Russell Lee Washington DC, “Cafe on L Street.” 1938
Hike, grandma, hike. And then get under the bus.
The U.S. dollar has been range bound for weeks, but if Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen sounds more upbeat about the labor market in her testimony to Congress this week, analysts say the greenback could test recent highs against several currencies. “The U.S. dollar has been in consolidation mode. If Janet Yellen comes out sounding fairly hawkish and suggests the rate hike cycle could start in the middle of the year, the dollar could rise,” said ANZ senior currency strategist Khoon Goh. The greenback has been waiting for a fresh catalyst for a month following its near 19% surge from September to 95.50 in January, to 12 year highs.
If the scenario that Goh outlined comes true, the U.S. dollar index could test its all-time high, he said; it’s currently around 94.58. Expectations that the Fed will hike rates sooner rather than later underpinned the dollar’s rise, but some soft economic data including Monday’s below-view housing figures are limiting further gains. Investors will focus on Yellen’s testimony to Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday for further clues on when the Fed will hike rates. Should she sound “more upbeat about labor market developments, it would be a key factor in conditioning the markets’ expectations that the Federal Reserve is preparing to create options to set the stage for a rate hike at its next meeting,” said NAB’s Ray Attrill.
He sees the U.S. dollar index rallying by 0.5% or dropping by 1%, depending on whether Yellen is hawkish or dovish. “Currency markets have been more confident about an earlier rate hike, perhaps in June, than the bond markets, which are factoring in an October rate hike,” said NAB’s Attrill. But even if Yellen confirms the markets’ dollar-long positions with hawkish comments, it won’t have equal impact on all currencies, say analysts.
The European Commission on Tuesday backed proposals made by the Greek government for reworking its bailout program, putting Athens one step closer to securing a four-month extension to its expiring bailout. But the bloc’s governments will require more detail on the proposals before giving Greece more money and possibly before approving its extension request. Eurozone finance ministers will discuss the list of proposals, sent by Greece to its creditors on Monday night, on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. “In the commission’s view, this list is sufficiently comprehensive to be a valid starting point for a successful conclusion of the review, as called for by [eurozone finance ministers],” said commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas. “We are notably encouraged by the strong commitment to combat tax evasion and corruption.”
However, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who leads meetings of the eurozone ministers, said the proposals represented “just a first step.” “This list is just an indication of the kind of reforms they would like to replace and also the ones they would like to continue,” Mr. Dijsselbloem said at the European Parliament on Tuesday. The commission is one of three institutions—along with the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund—that have been overseeing Greece’s bailout and had been asked to assess the list before the eurozone ministers speak on their conference call at 13:00 GMT. Mr. Schinas said the fact that a conference call has been scheduled indicates the ECB and the IMF support the Greek proposals. The list, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, includes pledges on privatizations, reforms to pension policy and government spending cuts, including reducing the number of ministries from 16 to 10. It also pledges to raise the minimum wage, a measure that has raised concerns among some of Greece’s creditors.
A eurozone official who had seen the list was skeptical. “It should be much more concrete, but hopefully we will receive more concreteness,” the official said. Nevertheless, Greek stocks surged on the news that the commission believes the proposals appear to meet the demands of eurozone finance ministers, with the main stock exchange in Athens rising almost 7% in early trade. Bonds also jumped. The Greek government needs its creditors to approve its proposals to secure a four-month extension to its €240 billion ($273 billion) bailout, which expires at the end of the month. Mr. Dijsselbloem said he received the list of reforms at 11:15 on Monday evening. That means Athens submitted the list in time, despite an announcement by the Greek government on Monday night that it wouldn’t send the measures until Tuesday morning. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis also sent the list of reforms to the commission, the ECB and the IMF.
Greece’s month-old government is about to find out whether a package of new economic measures sketched in recent days is enough to win more funding from the rest of the euro region to keep the country solvent. A draft list was sent to creditor institutions on Monday, based on a provisional agreement on Feb. 20. A Greek government official said the policies will be provided to the euro-area group of finance ministers on Tuesday before they discuss on a conference call whether the commitments go far enough. “I am very confident,” Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is president of the group, said on Monday. “The Greek government has been very serious, working very hard the last couple of days. We need it to be strong enough to work on the next couple of months. I am always optimistic.”
Approval of the Greek plans would offer a four-month reprieve for the country. At the same time, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras must try to avoid defections within his anti-austerity Syriza party after it won power on pledges to take back control of Greece’s finances. The measures are first subject to validation by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, the institutions that were known as the troika and from which Tsipras told voters Greece would break free. A draft was under discussion Monday evening, an official from the institutions said. The person asked not to be named because the deliberations are private. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said she hoped there would be a “meeting of the minds” between Greece and the rest of Europe on the changes needed.
“Greece has to go through very in-depth, sometimes difficult reforms,” she said in an interview on HuffPost Live on Monday. They “will have to tackle vested interests, protected professions, rigidity in various markets,” she said. The government said in a statement the same day that the list will include all of Syriza’s pledges for “alleviating the humanitarian crisis” and the cabinet will convene on Tuesday after the document goes to finance ministers. The package would then be put to national parliaments for formal consent, though lawmakers and officials in Germany, Finland and the Netherlands signaled they won’t stand in the way once their governments grant consent for the aid extension. Greek government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said earlier that the list will include fighting corruption and changes to the tax system.
But then, finally…
Greece will send a list of reforms aimed at securing a bailout extension to EU partners on Tuesday morning, missing a Monday deadline, officials say. The list must be approved by international creditors to secure a four-month loan extension. Analysts say the deal’s collapse would revive fears Greece will exit the euro. Minister of state Nikos Pappas says the list will include measures to fight tax evasion and trim the civil service. But Greek officials have also stressed that there will be policies aimed at fulfilling pre-election pledges to help those hit by years of economic crisis. Greece’s creditors – the ECB, EC and IMF – are expected to deliver their verdict on the proposals later on Tuesday, before the reforms are discussed in a conference call with eurozone finance ministers.
Greece agreed an extension to its financial rescue programme with eurozone countries on Friday, and said it would submit its list of reforms before Tuesday. Late on Monday, officials said that although Greece had given no reason, the Eurogroup had agreed to a delay. The four-month extension deal is widely regarded as a major climb-down for Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who won power in January vowing to reverse budget cuts. Greece hasn’t disclosed why the infamous list has been delayed but insists it will arrive in Brussels on Tuesday. Drafts leaked to the Greek media suggest proposals broadly fall into three categories: tackling tax evasion, structural reforms and social measures that help the poor with healthcare or electricity bills and prevent those in debt from losing their homes.
It’s not clear which will make the final list or whether the reforms will be accepted by Greece’s creditors. If there’s a fundamental disagreement, the deal to extend Greece’s loan could collapse. The government is likely to be forced into U-turns on some promises made before the election, such as raising the minimum wage or rehiring public sector workers. The hard left of the governing party is opposed. But the majority of Syriza’s supporters appear to be behind it, relieved at least that Athens is proposing reforms for the first time rather than being handed a fait accompli by its creditors. Bild, Germany’s biggest newspaper, broke down in an article what it said was a tax hit list devised by the Greek government. It will reportedly seek to raise 2.5bn euros from the fortunes of rich Greeks, 2.5bn from back taxes owed by individuals and businesses, and 2.3bn from a crackdown on tobacco and petrol smuggling.
It’s a long day… living in Reseda… there’s a free-way runnin’ through the yard….
[..] not only has Tsipras attracted criticism for trying to present the deal as a win for the country, he has also been accused of merely overseeing a change of names for the bailout. For example, the “troika” is now referred to as “institutions,” and the “memorandum of understanding” is now referred to as the “agreement.” “To say that we finished off the ‘Memorandum’ and the ‘troika’, just because they changed their names makes me incredibly angry,” Athens-based Giannis Loverdos said on Facebook. “It’s as if Tsipras, [Finance Minister Yanis] Varoufakis and the others are telling me: ‘We believe that you are stupid…and you will believe whatever lie we tell you.'” Whereas Kostas Karampas, who also lives in Athens, went further, called the signing of a new deal “treason” on Facebook. He argued that whoever signs the new bailout agreement and new reform measures were “collaborators and will be judged by the Greek people for ultimate treason.”
One Greek expat in London was more sympathetic to Tspiras’ Syriza party, however. “I already knew from the beginning that the things that Syriza was promising before the election were not realistic,” mechanical engineer Antonis Kountouriotis told CNBC Monday, adding that he expected the government to make some concessions during negotiations. “They’ve tried to make an agreement that will benefit Greece and they do not follow a “yes” attitude to everything that the IMF and/or Europe—let’s face it, by Europe I mean Germany—want. I think we’ll have to wait and see whether they keep that attitude of negotiation, and whether they’ll manage to achieve a better agreement for Greece, before we judge them.” Despite the deal, Greece is still at the mercy of its European neighbors.
[..] although Tsipras has only been in power a month, analysts are questioning whether Friday’s deal—and notably, Greece’s request for an extension after previously shunning the notion—will come back to haunt the prime minister, threatening his credibility as a leader. Sotirios Zartaloudis, a lecturer in politics at the University of Birmingham, said in a blog post following the deal that Greece’s new government was “threatened by its own populist agenda vis-a-vis its Western partners and its voters.” “Its fate will be the benchmark for other populist anti-systemic parties throughout Europe,” he wrote Friday.
[..] As we soon found out from a leaked telephone call, the US ambassador in Kiev and Assistant Secretary of State, Victoria Nuland, were making detailed plans for a new government in Kiev after the legal government was overthrown with their assistance. The protests continued to grow but finally on February 20th of last year a European delegation brokered a compromise that included early elections and several other concessions from Yanukovych. It appeared disaster had been averted, but suddenly that night some of the most violent groups, which had been close to the US, carried out the coup and Yanukovych fled the country.
When the east refused to recognize the new government as legitimate and held a referendum to secede from the west, Kiev sent in tanks to force them to submit. Rather than accept the will of those seeking independence from what they viewed as an illegitimate government put in place by foreigners, the Obama administration decided to blame it all on the Russians and began imposing sanctions!
That war launched by Kiev has lasted until the present, with a ceasefire this month brokered by the Germans and French finally offering some hope for an end to the killing. More than 5,000 have been killed and many of those were civilians bombed in their cities by Kiev. What if John McCain had stayed home and worried about his constituents in Arizona instead of non-constituents 6,000 miles away? What if the other US and EU politicians had done the same? What if Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt had focused on actual diplomacy instead of regime change? If they had done so, there is a good chance many if not all of those who have been killed in the violence would still be alive today. Interventionism kills.
Lack of will.
The leaked revelations about the tax-evading activities of the Swiss subsidiary of HSBC Bank rumble on. Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer has faced questions as to why, despite evidence of 1,100 tax-evading accounts being passed to the government in 2010, there has been only one prosecution—and why the chairman of HSBC was subsequently made a government minister. The scandal is a reminder that the global institutions which try to prevent money laundering are not just ineffective—they’re also incredibly expensive to maintain. It’s time to cut them down to size.
The multilateral Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which ostensibly regulates money laundering, emerged as a response to the war on drugs and has expanded during the war on terror. The rules now officially cover almost every country. Not only banks but also lawyers, car dealers, currency exchanges, casinos, and realtors are required to report “suspicious” customers who appear to have more money than they can account for through legal transactions. If laundering activities that banks fail to report are subsequently uncovered, banks may get heavily sanctioned: HSBC itself was previously forced to pay $1.92 billion in fines related to laundering Mexican drug cartel proceeds.
Michael Levi of Cardiff University and Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland have studied the global anti-money-laundering system and conclude that it has helped facilitate some criminal investigations and prosecutions. But at best, it snares just a fraction of 1% of criminal income flows. A lower-end estimate for global laundering transactions is 2% of global gross domestic product—or about $1.5 trillion. Global money laundering convictions involve at the most hundreds of millions. In the U.S., a generous estimate of seizures would amount to a mere 0.2% of all laundered funds.
We better stop this while we can.
Medicines will cost Australian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars more each year if measures in a leaked draft of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement are implemented, a new report says. The most recently leaked draft of the international trade deal includes provisions proposed by the US that would further protect the monopoly pharmaceutical companies hold over drugs, and delay cheaper versions from entering the market, the Medical Journal of Australia report says. The draft agreement sets in stone low patenting standards which allow drug companies to practice “evergreening” – when a pharmaceutical company tries to maintain its market monopoly on a drug for longer by applying for extra patents.
This prevents other companies entering the market with cheaper versions of the same medicine and imposes large and unnecessary costs on the health system and consumers, the report, published on Monday, said. The report’s authors gave the example of Efexor, produced by Pfizer, an antidepressant which had major side effects. Pfizer subsequently developed slow-release versions of the drug, called Efexor-XR, which significantly reduced its side-effects and which became much more widely prescribed than Efexor.
Pfizer claimed the slow-release versions were different enough from the original to be granted new patents. Its claim was rejected, but the legal battle delayed cheaper generic versions of the drug from entering the market for two and half years. “By the time this patent was eventually declared invalid, the delay to the generic market had cost taxpayers $209m,” the authors wrote. “The three greatest concerns for Australia in the recent draft include provisions that would further entrench secondary patenting and evergreening, lock in extensions to patent terms, and extend monopoly rights over clinical trial data for certain medicines.”
Apple is now twice as big as the world’s second-largest listed company, oil giant ExxonMobil. Shares in the iPhone maker jumped 2.7pc on Monday to close at $133, giving the company a market value of more than $774bn (£500bn). ExxonMobil saw its stock fall 1pc to $89.01, valuing the US group at just under $377bn, as the 50pc collapse in oil prices since last June continues to weigh on the company. Apple’s shares have risen 21.7pc so far this year as the company prepares to follow-up the hugely successful release of the iPhone 6 in September with its first smartwatch. Apple has reportedly asked its Asian suppliers to manufacture more than 5m Apple Watches ahead of its April retail date
Strong sales of the larger-screened iPhones resulted in the biggest ever quarterly profit reported by a company, with device sales rising 29.5pc in the final three months of 2014 to $74.6bn, driving net income up from $13.1bn to $18bn in the quarter. Those results helped Apple become the world’s first $700bn company on February 10. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said at a conference earlier this month that he was confident that the company would continue to grow at a rapid pace. “We don’t believe in such laws as laws of large numbers. This is sort of an old dogma that was cooked up by somebody,” he said.
“Steve [Jobs, the co-founder of Apple and former chief executive] did a lot of things for us over many years but one of the things he ingrained in us is that putting limits on your thinking is never good.” Analysts said the company would continue to grow from strength to strength. “Given Apple’s powerful iPhone cycle, a big 4G ramp in China and the upcoming launch of Apple Watch in April, we believe there is still plenty to look forward to during this transformational cycle,” said Brian White, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald.
In an equity environment where hedge funds are struggling to break even, Apple Inc. has played the role of savior, according to Goldman Sachs. A group of companies representing the most popular long positions for hedge funds is up just 0.2% in 2015, compared to a 2.3% gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, data compiled by Goldman Sachs show. A 19% year-to-date increase for Apple, which is owned by one in every five hedge funds and is a top-10 position for 12% of them, has provided a needed boost, the firm said. Apple came into 2015 poised to have a major impact on money managers, comprising the highest %age of hedge fund equity assets in more than two years, according to Goldman Sachs data. The technology titan constitutes 4% of an S&P 500 that’s hovering near an all-time high.
“Apple reigns undisputed as the most popular hedge fund stock,” a group of Goldman Sachs analysts including chief U.S. equity strategist David Kostin wrote in a Feb. 20 client note. The company is a “key driver of hedge fund performance, as well as U.S. equity earnings growth and returns,” they said. Goldman Sachs maintains a basket containing the 50 stocks that appear most often among the top 10 holdings of fundamentally-driven hedge fund portfolios. For its most recent report, the firm analyzed 854 hedge funds with $2.1 trillion of gross equity positions at the start of 2015. Apple is forecast to climb about 2% in the next 12 months, according to 44 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Goldman Sachs is more bullish, predicting a 9.7% rise to $145 per share.
Hedge fund holdings of Apple remained resilient in the fourth quarter even as some large money managers pared exposure to equities, particularly for U.S. companies. Greenlight Capital’s David Einhorn said he scaled back bets on stock gains during the fourth quarter after markets climbed and as a stronger dollar threatens to limit earnings of U.S. companies from operations overseas. David Tepper’s Appaloosa Management had $2.74 billion less in U.S. stocks in the fourth quarter, a 40% drop from the previous quarter. Soros Fund Management, the family office of billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros, moved about $2 billion into companies in Asia and Europe, according to a person familiar with the strategy.
“Few people grok that Greece is an entity with an economy not much bigger than North Carolina’s”
Oh, you didn’t notice that World War Three is underway, actually has been for more than year? Well, that’s because most of it has been taking place in the banking sector, which for most people is just an alternative universe of math. The catch, which many people either miss or don’t care about, is that the math doesn’t add up. For instance, the runaway choo-choo train of linked European sovereign bond obligations with its overloaded caboose of interest rate swaps and other janky derivatives of mass destruction. That train left the station in Athens a few weeks ago bound for Frankfurt. Ever since, the German government and its cohorts in the EU, the ECB, and the IMF have been issuing reassurances that the choo choo train will not blow up when it reaches its destination.
Few people grok that Greece is an entity with an economy not much bigger than North Carolina’s, yet it is burdened with roughly $350 billion of old debt that will never be paid back. The only thing at issue is how it will not be paid back, that is, what mode of pretense will be employed to disguise the inability to pay back this debt. The mode du jour has been the crude one of lending Greece more money to pay back the interest on the old debt. A seven-year-old ought to be able to understand where that leads. It’s kind of up to the Greeks this week to possibly opt out of that farcical deal. They have at least two other present options: return to being a sunwashed semi-medieval backwater of olive farmers, shepherds, and inn-keepers, or perhaps lease out some cozy corner of their vast Mediterranean coastline to the Russian navy for enough annual walking-around money to keep the lights on for the aforementioned farmers, shepherds, and inn-keepers.
Of course, that would drive the US and its NATO quislings batshit crazy. We’ve already got our knickers in a twist over Ukraine, a so-called nation whose highest and best purpose over the millennia has been as a sort of lethal doormat in front of Russia, leaving adventurers like Napoleon and Hitler bleeding in the snow as they crawled back to their nations of origin. In short, Ukraine has worked so well for Russia that we must be insane to imagine that it would give up that traditional relationship. Yet the US and NATO persist in their foolishness and attempt to back up their Kievan intrigues with financial “sanctions” against Russia.
Who else is interested in peace?
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has said war with neighbouring Ukraine is “unlikely”, in an interview for Russian television. Mr Putin also stressed his support for the Minsk agreement as the best way to stabilise eastern Ukraine. Ukraine has said there is clear evidence Russia is helping the rebels in the east, something Russia denies. Earlier, Ukraine’s military said rebel shelling had prevented them withdrawing heavy weapons from the front line.
In his interview, Mr Putin was asked if there was a real threat of war, given the situation in eastern Ukraine. “I think that such an apocalyptic scenario is unlikely and I hope this will never happen,” he said. Mr Putin said that if the Minsk agreement was implemented, eastern Ukraine would “gradually stabilise”. “Europe is just as interested in that as Russia. No-one wants conflict on the edge of Europe, especially armed conflict,” he said.
They’d be fine if only reality would vanish.
The pain of crude’s collapse is beginning to bite in Alberta, from the oil-sands boomtown of Fort McMurray to the corporate boardrooms of Calgary. As the C$340-billion ($270 billion) petro-economy confronts an oil market meltdown, a decade-long investment spree is being reversed, layoffs and spending cuts are in full swing at companies such as Suncor Energy, and everyone from oil drillers to real estate agents is feeling the pinch. In Fort McMurray, where the oil is so near the surface it oozes out of the ground in places and coats people’s boots, the mayor is reconsidering city projects. In Calgary, which boasted Canada’s biggest concentration of millionaires and one of the hottest real-estate markets, realtors just had their worst two months on record. The Bank of Canada has cut interest rates in an effort to limit the damage from spreading to the rest of economy.
Yet, even in the midst of the price swoon, many executives and workers remain confident the oil-sands industry –which has endured deep cyclical downturns before and was built on long-term investments to operate at high costs – will pull through. Here are their stories. Terence Stewart sits at home as the rain falls in Nanaimo, British Columbia, waiting for the phone to ring. A month ago, the engineering designer was making blueprints for holding tanks and scaffolding at Cenovus Energy Inc.’s oil-sands project in Narrows Lake, 1,700 kilometers (1,050 miles) away. With the 54 percent drop in the price of oil since June, Cenovus scaled back plans to develop the 130,000 barrel-a-day project – and with it Stewart’s job. Last week, the producer announced the first layoff in its history, dismissing 800 people and freezing wages.
With a decade of work experience in the oil sands, Stewart, 59, is looking a job closer to home to “tide him over” until the petroleum industry improves. He hopes liquefied natural gas projects being proposed by companies like Royal Dutch Shell Plc along the Pacific coast will get the green light and provide him with a job in the coming year. So far, none of the proponents has committed to any investment. “It is a very volatile industry,” he said. For now, he’s counting on finding work locally at one of the small manufacturers in Nanaimo or Vancouver, though he won’t be immune to the lure of oil-sands jobs that pay as much as C$100 an hour when times are good. “You do get paid very well in the oil and gas field,” he says. “But you do have to plan for a rainy day.”
Who needs a brain when you have shale?
Oil and gas giant Chevron is giving up on its shale gas plans for Romania, marking the end of its European efforts for the resource. And it’s not alone in scrapping European plans. The California-based company said that the fracking project does not make economic sense at this time, so it is relinquishing its concessions in the country. Less than a month earlier, Chevron pulled out of shale gas exploration in Poland, citing similar reasoning. “Chevron intends to pursue relinquishment of its interest in these (Romanian) concessions in 2015,” the company’s Kent Robertson said. “This is a business decision which is a result of Chevron’s overall assessment that this project in Romania does not currently compete (favorably) with other investment opportunities in our global portfolio.”
Chevron wholly owned and operated the 1.6 million-acre Barlad Shale concession in northeast Romania, and three concessions covering 670,000 acres in the country’s southeast, according to the company’s website. The development marks a major blow for the European shale industry. Many European officials have designated energy development as a top priority, but popular backlash and a series of disappointing exploration results have stunted these hopes. In fact, Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta indicated last year that oil companies could be on something of a fool’s errand in his country.
“It looks like we don’t have shale gas, we fought very hard for something that we do not have,” Ponta told television channel Antena 3, according to Reuters. “I cannot tell you more than this, but I don’t think we fought for something that existed.”
A 2013 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that Romania held the fifth-largest unproved wet shale gas estimated reserves in Europe (trailing Russia, Poland, France and Ukraine).
A BIG SURPRISE.
A prominent academic and climate change denier’s work was funded almost entirely by the energy industry, receiving more than $1.2m from companies, lobby groups and oil billionaires over more than a decade, newly released documents show. Over the last 14 years Willie Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, received a total of $1.25m from Exxon Mobil, Southern Company, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and a foundation run by the ultra-conservative Koch brothers, the documents obtained by Greenpeace through freedom of information filings show. According to the documents, the biggest single funder was Southern Company, one of the country’s biggest electricity providers that relies heavily on coal. The documents draw new attention to the industry’s efforts to block action against climate change – including President Barack Obama’s power-plant rules.
Unlike the vast majority of scientists, Soon does not accept that rising greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial age are causing climate changes. He contends climate change is driven by the sun. In the relatively small universe of climate denial Soon, with his Harvard-Smithsonian credentials, was a sought after commodity. He was cited admiringly by Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who famously called global warming a hoax. He was called to testify when Republicans in the Kansas state legislature tried to block measures promoting wind and solar power. The Heartland Institute, a hub of climate denial, gave Soon a courage award. Soon did not enjoy such recognition from the scientific community. There were no grants from Nasa, the National Science Foundation or the other institutions which were funding his colleagues at the Center for Astrophysics.
According to the documents, his work was funded almost entirely by the fossil fuel lobby. “The question here is really: ‘What did API, ExxonMobil, Southern Company and Charles Koch see in Willie Soon? What did they get for $1m-plus,” said Kert Davies, a former Greenpeace researcher who filed the original freedom of information requests. Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center, of which Davies is the founder, shared the documents with news organisations. “Did they simply hope he was on to research that would disprove the consensus? Or was it too enticing to be able to basically buy the nameplate Harvard-Smithsonian?”
Count your blessings.
More than half of the UK’s food will come from overseas within a generation, as a rising population and stalling farm productivity combine to erode what remains of the UK’s self-sufficiency, according to farming leaders. The UK’s failure to produce more food will leave households more vulnerable to volatile prices and potential shortages, the National Farmers’ Union will say at its annual conference on Tuesday. The farming body will call on politicians to encourage new investment in farming, and develop a national plan for a higher degree of food self-sufficiency. Meurig Raymond, president of the NFU, warned: “The stark choice for the next government is whether to trust the nation’s food security to volatile world markets or to back British farming and reverse the worrying trend in food production. I want to see a robust plan for increasing the productive potential of farming, stimulating investment and ensuring that the drive to increase British food production is at the heart of every government department.”
The NFU cited “poorly crafted regulation”, including EU and UK policies that have “over-emphasised environmental rather than production outcomes and complicated the busienss of farming”, and farmers having weak bargaining power with big retailers as key problems affecting agriculture. Farmers meeting in Birmingham are expected to demand more attention from politicians ahead of the general election, when rural votes could play an important role in deciding the make-up of the next government. The Conservatives dominate in rural areas, but many key Liberal Democrat constituencies have a farming base. Farming production is worth about £26bn a year, while the broader food industry accounts for about £103bn to the UK economy, more than the car and aerospace industries combined, and represents about 3.5m jobs.
According to projections by the NFU, on current trends the UK will reach a tipping point in about 25 years, beyond which a majority of our food will have to be imported, unless governments take strong action to improve food production and protect consumers from a future of relying on food bought from abroad. Self-sufficiency in food in the UK has been eroded since the 1980s: about 60% of food currently consumed here is grown here, down from nearly 80% in the mid 1980s, even though more varieties of food previously thought exotic are now grown in the UK. The problems created for British farmers when cheap imports flood the UK’s market have been illustrated in recent weeks. A glut of dairy products on international markets has sent prices to farmers plummeting, driving thousands out of business and threatening a future in which the UK has to import its fresh milk.