Mar 072019
 


Edward Hopper Le Bistro or The Wine Shop 1909

 

US Credit Card Debt Rises to Record $870 Billion (ET)
Fed Scraps ‘Qualitative’ Test For US Banks In 2019 Stress Tests (R.)
Beware The ‘Japanification’ Of Europe – ING Economists (MW)
Huawei Hits Back, Sues America, Claims US Hacked Its Servers (Age)
Nadler’s ‘Obstruction’ Quest (WSJ Ed.)
Michael Cohen Asked His Former Lawyer To Seek Pardon From Trump (WSJ)
Democrats Bar Fox From Hosting Primary Candidate Debates (AFP)
EU Urges UK To Offer ‘Acceptable’ Brexit Plan (BBC)
Brexit Meaningful Vote Will Go Ahead, Says No 10 (G.)
Monthly Income Lasts Just 19 Days For Over Half of Greek Households (K.)
Italy’s Welfare Revolution Kicks Off As ‘Citizens’ Income’ Goes Live (R.)
Red Wolf: The Struggle To Save One Of The Rarest Animals On Earth (G.)
China Prosecutes 11 People In $119 Million Totoaba Fish Bust (AFP)
Microplastics Found ‘Absolutely Everywhere’ (G.)

 

 

Let’s wind it down in an orderly fashion and call it a day. This is hopeless.

US Credit Card Debt Rises to Record $870 Billion (ET)

Americans expanded their credit card debt by $26 billion in the last quarter of 2018, making it reach $870 billion—a record. “The increase in credit card balances is consistent with seasonal patterns but marks the first time credit card balances re-touched the 2008 peak,” the Federal Reserve Bank of New York stated in a quarterly report (pdf) released Feb. 12. The credit card debt rose for the 24th consecutive quarter; and balances sliding into 90 or more days of delinquency have increased since 2017. Total household debt increased by $32 billion in the last quarter and finished the year at more than $13.5 trillion. The largest chunk of that sum is mortgages at $9.1 trillion—virtually unchanged from the quarter before. Student loans stood at nearly $1.5 trillion and auto loans at almost $1.3 trillion.

Americans hold about 480 million credit cards, which is about 100 million more than in 2010, but still a bit fewer than at the precipice of the 2008 recession. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of growth in the world’s largest economy and is expected to hold strong this year. However, credit inquiries, which are one sign of consumer demand, slipped in the second half of 2018 to the lowest level recorded by the New York Fed. Another signal of weaker demand, the closing of credit cards and other accounts, jumped to its highest level since 2010. [..] The report also showed that Americans have continued to turn away from home equity lines of credit, or HELOC, which can free up funds for other purchases. HELOC balances dropped to $412 billion in the fourth quarter, the lowest level in 14 years.

Read more …

And while we’re at it let’s scrap the Fed.

Fed Scraps ‘Qualitative’ Test For US Banks In 2019 Stress Tests (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve said on Wednesday it would no longer flunk banks based on operational or risk management lapses during its annual health check of the country’s domestic banks. The “qualitative” portion of the 2019 test, however, will still apply to the U.S. subsidiaries of five foreign banks subject to the annual exam. The move, which is a big win for major banks, such as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan, Bank of America and Citigroup, forms part of a broader effort by the Fed to overhaul its annual “stress-testing” process, which the industry has long criticized as too onerous and opaque. Since the 2007-09 global financial crisis, the Fed has put the country’s lenders through strict annual tests to see whether they would have enough capital to withstand a major economic downturn.

For the largest lenders, that test also included a so-called “qualitative objection,” that gives the Fed the discretion to fail banks due to risk management or operational failures, even if they have sufficient capital. Most banks that have failed the tests in the past stumbled on the qualitative objection. Banks that receive an objection from the Fed are required to adjust their capital distribution plans. [..] The Fed will still examine domestic banks for operational and risk management problems, but will address them through enforcement actions rather than a public flunking. The U.S. subsidiaries of five foreign lenders – Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, UBS, Barclays and TD Bank – would also still be subject to the qualitative objection.

Read more …

And scrap the ECB and BOJ too. Their only goal is to preserve zombies.

BTW, does anyone seriously think it’s not too late yet for Europe? Asking for a friend.

Beware The ‘Japanification’ Of Europe – ING Economists (MW)

The eurozone is beginning to resemble Japan with its low-growth and low-inflation environment, coupled with still very loose monetary policy, according to economists at ING. This raises questions about the European Central Bank’s tool kit and firing power. Interest rates haven’t gone up in either the eurozone or Japan since the aftermath of the global financial crisis. Conversely, the Federal Reserve has raised rates nine times since the crisis years, presumably giving it room to cut them again should the economy need a boost. The Bank of Japan is considered the most hesitant of its peers to normalize monetary policy. And already since the mid-1990s, Japan has been struggling with a high public debt ratio and stubbornly low inflation and growth rates.

None of that bodes well for a hawkish central bank approach. The eurozone looks like it entered a similar trend of late, said ING economists Carsten Brzeski and Inga Fechner, one day ahead of the European Central Bank’s next policy update. “An end to current unconventional monetary policy, i.e. the negative deposit rate and ample liquidity, is not insight and the ECB is expected to do everything it can to avoid an unwarranted tightening of its monetary stance.” “Last year, Japan’s debt-to-GDP ratio stood at 238%, and since 1994, headline inflation has been negative for almost half of the time. This trend has also emerged in the eurozone in recent years,” said Brzeski and Fechner, pointing at Greece, as well as Spain and Italy, in the aftermath of the European sovereign debt crisis. Though deflationary risks have disappeared in the eurozone, consumer prices haven’t exactly been soaring.

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The power of US intelligence.

Huawei Hits Back, Sues America, Claims US Hacked Its Servers (Age)

Huawei has accused the US of hacking its computers in a defiant press conference where the Chinese telecommunications giant announced it had taken legal action in a Texas court to overturn a US ban. Huawei’s rotating chairman Guo Ping said in China that the US Congress had failed to produce any evidence to justify its ban which prevents US agencies, private companies that deal with US agencies and recipients of US loans or grants from using Huawei’s gear. The Trump Administration has accused Huawei of being a national security risk because it was a tool of the Chinese government. But Guo fired back, saying the US “has hacked our servers and stolen our emails and source code”.

“Despite this, the US has never produced any evidence supporting their allegations that Huawei poses a cyber security threat.” He added: “The US is trying to block us from 5G markets in other countries.” Guo said that a section of the US National Defense Authorisation Act that names Huawei not only damages the company’s reputation but stops Huawei from servicing customers outside the US. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has publicly urged other countries, particularly in Europe, to ban Huawei from 5G if they want to continue to deal with the US. Germany and Britain are due to make decisions this month.

Read more …

They’ll simply shift from collusion to -now- obstruction to yet another term. Just as long as it takes.

Nadler’s ‘Obstruction’ Quest (WSJ Ed.)

Well, we’re off on the march to impeachment, as we predicted last year even as Democrats said it wasn’t on their minds. With Chairman Jerry Nadler’s subpoena swarm from House Judiciary this week, and his assertions that President Trump obstructed justice, the articles of impeachment are apparently awaiting only the collection of the readily available details to fill in the blanks. “Do you think the President obstructed justice?” asked ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday. “Yes, I do,” replied Mr. Nadler. “It’s very clear that the President obstructed justice. It’s very clear—1,100 times he referred to the Mueller investigation as a witch hunt, he tried to—he fired—he tried to protect [Michael] Flynn from being investigated by the FBI. He fired [FBI director Jim] Comey in order to stop the Russian thing, as he told NBC News.”

Credit Mr. Nadler for candor that Democrats didn’t display when they campaigned last year. Then they talked only about holding the President “accountable.” Now they claim they already have enough to impeach Mr. Trump, though as Mr. Nadler admitted Sunday, “you have to persuade enough of the opposition party voters, Trump voters . . . that you’re not just trying to steal the last—to reverse the results of the last election.” That may be harder than he imagines, and not only because of Mr. Nadler’s Freudian slip there of “steal.” Based on the public evidence so far, Mr. Trump hasn’t obstructed justice in any of the examples Mr. Nadler cited. Mr. Nadler wants to turn the President’s exercise of his normal constitutional powers into impeachable offenses.

The case against Mr. Nadler’s obstruction theory has been made in these pages by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and appellate lawyer and our contributor David Rivkin. Attorney General William Barr also made the case in his 2018 memo to the Justice Department when he was still in private life. A President can obstruct justice while in office but only if he is committing a per se illegal offense. That is, if he suborns perjury or destroys evidence, or commits “any act deliberately impairing the integrity or availability of evidence,” as Mr. Barr put it. Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton committed such acts in Mr. Barr’s view, but Mr. Trump has not as far as we can see.

On the other hand, a President cannot obstruct justice when he takes actions that are consistent with his Article II powers under the Constitution. That includes in particular firing inferior executive-branch officers such as Mr. Comey. Such acts may be politically stupid, but they aren’t obstruction.

Read more …

Less than 100% truthful.

Michael Cohen Asked His Former Lawyer To Seek Pardon From Trump (WSJ)

Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for President Donald Trump, directed his attorney last spring to inquire about the possibility of a presidential pardon, weeks after federal agents raided his properties, Cohen’s lawyer said Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Stephen Ryan, Cohen’s attorney at the time, discussed the possibility of a pardon with lawyers for Trump in the weeks after the Federal Bureau of Investigation in April raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. The president’s lawyers, including Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani and Joanna Hendon, dismissed the idea of a pardon at the time, people familiar with the discussions said.

But at least one of them, Giuliani, left open the possibility that the president could grant Cohen one in the future, they said. In testimony before the House Oversight Committee last week, Cohen said: “I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from Mr. Trump.” Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, said Wednesday that in the months after the FBI raid, Cohen was open to a pardon from the president. “During that time period, he directed his attorney to explore possibilities of a pardon at one point with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani as well as other lawyers advising President Trump,” Davis said. He referred to the discussions with the president’s lawyers as the “ongoing ‘dangling’ of a possible pardon.”

Read more …

It’s all about money, nothing else.

Democrats Bar Fox From Hosting Primary Candidate Debates (AFP)

The Democratic Party said Wednesday it will not allow Fox News to host any of its primary candidate debates, after published revelations suggested the network is a “propaganda” vehicle for President Donald Trump. National Committee (DNC) chairman Tom Perez said a story in this week’s New Yorker magazine on the White House’s apparently close relationship with the channel prompted the decision. “Just to be clear, Fox News will not serve as a media partner for the 2020 Democratic primary debates,” Perez said on Twitter. “Recent reporting in the New Yorker on the inappropriate relationship between President Trump, his administration and Fox News has led me to conclude that the network is not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates,” he added in a statement to The Washington Post.

News of the move enraged Trump, who suggested on Twitter he would “do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats” — despite having no authority over Republican debate broadcasting rights. Trump often refers to CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and MSNBC as “fake news.” US presidential debate and primary debate broadcast rights are coveted prizes for American media outlets. The events traditionally draw broad viewership, and the series of debates beginning this year – aimed at winnowing the Democratic field of over a dozen candidates – will likely have large television audiences.

Read more …

I’m thinking if they haven’t so far, what are the odds?

EU Urges UK To Offer ‘Acceptable’ Brexit Plan (BBC)

The UK has been urged to table fresh proposals within the next 48 hours to break the Brexit impasse. EU officials said they would work non-stop over the weekend if “acceptable” ideas were received by Friday to break the deadlock over the Irish backstop. The UK has said “reasonable” proposals to satisfy MPs’ concerns about being tied to EU rules had already been made. It comes as Jeremy Corbyn has met with Tory MPs to discuss possible alternatives to the PM’s deal. The Labour leader held talks with ex-Tory minister Nick Boles and Sir Oliver Letwin, who favour a closer, Norway-style relationship with the EU.

He said he had discussed the so-called “Common Market 2.0 option” – which would see the UK remain in the EU’s single market by staying part of the European Economic Area – but would not commit to backing it at this stage. There have been few visible signs of progress ahead of Parliament’s second vote on the Brexit deal next Tuesday. MPs emphatically rejected the terms of withdrawal negotiated by Theresa May in January. If they do so again, they will get to choose between leaving without a deal or deferring the UK’s exit date from the EU beyond the scheduled 29 March. The PM is seeking legally-enforceable changes to the backstop – an insurance policy designed to prevent physical checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Read more …

Telegraph today: “Brexit deal ‘will be defeated by 100 votes’, ministers believe, after talks in Brussels collapse..”

Brexit Meaningful Vote Will Go Ahead, Says No 10 (G.)

Downing Street has insisted the meaningful vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal will go ahead as promised on Tuesday, despite negotiations in Brussels stumbling. The prime minister’s spokesman repeated the line on Wednesday that the government is determined to secure “legally binding changes” to the Irish backstop, despite the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, returning empty-handed from the talks. Shortly before leaving Brussels, he conceded “strong views” had been expressed during three hours of “robust” discussions. Downing Street said the talks had been “difficult”, but stressed the vote would take place on Tuesday, as committed by May.

If it is lost, MPs will vote on successive days on whether to block a no-deal Brexit and whether to extend the departure date. With it increasingly being assumed No 10 will not secure significant EU concessions on the backstop, May is expected to try to sell her plan to MPs and the public later in the week, potentially with a speech. There are no plans as yet for the prime minister or Cox to return to Brussels, but it is understood this could happen if required. Sunday night is the final deadline for any changes, as the government needs to publish and print copies of deal documents on Monday, and publish the motion MPs will then vote on.

[..] Cabinet ministers are pessimistic about the prospects of wooing enough waverers in parliament to win the second meaningful vote. May will then come under intense pressure to offer MPs a free vote on a no-deal Brexit, with her cabinet deeply divided. The opportunity to vote on this was only secured after scores of frontbenchers made it clear they were willing to resign, and the cabinet ministers Amber Rudd, Greg Clark and David Gauke wrote to the Daily Mail rejecting the idea of a no-deal departure.Senior EU diplomats said the bloc’s deputy chief negotiator, Sabine Weyand, offered a “gloomy” analysis of the talks. According to a diplomatic note, Weyand told the ambassadors: “Cox’s asks are going well beyond where Barnier can go.”

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“..49.1 percent of households have a main pension as their primary source of income..”

Monthly Income Lasts Just 19 Days For Over Half of Greek Households (K.)

The Greek economy’s scars from the decade-long financial crisis and the internal devaluation are more than obvious. Despite the slight improvement in certain income-related indexes, three in 10 households get by on an annual income of less than 10,000 euros, while pensions comprise the main source of income for almost half of all households, according to a survey published on Wednesday by the Institute of Small Enterprises of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (GSEVEE). In this first survey after the completion of the bailout programs, GSEVEE found that 43.9 percent of households reported a decline in their incomes last year compared to 2017.

Almost half of the households surveyed (48.9 percent) reported income stability, up from one in three (35.6 percent) in 2017, while 7.1 percent said they had seen an increase, up from just 2 percent in 2017. At the same time, the share of households on an annual income of less than 10,000 euros remained quite high, at 31.7 percent, against 34.2 percent in 2017. The biggest income bracket is that of households with earnings of between 10,000 and 18,000 euros per year, accounting for 39.8 percent in 2018 against 37.5 percent in 2017. This illustrates the shift of a number of households that were in the bottom bracket to a higher one; however, it also points to declines in the incomes of some households that in 2017 had been in the over-18,000 euros per annum bracket.

The bulk of Greek households find themselves in the bottom two income tiers. More than one in eight (12.7 percent) households say their incomes do not suffice to cover their basic needs, and more than half (52.5 percent) say their monthly income is not enough to carry them through all 30 days, sufficing instead for an average of just 19 days per month. All this is explained by the fact that 49.1 percent of households have a main pension as their primary source of income, even if that has been significantly reduced in recent years.

Read more …

Neoliberalism is killing the EU as a project, maybe not in Germany, but certainly in Italy and Greece. Still, labeling a basic income project ‘welfare’ is leading, Reuters.

Italy’s Welfare Revolution Kicks Off As ‘Citizens’ Income’ Goes Live (R.)

Italy’s flagship welfare reform kicked off in busy but orderly fashion on Wednesday as thousands of poor and unemployed people applied in post offices and tax assistance centers for the “citizens’ income” scheme. The populist 5-Star Movement, which governs with the right-wing League and has long promoted the measure, hopes it will lift its flagging fortunes ahead of European Parliament elections in May. Despite a steady flow of applicants, warnings of chaos and long queues proved misplaced, as many people appeared to heed advice not to sign up on the scheme’s first day.

“This is so helpful, it will give me some breathing space to get to the end of each month,” said 36-year-old Svetlana Guerra as she left a small tax assistance center (CAF) in a densely populated quarter of south-eastern Rome. Guerra, a Ukrainian-born widow who has lived in Italy for 19 years and survives thanks to odd jobs paid under the counter, said she expected the citizens’ income to give her about 280 euros ($315) per month to help her pay her rent. Guerra is one of millions struggling to make ends meet in a country in its third recession in 10 years and where the economy has barely grown since the start of the century.

Italians in absolute poverty, defined as not having enough money to buy a basket of basic goods and services, rose to 5.1 million in 2017, according to statistics office ISTAT. That is a more than threefold increase in a decade. Italy has traditionally had a generous pension system and offered limited-term state benefits for those laid off from work, but until last year it was virtually unique among rich countries in having no means-tested welfare scheme.

The previous center-left government aimed to fill that gap, but the “inclusion income” program it launched ahead of elections a year ago set aside just 2 billion euros and was widely deemed inadequate. The citizens’ income, a rallying call for 5-Star since its foundation in 2009, will cost 7 billion euros this year and is expected to go initially to 2.7 million people, according to ISTAT. Critics say Italy’s strained public finances cannot afford it. The 5-Star Movement was easily the biggest party at the March 2018 national election but has seen its support slide since then and been overtaken in opinion polls by the League.

Read more …

Make America Great Again must start with its wildlife. That’s much greater than millions working bullshit jobs where they drive an hour a day from the burbs. Nothing great about that.

First, define greatness.

Red Wolf: The Struggle To Save One Of The Rarest Animals On Earth (G.)

Attempting to locate one of the rarest animals on the planet, US government scientist Joe Madison pointed an antiquated VHF tracking antenna at a tangle of thick vegetation and twiddled some dials on the receiver. A red wolf, judging by the beeps, was in the vicinity but well-hidden. “Did you hear that beep? That’s a six-year-old male we just heard,” said Madison, a Tennessean with a sandy-coloured beard who is manager of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) red wolf program. “I mean, obviously I don’t see anything.” Sightings of red wolves are uncommon not only due to their elusive nature but also their plummeting population. Only around 30 of the creatures remain in the wild, in a corner of North Carolina, with 18 of them fitted with radio collars that Madison attempts to pick up with his antenna.


Photograph: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post/Getty Images

An FWS assessment in 2016 warned this vestige could completely vanish within eight years. The scenario now is even grimmer. “We’re already way ahead of where that projection was,” Madison said. “If we stay on the current trajectory it won’t be that long before we lose the population. In fact, we are down to one known breeding pair.” Faced with hardening opposition to the wolves’ presence from some nearby landowners, the FWS has gradually pulled back. Wild releases of captive pups have stopped, as has the sterilization of encroaching coyotes to avoid hybridization. In June, the Trump administration unveiled a plan, several years in the making, that would scale the red wolves’ protected area back to its federally owned core and allow people to shoot the species without repercussions on private land.

Conservation groups argue this plan will swiftly snuff out the red wolf and have taken the fight to the courts. “The impression we’ve gotten is that Fish and Wildlife have got tired of trying to save controversial species like wolves,” said Dr Ron Sutherland, an ecologist and red wolf expert at the Wildlands Network. “They don’t have the budget or the backing of Congress. It’s easier to let the wolves decline to the point where they can just pull the plug and we’re very nearly at that point. This wasn’t a thing started by Trump but Trump could certainly finish it off.”


Photograph: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Read more …

I’m sure this is a priority for Beijing. Stop trading with these countries or they won’t stop.

China Prosecutes 11 People In $119 Million Totoaba Fish Bust (AFP)

Chinese authorities have prosecuted 11 people for smuggling $119 million worth of Mexican totoaba fish swim bladders, one of the country’s biggest busts related to the trafficking of an endangered species used in traditional medicine. Mexico has urged China for years to crack down on totoaba smuggling over fears that illegal fishing operations in the Gulf of California are also killing off the world’s smallest porpoise, the near-extinct vaquita marina. The Jiangmen city procuratorate in southern Guangdong province said the 11 people are suspected of smuggling nearly 20,000 swim bladders worth more than 800 million yuan ($119 million) from Mexico. The group of smugglers, led by an individual named Liang Weihua, transported the fish parts in “large quantities” and sold them to consumers in China.

“This crime lasted for more than three years,” said the Guangdong-based procuratorate, a legal supervision agency, on its website. The smuggling route involved a number of neighbouring countries, including Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, it said, adding that the case is currently under further investigation. The critically endangered totoaba fish has been in steep decline since the 1940s, largely because of its reputed healing powers in Chinese medicine. The fish’s swim bladder can fetch up to $20,000 on the black market in China, where it is believed to have beautifying properties and cure a host of ailments, from arthritis pain to discomfort during pregnancy. In fact, they are so prized that some Chinese simply display them in fancy cases in their homes.

Read more …

“..more than 400 types of bacteria on 275 pieces of microplastic collected from local beaches. They included bugs that cause gastroenteritis and wound infections in humans..”

Microplastics Found ‘Absolutely Everywhere’ (G.)

Microplastic pollution spans the world, according to new studies showing contamination in the UK’s lake and rivers, in groundwater in the US and along the Yangtze river in China and the coast of Spain. Humans are known to consume the tiny plastic particles via food and water, but the possible health effects on people and ecosystems have yet to be determined. One study, in Singapore, has found that microplastics can harbour harmful microbes. The new analysis in the UK found microplastic pollution in all 10 lakes, rivers and reservoirs sampled. More than 1,000 small pieces of plastic per litre were found in the River Tame, near Manchester, which was revealed last year as the most contaminated place yet tested worldwide. Even in relatively remote places such as the Falls of Dochart and Loch Lomond in Scotland, two or three pieces per litre were found.

“It was startling. I wasn’t expecting to find as much as we did,” said Christian Dunn at Bangor University, Wales, who led the work. “It is quite depressing they were there in some of our country’s most iconic locations. I’m sure Wordsworth would not be happy to discover his beloved Ullswater in the Lake District was polluted with plastic. “Microplastics are being found absolutely everywhere [but] we do not know the dangers they could be posing. It’s no use looking back in 20 years time and saying: ‘If only we’d realised just how bad it was.’ We need to be monitoring our waters now and we need to think, as a country and a world, how we can be reducing our reliance on plastic.”

[..] “Microplastic has been found in our rivers, our highest mountains and our deepest oceans,” said Julian Kirby, a plastics campaigner at Friends of the Earth who helped collect water samples for the new UK study. He urged MPs to back legislation “to drastically reduce the flow of plastic pollution that’s blighting our environment”. Research by the National University of Singapore found more than 400 types of bacteria on 275 pieces of microplastic collected from local beaches. They included bugs that cause gastroenteritis and wound infections in humans, as well as those linked to the bleaching of coral reefs.

Read more …

Jan 192019
 


Johannes Vermeer Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window 1657-59

 

In the last few days I was looking around for stories that could illustrate what fake news actually is, and I had a nice collection, but then last night Robert Mueller of all people clarified what exactly fake news is better than I could have. At first the BuzzFeed crew that was caught staring straight into the headlights has a feeble response (what exactly was untrue in our article?), but was silenced by the WaPo of all publications: Mueller’s team said every bit of the article was false.

And still I wonder if people now understand better what fake news is. Which I think has a lot to do whit the fact that the term was monopolized by a section of US media as meaning things that had to do with Trump, more or less exclusively. That way, when Trump accused these same media of publishing fake news, they knew their loyal readers wouldn’t believe him.

But in reality they’ve been at it ever since Trump entered US politics, and they dug in ever deeper into their anti-Donald trenches, first for political reasons, later for profit (nothing sells like Trump in America today). And in the process, especially since they published umpteen pieces a day on the topic, they had to use unproven and biased allegations and innuendo. There was never enough real news to go around to feed the monster they created. That’s how we got Russiagate.

Still, of course, like me, you want to know how fake news is recognized, how ‘experts’ tell it apart from real news. Well, despair no more. An actual professor researched it, and was quoted by the New York Times last week, which doesn’t publish fake news, it says. I got to say, personally, I found this highly enlightening.

 

Older People Shared Fake News on Facebook More Than Others in 2016 Race

The authors were careful in defining “fake news,” a term that has been weaponized by many, including President Trump, to dismiss real news they dislike. “Reasonable people disagree about where to draw the line and we were very conscious of those issues,” Professor Guess said.

As a result, they assembled a limited list of sites that reliably published fake content, based on various sources, including reporting from BuzzFeed News. As best the researchers could tell, the list did not include any websites associated with Russian disinformation efforts, according to Professor Guess. The Facebook and survey data came from a group of about 3,500 people whom the authors tracked during the 2016 election in order to better understand the role social media played in political discourse.

They found that Republicans and those who identified as “very conservative” tended to share the most news from questionable sources. But that tendency may have less to do with ideology and more to do with what those articles said: Users tend to share stories they agree with and the fake news sites were disproportionately pro-Trump, the authors said.

So the researchers distinguish fake news from real news, but they don’t tell us -or the NYT doesn’t- what methods they use to tell the two apart. They do tell us that what Trump calls fake news is merely real news he dislikes. It’s funny how people say that so easily, and never think they themselves might do just that.

“..a limited list of sites that reliably published fake content..” sounds intriguing, but not convincing. That this list partly comes from BuzzFeed is hilarious in view of Mueller’s indictment of BuzzFeed’s article about Trump instructing Michael Cohen to lie. Other than that, the article doesn’t really say much. But luckily Quentin Fottrell, personal finance editor at MarketWatch, elaborates (free advice: Quentin, stick to your trade!)

His article caught my eye because whereas the NYTimes piece talked about older people sharing more fake news, Quentin adds that it’s about Republican older people. And that I find hard to believe. At least without proof; I wouldn’t want to jump to such conclusions based on fake news. Let’s see how far I can get:

 

Why Republican Baby Boomers Are More Likely To Share #Fakenews On Facebook

So why are Republican baby boomers more likely to share fake news on Facebook? One theory: As they didn’t grow up with technology, they may be more susceptible to being fooled.

That one sentence says a lot about this entire ‘study’. It even sounds fake to me. Because while I can see the “less exposed to tech” issue to an extent, I see no reason why Republican baby boomers would be fooled more easily by technology than their Democrat peers.

[..] Andrew Guess, an associate professor at Princeton University, and his colleagues disseminated an online survey to 3,500 people in three waves throughout the 2016 campaign. Of the respondents, 1,331 in the initial wave agreed to share their Facebook profile data, which allowed researchers to analyze the age and political affiliations of those people who were more likely to spread fake news.

The results showed that 90% of these users actually did not share misleading or fake articles and only 8.5% shared one or more fake news articles. A plurality, 18%, of the Facebook users who shared the fake stories were both self-identified Republicans and over the age of 65, the authors concluded, and these individuals shared nearly seven times as many fake news articles as respondents in the youngest age group, ranging in age from 18 to 29.

I had to look at this a few times. Here’s what I think it says:

• They ‘studied’ 3,500 people in 3 waves, of which the initial one was larger than 1,331 people, since that is the segment of the first wave who shared their Facebook data (we assume not all did).

• 90% of these 1,331, or 1,198 people, shared nothing at all (no fake news).

• 8.5% of the 1,331, or 114 people, did share fake news stories. 18% of those 114 (so 18% of 8.5%), or 20 people, were self-identified Republicans over the age of 65.

• Therefore 20 people out of 3,500, or 0.57%, were older Republicans who shared fake news (as it was defined by the survey). There are probably even more people in that target group suffering from dementia than the 0.57% who shared fake news. So what are we looking at here?

You could argue that it’s really 20 people out of 1,331, but that’s still only 1.5%. Meaningless.

• These 20 people shared 7 times as many fake news pieces as young people. That may be true, but they also shared more than 99.43% of people their own age. Does this still mean anything at all to you?

Quentin delights us with some more data;

Another possible explanation: Older Americans may have felt particularly passionate and entrenched in their political views and, therefore, ideological. For instance, the most ideological members of Congress shared news stories on their Facebook pages more than twice as often as moderate legislators between Jan. 2, 2015, and July 20, 2017, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center study, which examined all official Facebook posts created by and for members of Congress in this period.

If you ask me, it’s peculiar to make statements about politics that heap ordinary Americans together with politicians, but at least that paragraph doesn’t say Republicans are more likely than others to [fill in your preference]. But then we’re off to the races again:

[..] What’s more, baby boomers are more likely to be conservative and ideological, according to data crunched by Pew. “In both 2015 and 2016, about one in 10 baby boomers identified as conservative Republicans — the highest percentages dating back to 2000,” researchers Shiva Maniam and Samantha Smith wrote for Pew. “In both years, conservative Republicans made up the largest single partisan and ideological group among boomers.”

Wait. The logic here is that baby boomers are more likely to be conservative and ideological because 1 in 10 baby boomers say they’re conservative Republicans. But that means 9 out of 10 does not. This doesn’t even make a single sliver of sense. Yo, Quentin (and professor Guess), we need some help here.

To be fair, older Republicans share more news in general, and fake news gets caught up in the mix. Members of Congress with very conservative or very liberal voting records both shared news links in about 14% of all their posts, but members with more moderate ideology scores shared links to news stories in just 6% of their posts, Pew found.

That starts out with older Republicans in general and then seamlessly veers into members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, with either very conservative or very liberal voting records. Not fully self-contradictory, but darn close.

There may also be a political explanation: A trickle-down effect from the president’s own remarks about the liberal media. Older Republicans could feel more emboldened by Trump’s comments and, as a result, assume stories that support their causes are accurate.

That’s the first time I explicitly read Quentin saying that fake news is linked to Trump. But other than that, there is no sign that older Democrats don’t feel ’emboldened’ by DNC or Hillary or Pelosi comments just as much as Republicans do by Trump. Quentin and professor Guess only pretend to make a point, but there’s nothing there.

The president has doubled down of late on the view that the mainstream media’s negative coverage of his administration is rooted in bias. “The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and often times false attacks and stories,” Trump said last year.

“Confirmation bias” helps outlandish theories and reports gain traction on social media. And that, psychologists say, is where fake news comes in.

Since there is nothing that indicates one political side is more prone to confirmation bias than the other, fake news will necessarily also occur on both sides. Why you would have psychologists define fake news I don’t know. Oh, and I think that Trump comment makes a lot of sense.

With so much noise on social media, how can people distinguish between rumor and reality? Psychologists say people develop defense mechanisms to cope with an uncertain world early in life, but this also draws people to information that seems to confirm their own beliefs and world views and to ignore reports or opinions that contradict their perceptions.

“At its core is the need for the brain to receive confirming information that harmonizes with an individual’s existing views and beliefs,” said Mark Whitmore, an assistant professor of management and information systems in Kent State University’s business school. “In fact, one could say the brain is hard-wired to accept, reject, miss-remember or distort information based on whether it is viewed as accepting of or threatening to existing beliefs.”

Older Americans may be less likely to question authority

However, many people effectively rationalize the irrational in order to avoid going against values and ideas they were taught by their parents. “Children’s learning about make-believe and mastery becomes the basis for more complex forms of self-deception and illusion into adulthood,” Eve Whitmore said. When people are faced with absurd and conflicting messages, her husband added, “It becomes easier to cling to a simple fiction than a complicated reality.”

[..] Ultimately, however, it may come down to our trust in the internet, rather than institutions or belief systems. “People who have grown up with the internet have experienced things that are not necessarily truthful. They have had experiences on social media or they have witnessed friends dealing with false information, which has made them more skeptical about what they read versus the baby boomers who did not grow up with the internet and have, therefore, limited experience.”

Remember, the article’s headline is “Why Republican Baby Boomers Are More Likely To Share #Fakenews On Facebook”. And then it does absolutely nothing to make that point, but instead goes a very long way to proving that ALL baby boomers do that. Either one of which, first of all, you don’t prove by talking 20 people out of a sample of 3,500, but moreover, secondly, your entire article -strongly- appears to deny.

And do we know what fake news is now, are we any closer to that? Not that I can see. And there’s no way I can say it all in one go, so I’ll get back to this topic. But not before thanking Robert Mueller for defining fake news in his own way. It must have cost him, and the FBI and DOJ, some genuine heartache, but in the end he couldn’t let the entire avalanche of media and Democrats run with such an overtly fake piece of ‘news’. There were calls for Congressional investigations based on it, for crying out loud.

Speaking of which, crying out loud might be what you expect BuzzFeed to do now, but don’t count on it: they got a ton of free publicity, and that’s all the entire fake news cycle has been based on from the start. And if it didn’t kill the New York Times or CNN, why would it kill BuzzFeed? It’s a growth industry. And credibility is overrated.

 

 

Jan 112019
 
 January 11, 2019  Posted by at 10:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Hieronymous Bosch The Haywain Triptych c.1516 (click to enlarge)

 

The Stock Market Just Got Off To Its Best Start In 13 Years (MW)
78% of US Workers Live Paycheck To Paycheck (CNBC)
Fed’s Powell Says He Is ‘Very Worried’ About Growing Amount Of US Debt (CNBC)
Trump Digs In As Shutdown Continues (BBC)
Michael Cohen To Testify Publicly Before Congress In February (G.)
China Set To Lower GDP Growth Target In 2019 (R.)
Can The Chinese Consumer Be Resurrected? (Jim O’Neill)
Why I Asked May If She Is On The Side Of Putin Or The People (Moran)
May’s Brexit Deal ‘Threat To National Security’ – Former MI6 Chief (Ind.)
May Begs Unions To Help Salvage Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)
US Defenses No Match For Russian Hypersonic Missiles – Retired US General (RT)
Bases, Bases, Everywhere… Except in the Pentagon’s Report (Turse)
Oceans Warming Faster Than Expected, Set Heat Record In 2018 (R.)
Julian Assange’s Living Conditions Deteriorate (Cassandra Fairbanks)

 

 

And there’s still people who claim the stock market reflects the economy.

The Stock Market Just Got Off To Its Best Start In 13 Years (MW)

Things are coming up roses in the stock market, lately. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 index and Nasdaq Composite Index are off to their best starts to a year since 2006 after a powerful series of gains. The Dow closed up 0.5% on Thursday, pushing its year-to-date gain to 2.89%, which would mark the best first seven days to a year since 2006, when stocks burst 3.04% higher over the same period. The S&P 500 rose 0.5% on the day and has returned 3.58% thus far this year, its best start since a 3.68% gain 13 years ago, while the Nasdaq Composite booked a 0.4% gain, enough for a 5.3% year-to-date advance, representing its best seven-session to kick off a year since its 5.72% rise also in 2006.

A late-session rally helped to solidify Thursday’s gains, coming after investors digested comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who pronounced at the Economic Club in Washington on Thursday afternoon that the economy is in good health, while adding that the central bank would be cognizant of stresses to financial markets amid rate hikes. The comments were a reiteration of Powell’s remarks last week during a broad panel discussion of current and former Fed bosses that helped to placate anxious investors and reverse what was shaping up to be another dismal year.

Read more …

Why is everybody quoting a 2017 report?

78% of US Workers Live Paycheck To Paycheck (CNBC)

The partial government shutdown, which began Dec. 22, has now stretched well into the new year. President Donald Trump said Friday that it would continue for “months or even years” until he receives the requested $5 billion in funding for a border wall. The shutdown has left approximately 800,000 federal workers in financial limbo. Around 420,000 “essential” employees are working without pay, while another 380,000 have been ordered to stay home, according to calculations provided to CNBC by Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University. In some cases, the furloughs have forced government employees to tap into their savings, rely on credit cards or crowdsource funds to make ends meet.

Government workers are far from alone in feeling stressed about not getting paid. Nearly 80% of American workers (78%) say they’re living paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2017 report by employment website CareerBuilder. Women are particularly vulnerable: 81% of them report living paycheck to paycheck, compared with 75% of men. Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, tells CNBC that the group has heard from hundreds of frantic federal employees. “They’re scared,” he says. “They don’t know how they’re going to put food on the table.” Various #ShutdownStories making that point have gone viral on Twitter.

It’s not merely those earning low wages who are struggling. CareerBuilder reports that nearly 10% of Americans with salaries of $100,000 or more live paycheck to paycheck as well. That means that many workers aren’t able to put anything significant into savings. More than 50% of respondents say that they save less than $100 per month. And a comparable 2017 survey from GOBankingRates found that 61% of Americans don’t have enough money in an emergency fund to cover six months’ worth of expenses. [..] more than 70% of all respondents say that they’re in debt, and a quarter of workers say they weren’t able to make ends meet at the end of every month of the past year.

Read more …

Which his own Fed has encouraged like nobody else could.

Fed’s Powell Says He Is ‘Very Worried’ About Growing Amount Of US Debt (CNBC)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is concerned about the ballooning amount of United States debt. “I’m very worried about it,” Powell said at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. “From the Fed’s standpoint, we’re really looking at a business cycle length: that’s our frame of reference. The long-run fiscal, nonsustainability of the U.S. federal government isn’t really something that plays into the medium term that is relevant for our policy decisions.” However, “it’s a long-run issue that we definitely need to face, and ultimately, will have no choice but to face,” he added. The Fed chief’s comments came as the annual U.S. deficit reaches new sustained highs above $1 trillion, a fact many economists worry could spell trouble for future generations.

Annual deficits have topped $1 trillion before, but never during a time of sustained economic growth like now, raising concern about what would happen if a recession hits. Total U.S. debt is about $21.9 trillion, of which $16 trillion is owed by the public. In part because of continued rate increases under Powell, the interest cost on that debt could start to become a bigger and bigger burden. Wall Street’s “bond king” and respected financial prognosticator Jeffrey Gundlach said in December that the Fed seems to be on a “suicide mission,” raising rates while the government deficit increases as a share of GDP. Normally when the deficit is expanding, the Fed would be lowering interest rates.

Read more …

View from the MSM: Trump digs in, not the Dems.

Trump Digs In As Shutdown Continues (BBC)

US President Donald Trump has threatened again to declare a national emergency to fund a border wall without Congress’s approval. “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” he told reporters. The White House has denied reports it is looking at diverting funds set aside for reconstruction projects. A political row over funding the wall has left the US government partially shutdown for 20 days, leaving about 800,000 federal employees without pay. President Trump has refused to sign legislation to fund and reopen the government if it does not include $5.7bn for a physical barrier along the US-Mexico border.

But budget talks have come to a standstill as Democrats – who control the House of Representatives – refuse to give him the money. Republican leaders insist the party stands behind the president, although some Republican lawmakers have spoken out in favour of ending the shutdown. On Thursday, Mr Trump visited a border patrol station in McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. He said that if Congress did not approve funding for the wall, he would “probably… I would almost say definitely” declare a national emergency to bypass lawmakers. But such a move is likely to face legal challenges. The money would also have to come from funds allocated by Congress for other purposes – which some Republicans would also oppose.

Read more …

Planning a huge media spectacle. Imagine all the readers and viewers… Trump keeps on giving. Bread and circuses it is.

Michael Cohen To Testify Publicly Before Congress In February (G.)

Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer and aide Michael Cohen says he has accepted an invitation from a top House Democrat to testify publicly before Congress next month. His testimony before the House oversight and reform committee on 7 February will be the first major public oversight hearing for Democrats, who have promised greater scrutiny of Trump after winning control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections. Cohen said in a statement: “I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired.”

The New Yorker, who is to begin a three-year prison sentence in March, is a pivotal figure in investigations by the special counsel Robert Mueller into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, and by federal prosecutors in New York into campaign finance violations related to hush-money payments to two women who say they had sex with Trump. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s chair, said the panel would avoid interfering with Mueller’s investigation. “We have no interest in inappropriately interfering with any ongoing criminal investigations, and to that end, we are in the process of consulting with Special Counsel Mueller’s office,” Cummings said in a statement.

Read more …

But not to the 1.67% predicted by professor Xiang Songzuo, I’m sure.

China Set To Lower GDP Growth Target In 2019 (R.)

China plans to set a lower economic growth target of 6% to 6.5% in 2019 compared with last year’s target of “around” 6.5%, policy sources told Reuters, as Beijing gears up to cope with higher U.S. tariffs and weakening domestic demand. The proposed target, to be unveiled at the annual parliamentary session in March, was endorsed by top leaders at the annual closed-door Central Economic Work Conference in mid-December, according to four sources with knowledge of the meeting’s outcome. Data later this month is expected to show the Chinese economy grew around 6.6% in 2018 — the weakest since 1990. Analysts are forecasting a further loss of momentum this year before policy support steps begin to kick in.

“It’s very difficult for growth to exceed 6.5% (this year), and there could be trouble if growth dips below 6%,” said one source who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. As the world’s second-largest economy loses steam, China’s top leaders are closely watching employment levels as factories could be forced to shed workers amid a trade war with the United States, despite a more resilient services sector, policy insiders said. Growth of about 6.2% is needed in the next two years to meet the ruling Communist Party’s longstanding goal of doubling gross domestic product and incomes in the decade to 2020, and to turn China into a “modestly prosperous” nation. [..] Local governments could be allowed to issue up to 2 trillion yuan worth of special bonds in 2019, up from 1.35 trillion yuan last year, they said.

Read more …

Goldman Sachs to the -image- rescue.

Can The Chinese Consumer Be Resurrected? (Jim O’Neill)

Last week, Apple published a letter to shareholders revising down its expected revenues for the first quarter of 2019, citing an economic slowdown in China, which has become an increasingly important market for iPhone, Mac, and iPad sales. Though tech industry analysts are debating whether internal dynamics at Apple might also explain the change, the company’s new guidance nonetheless adds to the evidence that Chinese consumption is slowing. A sustained decline in Chinese consumption would be even more worrying than the current US-China trade dispute.

Given that US trade policies and other external influences should not have much effect on domestic Chinese spending, the problem may be more deeply rooted in China’s economic model. To understand what is at stake, consider all that has changed just within the past decade. At the end of 2010, domestic consumption accounted for around 35.6% of Chinese GDP, according to official Chinese data. That was remarkably low compared to most other economies, not least the US, where consumption accounted for almost 70% of GDP. In nominal dollar terms, China’s domestic consumption thus was around $2.2tn, or almost five times lower than that of the US ($10.5tn).

Yet China’s high overall growth rate meant that Chinese consumers could potentially play a much larger role, with far-reaching benefits for global brands such as Apple, BMW, Burberry, Ford, and many others. As of 2017, Chinese consumption as a share of GDP had risen to 39.1%, representing just over $5tn in nominal dollar terms. That is an increase of almost $3tn in just seven years. And though Chinese consumer spending still lagged far behind that of the US ($13.5tn in 2017), the gap has narrowed. If China were to continue on the same trajectory in terms of nominal GDP growth and domestic consumption, its consumer spending could increase by another $2tn by 2020, putting it at around half that of the US. Chinese consumers would be more relevant to the global economy than anyone except Americans.

Read more …

From time to time you wonder what’s more hysterical, the Brexit mayhem or the UK’s fabricated Russophobia. This is pretty unbelievable, but it’s become normal.

Layla Moran is a Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon.

Why I Asked May If She Is On The Side Of Putin Or The People (Moran)

For all the farcical invoking of Blitz spirit, Brexit isn’t merely an absurdist experiment in English nationalist nostalgia – it is the most audacious example yet of a futuristic Russian nationalism that seeks to divide and rule Europe. If we can be judged by our friends then Brexit has no stauncher ally than Vladimir Putin. After all, Donald Trump has proved unreliable. But Putin? It is hard to think of anyone who has done more for the cause (and that is not to take anything away from the years of Brexit monologues by Tory MP Bill Cash). Russian bot farms have been exposed as having supported the Leave campaign. This comes on top of allegations of iffy Russian money funding Brexit campaigns, and Arron Banks’ almost comical inability to explain his donations to Leave.

Comical, that is, if his scarcely thought through Brexit wasn’t driving Britain to what Hilary Clinton has called the single biggest act of deliberate self-harm a nation has ever committed. As if Russian interference in the original referendum was not shocking enough, it is still going on. The Channel 4 drama Brexit: The Uncivil War might have relegated Russian involvement to the briefest postscript, but in reality Putin is still in the trenches fighting for a hard Brexit. At a recent press conference Putin attacked the idea of a referendum on the deal, claiming the original result should be respected. Oh, the irony! Putin, the arch kleptocrat, giving advice on democracy. “Don’t steal Brexit,” he seemed to demand, while probably stealing (sorry, being gifted) another superyacht.

It should have been sufficiently chilling to make even Boris Johnson pause for thought. And all while using the Brexiteer message script of delivering the will of the people. As any student of Russian history could tell you, “the people” are often invoked by the Kremlin, including when justifying the mass murder of innocent people. But rarely does the Kremlin actually ask “the people” for anything so radical as an opinion. For Putin, “the people” are to be manipulated and even killed for his own ends. And Putin’s ends are clear. He wants a weak and divided EU. Ultimately, he seeks to break it up, with the Eastern bloc – brought into the European fold by Margaret Thatcher’s single market – dragged back into the lair of the Russian bear.

Read more …

And why not? If all else fails, scare them.

May’s Brexit Deal ‘Threat To National Security’ – Former MI6 Chief (Ind.)

The former head of MI6 has warned Theresa May’s Brexit deal will “threaten the national security of the country”, in a call for Tory MPs to reject it. The agreement would “place control of aspects of our national security in foreign hands”, claims Sir Richard Dearlove, in an extraordinary letter to Conservative associations. It has also been signed by Lord Guthrie, a former chief of the defence staff, in a bid to stiffen grassroots resistance, ahead of next Tuesday’s vote.= Sir Richard and Lord Guthrie, who are both prominent Leave supporters, write: “Please ensure that your MP votes against this bad agreement.” The prime minister, a former home secretary, has insisted her agreement would protect national security by retaining existing cooperation arrangements during the 21-month transition.

However, she was forced to acknowledge the UK was likely to lose direct access to vital EU security databases after 2012, under the proposed long-term arrangements. In their letter, the ex-security chiefs argue the deal is dangerous because it would weaken membership of Nato and existing “close” defence and intelligence ties with the US. “This withdrawal agreement, if not defeated, will threaten the national security of the country in fundamental ways,” it says. Downing Street hit back immediately, insisting the letter was “completely wrong” and that the Brexit deal offered the broadest security agreement the EU has with any of its partners. But both sides of the Brexit divide seized on the intervention, arch-Brexiteer Owen Paterson calling it a “devastating warning”.

Read more …

After Tuesday all bets are off.

May Begs Unions To Help Salvage Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May has called the leaders of Britain’s biggest unions for the first time since becoming prime minister in a desperate bid to find backing for her Brexit deal. The calls to Unite leader Len McCluskey and the GMB’s Tim Roache – whose unions are Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest financial backers – mark just how far she is being forced to go in the hope of finding support for the deal expected to be rejected by MPs next week. She was scorned by second referendum-backing Mr Roache, who joked after his call that he was “glad the prime minister finally picked up the phone”. The unprecedented move came as she also sought to convince Labour MPs to back her by promising new commitments to maintain workers’ rights in line with EU standards after Brexit.

But expectations that she is heading for a heavy defeat on Tuesday simply grew further, with some estimates suggesting that opposition has actually grown since she delayed the vote on her deal in December. Capitalising on the deep Tory divisions, Mr Corbyn instead invited Conservative MPs to back a motion of no confidence in the government which he is promising to table if Ms May’s plans are defeated. Downing Street confirmed the calls to Mr Roache, whose union has 620,000 members, and Mr McCluskey, representing more than 1.4 million, and admitted it was the first time she had spoken to either of them since her arrival at No 10. The Independent understands the prime minister also attempted to call Dave Prentis, leader of Unison which also has some 1.4 million members, but could not get through because Mr Prentis was travelling.

Read more …

Click here for the original Hill article.

US Defenses No Match For Russian Hypersonic Missiles – Retired US General (RT)

A retired general and chief of staff has warned that the US’ missile defense systems are “simply incapable” of stopping the latest generation of Russian hypersonic missiles – some of which fly at 27 times the speed of sound. Now retired, Maj. Gen. Howard ‘Dallas’ Thompson was once Chief of Staff at US Northern Command in Ohio. In a column published by The Hill on Thursday, Thompson argues that military leaders have neglected to develop proper defenses against the hypersonic threat. There have been some calls for the US to pursue hypersonic weapons in defense policy circles, but America has lagged behind China – which conducted more tests in the last year than the US has is a decade – and Russia, which successfully tested such a missile in December. The ‘Avangard’ missile flew at Mach 27, and will be deployed in 2019.

At present, the US Missile Defense Agency’s sensors and radars are designed for one purpose: to counter an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fired by an adversary like Iran or North Korea. ICBMs have a predictable flight path, and the US’ Patriot and Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries stand a reasonable chance of intercepting and destroying any incoming missiles. Not so with hypersonics. Missiles like ‘Avangard’ fly low and fast, evading radar detection. They can also engage in evasive maneuvers to dodge surface-to-air rockets or missiles, further lowering the chances of a successful interception.

“The stark reality is that our current missile defense systems, as well as our operational mindset, are simply incapable versus this threat,” Thompson wrote. The retired General’s words are backed up by a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, which concluded that there are “no existing countermeasures” against the threat. Thompson claims that a massive collaborative program between the Department of Defense and arms companies is needed to counter Russian and Chinese advances. “Countering this threat will require U.S. investment in an extensive defensive architecture,” he wrote. “…a highly robust ‘family of systems’ that nonetheless must be envisioned, designed, developed and deployed in a completely holistic manner.”

Read more …

800 bases, of which 300 are unreported?!

Bases, Bases, Everywhere… Except in the Pentagon’s Report (Turse)

Within hours of President Trump’s announcement of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, equipment at that base was already being inventoried for removal. And just like that, arguably the most important American garrison in Syria was (maybe) being struck from the Pentagon’s books — except, as it happens, al-Tanf was never actually on the Pentagon’s books. Opened in 2015 and, until recently, home to hundreds of U.S. troops, it was one of the many military bases that exist somewhere between light and shadow, an acknowledged foreign outpost that somehow never actually made it onto the Pentagon’s official inventory of bases. Officially, the Department of Defense (DoD) maintains 4,775 “sites,” spread across all 50 states, eight U.S. territories, and 45 foreign countries.

A total of 514 of these outposts are located overseas, according to the Pentagon’s worldwide property portfolio. Just to start down a long list, these include bases on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, as well as in Peru and Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. But the most recent version of that portfolio, issued in early 2018 and known as the Base Structure Report (BSR), doesn’t include any mention of al-Tanf. Or, for that matter, any other base in Syria. Or Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or Niger. Or Tunisia. Or Cameroon. Or Somalia. Or any number of locales where such military outposts are known to exist and even, unlike in Syria, to be expanding.

[..] According to David Vine, author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, there could be hundreds of similar off-the-books bases around the world. “The missing sites are a reflection of the lack of transparency involved in the system of what I still estimate to be around 800 U.S. bases outside the 50 states and Washington, D.C., that have been encircling the globe since World War II,” says Vine

Read more …

The reporting on the issue seems broken.

Oceans Warming Faster Than Expected, Set Heat Record In 2018 (R.)

The oceans are warming faster than previously estimated, setting a new temperature record in 2018 in a trend that is damaging marine life, scientists said on Thursday. New measurements, aided by an international network of 3,900 floats deployed in the oceans since 2000, showed more warming since 1971 than calculated by the latest U.N. assessment of climate change in 2013, they said. And “observational records of ocean heat content show that ocean warming is accelerating,” the authors in China and the United States wrote in the journal Science of ocean waters down to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). Man-made greenhouse gas emissions are warming the atmosphere, according to the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, and a large part of the heat gets absorbed by the oceans.

That in turn is forcing fish to flee to cooler waters. “Global warming is here, and has major consequences already. There is no doubt, none!” the authors wrote in a statement. Almost 200 nations plan to phase out fossil fuels this century under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit warming. [..] Data due for publication next week will show “2018 was the warmest year on record for the global ocean, surpassing 2017,” said lead author Lijing Cheng, of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He told Reuters that records for ocean warming had been broken almost yearly since 2000. Overall, temperatures in the ocean down to 2,000 metres rose about 0.1 degree Celsius (0.18F) from 1971-2010, he said.

Read more …

Another issue on which reporting seems broken. We’re not getting anywhere.

Julian Assange’s Living Conditions Deteriorate (Cassandra Fairbanks)

I last visited Assange in March, days before the Ecuadorians placed the award-winning journalist in isolation for allegedly violating a draconian ban on all public political comments. [..] In order to visit the publisher last year, I simply organized it with him and his lawyer and went. This time I was required to provide details about my social media, my employer, and my reason for visiting in advance of my arrival and hope to be approved. If I wanted to bring my cell phone, I would have had to provide the brand, model, serial number, IMEI number and telephone number. Providing these details to a foreign nation with extreme surveillance seemed unwise, so I left it behind.

[..] Currently, Assange cannot even have a simple visit with a friend without it being monitored by some shadowy state actor. It’s like a scene from the Stasi spy drama The Lives of Others. While Ecuador presents this surveillance operation as a mission to “protect and support” Assange, this is contradicted by the fact that he isn’t even allowed to confidentially speak with a reporter and friend without being recorded. In May, the Guardian reported that there are “extraordinary reports” from these spies that include daily logs of Assange’s activities inside the embassy, even noting his “general mood.”

As John Pilger pointed out after his visit with Assange on New Year’s Eve, it could be any newspaper publisher or editor stuck in that embassy. For the crime of publishing journalism, Assange has not only had to give up his freedom, but also any semblance of privacy. It’s impossible to overstate how unsettling it feels to have multiple lenses pointed at you wherever you stand. Unable to speak privately, even with a noise machine attempting to muffle the microphones from picking up conversations, we resorted to passing notes. Assange is not only barred from sharing his views online under the new regulations — thanks to the constant surveillance, he can’t even do so among his friends in the embassy where he is arbitrarily detained.

If we value the principle of the freedom of speech — we must do something to stop this madness. While we do not know what Assange has been charged with by the U.S. as it remains under seal, we do know that it is related to his work as a publisher, the only publisher with a record of 100% accuracy. His dedication to truth is so profound that he has never once had to issue a correction or retraction.

Read more …

Dec 132018
 
 December 13, 2018  Posted by at 10:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


René Magritte After the water, the clouds 1926

 

‘Her Goose Is Cooked’ (G.)
Tory Resentment Of Irish Power Within EU (BBC)
Cohen Gets 3 Years, Says He Will Reveal All He Knows About Trump (Ind.)
Yellen, Fed Fear Corporate Debt Bubble, Investors Don’t (CNBC)
US Bank Stocks Spiral Down (WS)
ECB Worries Multiply Even As Money-Printing Presses Stop (R.)
ECB Caught Between Economic Risks And QE Exit (CNBC)
French Government To Face A No-Confidence Vote (CNBC)
Japan Picks The Character For ‘Disaster’ To Define 2018 (Tel.)
Wikileaks’ Assange Undergoes Medical Tests At Ecuador’s Urging (R.)
Assange Complains Of ‘More Subtle’ Silencing Than Khashoggi (RT)
Fentanyl Surpasses Heroin As Deadliest Drug In US (AFP)
Time Magazine Says The US ‘Remains A Free And Fair Press’ (CNBC)

 

 

Might as well do it this way. May survives confidence vote and can now prepare to defend the deal whose certain defeat made her delay Tuesday’s Parliament vote, a delay which led to the confidence vote in the first place. She still can’t win that one. It’s not so much May who is cooked, it’s the country.

‘Her Goose Is Cooked’ (G.)

No 10 will not be happy with today’s front pages, which are all about Theresa May’s survival in the no-confidence vote, but paint the win as less of a triumph for May than a pyrrhic victory. Let’s start with the good news for the prime minister. Two papers have come out in support of the her, with the Express featuring a picture of a smiling May and the headline: “Now just let her get on with it”.


Neil Henderson
(@hendopolis)

EXPRESS: Now just let her get on with it #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/jBhPRSqbAc

The Mail is similarly supportive: “Now let her get on with the job!”, saying that “despite two months of sabre-rattling by her hardline opponents, and deadlock over Brexit, almost two-thirds of Tory MPs backed her”.


Neil Henderson
(@hendopolis)

DAILY MAIL: Now let her get on with the job! #tomorrowspaperstoday pic.twitter.com/oaEihTtsOv

Others were less sympathetic. “Time to call it a May”, says the Sun, never one to miss the chance of putting a pun in a headline. The Sun says the prime minister was “left wounded last night after a battering by Tory Brexit rebels”.

The Sun
(@TheSun)

Tomorrow’s front page: Theresa May was left wounded after a battering by Tory Brexit rebels in a make-or-break confidence vote https://t.co/SZTSNZoCZq pic.twitter.com/3OO11Qrm85

The Mirror has: “It’s lame duck for Christmas”, saying May’s “goose is cooked”. The paper describes her as “wounded” and “battered” and says she only managed to survive the no-confidence vote “by promising not to fight the next election”.


Daily Mirror
(@DailyMirror)

Tomorrow’s front page: It’s lame duck for Christmas#tomorrowspaperstoday https://t.co/fFIeHwiekz pic.twitter.com/xL0ijW0Qzv

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Britain’s -Tory- elites still see Ireland as some backward place way beneath them. “The Irish really should know their place.”

Tory Resentment Of Irish Power Within EU (BBC)

A Tory grandee recently sidled up to me to express grave reservations about the Brexit process. “We simply cannot allow the Irish to treat us like this,” the former minister said about the negotiating tactics of the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. The Conservative MP was exasperated that the Republic of Ireland (population: 4.8m) has been able to shape the EU negotiating stance that has put such pressure on the UK (population: 66m). “This simply cannot stand,” the one-time moderniser told me. “The Irish really should know their place.” The remarks explained why Conservatives from both sides of the Brexit divide are so troubled by the negotiations. They also explain why Theresa May might find that any concessions from the EU over the Northern Ireland backstop may fall short of the demands of Tory MPs.

Over the last few months Tory MPs have asked in private how the Irish Republic can believe its relationship with the EU trumps its relationship with the UK. They cite economic reasons (the Irish Republic’s strong trading links with the UK) and the historical relationship. The MPs do of course acknowledge that left a troubled legacy. One minister familiar with Anglo-Irish relations points out that these Tories should bear in mind one date and one word to explain both the Irish and the EU’s approach. The date is 1973: when the Irish Republic joined the EEC at the same time as the UK and Denmark. That was the moment when Ireland took a giant political leap at the same time as the UK.

But it turned out to be arguably the biggest unilateral strategic move since Partition in the 1920s – a move that defined the modern Irish Republic as an independent state within Europe, with a wholly different approach to its larger neighbour.

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I’m afraid I missed something along the way. If you run for office in the US and someone tries to blackmail you, you can’t get rid of them, you need to have lawsuits, court cases etc., interfere with your campaign. Not doing so is illegal. But, as Candace Owens said today,

“Congress has a slush fund, made up of tax dollars, that is used to pay off & silence their alleged sexual assaults and affairs. To date, over 200 million dollars in 200 settlements have been paid since 1998. But tell us more about Trump’s possible campaign finance violations…”

Moreover, a US judge just sentenced Stormy Daniels to paying Trump’s legal costs. But he was still in the wrong? How is that possible?

Cohen Gets 3 Years, Says He Will Reveal All He Knows About Trump (Ind.)

Michael Cohen has warned that he has more to say about what he called the ”dirty deeds” of Donald Trump as the president’s former lawyer and fixer was sentenced to three years in prison for facilitating payments to two women who have had alleged affairs with Mr Trump. Cohen was sentenced to 36 months for tax fraud and for his role in the payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and the former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both say they had affairs with Mr Trump before the 2016 presidential election. The judge in a district court in New York also handed Cohen an extra two months for lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.

The payments have implicated Mr Trump directly in criminal conduct according to a court filing from prosecutors last week, which said that Cohen was working in coordination with the president. Cohen’s adviser Lanny Davis, who was his attorney for the case, said after the sentencing that Cohen will disclose more information concerning Mr Trump, once Robert Mueller wraps up his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials. “At the appropriate time, after Mr Mueller completes his investigation and issues his final report, I look forward to assisting Michael to state publicly all he knows about Mr Trump – and that includes any appropriate congressional committee interested in the search for truth and the difference between facts and lies,” Mr Davis said in a statement.

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Why is anyone still listening to Yellen?

Yellen, Fed Fear Corporate Debt Bubble, Investors Don’t (CNBC)

The corporate debt scaring policy experts like former Fed Chair Janet Yellen isn’t throwing too much of a fright into market participants. In fact, some of them are continuing to load up on lower-grade corporate debt because it’s managed to be a better performer than some of the investments considered to be safer. “Offense is the best defense,” Hans Mikkelsen, credit strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told clients in a note pointing out that BBB-rated companies are outperforming their A-rated counterparts. BBB is the last rung before junk, and the increasing level of company bonds going to that level is causing concern.

Some investors worry that the companies whose debt is in danger of slipping into high-yield territory will have trouble meeting their obligations during the next economic downturn. But Mikkelsen thinks those concerns are misplaced. The S&P 500 Triple-B investment-grade corporate bond index is down 2.9 percent year to date, which is not good. However, the group is outperforming the broader S&P 500/MarketAxess Investment Grade Corporate Bond Index, which is off 3.5 percent in 2018. The outperformance grows when isolating for risk-adjusted excess returns and runs counter to history when credit spreads are widening. Higher-quality bonds usually outperform in those cases, Mikkelsen noted.

“This outperformance of BBBs is noteworthy as one of [the] key investor concerns this year remains the possibility that large BBB-rated capital structures get downgraded to high yield during the next downturn,” Mikkelsen wrote. “We think this outperformance reflects in part a low recession probability being priced into credit spreads, as well as the fact that most large BBBs are unlikely to get downgraded to [high-yield] anytime soon as they tend to have stable cash flows and significant financial flexibility.”

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When do we start talking bailouts?

US Bank Stocks Spiral Down (WS)

On Tuesday, the US KBW Bank index, which tracks the largest 24 US banks and serves as a benchmark for the banking sector, dropped 1.2%, the fifth day in a row of declines, to the lowest close since September 7, 2017. The index is now back where it had been on December 1, 2016. Two years of big gains gone up in smoke. [..] But no, the index doesn’t include Goldman Sachs – which is big in other ways but not as a bank, and which has skidded 35% from its all-time peak in February. The index has now dropped 22.5% since the post-financial crisis peak on January 26:

So far in Q4, the index has dropped 14%. Unless a miraculous banking-Santa-Claus rally pulls banks out of their dive by the end of the quarter, a 14% decline would make it the worst quarterly decline since Q3 2011. If tax selling kicks in, given the losses bank-stock investors have taken so far this year, it could get worse in the coming days. Not even in Q3 2015, during the oil bust, when investors were fearing that banks would take steep losses on their loans to the oil industry, did shares drop this much.

The index is now back where it had first been a couple of years before its crazy peak in February 2007. Said peak occurred about a year before Bear Stearns toppled. During the subsequent collapse of banks stocks, it looked like the index would hit zero. After the bottom in March 2009, the Fed’s strategies to benefit the banks and those that owned them took hold, at the expense of depositors and other classes of US stake holders, such as renters or future home buyers. And it worked. But that era is now over. And the tax cut too has been baked in, and banks are left to fend for themselves:

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Those negative rates will come back to haunt Draghi. But when their damage becomes obvious, he’ll be living quietly in some splendid villa on Lake Como.

ECB Worries Multiply Even As Money-Printing Presses Stop (R.)

The European Central Bank is all but certain to formally end its lavish bond purchase scheme on Thursday but will take an increasingly dim view on growth, raising the odds that its next step in removing stimulus will be delayed. The long-flagged end of bond buys must be irreversible for the sake of credibility, but with France and Italy in political turmoil, a global trade war still looming large and growth slowing, ECB chief Mario Draghi will be keen to emphasize that other forms of support will remain. This leaves Draghi with yet another delicate balancing act: appear confident enough to justify the end of the 2.6 trillion euro ($2.95 trillion), four-year-long bond buying program, but also sound sufficiently concerned to keep investors expectations about further policy tightening relatively cool.

“Ending quantitative easing now looks more like the ammunition is running out rather than (being) based on a convincing economic outlook,” Societe Generale economist Anatoli Annenkov said. The ECB’s problem is that growth is weaker than policymakers thought even just weeks ago while the predicted rise in underlying inflation has failed to materialize, putting in doubt some of the bank’s assumptions about the broader economy. Overall inflation, the ECB’s primary objective, may be near the target now but falling oil prices suggest a dip in the months ahead and a solid rise in wages is not feeding through to prices, leaving the bank with an unexplained disconnect.

Highlighting this complication, the ECB is likely to cut growth and underlying inflation projections and may take a dimmer view on risks, all while Draghi argues that growth is merely falling back to normal after a recent run.

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What a failure Draghi has been. Same goes for all central bank heads in the past decades. They make sure banks are fine at the expense of citizens.

ECB Caught Between Economic Risks And QE Exit (CNBC)

ECB President Mario Draghi has to tread a fine line once again as he gives his latest update on euro area monetary policy on Thursday. While steering the bank out of its QE program and stressing interest rates and reinvestments going forward, Draghi is faced with an economy that may be slowing and a dreary inflation outlook. “We expect the ECB to announce at its meeting next Thursday an end to net-purchases under the APP programme,” said Natixis’ Dirk Schumacher in a note. “While there has been a clear weakening in the economic environment, the ECB will argue that the reinvestment of the stock of bond holdings will ensure a continuing accommodative policy stance justifying an end of the program,” he added.

On Thursday, the ECB also will publish its newest staff projections for economic growth and inflation for the next three years. While it is expected that the central bank will lower its outlook for growth for the next two years, the numbers are also expected to remain just punchy enough to underline the case to exit their purchase program. Another big topic for Thursday will be the design of the ECB’s reinvestments. “The ECB will likely maintain its guidance that it will fully reinvest the proceeds and thus keep its bond holdings constant ‘for an extended period of time’ and ‘for as long as necessary’ to put inflation on track towards its target,” said Florian Hense, Economist with Berenberg.

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Might work if Le Pen joins the left.

French Government To Face A No-Confidence Vote (CNBC)

Left-of-center lawmakers in France have tabled a motion of no confidence in the French government following repeated protests and scenes of violence. The “gilets jaunes” (“yellow vests”) crisis started as a demonstration against a carbon tax policy and planned fuel tax increases, but have morphed into wider discontent at the leadership of President Emmanuel Macron. Now representatives from the French Communist Party, the Socialist Party and the far-left populist movement France Unbowed (La France Insoumise) have come together to table the motion against Macron’s government.

The government of Georges Pompidou in 1962 was successfully toppled by such a motion but few believe this one will pass as Macron’s centrist La République En Marche! party enjoys a strong majority in the 577-seat house. “The French political system makes it extremely difficult to remove a President from office,” said the Deputy Director of Research at Teneo Intelligence in a note Wednesday. “The only political tool available to the opposition to expel Macron is the constitution’s impeachment procedure, which no one is currently considering,” he added.

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Seems appropriate, but what symbols are left for the much worse years to come?

Japan Picks The Character For ‘Disaster’ To Define 2018 (Tel.)

Japan has chosen the character for ‘disaster’ to symbolise 2018. The public chose the symbol following a series of natural disasters. In July, 200 people died in floods and millions were evacuated from their homes, and mere days later 65 people died in a heatwave that hospitalised more than 20,000 people. The country was also hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 and was rocked by its strongest typhoon for 25 years. These numerous natural disasters have had an adverse effect on the Japanese economy, and the country’s GDP has gradually shrunk over the last three months, by 1.2 per cent.

The country also experienced societal problems this year, as stories of sexual harassment in the workplace and suicide rates came to light. The master of the ancient temple in Kyoto, Seihan Mori, wrote the symbol for ‘disaster’ in dark ink on traditional white washi paper to mark the vote. The competition has been run by the Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation since 1995. In the annual poll, 21,000 of the 190,000 people who voted picked the character to summarise the years events, but the symbol for peace was a close runner-up.

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What kind of headline is this, Reuters? The UK has refused Assange medical care for years, and now you make it look like Ecuador, not Assange himself. makes it happen?

Wikileaks’ Assange Undergoes Medical Tests At Ecuador’s Urging (R.)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange received a series of medical exams, Ecuador’s top attorney said on Wednesday, in line with a new set of rules for his asylum at the Andean country’s London embassy that prompted him to sue the government. Assange first took asylum in the embassy in 2012, but his relationship with Ecuador has grown increasingly tense, with President Lenin Moreno saying he does not like his presence in the embassy. The government in October imposed new rules requiring him to receive routine medical exams, following concerns he was not getting the medical attention he needed. The rules also ordered Assange to pay his medical and phone bills and clean up after his pet cat.

Inigo Salvador told reporters Ecuador did not have access to results of the tests, which were conducted by doctors Assange trusted, out of respect for his privacy. But he said Assange, who has sued Ecuador arguing that the new rules violate his rights, appeared coherent and lucid to him. On Wednesday, Assange appeared via videoconference in an Ecuadorean court to appeal a previous ruling that had upheld the new rules. Assange is concerned that Ecuador is seeking to end his asylum and extradite him to the United States, but Ecuador has said the United Kingdom told it he would not be extradited.

U.S. officials have acknowledged that federal prosecutors have been conducting a lengthy criminal probe into Assange and Wikileaks. Wikileaks published U.S. diplomatic and military secrets when Assange ran the operation. A lawyer for Assange said he did not know the results of the medical tests, and called on Ecuador to produce documentation proving that the UK would not extradite him to any country where his life was at risk.

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“..accused his Ecuadorean hosts of spying and feeding information to US authorities..”

Assange Complains Of ‘More Subtle’ Silencing Than Khashoggi (RT)

Julian Assange has accused his Ecuadorean hosts of spying and feeding information to US authorities, and slammed attempts to block his journalistic work as a more subtle way of silencing than the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Suggesting there were “facts of espionage” inside the embassy, the WikiLeaks co-founder expressed concern during a hearing in Quito on Wednesday that Ecuadorean intelligence is not only spying on him, but sharing the data it has harvested with the FBI. Ecuadorean intelligence clearly spent a sizable amount of money equipping the embassy for surveillance, Assange added.

He accused Ecuadorean authorities of “comments of a threatening nature” relating to his journalistic work and compared attempts to silence him to the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was tortured and cut up in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul in October, but “more subtle.” The comparison elicited a harsh reaction from Ecuadorean Prosecutor General Inigo Salvador, who accused Assange of biting the hand that feeds him. Assange told the Ecuadorean court that the living conditions in the embassy were so detrimental to his health that they may put him in the hospital – and suggested that may be the point, because once he leaves the building, he’s fair game for UK and US authorities.

[..] Assange was in court appealing a strict set of rules handed down in October governing his conduct, which he has called a violation of human rights. He submitted 15 “facts of evidence” along with letters from individuals and groups barred from visiting him at the embassy. An earlier attempt to sue his hosts over the restrictive measures was ultimately dismissed by a judge last month, while Assange rejected E

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That stuff is very bad news.

Fentanyl Surpasses Heroin As Deadliest Drug In US (AFP)

The synthetic drug, fentanyl, has surpassed heroin as the deadliest drug in the United States, taking more than 18,000 lives in 2016, federal health officials said Wednesday. In 2016, the latest year for which full data is available, “29 percent of all drug overdose deaths mentioned involvement of fentanyl,” said the report from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fentanyl is a powerful, synthetic narcotic that has been blamed for the deaths of rock stars including Prince and Tom Petty. It works on the brain like morphine or heroin, but is 50 to 100 times more potent, and can easily lead to overdose.

The rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States has tripled from 1999 through 2016, as the nation grapples with a persistent opioid epidemic. Fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths have doubled each year from 2013 through 2016, “from 0.6 per 100,000 in 2013 to 1.3 in 2014, 2.6 in 2015, and 5.9 in 2016,” said the report. Meanwhile, deaths from heroin and methamphetamine more than tripled from 2011 to 2016. Heroin was the top cause of drug overdose death from 2012 to 2015, said the report. The prescription painkiller Oxycodone ranked highest in 2011.

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Every word of this is broken. Time defends the MSM against Trump, but he didn’t create fake news. I like the term ‘abuse of truth’, that verges on doublespeak, as does ‘..the willingness to dismiss anything including credible news reporting as fake news”. And c’mon, free and fair press? Who believes that?

Time Magazine Says The US ‘Remains A Free And Fair Press’ (CNBC)

Despite the White House ramping up its rhetoric, the United States remains a free and fair press, Ben Goldberger the assistant managing editor of Time magazine told CNBC on Wednesday. The year 2018 has been marked by manipulation, abuse of truth, along with efforts by governments to instigate mistrust of the facts, the magazine said in an essay when it named killed and imprisoned journalists as Person of the Year for 2018 on Tuesday. “There’s no doubt that the rhetoric from the White House about the demonization of the media as ‘the enemy of the people,’ or the willingness to dismiss anything including credible news reporting as fake news, is incredibly worrisome and chilling,” Goldberger said. “But that said, I return to what I said about the United States — this remains a free and fair press.” “Journalists here enjoy legal protections that are the envy of those in virtually every other country,” he added.

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Nov 302018
 
 November 30, 2018  Posted by at 11:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Emil Nolde Zwei Schwimmer1914

 

Rising Rates Are Killing The Housing Market (Roberts)
Libor Surges Most In 8 Months, Squeezing $200 Trillion In Credit (ZH)
How Jay Powell Could Be Walking His Tightrope (Street)
German Police Raid Deutsche Bank Offices In Money Laundering Probe (CNBC)
Manafort’s Passport Stamps Don’t Match “Fabricated” Assange Story (ZH)
Cohen Pleads Guilty For Misstatements To Congress About Russia (Hill)
Has Prime Minister May Just Signed Her Own Warrant Of Execution? (Peston)
Ukraine’s Pinochet Scenario (Nation)
Poroshenko: IMF Endorses Key Indicators Of 2019 Ukraine Budget (UNIA)
Ukraine Bars Entry To Russian Men Of Combat Age Citing Invasion Fears (R.)

 

 

Hard to do a relevant news aggregator today. News has largely been replaced by opinion and unproven allegations. Whether it’s Assange, or Trump, or Russia, or any combination of the three, any tidbit of ‘news’ is greeted with the re-submission of all those tidbits entered earlier that died off because there was no proof for them (either).

Well, at least this first article is real, though Lance Roberts ignores that there really is no housing market today, no more than there is a stock market. Both have been replaced by central bank manipulation which prevents prioce discovery. And yes, both are under severe threat from rates creating that price discovery.

Rising Rates Are Killing The Housing Market (Roberts)

The housing recovery is ultimately a story of the “real” employment situation. With roughly a quarter of the home buying cohort unemployed and living at home with their parents, the option to buy simply is not available. Another large chunk of that group are employed but at the lower end of the pay scale which pushes them to rent due to budgetary considerations and an inability to qualify for a mortgage. Even after a “decade of recovery,” the full-time employment-to-population ratios remain well below levels normally associated with a strong economy, and wage growth remains stagnant. Both of which makes home affordability an issue.

Despite much of the media rhetoric to the contrary, I have warned repeatedly that rising rates would negatively impact the housing market which was still being supported by low interest rates. The mistake that mainstream analysts made was in the assumption that the recent increases in real estate prices were largely driven by first time home buyers creating an organic market. The reality, however, has been that market increases were being driven by speculators in the “buy to rent” game.

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Poeple have been calling for a replacement for Libor for years, but nothing has been forthcoming.

Libor Surges Most In 8 Months, Squeezing $200 Trillion In Credit (ZH)

While stocks, and with a notable delay bonds, were happy to run with Powell’s dovish reversal on Wednesday, one key market – arguably the most important one for financial conditions when it comes to the broader economy – has refused to respond. Earlier today, instead of reacting to what has been interpreted as the Fed Chair’s “dovish repricing” of future rate hike expectations, 3 month USD Libor jumped over 3 basis points to 2.73813%, the highest level in more than ten years. This was biggest daily jump in 3M Libor since March, and the second highest Libor increase of 2018. As a result, dollar funding conditions as measured by Libor-OIS have also tightened notably, as the spread widened to 36bp from 33.8bp prior session, and is once again approaching the levels seen during the spike earlier this year.

The reason why rising Libor remains a major risk to financial conditions is its footprint can be found everywhere, from OTC interest rate swaps, to leveraged loans – considered by many as the locus of the next credit crisis – to retail mortgages, to complex securitizations. According to the TBAC, just about $200 trillion in instruments are exposed to Libor’s interest rate footprint. Most affected by this ongoing rise may be the bond market, which has also been hit with the double whammy of tumbling oil, which earlier today dipped below $50/barrel, a price widely seen as a “red-line” for junk bond investors, below which some may sell their exposure indiscriminately. And since energy is one of the largest components of the junk bond index, it is only a matter of time before contagion spread from oil, through highly leveraged energy producers to the rest of the market.

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Jay Powell’s power is an enormous threat to all Americans.

How Jay Powell Could Be Walking His Tightrope (Street)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has sounded increasingly measured in his last two public appearances. But there could be a method to his madness. After Powell made reference to the possibility that there will be fewer interest rate hikes in 2019 than initially expected at The Economic Club in New York, stocks surged. Powell said interest rates are “just below” neutral, meaning that there may not be all four rate hikes in 2019. For now, it seems there’s a ‘One and Wait’ policy at the Fed. “He really didn’t mean to pigeon-hole himself into saying ‘I’m committed to three or four more rate hikes’ through 2019,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, former adviser to the president of the Dallas Federal Reserve.

Now that housing prices, oil prices, and even the stock market have all dropped considerably of late, four rate hikes may not be a good thing for the economy. Still, there’s a flip side to Powell’s walking back of his hawkishness. He doesn’t want to seem as if he’s yielding to President Trump’s wishes that the Fed slows down its rate hiking path. Powell had been hawkish for much of 2018, so in his latest remarks, “he really had to back off of that without looking like he was kowtowing to politics,” DiMartino said. “He wanted to reorient, if you will, investors away from their rigidity with saying ‘oh my gosh,’ we’ve got at least four more in 2019,'” DiMartino added.

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Raids continue today, Deutsche shares hit all time low of €8.03.

German Police Raid Deutsche Bank Offices In Money Laundering Probe (CNBC)

German police raided Deutsche Bank’s offices in Frankfurt on Thursday in a probe of money laundering against the country’s flagship lender. Two Deutsche Bank staff members are suspected of helping clients set up off-shore businesses to launder money gained from criminal deeds. Some 170 police officers, prosecutors and tax inspectors searched six of Deutsche Bank’s offices Thursday morning, Frankfurt’s public prosecutor’s office said in a statement. Numerous written and electronic business documents were seized, it added. “We confirm that police are currently investigating our bank at various locations in Germany. The investigation concerns the Panama Papers,” Deutsche Bank said in a statement, according to a CNBC translation.

[..] The public prosecutor’s office in Frankfurt said an evaluation of data from the Panama Papers had triggered suspicion that the bank may have helped customers create offshore companies in tax havens around the world. In 2016 alone, more than 900 customers with a business volume of 311 million euros ($353.6 million) were thought to have been cared for by a Deutsche Bank subsidiary based in the British Virgin Islands, the prosecutor said. [..] Since 2015, the lender — which once had ambitions of competing on equal terms with Wall Street’s banking giants — has endured a failed stress test in the U.S., several attempts to restructure, a leadership shake-up and a ratings downgrade. Shares of the bank have tumbled almost 50 percent this year.

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More on that stupid Guardian story. WikiLeaks collects donations to sue the paper.

Manafort’s Passport Stamps Don’t Match “Fabricated” Assange Story (ZH)

Further evidence that The Guardian “entirely fabricated” a report that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange in 2013, 2015 and the spring of 2016; his passports… The Washington Times reports that Manafort’s three passports reveal just two visits to England in 2010 and 2012, which support his categorical denial of the “totally false and deliberately libelous” report in The Guardian, which said that Manafort visited Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy – ostensibly to coordinate on the WikiLeaks release of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

The Times does note that Manafort could have conceivably entered the UK from another European country and not received a stamp – however a representative for Manafort insisted to the Times that Manafort has only made those two visits to England since 2008, and that a libel suit against the Guardian is under discussion. While two of Manafort’s passports were entered as evidence at his tax evasion trial – something that The Guardian’s Luke Harding and Dan Collyns could have easily looked up – the Times has obtained a copy of his third passport which confirms the two visits. “His attorney explained the passports this way: One was lost, one was used to submit to foreign embassies for visas, and one was used as a backup. Manafort later found the third passport.” -Washington Times

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A thousanda articles today based on hearsay. At least the Hill says ‘misstatements’. not ‘lies’. But yeah, more Mueller docs out into the open.

Cohen Pleads Guilty For Misstatements To Congress About Russia (Hill)

President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen on Thursday pleaded guilty for misstatements he made to Congress while testifying about his contacts with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen appeared in a federal court in Manhattan after reaching a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller. He pleaded guilty to making a false statement about the effort to build a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential campaign while testifying before Congress, according to court documents, and made false statements about the timing of the project. Cohen made the misstatements while testifying before two congressional intelligence committees in 2017.

He also agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, according to a plea deal released by the special counsel. The plea from Cohen marks the first time he has been charged by Mueller as part of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. President Trump blasted Cohen as a “weak person” following the reports of his pleading guilty. The president accused Cohen of “lying” in order to receive a reduced sentence. “He’s trying to get a much lesser sentence by making up the story,” Trump said, adding “everybody knows about this deal.”

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“If she truly means what she says, that she has no plan B, she will be gone as PM within hours of losing the vote..”

Has Theresa May Just Signed Her Own Warrant Of Execution? (Peston)

The prime minister might have been a bit too clever when attacking Jeremy Corbyn’s and Labour’s opposition to her Brexit deal. Some four hours in to her 14-hour flight to the G20 leading nations’ summit in Argentina, she told journalists: “What they are doing is advocating rejecting the deal we negotiated with the EU without having any proper alternative to it. “They say they don’t want ‘no-deal’, but by appearing to reject a temporary backstop they are effectively advocating no-deal, because without a backstop there is no deal.” So, she is accusing Labour of ushering in the kind of economic no-deal calamity – a devastating recession that would see the income of the UK slashed by a tenth – that was painted on Wednesday by the governor of the Bank of England.

Which is a critique Labour will have to answer. But in understanding the true import of what she said, Labour is arguably a sideshow. In couching her attack on Labour in that way she – presumably inadvertently – also accused her estranged allies, Northern Ireland’s DUP, and her own Brexiter MPs of the same crime, because they too hate the backstop that is designed to keep open the border on the island of Ireland (and is seen by critics as driving a wedge between GB and Northern Ireland, and sacrificing the whole UK’s right of self determination).

By advancing the argument that there is no deal without the backstop, she is telling the DUP and her Brexiters that there is no Plan B – that if they vote down her deal on 11 December, it’s off to no-deal hell in a handcart of their own design. But, rightly or not, they do not believe the choice is her backstopped deal or no deal. Which is why they will reject her plan. And what is potentially lethal for her is that they will on Friday feel more obliged to reject and oust her pronto, if as expected they throw out her deal – because how could they support a PM so fatalistic and negative about finding a negotiated backstop-free Brexit? [..] If she truly means what she says, that she has no plan B, she will be gone as PM within hours of losing the vote [..]

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Ukraine withdrew from treaty in September. That opened the way for…

Ukraine’s Pinochet Scenario (Nation)

At first glance, Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian warships that attempted to enter the Sea of Azov seems to follow a familiar pattern of aggression aimed at solidifying control over the annexed Crimean peninsula. Upon closer inspection, however, there is much more going on here than a dispute over transit rights. By firing upon the Ukrainian vessels, Russia violated the December 2003 agreement on cooperative use of the Sea of Azov, which clearly provides for the unimpeded transit of both military and commercial ships of either country. This was immediately condemned by Washington and other Western capitals.

But it is worth noting that this agreement is explicitly tied to the 1997 Treaty of Friendship between the two countries. Indeed, when Ukraine withdrew from this treaty this past September, many Ukrainian legal experts warned that it would actually undermine Ukraine’s legal standing in the event of a border dispute. In October, therefore, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko unilaterally issued a set of directives delimiting Ukraine’s new border in the Azov and Black seas. Little noted at the time, these also apparently contained “an extensive secret section in the form of directives to the Council for National Security and Defense” to be carried out within the next 30 days.

This is where the president’s response to the latest incident becomes interesting. Within hours of the Russian military action, Poroshenko managed to convene his war cabinet, got it to propose martial law nationwide, and demanded that the Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) approve it. No other crisis—not even the presence of Russian troops in Donbass and Crimea—has ever evoked such a draconian response. The decision to do so now, at the onset of the presidential campaign, therefore raised enormous suspicions.

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Really? That’s what the IMF is for? Keep your eyes open for Nordstream 2 news bits. Willy Wonka has steered the country towards finacial disaster.

Poroshenko: IMF Endorses Key Indicators Of 2019 Ukraine Budget (UNIA)

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says that the IMF has endorsed the key indicators of the country’s national budget for 2019 to facilitate further cooperation. “The Head of State informed Madame Lagarde about the adoption and the key parameters of the state budget of Ukraine for the year 2019. Madame Lagarde noted that, according to the IMF’s preliminary estimates, the key indicators of the state budget of Ukraine are in line with the parameters agreed with the Fund,” Poroshenko’s press service said in a follow-up of a telephone conversation between the Ukrainian President and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.

Lagarde also confirmed the IMF’s readiness to continue the good cooperation with Ukraine and to support the country in the implementation of its reforms. It was noted that the IMF stands ready to provide Ukraine with appropriate technical assistance to help improve Ukraine’s fiscal policies and tax administration. During the conversation, it was particularly underlined that the introduction of the martial law does not influence the interaction with the IMF. They also highlighted further steps to be taken in the context of a meeting of the IMF Executive Board in December to discuss the Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) for Ukraine.

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Not the Onion.

Ukraine Bars Entry To Russian Men Of Combat Age Citing Invasion Fears (R.)

Ukraine announced it was barring entry to Russian men between 16-60 years and a senior state security official said Kiev was considering whether to respond in kind with “mirror actions” to the Black Sea incident. Earlier, in a move applauded in Kiev, U.S. President Donald Trump called off a meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Argentina to signal Washington’s disapproval of Russian behavior in the naval clash with Ukraine. News of the canceled meeting pushed down the Russian rouble, which is sensitive to events that might lead to new sanctions being imposed on Russia.

Announcing the move, President Petro Poroshenko, referring back to Russia’s seizure and subsequent annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its support for separatist uprisings in eastern Ukraine, said it was important to stop full-scale invasion. “These are measures to block the Russian Federation to form detachments of private armies here, which in fact are representatives of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” Poroshenko said. “And not allow them to carry out the operations that they tried to conduct in 2014,” he added. [..] In Moscow, a Russian lawmaker was quoted by RIA news agency as saying Russia had no plans for a reciprocal move to bar Ukrainian men.

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Aug 302018
 


Henri Matisse Trivaux pond 1916-17

 

Trump Says ‘No Reason’ For Military Exercises With South Korea (CNBC)
NATO Think Tank Continues Pre-Election Interference (RPI)
Whistleblower Exposes Key Player in FBI Russia Probe: “It Was A Set-Up” (SC)
CNN Lies About Cohen Story, Refuses to Comment (Greenwald)
The Media’s Chronic Misreporting on the Trump/Russia Story (Greenwald)
Russian Oligarch, DOJ And A Clear Case Of Collusion (ZH)
India’s Rupee Falls To An All-Time Low (CNBC)
Trade War Won’t Cause ‘Major’ Hit To China’s Economy – Morgan Stanley (CNBC)
Argentina Asks IMF For Early Release Of Standby Funds (R.)
Pound Sterling Rallies As Raab And Barnier Turn Optimistic On Brexit (Ind.)
EU’s Barnier Says Must Prepare For A ‘No-Deal’ Brexit (R.)
Car Manufacturing In Britain Fell By 11% In July (G.)
1000s Of British Expats Living In Spain Return To UK As Brexit Nears (Exp.)

 

 

“Trump’s announcement came a day after Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that there were no plans to cancel future exercises with South Korea.”

Trump Says ‘No Reason’ For Military Exercises With South Korea (CNBC)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday indicated that the U.S. will not participate in joint military exercises with South Korea, citing his “warm” relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, even as U.S. efforts to denuclearize the reclusive dictatorship have stalled. “There is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games,” Trump said in a string of tweets Wednesday. Trump’s announcement came a day after Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that there were no plans to cancel future exercises with South Korea.

“As you know, we took this step to suspend several of the larger exercises as a good-faith measure coming out of the Singapore summit,” Mattis said Tuesday at the Pentagon. It was his first press briefing in five months, a timeline that has included President Donald Trump’s high-profile meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We have no plans at this time to suspend any more exercises. We will work very closely, as I said, with the secretary of State and what he needs done,” he added, noting that forces on the Korean Peninsula have continued with small-scale training exercises.

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On the Atlantic Council’s board: Henry Kissinger, Michael Hayden and Michael Chertoff. These are the people ‘advising’ Facebook on content.

NATO Think Tank Continues Pre-Election Interference (RPI)

On August 24 what is in effect the social media warfare division of the Atlantic Council published an article accusing the Russian television and print news outlet RT of running a one-sided attack against the Democratic Party and several leaders thereof ahead of this November’s politically pivotal Senate and House of Representatives elections. (Thirty-five Senate seats and all 435 House seats are being contested.) The Atlantic Council, until recently kept comparatively in the shadows for obvious reasons, is a think tank that has more than any other organization effected the transition of the NATO from a seeming Cold War relic with the break-up of the Warsaw Pact and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 to the world’s only and history’s first international military network with 70 members and partners on six continents currently.

All thirteen new full member states are in Eastern and Central Europe; four of them border Russia. Three months ago it began collaborating with Facebook to police and censor that and (presumably) soon after other social media companies which in recent decades have become the major sources of information and communication for the seven billion citizens of the planet. No modest undertaking. This is by way of follow up to a Directive on Social Media issued four years ago by NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), the bloc’s military command in Europe (which also oversees activities in Israel and until the activation of U.S. Africa Command ten years ago almost all of Africa).

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Excellent from Sara Carter. I took these snippets to make the point that both Flynn and Papadopoulos feel threatened by Mueller, and can’t afford to defend themselves. That’s how Mueller gets guilty pleas.

Whistleblower Exposes Key Player in FBI Russia Probe: “It Was A Set-Up” (SC)

Halper was not only spying on Page for the FBI in 2016, but he had also made contact in September 2016 with another Trump campaign volunteer, George Papadopoulos. He invited Papadopoulos to London that September, luring him with a $3,000 paycheck to work on a research paper under contract. By this time the young Trump campaign volunteer had already been in contact London-based professor, Josef Mifsud, who had basically informed him that the Russians had damaging material about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Misfud’s role has also come into question by Congress. Eventually, Papadopoulos was swept into Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation and pled guilty to one count of lying to the FBI.

His wife, Simona Papadopoulos, who’s been a vocal advocate for her husband, told SaraACarter.com that essentially he was forced to plead guilty because of threats from Mueller’s team and lack of financial resources. After testifying behind closed doors last month to the House Intelligence Committee, Simona told this outlet that she testified to Congress “as far as George is concerned, he met with individuals following the same pattern of behavior….and all of a sudden (Halper) was asking if he was doing anything with Russians…. This is the case with Halper, who is now proven to be a spy, possibly with (Australian Ambassador) Alexander Downer” who her husband met with in London.

[..] Flynn’s career with Trump ended as quickly as it came. He was forced to resign as Trump’s National Security Advisor 27 days after taking the job. The highly classified conversation between Flynn and former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was leaked to the Washington Post in January 2017 and he was later questioned by the FBI on that conversation. According to former FBI Director James Comey, the agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe he was lying, but in the end, Flynn pled guilty to one count of lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He had already spent more than $1 million in lawyers fees and sold his home to help with the debt. According to sources, Flynn’s family was being threatened by the Mueller team.

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The sordid tale of Lanny Davis continues.

CNN Lies About Cohen Story, Refuses to Comment (Greenwald)

CNN’s blockbuster July 26 story – that Michael Cohen intended to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he was present when Donald Trump was told in advance about his son’s Trump Tower meeting with various Russians – includes a key statement about its sourcing that credible reporting now suggests was designed to have misled its audience. Yet CNN simply refuses to address the serious ethical and journalistic questions raised about its conduct. The substance of the CNN story itself regarding Cohen – which made headline news all over all the world and which CNN hyped as a “bombshell” – has now been retracted by other news outlets that originally purported to “confirm” CNN’s story.

That’s because the anonymous source for this confirmation, Cohen lawyer Lanny Davis, now admits that, in essence, his “confirmation” was false. As a result, both the Washington Post and the NY Post outed Davis as their anonymous source and then effectively retracted their stories “confirming” parts of CNN’s report. CNN, however, has retracted nothing. All inquiries to the network are directed to a corporate spokesperson, who simply says: “We stand by our story, and are confident in our reporting of it.” A newsletter sent Sunday night from CNN’s two media reporters, Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy, contained the same corporate language, but addressed none of the questions raised about CNN’s report.

It’s certainly possible that CNN had other sources for this story besides Davis, who now repudiates it. It’s hard to see how CNN’s story could be true given that Davis, Cohen’s own lawyer, explicitly says that Cohen has no information that Trump had prior knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting, that Cohen cannot and will not tell Mueller that this happened, and that Davis’ prior claims about Cohen’s knowledge and intentions are false. Axios reported that Cohen testified under oath to Congress that he has no knowledge that Trump had prior knowledge of the meeting and repeated this to leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee again after CNN’s report. Davis now says Cohen – rather than intending to tell Mueller he has such information – stands by his long-time claim that he has none.

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From the same Glenn Greenwald article. False claims galore.

The Media’s Chronic Misreporting on the Trump/Russia Story (Greenwald)

The other self-serving tactic media outlets use in situations like this is to claim that their errors are just good faith and rare mistakes, and that those who report on their mistakes are exaggerating their significance. This claim was also prominently featured in the New Yorker’s critique of my work, and is reflexively applied to anyone who has critiqued the dominant media narrative on this story. This tactic is also itself highly deceitful. The reality is that from the start of the Trump/Russia story, the U.S. media has repeatedly and frequently – not rarely and periodically – gotten major stories completely wrong, always in the same direction: exaggerating the threat posed by Russia to the U.S., and concocting evidence of Trump/Russia collusion even when such evidence did not exist.

Last December, I reported on what I call (and still believe) was the U.S. media’s “most humiliating debacle in ages”: a blatantly false and equally hyped CNN story claiming that an unknown person had emailed Donald Trump Jr. access to the WikiLeaks email archive before it was published: a story that MSNBC’s Ken Dilanian purported to “confirm.” That story – predictably and by design – generated huge headlines around the world, and was given breathless coverage on cable news given its obvious significance. In fact, the email in question was sent after WikiLeaks had published that archive to the entire world, rendering the magic-bullet email utterly worthless, not a massive scoop proving collusion.

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Swamp.

Russian Oligarch, DOJ And A Clear Case Of Collusion (ZH)

Steele and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr communicated extensively about the Russian Oligarch as recently as February 2016, which included efforts to obtain a Visa for Deripaska to attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting int he US. Deripaska is now banned from the United States as one of several Russians sanctioned in April in response to alleged 2016 election meddling. Ohr, meanwhile, was demoted twice after the DOJ’s Inspector General discovered that he lied about his involvement with opposition research firm Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson – who employed Steele. Ohr’s CIA-linked wife, Nellie, was also employed by Fusion as part of the firm’s anti-Trump efforts, and had ongoing communications with the ex-UK spy, Christopher Steele as well. What’s more, Ohr met with Deripaska according to Solomon.

“By 2015, Steele’s work had left him friendly with one of Deripaska’s lawyers, according to my sources. And when Ohr, then the associate deputy attorney general and a longtime acquaintance of Steele, sought help getting to meet Deripaska, Steele obliged. Deripaska, who frequently has appeared alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin at high-profile meetings, never really dealt with Steele, but he followed his lawyer’s recommendations and met with Ohr, my sources say. -The Hill The September 2015 meeting between Ohr, Deripaska and several FBI agents in New York sought the Russian billionaire’s assistance regarding organized crime investigations. That meeting was facilitated by Steele.

To recap: Bruce Ohr = the #4 official at the DOJ, met with a billionaire friend of Vladimir Putin, in a sit-down arranged by Christopher Steele. Steele and the DOJ, meanwhile, were accusing Donald Trump of collusion with Putin – while the Obama administration used Steele’s dodgy dossier to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Talk about actual collusion!

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India’s still largely inward looking, but still, what is imported -oil!-gets much more expensive.

India’s Rupee Falls To An All-Time Low (CNBC)

The Indian rupee fell to a record low on Thursday morning, following a declining trend all year — which economists attributed to rising oil prices, broader emerging market concerns, and strong month-end dollar demand. It slid to 70.8100 against the dollar, after a previous new low just a day before at 70.475. That marked a 10.97 percent decline since the start of the year. “Weakening has accompanied rising investment concerns about emerging markets more broadly, as well as a widening current account deficit, itself largely the result of higher oil prices,” said a Deutsche Bank Wealth Management report on Thursday.

More expensive oil leads to a higher import bill for India, a net importer of oil. Higher oil prices also lead to a widening current account deficit — a measure of the flow of goods, services and investments in and out of the country. Oil prices have been up more than 7 percent since mid-August, DBS Economist Radhika Rao explained in a note following the previous record low on Wednesday. Along with that, end-month dollar demand has also added to the pace of currency sell-off, she said. “Markets get a sense that the authorities are tolerant of a weaker rupee, with little by way of jawboning or verbal intervention,” Rao added.

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I think Beijing is more nervous than this lets on.

Trade War Won’t Cause ‘Major’ Hit To China’s Economy – Morgan Stanley (CNBC)

The Chinese government will continue implementing measures in order to cushion its economy from the impact of the ongoing trade spat with the U.S., a leading China economist said Wednesday. “We are not expecting any major growth correction because we think the potential impact from trade tariffs will be partially cushioned by the policy easing measures taken by the policy makers,” Robin Xing, chief China economist at Morgan Stanley, told CNBC at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Beijing. Just last week, the U.S. and China slapped tariffs on $16 billion worth of goods on each other. Both countries also imposed tit-for-tat levies on $34 billion worth of each other’s imports in July.

Market watchers are now keeping their eyes on a fresh round of U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods expected later this year. If the U.S. imposes those additional tariffs, the impact could be “amplified” by how connected supply chains in East Asia are to China, Xing said. In fact, the trade war’s disruption to supply chains could cut 0.7 percentage points from China’s growth, he said. That will spur Beijing to take up more meaningful easing measures such as tax cuts and boosts to credit and liquidity in China’s financial system.

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Sure, just sell all your assets.

Argentina Asks IMF For Early Release Of Standby Funds (R.)

Argentina is asking the IMF for early release of funds from the country’s $50 billion standby financing deal, President Mauricio Macri said in a televised address on Wednesday, a move aimed at calming turbulent markets. The country’s currency has weakened 40.79 percent in 2018. Investors are concerned that with high inflation, a weak economy and fallout from a global selloff in emerging markets, Argentina may have problems meeting its dollar debt obligation in 2019. “We have agreed with the IMF to advance all the necessary funds to guarantee compliance with the financial program next year,” Macri said. “This decision aims to eliminate any uncertainty.” The Argentine peso dropped to trade more than 6 percent lower against the dollar on the news.

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Michel Barnier, said the bloc is “prepared to offer a partnership with Britain such as has never been with any other third country..”

Pound Sterling Rallies As Raab And Barnier Turn Optimistic On Brexit (Ind.)

The pound has rallied against the dollar and the euro following bullish Brexit comments from both UK and EU officials. Sterling rose more than 1 per cent against the greenback to hit $1.3006, and was up 0.99 per cent against the euro to €1.1118. Brexit secretary Dominic Raab told the Lords EU committee on Wednesday that he was “confident a deal is within our sights”. He said: “We’re bringing ambition, pragmatism, energy and if, and I expect it will be, and if it is matched, we get a deal.” He said the 17 October deadline for a deal could be pushed back, but added: “I think it is important as we enter the final phase of the negotiations in the lead up to the October council – and the possibility that it may creep beyond that – we want to see some renewed energy.

“We’re bringing the ambition and the substance of our white paper on the future relationship and also I think some pragmatism to try and go the extra mile to get the deal that I think is in both sides interests. We need that to be matched obviously, it’s a negotiation.” Meanwhile the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the bloc is “prepared to offer a partnership with Britain such as has never been with any other third country”. “That kind of bullishness has been in short supply of late – if it has ever been there at all – and had a hugely rejuvenating effect on the pound,” said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex.

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But wait! Keep ’em guessing!

EU’s Barnier Says Must Prepare For A ‘No-Deal’ Brexit (R.)

The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Thursday the bloc must prepare for a no-deal Brexit, even if its goal was an orderly exit. The EU needed to be well prepared for everything, Barnier said, telling German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk: “That includes the no-deal scenario.” He said the issue of the Irish border with Northern Ireland was “the most sensitive point” of the negotiations. Of a solution to the issue, he added: “I think that is possible.”

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The industry wants to both cry for help AND look strong.

Car Manufacturing In Britain Fell By 11% In July (G.)

The number of cars built in UK factories slumped by 11% last month compared with a year ago. Just over 121,000 cars left production lines, with a fall of 35% in models built for the UK, according to the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Car production for export in July fell by 4.2%. Despite the reduction, the sector remains on track to meet 2018 expectations, said the SMMT. Just under 955,500 cars were built in the first seven months of the year, down by 16% for the UK market and 1.2% for export. This marks an improvement on June, when production for the UK plunged 47%, although there was a 6% rise in cars made for export.

Model changes, operational adjustments and preparations for new emissions standards affected output last month, said the SMMT. Its chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “While the industry is undoubtedly feeling the effects of recent uncertainty in the domestic market, drawing long-term conclusions from monthly snapshots requires a health warning. “The bigger picture is complex and month by month fluctuations are inevitable as manufacturers manage product cycles, operational changes and the delicate balance of supply and demand from market to market. “To ensure future growth, we need political and economic clarity at home, and the continuation of beneficial trading arrangements with the EU and other key markets.”

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Those were the days.

1000s Of British Expats Living In Spain Return To UK As Brexit Nears (Exp.)


Figures show the number of Brits living in Bendorm has fallen from around 5,000 before the 2007 financial crash to 2,825 last year. Almost 5,000 waved adios to Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca over the same period of time and by 2017, 14,981 expats remained on the Balearic islands. Spanish newspaper El Pais reported the total number of British residents in Spain had dropped from 397,892 to 240,785 – a fall of 157,107. It said data from Spain’s National Statistics Institute showed the number of residents from 15 EU-countries in Spain had fallen by a quarter but the number of British expats had fallen 40 percent. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of Britons leaving Spain outnumbered those who arrived. In the previous four years, 40,454 more Britons arrived in Spain than left.

The drop in expats was put down partly to a shake up in municipal enrolment regulations in Spain but many returnees fear Brexit will have a negative impact on their lives abroad while others say life on the continent has become too expensive with the devaluation of the pound. Michelle Ball, who has a shop in La Xara, Alicante having arriving in Valencia as a 14-year-old, said: “Many are returning because life has become incredibly expensive. “My mother has lost €160 a month in her pension since the Brexit referendum because of the devaluation of the pound. “Now her pension is €690. And since the Spanish government made changes a few years back she also has to pay a portion for her medicines. It’s not a lot but it doesn’t help either.”Sterling fell to its lowest against the euro in nearly a year yesterday after Theresa May played down the consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

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Aug 262018
 


Vincent van Gogh Starry night over the Rhône 1888

 

The Real John McCain (Kerwick)
Steele or Assange: Who Really Deserves 1st Amendment Protection? (Machon)
Trump: 5-Year Prison Sentence for Whistleblower Reality Winner ‘Unfair’ (TIME)
Cohen’s Plea Deal Is Prosecutor’s Attempt To Set Up Trump (Hill)
Europe Must Save The British From Themselves On Brexit (IT)
Ending The Fiscal-Monetary Tug-o-War (NEF)
Greece’s “Bailout” Was a Disaster for Greece (Klein)
Greece Remains A Debtor’s Prison, The EU Won’t Let Go Of The Keys (Varoufakis)
US Study Shows How Austerity Devastated Greece’s Health (UoW)
Italy Disembarks Stranded Migrants, Salvini Under Investigation (R.)
Time Is Running Out For The Pope To Pacify The Faithful’s Anger (O.)

 

 

I was going to leave McCain in peace. I strongly believe in not kicking a man when he’s down, and besides there’s already so much anger out there. I’ve always thought that perhaps as a POW he suffered some kind of brain damage. But I still can’t get the image out of my head of him singing “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” And then seeing people refer to him as an “unparalleled example of human decency”. It’s too much.

The Real John McCain (Kerwick)

McCain is not alone in having their blood on his hands. Yet in a Regime, a Government-Media-Complex, comprised of warmongers, McCain enjoys the dubious distinction of being the warmonger par excellence. On the false pretense that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat against the United States via the “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) that he never possessed, McCain urged as loudly and tirelessly as anyone for war. Those libertarians and old right conservative sorts who exposed holes in the WMD narrative and forecasted the disaster to which such a war would lead were dismissed, ignored, or mocked. Estimates of casualties vary, but today, some 14 years after McCain got his way, anywhere between 195,000 and possibly one million Iraqis are dead.

The Iraq Body Count project found that during the decade following the invasion, 174,000 Iraqis were killed. Of this number, 112,000-123,000 were civilian noncombatants. At present, the number is closer to 200,000 civilian noncombatant deaths. Between 2003 and 2014, nearly 5,000 American service members lost their lives in this war that McCain and his ilk cooked on the basis of a lie. Yet contractors, aid relief workers, and journalists are also among those who lost their lives. While we can tabulate numbers, the pain, suffering, and trauma endured by the loved ones of those killed is incalculable. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and American corpses that McCain and his comrades left in the wake of their rush to war, there are that many more who have lived but who suffer daily.

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Annie Machon is a former MI5 agent. She makes some very good points. One of them: Assange doesn’t get 1st amendment protection because he’s not American. Steele does get it even though he’s British.

Steele or Assange: Who Really Deserves 1st Amendment Protection? (Machon)

Steele has won a legal case in the USA, where he had been sued by three Russian oligarchs who claimed that the ‘Dirty Dossier’ traduced their reputations. And he won on the basis that his report was protected by First Amendment rights under the constitution of the USA, which guarantees US citizens the right to freedom of expression. Despite the fact that Steele is British. “But Judge Anthony Epstein disagreed, writing in his judgment that “advocacy on issues of public interest has the capacity to inform public debate, and thereby furthers the purposes of the First Amendment, regardless of the citizenship or residency of the speakers.”

This is the nub of the issue: Steele, a former official UK intelligence officer and current mercenary spy-for-hire, is granted legal protection by the American courts for digging up and subsequently leaking what appears to be controversial and defamatory information about the current US president as well as various Russians, all paid for by Trump’s political opponents. And Steele is given the full protection of the US legal system. On the other hand, we have an award-winning journalist and publisher, Assange, whose organization WikiLeaks has never been found to report anything factually incorrect in more than 10 years, being told that if he were to be extradited from his current political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to face the full wrath of a vengeful American establishment, he is not entitled to claim the protection of the First Amendment because he is an Australian citizen, not an American.

[..] On a slightly tangential note, there has been some speculation, suppressed in the UK at least via the D Notice censorship system, that MI6 informant and Russian traitor Sergei Skripal, the victim of the alleged Novichok poisoning in the UK earlier this year, remained in contact with his alleged handler Pablo Miller, who also is reported to work for Orbis Business Intelligence. If this were indeed the case, then it would be a logical assumption that Orbis, via Miller, might well have used Skripal as one of its “reliable sources” for the Dossier.

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Winner is definitely not a fan of Trump.

Trump: 5-Year Prison Sentence for Whistleblower Reality Winner ‘Unfair’ (TIME)

President Donald Trump said NSA whistleblower Reality Winner‘s five-year prison sentence for leaking a classified document to the media was “unfair” – and he used the assertion to again attack Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In a Friday morning tweet, Trump called Winner’s leaks “‘small potatoes’ compared to what Hillary Clinton did,” referring to his repeated accusations that his rival in the 2016 election had broken the law in her use of a private email server while Secretary of State. The tweet also marks the second time in two days that Trump has lashed out at Sessions, following remarks he made Wednesday saying his Attorney General “never took control of the Justice Department.”

“So unfair Jeff, Double Standard,” Trump wrote Friday. The attacks on Sessions come directly after Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty and implicated the President in campaign financing crimes.Winner, an ex-NSA contractor, leaked classified government information to a news organization in 2017. That news organization was never officially identified in court proceedings, however on the same day Winner was arrested the investigative site The Intercept released a report detailing a Russian attempt to influence voting in the 2016 election. Trump’s apparent support for Winner is contrary to his insistence that Edward Snowden, another former NSA employee who leaked secret information to the media, is a “traitor.”

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No agreement on whether Cohen violated anything other then laws linked to his own business. Payments to mistresses may be perfectly legal.

Cohen’s Plea Deal Is Prosecutor’s Attempt To Set Up Trump (Hill)

Why was Michael Cohen investigated? Because the “Steele dossier” had him making secret trips to meet with Russians that never happened, so his business dealings got a thorough scrubbing and, in the process, he fell into the Paul Manafort bin reserved by the special counsel for squeezing until the juice comes out. We are back to 1998 all over again, with presidents and candidates covering up their alleged marital misdeeds and prosecutors trying to turn legal acts into illegal ones by inventing new crimes.

The plot to get President Trump out of office thickens, as Cohen obviously was his own mini crime syndicate and decided that his betrayals meant he would be better served turning on his old boss to cut the best deal with prosecutors he could rather than holding out and getting the full Manafort treatment. That was clear the minute he hired attorney Lanny Davis, who does not try cases and did past work for Hillary Clinton. Cohen had recorded his client, trying to entrap him, sold information about Trump to corporations for millions of dollars while acting as his lawyer, and did not pay taxes on millions.

The sweetener for the prosecutors, of course, was getting Cohen to plead guilty to campaign violations that were not campaign violations. Money paid to people who come out of the woodwork and shake down people under threat of revealing bad sexual stories are not legitimate campaign expenditures. They are personal expenditures. That is true for both candidates we like and candidates we do not. Just imagine if candidates used campaign funds instead of their own money to pay folks like Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about affairs. They would get indicted for misuse of campaign funds for personal purposes and for tax evasion.

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Germny, Greece, UK.

Europe Must Save The British From Themselves On Brexit (IT)

[Keynes in 1919 on the Treaty of Versailles] : “The policy of reducing Germany to servitude for a generation, of degrading the lives of millions of human beings, and of depriving a whole nation of happiness should be abhorrent and detestable – abhorrent and detestable, even if it were possible, even if it enriched ourselves, even if it did not sow the decay of the whole civilized life of Europe.”

[..] Just as British civil servants, especially in the treasury and foreign office, never thought for a second that Germany would meet the demands of Versailles, I can’t believe anybody at the ECB or IMF thinks there is a chance that they will get back what Greece apparently owes them. According to some experts, Germany ended up paying back less then one-sixth of what was demanded in 1919. The withdrawal agreement that the United Kingdom may or may not negotiate over the next few weeks will not bear such close resemblance to those postwar reparations. At least Germany – and, more recently, Greece – tried to limit the damage being inflicted by the other side of the table.

Today the UK negotiators turn up for talks goaded by the Brexiteers to do as bad a deal as possible, to inflict as much damage as they can on themselves. If Keynes were alive today he would write another scathing polemic. The EU has a big call to make. Having crushed the Greeks, does it now do the same to the British? Does it accede to their weird demands for a dreadful deal? How much should it punish the Brexiteers for their idiocy?

Brussels is looking at opponents squabbling over whether to shoot themselves in the foot or the head. Are EU leaders, unlike their 1919 counterparts, able to see that the time for (limited) generosity has arrived? They have the opportunity to save the British from themselves. Why would they do this? The Versailles negotiators couldn’t see that it was in their own interests not to overly punish the Germans. Europe today runs too many risks from an enfeebled and resentful UK. Europe needs to remind itself of the civilising zeal of the EU’s founders and the values of the Enlightenment. Or, at the very least, the value of enlightened self-interest.

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The Bank of England and the Treasury move in opposite directions.

Ending The Fiscal-Monetary Tug-o-War (NEF)

For some time now our two most influential economic institutions -the Bank of England and the Treasury – have been pulling in opposite directions. The Bank has tried to do its job of boosting aggregate demand (spending), but the Treasury has been running fiscal austerity, which has the opposite effect. The great irony is that through its monetary policy stimulus the Bank of England has opened up significant ‘fiscal space’. ‘Fiscal space’is a term used by the IMF to describe the extent to which national governments can take on more public borrowing without harming their economy. This begs the question whether the Treasury has acted irresponsibly by not taking full advantage of the fiscal potential the Bank affords it?

Without fiscal cooperation, the Bank is left trying to stimulate the economy on its own by indirectly influencing the borrowing and spending behaviour of the private sector. To this end, the Bank has lowered interest rates to historic lows, and has injected £445 billion and £125 billion of new money through so called Quantitative Easing (QE) and the Term Funding Scheme (TFS), respectively. In doing so, the Bank has helped keep the economy afloat – but at what cost? Standalone monetary policy has reduced the number of safe assets in the market, supported more risk taking, encouraged households to take on more debt (to record levels), fuelled asset price bubbles, and promoted inequality. To boot, very little of the new money created by the Bank has trickled down into productive investments and household incomes.

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We are finally waking up. But it’s way too late.

Greece’s “Bailout” Was a Disaster for Greece (Klein)

Had Greece been a country with its own currency, such as the Czech Republic or New Zealand, the central bank could have plugged the funding gap and prevented an abrupt collapse in spending. Membership in the euro area removed that option. The government and the banks owed debt in a currency the Bank of Greece could not print, and the ECB was not keen on helping. The textbook response would have been for the government to default on its debt and get a loan from the International Monetary Fund to help smooth out the adjustment. The amount of money required to buy time after a restructuring would not have been large compared with the nearly €300 billion that ended up being lent.

That option was blocked, however, by a coalition of Greece’s “European partners” and the U.S. They were still traumatized by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and had come to believe that its default had made the financial crisis far worse than it otherwise would have been. The result was a firm commitment to avoid any reduction in what the Greek government owed. Their concern was not about what a default would do to Greece, but about what it would do to them. In addition to the €230 billion in potential losses on government debt, which by itself might have been enough to wipe out the capital of many large European banks, foreigners had another €120 billion in exposure to Greek banks. Greek banks did not have much exposure to Greek government debt—only about 8% of total assets in 2009—but it was still more than their total capital and loan-loss reserves.

Restructuring the government’s debt would therefore have required either the partial liquidation of the Greek banking system or an explicit bailout of Greece’s banks paid by someone else. Again, this should have been doable, but U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet were terrified about how it might affect the still-fragile Euro-American financial system. [..] There was no political will in 2010 to spend hundreds of billions of euros to bail out Dutch, French, and German banks. To Greece’s eternal misfortune, however, there was enough “solidarity” to launder that Northern European bank bailout through the Greek government.

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“..it was decided that the Greek government could not be allowed to tell the truth..”

Greece Remains A Debtor’s Prison, The EU Won’t Let Go Of The Keys (Varoufakis)

On the European continent, a far worse drama was unfolding due to the EU’s odd decision, back in 1998, to create monetary union featuring a European Central Bank without a state to support it politically and 19 governments responsible for salvaging their banks in times of financial tumult, but without a central bank to aid them. Why this anomalous arrangement? Because the German condition for swapping the deutschmark for the euro was a total ban on any central bank financing of banks or governments – Italian or Greek, say. So, when in 2009 the French and German banks proved even more insolvent than those of Wall Street or the City, there was no central bank with the legal authority, or backed by the political will, to save them.

Thus, in 2009, even Germany’s Chancellor Merkel panicked when told that her government had to inject, overnight, €406bn of taxpayers’ money into the German banks. Alas, it was not enough. A few months later, Mrs Merkel’s aides informed her that, just like the German banks, the over-indebted Greek state was finding it impossible to roll over its debt. Had it declared its bankruptcy, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal would follow suit, with the result that Berlin and Paris would have faced a fresh bailout of their banks greater than €1tn. At that point, it was decided that the Greek government could not be allowed to tell the truth, that is, confess to its bankruptcy.

To maintain the lie, insolvent Athens was given, under the smokescreen of “solidarity with the Greeks”, the largest loan in human history, to be passed on immediately to the German and French banks. To pacify angry German parliamentarians, that gargantuan loan was given on condition of brutal austerity for the Greek people, placing them in a permanent great depression. To get a feel for the devastation that ensued, imagine what would have happened in the UK if RBS, Lloyds and the other City banks had been rescued without the help of the Bank of England and solely via foreign loans to the exchequer. All granted on the condition that UK wages would be reduced by 40%, pensions by 45%, the minimum wage by 30%, NHS spending by 32%. The UK would now be the wasteland of Europe, just as Greece is today.

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How to devastate an entire population.

US Study Shows How Austerity Devastated Greece’s Health (UoW)

A new study by a School of Dentistry faculty member and dozens of other researchers from the University of Washington and around the world has found that Greece’s population health declined markedly and death rates rose sharply after harsh austerity measures were imposed on Greece by the European Union and the International Money Fund in 2010. “This study is important because it provides a framework for health surveillance on a national level following major socioeconomic changes,” said Dr. Georgios Kotsakis of the School of Dentistry’s Department of Periodontics, one of the study’s authors. The study, which was published this week in the British journal The Lancet Public Health, reported that government health spending fell sharply and that the causes of death that increased the most were largely those that could have been addressed by health care.

The researchers noted that Greece’s reduced health spending, required as part of the austerity measures, had been criticized for omitting measures to protect the country’s National Health System. They said that health policymakers should place a special focus on ensuring that Greece’s health-care system is equipped to meet the needs of the country’s citizens. The researchers identified an increase in the pace at which Greece’s population was aging as another important concern and wrote: “The increase in total deaths in children younger than 5 years and older adults with increase in causes sensitive to resource availability (e.g., access to screening and urgent care) suggest that the health system requires substantial restructuring to cope with the effects that the financial crisis has had on resource availability, resource allocation, and population structure.”

They reported that while the country’s overall death rate rose by about 5.6 percent from 2000 to 2010, it jumped by about 17.7 percent in the six years that followed, after austerity measures were imposed. The rate rose three times faster than the rate in Western Europe overall, and came at a time when mortality rates were actually declining worldwide. The largest increase came among people 70 and older, while the very young also saw a disproportionate increase.

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Yeah, but it’s only until the next ship tries to dock.

Italy Disembarks Stranded Migrants, Salvini Under Investigation (R.)

Italy on Sunday disembarked all 150 migrants from a rescue ship that had been docked for five days in a Sicilian port, ending the migrants’ ordeal and a bitter stand-off between Rome’s anti-establishment government and its European Union partners. The migrants, mainly from Eritrea, had been stranded in the port of Catania since Monday because the government refused to let them off the boat until other EU states agreed to take some of them in. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Albania had offered to accept 20 of the migrants and Ireland 20-25, while the rest would be housed by Italy’s Catholic Church “at zero cost” to the Italian taxpayer.

“The church has opened its heart and opened its wallet,” Salvini, from the right-wing League party, told supporters at a rally in Pinzolo in northern Italy on Saturday evening. Salvini, who has led a popular crackdown against immigration since the government took office in June, also announced that he had been placed under investigation by a Sicilian prosecutor for abuse of office, kidnapping and illegal arrest. “Being investigated for defending the rights of Italians is a disgrace,” he said. On Saturday, the United Nations called for reason from all sides after a meeting of envoys from 10 EU states in Brussels a day earlier failed to break the deadlock. “Frightened people who may be in need of international protection should not be caught in the maelstrom of politics,” the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said in a statement.

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The Vatican is a huge business empire disguised as a religion. That why there will never be a thorough investigation.

Time Is Running Out For The Pope To Pacify The Faithful’s Anger (O.)

Wave after wave of scandal concerning decades of abuse by priests and cover-up by bishops has crashed at the doors of the Vatican this year. The issue threatens to derail Francis’s papacy unless he can belatedly show that he does not just understand the scale and systemic nature of the problem but is willing to take concrete action to deal with it. The past few weeks alone have seen the publication of a shocking grand jury report into clerical abuse and its concealment in Pennsylvania, the resignation as a cardinal of a former archbishop of Washington over alleged sexual assaults, a police raid on the Catholic church’s HQ in Chile, the sentencing of an Australian archbishop convicted of covering up child abuse, and a growing clamour from Irish survivors for the pope to take responsibility for these failings.

More scandals and revelations may be looming. Cardinal George Pell, the third-ranking official in the Vatican and an ally of Pope Francis, is facing legal proceedings in Australia relating to allegations of historic sexual offences. Early next year, the trial will begin in France of two cardinals on charges of concealing sexual abuse. “This is a potential tipping point, not just for Francis’s papacy, but in the Catholic church writ large,” said John Allen, editor of the Catholic magazine Crux and a Vatican expert. “Ordinary Mass-going Catholics are saying that when this first blew up, and for a long time afterwards, they stuck with the church, because people in power were saying, ‘we understand how awful this is, it has to be fixed and we’re going to fix it’. What is punching Catholics in the gut right now is the thought that what they were told about the determination to get this sorted simply wasn’t real.”

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Aug 232018
 
 August 23, 2018  Posted by at 1:35 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Gustave Caillebotte Young man by his window 1875

 

If there’s one thing that is exposed in the sorry not-so-fairy tale of former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, it’s that Washington is a city run by fixers. Who often make substantial amounts of money. Many though by no means all, start out as lawyers and figure out that let’s say ‘the edges of what’s legal’ can be quite profitable.

And it helps to know when one steps across that edge, so having attended law school is a bonus. Not so much to stop when stepping across the edge, but to raise one’s fees. There’s a lot of dough waiting at the edge of the law. None of this should surprise any thinking person. Manafort and Cohen are people who think in millions, with an easy few hundred grand thrown in here and there.

But sometimes the fixers happen to come under scrutiny of the law, like when they get entangled in a Special Counsel investigation. Both Manafort and Cohen now rue the day they became involved with Trump, or rather, the day he was elected president and solicited much more severe scrutiny.

Would either ever have been accused of what they face today had Trump lost to Hillary? It’s not too likely. They just gambled and lost. But there are many more just like them who will never be charged with anything. Still, a new fixer name has popped up the last few days who may, down the line, not be so lucky.

 

And that’s not even because Lanny Davis is a registered foreign agent for Dmytro Firtash, a pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch wanted by the US government. After all, both Manafort and Cohen have their contacts in that part of the world. Manafort made tens of millions advising then-president Yanukovich in the Ukraine before the US coup dethroned the latter. Cohen’s wife is Ukrainian-American.

Lanny Davis is a lawyer, special counsel even, for the Clintons. Has been for years. Which makes it kind of curious that Michael Cohen would pick him to become his legal representation. But that’s not all Davis is involved in. Like any true fixer, he has his hands in more cookie jars than fit in the average kitchen. Glenn Greenwald wrote this in August 2009 about the health care debate:

 

Lanny Davis Disease

After Tom Daschle was selected to be Barack Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services and chief health care adviser, Matt Taibbi wrote: “In Washington there are whores and there are whores, and then there is Tom Daschle.” One could easily have added: “And then there’s Lanny Davis.” Davis frequently injects himself into political disputes, masquerading as a “political analyst” and Democratic media pundit, yet is unmoored from any discernible political beliefs other than: “I agree with whoever pays me.”

It’s genuinely difficult to recall any instance where he publicly defended someone who hadn’t, at some point, hired and shuffled money to him. Yesterday, he published a new piece simultaneously in The Hill and Politico – solemnly warning that extremists on the Far Left and Far Right are jointly destroying democracy with their conduct in the health care debate and urging “the vast center-left and center-right of this country to speak up and call them out equally” – that vividly illustrates the limitless whoring behavior which shapes Washington generally and specifically drives virtually every word out of Lanny Davis’ mouth.

Davis’ history is as long and consistent as it is sleazy. He was recently hired by Honduran oligarchs opposed to that country’s democratically elected left-wing President and promptly became the chief advocate of the military coup which forcibly removed the President from office. He became an emphatic defender of the Israeli war on Gaza after he was named by the right-wing The Israel Project to be its “Senior Advisor and Spokesperson.” He has been the chief public defender for Joe Lieberman, Jane Harman and the Clintons, all of whom have engaged his paid services.

And as NYU History Professor Greg Grandin just documented: “Recently, Davis has been hired by corporations to derail the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize, all the while touting himself as a “pro-labor liberal.” Davis was also the chief U.S. lobbyist of the military dictatorship in Pakistan in the late 90s and played an important role in strengthening relations between then President Bill Clinton and de facto president General Perez Musharraf.”

There’s much more in that article, but you get the drift. And now Davis, the Clinton fixer, is Michael Cohen’s lawyer. The fixer defending a fixer. So who pays the bill? Well, ostensibly no-one, because Davis started a Go Fund Me campaign where people can donate so Cohen “can tell people the truth about Trump”. The goal is $500,000. Which goes to .. Lanny Davis.

On TV yesterday he apparently promoted a wrong URL, which was promptly picked up by someone else who had it redirect to the Trump campaign. Even fixers screw up, right? Still, there’s already well over $100,000 donated for Cohen Davis. But why $500,000? One of the accusations against Cohen concerns lying to a bank for a $20 million loan. He bought an apartment not long ago for $6.7 million. He owned multiple apartments in Trump buildings.

Did he lose everything when Robert Mueller et al raided his office, home and hotel room on April 9 2018? Were all his assets frozen? Possibly. What we do know is that he ‘expected’ the Trump campaign to pay for his legal fees. Which they declined. Or rather, as Fortune reported in June: “The Trump campaign has given some money to Cohen to help cover legal expenses for the Russia investigation. To date, though, it has not offered financial assistance in the investigation of his business practices.”

It seems safe to assume that’s the point where Cohen turned, or was turned, to Lanny Davis. From a full decade of being Trump’s fixer to being fixed by the Clintons’ fixer. That’s a big move. It raises a number of questions: why did Trump not pay Cohen’s legal fees? This is 2 months after the raid on the man’s office, home, hotel room, in which huge amounts of files and disks etc. were seized.

Second question: if Lanny Davis only now sets up a Go Fund Me campaign, who’s been paying him over the past 2 months? Did Cohen sell assets, or is someone else involved?

Anyway, so Davis goes on TV with big words about how Cohen will tell all about Trump -provided people donate half a million- and adding “I know that Mr. Cohen would never accept a pardon from a man that he considers to be both corrupt and a dangerous person in the oval office. And [Cohen] has flatly authorized me to say under no circumstances would he accept a pardon from Mr. Trump.”

Oh, and that “the turning point for his client’s attitude toward Trump was the Helsinki summit in July 2018 which caused him to doubt Trump’s loyalty to the U.S.” That, to my little brain, doesn’t sound like something that would come from Cohen. That sounds more like a political point the likes of which Cohen has never made. That’s plain old Russiagate.

 

But anyway. So Lanny Davis, fixer of fixers and presidents, goes on a talk-show tour last night and what do you think happens? He walks back just about everything he’s said the previous day. Aaron Maté made a list in this Twitter thread:

 

 

Is Michael Cohen sure he wants this guy as his lawyer? Is he watching this stuff?

If Cohen and Manafort have broken laws, they should be punished for it. The same goes for all other Trump campers, including the Donald. But it would be good if people realize that Cohen and Manafort are not some kind of stand-alone examples, that they are instead the norm in Washington. And Moscow, and Brussels, London, everywhere there’s a concentration of power. In all these places, and probably more so in DC, there are these folks specializing in the edge of the law.

What do you think will happen when someone of the stature of Bob Mueller spends 18 months investigating the Clintons and their fixers? Perhaps the events of the past few days won’t bring such a 2nd Special Counsel any closer, but by the same token they might do just that. Offense is the best defense.

I don’t know, we don’t know, what monsters Trump has swept under his luxurious carpets. But we do know that those are not the only monsters in Washington. Meanwhile, the Steele dossier that was used to start the entire Mueller remains just about entirely unverified. The Russian collusion meme he was tasked with investigating has so far come up empty.

That he would find something if he tried hard enough was obvious from the start. That is both dangerous in that the mandate of a Special Counsel should be limited lest it becomes endless and veers off the reasons it was initiated, as well as in the risk that it can easily turn into a party-political tool to hurt one’s opponent while one’s own dirt remains unscrutinized.

In the end, I can draw only one conclusion: there are so many sharks and squids swimming in the swamp that either it should be expanded or the existing one should be cleaned up and depopulated. So bring it: investigate the FBI, the Clintons, and fixers like Lanny Davis and Michael Avenatti, the same way the Trump camp has been.

Because if you don’t do that, you can only possibly end up in an even bigger mess. You can’t drain half a swamp.

 

 

Aug 222018
 
 August 22, 2018  Posted by at 9:36 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Henri Matisse Laurette in a green robe 1916

Cohen Pleads Guilty, Says Violated Campaign Law At Direction Of Candidate (ZH)
Paul Manafort Found Guilty On 8 Counts, Mistrial Declared On Other Ten (ZH)
Genocide of the Greek Nation (Paul Craig Roberts)
Call For Two Years Further Freedom Of Movement After Brexit (G.)
Britain Extends Lead As King Of Currencies Despite Brexit Vote (R.)
Bank of England Chief Economist Warns On AI Jobs Threat (BBC)
Our Economic System Was Designed To Burn Everything In Its Path (NO)
The Economy of Permanent War (Connelly)
Tourists Are Destroying the Places They Love (Spiegel)
Arctic’s Strongest Sea Ice Breaks Up For First Time On Record (G.)

 

 

What comes next? Cohen’s lawyer has said he will prove collusion, which is Mueller’s mandate, but that lawyer is a bit of a shady character too.

Cohen Pleads Guilty, Says Violated Campaign Law At Direction Of Candidate (ZH)

President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to campaign finance violations and other charges, saying he made payments to influence the 2016 election at the direction of a candidate for federal office, potentially delivering a legal blow to the president. Cohen, 51, who agreed to a plea bargain with federal prosecutors earlier in the day, pleaded guilty to eight counts total, including five counts of tax evasion and one count of making a false statement to a financial institution. He also pleaded guilty to one count of making an excessive campaign contribution on Oct. 27, 2016, which is the same date Cohen finalized a payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement over an affair Daniels alleges she had with Trump.

The most damaging statement by Michael Cohen was made when, acknowledging the charges against him, Cohen said he was directed to violate campaign law at the direction of an unnamed candidate for federal office, whom he did not name. At the same candidate’s direction, Cohen said he paid $130,000 in violation of campaign finance laws to “somebody” to keep them quiet, which was later repaid by the candidate. He said he arranged to make payments “for (the) principal purpose of influencing (the) election” at the direction of a candidate for federal office; Cohen did not give the candidate’s name, but those facts match Cohen’s payment to Clifford and Trump’s repayment. Cohen’s exact words: “I have donated the money that was in the account in coordination with and at the direction of a federal candidate.”

Cohen also tells the federal court he evaded substantial taxes on his income, with Bloomberg noting that the sentencing guideline calls for 46 to 63 months in prison. The prosecutor told the judge the purpose of the payments was to ensure that the individuals did not disclose “alleged affairs with the candidate.” Besides the $130,000 payment, Cohen admitted to making an illegal contribution of $150,000, which was how much McDougal received from the National Enquirer’s publisher to quash her story. As Bloomberg explicitly adds, “at no time was the candidate’s name mentioned.” The prosecutor also said Cohen failed to report $4 million on taxes and lied about debts and banking details on loan applications.

His voice cracked as he answered questions from Judge William Pauley III. As Bloomberg notes, Cohen was shaking head and appeared to be holding back emotions as judge reviews possible sentence. Cohen faces a likely prison sentence of 46 to 63 months, the judge said.

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A mover and a shaker. Can’t help thinking we’re reading a real bad novel. Can’t wait for the movie.

Paul Manafort Found Guilty On 8 Counts, Mistrial Declared On Other Ten (ZH)

Jurors in the trial of former Paul Manafort have reached a verdict on eight of the 18 counts against the former Trump aide. After a day of passing notes to the Judge, they said they were unable to reach a decision on the other 10. Manafort was found guilty on all five tax fraud counts, while the other three are related to his failure to disclose foreign bank accounts and bank fraud. The verdict comes at the end of two and a half weeks of testimony, which included 27 witnesses and 88 documents submitted into evidence. Earlier, the jury asked Judge T.S. Ellis earlier in the day what would happen if they couldn’t reach a verdict on a count, and Ellis told them to keep working on it.

“If we cannot come to a consensus for a single count, how can we fill in the verdict sheet?” the jurors asked in the note. “It is your duty to agree upon a verdict if you can do so,” said Ellis, who encouraged each juror to make their own decisions on each count. If some were in the minority on a decision, however, they could think about the other jurors’ conclusions. Give “deference” to each other and “listen to each others’ arguments,” said Ellis, adding “You’re the exclusive judges … Take all the time which you feel is necessary.” Manafort stands accused of 18 counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and obfuscating foreign bank counts in the first trial brought against him by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election – despite the charges stemming from his work for the then-Ukrainian governing party.

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“The declaration that the Greek crisis is over is merely a statement that there is nothing left to extract from the Greek people for the interest of the foreign banks.”

Genocide of the Greek Nation (Paul Craig Roberts)

Traditionally, when a sovereign country, whether by corruption, mismanagement, bad luck, or unexpected events, found itself unable to repay its debts, the country’s creditors wrote down the debts to the level that the indebted country could service. With Greece there was a game change. The ECB, led by Jean-Claude Trichet, and the IMF ruled that Greece had to pay the full amount of interest and principal on its government bonds held by German, Dutch, French, and Italian banks. How was this to be achieved? In two ways, both of which greatly worsened the crisis, leaving Greece today in a far worst position that it was in at the beginning of the crisis almost a decade ago.

At the beginning of the “crisis,” which would have easily been resolved by writing down part of the debt, the Greek debt was 129% of Greek GDP. Today Greek debt is 180% of GDP. Why? Greece was lent more money to pay interest to Greece’s creditors, so that they would not have to lose one cent. The additonal lending, called a “bailout” by the presstitute financial media, was not a bailout of Greece. It was a bailout of Greece’s creditors. The Obama regime encouraged this bailout, because the American banks, expecting a bailout, had sold credit default swaps on Greek debt. Without a bailout the US banks would have lost their bet and paid default insurance on Greek Bonds.

Additionally, Greece was required to sell its public assets to foreigners and to decimate the Greek social safety net, reducing pensions, for example, to below subsistance incomes and so radically reducing medical care that people die before they can get treatment. If memory serves, China bought the Greek seaports. Germay bought the airport. Various German and European entities bought the Greek municipal water companies. Real estate speculators bought protected Greek Islands for real estate development. This plunder of Greek public property did not go toward reducing the debt that Greek owed. It went, along with the new loans, to paying the interest. The debt, larger than ever, still stands. The economy is smaller than ever as is the Greek population that bears the debt.

The declaration that the Greek crisis is over is merely a statement that there is nothing left to extract from the Greek people for the interest of the foreign banks. Greece is sinking fast. All of the income associated with sea ports, airport, municipal utilities, and the rest of public property that was forcibly privatized now belongs to foreigners who take the money out of the country, thus further driving down the Greek economy.

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Shifting goal posts, rearranging deck chairs.

Call For Two Years Further Freedom Of Movement After Brexit (G.)

Britain would face labour shortages in London and the south-east from a no-deal Brexit, according to a report calling for the government to extend freedom of movement for EU migrants to protect the wider economy. The Centre for Cities thinktank urged the government to extend freedom of movement for two years after the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, in the event of no deal on the terms of exit and future relations with the union. Publishing a report on EU citizens working in British towns and cities across the country, the Centre for Cities warned cities such as Oxford, Cambridge and London, where the vote was in favour of remaining in the EU, are reliant on EU migrants, making them particularly vulnerable to tougher immigration rules should Britain crash out without a deal.

The report said about one in 10 employees in major southern cities were from the EU. It said they had brought with them “significant economic benefits” to the wider British economy, which could be put at risk from a no-deal Brexit. Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “[The government] should continue to allow EU migrants to come and work in UK cities for at least the next two years, even if there is no Brexit deal in place. This will be crucial in helping cities avoid a cliff edge in terms of recruiting the workers they need.” The report comes ahead of the government’s publication of a series of technical notices detailing the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

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How far removed the City is from the country.

Britain Extends Lead As King Of Currencies Despite Brexit Vote (R.)

Britain has extended its lead in the global currency trading business in the two years since it voted to leave the European Union, in another sign London is likely to continue to be one of the world’s top two financial centres even after Brexit. Leaving the European Union was supposed to deal a crippling blow to London’s position in global finance, prompting a mass exodus of jobs and business. But with eight months to go, London has tightened rather than weakened its grip on foreign exchange trading, a Reuters analysis shows. Foreign exchange – the largest and most interconnected of global markets, used by everyone from global airlines to money managers in transactions worth trillions of dollars a day – is the crowning jewel of London’s financial services industry.

Reuters’ analysis, based on surveys released by central banks in the five biggest trading centres, shows forex trading volumes in Britain had grown by 23 percent to a record daily average of $2.7 trillion (£2.1 trillion) in April compared to April 2016. That was double the pace of its nearest rival, the United States, which was up 11 percent to $994 billion, mostly out of New York. That means about two-fifths of all trades are handled in Britain, nearly all of them in London – a daily volume almost equivalent to the annual economic output of the United Kingdom. The next three biggest markets are Singapore, which fell by 5 percent to $523 billion; Hong Kong, which grew 10 percent to $482 billion; and Japan, which increased by 2 percent to $415 billion.

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Time for a new Karl Marx?!

Bank of England Chief Economist Warns On AI Jobs Threat (BBC)

The chief economist of the Bank of England has warned that the UK will need a skills revolution to avoid “large swathes” of people becoming “technologically unemployed” as artificial intelligence makes many jobs obsolete. Andy Haldane said the possible disruption of what is known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution could be “on a much greater scale” than anything felt during the First Industrial Revolution of the Victorian era. He said that he had seen a widespread “hollowing out” of the jobs market, rising inequality, social tension and many people struggling to make a living. It was important to learn the “lessons of history”, he argued, and ensure that people were given the training to take advantage of the new jobs that would become available.

He added that in the past a safety net such as new welfare benefits had also been provided. Mr Haldane’s points were echoed by the new head of the government’s advisory council on artificial intelligence, who also warned there was a “huge risk” of people being left behind as computers and robots changed the world of work. Tabitha Goldstaub, chair of the newly formed Artificial Intelligence Council, said that the challenge was ensuring that people were ready for change and that the focus was on creating the new jobs of the future to replace those that would disappear. “Each of those [industrial revolutions] had a wrenching and lengthy impact on the jobs market, on the lives and livelihoods of large swathes of society,” Mr Haldane told me for the Today Programme.

“Jobs were effectively taken by machines of various types, there was a hollowing out of the jobs market, and that left a lot of people for a lengthy period out of work and struggling to make a living. “That heightened social tensions, it heightened financial tensions, it led to a rise in inequality. “This is the dark side of technological revolutions and that dark-side has always been there. “That hollowing out is going to be potentially on a much greater scale in the future, when we have machines both thinking and doing – replacing both the cognitive and the technical skills of humans.”

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“The shocks to our current system that arrive early are better than the ones that come too late.”

Our Economic System Was Designed To Burn Everything In Its Path (NO)

Boom and bust cycles in the extraction economy have always brought incredible destruction and pain, especially to those closest to the land. Not by accident but by design – billions of dollars of wealth has been stripped from the land for the benefit of mostly outside investors who never intended a long term sustainable plan for rural or Indigenous communities, much less the ecosystems they rely on. But with accelerating climate change, we now have boom, bust and burn (this burn has many forms, fire is just one). And it affects everyone. The truth is this economic system has always been on fire. The terrifying object at the end of the extraction economy is the devastating and total incineration of almost everything we know and love.

This is the only endgame in the extraction economy — it is what happens when a model dependent on infinite growth is played out on a planet with finite resources. The extraction economy is an extinction economy, or maybe more accurately an extinction machine. It has always burnt everything in its path. That is what it’s designed to do. The people and living things on the periphery have always felt it first. But now in a world of global climate disruption, the match has burned down to our fingers. There is no periphery and no centre. Just one interconnected and interdependent world – on fire, together. It is not a bad thing to see this laid bare. We need new models for a sustainable civilization, and this will be a big lift that will require change at every level of social organization. The shocks to our current system that arrive early are better than the ones that come too late.

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Free trade requires permanent war.

The Economy of Permanent War (Connelly)

Dr Kadri says that free trade is ‘a poisonous concept’ that requires a state of permanent war. “In way we are caught in a catch-22 situation,” he says. “War is awful, but it does wonders for the macroeconomy.” “One need only look at what has occurred in Yemen, Gaza, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq to discover the new shape of war and what happens to countries that attempt to control their own resources in an age where war and war spending have become all the more necessary to take the market out of its slump.” Syria’s GDP was $73 billion in 2012, a 73% decrease in economic output from 2008, according to Statista. Cumulative GDP loss between 2011–2016 is estimated at $226 billion, according to the World Bank.

“Why would the US be interested in billion dollar trade, when it has made more than a trillion out of war in Syria?,” he says. “If you want cash in against the Syrian government, you spend a trillion dollars mobilising intelligence in the west, another couple of trillion sowing dissent, saying Syria is bad, we have a bad guy in power, we should kill him and free this country, maybe bring in ISIS, al-Qaeda or some other obscurantist group. They’re willing to pay even tens of trillions, because they will earn back every penny.” “If they spend ten trillion on this war, they’re going to earn $10–20 trillion back,” he says.

[..] The former UN economist says that free trade basically dislocates resources and never re-employs them back. “It either drives resources out of business, or it simply destroys them,” he says. “If you force governments in sub-Saharan Africa or the Middle East to subsidise their agriculture, while the EU, for instance, spends a trillion euros a year subsidising its agriculture, you already have an economic imbalance in the way policy occurs.” In many cases, war is actually more profitable than trade.

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Make every single part of the travel industry pay for the destruction it causes.

Tourists Are Destroying the Places They Love (Spiegel)

It’s not just Europeans exploring each others’ countries. The boom is also fueled by people from countries that have benefited handsomely from globalization. Much of the responsibility for the growth in global tourism lies with members of the newly emerging middle classes in Russia and with people from the Far East and Arab countries. They also bear a significant share of the responsibility for the growing problems. The boom, after all, is also producing losers, and many of them have begun revolting, as recently seen in the pilot strikes at European budget carrier Ryanair, whose poor working conditions and low wages are what make the airline’s low-cost strategy possible in the first place.

But residents of the cities and regions affected are perhaps the biggest losers. When, for example, it becomes more lucrative for property owners to rent their apartments out to tourists on a daily or weekly basis than to locals who need an affordable place to live. Or when commuters have to squeeze into overcrowded public transportation because local buses and trains have been filled to capacity by tourists. Or when people no longer feel comfortable in their neighborhood because they have become a minority in the cafés and restaurants they traditionally frequented. That is, assuming they can get in at all or afford the new prices.

The tourism industry suddenly finds itself confronted by a group that it hadn’t previously paid much attention to. Having always focused on the guests, it tended to overlook the hosts. “Tourism is a phenomenon that creates many private profits but also many socialized losses,” says Christian Laesser, a tourism professor at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Often, the profits benefit very few – the landlords and hotel owners primarily, but also, to a much lesser extent, the often poorly paid employees working in the travel sector. The rest are stuck with the noise and the mess, the high rents and the feeling of being a stranger in their own country, like being an extra in some Disney World for tourists.

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The last ice area. That sounds ominous.

Arctic’s Strongest Sea Ice Breaks Up For First Time On Record (G.)

The oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, even in summer. This phenomenon – which has never been recorded before – has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and a climate-change driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere. One meteorologist described the loss of ice as “scary”. Others said it could force scientists to revise their theories about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest. The sea off the north coast of Greenland is normally so frozen that it was referred to, until recently, as “the last ice area” because it was assumed that this would be the final northern holdout against the melting effects of a hotter planet.

But abnormal temperature spikes in February and earlier this month have left it vulnerable to winds, which have pushed the ice further away from the coast than at any time since satellite records began in the 1970s. “Almost all of the ice to the north of Greenland is quite shattered and broken up and therefore more mobile,” said Ruth Mottram of the Danish Meteorological Institute. “Open water off the north coast of Greenland is unusual. This area has often been called ‘the last ice area’ as it has been suggested that the last perennial sea ice in the Arctic will occur here. The events of the last week suggest that, actually, the last ice area may be further west.”

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Apr 102018
 
 April 10, 2018  Posted by at 8:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Acme Storm over Manhattan 1950

 

Trump Blasts “Disgraceful” FBI Raid Of Lawyer’s Office (ZH)
Xi Vows To Further Open China Economy As US Trade Spat Simmers (AFP)
Global Debt Jumped to Record $237 Trillion Last Year
US Deficit to Surpass $1 Trillion Two Years Ahead of Estimates – CBO (BBG)
Global Trade Is Broken, And Trump Is Sparking The Crisis Needed (Morici)
Russian Firms And Rouble Hit Heavily By Trump Sanctions (G.)
Bitcoin, the Biggest Bubble in History, Is Popping – BofA (BBG)
Bots, Good Or Bad, Dominate Twitter Conversation (AFP)
Black Lives Matter Facebook Page With 700,000 Followers Exposed As Fake (G.)
10 New Zealanders Download App On Facebook, Expose 63,714 Friends (G.)
Your Facebook Data Is Only Worth $5.20 On The Dark Web (MW)
Jerome Is The New Janet: Same Old Keynesian Jabberwocky (Stockman)
Yulia Skripal Discharged From Hospital (G.)
No Trace Of Chemical Weapons In Douma, Photos Are Fake – Russia (RT)
“Weapons Of Mass Destruction,” And All (Kunstler)
In 2020, German Society Will Start Collapsing (GEFIRA)
Fishing Boat Caught With Illegal 18-Mile-Long Nets (Ind.)

 

 

“..the fact that the FBI likely seized privileged material between the president and his lawyer is certainly troubling.”

Or is it just a promotion campaign for Comey’s book tour?

Trump Blasts “Disgraceful” FBI Raid Of Lawyer’s Office (ZH)

Update II: As many probably suspected, Trump attorney Michael Cohen is under investigation for possible fraud and campaign finance violations, the Washington Post reported. The FBI has seized documents – including emails, tax documents and other records – related to Cohen’s $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels. Meanwhile, President Trump has stepped up to defend his longtime personal attorney, calling the raid “a whole new level of unfairness” and going as far to say it was an “attack on our country, on what we stand for before heading into a meeting with top military leaders.” He also described the special counsel’s team as “the most conflicted group of people I’ve ever met” and said the raid was “a disgraceful situation.”

Trump added that the raid happened after Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein – who is supervising the Mueller probe – approved a referral that Mueller brought to the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Jeff Sessions also came under fire as the president bashed him once again for recusing himself from the Mueller probe. Trump also exclaimed that “no one is looking at the other side” referring to Clinton’s 30,000 missing emails. “I have this witch hunt constantly going on,” he said. Of course, Trump has every reason to defend Cohen. As Trump’s longtime lawyer, Cohen knows where the bodies are buried. And the fact that the FBI likely seized privileged material between the president and his lawyer is certainly troubling.

Update: Michael Cohen’s lawyer says the FBI seized privileged communications between Cohen and his clients – a group that notably includes President Trump. And thus, we have what could quite possibly be an ulterior motive for the search. While initial reports suggested the raid on Cohen’s home wasn’t related to the Mueller probe, CBS is reporting that it’s unclear whether the raid was in relation to Stormy Daniels, the Mueller probe or something else. The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen’s office in Rockefeller Center was searched along with his home and hotel room. The search was executed by the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office which is carrying out an independent investigation in coordination with Mueller. Cohen has of course already turned over his emails to the special counsel.

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For now it’s just words. But his tone could have been different.

Xi Vows To Further Open China Economy As US Trade Spat Simmers (AFP)

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged on Tuesday to lower car tariffs this year and take other steps to further open the world’s number two economy, indirectly addressing major complaints by the United States in a simmering trade row. Promising a “new phase of opening up”, Xi told an economic forum on the southern island of Hainan that Beijing “does not seek a trade surplus” and hopes to increase imports. He said China will take measures to liberalise automobile investment, significantly reduce tariffs on cars this year and protect intellectual property – all areas that have been high on the list of demands by Washington. “Economic globalisation is an irreversible trend of the time,” Xi told the Boao Forum for Asia.

“The door of China’s opening up will not close, it will only open wider and wider.” Xi pushed measures in areas that have been high on the list of US President Donald Trump’s ire at China. “When a car is sent to the United States from China, there is a Tariff to be paid of 2.5%. When a car is sent to China from the United States, there is a Tariff to be paid of 25%,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “Does that sound like free or fair trade. No, it sounds like STUPID TRADE – going on for years!” Without directly responding to Trump, Xi promised China would lower import tariffs for vehicles and other products, but he gave no details or an exact date for taking the measures.

[..] Xi also pledged specific measures to address IP protection. “This year, we will reorganise the State Intellectual Property Office to strengthen law enforcement,” he told the forum, an Asian version of the World Economic Forum, which draws global leaders to its annual meeting in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. “We encourage Chinese and foreign companies to carry out normal technical exchanges and cooperation to protect the legitimate intellectual property rights of foreign-funded enterprises in China,” he said.

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This will be important: “Ireland and Italy are the only major countries where household debt as a percentage of GDP is below 50%.

Global Debt Jumped to Record $237 Trillion Last Year

Global debt rose to a record $237 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2017, more than $70 trillion higher from a decade earlier, according to an analysis by the Institute of International Finance. Among mature markets, household debt as a percentage of GDP hit all-time highs in Belgium, Canada, France, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. That’s a worrying signal, with interest rates beginning to rise globally. Ireland and Italy are the only major countries where household debt as a percentage of GDP is below 50%. Still, the ratio of global debt-to-GDP fell for the fifth consecutive quarter as the world’s economic growth accelerated. The ratio is now around 317.8% of GDP, or 4 percentage points below the high in the third quarter of 2016, according to the IIF. Among emerging markets, household debt to GDP is approaching parity in South Korea at 94.6%.

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And the Fed wants to raise rates?!

US Deficit to Surpass $1 Trillion Two Years Ahead of Estimates – CBO (BBG)

The U.S. budget deficit will surpass $1 trillion by 2020, two years sooner than previously estimated, as tax cuts and spending increases signed by President Donald Trump do little to boost long-term economic growth, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Spending will exceed revenue by $804 billion in the fiscal year through September, jumping from a projected $563 billion shortfall forecast in June, the non-partisan arm of Congress said in a report Monday. In fiscal 2019, the deficit will reach $981 billion, compared with an earlier projection of $689 billion. The nation’s budget gap was only set to surpass the trillion-dollar level in fiscal 2022 under CBO’s report last June.

Deficits are growing as the Trump administration enacted a tax overhaul this year that will lower federal revenue and Congress approved a roughly $300 billion spending increase. The fresh CBO estimates could heighten investor worries as they weigh the potential impact that tariff threats between the U.S. and China may have on the world economy. The report includes new projections for the effects of the tax legislation – saying it will increase the deficit by almost $1.9 trillion over the next 11 years, when accounting for its macroeconomic effects and increased debt-service costs. In December, Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation had said the tax package would reduce federal revenue by almost $1.1 trillion over a 10-year period.

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The WTO and democracy.

Global Trade Is Broken, And Trump Is Sparking The Crisis Needed (Morici)

[..] It may be time to recognize that China is not a market economy — and is not likely to become one anytime soon. Over time, the WTO membership encompassed increasingly diverse nations. For example, Saudi Arabia joined in 2005, is not a democracy and hardly has a market economy. It’s a monarchy and dependent on oil, its government seeks to rig petroleum markets through OPEC. Nondemocratic, nonmarket economies were admitted on the premise that participation in the system would encourage reforms but as Saudi Arabia demonstrates — similar to Mexico in the 1980s — political and economic progress mostly happens when autocratic regimes are threatened by financial crisis.

For the oil kingdom, it took the U.S. shale boom and prospects of oil permanently depressed at about $65 a barrel to inspire House of Saud to select a progressive crown prince. China joined the WTO in 2002 but has hardly liberalized. Beijing is perfecting Orwellian mechanisms to monitor its citizens’ activities and squash political dissent. President Xi Jinping is enhancing the role of state-owned enterprises, extending state influence over private firms and foreign subsidiaries, and compelling the latter to form joint ventures with Chinese firms and embrace Beijing’s propaganda strategies.

China’s state capitalism clearly creates unfair advantages, imposes trade deficits and job losses on other nations, and has been the target of many unfair trade complaints in the WTO, but Beijing has invested in top flight U.S. lawyers — for example, Steptoe & Johnson. And the activities of its complex mix of state-owned and state-supported private enterprise have proven difficult to discipline under WTO rules, which were written to constrain governments operating in a market context.

From 2011 to 2017, the United States was frustrated in many dispute settlement processes covering nearly 50 industries. In 2016, the administration aides cited a long list of complaints in an effort to block the reappointment of a South Korean judge to the appellate body. Since then, Mr. Trump has been criticized — as he seems to be for every principled action — for continuing this policy by blocking the appointment of other judges to compel reform. It may be time to recognize that China is not a market economy — and is not likely to become one anytime soon. And it is not likely possible to rewrite the WTO rules just to suit its peculiar system.

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Talk is better.

Russian Firms And Rouble Hit Heavily By Trump Sanctions (G.)

The Trump administration’s new sanctions on Russian oligarchs and top government officials began to bite on Monday as the rouble suffered its biggest daily fall in more than three years, the main Russian stock index slumped and investors dumped shares in businesses controlled by Oleg Deripaska. Russia’s currency briefly dipped more than 4% before recovering slightly to trade at 60.42 to the dollar on Monday evening, down 3.8%, its biggest daily percentage fall since January 2015. The value of Deripaska’s aluminium producer Rusal halved in Hong Kong and more than 40% was wiped off the value of his London-listed EN+ as investors took fright at the potential impact.

Shares in Rusal and EN+ had already fallen sharply on Friday in response to the sanctions, which were announced towards the end of trading in London. The Russian stock market also fell heavily. The main RTS index dropped 11%, affecting companies not caught by the sanctions. The price of aluminium jumped as traders worried Rusal would be excluded from supplying the market. The firm, which produces almost 6% of the world’s aluminium, said the sanctions could cause technical defaults on bank loans and some credit obligations. Both Rusal and EN+, Deripaska’s holding company, said the sanctions could be “materially adverse to the business and prospects” of the companies.

Rusal and seven other companies linked to Deripaska were the main targets when the US imposed sanctions designed to punish Vladimir Putin’s inner circle for “malign activity”, including support for Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria and interfering with the US election in 2016. Rusal sells more than 10% of its aluminium to the US.

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Not my words. But nice graph.

Bitcoin, the Biggest Bubble in History, Is Popping – BofA (BBG)

The greatest bubble in history is popping, according to Bank of America. The cryptocurrency is tracking the downfalls of the other massive asset-price bubbles in history less than one year out from its record, analysts lead by Chief Investment Strategist Michael Hartnett wrote in a note Sunday. The cryptocurrency has fallen more than 65% since peaking in December at $19,511. Bitcoin rose 2.2% to $6,750 on Monday.

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“..accounting for two-thirds of tweets linking to popular websites..”

Bots, Good Or Bad, Dominate Twitter Conversation (AFP)

Automated accounts or “bots” play a big role in disseminating information on Twitter, accounting for two-thirds of tweets linking to popular websites, a study showed Monday. The Pew Research Center report found bots were a major source for diffusing information on news, sports, entertainment and other topics. The researchers found that of all tweeted links to popular websites, 66% were shared by accounts that appeared to be automated rather than human users. While bots have gained attention due to concerns over Russian-sponsored manipulation of social media during the 2016 political campaign and for other hot-button topics, the researchers said they made no effort to distinguish between “good” or “bad” bots.

“The study does not find evidence that automated accounts currently have a liberal or conservative ‘political bias’ in their overall link-sharing behavior,” the researchers wrote. Twitter’s policy on automated accounts, last updated in November, allows bots to operate but with limitations. The policy allows for bots to “automatically broadcast helpful information” or “run creative campaigns that auto-reply to users.” But Twitter’s rules forbid automatic posts about trending topics or using automation “to attempt to influence or manipulate trending topics.” It also bans the use of multiple accounts to generate more activity.

“These findings illustrate the extent to which bots play a prominent and pervasive role in the social media environment,” says Pew researcher Aaron Smith. “Automated accounts are far from a niche phenomenon: They share a significant portion of tweeted links to even the most prominent and mainstream publications and online outlets. Since these accounts can impact the information people see on social media, it is important to have a sense their overall prevalence on social media.”

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“.. upwards of $100,000 in donations, at least some of which was directed to bank accounts registered in Australia.”

One thing: Facebook could have known this.

Black Lives Matter Facebook Page With 700,000 Followers Exposed As Fake (G.)

A high-ranking Australian union official has been suspended amid reports he ran a fake Black Lives Matter Facebook page that solicited donations from the movement’s supporters. CNN reports that Ian MacKay – an official with the National Union of Workers – helped set up and run a Facebook page called Black Lives Matter as well as other domain names linked to black rights. The page, which was removed by Facebook after CNN’s queries, had almost 700,000 followers – more than double the official Black Lives Matter page. MacKay – who is white – did not respond to calls or emails but denied running the page when contacted by CNN. A statement given to the Guardian by the NUW’s national secretary, Tim Kennedy, said the union had launched an investigation into the claims made in the CNN report.

He said the union had suspended “the relevant officials pending the outcome of an investigation”. “The NUW is not involved in and has not authorised any activities with reference to claims made in CNN’s story,” he said. The Guardian understands MacKay and one other NUW official has been suspended. In 2015 Mackay was appointed vice president of the NUW’s general branch and the union’s public office records state that he still holds the position. The investigation quoted sources who said the page may have garnered upwards of $100,000 in donations, at least some of which was directed to bank accounts registered in Australia.

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This happened 4 years ago! And only now Facebook is “..in the process of alerting New Zealanders..”?!

10 New Zealanders Download App On Facebook, Expose 63,714 Friends (G.)

Ten New Zealanders who downloaded an app on Facebook could have exposed up to 63,714 of their compatriots to the data mining tactics of Cambridge Analytica. Facebook has told the country’s privacy commissioner that it is in the process of alerting New Zealanders who were affected by the breach, which occurred when ten users downloaded a personality quiz app. “For New Zealand, we estimate a total of 63,724 people may have been impacted – 10 are estimated to have downloaded the quiz app with 63,714 friends possibly impacted,” said Antonia Sanda, head of communications for Facebook in Australia and New Zealand.

New Zealand’s privacy commissioner, John Edwards, said he was urgently seeking further information from Facebook on how New Zealanders data was used by Cambridge Analytica, and is working closely with his counterparts in the US, UK Australia and Canada to establish the severity and ramifications of the privacy beach. “I think we have some real information deficits that I hope my colleagues in the UK and the US will uncover … I am not sure New Zealanders were ‘targeted’ but I think there is a level of complacency [in New Zealand]. And when you say we’re so far away, we’re only one click away really,” Edwards said.

Edwards deleted his own Facebook account shortly after the revelations regarding Cambridge Analytica broke, and said New Zealanders should seriously consider doing the same and then resetting their profile. “I am actually quite concerned about the drip-feed of information [from Facebook]. These events occurred four years ago. There was knowledge about Cambridge Analytica targeting tactics a good two years ago, yet we are really only seeing Facebook confront this issue now,” Edwards said.

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This, too, is Facebook. Supply and demand.

Your Facebook Data Is Only Worth $5.20 On The Dark Web (MW)

Were you impacted by Cambridge Analytica’s misuse of Facebook data? An estimated 87 million Facebook users will find out Monday whether the group improperly used their data, the social-media company said. All 2.2 billion Facebook users will get see a message on Facebook called “Protecting Your Information,” that lays out which third-party apps have access to your individual Facebook profile. Whether or not you were impacted by the Cambridge Analytica incident, there’s a depressing aspect of many recent privacy violations: The most important parts of your identity can be sold online for just a few dollars.

Consumers have to spend hours of their time — and, sometimes, their own money — when they find out their driver’s license, Facebook “likes” or Social Security number have been exposed to hackers. But those who sell them are making only petty cash. That’s according to a new report from the content marketing agency Fractl, which analyzed all the fraud-related listings on three large “dark web” marketplaces — Dream, Point and Wall Street Market — over several days last month. The “dark web” is part of the internet that people can only access by using special software. To create this report, Fractl accessed the dark web through the browser Tor.

People buy other risky or illegal substances on the dark web, including drugs, pirated content like movies or music and materials that help with scams, including credit-card “skimmers.” Facebook logins can be sold for $5.20 each because they allow criminals to have access to personal data that could potentially let them hack into more of an individual’s accounts. The credentials to a PayPal account with a relatively high balance can be sold on the dark web for $247 on average, the report found. One’s entire online identity, including personal identification numbers and hacked financial accounts, can be sold for only about $1,200 on the dark web, Fractl found. That’s because so much personal information may already available to hackers, after repeated data breaches across a range of industries.

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“..fiscally incontinent government..” Great line.

Jerome Is The New Janet: Same Old Keynesian Jabberwocky (Stockman)

The election of 2016 was supposed to be the most disruptive break with the status quo in modern history, if ever. On the single most important decision of his tenure, however, the Donald has lined-up check-by-jowl with Barry and Dubya, too. That is to say, Trump’s new Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, amounts to Janet Yellen in trousers and tie. In fact, you can make it a three-part composite by adding Bernanke with a full head of hair and Greenspan sans the mumble. The overarching point here is that the great problems plaguing American society – scarcity of good jobs, punk GDP growth, faltering productivity, raging wealth mal-distribution, massive indebtedness, egregious speculative bubbles, fiscally incontinent government – are overwhelmingly caused by our rogue central bank.

They are the fetid fruits of massive and sustained financial repression and falsification of the most import prices in all of capitalism – the prices of money, debt, equities and other financial assets. Moreover, the worst of it is that the Fed is overwhelmingly the province of an unelected politburo that rules by the lights of its own Keynesian groupthink and by the hypnotic power of its Big Lie. So powerful is the latter that American democracy has meekly seconded vast, open-ended power to dominate the financial markets, and therefore the warp and woof of the nation’s $19 trillion economy, to a tiny priesthood possessing neither of the usual instruments of rule.

That is to say, never before in history has a people so completely and abjectly surrendered to an occupying power – even though its ostensibly democratic government already possessed all the votes and all the guns. So it is no exaggeration to say, therefore, that the Fed is an alien state unto itself. That was powerfully symbolized most recently by the appointment of John Williams, a lifetime apparatchik at the San Francisco Fed, to the job of head satrap at the central bank’s Liberty Street outpost in the heart of Wall Street. In the scheme of things, the President of the New York Fed is #2 in the whole central banking apparatus, and as such is immensely more powerful than any Senate Committee Chairman or House Speaker. But Williams’ appointment was not reviewed or passed upon by a single elected official accountable to any voter anywhere in the US of A.

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Hard to tell what the next steps are.

Yulia Skripal Discharged From Hospital (G.)

Yulia Skripal, the daughter of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, has been discharged from hospital, according to reports. Just over one month after she and her father were found in Salisbury in Wiltshire after being poisoned with a nerve agent, the BBC reported that Skripal had left Salisbury district hospital. Skripal, 33, flew to the UK on 3 March, the day before she and her father are believed to have been poisoned by a novichok nerve agent. She released a statement on Friday to say her strength was “growing daily”. The BBC reported on Tuesday morning that Skripal had been taken to a secure location, though a hospital spokesman declined to comment on the reports. Christine Blanshard, the hospital’s deputy chief executive, and Lorna Wilkinson, the director of nursing, are to make a statement later on Tuesday morning.

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It’s the White Helmets again.

No Trace Of Chemical Weapons In Douma, Photos Are Fake – Russia (RT)

The Russian military has found no trace of chemical weapons use after searching parts of Syria’s Douma allegedly targeted by an “attack.” Photos of victims posted by the White Helmets are fake, Russia’s Defense Ministry said. Experts in radiological, chemical and biological warfare, as well as medics, on Monday inspected the parts of the Eastern Ghouta city of Douma, where an alleged chemical attack supposedly took place on Saturday, the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria said in a statement. The specialists “found no traces of the use of chemical agents” after searching the sites, the statement said. The center’s medical specialists also visited a local hospital but found no patients that showed signs of chemical weapons poisoning.

“All these facts show… that no chemical weapons were used in the town of Douma, as it was claimed by the White Helmets,” the statement said, referring to the controversial “civil defense” group that was among the first to report about the alleged attack. “All the accusations brought by the White Helmets, as well as their photos… allegedly showing the victims of the chemical attack, are nothing more than a yet another piece of fake news and an attempt to disrupt the ceasefire,” the Reconciliation Center said. On Saturday, some rebel-linked groups, including the White Helmets, accused the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical attack that, allegedly, affected dozens of civilians in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma.

The reports have already provoked a wave of outrage in the West, as the US and the EU rushed to put the blame for the incident on Damascus and Moscow. US President Donald Trum hastily denounced the perceived attack as a “mindless” atrocity and a “humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever,” warning of a “big price” to be paid. Syria and Russia have dismissed the accusations and called the reports fake news, aimed at helping the extremists and at justifying potential strikes against Syrian forces. In the very early hours of Monday, Israeli fighter jets targeted Syria’s T-4 airbase in Homs province, the Russian Defense Ministry said. Israel has not commented on the strike. Earlier, a number of Israeli officials had called on the US to strike Syria as a response to the reported chemical attack.

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Like is the case with Russia, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has declared Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal destroyed.

“Weapons Of Mass Destruction,” And All (Kunstler)

[..] a joint mission of the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was called in to supervise the destruction of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons, and certified it as accomplished in late 2014. Yet, poison gas incidents continued – most notoriously in 2017 when President Donald Trump responded to one with a sortie of cruise missiles against a vacant Syrian government airfield. And now another incident in the Damascus suburb of Douma has provoked Mr. Trump to tweetstormed threats of retaliatory violence, just days after he proposed a swift withdrawal from that vexing corner of the world.

Surely by now the American public has developed some immunity to claims of nefarious doings in foreign lands (“weapons of mass destruction,” and all). The operative sentence in that New York Times report is “…Syrian forces hit a suburb of Damascus with bombs that rescue workers said unleashed toxic gas.” Yeah, well, how clear is it that the toxic gas was contained in the bombs, or rather that the bombs dropped by the Syrian military blew up a chemical weapon depot controlled by anti-government Jihadis? Does that hodgepodge of maniacs show any respect for the UN, or the Geneva Convention, or any other agency of international law?

As in many previous such incidents, we don’t know who was responsible — though there is plenty of reason to believe that parties within the US establishment are against Mr. Trump’s idea of getting the hell out of that place, and might cook up a convenient reason to prevent it. Lastly, how is it in Bashar al-Assad’s interests to provoke a fresh international uproar against him and his regime? I’d say it is not the least in his interest, since he is on the verge of putting an end to the awful conflict. He may not be a model of rectitude by Western standards, but he’s not a mental defective. And he has very able Russian support advising him in what has been so far a long and difficult effort to prevent his state from failing — or being failed for him.

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Germany, Japan, China.

In 2020, German Society Will Start Collapsing (GEFIRA)

The next crisis is just a couple of years away, and Germany will be its largest victim. Economies grow, driven by capital and labour. The ECB monetary policy is currently providing the German economy with enough funds, but the country is experiencing a catastrophic lack of youth, and its ageing labour force is not being replaced as a result of which workforce is already in short supply. Since the German population is declining at a staggering pace, before the end of the century there will only be 22 million indigenous Germans left. Currently the working population has already begun to shrink. This drop is still moderate compared to what will come after 2020.

The disappearing of the nation that has just begun will have catastrophic consequences. The German government recorded a large budget surplus last year, a sign that the authorities are not willing or able to invest in their own country. Germany lacks health care professionals, road construction workers and teachers, but allocating more tax money to this sector makes no sense because there are simply no people available. For that reason road construction sites have come to a standstill and road maintenance is postponed. In order to find consumers and labourers, the German industry is investing in new factories abroad.

In the past, the German economy was able to attract employees from Southern, Eastern and Central Europe, but at present the demographic situation in states such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Poland – which have long provided Germany with workforce – has worsened, so for all practical purposes these sources of labour have all but dried out. Poland for instance has lost a large number of young people to the West European labour market and the loss has not been made good because of extremely low fertility.The financial sector depends on a growing economy, but – apart from periods of temporary increase – there is no significant growth, and banks have to unwind their positions by selling their assets and returning cash to their clients. When the ageing population tries to sell its investments – stocks, obligations or companies – after 2020 they will find a declining working age population that is willing and able to buy these assets. It is already difficult for German business owners to find successors.

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Tragic species, mankind.

Fishing Boat Caught With Illegal 18-Mile-Long Nets (Ind.)

A fishing ship carrying 600 illegal nets stretching up to 18 miles has been seized after it escaped Chinese authorities, while using the flags of eight different countries to evade capture. The vessel, STS-50, had targeted a cod species called Antarctic toothfish that plays an important role in the Southern Ocean ecosystem, according to Indonesia‘s fisheries ministry. Its hundreds of gillnets had walls of fine mesh and could expand to a distance of 18 miles. Gillnetting has been banned in Antarctic waters since 2006 and is described by Australia as posing a “huge risk to almost all marine life, including marine mammals due to [its] indiscriminate nature”.

The use of the nets also harm seabirds including endangered albatrosses, the country’s environment department said on its website in 2011. Indonesia was acting on a request from Interpol when it seized the officially stateless craft. It had eluded authorities by flying eight different flags at different times, including those of Sierra Leone, Togo, Cambodia, South Korea, Japan, Micronesia and Namibia, the ministry said in a statement. Interpol contacted Indonesia last week with a request to investigate the vessel, fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti said in the statement. “Navy ship Simeuleu conducted a ‘stop, investigate and detain’ operation on Friday and successfully seized the vessel,” she said.

The STS-50 had previously been detained by China, but escaped and was caught in the port of Maputo in Mozambique before fleeing again, Ms Pudjiastuti said. Prior to its capture off the Indonesian island of Weh in the northwestern province of Aceh, the vessel had also operated under several other names including Sea Breeze, Andrey Dolgov, STD No. 2 and Aida, the statement said. Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows the 54m-long, 452-tonne vessel was built in 1985.

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