Jul 192019
 
 July 19, 2019  Posted by at 9:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Marie-Thérèse Walter 1937

 

Trump Denounces ‘Send Her Back’ Chant About Rep. Ilhan Omar (BI)
US Navy Ship ‘Destroyed’ An Iranian Drone – Trump (CNN)
Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Says Tehran Has Not Lost Any Drones (R.)
Rand Paul Angles To Become Trump’s Emissary To Iran (Pol.)
Manhattan and DC Brace For Epstein Impact (VF)
Beijing’s Credibility and the Baoshang Bank Dilemma (RG)
Obscure Data Suggests China Housing Bubble Has Burst (ZH)
Boeing Takes $4.9 Billion Charge As 737 Max Fiasco Drags On (ZH)
Congress Must Not Cede Its Authority To Raise Debt (Hill)
Russia Offers To Join European SWIFT-Bypass (ZH)
More Puerto Rico Protests Planned As Governor Resists Calls To Resign (R.)
US Lawmakers Urge Trump To Sanction Turkey (R.)
Cyprus: American Promises, Turkish Arms, Russian Money And Missiles (Helmer)
Merger Mania: the Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids (Hartung)
IUCN Red List Reveals Wildlife Destruction From Treetop To Ocean Floor (G.)

 

 

Of course people will see he didn’t really denounce it, or not fast enough or strong enough, but he did say it. Whatever you think of this, Trump got what he wanted: the Dems have moved hugely to the left. And he thinks they’re much easier to defeat in elections now. They can pick Biden or Kamala, but from now on in, it’ll be: yes but what do AOC and Omar think?

Trump Denounces ‘Send Her Back’ Chant About Rep. Ilhan Omar (BI)

President Donald Trump is distancing himself from attendees at his North Carolina rally on Wednesday who chanted about “send her back” Rep. Ilhan Omar, a US citizen who has been a strident Trump critic. In the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump said he “disagreed” with the chants, was “very unhappy” with them, and would try to stop them in the future. Omar came to America as a refugee from Somalia in the 1990s, and is a US citizen. At the rally, Trump went on an extended monologue criticizing Omar and falsely linking her to terrorism and accusing her of supporting al-Qaeda, drawing loud boos from the audience. The crowd broke into “send her back” chants after Trump accused her of “launching vicious, anti-Semitic screeds.” But if Trump was unhappy with the chants, he didn’t show it.

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But have they?

US Navy Ship ‘Destroyed’ An Iranian Drone – Trump (CNN)

President Donald Trump said Thursday that the USS Boxer downed an Iranian drone that came within 1,000 yards of the Navy ship and ignored “multiple calls to stand down” — marking yet another escalation in the already tense situation playing out between Washington and Tehran. Speaking at the White House, Trump said the drone was “threatening the safety of the ship and the ship’s crew” in the Strait of Hormuz and was “immediately destroyed.” The drone was destroyed using electronic jamming, according to a US defense official. The crew of the Boxer took defensive action after the drone came within a threatening distance of the US ship, the official said.


“This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters,” Trump added. “The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, our facilities and interest and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran’s attempts to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce.” He called on other countries to condemn Iran’s action and protect their own vessels.

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“I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [Unmanned Aerial System] by mistake!..”

Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Says Tehran Has Not Lost Any Drones (R.)

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi denied on Friday that Iran had lost a drone in the Strait of Hormuz after the United States said that a U.S. Navy ship had “destroyed” an Iranian drone. “We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else. I am worried that USS Boxer has shot down their own UAS [Unmanned Aerial System] by mistake!,” Araqchi said on Twitter, referring to a U.S. warship in the strategic waterway. U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the drone had flown to within 1,000 yards (meters) of the USS Boxer and had ignored “multiple calls to stand down” in the latest episode to stir tensions in the Gulf.

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Much better than Bolton or Pompeo.

Rand Paul Angles To Become Trump’s Emissary To Iran (Pol.)

Over a round of golf this past weekend, Sen. Rand Paul asked President Donald Trump’s blessing for a sensitive diplomatic mission. Paul proposed sitting down with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to extend a fresh olive branch on the president’s behalf, according to four U.S. officials. The aim: to reduce tensions between the two countries. Trump signed off on the idea. With Zarif in New York City this week for U.N. meetings and private sitdowns with journalists and think-tank experts, the prospect of the dovish Kentucky senator serving as the administration’s chief diplomatic emissary has rankled many administration officials, who are expressing concern that Paul’s intervention threatens to scuttle the president’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran.

It is unclear whether the senator will meet with Zarif. He and his office declined multiple requests for comment. But the president’s willingness to tap Paul as the go-between with a top Iranian official is a demonstration both of his unorthodox approach to foreign affairs and his continuing desire, even as his aides threaten to squeeze Iran until it capitulates to U.S. demands, to entice the Islamic Republic’s leaders to the negotiating table. Trump has been attempting to start negotiations with Iran for months, a campaign that has included letters to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an attempt to use Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as an emissary to Tehran, and public comments expressing his desire to talk. Some Iranian officials have said that they are open to negotiations, but only after the administration removes sanctions. Khamenei, however, has likened talking with the U.S. to drinking “poison.”

Paul, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.), played a round of golf with the president on Saturday at his club in Sterling, Va. The libertarian-leaning Paul has long been wary of U.S. foreign intervention, and he’s clashed with Trump administration officials over the possibility of a military conflict with Iran. When Trump last month called off retaliatory military strikes against Iran after an Iranian military official downed a U.S. drone over international waters, Paul went on the president’s favorite television network to offer unqualified praise. “It really takes a statesman to show restraint amidst a chorus of voices for war,” Paul told Fox News’ Martha MacCallum.

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How wise is Epstein’s web?

Manhattan and DC Brace For Epstein Impact (VF)

The Jeffrey Epstein case is an asteroid poised to strike the elite world in which he moved. No one can yet say precisely how large it is. But as the number of women who’ve accused the financier (at least, that’s what he claimed to be) of sexual assault grows to grotesque levels—there are said to be more than 50 women who are potential victims—a wave of panic is rippling through Manhattan, DC, and Palm Beach, as Epstein’s former friends and associates rush to distance themselves, while gossiping about who might be ensnared. Donald Trump’s labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, architect of the original 2007 non-prosecution agreement that let Epstein off with a wrist slap, has already been forced to resign.

The questions about Epstein are metastasizing much faster than they can be answered: Who knew what about Epstein’s alleged abuse? How, and from whom, did Epstein get his supposed $500 million fortune? Why did Acosta grant Epstein an outrageously lenient non-prosecution agreement? (And what does it mean that Acosta was reportedly told Epstein “belonged to intelligence”?) But among the most pressing queries is which other famous people might be exposed for committing sex crimes. “There were other business associates of Mr. Epstein’s who engaged in improper sexual misconduct at one or more of his homes. We do know that,” said Brad Edwards, a lawyer for Courtney Wild, one of the Epstein accusers who gave emotional testimony at Epstein’s bail hearing. “In due time the names are going to start coming out.”

Likely within days, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will release almost 2,000 pages of documents that could reveal sexual abuse by “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known prime minister, and other world leaders,” according to the three-judge panel’s ruling. The documents were filed during a civil defamation lawsuit brought by Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a former Mar-a-Lago locker-room attendant, against Epstein’s former girlfriend and alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell. “Nobody who was around Epstein a lot is going to have an easy time now. It’s all going to come out,” said Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies. Another person involved with litigation against Epstein told me: “It’s going to be staggering, the amount of names. It’s going to be contagion numbers.”

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Free markets? Nah…

Beijing’s Credibility and the Baoshang Bank Dilemma (RG)

Baoshang Bank’s seizure by regulators on May 24 has created structural liquidity distribution problems in China’s interbank money market, which is vital to the financial system’s overall function. The market’s liquidity chain, with money lent from policy banks and large banks to small banks and then to non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs), remains ruptured, even as the central bank tries to piece it back together. However, authorities did not act capriciously, even if the Baoshang failure seems to have been foisted upon Chinese regulators at an awkward time.


The central bank chose explicitly to impose haircuts or discounts on corporate and interbank Baoshang depositors even while guaranteeing household and small deposits: they did not choose to fully support all depositors. By addressing some systemic risks officials necessarily create new counterparty credit risks: breaking moral hazard is difficult to do. Beijing cannot drive the probability of bank defaults back to zero, nor do they want to. Additional bank defaults have to be possible if system-wide risk taking is to be managed. The dilemma is fundamental: Does Beijing want the market to price the risk of potential bank failures, or do authorities want “stable” production of riskier and riskier forms of credit? Beijing can have one or the other, not both.

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Intriguing.

Obscure Data Suggests China Housing Bubble Has Burst (ZH)

[..] there was a delightful surprise to appease those who are wondering whether record credit injections and more easing measures than during the financial crisis had any effect at all. To wit, China retail sales and industrial production rebounded handsomely with the former spiking 9.8% YoY – the most since March 2018. There’s just one thing though – the entire surge in retail sales (and industrial production) seems to have been triggered by an almost unprecedented sudden surge in auto sales to – who else – the government itself, in the form large, state-owned enterprises. Think Cash for Clunkers on steroids – if the clunkers belonged to the Federal Government, and the new cars purchased were made by the Government.

Yet there was one critical data set in China’s manipulated economic data spreadsheet, which failed to get the royal goalseek treatment, one with dramatic implications for the broader market. According to Commodore Research, Chinese June data showed that furniture sales in China totaled only 18.4 billion yuan last month. This marks a year-on-year decline of 14% from the 21.3 billion yuan in sales that was reported last year for June 2018’s furniture sales. This is puzzling in light of the official Chinese data according to which the local housing market continues to hum along, firing on all cylinders, with the average, 70-city primary market property price rising 10.5% Y/Y in May.

Alas, that does not seem feasible when one considers that furniture sales in China have now contracted on a year-on-year basis for eighteen straight months. What does this mean? As Commodore Research concludes, “we continue to believe that there is a good chance that the ongoing plummet in furniture sales in China is pointing to much greater weakness existing in the Chinese housing market than is generally being recognized.”

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So: $100 million for the victims and $5 billion for the airlines. Yeah, makes perfect sense.

Boeing Takes $4.9 Billion Charge As 737 Max Fiasco Drags On (ZH)

In a long-overdue step that suggests Boeing is eager to put the 737 MAX debacle behind it, the Seattle airplane company announced it would take a $4.9 billion charge in Q2 related to the grounding of the 737 Max aircraft, which represents that troubled aircraft maker’s first estimate of the cost of compensating airlines for schedule disruptions and delays in aircraft deliveries. The charge will result in a $5.6 billion hit to pre-tax earnings when the company reports earnings on July 24, the company said in a statement issued on Thursday. There is just one problem: there is no assurance Boeing’s 737 MAX woes will end in Q2, with media reports suggesting the grounding of the jet may last into 2020.


That scenario is not being contemplated by the world’s largest commercial aircraft manufacturer, which said it assumes regulatory approval will be granted for the Max to return to global skies in the fourth quarter of this year. “This assumption reflects the company’s best estimate at this time, but actual timing of return to service could differ from this estimate,” the company said. To address the possibility of an extended grounding, Boeing said that although the charge equal to $8.74 per share, would be taken in the second quarter, the company said it expects “potential concessions or other considerations” would come “over a number of years”. As the FT notes, “concessions in such circumstances often take the form of price cuts on aircraft orders rather than cash payments.”

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History lessons.

Congress Must Not Cede Its Authority To Raise Debt (Hill)

Last Friday Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asked Congress to increase the debt limit. And so begins another contentious debate. Throughout our nation’s history, Americans have had a love-hate relationship with the national debt. Alexander Hamilton insisted that debt was the price of liberty. Without it, the young country would be unable to protect itself from foreign threats. Yet, throughout much of U.S. history, many Americans regarded debt itself as a threat, to individual freedoms. The ability to raise debt was linked directly to power, and debt issued to finance the nation’s defense was viewed as particularly dangerous—a way to enrich “monied interests” and increase the power of government at the expense of everyone else.

To impede this potential for abuse, the Constitution vested the power to take on debt and regulate currency with the people—through Congress. As a Congressman during the 1790s, James Madison argued that debt and spending were equally important issues and should be debated separately, rather than rolled together in a single bill. Moreover, he felt that to not manage debt would have be an abdication of Congress’s role representing the people. During our nation’s first 130 years, Congress authorized debt as needed to meet the challenges of the day. Government debt financed revenue shortfalls derived from wars, economic recessions or even infrastructure investments. The big difference from modern times is that, back then, once the challenge precipitating the debt was resolved, Congress turned its attention to debt eradication.

President Andrew Jackson believed that repaying debt was a symbol that the nation could sustain independence. After the Civil War, Congress turned to paying off the national debt, which eventually fell from 32 percent of GDP in 1869 to 5 percent in 1916. But America’s aversion to government debt changed throughout the 20th Century. At the forefront of this change were three major developments: the enactment of the first permanent income tax; the creation of the Federal Reserve and the onset of World War I.

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As I wrote a few weeks ago, can’t use a reserve currency as a military tool.

Russia Offers To Join European SWIFT-Bypass (ZH)

Three weeks after a meeting between the countries who singed the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was ditched by US, French, British and German officials said the trade mechanism which was proposed last summer – designed to circumvent both SWIFT as well as US sanctions banning trade with Iran – called Instex, is now operational. And while we await for the White House to threaten Europe with even greater tariffs unless it ends this special purpose vehicle – it already did once back in May when it warned that anyone associated with the SPV could be barred from the U.S. financial system if it goes into effect – a response from the US is now assured, because in the biggest attack on the dollar as a reserve currency to date, on Thursday, Russia signaled its willingness to join the controversial payments channel, and has called on Brussels to expand the new mechanism to cover oil exports, the FT reported.


Moscow’s involvement in the Instex channel would mark a significant step forward in attempts by the EU and Russia to rescue a 2015 Iran nuclear deal that has been unravelling since the Trump administration abandoned it last year. ““Russia is interested in close co-ordination with the European Union on Instex,” the Russian foreign ministry told the Financial Times. “The more countries and continents involved, the more effective will the mechanism be as a whole.” … and the more isolated the US will be as a currency union meant to evade SWIFT and bypass the dollar’s reserve currency status will soon include virtually all relevant and important countries. Only China would be left outstanding; after the rest of the world’s would promptly join.

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Wednesday’s protest, the biggest so far, included singer and actor Ricky Martin and reggaeton artist Bad Bunny.

More Puerto Rico Protests Planned As Governor Resists Calls To Resign (R.)

Massive and at times violent protests in Puerto Rico showed no sign of stopping as labor unions on Thursday organized a Friday march to keep up pressure on the governor to resign, while dozens of guns were stolen in a raid on police firearms center. Thousands of protesters have jammed streets in San Juan since Saturday, calling on Governor Ricardo Rossello to step down after the leak of a raft of controversial and vulgar text messages between him and his closest allies. The scandal comes on the heels of a federal probe into government corruption on the bankrupt island. The guns were stolen from a police station in the coastal city of Guayama, which was vandalized with graffiti calling for the governor to resign or face bullets, according to a Thursday police statement. The FBI was investigating, it said.


The political turmoil comes at a critical stage in the U.S. territory’s bankruptcy. It has also raised concerns with U.S. lawmakers who are weighing the island’s requests for billions of federal dollars for healthcare and for recovery efforts following devastating hurricanes in 2017. “Like never before, all factions of the country agree that Ricardo Rossello has to go,” Juan Cortés, president of the Central Federation of Workers, a public- and private-sector union, said in a statement. Rossello said on Thursday he continued to ask for forgiveness for what he has called “improper” but not illegal acts on his part, while affirming his commitment to remain in office.

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He’ll wait.

US Lawmakers Urge Trump To Sanction Turkey (R.)

Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers pressed President Donald Trump on Thursday to impose sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of a Russian missile defence system, saying he should follow a law mandating penalties for doing business with Russia’s military. Republican Senators Rick Scott and Todd Young introduced a resolution calling for sanctions after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile defence system last week, prompting the White House to announce it was removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme.


Separately, Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said removing Turkey from the jet programme was not enough. “The law clearly mandates sanctions penalties for ‘significant transactions’ with the Russian Federation’s defence and intelligence sectors, which would clearly include the delivery of an S-400 system,” he said in an emailed statement. But Trump’s administration has stopped short of imposing sanctions on Turkey, despite the sweeping 2017 sanctions law, known as CAATSA. Trump has not been clear on whether his administration is considering doing so.

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And here’s why he’ll wait…

Cyprus: American Promises, Turkish Arms, Russian Money And Missiles (Helmer)

This week a group of US senators has proposed to leave Turkey in control of the northern part of Cyprus, and force the Greek Cypriots to choose between the US and Russia for the economic and political future of the south of the island. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed by a large bipartisan majority on June 25 to put into law a new Eastern Mediterranean strategy. If the bill is enacted, Cyprus will be required to decide that in exchange for American protection from Turkish military threats, including Russian-made S-400 missiles to be based in southwestern Turkey, the Cyprus Government must not allow Russian naval vessels to dock at Cypriot ports, and should block all Russian money and investments on the island.


At the same time, Greece has been told the US military intends to expand its occupation of Crete around the Souda Bay base; at Larissa Air Force Base, midway between Athens and Thessaloniki; and at other Greek locations. The proposed new law is the most comprehensive plan for American military occupation of Cyprus and Greece since the Greek civil war of the 1950s. The US plan also establishes State Department censorship of the Greek-language media in Cyprus and Greece, and threatens US sanctions against the Orthodox Church bishops of the two countries. Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, initiated the new policy as an amendment to Senate Bill No. 1102, “to promote security and energy partnerships in the Eastern Mediterranean, and for other purposes.”

Menendez chaired the Foreign Relations Committee until the Republicans won control of the Senate last November. He has made a long record of legislating sanctions against Russia, while he himself has been under FBI investigation for corruption. [..] US policy in the region should be aimed, the Bill declares, at backing the development of the Cyprus offshore gas deposits, as well as future regional pipelines and liquefaction plants, in order to compete against Russian gas supplies to southern Europe. Without naming Turkey, which is currently threatening Cypriot gas exploration at sea with drilling vessels of its own, the Bill claims that Cypriot seabed exploration “must be safeguarded against threats posed by terrorist and extremist groups, including Hezbollah and any other actor in the region.”

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The real giant squid.

Merger Mania: the Military-Industrial Complex on Steroids (Hartung)

Raytheon, already one of the top five U.S. defense contractors, is planning to merge with United Technologies. That company is a major contractor in its own right, producing, among other things, the engine for the F-35 combat aircraft, the most expensive Pentagon weapons program ever. The new firmwill be second only to Lockheed Martin when it comes to consuming your tax dollars — and it may end up even more powerful politically, thanks to President Trump’s fondness for hiring arms industry executives to run the national security state.

Just as Boeing benefited from its former Senior Vice President Patrick Shanahan’s stint as acting secretary of defense, so Raytheon is likely to cash in on the nomination of its former top lobbyist, Mike Esper, as his successor. Esper’s elevation comes shortly after another former Raytheon lobbyist, Charles Faulkner, left the State Department amid charges that he had improperly influenced decisions to sell Raytheon-produced guided bombs to Saudi Arabia for its brutal air war in Yemen. John Rood, third-in-charge at the Pentagon, has worked for both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, while Ryan McCarthy, Mike Esper’s replacement as secretary of the Army, worked for Lockheed on the F-35, which the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has determined may never be ready for combat.

[..] Fifty years ago, Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire identified the problem when he noted that: “the movement of high ranking military officers into jobs with defense contractors and the reverse movement of top executives in major defense contractors into high Pentagon jobs is solid evidence of the military-industrial complex in operation. It is a real threat to the public interest because it increases the chances of abuse… How hard a bargain will officers involved in procurement planning or specifications drive when they are one or two years away from retirement and have the example to look at of over 2,000 fellow officers doing well on the outside after retirement?”

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You are part of a death cult.

IUCN Red List Reveals Wildlife Destruction From Treetop To Ocean Floor (G.)

From the tops of trees to the depths of the oceans, humanity’s destruction of wildlife is continuing to drive many species towards extinction, with the latest “red list” showing that a third of all species assessed are under threat. The razing of habitats and hunting for bushmeat has now driven seven primates into decline, while overfishing has pushed two families of extraordinary rays to the brink. Pollution, dams and over-abstraction of freshwater are responsible for serious declines in river wildlife from Mexico to Japan, while illegal logging is ravaging Madagascar’s rosewoods, and disease is decimating the American elm.

The red list, produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is the most authoritative assessment of the status of species. The list published on Thursday adds almost 9,000 new species, bringing the total to 105,732, though this is a fraction of the millions of species thought to live on Earth. Not a single species was recorded as having improved in status. A landmark planetary health check published in May concluded that human civilisation was in jeopardy from the accelerating decline of the Earth’s natural life-support systems. Wildlife populations have plunged by 60% since 1970 and plant extinctions are running at a “frightening” rate, according to scientists.

[..] Humanity’s thirst for fresh water, particularly for farming, is having an especially big impact on river and lake wildlife. The red list update reveals that more than half of the freshwater fish in Japan and over a third in Mexico are now threatened with extinction. Recent research found two-thirds of the world’s great rivers no longer flow freely. “The loss of these freshwater fish species would deprive billions of people of a critical source of food and income, and could have knock-on effects on entire ecosystems,” said William Darwall, head of the IUCN freshwater biodiversity unit.

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Twitter had restored the Unity4J account that supports Assange. How Pyrrhic is that victory?

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 182019
 


Mathew Brady Abe Lincoln 1864

 

Showdown With Trump Looms As House Votes To Block Arms Sale To Saudi Arabia (AP)
House Votes Down Democrat’s Bid To Impeach Trump Over Recent Tweets (AP)
Feds End Investigation Into Trump Org And Hush Money Payments (CNN)
Foreign Purchases Of US Homes Plunge 36%, Chinese Flee The Market (CNBC)
New Zealand’s Armour-Plated Housing Bubble (Hickey)
Extraordinary Collapse In Home Ownership In Sydney And Melbourne (SMH)
Paradigm Shifts (Ray Dalio)
Ray Dalio Says Gold Top Investment During Upcoming ‘Paradigm Shift’ (CNBC)
US Removes Turkey From F-35 Program After S-400 Purchase From Russia (R.)
Chelsea Manning’s Daily Fines for Grand Jury Resistance Increase to $1000 (SP)

 

 

It’s showdowns all the way down. It would be good if they can do this one with a bit more smart. But they’re losing everything so far, so no high hopes. Of course it’s beyond gross to be chanting “send her home” at a rally. But he’s winning it all and they are not. The Democrats need a plan, they need brains, they need to organize.

Showdown With Trump Looms As House Votes To Block Arms Sale To Saudi Arabia (AP)

Congress is heading for a showdown with President Donald Trump after the House voted to block his administration from selling weapons and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia. The Democratic-led House on Wednesday passed the first of three resolutions of disapproval, 238-190, with votes on the others to immediately follow. Trump has actively courted an alliance with Riyadh and has pledged to veto the resolutions. The Senate cleared the measures last month, although by margins well short of making them veto proof. Overturning a president’s veto requires a two-thirds majority. The arms package is worth an estimated $8.1 billion and includes precision guided munitions, other bombs, ammunition, and aircraft maintenance support.

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Very predictable and therefore very stupid. It’s no time to start fights you can’t possibly win.

House Votes Down Democrat’s Bid To Impeach Trump Over Recent Tweets (AP)

The House easily killed a maverick Democrat’s effort Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for his recent racial insults against lawmakers of color, in a vote that provided an early snapshot of just how divided Democrats are over trying to oust him in the shadow of the 2020 elections. Democrats leaned against the resolution by Texas Rep. Al Green by about a 3-2 margin as the chamber killed the measure 332-95. The vote showed that so far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been successful in her effort to prevent a Democratic stampede toward impeachment before additional evidence is developed that could win over a public that has so far been skeptical about ousting Trump.

Even so, the numbers also showed that the number of Democrats open to impeachment remains substantial. About two dozen more conversions would split the party’s caucus in half over an issue that could potentially dominate next year’s presidential and congressional campaigns. “There’s a lot of grief, from a lot of different quarters,” Green, speaking to reporters after the vote, said of the reaction he’s received from colleagues. “But sometimes you just have to take a stand.” Every voting Republican favored derailing Green’s measure.

Pelosi and other party leaders considered his resolution a premature exercise that needlessly forced vulnerable swing-district lawmakers to cast a perilous and divisive vote. It also risked deepening Democrats’ already raw rift over impeachment, dozens of the party’s most liberal lawmakers itching to oust Trump. Recent polling has shown solid majorities oppose impeachment. Even if the Democratic-run House would vote to impeach Trump, the equivalent of filing formal charges, a trial by the Republican-led Senate would all but certainly acquit him, keeping him in office.

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And here’s another loss. It doesn’t stop.

Feds End Investigation Into Trump Org And Hush Money Payments (CNN)

Federal prosecutors in New York have ended their investigation into the Trump Organization’s role in hush money payments made to women who alleged affairs with President Donald Trump and have been ordered by a judge to release additional information connected to their related probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, according to court documents filed Wednesday. CNN reported Friday that the Manhattan US Attorney’s office had approached the end of its investigation of the Trump Organization and wasn’t poised to charge any executives involved in the company’s effort to reimburse Cohen for money he paid to silence one of the women. That payment constituted an illegal campaign contribution, according to prosecutors. Trump has denied the affair allegations.

“The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance,” US District Court Judge William Pauley wrote in his decision. “Now that the Government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials.” Pauley ordered a copy of the government’s July status report and copies of search warrant materials from the Cohen case to be filed publicly with very limited redactions by Thursday at 11 a.m. ET. The conclusion of federal prosecutors’ investigation of the Trump company’s role in the Cohen matter marks a significant victory for the President’s family business, although it likely doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

There had been no contact between the Manhattan US Attorney’s office and officials at the Trump Organization in more than five months, CNN reported Friday. A lawyer for Trump, Jay Sekulow, said: “We are pleased that the investigation surrounding these ridiculous campaign finance allegations is now closed. We have maintained from the outset that the President never engaged in any campaign finance violation.”

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I see many Chinese tourists here in Athens. And often think Beijing can’t let that trend continue, because these people can’t pay for their trips in yuan. But yes, it’s easier to start with halting the outflow of larger amounts.

Foreign Purchases Of US Homes Plunge 36%, Chinese Flee The Market (CNBC)

Challenging conditions in the U.S. housing market, along with tighter currency controls by the Chinese government, caused a stunning drop in foreign demand for American homes. The dollar volume of homes purchased by foreign buyers from April 2018 through March 2019 dropped 36% from the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors. The decline was due to a drop in the number and average price of purchases. Foreigners bought 183,100 properties with a total value of about $77.9 billion, down from 266,800 valued at $121 billion in the previous period. They paid a median price of $280,600, which is higher than the median for all existing homebuyers ($259,600), but it was down from $290,400 the previous year.


“A confluence of many factors — slower economic growth abroad, tighter capital controls in China, a stronger U.S. dollar and a low inventory of homes for sale — contributed to the pullback of foreign buyers,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “However, the magnitude of the decline is quite striking, implying less confidence in owning a property in the U.S.” The Chinese were the leading buyers for the seventh consecutive year, purchasing an estimated $13.4 billion worth of residential property. Yet that was a 56% decline from the previous 12 months and comparatively the biggest percentage drop of all foreign buyers. Chinese economic growth slowed to 6.3% in 2019 compared with 6.9% in 2017, when the previous buyer survey began. The Chinese government also tightened its grip on the outflow of cash to purchase foreign property.

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New Zealand housing, like Australia and Vancouver, depends on the Chinese too.

New Zealand’s Armour-Plated Housing Bubble (Hickey)

New Zealanders usually welcome the praise when overseas authorities describe us as the best in the world. This time, not so much. In the past fortnight, global economic news authorities The Economist and Bloomberg Economics have both declared New Zealand houses to be vastly over-valued relative to both rents and incomes. They describe New Zealand as in bubble territory similar to those seen in other countries before the Global Financial Crisis and vulnerable to the sort of 30-40 percent price crash seen in the likes of Ireland and parts of the US through 2007 to 2010. The Economist’s long-running Global House Price Index was refreshed on June 27 with March quarter data for most countries and showed New Zealand top of the pops when it came to over-valuation relative to incomes and second most over-valued relative to rents behind Canada.

It found New Zealand prices in the December quarter of 2018 to be 57 percent over-valued relative to rents, just above Australia’s 42 percent overvalued in the March quarter. New Zealand was 113 percent over-valued relative to rents, just behind Canada’s 120 percent, The Economist found. New Zealand prices have more than trebled since 1990, while British and American prices are still less than double what they were 30 years ago. “On this basis, house prices appear to be on an unsustainable path in Australia, Canada and New Zealand,” The Economist wrote. “Ten years ago they reached similarly dizzying heights against rents and incomes in Spain, Ireland and some American cities, only to endure a brutal collapse,” it concluded.

[..] New Zealand’s housing market is now worth NZ$1.13 trillion, which is up by more than $1 trillion from NZ$123 billion in 1990. The increase is more than triple because there are more houses with more extras (decks/garages/rooms) added on. That’s $1 trillion in untaxed capital gains, which at the top marginal rate would have generated extra tax revenues of $330 billion, or enough to build nearly 700,000 new state houses or fund the next 14 years of New Zealand Superannuation payments. Our housing market is worth 3.9 times our GDP and more than 7.2 times the value of our stock market. For comparison sake, Australia’s housing market is worth A$6.6 trillion or 3.5 times Australia’s GDP and 3.3 times the value of its stock market. America’s housing market is worth US$33.3 trillion or 1.6 times US GDP and 1.5 times the value of the US stock market.

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Governments like bubbles.

Extraordinary Collapse In Home Ownership In Sydney And Melbourne (SMH)

The number of people owning their home outright has collapsed by a third as house prices have soared four-fold over the past two decades, leaving a growing number of older Australians shackled to mortgages as they head into retirement. In the mid-1990s, almost 44 per cent of people in NSW owned their home outright, but according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics this has now fallen to just 29.7 per cent. At the same time, the proportion of people in NSW with a mortgage has jumped by more than 30 per cent, with many of those heading towards their retirement years. The swing from ownership to mortgage has occurred over the past 20 years as the median house price in Sydney lifted by 460 per cent, even taking into account the recent market softening.

It’s a similar story in Victoria, where in the mid-1990s more than 45 per cent of people were mortgage-free, but now that figure has fallen to just 31 per cent. Victorians are among the most exposed to changing interest rates, with more than 37 per cent of people holding a mortgage. Two decades ago less than 30 per cent held a housing debt with their bank. Over the same period, the median house price in Melbourne has soared from $126,131 to $806,000. The Northern Territory has the smallest proportion of people who own their home outright, at just 17 per cent. Among the states, just 27 per cent of residents in Queensland and Western Australia enjoy life without a mortgage or rental payments.

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Dalio channels Minsky: stability leads to instability. He must be aware of that.

Paradigm Shifts (Ray Dalio)

There are always big unsustainable forces that drive the paradigm. They go on long enough for people to believe that they will never end even though they obviously must end. A classic one of those is an unsustainable rate of debt growth that supports the buying of investment assets; it drives asset prices up, which leads people to believe that borrowing and buying those investment assets is a good thing to do. But it can’t go on forever because the entities borrowing and buying those assets will run out of borrowing capacity while the debt service costs rise relative to their incomes by amounts that squeeze their cash flows. When these things happen, there is a paradigm shift.

Debtors get squeezed and credit problems emerge, so there is a retrenchment of lending and spending on goods, services, and investment assets so they go down in a self-reinforcing dynamic that looks more opposite than similar to the prior paradigm. This continues until it’s also overdone, which reverses in a certain way that I won’t digress into but is explained in my book Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises [..] Another classic example that comes to mind is that extended periods of low volatility tend to lead to high volatility because people adapt to that low volatility, which leads them to do things (like borrow more money than they would borrow if volatility was greater) that expose them to more volatility, which prompts a self-reinforcing pickup in volatility.

There are many classic examples like this that repeat over time that I won’t get into now. Still, I want to emphasize that understanding which types of paradigms exist and how they might shift is required to consistently invest well. That is because any single approach to investing—e.g., investing in any asset class, investing via any investment style (such as value, growth, distressed), investing in anything—will experience a time when it performs so terribly that it can ruin you.

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Think he means that for pension funds as well?

Ray Dalio Says Gold Top Investment During Upcoming ‘Paradigm Shift’ (CNBC)

Hedge fund kingpin Ray Dalio is seeing a case for gold as central banks get more aggressive with policies that devalue currencies and are about to cause a “paradigm shift” in investing. Dalio, founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, wrote in a LinkedIn post that investors have been pushed into stocks and other assets that have equity-like returns. As a result, too many people are holding these types of securities and likely to face diminishing returns. “I think these are unlikely to be good real returning investments and that those that will most likely do best will be those that do well when the value of money is being depreciated and domestic and international conflicts are significant, such as gold,” the Bridgewater Associates leader said.

“Additionally, for reasons I will explain in the near future, most investors are underweighted in such assets, meaning that if they just wanted to have a better balanced portfolio to reduce risk, they would have more of this sort of asset. For this reason, I believe that it would be both risk-reducing and return-enhancing to consider adding gold to one’s portfolio. I will soon send out an explanation of why I believe that gold is an effective portfolio diversifier.” [..] Dalio’s call comes two weeks before the Federal Reserve is expected to cut its benchmark interest rate by at least a quarter point. That move comes after a three-year cycle of raising rates from the historically accommodative near-zero levels implemented during the financial crisis.

The fresh trends are part of what he labeled a new “paradigm shift” that comes after the last one during the crisis. Investors, Dalio said, are going to need to change their mindset about what will work after the longest bull market run in Wall Street history. “In paradigm shifts, most people get caught overextended doing something overly popular and get really hurt,” he wrote. “On the other hand, if you’re astute enough to understand these shifts, you can navigate them well or at least protect yourself against them.”

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“Turkey makes more than 900 parts of the F-35..”

US Removes Turkey From F-35 Program After S-400 Purchase From Russia (R.)

The United States said on Wednesday that it was removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, a move long threatened and expected after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile defense system last week. The first parts of the S-400 air defense system were flown to the Murted military air base northwest of Ankara on Friday, sealing NATO ally Turkey’s deal with Russia, which Washington had struggled for months to prevent. “The U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program,” Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told a briefing.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the move was unfair and could affect relations between the two countries. Lord said moving the supply chain for the advanced fighter jet would cost the United States between $500 million and $600 million in non-recurring engineering costs. Turkey makes more than 900 parts of the F-35, she said, adding the supply chain would transition from Turkish to mainly U.S. factories as Turkish suppliers are removed. “Turkey will certainly and regrettably lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision,” Lord said. “It will no longer receive more than $9 billion in projected work share related to the F-35 over the life of the program.”

The F-35 stealth fighter jet, the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, is used by NATO and other U.S. allies. Washington is concerned that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information about the aircraft’s stealth system. “The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” the White House said in a statement earlier on Wednesday.

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One of my greatest heroes. She does what Muhammad Ali did.

Chelsea Manning’s Daily Fines for Grand Jury Resistance Increase to $1000 (SP)

Daily fines against Chelsea Manning for resisting a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks increased to $1000 on July 16. On May 16, Judge Anthony Trenga held Manning in civil contempt and ordered her to be sent back to the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria. The court also imposed a fine of $500 per day after 30 days, and then a fine of $1000 per day after 60 days. From June 16 to July 15, the court fined her $500/day. Those fines total $15,000. If Manning “persists in her refusal” for the next 15 months or until the grand jury’s term ends, her legal team says she will face a total amount of fines that is over $440,000. This excessive amount may violate her Eighth Amendment rights under the Constitution.


In May, Manning’s attorneys filed a motion challenging the harshness of the fines. The federal court has yet to rule on the motion or hold a hearing. The motion asserted there is no “appropriate coercive sanction” because Manning will never testify. She should be released from jail and relieved of all fines. “Ms. Manning has publicly articulated the moral basis for her refusal to comply with the grand jury subpoena, in statements to the press, in open court, and most recently, in a letter addressed to this court,” her attorneys stated. “She is suffering physically and psychologically, and is at the time of this writing in the process of losing her home as a result of her present confinement.”

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Jul 152019
 
 July 15, 2019  Posted by at 9:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Jack Delano L. Logan, boilermaker at the roundhouse in the Proviso yard in Melrose Park, near Chicago 1942

 

The Permanent Recession (Haggith)
UK Extreme Poverty, Destitution On The Rise (G.)
Chinese Economic Growth Falls To 6.2%, Weakest In 27 Years (AFP)
China Churns Out Record Daily Steel Output Despite Production Curbs (R.)
China Property Investment Slows, Sales Dip (R.)
China Locks Up Uighur Muslims In Xinjiang, Opens Doors To Tourists (AFP)
US Launches Small-Scale Immigration Raids As Families Hide (R.)
Britain Ramps up Media War on Russia (SCF)
Western Elites Spruik Media Freedom While Torturing Julian Assange (NM)
Turkey Will Drill For Gas Until Greek Cypriots Accept Plan (R.)
Bank of Greece Chief Sees Growth Ahead, Hits Out At Previous Government (K.)
Greece Primary Surplus Target Reduction May Be Feasible But Not Just Yet (K.)
Greece Blocks Social Security Number For Refugees, Non-EU Nationals (KTG)

 

 

The theme is better than the article, but that’s fine once in a while. Is the Longest Expansion in actual fact the Longest Recession?

The Permanent Recession (Haggith)

I say “It’s been a great recession” because we never actually left the Great Recession. Rather than the longest expansion in US history, we’ve been enduring the longest recession in US history ever since the dot-com bust. The above chart shows the GDP growth rate, and the REAL GDP “growth” rate, which has actually been contraction, not growth, for the past two decades if measured by historic standards. So long as GDP is growing, (above 0 on the chart above), we’re in expansion. Whenever GDP is shrinking (below 0 on the chart below), we’re in recession. So, when you see financial commentators writing or talking about “the longest expansion on record,” this month, translate that in light of this article.

It is only the longest expansion on record if you change the way you calculate GDP from the way previous records were calculated. It’s sort of like saying, “This person ran the longest marathon in history,” but not memtion that we’ve reduced the length of the kilometer or mile by which we measure marathons. The government (and the Fed) love to cook the books. They do it under the guise that old numbers really were not all that accurate, but if that were truly the reason, why is it the “corrections” and “adjustments” always serve to make the present regime’s numbers look better? (Perhaps people doing the calculations in the past were willing to be more conservative in terms of how much they patted themselves on the back for how well they were doing?)

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Brexit will hit like a hammer. Not because Brexit itself is such a bad idea, but because a bunch of complete wankers have been working it out.

UK Extreme Poverty, Destitution On The Rise (G.)

Extreme poverty – where families are routinely unable to afford regular meals, wash clothes or provide their children with basic items such as beds and sheets – is becoming more common, according to frontline family support workers. Three-quarters of support professionals such as health visitors and social workers said they had seen an increase in the numbers of families they regularly worked with who experienced destitution and were in need of basic financial support. Despite more families facing greater difficulties, official support was harder to come by, the survey found. “The only substantive increase in support over the last year was the increase in the number of families support workers have seen using food banks,” it read. The survey of 1,290 frontline family support workers from 616 organisations across the UK was published by the poverty grants charity Buttle UK.


It said it was undertaken to provide a “thermometer reading” of the lives of some the UK’s most vulnerable families. It comes amid rising concern that alongside headline increases in relative poverty in recent years – more than 4 million children in the UK live below the breadline – a cohort of the very poorest families is experiencing the extreme and intractable form of poverty known as destitution. Destitution is defined as experience of at least two of six measures over the previous month, including eating fewer than two meals a day for two or more days; or as a weekly income after housing costs of £70 for a single adult or £140 for a couple with children – an amount below which people “cannot meet their core material needs for basic physiological functioning from their own resources”.

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Stimulus!

Chinese Economic Growth Falls To 6.2%, Weakest In 27 Years (AFP)

Chinese growth slowed to its weakest pace in almost three decades in the second quarter with the US-China trade war and weakening global demand weighing on the world’s second-biggest economy, official data showed Monday. The slowdown makes it more difficult for president Xi Jinping to fight back forcefully against the US, which is using tariffs as leverage to try to force Beijing into opening up its economy. The 6.2% figure released by the national bureau of statistics on Monday was in line with forecasts by analysts and down from an expansion of 6.4% in the first quarter. The GDP figures are within the government’s target range of 6.0-6.5% for the whole year, down from the 6.6% growth China posted in 2018.


“Economic conditions are still severe both at home and abroad, global economic growth is slowing down and the external instabilities and uncertainties are increasing,” said bureau spokesman Mao Shengyong. “The economy is under new downward pressure,” he said. Beijing has introduced measures this year to boost the economy, but they have not been enough to offset a domestic slowdown and softening overseas demand made worse by a punishing trade war with its biggest trading partner country, the US. Exports to the world rose only 0.1% during the first six months compared with the same period last year. Analysts widely expect Beijing will step up support for the economy in coming months and the prospect cheered investors in China where stocks rose.

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Chinese factories don’t stop producing when there are no clients. That why there’s Belt and Road.

China Churns Out Record Daily Steel Output Despite Production Curbs (R.)

China’s daily crude steel output rose to record levels in June, according to Reuters calculations, even as anti-pollution production curbs pushed whole-month production slightly lower, official data showed on Monday. The world’s biggest steel producer churned out 87.53 million tonnes of crude steel last month, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed. That was down from a record 89.09 million tonnes in May – the first monthly drop this year – as the government stepped up its drive to cut smog, but still well above 80.2 million tonnes in June 2018 as daily output grew.


Average daily output of steel was around 2.92 million tonnes, calculations showed, compared with 2.87 million tonnes in May. The monthly drop for June came as the smog-prone northern province of Hebei, which accounts for a quarter of China’s total steel output, ordered local governments to bring forward capacity cuts and anti-pollution measures to meet annual air quality targets. The Hebei cities of Handan and Tangshan extended production curbs until August. Analysts expect the restrictions, if fully implemented, will have a bigger impact than curbs usually imposed in winter to restrict smog, and will trim blast furnace operations by around 40% in the region.

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There were two headlines for this artilce, the one I used and, kid you not: “China home price growth cools in June, but investment quickens”

China Property Investment Slows, Sales Dip (R.)

Growth in China’s new home prices cooled in June as sales shrank for a second month, but building starts and investment quickened, providing a cushion for the slowing economy while Beijing claims some wins in reducing market froth. Average new home prices in China’s 70 major cities grew 0.6% in June from a month earlier, easing from a 0.7% gain in May, according to Reuters calculations based on National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data on Monday. That marked the 50th straight month of price gains. Most of the cities still reported higher prices. Sixty-three of the total 70 cities surveyed by the NBS reported higher prices in June, down from 67 cities in May.


On an annual basis, home prices increased 10.3% in June, easing from 10.7% in May. The weakness mainly came from tier-1 cities. Prices in China’s four top-tier cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen – rose an average of 0.2% from a month earlier, slowing from a 0.3% uptick in May. For tier-2 cities, which include most of larger provincial capitals, home prices grew 0.8% in June, identical with the previous month’s advance. Despite still elevated prices in some of China’s biggest cities, many analysts are still bearish on the market’s overall outlook this year as demand in smaller cities – which account for 70% of sales by floor area – will likely falter, and as Beijing has not indicated it will ease nationwide property curbs anytime soon.

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Article quotes westerners who say everything’s fine, and also suggests it’s not at all.

China Locks Up Uighur Muslims In Xinjiang, Opens Doors To Tourists (AFP)

Xinjiang, a fraught region where flare-ups of interethnic violence have led to unprecedented levels of surveillance, is one of the fastest growing areas for tourism in China. Armed police and frequent checkpoints have not dampened the flow of vacationers visiting the region, which in 2018 saw a 40 percent increase year-on-year of visits – mainly from domestic tourists – outstripping the national average by 25 percent, according to official figures. Business has grown steadily over the years mainly because “Xinjiang is very stable”, explained Wu Yali, who runs a travel agency in the region. Though tourists are not used to the high-level of security at first, “they adapt after a few days,” she told AFP. But travellers are barred from witnessing the most controversial part of Xinjiang’s security apparatus: the network of internment camps spread across the vast region.


Many of these facilities are outside main tourist hubs and are fenced off with razor-wired walls. On a six-day trip to the region last month, AFP reporters encountered roadblocks and were turned away by security forces upon nearing some camps. China describes the facilities as “vocational education centres” where Turkic-speaking “trainees” learn Mandarin and job skills. “The violence that is being inflicted on the bodies of Uighur and other Muslim people…has been rendered invisible,” said Rachel Harris, who studies Uighur culture and music at the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London. “For a tourist who goes and travels around a designated route, it all looks nice,” she told AFP. “It’s all very quiet and that’s because there’s a regime of terror being imposed on the local people.”

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For both the US and EU, the solution to this is clear: help people fix their countries so they can live there and prosper. Unless we do that, the problems will persist and grow.

US Launches Small-Scale Immigration Raids As Families Hide (R.)

The operation, which Trump revealed on Twitter last month, then postponed before telling reporters on Friday that it would proceed, was expected to target hundreds of recently arrived families in about 10 cities who had been ordered deported by an immigration judge. The removal operations are meant to deter a surge in Central American families fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries, with many seeking asylum in the United States. Immigrants and their advocates were bracing for mass arrests, but by Sunday night there were only reports of low-profile operations in a few cities.


“We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge,” Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Matt Albence told Fox News when asked for an update. Mary Bauer at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said there were no confirmed operations in large Southern cities such as Atlanta. There also were no reports of arrests from the American Immigration Council, which has lawyers on standby to give legal advice at the country’s largest family migrant detention center in Dilley, Texas. “Immigrants and immigrant communities all over the country are in hiding and people are living in these terrified, terrorized ways, because that is the point of this whole action, whether enforcement actions take place or not,” said Bauer, the SPLC’s deputy legal director.

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It has become their main identity. Like Novichok is a Monty Python skid.

Britain Ramps up Media War on Russia (SCF)

The British government appears to be more and more aping a Monty Python-type farce with each passing day. Soon the absurd ensemble will be complete if either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt becomes the next prime minister. This week the mandarins at the Ministry of Funny Walks ruled that two internationally respected Russian news media channels were banned from attending a global conference on “press freedom”. RT and another Russia-based news outlet Sputnik were refused permission by the British government to participate in the Global Conference for Media Freedom, held in London. A British Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their earlier role in spreading disinformation.”

The irony of it. The British government is peddling unsubstantiated accusations (more accurately, ridiculous slander) against Russian media which is then invoked as “justification” for censorship at a much-vaunted international conference supposedly dedicated to freedom of the press. You could hardly make the farce up. It’s a kind of cross between George Orwell and Monty Python. What the British government is doing is blatantly ramping up the media war against Russia. London is giving a license for further outrageous repression of Russian news media, as well as piling on demonization of Russia as a state.

[..] It is bitterly ironic that an independent journalist like Julian Assange of the Wikileaks website is being currently detained in a maximum security British prison on trumped-up extradition charges to the US for spying – when Assange’s real “crime” is that he exposed American and British war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere. Arguably, Assange’s credibility and appreciation among ordinary citizens the world over is much higher than either of the US or British governments, or their mainstream media. The same dichotomy applies to the two above-mentioned Russia-based news channels. Not able to cope with hearing the critical message, the British government has resorted to shooting the messenger. However, the British and international public can see what’s going on here, and so the “emperor” is hastily, clumsily trying to cover up the embarrassment from being exposed.

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Spruik. Good word. Good article too. “..bystanders are complicit”, their silence fuelling ever graver abuses along a “continuum of destruction..”

Western Elites Spruik Media Freedom While Torturing Julian Assange (NM)

Collective violence, such as torturing a publisher for journalism, requires more than persecuting authorities, mobbing states and media smear campaigns to survive. Those who orchestrate and perpetrate state-sanctioned violence depend crucially and fundamentally upon one other thing. That thing is bystanders. Atrocity does not take place without passive, complacent, compliant bystanders: citizens watching silently, declining to take a stand, even as their leaders say one thing at global media conferences and do precisely the reverse in the real world.

Passive bystanders are the social pillars of atrocity, fashioned from “kindly people, struggling to evaluate the actions they are agents or accomplices in” writes Professor of Philosophy, Adam Morton. The infamous murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, who died screaming as neighbours listened on, prompted psychologists to investigate the processes by which kindly people might become agents and accomplices in horror, such torturing a journalist in Belmarsh while elites parse media freedom at exclusive conference dinners, practically next door. A simple and pedestrian psychological culprit emerged, known as diffusion of responsibility. In numerous research paradigms since 1964, when witnessing an emergency among a group of seemingly unconcerned others, most people will fail to intervene.

The more people that are present, and the less alarmed they all appear to be, the less inclined is each individual to act. The ensuing collective stasis is driven partly by a diminished sense of personal responsibility, and partly by conformity, or a reluctance to stand out. Such prosaic group processes, on display in spades at the Global Media Freedom Conference, can paradoxically make it easier to commit violence before a sea of onlookers than before one or two passers-by. Which is just as well for the elites in London holding Julian Assange bound and gagged in Belmarsh, metaphorically speaking, while listening to Amal Clooney and embracing a joint statement by four Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, with a straight face.

Peace psychologist Ervin Staub writes, “The passivity of witnesses, internal bystanders who are part of the population… affirms perpetrators and allows the unfolding of the evolution of violence”. He adds, “bystanders are complicit”, their silence fuelling ever graver abuses along a “continuum of destruction”.

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The EU will have to act. But it’s the last thing they want to do.

Turkey Will Drill For Gas Until Greek Cypriots Accept Plan (R.)

Turkey will continue drilling for gas in waters off Cyprus if the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot government does not accept a cooperation proposal put forward by Turkish Cypriots, Ankara’s foreign minister has said. Mevlut Cavusoglu said that a proposal by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci that both parties on the divided island cooperate in exploration and exploitation of gas could contribute to stability and peace in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions in the region have risen after Turkey told energy firms not to work with the Greek Cypriot government, and sent two ships to drill off the island. Cyprus issued arrest warrants for the crew of one of the ships, and the European Union is discussing curbing contacts and funds for Turkey in response.


The dispute stems from overlapping claims to regional waters by Turkey and Cyprus, linked to the 45-year-old split of the island and Ankara’s rejection of agreements Cyprus has reached with other Mediterranean states on maritime economic zones. In an article for the Cyprus Post published on Sunday, Cavusoglu said that until Greek Cypriots adopt the proposals set out by Akinci on Saturday to work with Turkish Cypriots, Turkey would continue operations in areas where Turkish Cypriot authorities have licensed it to work, “with determination and without change.”

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The old elites are back in charge, and the country will feel it. So what is the EU going to do? Side with the right wing?

Bank of Greece Chief Sees Growth Ahead, Hits Out At Previous Government (K.)

Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras appears confident that the country can enter a “virtuous cycle” of growth, strengthen market confidence and negotiate a deal with its lenders to trim a high primary surplus target of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product in exchange for an acceleration of reforms and investments now that a center-right government is in power. In a wide-ranging interview with Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, the central banker also said that he would welcome a judicial inquiry into what he describes as a “coordinated effort” by the previous administration to malign his character and prevent him from carrying out his duties.

“Success in restarting the Greek economy… will depend on whether the new government, taking advantage of market confidence, adopts policy measures to attract new investments,” Stournaras said. “If these measures are forward-looking and reliable, the Greek economy will soon enter a self-perpetuating virtuous cycle of reliability, credibility and growth,” the central banker said. This “virtuous cycle” of strengthened credibility, Stournaras said, could lead to rating upgrades, which would be “a key condition to a review of the primary surplus target.” This, he added, would “give the economy the room it needs to grow.”

Commenting on the new government’s plan to introduce a series of tax reductions in order to ease the burden on the middle class, Stournaras said that “changing the fiscal policy mix with a lightening of the tax load (including social security contributions) on workers and businesses is imperative.” He added that while the previous government’s policy of high taxation managed to stem the growth of public debt thanks to large primary surprises, it also suppressed the economy’s growth potential.

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The new PM has promised new agreements with the EU. But they can’t give him any, other than superficial ones.

Greece Primary Surplus Target Reduction May Be Feasible But Not Just Yet (K.)

The high primary surplus targets may be one of the toughest legacies passed down to the new administration by the Alexis Tsipras government. An agreement with creditors for reducing the target of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product is a key priority for Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which analysts and economists speaking to Kathimerini say is feasible but only under specific conditions. “The reduction of the targets for the primary surpluses will be a difficult uphill road for the Greek government, mainly because the northern European states are not so willing to accept the idea of a level below 3.5 percent for the medium term,” says Mujtaba Rahman, managing director for Europe at Eurasia Group. “For the time being no such negotiation is expected, but this is possible for the targets after 2021,” he predicts.


Raffaella Tenconi, an economist at Wood, appears to agree, saying that “the maximum likely is a 0.5 percent of GDP discount for 2021 and 2022 – a short window until it drops to 2 percent,” but reminds that German Chancellor Angela Merkel “again said there is no big reason to change the goals.” Rahman adds that “what Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his government have to do is first build a relationship of confidence with the creditors, second proceed with structural reforms so as to send the right message, and third to continue the fiscal policy and adhere to what has been agreed in order to bring to negotiation in Brussels the reductionn of targets. This is an issue concerning 2021.” Teneo Intelligence Co-President Wolfango Piccoli comments that “only a fool would have expected a positive stance from the creditors about reducing the primary surplus target the day after the election.”

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Just about the very first thing the right wing government has done. Count me not surprised.

Greece Blocks Social Security Number For Refugees, Non-EU Nationals (KTG)

Labor and Social Affair Minister, Nikos Vroutsis, has cancelled a ministerial decision regarding the issuing of social security number (AMKA) to migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied refugee children and non-EU nationals. The decision, in fact a circular signed by three SYRIZA ministers for Health, Migration and Social Solidarity was issued on June 20, less than a month than the general elections. Justifying his decision to block the issue, Vroutsis said that the Issue of AMKA to non-EU nationals will be re-examined and new directives will be published.


The Social security number is essential to access services in Health, Education and Labor. To the immediate and harsh criticism by SYRIZA that conservative New Democracy will implement harsh policies to services provided to refugees and migrants living in Greece, Vroutsis responded with a tweet: “A few days before the election, SYRIZA issued an easily disproved circular, opposed to the law that provides AMKA to third-country nationals in arbitrary way. Labor ministry services were opposing this. I abolished it immediately. Our Country is not an unfenced backyard.”

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Jul 132019
 
 July 13, 2019  Posted by at 9:18 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Weeping woman 1937

 

Robert Mueller’s Testimony Extended, Postponed By One Week (G.)
Trump Organization Probe Likely to End With No Charges (CNN)
Nemesis Rising (Kunstler)
Epstein Accused Of Paying Witnesses $350K In Hush Money (ZH)
Wall Street Banks Bailing On Troubled US Farm Sector (R.)
Fed Rate Cut Would Ease Pressure On China’s Central Bank (CNBC)
About Half Of China’s Loans To Developing Countries Are ‘Hidden’ (CNBC)
CIA Invokes WikiLeaks in Push For Expansion Of Secrecy Law (SP)
CIA Torture Unredacted (Bureau)
US To Hold Hearing On French Tax On Big Tech (R.)
EPA Expands Use Of Pesticide Considered ‘Very Highly Toxic’ To Bees (Hill)
Meeting the last Malaysian Sumatran Rhino on Earth (Lack)

 

 

The circus comes to town one week later but with a much longer show and added attractions. This will be nuts.

Robert Mueller’s Testimony Extended, Postponed By One Week (G.)

The special counsel Robert Mueller will testify before Congress about the findings of the Russia investigation on 24 July, one week later than his appearance was originally planned, under an agreement that gives lawmakers more time to question him. Mueller had been scheduled to report on the inquiry into Russian election meddling and ties between Russia and the campaign of Donald Trump on 17 July. But lawmakers in both parties complained that the short length of the hearings would not allow enough time for all members to ask questions. Under the new arrangement, Mueller will testify for an extended period of time, three hours instead of two, before the House judiciary committee. He will then testify before the House intelligence committee in a separate hearing.

The two committees said in a statement that all members of both committees will be able to question him. In the joint statement, the panels said the longer hearing “will allow the American public to gain further insight into the special counsel’s investigation and the evidence uncovered regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump’s possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power”. Mueller has expressed his reluctance to testify and said he won’t go beyond what is in his 448-page report. But Democrats have been determined to highlight its contents for Americans who they believe have not read it. They want to extract information from the former special counsel and spotlight what they say are his most damaging findings against Trump.

Democrats are expected to ask Mueller about his conclusions, including that he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice after detailing several episodes in which Trump tried to influence the investigation. Mueller also said there was not enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin. One thing judiciary members want to focus on in questioning Mueller is whether Trump would have been charged with a crime were he not president. Mueller said at the news conference that charging a president with a crime was “not an option” because of longstanding justice department policy. But Democrats want to know more about how he made that decision and when.

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Michael Cohen couldn’t deliver.

Trump Organization Probe Likely to End With No Charges (CNN)

A federal investigation into whether Trump Organization executives violated campaign-finance laws appears to be wrapping up without charges being filed, according to people familiar with the matter. For months, federal prosecutors in New York have examined whether company officials broke the law, including in their effort to reimburse Michael Cohen for hush-money payments he made to women alleging affairs with his former boss, President Donald Trump.
In recent weeks, however, their investigation has quieted, the people familiar with the inquiry said, and prosecutors now don’t appear poised to charge any Trump Organization executives in the probe that stemmed from the case against Cohen.


In January, one month after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, prosecutors requested interviews with executives at the company, CNN reported. But prosecutors never followed up on their initial request, people familiar with the matter said, and the interviews never took place. Meanwhile, there has been no contact between the Manhattan US Attorney’s office and officials at the Trump Organization in more than five months, one person familiar with the matter said.

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“..the obliteration of moral and ethical boundaries by the people who ended up running things in this fretful moment of US history.”

Nemesis Rising (Kunstler)

Where are Clintons, these dog days of summer? The Hamptons? Salty, sunny Martha’s Vineyard? Under a rock somewhere in the Chappaqua woods? Fate is turning in more than one uncomfortable way for the once-charmed couple of Boomerdom. There is, of course, the freshly re-issued Jeffrey Epstein underage sex scandal, come ‘round again with a vengeance this time because there are fewer Clinton partisans left in the Department of Justice where the matter has festered for decades like a fistula slowly seeping its rot through the body politic. The vengeance emanates from the Clinton’s nemesis, the uppity Golden Golem of Greatness who dared to “steal” Hillary’s place in the Oval Office (and history).

To put it plainly, Mr. Trump had enough of the two-year-plus persecution he endured from the Clinton-inspired Mueller investigation into the Clinton-propagated Russia Collusion flim-flam. And having patiently survived this audacious, seditious effrontery, is now out to squash the Clintons like a pair of palmetto bugs. [..] And now there is the Epstein matter, which threatens not only former president Bill Clinton, but a cosmos of political, financial, and entertainment “stars” in countless ugly incidents that involve a kind of personal corruption that has no political context but says an awful lot about the obliteration of moral and ethical boundaries by the people who ended up running things in this fretful moment of US history. President Clinton has already kicked off this debacle by lying to the media about the number of rides he took on Mr. Epstein’s notorious airplane.

I voted for Bill Clinton twice. When they came up from the backwater of Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1992, they seemed like the fresh, bright antidote to twelve years of fusty Reaganism with the GHW Bush moldy cherry-on-top. Governor Bill, so glib and charming. Tall and catnip to the ladies, too! And almost immediately he was in deep shit over that part of his act, but he wiggled through it all with the aid of his perky, stalwart wife and partner, who defended him sedulously on nationwide TV. (America had never even heard about her misadventures on the Watergate Committee, where, age 27, she gained a reputation for being less than honest.) And that was followed by the first instance of Hillary moneygrubbing when she turned a few thousand bucks into a six-figure bonanza almost overnight in a wired commodities trade.

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There is so much ugliness still hidden in this. Will we ever know?

Epstein Accused Of Paying Witnesses $350K In Hush Money (ZH)

Federal prosecutors allege in a new court filing that Jeffrey Epstein may have engaged in witness tampering by paying off two potential witnesses days before the Miami Herald began publishing a series of explosive exposés about the registered sex offender and his victims. According to financial records, Epstein wired $350,000 to two ‘possible co-conspirators’ who could testify against him. $100,000 was wired from “Institution-1” to one person, while just three days later $250,000 was wired to another individual. Neither of the payments appear to be recurring based on five years of bank records. Is one of the co-conspirators Ghislaine Maxwell? The daughter of a British media barron, Maxwell was described by one Epstein accuser in a 2017 lawsuit as “the highest ranking employee” of his alleged enterprise, in which she was said to have managed both Epstein’s household and his sex life.

Via the Wall Street Journal: “Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of a British media baron, was a fixture for years in Manhattan’s social scene, often written about in tabloids for her close ties to British royalty and to a mysterious financier named Jeffrey Epstein. But Mr. Epstein’s arrest last week on sex-trafficking charges has brought renewed attention to her alleged role as one of his top aides. Ms. Maxwell, 57 years old, has been accused by three women in affidavits and other court filings of recruiting young women for Mr. Epstein and training them for sex. Two of the women have alleged that Ms. Maxwell, together with Mr. Epstein, sexually assaulted them, according to the filings.

What’s more, “Juan Alessi, who said in one of the depositions that he served as the Palm Beach house manager from around 1992 through 2002, described a basket of sex toys in Ms. Maxwell’s bathroom closet. He said he would find them around when he cleaned up after visits from the young women,” according to the Journal.

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Only Big Ag deals with Wall Street.

Wall Street Banks Bailing On Troubled US Farm Sector (R.)

In the wake of the U.S. housing meltdown of the late 2000s, JPMorgan Chase & Co hunted for new ways to expand its loan business beyond the troubled mortgage sector. The nation’s largest bank found enticing new opportunities in the rural Midwest – lending to U.S. farmers who had plenty of income and collateral as prices for grain and farmland surged. JPMorgan grew its farm-loan portfolio by 76 percent, to $1.1 billion, between 2008 and 2015, according to year-end figures, as other Wall Street players piled into the sector. Total U.S. farm debt is on track to rise to $427 billion this year, up from an inflation-adjusted $317 billion a decade earlier and approaching levels seen in the 1980s farm crisis, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


But now – after years of falling farm income and an intensifying U.S.-China trade war – JPMorgan and other Wall Street banks are heading for the exits, according to a Reuters analysis of the farm-loan holdings they reported to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The agricultural loan portfolios of the nation’s top 30 banks fell by $3.9 billion, to $18.3 billion, between their peak in December 2015 and March 2019, the analysis showed. That’s a 17.5% decline.

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I meant to do that?!

Fed Rate Cut Would Ease Pressure On China’s Central Bank (CNBC)

A widely expected interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve would give China more breathing room in shoring up its slowing economy, some analysts said. Overnight, markets took Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s comments during the first of a two-day Congressional testimony as affirming expectations for easier monetary policy in the U.S. The S&P 500 briefly topped 3,000 for the first time, and Treasury yields edged lower. A looser monetary policy environment would reduce pressure on China’s central bank to ease monetary policy. Amid trade tensions with the U.S., China’s economy has struggled to gain momentum.


Private surveys released last week by Caixin showed services activity fell in June to its lowest since February, and the manufacturing sector contracted, after three months of expansion. Among several measures to support the economy over the last several months, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) has made targeted attempts to lower financing costs to privately run enterprises, which account for the majority of the country’s economic growth and employment. “If the Fed does go ahead and cut rates, which I don’t think is a given … it simply means the PBoC has a little breathing room to see if the policies it has implemented have an impact on the real economy,” Hannah Anderson, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, told CNBC on Thursday by phone.

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“Between 2000 and 2017, other countries’ debt owed to China soared ten-fold, from less than $500 billion to more than $5 trillion..”

“..debt has increased on average from less than 1% of their GDP in 2015, to more than 15% in 2017..”

About Half Of China’s Loans To Developing Countries Are ‘Hidden’ (CNBC)

China’s lending to other countries has surged in the past decade, causing debt levels to jump dramatically, and as much as half of such debt to developing economies is “hidden,” a new study has found. Such “hidden” debt means that the borrowing isn’t reported to or recorded by official institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank, or the Paris Club — a group of creditor nations. Between 2000 and 2017, other countries’ debt owed to China soared ten-fold, from less than $500 billion to more than $5 trillion — or from 1% of global economic output to more than 5%, according to the study from Germany-based think tank the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. “This has transformed China into the largest official creditor, easily surpassing the IMF or the World Bank,” the report’s researchers said.


The study, which looked at nearly 2,000 Chinese loans to 152 countries from 1949 to 2017, was undertaken by well-known debt expert Carmen Reinhart from Harvard University, as well as Kiel Institute’s Christoph Trebesch and Sebastian Horn. For 50 developing countries which have borrowed from China, that debt has increased on average from less than 1% of their GDP in 2015, to more than 15% in 2017, according to estimates by the study’s researchers. “Advanced and higher middle income countries tend to receive portfolio debt flows, via sovereign bond purchases of the People’s Bank of China, ” the report said. “As a result, many advanced countries have become highly indebted towards the Chinese government.”

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There’s Adam Schiff for you in all his glory. Watch for him in the Mueller hearings too.

CIA Invokes WikiLeaks in Push For Expansion Of Secrecy Law (SP)

When the CIA and other agencies in the United States government pushed for the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) in 1981, it was crafted to exclude “covert agents” who resided in the U.S. There was consideration by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of how the legislation might “chill or stifle public criticism of intelligence activities or public debate concerning intelligence policy.” More than three decades later, the CIA is apparently unsatisfied with the protections the bill granted “covert agents. It has enlisted a select group of senators and representatives to help expand the universe of individuals who are protected, making members of the press who cover intelligence matters more vulnerable to prosecution.

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House intelligence committee, was involved in adding language to expand the IIPA to the Intelligence Authorization Act moving through Congress. “Schiff is once again putting the interests of the intelligence agencies in concealing their misdeeds ahead of protecting the rights of ordinary Americans by criminalizing routine reporting by the press on national security issues and undermining congressional oversight in his Intelligence Authorization bill,” declared Daniel Schuman, who is the policy director for Demand Progress. Schuman added, “Schiff’s expansion of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act beyond all reason will effectively muzzle reporting on torture, mass surveillance, and other crimes against the American people—all at the request of the CIA. Schiff is clearly the resistance to the resistance, and he should drop this provision from his bill.”

The CIA put their specific request for what language they would like amended in writing and sent it to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Their request was essentially copied and pasted, with no changes, into the intelligence bill. “Undercover agency officers face ever-evolving threats, including cyber threats,” the CIA argued. “Particularly with the lengths organizations such as WikiLeaks are willing to go to obtain and release sensitive national security information, as well as incidents related to past agency programs, such as the RDI investigation [CIA torture report], the original congressional reasoning mentioned above for a narrow definition of ‘covert agent’ no longer remains valid.”

“This proposal would provide protection for all undercover agency officers by allowing for the prosecution of individuals responsible for disclosing the identities of those officers, regardless whether the undercover officer serves inside or outside of the United States,” the agency additionally stated. Schiff supports the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and shares the CIA’s view that WikiLeaks is a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” not a media organization. In 2018, when Assange was willing to speak with investigators about the Russia probe, he replied, “Our committee would be willing to interview Julian Assange when he is in U.S. custody, not before.”

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Do I want to read this report?

CIA Torture Unredacted (Bureau)

In December 2014, the Bureau, alongside The Rendition Project, began a major project to trace the history of the RDI programme. The impetus for our investigation came from the long-awaited publication of a report into CIA torture by the US Senate Select Intelligence Committee. The authors of this report had high-level access to internal CIA documents, which they mined to produce a damning assessment of the torture programme’s brutality, mismanagement and ineffectiveness. But they were compelled by the Obama administration, and by the CIA itself, to censor — “redact” — all parts of the report that could identify specific times and places where abuses had occurred.

This is important, because without being able to tie illegal activities to specific times and places, the quest for redress is hamstrung, and meaningful accountability — legal, public, historical — remains a mirage. The Senate report did offer a crucial insight, however: the first complete list of prisoners held in the CIA’s black sites. 119 names, each with a date of custody (redacted) and a record of how many days they were held (also partly redacted). In the days after the publication of the Senate report, we set to work reconstructing this list to reveal the hidden dates. Figuring out a date often meant that we could match it to a flight record; matching to a flight record meant that we could determine where a prisoner was brought from or sent to.

As we cross-correlated thousands of data points — from declassified government documents, footnotes in the Senate report, aviation data, records of corporate outsourcing of rendition flights, legal cases, media reporting and NGO investigations — the contours of the CIA’s programme of secret detention and torture began to emerge more clearly. Rather than just understanding certain individual histories, we could begin to discern the entire scope of the programme’s development. More than four years later, we’re publishing the results of our investigation in a 400-page report entitled CIA Torture Unredacted. It is the first time that the entirety of the CIA’s detention programme has been systematically revealed.

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“Other EU countries including Austria, Britain, Spain and Italy have also announced plans for their own digital taxes.”

US To Hold Hearing On French Tax On Big Tech (R.)

The U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Office will hold a hearing on Aug 19 in its probe of France’s new planned tax on big technology companies, calling the proposal “unreasonable.” President Donald Trump on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the tax, which could lead to the United States imposing new tariffs or other trade restrictions. USTR said in a public notice the levy was an “unreasonable tax policy.” The plan departs from tax norms because of “extraterritoriality; taxing revenue not income; and a purpose of penalizing particular technology companies for their commercial success,” it said. USTR added that statements by French officials suggest the tax will “amount to de facto discrimination against U.S. companies… while exempting smaller companies, particularly those that operate only in France.”


The tax is due to apply retroactively from the start of 2019. USTR said that calls into question the fairness of the tax. On Thursday, the French Senate approved the 3% levy that will apply to revenue from digital services earned in France by firms with more than 25 million euros in French revenue and 750 million euros ($845 million) worldwide. Other EU countries including Austria, Britain, Spain and Italy have also announced plans for their own digital taxes. They say a levy is needed because big, multinational internet companies such as Facebook and Amazon are currently able to book profits in low-tax countries like Ireland, no matter where the revenue originates. Political pressure to respond has been growing as local retailers in high streets and online have been disadvantaged.

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The crazies.

EPA Expands Use Of Pesticide Considered ‘Very Highly Toxic’ To Bees (Hill)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday it would allow for the expanded use of a pesticide it considers toxic to bees, a move that comes just days after the Trump administration said it was suspending data collection on bee populations. The pesticide known as sulfoxaflor will be permitted for use on certain crops for the first time, and in other areas that were prohibited under the Obama administration. The agency considers sulfoxaflor “very highly toxic” to bees. In a call with reporters to announce the decision, a top EPA official emphasized the agency’s research on the pesticide’s effects on bees and said the rule was designed with pollinators in mind.


“To reduce exposure to bees, the product label will have crop-specific restrictions and important pollinator protection language,” including limits on how close to bloom sulfoxaflor can be sprayed, the official said. But it may be difficult to monitor whether the regulations spare bees as intended. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last week it was suspending one of the few remaining government data sets that monitor bee populations and loss. “At a time when honeybees and other pollinators are dying in greater numbers than ever before, Trump’s EPA decision to remove restrictions on yet another bee-killing pesticide is nothing short of reckless,” Earthjustice, which fought sulfoxaflor use in the 2015 suit, said in a statement Friday. “Scientists have long said pesticides like sulfoxaflor are the cause of the unprecedented colony collapse. Letting sulfoxaflor back on the market is dangerous for our food system, economy, and environment.”

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“..perhaps I will abstain from telling them of the heart-shattering, breath-snatching moment I gazed into the deep eyes of the last of a species, every sense trembling with anticipation.”

Meeting the last Malaysian Sumatran Rhino on Earth (Lack)

Deep set beady eyes peer from folds of thick leather skin. They close slowly in a leisurely, ponderous blink. Nostrils flare with each warm, damp exhalation, causing a slight rise of the stubby nasal horn that rests on those cavernous nostrils. I stare at this primitive, prehistoric creature which seems to have just trundled out of the Jurassic Period. Her skin is leather-thick, her face is topped by a firm horn and her species is over 20 million years old. She seems invincible. Somehow our soft-skinned species has managed to mangle her population down and down until today, when only one Malaysian Sumatran Rhino exists on earth. And there I stand looking into her eyes. She is called Iman. Iman means faith.

Faith is a funny concept when you stand looking at the very last individual of a species and your ears ring with her plaintive cries. Rather than feel faith in humanity, I felt a deep loss, a deep hopelessness. That was only after five minutes of meeting Iman. Yet behind me stood Dr Junaidi Payne and Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, who have been working on protecting the Sumatran Rhino in Sabah for almost their whole lives. They were there in 2017 when Puntung had to be euthanised. They were there in May this year when Tam, the last male, died. They will, most likely, be there when Iman breathes her last breath. The last breath of a species. They have front row seats of the sixth mass extinction, directed and produced wholly by humans.


Iman cannot be saved. It is the brutal yet undeniable truth that one day she will be gripped by illness or old age and will leave us. If I choose to have children, their world will be undoubtedly different to ours today. Perhaps they will cry at the abundance of life that has been ravaged by their ancestors. Perhaps they will listen to the story of the time I met Iman. But perhaps I will abstain from telling them of the heart-shattering, breath-snatching moment I gazed into the deep eyes of the last of a species, every sense trembling with anticipation. Rhino and girl. We were two, yet we were alike. Our hearts both pounding as we watched each other, our gazes both narrowed and our breath quickened.

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Jul 072019
 
 July 7, 2019  Posted by at 9:12 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Guernica [Study] 1937

 

Trump Administration Is ‘Inept And Insecure’ – UK Ambassador (BBC)
Trump Couldn’t Ignore Contradictions of His Foreign Policy Any Longer (Atl.)
China Looks At Britain And Sees Only Weakness And Hypocrisy (O.)
Deutsche To Fire 20,000, Bad Bank Soars To €80BN, 5x DB’s Market Cap (ZH)
Iran To Lift Uranium Enrichment To 5%, Above Level In 2015 Deal |(R.)
Macron Warns Rouhani Of Consequences If Nuclear Deal Weakened (R.)
Bought Politicians (Craig Murray)
China Station Next Target For Hong Kong Protesters (AFP)
UN Chief Bachelet’s Venezuela Report Follows US Regime Change Script (GZ)
Second Migrant Rescue Boat Defies Salvini And Docks In Italy (AFP)
Sea-Watch Captain To Sue Italian Minister Salvini For Defamation (ToM)
Greeks Vote In Snap General Election (BBC)

 

 

This guy sends secret notes calling the US government ‘inept’, to his own government which is what exactly?

Does he do this because he knows they will love to forget their own incompetence?

And do I detect a sense of regret that Trump was “never fully on board” with the Iran bombings?

Trump Administration Is ‘Inept And Insecure’ – UK Ambassador (BBC)

The Trump administration has been labelled “inept”, insecure and incompetent in leaked emails from the UK ambassador to Washington. Sir Kim Darroch said that the White House was “uniquely dysfunctional” and “divided” under Donald Trump. But he also warned that the US president should not be written off. The Foreign Office said the leak of the memos to the Mail on Sunday was “mischievous” but did not deny their accuracy. The White House has not yet responded to the revelation of the contents of the memos, but it could test the so-called “special relationship” between the US and UK.

In the messages, Sir Kim said: “We don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction-riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept.” He questioned whether this White House “will ever look competent”. Although Sir Kim said Trump was “dazzled” by his state visit to the UK in June, the ambassador warns that his administration will remain self-interested, adding: “This is still the land of America First”.

Differences between the US and the UK on climate change, media freedoms and the death penalty might come to the fore as the countries seek to improve trading relations after Brexit, the memos said. To get through to the president, “you need to make your points simple, even blunt”, he said. In a message sent last month, Sir Kim branded US policy on Iran as “incoherent, chaotic”. Mr Trump’s publicly stated reason for calling off an airstrike against Tehran with 10 minutes to go – that it would cause 150 casualties – “doesn’t stand up”, Sir Kim said. Instead, he suggested the president was “never fully on board” and did not want to reverse his campaign promise not to involve the US in foreign conflicts.

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Everyone wants Bolton to stay in Outer Mongolia.

Trump Couldn’t Ignore Contradictions of His Foreign Policy Any Longer (Atl.)

As during the previous twist in the narrative, Trump now finds himself with a national-security team out of sync with his preferences. Changes are inevitable. Pompeo will likely survive. He is nothing if not adaptable. After the Iran decision, he and Vice President Mike Pence let it be known that although they supported military action, they were equally enthusiastic about the president’s U-turn. It’s hard to see how Bolton can stay. Trump has long known that Bolton wants war more than he does. He sidelined him on North Korea and overruled him on Iran. For his part, Bolton has privately attacked Pompeo, long a Trump favorite, as falling captive to the State Department bureaucracy and has predicted that the North Korea policy will fail.

Bolton has given an unusually large number of interviews to reporters and has been rewarded with positive profiles lauding his influence and bureaucratic prowess. Those of us who predicted that he would cling to the post of national security adviser, as it would be the last job he’d ever get, may have been wrong. In fact, Bolton looks and sounds as if he is preparing to exit on his own terms. Better that than being sent on a never-ending tour of the world’s most obscure places. For Bolton, leaving because he’s too tough for Trump is the perfect way to save face. Otherwise, he may be remembered as the man who presided over one of the weakest national-security teams in modern American history and someone whose myopic obsessions—such as international treaties and communism in Venezuela—meant the United States lost precious time in preparing for the national-security challenges of the future.

Who will replace Bolton is unclear. The best-case scenario would be Biegun, the North Korea envoy. He was rumored to be the runner-up to Bolton for the post in 2018. (Mattis and Kelly pushed for him, although at that point he had not spent time with Trump. Now he has.) Trump may see him as the man to oversee his various negotiations, as he has on North Korea. But will Trump go for a mainstream figure who would not be out of place in a traditional Republican presidency?

If the past is prelude, Trump may turn instead to his favorite source of information, Fox News, just as he did for Bolton. One of Tucker Carlson’s frequent guests on his show is a retired Army colonel by the name of Douglas Macgregor. Macgregor served in the first Gulf War and appears to be ideologically aligned with Carlson, favoring retrenchment from the Middle East and good relations with authoritarian states. His appointment would be treated as a calamity by the Republican foreign-policy establishment—which is one reason it may appeal to the president.

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The Chinese have not forgotten British atrocities, even if the Brits have.

The UK looks at the US and sees ineptness, while China looks at the UK and sees…

China Looks At Britain And Sees Only Weakness And Hypocrisy (O.)

It’s not all China’s fault. Deep-rooted anger at Britain has its origins in events largely forgotten in London but not in Beijing. It is true, as China says, that postwar colonial Britain showed scant regard for Hong Kong residents’ rights. This indifference was consistent with earlier humiliations heaped on the ruling Qing dynasty by Victorian imperialists – the cause of China’s “lost century”, concluding in 1945. The first Anglo-Chinese opium war, from 1839-42, was supposedly a response to Chinese insults to Britain’s national honour. In truth it was mostly about money and power, about imposing free trade, and about securing a lucrative market for opium exports from British India, regardless of the human cost.

This destabilising intervention opened the gates to other foreign invaders and to decades of revolts, such as the Taiping rebellion, when up to 100 million people may have died. It also foreshadowed an infamous act of cultural vandalism, the burning and looting by British and French forces of the emperor’s wondrous Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860. Its Chinese name was Yuanmingyuan – “garden of perfect brightness”. And it was utterly destroyed. All Chinese schoolchildren are taught this. Hunt deplored Beijing’s trashing of the 1984 Sino-British joint declaration, calling it an affront to the international rules-based order from which China benefits. But such righteous outrage comes awkwardly from a country that waged war in Iraq without legal authority and stays on friendly terms with murderers in Saudi Arabia.

It ignores the lawless history of the pre-1914 “unequal treaties”. Ironically, these old injustices were instrumental in shaping the Chinese communists’ 20th-century anti-imperialist, nationalist ideology – and the party’s insistence on regaining sovereignty over “lost” territories such as Hong Kong, Macau and, prospectively, Taiwan. As was often the case during its empire-building days, Britain sowed the seeds of its ultimate displacement. China’s disdain, bordering on contempt, for Britain’s warnings stems not only from London’s past hypocrisy and historical amnesia, but also from a keen assessment of its current, palpable weakness. Given the gaping power imbalance, Hunt’s threat of unspecified “severe consequences” is all but meaningless.

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Lagarde’s main job at the ECB: keep Deutsche Bank from collapsing. is that what she was hired for?

Deutsche To Fire 20,000, Bad Bank Soars To €80BN, 5x DB’s Market Cap (ZH)

One month ago, Jeff Gundlach – in his latest DoubleLine investor call – cracked jokes that Deutsche Bank’s imploding stock, which has been hitting fresh all time lows virtually every day, had “major support” at €0. Once again, he was on to something because just a few days later, the FT first reported that the bank which was this close to nationalization in 2016, and failed to consummate a merger with that “other” German bank, Commerzbank, was preparing to roll out Plan Z: amid a deep overhaul of its trading operations (read: mass terminations), the biggest German lender was set to roll out a “bad bank” holding some €50 billion in legacy toxic derivative assets, a plan that was quite popular in the depths of the global financial crisis.

As we noted at the time, it would hardly come as a surprise that the German bank best known for housing €43.5 trillion in gross derivatives notional (something we first pointed out way back in 2013) would stuff its “bad bank”, known internally also as “the non-core asset unit”, with – drumroll – long-dated derivatives. More to the point, we said that while this “bad bank” plan was commendable – after all admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery – it would fall far short of what is necessary to be ring-fenced from DB’s legacy balance sheet.

Today, Bloomberg confirmed as much when it reported that just two weeks after the original, €50 billion bad bank plan was floated, the German bad bank has already grown by 60%, with about €75 billion “and maybe as much as 80 billion euros of risk-weighted assets will form the basis of bad bank”, a Bloomberg source said. At the higher number, that’s the equivalent of about a quarter of Deutsche’s total balance sheet; it is also more than 5 times the German largest bank’s market cap, suggesting that absent this critical restructuring shape, Europe’s largest bank by assets is now effectively insolvent.

There is one final problem: in the summer of 2016, just a month before fears about the viability of DB sent its stock careening lower and prompting Angela Merkel to discuss whether or not DB will be nationalized, the IMF found that Deutsche Bank is “the bank that poses the greatest risk to the global financial system”: Network analysis suggests a higher degree of outward spillovers from the German banking sector than inward spillovers. In particular, Germany, France, the U.K. and the U.S. have the highest degree of outward spillovers as measured by the average percentage of capital loss of other banking systems due to banking sector shock in the source country. Here is the IMF’s chart showing the key linkages of the world’s riskiest bank:

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The West needs to cooperate with Russia and China on this. There is no other way.

Iran To Lift Uranium Enrichment To 5%, Above Level In 2015 Deal |(R.)

Iran on Sunday will announce an increase in uranium enrichment to 5%, a concentration above the limit set by its 2015 nuclear deal, an Iranian official told Reuters, in a move signaling a deepening challenge to escalating U.S. sanctions pressure. The declaration comes at a time of sharply increased U.S.-Iranian confrontation, a year after Washington quit the pact and reimposed sanctions that had been lifted under the accord in exchange for Tehran curbing its nuclear work. “The main announcement tomorrow will be the increase of the level of enrichment to 5% percent from 3.67% that we agreed under the deal,” the official said on Saturday on condition of anonymity.


In a sign of heightening Western concern, French President Emmanuel Macron said he and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had agreed to seek conditions for a resumption of dialogue on the Iranian nuclear question by July 15. Macron’s office added that he would keep on talking with Iranian authorities and other involved parties to “engage in a de-escalation of tensions related to Iranian nuclear issue.” The deal is aimed at extending the time Iran would need to produce a nuclear bomb, if it chose to, to a year from roughly 2-3 months. Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, such as power generation, and not to make bombs.

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And Iran says France should be much more vocal in its defense of Iran and the nuclear deal.

Macron Warns Rouhani Of Consequences If Nuclear Deal Weakened (R.)

French President Emmanuel Macron told his Iranian counterpart on Saturday that he was deeply concerned by any further weakening of the 2015 nuclear deal and warned that consequences would inevitably follow any such move. Macron spoke to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani a day before Iran is set to increase uranium enrichment purity above the limit set by Iran’s deal with world powers. “The president recalled his deep concern in the face of the risk of a new weakening of the 2015 nuclear accord, and the consequences that would necessarily follow,” a statement from the French presidency said. It was unclear exactly what consequences the statement was referring to.


European diplomats have said that further breaches of the accord could see the European parties to the deal – France, Britain and Germany – trigger a dispute resolution mechanism within the accord that could eventually lead to the reimposition of United Nations sanctions. Iran’s expected announcement comes at a time of sharply increased U.S.-Iranian confrontation, a year after Washington quit the pact and reimposed sanctions that had been lifted under the accord in exchange for Tehran’s curbing its nuclear work. The Iranians have demanded that the Europeans do more to save the deal by ensuring Iran gains economic benefits, notably badly needed oil revenue, which the United States has in particular targeted.

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Power for sale.

Bought Politicians (Craig Murray)

Between just 28 May and 10 June Boris Johnson received £235,500 in “private” donations, to himself personally, as he prepares to become the UK’s unelected Prime Minister. The blatant corruption of the UK’s political system is part of the reason for popular alienation from the ruling classes. It was Blair who elevated British politics to US levels of shamelessness in the matter of politicians’ self enrichment, and Johnson looks set to follow the Blair example. While some may pretend to do so, I do not accept that there is anybody who is naive enough genuinely to believe that such donations do not influence politicians’ policy decisions. Straight donations aside, the slightly disguised corruption of our political system should also be taken into account.

The banks put politicians in their pockets not through direct payments, but through massive, often six figure, fees they pay them for “speaking at dinners”. That is how Hillary Clinton garnered much of her Wall Street funding. In the case of Boris Johnson, it is interesting that in the House of Commons Register of Members’ Interests, he frequently lists the name of the speaking agency who paid him, but not who the client was. Another way to pay less obvious bribes – and one particularly pursued by New Labour – was the book deal, where publishers pay massive six figure advances to politicians which are, routinely, up to ten times the actual royalties earned for which they are an “advance”.

This only makes sense when you realise that every single one of the major publishers is owned by a much bigger multinational – for example until recently Murdoch owned HarperCollins. James Reuben, who gave two donations totaling £50,000 to Johnson, is the scion of the UK’s second wealthiest family, worth £18 billion. The Reubens made their money, like Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov, in the pillaging of Russia’s massive metal producing assets, which were physically seized by gangsters, in the chaotic US organised Yeltsin privatisation process. The entire basis of their vast fortune was the exploitation of assets effectively stolen from the Russian state and people.

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Xi is itching to get involved.

China Station Next Target For Hong Kong Protesters (AFP)

Anti-government protesters in Hong Kong plan to rally later Sunday outside a controversial station where high-speed trains depart for the Chinese mainland as they try to keep up pressure on the city’s pro-Beijing leaders. The rally is the first major protest planned since last Monday’s unprecedented storming of parliament by largely young, masked protesters — a move which plunged the international financial hub further into crisis. Hong Kong has been rocked by a month of huge peaceful protests as well as a series of separate violent confrontations with police, sparked by a law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.


Recently opened multi-billion-dollar station that links Hong Kong to China’s high-speed rail network (AFP Photo/ANTHONY WALLACE)

The bill has since been postponed in response to the intense backlash but that has done little to quell public anger, which has evolved into a wider movement calling for democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms in the semi-autonomous city. Protesters are demanding the bill be scrapped entirely, an independent inquiry into police use of tear gas and rubber bullets, amnesty for those arrested, and for the city’s unelected leader Carrie Lam to step down. Beijing has thrown its full support behind Lam, calling on Hong Kong police to pursue anyone involved in the parliament storming and other clashes.

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Excellent by Anya Parampil.

UN Chief Bachelet’s Venezuela Report Follows US Regime Change Script (GZ)

When United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet traveled to Venezuela earlier this year, she met with an array of citizens who lost family members to right-wing violence in the country. [..] Bachelet made no mention of opposition violence in her report. Her failure to properly detail the plight of Venezuelans who have suffered at the hands of anti-government rioters was just one of many glaring omissions which has one of the top international legal experts to have served at the UN calling the high commissioner’s objectivity into question. Alfred de Zayas became the first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela in 21 years, traveling to the country in 2017 to examine the social and economic impact of unilateral coercive measures applied by the US.

He determined US-led sanctions were largely to blame for the country’s hardship, accusing Washington of waging “economic warfare,” and comparing its harsh measures to “medieval sieges of towns.” De Zayas was no less scathing towards Bachelet’s report, slamming it as a politicized document that depended heavily on unfounded claims by activists dedicated to Maduro’s removal. “The new Bachelet report is methodologically flawed, as were indeed the earlier reports, relying overwhelmingly on unverified allegations by opposition politicians and advocates of regime change who are only interested in weaponizing human rights,” the former special rapporteur told The Grayzone.

[..] Bachelet’s dismissal of the destructive impact of sanctions on the Maduro government overlook years of sustained economic attack on the Venezuelan economy by the most powerful nation on earth. With the Obama administration’s move to declare Venezuela’s government a “national security threat” in March of 2015, Venezuela’s economy and its ability to restructure its debt have been under systematic attack.

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“A poll published in Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper on Saturday said 59% of Italians approved of Salvini’s closing ports to NGO vessels. ..”

The silence from Brussels is getting louder.

Second Migrant Rescue Boat Defies Salvini And Docks In Italy (AFP)

A charity rescue vessel brought 41 shipwrecked migrants into port in Lampedusa on Saturday, the second boat to defy far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini’s bid to close Italian ports to them. Mediterranea’s Italian-flagged Alex arrived in port where a strong police presence was waiting for them but everyone remained on board after spending two days with the rescued migrants and asylum-seekers on the sailboat. “In view of the intolerable hygiene conditions aboard, the Alex has declared a state of emergency and is sailing towards Lampedusa, the only possible safe port for landing,” Mediterranea said in a tweet earlier.

Salvini, who leads the Lega party and is also deputy prime minister, last month issued a decree that would bring fines of up to €50,000 (£45,000) for the captain, owner and operator of a vessel “entering Italian territorial waters without authorisation”. Salvini tweeted after the Alex docked that the charity workers were “jackals… will they go unpunished also?” “Law enforcement forces are ready to intervene… in a normal country there would be immediate arrests and the boat would be impounded,” Salvini said in another tweet. Authorities on Lampedusa last week seized another rescue ship belonging to German aid group Sea-Watch after it forced its way into port with dozens of rescued migrants on board and arrested its captain, Carola Rackete.

An Italian judge this week ordered her freed as she had been acting to save lives, a decision that sparked Salvini’s ire but may have encouraged the Alex crew. Two other investigations, on charges of helping people smugglers and resisting the authorities, are still under way after Rackete forced her way past Italian customs vessels. A third rescue ship, German charity Sea-Eye’s vessel Alan Kurdi, carrying 65 shipwrecked migrants rescued off Libya on Saturday, arrived and held its position in international waters off Lampedusa. [..] A poll published in Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper on Saturday said 59% of Italians approved of Salvini’s closing ports to NGO vessels.

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“Rackete has gone into hiding following numerous threats..”

Sea-Watch Captain To Sue Italian Minister Salvini For Defamation (ToM)

The captain of detained migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch 3, Carola Rackete, will sue Matteo Salvini for defamation after a tirade of insults from Italy’s far-right interior minister, her lawyer said Friday. “We have prepared the legal complaint against minister Salvini,” Alessandro Gamberini told Italian radio, saying “it’s not easy to make a complete list of all the insults Salvini has made these last weeks.” Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister and an admirer of US President Donald Trump, is an avid user of social media, which he also uses to insult people he disagrees with. Salvini “stirs the troubled waters of hate. A defamation lawsuit is a way to send a signal,” the lawyer said, prompting a swift and angry response from the Lega minister.

“She breaks laws and attacks Italian military vessels, and then she sues me,” the anti-migrant Salvini tweeted. “I’m not afraid of the Mafia, let alone a rich and spoiled communist!” Italian police last week arrested Rackete, 31, after she defied orders to stay away and forced her way into port on Italy’s southern Lampedusa island to disembark 40 rescued migrants who had been stuck at sea on her vessel for two weeks. An Italian judge this week ordered her freed as she had been acting to save lives, a decision which also sparked Salvini’s ire. Two other investigations, on charges of helping people smugglers and resisting the authorities are still underway after she forced her way past Italian customs vessels.

During the two week standoff and after Salvini launched a series of furious tweets at the charity worker, including calling her a “pain in the arse”, “criminal”, “delinquent” and “poor woman who only tried to kill five Italian soldiers.” Rackete has gone into hiding following numerous threats, her charity Sea-Watch said Wednesday, a day after her release from Italian custody.

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I see a lot of outright stupid takes on this, as in Greeks turn their backs on populism. In reality, Tsipras is losing big only because he failed to deliver what he promised. Now an old right wing party named New Democracy with a leader who belongs to an actual political dynasty (!) will take over, and things will get even worse for the poor. I’m also afraid of violence in the streets.

Greeks Vote In Snap General Election (BBC)

Greeks are going to the polls to elect a new parliament, with the centre-right opposition mounting a strong challenge to the leftist government. The New Democracy party of Kyriakos Mitsotakis is hoping to end more than four years of rule by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza party. Mr Tsipras called snap elections soon after suffering an electoral defeat in May’s European elections. The crisis triggered a succession of financial bailouts, with the Greek economy shrinking by 28% between 2008 and 2016, and increasing unemployment has thrown many Greeks into poverty. Greece exited the bailout programme in August of last year and growth has returned.

Mr Mitsotakis is promising lower taxes, greater privatisation of public services and plans to renegotiate a deal with Greece’s creditors that would allow more money to be reinvested in the country. Mr Tsipras, who came to power in 2015, has promised more investment and recently boosted pensions. His own investment policies would also have to be renegotiated with creditors as the country remains under eurozone supervision. Each of the country’s numerous parties needs to gain at least 3% of the vote to get into the parliament and as many as seven of them could win seats.

The winning party gets a 50-seat bonus and needs 151 seats in the 300-seat parliament to have a majority. At the European elections, New Democracy won 33.11% of the vote against 23.78% for Syriza. The highest percentage of 18-to-24 year olds (30.5%) at that election backed New Democracy.

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Europe c.1320

 

 

 

 

Jul 042019
 
 July 4, 2019  Posted by at 7:14 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Odilon Redon The Birth of Venus II c.1910

 

How do you define terror? Perhaps, because of the way the term has evolved in the English language, one wouldn’t call the west ‘terrorists’ per se, but ‘we’ are certainly spreading terror and terrorizing very large groups of people. Yeah, bring on the tanks and parade them around town. Add a marching band that plays some war tunes.

The ‘official’ storyline : at the request of the US, Gibraltar police and UK marines have seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar. The super-tanker, 1000 feet (330 meters) long, carrying 2 million barrels, had stopped there after sailing all around the Cape of Good Hope instead of taking the Suez canal on its way, ostensibly, from Iran to Syria.

And, according to the storyline as presented to and in the western press, because the EU still has sanctions on Iran, the British seized the ship. Another little detail I really appreciate is that Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said Madrid was looking into the seizure and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty since Spain does not recognize the waters around Gibraltar as British.

That Borrell guy is the newly picked EU foreign policy czar, and according to some sources he’s supportive of Iran and critical of Israel. Them’s the webs we weave. He’s certainly in favor of Palestinian statehood. But we’re wandering…

Why did the tanker take that giant detour along the African coastline? Because potential problems were anticipated in the Suez canal. But also: why dock in Gibraltar? Because no problems were anticipated there. However, the US had been following the ship all along, and set this up.

A trap, a set-up, give it a name. I would think this is about Iran, not about sanctions on Syria; that’s just a convenient excuse. Moreover, as people have been pointing out, there have been countless arms deliveries to Syrian rebels in the past years (yes, that’s illegal) which were not seized.

 

The sanctions on Syria were always aimed at one goal: getting rid of Assad. That purpose failed either miserably or spectacularly, depending on your point of view. It did achieve one thing though, and if I were you I wouldn’t be too sure this was not the goal all along.

That is, out of a pre-war population of 22 million, the United Nations in 2016 identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance; over 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria. About half a million are estimated to have died, the same number as in Iraq.

And Assad is still there and probably stronger than ever. But it doesn’t even matter whether the US/UK/EU regime change efforts are successful or not, and I have no doubt they’ve always known this. Their aim is to create chaos as a war tactic, and kill as many people as they can. How do you define terror, terrorism? However you define it, ‘we’ are spreading it.

That grossly failed attempt to depose Assad has left Europe with a refugee problem it may never be able to control. And the only reason there is such a problem is that Europe, in particular Britain and France, along with the US, tried to bomb these people’s homelands out of existence. Because their leaders didn’t want to conform to “our standards”, i.e. have our oil companies seize and control their supplies.

 

But while you weren’t looking some things changed, irreversibly so. The US and Europe are no longer the undisputed and overwhelming global military power they once were. Russia has become a target they cannot even consider attacking anymore, because their armies, assembled in NATO, wouldn’t stand a chance.

China is not yet at the ‘might’ level of Russia, but US and NATO are in no position to attack a country of 1.4 billion people either. Their military prominence ended around the turn of the century/millennium, and they’re not going to get it back. Better make peace fast.

So what we’ve seen for a few decades now is proxy wars. In which Russia in particular has been reluctant to engage but decisive when it does. Moscow didn’t want to let Assad go, and so they made sure he stayed. Syria is Russia’s one single stronghold in the Middle East, and deemed indispensable.

Meanwhile, as over half of Syrians, some 11 million people, have been forced to flee their homes, with millions of them traumatized by war, ‘we’ elect to seize a tanker allegedly headed for a refinery in the country, so we can make sure all those people have no oil or less oil for a while longer.

So the refugees that do have the courage and will to return will find it that much harder to rebuild their homes and towns, and will tell those still abroad not to join them. At the same time Assad is doing fine, he may be the target of the sanctions but he doesn’t suffer from them, his people do.

 

Yes, let’s parade some tanks around town. And let’s praise the heroic UK marines who seized an utterly defenseless oil tanker manned by a bunch of dirt-poor Philippinos. Yay! There is probably some profound irony that explains why Trump and Bolton and Pompeo want a military parade at the very moment the US military must concede defeat in all theaters but the propaganda one.

Still there it is. The only people the US, the west, can still credibly threaten, are defenseless civilians, women, children. The leaders of nations are out of reach. Maduro, Assad, let alone Putin or Xi.

Happy 4th of July. Not sure how independent you yourself are, but I can see a few people who did achieve independence from western terror. Just not the poor, the ones that count. But don’t look at the tanks, look at the wind instead. The winds are shifting.

 

 

 

 

Jun 302019
 
 June 30, 2019  Posted by at 9:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


 

Trump Invites Kim Jong-Un to the White House (BI)
China Warns Of Long Road Ahead For Deal With US After Ice-Breaking Talks (R.)
Russia and Saudi Arabia Agree To Extend OPEC Oil Output Cuts Into 2020 (MW)
Johnson And Hunt Don’t Understand What It’s Like When A Wall Falls (G.)
The Extradition Cases of Pinochet & Assange (Vos)
UN Torture Rapporteur About Op-Ed On Assange Rejected By MSM (RT)
Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers (ZH)
Deutsche Bank’s Medieval Medicine (Coppola)
Declaration of Digital Independence (Sanger)
Italian Police Arrest Migrant-Rescue Ship Captain After Docking (R.)
Spike In Autism Linked To Preservative In Processed Foods (F.)

 

 

Big moment no matter what. The situation at the DMZ has changed a lot in the past year. It’s like the DMZ has been dimilitarized. Far fewer weapons, guards don’t even wear helmets anymore.

Trump Invites Kim Jong-Un to the White House (BI)

Donald Trump has invited Kim Jong Un to the White House, after he became the first serving American President to step over the North Korean border and shake hands with a North Korean leader. Trump crossed over from the demilitarized zone to shake hands with Kim Jong Un, after earlier offering the meeting on Twitter. “When I put out the social media notification, if he didn’t show up he would have made me look very bad,” Trump told reporters. Kim Jong Un responded that “I was very surprised to hear about your offer on the tweet and only late in the afternoon I was able to confirm your invitation.”

The US president described his relationship with the North Korean leader as a “great friendship.” “This was a special moment, a historic moment,” Trump told reporters. “Stepping across that line was a great honour. A lot of progress has been made and a lot of friendships have been made and this in particular is a great friendship.” Following their handshake, the two men took part in a press conference during which the US president confirmed that he was extending an invite to Kim Jong Un to the White House. Trump thanked Kim Jong Un for meeting him. “I want to thank the chairman. You’ve got to hear that powerful voice.”

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But at least talks are back on.

China Warns Of Long Road Ahead For Deal With US After Ice-Breaking Talks (R.)

China and the United States will face a long road before they can reach a deal to end their bitter trade war, with more fights ahead likely, Chinese state media said after the two countries’ presidents held ice-breaking talks in Japan. The world’s two largest economies are in the midst of a bitter trade war, which has seen them level increasingly severe tariffs on each other’s imports. In a sign of significant progress in relations on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, agreed to a ceasefire and a return to talks.


However, the official China Daily, an English-language daily often used by Beijing to put its message out to the rest of the world, warned while there was now a greater likelihood of reaching an agreement, there’s no guarantee there would be one. “Even though Washington agreed to postpone levying additional tariffs on Chinese goods to make way for negotiations, and Trump even hinted at putting off decisions on Huawei until the end of negotiations, things are still very much up in the air,” it said in an editorial late Saturday. “Agreement on 90 percent of the issues has proved not to be enough, and with the remaining 10 percent where their fundamental differences reside, it is not going to be easy to reach a 100-percent consensus, since at this point, they remain widely apart even on the conceptual level.”

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What else could they do?

Russia and Saudi Arabia Agree To Extend OPEC Oil Output Cuts Into 2020 (MW)

Russia and Saudi Arabia have agreed to extend the OPEC oil production cuts deal by another six to nine months, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the G-20 leaders summit in Japan on Saturday. The OPEC+ group — the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, plus Russia and other producers — meet on July 1-2 to renegotiate the pact which expires June 30. In 2016, Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to try to jointly manage global oil output to support prices in what became known as the OPEC+ coalition and the current deal called for production cuts of 1.2 million barrels a day. “We will support the extension, both Russia and Saudi Arabia,” Putin said at a news conference in Osaka, Reuters reported.


“As far as the length of the extension is concerned, we have yet to decide whether it will be six or nine months. Maybe it will be nine months,” said Putin said, who met the crown prince on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. “In any event we will support the continuation of agreements, both Russia and Saudi Arabia, in the volumes previously agreed.” The announcement marks the first time a leader from the OPEC+ group has indicated the curbs could be needed into 2020. That reflects a gloomy outlook for oil demand next year due to a combination of slowing global economic growth and rising U.S. shale oil output.

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“For 34 years I lived behind the Iron Curtain so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish, once walls fall.”

Johnson And Hunt Don’t Understand What It’s Like When A Wall Falls (G.)

Perhaps it is a problem of language. The dictionary lacks a necessary word: UKish. Northern Ireland is not in Britain but it is in the UK. The porous boundary that divides it from the rest of Ireland is not, strictly speaking, a British frontier. So it is called “the Irish border”, making it, for the Brexiters, someone else’s problem. The terrain where a post-Brexit UK meets the remaining 27-member EU bloc is, as the miserable Tory leadership debate shows yet again, somewhere over there. For Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, its troubles are, as Neville Chamberlain might put it, “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing”. They might have to know more about it if only we could call it what it is: the UKish border.

Hunt and Johnson both agree that a no-deal Brexit must be kept alive as a serious proposition. Both also agree that once in Downing Street they will reopen negotiations with the EU with the primary aim of ditching from the withdrawal agreement the so-called Irish backstop, which is also, of course, the UKish backstop. Hunt puts this in more emollient terms than Johnson, but makes up for this weakness by promising to include on his negotiating team representatives of the famously emollient Democratic Unionist party, which does not represent most voters in Northern Ireland. All of this is so drearily familiar (this hobbyhorse comes round and round on the non-stop Brexit carousel) that it is hard to remember how surreal it is.

It is weird not just because the backstop was designed around British demands; not just because Hunt and Johnson were in the cabinet when it was negotiated; not just because they both voted for it in parliament; and not just because the EU has repeated, over and over, that, in the words of the European council in January: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.” That should be enough to be going on with, but there is an even deeper absurdity. On 4 April last, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, flew to Dublin [..] she said: “For 34 years I lived behind the Iron Curtain so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish, once walls fall.”

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Crazy enough that these two people are mentioned in the same sentence.

The Extradition Cases of Pinochet & Assange (Vos)

In October 1998, Pinochet, whose regime became a byword for political killings, “disappearances” and torture, was arrested in London while there for medical treatment. A judge in Madrid, Baltasar Garzón, sought his extradition in connection with the deaths of Spanish citizens in Chile. Citing the aging Pinochet’s inability to stand trial, the United Kingdom in 2000 ultimately prevented him from being extradited to Spain where he would have faced prosecution for human rights abuses. At an early point in the proceedings, Pinochet’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery, made an argument in his defense that had nothing to do with age or poor health.

“States and the organs of state, including heads of state and former heads of state, are entitled to absolute immunity from criminal proceedings in the national courts of other countries,” the Guardian quoted Montgomery as saying. She argued that crimes against humanity should be narrowly defined within the context of international warfare, as the BBC reported. Montgomery’s immunity argument was overturned by the House of Lords. But the extradition court ruled that the poor health of Pinochet, a friend of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, would prevent him from being sent to Spain. Though the cases of Pinochet and Assange are separated by more than two decades, two of the participants are the same, this time playing very different roles.

Montgomery reappeared in the Assange case to argue on behalf of a Swedish prosecutor’s right to seek a European arrest warrant for Assange. Her argument ultimately failed. A Swedish court recently denied the European arrest warrant. But as in the Pinochet case, Montgomery helped buy time, this time allowing Swedish sexual allegations to persist and muddy Assange’s reputation. Garzón, the Spanish judge, who had requested Pinochet’s extradition, also reappears in Assange’s case. He is a well-known defender of human rights, “viewed by many as Spain’s most courageous legal watchdog and the scourge of bent politicians and drug warlords the world over,” as the The Independent described him a few years ago. He now leads Assange’s legal team.

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Melzer is not planning to let go. Now where’s his support?

“When you start exposing an isolated individual who can’t defend himself to a sustained campaign of humiliation, of shame, of ridicule, even death threats, then it can cause severe psychological trauma.”

UN Torture Rapporteur About Op-Ed On Assange Rejected By MSM (RT)

The UN rapporteur on torture told RT about the fanciful excuses Western media used to avoid publishing his damning op-ed on the extreme pressure Julian Assange was exposed to – despite covering every wild allegation against him. A host of reputed Western media outlets turned a deaf ear to Nils Melzer and his op-ed in which he said Julian Assange was exposed to enormous psychological trauma and isolation while in the Ecuadorian Embassy, and afterwards in the UK high-security prison. “Some of them said it wasn’t high enough on their news agenda, some of them said it wasn’t within their core area of interest.”

“The explanations seem awkward given that the same newspapers – the Guardian, the Times, the Washington Post, the Telegraph, and others – have been running news stories about Assange “when it was about his cat and his skateboard and… allegations that he smeared excrement on the walls.” “But when you have a serious piece that actually tries to de-mask this public narrative and to actually show the facts below it, then they’re not interested.”

In his piece, which was eventually published on blogging website Medium, Melzer admitted he “had been blinded by propaganda” and didn’t believe Assange was being dehumanized through isolation, ridicule, and shame. He even asked himself how could “life in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard ever amount to torture.” “I didn’t know Assange, so I took with me experienced medical experts, a psychiatrist and a forensic expert that have worked for decades in examining torture victims,” he told RT. These experts, he said, found that Assange showed “all the symptoms that are typical for a person who has been exposed to prolonged psychological torture.”

He has been exposed to public mobbing. Now, that’s the slippery slope… When you start exposing an isolated individual who can’t defend himself to a sustained campaign of humiliation, of shame, of ridicule, even death threats, then it can cause severe psychological trauma.

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Criminal investigation next.

Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers (ZH)

The software at the heart of the Boeing 737 MAX crisis was developed at a time when the company was laying off experienced engineers and replacing them with temporary workers making as little as $9 per hour, according to Bloomberg. In an effort to cut costs, Boeing was relying on subcontractors making paltry wages to develop and test its software. Often times, these subcontractors would be from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace, like India. Boeing had recent college graduates working for Indian software developer HCL Technologies Ltd. in a building across from Seattle’s Boeing Field, in flight test groups supporting the MAX. The coders from HCL designed to specifications set by Boeing but, according to Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software engineer, “it was controversial because it was far less efficient than Boeing engineers just writing the code.”


Rabin said: “…it took many rounds going back and forth because the code was not done correctly.” In addition to cutting costs, the hiring of Indian companies may have landed Boeing orders for the Indian military and commercial aircraft, like a $22 billion order received in January 2017. That order included 100 737 MAX 8 jets and was Boeing’s largest order ever from an Indian airline. India traditionally orders from Airbus. HCL engineers helped develop and test the 737 MAX’s flight display software while employees from another Indian company, Cyient Ltd, handled the software for flight test equipment. In 2011, Boeing named Cyient, then known as Infotech, to a list of its “suppliers of the year”. One HCL employee posted online: “Provided quick workaround to resolve production issue which resulted in not delaying flight test of 737-Max (delay in each flight test will cost very big amount for Boeing).”

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Does Merkel really want to risk things getting worse?

Deutsche Bank’s Medieval Medicine (Coppola)

If there is one thing that Deutsche Bank executives agree on, it is the efficacy of medieval medicine. Bloodletting, to be precise. Successive Chief Executives have bled the patient, but it hasn’t recovered: profits remain disappointing, and the share price has continued to decline. So the latest incumbent is going to bleed it again – on a much larger scale. On Friday, June 28, the Wall Street Journal revealed plans to slash up to 20,000 jobs worldwide. This would reduce full-time headcount to just over 70,000, the lowest since the financial crisis. The WSJ says the staff cuts will fall “across all divisions and business lines.” But the largest cuts are expected to fall on the investment bank and the troubled U.S. arm. Deutsche Bank has been trying – and largely failing – to reduce its staff costs for years.

It may surprise people to learn that despite repeated cuts, Deutsche Bank’s headcount is significantly higher than it was in 2008. This is mainly due to the acquisition of PostBank in 2010, which added 18,000 employees. Back in 2016, Deutsche Bank announced plans to cut its headcount to 77,000, largely through disposing of PostBank. But when the PostBank disposal evaporated, so too did the headcount reductions. The bank now intends to integrate PostBank with its own retail bank, and says this will achieve “synergies” (i.e. cost savings). Presumably that will mean headcount reductions, though it is not clear whether these are included in the plans leaked to the WSJ.

But there has also been a gradual increase in headcount in other divisions, notably the investment bank. Frankly, given the bank’s awful performance in recent years, it is hard to see what benefit this has brought. It looks suspiciously like empire-building to me. Or perhaps gambling. “Recruit some star performers, they’ll soon turn this business round….” [..] Deutsche Bank’s high cost-income ratio isn’t caused by clerks in retail branches. No, it is due to the insanely high salaries and bonuses Deutsche Bank pays to traders and analysts in its investment bank. And above all, it is due to executive management’s head-in-the-sand attitude to business lines in terminal decline. In 2016, despite glaringly poor performance in its equities division, Deutsche Bank recruited more equities analysts. Now, it appears to be intending to sack them all.

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Larry Sanger is a co-founder of Wikipedia. This is a very detailed declaration.

Declaration of Digital Independence (Sanger)

Humanity has been contemptuously used by vast digital empires. Thus it is now necessary to replace these empires with decentralized networks of independent individuals, as in the first decades of the Internet. As our participation has been voluntary, no one doubts our right to take this step. But if we are to persuade as many people as possible to join together and make reformed networks possible, we should declare our reasons for wanting to replace the old. We declare that we have unalienable digital rights, rights that define how information that we individually own may or may not be treated by others, and that among these rights are free speech, privacy, and security.


Since the proprietary, centralized architecture of the Internet at present has induced most of us to abandon these rights, however reluctantly or cynically, we ought to demand a new system that respects them properly. The difficulty and divisiveness of wholesale reform means that this task is not to be undertaken lightly. For years we have approved of and even celebrated enterprise as it has profited from our communication and labor without compensation to us. But it has become abundantly clear more recently that a callous, secretive, controlling, and exploitative animus guides the centralized networks of the Internet and the corporations behind them. The long train of abuses we have suffered makes it our right, even our duty, to replace the old networks. To show what train of abuses we have suffered at the hands of these giant corporations, let these facts be submitted to a candid world.

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The international Law of the Sea makes it obligatory to rescue people in peril. Salvini is breaking that law.

Italian Police Arrest Migrant-Rescue Ship Captain After Docking (R.)

Italian police arrested on Saturday the German captain of a migrant-rescue ship at the center of a standoff with the Italian government, after she docked at the island port of Lampedusa. The Dutch-flagged Sea-Watch 3, operated by German charity Sea-Watch, has been at sea for more than two weeks with rescued Africans on board. After waiting in international waters for an invitation from Italy or an EU state to accept the ship, German captain Carola Rackete decided this week to sail for the southern Italian island of Lampedusa but was blocked by Italian government vessels. The ship eventually entered the port in the early hours of Saturday morning amid a heavy police presence.


Live television video showed the 31-year-old Rackete being taken off Sea-Watch 3 by tax police and driven away amid applause and barracking from bystanders gathered at the port. She has been arrested for “resisting a war ship”, a charge which, according to media reports, carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. After Rackete was taken away, 40 Africans on board the ship were allowed to disembark and were taken to a reception center on the island. Italy’s right-wing interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who is taking a tough line against migrant rescue ships, previously said he would only allow Rackete to dock when other European Union states agree to immediately take the migrants. “Outlaw arrested. Pirate ship seized. Big fine on foreign NGO. Migrants all redistributed in other European countries. Mission completed,” Salvini said in a tweet on Saturday.

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Suicide. Or murder, since it’s about babies.

Spike In Autism Linked To Preservative In Processed Foods (F.)

Researchers from the University of Central Florida (UCF) just announced intriguing findings which describe cellular changes that develop when neuronal stem cells are exposed to elevated levels of a chemical typically found in processed foods. The study serves as an example of the importance of the food pregnant women eat, and how it may potentially affect development of the fetal brain. The study describes how elevated levels of the preservative, propionic acid (PPA)–used to extend shelf life and reduce mold in packaged foods, breads and cheeses—can adversely affect the development and differentiation of neurons in fetal brains in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

From clinical experience, healthcare providers have observed for many decades how children with ASD are often afflicted with gastrointestinal ailments, including chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The mechanism behind this association is unclear, but ongoing research suggests that the gut microbiome plays an important role in brain development. One of the key questions is how the gut microbiome–the bacteria that live in our intestines–may be unique in those with ASD compared to those without the condition. Previous studies have demonstrated increased levels of PPA, a short chain fatty acid (SCFA), in the feces of children with ASD; we also know that the gut microbiome in these children is also quite distinct in terms of the type of bacteria that inhabit their intestines.

Clostridia, Bacteriodetes, and Desulfovibrio bacteria are unique to patients with ASD. What’s interesting is that these bacteria are also known to be fermenters of carbohydrates that produce PPA, and other SCFAs as well. Ironically, while PPA is the most common compound produced by bacteria in ASD patients, it is also widely used in the food industry as a preservative due to its ability to inhibit growth of fungi (mold). In the current study, Saleh Naser, PhD and her team at UCF found that when neural stem cells were exposed to high levels of PPA, the neurons incurred multiple changes resulting in cellular damage and inflammation.

One of the major effects of PPA they noted was the overproduction of glial cells , the protective outer cells making up the sheath covering neurons, with a corresponding reduction in the number of neurons themselves. An excess of glial cells may disrupt the connectivity between the neurons and induce inflammation, a common finding in the brains of children with ASD. While prior studies have suggested the role of genetic factors and environmental influence in ASD, this study, according to the authors, is the first to note a molecular link from elevated levels of PPA, overproduction of glial cells, disruption of neural connections and autism.

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Wednesday is Julian’s birthday.

 

 

 

 

Jun 292019
 
 June 29, 2019  Posted by at 10:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Salvador Dali Paranoiac Woman-Horse (Invisible Sleeping Woman, Lion, Horse) 1930

 

Wall Street Wraps Up Its Best June In Generations (R.)
Not A Rate-Cut Economy (WS)
You Are Nuts To Think A July Interest-Rate Cut Is A Slam Dunk (MW)
Deutsche Bank To Fire Up To 20,000: One In Six Full-Time Positions (ZH)
China and US Agree To Restart Trade Talks (R.)
Russia-India-China Will Be The Big G20 Hit (Escobar)
Trump Offers To Meet Kim Jong-Un At The DMZ (R.)
Boeing 737 Max Likely Grounded Until The End Of The Year (CNBC)
Boeing 787 Dreamliner Caught In Deepening 737 MAX Probe (RT)
EU Leaders Decide Against Weber For Commission Presidency (R.)
Say Anything! (Kunstler)

 

 

And nobody cares that none of it is real… Or that 3/4 of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

Wall Street Wraps Up Its Best June In Generations (R.)

Wall Street advanced in heavy trading on Friday, with the S&P 500 and the Dow closing the book on their best June in generations, ahead of much-anticipated trade talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the G20 summit now underway in Japan. All three major U.S. stock indexes gained ground at the close of the week, month, quarter and first half of the year, during which time the U.S. stock market has had a remarkable run. The S&P 500 had its best June since 1955. The Dow posted its biggest June percentage gain since 1938, the waning days of the Great Depression.


From the start of 2019, after investors fled equities amid fears of a global economic slowdown, which sent stock markets tumbling in December, the benchmark S&P 500 jumped 17.3%, its largest first-half increase since 1997. “The market came to the realization that the world is not going to end,” said John Ham, financial adviser at New England Investment and Retirement Group in North Andover, Massachusetts. “Also, (Federal Reserve chair) Powell did a 180 since (the Fed’s) last (interest) rate hike, which has put wind in our sails in the first half of the year.”

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Mostly it all just sounds stupid to me.

Not A Rate-Cut Economy (WS)

The inflation index that the Fed has anointed to be the yardstick for its inflation target – the PCE price index without the volatile food and energy components – rose 0.19% in May from April, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis this morning. This increase in “core PCE” was near the top of the range since 2010. It followed the 0.25% jump in April, which had been the third largest increase since 2010. Fed Chair Jerome Powell, at the press conference following the no-rate-hike FOMC meeting last week, gave a clear and succinct summary of the US economy. It was mostly in good shape, he said, in particular where it mattered the most: “All of the underlying fundamentals for the consumer-spending part of the economy, which is 70% of the economy, are quite solid,” he said.

[..] The Fed’s “symmetric” target is a 2% annual increase in the core PCE index, meaning the increase can fluctuate some above or below the target without causing the Fed to act. Core PCE inflation was in the 2%-range for much of last year. But early this year, the increases softened. So in his opening remarks at the press conference, Powell said that “committee participants expressed concerns about the pace of inflation’s return to 2 percent.” [..] a trigger for a rate cut would be a “sustained” period significantly below the 2% target. Inflation data is volatile and jumps up and down. Earlier this year, when core PCE inflation fell significantly below 2%, Powell said that the factors behind this low inflation were “transitory.”


Janet Yellen, when she was still Fed Chair, also used “transitory” to describe the factors that in early and mid-2017 were causing an actual dip in core PCE – which hasn’t happened this year. And a few months later, she was proven right. After today’s data on the increase in the core PCE index, following the jump in April, the three-month increase – March, April, and May – has now hit 0.50%. Annualized, this amounts to 2.0% core PCE inflation over the past three months, in the bull’s eye of the Fed’s symmetrical target, with the last two months being substantially above the Fed’s target. But note the sharp decline in January, February, and March, and how it has now reversed:

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The sooner the Fed is gone the better.

You Are Nuts To Think A July Interest-Rate Cut Is A Slam Dunk (MW)

The markets have gotten so used to the Federal Reserve doing whatever it takes to keep the S&P 500 and bond prices rising that traders and investors are now expecting the Fed to go against its own judgment and aggressively cut interest rates next month. In putting a 100% probability on a cut in the federal funds target rate at the next Fed meeting on July 30 and 31, traders — and the economists who advise them — seem to have forgotten how language and math work. Not to mention economics. Comments by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell in the past 10 days have indicated that the Fed is open to cutting rates if necessary to keep the expansion going, but there’s no sign that policy makers have made up their minds about a July cut — or any cut at all, for that matter.


Powell said it would depend, “you know, on actual data and evolving risks.” The Fed might very well deliver the rate cut that the market is demanding, but only if something significant changes in the next four and a half weeks. The Fed won’t cut rates because it promised to do so at the last Fed meeting (it didn’t). And it won’t cut rates because the U.S. economy is teetering on the edge of recession (it isn’t), or because inflation is dropping (uh-uh), or because fragile financial markets could use a shot of confidence (nope). Before they cut rates, Fed officials would want to see some hard evidence that the outlook for the economy has materially worsened since they met on June 19. About the only thing that would qualify would be a disastrous meeting between Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping this weekend.

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No more global player.

Wall Street may have the best June in generations, but not all of Wall Street.

Deutsche Bank To Fire Up To 20,000: One In Six Full-Time Positions (ZH)

While Deutsche Bank finally delivered some good news for a change to its long-suffering investors, when it miraculously failed to fail the latest Fed stress test, on Friday the chronically sick bank reverted to its “cutting into muscle” baseline when the largest German lender with the €45 trillion notional derivatives was said to be preparing “to cut as much as half its global workforce in equities trading as part of a broad restructuring to boost profitability”, according to Bloomberg with the WSJ adding that the total number could be between 15,000 and 20,000 job cuts, or more than one in six full-time positions globally. The cuts being contemplated by senior executives reflect an acceleration of Deutsche Bank’s downsizing and another major pullback from its global ambitions.


If followed through, the reduction would represent 16% to 22% of Deutsche Bank’s workforce of 91,463 employees, as disclosed by the bank as of the end of March. According to the proposed plan the bank will eliminate hundreds of positions in equities trading and research, as well as derivatives trading, and is expected to start informing staff of cuts – including in the U.S. and Asia – as soon as next month. Rates trading is also affected. While the move begs the question just how effective half of the bank’s equity trading desk was, it will likely be welcomed by the market even if by slashing revenue producers the bank confirms that its trading margins have dropped to negative levels, a virtually unheard of event.

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They should always talk.

China and US Agree To Restart Trade Talks (R.)

The United States and China agreed on Saturday to restart trade talks and that Washington would hold off on imposing new tariffs on Chinese exports, signaling a pause in the trade hostilities between the world’s two largest economies. The truce offered relief from a nearly year-long dispute in which the countries have slapped tariffs on billions of dollars of each other’s imports, disrupting global supply lines, roiling markets and dragging on global economic growth. “We’re right back on track and we’ll see what happens,” U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters after an 80-minute meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies in Japan.


Trump said while he would not lift existing import tariffs, he would refrain from slapping new levies on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods – which would have effectively extended tariffs to everything China exports to the America. “We’re holding back on tariffs and they’re going to buy farm products,” he said at a news conference. “If we make a deal, it will be a very historic event.” Trump said China would buy more farm products but did not provide specifics. In a lengthy statement on the talks, China’s foreign ministry said the United States would not add new tariffs on Chinese exports and that negotiators of both countries would discuss specific issues. Xi told Trump he hoped the United States could treat Chinese companies fairly, the statement added.

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India and Iran.

Russia-India-China Will Be The Big G20 Hit (Escobar)

It all started with the Vladimir Putin–Xi Jinping summit in Moscow on June 5. Far from a mere bilateral, this meeting upgraded the Eurasian integration process to another level. The Russian and Chinese presidents discussed everything from the progressive interconnection of the New Silk Roads with the Eurasia Economic Union, especially in and around Central Asia, to their concerted strategy for the Korean Peninsula. A particular theme stood out: They discussed how the connecting role of Persia in the Ancient Silk Road is about to be replicated by Iran in the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And that is non-negotiable.

Especially after the Russia-China strategic partnership, less than a month before the Moscow summit, offered explicit support for Tehran signaling that regime change simply won’t be accepted, diplomatic sources say. Putin and Xi solidified the roadmap at the St Petersburg Economic Forum. And the Greater Eurasia interconnection continued to be woven immediately after at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, with two essential interlocutors: India, a fellow BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and SCO member, and SCO observer Iran.


At the SCO summit we had Putin, Xi, Narendra Modi, Imran Khan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sitting at the same table. Hanging over the proceedings, like concentric Damocles swords, were the US-China trade war, sanctions on Russia, and the explosive situation in the Persian Gulf. Rouhani was forceful – and played his cards masterfully – as he described the mechanism and effects of the US economic blockade on Iran, which led Modi and leaders of the Central Asian “stans” to pay closer attention to Russia-China’s Eurasia roadmap. This occurred as Xi made clear that Chinese investments across Central Asia on myriad BRI projects will be significantly increased.

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“While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!”

Trump Offers To Meet Kim Jong-Un At The DMZ (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday he would like to see North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this weekend at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea, and North Korea said a meeting would be “meaningful” if it happened. Trump, who is in Osaka, Japan, for a Group of 20 summit, is due to arrive in South Korea later on Saturday. He is scheduled to return to Washington on Sunday. If Trump and Kim were to meet, it would be for the third time in just over a year, and four months since their second summit, in Vietnam, broke down with no progress on U.S. efforts to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.


Trump made the offer to meet Kim in a comment on Twitter about his trip to South Korea. “While there, if Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the Border/DMZ just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!” he said. Trump later told reporters his offer to Kim was a spur-of-the-moment idea: “I just thought of it this morning.” “We’ll be there and I just put out a feeler because I don’t know where he is right now. He may not be in North Korea,” he said. “If he’s there, we’ll see each other for two minutes, that’s all we can, but that will be fine,” he added. Trump said he and Kim “get along very well”.

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They still pretend it’s about software.

Boeing 737 Max Likely Grounded Until The End Of The Year (CNBC)

Boeing’s 737 Max could stay on the ground until late this year after a new problem emerged with the plane’s in-flight control chip. This latest holdup in the plane’s troubled recertification process has to do with a chip failure that can cause uncommanded movement of a panel on the aircraft’s tail, pointing the plane’s nose downward, a Boeing official said. Subsequent emergency tests to fix the issue showed it took pilots longer than expected to solve the problem, according to The Wall Street Journal. This marks a new problem with the plane unrelated to the issues Boeing is already facing with the plane’s MCAS automated flight control system, an issue the company maintains can be remedied by a software fix.


Boeing hopes to submit all of its fixes to the Federal Aviation Administration this fall, the Boeing official said. “We’re expecting a September time frame for a full software package to fix both MCAS and this new issue,” the official said. “We believe additional items will be remedied by a software fix.” Once that software package is submitted, it will likely take at least another two months before the planes are flying again. The FAA will need time to recertify the planes. Boeing will need to reach agreement with airlines and pilots unions on how much extra training pilots will need. And the airlines will need some time to complete necessary maintenance checks.

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There we go…

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Caught In Deepening 737 MAX Probe (RT)

Federal prosecutors are expanding their Boeing probe, investigating charges the 787 Dreamliner’s manufacture was plagued with the same incompetence that dogged the doomed 737 MAX and resulted in hundreds of deaths. The US Department of Justice has requested records related to 787 Dreamliner production at Boeing’s South Carolina plant, where two sources who spoke to the Seattle Times said there have been allegations of “shoddy work.” A third source confirmed individual employees at the Charleston plant had received subpoenas earlier this month from the “same group” of prosecutors conducting the ongoing probe into the 737 MAX.

Boeing is in the hot seat over alleged poor quality workmanship and cutting corners at the South Carolina plant. Prosecutors are likely concerned with whether “broad cultural problems” pervade the entire company, including pressure to OK shoddy work in order to deliver planes on time, one source told the Seattle Times. The South Carolina plant manufactured 45 percent of Boeing’s 787s last year, but its supersize -10 model is built exclusively there. Prosecutors are on the hunt for “hallmarks of classic fraud,” the source said, such as lying or misrepresentation to customers and regulators. Whistleblowers in the Charleston factory who pointed to debris and even tools left in the engine, near wiring, and in other sensitive locations likely to cause operating issues told the New York Times they were punished by management, and managers reported they had been pushed to churn planes out faster and cover up delays.


[..] A critical fire-fighting system on the Dreamliner was discovered to be dysfunctional earlier this month, leading Boeing to issue a warning that the switch designed to extinguish engine fires had failed in “some cases.” While the FAA warned that “the potential exists for an airline fire to be uncontrollable,” they opted not to ground the 787s, instead ordering airlines to check that the switch was functional every 30 days.

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Tidings from the Empire.

EU Leaders Decide Against Weber For Commission Presidency (R.)

European Union leaders have agreed that conservative German candidate Manfred Weber will not become president of the bloc’s executive Commission, Germany’s Die Welt daily reported on Friday, citing sources familiar with the decision. The decision was reached during talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, Die Welt said. If confirmed, the compromise would be a blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had backed Weber’s bid to replace Jean-Claude Juncker. French President Emmanuel Macron had opposed Weber’s candidacy, partly because of his lack of experience in high office.

EU leaders failed at a summit earlier this month to agree on who should hold the bloc’s top jobs after European Parliament elections last month, including on the Commission, which has broad powers on matters from trade to competition and climate policy. Weber is the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), the conservative bloc that won most seats in the election and which includes Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU). A senior European diplomat told Reuters that socialist Dutchman Frans Timmermans, a deputy head at the Commission, was the front-runner to succeed Juncker. “Timmermans is the best placed,” the diplomat said.


The EU’s 28 national leaders will meet on June 30 to decide who fills the five prominent positions that would help the bloc navigate through internal and external challenges. The jobs include the presidency of the European Central Bank, which has helped the bloc’s economy return to growth after the financial crisis thanks to an extraordinary monetary stimulus programme.

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“..a wayward jellyfish blown hither and yon by Progressive winds..”

Say Anything! (Kunstler)

Apart from the colorful homage to all things Mexican, the signal event of the night was Elizabeth Warren’s stealth political suicide when the popular question of Medicare-for-all came up and NBC’s Lester Holt asked the candidates for a show of hands as to who would abolish private health insurance altogether. Up shot Liz’s hand. Only New York’s mayor, the feckless Bill DeBlasio joined her. If the contest was a game of “Survivor” both would have thereby voted themselves off the island — except Big Bill was never really on the island, just circling around it like a wayward jellyfish blown hither and yon by Progressive winds.


The only “B” Team figure onstage who appeared to be a serious candidate was Hawaiian congressperson Tulsi Gabbard, a major in the US Army Reserve with tours-of-duty in Iraq and Kuwait — especially impressive when smacking down cretinous Ohio congressman Tim Ryan, who mistakenly asserted that the Taliban were behind 9/11. Uh, no, Tulsi informed him, it was al Qaeda (sponsored by our “friend” Saudi Arabia). I predict Tulsi will make the cut to the “A” team, despite the news media’s desperate efforts to shove her off the playing field.

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Jun 282019
 
 June 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Salvador Dali Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion 1930

 

56% Of Americans Are Lying Awake At Night Worrying About Money (MW)
America’s Monopoly Crisis Hits the Military (AC)
US Car Industry Is Killing Itself (WS)
Baoshang Bank Collapse Threatens China’s Economy (ABC.au)
Deutsche Bank Passes Fed Stress Test In Boost For Its US Operations (R.)
Paul Singer Warns A 40% Market Crash Is Coming (ZH)
US Gets No Commitment From NATO Allies For Help On Iran Threat (AP)
Boeing Hopes To Complete 737 MAX Software Fix In September (AP)
Large US Companies Are Getting Bigger While The Small Wither Away (MW)
CIA Finances Another Group of Fraudsters: the Venezuelan ‘Opposition’ (SCF)
Varoufakis: My Proposals Don’t Need Negotiation With Greece’s Creditors (A.)
The First Genetically Modified Animals Approved For US Consumption (AP)

 

 

Brought to you by the world’s richest country.

56% Of Americans Are Lying Awake At Night Worrying About Money (MW)

How are you sleeping lately? Some Americans are feeling uneasy. Consumer confidence fell to a two-year low in June, the Conference Board announced this week. It fell to 121.5 this month from a 131.3 in May. That’s the lowest level since September 2017. “The escalation in trade and tariff tensions earlier this month appears to have shaken consumers’ confidence,” Lynn Franco, senior director at the Conference Board, said in a statement. Continued uncertainty could “diminish” people’s confidence in the economic expansion, she added. Many people are living with wildly fluctuating income, a recent report from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System said.


“Volatile income and low savings can turn common experiences — such as waiting a few days for a bank deposit to be available — into a problem.” Despite unemployment hitting a 49-year low, plus low interest rates and inflation, people are feeling skittish. “A major trade war between the U.S. and China represents our greatest economic risk,” according to Lynn Reaser, chief economist of the Controller’s Council of Economic Advisors. All of these worries are taking their toll. 78% of adults are losing sleep over work, relationships, retirement and other worries, according to a study released Thursday by personal-finance site Bankrate.com. Over half (56%) of Americans are lying awake at night worrying about money.

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Can’t make anything anymore. And now there are plans to make Europe use US nukes…..

America’s Monopoly Crisis Hits the Military (AC)

Early this year, U.S. authorities filed criminal charges—including bank fraud, obstruction of justice, and theft of technology—against the largest maker of telecommunications equipment in the world, a Chinese giant named Huawei. Chinese dominance in telecom equipment has created a crisis among Western espionage agencies, who, fearful of Chinese spying, are attempting to prevent the spread of Huawei equipment worldwide, especially in the critical 5G next-generation mobile networking space. In response to the campaign to block the purchase of Huawei equipment, the company has engaged in a public relations offensive.

The company’s CEO, Ren Zhengfei, portrayed Western fears as an advertisement for its products, which are, he said, “so good that the U.S. government is scared.” There’s little question the Chinese government is interested in using equipment to spy. What is surprising is Zhengfei is right about the products. Huawei, a relatively new company in the telecom equipment space, has amassed top market share because its equipment—espionage vulnerabilities aside—is the best value on the market. In historical terms, this is a shocking turnaround. Americans invented the telephone business and until recently dominated production and research. But in the last 20 years, every single American producer of key telecommunication equipment sectors is gone.

Today, only two European makers—Ericsson and Nokia—are left to compete with Huawei and another Chinese competitor, ZTE. This story of lost American leadership and production is not unique. In fact, the destruction of America’s once vibrant military and commercial industrial capacity in many sectors has become the single biggest unacknowledged threat to our national security. Because of public policies focused on finance instead of production, the United States increasingly cannot produce or maintain vital systems upon which our economy, our military, and our allies rely. Huawei is just a particularly prominent example.

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Well, they can still make cars…

US Car Industry Is Killing Itself (WS)

The average age of passenger cars and trucks on the road in the US ticked up again in 2019, to another record of 11.8 years, IHS Markit reported today. When I entered the car business in 1985, the average age had just ticked up to 7.8 years, and the industry was fretting over it and thought the trend would have to reverse, and customers would soon come out of hiding and massively replace those old clunkers with new vehicles, and everyone would sell more and make more. But those industry hopes for a sustained reversal of the trend of the rising average age have been bitterly disappointed:

This rising average age is largely driven by vehicles lasting longer – an unintended consequence of relentless improvements in overall quality, forced upon automakers by finicky customers in an ultra-competitive market where automakers struggle to stay alive. To make it in the US, they have to constantly improve their products, and stragglers that can’t compete are left unceremoniously by the wayside. US consumers are brutal. This unintended consequence of rising overall quality contributes to the dreadful industry problem: The US, despite constant population growth, is a horribly mature auto market. In 1999, so 20 years ago, new vehicle sales reached a record of 16.9 million units.


This record was broken in 2000, with 17.3 million units. Then sales tapered off. By 2007, they’d dropped to 16.1 million units. Then the Financial Crisis hit, GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, Ford almost did, and peak-to-trough, sales plunged 40% to 10.4 million units by 2009. The recovery has been steep, and in 2015, finally the old record of the year 2000 was broken, but barely with 17.48 million units, and in 2016, the industry eked out another record of 17.55 million units. And that was it. Sales have fizzled since then. So far in 2019, the data indicates that sales are likely to fall below 17 million units, according to my own estimates, bringing the industry right back where it had been 20 years ago in 1999:

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Nothing a little QE won’t fix?!

Baoshang Bank Collapse Threatens China’s Economy (ABC.au)

Up until a few weeks ago the Baoshang Bank’s prospects seemed bright enough. According to Baoshing’s most recent regulatory filing, the smallish lender based in Inner-Mongolia, made a $600 million profit in 2017. It had assets of around $90 billion, non-performing loans were modest — under 2 per cent — and its capital buffers would fit comfortably with the global demands of a Tier1 bank. Then it collapsed. That set off a series of events rarely, if ever, seen in Chinese banking. Regulators seized Baoshang, the first action of its type since 1998. That may have shaken the foundations of Chinese banking, but of far greater significance was the collapse caused by China’s first recorded interbank default.

It is yet to be a “Lehman moment” — where the credit market freezes, banks stop lending to each other and the economy teeters above the abyss —but it has, as Societe Generale’s Wei Yao noted, “triggered severe liquidity tensions in the interbank market”. “The Baoshang incidence has challenged one fundamental belief of China’s financial system; interbank defaults are not possible thanks to 100 per cent implicit guarantees,” Ms Yao said. “Now that credit risks and counter-party risks have finally descended on this very core market in China’s financial system, all the key players in the system have to figure out how to price risks in the new paradigm, and quickly.”

Ms Yao said the understandable consequence was “a big and unpleasant wave of risk repricing”, with major banks shying away from doing business with smaller lenders. And that’s a worry, as small-to-medium sized banks combined have balance sheets as big as the big banks combined, but are far more dependent on interbank funding. The central bank (PBoC) immediately pumped around 600 billion yuan ($125 billion) into the system and halted a run on the banks by guaranteeing 100 per cent of all retail deposits.

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Not the Onion.

Deutsche Bank Passes Fed Stress Test In Boost For Its US Operations (R.)

Deutsche Bank’s shares rose as much as 4.8% on Friday after Germany’s biggest bank passed an annual health check by the U.S. Federal Reserve, in a boost to its Wall Street operations. But the Federal Reserve placed conditions on the U.S. operations of Credit Suisse, knocking its shares 1% lower after identifying weaknesses in its capital planning. The tests assess whether it is safe for banks to implement their capital plans, including using extra capital for stock buybacks, dividends and other purposes beyond providing a cushion against losses. They are designed to avoid a repeat of the taxpayer bailouts of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.


Deutsche Bank, whose U.S. business has been plagued by litigation, underperformance and regulatory investigations, topped the German bluechip index .GDAX in Frankfurt after its U.S. shares were up as much as 6% in after-the-bell trading on Thursday following the Fed’s news. The German bank maintained a large presence on Wall Street after the 2007-2009 financial crisis, while Credit Suisse made big cuts. But Deutsche’s efforts to compete with U.S. rivals have been hampered by litigation and regulatory investigations. Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Christian Sewing, who is battling to turn the bank around, said the Fed’s decision was “excellent news” in a memo to staff on its website. “Achieving success here was one of the key goals we set a year ago. It is a huge step forward for our business in the U.S. and globally. A strong operating platform in the Americas is essential to our clients,” he said.

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Lowballing.

Paul Singer Warns A 40% Market Crash Is Coming (ZH)

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, billionaire investor and Elliott Management founder, Paul Singer, warned that the global economy is heading toward a “significant market downturn” cautioning that “the global financial system is very much toward the risky end of the spectrum.” While Paul Singer’s traditionally downcast outlook is hardly surprising, as it permeates every investor letter published by the successful investor who has been particularly clear in the past decade that the Fed’s monetary experiment will end terribly, he sees two particular reasons why the economy is approaching a tipping point: “global debt is at an all-time high.

Derivatives are at an all-time high and it took all of this monetary easing to get to where we are today and I don’t think central bankers, or policymakers or academics are in any better shape to predict the next downturn and I think we are the high end of the risk spectrum.” He then ominously added that “I’m expecting the possibility of a significant market downturn.” How bad would the crash be? According to the Elliott Management CEO, there will be a market “correction” of 30% to 40% when the downturn hits, although unlike Goldman – which gave a timeline of 12 months in which the next major market will materialize, Singer said he couldn’t predict the timing.

In the panel discussion, Singer also said the market meltdown late last year after interest rates spiked in the 4th quarter was the first hint of a pending slump, as it indicated that the Federal Reserve and other central banks were now victims of their policies, something he has been warning about for years. “December supported the notion that they’re trapped,” he said. “What they should have done, and what they should do now, is try to restore the soundness of money. They should not be cutting rates right now. They should be calling on the congresses and parliaments around the developed world to take steps to deal with the economic slowdown in growth.”

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Europe likes Iran just the way it is.

US Gets No Commitment From NATO Allies For Help On Iran Threat (AP)

NATO allies gave the U.S. no firm commitments that they will participate in a global effort to secure international waterways against threats from Iran, acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday, wrapping up his first alliance meeting. Esper said the U.S. will come back next month and provide reluctant allies more details on exactly how the Iranian threat has escalated in recent months, and how nations can work together to deter further aggression. “At the end of the day what our ask is here, near term, is to publicly condemn Iran’s bad behavior,” Esper said as he prepared to leave Brussels. “And in the meantime, in order to avoid a military escalation, help us maintain the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, in the Persian Gulf and wherever.”


Esper, who didn’t have high expectations for firm commitments coming in, got little of either, though he said that some allies privately expressed interest in hearing more. Esper’s visit to NATO, just days after he took over at the Pentagon, came amid sharply increased tensions between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic. The Trump administration has blamed Iran for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, as well as bombings in Iraq. Iranian forces also shot down an American drone that it said had flown into its airspace, which the U.S. disputes. Earlier this week, as he headed to NATO, Esper said his goal was to persuade allies that the confrontation with Iran is a global challenge requiring an international response, and that it is “not Iran versus the United States.”

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“There are many families here who will not want to participate in mediation until they know what Boeing knew, when they knew it, what they did about it, and what they’re going to do about it..”

Boeing Hopes To Complete 737 MAX Software Fix In September (AP)

Boeing says it expects to finish work on updated flight-control software for the 737 Max in September, a sign that the troubled jet likely won’t be flying until late this year. The latest delay in fixing the Max came a day after the disclosure that government test pilots found a new technology flaw in the plane during a test on a flight simulator. The plane has been grounded since mid-March after two crashes that killed 346 people. Preliminary accident reports pointed to software that erroneously pointed the planes’ noses down and overpowered pilots’ efforts to regain control. A Boeing official said Thursday that the company expects to submit the software update to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval “in the September timeframe.”

Once Boeing submits its changes, the FAA is expected to take several weeks to analyze them, and airlines would need additional time to take their grounded Max jets out of storage and prepare them to fly again. Airlines were already lowering expectations for a quick return of the plane, which has been grounded since mid-March. Southwest Airlines, the biggest operator of Max jets, announced Thursday that it has taken the plane out of its schedule for another month, through Oct. 1. Earlier this week, United Airlines pulled the plane from its schedule through early September.

While Boeing engineers continue working on the plane’s software, company lawyers pushed Thursday to settle lawsuits brought by the families of dozens of passengers killed in the October crash of a Lion Air Max off the coast of Indonesia and the March crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max near Addis Ababa. Boeing and the families of Lion Air Flight 610 victims agreed to mediation that could lead to early settlements. However, the families of some Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 passengers are resisting mediation. “There are many families here who will not want to participate in mediation until they know what Boeing knew, when they knew it, what they did about it, and what they’re going to do about it to prevent this kind of disaster from occurring again,” said Robert Clifford, a Chicago lawyer who filed lawsuits on behalf of nearly two dozen victims of the Ethiopian crash.

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Concentrate.

Large US Companies Are Getting Bigger While The Small Wither Away (MW)

FTSE Russell will rebalance its suite of indexes at the close of trade Friday, and the changes will reflect several broad trends in equity markets over the past year, including the resilience of large-capitalization companies, the dismal performance of smaller U.S. firms, and the emergence of new, highly valued technology companies that promise to, or already have, revolutionized their respective industries. “We reconstitute the Russell indexes annually to accurately reflect equity markets,” said Catherine Yoshimoto, director of product management at FTSE Russell, in an interview. “All the companies are ranked by total market capitalization and the break point between the [large cap] Russell 1000 and [small cap] Russell 2000 are reset.”


The dividing line between the large cap index and the small fell this year, from a capitalization of $3.7 billion to $3.6 billion, as a result of the poor performance of small cap companies, which shrunk in average market capitalization from $2.5 trillion to $2.4 trillion, as the small cap index fell 6.3% over the past 12 months, versus a 7.5% rise in price for larger companies. Steven DeSanctis, equity strategist at Jefferies told MarketWatch that today’s environment — with rising labor costs, material costs and new trade barriers — is especially difficult for small companies to navigate. He estimates that earnings for Russell 2000 companies fell 14.5% in the first quarter of this year on 3.4% of sales growth, while the second quarter will likely show small-cap earnings falling 11.5%, on 3.6% of revenue growth. “Small cap companies are getting squeezed at the margin,” he said. “A lot of companies have revenue growth but falling profits.”

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The story gets uglier by the day.

CIA Finances Another Group of Fraudsters: the Venezuelan ‘Opposition’ (SCF)

Once again, the Central Intelligence Agency has been caught financing a group of grifters and fraudsters at the expense of the American taxpayers. In the latest case, just another in the agency’s 72-year history, the Trump administration-appointed ad hoc board of CITGO, the US subsidiary of the state-owned Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, stands accused of steering $70 million of escrowed funds, earmarked for PDVSA’s fiscal year 2020 bond, to the pockets of CIA-supported officials of the Venezuelan opposition “Popular Will” party headed by the so-called “interim president” of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó.

In addition to Guaidó, who is accused by the legitimate Venezuelan government of money laundering, treason, and corruption, other Popular Will leaders under investigation by both the Venezuelan Attorney General and the US Justice Department include Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó’s envoy in Washington; Rossana Barrera and Kevin Rojas, Guaidó’s emissaries in Cucuta, a Colombian-Venezuelan border town; Sergio Vargara, Barrera’s brother-in-law and a Member of the Venezuelan Congress; Guaidó’s “ambassador” to Colombia, Humberto Calderon Berti, opposition businessman Miguel Sabal; and Guaidó’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero. Over two dozen other Popular Will leaders are also under investigation for fraud involving money earmarked by the Trump administration, particularly Iran-Contra scandal felon and current Trump special envoy for regime change in Venezuela, Elliot Abrams.

Barrera and Rojas are accused of spending money given to the Popular Will by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), a longtime CIA financial pass-through, for “humanitarian relief” for alleged massive numbers of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia. The Popular Will grifters reportedly used the aid money, including that which was raised by Virgin Group’s billionaire founder and obvious CIA dupe Richard Branson, for expensive hotels, fancy restaurants, nightclubs, prostitutes, and clothing.

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Varoufakis is way ahead of his time. Elections July 7, but he’ll be lucky to get any seats at all.

Varoufakis: My Proposals Don’t Need Negotiation With Greece’s Creditors (A.)

– Reduction of the public debt with an embedded growth clause: the higher the national income, the more creditors will receive, and the reverse. Varoufakis said that this will force lenders to become partners in the recovery of Greece.

– Ending austerity by a drastic reduction of surpluses. Varoufakis said that Syriza and ND have pledged to return to the lenders the equivalent of at least 7,000 euros per capita each year from the so-called primary state surpluses. MeRA25 will unilaterally reduce these surpluses by 60-100 pct, depending on the recovery rate, he added.

– Abolition of obligatory prepayment of 100% of taxes, and capping the VAT rate at 18% for cash purchases, 15% for using a credit card. Reduction of corporate tax: e.g. from current 29 pct, to 26 pct for large businesses, 20 pct for medium-sized ones and 15 pct for small businesses; capping profits on SMEs at 50 pct tax (currently at 75 pct).

– Public extra-bank reliant payment system allowing free digital transactions among citizens, businesses and the state, benefitting all: e.g. by mutual debt cancellation, tax deductions, funding of anti-poverty programs, reducting the hold of private banks and the European Central Bank on citizens and state alike.

– Establishment of a public management company of private debt, so that non-performing loans (NPLs) are transferred from banks to this organisation, in exchange for government guarantees not counted towards public debt. In addition, a ban on loan sales, foreclosure auctions, especially of primary residences and small businesses.

– Inclusion under the Foundation of Social Insurance (IKA) of all freelancers who work more than 8 hours a week for the same employer. Incentives towards start-up entrepreneurs with a 5-year exemption from taxes and insurance contributions.

– Conversion of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund to a Development Bank, abolition of all privatizations, and use of public property as collateral to create investment flows in the public sector; the new bank’s shares will be owned by insurance funds, boosting their capitalization.

Yanis Varoufakis insisted that these measures would be implemented without negotiation with Greece’s lenders and financial institutions, and underlined that the creditors might react by bringing back GRexit scenarios. In this case, which he ruled out, “it will cost them 1 trillion euros.” “If we continue to apply Syriza’s fourth memorandum there will be no young people left in our country,” concluded Varoufakis, who also reiterated that his party will not give a vote of confidence to either Syriza or New Democracy, but will nevertheless support any bill it considers fair.

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Mass suicide.

The First Genetically Modified Animals Approved For US Consumption (AP)

Inside an Indiana aquafarming complex, thousands of salmon eggs genetically modified to grow faster than normal are hatching into tiny fish. After growing to roughly 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) in indoor tanks, they could be served in restaurants by late next year. The salmon produced by AquaBounty are the first genetically modified animals approved for human consumption in the U.S. They represent one way companies are pushing to transform the plants and animals we eat, even as consumer advocacy groups call for greater caution. AquaBounty hasn’t sold any fish in the U.S. yet, but it says its salmon may first turn up in places like restaurants or university cafeterias, which would decide whether to tell diners that the fish are genetically modified.

“It’s their customer, not ours,” said Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty’s CEO. To produce its fish, Aquabounty injected Atlantic salmon with DNA from other fish species that make them grow to full size in about 18 months, which could be about twice as fast as regular salmon. The company says that’s more efficient since less feed is required. The eggs were shipped to the U.S. from the company’s Canadian location last month after clearing final regulatory hurdles.

As AquaBounty worked through years of government approvals, several grocers including Kroger and Whole Foods responded to a campaign by consumer groups with a vow to not sell the fish. Already, most corn and soy in the U.S. is genetically modified to be more resistant to pests and herbicides. But as genetically modified salmon make their way to dinner plates, the pace of change to the food supply could accelerate. This month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to simplify regulations for genetically engineered plants and animals. The move comes as companies are turning to a newer gene-editing technology that makes it easier to tinker with plant and animal DNA.

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Jun 272019
 


Pablo Picasso The rescue 1936

 

Facebook May Pose a Greater Danger Than Wall Street (TD)
Trump Praising Stock Market Is Like Bush Praising Housing In 2006 (Colombo)
President Xi, Still the Deglobalizer in Chief… (Setser)
Trump Demands Withdrawal Of India’s ‘Unacceptable’ Tariff Hike (R.)
New 737 MAX Software Glitch Results In “Uncontrollable Nosedives” (ZH)
Airlines, Regulators Meet To Discuss Boeing 737 MAX Un-Grounding Efforts (R.)
United Airlines Extends 737 MAX Cancellations Until Sept. 3 (G.)
Germany, Italy, Korea, Japan Face Workforce Collapse By 2050 (ZH)
Boris Johnson: Odds Of No-Deal Brexit Are ‘A Million-To-One Against’ (G.)
Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange (Nils Melzer)

 

 

I’m not going to watch a ‘debate’ led by Rachel Maddow (hence no credibility) filled with also-rans, not even to join Matt Taibbi’s drinking games. Liz Warren will go through, but I understand the clear winner was Tulsi Gabbard (as the graphs show), the only anti-war Democrat, though MSNBC et al do what they can to deny that. The whole circus is exclusively goal-seeked. The DNC wants to control the entire process. Yes, just like they did in 2015-16. Big success.

 

 

China dominates payment technology. A big threat to western banks, and Visa, Paypal.

Facebook May Pose a Greater Danger Than Wall Street (TD)

Payments can happen cheaply and easily without banks or credit card companies, as has already been demonstrated—not in the United States but in China. Unlike in the U.S., where numerous firms feast on fees from handling and processing payments, in China most money flows through mobile phones nearly for free. In 2018 these cashless payments totaled a whopping $41.5 trillion; and 90% were through Alipay and WeChat Pay, a pair of digital ecosystems that blend social media, commerce and banking. According to a 2018 article in Bloomberg titled “Why China’s Payment Apps Give U.S. Bankers Nightmares”:

The nightmare for the U.S. financial industry is that a technology company—whether from China or a homegrown juggernaut such as Amazon.com Inc. or Facebook Inc.—replicates the success of Alipay and WeChat in America. The stakes are enormous, potentially carving away billions of dollars in annual revenue from major banks and other firms. That threat may now be materializing. On June 18, Facebook unveiled a white paper outlining ambitious plans to create a new global cryptocurrency called Libra, to be launched in 2020. Facebook reportedly has high hopes that Libra will become the foundation for a new financial system free of control by Wall Street power brokers and central banks.

But apparently Libra will not be competing with Visa or Mastercard. In fact, the Libra Association lists those two giants among its 28 soon-to-be founding members. Others include Paypal, Stripe, Uber, Lyft and eBay. Facebook has reportedly courted dozens of financial institutions and other tech companies to join the Libra Association, an independent foundation that will contribute capital and help govern the digital currency. Entry barriers are high, with each founding member paying a minimum of $10 million to join. This gives them one vote (or 1% of the total vote, whichever is larger) in the Libra Association council. Members are also entitled to a share proportionate to their investment of the dividends earned from interest on the Libra reserve p- the money that users will pay to acquire the Libra currency.

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“..since 1952, household wealth has averaged 384% of the GDP, so the current bubble’s 535% figure is in rarefied territory.”

Trump Praising Stock Market Is Like Bush Praising Housing In 2006 (Colombo)

Imagine, theoretically, if President George W. Bush was praising the U.S. housing bubble as it inflated in the mid-2000s while saying extremely arrogant and cocky things like “I’m making you all rich!” and “Thank you, Mr. President!“ Then, the housing bubble bursts and causes the most severe recession since the Great Depression. Well, that’s basically what President Trump is doing when he praises the soaring stock market.

Trump himself even called the stock market a “big, fat, ugly bubble” when he was on the campaign trail in 2016. He changed his tune immediately after he won the election. The Fed’s aggressive inflation of the U.S. financial markets has created a massive bubble in household wealth. U.S. household wealth is extremely inflated relative to the GDP: since 1952, household wealth has averaged 384% of the GDP, so the current bubble’s 535% figure is in rarefied territory. The dot-com bubble peaked with household wealth hitting 450% of GDP, while household wealth reached 486% of GDP during the housing bubble. Unfortunately, the coming household wealth crash will be proportional to the run-up.

To make matters worse, Goldman Sachs’ very accurate Bear Market Risk Indicator has been at its highest level since the early-1970s:

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How much of this is due to a -feared- lack of USD?

President Xi, Still the Deglobalizer in Chief… (Setser)

Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute has argued that China is getting a leg up by, well, cutting tariffs for the world even as it raises tariffs on the United States. That’s certainly true, even if the tariff cuts are modest relative to the increase in tariffs on the United States. But, in my view, it is also only part of the story. China naturally imports commodities, and it recently has tilted its commodity imports away from the United States (beans, oil, lobster, and so on). But diverting your commodity imports away from a commercial rival is pretty much standard trade strategy: to my personal chagrin the United States always retaliates against French wine and cheese in trade disputes with Europe.


The real issue, I think, is whether or not China is prepared to open up—for real—to non-American manufactured goods in order to squeeze the United States out of a big and growing potential market for U.S. made goods. And there, I just don’t see the evidence. When it comes to manufactures, China is actually importing less from everyone right now—even with the (quite modest) tariff cuts. Best I can tell that isn’t just a function of the fact that China is also exporting less, or a result of the global fall in semiconductor prices. As the chart shows, it is true if you take out electronics imports, and it is true if you take out “processing” imports (imports for re-export).

And it isn’t a new story either. I would argue that China under Xi has deglobalized more than the United States under Trump. Imports, broadly speaking, should normally grow with a country’s GDP. During the globalization or hyper globalization era, they grew more rapidly than GDP. After the crisis, they have basically grown with GDP in most countries. But import growth, in dollars, has lagged dollar GDP growth in China over the last eight years. Even when import growth was surprisingly strong in 2017 and 2018, it only matched dollar GDP growth.


The fall in imports vs. GDP is deglobalization in my view. And with China you can adjust for imports that are (mostly) for re-export by netting out processing imports to try to get a measure of what’s happening to imports that are directed primarily at meeting China’s own demand. To make a good-looking graph, I took the ratio of growth in (non-processing) manufacturing imports to the growth in China’s nominal GDP from the end of 2012. And for the United States, I looked at manufactured imports after taking out imports of refined petroleum (the U.S. is clearly “deglobalizing” when it comes to imports of petrol).

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Yeah, let’s battle China and India at the same time. That’s almost ten times the US population.

Trump Demands Withdrawal Of India’s ‘Unacceptable’ Tariff Hike (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday demanded India withdraw retaliatory tariffs imposed by New Delhi this month, calling the duties “unacceptable” in a stern message that signals trade ties between the two countries are fast deteriorating. India slapped higher duties on 28 U.S. products after the United States withdrew tariff-free entry for certain Indian goods. Washington is also upset with New Delhi’s plans to restrict cross-border data flows and impose stricter rules on e-commerce that hurt U.S. firms operating in India. “I look forward to speaking with Prime Minister Modi about the fact that India, for years having put very high tariffs against the United States, just recently increased the tariffs even further,” Trump said on Twitter.


“This is unacceptable and the tariffs must be withdrawn!” said Trump, who will meet Modi at this week’s G20 summit in Japan. Government sources rejected Trump’s argument, saying Indian tariffs were not that high compared to other developing countries and U.S. tariffs on some items were much higher. India’s trade ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters email seeking comment. Trump’s tweet came hours after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left New Delhi after meeting Modi. Pompeo had said the nations were “friends who can help each other all around the world” and the current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship”.

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Time for a very big reset. Or Ralph Nader may get his wish and the 737MAX will never fly again.

New 737 MAX Software Glitch Results In “Uncontrollable Nosedives” (ZH)

Maybe Boeing will finally think twice before cutting corners and slashing costs on planes it hopes will become the standard in commercial air travel. Then again, maybe not. With Boeing’s fleet of 737 MAX planes indefinitely grounded after unexpected problems with the MCAS system costs hundreds of people their lives in two fatal crashes, tests on the grounded planes revealed a new, and unrelated safety risk in the computer system for the Boeing 737 Max that could push the plane downward the FAA announced; the discovery could lead to further lengthy delays before the aircraft is allowed return to service.

A series of simulator flights to test new software developed by Boeing revealed the flaw, a source told CNN. In simulator tests, government pilots discovered that a microprocessor failure could push the nose of the plane toward the ground. It is not known whether the microprocessor played a role in either crash. While the original crashes remain under investigation, preliminary reports showed that “a new stabilization system pushed both planes into steep nosedives from which the pilots could not recover.” The issue is known in aviation circles as runaway stabilizer trim.

“The FAA recently found a potential risk that Boeing must mitigate,” the agency said in an emailed statement on Wednesday, without providing any specifics. While the latest glitch is separate from, and did not involve the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System linked to the two fatal accidents since October that killed 346 people, it could produce an uncommanded dive similar to what occurred in the crashes, Bloomberg confirmed, also citing an unnamed source..

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Regulators are scared. They have every right to.

Airlines, Regulators Meet To Discuss Boeing 737 MAX Un-Grounding Efforts (R.)

Airlines and regulators are gathering at a closed-door summit in Montreal on Wednesday to exchange views on steps needed for a safe and coordinated return of Boeing Co’s grounded 737 MAX jets to the skies following two deadly crashes. The meeting, organized by industry trade group the International Air Transport Association (IATA), comes as airlines grapple with the financial impact of a global grounding of nearly 400 737 MAX jets that has lasted three months. Boeing, the world’s largest planemaker, has yet to formally submit proposed 737 MAX software and training updates to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which will kick-start a re-certification process that could take weeks.


IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac has said “shoring up trust among regulators and improving coordination” within an industry that grounded the MAX planes on different dates in March would be priorities at Wednesday’s summit. It is the second such meeting organized by IATA. China was first to ground the MAX after a March 10 crash in Ethiopia within five months of a similar crash off Indonesia, killing a combined 346 people, while the United States and Canada were the last. Regulators including Transport Canada, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and the FAA will join airlines at the meeting, representatives from the authorities told Reuters. Once regulators approve the MAX for flight, airlines must remove the jets from storage and implement new pilot training, a process that will differ for each airline but that U.S. carriers have said will take at least one month.

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Sept. 3 of what year?

United Airlines Extends 737 MAX Cancellations Until Sept. 3 (G.)

United Airlines has become the latest carrier to extend its ban on using the Boeing 737 Max after the US aviation regulator said it had identified a new potential risk with the plane. As the Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday that Boeing must address the new issue before the jet can return to service, United joined American and Southwest in continuing to ground the plane through August. United said it would not use the plane until 3 September, forcing the cancellation of 1,900 scheduled flights with the planes which have been grounded due to two deadly crashes within five months.


The risk was discovered during a simulator test last week but it was not yet clear if the issue can be addressed with a software upgrade or will require a more complex hardware fix, sources told Reuters. The FAA did not elaborate on the latest setback for Boeing, which has been working to get its best-selling airplane back in the air following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. The new issue means Boeing will not conduct a certification test flight until 8 July at the earliest, the sources said, and the FAA will spend at least two to three weeks reviewing the results before deciding whether to return the plane to service.

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A big problem well before 2050. How are they going to organize pensions for people now 35-40 years old?

Germany, Italy, Korea, Japan Face Workforce Collapse By 2050 (ZH)

Forget the trade war, debt, deflation, automation, and artificial intelligence: one of the most significant threats to the global economy and the future of the world as we know it is demographics. A new OECD report, published by International Business Times, said Korea, Japan, Germany, and Italy could see their working-age populations decline to dangerously low levels by 2050. The report took each OECD country’s population between the ages of 20 and 64 in the year 2000 as a base and was able to project the 2050 population. What they discovered was the working class population by 2050 would be 80% of its base year in Korea and Italy.

In Japan, the workforce population would be much worse, approximately 60% of its original size. For the OECD as a whole, there are about 34 countries from around the world, the size of the working age population is expected to increase by 111% of its original size by 2050. Much of the growth will be driven by stable birth rates and growing populations, like Australia and Turkey. The OECD noted that Japan’s working-age population has been in collapse for nearly three decades. Korea’s working-age population was expanding until just recently but is expected to begin contracting this year.

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Based on new talks, which the EU will not tolerate.

Boris Johnson: Odds Of No-Deal Brexit Are ‘A Million-To-One Against’ (G.)

Boris Johnson has said the chances of a no-deal Brexit are a “million-to-one against”, despite promising to leave on 31 October whether or not he has managed to strike a new agreement with the European Union. Johnson, the frontrunner to be prime minister, told a hustings that the chances of a no-deal Brexit were vanishingly small, as he believed there was a mood in the EU and among MPs to pass a new Brexit deal. “It is absolutely vital that we prepare for a no-deal Brexit if we are going to get a deal,” he said. “But I don’t think that is where we are going to end up – I think it is a million-to-one against – but it is vital that we prepare.”

He said there was a new feeling of “common sense breaking out” among MPs in favour of passing a deal, despite many of his Eurosceptic backers believing he is readying himself for a no deal Brexit. It comes just a day after he promised in a TalkRadio interview to leave the EU on 31 October “come what may, do or die”, raising fears among moderate Tory MPs and opposition parties that he was intending to push through a no-deal Brexit. The EU has repeatedly said it will not revisit Theresa May’s withdrawal deal and experts are severely sceptical that a new prime minister can secure any changes to the controversial Northern Ireland backstop hated by Eurosceptics by the end of October.

Many of Johnson’s Eurosceptic backers are convinced that he will push through a no-deal Brexit by simply ignoring the will of parliament, where a cross-party group of MPs are planning to try everything possible to block this possibility. However, Johnson was supremely confident that he could secure a new deal with the EU that would satisfy parliament. He played down the idea that he would simply sideline parliament or prorogue it in order to secure a departure on 31 October, but did not entirely rule it out. “I’m not attracted to archaic devices like proroguing,” he said.

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By Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture: “This Op-Ed has been offered for publication to the Guardian, The Times, the Financial Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, the Canberra Times, the Telegraph, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Newsweek. None responded positively.”

Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange (Nils Melzer)

In the end it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide. And thus, a legal precedent is being set, through the backdoor of our own complacency, which in the future can and will be applied just as well to disclosures by The Guardian, the New York Times and ABC News.

Very well, you may say, but what does slander have to do with torture? Well, this is a slippery slope. What may look like mere «mudslinging» in public debate, quickly becomes “mobbing” when used against the defenseless, and even “persecution” once the State is involved. Now just add purposefulness and severe suffering, and what you get is full-fledged psychological torture. Yes, living in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard may seem like a sweet deal when you believe the rest of the lies. But when no one remembers the reason for the hate you endure, when no one even wants to hear the truth, when neither the courts nor the media hold the powerful to account, then your refuge really is but a rubber boat in a shark-pool, and neither your cat nor your skateboard will save your life.

Even so, you may say, why spend so much breath on Assange, when countless others are tortured worldwide? Because this is not only about protecting Assange, but about preventing a precedent likely to seal the fate of Western democracy. For once telling the truth has become a crime, while the powerful enjoy impunity, it will be too late to correct the course. We will have surrendered our voice to censorship and our fate to unrestrained tyranny.

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