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How We Got Here: the Global Economy’s 75-Year Stumble to the Precipice

How We Got Here: the Global Economy’s 75-Year Stumble to the Precipice

Not only will there not be a recovery, but there can’t be a recovery, as those brittle extremes have been lost for good.

How did the global economy end up teetering on a precarious financial precipice? To formulate a cogent answer, let’s take a whirlwind tour of the history of the global economy 1946-2020.

Before we start the tour, I want to return briefly to my first Musings of the year, which was posted on January 4, 2020, before Covid-19 was officially announced on January 23, 2020. (The Musings Reports are sent weekly to patrons and subscribers at the $5/month or higher level.)

Instability Rising: Why 2020 Will Be Different:
“Economically, the 11 years since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09 have been one relatively coherent era of modest growth, rising wealth/income inequality and coordinated central bank stimulus every time a crisis threatened to disrupt the domestic or global economy.This era will draw to a close in 2020 and a new era of destabilization and uncertainty begins.”

The long-term trends set up a row of dominoes that the pandemic has toppled. But any puff of air that toppled the first domino would have toppled all the dominoes of fragility, instability and unsustainable extremes that characterize the global economy.

The whirlwind tour of the global economy’s history must include these essential dynamics: energy, currencies, globalization, debt and financialization, which broadly speaking refers to everything that renders finance (borrowing, leverage, speculation) more profitable than actually generating goods and services.

The “glorious thirty” (Les Trente Glorieuses) years from 1946 to 1975 were decades of rising prosperity in the developed world (Europe, Japan, North America) and rapid development in the first tier of developing countries in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. (Decolonized nations and China struggled with political, social and economic turmoil.)

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2 Aircraft Carriers Lead ‘Show Of Strength’ In South China Sea As Navarro Slams Beijing For “Spreading The Virus”

2 Aircraft Carriers Lead ‘Show Of Strength’ In South China Sea As Navarro Slams Beijing For “Spreading The Virus”

On the eve of Independence Day, the White House is once again stoking tensions with Beijing, as President Trump continues to embrace aggressive rhetoric toward China as a key campaign issue that (he hopes) will help bring out more Trump voters worried about Biden and/or members of his family’s dubious business ties to China and Ukraine.

Media reports claim that the US is sending not one but two aircraft carriers into the South China Sea, one of the hottest flashpoints on earth right now (at least, one of the hottest flash points that’s not situated along India’s land-border), as the US Navy holds military exercises in the area, a major middle finger to Beijing and the PLA-Navy.

The USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz are scheduled to hold some of the Navy’s largest exercises in recent years in the area, which is frequently beset upon by American destroyers sailing within 12 miles of certain islands developed by China that are the subject of competing international claims.

The exercise will involve the two carriers as well as 4 other warships along with round-the-clock fights and missions.

The news comes as Peter Navarro, who has seemingly been relegated back to a supply closet office in the West Wing now that the trade deal is dead in the water, has apparently been let out of his cage long enough to rant about Beijing and the CCP leadership’s unforgivable failure to contain the coronavirus.

Perhaps it’s because China has seemingly been on a agricultural commodity buying spree in Latin America?

For a while there, it seemed like China would buy up ever-more American agricultural products for the simple reason that they were cheap and China needed the supplies.

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The US Military Has Its Knee on the Throat of the World

The US Military Has Its Knee on the Throat of the World

The 2021 Defense Budget is making its way through Congress. The annual drama of this event has always been of particular interest to residents of the north Pacific Coast, as the US Navy’s nursery lies only twelve miles off our coast. This is where many of the weapons purchased by Congress take their first baby steps of testing and training before deployment. As a requirement for approval of the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement regarding these exercises, the Navy must consult us every few years. This opportunity to confront Navy personnel has provided an opportunity to become acquainted with the environmental effects of these weapons, and, just as importantly, the menace their ever-increasing lethality constitutes for life on earth.

I watched some of the Armed Services Committee hearings on the budget. Generals and other military representatives were visibly pleased with their new product. As Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, observed, “The character of war is changing frequency”.

The messy, scrappy, unsatisfying, asymmetrical wars in the devastated Middle East have lost the interest of our warriors, as two worthier adversaries, China and Russia, have been conjured up, and now grip their attention. Although our budget comprises over 40% of the world’s military spending, and China and Russia spend respectively one-sixth and one-tenth of ours, the Pentagon refers to them generously as “near-peers”.

China and Russia are not eager for these roles. We have had to torment them, like reluctant bulls in a bullfight. We sail our warships within twelve miles of their shores, conducting vast military exercises in the South China Sea, the Black Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Japan Sea.

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Connecting the Dates – US Media Used To Stop The ‘Threat’ of Peace

Connecting the Dates – US Media Used To Stop The ‘Threat’ of Peace

This is not a column defending Donald Trump.

Across my career I have said more positive words about the scolex family of intestinal tapeworms than I have said about Donald Trump. (Scolex have been shown to read more.)

No, this is a column about context. When The New York Times reports anonymous sources from the intelligence community say Russia paid Taliban fighters to kill American soldiers, context is very important.

Some of that context is that Mike Pompeo said, “I was the CIA director – We lied, we cheated, we stole. We had entire training courses.” So we know for certain that U.S. intelligence agencies lie to you and me. We saw it with WMD, and we might be seeing it again now.

But that’s not the context I’m referring to. 

We could talk about the context of the fact that the Taliban does not need to be paid to kill American soldiers because their entire goal for the past twenty years has been to kill American soldiers. Paying them a bounty would be like offering the guy sleeping with your wife twenty bucks to sleep with your wife.

But that’s not the context I’m referring to. 

We could talk about the fact that the U.S. has been funding the Taliban for years! Yes, we fund them, sometimes arm them, and then fight them. This is barely a secret. So for all intents and purposes, the U.S. does the same thing our corporate media is now accusing Russia of doing (with no proof).

But that’s not the context I’m referring to. 

No, the context I’m referring to is how our military industrial complex (with the help of our ruling elite and our corporate media) have stopped Trump from pushing us toward the brink of peace. …Yes, the brink of peace.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Seriously, Get The Hell Out Of Afghanistan

Seriously, Get The Hell Out Of Afghanistan

With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House Armed Services Committee has added a Liz Cheney-spearheaded amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which throws severe roadblocks in the Trump administration’s proposed scale-down of US military presence in Afghanistan and Germany.

As The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald notes, both parties advancing the amendment cited in their arguments the completely unsubstantiated intelligence leak that was recently published by credulous mass media reporters alleging that Russia has paid bounties to Taliban fighters for killing the occupying forces in Afghanistan. Yet another western imperialist agenda once again facilitated by unforgivably egregious journalistic malpractice in the mass media.

Every aspect of this development is enraging.

The mass media have continued to add to their mountain of Gish gallop fallacies promoting this narrative with a new Daily Beast report citing former senior Taliban figure Mullah Manan Niazi who asserts that “The Taliban have been paid by Russian intelligence for attacks on U.S. forces—and on ISIS forces—in Afghanistan from 2014 up to the present.” The Beast’s own article admits that its source has severe conflicts of interest and is believed to be a CIA asset by Taliban leadership, and that Niazi provided no evidence of any kind for his claim or any further details whatsoever.

These flimsy, poorly-sourced allegations are being hammered into mainstream liberal consciousness on a daily basis now in the exact same way the discredited Russiagate psyop was, and just like with Russiagate the narrative they are being used to shape helps advance military expansionism and new cold war escalations which just so happen to fit perfectly into pre-existing geostrategic agendas of planetary domination.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why The US Empire Works So Hard To Control The International Narrative About Russia

Why The US Empire Works So Hard To Control The International Narrative About Russia

On a December 2010 episode of Fox News’ Freedom Watch, John Bolton and the show’s host Andrew Napolitano were debating about recent WikiLeaks publications, and naturally the subject of government secrecy came up.

“Now I want to make the case for secrecy in government when it comes to the conduct of national security affairs, and possibly for deception where that’s appropriate,” Bolton said. “You know Winston Churchill said during World War Two that in wartime truth is so important it should be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies.”

“Do you really believe that?” asked an incredulous Napolitano.

“Absolutely,” Bolton replied.

“You would lie in order to preserve the truth?” asked Napolitano.

“If I had to say something I knew was false to protect American national security, I would do it,” Bolton answered.

“Why do people in the government think that the laws of society or the rules don’t apply to them?” Napolitano asked.

“Because they are not dealing in the civil society we live in under the Constitution,” Bolton replied. “They are dealing in the anarchic environment internationally where different rules apply.”

“But you took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and the Constitution mandates certain openness and certain fairness,” Napolitano protested. “You’re willing to do away with that in order to attain a temporary military goal?”

“I think as Justice Jackson said in a famous decision, the Constitution is not a suicide pact,” Bolton said. “And I think defending the United States from foreign threats does require actions that in a normal business environment in the United States we would find unprofessional. I don’t make any apology for it.”

I am going to type a sequence of words that I have never typed before, and don’t expect to ever type again:

John Bolton is right.

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This Russia-Afghanistan Story Is Western Propaganda At Its Most Vile

This Russia-Afghanistan Story Is Western Propaganda At Its Most Vile

All western mass media outlets are now shrieking about the story The New York Times first reported, citing zero evidence and naming zero sources, claiming intelligence says Russia paid out bounties to Taliban-linked fighters in Afghanistan for attacking the occupying forces of the US and its allies in Afghanistan. As of this writing, and probably forevermore, there have still been zero intelligence sources named and zero evidence provided for this claim.

As we discussed yesterday, the only correct response to unsubstantiated claims by anonymous spooks in a post-Iraq invasion world is to assume that they are lying until you’ve been provided with a mountain of hard, independently verifiable evidence to the contrary. The fact that The New York Times instead chose to uncritically parrot these evidence-free claims made by operatives within intelligence agencies with a known track record of lying about exactly these things is nothing short of journalistic malpractice. The fact that western media outlets are now unanimously regurgitating these still 100 percent baseless assertions is nothing short of state propaganda.

The consensus-manufacturing, Overton window-shrinking western propaganda apparatus has been in full swing with mass media outlets claiming on literally no basis whatsoever that they have confirmed one another’s “great reporting” on this completely unsubstantiated story.

“The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have confirmed our reporting,” the NYT story’s co-author Charlie Savage tweeted hours ago.

“We have confirmed the New York Times’ scoop: A Russian military spy unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan,” tweeted The Washington Post‘s John Hudson.

“We matched The New York Times’ great reporting on how US intel has assessed that Russians paid Taliban to target US, coalition forces in Afg which is a pretty stunning development,” tweeted Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The War That Time Forgot

The War That Time Forgot

Drone targeting footage, Afghanistan. Photo: USAF.

I hear it all the time. The most crucial decision of this century was the vote to go to war against Iraq. It’s meant to serve as a political line of demarcation, a sure-fire way to determine which politicians, celebrities and news personalities you can trust.

But there’s little question, to my mind at least, that the impulsive decision to invade Afghanistan was the more consequential and enduring tragedy, a political bloodletting that nearly every political leader, left and right, fell for, even putative peaceniks like Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul. This was the true moral test of our time and almost everyone failed, except Barbara Lee. She was the lone voice of conscience in the fall of 2001, a vote of dissent in a time of mass hysteria that has been vindicated time and again over the past 18 years.

Remember, the vote to go to war against Afghanistan, enacted only seven days after the 9/11 attacks, was actually a vote for an open-ended war waged against nebulous “terrorists” anywhere on the planet: Pakistan, Niger, Yemen, Somalia, Algeria. You name it. No questions asked. It was only Barbara Lee foresaw the consequences, how even a highflying critic of the rush to invade Iraq like Barack Obama could 14-years later use the hastily-written AUMF as a legal basis for launching airstrikes on ISIS forces inside Syria. Now, Donald Trump has claimed the same unilateral authority and used it to justify strikes against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and to justify the assassination of Qasem Suleimani. It’s the gift that keeps on killing.

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Mentally Replace Everything Before “U.S. Intelligence Says” With “Blah Blah We’re Probably Lying”

Mentally Replace Everything Before “U.S. Intelligence Says” With “Blah Blah We’re Probably Lying”

“Russia Secretly Offered Afghan Militants Bounties to Kill Troops, U.S. Intelligence Says”, blares the latest viral headline from The New York Times. NYT’s unnamed sources allege that the GRU “secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops”, and that the Trump administration has known this for months.

To be clear, this is journalistic malpractice. Mainstream media outlets which publish anonymous intelligence claims with no proof are just publishing CIA press releases disguised as news. They’re just telling you to believe what sociopathic intelligence agencies want you to believe under the false guise of impartial and responsible reporting. This practice has become ubiquitous throughout mainstream news publications, but that doesn’t make it any less immoral.

Whenever one sees a news headline ending in “US Intelligence Says”, one should always mentally replace everything that comes before it with “Blah blah blah we’re probably lying”. In a post-Iraq invasion world, the only correct response to unproven anonymous claims about a rival government by intelligence agencies from the US or its allies is to assume that they are lying until you are provided with a mountain of independently verifiable evidence to the contrary. The US has far too extensive a record of lying about these things for any other response to ever be justified as rational, and its intelligence agencies consistently play a foundational role in those lies.

Voices outside the mainstream narrative control matrix have been calling these accusations what they are: baseless, lacking in credibility, and not reflective of anything other than fair play even if true.

“Same old story: alleged intelligence ops IMPOSSIBLE to verify, leaked to the press which reports them quoting ANONYMOUS officials,” tweeted journalist Stefania Maurizi.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

PATRICK LAWRENCE: Iranian Tankers & the Age of Interdiction

PATRICK LAWRENCE: Iranian Tankers & the Age of Interdiction

Two forms of interdiction — the steady expansion of U.S. sanctions and our stunning drift toward  unmasked censorship — have begun to intersect. 

Over the weekend, a sixth Iranian cargo ship entered Venezuelan waters and is due to dock shortly. It follows a convoy of five Iranian tankers laden with gasoline to supply Venezuelan refineries. The freight this time, according to the Iranian embassy in Caracas, is humanitarian aid — food. There are unconfirmed reports the ship also carries spare parts for refineries in need of repairs.

Earlier last week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that Mexico would sell gasoline to Venezuela for humanitarian reasons were Caracas to ask for assistance. The Maduro government has so far made no such request.

Iran is acting in open defiance of extensive American sanctions against Venezuela. The Islamic Republic, of course, is already burdened by the most extensive sanctions regime the U.S. has ever imposed.

AMLO, as the Mexican leader is commonly known, has just put his hand up to follow Tehran’s example. He acts with forewarning: Last week the U.S. sanctioned Mexican companies that provided water to Venezuela under a previously agreed oil-for-food arrangement.

These events deserve careful consideration. So does the stunning new drift toward open, unmasked censorship in the U.S. Sanctions and censorship are not unrelated. They are two forms of interdiction. Is ours the Age of Interdiction, then? If so, why do we find ourselves in these circumstances and where will this new age lead us? These are our questions.

Sanctions Since 9/11 

President George W. Bush delivers remarks on Sept. 24, 2001, on his executive order on financial sanctions against terrorist networks. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at right; Secretary of Treasury Paul O’Neill in middle. (Tina Hager, George W. Bush Presidential Library)

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American Exceptionalism Is on the Ropes and the End of the Petrodollar Is Nigh

American Exceptionalism Is on the Ropes and the End of the Petrodollar Is Nigh

From the border wall rhetoric to trade wars, Trump is effectively setting up the implosion of the dollar and couching it as pseudo nationalistic populism.

The pressure on the global economy imposed by the measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to erode whatever confidence the world still has in the U.S. dollar as a viable reserve currency. A shortfall in U.S. domestic savings, dropping to 1.4 percent of national income, brought on by the drawn-out shutdowns and structural changes to the ways of doing business, such as the phasing out of brick-and-mortar business establishments and the substitution of human labor with robotics, may be the canary in the coal mine of the upcoming economic paradigm shift.

Among the visible signs that a global monetary reset is in the offing is the state of currency speculation markets, which are progressively moving away from the dollar as illustrated by the $1.5 billion slash in short positions in the previous week, the largest in six weeks. A more inconspicuous red flag might be the decreasing power of the U.S. Federal Reserve to affect markets as it has over its relatively short existence with a mere word here or the moving of an interest rate point there.

Just five days ago, Fed chair Jerome Powell declared in a press conference that the U.S. banking system was “so much better capitalized, so much stronger, better aware of its risks, better at managing its risks, [and] more highly liquid…”, that it represented a “source of strength” in this environment of widespread economic pain. In former years, just these words from the head of the U.S. central bank would have been enough to shore up any misgivings by market participants. But exactly the opposite occurred.

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On Maintaining Perspective In The Year 20 Fucking 20

On Maintaining Perspective In The Year 20 Fucking 20

“As Jane looked around her, she felt that dissatisfied feeling she often experienced when she was somewhere new and lovely. She couldn’t quite articulate it, except with the words: if only I was here. This little beachside cafe was so exquisite she longed to really be there, except of course, she was there, so it didn’t make sense.”

~ Liane Moriarty, “Big Little Lies”

Whenever an author, filmmaker or other artist sets out on the noble endeavor of pointing people toward the ideal of living life to its fullest, they usually wind up depicting a character going off on all sorts of wild adventures, skydiving, trekking across the Himalayas, and so on.

In my opinion reminding people to live life to its fullest is the artist’s single most important job, but this is also where most storytellers get it wrong. Most people who live wild, interesting lives sleepwalk through the whole ride just like everyone else; in the end they’re left with a few amusing anecdotes rattling around in their skulls and a secret sense of dissatisfaction.

This is because most people don’t really show up for life. Even if they’re outwardly doing all sorts of amazing things and racking up a bunch of impressive accomplishments, their attention was mostly consumed with babbling mental chatter almost the entire time. Whatever happens in their life, they weren’t really there for it.

The real way to live life to its fullest is to simply be present for it. A housekeeper who actually pays attention to life as it happens will have lived a lot more actual life than any billionaire playboy who’s constantly out chasing extraordinary experiences while internally preoccupied with other matters.

I point this out because, at the midway point of the year 2020, I think it’s extremely relevant.

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Turkey’s Big Bet Has Put Libya in Center of a Global Power Struggle

Turkey’s Big Bet Has Put Libya in Center of a Global Power Struggle

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

The series of debilitating military setbacks that Libya’s renegade general Khalifa Haftar suffered in recent months have spurred diplomatic activities over the conflict in the country. But the war is far from over.

Haftar’s dream of capturing Tripoli from the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has been dashed. Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has retreated from several cities northwest of Tripoli, near the border with Tunisia, as well as the al-Watiya airbase, a strategic asset southwest of the capital.

A comeback by Haftar can only take place in the fullness of time and that too, if his mentors—France, Egypt, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Russia—repose confidence in him still. Haftar seems to have overreached, and the present setback dents his credibility.

Egypt reacted swiftly by getting Haftar and Aguila Saleh Issa, the head of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives—the third protagonist in the Libyan strife—over to Cairo for a patch-up, following which, on June 6, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi announced a grandiose roadmap called the Cairo Declaration to end the Libyan conflict.

The Cairo Declaration envisages a ceasefire starting June 8 (which didn’t happen) followed by “disbanding militias, handing over their arms, pulling out foreign forces, electing a ruling presidential council representing all Libyans and drafting of a constitutional declaration to regulate elections for later stages.”

Sisi’s Cairo Declaration has been welcomed by the Gulf states and Russia, while the GNA backed by Turkey remains disinterested and hopes to make some more territorial gains so as to be able to negotiate from a position of strength. The GNA and Turkey estimate—rightly so—that any respite at this point will be utilized by Haftar and his backers to recoup and plan anew to return to the battlefield to make another bid to rule Libya.

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United States: An Obituary

United States: An Obituary

The United States of America was problematic from the start. It was founded on genocide and slavery, and, while frequently congratulating itself on the rights and freedoms it granted its citizens, never managed to confront the demons in its past. The question would arise repeatedly, generation after generation: rights and freedoms for whom?

Nevertheless, the immigrants who founded a nation on a stolen continent managed to show up in the right place at the right time. The luck of geography and history insulated them from most wars in Europe, while supplying them with vast forests, navigable rivers, rich topsoils, valuable minerals, and much of the world’s most easily accessible coal, oil, and natural gas.

The result, after a century-and-a-half of wealth accumulation and industrial buildup, was global dominance. America invented and taught the world the magic formula of consumerism: cheap energy + advertising + consumer credit = ever-growing levels of commerce, employment, tax revenue, and return on investment. The transformation of nature into quantifiable wealth via energy, technology, capital investment, and labor had never before occurred so rapidly, or on so grand a scale.

The 20th century was without question the American century. After World War II, which was fought at a distance from American soil, the dollar became the world’s reserve currency, and there could be little doubt who was in charge. Even though politicians in Washington insisted that their nation led by example and shouldn’t be thought of as an empire, any other nation’s hesitance to adhere to US rules resulted in a CIA-engineered coup, an invasion, or economic sanctions.

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NYT Finally Gets Around to Reporting OAS Fraud Election Claims in Bolivia Were Bogus

NYT Finally Gets Around to Reporting OAS Fraud Election Claims in Bolivia Were Bogus

The Times only covered the problems with the OAS analysis after a study from three independent researchers found flawed data and analysis.

Bolivia’s Evo Morales in 2008. (Joel Alvarez, Wikimedia Commons)

More than seven months after claims of fraudulent elections sparked an undemocratic coup that led to the ouster of Bolivian President Evo Morales, The New York Times late Sunday reported on new research showing the U.S.-led Organization of American States used flawed data and analysis to support its widely cited contention the voting was rigged.

“It was clear from the start, but now even the NYT is admitting: what happened in Bolivia was nothing short of a coup by the U.S. and its OAS puppet, deposing one of the most successful democratically elected leaders in modern Latin American history,” tweeted journalist Glenn Greenwald in response to the Times reporting.


Progressive International@ProgIntl

It was a coup.

It was — then as now — clearly a coup.

The @ProgIntl was founded to break the myths and counter the misinformation that has justified right-wing regime change around the world.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/07/world/americas/bolivia-election-evo-morales.html …A Bitter Election. Accusations of Fraud. And Now Second Thoughts.A close look at Bolivian election data suggests an initial analysis by the O.A.S. that raised questions of vote-rigging — and helped force out a president — was flawed.nytimes.com


As Common Dreams reported in November, U.S. officials cited the OAS report on the election as a justification for backing the coup that deposed Morales, the left-wing Indigenous former president.

Despite reporting from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) casting doubt on those claims within 24 hours of the OAS making them, the Times only covered the problems with the U.S.-dominated organization’s analysis after a study (pdf) from three independent researchers found the same results. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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