Nov 052017
 
 November 5, 2017  Posted by at 9:37 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Edward S. Curtis Navajo weaver c. 1907

 

Senior Princes, One Of World’s Richest Men Arrested In Saudi Crackdown (BBG)
Saudi Arabia Detains Princes, Ex-Ministers After Cabinet Reshuffle (MEE)
Shakeup Stuns Analysts Who Say It Shows Saudis Mean Business (BBG)
Lebanon PM Resigns, Bringing Saudi-Iran Proxy Conflict to the Fore (BBG)
Trump Urges Saudi Aramco to List on New York Stock Exchange (BBG)
China’s Zhou Warns on Rising Financial Risk in Blunt Article (BBG)
China To Expand Corruption Supervision Pilot Scheme Nationwide (R.)
Donna Brazile Considered Replacing Hillary Clinton With Joe Biden (G.)
The Great College Loan Swindle (Taibbi)
Santa Claus May Be Coming To Town, But Will The Shoppers Go Too? (G.)
In the World’s Most Livable Cities, Hardly Anyone Can Afford a Home (BBG)
Australia -Again- Snubs New Zealand Offer To Take Refugees (AFP)

 

 

Was there a coup? If so, who against who? Jared Kushner just came back from one of his secretive trips to Saudi a few days ago. He’s allegedly close with MBS. Osama Bin Laden’s older brother also arrested. Too much money floating around. And too many princes.

Senior Princes, One Of World’s Richest Men Arrested In Saudi Crackdown (BBG)

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman removed one of the royal family’s most prominent princes from his ministerial role and arrested other royals and top officials in an anti-corruption drive that clears any remaining obstacles to his son’s potential ascension to the throne. Acting on orders from a newly established anti-corruption committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, police arrested 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said. Prince Miteb, son of the late King Abdullah, was removed from his post as head of the powerful National Guards. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men and a shareholder of Citigroup and Twitter, was among those detained, according to a senior Saudi official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Laws will be applied firmly on everyone who touched public money and didn’t protect it or embezzled it, or abused their power and influence,” King Salman said in comments shown on state TV. “This will be applied on those big and small, and we will fear no one.” Prince Miteb was replaced by Prince Khaled Ayyaf, according to a royal decree. Before his ouster, Prince Miteb was one of the few remaining senior royals to have survived a series of cabinet shuffles that promoted allies of the crown prince, who is the direct heir to the throne. King Salman had already sidelined other senior members of the royal family to prevent any opposition to the crown prince, 32-year-old Prince Mohammed, known as MBS among diplomats and journalists, who replaced his elder cousin, Muhammed bin Nayef, in June.

That maneuver removed any doubt of how succession plans will unfold following the reign of King Salman, now 81. “The hardline approach is risky because it will solidify the dislike many powerful Saudis have for the crown prince, but it is likely that MBS succeeds, and emerges from this episode more empowered,” Hani Sabra, founder of Alef Advisory, a Middle East political risk practice, wrote in a note. “We can’t confidently project when a leadership transition will take place, but today’s developments are a signpost that MBS is moving toward the role of king.”

Read more …

From Middle East Eye.

Saudi Arabia Detains Princes, Ex-Ministers After Cabinet Reshuffle (MEE)

Saudi Arabia has detained 11 princes and dozens of former ministers through its newly formed anti-corruption committee, including erstwhile national guard minister Mutaib bin Abdullah. According to an MEE source in Riyadh, Mutaib was arrested along with his brother Turki. Famous multi-billionaire prince Al-Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz and a number of former ministers and businessmen were also arrested. Both Mutaib bin Abdullah and Al-Waleed bin Talal are senior members of Saudi’s royal family. Also among the arrested were Waleed al-Ibrahim, founder of the MBC broadcasting group, and billionaire businessman Saleh Kamel. The arrests came hours after Saudi appointed new ministers. Economy minister Adel Fakieh was replaced by Mohammed al-Tuwaijri while Khaled bin Ayyaf replaced Mutaib, son of the late King Abdullah, as national guard minister.

The new anti-corruption committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was formed by royal decree earlier on Saturday. The arrests and dismissals came just two months after King Salman replaced his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef with his son Mohammed as the country’s crown prince. The move consolidates Mohammed’s control of the kingdom’s security institutions, which had long been headed by separate powerful branches of the ruling family. “Since Mohammed bin Salman became the crown prince in June, we’ve seen a lot of upheaval,” Ian Black, of the London School of Economics, told Al Jazeera. “We’ve seen the announcement of this very ambitious Saudi plan to transform the Saudi economy, Vision 2030.” “The breadth and scale of the arrests appears to be unprecedented in modern Saudi history,” said Kristian Ulrichsen at Rice University.

In September the authorities arrested about two dozen people, including influential clerics, in what activists denounced as a coordinated crackdown. Analysts said many of those detained were resistant to Prince Mohammed’s aggressive foreign policy that includes the boycott of Gulf neighbour Qatar as well as some of his bold policy reforms, including privatising state assets and cutting subsidies.

Read more …

“Everybody will be worried now. Some of these names have been there for 30 years.”

Shakeup Stuns Analysts Who Say It Shows Saudis Mean Business (BBG)

Saudi Arabia’s unprecedented decision to arrest senior princes and billionaires shocked analysts across the region, but to some it’s a sign the kingdom is serious about change. The nation’s stocks declined. A newly formed anti-corruption committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, instructed police to arrest 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said. The decision comes about two weeks after the kingdom announced a series of projects, including a $500 billion city, as part of a plan to overhaul an economy that has been almost entirely dependent on oil revenue for decades. The Tadawul All Share Index fell 1.8% as of 10:04 a.m. in Riyadh.

Purges haven’t “been done at this scale or in this public manner before,” said Mohammed Ali Yasin, CEO of Abu Dhabi-based NBAD Securities. “Accountability has been introduced, no one is immune. Everybody will be worried now. Some of these names have been there for 30 years. This affects Kingdom Holding, Saudi Airlines and the Finance Ministry.” A plunge in crude prices has forced Saudi Arabia to face the shortcomings of its $650 billion economy. Part of its plan to prepare for life after oil is to sell shares in oil giant Aramco in 2018 and transform its stock market to a gateway into Saudi Arabia. “There should be some initial speculation in general as people are just concerned about what happened, this will be priced in,” said Mazen Al-Sudairi, the head of research at Al Rajhi Capital in Riyadh. “But if you look on the long term, this should be seen as a positive measure that is good for the country and the market.”

Read more …

More Saudi.

Lebanon PM Resigns, Bringing Saudi-Iran Proxy Conflict to the Fore (BBG)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri unexpectedly resigned on Saturday in a televised speech from Saudi Arabia, saying he feared for his life and accusing Iran and its proxies of destabilizing his country and the region. Hariri, a pro-Saudi Sunni politician, said Lebanon has suffered enough because of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its grip on domestic politics. “I want to say to Iran and its followers that they are losing in their interference in the affairs of Arab nations, and our nation will rise as it did before – and the hands that are extended to it with evil will be cut off,” he said. The resignation raises the prospect of a renewed political confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Lebanon at a time when the Islamic Republic and its allies are widely seen to have won the proxy war against Sunni powers in neighboring Syria.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are on opposite ends of other regional conflicts such as Yemen and Iraq. The Lebanese government includes Hezbollah members, and Hariri’s decision aims to weaken the group’s legitimate representation, said Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs. “It’s part of an all-out Saudi confrontation with Iran,” he said. As the war against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq winds down, analysts are warning against a surge in other conflicts as regional and global powers seek to divide spheres of influence. And while Saudi Arabia failed in its pursuit to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Iran, from power, the kingdom has found a backer in U.S. President Donald Trump in his focus on containing Iran’s clout in the Middle East.

Read more …

And yet more Saudi.

Trump Urges Saudi Aramco to List on New York Stock Exchange (BBG)

President Donald Trump, raising the political stakes in what would be the largest initial public offering, said the U.S. would “very much appreciate” if Saudi Arabia’s government lists the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. on the New York Stock Exchange. “Important to the United States!” Trump said in a Twitter post from Honolulu early Saturday. Trump’s tweet, sent hours before he was set to depart for an 11-day tour of Asia, came out of the blue for Aramco, according to a person familiar with the company, who asked not to be named. But the move is consistent with a growing push by American regulators to lure companies to U.S. stock exchanges. Trump told reporters later Saturday aboard Air Force One that he was motivated to send the tweet because the Aramco IPO “will be just about the biggest ever” and the U.S. wants “to have all the big listings.”

The Saudis were not currently looking at listing on a U.S. exchange “because of litigation risk, and other risk, which is sad,” he said. “I want them to very strongly consider the New York Stock Exchange or NASDAQ or frankly anybody else located in this country,” Trump said. He added that he had recently spoken to King Salman. The tweet was “energy geopolitics in action,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University and a former senior oil official in the Obama administration. “At a time when the Saudis are looking for the U.S. to get tougher on Iran, the Saudi-Russian relationship is warming, the Saudis are trying to attract international private capital, and the Chinese are rumored to be considering taking a piece of Aramco, Trump’s personal plea to list in N.Y. raises the diplomatic stakes of Aramco’s decision.”

Read more …

“Latent risks are accumulating, including some that are “hidden, complex, sudden, contagious and hazardous..”

China’s Zhou Warns on Rising Financial Risk in Blunt Article (BBG)

China’s financial system is getting significantly more vulnerable due to high leverage, according to central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan, who also flagged the need for deeper reforms in the world’s second-biggest economy. Latent risks are accumulating, including some that are “hidden, complex, sudden, contagious and hazardous,” even as the overall health of the financial system remains good, Zhou wrote in a lengthy article published on the People’s Bank of China’s website late Saturday. The nation should toughen regulation and let markets serve the real economy better, according to Zhou. The government should also open up financial markets by relaxing capital controls and reducing restrictions on non-Chinese financial institutions that want to operate on the mainland, he wrote.

“High leverage is the ultimate origin of macro financial vulnerability,” wrote Zhou, 69, who is widely expected to retire soon after a record 15-year tenure. “In sectors of the real economy, this is reflected as excessive debt, and in the financial system, this is reflected as credit that has been expanding too quickly.” Zhou’s comments signal that policy makers remain committed to a campaign to reduce borrowing levels across the economy. Concern that regulators may intensify the deleveraging drive after the twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress has helped push yields on 10-year government bonds to a three-year high. Still, measures of credit continue to show expansion, with aggregate financing surging to a six-month high of 1.82 trillion yuan ($274 billion) in September. China’s corporate debt surged to 159% of the economy in 2016, compared with 104% 10 years ago, while overall borrowing climbed to 260%.

Read more …

Hard not to see Saudi and China doing the same thing.

China To Expand Corruption Supervision Pilot Scheme Nationwide (R.)

China will expand a pilot project for anti-graft supervision reforms nationwide next year that will consolidate existing corruption agencies, state-run news agency Xinhua reported, as President Xi Jinping expands his signature policy drive. Xinhua said in a report published late on Saturday China’s top legislature adopted a decision calling for new supervisory commissions to be set up by the People’s Congresses at provincial, city and county-levels to “supervise those exercising public power”. Xi’s signature anti-graft drive has jailed or otherwise punished nearly 1.4 million Communist Party members since 2012. The leader, who began his second five-year term in October, has vowed to maintain the “irreversible” momentum of the campaign to root out corruption.

China aims to pass a national supervision law and set up a new commission at the annual parliament meetings early next year. The new National Supervision Commission will work with the Communist Party’s anti-graft body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, expanding the purview of Xi’s anti-graft campaign to include employees at state-backed institutions. Xinhua said the commissions to be set up nationwide under the China legislature’s new directive will have the power to investigate illegal activities such as graft, misuse of authority, neglect of duty, and wasting public funds.

Read more …

if you didn’t get yet what a catastrophe the Democratic party has become.

Donna Brazile Considered Replacing Hillary Clinton With Joe Biden (G.)

The former head of the Democratic National Committee says she considered initiating effort to replace Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee with then vice-president Joe Biden. Donna Brazile makes the revelation in a memoir being released on Tuesday entitled Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House. Brazile writes that she considered initiating Clinton’s removal after she collapsed while leaving a 9/11 memorial service in New York City. Clinton later acknowledged she was suffering from pneumonia. But Brazile says the larger issue was that her campaign was “anemic” and had taken on “the odor of failure”.

After considering a dozen combinations to replace Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine from Virginia, Brazile writes that she settled on Biden and Cory Booker of New Jersey as those with the best chance of defeating Trump. Ultimately, the former DNC head says, “I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them.”

Read more …

“In higher education, every party you meet, from the moment you first set foot on campus, is in on the game.”

The Great College Loan Swindle (Taibbi)

Horror stories about student debt are nothing new. But this school year marks a considerable worsening of a tale that ought to have been a national emergency years ago. The government in charge of regulating this mess is now filled with predatory monsters who have extensive ties to the exploitative for-profit education industry – from Donald Trump himself to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who sets much of the federal loan policy, to Julian Schmoke, onetime dean of the infamous DeVry University, whom Trump appointed to police fraud in education. Americans don’t understand the student-loan crisis because they’ve been trained to view the issue in terms of a series of separate, unrelated problems. They will read in one place that as of the summer of 2017, a record 8.5 million Americans are in default on their student debt, with about $1.3 trillion in loans still outstanding.

In another place, voters will read that the cost of higher education is skyrocketing, soaring in a seemingly market-defying arc that for nearly a decade now has run almost double the rate of inflation. Tuition for a halfway decent school now frequently surpasses $50,000 a year. How, the average newsreader wonders, can any child not born in a yacht afford to go to school these days? In a third place, that same reader will see some heartless monster, usually a Republican, threatening to cut federal student lending. The current bogeyman is Trump, who is threatening to slash the Pell Grant program by $3.9 billion, which would seem to put higher education even further out of reach for poor and middle-income families. This too seems appalling, and triggers a different kind of response, encouraging progressive voters to lobby for increased availability for educational lending.

But the separateness of these stories clouds the unifying issue underneath: The education industry as a whole is a con. In fact, since the mortgage business blew up in 2008, education and student debt is probably our reigning unexposed nation-wide scam. It’s a multiparty affair, what shakedown artists call a “big store scheme,” like in the movie The Sting: a complex deception requiring a big cast to string the mark along every step of the way. In higher education, every party you meet, from the moment you first set foot on campus, is in on the game.

Read more …

Fear of Christmas.

Santa Claus May Be Coming To Town, But Will The Shoppers Go Too? (G.)

Christmas is still seven weeks away, but, unsurprisingly, that does not stop retailers getting into the festive spirit early in the hope to attract crowds to the tills. On Tuesday, singer Rita Ora will turn on the Christmas lights on Oxford Street to mark the beginning of the festivities, close to Marks & Spencer’s Marble Arch branch. But will it be a merry Christmas for retailers? This week both M&S and Sainsbury’s will announce half-year results at an uncertain time for the high street. A recent survey from the CBI showed high street sales falling at their fastest rate since the height of the recession in 2009 as inflation causes households to put the brakes on spending. The cost of groceries, clothes and electronics has been rising since the Brexit vote last year, piling pressure on shoppers.

Recently, Asda’s income tracker found that there has been a slump on the spending power of the average household, while research from Lloyds Bank found that families are feeling the strain of the rising costs of living compared with a year ago. All of which could add up to a grim Christmas for retailers as shoppers struggle to deal with the post-Brexit economy. A further warning was sounded last week when Next reported a fall in October high street sales. Retailers will be hoping that Rita Ora will be able to instil some festive cheer to start off the shopping season.

Read more …

Same story all over the world.

In the World’s Most Livable Cities, Hardly Anyone Can Afford a Home (BBG)

Home ownership among young Australians has fallen to the lowest level on record, as an explosive property boom squeezes out all but the wealthiest. Supercharged by record low interest rates, a lack of supply and a tax system that favors property investors, home prices have surged more than 140% in the past 15 years, propelling Sydney past London and New York to rank as the world’s second-most expensive housing market. Melbourne, ranked the world’s most livable city the past seven years by the Economist Intelligence Unit, is now the planet’s sixth-most expensive place to buy a house. In response, home ownership among the young has plunged: only 45% of 25-to-34 year-olds own their own home, down 16%age points from the 1980s, with almost half the decline coming in the past decade.

At the same time, hefty mortgages have pushed household debt to a record, acting as a drag on the economy’s 26 years of unbroken growth. As more people retire still owing a mortgage, or renting, they are more likely to qualify for government welfare, undermining the A$2.3 trillion ($1.8 trillion) pension savings system. “The great Australian dream of home ownership is becoming a nightmare,’’ said Brendan Coates, a housing policy expert at the Grattan Institute. “It’s down to a collective failure of government policy that will take at least two decades to fix.” Voter angst over housing affordability is mounting: almost 90% of Australians fear future generations won’t be able to buy a home, according to an Australian National University survey.

Failure to address the issue is heaping pressure on a government already under fire for the botched rollout of a A$49 billion national high-speed internet network, and energy-policy bungling that’s sent power bills soaring and triggered fears of blackouts this summer. One of the biggest flashpoints are tax incentives that have turned housing into a speculative financial asset. First-home buyers complain they can’t compete against investors, who through a perk known as negative gearing can claim the costs of owning a property-for-rent – including mortgage interest – as a tax deduction against other income. The allure of property investment was turbocharged in 1999, when capital gains tax was halved. With housing prices seen as a one-way bet, investors piled in.

Read more …

People deserve to go to jail for what Australia has done to these people.

Australia -Again- Snubs New Zealand Offer To Take Refugees (AFP)

Australia Sunday snubbed New Zealand’s renewed offer to resettle 150 refugees held at remote Pacific camps, despite the closure of one detention centre in Papua New Guinea which has triggered a stand-off between detainees and the authorities. Canberra has been forced on the defensive by the move from Wellington’s new government, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying Australia would instead prioritise a similar deal with the US to resettle refugees in America, despite slow progress. The issue re-emerged when the conservative Australian prime minister met his centre-left New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern for the first time Sunday in Sydney. Pressure to resettle refugees increased after the Australian centre on PNG’s Manus Island was shut Tuesday after the nation’s Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

About 600 detainees are refusing to leave citing safety fears if they move to transition centres where locals are reportedly hostile. But conditions in the camp are deteriorating with limited food and water and electricity cut off, with the United Nations warning of a humanitarian emergency. Under its tough immigration policy, Canberra sends asylum seekers who try to reach Australia by boat to two camps, in Manus and Nauru, and they are barred from resettling in Australia. Australia has struggled to move the refugees to third countries such as Cambodia or PNG. “The offer is very genuine and remains on the table,” Ardern told reporters after meeting Turnbull. But the Australian leader replied that while he appreciated the offer – first made by Wellington in 2013 – “we are not taking it up at this time”.

Read more …

Nov 032016
 
 November 3, 2016  Posted by at 3:56 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


London 1877

 

Amidst the epic flood of political statements and media commentary that keeps on rolling in and on, there’s something that doesn’t seem to occur to most people, and it should. That is, the unfortunate but apparently inevitable discussion about all the unfortunate and/or illegal things that either candidate may or may not have done, must be seen in the light of the capacity in which -perceived- errors or even crimes are committed. It is essential to this issue.

What far too many people are far too eager to ignore is that everything Donald Trump may have done that may have been illegal or on the edge, he did as a private person, and most of what Hillary Clinton has done in that same category was as a representative of the American government and hence the American people. The demands and standards when it comes to behavior are much higher for people in representative government positions than they are for private citizens, and they are so for good reason.

One may try and argue that this is not fair, but that’s a moot argument. One may also argue that everyday news strongly suggests that Washington is the very place where moral standards seem to count least, but that is also moot. What others do today, or have done in the past, can never be an excuse for eroding the standards to which government officials should be held. If anything, it should be reason to hold all of them to higher standards going forward.

This is the only way The Office of the President of the United States, and the US political system as a whole, can be expected to retain, or regain, the respect it badly needs to command, both domestically and on the international front. It is for this very reason that on the political scene, actors need to “do the right thing”, or “draw the consequences”, when the situation so demands. Respect for the office must always come before personal gain, or the whole edifice will crumble.

This also means that a president and his secretaries have much less room to move on their public statements on issues than ‘civilians’ do. And in that regard President Obama, though he seemed to be doing well, is now moving onto dangerous ground. On Monday, Obama seemed to back FBI director Jim Comey, or at least he refused to join his party in attacking Comey.

Note that the president can’t do anything even remotely perceived as attacking the head of the FBI. Not in public. And that would be true even if Comey were not his own appointment. The NY Post wrote:

While top Democrats are attacking James Comey, President Obama’s spokesman on Monday described the FBI director as a man of “integrity” and “good character” and said he is not trying to tilt the election. “I’ll neither defend nor criticize Director Comey,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “The president doesn’t believe that Director Comey is intentionally trying to influence the outcome of an election. He doesn’t believe he’s secretly strategizing to benefit one candidate or one political party. He is in a tough spot.”

Still, some sort of caveat was inserted by Press Secretary Earnest:

Earnest rebuked those who were assailing Comey for saying last Friday the FBI was reopening the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe just days before the Nov. 8 election. “There are other people that have the luxury of being able to opine, writing op-eds or serving as anonymous sources for reporters to weigh in with their own view, but when I stand here representing the institution of the presidency, I don’t have that luxury,” he said.

But not long after, the president joined the Clinton campaign choir after all, in a move that smells not at all presidential. Mother Jones headlined: Obama Slams FBI Over New Hillary Clinton Emails . This is a risky move not worthy of a president, who represents not a party but an entire nation, and all Americans.

President Barack Obama harshly criticized the FBI’s actions informing Congress about the discovery of new Hillary Clinton emails, suggesting to NowThisNews on Wednesday that the much-criticized letter was outside of law enforcement protocol. “We don’t operate on innuendo,” Obama said in his first remarks since the FBI’s announcement last Friday. “We don’t operate on incomplete information and we don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.”

Obama acted presidential on Monday; he did not on Wednesday. And that’s not all. On Monday, Obama had already made another questionable move. Not only did he seem to ‘support’ Comey, he also lavished praise on Donna Brazile, the -interim- head of the Clinton campaign.

He did so mere hours (!) after Brazile had been fired by CNN, a network that drools Clinton 24/7. So when even CNN had had enough, Obama found it appropriate to say “she is a person of high character”. That does not add up. Here’s from Adriana Cohen at the Boston Herald in one of the best pieces I’ve read on the whole issue:

To put how serious this is into context, if Brazile traded stocks off inside information, the SEC would toss her in jail faster than you can say Martha Stewart. Yet, despite all of the above, the White House yesterday praised her integrity. You read that right. When asked about the hacked emails White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “No, the president believes she has done a fine job stepping in during a very difficult situation to lead the Democratic Party … she is a person of high character. She is a true professional who is a tenacious and effective advocate for Democrats.”

Why was Brazile sacked? For feeding the Clintonians debate questions. As per The Hill:

In an email dated March 5, 2016 — the day before a CNN debate in Flint, Mich. — Brazile sent Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and communications director Jennifer Palmieri an email with the subject line, “One of the questions directed to HRC tomorrow is from a woman with a rash.” “Her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint,” she wrote.

Think about this for a second. Donna Brazile gets fired by CNN for -very illegally- letting the Clinton campaign in on a question that will be asked in a debate (with Bernie Sanders). Now, I think we can all agree that CNN does not have excessively high moral standards. And perhaps they don’t have to. But the president of the United States does.

Ergo: while the network said they were ‘completely uncomfortable’ with Brazile’s ‘interactions with campaign’, the same Donna Brazile was not only praised by the president, who is supposed to stand above all parties and divisions by the very nature of the Office he holds, she is also still the head of the Democratic campaign.

In other words, the sender of the messages containing debate questions (there were more than one) gets fired by one end of the ‘transaction’, but the receiving end has no problems with that exact same action, and then even sees that decision sanctioned by the nation’s president.

As if it wasn’t not illegal for Hillary to have those questions before the debate. There’s a sender and a receiver, and both are equally to blame. And so is Hillary, because of course she knew the questions had to have been obtained illegally. But she keeps on Brazile, the sender, as head of her campaign, as well as Podesta and Palmieri, the receivers, despite all this.

What does that tell you? Regardless of legal implications, doesn’t that scream out something in the vein of: “When we go low, but do we go really low”? What does it tell you when the Clintonians, and Obama, are fine with something even CNN won’t stand for? It can only mean that a network like CNN, not exactly famous for its moral stances, has higher moral standards than the campaign for a candidate for the presidency of the United States, a position where moral standards are a high priority.

These are the things that drag down the entire American political system. Obama’s statements on the FBI and Donna Brazile drag down the office of the president. And if Hillary would be elected on November 8, that office would be dragged down that much more.

And not only can we now foresee, and must we prepare for, serious domestic unrest no matter what the election result will be (I liked the notion I read somewhere of ‘America between 9/11 and 11/9’), the damage will also reverberate globally. I’ve said it before, I don’t see how Hillary and her people can still backtrack on all the innuendo they spread on Russia, but to be presidential, she will not have a choice.

Or she would risk getting stuck somewhere in the middle of all the untruths and outright lies about Putin, Assange and now James Comey, and that would mean a behemoth blemish on the presidency, something neither she nor the American political system can afford. You need more than just insinuations, you need at least kernels of truth if you want to be president.

When even the NY Times reports that the FBI Finds No Clear Link Between Trump and Russia, the Democratic campaign will have no choice but to step back or double down:

For much of the summer, the FBI pursued a widening investigation into a Russian role in the American presidential campaign. Agents scrutinized advisers close to Donald J. Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats, and even chased a lead – which they ultimately came to doubt – about a possible secret channel of email communication from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank. Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.

[..] Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, responded angrily on Sunday with a letter accusing the FBI of not being forthcoming about Mr. Trump’s alleged ties with Moscow. “It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity,” Mr. Reid wrote. “The public has a right to know this information.”

And maybe that’s another reason for them to go after Comey, that the FBI would not support the claims that Russia is linked with Trump. Regardless, we now see the FBI biting back. On just about all fronts. What exactly Comey’s role is in that is not 100% clear, but what is, is that Hillary would probably face two separate -criminal- investigations even before she could be inaugurated, if she’s elected.

One for the Clinton Foundation (pay-for-play), and one for her email server issue. About which, incidentally, Bret Baier at Fox said yesterday:

.. we learned there is a confidence from these sources [with intimate knowledge of the FBI investigations] that her server had been hacked. And that it was a 99% accuracy that it had been hacked by at least five foreign intelligence agencies, and that things had been taken from that…

It’s starting to feel like the nets are closing in on the Clintons. And they may hope that there’s just enough time to get the election and win it, but that may well turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory. US law has many provisions that shield the president from persecution, but even if she would get elected, Hillary wouldn’t be sworn in for another ten weeks or so.

If Hillary wins, it may feel like it’s open season on her, and there’s no one to blame but herself. She’s incurred the wrath of so many parties, it’s hard to keep track. Donald Trump may be the least of her worries.

One last word, and this on the Huma Abedin related emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. I see a lot of suggestions that no FBI agent has seen any of the mails, but that makes no sense. Comey would have never sent his letter to Congress on Friday if that were true. It might have gotten him accused of partisanship.

In reality, one or more agents have seen one or more mails. And they had permission for that. Note also that they had had access to the laptop for weeks before Comey’s letter. How much of the 650,000 they’ve seen we don’t know, but they’ve seen some. They had permission to read the mails, but under a warrant that pertained to the Weiner investigation, not the Hillary one.

Under the ‘Weiner warrant’, they undoubtedly read enough of them to know they’re hot stuff, and at some point someone decided reading any further would -for one thing- put the option of using them against Hillary at -grave- risk. This may well be a contentious point right now: how the evidence was obtained.

Whether Comey himself read anything is less clear: if they really kept him out of the loop for weeks because they were pissed off at him -as has been suggested-, perhaps not. But others have. And as we are seeing more and more, they are an angry bunch. In their eyes -and many others- Comey made a mistake, alright, but he did not do that last Friday. His huge error came in July, when he decided not to file charges against Hillary.

The July decision was probably due to a large extent to an ‘inner quarrel’ between the DOJ and FBI, and now that’s out in the open, it’s the classic genie and the bottle tale. It’ll be interesting to see how much of that genie is going to come out before Tuesday.

 

 

Nov 012016
 
 November 1, 2016  Posted by at 9:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle November 1 2016


Unknown Magazine and cannonballs at Battery Rodgers, Alexandria 1863

Donna Brazile’s Sins A Microcosm Of Biased Media (BH)
FBI Finds No Clear Link Between Trump and Russia (NY Times)
FBI Speeds Up Clinton Email Investigation After Criticism (LATimes)
Halloween Nation (Jim Kunstler)
Global Bond Markets See Worst Rout in 3 Years (BBG)
A Little-Noticed Fact About Trade: It’s No Longer Rising (NY Times)
US Trucking Companies Pare Down Fleets Amid Tepid Shipping Demand (WSJ)
October Mergers Smash All Records With $500.1 Billion In Deals (ZH)
Asset Bubbles From Stocks to Bonds to Iron Ore Threaten China (WSJ)
China Shows a Cheap Currency Doesn’t Pack the Same Punch Anymore (BBG)
Air Quality Worsens In Greece As People Burn Anything To Stay Warm (G.)
A Parting Gift To Athens From Obama (Kath.)
Creating Child Poverty For A Whole New Generation (G.)
Calais ‘Jungle’ like ‘Lord of the Flies’, With 1500 Abandoned Children (Ind.)
QPR To Bring Over 1,000 Children To UK In Kindertransport-Style Mission (G.)

 

 

Spot on from Adriana Cohen. CNN fires Brazile after she provided Clinton with debate questions. But she’s still head of the DNC, and Obama praises her: “..she is a person of high character..” What??

Donna Brazile’s Sins A Microcosm Of Biased Media (BH)

CNN was asking for it when it let Donna Brazile take a seat on the pundit desk. A plugged-in Brazile, now the interim chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, seized on the opportunity and leaked questions to Hillary Clinton’s camp — one on Flint’s toxic water disaster before a CNN Michigan town hall in March and another a few days later on the death penalty before an Ohio showdown. CNN revealed yesterday – after WikiLeaks kept pointing out the embarrassing journalistic sins – that Brazile was no longer employed by the station. Unfortunately, it’s too late for Bernie Sanders. It’s also too late for voters hoping for an even playing field. There’s nothing wrong with having strong political opinions — I certainly have mine — but at least don’t cheat.

To put how serious this is into context, if Brazile traded stocks off inside information, the SEC would toss her in jail faster than you can say Martha Stewart. Yet, despite all of the above, the White House yesterday praised her integrity. You read that right. When asked about the hacked emails White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “No, the president believes she has done a fine job stepping in during a very difficult situation to lead the Democratic Party … she is a person of high character. She is a true professional who is a tenacious and effective advocate for Democrats.” Guess rigging a debate is just being a good advocate. Talk about a lack of ethics. But after the targeting of conservatives via the IRS — and recent undercover videos showing how Democratic operatives deployed paid agitators to disrupt Donald Trump rallies — who’s surprised?

But that’s not all Donald Trump and other candidates are up against when challenging the almighty Democratic machine. In a study conducted by Media Research Center of TV coverage during this election, a whopping 91% of Trump coverage was hostile toward the businessman compared to a small fraction of negative stories on Clinton. If that’s not a stacked deck, what is? Can you imagine in the World Series if the umpires made 91% of bad calls against one team and not the other? A biased media is risking its lifeblood — followers — by giving an unfair advantage to the candidate of their choice. A week from today voters will decide if they’ve had enough.

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It’s full tard insane and disgusting that this is still a story. This shallow-to-flat Clinton camp narrative would have been discarded many months ago if media like the NY Times had been just a little bit more impartial. And even this is not a real mea culpa; the article is still full of insinuations and innuendo that leaves plenty traces of the empty narrative alive.

FBI Finds No Clear Link Between Trump and Russia (NY Times)

For much of the summer, the F.B.I. pursued a widening investigation into a Russian role in the American presidential campaign. Agents scrutinized advisers close to Donald J. Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats, and even chased a lead – which they ultimately came to doubt – about a possible secret channel of email communication from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank. Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.

Hillary Clinton’s supporters, angry over what they regard as a lack of scrutiny of Mr. Trump by law enforcement officials, pushed for these investigations. In recent days they have also demanded that James B. Comey, the director of the F.B.I., discuss them publicly, as he did last week when he announced that a new batch of emails possibly connected to Mrs. Clinton had been discovered.

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They can’t really not say anything by next weekend.

FBI Speeds Up Clinton Email Investigation After Criticism (LATimes)

The FBI accelerated its timeline for reviewing emails potentially linked to Hillary Clinton on Monday amid growing public pressure over the agency’s surprise announcement that it had found them in an unrelated case. Investigators had planned to conduct the review over several weeks but, after a torrent of criticism over the weekend, began scrambling to examine the trove of emails, according to law enforcement officials. The FBI hoped to complete a preliminary assessment in the coming days, but agency officials have not decided how, or whether, they will disclose the results of it publicly, and officials also could not say whether the entire review would be completed by election day.

The uncertainty did not stop Donald Trump from charging into the vacuum with ominous speculation that a Clinton victory would spark national upheaval. Clinton repeated that she was confident the FBI had no case against her and that voters had already made up their mind on her use of a private server while she was secretary of State. [..] FBI Director James B. Comey, a former Bush administration official appointed to run the bureau three years ago by President Obama, has come under heavy criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike for disclosing the investigation to Congress so close to the election.

Iowa Sen. Charles E. Grassley, a Republican who heads the Judiciary Committee, demanded that Comey release more information about the review by Friday. “While I disagree with those who suggest you should have kept the FBI’s discovery secret until after the election, I agree that your disclosure did not go far enough,” Grassley wrote to Comey. “Unfortunately, your letter failed to give Congress and the American people enough context to evaluate the significance or full meaning of this development.” “Without additional context, your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American people, or Secretary Clinton,” Grassley added. He also renewed concerns that the FBI’s initial email investigation may have been hampered “by political appointees at the Justice Department.”

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Jim wrote to compliment me on my Throw Huma Under the Bus? article on Saturday. Compliments right back at you.

Halloween Nation (Jim Kunstler)

What was with James Comey’s Friday letter to congress? It looks to me like the FBI Director had to go nuclear against his parent agency, the Department of Justice, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, his boss, in particular. Why? Because the Attorney General refused to pursue the Clinton email case when more evidence turned up in the underage sexting case against Anthony Weiner, husband of Hillary’s chief of staff, Huma Abedin. Over the weekend, the astounding news story broke that the FBI had not obtained a warrant to examine the emails on Weiner’s computer and other devices after three weeks of getting stonewalled by DOJ attorneys. What does it mean when the Director of the FBI can’t get a warrant in a New York minute? It must mean that the DOJ is at war with the FBI.

Watergate is looking like thin gruel compared to this fantastic Bouillabaisse of a presidential campaign fiasco. One way you can tell is that The New York Times is playing down the story Monday morning. Columnist Paul Krugman calls the Comey letter “cryptic.” Krugman’s personal cryptograph insinuates that Comey is trying to squash an investigation of “Russian meddling in American elections.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid chimed in with a statement that “it has become clear that you [Comey] possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers and the Russian government.” How’s that for stupid and ugly? It’s the Russian’s fault that Hillary finds herself in trouble again?

Earlier this week, lawyers at the DOJ attempted to quash a parallel investigation of the Clinton Foundation. They must be out of their minds to think that story will go away. Isn’t it about time that a House or Senate committee subpoenaed Bill Clinton to testify under oath about his June airport meeting with Loretta Lynch. He doesn’t enjoy any special immunity in this case. Speaking of immunity, when will we learn what kind of immunity Huma Abedin may have been granted in previous cycles of the email investigation? Plenty of other Clinton campaign associates got immunity from prosecution earlier this year, rendering bales of evidence on their own laptops inadmissible in the email server case.

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Central banks losing grip.

Global Bond Markets See Worst Rout in 3 Years (BBG)

When German bond markets sneeze, U.S. Treasuries catch a cold. That’s the conclusion drawn by analysts at TD Securities as global bonds march towards their worst streak of monthly losses since 2010. There’s a distinct rhythm to the selloff, according to the Canadian investment bank. Rising yields on benchmark bunds, and to a lesser-extent gilts, have driven the jump in long-dated Treasuries this month, strategists at TD Securities argue. They cite rising rate-market correlations, elevated selling of Treasuries during European trading hours, and market fears the ECB might moderate its monetary accommodation as factors that suggest international forces largely account for the rise in benchmark 10-year yields, which flirted with a five-month high of 1.88% on Friday.

“We believe that much of the recent rise in U.S. rates has been driven by bunds and gilts,” analysts at TD Securities, led by Priya Misra, wrote in a report on Friday. Rising U.S. Treasuries have been accompanied by an uptick in market-implied inflation expectations, combined with fears that investors are saddled with outsize duration risks. But tightening Treasury-bund spreads since September 30, in fact, throw into sharp relief the external drivers for the rout in the U.S. rate market, the strategists note. “Our analysis shows that since 2010, greater than a one-standard deviation increases in 10-year Treasury yields tend to result in a widening in Treasury-bund and Treasury-gilt spreads. However, this latest move has actually resulted in a tightening of US-Germany and U.K. spreads,” which suggests global rate-markets are dancing to a similar beat, the analysts write.

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Little-noticed? I have been writing about it for ages.

A Little-Noticed Fact About Trade: It’s No Longer Rising (NY Times)

During the 1990s, global trade grew more than twice as fast as the global economy. Europe united. China became a factory town. Tariffs came down. Transportation costs plummeted. It was the Walmart Era. But those changes have played out. Europe is fraying around the edges; low tariffs and transportation costs cannot get much lower. And China’s role in the global economy is changing. The country is making more of what it consumes, and consuming more of what it makes. In addition, China’s maturing industrial sector increasingly makes its own parts. The IMF reported last year that the share of imported components in products “Made in China” has fallen to 35% from 60% in the 1990s.

The result: The I.M.F. study calculated that a 1% increase in global growth increased trade volumes by 2.5% in the 1990s, while in recent years, the same growth has increased trade by just 0.7%. Hanjin, like other big shipping companies, bet that global trade would continue to expand rapidly. In 2009, the world’s cargo lines had enough room to carry 12.1 million of the standardized shipping containers that have played a crucial, if quiet, role in the rise of global trade. By last year, they had room for 19.9 million – much of it unneeded. India is not China redux. Most trade flows among developed nations. The McKinsey Global Institute calculates that 15 countries account for roughly 63% of the global traffic in goods and services, and for an even larger share of financial investment.

China joined this club the old-fashioned way: It used factories to build a middle class. But the automation of factory work is making it harder for other nations to follow. Dani Rodrik, a Harvard economist, calculates that manufacturing employment in India and other developing nations has already peaked, a phenomenon he calls premature deindustrialization. The weakness of the global economy is exacerbating the trend. Infrastructure investment by multinational corporations declined for the third straight year in 2015, according to the United Nations. It predicts a further decline this year. But even if growth rebounds, automation reduces the incentives to invest in the low-labor-cost developing world, and it reduces the benefits of such investments for the residents of developing countries.

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Overcapacity.

US Trucking Companies Pare Down Fleets Amid Tepid Shipping Demand (WSJ)

Big trucking companies have spent the second half of the year shrinking their fleets in hopes of changing an imbalance between the supply of rigs on the road and tepid shipping demand that has flattened industry earnings. They will learn in the coming weeks, as retailers stock up at stores and distribution centers for the holidays, whether efforts to slim down capacity have produced the rate increases that trucking companies say they need to increase profitability and to expand fleets next year. Trucking-industry reports in the coming week will take the pulse of a market at a critical point in the fourth quarter, when companies look to build off momentum in the consumer and manufacturing arenas to set business plans for 2017.

Industry data groups ACT Research and FTR are due to report this week on new heavy-duty truck orders for companies in October, a critical month for setting fleet plans for the coming year after several months in which orders have plummeted to historically low levels. DAT Solutions, which measures freight rates in the industrial-trucking market, will report the next week on whether carrier efforts to rein in capacity amid tepid demand are pushing up prices as hoped. DAT says prices for spot-market freight hauls and shipments moving under long-term contracts have been slipping for most of the year, and that rates in September were down 6.4% from the same month a year earlier. “We haven’t seen any difficulty in finding trucks,” said Ken Forster, CEO of logistics company Sunteck, that finds and books trucks for freight shippers. “It’s clear that overcapacity has driven down pricing.”

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Desperate insanity: “Low growth – which is bad for most things, but it’s good for M&A because that’s how you get growth..” No, it’s how you fake growth.

October Mergers Smash All Records With $500.1 Billion In Deals (ZH)

Last week David Rosenberg pointed out that mega Merger Manias like the one we are experiencing “invariably takes place at or near cycle peaks, as companies realize that they can no longer grow their earnings organically. We have just witnessed five multi-billion dollar deals this past week alone — $207 billion globally (AT&T/Time Warner; TD Ameritrade/Scottrade) in what has been the most active announcement list since 1999 … what do you know, near the tail end of that tech bull market too.” And now that October is officially over, we can close the books on what has been an unprecedented month for M&A.

According to Bloomberg, in the month when a chill was sent through the spines of corporate CFOs and their investment bankers over fears that rates are about to rise and thus make debt-funded deals more expensive, the scramble to acquire competitors went off the charts, leading to an all time high in global M&A with almost half a trillion dollars of mergers and acquisitions announced globally. CenturyLink’s $34 billion acquisition of Level 3 Communications, as well as General Electric’s deal to combine its oil and gas division with Baker Hughes, pushed October’s deal volumes to about $489 billion. That’s the highest amount for at least 12 years, topping the previous record of $471 billion in April 2007, the data show.

Deallogic had a slightly different higher October deal total, calculating that the value for mergers and acquisitions for October actually surpassed the half a trillion mark, hitting $500.1B, but the idea is the same and adds that global deal volume has only been higher during five other months in records going back to 1995. More than half of the deals have been based in the US, where M&A volume has already hit a monthly record of $321.2 billion. That’s about a third higher than the next biggest month on record, according to Dealogic. Cited by Bloomberg TV, Bob Profusek, partner and chair of the global M&A practice at law firm Jones Day said that “every weekend recently has been busy.”

According to the Jones Day lawyer “the fundamental drivers are still there,” Profusek said. “Low growth – which is bad for most things, but it’s good for M&A because that’s how you get growth – and very accommodating capital markets.” More important, however, are concerns that the period of low interest rates is coming to an end, prompting corporations to scramble and issue debt now while it is still cheap.

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“China’s money supply has quadrupled since 2007, and the new cash is largely trapped inside the country by government capital controls.”

Asset Bubbles From Stocks to Bonds to Iron Ore Threaten China (WSJ)

A succession of asset bubbles has formed in China, caused by a torrent of speculative money sloshing from stocks to bonds to commodities. The biggest apparent bubble is in housing, but prices have surged for niche assets, too, such as calligraphy, antiques and art. In May, futures prices for soybean meal, used as pig feed, jumped 40%. The trading volume of 600 million tons was nine times higher than China’s annual consumption. The pipe-making material PVC is up 40% so far this year on the Dalian Commodity Exchange. The world’s second-largest economy is slowing. Easy credit and successive fiscal stimuli, designed to keep China aloft, mean it is awash in money that is chasing an increasingly small number of investment opportunities.

China’s money supply has quadrupled since 2007, and the new cash is largely trapped inside the country by government capital controls. [..] The debt binge began with a crisis-related stimulus package. China’s public and corporate debt then grew threefold to about $22 trillion as Communist Party leaders used freer credit to support struggling state-owned firms and meet annual economic-growth targets. The downside of so much cash washing from one asset type to the next burst into view with a stock-market crash in the summer of 2015 that wiped out $5 trillion, or 43%, of value in Chinese stocks at one point. The Shanghai market had doubled from June 2014 to June 2015 as investors borrowed 2 trillion yuan ($300 billion) to buy stocks. To steady the stock market, authorities restricted short selling, and a “national team” of investors relied on by the Chinese government to support its stock market stepped in to purchase beaten-up shares.

Money then flowed into bonds. Many investors bought them by borrowing money against bonds they already owned, repeating the process over and over again. Such borrowing grew to 2.5 times the size of the $7 trillion bond market, according to bond-market analysts. The surge slowed only when yields tightened enough that bonds looked less attractive than other asset types. In this year’s first quarter, China’s total credit surged by another $690 billion, equivalent to about three times the economy of Ireland. Then came a bout of commodity speculation, which pushed prices for some products out of sync with economic fundamentals. Iron-ore futures surged 50% from January to April even though Chinese ports were piled with iron ore. Prices slumped in May.

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Again: world trade is shrinking.

China Shows a Cheap Currency Doesn’t Pack the Same Punch Anymore (BBG)

Chalk up China as another example where a cheapening exchange rate is failing to lift exports. As already seen in Japan in recent years, what textbooks say should happen when a country’s currency falls – its exports gain – isn’t. Bathroom accessories maker Dongguan City XinChen, in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, is among those seeing one step forward, two steps back when it comes to the exchange rate. “The support from a weaker yuan is negligible compared to the pressure we face from rising labor and materials costs,” said owner Sandy Chang. “Foreign demand is already down. When growth is slow in our major markets, people just don’t buy.”

That tepid demand – on display in September data that showed China’s exports fell 10% from a year earlier – means factories are yet to get a sustained shot in the arm from a currency that’s weakened 9% against the dollar since August 2015. On a trade-weighted basis, the declines this year have been even more marked, with the yuan down 6.7% versus its 4.1% drop against the dollar in 2016. “China’s not going to get much out of anything from further currency depreciation in a weak global economy,” Stephen Roach, a senior fellow at Yale University and former Morgan Stanley non-executive chairman in Asia, said. “You can cut your relative prices through depreciation, but if you don’t have the external demand the impact is going to be limited.”

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Mad Max is here: “Along with chemicals from wood burning, scientists found lead, arsenic and cadmium particles, showing that people are burning painted and treated wood, and also their rubbish, to keep warm.”

Air Quality Worsens In Greece As People Burn Anything To Stay Warm (G.)

Greece’s financial recession is leaving its footprint on the environment. This follows twenty years of huge improvements in Greece’s air pollution. While most European countries struggle with the consequences of failure to control exhaust pollution from diesel vehicles, Greece benefitted from long-standing bans on diesel cars in the two biggest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki. This allowed the country to reap the full benefits of technologies to control petrol exhaust, without these being offset by the poor performance of diesel cars. As a consequence nitrogen dioxide from traffic approximately halved alongside Greek roads between 1996 and 2006, in contrast to the lack of improvement elsewhere in Europe. Lifting the diesel car ban in 2012 and lower taxes on diesel fuel acted as a huge incentive for those struggling with travel costs.

Amongst new car sales diesels leapt from less than 20% (around zero in Thessaloniki) to over 60%, but, so far, economic pressures have reduced traffic volumes averting a possible deterioration in air pollution. However, a tripling in the cost of heating oil brought about larger changes as hard-pressed Greeks have switched to burning wood. Wintertime particle pollution increased by around 30% in Thessaloniki in 2013 and air toxicity worsened on evenings when fires were lit. Analysis of wintertime air in Athens shows that it is not just logs that are being burnt. Along with chemicals from wood burning, scientists found lead, arsenic and cadmium particles, showing that people are burning painted and treated wood, and also their rubbish, to keep warm.

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Greece will get nothing from Obama.

A Parting Gift To Athens From Obama (Kath.)

[..] the key players in the euro area consistently kept the US at arm’s length when it came to dealing with the crisis, particularly in Greece. We should not forget that in February 2010, about three months before Greece’s first bailout was signed, the US Treasury secretary at the time, Timothy Geithner, had warned eurozone state leaders and ministers during a G7 meeting in Canada that they could not make moral hazard the driving force of their crisis strategy. “You can put your foot on the neck of those guys [the Greeks] if that’s what you want to do… but you have to make sure you counteract that with a bit more credible reassurance that you’re going to not allow the crisis to spread beyond Greece,” he said, according to the raw transcripts of his memoirs, which were published under the title “Stress Test.”

“They just wanted to take a bat to them,” added Geithner. “But in taking a bat to them, they were feeding a fare that was in its early stages.” The eurozone was not particularly interested in Washington’s message at the time, and has been similarly unimpressed by the US government’s interventions since. Washington’s position is weakened in European eyes because it does not have “skin in the game,” in other words it does not stand to lose financially or politically from any Greek debt relief, especially as the money owed to the International Monetary Fund, of which the US is the largest member with a 17.5% quota, has “super-senior status” and cannot be restructured.

To see a more recent example of US proposals for a change in approach on Greece not having an impact in the eurozone, we only need to wind back to the end of January 2015 and Obama’s comment in the wake of the SYRIZA-led government’s first election win. “You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of a depression,” he told CNN. “At some point, there has to be a growth strategy in order to pay off their debts and eliminate some of their deficits,” he added, pointing out that it is difficult to carry out structural reforms when people are seeing their living standards plummet. “Over time, the political system and society cannot sustain it,” he concluded.

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Britain does to its own children, too, what it does to refugee kids. What’s the last you heard Corbyn say about this? Where the f*ck is he?

Creating Child Poverty For A Whole New Generation (G.)

In a little council house in Birkenhead, Steve is panicking over how he’ll find an extra £304 rent money a month. He has just days to magic up an answer. If he can’t, he can guess what will happen. “Eviction. Come the end of November, I won’t have a roof.” As a single parent, Steve won’t be the only one slung out. His four boys, aged from three to eight, would also lose their home and probably be taken from their dad. “I’d be fed to the dogs.” Everything I’ve tried so hard for …” – a snap of his fingers – “Nothing.” It’s not a landlord doing this to Steve; it’s our government. It’s not his rent that’s going up; it’s his housing benefit that’s getting cut. And he’s not the only one; on official figures, almost 500 households in the borough of Wirral face a shortfall of up to £500 a month.

From next Monday 88,000 families across Britain will have their housing benefit slashed. They will no longer have the cash to pay their rent. Among all those whose lives will be turned upside down will be a quarter of a million children. That’s enough kids to fill 350 primary schools, all facing homelessness. Those figures come directly from the Department for Work and Pensions. Plenty dispute them, which is unsurprising since DWP officials keep changing their minds. Some experts believe the number of children at risk could total 500,000. This is the biggest benefit cut that you’ve never heard of. The newspapers will waste gallons of ink on Candice Bake-Off’s lipstick and Cheryl’s apparent baby bump. But about a government policy that could disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives, there is near silence.

So allow me to explain. From next week Theresa May’s government will extend the cap on household benefits. Poor families in London will not be allowed more than £442 a week. Those outside the capital will be cut to £385 a week. In some areas the cuts will be brought in straightaway; in others with a slight delay. But in the end, families above the limit will be hit twice over. First, they will be pushed further into poverty. And, like Steve, their housing benefit will be docked, so they will be left scrabbling just to make the rent and keep a roof above their heads. How those families will manage is anyone’s guess. When Steve opened the letter at the end of July he had a “panic attack”. All that went round his mind was one question: “How the hell am I going to pay this?” Then came what he calls “a depressive state” that lasted nearly two months. Now he bottles it up, for the sake of his boys. “When they’re not around, that’s when I cry. When they’re out at school, when they’re asleep: that’s when I break down.”

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Given their approach to this simple and easy-to-solve non-issue, people like Holland and May should obviously be nowhere near any decision making positions. Perhaps more than anything else, letting children perish for your own petty political reasons says you’re a sociopath.

Calais ‘Jungle’ like ‘Lord of the Flies’, With 1500 Abandoned Children (Ind.)

The Calais ‘Jungle’ has become like ‘Lord of the Flies’, with 1,500 children left unsupervised, sleeping in bare containers and free to roam the adjacent camp site, close to heavy machinery being used to dismantle and remove the wreckage, volunteers have told The Independent. Taps supplying drinking water to the children’s compound have been turned off, and food for the young refugees, who are mostly boys aged between 10 and 17, is not being supplied by the authorities, aid organisations claim. Nobody is allegedly allowed inside the containers except for a handful of security guards, raising serious concerns about the safety of the ‘Jungle’s’ most vulnerable occupants.

A small group of volunteers from three tiny charities told The Independent they are working “round the clock” to distribute bottled water, food, and blankets to the children, in a bid to support them. The task is extremely difficult, they said, because the organisations have only been given about 20 passes between them permitting access to the razed ‘Jungle’ site. Members of the grassroots aid organisations Refugee Community Kitchen, Calais Kitchens, and Little Ashram Kitchen, said they have had to distribute supplies from the roadside by the fenced-off compound. Only French officials can access the restricted container site, volunteers said, but they have not been present on a day to day basis. Volunteer Steve Bedlam told The Independent: “They’ve left them with no support whatsoever. They’ve just left these 1,500 kids since Friday and gone.”

No official organisations are distributing water, Mr Bedlam said, leaving the three volunteer-run organisations sending in thousands of litres everyday. Food is also extremely limited. “There’s running water in the toilets, but the sinks have been turned off,” Mr Bedlam said. “This has been confirmed by several of the kids. When we bring water in a truck it goes crazy. People are grabbing at it, like they want to get six bottles.” A French organisation was supplying one hot meal a day, Mr Bedlam said, but it was not nearly enough food for a teenage boy, leaving the camp occupants reliant on volunteers. Many of the children also had no blankets or shoes, he said, and some unregistered refugees are still sleeping outside in the “freezing cold”. Another volunteer told The Independent she believes there are 12 children in each container, and she said one boy told her he had slept on a table.

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Bless you.

QPR To Bring Over 1,000 Children To UK In Kindertransport-Style Mission (G.)

Queens Park Rangers (QPR), the football club, has offered to help bring refugee children stranded in France to the UK. The Championship club is part of a new plan for more than a thousand refugee children that emerged on Monday night. QPR has put a fleet of coaches on standby to go to France to collect the children. And Hammersmith & Fulham council – QPR’s local council in west London – says it has volunteer social workers ready to travel to France in the next couple of days to assess and support the children. Lord Alf Dubs, who has led plans to bring child refugees to the UK in a Kindertransport-style mercy mission, announced the plan in a letter to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, and the French ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, on Monday.

In his letter, Dubs writes: “I formally request that the French government allows us to send in coaches and social workers to collect those refugee children that have a right to be here in the UK. We will need assistance with travel documents out of France. We have people arranging the coordination of this.” Dubs added: “I am also writing the British government and hope that this intervention can bring the assistance the refugee children so desperately need. Given the urgency of this matter I should be grateful for a quick response.” The home secretary made a statement to parliament saying that the UK government had only been granted access to the camp by the French authorities and permitted to bring over Dubs-amendment children very recently. They are children with no relatives in the UK but who are deemed eligible to travel to the UK as a result of their vulnerability.

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