Apr 042019
 
 April 4, 2019  Posted by at 9:01 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Nude on a beach 1929

 

Lack Of Redundancies On Boeing 737 MAX Baffles Its Developers (ST)
Trolling the Mueller Report (WSJ Op-ed)
Mueller Investigators Say Findings More Damaging To Trump Than Barr Has Let On
Comey Says He Fears Possible Counterinvestigation After Mueller Report (Pol.)
US Senators Want Stiff Sanctions To Deter Russia Election Meddling (R.)
Maybe Politics Matters After All (John Rubino)
Economist: Brexit Will Happen And Trump Fans Are ‘Economically Illiterate’ (FN)
UK MPs Back Brexit Delay Bill By One Vote (BBC)
No Deal Brexit Measures Needed To Keep Planes In Air And Troops On Ground (G.)
Top Labour Figures Demand Corbyn Secure Referendum (Ind.)
IMF Warns That Tech Giants Stifle Innovation And Threaten Stability (G.)
Next Phase in Trucking Boom-Bust Cycle Has Started (WS)
‘Excluding Everything That Makes China What It Is’ (Crooke)

 

 

Let’s start with the Seattle Times, because this article strongly hints that Boeing’s problems cannot possibly be solved with a software tweak. It’s a hardware issue as much as anything else. Cutting corners until there’s no corner left. And well over 300 people lost their lives due to this.

“Normal” planes have 3×3 sensors. The 737MAX effectively has one. And it was known to fail.

Lack Of Redundancies On Boeing 737 MAX Baffles Its Developers (ST)

Boeing has long embraced the power of redundancy to protect its jets and their passengers from a range of potential disruptions, from electrical faults to lightning strikes. The company typically uses two or even three separate components as fail-safes for crucial tasks to reduce the possibility of a disastrous failure. Its most advanced planes, for instance, have three flight computers that function independently, with each computer containing three different processors manufactured by different companies. So even some of the people who have worked on Boeing’s new 737 MAX airplane were baffled to learn that the company had designed an automated safety system that abandoned the principles of component redundancy, ultimately entrusting the automated decision-making to just one sensor — a type of sensor that was known to fail.

Boeing’s rival, Airbus, has typically depended on three such sensors. “A single point of failure is an absolute no-no,” said one former Boeing engineer who worked on the MAX, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the program in an interview with The Seattle Times. “That is just a huge system engineering oversight. To just have missed it, I can’t imagine how.” Boeing’s design made the flight crew the fail-safe backup to the safety system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS.

A faulty reading from an angle-of-attack sensor (AOA) — used to assess whether the plane is angled up so much that it is at risk of stalling — is now suspected in the October crash of a 737 MAX in Indonesia, with data suggesting that MCAS pushed the aircraft’s nose toward Earth to avoid a stall that wasn’t happening. Investigators have said another crash in Ethiopia this month has parallels to the first. [..] one problem with two-point redundancies is that if one sensor goes haywire, the plane may not be able to automatically determine which of the two readings is correct, so Boeing has indicated that the MCAS safety system will not function when the sensors record substantial disagreement.

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The Wall Street Journal counterbalances the NYT and WaPo.

Trolling the Mueller Report (WSJ Op-ed)

Democrats are still reeling from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusion that the Trump campaign did not collude with Russians in 2016. But they’ve now hit upon a political comeback strategy: Accuse Attorney General William Barr of a coverup. That’s the context for Wednesday’s decision by House Democrats to authorize subpoenas, on a partisan vote, demanding that Mr. Barr immediately hand over the entire Mueller report and its supporting evidence. This is intended to give the impression, abetted by a press corps that was fully invested in the collusion story, that Mr. Barr is somehow lying about Mr. Mueller’s real conclusions. That’s preposterous, since Mr. Barr’s four-page letter quotes directly from Mr. Mueller’s report.

The AG surely understood on releasing the summary of conclusions last week that he would be open to contradiction by Mr. Mueller if he took such liberties. Mr. Barr also knew he’d be called to testify before Congress once the rest of the report is released. Mr. Barr has committed to releasing as much of the report as possible subject to Justice Department rules. He’s working with the special counsel’s office to make redactions required by grand-jury rules of secrecy, intelligence sources and methods, ongoing investigations, and “the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties.” Under Justice rules relating to special counsels, Mr. Barr has no obligation to provide anything beyond notifying Congress when an investigation has started or concluded, and whether the AG overruled a special counsel’s decisions.

Mr. Barr’s notice to Congress that Mr. Mueller had completed his investigation said Mr. Mueller was not overruled. Congress has no automatic right to more. The final subparagraph of DOJ’s rule governing special counsels reads: “The regulations in this part are not intended to, do not, and may not be relied upon to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity, by any person or entity, in any matter, civil, criminal or administrative.” Mr. Barr has made clear that he appreciates the public interest in seeing as much of Mr. Mueller’s report as possible. Yet his categories of information for review aren’t frivolous or political inventions. The law protecting grand-jury secrecy is especially strict, as even Democrats admit.

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Glenn Greenwald tweets about this:

Trump/Russia conspiracists are like zombies: the dream can’t die. Their new hope is a) anonymously sourced, b) bereft of even one specific, c) irrelevant to *conspiracy* as opposed to obstruction & d) unrelated to the fact that Mueller indicted *zero* Americans for conspiracy

[..] Mueller could have concluded he thinks Trump was guilty of obstruction, but chose not to. He could have alleged a Trump/Russia conspiracy, or could have charged Trump officials & family members with conspiring with Russia, but didn’t. These last-gasp efforts don’t change that.

[..] Anyway, we’ve had 3 years of anonymously-sourced “bombshells” journalists spend 16-24 hours tiring themselves out celebrating on Twitter, only for it to fizzle into nothing (ie: no indictments from Mueller for conspiring with Russia). Why not have one more? An addict’s last fix.:

Mueller Investigators Say Findings More Damaging To Trump Than Barr Has Let On

The conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation are more damaging to President Donald Trump than Attorney General William Barr has revealed, the New York Times reported late Wednesday. The Times said some investigators who were part of the probe are frustrated that Barr has undersold the findings, which may be creating a misleading narrative that could be hard to overcome if and when the full report is released. The sources did not specify how they believe the report is more damaging to Trump. The investigators told the Times that they had written numerous summaries of their main conclusions, which were not included in Barr’s summary of the report. Barr said the report found no collusion between Trump and Russia, but did not exonerate Trump on the issue of obstruction of justice. House Democrats have pressed Barr to release the full report, but Barr claims parts of it needs to be redacted first for security reasons.

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It would be crazy if there isn’t one.

Comey Says He Fears Possible Counterinvestigation After Mueller Report (Pol.)

Former FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday condemned President Donald Trump’s calls for a possible investigation into how special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia inquiry started, adding that it creates a troubling precedent. During an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Comey was asked about whether he feared possible counterinvestigations. “I don’t fear it personally. I fear it as a citizen,” he said. “Right? Investigate what? Investigate that investigations were conducted? What would be the crime you’d be investigating? So it’s a terrible cycle to start.” Several days after Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Mueller’s report, Trump and his team have called for investigations into how the probe began.


“Hopefully, somebody is going to look at the other side,” Trump told reporters late last month. The president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has also made similar statements. On Tuesday, Trump continued to advocate for an examination of how the FBI and Mueller investigations began. “I hope they now go and take a look at the origins of the investigation, the beginnings of the investigation,” the president told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “You look at the origin of the investigation, where it started, how it started, who started it.” “Whether it‘s [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe or Comey or a lot of them, where does it go? How high up in the White House did it go?“ Trump continued, calling on reporters to investigate the origins of Mueller‘s probe, even dangling the prospect of a Pulitzer Prize to journalists in the room.

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Whatever powers these people have should be taken away from them. Both sides of the aisle want war with Russia.

US Senators Want Stiff Sanctions To Deter Russia Election Meddling (R.)

U.S. Republican and Democratic senators introduced legislation on Wednesday seeking to deter Russia from meddling in U.S. elections by threatening stiff sanctions on its banking, energy and defense industries and sovereign debt. The “Deter Act” is the latest effort by U.S. lawmakers to increase pressure on Moscow over what they see as a range of bad behavior, from its aggression in Ukraine and involvement in Syria’s civil war to attempts to influence U.S. elections. The measure was introduced by Senators Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican. They offered a similar measure last year, when it also had bipartisan support but was never brought up for a vote by the Senate’s Republican leaders, who have close ties to President Donald Trump.

Trump has gone along with some previous congressional efforts to increase sanctions on Russia, although sometimes reluctantly. Backers of stronger action against Russia believe such measures will have better prospects in 2019, given control of the House of Representatives by Democrats, who are less reluctant than Trump’s fellow Republicans to push back against the White House. According to details of the legislation, first reported by Reuters, it would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to determine, within 30 days of any federal election, whether Russia or other foreign government or anyone acting as an agent of that government, had engaged in election interference.

If the DNI found such interference occurred, the act would require, among other things, that mandatory sanctions be imposed within 10 days on, among others, Russian banks and energy companies. The act would mandate that sanctions be imposed on two or more of the following Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank and Rosselkhozbank. It also would order the prohibition of all transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Russian sovereign debt, Russian government bonds and the debt of any entity owned or controlled by Russia’s government.

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Very-long-time Automatic Earth friend John Rubino has a series of reasons why politics matter.

Maybe Politics Matters After All (John Rubino)

Looking strictly at the numbers it’s hard to work up much interest in whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge after 2020. Either way, trillion-dollar deficits and extremely easy money are guaranteed, which means the US – along with most of the rest of the world – will fall off a financial cliff shortly. After that, the only non-financial issue that will matter is war – and both parties seem about equally bloodthirsty these days. However, after the November congressional elections — in which Democrats with, ahem, assertive ideas and attitudes did extremely well — proposing big, potentially transformative change now looks like the best way to cut through the media clutter and gain a following.

So the Democrat base has lost its fear of the “S” word and is now embracing a list of policies that are designed to lock in their dominance for a generation, but which carry myriad unintended consequences. If the Dems were in charge today, there’s a good chance that they would: Make Washington D.C. a state This is a no-brainer for Democrats. Since DC voters skew liberal (no surprise for people who by and large work for the government), making it a state adds two guaranteed votes in the Senate and several solid votes in the House. That alone might be enough to tip the balance on many votes.

[..] The math of elector apportionment gives more per-capita clout to small states as a way of protecting them from the whims of the large. Without this advantage, according to fans of the Electoral College, candidates would ignore Wyoming and Rhode Island and spend all their time in population centers like Los Angeles and Dallas. Subsequent governments would favor big states over small; good luck to Nevada if it has a water dispute with California. In short, without the Electoral College, flyover country is toast. But with the Electoral College it’s possible to win the most votes and still lose the election, as has happened a couple of times recently to the Dems. As the following chart shows, a majority of Democrats would abolish the College while Republicans would keep it.

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The City sees itself as immune.

Economist: Brexit Will Happen And Trump Fans Are ‘Economically Illiterate’ (FN)

The received wisdom within the City is that Brexit will cause widespread disruption to the Square Mile. But according to Dr Savvas Savouri, chief economist at Toscafund Asset Management, the $4bn London-based investment firm, so great is the extent of foreign investment in UK companies that leaving the EU carries no risk for the City at all. In an interview with Financial News at Toscafund’s Covent Garden office, when asked what is the biggest risk posed by Brexit to London’s finance industry, the abrasive and outspoken economist replied: “Nothing. The whole point about Brexit is there’s too much insurable interest in the UK across Europe for it to fail [for the UK and the EU not to form an agreement]. Ireland would go into immediate deep recession, so would Spain, Malta, Greece and Cyprus.”


An IMF study in August estimated that a scenario where the UK leaves the customs union and single market, and trades with the EU on WTO terms — an orderly version of a no-deal Brexit — would impose long-term costs on Ireland of 4% of output, and between 0.2% and 0.5% on countries such as Spain and Greece. Economists have warned that a disorderly Brexit would likely hit such countries even harder. “They know a bad Brexit would undermine the pound, a currency in which they have large holdings,” Savouri said. Warming to his theme, he added that the lack of short interest in European stocks exposed to the UK suggests investors are not particularly worried about a crash-out Brexit. “The people in finance who tell you they’re worrying about Brexit are not putting their money where their mouth is.”

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The most dangerous majority on earth.

UK MPs Back Brexit Delay Bill By One Vote (BBC)

MPs have voted by a majority of one to force the prime minister to ask for an extension to the Brexit process, in a bid to avoid any no-deal scenario. Labour’s Yvette Cooper led the move, which the Commons passed in one day. The bill will need Lords approval to become law, while it is the EU who decides whether to grant an extension. It comes as talks between Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to end the Brexit deadlock are set to continue. Discussions between the two leaders on Wednesday were described as “constructive”, but were criticised by MPs in both parties.


Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested that he expects Brussels to insist on a lengthy delay to Brexit and described a public vote to approve any final deal as “a perfectly credible proposition”. Ms Cooper’s attempts to prevent a no-deal departure from the EU passed by 313 votes to 312. The draft legislation by the former Labour minister would force the prime minister to ask the EU for an extension to the Article 50 process beyond 12 April and would give Parliament the power to decide the length of this delay.

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Yup. They voted down No Deal again, and the press keeps talking about what happens under a No Deal.

No Deal Brexit Measures Needed To Keep Planes In Air And Troops On Ground (G.)

Cabinet ministers were told they must agree emergency contingency plans to keep planes flying to North America and Australia, as well as keeping British troops legally in Bosnia, in case the EU forces a no-deal exit. Before their marathon cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the cabinet secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, briefed ministers that major security and commercial decisions would need to be completed if Brussels rejected Theresa May’s plan to ask for a short extension to article 50. A cabinet source said the decisions were likely to result in large costs to the taxpayer and that decisions would also need to be taken on direct rule in Northern Ireland and payment of the UK’s £39bn divorce bill to the EU.

Among the decisions outlined in a 14-page document handed to ministers in Downing Street were: • New agreements would be required for air services with Canada, the US and Australia. • British troops in Bosnia currently serving as part of an EU force would need to be placed under Nato command. • Negotiations would need to be urgently completed on a future fisheries agreement so that EU fishing boats could be expelled from British waters. Sedwill, the UK’s highest-ranking civil servant, is said to have warned cabinet ministers that some of the biggest decisions were likely to be very difficult to reverse, because they involved international agreements.

The warnings from Sedwill, who is also May’s national security adviser, follow an earlier letter he wrote to ministers warning that no deal would lead to food price rises and a reduction in security capacity. The 14-page leaked letter, obtained on Monday by the Daily Mail, said no deal would result in the reintroduction of direct rule in Northern Ireland. Sedwill also warned that the UK would face a recession “more harmful” than the 2008 financial crisis and that food prices could increase by up to 10%. He wrote that it was possible that the government would come under pressure to bail out companies facing collapse due to the barriers to trade with the EU and that security services and police would face a reduction in their capabilities.

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May would be done if she’d give in.

Top Labour Figures Demand Corbyn Secure Referendum (Ind.)

Labour is on the brink of a major bust-up if Jeremy Corbyn fails to demand a second referendum as the price for any Brexit deal struck with Theresa May. A string of senior figures – including shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry – believe securing a public vote is an absolute must, while 11 MPs, including four frontbenchers, have written an open letter to Mr Corbyn in The Independent saying “it would be untenable for Labour not to insist” on one. As Mr Corbyn was in the prime minister’s office holding the talks, one of his party’s biggest trade union backers also endorsed a motion calling for a confirmatory referendum on any deal.


But key individuals on the Labour side of the talks indicated a new vote may not be one of his asks, with one shadow cabinet member attending having stated hours earlier that a deal endorsed by the party would not need a referendum. It comes despite Labour, and indeed Mr Corbyn himself, backing a motion in the House of Commons days ago which called for a referendum on any Brexit plan passed by parliament.

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Yeah, we really trust the IMF in everything they say.

IMF Warns That Tech Giants Stifle Innovation And Threaten Stability (G.)

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the market power exercised by a small number of global companies threatens to stifle innovation and make it harder for central banks to deal with recessions. Adding its contribution to the growing public debate about the corporate power exercised by the US tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, the IMF said it would be concerned if there was any further increase in the clout of already dominant firms. The IMF said there was a need for stronger competition policy to ensure that established firms did not block the entry of potential rivals and called for excess profits to be targeted by a tougher international tax regime.

Although the study contained in the IMF’s forthcoming World Economic Outlook (WEO) did not mention any company by name, it said the past two decades had seen the concentration of market power among a small number of productive and innovative firms. Market concentrations tended to be higher in the US than in Europe, the IMF said, and in part reflected the growth of firms that exploited intangible assets. “Over the past two decades, a generally moderate but broad-based rise in corporate market power has been observed across advanced economies, driven primarily by a small fraction of firms.”

The chapter from the WEO noted that the big-picture economic implications of the trend had so far been “rather modest” and that the impact of rising market power on innovation had so far been positive. But the IMF said impact would become “increasingly negative if the market power of high mark-up firms, in particular, were to continue to rise in the future.”

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Just a cycle?!

Next Phase in Trucking Boom-Bust Cycle Has Started (WS)

This is one of the most cyclical industries, with legendary boom-and-bust cycles: Orders for Class-8 trucks plunged 67% in March compared to March last year, to 15,200 orders, the lowest March for orders since 2010, according to FTR Transportation Intelligence. These are the heavy trucks that haul consumer goods, equipment, commodities, and supplies across the US. This plunge comes after orders had already plunged 58% year-over-year in February and January and 43% in December. The chart shows the percent change of Class-8 truck orders for each month compared to the same month a year earlier. The year-over-year collapse in orders over the past four months are of the same or greater magnitude as those during the last transportation recession in 2015 and 2016:

The recipients of these orders are the truck manufacturers Peterbuilt and Kenworth (divisions of Paccar); Navistar International; Freightliner and Western Star (divisions of Daimler); and Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks (divisions of Volvo Group). The industry is notorious for over-ordering, which then, once these trucks are built, leads to overcapacity, at which point freight rates take a hit. Trucking companies see this coming and slash their orders in advance. Hence the bust that inevitably follows the boom. The last transportation recession in 2015 and 2016 led to waves of layoffs at truck and engine manufacturers. But at the moment, truck manufacturers are sitting on what was a historic backlog of orders dating from the phenomenal boom that peaked last August at 52,400 orders, as this chart of total monthly class-8 truck orders shows (data via FTR):

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Alastair’s starting to feel goal-seeked. Like many Belt&Road views.

‘Excluding Everything That Makes China What It Is’ (Crooke)

In the past few weeks, we have witnessed a mini ‘Belt & Road’ unfolding across the northern Middle East – linking Iran to Iraq, to Syria, and to Lebanon – a ‘Belt and Road’ that, it is envisaged, ultimately will be assimilated into China’s greater BRI project. And – as telling – Lebanon, the eternal weathervane for the Middle East wind direction, seems to be cutting a 500-year-old umbilical linking it to Rome and Europe, to look rather to Moscow (to protect the regions’ Christians, to get its Syrian refugees home to Syria, and to move under President Putin’s protective ‘wing’ in preventing Bolton and Netanyahu from detonating chaos on their patch) – and to China.

More recently, the New Silk Road infrastructure initiative landed squarely in Italy, potentially giving some real substance (i.e. infrastructure) – especially in the case of Sicily – to the notion of a Mediterranean commonality. Both these events are linked by a single motive: How to return autonomy to these states; how to recover at least a modicum of decision-making – and to break free from the strait-jacket of economic stagnation, and the deadweight of stale political shackles. As Christina Lin has noted: “China for one takes the view that security follows economic development, and has made it clear that reconstruction comes before political settlement. It is adopting a regional approach to the Levant and now views Lebanon as a platform for reconstruction in Syria and Iraq”.

[..] Both Italy and the Levant are ‘civilisation-states’ in their own right. They do not need the EU ‘brand’ to reassure them of their status as ‘civilisation-states’. As Lebanon’s former Minister of Economy noted last year, China doesn’t “look at Lebanon as a small country of 4 million citizens, but as a country with huge potential given its geographical location”. The point here is precisely that ‘the West’ is no longer the West. There is the belligerent ‘West’ of Trump, Pence, Bolton and Pompeo – and this is the ‘West’ that is incrementally losing traction across the Middle East, and beyond.

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


Arthur Rothstein Girl at Gee’s bend 1937

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You go tell them they don’t count.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Will she last the week then?

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

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

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

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“the living embodiment of a closed door”

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

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

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

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

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Too much hassle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tulsi Gabbard Takes a Strong Stand For WikiLeaks (CF)

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

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

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

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Warren needs a profile or people will forget about her.

Elizabeth Warren Defends Her Big Tech Breakup Proposal (AT)

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

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

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

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Still waiting for those new laws.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nov 102018
 
 November 10, 2018  Posted by at 10:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Peter Stackpole SophiaLoren in a Manhattan Coffee, NYC 1958

 

Burying the Other Russia Story (WSJ Op-Ed)
No Blue Wave In 2018, But A Tsunami Of Hate (ZH)
Post Mortem (Kunstler)
‘Democrats Won The House But Trump Won The Election’ – And 2020 Is Next (G.)
Federal Court Asks How Sessions Ouster Impacts Lawsuit Challenging Mueller (R.)
Tech’s Big Five Lost A Combined $75 Billion In Market Value On Friday (CNBC)
Yelp Craters As Much As 32% As Advertisers Abandon The Site (CNBC)
Jeremy Corbyn Says Brexit ‘Can’t Be Stopped’ (Ind.)
New Blow To Theresa May As EU Leaders Demand Scrutiny Of Brexit Deal (G.)
US Crude Oil Posts Longest Losing Streak In Over 34 Years (CNBC)
There Will Be An Oil Shortage In The 2020s, Goldman Sachs Says (CNBC)
EU Version Of Budget Would Be Economic ‘Suicide’ For Italy – Tria (CNBC)
US Won’t Refuel Saudi Coalition Planes Bombing Yemen Anymore (RT)
UK Supermarket Anti-Palm Oil Ad Banned For Being Too Political (R.)

 

 

As the post-midterms wars of words escalate, the Wall Street Journal’s editors try to provide some balance.

Burying the Other Russia Story (WSJ Op-Ed)

Arguably the most important power at stake in Tuesday’s election was Congressional oversight, and the most important change may be Adam Schiff at the House Intelligence Committee. The Democrat says his top priority is re-opening the Trump-Russia collusion probe, but more important may be his intention to stop investigating how the FBI and Justice Department abused their power in 2016. So let’s walk through what we’ve learned to date. Credit for knowing anything at all goes to Intel Chairman Devin Nunes and more recently a joint investigation by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (Judiciary) and Trey Gowdy (Oversight).

Over 18 months of reviewing tens of thousands of documents and interviewing every relevant witness, no Senate or House Committee has unearthed evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the presidential election. If Special Counsel Robert Mueller has found more, he hasn’t made it public. But House investigators have uncovered details of a Democratic scheme to prod the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign. We now know that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee hired Fusion GPS, which hired an intelligence-gun-for-hire, Christopher Steele, to write a “dossier” on Donald Trump’s supposed links to Russia.

Mr. Steele fed that document to the FBI, even as he secretly alerted the media to the FBI probe that Team Clinton had helped to initiate. Fusion, the oppo-research firm, was also supplying its dossier info to senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, whose wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion. House investigators have also documented the FBI’s lack of judgment in using the dossier to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page. The four FISA warrants against Mr. Page show that the FBI relied almost exclusively on the unproven Clinton-financed accusations, as well as a news story that was also ginned up by Mr. Steele.

[..] All of which puts an additional onus on Mr. Trump to declassify key FBI and Justice documents sought by Mr. Nunes and other House investigators before Mr. Schiff buries the truth. A few weeks ago Mr. Trump decided to release important documents, only to renege under pressure from Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and members of the intelligence community. Mr. Sessions resigned this week and perhaps Mr. Rosenstein will as well. Meantime, Mr. Trump should revisit his decision and help Mr. Nunes and House Republicans finish the job in the lame duck session of revealing the truth about the misuse of U.S. intelligence and the FISA court in a presidential election.

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What happened to Tucker Carlson’s wife is inexcusable.

No Blue Wave In 2018, But A Tsunami Of Hate

In the early evening following the midterm elections, Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s wife was home alone when she suddenly became startled by a loud thumping at her door. The thumping came from a group of Antifa radicals, whose desire it was to strike terror into the hearts of Carlson’s family. Susan Carlson ran upstairs as the mob that CNN refers to as “protesters” screamed disgusting threats at the Carlson residence, spray-painted the driveway and continued to try to force entry through the front door, which they broke. The only thing seemingly missing from this display of intimidation and hatred were burning tiki torches.

While the radical left seems preoccupied with labeling everyone that disagrees with their political views as white supremacist Nazis, including Israel-loving Middle Eastern women such as myself, threatening displays like this seem awfully similar to the days of the KKK burning crosses on the lawns of blacks they wanted to leave town. That was the message these radicals wanted to send to Tucker Carlson, along with his wife and children, who thank God were not home at the time: leave town and shut up. As someone who has had my own personal address posted publicly by a leftist reporter, the thought of a mother of four hiding in her upstairs closet fearing for her life sends chills down my spine, as it should any decent human being.

How did we get here? Let’s take a trip down memory lane: “Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up … If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” Those were the exact words of Congresswoman Maxine Waters at a rally in June 2018. Waters then doubled down on her calls for intimidation and harassment in an MSNBC interview, declaring that she has “no sympathy” for Trump supporters. “The people are going to turn on them. They’re going to protest. They’re going to absolutely harass them until they decide that they’re going to tell the president, ‘No, I can’t hang with you.’

[..] Former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder recently corrected Michelle Obama’s notion that “when they go low, we go high,” referring of course to anyone who didn’t support her husband’s political agenda. “When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democrat party is all about.” Holder proclaimed to a crowd of cheering supporters. Or how about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement, “You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about. That’s why I believe if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”

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As we’ve said many times: declassify the whole thing.

Post Mortem (Kunstler)

Of course The New York Times is no longer a newspaper in the traditional sense, but an advocacy and propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. They’re pushing this desperate gambit because it’s clear that Mr. Trump is taking the gloves off now in this long-running battle. What’s at stake is whether the DOJ will prosecute the actual and obvious collusion that occurred during and after the 2016 election — namely, the misconduct of the highest DOJ and FBI officials in collusion with the Hillary Clinton campaign to cook up the bogus Russia-gate case, and the subsequent scramble to cover up their activities when Mrs. Clinton lost the election and they realized the evidence trail of this felonious activity would not be shoved down the memory hole by Clinton appointees.

The result has been two years with no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion and two years of DOJ / FBI stonewalling over the release of pertinent documents in the matter. There is already an established and certified evidence trail indicating that James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Bruce and Nellie Ohr, Lisa Page, and others (including former CIA Director John Brennan and former DNI James Clapper) acted illegally in politicizing their offices. Some of these figures have been subject to criminal referrals by the DOJ Inspector General, Mr. Horowitz. Some of them are liable to further criminal investigation Many of them have been singing to grand juries out of the news spotlight.

Whether Mr. Whitaker remains in his new role, or is replaced soon by a permanent AG confirmed by the Senate, the momentum has clearly shifted. The Democrats, and especially the forces still aligned with Hillary, are running scared all of a sudden. Thus, all the bluster coming from party hacks such as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY 10th Dist), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Mr. Nadler takes the gavel of the House Judiciary Committee in January and is promising a three-ring circus of investigations when he does. If the House moves to a quixotic impeachment effort, they will find that to be a dangerous two-way street, since Mr. Trump’s legal team can also introduce testimony in his defense that will embarrass and incriminate the Democrats. Anyway, the Senate is extremely unlikely to convict Mr. Trump in a trial.

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I understand the thinking, but really, Nikki Haley?!

‘Democrats Won The House But Trump Won The Election’ – And 2020 Is Next (G.)

Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center thinktank, said Trump had both won and lost. “There’s a split verdict. The voters who made him came back and he maintained a 46% coalition. He lost the voters he lost two years ago in slightly bigger numbers. The Clinton coalition is strong and growing stronger, but it’s electorally inefficient. Trump has kept his minority coalition together and all he needs is a slight improvement to be assured of re-election.” Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) thinktank on Thursday, Olsen noted the growing percentage of women in the Democratic party and suggested: “I think it’s very likely that Donald Trump will be facing a woman.”

“And if Donald Trump, who’s known to be ruthless to subordinates, wanted to change the odds in his favour, I think he should dump Mike Pence and select [former UN ambassador] Nikki Haley. “The biggest thing that the Democrats continually push, and the media continually push, is that he is a racist and a sexist, and that is one of the things that weighs very heavily on the Rino- [“Republican in name only”] educated person. So you say: ‘I’ve changed America and the person who’s going to continue this is going to be a competent executive who understands foreign policy and ran her state and is a woman of colour, Nikki Haley.’ It will flummox the left.”

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How legal is Mueller’s appointment, and his investigation? If there is genuine doubt, the legal system should speak.

Federal Court Asks How Sessions Ouster Impacts Lawsuit Challenging Mueller (R.)

A federal appeals court that is weighing a legal challenge to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s authority said Friday it wanted to know whether the sudden ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions could impact or change the outcome of how it should rule. The court’s order directed each party in the case to file briefs by Nov. 19 outlining, “what, if any effect, the November 7, 2018 designation of an Acting Attorney General different from the official who appointed Special Counsel Mueller has on this case.” The order came one day after a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments on whether Mueller was unlawfully appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May 2017 and wielded too much power.

The challenge to Mueller’s authority was being brought by Andrew Miller, an associate of President Donald Trump’s long-time political adviser, Roger Stone. Several of Stone’s associates have been subpoenaed by a grand jury in recent months, as part of Mueller’s probe into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia. Miller defied the subpoena in May, was later held in civil contempt, and filed a lawsuit alleging that Mueller’s appointment violated the U.S. Constitution and also that Rosenstein had no authority to hire him. Mueller was named special counsel by Rosenstein after Sessions recused himself from the probe. However, Rosenstein lost his role as Mueller’s supervisor on Wednesday after Trump forced Sessions to resign and replaced him with Matt Whitaker.

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The losses continue to add up.

Tech’s Big Five Lost A Combined $75 Billion In Market Value On Friday (CNBC)

It was a down day for big tech. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook — the five most valuable U.S. tech companies — lost a combined $75 billion in market value on Friday. They led a 1.7 percent drop in the S&P 500 tech index and a similar slide in the tech-heavy Nasdaq. Amazon was the worst performer of the group, dropping 2.4 percent. Stocks fell across the board Friday as declines in oil prices and skepticism about a trade deal with China raised concerns that economic growth is headed for a slowdown. Thursday’s report from the Federal Reserve pointing to future rate hikes compounded worries and sent investors fleeing from tech companies, which are particularly susceptible to swings in the economy.

Tech stocks are coming off their worst month since 2008. The Nasdaq closed October down 9.2 percent, with Amazon and Alphabet leading the decline down 20 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively. Analysts were underwhelmed by recent tech earnings reports, including those from Amazon, Apple and Alphabet. Amazon gave lower-than-expected guidance going into the holiday season and Apple announced it would no longer disclose unit sales for iPhone, iPad and Mac devices.

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Because Google, Facebook have monopolized ads.

Yelp Craters As Much As 32% As Advertisers Abandon The Site (CNBC)

Yelp cratered as much as 32 percent Friday, a day after releasing third-quarter earnings that revealed advertisers are abandoning the site and denting revenue. Shares fell as low as $29.33, a new 52-week low, before paring some losses to close nearly 27 percent down at $31.92. The plunge makes for the stock’s worst day of trading since going public in 2012. Yelp added zero net new advertising customers during the quarter. Yelp earlier this year switched from long-term advertising contracts in local markets to more flexible, nonterm contracts. That change resulted in significant contract cancellations. Though the cancellations were expected, Yelp failed to compensate with lower-than-expected gross customer adds.

The company reported revenue of $241 million for the quarter, just shy of analyst projections of $245 million. “We do not believe that there was any one single factor behind the new sales shortfall relative to our expectations. Instead, a number of smaller, compounding issues arose, including slower-than-expected sales head count growth, a change in advertising promotions, a technical issue in flowing leads to our reps and a lower success rate in contacting business decision-makers by our outbound sales calls,” Chief Financial Officer Charles Baker said on the company’s earnings call.

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Not sure Corbyn defying his own party is all that wise.

Jeremy Corbyn Says Brexit ‘Can’t Be Stopped’ (Ind.)

Jeremy Corbyn has said that Brexit cannot be stopped in a blow to Labour MPs trying to inch the party towards backing a second referendum. The Labour leader’s comments mark a departure from the party’s official position, which leaves the prospect of fresh vote firmly on the table, including the option to remain in the European Union. Labour’s preferred option is to campaign for a general election but as the Brexit talks enter the chaotic final stages, the party is under pressure to soften its stance towards a new public vote. It comes as transport minister Jo Johnson dramatically resigned in protest at Theresa May’s Brexit plan, saying Britain is “barrelling towards an incoherent Brexit” and demanding a Final Say referendum.

Delegates at Labour’s conference in September, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion saying the party “must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”. Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer also received a standing ovation when he told the conference hall that remaining in the EU could be on the ballot paper in a future vote. But tensions remain over the issue, as influential figures such as Unite boss Len McCluskey and shadow chancellor John McDonnell are unenthusiastic about a re-run of the Brexit vote. Labour has agreed to vote down the prime minister’s Brexit deal if it fails to measure up to its tests on jobs and workers’ rights, which senior figures believe could allow Labour to pursue its preferred option – a general election.

In an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Mr Corbyn was asked if he would stop Brexit. He replied: “We can’t stop it. The referendum took place. Article 50 has been triggered. What we can do is recognise the reasons why people voted Leave.” Mr Corbyn said the Brexit vote was triggered by people who were “totally angered” by the way their communities had been left behind. He also indicated he felt sorry for the prime minister over the “impossible task” of reaching agreement with Brussels and uniting the Tory party, Mr Corbyn said: “I am a decent human being, I feel sorry for anyone in distress. But the best way for anyone to alleviate distress is to take yourself away from the source of it.”

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Everyone wants a say, of course they do, both in Europe and in the UK.

New Blow To Theresa May As EU Leaders Demand Scrutiny Of Brexit Deal (G.)

Theresa May has been dealt a blow in the Brexit negotiations by EU leaders ahead of a crunch week during which the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, had been expected to visit Brussels to unveil the negotiated agreement. Ambassadors for the EU27, including France and Germany, told the European commission that they would need to scrutinise any deal reached with the British before it was made public and a special summit called. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has largely been given free rein until now. An “optimistic” timetable would have seen Raab arrive on Tuesday to present the legal text agreed between the commission and the British government.

But during a two-hour meeting with the the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, Sabine Weyand, the member states’ representatives insisted they would not be steamrollered into accepting the agreement secured between the two negotiating teams. They told the commission they would need the best part of a week to go through the text should there be an agreement in a sign of the growing nervousness over the prospect of giving away an all-UK customs union in the withdrawal agreement. The development makes it less likely that a November Brexit summit could be convened. EU officials have privately said that 25 November is the last possible date for a summit, and that it would need to be called early next week to allow preparations in EU capitals. May’s chief Brexit adviser, Olly Robbins, is expected to visit Brussels on Sunday given the lack of time to find agreement.

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Hmmm. China shutting down? Note that this happens as the Iran sanctions are still waiting in the wings.

US Crude Oil Posts Longest Losing Streak In Over 34 Years (CNBC)

U.S. crude prices fell Friday for a 10th consecutive session, sinking deeper into bear market territory and wiping out the benchmark’s gains for the year. The 10-day decline is the longest losing streak for U.S. crude since mid-1984, according to Refinitiv data. Crude futures fell for a fifth straight week as growing output from key producers and a deteriorating outlook for oil demand deepen a sell-off spurred by October’s broader market plunge. The drop marks a stunning reversal from last month, when oil prices hit nearly four-year highs as the market braced for potential shortages once U.S. sanctions on Iran snapped back into place.

“The market’s not tight. I think there are windows where you could perceive it to be tight, and I think the markets got caught into that,” Christian Malek, head of EMEA oil and gas research at J.P. Morgan, told CNBC on Friday. “The reality is that we’re still in a world where we’re overproducing and we’ve got surplus.” U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude settled 48 cents lower at $60.19 on Friday. The contract is now down nearly half a percent this year. It fell as low $59.26 on Friday, its weakest level in about nine months.

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Ha! Help is on the way for Big Oil.

There Will Be An Oil Shortage In The 2020s, Goldman Sachs Says (CNBC)

An oil shortage is coming says Goldman Sachs, because firms cannot fully invest in future production. Global oil majors are increasingly looking to invest in lower-carbon areas of the energy sector, as they react to pressure for cleaner energy, both from government policy and investors. “In the 2020’s we are going to have a clear physical shortage of oil because nobody is allowed to fully invest in future oil production,” Michele Della Vigna, Head of EMEA Natural Resources Research at Goldman Sachs told CNBC Friday. “The low carbon transition will come through higher, not lower oil prices,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

Della Vigna said “Big Oils” are starting to understand that if they want to be widely owned by investors, they need to show that they are serious about minimizing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The Goldman analyst said oil firms only had to look at the steep derating of coal companies over the last 5 years to understand the shift in investor sentiment. Della Vigna said until a transition to full renewables is made, the interim battle will be to own a greater market share of gas-based power. The analyst said with a huge capital cost of gas infrastructure, big state-backed companies looked best placed. “We talk about the new seven sisters emerging, dominating the global oil and gas market because nobody else can finance these mega-projects,” he said.

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Brussels is risking its own powers.

EU Version Of Budget Would Be Economic ‘Suicide’ For Italy – Tria (CNBC)

Brussels and Rome are in a constant back and forth over budget negotiations but analysts told CNBC that it is the markets that matter the most. Officials from the European Union (EU) and Italy have found themselves in a deadlock after the former’s economic forecasts showed the Italian economy would grow at a slower pace in the next two years than Rome thinks. The Italian government was quick to dismiss, blaming the EU for its “inadequate and partial” analysis of the country’s spending plans. These comments came after Brussels said earlier on the day that Italy’s 2019 deficit will reach 2.9 percent and not 2.4 percent as Rome insists.

Both sides have clashed over Italy’s 2019 budget plans after the anti-establishment government promised to increase spending, challenging European fiscal rules. On Friday, Italy’s Economy Minister Giovanni Tria said Brussels’ proposed deficit cuts would be “suicide” for the country’s economy. The unyielding stance from Rome triggered a rise in the yield spread between German and Italian debt, a common measure of risk for European investors. Analysts told CNBC the standoff looks set to continue, and that the EU is laying the ground to open the process that could eventually lead to sanctions — though no EU country has ever been fined for breaching spending limits.

[..] Yields on Italian debt have risen significantly since May — when the two populist parties, Five Star Movement and Lega, joined forces to form the next cabinet. Investors have fretted about the government’s spending plans given that Italy has a massive debt pile — the second largest in the EU at about 130 percent of GDP. In the last seven days alone, the yield on the 10-year Italian bond is up by about 12 basis points. Looking at its performance throughout the year, there has been an increase of about 172 basis points. “The true guardians of fiscal discipline will be, as usual, financial markets,” Lorenzo Codogno, chief economist at LC Macro Advisors said in a note to clients Thursday.

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WIll Khashoggi’s death be good for something after all?

US Won’t Refuel Saudi Coalition Planes Bombing Yemen Anymore (RT)

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen is opting to refuel its aircraft independently going forward, ending a controversial collaboration with US military assets. The Saudi Press agency released a statement on Saturday explaining that the coalition was able to “increase their capacity” for refueling their aircraft and would do so independently going forward. US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis confirmed the decision was made in consultation with the US government. On Friday, Reuters reported, citing unnamed US officials, that Washington considering ending the refueling of coalition aircraft in Yemen, citing both the coalition’s own increased capabilities and growing international outrage over the human consequences of the war in Yemen.

Opposition to US collaboration with the Saudi coalition in Yemen has increased following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of targeting hospitals, water infrastructure, and other civilian targets, and raids on wedding parties and the recent bombing of a school bus have sparked international condemnation. The US and UK have both been criticized for continuing to sell arms to the coalition despite their targeting of civilians and alleged war crimes.

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If ever you want to know who f*cked and f*cked up we are. Supermarkets can sell a million products for which a million acres of rainforests are burned and cut down. But when one of them decides not to play that game, its message is forbidden because it’s too political.

What a lovely Christmas ad. We should have tons of those. And of course you can ask how much of it is aimed at profits, but banning it is insane.

“There’s a human in my forest and I don’t know what to do. He destroyed all of our trees for your food and your shampoo.”

UK Supermarket Anti-Palm Oil Ad Banned For Being Too Political (R.)

British supermarket chain Iceland has been banned from showing its Christmas advert on television because it has been deemed to breach political advertising rules. The discount supermarket company planned to use a Greenpeace-made animated short film, voiced by actress Emma Thompson, called “Rang-tan”, about the destruction of the rainforest caused by palm oil production and its impact on endangered orangutans. Iceland, which earlier this year announced its intention to remove palm oil from its products by the end of 2018, said the film fitted its agenda, leading to its decision to use the film as its Christmas advert.

The film was banned by Clearcast, which is responsible for the clearance of television ads before they are broadcast, on the grounds of it being seen to support a political issue. Under the 2003 Communications Act, an advert is deemed to contravene the bar on political advertising if it is “wholly or mainly of a political nature” or is “directed towards a political end”. Iceland, which trades from 900 stores and specializes in frozen food, said it hoped the advert would raise awareness and improve people’s understanding of rainforest destruction from palm oil production, which it said appears in more than 50 percent of all supermarket products.

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Nov 072018
 


M. C. Escher Drawing hands1948

 

The Investigations Trump Will Face Now That Democrats Control the House (NY)
Paul Ryan On Midterms: ‘Tonight History Has Repeated Itself’ (Hill)
Ex-JP Morgan Trader Pleads Guilty To Manipulating US Metals Markets (CNBC)
Italy’s Battle With Brussels Is About More Than Money (Molinari)
EU Austerity Bias Is To Blame For Budget Standoff With Italy (Ind.)
Wanted: Radical Economist To Boost UK Economy (G.)
EU Stumbles In Plan To Levy 3% Digital Tax On Big Tech Firms (G.)
France Demands New Digital Tax On Tech Giants Should Come This Year (CNBC)
UK Accuses EU Of Brexit Bias As It Refuses To Endorse Aid Spending (G.)
Facial Image Matching System Risks ‘Chilling Effect’ On Freedoms (G.)
The West is Failing Julian Assange (Maurizi)
Recovery Of Endangered Whales Hampered By Humans Long After Hunting (AFP)
Children Urged To Play Outdoors To Cut Risk Of Shortsightedness (G.)

 

 

Yes, they dream of impeachment. Dozens of options. As per this New Yorker piece, even 2 years of Mueller isn’t enough, he must be replaced by a committee.

Likely to happen soon: Sessions, Mueller, maybe Rosenstein to be fired by Trump. And DNC/FBI operatives and activities investigated.

Be careful what you wish for.

The Investigations Trump Will Face Now That Democrats Control the House (NY)


CNN projection at about 3 am EST

There are a half dozen House committees that have the power to investigate Trump—Intelligence, Oversight, Ways and Means, and Judiciary, among others. The chair of any committee—always a member of the majority party—has wide latitude to pursue investigations, issue subpoenas, and compel testimony. The news for the next year or longer seems likely to be dominated by a steady stream of coverage of the people closest to Trump as they testify before Congress under duress, or under a grant of immunity, or coverage of their refusal to speak at all for fear of incriminating themselves. At the same time, there could be regular reports about what the committee staff has found in subpoenaed records—perhaps Trump’s tax returns, his company’s internal financial documents, the records of his various oligarch partners in the former Soviet Union, and e-mails and other digital messages between Trump’s team and people in Russia.

For many Democrats—and quite a few independents and even a few Republicans—this is a gleeful prospect. After two years of feeling powerless, they will see, for the first time, a sustained, powerful check on Trump’s power and a public investigation with teeth and tools. It is hard to imagine that a serious investigation into Trump’s businesses, campaign, and Administration won’t uncover a lot of damaging information. There is, however, something of a split among Democratic Party operatives. I spoke with many of them—most wouldn’t speak on the record about an intraparty battle—and learned that there are two (or maybe three) distinct and contradictory views among influential Democrats.

Many are anxious to get going on these investigations as soon as possible. There is still a real possibility that the President colluded with the Russian government to sway an American election. Furthermore, there is growing evidence that his business and personal conduct has been so questionable that he could be compromised by multiple foreign governments. This is as serious a question as Congress could face, and needs to be investigated. Perhaps Robert Mueller will reveal all the information anyone could want, but maybe he won’t, and Congress cannot leave the investigation of the Administration to a special counsel who is, for all his hard-won independence, still a member of the administrative branch of government.

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Same old same old. It’s about mitigating losses. Obama lost much more. Anywhere from 50-100 GOP Congressmen retired. That’s a huge loss. But they’re mostly moderates, and the new candidates are not.

Paul Ryan On Midterms: ‘Tonight History Has Repeated Itself’ (Hill)

Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) in his final statement as Speaker of the House said “history has repeated itself” this midterm election cycle, adding that “a party in power always faces tough odds in its first midterm election.” The Democrats took back the House on Tuesday night, flipping more than the 23 seats needed to take back control after eight years of a Republican majority. “It is always hard to see friends and good colleagues work so hard and fall short,” Ryan said in the statement. “Yet I’m proud of the campaign that our members and candidates ran in a challenging political environment.” Ryan’s statement noted that the president’s party since 1862 has lost an average of 32 House seats during the midterm elections.

The retiring Wisconsin Republican congratulated Democrats for winning the majority and the Senate Republicans for maintaining theirs. “We don’t need an election to know that we are a divided nation, and now we have a divided Washington,” Ryan added. “As a country and a government, we must find a way to come together to find common ground and build on the successes of this Congress.” Ryan announced earlier this year that he would be retiring in November. The GOP held Ryan’s vacated seat in Wisconsin on Tuesday night, as Republican Brian Steil won a closely watched-race against Democrat Randy Bryce.

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“..he learned this practice from more senior traders and that his supervisors at the firm knew of his actions.”

Ex-JP Morgan Trader Pleads Guilty To Manipulating US Metals Markets (CNBC)

An ex-J.P. Morgan Chase trader has admitted to manipulating the U.S. markets of an array of precious metals for about seven years — and he has implicated his supervisors at the bank. John Edmonds, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of commodities fraud and one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, price manipulation and spoofing, according to a Tuesday release from the U.S. Department of Justice. Edmonds spent 13 years at New York-based J.P. Morgan until leaving last year, according to his LinkedIn account. As part of his plea, Edmonds said that from 2009 through 2015 he conspired with other J.P. Morgan traders to manipulate the prices of gold, silver, platinum and palladium futures contracts on exchanges run by the CME Group.

He and others routinely placed orders that were quickly cancelled before the trades were executed, a price-distorting practice known as spoofing. “For years, John Edmonds engaged in a sophisticated scheme to manipulate the market for precious metals futures contracts for his own gain by placing orders that were never intended to be executed,” Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in the release. Of note for J.P. Morgan, the world’s biggest investment bank by revenue: Edmonds, a relatively junior employee with the title of vice president, said that he learned this practice from more senior traders and that his supervisors at the firm knew of his actions.

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It’s about overeignty.

Italy’s Battle With Brussels Is About More Than Money (Molinari)

The traditional parties – beginning with the biggest ones, the Democratic party and Forza Italia – failed to grasp the magnitude of the discontent, so the political prize went to those politicians who could. In the south it was Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement that prevailed – thanks to its “citizenship income” proposal – a benefit of €780 (£680) a month for the unemployed. In the north it was Matteo Salvini’s League, which backed two horses at the same time: the so-called “flat tax” to help out businesses in difficulty; and a tough approach to migrants. Five Star and the League have clear dividing lines – their geographic base, their economic ideas and their social makeup. But they have one thing in common: hostility to the European Union.

Five Star accuses the EU of being the root cause of Italy’s economic woes, and the League blames it for having abandoned Italy to the migrant crisis. Which explains why, for Di Maio’s supporters as much as for Salvini’s, the current battle with the European commission over the government’s proposed budget, judged by Brussels to violate agreed eurozone spending restraint, is essentially about identity. The standoff is not just about the deficit, the outlook for growth, the failure to bring down Italy’s debt and the absence of reform: its root cause is the coalition’s belief that by revolutionising its relationship with the EU, Italy will be able to win back trust, optimism and a better future.

Hence the current short-circuit between Rome and Brussels. While the commission is trying to negotiate with Giovanni Tria, the minister for the economy, to modify the Italian budget, Salvini’s and Di Maio’s interests lie in a full-frontal confrontation with Europe.

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But it’s still about money…

EU Austerity Bias Is To Blame For Budget Standoff With Italy (Ind.)

[..] How is it that a far-right politician like Salvini, himself no enemy of big finance, can claim that he speaks for those opposing austerity, corporations and inequality? In short, because Europe’s traditional left has failed to do so. Salvini’s primary concern, of course, is not the majority of Italy’s poor. The claim that this is a budget to “abolish poverty” is pure hyperbole. In fact, the disputed budget is a mish-mash of policies aimed at pleasing both parts of the Italian coalition’s social base. For the League, this mean tax cuts on small businesses and the middle class and protection of better-off pensioners. Five Star meanwhile, the gradual introduction of universal basic income is an important, and progressive, element. There’s also some investment – though not enough.

Why does the EU care? The crux of the problem is that Italy wants to spend more than Eurozone rules allow. It’s planning to run a budget deficit equal to 2.4 per cent of GDP, too high, say EU rules, for a government with a debt as big as Italy’s (currently over 131 per cent of GDP). These are the rules of the Eurozone laid down in treaties (but always open to interpretation when it’s convenient). Any monetary union requires rules. On entering such a union, governments accept that they are giving something up – monetary policy – but gaining something else – in this case monetary stability, low interest rates, less exposure to the law of the markets. The problem in the EU is that the rules don’t work for the majority of European citizens, and they are particularly punishing to weaker economies.

After five years of 10 per cent unemployment and low or negative growth, Italy’s government says you have to spend and invest to repair a damaged economy. They compare their programme to that of the New Deal measures of President Roosevelt. This shouldn’t be controversial. But the Eurozone’s rules go in precisely the opposite direction – forcing austerity on stagnant and depressed countries in exactly the way the International Monetary Fund pushed austerity of dozens of developing countries in the 1980s and 90s. This result has been catastrophic in terms of human welfare.

Greece experienced the worst effects. It has experienced an economic collapse longer-lasting than the US’s Great Depression in the 1930s. GDP is still lower than it was in 2007. While unemployment has fallen from 30 per cent, it’s still at nearly 20 per cent, far higher in terms of young people. Wages and pensions have been slashed. Vast swathes of the economy have been sold (to the very financial sector which created the global financial crash), and debt is higher than ever, at 180 per cent of GDP, with payments due for decades into the future.

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A radical who fits the existing mold. Oxymoronic.

Wanted: Radical Economist To Boost UK Economy (G.)

One of the biggest cash prizes in world economics has been launched to find “radical ideas” to reinvigorate the British economy. Launched against a backdrop of deep public distrust in politicians to revitalise the UK economy, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) thinktank has lined up an £150,000 prize fund to uncover fresh ideas. It comes after growth figures revealed at the budget show economic growth in Britain has dropped to among the lowest levels in the G7, while inequality has risen and there are growing pressures on the environment. Believed to be the third-biggest prize in international economics, the new IPPR prize will reward policy solutions to tackle these problems, while forcing a “step change in the quality and quantity of the UK’s economic growth.”

It will include a single main prize of £100,000, placing it among the most lucrative prizes in the economics profession after the 9m Swedish krona (£760,455) Nobel award from the Swedish central bank and the £250,000 Wolfson prize, which was launched in 2011 by the Tory peer and Next chief executive Simon Wolfson. The IPPR economics prize – supported by the prominent Labour donor and Brexit campaigner John Mills – will also have a dedicated under-25s prize worth £25,000, and a runners-up prize pot of £25,000. Mills, who is the founder of the JML electronics company, said that Britain faced a “toxic cocktail of issues that need fresh solutions,” adding that growth has recently been 60% lower than the G20 average. “We are falling further behind every year. Our productivity is poor, levels of investment are meagre, and we cannot pay our way in the world,” he added.

[..] With a deadline of 6 January 2019, entrants for the economics prize will be asked to answer the question: “What would be your radical plan to force a step change in the quality and quantity of the UK’s economic growth?”

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Taxes should not be a priority. Legal issues should be. Monopolies.

EU Stumbles In Plan To Levy 3% Digital Tax On Big Tech Firms (G.)

A European Union plan to tax Google, Facebook and other internet firms risks failure after a handful of member states announced their opposition. EU countries are studying proposals to levy a 3% tax on big internet companies that make money from user data or digital advertising, in a bid to level the playing field with bricks-and-mortar companies that pay more tax. But the idea, which must be agreed unanimously by all 28 member states, is running into serious opposition, as Ireland, Sweden and Denmark made their criticism public on Tuesday.

Germany had initially supported the idea in a joint agreement with France, but is now seeking to water down and delay the proposals, moves that are causing deep frustration in Paris. A dozen countries are moving ahead with their own national digital taxes, with Spain and the UK among the recent converts. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced last week that the UK was prepared to go it alone, with a “narrowly-targeted” digital services tax that is expected to come into force in April 2020 and raise £400m for the exchequer. Opponents to the digital tax fear the wrath of Donald Trump’s White House, which regards the EU’s efforts to ensure “fair taxation” of internet giants as an attack on American companies, a charge the EU rejects.

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This year has less than two months left.

France Demands New Digital Tax On Tech Giants Should Come This Year (CNBC)

The French government has pushed for a new levy on internet giants, such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, in order to make these firms pay what they see as a fairer tax rate in the region. This measure is likely to get some sympathy among voters ahead of next spring’s European elections. However, some technical differences among European countries have not allowed substantial progress on this front. Critics of the new tax also say that it could stifle innovation. “We want the adoption of the directive on digital taxation by the end of this year. This is a clear red line for the French government,” Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister told reporters in Brussels as he prepared to discuss the issue with his European counterparts.

“We are aware there are some technical issues and technical concerns, but these are technical concerns not political problems, so we still have three or four weeks before the next Ecofin (a regular meeting between EU finance ministers) to fix those technical issues,” Le Maire said. “And I will spend day and night with my German friends to find a compromise and to find a solution on those technical issues. But nobody could take advantage of those technical difficulties to avoid its political responsibility,” the French lawmaker added. There are different concerns across Europe regarding a new tax on the digital giants. Some member states believe that such a tax would be harmful for smaller countries, or potentially hurt some traditional industries. Both Ireland and the Netherlands believe the EU should wait for an international approach to avoid looking “anti-business.”

According to data from the European Commission, digital companies pay on average an effective tax rate of 9.5 percent — compared to 23.2 percent for traditional businesses. The EU proposals include a “common EU solution” which would allow member states to tax profits that are generated in their territory, even if these companies do not have a physical presence there.

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Yeah, NGOs are a big priority for May.

UK Accuses EU Of Brexit Bias As It Refuses To Endorse Aid Spending (G.)

The British government has taken the unprecedented step of refusing to endorse billions of pounds of EU spending on aid projects, as it accused the European commission of discriminating against UK-based organisations over Brexit. In a vote among the 28 member states on the latest allocation of the bloc’s £26.5bn development budget, the UK government declined to give its support for aid spending for the first time. It instead issued a statement accusing the commission of failing to offer the best value for money for European taxpayers by discriminating against British-based organisations that were seeking funding. The criticism was made in response to a commission decision to include clauses in its contracts with aid providers stating all funding will be terminated should there be a no-deal Brexit.

British NGOs have been further warned that unless they can commit to making good the loss of funding should the UK crash out of the EU, they should not compete for funds. A UK government statement explaining its abstention on plans for the European development fund (EDF) expressed particular frustration over the failure of the commission to respond to a letter of complaint from the international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt. The statement, obtained by the Guardian, said the UK was “still waiting for a response to the concerns raised at a political level in August, including via secretary of state for international development’s letter to the commission of 23 August 2018, on the treatment of UK entities in the tendering process of EU programmes”.

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From Australia. These things can no longer be stopped. But yes, privacy is gone.

Facial Image Matching System Risks ‘Chilling Effect’ On Freedoms (G.)

Civil rights groups have warned a vast, powerful system allowing the near real-time matching of citizens’ facial images risks a “profound chilling effect” on protest and dissent. The technology – known in shorthand as “the capability” – collects and pools facial imagery from various state and federal government sources, including driver’s licences, passports and visas. The biometric information can then rapidly – almost in real time – be compared with other sources, such as CCTV footage, to match identities. The system, chiefly controlled by the federal Department of Home Affairs, is designed to give intelligence and security agencies a powerful tool to deter identity crime, and quickly identify terror and crime suspects.

But it has prompted serious concern among academics, human rights groups and privacy experts. The system sweeps up and processes citizens’ sensitive biometric information regardless of whether they have committed or are suspected of an offence. Critics have warned of a “very substantial erosion of privacy”, function creep and the system’s potential use for mass general surveillance. There are also fears about the level of access given to private corporations and the legislation’s loose wording, which could allow it to be used for purposes other than related to terrorism or serious crime. States agreed to the concept at a Council of Australian Governments meeting last year, though it is yet to be legislated by federal parliament.

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Stefania Maurizi is an Italian journalist. She has worked on all WikiLeaks releases of secret documents, and partnered with Glenn Greenwald to reveal the Snowden files about Italy.

The West is Failing Julian Assange (Maurizi)

Documents reveal that the UK authorities referred to the Assange case as not an ordinary one from the very beginning. “Please do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request,” they wrote on January 13, 2011 to the Swedish prosecutors. A few months later, a UK official added: “I do not believe anything like this has ever happened, either in terms of speed or in the informal nature of the procedures. I suppose this case never ceases to amaze.” What is special about this case? And why did the UK authorities keep insisting on extradition at all costs?

At some point even the Swedish prosecutors seemed to express doubts about the legal strategy advocated by their UK counterpart. Emails between UK and Swedish authorities I have obtained under FOIA show that in 2013 Sweden was ready to withdraw the European Arrest Warrant in light of the judicial and diplomatic paralysis the request for extradition had created. But the UK did not agree with lifting the arrest warrant: the legal case dragged on for another four years, when finally on the May 19, 2017, Sweden dropped its investigation after Swedish prosecutors had questioned Assange in London, as he had always asked.

Although the Swedish probe was ultimately terminated, Assange remains confined. No matter that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention established that the WikiLeaks founder has been arbitrarily detained since 2010, and that he should be freed and compensated. The UK, which encourages other states to respect international law, doesn’t care about the decision by this UN body whose opinions are respected by the European Court of Human Rights. After trying to appeal the UN decision and losing the appeal, Britain is simply ignoring it. There is no end in sight to Assange’s arbitrary detention.

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We’ll kill ’em off yet.

Recovery Of Endangered Whales Hampered By Humans Long After Hunting (AFP)

When an endangered female North Atlantic right whale spends months, even years, disentangling itself from cast-off fishing nets, there’s not much energy left over for mating and nursing calves. Coping with such debris, along with ship collisions and other forms of human encroachment, have severely stymied recovery of the majestic sea mammals long after explosive harpoons and factory ships nearly wiped them out, according to a study published Wednesday. Once numbering in the tens of thousands, the northern whale’s population — hovering around 450 today — climbed slowly from 1990, but began to drop again around 2010.

Had the Canadian and US waters they plied during that quarter of a century been pristine and uncluttered by human traffic, “the species’ numbers would be almost double what they are now, and their current emergency wouldn’t be so dire,” scientists led by Peter Corkeron of the NOAA Northeastern Fisheries Science Center in Massachusetts reported. More to the point, there would be twice as many female whales: “The general slope of the recovery trajectory is driven by female mortality,” they added. From 1970 to 2009, 80 percent of 122 known North Atlantic right whale deaths were caused by human objects or activity. The species has not been hunted for more than half a century.

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Modern man is fat, depressed and blind.

Children Urged To Play Outdoors To Cut Risk Of Shortsightedness (G.)

Children should be encouraged to spend time outdoors to reduce their risk of becoming shortsighted, experts have said. Shortsightedness is rising around the world, with the condition said to have reached epidemic proportions in east Asia: estimates suggest about 90% of teenagers and young adults in China have the condition. While genetics are thought to play a large role in who ends up shortsighted – a condition that is down to having an overly long eyeball – research also suggests environmental factors are important. Several studies have found children who spend more time outdoors have a lower risk of myopia.

While some report that looking into the distance could be important, others say exposure to outdoor light is key. Experts say they have found new factors, and confirmed others, which could affect a child’s risk of becoming shortsighted. These include playing computer games, being born in the summer and having a more highly educated mother. “There is not much you can do about when your child is born … but periods indoors doing indoor activities does increase your risk of myopia,” said Katie Williams, an author of the study by King’s College London. “A healthy balance of time outdoors and a balance during early education is important.”

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Nov 012018
 
 November 1, 2018  Posted by at 8:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Francisco Goya Witches’ Sabbath 1797-98

 

US Wages And Salaries Jump By 3.1%, Highest Level In A Decade (CNBC)
Chinese Yuan Tumbles To New Cycle Low Amid Signs Of Capital Outflows (ZH)
Southern California Suffers Its Worst Housing Slump In Over A Decade (CNBC)
Rise In ‘Zombie Firms’ Is Fueling Fears For The Global Labor Market (CNBC)
UK, EU Agree Tentative Brexit Deal On Financial Services (R.)
GOP Senators Want Trump To Halt Nuclear Technology Talks With Saudis (CNBC)
New Zealand Is Best Place To Do Business – World Bank (G.)
Europe Torn Over Islamic State Children In Syria (R.)
Tim Berners-Lee Says Tech Giants May Have To Be Split Up (R.)
Oceans ‘Soaking Up 60% More Heat Than Estimated’ (BBC)
70% Of World’s Last Remaining Wilderness In Just Five Countries (Ind.)

 

 

This means two things: 1) more fed rate hikes, and 2) ever slimmer chance of a blue wave in the midterms.

US Wages And Salaries Jump By 3.1%, Highest Level In A Decade (CNBC)

Employment costs rose more than expected in the third quarter in a sign that more inflation could be brewing in the U.S. economy. The Labor Department’s employment cost index rose 0.8 percent for the period, ahead of the estimate of 0.7 percent from economists surveyed by Refinitiv. Wages and salaries rose 0.9 percent, well ahead of expectations for 0.5 percent. Benefit costs were up 0.4 percent. On a yearly basis, wages and salaries jumped 3.1 percent, the biggest increase in 10 years. Wage increases have been the missing link in the economy since the recovery began in mid-2008. Average hourly earnings have been rising steadily but have stayed below the 3 percent level as slack has remained in the labor market.

However the unemployment rate is now at 3.7 percent, the lowest since 1969, and wage pressures have begun to build. The Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates in an effort to stave off future inflationary pressures, though the central bank’s preferred gauge of inflation rose just 2.5 percent in the third quarter, including a 1.9 percent increase for health benefits. “The employment cost index data adds to the broader evidence that wage growth has continued to trend gradually higher over recent quarters,” Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said in a note. “And with labor market conditions still tightening, we expect wage growth will accelerate further from here.”

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“2019 big year for China. centenary of founding of CCP [..] Being seen to succumb to Trump’s WH is just not on. Expect both sides to dig in further..”

Chinese Yuan Tumbles To New Cycle Low Amid Signs Of Capital Outflows (ZH)

As Chinese markets began to wake, yuan just broke below 6.98/USD for the first time in this downswing, despite PBOC liquidity withdrawals sending money market rates spiking (to squeeze yuan shorts). [..] if former UBS Chief Economist George Magnus is right, any hopes for the G20 meeting between Trump and Xi should be extinguished. In a series of tweets, Magnus warned… “Trump and Xi are supposed to meet at the G20 in Buenos Aires at end month. Will they talk trade? They need to cos Trump has already threatened to subject the other of 50% of imports from China to punitive tariffs. This is how he prepares the ground, telling Fox News: “I think that we will make a great deal with China and it has to be great, because they’ve drained our country,”.

Designed to turn XJP frostier, be even less inclined to bring something to the table, and more anxious not to be seen to be succumbing to foreign pressure. So I think, barring something going on in the background, these talks are set up to fail, assuming they happen. The 10% tariff rate is due to go to 25% on 200bn $ of goods on 1 Jan anyway, and we shd probably expect WHY to go for the remaining 250bn $ of imports in new year… 2019 big year for China. centenary of founding of CCP. and rivals Soviet CP’s 72 years in power. Xi’s Chinese Dream of Rejuvenation of Chinese Ppl isn’t just a slogan. Being seen to succumb to Trump’s WH is just not on. Expect both sides to dig in further

Begs question as what China will do next. Xant tit for tat any more, as they have run out of room. @davidjlynch in @washingtonpost reminds us that tourism cd be a target. Targeting US firms also could be cranked up. Yuan depreciation also poss tho v risky at home too … Much longer discussion and background written up in Red Flags, just out in the US this month….the details change with the news and announcements, but the substance is sadly all too clear.

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Should we pity the fools who bought the overpriced crap? The entire westernworld is filled with people who grossly overpaid on the back of ultra-low rates. They’re all going to claim they’re victims, and there’s so many of them they may actually be bailed out, at the cost of those who haven’t been so stupid.

Southern California Suffers Its Worst Housing Slump In Over A Decade (CNBC)

Higher mortgage rates and overheated home prices hit Southern California home sales hard in September. The number of new and existing houses and condominiums sold during the month plummeted nearly 18 percent compared with September 2017, according to CoreLogic. That was the slowest September pace since 2007, when the national housing and mortgage crisis was hitting. Sales have been falling on an annual basis for much of this year, but this was the biggest annual drop for any month in almost eight years. It was also more than twice the annual drop seen in August. “The double whammy of higher prices and rising mortgage rates has priced out some would-be buyers and prompted others to take a wait-and-see stance,” said Andrew LePage, a CoreLogic analyst, in the release.

“There was one caveat to last month’s sharp annual sales decline — this September had one less business day for recording transactions. Adjusting for that, the year-over-year decline would be about 13 percent, still the largest in four years.” On a monthly basis, sales fell 22 percent in September compared with August. Sales usually fall about 10 percent from August to September. Sales of newly built homes are suffering more than sales of existing homes, likely because fewer are being built compared with historical production levels. Newly built homes also come at a price premium. Sales of newly built homes were 47 percent below the September average dating back to 1988, while sales of existing homes were 22 percent below their long-term average.

The median price of Southern California homes sold in September, $505,000, was still 3.6 percent higher than it was a year ago. That was the lowest annual gain for any month in more than three years. “Price growth is moderating amid slower sales and more listings in many markets,” LePage said. “This is welcome news for potential homebuyers, but many still face a daunting hurdle – the monthly mortgage payment, which has been pushed up sharply by rising mortgage rates.”

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They’re everywhere that debt is cheap.

Rise In ‘Zombie Firms’ Is Fueling Fears For The Global Labor Market (CNBC)

A rise in so-called “zombie firms,” alongside higher interest rates, has led several experts to warn of the impact it could have on employment in developed nations. Zombie firms, as they are often called, are companies that would have defaulted in a normal economic cycle but continue to function due to an ultra-low interest rate environment. “Like the characters after which they are named, zombie firms are creatures that really should have shuffled off to the next realm some time ago. Instead of embracing death, they soldier on, usually wreaking havoc on the rest of society,” Eoin Murray, head of investment at Hermes Investment Management, said in a research note Wednesday.

Economists define a zombie firm as one which is at least 10 years old but is unable to cover its costs with its profits. Murray described collapsed facilities management and construction services company Carillion as one. Ever since the financial crisis, these firms have taken on huge pile of debts as borrowing became so cheap on the back of low interest rates. The numbers of such firms are currently on the rise, according to a report from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) released last month. Decades of falling interest rates have led to a sharp increase in the number of zombie firms that are potentially threatening economic growth and preventing interest rates from rising, the report stated.

“Our analysis suggests that this increase is linked to reduced financial pressure, which in turn seems to reflect in part the effects of lower interest rates,” the research said, adding that these “zombies” weigh on economic performance because they are “less productive and because their presence lowers investment in and employment at more productive firms.”

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What’s the use without an Irish border deal?

UK, EU Agree Tentative Brexit Deal On Financial Services (R.)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has struck a tentative deal with the European Union that would give UK financial services companies continued access to European markets after Brexit, the Times reported on Thursday. British and European negotiators have reached tentative agreement on all aspects of a future partnership on services, as well as the exchange of data, the British newspaper reported, citing government sources. The services deal would give UK companies access to European markets as long as British financial regulation remained broadly aligned with the EU’s, the Times reported. The British pound jumped as much as 0.5 percent against the dollar following the report.

Global banks operating in the UK have had to reorganize their operations around Britain’s departure from the European Union, due to take place in March next year. Many have set up new European hubs and begun to move operations, senior executives and staff to ensure they can continue to serve their continental clients if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal. According to the Times’ report, EU will accept that the UK has “equivalent” regulations to Brussels, and UK financial services companies will be allowed to operate as they now do in Europe. EU officials have said that the EU’s financial market access system, known as “equivalence,” under which Brussels grants access to foreign banks and insurers if their home rules converge with the bloc’s, is probably Britain’s best bet.

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Yeah, let’s hand MbS some nukes.

GOP Senators Want Trump To Halt Nuclear Technology Talks With Saudis (CNBC)

Five Republican senators have asked the Trump administration to suspend talks to transfer U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey. The lawmakers, led by Senator Marco Rubio, threatened to block any agreement to export civilian nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, potentially setting up a showdown with the White House. The Trump administration has courted the Saudis as they seek to build 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 25 years, an endeavor that would generate tens of billions of dollars in economic activity.

In a letter to President Donald Trump, the senators say the slaying of Khashoggi, as well as other foreign policy issues, raise questions about whether the Saudi leadership should be entrusted with U.S. nuclear technology and know-how. “The ongoing revelations about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as certain Saudi actions related to Yemen and Lebanon, have raised further serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and judgment of current decisionmakers in Saudi Arabia,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump. “We therefore request that you suspend any related negotiations for a U.S.-Saudi civil nuclear agreement for the foreseeable future.”

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Number 1 in a list that includes UAE and Georgia. Nobody should want that. Nice going, Jacinda.

New Zealand Is Best Place To Do Business – World Bank (G.)

New Zealand has topped the World Bank’s ranking of the best countries to start and run a business in 2018, ahead of Singapore, Denmark and Hong Kong. The World Bank said New Zealand had retained its position in its Doing Business report ahead of 190 other countries, despite not implementing any reforms in the last year. The UK slipped to ninth place while Norway climbed to seventh in a year when the World Bank said governments pressed ahead with a record number of reforms to business regulations and tax rules to support private businesses. Georgia, the former Soviet satellite state, retained its position at number six in the rankings, despite persistent criticism from aid agencies that the World Bank was rewarding a country with high levels of inequality, showing that a business-friendly environment is not in and of itself a means of alleviating poverty.

Macedonia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Mauritius are also among the business-friendly countries in the World Bank’s top 20 that rank among the highest in Oxfam’s list of unequal nations. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development criticised Mauritius last year for acting as a tax haven and leaching tax revenues from mainland African nations. Singapore, often held up as a model for post-Brexit Britain, recently topped Oxfam’s list of unequal nations. The World Bank Group’s president, Jim Yong Kim, said the private sector played an important role in “creating sustainable economic growth and ending poverty around the world”.

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Even the US is ahead of Europe on this.

Europe Torn Over Islamic State Children In Syria (R.)

For years, they heard little from daughters who went to join Islamic State. Now dozens of families across Europe have received messages from those same women, desperate to return home from detention in Syria. They are among 650 Europeans, many of them infants, held by U.S.-backed Kurdish militias in three camps since IS was routed last year, according to Kurdish sources. Unwanted by their Kurdish guards, they are also a headache for officials in Europe. In letters sent via the Red Cross and in phone messages, the women plead for their children to be allowed home to be raised in the countries they left behind. In one message played by a woman at a cafe in Antwerp, the chatter of her young grandchildren underscores their mother’s pleas.

Another woman in Paris wants to care for three grandchildren she has never met, born after her daughter left for Syria in 2014, at the age 18. “They are innocent,” she said. “They had no part in any of this.” Like other relatives of those held in Syria, the two mothers asked to remain anonymous – afraid of being linked to IS and worried their daughters may face reprisals. The United States has taken custody of some citizens, as have Russia and Indonesia, and wants Europe to do the same – fearing the camps may breed a new generation of militants. “We are telling European governments: ‘Take your people back, prosecute them. … They are more of a threat to you here than back home,’” a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said.

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“If you put a drop of love into Twitter it seems to decay but if you put in a drop of hatred you feel it actually propagates much more strongly.”

Tim Berners-Lee Says Tech Giants May Have To Be Split Up (R.)

Silicon Valley technology giants such as Facebook and Google have grown so dominant they may need to be broken up, unless challengers or changes in taste reduce their clout, the inventor of the World Wide Web told Reuters. The digital revolution has spawned a handful of U.S.-based technology companies since the 1990s that now have a combined financial and cultural power greater than most sovereign states. Tim Berners-Lee, a London-born computer scientist who invented the Web in 1989, said he was disappointed with the current state of the internet, following scandals over the abuse of personal data and the use of social media to spread hate.

“What naturally happens is you end up with one company dominating the field so through history there is no alternative to really coming in and breaking things up,” Berners-Lee, 63, said in an interview. “There is a danger of concentration.” But he urged caution too, saying the speed of innovation in both technology and tastes could ultimately cut some of the biggest technology companies down to size. “Before breaking them up, we should see whether they are not just disrupted by a small player beating them out of the market, but by the market shifting, by the interest going somewhere else,” Berners-Lee said.

“I am disappointed with the current state of the Web,” he said. “We have lost the feeling of individual empowerment and to a certain extent also I think the optimism has cracked.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and pledged to do more to protect users’ data. But social media, Berners-Lee said, was still being used to propagate hate. “If you put a drop of love into Twitter it seems to decay but if you put in a drop of hatred you feel it actually propagates much more strongly. And you wonder: ‘Well is that because of the way that Twitter as a medium has been built?’”

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Not at all surprised, but I have some trouble with this sentence: “..we have put about 150 times the amount of energy used to generate electricity globally into the seas..”

Oceans ‘Soaking Up 60% More Heat Than Estimated’ (BBC)

The world has seriously underestimated the amount of heat soaked up by our oceans over the past 25 years, researchers say. Their study suggests that the seas have absorbed 60% more than previously thought. They say it means the Earth is more sensitive to fossil fuel emissions than estimated. This could make it much more difficult to to keep global warming within safe levels this century. According to the last major assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s oceans have taken up over 90% of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases.

But this new study says that every year, for the past 25 years, we have put about 150 times the amount of energy used to generate electricity globally into the seas – 60% more than previous estimates. That’s a big problem. Scientists base their predictions about how much the Earth is warming by adding up all the excess heat that is produced by the known amount of greenhouse gases that have been emitted by human activities. This new calculation shows that far more heat than we thought has been going into oceans. But it also means that far more heat than we thought has been generated by the warming gases we have emitted. Therefore more heat from the same amount of gas means the Earth is more sensitive to CO2.


More heat means less oxygen in the water which could have implications for many species. Photo Victor Huang

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Well, and seas. “..more than 77 per cent of land – excluding Antarctica – and 87 per cent of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities..”

70% Of World’s Last Remaining Wilderness In Just Five Countries (Ind.)

More than 70 per cent of our planet’s remaining areas of wilderness are contained in just five countries and are at the mercy of political decisions regarding their future, new research has warned. Urgent international action is required to ensure the preservation of these last pockets of intact ecosystems, the study says, which calls for mandated conservation targets. The places where the greatest remaining tracts of wilderness containing mixes of species at near-natural levels of abundance were identified as being in Russia, Canada, Australia, the US and Brazil.

Produced by the University of Queensland (UQ) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the study published in the journal Nature, says these areas are “increasingly important buffers against changing conditions… Yet they aren’t an explicit target in international policy frameworks.” The study also examines the huge future value these areas are likely to have for our planet. “They are also the only areas supporting the ecological processes that sustain biodiversity over evolutionary timescales,” it says. “As such, they are important reservoirs of genetic information, and act as reference areas for efforts to re-wild degraded land and seascapes.”

Professor James Watson, from UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said the work provides the first full global picture of how little wilderness remains, and he was alarmed at the results. “A century ago, only 15 per cent of the Earth’s surface was used by humans to grow crops and raise livestock,” he said. “Today, more than 77 per cent of land – excluding Antarctica – and 87 per cent of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities. It might be hard to believe, but between 1993 and 2009, an area of terrestrial wilderness larger than India – a staggering 3.3 million square kilometres – was lost to human settlement, farming, mining and other pressures.”

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Oct 262018
 
 October 26, 2018  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Ernst Haas Greece 1952

 

Expect a “Lost Decade”, Stock Market Rout “Only Just a Start” (Mish)
Asian Stocks Hit 20-Month Lows, S&P Futures Slide As Investors Flee Risk (R.)
Friday Hasn’t Even Started Yet, But It’s Already Ugly (WS)
ECB Keeps Rates On Hold But Reaffirms QE Exit Plans (CNBC)
UK Labour Pledges To Reverse Cuts And ‘End Austerity’ (G.)
Grassley Refers Avenatti And Swetnick For DOJ Investigation (G.)
World’s Billionaires Became 20% Richer In 2017 (G.)
Twitter Bans Former Asst. Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts (ZH)
Judge Says Assange Hearing Needs A Translator Fluent In ‘Australian’ (RT)
Canadian Doctors To Start Prescribing Museum Visits (AFP)
Entire Great Barrier Reef At Risk Of Bleaching And Coral Death (G.)

 

 

So what’s the net effect of QE?

Expect a “Lost Decade”, Stock Market Rout “Only Just a Start” (Mish)

October has been a terrible month for equities. Yet, this is only a start of what’s to come.

Despite the rout, the S&P is just barely down for the year.

Expect a “Lost Decade”

Why?

The Shiller PE Ratio also known as “CAPE”, the Cyclically Adjusted Price-Earnings Ratio, is in the stratosphere. It’s not a timing mechanism, rather it’s a warning mechanism. The main idea is that earnings are mean reverting. On that basis, stocks are more overvalued than any time other than the DotCom era. But that is misleading. In 2000 there were many sectors that were extremely cheap. Energy was a standout buy then. So were retail and financials. It’s difficult to find any undervalued sectors now other than gold.

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Another Reuters headline says: “World stocks head for worst losing streak in over half a decade..”

Asian Stocks Hit 20-Month Lows, S&P Futures Slide As Investors Flee Risk (R.)

Asian shares skidded to 20-month lows, S&P futures fell sharply and China’s yuan weakened at the end of a turbulent week for financial markets on Friday, as anxiety over corporate profits added to lingering fears about global trade and economic growth. The gloom enveloping Asia was at odds with a bounce on Wall Street overnight, highlighting fragile investor confidence, as shares of tech titans Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc fell sharply after the closing bell on disappointing earnings. In Friday’s Asian session, S&P E-mini futures slumped 0.88 percent, setting up a potentially rough session for U.S. markets which had crumbled on Wednesday on concerns about earnings and sent global equities into a tailspin.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.04 percent, erasing tiny gains made in the opening hour and hitting its lowest level since February 2017. Not helping was a slide in the Chinese yuan past a key level, refocusing market attention on slowing growth in the world’s second-biggest economy. Shares in Europe are seen following Asia down, with London’s FTSE expected to open 0.9 percent lower, Germany’s DAX off 1 percent and France’s CAC 40 down 1.2 percent, according to David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK. “There’s no question that the weight of sentiment has been building,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut in Brisbane, highlighting in particular rising geopolitical tensions including Brexit, and “internal financial tension” in China.

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Big tech big losses.

Friday Hasn’t Even Started Yet, But It’s Already Ugly (WS)

So far in October, the S&P 500 has booked 13 losing days, including October 10, when the index dropped 3.3%, and October 24, when it dropped 3.1%. Then came today, with the feel-good moment of a boisterous 1.9% gain. And then came after-hours trading, and nearly everything went to heck, particularly the FANGMAN stocks that weigh so heavily on the index with their $4-trillion market cap. And Friday morning looks already ugly.

All of the FANGMAN stocks were in the red in late trading:
Facebook [FB]: -2.3%
Amazon [AMZN]: -7.4%
Netflix [NFLX]: -2.8%
Google’s parent Alphabet [GOOG]: -3.7%
Microsoft [MSFT]: -1.5%
Apple [AAPL]: -0.4%
NVIDIA [NVDA]: -2.8%

There were some standout reasons: Amazon plunged after it reported record profit but missed on revenues and guided down Q4 expectations for sales and profits, a sign of slowing revenue growth. It was down as much as $150 a share, or almost 9%. Google’s parent Alphabet reported that revenues grew 22%, which missed expectations. Earnings beat, but a considerable slice – $1.38 billion! – of those earnings came from the gains in its portfolio of equity securities. CFO Ruth Porat warned that traffic acquisition costs would increase further as consumers are shifting search activity from desktop computers to mobile devices. Shares plunged up to 5%.

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Can Draghi stop purchasing Italian bonds?

ECB Keeps Rates On Hold But Reaffirms QE Exit Plans (CNBC)

The European Central Bank (ECB) took no action on Thursday, leaving its benchmark interest rates unchanged. However, the ECB confirmed that its plan to end monetary easing by the end of the year remains on track. “Regarding non-standard monetary policy measures, the Governing Council will continue to make net purchases under the asset purchase programme (APP) at the new monthly pace of 15 billion euros until the end of December 2018,” the ECB said in a statement. “The Governing Council anticipates that, subject to incoming data confirming the medium-term inflation outlook, net purchases will then end,” the bank added.

The decision takes place as concerns mount over Italy’s fiscal policies and their potential impact over the stability of the euro area. The end of the ECB’s massive crisis-era stimulus program could be a challenging moment for European bonds, given that the ECB will no longer be in the market purchasing sovereign paper and providing some sort of backstop. This could add further pressure, mainly on Italy, given the widespread concerns over its debt pile.

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There’s a taste of Italy here, though political leanings are very different.

UK Labour Pledges To Reverse Cuts And ‘End Austerity’ (G.)

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has said Labour would reverse cuts made by the government since 2010 as Labour highlighted more than £108bn needed to “end austerity”. Labour’s pre-budget review said it would take £42bn to reverse departmental spending cuts. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) had already highlighted another £19bn needed to stop further cuts to government. Some £33.5bn would be required to reverse cuts to social security and social care, Labour said. McDonnell pledged to increase spending on the National Health Service, adult social care, and schools, at a speech in London to business and trade union representatives.

Earlier this month the prime minister, Theresa May, also said she would end the policy of austerity instituted by her predecessor David Cameron and continued by the current government. May told the Conservative party conference: “After a decade of austerity, people need to know that their hard work has paid off.” However, policy experts have highlighted that the government’s pledge leaves room for manoeuvre. The £19bn bill calculated by the IFS, a non-partisan thinktank, would be needed to prevent further cuts in spending to government departments whose budgets are not protected, under one definition of “ending austerity”.

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Why invite more of the same?

Grassley Refers Avenatti And Swetnick For DOJ Investigation (G.)

Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee, has referred the lawyer Michael Avenatti and Julie Swetnick, one of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, for criminal investigation. In a statement, Grassley said he was referring the two to the justice department for a “criminal investigation relating to a potential conspiracy to provide materially false statements to Congress and obstruct a congressional committee investigation”. Swetnick, who was represented by Avenatti, came forward in late September to allege that Kavanaugh took part in efforts to gang-rape women at drunken parties. She said she too was gang-raped at one such party, but did not directly accuse Kavanaugh of being involved.

Kavanaugh categorically denied the accusations calling them “a joke” and “a farce” in his testimony before the Senate. Avenatti has become an increasingly high-profile opponent of Donald Trump after coming to prominence as the lawyer of Stormy Daniels, a porn star who claims she had an affair with Trump. Avenatti has been an outspoken critic of Trump on cable TV and social media. He is also mulling a run for the White House in 2020. Swetnick was the third woman to come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his confirmation process for the supreme court. The Senate approved Kavanaugh’s nomination by a 50-48 vote in early October.

Grassley accused Swetnick and Avenatti of knowingly misleading the committee. “That’s unfair to my colleagues, the nominees and others providing information who are seeking the truth,” said the Iowa Republican. “It stifles our ability to work on legitimate lines of inquiry. It also wastes time and resources for destructive reasons. Thankfully, the law prohibits such false statements to Congress and obstruction of congressional committee investigations. For the law to work, we can’t just brush aside potential violations. I don’t take lightly making a referral of this nature, but ignoring this behavior will just invite more of it in the future,” Grassley said.

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Inequality has become a dangerous game, but greed wins the day every day.

World’s Billionaires Became 20% Richer In 2017 (G.)

Billionaires made more money in 2017 than in any year in recorded history. The richest people on Earth increased their wealth by a fifth to $8.9tn (£6.9tn), according to a report by Swiss bank UBS. The fortunes of today’s super-wealthy have risen at a far greater rate than at the turn of the 20th century, when families such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast wealth. The report by UBS and accountants PwC said there was so much money in the hands of the ultra-rich that a new wave of rich and powerful multi-generational families was being created. “The past 30 years have seen far greater wealth creation than the Gilded Age” the UBS Billionaires 2018 report said.

“That period bred generations of families in the US and Europe who went on to influence business, banking, politics, philanthropy and the arts for more than 100 years. With wealth set to pass from entrepreneurs to their heirs in the coming years, the 21st century multi-generational families are being created.” The world’s 2,158 billionaires grew their combined wealth by $1.4tn last year, more than the GDP of Spain or Australia, as booming stock markets helped the already very wealthy to achieve the “greatest absolute growth ever”. More than 40 of the 179 new billionaires created last year inherited their wealth, and given the number of billionaires over 70 the report’s authors expect a further $3.4tn to be handed down over the next 20 years.

“A major wealth transition has begun,” the report said. “Over the past five years, the sum passed by deceased billionaires to beneficiaries has grown by an average of 17% each year, to reach $117bn in 2017. In that year alone, 44 heirs inherited more than a billion dollars each.

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Completely insane.

Twitter Bans Former Asst. Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts (ZH)

Twitter has suspended noted anti-war commentator, economist and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts. Roberts, 79, served in the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1982. He was formerly a distinguished fellow at the Cato Institute and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and has written for the Wall Street Journal and Businessweek. Roberts maintains an active blog. He’s also vehemently against interventionary wars around the world, and spoke with Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news in a Tuesday article – in which Roberts said that President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty was a handout to the military-security complex.

The former Reagan administration official clarified that he does not think “that the military-security complex itself wants a war with Russia, but it does want an enemy that can be used to justify more spending.” He explained that the withdrawing from the INF Treaty “gives the military-security complex a justification for a larger budget and new money to spend: manufacturing the formerly banned missiles.” [..] The economist highlighted that “enormous sums spent on ‘defense’ enabled the armaments corporations to control election outcomes with campaign contributions,” adding that in addition, “the military has bases and the armaments corporations have factories in almost every state so that the population, dependent on the jobs, support high amounts of ‘defense’ spending.”

“That was 57 years ago,” he underscored. “You can imagine how much stronger the military-security complex is today.” -Sputnik. Roberts also suggested that “The Zionist Neoconservatives are responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the INF treaty, just as they were responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the ABM Treaty [in 2002], the Iran nuclear agreement, and the promise not to move NATO one inch to the East.”

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So Assange still doesn’t have his internet back, but he does talk to an Ecuador court via video link.

Judge Says Assange Hearing Needs A Translator Fluent In ‘Australian’ (RT)

The presiding judge in WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange’s case against the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry has reportedly said that the court made a mistake by appointing an English translator who doesn’t speak Australian. The anecdote was reported by Bloomberg on Thursday and allegedly took place at the first hearing of Assange’s lawsuit against the ministry. Speaking via video link, Australian-born Assange complained to the court that his state-appointed translator from English to Spanish was not cutting it. It’s unclear what exactly the issue was, but Judge Karina Martinez apparently thought Assange’s Australian accent was thick enough to warrant a dedicated expert.

While Australian English is the most spoken dialect Down Under, it is by no means a separate language. The Australian dialect originated in the late 18th and early 19th century from convicts who were the first British settlers to arrive in New South Wales. Admittedly, the Australian vernacular is quite distinct, has rich slang, and peculiar terms. Differences in pronunciation and vocabulary can at times leave an average British or American English speaker perplexed. Assange’s accent, however, is far from the thickest around. Last week, he filed a lawsuit against Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Jose Valencia, accusing the government of violating his “fundamental rights and freedoms” with a set of new rules.

The government files released by an Ecuadorian opposition lawmaker last Tuesday outline the efforts of the Latin American country to prevent Assange from engaging in activities that “could be considered political or interfering with the internal affairs of other states.” They also limit Assange’s visitation rights, force him to pay his own medical bills, and even threaten to take away his cat if he doesn’t look after it properly. Assange’s lawyer, Baltasar Garzon, has accused Valencia of “isolating and muzzling” the fugitive, himself an Ecuadorian citizen since December 2017. Garzon said Assange still has no access to the internet, despite Ecuador’s earlier announcement it would restore communications.

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Worth a try.

Canadian Doctors To Start Prescribing Museum Visits (AFP)

A group of Canadian doctors are to begin prescribing trips to an art gallery to help patients suffering a range of ailments become a picture of health. A partnership between the Francophone Association of Doctors in Canada (MFdC) and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) will allow patients suffering from a number of physical and mental health issues, along with their loved ones, to take in the benefits of art on health with free visits. The pilot project is unprecedented globally, according to its organizer. The project will see participating physicians prescribe up to 50 visits to the MMFA during treatment, each pass valid for up to two adults and two minors.

So far 100 doctors have enrolled to take part over the course of a year, Nicole Parent, head of the MFdC, told AFP Thursday. The numbers offer proof that doctors have “a sensitivity and openness to alternative approaches if you want” Parent said, citing scientifically proven benefits of art on health. The benefits are similar to those patients can get from physical activity, prompting the secretion of a similar level of feel-good hormones, and can help with everything from chronic pain to depression, stress and anxiety. The pilot program will allow organizers to gather data and analyze results, allowing for the development of protocol for identifying patients.

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This summer (which starts Dec 20).

Entire Great Barrier Reef At Risk Of Bleaching And Coral Death (G.)

Mass bleaching and coral death could be likely along the entire Great Barrier Reef this summer, according to a long-range forecast that coral experts say is “a wake-up call” for the Australian government. The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) has forecast a 60% chance that the entire Great Barrier Reef will reach alert level one, which signals extreme heat stress and bleaching are likely. The forecast period covers November 2018 to February 2019 and the risk extends to the southern Great Barrier Reef, which escaped the mass mortality seen in the middle and northern parts of the reef in 2016 and 2017.

“This is really the first warning bells going off that we are heading for an extraordinarily warm summer and there’s a very good chance that we’ll lose parts of the reef that we didn’t lose in the past couple of years,” said marine biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. “These are not good predictions and this is a wake-up call.” Hoegh-Guldberg said it was particularly worrying that the long-range forecasts were already showing high chances of bleaching and mortality before March, which is the main month of the year for bleaching events.

He said if the models proved accurate it would mean the entire Great Barrier Reef would be damaged by climate change and coral populations would trend towards very low levels, affecting the reef’s tourism and fishing industries and the employment they support. “To really have the full picture we’re going to have to wait for those projections that cover the main part of bleaching season,” he said. “Given sea temperatures usually increase as we get towards March, this is probably conservative.”

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Sep 232018
 
 September 23, 2018  Posted by at 9:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Swimming 1908

 

Trump To Investigate Google, Facebook Under New Executive Order (ZH)
Theresa May Said To Be Preparing For Snap Election To Save Brexit (R.)
Labour To Trigger Early Election If May Defeated In Parliament (Ind.)
Crashing Out Of EU May Hasten Breakup Of UK – Ministers (G.)
Corbyn Will Back Fresh Referendum If Labour Conference Wants It (Ind.)
Kavanaugh Accuser Has No-One Left To Corroborate Her Story (ZH)
Pompeo Hints Rosenstein Should Resign (G.)
The New York Times as Judge and Jury (Lauria)
Iran Summons UK, Dutch, Danish Envoys Over Attack On Military Parade (G.)
Greek Journalists Detained After Reporting Mishandling Of Migrant Funds (K.)
Mysterious Great White Shark Lair Discovered In Pacific Ocean (SFC)

 

 

Almost 3/4 of Americans say Big Tech is biased.

Trump To Investigate Google, Facebook Under New Executive Order (ZH)

According to a an early draft of an Executive Order (EO), the White House will instruct federal law enforcement and antitrust agencies to launch investigations into the business practices of Facebook, Google and other social media companies, according to Bloomberg which says it has seen the draft. While not specifically calling out companies by name, the document orders US antitrust officials to “thoroughly investigate whether any online platform has acted in violation of the antitrust laws,” while instructing other agencies to return recommendations within a month of Trump signing the EO which could potentially “protect competition among online platforms and address online platform bias.”

“The document doesn’t name any specific companies. If signed, the order would represent a significant escalation of Trump’s antipathy toward Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies, whom he has publicly accused of silencing conservative voices and news sources online. … The draft order directs that any actions federal agencies take should be “consistent with other laws” — an apparent nod to concerns that it could threaten the traditional independence of U.S. law enforcement or conflict with the First Amendment, which protects political views from government regulation.” -Bloomberg

[..] According to Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans, and in particular 85% of Republicans and right-leaning independents think social media companies purposefully censor political viewpoints which run counter to their internal culture. “The belief that technology companies are politically biased and/or engaged in suppression of political speech is especially widespread among Republicans. Fully 85% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents think it likely that social media sites intentionally censor political viewpoints, with 54% saying this is very likely. And a majority of Republicans (64%) think major technology companies as a whole support the views of liberals over conservatives.” – Pew

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Trying to take the wind out of Corbyn’s’ sails? Or does she think she can win? Lost the last one badly.

Theresa May Said To Be Preparing For Snap Election To Save Brexit (R.)

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s aides have begun contingency planning for a snap election in November to save both Brexit and her job, the Sunday Times reported. The newspaper said that two senior members of May’s Downing Street political team began “wargaming” an autumn vote to win public backing for a new plan, after her Brexit proposals were criticised at a summit in Salzburg last week.

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With May’s election plan, this is a dud.

Labour To Trigger Early Election If May Defeated In Parliament (Ind.)

Labour will launch a plan to force an election by seeking a motion of no confidence in the government within days if Theresa May’s Brexit deal is defeated in parliament, The Independent has learnt. Jeremy Corbyn and his top team will launch an attempt to force the Conservative administration to go to the people at what they believe will be a moment of maximum weakness for the prime minister. Multiple sources confirmed party chiefs have game-planned their approach if Ms May’s beleaguered proposals are vetoed in a crucial commons vote or if she fails to get a deal in Europe, which looks increasingly likely after EU leaders torpedoed them earlier this week.

A motion of no confidence would need some support from Conservative MPs to pass, but either way would act to severely destabilise the prime minister as internal pressure for her to quit peaked. The moment could also prove critical for Labour’s own approach to Brexit, with the party having stated its preference for an election while signalling that if one is not possible it could back a new referendum. It comes as Labour starts its 2018 conference in Liverpool, with Brexit and the party’s approach to holding a fresh public vote on the outcome of negotiations set to dominate the agenda.

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Irish border. The EU has to protect Ireland. That’s not optional.

Crashing Out Of EU May Hasten Breakup Of UK – Ministers (G.)

Theresa May is being warned by cabinet colleagues that a shift towards a harder Brexit will hasten the break-up of the UK, amid a renewed attempt by Brexiters to secure a clean split from the European Union. With senior Tories warning that the prime minister now risks a diplomatic calamity on the scale of the Suez crisis, following her disastrous Salzburg summit, she is facing a renewed campaign among ministers and influential backbenchers to ditch her current plans and back a looser free trade deal with the EU. However, some cabinet ministers are concerned such a shift will effectively place a border between Northern Ireland and Britain and put it “in the departure lounge from the UK”.

Cabinet sources are also warning that such a move would reignite the debate about Scotland’s place in the UK and further unravel the union. “Nobody voted Brexit to break up the UK,” one minister said. Another said: “Those advocating [the free trade deal] approach need to face up to the consequences for the union.” Some Tory aides are said to be so worried about the lack of support for May’s current Brexit plans that they fear another snap election will be needed before the end of the year. Downing Street sources categorically denied that such an option was being considered in No 10.

Last night, May again attempted to calm the warring factions in her party, calling for “cool heads”. “It is time to hold our nerve,” she said. “I have said many times that these negotiations would be tough, and they were always bound to be toughest in the final straight.” She also accused Labour, Lib Dem and SNP figures of “actively undermining the UK’s negotiating position” in their talks with the EU.

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They will want it. But with an election coming, what use is it?

Corbyn Will Back Fresh Referendum If Labour Conference Wants It (Ind.)

Jeremy Corbyn has said he will back giving the British people a final say on Brexit in a new referendum if party members vote for it at Labour’s conference this week. The Labour leader said that while he had not called for it up to now he had been elected to “empower” members and would not “walk away from it” if they demanded a new vote. Mr Corbyn also said he would join forces with rebel Tories to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit plans in parliament if they did not meet Labour’s tests, with The Independent reporting on Saturday that the party would then maximise pressure on the prime minister by seeking a motion of no confidence in the government if her proposals fell.

The Labour leader’s new comments on a People’s Vote Brexit referendum come as a new YouGov poll showed his party’s members overwhelmingly back one, while more than 100 motions relating to a new vote have been proposed for the conference in Liverpool. He said: “What comes out of conference I will adhere to. But I’m not calling for a second referendum. I hope we will agree that the best way of resolving this is a general election. “But I was elected to empower the members of the party.

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Too many people getting ahead of themselves already. Not me. But the story keeps getting weirder. You now have Blasey Ford who can’t remember where and when, and 4 others who say it never happened.

Kavanaugh Accuser Has No-One Left To Corroborate Her Story (ZH)

A woman believed to have been one of five people at a party some 35 years ago where Christine Blasey Ford claims she was sexually assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh has become the fourth person to deny any recollection of the event. In a Saturday night email to the Senate Judiciary Committee also received by several news outlets, Leland Ingham Keyser – a “longtime friend” of Blasey Ford’s said through her attorney: “Simply put, Ms. Keyser does not know Mr. Kavanaugh and she has no recollection of ever being at a party or gathering where he was present, with, or without, Dr. Ford,” said Keyser’s attorney Howard Walsh, who has been “engaged in the limited capacity” of corresponding with the committee on behalf of Keyser, according to Politico.

Kavanaugh and Mark Judge – the other teenager allegedly in the room during the alleged sexual assault – have both stated that they have no recollection of the incident, while a third man who Ford claims was at the party – Patrick J. Smyth, also denied any recollection of the event, telling the Judiciary Committee last week in a statement: “I understand that I have been identified by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as the person she remembers as ‘PJ’ who supposedly was present at the party she described in her statements to the Washington Post,” Smyth wrote in his statement. “I am issuing this statement today to make it clear to all involved that I have no knowledge of the party in question; nor do I have any knowledge of the allegations of improper conduct she has leveled against Brett Kavanaugh.”

[..] On Saturday night, a tentative deal was reached for Ford to testify publicly on Thursday, according to the New York Times. “After a brief call late on Saturday, the woman’s lawyers and aides to Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, planned to talk again Sunday morning to continue the halting negotiations over the conditions of the testimony, according to three people familiar with the call. Aides to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the committee’s top Democrat, were also involved.” -NY Times The Times notes, however, that Leland Keyser’s statement “seemed to eliminate any chance of corroboration of Dr. Blasey’s account by anyone who attended the high school party where she says she was assaulted.”

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New theory: Trump is being tricked into firing Rosenstein.

Sean Hannity said: “Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody … I have multiple sources confirming this … it is all a set-up.”

Pompeo Hints Rosenstein Should Resign (G.)

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has hinted that Rod Rosenstein could be in jeopardy, after reports on Friday said the deputy attorney general discussed wearing a wire to record conversations with Donald Trump and the possibility of invoking the 25th amendment to remove the president. In excerpts of an interview with Fox News Sunday, Pompeo said: “If you can’t be on the team, if you’re not supporting this mission, then maybe you just ought to find something else to do.” Asked by the host Chris Wallace if Rosenstein’s reported behaviour would constitute “being on the team”, Pompeo said: “Not remotely.”

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian election interference, links between Trump aides and Moscow and potential obstruction of justice by the president. The deputy attorney general’s remarks were reported by the New York Times and confirmed by other outlets. Speculation that Trump might fire Rosenstein, as a way to neutralise Mueller, increased to fever pitch. Such a move from the president, which would carry strong echoes of the Watergate affair which brought down Richard Nixon, would likely push the US to the brink of a constitutional crisis.

[..] Pompeo’s remarks to Fox were released after Trump told a rally in Springfield, Missouri on Friday night he would act to rid the Department of Justice and the FBI of “a lingering stench” of disloyalty. Also on Friday night, the Fox News hosts Laura Ingraham, Jeanine Pirro and Gregg Jarrett advocated firing Rosenstein. However Sean Hannity, who has perhaps even more influence with the president than Ingraham or Pirro, said Trump should not do that. In what he called “a message for the president”, Hannity said: “Under zero circumstances should the president fire anybody … I have multiple sources confirming this … it is all a set-up.”

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In a very long Russiagate piece, the NYT confesses at the very end that there is no proof.

The New York Times as Judge and Jury (Lauria)

In a massive Times‘ article published on Thursday, entitled, “‘A Plot to Subvert an Election: Unravelling the Russia Story So Far,” it seems that reporters Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti have succumbed to the same thinking that doubled down on Iraq. They claim to have a “mountain of evidence” but what they offer would be invisible on the Great Plains. With the mid-terms looming and Special Counsel Robert Mueller unable to so far come up with any proof of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to steal the 2016 election—the central Russia-gate charge—the Times does it for him, regurgitating a Russia-gate Round-Up of every unsubstantiated allegation that has been made—deceptively presented as though it’s all been proven.

This is a reaffirmation of the faith, a recitation of what the Russia-gate faithful want to believe is true. But mere repetition will not make it so. The Times’ unsteady conviction is summed up in this paragraph, which the paper itself then contradicts only a few paragraphs later: “What we now know with certainty: The Russians carried out a landmark intervention that will be examined for decades to come. Acting on the personal animus of Mr. Putin, public and private instruments of Russian power moved with daring and skill to harness the currents of American politics. Well-connected Russians worked aggressively to recruit or influence people inside the Trump campaign.” But this schizoid approach leads to the admission that “no public evidence has emerged showing that [Trump’s] campaign conspired with Russia.”

The Times also adds: “There is a plausible case that Mr. Putin succeeded in delivering the presidency to his admirer, Mr. Trump, though it cannot be proved or disproved.” This is an extraordinary statement. If it cannot be “proved or disproved” what is the point of this entire exercise: of the Mueller probe, the House and Senate investigations and even of this very New York Times article? Attempting to prove this constructed story without proof is the very point of this piece.

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See that coming?

Iran Summons UK, Dutch, Danish Envoys Over Attack On Military Parade (G.)

Iran has summoned envoys from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark over Saturday’s deadly shooting of 29 people at a military parade in the south of the country, state media has reported. The British charge d’affaires, along with the Dutch and Danish ambassadors, were “informed of Iran’s strong protests over their respective countries’ hosting of some members of the terrorist group” which carried out the attack, the official news agency Irna said. Gunmen sprayed a crowd with bullets in the south-western city of Ahvaz, at a military parade in the in oil-rich Khuzestan province. Members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and soldiers from the country’s army, as well as civilians, including children, were among the victims.

Islamic State and an Arab nationalist separatist group, called the Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement in Ahwaz, both claimed responsibility for the attack. Islamic State said via Amaq, the news outlet linked to the group, that “Islamic State fighters attacked a gathering of Iranian forces” in Ahvaz. Isis wrongly suggested the Iranian president was speaking at the parade. Hassan Rouhani was speaking at a parade in the capital, Tehran, instead. Iran called on Denmark and the Netherlands to extradite the attack’s “perpetrators and their accomplices” to stand trial, Irna said, citing foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi. “It is not acceptable that the European Union does not blacklist members of these terrorist groups as long as they do not perpetrate a crime on … European soil,” Qasemi was quoted as saying.

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Dumb. Going after reporters is something from other cultures, not Greece.

Greek Journalists Detained After Reporting Mishandling Of Migrant Funds (K.)

The publisher and editor in chief of a Greek newspaper have been detained over an article that alleges mishandling of European Union funds meant to improve conditions in migrant hotspots across the country. The journalists were detained following a complaint by Defense Minister Panos Kammenos, whose ministry is handling the EU funding. The article published Friday alleged some of the recipients of EU funding were businessmen connected to Kammenos. Panayiotis Lampsias, editor-in-chief of daily “Fileleftheros” (Liberal) told AP that “we are at the Exarchia police precinct, where we will spend the night and probably be sent to a prosecutor” on Sunday.

Opposition parties have condemned the detention. Conservative New Democracy party accused the defense minister of “thuggery” and said the real issue was the mishandling of funds. “Whether he wants it or not, [Kammenos] will be held accountable for the national shame that is Moria,” ND said in a statement. “The same goes for his ostensibly left-wing sensitive fellow ministers who on a daily basis humiliate human existence and tarnish Greece’s image across the world,” it said.

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Wonderful. The White Shark Cafe: “..it takes a month for the sharks to get there..”

Mysterious Great White Shark Lair Discovered In Pacific Ocean (SFC)

A scientific mission into the secret ocean lair of California’s great white sharks has provided tantalizing clues into a vexing mystery — why the fearsome predators spend winter and spring in what has long appeared to be an empty void in the deep sea. A boatload of researchers from five scientific institutions visited the middle-of-nowhere spot between Baja California and Hawaii this past spring on a quest to learn more about what draws the big sharks to what has become known as the White Shark Cafe, almost as if they were pulled by some astrological stimulus.

The sharks’ annual pilgrimage to the mid-Pacific region from the coasts of California and Mexico has baffled scientists for years, not just because it is so far away — it takes a month for the sharks to get there — but because it seemed, on the surface, to be lacking the kind of prey or habitat that the toothy carnivores prefer. But the researchers made a remarkable discovery. Instead of blank, barren sea, the expedition, led by scientists with Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, found a vast community of tiny light-sensitive creatures so tantalizing that the sharks cross the sea en masse to reach them. The primary lure, scientists believe, is an extraordinary abundance of squid and small fish that migrate up and down in a little understood deep-water portion of ocean known as the “mid-water,” a region skirting the edge of complete darkness that could provide an immeasurably valuable trove of information about the ocean ecosystem and climate change.

What’s clear so far is that, like the hidden community of specialized wildlife in the Sahara, the shark cafe is a swirling mass of tiny phytoplankton, fish, squid and jellies. They move up and down in a soupy layer deep under water, a kind of twilight zone just below where sunlight stops penetrating the ocean depths. “It’s the largest migration of animals on Earth — a vertical migration that’s timed with the light cycle,” Jorgensen said. “During the day they go just below where there is light and at night they come up nearer the surface to warmer, more productive waters under the cover of darkness.” It’s a surreal deep water world populated by bioluminescent lantern fish and other species that have evolved amazing adaptations to darkness, Jorgensen said.

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Aug 312018
 
 August 31, 2018  Posted by at 7:29 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Vincent van Gogh Starry night 1889

 

Argentine Peso And Turkish Lira Crash, Put Pressure On Emerging Markets (CNBC)
US, China To Regulate Big Tech Firms ‘Like National Security Companies’ (CNBC)
Trumps Legal Team Preparing Counter Report To Delegitimize Mueller (ZH)
‘Vital’ US Moles in the Kremlin Go Missing! (Stephen Cohen)
Trump Is Right About “Flipping” (FFF)
France Says EU Needs Strategic Relationship With Russia On Defense (R.)
EU Says It Is Willing To Scrap Car Tariffs In US Trade Deal (Pol.eu)
China-Africa Summit To Target Investment Despite Debt Worries (AFP)
As Tesla Shares Fall, Amazon Takes Over As Most Shorted US Stock (R.)
IMF Unwavering On Greek Pension Cuts (K.)
The Three Tribes of Austerity (Varoufakis)
Trade Of Coastal Sand Is Damaging Wildlife, Coastlines Of Poorer Nations (G.)
France’s Ban On Bee-Killing Pesticides Begins Saturday (AFP)
The Ocean Cleanup Is Starting, Aims To Cut Garbage Patch By 90% By 2040 (F.)

 

 

At some point, these things start feeding upon themselves.

Argentine Peso And Turkish Lira Crash, Put Pressure On Emerging Markets (CNBC)

Emerging markets were rattled again, with the Argentine peso, Turkish lira and Indonesian rupiah tumbling overnight. The negative sentiment is set to weigh on other Asian currencies, although they will remain fairly resilient to the impact, analysts say. The peso crashed nearly 12 percent, following a domestic crisis which saw its central bank hike rates to 60 percent in an attempt to shore up its currency. Extending its steep losses this year, the lira fell 2.94 percent to a fourth straight day of declines. In Asia, India’s rupee fell to a new record low against the dollar on Friday — a more than 11 percent fall since the start of the year, and the Indonesian rupiah hit a near three-year low.

“Emerging markets will remain pressured by the Argentine peso and Turkish lira crises,” DBS analysts said in a note Friday morning. The peso is down more than 45% against the greenback this year. “Argentina has hiked rates to a record 60% to address double-digit inflation, but this would exacerbate the recession, and coupled with budget/current account deficits of around 5% of GDP, have increased the risk of for the government to default on its debt,” they added.

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Likely to be pushed hard ahead of mid terms.

US, China To Regulate Big Tech Firms ‘Like National Security Companies’ (CNBC)

The U.S. and China may be at odds on trade, but both are lining up to crack down on big tech, according to an analyst. “I think this is actually wrapped up in the trade issue, which is around national security and tech companies,” Michael Hessel, political economy analyst at Absolute Strategy Research, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Thursday. “There’s a growing push both within China and the U.S. to regulate some of these companies increasingly like national security companies, which could have huge implications for their business model.” President Donald Trump on Tuesday made Google his latest target in a tirade against big tech, saying the firm’s search service is “rigged” against conservatives in favor of left-leaning media.

The president subsequently took another shot at the tech giant on Wednesday, claiming it snubbed twice his State of the Union speeches, while promoting Barack Obama’s during each year of the latter’s presidency. Google later responded to this claim, saying it did promote Trump’s State of the Union address this year, but not in 2017. [..] Absolute Strategy Research’s Hessel did not expand on how he expected either country to clamp down on their respective tech industries. He said that a lack of regulation in the U.S. on tech — while the media industry is more heavily regulated — meant it could be a long-term concern for lawmakers in Washington. “I think the regulation of the tech industry is going to be a huge issue on a three-to-five year view,” Hessel said.

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2nd Special Counsel preparations.

Trumps Legal Team Preparing Counter Report To Delegitimize Mueller (ZH)

President Trump’s lawyers are preparing a rebuttal to any negative report issued by special counsel Robert Mueller following the DOJ’s probe into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, reports the Daily Beast following an interview with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. Part of the rebuttal, says Giuliani, would focus on whether the “initiation of the investigation was…legitimate or not.” “According to Giuliani, the bulk of the report will be divided into two sections. One section will seek to question the legitimacy of the Mueller probe generally by alleging “possible conflicts” of interest by federal law enforcement authorities. The other section will respond to more substantive allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russian government agents to sway the 2016 election, and obstruction of justice allegations stemming from, among other things, the president’s firing of former FBI director James Comey.” -Daily Beast

The latter section of the rebuttal will focus on Deputy Director Rod Rosenstein’s mandate when he ordered the Mueller’s investigation – though Giuliani admits he has no idea what the final report will consist of. “Since we have to guess what it is, [our report so far] is quite voluminous,” Giuliani said, claiming that he would spend much of this weekend “paring it down” and that he was editing the document created by the “whole team.” “The first half of it is 58 pages, and second half isn’t done yet…It needs an executive summary if it goes over a hundred” -Daily Beast In other words, Mueller has fair warning that the Trump administration intends to fight this tooth and nail.

The Weekly Standard’s Eric Felton offered this last month: “Appellate and constitutional lawyers David B. Rivkin, Jr. and Elizabeth Price Foley recently made a compelling case that the political bias among the FBI agents working on “Crossfire Hurricane” renders illegitimate everything flowing from that investigation. If “Crossfire was politically motivated then its culmination, the appointment of a special counsel, inherited the taint,” Rivkin and Foley wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “All special-counsel activities—investigations, plea deals, subpoenas, reports, indictments and convictions—are fruit of a poisonous tree, byproducts of a violation of due process.” Rivkin and Foley add: “That Mr. Mueller and his staff had nothing to do with Crossfire’s origin offers no cure.” -Weekly Standard

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Another fully crazy story. And yes, if such moles existed, nobody would tell the media.

‘Vital’ US Moles in the Kremlin Go Missing! (Stephen Cohen)

on August 25, the ever-eager New York Times published yet another front-page Russiagate story—one that if true would be sensational, though hardly anyone seemed to notice. According to the Times’ regular Intel leakers, US intelligence agencies, presumably the CIA, has had multiple “informants close to…Putin and in the Kremlin who provided crucial details” about Russiagate for two years. Now, however, “the vital Kremlin informants have largely gone silent.” The Times laces the story with misdeeds questionably attributed to Putin and equally untrustworthy commentators, as well as a mistranslated Putin statement that incorrectly has him saying all “traitors” should be killed. Standard US media fare these days when fact-checkers seem not to be required for Russia coverage. But the sensation of the article is that the US had moles in Putin’s office.

The real novelty of Russiagate is the allegation that a Kremlin leader, Putin, personally gave orders to affect the outcome of an American presidential election. In this regard, Russiagaters have produced even less evidence, only suppositions without facts or much logic. With the Russiagate narrative being frayed by time and fruitless investigations, the “mole in the Kremlin” may have seemed a ploy needed to keep the conspiracy theory moving forward, presumably toward Trump’s removal from office by whatever means. And hence the temptation to play the mole card again, now, as yet more investigations generate smoke but no smoking gun.

The pretext of the Times story is that Putin is preparing an attack on the upcoming November elections, but the once-“vital,” now-silent moles are not providing the “crucial details.” Even if the story is entirely bogus, consider the damage it is doing. Russiagate allegations have already delegitimized a presidential election, and a presidency, in the minds of many Americans. The Times’ updated, expanded version may do the same to congressional elections and the next Congress. If so, there is an “attack on American democracy”—not by Putin or Trump but by whoever godfathered and repeatedly inflated Russiagate.

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Common practice, but in this case questionable.

Trump Is Right About “Flipping” (FFF)

Suppose a federal criminal defendant contacts a prospective witness in a case and offers him $50,000 in return for his “cooperation” in his upcoming trial. The money will be paid as soon as the trial is over. The defendant makes it clear that he wants the witness to “tell the truth” but that his “cooperation” when he testifies at trial would be greatly appreciated. What would happen if federal officials learned about that communication and offer? They would go ballistic. They would immediately secure an indictment for bribery and witness tampering. What if the defendant says, “Oh, no, I wasn’t tampering with the witness. I specifically told him that I wanted him to tell the truth when he took the witness stand. I was just seeking his friendly ‘cooperation’ with my $50,000 offer to him.”?

It wouldn’t make a difference. Federal prosecutors would go after him with a vengeance on bribery and witness-tampering charges. And it is a virtual certainty that they would get a conviction. There is good reason for that. The law recognizes that the money could serve as an inducement for the witness to lie. Even though the defendant tells him to “tell the truth,” the witness knows that the fifty grand is being paid to him to help the defendant get acquitted, especially since it is payable after the trial is over. The temptation to lie, in return for the money, becomes strong, which is why the law prohibits criminal defendants from engaging in this type of practice.

Suppose a federal prosecutor says to a witness, “You are facing life in prison on the charges we have brought against you. But if you ‘cooperate’ with us to get John Doe, we will adjust the charges so that the most the judge can do is send you to jail for only 5 years at most. If you are really ‘cooperative,’ we will recommend that the judge give you the lowest possible sentence, perhaps even probation. Oh, one more thing, we want to make it clear that we do want you to tell the truth.” Do you see the problem? The temptation to please the prosecutor with “cooperation” becomes tremendous. If the witness can help secure a conviction of Doe, he stands to get a much lighter sentence for his successful “cooperation.” The inducement to commit perjury oftentimes takes over, notwithstanding the prosecutor’s admonition to the witness to “tell the truth.”

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Are the UK going to use this to justify Brexit?

France Says EU Needs Strategic Relationship With Russia On Defense (R.)

The European Union needs a strategic relationship with Turkey, including in defense matters, and should modernize its post-Cold War relations with Russia, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday. Macron is a strong advocate for a Europe that is able to defend its strategic interests and financial independence and respond to new global economic and defense situation brought on by Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States. He has sought to improve relations with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, although his efforts have been complicated by allegations of Russian meddling in elections from the United States to France and a nerve agent attack in Britain.

“It is in our interest for the EU to have a strategic relationship with Turkey as well as with Russia that brings stability, that will in the long term and bring more strength and coherency,” Macron said in a news conference in Helsinki alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. He said the EU’s relations with Russia needed to be “brought up to date”, using the Italian word “aggiornamento”. “I think that on matters like cybersecurity, defense, strategic relationships, we could envisage the outlines of a new relationship between Russia and the EU which is coherent with the direction Europe is headed in,” Macron said.

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Not enough, says Trump.

EU Says It Is Willing To Scrap Car Tariffs In US Trade Deal (Pol.eu)

Brussels is willing to scrap tariffs on all industrial products, including cars, in its trade talks with the United States, EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström said Thursday. “We said that we are ready from the EU side to go to zero tariffs on all industrial goods, of course if the U.S. does the same, so it would be on a reciprocal basis,” Malmström told the European Parliament’s trade committee. “We are willing to bring down even our car tariffs down to zero … if the U.S. does the same,” she said, adding that “it would be good for us economically, and for them.”

Malmström’s comment went beyond what was agreed in July in the joint statement between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.S. President Donald Trump, which only mentioned eliminating tariffs, non-tariff barriers and subsidies for “non-auto industrial goods.” [..] The EU’s car tariff of 10 percent is higher than the general U.S. auto tariff of 2.5 percent, but America imposes a 25 percent duty on light trucks and pick-ups. Malmström insisted that the discussions were not about “restarting TTIP” but aiming for “a more limited trade agreement.” “Agriculture would not be in the agreement, nor public procurement as it looks to today,” she said.

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Same as Silk Road: loading countries up with debt. Then take their assets.

China-Africa Summit To Target Investment Despite Debt Worries (AFP)

African leaders will gather in Beijing Monday for a summit focused on economic ties, granting China a feel-good photo opportunity as it comes under increasing fire for its debt-laden approach to aid in the developing world. President Xi Jinping will host leaders from across the continent for the two-day Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which will include talks on his cherished “Belt and Road” infrastructure programme. The massive scheme, aimed at improving Chinese access to foreign markets and resources, and boosting its influence abroad, has already seen Beijing loan billions of dollars to countries in Asia and Africa for roads, railways, ports and other major building projects.

“The initiative will probably be expanded to include the whole of Africa,” said Cobus van Staden, senior researcher on Africa-China relations at the South African Institute of International Affairs. While some critics have branded the strategy a debt-trap, African leaders have long embraced Chinese investment, helping make Beijing the continent’s largest trading partner for the past decade. At the last three-yearly gathering in Johannesburg in 2015, Xi announced $60 billion of assistance and loans for Africa. This year, China will want to add more African countries to “its ever-expanding list of ‘friendly’ nations”, especially from the north and francophone west, said Adebusuyi Isaac Adeniran, an expert on the relationship at Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University.

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Starting to short all of Big Tech. Buffett calling iPhones underpriced may be seen in that light.

As Tesla Shares Fall, Amazon Takes Over As Most Shorted US Stock (R.)

With Tesla’s shares briefly dipping below the $300 level on Thursday, the electric carmaker ceded its seat as the most shorted U.S. stock to Amazon.com, according to data from financial technology and analytics firm S3 Partners. Tesla short interest in dollars, calculated using the number of shares sold short and the share price, stood at $9.93 billion, on Thursday, just shy of $9.95 billion for Amazon, S3 Partners data showed. Analysts said investors were still shorting Tesla shares, or taking positions that amounted to bets the stock would keep declining. Short-sellers aim to profit by selling borrowed shares, hoping to buy them back later at a lower price.

“While there was some short covering the week after the tweet, there has still not been any significant net Tesla short covering on the Street,” said Ihor Dusaniwsky, head of research at S3 in New York. “Any traders who have closed down their positions to realize some profits have been replaced by new ones looking for continued price weakness,” he said. Tesla shares whipsawed this month after Chief Executive Elon Musk on Aug. 7 tweeted he planned to take the company private, only to abandon the idea by Aug. 24.

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Sovereign nation.

IMF Unwavering On Greek Pension Cuts (K.)

The government’s aim to suspend pension cuts due to come into effect in January is likely to fuel friction in the coming weeks, Kathimerini understands, as the IMF is adamant that the reductions should be made even if they are not required for Greece to meet budget targets. The IMF’s stance is at odds with that of European officials who are more flexible on the issue, as European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici has suggested in a series of recent comments. Indeed, according to sources, the EC’s envoy to Greece, Declan Costello, is working on a compromise that would be acceptable to the government.

The IMF has not publicly declared its position on the Greek pensions issue yet but sources say the Fund has not shifted from its stance in favor of pension cuts despite the more favorable than expected fiscal forecasts, due to fears about the Greek pension system, which remains unsustainable partially due to the country’s aging population. The IMF’s unofficial position, it seems, is that fiscal savings worth 1 percent of GDP – the value of the planned pension cuts – are not required for Greece to achieve a primary surplus of 3.5 percent of GDP but it is preferable that they be carried out and offset by countermeasures than not carried out.

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US Republicans and German social democrats have the same agenda. But the latter have all but vanished.

The Three Tribes of Austerity (Varoufakis)

The first, and best known, “austerian” tribe is motivated by the tendency to view the state as no different from a business or a household that must tighten its belt during bad times. Overlooking the crucial interdependence between a government’s expenditure and (tax) income (from which businesses and households are blissfully free), they make the erroneous intellectual leap from private parsimony to public austerity. Of course, this is no arbitrary error; it is powerfully motivated by an ideological commitment to small government, which in turn veils a more sinister class interest in redistributing risks and losses to the poor.

A second, less recognized, austerian tribe can be found within European social democracy. To take one towering example, when the 2008 crisis erupted, Germany’s finance ministry was in the hands of Peer Steinbrück, a leading member of the Social Democratic Party. Almost immediately, Steinbrück prescribed a dose of austerity as Germany’s optimal response to the Great Recession. Moreover, Steinbrück championed a constitutional amendment that would ban all future German governments from deviating from austerity, no matter how deep the economic downturn. [..] Against a background of failing banks and a mighty recession, he opined that fiscal deficits deny elected politicians “room for maneuver” and rob the electorate of meaningful choices.

The third austerian tribe is American and perhaps the most fascinating of the three. Whereas British Thatcherites and German social democrats practiced austerity in an ill-conceived attempt to eliminate the government’s budget deficit, US Republicans neither genuinely care to limit the federal government’s budget deficit nor believe that they will succeed in doing so. After winning office on a platform proclaiming their loathing of large government and pledging to “cut it down to size,” they proceed to boost the federal budget deficit by enacting large tax cuts for their rich donors. Even though they seem entirely free of the other two tribes’ deficit phobia, their aim – to “starve the beast” (the US social welfare system) – is quintessentially austerian.

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Mindless and braindead.

Trade Of Coastal Sand Is Damaging Wildlife, Coastlines Of Poorer Nations (G.)

The secretive trade of coastal sand to wealthy countries such as China is seriously damaging the wildlife of poorer nations whose resources are being plundered, according to a new study. Sand and gravel are the most extracted groups of materials worldwide after water, with sand used in the concrete and asphalt of global cities. China consumed more sand between 2011 and 2013 than the US did during the entire 20th century. India has more than tripled its annual use of construction sand since 2000. But coastal sand is also being used to make wealthy countries larger via land reclamation projects, and the cost to poorer nations is revealed in a presentation to the Royal Geographical Society’s annual conference.

Research by Melissa Marschke and Laura Schoenberger of the University of Ottawa highlights that the dredging of coastal sand from Cambodia is causing the loss of mangrove swamps, coastal erosion, and damaging local fishing. They also allege that the sheer scale of the multimillion dollar trade of sand must be illegal, given that the volumes permitted for import are being exceeded. Singapore is built on sand: its land area has grown by more than a fifth since its independence in 1965 from 581 sq km to 719 sq km in 2015, according to the researchers. Between 2007 and 2017, Singapore imported more sand from Cambodia than any other country. Sand worth US$752m was imported by Singapore from Cambodia between 2007 and 2016, according to UN data.

Cambodia is not the only place experiencing vast sand extraction. A study recently estimated that 236m cubic metres of sand were extracted from Poyang Lake in China, causing its water levels to drop dramatically. Sand miners have destroyed at least two dozen islands in Indonesia since 2005. The UK obtains about one fifth of its sand from the seabed.

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But the minister who made it possible resigned last week. Watch out.

France’s Ban On Bee-Killing Pesticides Begins Saturday (AFP)

A ban on five neonicotinoid pesticides enters into force in France on Saturday, placing the country at the forefront of a campaign against chemicals blamed for decimating critical populations of crop-pollinating bees. The move has been hailed by beekeepers and environmental activists, but lamented by cereal and sugar beet farmers who claim there are no effective alternatives for protecting their valuable crops against insects. With its ban, France has gone further than the European Union, which voted to outlaw the use of three neonicotinoids — clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam — in crop fields. Heavily agriculture-reliant France banned these three neonicotinoids plus thiacloprid and acetamiprid, not only outdoors but in greenhouses too.

These are the only five neonicotinoid pesticides hitherto authorised for use in Europe. Introduced in the mid-1990s, lab-synthesised neonicotinoids are based on the chemical structure of nicotine, and attack the central nervous system of insects. They were meant to be a less harmful substitute to older pesticides, and are now the most widely-used to treat flowering crops, including fruit trees, beets, wheat, canola, and vineyards. In recent years, bees started dying off from “colony collapse disorder,” a mysterious scourge blamed partly on pesticides along with mites, viruses, and fungi, or some combination of these. Scientific studies have since shown that neonicotinoids harm bee reproduction and foraging by diminishing sperm quality and scrambling the insects’ memory and navigation functions.

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Watching with great interest.

The Ocean Cleanup Is Starting, Aims To Cut Garbage Patch By 90% By 2040 (F.)

A massive cleanup of plastic in the seas will begin in the Pacific Ocean, by way of Alameda, California. The Ocean Cleanup, an effort that’s been five years in the making, plans to launch its beta cleanup system, a 600-meter (almost 2,000-foot) long floater that can collect about five tons of ocean plastic per month. It’s a start. The launch date is September 8, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch being targeted is more than 1,000 nautical miles from the launch point and on the move. The Ocean Cleanup plans to monitor the performance of the beta, called System 001, and have an improved fleet of 60 more units skimming the ocean for plastics in about a year a half. The ultimate goal of the project, founded by Dutch inventor Boyan Slat when he was 18, is to clean up 50% of the patch in five years, with a 90% reduction by 2040.

The organization will take time to learn lessons from System 001, but “we are in a big hurry,” said Lonneke Holierhoek, chief operating officer at The Ocean Cleanup. “We really see the urgency in starting the cleanup because there’s so much harm that could happen with this plastic that’s floating out there.” The total cost of System 001 is about 21 million euros ($24.6 million U.S.), according to a rep for startup. That includes design, development, production, assembly and monitoring during the first year of operation. The company will welcome corporations and philanthropists to sponsor their own cleanup system in coming years, the rep says. These systems will sport a sponsor logo and related app that follows the unit’s course through the gyre and shows how much plastic has been collected.

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Aug 052018
 
 August 5, 2018  Posted by at 8:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Claude Monet Hollowed Cliff near Étretat 1883

 

The Real Threat To The Fed’s Independence Is Wall Street, Not Trump (WM)
The Trillion-Dollar Question: Can The Tech Giants Keep Growing? (G.)
Light It Up (Kunstler)
IMF Option Looms Larger For Turkey Amid Row With US (AL M.)
Beware the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship (Matt Taibbi)
Why Theresa May Must Stop The Brexit Clock (O.)
UK Trade Minister Fox Says EU Is Pushing Britain To No-Deal Brexit (R.)
Separating Children From Their Parents Puts UK Government To Shame, Too (O.)
Britain’s Economics Students Are Dangerously Poorly Educated (G.)
How Reality Is Being Redefined (Slog)
Greece’s Unemployment Highest in Developed World (GR)
Greece: An Economy That Has Shrunk So Much It Looks War-Torn (WaPo)

 

 

But we’ve given them all the power…

The Real Threat To The Fed’s Independence Is Wall Street, Not Trump (WM)

[..] the real threat to the Fed’s independence isn’t coming from Trump—it’s coming from Wall Street. The Fed’s structural flaws have led to regulatory capture, which compromises its ability to set monetary and regulatory policy in a manner that isn’t tilted to favor those at the very top of the economic ladder. Trump may have broken a norm by commenting on monetary policy, but the Fed’s status quo is unaccountable, opaque decision-making shaped by deep conflicts of interest with the very financial institutions the Fed is ostensibly supposed to supervise. Consider, for instance, the abrupt resignation in March of David Cote from the New York Fed’s board of directors—a move that came as a shock to many Fed watchers.

Cote was one of just a couple people responsible for choosing the next president of the New York Fed, the most powerful economic policymaking position in the country that Trump doesn’t control. Yet before the search for New York Fed President Bill Dudley’s successor had formally concluded, Cote left the board to pursue “new business opportunities that could affect his eligibility to serve”—later revealed to be helping Goldman Sachs undertake an ambitious corporate acquisition strategy. The New York Fed claims that Cote and his fellow board members had already decided on former San Francisco Fed President John Williams to succeed Dudley by the time that Cote announced his resignation, but that means that Cote was simultaneously negotiating a new gig at Goldman Sachs while selecting one of Goldman’s top regulators.

The entire ordeal served as an unsettling reminder of the cozy relationship between the Federal Reserve and the biggest behemoth on Wall Street. Prior to being selected as New York Fed president in 2009, Dudley was Goldman Sachs’s chief economist. In 2008, Goldman Sachs Director Stephen Friedman chaired the New York Fed’s board of the directors at the same moment that it was reviewing Goldman’s application to become a bank holding company. In 2014, leaked tapes exposed New York Fed regulators pressuring one of their examiners to back off of a finding that would have imperiled Goldman Sachs’s ability to engage in a deal with Banco Santander. And in 2015, the Fed chose three consecutive men with strong ties to Goldman Sachs to be new Federal Reserve Bank presidents.

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Only if we let them.

The Trillion-Dollar Question: Can The Tech Giants Keep Growing? (G.)

It has been a tumultuous couple of weeks for America’s high-flying technology stocks, even by their own unique standards. Their shares have been soaring since the start of the year, despite being buffeted by trade war fears as President Trump talked of limiting Chinese investments in the US and restricting American technology imports to China. But now there are signs that cracks may be starting to appear in some of the biggest firms in the sector. Facebook suffered the biggest ever one-day drop in a company’s market value – losing more than £90bn – after its growth slowed in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Twitter lost 20%, or $5bn, as it reported a surprise fall in active monthly users, while streaming service Netflix missed its targets for subscriber numbers.

On the other hand, electric car specialist Tesla managed to head in the right direction despite making a $717m second-quarter loss, as its controversial chief executive, Elon Musk, regained investor confidence after apologising for previous outbursts. That was in marked contrast to a conference call for the company’s previous set of figures, when he accused a Wall Street analyst of “boring bonehead questions” and ignored queries from investors. But the pick of the bunch remains Apple, which beat Amazon and Google to reach the landmark $1 trillion valuation on Thursday.

Despite the recent rollercoaster ride, the five key tech stocks, known as the “Faangs” – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Alphabet-owned Google – have reached breathtaking heights. The total value of the five companies amounts to a staggering 19% of total US GDP. But their surge in value has prompted fears of a re-run of the dotcom boom of the late 1990s, when technology businesses dominated the stock market before coming crashing to earth. Russ Mould at investment group AJ Bell says: “That [19%] compares to the 15.5% of US GDP reached by the five biggest companies by value at the US stock market’s peak in the fourth quarter of 1999, just before the technology, media and telecoms bubble burst and that particular mania came to grief.”

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“That’s my theory about what Russia is up to. If you have a better one, let’s hear it?”

Light It Up (Kunstler)

The Guardians of the Galaxy at National Public Radio were beside themselves Wednesday night reporting that “the lights are blinking red for a 2018 election attack by Russia.” Well, isn’t that an interesting set-up? In effect, NPR is preparing its listeners in advance to reject and dispute the coming midterm election if they’re not happy with the results. Thus continues America’s institutional self-sabotage, with the help of a news media that’s become the errand boy of the Deep State.

What do I mean by the Deep State? The vested permanent bureaucracy of Washington DC, and especially its vastly overgrown and redundant “Intel Community,” which has achieved critical mass to take on a life of its own within the larger government, makes up its own rules of conduct, not necessarily within the rule of law, and devotes too much of its budget and influence defending its own prerogatives rather than the interests of the nation.

Personally, I doubt that President Putin of Russia is dumb enough to allow, let alone direct, his intel services to lift a finger “meddling” in the coming US midterm election, with this American intel behemoth vacuuming every digital electron on earth into the NSA’s bottomless maw of intercepted secrets. Mr. Putin must have also observed by now that the US Intel Community is capable of generating mass public hallucinations, to the beat of war-drums, and determined not to give it anything to work with. That’s my theory about what Russia is up to. If you have a better one, let’s hear it?

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Turkey double-crossed the US in a prisoner swap deal. Bad idea of course. Erdogan wants Gulen, but this is not the way.

IMF Option Looms Larger For Turkey Amid Row With US (AL M.)

While the climate of uncertainty is discouraging investments, inflation is eroding real incomes and curbing domestic consumption. As a result, the shrinking demand is bearing on economic growth, which has relied largely on the domestic market. The Turkish economy, which grew 7.4% in 2017, is expected to slow in the third quarter before beginning to contract.

The growing uncertainties are discouraging also the inflow of hot money from abroad, which Turkey desperately needs. Moreover, existing foreign investors have been fleeing the Turkish stock market, albeit slowly — a trend that contributes to sustaining the high prices of foreign exchange, especially the dollar. Accordingly, Turkey’s risk premium — reflected in credit default swaps (CDS) — is on the rise. Turkey’s CDS, which had stood at 166 basis points Feb. 1 and 199 basis points May 1, hit a record high of 334 basis points on the evening of Aug. 1 — up from 321 points in the morning. The increasing risk premium means that Turkey will now face higher interest rates when it tries to borrow from foreign creditors.

The country’s external financing needs for the next 12 months amount to $230 billion, including $180 billion to roll over external debts and $50 billion to cover its gaping current account deficit. Hence, the question of how the required funds will be secured and at what cost is crucial. The tensions with Washington came amid this already serious crunch, exacerbating the woes of Erdogan’s regime. The row over Brunson had flared last week, as both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened sanctions unless Ankara took “immediate action” to release the pastor, who is being held on what Washington sees as bogus charges of espionage and collaboration with terrorist groups.

The warnings had an immediate economic effect, pushing up Turkey’s risk premium, as pundits sought to predict the scope of the upcoming sanctions. Some suggested that Washington’s hardening stance would bear on the flow of foreign capital to Turkey and the support it might seek from the IMF, while others saw trouble looming over Halkbank, the Turkish public lender embroiled in a scheme to evade US sanctions against Iran. Ultimately, Washington announced sanctions on Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul under the 2016 Magnitsky Act, which targets individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses. According to Bloomberg, this “could be just the start of what would look like a US assault on Turkey’s vulnerable economy,” including a potentially hefty fine on Halkbank.

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There’s Mark Warner again, the guy who with Comey screwed up the Assange deal with the DOJ.

Beware the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship (Matt Taibbi)

You may have seen a story this week detailing how Facebook shut down a series of accounts. As noted by Politico, Facebook claimed these accounts “sought to inflame social and political tensions in the United States, and said their activity was similar — and in some cases connected — to that of Russian accounts during the 2016 election.” Similar? What does “similar” mean? The death-pit for civil liberties is usually found in a combination of fringe/unpopular people or ideas and a national security emergency. This is where we are with this unsettling new confab of Facebook, Congress and the Trump administration.

Read this jarring quote from Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) about the shutting down of the “inauthentic” accounts: “Today’s disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation… I also expect Facebook, along with other platform companies, will continue to identify Russian troll activity and to work with Congress…” This was in a story in which Facebook stated that it did not know the source of all the pages. They might be Russian, or they might just be Warner’s idea of “sowing division.” Are we comfortable with that range of possibilities?

[..] Facebook was “helped” in its efforts to wipe out these dangerous memes by the Atlantic Council, on whose board you’ll find confidence-inspiring names like Henry Kissinger, former CIA chief Michael Hayden, former acting CIA head Michael Morell and former Bush-era Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff. (The latter is the guy who used to bring you the insane color-coded terror threat level system.) These people now have their hands on what is essentially a direct lever over nationwide news distribution. It’s hard to understate the potential mischief that lurks behind this union of Internet platforms and would-be government censors. As noted in Rolling Stone earlier this year, 70 percent of Americans get their news from just two sources, Facebook and Google. As that number rises, the power of just a few people to decide what information does and does not reach the public will amplify significantly.

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Makes sense. But too much of the whole thing doesn’t.

Why Theresa May Must Stop The Brexit Clock (O.)

May’s cabinet colleagues, fanning out across the continent like Patton’s Third Army to advance her Chequers compromise, do not appear to have fared any better. Especially embarrassing are the efforts of Jeremy Hunt, the new foreign secretary. He gravely warned puzzled Europeans last week that Britain was heading for “no-deal by accident” by pushing itself off a cliff. The UK would not “blink first”, he added. Perhaps Hunt thinks he is Clint Eastwood. It matters not. On Brexit, this government has its eyes tight shut. It is blind to the consequences – and the waiting chasm. Blinking does not come into it. What part of the EU’s unchanging position on the principles governing Britain’s future relationship with Europe does May’s government not understand?

For two years or more, Barnier, the chief negotiator, firmly backed by 27 governments, has been telling London there can be no compromise and no fudge that weakens the integrity of the single market, pan-European customs and legal regulations and Europe’s borders. Yet May’s Chequers plan, seeking exceptional (and unworkable) arrangements, blithely ignores all that. In case the European public did not appreciate what was at stake, or was taken in by chauvinistic Tory claims of EU vindictiveness and dogmatism, Barnier published an op-ed in 20 European newspapers last week. Amid Brexit’s baffling complexities, his concision and clarity were refreshing. He explained the EU’s justified fears about the impact of Brexit on Europe and why it cannot reasonably be expected to bow to May’s demands for special treatment:

“The UK knows well the benefits of the single market. It has contributed to shaping our rules over the last 45 years. And yet some UK proposals would undermine our single market, which is one of the EU’s biggest achievements. The UK wants to keep free movement of goods between us, but not of people and services. And it proposes to apply EU customs rules without being part of the EU’s legal order. The UK wants to take back sovereignty and control of its own laws, which we respect, but it cannot ask the EU to lose control of its borders and laws,” Barnier wrote.

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Oh, yeah, they’re going to blame it on the EU.

UK Trade Minister Fox Says EU Is Pushing Britain To No-Deal Brexit (R.)

British trade minister Liam Fox said “intransigence” from the European Union was pushing Britain toward a no-deal Brexit, in an interview published on Saturday by the Sunday Times. With less than eight months until Britain quits the EU, the government has yet to agree a divorce deal with Brussels and has stepped up planning for the possibility of leaving the bloc without any formal agreement. Fox, a prominent Brexit supporter in Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet, put the odds of Britain leaving the European Union without agreeing a deal over their future relationship at 60-40. “I think the intransigence of the commission is pushing us toward no deal,” Fox told the Sunday Times after a trade mission in Japan.

“We have set out the basis in which a deal can happen but if the EU decides that the theological obsession of the unelected is to take priority over the economic wellbeing of the people of Europe then it’s a bureaucrats’ Brexit — not a people’s Brexit — (and) then there is only going to be one outcome.” It was up to the EU whether it wanted to put “ideological purity” ahead of the real economy, Fox said. If Britain fails to agree the terms of its divorce with the EU and leaves without even a transition agreement to smooth its exit, it would revert to trading under World Trade Organization rules in March 2019.

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All sociopaths do it. They are defined by their lack of empathy.

Separating Children From Their Parents Puts UK Government To Shame, Too (O.)

Donald Trump’s policy of forcibly separating immigrant parents and children at the US border has been greeted with shock and abhorrence. Around the world, people have listened to audio of young children sobbing for their parents while federal agents crack jokes and heard the stories of children locked up in cages in the richest country in the world. Even the prime minister broke with her usual timidity about Trump’s transgressions to call his family separation policy “deeply disturbing”. What hypocrisy. Less noticed – although no less inhumane – is the British government’s policy of separating parents from their young children as part of immigration detention, all conducted on Theresa May’s watch, first as home secretary, then as prime minister.

Charities such as Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) have for years been raising the cases of children, many of whom are British citizens, taken into care because their parents have been detained, or even deported, without them. In recent months, a long list of cruelties meted out in the name of the government’s “hostile environment” policy has come to the public’s attention: people who’ve lived in Britain legally for decades, paying their taxes, suddenly denied life-saving NHS care; young people who’ve grown up in Britain facing many thousands of pounds in fees and a multi-year slog to get permanent residency; children raised in care facing the risk of deportation as an adult to a country they don’t know. Any sense of basic justice or human compassion seems to have eluded the Home Office.

But separating tiny children from their parents is cruelty of a whole different order. Today, we report on the case of Kishi, a young mother who dropped her two-year-old off at nursery in order to attend an appointment at an immigration reporting centre. There, she was restrained by immigration security officials and taken to an immigration removals centre. No arrangements were made for her toddler, who was put into emergency foster care when no one came to pick her up, and Kishi was not told where her daughter was for two days. It was another month before she saw her. Kishi and her child are not alone. BID says more than 300 children were removed from their parents in the last 12 months, an increase of 16% on the previous year. Many of those will have been taken into care as a result. The Home Office does not keep records on this; perhaps because it contravenes its own guidance, which says children must not be separated from their parents for immigration purposes if it means they will be taken into care.

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Sometimes I think in Britain it’s not only the economists.

Britain’s Economics Students Are Dangerously Poorly Educated (G.)

This month, the pressure group Rethinking Economics said Britain’s universities were failing to equip economics students with the skills that businesses and the government say they need. Following extensive interviews with employers, including organisations such as the Bank of England, it found that universities were producing “a cohort of economic practitioners who struggle to provide innovative ideas to overcome economic challenges or use economic tools on real-world problems”. Moreover, the group said, “when political decisions are backed by economics reasoning, as they so often are, economists are unable to communicate ideas to the public, resulting in a large democratic deficit.”

You could easily level that criticism at the economists forecasting the impact of AI. What are people supposed to think when those who study the field come up with such wildly varying predictions? More importantly, what will politicians think they should do? Nothing, probably, given the confusion. The Rethinking group is concerned that university departments only train, rather than educate, huge numbers of graduates for econometrics jobs across the banking, insurance and consulting sectors. In our increasingly student-led system, these young people don’t want to mess around with history or modules on inequality. They are on a mission to make money for themselves in the private sector.

If they were diverted into discussions of economic history, they might find out we are about to repeat the mistakes of the past and trigger another financial crisis. Even more inhibiting, their course might show that higher inequality dampens workers’ incentives to increase productivity, and might prompt them to ask why young economists in the City are paid colossal amounts of money to analyse bond yields or forecast oil prices. Pay them less, share the money around, and productivity might improve. Failing that, let a robot do their job.

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John put something like dictatorship in the title. Bit much.

How Reality Is Being Redefined (Slog)

The last burgeoning growth sector on the Planet is the pursuit of redefinition. The idea is first to confuse, then create a climate of acceptance, and finally do away with every form of liberty that stands in the way of power. Both Capital and Labour are actively following the same road. It will be the end of the road for citizen freedom unless they’re both stopped. John Williams at Shadowstats.com reckons that the real unemployment rate in the US is 21.4%. Unimpressed by the US State’s insane assumption that all those no longer able to claim unemployment welfare “have found a job”, Mr Williams provides further fuel for my longstanding thesis that no real recovery can occur – if more and more mass-market consumers work fewer and fewer hours for less and less money or have no job at all – because their personal disposable income is disappearing out of sight. The term ‘in employment’ has been redefined.

When he arrived at the UK Treasury as Chancellor, George Osborne immediately gave notice that he’d be switching from the higher RPI measure of inflation (then at 5.2%) to the lower CPI at 4.5%. That doesn’t sound like much, but one has to remember two things: first, that is a 14% difference in levels that makes inflation look much lower; and second, over time the different impression given is huge: from 1996 to 2011, under the RPI system prices rose 53.6%….but using the CPI method, it only came to 35.6%. Significantly, the CPI system excludes financial services costs and government charges to the consumer. Just fancy that. So the term ‘inflation’ has been redefined.

Within two years of taking office, the Conservative-led coalition’s leader David Cameron started claiming that “the Government’s long-term economic plan is working to create more jobs”. Government Party Political Broadcasts showed the statistics, and yes, it certainly looked that way. But “a job” to most people over the last half century meant 38-40 hours a week with a month’s notice. When analysed, these new jobs were averaging 20 hours a week, often at unsocial hours and frequently on no contracts at all. They typically demand, for example, that the “employee” be ready to come into the workplace without notice. When using the weasel term ‘job’, Cameron was comparing meat and two veg with bread and dripping. So the term ‘job’ has been redefined.

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One thing: people earning a low income ‘rate’ is much higher than 10.6%, and up by much more than 2% in 10 years. Lost in translation?

Greece’s Unemployment Highest in Developed World (GR)

Greece tops all countries in the developed world in unemployment according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Employment Outlook 2018. Greece has suffered a dramatic spike in unemployment, with the 2017 total climbing to 21.7% of the working population, more than double the 2006 figure.

Large increases in unemployment and an underutilized workforce were accompanied by falling output, very high debt, a serious GDP deficit and deflation, the report says. Along with its impact on employment levels, the financial crisis caused a reduction in wage growth in a lot of countries, leading to a drop in living standards for many.

The proportion of working-age people earning the “low-income” rate jumped to 10.6%, up from 9.56% a decade earlier. Although Korea, Mexico, and Chile have seen a decrease in the number of low-income households, most of the countries hit hardest by the euro crisis, such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Slovenia, have suffered a 2% rise.

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Thank you Brussels and Berlin.

Greece: An Economy That Has Shrunk So Much It Looks War-Torn (WaPo)

The point is that this kind of economic collapse is usually the symptom of a broader state collapse. Which is why it almost never happens in rich countries. That’s clear enough if you look at the late Angus Maddison’s historical GDP per capita numbers. Going back to 1900, there have been only three general times when European economies have shrunk over a 10-year period as much as Greece’s has since 2008: after World War I, after World War II and after the fall of communism. Most of the exceptions to this involve other wars – in particular, the Balkan wars of the 1910s, the Spanish Civil War, the Greek Civil War and the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s — but there is one that largely took place during peacetime. That was Weimar Germany’s hyperinflation.

It’s worth pointing out what isn’t here: the Great Depression. That wasn’t quite as bad in Europe as it was in the United States — at its nadir in 1933, the U.S. 10-year decline was actually comparable to Greece’s today — partly due to the fact that most European countries were quicker to leave the gold standard when things did start to get more dire. That allowed them to inject enough monetary stimulus into their economies to jump-start almost immediate recoveries. The problem, of course, is that it’s a lot harder for Greece to do the equivalent of that right now. The gold standard and the euro are similar in that they are both fixed-exchange rate systems that can get countries into trouble if they are hit by a big enough shock that their economy “needs” a cheaper currency than it has under the system.

But they’re different in that it’s a lot simpler to say your currency won’t be worth as much gold as it used to than to replace all of your currency with a new one. So instead of stimulus, Greece has gotten austerity — and a lot of it. Under the terms of its just-about-to-be-completed bailout agreement, Greece is actually supposed to keep running primary budget surpluses of at least 2.2 percent of GDP until 2060. That’s right: four more decades of austerity. It’s no wonder, then, that Greece’s economy might not get back to where it was in 2008 until 2030. This is what Europe calls a success: an economy that has shrunk so much it looks war-torn.

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Mar 172018
 


Times Square NYC ca. 1909

 

Higher Interest Rates To Spell Private Debt Trouble in Many Countries (BBG)
The US Economy Is Not Really Growing (RIA)
US Gross National Debt Spikes $1.2 Trillion in 6 Months, Hits $21 Trillion (WS)
Russia Expels 23 British Diplomats In Retaliation (Ind.)
EU Ready To Hit Big US Tech Firms With 3% Turnover Tax (R.)
Goldilocks, R. I. P. – Part 2 (Stockman)
School Daze (Jim Kunstler)
‘America’s New Vietnam’: The Homelessness Crisis Seems Unsolvable (G.)
An Information Apocalypse Is Coming. How Can We Protect Ourselves? (G.)
China To Bar People With Bad ‘Social Credit’ From Planes, Trains (R.)
Global Biodiversity Crisis Puts Mankind At Risk (AFP)

 

 

What’s kept us alive will kill us off.

Higher Interest Rates To Spell Private Debt Trouble in Many Countries (BBG)

Hong Kong, Sweden, China and Australia could all find themselves in hot water over private-sector debt if borrowing costs rise, according to research by Oxford Economics. That’s because those countries all have a particularly high share of floating-rate debt in relation to economic output. If interest rates increase, households and companies are likely to feel the pinch, the study of 16 economies found. With global economic momentum picking up, several major central banks are weighing steps to tighten policy, though the pace of movement varies significantly. The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates again next week and economists also predict that Sweden’s Riksbank will tighten policy later this year.

Oxford Economics estimated that an interest rate rise of 100 basis points would raise Hong Kong’s debt service ratio by around 2.5% of GDP after a year, while Sweden, China and Australia would experience increases of between 1.5% and 1.7% of GDP. By contrast, Germany, where debt levels are moderate, as well as France and the U.S. are less likely to suffer. For the latter two, that’s because mortgages are typically of fixed rate.

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It’s embarrassing that we need this to be pointed out.

The US Economy Is Not Really Growing (RIA)

Most people are aware that GDP growth has been lower than expected in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 (GFC). For example, real GDP growth for the past decade has been closer to 1.5% than the 3% experienced in the 50 years prior to 2008. As a result of the combination of slow economic growth and deficit spending, most people are also aware that the debt/GDP ratio has been rising. However, what most people don’t know is that, over the past ten years, the dollar amount of cumulative government deficit spending exceeded the dollar amount of GDP growth. Put another way, in the absence of deficit spending, GDP growth would have been less than zero for the past decade. Could that be true?

Let’s begin with a shocking chart that confirms the statements above, and begins to answer the question. The black line shows the difference between quarterly GDP growth and the quarterly increase in Treasury debt outstanding (TDO). When the black line is above zero (red dotted line), the dollar amount is GDP is growing faster than the increase in TDO. From 1971 to 2008, the amount of GDP typically grew at a faster rate than the increase in TDO, which is why the black line is generally above the red dotted line.

Most people are aware that GDP growth has been lower than expected in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 (GFC). For example, real GDP growth for the past decade has been closer to 1.5% than the 3% During the 1971-2008 period, inflation, budget deficits, and trade deficits varied widely, meaning that the relationship between GDP growth and TDO was stable even in the face of changes in other economic variables. Regardless of those changing economic variables, the US economy tended to grow at a pace faster than TDO for four decades. The only interruptions to the pattern occurred during recessions of the early 1980s, early 1990s, and early 2000s when GDP fell while budget deficits did not.

[..] From 2008-2017, GDP grew by $5.051 trillion, from $14.55 trillion to $19.74 trillion. During that same period, the increase in TDO totaled $11.26 trillion. In other words, for each dollar of deficit spending, the economy grew by less than 50 cents. Or, put another way, had the federal government not borrowed and spent the $11.263 trillion, GDP today would be significantly smaller than it is. It is possible to transform Chart 1, which shows annual changes in TDO and GDP from 1970-2017, into Chart 3 below, which shows the cumulative difference between the growth of TDO and GDP over the entire period from 1970-2017. The graph below clearly shows the abrupt regime change that occurred in the aftermath of the GFC. A period in which growth in GDP growth exceeded increases in TDO has been replaced by a period in which increases in TDO exceeded GDP growth.

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“These dang trillions are flying by so fast, they’re hard to see.”

US Gross National Debt Spikes $1.2 Trillion in 6 Months, Hits $21 Trillion (WS)

The US gross national debt jumped by $72.8 billion in one day, on Thursday, the Treasury Department reported Friday afternoon. This March 16 is a historic date of gloomy proportions, because on this date, the US gross national debt punched through the $21 trillion mark and reached $21.03 trillion. Here’s the thing: On September 7, 2017, a little over six months ago, just before Congress suspended the debt ceiling, the gross national debt stood at $19.84 trillion. In those six-plus months – 132 reporting days, to be precise – the gross national debt spiked by $1.186 trillion. I tell you, these dang trillions are flying by so fast, they’re hard to see. And we wonder: What was that? Where did it go?

Whatever it was and wherever it went, it added 6% to the gross national debt in just 6 months. And with 2017 GDP at $19.74 trillion in current dollars, the gross national debt now amounts to 106.4% of GDP. In the chart below, the flat spots are the various debt-ceiling periods. This is a uniquely American phenomenon when Congress forbids the Administration to borrow the money that it needs to borrow in order to spend it on the things that Congress told the Administration to spend it on via the appropriation bills. So that’s where we are, on this glorious day of March 16, 2018:

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So many holes have been pointed out in ‘the official story’ that not much of it remains standing.

Russia Expels 23 British Diplomats In Retaliation (Ind.)

Russia has announced it will expel 23 British diplomats in response to the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from Britain. The move marks the latest development in the diplomatic spat over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Saturday morning that the 23 diplomatic representatives of the British Embassy in Moscow should leave Russia within a week. The ministry also said all activities by the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations, would cease in Russia and that the planned reopening of the British consulate in St Petersburg would no longer go ahead. The ministry warned that Russia could take further measures if Britain takes any more “unfriendly actions” against the country.

Shortly before the announcement, British ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, was summoned to the foreign ministry for talks, where he learned of the retaliation measures. As he left the ministry, Mr Bristow said: “This crisis has arisen as a result of an appalling attack in the UK, the attempted murder of two people using a chemical weapon developed in Russia and not declared by Russia to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as Russia is obliged to do under the Chemical Weapons Act.” The retaliation from Russia comes four days after Theresa May announced that 23 Russian diplomats would be expelled from Britain after Russia missed a deadline to provide an explanation for the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Both remain critically ill in hospital.

Russia has continued to dismiss accusations of Russian culpability for the attack and to deny possessing Novichok, the nerve agent used in the incident. On Friday, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson directly accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering the poisoning, saying it was “overwhelmingly likely” Mr Putin personally ordered the assassination attempt. Dmitry Peskov, Russian presidential press secretary, responded to the verbal escalation with a further denial of the state’s involvement. “Any reference or mention of our President in this connection is nothing but a shocking and unforgivable violation of the diplomatic rules of propriety,” Mr Peskov said.

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Once Europe does this, will other ‘entities’ follow?

EU Ready To Hit Big US Tech Firms With 3% Turnover Tax (R.)

Large companies with significant digital revenues in the European Union such as Google and Facebook could face a 3% tax on their turnover under a draft proposal by the European Commission seen by Reuters. The proposal, expected to be adopted next week and still subject to changes, updates an earlier draft which envisaged a tax rate of between 1 and 5%. The tax, if backed by EU states and lawmakers, would only apply to large firms with annual worldwide revenues above 750 million euros (£662.2 million) and annual “taxable” revenues above 50 million euros in the EU. The threshold for EU revenues has been raised from 10 million euros initially foreseen to exempt smaller companies and emerging start-ups from the tax.

Large U.S. firms such as Uber, Airbnb and Amazon could also be hit by the new levy, which would apply across the 28 EU countries. Big tech firms have been accused by large EU states of paying too little tax in the bloc by re-routing some of their profits to low-tax member states like Ireland and Luxembourg. Services that will be taxed are digital advertising, which would capture both providers of users’ data like Google, and companies offering ad space on their websites, like popular social media such as Facebook. The tax would be also be levied on online platforms offering “intermediation services,” a concept under which the Commission includes gig economy firms such as Airbnb and Uber. Digital market places, including Amazon, would also be within the scope of the levy.

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True enough: Kudlow was by no means the only one to get it all awfully wrong.

Goldilocks, R. I. P. – Part 2 (Stockman)

Goldilocks is a conceit of monetary central planning and its erroneous predicate that falsifying financial asset prices is the route to prosperity. In fact, it only leads to immense and unstable financial bubbles which eventually crash – monkey-hammering the purported Goldilocks Economy as they do. It also leads to a complete corruption of the economic and financial narrative on both ends of the Acela Corridor. To wit, the Fed’s serial financial bubbles on Wall Street are falsely celebrated as arising from a booming main street economy. In fact, they are an economic dagger that bleeds it of investment and cash and exposes it to “restructuring” mayhem from the C-suites when the egregious inflation of share prices and stock option values finally gets crushed by another financial meltdown.

In this context, the Washington Post (WaPo) is out this morning with brutal takedown of our friend Larry Kudlow for his ebullient whistling past the graveyard on the eve of the financial crisis and Great Recession. It would be an understatement to say he didn’t see it coming, but it’s also completely unfair not to acknowledge that 95% of Wall Street and 100% of the FOMC were equally bubble-blind. In fact, when Larry Kudlow waxed eloquently in a piece in the National Review about the awesome economy the George Bush Administration had produced in December 2007, he was just delivering the Wall Street consensus forecast for the coming year:

“There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen. At a bare minimum, we are looking at Goldilocks 2.0. (And that’s a minimum). Goldilocks is alive and well. The Bush boom is alive and well. It’s finishing up its sixth consecutive year with more to come. Yes, it’s still the greatest story never told…….In fact, we are about to enter the seventh consecutive year of the Bush boom.”

Well, not exactly. The worst recession since the 1930s actually incepted that very month and 10 months latter came Washington’s hair-on-fire moment when the monetary and fiscal spigots were opened far wider than ever before – bailing out everything that was collapsing, tottering, moving or even standing still.

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Our education system serves uniquely to create pawns in games.

School Daze (Jim Kunstler)

Sunday night was Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s turn through the CBS 60-Minutes wringer of censure with a visibly frustrated inquisitor Lesley Stahl trying to hector her into self-incrimination. The sad truth about American schools is that they’re a mirror for the painful collapse of the society they supposedly serve — a process ongoing for decades before Ms. DeVos came on the scene. The expectation that some uber-regent can or ought to fix public education is bound to disappoint a news media searching for saviors. The further we leave the 20th century behind, the more anomalous its organizing principles look, especially the idea of preparing masses of young people for mass, regimented work at the giant corporate scale.

There’s a big divergence underway between the promises of schooling and the kind of future that the 21st century is actually presenting — of no plausible careers or vocations besides providing “therapy” and policing for the discontented masses stewing in anomie and compensatory pleasure-seeking, with all its nasty side effects. In the meantime, we’re stuck with wildly expensive, out-of-scale, giant centralized schools where the worst tendencies of human status competition are amplified by smart phones and social media to all but eclipse classroom learning.

Education in the years to come is destined to become more of a privilege than a right, and it will probably depend more on how much an individual young person really desires an education than just compelling masses of uninterested or indisposed kids to show up everyday for an elaborate and rather poorly supervised form of day-care. But it’s difficult to let go of old habits and obsolete arrangements, especially when we’ve spent countless billions of dollars on them. I call the future a World Made By Hand because it is going to be entirely unlike the sci-fi robotic fantasy that currently preoccupies the thought-leaders in this culture. A lot of what will be required in this time-to-come will be physical labor and small-scale skilled work in traditional crafts. There never were that many job openings for astronauts, not even in the 1960s, but in the decades ahead there will be none — notwithstanding Elon Musk’s wish to colonize Mars.

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In New York, 111,000 students in the public school system are homeless.

‘America’s New Vietnam’: The Homelessness Crisis Seems Unsolvable (G.)

In Los Angeles, the more the politicians push to solve the city’s festering homelessness crisis, the worse it seems to get. The city leadership has taken one bold step after another: restructuring the budget to free more than $100m a year in homelessness funding, sponsoring one voter-approved initiative to raise more than $1bn for housing and backing another regional proposal to raise the sales tax and generate an estimated $3.5bn for support services over the next decade. And yet the tent cities continue to proliferate, in rich neighborhoods and poor, by the beach, the airport, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and within view of City Hall itself. It’s the sorriest urban scene anywhere in America, and the same voters who not so long ago opened their hearts and their wallets to put an end to it are growing increasingly impatient.

As the numbers of homeless people continue to rise – the latest figures put the countywide number at 58,000, up more than 20% in a single year – and new encampments spring up on sidewalks, under freeways, and along stretches of river and rail lines, the politicians who not so long ago were earning praise for their courage are facing the beginnings of an angry backlash. “How many people have we housed?” the Los Angeles Times asked impatiently in a blistering series of editorials late last month. “How many are we on track toward housing? Is Los Angeles setting the national standard for rapid and effective response to a vexing problem? Or are its leaders merely mastering the art of appearances while passing the buck and hoping things turn around? … Who’s in charge here?”

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Sorry, but that apocalypse is already very much here. ‘Ordinary people’ already have no idea what’s true or real or not.

An Information Apocalypse Is Coming. How Can We Protect Ourselves? (G.)

John F Kennedy’s last speech reads like a warning from history, as relevant today as it was when it was delivered in 1963 at the Dallas Trade Mart. His rich, Boston Brahmin accent reassures us even as he delivers the uncomfortable message. The contrast between his eloquence and the swagger of Donald Trump is almost painful to hear. The problem is, Kennedy never spoke these words. He was killed before he made it to the Trade Mart. You can only hear them now thanks to audio technology developed by a British company, CereProc. Fragments of his voice have been taken from other speeches and public appearances, spliced and put back together, with neural networks employed to mimic his natural intonation.

[..] “Dual use” of technology is not a new problem. Nuclear physics gave us both energy and bombs. What is new is the democratisation of advanced IT, the fact that anyone with a computer can now engage in the weaponisation of information; 2016 was the year we woke up to the power of fake news, with internet conspiracy theories and lies used to bolster the case for both Brexit and Donald Trump. We may, however, look back on it as a kind of phoney war, when photoshopping and video manipulation were still easily detectable. That window is closing fast. A program developed at Stanford University allows users to convincingly put words into politicians’ mouths. Celebrities can be inserted into porn videos. Quite soon it will be all but impossible for ordinary people to tell what’s real and what’s not.

What will the effects of this be? When a public figure claims the racist or sexist audio of them is simply fake, will we believe them? How will political campaigns work when millions of voters have the power to engage in dirty tricks? What about health messages on the dangers of diesel or the safety of vaccines? Will vested interests or conspiracy theorists attempt to manipulate them? Unable to trust what they see or hear, will people retreat into lives of non-engagement, ceding the public sphere to the already powerful or the unscrupulous? The potential for an “information apocalypse” is beginning to be taken seriously. The problem is we have no idea what a world in which all words and images are suspect will look like, so it’s hard to come up with solutions.

Perhaps not very much will change – perhaps we will develop a sixth sense for bullshit and propaganda, in the same way that it has become easy to distinguish sales calls from genuine inquiries, and scam emails with fake bank logos from the real thing. But there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to defend ourselves from the onslaught, and society could start to change in unpredictable ways as a result. Like the generation JFK was addressing in his speech, we are on the cusp of a new and scary age. Rhetoric and reality, the plausible and the possible, are becoming difficult to separate. We await a figure of Kennedy’s stature to help us find a way through. Until then, we must at the very least face up to the scale of the coming challenge.

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Would have been nice to see Orwell comment on this.

China To Bar People With Bad ‘Social Credit’ From Planes, Trains (R.)

China said it will begin applying its so-called social credit system to flights and trains and stop people who have committed misdeeds from taking such transport for up to a year. People who would be put on the restricted lists included those found to have committed acts like spreading false information about terrorism and causing trouble on flights, as well as those who used expired tickets or smoked on trains, according to two statements issued on the National Development and Reform Commission’s website on Friday. Those found to have committed financial wrongdoings, such as employers who failed to pay social insurance or people who have failed to pay fines, would also face these restrictions, said the statements which were dated March 2.

It added that the rules would come into effect on May 1. The move is in line with President’s Xi Jinping’s plan to construct a social credit system based on the principle of “once untrustworthy, always restricted”, said one of the notices which was signed by eight ministries, including the country’s aviation regulator and the Supreme People’s Court. China has flagged plans to roll out a system that will allow government bodies to share information on its citizens’ trustworthiness and issue penalties based on a so-called social credit score.

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We’re going to figure this one out way too late. The time to stop this is now, not at some future point down the line. But we’re not doing anything at all. We blindly parrot claims about clean energy and electric cars that will allegedly ‘save’ us, because we want to do the saving without paying a price for it that makes our lives one iota less comfy.

Global Biodiversity Crisis Puts Mankind At Risk (AFP)

Earth is enduring a mass species extinction, scientists say – the first since the demise of the dinosaurs and only the sixth in half-a-billion years. The reason? Humanity’s voracious consumption, and wanton destruction, of the very gifts of nature that keep us alive. Starting Saturday, a comprehensive, global appraisal of the damage, and what can be done to reverse it, will be conducted in Colombia. “The science is clear: biodiversity is in crisis globally,” WWF director general Marco Lambertini told AFP ahead of a crucial meeting of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). “We depend on biodiversity for the food we eat, the water we drink, the clean air we breathe, the stability of weather patterns, and yet our actions are pushing nature’s ability to sustain us to the brink.”

Scientists and government envoys will gather as the 128-member IPBES to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on five monumental assessment reports designed to inform global policymaking into the future. Compiled over the last three years, the reports will provide the most up-to-date picture of the health of the world’s plants, animals and soil. [..] Meeting host Colombia claims to boast the world’s largest variety of birds and orchids and is second only to Brazil in terms of overall species diversity. Paradoxically, decades of conflict have preserved fragile habitats in no-go zones in the country, whose mountainous topography supports 311 different ecosystems.

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