Feb 192024
 
 February 19, 2024  Posted by at 2:11 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Red Vineyards at Arles 1888

 

 

Interesting assessment fom Andrew, but I have my doubts. He sees Germany take a leading role in Europe, but I think it’s in no position to do that, neither militarily nor financially. How the mighty have fallen.

 

 

Andrew Korybko:

 

Russia finally captured the Ukrainian fortress town of Avdeevka following a protracted battle that ended in Kiev’s chaotic retreat and the abandonment of its wounded troops. The timing took place as the Western elite met in Germany for this year’s Munich Security Conference over the weekend, which conveniently enabled them to plan their next moves in this proxy war. No significant financial or military aid is expected, however, despite Ukraine’s newly clinched security pacts with Germany and France.

Rather, as was explained here earlier in the month when analyzing the latest Biden-Scholz Summit in DC, the West’s focus will be on the long-term containment of Russia in Europe beyond the borders of that former Soviet Republic. To that end, Germany’s role as the US’ preferred “Lead From Behind” partner in the EU will become more prominent, which will take the form of connecting the “military Schengen” with the revived Weimar Triangle in order to accelerate the construction of “Fortress Europe”.

The preceding three hyperlinked analyses explain these concepts more in depth as well as their relationship, but they can be summarized as Germany exploiting its comprehensive subordination of Poland to resume its long-lost superpower trajectory after a nearly eight-decade-long hiatus. The reason why the West’s attention will turn towards accelerating this geostrategic shift instead of clinging to its proxy war on Russia via Ukraine after Avdeevka is because it’s now clear that the latter is a lost cause.

Russia already won the “race of logistics”/“war of attrition” with NATO that Secretary General Stoltenberg declared almost exactly one year ago as proven by the counteroffensive’s failure and the subsequent reversal of this conflict’s dynamics whereby Ukraine is now once again on the defensive. Former Command-in-Chief Zaluzhny’s replacement Syrsky explicitly admitted this last week before the disastrous retreat from Avdeevka, which is regarded as Kiev’s last major fortress in Donbass.  

The stage is now set for a forthcoming Russian offensive that could steamroll through the rest of this region in the best-case scenario from Moscow’s perspective and the worst-case one from the West’s. That’s not to say that this will indeed happen because the so-called “fog of war” makes it impossible to accurately discern Ukraine’s full defensive capabilities behind the Line of Contact (LOC), but it’s not without reason that the West is panicking and Zelensky decided to blame them for his latest defeat.

He complained that a so-called “artificial lack of weaponry” was responsible in an allusion to the congressional deadlock over more Ukraine aid, which Biden agreed with to pressure his political foes. Navalny’s unexpected death on Friday was taken advantage of by anti-Russian hawks to demand that the House pass the Senate’s proxy war funding bill when it resumes its session later this month, but even if it’s approved, the problem is that the US has already expended its stockpiles.

While it’s possible that it could dip into those reserves that it’s saved for meeting its national security needs and coerce its vassals into doing so as well, the fact of the matter is that the counteroffensive’s failure in spite of much larger aid given to Kiev up until then suggests that this won’t make a difference. Whatever might be sent would be used solely to hold the LOC as long as possible and prevent a Russian breakthrough in order to perpetuate the stalemate that Zaluzhny was the first to admit had set in by fall.

Truth be told, that description was inaccurate since the LOC continues gradually moving westward and the pace might speed up after Russia’s capture of Avdeevka. President Putin already signaled that he won’t stop until his security guarantee requests are met through military or diplomatic means after recently regretting that he hadn’t ordered the special operation to begin sooner and saying on Sunday after the fall of that Ukrainian fortress town that victory is “a matter of life and death” for Russia.

It remains unclear when and on what terms the conflict will end, but the writing is on the wall and it clearly reads that Russia’s security guarantee requests will be met to some extent or another, ergo why the West is now planning for a decades-long “confrontation” with Russia per Stoltenberg’s own words. Therein lies the significance of the geostrategic shift that was identified earlier in this analysis regarding Germany’s role as the US’ top “Lead From Behind” partner for containing Russia in Europe.

In furtherance of that goal, NATO’s continental-wide “Steadfast Defender 2024” drills – the largest since the end of the Old Cold War – will be aimed at optimizing the partial implementation of the “military Schengen” between Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands, which France is expected to soon join. The Baltics will likely also participate as well given that they require support for building their so-called “Baltic Defense Line”, which could extend up to the Arctic if Finland gets involved too as expected.

The revived Weimar Triangle comes into play since Germany requires French backing because Berlin can’t realistically do all of this on its own, which in turn necessitated Poland’s military subordination to its western neighbor via the abovementioned logistics pact between them. A military corridor from France to Estonia, which could reach Finland via Denmark-Sweden (the second of whom is a NATO aspirant and expected to join this new “Schengen”), is therefore taking shape before the world’s eyes.

Russia’s capture of Avdeevka will therefore reverberate across Europe by accelerating the implementation of these long-term containment plans seeing as how NATO’s proxy war on it through Ukraine is obviously a lost cause after the fall of that former Soviet Republic’s latest fortress town. It’s this geostrategic dynamic that observers should pay more attention to than anything else since the resumption of Germany’s long-lost superpower trajectory is a development of global significance. 

 

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime, election time, all the time. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

 

 

Feb 072023
 
 February 7, 2023  Posted by at 10:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  63 Responses »


Georgia O’Keeffe Sunflower, New Mexico I 1935

 

World Heading Into ‘Wider War’ – UN chief (RT)
Ukraine Using Chemical Weapons In Donetsk – DPR leader (TASS)
Ukrainian Refugees Are Becoming A Burden To The Baltic States (Milacic)
FTX Demands Politicians Return Millions In SBF Donations (ZH)
Why Shinzo Abe Was Assassinated (Chung)
India Predicts 500% Increase In Domestic Natural Gas Demand (ZH)
India and Russia Ditching Dollar In Energy Deal – Novatek (RT)
‘Doctor Doom’ Says US Dollar Reign Is Ending (RT)
Welcome To the Death Spiral (John Rubino)
Incentives Matter (Denninger)
GB News Presenter Quits After Channel Tries To Make Him Pay Ofcom Fines (G.)
Fauci Makes Absurd Amount of Money for “Speaking Engagements” (TP)
Mind-Blowing Reality of Death after Injection (MOL)
Chinese Spy Balloon Carried Explosives To Self-detonate (PM)

 

 

 

 

Putin

 

 

 

 

Ausexit
https://twitter.com/i/status/1622679275466891264

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gonzalo: Zelensky going to Brussels? Now? Really. Just as Bakhmut is about to fall—and the Russians launch their offensive. Just as all his supporters have been purged from the government—and he might be next. I bet Zelensky doesn’t return to Kiev from this trip. I bet he’s running.

 

 

 

 

“We need to wake up – and get to work..” Well, what are you waiting for? Get a peace conference together.

World Heading Into ‘Wider War’ – UN chief (RT)

The world has come close to a global conflict, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday. The global community is not “sleepwalking” into “a wider war” but marches towards it “with its eyes wide open,” he stressed in a speech to the General Assembly. “The prospects for peace keep diminishing. The chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing,” Guterres said, denouncing the lack of “strategic vision” and “bias” that prevent political decision-makers from taking steps in the right direction. “This near-term thinking is not only deeply irresponsible – it is immoral,” he argued, adding that politicians and entrepreneurs became too absorbed with clinging to power and their business cycles.

The secretary-general also blasted the erosion of international law and order based on UN principles, which, according to him, led to the present sorry state of affairs. “If every country fulfilled its obligations under the [UN] Charter, the right to peace would be guaranteed,” he noted, calling on UN members to “to transform our approach to peace by recommitting to the Charter – putting human rights and dignity first, with prevention at the heart.” “We need to wake up – and get to work,” Guterres said, adding that 2023 had placed humanity in front of a “confluence of challenges unlike any in our lifetimes.”


The UN chief also pointed to the fact that scientists have moved the symbolic “Doomsday clock,” which reflects the potential annihilation of humanity, from 90 seconds to midnight – the closest it has ever been to a possible Armageddon. The UN chief’s words came after the US and its allies vowed to send dozens of Western-designed modern battle tanks to Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev. The Pentagon also announced supplying the Ukrainian forces with munitions that have a 150-kilometer range, adding that it would allow Kiev to use them as it sees fit. Moscow has previously repeatedly warned that continued weapons supplies to Ukraine by the US and its allies risk further escalation that might spiral into a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.

Read more …

There are videos floating around.

Ukraine Using Chemical Weapons In Donetsk – DPR leader (TASS)

A search for additional ways to protect troops from the chemical weapons that Ukrainian forces are using is underway in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the region’s Acting Head Denis Pushilin said on Monday.”We currently seek to equip our units [with chemical protection suits]. Then again, we have some of the things that we need but it’s not always comfortable to constantly wear chemical protection suits while in position. Certainly, it makes it harder for our forces to perform their missions so we are looking for additional ways to protect our troops,” he told the Rossiya-24 TV channel. Pushilin pointed out that experts had not yet had the chance to figure out what substances the Ukrainian forces were using.


“They trigger coughing, followed by watery eyes and general discomfort,” he said, describing the effect of the Ukrainian chemical weapons. Yan Gagin, an advisor to the Donetsk People’s Republic’s (DPR) leader, said earlier that the Kiev regime’s forces had used chemical weapons along the Soledar and Artyomovsk frontlines on February 5. He stressed that it wasn’t the first time that Ukraine had used chemical weapons. Gagin added that the Ukrainian military made no secret that it had prohibited weapons, posting videos showing imported gas grenades and drones designed for discharging them. Pushilin said on Monday that evidence corroborating the use of chemical weapons by the Armed Forces of Ukraine had also been found along the Ugledar frontline.

Read more …

“Ukrainians feel like the masters of Lithuania here. No one talks about this, but in Lithuania, almost every administrative institution has a flag of Ukraine. In our parliament, the flag of Ukraine also hangs.”

Ukrainian Refugees Are Becoming A Burden To The Baltic States (Milacic)

Every conflict, including this one in Ukraine, always leads to refugees. Considering the size of Ukraine, it is not surprising that a large number of Ukrainian refugees are in Russia and in Europe. Ukrainian refugees were the topic of an interesting online conference, where you could hear very interesting information from experts about Ukrainian refugees in the Baltics. The name of the online conference was “Ukrainian refugees in the Baltic States, social aspects of integration into society”. During the meeting, experts from the Baltic countries discussed the problem of Ukrainian refugees and their impact on the lives of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The conference was held in Russian. It is curious that even 32 years after the collapse of the USSR, the inhabitants of the Baltic countries prefer Russian rather than English in interstate communication.

[..] “Ukrainians feel like the masters of Lithuania here. No one talks about this, but in Lithuania, almost every administrative institution has a flag of Ukraine. In our parliament, the flag of Ukraine also hangs. This is very painful for us Lithuanians!” The Baltics are also annoyed by “imaginary” refugees who travel to European countries from regions where there are no hostilities. And they require special treatment and all kinds of support. Allan Hantsom, editor-in-chief of the Estonian newspaper Delovye Vedomosti: “There are people who are fleeing the war, but the majority quietly leave those regions where there are no hostilities or rocket attacks. Very different people. Some come on buses with trunks, others – on expensive cars, and they also demand free rations and free accommodation. Especially now there is a crisis in the countries and now the Europeans are more and more concerned about their own problems: inflation, shortage of fuel and housing.”

After all, Europe’s resources for accepting refugees from Ukraine are running out, which leads to the curtailment of assistance programs and the cessation of accepting new migrants. At the same time, the Baltics should be prepared for the fact that refugees from Ukraine will remain there for many years even after the end of the conflict. The inhabitants of the Baltics are increasingly tired of forced guests, but they can’t do anything, because the course of the authorities is the same: “Everything for the sake of Ukraine, and let their residents survive somehow on their own!

Because of that, Estonians began to object. Why does a person who came from a foreign country, who does not know the language and has nothing to do with Estonia, get everything, and local people from the provinces are forced to live in poverty, work at low-paid jobs? Why not provide them with conditions? A refugee arrives in the capital – here’s a ration for you, here’s your living allowance. A lot of people from the Estonian hinterland would also like to live in hotels and on ferries, so that the state pays for everything. Ukrainian refugees, instead of learning the language and considering the Baltic states as their “second homeland”, impose their customs and rules of behavior.

Read more …

They should ask for Ukraine’s money back too. That would make it real funy.

FTX Demands Politicians Return Millions In SBF Donations (ZH)

Just when you thought the FTX travesty couldn’t get any more bizarre, the now bankrupt company is trying to claw back political donations and other spending that took place at the direction of former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. A press release made its way out mid-day Sunday that FTX’s debtors and the company had sent “confidential messages to political figures, political action funds, and other recipients of contributions or other payments that were made by or at the direction of the FTX Debtors, Samuel Bankman-Fried or other officers or principals of the FTX Debtors” requesting the funds back. “These recipients are requested to return such funds to the FTX Debtors by February 28, 2023,” the release states. It continues: “The messages follow the December 19, 2022, announcement by the FTX Debtors that they have established arrangements for such recipients to return funds voluntarily by contacting ([email protected]).”


Then, the release threatens legal action to those who are unwilling to return funds: “To the extent such payments are not returned voluntarily, the FTX Debtors reserve the right to commence actions before the Bankruptcy Court to require the return of such payments, with interest accruing from the date any action is commenced.” “Recipients are cautioned that making a payment or donation to a third party (including a charity) in the amount of any payment received from a FTX Contributor does not prevent the FTX Debtors from seeking recovery from the recipient or any subsequent transferee,” the release says. We noted back in December that $73 million in political donations were now at risk as a result of the bankruptcy. SBF also donated to Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York, who last year was one of 8 members of Congress who lobbied against regulating crypto. “Nobody ends up looking great in this,” said University of Rochester political science professor, David Primo, at the time.

“While there’s precedent for forcing political entities to return contributions in cases of fraud, recovery prospects are unclear in FTX’s case. Recouping campaign funds as part of the bankruptcy proceedings is a complicated and lengthy process, and the scope of the total funds eligible for clawback depends on myriad federal and state laws. It is also subject to the bankruptcy lawyers’ judgment on what money, which may be long spent by the time the FTX trustees try to go after it, is worth the effort. Bankman-Fried is facing additional scrutiny for recently saying he gave equally to Republicans and Democrats, but funded conservatives through “dark money” groups that don’t identify donors. The claim is almost impossible to verify unless the recipients voluntarily disclose they received money from him.” -Bloomberg

Read more …

“..Abe was not willing to sell off Japan as a satrapy, however, that was exactly what the western diktat was essentially demanding of Japan..”

Worth reading the whole piece.

Why Shinzo Abe Was Assassinated (Chung)

Former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was assassinated July 8th, 2022, and though no longer in the position of Prime Minister of Japan at the time of his assassination (having served from 2006-2007 and 2012- September 16, 2020) he was the longest serving prime minister in Japanese history and continued to exert major influence on policy-shaping within Japan. News of Abe’s assassination was received around the world with an admixture of very strong emotion from both extremes. Some were horrified by his death and praised what he had done for Japan as something almost saintly. Others ecstatically celebrated his death, thinking no possible good could come from him due to his attempts to revive the dark side of Japan’s imperial past and his public displays of tribute to the Japanese fascists from WWII. When the news was still fresh and the frenzy of confusion at its peak, many even blamed China for the orchestration of Abe’s death, thinking they were clearly the ones to benefit from such an act.

It is true that Abe had a very dangerous and destructive mission to restore Japan to its status as an imperialistic empire. He was a corrupt insider who pushed for the dangerous privatization of the Japanese government and increased the gap between the wealthy and middle-class citizens. However, it is also too simplistic as to celebrate his death as an absolute triumph. As we can clearly see seven months after Abe’s assassination, Japan has not become more peaceful and ready for dialogue with its eastern partners but rather has become much more bellicose and stauncher in its cooperation with the increasingly war frenzied western demands. Japan has also greatly severed motion towards greater economic and political cooperation with Russia and China, which was still moving forward when Abe was alive.

It is also interesting to note that Abe was assassinated weeks before Pelosi’s Circus Tour to Taiwan. Although Pelosi’s provocation did not amount to any military confrontation, we cannot say that that was not its intention, nor that things could have played out very differently in terms of a military confrontation between China and the United States. The reader should be reminded that in 2014, Japan had changed or “reinterpreted” its constitution which gave more powers to the Japan Self-Defense Forces, allowing them to “defend other allies” in case of war being declared upon them. The United States, of course, fully supported the move. This “reinterpretation” of Japan’s constitution effectively entered it into NATO. In December 2022, Japan announced a new national security strategy. This new strategy would double defense spending. Japan also plans to invest in counter-strike capabilities, including buying U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles and developing its own weapons systems.

It was precisely Abe’s grand vision of Japan returning to its “glory” days as an empire that was problematic for the League of Nations vision, for if Japan saw itself on par with other great empires, or perhaps even greater, it meant that it did not ultimately intend to bend the knee. That is, Abe was not willing to sell off Japan as a satrapy, however, that was exactly what the western diktat was essentially demanding of Japan. Under this western diktat Japan was being ordered to accept its fate to collapse economically and sink into desperation, become increasingly militaristic and extremist and lead a kamikaze charge into a war with China and Russia which would lead to the ruination of the Japanese civilization. It does not look like Abe was going to go along with that stark vision for Japan.

Read more …

“I will be very frank,” Puri said, “we will play the market card …”

India Predicts 500% Increase In Domestic Natural Gas Demand (ZH)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday projected that the country’s gas demand would rise 500% due to the rapid pace of development, while its share of global oil demand would more than double. While the Indian prime minister did not offer a specific time frame for this major boost in demand, he said that the country’s energy demand would be highest in the present decade. Modi’s statement, delivered during the opening ceremony of India Energy Week 2023, coincides with a recent OPEC report that expects India to be the largest contributor to incremental demand, with the country expected to add some 6.3 million bpd until 2045. Overall, OPEC said it saw demand increasing to 110 million bpd in 2045, up from 97 million bpd in 2021. Modi predicts India’s share in global oil demand will increase from 5% to 11%.


The Indian prime minister used the occasion to highlight the country’s plans to boost exploration and production, which he said would provide opportunities for investors. Right now, India relies on imports for some 85% of its energy needs, with India and China being the largest importers of oil and gas in the world. With this in mind, India will remove significant restrictions on exploration, reducing “no-go” areas for E&P companies. India also plans to expand its refining capacity, along with its LNG import capacity by 2030. Asia is now the biggest buyer of Russian crude since the imposition of Western sanctions following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Some 70% of Russian Urals January loading cargoes were bound for India, according to Reuters data. India’s oil minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, also said on Monday that regardless of Western sanctions, the country would not shun Russian oil, which it receives at a discount to Brent crude. “I will be very frank,” Puri said, “we will play the market card …”

Read more …

LNG.

India and Russia Ditching Dollar In Energy Deal – Novatek (RT)

Russia’s largest independent gas producer, Novatek, is in talks with India over long-term contracts on supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG), the company’s CEO, Leonid Mikhelson, announced on Monday. Negotiations with several Indian companies are underway as Russia is keen to invest in the country’s energy sector and further expand cooperation, he told reporters on the sidelines of the India Energy Week forum. “We want to be not just LNG suppliers, Indian engineering companies are already taking part in our projects and there’s a certain share of Indian suppliers in equipment. We want to expand and increase it,” Novatek’s CEO pointed out.


Mikhelson added that his company was interested in a broader investment into the Indian market, including the construction of regasification terminals for LNG production. He also revealed that the sides were considering settling LNG supply payments in national currencies – rupees or rubles – bypassing US dollar transactions. “We discussed it with the energy minister [Hardeep Singh Puri],” Mikhelson confirmed without specifying exact numbers. Earlier, Reuters reported that India’s main gas distributor GAIL was discussing the terms of a long-term contract on LNG imports with Novatek. The companies are close to signing a preliminary agreement, according to sources in the industry.

Read more …

We’re all saying that. Question is the timing.

‘Doctor Doom’ Says US Dollar Reign Is Ending (RT)

The US dollar’s status as the world’s main reserve currency is in jeopardy, renowned economist Nouriel Roubini, who predicted the global financial crisis of 2008, wrote in an article for the Financial Times on Sunday. While no currency is yet capable of replacing the greenback on the pedestal altogether, the US currency is quickly losing its competitive advantage to the Chinese yuan, Roubini said. “Given the increased weaponization of the dollar for national security purposes, and the growing geopolitical rivalry between the west and revisionist powers such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, some argue that de-dollarization will accelerate…In a world that will be increasingly divided into two geopolitical spheres of influence – namely those surrounding the US and China – it is likely that a bipolar…currency regime will eventually replace the unipolar one,” the economist, dubbed ‘Doctor Doom’ by Wall Street for his tendency toward grim predictions, stated.

Sceptics note that the yuan cannot become a true reserve currency unless Beijing lifts capital controls, accepts permanent current account deficits, and the yuan’s exchange rate becomes more flexible. But the economist argues that such points are no longer valid, as Washington is actively undermining the allure of its currency with sanctions. “Complete exchange rate flexibility and international capital mobility is not necessary in order for a country to achieve reserve currency status…And while China may have capital controls, the US has its own version that may reduce the appeal of dollar assets among foes and relative friends. These include financial sanctions against its rivals, restrictions to inward investment in many national security-sensitive sectors and firms, and even secondary sanctions against friends who violate the primary ones,” Roubini argued.


The economist also noted that China has been stepping up yuan transactions with its foreign partners, and said this trend will likely continue, with more emerging market economies welcoming “the ability to trade oil in [yuan] and to hold a greater share of their reserves in the Chinese currency… given that they do a great deal more trade with China than the US.” He added that new technologies, like CBDCs, Alipay-like payment systems, swap lines between China and its partners and national analogs of the SWIFT messaging system, “will hasten the advent of a bipolar global monetary and financial system.” “For all these reasons, the relative decline of the US dollar as the main reserve currency is likely to occur over the next decade. The intensifying geopolitical contest between Washington and Beijing will inevitably be felt in a bipolar global reserve currency regime as well,” Roubini concluded.

Read more …

“This year the government’s annual interest bill will break $1 trillion. Combine that with the soaring cost of Medicare and Social Security as millions of Baby Boomers retire, and Washington is looking at $2 trillion a year just in just interest and entitlements..”

John Rubino has been a strong supporter of the Automatic Earth since the start. Which reminds me, I totally forgot that we had our 15th anniversary on Jan. 22.

Welcome To the Death Spiral (John Rubino)

Gold bugs and other long-suffering critics of fiat currency and endless credit expansion have for decades been predicting that soaring debt would eventually blow up the financial world. As the story went, governments with unlimited printing presses would spend and borrow too much, forcing their central banks to keep interest rates unnaturally low to make interest costs manageable, which would encourage even more credit growth, causing inflation to spike, and so on, until everyone loses faith in fiat currencies and the misbegotten things fall to their intrinsic value of zero. That’s a bit hard to visualize when it’s explained in long, convoluted sentences. But it’s a lot clearer when you line up the relevant charts. So let’s start with US government debt, which has gone parabolic.

Ever-increasing debt is manageable if interest rates fall concurrently so the interest on that debt doesn’t change. And that’s what happened between 1980 and 2021. The Fed pushed down interest rates, which minimized interest costs, which lulled a shockingly gullible investment community and political class into the belief that this process could continue forever.

But of course it couldn’t continue forever. As the critics predicted, soaring debt required ever greater currency creation which eventually caused the cost of living to jump by 10% in 2022, leading regular people to demand that it stop. So the Fed now has to raise interest rates to counter inflation. You can see this happening on the far right of the above chart. As the US borrows more money and its existing debts roll over at higher rates, the cost of that debt is soaring. This year the government’s annual interest bill will break $1 trillion. Combine that with the soaring cost of Medicare and Social Security as millions of Baby Boomers retire, and Washington is looking at $2 trillion a year just in just interest and entitlements, which it will have to borrow to fund, which will send interest costs even higher, which will require more borrowing, and so on, until it all comes crashing down.

Read more …

Part of the death spiral.

Incentives Matter (Denninger)

An interesting data point: A stunning percentage of those young people without children now never intend to have them. In fact one relatively recent survey found the number was as high as one third. The most-common reason cited? Its too expensive. Now you can try to point to this as some sort of selfishness but that’s a dodge on the real issue: You, that is us older people, made it too expensive. Specifically homes and medical care are two places where all the “older people” cheer; we get the “best” but the next can’t buy it at all. Our federal government tries to interfere in both markets and allows blatantly illegal activity when it comes to medical care, specifically as relates to price fixing, which has been a felony for over 100 years. Nobody cares and nobody will prosecute.

Since all criminal offenses in the United States are “the people .v. whoever” — that is, there’s no right of private prosecution as there is with a lawsuit, it never ends since nobody goes to jail and in fact there is a formal government policy not to indict large corporations for felony criminal acts (which could debar them permanently from government and some private activity) after Arthur Anderson. Health care has gone from about 4% to 20% of our domestic output; that is, it has multiplied in price by five. Just having a child is expensive, never mind the near-inevitable little thing here and there. Your kid breaking a leg playing a sport could bankrupt you in this country, and God forbid said child contracts a serious childhood disease such as Leukemia.

Then there’s the always-required housing. One or more kids means more bedrooms, of course; at least one more. When a one-bedroom apartment runs $12,000 a year exactly how am I supposed to pay for that if I don’t make at least $40,000 annually? Oh, we’ll just “subsidize” that you say? Uh, no you won’t because all that does is force the price even higher by throwing printed government credit at it, since the government refuses to tax what it spends first. The last two years have made clear what all the credit emission does: Food, anyone? And kids are hungry, especially teens. I had one; she was a vacuum cleaner in the fridge and pantry and boys are worse. That’s normal. How are you going to pay for it?

Of course nobody seems to think this is a problem, not even Jerome Powell at The Fed, who is saying that he has “the tools” to make inflation come down to 2%. Eventually. Note that what he didn’t say is that he will tighten credit until the price of houses returns to what it was before the 2006-2007 bubble, which was in fact still ridiculously expensive in terms of average wages which is why the bubble happened in the first place — people running up the price by using hinky financial engineering. No, importing millions of people from other lands, most with no skills, will not fix this. They come here with no skills but a willingness to pop out some kids — which makes it worse. That’s basic economics: No skills means low or no wages but demand for goods and services which of course makes the price go up even more.

Read more …

One more independent voice silenced.

GB News Presenter Quits After Channel Tries To Make Him Pay Ofcom Fines (G.)

One of GB News’s leading presenters has quit after the channel tried to make him personally responsible for paying fines issued by the media regulator Ofcom. Mark Steyn, who presented the station’s 8pm peak-time slot, is already subject to two investigations by the media regulator after he used his show to cast doubt on the safety of Covid vaccines. The presenter’s departure has led some viewers of GB News – which has given airtime to conspiracy theorists warning of a globalist elite takeover – to suggest the channel has itself sold out to shadowy globalist forces. Steyn, who has been off-air since last year after suffering two heart attacks, told fans on his personal website that the station bosses initially insisted he could not return unless a defibrillator was fitted in the studio.

He said this was fixed with a call to “Defibrillators R Us”, only for Angelos Frangopoulos, GB News’s chief executive, to demand Steyn agree to personally cover the costs of dealing with Ofcom and paying any fines for breaches of the broadcasting code. This is a highly unusual situation given the fines are the legal responsibility of the broadcast licence holder, not the individual presenter. Steyn, who was employed on a freelance basis, said his response was that “you may be a homicidal maniac intent on bringing on a third fatal heart attack but you’ll have to do better than this”. The presenter said he used to call GB News’s in-house compliance officer “Ofcom’s bitch” when they argued about what he was allowed to say on air. “Well Ofcom’s bitch has had his revenge now,” said Steyn in his video.


Steyn said the proposal would be untenable. “I’m on the hook for Ofcom fines but I don’t have any say in our defence against an Ofcom complaint – that’s all done by GB News. Ofcom’s bitch, as I call the compliance officer, will be making the weedy defence to Ofcom and then I’m the one who has to pay the £40,000 fine,” he added. Although Ofcom has the ability to regulate the content of broadcast television and radio channels, it has no control over online streams – meaning Steyn is able to broadcast whatever he wants online to a potentially bigger audience without any intervention. The contractual terms offered to Steyn suggest GB News bosses are concerned about the impending judgment in the Ofcom investigations – which could scare away some of its remaining advertisers. Earlier this year all staff were put on mandatory Ofcom training.

Read more …

Time for a hearing under oath. In public.

Fauci Makes Absurd Amount of Money for “Speaking Engagements” (TP)

Dr. Anthony Fauci faced criticism online on Sunday after reports emerged about his speaking fee. Critics were stunned to discover that the once highest-paid federal U.S. government employee is charging up to $100,000 for speaking engagements. This news has raised questions about Fauci’s financial motivations and independence in light of his high-profile role as a public health expert during the COVID-19 pandemic. The information was brought to light by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ rapid response director, Christina Pushaw, who tweeted a screenshot from the Leading Motivational Speaker’s Agency’s website. The screenshot showed that Fauci is listed as a motivational and healthcare keynote speaker, with a fee ranging from $50,000 to $100,000.

Many argued that his high speaking fee undermines his credibility and raises ethical concerns, regardless of the public response. On October 19, 2020, President Trump called Dr. Fauci “a disaster.” The chief medical adviser to Biden is scheduled to deliver the 2023 Yale Medical School commencement speech in May. He has also been a keynote speaker at several other university commencement ceremonies, including the University of Maryland, Roger Williams University, and The City College of New York. According to a Freedom of Information Act request, Fauci was once considered the highest-paid employee of the U.S. government, earning more than even the president. In 2019, Fauci’s income reached a record high of $417,608.00, and over the previous two years, he earned $384,625.00.


Between 2010 and 2019, Forbes reported that Fauci, as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, earned $3.6 million. Watchdog group OpenTheBooks found that the Fauci family’s net worth expanded from $7.5 million in 2019 to $12.6 million by the end of 2021, due to investment gains, awards, compensation, and royalties.

Read more …

“..approximately one-quarter of a million American lives were lost during the first year of the catastrophic COVID-19 vaccine campaign..”

Mind-Blowing Reality of Death after Injection (MOL)

Many individuals around the globe appear to have fallen into a trance where those who have undergone COVID-19 vaccination do not recognize, nor do they care when large numbers of individuals are dying suddenly without explanation days or months also after taking one of the COVID-19 vaccines. In this issue of the Report, we have an excerpt from the Headwinds documentary “The Psychology of Totalitarianism,” where Dr. Mattias Desmet, Ph.D., gives a summary of mass formation and some of the behaviors it explains, including the fear-driven affiliation with a group who believes so strongly in the vaccine, that they will do unimaginable things to the unvaccinated. Broken families, job loss, and careers ruined for the unvaccinated by those in the formation who are hell-bent on every last person taking a COVID-19 vaccine.


Cumulative excess deaths Scandinavia.

At the same time, the United States is facing catastrophic casualties with the mass vaccination program. Several sources of data emerged in 2021, pointing to a biopharmaceutical public health disaster with the COVID-19 vaccine campaign. Pfizer recorded 1223 deaths occurring shortly after administration of their product within the first 90 days of use starting December 10, 2020. Pantazatos and Seligmann reported an excess in all-cause mortality from vaccine administration and US census data during 2021 between 146k and 187k, with a midpoint of 166k deaths. By the end of December 2021, the CDC VAERS system had reported ~8K with an under-reporting factor of 30; the casualty estimate from that source was 240k. In a recent paper published in BMC Infectious Diseases, Dr. Mark Skidmore used a valid representative survey to learn from population reporting.


A total of 22% knew of someone who was seriously injured by the vaccine, and the estimate based upon deaths attributed to the vaccine by respondents was 278K deaths. In the Skidmore analysis, the average age of death reported was 48 years. This paper is important since it triangulates with two other sources for the same time interval with a conclusion that approximately one-quarter of a million American lives were lost during the first year of the catastrophic COVID-19 vaccine campaign. During 2021 the Delta outbreak took an additional toll, with lives lost to the infection, and there was no evidence to support a tradeoff. That is, no randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of COVID-19 vaccination demonstrated a reduction in death as a component of a primary or secondary endpoint. The consent form for immunization does not list mortality reduction as an expected benefit, yet it mentions death is possible with the vaccine. I anticipate more direct sources of information will become available, including vaccine administration information from the CDC linked with the National Death Index.

Unvaxxed women
https://twitter.com/i/status/1622705584435867648

Read more …

“..200 feet tall, weighed thousands of pounds, and its payload was the size of a jetliner..”

Chinese Spy Balloon Carried Explosives To Self-detonate (PM)

Following the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon over the weekend, Pentagon officials have revealed that the balloon potentially was carrying explosives to destroy itself. According to the Daily Mail, Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, commander of US Northern Command, revealed in a Monday call with reporters that the Balloon, in addition to potentially carrying explosives, was 200 feet tall, weighed thousands of pounds, and its payload was the size of a jetliner. VanHerck’s comments came following a briefing by National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, who defended Biden’s decision to wait to shoot down the balloon until the weekend. “Because the president decided they wouldn’t shoot it down until he could do so safely, and that meant over water, that afforded us a terrific opportunity to gain a better understanding, to study the capabilities of this balloon,” Kirby said.

/

On the coast of South Carolina on Saturday afternoon, the US military, using an F-22 fighter jet, shot down the balloon with a missile. Shortly before the balloon was shot down, Federal Aviation Administration had issued a ground stop for three airports in the Carolinas located in Wilmington, North Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The balloon had entered US airspace on January 28 and was known to the Biden administration for nearly a week before its report in the news on Thursday, February 2. The White House reportedly tried to keep its presence secret to not disrupt Secretary of State Antony Blinken scheduled trip to China, which was postponed after the public’s discovery of the balloon.

Read more …

 

 

 

C seeds
https://twitter.com/i/status/1621997452445229056

 

 

 

 

Ring
https://twitter.com/i/status/1622408086081396737

 

 

 

 

Funeral sheep

 

 


A massive sculpture of a legendary bird has taken shape at Jatayu Earth’s Center in Kerala, India, in 2020. Jatayu, the noble bird of divine origin, as recreated in concrete at the Center is 61 meters long, 46 meters wide, and 21 meters tall

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 252021
 
 April 25, 2021  Posted by at 8:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  35 Responses »


Sophia Loren seated by the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis during filming for ‘Boy on a Dolphin’, 1957

 

To Friends in the US: Facilitate Global Vaccine Manufacturing (CarnegieIndia)
US Defends Restrictions On Export Of Covid-19 Vaccine Raw Materials (Hindu)
The 2006 Origins of the Lockdown Idea (AIER)
Covid-19 Indoors Infection Risk As Great At 60 Feet As At 6 Feet – MIT (CNBC)
Biden Recognizes Armenian Genocide (Pol.)
Putin Rewrites The Law Of The Geopolitical Jungle (Escobar)
Collective West Is Living In Grim Fantasy Land – Zakharova (RT)
Russian Embassy Trolls Baltic States Over Expulsion Of Diplomats (RT)
Ukraine Says Russian Troop Draw Down Is “Not Enough” (ZH)
Is America Led Today By Anti-Americans? (Buchanan)
Fmr Police Officer Blasts Dems For “Riding The Wave Of Dead Black People” (ZH)
Nassim Taleb Says Bitcoin Is An Open Ponzi Scheme And A Failed Currency (BI)

 

 

Biden’s proposal for top marginal income rate is 39.6%. Here’s what it was in the past:
Now: 37%
2017: 39.6%
1993-2000: 39.6%
1982-1986: 50%
1981: 69.3%
1971-1980: 70%
1954-1963: 91%

 

 

This is doing so much damage to the US. It will reverberate long and deep, and not just in India.

To Friends in the US: Facilitate Global Vaccine Manufacturing (CarnegieIndia)

The current public health crisis in India is devastating. On April 22, 2021, India recorded over 330,000 COVID-19 cases and 2,000 fatalities. It is unlikely that the second wave of the pandemic will level out anytime soon. The desperate need for oxygen, medical supplies, and hospital beds has overwhelmed public and private health facilities. Clearly, the state machinery will need to be mobilized in this war against the fast-spreading disease that appears to mutate in different ways and forms at a shattering speed. To arrest this crisis, there is an equally urgent need to accelerate India’s vaccine drive. India, as is well known, is one of the world’s largest producers of COVID-19 vaccines. “Made-in-India” vaccines have been delivered—by way of aid and under commercial contract—to ninety-five countries across the globe.

From Argentina to Bangladesh and El Salvador to Sierra Leone, India has distributed 66.2 million vaccines to date. However, India is currently facing an acute vaccine shortage at home. On April 19, the Indian government announced that Indians above the age of eighteen will be eligible to get their shots. Making sure that the tens of millions of Indians are able to access vaccines is the only way in which a country as geographically challenging as India will be able to turn the tables on this fast-moving disease. Yet, without the support of Joe Biden’s administration in Washington, this ambition—of delivering vaccines across India—is at risk of remaining just that, an ambition. In April 2020, then U.S. president Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA), a law that grants the U.S. president significant emergency authority to direct domestic industries.

As Trump made clear, the order was meant to “save lives by removing obstacles in the supply chain that threaten the rapid production of ventilators.” In February 2021, Biden announced a set of plans to hasten inoculations. In March 2021, Biden vowed that vaccines will be available for “every adult in America by the end of May.” On the first two working days of the Biden administration, on January 20 and 21, 2021, the president signed Executive Orders 13987 and 14001. The aim of these measures was to ensure “a sustainable public health supply chain.” In effect, this meant that manufacturers in the United States, and those registered in the United States but based in Europe and other parts of the world, needed to prioritize supplies for the domestic market within the United States.

Given the globally connected nature of supply chains, Biden’s vow has had other anticipated effects. It means that products like bags and filters, cell culture medias, single-use tubing assemblies, and other raw materials crucial for the production of vaccines in other parts of the world, and especially in India, may face imminent supply constraints. In practice, this has meant that the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world—the Serum Institute of India—is today hamstrung in its efforts to produce vaccines for both the Indian and global markets. It is crucial to keep in mind that without these ingredients, it is increasingly unlikely that the Serum Institute will be able to prioritize vaccine production under contract—through global vaccine alliances such as Gavi—for countries across the world.


IMHE – Estimated peak 14.1 million infections per day.

Read more …

And then the Biden admin is tonedeaf and colorblind enough to try and justify it.

US Defends Restrictions On Export Of Covid-19 Vaccine Raw Materials (Hindu)

Defending U.S.’ restrictions on the export of key raw materials for the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccine that threatens to slow India’s vaccination drive, a senior State Department official has said the Biden administration’s first obligation is to take care of the requirements of the American people. When asked when the Biden administration would decide on India’s request to lift a ban on the export of vaccine raw materials, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: “…the United States first and foremost is engaged in an ambitious and effective and, so far, successful effort to vaccinate the American people.” “That campaign is well underway, and we’re doing that for a couple of reasons. Number one, we have a special responsibility to the American people.

Number two, the American people, this country has been hit harder than any other country around the world – more than 550,000 deaths, tens of millions of infections in this country alone,” he said on Thursday. It is not only in the U.S. interest to see Americans vaccinated; but it is in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated, he said. “The point the Secretary (of State Antony Blinken) has made repeatedly is that as long as the virus is spreading anywhere, it is a threat to people everywhere. So as long as the virus is spreading uncontrolled in this country, it can mutate and it can travel beyond our borders. That, in turn, poses a threat well beyond the United States,” Mr. Price said in responses to questions.

As for the rest of the world, “We will, of course, always do as much as we can, consistent with our first obligation,” he said. India is currently facing a horrible surge in coronavirus infections. The country on Friday added a record over 3.32 lakh new coronavirus cases in a single day taking the country’s tally to 1,62,63,695, while active cases crossed the 24-lakh mark. The Biden administration recently conveyed to New Delhi that it understands India’s pharmaceutical requirements and promised to give the matter due consideration. It observed that the current difficulty in the export of critical raw materials needed to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines is mainly due to an Act that forces American companies to prioritise domestic consumption.

President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump had invoked the war-time Defence Production Act (DPA) that leaves U.S. companies with no option but to give priority to the production of COVID-19 vaccines and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for domestic production to combat the deadly pandemic in America, the worst-hit nation. The U.S. has ramped up the production of COVID-19 vaccines mostly by Pfizer and Moderna to meet the goal of vaccinating its entire population by July 4. The suppliers of its raw materials, which is in high demand globally and sought after by major Indian manufacturers, are being forced to provide it only for domestic manufacturers in the U.S. The Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest producer of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more …

From May 2020. We have a 14 year old girl’s high school “science” project to thank for the lockdowns.

The 2006 Origins of the Lockdown Idea (AIER)

How that idea — born out of a request by President George W. Bush to ensure the nation was better prepared for the next contagious disease outbreak — became the heart of the national playbook for responding to a pandemic is one of the untold stories of the coronavirus crisis. It required the key proponents — Dr. Mecher, a Department of Veterans Affairs physician, and Dr. Hatchett, an oncologist turned White House adviser — to overcome intense initial opposition. It brought their work together with that of a Defense Department team assigned to a similar task. And it had some unexpected detours, including a deep dive into the history of the 1918 Spanish flu and an important discovery kicked off by a high school research project pursued by the daughter of a scientist at the Sandia National Laboratories.

The concept of social distancing is now intimately familiar to almost everyone. But as it first made its way through the federal bureaucracy in 2006 and 2007, it was viewed as impractical, unnecessary and politically infeasible. Notice that in the course of this planning, neither legal nor economic experts were brought in to consult and advise. Instead it fell to Mecher (formerly of Chicago and an intensive care doctor with no previous expertise in pandemics) and the oncologist Hatchett. But what is this mention of the high-school daughter of 14? Her name is Laura M. Glass, and she recently declined to be interviewed when the Albuquerque Journal did a deep dive of this history. Laura, with some guidance from her dad, devised a computer simulation that showed how people – family members, co-workers, students in schools, people in social situations – interact.

What she discovered was that school kids come in contact with about 140 people a day, more than any other group. Based on that finding, her program showed that in a hypothetical town of 10,000 people, 5,000 would be infected during a pandemic if no measures were taken, but only 500 would be infected if the schools were closed. Laura’s name appears on the foundational paper arguing for lockdowns and forced human separation. That paper is Targeted Social Distancing Designs for Pandemic Influenza (2006). It set out a model for forced separation and applied it with good results backwards in time to 1957. They conclude with a chilling call for what amounts to a totalitarian lockdown, all stated very matter-of-factly.

[..] In other words, it was a high-school science experiment that eventually became law of the land, and through a circuitous route propelled not by science but politics. The primary author of this paper was Robert J. Glass, a complex-systems analyst with Sandia National Laboratories. He had no medical training, much less an expertise in immunology or epidemiology. That explains why Dr. D.A. Henderson, “who had been the leader of the international effort to eradicate smallpox,” completely rejected the whole scheme. Dr. Henderson was convinced that it made no sense to force schools to close or public gatherings to stop. Teenagers would escape their homes to hang out at the mall. School lunch programs would close, and impoverished children would not have enough to eat. Hospital staffs would have a hard time going to work if their children were at home.

The measures embraced by Drs. Mecher and Hatchett would “result in significant disruption of the social functioning of communities and result in possibly serious economic problems,” Dr. Henderson wrote in his own academic paper responding to their ideas. The answer, he insisted, was to tough it out: Let the pandemic spread, treat people who get sick and work quickly to develop a vaccine to prevent it from coming back.

Read more …

Wonder what the response to this will be from the “science” religion.

Covid-19 Indoors Infection Risk As Great At 60 Feet As At 6 Feet – MIT (CNBC)

The risk of being exposed to Covid-19 indoors is as great at 60 feet as it is at 6 feet — even when wearing a mask, according to a new study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers who challenge social distancing guidelines adopted across the world. MIT professors Martin Z. Bazant, who teaches chemical engineering and applied mathematics, and John W.M. Bush, who teaches applied mathematics, developed a method of calculating exposure risk to Covid-19 in an indoor setting that factors in a variety of issues that could affect transmission, including the amount of time spent inside, air filtration and circulation, immunization, variant strains, mask use, and even respiratory activity such as breathing, eating, speaking or singing.

Bazant and Bush question long-held Covid-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization in a peer-reviewed study published earlier this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America. “We argue there really isn’t much of a benefit to the 6-foot rule, especially when people are wearing masks,” Bazant said in an interview. “It really has no physical basis because the air a person is breathing while wearing a mask tends to rise and comes down elsewhere in the room so you’re more exposed to the average background than you are to a person at a distance.” The important variable the CDC and the WHO have overlooked is the amount of time spent indoors, Bazant said.

The longer someone is inside with an infected person, the greater the chance of transmission, he said. Opening windows or installing new fans to keep the air moving could also be just as effective or more effective than spending large amounts of money on a new filtration system, he said. Bazant also says that guidelines enforcing indoor occupancy caps are flawed. He said 20 people gathered inside for 1 minute is probably fine, but not over the course of several hours, he said.

Read more …

Biden was in the Senate since 1972. Please point out where and when he spoke out about the Armenian genocide during that whole time.

Biden Recognizes Armenian Genocide (Pol.)

President Joe Biden on Saturday recognized the Armenian genocide, fulfilling a campaign promise and taking a step that his recent predecessors have avoided while in office. Biden’s designation, which coincided with Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, signals the president’s desire to prioritize human rights despite potential fallout in the U.S. relationship with Turkey. It comes 106 years after the beginning of the mass deportation of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, which led to the deaths of up to 1.5 million people. “The American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide,” Biden said in a statement Saturday.

“Over the decades Armenian immigrants have enriched the United States in countless ways, but they have never forgotten the tragic history that brought so many of their ancestors to our shores. We honor their story. We see that pain. We affirm the history. We do this not to cast blame but to ensure that what happened is never repeated.” Over decades, lawmakers in Congress have been willing to recognize the genocide but sitting presidents historically have not. In a statement to mark the day of remembrance last year, Biden said he was “proud” of his role in the Senate to recognize the Armenian genocide and his endorsement of 2019 resolutions in both chambers of Congress that did the same.

The United States is now part of a group of 30 countries that have recognized the Armenian genocide, according to the Armenian National Institute. Although Turkey acknowledges the “tragic experience” of Armenians, it maintains the number of those who died between 1915 and 1923 is inflated and denies the characterization of the events as genocide. Turkey’s foreign ministry quickly denounced Biden’s statement Saturday, saying it doesn’t have “a scholarly or legal basis.” “The US President’s statement will not yield any results other than polarizing the nations and hindering peace and stability in our region,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Read more …

“Putin remarked how to “attack Russia” has become “a sport, a new sport, who makes the loudest statements.”

Putin Rewrites The Law Of The Geopolitical Jungle (Escobar)

First, the essentials. Russia’s policy “is to ensure peace and security for the well-being of our citizens and for the stable development of our country.” Yet if “someone does not want to…engage in dialogue, but chooses an egoistic and arrogant tone, Russia will always find a way to stand up for its position.” He singled out “the practice of politically motivated, illegal economic sanctions” to connect it to “something much more dangerous”, and actually rendered invisible in the Western narrative: “the recent attempt to organize a coup d’etat in Belarus and the assassination of that country’s president.” Putin made sure to stress, “all boundaries have been crossed”. The plot to kill Lukashenko was unveiled by Russian and Belarusian intel – which detained several actors backed, who else, US intel. The US State Department predictably denied any involvement.

Putin: “It is worth pointing to the confessions of the detained participants in the conspiracy that a blockade of Minsk was being prepared, including its city infrastructure and communications, the complete shutdown of the entire power grid of the Belarusian capital. This, incidentally means preparations for a massive cyber-attack.” And that leads to a very uncomfortable truth: “Apparently, it’s not for no reason that our Western colleagues have stubbornly rejected numerous proposals by the Russian side to establish an international dialogue in the field of information and cyber-security.” Putin remarked how to “attack Russia” has become “a sport, a new sport, who makes the loudest statements.” And then he went full Kipling:

“Russia is attacked here and there for no reason. And of course, all sorts of petty Tabaquis [jackals] are running around like Tabaqui ran around Shere Khan [the tiger] – everything is like in Kipling’s book – howling along and ready to serve their sovereign. Kipling was a great writer”. The – layered – metaphor is even more startling as it echoes the late 19th century geopolitical Great Game between the British and Russian empires, of which Kipling was a protagonist. Once again Putin had to stress that “we really don’t want to burn any bridges. But if someone perceives our good intentions as indifference or weakness and intends to burn those bridges completely or even blow them up, he should know that Russia’s response will be asymmetric, swift and harsh”.

So here’s the new law of the geopolitical jungle – backed by Mr. Iskander, Mr. Kalibr, Mr. Avangard, Mr. Peresvet, Mr. Khinzal, Mr. Sarmat, Mr. Zircon and other well-respected gentlemen, hypersonic and otherwise, later complimented on the record. Those who poke the Bear to the point of threatening “the fundamental interests of our security will regret what has been done, as they have regretted nothing for a very long time.”

Read more …

“And it turns out that leaders who call themselves leaders of the world aren’t really leaders. They are just chest-puffers.”

Collective West Is Living In Grim Fantasy Land – Zakharova (RT)

Western countries are living in a grim “fantasy land” they’ve created through years of anti-Russian propaganda, the outspoken Maria Zakharova told RT DE, with any initiative by Moscow – even on Covid-19 – becoming politicised. Such behavior on the West’s part is hardly surprising, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman explained to Thomas Fasbender in an exclusive interview, given the efforts that Western counties have put into painting Moscow as an “aggressor” over the years. The consistently cold relations between the West and Russia have been heightened by a series of major scandals recently, she outlined, despite these being based on imaginary grounds.

For instance, military drills in Russia’s southeast have prompted hysteria in multiple NATO countries and a fresh wave of doomsday predictions regarding an impending war between Russia and Ukraine – which, again, did not happen. “It seems to me that our Western partners have let their imaginations run wild. They seem to be seeing things when there’s nothing there, and not seeing the obvious. It’s an amazing thing, really, to be able to live in fantasy land,” she said. If you spend years communicating an idea to your own people and to the world at large, using mass media, issuing reports and making alarmist publications that depict Russia as a warmonger nation that’s about to strike – then, sure, even run-of-the-mill military drills would get people scared out of their senses.

The years-long Western campaign to paint Russia as an “aggressor” state has also affected the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, Zakharova believes. Instead of cooperating with Russia and buying its Covid-19 Sputnik V vaccine, the first in the world to be registered, too much effort has been put into trying to deny its very existence and otherwise tarnish its reputation. “There was a major campaign against our vaccine, against what we had to offer the world. We handled it. Unfortunately, many countries, including EU states, wasted time,” Zakharova said. “Many states received this vaccine, some on a trial basis. Many of them began to buy it right away. Unfortunately, the EU is punishing itself again, just as Prague did with our diplomats.”

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has “highlighted massive problems in the EU and the West as a whole,” as they had all the resources to lead the global fight against the disease, but failed to do so. “And it turns out that leaders who call themselves leaders of the world aren’t really leaders. They are just chest-puffers.” A similar lack of ability to act as an independent entity has been demonstrated during another ongoing scandal – the spy affair launched by Prague. The Czech Republic has accused Russian military intelligence of blowing up its ammunition depot back in 2014. While no solid proof of Russia’s alleged involvement has been presented, Prague launched a diplomatic broadside, opting to expel Russian diplomats.

Read more …

“There’s no definition of “smalldipenergy” in the dictionary, but it is most likely derived from “small diplomatic energy.”

Russian Embassy Trolls Baltic States Over Expulsion Of Diplomats (RT)

Russia’s embassy in Belarus has asked Twitter users to choose between two hashtags to describe the three Baltic nations expelling up to two Russian diplomats in “solidarity” with the Czechs. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania issued a joined statement on Friday, announcing that they will ask several Russian embassy staff to leave their countries in a display of solidarity with the Czech Republic. Riga and Tallinn said they’ll expel one diplomat each, while Vilnius declared two Russians personae non gratae. The move was met with a mocking response by the Russian embassy in Belarus – the country that borders Latvia, Lithuania and Russia. “#smalldipenergy or #smalldickenergy — the choice is yours,” the embassy wrote in a tweet, attaching an earlier Twitter post by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.

In a post announcing the joint move by the Baltic nations, Landsbergis claimed that the Russian embassy staff were being expelled for “activities incompatible with their diplomatic status.” The phrase “smalldickenergy” is explained in the Urban Dictionary as “cockiness without skill. It is the sexual equivalent of writing a check of $10k to show off knowing you don’t have it in the bank account.” There’s no definition of “smalldipenergy” in the dictionary, but it is most likely derived from “small diplomatic energy.” The move, with which the Russian embassy in Belarus was left unimpressed, is a follow-up to a diplomatic row between Moscow and Prague. A week ago, the Czech Republic announced the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats over claims that Kremlin intelligence officers were involved in a local munitions depot blast back in 2014.

Read more …

You lost. Shut up.

Ukraine Says Russian Troop Draw Down Is “Not Enough” (ZH)

Not satisfied with Russia’s confirmed troop draw down from its southern region which has stoked tensions over the past few weeks, leaders in Kiev on Friday demanded that more must be done to de-escalate tensions and conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba “welcomed” the Kremlin’s ordering troops that had been engaged in major Crimean and Black Sea military exercises back to the regular bases, but said the violence in the east has continued. Kiev blames Russia for encouraging and supporting an uptick in hostilities with the pro-Russian separatists, which have sought to carve out independent enclaves going back to 2014 and 2015. “If Russia really pulls back from the border with Ukraine the enormous military force it has deployed there, this will already ease tensions.


“But we need to remember that this step would not put an end neither to the current escalation, nor to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in general,” Kuleba said. The top Ukrainian diplomat also says Moscow still owes “an explanation” for its largest troop build-up on the border since 2014. “Russia still owes an explanation to Ukraine… and international community of why it really needed to bring such numerous forces equipped with some offensive weapons at the border with Ukraine in such excessive number of troops,” he said. In a Thursday statement posted to Twitter, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to confirm that the Russian draw down was indeed in progress. “The reduction of troops on our border proportionally reduces tension. Ukraine is always vigilant, yet welcomes any steps to decrease the military presence & deescalate the situation in Donbas,” he wrote.

Read more …

“Implication: Floyd died to redeem America of her original sin of racism.”

Is America Led Today By Anti-Americans? (Buchanan)

How can America unite again to do great things if we are led by people who believe America suffers from a great sickness of the soul, an original sin that dates back to her birth as a nation? Consider. After his long night of prayer for “the right verdict” to be pronounced — Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three counts — Joe Biden stepped before the White House cameras to tell us what it all meant. George Floyd’s death, said Biden, “was a murder in the full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism… that is a stain on our nation’s soul — the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans.” Astonishing. Biden is saying that when Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes as the life drained out of him, the world, for once, was getting a good, close look at the diseased soul of America.

What Chauvin was doing to Floyd, said the president of the United States, is a reflection of the kind of justice America delivers to Black Americans. This is no aberration, Biden was saying. This is the routine reality. Biden was introduced by Kamala Harris, who said much the same: “America has a long history of systemic racism. Black Americans and Black men in particular have been treated throughout the course of our history as less than human.” At Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield delivered what The Wall Street Journal called, “a recitation of America’s sins (that) could have come from China’s Global Times.” Said Thomas-Greenfield: “I have… seen for myself how the original sin of slavery weaved white supremacy into our founding documents and principles. … Racism is the problem of the racist. And it is the problem of the society that produces the racist.”

What our diplomat to the world is saying is that our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights are interwoven with white supremacy and that America, to this day, continues to breed racists. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at a Congressional Black Caucus event after the verdict, turned her eyes heavenward in gratitude: “Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice….For being there to call out to your mom — how heartbreaking was that … And because of you … your name will always be synonymous with justice.” Implication: Floyd died to redeem America of her original sin of racism.

Read more …

“Yes, President Biden is an idiot in my personal opinion, and he’s just talkin’ because he’s a politician.”

Fmr Police Officer Blasts Dems For “Riding The Wave Of Dead Black People” (ZH)

Former Arizona police officer-turned conservative political commentator Brandon Tatum unloaded on President Biden and the press for politicizing the Derek Chauvin trial, and insists that so-called ‘systemic racism’ is simply manufactured by politicians and the media to earn votes and make money. “I think we’re living in the twilight zone,” Tatum said of the Chauvin trial. “This conviction, in my personal opinion, did nothing for our country. People are living a lie. I mean this is one police officer, one person in the community, they found him guilty, this was the swiftest justice I’ve ever seen in my life. The day after the film came out he was arrested. He was tried. 10 hours of deliberation, he was convicted. I’m not really sure why people are acting like this is monumental.

“Also, he did not get a fair trial in my personal opinion. There was a lot of obstruction that happened. They paid the family out $27 million before the jury could be selected. I mean, they’re going to have a case in appeal. I don’t know why people are celebrating and I don’t know why this is such a big focal point other than – people are making money off of the pain of people in our country.” The BBC host then asked Tatum if he was upset over this “landmark” case? “This is not a landmark case, this is a political agenda,” Tatum shot back. They’re pushing laws in our country. Policing in America is not inherently racist. We don’t live in a racist country. This was an interaction between a police officer that I thought did the wrong thing, and a black man who was on drugs high, resisting arrest, and ended up being killed by that police officer. That’s as simple as it can be.

The President of the United States got out and made a fool of himself trying to promote racism in a simple police encounter that the officer got convicted on. “So you reject President Biden’s comment about systemic racism and it being a stain on the whole nation?” the host replied. “Yes, President Biden is an idiot in my personal opinion, and he’s just talkin’ because he’s a politician. Systemic racism – I mean if you look at Joe Biden himself, he spoke at a Klu Klux Klan-member’s funeral and did the eulogy of Robert Byrd … We don’t have a problem with racism in our country, we have a problem with people not following the law. We also have a problem with politicians making up things so they can get re-elected. And that’s exactly what has been happening. That’s why you never see anything change. They’re lying to us.

Read more …

Making friends.

Nassim Taleb Says Bitcoin Is An Open Ponzi Scheme And A Failed Currency (BI)

The “Black Swan” author Nassim Taleb doubled down on his view that bitcoin is an open Ponzi scheme and a failed currency in a CNBC interview on Friday. “There’s no connection between inflation and bitcoin,” Taleb told CNBC, adding that everyone knows bitcoin is “a Ponzi.” Some analysts view the cryptocurrency, often referred to as digital gold, as a hedge against inflation, highlighting its similarities with the precious metal. “If you want to hedge against inflation, buy a piece of land,” Taleb said. “The best strategy for investors is to own things that produce yields in the future. In other words, you can fall back on real dollars coming out of the company.” He also said bitcoin had failed in its supposed role as a replacement for government-backed money, mainly because of its volatility.


The author said he’d been “fooled” into thinking it could be a viable alternative to fiat currency but realized that a currency not backed by a government is “just speculation” and a “game.” “I was told it was going to be a currency,” he said, but “you don’t replace the currency with something that’s so volatile that you can’t really commit to a transaction in it.” Bitcoin’s price has swung wildly recently. The world’s largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization inched near $65,000 ahead of Coinbase’s listing on April 14. Less than 10 days later, bitcoin slid below the critical $50,000 level, extending losses for the seventh day in a row. The decline below $50,000 has bitcoin testing a new technical support level that could signal continued weakness, especially after its 50-day moving average failed to hold as support. The broader crypto market has come under pressure after reports said this week that US President Joe Biden would look to double the capital-gains tax rate for wealthy investors.

Read more …

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.

 

May 072020
 


Banksy – Sounthampton General Hospital – 2020

 

 

Coronavirus May Have Jumped To Humans As Early As October (SCMP)
Italian Scientists Claim To Have Developed World’s First Coronavirus Vaccine (Ind.)
Trump Calls Americans ‘Warriors’ In Fight To Open The Economy (LAT)
Are Americans Ready For A -Costly- Breakup With China? (CSM)
Coronavirus Survivors ‘Permanently Disqualified’ From Joining US Military (NW)
California Expected To Experience ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Unemployment – Newsom (JTN)
UK GPs In The Dark Over COVID19 Tests (G.)
All 400,000 Gowns Flown From Turkey For NHS Fail UK Standards (G.)
COVID19 Deaths: How Does Britain Compare With Other Countries? (Spiegelhalter)
New Zealand ‘Halfway Down Everest’, Plans Big Easing Of COVID Lockdown (G.)
Baltic States To Create ‘Travel Bubble’ As Pandemic Curbs Eased
China’s Services Sector Contracts For Third Month As Job Losses Hit Record (R.)
Republicans Want Review Of Aid To WHO (R.)
OPCW Chief Made False Claims To Denigrate Douma Whistleblower (Maté)
Cuomo Taps Bill Gates To Help Him ‘Reimagine’ New York’s Public Schools (JTN)

 

 

The US had +2,528 new coronavirus deaths yesterday, the highest number since April 21, bringing the national total to 74,799.

 

 

 

 

Cases 3,836,826 (+ 92,061 from yesterday’s 3,744,765)

Deaths 265,366 (+ 6,482 from yesterday’s 258,884)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer Deaths among Closed cases is down to 17%. That still needs to come down much more.

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

The FT has a section, Coronavirus: free to read, with a few good graphs.

They look at excess deaths as the best way to gauge COVID19.

And some more graphs:

https://twitter.com/RemiGMI/status/1258021339362885634

 

 

Makes sense.

Coronavirus May Have Jumped To Humans As Early As October (SCMP)

The Covid-19 pandemic might have started as early as October, according to the latest research into the genetic make-up of the coronavirus. The pathogen, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, is thought to have made the jump from initial host to humans some time between October 6 and December 11 last year, according to an article released on Tuesday and set to be published in an upcoming edition of the scientific journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution. The findings are based on analysis of more than 7,000 genome sequence assemblies collected from around the world since January. By examining the evolution of the mutations, researchers from University College London and the University of Reunion Island were able to rewind their molecular clocks to a common starting point.

They were also able to identify the major mutations to the coronavirus, which has continued to evolve since making the jump to humans. While retrospective studies have suggested various dates for the first Covid-19 patient, government data seen by the South China Morning Post put the first confirmed infection at November 17. Based on information from the first whole genome sequence of the coronavirus – published by a laboratory in Shanghai in January – and other genome analyses, scientists had earlier concluded that SARS-CoV-2 most likely came from a bat and made the jump to humans via an intermediate animal some time in November.

But by the time the latest study was conducted, late last month, the researchers had access to much more information via data-sharing platforms. They selected 7,710 assemblies, curated a data set of 7,666 and then analysed the emergence of genomic diversity over time. While there were variations in the mutations and evolutionary stages of the viruses they studied, the team was able to determine their most recent common ancestor (MRCA), which in turn gave them their new estimate for the start of the global health crisis. “These dates for the start of the epidemic are in broad agreement with previous estimates performed on smaller subsets of the Covid-19 genomic data using various computational methods, though they should still be taken with some caution,” the study said.

In most countries, including Britain, the United States and Ireland, the genetic diversity of the samples essentially reflects the global diversity, suggesting the local epidemics came from independent introductions of the virus. However, China, where the outbreak was first reported, is a main exception to this pattern, where only a fraction of the global diversity can be found. “The genomic diversity of the global SARS-CoV-2 population being recapitulated in multiple countries points to extensive worldwide transmission of Covid-19, likely from extremely early on in the pandemic,” the study said.

Read more …

2022 and onwards. Crushing the curve is much easier. And faster.

Italian Scientists Claim To Have Developed World’s First Coronavirus Vaccine (Ind.)

Italian researchers claim to have developed a vaccine that can neutralise the coronavirus in human cells. Tests carried out at Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital, which specialises in infectious diseases, generated antibodies in mice that work in human cells. “This is the most advanced stage of testing of a candidate vaccine created in Italy,” said Luigi Aurisicchio, chief executive of Takis, the company working on the treatment. “According to Spallanzani Hospital, as far as we know we are the first in the world so far to have demonstrated a neutralisation of the coronavirus by a vaccine,” he told the Italian news agency Ansa. “We expect this to happen in humans too.”

“Human tests are expected after this summer,” Mr Aurisicchio said. He added: “We are working hard for a vaccine coming from Italian research, with an all-Italian and innovative technology, tested in Italy and made available to everyone. “In order to reach this goal, we need the support of national and international institutions and partners who may help us speed up the process.” After a single vaccination, the mice developed antibodies capable of blocking the virus from infecting human cells, Mr Aurisicchio claimed. He said researchers observed that five candidate vaccines generated a large number of antibodies and they then selected the two with the best results.

Last week, experts at the University of Oxford said the first results of their coronavirus vaccine trials could be ready by as early as mid-June. The institution also announced a new partnership with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. Human trials of the vaccine developed at the university’s Jenner Institute began last month, with hundreds volunteering to be part of the study.

Read more …

Some non-thinkers here: “Good generals do not send their soldiers into battle without knowing that there will be a net gain..”. Right, US generals only go into battle if and when they already know they will win. Must be a lesson learned in Vietnam.

Trump Calls Americans ‘Warriors’ In Fight To Open The Economy (LAT)

Donald Trump has described himself as a “wartime president” during the coronavirus crisis, and now he seems to have found his army as he pushes the country to reopen despite the risks. In recent days, he’s begun describing citizens as “warriors” in the battle against the pandemic and suggested some of those fighters might have to die if that will help boost the economy.“Will some people be affected? Yes,” he said on a trip to Arizona this week, his first outside of the Washington area in nearly two months. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.” Trump previously described healthcare workers as “warriors” for risking their safety to treat coronavirus patients, wording he used again on Wednesday when signing a proclamation honoring nurses.

But his decision to expand the characterization to everyday Americans is a noticeable shift from his previous declarations that “one is too many” deaths. The toll from the illness surpassed 70,000 this week and seems on track to top 100,000 by the end of the month, numbers far larger than Trump recently predicted. Asked Wednesday if the nation needs to accept greater loss of life, Trump said “hopefully it won’t be the case, but it may very well be the case.” “We have to be warriors,” he said from his seat behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. “We can’t keep our country closed down for years.” The new language shows Trump appears to view people as “collateral damage to salvage the economy,” said Jeffrey Levi, a public health expert at George Washington University.

“Good generals do not send their soldiers into battle without knowing that there will be a net gain,” Levi said. “And here we know reopening too soon will be a net loss, both in lives and the long-term stability of the economy.” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied that Trump was suggesting that citizens must put themselves in harm’s way to fight the coronavirus — “not in the slightest,” she said. Although the president has repeatedly said that Americans must be “warriors” to reopen the economy, McEnany offered an alternative explanation for the description. “They’re warriors because they’ve stayed home,” she said at a White House briefing Wednesday. “They’re warriors because they’ve social distanced. They’re warriors because this mitigation effort is something that could only be done by the American people coming together and making really hard sacrifices.”

[..] Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said there’s no valor in sacrificing people’s lives to fight the pandemic. “People who are dying of this virus are not dying to protect the American way of life,” he said. “They’re dying because their government has had a completely ineffective response to this infectious disease.” If Americans are being considered warriors, Jha said, Trump is sending them onto the battlefield without the testing and contact tracing required for protection. “He has left Americans disarmed,” he said. “He’s not given the American people the tools they need to fight this virus.”

Read more …

See yesterday. Lots of people quoting the SCMP article today, but it’s just hot air.

Are Americans Ready For A -Costly- Breakup With China? (CSM)

[..] some longtime advocates of a “decoupling” from China say the pandemic offers the best opportunity since the 1970s for a robust national debate on the merits of a significant and policy-driven separation. Such a debate would span issues from technology transfer and U.S. economic sectors’ dependence on China trade to sharpening criticism of China’s violations of human rights. “Three months ago I would have said there was no chance of a serious decoupling from China, but the political environment has changed,” says Derek Scissors, an expert in U.S.-China economic relations at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “We’re still not near the serious – and what would be costly – steps necessary to separate [from them] and reduce our participation in the success of China’s economic model,” he adds.

“But all the outrage over the tremendous suffering and economic impact of [the pandemic] has opened a door to a reassessment of our relationship.” More likely than a new China strategy that sets out to reduce ties, say others, is an acceleration and intensification of actions that were already being pursued or promoted by some in Congress and some China analysts. “What this [rise in tensions] is really doing is exacerbating the geopolitical trends we’ve already been seeing in recent years,” says Michael Auslin, a distinguished research fellow in contemporary Asia at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in Stanford, California. “The tensions were already growing.” Thus there is likely to be rising pressure for action on topics that have raged for years, from stemming the theft of intellectual property and repatriating supply chains critical to U.S. national security, to confronting China’s expansionist activities in the South China Sea.

A change that the U.S. and other Western countries should capitalize on in the post-pandemic period, some experts say, is that China is now going to be marked by many countries as an untrustworthy partner. That is not just because of how China handled the initial outbreak of the coronavirus, they say, but because its heavy-handed actions in its pandemic-related foreign assistance has left a bad taste from Europe to Africa. “The world has put an asterisk next to China,” says Mr. Auslin, who notes for example that the White House now puts an asterisk next to coronavirus statistics out of China. And the theme running through much of the European press last week, he says, was “The Week China Lost Europe.”

Read more …

No, not just survivors, but anyone who’s ever tested positive.

If that herd immunity idea ever goes anywhere, that would mean 60%+ can’t join anymore. Who said Americans have no sense of humor?

Coronavirus Survivors ‘Permanently Disqualified’ From Joining US Military (NW)

The military will stop recruiting applicants who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a proposal in a memo from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM). The contents of the memo, which has been circulating on the internet, were confirmed to Newsweek by the Pentagon, which described them as “interim guidance.” The story was first reported by the Military Times. “During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying,” the memo reads. Additionally, the memo lays out guidelines for handling possible and confirmed coronavirus cases in applicants.


It says any applicants at any of the 65 nationwide Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) should be evaluated for possible coronavirus infection, most likely through a temperature check and questions about their symptoms and possible contact with infected individuals. If an applicant seems likely positive for the coronavirus, they can return to the MEPS if they’re symptom-free after 14 days. Anyone who tests positive through a lab test or clinical diagnosis can return to MEPS 28 days after their diagnosis. However, their application will be marked as “permanently disqualifying,” and while applicants can request a waiver the memo offers no further guidance for possible COVID-19 exceptions, meaning that “a review authority would have no justification to grant a waiver,” says the Military Times.

Read more …

A lot of support for opening up also involves halting financial support plans. Worst idea ever, because:

California Expected To Experience ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Unemployment – Newsom (JTN)

California Governor Gavin Newsom forewarned of “jaw-dropping” unemployment at his daily press conference on Wednesday. After stating the state is experiencing an unprecedented spike in unemployment claims, he said, “You’ll see these numbers translating into unemployment rates that will be rather jaw-dropping.” Newsom called the rise in unemployment claims “Without precedent in our state’s history,” noting that 4.2 million people have now applied for Public Unemployment Assistance and $10.6 billion in aid has already been distributed.


He also announced his signing an executive order extending worker’s compensation to essential workers who test positive for COVID-19, adding that benefits could only be rebutted by an employer “under strict criteria.” Newsom is facing mounting criticism over a plan he announced on April 16 that would create a $125 million fund for undocumented immigrants affected by the coronavirus. Non-profits will distribute the money, but it’s still unclear when people will see a check.

Read more …

Link on the page to another Giurdian article: Q&A – Coronavirus tests in the UK – who qualifies for one?

That would have been a reasonable question in January, perhaps into February. It’s idiotic in May.

UK GPs In The Dark Over COVID19 Tests (G.)

The results of hundreds of thousands of coronavirus tests carried out at privately run drive-through centres in England have not yet been shared with GPs or local authorities, who complain they have “no idea” where local disease clusters are. GPs told the Guardian they had been “totally left out of the conversation” after the government said it was still “working on a technical solution” to get Covid-19 test results into individual GP records in England, having promised to do so weeks ago. Meanwhile, the chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, apologised to local health leaders who have not yet received any detailed data from “pillar two” tests conducted by the private firm Deloitte over the past month.


These now form the majority of tests being carried out each day, either at drive-through testing centres or via the post. During a conference call on Wednesday with directors of public health at local authorities across England, the government’s national coordinator of the UK coronavirus testing programme, Prof John Newton, also apologised for not yet sharing the detailed data. He said there had been “data quality issues”. Newton admitted that the Deloitte tests did not yet ask people for their ethnicity or whether they worked in health or social care – an oversight described by one director of public health on the call as “really disappointing”. People of colour and healthcare workers and those working in care homes are known to have much higher incidences of the disease.

Read more …

• UK unemployment to double and economy to shrink by 25%, warns Bank of England

• British economic output is set to crash 14% this year owing to the coronavirus, the Bank of England said as it left its interest rate at 0.1%.

• UK gross domestic product would rebound by 15% in 2021 however, the BoE said

• Buy some more gowns, unseen preferably

All 400,000 Gowns Flown From Turkey For NHS Fail UK Standards (G.)

Last month, amid dire warnings of shortages of personal protective equipment for health workers, ministers publicised the imminent arrival from Turkey of a fleet of RAF cargo planes bringing in a “very significant” shipment of PPE for the NHS. More than a fortnight later, it has emerged that every one of the 400,000 protective gowns that eventually arrived has been impounded after being found not to conform to UK standards. The Department for Health and Social Care confirmed on Wednesday evening that the items were being held in a facility near Heathrow airport. It is understood that they are due to be sent back and that the DHSC intends to seek a refund, as it has done in similar situations in the past.

The announcement of the shipment by the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, on 18 April came as unions and professional bodies warned that NHS staff may refuse to work without PPE. Jenrick told the daily Downing Street press briefing that healthcare workers should be “assured that we are doing everything we can to correct this issue”, saying they would have the equipment they “need and deserve”. Sources later told the Guardian that the DHSC had advised No 10 not to allow Jenrick to publicise the shipment in case it backfired, but was overruled. The necessary clearances, it turned out, had not been sought. When the consignment did not arrive on time as promised, the delay prompted hospital leaders to directly attack the government for the first time during the pandemic.

Ministers responded by saying they thought it may only a one-day delay. Two days later, with the shipment only then beginning to clear Turkish customs checks, they were only able to give an estimate of arrival “in the next few days”. The first planeload of gowns eventually arrived on 22 April, but the next day it was reported that “less than a 10th” of the order had arrived. Now all are expected to be returned. The saga, first reported by the Telegraph, is one of a series of highly publicised government coronavirus initiatives that have failed to deliver the promised results. Its much-trumpeted “ventilator challenge” asked companies such as Rolls-Royce and Dyson to begin producing the machines, but none have reached the final stages of testing and the majority have proved surplus to requirements.

Read more …

David Spiegelhalter was quoted by the PM yesterday to prove Britain can’t be compared to opther countries, and didn’t like that. He tweeted: “Polite request to PM and others: please stop using my Guardian article to claim we cannot make any international comparisons yet. I refer only to detailed league tables-of course we should now use other countries to try and learn why our numbers are high..”

BTW, Spiegelhalter translate as “someone who holds (up) a mirror”. Fitting.

COVID19 Deaths: How Does Britain Compare With Other Countries? (Spiegelhalter)

You would think it would be easy for a bean-counting statistician to count deaths – the one certain thing (apart from taxes). But it is remarkably difficult. I have stopped taking much notice of the number given out at the daily press conferences, as it is only based on reports from hospitals, oscillates wildly around weekends, and recently included deaths that occurred a month ago. And this week the number of UK deaths jumped up by nearly 5,000 to 26,097 in one day – rather close to Starmer’s count – by retrospectively including non-hospital deaths that had tested positive for the virus. But even this is too low, as it does not include the many deaths of people who were not tested.

The Office for National Statistics data on death registrations is the last word, although inevitably delayed by around 10 days, and these figures would be expected to take the current total to significantly more than 30,000. But we should be very cautious in comparing even this uncertain total with those of other countries. Every country has different ways of recording Covid-19 deaths: the large number of deaths in care homes have not featured in Spain’s statistics – which, like the UK’s require a positive test result. The numbers may be useful for looking at trends, but they are not reliable indicators for comparing the absolute levels. If we were naive enough to take the counts at face value, the new figures propelled the UK past France and Spain into second place in Europe behind Italy, which is not encouraging because we are behind Italy in terms of what stage of the epidemic we are at.

A more equitable metric might be Covid-19 deaths per million. Ignoring tiny countries, our current score of 388 puts us fourth, behind Belgium (632), Spain (509) and Italy (452). But these are still deeply unreliable numbers, as it is not clear if we should just be looking at Covid-19-labelled deaths anyway. The effects of seasonal flu are not based on tests or death certificates, but at looking at the total number of deaths over the winter, seeing how many extra there are than a baseline, allowing for climate, and assuming these excess deaths were linked to flu. On average, over the last 10 years this has come to about 8,000 flu-related deaths, rising to 26,400 in 2017-2018 and 28,300 in 2014-15.

Read more …

Being an island helps. And so does a real lockdown.

New Zealand ‘Halfway Down Everest’, Plans Big Easing Of COVID Lockdown (G.)

Hairdressers, bars and competitive sport could be back on the agenda for New Zealanders from next week as the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the country was “halfway down Everest” in its fight against Covid-19. New Zealand has been under strict lockdown restrictions for more than five weeks, but the low number of cases this week – zero for two consecutive days – means restrictions will soon be lifted. Ardern and her cabinet will make a decision on downgrading the country’s alert level from three to two on Monday, and by Wednesday, life could begin to look much more normal – and fun – for millions of cooped-up Kiwis. The relaxation of restrictions, which would allow gatherings of up to 100 people, both indoors and outdoors, was greeted with jubilation across the country.

Public spaces such as playgrounds and libraries would be reopened, bars and restaurants would be able to accept patrons, and domestic travel and competitive sport allowed to resume, including the professional leagues, but there will be no stadium crowds for now. Most workers would be allowed to head back to the office, though Ardern urged any who could stay home – or found it more productive – to do so. Widespread social-distancing rules would continue to apply, including patrons being seated two metres apart in public spaces, strangers keeping their distance from one another, and hairdressers, barbers and beauticians being required to wear PPE.

New Zealanders have been living in tight “bubbles” for more than a month, only allowed to socialise with those in their own home. Under the plans outlined by Ardern on Thursday, they would be permitted to see friends, family and even online dates – so long as they keep a log of their movements, and did not participate in indoor or outdoor gatherings of any more than 100. Weddings, funerals and anniversary celebrations would also be permitted. [..] the measures appear to have been effective, with just 21 deaths – all older people with pre-existing health conditions – and global praise has been heaped on the small island nation of 5 million by the World Health Organization, among others.

Read more …

Eastern Europe is a success story.

Baltic States To Create ‘Travel Bubble’ As Pandemic Curbs Eased

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will open their borders to each others’ citizens from May 15, creating a Baltic “travel bubble” within the European Union amid an easing of pandemic restrictions, their prime ministers said on Wednesday. “It’s a big step towards life as normal”, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas wrote on Twitter. The Baltic travel area would be first of its kind in the bloc, where most countries restricted entry to non-nationals and imposed quarantine on incoming travellers as the coronavirus spread across the continent. Citizens of the three countries will be free to travel within the region, but anyone entering from outside will need to self-isolate for 14 days, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said.


“We showed a good example by stating, very clearly, that only countries which successfully dealt with the situation can open themselves up,” he added. “I think we will keep to this principle when dealing with countries where the situation is very bad, which did not take measures to control the virus spread.” Poland and Finland could be the next countries to join the free travel bloc, said Skvernelis. The European Commission has recommended that internal border controls between all member states should be lifted in a coordinated manner, once their virus situation converges sufficiently, the commission’s office in Lithuania said.

Read more …

No buyers left.

China’s Services Sector Contracts For Third Month As Job Losses Hit Record (R.)

China’s services firms wallowed in contraction in April as layoffs hit a record and export orders plunged after signs of improvement in March, a private survey showed, dashing hopes of a quick recovery from the coronavirus blow. The Caixin/Markit services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) did manage to pull up to 44.4 in April from 43 in March, but remained in a deep slump and far below historic averages. The 50-mark separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis. The third straight month of contraction for China’s services sector, an important generator of jobs and which accounts for about 60% of the economy, suggests a still turbulent period ahead after the collapse in economic activity in the first quarter, when GDP shrank 6.8%.


It also raised worries about the outlook even though the pandemic has been largely brought under control domestically, as a sharp global downturn dampens demand for Chinese goods and services. “The second shockwave for China’s economy brought about by shrinking overseas demand should not be underestimated in the second quarter,” said Zhengsheng Zhong, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group. Major economies, including the United States and Europe, remain in the grip of the pandemic amid rapidly rising infections and deaths. The sweeping impact of the coronavirus, with the global death toll at well over 250,000, has many worried that a worldwide recession could be far more damaging than first thought. In April, new export orders shrank further after their pace of contraction slowed in March, declining at the second-fastest rate on record, just marginally better than February’s collapse.

Read more …

You mean, you don’t do such reviews normally? High time then. Still, “..a task force to assess how well multilateral institutions carry out their missions and serve American interests.” sounds nuts. They’re supposed to serve global interests. If not, they would start serving US interests at the cost of other countries. Oh wait…

Republicans Want Review Of Aid To WHO (R.)

Five U.S. Senate Republicans introduced a bill on Wednesday seeking a review of U.S. participation in the World Health Organization and other international institutions, after President Donald Trump’s administration suspended U.S. contributions to the U.N. health agency and accused it of mishandling the coronavirus pandemic. Introduced by Chairman Jim Risch and four other Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the “Multilateral Aid Review Act of 2020” would establish a task force to assess how well multilateral institutions carry out their missions and serve American interests.

The bill requires a report on 38 institutions. Besides the WHO, they include the World Bank; Asian, African, Inter-American and North American Development Banks, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, several U.N. organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Trump suspended U.S. contributions to the WHO on April 14, accusing it of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the coronavirus outbreak and saying his administration would launch a review of the organization. WHO officials have denied the claims and China insists it has been transparent and open. The United States is the WHO’s biggest donor.

“As we have seen most recently with questionable actions taken by the World Health Organization in response to the spread of COVID-19, it is critically important to have accountability and oversight of our assistance,” Risch said in a statement announcing the bill. [..] Critics of the aid review bill said they were concerned the task force would be too partisan because Pompeo would be its chairman and members would be appointed by Trump.

Read more …

Why are we still discussing the OPCW? Why does it still exist? They’re a bunch of liars who were found out.

OPCW Chief Made False Claims To Denigrate Douma Whistleblower (Maté)

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has made false and misleading statements about two veteran inspectors who challenged a cover-up of their investigation in Syria, leaked documents show. The inspectors probed an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma in April 2018, and later objected when their evidence was suppressed. Documents obtained by The Grayzone reveal that OPCW leaders have engaged in a pattern of deception that minimized the inspectors’ senior roles in the Douma mission and diminished the prestige they enjoyed within the world’s top chemical weapons watchdog.

OPCW Director General Fernando Arias has claimed that the first inspector, South African chemical engineering and ballistics expert Ian Henderson, “was not a member” of the Douma investigative team and only played a “minor supporting role.” However, contemporaneous communications from the OPCW’s Douma Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) directly contradict Arias. They show that Henderson was indeed a Douma team member, and that OPCW leadership directed him to lead its most critical inspections. They also show that Arias, rather than acknowledge that Henderson was an FFM member, offered up a false explanation for why Henderson was in Syria at the time of the probe.

Arias has also disingenuously minimized the role of the second inspector, known only to the public as “Inspector B.” This will be examined in part two of this article. The OPCW’s investigation was triggered when extremist anti-Syrian government militants and Western states accused the Syrian army of dropping gas cylinders on two buildings in Douma, killing dozens of civilians. The U.S., France, and Britain bombed Syrian government targets days later, asserting their right to enforce the chemical weapons “red line.” After a nearly year-long investigation, the OPCW issued a final report in March 2019 that claimed “reasonable grounds” existed to believe that a chlorine attack occurred.

However, a trove of leaked documents has shown that the OPCW leadership suppressed and manipulated evidence that undermined the allegation against the Syrian military. The first of such leaks was an engineering assessment authored by Henderson that concluded that the gas cylinders in Douma were likely “manually placed.” That conclusion suggested the incident was staged on the ground by the armed militants who controlled Douma at the time. Additional leaks later revealed that Inspector B protested the censorship of critical evidence and toxicology reports, as well as the manipulation of chemical samples and witness statements. Henderson and B also complained that OPCW leaders excluded all of the Douma investigators except for one paramedic from a so-called “core” team that wrote the organization’s final report.

Read more …

In case you needed any confirmation that Andrew Cuomo is not exactly your hero.

As for Bill Gates, he’s just a fool with too much money, and should be kept far from schools. We don’t need another generation using his crappy software.

I had a text talk with a friend in Greece Tuesday, who tried to convince me that Bill Gates wanted to force-vaccinate everyone and force implant them with nano-chips to prove vaccination. I think maybe because of the language barrier he may not have grasped the nuances whenn I said: “You have nothing to worry about then, because there is no vaccine”.

Someone else sent me a video from the Alex Jones studios that claimed Bill Gates is the mastermind behind a grand secret global conspiracy to depopulate the planet -hence COVID19-. I’m sorry, but I cannot post that here.

Cuomo Taps Bill Gates To Help Him ‘Reimagine’ New York’s Public Schools (JTN)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “reimagine” schools when they reopen after the coronavirus pandemic. “Bill Gates is a visionary in many ways, and his ideas and thoughts on technology and education he’s spoken about for years,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “But I think we now have a moment in history where we can actually incorporate and advance those ideas. Cuomo said the state is exploring the possibility that K-12 schools will utilize distancing learning in the future and wondered aloud if the “old model” of in-person learning was obsolete.

He said Gates would help evaluate possible changes to the education system, including providing more opportunities to students, using technology to reduce educational inequality, and recreating larger class or lecture hall environments with virtual classrooms. The Gates Foundation has experimented with education before with some mixed results. Business Insider reports that Gates spent $1 billion and seven years working on an initiative to improve test performance for students in low-income schools by closely monitoring teacher effectiveness. The program reportedly didn’t improve test scores or drop-out rates in the long-term, and even “did more harm than good.”

The Gothamist reports at least five organizations have already spoken out against the partnership, citing concerns about the Microsoft founder’s support of standardized testing and Common Core curriculum. Allies for Public Education, Class Size Matters, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy — have already written to Cuomo and state education officials to voice their objections. “We were appalled to hear that you will be working with the Gates Foundation on ‘reimagining’ our schools following the Covid crisis,” the coalition wrote. “Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have promoted one failed educational initiative after another, causing huge disaffection in districts throughout the state.

Read more …

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our friends in Thailand:

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 222018
 
 May 22, 2018  Posted by at 9:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Femme au Béret et à la Robe Quadrillée (Marie-Thérèse Walter) 1937

 

‘Who Are You?’ Iran Hits Back At US Demands (AlJ)
Trumpism Folds into Netanyahu-ism, or ‘Neo-Americanism’ (Alastair Crooke)
Swedes Told To Prepare For Conflict In Cold War-Style Booklet (R.)
Baltic States Ask the US for Bigger Military Presence on Their Soil (SCF)
Italy on Verge of Inducing a Fresh European Crisis (Cudmore)
Goldman Sachs: The Fiscal Outlook For The US ‘Is Not Good’ (CNBC)
The US is Shackled by Historic Debt (GT)
US Consumer Debt Set To Reach $4 Trillion By The End Of 2018 (CNBC)
Learning from America’s Forgotten Default (PS)
You Think It’s All About Guns? (Jim Kunstler)
Human Race Just 0.01% Of All Life But Eradicated Most Other Living Things (G.)

 

 

“The era of the US making decisions for the rest of the world is over”. That’s what Russia and China think, too.

‘Who Are You?’ Iran Hits Back At US Demands (AlJ)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said the world would “not accept” US unilateralism just hours after Washington laid out a series of tough demands to be included in a potential new nuclear treaty with Iran. In remarks carried by Iran’s ILNA news agency on Monday, Rouhani said the era of the United States making decisions for the rest of the world was “over”. “Countries are independent … We will continue our path with the support of our nation,” Rouhani said. “Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?”

[..] In announcing the new US strategy towards Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday warned that Washington “will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime” unless it complied with a list of 12 conditions, which must be met before any new deal can be reached. The demands include giving the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) a full account of the country’s former nuclear military programme, withdrawing its forces from Syria and ending what Pompeo described as Iran’s “threatening behaviour” towards its neighbours.

Also responding to Pompeo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif accused the US of a “regression to old habits”, saying Washington’s diplomatic efforts were a “sham”. “It repeats the same wrong choices and will thus reap the same ill rewards. Iran, meanwhile, is working with partners for post-US JCPOA solutions,” Zarif said in a tweet on Monday.

Read more …

Regime change always leads to chaos.

Trumpism Folds into Netanyahu-ism, or ‘Neo-Americanism’ (Alastair Crooke)

The 8 May US Presidential declaration (on exiting JCPOA) requires of us fundamentally to revise our understanding of Trumpism. At the outset to his term of office, Trumpism was widely understood to be based on three key pillars: That the costs incurred by the US in upholding the full panoply of Empire (i.e. policing the American, rules-based, global order) were just too onerous and unfair (especially in the provision of the defence umbrella) – and that others must be coerced into sharing its cost. Secondly, that American jobs had been, as it were, stolen from America, and would have to be recovered through forced changes to the terms of trade. And thirdly, that these changes would be effected, through applying the tactics of the Art of the Deal.

That seemed, at least, to be clear, (if not necessarily a wholly feasible blueprint). But mostly we thought that the Art of the Deal was about threatening, blustering, and hiking leverage on ‘whatever the counterparty’ – raising tensions to explosive levels – before, at the very eleventh hour, at the very climax of crisis, offering ‘the deal’. And that was the point (then): Yes, Trump would toss verbal grenades intended to upend conventional expectations, take actions to force an issue – but the objective (as generally understood), was to get a deal: One that would tilt towards America’s mercantile and political interests, but a deal, nonetheless.

Maybe we misread Trump’s build-up of America’s already super-sized military. It seemed that it was about potential leverage: something to be offered (in terms of an umbrella to compliant states), or withdrawn from those who would not put their hand in their pocket deeply enough. But everything changed with Trump’s 8 May statement. It was not just an American ‘exit’ that was mooted, it was full court financial war that was declared against Iran (with ‘terms of surrender’ couched in terms of regime change, and total submission to the US). But this is no longer about how to reach a ‘fairer’, better deal for the US; how to make it more money. Rather the financial system was to be leveraged to destroy another state’s currency and economy. The US military are being super-sized further, to be used: to be able to rain down ‘fire and fury’ on non-compliant states.

Read more …

Sweden is no longer an independent country.

Swedes Told To Prepare For Conflict In Cold War-Style Booklet (R.)

Sweden will send out instructions to its citizens next week on how to cope with an outbreak of war, as the country faces an assertive Russia across the Baltic Sea. The 20-page pamphlet titled “If Crisis or War Comes” gives advice on getting clean water, spotting propaganda and finding a bomb shelter, in the first public awareness campaign of its kind since the days of the Cold War. It also tells Swedes they have a duty to act if their country is threatened. “If Sweden is attacked by another country, we will never give up,” the booklet says. “All information to the effect that resistance is to cease is false.” The leaflet’s publisher, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, did not spell out where an attack might come from.

“Even if Sweden is safer than most countries, threats do exist,” agency head Dan Eliasson told journalists. But Sweden and other countries in the region have been on high alert since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March, 2014. They have also accused Russia of repeated violations of their airspace – assertions that Moscow has either dismissed or not responded to. The Kremlin has in the past insisted that it does not interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries and has accused Western powers of stoking “Russophobia”. Stockholm has repeatedly cited Russian aggression as the reason for a series of security measures including the reintroduction of conscription this year and the stationing of troops on the Baltic island of Gotland.

The Swedish government decided to start increasing military spending from 2016, reversing years of declines. The booklet on its way to Sweden’s 4.8 million households warns that supplies of food, medicine and gasoline could run short during a crisis. It also lists oat milk, tins of Bolognese sauce and salmon balls as examples of food that people should store in case of an emergency along with tortillas and sardines. The publication describes what an air raid warning sounds like in the first such publication handed out since 1961. Sweden has not been at war with anyone for more than 200 years, not since its war with Norway in 1814. It was officially neutral during World War Two.

Read more …

NATO.

Baltic States Ask the US for Bigger Military Presence on Their Soil (SCF)

The foreign ministers (FMs) of the Baltic states have wound up their May 16-18 visit to Washington. They asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to reinforce the NATO battalions that have been deployed to their countries with air and naval units. They also want their air-defense capability enhanced. Lithuanian FM Linas Linkevicius emphasized that it’s not just the numbers that are important, but also training exercises, visits, the distribution of equipment, and the establishment of new military facilities. [..] NATO is ratcheting up tensions by holding an increasing number of large-scale exercises right on Russia’s borders. This greatly elevates the risk of inadvertent escalation. For instance, three major exercises are scheduled to be held in the Baltic region this summer.

On June 3-15, the Saber Strike exercise organized by the US Army Europe will encompass the three Baltic states and Poland, involving over 18,000 troops from 19 countries. About 3,000 American soldiers and over 1,500 combat vehicles will travel from Germany to Latvia and Lithuania. Public roads will be used to move heavy equipment. On June 12-13, the soldiers of the US 2nd Cavalry Regiment will construct a bridge in order to cross the Neman River in Lithuania (in the Kaunas district). Their main mission is to ensure that the forces are ready to rapidly advance, not to merely defend their positions. Eight thousand American airborne troops will land in Latvia during the Swift Response exercise, in order to train alongside Lithuanian and Polish troops.

Namejs 2018 will be held from August 20 to September 2 and will involve over 9,200 Latvian forces, including the military, police, border guards, volunteer reservists, and other state institutions. They will be joined by 650 troops from the US, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and the Czech Republic. All these large-scale intensive training activities will take place in the background of the planning for Trident Juncture 2018, the largest NATO exercise involving about 40,000 troops, 70 ships, and about 130 aircraft from over 30 nations, which will be deployed to central and northern Norway in October for the live portion of the event. A command post phase will be conducted in Italy. Norway does not have a shoreline in the Baltic Sea but it is a member of the Council of the Baltic Sea States.

Read more …

“..while the policy platform doesn’t explicitly state an intention to leave the euro, the new government plan, if instituted as is, makes that the inevitable end-game…”

Italy on Verge of Inducing a Fresh European Crisis (Cudmore)

It may be time to move on from rising Treasury yields and trade wars. An Italian-led euro crisis is on the verge of becoming the dominant theme for markets. It turns out that the euro break-up trade isn’t dead — it’s just been hibernating and is likely to return with a vengeance in the months ahead if the populists get their way. Their proposed economic policies make no attempt at debt sustainability. Italy already has the largest absolute debt pile in the EU and the second-largest, after Greece, as a percentage of GDP, at 132%. The coalition’s plan sends the signal that it has no intention of ever paying back its debt. Things could spiral quickly because its fiscal promises will send BTP yields much higher, adding to refinancing costs and making the budgetary situation worse.

That creates a dilemma for the EU. Either fund Italy’s largesse at the expense of every other member country, or kick Italy out of the euro. The first option isn’t sustainable. This isn’t a relatively containable problem like Greece. Italy’s economy is almost ten times the size of Greece’s and the third-largest in the euro zone. The PIIGS — Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain — were only ever a problem as a group because of concerns that the contagion would infect Italy. And this isn’t just a sovereign debt problem. Italy’s banks have by far the most non-performing loans in the euro zone, more than a quarter of the total. A section of the plan makes it harder for banks to repossess collateral, further deteriorating the value of those loans.

So while the policy platform doesn’t explicitly state an intention to leave the euro, the new government plan, if instituted as is, makes that the inevitable end-game. Fortunately, the Italian constitution forbids an excessive budget deficit, so may act as a limiting force. However, the concern is whether they can circumvent those restrictions by selecting favorable economic projections. The proposal already seems to be stealthily planning for euro departure with a plan to issue short-term debt contracts to pay back arrears. As my colleague Ferdinando Giugliano suggested on Friday, that’s the first step toward a parallel currency. So Italy’s prospective rulers seem to be fully aware of the end-game and are already planning for it. Investors will soon need to catch up.

Read more …

“..debt could equal GDP within a decade..”

Goldman Sachs: The Fiscal Outlook For The US ‘Is Not Good’ (CNBC)

The fiscal outlook for the United States “is not good,” according to Goldman Sachs, and could pose a threat to the country’s economic security during the next recession. According to forecasts from the bank’s chief economist, the federal deficit will increase from $825 billion (or 4.1% of GDP) to $1.25 trillion (5.5% of GDP) by 2021. And by 2028, the bank expects the number to balloon to $2.05 trillion (7% of GDP). “An expanding deficit and debt level is likely to put upward pressure on interest rates, expanding the deficit further,” Jan Hatzius — Goldman’s chief economist — wrote Sunday. “While we do not believe that the U.S. faces a risk to its ability to borrow or repay, the rising debt level could nevertheless have three consequences long before debt sustainability becomes a major obstacle.”

Legislators passed a package of corporate and individual tax cuts in December, a two-year budget deal in February and a massive spending bill in March that boosted government expenditures on both domestic and military programs. In light of the big spending and easier tax burden, the Congressional Budget Office – Capitol Hill’s nonpartisan financial scorekeeper – in April projected that debt could equal GDP within a decade if Congress extends the tax cuts, a level not seen since World War II. Economic growth should jump above 3% in 2018 thanks to the stimuli, the CBO said, but the acceleration will likely prove brief, and debt held by the public will soar to $28.7 trillion by the end of fiscal 2028.

That could create a precarious situation for Congress if the economy faces an economic downturn in the near term, Hatzius wrote, hampering legislators’ ability provide additional fiscal stimulus. “Lawmakers might hesitate to approve fiscal stimulus in the next downturn in light of the already substantial budget deficit,” the economist said. “While we would expect some additional loosening of fiscal policy during the next downturn, there is a good chance in our view that it would be less aggressive than it was in the last few recessions.”

Read more …

“Is the Federal Reserve playing politics?”

The US is Shackled by Historic Debt (GT)

Do you feel as if you’re drowning in debt? It’s worse than you think. The U.S. government reached a new milestone when our country’s debt topped $21 trillion for the first time. The national debt grows by an average of $17,000 every second – more than some people earn in an entire year. That’s only an average, and During the past eight months, the national debt grew by $52,000 per second. And the trend toward bigger and higher spending is only getting worse. The ratio of national debt to GDP is at 105%, larger than the economy as a whole. In 1981, the national debt comprised a mere 31% of GDP. We are not moving in the right direction. The Treasury Department has plans to borrow $1 trillion this year, an 84% jump from last year.

When individuals borrow, they can use the money wisely to increase their wealth. That’s what happens when people make good investments. What does the government do with all this money? While some of it may be put to good use, the National Science Foundation’s spending $856,000 on having mountain lions run on treadmills can’t be termed prudent spending. Nor can the $2 billion spent on former President Obama’s healthcare website. In 2017, Brooklyn, NY spent $2 million on a 400 square feet restroom in a public park. Flushing money down the toilet?

Why is the government raising interest rates at a time consumer prices and wages are rising only marginally? During Obama’s administration, prices rose 14.6%, and the Federal Reserve kept interest rates low. Inflation is up by a mere 2.2% since Trump took office, and interests rates keep rising. Is the Federal Reserve playing politics? While the rate of inflation was somewhat higher during the Obama years, the Federal Reserve didn’t get aggressive in handling the problem until Trump came to office. If it’s politics, what game is being played?

Read more …

“Americans owe more than 26% of their annual income to this debt.”

US Consumer Debt Set To Reach $4 Trillion By The End Of 2018 (CNBC)

Americans are in a borrowing mood, and their total tab for consumer debt could reach a record $4 trillion by the end of 2018. That’s according to LendingTree, a loan comparison website, which analyzed data from the Federal Reserve on nonmortgage debts including credit cards, and auto, personal and student loans. Americans owe more than 26% of their annual income to this debt. That’s up from 22% in 2010. It’s also higher than debt levels during the mid-2000s when credit availability soared.

Debts on auto loans and credit cards are climbing by more than 7% annually, while housing debt is rising at a little more than 2%. Consumer credit has been rising by 5% to 6% for about two years. LendingTree projects total consumer debt will top $4 trillion by the end of 2018.

That kind of growth is not surprising, according to LendingTree chief economist Tendayi Kapfidze, and is in keeping with the growth of consumer debt that has been happening since 2012. At these levels, consumers are spending about 10% of their income paying these debts each month, Kapfidze said. From 2000 to 2008, that averaged about 12% to 13%, he said. Still, credit card delinquency rates, which are at 2.4%, are low.

Read more …

We’ve seen this movie before.

Learning from America’s Forgotten Default (PS)

One of the most pervasive myths about the United States is that the federal government has never defaulted on its debts. Every time the debt ceiling is debated in Congress, politicians and journalists dust off a common trope: the US doesn’t stiff its creditors. There’s just one problem: it’s not true. There was a time, decades ago, when the US behaved more like a “banana republic” than an advanced economy, restructuring debts unilaterally and retroactively. And, while few people remember this critical period in economic history, it holds valuable lessons for leaders today.

In April 1933, in an effort to help the US escape the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt announced plans to take the US off the gold standard and devalue the dollar. But this would not be as easy as FDR calculated. Most debt contracts at the time included a “gold clause,” which stated that the debtor must pay in “gold coin” or “gold equivalent.” These clauses were introduced during the Civil War as a way to protect investors against a possible inflationary surge. For FDR, however, the gold clause was an obstacle to devaluation. If the currency were devalued without addressing the contractual issue, the dollar value of debts would automatically increase to offset the weaker exchange rate, resulting in massive bankruptcies and huge increases in public debt.

To solve this problem, Congress passed a joint resolution on June 5, 1933, annulling all gold clauses in past and future contracts. The door was opened for devaluation – and for a political fight. Republicans were dismayed that the country’s reputation was being put at risk, while the Roosevelt administration argued that the resolution didn’t amount to “a repudiation of contracts.” On January 30, 1934, the dollar was officially devalued. The price of gold went from $20.67 an ounce – a price in effect since 1834 – to $35 an ounce. Not surprisingly, those holding securities protected by the gold clause claimed that the abrogation was unconstitutional. Lawsuits were filed, and four of them eventually reached the Supreme Court; in January 1935, justices heard two cases that referred to private debts, and two concerning government obligations.

The underlying question in each case was essentially the same: did Congress have the authority to alter contracts retroactively? On February 18, 1935, the Supreme Court announced its decisions. In each case, justices ruled 5-4 in favor of the government – and against investors seeking compensation. According to the majority opinion, the Roosevelt administration could invoke “necessity” as a justification for annulling contracts if it would help free the economy from the Great Depression.

Read more …

“..a bewildering clown culture wrapped in a Potemkin economy..”

You Think It’s All About Guns? (Jim Kunstler)

Is it possible that we Americans only pretend not to notice the conditions that produce an epidemic of school shootings, or is the public just too dumbed-down to connect the dots? Look at the schools themselves. We called them “facilities” because they hardly qualify as buildings: sprawling, one-story, tilt-up, flat-roofed boxes isolated among the parking lagoons out on the six-lane highway strip, disconnected from anything civic, isolated archipelagoes where inchoate teenage emotion festers and rules while the few adults on the scene are regarded as impotent clowns representing a bewildering clown culture wrapped in a Potemkin economy that has nothing to offer young people except a lifetime of debt and “bullshit jobs” — to borrow a phrase from David Graeber.

The world of teens has been exquisitely engineered to steal every opportunity for colonizing the chemical reward centers of their brains to provoke endorphin hits, especially the cell-phone realm of social media, which is almost entirely about status competition, much of which revolves around the wild hormonal promptings of teen sexual development — at the same time they are bombarded with commercial messages designed to prey on their fantasies, longings, and perceived inadequacies. All of this produces immersive and incessant melodrama along with untold grievance, envy, frustration, confusion, and rage. And, of course, where the cell-phone universe leaves off, the world of video games begins, so that boys (especially) get to act-out in “play” the extermination of their competitors and foes.

Read more …

The planet is dying.

Human Race Just 0.01% Of All Life But Eradicated Most Other Living Things (G.)

Humankind is revealed as simultaneously insignificant and utterly dominant in the grand scheme of life on Earth by a groundbreaking new assessment of all life on the planet. The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things, according to the study. Yet since the dawn of civilisation, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds. The new work is the first comprehensive estimate of the weight of every class of living creature and overturns some long-held assumptions. Bacteria are indeed a major life form – 13% of everything – but plants overshadow everything, representing 82% of all living matter. All other creatures, from insects to fungi, to fish and animals, make up just 5% of the world’s biomass.

Another surprise is that the teeming life revealed in the oceans by the recent BBC television series Blue Planet II turns out to represent just 1% of all biomass. The vast majority of life is land-based and a large chunk – an eighth – is bacteria buried deep below the surface. “I was shocked to find there wasn’t already a comprehensive, holistic estimate of all the different components of biomass,” said Prof Ron Milo, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who led the work, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “I would hope this gives people a perspective on the very dominant role that humanity now plays on Earth,” he said, adding that he now chooses to eat less meat due to the huge environmental impact of livestock.

[..] The transformation of the planet by human activity has led scientists to the brink of declaring a new geological era – the Anthropocene. One suggested marker for this change are the bones of the domestic chicken, now ubiquitous across the globe. The new work reveals that farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild. The picture is even more stark for mammals – 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals.

Read more …