The Central Bank Power Shift from West to East, Game of Thrones Style


Nomi Prins

 

(This piece is a version of my article appearing in Jim Rickard’s Strategic Intelligence newsletter this month. It gives you an idea of what’s to come in Artisans of Money (abent the Game of Thrones comp.)) Enjoy.

“When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.” – Cersei Lannister

I was late to Season 6 of Game of Thrones (while buried in writing my next book Artisans of Money.)  If you have never watched Game of Thrones, a) do so immediately and b) here’s the nutshell. The show, based on the book series, depicts a land in which several kingdoms are duking it out for the Iron Throne, the symbol of absolute power.  Think the board game “Risk” except with dragons, magic, an army of the dead, and lots of blood.

While I was watching, I couldn’t help noticing that its backdrop is a dead ringer for central banks’ strategy.  The Fed clings to status quo. Other central banks are vying to knock it down, or at least loosen its grip on them. But the Fed behaves as if it has no idea there are other powerful central banks that want to grab and harness its power. It carries on refusing to acknowledge that there may come a time, sooner rather than later, where its power is attacked.

The ramifications of such an attack will impact the standing of the U.S. in the world.  The Fed can carry on being oblivious, but Game of Thrones illustrates the struggles playing out right now.

In the Game of Thrones world, emerging queen, Daenerys Targaryen is biding her time and building her army. She is creating alliances in Meereen, an ancient country in the East (her awesome fire-breathing dragons in tow).  She’s playing the long game, strategically planning when to elevate the fight against the ruling queen in the West, Cersei Lannister.

The most important part of Daenerys’ story is not that she is determined to rule the seven kingdoms and take possession of the Iron Throne. It’s that she knows she can’t do it alone. So she aligns reinforcements, smaller power bases.

These smaller partners may or may not have allegiance to her based on the legitimacy of her claim to power — but they have all been wronged by the Lannister’s. This family, currently led by Cersei Lannister, is extremely wealthy and powerful, but hasn’t managed to lead the western kingdom, Westeros, to wealth and power. In fact, the people in Westeros are becoming increasingly frustrated and scared of their rulers.  (You see the similarities?)

Not only has Cersei managed to create enemies out of the smaller families that surround her, she recently massacred a large portion of the city she rules to protect her own interests. She is losing her power domestically and globally, but continues to think and act as if she will rule forever. We’ll see what happens next season.

The Fed’s State

In this situation, the Lannisters are representing the U.S. and the Fed specifically. The Fed remains in denial about the true state of the domestic and global economies. In its realm of hubris, it has no idea of the steps other central banks are taking, or want to take, to reduce their exposure and reliance on not just the U.S. dollar, but on U.S. political, monetary, financial and regulatory policy in general.

Case in point. After the Dow dropped 250 points on September 9th, on September 12th, Asian markets nose-dived on the possibility that the Fed might raise rates (though it said nothing of the sort — the “rate tease” is a manifestation of deliberate Fed obfuscation and media boredom).  This is a pattern that plays out every month, with varying degrees of intensity, or volatility.

Enter three of the Fed’s giants, led by Lael Brainnard. During her speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, she backtracked on any tightening talk saying, “the case to tighten policy preemptively is less compelling.”

That calmed markets. That day. It reminded them nothing is changing any time soon. U.S. stock markets rejoiced. Bubble-baiters bought. The Dow soared 1.3%. Elsewhere in the world though, no one wants their market whipsawed by Fed speak.  Certainly not the People’s Bank of China.

The PBoC’s approach has been to send out anti-Fed policy sound-bites through elite officials. These clips are picked up by national and international media and then spread to the general public.
On September 13th, for instance, Yi Gang, a deputy governor from the PBoC, told a central banking conference in Vienna, “We’re still very cautious on this (zero-interest rate) monetary policy.” He warned, “We have to be very careful and look at the limitations and uncertainty of a zero-interest rate policy, because in China we still have a decent growth rate.” What he basically said was “the Fed’s policy is a joke and we’re not laughing.” (I’ll have more quotes like this in Artisans of Money.)

In the Game of Monetary Policy, the Fed whacked the idea of “free markets” in the face. (For the record, I don’t believe they ever existed, because the theoretical implication is full information transparency and equal access, and that’s just not been the reality – ever.) The ECB chucked an arrow in its heart. The BOJ sliced off its head. Markets are sustained artificially. The Fed has become, as you’ll read more about in my book, the chief Artisan of Money. Central banks are bankrupt of new ideas to keep the system afloat.

Or are they? While the Fed cut rates to zero, bloated its book to $4.5 trillion, and pressed the rest of the developed world to follow, global skepticism bubbled over. First the Chinese, then Latin America. Then the IMF. Then the Chinese again. Central bank elite took turns bashing Fed policy, mostly under media radar,  and calling for an alternative to the U.S. dollar associated with it. This is the equivalent of financial warfare. The U.S. and Fed struck first.  It will take time, but the blowback is in motion.

The U.S. dollar was attached to a financial crisis fueled by big bank recklessness and Fed apathy, followed by a Fed policy that devalued money itself.  Many other countries had no choice but to follow the Fed’s lead and directives, but that doesn’t mean they were happy about it. As in Game of Thrones, the smart choice is to forge strategic alliances with other houses or be slaughtered.

The IMF is one of the houses that will be a crucial player in the new power constructs.

The IMF Power Play

The IMF, created by the U.S. and Europe, has been seeking a broader role in the monetary politics wars. For all the media dissection of every word Janet Yellen utters about rates, the IMF knows the Fed is lost. Its policy hasn’t worked. The Fed ignored this and raised rates last December, despite warnings from managing director, Christine Lagarde. Market punishment was swift and the damage was global. The move caused renewed fear and anger from nations that had already suffered at the hands of the Fed and the big U.S. banks it sustains.

The U.S. has the largest voting block within the IMF, which is located blocks away from the White House, but IMF leadership understands how the winds of change are blowing. If the BRICS and a few more developed states were to act as a voting block (or increase their voting power, as they’re attempting), they could potentially dislodge the strong influence that the U.S. has within the IMF.

It was the U.S. voting block that gave Lagarde her job in 2011, and allowed Europe to maintain its 70-year stronghold on the IMF. As a result, Lagarde’s opposition, Augustin Carstens, head of the Central Bank of Mexico, lost that country’s first bid for the role.

In Game of Thrones, this is the story of Tyrion Lannister. He’s Cersei’s brother, but has been loudly critical of her leadership. Originally, he tried to guide his sister towards better practices. She didn’t listen to him. Now, he has joined forces with Daenerys and is helping her rise to power. His loyal alliance with Daenerys has led him to ascend the ranks again, from another angle. He is well-connected throughout the seven kingdoms. He is strategic. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of all the players. He is formidable despite his size (or in central bank terms, the volume of reserves).

This is the Fed and the IMF.  That entity was spawned to augment U.S. central bank and government power in the wake of WWII. Powerful, but not as powerful. Since the financial crisis, the IMF has been strategically chipping away at the Fed’s power base. Like the PBoC, the IMF has been both criticizing and warning about the impact of Fed policy on other nations. By disparaging the Fed, it is amassing its own power. Its international influence has never been higher.

Under Lagarde, the IMF is doing more than funding development projects and supplying overall currency directives to the world, as was its original mandate.  It is reconstructing new alliances amongst countries not involved in its creation. In doing so, it is building its own power by elevating their allies.

On October 1, for the first time in 43 years, the IMF will add China’s currency, the Renminbi (denominated in yuan), into its Special Drawing Rights basket (SDR).  In doing so, the IMF, at the zenith of its own power, has tipped the scales away from the U.S. and the Bretton Woods crew that created the SDR in 1969.  The expanding SDR basket is as much a political power play as it is about increasing the number of reserve currencies for central banks for financial purposes.

The SDR Factor

China’s power ambitions go well beyond the SDR. They include international diplomacy, sustainable energy dominance, and becoming a focal point for alliances through Europe,  Russia and the ASEAN states.  The ASEAN–China Free Trade Area (ACFTA) is a prime example of why the SDR for China and the region is important as China expands its influence. So are new trade and financial pacts with Russia where the yuan and ruble exchange in deals without involving U.S. dollars. In addition, Russia and China are both starting to amass gold which could return as the 6th component of the SDR someday.

When the SDR was created as a global reserve asset, it was to supplement the international supply of gold and the U.S. dollar. Once the gold standard was demolished and countries began accumulating international reserves, there was less of a need for this global reserve asset.  It lay dormant, along with the power of the IMF. But in the wake of the financial crisis, it sprang back to life as another liquidity source for member countries.  The IMF sprang back to power as well.

The SDR was initially defined relative to gold (0.888671 grams of fine gold — the equivalent of one U.S. dollar.) After the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1973, the SDR was redefined as a weighted basket of four currencies — the U.S. dollar, euro, Japanese yen, and pound sterling.

In 2015, when the yuan was approved, a new weighting formula was adopted. It assigns equal shares to the currency issuer’s exports plus a composite financial indicator. That means the more prevalent the currency in the world, the bigger its weight. If more Yuan are used in the world, its position in the SDR grows. In another crisis, it could take on the U.S. dollar and Euro, and by extension the Fed.

The SDR weight of the yuan is just 10.92 percent compared to 41.73 percent for the U.S. dollar and 10.92 percent for the Euro.1  That’s not a bad opening gambit. The next official weights review is in September 30, 2021. But in a crisis, there is latitude for this to happen much sooner.

As China continues to play host to global events (Olympics, G20, etc.) it also is in pursuit of greater regional influence. With the largest economy, and now showing its capability as having a globally recognized reserve currency, China is adding another layer of strength to its position.  While the associated confidence measure will not be the death of the dollar, it indicates that the dollar is not the only option to turn to in times of panic, or increased trade or financial growth.  The intrinsic power of that position attacks not only the dollar but the overall power of the U.S.

Competing Central Bank Kingdoms and their Power Bases

Currencies reflect both political and economic clout. Even if SDR’s themselves aren’t that voluminous yet, the shift in the make-up is meaningful. The Fed has already lost ground in the process. The IMF and PBoC have gained it. In the middle, there is an increasingly shaky, EU.

The ECB was established after the creation of the Euro in 1998 to oversee other member European central banks. It has more power than any of them because it sets rates for the EU, which dictates the cost of their money and how it flows.

Former Goldman Sachs executive and former Bank of Italy Governor, Mario Draghi is the current President of the ECB. He has followed the Fed’s policy to a letter — despite grumblings from other EU power brokers (and reality) that negative interest rates have solved nothing and instead aided to the fractiousness of the EU experiment itself.  In 2012, facing an acute European debt crisis, he promised, “the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the Euro.” The Euro has fallen precipitously since.

If Draghi’s words are weak, his actions are weaker. The ECB is offering to pay banks that borrow money from it, plus, giving them 85 billion Euro each month through its ongoing QE program to purchase their debt. From a battleground standpoint, that smacks of desperation.

The ECB just announced it would give banks three years to write off bad loans — meaning they have lots of bad loans. Deutsche Bank is just one mega example. The ECB has failed to mitigate any risk. Its alliance with the Fed hasn’t helped Draghi build his power, just retain it, and it certainly hasn’t helped the EU as a whole.

Within the wider European Area, the Bank of England, under governor Mark Carney, retains legacy power. That power has waned though, and increasingly so since the Brexit vote. If Britain leaves the EU for real, then the Bank of England’s actions are less relevant to the EU.  This elevates the power of the ECB and the Euro. But as noted, those are already weak to begin with.

If the Bank of England follows the course that Brexit has laid out, the SDR could see a further reduction of the pound weighting, and Euro weighting, which would push up the weighting of the yuan by sheer math. This shift is symbolic now, but power can start in that realm.

The Bank of Japan, before governor Haruhiko Kuroda took the helm, had run-ins with the Japanese minister of finance over its negative rate policy and bond-buying programs. The Japanese stock market lies in a constant state of tension. Because the BOJ is on the same monetary policy plane as the Fed, Japan’s markets have similarly become used to monetary adrenalin shots. Globally, this has led capital, seeking a fix in times of instability, to Japan and to the yen.

But lately Japan’s markets have also been reacting more viciously whenever the possibility of a Fed tightening hits, or lack of fresh BOJ easing measures, emerge.  The alliance of the BOJ and PBoC has not been fleshed out yet, but I believe that’s only a matter of time. Old fights might be discarded if economic or financial survival is imperiled, which is what these sharper market moves foreshadow. (There have already been new trade and lending deals emerging between the two.)

People’s Bank of China: Dragon Rising

This dragon’s about to take flight. The People’s Bank of China governor is Zhou Xiaochuan, who has held that post longer than any other G20 central bank leader. The PBoC holds more U.S. treasuries than any other central bank and is ready for battle. Zhou understands global paradigm shifts. He’s the only Chinese person on the G30 and on the board of the BIS.  He’s been the leading figure pushing the yuan into the SDR basket by slowly allowing it to float with the market, despite allegations of ongoing currency manipulation. He has a good personal relationship with Lagarde.

As China’s position has grown, so has Zhou’s voice, albeit without giving too much away, (something for which the U.S. has been critical.) Keeping some card close to his chest is a strategy. “The central bank has a clear and strong desire to improve its communication with the public and market,” he told Caixin, a major publication in China. “At the same time, it’s not easy to do a good job in communication.”

China wants to keep internal inflation down. This is why it would prefer a strong, not a weak currency. This negates the charge that China is trying to devalue or manipulate the yuan for better trade profits perpetuated by Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This is true to a minor extent due to economic pressures, but barely.  (It was, after all, the Ming Dynasty back in 1455 that ended the printing of paper money in order to control inflation.)

The stronger the yuan, and the more prevalent it is globally, the more the PBoC challenges the Fed and the more control the China bloc gains over the U.S. In Chinese culture and the Game of Thrones, the Dragon symbolizes life and expansion. (Side note: I confess to having a Dragon obsession.) It’s a fitting symbol for the rising power of China and the yuan.

The Current Central Bank Hierarchy

The Fed is the world’s most powerful central bank. The ECB is a close second. Third, is the Bank of Japan. Fourth, for now, is the People’s Bank of China.  That will change.

The PBoC has crafted its own techniques to support China’s economy through monetary policy. Although, at the recent G20 meeting, Xi Jianping told reporters that the age of monetary and fiscal stimulation is over and new strategies must arise, he did so by claiming the global growth mantel. As he said, “In light of the pronounced issue of lackluster global economic growth, we need to innovate our macroeconomic policies and effectively combine fiscal and monetary policies with structural reform policies.”

The Fed’s power is resting on the dollar’s dominance. That dominance, in turn, was established by political design based on military prowess following two world wars — which were financed by elite U.S. banks.

The U.S. Treasury market is the world’s largest and most liquid. Central banks holding U.S. dollars are really holding U.S. Treasuries.  They are lending the U.S. money, and we pay them for it with interest. But when rates are zero, we are paying them nothing to lend us more money. This is why growing debt is so easy under current Fed policy.

Just like Cersei Lannister, the Fed thinks it will retain its power simply because it currently has power, even though everyone is wary of her and the house she represents. In contrast, Daenerys is not so disliked. Like China, she is clever and building alliances. They are playing the long game patiently and strategically.

Bad Bad Contagion

The Fed re-assembled in Washington on September 20-21, after a mini-break. Prior to that, they were in “black out” mode. During that time, I discovered a new report while sleuthing around the Fed’s website.  It’s about 45 pages of mathematical equations, beyond which lies some scary thoughts.

In this September 2016 report, to which main stream reporters paid none to minimal attention, Fed economist, Juan M. Londono addresses the notion of “contagion.” The Fed’s own research team is ahead of its management. Bad contagion, Londono notes, is the “confluence of unexpectedly low stock returns across several international stock markets simultaneously.” His findings revealed that, “episodes of bad contagion are followed by significant and meaningful deteriorations to financial stability indicators.”

If stock markets crumble, so do economies. The elites running central banks in those economies don’t want that happening on their watch. The only way to avoid the collapse is to distance themselves from the Fed and the dollar. Even David Reifschneider, deputy director of research for the Fed, noted, “there could be circumstances in the future in which the ability of the FOMC to provide the desired degree of accommodation using these tools would be strained.” (Translation: The Fed is running out of bullets,. Or losing its power over other central banks.)

This doesn’t mean the dollar will tank like a stone immediately as some people predict — the power base that supports it won’t go down without a fight. (Nor will the Lannister’s—Season 7 will be bloody.)  But once the fight starts in earnest, it will accelerate off its own momentum.

Stock markets have reached historic highs on a steady diet of fabricated money. Contagion is real, because the associated polices are interdependent. Having gone down with the U.S. economic ship in 2008, why would any country want to endure that again?

During the past eight years, the Fed has led a global race to the bottom of responsible monetary policy while exuding bi-polar verbiage as to its effectiveness. This blind continuity of Fed policy is the clearest indication of its lack of success. The inability to articulate an exit strategy is another.

The third, is the denial that other central banks and countries want to distance themselves from the Fed. For the moment, the leader in that regard is the PBoC. The Dragon is re-entering the fight now that the stakes are highest. The swords are drawn. The battles of the East and West are on.


Nomi Prins is a best-selling author and speaker

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The Cracks in Malaysia’s Political Order Begin to Show


Stratfor

Prime Minister Najib Razak will remain in his position until the ruling coalition decides he has become too much of a political liability to do so. But his opponents are nonetheless preparing for the next election, whenever it may be. (NICKY LOH/Getty Images)


Forecast

  • Neither Malaysia’s opposition nor its upcoming mass anti-government protests will supplant Prime Minister Najib Razak before the next general election.
  • Longtime Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad’s new party will struggle to gain traction, but it may still tip the electoral balance.
  • Growing restlessness in Malaysia’s outlying states could expose new fault lines in the country’s long-established political order. 

Analysis

As rumors circulate that Malaysia’s next general election may be moved up to early next year, the country’s next political showdown is beginning to take shape. Over the past two years, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been implicated in a scandal in which he allegedly looted nearly a billion dollars from state investment fund 1MDB. Najib is widely considered guilty at this point, and the scandal has sparked mass protests, purges in his ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party and international scrutiny. But it has yet to seriously threaten him. Until the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional coalition sees the crisis as souring its electoral prospects, whether by alienating voters or by undermining the power of its patronage, the teflon prime minister will remain relatively secure in his position.

Still, for UMNO, which has ruled Malaysia every year since the country gained its independence, several challenges loom on the horizon. Combined with the country’s lingering economic woes and the continued 1MDB fallout, those challenges could expose new cracks in the political order and stability that have underpinned Malaysia’s rise to global prominence.

Staying Power

Despite his involvement in the 1MDB affair, Malaysia’s prime minister has managed to maintain his power over the country and the ruling party. As the scandal has unfolded, most UMNO members have closed ranks around Najib, and the party’s coalition partners have stayed put. Party members who have questioned the prime minister (including former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin) or tried to investigate him (as Najib’s former attorney general did) have been purged and replaced with loyalists who absolve him of any wrongdoing. The fractured opposition, meanwhile, is simply too weak to oust him through a no-confidence vote — as it tried and failed to do a year ago. The corruption scandal has also had little effect on voters; Barisan Nasional coalition partners won each of the state and parliament by-elections held over the past year. The reason for its longevity is simple: Patronage remains the dominant tool of political power in Malaysia, and Najib’s administration controls the purse strings. A half-century of UMNO rule, moreover, has allowed the party to redraw political districts to its favor, something it is trying to do again in the electorally critical Selangor state.

Even so, if the scandal starts to hurt the ruling coalition’s electoral prospects, UMNO may be compelled to devise an exit for Najib before the next election to save him from prosecution and the party from an unprecedented defeat. The vote does not have to take place until late 2018, but over the past month, UMNO has reportedly intensified discussions on whether to call snap elections as soon as early 2017. Regardless, the possibility is accelerating realignments ahead of the next vote — among both the opposition and Barisan Nasional’s nervous coalition partners.

Enter Bersatu

The biggest complication for UMNO heading into the next election will be the newly formed Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, or Bersatu for short. Launched in August, Bersatu was established by longtime Malaysian leader and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who also serves as the party’s chair. Muhyiddin is its president. The 91-year-old Mahathir has been trying to oust Najib, his former protege, for much of the past year, but his efforts have not gained much traction. His latest attempt to unseat UMNO is also unlikely to succeed on its own. Bersatu lacks the grassroots support and party machinery necessary to drive turnout, and Najib has been chipping away at Mahathir’s business interests, giving him less weight to throw around.

As part of an opposition alliance, however, the new party could play a decisive role in the next election. A similar opposition coalition nearly unseated Barisan Nasional in the 2013 general election and cost it the popular vote; Barisan Nasional retained a majority in parliament in that election mostly because of gerrymandering. During the week of Sept. 5, Mahathir was seen shaking hands with Anwar Ibrahim, a charismatic, reform-minded opposition leader. The incident was a boon for Bersatu, which found in Anwar an unlikely source of legitimacy — Mahathir ousted him in 1998 and then had him jailed on politically motivated charges.

By admitting only ethnic Malays into its membership, Bersatu has positioned itself as a natural landing place for Malay nationalist voters disenchanted with UMNO’s scandals but unsure of other opposition parties’ commitment to protecting their interests. UMNO’s stranglehold on the “Bumiputera” (the umbrella term for ethnic Malays and indigenous groups) vote is a perennial obstacle for the opposition. The party has long styled itself as safeguarding the interests of the Bumiputera against other ethnicities in Malaysia, stoking fears that the country’s economically powerful Chinese and Indian populations will try to do away with pro-Malay affirmative action policies. (Mahathir himself quietly sought to roll back some of the affirmative actions near the end of his term, to no avail.)

In the 2008 and 2013 general elections, opposition factions overcame their deep-seated differences and united behind ethnic Malay figures such as Anwar to appeal to Malay voters. But Anwar has since been jailed again, and the alliance has largely collapsed amid infighting and ethnic rivalries. For instance, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) — the opposition Islamist party dominant in northern peninsular Malaysia — severed ties with a former ally, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) in 2015 and has yet to commit to the new coalition, possibly positioning itself as kingmaker in the next general election. But considering that the opposition won the popular vote in 2013, Bersatu theoretically would not need to peel off much support from the ruling coalition to swing the next election. Bersatu’s best bet may be to focus on splitting the ethnic Malay vote in key races rather than on winning seats for itself, allowing other opposition parties to prevail.

First, however, the opposition parties will need to find a workable marriage of convenience. Though Anwar has tentatively endorsed Bersatu, the main opposition parties do not trust Mahathir. After all, he was the main architect of the system that has made it so difficult to dislodge Najib, and his own rise was fueled by exploiting Malay and indigenous fears of, for example, “the Chinese tsunami.” And several opposition leaders — from Anwar to members of the DAP — were jailed on politically motivated charges during his tenure. Even if Barisan Nasional does not call snap elections, the opposition has less than two years to find a way to cooperate and come to terms on sticking points such as seat allocations and conflicting policies. So far, they have not made much progress. The DAP has been reluctant to follow Anwar’s lead by accepting Mahathir’s olive branch, and the PAS (which itself is facing internal splits between Islamist hard-liners and a breakaway faction that supports the opposition alliance) remains a wildcard.

A Spotlight on the Scandal

Disorganized though it may be, the opposition will still benefit from the activities of Bersih, or the Coalition for Clean Elections, an activist group that is agitating for Najib’s ouster. Next month, the group plans to launch a nationwide roadshow to spread awareness of the 1MDB scandal in Barisan Nasional-controlled areas of Malaysia — an important endeavor given the government’s censorship of news related to the case. The roadshow will culminate in mass protests in Kuala Lumpur and other cities on Nov. 19. Although Bersih is not formally aligned with any of the opposition parties and is wary of Mahathir’s legacy, its efforts will serve the needs of the opposition, especially if elections are on the horizon.

Though protest turnout promises to be high — the last Bersih protest in 2015 drew some 300,000 participants over the course of 30 hours — the demonstration itself will not be designed to overthrow Najib. Mass protests in Malaysia are not typically the go-for-broke affairs seen, for example, in Thailand, where protesters occupy urban areas for prolonged periods of time to force a confrontation and delegitimize the government. Furthermore, any attempt to lock down Kuala Lumpur would spark ethnically tinged counter-protests that would raise the risk of violence. (Last year’s UMNO-funded counter-rallies, for instance, took on a noticeable anti-Chinese bent, and police narrowly prevented party supporters from storming a prominent ethnic Chinese business district in the capital.) The opposition does not want to validate fears among ethnic Malays that UMNO’s defeat would throw off the tenuous ethnic balance that the party’s rule has helped preserve. Instead, with the upcoming elections in mind, the protest organizers will aim primarily to put the focus of the next race squarely on the 1MDB affair and turn the vote into a referendum on Najib himself. The more it succeeds, the less the opposition’s internal fractures will matter.

Cracks at the Fringes

Along with its other political concerns, Najib’s government has to contend with growing restlessness in the country’s outlying, semi-autonomous states. Lacking geographical or ethnic coherence, Malaysia’s solidarity has long relied on shrewd, inclusive policymaking and plentiful resource wealth to grease any friction. The farther from the capital one gets, the more important the flows of revenue and patronage from the government become — whether in the form of large-scale infrastructure projects, extraction licenses or cash transfers.

But over the past eight years, several outlying states have increasingly tried to take advantage of Barisan Nasional’s weaknesses to push for a greater devolution of powers from the capital. Sarawak, for example, has been pressing Kuala Lumpur for more authority and oil revenues. In addition, protests erupted in that state and neighboring Sabah — both of which were critical to Barisan Nasional’s victory in the 2013 election — in September, demanding greater autonomy and a referendum on their status in Malaysia. Meanwhile, the crown prince of wealthy Johor state has suggested that the state may consider leaving the federation — as its southern neighbor, Singapore, did in 1963 — if the central government does not honor agreements on issues such as water and land rights. And the PAS, based in the northern Kelantan state, has been flirting with supporting Barisan Nasional in exchange for considering a bill to increase the power of regional Sharia courts, a move that threatens to spark ethnic backlash on both sides of the aisle.

At this point, none of these nascent movements presages upheaval that would threaten the integrity of the Malay Federation, or even major defections away from Barisan Nasional. Johor’s secession threats are particularly hollow, and Barisan Nasional’s dominance in an April state election in Sarawak demonstrated that local issues will play as great a role in the next election as will turbulence in the capital. Still, the trend reveals the lines along which the UMNO-led political order could begin to crack in the face of prolonged political uncertainty — particularly if persistent economic problems and low oil prices pinch patronage flows — with or without Najib.

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Tick Tock…The World’s Most Dangerous Bank Is Falling To Pieces!!


Deutsche Bank Collapsing in Real Time!!

Don’t you miss those days of the “Green Shoots”?!
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As planned, almost to the day, the destruction of the Global Derivative Complex is happening as banks and hedge funds are trying to get their capital OUT of the world’s largest Derivative Holder – Deutsche Bank
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Some Deutsche Bank Clients Reduce Collateral on Trades
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“A number of funds that clear derivatives trades with Deutsche Bank AG have withdrawn some excess cash and positions held at the lender, a sign of counterparties’ mounting concerns about doing business with Europe’s largest investment bank.” END

The “Run” on the derivative banks has now officially begun!

Bix Weir

http://www.RoadtoRoota.com


LATEST !

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Emergency Update: Deutsche Bank Plunges as Funds Reportedly Start Yanking $$; Get Out of Financials

Mike Larson here with an emergency update. Shares of Deutsche Bank (DB) plunged more than 6.7% after reports circulated that some funds are starting to yank money out of the German bank.

Specifically, Bloomberg reported that several hedge funds that clear derivatives with DB are pulling excess money from the bank and moving it elsewhere. They include names like Millennium Partners, Capula Investment Management, and Rokos Capital Management. – Money And Markets


Insider “Deutsche Bank COLLAPSE Tomorrow – Friday 9-30-2016” – Will Wipe out banking system worldwide!

German Bank insiders are confirming to SuperStation95 that Germany’s largest, Bank, Deutsche Bank” will “colapse” tomorrow, Friday, September 30, 2016.  The German government has no plans to bail out the bank and its demise could wipe out Banks in the US and other countries worldwide!

According to the insider:

System downfall tomorrow. A collapse of this bank is unavoidable now, and it wipes out everything immediately.
Wolfgang Gerke, President of the Bavarian Finance Centre, the German bank sees in a serious imbalance.

“This is absolutely not about Peanuts. We experience real shockwaves. The Bank is in real trouble, “Gerke said the Thursday edition of the” Passauer Neue Presse “.

This is as good as a death sentence. It is insider info (presumably from the DB itself), after the financial collapse is to take place on 30 September.

UPDATE 12:58 PM EDT —

Germans are being quietly told that ALL BANKS in Germany will close on October 1, ALL ATMS, Credit and Debit Cards are likely to be “unavailable” for unknown duration! !  !

European Central Bank Chairman  Draghi refused to talk about Deutsche Bank today, saying It is not his fault the bank appears to be in trouble.

German Insider:

There is panic in DB now. A lot of People withdraw money, close accounts. One guy says he transferred 25’000 Euro and the bank called him back if the amount and transaction is correct and true! Still has not sent the money!

This is a developing story, please check back.

Stock markets worldwide have now tuned-in to this situation and they are falling fast . . . .


Deutsche Bank – The Meltdown Crisis

Ten of the large hedge funds are withdrawing from Deutsche Bank. What must be understood here is that Deutsche Bank is the main clearing house for trades in Europe. The problem the hedge funds have is where do they move for clearing? Short-term, they can move to New York or London. With over $60 trillion derivative book at the Deutsche Bank, the government is totally incapable of even understanding how to deal with this crisis. We are looking at a major crisis in confidence.

Merkel is simply out of her mind to adhere to this insane policy of a bail-in. How can hedge funds stay with clearing at Deutsche Bank when she takes this position that would set off a catastrophic global meltdown. It still appears that Merkel will have to blink. Once people realize this is the real crisis, then the German debt market should turn down rather hard.

The pressure is clearly building based upon how my own phone is melting down. This illustration based upon IMF data, illustrates the global contagion. I “BELIEVE” that Merkel will be compelled to blink. We may see an announcement this weekend at the latest where she must address this issue. The implications of a global contagion go far beyond Germany.

Investors in Deutsche Bank are obviously looking to Merkel and whether or not she will step up to the plate here. DB shares have plummeted more than 50 percent this year. The prospect of bailing out Deutsche Bank is particularly a problem when Merkel seeking a fourth term in an election next year. Her view is to hold to what she took as a position. Hence, must the world suffer for her personal political career once again?

The EC attack on Apple has led to a backlash where the US Justice Department in retaliation wants a multibillion-dollar fine from DB. This is also contributing to the problem of DB being in the cross-hairs of US prosecutors who also seek to further their political career not unlike Merkel.

Merkel’s spokesman said the government sees “no grounds” for talk of state funding for DB. This simply cannot stand in the face of a major global contagion. The government would have to step in if Deutsche Bank was really in major trouble and hedge funds reducing exposure are abandoning the bank. You can bet by tomorrow, every bank will be trying to reduce their exposure to DB by the weekend.

John Cryan, Deutsche Bank’s chief executive officer, has come out publicly saying that raising capital “is currently not an issue,” and as far as a bailout from government, he has stated Merkel’s position that such support is “out of the question for us.” This entire crisis is actually set in motion by Merkel who championed to keep taxpayers off the hook in a crisis. She pushed for bail-ins and not bail-outs and this has made it far more difficult for governments to support banks in Europe. The Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive, which is the cornerstone of Europe’s efforts to tackle too-big-to-fail banks, takes the position that the need any such extraordinary public financial support indicates that a firm is “failing or likely to fail,” that will trigger the resolution. Now, support for banks is highly restricted and has devastated Greece, Italy, and Portugal. Consequently, if Merkel now intervenes on Deutsche Bank’s behalf, she is basically saying the law is for everyone else but Germany. That will lead to internal protests within the EU.

Internationally, if Merkel’s governing coalition does not step up to support Deutsche Bank, the political fallout globally will in itself cause a major crisis probably by November.  Clearly, the need for some sort of state intervention would outweigh calculations about the political fallout. Merkel will cause the international chaos if DB fails and it can fail if this bank run continues. DB needs to be restructured but when it is the biggest in Europe, it cannot be merged as a shotgun wedding. Its business must reduce risk for itself and the connection of other banks. The German government could assume a stock investment. The legal restrictions prevents extraordinary support as state aid that would distort competition by favoring one company over another. Under the EU law, the German government could just take an equity stake. That would not be a bailout in the classic terms that Merkel opposed. It must be carried out at current market conditions. They cannot arbitrarily supply money at some agreed upon share price that is away from the market.

Euro HangingOne loophole under EU regulation would allow Merkel bailout DB provided it is only to “remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state and preserve financial stability.” This must be only a temporary measure. This would qualify and she can claim that she is following the EU law and it is not different from country to country. However, EU state-aid rules require junior creditors and shareholders to share losses. Therein lies the problem of a global contagion.

If Merkel actually tried to inject government funds into Deutsche Bank or purchase its capital instruments, it may do so only if there is a capital shortfall identified. Still, there must be no advantage to DB from a competition perspective. The interesting problem that would emerge, highlights the clearing crisis. The European Union would then NEED British banks for clearing. In the face of BREXIT, they are not likely to concede that at any time, so there is another nail in the coffin of the euro. – Armstrong Economics

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George Soros’ False Flag Factories


SGT Report

by Wayne Madsen, Strategic-Culture:

Global hedge fund tycoon and political provocateur George Soros is leading a war of symbols, namely flags and banners either resurrected or conjured up by his myriad non-profit groups, to stir religious, racial, and ethnic tensions the world over. From the Serbian OTPOR! movement and its clenched-fist symbol adopted by protests groups around the world to the menacing black and white flag of the Islamic State, which first appeared during the Soros-backed «Arab Spring» rebellions, Soros’s «false flag» factories have been running at break-neck production speeds.

Soros and his acolytes saw the importance of symbology in the writings of Gene Sharp of the Albert Einstein Institution in Boston, Massachusetts. Although Sharp’s catechism of how to conduct non-violent resistance and revolution has been likened by some political scientists to Mohandas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, his concepts on upsetting the political status quo appear to be borrowed more from the likes of Mao Zedong, Karl Marx, and Adolf Hitler.

Among Sharp’s necessary tools to conduct political action are «flags and symbolic colors», «slogans, caricatures, and symbols», and «banners, posters, and displayed communications». The «symbolic colors» have been used by Soros- and Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored «color revolutions» in Ukraine (Orange) and Kyrgyzstan (Pink) and attempted color revolutions in Iran (Green), Kuwait (Blue), and Burma (Saffron).

Using the Sharp template and financing from Soros and the CIA-linked National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Symbols were used in the themed Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia (Jasmine) and Egypt (Lotus) and attempted revolutions in Georgia (Rose), Lebanon (Cedar), Uzbekistan (Cotton), and Moldova (Grape).

It is now more than obvious that Soros and his minions, known as «Sorosites» – a clever play on «parasites» – in the Balkans, contracted with flag factories to churn out banners of former regimes in the uprisings in Libya and Syria. In Libya, the rebels who rose up against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 brandished factory-fresh, still-creased red-black-green horizontal tricolor with the white crescent and star used by the old Libyan monarchy, the regime that Qaddafi overthrew in 1969.

Almost simultaneously, Syrian rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad hit the streets of major Syrian cities with factory-fresh green-white-black horizontal tricolors with three red stars used by Syria during the French League of Nations mandate and by the Republic of Syria in 1961. It was obvious that in both cases, the Soros- and NED-sponsored opposition groups in Libya and Syria foresaw a return to a pro-Western Libya as had existed under the feudalistic King Idris until his overthrow in 1969 and a Syria not unlike the pro-Western regime of Major-General Abd al-Karim Zahr as-Din, a Druze who ousted the pro-Gamal Abdel Nasser regime in Damascus in 1961. However, for Soros and the regime change advocates under U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, there would be disappointment.

Instead of pro-Western regimes taking power in Libya and Syria, major swaths of territory fell to jihadist forces who mainly owed allegiance to the Islamic State but with a few swearing loyalty to Al Qaeda. Regardless of what jihadist entity they supported, these rebel groups received support from Saudi Arabia, the Turkish Islamist government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Gulf emirates of Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, and Kuwait.

Instead of the flags of the former pro-Western proxy regimes appearing over buildings in Libya and Syria, factory-fresh black and white flags of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) flew from flagpoles, windows, and balconies from Benghazi and Sirte to Tripoli and Derna. In Syria, new ISIL flags were raised from Raqqa and Majib to Idlib and Palmyra. To the east, in Iraq, ISIL flags replaced those of the U.S.-installed Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

One indication as to the source of the new ISIL flags was reported on October 7, 2014 by the Jewish Telegraph Agency from the northern Israeli town of Nazareth Illit. Gardeners in the factory area of the city discovered a bag that had fallen onto a street from a truck. Twenty-five new black and white ISIL flags were found inside the bag.

A number of questions were raised by the discovery. Were the flags manufactured by a factory in the Jewish city? It is known that the Israeli military provided logistical and other support to jihadists fighting across the Golan Heights border in Syria. Were ISIL flags part of Israeli propaganda support to the jihadist rebels? Additionally, did Soros and the NED outsource the production of ISIL, as well as the flags of former Arab regimes, to the Israelis for distribution in Libya and Syria?

Soros’s connections to ISIL became very apparent during the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly when some human rights advocates, including some linked to Soros’s nongovernmental organizations, called for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute the leadership of ISIL. The ICC, which is heavily influenced by Soros organizations, balked at the idea of prosecuting ISIL officials and operatives.

The ICC claimed that since neither Syria nor Iraq were parties to the 1998 Rome Statute, which created the court, ISIL commanders and ground troops could not be hauled before the international tribunal to answer for their crimes against humanity in those countries. The ICC has had no problem prosecuting leaders and military officers from the Balkans and Africa, but ISIL was deemed off-limits.

The ICC was also prepared to put members of the Qaddafi family on trial for alleged crimes in Libya, however, ISIL and its affiliates in Libya were of no interest to the court. The main reason for the ICC to look askance at ISIL is because in any trial of the group’s leadership, the «false flag» antics of the Saudis, Israelis, Turks, Emiratis, the Soros organizations, and the Americans might have been laid bare for all the world to see.

 

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EU Banking Mayhem: One Bank at a Time – Then All at Once


 

by Wolf Richter

Investors are not amused.

The European banking crisis simply doesn’t let up. Currently, the big two German banks are grabbing the headlines away from the Italian banks, due to their size and the damage they could do to the global financial system. Other banks are in bigger trouble still, and some have already collapsed, with bailouts and bail-ins getting lined up.

Deutsche Bank had to endure a horrendous Monday after it was leaked on Friday that Merkel had refused to entertain bailing out the bank before the general elections a year from now. Merkel’s popularity has gotten broadsided recently, and bailing out bank bondholders with taxpayer money is just not popular at the moment.

Then Commerzbank, in which the government already owns a stake of 16% as a result of the bailout during the Financial Crisis, graced the headlines with leaks that it would lay off 9,000 employees, nearly one-fifth of its workforce. This will cost about €1 billion, according to the sources. To pay for it, the bank will scrap its dividend for 2016 to reduce the bleeding and preserve capital, in what is turning out to be the hellish environment of negative interest rates.

We’ve been writing about the European banking crisis for a long time, it seems, as it drags on, and meanders from one country to another, and sometimes we write about it in an amused fashion because we’ve got to keep our sense of humor in all this gloom.

But investors who believed in all the hype and in Draghi’s promises and in Merkel’s strength and in the willingness of all of them to do whatever it takes to protect bank bondholders and stockholders, and who believed in the miracle of Spain’s recovery, and in Italy’s new government and what not – well, they’re not amused.

For them, it has been bloody. The global financial crisis got swept under the rug. Then the euro debt crisis took down some banks at the periphery, and taxpayers stepped in to bail out the bondholders, mostly, and a lot more things got swept under the rug. But the problems weren’t solved. And as the decomposing assets under the rug kept exuding their pungent odor, investors held their nose and played along for a while.

But now it’s just getting worse. And investors are wondering what exactly is under these rugs – or maybe they’d rather not know for it’s too ugly to behold. And every time someone does look, for example at the Italian banks, they find even bigger problems that have started to metastasize.

This banking crisis has the potential to transmogrify into a financial crisis. All it takes is for one of the big ones to suddenly topple. The flow of credit would freeze up instantly. In an economic system that depends on credit, and whose lifeblood is credit, such an event is a financial crisis.

The problem isn’t restricted to a couple of Italian or German banks. It’s deep and wide.

Here are the 29 banks in the ESTX Banks Index of Eurozone banks (so Swiss and UK banks, for example are not included). It shows the percentage drop from their 52-week high. But for some of these banks, particularly for Italian and Portuguese banks, that 52-week high was just about last year’s 52-week low, so relentless has their decline been over the years. Some of them had already been reduced to penny stocks years ago, and for them, in euro terms, the biggest losses occurred back then. So these mayhem banks, color coded by country:

eurozone-bank-estx_from-52-week-high

If a bank stock plunges from €0.04 to €0.01 over the 52-week period, such as Banco Comercial Português in Portugal, it has been toast for longer than 52 weeks, and the percentage plunge is essentially meaningless because shares were worthless to begin with.

The shares of five of these banks trade under €1. Another 8 banks trade under €3. These 29 banks form a big part of the European financial system. It includes some of the world’s largest banks, such as Deutsche Bank, Societe Generale, and BNP Paribas. It includes a slew of other “systemically important financial institutions,” such as Unicredit, ING, and Santander.

They’re troubled at the same time. The can has been kicked down the road for years. Now negative interest rates appear to have inadvertently crushed the can.

So when will Merkel buckle? Read…  Deutsche Bank in Free Fall. Shares, CoCo Bonds Plunge. Merkel Gives Cold Shoulder on Bailout. Bank Denies Everything

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Saudia Arabia to Sell All US Assets as Congress Overrides Obama Veto


ArmstrongEconomicsArmstrongEconomics

Congress voted to override Obama’s veto that families of those killed in the terror attacks on 9/11 would not be allowed to sue Saudi Arabia. This is the first time he has been overruled. This will open the courts in New York to some very interesting court battles, but Saudi Arabia will most likely sell off all US assets to prevent any US court from freezing their assets. If they take everything out of the USA, then they can ignore the courts and not defend at all exposing themselves to discovery rules that will be very intrusive.


White House Enraged At “Most Embarrassing Vote Ever” Senate Veto Override

ZeroHedge


President Obama is on track for his first veto override. Senators voted 97 to 1 to affirm a bill allowing 9/11 suits against Saudi Arabia.

A sweeping bipartisan majority in the Senate rejected President Obama’s veto of legislation that would allow families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot, all but assuring that Mr. Obama would suffer the first override vote of his presidency.
The vote was 97 to 1, with only Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, siding with the president.
Read more »

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Entire US Intelligence System Collapsed


whatdoesitmean

Russia Collapses Entire US Intelligence System Using Microsoft, Facebook And Google

By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers

A very interesting (and actually gleefully written) Federal Guard Service (FSO) report circulating in the Kremlin today claims that the United States entire Domestic Surveillance Directorate (DSD) has been brought to near total collapse due to Federation intelligence analysts utilizing American tech giants Microsoft, Facebook and Google “spying agreements” to achieve a “digital tsunami” that has, in just barely 3 years, rendered the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) multi-billion-dollar Utah Data Center (UDC) obsolete. [Note: Some words and/or phrases appearing in quotes in this report are English language approximations of Russian words/phrases having no exact counterpart.]

The Federal Guard Service is responsible for safeguarding presidential, governmental and other types of special communications and information provided to all Federation government ministries, this report explains, while the United States Domestic Surveillance Directorate states it’s mission is to “collect, process, and store U.S. citizen data for the good of the Nation”, while the Utah Data Center (code-named Bumblehive) is described as a “massive data repository” designed to cope with the vast increases in digital data that have accompanied the rise of the global network.

In 2013, this report says, the Federal Guard Service became “alarmed” when top secret NSA documents were released by one of their employees, Edward Snowden, showing how America’s largest tech giants were working in private with US intelligence agencies to spy not just on the American people, but, indeed the whole world.

 

Upon the release of Snowden’s NSA documents, this report continues, the Federal Guard Service ordered all Federation ministries to begin using typewriters for communication—but did allow the continued use of Microsoft (Outlook) and Google email and Facebook usage for “selected purposes”.

As to what those “selected purposes” for Federation ministries using Microsoft, Google and Facebook were, this report details in explaining President Putin’s order yesterday that they now be totally banned for use.

And according to these details, in 2013, the Federation had no existing counterpart to immediately replace Microsoft-Google-Facebook communications—but upon Federation computer intelligence experts discovery that Microsoft had given the NSA unrestricted access to their users encrypted messages, Google had made a secret alliance with the NSA, and Facebook had become the perfect mass surveillance tool for both the NSA and FBI, a “once in a lifetime/forever” opportunity was seen for the Federation to “strike back” against the Americans.

This “once in a lifetime/forever” opportunity, this report continues, was made even more “grander” in 2015 when it was discovered that Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 10, would not allow its auto-spying function to be turned off—thus allowing the NSA to have immediate access to all personal data, including content (such as the content of emails, other private communications or files in private folders) on any computer that installed it.

To how best to exploit the outrageous spying of Microsoft-Google-Facebook against not only the Federation, but the whole world, this report says, was provided in Edward Snowden’s leaked NSA documents that provided the massive number of “keywords American intelligence analysts were using to flag what they considered suspicious communications and/or computer files.

Once knowing these NSA “keywords”, this report explains, Federation intelligence analysts then began “flooding” the NSA with tens-of-millions of emails, files and other such computer documents on a daily basis from not only official Russian ministry computers using Microsoft-Google-Facebook, but from all other governments in the world too.

 

Not just from governments either did the NSA get “flooded” with Federation derived “keyword” messages, this report notes, but from personal and company computers from ordinary citizens in these countries too—including the United States where this report estimates the NSA, over the past 3 years, has had to flag nearly every single one of their citizens emails and/or computer files for them being suspected of having “terrorist linkages”—and that has put millions of them on their governments terror watch lists.

With the NSA having no ability to physically read the hundreds-of-millions (if not billions) of Federation derived “keyword” inspired emails and computer documents flooding into their servers, this report says, they’ve been rendered useless in determining who are real terrorist and who aren’t—but that hasn’t stopped these American “spy idiots” from putting even babies on their terror watch list as they did with 7-month-old “Baby Doe” this past year.

 

To how exactly Federation intelligence experts were able to exploit Microsoft-Google-Facebook to overwhelm the NSA with a literal tsunami of digital information remains in the highly classified portions of this report—but it is interesting to note the 2013 news reports of the sudden Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) hijacking events allowing hackers to spoof the IP address of another entity to misdirect traffic so the receiver would have no idea where it actually came from.

This report concludes by noting that as of now, Federation intelligence experts are estimating that the US Domestic Surveillance Directorate’s Utah Data Center is now holding in their servers 4-6 billion gigabytes of essentially useless information with more flooding in on a daily basis and that the American’s are unable to stop—or make sense of.

 

September 28, 2016 © EU and US all rights reserved. Permission to use this report in its entirety is granted under the condition it is linked back to its original source at WhatDoesItMean.Com. Freebase content licensed under CC-BY and GFDL.

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