Edwin Rosskam Provincetown, Massachusetts 1937
For once they don’t blame the weather: it’s Halloween who dunnit!
Total sales in the US on Black Friday fell 10% to $10.4bn this year, down from $11.6bn in 2014, according to research firm ShopperTrak. The decline in sales on the traditional busiest shopping day of the year has been blamed on shops opening the day before. But this year, sales on Thanksgiving also dropped, and by the same percentage, to $1.8bn. A big reason for the decline is increased online shopping, as Americans hunt down deals on their smartphones, tablets and computers. Many retailers are also offering bargains long before Thanksgiving, limiting the impact of Black Friday specials. Online retailers have been bombarding customers with email discounts and bargains for weeks. Online sales jumped 14.3% on Friday compared with last year, according to Adobe, which tracked activity on 4,500 retail websites.
Email promotions drove 25% more sales compared with 2014, the company said. Brick-and-mortar retailers saw fewer customer visits on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, compared with last year, according to Kevin Kearns, ShopperTrak’s chief revenue officer. “Shoppers are researching products ahead of time, targeting their store visits, and arriving in store with the intention of making a purchase,” Kearns said. The drop in Thanksgiving Day visits may also reflect a “social backlash” against stores opening on that day, Kearns said. Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics at consulting firm IHS, said many retailers’ warehouses and store shelves were overstocked heading into the fall. That prompted many to offer deep discounts as early as the beginning of this month. “The price discounting has been creeping toward Halloween,” he said.
Lovely. PIMCO’s getting their share of the China casino. WMP=Weapons of Mass Ponzi?!
A year after China’s financial regulators squared up to the systemic perils of “shadow banking”, the threat is shifting to a booming corporate bond market, and risky borrowers’ debt is finding its way into products aimed at retail investors. An opaque network of trust companies and non-bank lenders had grown their annual market to a hefty 2.9 trillion yuan ($450 billion) in loans before regulators stepped in, spooked by rising defaults on wealth-management products (WMPs) backed by such high-interest shadow lending. Now the high-risk borrowers who took those loans, such as unlisted real-estate firms struggling with a stagnant property market and financing companies backing shoddy local government investment, are finding a new avenue of funding after regulators began allowing unlisted companies to issue bonds on public exchanges.
New corporate bond issuance leaped to 914 billion yuan in the third quarter, accounting for 29% of all new credit, up from 381 billion yuan and just 8% in the first. And the profile of new borrowers looks strikingly like the patrons of the shadow banking set. Of the 57 firms posting bond listing announcements in Shanghai in October, 23 were local-government-owned project or infrastructure investment firms. Beijing engineered the freeing up of the bond markets as a transparent alternative funding route, and the credit crunch that followed its clampdown on shadow banking guaranteed a high take-up. But wealth managers are now turning these bonds into leveraged high-yielding products and selling them to investors desperate for returns after a real-estate slump and summer stock-market crash.
Data from CN Benefit, a research firm tracking wealth management sales, shows that 60% of new bank wealth-management products (WMPs) were linked to debt and money market instruments in September, up from less than half in the first quarter. Demand is hot for these products, and the higher the yield, the higher the risk, which is amplified if the fund’s assets are partly bought on credit, or leveraged. Colight Asset Management, a private fund offering bond-backed WMPs, raised more than 40 million yuan in just four days in November from an 8.7% yielding, 400% leveraged bond-based product, according to customer service staff member Chen Xun. Much bigger companies such as PIMCO and the Agricultural Bank of China also offer similar high-yielding leveraged products.
Investors, however, assume that products offered by big names are relatively safe. “The risk of default is very slim,” said a 45 year-old business manager in Shanghai surnamed Pan who invests in WMPs on an exchange backed by China’s second-largest insurer, Ping An Group. “I’m sure such a big company as Ping An will make sure investors can get their money back.”
Nothing better than two main US media contradicting each other on the same day. Here’s the WSJ….
Karen Xu, a Shanghai resident looking to invest in U.S. real estate, decided this spring to seek a Miami one-bedroom condominium in the $500,000-to-$750,000 price range. China’s economic slowdown has since changed her mind. “I don’t think I’ll be investing in the U.S. right now,” said Ms. Xu, who works at an investment consulting firm. “Maybe I’ll wait another five years, or invest in China.” Capping a five-year real-estate binge, Chinese nationals surpassed Canadian snowbirds as the top foreign buyers of U.S. homes for the year that ended in March—the most recent annual data—scooping up everything from $500,000 condos in New Jersey to $3 million vacation homes in California to $13 million Manhattan condos.
But in recent weeks, some Chinese buyers have started to pull back, scared off by China’s stock-market selloff, slowing economic growth, currency devaluation and tightened restrictions on capital outflows. On Friday, China’s benchmark stock index fell by 5.5%, its biggest daily slide since August, as Beijing authorities stepped up a crackdown on the securities industry. “We are ready to embrace a winter for Chinese buyers in the next one year, two years,” said Daniel Chang, a New York City-based broker at Sotheby’s International Realty. Mr. Chang, who sells properties in the $2 million-to-$10 million range, said about half of the clients served by his team are Chinese.
Interest from Chinese buyers “went dark” for several weeks after stocks becan their sharp fall, said Tom Mitchell, president and chief operating officer of Tri Pointe Group, a home builder in Irvine, Calif. China’s main stock index, the Shanghai Composite Index, is down 38% since its June peak. Foreign Chinese buyers make up about 30% of customers in a handful of the company’s developments in Orange County and the San Francisco area. Price increases there, he said, have prompted clients to “pause and think.” Zhang Xin, chief executive of SOHO China, a real-estate developer, said last month she wouldn’t buy overseas real estate today because many cities abroad are too pricey.
…..and next is the NY Times. Which more or less says the exact opposite.
In London, Chinese investors are purchasing high-end apartments in wealthy neighborhoods and big skyscrapers in the financial district. In Canada, they are paying $1 million for modest Vancouver bungalows. In Australia, a Chinese sovereign wealth fund bought nine office towers, one of the biggest real estate transactions in that nation’s history. In the United States, the home-buying spree began on the coasts, where Chinese buyers snapped up luxury condos in Manhattan and McMansions in Silicon Valley, pushing up home values in big cities. It is now spreading to the middle of the country, where prices are more modest and have room to run.
The homes here in Corinth will feature two master suites, one for the buyers, the other for aging parents. A concierge service will help new arrivals from overseas order Internet service and pay electric bills. Chauffeurs will ferry homeowners until they learn to navigate the loops and spurs of Texas freeways. “When Chairman Zhang saw the strength of the Texan economy, he decided it was time that the Asian community should be presented an opportunity to invest in the American Dream”, marketing materials for the development read. The great property rush is part of the tidal wave of Chinese money that is pouring into the global economy and reshaping financial markets. In residential and commercial real estate, the new flow of cash is upending the traditional dynamics of buying and selling.
This year, Chinese families represented for the first time the largest group of overseas home buyers in the United States. Big spenders on new homes are helping prop up local economies in the Midwest. But in dense areas like San Francisco and Manhattan, they are also affecting the affordability and availability of housing, as demand outpaces supply and bidding wars ensue.
Abengoa’s bankruptcy may be a turning point in ‘green’ energy subsidies.
[..] since Spain’s government and banking system are de facto insolvent and their temporary rescue has been tied to conditions, Spain can no longer subsidize many of the pet projects of social engineers and the vast hordes of cronies they have hitherto kept in bread by enlisting the involuntary help of taxpayers. In a way, it is a case of socialism running out of people to loot. Solar energy has surely come a long way in recent years, as technological progress has undoubtedly improved its economics. Evidently though, the improvement isn’t sufficient yet to make it actually viable. One would think that it makes sense to deploy it in places that are sunny most of the time (such as, well, Spain), but even there, it evidently depends on subsidies.
People often forget that it actually costs energy to produce solar panels. Whether they will in turn produce enough energy during their lifetime to make this investment viable remains questionable. It remains questionable precisely because so many companies in the sector depend both directly and indirectly on a vast variety of government subsidies (including the introduction of inane trade barriers to the detriment of consumers). With the subsidization scam in Spain reaching its limit, it turns out that not even sunny climes can keep solar boondoggles afloat. In the current case, a cool $29 billion (€27.3 bn.) in liabilities have just been exposed to intense vaporization danger, as “green energy” company Abengoa has finally filed for bankruptcy. It is the by far biggest bankruptcy in Spain’s history. 24,000 employees will have to look for a new job.
The sovereign wealth fund of oil junkie Norway holds 2.7% of the company’s shares, an investment it will now have to write off. More than 200 banks are creditors of Abengoa, with total exposure of €20.2 billion. Abengoa’s business activities are described as “renewable electricity generation, converting biomass into biofuel and desalination of seawater” – practically a what’s what list of businesses that cannot possibly survive without subsidies. Abengoa incidentally provides an excellent illustration of Austrian Business Cycle Theory, as more than 20 giant ongoing construction projects the company has initiated will remain incomplete. These empty shells are testament to the fact that there is a big difference between money and real capital. Banks and investors had no problem providing the company with money (much of it created from thin air), lending it huge sums. But the economy’s pool of real funding has proved unable to support the company’s investments.
[..] US taxpayers are on the hook as well in this “Spanish Solyndra”. According to the US media: “When the Free Beacon interviewed a pair of former Abengoa managers last year, one predicted that the company would go under. “This company eventually will go bankrupt. The question is at what expense to the United States people and government,” said Mike Alhalabi, formerly the senior lead mechanical engineer at Abener, a subsidiary of Abengoa. The cost to U.S. taxpayers could be enormous. Abengoa has received nearly $3 billion in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy, as well as more than $100 million in federal grants.
This goes a bit far for my taste, but the propaganda behind green energy certainly needs more scrutiny. To blame it on ‘leftists’ is weird, though. It’s about everyone with their hands in the public till.
Businesses that cannot possibly survive without subsidies are ipso facto not economically viable. In spite of all the high-minded pronouncements about the “need to save the planet” and how this valiant effort can allegedly be “combined with economic growth”, their existence serves primarily one function: to distribute money looted from taxpayers and consumers to assorted cronies of the political class, who in turn provide the latter with kickbacks. That is all there is to it.
Surely no-one is so naïve as to believe that modern-day politicians, whose horizon and time preferences never stretch beyond the next election date, are really concerned about what might happen to the planet a century hence (not to mention that the entire “climate change” religion seems to be little more than an elaborate hoax). With Abengoa’s bankruptcy we are once again presented with a bill that serves as a stark reminder how much scarce capital has been wasted on such schemes.
Ultimately it is little more than a modern form of highway robbery, clad in highly effective propaganda. Many people feel guilty about “consumerism”, believing that it must be true that prosperity and progress are somehow sinful. In reality, environmentalism has long become the home of a great many authoritarian leftists after they lost their former sugar daddy in Moscow in 1990.
They are trying – very successfully it saddens us to admit – to undermine free market capitalism by appealing to people’s sense of guilt and their innate need to receive absolution for their sins. And they have of course found out that their new sugar daddy is much better than their old one, as there is far more wealth ready to be looted and everybody involved is quite happy to get a cut. Occasionally reality has a habit of interfering, but that won’t stop them, at least not yet.
“The circumstances are unprecedented. The gauntlet thrown down to Russia is unprecedented. So naturally the reaction is in line with this threat.”
President Vladimir Putin is fully mobilized to tackle what the Kremlin regards as an unprecedented threat from Turkey following the shooting down of one of its warplanes by a Turkish F-16, the Russian leader’s spokesman said on Saturday. In comments which underscore how angry the Kremlin still is over the incident, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, called the behavior of the Turkish air force “absolute madness” and said Ankara’s subsequent handling of the crisis had reminded him of the “theater of the absurd.” “Nobody has the right to traitorously shoot down a Russian plane from behind,” Peskov told Russia’s “News on Saturday” TV program, calling Turkish evidence purporting to show the Russian SU-24 jet had violated Turkish air space “cartoons”.
Peskov said the crisis had prompted Putin, whose ministers are preparing retaliatory economic measures against Turkey, to “mobilize” in the way an army does in tense times. “The president is mobilized, fully mobilized, mobilized to the extent that circumstances demand,” said Peskov. “The circumstances are unprecedented. The gauntlet thrown down to Russia is unprecedented. So naturally the reaction is in line with this threat.” Peskov said Putin was aware of a Turkish request for him to meet President Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the Paris climate change conference next week but gave no indication of whether such a meeting would take place. Erdogan on Saturday said the Paris summit could be a chance to repair Ankara’s relations with Russia.
Peskov denied Turkish press reports which said Moscow and Ankara had struck a deal for their warplanes to stop flying along the Syrian-Turkish border, saying military ties between the two countries had been severed and a hot line meant to avoid misunderstandings among their pilots dismantled. Peskov, according to the TASS news agency, also spoke of how Erdogan’s son had a “certain interest” in the oil industry. Putin has said oil from Syrian territory controlled by Islamic State militants is finding its way to Turkey. Erdogan has spoken of slander and asked anyone making such accusations to back up their words with evidence. Peskov said he “noted” that Turkey’s newly-appointed energy minister, Berat Albayrak, was Erdogan’s son-in-law. Peskov said there could be up to 200,000 Turkish citizens on Russian soil. “What’s important is that everyone who is able to use their influence to guarantee at least some predictability in the pattern of Turkey’s behavior,” said Peskov. “Russian planes should never be shot down.”
Read contradictory reports on whether Turkish workers now in Russia would be sent back.
Russia has announced a package of economic sanctions against Turkey in retaliation for the shooting down of a Russian jet four days ago on the Syrian-Turkish border. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree outlining the curbs and the details were posted on the Kremlin’s website. Among the measures announced were restrictions on imports of some Turkish goods, a ban on charter flights between the two countries and an an end to Russian tour operators selling trips to Turkey. It also said Turkish companies operating in Russia and Turkish staff employed by Russian companies will face restrictions and ordered the government to prepare a list of goods, businesses and jobs that would be affected.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said there are close to 90,000 Turkish nationals working in Russia. Taking family members into account, that figure rises to 200,000. Russia is Turkey’s second largest trading partner and more than three million Russian tourists visited Turkey last year. The decree, which came into force immediately, was called: “On measures to ensure Russia’s national security and protect Russian citizens from criminal and other illegal activities, and the application of special economic measures against Turkey.” On Friday, Russia reinstated the need for visas to travel between the two countries.
Erdogan gets more exposed by the day. Russia hasn’t even started yet. They know exactly what is going on.
Turkey allows the Islamic State terrorist group to sell Iraqi and Syrian oil for just $20 a barrel, Iraq’s former National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie wrote on Saturday. In a statement posted on his Facebook page al-Rubaie, who is also a leader of the Law-Governed State parliamentary coalition, outlined Ankara’s four-pronged support for the Islamic militants, with the illegal oil trade topping the list. “First and foremost, the Turks help the militants sell stolen Iraqi and Syrian oil for $20 a barrel, which is half the market price,” Mowaffak al-Rubaie wrote.
Turkey in general, and Istanbul in particular, is also a place where ISIL commanders recruit local migrants and take them to Mosul in Iraq or Raqqa in Syria, he noted. “Each month hundreds of radicals cross the Turkish border, while the local law enforcers pretend they just don’t see,” Mowaffak al-Rubaie wrote, adding that many wounded ISIL fighters were apparently undergoing treatment in Turkish hospitals. During a joint news conference with French President Francois Hollande in Moscow earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin mentioned the massive supplies of Syrian oil being sent to Turkey by the Islamic State terrorist group.
Yesss! Let’s invest in killing ‘them’! The globe’s no. 1 growth industry. The only one, as a matter of fact.
BAE Systems is merging its munitions and combat vehicles arms in the U.K. in an effort to sharpen its focus on export deals following Britain’s withdrawal from ground offensives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The move, to be completed by Jan. 1, will combine the units under a new Land U.K. sector led by former Combat Vehicles U.K. head Jennifer Osbaldestin, BAE confirmed to Bloomberg on Friday. A revised strategy will be outlined in the first quarter and include an export-market appraisal, it said. No jobs will go.
After a surge in Britain’s investment in military vehicles and ammunition at the height of Mideast desert wars, the balance of spending on BAE products has switched to air and maritime projects such as the Eurofighter Typhoon and Type 26 frigate.
New strike brigades announced by the government this week will use Scout armored vehicles ordered from General Dynamics Corp. “It makes good sense for us to have one interface with the Ministry of Defence, but also both businesses have export potential and when you are looking to secure a land deal you would at the same time be determining what you could offer in ammunition,” BAE spokeswoman Rachael Gordon said. The merged operation will remain within the London-based company’s Platforms & Services U.K. business unit. BAE said in its annual report published in March that it’s seeking a contract to upgrade Britain’s Challenger 2 battle tank, which Monday’s defense review confirmed as a cheaper option than purchasing new vehicles, reflecting limits on ground-equipment spending.
if they succeed, the financial flood gates are open.
Two Somali victims of a US drone strike take legal action against the Netherlands. In January 2014, both men were hit by an American missile and lost two young daughters. One nomad lost his leg and their livestock was mostly annihilated. The Somalis and their lawyers hold the Netherlands co-responsible for the attack by the Americans, they said to reporters of De Volkskrant. The 2014 American drone strike targeted a convoy of cars transporting members of the Somali terrorist organization Al Shabaab. According to CNN, the intended target of the attack was Ahmed Godane. He remained unharmed, but other Al Shabaab members were killed. The nomads and their children and cattle were in the area when the missiles struck. No civilian casualties were reported by Western media or the US government.
The nomads are represented by two Dutch lawyers, Göran Sluiter and Liesbeth Zegveld. This is the first time that victims of an American drone strike apply to a Dutch court. They claim that the Netherlands are co-responsible for the attack since the Dutch provide important intelligence about Somali communications to the US. Documents leaked by former NSA-contractor Edward Snowden have already shown that telecommunication intercepted by the Netherlands plays an important part in American covert operations in Somalia. The Dutch military intelligence agency MIVD has intercepted millions of telephone calls and text messages by Somalis over the past few years, using a satellite receiver in the small town of Burum in the Friesland province. This was done as part of the anti-piracy operation ‘Ocean Shield’, in which the Netherlands participate.
The communication’s ‘meta data’, such as which number called which other number and for how long, were shared with the Americans. As the Americans had little useful intelligence on Somalia, the NSA also provided Dutch military intelligence service MIVD with special interception technology for listening in on telephone traffic from ships off the coast of Somalia. Secret documents published on the website The Intercept reveal how in more than fifty percent of the cases the Americans choose targets in Yemen and Somalia on the basis of meta data. Telecommunication intercepted by foreign parties is crucial in this, as the documents reveal: signal intelligence ‘is often provided by foreign partners.’ ‘By providing these telecom data, the Netherlands are supporting these American strikes to a considerable extent,’ says Sluiter, one of the lawyers. ‘Even more so: without the Dutch support the US could never have realized their drone program in those areas.’
“I want to go to Central Africa,” the pope told the pilot of his flight to Africa last Wednesday, according to the Vatican newspaper, “and if you’re not able to take me, give me a parachute.”
Pope Francis will fly Sunday to the war-torn capital of the Central African Republic, making a trip that has been in doubt for security reasons until practically the last minute, the Vatican spokesman said Saturday evening. “We will the take the plane and fly to Bangui” according to schedule, Father Federico Lombardi said. The confirmation came at the end of a day in which the pope honored Christian martyrs in Uganda, met with young people there and greeted local clergy. The Central African Republic has been beset since 2013 by civil war that has taken on a religious profile, with armed groups divided between Muslims and Christians.
Bangui’s Muslim quarter has been especially hard hit, under siege from Christian militias and effectively off-limits to non-Muslims since September. The pope plans to visit a mosque in the Muslim neighborhood as part of his effort to promote reconciliation, which will also include a meeting with local Christian and Muslim dialogue partners. “I want to go to Central Africa,” the pope told the pilot of his flight to Africa last Wednesday, according to the Vatican newspaper, “and if you’re not able to take me, give me a parachute.”
We screwed up that region too.
More than a million children in the Central African Republic are in urgent need of humanitarian aid while almost half of those under five are malnourished, the United Nations said on Friday ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to the conflict-torn country. The majority Christian nation plunged into tumult when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels briefly seized power in a 2013 coup. Sectarian violence has plagued the country since and fresh fighting broke out in Bangui two months ago, the worst violence in the capital this year, when the murder of a Muslim man triggered reprisal attacks on a largely Christian neighborhood. Some two million children have been affected by violence which first broke out in December 2012, and 1.2 million now need urgent aid, said the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF.
“The violence that has plagued this country has had a devastating impact on the lives of children,” said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF representative in the Central African Republic. “The humanitarian needs are overwhelming, to meet them we need access and we need greater international support.” The conflict has uprooted 400,000 people within the country and forced half a million to seek refuge in neighboring countries, while recent insecurity and attacks on convoys have hindered aid deliveries and lifesaving activities, UNICEF said. Clashes between mainly Christian anti-balaka militias and mainly Muslim Seleka factions initially cast doubt on the pope’s visit, and risk derailing internationally-backed elections now due on Dec. 27 after being postponed in October due to violence.
Pope Francis is due to arrive in the country on Sunday, and Central Africans on both sides of the religious chasm, even the Seleka, have rallied behind the visit, reducing the risk that his presence could add fuel to the fire of communal tensions. “We are hopeful that … the Pope’s visit will promote reconciliation in a country that is in desperate need of peace,” Fall added.
When did it get normal for a finance minister to comment on purely political issues?
Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem warned that countries which fail to adequately guard Europe’s borders and do not take in a fair share of refugees could find themselves outside the borders of a future “mini-Schengen” zone. In an interview in Belgian business dailies De Tijd and L’Echo on Friday, Dijsselbloem, who is also the Dutch finance minister, said the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone could not work if only a few countries gave shelter to refugees. “There are a few countries that are carrying the heaviest burden in the asylum crisis, taking in the most refugees,” he told the papers, naming Sweden, Germany, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands. “Some countries are now saying, ‘It’s not our problem. It’s yours. Good luck.’ That places our solidarity under huge pressure,” he said.
Many members of the 26-country Schengen zone, particularly poorer Eastern European ones, oppose a European Commission plan to distribute refugees who have arrived in Europe since the start of the year. Poland’s newly-elected government has said the risk of militant attacks in the wake of the Paris shootings makes it harder for it to shelter asylum seekers fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East. Dijsselbloem said his aim was to preserve the Schengen zone, but if countries did not shoulder their fair share, others would have to go it alone, since the migrant influx would otherwise endanger their generous welfare states. “To preserve them, you need to guard the external borders. (Otherwise) loads of people come and demand support and they blow the system up. That is what is happening now in the Netherlands,” he said.
He called for more joint investment in guarding the EU’s external borders and for more support for refugee camps in Turkey and Lebanon. “If we do not do it in the external borders of the EU’s 28 members, or in the Schengen zone, then maybe we will have to do it on the level of a mini-Schengen zone,” he said, adding he wanted to avoid that outcome. The Netherlands first floated the idea of a passport-free inner core earlier this month, though Germany, without which such a plan would be unworkable, immediately distanced itself from the proposals. On Wednesday, Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the EU’s executive, warned that the fate of the Schengen zone was bound up with that of the euro single currency: the one would not survive the failure of the other. Schengen consists of 22 countries in the European Union along with Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Alan Sked is the original founder of Ukip.
As the debate over the forthcoming EU referendum gears up, it would be wise perhaps to remember how Britain was led into membership in the first place. It seems to me that most people have little idea why one of the victors of the Second World War should have become almost desperate to join this “club”. That’s a shame, because answering that question is key to understanding why the EU has gone so wrong. Most students seem to think that Britain was in dire economic straits, and that the European Economic Community – as it was then called – provided an economic engine which could revitalise our economy. Others seem to believe that after the Second World War Britain needed to recast her geopolitical position away from empire, and towards a more realistic one at the heart of Europe.
Neither of these arguments, however, makes any sense at all. The EEC in the 1960s and 1970s was in no position to regenerate anyone’s economy. It spent most of its meagre resources on agriculture and fisheries and had no means or policies to generate economic growth. When growth did happen, it did not come from the EU. From Ludwig Erhard’s supply-side reforms in West Germany in 1948 to Thatcher’s privatisation of nationalised industry in the Eighties, European growth came from reforms introduced by individual countries which were were copied elsewhere. EU policy has always been either irrelevant or positively detrimental (as was the case with the euro). Nor did British growth ever really lag behind Europe’s. Sometimes it surged ahead.
In the 1950s Western Europe had a growth rate of 3.5%; in the 1960s, it was 4.5%. But in 1959, when Harold Macmillan took office, the real annual growth rate of British GDP, according to the Office of National Statistics, was almost 6%. It was again almost 6% when de Gaulle vetoed our first application to join the EEC in 1963. In 1973, when we entered the EEC, our annual national growth rate in real terms was a record 7.4%. The present Chancellor would die for such figures. So the economic basket-case argument doesn’t work.
What about geopolitics? What argument in the cold light of hindsight could have been so compelling as to make us kick our Second-World-War Commonwealth allies in the teeth to join a combination of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany and Italy? Four of these countries held no international weight whatsoever. Germany was occupied and divided. France, meanwhile, had lost one colonial war in Vietnam and another in Algeria. De Gaulle had come to power to save the country from civil war. Most realists must surely have regarded these states as a bunch of losers. De Gaulle, himself a supreme realist, pointed out that Britain had democratic political institutions, world trade links, cheap food from the Commonwealth, and was a global power. Why would it want to enter the EEC?
Think it’ll stop them?
The National Security Agency no longer has legal authority to collect phone metadata in bulk as of midnight, Saturday, November 28. The executive branch previously claimed the government possessed such authority under Section 215 of 2001’s USA PATRIOT Act, which gave the FBI power to demand “any tangible things” needed “for an investigation to obtain foreign intelligence information.” The FBI was thus able to obtain the phone records of millions of Americans from U.S. telecommunications companies and turn them over to the NSA. The USA FREEDOM Act, signed into law on June 2 earlier this year, gave the executive branch 180 days to wind down the bulk collection program.
According to the Tumblr of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the government is “prohibited from collecting telephone metadata records in bulk” starting November 29. The executive branch will now be able to obtain phone metadata by asking the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to order telecommunications companies to turn over specific records. The end of the bulk collection program is a modest but real victory for former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who provided documents concerning the program to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, co-founding editors of The Intercept. The first article by Greenwald based on the documents leaked by Snowden, published on June 6, 2013, was about the bulk collection program.
The future is one long state of emergency.
At least 24 climate activists have been put under house arrest by French police, accused of flouting a ban on organising protests during next week’s Paris climate summit, the Guardian has learned. One legal adviser to the activists said many officers raided his Paris apartment and occupied three floors and a staircase in his block. French authorities did not respond to requests for comment but lawyers said that the warrants were issued under state of emergency laws, imposed after the terror attacks that killed 130 people earlier this month. The author and climate change campaigner, Naomi Klein, accused French authorities of “a gross abuse of power that risks turning the summit into a farce”.
“Climate summits are not photo opportunities to boost the popularity of politicians,” she told the Guardian. “Given the stakes of the climate crisis, they are by their nature highly contested. That is democracy, messy as it may be. The French government, under cover of anti-terrorism laws, seems to be trying to avoid this, shamefully banning peaceful demonstrations and using emergency powers to pre-emptively detain key activists.” Since Thursday, three people have been placed under house arrest in Rens, two in Paris, two in Rouen and one in Lyons, according to campaigners. They may now only leave their houses to sign a post office register verifying their whereabouts, three times a day.
Stop Making Sense: “There is no doubt that many of the ‘fighters’ returning from Syria take the Balkan route,” he said. “Maybe one in every 100,000.”
Tensions peaked at Greece’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over the weekend after the FYROM army started building a border fence to keep out would-be migrants. FYROM border guards were photographed by foreign news agencies as they erected a 2.5-meter-high fence along the Greek border on Saturday. A FYROM army source quoted by Agence France-Presse said the crossing from Greece to FYROM would remain open and that the fence was aimed at ensuring migrants did not try to slip across at other spots. FYROM authorities had indicated in recent weeks that they might build a fence to limit the number of migrants pouring into their country from Greece and border guards recently started filtering the migrants they allow through, granting entry only to people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a result, hundreds of migrants from other countries, including Iran and Pakistan, have gathered in and around the Greek border town of Idomeni, protesting and demanding passage. In a recent interview with Kathimerini and other Greek media, FYROM’s Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki said that the EU’s border monitoring agency Frontex should establish a presence at Greece’s border with FYROM. He suggested that jihadists were slipping through. “There is no doubt that many of the ‘fighters’ returning from Syria take the Balkan route,” he said. “Maybe one in every 100,000.” The tensions over the weekend coincided with yesterday’s EU leaders’ summit on the refugee crisis, which focused also on the role of Turkey, a key transit country for migrants heading toward Europe via Greece.
And this is not the Balkans, it’s France and Britain.
“I was not born to live here like this,” says Ali. “I have three languages but I really want to learn Japanese. I love Japanese movies.” Ali is from Iran. He says he is not alone, but he seems very alone. We are in a refugee camp at Grande–Synthe, a Dunkirk suburb, sitting under a tarpaulin while people wait to see a doctor. But to describe this as a camp is wrong. This is a swamp. There are no basic facilities. None. It’s a field of mud and tattered tents. I am surrounded by people waiting to see a doctor holding little tickets, eyeing each other with suspicion. This, at least, is better than where I have just been, where I found Afghans sleeping in a ditch. The people I am with are worried about the children, aged as young as 10 and 11, they have seen there; “unaccompanied minors” with scabies.
Ali babbles to me non-stop about how he is all right, really. But no one here is. In June, there were maybe 150 people camped out. Now there are more than 10 times as many, predominantly Kurds. Families are arriving all the time. The average refugee is a young man, it’s true, but there are more and more women and children. A boy of seven pulls out his prize possession to show us – a tiny fire truck. Women sit in tents frying potatoes. They smile and chat, but everyone is cold. Everything is wet. Everyone has a story of how they got here. Some show me on their phones images of them getting out of flimsy dinghies – their witnesses to trauma. As they have journeyed from Syria or Eritrea, fleeing Islamic State, torture, unimaginable darkness, the phones are their lifelines. They connect them back to where they have come from and to a world they are now locked out of.
This is limbo. Limbo comes from limbus meaning the edge, the border of hell, and this is as close as I have ever been. Thankfully I am here with Doctors of the World (part of the Médecins du Monde Network), one of the Guardian’s refugee appeal charities, which has provided medical help on the ground in Calais since 2003. The director of the charity, Leigh Daynes, is shocked by what he is seeing – and he is a veteran of Darfur and Haiti. Every day, the charity runs the gauntlet of racism and aggression to get the most basic of care into the camps. Political rhetoric has successfully dehumanised these people as someone else’s problem. We don’t want them, the French don’t want them. Money has been spent on building higher, flesh-ripping fences. So here they fester. Human detritus.