Jun 112019

While filming “The African Queen” everyone fell sick from drinking the water except for Humphrey Bogart and John Huston, who drank whiskey



Luke Harding is a former journalist for the Guardian. I say former because while he is still writing for the paper, he lost his one remaining shred of credibility last November with an article about Paul Manafort visiting Julian Assange multiple times in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which soon was discredited as badly as an article can be, but has still not been retracted or corrected by the paper.

If you get caught in that kind of nonsense, you’re surely not a journalist. Of course that was just one in an endless list of blubber that Harding produced about the likes of Assange and Trump. And Putin of course. And now he’s back with more. About Putin.

Somewhere in this new article by Luke Harding and Jason Burke for the venerable publication, they say that Russia only became interested in Africa in 2014. And obviously you know you can stop reading right there. Russia’s been interested in Africa for decades. Because it’s laden with resources. Because everybody else is there to get to those resources.

But Harding manages to write up a piece that makes Russia’s interest terribly suspicious and menacing. Because, you know, Skripal. The Russians did it. He’s basing this on docs he claims to have seen, but doesn’t provide, given to him by an “investigative unit” based in London and funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Putin’s worst domestic enemy.


Leaked Documents Reveal Russian Effort To Exert Influence In Africa

Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents”, leaked documents reveal.

There are 54 countries in Africa today. Russia SEEKS to bolster its presence in 13. Scary! At the same time, how many countries do you think France has a presence in? Or UK, Italy, US? How about China? And now that we’re on the subject, what do you think they’re all taking out of Africa, leaving the people behind with nothing?

And Russia is supposed to be the threat? You ever heard about Belgian King Leopold and the Congo, and the millions of deaths he caused? 60 years ago there were still African children paraded out in ”human zoos” in Belgium. But Russia is the threat?! How about a history lesson or two?

The mission to increase Russian influence on the continent is being led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman based in St Petersburg who is a close ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. One aim is to “strong-arm” the US and the former colonial powers the UK and France out of the region. Another is to see off “pro-western” uprisings, the documents say.

In 2018 the US special counsel Robert Mueller indicted Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” because of his Kremlin catering contracts. According to Mueller, his troll factory ran an extensive social media campaign in 2016 to help elect Donald Trump.

Prigozhin is a caterer who runs a troll factory. Not saying this is impossible, but it’s certainly poorly written.

The Wagner group – a private military contractor linked to Prigozhin – has supplied mercenaries to fight in Ukraine and Syria. The documents show the scale of Prigozhin-linked recent operations in Africa, and Moscow’s ambition to turn the region into a strategic hub.

What operations? Catering operations?

Multiple firms linked to the oligarch, including Wagner, are known by employees as the “Company”. Its activities are coordinated with senior officials inside Russia’s foreign and defence ministries, the documents suggest.

And we have a picture of the beast. Not scary enough? We’ll get one where he eats babies.


Yevgeny Prigozhin in Vladivostok in 2016. Photograph: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Putin showed little interest in Africa in the 2000s. But western sanctions imposed in 2014 over the annexation of Crimea have driven Moscow to seek new geopolitical friends and business opportunities.

Oh yeah, sure, Russia only started looking at Africa in 2014. See, stop reading right there…

Russia has a military presence and peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic. CAR is described as “strategically important” and a “buffer zone between the Muslim north and Christian south”. It allows Moscow to expand “across the continent”, and Russian companies to strike lucrative mineral deals, the documents say.

On 24 May the Kremlin announced it was dispatching a team of army specialists to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press spokesman, they will service Russian-made military equipment. So far Moscow has signed military cooperation deals with about 20 African states.

The west, France, UK, US, has literally raped the Congo, richer than any other place on earth in resources, for many many decades. And now that Russia starts looking, the west gets a dumb fcuk like Harding to write up a scare story about it.

Five days later the Kremlin said it would host the first ever Russia-Africa summit in October in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. Putin and Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, will chair the event. About 50 African leaders are due to attend. The aim is to foster political, economic and cultural cooperation.

The leaked documents were obtained by the Dossier Center, an investigative unit based in London. The centre is funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian businessman and exiled Kremlin critic.

Prigozhin has been approached for comment. He has previously denied any links to the troll factory and has said of Wagner that it does not exist. Putin has previously said that entities linked to Prigozhin do not constitute the Russian state.

A map from December 2018 seen by the Guardian shows the level of cooperation between the “Company” and African governments, country by country. Symbols indicate military, political and economic ties, police training, media and humanitarian projects, and “rivalry with France”. Five is the highest level; one is the lowest.

The closest relations are with CAR, Sudan and Madagascar – all put at five. Libya, Zimbabwe and South Africa are listed as four, according to the map, with South Sudan at three, and DRC, Chad and Zambia at two.

Other documents cite Uganda, Equatorial Guinea and Mali as “countries where we plan to work”. Libya and Ethiopia are flagged as nations “where cooperation is possible”. The Kremlin has recently stepped up its ground operation in Libya. Last November the Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar travelled to Moscow and met the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu. Prigozhin was spotted at the talks. Egypt is described as “traditionally supportive”.



We don’t get to hear where Khodorkovsky got the docs from or how reliable they are, and we don’t get to see any of them. We have to believe Luke Harding on his blue eyes. But even then, is there anything shocking here for the non-Skripal crowd? Or is Harding just once more doing the MI6’s job for them?

The graphic gives an overview of “Company” activities and achievements. It claims credit in CAR for getting of rid of politicians who are “orientated to France”, including national assembly representatives and the foreign minister. This appears to be Charles-Armel Doubane, sacked in December. It has “strengthened” the army and set up newspapers and a radio station. Russia is an “83% friend”, it says.

In Madagascar the new president, Andry Rajoelina, won election with “the Company’s support”, the map says. Russia “produced and distributed the island’s biggest newspaper, with 2 million copies a month”, it adds. Rajoelina denies receiving assistance.

Another key territory is Sudan. Last year Russian specialists drew up a programme of political and economic reform, designed to keep President Omar al-Bashir in power. It included a plan to smear anti-government protesters, apparently copy-pasted from tactics used at home against the anti-Putin opposition. (One memo mistakenly says “Russia” instead of “Sudan”.)

One ploy was to use fake news and videos to portray demonstrators in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities as “anti-Islam”, “pro-Israel” and “pro-LGBT”. The government was told to increase the price of newsprint – to make it harder for critics to get their message out – and to discover “foreigners” at anti-government rallies.

I love it when people like Harding use the term “fake news”. Because he’s the very person who’s been caught producing just that, in the Manafort-visits-Assange article mentioned above. That was 100% fake.

Now, don’t get me wrong please. Of course Russia tries to play out factions and parties and countries against one another. Like all others do. They may do it in Sudan, in Comoros, examples Harding makes claims about, and elsewhere:

[..] Other suggestions in the documents include trans-African road and rail-building schemes. A railway could be built linking Dakar in Senegal with Port Sudan in Sudan, along the “old hajj [pilgrimage] route”. A separate 2,300-mile (3,700km) toll road was proposed connecting Port Sudan with Douala in Cameroon. Neither has so far happened.

A plan to revive “pan-African consciousness” appears closely modelled on the idea of Russkiy Mir, or Russian world. The concept has become fashionable under Putin and signifies Russian power and culture extended beyond current borders.

Have you ever seen purer baloney? Russia trying to get Africa to unite because that would look like some ancient idea of turning the whole world Russian? Maybe Stalin has such ideas, but he was Soviet, not Russian, and Putin, who is Russian, doesn’t have it, as you can grasp from his military expenditures. All Putin wants is to keep Russia safe from American and NATO invasions.

One working paper is titled “African world”. It calls for a developing “African self-identity”. It recommends collecting a database of Africans living in the US and Europe, which might be used to groom “future leaders” and “agents of influence”. The eventual goal is a “loyal chain of representatives across African territory”, the March 2018 paper says.

That little paragraph says it all. There’s not one little letter in there that poses any threat to anyone.

More immediate practical measures include setting up Russian-controlled non-governmental organisations in African states and organising local meetings. It is unclear how many Prigozhin initiatives have actually gone forward. There is evidence that media projects mentioned in the documents are now up and running – albeit with marginal impact. They include a website, Africa Daily Voice, with its HQ in Morocco, and a French-language news service, Afrique Panorama, based in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo. Russian operatives also offer thoughts on global politics. One policy paper, titled “Russian influence in Africa”, says Moscow needs to find “reliable partners among African states” and should establish military bases.

And there the whole story has fizzled out into emptiness. Yeah, it says with some vague thing about military bases, but do you know how many western military bases there are in Africa? Tons. So there’s nothing left, zero, from the original threatening tone Harding started off with, but it doesn’t matter, because who’s going to read the whole thing anyway?

Main thing is, the tone, the narrative, have been established once more. Putin is a big threat, re: Skripal and eating babies, and so are Trump and Assange. And they all work together to bring down your safety and quality of life. No, your own government doesn’t do that!





Jul 052018
 July 5, 2018  Posted by at 8:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »

Vincent van Gogh Ravine 1889


China Warns US ‘Opening Fire’ On World With Tariff Threats (R.)
China Denies It Will Be First To Impose Tariffs On $34bn Of US Goods (G.)
Europe Turns Down Chinese Offer For Grand Alliance Against The US (ZH)
EU Reportedly Considering International Talks To Cut Car Tariffs (CNBC)
Germany’s Massive Trade Surplus ‘Is Becoming Toxic,’ Ifo Director Says (CNBC)
Tories ‘Toast’ If They Don’t Deliver On Brexit, Theresa May Warned (Sky)
There Is Only Option On The Table: Soft Brexit (G.)
UK Home Office Separating Scores Of Children From Parents (Ind.)
Bank of Japan Takes Away Punch Bowl, Balance Sheet Declines (WS)
India Is Emerging As Ground Zero Of The World’s Biggest NPL Crisis (ZH)
Kim Dotcom Loses New Zealand Extradition Appeal (AFP)
Babies (CJ)




China Warns US ‘Opening Fire’ On World With Tariff Threats (R.)

The United States is “opening fire” on the world with its threatened tariffs, the Chinese government warned on Thursday, saying Beijing will respond the instant U.S. measures go into effect as the two locked horns in a bitter trade war. The Trump administration’s tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports are due to go into effect at 12.01 am eastern time on Friday (0401 GMT Friday), which is just after midday on Friday Beijing time. U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to escalate the trade conflict with tariffs on as much as a total of $450 billion in Chinese goods if Beijing retaliates, with the row roiling financial markets including stocks, currencies and global trade of commodities from soy beans to coal.

China has said it will not “fire the first shot”, but its customs agency said on Thursday in a short statement that Chinese tariffs on U.S. goods will take effect immediately after Washington’s tariffs on Chinese goods kick in. Speaking at a weekly news conference, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng warned the proposed U.S. tariffs would hit international supply chains, including foreign companies in the world’s second-largest economy. “If the U.S. implements tariffs, they will actually be adding tariffs on companies from all countries, including Chinese and U.S. companies,” Gao said. “U.S. measures are essentially attacking global supply and value chains. To put it simply, the U.S. is opening fire on the entire world, including itself,” he said.

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Well, obviously.

China Denies It Will Be First To Impose Tariffs On $34bn Of US Goods (G.)

China has denied it will fire the opening salvo in an escalating trade dispute with the US, insisting that it would not bring in 25% tariffs on $34bn (£26bn) of American goods before a move from Washington. Both sides have threatened to impose similarly sized tariffs on 6 July, but because of the 12-hour time difference, it was thought the Chinese tariffs on US imports ranging from soybean to stainless steel pipes could take effect earlier. However, China’s finance ministry issued a statement on Wednesday saying that it would not be the first to levy tariffs.

“The Chinese government’s position has been stated many times. We absolutely will not fire the first shot, and will not implement tariff measures ahead of the United States doing so.” The US will implement a 25% tariff on $34bn of Chinese imports – 818 product lines ranging from cars to vaporisers and “smart home” devices – on Friday. There had been hopes the US and China might step away from the measures, but neither side has backed down. Economists have warned that the tariffs will damage economic growth and cost jobs, and could escalate into a full-blown trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

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Europe Turns Down Chinese Offer For Grand Alliance Against The US (ZH)

Publicizing its growing exasperation in dealing with president Donald Trump who refuses to halt the tit-for-tat retaliation in the growing trade war with China – which is set to officially begin on Friday when the US slaps $34 billion in Chinese exports with 25% tariffs – but has a habit of doubling down the threatened US reaction to every Chinese trade counteroffer (after all the US imports far more Chinese goods than vice versa)…China has proposed a novel idea: to form an alliance with the EU – the world’s largest trading block – against the US, while promising to open up more of China’s economy to European corporations.

The idea was reportedly floated in meetings in Brussels, Berlin and Beijing, between senior Chinese officials, including Vice Premier Liu He and the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, according to Reuters. Willing to use either a carrot or a stick to achieve its goals, in these meetings China has been putting pressure on the European Union to issue a strong joint statement against President Donald Trump’s trade policies at a summit later this month. However, perhaps because China’s veneer of the leader of the free trade world is so laughably shallow – China was and remains a pure mercantilist power, whose grand total of protectionist policies put both the US and Europe to shame – the European Union has outright rejected any idea of allying with Beijing against Washington ahead of a Sino-European summit in Beijing on July 16-17.

Instead, in the tradition of every grand, if ultimately worthless meeting of the G-X nations, the summit is expected to produce a “modest communique”, which affirms the commitment of both sides to the multilateral trading system and promises to set up a working group on modernizing the WTO. Incidentally, the past two summits, in 2016 and 2017, ended without a statement due to disagreements over the South China Sea and trade. Then there is China’s “free-trade” reputation: a recent Rhodium Group report showed that Chinese restrictions on foreign investment are higher in every single sector save real estate, compared to the European Union, while many of the big Chinese takeovers in the bloc would not have been possible for EU companies in China. And while China has promised to open up, EU officials expect any moves to be more symbolic than substantive.

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EU Reportedly Considering International Talks To Cut Car Tariffs (CNBC)

European officials are considering holding talks on a tariff-cutting deal between the world’s largest car exporters to prevent an all-out trade war with the U.S., according to the Financial Times who cited diplomats briefed on the matter. The proposal is being looked at by officials in Brussels, the administrative heartland of the European Union, ahead of a meeting between Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and President Donald Trump in Washington later in July, the report published Wednesday said.

The FT reported that three diplomats, which it did not name, said the European Commission “is studying whether it would be feasible to negotiate a deal with other big car exporters such as the U.S., South Korea and Japan.” Such a move could address Trump’s complaint that the U.S. sector is unfairly treated, while reducing export costs for other participating countries’ auto sectors. “Under such a deal, participants would reduce tariffs to agreed levels for a specified set of products — a concept in international trade known as a ‘plurilateral agreement’ that lets countries strike deals on tariffs without including the entire membership of the WTO,” the FT said.

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Even Italy has a big surplus.

Germany’s Massive Trade Surplus ‘Is Becoming Toxic,’ Ifo Director Says (CNBC)

Germany exporting more than it imports is becoming a big problem for its economy, a director from the country’s closely-watched Ifo Institute said Wednesday. “(The trade surplus) is turning out to be an increasing issue, not just with the U.S. but with other trade partners as well, and also within the European Union,” Gabriel Felbermayr, the director of the Ifo Center for International Economics at the Munich-based institute, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe. “The surplus is becoming toxic, and also within Germany many argue now that we need to do something about it with the purpose of lowering it. It turns out to be a liability rather than an asset.”

Germany’s export-orientated, manufacturing economy and its resulting trade surplus — the value of its exports exceeding that of its imports — has long been a subject of criticism and Berlin has been pressured to encourage more domestic spending and boost imports. Trade surpluses are viewed as encouraging trade protectionism and worsening the economic problems of other countries. Germany’s trade surplus fell in 2017 for the first time since 2009, shrinking to $300.9 billion, data published in February by the country’s Federal Statistics Office showed. Still, its trade surplus with the U.S. was $64 billion.

[..] Eric Lonergan, macro fund manager at M&G, told CNBC on Wednesday that Trump might be mollified by European countries promising to address their current account surpluses. A current account surplus is a broader measure of the trade surplus, plus earnings from foreign investments and transfer payments. “(Regarding the trade surplus) the truth is it’s not just Germany anymore — central and eastern Europe, if you look at Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and take them as an aggregate, were running a big current account deficit before, now they’re running a big current account surplus,” he said. “Italy’s running a big current account surplus, the periphery is — so it’s the ‘Germanification’ of the whole of greater Europe.”

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Rumor has it that Boris Johnson will resign. Maybe he’ll wait until after England lose to Sweden in the World Cup.

Tories ‘Toast’ If They Don’t Deliver On Brexit, Theresa May Warned (Sky)

Theresa May has been warned the Tories will be “toast” if they fail to deliver on their Brexit promises, as eurosceptic MPs maintain the pressure on the prime minister ahead of a crunch meeting of her top team. As the PM prepares to gather ministers at her country retreat of Chequers on Friday, she has been put on notice by the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative backbenchers. Around 40 members of the ERG met with chief whip Julian Smith on Wednesday, reports Sky’s senior political correspondent Beth Rigby. Our correspondent said that they told Mr Smith the party will be “toast” if it “welches” on its previous Brexit promises, adding that the roughly £40bn “divorce bill” should only be paid to Brussels on condition of getting a deal.

After the meeting, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who chairs the ERG, told Sky News that Mr Smith “doesn’t determine policies” and so backbench Brexiteers remain in the dark over the government’s plans beyond media reports. Asked about suggestions the PM could propose a UK-EU deal that keeps regulatory alignment with Brussels for goods, as well as keeping the same level of tariffs as the EU, Mr Rees-Mogg warned such an agreement is “not Brexit”. He insisted continued regulatory alignment would mean the UK “cannot do trade deals with the rest of the world” and would mean “we haven’t really left the EU”. “Indeed, worse than that, we’re a vassal state because we take the EU’s rules and have no say over them,” the Leave supporter added.

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Not for the diehards.

There Is Only Option On The Table: Soft Brexit (G.)

The proverbial can has been kicked down the proverbial road ever since Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016. Don’t get me wrong. Can-kicking has a necessary place in politics. Theresa May has often had little choice but to resort to it. But the road and the can-kicking must end at Chequers on Friday. That’s when the prime minister and her divided cabinet must finally decide what kind of relationship they seek with the EU after Brexit. In the end, May’s government faces the same two choices at Chequers that it has faced throughout all the twists and turns of the Brexit negotiations.

Either the government must embrace a form of soft Brexit that it can then persuade the rest of Europe to accept as a proper basis for good future relations – the option that May herself and the chancellor, Philip Hammond, both prefer and will put forward – or it must reject that option and prepare for a no-deal Brexit, in which all of Britain’s economic and political relations with Europe and the rest of the world become matters of pure conjecture. There are no other choices on the table. If Brexit is to go ahead, it is simply one or the other. This means, therefore, that only the first of the two choices is in fact a serious option.

If the cabinet rejects May’s and Hammond’s approach and adopts a no-deal option as government policy, there would be both a parliamentary and an extra-parliamentary revolt against it. Large businesses such as British Airways might relocate to Europe. Labour might even find an explicit anti-Brexit voice. One way or another, the no-deal approach would therefore explode on the launch pad. And Brexit might even not take place. Most ministers are neither idiots nor wreckers, so the no-deal option is not going to happen. It is even questionable as to whether any of the no-dealers will resign. The much more serious question, though, is whether the soft Brexit package that May wants to sell to the cabinet is much of a runner either.

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If they’re capable of Windrush, they can do this too.

UK Home Office Separating Scores Of Children From Parents (Ind.)

The Home Office is separating scores of children from their parents as part of its immigration detention regime – in some cases forcing them into care in breach of government policy. Schools, the NHS and social services have written letters to the department begging them to release parents from detention because of the damaging impact it is having on their children. Bail for Immigration Detainees (Bid), a charity that supports people in detention, said they have seen 170 children separated from their parents by the Home Office in the past year – and believes there are likely to be many more.While usually the youngsters remain in the care of their other parent, the charity has seen a number of cases where children are taken into local authority care as a result of the detention.

Case workers highlight that this is in breach of Home Office guidelines, which state that a child “must not be separated from both adults if the consequence of that decision is that the child is taken into care”. In one case, three young children were taken into care for several days after their dad was detained earlier this year – an experience that left them traumatised and fearful that he will be “taken away” again. Kenneth Oranyendu, 46, was detained in March while his wife was abroad for her father’s funeral. Despite the Home Office being aware of this, they kept him in detention and his four young children were forced to go into care.

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Japan’s toast without the punch bowl.

Bank of Japan Takes Away Punch Bowl, Balance Sheet Declines (WS)

In June, total assets on the Bank of Japan’s balance sheet dropped by ¥3.79 trillion yen ($34 billion) from May, to ¥537 trillion ($4.87 trillion). It was the third month-over-month drop in seven months, and the first such drops since late 2012, when the Abenomics-designed blistering “QQE” (Qualitative and Quantitative Easing) kicked off. So has the “QQE Unwind” commenced? This chart shows the month-to-month changes of the total balance sheet. Note the trend over the past 16 months and the three “QQE unwind” episodes (red):

But this sporadic balance sheet reduction and the overall “tapering” of its growth contradict the official rhetoric. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda along with most of his colleagues keep insisting that the BOJ would “patiently” maintain its ultra-easy monetary policy and that it would “keep expanding the monetary base until inflation is above 2%.” The blistering asset purchases would add about ¥80 trillion ($725 billion) to the balance sheet every year. And the BOJ has repeatedly affirmed its short-term interest-rate target of a negative -0.1%.

[..][ Under QQE, the BOJ has been buying mostly Japanese government securities (JGBs and short-term bills); it also purchased corporate bonds, Japanese REITs, and equity ETFs. But now, the party appears to be ending, despite the speeches to the contrary. From the distance, however, the flattening out (tapering) of the BOJ’s assets is barely noticeable, given the magnitude of the whole pile that amounts to about 96% of Japan’s GDP (the Fed’s balance sheet amounted to about 23% of US GDP at the peak):

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I’d say China is much worse than the graph indicates.

India Is Emerging As Ground Zero Of The World’s Biggest NPL Crisis (ZH)

While bad loans in the Italian banking system have received a ton of attention from investors who fear that the Italians could inadvertently blow up the European banking union, it’s not the only financial landmine lurking among the world’s ten largest economies. To wit, while Italy has the largest percentage of non-performing loans among the world’s largest economies, India isn’t far behind and India’s economic recovery is built on an even shakier foundation. According to Bloomberg, India’s $1.7 trillion formal banking sector is presently struggling with $210 billion in bad loans, most of which are concentrated within its state-owned banks. During the 2018 fiscal year, growth slowed to 6.7%, down from the previous year’s 7.1%, back to its levels from 2014, before Modi came to power.

The state banks have been so badly mismanaged that some analysts say the country’s banking crisis is an opportunity for private sector banks, as CNBC reported. “If you take a 10-year view, currently the private sector banks’ market share is 30 percent. Probably it will become 60 percent,” Sukumar Rajah, senior managing director at Franklin Templeton Emerging Markets Equity, told CNBC. As a result, he said, “the overall health of the banking system will improve because the better banks will be a bigger portion of the market and the weaker banks will become a smaller portion of the market.”

Some also see opportunities for investment bankers looking to underwrite corporate bond issuance in the country.. “My view is that, incrementally, a lot of long-term financing of corporate India can also be met by the corporate bond market, which has developed reasonably well,” he said. “Between the corporate bond market and the private banks, I think most of the requirements can be met as far as corporate India is concerned.” When it comes to lending directly to individuals, Prasad said that is mostly done by the private banks and non-banking financial companies.

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Can’t extradite someone who has broken none of your laws.

Kim Dotcom Loses New Zealand Extradition Appeal (AFP)

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom suffered a major setback in his epic legal battle against online piracy charges Thursday when New Zealand’s Court of Appeal ruled he was eligible for extradition to the United States. The German national, who is accused of netting millions from his file sharing Megaupload empire, faces charges of racketeering, fraud and money laundering in the US, carrying jail terms of up to 20 years. Dotcom had asked the court to overturn two previous rulings that the Internet mogul and his three co-accused be sent to America to face charges. Instead, a panel of three judges backed the FBI-led case, which began with a raid on Dotcom’s Auckland mansion in January 2012 and has dragged on for more than six years.

The court said US authorities had “a clear prima facie case to support the allegations that the appellants conspired to, and did, breach copyright wilfully and on a massive scale for commercial gain”. Dotcom is accused of industrial-scale online piracy via Megaupload, which US authorities shut down when the raid took place. They allege Megaupload netted more than US$175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners US$500 million-plus by offering pirated content including films and music. “We are disappointed with today’s judgment by the NZ Court of Appeal in the Kim Dotcom case,” his lawyer Ira Rothken tweeted, indicating there would be an appeal to the Supreme Court.

“We have now been to three courts each with a different legal analysis – one of which thought that there was no copyright infringement at all.” Dotcom and his co-accused – Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk – have denied any wrongdoing and say Megaupload was simply a case of established interests being threatened by online innovation. The website was an early example of cloud computing, allowing users to upload large files onto a server so others could easily download them without clogging up their email systems. At its height in 2011, Megaupload claimed to have 50 million daily users and account for 4% of the world’s internet traffic.

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How people are made.

Babies (CJ)

When a baby is born, its parents teach it how to eat solid foods and walk and talk, which generally works out fine. Then they start teaching the baby all the lies their parents taught them, and things start to get messy. When the baby is old enough, they send it to school, where it spends twelve years being taught lies about how the world works so that one day it will be able to watch CNN and say “Yes, this makes perfect sense” instead of “This is ridiculous” or “Why does this whole entire thing seem completely fake?” or “I want to punch Chris Cuomo in the throat.” The baby is taught history, which is the study of the ancient, leftover propaganda from whichever civilization happened to win the wars in a given place at a given time.

The baby is taught geography, so that later on when its country begins bombing another country, the baby’s country won’t be embarrassed if its citizens cannot find that country on a globe. The baby is taught obedience, and the importance of performing meaningless tasks in a timely manner. This prepares the baby for the half century of pointless gear-turning it will be expected to undertake after graduation. The baby is taught that it lives in a free country, with a legitimate electoral system which facilitates meaningful elections of actual representatives in a real government. It is never taught that those elections, representatives and government are all owned and operated by the very rich, who use them to ensure policies which make them even richer while keeping everyone else as poor as possible so that they won’t have to share political power.

It is never taught that highly secretive intelligence and defense agencies form alliances with those rich people to advance murderous and exploitative agendas for profit and power. It is never taught that the things it sees on television are mostly lies. The baby is smoothly, seamlessly funneled from uterus to full-time employment through this system, often with a little religion mixed in to really drive home the importance of obedience and meekness and the nobility of poverty.

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Waiting for my man

Dec 122015
 December 12, 2015  Posted by at 4:23 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »

Nickolay Lamm Jefferson Memorial under 25 feet of water

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius just announced, in Paris, a “legally binding agreement” that no-one has agreed the financing for. We can hear a couple thousand lawyers across the globe snicker. But it’s all the COP21 ‘oh-so-important’ climate conference managed to come up with. No surprises there. They couldn’t make the 2ºC former goal stick, so they go for 1.5ºC this time. All on red, double or nothing. Because who really cares among the leadership, just as long as the ‘targets’ are far enough away that they can’t be held accountable.

I’ve been writing the following through the past days, and wondering if I should post it, because I know so many readers of the Automatic Earth have so much emotion invested in these things, and they’re good and fine emotions. But some things must still be said regardless of consequences. Precisely because of that kind of reaction. No contract is legally binding if there’s no agreement on payment. Nobody has a legal claim on your home without it being specified that, if, when and how they’re going to pay for it.

I understand some people may get offended by some of the things I have to say about this – though not all for the same reasons either-, but please try and understand that and why the entire CON21 conference has offended me. After watching the horse and pony show just now, I thought I’d let ‘er rip:

I don’t know what makes me lose faith in mankind faster, the way we destroy our habitat through wanton random killing of everything alive, plants, animals and people, through pollution and climate change and blood-thirsty sheer stupidity, or if it is the way these things are being ‘protested’.

I’m certainly not a climate denier or anything like that, though I do think there are questions people gloss over very easily. And one of those questions has to be that of priorities. Is there anyone who has thought over whether the COP21 stage in Paris is the right one to target in protest, whatever shape it takes? Is there anyone who doesn’t think the ‘leaders’ are laughing out loud in -plush, fine wine and gourmet filled- private about the protests?

Protesters and other well-intended folk, from what I can see, are falling into the trap set for them: they are the frame to the picture in a political photo-op. They allow the ‘leaders’ to emanate the image that yes, there are protests and disagreements as everyone would expect, but that’s just a sign that people’s interests are properly presented, so all’s well.

COP21 is not a major event, that’s only what politicians and media make of it. In reality, it’s a mere showcase in which the protesters have been co-opted. They’re not in the director’s chair, they’re not even actors, they’re just extras.

I fully agree, and more than fully sympathize, with the notion of saving this planet before it’s too late. But I wouldn’t want to rely on a bunch of sociopaths to make it happen. There are children drowning every single day in the sea between Turkey and Greece, and the very same world leaders who are gathered in Paris are letting that happen. They have for a long time, without lifting a finger. And they’ve done worse -if that is possible-.

The only thing standing between the refugees and even greater and more lethal carnage are a wide, even confusingly so, array of volunteers, and the people of the Greek coastguard, who by now must be so traumatized from picking up little wide-eyed lifeless bodies from the water and the beaches, they’ll live the rest of their lives through sleepless nightmares.

Neither Obama nor Merkel nor Hollande will have those same nightmares. And let’s be honest, will you? You weren’t even there. And still, you guys are targeting a conference in Paris on climate change that features the exact same leaders that let babies drown with impunity. Drowned babies, climate change and warfare, these things all come from the same source. And you’re appealing to that very same source to stop climate change.

What on earth makes you think the leaders you appeal to would care about the climate when they can’t be bothered for a minute with people, and the conditions they live in, if they’re lucky enough to live at all? Why are you not instead protesting the preventable drownings of innocent children? Or is it that you think the climate is more important than human life? That perhaps one is a bigger issue than the other?

Moreover, the very same leaders that you for some reason expect to save the planet -which they won’t- don’t just let babies drown, they also, in the lands the refugees are fleeing, kill children and their parents on a daily basis with bombs and drones. Dozens, hundreds, if not thousands, every single day. That’s how much they care for a ‘healthy’ planet (how about we discuss what that actually is?).

And in the hallways of the CON21 conference they’ve been actively discussing plans to do more of the same, more killing, more war. Save the world, bombs away! That’s their view of the planet. And they’re supposed to save ‘the climate’?

There are a number of reasons why the CON21 conference will not move us one inch towards saving this planet. One of the biggest is outlined in just a few quoted words from a senior member of India’s delegation -nothing new, but a useful reminder.

India Opposes Deal To Phase Out Fossil Fuels By 2100

India would reject a deal to combat climate change that includes a pledge for the world to wean itself off fossil fuels this century, a senior official said, underlying the difficulties countries face in agreeing how to slow global warming.

India, the world’s third largest carbon emitter, is dependent on coal for most of its energy needs, and despite a pledge to expand solar and wind power has said its economy is too small and its people too poor to end use of the fossil fuel anytime soon. “It’s problematic for us to make that commitment at this point in time. It’s certainly a stumbling block (to a deal),” Ajay Mathur, a senior member of India’s negotiating team for Paris, told Reuters in an interview this week.

“The entire prosperity of the world has been built on cheap energy. And suddenly we are being forced into higher cost energy. That’s grossly unfair,” he said.

This means the ‘poorer’ countries, -by no means just India; China has 155 more coal plants in the pipeline despite their pollution levels moving ‘beyond index’-, the poorer counties won’t volunteer to lower their emissions unless richer nations lower theirs even a lot more. US per capita emissions are over 10 times higher than India’s, those of the EU six times. Ergo: Step 1: lower US emissions by 90%. It also means that richer nations won’t do this, because it would kill their economies.

Which, in case you haven’t noticed, are already doing very poorly, much worse than the media -let alone politicians- will tell you. In fact, the chances that the richer countries will ‘recover’ from the effects of their debt binge are about on par with those of renewable energy sources becoming cheaper than fossil fuels -barring subsidies. If only because producing them depends entirely on those same fossil fuels. All the rest of what you hear is just con.

The people of India obviously know it, and you might as well. It’s going to cost many trillions of dollars to replace even a halfway substantial part of our fossil energy use with renewables, and we already don’t have that kind of money today. We will have much less tomorrow.

Besides, despite all the talk of Big Oil turning into Big Energy, Shell et al are not energy companies, they’re oil -and gas- companies, and they’ll defend their (near) monopolies tooth and claw. Especially now that their market caps are sinking like so many stones. They have no money left to invest in anything, let alone an industry that’s not theirs. They lost some $250 billion in ‘value’ this week alone. They’re getting killed.

In the same vein, China can’t close more than a token few of its most polluting plants. China’s getting killed economically. And for all nations and corporations there’s one principle that trumps all: competitive advantage. If going ‘green’ means losing that, or even some of it, forget it. We won’t volunteer to go green if it makes us less rich.

And who do you think represents big oil -and the bankers that finance them- more than anyone else? Right, your same leaders again, who make you pay for the by now very extensive and expensive security details that keep them from having to face you. Just like they’re planning to make you pay dearly for the illusion of a world running on renewables.

Because that’s where the profit is: in the illusion.

Whatever makes most money is what will drive people’s, corporations’, and nations’ actions going forward. Saving energy and/or substituting energy sources is not what makes most money, and it will therefore not happen. Not on any meaningful scale, that is.

There will be attempts to force people to pay through the nose to soothe their consciences -which will be very profitable for those on the receiving end-, but people’s ability to pay for this is shrinking fast, so that won’t go anywhere.

The only thing that could help save this planet is for all westerners to reduce their energy use by 90%+, but, though it is theoretically and technically feasible, it won’t happen because the majority of us won’t give up even a part of our wealth, and the powers that be in today’s economies refuse to see their profits (re: power) and those of their backers go up in -ever hotter- air.

The current economic model depends on our profligate use of energy. A new economic model, then, you say? Good luck with that. The current one has left all political power with those who profit most from it. And besides, that’s a whole other problem, and a whole other issue to protest.

If you’re serious about wanting to save the planet, and I have no doubt you are, then I think you need to refocus. COP21 is not your thing, it’s not your stage. It’s your leaders’ stage, and your leaders are not your friends. They don’t even represent you either. The decisions that you want made will not be made there.

There will be lofty declarations loaded with targets for 2030, 2050 and 2100, and none of it will have any real value. Because none of the ‘leaders’ will be around to be held accountable when any of those dates will come to pass.

An imploding global economy may be your best shot at lowering emissions. But then again, it will lead to people burning anything they can get their hands on just to keep warm. Not a pretty prospect either. To be successful, we would need to abandon our current political and economic organizational structures, national governments and ‘up’, which select for the sociopaths that gather behind their heavy security details to decide on your future while gloating with glee in their power positions.

Better still, we should make it impossible for any single one of them to ever be elected to any important position ever again. For now, though, our political systems don’t select for those who care most for the world, or its children. We select for those who promise us the most wealth. And we’re willing to turn a blind eye to very many things to acquire that wealth and hold on to it.

The entire conference is just an exercise in “feel good”, on all sides. Is there anyone out there who really thinks the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson will do anything at all to stop this world from burning to the ground? You have any idea what their ecological footprints are?

Sometimes I think it’s the very ignorance of the protesting side that dooms this planet. There’s a huge profit-seeking sociopathic part of the equation, which has caused the problems in the first place, and there’s no serious counterweight in sight.

Having these oversized walking talking ego’s sign petitions and declarations they know they will never have to live up to is completely useless. Branson will still fly his planes, Gates will keep running his ultra-cooled server parks, and Obama and Merkel will make sure their economies churn out growth ahead of anything else. Every single country still demands growth. Whatever gains you make in terms of lower emissions will be nullified by that growth.

And in the hallways, ‘smart’ entrepreneurs stand ready to pocket a ‘smart’ profit from the alleged switch to clean energy. At the cost of you, the taxpayer. And you believe them, because you want to, and because it makes you feel good. And you don’t have the knowledge available to dispute their claims (hint: try thermodynamics).

You’re seeking the cooperation of people who let babies drown and who incessantly bomb the countries these babies and their families were seeking to escape.

I’m sorry, I know a lot of you have a lot of emotion invested in this, and it’s a good emotion, and you’re thinking this conference is really important and all, and our ‘last chance’ to save the planet. But you’ve been had, it’s as simple as that. And co-opted. And conned.

And it’s not the first time, either. All these conferences go the same way. To halt the demise of the planet, you can’t rely on the same people who cause it. Never works.

Nov 022015
 November 2, 2015  Posted by at 10:08 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »

RLOppenheimer New flag for EU 2015

To reiterate: People are genetically biased against change, because change means potential danger. People are also genetically biased against acknowledging this bias, because they wish to see themselves as being able to cope with both change and danger. Put together, this means that when changes come, people are largely unprepared or underprepared.

Take this beyond the bias of the individual, and apply it to that of the group (s)he belongs to, the vantage point of a society, and you find the bias multiplies and becomes self-confirming. That is, the members of the group reinforce each other’s bias. When change comes in small and gradual steps, as it mostly does, this can be said to work relatively well. When it comes in large and sudden steps, trouble ensues.

This little bit of psychology 101 may seem redundant, but it is indispensable if we wish it to recognize the implications of Europe -and the entire world with it, in its slipstream- having already entered a period of change so profound it is impossible to predict what the impact will be. We can do a lot better at this than we do today, where so far the drivers of change, and indeed the changes themselves, are ignored and/or denied.

This ignorance and denial threatens to lead to a needless increase in nationalism, fascism, violence, misery, death and warfare. If we were to acknowledge that the change is inevitable, and prepare ourselves accordingly, much of this could be avoided.

There are two main engines of change that have started to transform the Europe we think we know. First, a mass migration spearheaded by the flight of refugees from regions in the world which Europeans have actively helped descend into lethal chaos. Second, an economic downturn the likes of which hasn’t been seen in 80 years or so (think Kondratieff cycle).

Negative ideas about refugees are already shaping everyday opinion and politics in many places, and this will be greatly exacerbated by the enormous economic depression that for now remains largely hidden behind desperate sleight-of-hands enacted by central bankers, politicians and media.

People, first in Europe, then globally, will need to learn to share what they have, and do with much less. This is not optional. The refugees won’t stop coming, and neither will the depression. It would be much better if people were prepared for this by those same central bankers, politicians and media, but the opposite is happening.

It’s not only individual people who are biased against change, societies are too, and that means so are those who ‘lead’ these societies. They are all motivated, consciously or not, to resist change, because their positions and their powers depend on things remaining -largely- the same.

‘Leaders’ in Brussels and various European capitals still operate on the assumption that the refugee stream is a fleeting phenomenon they can and must stop. In a sort of positive feedback loop with their populations, this idea is continuously reinforced.

This leads to today’s reality in which at least one baby drowns every single day (and more in the past few days) off the shores of Greece, on Europe’s borders, and easily ten times as many members of their families. Moreover, the count is accelerating fast. Weather forecasts for the coming week call for Beaufort 7 winds.

There’s no society, no civilization that allows such atrocities to happen, and is not subsequently down for the count, and bound to dissolve, crumble and disappear. Societies all need common values, based on minimum levels of humanity and compassion, just to survive. And they need a whole lot more if they wish to flourish. No such values, as we see on a daily basis, exist in Europe today.

And that means it has no future – at least not in its present EU structure. It doesn’t get simpler than that. Denied and ignored as the simple fact may have been from the start, it was always clear that the European Union, if it failed to solidly unify the continent, risked becoming a force for division. And it looks as if the first real crisis the union faces will be enough to generate that division. There’s no union in sight other than in name.

Scores of people still hail Angela Merkel for her role in the refugee crisis, but they should think again. Merkel demanded the protagonist role for herself and Germany in setting if not dictating the conditions in the Greek debt negotiations over the first half of 2015, but she’s nowhere to be seen in a leading role now.

Merkel, true, has opened German doors to refugees, but she has utterly failed in expanding any such policy to the EU as a whole. And since she’s the only recognized leader in the entire union, leaving people like Hollande and Juncker far behind, she must acknowledge responsibility if things go wrong. Being a leader doesn’t mean you get to cherry-pick your challenges, it’s a package deal. Merkel cannot today act as German leader only.

But as fast increasing numbers of refugees and their children are drowning in the Aegean, in an act of supreme cynicism Merkel last week went to China to sell Volkswagens and weapons, as well to talk about… human rights. That is to say, the human rights of Chinese people. Not those of the refugees making their way to Europe, who apparently don’t even have the right to safe passage.

It’s that safe passage that must be Europe’s first and main concern right now, not how to stop people from coming. There are many voices clamoring for the ‘Evros fence’, built by Greece three years ago on a stretch of land on its border with Turkey, to be opened, so the drownings stop.

This would seem to be a good first step to halt would should by now be labeled a refugee disaster, rather than crisis. But it’s a step that could have been taken months ago, and the fact that it hasn’t even after Merkel visited Turkey recently, doesn’t bode well. Tsipras is set to visit Turkey this week in the wake of Erdogan’s election victory yesterday, but Tsipras may not get the green light from Berlin to tear down the fence.

The best thing would perhaps be for ordinary people to organize themselves into a large group, 10,000+, travel to Evros, and tear down the fence themselves, rather than wait for politicians to do it. Perhaps the time to rely on others, politicians or otherwise, to do things, has passed.

The world has seen mass migrations before, numerous times, and Europe sure has had its share. The manner is which these migrations take place typically depends to a large extent on people’s human values and their willingness to share their wealth. What’s happening with Syrian refugees today bears some eery resemblances to the boats carrying Jewish refugees prior to WWII that were refused in many ports. Let’s not go there again.

Refugees almost always make a positive contribution to the country they resettle in, both economically and in other ways. We know that, just like we know many other things. But that doesn’t lead our reactions, fear does. And the more wealth people have, the more they seem to fear losing it.

I’ve quoted before how the German federal police warned Merkel at least 8 months ago that a million refugees would be at the country’s doorstep. And that nothing was done with this knowledge for about half a year, leaving Germany woefully unprepared when the warning turned out to be correct.

UN Geneva Director General Michael Moller puts the warning even further into the past; he says EU leaders were told about it at least two years ago.

Refugee Crisis Was Not Unexpected, Top UN Official Says

Director-General of the United Nations office in Geneva, Denmark’s Michael Moller, expresses optimism that the agency’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) will help toward ending extreme poverty but he has no illusions about the refugee crisis[..]

“The crisis we have today, we knew it was going to happen. The leaders of Europe were told it was going to happen at least two years ago. So a little prevention and a little preparation in terms of the narrative to their voters would have gone a long way.”

“This very negative, xenophobic and frankly racist narrative that we’re seeing in many countries, including my own country – I don’t recognize my own country – is unacceptable [..] one of the things that I find very puzzling is that there’s some sort of global amnesia going on. In the early 80s we had pretty much the same problem in Southeast Asia, with much bigger numbers of boat people.

It took a while and then someone decided we must deal with it in a more rational way and they came up with a plan of action which was the product of an international conference where international solidarity kicked in in a much broader way than now. Then we put in place a whole series of measures in a way that minimized the pain and over seven years we resettled 2.5 million people. I don’t see why we can’t take a page or two or three out of that book. To me what’s happening isn’t a European problem, it’s an international problem.

[Washington] are evolving as well. First of all, the number [of refugees the US would accept] was 10,000 but now they’ve upped it to 100,000. I’ve talked to some of the politicians.

[..] looking at this crisis as an isolated incident doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. We are going to have more of these things and a lot worse. The moment climate refugee problems kick in we are going to be in real trouble, unless we sit down globally and figure out structures and ways to deal with this in the future. Not to reinvent the wheel every damn time that happens, but to rethink completely the humanitarian system, because I guarantee you that it will happen again.

The refugee disaster is only the first step in a long and multi-pronged process of profound change in the lives of all citizens of -formerly- rich countries. And if we collectively screw up step 1 as badly as we have and still do, what’s going to happen when our economies fall to pieces? When our alleged ‘financial security’ crumbles, our pensions, our benefits?

Are we going to blame it all on the refugees, and vote in right wing simpletons? Too many of us undoubtedly will. Whether there’s enough decency to counter that is a toss-up. What is not is that the numbers of refugees will keep rising at the same time that our economies keep sinking.

It’s up to us, wherever we live in the world, to find the best way to deal with it. We have a choice in how we react to these developments, not in whether they happen or not.

Nov 012015
 November 1, 2015  Posted by at 10:52 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle November 1 2015

Unknown Drowned baby boy, Lesbos Oct 25 2015

New Tragedy In The Aegean, Sinking 11 Dead, 4 Babies (In.gr)
‘So Many Of Them Were Babies. We Saw At Least 30 Bodies In The Water’ (HRW)
Crunch Talks For Merkel On Refugee Crisis As Thousands More Arrive (Reuters)
Greek Banks Need Extra €14 Billion To Survive Dire Economic Downturn (Guardian)
Greek Bad Debt Rises Above 50% For The First Time, ECB Admits (Zero Hedge)
Cash Crisis ‘Could Close 50% Of UK Care Homes’ (Observer)
Crisis In UK Care Homes Set To ‘Dwarf The Steel Industry’s Problems’ (Observer)
China Bad Loans Estimated At 20% Or Higher vs Official 1.5% (Bloomberg)
China’s Official Factory Gauge Signals Contraction Continues (Bloomberg)
‘Lipstick’-ing The GDP Pig Amid An Epochal Global Deflationary Swoon (Stockman)
Fed Admits: ‘Something’s Going On Here That We Maybe Don’t Understand’ (ZH)
Fed Looks At Way To Shift Big-Bank Losses To Investors (AP)
Australia Should ‘Tell The Story Of The Pacific To The World’ (Guardian)

At dawn Sunday: “five are women, two are children and four infants..” Four more deaths reported since… (Google translation)

New Tragedy In The Aegean, Sinking 11 Dead (In.gr)

Without end continues the refugee drama in the Aegean Sea. This time 11 refugees died when the six meter plastic boat, which was carrying them sank while approaching rocky area in Samos Blue, in the six meters from the shore, just before they occupants disembark. From the dead five are women, two are children and four infants. Most of the dead were trapped in the cabin of plastic boat. The new wreck occurred at dawn Sunday. From the new wreck rescued 15 people. The point is boat of the Coast, volunteer groups and divers.

Read more …

Deaths of single often go unreported: “The ultimate death toll is no doubt even higher, since only families with surviving members were able to report their missing to the coast guard..”

‘So Many Of Them Were Babies. We Saw At Least 30 Bodies In The Water’ (HRW)

On Wednesday off the Greek island of Lesbos, a large Turkish fishing boat carrying some 300 people trying to reach Europe sank, causing at least seven to drown, including four children, with at least 34 still missing. The needless loss of life should be enough to outrage us all. But just as outrageous is the reality that months into Europe’s refugee crisis, Europe’s leaders still have not taken the steps necessary to help prevent such unnecessary tragedies, let alone adopt policies that could provide people fleeing war and repression with legal and safe alternatives to seek asylum in Western Europe. Turkish smugglers taking advantage of those desperately fleeing the horrors of war in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq promised the victims that the trip aboard a “yacht” would be safer than the more common trips in overloaded rubber dinghies.

They then packed the 300 people like sardines on both decks of the aging fishing vessel. Disaster unfolded as the boat hit rough seas and high winds at about 4 in the afternoon. Suddenly, the sheer weight of those packed on the upper deck caused it to collapse, crashing everyone down onto the lower deck. Spanish volunteer life guards, working on the beaches of Lesbos to bring in the boats safely, watched the tragedy unfold through their binoculars from a beachhead on the Greek island. A Syrian man who survived told one of the doctors who treated the survivors that the collapse of the upper deck injured many people and created a large hole in the bottom of the boat, which began filling with water. The Turkish smuggler driving the boat called his fellow smugglers, and a speedboat came to evacuate him, its occupants firing several times in the air to warn off the panicking people on the boat.

As it evacuated the skipper, the speedboat hit the fishing boat, causing it to sink almost immediately. “Suddenly, we just saw hundreds of lifejackets in the sea,” Gerard, one of the Spanish volunteer lifeguards, told me over the phone. “We rushed down to get our jet skis, and we were in the water in minutes.” For more than four hours, until long after nightfall, three Spanish lifeguards tried to rescue as many of the people in the water as they could, using only their jetskis in the rough water many kilometers offshore. They performed CPR on some right on their jetskis. Several local fishing boats also came to join the rescue efforts, pulling survivors out of the water until their decks were packed with shivering, traumatized survivors.

Both the Greek coast guard and boats under the coordination of FRONTEX, the EU’s external borders agency, joined the effort as well, but their large boats sitting high out of the water made it difficult to hoist survivors unto their decks in the rough seas. The Spanish lifeguards had to risk their lives to scramble onto the Greek coast guard ship to perform CPR on those who had lost consciousness, including a tiny baby. Their jetskis were damaged in the process. Long after nightfall, the Spanish volunteers returned to shore, themselves so chilled to the bone that they were risking hypothermia. “We passed so many lifeless bodies floating in the sea as we left the rescue area,” Gerard said, his voice still shaking a day later.

“So many of them were babies. We saw at least 30 bodies at the scene in the water.” By Thursday, 242 people had been rescued, and the Greek coast guard confirmed that at least 34 people remained missing, in addition to the seven bodies recovered from the water the evening before. The ultimate death toll is no doubt even higher, since only families with surviving members were able to report their missing to the coast guard.

Read more …

WIll Merkel pull to the right with her country?

Crunch Talks For Merkel On Refugee Crisis As Thousands More Arrive (Reuters)

Nearly 10,000 refugees continued to arrive in Germany daily, police said on Saturday, highlighting the scale of the challenge facing the country’s stretched border staff ahead of a crunch meeting between Angela Merkel and a Bavarian ally on the crisis. Chancellor Merkel will discuss refugee policy on Saturday evening with Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and who has criticized her asylum policy and handling of the crisis. The CSU, sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has been outspoken about her “open doors” policy towards refugees, in part because its home state of Bavaria is the entry point for virtually all of the migrants arriving in Germany.

Berlin expects between 800,000 and a million refugees and migrants to arrive in Germany this year, twice as many as in any prior year. The huge numbers have fueled anti-immigration sentiment, with support for Merkel’s conservatives dropping to its lowest level in more than three years. There have also been a spate of right-wing attacks on shelters: police in Dresden reported two more arson attacks on Friday night on a hotel and a container, both of which were planned to house refugees and asylum seekers. On Sunday, Merkel and Seehofer will hold talks with Sigmar Gabriel, who leads the other party in her “grand coalition”, the Social Democrats (SPD).

Conservative officials believe it is likely Seehofer will come away from this weekend’s meetings with Merkel with a deal to introduce so-called ‘transit zones’ at border crossings to process refugees’ asylum requests. SPD politicians have rejected that idea, instead calling for faster registration and processing of asylum applications. The crisis has also prompted squabbling among EU states over how best to deal with the influx. European leaders last weekend agreed to cooperate to manage migrants crossing the Balkans but offered no quick fix. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Europe needed to work together to come up with a solution to the crisis but that Germany would continue to welcome refugees. “We will not slam the door in the face of the refugees,” she said at a security conference in Bahrain.

Read more …

A lot less than was prviously announced.

Greek Banks Need Extra €14 Billion To Survive Dire Economic Downturn (Guardian)

Greece’s four main banks need to find another €14bn of reserves to ensure they could withstand an economic downturn, the ECB said on Saturday. The four banks – Alpha Bank, Eurobank, NBG and Piraeus Bank – have until 6 November to say how they intend to make up that shortfall, the ECB said. The money could come from private investors or from EU bailout funds. An ECB stress test known as a “comprehensive assessment” identified a capital shortfall of €4.4bn under a best-case scenario and €14.4bn in a worst-case situation. The shortfall is smaller than originally feared, with the most recent bailout deal setting aside up to €25bn to prop up Greece’s banks.

The ECB audit examined the quality of the banks’ assets and considered the “specific recapitalisation needs” of each institution under Greece’s EU bailout. “Overall, the stress test identified a capital shortfall across the four participating banks of €4.4bn under the baseline scenario and €14.4bn under the adverse scenario,” the ECB said. “The four banks will have to submit capital plans explaining how they intend to cover their shortfalls by 6 November. This will start a recapitalisation process under the economic adjustment programme that must conclude before the end of the year.” Increasing the banks’ capital reserves would “improve the resilience of their balance sheets and their capacity to withstand potential adverse macroeconomic shock”, the central bank added.

In August, eurozone finance ministers released €26bn of the €86bn in bailout funds that went to recapitalising Greece’s stricken banking sector and make a debt payment to the ECB. Greek banks have already been bailed out under earlier deals for the country. They suffered further losses as Greece headed towards a third bailout earlier this year. Depositors pulled billions out of the country fearing that Greece would be forced to leave the euro. Limits on withdrawals and transfers imposed in June to prevent Greek banks from collapsing remain in place, although they have been loosened.

Read more …

Now that’s a real ugly number. And austerity assures the number will get worse. What does that spell for Greek banks?

Greek Bad Debt Rises Above 50% For The First Time, ECB Admits (Zero Hedge)

According to the FT, “the bill states that bank rescue fund HFSF will have full voting rights on any shares it acquires from banks in exchange for providing state aid. Under the bill the bank rescue fund will have a more active role, assessing bank managements.

The exact mix of shares and contingent convertible bonds the HFSF will buy from banks in exchange for any fresh funds it will provide will be decided by the cabinet. The capital hole has emerged chiefly due to the rising number of Greeks unable or unwilling to repay their debt.

And therein lies the rub, because in the span of three months, Greek NPLs have risen from 47.6% of total to 51%: an increase of just over 1% in bad debt every month. Which means that whether or not the latest attempt to boost confidence by the ECB, ESM, and the Greek parliament succeeds is moot. Yes, a few hedge funds may invest funds alongside the ESM, but in the end, as the NPLs keep rising and as long as Greek debtors refuse – or simply are unable – to pay their debt or interest, the next Greek crisis is inevitable. The biggest wildcard is whether or not the Greek population will accept this latest promise of stability in its banking sector at face value: a banking sector which since July is operating under draconian capital controls.

Granted, we should point out that in the past two months the deposit outflow from banks has stopped, and even reversed modestly adding about €900 million in deposits in the past two months, although that is mostly due to the inability of households and corporations to withdraw any sizable amount of funds. The real answer whether Greek banks have been “saved” will wait until the shape of the final bank recapitalization takes place, even as NPLs continue to mount. Remember: Greek lenders are currently kept afloat only by the ECB’s ELA but there is a rush to get the recapitalization finished. If it is not done by the end of the year, new EU rules mean large depositors such as companies may have to take a hit in their accounts.

If the proposed recap is insufficient – and it will be since under the surface the Greek economy continues to collapse and NPLs continue to mount – and a bank bail-in of depositors takes place (a bail-in which took place immediately in the case of Cyprus back in 2013 when Russian oligarch savings were “sacrificed” to bail out the local insolvent banking system), the next leg in the Greek bank crisis will promptly unveil itself, only this time Greece will have some 200% in debt/GDP to show for its most recent, third, bailout. Finally, the real question is: having read all of the above, dear Greek readers, will you hand over what little cash you have stuffed in your mattress to your friendly, neighborhood, soon to be recapitalized bank?

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The entire western world get bogged down under this pressure.

Cash Crisis ‘Could Close 50% Of UK Care Homes’ (Observer)

Ministers are under mounting pressure to pump more money into care for the elderly as investigations by the Observer reveal how some of the largest providers may have to pull out of supplying services because of an escalating financial crisis. Before chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement on 25 November, Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the all-party Commons select committee on health, is calling for the government to act, saying that social care providers are reeling from rising costs and declining fees from cash-strapped local authorities. Meanwhile, the head of Care England, which represents independent care providers, claims that the care home sector is heading for a bigger crisis than the steel industry, while Chai Patel, the boss of one of Britain’s largest care home operators, HC-One, says half of Britain’s care homes could go bust.

The warnings come as residents in the 470 homes and specialist centres run by leading provider Four Seasons face uncertainty about the future of the company. Four Seasons has to make a £26m interest payment in December, but is losing money under the weight of £500m of debt. Four Seasons has insisted that it can make the payment, but bosses at rival companies warned that the industry was under unsustainable pressure. In the home care sector, where specialists look after the elderly in their own properties, the United Kingdom Homecare Association cautioned that leading providers could pull out of 55,125 care hours and 33 contracts because of the shortfall between the cost of care and the amount local authorities were paying for the service. Wollaston, a former GP, said she supported the new national living wage and moves to pay transport costs to carers, but added that the government had to recognise that both measures would increase the costs of care.

“There has been a longstanding gap in funding for social care and this will become much more severe if there is not adequate recognition of the rising costs the sector will face as a result of the living wage. Otherwise, we will see more care providers pulling out of the sector,” she said. Many problems result from the fact that local authorities, which have suffered funding cuts of more than 40% since 2010, cannot offer enough to make contracts attractive or, in many cases, viable. Many providers are turning to the private market as an alternative, where they can. Martin Green, the head of Care England, said the crisis would lead to more people ending up in hospitals and Patel, whose company runs 250 care homes, said he had given research to the government that showed that half of care homes could disappear.

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So who’s going to pay, now and in 5 years, 10 years?

Crisis In UK Care Homes Set To ‘Dwarf The Steel Industry’s Problems’ (Observer)

The ghost of Southern Cross hangs over Britain’s care home industry. Four years ago the country’s largest care home group collapsed, sparking months of uncertainty and worry for its 31,000 residents and their families, until Southern Cross’s rivals stepped forward to agree rescue deals for its 750 homes. Now, however, the industry could be rewarded by facing an even bigger crisis. While it was a set of circumstances unique to Southern Cross that laid it low in 2011 – particularly high rents for its properties and the costs of a debt mountain left by its private equity owners – today care homes across the country are feeling the squeeze. Four Seasons, which has more than 22,000 beds spread among 470 homes nationwide, is at forefront of the new crisis.

The company is owned by private equity group Terra Firma, the organisation led by financier Guy Hands that has, at various times, controlled companies as diverse as Méridien hotels, Odeon cinemas and record label EMI. It is losing millions of pound a year and struggling under £500m of debt. Four Seasons needs to make a £26m interest payment in December to satisfy creditors who could put it into administration. Terra Firma insists it will be able to make the payment, but the private equity group, trade unions, and local authorities all agree this is only the start of the problems for the care home industry. Justin Bowden, national officer at the GMB union, which represents thousands of care home employees, said: “You are looking potentially at several Southern Crosses in the next 12 months if something drastic is not done.”

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, the body that represents independent care providers, warned that the crisis in the sector would dwarf the problems in the steel industry. “We are looking at Redcar happening twice a month if care homes go down,” he said. “These people can only be looked after in care homes and hospitals. If Jeremy Hunt thinks he has a problem with bed blocking now, it is nothing on what it is going to be like if these care homes start to close. Hospitals won’t be able to do elective care because they will be full of old people.” The problems for care homes are rooted in the gap between the costs of care and the amounts local authorities are paying for residents. There are staggering variations in fees across the country, ranging from £350 a week to as high as £750, according to consumer watchdog Which?

The Local Government Association itself estimates that there will be a £2.9bn annual funding gap in social care by the end of the decade. This gap will widen with the introduction of the national living wage next April, which will add another £1bn to the costs of care homes between now and 2020.

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“China is confronting a massive debt problem, the scale of which the world has never seen.”

China Bad Loans Estimated At 20% Or Higher vs Official 1.5% (Bloomberg)

Corporate investigator Violet Ho never put a lot of faith in the bad loan numbers reported by China’s banks. Crisscrossing provinces from Shandong to Xinjiang, she’s seen too much — from the shell game of moving assets between affiliated companies to disguise the true state of their finances to cover-ups by bankers loath to admit that loans they made won’t be recovered. “If I have one piece of advice for people worrying about the financial status of Chinese companies, it’s this: it’s right to be worried,” said Ho, senior managing director in Hong Kong for Kroll Inc., a U.S. risk consultancy. “Often a credit report for a Chinese company is not worth the paper it’s written on.”

As China’s banking industry persists with publishing delinquent-debt numbers that few have faith in – a survey in 2014 indicated that even lenders didn’t believe them – some financial analysts, too, have turned detectives to try to work out what the real numbers may be. The amount of bad debt piling up in China is at the center of a debate about whether the country will continue as a locomotive of global growth or sink into decades of stagnation like Japan after its credit bubble burst. Bank of China Ltd. reported on Thursday its biggest quarterly bad-loan provisions since going public in 2006. While the analysts interviewed for this story differ in their approaches to calculating likely levels of soured credit, their conclusion is the same: The official 1.5% bad-loan estimate is way too low.

Charlene Chu, who made her name at Fitch Ratings making bearish assessments of the risks from China’s credit explosion since 2008, is among those crunching the numbers. While corporate investigator Ho relies on her observations from hitting the road, Chu and her colleagues at Autonomous Research in Hong Kong take a top-down approach. They estimate how much money is being wasted after the nation began getting smaller and smaller economic returns on its credit from 2008. Their assessment is informed by data from economies such as Japan that have gone though similar debt explosions. While traditional bank loans are not Chu’s prime focus – she looks at the wider picture, including shadow banking – she says her work suggests that nonperforming loans may be at 20% to 21%, or even higher.

The Bank for International Settlements cautioned in September that China’s credit to gross domestic product ratio indicates an increasing risk of a banking crisis in coming years. “A financial crisis is by no means preordained, but if losses don’t manifest in financial sector losses, they will do so via slowing growth and deflation, as they did in Japan,” said Chu. “China is confronting a massive debt problem, the scale of which the world has never seen.”

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But there’s still plenty voices willing to paint rosy picstures.

China’s Official Factory Gauge Signals Contraction Continues (Bloomberg)

China’s first key indicator this quarter, an official factory gauge, missed analysts’ estimates, signaling that the manufacturing sector has yet to bottom out as global demand falters and deflationary pressures deepen. The official purchasing managers index was unchanged at 49.8 in October, the National Bureau of Statistics said Sunday, compared with the median estimate of 50 in a Bloomberg survey. It was the third straight reading below 50, the line between expansion and contraction. The official non-manufacturing PMI, a barometer of services and construction, fell to 53.1 from 53.4 in September, the weakest since December 2008. “The manufacturing sector is still contracting, though stabilizing,” and the report indicates economic momentum remains sluggish, said Liu Ligang at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group.

“We still believe the Chinese economy will experience modest rebound supported by faster infrastructure investment in November and December.” The newest data highlight the challenges confronting China’s old growth drivers. The nation’s leaders have reiterated priorities of both reforming the economy and maintaining medium- to high-speed growth in the next five years, according to a communique released by Xinhua News Agency on Thursday. The readings suggest continued monetary easing by the central bank hasn’t yet boosted smaller businesses as much as their larger, state-owned counterparts, which are able to borrow at reduced rates. “Big companies are stabilizing, while smaller ones continue to perform below the contraction-expansion line,” Zhao Qinghe, a senior statistician at NBS, wrote in a statement interpreting the data on Sunday.

“The percentage of small companies facing a financial strain is considerably higher than that of bigger companies.” The unchanged manufacturing PMI suggests “managed stabilization” as policy makers strive to balance growth, reform, and market stability, according to Zhou Hao at Commerzbank in Singapore. The manufacturing sector stabilized “somewhat” due to monetary policy easing, Zhou said, while slowing power generation, steel production and housing sales are “suggesting that the overall economy is still under downward pressure.” The employment gauges of both manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors remained mired in contraction zone, Sunday’s report showed. China’s survey-based unemployment rate picked up slightly to around 5.2% in September, while a ratio of job supply and demand rose in the third quarter.

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Stop confusing inflation with rising prices, and things get a lot clearer.

‘Lipstick’-ing The GDP Pig Amid An Epochal Global Deflationary Swoon (Stockman)

The talking heads were busy yesterday morning powdering the GDP pig. By averaging up the “disappointing” 1.5% gain for Q3 with the previous quarter they were able to pronounce that the economy is moving forward at an “encouraging” 2% clip. And once we get through this quarter’s big negative inventory adjustment, they insisted, we will be off to the ‘escape velocity’ races. Again. No we won’t! The global economy is in an epochal deflationary swoon and the US economy has already hit stall speed. It is only a matter of months before this long-in-the-tooth 75-month old business expansion will rollover into outright liquidation of excess inventories and hoarded labor. That is otherwise known as a recession.

Its arrival will be a thundering repudiation of the lunatic monetary policies of the last seven years; and it will send into panicked shock all those buy-the-dip speculators and robo-traders who still presume the central bank is omnipotent. So forget all the averaging and seasonally maladjusted noise in yesterday’s report and peak inside at the warning signs. To begin, the year/year gain of just 2.0% was the weakest result since the first quarter of 2014. And that’s only if you believe that inflation during the last 12 months was just 0.9%, as per the GDP deflator used by the Commerce Department statistical mills. Needless to say, there are about 90 million households in America below the top 20%, which more or less live paycheck to paycheck, that would argue quite vehemently that their cost of living including medical care, housing, education, groceries, utilities and much else – has gone up a lot more than 0.9%.

So put a reasonable “deflator” on the reported “real” GDP number, and you are getting pretty close to stall speed – even before you look inside at the internals. Indeed, even before you get to the components of the “deflated” GDP figure, you need to examine an even more important number contained in yesterday’s report that was not mentioned by a single talking head. To wit, the year/year gain in nominal GDP was only 2.9%, and it represented a continuing deceleration from 3.7% in the year ending in Q2 2015 and 3.9% in the years ending in Q1 2015 and Q4 2014, respectively. In short, the US economy is sitting there with $59 trillion of credit market debt outstanding, but owing to the tides of worldwide deflation now washing up on these shores, nominal GDP growth is sinking toward the flat line.

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QE accelerates deflation.

Fed Admits: ‘Something’s Going On Here That We Maybe Don’t Understand’ (ZH)

In a somewhat shocking admission of its own un-omnipotence, or perhaps more of a C.Y.A. moment for the inevitable mean-reversion to reality, Reuters reports that San Francisco Fed President John Williams said Friday that low neutral interest rates are a warning sign of possible changes in the U.S. economy that the central bank does not fully understand. With Japan having been there for decades, and the rest of the developed world there for 6 years… Suddenly, just weeks away from what The Fed would like the market to believe is the first rate hike in almost a decade, Williams decides now it is the time to admit the central planners might be missing a factor (and carefully demands better fiscal policy)… (as Reuters reports)

“I see this as more of a warning, a red flag that there’s something going on here that isn’t in the models, that we maybe don’t understand as well as we think, and we should dig down deep deeper and try to figure this out better,” said San Francisco Federal Reserve President John Williams on Friday pointing out that low neutral interest rates are a warning sign of possible changes in the U.S. economy that the central bank does not fully understand.

Williams, who is a voting member of the Fed’s policy-setting panel through the end of the year, has said the central bank should begin to raise interest rates soon but thereafter go at a gradual pace; ironically adding that the low neutral interest rate had “pretty significant” implications for monetary policy, and put more focus on fiscal policy as a response.

“If we could come up with better fiscal policy, find a way to have the economy grow faster or have a stronger natural rate of interest, then that takes the pressure off of us to try to come up with other ways to do it, like through a large balance sheet or having a higher inflation target,” Williams said. “It also means we don’t have to turn to quantitative easing and other policies as much.”

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As long as the investors are not the big banks?!

Fed Looks At Way To Shift Big-Bank Losses To Investors (AP)

In their latest bid to reduce the chances of future taxpayer bailouts, federal regulators are proposing that the eight biggest U.S. banks build new cushions against losses that would shift the burden to investors. The Federal Reserve’s proposal put forward Friday means the mega-banks would have to bulk up their capacity to absorb financial shocks by issuing equity or long-term debt equal to prescribed portions of total bank assets. The idea is that the cost of a huge bank’s failure would fall on investors in the bank’s equity or debt, not on taxpayers. The Fed governors led by Chair Janet Yellen voted 5-0 at a public meeting to propose the so-called “loss-absorbing capacity” requirements for the banks, which include JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America.

The eight banks would have to issue a total of about $120 billion in new long-term debt to meet the requirements of the proposal, the Fed staff estimates. If formally adopted, most of the requirements wouldn’t take effect until 2019, and the remainder not until 2022. The new cushions would come atop rules adopted by the Fed in July for the eight banks to shore up their financial bases with about $200 billion in additional capital — over and above capital requirements for the industry. And they would be in addition to 2014 rules directing all large U.S. banks to keep enough high-quality assets on hand to survive during a severe downturn. Combined with the regulators’ previous actions, the new proposal “would substantially reduce the risk to taxpayers and the threat to financial stability stemming from the failure of these (banks),” Yellen said at the start of the meeting.

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Problem is: Australia would need to address its own role.

Australia Should ‘Tell The Story Of The Pacific To The World’ (Guardian)

Australia should “tell the story of the Pacific to the world” when global leaders sit down to climate change talks in Paris at the end of this month, Labor has said. The impact of climate change on the nations of the Pacific is a focus for both the government and opposition ahead of COP21, where governments of more than 190 nations will gather to discuss a possible new global climate accord. The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, accompanied by foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek and immigration spokesman Richard Marles, will visit Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, and Kiribati over four days this week, while the government’s minister for international development and the Pacific, Steve Ciobo, will travel to New Caledonia, Fiji and Niue. The Labor leaders said climate change was an existential threat to some countries in the region.

“The dangerous consequences of climate change is no more evident than in the Pacific region. Pacific leaders have consistently identified climate change as the greatest threat to their livelihoods, food production, housing, security and wellbeing. “This is a serious problem that demands serious attention.” Marles, the former parliamentary secretary for Pacific island affairs, told Guardian Australia that it was important for Australia to have strong and constructive relations with its Pacific neighbours. He praised Pacific leaders, in particular Kiribati’s president, Anote Tong, for highlighting the issues being faced by Pacific nations on the international stage. “It is crucial that, in the lead-up to Paris, the world understands the problems being faced by the Pacific. And it’s important that Australia plays a role in telling that story of the Pacific to the world.”

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