Search engine registration scam / 1-716-328-1722

We received the following to our domain registrant contact address (listed in WHOIS) from Domain Services <>:

Attention: Important Notice , DOMAIN SERVICE NOTICE

Complete and return by fax to:

Please ensure that your contact information is correct or make the necessary changes above

Requested Reply Before
November 23,2015


As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification for your business Domain name search engine registration. This letter is to inform you that it’s time to send in your registration and save.

Failure to complete your Domain name search engine registration by the expiration date may result in cancellation of this offer making it difficult for your customers to locate you on the web.

Privatization allows the consumer a choice when registering. Search engine subscription includes domain name search engine submission. You are under no obligation to pay the amounts stated below unless you accept this offer. Do not discard, this notice is not an invoice it is a courtesy reminder to register your domain name search engine listing so your customers can locate you on the web.

This Notice for: WWW.MY-DOMAIN-HERE will expire on November 23,2015 Act today!

Select Term:

[ ] 1 year 11/23/2015 – 11/23/2016 $75.00
[ ] 2 year 11/23/2015 – 11/23/2017 $119.00
[ ] 5 year 11/23/2015 – 11/23/2020 $199.00
[ ] 10 year -Most Recommended- 11/23/2015 – 11/23/2025 $295.00
[ ] Lifetime (NEW!) Limited time offer – Best value! Lifetime $499.00

Today’s Date: _____________________ Signature: _____________________

Payment by Credit Card
Select the term above, then return by fax: 1-716-328-1722



By accepting this offer, you agree not to hold DS liable for any part. Note that THIS IS NOT A BILL. This is a solicitation. You are under no obligation to pay the amounts stated unless you accept this offer. The information in this letter contains confidential and/or legally privileged information from the notification processing department of the DS 3501 Jack Northrop Ave. Suite #F9238 Hawthorne, CA 90250 USA, This information is intended only for the use of the individual(s) named above. There is no pre-existing relationship between DS and the domain mentioned above. This notice is not in any part associated with a continuation of services for domain registration. Search engine submission is an optional service that you can use as a part of your website optimization and alone may not increase the traffic to your site. If you do not wish to receive further updates from DS reply with Remove to unsubscribe. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that disclosur
e, copying, distribution or the taking of any action in reliance on the contents for this letter is strictly prohibited.

If you have received a message like that, ignore it. It’s actually an illegal solicitation, as it’s against the terms of use of WHOIS lookups to use them for spamming, which is what this is.

All it takes for search engines to find you after you register a domain and create a website for it is one public link on a website. There is no need to pay any registration service for it. Besides, if the spammers already found you, you obviously don’t need “search engine registration” :-)

Tomin no worries

“It’s going to rain on Saturday,” somebody on the adjacent table mentioned. “Oh really? I’ve been looking forward to rain for weeks, to be able to test my disc brakes!” I blurted out and the room suddenly went silent. Everybody was giving me a look that made it perfectly clear that this wasn’t the sort of comment that will win you popularity contests at a monthly bike meeting.

But it was true. The lack of reliable braking in the rain was the main reason why I had swapped the cantilever brake on the front fork of my Bike Friday for a disc brake (after upgrading to a new fork). Since then I hadn’t had the chance to test the new brake under the atrocious conditions I had wanted it for. I finally wanted to know how much difference the new brake would make.

So when the rainy forecast for Saturday remained unchanged by Friday afternoon, I announced to my wife that I was going to do a rainy ride the next day. The forecast was for light rain in the morning and heavier rain in the afternoon and evening, with 12 mm falling during daytime. Temperatures were supposed to be in the 12-16 C range.

“I’ll do the ride because I can,” I told my wife. I don’t ride in the rain because it was so much fun (usually it isn’t, even though atmospheric views and the resulting pictures often make up for some of the inconveniences), but because I don’t want to let the weather scare me. A lot of aspects of randonneuring can be intimidating, such as the distances or the amount of climbing or riding at night or sleep deprivation on 20+ hour rides. Much of the challenge of randonneuring is mental, i.e. having the confidence that you can do the ride despite all the challenges. The only way to build and maintain that confidence is to keep doing challenging rides.

When I sign up for brevet rides, I don’t know in advance what the weather will be like on the day. If it rains, I’ll still show up for the ride — it’s only water ­čśë

This year on the Easter weekend I had done a 400 km two day ride by myself in near constant drizzle for much of the ride. The year before I had done a 300 km brevet around Mt Fuji, with rain for the first 150 km.

I own two different rain jackets, a pair of nylon pants and various gloves. My friend Jose once told me, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes!” Over the years I have built some experience in how to deal with wet and cold weather on bike rides.

My goal was Tomin no mori (“Tokyo citizens’ forest”), a hiking trail head in the mountains west of Musashiitsukaichi station. To me the the real gateway to cycling in the mountains in Japan is not Mt Takao on the western edge of Tokyo but Tomin no mori. It’s not the steepest route, at up to 8-10 % on the steeper part of the final 10 km, but at 26 km from the station it is long and remote enough to test you and at about 1000 m elevation high enough for the temperatures to significantly change from below. If you have made this climb, you will be ready for any surfaced mountain road anywhere in Japan.

I started the ride around 08:00 wearing my rain jacket. After a while I could feel my knees getting colder and wetter from the drizzle, so I put on my nylon pants. On the way to Musashiitsukaichi (49 km from home) I stopped twice for coffee and food. After another break at a Familymart I headed up the mountain valley.

Normally the road to Tomin no mori is popular with cyclists, motorcyclists and boy racers in souped-up cars, especially on the weekend. Almost every time I cycle up there I come across the sound of an ambulance or police car rushing to an accident site. This weekend was different. I didn’t see any other bicycles or motorbikes. A guard at some road works told me he had seen maybe four other bicycles the whole day.

I loved the momiji (Japanese maple) leaves in green, yellow and red and the steaming clouds hanging over the forests.

Three km from the top I passed a water fall. Even though the temperature was dropping, I felt warmer and warmer as I was working hard on the climb. I knew the descent would be much colder.

Finally I reached the entrance to the trail head. I parked the bicycle and ordered sansai (mountain vegetable) pizza with coffee.

The rain had picked up while I had my meal, just as predicted by the forecast for the later afternoon and evening.

When I started the ride, I had considered three route options: 1) to Tomin no mori and back down again. 2) to Kazahari toge, the pass a few km above Tomin no mori and back and 3) over the pass and down to Lake Okutama, then downhill to Oume and down the Tamagawa for maximum distance. As I headed out I quickly decided that 1) was the only sensible option, given the real risk of hypothermia with my rain soaked shoes, gloves and sweaty clothes under the rain gear. I wasn’t even wearing a long sleeved jersey under my jacket and had brought no extra layers or dry clothes to change into.

The first 10 km of descending down towards Musashiitsukaichi were the coldest because it was so steep, I couldn’t really pedal to generate heat. After the route flattened out a bit I could work more and the chill eased off, though with wet feet and gloves it never became all that warm.

The disc brake was OK but had too much travel. I found the brake levers hit the drops before the brake was fully engaged. What had happened was that during the previous weeks I had done several mountain rides which had worn the pads and I had not readjusted the brakes to compensate. It was only when I got back to the Familymart that I got out my Allen keys and adjusted the inner pad to remove the excess play in the system that the brake started working as it should. I wish I had done that before the ride.

I had one nasty experience about 15 km from home: At one level crossing the road crossed the rails not at a right angle but diagonally and just as I was wondering how the gap would play with my tyres, the wheels went out under me as they slipped on the wet steel. I landed hard on my left knee and elbow. Though my rain jacket was OK, my nylon pants were torn at the knee and I had some abrasions on my skin. Next time I have to cross rails like that in the rain, I’ll walk the bike…

I got home without further incident after 150 km with 1200 m of elevation gain in the rain.

Next time I’ll do a ride like this I’ll bring along an extra layer for the cold descent and maybe a pair of dry socks and gloves as well. I’ll treat wet railway crossings with even more respect than metal sewer lids and any metal grates, because all of them are accidents waiting to happen.

I managed to keep my phone dry with a plastic cover, protected my camera in my breast pocket and kept the spare battery and USB cable for recharging the GPS out of the rain with strategically placed plastic bags.

I am still looking for a good way to keep my feet dry in the rain. I tried Bicycle Line shoe covers, but the largest size available was too small for my shoe size.

Also I need to figure out why despite mudguards at the front and the rear I end up with dirt water being sprayed onto the seat post bag and my back. Really, I need to find myself a better pair of mudguards, but there isn’t much choice for the 20 inch ETRTO 451 wheels of my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket.

Despite the accident and notwithstanding the coldest part of the descent, I wasn’t too uncomfortable for most of the ride and am glad to have seen the autumn foliage views around Hinohara village.

Disc Brake on my Bike Friday

Today I visited Bike Friday dealer ehicle in Shinjuku, Tokyo to have a disc brake installed on the new fork that Bike Friday has made for my 4 year old bike. I had bought the Shimano BR-CX77 calliper second-hand from a friend. This conversion will make for much more consistent braking on rainy brevets or on wet shopping rides.

There was one small issue but it was quickly solved by ehicle. My friend had also given me a SM-MA-F160P/S adapter for fitting a post mount calliper like the BR-CX77 to an IS tab front fork with a 160 mm rotor. That’s exactly what I had on the Bike Friday. However, it did not fit together, the calliper sat too far out from the adapter. Comparing with the setup of a disc-equipped Bike Friday Silk in the shop we found that its Avid BB7 calliper was mated to a Shimano SM-MA-F180P/S, which is meant for a 180 mm rotor at the front or 160 mm at the rear (F180P/S = R160P/S). The adapter I got from my friend was for use with a 160 mm rotor at the front or 140 mm at the rear (F160P/S = R140P/S).

The use of a 160 mm rotor with an F180 adapter (i.e. R160) on the Silk fork suggests that the IS tab to axle distance on the BF fork is the same as on a standard rear setup. This means it takes a 180 mm front adapter for a 160 mm rotor or a 160 mm front adapter for a 140 mm rotor. This is very interesting, since Shimano doesn’t make 140 mm front P/S adapters: Using Shimano parts, you can’t normally use a 140 mm rotor at the front with an IS tab fork, but with Bike Friday’s setup you can because the spacing is like at the rear, where Shimano does support 140 mm rotors with IS tabs. The only thing you give up by using rear spacing at the front is the ability to use 203 mm rotors, but the fork doesn’t have enough clearance for those anyway and they’re not needed on a 20″ wheel bike. The smaller wheel means that a smaller rotor can match or beat a bigger rotor on a 700C wheel on stopping power, though heat dissipation for long descents still depends on rotor size.

Anyway, a cheap 180 mm Shimano adapter instead of the 160 mm one that I had brought along solved the issue and I could use the new brake with the 160 mm rotor on the new fork. The B&M dynamo headlight moved from the brake bolt in the fork crown to its own bolt in the same place. ehicle installed a longer brake cable for me to accommodate the different brake location.

I love the new brake, both its stopping power and modulation. It should make a huge difference on rainy rides, where I have always been uncomfortable with rim brakes, in particular on brevets where I don’t know what the weather will be like on the day when I sign up for an event. I’ve done one 300 km brevet where it was raining for 150 km.

I’d like to thank ehicle for their friendly and efficient service and recommend them to anyone interested in or already riding a Bike Friday :)

The last brevet of the season

BRM926 AJ NishiTokyo 200 km Kintaro on September 26 was the last brevet of the year for me, even though the Japanese Randonneuring season runs until October: I won’t able to attend AJ NishiTokyo’s West Izu brevet on October 17 due to business travel.

I had not prepared particularly well for BRM926. After a heat wave in early August we had lots of rain, then one of my brothers visited from Germany, then I traveled to the US again. I did not really get to do as much cycling as usual. So far I had not experienced any DNF (Did Not Finish) on any of my 200 km brevets, but I was a bit worried that this could be the first time on this very hilly course.

I got up at 03:45. In the front car of the first train heading out to Machida I met two other participants. In front of the station I unpacked the bike in the rain and rode out to the start (5 km) with one of the other guys. On the way the rain stopped and I took off and packed away my rain gear before the ride briefing. A week before the event, the weather forecast had predicted rain, but as the week progressed it gradually improved.

The day started off cool and never got too hot, but mostly staid dry. Around higher elevations, especially after going over a pass or through a tunnel through a mountain range we encountered slight drizzle again (really, we were just riding through clouds). The strongest was crossing from the Yamanakako side of Kagosaka Toge to the Gotemba side. But the drizzle always stopped when elevation dropped and we got out of the clouds again.

The course had three convenience store check points (point de contr├┤le, PC) roughly 60 km apart, as well as one quiz point and one manned but untimed check point. It headed from Machida via route 35/Akiyama to Tsuru and from there up to Kawaguchiko. After circling the lake it headed past Yamanako, over to the Ashigara mountains to a barbecue site called Yuhi no Taki (evening light waterfall) and back to Machida.

After the Akiyama road with the first big climb near the Maglev track I reached PC1 at Tsuru with only about 15 minutes spare before control closing time. That set the tone for the day.

I was continually chasing the next closing time, thinking I’d probably make it but could never be too sure until I reached it. At the top of a mountain I would always find myself behind the minimum average speed of 15 km/h from the start, but on the next descent I’d gain just enough distance in a short time that I was a little bit ahead of the minimum at the next PC again. Most of the time I cycled alone, but I came across the same three or four cyclists again and again.

At Lake Kawaguchiko I couldn’t see Mt Fuji because it was too cloudy. Given the forecast, I hadn’t expected to see it.

The highest point was Kagosaka Toge, about 1100 m. From there the road dropped over 700 m, which is a pretty long descent. PC2 at the bottom was a grocery store, where I arrived just 12 minutes before control closing time. I bought bananas and climbed up Ashigara Toge (6 km).

On the other side I descended 6 km, then climbed a valley to a barbecue place which was a manned checkpoint (untimed). Staff had prepared grilled seafood and meat. They had saved some Frankfurter sausage and chicken for me, which I ate only 13 minutes before they had to clear out of the place. Then I descended to Oi-Matsuda and across a mix of rolling hills and busy urban roads back to Machida.

PC3 felt like the biggest challenge as traffic and traffic lights got denser, with the hills still unrelenting. I arrived at PC3 with 14 minutes spare. Two other cyclists arrived 3 and 5 minutes later, as I was preparing to head off again. Due to the overall 200 km time limit being 10 minutes longer than the 15 km/h equivalent time limit of all intermediate controls, I gained more breathing space at the final PC and could take it relatively easy for the remaining 26 km, which had yet more hills and traffic. It was then that I could stop worrying about time. I arrived at the goal 20 minutes before control closing time, with the other two guys following soon.

From there it was an untimed 5 km back to the reception site, the Cherubim bike shop in Machida. Three cyclists behind me also completed. Quite a few others DNF’ed (dropped out) due to various problems, including mechanical problems (a broken front derailleur, a ripped off rear derailleur after a crash, etc). We relaxed, celebrated and talked.

After the AJ NishiTokyo staff tidied up we took a group picture. I then cycled home from Cherubim to Setagaya. I got back at 23:30 with 242 km recorded on Strava and close to 2900 m of climbing, including the return ride.

The next day I felt a bit sore, but not too bad. The adrenaline of an event lets you do amazing things. My brevet speeds are always significantly higher than my personal ride times because there is always a ticking clock and/or other riders to chase. Knowing I can achieve goals in brevets that I don’t normally achieve on my own encourages me to become more ambitious and aim higher.

Disc brake wheel build for my Bike Friday

With the new fork with disc brake tabs for my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket due to arrive at Tokyo Bike Friday dealer ehicle very soon, I had Tim at GS Astuto build a new wheel for it. The rim is the same type (Alexrims DA22) that came with my bike originally, also in silver and 32H. The spokes are WheelSmith SS in a 3X lacing.

I am using the Shutter Precision PL-8 centerlock dynamo hub (silver, 32H) instead of the Shimano DH-3N80 (rim brake version) that I used before. The Shimano worked really well, but I couldn’t reuse it directly because it didn’t have the centerlock connector. The PL-8 is lighter and slightly more efficient. It’s been getting very good reviews. Perhaps my son will be able to reuse the Shimano hub for one of his bikes.

Here are some pictures of the new wheel, with and without brake rotor (SM RT-81):

Moving to Disc Brakes for the Bike Friday and Elephant NFE

Last week I bought a pair of mechanical Shimano BR-CX77 disc brakes for my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket. A friend of mine was selling them cheaply since he had upgraded to hydro/mechanical brakes.

Later this month I’ll receive a new fork with IS disc tabs for my Bike Friday and will install one of these using the 160F post mount adapter. Tokyo Bike Friday dealer ehicle will be installing the fork and a new threadless headset for me, allowing me to convert my nearly 4 year old BF to disc brakes at the front. For now I won’t be changing the rear triangle and the rim brakes at the back, since most of my braking has always been on the front.

Another friend of mine is interested in picking up the rear brake for his bike (his fork and front hub don’t support discs). Thus we both get a bargain price upgrade out of this pair.

Depending on how I like the second hand CX77 in action, I may then buy a new pair for use with my Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer (NFE).

Here is an IRD Alpina-D front derailleur (FD) for the NFE. I’ll use it with my Spa Cycles TD-2 touring crank. It’s very similar to older Ultegra FD’s and works well with smaller chain rings:

Finally here is one of the Compass Babyshoe Pass Extralight tires (650Bx42) that I’ve bought for the NFE. These should make for a cushy but fast ride. A friend of mine is using the 700Cx32 Stampede Pass tires and loves them.

More reading about the NFE build:

Japan Coast to Coast Adventure Ride

A century ride in cycling terms is a ride of at least 160.9 km (100 miles) in a day. I started doing them in March 2012 and since then did one every month except August 2012. Thus my current streak started in September 2012 and August 2015 was month #36.

I wanted the ride completing 3 years of what some would consider insanity to be special, so I combined it with one of my New Year plans, a Japanese coast to coast ride. Around Tokyo “coast to coast” amounts to a distance around 350 km. Because of the size of the Kanto plain and because of the river valleys on the other side the route can be mostly flat, but with some mountains where you cross the watershed.

[View this ride on Strava or on RideWithGPS]

My friends Alan and Naomi had done a coast-to-coast ride back in 2009, so I asked them for the route, which turned out to be a great one. They sensibly did it in two days, staying overnight at Karuizawa, a resort town up in the mountains near the highest point, which is a popular escape from the summer heat for Tokyoites. For my friends it was a 190 km ride one day, followed by a 09:00 start for the 160 km ride the next day. They did it in early September, when it’s is still pretty hot here.

I got my son Shintaro to join me on this route, but decided to ratchet it up a notch for the three year ride, riding it without a nightly accommodation stay. We did it during August, during a heat wave when it was hotter in Tokyo than it was down in Singapore.

Shintaro had joined me for a 300 km brevet in March (his first) and had no problems completing it, so I guessed he would do OK with fitness.

We left home around 08:15 and headed over to Rainbow Bridge on Tokyo bay as the Pacific starting point. All the cycling roads are asphalted, so we basically rode on a black solar collector all day. The temperature in the city was already at 35 C. By the time we got out of town and followed the mostly exposed Arakawa river cycling roads, the temperature hit 40 C. It stayed between 39 and 43 C until the mid-afternoon as we made our way along the Arakawa and Tonegawa.

We drank plenty of water but the heat was brutal. We both carried two water bottles and refilled them at every opportunity. If we came across a tap by the time we had only gone through the first bottle, we always dumped the contents of the other one to refill it as well, because by then it was already as hot as bath water! By the late afternoon it became a bit easier.

By the time we reached the main climb to Usui Pass (about 900 m) near Karuizawa it was dark. As we gained elevation and the stars came out temperatures finally dropped below 30 C. All the curves on the Usui pass are numbered, from 1 to 184. The scariest moment of the ride was when we both, climbing separately, passed a grunting wild boar by the roadside. We both sped up in panic to get away as quickly as possible… Fortunately it didn’t chase us.

We reached Karuizawa 202 km from home around midnight. The roads were mostly deserted as we followed rolling hills, keenly anticipating the promised descent into Nagano prefecture. It took longer than expected before the long, fast descent began. The temperature had dropped to as low as 19 C and I put on a wind breaker.

Some time after 01:00 Shintaro started getting sleepy, so we pulled into a convenience store parking lot and found a sheltered place behind the building, where we lied down on the bare concrete to sleep, using our rinko bags (to wrap up the bike for train rides) as pillows. Around 04:30 we woke up again from the cold and decided to head on. Nagano was beautiful in the early morning light, with mist sitting on surrounding mountains.

As the morning turned into day it gradually heated up again. We mostly followed cycling roads on flood control dams along the rivers, away from traffic, but also exposed to direct sunshine. Despite using sunscreen my arms were red from sunburn and my son had trouble sitting after so many hours on his roadie saddle (he has a Brooks on his touring bike).

Around midday we got to the second highest climb of the course, from one river valley into the next. By that time we were both weary and just wanted to get to the coast, so we could say we finished the ride. We shared a bag of dried mangoes, my “secret weapon” for when rides get tough. I can’t say much about the final kilometres, except that we counted down the (estimated) distance to the coast during the hottest time of the day.

After 362 km, we made it.

We had some udon noodles at a restaurant near the train station, packed our bikes into the rinko bags and headed back to Tokyo via express train and the Shinkansen (bullet train). I slept most of the way. My wife picked us up by car at the station in Tokyo.

Having felt pretty exhausted on rides in the July heat ranging from 88 km to 164 km, I knew a coast to coast ride in this weather was going to be more crazy than fun. Nevertheless, I knew we could do it and wanted to go through the experience.

Whenever I’ll be uncomfortable on another ride, I’ll always be able to look back at this one and say to myself: “That coast to coast ride wasn’t easy either, but you made it. Don’t give up! :)

Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer Build

With the arrival of my Elephant Bikes National Forest Explorer frame and fork still a few months away I have started collecting parts for building up the complete bike once the frame arrives. The first part was a new Brooks saddle, which I received as a birthday gift from my son.

Next came the Spa Cycles TD-2 Touring Triple cranks, which at £75 (about 15,000 yen including shipping to Japan) were excellent value:

The ramps and pins should ensure it works with Shimano STI shifters. The cranks are made by Sugino in Japan from 6061 aluminium. It looks the same as the Sugino Alpina 2 triple, but without the Sugino logo. The Zicral (7075-T6) chain rings are branded for Spa Cycles but perhaps made by Stronglight. I chose the 46/34/24 chain ring combination as it will give me my ideal gear ratios when combined with a 10 speed Ultegra 12-30 cassette (from 21.0 to 100.7 gear inches). It doesn’t exceed to 22T capacity of Shimano triple front derailleurs (Shimano 105 FD-5703, Shimano Ultegra FD-6703).

This is the Haulin’ Colin porteur rack powder-coated in Elephant NFE green (RAL 6021). I was surprised how light it was when I received it. Here is how Fred Blasdel uses his:

I’ve ordered my 650B wheels from GS Astuto. They will be built using Velocity Blunt SL rims, a Shutter Precision PL-8 dynamo hub at the front and a White Industry CLD rear hub.

My first choice of tyres will be the Compass 650B x 42 Babyshoe Pass Extralight tyres.

The front derailleur will be an IRD Alpina-D Triple, the rear derailleur an Ultegra RD-6700-GS (medium cage).

Other likely components:

  • B&M Lumotec IQ Cyo Premium senso plus (head light)
  • B&M Lumotec Secula Plus (rear light)
  • Nitto Randonneur handle bars
  • Shimano 105 triple 5703 shifters
  • TRP Hy/Rd hydro-mechanical disc brakes
  • Shimano UN55 square taper bottom bracket (113 mm)
  • Shimano PD-M520 pedals
  • Stem – TBD
  • Head set – TBD
  • Seat post – TBD
  • Mudguards – TBD

One comment on the styling of the bike. The script font used for the model name on the top tube is more than a nod to the font used by the US Forest Service on their park signs and in their publications.

However, the NFE frame colour is little lighter than the colour US Forest Service vehicles are painted in:

  U.S. Forest Service (Federal Standard 14260)  
  National Forest Explorer (RAL 6021) 

Turkey attacks Kurds while supporting bombing of IS

I’m a bit puzzled about the timing of Turkey’s recent attacks on Kurdish bases in northern Iraq, right after finally permitting the US to fly attacks against IS from Turkish bases. That sounds like playing both sides of the war to me… Weaken IS and its major enemy at the same time.

Does Erdo─čan think the US will have to shut up about Turkish attacks on Kurdish forces if they don’t want to lose the long demanded use of Turkish bases against IS? Use of Turkish bases for the war in Syria will allow the US to step up attacks against IS, which might strengthen the position of Kurdish forces. During the siege of Koban├«, Turkey seemed determined to block Kurdish reinforcements against IS, as if it saw genocidal IS as the lesser of two evils.

Or is it simply payback time for the parliamentary triumph of the (Kurdish) PeopleÔÇÖs Democratic party (HDP), which deprived Erdo─čan’s AKP of a majority in the general elections in June? Ending the peace process with Kurds may be an attempt to drive a wedge between the HDP and non-Kurdish voters, to split the opposition.

Abenomics and the Pension Bubble

Last week it was reported that the Japanese Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) had made a record annual return of over 12 percent last year. Considering the rapidly aging population in Japan and the related problem of how to finance pensions for large numbers of retirees with a shrinking active workforce, this may have seemed very welcome news. However, if you look a bit closer, it isn’t all what it seems.

The GPIF owes the record return mainly to increasing share prices of Japanese companies, of which it is holding stocks. The Nikkei 225 recently reached its highest level in about 15 years and it wasn’t all because Japanese exporters profited from the weakening yen. Another big factor was the decision of the Abe government to have the GPIF shift its asset allocation from government bonds to stocks. It reduced the bond target from 60% to 35% while increasing the stock target from 9% to 25%. Most of the above-target bonds have since been sold to the Bank of Japan (BoJ), which under “Abenomics” will buy up any volume of government bonds.

With the money from the bond sales the GPIF could go on a buying spree, while individual investors have actually been selling more shares than they bought. The GPIF has been sucking up shares like a vacuum cleaner with money basically printed by the Bank of Japan and this extra demand has inflated market values for shares, whether held by the GPIF or by banks, insurance companies or private investors. Beating deflation was a major declared goal of Abenomics, but so far the stock market is the only part of the economy where the government has succeeded in that goal (albeit only by some impressive stage magic by the Bank of Japan and the GPIF).

Will this recent on-paper gain shore up public finances for pension payments and health care for the elderly? Not really. The stock market can be a tricky beast. Just ask the Chinese, who had experienced an even more impressive stock market bull run until their bubble burst!

If the GPIF holds 25% of its assets in shares and it needs to pay pensions, it can only do so by selling shares at whatever the market rate happens to be at the time, which will directly influence those market rates. And if it needs a lot of cash because there aren’t many workers relative to pensioners it will need to sell a lot of shares. Share prices went up because the GPIF was a huge buyer; if it were to become a huge seller, the opposite would happen. This is even true if the GPIF were to reduce its share allocation before the pension problem will reach its peak.

If the real economy tanks, it will hit tax revenues and the stock market at the same time: With the GPIF heavily invested there, the government finances and the pensioners will be doubly exposed.

For the GPIF to do well out of stock sales it will need a huge number of individual buyers, as it keeps liquidating its portfolio. But who is going to invest in stocks when they know the market will keep on getting flooded with sell orders for years to come?

Instead of addressing the real problems, the government of Shinzo Abe has been using smoke and mirrors to con the public. While pensions are no more secure than before, a lot of stock market investors have made a mint out of the BoJ-financed buying binge, enriching wealthy Abe supporters.

There are no easy answers to the pension problem. As the age pyramid changes and inverts itself, lots of things will have to change. For one, the retirement age needs to increase to re-balance the number of workers vs. pensioners. Japan will need to open its doors more for immigration. We’ll all have to work more years and the sooner the changes are made, the less painful it will be later. More emphasis will have to be put on covering the minimum needs of retirees vs. tying payments to previous income levels and contributions. Wealthier pensioners will have to make bigger sacrifices. The necessary steps will be painful and controversial, but they are unavoidable. Smoke and mirror “Abenomics” are no way around that.