William Sauro Yoko Ono and John Lennon, “War Is Over If You Want It,” Times Square, New York 1969
On February 24 2022, after either 30+ years, or 8 years, or 6 months, take your pick, of increasingly ominous and deadly provocation, Russian troops entered Ukraine territory. The very next day, February 25, the Russian forces were largely in position. The broader Ukrainian army had been bogged down in pockets, largely in the east, where military action had likely been planned vs the Donbass, and the Azov battalion that was their most aggressive part, was being squeezed into an even tighter spot.
That’s the story so far, really; not much has changed since then.
It’s also perhaps jut a starting point. Not for Ukraine, mind you, that goes back a very long time, during which it very rarely if ever was a “nation”, but the starting point for the Russian Special Military Operation – or war, or invasion, take your pick. That’s all. And I’m sorry I’ve been silent for most of it, other than through the daily Debt Rattle news aggregators, but that is not a coincidence.
All the time, I see every paper and TV channel trying to decide my opinion for me, and I don’t want to fall into that same trap. I want people to make up their own minds. And the news aggregators are a very good approach for that. But still… Here’s some MSM headlines that I think perhaps need more explaining. April 13, Guardian:
Joe Biden has accused Russia of carrying out genocide in Ukraine, saying that Vladimir Putin is “trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian”. Biden has been consistently outspoken in denouncing Russian wholesale killing of Ukrainian civilians, labelling Putin as a “war criminal” in mid-March. Multiple investigations are under way into Russian atrocities in Ukraine, which include the razing of Mariupol and the executions of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha.
The prosecutor at the international criminal court in the Hague opened a case in February saying there was “a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine”. Proving a case under the 1948 Genocide Convention requires an “intent [by the accused] to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”. Biden first used the word in passing on Tuesday at a domestic policy event in Iowa about the use of ethanol in petrol. “Your family budget, your ability to fill up your tank, none of it should hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide half a world away,” he said.
It should be obvious that 1/ There is no evidence of Russia committing anything close to a genocide, 2/ There is plenty evidence of the US, while Biden is/was Senator/VP/President, committing war crimes/genocide, and 3/ Very few people understand what the term genocide actually means, so Biden -and the media- can throw it around as a scary sounding word without risking being called on that. April 5, Greek Reporter:
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky showed the UN Security Council a harrowing video from Ukraine in an apparent attempt to embarrass Russia and rally international sympathy and support. The clip lasted about a minute and showed image after image of dead Ukrainians, including burned and disfigured bodies. Speaking to the Security Council for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, Zelensky reported Russian troops have killed civilians and raped women.
Zelensky’s comments follow his Monday visit to the town of Bucha, where the bodies of dead Ukrainian civilians were found. He claimed that in the town, people were shot in the street, their homes, thrown into wells, and crushed by tanks in the middle of the road “just for the pleasure” of the Russian soldiers. “The Russian military searched for and purposefully killed anyone who served our country,” he said, as Russia’s UN ambassador was looking on.
My first reaction when I saw this 10 days ago was: this is infantile. But that is what our conversation has fallen/sunk/degraded into. That’s what the clown/actor president got to say at the UN, and nobody raised an objection; indeed, so-called serious politicians applauded him for it. But it is Hannibal/Napoleon/Hitler/Putin eat babies territory. It’s medieval, except that the Brothers Grimm had more nuance and credibility in their tales then our modern media.
If you saw that headline, and you still thought/think Zelensky is a credible source for anything at all, you yourself have a major credibility issue. Zelensky disqualified himself right then and there when he said that (and repeated similar claims on 100 other occasions). But, you know, he’s a clown and an actor, so give him some leeway.. . Still, if Putin or anyone near him would accuse Ukrainian or NATO troops of “killing for pleasure”, what would be your reaction? On to April 10:
Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Russia is targeting all of Europe with its aggression and that stopping the invasion of Ukraine is essential for the security of all democracies. Officials have said a grave with dozens of Ukrainians civilians was found in Buzova village near Kyiv, the latest such discovery as Russian forces retreat from their offensive on the capital and shift their assault to the east. In his late-night address to Ukrainians on Saturday, the Ukrainian president said Russian aggression “was not intended to be limited to Ukraine alone” and the “entire European project is a target for Russia”.
“That is why it is not just the moral duty of all democracies, all the forces of Europe, to support Ukraine’s desire for peace,” he said. “This is, in fact, a strategy of defence for every civilised state. “This will be a hard battle, we believe in this fight and our victory. We are ready to simultaneously fight and look for diplomatic ways to put an end to this war.” His address came as civilians continued to flee eastern parts of the country before an expected onslaught and firefighters searched for survivors in a northern town no longer occupied by Russian forces.
Zelenskiy thanked the leaders of Britain and Austria for their visits on Saturday to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and pledges of further support. He also thanked the European Commission president and Canada’s prime minister for a global fundraising event that brought in more than €10bn for Ukrainians who have fled their homes. Zelenskiy repeated his call for a complete embargo on Russian oil and gas, which he called the sources of Russia’s “self-confidence and impunity”. “Freedom does not have time to wait,” Zelenskiy said. “When tyranny begins its aggression against everything that keeps the peace in Europe, action must be taken immediately.”
There is no sign anywhere that Putin wants to attack the Entire European Project. None. He wants No Nato, No Nukes, and No Nazis in Ukraine. Russia does not have the power to invade all of Europe, nor does it want to. It wants the threat that Ukraine poses on its doorstep to dissolve. No nuke warheads in Ukraine. Step 1.
And what do we see? Sweden and Finland may now join NATO, and they, and Poland, may station nuke warheads on their territory. For hypersonic missiles, that are minutes from Moscow. Given that NATO has no functioning hypersonic missiles today, what would you do if you were Moscow? Wait till they do have them?
I found a better, more elaborate, version of this:
Before the war started, Zelenskyy refused an offer for peace. Russia required 3 things;
1) Water in Crimea: no water was destroying the economy there.
2) Minsk 2 imposed: peace for the people of Donbas, within Ukraine, but greater autonomy.
3) Ukraine to remain neutral: no NATO.
Zelenskyy actually increased the provocation against Russia in January 2022 by;
1) Intensifying the bombardment of Donbas
2) Threatening to retake Crimea
3) A group of Republican congressmen intended to introduce a bill declaring Ukraine a NATO-plus country.
The Azov battalion, which has been heavily involved in fighting in Mariupol and has strong ties to the far-right, wrote in a Telegram post that Russian forces had dropped “a poisonous substance of unknown origin” during a drone attack at the city’s large Azovstal metals plant. It said that its fighters had suffered minor injuries, including shortness of breath. One injured man described a “sweet-tasting” white smoke covering an area of the plant after an explosion. Another said he felt immediately unable to breathe and had collapsed with “cotton legs”.
The reported incident – which the BBC cannot independently verify – came hours after a spokesperson for the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic urged Russia to bring in “chemical forces” to the besieged south-eastern city. Eduard Basurin told Russian state TV the remaining Ukrainian forces in Mariupol were entrenched at the Azovstal plant and that Russia should encircle it and “smoke out the moles”. Speaking on Monday night, President Volodymyr Zelensky said any use of chemical weapons would mark a “new stage of terror against Ukraine” and called on Western nations to arm his forces with the weapons needed to defend his country.
“Unfortunately, we are not getting as much as we need to end this war sooner,” Mr Zelensky said. “I am sure that we will get almost everything we need, but not only time is being lost. The lives of Ukrainians are being lost — lives that can no longer be returned.”
There have been tons of reports of Russian war crimes in Mariupol. Maternity ward, theater, arts academy, they keep on coming so fast no-one can fact check them. And that’s not a coincidence. But when the Azov battalion delivers the “news”, even the MSM inserts a few ifs and buts and maybes. The headline works for propaganda, but they don’t want to get caught in outright nonsense or lies. Yeah, well, way too late. you’ve been doing it for 50-odd days now. April 13:
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has released a new video in which he warns that the war will become an “endless bloodbath, spreading misery, suffering, and destruction” without additional weaponry. Speaking in English, Zelenskiy says Ukraine has been defending itself against Russia “much longer than the invaders planned”. But Russia still has the capacity to attack “not only against Ukraine”, Zelenskiy continues: Poland, Moldova, Romania, and the Baltic states will become the next targets if the freedom of Ukraine falls.
More weapons were needed to “save millions of Ukrainians as well as millions of Europeans”, he says: We need heavy artillery, armoured vehicles, air defence systems and combat aircraft. Zelenskiy concludes the video by saying: “Freedom must be armed better than tyranny. Western countries have everything to make it happen. The final victory over the tyranny and the number of people saved depends on them.”
We are all smart enough to understand that the opposite is true: the more weapons US/NATO delivers inside Ukraine, the longer the bloodbath will be. AND the Ukraine troops are stuck in pockets (cauldrons), so what can possibly be delivered to them? AND Russia will not continue to sit idly by while such deliveries are attempted. Russia simply wants Ukraine and US/NATO to recognize the reality February 24 created.
And agree that Ukraine cannot enter NATO on Russia’s doorstep, cannot have nuclear weapons, and cannot have (neo-) nazi troops decide its politics. When Zelensky signs for that on the dotted line, the Russians could be gone within days. Provided sufficient guarantees are given, which will require a substantial commitment by NATO as well. But it can surely be done.
About “War Is Over If You Want It,” do you think Zelensky and his handlers want it to be over? Well, other than in a total Russian defeat, which will not happen? Do you think US/NATO wants it to be over? Or would they maybe think it’s acceptable to see a few million more Ukrainians perish if that means a few billion in weapons can be sold? Do you think Russia wants it to be over? I think they would sign up yesterday if their demands are met.
And these demands are serious, it’s not like leaving behind a bunch of nazis is negotiable, or a halfway house towards NATO, or a few biolabs, or a nuke installation here and there. For the Russians all that must go to zero, or they would never have invaded.
Here’s thinking it’s up to you after all. “War Is Over If YOU Want It.” But you have just been through 2+ years of believing and following the leader with Covid, so which part is actually your opinion, and which part are you just parroting? Might be a good idea to make up your minds, and soon, because your leaders are itching to push a few consequential buttons, and make up your minds for you.
You may actually need to go into the streets to demand that this war be over. And you will have to do it without a mask on. Can you handle that?
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Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has shown the UN Security Council on Tuesday a harrowing video from Ukraine in an apparent attempt to embarrass Russia and rally world opinion. The clip lasted about a minute and showed image after image of dead Ukrainians – including some burned and disfigured bodies. Speaking to the Security Council for the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, he said Russian troops have killed civilians and raped women. Zelensky’s comments follow his visit to the town of Bucha on Monday, where the bodies of dead Ukrainian civilians were seen. He claimed that in the town people were shot in the street, in their homes, thrown into wells, and crushed by tanks in the middle of the road “just for the pleasure” of the Russian soldiers.
“The Russian military searched for and purposefully killed anyone who served our country,” he said, as Russia’s UN ambassador was looking on. Joe Biden called for Vladimir Putin to be tried for war crimes on Monday following the killings of civilians in the city of Bucha, Ukraine. Biden said the images coming from Bucha warranted calling Putin a “war criminal,” adding, “but we have to gather the information. We have to continue to provide Ukraine with the weapons they need to continue the fight and we have to get all the details so this can be an actual…war-crime trial.” “This guy (Putin) is brutal and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone’s seen it,” Biden said.
Meanwhile, the United States ambassador to the UN called for Russia’s expulsion from the UN Human Rights Council. “Russia should not have a position of authority in a body whose very purpose is to promote respect for human rights. Not only is it the height of hypocrisy, it is dangerous,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said addressing the Security Council Tuesday. “Every day, we see more and more how little Russia respects human rights,” she added. “Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council hurts the Council’s credibility. It undermines the entire UN. And it is just plain wrong.”
Americans find it difficult to determine whether the Biden administration’s policy decisions regarding Ukraine are the product of a deliberate strategy, extraordinary incompetence, or some combination of both. Threatening Russia, a nuclear armed power, with regime change and then annunciating a nuclear weapons policy that allows for the United States’ first-strike use of nuclear weapons under “extreme circumstances”—responding to an invasion by conventional forces, or chemical or biological attacks—suggests President Biden and his administration really are out of touch with reality. American voters instinctively grasp the truth that Americans have nothing to gain from a war with Russia, declared or undeclared. A short trip to almost any supermarket or gas station in America explains why. Last week, inflation hit its highest point in nearly 40 years and gas prices have skyrocketed since the conflict in Ukraine began.
Thanks to the Western media’s non-stop dissemination of unfavorable images of Russia’s leaders and its military, it would appear that President Biden is able to espouse any narrative that suits his purpose. Obscuring the true origins of this tragic conflict, however—NATO’s eastward expansion to include Ukraine—cannot alter strategic reality. Moscow can no more lose the war with Ukraine than Washington could lose a war with Mexico. Ukraine’s proximity to Russia gives Moscow unconstrained and immediate access to Russia’s reserves of military manpower, equipment, and firepower. Notwithstanding Moscow’s determination to avoid unnecessary collateral damage to Ukraine’s population and infrastructure, Russian Air and Ground Forces are at liberty to methodically destroy Ukrainian resistance in detail.
Russia’s commodity-based economy, with its abundance of food, energy, minerals, and other resources, creates enormous strategic depth for Moscow on the Eurasian landmass. These resources make Moscow Beijing’s natural strategic partner, thus securing Moscow’s Asian border. Moscow’s role in stabilizing Central Asia also makes Russian strength indispensable for the success of China’s Belt and Road Initiative rooted as it is in the historical Silk Road, linking the economies of East Asia to Europe, Africa, and the Near East. At the same time, Washington’s frequent use of financial sanctions have severely weakened, if not wrecked trust in the U.S. led global financial system. It is far more likely that countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa will either bypass sanctions to buy discounted Russian and Belorussian commodities or simply refuse to enforce them.
To minimize the impact of financial sanctions imposed by Washington and the European Union, Russia began “de-dollarizing” its economy years ago. Unburdened by the kind of odious sovereign debt that plagues Washington, Moscow has been able to stabilize the ruble with interest rate increases, and links to gold reserves. Now, de-dollarization is spreading. China, India, and Saudi Arabia are introducing de-dollarization policies as an anti-sanction measure. Saudi Arabia’s offer to sell oil in Chinese yuan raises real questions about the future of the petrodollar. Despite Japan’s public display of solidarity with Washington, Tokyo really made its bed with Eurasia when Tokyo signed on to membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Program (RCEP), the world’s largest trade bloc. Predictably, Tokyo already declared it will not ban Russian oil and natural gas imports and Japan will continue to work with Russia on important joint economic projects.
“Do you see the core and the rings? Do you see the suppression of everything Russian (Hitler never banned Russian music) and the weaponisation of the despicable ukro Nazi ideology? History might not repeat but it has just provided the rhyme of the century.”
Before I set off on my brief journey through history, there is a general point I want to address: There is a lot of anxiety floating around. Well-meaning people (including yours truly) are riding the waves of war, experiencing exaltation and dejection with every Russian triumph and setback. This is completely understandable and I would be less than honest if I did not admit to being utterly exhausted by worry and seesawing emotions. At the same time, I’ve come to understand one thing. My willing Russia to win will not make one bit of difference – well, perhaps it might. Russia is what it is – a great, fascinating, freedom-loving land of endless steppes and kind people whose mission is to rid the world of evil, full stop. As such, Russia must prevail, and it will.
However, such a great accomplishment – that no other country or civilization is close to being able to emulate – must come at a cost. This means that Russia’s struggle will (as always) involve setbacks, errors, losses, treachery and perhaps even tragedies. This is not something the Russians or their supporters want to countenance but please, hear me out. I am trying to desensitise you to the maelstrom of emotionally-charged information that can be very harmful if digested uncritically. Be strong but be prepared – like Russia – to sustain emotional losses that this long and immensely dangerous undertaking must produce. In the end, all we have is the belief that good must prevail and we should let that belief carry us all the way to victory.
[..] It was only the heroic offensive by the Red army that broke the back of the Euro beast – at a very high cost. However, not even they could break the back of the fanatical Ukrainian Nazis who continued with open terror until about 1956 and then went underground to await a fresh opportunity. Ukrainian terror against Russians which started in the 1910s has never stopped. Funded and supported by the Vatican, Austria-Hungary, Imperial Germany, Hitler’s Germany and Poland, the UK, US and West and the current German state, the Ukrainian Nazi virus was released again as soon as the Soviet Union collapsed (note the similarities with Yugoslavia and Croatia). Many Russians refused to see the truth and continued to support the increasingly anti-Russian ukro regimes in the name of “brotherhood” inculcated during Soviet times.
This is a simple replay of 1918, 1939, 1945 and 2014 when the Soviets/Russians forgave their hangmen only to have to fight the same battle again and again. This fully explains President Putin’s demand for a full denazification of the Ukraine. I can only hope that he completes this historic task fully. Can you see it yet? Do you see the geopolitical pattern that is currently forming? A deeply Russophobic Euro Reich centred on Germany, France and the Vatican (with a wholehearted Anglo-American support) is rapidly being turned into an anti-Russian fortress. Do you see the core and the rings? Do you see the suppression of everything Russian (Hitler never banned Russian music) and the weaponisation of the despicable ukro Nazi ideology? History might not repeat but it has just provided the rhyme of the century.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned Congress on Tuesday that the chances of a “significant international conflict between great powers” are increasing. Milley warned that both China and Russia are threats to the so-called “rules-based” global order. “We are now facing two global powers: China and Russia, each with significant military capabilities both who intend to fundamentally change the rules-based current global order,” Milley told the House Armed Services Committee. “We are entering a world that is becoming more unstable. The potential for significant international conflict between great powers is increasing, not decreasing.” The hearing was focused on the Pentagon’s $773 billion budget request for 2023, part of the $813 billion in military spending President Biden has asked Congress for.
Milley said the budget is in alignment with the new National Defense Strategy (NDS) that was recently briefed to Congress but has yet to be declassified. In a fact sheet on the new NDS, the Pentagon named China as the top “threat” facing the US military, while Russia was second. The US military’s shift in focus towards “great power competition” was first outlined by the 2018 NDS, which put China and Russia as equal concerns. The Pentagon has plans to boost the US military’s presence in the Asia Pacific to counter China and in Eastern Europe to face Russia. While done in the name of deterrence, US military buildups in the regions will only make a conflict more likely. This is demonstrated by the fact that one of Russia’s main justifications for invading Ukraine was Kyiv’s alignment with NATO and the military alliance’s presence in the region.
The US, Britain, and Australia announced on Tuesday that they will work together to develop hypersonic missiles under the recently created AUKUS military alliance. President Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the plan in a joint statement. The leaders said they are “committed today to commence new trilateral cooperation on hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, and electronic warfare capabilities, as well as to expand information sharing and to deepen cooperation on defense innovation.” US military leaders have been calling for more investment in the development of hypersonics and other advanced weaponry, which they see as vital for competing with China and Russia.
The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) said Tuesday that the US Air Force recently successfully tested a hypersonic cruise missile made by Lockheed Martin. The AUKUS military pact was signed by the three countries last September and is focused on increasing military technology ties to counter Beijing. Under the deal, Australia will get access to technology to build nuclear-powered submarines, which could be used to patrol waters near China. When asked about the AUKUS hypersonic plan, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang warned that such measures could lead to a crisis similar to what’s happening in Ukraine. “Anyone who do not want to see the Ukrainian crisis should refrain from doing things which may lead the other parts of the world into a crisis like this,” he said.
I have a question for you: What would it take in today’s world for America’s military spending to go down? Here’s one admittedly farfetched scenario: Vladimir Putin loses his grip on power and Russia retrenches militarily while reaching out to normalize relations with the West. At the same time, China prudently decides to spend less on its military, pursuing economic power while abandoning any pretense to a militarized superpower status. Assuming such an unlikely scenario, with a “new cold war” nipped in the bud and the U.S. as the world’s unchallenged global hegemon, Pentagon spending would surely shrink, right? Well, I wouldn’t count on it. Based on developments after the Soviet Union’s collapse three decades ago, here’s what I suspect would be far more likely to happen.
The U.S. military, aided by various strap-hanging think tanks, intelligence agencies, and weapons manufacturers, would simply shift into overdrive. As its spokespeople would explain to anyone who’d listen (especially in Congress), the disappearance of the Russian and Chinese threats would carry its own awesome dangers, leaving this country prospectively even less safe than before. You’d hear things like: we’ve suddenly been plunged into a more complex multipolar world, significantly more chaotic now that our “near-peer” rivals are no longer challenging us, with even more asymmetrical threats to U.S. military dominance. The key word, of course, would be “more” — linked, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, to omnipresent Pentagon demands for yet more military spending.
When it comes to weapons, budgets, and war, the military-industrial complex’s philosophy is captured by an arch comment of the legendary actress Mae West: “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.” Even without Russia and China as serious threats to American hegemony, you’d hear again about an “unbalanced” Kim Jong-un in North Korea and his deeply alarming ballistic missiles; you’d hear about Iran and its alleged urge to build nuclear weapons; and, if those two countries proved too little, perhaps the war on terror would be resuscitated. (Indeed, during the ongoing wall-to-wall coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, North Korea did test a ballistic missile, an event a distracted media greeted with a collective shrug.) My point is this: when you define the entire globe as your sphere of influence, as the U.S. government does, there will always be threats somewhere.
The career path of White House press secretary-turned-TV pundit isn’t new. Tony Snow worked for Fox News and then moved to the George W. Bush White House. Dana Perino did the reverse. But never before has a chief press secretary for the president of the United States leveraged the position to negotiate a career move to cable news. That’s exactly what Jen Psaki has done, according to Axios . Psaki will soon be heading off to what’s likely a very lucrative contract with MSNBC. The White House press secretary should have resigned last week when this news broke. Let’s be clear — this is an unprecedented breach of public ethics. Unfortunately, most of Psaki’s colleagues in the press briefing room seem to be OK with it. Psaki was only questioned briefly by CBS News reporter Ed O’Keefe on the possible ethical ramifications of these negotiations.
Then everyone simply moved on. Psaki’s move and the media’s nonchalant apathy about it explain so much about what is wrong with the incestuous nature of the Washington media’s relationship with the Biden White House. In turn, it helps explain why the public reputation of both institutions is hovering somewhere just above the popularity of bubbling street sewage. That media watchdogs such as CNN’s Brian Stelter see no conflict of interest here speaks more about corporate media’s agenda bias than it does about Psaki. It’s worth noting that Psaki is a former CNN contributor, serving the network after leaving the Obama administration’s State Department.
Psaki is not a free agent a la the world of sports. Her podium is not for sale to the highest media bidder. Any job in the executive branch is a job paid for by the people. But we know what comes next. Psaki will move from spinning for the Biden White House in the White House to spinning for the White House at MSNBC. And think about this: Psaki has been in her role as press secretary for just a little over a year. That means negotiations with MSNBC likely began not soon after she started! Consider something else: What’s the likelihood that NBC White House reporters Peter Alexander or Kristen Welker will aggressively challenge someone they know that they’ll soon share office space with? The very possibility of this concern is outrageous by itself. Equally absurd is the hypocrisy.
Pfizer hired about 600 additional full-time employees to process adverse event reports during the three months following the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of its COVID-19 vaccine, newly released documents reveal. According to the documents, Pfizer said, “More are joining each month with an expected total of more than 1,800 additional resources by the end of June 2021.” The information was contained in a 10,000-page document cache released April 1 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and made public as part of a court-ordered disclosure schedule stemming from an expedited Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The latest revelations appeared in a document, “Cumulative analysis of post-authorization adverse event reports” of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, highlighting such adverse events identified through Feb. 28, 2021.
The document was previously released in November 2021, but was partially redacted. The redactions included the number of employees Pfizer hired and/or was planning to hire. According to the unredacted document released April 1: “Pfizer has also taken a multiple actions [sic] to help alleviate the large increase of adverse event reports. This includes significant technology enhancements, and process and workflow solutions, as well as increasing the number of data entry and case processing colleagues. “To date, Pfizer has onboarded approximately 600 additional full-time employees (FTEs). “More are joining each month with an expected total of more than 1,800 additional resources by the end of June 2021.”
The unredacted version also revealed the number of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses shipped worldwide between December 2020 and February 2021: “It is estimated that approximately 126,212,580 doses of BNT162b2 [the Pfizer EUA vaccine] were shipped worldwide from the receipt of the first temporary authorisation for emergency supply on 01 December 2020 through 28 February 2021.” The number of shipped doses previously was redacted.
In the span of just over a week, CCP authorities have gone from denying plans for a citywide lockdown of Shanghai to announcing what was supposed to be a two-part staggered lockdown – to simply locking down the entire city and sending in the military and a contingent of medical workers as locals accuse the government of violating its social compact to put the people’s interests first. Now, as the entire city of roughly 26 million faces what’s already shaping up to be the most punishing lockdown in China since the original three-month Wuhan lockdown nightmare, Nikkei reports that Beijing has found itself in an incredibly difficult position. On Sunday, Shanghai counted 9,006 mainly asymptomatic infections, more than two-thirds of the national tally.
The reason the situation in Shanghai presents such a difficult conundrum is that backing down from its lockdown in Shanghai would mean admitting that the “Zero COVID” approach has been an abject failure. But continuing with the heavy-handed lockdown risks spurring even more unrest – something the CCP has bent over backwards to avoid. For the CCP, it’s an impossible dilemma. Already, social media has been flooded with reports of locals dying from neglect as hospital resources have been stretched thin (and not from COVID; it’s other ailments that are killing people now). While the entire city has been locked down for less than a week, many individual residential compounds have been locked down for much longer – some since mid-March.
“It is so uncharacteristic of Shanghai to have to go through this,” said Zhong Lei, a teacher in the city, whose residential compound was locked down even earlier, in mid-March. On Tuesday, authorities reiterated that they must try to keep the city’s port and its factories running at full capacity. But accomplishing this – as we have already reported – will require even more draconian measures like forcing workers to essentially live inside the city’s factories.
China has sent more than 10,000 health workers from around the country to Shanghai, including 2,000 from the military, as it struggles to stamp out a rapidly spreading outbreak in its largest city under its zero-COVID strategy. Shanghai was conducting a mass testing of its 25 million residents Monday as what was announced as a two-phase lockdown entered its second week. Most of eastern Shanghai, which was supposed to re-open last Friday, remained locked down along with the western half of the city. While many factories and financial companies have been allowed to keep operating if they isolate their employees, concern was growing about the potential economic impact of an extended lockdown in China’s financial capital, a major shipping and manufacturing center.
The highly contagious omicron BA.2 form of the virus is testing China’s ability to maintain its zero-COVID approach, which aims to stop outbreaks from spreading by isolating everyone who tests positive, whether they have symptoms or not. Shanghai has converted an exhibition hall and other facilities into massive isolation centers where people with mild or no symptoms are housed in a sea of beds separated by temporary partitions. China on Monday reported more than 13,000 new cases nationwide in the previous 24 hours, of which nearly 12,000 were asymptomatic. About 9,000 of the cases were in Shanghai. The other large outbreak is in northeastern China’s Jilin province, where new cases topped 3,500. The Shanghai lockdown has sparked numerous complaints, from food shortages to limited staff and facilities at hastily constructed isolation sites. Some people who tested positive have remained at home for extended periods because of a shortage of isolation beds or transportation to take them to a center, the business news publication Caixin said.
In a Monday night filing, Durham revealed that he has an incriminating statement by Sussmann that dramatically undermined his defense. In the text message, Sussmann denied that he was representing anyone before his critical meeting with the FBI. He then repeated the false statement in that meeting as he pushed a false Russian collusion claim against Donald Trump. Sussmann has been seeking the dismissal on the single charge under 18 U.S.C. 1001 for lying to the FBI in a meeting with the then-FBI General Counsel James Baker. In the indictment, Sussmann is accused of “mak[ing] a materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statement or representation” in conversations with Baker. Durham argued that “the defendant provided the FBI General Counsel with purported data and ‘white papers’ that allegedly demonstrated a covert communications channel between the Trump Organization and a Russia-based bank.”
That institution was Alfa Bank and Sussmann’s effort paralleled the work of his partner at the law firm Perkins Coie, Marc Elias, in pushing the Steele Dossier in a separate debunked collusion claim. The FEC recently fined the Clinton Campaign and the DNC for hiding the funding of the dossier as a legal cost by Elias at Perkins Coie. The Clinton Campaign’s Alfa Bank conspiracy was found to be baseless but the FBI did not know that it was being offered by someone being paid by the campaign to spread the claim. Had they known, Durham alleges the department might have been able to avoid the investigation costs and effort spent on the Alfa matter.
Sussmann has sounded a lot like Michael Flynn in court as he argued that this was trivial and inconsequential comment. On Monday night, Durham lowered the boom. He revealed that, before the meeting, Sussmann sent “the same lie in writing” that his effort was “not on behalf of a client or company.” Durham is seeking the introduction of a text message to Baker that said: “Jim—it’s Michael Sussmann. I have something time-sensitive (and sensitive) I need to discuss. Do you have availability for a short meeting tomorrow? I’m coming on my own—not on behalf of a client or company—want to help the Bureau. Thanks.” Thus, Durham writes that “on September 18, 2016 at 7:24 p.m., i.e., the night before the defendant met with the General Counsel, the defendant conveyed the same lie in writing and sent the following text message to the General Counsel’s personal cellphone.”
The Democratic cybersecurity lawyer charged by special counsel John Durham with lying to the FBI about working for the Clinton campaign doesn’t want British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier brought up at the trial following indications from the special counsel that it will be. Michael Sussmann was indicted last year on charges of concealing his clients, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and “tech executive” Rodney Joffe, from FBI general counsel James Baker when he pushed since-debunked claims of a secret backchannel between the Trump Organization and Russia’s Alfa-Bank. He has pleaded not guilty. Steele created his now-discredited dossier after being hired by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which was itself hired by Perkins Coie and Marc Elias, the general counsel for Clinton’s campaign.
Durham appears to be building a case that many collusion claims can be sourced back to Democratic operatives or linked to the Clinton campaign. Sussmann’s lawyers asked a federal judge on Monday to preclude three categories of evidence: the gathering of domain name system data by Joffe and others; the accuracy of that data and conclusions based on it; and “Christopher Steele and information he separately provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (including the so-called ‘Steele Dossier’).” The defense team argued: “The single false statement charge brought against Mr. Sussmann surely does not flow from the gathering of data, the accuracy of that data, the accuracy of the conclusions based on that data, or any information Mr. Steele may have provided to the FBI.”
The lawyers argued Sussmann did not have “any awareness” that Steele was “separately providing information to the FBI.” “The Special Counsel has not charged a substantive scheme to defraud the government, nor has he charged a conspiracy to defraud the government,” Sussmann’s lawyers argued. “The manner in which the data was gathered, the objective strength and reliability of that data and/or conclusions drawn from the data, and the information that Christopher Steele separately provided to the FBI all have no bearing on the only crime the Special Counsel chose to charge.” Sussmann’s lawyers said that during a phone conference last month, Durham indicated that “he intends to introduce evidence and argument pertaining to reports and information” that Steele provided to the FBI, adding that Durham “presumably” intends to call Steele as a witness.
Eric Trump, son of former President Donald Trump, called out what he sees as a double standard between him and President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. “If I did 1/100 of what Hunter Biden did, I’d be in jail for the rest of my life,” Eric Trump told NTD’s “Capitol Report.” Records Just the News obtained Wednesday show Hunter Biden and his business partners attempted to make millions off of the first Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. A report surfaced Monday that the Secret Service is paying more than $30,000 per month to rent a mansion in Malibu to provide security for Hunter. A retired intelligence officer told Just the News that the U.S. government was concerned the contents from Hunter Biden’s laptop could compromise the first family. “The mainstream media hasn’t mentioned Hunter Biden’s name in 258 days. There’s a serious problem with that. They let him skirt by. They carry Joe Biden’s water,” Eric Trump told NTD over the weekend.
“Based on their approval rating, [the mainstream media] is really damaged because they’ve got 7 percent approval rating in this country. It’s horrible,” he said. “People don’t trust them anymore.” He also said that the establishment media has been covering up for Hunter Biden’s father. He told NTD that if Donald Trump had said 1/100 of the “stupid things” that President Joe Biden has, the media would call for him to be removed from office under Article 25. “But again, they’re on that side, and they’ll do anything to cover up for him and let him get away with just about anything under the sun,” Eric Trump said. “You don’t have equal scales of justice in this country. You don’t have equal media coverage,” he said. “The media is the propaganda wing of the left-wing party. And I think that [has] become very clear to all Americans.”
let’s put ourselves in the shoes of British admiralty in the 1920s. We have this problem. This British-created creature, Italy, that was supposed to be just a counterweight against France, now has started to behave like a golem. And to disobey her creators. It needs to be controlled before it is too late. Fine, but how? We already said that at, the time of the unification of Italy, the French ruler, Louis Napoleon, had been controlled by using a beautiful woman. But Mussolini didn’t seem to be the kind of man who would easily fall under a woman’s spell. He was closer to the prototypical “mad dictator,” more interested in power than in sex. So, to influence him, one needed to use his craving for power. As we enter this line of thought, we find an interesting event.
In 1925, there was an “exchange of notes” between Britain and Italy regarding Ethiopia. Known as the “Anglo-Italian Agreement” it essentially said that Ethiopia was part of the Italian sphere of influence. This agreement had a deep strategic significance. Essentially, the British were telling Italians, “go ahead, you can do whatever you want in Ethiopia. We won’t stop you” Perfidious Albion? I think so. VERY perfidious. We cannot know what went on inside Mussolini’s mind but, by 1932, he had taken the fateful decision of accepting Britain’s offer and invade Ethiopia. A major propaganda campaign started with the idea of convincing the public that Italy had a manifest destiny that consisted in re-creating the Roman Empire, and that this could be done by conquering Ethiopia and getting rid of the inferior races who lived there.
It involved slander campaigns against Ethiopia, scientific studies showing the inferiority of the black races in comparison to the white ones, and how modern Italians were the true heirs of the noble Roman warriors who had created and defended the greatest empire in history. That kind of thing. The slander campaign implied painting Ethiopians as insects to be exterminated with insecticides (it was done for real, using chemical weapons). After three years of campaign, the Italian public was completely bamboozled into believing that, yes, their destiny was in the “place in the sun,” the way Ethiopia started to be described (as if Italy didn’t have enough sun). You have to read the documents of the time to understand how well it worked. People were completely hypnotized. Just imagine yourself in 1934 asking the question, “you know, folks, before we attack Ethiopia, wouldn’t it be a good idea to carry out a cost-benefit analysis?” And you would have discovered that propaganda reduces the level of the discussion to that of the most stupid person involved in it.
Today I took a few things out of my daily Debt Rattle news aggregator because I think they shouldn’t get lost in there. It’s interesting, for instance, that the coronavirus incubation period is now thought to be 24, not 14 days. It’s also interesting that the Chinese government tells local officials not to be too strict on companies wanting to re-open plants: “We will strictly stop restricting the production resumption in an oversimplified and crude way”.
If you ask me, that’s asking for trouble. What if one of those factories becomes a petri dish for new infections? Yesterday perhaps 10% of workers are thought to have reported back to their workplaces, today it might be 30%. Then again, in certain places the Lunar New Year has apparently been extended to February 18, so let’s not read too much into this-yet.
But that I’ll deal with later today in the February 11 Debt Rattle, which will be a bit later than usual because of this article. I’ll start this with Hong Kong University Professor Gabriel Leung, around whose January 31 report I based my February 5 article The Big Lockdown. Professor Leung has some more BIG numbers today. We’re getting into Spanish Flu territory now:
The novel coronavirus epidemic could spread to around two-thirds of the world’s population if it cannot be controlled, according to Hong Kong’s leading public health epidemiologist. His warning came after the head of the WHO said recent cases of coronavirus patients who have never visited China could be the “tip of the iceberg”. Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of Public Health Medicine at Hong Kong University, said the overriding question was to figure out the size and shape of the iceberg. Most experts thought that each person infected would go on to transmit the virus to around 2.5 other people. That gave an “attack rate” of 60-80%.
“Sixty per cent of the world’s population is an awfully big number,” Leung told the Guardian in London, en route to an expert meeting at the WHO in Geneva. Even if the general fatality rate is as low as 1%, which Leung thinks is possible once milder cases are taken into account, the death toll would be massive. He will tell the WHO expert meeting that the main issue is the scale of the growing worldwide epidemic and the second priority is to find out whether the drastic measures taken by China to prevent the spread have worked – because if so, other countries should think about adopting them. [..]
At the end of January he warned in a paper in the Lancet that outbreaks were likely to be “growing exponentially” in cities in China, lagging just one to two weeks behind Wuhan. Elsewhere, “independent self-sustaining outbreaks in major cities globally could become inevitable” because of the substantial movement of people who were infected but had not yet developed symptoms, and the absence of public health measures to stop the spread.
Epidemiologists and modellers were all trying to figure out what was likely to happen, said Leung. “Is 60 to 80% of the world’s population going to get infected? Maybe not. Maybe this will come in waves. Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well,” he said.
About that fatality rate, we read today that “The Hubei health commission said the province had a total of 31,728 cases with 974 deaths by the end of Monday – a fatality rate of 3%.“.
The most interesting part of the numbers game comes from Ben Hunt at Epsilon Theory, who ‘normally’ writes about finance, investing, not viruses or epidemics. He’s the Chief Risk Officer of Salient Partners, an $18 billion asset manager. Hunt starts out his piece with showing how the US and Vietcong incessantly lied about casualties in the Vietnam war.
He then cites someone with the moniker Antimonic, I think on Reddit, who predicted the coronavirus death tolls of the past 5 days, 5 days ago, before they happened, using very simple math.
Hunt on Twitter: “I just published an update to this note, where I developed an absurdly simple model of how I’d show “Progress in the War against Coronavirus!”. It predicts the DAILY reported death rates with ridiculous accuracy. They’re. Not. Even. Pretending. Anymore.“
Here’s how Hunt summarizes it in his own words:
Let’s imagine, for example, that you’re President Xi, and you’d like to show that you are Winning the War ™ against nCov2019. You can’t just say that the epidemic is over and the disease is cured, because you’ve got more than 100 MILLION people in a military quarantine, and it’s kinda obvious that the disease is anything but cured. But you want to show progress in Winning the War ™. So maybe you come up with a rough formula that goes something like this …
Yesterday we told everyone that 500 people have died since the outbreak. That’s a made-up number, of course, but that’s what we told everyone. Today let’s tell everyone that an additional 15% of that number died yesterday, so 75 new deaths for 575 total dead. And tomorrow let’s tell everyone that 14% of that total number died, and the day after 13%, and then 12% and then 11%. Clear progress! Got it, my loyal cadres?
This way, the absolute numbers can rise, while the percentages fall.
The daily body count of killed and wounded North Vietnamese soldiers was, in Epsilon Theory-speak, a cartoon – an abstraction of an abstraction in service to the creation of Common Knowledge. Hey, everyone knows that everyone knows that we’re winning the war in Vietnam. Didn’t you see the body count numbers on CBS last night? Once you start looking for cartoons, you will see them everywhere. Inflation numbers? Cartoon. Employment data? Cartoon. Asset allocation? Electoral coverage? Financial journalism? Cartoon, cartoon, cartoon. And yes, we write a lot about cartoons. But this is the kicker.
Because it was so important to maintain the fiction that we were Winning the War ™, and that fiction required metrics like a body count of North Vietnamese that was always a multiple of the South Vietnamese casualties and always a factor of the American casualties, American war-fighting policy was soon driven by the narrative requirement to find and count the “right number” of North Vietnamese casualties! These were the infamous search-and-destroy missions of the Vietnam War. This is The Maw in action. Do a little research on search-and-destroy. Read about My Lai and Son Thang. Read Matterhorn. And then take a fresh look at the coronavirus stats coming out of China. Here’s the core post in a reddit thread that’s Matterhorn-esque in its truth (and a heck of a lot shorter to read).
The point of this quadratic regression on Chinese infection and death numbers as reported by the World Health Organization from the first official announcement through February 4 was the publication of this projection.
Sure enough, the WHO announcements since this prediction was published have been eerily close.
• 2/5 — 24,363 cases — 491 fatalities
• 2/6 — 28,060 cases — 564 fatalities
• 2/7 — 31,211 cases — 637 fatalities
• 2/8 — 34,598 cases — 723 fatalities
• 2/9 — 37,251 cases — 812 fatalities
• 2/10 — 40,171 cases — 908 fatalities
Crazy, right? The deaths being reported out of China are particularly accurate to the model, while the reported cases are leveling off (which is what you’d expect from a politically adjusted epidemic model over time … at some point you have to show a rate-of-change improvement from your epidemic control measures). But wait, there’s more. The really damning part of Antimonic’s modeling of the reported data with a quadratic formula is that this should be impossible. This is not how epidemics work. All epidemics take the form of an exponential function, not a quadratic function.
All epidemics – before they are brought under control – take the form of a green line, an exponential function of some sort. It is impossible for them to take the form of a blue line, a quadratic formula of some sort. This is what the R-0 metric of basic reproduction rate means, and if – as the WHO has been telling us from the outset – the nCov2019 R-0 is >2, then the propagation rate must be described by a pretty steep exponential curve. As the kids would say, it’s just math.
The EU is preparing punitive tariffs on iconic U.S. brands produced in key Republican constituencies, raising political pressure on President Donald Trump to ditch his plans for taxing steel and aluminum imports. Targeting $3.5 billion of American goods, the EU aims to apply a 25 percent tit-for-tat levy on a range of consumer, agricultural and steel products imported from the U.S. if Trump follows through on his tariff threat, according to a list drawn up by the European Commission and obtained by Bloomberg News. The list of targeted U.S. goods – including motorcycles, jeans and bourbon whiskey – sends a political message to Washington about the potential domestic economic costs of making good on the president’s threat.
Paul Ryan, Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, comes from the same state – Wisconsin – where motorbike maker Harley-Davidson is based. Earlier this week, Ryan said he was “extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war” and urged Trump to drop his tariff proposal. Other U.S. officials will also feel the pressure. Bourbon whiskey hails from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. San Francisco-based jeans maker Levi Strauss is headquartered in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s district. The EU’s retaliatory list targets imports from the U.S. of shirts, jeans, cosmetics, other consumer goods, motorbikes and pleasure boats worth around €1 billion; orange juice, bourbon whiskey, corn and other agricultural products totaling €951 million; and steel and other industrial products valued at €854 million.
The war of words between President Donald Trump and the EU could lead to some serious pressure on the German auto industry, one expert told CNBC. Trump threatened via Twitter on Saturday to hit back at any tariff measures from the European Union — floated in response to Trump’s recently announced global steel import tariffs — in kind. The billionaire businessman’s potential next target? European cars. And the biggest victim of them all may be Germany. “It would be quite severe if we were to face additional import duties to ship the cars into the U.S. — the Germans in particular are very, very exposed,” Arndt Ellinghorst, the head of global automotive research for advisory firm Evercore ISI, told CNBC Monday.
He noted the example of BMW, which sells about 350,000 cars in the U.S. annually, roughly 70% of which come from Europe. “That’s probably an $8 billion to $9 billion revenue stream, if you put a 5 to 10% additional cost on it, it would cost something like $400 million to $800 million. Some of that would be absorbed by the company, and some of it would have to be absorbed by the consumer in the U.S.” Ellinghorst did add that cars being shipped from the U.S. into Europe faced a 10% import duty while European cars into the U.S. faced a 2.5% import duty. “I think what the administration is talking about is to balance out this difference in tariffs to make it more of an equal playing ground for American and European carmakers,” he said.
Out of roughly six million cars exported by Europe in 2016, more than one million were absorbed by the U.S. — just over 16% — its largest country market by a wide margin. Meanwhile, of America’s $53.6 billion in car exports that same year, the value of its car exports into Europe was $11.8 billion, or roughly 22% of the total, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity. The U.S. is the third-largest car exporter globally after Germany and Japan, accounting for 7.7% of total world exports. It ran a trade deficit of more than $151 billion overall with Europe in 2017.
TD Ameritrade’s Investor Movement Index – “designed to indicate the sentiment of retail investors” based on what they’re doing in their accounts and “how they are actually positioned in the markets” – plunged 23% in February to 5.95, the biggest month-over-month plunge in the history of the index, “as volatility returned to the market.” This comes after a 9% plunge of the index in January, the largest month-over-month plunge in three years, which occurred despite the final spurt of the rally that took the stock market indices to new highs on January 26. It’s as if retail investors, for once, smelled a rat. After which the sell-off started:
TDA Chief Market Strategist JJ Kinahan explained in an interview that TDA’s clients “didn’t want to be as exposed” in February to risk “as they were.” “What’s interesting is they were net buyers, and they were net buyers because of the February 9th move,” he said. “They bought a lot of stocks that day. But as the month went on, they just continued to sell those stocks back out, and then some. So it was a really interesting pattern that developed.” The stocks they bought had “lower beta than some of the stocks they sold,” he said. “So it was really and truly a risk-off trade. But the bigger part about it is they lightened up their exposure across the board. So one or two days truly of buying,… but after that, not only selling what they’d bought that day, but selling on top of it what they’d bought earlier” this year and last year.
Growth in global bond, real estate and money market funds continued to swell the world’s“shadow banking” sector, a watchdog that coordinates financial regulation for the G20 big economies said on Monday. The Financial Stability Board said its“narrow” measure of shadow banking activities that could pose a threat to stability, rose 7.6% to $45.2 trillion in 2016, the latest year for which figures have been collated. It represents 13% of total financial system assets in the 29 jurisdictions surveyed. Data from China and Luxembourg were included in the measure for the first time. “Non-bank financing provides a valuable alternative to bank financing and helps support real economic activity,” the FSB said in its report. Nevertheless, increased reliance on non-bank funding could give rise to new risks, it said.
The so-called shadow banking sector, made up of companies other than banks that provide financial services, has been treated with suspicion by some regulators since the financial crisis a decade ago. Still, it has some champions among policymakers who say it helps keep capital markets more liquid. The European Union actively courts participants to diversify away from heavy reliance on bank loans for EU companies. Apart from debt investment funds, the measure of shadow banking also includes the repurchase and debt securitization markets as well as hedge funds involved in credit. Faced with few rules in the past, sub-sectors like securitization are now regulated and seen to pose less risk to stability.
Open-ended bond funds, hedge funds that offer credit and money market funds account for 72% of the narrow measure, and grew by 11% in 2016. Regulators have asked funds to have safeguards in place for extreme market turbulence to avoid instability from fire sales of assets if many investors ask for their money back. The United States accounts for 31% of the narrow measure, followed by China with 16%, the Cayman Islands at 10% and Japan at 6%. A broader measure, which includes all financial firms that are not central banks, banks, pension funds or insurers, rose 8% to $99 trillion to represent 30% of global financial assets, its highest level since at least 2002, the FSB said.
China is relaxing rules governing how much banks must set aside to cover bad loans, people with knowledge of the matter said, a sign that regulators are comfortable the nation’s lenders are sound enough to extend additional credit and support the economy. The China Banking Regulatory Commission has issued a notice lowering the bad-loan coverage ratio to a minimum 120% from the previous 150%, the people said, asking not to be identified as the matter isn’t public. Relaxed bad-loan coverage rules will allow banks to extend more credit, supporting an economy the government expects to expand about 6.5% this year, a slower pace than in 2017. Additional lending from giants such as Industrial & Commercial Bank of China would also counter some of the effects on the economy of President Xi Jinping’s campaign to curb financial risk, one of the government’s top priorities.
The changes also indicate regulators are confident that they’ve come to grips with a bad-loan epidemic that plagued lenders over the past few years. In 2016, when problem loans at Chinese banks were on the rise, the CBRC resisted lobbying from the nation’s lenders to relax the provisioning thresholds. The timing of the CBRC move suggests that “nonperforming loans are not a problem,” analysts at Shenwan Hongyuan said in a research note. [..] According to the notice, the CBRC will differentiate the amount of provisions an individual bank must hold within the new band of 120% to 150%, based on the level of its capital, the accuracy of its loan classification policies and its proactiveness in handling nonperforming loans, the people said.
China’s banking industry has a bad loan coverage ratio above 180%, CBRC official Xiao Yuanqi said at a briefing last week, indicating banks have plenty of room to reduce provisions. As well as lowering the threshold, the CBRC notice said it will reduce the amount of provisions banks must hold against their total loan book, including healthy loans, to as low as 1.5% from the previous 2.5% minimum.
Premier Li Keqiang has an “impossible challenge” if he wants to slash China’s budget deficit target, deleverage the economy, and cut taxes, according to Pantheon Macroeconomics. Li on Monday said this year’s deficit goal was cut to 2.6% of gross domestic product, from 3%, the first reduction since 2012. At the same time, he pledged tax cuts of 800 billion yuan ($126 billion) for companies and individuals and set a 6.5% annual economic growth target – the same as last year’s target but slower than the actual performance of 6.9%. “These targets suggest tight monetary conditions and tight fiscal policy, with GDP growth holding up, despite an intensified deleveraging campaign,” said chief Asia economist Freya Beamish in London. “Something’s got to give. We reckon it’s fiscal policy, though monetary policy could also turn out on the easier side, with the yuan also set to weaken.”
[..] While China is aiming for a narrower official deficit, leaders still plan to expand the issuance of special purpose bonds, which are sold by local governments to finance items that aren’t included in the general public budget and not counted in the deficit ratio released annually. Local governments have used special bonds to help pay for highways, railroads and other construction projects in recent years, and the securities are designed to be covered by returns of the projects rather than general revenues. Special purpose bond issuance will jump to 1.35 trillion yuan this year to prioritize “supporting ongoing local projects to see them make steady progress,” the Finance Ministry said Monday. That’s up from 800 billion yuan in 2017 and 400 billion yuan in 2016.
The coming credit crisis in China is no secret. China has $1 trillion or more in bad debts waiting to explode. These bad debts permeate the economy. Some are incurred by Chinese provincial authorities trying to get around spending limitations imposed by Beijing. Some are straight commercial loans on bank balance sheets. Some are external dollar-denominated debts owed to foreign creditors. The most dangerous type of debt involves a daisy chain of insolvent corporations buying debt from each other. A single cash advance of $100 million can be passed from corporation to corporation in exchange for a new promissory note, used to extinguish an old unpayable promissory note. Repeated enough times, the $100 million can be used as window dressing to prop up $1 billion or even $2 billion of bad debts.
These kinds of accounting tricks will land you in jail in the U.S., but it’s an accepted practice in China as long as the corporate CEO is a “Princeling” (a politically connected Communist Party insider descended from the old guard) or an oligarch willing to pay bribes. This state of affairs has existed for years. The question investors keep asking is, “How long can this last?” How long can the daisy chain keep operating to gloss over a sea of bad debt and give the Chinese economy an appearance of good health? Well, the answer is the Ponzi will not likely last much longer. Even compliant Chinese regulators are starting to blow the whistle on bad loans and the banks that cover them up. So the good news is that China is starting to address the problem. The bad news is that if China gets serious about cleaning up bad debts, their growth will slow significantly and so will world economic growth.
That’s bad news for global stock markets. Essentially, China is on the horns of a dilemma with no good way out. On the one hand, China has driven growth for the past eight years with excessive credit, wasted infrastructure investment and Ponzi schemes like wealth management products (WMPs). The Chinese leadership knows this, but they had to keep the growth machine in high gear to create jobs for millions of migrants coming from the countryside to the city and to maintain jobs for the millions more already in the cities. The Communist Chinese leadership knew that a day of reckoning would come. The two ways to get rid of debt are deflation (which results in write-offs, bankruptcies and unemployment) or inflation (which results in theft of purchasing power, similar to a tax increase). Both alternatives are unacceptable to the Communists because they lack the political legitimacy to endure either unemployment or inflation. Either policy would cause social unrest and unleash revolutionary potential.
“Sex” and “Money” are probably two of the most powerful words in the English language. First, those two words got you to look at this article. They also sell products, books, and services from “How To Have Better Sex” to “How To Make More Money” — ostensibly so you can have more of the former. Unfortunately, they are also the two primary causes of divorce in the country today. But “happiness,” is also an interesting word because it is ultimately derived from the ability to obtain money and the lifestyle with which it will afford. Researchers at Purdue University recently studied data culled from across the globe and found that “happiness” doesn’t rise indefinitely with income. In fact, there were cut-off points at which more annual income had a negative effect on overall life satisfaction.
So, what’s that number? In the U.S., $65,000 was found to be the optimal income for “feeling” happy. In the U.S., despite higher levels of low income (now there’s an oxymoron), inflation-adjusted median incomes have remained virtually stagnant since 1998.
However, the chart above is grossly misleading because the income gains have only occurred in the Top 20% of income earners. For the bottom 80%, they are well short of the incomes needed to obtain “happiness.”
For most American “families”, who have to balance their living standards to their income, the “experience” of “happiness” is more of a function of “meeting obligations” each and every month. Today, more than ever, the walk to the end of the driveway has become a dreaded thing as bills loom large in the dark crevices of the mailbox. If they can meet those obligations, they are “happy.” If not, not so much.
In my opinion, what the study failed to capture was the “change” in what was required to achieve “perceived” happiness following the “financial crisis.” Just as with “The Great Depression,” individuals forever altered their feelings about banks, saving and investing after an entire generation had lost “everything.” It is the same today as sluggish wage growth has failed to keep up with the cost of living which has forced an entire generation into debt just to make ends meet. As the chart below shows, while savings spiked during the financial crisis, the rising cost of living for the bottom 80% has outpaced the median level of “disposable income” for that same group. As a consequence, the inability to “save” has continued.
[..] Not surprisingly, the “financial stress” in American households is leading to other factors which are fueling the “demographic” problem in the future. The equation is very simple – when individuals are stressed over finances they are less active sexually. This was shown in a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Ahead of the past three US recessions, the number of conceptions began to fall at least six months before the economy started to contract. As the FT notes, while previous research has shown how birth rates track economic cycles, the scientific study is the first to show that fertility declines are a leading indicator of recessions. [..] To the researchers’ surprise, they found that falls in conceptions were a far better leading indicator of recessions than many commonly used indicators such as consumer confidence, measures of uncertainty, and purchases of big-ticket items such as washing machines and cars.
In 2016, more than 310 million people and nearly 500 million tonnes of freight crossed the UK’s borders. If this continues to happen in a “frictionless” way after Brexit, the disturbances to the status quo in Ireland will be limited. If it doesn’t, hang on to your hats. Frictionless trade is the only condition under which Brexit can happen without inflicting a hard border on Ireland. It is almost certainly a political impossibility if the UK leaves the customs union. But even if it could somehow be agreed in principle, there is another enormous obstacle: the actual capacity of the British to handle it. On Friday, after Theresa May’s big set-piece speech on Brexit, the DUP leader Arlene Foster issued a glowing endorsement. She referred back to a paper issued by the UK government last August: “Those proposals can ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after we exit the EU.”
Foster recognises how much unionism is staking on that document and on the ability of the UK’s bureaucracies to deploy technology to take the sting out of the potentially toxic irritant of the Irish Border. This forces us to consider something that would previously have been of little interest to Irish people: the recent and dismal history of the UK’s adventures in using digital technology to control its borders. In 2003, the British established a spanking new “e-borders” system which was meant to collect and analyse advance passenger information for people travelling into the UK. It had a generous timescale – the full programme was meant to be in place by 2011. In 2010, the Home Office admitted that e-borders was so useless it had to be abandoned. By then, it had spent £340 million (€380 million) on the programme.
The cancellation of the contract led to a legal settlement for another £150 million. The Home Office then spent another £303 million on a new programme, bringing expenditure to £830 million. In 2015, the National Audit Office reported that all of this expenditure “has failed, so far, to deliver the full vision” of what was supposed to be achieved. The current date for completion of the programme is 2019. The whole thing will have taken a mere 16 years. On the same timescale, the new post-Brexit systems on which the future of Ireland may hinge would be delivered in 2035. In 2015, 55 million UK customs declarations were made by 141,000 traders. Once Brexit happens, that will increase fivefold to 255 million. Leaving aside all the issues of political principle, this is the vast logistical challenge that will have to be dealt with if May and Foster are to get the Brexit they want.
Canada’s Fourth Quarter economic growth was 1.7% following positive signs of growth earlier in the year. This growth, however modest, is attributable to easy credit and the increased consumer spending. At this time, Canadian households are facing one the largest indebtedness when compared to most other countries. For every $1.00 of income, consumers owe $1.68. This is the highest income to debt ratio in the world. For low-income Canadian households, the $1.00 disposable income to $3.33 debt ratio is even worst. Canada, along with other nations, especially emerging markets are carrying records levels of consumer debts, may be facing a serious crash as further growth becomes unsustainable.
Canada combined deficit rose to $18.1 billion in 2016, from $12.9 billion in the previous year. Higher debts and increased spending are causing serious concerns that the Canadian economy is on an unsustainable economic path. A considerable portion of Canada’s future economic growth has been predicated on strengthening and improving the country’s infrastructure. However, Prime Minister Trudeau’s policies are destined to strangle potential economic growth by shifting C$7.2 billion allocated to infrastructure improvements to government programs such as gender equality hiring opportunities. According to the Conference Board of Canada’s Craig Alexander: “This isn’t a budget that’s about growth, as much as it’s about equality and breaking down barriers to opportunity.”
Canada appears to be stunting its own economic growth as a matter of policy. Three major infrastructure projects, The Northern Gateway pipeline ($7.9 billion), the Pacific Northwest LNG project ($36 billion), and possibly the Energy East pipeline ($15.7 billion) would have been instrumental in guaranteeing economic growth for decades to come. However, these have been stymied in favor of Trudeau’s economic egalitarian vision. As a result, investors have been abandoning certain projects. The last time Canada’s saw such heavy-handed government interference in its economy was during the presidency of Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau.
Coinbase was slapped with a pair of lawsuits by disgruntled consumers, one alleging insider trading by employees at the giant digital currency exchange and the other accusing the company of failing to deliver cryptocurrencies to people who didn’t have accounts. The class-action suits come as Coinbase and other crypto startups are beefing up their staffs with regulatory experts to legitimize themselves as they prepare for government authorities to impose stricter rules. The first of the complaints filed in San Francisco federal court centers on Coinbase’s announcement in December that it would enable purchases of the bitcoin spinoff known as Bitcoin Cash. The customer who sued alleges that employees were tipped off a month in advance, allowing them to instantly swamp Coinbase with buy and sell orders and leaving other traders at a great disadvantage.
Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong said at the time that the company would investigate an increase in the price of bitcoin cash in the hours before its Dec. 19 announcement and that any employee or contractor found to have violated internal policies would be terminated. “To date, neither Armstrong nor the company has disclosed the result of its purported investigation,” according to the March 1 lawsuit. In the other suit, two men claim that they were unable to redeem bitcoin that had been transferred to them through Coinbase via their email addresses in 2013. They allege that when they got reminder notices in February, they tried to recover the bitcoin only to discover that the links provided by Coinbase were broken. They accused the company of keeping their funds and say they want to represent “thousands” of other people in the same position.
“The situation in Yemen – today, right now, to the population of the country,” UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told Al Jazeera last month, “looks like the apocalypse.” 150,000 people are thought to have starved to death in Yemen last year, with one child dying of starvation or preventable diseases every ten minutes, and another falling into extreme malnutrition every two minutes. The country is undergoing the world’s biggest cholera epidemic since records began with over one million now having contracted the disease, and new a diptheria epidemic “is going to spread like wildfire” according to Lowcock. “Unless the situation changes,” he concluded, “we’re going to have the world’s worst humanitarian disaster for 50 years”.
The cause is well known: the Saudi-led coalition’s bombardment and blockade of the country, with the full support of the US and UK, has destroyed over 50% of the country’s healthcare infrastructure, targeted water desalination plants, decimated transport routes and choked off essential imports, whilst the government all this is supposed to reinstall has blocked salaries of public sector workers across the majority of the country, leaving rubbish to go uncollected and sewage facilities to fall apart, and creating a public health crisis. A further eight million were cut off from clean water when the Saudi-led coalition blocked all fuel imports last November, forcing pumping stations to close.
[..] As of late January, fuel imports through the country’s main port Hodeidah were still being blocked, with cholera cases continuing to climb as a result. And on 23rd January, the UN reported that there are now 22.2 million Yemenis in need of humanitarian assistance – 3.4 million more than the previous year – with eight million on the brink of famine, an increase of one million since 2017.
It must be hard on The New York Times editors to set their hair on fire day after day in their effort to start World War Three. Today’s lead story, Russian Threat on Two Fronts Meets Strategic Void in the U.S., aims to keep ramping up twin hysterias over a new missile gap and fear of Russian “meddling” in the 2018 midterm elections. The Times’s world-view begins to look like the script of a Batman sequel with Vlad Putin cast in The Joker role of the cackling psychopath who must be stopped at all costs! America’s generals have switched on the Batman signal beacon, but Donald Trump in the role of the Caped Crusader, merely dithers and broods in the splendid isolation of his 1600 Penn Avenue Bat Cave, suffering yet another of his endless bipolar identity crises.
For God’s sake, The Times, shrieks, do something! The Russians are coming! (Gotham City’s Chief of Police Hillary said exactly that last week in a Tweet!) I think they misunderstood Mr. Putin’s recent message when he announced a new hypersonic missile technology that would, supposedly, cut through any imaginable US missile defense. The actual message, for the non mental defectives left in this drooling idiocracy of a republic, was as follows: Nuclear war remains unthinkable, so kindly stop thinking about it. Mr. Putin’s other strategic position is also misrepresented — actually, not even acknowledged — in Monday’s NYT propaganda blast, namely, to discourage the USA’s decades-long policy of regime change here, there, and everywhere on the planet, creating a debris trail of one failed state after another.
As a true-blue American, I must say these are two admirable propositions. Is it fatuous to add that atomic war is unlikely to benefit anyone? Or that the world has had enough of US military “meddling” in foreign lands? Of course the shopworn trope of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election still occupies the center ring of the American political circus. Today’s Times story includes another clumsy attempt to set up expectations that the 2018 midterm elections will be hacked by Russia, in order to keep the hysteria at code-red level. As usual, the proposition assumes that the alleged 2016 hacking is both proven and significant when, going on two years, there is no evidence of hacking besides the obviously amateurish Facebook troll farm.
A British diver has captured shocking images of himself swimming through a sea of plastic rubbish off the coast of the Indonesian tourist resort of Bali. A short video posted by diver Rich Horner on his social media account and on YouTube shows the water densely strewn with plastic waste and yellowing food wrappers, the occasional tropical fish darting through the deluge. The footage was shot at a dive site called Manta Point, a cleaning station for the large rays on the island of Nusa Penida, about 20km from the popular Indonesian holiday island of Bali. In a Facebook post on 3 March Horner writes how the ocean currents had carried in a “lovely gift” of jellyfish and plankton, and also mounds and mounds of plastic.
“Plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic sheets, plastic buckets, plastic sachets, plastic straws, plastic baskets, plastic bags, more plastic bags, plastic, plastic,” he says, “So much plastic!” The video shows Horner swimming through the mess for several minutes and also how the waste coagulated on the surface, mixing in with some organic matter to form a slick of floating rubbish. Manta Point is regularly frequented by numerous manta rays that visit the site to get cleaned of parasites by smaller fish, but the video shows just one lone manta in the background. “Surprise, surprise, there weren’t many mantas there at the cleaning station today…” notes Horner, “They mostly decided not to bother.”
Several weeks ago thousands across Bali took part in a mass clean up, in attempt to rid the island’s beaches, rivers and jungles of waste, and raise awareness about the harmful impacts of trash. Rich Horner said that while divers regularly see “a few clouds of plastic” in the rainy season, the slick he identified is the worst yet. Divers returned to the site the next day, he reports, by which time the slick had already moved on, “continuing on its journey, off into the Indian Ocean..”