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Jim Jatras: Forget Kim. It's Time For A Trump-Putin Summit…Now!

Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

In the aftermath of US President Donald Trump’s cancellation of his scheduled June 12 summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, the gathering clouds of global conflict are getting thicker and darker:

Korea: The cancellation is a triumph for Trump’s national security team, most if not all of whom were horrified at the prospect of his meeting personally with Kim. (There was no telling what the Big Man might agree to if he met Little Rocket Man face to face. What if Korea actually were denuclearized? There would be no more excuse for keeping American troops on the peninsula! Disaster!)  From the team’s perspective, scuttling the meeting altogether would be the best outcome, but derailing the date and cranking the nasty rhetoric back up will do for now. Talk of a Libyan model, even more than inclusion of B-52s in exercises with South Korea (which Trump reversed), got the job done. Now it’s imperative for the national security establishment to load Trump up with nonnegotiable demands (maybe patterned on Pompeo’s Iran provocation; see below) that Kim would have no choice but to refuse on the chance the summit gets rescheduled through the frantic efforts of South Korea’s Moon Jae-in – and maybe of Trump himself, if he still wants a shot at that Nobel Peace Prize. Pyongyang’s continued willingness to talk will register in Washington as desperation and an invitation for renewed pressure.

Iran: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has delivered to Tehran what only can be deemed an ultimatum. It makes Austria’s 1914 demands on Serbia look mild in comparison. Ultimata are designed to be rejected, “justifying” whatever action the threatening power has already decided upon. Tehran is being told to dismantle its entire regional security presence – or else. The “or else” means initially a campaign of destabilization (assassinations, fomenting domestic unrest, and insurrections by disgruntled ethnic and religious communities; see Syria 2011) or, if that fails, direct military action (see Libya 2011 and Iraq 2003). To trigger the latter look for a false flag or contrived “Iranian attack,” such as a naval incident in the Persian Gulf (see Gulf of Tonkin 1964). Also targeted by the ultimatum are the European countries aghast at US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. In addition to smacking secondary sanctions on our satellites (officially, “allies” and “partners”), the harshness of Pompeo’s terms is designed to spook the Europeans into the vain hope they can restrain a reckless US bent on war by meeting Washington halfway (or three-quarters of the way, or nine-tenths of the way…) in helping to corner Tehran. Watch to see who will crack first: London, Paris, or Berlin?

Syria: Despite Trump’s repeated assertion that he wants to get Americans out of Syria, there is reason to think we are digging in further. This has nothing to do with defeating ISIS. Rather, along with a planned buildup of Saudi and other foreign Sunni troops in the US- and Kurd-controlled zone, the principal target is Iran (see above). US policy in Syria is driven by Israeli and Saudi hostility to Iran, and Pompeo’s list of nonnegotiable demands includes withdrawal of Iranian (and Hezbollah) forces from that country. It is a mystery how the US, whose troop presence in Syria violates international law and probably American domestic law as well, has the right to demand the departure of forces present legally by invitation of the internationally recognized government. Punctuating US determination to confront Iran were new strikes this week against Syrian government forces, while Israel flaunted its first-ever combat use of the US F-35.

Ukraine: The level of fighting on the Donbas line of control has intensified. Meanwhile Kiev forces show off tests of the Javelin antitank missiles they received from the Trump administration, which the Obama administration had earlier declined to provide. Ostensibly intended to deter a Russian attack – in which case they would make little difference – the Javelins could be used in an offensive against Donbas forces (perhaps in concert with an attack on the Kerch bridge connecting mainland Russia to Crimea) followed by a call for insertion of international peacekeepers. Russia considers the FIFA World Cup from June 14 to July 15 a prime time window for such an assault. A Dutch report assigning blame to – surprise! – Russia for downing MH17 comes at an opportune moment.

Balkans: Prestigious think tanks call for “action” to intensify the same policies that have made a wreck of the Balkans for a quarter of a century. Why? To counter Russian influence, of course! The only shortcoming in US and European policy is that we haven’t been aggressive enough.      

Sitting at the geographic and political junction of these seemingly disparate theaters of active or potential conflict is the US establishment’s entrenched hostility to Russia. Despite the accelerating unraveling of the anti-constitutional plot to dump Trump by elements of the US Deep State (in the CIA, FBI, Department of Justice, and elsewhere) together with their British counterparts (MI6 and GCHQ), the effort’s primary policy objective was achieved: President Trump has been blocked from his oft-stated desire to improve ties with Moscow. Addressing the regional issues above – any one of which could reach dangerous crisis proportion at any moment – would be far more feasible with Washington and Moscow working in cooperation instead of at cross-purposes or daggers drawn. But instead, we have a new cold war care of James Clapper, John Brennan, Christopher Steele, Peter Strzok, Stefan Halper, and their ilk – possibly even including Barack Obama.

In some ways this second Cold War is even more dangerous than the first one. The instincts of restraint and prudence that had been built up over decades of confrontation have atrophied. While both the US and Russia still maintain massive nuclear arsenals, new military technology has continued to make rapid progress in such areas as hypersonic weapons and cyber-warfare. Also, while during the first Cold War American and Soviet planners consciously sought to avoid direct contact between their forces in Third World proxy wars, today American and Russian forces come into perilous proximity to one another. Given Washington’s relentless determination to press Moscow to the brink in every theater, the consequences of even an unintended clash are not given the gravity they demand.

It is impossible to know from outside of Trump’s own mind to what extent he has abandoned his pledge to improve relations with Russia (or never meant it in the first place), or whether he might simply be biding his time to make his move. But it is clear what that move must be if there is any possibility of cutting the Gordian knot that binds shut the gate to rapprochement: Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin should meet in a formal and substantive summit at the earliest possible date. A productive understanding between the United States and Russia must start at the top, on the personal level or it will not happen at all.

To that end, recently this analyst joined other activists in posting the following petition on the official White House website:

President Donald Trump should hold early summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin

Created by J.J. on May 21, 2018

‘Ronald Reagan famously said: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used.” Unfortunately, today a new Cold War between the US and Russia again poses an existential threat to the people of both nations and to the whole world. Therefore, we urge President Trump to follow in the steps of Ronald Reagan and to start a direct dialogue with President Putin in search of solid and verified security arrangements. As President Trump said repeatedly “only haters and fools” do not understand that good US- Russia relations are also good for America. By all indications President Putin feels the same way for his country. A summit should be arranged as soon as possible.’

The petition is open for signature until June 20. When signing, use of Gmail is recommended to facilitate registration of your vote.

No one should imagine a White House petition can by itself change the direction of American policy. However, if there are elements on Trump’s team who are not entirely against the idea of a summit, a show of public support may serve to strengthen their case against those opposed.

Most important is a constituency of one: Mr. Trump himself. If Trump was at all willing to hold a summit with Kim because of his handful of nukes, he can certainly do so with the leader of the one country on the planet with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the US.

Obama got his Peace Prize presented to him on a platter simply for getting elected while being black. By contrast, if Trump wants his Peace Prize he’s going to have to work for it. With Kim off his dance card, he’s got plenty of time to take a spin with Putin. 

Source: Zerohedge – Jim Jatras: Forget Kim. It's Time For A Trump-Putin Summit…Now!

Visualizing U.S. Energy Consumption In One Chart

Every year, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federal research facility funded by the Department of Energy and UC Berkeley, puts out a fascinating Sankey diagram that shows the fate of all energy that gets generated and consumed in the United States in a given year.

Today’s visualization is the summary of energy consumption for 2017, but you can see previous years going all the way back to 2010 on their website.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

DEALING IN QUADS

As Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins explains, the first thing you’ll notice about this Sankey is that it uses an unfamiliar unit of measurement: the quad.

Each quad is equal to a quadrillion BTUs, and it’s roughly comparable to the following:

8,007,000,000 gallons (US) of gasoline

293,071,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh)

36,000,000 tonnes of coal

970,434,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas

25,200,000 tonnes of oil

252,000,000 tonnes of TNT

13.3 tonnes of uranium-235

Put another way, a quad is a massive unit that only is useful in measuring something like national energy consumption – and in this case, the total amount of energy used by the country was 97.7 quadrillion BTUs.

ENERGY WASTED

On the diagram, one thing that is immediately noticeable is that a whopping 68% of all energy is actually rejected energy, or energy that gets wasted through various inefficiencies.

It’s quite eye-opening to look at this data sorted by sector:

source: Visual Capitalist

The transportation sector used 28.1 quads of energy in 2017, about 28.8% of the total consumption. However, it wasted 22.2 quads of that energy with its poor efficiency rate, which made for more rejected energy than the other three sectors combined.

This wastage and inefficiency in the transportation sector provides an interesting lens from which to view the green energy revolution, and it also helps explain the vision that Elon Musk has for the future of Tesla.

A WAYS TO GO

The last time we posted a version of this visualization was for the 2015 edition of the diagram, and we noted that renewables had a ways to go as a factor in the whole energy mix.

Here are how things have changed over the last two years:

source: Visual Capitalist

As you can see, solar and wind consumption are jumping considerably – but in absolute terms, our note from two years ago still remains true.

To make the desired impact, renewable energy still has a ways to go.

Source: Zerohedge – Visualizing U.S. Energy Consumption In One Chart

The Skripal Case Is Being Pushed Down The Memory Hole With Libya and Aleppo

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

On the fourth of March, in the sleepy British cathedral town of Salisbury, an ex-spy named Sergei Skripal was poisoned by an assassin with the most deadly nerve agent known to man.

The Russian government was immediately blamed by a shocked and outraged world. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson assured the people of Great Britain that “There’s no doubt” that Moscow was responsible. In a large and sudden leap forward in cold war escalations, Russian diplomats were thrown out of countries all around the globe, including my own Australia, in a show of solidarity with the United Kingdom. It was the largest collective ejection of Russian diplomats in history.

Two months after his earth-shattering assassination, as the world stared spellbound at the weekend’s immensely popular PR spectacle of a royal wedding, Sergei Skripal was quietly discharged from the hospital he’d been staying at. The BBC reports that he is walking and approaching complete recovery.

Wait a second. Haven’t I seen this Python skit before?

So to recap, an ex-spy who had been retired and strategically irrelevant for years was reportedly poisoned by the Kremlin with Novichok, a scary Russian-sounding word which refers to a group of extremely deadly and fast-acting nerve agents that start shutting down the body’s muscles and respiratory system within 30 seconds to two minutes.

Except in the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia it was several hours with a leisurely stroll, a meal, and beers in between.

The poison was placed in Yulia Skripal’s suitcase. Actually no, they got that wrong, it was the air vents in their car. Wait, no, that doesn’t work either. Maybe it was administered via weaponized miniature drone! Wait, no, it wasthe family’s car door handle. Actually, scratch that, it was the front door of the house. Definitely the front door of the house. We’re absolutely sure. Either that or Sergei Skripal’s favorite Russian cereal. They were given 100 grams of Novichok. Wait, no, that’s ridiculous, we retract that. Okay, maybe we have no idea what happened. Oh hey, their pets were completely unaffected by the poison. Let’s incinerate them.

Oh, and Johnson’s claim that the Porton Down laboratory had assured him “There’s no doubt” that Russia was behind the poisoning? Turns out that was just a bald-faced lie; Porton Down said no such thing and it was never its job to make such an assessment. Johnson lied, and both the Foreign Office and British mainstream media attempted to cover it up; tweets were deleted, transcripts were re-written, and narratives were given a good spin of historic revisionism by asserting that the UK government’s unequivocal insistence that the Kremlin poisoned the Skripals had been merely a “suggestion”.

And now both Sergei and Yulia Skripal, alleged victims of a poisoning by highly trained assassins using the deadliest nerve agent ever created, are doing fine. 

But you’re still supposed to fear and hate Russia. Just don’t think too hard about it or remember too much.

Remember Aleppo?

I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t; corporate media outlets hardly ever talk about it anymore. It’s almost like they want us to forget the horror stories they told us about how the city that had been occupied by good, noble freedom fighters was about to be taken by an army of depraved psychopaths who wanted to rape women, burn children alive, and shoot civilians in their homes. Back at the tail end of 2016, though, it was all you ever heard about. The “fall of Aleppo”, they called it. If the west didn’t intervene to stop Damascus and Moscow from retaking East Aleppo from the good-hearted rebels, everyone there would be raped, tortured, and butchered by the soulless army of the Syrian government.

Well, Moscow and Damascus did recapture East Aleppo, and it turns out that everything we were told about it was a lie. The atrocities the Syrian Arab Army were accused of intending to commit proved to be completely unfounded, those “freedom fighters” were predominantly cruel Al Qaeda affiliates, and the city is now thriving and bustling with busy marketplaces. But after all the constant apocalyptic alarmism, the mass media outlets who’d been warning of all the horrific crimes against humanity which would surely be committed after the “fall of Aleppo” forgot all about the city once they were proven completely wrong about everything.

Aleppo was pushed down the memory hole. It’s a non-thing now. Turns out Gary Johnson was ahead of the curve.

How about Libya? Remember Libya? Libya’s that country that got pushed down the memory hole the second the western empire got the regime change it was after. Before Muammar Gaddafi was mutilated in the streets to the sadistic cackles of Hillary Clinton, we were all told with increasing urgency that humanitarian interventionism was needed because Gaddafi’s troops are doing evil things like taking Viagra to help them commit mass rapes against Libyan civilians. Now Gaddafi is dead, we know that both thecase for humanitarian interventionism and the Viagra-for-rape stories were lies, and Libya is a humanitarian disaster with an open slave trade after western interventionism created a failed state.

Where are all those cries for humanitarian interventionism in Libya now? Now that the nation is infinitely worse off than it was under Gaddafi?

Doesn’t matter. Memory hole.

Time and time again, we’re fed these deceitful narratives to manufacture support for the agendas of the western war machine, and when the truth begins to surface that we were lied to once again, the news churn moves on and we’re distracted with something else as the old narrative is shuffled back beyond the reach of memory.

Maybe a year or two later we wonder to ourselves “I wonder what ever happened with that major news story? I should google it,” but nothing comes up and most of us shrug and move on.

And now a very suspicious and possibly Christopher Steele-related silence has descended on the matter of the Skripals, to the point where Sergei himself can walk out of the hospital and barely cause a blip in the news, and nobody can talk to either of them but everyone pretends that’s perfectly normal. This case which points very clearly to a mountain of lies and cover-ups by the British government and its affiliates is now being shuffled out of the news cycle and replaced with vapid nonsense about Meghan’s dress and Trump’s latest obnoxious tweet.

“Unlike everybody else in the media, I have no intention of letting go of Salisbury because the international ramifications of the Salisbury poisoning affair are too grave to allow them to be pushed out of the news by a Royal Wedding, by Wimbledon or whatever else it is..” pic.twitter.com/7KScziA2M2
— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) May 4, 2018
But we won’t let them forget. We won’t let the world forget that these steadily increasing imperialist escalations against Russia and its allies were given a hefty bump by lies about what happened in Salisbury. There are plenty of people on alternative media like me who will keep pointing at that big dark hole of unanswered questions and yelling “Hey! What about all those lies you guys told us about the Skripals?”

This one isn’t going down the memory hole, guys. There are some turds that just won’t flush. This one’s staying around forever. We’ll keep reminding everyone. We won’t let anyone forget.

Source: Zerohedge – The Skripal Case Is Being Pushed Down The Memory Hole With Libya and Aleppo

If You're A Muslim, Move To Melbourne During Ramadan

For many in the world, an all too often heard phrase is “if only there were more hours in the day.” For muslims, however, during the month of Ramadan, we suspect the hope is the exact opposite.

The Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar is, according to the tradition of the Quran and the Hadiths, the month of fasting.

As Statista’s Patrick Wagner explains, with the ascension of the first crescent, Muslims all over the world stop to eat from dawn till dusk.

Every day after sunset, people gather for Iftar to break fast with friends and family. Since the time of fasting per day is dependent on daylight hours, Muslims living in the northern hemisphere currently must wait the longest until Iftar starts.

And so, for Muslims living in Oslo, Norway for example, they will fast for over 19 hours a day, more than 8 hours longer than their religious peers living in Melbourne, Australia…

You will find more infographics at Statista

However, Ramadan remains a duty for every able-bodied Muslim and in order to enable believers living near the polar circle to fulfill their duty, most scholars agree that you can either choose the fasting times of Mecca or the nearest state with a Muslim majority.

Source: Zerohedge – If You're A Muslim, Move To Melbourne During Ramadan

End Of Unipolar World Looms As 'New World Order' Responds To US Demands On Iran

Authored by F. Michael Maloof, op-ed via RT.com,

If Mike Pompeo’s ultimatum to Iran, after US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal, was fulfilled it would inflict economic warfare on the country and set up Tehran for failure while reasserting a US-led unipolar world order.

However, it is doomed to failure. As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pointed out following the US Secretary of State’s declaration mirroring the views of President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, the era when the US will “decide for the world” is over.

Pompeo outlined the 12 demands on Iran in a speech on May 21 before the US think-tank Heritage Foundation. Even many of the conservative participants in attendance seemed to be skeptical of how effective the demands would be to prevent the US from imposing more onerous sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Pompeo’s ultimatum demanded that Iran halt all uranium enrichment, with access to “all sites”“anywhere, anytime.” Yet, the Islamic Republic is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which entitles it to enrich uranium for civilian use, as does the Iranian nuclear agreement, formerly known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

The ultimatum went well beyond anything to do with Iran’s nuclear program – demanding that the Islamic Republic halt its missile development, support for Hezbollah and Hamas and demanded that it withdraw all forces under the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from Syria, where it has been fighting along with Hezbollah against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda at the invitation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Left unsaid in Pompeo’s demands was that the US is in Syria without invitation, supporting the jihadi Salafists who also are backed by Israel and Saudi Arabia and are threatening Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran itself.

Barbara Slavin, who directs the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council, observed that:

Pompeo’s speech has “almost no chance of working. It’s likely to further alienate the US’s economic allies, boost China as a global economic and political power and gladden Iranian hardliners looking for more reason to start proscribed nuclear activities to continue their interventions in the Middle East.”

In plain-talk English, what Pompeo and Bolton want through their economic warfare against Iran is regime change. Pompeo is signaling an effort to reassert US leadership of a Western world order on Middle East countries, as are European Union countries in resisting Trump’s new brand of economic warfare.

Trump’s 180-degree turn represents a strategic change from his previous position of wanting to pull out of the Middle East. Strangely, it comes at the same time when Americans at home are just beginning to realize the benefits of the tax cut and creation of more jobs at home, promises that Trump said he would fulfill during the campaign.

But he also promised to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and drop out of the JCPOA.  What has occurred is that one campaign promise has cancelled out the benefits of the other as a result of Trump imposing sanctions not only on Iran but on companies anywhere in the world that have contracts with US companies but continue trading with Iran.

In turn, he has created further tensions in the Middle East, prompting the price of oil to rise from $70 to $80 a barrel just in the week that I was in Iran. Such an increase is already being reflected in the rise of gasoline prices Americans are having to pay, thereby minimizing any benefit from tax savings.

Trump’s actions reflect the fact that the neo-conservatives advising him are back in full fury pursuing a new geopolitical strategy that mirrors what has been left undone following the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 when Saddam Hussein was removed as part of a pre-emptive policy of regime change throughout the Middle East.

When I was at the Defense Department during that period, I had an occasion to brief Bolton one time during which he outlined pursuing regime change not only in Iraq, but then in Syria, Iran, Libya and Saudi Arabia – all countries at the time that were regarded as enemies of Israel. As with back then, we are witnessing the Trump administration implementing Israeli foreign policy.

Given the initial resistance by European Union countries to Trump’s sanctions and dropping out of the JCPOA – a watershed moment – they have signaled staying in the agreement. But that may not last due to sanctions the US can impose on European companies which have contracts with American firms that continue trading with Iran.

I recently was in Iran talking to Iranian officials just after Trump announced dropping out of the JCPOA. I was there at the 6th International New Horizons conference held in Iran’s spiritual city of Mashhad.

What emerged from the three-day conference was a call to resist Trump’s actions of reasserting his version of a US-led unipolar order by undertaking a “multi-polar” approach that will see a new economic order, with the idea of separating countries from American economic dependency and isolating the US and Israel.

What is evolving in response to the US dropping out of the JCPOA is a new world order that could begin to see Iran, China, Russia, Eastern European and Central Asian countries creating their own economic engine to minimize the impact of US influence.

It could include a reinvigorated Shanghai Cooperation Organization founded by China and Russia and Central Asian countries. With China nearing completion of its One Belt, One Road Initiative from Asia to Europe, it could open the way for European countries who are members of the EU and Eastern Europe to expand trade and escape the yoke of weaponized US economic influence. This development already appears to be happening.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has been dealing with Brexit, a long and tedious process to separate from the EU. She had hoped to turn to the US as an alternative, more favorable market. Yet, she has announced that she intends to resist Trump’s sanctions. Her efforts, however, may be short-lived, since Britain is only the size of Indiana and its companies could not survive without the US market. Consequently, she has begun to look to China as an alternative market.

In response to Trump’s recent action on the JCPOA, Russian President Vladimir Putin could once again extend an invitation to Iran to join the SCO. Putin already has said he sees no obstacles to Iran joining the SCO.

Its membership had been offered following completion of the 2015 nuclear agreement. However, the effort was rejected. This time, it could be different, since Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA but Trump broke from that agreement.

Iranian officials told me that if the US wants to work with Iran, it needs to “decouple” its Israeli policy from dealing with the Islamic Republic. In effect, Trump has done everything Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought – moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and dropping out of the JCPOA.

They wondered who is controlling whom: Is Trump controlling Netanyahu, or is Netanyahu controlling Trump in conducting US foreign policy? One Iranian source at the University of Tehran told me that “what is definitely happening is that Iran is tilting heavily, and perhaps permanently, to China and Russia.”

“We are hoping for the best,” he said, but in the event Trump’s pressure on Iran turns kinetic, he added, “Iran is preparing for the worst.”

Source: Zerohedge – End Of Unipolar World Looms As 'New World Order' Responds To US Demands On Iran

Do Women Work Harder Than Men?

In this day and age of equal opportunism, sexism, PCism, and any other ‘-ism’ one can imagine, its is probably enough to get one banned from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram just for asking the question “do women work harder than men.”

Traditionally in most cultures, it is the man which would spend the most hours each day at work and, as analysis from MenCare’s ‘State of the World’s Fathers’ report shows, this is still generally the case in most parts of the world.

However, as Statista’s Martin Armstrong points out, there can though, be a difference between being ‘at work’ and ‘working’.

For many people, ‘working’ doesn’t entail going to the office or the factory, but staying at home or in the local community as a caregiver. This kind of work doesn’t usually come with a financial benefit, of course, and according to the UN this unpaid care can include “meal preparation, cleaning, washing clothes, water and fuel collection and direct care of persons (including children, older persons, persons with disabilities, as well as able-bodied adults)”.

You will find more infographics at Statista

And, as the infographic above shows, it is the world’s women that are putting in the largest amount of these unpaid hours and in every region, the total amount of time spent working, paid or unpaid, is higher for women than it is for men.

With the exception of East Asia & the Pacific, where it is an almost 50:50 split, the majority of women’s time spent working is unpaid.

So the answer to the question is simple – as any married man knows – of course women work harder than men.

Source: Zerohedge – Do Women Work Harder Than Men?

How To Hack The Price Of A Hotel Suite

Submitted by Priceonomics

Suites are the crown jewel of the hotel experience: generally, they’re more spacious, more meticulously appointed, and well-suited to house larger groups looking to share a space. 

There’s only one problem: they’re typically a lot more expensive than standard hotel rooms. But that is that always the case?

We analyzed data from Priceonomics customer Suiteness, a site that lets you book hotel suites. We looked at the price of traditional hotel suites, compared to an interesting hack called the “connecting suite” — suite configurations where more than one bedroom is connected to the living area of a suite — that is typically a lot cheaper. We also looked the price of these suites compared to vacation rentals in top American travel cities.

How much more affordable is a connector suite than a traditional two-bedroom suite? How do these rates compare with a two-bedroom vacation rental? How about two separate hotel rooms?

In this post, we’ll dive deep into our findings — but here’s a quick overview:

Summary of findings

Booking a “hacked” suite with a connector room ($1,484), is nearly half the price of a traditional two-bedroom suite ($2,665) over two weekend nights. That’s $1,181 cheaper.

In New York, you can save an average of $5,409 over two weekend nights by booking a suite with a connector room instead of a two-bedroom suite.

Airbnb appears to be marginally cheaper than hotel rooms and suites — though these bookings often come with extra cleaning fees and platform fees that can boost the price up a few hundred dollars over a two-day stay.

A quick note on methodology

Suiteness specializes in accommodations for groups of four or more, so we decided to compare five different two-bedroom options: a suite, a connector suite, two separate hotel rooms, an Airbnb, and a VRBO. 

The suite data was sourced from Suiteness, the data for hotel rooms from Expedia, and the data from Airbnb and VRBO from those respective platforms. For each dataset, we gathered rates for high and low seasons and calculated the average between the two for a two weekend nights.

Lastly, for our analysis, we focused on the nine markets for which we had the most data on: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, D.C., Las Vegas, Miami, and Orlando.

What’s the cheapest two-bedroom accommodation?

Let’s start with the overall averages for each of the two-bedroom accommodations we researched. Keep in mind that the prices below reflect the cost for two weekend nights, averages across high and low seasons.

Two-bedroom suites are overwhelmingly pricier than any other option, at $2,665 — or $1,332 per weekend night across the markets we analyzed. VRBO, which primarily features full-space rentals, places second, at an average of $1,718.

At $1,312, the two-bedroom Airbnb edged out the cost of two hotel rooms by $76. But, it should be noted that the Airbnb price here reflects the average of a wide variety of neighborhoods. Most hotel suites are more centrally located, and also offer a wider range of amenities.

The connector suite, at $1,484, is 44% cheaper than the typical two-bedroom suite — a huge value considering that the only real difference between the two is a separate private entrance for the connecting room.

Let’s take a closer look at the price differential between the two, by city.

On average, booking a connector suite instead of a standard suite will save you $1,181, but in certain markets, the difference is astronomically higher. In New York (the most expensive suite market), the average two-bed suite runs a whopping $6,995 for a weekend. Alternatively, booking a connector suite ($1,586) will save you $5,409.

In 8 of the 9 cities we analyzed, connector suites are cheaper: in San Diego, a connector suite will save you $1,562; in LA, $1,547, in Chicago, $907; in San Francisco, $611, and in Las Vegas, $501.

Only Washington, D.C. featured nominally higher-priced connector rooms ($167 more than a standard suite).

A city-by-city analysis

Breaking this data down by market, we can see that prices for certain accommodations vary widely by location.

For instance, the average two-bedroom suite across all markets runs $2,665 per weekend, but that ranges from as high as $6,996 in New York to $752 in Orlando. Las Vegas, perhaps most renowned for its suites, runs in the middle of the pack ($2,306).

Connector suites average $1,484 per weekend. And, while Miami ($1,842) and Las Vegas ($,1805) run higher here, we see much more affordable rates for New York ($1,586), Los Angeles ($1,611), and San Diego ($1,120).

San Francisco — the most expensive rental market in the U.S. — also tops the list for priciest standard hotel rooms, at an average of $2,135 per weekend. For nearly $600 less, you can get a connector suite.

In Las Vegas, two hotel rooms can be booked for an average of $1,760 per weekend, but a connector suite can be had for just $45 more. And in Los Angeles, two hotel rooms run just about the same cost as a connector suite.

Average two-bedroom VRBO rentals range from $3,677 in New York to $888 in Orlando, and overall, at $1,718 per weekend, are pricier than both connector suites and two hotel rooms.

Only Airbnb offers a more affordable alternative than the connector suite — but it typically doesn’t come with the amenities of a hotel suite.

Airbnb appears to be cheaper than hotel rooms and suites — though these bookings often come with extra cleaning fees and platform fees that can boost the price up to a few hundred dollars over a two-day stay.

Cheat sheet

Lastly, to help navigate all this data, here’s a “cheat sheet” with both high and low season averages for each accommodation type, by city.

So, what does this data ultimately tell us?

It’s easy to think of hotel suites as a ridiculously expensive, intangible booking option for vacations — an accommodation reserved for presidents and celebrities. But suites can actually be a lot more affordable than you might think. Sometimes, they could even be the cheapest possible option for a large group.

By booking a connector suite you can save more than $1,100 over a standard suite price. And when you consider the average group size that stays in a connector suite is 5.9 people (compared to 3.5 for a traditional suite), the cost per person is even lower: $251 per person for two weekend nights, versus $761 per person, on average.

Lastly, while Airbnb does offer a slightly cheaper alternative to a connector suite, one should consider the additional amenities a suite offers. For an average of $86 more per night, a suite offers: first-class customer and concierge service, fully-stocked inventory and an on-call maintenance staff; housekeeping at no additional cost; and a huge convenience factor.

Source: Zerohedge – How To Hack The Price Of A Hotel Suite

China's Terrifying "Social Credit" System Has Already Blocked 11 Million From Taking Flights

China’s terrifying ‘social credit’ system, which is a rating assigned to each citizen based on government data regarding their economic and social status, has effectively blocked more than 11.14 million flights and 4.25 million high-speed train trips at the end of April, according to a senior government official.

Government officials first announced the proposal for a social credit system in 2014 — where each Chinese citizen would be rated according to their online, social, financial, and legal behavior. Misdeeds, such as late credit card payments, criminal record, jaywalking, using fake IDs, refusal to sign up for required insurance, and failing to pay taxes, could result in a travel ban for an extended period. The penalty for misdeeds went into full effect in May.

China’s Social Scoring System

The government decides who gets these goods and services:

It is still unknown which misdeeds the government cracked down on to induce such a large number of travel bans within the country. Former deputy director of the development research center of the State Council, Hou Yunchun, is quoted by the Global Times as saying the system needs a few more tweaks so that “discredited people become bankrupt.”

“If we don’t increase the cost of being discredited, we are encouraging discredited people to keep at it,” Hou was quoted by Sina Finance at an annual credit development forum in Beijing on Saturday.

In addition to blocking the flights and trains, the Global Times noted that the names of 33,000 companies which violated laws had been shamed on a public list, said Meng Wei, spokeswoman for the National Development and Reform Commission, via news website chinanews.com. Those on the list could be denied loans, grants, and other forms of government assistance, Wei added.

“Hou’s phrase that the ‘discredited people become bankrupt’ makes the point, but is an oversimplification,” Zhi Zhenfeng, a legal expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times.

“How the person is restricted in terms of public services or business opportunities should be in accordance with how and to what extent he or she lost his credibility.”

“The punishment should match the deed.”

“Discredited people deserve legal consequences.”

“This is definitely a step in the right direction to building a society with credibility.”

Since the launch of the ‘social credit’ system, state media has reported that pilot tests have been successful. There is even chatter about a China-wide social credit system expected in the early 2020s. In the meantime, senior government officials plan for eight more pilot credit systems, including the continued testing of Sesame Credit, an Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, that deducts credit points off people who default on court fines.

A screenshot from the Sesame Credit app, showing score 729 on a scale from 350

Many observers have likened China’s ‘social credit’ system to that shown in Netflix’s Black Mirror episode ‘Nosedive’ in which a world where people can rate each other from one to five stars for every interaction they have.

Source: Zerohedge – China's Terrifying "Social Credit" System Has Already Blocked 11 Million From Taking Flights

In The Wake Of Mass-Shootings, Parents Reconsider Mass-Schooling

Authored by Kerry McDonald via The Foundation for Economic Education,

In the wake of recent tragic school shootings, anxious parents are contemplating homeschooling to protect their children. After February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Miami Heraldreported that more parents were considering the homeschooling option. And after Friday’s disturbing school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, a local ABC news affiliate in Alabama reported the increasing appeal of homeschooling.

“If I had the time, I would teach my kids myself, and I would know that they’re safe,” a father of four told ABC station, WAAY31.

A public school teacher interviewed by the channel disagreed with the idea of homeschooling. According to the news story, the teacher “says resorting to homeschooling is teaching your children to run from reality.”

But that raises the question: Is compulsory mass schooling “reality”?

Public Schools Are Consuming More and More of Kids’ Time

Segregating children by age into increasingly restrictive, test-driven classrooms where they are forced by law to be unless a parent or caregiver liberates them is hardly “reality.” What’s worse is that young people are spending increasingly more time in this coercive “reality” than ever before.

For young children ages six to eight, schooling increased from an average of five hours a day in 1981-82 to an average of seven hours a day in 2002-03. And for today’s teens, schooling consumes much more of their time than it did for previous generations, seeping into summertime and other historically school-free periods. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 42 percent of teens were enrolled in school during July 2016, compared to only 10 percent enrolled in July 1985.

In the case of teens, spending more time in school and school-like activities may be further separating them from the actual real world in which they previously came of age. As Business Insider reports: “Almost 60% of teens in 1979 had a job, compared to 34% in 2015.” Spending more time in the contrived reality of forced schooling and less time in authentic, multi-age, productive communities may be taking its toll on today’s youth.

Compulsory Mass Schooling Is Hurting Our Kids

New findings from researchers at Vanderbilt University show a disturbing correlation between time in school and suicidal thoughts and attempts by young people, which have been increasing over the past decade. Whereas most adults see suicide spikes in July and August, most kids see suicide dips in summer. Children’s suicidal tendencies appear strongest during the school year.

Boston College psychology professor Dr. Peter Gray believes that increasingly oppressive schooling is leading to serious psychological damage in some children. He writes on his blog at Psychology Today:

Children now often spend more time at school and at homework than their parents spend at their full-time jobs, and the work of schooling is often more burdensome and stress-inducing than that of a typical adult job. A century ago we came to the conclusion that full-time child labor was child abuse, so we outlawed it; but now school is the equivalent of full-time child labor. The increased time, tedium, and stress of schooling is bringing many kids to the breaking point or beyond, and more and more people are becoming aware of that. It can no longer be believed that schooling is a benign experience for children. The evidence that it induces pathology is overwhelming.”

Recent school shootings may be extreme examples of this rising school-induced pathology.

Instead of overreacting, parents who decide to remove their children from school to homeschool them may be acknowledging the disconnect between the inherent coercion of compulsory mass schooling and the freedom to live in the genuine world around us. Rather than sheltering their children, parents who select the homeschooling option may be endeavoring to widen their child’s community, broaden their experiences, and restore their emotional well-being.

Former New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto, writes in his book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling about his growing disillusionment with mass schooling:

I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior.”

Parents who remove their children from the confines of the conventional classroom are not running away from reality. They are running towards it.

Source: Zerohedge – In The Wake Of Mass-Shootings, Parents Reconsider Mass-Schooling

The Emerging China-Iran-Pakistan Alliance Is Directed Decidedly Against The United States

Authored by Lawrence Sellin, op-ed via The Daily Caller,

In a January 10, 2018 Daily Caller article titled “China May Have Just Brokered An Iran-Pakistan Accommodation,” I outlined the extensive diplomatic and military initiatives underway in the past year to foster reconciliation between Iran and Pakistan, orchestrated behind the scenes by China.

That strategy supports the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s blueprint for global hegemony. It is a development plan, a program of infrastructure projects and a network of commercial agreements designed to link the world directly to the Chinese economy through inter-connected land-based and maritime routes.

As French Asia expert, Nadége Rolland noted, BRI is soft power projection with an underlying hard power component, a comprehensive China-centered economic, financial and geopolitical web with far-reaching, cascading consequences affecting American national interests. It is not just resource acquisition or utilization of China’s industrial over-capacity, but projects specifically designed to ensure economic and, in parallel, military dominance.

As China expands commercially, the Chinese military, in particular its navy, will advance concomitantly to protect China’s growing economic empire, as did the British in an earlier era. Chinese intent is to gain access to a number of harbors and airports to create a chain of mutually-supporting military facilities.

China’s plans to expand its naval footprint in Pakistan have accompanied signs  of increasing military cooperation between Tehran and Beijing over the last several years.

In June 2017, Iranian warships joined a Chinese naval flotilla conducting exercises in the Persian Gulf. The Chinese ships also made an official visit to the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas after having earlier docked in Karachi, Pakistan. One Chinese military affairs expert, speaking at the time, said China was poised to increase its military presence in the Middle East to support BRI and would involve itself more in the affairs of the region.

Chinese efforts towards Iran-Pakistan cooperation have also borne fruit. In recent months, there has been a flurry of agreements in trade, defense, weapons development, counter-terrorism, banking, train service, parliamentary cooperation and — most recently — art and literature.

Secret security-related discussions among the Chinese, Pakistanis and Iranians military officials have been ongoing for at least a year. Early this March, for example, sources reported a nighttime meeting held at the Iran-Pakistan border near the strategic Pakistani port of Gwadar.

A major stimulus for those discussions has been the planned construction of a Chinese naval base on Pakistan’s Jiwani peninsula, immediately west of Gwadar near the Iranian border, a report confirmed here and here. It is not just its proximity to Iran, but that the Iranian navy is building one of its most sophisticated intelligence collection facilities right across the Jiwani Bay in Pasabandar, Iran. Combined, they would have enormous strategic significance.

A China-Iran-Pakistan alliance would have sweeping ramifications for U.S. foreign policy. For starters, it would render our current efforts in Afghanistan untenable, most likely provoking an American exit under conditions dictated by the Chinese and Pakistanis. It would initiate the beginning of an anti-access, area denial strategy against the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea region, similar to what the Chinese have attempted to implement against the U.S. Pacific Fleet in the South China Sea. Even the mere contemplation of such an alliance could give the Iranians considerable leverage in the face of American sanctions.

Nevertheless, China’s expansion will inevitably expose geopolitical vulnerabilities, which can be employed to thwart its plan for regional domination.

Strategic disruption of Chinese ambitions would involve traditional diplomatic dexterity and power projection capabilities of containment policy, coupled with covert measures exploiting nation-state conflicts, the Sunni-Shia divide, ethnic separatism and the splits among Islamic extremist groups — all features present in the region.

Source: Zerohedge – The Emerging China-Iran-Pakistan Alliance Is Directed Decidedly Against The United States