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The Hidden Revelation

Authored by Sven Henrich via NorthmanTrader.com, The current government shutdown (the longest in history) comes with a hidden revelation: Millions of Americans are financially unprepared for the next economic downturn. Worse, they are highly vulnerable with few protections. 10 years after the financial crisis the economic recovery has left millions behind with little to no savings and the government shutdown serves as a preview for what will happen once unemployment rises. Within just a few weeks into the government shutdown people are struggling to cope. We hear of stories of people turning to food banks to feed their families during the shutdown. We hear stories of people who are in dire straights because they can’t get loans and of people who can’t pay their mortgages as payments come due. That’s not even a month into the shutdown. Why do a few weeks of no pay turn into a crisis for many families? Simple: Nearly 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. That’s a problem when you have little to no savings. In fact it’s akin to playing financial Russian roulette. And the problem is terrifyingly pervasive. According to a recent GoBankingRates surveyonly 21% of Americans have more than $10,000 in savings with nearly 60% having less than $1,000 in savings: This savings free game of complacency works as long as people have a steady paycheck coming in and as long as rates stay low. But they are...

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The Rise And Fall Of The American Downtown

Every city’s down town is different. Some function as commercial hubs where many travel to shop and work, but where few would want to live. In some cities, down town areas struggle with high crime rates following decades of urban flight that have left ramshackle buildings and dilapidated homes in their wake. And just as the specific features of every urban center are different, the manner in which they recovered from the housing crisis has been different, too. And one way to explore these differences is too look at how real-estate prices in down town areas relative to the surrounding city. In a recent study, analysts at Property Shark examined the spread between the median home sale price in downtown areas vs. the city as a whole, which they described as a key indicator to measure the progress of gentrification as younger Americans continue to favor hip urban centers. Their analysis looked at a decades’ worth of home-price data in 34 of the largest  US cities, plus Manhattan and Brooklyn, to suss out just how much more expensive it is to live in a down town area. What they found is hardly surprising: Since the crisis, the recovery in urban home prices in down town areas has typically outpaced the recovery in the surrounding area. However, there are a few notable exceptions where the reverse is true, and the...

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Europe’s New-Generation Nuclear Plants Stagger Over The Start Line

Authored by Henry Edwardes-Evans via Platts’ “The Barrel” blog, Years late and massively over-budget, Europe’s first EPR nuclear plants in Finland and France are on the verge of “energizing”, as the sector jargon goes… Barring last-minute glitches, this will be the final act in what must be the longest-running construction saga in the region. Finland’s 1993 vote to reject plans for a fifth reactor was one of the first stories I covered as a trainee. Readers of Power in Europe were already bored witless by all the back-and-forth on the topic when, in 2002, the government changed its mind and the project was waved through. It was another six years before construction of the new-generation, pressurized water reactor began. Now, ten years late and two-and-a-half times over budget, TVO’s Olkiluoto-3 EPR is set to spark up in 2019 ahead of full operation in 2020. Meanwhile a mere eight years late and, at Eur10.5 billion, three times over budget, EDF’s Flamanville 3 EPR in Normandy, northern France is also due to deliver first power in summer 2019. Even when complete, there is a cloud hanging over this project due to “anomalies” found in its reactor pressure vessel head, potentially requiring replacement within a few short years. Not a great start to a 60-year operational life. For Finland, commissioning of O-3 will go a long way to erasing the country’s multi-year electricity supply deficit, freeing up Norwegian...

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Smithsonian Map Shows US Military Operating In Over 40% Of World’s Countries

Smithsonian Magazine this month published a stunning map detailing just how expansive the post-9/11 “war on terror” has become, demonstrating that contrary to the common assumption that it’s “winding down” more than 17 years later, it actually continues to grow and has now spread to more than 40% of the world’s countries.  This includes American military and support personnel engaged in ongoing missions in 80 nations on six continents, according to Brown University’s Costs of War Project at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, which has recently calculated that since 2001 the US has spent $5,900,000,000,000 on war, mostly in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen — where US military operations have become more or less permanent, with no consideration of ending them under any circumstances. The map creators for The Smithsonian culled information from foreign government sources, published and unpublished reports, military websites and geographical databases, as well as foreign embassies and interviews with journalists and academics, according to Smithsonian.com. And the authors of the study even note they were “conservative” in their numbers concerning US military and State Dept. personnel engaged in the “terror war” throughout the globe as of 2019.  The map demonstrates the following: We found that, contrary to what most Americans believe, the war on terror is not winding down—it has spread to more than 40 percent of the world’s countries. The war isn’t being waged by the military alone, which...

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Second Referendum: Beware The Deception Around A “No Deal” Brexit

Authored by Steven Guinness, Engaging in double speak has become a routine means of communicating amongst politicians. Whilst obfuscation is used to confuse the public and distort their understanding of events (notably Brexit), occasionally a granule of truth winds its way into the narrative which serves to offer a more accurate picture of where members of parliament stand on an issue. Brexit has dominated political discourse in the UK ever since the original referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU was announced three years ago. Most recently, we have seen an attempt by Conservative party ‘rebels‘ to remove Prime Minister Theresa May from office fail, the withdrawal agreement negotiated by May’s government comprehensively rejected by MP’s, and a subsequent vote of no confidence in the government defeated. What these events have done is solidify the impression that parliament is at an ‘impasse‘ over Brexit. But as I have argued in previous articles, what this ‘impasse‘ is actually doing is creating the necessary conditions for a second referendum (a ‘people’s vote‘) to become a reality. Gradually all other options are withering away to leave going back to the ballot box as the only remaining solution. A referendum therefore assumes the appearance of being an organic occurrence rather than a premeditated outcome. Here is how a referendum could find itself in the statute book in the next few weeks: The next...

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Discourses After Livy

A detail in last September’s New Yorker profile of Mark Zuckerberg likely struck many readers as odd, odder even than the many other eccentricities of one of the world’s wealthiest men. Zuckerberg, writer Evan Osnos discovered, is obsessed with Augustus Caesar. The Facebook founder’s wife accused him of bringing the emperor along on their honeymoon in, obviously, Rome, and the couple named their second daughter August. Having studied Latin in high school—it’s like coding, Zuck said—he dove deep into Roman history and eventually found himself clinging, like the Roman people, to Julius Caesar’s heir amidst the chaos of the city’s civil wars. Osnos quotes Zuckerberg: “You have all these good and bad and complex figures. I think Augustus is one of the most fascinating. Basically, through a really harsh approach, he established two hundred years of world peace.” Not oratory, but interesting. It has not been long since such familiarity with Roman history by American elites was normal, even expected, when there was nothing odd about this country’s wealthiest and most powerful thinking much and often of that predecessor republic, especially its decline and end. Of course the architects of our Constitution made free reference to Rome’s regime and res publica in their public debates over what would be this country’s new order for the ages. And Federalists and anti-Federalists alike wrote under classical pseudonyms. But even an American...

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Missouri Foster Parents Sue State Over Gun Rights

Missouri foster parents filed suit in federal court disputing the state’s prohibition on keeping functional, loaded firearms in their home this week. James and Julie Attaway are asking for an injunction from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri’s Western Division against the Missouri gun regulation. The licensed foster care providers are currently fostering a child alongside their own biological children. They are legally allowed to own firearms, and James has a valid concealed-carry permit but have been made to keep their firearms unloaded inside their own home because of their decision to foster. They argue the regulations make them and their children less safe. “As parents of biological children and foster children, one of our top priorities is to provide a safe, loving place for them to grow and develop,” James Attaway told the Washington Free Beacon. “Our hope is that the state of Missouri would allow their well-trained foster parents to use the same prudence they would with their own children when it comes to carrying and storing firearms. Prohibiting all foster parents from carrying concealed firearms or storing ammunition with firearms in the same locked safe strips foster parents of the ability to defend themselves and their children, foster and natural, from threats both inside and outside the home.” The couple is joined in the suit by the Second Amendment Foundation. They said...

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The Mirage of Arab Military Might

Why do Arab militaries perform so badly in war? Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War, Chad’s defeat over Libya in 1987, the Islamic State’s humiliation of the Iraqi security forces—why do they lose when, by all objective measures, they should win? And when they win, why are their victories so small? These questions are not just academic. Indeed, their answers are central to American foreign policy in the Middle East, for today and for the future. Go back to May 2014, when then-President Barack Obama told a graduating class of West Point cadets that training foreign soldiers was central to his strategy on counterterrorism. “We have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat—one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin or stir up local resentments,” Obama said. “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.” His idea was to deploy small numbers of military trainers and advisers to the Middle East and elsewhere to assist local forces, keeping the American footprint to a minimum. More than four years later, President Donald Trump has continued this approach, which, along with his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, indicate that the United States will need to rely on Middle Eastern forces to do their own fighting. Given that the United States will still have vital interests in the Middle East to protect,...

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Court Says Road Project Guidelines Inappropriately Discriminated Against Nonunion Contractors

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court ruled Friday that the state Department of Transportation tilted the playing field against nonunion construction companies when it required a “project labor agreement” for any firm that won the bidding on a road improvement project. The PLA would have meant that any nonunion employer that won the contract for the work in Montgomery County would have to hire its workers for the project through a set of 11 local unions. But the request for bids carved out an exception for contractors associated with United Steelworkers. Contractor Allan Myers, a nonunion firm, protested the terms of the bid request in December 2017 on the grounds that it essentially barred any companies that didn’t have a union workforce from winning the contract while at the same time providing favored status to United Steelworkers-affiliated companies. PennDOT rejected that protest in February 2018, leading Allan Myers to file a lawsuit in response. The Commonwealth Court in its ruling Friday, citing its own past decisions, recognized that there are instances where it might be appropriate to require the use of local union workers when there’s a strong time element at play. In one case a convention center needed to be completed in a hurry to meet funding requirements. In another a school needed to be open in time for the new school year. And in the third, an exploding prison population...

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Critics: Governor’s Proposed Capital Gains, Real Estate Tax Hikes Won’t Save Orcas, But Will Hurt Businesses

A new budget proposed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat exploring a 2020 presidential bid, calls for increasing the state’s operating budget by 20 percent, increasing taxes, and spending more on orca and salmon recovery than on the number one issue voters said is their top priority: mental health. Additionally, the state’s fiscal conservative think tank, the Washington Policy Center (WPC), argues the state already has the funding for salmon and orca recovery and does not need to raise taxes. Instead, “the governor is simultaneously claiming he cares about salmon and orca while his budget shows he will only help them if we raise taxes,” Todd Myers, the WPC’s environmental director, said. Inslee’s $54.4 billion state operating budget proposal – about 20 percent more than the current budget – increases revenue by $3.7 billion in higher taxes. They include a 9 percent tax on capital gains earnings, increases in business-tax rates for services, and “progressive” changes to the real-estate excise tax. Inslee said the package was necessary to fund the government and make Washington’s tax system “less regressive.” The capital gains tax would be imposed on earnings over $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for households. The tax excludes retirement accounts, homes, farms and forestry transactions. It reportedly impacts only 1.5 percent of Washington households and is projected to raise $975 million over the next two years. Sen. John...

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