Oct 092020
 


Rene Magritte Memory 1948

 

Trump Campaign Demands In-Person Debate Against Biden Oct. 15 (F.)
The Contested Afterlife of the Trump-Alfa Bank Story (New Yorker)
John Durham Grand Jury Team Following Deep State Rabbit Hole (sundance)
The 40 Key Russia Documents President Trump Must Still Declassify (JTN)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Opposed Packing The Supreme Court (JTN)
The Destruction Of The World Economy By The Central Banks (GNS)
Remdesivir Cuts COVID Recovery By 5 Days, Reduces Risk Of Death By 30% (DM)
New York City Parents Scramble To Deal With New School Closures (R.)
US Auto Suppliers Scramble To Fill Factory Jobs (R.)
An Avalanche Of Bankruptcies Is Coming In The US (Barraud)
NATO Chief Says Allies Will Leave Afghanistan Together (Y!)
A BC Research Project Gave Homeless People $7,500 Each (CBC)

 

 

We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory.
– Louise Glück (2020 Nobel Prize for Literature)

 

 

Abolish the CIA

 

 

 

 

The debate is now about having the debate.

Trump Campaign Demands In-Person Debate Against Biden Oct. 15 (F.)

After refusing earlier in the day to participate in the October 15 presidential debate against former Vice President Joe Biden because it had been changed to a virtual format, President Trump’s campaign is now demanding an in-person event, citing his physician’s note that he has completed treatment for Covid-19. Thursday evening, Dr. Sean Conley said in a press release, “I fully anticipate the President’s safe return to public engagements” by Saturday. This prompted Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager and one of the many who contracted Covid-19 from the White House, to release a statement claiming there is “no medical reason why the Commission on Presidential Debates should shift the debate to a virtual setting, postpone it or otherwise alter it in any way.”

Following Trump’s refusal to participate in the debate earlier in the day, Biden announced plans to hold a town hall with ABC News on October 15, with both sides agreeing to October 22 as the date for the second presidential debate. The Trump camp earlier said it would hold a rally in place of the debate. Conley’s note drew criticism from experts like Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, who questioned on Twitter the soundness of his assertion that Trump will be safe to engage with the public in two days given that he provided no evidence “that he is not infectious, without viral load data, without providing when/timeline he became infected.”

Much about the White House outbreak is still unknown, but the Biden campaign confirmed that the Trump campaign did not reach out to them about the president’s positive test, despite the two sharing a stage around the time of infection. Stepien claimed that the commission made the decision to move virtually to “shield Biden from another shellacking like he got two weeks ago in Cleveland.” Polls conducted after what was considered one of the worst presidential debates in recent memory due to Trump’s erratic behavior crowned Biden as the victor.

Read more …

I spent a lot of time this morning with this. First, the New Yorker story, then lawyer “sundance”‘s complete evisceration of it. Worth your time.

The Contested Afterlife of the Trump-Alfa Bank Story (New Yorker)

Alfa Bank’s principals—Aven, Khan, and a man named Mikhail Fridman—are personally suing Fusion GPS, a research firm in Washington that had hired Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent, to investigate Donald Trump’s relationships in Russia before the 2016 election. The dossier that Steele assembled claimed that Aven and Fridman had been close confidants of Vladimir Putin since he was the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, in the nineteen-nineties, when they sent him “large amounts of illicit cash.” Steele has been criticized for sloppy tradecraft, but much of the information he recorded has been neither proved nor disproved. Aven, Khan, and Fridman say that information in the dossier about the bank and its principals is false and defamatory.

They have sued Steele, as well as Buzzfeed, which first published the dossier. They also served a subpoena on Jones, the investigator, asking for all his correspondence with Fusion. (Alfa Bank has also sought to subpoena Fusion’s executives, in connection with the John Doe lawsuits.) For those defending themselves against the lawsuits, their attorneys’ power of discovery would give them extraordinary access to Alfa Bank’s records. But Aven, Khan, and Fridman claim that they do not control their own documents at the bank and cannot produce them. (Public records show that together they control more than sixty per cent of the bank.) The three men also say that they are not public figures, and are therefore entitled to stronger protections against defamation.

They made a similar argument in a U.S. court two decades ago, and it was thrown out. But the federal judge presiding over their Fusion libel case, Richard Leon, has allowed it so far, and so the suit is likely to drag on—a situation that Aven, Khan, and Fridman can afford more easily than the founders of Fusion can. According to Forbes, the three bankers are believed to have a combined net worth of about thirty billion dollars. “They could spend a million dollars a day on this and not even notice,” the lawyer involved in one of the cases said. The Alfa Bank case has also become an object of interest for federal agents working for John Durham, the prosecutor appointed by Barr. Durham’s agents have summoned some of the same computer scientists to testify before a grand jury, and are asking for the same material that Alfa Bank is seeking. (They’ve asked Jones, the investigator, to testify as well.)

Some agents told scientists that they were exploring a potential criminal charge—presumably against Max and Tea Leaves—for giving false information to the government. A number of those called to testify are seeking to quash the subpoenas, and it’s not apparent that anyone has testified so far. There is no clear evidence that the Justice Department and Alfa Bank are working together, but some people involved in the case noted a striking alignment of purpose. “There’s a heck of a lot of mutual interest,” William Taylor, an attorney for Jones, told me. More troubling is that the cases could aid the Kremlin. Although Aven has disputed reports that he is close to Putin, he told investigators for the Mueller report that he meets with the Russian President quarterly and receives what the report describes as “implicit directives.”

Read more …

“That’s where Durham/Aldenberg will ultimately be; and for transparency I have spoken with William Aldenberg about their destination..”

John Durham Grand Jury Team Following Deep State Rabbit Hole (sundance)

A very important article was written yesterday in the New Yorker. While the topic of the article spotlights the ridiculous conspiracy theory surrounding Alfa bank, and the insufferable nonsense about Trump Tower servers having contact -electronic touch signals- with servers from the Russian banking organization, there are aspects to the story that show where the Durham probe has been forced to travel. Within the article –which everyone should read– some names are very important. The article is framed around defending the New Yorker’s previous reporting on the Alfa Bank conspiracy theory, so the intent of the article is defensive. However, the events being described in the article, and more importantly the people being outlined in the article, are accurate. Especially Daniel Jones and his lawyer William Taylor; and the connection of both to Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson.

According to the article there are two parallel efforts underway to untangle the background of how the false Alfa Bank story was originated. One effort is a set of civil lawsuits by the owners of Alfa bank against those who created the fraudulent story that flowed through Fusion GPS, into Chris Steele’s dossier, into the FBI, and ultimately into the Buzzfeed reporting therein. The owners of the bank are taking all of these entities into court and demanding discovery of sources who framed/created the false impression. The second outlined effort is a set of subpoenas for some of the same names to appear before a grand jury being run by the John Durham probe. The witnesses are lawyered-up and attempting to avoid the grand jury subpoenas.

Part of the New Yorker story is constructed around wondering if the Alfa Bank team is working with the Durham team. That is a false narrative created for political deflection only. However, the article outlines factual evidence of the Durham grand jury; and by knowing what issues are being explored we can see -in advance- where this trail is going. Good News Pause: John Durham has a grand jury impaneled and is issuing subpoenas. Instead of me going through the Alfa Bank story, let me just take you though a process of where the Alfa Bank story ends up. That’s where Durham/Aldenberg will ultimately be; and for transparency I have spoken with William Aldenberg about their destination. Note in the New Yorker piece the subjects of the subpoenas and lawsuits are worried about being forced to identify the anonymous sources known as “Max” and “Tea Leaves”.

Additionally the group describes their worry about identifying how the electronic signals between the servers were originally discovered. Let me say up front that is where this story connects to the scandal of intelligence community “contractor” access to the NSA database. The SIGINT or signals intelligence, used to frame the false Alfa Bank story, appears to have come from entities with access to the NSA database who were doing work to assist the overall Trump-Russia narrative construction. Those unlawfully obtained findings were manipulated and unlawfully extracted; then passed along to computer scientists who had the role to provide technical support for the media to use in selling a false story. If this sounds to you like the subject matter expertise and skill of Crowdstrike and Fusion-GPS you would not be missing the target.

Read more …

No space for them here, but a pretty complete list from John Solomon. But with just 25 days left, and Wray and Haspel actively frustrating the efforts… What are the odds?

The 40 Key Russia Documents President Trump Must Still Declassify (JTN)

President Trump earlier this week vowed complete and final transparency in the Russia probe, ordering the declassification (without redaction) of all relevant documents that show how the false Russian collusion narrative was created by Hillary Clinton operatives and then investigated for three years by the FBI. With less than four weeks to Election Day 2020, there is little time to complete the mission so that voters can understand the foreign influence, dirty tricks and misconduct that began in the last presidential election and continued for years. So Just the News put together a list of the 40 most important documents yet to be released that would help America understand what really happened and who is most culpable. Most of the documents have been sought by Congress dating all the way back to 2017 and have been withheld from public release, mostly by bureaucrats at the State Department under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the FBI under Director Christopher Wray.

Jim Jordan

Read more …

“George Washington in 1789 had six,” Shu said, noting that “since 1869 we’ve had nine.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Opposed Packing The Supreme Court (JTN)

Attorney and legal commentator John Shu pointed out during an interview on “The Water Cooler” that the recently deceased Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg opposed the idea of packing the Supreme Court. “Nine seems to be a good number. It’s been that way for a long time,” Ginsburg said, according to NPR. “I think it was a bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the court.” Roosevelt’s plan would have permitted him to appoint six more judges, enlarging the high court to 15 people, according to the outlet. “If anything would make the court look partisan,” Ginsburg said, according to NPR, “it would be that — one side saying, ‘when we’re in power, we’re going to enlarge the number of judges, so we would have more people who would vote the way we want them to.’ “

Shu said that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris’s refusal to answer whether they would add more justices to the current panel shows that they intend to pursue that course of action. “The fact that she is not answering the question seems to me at least to be somewhat of an answer of what her and Biden would do,” host David Brody said. Shu agreed, and said that he believes the pair’s unwillingness to answer “in and of itself is indicative that they hope to do so.” The attorney explained that the Constitution confers on Congress the authority to determine the number of justices on the nation’s high court. “George Washington in 1789 had six,” Shu said, noting that “since 1869 we’ve had nine.”

He said that “if the Democrats succeed in taking the Senate and taking the presidency—I think it’s likely they’ll keep the House—but if the Democrats succeed, I really am afraid for the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. I’m afraid that the Democrats will make the Supreme Court look like a political body, kind of like an extra, super legislature. And the courts are just not designed to do that.”

Read more …

First, realize there are no markets. The rest will follow soon after.

The Destruction Of The World Economy By The Central Banks (GNS)

For years, we have been warning about dire consequences if central banks continue to meddle in the economy and financial markets. In December 2013, we wrote: “There is a serious possibility that the measures taken by the central banks have already created a situation in which their actions increase rather than decrease financial instability. This is due to the fact that, if the actual price of an asset does not meet its market–based value, the true level of risk is not properly revealed.” During the “Coronavirus rescue” by the major central banks from March through June of this year, we essentially ran down the clock. No viable paths remain to escape the vicious feedback loop between central banks and financial markets—at least without serious repercussions.

Over the years, central banks have created conditions where prices in capital markets—and by implication, the resulting capital allocation structure—have become distorted to a previously unimaginable degree. This has resulted in three extremely troublesome fragilities at the heart of the world economy. First, it has led to ‘yield hunting’ among investors, who are forced to seek higher yields from riskier financial products. Secondly, it has led to a permanent central bank intervention in the financial markets, because without it a crash would surely occur. Thirdly—and this is something that has received much too little attention—the massive capital misallocations due to unnaturally low interest rates have ‘hollowed-out’ vast sectors of the global economy.

We have been focusing on the fragility of the financial markets frequently lately, so this time we will concentrate on the capital misallocation issue instead, though the two are inherently linked. In March 2019 we devoted the entirety of the Q-Review to explain why global economic growth has sputtered since 2009. We explored, extensively, the concept of creative destruction, which describes the process by which capitalist economies evolve and grow over time. In essence, creative destruction enables the flow of technical innovations into the economy through the destruction of old and inefficient production methods and enterprises, and the emergence of new, more productive firms. Moreover, we wrote that “The risk-and-reward relationship, that is, the gains and failures of the private sector drive economic progress. The first accumulates income and capital, while the second uncovers sustainable businesses, setting the stage for the creative destruction.”

In essence, this is what a capitalist economy is all about. The accumulation of capital is required to provide the funding for sustainable businesses, which provide employment, personal income and tax revenues. Price discovery in the modern capital markets is essential to accurately evaluate the risk-and-reward relationship of both real economic investments as well as those of financial assets. Price discovery thus guides the efficient allocation of capital to its most profitable employment, based on the information gathered by millions of investors. This idea is part of the bedrock of capitalist theory.

Read more …

Especially since this is the Daily Mail, please explain how this is not an advertisement.

Remdesivir Cuts COVID Recovery By 5 Days, Reduces Risk Of Death By 30% (DM)

Remdesivir shortens the amount of recovery time from COVID-19 and decreases the risk of death, final results of a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show. Researchers found that the antiviral drug reduced the recovery time for hospitalized coronavirus patients by at least five days. What’s more, the medication was shown to lower the risk of mortality from the virus by as much as 30 percent. Manufactured by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc, remdesivir is the only drug approved for emergency use in the US to treat severely ill coronavirus patients. The team, from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), says the findings not only show how remdesivir can help improve patients’ conditions but also how it may prevent them from developing severe complications.

‘The take home message is this is the first step,’ corresponding author Dr John Beigel, associate director for clinical research in the Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the NIAID, told DailyMail.com. ‘This is a significant improvement over no treatment..So this is a very important finding, it shows we can treat this, but the work is not done. This is just the first step.’ Remdesivir was developed by Gilead Sciences to treat Ebola, the deadly hemorrhagic fever that emerged in West Africa in 2014. It works by blocking an enzyme that helps the coronavirus make copies of itself and, in turn, spread throughout the body. For the final results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the NIAID recruited 1,062 coronavirus patients across North America, Europe and Asia.

A total of 541 patients were assigned to a 29-day course of remdesivir and the remaining 521 patients were given a placebo. The NIAID found that patients on the drug had a 50 percent shorter time to recovery than those on a placebo. Patients in the remdesivir group recovered with a median of 10 days compared to 15 days for those who were given the placebo. It also reduced the length of the hospital stay with a median of 12 days for those on the drug in comparison with 17 days for the control group.

Read more …

Main takeaway: the mayor and the Governor keep fighting each other.

New York City Parents Scramble To Deal With New School Closures (R.)

The 6-year-old son of Jodi Cook, a Brooklyn mother of two, had just resumed in-person classes at his local elementary — only to face the closure of his school again as coronavirus cases spiked nearby. Cook said she was disappointed. Last week, public elementary schools in New York City welcomed back students to the classroom as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s blended learning plan after a months-long hiatus. But this week New York officials began imposing fresh restrictions to curb a worrying rise in infections in several ‘hot spots.’ “I’m disappointed because I don’t think that the location of our school really puts us in jeopardy,” Cook, a real estate broker, said on Thursday. “The neighborhood and parents are scrambling.”

The school, in the Windsor Terrace-Kensington area of Brooklyn, is located in a so-called ‘orange zone.’ Schools in those zones have been ordered shut as part of new rules imposed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to try to stamp out the virus in several parts of the state, including neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. A group of parents and their children gathered outside the school on Thursday morning to protest, flanked by two local politicians. Its postal code was “not a Covid hotspot & the schools do not meet any of the agreed upon metrics for closing,” New York State Assembly Member Robert Carroll, who attended the protest, wrote in a Twitter post.

The mayor’s plan drew scorn from Cuomo, a fellow Democrat with whom he has often feuded. The governor on Tuesday released new color-coded maps delineating closures, sowing confusion among residents. New York is one of about 30 out of 50 U.S. states where cases have risen over the past two weeks, according to a Reuters analysis. Nationally, both cases and the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are rising, hitting record levels in the upper Midwest and West.

Read more …

is this because so many workers are home either sick or afraid, or is it because they expect record sales?

US Auto Suppliers Scramble To Fill Factory Jobs (R.)

Millions of U.S. workers have lost their jobs to the pandemic, but in the auto industry, suppliers are scrambling to find enough people to staff production lines, resorting to such approaches as rewards for good attendance and at-work teachers to lure job seekers. At auto parts maker Mobex Global, Chief Executive Joe Perkins said he is boosting pay and offering bonuses to help fill 80 job openings. His engineering and machining company is running more overtime to meet rising demand. “It is the most critical issue in our company,” said Perkins, whose firm has 12 U.S. plants and counts General Motors and Ford among its customers. “We’re using almost 10 staffing companies across the plants,” he told Reuters.


“We’re using multiple jobs boards, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Monster, local news stations, down to lawn signs, local papers, billboards, public transportation, church bulletins, you name it.” The U.S. auto industry usually is the first in and the last out of an economic slump. The coronavirus crisis is different. Demand for new vehicles has rebounded. But fears of catching COVID-19 and problems caring for school-age children are keeping many workers at home, compelling employers to raise pay despite the high national jobless rate, industry executives said. Many suppliers are dealing with absenteeism rates of 10-15%, said Brian Collie, head of Boston Consulting Group’s global auto practice. That has led the United Auto Workers to give the Detroit automakers more latitude on using temporary workers to cover for absent full-time employees, union President Rory Gamble told Reuters.

Read more …

An antidote to the auto suppliers story.

An Avalanche Of Bankruptcies Is Coming In The US (Barraud)

U.S. equity markets might be reaching new record highs despite the state of corporates’ health in the U.S. keeps deteriorating. Data compiled by Bloomberg show the Covid-19 pandemic helped fuel the worst third quarter on record for large corporate bankruptcies. In the details, 70 companies with more than $50 million in liabilities sought bankruptcy protection last quarter. That compares to the 76 in the prior quarter. On Monday, Reuters also highlighted “U.S. commercial bankruptcy filings are up 33% so far this year with new cases in September surging by 78% from a year earlier as the recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic hits small businesses.” It added that “Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings totaled 747 last month, up from 420 a year earlier and from 525 in August, legal services firm Epiq said in a monthly report.”


In the meantime, S&P Global Market Intelligence’s bankruptcy analysis revealed that “a total of 509 companies have gone bankrupt this year as of Oct. 4, exceeding the number of filings during any comparable period since 2010.” Several proxies, including the number of permanent job losers, confirmed that bankruptcies are on track to spike in the short term. Unfortunately, this trend is likely to continue in the coming months. According to the latest Fitch report, the “three-year 2020–2022 cumulative US default rate forecasts for term loan (LL) and high-yield (HY) bonds are 17%-20% and 15%-18%, respectively. This forecast compares with the three-year cumulative default rate of 15% for LL and 22% for HY bonds from 2008 to 2010 occurring as a result of the Great Recession.”

Read more …

NATO trumps Trump!

NATO Chief Says Allies Will Leave Afghanistan Together (Y!)

NATO insisted Thursday that its members would consult and decide together on when to leave Afghanistan, after US President Donald Trump vowed to bring American troops home by Christmas. Trump, trailing in polls ahead of the November 3 presidential election, made his surprise announcement on Twitter on Wednesday, dramatically speeding up the timeline for ending America’s longest war. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg repeated the alliance’s longstanding position that it will end its mission in Afghanistan only when conditions on the ground permit. “We decided to go into Afghanistan together, we will make decisions on future adjustments together, and when the time is right, we will leave together,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference after talks with North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.


NATO went into Afghanistan following the 2001 US-led invasion to topple the Taliban in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. It ended its combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014 and has vastly reduced its presence on the ground, but maintains a 12,000-strong force training and advising local forces. Stoltenberg said NATO would only leave Afghanistan when it could do so without the risk of the country once again becoming a haven for militants. “We will make decisions based on the conditions on the ground, because we think it is extremely important to continue to be committed to the future of Afghanistan, because it is in our interest to preserve the long term security of Afghanistan,” he said. It is not clear whether NATO had any advance warning of Trump’s announcement, though Stoltenberg’s statement that allies would now “consult on the future of the mission” appeared to indicate that it did not.

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But we need to think they are all lazy drunks, or we ourselves will become them!

A BC Research Project Gave Homeless People $7,500 Each (CBC)

The results of a B.C. research project that gave thousands of dollars to homeless people are in and, according to one researcher, could challenge stereotypes about people “living on the margins.” The New Leaf project is a joint study started in 2018 by Foundations for Social Change, a Vancouver-based charitable organization, and the University of British Columbia. After giving homeless Lower Mainland residents cash payments of $7,500, researchers checked on them over a year to see how they were faring. All 115 participants, ranging in age between 19 and 64, had been homeless for at least six months and were not struggling with serious substance use or mental health issues.

Of those, 50 people were chosen at random to be given the cash, while the others formed a control group that did not receive any money. “I had no expectations and really high hopes,” said Claire Williams, CEO of Foundations for Social Change, on CBC’s The Early Edition on Tuesday. What researchers found after 12 months, she said, was “beautifully surprising.” Not only did those who received the money spend fewer days homeless than those in the control group, they had also moved into stable housing after an average of three months, compared to those in the control group, who took an average of five months. Those who received the money also managed it well over the course of a year.

“We saw people retain over $1,000 for 12 months, which is remarkable in the Lower Mainland,” said Williams. On average, cash recipients spent 52 per cent of their money on food and rent, 15 per cent on other items such as medications and bills, and 16 per cent on clothes and transportation. Almost 70 per cent of people who received the payments were food secure after one month. In comparison, spending on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs went down, on average, by 39 per cent. Too often people dismiss the idea of giving homeless people money because they assume it will be mismanaged, Williams said. “It challenges stereotypes we have here in the West about how to help people living on the margins,” she said.

Read more …

 

 

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A cat fell on my head

 

 

 

 

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Oct 022020
 


Fred Stein Brute man 1946

 

President Trump Says He And First Lady Have COVID19 (JTN)
What Happens If President Trump Contracts COVID19 (Hudak)
Trump Job Approval Rises To Highest Since May, Majority Expect Him To Win (HA)
Navalny ‘Is Working With CIA’: Kremlin (RT)
Comey’s Casual Testimony Confirms the Worst About His Tenure (Turley)
Since 1976, WaPo Has Panicked At Thought Of The GOP Winning White House (DC)
It Is Time To Dismiss The Flynn Case (Turely)
FAA Chief Test Flies 737 MAX; Says More Fixes Needed (CNN)
How Does International Capital Flow? (BIS)
Small Firm Bust Accelerates As Bankruptcies Soar In September (ZH)
Shooting Unarmed Civilians In Iraq Would Still Be A Secret But For Assange (ES)
We Must Avoid Being Diverted Towards Terminal Cynicism (Cook)
The America I Loved Has Gone Forever (Feierstein)

 

 

Melania

 

 

 

 

Let’s see how gracious the reactions are.

President Trump Says He And First Lady Have COVID19 (JTN)

President Trump said early Friday morning that he and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement that Trump, 74, and his wife have the virus and will quarantine comes in the homestretch of the presidential race, throwing uncertainty into Trump’s reelection effort against Democratic challenger Joe Biden with just 33 days remaining before the Nov. 3 election. It also followed news reports late Thursday that White House adviser Hope Hicks had tested positive – immediately raising concerns about whether the president had been exposed. Trump made the announcement on Twitter at 12:54 a.m. ET.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately,” he posted. “We will get through this TOGETHER!” The White House just after midnight Friday issued a revised scheduled in which Trump’s planned trip to Florida later in the day was no longer on the agenda. However, the full impact of Trump testing positive and having to quarantine during his reelection effort remains unclear. The president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, issued an official statement late Thursday, saying the president and his wife had tested positive for the SARS-CoV- 2 virus and were “both well at this time.”

He also said he expected the president to “continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering.” Trump on Thursday evening before reports about Hick and him testing positive did a live phone interview on Fox News’ “Hannity” show in which he gave no indication of being sick. Despite have the best medical care possible, the president having the virus is a serious health issue considering that eight out of every 10 virus-related deaths in the U.S. are among those 65 and older.

Read more …

From July 2020. There are entire sets of protocols set into motion. Things will be pretty calm as long as Trump is not hospitalized.

What Happens If President Trump Contracts COVID19 (Hudak)

A positive COVID-19 test for the president, in itself, is not a cause for emergency action. Millions of people around the world have contracted the disease and have been asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. The president would likely be able to continue his everyday activities and manage the office either undisturbed or with mild challenges. A presidential diagnosis would create some challenges for those around him. The need for 24-hour Secret Service protection could put agents at risk for contracting it. But given modern technology, the president could quarantine and have remote or sufficiently distanced contact from most, if not all, aides, including the individual(s) who would be involved in the presidential daily brief.

There would need to be other precautions taken, even if the president were to be asymptomatic. First, those in the line of succession would need to be protected. It would be important to keep Vice President Pence, Speaker Pelosi, Senator Grassley (President Pro Tempore), and members of the cabinet isolated from the president. It would be especially important to ensure that the vice president have limited contact with individuals generally to reduce his chances of contracting the virus as well. Second, it would be important for the president to continue to communicate with the American public, especially if he is mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic. Seeing the president on camera can restore faith in his wellness, calm nervous Americans, stabilize stock markets (that would surely see a dip in the event of a positive test), and project to the world that the president remains well enough to execute the office.

We’ve experienced something like this before. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a serious stroke, and his wife kept even his closest advisers from seeing the president, likely out of fear that they would find him incapacitated and thus throwing the nation into a serious leadership crisis. Such a scenario (hiding the president’s condition) would not be possible today, but an extended absence of a president—especially during a pandemic—would raise serious questions and become a destabilizing force in politics, the economy, and the public.

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“..this question — whom do you think is *likely* to win? — has correctly predicted the popular-vote winner in every election back to 1996.”

Trump Job Approval Rises To Highest Since May, Majority Expect Him To Win (HA)

His approval rating today: 46 percent. Barack Obama’s approval rating eight years ago today: 47 percent. Trump’s not licked yet. There are two differences between them, though. One is that Trump’s disapproval rating stands at 52 percent. Obama’s was 46 percent. Flipping someone who’s undecided into your column is a lot easier than flipping someone who disapproves of you, which is the task facing Trump with that crucial three or four percent that he still needs. The other difference is that O’s job approval soon rose above 50 and he ended up spending nearly all of that month at or above 49 percent. Trump has touched 49 just a few times since 2017 in Gallup’s polling, typically landing between 41-46 percent. He’s never reached 50. And on every major issue with the notable exception of the economy, disapproval of him is north of 50.

A look at the RCP average shows that Gallup’s numbers are no fluke, which seems incongruous. The state and national polling against Biden has been grim this week for Trump and yet his approval rating remains a decent 45.5 percent. How can his chances of winning the election be slipping if his job approval isn’t? Part of the answer lies in the last paragraph: Pretty much everyone who’s not pro-Trump is anti-Trump, not undecided, and the latter group is bigger than the former. But there’s also a fascinating discrepancy between his job approval and his head-to-head polling against Biden that’s shown up in a number of surveys. Namely, there’s some small but meaningful number of voters who say they approve of his performance — but are voting for the Democrat anyway. Compare the last six months of Trump’s job approval, where he enjoyed a rating of 45-46 both before and after this year’s summer swoon…

Here’s another interesting number from the same Gallup poll that’s out today:

You can read that various ways. Maybe it’s nothing more than the residue of Trump’s shocking 2016 win at work. The polls predicted Hillary would win last time, Hillary didn’t win, so there’s no reason to trust the polls this time. Another way to read it is as a sign of a secret preference for Trump. If you’re all-in on the “shy Trump voter” theory of why his polling is poor against Biden, here’s your evidence that some independents and maybe even some Democrats are secretly planning to vote for him. They won’t tell a pollster straight out that they prefer him to Biden, but ask them who they think will win and their hidden preference creeps into that answer. It should be noted that this question — whom do you think is *likely* to win? — has correctly predicted the popular-vote winner in every election back to 1996. In 2000 and 2016, more Americans thought Gore and Clinton would win, and they did indeed get the most votes that fall. The wrinkle, though, is that the streak is all but certain to end next month: While Trump stands a fair chance of winning the electoral college, no one apart from the most diehard members of the MAGA base expects him to win the popular vote. Even his campaign doesn’t pretend that he has a serious shot at it …

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The western media attention has to come from somewhere.

Navalny ‘Is Working With CIA’: Kremlin (RT)

Western intelligence agencies – in particular, agents from the American CIA – are working with Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman alleged on Thursday. “Probably, it is not the patient [Navalny] who works for the Western special services, but that the Western intelligence services who work with him – this would be more correct [to say],” Dmitry Peskov explained. “I can even be specific: these days, specialists from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States of America are working with him.” “This isn’t the first time he’s been given different instructions,” the spokesman continued. “The instructions given to the patient are obvious. We have seen such patterns of behavior on more than one occasion.”

The bombshell allegation comes just hours after Navalny claimed Putin was behind his alleged poisoning in August. He told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine that he had “no other explanation for what happened.” Peskov took umbrage at the activist’s comments alleging Putin’s involvement in the incident, dismissing them as “baseless” and “insulting.” He told reporters “we believe that such accusations against the Russian president are absolutely unfounded and unacceptable.” German officials alleged, last month, that Navalny had been targeted with a nerve agent from the ‘Novichok’ family. “We want to investigate the case of the Berlin patient [Navalny] and establish the cause of what happened,” Peskov explained, expressing doubt about the veracity of the German analysis. “For this, we need to get information from those who found traces of poisoning.”

The Kremlin has previously complained that Berlin has been uncooperative in providing evidence that the Moscow protest leader had indeed been attacked with Novichok. Peskov also commented on Navalny’s intention to return to Russia, as expressed to Der Spiegel, observing that he saw no heroism in his declaration. “Any citizen of Russia can return to his homeland at any time,” the spokesman outlined. “Treatment can take place in our country, in fact, almost all people avail of this. Lives are saved in our country, and the life of this patient was also saved in Russia.” This refers to when Navalny had initially been hospitalized in Siberia

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Casual?! Interesting choice of words.

Comey’s Casual Testimony Confirms the Worst About His Tenure (Turley)

In his long-awaited testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony proved as casual as his appearance in an open shirt from his home office. Comey was hammered with embarrassing findings of errors under his watch in the handling of the Russian investigation, including the reliance on information that FBI agents warned might be Russian disinformation supplied by a Russian agent. After years of investigation, the FBI was unable to show that a single Trump official conspired or colluded with the Russians. Instead, investigations found extensive errors, irregular and criminal conduct, and statements of intense bias by key FBI figures. Yet, Comey proceeded to give what amounted to a series of shrugs in either denying any recollection of such information or deflecting responsibility to others.

Comey was asked about an intelligence report suggesting that Hillary Clinton personally approved an effort “to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee.” The report was reportedly sufficiently serious to be included in a briefing of President Barack Obama. However, when asked about his knowledge, Comey again shrugged and said it “didn’t ring a bell.” That’s it. The fact is that the allegation against Clinton (like the one against Trump that launched the Russian investigation) was unverified and could be legitimately questioned. There is a fair question on why the FBI went all in on one allegation and not the other. When asked “did you have a duty to look at any allegations regarding Clinton in Russia?” Comey simply replied “I don’t know what you mean.”

Yet, the more interesting question is what exactly does “ring the bell” of James Comey. Recent disclosures have added to the very serious allegations of misconduct in the handling of the Russian investigation. Highly critical reports by the Inspector General and the secret FISA court detailed critical omissions and outright false information used as the basis for the investigation. This includes conduct leading to the firing of the top FBI officials and agents involved in the investigation and a recent criminal plea by the key FBI agent in charge of the FISA applications. Comey however seemed locked in some Kübler-Ross loop, stuck between denial and transference.

[..] Comey also made a series of false statements. He repeated, for example, the long-standing denial that there was any surveillance of the Trump campaign. New information shows that the FBI used a briefing in August 2016 of then candidate Trump to gather information for “Crossfire Hurricane,” the Russia investigation. While Comey is still denying this fact, other Democrats have already moved on from the denial of any surveillance of the campaign. After the disclosure, Rep. Eric Swalwell declared that “they were right to do it.”

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The party’s paper.

Since 1976, WaPo Has Panicked At Thought Of The GOP Winning White House (DC)

On September 28, The Washington Post officially endorsed Joe Biden for president. That may not come as a shock to anyone with a passing knowledge of the liberal newspaper, but the Post paints this year as unique and different. The unsigned editorial calls Trump the “worst president of modern times” and warns readers that “democracy is at stake.” An anyone-but-Trump anti-endorsement on August 21 lectured that “a second Trump term might injure the democratic experiment beyond recovery.” Get it? You must vote for Biden because democracy itself is in danger. However, for the Washington Post, this year’s endorsement is exactly like every other. I tracked down and reviewed every Washington Post presidential endorsement since the paper began regularly picking candidates in 1976.

Here’s the box score: 11 endorsements of Democratic presidential candidates. 0 endorsements of Republican presidential candidates. 1 non-endorsement (in 1988). The Democrats have exciting, “supple” (Barack Obama in 2008) candidates who inspire hope. In contrast, Republicans are reckless (John McCain in 2008) and bad on race (George H.W. Bush in 1992), to name a few of the paper’s concerns. While some Post endorsements were more enthusiastic than others, the conclusion is always the same: America MUST elect a Democrat president. Sometimes, the Post will tell its readers not to be cynical. This isn’t a choice between the lesser of two evils, they say.

The paper’s 2020 endorsement of Biden cheers: “Fortunately, to oust President Trump in 2020, voters do not have to lower their standards. The Democratic nominee, former vice president Joe Biden, is exceptionally well-qualified, by character and experience, to meet the daunting challenges that the nation will face over the coming four years.” If that sounds familiar, it should. Turns out, Democrats had a great candidate in Hillary Clinton in 2016: “In the gloom and ugliness of this political season, one encouraging truth is often overlooked: There is a well-qualified, well-prepared candidate on the ballot. Hillary Clinton has the potential to be an excellent president of the United States, and we endorse her without hesitation.”

That language echoed through the decades. In 1984, the Post tried to dissuade Americans from reelecting Ronald Reagan, “enthusiastically and without apology” endorsing Walter Mondale: “He is a decent man and a diligent, hard-working one who has been a good Democratic leader…. We say this is a serious, steady, bright, decent, qualified man who wants to be president and who should be.” 49 out of 50 states rejected the paper’s advice, reelecting Reagan in a landslide.

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“I cannot assure you that if you proceed today, you will not receive a sentence of incarceration. I am not hiding my disgust and my disdain.”

It Is Time To Dismiss The Flynn Case (Turely)

When Michael Flynn heads to court for his final sentencing hearing today, a lifetime of respected national service will hang in the balance on what is said and done. I am not talking about Flynn but of Judge Emmet Sullivan. There is no issue over the dismissal of the charge of Flynn lying to federal investigators. The only issue is whether, just before an election, Sullivan will use the hearing as a forum for injudicious commentary. I have practiced law for years before Sullivan and praised him for his demeanor and record as a judge. He has served with distinction since 1994 in cases ranging from Guantanamo Bay detainees to the flawed prosecution of Ted Stevens to the emails of Hillary Clinton. Then came the case of Flynn, who was charged with a single count of lying to federal investigators.

Such a charge ordinarily would result in a short sentencing hearing. Flynn fought the charge but, after exhausting his assets and facing threats by prosecutors to target his son, he agreed to plead to one count. Even the uncooperative witness like Alex Van Der Zwaan received only 30 days in prison on a similar charge related to the investigation by former special counsel Robert Mueller. Yet this is the third attempt at sentencing for Flynn, as what should have been the simple hearing two years ago was derailed by Sullivan himself. Both Flynn and the prosecutors believed they would have a perfunctory hearing and a likely sentence without jail time. After all, this was just one count, and Flynn pleaded guilty, then met with Mueller about 20 times as a cooperative witness. Furthermore, we know federal investigators at the time did not believe Flynn intentionally lied to them. Yet when Flynn went to court, he was given a scolding rather than a sentence.

Using the flag in court as a prop, Sullivan falsely accused Flynn of being an “unregistered agent of a foreign country while serving as the national security adviser” who sold his country out. Sullivan even suggested Flynn should have been charged with treason, then suggested he might ignore any recommendations and send Flynn to jail when he declared, “I cannot assure you that if you proceed today, you will not receive a sentence of incarceration. I am not hiding my disgust and my disdain.” Sullivan apologized for some of his comments, but the hearing led to a critical delay. During that time, new evidence emerged that cast further doubt on the investigation of Flynn, including the material showing that FBI agents wanted to close the case in 2016 due to lack of evidence. The investigation was kept open at the insistence of fired FBI special agent Peter Strzok, who showed intense animus for President Trump.

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Translation: the FAA always gave in to anything Boeing said. But now it’s their own reputations on the line.

FAA Chief Test Flies 737 MAX; Says More Fixes Needed (CNN)

Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson says he has some suggestions for new changes to the Boeing 737 MAX after piloting the grounded jetliner Wednesday. “I like what I saw on the flight,” said Dickson, a former airline pilot who flew earlier versions of the 737. “That doesn’t mean I don’t have some debrief items going forward,” said Dickson after his two-hour flight from Seattle’s Boeing Field. Dickson said he’d like to see tweaks “not so much in the procedures, but in the narrative that describes the procedures.” Federal regulators are still evaluating Boeing’s proposed safety changes to the embattled design after a pair of fatal crashes abroad killed 346 people, grounding the plane worldwide in March 2019.


Dickson stressed his unorthodox flight was not part of the official FAA recertification process — which Dickson said is in the home stretch. The 18-month grounding has cost Boeing at least $18 billion. And it has missed a series of target dates for getting approval for the plane to again carry passengers. Before the Covid-19 pandemic it had been expecting approval for the plane by the middle of this year. But the pandemic, and the resulting plunge in air travel worldwide, has led virtually all airlines to park a large percentage of their planes, reducing the need for Boeing (BA) to win the approval for the plane to fly sooner than later.

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“Modelling #GrossCapitalFlows sheds new light on classic debates, including that #CurrentAccounts are poor vulnerability indicators and that global imbalances are likely driven by a credit glut rather than a #SavingsGlut”

How Does International Capital Flow? (BIS)

Understanding gross capital flows is increasingly viewed as crucial for both macroeconomic and financial stability policies, but theory is lagging behind many key policy debates. We fill this gap by developing a two-country DSGE model that tracks domestic and cross-border gross positions between banks and households, with explicit settlement of all transactions through banks. We formalise the conceptual distinction between cross-border saving and financing, which often move in opposite directions in response to shocks. This matters for at least four policy debates.


First, current accounts are poor indicators of financial vulnerability, because in a crisis, creditors stop financing debt rather than current accounts, and because following a crisis, current accounts are not the primary channel through which balance sheets adjust. Second, we reinterpret the global saving glut hypothesis by arguing that US households do not finance current account deficits with foreigners’ physical saving, but with digital purchasing power, created by banks that are more likely to be domestic than foreign. Third, Triffin’s current account dilemma is not in fact a dilemma, because the creation of additional US dollars requires dollar credit creation by US and non-US banks rather than US current account deficits. Finally, we demonstrate that the observed high correlation of gross capital inflows and outflows is overwhelmingly an automatic consequence of double entry bookkeeping, rather than the result of two separate sets of economic decisions.

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The damage is real.

Small Firm Bust Accelerates As Bankruptcies Soar In September (ZH)

Policies promoted by the White House and the Federal Reserve to support small firms have been widely insufficient as bankruptcy filings are back to levels not seen since the dark days of the virus pandemic, according to Bloomberg, citing a new report via bankruptcy court data firm Epiq AACER. At least 620 companies filed for Chapter 11 protection in the first 25 days of September, a 48% increase over the same period last year. Bankruptcy filings in June and July saw 609 and 644, respectively. Chris Kruse, senior vice president at Epiq, said, “we’re seeing a continued strong flow of Chapter 11 filings in September, consistent with what we saw in June and July,” adding that “they range from businesses with small footprints to high street retailers.”

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has admitted the Fed’s lending program for smaller businesses has been challenging. “Trying to underwrite the credit of hundreds of thousands of very small businesses would be very difficult,” Powell said. As a result, most of the Fed’s liquidity flowed to mega-corporations while smaller ones were shut out, leaving them widely exposed to bankruptcy as a fiscal cliff, which started on July 31, has ravaged small firms and households for the last two months. With Republicans and Democrats still far apart on agreeing on the next round of economic stimulus, downward pressure on small firms and households will continue. The failure to pass the next stimulus bill, in a timely fashion, could result in a double-dip recession.


Deirdre O’Connor, managing director of corporate restructuring at Epiq, said, “we will continue to see filings for companies that had been the most disrupted by Covid and are operating in a zero revenue environment.” Data compiled by Bloomberg shows 193 bankruptcy filings year-to-date of companies with more than $50 million in liabilities were recorded for the first nine months of the year. If filings continue to accelerate into fall/winter, then this year could rival the 271 high, recorded in 2009. For more color on small firm health nationwide via high-frequency data, we turn to Opportunity Insights’ Economic Tracker of the percentage change in the number of small businesses open as of Sept. 13, suggesting nothing but disaster for mom and pop shops ahead of the fourth quarter.

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Judge in Julian #Assange case says she will give her judgment on 4 January 2021.

Shooting Unarmed Civilians In Iraq Would Still Be A Secret But For Assange (ES)

The shooting of unarmed civilians and journalists by US soldiers during the Iraq war would have remained a secret but for the work of Julian Assange, the Old Bailey heard today. Wikileaks published a classified video in 2010 which showed a US Apache helicopter firing on a group of people in Baghdad, as soldiers could be heard laughing and making derogatory remarks about the victims. Two Reuters journalists were among the dead, and the helicopter also fired on a vehicle which arrived at the scene to try to help the wounded victims. The US government refused to release the video – dubbed “collateral murder” – under Freedom of Information laws after its existence became known, and Wikileaks published it in a mass release of leaked cables and military documents relating to the Iraq and Afghan wars in 2010.

In a statement to Assange’s extradition hearing at the Old Bailey, Patrick Cockburn, the Independent’s Middle East correspondent and a veteran war reporter, said he had reported on the July 2007 incident but could not confirm that the victims were actually unarmed civilians. “I published a piece in The Independent about the killing of eleven people by a US helicopter in Baghdad two days earlier. The dead included two Iraqi journalists working for Reuters news agency but the US military claimed that their forces had come under fire, called for air support, and had killed two civilians and nine insurgents. “Police at a nearby Iraqi police station contradicted this, saying that the eleven had died during ‘a random American bombardment’.

A named Iraqi eyewitness confirmed what the police said, and also described how the US helicopter had fired on an Iraqi vehicle that had come to help the wounded. “The evidence was compelling, but in the face of official denials of wrongdoing by the US military authorities it was impossible to prove that all those who died were unarmed civilians. “It was known that a film of the killing had been taken by the gun camera of the US Apache helicopter, but the Pentagon refused to give this up even under a Freedom of Information Act request.” He said the release of the video and other information, passed from US whistleblower Chelsea Manning to Assange and Wikileaks, showed “the way the US was conducting its war on terror”. “But for that, the suspicions of journalists and the local police in Baghdad could never have been established”, he said.

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Jonathan Cook reacts to the OffGuardian, who say he should write differently.

We Must Avoid Being Diverted Towards Terminal Cynicism (Cook)

1. Let me start with a brief comment about Covid-19. I have nothing unique, informed or interesting to say about the virus I haven’t already said in earlier pieces on my blog. I don’t write the same thing over and over – at least not intentionally. Were I to write at the moment about the pandemic, all I would add are statements that I think are relatively obvious and have already been made in the “mainstream” media: • that most western governments have proved deeply incompetent or corrupt in handling the virus; • that, even during a pandemic, there must be a balance between public health needs and our need for a tangible sense of community, and daily I entertain doubts about where that balance should properly lie; • and that governments in trouble will try to exploit the pandemic as best they can to impose more repressive measures on their publics, exactly as is happening right now where I live, in Israel.

Attacks on our freedoms need to be identified and addressed as they occur. I don’t see a global conspiracy to lock us all into our homes. Those who do see such a conspiracy should be writing pieces to convince me and others that they are right, not whingeing that I have not written the piece for them.

2. The incompetence and corruption of our governments in handling Covid-19 are not specific to the virus. They are the symptoms of defective political systems that were long ago captured by corporate interests. Western, technocratic governments have no real solutions for the pandemic in exactly the same way that they have no real solutions for the collapse of eco-systems or for making our economic systems, based on endless growth on a finite planet, sustainable. The reason these challenges defeat them is because they have no values apart from ever greater concentration of wealth.

3. Even were I or others to narrowly focus on Covid-19, there are far more pressing things to talk about than the threat of masks and lockdowns. Such as how we have increased our exposure to new viruses like Covid through rampant colonisation and exploitation of the planet’s final wildernesses, depriving other species of their natural habitats. Such as how economic incentives in food production ensure we are deprived of proper nutrition and encouraged to stuff ourselves with empty calories, provoking an epidemic of obesity and chronic illness, that has weakened our natural defences to disease, especially a new one like Covid-19. I am less worried about lockdowns than I am about western lifestyles that make lockdowns our only way to prevent higher mortality rates.

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Planet Ponzi doesn’t like what he sees.

The America I Loved Has Gone Forever (Feierstein)

Since Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, US politics have not only become highly toxic, they have also become radioactive. The swamp’s resist-everything Democratic Party, enabled by FBI bias and animus that was spun like a spider’s web by the feckless fake news media and echoed by Hollywood’s hypocritical perverts, made numerous attempts to stage a coup d’etat (carefully read the declassified letter below) of the democratically elected president. The CIA referred an investigation to the FBI that the Hillary Clinton campaign was colluding with Russia to impact the 2016 presidential election. The FBI lied to the FISA judges to spy on the Trump campaign, and no one was ever prosecuted.

Why have FISA judges Collyer, Mosman, Conway and Dearie, who signed off on those warrants, and were lied to by the FBI to illegally obtain those same warrants to spy on a political opposition party during a presidential election, done nothing? Why have these Judges remained silent? Is the entire system a stitch-up? Now, the narrative has shifted at warp speed. It’s no longer about Russian collusion. The new narratives that matter are virtue signalling, identity politics, critical race theory, record hypocrisy and a dual justice system where murder,looting and arson are justified because those on the right are all Nazis and the radicalized left’s enforcers, ANTIFAand BLM thugs, are only “peaceful protestors.”

And nothing will interfere with this narrative. For example, the BLM mob influenced the prosecutors by getting them to charge BLM supporter Larynzo Johnson with “wanton endangerment” when he ran up to two police officers and shot them while rioting. Why was this blatant assassination rampage not prosecuted as attempted murder? Is the BLM mob now dictating charging decisions? Johnson’s attempted murder of police officers has quickly disappeared as it interferes with the media mob’s narrative. The media have drummed these themes into the heads of the public and driven a wedge between family members, close friends and co-workers that has polarized America to the brink of civil war.

Life has become so bad in the USA that many of my several decades-old friendships recently ended when they became unable to respect any individual opinion that differed from their own. That has happened to me. Friends for decades have been consumed by Trump Derangement Syndrome and are cancelling me. For societies to evolve and flourish, we all need to accept other people’s viewpoints and continue open-minded, civil and respectful dialogue. In science, scientists always question everything; why shouldn’t we question everything in life without personalizing and demonizing those you disagree with? It’s become impossible to have rational fact-based discussions with these inflexible ideological zealots.

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Click at the top of the sidebars for Paypal and Patreon donations. Thank you for your support.

 

 

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Jun 082020
 


Harris&Ewing Protest: “Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage” 1916

 

New Zealand Has Eradicated Virus (AP)
800-Day Plan: Air New Zealand Warns Of More Job Cuts, Less Flights (R.)
China Stats Accurate, Lockdown Makes Little Difference – Nobel Winner (RT)
Coronavirus in Texas: Cases, Deaths and Tests (TT)
Guatemala President To Work Remotely After 18 Staff Get Coronavirus (R.)
US Bankruptcies Soar 48% In May (ZH)
Major Corporations Scramble To Support Black Lives Matter (JTN)
Minneapolis City Council Votes To Disband Police Force (AP)
Buffalo Police ERT Members Say Resignation Was Not In Solidarity (WKBW)
NYPD, City Hall Deny Police Brass Shake-Up (Pix11)
33 Russia Collusion Probe Witnesses The Senate Could Subpoena (Solomon)
Hillary: How Can Anybody With Beating Heart, Working Mind Support Trump? (Ind.)
Rep. Jordan: Not Surprising McCabe, Rosenstein Disagree
Out With the Old Blood (Mitteldorf)

 

 

Worldometer has global new cases for June 7 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 113,090.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is about + 108,198 cases. But it was Sunday yesterday, and Brazil ceased providing stats. Let’s see tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 18,905
• Brazil + 18,375 (first day gov’t stats are unavailable)
• Russia + 8,985
• India + 11,412
• Pakistan + 4,728
• Chile + 6,405

 

 

Cases 7,113,012 (+ 108,198 from yesterday’s 7,004,814)

Deaths 406,549 (+ 3,884 from yesterday’s 402,665)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: COVID19Info global cases and deaths are now higher than Worldometer’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course congrats are in order. But also for New Zealand things are far from solved, it’s an isolated place now.

New Zealand Has Eradicated Virus (AP)

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday she was confident New Zealand has halted the spread of the coronavirus after the last known infected person in the country recovered. It has been 17 days since the last new case was reported, while 40,000 have been tested in that time. And Monday also marked the first time since late February that there have been no active cases. Ardern also announced the Cabinet had agreed to another phase of the country’s reopening, to take place at midnight. “We are confident we have eliminated transmission of the virus in New Zealand for now, but elimination is not a point in time, it is a sustained effort,” she said at a news conference.


“We almost certainly will see cases here again, and I do want to say again, we will almost certainly see cases here again, and that is not a sign that we have failed, it is a reality of this virus. But if and when that occurs we have to make sure and we are, that we are prepared.” She said her government’s focus will be on the country’s borders, where isolation and quarantine will continue. Experts say a number of factors have helped the nation of 5 million wipe out the disease. Its isolated location in the South Pacific gave it vital time to see how outbreaks spread in other countries, and Ardern acted decisively by imposing a strict lockdown early in the outbreak. Just over 1,500 people contracted the virus in New Zealand, including 22 who died.

And congrats for Thailand too:

https://twitter.com/RichardBarrow/status/1269853178318577664

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Quite optimistic.

800-Day Plan: Air New Zealand Warns Of More Job Cuts, Less Flights (R.)

Air New Zealand will be nimbler, fly fewer passengers and routes, and may cut more jobs as it targets a return to “healthy profits” by 2022, its chief executive said as he navigates the airline through the coronavirus crisis. Greg Foran laid out an 800-day plan to customers and staff under which the national flag carrier will look at how to further cut labour costs, including leave without pay, reduced hours or possibly laying off more people. “We must first survive, then revive and finally thrive,” Foran said in an email to staff and customers, as he forecast revenue for the next financial year to more than halve from recent levels. Shares of the airline surged 11 per cent to NZ$1.82, its highest in almost three months.


Airlines have slashed thousands of jobs and set aside cash for impairments on aircraft as the coronavirus damaged demand amid global lockdowns. Even as countries re-open, profits may be threatened by people refraining from travel and lower fares due to discounts. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said last week that global airlines cut domestic fares by an average 23 per cent in May, and previously warned traffic would not return to pre-crisis levels until at least 2023. Foran envisions Air New Zealand will be 70 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 size by August 2022 and hinted at further layoffs as the second phase of a cost-cutting plan, to save around $NZ150 million began.

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Well, the richest ones, those that can afford to quarantine dozens of people.

Film-Makers Back To Work In New Zealand After Coronavirus (R.)

New Zealand’s capital has had an extra buzz of excitement over the past week since Hollywood director James Cameron and his crew flew in to film the much-anticipated sequel of the epic science-fiction film “Avatar”.The film is among a handful of productions kicking off in New Zealand as it begins to open up after containing the novel coronavirus, and looks to its film industry to give its battered economy a boost. New Zealand’s borders remain closed to foreigners but the government gave special permission for the 55 crew members working on the “Avatar” sequel to jet in on a chartered plane. “Certainly, the fact that we are able to start earlier than some countries is great, much as it’s distressing to see that the pandemic is still such a challenge around the world,” said Annabelle Sheehan, chief executive of the New Zealand Film Commission.

New Zealand’s mountains, meadows and forests, made famous by “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, have drawn several major film productions over recent years. About 47 productions were underway when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern imposed a tough lockdown on March 26 to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It was a great success and the virus has been almost eliminated in New Zealand, which could be among the first countries in the world to return to normal this week, apart from the closed border. Avatar producer Jon Landau posted a picture of himself and director Cameron after landing last week and said they would self-isolate for 14 days in line with government rules.

“Your country has become a leader in how to deal with something like this, and I think films will want to come,” Landau told Radio New Zealand in an interview, referring to the coronavirus campaign. With people around the world cooped up at home, pressure is on film-makers and other content creators to make new material and get it out. But what’s holding them back is the lack of safe places to work, industry experts say. Now New Zealand is an option. “We’ve had a few international enquiries and that’s on the back of our COVID-free status,” said Gary Watkins, chief executive of Wellington-based Avalon Studios, which was used for the filming of the 2017 Scarlett Johansson starrer “Ghost in the Shell” and will also help with the new “Avatar”.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford defended the decision saying the border was only open to a few foreigners who were important for projects with significant economic value. New Zealand’s film industry is worth more than NZ$3 billion a year. A six-month international film can create an estimated 3,000 jobs. “You only need a few international people coming to trigger thousands of jobs,” said Sheehan. And New Zealand needs the jobs. The government expects hundreds of thousands to be lost because of the coronavirus.

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Some people just don’t care about credibility, and neither does the Nobel committee. What utter nonsense.

China Stats Accurate, Lockdown Makes Little Difference – Nobel Winner (RT)

Challenging the widespread belief that the worldwide anti-coronavirus lockdown has helped in slowing down the disease spread, Stanford Professor Michael Levitt said that it’s actually made very little difference. Speaking to RT’s Going Underground, Nobel Prize-winning biophysicist Levitt said that there was no reason to doubt China’s official coronavirus figures, since its statistics are corresponding with the dynamics observed elsewhere. “What happened in China outside of Hubei is exactly the same dynamics of the curve as what happened in New Zealand,” Levitt stated. “If China is forging statistics, they must have a time machine. And if they have the time machine, they would’ve beaten us in any competition anyway.”

The lockdown measures that have been implemented across many countries worldwide were actually not that effective, the scientist believes. The vast majority of the disease transmissions actually occurred before the lockdowns went into force – and in many countries the people were not that eager to abide by the rules, making the restrictions even more useless. Levitt believes that the best strategy for the government would have been focusing on protecting the elderly population and let others move freely.


“This virus really does seem to be limiting. It gets to about 500 to 1,000 fatalities per million people and then it stops. And this we’ve seen at so many places. I don’t think that Northern Italy practiced wonderful social distancing, I don’t think that social distancing was practiced wonderfully in New York City,” he said. What happened is that the virus is most infectious and most dangerous before you actually know it’s there. Sweden, for instance, which has been harshly criticized for its laissez-faire approach to the pandemic, remains within the European averages – and even falls behind the worst-hit nations, such as Belgium and the UK. “Sweden has had a much milder lockdown than anybody. The predicted number for Sweden was around 60,000 [deaths]. Sweden looks like it’s going to stop at 6,000 at the most,” Levitt said.

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This one is for the Automatic Earth’s resident physician Dr. John Day in Texas.

“74,978 Texans tested positive for the coronavirus as of June 7 — 1,425 more than the day before and 10,691 more than a week ago.”

Coronavirus in Texas: Cases, Deaths and Tests (TT)

Gov. Greg Abbott is looking at two specific metrics to justify his decision to restart the Texas economy — the positive test rate and hospitalization levels. Here’s how the numbers changed in the first two weeks of May when Texas began reopening. On March 4, DSHS reported Texas’ first positive case of the coronavirus, in Fort Bend County. The patient had recently traveled abroad. A month later on April 4, there were 6,110 cases in 151 counties. As of June 7, there are 74,978 cases in 235 counties. The Tribune is measuring both the number of cases in each county and the rate of cases per 1,000 residents.

The rate of cases per 1,000 residents is especially high in the panhandle’s Moore County, where infections are tied to a meatpacking plant. The rate of cases is also high in counties with state prisons such as Walker and Jones. In other rural areas where the presence of the virus has yet to be confirmed, testing has been scarce.

On April 6, the state started reporting the number of patients with positive tests who are hospitalized. It was 1,153 that day and 1,878 on June 7. This data does not account for people who are hospitalized but have not gotten a positive test. As of mid-April, concerns that Texas hospitals would be unable to accommodate a surge of COVID-19 patients seem to have been assuaged. As he makes decisions about how quickly to restart the Texas economy, Abbott says he is watching the number of hospitalizations and the hospitalization rate — the proportion of infected Texans who require hospitalization. [..] The first death linked to the coronavirus in Texas occurred March 16 in Matagorda County. As of June 7, 1,830 people who tested positive for the virus have died.

Daily infection rateGov. Greg Abbott said he is watching the state’s infection rate — the percentage of positive cases to tests conducted. The average daily infection rate is calculated by dividing the 7-day average of positive cases by the 7-day average of tests conducted. This shows how the situation has changed over time by de-emphasizing daily swings. Public health experts want the daily infection rate to remain below 6%.

Read more …

Makes you wonder how many are on his staff.

Guatemala President To Work Remotely After 18 Staff Get Coronavirus (R.)

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said on Sunday that 18 employees at his office and on his security detail have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, so he will work remotely and the presidential offices will be disinfected. “I and the vice president will carry out our activities remotely. We’re healthy. We’ve been tested. We don’t have coronavirus,” Giammattei said in a televised address. The Central American country has registered 7,055 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 252 fatalities from the pandemic.

Read more …

“An estimated $7.4 billion in rent for April hasn’t been paid (May numbers have yet to be released), or about 45% of what’s owed..”

US Bankruptcies Soar 48% In May (ZH)

One month ago, when showing the uncanny correlation between defaults and the unemployment rates, we predicted that the number of Chapter 11 filings that is about to flood the US will be nothing short of biblical. All that was missing was a catalyst, one which according to Bloomberg arrived in late May as retail landlords started sending out thousands of default notices to tenants, who in turn experienced a collapse in foot traffic, sales and cash flow due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and were simply unable to pay their debt obligations. According to Bloomberg, restaurants, department stores, apparel merchants and specialty chains have been receiving notices from landlords – some of whom have gone as long as three months without receiving rent.

“The default letters from landlords are flying out the door,” said Andy Graiser, co-president of commercial real estate company, A&G Real Estate Partners. “It’s creating a real fear in the marketplace.” Pressure from default notices and follow-up actions like locking up stores or terminating leases was cited in the bankruptcies of Modell’s Sporting Goods and Stage Stores Inc. Many chains stopped paying rent after the pandemic shuttered most U.S. stores, gambling that they could hold on to some cash before landlords demanded payment. An estimated $7.4 billion in rent for April hasn’t been paid (May numbers have yet to be released), or about 45% of what’s owed, according to a recent analysis by CoStar Group, which also found that just a quarter of expected rent payments have been received by landlords.


“If the landlords don’t put a pause on their actions, you’re going to see more bankruptcies.” Last Thursday, these anecdotal reports were confirmed by the American Bankruptcy Institute which announced that as expected, corporate bankruptcies soared during May, pushing the number of filings to levels recorded in the wake of the 2007-09 recession. According to figures from legal-services firm Epiq Global, US bankruptcy courts recorded 722 businesses nationwide filing for chapter 11 protection last month, a yearly increase of 48% from 487 businesses in May of 2019. The surge was also seen on a month-over-month basis, which jumped by 28% from the 562 Chapter 11 filings in April.

Read more …

In the same way that they all paint themselves green.

Major Corporations Scramble To Support Black Lives Matter (JTN)

As protests and demonstrations against racism and police brutality drag on for another week across America, numerous corporations are scrambling to capitalize on the moment by donating to various Black Lives Matter organizations and allied causes, winning praise and sometimes sharp criticism for P.R. efforts that are by turns successfully deft and sometimes unfortunately clumsy. Corporations today appear to be keenly aware of the marketing benefits to striking that balance, which is likely why so many of them are hastily jumping on board with the current Black Lives Matter craze — some with success, others with more difficulty.

Uber Eats, the food delivery app of the rideshare company Uber, announced this week that black-owned businesses would have free delivery privileges on its system. Uber is suspending delivery fees for black-owned restaurants through the end of the year, the company said in a statement, and will also offer discounted rides to those who own and work at black-owned small businesses. Uber’s announcement was perfectly timed for both the political climate and the economic one: Most restaurants have been surviving on takeout alone over the last few months of coronavirus lockdowns, and owners are still depending heavily on takeaway business as reopenings progress slowly across the country.

Other companies have pledged substantial monetary donations for progressive and racially conscious causes. YouTube this week announced a $1 million donation “to address social injustice.” The company was not clear to what causes exactly it would be donating that money, the sum of which accounts for about 0.006% of the company’s yearly revenue of $15 billion. The clothing company Spanx, meanwhile — known for its undergarments that men and women wear to appear thinner — said in an Instagram post this week that it would be donating “$100,000 across national organizations focused on combating racial injustice: Black Lives Matter, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and The Minnesota Freedom Fund.”

[..] It is not immediately evident what it means exactly to donate to “Black Lives Matter,” a mostly loosely organized movement of disassociated activists and protesters across the country and the world. The campaign’s nominal central authority does accept donations, though it is not evident how those funds are dispensed. The companies Ganni, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Pretty Little Thing and others all pledged to donate to Black Lives Matter, among other causes.

Read more …

I sort of see why they would do it, I can even see a few ways that might make it work, but a lot more ways that won’t. And if the council president says: “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”, shouldn’t the council perhaps disband itself also?

Minneapolis City Council Votes To Disband Police Force (AP)

A majority of the members of the Minneapolis City Council said Sunday they support disbanding the city’s police department, an aggressive stance that comes just as the state has launched a civil rights investigation after George Floyd’s death. Nine of the council’s 12 members appeared with activists at a rally in a city park Sunday afternoon and vowed to end policing as the city currently knows it. Council member Jeremiah Ellison promised that the council would “dismantle” the department. “It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” Lisa Bender, the council president, said. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.” Bender went on to say she and the eight other council members that joined the rally are committed to ending the city’s relationship with the police force and “to end policing as we know it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe.”


[..] Community activists have criticized the Minneapolis department for years for what they say is a racist and brutal culture that resists change. The state of Minnesota launched a civil rights investigation of the department last week, and the first concrete changes came Friday in a stipulated agreement in which the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints. A more complete remaking of the department is likely to unfold in coming months. Disbanding an entire department has happened before. In 2012, with crime rampant in Camden, New Jersey, the city disbanded its police department and replaced it with a new force that covered Camden County.

Read more …

“57 officers did *not* resign in solidarity with the officers who pushed over a 75-year-old causing brain injury. This turns out to be a lie from the police union.”

“We quit because our union said [they] aren’t legally backing us anymore. So why would we stand on a line for the City with no legal backing if something [were to] happen?”

Buffalo Police ERT Members Say Resignation Was Not In Solidarity (WKBW)

“It went bad. It went bad.” Two officers of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team spoke with 7 Eyewitness News under the condition their names not be used. The officers are part of the 57-person volunteer assignment team that resigned Friday, following an incident involving two of their members Thursday night in Niagara Square. They did not resign from the police department, only from their roles on the team. The officers we spoke with said the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association’s statement asserting all 57 officers resigned from ERT in a “show of support” with the two officers that were suspended without pay is not true.

“I don’t understand why the union said it’s a thing of solidarity. I think it sends the wrong message that ‘we’re backing our own’ and that’s not the case,” said one officer with whom we spoke. “We quit because our union said [they] aren’t legally backing us anymore. So why would we stand on a line for the City with no legal backing if something [were to] happen? Has nothing to do with us supporting,” said another. A representative from the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Hannah Buehler the officers resigned in “disgust” with how the two officers were treated. “Some of them probably resigned because they support the officer,” said another officer with whom we spoke. “But, for many of us, that’s not true.”


“The City, DA Flynn, they’re not representing those guys at all. They have to find their own lawyers, they have to come out of pocket.” 7 Eyewitness News was not able to reach PBA president John Evans to confirm this information or get a response to several officers shooting down his assertions, but we did obtain an email sent to PBA members by Evans. It states, in part: “In light of this, in order to maintain the sound financial structure of the PBA it will be my opinion the PBA NOT to pay for any ERT or SWAT members legal defense related to these protests going forward. This Admin in conjunction with DA John Flynn and or JP Kennedy could put a serious dent in the PBA’s funds.”

Read more …

Things are going to change one way or another.

NYPD, City Hall Deny Police Brass Shake-Up (Pix11)

Text messages and Facebook posts went into overdrive Sunday in New York’s law enforcement community, with claims top leaders in the NYPD were either resigning or being asked to leave, with replacements ready to step in. “This is not true,” tweeted Freddi Goldstein, press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio. NYPD Deputy Commissioner Richard Esposito, over the phone, also said it wasn’t true. But we’re learning there are tensions behind the scenes about the specific fate of two police officers involved in confrontations with protesters in the last twelve days. Both of the cops were suspended without pay on Friday. One of them allegedly knocked down a female protester, Dounya Zayer, outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the early days of the George Floyd protests.

Zayer said she suffered seizures, as a result. Another cop was seen on video pulling down the mask of a male demonstrator and spraying the man’s face with pepper spray. Multiple sources said there’s anger among the rank and file—and among some of the NYPD brass—about the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office considering criminal charges against the two officers. When PIX11 called a spokesman for the Brooklyn DA’s office Sunday evening, we were told, “We’re investigating both of these cases. It’s not true both are going to be arrested imminently. It might happen in the future.” The NYPD has dealt with a lot of turmoil in the last two weeks. “This is all about pandering to anti-cop sentiment,” said a former NYPD Deputy Commissioner.


Multiple police officers have been under siege during the protests, trying to fend off looters, brick and bottle throwers and the burning of NYPD vehicles. Officer Yayon Jean Pierre was stabbed in the neck last week while working an anti-looting post, and two other cops were shot in the hand. Several other officers have been hit by cars, one of them hurt seriously. Sergeant’s Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins, said his phone was exploding with calls about behind-the-scenes clashes between the NYPD and City Hall. “The losers in this are not going to be the cops,” Mullins said. “It’s going to be the public.” Mullins said he didn’t believe the protests were continuing because of the NYPD. “I think it’s about overthrowing the presidency,” he said.

Read more …

Again: storm warning. The “left” will try and label it all political. But if that fails, where are they?

33 Russia Collusion Probe Witnesses The Senate Could Subpoena (Solomon)

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, Wis., now has the authority to subpoena the agencies and individuals he wants to interrogate or to turn over documents. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham hopes to get his subpoena power this week. [..] The scope of the subpoenas suggests a far-reaching inquiry. For instance, the FBI will be asked to surrender “all records related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. This includes, but is not limited to, all records provided or made available to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice for its review that resulted in the report ‘Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation’; and all records related to requests to the General Services Administration (GSA) or Office of the Inspector General of GSA for presidential transition records from November 2016 through December 2017.”

The State Department will be asked to produce records of its contacts with Christopher Steele, the former MI6 operative who penned the unverified dossier that was used by the bureau as essential evidence in pursuing the case. And the DNI will be asked for all records related to the Obama administration’s unmasking of Trump campaign and transition figures in intelligence intercepts. The list of individuals that Johnson’s committee is seeking to question or seek documents from includes some familiar figures in the controversy, like fired FBI Director James Comey, ex-FBI Counsel James Baker, fired FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and his paramour, the former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice, whose final email on the day she left office about President Obama’s dealings in the Russia probe has stoked great intrigue.


Senate investigators plan to delve into discrepancies in stories between Comey and Brennan over the intelligence community assessment that Russia tried to help Trump win the 2016 election and Comey and Clapper over who briefed President Obama in early January 2017 about a sensitive intercept of a conversation between incoming Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador to Washington. One of the most anticipated witnesses is Bill Priestap, the former FBI assistant director of counterintelligence, who supervised Strzok’s Russia investigation and interacted often with former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

Read more …

In other words: half the country are deplorables. Same issue, same question she asked in 2016. Never learned a single thing.

Hillary: How Can Anybody With Beating Heart, Working Mind Support Trump? (Ind.)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out about her 2016 presidential rival Donald Trump, calling his time in office a “failure” and questioning how anyone could continue to support him. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Ms Clinton lashed out at President Donald Trump, criticising his leadership and characterising him as uncaring and incompetent. “What has been so surprising to me is how he can barely make an effort to rise to the occasion. I truly don’t think he can get out of his own way. Everything always has to be about him,” Ms Clinton said. She said Mr Trump tried to ignore the coronavirus pandemic until he was forced to address it, after which she claims he tried to turn the pandemic response into a “daily rally.”

Regarding the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the US, Ms Clinton suggested she had initially hoped that Mr Trump was going to respond with empathy, but that it quickly became clear that wasn’t going to be the case. “He doesn’t have even the minor amount of empathy to fake it, to look like he is concerned, and he reverts to the belligerence and the threat-making and the photo-opping, all the tried and true tactics that feed his need for control and dominance and attention,” Ms Clinton said. Of Mr Trump’s “photo-opping,” his appearance at St John’s Church near the White House – and the tear gassing of protesters to clear the path for the president – has become one of the many flashpoints in the George Floyd protests.


“It was beyond my comprehension. We have never seen anything like this,” she said. “He is without shame. It is a mystery why anybody with a beating heart and a working mind still supports him.” She said that despite the fact that Mr Trump’s character was apparent during the election, even she wasn’t prepared for the degree to which the president would shuck norms. “So much of what we’re seeing now, sadly, was known about Trump and the kind of people who were loyal to him. But it turned out to be even worse than what I thought it would be,” she said. “Despite having my own front-row seat and being concerned about his character and behaviour, he has gone further and broken more norms and undermined our institutions more deeply than I thought would have been possible in such a short period of time.”

Read more …

Jordan hasn’t had the best of times either.

Rep. Jordan: Not Surprising McCabe, Rosenstein Disagree

It’s not surprising that former FBI Director Andrew McCabe and ex-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein disagree about the events surrounding the Russia probe, Rep. Jim Jordan said Thursday. “Somebody is not telling the truth because former FBI counsel Jim Baker told us when we deposed him last Congress, in the Judiciary Committee, that Rod Rosenstein was serious about wearing a wire and using the 25th Amendment to try to remove President [Donald] Trump from office,” the Ohio Republican told Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.” “Somebody is not being square and I guess maybe when you are engaged in this kind of wrongdoing which happened at the upper levels of the FBI, maybe it’s tough to keep your story straight.”

McCabe on Wednesday accused Rosenstein of lying about ex-FBI Director James Comey’s memos about his meetings with Trump. Rosenstein testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that McCabe should have told him sooner about the Comey documents, reports Fox News. “Mr. Rosenstein’s claims to have been misled by me, or anyone from the FBI, regarding our concerns about President Trump and the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia are completely false,” McCabe said in a statement Wednesday. Rosenstein signed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act application to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, named Bob Mueller as special counsel, and broadened the scope of the Russia investigation, Jordan pointed out.


“The guy who did all of that now says there wasn’t anything there,” said Jordan. “That’s what we have been saying for three years … yet Rosenstein names Bob Mueller as a special counsel and puts our country three years of what we went through. That’s why people are upset about this and that’s why we have got to get to the bottom of it all.”

Read more …

Intriguing. Made me think of Einstein love of simplicity.

Diluting the blood of mice with saline/albumin rejuvenates them.


Original paper: Rejuvenation of three germ layers tissues by exchanging old blood plasma with saline-albumin

Out With the Old Blood (Mitteldorf)

There is great promise in 2020 that we might be able to make our bodies young without having to explicitly repair molecular damage, but just by changing the signaling environment. Do we need to add signals that say “young” or remove signals that say “old”? Does infusion of biochemical signals from young blood plasma rejuvenate tissues of an old animal? Or are there dissolved signal proteins in old animals that must be removed? For a decade, Irena and Mike Conboy have been telling us removal of bad actors is more important. But just last month, Harold Katcher reported spectacular success by infusing a plasma fraction while taking away nothing. Then, last week, the Conboys came back with a demonstration of the rejuvenating power of simple dilution.


They simply replaced half of the blood plasma in 2-year-old mice with a saline solution containing 5% albumin. What is albumin? Blood plasma is chock full of dissolved proteins, about 10% by weight. About half of these are termed albumin. Albumin is the generic portion. It doesn’t change through the lifetime. It doesn’t carry information by itself. But albumin transports nutrients and minerals through the body. The Conboys took care to show that albumin has no rejuvenation power on its own, and had nothing to do with their experimental results. Rather, they had to replenish albumin in diluting blood, because the animals would be sickened if half their albumin were removed. Replacing the albumin in a transfusion is akin to replacing the volume of water or maintaining the salinity.

In preparation for this experiment, the Conboys have invested years in miniaturizing the technology for blood transfusions, so that mice can be subjected to the same procedures that are commonplace in human hospitals. The Conboy lab replaced 50% of mouse blood plasma. They got spectacular results with a single treatment, based on a lucky guess. They have not yet experimented with 30% or 70%. They don’t know yet how long the treatment will last and how long it needs to be repeated. As with previous papers from the Conboy lab, the group focused on repair and stem cell activity as evidence of a more youthful state. Three separate tissue samples were taken from liver, muscle, and brain. “Muscle repair was improved, fibrosis was attenuated, and inhibition of myogenic proliferation was switched to enhancement; liver adiposity and fibrosis were reduced; and hippocampal neurogenesis was increased.”

Read more …

 

 

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Elmer Fudd has singlehandedly solved the US gun problem:

 

 

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Apr 222020
 


Saul Leiter Man in straw hat 1955

 

 

 

The following was written by Bruce Wilds, who runs the Advancing Time blog. Bruce is a small business owner in the Midwest.

I get lots of articles sent to me, but hardly ever publish any (sorry I can’t send everyone a reply) because they’re not what I think this site should be. But with this article it’s different. I think what Bruce describes is interesting, important even. The US has been losing small businesses for a long time, and the virus response is set to greatly accelerate the process. The huge stimulus plans will bypass most small businesses, because they are too small for governments to know what to do with.

The article was written before the latest round of handouts, but there’s very little reason to believe it will change much of anything. It’s not so much a grand plan or conspiracy, it just that the system has come to recognize only that bigger is better. America doesn’t like small. This is as true for banks as it is for various levels of government. But small businnesses have not only built the country, and are crucial for the faces of Main Streets and small towns, they also employ enormous amounts of Americans.

 

 

Bruce Wilds: The Paycheck Protection Program or PPP was funded with $350 billion in the last stimulus bill, this money is now gone. Of the thirty million small businesses in America, only 1.7 million received money from the 2.3 trillion dollar aid package passed to help sustain America during this difficult time. If the government blew through this money and was only was able to help only around 5% of small businesses. it is difficult to think another 250 billion dollars will set things straight. Clearly, because when the government made promises it delayed the wave of firing while companies waited for help.

The government has failed to keep its promise so now we should expect unemployment to soar as reality sets in. One of the largest problems facing small companies is they are often underfunded and have difficulty getting financing at reasonable rates. Banks find larger companies much more profitable. The sector of the economy most damaged by the covid-19 shutdown is small business. When this is over America will find many small businesses have been decimated and are not able to reopen. Others will never recover and be forced to close within months. Since small businesses employ over 54 million people in America and their importance in the economy should not be underestimated.

• Small businesses contribute 44 percent of all sales in the country.
• Small businesses employ 54.4 million people, about 57.3 percent of the private workforce.

Rest assured government employees and bureaucrats will still continue to get paid but small business, the most productive part of the economy has a knife to its throat. As a landlord and small business owner, I can tell you the program was structured in a way that will be of little help to most small businesses. The government slammed expensive legislation through with no idea of the damage they were doing and how it will cause hundreds of thousands of businesses to close their doors forever. Washington has become so attuned to dealing with lobbyists from mega-companies it has lost sight of the fact small is small, and when this comes to business, this means usually under twenty employees, not hundreds.

 

 

The government’s answer to keeping people employed was to promise small businesses an easy to get, rapid maximum loan amount of two and a half times a company’s average monthly payroll expense over the past 12 months. This loan would turn into a grant and be forgiven if a company did not fire its employees. Sadly, legislators failed to take into consideration that not all small businesses are labor or payroll intense. Some businesses with large or expensive showrooms are getting hammered by rent, others by inventory, or things like taxes, utilities, or even by having to toss products due to spoilage.

The PPP also failed to address the issue of what these employees are going to do while the company has no customers and business barely trickling. In the past, these employees were expected to pursue activities that earned revenue and garnered profits for the business but with no costumers, this is difficult to do. The PPP also ignored the fact that by keeping these employees on the payroll a generous employer is left open to the harsh mandates laid out in the government’s previous bill. The hastily drawn up 110-page federal covid-19 economic rescue package, which Trump fully supported dealt a hard blow to small business. For a small business this is a disaster, the bill requires;

• Employers with fewer than 500 employees and government employers offer two weeks of paid sick leave through 2020.
• Those same employers must now provide up to 3 months of paid family and medical leave for people forced to quarantine due to the virus or care for family because of the outbreak

As expected, this measure, named “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.” resulted in millions of workers suddenly losing their jobs. Ironically, it was held before the voters as proof lawmakers could work together during a crisis. By framing the poorly crafted pork-packed bill this way promoters positioned themselves to demonize those unwilling to support it. Remember, this bill is was in addition to the $8.3 billion emergency spending bill first approved to curb the spread of covid-19.

 

 

As government has grown larger it seems to have become totally oblivious to the fragility of many small businesses and how much it can cost a community when they close. By framing these pork-packed bills as bipartisan their promoters imply they are fair and balanced. This is not true, small business is the big loser and hundreds of thousands will soon have to close. With so many tenants looking at foregoing rent small landlords that don’t have deep pockets also face huge problems. We have our heads in the sand if we think companies that exist on events where people gather will overnight regain their luster. It is not like someone can simply flick a switch and things will return to normal.

Reality undercuts the idea of the “V-shaped recovery” theory and the idea after the economy has come to a dead stop it can quickly reboot and be back at full speed in a few months. The government has presented us with an extension of crony capitalism structured to throw just enough to the masses to silence their outrage but in the coming weeks, we will see it failed. Large businesses with access to cheap capital are the winners and the big losers are the middle-class, small businesses, and social mobility. All those people that want a higher minimum wage can forget that ever happening if we don’t have jobs.

As for just how much small business owners make, according to figures from 2015 from the Small Business Administration the median income for self-employed individuals at an incorporated business was $49,804 and $22,424 for unincorporated firms. According to PayScale’s 2017 data, the average small business owner’s income is $73,000 per year. But, total earnings can range from $30,000 – $182,000 per year. This means it varies greatly depending on where and just how big the business is. However, it is important to remember these people have “skin in the game” and most risk losing everything if their business fails.

 

It is important to recognize that starting your own business has always been about the opportunity to design and build your own future. It is a symbol of freedom not a guarantee of wealth. Many people choose this path proudly, not to make more money but as a way to express their individuality. For these competent and talented people, a job in government or at a large company often offers more security and benefits but far less freedom. Do not underestimate the value of small business and what it contributes to our society. Companies such as Amazon are the anti-thesis of small business making their workers a cog in a machine and stealing their soul.

Based on the government’s promise to small businesses a great many held off on letting employees go but with each passing day in order to survive they are now in the process of letting hundreds of thousands of employees go. This is a ticking time-bomb. By telling these businesses to close and then through its failure to carry out its promise of helping them the government has created a situation with massive negative economic ramifications. To make matters worse, people going on unemployment look to get almost as much as those that do work. Why will anyone want to work, especially government workers when they can get paid to stay home? This is not about wanting more money for small business, it is about the reality that the firings are just beginning.

 

 

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Jun 252018
 


Edward Hopper Cape Cod morning 1950

 

China’s Central Bank Frees Up $100 Billion In Funding As Trade War Looms (SCMP)
US Plans Limits On Chinese Investment In US Technology Firms (R.)
Tit-for-Tat Tariff Battle Could Spark Downturn In Global Economy – BIS (G.)
Why The Debt Deal With The EU Is Bad For Greece (AlJ)
UK Minister Urges Gov’t to Ignore BMW, Airbus Brexit Warnings (Sp.)
Some Of The Pictures Of Border Kids That Haunt Me Most Are From 2014 (PI)
Migration Is Threat To EU Free Travel Area – Italian Prime Minister (G.)
Italy Tells Rescue Ships Not To Help Refugees In Peril At Sea (Ind.)
The US, Under Obama, Created Europe’s Refugee Crisis (Zuesse)
Merkel’s Troubles Began in Syria and End in Italy (Luongo)
Erdogan To Gain Sweeping New Powers After Declaring Election Victory (Ind.)
Erdogan Says Turkey Will Continue Advancing In Syria (R.)
‘Tourists Go Home, Refugees Welcome’ – Barcelona (G.)

 

 

Bankruptcies. Nothing to do with a trade war.

China’s Central Bank Frees Up $100 Billion In Funding As Trade War Looms (SCMP)

China’s central bank said on Sunday it would unlock at least US$100 billion for the country’s lenders to bail out troubled state firms and to help small businesses, as Beijing tries to shore up growth under the shadow of a trade war with the United States. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said in a statement it would cut the reserve requirement ratio, the share of deposits lenders must put aside with the central lender, for commercial banks by half a percentage point from July 5. The cut would free up 500 billion yuan (US$76.86 billion) in funds for the big banks, including Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank, to finance debt-to-equity swaps, a measure often used for troubled state enterprises.

It would also free up 200 billion yuan for smaller banks to boost lending to small businesses across the country, the central bank said. The move is a “targeted operation” aimed at supporting the weak links in the economy and not a change to the country’s “neutral and prudent” monetary policy stance, the PBOC said. Although the statement did not mention China’s trade row with the United States, or its recently released weaker economic indicators, the reduction in the reserve ratio will come into effect a day before the first of US President Donald Trump’s additional tariffs on Chinese products are due to be implemented.

Deng Haiqing, a visiting scholar at Renmin University of China, wrote in a note that the PBOC’s move represented a significant shift in China’s policy, and was not just fine-tuning. “The authorities have started to see the pain inflicted on the real economy from deleveraging, and they are trying to reduce it,” he said.

Read more …

Makes sense.

US Plans Limits On Chinese Investment In US Technology Firms (R.)

The U.S. Treasury Department is drafting curbs that would block firms with at least 25 percent Chinese ownership from buying U.S. companies with “industrially significant technology,” a government official briefed on the matter said on Sunday. The official, whose comments matched a report by the Wall Street Journal, emphasized that the Chinese ownership threshold may change before the restrictions are announced on Friday. The move marks another escalation of President Donald Trump’s trade conflict with China, which threatens to roil financial markets and dent global growth.

Tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, the first of a potential total of $450 billion, are due to take effect on July 6 over U.S. complaints that China is misappropriating U.S. technology through joint venture rules and other policies. The Treasury investment restrictions are expected to target key sectors, including several China is trying to develop as part of its “Made in China 2025” industrial plan, the U.S. official said. Among its objectives, the plan aims to upgrade China’s capabilities in advanced information technology, aerospace, marine engineering, pharmaceuticals, advanced energy vehicles, robotics and other high-technology industries. The Wall Street Journal also said the U.S. Commerce Department and National Security Council were proposing “enhanced” export controls to keep such technologies from being shipped to China.

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Give me a break: “Ten years after the start of the global crisis, central bankers should feel satisfied with the state of the global economy..”

Tit-for-Tat Tariff Battle Could Spark Downturn In Global Economy – BIS (G.)

An escalation of protectionist measures could spark a fresh downturn just as the global economy is picking itself up after the last one, the international body that represents the world’s central banks has warned. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) said there were already signs that “the ratcheting up of rhetoric” was weighing on investment. It comes as Donald Trump steps up hostility with some of the US’s key trading partners and allies, raising fears of a full-blown trade war. What began with tariffs imposed on steel and aluminium imported into the US has turned into a broader trade battle with trading partners including China and the EU, as they respond with retaliatory measures.

The US president is threatening Beijing with tariffs on $200bn of goods imported from China and on Friday Trump threatened to impose tariffs on European cars after Brussels introduced levies on American goods such as Levi’s jeans, bourbon whiskey and Harley-Davidson motorbikes. Agustín Carstens, the general manager of BIS, said an increase in protectionist measures was a key vulnerability in the global economy that threatened to undermine growth and could spread to financial markets. “One possible trigger of an economic slowdown or downturn could be an escalation of protectionist measures. Its impact could be very significant, if such escalation was seen as threatening the open multilateral trading system.

“Indeed, there are signs that the rise in uncertainty associated with the first protectionist steps and the ratcheting up of rhetoric have already been inhibiting investment.” In its annual report on the challenges facing the global economy, BIS said that the ultra-low interest rates implemented by central banks as an emergency response to the financial crisis had served the global economy well but said loose monetary policy was posing a threat to stability. “Ten years after the start of the global crisis, central bankers should feel satisfied with the state of the global economy, after expansionary and unconventional monetary policies were left to bear the burden of recovery,” Carstens said. “But this has left a legacy of higher debts on public and private balance sheets. Still reliant on central bank support and with less room for manoeuvre. Central banks cannot continue be the only game in town.”

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This is where the EU started collapsing. Immigration issues will do the rest.

Why The Debt Deal With The EU Is Bad For Greece (AlJ)

[..] there is more to this deal than the arithmetic of long-term debt sustainability. At the heart of Greece’s protracted fiscal crisis was always a highly contentious social and political question about the real meaning of European solidarity: Who should be made to pay for the presumed “profligacy” of successive Greek governments, or the “excessive risk-taking” of profit-hungry private creditors in the lead-up to the crisis? The course of action that European leaders ended up settling on turned out to be very one-sided in this respect: Greece alone was to blame for its predicament, and therefore, Greece alone would be made to pay for it.

The real motivation behind the bailouts was always to safeguard the survival of a dangerously over-exposed European banking system – but this fact was quickly obscured. Instead, right-wing politicians and the tabloid media whipped up a frenzy of anti-Greek sentiment. The Greeks were widely portrayed as splurging the money on lavish pensions and long beach holidays – or on “booze and women,” as former Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem infamously put it last year. But as research by the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin has since shown, 95 percent of the bailout funds that were supposedly “given” to Greece actually went straight back to private creditors.

Meanwhile, the bailout loans themselves were added to Greece’s overall debt, and the country continued to pay interest on them over subsequent years. In other words, the Greek people never received any handouts from their European creditors. Meanwhile, the Greek government reduced the size of its public sector by 26 percent, cutting pensions and welfare spending by 70 percent and slashing the public health budget in half. As a result, incomes fell by one-third and unemployment skyrocketed to a peak of over 28 percent, unleashing a veritable humanitarian catastrophe.

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But Jeremy, they have shareholders.

UK Minister Urges Gov’t to Ignore BMW, Airbus Brexit Warnings (Sp.)

Speaking to the BBC, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that businesses sounding the alarm about post-Brexit job losses actually affect the UK’s negotiations with the European Union. According to him, the best way for companies to achieve the “clarity and certainty” they need is to support the PM in her talks with Europe. Hunt suggested that a “Brexit fudge” would be likely if Theresa May’s attempts to “deliver the best possible Brexit, a clean Brexit” were undermined. The statement comes several days after BMW, a German-based car giant which employs around 8,000 people in Britain, threatened to start preparing “contingency plans” if it doesn’t get details on the UK’s post-Brexit trading arrangements by the end of summer.

BMW echoed the warning of the French aviation giant Airbus, which announced on June 21 that a no-deal scenario would have a “catastrophic” outcome and would force it to reconsider its long-term position in the UK, putting some 14,000 UK-based jobs at risk. With the UK government failing to provide clarity on Brexit for the time being, a recent survey has found that nearly half of business leaders from the rest of Europe have cut investment in the country. The poll also shows that three quarters of big companies want the bloc to make concessions to Britain to enable a better trading relationship after London’s divorce with Brussels.

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I think it’s important that we see the big picture here. You won’t find a solution if you can’t define the problem. This has been going on for years.

Some Of The Pictures Of Border Kids That Haunt Me Most Are From 2014 (PI)

The other day, a veteran immigration lawyer named R. Andrew Free shared an anecdote that sheds some really critical light on what’s happening on America’s southern border — a tale that not surprisingly got buried amid a sandstorm of news about mothers not knowing where their kids are, audiotapes of anguished, crying children, and now the protests to end the human rights abuses that the current government is undertaking in our name. What Free described on Twitter was an opportunity that few people get: A chance to personally confront the president of the United States and question him about his immigration policies.

Free wrote that the answers he received from the so-called leader of the free world “shook me to my core.” The immigration lawyer had been to two large detention centers in Texas where U.S. officials were holding hundreds of migrant families from Central America, often for months at a time. Free said some of the conditions at these makeshift detention camps were appalling. “I remember hearing the constant, violent coughing and sickness of small children, and the worry of their mothers who stood in the sun outside the clinic all day only to be told their kids should ‘drink water,’” Free tweeted. “I remember nearly doubling over when I saw the line of strollers.”

When Free had a chance encounter with the president at a political event, he warned him that the detention centers would be “a stain on his legacy.” He said the president wanted to know if Free was an immigration lawyer — implying that everyday citizens weren’t worried about what goes on at the border — and then said, according to Free: “I’ll tell you what we can’t have, it’s these parents sending their kids here on a dangerous journey and putting their lives at risk.” The message that Free took away was that the president saw family detention as a deterrent to keep more refugees from coming. This happened in 2015. The president with the looming stain on his legacy was Barack Obama.

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There goes Merkel.

Migration Is Threat To EU Free Travel Area – Italian Prime Minister (G.)

Italy has warned the future of the EU’s border-free travel zone is at stake as it sought to ease the pressure on Mediterranean countries arising from hosting refugees and migrants. Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, was speaking at a mini-EU summit in Brussels, where he said a plan from his government presented at the summit represented a paradigm shift in dealing with migration. But his ambitious move to change what he called obsolete EU rules that govern who is responsible for asylum claimants is likely to encounter opposition from other countries.

The 10-point plan by his new populist government revives many ideas proposed by previous Italian governments, such as calling on all EU member states to share responsibility for migrants rescued at sea, and countries being docked EU funds if they refuse to take in refugees. Leaders from 16 EU countries put on a show of unity, as they left an emergency summit in Brussels on Sunday. The unorthodox meeting, boycotted by several EU countries, was called to shore up the conservative coalition government of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, which is riven by a row over migration. Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said the talks had been “frank and open,” although they had not resulted in “any concrete consequences or conclusions”.

Sunday’s ad-hoc meeting sets the stage for a long-planned gathering of all EU leaders on Thursday, where it will be harder to mask Europe’s deep divisions on migration. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, can be expected to repeat his fierce opposition to migrant quotas, a policy opposed by other central European countries.

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Salvini is going to Libya this week.

Italy Tells Rescue Ships Not To Help Refugees In Peril At Sea (Ind.)

Italy’s far-right government told aid ships in the Mediterranean Sea not to rescue thousands of refugees in peril on Sunday – despite receiving six separate distress calls from unseaworthy boats. Officials said the vessels – carrying people from North Africa to Europe – were all in Libyan waters and, therefore, Libyan responsibility. The Spanish aid group, Proactiva Open Arms, which had ships in the area, said it had been specifically told not to help. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, said in a tweet: “It’s right that the Libyan authorities intervene, as they’ve been doing for days, without having the NGOs interrupt them and disturb them.”

The latest revelation follows a fortnight in which Italy has refused permission for aid ships carrying rescued refugees to dock in its ports. One, the Aquarius with 630 people on board, had to reroute to Spain. Another, Lifeline holding 240 people, remained at sea over the weekend. Mr Salvini has said such refugees would only see his country “on a postcard”. Italy has said it is seeing a constant stream of people coming illegally from Africa, and has threatened to withhold payments to the EU unless a more even way of dispersing refugees is agreed.

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Zuesse misses the role that Britain -remember Blair, Cameron?- and France have played.

The US, Under Obama, Created Europe’s Refugee Crisis (Zuesse)

The current US President, Donald Trump, claimed on June 18th, that Germany’s leadership, and the leadership in other EU nations, caused the refugee-crisis that Europe is facing: “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!” The US Government is clearly lying about this. The US Government itself caused this crisis that Europeans are struggling to deal with.

Would the crisis even exist, at all, if the US had not invaded and tried to overthrow (and in some instances actually overthrown) the governments in Libya, Syria, and elsewhere — the places from which these refugees are escaping? The US Government, and a few of its allies in Europe (the ones who actually therefore really do share in some of the authentic blame for this crisis) caused this war and government-overthrow, etc., but Germany’s Government wasn’t among them, nor were many of the others in Europe. If the US Government had not led these invasions, probably not even France would have participated in any of them. The US Government, alone, is responsible for having caused these refugees.

The US Government itself created this enormous burden to Europe, and yet refuses to accept these refugees that it itself had produced, by its having invaded and bombed to overthrow (among others) Libya’s Government, and then Syria’s Government, and by its aiding Al Qaeda in organizing and leading and arming, jihadists from all over the world to come to Syria to overthrow Syria’s Government and to replace it with one that would be selected by the US regime’s key Middle Eastern ally, the Saud family, who own Saudi Arabia, including its Government, and who are determined to take over Syria.

Trump blames Angela Merkel for — in essence — having been an ally of the US regime, a regime of aggression which goes back decades, and which Trump himself now is leading, instead of his ending, and of his restoring democracy to the United States, and, finally, thus, his restoring freedom (from America), and peace, to other nations, in Europe, and elsewhere (such as in Syria, Yemen, etc.).

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Chaos.

Merkel’s Troubles Began in Syria and End in Italy (Luongo)

It looks like we are entering the end of Merkel-ism in Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is approaching her final days in that position. Be it next week or the end of this year, we are looking at unprecedented change in European politics thanks to Merkel’s insistence on taking in millions of Syrian and North African refugees from chaos unleashed by aggressive and insane foreign policy actions by the U.S. and supported by the EU. From the destruction of Libya to the manufactured ‘civil war’ in Syria the displacement of millions of people was created from the desired to destabilize the entire region for the betterment of the U.S. and its allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Jordan, Turkey and Qatar were originally involved but have since jumped ship in the wake of Russia’s intervention there.

Merkel’s current plight politically stems from her intractability in accepting the chain of events that led us to this point. All of the problems of Europe now stem from the collision of these foreign policy disasters and the economic degradation of the euro-zone from the flawed structure of the euro itself. And the insistence of the U.S./Saudi/Israeli alliance to continue trying to manufacture a win in Syria that is clearly beyond their control at this point only tightens the noose around Merkel’s neck.

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Predictable but still scary.

Erdogan To Gain Sweeping New Powers After Declaring Election Victory (Ind.)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been declared triumphant in Turkey’s presidential vote by the country’s electoral board, amid accusations of manipulation by his opponents. Mr Erdogan had earlier claimed he had won after state run news outlets said he was victorious. An announcement from the broadcaster TRT came soon after the Anadolu Agency, who reported that he had won 52.51 per cent of the vote with 98.4 per cent of the total counted. Independent election monitors and the opposition both maintained that less than half the votes had been counted at that point. The president’s main rival, Muharrem Ince – who state media said had won 30.72 per cent of the vote – urged observers and his supporters to stay on at counting centres, warning that vote rigging was likely to place if they left under the impression that the result had been decided.

But speaking in the early hours of Monday, the head of the Supreme Election Council Sadi Guven confirmed the result. He said that Mr Erdogan “received the absolute majority of all valid votes” and the remaining ballots would not affect the outcome. In his speech Mr Erdogan had warned: “The Turkish public has mandated me as president according to unofficial results. I hope nobody will damage democracy by casting a shadow on this election and its results to hide their failure.”

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Doesn’t waste any time.

Erdogan Says Turkey Will Continue Advancing In Syria (R.)

Turkey will continue to “liberate Syrian lands” so that refugees can return to Syria safely, President Tayyip Erdogan said in an election victory speech on Monday. Speaking to supporters from the balcony of his ruling AK Party’s headquarters in Ankara after Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections, Erdogan said Turkey would also act more decisively against terrorist organizations.

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“In 1990 the city received 1.7 million tourists; last year the figure was 32 million – roughly 20 times the resident population.”

‘Tourists Go Home, Refugees Welcome’ – Barcelona (G.)

Early last year, around 150,000 people in Barcelona marched to demand that the Spanish government allow more refugees into the country. Shortly afterwards, “Tourists go home, refugees welcome” started appearing on the city’s walls; soon the city was inundated with protestors marching behind the slogans “Barcelona is not for sale” and “We will not be driven out”. What the Spanish media dubbed turismofobia overtook several European cities last summer, with protests held and measures taken in Venice, Rome, Amsterdam, Florence, Berlin, Lisbon, Palma de Mallorca and elsewhere in Europe against the invasion of visitors. But in contrast to many, as fiercely as Barcelona has pushed back against tourists, it has campaigned to welcome more refugees.

When news broke two weeks ago that a rescue ship carrying 629 migrantswas adrift in the Mediterranean, mayor Ada Colau was among the first to offer those aboard safe haven. Is it really the case that Barcelona would prefer to receive thousands of penniless immigrants rather than the millions of tourists who last year spent around €30bn in the city? The short answer, it appears, is yes. Increasingly it is tourism, not immigration, that people see as a threat to the city’s very identity – though numbers of both have risen exponentially in recent decades. In 2000 foreigners accounted for less than 2% of the population; a mere five years later, the figure was 15% (266,000). In 2018, it is now officially 18% although, according to Lola López, the city’s integration and immigration commissioner, the true figure is closer to 30%.

The influx of new residents has radically changed the face of the city, but Barcelona has not seen a single anti-immigrant protest of any substance – nor is immigration an issue at local elections. According to research by Paolo Giaccaria, a social scientist at the University of Turin, the case of Barcelona “establishes a connection between two types of mobility that are at odds with each other: northern tourism and southern migration. It subverts the common feeling about which kind of mobility is desirable which is not.” Immigration has changed the city, but tourism is destabilising it – and even people in the industry agree that it can’t go on like this. In 1990 the city received 1.7 million tourists; last year the figure was 32 million – roughly 20 times the resident population. The sheer volume of visitors is driving up rents, pushing residents out of neighbourhoods, and overwhelming the public space.

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Nov 212015
 
 November 21, 2015  Posted by at 10:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Frances Benjamin Johnston Courtyard, 620-621 Gov. Nicholls Street, New Orleans 1937

Total US Household Debt Hits $12.1 Trillion As Subprime Auto Lending Jumps (WSJ)
US Oil Producer Bankruptcies Are Piling Up (WSJ)
Low Crude Prices Catch Up With the US Oil Patch (WSJ)
Speculators Test Saudi Currency As Oil Crisis Deepens (AEP)
Petrobras’s Dangerous Debt Math: $24 Billion Owed in 24 Months (Bloomberg)
Bank of Japan To Switch To Indicators That Show Rising Prices (Reuters)
Mario Draghi All But Announced an Expansion of ECB QE (Fortune)
The Power And The Impotence Of The ECB (Steve Keen)
Financially Engineered Stocks Drag Down S&P 500 (WolfStreet)
Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal Is Getting Even Bigger, Again (AP)
EU Journalists Take European Parliament To Court Over Expense Accounts (EUO)
Australia Is A ‘Plaything’ Of World Economic Forces It Can’t Control (Guardian)
‘Terrible’ Public Finance Figures Heap Pressure On UK Chancellor (Ind.)
Is It Time To Close The Door To Foreign Buyers Of British Property? (Guardian)
A Nation Of Immigrants Wants To Close Its Doors (MarketWatch)
How Refugees Are Selected, Vetted, And Settled In The United States (Quartz)
EU-Turkey Refugee Talks Turn Sour As Erdogan Belittles Juncker
Merkel Slowly Changes Tune on Refugee Issue (Spiegel)
Over 900,000 Migrants Arrived In Germany This Year (Reuters)

Predators still rule. And that makes the economy look better for the moment.

Total US Household Debt Hits $12.1 Trillion As Subprime Auto Lending Jumps (WSJ)

Subprime auto lending is shifting into higher gear, raising some concerns in Washington where top financial regulators have sounded alarms about this category of loans. Over the six months through September, more than $110 billion of auto loans have been originated to borrowers with credit scores below 660, the bottom cutoff for having a credit score generally considered “good,” according to a report Thursday from the New York Fed. Of that sum, about $70 billion went to borrowers with credit scores below 620, scored that are considered “bad.” This rise in subprime auto lending comes against a backdrop of gradually improving credit across the economy. Overall household borrowing has climbed to $12.1 trillion, the highest level in more than 5 years, with rising balances for mortgages, auto loans, student loans and credit cards in the third quarter, according to the report.

But when it comes to auto loans, in particular, a rising volume of loans is going to borrowers with poor credit. The sum in that category has nearly reached the same level as in 2006, raising questions about the health of the nation’s auto-lending portfolio and drawing uncomfortable comparisons to the rise in subprime mortgages that helped fuel the housing collapse, financial crisis and recession. The comptroller of the currency, Thomas Curry, said in a speech last month that some of the activity in auto loans “reminds me of what happened in mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the crisis.” And Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, warned in September 2014 that subprime auto-loan borrowers “may be more vulnerable to predatory practices” and that “direct oversight of their lending practices is essential.”

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2016 will be a disaster year for US oil. And the lenders that allowed the restructuring delay.

US Oil Producer Bankruptcies Are Piling Up (WSJ)

It’s been a long year for oil and gas companies. After trading at an average price of $92.91 a barrel in 2014, the U.S. oil benchmark has averaged around $50 a barrel this year. It dipped below $40 a barrel briefly this morning. 36 North American oil and gas producers filed Chapter 11 bankruptcies this year through Nov. 8, according to law firm Haynes and Boone. The cases so far involve $13 billion in secured and unsecured debt, and “industry and economic indicators suggest more producer bankruptcy filings will occur before the year is out,” the law firm says. Sixteen of this year’s bankruptcies were filed in Texas, with another six in Canada, four each in Delaware and Colorado and the rest in Louisiana, Alaska, Massachusetts and New York. The biggest, with $4.3 billion of secured and unsecured debt, was KKR’s Samson Resources in September.

Earlier this week, a judge ruled that Samson’s resigning chief executive won’t be paid his bonus outright. Even so, some investors argue that not enough U.S. oil producers have gone under to help shrink the glut of crude that is weighing on oil prices. Oil producers have gotten more efficient, keeping production higher than some expected. U.S. production has fallen from 9.6 to about 9.2 million barrels a day, but recent weekly estimates from the Energy Information Administration show that the pace of declines has slowed. “There’s been more efficiency in the space than we all expected, and that’s helped current owners hold on a little longer,” said Rob Haworth at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. “We’re not seeing as much turnover in the oil patch as we’d expect, in terms of weak hands to strong hands. But things like that will need to happen at some point.”

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“Forty-dollar to fifty-dollar oil prices don’t work in this business..”

Low Crude Prices Catch Up With the US Oil Patch (WSJ)

The ingenuity and easy money that allowed American oil companies to keep pumping through a year-long price crash appear to be petering out as U.S. crude slides toward $40 a barrel. U.S. companies have stunned global rivals by continuing to produce oil—particularly from shale deposits—ever more cheaply as American crude prices plunged from over $100 a barrel in 2014. But the recent drop toward $40 a barrel and below puts even the most efficient operators in a bind. “Forty-dollar to fifty-dollar oil prices don’t work in this business,” Ryan Lance, chief executive of ConocoPhillips, the largest independent U.S. oil producer, said in an interview. The worst-case scenario most major producers have discussed in the past six weeks with investors involved a price of $50 a barrel. That is beginning to look optimistic as Saudi Arabia continues to produce near-record volumes and major exporters such as Iraq have increased output.

Many oil executives, including BP CEO Bob Dudley, expect prices to be “lower for longer.” The U.S. Energy Department is forecasting the price of oil will average around $50 a barrel next year. More than 250,000 people world-wide have lost their jobs in the industry over the past year, according to Graves & Co., a Houston consulting firm. Many companies that were hoping to weather low energy prices without new rounds of layoffs and salary cuts may be forced to slash those costs yet again, said Eric Lee, an energy analyst with Citigroup. “Who’s going to take the brunt of this? Shale has already cut back a lot,” Mr. Lee said, adding that new oil projects are being deferred around the world. In a way, he added, oil companies are responsible for the current situation. During brief price rallies, they raced back into fields to drill new wells—adding to the global glut of crude and cutting off the price rebounds.

Even as the number of rigs operating in the U.S. fell 60% so far this year, American oil production through August dipped just 3% from its April peak, federal data show. What happened was a combination of declining costs for oil-field services and equipment and impressive feats of engineering. Companies doubled the amount of sand they pumped into wells, figuring out how to better prop open rock layers to draw out more oil and natural gas. Operators moved rigs into areas where crude flowed the most freely, cut the number of days it took to drill by nearly half and extended the length of horizontal oil wells to reach nearly 2 miles. Costs for such big wells fell by as much as a third as oil explorers put extreme pressure on the suppliers that help them coax more fuel from the ground, including Halliburton. And producers became far more efficient. In the seven most prolific U.S. shale fields, they boosted oil production per rig by as much as 60% this year.

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“The Saudi strategy of flooding the world with oil in a bid to drive out rivals..” is a made-up idea. The Saudi’s simply looked at their forward contracts and thought: “Holy Sh*t!”

Speculators Test Saudi Currency As Oil Crisis Deepens (AEP)

Saudi Arabia’s currency regime is at risk of blowing up if oil prices fall further and the US dollar spikes higher, Bank of America has warned. The Saudi strategy of flooding the world with oil in a bid to drive out rivals may be hard to square with the country’s fixed dollar-peg, which is increasingly under scrutiny by currency traders as the US Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates. “The crucial point is what happens to the Saudi riyal. Saudi Arabia’s foreign exchange reserves still provide an ample buffer, but they have been falling fast,” said Francisco Blanch, the bank’s energy strategist. “Should Brent crude oil prices drop to $30, we estimate the foreign exchange reserve drain could accelerate to $18bn per month. Saudi Arabia may face a critical choice: cut oil supply, or de-peg,” he said.

The 12-month riyal forward contracts – watched by experts for signs that traders are betting on a collapse of the peg – has spiked violently to 535 from just 13 points in June. This is even higher than the peak after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, and is approaching extremes seen in January 1999. Credit default swaps pricing bankruptcy risk has jumped to 153, the highest since the global financial crisis. Mr Blanch said a devaluation by China would leave the Saudis badly exposed and might ultimately force their hand. “A de-peg of the Saudi riyal is our number one ‘black-swan’ event for oil in 2016,” he said. The 30-year old dollar peg is the weak link in Saudi strategy. It matters more than dissent within OPEC as the cartel prepares for a stormy meeting in Vienna on December 4. To varying degrees, Algeria, Venezuela, Nigeria, Iraq, and Iran all want production cuts to stabilize the market.

Russia has been able to cushion the effects of the oil price crash by letting the rouble fall from 32 to 65 against the dollar since mid-2014. This protects oil revenues of the Russian state in local-currency terms. Saudi Arabia is taking the blow head-on, and is facing an extra tourniquet effect as Fed tightening pushes the global dollar index to a 12-year high. The central bank’s holdings of foreign securities fell $23bn in October. They are down $90bn since February. Foreign reserves are still $647bn but not all is usable. The Saudi government has had to cancel a raft of infrastructure projects and push through drastic spending cuts to rein in a budget deficit near 20pc of GDP. It denies reports that contractors are not being paid. Bank of America warned that a break-down of the Saudi dollar-peg would send the riyal tumbling, with major knock-on effects. “Oil could collapse to $25,” it said in a client note.

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2016: Annus Horribilis for Brazil.

Petrobras’s Dangerous Debt Math: $24 Billion Owed in 24 Months (Bloomberg)

The debt clock is ticking down at Brazil’s troubled oil giant, Petrobras. Next up: $24 billion of repayments over 24 months. That’s a towering hurdle for a company that hasn’t generated free cash flow for eight years and whose borrowing rates are soaring. Annual debt servicing costs have doubled to 20.3 billion reais ($5.4 billion) in the past three years. The delicate task of managing the massive $128 billion mound of debt accumulated by Petroleo Brasileiro – 84% of it in foreign currencies – falls to the two banking veterans parachuted atop the company earlier this year, CEO Aldemir Bendine, 51, and Chief Financial Officer Ivan Monteiro, 55. The pair came from the state-controlled Banco de Brasil to contain the damage from the biggest corruption scandal in the country’s history.

While prosecutors continue to grind away at years of suspicious dealings, Act II for the boys from the Bank of Brazil will further test their mettle. The challenge of Petrobras’s runaway debt, which has grown four-fold in five years, has been exacerbated by low oil prices, a weak currency and the Brazilian government’s own fiscal travails. “If you considered them to be totally independent and there were no chance of any kind of government support, I think the risk of default would certainly be there in a big way,” said Jason Trujillo at Invesco. Petrobras is not without options, but they tend to be either politically unpalatable or unattractive to the marketplace.

Bendine is actively trying to peddle off minority stakes in the Rio de Janeiro-based oil producer’s pipeline and gas station units, among others, but that plan is behind schedule and faces fierce opposition from the oil industry’s most powerful union. Other alternatives are also running up against resistance from one interest group or another. The only source of comfort for many bondholders is the belief the Brazilian government would stop at nothing to save the country’s biggest company – though, even at that, Trujillo said markets are “lessening the amount of implied government support.”

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Inventing new accounting methods, that’ll help!

Bank of Japan To Switch To Indicators That Show Rising Prices (Reuters)

The Bank of Japan will release a new set of price indicators this month that reconfigures the way price trends are measured as the central bank seeks to show the country’s below-target inflation rate is due to volatile items such as energy. Importantly, a new consumer price index (CPI) will exclude energy costs, which have been falling, but include the costs of items such as processed and imported foods, which have been rising. The BOJ currently uses the government’s core CPI, which excludes fresh food but includes energy costs, as its key price measurement in guiding monetary policy. With core CPI now slipping due largely to slumping oil prices, the central bank began internally calculating a new index that conveniently shows inflation exceeding 1% in the past few months.

That index strips away volatile fresh food and energy costs, but includes processed and imported food prices, which are rising. The BOJ said on Friday it will start publishing this month the new CPI, as well as other indicators such as one showing the ratio of goods seeing prices rise versus those that are falling, on a regular basis each month. “The performance of the government’s core CPI (in tracking broad price trends) seems to be deteriorating, although this is probably because of the temporary effect of large swings in crude oil prices,” the BOJ said in a research paper. The BOJ’s new indicators will be released on the day the government’s CPI figures are published. The upcoming release of the CPI and BOJ indicators is on Nov. 27. Government data showed core consumer prices fell 0.1% in the year to September, a second straight month of declines, keeping inflation distant from the BOJ’s 2% target.

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Beggar all of thy global neighbors.

Mario Draghi All But Announced an Expansion of ECB QE (Fortune)

The world’s two most important central banks are going separate ways. As the Federal Reserve drops increasingly heavy hints about raising interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade, ECB President Mario Draghi all but pre-announced a new round of stimulus for a Eurozone economy that is still flirting with deflation. In a closely-watched keynote speech at a banking conference in Frankfurt, Draghi dropped his clearest hint yet that the ECB will expand its program of asset purchases, which depresses interest rates by injecting money into the financial system, and may also push its official deposit rate even further into negative territory, from its current record low of -0.20%.

The latter move would be particularly radical, and has been bitterly resisted by banks who claim it effectively forces them to make losses. But the ECB’s chief economist Peter Praet said in an interview earlier this week that the evidence suggested it hadn’t had a negative impact so far. The ECB’s governing council is due to meet next on Dec. 3, two weeks before the Federal Open Market Committee Meeting where the Fed is expected to raise its official interest rates. Draghi said: “If we decide that the current trajectory of our policy is not sufficient to achieve our objective, we will do what we must to raise inflation as quickly as possible. If we decide that the current trajectory of our policy is not sufficient to achieve our objective, we will do what we must to raise inflation as quickly as possible.”

Speculation on further easing has been growing since Draghi’s last press conference in October, when he expressed concern about fresh risks to the economy from the slowdown in China and other emerging markets, and about the stubborn refusal of inflation to come back to its targeted level of just under 2%. Thanks to low oil prices, consumer prices in the Eurozone have barely changed all year, and were up only 0.1% in the year to October. Gross domestic product, meanwhile, grew only 0.3% in the third quarter, down from 0.4% in the summer. The euro has already lost nearly 6% against the dollar since Draghi’s October press conference, and is already trading close to the 12-year low it posted back in March.

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“The King spoke, the subjects listened, and The King left. There was nothing his subjects could do about it but cope with its consequences.”

The Power And The Impotence Of The ECB (Steve Keen)

I’ve attended two conferences in two days where both the power and the impotence of the European Central Bank (EBC) have been on vivid display. Its political power is considerable, both in form and in substance. At both seminars, the ECB speaker—ECB Board member Peter Praet at the first, and ECB President Mario Draghi at the second—spoke first, and then left. In form, the ECB has no need to defend its policies because it is unimpeachable in its execution of them. In substance, it does not even considering engaging with its subjects—I use the word deliberately—in open and robust discussion. It’s not unusual for a political leader to turn up at an event, speak and then immediately leave. But even political leaders have to tolerate sometimes being savaged by fearless CNBC moderators when they speak in public.

And I expected that economic leaders would want to hang around and get some feedback—positive or otherwise—from the economic elite that gathered to hear them. Might they not learn something about why their policies weren’t working as they had expected them to? Not a bit of that for the ECB. There was plenty that could be criticised, even within the context their speeches set. Speaking at the FAROS Institutional Investors Forum, Praet acknowledged, numerous times, that the ECB had failed to hit many of its policy targets—in particular, he noted how many times the ECB had to put off into the more distant future its objective to return to 2% inflation. But there was no chance to challenge him as to why they had failed, because after a couple of perfunctory exchanges with the moderator, he was out the door.

At the more prestigious Frankfurt European Banking Congress Draghi stated bluntly that the ECB would continue to do all it takes to support asset markets via QE—in the belief that this supported the real economy. This was a declaration of the intention to use unlimited power—since there is no effective limit to the ECB’s capacity to buy assets from the private sector. A politician would have to respond to sceptics about the use of such unlimited powers. But there was not even a single question, nor even a murmur, from the audience. There was however a jolt of recognition. Draghi was going to continue supporting asset markets, and that was that. The King spoke, the subjects listened, and The King left. There was nothing his subjects could do about it but cope with its consequences.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who book-ended the EBC conference, had no such luxury of freedom from interlocution—nor did he need it. He engaged in a lively banter with his interviewer as he defended the far more limited power he has over expenditure in Germany. I doubt that Schäuble will suffer electoral defeat any time soon, but unlike Draghi he faces the prospect that it could happen. That doesn’t make him any less resolute in defending his policies; it just means that he has to defend them. This is what the originally principled concept of “Central Bank Independence” has transmuted into.

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One buybacks start failing to support stocks, there’s a big black hole looming beneath.

Financially Engineered Stocks Drag Down S&P 500 (WolfStreet)

Stocks have been on a tear to nowhere this year. Now investors are praying for a Santa rally to pull them out of the mire. They’re counting on desperate amounts of share buybacks that companies fund by loading up on debt. But the magic trick that had performed miracles over the past few years is backfiring. And there’s a reason. IBM has blown $125 billion on buybacks since 2005, more than the $111 billion it invested in capital expenditures and R&D. It’s staggering under its debt, while revenues have been declining for 14 quarters in a row. It cut its workforce by 55,000 people since 2012. And its stock is down 38% since March 2013.

Big-pharma icon Pfizer plowed $139 billion into buybacks and dividends in the past decade, compared to $82 billion in R&D and $18 billion in capital spending. 3M spent $48 billion on buybacks and dividends, and $30 billion on R&D and capital expenditures. They’re all doing it. “Activist investors” – hedge funds – have been clamoring for it. An investigative report by Reuters, titled The Cannibalized Company, lined some of them up:

In March, General Motors acceded to a $5 billion share buyback to satisfy investor Harry Wilson. He had threatened a proxy fight if the auto maker didn’t distribute some of the $25 billion cash hoard it had built up after emerging from bankruptcy just a few years earlier. DuPont early this year announced a $4 billion buyback program – on top of a $5 billion program announced a year earlier – to beat back activist investor Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management, which was seeking four board seats to get its way.

In March, Qualcomm Inc., under pressure from hedge fund Jana Partners, agreed to boost its program to purchase $10 billion of its shares over the next 12 months; the company already had an existing $7.8 billion buyback program and a commitment to return three quarters of its free cash flow to shareholders.

And in July, Qualcomm announced 5,000 layoffs. It’s hard to innovate when you’re trying to please a hedge fund. CEOs with a long-term outlook and a focus on innovation and investment, rather than financial engineering, come under intense pressure. “None of it is optional; if you ignore them, you go away,” Russ Daniels, a tech executive with 15 years at Apple and 13 years at HP, told Reuters. “It’s all just resource allocation,” he said. “The situation right now is there are a lot of investors who believe that they can make a better decision about how to apply that resource than the management of the business can.”

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VW keeps flipping regulators the bird. “VW never told regulators about the software, in violation of U.S. law.”

Volkswagen’s Emissions Scandal Is Getting Even Bigger, Again (AP)

Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal widened Friday after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the German automaker used software to cheat on pollution tests on more six-cylinder diesel vehicles than originally thought. Volkswagen told the EPA and the California Air Resources Board the software is on about 85,000 Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche vehicles with 3-liter engines going back to the 2009 model year. Earlier this month the regulators accused VW of installing the so-called “defeat device” software on about 10,000 cars from the 2014 through 2016 model years, in violation of the Clean Air Act. The regulators said in a statement they will investigate and take appropriate action on the software, which they claim allowed the six-cylinder diesels to emit fewer pollutants during tests than in real-world driving.

The latest allegation means that more Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche owners could face recalls of their cars to fix the software, and VW could face steeper fines and more intense scrutiny from U.S. regulators and lawmakers. Audi spokesman Brad Stertz on Friday conceded that VW never told regulators about the software, in violation of U.S. law. He said the company agreed with the agencies to reprogram it “so that the regulators see it, understand it and approve it and feel comfortable with the way it’s performing.” The software is on Audi Q7 and Volkswagen Touareg SUVs from the 2009 through 2016 model years, as well as the Porsche Cayenne from 2013 to 2016. Also covered are Audi A6, A7, A8, and Q5s from the 2014 to 2016 model years, according to the EPA.

Stertz said the software is legal in Europe and it’s not the same as a device that enabled four-cylinder VW diesel engines to deliberately cheat on emissions tests. VW has told dealers not to sell any of the models until the software is fixed. VW made the disclosure on a day it was meeting with the agencies about how it plans to fix 482,000 four-cylinder diesel cars equipped with emissions-cheating software. U.S. regulators continue to tell owners of all the affected cars they are safe to drive, even as they emit nitrogen oxide, a contributor to smog and respiratory problems, in amounts that exceed EPA standards — up to nine times above accepted levels in the six-cylinder engines and up to 40 times in the four-cylinders.

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Letting politicians self-regulate their own spending?! Great idea!

EU Journalists Take European Parliament To Court Over Expense Accounts (EUO)

A group of 29 European journalists have filed complaints with the EU’s Court of Justice, demanding access to documents that will show how members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have been spending their allowances. The reporters filed freedom of information (FOI) requests with the European Parliament, asking for copies of documents that show details for the MEPs’ travel expenses, accommodation expenses, office expenses, and assistants expenses for the past four years. “We are not demanding access to records about how MEPs spend their salaries, which are intended for their personal and private use,” the group said in a statement. “We are demanding access to records that show details of how they spend all the extra payments they receive on top of their salaries, and only those extras which are paid to them solely for the exercise of their professional public mandates as elected representatives of European citizens,” they added.

In September, the parliament denied access to these documents, either because they contain personal data or, they argue, because no such records are held. A week ago, the reporters filed complaints with the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union, with assistance from Natassa Pirc Musar, Slovenia’s former Information Commissioner. EP press spokesperson Marjory van den Broeke said the parliament has not yet received a formal notification from the court. “So formally, officially we cannot react to this, as we haven’t received it,” she told this website at a press conference Friday (20 November). However, she pointed out that when the EP does receive a FOI request, a balance must be struck between the EU’s rules on access to documents and its rules on personal data protection.

“Both these different aspects are taken into account when there is a proper investigation into the need to transfer personal data [to the FOI applicant],” said Van den Broeke, adding as an example of personal data that “some of these data could reveal political activities, which are the prerogative of an MEP to have, and which are their personal political convictions”. No clarification on the difference between personal political activities and public political activities was offered. According to the EP, around 27% of its almost €1.8 billion budget in 2014 was spent on MEP salaries and expenses, which include travel, office costs and assistants’ salaries. The journalists already know that there will be little information they can expect on the office costs, which are covered by the so-called general expenditure allowance (GEA), because little is recorded.

While MEPs are required to hand in receipts for their travel, accommodation and assistants expenses, they receive the GEA, which covers costs such as rent, phone bills, software, and furniture, as a monthly lump sum of €4,299 per MEP office. “The European Parliament spends €3.2 million each month solely on MEPs’ general expenditure allowance (almost €40 million per year). No one is monitoring this spending,” the journalists’ group noted.

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That’s still putting it mildly.

Australia Is A ‘Plaything’ Of World Economic Forces It Can’t Control (Guardian)

Australia is a “plaything” of forces it cannot control as the world economy heads into another phase of the global financial crisis, according to the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. The “remarkable” flow of overseas money into the economy in recent years had created a “false sense of well-being”, he said, but the economy needed to change direction quickly to avert a crisis. Varoufakis, who quit as finance minister after a tumultuous six months in charge of the near-bankrupt Greek economy, taught economics at Sydney University for 12 years up to 2000 before he returned to Europe in dismay at Australia’s turn to the right under John Howard. The economist, who has dual Greek and Australian citizenship and whose daughter lives in Sydney, said Australia had become “complacent” about the health of its economy.

The Sydney and Melbourne housing boom, where price growth has been in double figures, was particularly alarming, said Varoufakis, who is in Australia for a short speaking tour. “Australia – especially Sydney and Melbourne – has always insulated itself from facts about the world. Aided and abetted by the remarkable flow of capital towards the property market in Sydney and Melbourne, it has created a false sense of wellbeing,” he told the Guardian. “People have always said to me that Australia is immune to the crisis because during the good times money has come as an investment. Then if things go wrong the rich Chinese will emigrate here and bring their dosh with them.” But Australia had become a “plaything of forces out of its control”, he said, and risked an economic shock as the credit bubble created by China in the wake of the global financial crisis began to deflate.

“The crisis of 2008 won’t go away. It is a unified, solid crisis, although it is metamorphisising and changing. Between the 80s and 2008 the world economy was fuelled by US debt, then financialisation [the huge increase in credit] which created a pyramid of money which collapsed in 2008. “The world economy lost its capacity to create demand for factories, but China reacted by creating a huge bubble. They were hoping the west would stabilise but it didn’t because America is ungovernable and Europe even more so.” After his bruising experience trying to face down the might of Germany, the ECB, the EU and the IMF, Varoufakis has become an outspoken critic of economic policy. He has described the settlement imposed on Greece in July as doomed to failure and will “go down in history as the greatest disaster of macroeconomic management ever”.

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And they’re thinking of making him PM?

‘Terrible’ Public Finance Figures Heap Pressure On UK Chancellor (Ind.)

The weakest set of October public finance figures for six years has given George Osborne a serious headache ahead of next week’s Autumn Statement. The borrowing figures for last month came in well above expectations, meaning the Chancellor is likely to fall short of his budget deficit reduction target set by the Office for Budget Responsibility only in July. Borrowing shot up to £8.2bn for the month – £1.1bn higher than the same month last year. Most City experts had pencilled in a £1.1bn fall to £6bn. The last time the Government borrowed more in an October was in 2009, when the deficit for the month was £9.6bn and the economy was still mired in recession. The figures are the latest in a run of disappointments in the monthly public finances. In the seven months of the financial year so far, cumulative borrowing is £54.3bn.

Although 10.9% below last year, it means the Chancellor needs a minor miracle to hit the Office for Budget Responsibility’s £69.5bn deficit target for the full year. Analysts said it was likely the OBR would revise up its full-year 2015-16 deficit forecast next month and that the deterioration would make the Chancellor’s job of mitigating his controversial tax credit cuts more difficult. “A critical question will be to what extent the OBR believes that this has implications for the fiscal targets further out,” said Howard Archer of IHS Global Insight. Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the deficit could hit £80bn this year, adding that the “terrible borrowing figures provide a grim backdrop to the Autumn Statement”. He said: “Barring revisions, borrowing would have to be an implausible 48% lower year-over-year in the second half of this fiscal year for the official forecast to be met.”

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The horse has long bolted. It’ll take many years to repair that door.

Is It Time To Close The Door To Foreign Buyers Of British Property? (Guardian)

A global super-rich elite, some of them criminal, are snapping up property in Britain, pushing up costs for all of us and throwing the poor to the edge of the cities. Rampant landlordism is dividing Britain into a nation of housing haves and have-nots. Tax breaks for buy-to-lets are still too generous. Tenants are in despair. Many young people will never be able to buy their own home. This, extraordinarily, is not the language of some lefty academic or pressure group, but comes from the heart of the Conservative party in a new report by the Bow Group, the oldest Tory thinktank in the UK, which styles itself as the “intellectual home to conservatives”. It is a dramatic repudiation of decades of thinking in the Conservative party.

These are the people who have, until now, equated rising house prices with wealth and prosperity, and who have profited enormously from buy-to-let and billions in foreign cash. But the Bow Group now recognises that Britain’s housing market is broken – and its prescription for reform may stagger traditional Tory supporters. It turns conventional thinking on its head by saying the solution to Britain’s housing crisis is not millions of new homes, as so many argue, but cutting demand. The report’s author, Daniel Valentine, traces the phenomenal increase in house price inflation to the mid-1990s when three factors came together: a sudden surge in population growth, the explosion in buy-to-let lending, and the entry of China and Russia into the global economy, producing a global elite seeking a safe home for their cash.

These factors have corrupted the market, creating an insatiable “investment demand” divorced from the underlying needs of the people of Britain. Foreign buyers now own close to 10% of the UK’s housing stock, he claims, and, unchecked, will gobble up much more, increasingly in Manchester, Edinburgh and other regional cities. With the global financial elite numbering at least 15 million, “increasing housing supply can never bring down prices, no matter how much public land and green belt is turned into flats, because the demand for investment returns is almost infinite.” The accepted wisdom is that Chinese billionaires buying in Belgravia have no impact on Bromley or Birmingham. Not so, says the report, citing academic studies that prove that top-end buyers pull up prices through the entire market.

The Bow Group’s solution? To follow the example of Denmark, Switzerland and Australia and make it much tougher for foreign buyers to snap up homes as investment vehicles. It is astonishing that we allow, for example, millionaires in Singapore to buy land and property in Britain, but Singapore bars British and other foreign nationals from buying in their country. Denmark prohibits non-EU nationals from buying a home unless they have lived in the country for five years – and, like Finland and Malta, is allowed by the EU to restrict EU citizens from buying second homes in the country.

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“Yes, it’s happened before. (See European Jews and World War II.) It was not our finest hour.”

A Nation Of Immigrants Wants To Close Its Doors (MarketWatch)

Close the borders! Deny refugees from war-torn Syria asylum in the U.S.! Pass a bill to provide a safe haven to Syrian Christians, not Syrian Muslims! Such knee-jerk reactions to the multipronged terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday only exacerbated the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump may be the loudest proponent of build-a-wall and ship-’em-back, but evidence of the expanding reach of Islamic State has won him many converts. So far 28 governors have said they will refuse to accept Syrian refugees in their states. (It’s not clear they have the legal authority to deny refugees entry to a particular state once they have been admitted to the U.S.) Another 20 are lobbying for increased screening. Congressional leaders have called for a suspension of President Barack Obama’s announced program to settle 10,000 Syrian refugees in fiscal 2016.

The 2,150 Syrian refugees that have been admitted to the U.S. so far have undergone extensive background checks, including biometric screening, a process that can take years, according to the Obama administration. To deny these victims of ISIS terror entry to the U.S. is, quite frankly, un-American. Yes, it’s happened before. (See European Jews and World War II.) It was not our finest hour. U.S. authorities do need to practice smarter security and improve screening procedures in light of the heightened risk. Have you ever wondered how many terrorists the Transportation Security Agency has nabbed asking travelers, “Did you pack your own bags?” As a nation of immigrants, the U.S. reaps considerable benefits from foreigners who come here to live and work.

Consider some statistics from the Kauffman Foundation, which focuses on entrepreneurship:
• More than 40% of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children;
• Between 2006 and 2012, one quarter of all technology and engineering startups had at least one immigrant founder.
• Immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Americans to become entrepreneurs;
• Immigrant entrepreneurs accounted for 28.5% of all new entrepreneurs in the U.S. last year, up from 13.3% in 1997.

Small companies, especially startups, are responsible for most, if not all, of the job growth in the U.S. To the extent that immigrants are drawn to entrepreneurship, they are a big plus. You may have heard it said that immigrants steal jobs from American citizens. (You can substitute “machines” or “automation” for immigrants.) This is one of those silly ideas that persists despite evidence to the contrary. So prevalent is the notion that immigrants and innovation steal jobs that economists have a name for it: the lump of labor fallacy. It’s based on the false idea that there is a fixed amount of work in an economy, to be divided up among the pool of workers. This discredited notion inspired France to implement a 35-hour workweek in 2000, widely considered to be a failure. While the official 35-hour workweek still exists — most businesses apply for an exemption — it has failed to reduce unemployment in France.

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Very thoroughly. The rest is all just fearmongering.

How Refugees Are Selected, Vetted, And Settled In The United States (Quartz)

Who are the refugees coming to the US? Every year, the President, in consultation with Congress, determines how many refugees should come into the U.S. In FY16, the ceiling is 85,000, up from 70,000 last year. They come from diverse areas. The largest groups of refugees the U.S. received last year came from Iraq, Burma, Somalia and Bhutan. In the past five years, the U.S. has received less than 2,500 Syrian refugees, most of whom were women and children.

How does the vetting process work? The vetting process for each refugee is highly rigorous, and usually takes two to three years to complete. Refugees first have to prove that they are actually refugee by registering and being accepted by the United Nations’s refugee agency overseas. This means they have to have a well-founded fear of persecution based on five specific grounds: nationality, race, religion, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. A small number of those registered—the most vulnerable cases—are referred to the U.S to be considered for resettlement. Only those who cannot return home or locally integrate in the country of asylum are referred for resettlement.

The US State Department’s Resettlement Support Center then collects biographical information and personal data for security clearance. The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the Department of Defense and multiple intelligence agencies then work together to carry out multiple security screenings based on biometric and biographic data, photographs, and other background information over a period that lasts on average 18 to 24 months. Any refugee who is deemed to pose a threat to our national security is denied. Syrian refugees also undergo “enhanced reviews” in which specially trained officers examine each case biography for accuracy and authenticity. In addition to these security checks, every single refugee is interviewed face-to-face by a Department of Homeland Security official and must undergo a medical screening.

How are refugees resettled in the US? Once refugees are conditionally approved for resettlement, they go through cultural orientation and pay for their own plane tickets to come to the U.S. World Relief, which is one of nine refugee resettlement agencies in the U.S, partners with local communities to help refugees get on their feet upon their arrival. This includes, partnering with local businesses and churches to assist with living arrangements, providing English classes, aiding in their job search, and much more. Refugees have been welcomed all over the country where they have become integrated, and become tax-paying, contributing members of many communities.

This is not to say that we shouldn’t carefully vet refugees, but let’s get the facts first before making generalizations and shutting down a program that has literally saved thousands of lives. To turn our backs on refugees now would betray our nation’s core values to provide refuge for the persecuted and affirm the very message those who perpetrate terrorism are trying to send.

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Nothing funnier than the truth: “Mr Erdogan at one point referred to Mr Juncker as the former premier of Luxembourg, “a country the size of a Turkish city”.

EU-Turkey Refugee Talks Turn Sour As Erdogan Belittles Juncker

The potential deal between the EU and Turkey to stem the migrant flow to Europe is floundering as Ankara pushes Brussels to deliver on a multibillion-euro aid package and other elements of the bargain. The challenge of completing the deal, hammered out in a month of negotiations, was underlined at a difficult meeting on Monday between EU officials and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to people familiar with the talks, Mr Erdogan balked as Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the respective presidents of the European Commission and Council, pressed him for a timetable for measures intended to discourage migrants in Turkey from continuing their journey to Europe. These include tighter border controls and awarding work rights to 2m Syrian refugees.

One official familiar with the discussion said the meeting turned “sour” as Mr Erdogan demanded that Europe move first on its pledges. Ankara is seeking €3bn in financial support, regular Turkey-EU summits, and a clear political path to open several chapters in stalled EU membership talks. There was also disagreement as to whether a planned EU assistance package covered one or two years. According to another European official briefed on the meeting, Mr Erdogan at one point referred to Mr Juncker as the former premier of Luxembourg, “a country the size of a Turkish city”. On Thursday, Mr Juncker described the meeting as “sportive and exhausting”. German and other EU officials are convinced Mr Erdogan has the ability to sharply cut the outflow from Turkey and want to see tangible results by the end of the year. But it remains unclear how much Turkey can actually do to make that happen, even if it reaches an agreement with the EU.

Frans Timmermans, the commission’s vice-president, went to Ankara on Thursday to try to rescue the plan with Feridun Sinirlioglu, Turkey’s foreign minister. It was supposed to have been fleshed out and formally signed off at an EU-Turkey summit on November 29. Mr Juncker said the discussions with Mr Timmermans showed the will of “both sides to get closer together”. Thursday’s talks helped to steady the situation but diplomats worry that difficulties with Mr Erdogan may jeopardise the final sign-off. “We don’t want a summit for the sake of a summit,” said one Turkish official. “We have to see they are serious.” One European diplomat said the “tough exchange of views” underlined how difficult it was to negotiate with Turkey — particularly at a time when some member states are desperate for assistance with the crisis and have a weak bargaining position. “They are trying to exploit this situation in a way that some countries find unacceptable,” he said.

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Angela better stop the ugly side of Germany from rising from its ashes.

Merkel Slowly Changes Tune on Refugee Issue (Spiegel)

In early September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued an order to bring thousands of refugees who were stranded in Hungary to Germany. Germany’s basic right to asylum has no upper limits, she said. It was a moment of unaccustomed conviction from a chancellor who had become notorious for her ability to avoid making decisions until the last possible moment. But she went even further. She equated the refugee issue with other significant turning points in the history of her party, the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU). Issues such as West Germany’s integration into Western alliances and Kohl’s commitment to keeping nuclear weapons stationed in West Germany in the 1980s. It was as though she were elevating her refugee policy into the pantheon of Christian Democratic basic principles.

And she didn’t even bother to inform the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), before doing so. Now, though, Merkel is in the process of preparing a reversal of her refugee policy. At the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey at the beginning of the week, she spoke of quotas – fixed numbers of refugees that Europe is willing to accept. On the one hand, of course, introduction the idea of quotas is a concession to reality, because the chancellor knows that the ongoing arrival to Germany of up to 10,000 refugees every day is not sustainable. But the change is also a silent capitulation to her critics. Horst Seehofer, the head of the CSU, and Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière are now setting the tone in Germany’s refugee policy, and the Paris terrorist attacks have only given them more leverage.

Seehofer and de Maizière have been calling for an upper limit on immigration for months. “Quota” is simply a different word for the same thing. Merkel is in a tight spot. She made the right decision by accepting the desperate refugees who set out from Budapest for Germany on foot in early September. But in the period that followed, the dimensions of the inflow kept growing and Merkel never conveyed the message that Germany’s capacity is limited. Even the coming winter has not stopped the flow of refugees, and leading conservatives are now more openly questioning the efficacy and wisdom of Merkel’s plan to limit immigration by combating the underlying causes of migration. For many, the notion of Germany serving as an intermediary and arbiter of global crises borders on megalomania.

Even though she is still publicly sticking to her rhetoric, Merkel has been on the retreat for about two weeks. Leading CDU parliamentarians received the first signs of her change of heart in early November, when they met with her at the Chancellery. In the meeting, the chancellor clearly promised that she would support a reduction in refugee numbers, says one of the attendees. “I cannot guarantee that you will already see a change in the coming weeks,” the attendee said, quoting Merkel. But she also said that the current situation could not continue as it was.

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It’ll be well over 1 million by year’s end.

Over 900,000 Migrants Arrived In Germany This Year (Reuters)

More than 900,000 migrants have been registered in Germany since the beginning of the year, the Bavarian Interior Ministry said on Friday. “The number of 900,000 was surpassed in the nationwide registration system last night,” a spokesman for Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said. The federal government had forecast that some 800,000 refugees would arrive in Germany this year, but senior politicians have said there could be as many as 1 million new arrivals.

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