Jack Delano Cars being precooled at the ice plant, San Bernardino, CA 1943
The estimate just doubled in two weeks time.
• Germany Now Expects Up To 1.5 Million Asylum Seekers In 2015 (Reuters)
German authorities expect up to 1.5 million asylum seekers to arrive in Germany this year, the Bild daily said in a report to be published on Monday, up from a previous estimate of 800,000 to 1 million. Germany’s top-selling newspaper cited an internal forecast from authorities that it said had been classed as confidential. Many of the hundreds of thousands of people pouring into Europe to escape conflicts and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and beyond have said they are heading to Germany, Europe’s largest economy. Bild said the German authorities were concerned about the risk of a “breakdown of provisions” and that they were already struggling to procure enough living containers and sanitary facilities for the new arrivals. “Migratory pressures will increase further. We now expect seven to ten thousand illegal border crossings every day in the fourth quarter,” Bild cited the report as saying.
“This high number of asylum seekers runs the risk of becoming an extreme burden for the states and municipalities,” the report said. The authorities’ report also cited concerns that those who are granted asylum will bring their families over to Germany too, Bild said. Given family structures in the Middle East, this would mean each individual from that region who is granted asylum bringing an average of four to eight family members over to Germany in due course, Bild quoted the report as saying. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Sunday Europe needs to restrict the number of people coming to the continent. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said Germany would grant asylum to those fleeing Syria’s civil war, has recently seen her popularity ratings slump to a four-year low.
Give this baby the Nobel Peace Prize, not Merkel, who let it drown.
• Baby’s Body Washes Up On Greek Island Kos
The decomposed body of a baby has been found on the shore of Greece’s Kos island, which is on the frontline of the asylum seeker influx coming from Turkey. The body of the baby boy, estimated to be 6 to 12 months old, was found dressed in green trousers and a white t-shirt on the beach of a hotel, the Greek coast guard said. Authorities believe the child was a member of an asylum seeker family that tried to reach Kos in a dinghy, according to local media reports. The body was transferred to Kos General Hospital for an autopsy. The grim discovery recalls the case of three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, whose body was found face down on a Turkish beach last month.
Pictures of the lifeless body of the Syrian toddler face down on a Turkish beach shocked the world and helped spur European nations to seek an effective response to the growing asylum seeker crisis. The Greek Coast Guard continues the grim job of recovering bodies from the sea and the shores of its islands, fearing that things will only get worse as winter approaches and the weather deteriorates. In September, at least 15 babies and children drowned when their overcrowded boat capsized in high winds off the Aegean island of Farmakonisi. [..] Nearly 3,000 others have died or disappeared during the crossing.
• Two Children Drown Off Kos In Latest Refugee Tragedy (Kath.)
The Greek coast guard has found the bodies of two children off the eastern Aegean island of Kos, which has been a main point of entry for refugees and migrants this year. Authorities said one of the dead children was aged between 6 and 12 months. The other is thought to be between three and five years old. Their nationalities were not immediately known. Last week the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that at least 102 people have died trying to reach Greece by sea this year. At least 3,000 have died in the Mediterranean as a whole. The UNHCR said on Friday that a total of 396,500 people have entered Greece by sea since January 1, more than 153,000 of them in September.
“Prepare for further big declines.”
• Caution: More Commodity Price Weakness Ahead (A. Gary Shilling)
It’s hard not to notice that commodity prices have been plummeting. It seems the price of everything that is grown or pulled out of the ground – from oil and gas to sugar and copper – has declined 46% since early 2011, causing bankruptcies and industry consolidation. Prepare for further big declines. Directly or indirectly, developed countries consume most commodities. Yet economic growth and demand for commodity-based products remain weak as North America and Europe continue to unwind their financial excesses. The earlier rapid expansion of debt, which helped fuel robust growth, is being reversed. US real GDP has risen at just a 2.2% annual rate since the business recovery began in mid-2009 – about half the rate you’d expect after a recession.
The euro area is limping along at a 1.2% annual growth rate, with recovery from the 2007-2009 recession interrupted by a mild downturn in 2011-2013. Economic gains in Japan’s stop-go economy have averaged only 1%. The world is now eight years into a deleveraging cycle. At this rate, it will probably take more than the historical average of 10 years to complete. Meanwhile, supplies of almost every commodity are huge and growing. China joined the World Trade Organization in late 2001 and, not by coincidence, commodity prices took off in early 2002. As manufacturing shifted from North America and Europe to China, it sucked up global commodity output. From 2000 to 2014, China’s share of global copper consumption leaped to 43% from 12%. China’s portion of iron ore purchases similarly zoomed to 43% from 16%, while aluminum went to 47% from 13%.
By the mid-2000s, industrial commodity producers were dazzled by China’s seemingly insatiable demand and made the same big mistake that always occurs in every economic cycle: They assumed surging demand from China would last indefinitely. Producers embarked on massive projects that often take a decade to complete. These included digging copper mines in Latin America, removing iron ore in Brazil and producing coal in Australia. All that new capacity began to come onstream in 2011, just as it became clear that the hoped-for post-recession return to rapid global economic growth wasn’t occurring. [..] But muted demand in North America and Europe for Chinese exports has slowed economic growth in China. Meanwhile, over-investment in ghost cities and building of excess infrastructure, in which China engaged to create jobs, has spawned huge debts. I estimate that the true rate of inflation-adjusted growth in China is about 3% to 4%, half the 7% official number.
“The impotence of monetary policy in boosting growth and staving off deflationary pressures has become painfully apparent..”
• Emerging Market Turmoil Flashes Warning Lights For Global Economy (FT)
Emerging economies risk “leading the world economy into a slump”, with lower growth and a rout in financial markets, according to the latest Brookings Institution-FT tracking index. Released ahead of the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Lima, Peru, the index paints a much more pessimistic outlook than the fund is likely to predict later this week. According to Eswar Prasad of Brookings, weak economic data across most poorer economies has created “a dangerous combination of divergent growth patterns, deficient demand, and deflationary risks”. Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director, said last week that the global economic patterns were “disappointing and uneven” with weaker growth than last year and the forecasts published on Tuesday showing only a “modest acceleration expected in 2016”.
The fund’s reasonably sanguine view stems from an expectation that China will succeed in transforming its economy slowly from investment and manufacturing towards consumption and services. By contrast, the Brookings-FT index, which summarises the latest figures, suggests the downturn is more serious alongside “sharp divergences in growth prospects between the advanced economies and emerging markets, and within these groups as well”. The Tiger index — Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery — shows how measures of real activity, financial markets and investor confidence compare with their historical averages in the global economy and within each country.
The extreme weakness in the emerging market component of the Tiger growth index shows that data releases have been significantly weaker than their historic averages. Divergence is almost as important as a new trend highlighted in the index, however, with India emerging as a bright spot and commodity importers such as Brazil and Russia mired in recession. Because emerging economies are now much more important in the global economy and growth rates are still higher than their developed counterparts, global growth is still hovering around 3%, close to its long-term average. The concern, according to Mr Prasad is that the slump in emerging economies’ confidence will infect advanced economies in the months ahead.
[..] there are increasing concerns that monetary policy has become ineffective in providing the necessary boost, Mr Prasad said. “The impotence of monetary policy in boosting growth and staving off deflationary pressures has become painfully apparent, especially when it is acting in isolation and when a large number of countries are resorting to the same limited playbook”, he said.
“Contopoulos contended that the problem is much bigger than retail cash leaving the junk bond market. “This is fundamentals, and that actually, I would argue, is much worse, because it takes it from a technical story to a fundamental story.”
• Junk Bond Market Like A ‘Slow-Moving Train Wreck’ (CNBC)
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has long warned about the dangers of the high-yield market. Now, those sentiments are being echoed by a top strategist at a major bank who called the market for riskier bonds a “slow-moving train wreck.” In an interview on CNBC’s “Fast Money,” Michael Contopoulos, head of high-yield strategy at Bank of America, called high yield credit a “big, big problem,” and laid out the reasons why a turn in the credit cycle is currently underway. The dramatic rout of commodity prices is having a spillover effect on corporate bonds, especially those linked to energy. Last week, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said the speculative-grade corporate default rate jumped to 2.5% in September, its highest level since 2013.
That figure is expected to rise to nearly 3% by the middle of next year, S&P added. “You’re going to see defaults pick up,” Contopoulos said. “This isn’t just a commodity story, this isn’t just metals and mining and energy. It’s broader than that. And the fundamentals are as poor as we have seen them.” The iShares High Yield Corporate Bond ETF has dropped nearly 5% in the past month, and is down more than 10% so far this year. On Friday, the ETF hit a 52-week low on an intraday basis. The lower oil prices go, the more stress is being placed on the high-yield bond sector. Evidence is mounting that the outlook is unlikely to improve anytime soon. Last week, ratings firm Moody’s said its high-yield Liquidity Stress Index fell in September amid a rash of energy company downgrades.
Meanwhile, in a recent note, Contopoulos wrote that 50% of sectors in Bank of America’s high-yield index have had negative price returns for the past five months in a row. “That’s the longest such streak since late 2008,” he said. A large part of the weakness over that period, he said, can be attributed to the end of the Fed’s quantitative easing program. The excess liquidity from the Fed’s massive bond buying and super-low interest rates “have created an environment where high yield corporates have been able to gather funding at incredibly cheap levels,” Contopoulos said. “At some point, unless you have meaningful earnings, you can’t sustain incredibly high leverage indefinitely.”
Since the Fed started tapering its bond purchases, Contopoulos said about $30 billion has flowed out of the high yield bond market. “Many of the weak hands have already been flushed out to the market, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still have price loss,” he said. However, Contopoulos contended that the problem is much bigger than retail cash leaving the junk bond market. “This is fundamentals, and that actually, I would argue, is much worse, because it takes it from a technical story to a fundamental story.”
Wars are expensive.
• Saudi Arabia Cuts Oil Prices Amid OPEC Price War (WSJ)
Saudi Arabia on Sunday made deep reductions to the prices it charges for its oil, hard on the heels of cuts last month by rival producers in the Gulf. With U.S. production still increasing despite lower oil prices, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are battling to keep their share of the last growing markets in Asia. In a list of official prices sent to customers, state-oil company Saudi Aramco cut the price of its light-crude deliveries to Asia by $1.7 a barrel. As a result, it switched to a discount of $1.6 a barrel against the rival Dubai benchmark from a premium of 10 cents a barrel previously. The company also cut its prices for heavy oil by $2 a barrel to the Far East and by 30 cents a barrel to the U.S.
The move come as Iran, Iraq and other countries in the Middie East made deeper cuts in their official prices than Saudi Arabia last month. Saudi Arabia has vowed to keep pumping at high levels as it hopes lower oil prices will stimulate Asian demand and hit rival production in the U.S. that is expensive to produce. But while Chinese economic growth is slowing, U.S. production rose by about 68,000 barrels a day in July, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
• Russia PM Medvedev: Oil Prices Will Stay Low For Quite Long (WSJ)
Russia should seek alternative sources for economic growth as its previous driver, oil prices, will stay at low levels for a long time, the Russian Prime Minister said Friday. “Because of prices for oil, that are likely to stay close to current levels for quite a long time, we will need to refocus the economy from commodities to other growth drivers as soon as possible,” Dmitry Medvedev said. As Russia’s economy has slid into recession for the first time since 2009 due to a drop in oil prices and Western sanctions, Moscow has started looking for ways to limit the economic and financial crisis. The consensus is that Russia’s oil-dependent economy needs diversification, but the idea lacks real initiatives and tools.
Speaking to state officials and top businessmen at an investment forum in the Black Sea town of Sochi, Mr. Medvedev reiterated that Russia needs to improve its business climate and work on import substitution. “Russia’s business climate leaves much to be desired. And unless we change it drastically, we will lose investment, revenue, pace of economic growth and our intellectual potential,” Mr. Medvedev said. He also said there has already been some import substitution in particular investment projects, referring to Moscow’s ban on food from states that imposed sanctions against Russia. Mr. Medvedev added that Russia shouldn’t impose a total ban on imports as it would fuel inflation and result in lower competition on the domestic market.
The model has died.
• China’s Middle-Class Dreams in Peril (WSJ)
Xinxiang, China—In this city of almost 6 million people, a successful English-language school illustrates the aspirations of an emerging middle class. Deng Yi’ou, its 38-year-old owner, owns a house and car, and her school is flourishing as more parents pay 650 yuan (around $100) a month for afternoon English classes for their children. “Parents all over China have the same dream, even in smaller cities like Xinxiang. They want their children to have a good education, a better future, see them become richer than they are,” said Ms. Deng, who is saving to buy a second, larger house. Xinxiang, originally a small market town that traces its roots back more than 1,000 years, is one of 1,600 smaller cities on the cusp of the economic transformation China is attempting. If it is to succeed, the ability of people like Ms. Deng to spend is crucial.
On the one hand, Xinxiang embodies the promise and potential for growth that still propels the Chinese economy, even in slowdown, with the spending power of millions waiting to be unlocked. But the perils of previous excesses are also more evident here: There is too much debt, too many factories and too many vacant apartments. Like many Chinese cities, Xinxiang built industrial parks, ornate bridges and six-lane roads during China’s boom years. Another mark of its furious pace of growth: In the May, Xinxiang was ranked as the city with the most polluted air in Henan province. The idea, widely embraced, was that its growth would turn its residents into stronger consumers. “Smart home, enjoy life,” says one of the hundreds of billboards trying to sell real estate by evoking the good life with images of designer bags, gold coins and wine bottles.
Even outside China, investors are keeping an eye on lower-tier Chinese cities as markets in Beijing and Shanghai become saturated. A key focus for U.S. companies hoping to lift sales of everything from shampoo to cars are the more than 74 million households poised to earn more than 9,000 yuan a month, according to consultancy McKinsey & Co., many of them in cities like Xinxiang. And many here have indeed ramped up their consumption. Now, however, Xinxiang’s growth is slowing: The city’s economy expanded 5.1% in the first half of 2015, down from 9.8% a year earlier. Residential towers in various stages of construction spread out from its city center. A new development area has almost no traffic on roads abutting huge empty lots. Whether the city’s many empty industrial zones that have sprung up over the last dozen years, some the size of small airports, will ever be filled is now an open question.
With present outflows, what options does Beijing have left?
• Senior China Official Proposes Punitive FX Restrictions (Chang)
Yi Gang, writing in China Finance, has just proposed that China impose a Tobin tax, specifically, a punitive levy on forex trades and “handling” fees to discourage currency trading. Most analysts think Beijing will not adopt such draconian measures, but the call for them, by a deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China in its official magazine, is bound to further shake confidence in China’s management of its currency and trigger even greater outflows of capital. Yi is obviously partial to the tax. He proposed its imposition about a year ago, when the renminbi appeared strong. Nobody, therefore, paid attention. Now, the currency is weak, and his endorsement of strict measures, in an article titled “Direction for the Reforms and Liberalization of Foreign-Exchange Management,” is significant.
At the moment, the Chinese currency, also informally known as the yuan, is on a troubled path. On August 11, Beijing shocked global markets by devaluating it 1.9% against the dollar. In August, it fell 2.9% in the domestic market. Since the end of that month, the currency has strengthened 0.5%. The renminbi has apparently stabilized. So why the need for a Tobin tax, among the worst ideas ever proposed by a Nobel laureate? The PBOC, the central bank, has been selling dollars at an unprecedented rate to support its money. The country’s foreign exchange reserves, as reported by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, fell by a record $93.9 billion in August. That number, as large as it is, could be an underreporting. Some had thought the reserves in fact fell by $150 billion that month.
In any event, China at one point was spending about $20 billion a day defending the yuan, and it is no surprise the burn rate was that high. Beijing was not only intervening in the onshore renminbi market—something it had been doing for decades—but for the first time was intervening in offshore markets. Assuming no inflows of cash, China will exhaust its foreign reserves in a year at the current rate of intervention. There will be inflows, but on the other side of the ledger burn rates skyrocket as crises progress. No one expects Beijing will allow the current crisis to exhaust its reserves, so it will undoubtedly impose measures to halt the outflow of cash. In fact, it has already started.
A month ago, the central bank required financial institutions to set aside a reserve, for a year at no interest, equal to 20% of renminbi forward and swap contracts as well as a 10% reserve for options. Moreover, just a little over a month ago SAFE, which Yi Gang heads, ordered banks to scrutinize currency trading. One result of the edict is that bank branches now must obtain approval from their Beijing headquarters for purchases of foreign currencies in amounts over $1 million. Last week, the central bank turned its attention to UnionPay cards, imposing limitations on withdrawals of cash outside China. Now, a cardholder can take out only a total of 50,000 yuan ($7,854) in the last three months of this year and 100,000 yuan next year. UnionPay processes virtually all card transactions in China..
Time for Merkel to stand up. But she’s notoriously slow to do that.
• Volkswagen’s ‘Uniquely Awful’ Governance At Fault In Emissions Scandal (FT)
Volkswagen’s decision to nominate a long-serving executive as chairman has once more highlighted the carmaker’s corporate governance and culture, which some experts argue were a root cause of the diesel-emissions scandal. Top directors on Thursday announced that Hans-Dieter Pötsch, VW’s chief financial officer since 2003, would become chairman in the coming weeks, filling the spot vacated by patriarch Ferdinand PiIch, who resigned in April. Hans-Christoph Hirt, a director of Hermes Equity Ownership Services, an adviser to pension fund investors in companies including VW, said the appointment created a “serious conflict of interest”. “[Potsch] was a key VW executive for more than a decade and under German law the management board has a collective responsibility … The lawyers will surely demand that he recuse himself from any supervisory board meetings when management’s role is discussed,” Mr Hirt said.
VW’s response has been compared with the way Siemens dealt with a huge bribery scandal in 2006. For the first time in its 150-year history the German engineering conglomerate appointed an outside chairman (Gerhard Cromme from ThyssenKrupp) and chief executive (Peter Loscher from Merck in the US). Together they transformed Siemens’ culture and Mr Cromme took legal action against former Siemens executives for not stopping the bribery. “How is Mr Pötsch supposed to do that?” said Mr Hirt. VW has admitted installing software in engines over several years so they passed laboratory emission tests but belched out dangerous nitrogen oxides when on the road. Martin Winterkorn resigned last month as chief executive, insisting he knew nothing of the cheating, which analysts fear could cost VW billions of euros in fines, lawsuits and recall costs.
[..] governance experts argue the cheating was predictable because of VW’s lax boardroom controls and peculiar corporate culture. “The scandal clearly also has to do with structural issues at VW …There have been warnings about VW’s corporate governance for years, but they didn’t take it to heart and now you see the result,” says Alexander Juschus, director at IVOX, the German proxy adviser. Even before the diesel scandal, VW’s shares traded at a discount to other carmakers partly because of governance concerns. A former chairman of a large German industrial company says “Germany has corporate governance problems but VW has long been uniquely awful”.
“..we do have a magic money tree, it’s called the Bank of England”
• You Can Print Money, So Long As It’s Not For The People (Guardian)
In its broadest sense, the phrase “there’s no magic money tree” is just a variation on “money doesn’t grow on trees”, a thing you say to children to indicate that wealth comes not from the beneficence of a magical universe, but from hard graft in a corporeal reality. The pedantic child might point to the discrepant amounts of work required to yield a given amount of money, and say that its value is a social construction. Over time, that loose, rather weak-minded meaning has ceded to a specific economic critique; Jeremy Corbyn – along with anyone who challenges the prevailing fiscal narrative – is dangerous and wrong, since he wants to print money. Money cannot be created from nowhere, because there’s no magic money tree. End of. The flaw in that argument is that all money is created from nowhere.
In normal circumstances, it is created from nowhere as credit, by private banks, and lent to us, usually (85% of the time) in the form of a mortgage on an existing residential property. Decades of credit extension have perverted the housing market to turn a mortgage into a lifetime’s bonded servitude. The economists Jordá, Schularick and Taylor argued convincingly last year that the causes of this economic crisis, the next and the one before are all, fundamentally, the extension of credit and its impact on house prices. So the magic money tree isn’t gushing cash in a socially responsible fashion (if it were used responsibly, it wouldn’t be magic) but the idea that we have a centrally planned, carefully stewarded monetary policy, with finite creation and demonstrable long-term aims, which some loonie leftie wants to come along and unravel, is simply wrong.
In abnormal circumstances, such as the ones we’ve lived through since the financial crisis, central banks are also magic money trees. In the bizarre construction of current economic orthodoxy, you’re not allowed to say so, even though the Bank of England has created £375bn in quantitative easing (QE); the Fed bought $1.25tn worth of mortgage-backed securities in its first round of QE; the ECB had as a core principle that it couldn’t create money until, suddenly, in awesome amounts, it could; the Bank of Korea has a stimulus package, as does the People’s Bank of China; and Japan started it. Central banks typically justify money creation on the basis that it’s temporary, it’s unfortunate, it’s driven by the crisis and it will ultimately get back to normal.
None of that alters the fact that no bank had that money in savings. I recently said out loud, “we do have a magic money tree, it’s called the Bank of England” in a Newsnight debate with a former adviser to Blair, John McTernan. He made a face like a politician accidentally talking to a member of the public but what the camera didn’t catch was Evan Davis, who stuck his tongue out, like a cat taking a pill. It was days ago, and people are still tweeting me pictures of the Zimbabwean dollar and the Weimar Republic, saying “is this what you want? IS IT?”
Mankind at its best.
• Forest Fires In Indonesia Choke Much Of South-East Asia (Guardian)
The illegal burning of forests and agricultural land across Indonesia has blanketed much of south-east Asia in an acrid haze, leading to one of the most severe regional shutdowns in years. Malaysian PM Najib Razak said Indonesia needs to convict plantation companies for the noxious smoke, created by the annual destruction of plants during the dry season. Burning the land is a quick way to ready the soil for new seed. “We want Indonesia to take action,” he was quoted as saying by the state news agency Bernama, adding the smog was affecting the economy. “Indonesia alone can gather evidence and convict the companies concerned.” In Singapore, races for the FINA swimming world cup were cancelled on Saturday. A marathon in Malaysia on Sunday was also abandoned and all schools were closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of people in Indonesia and Malaysia have sought medical treatment for respiratory problems. The annual burning is decades old and Indonesia has faced mounting pressure to end the practice. Scientists say the pollution could surpass 1997 levels when the haze created an environmental disaster that cost an estimated US$9 billion in damage. “If the forecasts for a longer dry season hold, this suggests 2015 will rank among the most severe events on record,” said Robert Field, a Columbia University scientist based at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In Singapore, news websites post near-hourly updates on the danger of being outside. Some shops were providing free masks for children and elderly people.
The National Environment Agency in Singapore said Monday’s haze will enter the “unhealthy range”. “Healthy persons should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion … Persons who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention,” it said.
Just make it EU-wide then. You’re talking 2/3 of all countries.
• Majority Of EU Nations Seek Opt-Out From Growing GMO Crops (Reuters)
Nineteen EU member states have requested opt-outs for all or part of their territory from cultivation of a Monsanto genetically-modified crop, which is authorised to be grown in the EU, the European Commission said on Sunday. Under a law signed in March, individual countries can seek exclusion from any approval request for genetically modified cultivation across the 28-nation EU. The law was introduced to end years of stalemate as genetically modified crops divide opinion in Europe. Although widely grown in the Americas and Asia, public opposition is strong in Europe and environmentalists have raised concerns about the impact on biodiversity. Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio on Sunday confirmed in an email the Commission had received 19 opt-out requests following the expiry of a deadline on Saturday.
The requests are for opt-outs from the approval of Monsanto’s GM maize MON 810, the only crop commercially cultivated in the EU, or for pending applications, of which there are eight so far, the Commission said. The requests have been or are being communicated to the companies, which have a month to react. Under the new law, the European Commission is responsible for approvals, but requests to be excluded also have to be submitted to the company making the application. In response to the first exclusion requests in August from Latvia and Greece, Monsanto said it was abiding by them, even though it regarded them as unscientific.
The new EU law has critics from both sides. The industry has said it breaks rules on free movement, while environment campaigners say it is a weak compromise open to court challenges from biotech companies. The Commission spokesman said the number of requests proved that the new law provides “a necessary legal framework to a complex issue”. The 19 requests are from Austria, Belgium for the Wallonia region, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany (except for research), Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.
You don’t have to be smart to be a scientist.
• How Monsanto Mobilized Academics to Pen Articles Supporting GMOs (Bloomberg)
Monsanto’s undisclosed recruitment of scientists from Harvard University, Cornell University and three other schools to write about the benefits of plant biotechnology is drawing fire from opponents. The company’s role isn’t noted in the series of articles published in December by the Genetic Literacy Project, a nonprofit group that says its mission is “to disentangle science from ideology.” The group said that such a disclosure isn’t necessary because the the company didn’t pay the authors and wasn’t involved in writing or editing the articles. Monsanto says it’s in regular contact with public-sector scientists as it tries to “elevate” public dialog on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit group funded by the Organic Consumers Association that obtained e-mails under the Freedom of Information Act, says correspondence revealing Monsanto’s actions shows the “corporate control of science and how compliant some academics are.” The articles have become the latest flashpoint in an information war being waged over plant biotechnology by its supporters, who sometimes have corporate funding, and its opponents, some of whom are funded by the fast-growing organic food industry. The challenge for the pro-GMO lobby is the yawning gulf between scientific consensus and public perception. A Pew Research Center poll in January found 88% of scientists believed GMOs to be “generally safe” versus 37% of U.S. adults.
That gap was the widest among 13 questions asked by Pew, surpassing divides on climate change and evolution. The articles in question appeared on the Genetic Literacy Project’s website in a series called “GMO – Beyond the Science.” Eric Sachs, who leads Monsanto’s scientific outreach, wrote to eight scientists to pen a series of briefs aimed at influencing “public policy, GM crop regulation and consumer acceptance.” Five of them obliged. “I need to step aside so I don’t compromise the project,” Sachs said in an Aug. 8, 2013, e-mail obtained by U.S. Right to Know. He suggested specific topics for each scientist before turning the project over to CMA Consulting, a public relations firm paid by Monsanto. “I am keenly aware that your independence and reputations must be protected,” Sachs wrote.
EU tries to blame refugee crisis on Greece too.
• Greece’s Euro Area Ties Risk More Strain Amid Refugee Crisis (Bloomberg)
First overwhelmed by debt and now overwhelmed by refugees, Greece offers a tempting target for European leaders left to handle the fallout. With wounds only just healing after the euro area agreed to throw Greece another financial lifeline, the country’s inability to process tens of thousands of refugees turning up at its doorstep threatens to reopen them all over again. Local Greek authorities are inundated by some 3,000 arrivals a day, most of whom are allowed to head north through the Balkans toward Germany and Scandinavia, sewing political tensions as they go. Patience is already thin after years subsidizing the Greek economy and months of chaotic bailout talks this year, so EU leaders haven’t had far to look to find a scapegoat for their latest emergency.
The risk is that by vilifying the Greek authorities, EU officials may jeopardize the fragile political settlement that is the foundation for the country’s economic recovery and continued membership in the euro. “There are very low levels of trust and a lot of baggage,” said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations in London. “It’s inevitable that when you have so many major crises going on at the same time with the same cast of characters you will get read-across from one crisis to the other.” Finance ministers of the euro area’s 19 economies gather in Luxembourg on Monday for the first time since Alexis Tsipras’s September election victory, and are due to pick over the 48 milestones Greece needs to meet to qualify for its next bailout payouts.
For all his railing against the European establishment, Tsipras is the first Greek leader to win re-election after signing a bailout deal. With all eyes on his Syriza-led government’s efforts to stick to the reform path, the unprecedented refugee crisis adds another layer of uncertainty. Greece finds itself the first EU port of call for people fleeing war and civil strife from countries such as Syria, many of whom pay traffickers to take them across the short sea passage from the Turkish coast to one of the Greek islands sprinkled throughout the Aegean Sea. Greece, which also shares a land border with Turkey, has seen almost 400,000 migrants arrive by sea in 2015 compared to 43,500 in the whole of 2014, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on Friday.
The Syriza government’s inability to cope with the sheer numbers involved “will only provide further fodder to its critics, as well as increase the pressure for the government to deliver on reforms or die,” said Dimitrios Triantaphyllou, chairman of the department of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. “Greece’s image as a functioning state has already hit rock bottom.”
Leave them all in Turkey? if they had wanted that, wouldn’t they have stayed to begin with?
• EU And Turkey To Discuss Plan To Stem Flow Of Migrants (Reuters)
The European Commission has worked out an action plan with Turkey to stem the flow of refugees to Europe, a German newspaper cited sources in the Commission and the German government as saying on Sunday. Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said that according to the plan, Turkey would be obliged to better protect its border with Greece – a frontier that many migrants have crossed on perilous boat journeys. It said the Turkish and Greek coastguards would work together to patrol the eastern Aegean, coordinated by Frontex, the European Union’s border control agency, and send all refugees back to Turkey. In Turkey, six new refugee camps for up to two million people which would be set up, partly financed by the EU, the newspaper said.
The EU states would commit to taking some of the refugees so that up to half a million people could be relocated to Europe without having to use traffickers or take the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, the newspaper said. It said the Commission and representatives had agreed on this plan last week and that EC President Jean-Claude Juncker also coordinated on this with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is due to meet with Juncker on Monday.
Most cities will do this; no choice.
• Hamburg, Bremen To Seize Commercial Property To House Refugees (BBC)
Hamburg has become the first German city to pass a law allowing the seizure of empty commercial properties in order to house migrants. The influx of migrants has put pressure on the authorities of the northern city to find accommodation. Some migrants are sleeping rough outdoors. Hamburg’s law takes effect next week. In a separate development, prosecutors filed charges of inciting racial hatred against a co-founder of the anti-Islamic Pegida movement. The prosecutors in the eastern city of Dresden said they acted after Lutz Bachmann had on Facebook described asylum seekers “trash” and “animals”. Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) members have staged a number of rallies in recent months, attracting tens of thousands of people.
Meanwhile, a new survey by broadcaster ARD said 51% of people admitted the influx of migrants scared them. It suggests a four-year low in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity. She has said Germany can accommodate migrants who have genuinely fled war or persecution – a humanitarian gesture towards the many thousands risking their lives to reach Europe this year. But many politicians – including her conservative Bavarian CSU allies and various EU partners – have criticised the open-door policy. Hamburg’s new law is described as a temporary, emergency measure. Owners of empty commercial properties will be compensated. The law does not include residential properties. The authorities in Bremen, a city just west of Hamburg, are considering passing a similar law. Germany expects to host at least 800,000 asylum seekers this year – about four times the number it had last year.
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