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The Collapsing Euro And Its Implications

The Collapsing Euro And Its Implications

Authored by Alasdair Macleod via,

The euro system and its currency are descending…



The Collapsing Euro And Its Implications

Authored by Alasdair Macleod via,

The euro system and its currency are descending into crisis. Comprised of the ECB and the National Central Banks, the system is over its head in balance sheet debt, and it is far from clear how that can be resolved.

Normally, a central bank is easy to recapitalise. But in the case of the euro system, when the lead institution and all its shareholders need to be recapitalised all at the same time the challenge could be impossible.

And then there’s all the imbalances in the TARGET2 system to resolve as well before national legislatures can sign it all off. Additionally, but part of the TARGET2 problem there’s the repo market with €8.7 trillion outstanding, set to implode on rising interest rates, destroying commercial bank balance sheets which are already highly leveraged.

This goes some way to explaining the deep reluctance the ECB has about raising interest rates. While producer prices in key member states are rising at over 30% year-on-year, and consumer prices by over 8%, the ECB keeps its deposit rate at minus 0.5%. It knows that if euro bond yields go any higher their situation which is already untenable will disintegrate into a full-blown crisis.

Therefore, the euro is sliding. Markets can see that all the ECB is doing is talking the talk and otherwise is frozen into inaction.

Fiddling while Rome burns…

At a political level there appear to be terrifying levels of ignorance about the economic consequences of continuing to punish Britain for Brexit (yes, that still rankles) and now ostracising Russia for its belligerence at a time when the EU’s own economy is teetering on the edge of a financial and economic catastrophe. The EU exercises its political agendas despite any economic mayhem created.

Russia is a far more serious issue than Brexit ever was. The EU has, to varying degrees, disposed of its fossil fuel capacity to placate environmentalists, exporting their production to nations not so squeamish about fashionable climate change strictures. Consequently, the EU has become highly dependent on Russian natural gas and oil, which in cavalier fashion it has decided to do without to punish Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The economic consequences have been to put Germany’s economy on life support with its industrial limbs beginning to shut down, along with the productive capacity of many other EU states. In the coming months there will be food shortages exacerbated by lack of fertiliser supplies. Then there will be winter without heating fuel and frequent power cuts. And winter with food shortages in a continental climate is no joke. They will spark riots and growing political instability.

The financial consequences stem partly from bank exposure to Russian entities, but far more important is the effect of soaring producer and consumer prices on the entire Eurozone financial structure. The euro system has depended on redistributing wealth from Germany and the fiscally conservative northern states to bail out the profligate south using suppressed interest rates. That scheme is now kaput.

The ECB, and the euro system of shareholder national central banks, has metaphorically been caught with their collective trousers down. Having suppressed interest rates into negative territory, they allowed member governments to borrow ultra-cheaply. Now that Eurozone CPI is rising at 8.6% and Germany’s producer prices are up 33.6%, either interest rates must rise smartly or the euro crashes. Our headline chart of the euro/dollar rate at the top of this article refers to the market’s reaction so far.

Bonds in the ECB’s Asset Purchase Programme have accumulated as shown in the chart below, split out into the Public Sector Purchase Programme (PSPP), Corporate Sector Purchase Programme (CSPP), Asset-backed Securities Purchase Programme (ABSPP) and the Third Covered Bond Purchase Programme (CBPP3). In June, they totalled €3,265,172 million. 

From a year ago, government bonds have risen in yield from minus 0.5% to 1.36% for Germany’s 10-year bond, an overall rise of 1.86%. The rise in yield for a similar Italian bond is 2.87%, Spain’s 2.3%, France’s 2%, and Greece’s 3.2%. Given that government stock is 65% of the total, the rest being generally higher yielding corporate bonds, a conservative estimate is that if the portfolio has an average maturity of ten years the mark-to-market loss from a year ago is already in the region of €750bn. This is almost seven times the combined euro system balance sheet equity and reserves of €109.272bn. And as yields rise further, euro system losses of double that are easy to imagine.

Doubtless, if challenged the ECB would claim the euro system will hold these bonds to maturity, so they will continue to value them at par. But the euro system is unlikely to cease funding member states by inflationary means. And we cannot ignore the likelihood of further rises in yield due to the disparity between current interest rates (the ECB’s deposit rate is minus 0.5%) and a CPI heading towards annual increases of 10%.

The monetary error behind the EU concept

The concept underlying the EU can be summed up as the socialising of the wealth of the northern states to subsidise the southern and less wealthy member nations. In keeping with its post-war low political profile, Germany went along with the European project’s evolution from being a trading bloc into a currency union. 

The euro was intended to be a leveller, enabling nations like Italy, Spain and Greece to piggyback on Germany’s debt rating, on the statist argument that being issued by a sovereign nation tied into a common currency and settlement system, there is little difference between owning German and Italian, or even Greek sovereign debt. The consequences were that through investing institutions Germany’s savers directly and indirectly subsidised debt issued at levels that fail to compensate for the borrower’s true risk. The FRED chart below shows the effect on otherwise risky Italian 10-year benchmark bond yields.

In the run up to the replacement of national currencies by the euro, the Maastricht rules for qualification were ignored. Otherwise, Italy’s level of sovereign debt would have disqualified its entry. The market rate for Italy’s 10-year government bond was a yield of 12.4% when the Maastricht treaty setting the conditions for entry into monetary union came into effect in 1992. Germany’s equivalent benchmark yielded 8.3% for a differential of 4.1%. Today the German benchmark yields 1.35% and the Italian 3.37%, a difference of 2.2%. Not only has the gap converged, but by the end of 2021 the quantity of Italian government debt had increased to over 150% of GDP.

Similar examples can be shown of the other PIGS — Portugal, Greece, and Spain. Clearly, the evidence is that markets are not pricing sovereign risk as they should, and their yields are being heavily suppressed. Stuck in debt traps, even more debt needs to be issued because the outlook for budget deficits in these nations is simply dire, made worse by a Eurozone economy on the verge of an energy induced meltdown.

The ECB and its impossible task

So far, we have laid bare the consequences of the energy crisis for the eurozone economy and the losses that arise on the euro system balance sheets. Overseeing it all is the ECB’s president, who previously served as Chair of the IMF and before that held roles in the French government, including economy and finance minister. With this experience she was appointed to the ECB as a safe pair of hands. And as such, she has inherited an impossible position, because she has no mandate to moderate the ECB’s inflationary policies.

More correctly, Lagarde inherited two impossibilities. The first is to continue to distribute Germany’s national wealth to support the PIGS, and the second is a banking system that is well and truly broken. And as stated earlier, Germany itself is now on life support.

Table A shows the relationship between the Eurozone G-SIBs’ balance sheet totals, their balance sheet equity, and market capitalisations to illustrate the fragility of the Eurozone’s global systemically important banks (G-SIBs).

G-SIBs are required to have extra capital buffers designed to ensure they do not create or spread counterparty risk. The liquidity is created from the structure of the total balance sheet and does not require shareholders’ capital to be involved. Nevertheless, gearing between total assets and balance sheet equity (which includes undistributed profits and ranking capital other than common shares) average just over twenty times for the Eurozone G-SIBs, ranging from Credit Agricole at 27 times to Unicredit at 14.8 times.

Price to book values for all these banks are at a discount, some deep enough to call their immediate survival into question, given that an economic downturn for the Eurozone is now in progress. If they are to protect their shareholders’ equity, these banks have no alternative but to contract their balance sheets where they can. Indeed, when it occurs, a downturn in GDP is due in large measure to the withdrawal of bank credit. This is bound to expose and create bad debts, which threatens to wipe out shareholders’ capital entirely. 

Much of the devil is to be found in those non-performing loans. It has become routine for national regulators to deem them performing so that they can act as collateral for loans from the national central bank. When they then become lost in the TARGET2 settlement system they are forgotten, and miraculously the commercial bank appears solvent again. But TARGET2 becomes riddled with those bad debts and imbalances arise as the next chart from the Euro Crisis Monitor shows. In theory, these imbalances should not arise, and before the Lehman crisis it was generally true.

This is one way Germany’s national savings are being redistributed to the PIGS. At end-May, Germany’s Bundesbank was “owed” €1,160bn.

At the same time, the greatest debtors, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal have combined TARGET2 debts of €1,255bn.  But the most rapid deterioration for its size is in Greece’s negative balance, more than tripling from €25.7bn at end-2019 to €106bn in April. Spain’s deficit is also increasing at a worrying pace, up from €392.4bn to €505bn, and Italy’s from €439.4bn to €597bn. 

If one national central bank runs a Target2 deficit with the other central banks, it is because it has loaned money to its commercial banks to cover payments, instead of progressing them through the settlement system. These loans to commercial banks appear as an asset on the national central bank’s balance sheet, which is offset by a liability to the ECB’s Eurosystem through TARGET2 — hence the PIGS’ deficits. In effect, central banks running deficits are providing their commercial banks with extra liquidity. This is mostly done through repurchase agreements, more of which anon. The fact that commercial banks in the PIGS require this liquidity is a red flag.

Under the rules, if the TARGET2 system fails, the costs are shared out by the ECB on the pre-set capital key formula based on the equity ownership of ECB shares by the national central banks. The ECB itself has a deficit of €365bn arising from non-payment of bond purchases by national central banks acting on its behalf. These non-payments are recorded as assets on the national central bank balance sheets, reducing their net TARGET2 liabilities. The extent to which Italian, Spanish, Greek, and Portuguese central banks are owed money by the ECB for bond purchases reduces their apparent TARGET2 obligations. For these NCBs, the true position could be considerably worse than the declared figures suggest.

Furthermore, it is in the interest of a national central bank to run a greater deficit in relation to its capital key by supporting the insolvent commercial banks in its jurisdiction. That way, if TARGET2 fails, its write-off becomes greater than its contribution to the ECB’s recapitalisation. 

Along with Luxembourg, Germany is the biggest loser in the arrangement. Germany’s equity ownership in the ECB is 21.44% of its capital.[i] If TARGET2 collapsed, the Bundesbank would lose over a trillion euros owed to it by the others and the ECB itself, and pay up to €387bn of the net losses, based on current imbalances. It would wipe out the Bundesbank’s own balance sheet many times over. 

Beyond the ECB’s obligations for unsettled bond purchases, to understand how and why some of the problem arises, we must go back to the earlier European banking crisis following Lehman. From that time non-performing loans began to accumulate at the commercial banks. 

If a national banking regulator deems loans to be non-performing, the losses would be a national banking problem. Alternatively, if the regulator deems them to be performing, they are eligible for the national central bank’s refinancing operations — mostly done through repurchase (repo) agreements. A commercial bank using the questionable loans as collateral borrows from the national central bank, which in turn borrows to cover by withholding payments into the TARGET2 system. Insolvent loans are thereby removed from the PIGS’ national banking systems and lost in the euro system.

In Italy’s case, the very high level of non-performing loans (NPLs) peaked at 17.1% in September 2015 but by March this year had been miraculously reduced to 4%.[ii] Given the incentives for the regulator to deflect the non-performing loan problem from the domestic economy into the Eurosystem, it would be a miracle if the reduction in NPLs is entirely genuine. And with all the covid-19 lockdowns, Italian NPLs will be soaring again along with Italian banking exposure to Russia and Ukraine. There’s no sign of this being reflected in national banking statistics, so it must be concealed somewhere.

In the member states with negative TARGET2 balances, such as Italy, there have been long established and growing trends towards liquidity problems for legacy industries, rendering many of them insolvent without the drip feed of additional credit. With the banking regulator incentivised to not admit these recorded and unrecorded NPL problems in the domestic economy, loans to these insolvent companies have been continually rolled over and increased by effectively funding them through TARGET2 and the relevant national central bank. The consequence is that new businesses have been starved of bank credit for lack of balance sheet space. And now, responding to deteriorating economic conditions banks need to contract their lending obligations. 

Officially, there is no problem, because the ECB and all the national central bank TARGET2 positions net out to zero, and the mutual accounting between the central banks in the system keeps it that way. To its architects, a systemic failure of TARGET2 was inconceivable. But because some national central banks are now accustomed to using TARGET2 as a source of funding for their own insolvent banking systems, the Ukraine crisis and the rising interest rate environment attributed to producer price and consumer inflation threaten to increase imbalances even further, potentially bringing the euro-settlement system crashing down.

The euro system member with the greatest problem is Germany’s Bundesbank, now owed well over a trillion euros through TARGET2. The risk of losses is set to accelerate rapidly because of repeated rounds of Covid lockdowns in the PIGS and now with the Ukraine situation. Under Jens Weidmann (who has since resigned) the Bundesbank was right to be very concerned.

This is a direct quote from the highly respected Professor Sinn’s paper on the subject:

“… the Target issue hit political headlines when the new President of the German Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann, voiced his concerns over the Bundesbank’s target claims in a letter to ECB president Mario Draghi. In the letter Weidmann not only demanded higher credit rating criteria for collateral submitted against refinancing loans, but also called for collateralisation of the Bundesbank’s soaring Target claims. Weidmann wrote his Target letter after several months of silence on the part of the Bundesbank, during which it conducted extensive internal analysis of the Target issue. This letter marked a departure by Weidmann from the Bundesbank’s earlier position that Target balances represent irrelevant balances and a normal by-product of money creation in the European currency system.”

So Weidmann, who has since resigned from the Bundesbank, knew precisely the danger described in this article, wanting better quality collateral standards to prevent the dumping of non-performing loans into the TARGET2 system. There must be a strong suspicion that he was powerless to change things, forcing him to resign on this vital issue. But the problem remains: as a mechanism that permits the PIGS to shelter nonperforming loans in increasing quantities, the TARGET2 setup has become rotten to the core and off the record is known to be. And now, thanks to the economic impact of the coronavirus followed by Ukraine, sooner rather than later the settlement system is set to fail completely. 

Until then, TARGET2 is a devil’s pact which is in no one’s interest to break.

The sheer scale of a TARGET2 failure makes a resolution appear impossible. Current imbalances over the whole system total €1.736 trillion. As mentioned above, according to the capital keys, in a systemic failure the Bundesbank’s net TARGET2 assets of €1.160 trillion would be replaced by liabilities up to €387bn, the rest of the losses being spread around the other national banks in the EU. No one knows how it would work out because failure of the settlement system was never contemplated; but many if not all of the national central banks would have to be bailed out, presumably by the ECB as guarantor of the system. But with only €7.66bn of subscribed capital, the ECB’s balance sheet capitalisation is miniscule compared with the losses involved, and its shareholders will themselves be seeking bailouts in turn to bail the ECB. A TARGET2 failure would appear to require the ECB to recapitalise itself and the whole eurozone central banking system.

The ending of TARGET2 is therefore likely to be a complete write-off for the national central banks and will mark the end of the ECB, at least in its current form. And we haven’t even mentioned the immediate impact of rising interest rates, let alone the failure of TARGET2 on the Eurozone’s commercial banks.

Shuffling non-performing loans into central banks is achieved principally through the repo market. Under a repurchase agreement (repo), a bank swaps collateral for cash, a transaction which is reversed later. In this way the central bank ends up with collateral, which has been cleared as “performing” by the local bank regulator, and the commercial bank gets cash and a seemingly clean balance sheet. Any amount of rubbish can be concealed by these means.

The euro repo market is enormous, estimated by the International Capital Markets Association to have been €8.726 trillion outstanding in June 2021. It is far larger than the US dollar equivalent, which at the moment is just over $2 trillion of reverse repos, i.e. the other way with the Fed taking in cash instead of dishing it out. While much of this excess in euro repos is the consequence of negative interest rates, even paying banks to borrow against government bond collateral, it is of such a size as to easily hide bad and doubtful debts within the central bank settlement system.

The ECB has fostered this market, because it creates demand for government debt to be used as colateral, which with minimal and even negative yields would not otherwise be bought. Rising interest rates will collapse this market, withdrawing liquidity from the commercial banks and putting yet more pressure on them to reduce their balance sheets.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the ECB must prevent rising interest rates and bond yields at all costs, not only to preserve the euro system itself, but to prevent a collapse of the entire commercial banking network.

Assuming the status of the euro as a medium of currency and credit is to continue, a different and formulaic system of currency management designed to recapitalise the national central banks and keep the currency moderately scarce throughout the Eurozone would have to be implemented. And because its implementation would have to be instantaneous, it would probably prove to be impossible. Therefore, the euro is extremely unlikely to survive its systemic crisis.

The EU’s future following the ECB’s failure

The failure of TARGET2 would require national central banks to address their own relationships with their commercial banking networks properly. It is beyond our scope to see how this might be done in individual jurisdictions, being more interested in the bigger picture and the prospects for the euro and its successors.

Therefore, it is now a when, rather than an if, the TARGET2 system collapses. Foreign G-SIBs appear to have low exposure to the euro system and its commercial banking network, evidenced during the US’s repo crisis in September 2019, when the sale of Deutsche Bank’s primary dealership to BNP was completed. Consequently, the immediate currency effect is likely to be driven by domestic Eurozone entities, rather than foreign liquidation. 

Loans denominated in euros will be called in. To the extent that bank customers have deposits and liquid investments in foreign currencies, selling them will inevitably become a source of funds to pay euro obligations, initially driving the euro’s exchange rate higher against other currencies. Furthermore, foreigners who use the euro as the basis of a carry trade, for example to back positions in the fx swap market, will also have their positions unwound, leading to further demand for euros on the foreign exchanges. 

Given the extent to which the dollar is currently over-owned by foreigners and while the euro is under-owned internationally, it is the dollar which is likely to suffer most from a eurozone monetary crisis, at least initially. The euro’s fate as a medium of exchange will then be principally in the hands of its users. This will be the background against which Germany’s Bundesbank will be considering its options. 

The case for a new mark

A failure of the Eurosystem, which we can now see is becoming inevitable, has also been seen as a danger in some quarters of the Bundesbank, whose staff under Weidmann looked into the reasons for TARGET2 imbalances. Doubtless, the internal arguments over the situation were put on hold by his resignation last year.

This is the logical conclusion from Weidmann’s letter to Mario Draghi at the ECB. It therefore follows that somewhere in the bowls of the Bundesbank there is a Plan B in existance, which at the least will be intended to insulate the Bundesbank from the difficulties faced by other national central banks and the ECB itself in a crisis. This can only be achieved with a new currency, based on the German mark before it was folded into the euro. That way the euro-based Bundesbank can be written off as the Eurosystem collapses, while a mark-based Bundesbank emerges.

Germany will not want to resuscitate old enmities. The Bundesbank will be acutely aware what pursuing its own interests would mean for the PIGS, and also for France whose eurozone ambitions are entirely political. Interest rates in the replacement currencies for these nations would almost certainly rise sharply, collapsing their bond markets insofar as they still exist, undermining any surviving commercial banks, and destroying national finances. These nations would have no practical alternative but to seek the shelter of a better form of money than the euro to re-establish their bond markets, and with a view to having continuing access to credit. In short, the monetary consensus could eventually move from an overtly inflationary monetary system gamed by the national central banks and their regulators to one based on a sounder form of currency and credit.

But instead of debtor nations fully abandoning inflationary habits, their intention is likely to retain the facility of inflationary funding in new clothes. With its new currency, the Bundesbank is therefore likely to resist moves which in effect leaves it in the position of the defunct ECB, taking on responsibility for the circulation of all currency in the former eurozone. Admittedly, the German government, as opposed to the Bundesbank, might view the situation differently, but even it is likely be aware of the political implications of appearing to have escaped a euro crisis relatively unscathed compared with the other nations, and then taking over control of the defunct eurozone’s money. For this reason, the mark is unlikely to be offered up as a replacement for the euro.

The obvious solution is for German to adopt a credible gold standard, and to encourage other member states to do the same. Figure 2 shows the official gold reserves of key member states.

The ECB’s gold reserves were originally created by transfers from the national central banks, so we can assume its 504.8 tonnes will be transferred back to them, because other than other EU central banks outside the eurozone they are the ECB’s only creditors. That being the case, the top ten eurozone holders will have over 10,500 tonnes between them. The gold is, however, unevenly distributed, with Germany, Italy and France possessing significant reserves. But Holland and Portugal have ample reserves for their size as well.

While credible gold standards are the best solution, all these nations, including Germany, are likely to be reluctant to mobilise their gold to back new currencies. Germany recovered from two currency collapses in the last century without gold backing, and the Bundesbank is likely to take the view that mere possession of its gold reserves and its historic reputation for sound currency will be enough to convince its citizens that a new mark will be stable and a credible currency. Furthermore, it is not sufficient to turn fiat into gold exchange currencies without addressing government spending. Not only does a successful gold standard require balanced budgets, but a deliberate reduction in overall spending must be maintained for the standard to stick over time. The failure of the Maastricht treaty in this respect illustrates the difficulties of fiscal discipline in the European context.

Politically, it requires a reversal of the European social democratic ideal, risking a political vacuum, threatened to be replaced by various forms of extremism.

International influences

The political and monetary evolution of a post-euro Europe will not be determined solely by endogenous events. There is a similar but less complex crisis evolving in Japan, equally leading to a failing yen mirroring the euro. And both the Fed and the Bank of England are desperately hoping that they won’t be forced to raise interest rates to reflect persistent price inflation. And everywhere that significant financial markets exist, they are under the doleful influence of the bear.

Obviously, the implications of several separate developing crises for each other and the timings involved cannot be predicted beyond guesswork, but there are common threads. The most notable is that the suppression of interest rates and government bond yields by the major central banks has come to an end.

Central banks have maintained their objectives by the inflation of currency and credit, allowing debt creation to balloon and inflate financial asset bubbles. These bubbles have different systemic characteristics. The ECB and Bank of Japan along with a few others imposed negative interest rates while, the Fed and Bank of England have respected the zero bound. With the US economy being more financial in nature and the dollar being the international reserve currency, the dollar’s loss of purchasing power is the primary driver of global commodity and energy prices.

A common linkage between major financial centres is through the G-SIBs. A failure in the eurozone’s banking system will almost certainly undermine that of the US, as well as of the others. History has shown that even a minor bank failure in a distant land can have major consequences worldwide. In this context, it is to be hoped that by exposing the faults in both the TARGET2 system and the eurozone’s commercial banks, a greater understanding of the monetary dangers faced by us all has been achieved. And for citizens in the EU, the regaining of national power from the Brussels bureaucracy is the opportunity for an improvement on the current situation — assuming it is used wisely.

Tyler Durden Mon, 07/18/2022 - 02:00

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Escobar: The Geopolitics Of Al-Aqsa Flood

Escobar: The Geopolitics Of Al-Aqsa Flood

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Cradle,

Global focus just shifted from Ukraine to Palestine. This…



Escobar: The Geopolitics Of Al-Aqsa Flood

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Cradle,

Global focus just shifted from Ukraine to Palestine. This new arena of confrontation will ignite further competition between the Atlanticist and Eurasian blocs. These fights are increasingly zero-sum ones; as in Ukraine, only one pole can emerge strengthened and victorious.

Hamas’ Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was meticulously planned. The launch date was conditioned by two triggering factors. 

  • First was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flaunting his 'New Middle East' map at the UN General Assembly in September, in which he completely erased Palestine and made a mockery of every single UN resolution on the subject. 

  • Second are the serial provocations at the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, including the straw that broke the camel’s back: two days before Al-Aqsa Flood, on 5 October, at least 800 Israeli settlers launched an assault around the mosque, beating pilgrims, destroying Palestinian shops, all under the observation of Israeli security forces.

Everyone with a functioning brain knows Al-Aqsa is a definitive red line, not just for Palestinians, but for the entire Arab and Muslim worlds. 

It gets worse. The Israelis have now invoked the rhetoric of a “Pearl Harbor.” This is as threatening as it gets. The original Pearl Harbor was the American excuse to enter a world war and nuke Japan, and this “Pearl Harbor” may be Tel Aviv’s justification to launch a Gaza genocide.  

Sections of the west applauding the upcoming ethnic cleansing – including Zionists posing as “analysts” saying out loud that the “population transfers” that began in 1948 “must be completed” – believe that with massive weaponry and massive media coverage, they can turn things around in short shrift, annihilate the Palestinian resistance, and leave Hamas allies like Hezbollah and Iran weakened. 

Their Ukraine Project has sputtered, leaving not just egg on powerful faces, but entire European economies in ruin.

Yet as one door closes, another one opens: Jump from ally Ukraine to ally Israel, and hone your sights on adversary Iran instead of adversary Russia.  

There are other good reasons to go all guns blazing. 

A peaceful West Asia means Syria reconstruction – in which China is now officially involved; active redevelopment for Iraq and Lebanon; Iran and Saudi Arabia as part of BRICS 11; the Russia-China strategic partnership fully respected and interacting with all regional players, including key US allies in the Persian Gulf.

Incompetence. Willful strategy. Or both.

That brings us to the cost of launching this new “war on terror.” The propaganda is in full swing. For Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Hamas is ISIS. For Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev, Hamas is Russia. Over one October weekend, the war in Ukraine was completely forgotten by western mainstream media. Brandenburg Gate, the Eiffel tower, the Brazilian Senate are all Israeli now. 

Egyptian intel claims it warned Tel Aviv about an imminent attack from Hamas. The Israelis chose to ignore it, as they did the Hamas training drills they observed in the weeks prior, smug in their superior knowledge that Palestinians would never have the audacity to launch a liberation operation.

Whatever happens next, Al-Aqsa Flood has already, irretrievably, shattered the hefty pop mythology around the invincibility of Tsahal, Mossad, Shin Bet, Merkava tank, Iron Dome, and the Israel Defense Forces. 

Even as it ditched electronic communications, Hamas profited from the glaring collapse of Israel’s multi-billion-dollar electronic systems monitoring the most surveilled border on the planet. 

Cheap Palestinian drones hit multiple sensor towers, facilitated the advance of a paragliding infantry, and cleared the way for T-shirted, AK-47-wielding assault teams to inflict breaks in the wall and cross a border that even stray cats dared not. 

Israel, inevitably, turned to battering the Gaza Strip, an encircled cage of 365 square kilometers packed with 2.3 million people. The indiscriminate bombing of refugee camps, schools, civilian apartment blocks, mosques, and slums has begun. Palestinians have no navy, no air force, no artillery units, no armored fighting vehicles, and no professional army. They have little to no high-tech surveillance access, while Israel can call up NATO data if they want it. 

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant proclaimed “a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we will act accordingly.”

The Israelis can merrily engage in collective punishment because, with three guaranteed UNSC vetoes in their back pocket, they know they can get away with it. 

It doesn’t matter that Haaretz, Israel’s most respected newspaper, straight out concedes that “actually the Israeli government is solely responsible for what happened (Al-Aqsa Flood) for denying the rights of Palestinians.”

The Israelis are nothing if not consistent. Back in 2007, then-Israeli Defense Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin said, “Israel would be happy if Hamas took over Gaza because IDF could then deal with Gaza as a hostile state.” 

Ukraine funnels weapons to Palestinians

Only one year ago, the sweaty sweatshirt comedian in Kiev was talking about turning Ukraine into a “big Israel,” and was duly applauded by a bunch of Atlantic Council bots. 

Well, it turned out quite differently. As an old-school Deep State source just informed me:

“Ukraine-earmarked weapons are ending up in the hands of the Palestinians. The question is which country is paying for it. Iran just made a deal with the US for six billion dollars and it is unlikely Iran would jeopardize that. I have a source who gave me the name of the country but I cannot reveal it. The fact is that Ukrainian weapons are going to the Gaza Strip and they are being paid for but not by Iran." 

After its stunning raid last weekend, a savvy Hamas has already secured more negotiating leverage than Palestinians have wielded in decades. Significantly, while peace talks are supported by China, Russia, Turkiye, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt - Tel Aviv refuses. Netanyahu is obsessed with razing Gaza to the ground, but if that happens, a wider regional war is nearly inevitable. 

Lebanon’s Hezbollah – a staunch Resistance Axis ally of the Palestinian resistance - would rather not be dragged into a war that can be devastating on its side of the border, but that could change if Israel perpetrates a de facto Gaza genocide. 

Hezbollah holds at least 100,000 ballistic missiles and rockets, from Katyusha (range: 40 km) to Fajr-5 (75 km), Khaibar-1 (100 km), Zelzal 2 (210 km), Fateh-110 (300 km), and Scud B-C (500 km). Tel Aviv knows what that means, and shudders at the frequent warnings by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah that its next war with Israel will be conducted inside that country.   

Which brings us to Iran. 

Geopolitical plausible deniability

The key immediate consequence of Al-Aqsa Flood is that the Washington neocon wet dream of “normalization” between Israel and the Arab world will simply vanish if this turns into a Long War.

Large swathes of the Arab world in fact are already normalizing their ties with Tehran – and not only inside the newly expanded BRICS 11. 

In the drive towards a multipolar world, represented by BRICS 11, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), among other groundbreaking Eurasian and Global South institutions, there’s simply no place for an ethnocentric Apartheid state fond of collective punishment.    

Just this year, Israel found itself disinvited from the African Union summit. An Israeli delegation showed up anyway, and was unceremoniously ejected from the big hall, a visual that went viral. At the UN plenary sessions last month, a lone Israeli diplomat sought to disrupt Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi’s speech. No western ally stood by his side, and he too, was ejected from the premises. 

As Chinese President Xi Jinping diplomatically put it in December 2022, Beijing “firmly supports the establishment of an independent state of Palestine that enjoys full sovereignty based on 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital. China supports Palestine in becoming a full member of the United Nations.”

Tehran’s strategy is way more ambitious – offering strategic advice to West Asian resistance movements from the Levant to the Persian Gulf: Hezbollah, Ansarallah, Hashd al-Shaabi, Kataib Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and countless others. It’s as if they are all part of a new Grand Chessboard de facto supervised by Grandmaster Iran. 

The pieces in the chessboard were carefully positioned by none other than the late Quds Force Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Soleimani, a once-in-a-lifetime military genius. He was instrumental in creating the foundations for the cumulative successes of Iranian allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Palestine, as well as creating the conditions for a complex operation such as Al-Aqsa Flood. 

Elsewhere in the region, the Atlanticist drive of opening strategic corridors across the Five Seas - the Caspian, the Black Sea, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Eastern Mediterranean - is floundering badly. 

Russia and Iran are already smashing US designs in the Caspian – via the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) – and the Black Sea, which is on the way to becoming a Russian lake. Tehran is paying very close attention to Moscow’s strategy in Ukraine, even as it refines its own strategy on how to debilitate the Hegemon without direct involvement: call it geopolitical plausible deniability.   

Bye bye EU-Israel-Saudi-India corridor

The Russia-China-Iran alliance has been demonized as the new “axis of evil” by western neocons. That infantile rage betrays cosmic impotence. These are Real Sovereigns that can’t be messed with, and if they are, the price to pay is unthinkable. 

A key example: if Iran under attack by a US-Israeli axis decided to block the Strait of Hormuz, the global energy crisis would skyrocket, and the collapse of the western economy under the weight of quadrillions of derivatives would be inevitable. 

What this means, in the immediate future, is that he American Dream of interfering across the Five Seas does not even qualify as a mirage. Al-Aqsa Flood has also just buried the recently-announced and much-ballyhooed EU-Israel-Saudi Arabia-India transportation corridor. 

China is keenly aware of all this incandescence taking place only a week before its 3rd Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. At stake are the BRI connectivity corridors that matter – across the Heartland, across Russia, plus the Maritime Silk Road and the Arctic Silk Road. 

Then there’s the INSTC linking Russia, Iran and India – and by ancillary extension, the Gulf monarchies. 

The geopolitical repercussions of Al-Aqsa Flood will speed up Russia, China and Iran’s interconnected geoeconomic and logistical connections, bypassing the Hegemon and its Empire of Bases. Increased trade and non-stop cargo movement are all about (good) business. On equal terms, with mutual respect - not exactly the War Party’s scenario for a destabilized West Asia.  

Oh, the things that a slow-moving paragliding infantry overflying a wall can accelerate.  

*  *  *

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle or ZeroHedge.

Tyler Durden Sat, 10/14/2023 - 23:20

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Visualizing All Attempted & Successful Moon Landings

Visualizing All Attempted & Successful Moon Landings

Since before Ancient Greece and the first Chinese Dynasties, people have sought to…



Visualizing All Attempted & Successful Moon Landings

Since before Ancient Greece and the first Chinese Dynasties, people have sought to understand and learn more about the moon.

Curiosity and centuries of study culminated in the first moon landing in the 1960s. But there have been many other attempted moon landings, both before and after.

This chart by Visual Capitalists' Preyash Shah illustrates all the moon landings using NASA data since 1966 when Soviet lander Luna 9 touched down.

Race to the Moon

The 1960s and 1970s marked an era of intense competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as they raced to conquer the moon.

During the Cold War, space became a priority as each side sought to prove the superiority of its technology, its military firepower, and its political-economic system.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set a national goal to have a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth.

After several failed attempts from both sides, on July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission was successful and astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon.

Mission Launch Date Operator Country Mission Type Outcome
Ranger 3 26-Jan-62 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander Spacecraft failure
Ranger 4 23-Apr-62 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander Spacecraft failure
Ranger 5 18-Oct-62 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander Spacecraft failure
Luna E-6 No.2 4-Jan-63 OKB-1 ☭ USSR Lander Launch failure
Luna E-6 No.3 3-Feb-63 OKB-1 ☭ USSR Lander Launch failure
Luna 4 2-Apr-63 OKB-1 ☭ USSR Lander Spacecraft failure
Luna E-6 No.6 21-Mar-64 OKB-1 ☭ USSR Lander Launch failure
Luna E-6 No.5 20-Apr-64 OKB-1 ☭ USSR Lander Launch failure
Kosmos 60 12-Mar-65 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Launch failure
Luna E-6 No.8 10-Apr-65 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Spacecraft failure
Luna 5 9-May-65 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Spacecraft failure
Luna 6 8-Jun-65 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Spacecraft failure
Luna 7 4-Oct-65 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Spacecraft failure
Luna 8 3-Dec-65 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Spacecraft failure
Luna 9 31-Jan-66 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Successful
Surveyor 1 30-May-66 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander Successful
Surveyor 2 20-Sep-66 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander Spacecraft failure
Luna 13 21-Dec-66 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Successful
Surveyor 3 17-Apr-67 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander Successful
Surveyor 4 14-Jul-67 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander Spacecraft failure
Surveyor 5 8-Sep-67 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander Successful
Surveyor 6 7-Nov-67 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander Successful
Surveyor 7 7-Jan-68 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander Successful
Luna E-8 No.201 19-Feb-69 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Launch failure
Luna E-8-5 No.402 14-Jun-69 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Launch failure
Luna 15 13-Jul-69 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Spacecraft failure
Apollo 11 16-Jul-69 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Kosmos 300 23-Sep-69 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Launch failure
Kosmos 305 22-Oct-69 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Launch failure
Apollo 12 14-Nov-69 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Luna E-8-5 No.405 6-Feb-70 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Launch failure
Apollo 13 11-Apr-70 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Partial failure
Luna 16 12-Sep-70 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Successful
Luna 17 10-Nov-70 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Successful
Apollo 14 31-Jan-71 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Apollo 15 26-Jul-71 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Luna 18 2-Sep-71 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Spacecraft failure
Luna 20 14-Feb-72 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Successful
Apollo 16 16-Apr-72 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Apollo 17 7-Dec-72 NASA ???????? U.S. Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Luna 21 8-Jan-73 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Successful
Luna 23 16-Oct-75 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Partial failure
Luna E-8-5M No.412 16-Oct-75 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Launch failure
Luna 24 9-Aug-76 Lavochkin ☭ USSR Lander Successful
Chang'e 3 1-Dec-13 CNSA ???????? China Lander Operational
Chang'e 4 7-Dec-18 CNSA ???????? China Lander Operational
Beresheet 22-Feb-19 SpaceIL ???????? Israel Lander Spacecraft failure
Chandrayaan-2 22-Jul-19 ISRO ???????? India Lander Spacecraft Failure
Chang'e 5 23-Nov-20 CNSA ???????? China Lander Successful
Hakuto-R Mission 1 11-Dec-22 ispace ???????? Japan Lander Spacecraft failure
Chandrayaan-3 14-Jul-23 ISRO ???????? India Lander Successful
Luna 25 10-Aug-23 Roscosmos ???????? Russia Lander Spacecraft failure

After the Apollo missions, the fervor of lunar exploration waned. From 1976 to 2013, no moon landing attempts occurred due to budget constraints, shifting priorities, and advances in robotic missions.

However, a new chapter in space exploration has unfolded in recent years, with emerging players entering the cosmic arena. With its Chang’e missions, China has made significant strides, landing rovers on the moon and exploring the far side of the moon.

India, too, has asserted its presence with the Chandrayaan missions. In 2023, the country became the 4th nation to reach the moon as an unmanned spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole, advancing the country’s space ambitions to learn more about the lunar ice, potentially one of the moon’s most valuable resources.

Exploring Lunar Water

Since the 1960s, even before the historic Apollo landing, scientists had theorized the potential existence of water on the moon.

In 2008, Brown University researchers employed advanced technology to reexamine lunar samples, discovering hydrogen within beads of volcanic glass. And in 2009, a NASA instrument aboard the India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe confirmed the presence of water on the moon’s surface.

Water is deemed crucial for future space exploration. Beyond serving as a potential source of drinking water for future moon explorations, ice deposits could play a pivotal role in cooling equipment. Lunar ice could also be broken down to produce hydrogen for fuel and oxygen for breathing, essential for supporting extended space missions.

With a reinvigorated interest in exploring the moon, manned moon landings are on the horizon once again. In April 2023, NASA conducted tests for the launch of Artemis I, the first American spacecraft to aim for the moon since 1972. The agency aims to send astronauts to the moon around 2025 and build a base camp on the lunar surface.

Tyler Durden Sat, 10/14/2023 - 22:45

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“We Can’t Force The Human Body To Accept Foreign Genetic Code” Dr. McCullough On mRNA Technology

"We Can’t Force The Human Body To Accept Foreign Genetic Code” Dr. McCullough On mRNA Technology

Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The Epoch…



"We Can't Force The Human Body To Accept Foreign Genetic Code'' Dr. McCullough On mRNA Technology

Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Cardiologist Dr. Peter McCullough warned that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines inject “foreign genetic code” into human beings, which the body fails to break down or expel for a prolonged period of time.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a cell (purple) infected with a variant strain of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (pink), isolated from a patient sample. (NIAID via The Epoch Times)

Research on mRNA “has been going on for decades,” Dr. McCullough said during an Oct. 5 interview. The 2023 Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to two scientists for making “messenger RNA long-lasting in the human body,” he said. “I mean, it has been tested in multiple applications … It's an absolute bust. It was just the worst idea ever to install the genetic code for a lethal protein without being able to shut it off. It wasn't the fact that it was rushed; it's just ill-conceived from the very beginning.”

We can't force the human body to accept foreign genetic code and produce a foreign protein … Messenger RNA for vaccines is a completely failed concept. It’s a dangerous concept, and the U.S. government wasn't honest. They should have been honest. Trump should have come out and said, ‘Listen, it's on our website; our military's been working on this since 2012.’”

During a testimony at the European Parliament last month, Dr. McCullough said, “There's not a single study showing that the messenger RNA is broken down” in the human body once it is injected.

There's not a study showing it leaves the body.” Since the vaccines are “made synthetically, they cannot be broken down.”

He added that the lethal protein from the [COVID-19] vaccines found in the human body after vaccination was found to be circulating “at least for six months, if not longer.”

In the case of seasonal jabs, that is, taking an injection or booster at the end of six months as recommended by the authorities, “there's another installation in more circulating potentially lethal protein.”

Scientist Drew Weissman, who won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his role in developing mRNA technology, warned in a 2018 paper that not only did clinical trials of mRNA vaccines produce “more modest [results] in humans than was expected based on animal models,” but that the “side effects were not trivial.”

Dr. Mccullough’s comments come as the Gates Foundation is spending $40 million on countries in Africa and other economically backward nations to produce new mRNA vaccines in efforts to prevent diseases like tuberculosis and malaria.

Concealing a ‘Global Security Threat’

In the Steve Deace interview, Dr. McCullough said that the ineffectiveness of the technology was not unknown to the government since they’ve been testing it for nearly 40 years.

He referred to a February 2023 paper published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which cited that the U.S. government has been investing billions of dollars in developing messenger RNA technology since 1985.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began investing in mRNA tech in 2011. DARPA then launched the Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3) program in 2016 that sought to produce “relevant numbers of doses” against infections within 60 days of identifying them.

The ADEPT P3 was a program by the U.S. military “to end pandemics in 60 days.” There is no other technology “that our government has invested more in,” Dr. McCullough said.

Dr. McCullough cited another paper that stated there were “over 9,000 patents on messenger RNA. And all the patent assignees are big entities. At the top is Sanofi, then Cervavac, BioNTech, Moderna, and the U.S. government. No single person invented messenger RNA. Someone who comes up in 2021 and says, ‘You know I invented it’. That's impossible. This has been going on for decades.”

Dr. McCullough pointed out that the United States and China have been in “collaboration for years” in their research on infectious and lethal coronavirus.

However, officials like Anthony Fauci, the former head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Francis Collins, the former head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and “a whole cadre of scientists, they collaborated to conceal this global security threat.”

“They actually intentionally lied to the world and said the virus came out of nature. They knew it came out of the Wuhan lab,” he said, citing a research paper by Ralph Baric and Dr. Zhengli-Li Shi that was published in the Nature journal in 2015.

Dr. Zhengli-Li Shi is affiliated with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, while Mr. Baric is from the Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

They said they created SARS-CoV-2 virus. They called it the Wuhan Institute of Virology 1 virus. That was the prototype SARS-CoV-2. So, that's in 2015. Instead of bringing Ralph Baric out [and asking] ‘Dr. Baric, how do we get ourselves out of this disaster,’ you masterminded this virus funded by the US.”

‘Pull All COVID-19 Vaccines Off the Market’

In his interview, Dr. McCullough made three recommendations. “I say number one, I've called in the US Senate [and] now the European Parliament [to] pull all COVID-19 vaccines off the market before anyone else is harmed.”

“Number two, US, EU and all westernized Nations [should] pull out of the WHO. They're not trustable. And number three, I'm following the World Council for Health. I am recommending a halt on all childhood vaccines, the entire vaccine schedule until this is clarified since messenger RNA is now on the schedule without any concerns for safety.

Cardiologists Dr. Aseem Malhotra (left) and Dr. Peter McCullough (right) in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 29, 2022. (Bao Qiu/The Epoch Times)

While some studies related to the safety of COVID-19 vaccines have shown the jabs to be safe, others have raised concerns about the safety of the shots.

A December 2022 study analyzed trials comparing vaccine recipients with individuals who did not receive a vaccine or were given a placebo.

It concluded that “compared to placebo, most vaccines reduce, or likely reduce, the proportion of participants with confirmed symptomatic COVID-19, and for some, there is high-certainty evidence that they reduce severe or critical disease.”

However, a June 2022 study that looked at mRNA vaccinations found that “Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were associated with an increased risk of serious adverse events of special interest (AESI).”

“The excess risk of serious adverse events of special interest surpassed the risk reduction for COVID-19 hospitalization relative to the placebo group in both Pfizer and Moderna trials.”

‘Shedding’ the Infection

During the interview, Mr. Deace asked about hearing issues that he and his colleague suffered and whether they had any ties with the vaccines. While he did not take a COVID-19 shot, the colleague was vaccinated. Mr. Deace asked if this was “further proof that basically the last few years Peter everybody was a lab rat whether you took the vaccine or not.”

Syringes and vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be administered at a drive-up vaccination site in Reno, Nev., on Dec. 17, 2020. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

“It's true, nearly all of us have been exposed to the Wuhan spike protein,” Dr. McCullough replied. “When I see patients in the office, we check antibodies against the spike protein. Invariably, they're elevated. Rarely, I'll find somebody who hasn't been exposed.”

Dr. McCullough pointed out that there are “clear-cut papers” showing individuals suffering hearing loss after taking COVID-19 jabs. “It's all related to the spike protein,” he said. mRNA vaccines work by instructing cells in the body to produce the spike protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.

Once vaccinated, an individual’s muscle cells begin producing spike protein pieces, displaying them on cell surfaces, which end up triggering the immune system to create antibodies. When such an individual gets infected with the COVID-19 virus, these antibodies will then fight the virus.

Dr. McCullough warned that even people who have not received mRNA COVID-19 vaccines can eventually get affected by messenger RNA through a vaccinated individual via “shedding.”

Shedding means that one has been exposed to the spike protein or to the messenger RNA from close contact with another individual. We know both of them can travel via exosomes which are small phospholipid packets that can be exhaled [via] breath, through sweat, [and] various forms of body fluid, typically you know very close contact.”

“There was a big project called the Eva project in the UK showing 78 percent of women who take a vaccine—they actually have menstrual abnormalities. And those who even didn't take a vaccine, they end up having menstrual abnormalities. There's been plenty of these reports that have occurred.”

Dr. McCullough cited an interview he did with scientist Helene Banoun, an expert on shedding, who believes such things “clearly happens, for sure, in people who've taken the vaccine within 30 days, close contact.”

“Now, two studies—one in the United States, one in Japan—[show] the messenger RNA comes through breast milk. The spike protein may be shedded potentially for a much longer duration of time. It's been shown in the human body now for months, maybe even years afterward. And that's the rationale for what our recent proposal to actually undergo spike protein detoxification.”

The cardiologist pointed out that “every signal” related to cardiovascular disease, neurologic disease, blood clots, immune disease, and cancer “is up.”

“There can be debates on why all these chronic diseases are up, all-cause mortality up in every single area of the world,” he said. “The two big exposures we've had are COVID-19 infection and now COVID-19 vaccines, and I think both mechanisms have led to this wave of disease.”

“I think more powerfully with the vaccines since the vaccines are largely genetic, they're given every six months, and they install the genetic code for the disease-promoting and lethal Wuhan spike protein.”

Tyler Durden Sat, 10/14/2023 - 22:10

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