Economy & Investments

Mike Galiga: Big Trouble in Little Catalonia

This year is turning out to be a show-stopper in many respects: sports or economics or politics or weather, and in some cases, all four. Right now in California, we have the deadliest and probably the most costly wildfire in history still raging. And all that devastation was preceded by three major hurricanes in quick succession making landfall in the continental US at a cost of untold billions.

Those events have had a demonstrable effect on the U.S. economy with many experts blaming the loss of 20,000 jobs in the third quarter on the destruction left particularly in the path of Harvey and Maria. However, the billions of dollars in aid and in insurance claims around the country this year will likely spawn a resultant rebuilding effort that will have the opposite effect.

Meanwhile, the prospect of a tax reform package in Congress added to executive orders from President Trump on health care regulations have the stock market continuing its upward climb with no end in sight. The Dow most recently just broke through 23,000 on Tuesday, and it’s march toward what I’ve predicted to be a spike at least to 30,000 appears to be well within grasp.

All such stories are dominating the news. They’re loud news, meaning they drown out other stories for many with only limited time to listen, watch or read. One such headline holding my attention but being drowned out is from “across the pond.” I believe it is the most significant news we’ve had in months despite all the politically-driven charges & upheaval in Washington.

Catalonia is a small, quasi-independent province in Spain which has maintained a separate cultural heritage within the Iberian Peninsula for more than half a millennium When the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile united two competing kingdoms, Spain became unified. And over time, the Catalans gradually began to lose their culture and independence.

However, in recent decades, a resurgence of Catalan culture, pride and indignation at Spain’s lackluster political leadership and flagging economy have produced a perfect storm in which the province has spoken more boldly about the possibility of complete independence.

That soft rebellion reached a fevered pitch in the last few weeks when a referendum was conducted — against the will of the Spanish government in Madrid, which declared it illegal — wherein 90% of Catalan voters opted for independence. Since the vote and despite a crackdown by European Union police, the fervor for a formal declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament has increased. And talk of such a declaration has been met with dire threats from Madrid.

Why should we care much about what’s happening in Spain… or even this little part of Spain that you may have never heard of until just now? Because it’s a little “insider” peek at a much larger picture… a horror show if you will with an early act teasing at the carnage to come… while most of the world is distracted by louder news about sports, economics, politics & weather.

If you awoke tomorrow to headlines proclaiming: “The United States of America is teetering on collapse” how shocked would you be? You’d certainly feel blindsided. Where did this come from? How did this happen? Why didn’t I have some sense of this already? Imagine the mass panic. Imagine the massive fear. It’s almost an unthinkable concept. So brace yourself for my next sentence…

The European Union is ALREADY in a collapse scenario.

A major member is formally bailing out. Little pieces are wanting to declare independence and go their own way. Those on the dole will take all that they can get for as long as it is given. Those play country-sized loan officers do not have an endless well of reserves to loan. We can argue about freedom and justifiable levels of taxation and wasteful spending by the government, but at the end of the day one thing is clear: central governments must tax in order to pay both for what they are doing and for what they have committed to do in the future.

We need only look to Greece for a perfect example of what happens when a central government promises to pay for something and then runs out of money and can no longer afford it. Greek workers have for decades enjoyed early retirement buoyed by a fantastic pension system which guarantees those workers get to play golf and hang out for the latter third of their lives. All of this was paid for by taxes from the younger generations. The problem is that those older, retired workers didn’t have enough kids of their own. So naturally there aren’t enough taxpayers to fund the steep cost of pensions, not to mention the cost of government largesse.

So it quickly became inevitable a few years ago that the Greek central government began running out of tax revenue. That’s when they found themselves between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, if you don’t continue paying pensions, you get riots and eventually revolution- which is what we saw on the television screens at the time. And on the other hand, if you don’t have enough revenue to pay for those pensions, you have no choice but to borrow. And that’s what they did.

Let’s jump out of the weeds now and combine the two concepts: demographics and economics. Just like that Greek scenario, what we have on our hands is a situation across Europe in which the populations expecting to receive promised benefits from their central government is the largest it has ever been in history. All the while, the ratio of people receiving benefits to those paying taxes to pay for those benefits is the smallest it has ever been. The former feels like they paid in to the system and are now ready to collect. The latter group is so small it doesn’t want- and maybe can’t- cover that big burden. When you are taxing 100 to give a pension to 20, it can be workable. When you are taxing 20 to give a pension to 100, it’s a dire situation, not easily resolved by typical means (higher taxes to the 20? cut pensions to the 100? Both?) It is a recipe for global financial disaster.

Now, leaders within the central governments aren’t entirely stupid. Math is math, and they know this is the situation. But political science and political will power don’t often meet. Congress knows we can’t afford the American retirement lifestyle any more than the Greeks, but leaders in Congress don’t have the will power to tell their constituents that we can’t afford to continue paying them benefits. After all, what elected leader wants to be voted out of office? [insert uncomfortable silence].

The Brexit (British Exit from the European Union) last year pulled the cornerstone out from under the already-flimsy foundation upon which the EU has rested for nearly 25 years. The three major economies shoring up that union were Germany, Great Britain and France (in that order). Now that three-legged stool is resting quite unsustainably on two legs.

The European Central Bank (the equivalent of the Federal Reserve in the U.S.) is doing its best to hide the numbers and kick the can down the road by lending ever more billions of dollars to the smaller ‘taker’ nations like Greece, Italy and Spain who cannot afford to keep running on their own. With the British now out of the equation, Germany and France are forced to shoulder the weight of all this debt on their own.

Imagine two strong men in a pool who can easily tread water on their own. Now imagine a half dozen weak men also in the pool who do not know how to swim. Naturally they’re going to grab onto the strong men in hopes of being saved from drowning. But eventually the strong will become exhausted from keeping themselves and the others afloat. And, yes, the result will be that they all drown. There are no life rafts to be thrown to them because everyone else in the global pool is either drowning or nearing exhaustion too.

The situation with Germany and France is deteriorating rapidly because they, too, are dealing with the exact same internal demographic vortex as in the U.S. So they’re coping with both internal and external pressure. It is completely unsustainable.

As a side note, why do you think Germany and France have been allowing all the Muslim immigrants and refugees to flood across their borders? Because they know what they’re not publicly admitting: they need more bodies (i.e workers and consumers) or they will die by demographic implosion. And that’s a sword that cuts both ways.

The result is that the EU is disintegrating before our very eyes and this is already creating- and will continue to create- global ripple effects. In the Asian Pacific, the second largest economy is Japan. If you thought the demographic situation in the U.S. and Europe was bad, think again. Japan’s fertility in 2014 was estimated at 1.4… and getting worse. The vast bulk of Japan’s exports are to Europe. But, as any businessman knows, when your largest buyer starts to fall on tough times, so goes the seller. So as the EU continues to falter, Japan will see a decline in exports because there are simply fewer consumers buying their stuff.

I predict that Japan will default on its debt as Europe falls further from its role as chief import partner. The Japanese have one quadrillion Yen in debt. Yes, a quadrillion Yen is a lot of money: in numbers, that 1,000,000,000,000,000 Yen. And here’s the ironic kicker: the Japanese culture is one that has always encouraged saving. They are the best savers in the world. The problem is that frugality kills an economy that is starving for consumer spending, which is why they have experienced consistent deflation for the last 15 years straight. So without spending domestically or internationally from Europe, Japan is a dead man walking. They will default on their insurmountable debt, which is 2.5 times the entire economy.

In China, which has a GDP of three times that of Japan’s, a similar phenomenon is happening. Through an equally dismal fertility rate, they lack a sufficient number of consumers to keep the domestic economy afloat, despite all efforts of a collective, Communist economy.

The only thing keeping China alive right now is exports to the U.S. And even with that reality in play, the China stock market took a 40% dive last year alone. That’s a correction which reveals what savvy investors already know: China’s economy is overvalued largely due to currency manipulation, which is their version of kicking the can down the road. Make things cheaper by printing more money so the world will continue buying Chinese wares. That is until the developed world can no longer continue buying anything.

Now, here’s where we find ourselves at a major crossroads. What do these foreign investors all over the world do when they see an entire economy become fundamentally flawed with a virus that infects every market? They yank their money and flee. To where? It must go to a safe haven? Where’s that? In spite of our own troubles, WE are generally viewed as the safest haven- the U.S.A. And THAT, my friends, is much of why the American markets are doing so well right now.

We’re not recovering from the 2008 Great Recession. We’re simply benefitting from the diseases & financial rot that is plaguing Europe and Asia. International investors are putting their money in the only safe haven left. And no doubt- they’re getting a great return on parking their money here. The U.S. markets have seen some greatest spikes and records in recent decades. Buoyed by the election of a very business- minded, pro-export, pro-protection president, investors believe the good times are back.

But what they either don’t know or are willfully ignoring is that the same demographic and national debt cancer is still eating away at the foundation. And there is absolutely no solution in sight.

So what we’re seeing right in front of our eyes is the building up of multiple bubbles that will dwarf the 2008 housing bubble in comparison. And when those bubbles pop, as they always do, there will be no international safety net to catch everyone because everyone will already be riding on hopes that the U.S. is that ultimate safety net… the safe haven of safe havens… the money market of last resort.

Meanwhile here, we’ll ride volatility caused by good news and bad news, good results & bad results, scandals and some stability, expansion & contraction, spin & spin & spin and some truth, and so on. I see big steps up and big slides down. We’ll flee our markets when it looks like it’s finally rolling over (which is likely to seem that way many times between here and DOW30K). And the fleeing (from seemingly worse situations) Euros and Yen will pour right in, buying up U.S. stocks, real estate, bonds, pretty much anything in which to park wealth in the ultimate safe haven. Volatility. Volatility. Volatility.

What I do NOT foresee: A smooth ride. I will- and do- bet big that the march from DOW23K to DOW30K will not be linear. This is not going to be sailing on a perfectly smooth lake. I foresee BIG swings- some measured in thousand point moves that won’t all be able to be spun as a freak “fat fingers” mistake. I would not be surprised to see us revisit a DOW in the teens again (about 3,000 points below the all-time record his this week). And I won’t be surprised to see DOW bull days just as spectacular. If you recall some of the hottest market days in 2008, you saw 700+ point swings up & down & up & down when the DOW was well south of where it is now. Obviously, a record high DOW repeating such events will simply amplify such swings.

Are you prepared to take good advantage of it? The bigger bull days and the bigger bear days? BOTH scenarios? Maybe you think you know a little but are not confident you know enough to actually put such knowledge to good- and profitable- use? If any of that resonates for you, reach out to me. Email me at Mike@MikeGaliga.com. My team & I are hard at work putting the finishing touches on a new operation to help individual investors just like you take full advantage of the wild volatility rapidly approaching all of us. Email me letting me know you want to learn and you’ll be the first I alert when our work is ready to be utilized. We’re here to help. Email me to let me know you want some of that help. There’s lots of money to be made in volatile markets. Let’s make it together.

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Issues

Hawaii Judge Blocks Trump Travel Ban For Third Time

The leftist federal judge in Hawaii who blocked President Trump’s travel bans twice previously has now pulled a judicial hat trick with yet a third block.

Judge Derrick K. Watson issued an injunction this week on Trump’s latest iteration of the travel ban, which was revised to list countries that cannot or will not cooperate with US efforts to vet incoming refugees.

This despite that the ban was modified to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling which effectively tossed out the previous lower court objections.

So this latest block is nothing more than a game of leftist judicial ‘gotcha’ in which the matter will once again need to be appealed to the Supreme Court, wasting everyone’s time.

Meanwhile, refugees from terror-sponsoring nation’s can continue to emigrate unvetted.

Brillant move, liberals.

Here’s more from Redstate…

A federal judge on Tuesday largely blocked the Trump administration from implementing the latest version of the president’s controversial travel ban, setting up yet another legal showdown on the extent of the executive branch’s powers when it comes to setting immigration policy.

The decision from Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii is sure to be appealed, but for now, it means that the administration cannot restrict the entry of travelers from six of the eight countries that officials said were either unable or unwilling to provide information that the United States wanted to vet their citizens.

The latest ban was set to fully go into effect in the early morning hours of Wednesday, barring various types of travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. Watson’s order stops it, at least temporarily, with respect to all the countries except North Korea and Venezuela.

In a 40-page decision granting the state of Hawaii’s request for a temporary restraining order, Watson wrote that the latest ban “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States.’”

He also wrote that the executive order “plainly discriminates based on nationality” in a way that was opposed to federal law and “the founding principles of this Nation.”

This essentially resets the board to where it was before the Supreme Court declared the case against the last travel ban (I’m using “travel ban” as shorthand as actually it banned travel from one state sponsor of terrorism and six failed states) moot and dismissed the injunctions that had been granted.

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Issues, Politics

Left’s Latest Global Warming Scare: Oyster Flatulence

We’ve had a few interesting envirochondria stories this week, but this headline takes the cake.

And in case you’re wondering, no, this isn’t from The Onion.

Reportedly a new ‘science’ study has emerged from the Ivory Tower halls of wisdom which blames a not insignificant degree of global warming on oyster flatulence.

Yes, that’s right.

Oyster farts are on the increase via oyster farming and causing global havoc.

Now, the astute among you will likely conclude something similar to what we’ve all already concluded regarding CO2 and vegetation: more CO2 is better for plants.

Conversely, more people (especially those who eat oysters) equals fewer oysters.

Ergo, there were lots and lots more oysters way back when global warming apparently wasn’t on the verge of ending life as we know it.

Is it just us or is there some incongruous logic here?

Here’s more from Redstate…

When it comes to oysters, most people never get beyond the question, “Do oysters do anything other than sit on a plate looking like phlegm?” But RedState readers being (mostly) of above average intelligence, I’m sure some of you have spent some sleepless nights pondering the question, “Do oysters fart?” 

Apparently they do. We know this because of Science! for which we thank Neil Degrasse Tyson. Peace be upon him.

And since science tells us oyster farts are a real thing, we know they cause climate change, just like virtually everything else in the known world. Remember if you want to appear “woke” it’s best to assume that everything causes climate change and climate change causes everything. Everything bad anyway.

Plans to expand aquatic farming could have a serious knock-on effect on climate change, climate experts have warned after new research revealed that underwater shellfish farts produce 10% of the global-warming gases released by the Baltic Sea.

A study published in the Scientific Reports journal shows that clams, mussels and oysters produce one-tenth of methane and nitrous oxide gases in the Baltic Sea as a result of digestion. Therefore, researchers have warned that shellfish “may play an important but overlooked role in regulating greenhouse gas production”.

Methane and nitrous oxide gases have a far greater warming potential than carbon dioxide so bodies of water without or with fewer shellfish record lower methane release rates.

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Politics

EPA Ends Welfare Payments to Environmental Wacko Groups

Under the Obama administration, wacko environmental groups were part of an underhanded scheme in which they were paid millions of taxpayer dollars and granted untold scores of regulatory concessions by a favorable EPA.

The system worked beautifully.

The Sierra Club, for instance, would sue the EPA for any number of reasons.

The EPA, citing a need to save taxpayers’ money and legal entanglement, would agree to settle the matter out of court.

Then behind closed doors, the agency would grant settlement terms that would give away the farm to the Sierra Club both in terms of cash and regulations.

And none of it was done with public scrutiny. But all that has come to an end this week.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is hacking his way through the regulatory jungle getting rid of all the bureaucratic overgrowth and corruption.

Pruitt issued an agency-wide decree this week formally ending the so-called “sue and settle” racket.

Well done, Mr. Pruitt.

Here’s more from Redstate…

One of the most egregious things about the EPA has always been the way it operated for the benefit of the large “environmental” groups and against the interests of states, communities, and individuals. Perhaps the worst part of this criminal collusion was the way the EPA used lawsuits against the EPA, coordinated with environmental groups, to short-circuit the rule-making process, deprive the public of their right to petition the government and keep the coffers of environmental groups topped off with EPA cash.

This is how it worked:

“Sue and Settle “ practices, sometimes referred to as “friendly lawsuits”, are cozy deals through which far-left radical environmental groups file lawsuits against federal agencies wherein court-ordered “consent decrees” are issued based upon a prearranged settlement agreement they collaboratively craft together in advance behind closed doors. Then, rather than allowing the entire process to play out, the agency being sued settles the lawsuit by agreeing to move forward with the requested action they and the litigants both want.

In other words, the agency throws the case, somewhat like Bre’r Rabbit agreeing to be thrown into a favorite brier-patch. A big difference however, is that in this case, Farmer McGregor and Mr. Rabbit were partners in the scam from the beginning. It’s the unwary American public that actually does get caught in the thorns.

While the environmental group is given a seat at the table, outsiders who are most impacted are excluded, with no opportunity to object to the settlements. Accordingly, both the litigants and the defendant agency, operating in coffee bars and friendly courtroom shadows, avoid the harsh outside glare of oversight. No public notice about the settlement is released until the agreement is filed in court…after the damage has been done.

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Politics

Poll Shock: Nearly a Quarter of Americans Want A Dictator

Pew Research recently conducted an international poll in 20 countries asking whether respondents believe it to be desirable to have “a system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts.”

Much of the results were unsurprising, but what came back from the good ol’ US of A should shock us all.

Fully 22% of Americans agreed with the statement. It doesn’t take much grey matter to conclude that the bulk of those respondents are leftist, young folks.

What’s more, at the very least, it’s a reflection of how poorly we’re educating our students with respect to the foundational history and principles of the American republican frame of government.

It’s also worth mentioning that only 17% of respondents in Venezuela, where an actual dictator is running the show, indicated support for the idea.

Here’s more from Redstate…

A surprising poll from the Pew Research Center found that a surprising number of Americans believe that a dictatorship would be good for our country.

According to Pew, 22 percent of respondents in the U.S. said that “a system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts” would be a good thing. While 76 percent said that this would be awful for America, 22 percent is far too high a number.

For comparison, in Venezuela, where a dictator actually is making the decisions by eliminating troublesome elements within the government, only 17 percent believe an autocracy works well.

Thankfully, we still live in a world that rejects strongman dictators for the most part. Many of the nations have experienced what that’s like, and have had their fill.

While Pew didn’t get into details as to who was giving the “yes” answers, an educated guess says that much of the strongman support comes from a younger crowd.

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Issues

EcoNuts Sue Trump Administration…Over Walruses

Worshipers of Mother Gaia around the country are up in arms this week over a most egregious affront to the stability of the planet by the Trump administration.

As a part of the process by which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially lists species as endangered or not, its scientific review found that American walruses are not in imminent danger.

Citing the fact that their population appears to be doing just fine despite the apparent ‘loss of lots of ice’, walruses got bumped.

That decision earned the ire of the loons at the Center for Biological Diversity who called it a ‘truly dark day for America’s imperiled wildlife.”

It’s such an unforgivable decision that CBD has mounted a legal challenge citing the fact that walruses and 24 other species — including the eastern boreal toad — are facing imminent extinction.

Someone hand us a tissue. Ahem, ok back to business.

Here’s more from PJ Media…

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regularly considers adding animals that are considered to be especially vulnerable to extinction to the endangered species list, and many ecologists are upset that 25 American creatures, particularly the Pacific walrus, didn’t make the cut this year.

According to the USFWS, giving these animals the additional protections of being an endangered species “is not warranted at this time.” The USFWS explained its decision regarding the stability of the walrus population in a press release:

While walruses use sea ice for a variety of activities, including breeding, birthing, resting, and avoiding predators, they have shown an ability to adapt to sea ice loss that was not foreseen when the Service last assessed the species in 2011. Our decision not to list the Pacific walrus under the Endangered Species Act at this time is based on a rigorous evaluation of the best available science, which indicates the population appears stable, and the species has demonstrated an ability to adapt to changing conditions. If future circumstances warrant or new information comes to light, we can and will re-evaluate the Pacific walrus for ESA protection.

There are actually two subspecies of walrus. The Atlantic walrus is found throughout the shorelines of Greenland and northeastern Canada, and the Pacific walrus resides in the icy waters along Alaska and Russia. Walruses can weigh up to 1.5 tons, are protected from the frigid cold of the Arctic region with a thick layer of blubber, and survive on a diverse carnivorous diet of clams, shrimp, crabs, sea cucumbers, and other marine invertebrates. A walrus uses its famous ivory tusks as ice hooks to pull itself out of the water, and as defensive tools against the mammoth marine mammal’s only two natural predators: polar bears and killer whales.

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Courts, Politics

Trump: I’ll Appoint 4 Supreme Court Justices in First Term

Axios is reporting a fairly interesting interview with President Trump in which he’s boldly predicting a full four appointments to the Supreme Court…in his first term alone.

Having already appointed Justice Gorsuch to the Court with no small degree of political maneuvering in the Senate, the question concerns the additional three.

The most obvious is Justice Kennedy whose retirement was rumored almost immediately after Trump’s inauguration.

The second is nearly as obvious with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — easily the most liberal on the bench — who has been battling major health issues for at least a decade and, thus, probably would have retired had Hillary won the election.

But the third is a bit of a surprise. One might guess Justice Stephen Breyer who, at 79, is the third oldest member on the Court. And that guess would be wrong.

According to Trump, Sotomayor, though only 63, has been battling diabetes since childhood. Trump apparently believes that will be her undoing.

If he’s right, and if he wins reelection in 2020, he may have an opportunity to appoint a majority of the Court before he’s done.

The last time that happened was under President Eisenhower, more than half a century ago.

Here’s more from Newsmax…

President Donald Trump predicted he would appoint a total of four Supreme Court justices by the end of his first term, Axios reported Sunday.

Sources who had spoken to the president about the possibility told the online news media company it was “all about the numbers for him.”

One source said Trump mentioned he had already replaced the seat left vacant when Antonin Scalia died early last year, nominating Neil Gorsuch to the position. When asked who the second justice he thought would leave, Trump mentioned rumors Justice Anthony Kennedy would retire.

The third justice the president thought would leave was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to the source.

“Ginsburg,” Trump reportedly said. “What does she weigh? Sixty pounds?” And the fourth justice Trump predicted would leave the Supreme Court was Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

“Sotomayor,” Trump told the source, referring to the justice appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2009.

“Her health,” Trump explained. “No good. Diabetes.”

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Issues, States

Tree-hugging is Making Outbreak of Wildfires Much Worse

It’s an argument that has been made numerous times over the years, and, given the historic conflagration in northern California this fall, it needs to be repeated.

It’s no coincidence that wildfires tend most often to break out and live much longer on the Left Coast.

Rabid environmentalist policies aimed at ‘saving the trees’ [insert complementary econut drivel] over the last half century have resulted in a build-up of underbrush and over-growth of trees which have turned forests into tinderboxes just waiting for a spark.

As the Reason Foundation points out, the US Forest Service has been hamstrung with lack of funding and regulations preventing it from managing forests to control both the start and perpetuation of wildfires.

It’s a grand liberal irony that the policies aimed at protecting forests are precisely what has contributed directly to their destruction.

Here’s more from Daily Signal…

As a Reason Foundation study noted, the U.S. Forest Service, which is tasked with managing public wildland, once had success in minimizing widespread fires in the early 20th century.

But many of these successful methods were abandoned in large part because of efforts by environmental activists.

The Forest Service became more costly and less effective as it increasingly “rewarded forest managers for losing money on environmentally questionable practices,” wrote Randal O’Toole, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute.

Spending on the Forest Service has risen drastically, but these additional resources have been misused and haven’t solved the underlying issues.

“Fire expenditures have grown from less than 15 percent of the Forest Service budget in [the] early 1990s to about 50 percent today. Forest Service fire expenditures have increased from less than $1 billion in the late 1990s to $3.5 billion in 2016,” O’Toole wrote.

Perhaps now, Americans will begin to re-evaluate forest management policies.

In a May congressional hearing, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said, “Forty-five years ago, we began imposing laws that have made the management of our forests all but impossible.”

Read more…

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States

CA Fires Up to 100 Miles Wide, Death Toll Hits 40

California is still facing down the worst outbreak of wildfires in perhaps a century.

The dozens of fires that sparked for various reasons in the northern part of the state have already destroyed tens of thousands of homes, decimated hundreds of thousands of acres, and have killed at least 40 people with hundreds more missing.

Many of the larger fires have combined into a single line of as much as 100 miles wide, keeping regional firefighters beyond their limits of exhaustion.

What’s worse is recent weather patterns have brought drier air and wind, fanning the flames further.

It’s a perfect storm for what could become the state’s most devastating natural disaster ever.

All politics aside, this is on par with the three hurricanes from which the US is still recovering.

We can only hope things turn around quickly before more lives are lost.

In the end, 2017 is already going down as the most devastating on record…and it’s not over yet.

Here’s more from Washington Examiner…

While wildfires are still burning powerfully in parts of Northern California, some of the tens of thousands of evacuees are getting antsy to return to homes that aren’t under immediate threat. Others want to see if they still have homes to return to.

But authorities are staying cautious in the face of blazes that have now killed at least 40 people and destroyed at least 5,700 homes.

“We’re on pins and needles,” Travis Oglesby, who evacuated from his home in Santa Rosa, said to Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano on Saturday. “We’re hearing about looting.”

Although some evacuees were returning home in Mendocino County, the latest estimates were that about 100,000 people were under evacuation orders as the fires burned for a sixth day.

Plans were in the works to reopen communities, but they were not ready to be put into effect, said Dave Teter, a deputy director with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Read more…

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International

Report: N. Korea Readies Launch Ahead of US Navy Drill

South Korean government sources are reporting that North Korea is prepping a fresh round of missile tests ahead of a very public joint American-South Korean naval exercise in the West Pacific this week.

Sources are arguing that the launch may include a Hwasong-14 inter-continental ballistic missile which could have a long enough range to reach Alaska, perhaps even farther.

Previous tests without a nuclear payload reached a theoretical range that could hit as far as Chicago.

It’s just one more case for why the ongoing diplomatic feud with Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship may soon transcend any diplomatic remedy and force the Pentagon into a DEFCON 1 situation.

We’ll keep an eye on it.

Here’s more from France24…

North Korea is believed to be preparing to launch a ballistic missile ahead of an upcoming joint naval drill by the US and South Korea, a news report said Saturday, citing a government source.

The US navy said Friday that a US aircraft carrier will lead the drill in the coming week, a fresh show of force against North Korea as tensions soar over the hermit state’s weapons programme.

The move will likely rile Pyongyang which has previously responded angrily to joint exercises.

The Donga Ilbo daily, quoting a government source, said satellite pictures show ballistic missiles mounted on launchers being transported out of hangars near Pyongyang and in the North Phyongan Province.

US and South Korean military officials suspect the North might be preparing to launch missiles capable of reaching US territory, the newspaper said.

This could be the Hwasong-14 inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), whose range could extend to Alaska, or Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles which Pyongyang threatened to fire towards the US Pacific territory of Guam in August, the report said.

Another possibility is that the North might be preparing to test a new Hwasong-13 ICBM, it added, that has a longer maximum range than the other two missiles and could potentially reach the US West Coast.

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