Oil is is trading higher post Algeria OPEC meeting

Brent crude climbed above $80 a barrel after OPEC and its allies signalled less urgency to boost output despite U.S. pressure to temper prices.

Futures in London rose as much as 1.7 per cent. OPEC and its partners gave a tepid response to President Donald Trump’s demand that rapid action be taken to reduce prices, saying they would boost output only if customers wanted more cargoes. Brent could rise to $100 for the first time since 2014 as the market braces for the loss of Iranian supplies due to U.S. sanctions, according to Mercuria Energy Group Ltd. and Trafigura Group.

Oil has rallied since the lows of August as speculation swirls over whether OPEC and its allies will boost output as the sanctions on the Middle East nation’s exports nears. Still, a full-blown trade war between the U.S. and China could imperil global economic growth that underpins crude demand as the two countries begin a new round of tariffs on each other’s goods.

Oil investors are “trading the weekend news very favourably,” said Stephen Innes, Singapore-based head of Asia Pacific trading with Oanda Corp. “Saudi Arabia and Russia ruled out any expeditious supply increases at the Algeria meeting while decidedly ignoring U.S. President Trump’s call to increase supplies and ease price pressures.

Bloomberg

Hordes Of Bussed-In Protesters Prepare For DC Disruption Ahead Of Kavanaugh Confirmation

Liberal activists are planning to disrupt the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, according to journalists Paul Sperry and Jack Posobiec. 

Sperry reports: “Protesters from several radical leftwing activist groups, including Cntr for Popular Democracy,Women’s March, Indivisible, Moveon.org  &Housing Works, are being bussed into DC to march on the Senate next week & disrupt any vote on Kavanaugh. They’re meeting tonight (Sun) at 7:30 PM for training at St. Stephens of Incarnation Church, 1525 Newton Street NW in the Mount Pleasant area of DC. This church will also provide lodging for the rable and act as their staging ground throughout the week. Protesters’ jail bail, legal fees & transportation being paid for by these leftist groups, many of which are funded by liberal mega donor George Soros and are desperate to derail President Trump’s conservative SCOTUS nomination. (More details to come … )”

Jack Posobiec, meanwhile, claims to have “snuck onto the conference call for organizing against Kavanaugh on Monday and got their entire protest plans.” 

Prepare for a cacophony of rage amid a sea of pink pussy hats… 

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Poll Shows GOP Enthusiasm Rising As Midterms Loom; 70% ‘Satisfied’ With Trump’s Economy

With US stocks trading at record highs despite almost universal underperformance in global markets and the US economy benefiting from a late-cycle boom, Republicans are ready to do everything in their power to ensure that President Trump and his Congressional allies retain their unilateral control of the federal government after the midterms.

According to the latest WSJ/NBC News poll, 61% of Republican voters say they’re very interested in voting on Nov. 6, when Republicans will be looking to stop the Dems from retaking control of the House. To put that number in context, the poll showed that 65% of Democrats said they’re very interested in the vote. Over the first eight months of 2018, Democrats boasted an aggregate 12-point advantage over the Republicans on this metric – an advantage that has shrunk considerably.

Poll

To be sure, Republicans are still facing an uphill battle in the House. According to the poll, a sizable majority of voters say they would rather see Democrats wrest back control of Congress.

The Democratic lead on voter preference for control of Congress is the largest in Journal/NBC polling since Mr. Trump took office. It reflects gains for the party among white, working-class women, as well as among suburban voters and other groups that had been more favorable to the GOP in the past.

“Republicans have had a series of weak surveys; this is beyond weak,” said Bill McInturff, the GOP pollster who conducted the survey with Democrat Fred Yang. “This is a survey that says the Republican coalition at the moment is unhinged and not connected.”

Mr. McInturff emphasized that the poll reflected political conditions “at the moment.”

With the Nov. 6 midterm vote less than two months away, 52% of registered voters said they would rather see Democrats walk away with control of Congress, while 40% said they would prefer Republicans to hold on to both chambers.

That lead is up from 8 points in August. To be sure, when the pool of respondents was reduced to only likely voters, the Democrats’ advantage also shrunk.

Among those considered most likely to vote, a smaller pool than those identified as registered voters, Democrats held an 8-point advantage on the question of which party should control the next Congress. This is the first time in the midterm campaign that the Journal/NBC News poll has delineated which voters are most likely to cast ballots.

Despite most voters’ sunny view of the economy, 59% in the survey said they wanted a change from the direction Mr. Trump has been leading. That group included nearly one-third of Republicans.

Though it’s worth pointing out that Hillary Clinton boasted a similar advantage two months before the 2016 vote (an advantage that turned out to be an illusion).

When the poll turned to issues-based questions like voters’ satisfaction with the president’s performance and the economy, Democrats’ lead faded. Voters are extremely satisfied with the economy, and Trump’s approval rating has remained stable at 44%, among the highest readings since he took office. On the economy alone, voters’ approval has jumped from 63% to nearly 70%.

The poll also found that Mr. Trump’s job approval rating remained stable from August, at 44%. The share of voters satisfied with the economy jumped to 69%, up from 63% in a Journal/NBC News poll in June, and a plurality said Mr. Trump’s policies had helped economic conditions.

In other words, the “blue wave” that the mainstream media has promised its devotees is hardly a guarantee. Indeed, Democrats could endure another dramatic upset in November that could trigger flashbacks of 2016…

Blue

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Calls Attack On Parade A “US Plot”; Tehran Summons Western Ambassadors

Iran’s top cleric and leader Ayatollah Khamenei has pointed the finger at the West for a terror attack on a military parade that took place early Saturday in the Southwest city of Ahvaz, which left 25 people dead and over 60 wounded. 

Khamenei’s condemnation of “plots hatched by US stooges in the region” came simultaneous to Iran summoning the diplomatic envoys of Western countries including the Netherlands, Denmark and Great Britain, for harboring Iranian opposition groups in their countries

“It is not acceptable that these groups are not listed as terrorist organizations by the European Union as long as they have not carried out a terrorist attack in Europe,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by IRNA, per Reuters.

Government officials also indicated the gunmen which unleashed a hail of bullets on men women and children were disguised as Iranian soldiers: “The terrorists disguised as the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and Basiji (volunteer) forces opened fire at the authorities and people from behind the stand during the parade,” the regional Governor of Khuzestan Gholam-Reza Shariati told state media

Iranian state IRNA news identified that the self-proclaimed “Saudi-affiliated” Al-Ahwaz terrorist group claimed the responsibility for the attack.

Indeed it appears that a group identifying itself as the “Ahwazi Democratic Popular Front” had announced on Twitter some 13 hours before the attack that “Al-Ahvaz will create a challenge for the Iranian occupiers with an attack,” according to a translation of the tweet

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in the aftermath that “US masters” and regional terrorist forces should be held accountable for the bloodshed.

Meanwhile Iran’s Supreme Leader ranted against Western and US plotting in his Saturday message, according to a translation and paraphrase by PressTV:

The Leader said the “tragic and sorrowful” incident in Ahvaz and the killing of people by mercenary terrorists once again exposed the cruelty of the enemies of the Iranian nation.

These savage mercenaries who open fire on innocent civilians, including women and children, are linked with the same liars who claim to advocate human rights, Ayatollah Khamenei added.

Khamenei then specifically identified US plotting as motivating the attack: “Their crime is the continuation of plots [hatched] by the US-led governments in the region who aim to create insecurity in our dear country.”

But on Saturday night the US State Department issued a rare statement of solidarity with Iranians in the wake of the terror attack: “We stand with the Iranian people against the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism and express our sympathy to them at this terrible time. The United States condemns all acts of terrorism and the loss of any innocent lives,” according to the official statement

Many prominent Western and Gulf-based media outlets refused to use the word “terrorism” in relation to the attack, which reportedly included children among the casualties.

Iran has in the past accused the United States, Saudi Arabia, and European countries for giving support to the MEK and using the opposition group as a proxy force for attacks withing Iran. The controversial Iranian opposition in exile Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK) is considered by Iran and many other countries as a terror organization (and not long ago by the US State Deptartment, though delisted as a terror group under Obama ), but is now given close support by US Congresspersons and Trump admin officials alike. 

Essentially a paramilitary cult, the MEK is suspected of conducting assassinations of high level Iranian figures, especially nuclear scientists and engineers for years, likely at the bidding of foreign intelligence services.

Currently, it is unclear exactly how much external support the Al-Ahwaz separatist group, which has claimed responsibility for the terror attack, receives, if any at all  though Tehran is pointing the finger at Saudi Arabia and its allies.  

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Judiciary Committee’s Lindsey Graham: “I’m Not Going To Ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s Life Over This”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the 11 men on the Senate Judiciary Committee, made it clear on Sunday that he will hear out Kavanaugh accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, but that he hasn’t heard enough evidence to “ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this.” 

“What am I supposed to do? Go ahead and ruin this guy’s life based on an accusation?” Graham asked Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, adding: “I don’t know when it happened, I don’t know where it happened. And everybody named in regard to being there said it didn’t happen. I’m just being honest. Unless there’s something more, no I’m not going to ruin Judge Kavanaugh’s life over this.” 

But she should come forward, she should have her say. She will be respectfully treated,” he added.

Graham repeatedly expressed doubt about the allegation during the interview Sunday based on the amount of time that has passed since the alleged assault and the lack of evidence. 

“This accusation has to be looked at in terms of our legal system, Graham said. 

“Everything I know about Judge Kavanaugh goes against this allegation,” he continued. “I want to listen to Dr. Ford. I feel sorry for her. I think she’s being used here.” –USA Today

Graham also said he think that people are taking advantage of Ford: 

Both Ford and Kavanaugh are scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

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Understanding The Volatility Storm To Come, Part 1: Fragility In The Market’s Medium

Authored by Christopher Cole via Artemis Capital Management,

What Is Water In Markets? Volatility and the Fragility of the Medium

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?”.

-David Foster Wallace, This is Water (2005)

“This is Water” is the title of a commencement speech delivered by David Foster Wallace that has become a masterpiece of meta-thinking. If you haven’t listened to it, put down this paper and do so now. It is worth 20 minutes of your life.

The Foster Wallace parable of two young fish ignorant of the medium that defines their reality is so important on many levels. Foster Wallace contends that we swim in a world defined by self-centered thoughts, that serve to make reality visible, but should never be mistaken as fundamental truth. 

In capitalism the medium that defines reality is fiat money. To this point, does money exist? This seems silly to ask but it is very important philosophically. Yes, money exists in the sense that you can purchase goods and services with it. At the same time, money is only important because of a collective belief in it, and is worthless without that. This is true of any human construct: markets, words, brands, and nation-states… all abstract mediums that have meaning because we collectively believe they do, and hence they give form to reality, but are not real independent of our thoughts.

In markets and in life, we swim in mediums of thought abstractions… the same way a fish swims in water. When the medium collapses, so does the reality… causing us to question the nature of both. As Foster Wallace eloquently explains, “The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about.”  

Volatility is always the failure of medium… the crumpling of a reality we thought we knew to a new truth. It is the moment where we learn that we are a fish living in a false reality called water… and that reality can change… or there are other realities. True volatility isn’t the change of the thing, it’s the changing of the medium around it and the realization that the thing never really existed in the first place. 

This is all you need to know to understand when the volatility storm will truly come. It is not about valuations, money printing, or where the VIX is at any point. When the collective consciousness stops believing growth can be created by money and debt expansion the entire medium will fall apart violently, otherwise it will continue to be real. The belief that the medium is the reality is what holds the edifice together temporally. 

This letter is divided into three key themes: The first part will discuss fragility of the market medium; the second will discuss how the volatility in February was a symptom of a much greater liquidity problem; and the third will discuss how flows are more important than fundamentals when the medium dominates truth. 

Out of the fishbowl and down the drain we go…

Part 1: Fragility in the Medium

Investors swim in a pond of bid and ask prices. Without a bid and ask there is no price discovery… and the market… like a fish out of water… dies. Now here is an interesting question: does the market create value, or can value exist without a medium to facilitate it? A silent revolution is now being fought for the soul of investing between two contradictory schools of meta-thinking, each with their own strategies and central planning philosophies to support them. These two schools are the following:

1) Value is independent of the medium and intrinsic to the asset: The classic school of investing embodies the value investing principals of Graham and Dodd as put into practice by investors like Warren Buffet (younger version), Seth Klarman, and David Einhorn. In this school, the bid and ask prices of an asset do not represent value any more than a picture of a “pipe” is a real pipe. Liquidity is a highly flawed medium to express value. Although prices may fluctuate they are independent from the intrinsic worth of an asset. If you want to smoke a pipe, the picture is not sufficient to provide value. 

2) Value is generated from the medium. In the second school, liquidity is the sole determinant of value as defined by a constant bid and ask price. An asset is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it at any given moment. If Facebook, Snapchat, Tesla, Ethereum, and Ripple keep going up, who cares why, as long as someone is willing to pay. When market participants gain confidence in a quantitative investment factor (growth, low volatility, cat ownership of company management), it becomes real, regardless of whether it makes sense. As long as people supply a bid and ask price, the medium is the reality, so to speak. The school is also supported by modern central banking policies.  If a picture of a pipe looks like a pipe, it is a damn pipe, especially if people buy more tobacco. 

The second meta-view of value is now winning the revolution and dominating central banking and institutional asset flows. Passive and factor-based investments are just the most obvious symptom of this new worldview. If value is “created” by the medium of money, you don’t need to pay people to find it, hence active investors should be replaced by passive index funds, systematic trading, and factor-based quantitative investments.  Today fundamental discretionary traders only account for 10% of trading volume in stocks according to J.P. Morgan, while rules-based strategies account for 60%. Since the recession $2 trillion in assets have migrated from active to passive strategies. Starting this year, over 50% of the assets under management in the U.S. will be passively managed according to Bernstein Research. Almost a decade of unprecedented global monetary stimulus resulted in the best risk-adjusted returns for passive investing in over 200 years between 2012 and 2017. Large capital flows into stocks occur for no reason other than the fact that they are highly liquid members of an index, and those capital flows chase the hottest ETFs and collections of stocks (FANGs). 

Value investing has had the longest period of underperformance in history when compared to buying whatever is “hot”. The chart above shows the performance of a pure value strategy versus momentum. Deep value significantly underperformed momentum just prior to recessions in 1999 and 2007. If you are old enough you may remember the December 1999 Barron’s cover article titled “What’s Wrong, Warren?”. The article asserted Buffet’s value strategy was old fashioned and he was “losing his magic touch”. Recently the WSJ has printed several similar articles discussing how active managers are underperforming and losing assets due to stubborn adherence to value principals. 

As it turns out, the institutional investors herding into passive and factor investments may be smoking something out of their own Magritte Pipe. Passive is just a crowded “liquidity momentum” trade and its outperformance compared to active managers may be self-fulfilling and ultimately de-stabilizing in the long run.   When passive investing becomes dominant ‘excess returns’ are actually diminished and volatility should rise.  What they claim as being low cost, actually comes at great expense in the long-run. What they think of as diversification is actually dangerous herding. What they see as alpha is actually an illusion of value created by the reliance on the medium. 

Michael Green at Thiel Macro first introduced me to his theory that passive investing crowds out the excess return (‘alpha’) available to active management. Mike also challenged me to prove it to myself by building my own theoretical model. I took his advice and built a market simulation whereby the main variable is the influence of passive vs. active participants. My simulation generates 25,000 days of equity returns using a supply-demand model randomized according to geometric Brownian motion with a drift factor based on constant percentage passive flows. Active participants become engaged based on varying degrees of intensity depending on whether the market drifts too high (selling pressure) or too low (buying pressure). The active players then impact the market by helping to push prices back into equilibrium. It is important to note that in this simulation the proportion of active to passive investors remains constant. In real life, this will shift over time.

Two key themes emerge when the market is dominated by passive investing as seen above:

1) “Excess Return” or Alpha available to active managers is diminished (blue line in graphic)

2) Volatility is amplified. (black line in graphic)

Green’s theory that the alpha available to active managers is destroyed by the dominance of passive flows was not intuitive to me at first. I was inclined to believe the exact opposite: that the greater the degree of passive actors the more inefficiencies are available for exploitation. That is true to a certain point. When the market is dominated by passive players prices are driven by flows rather than fundamentals (see right tail of blue line). In my simulation, the excess alpha available to active participants peaks when passive investors comprise 42% of the market, then drops dramatically the more the passive share increases. When passive participants control 60%+ of the market the simulation becomes increasingly unstable, subject to wild trends, extreme volatility, and negative alpha. In the real world, because the ratio between active to passive is not constant, the instability threshold will occur at a much lower threshold as investors shift their preference to passive in real-time. 

A good metaphor is to think of passive investors as a drunk man at the bar and active investors as his sober guide. The drunk man is hoping to walk home safely but is highly influenced by the prevailing flow of foot traffic. Fortunately, when the drunkard gets too far off the safe path, his sober guide takes over and corrects him. Now, the dual journey home is a choppy pull and push affair, but everyone gets home safe. Now in a world where passive dominates, the drunk become so strong that his sober guide is not strong enough to influence him. Unencumbered the drunk man can now move much faster in any given direction, right or wrong, but he is also more likely to get lost. The drunk man walks from the bar… starts heading toward his house… takes a wrong turn up a mountain… and right off a cliff… to his death.

The irony of the Bogle-head crowd is that they tout efficient market hypothesis to support passive investing while simultaneously failing to comprehend how the dominance of the strategy causes markets to become highly unstable and inefficient. The most immediate realities are the ones that are the hardest to see… If you want to know when volatility will truly arrive, watch the shift in the medium.

* * *

Part 2: Volatility Reflexivity and Liquidity coming soon…

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Giuliani Vows Regime Change At “Iran Uprising” Event; MEK Supporters Chant John McCain’s Name

Speaking at an MEK-linked event called the “Iran Uprising Summit” in New York City on Saturday, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told an audience that the Iranian government is “going to be overthrown” as soon as revolutionary “conditions” are ripe.

“I don’t know when we’re going to overthrow them. It could be in a few days, months, a couple of years, but it’s going to happen. They’re going to be overthrown, the people of Iran have obviously had enough,” said Giuliani at the event hosted by the Organization of Iranian-American Communities at a Times Square hotel. 

“The sanctions are working. The currency is going to nothing … These are the conditions that lead to successful revolution, and, God willing, non-violent revolution,” he said.

The speech came the same day a terror attack on a military parade took the lives of over 24 people and wounded scores more in the southwest Iranian city of Ahvaz, including children and civilians.

Guiliani’s regime change commentary also follows claims by White House and State Department officials that US is not seeking a change of government in Tehran. 

The group is made up of Iranian expat and political opposition communities in the US and is tied to the controversial Iranian opposition group in exile, Mujahideen e Khalq (MEK), which is considered by Iran and many other countries as a terrorist organization.

It is essentially a paramilitary cult and is suspected of conducting assassinations of high level Iranian figures, especially nuclear scientists and engineers for years, likely at the bidding of foreign intelligence services, as was up until a few years ago a designated terror group by the US State Department, though delisted under the Obama administration. 

Iran has recently accused the US, Israel, and regional allies like Saudi Arabia of stirring unrest inside Iran. Indeed Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei specifically blamed  “US plotting” as being behind the attack on the Ahvaz military parade on Saturday: “Their crime is the continuation of plots [hatched] by the US-led governments in the region who aim to create insecurity in our dear country,” he said according to state media

The MEK’s leader, Maryam Rajavi, also addressed the conference via Skype alongside Giuliani. Both praised President Trump’s dismantling of the Iran nuclear deal brokered under Obama, and his aggressive sanctions regimen currently sending the Iran’s currency and economy into a tailspin. Rajavi claimed during her speech that the MEK has organized special “Units of Rebellion” to cause riots and mayhem inside Iran.

MEK events have been known to include high profile American speakers who are reportedly paid hefty speaking fees. The late Senator John McCain was a fixture at their annual rallies in Paris, and former Obama NSC director Gen. James Jones also addressed Saturday’s event in New York City, and praised Trump policy on Iran. 

Perhaps one of the more bizarre moments of the so-called “Iran Uprising Summit” was the tribute video to John McCain. Immediately after the video the audience began chanting his name out of appreciation of his consistently pro-regime change and hawkish policies

In response to Giuliani’s statements expressing approval for future Tehran regime overthrow, the State Department attempted to distance itself, saying in a statement that Trump’s personal lawyer doesn’t speak for the administration. 

However, the White House has vowed to maintain economic pressure on the Islamic Republic with more sanctions to snap into place on November 4. The sanctions will especially target Iran’s energy sector, possibly dealing a final death blow to the already crippled economy.  

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US Nuclear Safety: A Critical Problem That Has Largely Been Kept Out Of The Public Eye

Authored by Peter Korzun via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

The issue of nuclear safety has been a hot topic in the second half of 2018. It has just been discussed in detail at the 62nd International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference in Geneva, which was held Sept. 17-21. The international conference on “The Security of Radioactive Material: The Way Forward for Prevention and Detection,” which is scheduled for Vienna, Dec. 3-7, is going to be a landmark international event that will be a focus for the media spotlight.

It is true that poor storage conditions and low nuclear-safety standards threaten the environment and increase the possibility of nuclear materials getting into the wrong hands.

Russia can be proud of its achievements in this area. The days of the 1990s when it needed outside help to tackle this problem are long gone. In 2013, Moscow ended the joint Russian-US Cooperative Threat Reduction program (the Nunn-Lugar program) because it is now able to manage these issues on its own. The cooperation over the secure storage of weapons-grade materials was suspended in 2014. The IAEA reports that today Russia boasts high nuclear-safety standards. Sophisticated protection equipment has been installed and all nuclear sites are jointly safeguarded by the military, ROSATOM’s security agency, and on-site security teams. The materials are properly safeguarded during transportation. A special program to upgrade the transportation infrastructure has been in place since 2010.

The report “The Use of Highly Enriched Uranium as Fuel in Russia,” issued by the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), a group based at Princeton University, admits that the country has made great progress to ensure the safety of uranium stockpiles and transportation. It also includes criticism, the absence of which would be odd in any report prepared by a US think tank. It states that “highly enriched uranium (HEU) poses special concerns, as it can be used relatively easily in simple nuclear explosive devices by states with limited nuclear weapon expertise or even by non-state actors … [Russia] has not made highly enriched uranium minimization a priority.” The paper concludes that it is essential to secure Russia’s commitment to the development of a comprehensive, global, highly enriched uranium minimization strategy. Greenpeace has also acknowledged progress, but criticized Russia for what it sees as shortcomings. But one thing is certain – this is not a country where nuclear materials where nuclear materials go missing while being transported to or from storage sites. They are well guarded and all accounted for.

Russia is not the only power whose contribution to a global nuclear-safety strategy is crucial. The situation in the United States offers good cause for concern. Repeated safety lapses have hobbled the Los Alamos National Laboratory. It was sheer good luck that prevented real trouble from happening to the surrounding area. According to Science, “most remarkably, Los Alamos’s managers still have not figured out a way to fully meet the most elemental nuclear safety standards.” “There’s a systemic issue here,” said Michaele Brady Raap, a former president of the American Nuclear Society and a member of the Energy Department’s elite Criticality Safety Support Group, a team of 12 government experts that analyzes and recommends ways to improve struggling federal nuclear-safety programs. “There are a lot of things there [at Los Alamos] that are examples of what not to do.”

According to the Center for Public Safety, two security experts from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory drove to San Antonio, Texas, in March 2017 with a sensitive mission: to retrieve dangerous nuclear materials from a nonprofit research lab there and transport them safely back to their state without allowing the materials to fall into the wrong hands. The materials — plutonium and cesium — as well as equipment were stolen on that trip and have never been found. They were simply left unattended in a car! The incident was concealed from the public, but the information was obtained by the Center for Public Safety under the Freedom of Information Act. That source reports that this was just a part of a much larger quantity of plutonium that over the years has gone quietly missing from stockpiles owned by the US military.

Madeleine Jennewein of Harvard University writes in her blog, which is published by Science in the News (SITN), that “Across the United States, nuclear waste is accumulating in poorly maintained piles. 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste requiring disposal are currently in temporary storage. The United States, however, has yet to construct a long-term storage solution for this waste, leaving the nuclear material vulnerable to extreme weather events such as hurricanesrising sea levels, and wildfire.”

In 2016, seven electrical engineers who worked for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission took the unusual step of petitioning the NRC as private citizens in hopes of forcing regulators to fix a “significant safety concern” that affects all but one of the nation’s 100 nuclear plants. Nuclear waste is also a big problem in the US. Safety concerns plague key sites that have been proposed for nuclear bomb production.

Nuclear safety in the US is a urgent issue that deserves far greater public attention. According to reports, much information is deliberately kept out of the public eye. To be honest, today it is Russia who appears to be in a position to assist the US in its efforts to tackle the issue of nuclear safety, instead of the other way around. Busy waging trade wars with other countries and getting involved in distant conflicts, such as in Syria, that have nothing whatsoever to do with the United States, Washington is largely ignoring a real problem that is threatening the country’s national security each and every day. 

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“Lifelong Friend” Of Kavanaugh Accuser Denies Attending Party Where Alleged Sexual Assault Occurred

A woman believed to have been one of five people at a party some 35 years ago where Christine Blasey Ford claims she was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh has become the fourth person to deny any recollection of the event.  

In a Saturday night email to the Senate Judiciary Committee also received by several news outlets, Leland Ingham Keyser – a “longtime friend” of Blasey Ford’s said through her attorney: 

“Simply put, Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford,” said Keyser’s attorney Howard Walsh, who has been “engaged in the limited capacity” of corresponding with the committee on behalf of Keyser, according to Politico.

Kavanaugh and Mark Judge – the other teenager allegedly in the room during the alleged sexual assault – have both stated that they have no recollection of the incident, while a third man who Ford claims was at the party – Patrick J. Smyth, also denied any recollection of the event, telling the Judiciary Committee last week in a statement: “I understand that I have been identified by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the person she remembers as ‘PJ’ who supposedly was present at the party she described in her statements to the Washington Post,” Smyth wrote in his statement. “I am issuing this statement today to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh.”

Smyth added: “Personally speaking, I have known Brett Kavanaugh since high school and I know him to be a person of great integrity, a great friend, and I have never witnessed any improper conduct by Brett Kavanaugh towards women. To safeguard my own privacy and anonymity, I respectfully request that the Committee accept this statement in response to any inquiry the Committee may have.”

On Saturday night, a tentative deal was reached for Ford to testify publicly on Thursday, according to the New York Times

After a brief call late on Saturday, the woman’s lawyers and aides to Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, planned to talk again Sunday morning to continue the halting negotiations over the conditions of the testimony, according to three people familiar with the call. Aides to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top Democrat, were also involved. –NY Times

The Times notes, however, that Leland Keyser’s statement “seemed to eliminate any chance of corroboration of Dr. Blasey’s account by anyone who attended the high school party where she says she was assaulted.” 

If no deal is reached for Blasey Ford’s testimony next week, Sen. Grassley will be left to decide on Sunday whether or not to move ahead with a scheduled vote to confirm Kavanaugh on Monday. 

Grassley has engaged in a back-and-forth with Ford’s legal team, allowing them to miss several deadlines to continue negotiations. While Grassley may be trying to avoid the appearance of the Judiciary Committee panel of 11 men bullying an female victim alleging sexual assault, many conservatives have expressed frustration at the Chairman’s acquiescence to virtually every demand Ford has made. 

Also potentially damaging to Blasey Ford’s claim is a theory presented Thursday by Ed Whelan,  a former clerk to USSC Justice Antonin Scalia and currently president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC), a conservative think tank. Using entirely circumstantial evidence which could certainly ruin the life of the man at the center of the new theory, Whelan suggested that Kavanaugh’s high school doppelgänger, Chris Garrett, may have in fact been responsible for Blasey Ford’s recollection of the alleged incident

Brett Kavanaugh (left)

Whelan apologized for publicly naming Kavanaugh’s look-alike hours later, perhaps to provide legal cover, however he did not retract his theory that Ford may be “misremembering” the incident. 

Professional help

Also casting doubt on the timing and purpose of Ford’s 11th hour claim against Kavanaugh is the Friday revalation that Ford’s current political adviser – former Obama and Clinton White House official Ricky Seidman, had allegedly been working on Ford’s situation since July – outlining a plan on a newly released audio tape to use the allegation as political fodder to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and if unsuccessful, at least politically harm Republicans during midterms

“While I think at the outset, looking at the numbers in the Senate, it’s not extremely likely that the nominee can be defeated,” says Seidman. “I would absolutely withhold judgement as the process goes on. I think that I would not reach any conclusion about the outcome in advance.”

What’s more, the recording makes clear that even if Kavanaugh is confirmed, Democrats can use the doubt cast over him during midterms.

“Over the coming days and weeks, there will be a strategy that will emerge, and I think it’s possible that that strategy might ultimately defeat the nominee… whether or not it ultimately defeats the nominee, it will help people understand why it’s so important that they vote and the deeper principles that are involved in it.

Meanwhile, over 200 women have defended Kavanaugh’s moral character, including two ex-girlfriends who vouched for the Judge. 

He was always a perfect gentleman, and I vouch for him completely,” Maura Fitzgerald said. “Brett Kavanaugh and I have been good friends since high school. I dated him in college and he was and is nothing like the person who has been described” by Christine Blasey Ford.

He always conducted himself honorably with me at all times when we were together,” Fitzgerald explained.

Another woman who dated Kavanaugh in high school, Maura Kane, agreed with Fitzgerald.

“I’ve been friends with Brett Kavanaugh for over 35 years, and dated him during high school,” Kane explained. “In every situation where we were together he always respectful, kind and thoughtful. The accusations leveled against him in no way represent the decent young man I knew.”

Kane concluded, “We remain good friends and I admire him as a husband, father and professional.” –PJ Media

Meanwhile, Ford has been backed largely by people with no knowledge of the situation, such as celebrities and non-public figures who simply believe her story

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