and the Fed's balance sheet will be reduced.
Addressing the Indiana Bankers Association, before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, Fed Chairman Roy Young had this to say:
"Many people in America seem to be more concerned about the present situation than the Federal Reserve System is. If unsound credit practices have developed, these practices will in time correct themselves, and if some of the overindulgent get 'burnt' during the period of correction, they will have to shoulder the blame themselves and not attempt to shift it to someone else."

Source: Zerohedge – Don't Be Fooled – The Federal Reserve Will Continue Rate Hikes Despite Crisis

Purchases Of US Real Estate By Foreigners Hit All-Time High In 2016

In a testament to Chinese oligarchs, criminals, money launderers and pretty much anyone who is desperate to park their cash as far away from the mainland as possible, purchases of US real estate by foreign buyers surged to an all-time high in 2016, according to data from the National Association of Realtors via CNBC.
Foreign purchases of US residential real estate surged to the highest level ever in terms of number of homes sold and dollar volume last year, with Chinese buyers leading the pack, followed by buyers from Canada, the United Kingdom, Mexico and India. Meanwhile, Russian buyers made up barely 1 percent of the purchases.
Foreign buyers closed on $153 billion worth of US residential properties between April 2016 and March 2017, a 49 percent jump from the period a year earlier, according to the NAR. That surpasses the previous high, set in 2015. Foreign sales accounted for 10 percent of all existing home sales by dollar volume and 5 percent by number of properties. In total, foreign buyers purchased 284,455 homes, up 32 percent from the previous year.

According to CNBC, the increase in home sales comes as a surprise, given the dollar’s relatively expensive valuation versus both developed and emerging-market currencies. Half of all foreign sales were in just three states: Florida, California and Texas.
Aging Canadians buying property in Florida and other warmer climates were responsible for the largest increase of buying activity from any one country.
“But the biggest overall surge in sales in the last year came from Canadian buyers, who scooped up $19 billion worth of properties, mostly in Florida. They are also spending more, with the average price of a Canadian-bought home nearly doubling to $561,000.
 
‘There are more [baby] boomers now than ever before. It's the demographic,’ said Elli Davis, a real estate agent in Toronto who said she is seeing more older buyers downsize their primary home and purchase a second or third home in Florida. ‘The real estate here is worth so much more money. They all have more money. They're selling the big city houses that are now $2 million-plus, where they went up so much in the last 10 to 15 years, so they're cashing in.’”

Mexican buyers nearly doubled their purchases by dollar volume from a year earlier, coming in third behind China and Canada. Though Adam DeSanctis, economic issues media manager at the National Association of Realtors, said "you could easily make the point that perhaps their uptick was wanting to buy now before new immigration policy was in place.”

In general, though, Mexicans have been buying less expensive homes.
“The average purchase price of buyers from Mexico came in at about $327,000, compared with the $782,000 average among Chinese buyers and $522,000 for Indian buyers. Mexicans overwhelmingly favored homes in Texas, while Chinese buyers opted more for California and, increasingly, Texas.
 
‘The environment is much more Asian-friendly than it used to be with churches, grocery stores and schools that cater to their tastes,’ said Laura Barnett, a Dallas-Fort Worth area Re/Max agent. ‘I have been told they target good schools and newer homes. Yards are not a high priority, but rather community parks.’”

In a sign that home valuations in America’s most populous state might be nearing a peak, some Chinese are being priced out of California, forcing them to buy property in…Texas.
“It's also possible that Chinese buyers are being priced out of California. The average price of a home purchased by a buyer from China fell from about $937,000 to $782,000, even as the number of properties purchased jumped to nearly 41,000 from 29,000. The drop in purchasing power likely stems from tightened regulations in China with regards to capital outflow.”

As we’ve reported, Chinese authorities trying to stem the capital flooding out of their country adopted new currency controls specifically aimed at stopping Chinese nationals from illegally repurposing money to buy real estate. Those took effect early this year. Because of the new restrictions, CNBC says Chinese demand is beginning to wane – which could be catastrophic for home prices. Luxury markets in cities like New York City are already struggling with high vacancy rates. The recovery in home prices since the crisis has been uneven, but expensive coastal markets like New York and San Francisco experienced massive home-price inflation as younger Americans flocked to urban areas. However, if foreign demand weakens, these markets could be poised for a crash as fewer residents can afford to own their homes.
And of course, there’s the Trump factor…
"Stricter foreign government regulations and the current uncertainty on policy surrounding U.S. immigration and international trade policy could very well lead to a slowdown in foreign investment," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR.

But if Chinese oligarchs are now out of the US real-estate game, who’s going to pay $150 million for this 14-acre parcel of beachfront property in the Hamptons?

Source: Zerohedge – Purchases Of US Real Estate By Foreigners Hit All-Time High In 2016

How Government Helped Create The Coming Doctor Shortage

Authored by Logan Albright via The Mises Institute,
For the last five years, attempts to reform America’s health care system have focused primarily on the demand side of the market, and specifically on the market for insurance. Yet, these reforms have not achieved significant improvements in health care outcomes, nor reductions in cost. As health care specialist John C. Goodman has pointed out in Forbes, the slowed growth of health care spending in the United States is a trend that correlates most closely with supply side reforms such as the availability of health savings accounts. Reductions in spending or costs are certainly not an effect of the Affordable Care Act.
One of the most critical supply side issues in health care is the supply of qualified doctors. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the number of doctors per capita is in decline for the first time in two generations, and the American Association of Medical Colleges has predicted a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians and 46,000 specialists by 2020.
In light of these statistics, it would seem prudent to adopt policies that streamline entry into the health care market, while keeping regulatory costs to a minimum. Regrettably, this is far from the case, with states erecting numerous barriers to would-be health care providers that contribute to the high prices and limited access currently set to cripple the American market. While some of these are familiar and even seem natural to most people, some of the ways in which governments act to restrict doctor supply will come as a surprise to many.
Monopolistic Medical Boards
We are generally brought up to believe that monopolies are bad. The very word conjures up images of tight-fisted tycoons in top hats and monocles squeezing employees and consumers alike for all they are worth. While natural monopolies resulting from superior business models get an unfairly bad rap, people’s capacity for critical thought seems to inexplicably switch off when confronted with those monopolies which are created and supported by government.
The case of health care regulations is an interesting one, as state governments have empowered private medical boards with unilateral authority to set the rules for the medical profession, including the issuing and revoking of medical licenses. These boards effectively function like government regulatory agencies, with the important difference that they lack the opportunity for public comments, and thus are immune from any political pressure from citizens.
If the EPA or the IRS implements a regulation that the public doesn’t like, there is a political process by which they can voice their discontent and theoretically make an impact on the decision. In fact, this happens rather frequently, and although there is still too little accountability for regulatory czars, at least the opportunity exists for political action.
With state medical boards, no such process exists, and there is little transparency in the rule-making process that determines how doctors must operate. If a particular regulation is harmful, doctors and patients have no real alternative other than moving to a different state with different requirements, an impractical solution to say the least.
The fact that these medical boards are private rather than public entities is supposed to make us feel more free, but in fact, most members of these boards are appointed by state governors. When state laws forbid competition among regulators, and signal that the government will regard as binding anything the medical board decides to do, the distinction between public and private becomes meaningless.
For example, the California Business and Professions Code (Section 2220.5) states that “The Medical Board of California is the only licensing board that is authorized to investigate or commence disciplinary actions relating to physicians or surgeons” and charges the board with investigating any and all complaints from the public, other doctors, or health care facilities, or from the board itself. Although the board is technically private, the government sanctioned monopoly on enforcement stands as a barrier to entrants of the medical profession, who are forced to comply with a monolithic set of “take ‘em or leave ‘em rules,” with which they have no choice but to comply, or risk being barred from practicing their trade.
Limits on Nurse Practitioners
Nurse practitioners represent a less expensive alternative to fully licensed doctors for patients with minor, day-to-day complaints. Frequently operating out of walk-in clinics or pharmacies, these health care providers offer convenience, competition, and innovation in a market in desperate need of all three. In response to the Affordable Care Act, many states have been loosening regulations on nurse practitioners, which is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done if we are to truly encourage competition and increase supply.
Midwives, physicians’ assistants, and other alternative practitioners also have a key role to play in medical care, and should be permitted to practice without physician supervision. Midwifery in particular was once a vibrant industry, that has since been crippled by costly regulations.
Restrictions on Retail Clinics
Retail clinics, pharmacies, and even supermarkets are capable of offering routine medical services to patients with a convenience and regularity impossible in traditional physicians’ offices. Unfortunately, the American Medical Association (AMA) has aggressively lobbied against the availability of this type of facility.
In this, the AMA has been mostly successful. While pharmacists are permitted to administer injections to patients in Louisiana, the vast majority of states still have strict prohibitions on this sort of thing. Still, where retail clinics are permitted to operate, the effects have been dramatic. Wal-Mart has recently begun opening a series of in store clinics in a handful of states. The big-box store is boasting charges of just $40 for an office visit, about half of the industry standard, and has expanded its services to treat chronic conditions as well as the acute complaints in which most retail clinics have exclusively specialized. Additionally, the company has driven the cost of generic prescription drugs down to just $4.
Wal-Mart is leading the way in this area, by offering primary care services in fairly rural locations, where access to quality medical care can be particularly problematic. Retail clinics simply offer another option to patients, and restricting those options will always result in higher costs. Wal-Mart’s efforts offer only a glimpse at the potential for cheaper, more available medical care if states would relax their restrictions on retail clinics.
Licensing Requirements
Every student wishing to practice medicine must pass the United States Medical License Examination, and all states impose additional requirements from state licensing boards. These are frequently lengthy and expensive procedures. Medical organizations such as the AMA have an incentive to limit the number of licensed doctors practicing in the marketplace, in order to protect high wages for established incumbents.
Just as the system of taxi medallions has long hindered the transportation industry, burdensome licensing requirements are still another barrier standing in the way of expanding the doctor supply.
There is an argument to be made that stricter licensing requirements result in higher quality doctors. Whether or not this is true is debatable, depending on which studies you read, but regardless of what the answer is, there is no reason not to allow various gradations of quality in the health care market. A system, or multiple systems, of voluntary certification instead of, or in addition to, traditional licensing would offer consumers a broad array of services with corresponding differences in price.
In virtually every other market, from food, to clothing, shelter, to transportation, consumers are permitted to select a level of quality appropriate for their budget constraints. If every car was mandated to be of Cadillac quality, a lot fewer people would have the means to drive. The availability of beat up old jalopies allows consumers to trade quality for affordability and expands access to transportation for everyone. There is no reason why medical access shouldn’t work the same way.
Importing Doctors
Many nations other than the United States turn out qualified physicians, but American Licensing Boards do not fully recognize the credentials of doctors immigrating from abroad. This means that a fully capable physician from the United Kingdom or Germany will still have to serve a four year residency and go through the onerous licensing procedures.
About 15 percent of residency positions go to foreign medical graduates. If there were an alternative method of recognizing existing credentials, these slots could be filled by domestic medical students, resulting in more practicing doctors.
The Length of Schooling and the Small Number of Medical Schools
There are currently only 129 accredited medical schools in the United States, too few to turn out enough doctors to meet the demand. In order to gain accreditation, a school must undergo an eight-year process overseen by the U.S. Department of Education.
The number of residency positions available is only 110,000, a number which is determined by the way Congress chooses to fund Medicare. But directly tying the number of available residencies to Medicare funding ignores the economic realities of the health care market, and fails to provide any measure of adaptability to changing conditions.
The deficit of residency slots also contributes to the length of time it takes to become a doctor. It can take as many as ten years from the time someone begins studying medicine to when they are allowed to practice. The result of this is a remarkable lack of flexibility for the health care market to adapt to changes in demand.
Conclusion
All of these supply side restrictions make it more difficult for the labor market for medical providers to respond to consumers’ needs. When a change in demographics occurs, such as the Baby Boomer generation entering retirement, or when legal reforms such as the Affordable Care Act alter incentives, it can take decades for supply to catch up to demand.
By reducing the regulatory burden on physicians, providing more competition among medical boards, and permitting more autonomy for alternative practitioners, patients could see both relief from the coming doctor shortage, as well as lower prices across the board for medical care.

Source: Zerohedge – How Government Helped Create The Coming Doctor Shortage

Drowning Our Sorrows: These Are Americans' Favorite Alcoholic Beverages

Americans are increasingly choosing healthier food options like quinoa, kale and avocado over chicken wings, chips and other unhealthy snacks. But when it comes to alcohol, a longstanding favorite continues to dominate, despite new, low-cal options: Beer.
According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans who drink alcohol continue to prefer beer (40%) over wine (30%) and liquor (26%) – a trend that has persisted since Gallup started taking the survey 25 years ago.

Unsurprisingly, beer is particularly popular among men, with 62% of male drinkers saying they prefer beer, compared with 19% of female drinkers. Less-educated and middle-income Americans also tend to choose beer.
However, Americans aren’t the world’s heaviest beer drinkers – not even close. Another report released earlier this month shows the average European consumes between one and four drinks a day, enough to notably increase the risk of colorectal and esophageal cancers. Americans drink 20 percent less alcohol each year than Europeans.

Here’s a quick summary of Gallup’s findings:

   Four in 10 alcohol consumers say they most often drink beer
30% prefer wine, while 26% opt for liquor
62% of Americans drink alcohol, consistent with historical trend

Beer has been Americans’ alcoholic beverage of choice for decades, Gallup said.
"For the past two decades, at least three in 10 drinkers have said they prefer wine, peaking at 39% in 2005. Wine was slightly less popular in the early to mid-1990s. Women are significantly more likely than men to prefer wine, at 50% vs. 11%, respectively. This beverage is also preferred more among college-educated adults."

However, liquor is rising in Americans’ estimation. The number of Americans saying they prefer liquor reaching its highest level in the 25 years since Gallup started taking the survey.
The percentage of those surveyed who selected liquor as their drink of choice ticked higher to 26%, the highest level in the poll’s history. However, the increase over the past 13 years – up from 24% in 2004 – is negligible. The 26% of drinkers who named liquor as their beverage of choice is the highest in Gallup's 25-year trend, but similar with the 24% recorded in 2004. The percentage naming liquor has typically been closer to 20%. Future measurements will help determine whether the current figure marks the beginning of a trend toward an increased preference for liquor.

A solid majority of Americans say they drink alcohol at least occasionally.
“The majority of American adults consume alcohol at least occasionally, with the current 62% figure nearly matching the 63% historical average in Gallup's trend dating back to 1939. The percentage of Americans who drink has been fairly steady over nearly eight decades, with a few exceptions. The drinking percentage held near 70% in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The figure dipped below 60% at several points between the 1930s and 1950s, as well as in select polls from 1989 to 1996.”

Though the number of Americans who are willfully abstinent is perhaps the most surprising data point from the survey was the number of Americans who say they don’t drink.
“Meanwhile, 38% of U.S. adults totally abstain from alcohol. That figure has remained below 40% since 1997.”

As Gallup notes, many of the Founding Fathers enjoyed beer, and it remains the most popular alcoholic beverage in the US today. Meanwhile, the brewing industry has seen tremendous growth in recent decades. Americans have thousands of breweries to choose from in 2017, compared with fewer than 100 in the early 1980s.

And, judging by Americans' insatiable appetite for craft beer, those numbers will likely continue to climb.

Source: Zerohedge – Drowning Our Sorrows: These Are Americans' Favorite Alcoholic Beverages

LEFTISTS ONLY: You're Cordially Invited to This Post — Tea and Crumpets Will Be Served

Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

Courtesy of the Philadelphia Tea Society, I give thee a generous serving of tea and crumpets. Enjoy them with my compliments.

Tea and Crumpets
Now that you’re comfortably situated, I’d like you to take a peek through this aperture, into the hideous minds of the leftist elite.

Oh, it’s plain to see that she’s mentally ill. You only need to view her Twitter timeline for a few seconds to realize that. But the former member of the British parliament and homewrecker, is a hero on the left these days. After being outed in the Wikileaks for working for the Hillary campaign, all the while pretending to be a conservative at Heat St., she’s gone ape.
But it’s not just her. In my entire life, I’ve never seen so many democrats beholden, genuflecting even, to the deep state and American intelligence services. The left has been ardently anti-CIA for decades. Yet, now, because it’s politically advantageous for them — they love them.
How sweet.
Tucker Carlson superbly documents the hysteria on the left — showing grown adults fat shame Trump — calling into question his physical condition — ringing alarm bells for having discussions with Putin because an eavesdropper wasn’t present to take notes and leak them to the media.
There are enemies amongst us, a great many of them. Look around, maybe in the mirror, and you will find them.

Source: Zerohedge – LEFTISTS ONLY: You're Cordially Invited to This Post — Tea and Crumpets Will Be Served

Pedophiles Exposed as Untouchables

We were expecting that the Deep Swamp in DC will be cleansed through the filing of pedophilia cases. However, not one of the already identified pedophiles ended up in jail. It turns out that these high profile criminals will remain, and will stay for the rest of their privileged life, as untouchables due to the … Continue reading Pedophiles Exposed as Untouchables →

Source: Geopolitics – Pedophiles Exposed as Untouchables

10 Things You Never Knew About Orwell's 1984

Authored by Anna Matthews via The Foundation for Economic Education,
George Orwell’s novel 1984 was incredibly popular at the time it was published, and it remains incredibly popular to this day. With multiple stars citing the book as one of their favorites – including Stephen King, David Bowie, Mel Gibson, and Kit Harrington – 1984 has been growing in popularity in recent years. The book reappeared on best-seller lists in early 2017, as some argued Orwell’s dystopian vision had finally arrived.
Below are 10 facts you might not know about Orwell’s dark novel.
1. Before he wrote 1984, Orwell worked for the British government during World War II as a propagandist at the BBC. (Perhaps seeing the propaganda industry up close led to his critical portrait in 1984.)
 
2. Orwell initially named the novel 1980, and then 1982 before settling on 1984. Since it was written in 1948, some think that Orwell devised the title by inverting the year the book was written. Additionally, he thought about naming the novel The Last Man in Europe.
 
3. While writing the novel, Orwell fought tuberculosis. The disease ultimately consumed him and he died seven months after 1984 was published, with tuberculosis as the sole cause of death. 
 
4. In addition to fighting tuberculosis, Orwell almost died while writing the novel. On a recreational boating trip with his children, he went overboard. Fortunately, neither this episode nor the tuberculosis prevented him from finishing his novel.
 
5. On an ironic note, Orwell himself was under government surveillance while writing his novel warning about government surveillance. The British government was watching Orwell because they believed he held socialist opinions. This surveillance started after he published The Road to Wigan Pier, a true story about poverty and the lower class in England. 
 
6. The slogan “2 + 2 = 5” originated from Russia, where the Communist regime used it as a motto of sorts in an effort to help them accomplish the goals of their five-year plan in only four years. Though the slogan is still used to point out the ills of totalitarian brainwashing today, it was not coined by Orwell.
 
7. In addition to borrowing a piece of Russian propaganda, Orwell also borrowed some Japanese propaganda for his novel. The “Thought Police” are based on the Japanese wartime secret police who literally arrested Japanese citizens for having “unpatriotic thoughts.” Their official name was the Kempeitai, and they officially named their pursuit the “Thought War.”
 
8. When Orwell worked as a propagandist for the BBC, there was a conference room there numbered 101. This room was the room of which he based the location for some of his more horrifying scenes, making the scenes themselves all the more horrifying.
 
9. According to Orwell’s friends and families, his second wife Sonia Brownell was the model off of which he based the love interest (Julia) of the book’s main character, Winston Smith.
 
10. Though his book may be popular, Orwell’s novel also makes the list of the world’s top ten most frequently banned books. Some ban it for what they claim are pro-communist points of view, and others have banned it because it is anti-communist. Regardless, it is ironic that a book warning against totalitarianism is often an item for censorship.

Source: Zerohedge – 10 Things You Never Knew About Orwell's 1984

Bank Of Japan Leaves Policy Unchanged As Expected – Admits Defeat On Deflation

Japan's long and sordid dance with unconventional monetary policy continues. With most analysts expecting a 'nothingburger' from Kuroda (though some hinting at the potential for shock-and-awe), The BOJ delivered… nothing – no change. However, most critically, the BOJ admitted defeat of deflation and delayed the timing of reaching their 2% inflation goal to around FY2019.
No change to policy:

BOJ Maintains 10-Year JGB Yield Target at About 0.000%
BOJ Maintains Policy Balance Rate at -0.100%
80 trillion yen target purchasing remains in place

But…
BOJ Raises Assessment of Economy – FY2017 GDP forecast is 1.8%, FY2018 GDP Forecast Is 1.4%, FY2019 GDP Forecast Is 0.7% – But sees risk skewed to the downside.
Growth to Continue Above Potential Through Fiscal 18
 
Japan Economy Likely to Continue Moderate Expansion
 
Risk to Economy, Prices Skewed to Downside

BOJ Delays Timing of Reaching 2% Goal to Around FY2019 – BOJ FY2018 Core CPI Forecast Is 1.5%
"Around FY 2019" means in the year ending March, 2020. So the board probably won't have to revisit this issue for quite some time.
 
Price Momentum Not Yet Sufficiently Firm
 
Inflation Expectations Remain in Weakening Phase

As Bloomberg's Chief Asia Economics Correspondent noted, the statement reads very dovish to me. An impartial observer landing from Mars could only conclude the BOJ's massive stimulus has a long way to go yet.

 
The BOJ's distorting effect in the stock market is in focus today, after Bloomberg scoops on concerns among BOJ officials and the head of Japan's stock exchange with the scale of ETF purchases.
While policy is held unchanged, The Bank of Japan has tapered its purchases without spooking investors into thinking its scaling back stimulus – by switching to the yield-curve target as its priority.

But with ETFs, there's no obvious bait-and-switch option to change the focus from what's now solely a quantitative target. It's very hard to see the BOJ adopting, for example, a stock-price target in the way that it now targets yields.
Equity markets were, of course, unphased by the BoJ meeting with volatility at 12-year lows:

 
Finally, Bloomberg Intelligence economist Yuki Masujima warned that a big risk ahead for BOJ after two board members leave this week is tunnel vision. Takahide Kiuchi and Takehiro Sato routinely challenged the policy board's consensus, and their successors are less likely to oppose Kuroda.
"The BOJ may start to suffer from a worse case of groupthink at the very time a diverse set of opinions will be needed to inform policy."

As a reminder, Takenobu Nakashima, quantitative strategist at Nomura Securities in Tokyo, warned "core-core CPI is also hovering near zero so the BOJ can't reduce bond buying or raise zero percent target for 10-year yield."
Reaction from Stephen Innes, a Singapore-based senior trader at foreign exchange company Oanda:
"I suspect other central banks are quite happy for the BOJ to refrain from a policy shift at this time given such an outcome could spark a global bond market mini-tantrum."
 
"Mixed reaction as the market on sidelines awaiting the follow-up presser."
 
"Kuroda is likely to be bombarded again with questions about the bank’s exit policy at his post-meeting press conference. Whether we hear a case of central bank verbal gymnastics to avoid the problem or he provides some guidance, the reality is the low level of inflation makes it highly unlikely he will stir the pot publicly even if such discussions are going on behind closed doors."

Social media is not impressed…
When BOJ gets 2% inflation& avg interest=3%, interest alone will=28% of the budget. It'll print like crazy to (failingly) try lowering that! https://t.co/MbkvuaXDWx
— Mark B. Spiegel (@markbspiegel) July 20, 2017
So BOJ now projects printing ¥80T/yr thru 2020. Then what? Interest alone @1% rate now=9.4% of budget. What happens when it's 3%?#shortyen!
— Mark B. Spiegel (@markbspiegel) July 20, 2017
The world's best "desert island trade" (set it and forget it for the next 5 years) is shorting yen. Good night, Japan, and good luck. https://t.co/sYCuD7zMsM
— Mark B. Spiegel (@markbspiegel) July 20, 2017

Source: Zerohedge – Bank Of Japan Leaves Policy Unchanged As Expected – Admits Defeat On Deflation

"ECB Or Not To Be": Here's What Mario Draghi May Say Tomorrow

Looking at tomorrow’s main event, the much anticipated ECB announcement in which Draghi may (or may not) announce a hawkish shift to the cental bank’s policies and/or reveal the bank’s tapering plans, Citi (whose titled we borrowed) gives the 30 second summary, and says that the market seems quite split on whether the ECB will remove the asset purchase program easing bias, but thinks that there’s room for mild disappointment. After all, it says, this meeting is just a warm up for the September meeting (and Jackson Hole). CitiFX Strategist Josh O’Byrne points out that the biggest market fear at the moment appears to be long positioning and “this risks morphing into FOMO for the next leg higher.” For the press conference, Citi expects Draghi to slightly tweak some of the language from Sintra to lean a little bit more towards the dovish side.
The bank’s expectations are summarized in the following handy cheat sheet:

From UBS, here is a big picture menu of ECB policy choices for normalization:

Another snap preview comes courtesy of SocGen which says that questions on possible exit scenarios should dominate the press conference.

While acknowledging the strength of the economy, Draghi is likely to counter any ideas of an imminent and rapid path towards ending QE, instead urging patience with the still-subdued inflation outlook. We maintain our call for an announcement in September of a six-month extension of the APP into 2018 at €40bn/month, followed by data-dependent quarterly reductions. Meanwhile, we expect the euro area consumer confidence indicator to stabilise as historically high levels (SGe 1.3%) in July. Elsewhere, in the UK, we look for only a modest bounce in retail sales in June.

* * *
With the intros out of the way, Below is an extensive preview of what to expect, courtesy of RanSquawk
ECB Preview: Rate Decision due at 1245BST/0645CDT and Press Conference at 1330BST/0730CDT

All rates and the current pace of asset purchases are expected to be left unchanged.
There is a slight chance the ECB may adjust guidance on asset purchases following recent source reports.
Draghi may reiterate his most recent comments made at the Sintra Forum in his press conference.

RATE/ASSET PURCHASE EXPECTATIONS

DEPOSIT RATE: Forecast to remain unchanged at -0.40%. The rate was last adjusted in March 2016, when it was cut by 10bps.
REFI RATE: Forecast to remain unchanged at 0.00%. The rate was last adjusted in March 2016, when it was cut by 5bps.
MARGINAL RATE: Forecast to remain unchanged at 0.25%. The rate was last adjusted in March 2016, when it was cut by 5bps.
ASSET PURCHASES: Forecast to maintain the pace of asset purchases at EUR 60bln per month until December 2017. Last December, the ECB reduced the size of purchases by EUR 20bln per month, and extended the purchase horizon by nine months.

CURRENT ECB FORWARD GUIDANCE

RATES: “The Governing Council stated that the key ECB interest rates are to remain at present levels for an extended period of time, and well past the horizon of the net asset purchases.” (ECB statement, 8/Jun)
ASSET PURCHASES: “Net asset purchases, at the monthly pace of EUR 60bln, are intended to run until the end of December 2017, or beyond, if necessary, and in any case until the Governing Council sees a sustained adjustment in the path of inflation consistent with its inflation aim.” (ECB statement, 8/Jun)
GROWTH: “Risks to the growth outlook are now broadly balanced” (ECB statement, 8/Jun)
INFLATION: “Headline inflation has been recovering from the very low levels seen in 2016… Measures of underlying inflation remain low and are expected to rise only gradually over the medium term, supported by our monetary policy measures, the expected continuing economic recovery and the corresponding gradual absorption of slack.” (ECB statement, 27/Apr). Draghi (27/ Jun): “the threat of deflation is gone and reflationary forces are at play”.

AREAS OF DISCUSSION
ASSET PURCHASES: Speculation has been rife that the central bank will tweak its forward guidance with regards to its asset purchases. Citing sources, Reuters reported that the ECB may only drop part of its easing bias, leaving the reference to either the size or duration of QE in place.
Separately, sources cited by Bloomberg have reportedly said that the ECB is drawing up plans to wind down QE, and policymakers will consider these proposals in the autumn, hinting at a September announcement. 
Analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch look for the ECB to tweak its language: “We expect the ECB this week to toughen their language marginally, by removing the easing bias on QE, while insisting on the need for prudence and a persistent monetary stimulus,” BAML writes, “Sintra was not just about sending a hawkish message, it was also about expressing a healthy degree of unease at the pace of inflation normalisation and hinting that the end of QE did not mean fast normalisation in policy rates.”
INFLATION: It is likely that Draghi will cite weak inflation pressures within the Euro area in his Q&A. The ECB President has argued that loose policy is still warranted to ensure that inflation dynamics become durable and self-sustaining.
And inflation is still too low for the ECB’s comfort, Oxford Economics says, writing that a stronger euro and lower oil prices are negative developments for the euro area inflation profile.
“Although the ECB has raised its growth forecasts since the end of 2016, it has not increased its core CPI inflation forecast,” OxEco points out, “encouragingly, core inflation increased to 1.1% in June, the highest rate since 2013.”
“While Draghi noted at Sintra that the core inflation measure may understate underlying inflation, it is worth noting that a headline inflation overshoot over the next year and a half is unlikely due to the weak outlook for energy and food inflation.”
EUR: Within the press conference there could also be talk about the EUR’s recent rally since the June meeting; the EUR now trades well above the central bank’s 1.08 assumption used in its June economic projections, and has risen approximately 2% on a trade weighted basis since June.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs note that the appreciation in the currency would be less welcome at the ECB since it could weigh on inflation pressures, especially so given the weakness in crude prices. “We do not think that Draghi would want to encourage further near-term currency appreciation and/or higher long-term rates,” Goldman says, “yet we do not expect Draghi to try to unwind the market re-pricing since the Sintra speech.”
As such, Draghi may proceed with caution, emphasising that any normalisation would likely be a gradual process, and this may be enough to put a lid on further EUR appreciation, some argue.
MARKET REACTION
In terms of the rate decision itself, little market reaction is expected, so focus will be placed onto the statement from the ECB. President Draghi is largely expected to reiterate his recent comments made at the Sintra conference last month, consequently gearing up for a policy reassessment in September with the ECB Council likely to temper some of the hawkish expectations over immediate policy tightening.
Some analysts suggest that EUR might be met with some downward pressure if the central bank doesn’t give too much away, leading to EUR to pare some of its recent rally observed over the past couple of weeks.
Additionally, there is a speculation following sources reports that the ECB might drop part of its bias over the size or duration of QE, and in doing so, this could potentially lead to upside in EUR and bond yields.
RECENT COMMENTARY
ECB SOURCES:

ECB drawing up stimulus plans for policymakers to consider when they return after the August break –Bloomberg (18/Jul)
ECB wary of putting end-date on QE, likely to seek flexibility in eventual cuts to programme –Rtrs (14/Jul)
ECB to announce winding down of bond purchases in Sept –WSJ (13/Jul)
Some ECB policymakers spooked by market turbulence, some cautious about lifting QE easing bias in July, ECB might only drop part of bias leaving reference to either size or duration of QE –Rtrs (3/Jul)
Markets did not take note of the caveats in Draghi’s Sintra speech, comments intended to prepare market for decision on stimulus later this year without making commitment, ECB can be patient with inflation, can live with it taking longer to rise to targets –Rtrs (28/Jun)

INFLATION:

ECB’s Villeroy: ECB has removed deflation risks (19/Jul)
ECB’s Praet: Inflation will take a long time to get back to target, ‘process of reflation is a long one’ (8/Jul)
ECB’s Weidmann: Deflation risks are now distant (7/Jul)
ECB’s Weidmann: Inflation expected to end 2017 somewhat lower due to falls in crude prices (6/Jul)
ECB’s Praet: Adverse scenarios for inflation outlook look less likely, deflation risks have largely vanished (6/Jul)
ECB’s Nowotny: Inflation targeting should contain a certain degree of flexibility (5/Jul)
ECB’s Praet: Scenario for future inflation remains contingent on easy financing conditions (4/Jul)
ECB’s Praet: Inflation remains volatile, prices pressures continue to be subdued (4/Jul)
ECB’s Praet: Anchoring rate expectations is a key condition for asset purchases to deliver accommodative policy (4/Jul)
ECB’s Draghi: Deflationary forces have been replaced by reflationary ones (27/Jun)
ECB’s Draghi: Considerable monetary accommodation still required for inflation dynamics to become durable and self-sustaining (27/Jun)
ECB’s Draghi: Inflationary dynamics more muted than one would expected, but factors weighing on inflation are temporary that the ECB can look through (27/Jun)
ECB’s Hansson: Can’t expect a quick transmission from monetary policy to inflation (14/Jun)
ECB’s Smets: Better growth should stoke inflation pressures, but we aren’t seeing this now (13/Jun)

QE/TAPER:

ECB’s Villeroy: Accommodative policy still required (19/Jul)
ECB’s Rimsevics sees bond purchases for another ‘couple of years’ (13/Jul)
ECB’s Praet: Better growth will reinforce ECB’s accommodation (8/Jul)
ECB’s Weidmann: Normalisation isn’t a ‘full brake’, it’s an easing off the accelerator (7/Jul)
ECB’s Villeroy: Nominal rates will rise in line with the recovery (6/Jul)
ECB’s Praet: ECB’s mission is not yet completed (4/Jul)
ECB’s Lautenschlaeger: Imperative that policy be normalised as soon as po ssible (30/Jun)
ECB’s Weidmann: Expansive policy still needed, but can disagree about the level of accommodation (29/Jul)
ECB’s Draghi: Normalisation will be gradual (27/Jun)
ECB’s Weidmann: QE extension was not discussed at the June meeting (25/Jun)
ECB’s Weidmann: Withdrawal of stimulus should be considered if economy develops as expected, ECB shouldn’t change self-imposed QE limits (25/Jun)

RECOVERY:

ECB’s Coeure: The recovery has arrived, but it’s unwise to let our guard down because the recovery is cyclical (7/Jul)
ECB’s Weidmann: Ongoing recovery raises the prospect of a normalisation of monetary policy (6/Jul)
ECB’s Weidmann: Pace of normalisation depends on progress of inflation (6/Jul)
ECB’s Praet: Solid upswing continues to broaden across sectors and across countries (6/Jul)
ECB’s Praet: Economic recovery seems to have gathered momentum (6/Jul)
ECB’s Villeroy: Non-standard policy is not eternal (6/Jul)
ECB’s Coeure: Recovery increasingly broad-based, an encouraging development (30/Jun)
ECB’s Draghi: All signs now point to a strenghtening and broadening of the recovery (27/Jun)

FX/MARKETS:

ECB’s Coeure: Currency depreciation is a side-effect of policy and neither its main transmission channel, nor its objective (11/Jul)
ECB’s Coeure: QE effect on exchange rates is, by and large, not fundamentally different from conventional policy (11/Jul)
ECB’s Coeure: Steepening at long-end of the yield curve reflects market expectations that future growth will be solid (5/Jul)
ECB’s Coeure: International role of the euro currency has declined over the alst year, but its role as a reserve currency has increased (5/Jul)
ECB’s Coeure: Recent market volatility has not been significant (5/Jul

Finally, some charts from UBS:

Source: Zerohedge – "ECB Or Not To Be": Here's What Mario Draghi May Say Tomorrow