|Dow||-44.05 to 17,024.21|
|S&P 500||-7.79 to 1,977.65|
|Nasdaq||-34.40 to 4,451.53|
|10-YR Yield||-0.031 to 2.617%|
|Gold||-$0.10 to $1,320.50|
|Crude Oil||-$0.57 to $103.49|
Is the U.S. spying on everyone, everywhere — including you? Are your most intimate, personal pictures, emails, instant messages, Facebook postings, and more ending up in Uncle Sam’s electronic archives?
Boy, is it easy to conclude that’s the case from some fresh, blockbuster reporting in the Washington Post this weekend.
The newspaper spent the last several months culling through data provided by whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. It also conducted its own follow-up reporting and research.
The Post’s goal? To determine how many average Americans and foreigners are getting swept up in the vastly expanded electronic eavesdropping net the U.S. government is casting these days — even when they have done absolutely nothing wrong and when their material has zero intelligence value.
Well, it turns out that nine of 10 account holders the Post analyzed were just innocently caught up in the fishing expeditions. The material collected ranges from racy photos and intimate conversations to confidential medical records and childhood school transcripts. Americans and non-Americans alike were swept up, with at least several hundred American accounts not “minimized” (in NSA jargon, that’s when analysts black out references to Americans to provide a modicum of privacy protection).
“Many readers don’t buy the idea that the job market is healthy again.”
All told, the Post said it combed through 160,000 email and IM conversations. It also reviewed 7,900 other documents spread across 11,000 online accounts. The information came from a government dragnet conducted between 2009 and 2012.
But apparently, the U.S. isn’t stopping at this kind of electronic spying in an attempt to ferret out enemies of the state. Separate reports over the weekend indicate that we recruited and obtained confidential information from a 31-year-old worker for Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND. Germany has historically been one of our closest allies.
In an ironic twist, the material reportedly included information on an investigation the German parliament is conducting into Snowden’s allegations about previous U.S. spying on Germany. That included the alleged tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone!
|Allegations that the U.S. tapped Merkel’s cell phone are sure to damage our relationship with Germany.|
In my mind, these kinds of reports only make Americans more skeptical of Big Government. They raise serious questions about how our personal and private documents and photos are being accessed and used without our permission and for no legitimate reason.
They will also further damage our relationship with countries in Europe, particularly Germany. We’ve been having a hard time getting them on board with things like anti-Russian sanctions over interference in Crimea and Ukraine, and cooperation should be even harder to come by.
So I’m curious about your thoughts here. Are you worried about your privacy? Is there a legitimate reason for these kinds of surveillance programs, and are they protecting us from those who would do us harm? Or do you think they waste too much time and effort, and push us further down a dangerous path toward a “Big Brother” society? What practical steps would you recommend to your fellow investors to keep their materials safe and secure? Let me know by commenting here.
|OUR READERS SPEAK|
I’ve had a chance to digest the comments that have come in over the long holiday weekend. And if there’s one thing that seems to be coming through, it’s that many readers don’t buy the idea that the job market is healthy again.
Reader Mike G. put it this way: “The jobs numbers were not that good at all. I would also add that the labor participation rate dropped to 35-year lows and the wages were basically flat.
“In my opinion the market went up not because the jobs numbers were good but to the contrary and that the Fed would have to keep interest rates low. The jobs numbers headline is simply more western media propaganda that would make the old Soviet Pravda news agency blush.”
At the same time, Reader Robert said that the Fed’s response to weak job figures or weak growth overall will simply cause more problems down the road. His comments: “The party’s goin’ great! Everybody’s getting drunk on all the financial stimulus … it’s wonderful!
“Never mind the fight that’s sure to break out later … the real fireworks haven’t even started yet … and if we don’t get locked up, who’ll be sober enough to drive us home?? We don’t even want to think about the awful hangover in the morning … There are a lot of similarities between our 4th of July celebrations and the current economic situation, huh?”
My take? I hear ya’ when you say there are some issues with the jobs numbers. The government’s inflation figures are even more suspect. But virtually ALL the data is telling the same story — things ARE better than they were a few years ago.
It doesn’t mean we have a 1990s-style, powerful recovery. But neither do we have a 2006-09-style mega-recession/credit crisis. Interest rates make no sense at current levels, given the improvement in the economy and the pickup in inflation. And neither do “recession trades” like the ones I had no problem recommending in the mid-2000s when the housing market was starting to crash.
So sure, stay skeptical about the things it pays to be skeptical about (the artificially low level of interest rates, for instance). But don’t miss out on promising investments in all the powerful sectors I’ve been recommending — aerospace, health care, food and beverage, domestic energy, industrials, and more!
My Safe Money subscribers have been making money on many, many picks in those sectors. All you have to do to get your hands on the same kind of valuable information is give us a call at 800-291-8545!
|OTHER DEVELOPMENTS OF THE DAY|
We didn’t see as much deal activity this post-Fourth Monday. But one that did catch my eye was Archer Daniels Midland (Weiss Ratings: ADM, B+) and its $3 billion purchase of Wild Flavors. The Zug, Switzerland-based firm provides oils, powders, flavorings and seasonings to more than 3,000 companies in the food and beverage industry. Yum!
Speaking of food, a Wall Street Journal headline tells us “As Food Prices Rise, Fed Keeps Close Eye.” But the story then goes on to give something like 500 reasons why Fed Chairman Janet Yellen probably thinks rising prices aren’t really a sign of, um, rising prices (inflation). Haha! You can’t make this stuff up folks.
How many different markets have the world’s biggest banks manipulated in the last few years? I’ve lost count! So when it comes to gold, the World Gold Council is trying to modernize and improve the process by which gold price benchmarks are fixed daily. It’s bringing together interested parties on all sides of the debate in London. Let’s hope something concrete and beneficial comes out of the meeting!
You know I believe interest rates are going to rise, sooner rather than later. But here’s the counterargument, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times. I don’t agree with it, but figured I would share it anyway to help you more thoroughly understand the debate.
Reminder: You can let me know what you think by putting your comments here.
Until next time,