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We got trouble coming folks...

The Ruble has been all over the board -- straight down for quite some time since the Ukraine-related sanctions were imposed, and now there's been a roughly 9% surge in value today alone.

This sort of volatility is big trouble; it makes international trade nearly impossible as there is no way to figure out what your costs look like on a forward basis.  A steady move in either direction for a currency can be hedged; violence in the FX markets is never good for anyone -- on either side.

Let's not forget that nations, when they get in trouble with their currencies, have a habit of resorting to war as a means of resolving their problems.  That, to put it mildly, would be bad.  While Russia is unlikely (in the extreme) to direct any sort of attack against the United States, that Putin might attempt "re-consolidation" of more territory in the "old" USSR is not beyond reasonable expectation, and the potential for European allies -- or even us -- to get dragged into it is very real.

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So it's almost 2015, and thus about four years since I decided to change my way of eating -- and my life.

It's also now more than three years since I reached my "normal" body mass, and there it remains.

And by the way, we're talking about a change from ~210lbs to roughly 155, plus or minus five over the course of about eight months -- and now three years of stability.

You can argue with anything you'd like except results.  And the results are what they are.  I'm still able to crank off 5ks in a reasonably-competitive fashion; I have a Grandmaster win and a 1st-in-division (50-54) under my belt in the last month alone.  In 2011 I couldn't run one half of one mile without having to drop to a walk.  I'm contemplating running a half-marathon next year and believe, based on my running to date, that I can complete it at 9 minute/mile pace.

If you're eating the usual carb-laden "recommended" diet (or anything approaching it) and keep seeing the pounds add year after year, cut the crap -- and the carbs.  Just get 'em all out, other than green veggies.  Don't cheat for one solid month and then decide.

There are some who think Obamacare will save them in some form or fashion, and then there are those of you who are literally dependent on a pill bottle for what you call "health."  Both beliefs are a chimera and horsecrap -- health is a normal metabolic condition in the absence of interventions; if you are stuffing your face full of pharmaceuticals you're not healthy, you're cheating.

This is not to say that there are not times that you don't need this drug or that (antibiotics anyone?) but if you're dependent on them on a regular or worse, daily basis the first question to ask yourself is whether you're in that state because of something you literally cannot avoid or is it because you simply refuse to change how you live?

Leave aside the cost of the drug; no drug exists without side effects, and the worst side effects, especially when it comes to problems caused by chronic use of a given pharmaceutical, are those that we either don't know enough about or worse, they're down-played by the medical industry rather than being honestly discussed and debated with you before you start using the drug in the first place.

Wake up America.  I did in this regard a few years ago.

You can do it too.

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Some of you folks just don't get it.

Torture is illegal under International Law -- so says the Geneva Conventions, which the US adheres to.

There is no proof that torture "works" to get truthful information.

Nonetheless, there are times that a legitimate leader will do anything to prevent an event he or she believes is going to occur.  Literally anything, including illegal things.

The problem with these incidents that may have crossed the line is that nobody in the chain of command who ordered and authorized them is going to pay for it; at worst some military or CIA guy or gal is going to be thrown under the bus.

In a word: NO!

The entire point of my articles on this subject is to underline that the rule of law mandates that if you're going to make the decision to order or use these sorts of "interrogation methods" everyone up and down the chain of command involved, up to and including the President if he or she is aware of it, must be exposed to and accept the punishment for doing so.

That is the only way that a proper evaluation of the potential gains and certain costs to the people engaging in these tactics can be undertaken.

We must demand as citizens that the costs be imposed on each and every one of the people who engaged in those tactics that crossed said line as defined by International Law, and if we do not then we are inviting those tactics to be used on each and every one of us by any so-called "law enforcement or spy" agency that wishes to do so because they do not need to make said evaluation as to whether the personal price of doing so is worth the potential information to be gained.

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WASHINGTON –  The man who oversaw the controversial CIA interrogation program defended the use of the techniques used on militants --  including waterboarding -- and said members of Congress, including Rep. Nancy Pelosi, were “fully aware” of the methods used.

“She never objected to the techniques at all,” Jose Rodriguez, former director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, said on "Fox News Sunday." “All of these techniques were approved by the lawyers.”

Of course they approved of it; that's what zero accountability does.

Look, it's a known fact that torture is an unreliable way to get information because a huge percentage of the people you torture will tell you whatever they have to in order to get the torture to stop -- whether it's true or not.

But irrespective of that torture is unlawful as a matter of international law under the Geneva Conventions.  Those who authorized same irrespective of how, or who participated in same, discovered that hiding behind some sort of state mandate had zero value to them at Nuremberg.

The key, as I pointed out in my previous article, is that those who authorize tactics such as this should have to do so while accepting the punishment that comes with violating the law.

Note carefully that there is still no call for anyone to face the music -- not even on a forward basis.

Again I ask: If we are not going to have The Rule of Law in this country why should you, or anyone else for that matter, give a damn about what the law says in relationship to your conduct?  If it is simply about whether or not "they" have more guns and thus will selectively enforce said "law" against you what prevents many from banding together until they have effectively leveled those odds?

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The December 2014 Empire State Manufacturing Survey indicates that business activity declined for New York manufacturers. The headline general business conditions index dropped fourteen points to -3.6, its first negative reading in nearly two years. The new orders index also fell into negative territory, tumbling eleven points to -2.0, and the shipments index fell to -0.2. Labor market conditions were mixed, with the index for number of employees holding steady at 8.3, while the average workweek index declined to -11.5.

But but but....... the jobs market and manufacturing are doing great!

The problem with cooking the books is that eventually someone stands up and calls "BS!"

It appears that day has arrived.

That is a major retreat, and wildly below expectations.  Nor is it only in shipments either; forward order conditions fell even more-so than did shipments, and unfilled orders contracted to a -23.96, with only about 9% of survey recipients indicating a greater backlog.

Inventories were also drawn down, so it doesn't exactly look like this was "unanticipated" either -- yet you heard exactly nobody talking about this last month -- despite the fact that the workweek contraction was apparent in the last report.

Gee, I wonder why?

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