Things Must Be Serious, Everyone's Lying

Authored by Tom Luongo,

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had a moment of clarity once.  He famously said, “When things get serious, you have to lie.”

Given the state of affairs in his beloved European Union right now Mr. Juncker and company are doing a lot of lying.

It is rare in politics to get that kind of honesty from a politician, especially one currently in office.  But, Juncker’s statement shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who is even a semi-serious political observer.

It’s why I find it funny that the Democrats and Antifa-Left get so bent out of shape when Donald Trump exaggerates or outright lies.  To him it’s a tactic.  Catching Donald Trump in a falsehood is like trying to ladle water with a sieve.

So, by the Juncker Maxim, things must be getting very serious because the amount and type of lies being thrown around by people who are supposed to know better have been staggering.

To the point that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, “I simply don’t have any normal terms left to describe all this.”

Lavrov has been the world’s most effective diplomat over the past few years, effectively talking to and cutting deals with people who should hate him and Russia’s policies.  What it highlights is that Lavrov and his boss, Vladimir Putin, have been effective simply because they make a deal and keep to it.

They are the opposite of Mr. Juncker.  When things get serious they become honest, speaking with one voice.

Part of that comes from having a single administration in power for the past 17 years.  It’s easy to keep to agreements when those in power don’t change.  The U.S.’s diplomatic history with North Korea, for example, highlights the problems of shifting domestic political winds in Washington.

But, that part stems from the way these men comport themselves on international stage.

So, watching the hyperventilations of of Theresa “Gypsum Lady” May and her Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson over the poisoning of Former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia means there is a lot more going on here than anyone cares to admit.

The quick reversals from European leaders as well as Donald Trump from their initial skepticism of May and Johnson’s bloviating tells me that not only are they lying but they are being forced to lie by some vaguely unseen hand.

Just Blame Putin-stan!

It’s not just that the Neocons are losing, like I talked about in my last article.  It is that stench of desperation that’s everywhere right now.

The level of histrionics, lying and insanity over Former Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s firing is telling.  From McCabe himself, to his disgraced former boss, James Comey, the level of mendacity, chutzpah and, frankly, evil on display is impressive.

I guess the situation’s been serious for a long time for the lies to come this easily to their tongues.

This week we had the staged walk-outs by high school students over the Parkland, Fl shooting calling for gun control.  How desperate are those clinging to power behind the scenes that they’ve turned to weaponizing mal-educated children to do their bidding?

His Ideas Resonated Better in the Original German

The French Foreign Ministry instructing its diplomats to not travel to Syria is also telling.  It’s all about lying to support the narrative that Assad and Putin are the bad guys.

The Reuters article I just linked to spends more column inches perpetuating the lie that there are no humanitarian corridors in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, even though there are plenty images, video and reports of thousands of civilians having been liberated from ISIS/Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.

But it mentions reports of chlorine gas attacks, again neglecting to say anything about the Syrian Army liberating a major chemical weapons facility in their advances against US-backed proxies.

How bad is the situation behind the scenes in the financial markets that Goldman-Sachs CEO Lloyd “Doin’ God’s Work” Blankfein suddenly decides it’s time to step down?  Derivative book that bad, Lloyd?

Or did you bet that Gary Cohn would get Trump to heel to allow Goldman to finish destroying Europe?

Long-established diplomatic norms and rules of conduct are simply thrown out the window because they need to be to induce hysteria to take people to war, otherwise, a war-weary, anxiety-ridden population will turn on their own governments.

So, Theresa May tells Russia to prove to her they’re innocent to distract from her betrayals on Brexit.

This is a joke, Right?

Boris Johnson threatens Putin directly and the moron in charge of Britain’s defense department screeches for the Russians to ‘shut up and go away.’  Presumably he said it from his safe space rubbing his safety pin like Captain Queeg.

Meanwhile Mr. Juncker continues to lie about everything as it pertains to Brexit negotiations because the EU’s financial situation must be that serious.  If it weren’t they wouldn’t be trying to shake the U.K. down for tens of billions of euros.

Why So Serious?!

Look around you, step back from the craziness and see the bigger picture.  When you do you just see a bunch of incompetent, venal people covering their asses.  While a lot of what I write here could be considered ‘conspiratorial’ I would disagree.

In fact, I rarely, if ever, chalk up to conspiracy that which incompetence explains far better.  As a root cause analyst, I prefer Occam’s Razor to Alex Jones.

Yes, there are groups of people with power conspiring to achieve personal and societal goals which are anathema to life and decency.

But, that doesn’t mean that because they have power they are competent at wielding it.  In fact, power makes you lazy.  Winning makes you complacent and, eventually, stupid.

Does anyone with any shred of self-respect believe that thirteen Russian trolls armed with Tweetium could derail Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign?  Really?

When the more obvious answer is that Hillary and her backers thought they had perfected the art of rigging an election and never conceived of losing.  It never crossed their minds until a few days before the election and internal polling forced Obama to campaign in Michigan on her behalf.

And he only did that to help himself, since he was in up to his neck in all of her dirty laundry.

The Theory of the All-Powerful Putin is a childish and nonsensical as the Alt-Right’s blaming Jews for everything.

The Gypsum Lady is trying to save her government by invoking it now.  So is Nikki Haley at the U.N., Mika Brzezinski at MSNBC, George Soros and David Brock, the leadership at CNN, Google, Facebook and Twitter.  The bigger the lies get, the more desperate you know they are.

All of the Obama administration traitors — Samantha Power, James Brennan, Susan Rice, Robert Mueller, Comey, McCabe, Eric Holder, etc. — lie every time they open their mouths. It their narrative fails it means the end of not only their careers, but the plans of the incompetent globalist oligarchs who fund and power them.

And those are the stakes in play here.

Ye Gods, and I haven’t even brought up the Saudi Arabians, yet.  Or the attempted military coup against the U.S. pet in Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, from within his own government, no less.

Talk about gross incompetence!

Cooler Heads or Heads in a Cooler?

While I’m not sanguine about how all of this plays out, I refuse to give into hysteria and add to the cacophony.  It serves no purpose.

The markets still believe, as they always do, that ‘cooler heads will prevail.’ But, markets aren’t allowed to believe anything else.  The central banks ensure that.  The sheer size of the money at stake makes it nearly impossible to move much of it without inducing even more panic.

So, the default position of most money managers is sit tight and hope.

But, hope is not a plan or a path to the stars.  It is, as I’ve said before, the worst thing in the world — that which you have when you have nothing else.  But, changes are coming, war or the collapse of the post-WWII institutional order or both.

As I’ve pointed out, banks are getting nervous, emerging market central banks are positioned for radical currency defense.  Rates are rising and dollar liquidity is falling.  Bitcoin and gold are screaming this.  If there was ever a time to get to cash it’s now.

The acceleration of events since Putin’s speech on March 1st is itself accelerating.  Windows are closing fast.  It’s time to get serious.

*  *  *

To support the production of more work like this and get access to Tom’s investment ideas and portfolio advice sign up for the Gold Goats ‘n Guns Investment Newsletter at my Patreon page.  

Source: Zerohedge – Things Must Be Serious, Everyone's Lying

80% Of US State Department's Top Jobs Are Unfilled

With President Trump’s administration losing senior staff at a rate of one every 17 days (so far), and Democrats slow-rolling the confirmation process, the firing of Rex Tillerson has left an already-thin State Department, practically leader-less.

After dismissing Tillerson, the White House also fired Steve Goldstein, Tillerson’s undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, and announced that State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert would fill the post on an acting basis.

Eight of 10 top jobs at the State Department are now vacant, either because staff have left, been fired or the posts were never filled…


Those vacant assignments include positions overseeing the agency’s role in U.S. trade policy, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, refugee issues and efforts to counter human trafficking.

Bloomberg reports that morale at the department was already low as staff rebelled against Tillerson’s planned restructuring, opposed Trump’s policies and watched experienced colleagues shifted into more menial jobs, like dealing with Freedom of Information Act requests.

Some will be glad to see Tillerson gone.

Most, though, will wonder if life will be any different under his successor.

Source: Zerohedge – 80% Of US State Department's Top Jobs Are Unfilled

Russia's Reaction To The Insults Of The West Is Political Suicide

Authored by Peter Koenig via The Saker blog,

The onslaught of western Russia bashing in the past days, since the alleged poison attack by a Soviet-era nerve agent, Novichok (the inventor of which, by the way, lives in the US), on a Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, has been just horrifying. Especially by the UK.

Starting with PM May, who outright accused Russia of using chemical weapons (CW) on UK grounds, without delivering any evidence. Strangely, there is no indication where Skripal and his daughter are, in which hospital the pair is being treated, no poison analysis is being published, they cannot be visited; there is absolutely no evidence of the substance they allegedly have been poisoned with – do Sergei and Yulia actually exist?

As a consequence, Theresa May expels 23 Russian diplomats, who have to leave the UK within a week. Then came Boris Johnson, the Foreign Minister clown, also an abject liar. He said, no he yelled, at his fellow parliamentarians that it was “Overwhelmingly likely, that Putin personally ordered the spy attack.” This accusation out of nothing against the Russian President is way more than a deep breach in diplomatic behavior, it is a shameful insult. – And no evidence is provided. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, in fact, said that Johnson’s personal attack on President Putin was “unforgivable”.

Not to miss out on the bashing theatre, UK Defense Secretary, Gavin Williamson, got even more insolent, Russia “should go away and shut up”. In response to all this demonizing Russia for an alleged crime, for which absolutely no proof has been provided, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said that the undiplomatic comments meant that the British authorities are nervous and have “something to hide,”. Lavrov also strongly objected, wanted to initiate a joint UK-Russia investigation into the case – is he dreaming? – and responded to a question of diplomatic retaliation, yes, that Russia will also expel UK diplomates ‘soon’.

There is no doubt that the UK acted as Washington’s poodle. In the course of this anti-Russia tirade, Trump twittered that he fully supported UK’s position. Indeed, the European puppets, Macron, Merkel, May and their chief, The Donald, signed a joint statement blaming Russia for the nerve gas attack on the former double agent, “There is no plausible alternative explanation than that Russia was to blame for the attack”. Bingo, that says it all. The presstitute picks it up and airs it to the seven corners of this globe – and the western sheeple are brainwashed once again: The Russian did it.

Well we know that. But the real point I want to make is that Russia always reacts to such nonsensical and outright false accusations; Russia always responds, rejects of course the accusations but usually with lengthy explanations, and with suggestions on how to come to the truth – as if the UK and the west would give a shit about the truth – why are they doing that? Why are you Russia, even responding?

That is foolish sign of weakness. As if Russia was still believing in the goodness of the west, as if it just needed to be awakened. What Russia is doing, every time, not just in this Skripal case, but in every senseless and ruthless attack, accusations about cyber hacking, invading Ukraine, annexing Crimea, and not to speak about the never-ending saga of Russia-Gate, Russian meddling and hacking into the 2016 US Presidential elections, favoring Trump over Hillary. Everybody with a half brain knows it’s a load of crap. Even the FBI and CIA said that there was no evidence. So, why even respond? Why even trying to undo the lies, convince the liars that they, Russia, are not culpable?

Every time the west notices Russia’s wanting to be a “good neighbor” – about which the west really couldn’t care less, Russia makes herself more vulnerable, more prone to be accused and attacked and more slandered.

Why does Russia not just break away from the west? Instead of trying to ‘belong’ to the west? Accept that you are not wanted in the west, that the west only wants to plunder your resources, your vast landmass, they want to provoke you into a war where there are no winners, a war that may destroy entire Mother Earth, but they, the ZionAnglo handlers of Washington, dream that their elite will survive to eventually take over beautiful grand Russia. That’s what they want. The Bashing is a means towards the end. The more people are with them, the easier it is to launch an atrocious war.

The Skripal case is typical. The intensity with which this UK lie-propaganda has been launched is exemplary. It has brought all of halfwit Europe – and there is a lot of them – under the spell of Russia hating. Nobody can believe that May Merkel, Macron are such blatant liars… that is beyond what they have been brought up with. A lifelong of lies pushed down their throats, squeezed into their brains. Even if something tells them – this is not quite correct, the force of comfort, not leaving their comfort zone- not questioning their own lives – is so strong that they rather cry for War, War against Russia, War against the eternal enemy of mankind. – I sadly remember in my youth in neutral Switzerland, the enemy always, but always came from the East. He was hiding behind the “Iron Curtain”.

The West is fabricating a new Iron Curtain. But while doing that, they don’t realize they are putting a noose around their own neck. Russia doesn’t need the west, but the west will soon be unable to survive without the East, the future is in the east – and Russia is an integral part of the East, of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), that encompasses half the world’s population and controls a third of the world’s economic output.

Mr. Putin, you don’t need to respond to insults from the west, because that’s what they are, abusive insults. The abject slander that Johnson boy threw at you is nothing but a miserable insult; you don’t need to respond to this behavior. You draw your consequences.

Dear President Putin, Dear Mr. Lavrov, Let them! Let them holler. Let them rot in their insanity. – Respond to the UK no longer with words but with deeds, with drastic deeds. Close their embassy. Give all embassy staff a week to vacate your country, then you abolish and eviscerate the embassy the same way the US abolished your consulates in Washington and San Francisco – a bit more than a year ago. Surely you have not forgotten. Then you give all Brits generously a month to pack up and leave your beautiful country (it can be done – that’s about what Washington is forcing its vassals around the globe to do with North Korean foreign laborers); block all trade with the UK (or with the entire West for that matter), block all western assets in Russia, because that’s the first thing the western plunderers will do, blocking Russian assets abroad. Stealing is in their blood.

Mr. Putin, You don’t need to respond to their lowly abusive attacks, slanders, lies. You and Russia are way above the level of this lowly western pack. Shut your relation to the west. You have China, the SCO, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Russia is part of the OBI – President Xi’s One Belt Initiative – the multi-trillion development thrive, emanating from China, connecting continents – Asia, Africa, Europe, South America – with infrastructure, trade, creating hundreds of millions of decent jobs, developing and promoting science and culture and providing hundreds of millions of people with a decent life.

What would the west do, if suddenly they had no enemy, because the enemy has decided to ignore them and take a nap? China will join you.

Everything else, responding, justifying, explaining, denying the most flagrant lies, trying to make them believe in the truth is not only a frustrating waste of time, it’s committing political suicide. You will never win. The west doesn’t give a hoot about the truth – they have proven that for the last two thousand years or more. And in all that time, not an iota of conscience has entered the west’s collective mind. The west cannot be trusted. Period.

Source: Zerohedge – Russia's Reaction To The Insults Of The West Is Political Suicide

Ex-FBI Assistant Director: There Was A "High-Ranking" Plot To Protect Hillary; Brennan Leaked "Weekly"

Former Assistant FBI Director James Kallstrom said that there was a plot among “high-ranking” people throughout government – “not just the FBI,” who coordinated in a plot to help Hillary Clinton avoid indictment. 

“I think we have ample facts revealed to us during this last year and a half that high-ranking people throughout government, not just the FBI, high-ranking people had a plot to not have Hillary Clinton, you know, indicted,” Kallstrom told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo.

“I think it goes right to the top. And it involves that whole strategy – they were gonna win, nobody would have known any of this stuff, and they just unleashed the intelligence community. Look at the unmaskings. We haven’t heard anything about that yet. Look at the way they violated the rights of all those American citizens.”

Brennan the leaker?

Expounding on the “high-ranking” plot to protect Hillary Clinton and hurt Donald Trump, Kallstrom rattled off a list of involved parties – ending with Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan…

Kallstrom: There’s no question that he and McCabe and others in the FBI and the Justice Department, and, we’re gonna find out the State Department and the National Security Advisor to the President, and the Deputy National Security advisor, and John Brennan.

Brennan notably fired off an aggressive tweet after FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s Friday night firing, stating “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.”

When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you.
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) March 17, 2018
Kallstrom and Bartiromo discussed Brennan’s tweet, noting that the ex-CIA director had projected extreme animosity towards Trump, and was directly involved in leaks to the press. 

Kallstrom: My sources tell me that he was leaking almost weekly and daily. He was taking that bunch of phony crap supposedly from Russia, and peddling that through the Congress, all his buddies in the media, he was one of the active people. I’ve known him a long time.

Bartiromo: You think he’s involved?

Kallstrom: Oh I think he’s involved, absolutely. And I think it goes right to the top Maria.

In December, Kallstrom spoke with Fox Business News’s Stewart Varney, where he said that the FBI’s top brass has been conducting a highly politicized witch-hunt, and that a “cabal” of individuals, including McCabe, which set out to undermine Trump. 

Discussing the infamous “insurance polcy” text, Kallstrom said 

“People tweet each other and they send text messages, but they don’t plan. The FBI is not in the business of planning to destroy a President of the United States,” adding “I think they were way above their capability. This guy thinks he’s the lone ranger, this Peter Strzok.” 

If that’s his thinking, and they were obviously in Andy’s office plotting some kind of thing. And I think that some kind of thing is what we’re seeing right now. And we’ve seen for the last, what, ever since he’s been elected we’ve seen this facade and this phony challenge to Trump about collusion and Russia, which nothing could be further from the truth. All the collusion is with the Democrats, and it’s very very depressing to be FBI agents. 99 percent are hard working patriotic guys and girls that come to work for the good of the country.

And you’ve got this cabal of people. You’ve got this deputy director (McCabe) who should have been out a long time ago for his actions. And then you’ve got Peter Strzok and who knows how many others. -James Kallstrom

Source: Zerohedge – Ex-FBI Assistant Director: There Was A "High-Ranking" Plot To Protect Hillary; Brennan Leaked "Weekly"

US CENTCOM Chief Comes Clean: General's Three Stunning Admissions In The Mid-East


Assad has won, Iran deal should stand and Saudis use American weapons without accountability in Yemen: head of U.S. military’s Central Command’s stunning Congressional testimony

The top U.S. general in the Middle East testified before Congress this week and dropped several bombshells: from signaled support for the Iran nuclear deal, admitting the U.S. does not know what Saudi Arabia does with its bombs in Yemen and that Assad has won the Syrian Civil War.

U.S. Army General Joseph Votel said the Iran agreement, which President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw from, has played an important role in addressing Iran’s nuclear program.

“The JCPOA addresses one of the principle threats that we deal with from Iran, so if the JCPOA goes away, then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program,” said U.S. Army General Joseph Votel.

JCPOA, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the formal name of the accord reached with Iran in July 2015 in Vienna.

Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States from the accord between Tehran and six world powers unless Congress and European allies help “fix” it with a follow-up pact. Trump does not like the deal’s limited duration, among other things.

Votel is head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia, including Iran. He was speaking to a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the same day that Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after a series of public rifts over policy, including Iran.

Tillerson had joined Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in pressing a skeptical Trump to stick with the agreement with Iran.

“There would be some concern (in the region), I think, about how we intended to address that particular threat if it was not being addressed through the JCPOA. … Right now, I think it is in our interest” to stay in the deal, Votel said.

When a lawmaker asked whether he agreed with Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford’s position on the deal,Votel said: “Yes, I share their position.”

Mattis said late last year that the United States should consider staying in the Iran nuclear deal unless it was proven Tehran was not complying or that the agreement was not in the U.S. national interest.

A collapse of the Iran nuclear deal would be a “great loss,” the United Nations atomic watchdog’s chief warned Trump recently, giving a wide-ranging defense of the accord.

Iran has stayed within the deal’s restrictions since Trump took office but has fired diplomatic warning shots at Washington in recent weeks. It said on Monday that it could rapidly enrich uranium to a higher degree of purity if the deal collapsed.


Votel also discussed the situation in Syria at the hearing.

During the Syrian army’s offensive in eastern Ghouta, more than 1,100 civilians have died. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russia and Iran, say they are targeting “terrorist” groups shelling the capital.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned on Monday that Washington “remains prepared to act if we must,” if the U.N. Security Council failed to act on Syria.

Votel said the best way to deter Russia, which backs Assad, was through political and diplomatic channels.

“Certainly if there are other things that are considered, you know, we will do what we are told. … (But) I don’t recommend that at this particular point,” Votel said, in an apparent to reference to military options.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham asked whether it was too strong to say that with Russia and Iran’s help, Assad had “won” the civil war in Syria.

“I do not think that is too strong of a statement,” Votel said.

Graham also asked if the United States’ policy on Syria was still to seek the removal of Assad from power.

“I don’t know that that’s our particular policy at this particular point. Our focus remains on the defeat of ISIS,” Votel said, using an acronym for Islamic State. 

Saudi Arabia

In a stunning exchange with Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, Votel admitted that Centcom doesn’t know when U.S. fuel and munitions are used in Yemen. 

“General Votel, does CENTCOM track the purpose of the missions it is refueling? In other words, where a U.S.-refueled aircraft is going, what targets it strikes, and the result of the mission?” Warren asked.

“Senator, we do not,” Votel replied.

The Senator followed up, citing reports that U.S. munitions have been used against civilians in Yemen, she asked, “General Votel, when you receive reports like this from credible media organizations or outside observers, is CENTCOM able to tell if U.S. fuel or U.S. munitions were used in that strike?”

“No, senator, I don’t believe we are,” he replied.

Showing surprise at the general’s response, Warren concluded, “We need to be clear about this: Saudi Arabia’s the one receiving American weapons and American support. And that means we bear some responsibility here. And that means we need to hold our partners and our allies accountable for how those resources are used,” she said.

Source: Zerohedge – US CENTCOM Chief Comes Clean: General's Three Stunning Admissions In The Mid-East

Apple Suppliers Tumble After Report Tim Cook "Secretly" Developing Own Screen

There is one way to assure that your supply chain is not impacted by the upcoming trade wars: bring all your manufacturing to the host nation and no longer rely on foreign suppliers.

That’s precisely what Apple appears to be doing because in a move that may cause a dramatic shake-up among the key vendors to the world’s biggest company, Bloomberg reports that Apple is designing and producing its own device displays for the first time, using a secret manufacturing facility near its Cupertino headquarter to make small numbers of the screens for testing purposes; if successful the numbers will grow far bigger.

In the latest indication that Tim Cook wants to eliminate any supply bottlenecks, and really, any suppliers – recall the historic crash of Dialog Semi which plunged the most in 16 years after a report that Apple would bring its power-management chip production in house – the tech giant is making a significant investment in the development of next-generation MicroLED screens, according to Bloomnerg sources.  MicroLED screens use different light-emitting compounds than the current OLED displays and promise to make future gadgets slimmer, brighter and less power-hungry.

Since MicroLED screens are more difficult to produce than OLED displays, not to mention expensive, the company almost killed the project a year or so ago, but since then engineers have been making progress and the technology is now at an advanced stage, though consumers will probably have to wait a few years before seeing the results.

Bloomberg adds that, as noted above, this ambitious undertaking “is the latest example of Apple bringing the design of key components in-house.” And while the company has designed chips powering its mobile devices for several years (see Dialog) its move into displays has the long-term potential to hurt a range of suppliers, from screen makers like Samsung Electronics Co., Japan Display Inc., Sharp Corp. and LG Display Co. to companies like Synaptics Inc. that produce chip-screen interfaces. It may also hurt Universal Display Corp., a leading developer of OLED technology.

As one would expect, the stocks of several key Apple suppliers have been whacked early in the Asian session, with Japan Display dropping as much as 4.4%, Sharp tumbling up to 3.3%, Samsung sliding 1.4% and BOE Technology Group down 2.7%.

Analysts, especially Apple bulls, are ecstatic at the opportunity:  Ray Soneira, who runs screen tester DisplayMate Technologies, told Bloomberg tgat bringing the design in-house is a “golden opportunity” for Apple. “Everyone can buy an OLED or LCD screen,” he says. “But Apple could own MicroLED.”

Because arguably, customers care if the phone they can’t afford at over $1,000 has OLED or MicroLed (spoiler alert: they don’t, what they care about is the price tag).

And speaking of the price tag, it will only go up as mass producing the new screens will require new manufacturing equipment, and massive new sunk costs. Furthermore, by the time the technology is ready, something else might have supplanted it. Apple could run into insurmountable hurdles and abandon the project or push it back.

Somewhat bizarrely, Bloomberg downplays its own scoop by saying that “ultimately, Apple will likely outsource production of its new screen technology to minimize the risk of hurting its bottom line with manufacturing snafus. The California facility is too small for mass-production, but the company wants to keep the proprietary technology away from its partners as long as possible, one of the people says. “We put a lot of money into the facility,” this person says. “It’s big enough to get through the engineering builds [and] lets us keep everything in-house during the development stages.”

Which is not good for the stock: any dollar that goes into silly R&D and projects is one less dollar that can be used to buyback AAPL stock.

Some more details on the not-so-secret project:

The secret initiative, code-named T159, is overseen by executive Lynn Youngs, an Apple veteran who helped develop touch screens for the original iPhone and iPad and now oversees iPhone and Apple Watch screen technology.

The 62,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, the first of its kind for Apple, is located on an otherwise unremarkable street in Santa Clara, California, a 15-minute drive from the Apple Park campus in Cupertino and near a few other unmarked Apple offices. There, about 300 engineers are designing and producing MicroLED screens for use in future products. The facility also has a special area for the intricate process of “growing” LEDs.

Another facility nearby houses technology that handles so-called LED transfers: the process of placing individual pixels into a MicroLED screen. Apple inherited the intellectual property for that process when it purchased startup LuxVue in 2014.

Apple’s screen development and manufacturing facility in Santa Clara, CaliforniaThe complexity of building a screen manufacturing facility meant it took Apple several months to get the California plant operational. Only in recent months have Apple engineers grown confident in their ability to eventually replace screens from Samsung and other suppliers.

But not for a long, long time.

As Bloomberg calculates, it’s unlikely that the technology will reach an iPhone for at least three to five years, the people say. While the smartphone is Apple’s cash cow, there is precedent for new screen technologies showing up in the Apple Watch first. When it was introduced in 2014, the Apple Watch had an OLED screen. The technology finally migrated to the iPhone X last year.

So until MicroLED is ready for the world to see, Apple will still – at least publicly – be all-in on OLED. The company plans to release a second OLED iPhone in the fall, a giant, 6.5-inch model, and is working to expand OLED production from Samsung to also include LG.

Until then, however, Apple has bigger problems: in a note released on Sunday, Nomura analyst Anne Lee was the latest to slash iPhoneX volume estimates to 12million / 8 million units from previous forecast of 18 million/13m “as many component suppliers have seen very low shipments since February, which could cause low plant capacity utilization rate and poor mix for 1H. She warned that 1Q results could still cast earnings downside risk vs. market expectations.

And with a market cap of over $900 billion, and a forecast that is priced to perfection, while Tim Cook may be hoping to distract from the overall woes plaguing the company which gambled on ultraexpensive phones and lost with MicroLED factories and other diversions, should demand for the company’s top products continue to deteriorate, Apple’s shareholders are about to be rudely introduced to “imperfection.”

Source: Zerohedge – Apple Suppliers Tumble After Report Tim Cook "Secretly" Developing Own Screen

Russian Double Agent Reportedly Poisoned Through BMW Air Vents As 38 Others Sickened

Former Russian double-agent Sergey Skripal may have been poisoned through his BMW E90 320d’s ventilation system, according to ABC News.

Burgandy E90 320d owned by Skripal

To accomplish this (and without poisoning themselves), the assassin(s) would have either needed to gain access to the interior of Skripal’s BMW to apply the nerve agent into the vents – or pop the hood, as the cabin filtration system includes a mostly-enclosed pollen filter which draws air from two obscure inlets which would be difficult to access with the hood closed.


ABC also notes that 38 individuals were also affected by the nerve agent – placed in Skripal’s air vents. Perhaps, some have suggested, Skripal and his daughter pulled over to exit the car, left the doors open, and people walking by received a non-lethal dosage. 

The intelligence officials told ABC News up to 38 individuals in Salisbury have been identified as having been affected by the nerve agent but the full impact is still being assessed and more victims sickened by the agent are expected to be identified -ABC

The attack sent 21 people to the hospital, as it was originally thought a “gift from friends” tainted with the nerve agent was opened at a restaurant.

Skripal had reportedly asked his housekeeper to clean his daughter Yulia’s room on Monday, Feb. 26 in advance of a visit to mark the anniversary of his son’s death. Her travel plan may have activated the assassination attempt.

Security services now suspect that when Miss Skripal flew out of Moscow, her departure triggered a “red flag” with a hit squad that was being dispatched to assassinate Col Skripal. It is thought that Miss Skripal was being targeted along with her father in a clear message that “traitors” are not tolerated by the Kremlin.

It is not clear when Miss Skripal landed in the UK, but sources suggest the Russian team sent to kill her father was probably a day behind her. -Telegraph

Meanwhile, chemical warfare experts from the United States and the UK are said to be working on the investigation.

“It’s seen here as an attempted murder and premeditated,” rather than an attempt just to sicken Skripal with a non-lethal toxin or scare other Russian ex-spies, an intelligence official told ABC News.

Another possible clue to the poisoning is that sources told ABC News Skripal was shouting and acting incoherently in a restaurant just before he and his daughter collapsed. Such incoherent behavior could be consistent with the early stages of exposure to a nerve agent.

Scotland Yard has released surveillance video of Skripal’s car and is asking anyone who saw the vehicle that day to come forward. The police agency declined to comment on new details about the nerve agent attack until it releases information publicly. Julia Macfarlane and Patrick Reevell contributed to this report.

On Wednesday, the White House said in a statement that it agreed with the British government’s assessment that Russia was responsible for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

“The United States shares the United Kingdom’s assessment that Russia is responsible for the reckless nerve agent attack on a British citizen and his daughter, and we support the United Kingdom’s decision to expel Russian diplomats as a just response,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the statement.

“This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes. The United States is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again.”

Russia, naturally, has repeatedly denied responsibility for the March 4 incident, and warned British Prime Minister Theresa May against considering a cyber-attack or other aggressive retaliation. “A hysterical atmosphere is being created by London,” Russian Ambassador Visaly Nebenzia told the Security Council. “We would like to warn that this will not remain without reaction on our part.”

The Kremlin has also criticized the UK for taking action before a formal investigation has taken place brokered by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. 

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley compared the Skripal attack to North Korea’s use of a nerve agent to assassinate the half-brother of dictator Kim Jong-un — a murder that resulted in the designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. She linked the Salisbury incident to the increasingly-regular use of chemical weapons, especially in Syria, and urged Russia to “come clean” about the assassination attempt.

“The Russians complained recently that we criticize them too much,” she said. “If the Russian government stopped using chemical weapons to assassinate its enemies; and if the Russian government stopped helping its Syrian ally to use chemical weapons to kill Syrian children; and if Russia cooperated with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons by turning over all information related to this nerve agent, we would stop talking about them. We take no pleasure in having to constantly criticize Russia, but we need Russia to stop giving us so many reasons to do so.”

Perhaps a formal investigation would reveal how the would-be assassins gained access to Skripal’s air vents – and how that then led to 38 others being poisoned. 

Source: Zerohedge – Russian Double Agent Reportedly Poisoned Through BMW Air Vents As 38 Others Sickened

The Bond Market Hits A Tipping Point: What That Means For Stocks

When we earlier discussed the unwillingness of institutional investors to return to the market even as retail investors swing from one mood extreme to another, we showed a chart showing the historical and seemingly relentless selling by virtually every investor class in the past decade, which left just one question for traders: when do the stock buybacks finally stop and put an end to the party?

Answering that question would also require the response to another, far bigger question: when does the bond market stall out, or in other words, when does the endless demand for yield finally fizzle out?

For anyone to claim they have the definitive answer would be folly: after all there have been so many prior occasions in which analysts and pundits declared the end of the all consuming bond bid, only to be mocked by investors gorging on even more corporate debt.  And yet based on recent bond sales, it appears that finally investors may be getting full.

But how is that possible? Just two weeks ago there was an unprecedented $100 billion in bids for CVS’s gargantuan  9-part $40 billion IG deal?

Well, as Bloomberg reported recently, in a first indication that the saturation point is approaching, there have been far fewer orders coming in for new bonds, relative to what’s for sale. This has resulted in bond-selling companies paying more interest compared with their other debt, according to Bloomberg data, and once the securities start trading, prices have been falling on more than 50% of new issues, an indication that “flipping” bonds for a profit is now only profitable half the time. And flipping for a profit, or loss – as any bond trader knows – is a well-known leading indicator to the overall strength of the bond market.

This, as Bloomberg notes, is also the latest signal following weeks of declining inflows and even occasional fund outflows, that the IG debt market is losing steam and may be approaching its tipping point after years of torrid gains, amid concerns about rising rates and talk of tariffs weighing on corporate profits.

“Investors are starting to be a little more disciplined,” said Neuberger Berman PM Bob Summers. “They aren’t just waving in every deal now.”

To be sure, investors’ restraint amounts to more pain for companies. As we showed recently (see chart below) the average yield on corporate bonds is around its highest levels since January 2012, according to Bloomberg Barclays index data. Even with the previously discussed  CVS Health’s $40 billion blockbuster issue last week, sales volume for new investment-grade corporate debt is at its lowest level so far this year since 2014.

Meanwhile, it has been a decidedly mixed picture in terms of fund flows, as reduced inflows and occasional outflows from mutual funds and exchange-traded funds have indicated that investors may need some time to digest the pipeline, or as Yuri Seliger, a credit strategist at Bank of America Corp, said “the negatives are winning out right now.”

To demonstrate that credit finds itself at a sensitive junction, Bloomberg provides the example of Campbell Soup, which sold $5.3 billion of bonds this week to fund its planned acquisition of Snyder’s-Lance Inc.

Typically, bankers start selling the deal to investors at a relatively high yield compared with Treasuries, which they decrease as demand increases. In this case for the biggest parts of the deal, they never did, and the bonds weakened relative to Treasuries after they were sold.

Then there is the oversubscription problem, or rather lack thereof: while companies – in credit boom times  – get orders for three or four times as many bonds as are for sale, at the beginning of the week order books were barely two times covered. As a result, borrowers paid yields that were an average of 0.11 percentage points higher on new deals compared with their existing securities last week, a new issue concession much higher than the 0.013 percentage point-average for the year. And – as shown above – yields relative to Treasuries weakened on more than half of new issues on Monday and Tuesday, a recent BofA analysis revealed.

To be sure, for now the credit weakness is issuer specific – one would have to look hard to find a problem with McDonald’s sale of $1.5 billion of bonds last Wednesday, in a deal that was 4x oversubscribed, and then cut yields on all three tranches relative to price talk; post-break, spreads on all three parts narrowed as of Thursday’s close in New York.

Meanwhile, as the increasingly tentative market waits to find out how this period of uncertainty ends, some investors are pitching the recent weakness as a buying opportunity largely thanks to ongoing strong cash flow, helped by tax cuts; investors such as Tom Murphy, head of investment-grade credit at Columbia Threadneedle Investments.

“If fundamentals are unchanged and spreads are wider, shame on us if we’re not buying securities,” Murphy said. “You’re supposed to start taking some bites of the apple here.”

That may not last long though, as fundamentals are starting to shift with the Fed expected to lift rates three (or more) times this year, retail sales falling for third straight month, amid a near contraction in consumer credit growth.

Of course, any slowdown in corporate bond purchases would come after years of surging demand; as we have documented previously, the market value of investment-grade bonds has more than doubled over the last 10 years, as investors have snapped up new debt, while the economy has grown by about a third.

And, going back to the start of the article, this has also allowed companies to issue virtually unlimited amounts of bonds whose proceeds would be used for buybacks. However, should the IG bond market suffer an even moderate hangover, that may not last. For one thing, the incremental yield on equities relative to bonds has shrunk to the lowest level since 2010.

This in itself could put a significant damped on buybacks. But, more importantly, should the credit weakness spread from the IG sector to high yield, then from a blessing, buybacks may suddenly become a corporate curse as the market mood suddenly shifts, and starts viewing excess leverage as a potential source of instability in a time of rising rates, something we discussed extensively in “Day Of Reckoning” Nears As Goldman Projects A Record $650BN In Stock Buybacks.”

To be sure, it is still early to declare the corporate bond market dead or even comatose, although the leading indicators certainly suggest that a hangover has arrived. For what happens next keep a close eye on the market reaction when the Fed hikes rates on Wednesday, and focus not on stocks but bonds – any further blow out in spread, and certainly yields, will mean that – for the time being at least – the bond issuance window is slamming shut; the (buyback) consequences for stocks may be severe.

Source: Zerohedge – The Bond Market Hits A Tipping Point: What That Means For Stocks

Meet Hillary Clinton's Other, More Powerful And Shadowy Oppo Research Firm

Authored by Mark Tapscott via Lifezette,com,

Executives with London-based Hakluyt & Co. contributed thousands of dollars to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign…

Fusion GPS has gotten all the headlines. But there was a second, even more powerful and mysterious opposition research and intelligence firm lurking about with significant political and financial links to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her 2016 campaign for president against Donald Trump.

Meet London-based Hakluyt & Co., founded by three former British intelligence operatives in 1995 to provide the kind of otherwise inaccessible research for which select governments and Fortune 500 corporations pay huge sums.

Whereas Fusion GPS was created by three former Wall Street Journal reporters with links to the U.S. intelligence community, Hakluyt — with offices in London, New York, Singapore, Tokyo and Sydney — was founded by an enterprising trio of former British intelligence operatives with deep connections throughout the world’s official and corporate corridors of power and influence.

Hakluyt is described by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Henry Williams as “one of the more secretive firms within the corporate investigations world” and as “a retirement home for ex-MI6 [British foreign intelligence] officers, but it now also recruits from the worlds of management consultancy and banking … ”

The firm’s “style appears to be much more in the mold of the Christopher Steele dossier. Clients pay for pages of well-sourced prose from Hakluyt’s contacts across the globe,” Williams wrote.

Hakluyt isn’t familiar to the American public. But what has become well-known in recent days is the role played by one of the London firm’s most visible figures in drawing the FBI into the world of Trump-Russia collusion allegations, a world largely created by Steele in the infamous dossier bearing his name.

When the drunken junior Trump foreign policy adviser George Papodopoulous boasted in a London bar in May 2016 about Russian intelligence operatives peddling hacked emails that were damaging to Clinton, his most interested listener, according to The New York Times, was Alexander Downer, Australian high commissioner to the U.K.

It was Downer who told the FBI of Papodopoulos’ comments, which became one of the “driving factors that led the FBI to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired,” The Times reported.

Downer, a long-time Aussie chum of Bill and Hillary Clinton, had been on Hakluyt’s advisory board since 2008. Officially, he had to resign his Hakluyt role in 2014, but his informal connections continued uninterrupted, the News Corp. Australian Network reported in a January 2016 exclusive:

But it can be revealed Mr. Downer has still been attending client conferences and gatherings of the group, including a client cocktail soirée at the Orangery at Kensington Palace a few months ago.

His attendance at that event is understood to have come days after he also attended a two-day country retreat at the invitation of the group, which has been involved in a number of corporate spy scandals in recent times.

The News Corp. Australian Network quoted an unnamed British diplomatic source explaining that Hakluyt “operates in the shadows, it’s not exactly open and transparent and so any serving, and that’s the difference, serving diplomat with access to sensitive information and insight associating with the group raises a worry in Whitehall.” Whitehall is the British government’s equivalent to the White House.

Downer’s continued involvement with Hakluyt locates the shadowy operation in the world of the Clintons. As previously reported by LifeZette, it was Downer in 2006 who as Australian foreign minister signed a memorandum of understanding with Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.

The memorandum committed $25 million from the Australian government to the foundation for HIV/AIDs programs in China, Papua New Guinea, and Vietnam. A subsequent audit was unable to account for how those funds were spent.

Earlier this year, the FBI asked retired Australian police detective Michael Smith to provide information he uncovered concerning the 2006 deal — suggesting the bureau’s investigation of the Clinton Foundation is focused on the controversial charity’s domestic and international activities.

Downer is also connected to another firm of great importance in the international intelligence world. That would be China’s telecommunications giant Huawei, on whose Australian board he served for several years, beginning in 2011. U.S. intelligence experts have long described Huawei as a tool of Chinese espionage in America.

But Downer is not the only Clinton fan in Hakluyt. Federal contribution records show several of the firm’s U.S. representatives made large contributions to two of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign organizations.

Jonathan Selib of Brooklyn, New York, listed himself as a “consultant” and his employer as Hakluyt when he made four contributions totaling $3,200 to Hillary for America and one contribution worth $2,350 to the Hillary Victory Fund during the Democratic presidential primary. Selib also contributed to the congressional campaigns of Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and John Lewis of Montana. Selib was formerly chief of staff for Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

Another Hakluyt executive, Holly Evans, contributed $500 to Hillary for America the day after Selib’s June 27, 2016, donations to the same Clinton campaign entity. Evans listed Rye, New York, as home and described herself as a Hakluyt “executive.” Her résumé includes stints advising Vice President Dick Cheney and working on the National Security Council during the second Bush administration.

The link between Clinton and Hakluyt is ironic considering the former secretary of state’s strong commitment to liberal Democratic environmental causes.

A third Hakluyt executive, Andrew Exum of Washington, D.C., made multiple contributions to several Democratic congressional candidates, including Elisa Slotkin in Michigan and Daniel Helmer of Virginia. Exum served as a U.S. Army infantry officer and as former deputy assistant secretary of defense under then-President Barack Obama. He has also been a contributing editor of Atlantic magazine.

The link between Clinton and Hakluyt is ironic considering the former secretary of state’s strong commitment to liberal Democratic environmental causes. Hakluyt’s record includes being caught planting spies in Greenpeace and other environmental groups on behalf of energy giants British Petroleum (BP) and Shell.

Source: Zerohedge – Meet Hillary Clinton's Other, More Powerful And Shadowy Oppo Research Firm

Bitcoin Soars $1000 Off The Lows After G-20 Rejects Crypto Crackdown

While advertising bans and Mt.Gox Trustee overhangs remain, the FUD of a possible global regulatory crackdown in the G-20 Communique was a major driver of this weekend’s weakness… until Les Echos confirms FSB has rejected calls for regulation.

After headlines suggesting a global crackdown on cryptocurrencies spooked the markets on Friday, Reuters reports that the global watchdog will pivot more toward reviewing existing rules and away from designing new ones, resisting calls from some G20 members to regulate cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

The reaction was immediate as a relief rally – on heavy volume – sent Bitcoin $1000 higher, erasing Friday’s losses…

Interest in cryptocurrencies surged last year as prices rocketed only to tumble in recent months, triggering warnings from regulators. But in a sign of too little consensus for radical action, Reuters reports that the FSB said more international coordination was needed to plug data gaps in monitoring the rapidly evolving but still tiny sector worth less than 1 percent of global GDP at its peak.

“The FSB’s initial assessment is that crypto-assets do not pose risks to global financial stability at this time,” FSB Chair Mark Carney said in a letter to G20 central bankers and finance ministers who will meet in Buenos Aires on Monday and Tuesday.

All major cryptocurrencies are rallying on the news…

Source: Zerohedge – Bitcoin Soars 00 Off The Lows After G-20 Rejects Crypto Crackdown