(Editor’s Note: This essay is reprinted from the November 1997 issue of Forecasts & Strategies. It’s a bit dated, but the message is worth repeating.)
As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, I wonder how much we appreciate the blessings of the marketplace — how millions of people work together to make our lives more enjoyable. We often forget that the marketplace is based on cooperation, not just competition. The following is my tribute to the benefits of the marketplace.
I wake up to music from a radio clock, roll out of bed and take a shower. A simple procedure, but how much labor, know-how and machinery went into these little things we often take for granted? I eat a bowl of cereal while reading the local newspaper. Imagine all those reporters who stayed up all night getting the paper ready for me to read and the workers who printed the paper and delivered it to my door this morning — all for 25 cents. Well, I don’t even think about it. I kiss my wife and kids goodbye (think of all the things they do to make my life worthwhile) and get into my car.
How many work hours, capital and technology did it take so that I could jump into my car, turn on the ignition and drive away? Inside my car is every luxury — air conditioning, stereo and mobile phone. How much investment of people and money was involved in creating this automobile and its gadgets?
On my way to the airport, I stop at a convenience store to buy a few items. It’s incredible how many hundreds of goods they stock to suit my fancy. When I arrive at the airport, a skycap is here waiting to check my luggage, and I walk into the terminal. Upon entering the jet, a flight attendant greets me with a smile and asks if I would like a beverage. Pilots and mechanics are fast at work to make sure my flight is safe and arrives on time. The jet is fueled — imagine all the work and effort involved in that process alone — and off I go to my destination, San Francisco, thousands of miles away. High above the earth, at 35,000 feet, the airline attendant serves me a meal, including roast beef, potatoes, vegetables and fruit. I won’t even try to figure out how many people were involved in preparing this meal from scratch, from the farmer to the cook.
After several hours, I arrive, pick up my bags at baggage claim and quickly go to the car rental counter, where a smart young man helps me choose a new automobile, ready and waiting for me to drive. I fill out a form, give him my credit card, and off I go. Driving through the streets of San Francisco, I see all the stores filled with goods, and employees ready to help me buy.
I can’t help but think of all the public employees working to make my drive safe and enjoyable — the streetlights working, and the roads paved and properly repaired. Driving over the Bay Bridge, I marvel at this mechanical miracle that was built decades ago, men and women of yesteryear who sacrificed their time, money and muscle to make it all happen…for me…today.
In less than an hour, I arrive at my hotel, where a man offers to take my car to valet parking. I walk into the hotel lobby, where I register and go to my room. Inside, I relax on a clean bed, and see an array of services and products at my fingertips. The hotel telephone can do so many things. I can call room service, the concierge for dinner reservations, or listen to messages on voice mail. I call home and check on the family, who bring me up to date on all the goings-on in Orlando. My wife tells me that she had to take my daughter to the emergency room at the hospital — she took seven stitches from an accident at an ice-skating rink. I think of the doctor, the nurses, and all those tools and machines ready to help my daughter recover. Fortunately, she’s okay.
After hanging up, I pick up the TV remote control and push a button. One channel informs me of all the trading on Wall Street and the world for the day. A second channel runs a classic movie from the 1940s. A third is a sports channel. Can you imagine how many years of training it took for those athletes to compete?
Right before I go out for the evening, a fax message is delivered to my door. It’s from my publisher, who has prepared my latest marketing piece for my newsletter. People seem to be working overtime for me. I walk out of the hotel room, get into a taxi and go to a local Chinese restaurant. There they are, all these cooks and waiters, just waiting to serve me and my friends. Following dinner, we go to the theater and see a delightful musical play. The actors and the orchestra are magnificent. I think about all the years of training it took those actors and musicians to perform like that. What a wonderful evening.
On the way home, I see a military cemetery, filled with white crosses of soldiers who died so that I could live in a free country.
Coming back to my hotel room, I note that the maid has turned down my bed and left a chocolate on the nightstand. I walk into the bathroom and brush my teeth. I marvel at the little things the hotel management has arranged to make my visit a pleasurable stay. Just the plumbing itself is a modern miracle. Climbing into bed, I turn on the TV and see a comedian on a talk show. I wonder how long it took for her and her researchers to come up with those funny lines.
What an amazing day it has been. The marketplace is at my beck and call. All these things to enjoy. Of course, I had to pay for all those goods and services, and without money or credit, I could not have benefited from the commercial flight, car rental, hotel, taxi, telephone calls, dinner at the restaurant, theater, and a host of other things. But surely it was a small price to pay compared to the benefits received, most of which I could never have done myself. And for that I get on my knees and thank God for the world we live in.
The High Point of My Visit to North Carolina
Last week, my wife and I spent several days in North Carolina, where I gave lectures at Wake Forest University, High Point University and the AAII investment group in Raleigh.
The highlight was visiting the incredible campus of High Point University. Dr. Nido Qubein, a Lebanese immigrant and businessman/banker, returned to his alma mater to become president in 2005, and he has transformed a struggling little liberal arts college into a free-market powerhouse institution in North Carolina.
I gave two lectures there, one to the investment club and another to over 100 business/economics/finance students on gross output (GO) and “What drives the economy?”
Wow, what a beautiful campus! It is now home to over 100 buildings, and it is growing fast: Go here to find out why it is “the premier life skills university.” It just goes to show you how important a dynamic, growth-oriented college president can be.
Among others, Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) is the Innovator in Residence at High Point.
Qubein is very pro-capitalist and anti-woke. He said High Point University was the only college that stayed open during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina.
And the students are active and willing to learn. Students don’t normally buy books these days, but the investment students did — they bought a dozen of my “Maxims on Wall Street.”
Dozens of Subscribers are Buying ‘Maxims’ for the Holidays
I’m also delighted that many of you are ordering one or more copies of the “Maxims” as gifts for the holidays. You can give them to friends, clients and students. Over the past week, I received multiple orders.
The price of the 10th-anniversary edition is only $20 for the first copy and $10 for all additional copies. A whole box of 32 copies is priced at just $300. I autograph and number each one, and I even mail them at no extra charge if the address is inside the United States. To order, go to www.skousenbooks.com.
May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving this week. We have much to be thankful for in this land of the free.
Yours for peace, prosperity and liberty, AEIOU,
You Nailed It!
Election Integrity: The French Do It Right!
At next year’s FreedomFest (July 12-15, 2023, in Memphis, Tennessee) we are going to have a special session on the all-important question of election integrity.
It’s not often we turn to France to learn how to do things right, but when it comes to voting, the French are light years ahead of the United States.
Since the 2020 pandemic, most states have allowed and even encouraged voting by mail, which creates the possibility of voter fraud or rumors of voter irregularities.
The French are different, as Canadian Frenchman Jean-Benoit Nadeau and his wife Julie Barlow write in their book “Sixty Million French Can’t Be Wrong.” (I had them speak at FreedomFest several years ago, and they were a hit.)
I highly recommend their book, and you can buy it here.
The French vote on election day only — no early voting. And there is no absentee voting either. French men and women living or working abroad must go to the French embassy or consulate to vote on election day.
They don’t use electronic voting ballots, which may be compromised. They use paper ballots in paper envelopes.
And yet they are still able to count all the votes at the end of the day.
Check it out in this report.
Jean-Benoit Nadeau wrote me this week and added the following about the French voting system:
1) All citizens are automatically registered to vote. Voting is not mandatory, but it is facilitated by the fact that it always takes place on a Sunday, when most citizens have a day of rest.
2) There is also no gerrymandering. The electoral map corresponds exactly to the administrative map, and that’s it.
3) The rules are set by the Ministry of the Interior, and the vote is administered by towns, and it always takes place in primary schools (except abroad where it is administered by consulates).
Call it old school, but it works. Vive la France!
france pandemic covid-19
Hard Choices & the Conservative Mind
A brief essay on The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal plumbs the depths of the human condition and establishes the logic of conservatism by examining…
A brief essay on The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal
Blaise Pascal plumbs the depths of the human condition and establishes the logic of conservatism by examining hard choices in high-stakes situations. Pascal expresses his insights in brilliant pensées—fireworks of thought.
Let me focus on Pascal’s thoughts about two kinds of hard choices: (a) Who shall rule? (b) How shall I behave if God’s existence is uncertain?
Pascal’s general approach to hard choices is to clarify the limits of reason and the power of psychology, the better to chart a narrow path for rational choice: “There is nothing so conformable to reason as the disavowal of reason.” Pensée no. 272
Knowledge is incomplete. A (partial) increase in one’s knowledge tends to induce overconfidence. Wisdom consists in cognitive humility—an elusive frame of mind for intellectuals:
Who shall rule?
Pascal foreshadows the conservative principle, Chesterton’s fence. One should hesitate to change a rule, or to break with tradition, unless one understands the origin or function of the rule or tradition.
Pascal makes a case that traditions deserve legitimacy. Traditions have stood the test of time because they reduce conflict: “Do we follow ancient laws and opinions because they are more sound? No; but because they stand alone and take from us the root of diversity [conflict].” Pensée no. 589
Pascal then illustrates the conservative principle’s function by concrete analysis of a fundamental political institution in early modern Europe: monarchy with dynastic succession by primogeniture:
Here Pascal foreshadows Nobel Laureate Thomas C. Schelling’s theory of the crucial role of salient focal points in strategic interaction and conflict resolution. Salience is psychological, not strictly logical. If there exists a clear, preferably unique, focal point, it can forestall or overcome bargaining impasses and self-serving conceptions of justice. If the focal point is recurrent—for example, primogeniture—it may readily become a tradition, a Chesterton fence.
How shall I behave if God’s existence is uncertain?
‘Pascal’s Wager,’ his most famous pensée, deploys both the logic of games of chance, and the psychology of belief-formation, to try and convince freethinkers to bet on God, and to dupe themselves!
Pascal’s interlocutor is someone who does not believe in God. Their dialogue has three background empirical premises:
- If God exists, then belief in God is a necessary condition for salvation in the afterlife.
- One cannot prove the existence of God.
- One cannot simply decide to believe.
Given these premises, Pascal first makes a gambler’s case that it would be prudent to believe in God. Pascal makes an appeal to interest, not evidence:
“Let us then examine this point, and say, ‘God is, or he is not.’ But to which side shall we incline? Reason can determine nothing about it. There is an infinite gulf fixed between us. A game is playing at the extremity of this infinite distance in which heads or tails may turn up. What will you wager? [… .]
Let us weigh the gain and the loss in choosing heads that God is. [… .] But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to win, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite; that is decided. Wherever the infinite exists and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no room for hesitation, you must risk the whole. [… .]
Every gambler stakes a certainty to gain an uncertainty, and yet he stakes a finite certainty against a finite uncertainty without acting unreasonably. [… .] So that our argument is of infinite force, if we stake the finite in a game where there are equal chances of gain and loss, and the infinite is the winnings. This is demonstrable, and if men are capable of any truths, this is one.” Pensée no. 233
The intuition is that any positive chance at an infinite reward has infinite value, and so trumps any finite worldly pleasures here and now.
Pascal’s wager triggered an ongoing avalanche of analysis of the logic of ‘expected utility.’ It gets complicated fast. Let me mention just a few issues for flavor. What if God exists, but punishes gamblers? What if a gambler has a high ‘discount rate’ (i.e., cares about the present, not the afterlife)? What if there are many Gods?
Howsoever that may be, Pascal is certain that he has got the gambler’s attention. A quandary—a psychological challenge—then naturally arises. If it would be prudent to believe in God, but there is no proof of God and one cannot simply decide to believe in God, then what is a non-believer to do?!
Pascal’s answer is to take steps to dupe oneself by going through the motions of religious practice:
“I confess and admit it [that belief in God would be prudent]. Yet is there no means of seeing the hands at the game? — Yes, the Scripture and the rest, etc. — Well, but my hands are tied and my mouth is gagged: I am forced to wager and am not free, none can release me, but I am so made that I cannot believe. What then would you have me do? [… .]
Labor then to convince yourself, not by increase of the proofs of God, but by the diminution of your passions. You would fam arrive at faith, but know not the way; you would heal yourself of unbelief, and you ask remedies for it. Learn of those who have been bound as you are, but who now stake all that they possess; these are they who know the way you would follow, who are cured of a disease of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began, by making believe that they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc. Thus you will naturally be brought to believe, and will lose your acuteness. — But that is just what I fear. — Why? what have you to lose?
The last process of reason is to recognize that there is an infinity of things which transcend it; it is but weak if it does not go so far as to know that.” Pensée no. 233
The psychological thesis is that faking it is transformative. Going through the motions will eventually (a) dull one’s critical faculties, (b) erase one’s awareness of faking it, and (c) induce faith. The rational, self-interested choice is to submit to tradition as a means to psychological transformation.
Pascal’s thoughts about politics (legitimacy of dynastic succession) and about religion (prudent make-believe to achieve faith)—his thoughts about hard choices in high stakes situations—unflinchingly demonstrate the limits of reason and strategically enlist rational choice and psychology to harness traditions. The Pensées are the dawn of the modern conservative mind.
John Alcorn is Principal Lecturer in Formal Organizations, Shelby Cullom Davis Endowment, Trinity College, Connecticut. Scruples about principles of historical inquiry, and a stint teaching in Columbia’s ‘great books’ core curriculum led him to explore methodological individualism and the social sciences. As in the Dry Bones song, a concatenation of authors—Jon Elster, Diego Gambetta, Thomas C. Schelling, Robert Sugden, David Friedman, and Michael Munger—eventually brought him to discover EconTalk and EconLog.(0 COMMENTS) europe
5 Signs That Gold Will Increasingly Flow To The East
5 Signs That Gold Will Increasingly Flow To The East
Authored by Ronni Stoeferle via GoldSwitzerland.com,
The reshaping of the world economy…
The reshaping of the world economy and the global (political) order is in full swing.
It is a long process, the concrete outcome of which is uncertain in advance and associated with numerous imponderables. Nevertheless, there are powerful factors, such as the shift in economic, demographic and military weight, that are driving the readjustment in the (geo)political arena. And this readjustment is also reflected in the change in gold flows. They are increasingly shifting from West to East, since “Gold goes where the money is,” as James Steel pointedly put it.
1. The central banks of the states of the East are among the strongest buyers of gold – also within the West
This is also reflected in the continuing enthusiasm of central banks for gold, especially in non-Western countries. 2022 saw the largest purchases of gold by central banks since records began more than 70 years ago, at 1,136 tons. The first half of 2023 saw a continuation of this trend. Despite a weaker second quarter, central bank purchases in the first half of the year set a new half-year record. Central banks increased their gold reserves by a total of 378 tons from January to June. The previous half-year record from 2019 was thus slightly exceeded. China made the largest purchases, followed by Singapore, Poland, India and the Czech Republic. So even in the West, it was countries in the East that made additional purchases.
The following chart shows the extent to which institutional demand for gold has shifted to the East. It compares the cumulative gold sales of Western central banks with the cumulative gold purchases of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO or SOC) since 2001.
Looking at the BRICS, we also see a striking overlap, with central banks from four of the five BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – buying a cumulative 2,932 tonnes of gold over 2010–2022.
2. Holdings of US Treasuries are reduced
In turn, the BRICS continue to reduce their share of the soaring US government debt. In other words, gold is becoming more and more interesting as a reserve asset because US Treasuries have been becoming less and less interesting as a currency reserve for more than a decade. The militarization of money by freezing Russia’s foreign exchange reserves just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022 added emphasis to this process, but did not kick it off.
The BRICS now hold only 4.1 percent of all US government debt, compared with 10.4 percent in January 2012. That is a decline of more than 60 percent. The rest of the world has reduced its exposure to US government debt by much less. In January 2012, the rest of the world held 22.0 percent of all US government debt on their books; currently, they hold 19.3 percent. That is a decrease of more than 12 percent.
3. The East is expanding its infrastructure for gold trading
However, the East is not only stocking up on gold and mining gold itself on a large scale. China and Russia have ranked among the top 3 gold producing nations for years.
Countries such as China, the United Arab Emirates and even Russia are expanding their gold trading infrastructure. This is to establish a permanent infrastructure for the detour of gold trading from gold trading centers in the West such as London, New York and Zurich. This testifies to the changing understanding of roles: The East increasingly no longer sees itself as a customer of Western infrastructures, but offers the infrastructure itself.
Key developments include:
- SGE & SFO NRA: Cooperation between the Chinese and Russian gold markets
For some time now, China and Russia have been working hard to link their gold markets through cooperation between the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) and the Russian financial authority, the National Financial Association (NFA). The NFA is a Russian professional association representing the entire Russian financial sector, including the Russian precious metals market.
In the face of Western sanctions, Russian gold exports to China have already surged since mid-2022. As three Russian banks – VTB, Sberbank and Otkritie – are already members of the SGE International Board of the SGE, which was founded in 2014, this cooperation between the gold markets of Russia and China is likely to intensify in the future.
- Memberships in gold-related institutions
As gold flows from west to east and the importance of eastern gold markets increases, these markets will also have greater representation and influence in the global institutions that represent the gold market, such as the LBMA and the World Gold Council (WGC).
In 2009, only six Chinese refineries were on the LBMA’s Good Delivery List, but now there are thirteen. While just 15 years ago there was only one regular (full) member of the LBMA from China, the Bank of China, there are now seven. China’s growing influence is also reflected in the World Gold Council. In February 2009, only one Chinese gold producer was a member of the WGC; now there are four.
- India International Bullion Exchange (IIBX)
In addition to its sophisticated OTC gold trading market, India has also established a trading infrastructure for gold futures contracts on the Multi Commodity Exchange of India Limited (MCX). In July 2022, the India International Bullion Exchange (IIBX), supported by the Indian government, was officially opened for trading spot gold contracts backed by physical metal. IIBX is located in a special economic zone in GIFT City in the Indian state of Gujarat, and the gold underlying the contracts is stored there. One goal of IIBX is to allow qualified buyers to import gold directly into India without the need for banks or authorized agencies. So far, however, trading volumes have been minimal.
- Establishment of a Moscow World Standard
At the end of February 2022, when sanctions against Russia were imposed by the West immediately after the start of the Ukraine war, the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) excluded the three Russian banks VTB, Sovkombank and Otkritie. A few days later, the LBMA removed all six Russian precious metals refiners from the LBMA Good Delivery List and the CME Group followed suit, removing the same refiners from the list of approved COMEX refiners.
As a result, Moscow announced in July 2022 that a new infrastructure for precious metals trading independent of the LBMA and COMEX would be established. According to Moscow, this is intended to break the supremacy of London and New York in global precious metals pricing. This proposal calls for the introduction of a Moscow World Standard (MWS) for precious metals trading, similar to the LBMA’s Good Delivery List, the establishment of a new international precious metals exchange in Moscow based on the MWS, the Moscow International Precious Metals Exchange, and the creation of a new gold price fixing based on the MWS so as to establish gold prices and reference prices different from those of the LBMA and COMEX.
4. Private gold demand shifts to the east
EAST’S increased interest in gold is also evident in the non-governmental sector. Chinese consumer demand, for example, increased from 292.6 tons to 824.9 tons (2022) since the turn of the millennium. This is an increase of 181%. Annual consumer demand in India has also increased since the turn of the millennium, albeit from an already high level in 2000. China and India, which together accounted for only 28.7% of consumer demand in 2000, account for almost half of global consumer demand (48.4%) in 2022 and together acquired 1,600 tons of gold last year.
Source: World Gold Council, Incrementum AG
Recent developments point in the same direction. In the first eight months of the current year, Asian gold ETFs increased their holdings by 7.7%, while North America and Europe recorded outflows of 2.3% and 6.1%, respectively. Significantly, in the bars and coins demand segment, Turkey and Iran replaced Germany and Switzerland in the top 5 in the first half of the year. China now leads this sub-segment of gold demand – in the first half of 2022, Germany was still in the lead – followed by Turkey, the US, India and Iran. This is because while demand for bars and coins in Turkey shot up from 9.5 tons to 47.6 tons in the second quarter of 2023, it fell by around three quarters in Germany.
5. The price of gold in currencies of the East has increased significantly
As of the end of September, gold was 14.6% higher in Indian rupees than at the beginning of 2022, 18.0% higher in Chinese renminbi, 34.3% higher in Russian rubles, 22.1% higher in South African rand (all left-hand side) and 114.0% higher in Turkish lira (right-hand side). Gold thus impressively demonstrates its value-preserving properties in difficult (geo)political and macroeconomic situations in these countries.
The significantly increased premium on the gold price in China since July is an unmistakable sign that there is a structural shortage of gold in the Chinese market and thus an expression of the strong demand for gold in the Middle Kingdom, which is struggling with profound economic problems.
This shift in demand from West to East can be observed not only among governments or government-related entities, but also among institutional and private investors. Gold is flowing to where it is most valued and where economic prosperity and savings rates have increased. In the medium term, the shift in demand should therefore find support from the higher growth prospects in Asia and the Middle East. “Ohne Geld, ka Musi” (“Without money, no music”) – this is how the vernacular formulates this economic truism in German. And as the IMF’s most recent economic growth forecast indicates, the sub-region of emerging and developing Asia will grow at a projected 5.2% this year and 4.8% next year, while the West will grow much less strongly. This will also lead to a shift in influence on pricing from West to East.
Israel-Hamas War Latest: Israeli Troops Amass At Border As Iran Warns It Will Intervene If Ground Offensive Launched
Israel-Hamas War Latest: Israeli Troops Amass At Border As Iran Warns It Will Intervene If Ground Offensive Launched
After giving the northern Gaza strip an evacuation ultimatum on Friday, Israel has so far withheld from launching a "significant" ground operation, with some speculating that requests from the US to evacuate all US citizens out of Palestine ahead of the invasion is what is holding Israel back. Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday said that if Israeli “war crimes & genocide” are not stopped, the war might expand to other parts of the Middle East if Hezbollah joins the battle, and that would make Israel suffer “a huge earthquake.” Meanwhile, Axios reported that Tehran has sent Jerusalem a message through the UN that it will intervene if the campaign in Gaza continues, and particularly if it launches a ground offensive.
This was followed by news Sunday morning that the US has been backchanneling with Iran in recent days to warn against escalating the conflict in Israel (after all, Biden can't afford to lose those sanctioned Iranian oil exports whose re-embargo would promptly send the price of oil above $100).
Another reason why Israel may be waiting: the Pentagon confirmed that it has ordered a second carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean Sea after a first carrier strike group, led by the USS Gerald R. Ford, arrived off the coast of Israel last week.
On Saturday, the Israeli army said it’s making preparations for “significant ground operations” in Gaza, with the Israel Defense Forces saying in a statement that the next phase of the war can include a coordinated land, sea and air assault.
Israel has called up a record 300,000 reservists and has been pounding Gaza after the unprecedented incursion in which more than 1,000 Hamas fighters swept across the border and attacked Israeli military posts, bases and settlements. More than 1,300 Israelis died, mostly civilians, and up to 150 people were abducted and taken into Gaza. More than 1,900 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli bombing campaign as fears mount of major casualties once Israel sends troops into the crowded coastal strip, home to 2.3 million people. Israel on Friday gave 24 hours for more than 1 million Palestinians to evacuate their homes in Gaza.
Separately, Israel confirmed for the first time that there were intelligence indications of something happening in Gaza two hours before the attacks last week. The head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, spoke with military personnel about the reports, said Tzachi Hanegbi, head of Israel’s National Security Council. “Both sides assessed that this is something other than it turned out to be,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist group by the US and the European Union, said Israeli air strikes killed another nine of its hostages in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 26. Many governments, including the US and European countries, are rushing to evacuate citizens in anticipation of an Israeli incursion into Gaza, though the Rafah border crossing out of Gaza to Egypt was reported to be closed to foreign nationals Saturday.
On the diplomatic front, Joe Biden’s team has voiced anxiety about Israel’s 24-hour evacuation demand, a deadline that the European Union and the United Nations called unrealistic. On Friday, Biden said people shouldn’t “lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas” something Biden tweeted on Sunday morning.
We must not lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas’s appalling attacks, and are suffering as a result of them.— President Biden (@POTUS) October 15, 2023
The US Embassy in Israel said it’s “working on potential options for departure from Gaza.” US citizens living in or visiting Gaza may be allowed to leave on Saturday, according to a US official. The embassy said it’s facilitating more chartered evacuation flights from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and urged US citizens and immediate family members to use them “while they are available.” The US government also said it is assisting US nationals and their immediate family members with a valid travel document to depart Haifa via sea for Cyprus on Oct. 16, according to a statement on the US Embassy in Israel website.
The State Department in Washington authorized the departure of non-emergency embassy personnel on Friday, citing an “unpredictable security situation.” With commercial flights to Israel disrupted, European countries such as France and Germany also have been providing planes to get their citizens out of the region.
Iran’s foreign minister on Saturday called on Israel to stop its attacks on Gaza, warning that the war might expand to other parts of the Middle East if Hezbollah joins the battle, and that would make Israel suffer “a huge earthquake.” Hossein Amirabdollahian told reporters in Beirut that Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group has taken all war scenarios into consideration and Israel should stop its attacks on Gaza as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the Axios news site reported that Tehran has sent Jerusalem a message through the UN that it will intervene if the campaign in Gaza continues, and particularly if it launches a ground offensive. The report cited two diplomatic sources with knowledge of the matter. The report said Amirabdollahian made the comments when he met Saturday with UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland in Beirut, a meeting that led to intense criticism from Israel. A short while later, Iran’s mission to the UN warned in a tweet that if Israel’s “war crimes & genocide” are not stopped immediately, this could have “far-reaching consequences” and the situation could “spiral out of control.”
If the Israeli apartheid’s war crimes & genocide are not halted immediately, the situation could spiral out of control & ricochet far-reaching consequences—the responsibility of which lies with the UN, the Security Council & the states steering the Council toward a dead end.— Permanent Mission of I.R.Iran to UN, NY (@Iran_UN) October 14, 2023
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US Warned Iran in Back-Channel Talks on War: The US has held back-channel talks with Iran in recent days to warn the country against escalating the conflict in Israel, as Israeli forces prepare an expected ground assault in response to last weekend’s surprise attack by Hamas. “We have means of communicating privately with Iran, and we have availed ourselves of those means over the past few days to make clear privately that which we have said publicly,” White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Sunday on CBS News’s Face the Nation. Sullivan said the US couldn’t rule out that Iran might intervene in the conflict, and was monitoring both the possibility of direct involvement by Tehran and proxy activity by Hezbollah across the border with Lebanon.
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Israeli army awaits "political" green light for Gaza invasion: The Israeli army is awaiting a "political decision" on the timing of a major ground offensive on the Gaza Strip, military spokesmen said Sunday as civilians stepped up desperate efforts to flee northern Gaza. Military spokesmen Lt. Col. Richard Hecht and Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari told separate briefings on Sunday that "a political decision" will set off any action against Hamas. "We will be holding discussions with our political leadership," Hecht told one briefing.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told troops near the Gaza border on Saturday that "more is coming." But he did not say when any ground operation would start. Military spokesmen have told reporters that any invasion would aim to eradicate Hamas' militant network and leadership so that it cannot stage more attacks. The Israeli military has particularly singled out Yahya Sinwar, the chief of Hamas in Gaza who they blame for the Oct. 7 attacks. "That man is in our sights," Hecht said on Saturday. "He is a dead man walking and we will get to that man."
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Rockets were fired at Tel Aviv and southern Israel overnight, and the Israel Defense Forces attacked targets in and around the northern part of Gaza. It was not immediately clear how much damage, if any, was caused in the rocket attacks. One Israeli died on Sunday in a Hezbollah attack on Israeli army posts near the border with Lebanon. Subsequent reports indicate that more rockets had been fired into northern Israel from Lebanon.
Initial reports say that rockets were fired from Lebanon. Waiting for further confirmation.— Joe Truzman (@JoeTruzman) October 15, 2023
Impacts reported in norther Israel. pic.twitter.com/YZgIoofboU— Moshe Schwartz (@YWNReporter) October 15, 2023
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Moroccans Push to Sever Israel Ties in Mass Protest: Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Rabat, Morocco’s capital, demanding King Mohammed VI to severe ties with Israel which were restored in 2020. The marchers denounced as “barbaric” ongoing military intervention by Israel in Gaza and demanded the closing of its liaison office in the Moroccan capital.
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Blinken Meets With Saudi Crown Prince: Blinken travelled to Riyadh on Sunday for an hour-long talk with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that the top US diplomat deemed “very productive.” MBS highlighted Riyadh’s diplomatic outreach “to calm the situation,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and I met today in Riyadh and discussed the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel. pic.twitter.com/HjoGMmTzqi— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) October 15, 2023
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Blinken Will Return to Israel on Monday: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to Israel on Monday for further consultations with senior officials there, his spokesman said. The top US diplomat was previously in Israel on Thursday as part of a frenetic tour of the region that included stops in Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as well as Saudi Arabia, as the Biden administration tries to limit the threat of a spreading conflict in the Middle East.
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Blinken Urges China to Use Its Influence: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Beijing to use its influence to prevent other state or non-state actors from attacking Israel and widening its war with Hamas, the State Department said. Blinken spoke with Foreign Minister Wang Yi before departing from Riyadh, where the top US diplomat was attempting to shore up support for Israel among Arab nations, said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. He met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the State Department said.
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Israel, Hezbollah exchange fire, heightening fears of a second front opening: Cross-border fire erupted between Israel and Lebanon early Sunday, killing at least one person on the Israeli side of the border. Both the Israeli military and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah acknowledged the fighting. Hezbollah says it fired guided missiles toward an Israel army post in Shtula from Lebanon, according to the militant group’s Al-Manar TV. The Israeli military said earlier it was targeting southern Lebanon after initial report of a shooting near the Lebanese border.
The group said in a statement the attack was in retaliation for Israeli shelling that killed Reuters videographer Issam Abdallah on Friday and two Lebanese civilians on Saturday. Israel has responded by targeting the outskirts of the town of Ait el-Shaab, the Israeli military said. The Israel Defense Forces also banned civilians from going within two-and-a-half miles of the Lebanese border. In addition, the Reuters news service reports, Israel disrupted GPS electronic location services in the northern border area and at the Gaza front, according to Reuters. Israel's Magen David Adom rescue service said a 40-year-old man was killed in the attack from Lebanon, without elaborating or giving his nationality. As Israel wages its war against Hamas over last week's unprecedented attack by the Gaza Strip militant group, there's been concern that Hezbollah could enter the war as well as Israel moves toward launching a ground offensive in Gaza.
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Hezbollah Strikes Israeli Army Posts: Iran-backed Hezbollah attacked two Israeli army posts near the border with Lebanon in response to what the militant group said was the killing of Lebanese nationals in recent days. One of the Middle East’s most powerful militias, Hezbollah said it fired guided missiles against an Israeli army post in Shtula in Upper Galilee. An hour later, it said its members used “live ammunition” to target an army post in Al-Raheb and destroyed a tank.
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Israeli Shares Down 3% As War Enters Second Week: Israel’s TA-35 stock index fell sharply on Sunday as Israel continues to strike back against Hamas targets and tensions rise on the northern border with Hezbollah. The index was down 3.3% in early afternoon, having reached the lowest levels since mid-2021. Banking stocks led the decline. The sector was down 12.3% last week “on account of volatility concerns,” the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange said. Other Middle Eastern markets were narrowly mixed.
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Israel Acknowledges Reports of Gaza Activity: Israel confirmed for the first time that there were intelligence indications of something happening in Gaza two hours before the attacks last week. The head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, spoke with military personnel about the reports, said Tzachi Hanegbi, head of Israel’s National Security Council. “Both sides assessed that this is something other than it turned out to be,” he said.
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Abbas Stresses Need for Humanitarian Corridor in Biden Call: In a phone call with US President Joe Biden late Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stressed the urgent need for humanitarian corridors to be opened in the Gaza Strip so that basic materials and medical supplies such as water, electricity and fuel, can be delivered to civilians. Abbas also told Biden he rejected the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and affirmed his rejection of the killing or abusing of civilians on both sides, calling for the release of civilians, priosners and detainees.
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Pope calls for humanitarian corridors for Gaza residents: Pope Francis called on Sunday for humanitarian corridors to allow the delivery of essentials to the Gaza Strip, which is under heavy Israeli bombardment following a bloody attack on Israel by Gaza's rulers, Hamas. "Humanitarian law must be respected, especially in Gaza, where it is urgent and necessary to guarantee humanitarian corridors and help the population," said the Pope after his traditional Angelus prayer in Rome's Saint Peter's Square.
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U.S. arranges for ship to evacuate Americans from Israel to Cyprus Monday: The United States has organized a ship to take Americans out of Israel to Cyprus on Monday, the U.S. Embassy said. With Israel moving toward an invasion of the Gaza Strip, the ship will leave from the Israeli port of Haifa for Limassol, taking "U.S. nationals and their immediate family members with a valid travel document," the U.S. embassy said in a security alert Sunday. Tens of thousands of U.S. passport holders live in Israel and 29 have been confirmed killed in the Hamas attacks on October 7. Another 15 are missing and believed to be among hostages held by Hamas since the attacks. The U.S. embassy didn't say how many people would fit on the ship but said "boarding will proceed in order of arrival and is on a space limited basis." Each passenger will have to sign a document promising to repay the cost of the trip and will only be allowed to bring one suitcase. The embassy said some chartered flights would be arranged from Cyprus for onward travel.
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UK Foreign Minister Urges Israel to Show Restraint: James Cleverly called on Israel to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza and respect international law in any military operations against Hamas, saying his “strong advice” was being offered from a position of friendship.” It’s in Israel’s interest to avoid civilian casualties because Hamas wants to turn the conflict “into a wider Arab-Israeli war, or indeed a war between the Muslim world and and the wider world,” the UK foreign minister said on Sky News. His comments came hours after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK stood unequivocally with Israel, making no mention of the plight facing Palestinian civilians.
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Gaza Death Toll Reaches 2,300: The number of people killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza has reached more than 2,300, local authorities said, with thousands more wounded in the past eight days. This now outnumbers the death toll of the 51-day Israel-Hamas war of 2014, according to Ashraf Al-Qedra, a spokesperson for the Gaza health ministry. The 2014 war killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, according to UN figures. At the time it was the deadliest and most destructive violence since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip.
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Situation in Gaza hospitals getting ever more desperate: Medics in Gaza warned Sunday that thousands could die as hospitals packed with wounded people run desperately low on fuel and basic supplies. Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave struggled to find food, water and safety ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive in the war sparked by Hamas' deadly attack. A week of blistering airstrikes have demolished entire Gaza neighborhoods but failed to stem militant rocket fire into Israel. Hospitals are expected to run out of generator fuel within two days, according to the U.N., which said that would endanger the lives of thousands of patients. Gaza's sole power plant shut down for lack of fuel after Israel completely sealed off the 25-mile-long territory following the Hamas attack.
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Israel Says it Killed Hamas Military Leader: The Israeli military said on Sunday its fighter jets killed the Hamas military leader responsible for the attack on one of Israel’s communities last Saturday, Kibbutz Nirim. In a statement, the military said this occurred Saturday night during operations that also took out Hamas rocket launchers. It said the man was commander of the Nukhba forces in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Nukhba are the elite Hamas military unit that Israel says trained and led the October 7 attack. Hamas has been designated as a terrorist group by the US and the European Union.
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