Feb 182024
 
 February 18, 2024  Posted by at 9:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  69 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn The Storm on the Sea of Galilee 1633
On March 18, 1990, the painting was stolen by thieves disguised as police officers. They broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, and stole this painting, along with twelve other works. The paintings have never been recovered, and it is considered the biggest art theft in history. The empty frames of the paintings still hang in their original location, waiting to be recovered.

 

Obscene Award Vs Trump Is Testing New York Legal System’s Integrity (Turley)
Cultural Marxism and the Corruption of Common Law (Brooks)
From Censorship to Criminalizing Dissent (Jeffrey Tucker)
Navalny Timeline (Maria Zakharova)
Transcending Adveevka (Pepe Escobar)
Throwing Good Money After Bad in Ukraine? (CN)
Europe Is Losing Dignity By Obediently Submitting To US – Lavrov (TASS)
Germany Blocked Von Der Leyens NATO Bid – Welt (RT)
EU To Get ‘Defense Commissioner’ – Von der Leyen (RT)
France Warns Of ‘Economic Shock’ From Russian Victory (RT)
Suicide Pact Threatens to Flood EU With 75 Million More Migrants (MN)
Texas To Build Military Base Camp On Mexico Border To House 1,800 Soldiers (ZH)
American Doctor In Gaza: What I Saw Wasn’t War – It Was Annihilation (LAT)
Plastics Cannot Be Recycled and Producers Know This (Sp.)

 

 

 

 

Neil Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

 


Celtic Park, Glasgow, Sat Feb 17

 

 

 

 

Biden Navalny

 

 

 

 

 

 

“..Engoron fulfilled Oscar Wilde’s rule that the only way to be rid of temptation is to yield to it. He ordered everything short of throwing Trump into a wood chipper..”

Obscene Award Vs Trump Is Testing New York Legal System’s Integrity (Turley)

In laying the foundation for his sweeping decision against former President Donald Trump, Judge Arthur Engoron observed that “this is a venial sin, not a mortal sin.” Yet, at $355 million, one would think that Engoron had found Trump to be the source of Original Sin. The judgment against Trump (and his family and associates) was met with a level of unrestrained celebration by many in New York that bordered on the indecent. Attorney General Letitia James declared not only that Trump would be barred from doing business in New York for three years, but that the damages would come to roughly $460 million once interest was included. That makes the damages against Trump greater than the gross national product of some countries, including Micronesia. Yet the court admitted that not a single dollar was lost by the banks from these dealings. Indeed, witnesses testified that they wanted to do more business with Trump, who was described as a “whale” client with high yield business opportunities.

Undervaluing and overvaluing property is a longstanding practice in New York real estate. The forms submitted by the Trump organization cautioned the banks to do their own estimates and the loans were paid in full and on time. Yet, the New York law used by James is a curiosity because it does not actually require a victim. Indeed, everyone can make ample profits and still allow for an investigation into “repeated fraudulent or illegal acts.” Having campaigned on bagging Trump on any basis, James turned the law into a virtual license to hunt him down along with his family and his associates. Engoron proved the perfect judge for the case. The opinion itself seems almost cathartic for the jurist who struggled with Trump inside and outside of court. In the judgment, Engoron fulfilled Oscar Wilde’s rule that the only way to be rid of temptation is to yield to it. He ordered everything short of throwing Trump into a wood chipper.

The size of the damages is grotesque and should shock the conscience of any judge on appeal. Even if the Democrat-appointed judges on the New York Court of Appeals were to ignore the obvious inequity and unfairness, the United States Supreme Court could intervene. State courts tend to get a significant amount of deference in the interpretation of their own laws. After all, if New York wants to turn Wall Street into a remake of “The Hunger Games,” it has only itself to blame as other businesses flee the state. The impact on New York business is likely to be dire. New York is already viewed as a hostile business environment, with the top end of its tax base literally heading south as taxes and crime rises. This draconian award is only going to deepen concerns over the arbitrary application of the law by figures like James, who previously sought to disband the National Rifle Association. (She has shown less interest in cracking down on liberal organizations like Black Lives Matter or the National Action Network of Al Sharpton despite their own major financial scandals.)

As James gleefully uses this law to break up a major New York corporation, it is hard to imagine many businesses rushing to the Big Apple. This follows Democratic politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) campaigning against Amazon seeking to open new facilities in the city. After this week, drawing new businesses to the city is going to be about as easy as selling country estates during the French Revolution. The one hope for New York businesses may be the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite the deference afforded to the states and their courts, the court has occasionally intervened to block excessive damage awards.

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“..as specious allegations come before American courts, folks can’t help noticing that the so-called “oppressed” usually win..”

Cultural Marxism and the Corruption of Common Law (Brooks)

Legal scholars once insisted that “justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done.” Everyone should be able to expect a fair trial that’s accurately covered by public news organizations. But unbiased judges and honest reporters are in short supply. While Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is facing unprecedented indictments, journalists are still insisting that American justice is fair and impartial. The left’s recourse to “lawfare” requires judges and journalists to conceal the truth rather than expose it. Legacy news organizations say there’s no evidence of the “weaponization of justice” or a “two-tiered” legal system. But, as specious allegations come before American courts, folks can’t help noticing that the so-called “oppressed” usually win.

For example, in 2019 American advice columnist E. Jean Carroll suddenly accused Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in the mid-1990s. Mr. Trump vigorously denied the allegations, but Ms. Carroll was permitted to sue him for defamation and battery. One could have guessed the outcome of this case before it began. The left views Donald Trump as an arch-oppressor, and E. Jean Carroll was seen as an “oppressed” victim. In May 2023, a New York jury found the former president liable for defamation and sexual abuse and awarded E. Jean Carroll $5 million in damages. In January of this year, Mr. Trump was found liable in a second defamation suit, and Ms. Carroll was awarded an additional $83.3 million. The second award was unprecedented. Late in January, Breitbart News reporter Hannah Bleau Knudsen revealed several facts about this case that she said the establishment media didn’t want the public to know.

First, there were no witnesses and no surveillance video of the attack, which was alleged to have occurred in a downtown New York department store. The plaintiff came forward with her story while promoting a book titled “What Do We Need Men For?,” which featured a list of “The Most Hideous Men of My Life.” The dress she claimed to be wearing during the alleged attack was not for sale in the year she initially claimed the event occurred. Despite her public reputation for being very open about sexual matters, she didn’t accuse President Trump until some 30 years after the alleged encounter. Her entire story was very similar to a 2012 “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” episode, titled “Theatre and Tricks,” in which an individual talks about a rape fantasy in Bergdorf Goodman. In a November 1993 edition of Elle, before the alleged abuse, Ms. Carroll had made a joke associating sex with Bergdorf Goodman.

E. Jean Carroll’s case was financially backed by anti-Trump Democrat mega-donor Reid Hoffman. One of her lawyers is Roberta Kaplan, whose wife is a Democratic Party activist. In fact, her lawsuit was only able to proceed after New York Democrats created a 2022 “Adult Survivors Act,” which allowed judges to overlook the usual statute of limitations for such charges. Judgments in cases that are tried in partisan-charged venues such as New York City or Washington DC, have almost become forgone conclusions. A steep decline of common law principles will not bode well for the future of the American Republic. Who would have thought that in 2024 American citizens would be witnessing a partisan special prosecutor seeking the U.S. Supreme Court’s permission to put the opposing party’s presidential candidate on trial months before a presidential election.

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“Can you imagine? Criticize a wind turbine or pandemic lockdowns and find yourself hauled in front of a judge!”

From Censorship to Criminalizing Dissent (Jeffrey Tucker)

A major battle is brewing throughout the Western world over the basic principle of free speech. Is it going to be protected by law? It’s not entirely clear what the outcome will be. We seem to be on the precipice of a potential calamity if the courts don’t decide the right way. Even if we squeak out a victory, the question is already in play. Our free speech rights have never been more fragile. Turn your attention to France right now. In the dead of night, a new law slipped through the General Assembly that would make it a crime to criticize mRNA shots. Critics call it the Pfizer law. It calls for fines up to 45,000 euros and possibly three years in prison for debunking an approved medical treatment. Like all Western nations, criticism of the mRNA platform has already been subjected to vast social-media censorship. Even given this, there has been a major and global consumer turn against these shots. People are not convinced that they are necessary, safe, or effective. Still, government imposed mandates for everyone, billions of people worldwide.

This was a form of conscription that has driven a deep divide between the rulers and the ruled. Rather than back down, however, governments, which have been captured by pharmaceutical interests, are going to bat for the companies and the technology to threaten imprisonment of anyone who speaks out openly against them. Here is where censorship becomes severely weaponized. It’s the next logical step. First you deploy every power to keep the distribution channels of information free of dissent. When that doesn’t entirely work, simply because people find alternative means of getting the word out, you have to intensify matters and institute outright controls. It stands to reason that this would happen. After all, the whole point of censorship is to curate the public mind to put down opposition to regime priorities. When mainstream corporate media is falling apart and new media is rising, the next stage is to go the full way to flat-out criminalize opinion, like any totalitarian government.

We are very close to that stage. If it can happen in France, it can happen throughout Europe, then the Commonwealth, and then the United States. We know this much about politics today. It is global. The elites that have seized control of our governments coordinate across borders. This is why it is hugely important to pay attention to what’s going on across the pond. As a second item, I’m alarmed to read the lead piece in the New York Times opinion section that celebrates a defamation case about which I had not previously heard. It is by Michael Mann, professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He had sued a writer for the Competitive Enterprise Institute for taking issue with Mann’s climate change model, and the so-called hockey stick in particular.

This is not my area of specialization at all but I have no doubt that mainstream climate science should be subject to vigorous criticism. If the COVID era has taught us anything, it is that the “scientific consensus” can be outrageously wrong and needs a check that comes in the form of writing, some of it zippy and cutting. Dr. Mann filed a defamation lawsuit. Defamation is a very high bar: it means to deliberately lie about something with the intention to harm. One might not suppose that many things could qualify as that, certainly not criticism of a climate model. Indeed, most defamation lawsuits are dismissed outright simply because this country generally values free speech. This one, however, was accepted by the judge in Washington, D.C. court. After a full decade in litigation, and a full hearing, the jury ended up deciding in favor of the plaintiffs. One defendant, Rand Simberg, has been told to pay $1K and the other, Mark Steyn, $1M. Simberg says he will appeal and stands by every word that he wrote. Steyn agrees and is ready to appeal.

Essentially this verdict is criminalizing hyperbole, said the defense attorney. The op-ed writer, however, says this is justice. “Our recent trial victory may have wider implications,” he says. “It has drawn a line in the sand. Scientists now know that they can respond to attacks by suing for defamation.” He mentions in particular people who have disagreed with the COVID consensus—disagreeing with Anthony Fauci—or otherwise make “false claims about adverse health effects from wind turbines.” Can you imagine? Criticize a wind turbine or pandemic lockdowns and find yourself hauled in front of a judge!

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There is talk of bloodclot(s). Paul Craig Roberts concludes Navalny died of mRNA.

Navalny Timeline (Maria Zakharova)

“The reaction of Western leaders, politicians and the media to the news of the death of Alexei Navalny once again demonstrated their hypocrisy, cynicism and unprincipledness. The “in any situation, blame Russia” scheme is in action. Moreover, for each case there is a preparation according to the manual. Let’s look at the chronology. Today at approximately 14:19, a message was published on the website of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug about the death of convicted Alexei Navalny in correctional colony No. 3. Literally 15 minutes later, a torrent of carbon-copy accusations began pouring in:

– 14:35 – Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström: “Terrible news about Navalny. If the information about his death in a Russian prison is confirmed, this will be another heinous crime of the Putin regime”;
– 14:35 – Norwegian Foreign Minister Bart Eide: “Deeply saddened by the news of Navalny’s death. The Russian government bears a heavy burden of responsibility for this”;
– 14:41 – Latvian Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevich: “Whatever you think about Navalny as a politician, he was just brutally murdered by the Kremlin. This is a fact and something that everyone should know about the true nature of the current Russian regime”;
– 14:50 – Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky: “Russia still treats foreign policy issues the same way it treats its citizens. It has turned into a cruel state that kills people who dream of a beautiful, better future, like Nemtsov and now Navalny, who was imprisoned and tortured to death”;
– 14:51 – French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejournet: “Navalny paid with his life for the fight against the system of oppression. His death in a penal colony reminds us of the realities of Vladimir Putin’s regime”;
– 15:02 – President of the European Council Charles Michel: “The EU holds the Russian regime solely responsible for this tragic death”;
– 15:10 (during a press conference) – leader of the Kyiv regime Zelensky: “Obviously, he was killed by Putin, like thousands of others who were tortured.”
– 15:16 (in the media), 16:50 (in social networks) – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: “Russia must establish all the facts, answer very serious questions”;
– 15:20 – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte: “Navalny’s death illustrates the unprecedented cruelty of the Russian regime”;
– 15:30 – President of Moldova Maia Sandu: “Navalny’s death in a Russian prison is a reminder of the regime’s blatant oppression of dissent”;
– 15:35 – German Foreign Minister Annalena Bärbock: “Navalny, like no one else, was a symbol of a free and democratic Russia. That’s why he had to die”;
– 15:43 – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen: “A grim reminder of what Putin and his regime are”;
– 15:49 – Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson: “The Russian authorities and President Putin personally are responsible for the fact that Navalny is no longer with us”;
– 16:14 – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz: “Navalny paid with death for his courage. This terrible news once again demonstrates how Russia has changed and what kind of regime is in power in Moscow”;
– 16:25 – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken: “Navalny’s death in a Russian prison, as well as one man’s obsession and fear, only highlight the weakness and rot at the heart of the system that Putin built. Russia bears responsibility for this”;
– 17:28 – French President Emmanuel Macron: “In today’s Russia, free people are placed in the Gulag and sentenced to death.”

In a short period of time, within two hours (from 14:19), Western politicians and the media at their side were able, as it were, to obtain the results of a forensic examination that had not yet been carried out, conduct an investigation, blame Moscow and render a verdict. There is no other explanation other than the fact that all these reactions were prepared in advance. [..] “We might be able to believe in this incredible, miraculous speed if the whole world had not just watched the helpless ‘investigation’ of terrorist attacks on the Nord Stream gas pipeline that stretched out over many months and turned up empty,” the ministry added.

Navalny

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“The people of Novorossiya, as much as Yemeni Houthis, have Faith imprinted in their DNA..”

Transcending Adveevka (Pepe Escobar)

Avdeevka. The name sounds like an incantation. Like Debaltsevo, or Bakhmut. The incantation summons the figure of a cauldron. As it stands, and it’s all moving at lightning speed, it takes only 2 km for the cauldron to be closed. Virtually all roads and muddy trails are under massive Russian fire control. There may be up to 6,000 Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) soldiers left. They have nowhere to go. They are already in – or are going straight to – Hell.= “The Butcher” Syrsky, who has just been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the AFU amidst a nasty dog fight in Kiev, immediately got himself a fresh cauldron. Old habits die hard. The morale and psychological state of AFU fighters is in tatters. Azov batallion neo-nazis are being decimated by massive artillery, FPVs and FABs. Still, AFU generals are setting up the P.R. stage for another “victory” – a replay of Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo, even as the actual retreat, evacuation or “extraction” will proceed through the Corridors of Hell.

In fact, the only player who has successfully extracted himself from Hell, just in time, was Gen Zaluzhny. To quote Dylan: “Strike another match/ go start anew.” During my vertiginous journey across Donbass, only a few days ago, Avdeevka – the incantation – was omnipresent. At a meeting in a secret compound plunged in darkness in the western outskirts of Donetsk, two top commanders of Orthodox Christian batallions, while discussing tactics, noted that the fall of Adveevka would be a matter of days, maximum weeks. The symbology is quite transcendental. Kiev has been fortifying Adveevka non-stop for nearly 10 years – essentially to keep shelling civilians in Donetsk and other parts of Donbass with impunity, ad infinitum. Donetsk remains extremely vulnerable – and the shelling persists. The strength, resilience and faith of the residents of this historic mining town – and the surrounding countryside – are deeply moving.

In a very special conversation with Alexander Dugin, we both made it clear, directly and indirectly, that the working classes of Novorossiya are spiritual brothers of the oppressed in Palestine and Yemen. Yes, the Axis of Resistance in West Asia is mirrored by the Slavic Axis of Resistance in the black soil of the steppes. As much as Russia may have been drawn to a civilizational war against the collective West, that is also a spiritual war. The proxy war by the Hegemon against Russia in Ukraine is as much a geopolitical gamble as a war of Western nihilism against Russian Orthodoxy. I did mention the parallel between Orthodox Christianity and Shi’ism to a top commander; he may have been bemused, but he definitely got the message. After all, he must have instinctively noticed it was the rejected, harassed and bombed in Orthodox Christianity and Islam who have re-awakened the Orthodox and Islamic civilizations for a transcendental war of survival – supported by faith.

Way beyond the Adveevka incantation – a sort of catalyst of all these times of trouble, as Mother Mary of God eventually comes offering solace – what struck me in this vertiginous journey in Donbass is Almighty People Power. Civilians are the true heroes of the full liberation of Novorossiya, as much as the people scattered across Greater Syria – encompassing Palestine, Syria and Lebanon – Iraq and Yemen. These are the souls who have endured a Hell on Earth much more toxic and much longer than the Adveevka cauldron, since Zionism and its subsequent eschatological garrison-settler colonial offspring took over the Holy Land. The people of Novorossiya, as much as Yemeni Houthis, have Faith imprinted in their DNA. Those deeply committed commanders and soldiers that I met in Novorossiya close to the front lines mirror the popular consensus.

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“Ray McGovern and Lawrence Wilkerson argue the U.S. should accept that no amount of U.S. funding will change Russia’s will and means to prevail in Ukraine.”

Throwing Good Money After Bad in Ukraine? (CN)

On July 13, 2023, President Joe Biden announced Russian President Vladimir Putin “has already lost the war.” That was six days after C.I.A. Director William Burns, normally a sane voice, had called the war a “strategic failure” for Russia with its “military weaknesses laid bare.” Earlier, in December 2022, National Intelligence Director Avril Haines reported that the Russians were experiencing “shortages of ammunition” and were “not capable of indigenously producing what they are expending.” We advise caution, as these same people now say that Ukraine can prevail if the U.S. provides $60 billion more. Do they think they can change geography, overcome Russian industrial might, and persuade the Russians that Ukraine should not be a core interest of theirs? Recall President Barack Obama’s reasons for withholding lethal weapons from Ukraine.

In 2015, The New York Times reported on Obama’s reluctance: “In part, he has told aides and visitors that arming the Ukrainians would encourage the notion that they could actually defeat the far more powerful Russians, and so it would potentially draw a more forceful response from Moscow.” Senior State Department officials spelled out this rationale: “If you’re playing on the military terrain in Ukraine, you’re playing to Russia’s strength, because Russia is right next door. It has a huge amount of military equipment and military force right on the border. Anything we did as countries in terms of military support for Ukraine is likely to be matched and then doubled and tripled and quadrupled by Russia.” The above words were spoken by then-Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 5, 2015 to an audience in Berlin. It turns out President Obama was right. It is hard to understand why Blinken (and Biden) chose the way of President Donald Trump, who gave lethal weapons to Ukraine, over the way of Obama.

So much for geography and relative strength. What about core interests? In 2016 President Obama told The Atlantic that Ukraine is a core interest of Russia but not of the U.S. He warned that Russia has escalatory dominance there: “We have to be very clear about what our core interests are and what we are willing to go to war for.” Earlier, when a saner William Burns was ambassador to Russia, he warned of Moscow’s “emotional and neuralgic reaction” to bringing Ukraine into NATO. Braced on the issue by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in February 2008, Burns reported that Russia’s opposition was based on “strategic concerns about the impact on Russia’s interests in the region” and warned then that “Russia now feels itself able to respond more forcefully”. Burns added: “In Ukraine, these include fears that the issue could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.”

The overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 gave immediacy to Russia’s warnings on Ukraine and its fear that the West would try to effect “regime change” in Russia, as well. In a major commentary, “Russian Military Power”, published in December 2017, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency concluded: “The Kremlin is convinced the U.S. is laying the groundwork for regime change in Russia, a conviction further reinforced by the events in Ukraine. Moscow views the United States as the critical driver behind the crisis in Ukraine and the Arab Spring and believes that the overthrow of former Ukrainian President Yanukovych is the latest move in a long-established pattern of U.S.-orchestrated regime change efforts …”

Is Putin paranoid about “U.S. regime change efforts?” D.I.A. did not think him paranoid. And surely Putin has taken note of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s remarks in April 2022: “One of the US’s goals in Ukraine is to see a weakened Russia. … The US is ready to move heaven and earth to help Ukraine win the war against Russia.” In sum: Russia has both the will and the means to prevail in Ukraine – no matter how many dollars and arms Ukraine gets. Obama was right; Russia sees an existential threat from the West in Ukraine. And nuclear powers do not tolerate existential threats on their border. Russia learned this the hard way in Cuba in 1962.

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The Europeans are grown-up people. May they take care of their own fate..”

Europe Is Losing Dignity By Obediently Submitting To US – Lavrov (TASS)

The United States is openly engaged in pumping resources out of European countries, while Europe in its obedient submission is losing strategic autonomy and the sense of dignity, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the plenary session of the forum of supporters for the fight against modern practices of neocolonialism For Freedom of Nations. “Against the backdrop of economic problems, the Americans have openly engaged in pumping resources out of Europe. They are cutting off promising markets and reliable energy sources. For the sake of this, they blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines without hesitation and ordered Germany and the rest of Europe to swallow this humiliation. Europe quietly obeyed, forgetting about its former timid speculations about strategic autonomy and dignity,” Lavrov emphasized. He pointed out that now “the European industry is literally being forced to choose between transferring operations overseas and ruin.” “The Europeans are grown-up people. May they take care of their own fate,” Lavrov said.

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“..von der Leyen’s antagonism toward Moscow “could prove to be a disadvantage in the long term..”

Germany Blocked Von Der Leyens NATO Bid – Welt (RT)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz intervened last year to prevent European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen from becoming NATO’s next secretary general, Germany’s Die Welt newspaper has said. Scholz reportedly felt that von der Leyen’s hardline anti-Russian stance would be a problem “in the long term.” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg received a fourth extension to his term as head of the military bloc last July. While Stoltenberg may remain in office until October, the alliance’s leaders have already begun jockeying to replace him. At the end of last year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested von der Leyen to President Joe Biden as a potential replacement, Welt reported on Saturday. Biden approached Scholz with the idea, but was shot down, the report claimed, citing “several high-ranking EU officials and top diplomats.

“Scholz was categorically against von der Leyen becoming NATO chief,” one of these sources said. The German chancellor reportedly told Biden that the position of secretary-general is too important “to leave to a Christian Democrat from Germany,” and that von der Leyen’s antagonism toward Moscow “could prove to be a disadvantage in the long term,” in the newspaper’s words. There is no formal process by which NATO chooses its secretary-general. Instead, member states discuss candidates among themselves until a consensus is reached. NATO’s largest military power and de-facto controlling member, the US, is said to favor a woman for the role. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was suspected to be a prime candidate last year, until she traveled to Washington in June and – according to Welt – failed to impress Biden or members of Congress. Stoltenberg’s term was extended a month later.

While Washington apparently wants a woman at the helm, Biden has already ruled out another leading female candidate, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. According to Welt, the US president considers Kallas too critical of Moscow and incapable of building stable relations with the Kremlin when the conflict in Ukraine eventually ends. With von der Leyen, Frederiksen, and Kallas out of contention, the Netherlands’ caretaker prime minister, Mark Rutte, is now described in the media as a frontrunner for the job. Welt’s sources stated that “support for him is increasing,” and that leaders in 21 member states – including Biden and Scholz – are prepared to endorse his candidacy. While Biden may have favored a woman, Rutte is reportedly seen as someone who could work with either him or former President Donald Trump, should the latter defeat Biden in this November’s election. “The decision should, if possible, be made before the European elections in June,” a NATO diplomat told Welt. This weekend’s Munich Security Conference, the paper noted, will provide ample opportunity for Rutte to bring more supporters on board.

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Ursula saw Germany’s move to block her coming. She’ll start her own NATO.

EU To Get ‘Defense Commissioner’ – Von der Leyen (RT)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will appoint a dedicated “defense commissioner” if she retains her post after EU elections in June, she said on Saturday. The precise duties of the role are unclear. “If I would be the president of the next European Commission, I would have a commissioner for defense,” von der Leyen said at the Munich Security Conference. Creating such a post would be a “reasonable” decision, she added. Von der Leyen and her 27 commissioners are not directly elected by European voters. Instead, a president of the commission is nominated by the European Council and approved or rejected by the European Parliament. If confirmed, the president then selects 27 commissioners, usually one from each member state.

The next commission will be formed while Hungary – whose prime minister has an antagonistic relationship with von der Leyen – holds the council’s rotating presidency. While right wing parties are projected to surge in June’s parliamentary elections, von der Leyen’s centrist European People’s Party (EPP) will likely remain the largest faction in the 720-seat legislature. The EPP has backed the appointment of a defense commissioner. In a draft manifesto seen by Euractiv last month, the party stated that whoever takes the post should be in charge of ensuring the EU spends 0.5% of its shared budget on defense and directs an equal share to overhauling the bloc’s ailing arms industry. Von der Leyen did not expand on these responsibilities, nor did she suggest whether a defense commissioner would have any input into the bloc’s overall military strategy, which was set out for the first time by the European Council in 2022.

The commission president said that it is an “open” question as to which nationality would get the post. However, she added that it is “important” for an Eastern European to receive a good portfolio, and “this is a good portfolio.” Earlier this week, an anonymous EU diplomat told Politico that Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas are leading candidates for the position. Both are vocal backers of Ukraine, with German media reporting on Saturday that Kallas reportedly missed out on a chance to replace Jens Stoltenberg as NATO’s secretary general due to her overly hawkish stance on Russia.

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“Today’s efforts to support Ukraine are nothing compared to those we would have to deploy against a Russia that feels victorious..”

France Warns Of ‘Economic Shock’ From Russian Victory (RT)

A potential Russian victory in Ukraine could deal an economic blow to the West because Moscow would gain control of vast resources, French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne has said. In an opinion piece for the French daily Le Monde published on Saturday, the minister argued that Moscow wanted Paris to believe that it would be “more reasonable to abandon the Ukrainians to their tragic fate.” He protested against this point, saying that “the French are not fools” and that there were few things that “would be more contrary” to the country’s interests. Beyond the security risks, however, a Russian victory would also have powerful economic repercussions for the West, Sejourne said. “Allowing Russia to seize the Ukrainian black lands, which are among the most fertile in the world, would be to abdicate a part of food sovereignty, accept unbridled inflation, and provide Russia with unprecedented means of pressure and extortion,” he stated.

Recalling that Ukraine accounts for 30% of global wheat exports, the minister claimed that Moscow’s control over those resources would enable it to “attack our own farmers.” He also said that Europe would be at “an immense risk” if Russia were allowed to continue controlling the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, the largest facility of its kind on the continent, without elaborating on why. “Europe and the world, the French people would suffer an unprecedented economic shock,” Sejourne stressed. Russian troops seized the power station in March 2022 shortly after the start of the Ukraine conflict. After four former Ukrainian regions, including Zaporozhye, voted to join Russia later the same year, the facility was transferred to state ownership.

Sejourne went on to urge the West to resist the “temptation of fatigue.” “Today’s efforts to support Ukraine are nothing compared to those we would have to deploy against a Russia that feels victorious,” he said, insisting that the current policies would allow Kiev’s backers to keep control over prices. Russia has repeatedly warned the West against supporting Ukraine with arms, warning that it will only prolong the conflict. The Russian military also said last month that it had eliminated several dozen mercenaries in Ukraine, saying that most of them were French-speaking. While Paris initially denied that there were any French mercenaries in Ukraine, it later admitted that a number of French nationals had indeed joined Kiev’s forces, although it insisted they had no links to the national government.

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Just like Texas.

Suicide Pact Threatens to Flood EU With 75 Million More Migrants (MN)

The EU has passed a migration pact dubbed “the suicide of Europe” which could lead to the continent being flooded with as many as 75 million new migrants. The European Parliament’s LIBE committee passed the act on Wednesday, which formalizes the distribution of migrants to member states and punishes those that refuse to take them. Because cultural enrichment and diversity is “our greatest strength,” countries that try to maintain their national identity without being subsumed by migrants will be hit with severe financial penalties. Marine Le Pen, the leader of National Rally’s parliamentary wing, previously said the pact would lead to “the suicide of Europe,” adding that it was a deal with the devil and represents an “organized plan of submersion of Europe and the nations which compose it.”

Member states will be forced to accept migrants or pay a massive financial penalty of €25,000 per migrant. This makes little sense given that we’re constantly reminded of how mass migration is such an economic boon and is both inevitable and vital to maintaining GDP levels. However, it makes total sense when you understand that such claims are completely fraudulent. “The next question is how many they will force on us. Now they are deciding that. So they are creating rules that give Brussels the right to say how many migrants they will distribute,” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán last year. “So, several countries have indicated that they do not agree. We do not want to implement it. In the end, we are facing a very unpleasant turn of events here.”

Orbán questioned why, if accepting migrants was so financially profitable, are western European nations trying to offload them onto Hungary. Róbert Gönczi, an analyst at Hungary’s Migration Research Institute, pointed out that migrants distributed to Hungary normally end up leaving for Sweden or Germany, where they receive far bigger welfare payments. “The redistribution system could also create intra-EU flows from the countries where these migrants have been relocated to the countries where they actually want to leave, as typically the destination countries have not changed,” said Gönczi.

“However, it would now be necessary for other EU countries to welcome these migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, he added. The real problem is that the reinforcement of the EU’s external borders would be less or not at all, which is what is really needed.” As we previously highlighted, there is no appetite whatsoever for the EU simply to impose proper border controls. The new leader of Frontex, the European Union agency tasked with securing borders, recently called for open borders and vowed to appease left-wing pro-mass migration activists. “Nothing can stop people from crossing a border, no wall, no fence, no sea, no river,” said Hans Leijtens, which was a bizarre statement given that’s his one job.

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The Supreme Court said Biden could remove barbed wire. It said nothing about Texas putting up new wire.

Texas To Build Military Base Camp On Mexico Border To House 1,800 Soldiers (ZH)

In the latest signal of his resolve to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States, Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Friday announced that the Lone Star State will build a military base along the Rio Grand at the border city of Eagle Pass. Spanning 80-acres, “Forward Operating Base Eagle” will house upwards of 1,800 Texas National Guard soldiers supporting Operation Lone Star, and will be expandable to house 2,300. Texas Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer said the camp will have 300 beds by mid-April, and will add another 300 beds every month after that. “Before this effort here, they had been living in conditions that were atypical for military operations,” Abbott said at a press conference in Eagle Pass. “Because of the magnitude of what we’re doing, because of the need to sustain and actually expand our efforts of what we’re doing, it’s essential that we build this base camp for the soldiers.”

As it is, soldiers are housed all over the area, varyingly living in hotels, tents and even some private houses. Some bear long commutes. “Illegal crossings are down and, coincidentally, razor-wire barrier is up,” said Abbott. “We will continue to muster the efforts are needed to make sure that Texas does the job that the United States Congress has mandated. The United States Congress has mandated for barriers to be built on the border. Biden is not building those barriers.” Eagle Pass has been in the national spotlight in recent months, a flashpoint in the ongoing battle between Texas and the federal government over border security, including state authority to enforce immigration laws. Earlier this year, Texas seized control of a 47-acre park in the city, a park that has been a major avenue of illegal immigration.

The Texans also began barring US Border Patrol agents and watercraft from the property, which they’ve used as a staging area for processing migrants. The new base, located about 6 miles south of the park, will include a 700-seat dining facility, workout equipment, a recreation center and laundries, vehicle maintenance bays, weapons storage rooms and a helipad. Soldiers will have individual rooms. In January, the US Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could proceed with removing razor wire installed by Texas at the Eagle Pass border. However, a defiant Gov. Abbott not only slammed the order and barred federal agents from accessing the razor wire, he also added even more. On Friday, officials said they will add more barriers extending to the north and south of Shelby Park, the recreational site seized by the state in January, add three fan boats to the river-patrol capacity, and expand drone and radar capabilities.

Some 3,000 Texas troops are deployed along the 1,200-mile-long Mexican frontier. In December, Texas enacted a law allowing state law enforcement to arrest immigrants who’ve entered Texas without authorization. Biden’s Justice Department quickly sued, arguing that the Texas law encroaches on federal border-management authority. Gallup recently found that, among Americans who disapprove of President Biden’s job performance, immigration is their top reason for giving him a failing mark. In the January poll, only 41% approved of Biden — the worst-ever showing for an incumbent at that time in his term

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By Irfan Galaria.

American Doctor In Gaza: What I Saw Wasn’t War – It Was Annihilation (LAT)

In late January, I left my home in Virginia, where I work as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and joined a group of physicians and nurses traveling to Egypt with the humanitarian aid group MedGlobal to volunteer in Gaza. I have worked in other war zones. But what I witnessed during the next 10 days in Gaza was not war — it was annihilation. At least 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. From Cairo, Egypt’s capital, we drove 12 hours east to the Rafah border. We passed miles of parked humanitarian aid trucks because they weren’t allowed into Gaza. Aside from my team and other envoy members from the United Nations and World Health Organization, there were very few others there. Entering southern Gaza on Jan. 29, where many have fled from the north, felt like the first pages of a dystopian novel.

Our ears were numb with the constant humming of what I was told were the surveillance drones that circled constantly. Our noses were consumed with the stench of 1 million displaced humans living in close proximity without adequate sanitation. Our eyes got lost in the sea of tents. We stayed at a guest house in Rafah. Our first night was cold, and many of us couldn’t sleep. We stood on the balcony listening to the bombs, and seeing the smoke rise from Khan Yunis. As we approached the European Gaza Hospital the next day, there were rows of tents that lined and blocked the streets. Many Palestinians gravitated toward this and other hospitals hoping it would represent a sanctuary from the violence — they were wrong. People also spilled into the hospital: living in hallways, stairwell corridors and even storage closets.

The once-wide walkways designed by the European Union to accommodate the busy traffic of medical staff, stretchers and equipment were now reduced to a single-file passageway. On either side, blankets hung from the ceiling to cordon off small areas for entire families, offering a sliver of privacy. A hospital designed to accommodate about 300 patients was now struggling to care for more than 1,000 patients and hundreds more seeking refuge. There were a limited number of local surgeons available. We were told that many had been killed or arrested, their whereabouts or even their existence unknown. Others were trapped in occupied areas in the north or nearby places where it was too risky to travel to the hospital. There was only one local plastic surgeon left and he covered the hospital 24/7. His home had been destroyed, so he lived in the hospital, and was able to stuff all of his personal possessions into two small hand bags.

This narrative became all too common among the remaining staff at the hospital. This surgeon was lucky, because his wife and daughter were still alive, although almost everyone else working in the hospital was mourning the loss of their loved ones. I began work immediately, performing 10 to 12 surgeries a day, working 14 to 16 hours at a time. The operating room would often shake from the incessant bombings, sometimes as frequent as every 30 seconds. We operated in unsterile settings that would’ve been unthinkable in the United States. We had limited access to critical medical equipment: We performed amputations of arms and legs daily, using a Gigli saw, a Civil War-era tool, essentially a segment of barbed wire. Many amputations could’ve been avoided if we’d had access to standard medical equipment. It was a struggle trying to care for all the injured within the constructs of a healthcare system that has utterly collapsed.

I listened to my patients as they whispered their stories to me, as I wheeled them into the operating room for surgery. The majority had been sleeping in their homes, when they were bombed. I couldn’t help thinking that the lucky ones died instantaneously, either by the force of the explosion or being buried in the rubble. The survivors faced hours of surgery and multiple trips to the operating room, all while mourning the loss of their children and spouses. Their bodies were filled with shrapnel that had to be surgically pulled out of their flesh, one piece at a time.

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“..The recycling process—from collection to sorting to processing to transport—requires more time, labor, and equipment to achieve a lower quality and less efficient output..”

Plastics Cannot Be Recycled and Producers Know This (Sp.)

The Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) released a report on Thursday which details how the plastics industry has evolved its marketing pitch in order to circumvent public backlash and potential regulation.= According to a report by the CCI, despite their knowledge that recycling plastics is not technically or economically practical, petrochemical companies have continued to push “fraudulent” marketing and public outreach campaigns to convince consumers otherwise. Doing so, the report says, has stalled legislative and regulatory action that could have addressed plastic waste and pollution long ago. “Fossil fuel and other petrochemical companies have used the false promise of plastic recycling to exponentially increase virgin plastic production over the last six decades, creating and perpetuating the global plastic waste crisis and imposing significant costs on communities that are left to pay for the consequences,” the CCI wrote.

More than 99% of plastics are produced from fossil fuels, the report continues. Though there are thousands of different types of plastic, the majority of these cannot be “recycled”. And despite efforts to convince consumers otherwise, the recycling rate in the US for plastics in 2021 was estimated to be only 5% to 6%. After a 10-year review on plastics, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that there are only two types of plastics that can be turned into high quality objects: PET and HDPE, which are both commonly used to make plastic containers and bottles. Meanwhile, any other form of plastic is incinerated or sent to landfills, because even though some plastics are recyclable in theory, they are not actually recycled in practice due to purity requirements that are not practical—for example, a green PET bottle cannot be recycled with a clear PET bottle. The quality of the plastic also degrades as it is recycled, which limits its use in its next life. And ultimately, recycled plastic materials will still end up in the landfill.

The toxicity of the plastics also creates issues during the recycling process. The chemical additives in plastics include stabilizers, plasticizers, coatings, catalysts, and flame retardants as well as possible contamination by whatever that plastic contained such as cleaning solvents or pesticides. This means a majority of plastics cannot be recycled into food-grade packaging, or other products that interact with food. The cost of recycling plastics is also much higher than what it costs to produce new plastic. “The recycling process—from collection to sorting to processing to transport—requires more time, labor, and equipment to achieve a lower quality and less efficient output than the process of making virgin resin from fossil fuels,” the report explains.

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The Secret Files of the Corona Expert Council

 

 

Bird feeder

 

 

Puppy nightmare
https://twitter.com/i/status/1758666573378994534

 

 

Billiard

 

 

The War on Children

 

 

Panama canal
https://twitter.com/i/status/1758845580640411653

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in wartime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 112017
 
 July 11, 2017  Posted by at 9:39 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Max Ernst Santa Conversazione 1921

 

Trump Bump for President’s Media Archenemies Eludes Local Papers (BBG)
How Economics Became A Religion (Rapley)
The Breaking Point & Death Of Keynes (Roberts)
Central Banks’ Focus on Financial Stability Has Unintended Consequences (BBG)
Janet Yellen’s Complacency Is Criminal (Bill Black)
‘We’re Flowing Toward The Path Of 1928-29’ – Yusko (CNBC)
Fresh Fears Of UK Housing Market Collapse (Sun)
The European Union Has a Currency Problem (NI)
Schaeuble Says Italy Bank-Liquidation Aid Shows Rule Discord (BBG)
Is This the End of China’s Second Housing Bubble? (ET)
The World Is Facing A ‘Biological Annihilation’ Of Species (Ind.)

 

 

The echo chamber is highly profitable. Gossip sells. It’s not personal. It’s only business. And in many boardrooms the question these days is: Why are we not more like the New York TImes?

Trump Bump for President’s Media Archenemies Eludes Local Papers (BBG)

President Donald Trump loves to hurl his Twitter-ready insult at the New York Times: #failingnytimes. But in the stock market, the New York Times Co. has been looking like a roaring success lately, particularly by the standards of the beleaguered newspaper industry. Since Trump won the presidency in November, the publisher’s share price has soared 57%. Online subscriptions are up, bigly – about 19% in the first quarter alone. Scrutinizing the president turns out to be good business, at least for top national papers like the Times and the Washington Post. A different story is playing out for local publications, which are still suffering through the industry’s long decline and need to retain subscribers who are sympathetic to Trump.

Consider McClatchy Co., which owns about 30 papers, including the Miami Herald. Its shares have plummeted 31% since Election Day. Subscriptions have barely budged. The diverging fortunes in the industry have underscored what many in the traditional news business know only too well: Famous titles can lumber on as they grope for a digital future, but most local papers are fighting for survival. “For us in Texas, the bump has definitely been more muted because we’re not the primary source of news out of the White House,” said Mike Wilson, editor of the Dallas Morning News. “We serve a community with many deeply conservative pockets. That may be a different demographic from the New York Times and Washington Post audience.”

[..] The Washington Post, owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, has more than 900,000 digital subscribers, including hundreds of thousands who signed up in the first quarter, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The newspaper declined to comment on its subscriber figures. The Post and the Times have been competing for scoops on the biggest story of the year: the Trump administration’s alleged ties to Russia. On several occasions, they’ve published blockbuster stories within hours of each other. Trump often attacks their coverage on Twitter, which seems to drive even more readers to subscribe.

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We adhere to the school of economics that suits the powerful best.

How Economics Became A Religion (Rapley)

Although Britain has an established church, few of us today pay it much mind. We follow an even more powerful religion, around which we have oriented our lives: economics. Think about it. Economics offers a comprehensive doctrine with a moral code promising adherents salvation in this world; an ideology so compelling that the faithful remake whole societies to conform to its demands. It has its gnostics, mystics and magicians who conjure money out of thin air, using spells such as “derivative” or “structured investment vehicle”. And, like the old religions it has displaced, it has its prophets, reformists, moralists and above all, its high priests who uphold orthodoxy in the face of heresy. Over time, successive economists slid into the role we had removed from the churchmen: giving us guidance on how to reach a promised land of material abundance and endless contentment.

For a long time, they seemed to deliver on that promise, succeeding in a way few other religions had ever done, our incomes rising thousands of times over and delivering a cornucopia bursting with new inventions, cures and delights. This was our heaven, and richly did we reward the economic priesthood, with status, wealth and power to shape our societies according to their vision. At the end of the 20th century, amid an economic boom that saw the western economies become richer than humanity had ever known, economics seemed to have conquered the globe. With nearly every country on the planet adhering to the same free-market playbook, and with university students flocking to do degrees in the subject, economics seemed to be attaining the goal that had eluded every other religious doctrine in history: converting the entire planet to its creed.

Yet if history teaches anything, it’s that whenever economists feel certain that they have found the holy grail of endless peace and prosperity, the end of the present regime is nigh. On the eve of the 1929 Wall Street crash, the American economist Irving Fisher advised people to go out and buy shares; in the 1960s, Keynesian economists said there would never be another recession because they had perfected the tools of demand management. The 2008 crash was no different. Five years earlier, on 4 January 2003, the Nobel laureate Robert Lucas had delivered a triumphal presidential address to the American Economics Association. Reminding his colleagues that macroeconomics had been born in the depression precisely to try to prevent another such disaster ever recurring, he declared that he and his colleagues had reached their own end of history:

“Macroeconomics in this original sense has succeeded,” he instructed the conclave. “Its central problem of depression prevention has been solved.”

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Will the last days of our economics coincide with the last days of our economic model? Will Keynes die in a collapse?

The Breaking Point & Death Of Keynes (Roberts)

Keynes contended that “a general glut would occur when aggregate demand for goods was insufficient, leading to an economic downturn resulting in losses of potential output due to unnecessarily high unemployment, which results from the defensive (or reactive) decisions of the producers.” In other words, when there is a lack of demand from consumers due to high unemployment then the contraction in demand would, therefore, force producers to take defensive, or react, actions to reduce output. In such a situation, Keynesian economics states that government policies could be used to increase aggregate demand, thus increasing economic activity and reducing unemployment and deflation. Investment by government injects income, which results in more spending in the general economy, which in turn stimulates more production and investment involving still more income and spending and so forth.

The initial stimulation starts a cascade of events, whose total increase in economic activity is a multiple of the original investment. Unfortunately, as shown below, monetary interventions and the Keynesian economic theory of deficit spending has failed to produce a rising trend of economic growth.

Take a look at the chart above. Beginning in the 1950’s, and continuing through the late 1970’s, interest rates were in a generally rising trend along with economic growth. Consequently, despite recessions, budget deficits were non-existent allowing for the productive use of capital. When the economy went through its natural and inevitable slowdowns, or recessions, the Federal Reserve could lower interest rates which in turn would incentivize producers to borrow at cheaper rates, refinance activities, etc. which spurred production and ultimately hiring and consumption.

However, beginning in 1980 the trend changed with what I have called the “Breaking Point.” It’s hard to identify the exact culprit which ranged from the Reagan Administration’s launch into massive deficit spending, deregulation, exportation of manufacturing, a shift to a serviced based economy, or a myriad of other possibilities or even a combination of all of them. Whatever the specific reason; the policies that have been followed since the “breaking point” have continued to work at odds with the “American Dream,” and economic models.

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Central banks focus on their member banks.

Central Banks’ Focus on Financial Stability Has Unintended Consequences (BBG)

Central bankers are spending a lot of time talking about financial stability. So much so that many economists, strategists and investors are saying financial stability has become a de facto third mandate for policy makers along with price stability and full employment. This development, however, has the potential to bring about some unintended consequences such as central banks adopting a much shallower tightening path than they currently envision. It’s important to understand two things. First, in highly levered economies, like those we currently see in developed nations around the world, interest rates and financial stability are closely linked. That was evident in the recent “synchronized” global sell-off in the rates markets triggered by central banks signaling concern about relatively high asset prices brought on by artificially low borrowing costs, and their potential to foster financial instability.

Second, central banks have, perhaps paradoxically, contributed to financial instability by employing so-called forward guidance that provided investors with a sense of how long they would be keeping rates at record-low levels. So, with economies gradually recovering and employment generally robust, it’s understandable that investors would behave in a manner that suggests they expect favorable financial conditions to seemingly last in perpetuity. Consider the dollar. Its weakness against both developed and emerging-market currencies this year occurred even though expectations for stronger economic growth and fiscal stimulus rose. The decline in the value of the dollar value means the cost to borrow in the currency has dropped despite the Federal Reserve’s three interest-rate increases since mid-December.

It also means hedging costs in currencies ranging from the euro to the South Korean won are rising at a less-than-ideal time. That can be seen in cross-currency basis swap rates, which are essentially the cost to exchange a fixed-rate obligation for a floating-rate obligation. In the case of the won, the swap rate has turned more negative, suggesting a possible “shortage” of the currency to borrow in the interbank market as geopolitical tensions in the region reach levels not seen in years. And, the almost 8% appreciation in the euro in both nominal and real effective exchange rate terms has driven the cost to borrow in the shared currency higher as European Central Bank officials surprise markets by starting to talk about pulling back from unprecedented monetary easing measures.

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Looks like the world would have been much better off without central banks.

Janet Yellen’s Complacency Is Criminal (Bill Black)

[..] her inaction as Fed chairman has encouraged criminal behaviour. First, Yellen’s “lifetime” pronouncement in 2017 ignored Yellen’s pronouncements in 1996 – and how disastrously they fared in the most recent financial crisis. In 1996, Yellen gave a talk at a conference at the Levy Institute at Bard College, which Minsky attended. The Minneapolis Fed published her speech as an article entitled “The New Science of Credit Risk Management.” The speech was an ode to financial securitization and credit derivatives. The Minneapolis Fed, particularly in this era, was ultra-right wing in its economic and social views. Yellen’s piece is memorable for several themes. With the exception of two passages, it reads as gushing propaganda for the largest banks. It is relentlessly optimistic. Securitization and credit derivatives will reduce individual and systematic risk.

Yellen assures the reader that finance is highly competitive and that the banks will pass on the savings from reducing risk to even unsophisticated borrowers in the form of lower interest rates. The regulators should reduce capital requirements, particularly for credit instruments with high credit ratings. Banks now have a vastly more sophisticated understanding of their credit risks and manage them prudently. There is no discussion of perverse incentives even though bank CEOs were making them ever more perverse at an increasing rate. There is no discussion of the fate of the first collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Michael Milken, a confessed felon, devised and sold the first CDO – backed by junk bonds. That disaster blew up five years before she gave her speech. At the time Yellen published her article the second generation of CDOs was becoming common.

That generation of CDOs was backed by a hodgepodge of risky loans. They blew up about four years after she gave her speech. The third wave of CDOs was backed by toxic mortgages, particularly endemically fraudulent “liar’s” loans. They blew up in 2008. Securitization contributed to the disaster. The Fed championed vastly lower capital requirements for banks – particularly he largest banks. Fortunately, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) fought a ferocious rearguard opposition that blocked this effort. The Fed succeeded, however, in allowing the largest banks to calculate their own capital requirements through proprietary risk models that (shock) massively understated actual risk. Bank CEOs used the lower capital requirements, the biased risk models, and the opaque CDOs to massively increase risk and predate on black and Latino home borrowers.

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We have a hard time remembering and learning.

‘We’re Flowing Toward The Path Of 1928-29’ – Yusko (CNBC)

Although the economy has been steady this year, at least one analyst has dire predictions, comparing the current period to the buildup to the Great Depression and warning that this fall is when things will come to a head. Mark Yusko, CEO of Morgan Creek Capital, has been predicting bad news for the economy since January and he is sticking by that, saying Monday on CNBC’s “Power Lunch” that he believes too much stimulus and quantitative easing has resulted in a “huge” bubble in U.S. stocks. “I have this belief that we’re flowing toward the path of 1928-29 when Hoover was president,” Yusko said. “Now Trump is president. Both were presidents with no experience who come in with a Congress that is all Republican, lots of big promises, lots of things that don’t happen and the fall is when people realize, ‘Wait, it hasn’t played out the way we thought.'”

He points to evidence of declining growth as well as that fall is a weak time traditionally for the U.S. economy as people return from vacation. “[By the fall], we’ll have a lot more evidence of declining growth. Growth has been slipping,” he said. However, it was not all gloom and doom as Yusko said the emerging markets were still strong places to invest. “Growth is where you want to invest,” he said. “All the growth is in the emerging markets, the developing world. It’s really tough if you look around the developed world.” he said profits in the United States are the same as they were in 2012. Yusko said at the beginning of the year “every single analyst” said emerging markets were going to underperform the U.S. “That hasn’t been the case,” he said. Indeed, in 2017 the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) has been up more than 18% while the S&P 500 index has risen more than 8%.

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“..the number of homes sold in May for less than the asking price rose to 77%.”

Fresh Fears Of UK Housing Market Collapse (Sun)

New signs of the housing market slipping are expected this week when one of the best lead indicators of house price movement is released. The UK Residential Market Survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is expected to show a decrease in the number of members reporting house price rises. It comes after last weekend, it was reported is on the edge of a property price crash which could be as bad as the collapse in the 1990s according to experts who are also warning property value could plunge by 40%. Ahead of this week’s survey, Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to consultancy EY Item Club, told the Mail on Sunday: ‘It may well be that heightened uncertainty after the General Election weighed down on an already fragile housing market in June.’

The expectation of a crash has raised alarms about whether we could see a return of “negative equity” which is when a house falls so much in value it is worth less than the mortgage. Around one million people were hit with negative equity in the 1990s, the Mail on Sunday has reported. Paul Cheshire, professor of Economic Geography at the London School of Economics, said: “We are due a significant correction in house prices. “I think we are beginning to see signs that correction may be starting.” Prices plunged by 37% in 1989 when the price boom fell apart. In its most recent figures, The National Association of Estate Agents reported the number of homes sold in May for less than the asking price rose to 77%. Prof Chesire added that falls in real incomes is also likely to spark for a fall in house prices.

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The EU has a power problem. Germany dictates all important decisions, and in its favor.

The European Union Has a Currency Problem (NI)

Donald Trump, for all his rhetorical clumsiness and intellectual limitations, still sometimes makes a valid point. He does when he says that Germany is “very bad on trade.” However much Berlin claims innocence and good intentions, the fact remains that the euro heavily stacks the deck in favor of German exporters and against others, in Europe and further afield. It is surely no coincidence that the country’s trade has gone from about balance when the euro was created to a huge surplus amounting at last measure to over 8% of the economy—while at the same time every other major EU economy has fallen into deficit. Nor could an honest observer deny that the bias distorts economic structures in Europe and beyond, perhaps most especially in Germany, a point Berlin also seems to have missed.

The euro was supposed to help all who joined it. When it was introduced at the very end of the last century, the EU provided the world with white papers and policy briefings itemizing the common currency’s universal benefits. Politically, Europe, as a single entity with a single currency, could, they argued, at last stand as a peer to other powerful economies, such as the United States, Japan and China. The euro would also share the benefits of seigniorage more equally throughout the union. Because business holds currency, issuing nations get the benefit of acquiring real goods and services in return for the paper that the sellers hold. But since business prefers to hold the currencies of larger, stronger economies, it is these countries that tend to get the greatest benefit. The euro, its creators argued, would give seigniorage advantages to the union as a whole and not just its strongest members.

All, the EU argued further, would benefit from the increase in trade that would develop as people worried less over currency fluctuations. With little risk of a currency loss, interest rates would fall, giving especially smaller, weaker members the advantage of cheaper credit and encouraging more investment and economic development than would otherwise occur. Greater trade would also deepen economic integration, allow residents of the union to choose from a greater diversity of goods and services, and offer the more unified European economy greater resilience in the face of economic cycles, whether they had their origins internally or from abroad. It was a pretty picture, but it did not quite work as planned. Instead of giving all greater general advantages, the common currency, it is now clear, locked in distorting and inequitable currency mispricings.

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Those rules only last until they get in the way of some greater good anyway.

Schaeuble Says Italy Bank-Liquidation Aid Shows Rule Discord (BBG)

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble joined his counterparts from the Netherlands and Austria in calling for a review of European Union bank-failure rules after Italy won approval to pour as much as €17 billion ($19.4 billion) of taxpayers’ cash into liquidating two regional lenders. Schaeuble said Italy’s disposal of Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca revealed differences between the EU’s bank-resolution rules and national insolvency laws that are “difficult to explain.” That’s why finance ministers convening in Brussels on Monday have to discuss the Italian cases and consider “how this can be changed with a view to the future,” he told reporters in Brussels before the meeting.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the focus should be on EU state-aid rules for banks that date from 2013, before the resolution framework was put in place. Italy relied on these rules for its state-funded liquidation of the two Veneto banks and its plan to inject €5.4 billion into Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA. The EU laid down new bank-failure rules in the 2014 Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive after member states provided almost €2 trillion to prop up lenders during the financial crisis. The BRRD foresees small banks going insolvent like non-financial companies. Big ones that could cause mayhem would be restructured and recapitalized under a separate procedure called resolution, in which losses are borne by owners and creditors, including senior bondholders if necessary.

Elke Koenig, head of the euro area’s Single Resolution Board, said last week that the framework for failing lenders needs to be reviewed to “see how to align the rules better.” The EU commissioner in charge of financial-services policy, Valdis Dombrovskis, said that this could only happen once banks have built up sufficient buffers of loss-absorbing debt. The EU’s handling of the Italian banks was held up by U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari as evidence that requiring banks to have “bail-in debt” doesn’t prevent bailouts. The idea that rules on loss-absorbing liabilities that can be converted to equity or written down to cover the costs of a bank collapse “rarely works this way in real life,” he wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

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“..the average Chinese would have had to spend more than 160 times his annual income to purchase an average housing unit at the end of 2016.”

Is This the End of China’s Second Housing Bubble? (ET)

When the economy started to cool in the beginning of 2016, China opened up the debt spigots again to stimulate the economy. After the failed initiative with the stock market in 2015, Chinese central planners chose residential real estate again. And it worked. As mortgages made up 40.5% of new bank loans in 2016, house prices were rising at more than 10% year over year for most of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. Overall, they got so expensive that the average Chinese would have had to spend more than 160 times his annual income to purchase an average housing unit at the end of 2016. Because housing uses a lot of human resources and raw material inputs, the economy also stabilized and has been doing rather well in 2017, according to both the official numbers and unofficial reports from organizations like the China Beige Book (CBB), which collects independent, on-the-ground data about the Chinese economy.

“China Beige Book’s new Q2 results show an economy that improved again, compared to both last quarter and a year ago, with retail and services each bouncing back from underwhelming Q1 performances,” states the most recent CBB report. However, because Beijing’s central planners must walk a tightrope between stimulating the economy and exacerbating a financial bubble, they tightened housing regulations as well as lending in the beginning of 2017. Research by TS Lombard now suggests the housing bubble may have burst for the second time after 2014. “We expect the latest round of policy tightening in the property sector to drive down housing sales significantly over the next six months,” states the research firm, in its latest “China Watch” report. One of the major reasons for the concern is increased regulation. Out of the 55 cities measured in the national property price index, 25 have increased regulation on housing purchases.

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The most tragic species.

“..Earth’s capacity to support life, including human life, has been shaped by life itself..”

The World Is Facing A ‘Biological Annihilation’ Of Species (Ind.)

The world is experiencing a “biological annihilation” of its animal species because of humans’ effect on the Earth, a new study has found. Researchers mapped 27,600 species of birds, amphibians, mammals and reptiles – nearly half of known terrestrial vertebrate species – and concluded the planet’s sixth mass extinction even was much worse than previously thought. They found the number of individual animals that once lived alongside humans had now fallen by as much as 50%, according to a paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study’s authors, Rodolfo Dirzo and Paul Ehrlich from the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, and Gerardo Ceballos, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said this amounted to “a massive erosion of the greatest biological diversity in the history of the Earth”.

The authors argued that the world cannot wait to address damage to biodiversity and that the window of time for effective action was very short, “probably two or three decades at most”. Mr Dirzo said the study’s results showed “a biological annihilation occurring globally, even if the species these populations belong to are still present somewhere on Earth”. The research also found more that 30% of vertebrate species were declining in size or territorial range. Looking at 177 well-studied mammal species, the authors found that all had lost at least 30% of the geographical area they used to inhabit between 1990 and 2015. And more than 40% of these species had lost more than 80% of their range. The authors concluded that population extinction were more frequent than previously believed and a “prelude” to extinction.

“So Earth’s sixth mass extinction episode has proceeded further than most assume,” the study said. About 41% of all amphibians are threatened with extinction and 26% of all mammals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which keeps a list of threatened and extinct species. [..] “When considering the frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation, one must never forget that Earth’s capacity to support life, including human life, has been shaped by life itself,” the paper stated.

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Nov 142015
 
 November 14, 2015  Posted by at 10:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Unknown Paris 1900

Calm Broken as US Stocks Post Worst Week Since August Selloff (Bloomberg)
Nomi Prins Warns: “It’s All Coming To An End” (KWN)
Albert Edwards: The Global Economy Will Be Thrown Into Chaos (ZH)
Ten Ex-Deutsche Bank, Barclays Traders Charged in Euribor Probe (Bloomberg)
3 Accused Euribor Rate Manipulators Members of ECB Crisis Focus Group (ZH)
Central Bankers Are Heroes: OECD’s Gurria (CNBC)
China’s Yuan Takes Leap Toward Joining IMF Currency Basket (Reuters)
VW Said to Seek as Much as €20 Billion in Bridge Funds (Bloomberg)
How GM’s Bailout Became China’s Bonanza (Bloomberg)
Portuguese Revolution Falls Far Short (Paul Craig Roberts)
EU Commissioner’s Dire Warning: “The Only Alternative To Europe Is War” (ZH)
Greece Says Turkey Turning Blind Eye To Refugee Smugglers (AFP)
Greece Warns EU To Hold Turkey To Account On Refugee Crisis (Kath.)
World’s Largest Ocean Cleanup Operation One Step Closer To Launch (Guardian)
Monstrous Wave Of Paris Attacks Underlines France’s Year Of Terror (RT)
Let Mercy For Refugees Be The Response To The Paris Attacks (Margaret Corvid)
The Annihilation Of Nature (Woods Inst.)

People still pretending there are functioning markets.

Calm Broken as US Stocks Post Worst Week Since August Selloff (Bloomberg)

You have to go back to August’s selloff to find a week as bad as this one for U.S. equities. Catalysts that drove the S&P 500’s 12% summer tumble, from interest rate dread to a commodities rout, surfaced again after being sidelined during October’s surge. Signs of slowing growth from China to Europe rekindled concern that weakness could spread to America as the Federal Reserve prepares to tighten monetary policy. While equities are nowhere near their August lows, the weekly slump raised concern that the S&P 500’s six-week rally went too far, too fast. Volatility jumped after an October lull, with a measure of price swings surging 40%.

Bank of America says shares are more likely to decline before New Year’s amid weak consumer earnings and the specter of higher borrowing costs. “For the next month and a half I think there may be more downside than upside risk to stocks,” Savita Subramanian at Bank of America said by phone. “The market is going to be more skittish about seeing the first Fed rate hike. We’re not going to get there without a little more volatility.” The S&P 500 Index fell 3.6% in the five days, sliding below its average price for the past 100 days for the first time in three weeks. The decline snapped a run of six weekly gains, the longest rally of the year that included an 8.3% surge in October.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index jumped above 20 for the first time since August, when it touched a four-year high. For Subramanian, who in October lowered her year-end target for the S&P 500 to 2,000 from 2,100, the list of worries is tallying up. Weak corporate earnings and the prospect for higher rates will keep a lid on gains through the remainder of the year, she said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Earnings are not coming in particularly great for sectors like consumer stocks, and on top of that you’ve got the Fed in December,” Subramanian, head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy, said by phone. “Those all kind of conspire against near-term gains.”

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“And so that keeps the artificial game in play through the middle or fall of 2016..”

Nomi Prins Warns: “It’s All Coming To An End” (KWN)

Today Nomi Prins, the keynote speaker who recently addressed the Federal Reserve, IMF and the World Bank, warned King World News “It’s all coming to an end.” Eric King: “Nomi, we went through a round of terror in 2008, and certainly China just went through that again recently when their stock market crashed along with the emerging markets, but when does this whole global Ponzi scheme finally come unraveled?” Nomi Prins: “We are seeing small unravelings all the time. Brazil is doing badly, Mexico is struggling, currencies around the world relative to the dollar are hurting, which means relationships of imports to exports and money coming into those countries are hurting.

China has had problems but its central bank has been big enough and strong enough to boost it at least somewhat back up again. The United States is in complete denial in terms of what the economic indicators are said to be vs what they actually are and how the markets themselves are being continually buoyed either by the Federal Reserve or the Fed’s associations with some of the big banks in terms of continuing to buy Treasury bonds… “The ECB is still on a mission, and as of the November 12th announcement from Mario Draghi, an even stronger mission to continue to infuse those markets with artificial money and perhaps even enhance their quantitive easing program. So you ask, ‘When is this all coming to an end?’

It is all coming to an end, but you have all these actors trying to prop up different pieces of it (the global financial system) and so that’s why there is all this enhanced volatility and you have so many ups and downs (in global markets). (The end will come) when there are no more creative concepts on the part of these central banks to provide the artificial stimulus to the markets. And that could be the middle or the end of 2016, only because one big central bank in play has already committed to doing their part of it (with enhanced stimulus). And so that’s why we continue to have enhanced volatility to the downside in global markets that is also met with intervention, which is unprecedented. But it (the stimulus) does exist and we have to recognize that, as unprecedented and bizarre as it is, and there are indications that it will continue.

And so that keeps the artificial game in play through the middle or fall of 2016. But in the core of markets and economies things are not stable, which is why all of these (volatile) movements are happening. If anything was stable for real, the Federal Reserve would have raised rates years ago, the ECB wouldn’t have needed to come up with another round of quantitative easing, the People’s Bank of China wouldn’t need to reduce the reserve requirements to their financial institutions in order to give them more money to play with — none of that would be happening. So we are in a state of deterioration. The timing of an eventual implosion has to do with when the big banks have nothing left to counteract the artificial markets coming apart that they themselves have created.

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“The rotten fruit of the Fed’s seemingly innocuous inaction will now be clear to onlookers as it is ripped to shreds on the battlefield by the powerful credit monster.”

Albert Edwards: The Global Economy Will Be Thrown Into Chaos (ZH)

SocGen’s permarealist, Albert Edwards, has been the one person who for the past decade has firmly held the belief that a “deflationary Ice Age” is upon the world – courtesy of an unmanageable debt load – no matter what central banks do. There is, of course, one way to short circuit said Ice Age, and it involves paradropping money in an act of terminal fiat desperation (the outcome is always hyperinflation) onto the general population, something which as we reported last Friday is already in the works courtesy of first Adair Turner and the IMF, and soon all other “very serious people”.

Keep an eye on Japan as this is where said paradropping will be attempted first as Ben Bernanke suggested back in 2003 when he said to “consider for example a tax cut for households and businesses that is explicitly coupled with incremental Bank of Japan purchases of government debt – so that the tax cut is in effect financed by money creation.” But before we get there, here is a snapshot of where, according to Edwards, we are now and why “there” is getting very close. In his latest note he says, quite simply, that it is now too late to put the “Orc-like monster” of excess debt and declining cash flows back in the bottle, and why “the global economy will be thrown into chaos.”

The deeply held wish of central bankers not to de-rail the fragile economic recovery is on display for all to see as they grasp at the slightest excuse for their continued inaction. The UK’s central bank governor, Mark Carney, exceeded all dovish expectations recently in his latest rate flip-floppery. But what is this? The Fed has finally summoned up its courage and looks set to raise rates next month. It is, however, already too late. Having delayed way beyond the point when it might typically have raised rates in previous cycles, it has allowed an Orc-like monster to incubate, hatch and emerge into the sunlight, snarling and ready to do battle.

Free Fed money has led to an unprecedented corporate credit binge of excess spending, especially on share buybacks. This is even bigger than it was at the time of the 2000 technology and telecom bubble. The rotten fruit of the Fed’s seemingly innocuous inaction will now be clear to onlookers as it is ripped to shreds on the battlefield by the powerful credit monster. The global economy will be thrown into chaos.

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And each single one is named…

Ten Ex-Deutsche Bank, Barclays Traders Charged in Euribor Probe (Bloomberg)

U.K. prosecutors charged 10 former Deutsche Bank and Barclays employees with manipulating a benchmark interest rate, including high-profile trader Christian Bittar, with an 11th facing indictment as soon as next week. Six traders from Deutsche Bank employees and four from Barclays were charged with conspiracy to manipulate the Euribor benchmark, the Serious Fraud Office said in a statement Friday. Another trader listed anonymously in court documents may also be charged, according to three people familiar with the case. Alongside Bittar, those linked to Deutsche Bank are Andreas Hauschild, Joerg Vogt, Ardalan Gharagozlou, Achim Kraemer and Kai-Uwe Kappauf. Former Barclays employees Colin Bermingham, Carlo Palombo, Philippe Moryoussef and Sisse Bohart also face charges.

The SFO won the first conviction by trial tied to benchmark manipulation in August, when former UBS trader Tom Hayes was found guilty of rigging the London interbank offered rate and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Banks and other financial institutions have paid about $9 billion in fines tied to Libor and other key rates. One other person has pleaded guilty in the Libor probe. Lawyers for Bittar, Hauschild and Moryoussef said they will contest the allegations. Lawyers for the other eight either declined to comment or didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The nine men and one woman are scheduled to appear in a London magistrates court on Jan. 11.

Documents distributed in the case have listed an unidentified 11th trader that will be charged, according to people familiar with the matter who declined to be named because the prosecution isn’t public. The trader could be charged as soon as next week, one of the people said. Other than Bermingham, the 10 defendants named by the SFO all live outside Britain, according to an SFO spokeswoman. Bittar and Moryoussef live in Singapore, Bohart in Denmark and Palombo in the U.S. and Italy, while the remaining five are in Germany. All have been notified they face charges. No extradition requests have been made and all appearances will be voluntary at present, the SFO said.

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The riggers work for the ECB! Oh, what a tangled web.

3 Accused Euribor Rate Manipulators Members of ECB Crisis Focus Group (ZH)

[..] we find out that the ECB – the same ECB where policymakers like to meet with banks and asset managers before major policy meetings, actually had three of the traders accused of gaming Euribor by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office on Friday in a group that helped the the bank craft its response to the financial crisis! From Reuters:

The documents on the ECB website show that former Barclays euro money market desk head Colin Bermingham and Joerg Vogt and Ardalan Gharagozlou from Deutsche Bank – three of 10 people charged by the SFO on Friday – were part of the central bank’s Money Market Contact Group at the height of the crisis. The group regularly met and held conference calls as the central bank scrambled to stabilise markets that were threatening to push debt-strained Greece, Portugal, Ireland and even Italy and Spain out of the euro in 2010 and 2011.

Amusingly, the 10 people charged include Deutsche Bank’s Christian Bittar who can’t seem to get away from his title as rate rigger par excellence (although that’s not the term Anshu Jain used, that’s the spirit of a conversation the ex-Deutsche CEO once had about Bittar with a colleague back in the good ol’ days). Here’s Bloomberg:

U.K. prosecutors charged 10 former Deutsche Bank and Barclays employees with manipulating a benchmark interest rate, including high-profile trader Christian Bittar, with an 11th facing indictment as soon as next week. Six traders from Deutsche Bank employees and four from Barclays were charged with conspiracy to manipulate the Euribor benchmark, the Serious Fraud Office said in a statement Friday. Another trader listed anonymously in court documents may also be charged, according to three people familiar with the case. Alongside Bittar, those linked to Deutsche Bank are Andreas Hauschild, Joerg Vogt, Ardalan Gharagozlou, Achim Kraemer and Kai-Uwe Kappauf. Former Barclays employees Colin Bermingham, Carlo Palombo, Philippe Moryoussef and Sisse Bohart also face charges.

Ok, so the ECB was regularly communicating with three traders who are now charged with manipulating Euribor. Here’s what Francesco Papadia, head of market operations at the ECB during the financial and euro zone debt crises has to say about the group: “They helped understand what was going on beyond what you see on the screens.” If you follow financial markets and that doesn’t strike you as hilarious, then check your pulse. That is, we bet they did “help the ECB what was going on behind the screen”, after all, they were the ones colluding to fix the market! In any case, we’ll have to see what the time frames were here and if there was any overlap between when the allegations stem from and when this ECB committee operated (it’s probably a better bet that the manipulation took place before the euro debt crisis), but in any case, we’ll close with the following amusing quote for now: “The ECB plays no role in the setting of the Euribor rate,” the ECB said in a statement. Are you guys sure about that?…

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The lunatics and the asylum: “We’ve got to get all cylinders of the growth engine firing again. There is no room for complacency..”

Central Bankers Are Heroes: OECD’s Gurria (CNBC)

“Super” Mario Draghi’s nickname is very much justified, according to Angel Gurria, the secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), who has called on governments to do more to tackle the global growth slowdown. “Central bankers have been the heroes of this story since this financial and economic crisis hit in 2008, but the problem is they have run out of room. It’s time for the governments,” Gurria told CNBC Friday. The most influential central banks in the Western world, the U.S. Federal Reserve, European Central Bank (of which Draghi is president) and the Bank of England, have been running ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing programs for years in some cases, to try and handle the fallout from the credit crisis.

With the Fed likely to become the first to signal a return to more normal monetary policy by raising rates, potentially as early as December, Gurria gave the central bank his blessing – although he said it should have started sooner. On Monday, the OECD cut its forecast for global growth to around 2.9% this year – well below its long-term average – citing a further sharp downturn in emerging market economies and world trade. Gurria, who was speaking at the G-20 summit of the heads of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, said: “The issue is about getting growth and trade back. It’s very ominous that trade is growing at about 2% when the world economy is growing at 2.9%. There’s only five years in the last 50 at which trade has grown at a rate lower than the world GDP and there has always been a recession following that.” “We’ve got to get all cylinders of the growth engine firing again. There is no room for complacency,” he added.

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How much of Beijing’s control over its currency will this take away?

China’s Yuan Takes Leap Toward Joining IMF Currency Basket (Reuters)

China’s yuan moved closer to joining other top global currencies in the IMF’s benchmark foreign exchange basket on Friday after Fund staff and IMF chief Christine Lagarde gave the move the thumbs up. The recommendation paves the way for the Fund’s executive board, which has the final say, to place the yuan on a par with the U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, British pound and euro at a meeting scheduled for Nov. 30. Joining the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket would be a victory for Beijing, which has campaigned hard for the move, and could increase demand for the yuan among reserve managers as well as marking a symbolic coming of age for the world’s second-largest economy. Staff had found the yuan, also known as the renminbi (RMB), met the criteria of being “freely usable,” or widely used for international transactions and widely traded in major foreign exchange markets, Lagarde said.

“I support the staff’s findings,” she said in a statement immediately welcomed by China’s central bank, which said it hoped the international community would also back the yuan’s inclusion. Staff also gave the green light to Beijing’s efforts to address operational issues identified in a report in July, Lagarde said. The executive board, which represents the Fund’s 188 members, is seen as unlikely to go against a staff recommendation and countries including France and Britain have already pledged their support for the change. This would take effect in October 2016, during China’s leadership of the Group of 20 bloc of advanced and emerging economies. China has rolled out a flurry of reforms recently to liberalize its markets and also help the yuan meet the IMF’s checklist, including scrapping a ceiling on deposit rates, issuing three-month Treasury bills weekly and improving the transparency of Chinese data.

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Sales down 5.3%. Cash evaporating.

VW Said to Seek as Much as €20 Billion in Bridge Funds (Bloomberg)

Volkswagen is working with banks to put together as much as €20 billion in short-term bridge financing to show that the automaker has adequate liquidity to weather the emissions cheating crisis, two people familiar with the matter said. VW does not need the money currently and is seeking extra funds to create a financial cushion, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private talks. The automaker will begin meeting with about a dozen prospective banks on Monday at its headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, to go over the proposed funding, which it aims to have in place before the end of the year, the people said.

“We have always considered that a well-diversified portfolio of funding tools gives us the necessary flexibility to offer appropriate and competitive financing options for our customers as well as our industrial investment needs,” Volkswagen said in an e-mailed statement. “It is perfectly normal that we are in a constructive ongoing dialog.” The scandal has spread since Volkswagen first admitted in September to cheating on diesel pollution tests. The carmaker will need to recall as many as 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide and admitted earlier this month that another 800,000 cars had unexplained inconsistencies in carbon dioxide output. By 2017, the price tag of VW’s emissions woes will probably reach about €25 billion, Barclays estimated on Friday.

“It makes perfect sense” to shore up financing, said Sascha Gommel at Commerzbank. “In order to protect their rating, they need to show that liquidity will never become an issue for them, because then you have a vicious circle. If the ratings agencies think you won’t have cash and they downgrade you, then your funding gets more expensive.” Volkswagen has the equivalent of €2.57 billion in bonds maturing this year, €14.3 billion next year and €13.5 billion in 2017. The company said earlier Friday it has put bond financing on hold because it needs time to update its documentation to reflect potential fines and penalties. Thus far, the automaker has set aside €6.7 billion to recall diesel cars and estimated the economic risk of the CO2 irregularities at another €2 billion.

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Bailed out by workers losing their jobs…

How GM’s Bailout Became China’s Bonanza (Bloomberg)

During the 2012 election, President Barack Obama held up his bailout of General Motors as a model in the fight against China’s growing manufacturing dominance, telling voters that the auto rescue would reverse the industry’s multi-decade trend of outsourcing. A single election cycle later, the question of government support for automakers has all but disappeared from the political discourse, yet Detroit is back to sending jobs out of the industrial Midwest. And now GM is leading the way on Chinese outsourcing, announcing it will become the first U.S. firm to import a vehicle made in China to the U.S. It’s about time taxpayers ask what their $50 billion rescue really bought them. Starting next year, GM will import between 30,000 and 40,000 Buick Envision crossovers annually from a plant in Shandong Province.

That won’t make the Envision one of GM’s best-selling models, but it will greatly outsell the only other Chinese-import car on the market, the Volvo S60L. More importantly, GM’s pioneering Chinese import will likely help break down the consumer stigma attached to Chinese cars, leading the way for other automakers to follow suit. If a bailed-out company can get away with selling Chinese cars in the U.S., there’s no doubt that the rest will try too. The Envision is just the tip of GM’s Chinese iceberg: though the firm has not announced further plans to import other vehicles from Asia, it is increasingly making China a hub for new vehicle development and global exports. The next generation of GM’s small- and medium-sized vehicles will be offered with a new engine and high-tech dual-clutch transmission co-developed with its Chinese partner, the Shanghai Automobile Industry Corporation.

The two companies are also jointly creating an entire family of small vehicles to be exported from China to markets around the world. Taxpayers aren’t the only ones GM appears to be abandoning. The United Auto Workers is incensed by the Envision decision. As union vice president Cindy Estrada told the Detroit Free Press in August when the rumors of the plan surfaced, “after the sacrifices made by U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. workforce to make General Motors the profitable quality company it is today, UAW members are disappointed with the tone-deaf speculation that the Envision would be imported from China.” Yet given that the UAW has a new wage-raising contract nearing ratification, it can be argued that the union may have brought some of this disappointment upon itself.

But perhaps it is in Canada, where the government spent $10 billion rescuing G.M. and Chrysler, where anger is most justified. With GM’s “vitality commitment” – made to protect jobs in Canada as a condition of its bailout – expiring at the end of next year, the automaker has already decided to cut 1,000 jobs from its Oshawa, Ontario, plant when production of the Chevrolet Camaro ends there next week. GM has hinted that more outsourcing could follow. And as a new Liberal government is taking power in Ottawa, GM is pushing for “more amenable” subsidies than the $750 million in loans that had been offered by the outgoing Conservatives. If new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t bow to GM pressure – turning those loans into grants that it need not repay – the automaker may well pull even more jobs from a country that stood by it at its darkest hour.

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“..the right-wing Portuguese president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, a creature of Washington and the big banks..”

Portuguese Revolution Falls Far Short (Paul Craig Roberts)

The austerity imposed on the Portuguese people by the 1% has resulted in the election of a coalition government of socialists, communists, and a “left bloc.” In the 20th century, socialism and the fear of communism humanized Europe, but beginning with Margaret Thatcher the achievements of decades of social reforms have been rolled back throughout Europe as bought-and-paid for governments have given all preference to the One%. Public assets are being privatized, and social pensions and services are being reduced in order to make interest payments to private banks. When the recent Portuguese vote gave a majority to the anti-austerity bloc, the right-wing Portuguese president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, a creature of Washington and the big banks, announced that the leftwing would not be permitted to form a government, just as the senior British general announced that a Labour Government formed by Jeremy Corbyn would not be permitted to form.

True to her word, Anibal reappointed the austerity prime minister, Passos Coelho. However, the unity of the socialists with the communists and the left bloc swept Coelho from office and the president had to recognize a new government. The new government means that for the first in a long time there is a government in Portugual that possibly could represent the people rather than Washington and the One%. However, if the new government leaves the banks in charge and remains committed to the EU, the current president, previous prime minister, and previous finance minister, Maria Luis Albuquerque, will continue to work to overthrow the people’s will as occurred in Greece. The new Portuguese government cannot escape austerity without nationalizing the banks and leaving the EU. The failure of the Greek government to bite the bullet resulted in the Greek government’s acceptance of the austerity that it was elected to oppose.

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No, it’s the EU itself that means war.

EU Commissioner’s Dire Warning: “The Only Alternative To Europe Is War” (ZH)

While the saying goes “good fences make good neighbors,” it appears the leadership of The EU is starting to get frustrated with the lack of acquiescence among some of the ‘union’s’ newer or more marginal members. In a somewhat stunning statement, following ongoing and contentious meetings to discuss solutions to the migrant ‘problem’, EU Commissioner Timmermanns appeared to warn disagreeable member states, “There is an alternative to everything. I believe in EU cooperation because of all other forms in history have been tried to help Europeans get on better, and with the exception of this one, all other forms have led to war – so let’s stick to this one.” As Elsevier reports (via Google Translate),

European leaders read the last few days the alarm about the survival of the European Union (EU). Prague said Commissioner Frans Timmermans (PvdA) Friday that the EU is only one alternative: war. “The only alternative to the EU is war,” said Timmermans Friday gave a speech at a conference in Prague, said a reporter for The Times of London who attended the speech. Timmermans is the way Europe responds to the migration crisis’ the biggest threat to the EU ever. The Commissioner underlined that countries should cooperate better when it comes to border controls. “Migration is part of life, but we must lead these movements together in the right direction,” said Timmermans.

Matching words Timmermans in the alarmist tone that European leaders were heard in recent days about the survival of the EU. Earlier this week, Timmermans at the House of Europe Lecture in Amsterdam that he fears for the survival of the EU. “I do not optimistic about doing that, because I’m just not.

The current migration crisis is the European ideal of free movement shaking on its foundations. EU President Donald Tusk said that the EU is engaged in “a race against the clock.” “But we are determined to win this race,” said Tusk. “As I warned earlier, the only way not to dismantle the Schengen ensure proper management of the external borders of the EU.” The EU appears to be unable to curb migration flows. Because the borders are not guarded, seeing more and more countries are forced to protect their own borders. Even the welcoming Sweden went on Thursday to intensive checks on the southern border.

Remember when Hank Paulson waved the “Mutual Assured Destruction” card in the face of the U.S. with his infamous “blank check” three page term sheet? Now, it’s Europe’s turn. What’s worse, however, for things to devolve this much, it confirms that the European ‘Union’ is rapidly disintegrating, much more than the recent surge in barbed wire fences around European nations will demonstrate, and as Timmermanns warns, that means war.

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Much more than a blind eye.

Greece Says Turkey Turning Blind Eye To Refugee Smugglers (AFP)

Greece’s migration minister on Friday said refugee smuggling in Turkey was conducted in “broad daylight” as he called on the EU to step up relocation plans. “The entries (from Turkey) are happening in an organized fashion,” junior interior minister for migration Yiannis Mouzalas told a news conference. “It is happening in broad daylight, with villages gathering around to watch the refugees being put in boats by the traffickers. There is no secrecy in this,” he said, citing evidence from Turkish media and the Greek coastguard. Greek PM Alexis Tsipras will travel to Turkey next week to press the country’s leaders to take a stronger stance against refugee traffickers.

Turkey “is spending a lot of money, it is holding three million refugees on its soil, but we believe it has the ability and it must acquire the will to stop the flows from its coasts,” Mouzalas said. Greece has been overwhelmed this year by a migration crisis unseen in Europe since the Second World War. The United Nations on Friday said over 800,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year, with over 3,400 dying in the attempt. EU states put together a scheme to share out some 160,000 people inside the bloc, but fewer than 2,000 relocation places have been found so far. And the program is already threatened by undue inflexibility, Mouzalas said.

“One EU country said it was prepared to accept 12 people. We wanted to send 14 as they were a family, and the country did not accept the extra two. Such cancellations could cancel out the substance of relocation,” he said. Greece has pledged to find accommodation for 20,000 refugees by January. Another 20,000 will be temporarily housed in rented flats under a UN scheme, Mouzalas said. And registration centres on Greek islands created with EU funds, known as hotspots, will provide short-term accommodation for over 6,500 people, he said. “If (registration) procedures go smoothly people will stay 48-72 hours” before moving to the mainland, the minister said.

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The EU just throws $3 billion in taxpayer money at Erdogan and hope something sticks.

Greece Warns EU To Hold Turkey To Account On Refugee Crisis (Kath.)

Greece has warned the European Union to obtain specific commitments from Turkey ahead of putting together a €3 billion fund for Ankara to help tackle the refugee crisis. The key role of Turkey in the process of stemming the flow of refugees and migrants was discussed on Friday during the second and last day of a summit in Malta. According to sources, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stressed to his EU counterparts that Brussels has to make it clear what it will be getting in return for providing Turkey with emergency funding and assistance. For instance, Tsipras said that in return for receiving new equipment for its coast guard, Turkey should be made to prove that it is cracking down on human-trafficking gangs.

The Greek premier said that if the EU is going to provide money for the construction of reception centers on Turkish soil, then Ankara has to commit to allowing the relocation of refugees to take place directly from these camps. Also, Tsipras said that if the EU is going to lift visa restrictions on Turkish citizens, Ankara’s readmission agreement with Greece should be upgraded to a pact between Turkey and the EU. It is expected that these will be some of the key points that Tsipras will raise when he visits Ankara next week, ahead of an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels on November 29. Tsipras held a meeting with Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias in Athens on Friday to begin preparation for the upcoming trip to Turkey.

Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas said that Greece has no plans to create more spaces at relocation camps on the eastern Aegean islands beyond those needed as part of Athens’s commitment to the EU for the relocation scheme. Mouzalas said that those refugees who will be included in the transfer process would be moved on from the islands to the mainland. He said the government plans to have reception centers capable of holding 2,000 arrivals on Lesvos, 1,500 on Samos, 1,000 on Chios, 1,000 on Kos and around 800 on Leros.

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Of course private citizens have to do this. Governments are too busy.

World’s Largest Ocean Cleanup Operation One Step Closer To Launch (Guardian)

A crowdfunded 100km-long boom to clean up a vast expanse of plastic rubbish in the Pacific is one step closer to reality after successful tests of a scaled-down prototype in the Netherlands last week. Further trials off the Dutch and Japanese coasts are now slated to begin in the new year. If they are successful, the world’s largest ever ocean cleanup operation will go live in 2020, using a gigantic V-shaped array, the like of which has never been seen before. The so-called ‘Great Pacific garbage patch’, made up largely of tiny bits of plastic trapped by ocean currents, is estimated to be bigger than Texas and reaching anything up to 5.8m sq miles (15m sq km). It is growing so fast that, like the Great Wall of China, it is beginning to be seen from outer space, according to Jacqueline McGlade, the chief scientist of the UN environmental programme (Unep).

“We have to admit that there has been a market failure,” she told the Guardian. “Nevertheless, we have to create a market success that brings in new forms of chemistry and technology.” The Ocean Cleanup project aims to do the technology part with a floating barrier as long as the Karman line that reaches from the sea to outer space. Sea currents and winds will be used to passively funnel plastic debris into an elbow made of vulcanised rubber where it can be concentrated for periodic collection by vessels. Sub-sea buoys at depths of up to 30 metres would anchor the contraption in depths of up to 4.5km. Sea currents flowing beneath its booms would allow fish to escape, while hoovering up 42% of the Pacific’s plastic soup. At least, that is the plan.

“Everything is unknown so everything is a potential problem,” said Lourens Boot, the programme’s chief engineer, who has previously worked on offshore oil and gas rigs. “The risk matrix is big, but one by one we are tackling those risks.” One of the biggest has been finance. Charles Moore, the racing boat captain who discovered the floating vortex in 1997, once said that the cost of a cleaning operation would “bankrupt any country”. But around half the scheme’s initial €30m (£20m) budget has now been raised through online donations and wealthy sponsors. In the long term, the project plans to finance itself with a major retail line of ocean plastic fashion wear.

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Quite a list.

Monstrous Wave Of Paris Attacks Underlines France’s Year Of Terror (RT)

Waves of deadly attacks have held France in a constant state of stress, anger and grief over the past 12 months, as the country has faced a series of deadly assaults and terror acts by radicalized Islamists and jihadists. It all started just before Christmas on December 20, 2014, in the largest suburb of the city of Tours, in Central France, when an attacker of Burundian origin, shouted “Allahu Akbar” [God is great] before attacking officers at a police station with a knife. The assailant, identified as Bertrand Nzohabonayo, injured three policemen before officers took him down. The following day, on December 21, a man in the French city of Dijon run over 11 pedestrians in five areas of the city. The driver – who also shouted “Allahu Akbar” – was arrested. Authorities later stated that the attacker ploughed into passers-by because he suffered from severe psychiatric problems.

On the third day after the initial attack, a man in a white van rammed over ten pedestrians at a Christmas market in the French city of Nantes. The driver is said to have stabbed himself and officials said he appeared to be in an unstable metal condition. One civilian died in those attacks. The spate of attacks forced the French government to heighten security by deploying 300 soldiers onto the country’s streets. In early January, the French nation was in state of horror after a series of five terrorist attacks, which took place in and around Paris. The four attacks killed at least 20 people and wounded dozens more, before three of the assailants were killed by special forces. The fourth terrorist remains at large.

The intimidation of the French public began on January 7, after two gunmen, identified as Cherif and Said Kouachi, attacked the headquarters of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, over the publication’s depiction of the Prophet Mohammed. Twelve people, including two police officers, were killed in the onslaught, while eleven others were injured. The suspects fled the scene. Hours after the Charlie Hebdo attack, a third assailant, Amedy Coulibaly, shot a 32-year-old man who was out for a run in a park near Coulibaly’s home. On January 8, the same attacker shot and killed a municipal police officer in a suburb of Paris. A street sweeper was also wounded in that attack. The following day, on January 9, the Charlie Hebdo attackers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, attacked a signage production company in Dammartin-en-Goele, taking hostages on premises.

At the same time, Coulibaly, entered a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes killing four people and taking the rest of the people in the store hostage. To neutralize the attackers, French special forces conducted simultaneous raids in Dammartin and at Porte de Vincennes, killing three terrorists. The fourth suspect, believed to be Coulibaly’s wife is still on the run. January’s atrocities became the deadliest act of terrorism in France since 1961, when a bomb on a Strasbourg–Paris train took the lives of 28 people. Following Charlie Hebdo attacks, the French government announced the creation of 2,680 new positions in the French military and intelligence agencies. The €425 million program was unrolled with the sole purpose to monitor a population of approximately 3,000 people with any possible connections to terrorist groups abroad. Furthermore, the government deployed some 122,000 police, military and gendarmes to provide security across France.

But terror in France did not stop there. On June 26, 2015 a French Muslim of North African descent, Yassine Salhi, decapitated his employer before driving his van into gas cylinders at a gas factory near Lyon. This caused an explosion and injured two other people. Prior to ramming his van in an effort to destroy the factory, Salhi placed his boss’s decapitated head on a fence along with two Jihadist black flags. The suspect was arrested after being taken down by the firefighters that rushed to the scene. That attack on the factory near Lyon coincided with a number of other Islamist terrorist attacks that have taken place in Tunisia and Kuwait. Finally, before the monstrous wave of attacks on Friday, a Thalys train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris via Brussels was attacked by an assailant who opened fire in a carriage before being subdued by off duty US servicemen aboard the train. Four people were injured but luckily none fatally.

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It’s one approach.

Let Mercy For Refugees Be The Response To The Paris Attacks (Margaret Corvid)

There have been horrible, disgusting terrorist attacks in France this night, with over 120 dead already reported. In response, premier François Hollande has declared a state of emergency for the first time since the Second World War. The media are subject to state control, gendarmes can enter any private home, and the borders are shut. The borders that have been the last hope for so many refugees crowding the camps of Calais and elsewhere, the borders that are so important to the women, children and men shivering in the rain, their feet rotting, have been closed by a frightened France. Probably the rest of Europe will follow suit. I hope not. A handful of terrorists—maybe French nationals, maybe not—blew up a crowd in a stadium with grenades, killed diners and walkers and concert-goers with guns and suicide bombs, traumatizing Paris to its core.

And what Hollande has done in response is to close the borders, the lifeline to the many suffering people fleeing war in Syria—even before we know for sure who the murderers are, or what their aims were. Reports claim the terrorists fought in Syria’s name. But if they did, and if they were ISIS, then the tens of thousands of refugees shivering in camps hate and fear them as much as the friends and families of the dead of Paris do. The refugees huddling in France, Germany, Turkey, Greece, and elsewhere are not the terrorists. They are fleeing the same terrorists—fleeing death, torture and destruction, trusting their lives to crumbling boats, washing up on shore hated, beaten, half-dead—and we are forsaking them.

I am a member of a Facebook group where people organize aid for the refugee camp in the northern seafront town of Calais. Now a shanty town of a full 6,000 refugees, such aid has never been more needed. Shoes are rotting on the feet of the camp’s dwellers as the weather worsens, food and medical care are scarce, and graves are rapidly filling. The lifesavers in the camp are not the government or the UN refugee groups—they are ordinary people connecting with tiny charities to bring desperately needed wood, food, medicine, blankets, water. Closing the borders as the terrifying war continues in Syria will not punish the terrorists; it will only cause more needless suffering and death, including to innocent children.

Why is Hollande using the refugees as hostages, condemning them with his border closure to a death that is slower but no less certain than that of a head chopped by a guillotine, or that of a concert-goer blown up by a grenade? He only helps the terrorists. ISIS and those in the West who hate the refugees want the same thing: martial law, state control of discourse, the spreading of Islamophobia, and a global atmosphere of suspicion and discord. In such a world, ISIS gets its youthful cannon fodder—those disaffected by the climate of hate and brutal racism—and the Front Nationales, the Ukips, all the soft and hard white supremacists of the world, get their white utopia, where a refugee child cannot migrate but guns and money can.

Tonight, Paris mourns, and the world mourns with Paris. I mourn, and my anguish at needless death drives these words. Forsake vengeance. Open the borders, Hollande. Open them even further than the painful trickle that they allowed before, and let mercy be the response to horror. Open them, Cameron. Let those people fleeing for their lives through the borders—through all the borders—fly all the way through to peace and safety in whatever countries they wish to reach. Open the borders, Obama, and let those people through, those people just like us, just like the diners and concert-goers of Paris, who are trying to save their lives.

If they all die of illness and exposure in their tents, fighting starvation, sickness, fire, fear or hate, it will neither save a single life from terrorism, nor avenge a single soul. Even if terrorists slip in among the refugees, each one of them who dies, each day they are locked down, will make more terrorists, watered by the tears of grief of their families and friends. No high-security level can ever end the threat of terrorism. Only mercy can do that; only the mercy of refuge, of acting like the just countries we believe ourselves to be—rather than what the terrorists believe us to be—can make us safe.

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A thousand times faster than the natural rate. We’ll kill it all. Or at least enough to make the earth hostile to our own species.

The Annihilation Of Nature: Human Extinction of Birds and Mammals (Woods Inst.)

This book shows us the face of Earth’s sixth great mass extinction, revealing that this century is a time of darkness for the world’s birds and mammals. In The Annihilation of Nature: Human Extinction of Birds and Mammals, three of today’s most distinguished conservationists tell the stories of the birds and mammals we have lost and those that are now on the road to extinction. These tragic tales, coupled with eighty-three color photographs from the world’s leading nature photographers, display the beauty and biodiversity that humans are squandering. Gerardo Ceballos, Anne H. Ehrlich, and Paul R. Ehrlich serve as witnesses in this trial of human neglect, where the charge is the massive and escalating assault on living things.

Nature is being annihilated, not only because of the human population explosion, but also as a result of massive commercial endeavors and public apathy. Despite the well-intentioned work of conservation organizations and governments, the authors warn us that not enough is being done and time is short for the most vulnerable of the world’s wild birds and mammals. Thousands of populations have already disappeared, other populations are dwindling daily, and soon our descendants may live in a world containing but a minuscule fraction of the birds and mammals we know today. The Annihilation of Nature is a clarion call for engagement and action. These outspoken scientists urge everyone who cares about nature to become personally connected to the victims of our inadequate conservation efforts and demand that restoration replace destruction. Only then will we have any hope of preventing the worst-case scenario of the sixth mass extinction.

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