Aug 212019
 
 August 21, 2019  Posted by at 9:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Felix Vallotton On the beach 1899

 

How Negative Interest Rates Screw Up the Economy (WS)
Gundlach Says Federal Reserve Has Lost Control (R.)
Bank Watchdogs Approve Rule To Loosen Ban On Risky Wall Street Trades (Hill)
10 Declassified Russia Collusion Revelations Could Rock DC This Fall (Solomon)
Italian PM Resigns, Denounces Salvini For Sinking Government (R.)
EU Rebuffs Boris Johnson’s Brexit Gambit (R.)
Alibaba Postpones Up To $15 Billion Hong Kong Listing (R.)
China Could Overwhelm US Military In Asia In Hours – Report (CNN)
US Will Act If Tanker Carrying Iranian Oil Delivers Oil: Pompeo (R.)
Trump Scraps Denmark Visit After Danes Say Greenland Not For Sale (AFP)
Canada Election: Parties, Charities Warned Against Climate Change Ads (BBC)
More Than 2,300 Tigers Killed And Trafficked This Century (AFP)
40 Rebuttals To The Media’s Smears Of Julian Assange (Fidel Narváez)

 

 

“Negative interest rates are terrible for banks. They destroy the business model for banks. They make future bank collapses more likely because banks cannot build capital to absorb losses.”

How Negative Interest Rates Screw Up the Economy (WS)

Now there is talk everywhere that the United States too will descend into negative interest rates. And there are people on Wall Street and in the media that are hyping this absurd condition where government bonds and perhaps even corporate bonds, and eventually even junk bonds have negative yields. All of that NIRP absurdity is already the case in Europe and Japan. There is now about $17 trillion – trillion with a T – in negative yielding debt in the world, government and corporate debt combined. This started out as a short-term emergency experiment. And now this short-term emergency experiment has become the new normal. And now more short-term emergency experiments need to be added to it, because, you know, the first batches weren’t big enough and haven’t worked, or have stopped working, or more realistically, have screwed things up so badly that nothing works anymore.

So how will this end? The ECB rumor mill over the past two weeks hyped the possibility of a shock-and-awe stimulus package, on top of the shock-and-awe stimulus packages the ECB has already implemented, namely negative interest rates, liquidity facilities, and QE. The entire German government bond market, even 30-year bonds have negative yields. And the German economy shrank in the last quarter. That gives Germany two out of the last four quarters where its economy shrank – despite negative interest rates from the ECB and despite the negative yields on its government bonds, and despite the negative yields among many corporate bonds. In other words, the German economy, the fourth largest in the world, is hitting the skids despite or because of negative yields. And now the ECB wants to flex its muscles to get yields to become even more negative.

And there are folks who want to prescribe the same kind of killer application to help out the US economy – which is growing just fine. Since the ECB’s shock-and-awe package started to appear in the rumor mill at the beginning of August, the European bank stock index – it includes banks in all EU countries, not just those that use the euro – well, since that shock-and-awe rumor appeared, the stock index for those banks has dropped 11%. Negative interest rates are terrible for banks. They destroy the business model for banks. They make future bank collapses more likely because banks cannot build capital to absorb losses.

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Any control they seemed to have was always fake.

Gundlach Says Federal Reserve Has Lost Control (R.)

The Federal Reserve has lost control of interest rates as evidenced by the federal funds rate trading higher than any part of the U.S. Treasury yield curve, Jeffrey Gundlach, the chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, said on Tuesday. “What else do you need to call it an inversion?” Gundlach said in a telephone interview. “Everyone is parsing all of these little arbitrary things. But we’ve got an inversion.” At around 1.55% and 2.03%, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note and 30-year Treasury bond, respectively, are below the target federal funds rate of 2.25% to 2.5%. The yield on the two-year Treasury note is currently around 1.51%.


Three weeks ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell characterized the U.S. central bank’s first rate cut since 2008 as a “mid-cycle adjustment to policy,” suggesting the move was not the start of a lengthy series of rate cuts. Gundlach, who oversees more than $140 billion in assets, told Reuters last week that Powell’s message to the markets have been inconsistent. He said Powell “can’t put a back-to-back consistent message together. It is different at every single meeting – the mid-cycle adjustment statement is not going to hold up.”

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Crisis leads to measures which are then watered down which leads to crisis. Rinse and repeat.

Bank Watchdogs Approve Rule To Loosen Ban On Risky Wall Street Trades (Hill)

Two federal bank regulators voted Tuesday to approve a significant rollback of a controversial ban on risky trades passed in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) on Tuesday adopted a weakened version of the so-called “Volcker Rule,” which bans banks from making high-risk bets with their own assets. While the OCC and FDIC are but two of five agencies that must sign off on the new Volcker Rule, their approval of the proposal is the first step in a massive lobbying victory for some of the largest U.S. banks. The Volcker Rule was one of several provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law designed to ban risky and overly complex investments that helped crash the global financial system in 2008.


While advocates for banks have fought to loosen several aspects of Dodd-Frank in the nine years since its passage, firms with mammoth trading desks such as Goldman Sachs have paid particular attention to the Volcker Rule. Named after its chief advocate, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, the rule bans banks from certain “proprietary” trades, or investments using the bank’s own capital. Industry advocates insisted that while banks supported stricter limits on risk, the Volcker Rule was too complex and burdensome to be effective. “The new Volcker Rule finalized today is recognition that the original rule was overly complex and unworkable,” said Greg Baer, president and CEO of the Bank Policy Institute, a research and advocacy group representing 17 of the largest banks and financial firms.

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Fighting Intelligence is not easy.

10 Declassified Russia Collusion Revelations Could Rock DC This Fall (Solomon)

Behind the scenes, some major events were set in motion last autumn that could soon change the tenor in Washington, at least as it relates to the debunked Russia collusion narrative that distracted America for nearly three years. It was in September 2018 that President Trump told my Hill.TV colleague Buck Sexton and me that he would order the release of all classified documents showing what the FBI, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other U.S. intelligence agencies may have done wrong in the Russia probe.


About the same time, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, under then-Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), voted unanimously to send 53 nonpublic transcripts of witnesses in its Russia review to the director of national intelligence (DNI) for declassification. The transcripts were officially delivered in November. Now, nearly a year later, neither release has happened. To put that into perspective, it took just a couple of months in 2004 to declassify the final report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks after a presidential commission finished its work, which contained some of the nation’s most secretive intelligence revelations. But the long wait for transparency may soon end.

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Salvini smells power.

Italian PM Resigns, Denounces Salvini For Sinking Government (R.)

Italy’s prime minister resigned on Tuesday after launching a blistering attack on his own interior minister, Matteo Salvini, accusing him of sinking the ruling coalition and endangering the economy for personal and political gain. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, addressing parliament after it was recalled from its summer recess to decide the future of the 14-month-old government, accused the far-right League party chief Salvini of seeking to cash in on his rising popularity. In a shock move on Aug. 8, Salvini declared that his alliance with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement was dead and called for elections, but the gambit could yet prove a big political blunder and open the door to power for his rivals.


Politicians from 5-Star and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) are openly discussing forming a new coalition which would push the League into opposition and give Italy a more centrist, pro-European government. “The interior minister has shown that he is following his own interests and those of his party,” Conte told a packed Senate, a stony-faced Salvini sitting by his side. “His decisions pose serious risks for this country.” He described Salvini’s actions as reckless and “liable to tip the country into a spiral of political uncertainty and financial instability”.

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The UK will have to define an alternative to the backstop, but it has nothing so far.

EU Rebuffs Boris Johnson’s Brexit Gambit (R.)

The European Union on Tuesday rebuffed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s demand that it reopen the Brexit divorce deal, saying Britain had failed to propose any realistic alternative to an agreed insurance policy for the Irish border. After more than three years of Brexit crisis, the United Kingdom is heading towards a showdown with the EU as Johnson has vowed to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate the divorce terms.


In his opening bid to the EU ahead of meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Johnson wrote a four-page letter to European Council President Donald Tusk asking to ax the Irish border “backstop”. Johnson proposed that the backstop – part of the Withdrawal Agreement that then-prime minister Theresa May agreed last year – be replaced with a “commitment” to implement alternative arrangements as part of a deal on the post-Brexit relationship. Merkel, Europe’s most powerful leader, said the EU would consider “practical solutions” but that the Withdrawal Agreement, which contains the protocol on the Irish border “backstop”, did not need to be changed.

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The finance hub crumbles. Not good for China either.

Alibaba Postpones Up To $15 Billion Hong Kong Listing (R.)

China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has delayed its up to $15 billion listing in Hong Kong amid growing political unrest in the Asian financial hub, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listing plans are being closely watched by the financial community for indications on the business environment in the Chinese-controlled territory and provides a window into Beijing’s reading of the situation.


While no new timetable has been formally set, Alibaba could potentially launch the deal as early as October, still seeking to raise $10 billion-$15 billion, depending on whether political tensions had eased and market conditions became more favorable, one of the people said. The decision to postpone the deal, initially set to launch in late August, was taken at a board meeting before Alibaba’s earnings release last week, the second person said. The delay was due to the lack of financial and political stability in Hong Kong, the people added, following more than 11 weeks of frequently violent pro-democracy demonstrations which have plunged the city into turmoil.

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Message brought to you by the US military-industrial complex.

China Could Overwhelm US Military In Asia In Hours – Report (CNN)

The US military is no longer the primary force in Asia, and missiles from China’s rapidly improving military could overwhelm its bases in hours, according to a new report. The study by the United States Study Center, at the University of Sydney, in Australia, warned that America’s defense strategy in the Indo-Pacific region “is in the throes of an unprecedented crisis” and could struggle to defend its allies against China. That means Australia, Japan and other US partners need to build up and refocus their forces in the region, and consider increased cooperation with the US, to ensure their security, the study claimed.


The report highlights areas where China’s military is making huge strides in comparison to the US and its Asian allies and partners. Chief among those is in missiles. “China has deployed a formidable array of precision missiles and other counter-intervention systems to undercut America’s military primacy,” the report states. Those missiles number in the thousands, the report says. Almost all US military installations in the Western Pacific, as well as those of its key partners and allies, “could be rendered useless by precision strikes in the opening hours of a conflict,” according to the report. China’s Foreign Ministry said Monday it had not seen the report, but spokesperson Geng Shuang stressed that the country’s military policy was “defensive in nature.”

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Time for Russia or China to send a tanker?!

US Will Act If Tanker Carrying Iranian Oil Delivers Oil: Pompeo (R.)

The United States will take every action it can to prevent an Iranian tanker from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of U.S. sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Tuesday. “We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States,” Pompeo told reporters. “If that ship again heads to Syria we will take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that.” The Adrian DArya – formerly the Grace 1 – left Gibraltar on Aug. 18 and ship-tracking data showed the vessel was heading toward the Greek port of Kalamata.

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“The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct..”

Trump Scraps Denmark Visit After Danes Say Greenland Not For Sale (AFP)

US President Donald Trump Tuesday postponed a planned visit to Denmark after Danish officials insisted its autonomous territory of Greenland was not for sale. Trump’s decision confirms just how interested he was in purchasing Greenland, an idea initially dismissed as a joke by some, but which the White House later insisted had a serious purpose because of its strategic location. “Based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump tweeted.


During a Sunday visit to Greenland — the largest island on Earth — Frederiksen called Trump’s idea “absurd.” “The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct,” Trump tweeted. “I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!”.

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One party says climate change is not real, and now all other parties -and third parties- are banned from talking about it. It’s not just ads.

Canada Election: Parties, Charities Warned Against Climate Change Ads (BBC)

Canada’s election watchdog has warned environmentalists that saying climate change is real could break the law. The issue arose because one party running in October’s election denies climate change is a threat. That has led Elections Canada to warn groups that running paid advertisements about climate change could be considered partisan activity. Advocates called the guidance “ludicrous” and say it will dampen urgent climate discussions. The UN has called for decisive political action by 2020 to put an end to climate change. “The guidance is extremely troubling,” Stephen Cornish, the CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, an environmental charity, told the BBC.

“We would have to bury the scientific consensus around climate change when we should be ramping up our activities.” Canada has strict regulations on partisan advertising during the election period, whether they be from candidates, parties or third-party organisations. Individuals or organisations that take out “issue” advertisements that cost C$500 ($375, £309) or more during the election period have to register with Elections Canada as a third party. “Issue” advertisements are paid media campaigns that take positions on issues related to parties’ platforms but do not explicitly address a particular candidate or party.

The election period will begin when the writ is dropped sometime in September, before Canadians head to the polls on 21 October. Keith Brooks, programme director for advocacy group Environmental Defence, says Elections Canada told him that because one candidate denies that climate change is an issue, any ad urging action on climate change, or calling climate change an emergency, could be considered partisan. Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, has said numerous times that he does not believe climate change is a crisis. “There is no climate change urgency in this country,” Mr Bernier said in June.

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97% of tigers are already gone.

More Than 2,300 Tigers Killed And Trafficked This Century (AFP)

More than 2,300 endangered tigers have been killed and illegally trafficked since the turn of the century, according to a report published Tuesday, urging more action to protect the giant cats. With an average of more than 120 illegally trafficked tigers seized each year – which amounts to over two each week – since year 2000, conservation group Traffic warned there was little sign of respite for the species. Report author Kanitha Krishnasamy, who heads Traffic’s Southeast Asia operations, said the numbers were deeply concerning. “It looks like we are losing this fight,” she told AFP.

In 1900, more than 100,000 tigers were estimated to roam the planet. But that fell to a record low of 3,200 globally in 2010. Since then, population numbers have inched upwards, but there are still estimated to be fewer than 3,900 tigers left in the wild. “This pernicious trafficking,evidenced by the continuously high number of whole skins, whole animals – both dead and alive – and bones is testament to the ongoing demand for Tiger parts,” Krishnasamy said. “The time for talking is over: words must be turned into action to prevent further Tiger loss,” she said in a statement. Traffic, which campaigns to protect endangered animals and help governments catch those who trade in their parts, published a new analysis looking at 19-years of tiger seizure data from across the globe.


It found that an estimated total equivalent to 2,359 individual tigers were seized from 2000 to 2018 across 32 countries and territories. Skins are the single most frequently seized tiger part, with on average 58 whole tiger skins seized each year, the report found, also noting a clear increase in seizures of whole animals, both dead and alive. The study also highlighted the growing role breeding centres play in fuelling the illegal tiger trade, especially in Southeast Asia. The tiger farm industry often argues the trade in captive animals helps to relieve the pressure on wild felines, but wildlife groups argue it reduces the stigma around buying the animals or their body parts and could create new markets for them.

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Fidel Narváez served as consul and then first secretary at the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2010 until July 2018.

40 Rebuttals To The Media’s Smears Of Julian Assange (Fidel Narváez)

The Western corporate media has shown extreme bias against the whistleblowing publication WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange. Nowhere is this more evident than in a recent CNN article on the imprisoned journalist, which completely botches the facts. On July 15, CNN published an exclusive report that sent shock waves through the press: “Security reports reveal how Assange turned an embassy into a command post for election meddling.” This two-pronged hit piece mixes character assassination with a clumsy attempt to show that he and WikiLeaks supposedly served as agents of chaos for the Kremlin during the 2016 US presidential election.

But the article contains numerous errors, omissions, examples of bias, speculations, and simply false information. CNN’s attempts to shape the narrative on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are not new. On March 28, the TV program Conclusiones, on CNN Español, claimed — without evidence — that Assange had published the famous INA Papers leak, exposing the corruption of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno and his family. The fact that WikiLeaks never published a single document or image of Moreno or his family did not matter to CNN Español. The intentions of the show were immediately transparent from the loaded questions made by the reporters: “How long will Julian Assange remain at the Ecuadorian embassy in London?” “Aren’t you going to kick him out?” “What has Julian Assange brought to Lenin Moreno’s government but headaches?”

This baseless accusation was subsequently used two weeks later by the Ecuadorian government to justify expelling Assange from its London embassy, in a flagrant violation of international law. This pattern of smear pieces against WikiLeaks and its publisher begs the question: Why CNN is shaping public opinion against Julian Assange, as he prepares to defend himself from continued political persecution by the US government?

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Aug 202019
 
 August 20, 2019  Posted by at 9:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Maya, Picassos daughter with a doll 1938

 

Trump Says Fed Should Cut Rates By At Least 1% ‘With Perhaps Some QE’ (CNBC)
The United States Will Miss China’s Money (FP)
HSBC Runs into Buzzsaw in Hong Kong & China (WS)
Hong Kong: Don’t Provoke The Dragon (Margolis)
Jeffrey Epstein Signed Will, Set Up Trust, Just Two Days Before Suicide (NYPost)
Prince Andrew Urged To Tell All He Knows About Jeffrey Epstein (G.)
Boris Johnson Refuses To Reveal No-Deal Preparations (Ind.)
Boris Johnson ‘Confident’ EU Will Back Down In Brexit Talks (G.)
UK PM Tells EU Irish Backstop Is ‘Anti-Democratic’ (BBC)
Boris Johnson Puts Health Service Off Limits In Potential US Trade Deal (R.)
Anti-Assad Fighters Withdraw From Key Area Of Northwest Syria (AFP)
No Normal (Kunstler)

 

 

We get this gnawing feeling their actual view of the economy is a lot less benign than they let on.

Trump Says Fed Should Cut Rates By At Least 1% ‘With Perhaps Some QE’ (CNBC)

President Donald Trump raised his demands Monday on the Federal Reserve, calling for the central bank to cut interest rates by a full percentage point and to restart its crisis-era money-printing program. In a pair of tweets again aimed at getting easier monetary policy, the president said the Fed has been hampered by a “horrendous lack of vision” and said it should institute 100 basis points worth of reductions to its benchmark rate. Criticizing the Fed is nothing new for Trump, who has stated his desire for a weaker dollar and interest rates that are more competitive with other countries around the world. The Fed approved a quarter-point cut at its July meeting, but that has not stopped Trump from wanting more.


“Our dollar is so strong that it is sadly hurting other parts of the world,” he said. Trump also has been hammering away at what he calls “quantitative tightening,” or the Fed’s efforts to reduce the amount of bonds it was holding. The central bank acquired the assets during three rounds of buying during and after the financial crisis, in an effort to tamp down long-range interest rates and to steer money toward riskier assets like stocks and corporate bonds. In previous shots at the Fed, he has claimed that the Dow Jones Industrial Average would be 10,000 points higher and that the economy would be growing at better than a 4% rate if not for the rate hikes and unwinding of the balance sheet.

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Why would you want Chinese to buy up your residential real estate? That just makes it more expensive for your own people.

The United States Will Miss China’s Money (FP)

To date, tariffs have not succeeded in forcing concessions from Beijing. As annoying as they are, current tariffs rates are not enough to force sudden shifts in supply chains or consumption patterns, and other than a decline in U.S. agricultural exports to China, the U.S.-China trade balance has been largely static even with the tariffs. What has not been static is the level of Chinese investment in the United States. Between 2000 and 2018, according to data from the Rhodium Group, Chinese companies and individuals poured about $140 billion into the United States, with the bulk of that coming between 2011 and 2018 and with 2016 the peak year at about $45 billion.

That does not include Chinese purchases of U.S. real estate; according to the National Association of Realtors, the Chinese have been the largest foreign buyers of residential U.S. real estate, snapping up an average of nearly $30 billion annually from 2015 to 2018, mostly in Florida, Texas, California and New York. And, of course, China has also been the largest holder of U.S. government debt, having surpassed Japan and currently holding over $1 trillion of government bonds.

All of that, however, has been reversing in the past year since the tariff war began. China’s purchases of U.S. debt have been going down. Foreign direct investment from China in the United States fell 88 percent from 2016 to last year and shows no signs of rebounding this year. The over 300,000 Chinese students in U.S. universities, who by some estimates contribute $13 billion to the U.S. economy each year, were warned by Beijing in June to reconsider whether the United States is a hospitable environment in light of increased difficulties in obtaining visas. And for the first time in 15 years, Chinese tourism to the United States—which contributes another $35 billion annually—declined last year.

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The entire region once depended on HSBC. Today the roles appear to have been reversed.

HSBC Runs into Buzzsaw in Hong Kong & China (WS)

HSBC’s headquarters are based in London. But it’s in Hong Kong where the bank first cut its teeth (laundering the proceeds from the British East Indian company’s opium trade) and where the lion’s share of its business is still done. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, “few if any of the world’s largest financial companies dominate a single market quite like HSBC does in Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million people that accounted for roughly 60 percent of the bank’s pretax income in 2018.”Hong Kong is Asia’s biggest financial hub, servicing not just China but many other Asian markets. Through the majority ownership of its subsidiary Hang Seng Bank Ltd., HSBC is the city’s biggest mortgage lender in the secondary market, rules the roost in investment banking, and is one of Hong Kong’s three note-issuing banks.

In fact, so entwined is Hong Kong’s recent history with that of HSBC that some of the city’s currency bills still, to this day, carry the bank’s logo. If anything, that relationship of co-dependency has intensified in recent years as HSBC has staged a strategic retreat from other emerging markets, including Brazil and Turkey, in order to focus its attention on fast-growth Asian markets, in particular China. The number of countries it operates in has gradually dwindled from 87 in 2011 to around 70 today, spurring HSBC to eventually ditch its slogan, “the world’s local bank.” In 2015, it even went so far as to end its sponsorship of Markit’s EM PMIs, the least government-controlled index in China, a move that was widely perceived as an attempt to forge closer ties with Beijing.

As one unnamed source told The Australian Financial Review at the time, “If you are a sizable bank that wants to do more business in China, you don’t want to make parts of the Chinese government angry. Sponsoring the survey is likely to affect your future business expansion in China.” To begin with, the strategy seemed to pay off. After an agonizing wait for regulatory approval, HSBC in 2017 became the first global bank to launch a majority owned-investment banking venture in mainland China, with its base in Shenzhen, which forms part of the Pearl River Delta metropolis where HSBC earns roughly half of its total China revenue.

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Will Beijing destroy its finance center?

Hong Kong: Don’t Provoke The Dragon (Margolis)

[..] anyone who thinks China’s iron-fisted rulers will allow a scrap of paper to limit their influence over Hong Kong is dead wrong. For them, Hong Kong is as much a part of China as Shanghai. So, too, is Taiwan. The massive rioting in Hong Kong earlier this week set off alarm bells in Beijing, which runs an Orwellian police state on the mainland. China’s hardline leaders rightly fear that the fracas in Hong Kong could incite other uprisings across China. Everyone remembers the long, bloody Cultural Revolution of the 1970’s with its rampaging Red Guards. Perhaps more important, Chinese leaders study their nation’s history and draw lessons from it, unlike America’s history-free politicians. For the Americans, history is what was on Fox TV the week before.

What Beijing really fears is another Taiping Rebellion. A nobody named Hong Xiuqan proclaimed himself the brother of Jesus and raised a vast peasant army to overthrow the ruling Manchu dynasty in Beijing. Brutal civil war raged from 1850-1864 in which up to 100 million are believed to have been killed or died of famine. If this sounds completely crazy, think of all the Republican sycophants that call President Trump the reincarnation of the ancient Hebrew Queen Esther or a ‘Christian warrior.’ Bizarre behavior and beliefs are universal. China has warned the rioting Hong Kong students to cease their protests or face intervention by Beijing’s tough paramilitary police, which backs up the regular People’s Army. Chinese armed police and soldiers are massing just across the border in Shenzhen, a mere taxi ride from downtown Hong Kong.

If the Hong Kong students are not wise, they risk winding up in China’s penal camps, the ‘laogai.’ Large numbers of Muslim Uighurs from Xinjiang have been locked away in China’s western laogai. The airport riots now appear over but continue in Hong Kong’s streets. If the People’s Police or Liberation Army do intervene in Hong Kong to impose China’s iron hand, they could spark another Tiananmen Square bloodbath. But once Beijing’s forces impose martial law on Hong Kong its days of autonomy will be over. The type of repression China imposed on Tibet and Muslim regions could be repeated in Hong Kong. There is absolutely nothing any of the world’s powers can do about it. China will then turn its attention to ‘renegade province’ Taiwan. Western politicians can huff and puff all they like but they are powerless to change the tide of events in Hong Kong.

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The cover of darkness.

Jeffrey Epstein Signed Will, Set Up Trust, Just Two Days Before Suicide (NYPost)

Jeffrey Epstein signed his will just two days before he hanged himself in his Manhattan jail cell — leaving behind a nearly $600 million fortune, according to court papers exclusively obtained by The Post on Monday. The court document, filed in the US Virgin Islands, where the convicted sex molester owned two isles — including one that locals dubbed “Pedophile Island’’ — was filed Aug. 8. The 66-year-old former hedge-fund manager was worth $577,672,654, or about $18 million more than he previously stated in court papers while futilely trying to land bail on federal sex-trafficking charges, the new documents show. He put all of his holdings in a trust, called The 1953 Trust, after the year he was born.

“It’s done that way for privacy reasons,’’ a city estate lawyer told The Post. “It’s pretty boiler-plate. It’s what we call a ‘pour-over will,’ which means everything pours over to a trust. “What is more unusual is the date, the fact that all of this was done just days before he died,’’ said the source, who asked to remain anonymous. “He could have thought, ‘I need to get my ducks in a row.’” The 21-page filing includes a copy of Epstein’s death certificate from Aug. 11, the day after his suicide — and lists “Immediate Cause: Pending Further Study.’’ The city Medical Examiner’s Office has since ruled that Epstein killed himself Aug. 10. Manhattan federal prosecutors Monday asked the judge overseeing his criminal case to officially toss it in light of his death.

“Because Jeffrey Epstein, the defendant, died while this case was pending, and therefore before a final judgement was issued, the indictment must be dismissed under the rule of abatement,” the assistant US attorneys wrote judge Richard Berman, who was overseeing the case. The federal prosecutors added to the judge that they have notified all of Epstein’s “identified victims” and repeated previous statements from US Attorney Geoffrey Berman that his office isn’t done looking into the alleged sex-trafficking ring that serviced Epstein and his buddies. [..] The Post’s legal expert said Epstein’ s lawyers likely filed his will in the Virgin Islands to try to keep it “more private, because that is not where people would look.’’ In New York, “There is always a risk that it would be leaked.”

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He’ll take the fifth. Does Britain have such a thing?

Prince Andrew Urged To Tell All He Knows About Jeffrey Epstein (G.)

Prince Andrew should give sworn testimony on “everything he knows” about his friend Jeffrey Epstein after saying he was appalled by the disgraced financier’s sex crimes, lawyers for some of Epstein’s victims have said. Representatives of women including Virginia Giuffre, who was pictured with Andrew in a now notorious photograph and alleges she was made to have sex with him, urged the prince to help them secure justice for the women Epstein abused. “I look forward to coordinating a formal deposition where he will be given the opportunity to tell us everything he knows,” Brad Edwards, a lawyer for Giuffre, told the Guardian on Monday. “We would like to do this as soon as possible, at his convenience, and again we are very appreciative of his willingness to help.”

Epstein, 66, died this month in an apparent suicide in a New York jail cell while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking. He was accused of abusing underage girls and making some of them pleasure several of his rich and powerful friends. In a statement released on Sunday, Buckingham Palace said Andrew was “appalled by the recent reports of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged crimes”. It said he “deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behaviour is abhorrent”. Allies of Epstein’s victims noted that Andrew stood by Epstein even after some of his offending came to light. Over the weekend the Mail on Sunday published new photographs of Andrew’s visit to Epstein’s $56m home in December 2010 – two years after the money manager pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor.

In February 2011 the News of the World ran photographs of the pair walking in Central Park during the same trip under the headline “Prince Andy and the Paedo”, setting off a storm around their friendship that has raged ever since. There was renewed anger on Monday after the resurfacing of details of Epstein’s visit to Balmoral Castle in 1999. Andrew hosted him and his friend Ghislaine Maxwell, a daughter of the disgraced publisher Robert Maxwell, who has been accused of assisting Epstein’s abuse and denies any wrongdoing. Giuffre alleged in 2011 testimony that Andrew “knows the truth” about Epstein’s abuse of underage girls and said he should be made to testify. In a December 2014 court filing she alleged that she was made to have sex with Andrew among other friends of Epstein. He has always vehemently denied the allegations.

In 2015 a court decided that the allegations made by Giuffre about the prince were “immaterial and impertinent” and ordered them to be struck out of a claim against Epstein.

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He’ll tell you for Halloween.

Boris Johnson Refuses To Reveal No-Deal Preparations (Ind.)

Boris Johnson has dismissed calls to immediately release official assessments on the impact of a no-deal Brexit after labelling potential food and medicine shortages as just “bumps in the road”. Downing Street had said that the leaked dossier on the impact of no deal – warning of shortages, possible recession and months of chaos at ports – was outdated. But Jeremy Corbyn said these claims “can’t be trusted” and that Operation Yellowhammer documents should be released in full so that businesses and consumers can prepare. A government spokesperson rejected the call, saying “extensive information” on what businesses and citizens need to do to prepare for Brexit is already available online.


It came after Mr Johnson dismissed a push from more than 100 MPs, backed by the Labour leader and his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, for parliament to cut short its summer break in order to tackle the looming exit from the EU on 31 October. The government was embroiled in a separate row yesterday over when the leaked documents were written. Though Michael Gove, who is in charge of no-deal preparations, said the dossier was an “old document”, it was reported that the assessments were sent to devolved governments as recently as this month. As the row escalated, Mr Corbyn called for the latest assessments to be released immediately. Speaking as he prepared to meet business leaders to discuss the potential impact of no deal, the Labour leader said: “The government’s own Operation Yellowhammer dossier makes the chaos and damage that will be caused by Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit crystal clear.


The last time the UK was self sufficient in food was 1800

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The EU cannot back down on the backstop. Johnson knows this. He’s just pre-emptively trying to deflect the blame.

Boris Johnson ‘Confident’ EU Will Back Down In Brexit Talks (G.)

Boris Johnson has claimed that EU leaders will change their positions and allow the UK to scrap the Brexit backstop in the withdrawal agreement. As the prime minister prepares for face-to-face talks with Angela Merkel of Germany and Emmanuel Macron of France this week, he acknowledged there would be “bumps in the road” before any agreement to drop the plan to prevent a hard border in Ireland. It follows the leak of cabinet papers this weekend warning that carrying out Johnson’s threat of a no-deal Brexit would cause “incredibly serious” economic harm.

“We will be ready to come out on October 31, deal or no deal,” Johnson said during a visit to Truro on Monday. Now of course our friends and partners on the other side of the Channel are showing a little bit of reluctance at the moment to change their position. “That’s fine – I’m confident that they will – but in the meantime we have to get ready for a no-deal outcome. I want a deal. We’re ready to work with our friends and partners to get a deal, but if you want a good deal for the UK, you must simultaneously get ready to come out without one.”

Johnson will meet the German chancellor on Wednesday and the French president on Thursday, before the G7 meeting in Biarritz on Saturday. When asked whether progress would be made during these talks, Johnson replied: “Well, that is, I’m afraid, very much up to our friends, and I hope that they will compromise. “They have seen that the UK parliament has three times rejected the withdrawal agreement, the backstop just doesn’t work, it’s not democratic and I hope that they will see fit to compromise, but in the meantime we get ready to come out on 31 October.”

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This is dangerous. The backstop exists to protect Good Friday. Now Boris says it hurts it. He’s the kind of Brit who thinks the Irish are a lesser people.

UK PM Tells EU Irish Backstop Is ‘Anti-Democratic’ (BBC)

Boris Johnson has told the EU the backstop plan for the Irish border must be scrapped because it is “unviable” and “anti-democratic”. In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, the PM said the backstop – which aims to avoid a hard border – risked undermining the Northern Irish peace process. If the plan was removed, Mr Johnson claimed a Brexit deal would be passed by parliament. Brussels has not yet responded. However, the EU has consistently insisted the backstop must remain part of the withdrawal agreement and cannot be changed. In a phone conversation with Mr Johnson on Monday evening, Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar reiterated that the agreement could not be reopened and the backstop could not change.


The backstop – part of the withdrawal agreement negotiated by former prime minister Theresa May which has been rejected by Parliament three times – is an insurance policy to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland. If implemented, it would see Northern Ireland stay aligned to some rules of the EU single market. In his letter, Mr Johnson described the arrangement as “inconsistent with the sovereignty of the UK” and insisted it could not form part of a withdrawal agreement. He also warned that it risked “weakening the delicate balance” of the Good Friday peace agreement.

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For now.

Boris Johnson Puts Health Service Off Limits In Potential US Trade Deal (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is putting the National Health Service (NHS) off limits in any trade deal with the United States, the Sun newspaper reported. “The Prime Minister has asked me to underline that measures affecting the NHS, including service provision and drug pricing, cannot under any circumstances form part of an agreement with the United States,” a letter from Johnson’s senior staff to Trade Secretary Liz Truss’s office said, according to the report. The letter continued that there should be no internal discussion of the issues within the government. Johnson fears the Labour Party would use any suggestion that NHS access is up for grabs to its electoral advantage, the article said. U.S President Donald Trump had said in June that Britain’s public health service should be on the table in talks about a trade deal between the two countries after Brexit but later backtracked on his comments.

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I was wondering yesterday: Syria forces were firing on a Turkish convoy entering Syrian territory. Russia supports Syria, also militarily, and Turkey just bought Russian S-400’s. Confusing!

But someone should protect the 3 million people in Idlib, that should be the priority.

Anti-Assad Fighters Withdraw From Key Area Of Northwest Syria (AFP)

Jihadists and allied rebels withdrew from a key area of northwestern Syria Tuesday as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces pressed an offensive against the jihadist-run Idlib region, a war monitor said. The fighters pulled back from the town of Khan Sheikun and the countryside to its south overnight and in the early hours of Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The withdrawal means an important Turkish observation point in the nearby town of Morek is effectively surrounded by government forces, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. On Monday, a Turkish military convoy crossed the border into the Idlib region, sparking condemnation from Damascus as Ankara alleged air strikes had targeted its troops.


The convoy halted just north of Khan Sheikhun on Monday afternoon and remained there on Tuesday, after government forces took control of a section of the highway into the town. Pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said Monday morning’s strike targeted a rebel vehicle scouting the road in front of the Turkish convoy. “The Syrian army in its own way sent a clear message to the Turkish regime by forcing convoys sent by Ankara to help the terrorists in Khan Sheikhun to come to a halt,” it said. It was a “clear warning against any Turkish attempt to resuscitate the terrorists,” the paper said, adding that the strike had “Russian support”.

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“We’re on the verge of a lot of things coming apart: supply lines, revenue streams, international agreements, political assumptions, promises to do this and that.”

No Normal (Kunstler)

Even the traumas of the 20th century’s world wars did not crush that sense of amazing progress, at least not in North America, spared the wars’ mighty wreckage. The post-war confidence of American society achieved a level of in-your-face laughable hubris — see the USA in your Chevrolet! — until John Kennedy was shot down, and after that the delirious moonshot euphoria steadily gave way to corrosive skepticism, anxiety, acrimony, and enmity. My generation, booming into adulthood, naively thought they could fix all that with Earth Day, tofu, and computers, and keep the great wheel rolling down into an even more glorious cybernetic nirvana. Fakeout. That’s not where the wheel is going.


We borrowed all we possibly could from the future to pretend that the system was still working, and now the future is at the door like a re-po man come to take away both the car and the house. The financial scene is an excellent analog to our collective psychology. Its workings depend on the simple faith that its workings work. So, it is easy to imagine what happens when that faith wavers. We’re on the verge of a lot of things coming apart: supply lines, revenue streams, international agreements, political assumptions, promises to do this and that. We have no idea how to keep it together on the downside. We don’t even want to think about it. The best we can do for the moment is pretend that the downside doesn’t exist. And meanwhile, fight both for social justice and to make America great again, two seemingly noble ideas, both exercises in futility. The wheel is still turning and the change of season soon upon us. What will you do?

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Aug 132019
 


Pablo Picasso Girl with a boat (Maya Picasso) 1938

 

Argentine Stocks Plunge Over 50% In One Day (AFP)
Hong Kong’s Leader Warns City Faces ‘Path Of No Return’ (AFP)
China Media Says Hong Kong Protesters ‘Asking For Self-Destruction’ (CNBC)
Boris Johnson Expects EU To Cave In To Save Ireland From No-Deal Brexit (R.)
Mortgage Rate Cuts Aren’t Boosting Housing (DDMB) span>
Have Prosecutors Lost Track Of Ghislaine Maxwell? (VF)
One Of People Watching Epstein Not A Proper Prison Guard (Ind.)
300 Brits Named In FBI dossier On Jeffrey Epstein (M.)
Fergie Feels Heat For Hubby Andrew Meeting Epstein (M.)
New FAA Head To Assess Agency Performance In Wake Of 737 MAX Crashes
Plastic Falls From The Sky In Rocky Mountains (G.)
Farm Rot is Eating America Alive (CP)

 

 

Argentina’s stock market plunged 48% in USD today, marking ‘the second-biggest one-day rout on any of the 94 stock exchanges tracked by Bloomberg going back to 1950.’

Argentine Stocks Plunge Over 50% In One Day (AFP)

Pro-business President Mauricio Macri predicted worse would follow after Argentina’s peso and the Buenos Aires stock exchange plummeted Monday following his crushing defeat by populist candidate Alberto Fernandez in a party primary election. Markets panicked as the peso closed at 57.30 to the dollar, a drop of 18.76 percent from its Friday closing figure, while the Merval index crashed 38 percent by close. On the New York stock exchange, Argentine bonds lost around 20 percent and shares in companies from the recession-hit South American country hemorrhaged more than 50 percent.


“This is just a taste of what’s going to happen” if the Peronist Fernandez, whose running mate is corruption-tainted former president Cristina Kirchner, comes to office, Macri warned. “This is about the past, there’s a ton of people who don’t keep their money in this country, who are leaving this country. It’s incredible what could happen.” Ever since taking office, Macri has blamed Argentina’s economic woes on the polices enacted by three successive Kirchner governments — Cristina Kirchner’s 2007-15 time in office was preceded by a single term for her late husband Nestor. “We cannot go back to the past because the world sees this as the end of Argentina,” said Macri.

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But the protesters are back at the airport.

Hong Kong’s Leader Warns City Faces ‘Path Of No Return’ (AFP)

Violent protests are driving Hong Kong down a “path of no return”, the city’s leader warned Tuesday as its airport struggled to recover from an unprecedented shutdown triggered by a rally and authorities in Beijing sent more ominous signals that the unrest must end. The airport, one of the busiest in the world, re-opened on Tuesday morning but hundreds of flights remained cancelled and protesters called for a new rally there later in the day. The abrupt closure came 10 weeks into a crisis that has seen millions of people take to Hong Kong’s streets in the biggest challenge to Chinese rule of the semi-autonomous city since its 1997 handover from Britain.


Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned Tuesday of the dangerous consequences facing the city, one of Asia’s most important financial hubs, if escalating violence at the rallies was not curbed. “Violence, no matter if it’s using violence or condoning violence, will push Hong Kong down a path of no return, will plunge Hong Kong society into a very worrying and dangerous situation,” Lam said. “The situation in Hong Kong in the past week has made me very worried that we have reached this dangerous situation.” Lam, who faced fierce questioning from local reporters and at one point appeared to be on the verge of tears, appealed for calm. “Take a minute to think, look at our city, our home, do you all really want to see it pushed into an abyss,” Lam said, although she again refused to make any concessions to the protesters.

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How much of it is bluff?

China Media Says Hong Kong Protesters ‘Asking For Self-Destruction’ (CNBC)

The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s Communist Party, posted on Chinese social media a statement saying the People’s Armed Police are in Shenzhen prepared to handle “riots, disturbance, major violence and crime and terrorism-related social security issues.” In a Tuesday social media post from the Global Times‘ Chinese edition, the outlet said “if Hong Kong rioters cannot read the signal of having armed police gathering in Shenzhen, then they are asking for self-destruction,” according to a CNBC translation. China is “implying they might send in the People’s Liberation Army or issue direct intervention but they don’t want to,” according to Ben Bland, a director at Sydney-based policy think tank Lowy Institute.


”(Beijing) hopes that the signals will scare protesters to back down,” but if and when Beijing decides to deploy troops they will not “advertise it,” he told CNBC. This is all part of a “delicate dance between China and Hong Kong” that’s reached a critical point because there is almost no common ground or overlapping interests between the protesters and Beijing, Bland added. Although China’s leaders do not want to deploy the PLA, they are “willing to do it if they have to,” the Asia politics expert said. Hong Kong’s former governor, Chris Patten, said on Tuesday that if China intervened in the city, it would be a “catastrophe” and that Chinese President Xi Jinping should see the wisdom of trying to bring people together. Patten called on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to garner support from its allies to ensure Beijing does not intervene.

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That’s quite the gamble.

Boris Johnson Expects EU To Cave In To Save Ireland From No-Deal Brexit (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes the European Union will cave in at the last minute and do a Brexit deal with him to “save Ireland”, the Sun newspaper reported on Monday, citing a source. A no-deal Brexit would hurt Ireland the most and Johnson is convinced European leaders will budge over the key issue of the so-called Irish backstop, the Sun said. The EU has said it is not prepared to reopen the divorce deal it agreed with Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May which includes the backstop – an insurance policy to prevent the return to a hard border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

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Here’s a string to push on.

Mortgage Rate Cuts Aren’t Boosting Housing (DDMB) span>

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is facing a housing conundrum. The market is in the midst of a 15-month slump, with home price gains and sales having slowed dramatically and permits to build new dwellings slumping by 6.6% to the lowest level in more than two years. This despite a big drop in market interest rates thanks to the Fed’s dovish pivot earlier this year. Of course, a recession would pull down prices and solve the affordability problem (a National Association of Realtors index shows housing is less affordable now than any time since before the financial crisis). But a recession is exactly what Powell hopes to avoid by lowering benchmark interest rates that are already near historic lows.

The thing is, though, 30-year mortgage rates are already at a very low 3.75%, down from almost 5% in November, and housing hasn’t responded. Applications to purchase a home have declined for four weeks running according to the latest Mortgage Bankers Association data. It’s not clear that even lower rates will help. Meanwhile, plans to buy a home within six months are at multi-year lows and look to have turned for the cycle. The value of residential construction is 7.8% lower than the first six months of 2018, accelerating a trend that’s seen a persistent contraction for six quarters, the longest stretch since the last recession. mThere is, however, some appetite to purchase a new home, albeit off a very low base. And while off the lows from last year’s spike in mortgage rates, buyer traffic in those model homes has been negative for nine consecutive months.

There can be benefits to a true housing recession. If the Fed can manage to contain itself and hold the line on negative interest rates, even a small contraction should be enough to flush the proliferation of speculators out of the market. Stories abound of homes swept up at auction that might have otherwise been razed, as in eradicated from the housing stock altogether. Think of these dwellings as the equivalent to the “zombie” companies that have hung on thanks to artificially low rates that spurred a boom in the market for junk bonds and loans. The divergent trend between residential and nonresidential investment is striking, reflecting malls across America being bulldozed and the build out of a warehouse nation.

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“There were rumors on Monday afternoon that indictments of five people were imminent.”

Have Prosecutors Lost Track Of Ghislaine Maxwell? (VF)

Is it possible prosecutors have lost track of Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged co-conspirator in his pedophile ring? For the past few weeks, rumors have circulated that she’s 400 pounds and living in Florida, or that she’s living the high life in London or the Continent, but according to the Washington Post, authorities are having a hard time locating her. Those who know her say that it’s possible she is as much of a Houdini as Epstein. Both of them liked having secrets, and the way those secrets kept people off balance. “Jeffrey always wanted to give the impression that he was an international man of mystery—‘I control everyone and everything, I collect people, I own people, I can damage people,’” says an ex-girlfriend.

As part of Epstein’s original plea deal, negotiated with Alexander Acosta, the others implicated were also given immunity from prosecution, which is partly why victims like Virginia Roberts Giuffre pursued her and others in civil courts. But Epstein’s death has not stopped the current investigation. “We remain committed to standing for you,” Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote in a statement after Epstein’s death, “and our investigation of the conduct charged in the Indictment—which included a conspiracy count—remains ongoing.” There were rumors on Monday afternoon that indictments of five people were imminent.

The nature of the relationship between Epstein and Maxwell, the favorite daughter of embezzling press baron Robert Maxwell, who died when he fell or was pushed from his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, is not well known. Multiple victims claim she was both part of the sex trafficking ring, often bringing girls to Epstein, and a sexual participant. But Epstein told of-age women he courted that Maxwell was a former girlfriend fallen on hard times, and that he had taken it upon himself to maintain her position in society. “Ghislaine floated in and out of the house with the keys, and even though Jeffrey told me they didn’t have a sexual relationship, she’d drop under her breath that she was sleeping in his bed from time to time,” says an ex-girlfriend.

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The conspiracy gods are giving us the finger.

One Of People Watching Epstein Not A Proper Prison Guard (Ind.)

One of the two people monitoring Jeffrey Epstein in the hours before his death was not a properly trained prison guard, it has been reported. As attorney general William Barr condemned “serious irregularities” at the jail where he was being held on bail, and the world waited news of details of an autopsy amid huge speculation and frenzied conspiracy theories, it emerged the 66-year-old disgraced financier had not been checked for several hours before he was found dead in his cell. Epstein, who was last month arrested and accused of orchestrating a sex trafficking network involving girls as young as 14, had not been on suicide watch at the time of his death.


Regulations did call for him to be checked every 30 minutes, however. These rules were put into place after the man who was once a friend of multiple powerful men and celebrities, was was last month found unconscious on the floor of his cell with marks on his neck, an episode officials were investigating as possible suicide attempt or assault. The New York Times said only one of the two people who were monitoring Epstein at the Metropolitan Correctional Centre in New York City, was a “fully-fledged correctional officer”.

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Looks like this is the file that was unsealed on Friday (2,000 pages). That was for Virginia Giuffre’s case vs Ghislaine Maxwell, but I didn’t see it referred to as an FBI dossier before.

300 Brits Named In FBI dossier On Jeffrey Epstein (M.)

The FBI’s 2,000-page dossier on Prince Andrew’s paedophile friend Jeffrey Epstein includes details of 301 British associates from the pervert’s address book. FBI agents raided Epstein’s private US Virgin Island, dubbed “paedophile island”, yesterday as the sex-trafficking probe continued, despite his apparent suicide, aged 66, on Saturday. US officials have also vowed to carry on probing Epstein’s ties to the UK amid fears about his offending overseas. And MPs are calling for an investigation into the Duke of York s relationship with Epstein. Virginia Giuffre claims she was a victim of sex trafficking by Epstein and “loaned” to Prince Andrew for sex three times, which he vehemently denies.

[..] US investigators who looked at Epstein’s “little black book” found almost half of it read like a who’s who of British society. His 301 British contacts had more than 1,000 numbers and dozens of email addresses between them. There is no suggestion the presence of their names in the book means any are accused of any wrongdoing or even met Epstein in person. The contacts included celebrities such as Mick Jagger, Simon Le Bon, the late Sir David Frost, Richard Branson, Naomi Campbell, Tamara Beckwith, Jonathan Dimbleby, Loyd Grossman and numerous lords and ladies. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair is recorded once, while his former cabinet minister Lord Peter Mandelson has 10 numbers, including one marked “direct line” one for “home” and another for “country home”.

There are 16 numbers for Prince Andrew, including a mobile number, one marked “Palace ex-directory”, one for Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish residence, where the Prince invited Epstein, and one marked “Sand”, for Sandringham, another royal retreat where he spent time. Epstein also recorded 18 numbers for Prince Andrew’s former wife Sarah Ferguson, who took £15,000 off the paedophile to help pay off her debts.

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Andrew’s under fire. He invited Epstein into several royal palaces.

Fergie Feels Heat For Hubby Andrew Meeting Epstein (M.)

Sarah and Andrew have been “rekindling” their romance back at Balmoral on holiday with the Queen. Until Sunday’s headlines about another wealthy American saw Fergie fleeing the royal fold in panic. Because paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, the pal who helped clear her debts, had killed himself – leaving secrets that could draw Andrew deeper into a sordid sex scandal involving teenage girls. And while the royals are standing by Andrew, who categorically denies any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors, Fergie fears she will take more flack over Andrew’s friendship with the disgraced financier. For it was Sarah who first introduced Andrew to “Good Time Ghislaine” Maxwell in the 1990s, before she introduced them to her lover Epstein.


Ghislaine became Andrew’s social fixer, his conduit into millionaire trans-Atlantic society. They were spotted dining on lobster salad, drinking champagne cocktails at a stylish Madison Avenue restaurant in New York in 2000. This was just a brief glimpse of Andrew’s new US life in the fast lane, all private jets, racy nightclubs and first-class treatment. When the Yorks divorced, Fergie’s profligate spending saw her rack up £5million in debts. In 2011, three years after Epstein was convicted of soliciting underage girls for prostitution, Sarah revealed he’d paid £15,000 to a personal assistant she owed.

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“..the Boeing 737 MAX “will not fly in commercial service until I am completely satisfied that it is safe to do so..”

New FAA Head To Assess Agency Performance In Wake Of 737 MAX Crashes

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said on Monday she has asked the new head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to assess the agency’s performance in the wake of two fatal crashes of Boeing Co’s 737 MAX planes since October. Chao, who administered the oath of office to new FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson, a former Delta Air Lines executive, at an event in Washington, said Dickson’s arrival “is an important opportunity to take stock of how well the FAA is doing in carrying out its critical safety functions.”


She added that she has asked Dickson “to assess the performance of the agency and the results of the ongoing investigations to make recommendations about any needed reforms.” Dickson reiterated the position of his predecessor, Dan Elwell, who has been the acting FAA chief since January 2018, that the Boeing 737 MAX “will not fly in commercial service until I am completely satisfied that it is safe to do so. FAA is following no timeline in returning the aircraft to service. Rather we are going to where the facts lead us.”

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We’re experimenting on our children.

Plastic Falls From The Sky In Rocky Mountains (G.)

Plastic was the furthest thing from Gregory Weatherbee’s mind when he began analyzing rainwater samples collected from the Rocky Mountains.“I guess I expected to see mostly soil and mineral particles,” said the US Geologic Survey researcher. Instead, he found multicolored microscopic plastic fibers. The discovery, published in a recent study titled “It is raining plastic”, is raising new questions about the amount of plastic waste permeating the air, water, and soil virtually everywhere on Earth. “I think the most important result that we can share with the American public is that there’s more plastic out there than meets the eye,” said Weatherbee. “It’s in the rain, it’s in the snow. It’s a part of our environment now.”


Rainwater samples collected across Colorado and analyzed under a microscope contained a rainbow of plastic fibers, as well as beads and shards. The findings shocked Weatherbee, who had been collecting the samples in order to study nitrogen pollution. “My results are purely accidental,” he said, though they are consistent with another recent study that found microplastics in France’s Pyrenees Mountains, suggesting that plastic particles could travel with the wind for hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometers. Other studies have turned up microplastics in the deepest reaches of the ocean, in UK lakes and rivers and in US groundwater.

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Farm Rot is Eating America Alive (CP)

The environment is the immense natural world that nourishes life and keep us alive. But instead of protecting and loving it, our corrupt Trump government signals to the business and billionaire classes the environment is theirs to exploit and destroy. The same confused mentality has been keeping the politicians mumbling about social problems, all but neglecting environmental policies that undermine the very ground under their feet. A look at that ground demolishes the bible of agribusiness: that our food is the safest in the world: that our agriculture is science-based. In the place of this fiction, farm rot is eating the country alive.

It’s a repeat of the early twentieth century when Upton Sinclair wrote about the mafia-like culture of food and agriculture: the complete absence of government regulation, the loathsome slaughterhouses of Chicago, the adulteration and poisoning of food. Scientists often publish dense articles about farming that, reading between the lines, you grasp the dreadful effects of our irresponsible decisions of allowing farmers to do as they please. These farmers have been addicted to huge petroleum-fueled machines, mountains of petroleum-based fertilizers, and rivers of petrochemical poisons. These “inputs” undermine the fertility and life of the land. Petrochemicals fight nature, primarily by killing beneficial microorganisms in the soil and poisoning beneficial insects and other wildlife.

The vision of the petrochemical farmers is not diversity in crops, much less diversity in the natural world where they are producing food. No, their nightmare of “scientific” agriculture takes flesh in the cultivation of one crop at a time, covering a vast acreage. In this futile struggle against nature, farmers keep adding more of old sprays, and often replace old chemicals with newer more acutely deleterious materials. Petrochemical companies, and the land grant universities that have been inventing many of the toxic weapons of the farmers, keep the farmers hooked on ever newer hazardous substances.

This farm chemical warfare has been going on for several decades. Farmers, academic and business experts and environmentalists know about it, though rarely any one of them calls farm sprays chemical warfare agents. They hope against hope this process can last forever. But it won’t. It annot. Nature does not work that way. It does not hide its secrets like men do. Employ reason and science and the truth and beauty of nature is all over you. But pretend you are the king and knows best, that you have the right to dominate the natural world, and you face the abyss of destruction.

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Aug 032019
 
 August 3, 2019  Posted by at 7:56 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Edward Hopper The long leg 1935

 

Last weekend, I noticed that two of the main newsmakers were both named Cummings, one in the US, the other in the UK. At first glance they don’t look like family, but I’ll readily admit I can’t be sure of that. What I do know is that both are symbolic of what’s wrong with the political systems they figure in.

Also last weekend, I saw a comment somewhere, think it was Twitter, that said something in the vein of: let’s hope the British don’t make the same mistake with Boris Johnson that the Americans made -and make- with Donald Trump, that is, labeling every single thing he does as “Bad”, because then they would lose all of their credibility, fast.

 

Elijah Cummings and Dominic Cummings. Not related.

 

And I thought: that could have been my comment, that’s how I look upon the whole political circus too. The entire blind demonization of Trump has only made him stronger, and the loss of credibility of the ‘accusers’ is a major factor in that. Not everything that goes wrong in America is Trump’s fault, it can’t be. But for large segments of the press, and their affiliated politicians, that has been the message for three years now.

And then you wake up one morning after -another- hearing, this time that of Robert Mueller, which you lost again, and you find that nobody believes you anymore, or cares, except for those who’d believe anything you say whatever it is anyway, and all of the time. But that also means you don’t reach anyone new, anyone not already in your echo chamber.

Right before the Mueller hearings, Jerry Nadler once again stated that Mueller had ‘very substantial evidence’ Trump is ‘guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors'”. But not one iota of any such ‘substantial evidence’ was addressed by Mueller in the hearings. And that hurts Nadler’s credibility to no end.

 

After three years, there’s no more time and space for empty allegations. Just watch Rachel Maddow’s plunging ratings. She lost some 25% of her viewers in the first half of this year. The Democrats would do well to take that into consideration before they speak out again. The latest episode a week ago started with Trump calling out Elijah Cummings (D-MD) on his comments about the border and telling him to take care of Baltimore first.

When Trump said Baltimore was rat infested, a million Democrats called him a racist for it, as in: he wasn’t talking about rats, he was really talking about black people. And subsequently we find out that Baltimore indeed has a substantial problem with rats, various other rodents, garbage, you name it. And one thinks: stop doing it, stop calling him names, stop calling every single thing he does “Bad”. Elijah Cummings has been one of many people doing just that.

Y’all need to stop it because you’re losing. You have been losing for those entire three years. You helped Maddow and the WaPo and NY Times make a fortune with their 24/7 empty allegations, but in the process you’ve been murdering your own party. If you want to fight Trump, you’ll have to do it with facts and evidence, mere innuendo no longer works, those days are gone. You need to change strategy, urgently, you have less than a year to do so.

And talking about the MSM, you also need to stop only watching and reading those sources. Because they don’t provide a wide enough picture, they put blinders on you. It’s what’s been so profitable for them. But not for your party, though it may seem to be.

But yeah, you look at the line-up of ‘candidates’, most of whom appear completely lost in the ‘field’, and you must wonder what 2020 will bring for your party. There’s Kamala and Biden on the right, and then there’s Bernie and Warren on the left. And you just know the DNC is going to pull another Bernie 2016 move. They don’t want the left, they don’t want the Squad, and they’re conspiring against Tulsi Gabbard too. It’s not the empire that’s coming for Tulsi, it’s the DNC.

 

If I were you, I’d first make sure the DNC gets no say in the choice of your candidate. I’d say disband the whole thing. They are responsible to a large extent for the losing pro-Hillary tactics that have made Trump that much stronger and got him elected. They are behind the whole Russiagate disaster, and the party must urgently distance itself from that. How you can do that without major internal cleansing, I don’t see.

If I were you, I would get rid of Nadler and Adam Schiff and Cummings and a whole lot more faces. Make a fresh start. As things are, the only people who will vote for you are those who would anyway, the echo chamber inhabitants. But the Democrats need additional voters too, swing voters, the already converted are simply not enough.

I see voices promoting an everything-on-red gamble for Michelle Obama, but that reeks far too much of desperation. Then again, betting on Biden or Kamala doesn’t look to be a winner either. The best person might well be Bernie, but the party made clear in 2016 they don’t want him. Personally, I would like to see a Bernie/Warren ticket, because it would give Americans a choice between truly different ideas and options.

Then again, Bernie keeps you far too close to being the War Party with his Russia comments. Americans deserve better. Embrace Tulsi Gabbard’s voice, even if you don’t want her as your candidate. The people love her, even if the DNC does not. She can get you votes you wouldn’t otherwise get. But overall, I don’t see much hope for you next year. Unless you manage to crash the economy before Christmas. Or Easter at the latest. How about Halloween?

 

If only because then there’s the other Cummings who made the news this week, Boris Johnson’s special adviser Dominic Cummings. I referenced the movie The Uncivil War a while back, and one thing I think I learned from it is that this Mr. Cummings doesn’t play second fiddles. He only agreed to run the VoteLeave campaign that in the end won the Brexit vote when he was given free rein. I think the same thing might have happened now.

He’s agreed to run Boris Johnson’s “Brexit by Halloween” program on the condition that nobody, very much including Boris himself, gets in his way. In 2016, Cummings pushed Boris forward because his polling data told him Nigel Farage was too unpopular and would cost too many votes (yes, the same Farage who has since pretended he was the big winner). But Cummings had no high opinion of Boris either, and still doesn’t.

What that adds up to is that the real boss in no. 10 is not even the PM nobody elected, it’s a guy who got handed the power by that unelected PM in a backroom meeting. And once Dominic Cummings has delivered Brexit, he’ll vanish into the shadows again, where he feels best. Given his past criticisms of Brexit, as well as the entire political system, it could all be more about the win, the kill, then about the value of what it will achieve. He’s not a politician anyway because he’s not a puppet. Cummings is a puppeteer. Boris, well, you get the picture.

 

Mind you, Brexit may well be a great idea. Just not this way, certainly not this way. The EU has turned into a very questionable club, no doubt. But does anyone at all have the idea that the UK will be well-prepared when they leave that club at Halloween? The thing I find problematic is that all UK laws, regulations, treaties over the past 40 years were agreed to in team efforts with Brussels. London signed them all.

That is a lot of laws and treaties and pieces of paper. Everything modern, everything that didn’t exist 40 years ago, think communications, internet etc. etc., will be part of that. Are they going to leave but still use all those thousands of pages of legislation anyway to regulate their “new” country? I don’t know how they see that, and frankly I don’t think they know either. They seem to just have been bickering amongst themselves for 3 years, and left preparation on the backburner.

Are their businesses prepared for reams upon reams of new paperwork, digital or not? I can’t be sure, but I don’t see it. And then there’s the Irish border, and the backstop. Westminster largely acts as if that’s a minor nuisance, and Paddy will fall into line, but today it’s not just a matter of talking to Dublin, but of talking to Brussels as well.

And you can despise the EU all you want, but they have no choice but to stand with Ireland. They can’t say: let’s ditch the backstop, that is not an option, Brexit would make the Irish border the border of the EU. And if Cummings and Boris want to head for a no-deal Brexit regardless, Good Friday will be as good as dead. Does Dominic Cummings really want to be held responsible for that? Hard to believe. Boris perhaps, but Cummings?

Boris and his people insist there won’t be new border crossings, that technology can save the day, and do the work away from the border. Haven’t seen them explain it though, and certainly not in any detail. But I did see a video the other day of someone involved in the Good Friday negotiations explaining what would happen.

He said, paraphrased: “you put cameras on -or near- that border, there’ll be militants shooting them down. Then you need police to protect the cameras, and they’ll shoot at the police. So you must bring in the army to protect the police, and you’re right back to the Troubles”. The Irish border is still a highly fragile combustible situation. And if Boris insists on not having a backstop, it’s hard to see how new Troubles can be avoided. The Good Friday Agreement came into effect less than 20 years ago, in December 1999.

The dysfunctional political systems Elijah Cummings and Dominic Cummings are part of may appear to be dysfunctional for different reasons. But the role of the media in both cases is very similar. The media wants to be -and define- the message, because that’s where the money is, and the power.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1156316342141759492

 

 

 

 

Jul 302019
 
 July 30, 2019  Posted by at 9:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Odilon Redon The winged man (The fallen angel) 1880

 

Pound Worth Just 85 Euro Cents At UK Airports (Ind.)
Boris Johnson Refuses To Meet EU Leaders Unless They Scrap Backstop (G.)
EU Rejects Dominic Raab’s ‘Easier’ No-Deal Brexit Claim (G.)
Boris Johnson’s New Brexit Chief Wants To Scrap Workers’ Rights (Ind.)
Things to Come (Kunstler)
Fake Cash, Fake Accounting: China Regulators Halt 46 IPOs, Bond Offerings (WS)
US Firms See Little Clarity On Huawei As US-China Talks Resume (R.)
Capital One: Information Of Over 100 Million People In US, Canada Hacked (R.)
The World is Not Enough (Statista)
Lost Cities and Climate Change (SciAm)

 

 

In currency markets, sterling is still worth 10% more than the euro, not 15% less. Three years ago it was worth 25% more. Scary to think what a no-deal Brexit could do. Well, unless you’re a short seller.

Pound Worth Just 85 Euro Cents At UK Airports (Ind.)

The pound has sunk well below €1 at Britain’s biggest airports – while the dollar is at parity. At the ICE desk at Heathrow airport on Tuesday morning, The Independent was quoted £117 for buying €100 – making each pound worth just 85 euro cents. At Gatwick airport on Monday night, the rate was £1 = €0.90. With commission added to a €100 transaction, the cost in sterling was £116. The interbank rate at 7am sank below £1 = €1.09, as the downward pressure on the pound continued. The currency market has marked down sterling as the prospect of a no-deal Brexit appears increasingly likely. At the peak of the holiday season, prices for British travellers will be at a two-year high.


The best rates for the euro found by The Independent were for “click and collect” transactions at London bureaux de change: €1.08 at branches of Thomas Exchange Global or ICE at Waterloo station. The interbank rate for dollars was £1 = $1.21, but Moneycorp at Gatwick airport was quoting parity: £1 = $1. Anyone changing £1,000 into the US currency and immediately back to sterling would lose over one-third of their money, receiving just £648.

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I don’t see how they could scrap the backstop, Brussels must stand up for its member state, Ireland. No choice. For Brussels, Ireland is a full-fledged nation. For London, it still doesn’t appear to be.

Boris Johnson Refuses To Meet EU Leaders Unless They Scrap Backstop (G.)

Boris Johnson is refusing to sit down for talks with EU leaders until they agree to ditch the Irish backstop from the Brexit withdrawal agreement, despite invitations to meetings from the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron. His official spokeswoman said the prime minister had made clear that he wanted to strike a deal, but that there was no point in holding face-to-face talks unless the EU agreed to reopen the agreement. But on a visit to the Trident nuclear base at Faslane in Scotland on Monday, Johnson painted a more optimistic picture of the prospects for talks, telling reporters there was “ample scope” to achieve a new deal.

He said: “We are not aiming for a no-deal Brexit at all. What we want is to get a deal and I’ve had some interesting conversations with our European partners. I’ve talked to [the European commission president] Jean-Claude [Juncker] and Angela Merkel and we’re reaching out today to [the Irish prime minister] Leo Varadkar. The feeling is, yes there’s no change in their position, but it’s very, very positive.” But he added: “They all know where we are: we can’t accept the backstop, it was thrown out three times, the withdrawal agreement as it stands is dead and everybody gets that. But there is ample scope to do a new deal and a better deal.”

While Johnson has spoken to Merkel and Macron, there are no plans to accept their invitations to visit without a change in their position on the backstop. Irish officials are understood to view the delay in contacting Varadkar as indicative of an unwillingness to enter serious talks. Varadkar is adamant that the backstop must stay to prevent a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland and preserve the integrity of the single market.

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Blame Games ‘R’ Us.

EU Rejects Dominic Raab’s ‘Easier’ No-Deal Brexit Claim (G.)

European Union officials have rejected Dominic Raab’s claim that negotiating a free-trade deal would be “much easier” after a no-deal Brexit. While the foreign secretary contends that leaving the EU without an agreement would ease the way to solving the disputed Irish border question, European sources fear a no-deal Brexit would trigger an acrimonious blame game. “It would mean the complete breakdown of political relations and I don’t think there would be much trust on the EU side with the Tories, or with the prime minister,” a senior diplomat said. “Eventually we would get around it because we are pragmatic, but this would be really, really bad, because of all the rhetoric around blaming.”


A second diplomat, speaking before Raab’s intervention, argued that all contact would cease after a no-deal Brexit. “Our phones will not be connected at that time … I don’t think they will be connected to someone who has reneged on their obligations,” they said. European officials agree that a precondition of talks would be a British pledge to honour the three core parts of the withdrawal agreement – citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the financial settlement. At the weekend, the EU budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, told Der Tagesspiegel the UK’s credit rating would be hit if Boris Johnson carried out his threat not to honour payments promised to the EU. Tanja Fajon, the Social Democrat member of the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said: “To negotiate a free trade agreement usually takes years and I believe the UK doesn’t have that time after a no-deal Brexit.”

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The UK has been instrumental in defining EU law for 40 years. Now they want to cherry-pick? That would put any future trade deals at risk. Unfair competition.

Boris Johnson’s New Brexit Chief Wants To Scrap Workers’ Rights (Ind.)

Boris Johnson’s new Brexit chief wants to scrap Theresa May’s commitment to protect British workers’ rights, and has suggested Brexit is an opportunity to escape the EU’s “heavy labour market regulation”, The Independent can reveal. Just two months ago David Frost said he was opposed to the approach advocated “by the leaders of both major political parties”, and argued that EU rights should not automatically be written into law after Brexit. Mr Frost, former chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was appointed last week by Mr Johnson to replace Olly Robbins as Downing Street’s EU chief, a role that will see him leading any future talks with Brussels.

“Business organisations have often in the past criticised the EU’s drift towards heavy labour market regulation,” Mr Frost said in May 2019 in an article reproduced on the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry website. “So I will take some persuading it will be a good outcome if the EU is able to set new UK labour market rules without any UK say – as currently seems to be envisaged by the leaders of both major political parties.” Theresa May committed the government to maintaining the current level of European Union workers rights, and also went even further, legislating for parliament to automatically be given votes on staying aligned with the bloc’s rules when future legislation emerges.

The “dynamic alignment” plans were unveiled by the government in a failed bid to get Labour MPs to back the withdrawal agreement. Additionally, during the transition period included in the withdrawal agreement, the UK would have to accept rights with no say at all, as rejected by Mr Frost. Brussels has also suggested the UK would have to stay aligned with future EU workers’ rights, as well as environmental and social legislation, past the end of the transition period – if it wants a trade agreement. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said the bloc would seek non-regression clauses to ensure Britain does not backslide on rules and try to undercut its neighbours.

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“Now, there is just suspicion that we’ve reached the limits of borrowing. Soon it will be a fact and that fact will upend everything we’ve been doing. ”

Things to Come (Kunstler)

The economic contraction ahead will put this borderline psychotic country through some interesting ch-ch-ch-changes. Mr. Trump now fully owns the Potemkin status quo of record stock markets poised against a withering rot of human capital at the core of an industrial society in sunset mode. Leadership at every corner of American life — politics, business, media — expects an ever-higher tech magical updraft of fortune from an increasingly holographic economy of mere fugitive appearances in which everybody can get more of something for nothing. The disappointment over how all this works out will be epic.

Globalism is wobbling badly. It was never what it was cracked up to be: a permanent new plateau of exquisitely-tuned international economic cooperation engineered to perfection. It was just a set of provisional relations based on transient advantage. As it turned out, every move that advantaged US-based corporations blew back ferociously on the American public and the long-term integrity of the social order. Sinister as it seems, the process was simply emergent: a self-organizing evolution of forces previously set in motion. And, like a lot of things in history, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

“Off-shoring” US industry jacked up corporate profits while it decimated working class livelihoods. In return, that large demographic got “bargain shopping” at Walmart, a life of ever-upward revolving debt, and dead downtowns. The country got gigantic trade deficits and government debt loads. In effect, globalism compelled America to borrow as much as possible from the future to keep running things the way they were set up to run. Now, there is just suspicion that we’ve reached the limits of borrowing. Soon it will be a fact and that fact will upend everything we’ve been doing.

Read more …

What is real in China?

Fake Cash, Fake Accounting: China Regulators Halt 46 IPOs, Bond Offerings (WS)

On Monday, Jinhe Biotechnology and Liande Automatic Equipment disclosed in filings that they had been ordered by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) to suspend their plans to sell bonds. On Sunday night, four companies — Hunan Baili Engineering Sci&Tech, Jiaao Enprotech Stock, MLS Co., and Woer Heat-Shrinkable Material Co. – disclosed in filings that they had been ordered by the CSRC to suspend their IPOs in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Regulators also stopped four IPOs on Shanghai’s Star Market, which itself debuted just last week with great fanfare. The 25 stocks listed on it gained 140% on the very first day, followed by steep declines the second day.


[..] On Sunday, two companies disclosed that their bond offerings were stopped by regulators, according to Yicai. On Friday, seven companies disclosed that their bond offerings have been halted. In total, regulators suspended 46 IPOs and bond offerings, based on filings made at the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges, including Shanghai’s Star Market, as of Monday, according to the South China Morning Post. The reason: these companies had chosen Ruihua Certified Public Accountants as their auditors. Ruihua, the second largest audit firm in China, has been embroiled in scandals involving large amounts of fake data, including fake cash, on its clients’ books. The fakeness of this cash became obvious when these companies defaulted on debt that they could have easily serviced with the cash they claimed to have on their books but didn’t. And Ruihua had just signed off on those fake books.

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“..the department has yet to respond to any of a total of around 50 license requests from about 35 companies..”

US Firms See Little Clarity On Huawei As US-China Talks Resume (R.)

A month after President Donald Trump said he would allow U.S. companies to resume selling to blacklisted Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei HWT.UL, his administration has done little to clarify what sales will be permitted. The lack of clarity on what U.S. firms can supply to the world’s top producer of telecommunications equipment as long as it’s on a so-called “entity list” is likely to cast a shadow over this week’s U.S.-China trade negotiations in Shanghai. Trump had pledged to allow the sales as a goodwill gesture to President Xi Jinping when the two met last month and agreed to restart talks to try to resolve their year-long trade war.


China, for its part, agreed to restart large-scale agricultural purchases. U.S. chipmakers cheered Trump’s announcement, which administration officials clarified afterwards meant the government would issue export licenses in cases where there is no national security risk and where the items are “non-sensitive” and readily replaced by rivals. But the department has yet to respond to any of a total of around 50 license requests from about 35 companies, sowing uncertainty in the industry and in Beijing. “At this stage, there is mass confusion,” said William Reinsch, a former Commerce official, adding that the plan for case-by-case decisions “maximizes the uncertainty.”

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No information is safe.

Capital One: Information Of Over 100 Million People In US, Canada Hacked (R.)

Capital One Financial Corp said on Monday that personal information including names and addresses of about 100 million individuals in the United States and 6 million people in Canada were obtained by a hacker who has been arrested. The suspect, a 33-year-old former Seattle technology company software engineer identified as Paige Thompson, made her initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. According to a complaint filed in the District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle, Thompson posted information from her hack, which occurred between March 12 and July 17, on coding platform GitHub. Another user saw the post and notified Capital One of the breach.


Law enforcement officials were able to track Thompson down as the page she posted on contained her full name as part of its digital address, the complaint said. Capital One said it identified the hack on July 19. A representative for the U.S. Attorney’s office said it was not immediately clear what the suspect’s motive was. The incident is expected to cost between $100 million and $150 million in 2019, mainly because of customer notifications, credit monitoring and legal support, Capital One said. The hacker did not gain access to credit card account numbers, but about 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 linked bank account numbers were compromised, Capital One said. Other personal information accessed included phone numbers and credit scores.

Read more …

Are we immune to this yet?

The World is Not Enough (Statista)

Earth Overshoot Day came on July 29 this year. This is the second time the day, which marks the time at which humanity has used up its allotment of natural planetary resources for the year, occurred in the month. It had occurred in August between 2010 and 2017. The day, whose existence is highlighted by the NGO Global Footprint Network, means that all humans on Earth for this year have already used up more natural resources than mother nature can reproduce annually. Emissions, but also of resources like wood or fish and the use of land for crops, are among the things counted in when calculating Earth Overshoot Day.


Industrialized nations have the biggest share in pushing its date forward, as seen in the organization’s country profiles. The U.S. is the biggest offender. If all nations lived like U.S. residents, the resources of five Earths would be needed each year in order for the natural environment to regenerate. The U.S. overshoot day is therefore on March 15. Australia, which had been ahead of the U.S. for some years, now had its overshoot day on March 31, with 4.1 “Earths” used annually. India was among the countries whose style of living would use up less than a whole Earth each year if practiced globally, which also has to do with poverty still being widespread in the country.

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“The scariest thing about climate change is what it will make us do to each other.”

Lost Cities and Climate Change (SciAm)

Not far from my grandmother’s house is a ghost city. At Angel Mounds on the Ohio river about eight miles west of Evansville, there are a few visible earthworks and a reconstructed wattle-and-daub barrier. There is almost nothing left of the people who build these mounds; in a final insulting erasure, the site is now named after the white settler family who most recently farmed the land. There are traces of other dead villages along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, mounds scattered from present-day Indiana to Arkansas and Alabama. In southern Illinois, a few miles from the Missouri border, hidden among empty corn and soy fields, is the center of that dead civilization’s gravity: the lost city of Cahokia.

Cahokia was larger than London, centrally planned, the Manhattan of its day. Most people there would have come from somewhere else. There were defensive foundations, playing fields, and a magnificent temple. There would have been sacred ceremonies and salacious gossip. It must have been a very exciting place to live. And then, relatively abruptly, it ceased to exist. We know of the city only because of the physical traces left behind. Few stories of Cahokia have survived; it disappeared from oral tradition, as if whatever happened to it is best forgotten. The archaeological record shows traces of the desperation and bloodshed that almost always accompany great upheavals: skeletons with bound hands, pits full of strangled young women.

The North American Drought Atlas, a historical record of climate conditions pieced together from the rings of old trees, provides a hint of what might have happened. The tenth century CE, when the Cahokia civilization would have developed, marked a distinct shift in the regional climate from persistent drought to rainier conditions more suitable for agriculture, centralization, and civilization. But the good times were not to last. In the middle of the fourteenth century, the climate swung back toward drought. This shift was likely associated with shifting temperature patterns in the ocean that affected the jet stream, pulling cool air down from the Arctic and displacing rainfall patterns.

These changes are attributable to some combination of natural internal climate variability and externally forced changes from solar activity and increased volcanic eruptions. Their effects were profound. In Europe around the same time, a confluence of natural factors perhaps related and perhaps separate from the forces drying out the Mississippi Valley caused it to rain heavily in the summer of 1314. The rains continued into the winter, and then into the next year, and then the next. Crops rotted in the fields, and the entire continent went hungry. Contemporaneous historical records complain of rain and famine, villages forced to eat dogs and cats, the dead, and even each other.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 222019
 
 July 22, 2019  Posted by at 8:56 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Claude Monet Impression, sunrise 1872

 

Nadler: Mueller Has Evidence Of Trump High Crimes And Misdemeanours (G.)
Trump Has Nothing To Fear From Mueller (Hill)
Boris Johnson’s Brexit Plans Under Threat From Ministers’ Resignations (G.)
Incoming Prime Minister Poses A Brexit Puzzle For Brussels (G.)
From Hammond on to Johnson – Where Next For Fiscal Policy? (PE)
Abe Fails To Get Enough Votes To Change Japan’s Pacifist Constitution (AT)
Armed Mob Violence On Protesters Leaves Hong Kong In Shock (BBC)
Puerto Rico’s Week Of Massive Protests, Explained (Vox)
The Secret Sources of Populism (Bruno Maçães)
Latest Secret Government File Reveals UK Middle East Policy (TP)
Kicked Off the Land (New Yorker)
Losing My Religion For Equality (Jimmy Carter)

 

 

Curious to see what that evidence is, and curious to know why iot has remained hidden to date.

Nadler: Mueller Has Evidence Of Trump High Crimes And Misdemeanours (G.)

The eyes of America will be trained on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, as Robert Mueller testifies before two House committees about his report on Russian election interference, links between the Trump campaign and Moscow and potential obstruction of justice by the president. On Sunday, the chairman of the judiciary committee indicated the stakes when he said the 448-page report contained “very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours” – the benchmark for impeachment. “It’s important that we not have a lawless administration and a lawless president,” the New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler told Fox News Sunday.


“And it’s important that people see what we’re doing and what we’re dealing with.” Nadler’s committee would initiate impeachment proceedings. Mueller, a former director of the FBI, will also appear before the intelligence panel. “The report presents very substantial evidence that the president is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanours,” he said, “and we have to present, or let Mueller present those facts to the American people and then see where we go from there because the administration must be held accountable and no president can be above the law.”

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Surprise: not everyone agrees with Nadler. Is everybody citing from the same report? Bradley A. Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2004.

Trump Has Nothing To Fear From Mueller (Hill)

The president has nothing to fear from the testimony from Robert Mueller because nothing Mueller could possibly say will change the result of the report he delivered. He conclusively found that there was no collusion with the Russians by the Trump 2016 campaign, and he did not bring any indictments for obstruction of justice against the President or even a referral. What Mueller left open with regard to obstruction — if at all — was conclusively dealt with by the Justice Department through the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General who found that there was no probable cause to bring criminal charges against the president.


Congress is not bound by the Mueller investigation or its findings. Congress on its own could bring on impeachment proceedings in the House based on the report — if there was evidence contained therein to warrant such actions. Mueller’s testimony will add nothing other than to further politicize an investigation that was supposed to be apolitical. Mueller reminds me of the patient who decides not to be resuscitated only to find that doctors did so against his wishes. At best, Mueller is a reluctant witness and at worst — for Democrats — a hostile witness. He made it clear in his press conference months ago that he would like the report to speak for itself and that he would not go beyond his own reporting. Congress now runs the risk of further being seen as conducting a witch-hunt against the president by calling a witness who clearly has nothing further to add.

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Quite a few could walk, starting today, but most on Wednesday, when he takes over.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit Plans Under Threat From Ministers’ Resignations (G.)

Boris Johnson’s hoped-for triumphant march into Downing Street this week is set to be dampened by a carefully timed series of resignations by senior ministers, who will retreat to the backbenches with a vow to thwart any moves towards a no-deal Brexit. The announcements by Philip Hammond and David Gauke that they will step down on Wednesday, immediately before Johnson is likely to head to Buckingham Palace, highlight the perilous political climate for Theresa May’s expected successor. It comes amid predictions that the Conservatives’ already wafer-thin working Commons majority of three could entirely disappear by the time MPs return from their summer recess, with mooted defections to the Lib Dems coming on top of a predicted byelection defeat.


Barring a hugely unexpected twist, Johnson is expected to be announced on Tuesday as the victor over Jeremy Hunt in the vote of Conservative members, formally taking over the next day, after May holds a valedictory prime minister’s questions. However, some of the gloss will be removed with the promised resignations of Hammond, the chancellor, and Gauke, the justice secretary, with predictions that other ministers and junior ministers opposed to no deal, such as the international development secretary, Rory Stewart, could follow.

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Headline is just wrong. The EU has seen Boris coming from miles away. They know he will put the blame with Brussels. They know he wants to ditch the backstop, and they won’t let him. Then Boris will be known as the man who broke the Good Friday Agreement.

Incoming Prime Minister Poses A Brexit Puzzle For Brussels (G.)

While Westminster has been gripped by the Conservative leadership race, Brussels has been on a Brexit break. That respite will soon be over. And despite rumours of Brussels compromises in the works, the EU has no off-the-shelf Brexit plan for the new prime minister, who is expected to be announced on Tuesday. “It wouldn’t make any sense to start working on this now,” one senior EU source said. “Because we really need to know [what he wants]. The only thing we have seen are his public statements.” EU negotiators have had no contact with the teams of Boris Johnson – the widely presumed winner – or his rival, Jeremy Hunt. Danuta Hübner, a Polish centre-right member of the European parliament’s Brexit steering group, said there was a “worrying” lack of time to find a compromise before Britain’s departure day on 31 October.


She could not imagine the EU putting anything new on the table, but said it remained open to renegotiating the political declaration on future relations. “We cannot change the major red lines on our side, that there is no possibility of renegotiating the agreement, including the backstop.” Johnson and Hunt have vowed to tear up the backstop, the fallback plan to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland, which both men have voted for at least once. Recent reports have suggested the EU is ready to offer a five-year transition to break the deadlock over the backstop. But three EU sources said this was a rehash of debates from the negotiation period, rather than fresh ideas. “It’s all quite ancient” and “not something that we are considering at all”, an official said.

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Ann Pettifor: “Hammond has quietly overseen the dismantling through austerity of a decent society…..”

From Hammond on to Johnson – Where Next For Fiscal Policy? (PE)

As Mr Johnson takes over as Leader of the Conservative Hard Brexit Cult, and by virtue thereof as Prime Minister, it is timely to take a quick look at what his economic and fiscal policy options are – at least in the lead up to DD-Day (Do or Die) on 31st October. It’s equally important to take stock of Mr Hammond’s record as he quietly fades away after three years as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Johnson proposes tax cuts for corporates (reduction in corporate tax rate, already one of the lowest of major economies), and praises President Trump’s example: “He has been very clever in allowing businesses to offset capital investment in tax, with capital allowances. I think we should think about that sort of thing for start-ups, in addition to cutting corporation tax, which would also be effective.” (Via Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun)


Johnson also promises significant tax cuts for the rich and well-to-do, notably by a big rise in the 40% income tax threshhold to £80,000 and by raising the starting-level of earnings for national insurance contribution (NIC) purposes. On the higher tax threshold, Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says this “costs about £9 billion and benefits the 4 million or so income taxpayers with the highest incomes. Most of the gain goes to those in the top 10% of the income distribution would gain an average of nearly £2,500 a year.” On the NIC issue, he calculates this costs £3 billion for every £1,000 the starting level is raised. All these measures will reduce the immediate tax take for government, probably by £20 to 30 billion per year initially, which is 1-1.5% of GDP.


Messrs Johnson & Hammond, circa 1910

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“The provisions, imposed by the United States after World War II, are popular with the public at large, but reviled by nationalists like Abe..”

Abe Fails To Get Enough Votes To Change Japan’s Pacifist Constitution (AT)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed victory Sunday for his ruling coalition in the upper house election, but appeared to fail to secure a “super majority” in the chamber in support of his dream to amend the nation’s pacifist constitution. With the results, the 64-year-old Abe, who is on course to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, aims to shore up his mandate ahead of a crucial consumption tax hike later this year, along with trade negotiations with Washington. “The ruling parties were given a majority … as people decided to urge us to firmly push for policies under the stable political base,” Abe told public broadcaster NHK.

“I want to meet their expectations soundly,” he said at the headquarters of his Liberal Democratic Party. Abe’s LDP and its coalition partner Komeito are forecast to take at least 69 of the 124 seats – about half the chamber – up for election on Sunday, with six seats still undecided, according to NHK. The two parties control 70 seats in the half of the 245-seat chamber that is not being contested, putting them on track to maintain their overall majority. [..] Local media did predict that forces in favor of revising the constitution, led by Abe’s LDP, were certain to fail to reach 85 of the seats up for grabs, which would have given them a two-thirds “super majority” in the chamber.

Following the vote, however, Abe said he would continue trying to expand support for the revision even if the pro-revision group eventually misses the target, necessary for proposing a constitutional amendment. Abe has pledged to “clearly stipulate the role of the Self-Defence Forces in the constitution,” which prohibits Japan from waging war and maintaining a military. The provisions, imposed by the United States after World War II, are popular with the public at large, but reviled by nationalists like Abe, who see them as outdated and punitive.

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Crazy. But Chinese.

Armed Mob Violence On Protesters Leaves Hong Kong In Shock (BBC)

Hong Kong has been left in shock after a night of violence on Sunday which saw dozens of masked men storm a train station. The men – dressed in white shirts and suspected to be triad gangsters – assaulted pro-democracy protesters and passers-by in the Yuen Long area. This is the first time this kind of violence has been seen in the ongoing anti-extradition demonstrations. Several lawmakers questioned why police were slow to arrive at the scene. Footage posted on social media showed dozens of men attacking people with batons inside the station. Forty-five people were injured, with one person in critical condition.


Lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said police had taken more than an hour to arrive. “Hong Kong has one of the world’s highest cop to population ratio,” said another pro-democracy lawmaker Ray Chan in a tweet. “Where were [they?]” Police on Monday said they had not made any arrests but were still carrying out investigations. The mob attack followed a pro-democracy rally on Sunday in the centre of Hong Kong, where riot police had fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters. The masked men stormed Yuen Long MTR station at about 22:30 local time (14:30 GMT), attacking passengers and people making their way back from the protest.

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“Protesters gave an ultimatum to the Governor after his address. “You have until 11:59pm to leave. If you refuse, we will make this country unmanageable“

Puerto Rico’s Week Of Massive Protests, Explained (Vox)

Thousands of protesters demonstrated in the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico Saturday, marking the eighth straight day of rallies calling for the resignation of the island’s governor. The crowds show no sign of ebbing, and analysts say that the protests are quickly becoming the biggest political demonstration in the US territory’s modern history. The protests arose in response to the leak of Telegram app messages in which Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and his inner circle make light of the casualties caused by Hurricane Maria and disparage political opponents using vulgar, homophobic, and sexist language.

The text message leak came days after another scandal: The FBI arrested two former top officials in Rosselló’s government as part of a corruption probe over their handling of $15.5 million in contracts. The officials, former Education Secretary Julia Keleher and Ángela Ávila-Marrero (former chief of Puerto Rico’s Health Insurance Administration), are accused of funneling the contracts to businesses they had personal ties to, regardless of those companies’ relevant experience or ability. The incidents have galvanized a public that feels neglected and exploited by political and economic elites, and one that has endured great suffering in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a seemingly unresolvable debt crisis.

Calls for Rosselló’s resignation were growing following the corruption scandal; they exploded after the group chat scandal. Two cabinet officials have resigned in the wake of the scandals, but so far Rosselló has said that he plans to stay in office. Pressure on the governor is rising, however. The protests have garnered international attention, and a number of Puerto Rican celebrities like singer Ricky Martin (who was mocked in the leaked texts), Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and reggaeton star Bad Bunny have backed the demonstrations. “They mocked our dead, they mocked women, they mocked the LGBT community, they made fun of people with physical and mental disabilities, they made fun of obesity. It’s enough. This cannot be,” Martin said in a video on Twitter.

Many politicians from the US mainland have started to weigh in on the issue as well. President Donald Trump — who has called Puerto Rican officials “incompetent or corrupt” and who has opposed increased Hurricane Maria aid to the territory — was critical of Rosselló on Twitter. “The Governor is under siege, the Mayor of San Juan is a despicable and incompetent person who I wouldn’t trust under any circumstance, and the United States Congress foolishly gave 92 Billion Dollars for hurricane relief, much of which was squandered away or wasted, never to be seen again,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

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Populism as a result of decaying power.

“As European affairs minister in Portugal, I had quickly become used to thinking of Poland as the EU’s fourth power, ahead of Spain and Italy”

The Secret Sources of Populism (Bruno Maçães)

Populism is a direct result of significant shifts in the global distribution of power. Namely, it is a reaction to the loss of power by a formerly hegemonic West. The populist parties competing for power in many European countries are reminiscent of the nationalist movements of the 1800s and 1900s in developing countries, which won support from people tired of feeling dependent on Europe and the United States. In particular, they sensed that their ancient civilizations had come to abandon their way of life for Western ideas. They lamented that their countries had been so deeply Westernized that only the sense of emptiness remained. “Our country resembles a hospital,” the Turkish writer Kazim Nami wrote in Turkish Country, a journal published between 1911 and 1931, “deprived of medicine, doctors and care.”

In Russia, a Europeanized aristocracy existed in an entirely different world from the peasantry. They spoke French, listened to different music and songs, ate different food, and had a radically different view of religion and the ends of life. It was as two countries rather than as two classes that they looked at each other, plotting a final and decisive struggle over Russia’s soul. Even in France, England, Germany, and the United States, a creeping sense of alienation was slowly developing between the classes, but it was of a different sort. Because these were the world’s ruling nations, elites assumed the responsibility of managing the affairs of foreign countries. Their outlook was more universal in character, although rooted in colonialism, and that created an inevitable distance with their compatriots.

Of course, as long as Western hegemony persisted, the spoils of empire flowed to the lower classes and reconciled them with those in power. But as the balance of power shifted, cosmopolitan elites appeared in a different light. It was implausible for them to dictate to the rest of the world from a position of growing weakness, and some had learned too well to incorporate the interests of the rest of humanity when formulating their positions. Today, many voters in Europe and the United States are starting to regard the elites as profoundly disconnected from what they see as the national interest. Distrust and alienation will keep growing.

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Divide and rule. Long read. Here’s one of its stories.

Latest Secret Government File Reveals UK Middle East Policy (TP)

In April 1941, nationalist army officers known as the Golden Square staged a coup in Iraq, overthrowing the pro-British regime, and signalled they were prepared to work with German and Italian intelligence. In response, the British embarked on a military campaign and eventually crushed the coup leaders two months later. But Suarez discovered in the files that the British were already wanting such a “military occupation of Iraq” by November 1940 – well before the Golden Square coup gave them a pretext for doing so. The reason was that Britain wanted to end “the mufti’s intrigues with the Italians”. One file notes: “We may be able to clip the mufti’s wings when we can get a new government in Iraq. FO [Foreign Office] are working on this.”

Suarez notes that a prominent thread in the British archive is: “How to effect a British coup without further alienating ‘the Arab world’ in the midst of the war, beyond what the empowering of Zionism had already done.” As British troops closed in on Baghdad, a violent anti-Jewish pogrom rocked the city, killing more than 180 Jewish Iraqis and destroying the homes of hundreds of members of the Jewish community who had lived in Iraq for centuries. The Farhud (violent dispossession) has been described as the Iraqi Jews’ Kristallnacht, the brutal pogrom against Jews carried out in Nazi Germany three years earlier.

There have long been claims that these riots were condoned or even orchestrated by the British to blacken the nationalist regime and justify Britain’s return to power in Baghdad and ongoing military occupation of Iraq. Historian Tony Rocca noted: “To Britain’s shame, the army was stood down. Sir Kinahan Cornwallis, Britain’s ambassador in Baghdad, for reasons of his own, held our forces at bay in direct insubordination to express orders from Winston Churchill that they should take the city and secure its safety. Instead, Sir Kinahan went back to his residence, had a candlelight dinner and played a game of bridge.” Could this be the reason that UK government censors want the file to remain secret after all these years? It would neither be the first, nor the last time that British planners used or created pretexts to justify their military interventions.

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“Between 1910 and 1997, African-Americans lost about ninety per cent of their farmland. This problem is a major contributor to America’s racial wealth gap; the median wealth among black families is about a tenth that of white families.”

Kicked Off the Land (New Yorker)

In the spring of 2011, the brothers Melvin Davis and Licurtis Reels were the talk of Carteret County, on the central coast of North Carolina. Some people said that the brothers were righteous; others thought that they had lost their minds. That March, Melvin and Licurtis stood in court and refused to leave the land that they had lived on all their lives, a portion of which had, without their knowledge or consent, been sold to developers years before. The brothers were among dozens of Reels family members who considered the land theirs, but Melvin and Licurtis had a particular stake in it. Melvin, who was sixty-four, with loose black curls combed into a ponytail, ran a club there and lived in an apartment above it. He’d established a career shrimping in the river that bordered the land, and his sense of self was tied to the water. Licurtis, who was fifty-three, had spent years building a house near the river’s edge, just steps from his mother’s.

Their great-grandfather had bought the land a hundred years earlier, when he was a generation removed from slavery. The property—sixty-five marshy acres that ran along Silver Dollar Road, from the woods to the river’s sandy shore—was racked by storms. Some called it the bottom, or the end of the world. Melvin and Licurtis’s grandfather Mitchell Reels was a deacon; he farmed watermelons, beets, and peas, and raised chickens and hogs. Churches held tent revivals on the waterfront, and kids played in the river, a prime spot for catching red-tailed shrimp and crabs bigger than shoes. During the later years of racial-segregation laws, the land was home to the only beach in the county that welcomed black families. “It’s our own little black country club,” Melvin and Licurtis’s sister Mamie liked to say.

In 1970, when Mitchell died, he had one final wish. “Whatever you do,” he told his family on the night that he passed away, “don’t let the white man have the land.” Mitchell didn’t trust the courts, so he didn’t leave a will. Instead, he let the land become heirs’ property, a form of ownership in which descendants inherit an interest, like holding stock in a company. The practice began during Reconstruction, when many African-Americans didn’t have access to the legal system, and it continued through the Jim Crow era, when black communities were suspicious of white Southern courts. In the United States today, seventy-six per cent of African-Americans do not have a will, more than twice the percentage of white Americans.

Many assume that not having a will keeps land in the family. In reality, it jeopardizes ownership. David Dietrich, a former co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Property Preservation Task Force, has called heirs’ property “the worst problem you never heard of.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recognized it as “the leading cause of Black involuntary land loss.” Heirs’ property is estimated to make up more than a third of Southern black-owned land—3.5 million acres, worth more than twenty-eight billion dollars. These landowners are vulnerable to laws and loopholes that allow speculators and developers to acquire their property. Black families watch as their land is auctioned on courthouse steps or forced into a sale against their will.

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Carter leaves the Southern Baptist Convention after 60 years.

Losing My Religion For Equality (Jimmy Carter)

I have been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries. At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

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Apr 262019
 
 April 26, 2019  Posted by at 9:39 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Francisco Goya The dummy 1791

 

Trump Has Just Taken The Biggest Economic Gamble Of His Presidency (AEP)
A Nation at War With Itself (Pat Buchanan)
Trump Attacks Democrat ‘Coup’ In 1st Post-Mueller Interview (RT)
US Is Investigating Assange Under Espionage Act – WikiLeaks (NP)
UN Special Rapporteur On Privacy Meets Assange In Prison: “I Will Act” (Maurizi)
Macron Responds To Gilets Jaunes Protests With €5 Billion Tax Cuts (G.)
Macron: Smaller Schengen Zone Because EU Migration Policies ‘Do Not Work’ (RT)
Irish Backstop Could Undermine EU Standards – Report (G.)
Juncker Refuses To Reject Huawei ‘Just Because It’s Chinese’ (RT)
Huawei Leak Highlights Collapse Of Discipline In May’s Cabinet (G.)
European Equities May Benefit As $1 Trillion In US Buybacks Vanish (ZH)
Universe Expands Faster Than Expected – NASA

 

 

Ambrose calls the depletion of Ghawar a “first-order shock”. Common knowledge though. Still, Trump may not be aware of it either if Ambrose isn’t.

Trump Has Just Taken The Biggest Economic Gamble Of His Presidency (AEP)

Donald Trump’s double strangulation of Iran and Venezuela is reducing spare capacity in the global oil markets to wafer-thin levels very fast. If anything goes wrong in the geopolitical cauldron of world energy over the next six months, we will discover whether Saudi Arabia really is capable of cranking up an extra 2 million barrels a day of crude. What we learnt from the rare glimpse of Saudi Aramco’s books this month is that the legendary Ghawar field is badly depleted. It cannot pump more that 3.8m barrels a day. This is a first-order shock. The company has always asserted with magisterial confidence that it can produce 5m barrels a day without difficulty.

Jean-Louis Le Mee, from Westbeck Capital, says the physical oil markets are on fire. They are heading for a supply deficit of 1.3m barrels a day by the third quarter even if OPEC matches every barrel of lost oil from Iran sanctions. “These numbers should have every investor worried,” he said. Global spare capacity is arguably as low today as it was during the great oil shocks of the last half century. We are skating on thin ice. The immediate wild card is renewed fighting in Libya but other supply problems are stacking up fast. Draconian new rules on shipping fuel to lower sulphur emissions imply a surge in demand for variants of diesel. Bank of America says this will add 1.1m barrels a day in short-term crude demand over coming months. “We see a risk of $US100 Brent by year-end,” it said.

The options markets are not priced for this so the theatrics could be spectacular. Libya is again on the cusp of full-blown civil war after the fateful march on Tripoli by general Khalifa Haftar, the mercurial Nasserist of Benghazi. The National Oil Corporation warns that a free-for-all by rival militias could cause a near total collapse in crude exports. The world could lose another 700,000 barrels a day. Brent crude has risen to a six-month high of $US74.50, up 25 per cent from its average levels over the winter. It has not yet reached the pain threshold for Europe or emerging markets but it is getting close. Oil has of course been much higher in the past – $US148 in 2008 – but the nominal price is not the macro-economic variable that matters. Trouble starts earlier if crude is rising because of a negative supply shock. That is what we face today.

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No, I haven’t become a fan of Buchanan. But his view warrants attention.

“How does a nation so divided stand united in the world? And if it cannot stand united in the world, how long does it remain a great nation?”

A Nation at War With Itself (Pat Buchanan)

President Donald Trump has decided to cease cooperating with what he sees, not incorrectly, as a Beltway conspiracy that is out to destroy him. “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump said Wednesday. “These aren’t, like, impartial people. The Democrats are out to win in 2020.” Thus the Treasury Department just breezed by a deadline from the House Ways and Means Committee to deliver Trump’s tax returns. Thus the White House will invoke executive privilege to deny the House Judiciary Committee access to ex-White House counsel Don McGahn, who spent 30 hours being interrogated by Robert Mueller’s team. Thus the Justice Department is withholding from the Oversight Committee subpoenaed documents dealing with the decision to include a question on the 2020 Census about citizenship status.

Across the capital, the barricades are going up figuratively as they did physically in the 1960s and ’70s. Once more, it’s us against them. Cognizant of the new reality, Trump seems to be saying: These House investigations constitute a massive political assault, in collusion with a hostile media, to destroy my presidency. We do not intend to cooperate in our own destruction. We are not going to play our assigned role in this scripted farce. We will resist their subpoenas all the way to November 2020. Let the people then decide the fate and future of the Trump presidency — and that of Nancy Pelosi’s House.

[..] Whatever may be said about the “deplorables,” they are not obtuse. They do not believe that people who call them racists, sexists, nativists and bigots are friends and merely colleagues of another party or persuasion. Trump’s defiance of subpoenas, however, will force the more moderate Democrats to join the militants in calling for hearings on impeachment in the House Judiciary Committee, which is where we are headed. The media are already salivating over the possible removal of a president they have come to loathe more than their great nemeses of the 20th century — Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon. And the media will reward those who echo the call for impeachment. This week, two more Democrats running for president, including Sen. Kamala Harris, came aboard. Soon, the House will capitulate to the clamor and the stampede will be on.

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Sometimes I think the Democrats work for Trump. They hand him everything on a platter by getting lost in a fictional narrative.

Trump Attacks Democrat ‘Coup’ In 1st Post-Mueller Interview (RT)

Trump unloaded on Democrats, accusing them of an “attempted coup” in his first interview since the release of the Mueller report. Rehashing his usual rhetoric, Trump called the ‘Russiagate’ flop “bigger than Watergate.” On a victory lap since his election campaign was cleared of collusion with Moscow, Trump relied on a few tried and trusted tropes as he bashed the “13 angry Democrats” and “dirty cops” from the FBI for sparking the Russia investigation in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. The long-awaited publication of the redacted version of the Mueller report appears to have given Trump a huge boost of confidence as he sounded more assertive than ever, taking aim at his political opponents and doubling down on his innocence.


“The greatest scandal in the history of our country. Bigger than Watergate, because it means so much. This wasn’t stealing information from an office in the Watergate apartments. This was an attempted coup. It’s inconceivable. Like a third world country.” Trump lashed out at former rival Hillary Clinton for “destroying the lives” of his staffers, and blasted the FBI for going light on her during her private server investigation. But now, he said, the “tables have turned” and “it’s time to look at the other side,” calling the Russia investigation an “attempted overthrow of the United States government” and “a disgraceful thing.”

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Death penalty. For which UK cannot extradite. US is talking to Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who had a big fall-out with Assange. Letter sent to him is underneath the article.

US Is Investigating Assange Under Espionage Act – WikiLeaks (NP)

Right after the London police carried Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy, the United States demanded his extradition. A March 2018 indictment charges him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison. But that is not the entire truth. Only one day after writing the indictment, the US Attorney’s Office admitted it was also investigating Assange for the „unauthorized receipt and dissemination of secret information“. That is what the Department of Justice wrote in a letter to former WikiLeaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg, which we are publishing in full.

This accusation can be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, a World War I era federal law intended to protect military secrets which has also been used to charge Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Convictions under the Espionage Act can be punished by death. The death penalty is not only inhumane and archaic, it has legal consequences: The United Kingdom is not allowed to extradite Assange if he faces the death penalty. Charging Assange for publishing classified information is an attack on press freedom, „obtaining and disseminating secret information“ is the very task of journalism. If WikiLeaks is charged, every journalist and media outlet publishing secret information will be on trial. While the Obama administration debated this dangerous precedent, the Trump government shows no restraints.

[..] In Virginia, a federal grand jury is secretly investigating Assange and WikiLeaks. In December 2017, an FBI agent filed an affidavit to support charging Assange with a computer hacking conspiracy. Based on that, the grand jury issued an indictment against Assange on March 6, 2018. This document was unsealed and published immediately after his arrest in London. It is the official justification for the extradition request. But that is not the whole story. Just one day after writing the indictment, on March 7, 2018, the same US Attorney, Tracy Doherty-McCormick, wrote a letter to the lawyers of Daniel Domscheit-Berg in Germany.

Sporting the Department of Justice seal, the chief federal prosecutor requests a „voluntary questioning“ of Domscheit-Berg, explicitly „about possible violations of US federal criminal law regarding the unauthorized receipt and dissemination of classified information“ – a drastic accusation under the Espionage Act. The US Attorney goes on to explain some conditions for Domscheit-Berg. He must answer all questions fully and truthfully, the US may use all statements and information for criminal investigations and cross-examination. In return, whatever Domscheit-Berg testifies will not be used for prosecutions against him.

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Bit late perhaps?!

UN Special Rapporteur On Privacy Meets Assange In Prison: “I Will Act” (Maurizi)

He is the first person who has been able to visit Julian Assange at the Belmarsh prison besides Assange’s lawyers. In fact, although two weeks have passed since the arrest of the WikiLeaks’ founder, no other visitors are allowed apart from his lawyers. The UN Special Rapporteur on Privacy, Professor Joe Cannataci, just visited Julian Assange at the Belmarsh prison, a high security prison marked by the strictest prison regime in the UK, and in fact even visitors have to undergo to intensive controls, including police interviews, and of course meetings are monitored. Repubblica just interviewed the UN Rapporteur Cannataci.

Professor Cannataci, how did Assange seem to be doing? «My visit went well, Mr Assange was ready to answer my questions. We have already started gathering facts and asked questions of Assange’s legal team and of the Ecuadorian ambassador in London»

How is Julian Assange? We were all shocked by his appearance the day of his arrest… «I am not a physician, and so I am unable to make a medical assessment of him and of course I met him in prison, which is never a pleasant place to meet, however, it seemed to me he was in fairly good condition».

Were you able to talk to him with some privacy, or were you under surveillance? «No, my impression was that the UK authorities assured us a level of privacy intended for meetings with legal counsel. Usually in the UK prisons you have the following rules: for social meetings, like meetings with relatives, you don’t expect privacy, whereas meetings with legal counsels are usually not subjected to monitoring. These kinds of meetings are held in special places, usually 10-15 small rooms where detainees can meet their lawyers confidentially. I had asked for a confidential meeting and I am happy that the UK government agreed to provide us such a private meeting».

What are you investigating exactly, in relation to this meeting with Julian Assange? «At the end of March Mr Assange submitted an official complaint, which said that his right to privacy had been infringed during his time in the embassy of Ecuador. Together with my team, I made a preliminary assessment to see if his privacy has been infringed, therefore I am gathering the facts, these facts lead to a number of questions about behaviour which took place in the embassy. Today we are still in the preliminary stage. After my meeting with Mr Assange, I had a meeting with his legal team and then a meeting with the ambassador of Ecuador».

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I tell you: Macron simply doesn’t know he’s lost it all. He’s blind: “Did we take a wrong turn?’ I believe quite the opposite.” And that in the face of 25 weekends of protests against him.

Macron Responds To Gilets Jaunes Protests With €5 Billion Tax Cuts (G.)

Emmanuel Macron has vowed to make his style of politics more “humane”, but insisted he would press on with his project to liberalise the French economy and overhaul its welfare state despite five months of demonstrations by gilets jaunes (yellow vest) anti-government protesters. In his first press conference in two years as president, Macron promised €5bn worth of cuts to income tax for lower and average earners as well as pension rises for the poorest and vowed no more schools or hospitals would be closed during his presidency, as he responded to protests.

The centrist politician conceded that he needed to inject more “humanity” into his style of governance but insisted he would not make changes to his pro-business programme, despite the ongoing anti-government Saturday protests by gilets jaunes, which resulted in sporadic rioting and arson in Paris and other cities. Macron said he recognised the protesters’ “just demands” and “anger and impatience for change” and their feeling of not being taken into account by the “elites”, including the presidency, but public order must now be restored. He said although he respected the demonstrators who gathered at the start of the movement in November, he said it had “transformed progressively” and been marred by episodes of antisemitic violence, homophobia and rioting.

He said he stood by his project to liberalise the French economy, defending his controversial cuts to its wealth tax, which protestors sought to overturn. He said France was unique in Europe in not having dealt with its structural problem of mass unemployment so he would not go back on his planned “transformation” of the country. He said: “I asked myself: ‘Should we stop everything that was done over the past two years? Did we take a wrong turn?’ I believe quite the opposite.” [..] He promised to scrap the École nationale d’administration elite graduate training school for French civil servants and public officials. Saying the French style of governance needed to shift, Macron said he planned to make it easier for citizens to propose national referendums, and also would introduce 20% proportional representation into the lower house of parliament.

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Schengen, Dublin, they don’t serve Macron’s career, so out with them.

Macron: Smaller Schengen Zone Because EU Migration Policies ‘Do Not Work’ (RT)

The Schengen agreement and the current migrant-sharing mechanism are deeply flawed and need urgent fixing, French President Emmanuel Macron has said. Europe must “have borders” even if it means a smaller Schengen zone, he said. In the first major press conference since the Yellow Vest movement took off in November, Macron unveiled a range of policy measures to placate the protesters, including a proposed overhaul of the European-wide migration policy and the Schengen agreement. The embattled French leader argued that the agreement that guarantees free movement across the Schengen area, while “wonderful,” does not work anymore. The same, he said, applies to the Dublin Regulation that determines which EU member-state is responsible for accepting asylum seekers.


Under the current version of the agreement, which came into force in 2013 and applies to all EU member-states except Denmark, the main criteria for determining responsibility is the first point of entry. “The common borders, Schengen, Dublin agreements do not work anymore,” Macron said, adding that it is essential for Europe to make “profound” changes in its way of handling migrant arrivals. Macron called for reinforced border security, which might entail having a Schengen “with fewer states.” The Schengen area comprises 26 states, including 22 EU member-states and four non-EU countries: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It is named after the 1985 agreement that abolished internal borders allowing people within the zone to travel freely from one country to another.

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Trojan horse.

Irish Backstop Could Undermine EU Standards – Report (G.)

It is a dastardly trap, designed to lock freedom-loving Britain into the European Union’s protectionist customs union: that is the argument against the so-called backstop, cited by hardline Brexit advocates as the main reason why they have thrice voted down Theresa May’s deal with the European Union. But as the dust settles after months of chaos in Westminster, suspicions are growing on the other side of the Channel that the backstop could in fact be the very opposite: a brilliant deception device constructed by crack UK negotiators, which would allow a more reckless British prime minister to undermine the EU’s green and social standards while still keeping access to the European single market.

A new report, commissioned by the German Green party and seen by the Guardian, will exacerbate concerns in Berlin over the small print of the withdrawal agreement in its current form. The deal, agreed between the EU and the UK in November 2018 but voted down three times in the House of Commons, states that the whole of the UK would remain in a de facto customs union with the EU until a trade and security agreement has been reached that prevents the setting up of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. nTo prevent Britain from diverting from EU standards on environmental or social protection after the backstop has come into effect, the customs territory would “include the corresponding level playing field commitments and appropriate enforcement mechanisms to ensure fair competition between the EU27 and the UK”.

The new German report, however, warns that the wording of the deal means the EU side will find it impossible to stop a more aggressive Britain led by a Boris Johnson or a Jacob Rees-Mogg from flouting such standards while still being able to export British products into the single market. “If the EU wants to have a level playing field, it must not just set up the goals but also assign a referee,” said the author of the report, EU law expert Dr René Repasi. “At the moment it has even given the UK licence to assign its own players with officiating the match.”

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On 5G, individual countries make the decisions.

Juncker Refuses To Reject Huawei ‘Just Because It’s Chinese’ (RT)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he won’t bar Chinese firms like Huawei from doing business with Europe, as long as they respect market rules, despite continued US pressure to ban the company. “We are not rejecting someone because he is coming from faraway, because he is Chinese, the rules have to be respected,” Juncker said at a press conference with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe on Thursday. Asked about his response to the US call to “eliminate” Chinese telecoms equipment from Europe’s 5G buildout, Juncker was defiant. “The European Union and our internal market are open markets and all those respecting our rules governing this internal market are welcome,” he said.


Last month, Europe’s Parliament passed a resolution “expressing their deep concern” about alleged Chinese cybersecurity threats, but a subsequent statement from the European Commission regarding 5G cybersecurity did not include such language, instead merely urging member states to develop a “toolbox of mitigating measures” to combat cybersecurity risks to their growing 5G infrastructure. The US has leaned heavily on allies to keep Huawei and other Chinese telecoms out of their countries, claiming the company could act as a spy for the Chinese government. Washington has even threatened to withhold intelligence from Germany over their refusal to ban the Chinese firm, pressure China’s foreign minister has called “abnormal” and “immoral.”

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May invites Huawei. Will she stand up to Trump in other areas too?

Huawei Leak Highlights Collapse Of Discipline In May’s Cabinet (G.)

Leaks from deep within Theresa May’s bitterly divided administration have become widespread and common: as one despairing official remarked recently, “this government is a sieve”. But the revelation of the highly sensitive news that ministers have decided to set aside cybersecurity concerns and involve the Chinese firm Huawei in the creation of Britain’s 5G network is regarded by many as a leak too far. The decision was taken at the national security council, on which ministers sit alongside officials and members of the security services. The secrecy of its discussions has never before been breached. A full-scale inquiry is now expected to be launched, but a slew of other briefings and counter-briefings from private meetings in recent weeks and months has not just gone unpunished but become almost unremarkable.


There are several, allied reasons for this pervasive culture of briefing and counter-briefing, which means multiple competing accounts of cabinet meetings are available shortly after ministers walk out of Downing Street. One is simply the ready availability of instant electronic communication – a string of WhatsApp messages is a lot quicker and more straightforward than the old-fashioned gossip over lunch or in a Westminster bar (though that still happens too, of course). Another is the historic significance of the issues at stake and the lack of trust on both sides of the Brexit debate, which means all the key players want to ensure their point is heard even if they lost the argument in the room.

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The Fed will make up the difference. Can’t have stocks going down.

European Equities May Benefit As $1 Trillion In US Buybacks Vanish (ZH)

European equities may start to finally see some love, as they are now positioned to take advantage of one significant coming tailwind from the U.S., according to Bloomberg. Over the next 12 months, US stocks are going to lose a significant amount of support that they have received from buybacks, as the nearly $1 trillion buyback bonanza that has fueled stock purchases in the United States starts to come to an end, according to Sanford C. Bernstein strategists. This could be an area where European stocks, due to their low dependence on buybacks, could see help as a result. Bernstein strategists led by Inigo Fraser-Jenkins said: “This would remove one advantage of U.S. equities over Europe. As the buyback support is reduced it will make a stronger relative case for Europe.”


And the decision of the U.S. central bank to hold off on rate increases may have temporarily reduced concerns about debt hurting equities, but the topic is still on the table and credit spreads are expected to keep widening over the next year. Furthermore, the significance of share repurchases to the US rally has been pronounced, with $1 trillion in buybacks in just 2018 alone, far overshadowing the $100 billion in net inflows from active and passive funds. And even though European equities have rallied to the tune of more than $1.5 trillion since December’s lows, shorting these stocks remains a popular trade globally, according to Bank of America Corp.’s latest fund manager survey. And many traders are still on the sidelines, as Europe’s ugly politics and mixed economic data continues to weigh on sentiment.

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To find this out, we must travel back in time.

Universe Expands Faster Than Expected – NASA

The universe is expanding considerably faster than it should be, Nasa has confirmed. The space agency’s Hubble Space Telescope shows that it is growing about 9 per cent faster than had been expected, based on the trajectory it started with shortly after the Big Bang, according to astronomers. While such a discrepancy had already been suggested, the new measurements reduce the chance this is a mistake to just one in 100,000. Such a confirmation could require astronomers to find new physics theories to explain the universe‘s strange behaviour. “This mismatch has been growing and has now reached a point that is really impossible to dismiss as a fluke.

This is not what we expected,” says Adam Riess, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, Nobel laureate and the project’s leader. The speed of the universe’s expansion, known as the Hubble constant, is a central part of physics and our understanding of the universe. But it has repeatedly been observed to behave unexpectedly – the more astronomers find out about it, the more wrong it appears – in ways that have forced scientists to wonder whether our assumptions about it had been wrong. The new study confirms that speculation, and requires further work to explain how exactly the universe is growing.

The research saw Professor Riess and his team analyse light from 70 stars in a galaxy near ours, known as the Large Magellanic Cloud, using a new method that allowed them to capture the stars quickly. The stars they observed are called Cepheid variables, and change brightness predictably, allowing them to be used to measure intergalactic distances. The new method allowed the researchers to measure many more of those stars far more quickly. Normally, Hubble can only look at one star each time it takes one of its 90-minute orbits around Earth, but the new method allowed it to see dozens in that same time.

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Mar 122019
 
 March 12, 2019  Posted by at 10:35 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Robert Rauschenberg Buffalo II 1964

 

Theresa May Claims ‘Legally Binding’ Changes To Brexit Deal (Ind.)
Legal Uncertainty Hangs Over Brexit Vote (EUO)
May Tries To Claim Victory – But The EU Has Conceded Next To Nothing (G.)
Britain Must Leave EU By May 23 Or Hold Own EU Vote (R.)
Former Australian PM Calls Brexit Trade Plan ‘Utter Bollocks’ (G.)
Mueller Probe Already Financed Through September: Officials (R.)
Marco Rubio Accuses CNN Of ‘Russian Collusion’ (RT)
Manafort To Jail – Not About Justice; Not About Russia (Ron Paul)
News Corp’s Australian Arm Calls For Google Breakup (R.)
Facebook Removes Warren Ads Calling For Facebook Breakup (Pol.)
Facebook Bans Zero Hedge (ZH)
Biden on the Relaunch Pad: He’s Worse Than You Thought (CP)
Ides and Tides (Jim Kunstler)
Synthetic Chemicals Use Doubled In 20 Years, Will Double Again In Next 10 (G.)

 

 

Trying to patch together an idea of what was decided. It all appears vacuous. May assures Britain that the EU can’t make the backstop permanent, but 1) it can, and 2) it never wanted to, provided Ireland is taken care of properly. I can’t get rid of the notion that the UK can’t get rid of the notion that Ireland is a second-class country.

Biggest ‘gain’ for May: the UK can unilaterally declare that it believes it can unilaterally halt the backstop.

Today will be all lawyers trying to translate the hollow terms into legalese, but I haven’t found anything that could convince anyone anything has changed since two days ago. Maybe she’ll swing a handful votes, but she lost by 203 last time around.

 

WSJ: “The EU offered a new legal instrument that would allow the U.K. to seek independent arbitration if it believed the EU was not negotiating a new trade agreement in good faith. If the U.K. claim were upheld and the EU continued to drag its feet, the U.K. could be freed from the customs arrangement. The EU also offered a legally binding pledge to work quickly on a future trade agreement to ensure that the backstop is temporary. The two sides also agreed that the U.K. would set out its own interpretation of the deal, which would state that the U.K. believes it has the option to bring the customs union arrangement to an end.”

Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter: “The Prime Minister’s negotiations have failed. Last night’s agreement with the European Commission does not contain anything approaching the changes Theresa May promised Parliament, and whipped her MPs to vote for.”

Green Party’s Molly Scott Cato on Twitter: “I’ve never before seen a prime minister deliberately try to mislead her own Parliament. There have been no legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement. This is action worthy of an autocratic leader from a banana republic not the leader of a democratic country.”

Theresa May Claims ‘Legally Binding’ Changes To Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May claims to have secured significant changes to her Brexit deal in a last-minute dash to Europe just hours before she must put her plan to a critical vote in parliament. In a late night statement on Monday in Strasbourg she argued the new-look deal meant Britain could not be trapped in the “Irish backstop” so hated by Eurosceptic Tories and her DUP allies, but major doubts remain over whether it is enough to win their backing on Tuesday. The prime minister’s deputy David Lidington warned that if her deal is rejected for a second time by MPs it will “plunge the country into a political crisis”. European leaders warned there would be no “third chance”, but Conservative Brexiteers insisted there are still “very worrying features” to the agreement, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said “MPs must reject this deal tomorrow”.

The announcement came after another dramatic day in Westminster on Monday, which began with talk of Ms May potentially delaying Tuesday’s vote on her deal after a seemingly fruitless weekend of talks. But speaking an hour before midnight, she said: “MPs were clear that legal changes were needed to the backstop. Today we have secured legal changes. “Now is the time to come together, to back this improved Brexit deal, and to deliver on the instruction of the British people.” The backstop is an arrangement in the existing withdrawal agreement that comes into play if the EU and UK fail to agree future trading arrangements by the end of 2020, thus keeping the Irish border open, but also locking the UK into a customs union with the EU on a potentially indefinite basis.

[..] In a commons statement Mr Lidington revealed that the UK had secured two new documents, a “joint legally binding instrument on the withdrawal agreement” and a “joint statement to supplement the political declaration” on future relations. There is also a third element – a unilateral declaration from the UK setting out what actions it would take if it felt the backstop is being abused by the EU. Mr Lidington said the new legal “instrument” confirmed that the EU could not try to trap the UK in the backstop indefinitely, because commitments they had made to not do so were now legally binding.

Read more …

It often takes going through several articles to get a rounded picture.

Legal Uncertainty Hangs Over Brexit Vote (EUO)

Uncertainty continued to hang over Tuesday night’s (12 March) big vote on Brexit in the UK parliament, as British MPs tried to make sense of last-minute tweaks to the exit deal. The opposition Labour party indicated it would vote against the accord. “This evening’s agreement with the European Commission does not contain anything approaching the changes [British prime minister] Theresa May promised parliament and whipped her MPs to vote for,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Monday. “It sounds again that nothing has changed,” his shadow Brexit minister, Keir Starmer said. Two MPs from May’s ruling Conservative party said the same. “Seems UK is still permanently locked into the EU, but can ‘argue’ it can leave. The catch? EU decides if we can leave,” Adam Afriyie said.

“We’re being played,” Sam Gyimah, a former Tory minister said. Nigel Farage, the EU-phobic British MEP for the UK Independence Party, was the most outspoken. “Nothing has changed. Reject. Reject. Reject,” he said. Meanwhile, the so-called Independent Group of ex-Labour and ex-Tory MPs said Brexit ought to be delayed in order to hold a second referendum. Dominic Grieve, Britain’s former attorney general, echoed their position. “The proper thing to do is to put it back to the public in a people’s vote, in a second referendum,” he said on Monday. Afriyie’s comment on being “locked into the EU” referred to the so-called ‘backstop’ – the previous deal that the UK would remain in the EU customs union until it found a mutually acceptable way to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The backstop prompted a historic majority of 230 MPs to reject the withdrawal deal in January, raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March. But EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and British prime minister Theresa May agreed three new documents at a meeting in Strasbourg, France, late on Monday designed to assuage those fears. The first one said the UK could start a dispute in an arbitration court to quit the backstop if the EU did not want to let it out. The second one said the EU and UK would try to find alternative arrangements to the backstop by the end of 2020. The third one was a unilateral British declaration in which the UK said it could quit the backstop if the talks on alternative arrangements broke down.

Both May and Juncker were emphatic in saying that the tweaks gave the UK the “legally binding” guarantees it needed to avoid being locked in to EU customs rules. “It [the backstop] would never be a trap, if either side were to act in bad faith, there is a legal way for either side to exit,” Juncker said.

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Jonathan Freedland is a bit of a douche, I avoid him mostly. But he makes some points here.

May Tries To Claim Victory – But The EU Has Conceded Next To Nothing (G.)

Think of what the ERG and the Democratic Unionists object to about the key stumbling block: the Northern Irish backstop, the insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. They don’t like the fact that it has no time limit, that it could, theoretically, go on forever. And yet the best that May’s new motion laid before parliament could say is that the new legally binding joint instrument “reduces the risk that the UK could be held in the Northern Ireland backstop indefinitely”. “Reduces the risk” is not the same as “eliminates the risk” – and it’s that that many of those Brexiters wanted to hear. (Put aside the fact that it was always an unrealistic demand: you could say the same about the entire case for Brexit.)

A second demand of the Brexiters, one bizarrely endorsed in January by May herself and a majority of the Commons, was that the backstop be replaced by “alternative arrangements.” Gamely, May tried to pretend that she’d won an EU concession on that too, and that those alternative arrangements will be in place by December 2020. As indeed they will – if they exist by then. But for now, the technological wizardry so great that it would render the backstop redundant does not exist. And so this was another hollow victory.

Finally, the Brexit crowd wanted the UK to have the unilateral right to exit the backstop whenever it liked. May did indeed get something unilateral – the right to issue her own unilateral declaration, in which she could freely state that “it is the position of the United Kingdom that there would be nothing to prevent the UK instigating measures that would ultimately dis-apply the backstop.” This is rather like my son winning the right to declare that it is his position that he should get more pocket money. It doesn’t mean I’ve agreed to give him more pocket money. The clue is in the word “unilateral.” The EU is not bound by this UK declaration and has, in fact, conceded nothing.

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Anyone checked what the bookmakers say on the date? UK elections for the EU Parliament would be hilarious.

Britain Must Leave EU By May 23 Or Hold Own EU Vote (R.)

Britain must leave the European Union by the time EU voters elect a new European Parliament on May 23-26 or will have to elect its own EU lawmakers, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Monday. Writing to EU summit chair Donald Tusk after agreeing a deal to break Brexit deadlock with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Juncker wrote: “The United Kingdom’s withdrawal should be complete before the European elections that will take place between May 23-26 this year.” “If the United Kingdom has not left the European Union by then, it will be legally required to hold these elections.”

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Seems obvious.

Former Australian PM Calls Brexit Trade Plan ‘Utter Bollocks’ (G.)

The claims that British trade with the Commonwealth can make up for leaving the EU is “the nuttiest of the many nutty arguments” advanced by Brexit supporters and “utter bollocks”, the former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has said. In a lacerating piece for the Guardian, Rudd dismissed the claims by some Brexit supporters that the UK could strike deals with his country, New Zealand, Canada and India to soften the blow and said the UK risked undermining western values by leaving the EU in a weaker position when it left.

“I’m struck, as the British parliament moves towards the endgame on Brexit, with the number of times Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India have been advanced by the Brexiteers in the public debate as magical alternatives to Britain’s current trade and investment relationship with the European Union,” he wrote. “This is the nuttiest of the many nutty arguments that have emerged from the Land of Hope and Glory set now masquerading as the authentic standard-bearers of British patriotism. It’s utter bollocks.” Of the prospect of a free trade deal with Delhi, he writes: “As for India, good luck!”

[..] he cast serious doubt on suggestions the UK could quickly come to a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, pointing out that talks he began with the nation on behalf of Australia a decade ago are still going on. “A substantive India-UK FTA is the ultimate mirage constructed by the Brexiteers. It’s as credible as the ad they plastered on the side of that big red bus about the £350m Britain was allegedly paying to Brussels each week. Not.”

Read more …

Have a nice summer.

Mueller Probe Already Financed Through September: Officials (R.)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the team he assembled to investigate U.S. President Donald Trump and his associates have been funded through the end of September 2019, three U.S. officials said on Monday, an indication that the probe has funding to keep it going for months if need be. The operations and funding of Mueller’s office were not addressed in the budget requests for the next government fiscal year issued by the White House and Justice Department on Monday because Mueller’s office is financed by the U.S. Treasury under special regulations issued by the Justice Department, the officials said. “The Special Counsel is funded by the Independent Counsel appropriation, a permanent indefinite appropriation established in the Department’s 1988 Appropriations Act,” a Justice Department spokesman said.

There has been increased speculation in recent weeks that Mueller’s team is close to winding up its work and is likely to deliver a report summarizing its findings to Attorney General William Barr any day or week now. Mueller’s office has not commented on the news reports suggesting an imminent release. Representatives of key congressional committees involved in Trump-related investigations say they have received no guidance from Mueller’s office regarding his investigation’s progress or future plans. The probe, which began in May 2017, is examining whether there were any links or coordination between the Russian government led by Vladimir Putin and the 2016 presidential campaign of Trump, according to an order signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

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Little Marco lost so bigly in 2016, why’s he still around? Court jester? Or is he going for McCain’s place as warmonger in chief?

Marco Rubio Accuses CNN Of ‘Russian Collusion’ (RT)

Senator Marco Rubio, the most outspoken cheerleader of US regime change in Venezuela, lashed out at several major outlets for not using his preferred terminology, going so far as to accuse CNN of ‘Russian collusion.’ “In order to undermine the constitutional basis for [Juan Guaido’s] interim Presidency [sic], Putin’s Russia repeatedly describes him as the ‘self-proclaimed’ president of Venezuela. And so does CNN,” Rubio (R-Florida) tweeted on Wednesday, adding, “Russian collusion?” It was the latest in a string of tweets by the senator whom President Donald Trump is, for some unknown reason, allowing to drive US foreign policy on Latin America.

On Tuesday, Rubio targeted the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal for their coverage of Guaido, this time objecting to their use of the term “opposition leader.” Rubio’s badgering of the media came shortly after State Department spokesman Robert Palladino tried to do the same thing with diplomatic correspondents in Foggy Bottom. Referring to Guaido as anything other than “interim president” was feeding “the narrative of a dictator who has usurped the position of the presidency and led Venezuela into the humanitarian, political, and economic crisis that exists today,” Palladino argued.

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CNN and Manafort, both. And neither.

Manafort To Jail – Not About Justice; Not About Russia (Ron Paul)

Former Trump campaign official Paul Manafort has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for acting as an unregistered agent for Ukraine. But looking at the media coverage of the case one would never know that “taking down” Manafort was not all about Russia collusion. Reporting…or propaganda?

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Have they asked the CIA? Has Elizabeth Warren?

News Corp’s Australian Arm Calls For Google Breakup (R.)

The Australian arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp called for an enforced break-up of Alphabet Inc’s Google, acknowledging the measure would involve global coordination but calling it necessary to preserve advertising and the news media. The demand, published on Tuesday as part of a government inquiry, goes beyond the recommendations of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which crossed swords with Google by requesting a new regulatory body to oversee global tech operators. In an 80-page submission largely centered on Google, News Corp Australia said the U.S. company had created an “ecosystem” where it could control the results of people’s internet searches and then charge advertisers based on how many people viewed their advertisements.

Efforts to curtail Google’s market dominance around the world had failed because of the search engine operator’s record of “avoiding and undermining regulatory initiatives and ignoring private contractual arrangements”. When Google had agreed to change its methods in response to investigation or new regulations in other countries, it often soon replaced the conduct with new methods which had the same effect: directing traffic and sales to its own sites and hurting competition. Calling Google’s behavior “anti-competitive”, News Corp accused the Mountain View, California-based internet company of damaging publishers’ ability to generate revenue and ultimately the sustainability of the news industry.

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And restores them again. But what nincompoop did that? Does (s)he still have a job today?

Facebook Removes Warren Ads Calling For Facebook Breakup (Pol.)

Facebook removed several ads placed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign that called for the breakup of Facebook and other tech giants. But the social network later reversed course after POLITICO reported on the takedown, with the company saying it wanted to allow for “robust debate.” The ads, which had identical images and text, touted Warren’s recently announced plan to unwind “anti-competitive” tech mergers, including Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram. “Three companies have vast power over our economy and our democracy. Facebook, Amazon, and Google,” read the ads, which Warren’s campaign had placed Friday. “We all use them. But in their rise to power, they’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field in their favor.”

A message on the three ads said: “This ad was taken down because it goes against Facebook’s advertising policies.” A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the ads had been taken down but said the company is in the process of restoring them. “We removed the ads because they violated our policies against use of our corporate logo,” the spokesperson said. “In the interest of allowing robust debate, we are restoring the ads.” Warren swiped at Facebook over the removal, citing it as evidence the company has grown too powerful. “Curious why I think FB has too much power? Let’s start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power,” she tweeted. “Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn’t dominated by a single censor.”

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How long’s it been, 3-4 years?!, that Facebook blocked the Automatic Earth account? Still waiting for an explanation.

Facebook Bans Zero Hedge (ZH)

Over the weekend, we were surprised to learn that some readers were prevented by Facebook when attempting to share Zero Hedge articles. Subsequently it emerged that virtually every attempt to share or merely mention an article, including in private messages, would be actively blocked by the world’s largest social network, with the explanation that “the link you tried to visit goes against our community standards.” We were especially surprised by this action as neither prior to this seemingly arbitrary act of censorship, nor since, were we contacted by Facebook with an explanation of what “community standard” had been violated or what particular filter or article had triggered the blanket rejection of all Zero Hedge content.

To be sure, as a for-profit enterprise with its own unique set of corporate “ethics”, Facebook has every right to impose whatever filters it desires on the media shared on its platform. It is entirely possible that one or more posts was flagged by Facebook’s “triggered” readers who merely alerted a censorship algo which blocked all content. Alternatively, it is just as possible that Facebook simply decided to no longer allow its users to share our content in retaliation for our extensive coverage of what some have dubbed the platform’s “many problems”, including chronic privacy violations, mass abandonment by younger users, its gross and ongoing misrepresentation of fake users, ironically – in retrospect – its systematic censorship and back door government cooperation (those are just links from the past few weeks).

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The Democrats are killing their chances if they go with the old crowd. But then, they are controlled by that crowd.

Biden on the Relaunch Pad: He’s Worse Than You Thought (CP)

When the New York Times front-paged its latest anti-left polemic masquerading as a news article, the March 9 piece declared: “Should former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. enter the race, as his top advisers vow he soon will, he would have the best immediate shot at the moderate mantle.” On the verge of relaunching, Joe Biden is poised to come to the rescue of the corporate political establishment — at a time when, in the words of the Times, “the sharp left turn in the Democratic Party and the rise of progressive presidential candidates are unnerving moderate Democrats.” After 36 years in the Senate and eight as vice president, Biden is by far the most seasoned servant of corporate power with a prayer of becoming the next president.

When Biden read this paragraph in a recent Politico article, his ears must have been burning: “Early support from deep-pocketed financial executives could give Democrats seeking to break out of the pack an important fundraising boost. But any association with bankers also opens presidential hopefuls to sharp attacks from an ascendant left.” The direct prey of Biden’s five-decade “association with bankers” include millions of current and former college students now struggling under avalanches of debt; they can thank Biden for his prodigious services to the lending industry. Andrew Cockburn identifies an array of victims in his devastating profile of Biden in the March issue of Harper’s magazine. For instance:

• “Biden was long a willing foot soldier in the campaign to emasculate laws allowing debtors relief from loans they cannot repay. As far back as 1978, he helped negotiate a deal rolling back bankruptcy protections for graduates with federal student loans, and in 1984 worked to do the same for borrowers with loans for vocational schools.” • “Even when the ostensible objective lay elsewhere, such as drug-related crime, Biden did not forget his banker friends. Thus the 1990 Crime Control Act, with Biden as chief sponsor, further limited debtors’ ability to take advantage of bankruptcy protections.” • Biden worked diligently to strengthen the hand of credit-card firms against consumers. At the same time, “the credit card giant MBNA was Biden’s largest contributor for much of his Senate career, while also employing his son Hunter as an executive and, later, as a well-remunerated consultant.”

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“..you miserable, morbidly obese, tattooed gorks watching this out on the Midwestern buzzard flats should have thought twice before dropping out of community college to drive a forklift in the Sysco frozen food warehouse..”

Ides and Tides (Jim Kunstler)

What you really had to love was Mr. Powell’s explanation for the record number of car owners in default on their monthly payments: “…not everybody is sharing in this widespread prosperity we have.” Errrgghh Errrgghh Errrgghh. Sound of klaxon wailing. What he meant to say was, hedge-funders, private equity hustlers, and C-suite personnel are making out just fine as the asset-stripping of flyover America proceeds, and you miserable, morbidly obese, tattooed gorks watching this out on the Midwestern buzzard flats should have thought twice before dropping out of community college to drive a forklift in the Sysco frozen food warehouse (where, by the way, you are probably stealing half the oven-ready chicken nuggets in inventory).

Interlocutor Scott Pelley asked the oracle about “those half-a-million people who have given up looking for jobs.” Did he pull that number out of his shorts? The total number out of the workforce is more like 95 million, and when you subtract retirees, people still in school, and the disabled, the figure is more like 7.5 million. There was some blather over the “opioid epidemic,” the upshot of which was learn to code, young man. Personally, I was about as impressed as I was ten years ago when past oracle Ben Bernanke confidently explained to congress that the disturbances in Mortgage-land were “contained.”

David Leonhardt of The New York Times had a real howler in his Monday column on the state of the economy: “Americans are saving more and spending less partly because the rich now take home so much of the economy’s income — and the rich don’t spend as large a share of their income as the poor and middle class.” Suggestion to Mr. Leonhardt: Learn to code.

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Our chances of survival drop by the minute.

It’s Daly-Townsend’s take on the 2nd law of Thermodynamics: “No organism can survive in a medium of its own waste. “

The reason is that an organism’s waste is toxic to that organism.

If they don’t teach that in schools, why bother to attend?

Synthetic Chemicals Use Doubled In 20 Years, Will Double Again In Next 10 (G.)

Sales of synthetic chemicals will double over the next 12 years with alarming implications for health and the environment, according to a global study that highlights government failures to rein in the industry behind plastics, pesticides and cosmetics. The second Global Chemicals Outlook, which was released in Nairobi on Monday, said the world will not meet international commitments to reduce chemical hazards and halt pollution by 2020. In fact, the study by the United Nations Environment Programme found that the industry has never been more dominant nor has humanity’s dependence on chemicals ever been as great.

“When you consider existing pollution, plus the projected growth of the industry, the trends are a cause for significant concern,” said Achim Halpaap, who led the 400 scientists involved in the study. He said the fastest growth was in construction materials, electronics, textiles and lead batteries. More and more additives are also being used to make plastics smoother or more durable. Depending on the chemical and degree of exposure, the risks can include cancer, chronic kidney disease and congenital anomalies. The World Health Organization estimated that the burden of disease was 1.6 million lives in 2016. Halpaap said this was likely to be an underestimate.

In addition to the human health dangers, he said chemicals also affect pollinators and coral reefs. Global chemical production has almost doubled since 2000 and is now – if the pharmaceutical business is taken into account – the world’s second largest industry, the report noted. This is expected to continue for at least the next decade owing to massive increases in the expanding economies of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. By 2030, the industry is projected to almost double again from 2017 levels to hit $6.6tn (£5tn) in sales; China is forecast to account for 49.9% of the world market.

Read more …

Mar 112019
 
 March 11, 2019  Posted by at 10:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Jean Metzinger Soldier playing chess 1915

 

Brexit Talks ‘Deadlocked’, Says Downing Street (G.)
Brexit Fallout On UK Finance Intensifies (R.)
How Central Bankers Blew Up The Global Economy (ABC.au)
What Fed Chair Powell Said On 60 Minutes (ZH)
China’s GDP Growth Could Be Half Of Reported Number – Pettis (SCMP)
Brookings Says China Overstated Size Of Its Economy By 12% (ZH)
Deutsche Bank Begins Talks Over Merger With Rival Commerzbank (G.)
Leaked Documents Reveal DOJ Protected Steele After FBI Shunning (KK)
How US Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda (Greenwald)
US “Gets Its Ass Handed To It” In World War III Simulations (ZH)
Why The Shale Boom Left California Behind (Rapier)
Elderly Americans Are Dying Without Getting To Read Mueller’s Report (NW)

 

 

Crunch time starts tomorrow. The backstop is the big issue. EU cannot ‘budge’, because it would mean leaving Ireland out in the cold. It’s called the Irish backstop for a reason.

Brexit Talks ‘Deadlocked’, Says Downing Street (G.)

Downing Street has described the Brexit talks in Brussels as “deadlocked” after negotiations over the weekend failed to find a breakthrough on the Irish backstop. Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, spoke on the telephone on Sunday evening, but plans for the prime minister to visit the Belgian capital to sign off on any compromise are on hold. The EU refuses to budge on the British proposal for what it believes is an attempt to build a unilateral exit mechanism into the Irish backstop, the arrangement that would keep the UK in a customs union to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, is unlikely without such a concession to revise his legal opinion, given before the last vote on May’s deal, that the backstop could be in force “indefinitely”. The prime minister pledged in parliament to put her deal to the Commons on Tuesday but she is being urged by senior Conservative MPs to pull the vote if she fails to secure significant concessions from Brussels. Leading Tories have warned Downing Street it could face a second huge defeat similar to the historic 230-vote loss in January if the government goes ahead. They have advised May instead to replace the vote with a motion setting out the sort of Brexit deal that would be acceptable to Tory MPs, in the hope that this would trigger concessions from the EU.

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All they have left is finance. Austerity ate the rest.

Brexit Fallout On UK Finance Intensifies (R.)

More than 275 financial firms are moving a combined $1.2 trillion in assets and funds and thousands of staff from Britain to the European Union in readiness for Brexit at a cost of up to $4 billion, a report from a think tank said on Monday. UK lawmakers are due to vote on Tuesday on an EU divorce settlement. But with less than three weeks to go before Brexit day on March 29, it is still unclear whether the deal will be approved, whether departure from the EU will be delayed, or whether it will happen without agreement. The report by the New Financial think tank, one of the most detailed yet on the impact of Brexit on financial services, said Dublin alone accounted for 100 relocations, ahead of Luxembourg with 60, Paris 41, Frankfurt 40, and Amsterdam 32.

The independent think tank said half of the affected asset management firms, such as Goldman Sachs Investment Management, Morgan Stanley Investment Management and Vanguard, had chosen Dublin, with Luxembourg the next port of call, attracting firms like Schroders, JP Morgan Wealth Management and Aviva Investors. Nearly 90 percent of all firms moving to Frankfurt are banks, while two-thirds of those going to Amsterdam are trading platforms or brokers. Paris is carving out a niche for markets and trading operations of banks and attracting a broad spread of firms.

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This still needs to be explained, apparently.

How Central Bankers Blew Up The Global Economy (ABC.au)

We humans are a social lot. We just love being part of a pack, a member of a team. We crave acceptance, to the point where isolation or banishment ranks among the worst forms of punishment. Even when it comes to the dodgy art of forecasting, everyone seems to cluster around a central position, which kind of defeats the point of forecasting. And so, in July two years ago, when the groundswell of opinion began to shift — that the Reserve Bank would be raising interest rates — arguing otherwise was a fairly lonely position. As time went on, almost everyone shifted position as we dug in here, here and here.

To be fair, most of the highly paid, well-heeled professional market economists were being egged on by the authorities, and particularly the Reserve Bank, which was spinning the line that the next rate move was up. In the past fortnight, however, the pack suddenly has turned on its tail as fears about the global economy and a sudden slowdown in our own growth forced a rethink. The switch to a rate cut has turned into a stampede. Put aside all the complex formula. Forget the high-level macro-economic analysis. There’s a very simple reason the Reserve Bank couldn’t and can’t raise interest rates. There’s too much debt. Australian households are among the world’s most indebted when compared with their income.

And we’ve spent most of it on real estate. What these two graphs show is how the Reserve Bank, effectively, snookered itself. Back in 2012, when debt and housing prices already were elevated, it fired up the east coast housing market, and construction, to take up the employment slack as the mining boom unwound. But it created a monster. As housing went on a tear, the short-term sugar hit turned toxic. Employment took off. But housing became unaffordable to almost everyone under 35. And our household debt levels reached for the stars. The end result? It couldn’t cut rates if it needed. That would add heat to a dangerously inflated housing bubble. And it could never raise rates, because that would kill household spending.

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3 Stooges.

Nomi Prins: “Number of times the word “bubble” appeared in the 60 Minutes interview with Fed. Chair Jerome Powell. Zero.”

A central bank can have benefits, but not when it only serves the rich. If we don’t get rid of Fed and ECB, there’ll be very steep prices to pay.

Note: there’s a video at the link, but it started itself so I threw it out.

What Fed Chair Powell Said On 60 Minutes (ZH)

A decade after Ben Bernanke appeared on “60 Minutes”, vowing that the Fed could easily crush inflation, as it could “raise interest rates in 15 minutes”, of course with the occasional “pause” along the way should the S&P dip by 20% or so, current Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will follow in his footsteps on Sunday night, when surrounded by former Fed Chairs Bernanke and Yellen, he will try to reach beyond the Fed’s traditional audience of markets, journalists and lawmakers to counter the attacks from President Trump, even after the Fed’s paused on raising interest rates, said Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University, quoted by MarketWatch.

“He wants to counter the president’s message that policy is all wrong,” Binder said. Binder said she was struck by the still photo of the “60 Minutes” interview that shows Powell alongside his two predecessors Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke. “This puts a human face on the central bank. It says, ‘we’re the Fed and we’re here to help,’” Binder said. Bernanke also faced criticism when he went on “60 Minutes” in March 2009. The Fed was facing concerted attacks by lawmakers and populist “End the Fed” groups, who considering the record wealth divide in the US created by the central bank, were spot on.

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I’m going with Xiang Songzuo: “..China’s GDP growth for 2018 could be 1.67 per cent or even negative..”

China’s GDP Growth Could Be Half Of Reported Number – Pettis (SCMP)

If China’s bad debts were written down, its economic growth rate would be half the recorded number, a US economist at a prominent Chinese university has warned. In a speech in Shanghai this week, Michael Pettis, professor of finance at Peking University, warned that China’s debt is closely linked to the government’s perceived overstatement of its GDP. The government is accused of perpetuating the existence of “zombie companies”, by granting loss-making companies loans. Banks in turn treat these companies as creditworthy, whereas in reality they should be written off as bad debt, Pettis said. “If you believe there is bad debt that has not been sufficiently written down, you must believe that China’s GDP is overstated, relative to what it would be in any other country. That must be true,” Pettis said.

“If we are able to calculate GDP correctly, it would probably be half of the recorded number.” Pettis is not alone seeing troubles with China’s official growth number. In December, Xiang Songzuo, an outspoken professor from the Renmin University of China, who previously served as chief economist for Agricultural Bank of China, cited unidentified internal reports as saying that said China’s GDP growth for 2018 could be 1.67 per cent or even negative, a far cry from the official figures. Furthermore, a group of four economists published a paper this week arguing that China might have overstated its annual growth rate by 2 percentage points on average from 2008 to 2016. China’s official statistics agency said the country’s economic growth rate was 6.6 per cent in 2018.

The Chinese government said it would try to achieve an economic growth rate between 6.0 to 6.5 per cent in 2019, a moderate slowdown from previous years, but nevertheless a much faster rate compared with other major economies. Pettis is a renowned expert on China’s economy. For decades, he has been commenting on financial affairs in China and was among the early observers of the imbalances in the Chinese economy. He said in his speech on Wednesday that China’s growth will significantly decelerate as the country’s debt level rises.

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Brookings is many years late.

Brookings Says China Overstated Size Of Its Economy By 12% (ZH)

Since China managed to weather the fallout from the financial crisis without registering much of a slowdown in its “official” GDP figures, playing “guess the real growth rate” has become one of the most popular parlor games among the professional economist set. Whereas the stakes are much higher for academics on the mainland (one of whom was censored and threatened by government thugs after speculating that GDP growth on the mainland might be closer to 2%), researchers at American think tanks have freely offered estimates ranging from 2% to 4% (which, admittedly, would still put China well ahead of the US).

But as investors and economists once again cast a wary eye toward China as signs of flagging growth are once again threatening to sink the whole world into a recession, a team of researchers from the Brookings Institute has published a carefully researched paper detailing the exact mechanism by which authorities in Beijing inflate the country’s GDP figures, while estimating that China’s economy is roughly 12% smaller than the official figures would suggest. Brookings published the paper on Thursday, just two days after Party leaders at the annual National Party Congress lowered their economic growth forecast to between 6% and 6.5% of GDP.

Though the paper focused on the period between 2008 and 2016, it’s the latest evidence that China’s economic slowdown has been more severe than believed, and that the growth rate from last year – China’s worst since the early 1990s – might, in reality, be just under 6% (compared with 6.6%). According to Brookings, much of the manipulation in Chinese official government statistics takes place at the local level. In what the FT described as “a legacy of Maoist state planning”, authorities in Beijing hand down growth targets to local officials, who use it to goalseek the official statistics they hand back. “China’s national accounts are based on data collected by local governments. However, since local governments are rewarded for meeting growth and investment targets, they have an incentive to skew local statistics. China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) adjusts the data provided by local governments to calculate GDP at the national level,” the study’s authors said.

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Two staggering drunks lean on each other so they can make it to the bar and continue drinking.

Deutsche Bank Begins Talks Over Merger With Rival Commerzbank (G.)

Deutsche Bank has begun tentative merger talks with rival Commerzbank, which would create Europe’s second biggest bank behind HSBC and fend off unwanted potential bidders such as French giant BNP Paribas. Reports in Germany’s Welt am Sonntag suggest that the banks have come under political pressure to consider a merger and avert a foreign takeover of Commerzbank, much the smaller partner in any deal. Deutsche is regarded as a bank of global importance, but has been plagued by three years of losses, boardroom battles, money laundering issues and its role as the biggest lender to the Trump business empire.

Despite Germany’s industrial dominance in Europe, it has only one bank in the continent’s top 20, and Berlin is understood to be keen to create a larger national champion. The combination of the two banks mean that Deutsche, currently fifth biggest, and Commerzbank, currently 23rd, will become Europe’s second biggest bank and only marginally behind HSBC. Deutsche Bank’s chief executive Christian Sewing was seen to be the main opponent of a merger, but investor pressure – Deutsche’ shares are trading at around €7.68 compared with €32 five years ago – is understood to have forced his hand. The talks are believed to be at a very early stage – “unofficial contacts in a very small group” according to Welt am Sonntag – but are likely to be welcomed by major shareholders.

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This is getting too stupid. But who’s going to investigate the DOJ and FBI?

Leaked Documents Reveal DOJ Protected Steele After FBI Shunning (KK)

Steele was cut off by the FBI for revealing his relationship with the Bureau to the media – but Ohr continued to pass information from Steele to his colleagues, regularly spoke to him via email and phone, and met up with him face-to-face on several occasions. Information watchdog Judicial Watch has released 339-pages of US Department of Justice records, revealing former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr remained in regular contact with ex-MI6 operative Christopher Steele after Steele’s status as a paid confidential informant was terminated by the FBI in November 2016.

“These smoking gun documents show Christopher Steele, a Hillary Clinton operative and anti-Trump foreign national, secretly worked hand-in-glove with the Justice Department on its illicit targeting of President Trump. These documents leave no doubt that for more than a year after the FBI fired Christopher Steele for leaking, and for some 10 months after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, Bruce Ohr continued to act as a go-between for Steele with the FBI and Justice Department. The anti-Trump Russia investigation, now run by Robert Mueller, has been thoroughly compromised by this insider corruption,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Whether an accurate appraisal or not, it’s clear from the assorted communications Ohr was determined to ensure Steele retained access to the Bureau, and this contact remained hidden from public view – for instance, when acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by Trump January 2017, Steele feared Ohr would be fired too, and texted him to express his “sympathy and support”. “If you end up out, I really need another contact point/number who is briefed. We can’t allow our guy to be forced to go back home. It would be disastrous all round, though his position right now looks stable. A million thanks,” Steele wrote. In response, Ohr assured the Orbis chief he could “certainly” give him an FBI contact “if it becomes necessary”.

On 6 March that year, Senator Chuck Grassley wrote to then-FBI Director James Comey, seeking clarity on the nature of Steele’s relationship with the FBI. The next day, Steele texted Ohr to say he was “very concerned” by the letter, and its “possible implications for our operations and sources…We need some reassurance…Really fundamental issues at stake here”. Days later, with Comey scheduled to testify before Congress, Steele told Ohr he was “a bit apprehensive” and hoped “important firewalls will hold”. On 24 March, Ohr and Steele discussed their “response” to the testimony, as he understood “an approach from the Senate Intelligence Committee” to Orbis was imminent.

On 26 October, Steele said he’s “very concerned” about documents the FBI intended to turn over to Congress about his work and “relationship with them”. “Can we have a word tomorrow please? Just seen a story in the media about the Bureau handing over docs to Congress…Peoples live may be engangered [sic],” he despaired.

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Same as it ever was.

How US Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda (Greenwald)

[..] on February 23, when the narrative shifted radically in favor of those U.S. officials who want regime change operations in Venezuela. That’s because images were broadcast all over the world of trucks carrying humanitarian aid burning in Colombia on the Venezuela border. U.S. officials who have been agitating for a regime change war in Venezuela – Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, the head of USAid Mark Green – used Twitter to spread classic Fake News: they vehemently stated that the trucks were set on fire, on purpose, by President Nicolas Maduro’s forces. [..] on Saturday night, the New York Times published a detailed video and accompanying article proving that this entire story was a lie.

The humanitarian trucks were not set on fire by Maduro’s forces. They were set on fire by anti-Maduro protesters who threw a molotov cocktail that hit one of the trucks. And the NYT’s video traces how the lie spread: from U.S. officials who baselessly announced that Maduro burned them to media outlets that mindlessly repeated the lie. [..] While the NYT’s article and video are perfectly good and necessary journalism, the credit they are implicitly claiming for themselves for exposing this lie is totally undeserved. That’s because independent journalists – the kind who question rather than mindlessly repeat government claims and are therefore mocked and marginalized and kept off mainstream television – used exactly this same evidence on the day of the incident to debunk the lies being told by Rubio, Pompeo, Bolton and CNN.

On February 24, the day the lie spread, Max Blumenthal wrote from Venezuela, on the independent reporting Grayzone site, that “the claim was absurd on its face,” noting that he “personally witnessed tear gas canisters hit every kind of vehicle imaginable in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, and I have never seen a fire like the one that erupted on the Santander bridge.” He compiled substantial evidence strongly suggesting that the trucks were set ablaze by anti-Maduro protesters, including Bloomberg video showing them using Molotov cocktails, to express serious doubts about the mainstream narrative. On Twitter, in response to Marco Rubio’s lie, he wrote: “I did not see any Venezuelan government forces set fire to US aid trucks on the Colombian side of the border. And neither did you. Actually, the evidence so far is pointing in the other direction.”

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Is this going to have the neocons clamor for war today, before everyone understands it?

US “Gets Its Ass Handed To It” In World War III Simulations (ZH)

In simulated World War III scenarios, the U.S. continues to lose against Russia and China, two top war planners warned last week. “In our games, when we fight Russia and China, blue gets its ass handed to it” RAND analyst David Ochmanek said Thursday. RAND’s wargames show how US Armed Forces – colored blue on wargame maps – experience the most substantial losses in one scenario after another and still can’t thwart Russia or China – which predictably is red – from accomplishing their objectives: annihilating Western forces. “We lose a lot of people. We lose a lot of equipment. We usually fail to achieve our objective of preventing aggression by the adversary,” he warned.

In the next military conflict, which some believe may come as soon as the mid-2020s, all five battlefield domains: land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace, will be heavily contested, suggesting the U.S. could have a difficult time in achieving superiority as it has in prior conflicts. The simulated war games showed, the “red” aggressor force often destroys U.S. F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters on the runway, sends several Naval fleets to the depths, destroys US military bases, and through electronic warfare, takes control of critical military communication systems. In short, a gruesome, if simulated, annihilation of some of the most modern of US forces. “In every case I know of,” said Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense with years of wargaming experience, “the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”

So, as Russia and China develop fifth-generation fighters and hypersonic missiles, “things that rely on sophisticated base infrastructures like runways and fuel tanks are going to have a hard time,” Ochmanek said. “Things that sail on the surface of the sea are going to have a hard time.” “That’s why the 2020 budget coming out next week retires the carrier USS Truman decades early and cuts two amphibious landing ships, as we’ve reported. It’s also why the Marine Corps is buying the jump-jet version of the F-35, which can take off and land from tiny, ad hoc airstrips, but how well they can maintain a high-tech aircraft in low-tech surroundings is an open question,” said Breaking Defense.

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Love Robert, but talking about shale is interesting only when you include industry debt.

Why The Shale Boom Left California Behind (Rapier)

Many people are unaware about California’s importance in the U.S. oil industry. In fact, 100 years ago California was the top oil producer in the U.S., responsible at one point for nearly 40% of U.S. oil production. California oil production rose throughout most of the 20th century, briefly eclipsing one million barrels per day in the early 1980s. Oil production began to decline there after peaking in 1985. The same pattern took place in many other states, and in fact was the case for the entire U.S., where oil production peaked in 1970, and then declined over the next 35 years. But the shale boom changed the trajectory of U.S. oil production.

Oil production that had fallen for decades reversed direction and began to surge about a decade ago. Almost every state with shale oil resources saw a similar surge in production. Since 2010, U.S. oil production has increased by 131%, with huge gains in oil production in the following states (among others): • North Dakota – up 634% • Colorado – up 508% • New Mexico – up 377% •Texas – up 330% • Oklahoma – up 238%. In fact, only three major oil-producing states have seen a decline in oil production since 2010: California, Louisiana, and Alaska. One of the graphics I created for my presentation shows the stark contrast between oil production in Texas and California as the shale boom unfolded.

During the 1980s and 1990s, oil production in Texas was declining faster than it was in California. Had that trajectory been maintained, Texas oil production may have fallen below California’s in about 2010. Instead, the shale boom has added nearly four million BPD of oil production in Texas. Millions of barrels were added in other states as well, and California began to slide down the ranks of leading oil producers. Just a few years ago California was still in 2nd place, but now it has slipped to 6th, behind Texas, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Alaska.

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“.. And They’re Hot Happy About It”. Not the Onion, but Newsweek.

Elderly Americans Are Dying Without Getting To Read Mueller’s Report (NW)

As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is reportedly coming to an end, elderly and sick Americans are trying to hold on to their lives so they can read the highly-anticipated report that has been nearly two years in the making. World War II veteran Mitchell Tendler—a man who survived numerous historic milestones, including the Korean War, Vietnam, Watergate and President BIll Clinton’s impeachment—fell sick on Dec. 29, at 93 years old, reported NPR. “I got a call at 11 o’clock. My mom said, ‘Well, Dad’s not feeling well—he really can’t stand,'” Tendler’s son, Walter, recalled. “Within a couple of hours they called 911 and got him into the ER because it wasn’t getting any better.”

Tendler survived two implantable defibrillators throughout his life. But while on his third, he started to fade. After he was provided painkillers by doctors, Tendler voiced his final thoughts. “It just was quiet for a little while,” Walter Tendler told the news outlet, “and then he just sits up in bed halfway and looks at me and he goes, ‘S***, I’m not going to see the Mueller report, am I?’ And that was really the last coherent thing that he said.” Richard Armstrong, a 94-year-old currently in hospice care in New Jersey, related to Tendler’s sentiments. “I know exactly how he feels. I feel the same way. I’ve been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” Armstrong told NPR.

“I was hoping to live to see the outcome of what I think it should be—justice. I’ll be surprised and disappointed if it isn’t.” After seeing Tendler’s words—shared on Twitter by Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution—Kristina Makansi, who lives in Arizona, thought about her mother who passed away at the age of 94 in January. “When I saw that tweet about the Mueller report and the old man on his deathbed, I thought, Oh my gosh, that’s the kind of thing that my mother would say,” she said. “I think she really wanted to see that justice was done… and that the investigation was allowed to proceed without any shenanigans and obstruction.”

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Mar 102019
 
 March 10, 2019  Posted by at 10:59 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Arthur Rothstein Girl at Gee’s bend 1937

 

Bruce Ohr’s Testimony Contradicts Rosenstein And Simpson (Sara Carter)
Three-Quarters Of New Voters Would Back Remain In Second Brexit Referendum (G.)
Last-Ditch Brexit Negotiations Descend Into Open Hostility (Ind.)
Theresa May Warned Another Brutal Brexit Defeat In Commons Inevitable (Sky)
May Staggers On Amid Predictions Of Her Political Demise (AFP)
Belgium Tells Companies To Halt Exports To UK After March 29 (Ind.)
Joe Biden Tops 2020 Iowa Democratic Presidential Poll Ahead Of Sanders (AP)
Tulsi Gabbard Takes a Strong Stand For WikiLeaks (CF)
Elizabeth Warren Defends Her Big Tech Breakup Proposal (AT)
EU Plan To Rein In Facebook And Google Will Do Exactly The Opposite (G.)
Italian PM Sets Conditions Over Rail Link To Defuse Crisis (R.)
How America’s Food Giants Swallowed The Family Farms (G.)
Is The World’s Most Popular Weedkiller Carcinogenic? (G.)

 

 

The US went to Daylight Saving Time 3 weeks ahead of Europe. Caught me by surprise.

Do I need to call for a 2nd Special Counsel again? What a friggin mess.

Bruce Ohr’s Testimony Contradicts Rosenstein And Simpson (Sara Carter)

1. Glenn Simpson suggests in his testimony to the Senate that he never spoke to anyone at the FBI about Christopher Steele, the former British spy he hired to investigate the Trump campaign during the election. However, Ohr suggest otherwise telling former Rep.Trey Gowdy under questioning “As I recall, and this is after checking with my notes, Mr. Simpson and I spoke in August of 2016. I met with him, and he provided some information on possible intermediaries between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.”

2. In another instance, Simpson’s testimony also contradicts notes taken by Ohr after a meeting they had in December, 2016. Unverified allegations were decimated among the media that the Trump campaign had a computer server that was linked to a Russian bank in Moscow: Alpha Bank. Simpson suggested to the Senate that he knew very little about the Trump -Alpha Bank server story and couldn’t provide information. But Bruce Ohr’s own handwritten notes state that when he met with Simpson in December 2016, Simpson was concerned over the Alpha Bank story in the New York Times. “The New York Times story on Oct. 31 downplaying the connection between Alfa servers and the Trump campaign was incorrect. There was communication and it wasn’t spam,” stated Ohr’s notes. This suggests that Simpson was well aware of the story, which was believed by congressional investigators to have started from his research firm.

3. Ohr testified to lawmakers that Simpson provided information to federal officials that was false regarding Cleta Mitchell, a well-known Republican campaign finance lawyer, and information regarding the National Rifle Association. Sean Davis, with the Federalist pointed this out in a tweet today.

4. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would not answer questions to lawmakers during testimony about when he learned that Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, was working for Fusion GPS. Just check this out from Rep. Matt Gaetz’s interview with Judge Jeanine on Fox News. “Rod Rosenstein won’t tell us when he first learned that Nellie Ohr was working for Fusion GPS,” said Gaetz, in August, 2018. “So I want to know from Bruce Ohr, when did he tell his colleagues at the Department of Justice that in violation of law that required him to disclose his wife’s occupation his sources of income. He did not do that. So when did all of the other people at the Department of Justice find this out because Rod Rosenstein, I’ve asked him twice in open hearing and he will not give an answer. I think there’s a real smoking gun there.”

However, in Ohr’s testimony he says he told the FBI about his wife’s role at Fusion GPS but only divulged his role to one person at the DOJ: Rosenstein. At the time, Rosenstein was overseeing the Trump-Russia probe, and had taken the information from Ohr and gave it to the FBI. Just read The Hill’s John Solomon full story here for the full background on Ohr’s testimony. I highlighted an important date below: remember Rosenstein wouldn’t answer lawmakers questions as to when he knew about Nellie Ohr. It also appears he failed to tell lawmakers about the information he delivered to the FBI.

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You go tell them they don’t count.

Three-Quarters Of New Voters Would Back Remain In Second Brexit Referendum (G.)

Some 87% of people who were too young to cast a ballot in the 2016 Brexit referendum but have since reached voting age would “definitely” take part if a second public vote were called, according to a new poll. And of the estimated 2 million new young voters, 74% would back remain. The survey, carried out by BMG on behalf of the anti-Brexit youth groups Our Future, Our Choice and For Our Future’s Sake, suggests the youth vote would be crucial in any second remain campaign and could significantly boost its chances of overturning the 2016 leave result.

The survey polled two groups: those who were too young to vote in 2016 and those who were eligible to vote but chose not to. Some 72% of those too young to vote in the original referendum feel it would be unfair if Britain left the EU without them having been able to vote on the issue. Only 3% of this demographic believe Britain’s standing in the world has increased since the referendum in June 2016. Further figures from the survey reveal that only 4% of this age group have had contact with their local MPs regarding Brexit. The proportion of young voters who would be angry if Britain left the EU without a public vote significantly outweighs those who would be happy – 55% to 9%.

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I was just watching Brexiteer David Davis saying the UK must be able to cut the Irish backstop when it wants, not wait for the other side to agree. But that would mean Ireland having no say at all in the matter.

Last-Ditch Brexit Negotiations Descend Into Open Hostility (Ind.)

Last-ditch negotiations in the Brexit process have descended into open hostility as one senior minister accused the EU of playing “games” with just three days to go until MPs vote on Theresa May‘s plans. After an extraordinary exchange between the Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, and the EU’s chief negotiator on social media, the Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said she was was “deeply disappointed with what we’re hearing coming out of the EU”. “I do have to ask myself what games they are playing here,” the cabinet minister told Reuters after Mr Barclay accused Michel Barnier of trying to “rerun old arguments” as hopes of a Brexit breakthrough began to fade before Tuesday.

It comes as Westminster prepares for another week of political turmoil, with MPs gearing up to vote on the prime minister’s deal for a second time. Unless Ms May manages to secure last-minute concessions from Brussels over the weekend and into Monday, it appears she will suffer yet another heavy defeat in the House of Commons, throwing the Brexit process into further uncertainty. Ms Leadsom said she was still hopeful of a breakthrough, but added it would depend on the EU “coming to the table and taking seriously the [UK’s proposals]”. During a speech on Friday, Ms May pleaded with EU leaders to give ground in the negotiations as she told them: “Let’s get it done”. But hours later Mr Barnier indicated on his Twitter account that if the UK did not like the deal on the table, it could accept an alternative already rejected outright by the prime minister in the negotiating process.

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Will she last the week then?

Theresa May Warned Another Brutal Brexit Defeat In Commons Inevitable (Sky)

Theresa May has been warned another brutal Commons defeat over her Brexit deal is “inevitable” without late changes to the Northern Ireland backstop. The prime minister is preparing for a huge week in Westminster, with the withdrawal agreement she struck with Brussels set to go before parliament yet again. She has been trying to secure legally binding changes to the unpopular backstop to convince MPs that the UK cannot be tied indefinitely to EU rules against its wishes, which she hopes would be enough to get the deal through. But the likelihood of that happening appears remote as the clock continues to tick down, and further doubt has been cast over her chances by sceptical Brexiteers who she has been trying to win over.

Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group, and DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds have described the situation as “grim”. In a joint article for The Sunday Telegraph, the pair said: “An unchanged withdrawal agreement will be defeated firmly by a sizeable proportion of Conservatives and the DUP if it is again presented to the Commons.” They predict that a “three-figure majority” will reject the deal in its current state, with it having already been voted down by 230 MPs back in January. It had been speculated that Mrs May could try to secure a third meaningful vote if she loses by less than 50 on Tuesday, but a loss as predicted by Mr Baker and Mr Dodds would make that prospect unlikely.

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“the living embodiment of a closed door”

May Staggers On Amid Predictions Of Her Political Demise (AFP)

Whether her Brexit deal passes parliament or not this week, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s days are numbered, experts have said. The Conservative leader has in the past won praise for her determination and ability to survive what has often felt like one long political crisis since the 2016 EU referendum. But her approach to the Brexit endgame, seeking changes to the deal she herself negotiated with under three weeks to go until exit day, has prompted frustration and anger on all sides. Pro-European ministers are in revolt over the risk of a “no deal” exit, while Brexit hardliners are livid that her promise of a decisive divorce appears to be receding.

At the same time, criticism of May’s legacy from six years as interior minister is growing following a surge in knife crime and an ongoing row over the treatment of migrants. “At first she appeared to be a unifier, but she turned out to have too little courage, imagination or skill to lead the Brexit negotiations,” said an editorial in the Conservative-backing Spectator magazine. It reluctantly urged MPs to back May’s divorce deal on Tuesday, but only so that Britain could “turn the page on this unhappy chapter of our political history”.

[..] in the last election, she struggled to engage with voters and was dubbed the “Maybot” after churning out the same answers and speeches over and over again. Critics complain of similar difficulties in communicating during the Brexit talks, and even her own ministers are reportedly unsure what she will do if her deal is voted down. Matthew Parris, an anti-Brexit former Conservative MP who now writes for The Times, said he once thought May was a merely an “unremarkable” politician dealing with a tough situation. But he said her inability to engage with colleagues had exacerbated divisions over Brexit, describing her as “the living embodiment of the closed door”.

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Too much hassle.

Belgium Tells Companies To Halt Exports To UK After March 29 (Ind.)

Belgium’s customs authority is advising companies that export to the UK to halt shipments after Brexit day to avoid customs chaos in the event of a no-deal scenario. Kristian Vanderwaeren, chief executive of Belgian customs, called for a “Brexitpauze” after 29 March and said firms should do as much of their exporting as they can before new controls have to come in. “Who are we as customs to give the business world instructions? But we are still asking the SMEs and all other parties to wait. Do the necessary export to your customers before 29 March,” he told Belgian business newspaper De Tijd. Mr Vanderwaeren said larger industries “such as pharmaceutical companies and car manufacturers” had been “storing stock in the UK for months” to avoid having to get parts through after Brexit but that the vast majority of businesses were not well prepared with just weeks to go.

Belgium’s main port of Zeebrugge is expected to have to deal with around a million additional import declarations and 4.5 million extra export declarations once the UK leaves the single market and customs union. The warning follows chaos and hours of delays at Calais and the Eurostar terminal in Paris after French customs officers carried out a trial of the sort of checks they would have to impose under a no-deal Brexit. The customs chief also warned that many small businesses that dealt with the UK were simply not prepared to export and that it would be better for them to pause operations. “Our customs authority has written letters to some 20,000 companies that trade with the UK telling them they have to apply for an EORI number, which is necessary to be able to import and export,” Mr Vanderwaeren told the newspaper.

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New Iowa poll from CNN/DMR:
Biden – 27%
Sanders – 25%
Warren – 9%
Harris – 7%
O’Rourke – 5%
Booker – 3%
Klobuchar – 3%

Shout out to Michael Tracey on Twitter: “Biden running could be useful in the sense that it’ll keep the 2020 debate grounded in some semblance of historical perspective. Re-examining his decades-long record will necessitate this. Otherwise, the candidates would all pretend that the USA’s problems began on Jan. 20, 2017.”

Joe Biden Tops 2020 Iowa Democratic Presidential Poll Ahead Of Sanders (AP)

The former US vice-president Joe Biden has topped a poll of Iowa voters on Saturday that also showed Senator Bernie Sanders gaining momentum against him in the number two spot. Biden, who has not announced whether he is running in the 2020 election, is the first choice for president of likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers with 27% in the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Sanders, 77, got 25%. “If I’m Joe Biden sitting on the fence and I see this poll, this might make me want to jump in,” J Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co, which conducted the poll, told the Des Moines Register. The newspaper’s Iowa poll has a long track record of relative accuracy in the state that kicks off the presidential nominating process. In this cycle, Iowa will hold the first contest in the Democratic race in February 2020.

[..] It was the Register’s first Iowa poll since candidates began jumping into the race at the beginning of the year. The poll also surveyed support of likely Iowa caucus-goers on issues that have dominated the early discussion and drawn support from most of the Democratic presidential contenders. The Green New Deal, a proposal by Democrats in Congress to tackle climate change, was supported in full by 65% of the Democratic voters, partially by 26%, with 4% against. The deal would fund government programs on clean energy and make buildings energy efficient while helping to address poverty.

Support was also measured for Medicare-for-all, a plan first proposed by Sanders in 2017, to replace the current mix of private and government-financed healthcare coverage with a universal coverage plan funded solely by the government. It was supported by 49% of the likely caucus-goers, partially by 35%, with 11% against.

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Gabbard isn’t even in that poll at all. Nice she speaks out, and nice the right wing is with her, but this is not about WikiLeaks going from a news organization (Obama Admin’s designation) to a hostile intelligence agency (Trump Admin’s designation). Because Assange has been locked up since 2012, no matter designation Obama gave him. That’s what counts.

Tulsi Gabbard Takes a Strong Stand For WikiLeaks (CF)

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who has already taken a lot of heat from her party for being outspoken against senseless war and regime change, has released a strong statement in support of WikiLeaks. Gabbard, who is also a veteran, took to Twitter to talk about the dangers of designating the award-winning news organization a “hostile intelligence agency.” “If the government can change the designation Wikileaks from being a news organization (Obama Admin’s designation of Wikileaks) to a hostile intelligence agency (Trump Admin’s designation), then any entity – online and offline – is in danger of being designated a ‘hostile intelligence service’ if they carry out investigative reporting that the US government or a particular administration considers to be hostile to itself,” Gabbard wrote in a series of tweets on Saturday.

“This will have a chilling effect on investigative reporting of powerful government agencies or officials, including the president, intel agencies, etc. This is a serious breach of our constitutional freedoms and every American – Democrat, Republican or Independent – must stand up against it.” During his presidential campaign, President Donald Trump repeatedly expressed support for WikiLeaks, even saying that he “loves” the publisher, yet his administration has dramatically ramped up efforts to extradite the website’s founder Julian Assange to face charges in the US.

Whistleblower and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning is currently sitting in jail after refusing to testify before a secret grand jury regarding WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of the war logs. Manning was granted immunity for the testimony, but refused to participate in the political persecution of the news organization as she has a deeply held opposition to secret grand juries. Gabbard is famous for taking a stand when others won’t, even resigning from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election — as she supported Senator Bernie Sanders and was no longer impartial. She has faced backlash from both the right and the left for her principled belief in avoiding war whenever possible.

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Warren needs a profile or people will forget about her.

Elizabeth Warren Defends Her Big Tech Breakup Proposal (AT)

“Today, we have companies like Amazon: they have a platform. I buy a coffee maker and use it all the time, but Amazon also sucks out an incredible amount of info about every buyer and every seller. Then, Amazon makes the decision to have a competing coffee machine and drive out the business in that space,” she explained. “They have this incredible advantage from the information they get from their platform and the fact they can also manipulate the platform, putting themselves on page 1 and put the competitor on page 16 where no one ever goes… My view is break those things apart, and we’ll have a more robust market in America.”

Warren touched on many topics over the course of her hour-long conversation with Giridharadas, but her support of free markets and capitalism—in particular how those ideas need to be instituted fairly within industries like tech—came up again and again. The senator had multiple, varied analogies at the ready to help. If baseball is your language, Warren likened Big Tech’s current situation to the conflict of interest that might exist if one individual was, say, both umpire and team owner. If you prefer American history, she sees the power and influence of Google, Amazon, et al. as analogous to the railroads of the 1800s.

“The railroads of the Teddy Roosevelt era were the big monopoly of the 1800s—the railroads were where you had to be if you had a steel mill, wheat, or corn, you had to get your goods to the railroad,” Warren said. “What happened? Railroads figured out they could price differently depending on your desperation or whether they had a competitor in the field. They’d start their own steel company and then give discount rates to move that along and sell at a cheaper price, but they’d raise prices for competitors. “In that sense, what’s new is old,” she continued. “When someone gets market dominance, they destroy competition. The world that gave them birth, to get the opportunity to go and grow and do something, [the company] has grown big enough to destroy everything around it.”

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Still waiting for those new laws.

EU Plan To Rein In Facebook And Google Will Do Exactly The Opposite (G.)

The growth of the internet and user-generated content in the past 15 years has been underpinned by speed and ease of use. The foundations for this are commonly referred to as “safe harbour” provisions in copyright law. This means that organisations that allow users to upload content to their websites – Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook et al – are not liable for copyright infringement of their users, but are required to speedily remove content after the fact, if a copyright makes a complaint. Now, through article 13 of its new copyright directive, the EU is curtailing these safe harbour provisions, and thereby challenging the very basis of a free and open internet.

Imagine that you upload content to a video-sharing website and then have to wait for days for it to appear after it is vetted. That could be the future of the internet in the EU. The EU’s actions appear to be targeted at reducing the immense power of the likes of Facebook and Google. There is no question that their power needs to be reduced – but copyright law is not the correct approach. Blindly removing copyrighted content uploaded by users will snag legitimate fair-uses and inevitably result in a chilling effect on criticism, debate and commentary – so ultimately this threatens democracy and society at a time when it is especially vulnerable.

[..] the EU’s proposed copyright law amendments are ill-advised. It creates barriers to entry for newcomers to challenge incumbents, and only serves to strengthen the already powerful. Google and Facebook have the economic wherewithal to oversee all the content uploaded to their platforms. While it might increase costs for them, the vastly greater effect is on financially weaker competitors and any new, disruptive entrants on the horizon. New businesses will be hindered, forced to exist without the freedom that Google and Facebook once enjoyed to become the giants they are today. Instead of tackling the power of the internet giants, the new law will further secure their dominance. Two aspects of the EU law stand out. First, the notable exception from this law is for “non-profit encyclopedias” – which is essentially code for “Wikipedia”. Wikipedia should recognise the exception for what it is – a clever way to buy its silence.

And Wikipedia should rise above it and simply not accept it. Today, the site is a manifestation of a free and open internet. Wikipedia, if true to its ideals, should go dark in protest. Second, the EU seems to have recognised that innovation can be hindered and competition thwarted with article 13. As a result, there seems to be exceptions designed for small and young companies. To avail of this exception, companies must be less than three years old. But what about companies that take longer to grow? If the EU really wants to curtail the tech giants, they should go by market capitalisation, revenue and funds raised: say for example, a company that is valued at $1bn, has $50m in revenue, or has raised cumulatively at least $200m. These numbers could be anything, but at least a calibrated and targeted approach should be used – not arbitrary timings.

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My theory is Salvini wants the rail line, but he can’t keep himself from pissing off Macron.

Italian PM Sets Conditions Over Rail Link To Defuse Crisis (R.)

The multibillion-euro TAV link (Treno Alta Velocita) is backed by Matteo Salvini’s League party but strongly opposed by its coalition partner, 5-Star Movement, which argues that Italy’s share of the funding would be better spent upgrading existing roads and bridges. Tensions between the two sides had escalated ahead of a Monday deadline for the company overseeing the project, TELT, to launch tenders to carry out works on it, threatening to bring down the government. But Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a post on Facebook he had asked TELT to halt the finalization of tenders for the rail link because his government had committed to “totally re-discussing” the project.

Conte published a response from TELT, which said it would call for expressions of interest from potential contractors for the French portion of the rail link on Monday, effectively launching the tender process, in order to avoid losing European Union funding. However, it said it would not proceed with the definition of contracts without the consent of both the Italian and French governments. Sources close to the matter said it normally takes six months between the launch of tenders and the next phase, when contract specifications are detailed.

The TAV is a joint venture between the Italian and French states to link the cities of Turin and Lyon with a 58-km (36-mile) tunnel through the Alps on which work has already begun. The EU has pledged to fund up to 40 percent of the costs of the TAV, Italy up to 35 percent and France up to 25 percent. Italy’s transport minister, a 5-Star official, puts the total price tag at more than 20 billion euros ($22.6 billion). His French counterpart, Elisabeth Borne, said on Friday the European Commission had let it be known it was willing to increase its share to 50 percent, leaving France and Italy to finance 25 percent each.

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The US is already a socialist country, it’s just that their version is socialism for the rich. Huge amounts of subsidies are paid out to kill off small business. It’s exactly what the Soviet Union and China did.

How America’s Food Giants Swallowed The Family Farms (G.)

Tim Gibbons of Missouri Rural Crisis Center, a support group for family farmers set up during the 1980s farm crisis, says the cycle of economic shocks has blended with government policies to create a “monopolisation of the livestock industry, where a few multinational corporations control a vast majority of the livestock”. Gibbons explains: “They are vertically integrated, from animal genetics to grocery store. What they charge isn’t based upon what it costs to produce, and it’s not based on supply and demand, because they know what they need to make a profit. What they have done, through government support and taxpayer support, is to intentionally overproduce so that the price stays low, sometimes below the cost of production. That kicks their competition out of the market. Then they become the only player in town.

“Over time, it has extracted wealth and power from communities. We can see how that has impacted rural main streets. You can see the boarded-up storefronts. You can see the lack of economic opportunity.” Gibbons says that corporations game the system by obtaining low-interest, federally guaranteed loans to build Cafos that then overproduce. But they know the government will buy up the surplus to stabilise prices. “The system has been set up for the benefit of the factory farm corporations and their shareholders at the expense of family farmers, the real people, our environment, our food system,” he adds.

“The thing that is really pervasive about it is that they control the rules of the game because they control the democratic process. It’s a blueprint. We’re paying for our own demise. “It would be a different argument if it was just based upon inevitability or based on competition. But it’s not based upon competition: it’s based upon squelching competition.”

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Monsanto has succeeded in putting science upside down. If you can’t prove 100% that Roundup causes cancer, they argue they should be able to spray 6.1 billion kilos of it over your food. That is of course utter insanity. They must prove it is NOT carcinogenic, and until then it should not be allowed in the open.

Is The World’s Most Popular Weedkiller Carcinogenic? (G.)

An estimated 6.1 billion kilos of glyphosate-based weedkillers were sprayed across gardens and fields worldwide between 2005 and 2014 (the most recent point at which data has been collected). That is more than any other herbicide, so understanding the true impact on human health is vital. [..] There is no question that the glyphosate debate has become highly politicised in recent years. Despite the limited evidence linking glyphosate to health risks, a European Citizens Initiative petition against its use in agriculture still garnered 1.3 million signatures, with the European Union’s 2017 decision to license it for another five years sparking mass protests across the continent.

In addition to cancer, environmental activists have claimed links between herbicide exposure and everything from coeliac disease to autism, while on the other side of the fence, regulatory agencies blame an ongoing anti-GM agenda for driving public sentiment against this small molecule. If glyphosate is banned, campaigners will have struck another severe blow against GM crop production. “My personal perception is that glyphosate has become a symbol for the use of chemicals in agriculture and the way we produce food in Europe,” says Dr Bernhard Url, executive director of Efsa. “When science meets values, things become complicated. So when politicians are confronted with the opinion of Efsa that glyphosate is safe, they say, ‘No, I don’t want to hear that glyphosate is not carcinogenic because it doesn’t fit into my world view.

“I want a world without agrochemicals and if you, Efsa, tell us that glyphosate is safe to be used, you must be corrupt.’” A 2016 study which found a 1,000% rise in the levels of glyphosate in our urine in the past two decades – suggesting that increasing amounts of glyphosate is passing through our diet – provoked further outrage. Except it isn’t really clear whether that has any consequences at all for our health. An Efsa letter, published in the journal Nature, pointed out that glyphosate residues found in Italian pasta or German beer would only exceed known risk thresholds if someone were to consume their entire body weight’s worth of those products in a single day.

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