Oct 122019
 
 October 12, 2019  Posted by at 9:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Balthus Girl at the window 1955

 

US Delays China Tariff Increase As Trump Claims ‘Substantial’ Deal (G.)
Boris Johnson’s Major U-Turn Sets Up 48 Hours To Clinch Brexit Deal (G.)
Turkey Attacks US Special Forces In Syria (NW)
Turkey Vows To Keep Up Syria Assault As US Says Troops Came Under Fire (AFP)
US Lawmakers Press Again For Stronger Trump Action On Turkey (R.)
In Memoriam: Reality (Kunstler)
Boeing Board Strips CEO Of Chairman Title Amid 737 MAX Crisis (R.)
Facebook’s Libra Currency Abandoned By Major Financial Companies (R.)
US SEC Halts Telegram’s $1.7 Billion Digital Token Offering (R.)
Rising Used Car Prices Help Push Poor Americans Over The Edge (R.)
Saudi Naval Blockade Sparks Fresh Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen (MPN)
Human, Organ Trafficking Booming in Yemen as War Enters its Fifth Year (MPN)
Julian Assange To Remain Locked Up In UK Prison (RT)

 

 

Not much of a deal, but lots of talk, from what I understand. Still, 1.3 billion Chinese need food.

US Delays China Tariff Increase As Trump Claims ‘Substantial’ Deal (G.)

Donald Trump announced a “very substantial phase one deal” to solve the long-running trade dispute with China. After a two-day meeting in Washington between US and Chinese officials on Friday Trump announced a delay on plans to raise tariffs on $250bn worth of goods to 30% on 15 October. A further 15% tariff on almost all remaining Chinese imports including laptops, smartphone, footwear and clothing is still set to be imposed on 15 December unless a deal can be reached with Beijing. Trump said progress had been made on allegations of currency manipulation, intellectual property theft and other issues.


China also agreed to increase its purchases of US agricultural goods and further open up its market to foreign financial services companies. The deal has not been written yet and may take weeks to finalize. Speaking in the White House Trump said: “I think we have a lot of good faith right now.” He said the agreement was bigger than a trade deal. “There was a lot of friction between the US and China and now it’s a lovefest,” said Trump. Earlier Trump had tweeted there were “warmer feelings” in US-China trade talks. The news helped boost stock prices with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing up 319 points and the S&P 500 snapping a three-week losing streak.

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Will Northern Ireland remain in the customs union forever?

Boris Johnson’s Major U-Turn Sets Up 48 Hours To Clinch Brexit Deal (G.)

Boris Johnson has signalled that he will make a last-ditch U-turn on his plans for the Irish border, setting up 48 hours of intense negotiations that will make or break a Brexit deal. On a day of rapid movement in talks, EU sources said the prime minister had conceded that there could not be a customs border on the island of Ireland – a critical step away from his previous position. That came after European ambassadors prompted tentative hope of a deal by giving the green light for what some diplomats described as a “tunnel” discussion in which a small team of negotiators meet for intensive talks to find a break-through moment.


The Democratic Unionist party and European Research Group (ERG), a group of rightwing Conservatives, later issued statements promising flexibility, keeping hope alive that Johnson could find support for a new offer in the House of Commons. But amid ongoing scepticism that a deal could be forced through in the short time left and with Angela Merkel due to hold talks with Emmanuel Macron on Sunday night, the prime minister faces a frantic race to push through his fresh proposals with Brussels or at home. “The UK has accepted that there is not a deal that involves a border on the island of Ireland – that is a big break from what they were saying,” one EU source said. “Now the key is for them to lay out how their new position over the weekend.”

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Tweet: “Coalition official tells me after Turkish bombing near US base Mashtenour hill: “They know we are there, we told them our position. There’s no other target in the area. They’re trying to drive us out. If Turkey can get us to leave so they can siege Kobane, it’s all over.”

Turkey Attacks US Special Forces In Syria (NW)

A contingent of U.S. Special Forces was caught up in Turkish shelling against U.S.-backed Kurdish positions in northern Syria, days after President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart he would withdraw U.S. troops from certain positions in the area. A senior Pentagon official said shelling by the Turkish forces was so heavy that the U.S. personnel considered firing back in self-defense. Newsweek has learned through both an Iraqi Kurdish intelligence official and the senior Pentagon official that Special Forces operating on Mashtenour hill in the majority-Kurdish city of Kobani fell under artillery fire from Turkish forces conducting their so-called “Operation Peace Spring” against Kurdish fighters backed by the U.S. but considered terrorist organizations by Turkey. No injuries have been reported.


Instead of returning fire, the Special Forces withdrew once the shelling had ceased. Newsweek previously reported Wednesday that the current rules of engagement for U.S. forces continue to be centered around self-defense and that no order has been issued by the Pentagon for a complete withdrawal from Syria. The Pentagon official said that Turkish forces should be aware of U.S. positions “down to the grid.” The official could not specify the exact number of personnel present, but indicated they were “small numbers below company level,” so somewhere between 15 and 100 troops. Newsweek has reached out to the Pentagon for comment on the situation.

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US soldiers are more important than Kurdish children.

Turkey Vows To Keep Up Syria Assault As US Says Troops Came Under Fire (AFP)

Battles raged in Syria as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to press on with a deadly assault against Kurdish forces, while the Pentagon said Friday US troops came under artillery fire from Turkish positions. Erdogan’s pledge to keep up the offensive, which the UN says has displaced more than 100,000 people since it began on Wednesday, came as the US Treasury warned President Donald Trump was planning to activate “very powerful” sanctions on Ankara. Trump, whose order to pull back US troops from the border this week effectively triggered the intervention, has faced a firestorm of criticism for appearing to give a green light to the push.

Turkey is targeting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a key US ally in the five-year battle to crush the Islamic State group. A Pentagon spokesman confirmed an explosion within a few hundred meters of its post close to the northern Syrian border, in an area “known by the Turks to have US forces present”. “All US troops are accounted for with no injuries,” Navy Captain Brook DeWalt said in a statement. US forces had not withdrawn from their position near the town of Kobani, he said. “The US demands that Turkey avoid actions that could result in immediate defensive action,” warned DeWalt.

Earlier Friday, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper “strongly encouraged” Turkey to halt its offensive as a prelude to such negotiations, warning of “serious consequences”. But Erdogan vowed the assault “will not stop”. “Now there are threats coming from left and right, telling us to stop this,” he said. “We will not step back.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump had authorized — but not yet activated — new sanctions to dissuade Turkey from further offensive military action. “We can shut down the Turkish economy if we need to,” he said.

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This will build.

US Lawmakers Press Again For Stronger Trump Action On Turkey (R.)

U.S. lawmakers introduced more legislation on Friday seeking to slap stiff sanctions on Turkey over its offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria, underscoring unhappiness from both Democrats and President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress over his Syria policy. Representatives Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mike McCaul, the committee’s ranking Republican, introduced a bill that would sanction Turkish officials involved in the Syria operation and banks involved with Turkey’s defense sector until Turkey ends military operations in Syria. It also would stop arms from going to Turkish forces in Syria, and require the administration to impose existing sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of a Russian S-400 missile-defense system.


On Sunday, Trump abruptly shifted policy and said he was withdrawing U.S. forces from northeastern Syria, clearing the way for Turkey to launch an assault across the border. Turkey began the offensive quickly, pounding Kurdish militias, who had spent many months fighting alongside U.S. forces against Islamic State militants. Earlier, Engel and McCaul had introduced a resolution expressing strong support for Kurdish forces in Syria and recognizing their contribution to the fight against Islamic State. It also called on Turkey to immediately stop military action in northeast Syria and called on the United States to stand with Syrian Kurdish communities affected by violence.

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“The nation has been too preoccupied with political mud-wrestling to notice that the US debt has gone hockey-stick parabolic..”

In Memoriam: Reality (Kunstler)

The Golden Golem of Greatness shifted into mad bull overdrive for last night’s Minneapolis fan rally, cussing and bellowing at the picadors of the Left who have been sticking lances in his neck for three years. Decorum is not Mr. Trump’s strong suit, but then the bull is not sent into the ring to negotiate politely for his life. The narrative of the bullring is certain death. The bull must do what he can within his nature to dispute it. It’s in Mr. Trump’s nature to act the part of a reality TV star, and, of course, it is the nature of reality TV shows to be unreal. That is perhaps the ruling paradox of life in the USA these days.

Saturated in unreality, the spectators (also called “voters”) flounder through a relentless barrage of narratives aimed at confounding them, with the unreal expectation that they can make sense of unreal things. In a place like Minneapolis of an October evening, you can go see the Joker movie or take in the President’s rally — and come away with the same sense of hyper-unreality. We’re no longer the nation we pretend to be and we don’t know it. Jokers are wild and the joke’s on us. So it goes in these dangerous autumn days of The Fourth Turning. Something’s got to give, and all indications are it will happen where few are looking at the moment: the sideshow of money and banking.

When things start slip-sliding away over in that alternative universe, Mr. Trump will be propelled into the role he was cast for in 2016: bag-holder for economic collapse. The global slowdown of productive activity and commerce is undermining a vast network of dubious financial obligations ruled by an overgrowth of loans that will never be paid back. Unlike New York real estate moguls, the whole world can’t just go into bankruptcy court and apply for a fresh start. The “workout” is brutal and produces epoch-defining trauma. The nation has been too preoccupied with political mud-wrestling to notice that the US debt has gone hockey-stick parabolic, racking up $814 billion just since August. Math majors may see that’s close to a trillion dollars, or 4 percent of the total $22,837 trillion, just in a few months.

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“..to strengthen the company’s governance and safety management processes,” the company said.”

Boeing Board Strips CEO Of Chairman Title Amid 737 MAX Crisis (R.)

Boeing Co’s board has stripped chief executive Dennis Muilenburg of his chairmanship title, in an unexpected strategy shift announced by the U.S. planemaker on Friday only hours after a global aviation panel criticized development of the troubled 737 MAX. Separating the roles, which will enable Muilenburg to have “maximum focus” on steering daily operations, was the latest step the board has taken in recent weeks to improve executive oversight of its engineering ranks and industrial operations. Lead Director David Calhoun, a senior managing director at Blackstone Group, will takeover as non-executive chairman, Boeing said in its announcement, which came late on Friday afternoon without warning.


It added that the board had “full confidence” in Muilenburg, who will retain the top job and remain on the board. The decision came as Boeing struggles to get its best-selling 737 MAX back into service following a worldwide safety ban in March triggered by two crashes that killed a total of 346 people in Ethiopia and Indonesia. It also comes some six months after Muilenburg survived a shareholder motion to split his chairman and CEO roles, part of the intense pressure he has faced during the worst crisis of his four years at the helm of the world’s largest planemaker. “This decision is the latest of several actions by the board of directors and Boeing senior leadership to strengthen the company’s governance and safety management processes,” the company said.

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I said last week that Paypal wouldn’t be the only one.

Facebook’s Libra Currency Abandoned By Major Financial Companies (R.)

Facebook Inc’s ambitious efforts to establish a global digital currency called Libra suffered severe setbacks on Friday, as major payment companies including Mastercard and Visa Inc quit the group behind the project. The two companies announced they would leave the association Friday afternoon, as did EBay Inc, Stripe Inc. and Latin American payments company Mercado Pago. They join PayPal Holdings Inc which exited the group a week ago, as global regulators continue to air concerns about the project. The latest exodus leaves the Libra Association without any remaining major payments companies as members, meaning it can no longer count on a global player to help consumers turn their currency into Libra and facilitate transactions.


The remaining association members, including Lyft and Vodafone, consist mainly of venture capital, telecommunications, blockchain and technology companies, as well as nonprofit groups. “Visa has decided not to join the Libra Association at this time,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to evaluate and our ultimate decision will be determined by a number of factors, including the Association’s ability to fully satisfy all requisite regulatory expectations.” Facebook’s head of the project, former PayPal executive David Marcus, cautioned on Twitter against “reading the fate of Libra into this update,” although he acknowledged “it’s not great news in the short term.”

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Libra, Grams, who’s next?

US SEC Halts Telegram’s $1.7 Billion Digital Token Offering (R.)

U.S. authorities said on Friday they have halted a $1.7 billion unregistered digital token offering by the messaging service Telegram Group Inc and its TON Issuer subsidiary. The Securities and Exchange Commission said it had received a temporary restraining order against the two offshore entities, which the regulator said had failed to register to sell 2.9 billion digital tokens called “Grams” to initial investors globally, including 1 billion to U.S. buyers. The move marks the latest effort by the agency to crack down on the fledgling cryptocurrency industry.


The SEC has taken the position that initial coin offerings are securities offerings and therefore subject to SEC offering rules, which require firms to file registration and disclosure documents. “Our emergency action today is intended to prevent Telegram from flooding the U.S. markets with digital tokens that we allege were unlawfully sold,” Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said in a statement.

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You’re going to wish your cities weren’t designed to make cars a necessity.

Rising Used Car Prices Help Push Poor Americans Over The Edge (R.)

For America’s working poor, an often essential ingredient for getting and keeping a job – having a car – has rarely been more costly, and millions of people are finding it impossible to keep up with payments despite prolonged economic growth and low unemployment. More than 7 million Americans are already 90 or more days behind on their car loans, according to the New York Federal Reserve, and serious delinquency rates among borrowers with the lowest credit scores have by far seen the fastest acceleration. The seeds of the problem are buried deep in the financial crisis, when in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, automakers slashed production.


A decade later, that has made a relative rarity of used 10-year-old vehicles that are typically more affordable for low-wage earners. According to data provided to Reuters by industry consultant and car shopping website Edmunds, the average price of that vintage of vehicle is $8,657, still nearly 75% higher than in 2010 despite some softening in prices over the last year. The average new car, in contrast, has seen a price rise of 25% in that same time period. “This is pinching people at the worst point possible,” said Ivan Drury, Edmunds’ senior manager of industry analysis. “If you need basic A to B transportation, you have to get an older car that needs more repairs and has more wear-and-tear issues.”

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War crimes.

Saudi Naval Blockade Sparks Fresh Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen (MPN)

Recent political developments have offered a glimmer of hope to some that the end of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen may be near. But a new report by the United Nations Development Programme shows that a recent tightening of the Saudi-led Coalition’s blockade against the country, and the fuel shortages it has sparked, not only are exacerbating Yemen’s humanitarian crisis but also are slated to make Yemen the world’s poorest country by 2022. In the nursery at the Maternity and Childhood Hospital in Amran, doctors and families alike fear that fuel shortages will lead to power cuts, plunging the ward into darkness and rendering its life-saving machines inoperable.

One mother in the ward diligently watches a heater placed near her infant, knowing that it the electricity-powered medical device stops, her child will die. Dr. Hadi Al-Hamzi, the director-general of the hospital, said that 30 infants could die if their incubators stop for just two hours. He added, “We have a severe shortage of generator fuel, and we have no prospect of getting more in the coming days.” Mohammed Mujahed, the director of Amran Governorate’s Health Office, warned that intensive care for pregnant mothers and nurseries in the province could be stopped in a matter of hours if no generator fuel is secured.

The Saudi-led Coalition has stepped up its seizure and detention of ships carrying food and fuel into Yemen and the effects of those seizures are already being felt by ordinary people. Thousands of Yemenis already facing acute food shortages could die, as stocks of stored food dwindle and cannot be replenished. Sultana Begum, a representative of the Norwegian Refugee Council humanitarian organization, told Reuters that “fuel shortages in Yemen exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation in the country and lead to unacceptable levels of suffering.”

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“..nearly 4 million Yemenis are currently stranded abroad..”

Human, Organ Trafficking Booming in Yemen as War Enters its Fifth Year (MPN)

In addition to poverty and the absence of law enforcement, there are other reasons why human trafficking flourishes in Yemen, perhaps the most prominent being the blockade levied against the country by the Saudi Coalition since 2015. Before the war, Yemenis would regularly leave the country to seek better health care, employment opportunities and safety abroad — including, somewhat ironically, in neighboring Saudi Arabia. Now — with seaports, airports, highways and especially the once-bustling Sana`a International Airport effectively shuttered by the Saudi Coalition — Yemenis are no longer able to flee the violence in their country or travel to neighboring wealthy Gulf countries for stints of work to earn some cash, leaving many with few options but to resort to selling their organs out of desperation to make ends meet.


The blockade has also left a large number of Yemenis stranded abroad, including some students and others who have managed to find a way out in hopes of receiving medical treatment. It is estimated, according to data provided by the Sana`a International Airport Media Center, that nearly 4 million Yemenis are currently stranded abroad. Many of the stranded are left in a state of legal limbo, unable to secure citizenship in neighboring countries and therefore unable to work, leaving them with no way to earn money short of begging on the street or agreeing to sell their organs. The Yemen Organisation for Combating Human Trafficking told MintPress that many Yemenis who fled when the war broke out are now stuck abroad and that the organization has recorded as many as 300 cases of Yemenis stranded abroad selling their kidneys out of desperation.

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Emmy B on Twitter: “At Westminster Magistrates Court today we saw Julian #Assange via video link. We saw his further physical deterioration. He only said his name and DOB responding at the request of the Magistrate and remained speechless and motionless to the end. Hearing did not last more than 10’”

Julian Assange To Remain Locked Up In UK Prison (RT)

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has been ordered to stay in a British prison ahead of a hearing on his possible extradition to the United States, despite reaching the end of his custody period. Assange was due to be released on September 22 after serving a sentence for breaching bail conditions by seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012. The 48-year-old was told at a court hearing last month that he would be kept in Belmarsh prison because of “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond. At a brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday, deputy senior district judge Tan Ikram said that Assange would remain in custody “for the same reasons as before.”


Assange spoke only to confirm his name and age before he was remanded in prison. He is due to appear in court in person at his next hearing on October 21. “I very much hope we can make some progress on this case,” Judge Ikram told him at the end of the five-minute hearing, Reuters reports. In the US, Assange is charged with possession and dissemination of classified information. If found guilty, he could receive up to 175 years in prison. The activist has long feared that the US would attempt to extradite him after WikiLeaks published the leaked ‘Collateral Murder’ video, which shows the US military attacking journalists and civilians in Iraq in July 2007.

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Autumn pedestrian crossing in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

 

 

 

 

Oct 052019
 


Pablo Picasso Head of a bearded man 1940

 

Democrats Subpoena White House For Ukraine Documents (ZH)
2nd Whistleblower May File Complaint About Trump/Ukraine: New York Times (RawS)
House Democrats Target Pence Over Ukraine; Peddle Fiction Over ‘Favor’ (ZH)
Newly Released Rosenstein Emails Reveal Crusade To Investigate Trump (ZH)
Do You Have a Lisance for that Minky? (Kunstler)
Boris Johnson Brexit Plan Hangs By Thread As EU Dismisses Weekend Talks (G.)
China Has No Room for Dissenting Friends (FP)
Hong Kong Mask Ban Sparks Violent Clashes, Rail Shutdown (AFP)
PayPal Becomes First Member To Exit Facebook’s Libra Association (R.)
Regulators Weigh ‘Startle Factors’ For Boeing 737 MAX Pilot Training (R.)
Boeing Crash Victims’ Lawyer To Seek Testimony From 737 MAX Whistleblower (R.)
Greece Needs To Face Reality About Asylum Seekers (HRW)
Air Pollution And Human Health Impacts Of Cryptocurrency Mining (SD)

 

 

This is not how US election campaigns used to look.

Democrats Subpoena White House For Ukraine Documents (ZH)

Just one day after President Trump dared House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold an impeachment inquiry vote – a move which would open Democrats up to Republican subpoenas, House Democrats slapped the White House with a subpoena first. Addressed to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, the subpoena demands documents and communications related to the case being constructed against Trump – namely that his request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son for corruption constitutes election interference and endangered national security. Of note, the Justice Department concluded that Trump’s phone call with Zelensky did not violate campaign finance law.

“How the White House, which has routinely rejected congressional requests for information, responds to the demands for documents could significantly shape the impeachment investigation going forward. Under normal circumstances, the White House could claim materials referred to in both requests were privileged, using that as a defense in court.” -New York Times. What Democrats aren’t pursuing, by the by, is anything resembling due diligence on Biden – the (still) leading Democratic candidate trying to fend off accusations of nepotism in Ukraine and China while abusing his office as Vice President. As we noted earlier Friday, Vice President Mike Pence was hit with a subpoena as well over, demanding information on “any role you may have played” in helping with the Ukraine effort against Biden.

Pence press secretary Katie Waldman said “given the scope, it does not appear to be a serious request but just another attempt by the ‘Do Nothing Democrats’ to call attention to their partisan impeachment.” Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) have warned that failure to comply with subpoenas will be viewed as obstruction of Congress – which the Times says is “itself a potentially impeachable offense.” “The White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — multiple requests for documents from our Committees on a voluntary basis,” reads the subpoena, demanding information by October 15. “After nearly a month of stonewalling, it appears clear that the president has chosen the path of defiance, obstruction, and cover-up.”

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Also CIA.

2nd Whistleblower May File Complaint About Trump/Ukraine: New York Times (RawS)

President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry continues to grow, according to a bombshell new report in The New York Times. “A second intelligence official who was alarmed by President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is weighing whether to file his own formal whistle-blower complaint and testify to Congress,” The Times reported, citing two people briefed on the matter. “The official has more direct information about the events than the first whistle-blower, whose complaint that Mr. Trump was using his power to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals touched off an impeachment inquiry,” the newspaper explained. “The second official is among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people said.”


“A new complaint, particularly from someone closer to the events, would potentially add further credibility to the account of the first whistle-blower, a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to the National Security Council at one point,” the newspaper noted. “Whistle-blowers have created a new threat for Mr. Trump. Though the White House has stonewalled Democrats in Congress investigating allegations raised in the special counsel’s report that Mr. Trump obstructed justice, the president has little similar ability to stymie whistle-blowers from speaking to Congress.”

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If both Trump and Pence are impeached, Nancy Pelosi is next in line to become president.

But the Dems won’t get any documents until they hold a House vote.

House Democrats Target Pence Over Ukraine; Peddle Fiction Over ‘Favor’ (ZH)

House Democrats on Friday roped Vice President Mike Pence into their investigation into whether President Trump “jeopardized national security” by asking Ukraine to investigate what looks like obvious corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. In a letter from Democratic House Committee Chairs Eliot Engel (NY), Adam Schiff (CA) and Elijah Cummings (MD), Pence is given a deadline of October 15 to turn over all documents related to President Trump’s April 21 and July 25 phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The letter also requests all communications between administration officials regarding the calls, as well as information concerning Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to investigate or pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.


Of note, the letter danced around a popular lie about the call between Trump and Zelensky: According to the record, President Trump stated, “I would like you to do us a favor though.” He also stated, “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.” The letter then jumps to a transcript of the July 25 phone call in which Trump said: “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great.” Meanwhile, House Democrats purposely conflate Trump’s “favor” – which was actually for the investigation of the DNC servers involving their contractor Crowdstrile – and the Biden investigation.

 

If Pence refuses to comply, the chairmen say it “shall constitute evidence of obstruction” in their impeachment inquiry. For those keeping track – Rep. Schiff lied when he said his office had no contact with the whistleblower (which earned him ‘four Pinocchios’ from the Washington Post). Schiff also fabricated a quote from the Trump-Zelensky call which he read during an official hearing. And now, he and two other House Democratic chairs are doing their best narrative shaping by misrepresenting more facts.

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Not looking good.

Newly Released Rosenstein Emails Reveal Crusade To Investigate Trump (ZH)

New emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit reveal the details surrounding communications between Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller in the days leading up to the former FBI Director’s appointment as special counsel in the Russia probe. Mueller would go on to assemble a team comprising “13 Angry Democrats” as Trump called them, due to their obvious animus towards the president. According to the 145 pages of documents obtained by Judicial Watch, Rosenstein and Mueller were discussing just three days after President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, and ostenisbly for some time before that.


“The boss and his staff do not know about our discussions,” Rosenstein wrote Mueller on May 12, 2017 as the two tried to nail down a time for their next conversation. Four days later on May 16- the day before Mueller’s appointment, Rosenstein told former Bush administration Deputy Attorney General and current Kirkland & Ellis Partne, Mark Filip “I am with Mueller. He shares my views. Duty Calls. Sometimes the moment chooses us.” “And on May 17 Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Also, during the same time period, between May 8 and May 17, Rosenstein met with then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other senior Justice Department FBI officials to discuss wearing a wire and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump.” -Judicial Watch

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“..that claque of lesser monsters who cooked up the coup to overthrow the president, and botched the job.”

Do You Have a Lisance for that Minky? (Kunstler)

[..] what if it turns out that there actually is no Whistleblower, that the figure was just a fiction, a CGI figment cooked up by Adam Schiff, his lawyers, and sundry other players on the Deep State bench? Sounds outlandish perhaps, but I wouldn’t put it past the congressman from Hollywood. We’ll find out soon enough. Meanwhile, it appears that the purported Whistleblower and his chief handler, Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson failed to observe the proper procedures in reporting the complaint through channels, not to mention the legerdemain of sketchy paperwork that attested to the complaint.

Remember who Michael Atkinson is: the former legal counsel to John P. Carlin, who was Assistant Attorney General for National Security during the origin months of the RussiaGate operation in the summer of 2016, and before that chief of staff to… wait for it… Robert Mueller, when he was FBI Director. Do you begin to detect a claque of senior bureaucrats scrambling to cover each other’s ass? Interesting days ahead as this feculent blob of malfeasance creepy-crawls through the spooky weeks of October, climaxing in Halloween. These are the weeks when the DOJ Inspector General’s report on FISA court shenanigans comes down. It’s also the month of the Brexit Absolute Deadline.

That hairball over in Old Blighty might seem of unconcern over here, but it contains enough explosive power to destabilize the European banking system and, with it, America’s, which would lead to some rather scary action in the bond and equity markets at exactly the time of year when accidents like that happen. And then, deeper in the background, like Hades and Thanatos, stand the grave figures of Barr and Durham, whose very silence lo these many months must be giving the vapors to that claque of lesser monsters who cooked up the coup to overthrow the president, and botched the job.

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“..no basis for such discussions, given the British prime minister’s insistence on there being a customs border on the island of Ireland.”

Boris Johnson Brexit Plan Hangs By Thread As EU Dismisses Weekend Talks (G.)

Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans look to be falling apart as the European commission said there are no grounds to accept a request from the UK for intensive weekend negotiations two weeks before an EU summit. EU sources said there was no basis for such discussions, given the British prime minister’s insistence on there being a customs border on the island of Ireland. Johnson’s chief negotiator, David Frost, along with a team of a dozen British officials, failed to convince their EU counterparts in Brussels on Friday that he had a mandate from Downing Street to compromise on what the EU sees as major flaws in the UK government’s proposals. Frost had been seeking to rescue the British prime minister’s proposed deal after it was strongly criticised.


The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, had told diplomats on Thursday evening that the British needed to “fundamentally amend their position”. A European commission spokeswoman said: “We have completed discussions with the UK for today. We gave our initial reaction to the UK’s proposals and asked many questions on the legal text. “We will meet again on Monday to give the UK another opportunity to present its proposals in detail.” The spokeswoman added that the proposals did not “provide a basis for concluding an agreement”. An EU official said: “The UK often asks for meetings to keep [the] process going; we agree we should leave no stone unturned. But there is nothing useful that could be done this weekend.”

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Muslim silence on Uighurs.

China Has No Room for Dissenting Friends (FP)

In July this year, 22 Western-aligned countries issued a joint statement to the high commissioner of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council objecting to China’s abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang province. That’s not unusual: The reports of human rights abuses in the province are coming out thick and fast, and Western countries are more than happy to raise concerns against such abuses, whether out of genuine concern, domestic virtue signaling by political leaders, or the use of any available stick to whack a geopolitical rival.

What was remarkable was the 37 countries issuing a counter letter praising China’s human rights record, from humanitarian luminaries including such as Syria, Myanmar, and North Korea. More interestingly, about half of the signatories of this letter were Muslim-majority countries. If the issues had been about Palestinians or even the Rohingya, one might expect the usual cynical domestic virtue signaling by political leaders around the well-worn claims of Muslim solidarity. Instead, they chose to loudly broadcast their support for Beijing’s policy of eradicating the old Islamic culture of the ancient Silk Road gateway to the Chinese heartland in Xinjiang.

The calculation of such leaders, from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto head of government of Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, is well understood and publicized: “Muslim solidarity” is a convenient and effective slogan to be thrown at domestic audiences, but if your national economy—and the personal profits of the elite—depends on the goodwill of Beijing, then you must defer to China’s supposedly sovereign right to do as it pleases within its borders, and forget about the umma.

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“The government doesn’t listen to us. So we are upping our game…”

Hong Kong Mask Ban Sparks Violent Clashes, Rail Shutdown (AFP)

Hong Kong’s mass transit rail system was suspended and dozens of banks and major shopping malls closed on Saturday after a ban on pro-democracy protesters wearing masks came into effect, sparking widespread anger and violent clashes. The ban, imposed under emergency powers not used in more than half a century, was aimed at quelling nearly four months of unrest. But instead it triggered another wave of mass protests and vows of defiance, with a 14-year-old boy reportedly shot and wounded. Spontaneous rallies broke out across Hong Kong after Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced the emergency law on Friday, with large crowds of office workers blocking roads in the heart of the Central commercial district.


Across the city demonstrators later vandalised subway stations, started street fires and trashed businesses with mainland China ties as police fired tear gas in multiple locations. “The government doesn’t listen to us. So we are upping our game,” said 32-year-old protester Nathalie, as hardcore demonstrators trashed the MTR station in the previously calm neighbourhood of Tseung Kwan O. In the northern district of Yuen Long, a police officer opened fire when he was surrounded in his car and attacked by protesters, a petrol bomb exploding at his feet. Police said the officer fired one round from his gun in self defence. A teenage boy was shot and wounded in the same district, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a medical source.

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Won’t be the last.

PayPal Becomes First Member To Exit Facebook’s Libra Association (R.)

U.S. payments processor PayPal said on Friday it was leaving Libra Association, the entity managing the Facebook-led effort to build global digital currency Libra, making it the first member to exit the group. PayPal said it would forgo any further participation in the group and would instead focus on its own core businesses. “We remain supportive of Libra’s aspirations and look forward to continued dialogue on ways to work together in the future,” PayPal said in a statement. In response, Geneva-based Libra Association said it was aware of the challenges lying ahead in its attempts to “reconfigure” the financial system.


“The type of change that will reconfigure the financial system to be tilted towards people, not the institutions serving them, will be hard. Commitment to that mission is more important to us than anything else. We’re better off knowing about this lack of commitment now, rather than later”, Libra Association said in a statement. Facebook declined to comment.

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Now it’s ‘pilot overload’. And software of course. But the pilots were not overloaded, the hardware didn’t work.

Regulators Weigh ‘Startle Factors’ For Boeing 737 MAX Pilot Training (R.)

Global regulators are looking at “startle factors” that can overwhelm pilots as they consider revised protocols for the Boeing 737 MAX, Nicholas Robinson, the head of civil aviation for Transport Canada, told Reuters on Friday. Boeing Co’s fastest-selling jetliner, the 737 MAX, was grounded worldwide in March after two fatal crashes that killed a total of 346 people within five months. Pilot overload appears to have played a role in both crashes, in which crews struggled to regain control of the airplane while a new flight control system repeatedly pushed the nose down amid a series of other audio and sensory alarms and alerts. “What we need to do is ensure that the aircrew in the MAX are able to handle that environment,” Robinson said in an interview with Reuters.

Transport Canada is among a core group of regulators that is evaluating the requirements for the 737 MAX to fly again after a seven-month grounding. It has been convening weekly by phone, video conferences or face-to-face with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and its counterparts in the European Union and Brazil, Robinson said. Their decisions could lead to sweeping changes to pilot flight operating manuals and classroom instruction and even mandates for costly simulator training, industry sources have said. However, no training decisions can be made until Boeing submits software updates to the FAA for review and approval, Robinson said.

Transport Canada is closely aligned with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency on return to service demands and has also raised questions over the architecture behind the 737 MAX’s angle of attack system. “We continue to look for a solution proposed by the manufacturer and the FAA on that area,” he said. Still, Canada’s goal is for the MAX to return in countries across the globe simultaneously, or at least in close succession. “It’s not a necessity, but it’s a goal,” Robinson said.

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What is it about October and whistleblowers?

Boeing Crash Victims’ Lawyer To Seek Testimony From 737 MAX Whistleblower (R.)

An attorney representing families of passengers killed in a Boeing Co 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia said on Friday he will seek sworn evidence from a Boeing engineer who claims the company rejected a proposed safety upgrade to the 737 MAX because it was too costly. The engineer, Curtis Ewbank, said the upgrade could have reduced risks that contributed to two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that together killed 346 people, according to two people familiar with the complaint. Ewbank filed the complaint through internal Boeing channels after the March crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, the sources said. The sources described the complaint to Reuters, but Reuters has not seen a copy of the complaint.


Managers rejected the proposed upgrade from Ewbank’s team of engineers, called synthetic airspeed, on the basis of “cost and potential (pilot) training impact,” according to the Seattle Times, which first reported the complaint on Wednesday. Robert Clifford, the lead counsel representing families of victims from the Ethiopian Airlines crash, said in an email the complaint raises fresh concerns about Boeing’s culture and whether the company placed too great an emphasis on cost and schedule at the expense of safety. He said he would take steps to depose Ewbank as quickly as possible.

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Things are getting out of hand again. Hundreds of refugees daily, courtesy of Erdogan. A right wing government is not going to help. Still a dumb headline though.

Greece Needs To Face Reality About Asylum Seekers (HRW)

The Greek islands are under the spotlight again, as a new wave of tragic events has hit asylum seekers trapped there. On 29 September, a big fire broke out in Moria – the notorious camp on the island of Lesbos – killing one woman, and injuring at least nine more people, including a baby, the health ministry reported. On 24 September, a truck killed a five-year-old Afghan boy who was playing just outside Moria. The number of asylum seekers crossing the Aegean from Turkey is also increasing. With camps already overcrowded, conditions are horrific for asylum seekers and migrants trapped there. According to the government’s most recent figures, 26,753 women, men and children live in camps designed for about 6,300. The number has almost doubled since June.


But while the numbers have increased, neither the horrible conditions nor the flawed policies that cause them are new. Underinvestment, a poorly functioning asylum system, and a deliberate policy choice to confine asylum seekers to islands has left thousands trapped there for months or years in inhuman and degrading conditions. Forcing migrants and asylum seekers to remain on the islands was ostensibly to expedite their return to Turkey under the March 2016 EU-Turkey deal. But on 11 September, Gerald Knaus, head of a research organisation whose ideas inspired the EU-Turkey deal, wrote that: “The situation on Greek islands is unacceptable, the asylum system on the verge of collapse. This is a moment of truth.”

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Abstract of an academic study published at Science Direct.

Air Pollution And Human Health Impacts Of Cryptocurrency Mining (SD)

Cryptocurrency mining uses significant amounts of energy as part of the proof-of-work time-stamping scheme to add new blocks to the chain. Expanding upon previously calculated energy use patterns for mining four prominent cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero), we estimate the per coin economic damages of air pollution emissions and associated human mortality and climate impacts of mining these cryptocurrencies in the US and China. Results indicate that in 2018, each $1 of Bitcoin value created was responsible for $0.49 in health and climate damages in the US and $0.37 in China.


The similar value in China relative to the US occurs despite the extremely large disparity between the value of a statistical life estimate for the US relative to that of China. Further, with each cryptocurrency, the rising electricity requirements to produce a single coin can lead to an almost inevitable cliff of negative net social benefits, absent perpetual price increases. For example, in December 2018, our results illustrate a case (for Bitcoin) where the health and climate change “cryptodamages” roughly match each $1 of coin value created. We close with discussion of policy implications.

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The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.

– African proverb

 

 

 

 

Sep 252019
 


Salvador Dali Pianc 1919

 

Tulsi Gabbard Qualifies For Fourth Presidential Debate (Hill)
Tulsi Gabbard Refuses To Join Fellow Democrats’ Calls For Impeachment (ZH)
Why The House Democratic Caucus Moved So Rapidly Toward Impeachment (Grim)
Senate GOP Vows To Quash Impeachment Articles (Hill)
Trump Team Brushes Off Impeachment Inquiry, Raises Cash (R.)
As Democrats Begin Trump Impeachment, Michael Flynn Case May Be Imploding (RT)
UK Supreme Court Rules Prorogation “Unlawful, Void And Of No Effect” (G.)
Boeing To Pay Bereaved 737 Families $144,500 Each (BBC)
French Investigators Search Jeffrey Epstein’s Luxury Paris Apartment (AFP)
Bitcoin Plummets, Down 35% Since Early August (R.)
German Lawmakers Warn Greta Thunberg’s Activism Threatens Rational Debate (RT)
‘Radical’ Greta Thunberg ‘Antagonizes Our Societies’, Macron Says (RT)

 

 

How about if they don’t give her any speaking time?

Tulsi Gabbard Qualifies For Fourth Presidential Debate (Hill)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) became the 12th Democratic presidential candidate to qualify for the party’s October primary debate on Tuesday after a new poll showed her with 2 percent support in New Hampshire. To qualify for the October debate, candidates have to collect contributions from 130,000 unique donors and register at least 2 percent in four Democratic National Committee-approval polls. Gabbard met the donor benchmark weeks ago but has struggled to notch enough support in a fourth poll to put her over the polling threshold.


That changed on Tuesday after a Monmouth University poll showed the Hawaii congresswoman with 2 percent support among registered New Hampshire Democrats and unaffiliated voters who are likely to vote in the crucial first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 11. Gabbard is the 12th presidential candidate to make the cut for the fourth primary debate, which is slated to be held in Westerville, Ohio, on Oct. 15. Other candidates have until Oct. 1 to qualify for the event. Only one other candidate, best-selling author Marianne Williamson, is relatively close to qualifying for the fourth debate. She has already surpassed the 130,000-donor threshold but needs to register at 2 percent or higher in at least three more qualifying polls.

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One sane voice: ” terribly divisive for the country “.

Tulsi Gabbard Refuses To Join Fellow Democrats’ Calls For Impeachment (ZH)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is certainly the most interesting and ‘outside-the-establishment-box’ candidate on the Democrat side running for president — a “Ron Paul of the Left” of sorts given her outspoken criticism of US regime change wars and standing against foreign policy adventurism as her central message. She even once met in 2016 with then President-elect Trump to discuss Syria policy and non-interventionism at a private meeting at Trump Tower just ahead of his being sworn into office, after which she said both agreed to resist “the drumbeats of war [on Syria] that neocons have been beating to drag us into an escalation…”.

And now she’s resisting calls for Trump to be impeached, saying it would be “terribly divisive”. She told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday that she’ll remain consistent to her message that the road to 2020 can only be found in a clear victory and mandate, saying it’s for “the American people… making that decision” of who is in the White House, not impeachment. “I believe that impeachment at this juncture would be terribly divisive for the country at a time when we are already extremely divided. The hyperpartisanship is one of the main things driving our country apart,” Gabbard told host Brian Kilmeade.

Once again showing herself outside of the establishment and its blindly loyal partisan narrative, and perhaps more in-tune with the American public, she’s further setting herself apart from her main Democratic rivals and the presidential nominee front-runners on this one. “I think it’s important to beat Donald Trump, that’s why I’m running for president,” she said. “But I think it’s the American people who need to make their voices heard making that decision.” Top contender Elizabeth Warren, for example, tweeted early Tuesday, “The House must impeach. It must start today.”

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“The seats of upward of 200 Democrats were being put at risk to protect a handful of loud frontliners..”

Why The House Democratic Caucus Moved So Rapidly Toward Impeachment (Grim)

The members without official primary challenges were by no means safe, either, as they might soon draw a challenge unless the trajectory of the politics changed. Freshman Lori Trahan from Massachusetts, for instance, came out for impeachment after Dan Koh, whom she beat in a primary by 147 votes in 2018, called on her to do so, with the clear threat that he may run again. The seats of upward of 200 Democrats were being put at risk to protect a handful of loud frontliners, Raskin argued, and it wasn’t obvious that the strategy was actually protecting them from anything. Grassroots activists were demobilizing, Democrats across the board were facing primary challenges, and somehow, someway, Democrats seemed to be losing, again, to Trump. Something had to give.

[..] The news had landed like a bomb in a Democratic caucus that was already ready to explode. Calls to impeach Trump rained down from the party’s left flank and its presidential candidates. On Friday evening, Democrats were bracing for a backlash back home. “It’s going to be a brutal weekend for a lot of people, especially those who haven’t spoken for impeachment,” one Democrat predicted. Indeed it was. Democrats, including frontliners, spent the weekend furiously texting and calling each other as they worked through how to respond to Trump’s latest lawlessness. “People are pissed,” said another Democrat over the weekend. “Frontliners are pissed! And not even the ‘progressive’ frontliners either.”

Pelosi didn’t seem to understand the shift that was taking place under her feet. Reporter John Harwood asked an aide to Pelosi over the weekend if the news changed her calculus on impeachment and got back the reply: “no. see any GOP votes for it?” Jon Favreau, a speechwriter for President Barack Obama who now serves, from his perch at Pod Save America, as something of a tribune for the volunteer-resistance army that phone banked and door-knocked Democrats into the majority, was apoplectic. “This is insane,” he said. “This is pathetic. This is not what we worked so hard for in 2018.” By Tuesday afternoon, Pelosi was calling for impeachment proceedings to begin.

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“..59 percent of adults nationwide opposed the start of impeachment proceedings..”

Senate GOP Vows To Quash Impeachment Articles (Hill)

Senate Republicans are vowing to quickly quash any articles of impeachment that pass the House and warn that Democrats will feel a political backlash if they go forward and impeach President Trump. Republican senators say there are no grounds to impeach Trump and are daring Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to embark on what they dismiss as a fool’s errand that will turn off swing voters. “My response to them is go hard or go home,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over impeachment. “If you want to impeach him, stop talking. Do it. Do it. Go to Amazon, buy a spine and do it. And let’s get after it.”

“I think the public will feel like it’s more harassment,” he predicted. Republicans say that impeachment will boomerang on Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who have tried to resist pressure from the left to impeach Trump for more than a year. Senate Republican Whip John Thune (S.D.) warned that Democrats are embarking on a politically perilous journey. “It’s a risky strategy on their part. I know they’re under a lot of pressure to do it, but if you’re the leadership over there, you got to think long and hard about what the implications are if it looks like you’re overreaching,” he said.

[..] Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said articles of impeachment based on the report by former special counsel Robert Mueller would be disposed of quickly in the Senate, reiterating comments he made in May, a month after the report’s release. “Yeah, if it’s based on the Mueller inquiry,” Graham said when asked if he still believes the Senate will quickly quash articles of impeachment. Graham said it’s harder to say how the Senate would handle articles of impeachment based on a whistleblower complaint because little is known about its contents. “Who knows what’s in it,” he said of the Ukraine-related complaint. “I haven’t heard anything. I’m not going to speculate on stuff like that.”

Polls conducted since the start of 2017, when Trump took office, have shown voters consistently oppose impeachment. An NBC News–Wall Street Journal poll conducted in July showed that 50 percent of registered voters nationwide oppose the launch of impeachment hearings, while only 21 percent said they supported the start of hearings. In March, the percentage of voters who opposed impeachment hearings stood at 47 percent, according NBC News–Wall Street Journal polling. An ABC News–Washington Post poll conducted at the end of June and beginning of July found that 59 percent of adults nationwide opposed the start of impeachment proceedings. That number was up from 54 percent in March.

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They saw it coming.

Trump Team Brushes Off Impeachment Inquiry, Raises Cash (R.)

Trump’s re-election campaign raised a quarter of a million dollars in just 15 minutes on Tuesday in the immediate aftermath of House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement about the probe. The president, tweeting from Trump Tower in New York where he launched his 2016 campaign for the White House, blasted out a video shortly after she finished that highlighted how Democrats had talked about pushing him out for 2-1/2 years. Far from exuding an aura of concern that might accompany the disclosure that a president faced formal efforts to remove him from power, Trump’s advisers appeared full of bravado and almost pleased by the news. “We had a lot of things prepared just in case the Democrats were, in fact, that stupid.


And in fact, they were,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, reacting to the impeachment process and disclosing the campaign’s early cash haul. “So we’re probably going to have a tremendous fundraising surge. We think that this gets the president just that much closer to a landslide victory.” The campaign prepared the video Trump tweeted some six weeks ago, he said, long before the latest controversy over his call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in July. [..] Trump, who in a tweet after Pelosi’s announcement, labeled the probe “Witch Hunt garbage,” also appeared to embrace the argument that the impeachment effort could help his 2020 prospects. “They all say that’s a positive for me, for the election,” Trump told reporters in New York. “But the good news is, the voters get it. This is why they say it’s good for the election. But you know what? It’s bad for the country.”

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“Powell also called Schiff’s demand “theatrical” and accused the Russiagate-promoting congressman of “disregard for propriety, professionalism, prior practices and ethics.”

As Democrats Begin Trump Impeachment, Michael Flynn Case May Be Imploding (RT)

Flynn’s case is still pending, but the prosecutors just suffered a major setback. On Tuesday, Judge Anthony Trenga in the Eastern District of Virginia threw out the jury conviction of his business partner Bijan Rafiekian, saying that the government “failed to offer substantial evidence” he acted as a foreign agent of Turkey. “The evidence was insufficient as a matter of law for the jury to convict Rafiekian,” Trenga wrote in his ruling, granting Rafiekian’s motion for acquittal. If the prosecutors successfully appeal the decision, he would have to be tried all over again.

While Flynn was not charged as a co-conspirator in Rafiekian’s case, prosecutors tried to add the claim that he deliberately lied to the government about his company’s violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to Flynn’s admission of allegedly lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the US. It was the investigation of Flynn that triggered the special counsel probe, after sacked FBI director James Comey claimed Trump had asked him to “let it go,” thus obstructing justice. nFlynn’s sentencing is still pending, but the Rafiekian decision increases the odds that his own case might be thrown out. The judge in the case is already on record disliking the practice of prosecutors withholding exculpatory evidence – also known as Brady materials – from the defense.

Earlier this month, Flynn’s lawyers demanded this evidence, and argued that the entire case should be thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct. Meanwhile, Flynn has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights to decline testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. Flynn will “not appear before your committee on September 25, 2019 to be paraded, harassed or disparaged for doing so,” his attorney Sidney Powell said in a letter to chairman Adam Schiff (D-California) on Monday. Powell also called Schiff’s demand “theatrical” and accused the Russiagate-promoting congressman of “disregard for propriety, professionalism, prior practices and ethics.”

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If he doesn’t resign, why?

UK Supreme Court Rules Prorogation “Unlawful, Void And Of No Effect” (G.)

A humiliated Boris Johnson has been forced to cut short a set-piece visit to New York and fly back to face furious MPs, after his decision to shut down parliament was dramatically quashed by the supreme court. After Lady Hale delivered a crushing unanimous verdict in which she said Johnson’s advice to the Queen to suspend parliament was, “unlawful, void and of no effect”, the prime minister struck a defiant tone. “Let’s be absolutely clear that we respect the judiciary in our country and we respect the court. I disagree profoundly with what they had to say,” he said, before pressing ahead with a planned speech on the business links between the UK and the US. But a No 10 source criticised the 11 supreme court judges, saying they had made “a serious mistake in extending its reach to these political matters.”


The leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who travelled to Balmoral to formalise the decision to suspend parliament with the Queen, reportedly told colleagues on a cabinet conference call that the supreme court judgment was a “constitutional coup”. Opposition MPs are determined to force Johnson to face questions in parliament, after the Speaker, John Bercow, announced from College Green in Westminster that the House of Commons would reconvene on Wednesday morning. Jeremy Corbyn was consulting with fellow opposition leaders on Tuesday evening about how to exert maximum pressure on the prime minister and ensure he cannot escape the legal obligation set out in the Benn bill to delay Brexit if he hasn’t passed a deal by 19 October.

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The gall.

Boeing To Pay Bereaved 737 Families $144,500 Each (BBC)

Families who lost relatives in fatal Boeing 737 Max air crashes are set to receive about $144,500 (£116,200) each from the company. The money comes from a $50m financial assistance fund, which Boeing announced in July. The fund has started accepting claims, which must be submitted before 2020. Lawyers for the victims’ families, many of whom are pursuing the company in court, have dismissed the fund as a publicity stunt. “$144,000 doesn’t come close to compensating any of our families or any of the families,” said Nomaan Husain, a Texas-based attorney who is representing 15 families. “This is not something that is going to satisfy the families. The families really want answers.”


The 737 Max has been grounded since March, as investigators evaluate the airplane’s safety following fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, which claimed the lives of more than 340 people. Boeing in July pledged $100m to families and communities affected by the crashes. The company later said half would be reserved for direct payments to families, with the other half set aside for education and development programmes in affected communities. Robert A Clifford, lead counsel for the Ethiopian Airlines 302 litigation, said the lack of detail at the time of the initial announcement suggested Boeing saw it primarily as a way to divert attention from the safety questions.

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Six weeks after his death, what do you think will still be there?

French Investigators Search Jeffrey Epstein’s Luxury Paris Apartment (AFP)

French investigators searched disgraced US financier Jeffrey Epstein’s luxury Paris apartment on Tuesday, deepening a probe into allegations that the sex offender procured young women to abuse in France. Epstein, who was arrested in New York in July on charges of trafficking underage girls for sex, was found hanged in his New York jail cell on August 10 while awaiting trial over abuses involving girls at his Palm Beach home and on his private island in the Caribbean. But his ownership of an apartment in the heart of upmarket Paris and allegations from women who say they were abused in France prompted French prosecutors to open their own criminal probe last month.


Epstein’s flat on Avenue Foch near the Champs-Elysees — one of the world’s most exclusive addresses — was scoured for evidence from Monday afternoon to the early morning hours of Tuesday, a source close to the probe told AFP. A week earlier, investigators searched the nearby headquarters of Karin Models, an agency founded in 1978 by Epstein associate Jean-Luc Brunel, himself accused in American court documents of rape and of procuring young girls for his friend. [..] Last month, the investigation officially spilled over from the US to France when the Paris prosecutor’s office opened its own inquiry into claims of rape and sex abuse, including of minors. The investigation focuses on potential crimes committed against French victims in France as well as abroad, and on suspects who are French citizens, the Paris prosecutor said.

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But the New York Stock Exchange wants a piece of the action.

Bitcoin Plummets, Down 35% Since Early August (R.)

Bitcoin dropped around 15% against the U.S. dollar in late trading on Tuesday, hitting a 3-1/2-month low, with some analysts ascribing the weakness to investors’ lukewarm reception to the launch of Bakkt’s bitcoin futures on Monday. Bakkt, a cryptocurrency platform affiliated with the Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICE.N), listed the new Bakkt Bitcoin futures contracts on Monday. But volume was underwhelming, analysts said. ICE is owned by the New York Stock Exchange. The largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization was last down 12.86% at $8,436. Earlier, it hit $7,998, the lowest since mid-June. Bitcoin has been on a downtrend in recent weeks. Since early August, it has plunged about 35%.

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What you get by pushing a vulnerable child forward all the time.

German Lawmakers Warn Greta Thunberg’s Activism Threatens Rational Debate (RT)

Greta Thunberg’s highly emotional approach to climate change activism threatens level-headed debate on the subject, German lawmakers have cautioned. In a provocative speech at the UNGA Climate Action Summit on Monday, 16-year-old Thunberg accused world leaders of stealing her “dreams” and her “childhood” by not doing enough to combat climate change. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!” she sermonized. The headline-grabbing Swedish activist also filed a formal complaint at the UN against Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey for failing to do enough to safeguard the environment for future generations.


While her performance at the UN received accolades from Germany’s left-wing parties, conservative lawmakers raised alarm over Thunberg’s incendiary approach. MP Roderich Kiesewetter, a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said that Thunberg was attempting to bully those who seek respectful, fact-based dialogue about environmental issues. “Anyone who wants to argue rationally is already discredited from the outset,” he wrote, adding that objectivity was being thrown out the window. Another CDU deputy, Jana Schimke, accused Thunberg of spreading “incipient mass hysteria.” Gerd Müller, the minister of economic cooperation and development, noted in response to the activist’s fighting words that “climate protection does not start with Greta Thunberg.”

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They’re playing off her, that’s what you get. It’s not about the topic, it’s about her.

‘Radical’ Greta Thunberg ‘Antagonizes Our Societies’, Macron Says (RT)

French President Emmanuel Macron did not hide his frustration with Greta Thunberg’s furious attack on world leaders – himself included – at the UN, displaying a change of heart since hosting her last year. The environmental activist had a productive day at the UN on Monday, berating the delegates for “betraying young people” through their inaction in tackling the climate crisis. She also added a legal complaint to her itinerary, pressuring five countries, including France, to get back on track with the emissions goals they decided on in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Speaking with Europe 1 radio, Macron denounced the 16-year-old’s “radical” stance which, he says, erodes common ground in the battle against climate change.


The French president, who hosted Thunberg at the Elysée Palace less than a year ago, said it would be more productive to aim the gun of her rhetoric at nations who stand aside while the world tries to solve the climate problem. He was referring to Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Estonia, which prevented the EU from adopting a pledge to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. Their rendezvous in February lasted for nearly two hours and was documented in photos with Macron hugging the activist paternally. The French president recalled the meeting in May, praising the girl’s energy and efforts in a tweet. [..] The teenage campaigner is also known for her position against air travel, spearheading the ‘flight shame movement.’ She made it to New York after a 15-day voyage in a sailboat across the Atlantic.

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She’s right, she should be in school, not paraded around the world. This picture is just scary.

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 282019
 


Salvador Dali Cadaques 1923

 

US Yield Inversion Deepens, Stokes Recession Fears (R.)
Ex-NY Fed Chief Bill Dudley Urges Jay Powell To Prevent Trump Re-Election (ZH)
Comey Confidant: Expect Andrew McCabe to be Indicted Any Day (GP)
Hong Kong Ponders Emergency Legislation Likened To Martial Law (HKFP)
Hong Kong Protesters Say They Have Nothing To Lose (R.)
Business Group Warns On China’s Corporate ‘Social Credit’ Plan (R.)
Chinese Government To Launch Cryptocurrency (F.)
Prince Andrew ‘Knows What He’s Done’, Should ‘Come Clean’ – Giuffre (Ind.)
Up to 30 Jeffrey Epstein Accusers To Speak Out At New York Court Hearing (G.)
Purdue Pharma Offers $10-$12 Billion To Settle Opioid Claims (NBC)
Near-Total Ban On Sending Wild Elephants To Zoos Agreed (AFP)
Boris Johnson, GMOs and Glyphosate (CP)

 

 

Treasuries safe haven.

US Yield Inversion Deepens, Stokes Recession Fears (R.)

The U.S. yield curve inversion deepened on Tuesday to levels not seen since 2007, rekindling fears of a looming recession that spurred a sell-off on Wall Street and stoked even more safe-haven demand for government bonds. The intense interest in Treasuries supported demand for $40 billion worth of two-year government debt for sale, part of this week’s $113 billion fixed-rate Treasury supply. The yield curve often inverts prior to a U.S. recession. “As the curve inverts further, it has inspired more long-end buying,” said Mike Lorizio, head of Treasuries trading at Manulife Asset Management in Boston.


The Treasury Department sold its latest two-year, fixed-rate note supply at a yield of 1.516%, which was the lowest at an auction of this maturity since September 2017. The Treasury will sell $41 billion of five-year notes on Wednesday, followed by a $32 billion auction of seven-year debt on Thursday. It will also offer $18 billion in floating-rate notes on Wednesday. On the open market, 10-year Treasury yields were 1.488%, down 5.60 basis points on the day. They reached a three-year low of 1.443% on Monday. The yields on two-year notes were 1.531%, down 2.00 basis points. On Monday, they declined to 1.449%, the lowest since September 2017.

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Curious op-ed by Dudley, good comment from Tyler.

“Trump now has documentary evidence that, by extension, the Fed also had the ability to ensure his re-election..”

Ex-NY Fed Chief Bill Dudley Urges Jay Powell To Prevent Trump Re-Election (ZH)

[..] while Dudley refers to the Fed as apolitical, underscoring that further in the next paragraph where he says that “I understand and support Fed officials’ desire to remain apolitical”, he immediately refutes himself by admitting that the Fed has never been apolitical and in fact, it is the US central bank that, through its actions chooses who the US president is, to wit: Central bank officials face a choice: enable the Trump administration to continue down a disastrous path of trade war escalation, or send a clear signal that if the administration does so, the president, not the Fed, will bear the risks — including the risk of losing the next election. And the punchline: “There’s even an argument that the election itself falls within the Fed’s purview.”

Translation: “there is even an argument”, Dudley says tongue-in-cheek, that the Fed should crush the economy (arguably by hiking or not cutting rates) and start the next recession, thereby preventing Trump from getting re-elected. And while we appreciate Dudley’s de facto confirmation of what we have said for years, namely that the Fed is not only a political entity, one which picks the US president as the former NY Fed president admitted, but that the Fed is an even more powerful entity than the top US executive (an entity which as Bernanke’s former advisor once said: “people would be stunned to know the extent to which the Fed is privately owned”). One hopes that finally a discussion can take place, whether in Congress or elsewhere, if such an entity should exist.


As for Dudley’s “modest proposal”, we look forward to Trump’s response, because if there is one thing the US president needed in writing, it was just such an op-ed, one written from a former Fed member to the current Fed chair, recommending what amounts to mutiny against Trump should Trump proceed with his current course of action. Because if things don’t work out, well Trump now has documentary evidence that, by extension, the Fed also had the ability to ensure his re-election, and if things seem like they are headed off course on the way to November 2020, we will sit back and enjoy as the war between Trump and the Fed goes nuclear.

Read more …

What’s taking so long?

Comey Confidant: Expect Andrew McCabe to be Indicted Any Day (GP)

Comey confidant Benjamin Wittes said in a Lawfare blog post on Tuesday that he expects former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to be indicted any day now. Benjamin Wittes is a ‘resistance’ lawyer and James Comey’s friend who runs the Lawfare Group. Wittes wrote in a blog post Tuesday that he was “shocked” to find out federal prosecutors were in the final stages of deciding whether to indict McCabe on charges he lied to federal investigators, referring to the New York Times bombshell released Monday. The potential indictment of McCabe stems from the Inspector General’s findings that the FBI official lied to federal investigators.

McCabe was criminally referred to the US Attorneys office for prosecution in the Spring of 2018 and they are finally getting around to (maybe) indicting him. The process has been dragged out because of internal deliberations and the case is taking so long that the term expired for the grand jury evidence. One of the lead prosecutors on the case has since left the DOJ out of frustration, according to the NYT. The New York Times reported that McCabe’s lawyers met with DAG Jeffrey Rosen, who is involved in the decision whether to prosecute the former FBI official.

In two meetings last week, Mr. McCabe’s lawyers met with the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who is expected to be involved in the decision about whether to prosecute, and for more than an hour with the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie K. Liu, according to a person familiar with the meetings. The person would not detail the discussions, but defense lawyers typically meet with top law enforcement officials to try to persuade them not to indict their client if they failed to get line prosecutors to drop the case. Mr. Wittes says these meetings only take place when an indictment is imminent.

Read more …

Hong Kong’s commerce minister is a bad liar.

Hong Kong Ponders Emergency Legislation Likened To Martial Law (HKFP)

Hong Kong’s commerce minister has said the city’s trade status may not be affected if the government uses emergency legislation, though democrat James To has said that such measures would be akin to martial law. The Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO) would grant the city’s leader and her council of advisors the power to “make regulations on occasions of emergency or public danger.” The plan was first reported by pro-government newspaper Sing Tao Daily, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam saying on Tuesday that she would consider using all laws in Hong Kong. The law was last used during the 1967 riots.

Asked if the government would consider using the ERO, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said the government will act in accordance with the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and existing laws. “I believe most people hope that violence in Hong Kong will stop, and that things return to peace and order,” he said on Tuesday when meeting reporters. “Internationally, every place and government would use different means to do their work well, if they face a situation like in Hong Kong.” Asked if using the ERO would harm Hong Kong’s trade status, Yau said: “I don’t see that. From a trade perspective, without a stable and peaceful environment, any economic activity would be affected.”

Democratic Party lawmaker James To, appearing on a Commercial Radio programme on Wednesday, said the ERO was a “colonial suppressive law” that had unlimited power. “It is the same as announcing martial law,” he said. “It would be a disproportionate use of power.” He said the Hong Kong police can handle the situation, and the government should respond to protesters’ demands to move forward.

Read more …

“If we don’t succeed now, our freedom of speech, our human rights, all will be gone.”

Hong Kong Protesters Say They Have Nothing To Lose (R.)

Exasperated with the government’s unflinching attitude to escalating civil unrest, Jason Tse quit his job in Australia and jumped on a plane to join what he believes is a do-or-die fight for Hong Kong’s future. The Chinese territory is grappling with its biggest crisis since its handover to Beijing 22 years ago as many residents fret over what they see as China’s tightening grip over the city and a relentless march toward mainland control. The battle for Hong Kong’s soul has pitted protesters against the former British colony’s political masters in Beijing, with broad swathes of the Asian financial center determined to defend the territory’s freedoms at any cost.

Faced with a stick and no carrot – chief executive Carrie Lam reiterated on Tuesday protesters’ demands were unacceptable – the pro-democracy movement has intensified despite Beijing deploying paramilitary troops near the border in recent weeks. “This is a now or never moment and it is the reason why I came back,” Tse, 32, said, adding that since joining the protests last month he had been a peaceful participant in rallies and an activist on the Telegram social media app. “If we don’t succeed now, our freedom of speech, our human rights, all will be gone. We need to persist.”

Since the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997, critics say Beijing has reneged on a commitment to maintain Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms under a “one country, two systems” formula. Opposition to Beijing that had dwindled after 2014, when authorities faced down a pro-democracy movement that occupied streets for 79 days, has come back to haunt authorities who are now grappling with an escalating cycle of violence. “We have to keep fighting. Our worst fear is the Chinese government,” said a 40-year-old teacher who declined to be identified for fear of repercussions. “For us, it’s a life or death situation.”

Read more …

“Companies “cannot decide between legal and illegal anymore. You have to decide where you want to be on the good and bad scale..”

Business Group Warns On China’s Corporate ‘Social Credit’ Plan (R.)

The rollout of China’s controversial corporate “social credit system” is well under way and accelerating, a European business lobby in the country said on Wednesday, warning that foreign governments need to wake up to the plan’s potential risks. Beijing has been developing a globally unprecedented plan to give companies and individual people “social credit” scores, a goal that has drawn international concerns that it could heighten to Orwellian levels the already strict control that the ruling Communist Party has over society and the economy. In a roadmap plan released in 2014, China said it would by 2020 create the system to reward or punish individuals and corporations using technology to record various measures of financial credit, personal behavior and corporate misdeeds.


Some experts say that the system remains nascent and could help tackle social problems like fraud or food security, while reducing government discretion in regulating companies. But one of the authors of a new European Union Chamber of Commerce in China report on the system’s implications for companies said that it could become a “surgical instrument” for compelling companies to meet China’s political aims. “It is a very, very potent instrument of regulating, controlling and steering companies in a targeted way,” Bjoern Conrad, chief executive officer of Sinolytics, a consulting firm that helped draft the report, told reporters. Companies “cannot decide between legal and illegal anymore. You have to decide where you want to be on the good and bad scale,” Conrad said.

Read more …

Who would accept it?

Chinese Government To Launch Cryptocurrency (F.)

China’s central bank will launch a state-backed cryptocurrency and issue it to seven institutions in the coming months, according to a former employee of one of the institutions who is now an independent researcher. Paul Schulte, who worked as global head of financial strategy for China Construction Bank until 2012, says the largest bank in the world, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the second largest bank in the world, his former employer, the Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China; two of China’s largest financial technology companies, Alibaba and Tencent; and Union Pay, an association of Chinese banks, will receive the cryptocurrency.

A separate source, who’s involved in the development of the cryptocurrency, dubbed DC/EP (Digital Currency/Electronic Payments), confirmed that the seven institutions would be receiving the new asset when it launches, adding that an eighth institution could also be among the first tier of recipients. The source declined to provide the name of the additional company. Speaking under terms of anonymity, the source, who previously worked for the Chinese government, confirmed that the technology behind the cryptocurrency has been ready since last year and that the cryptocurrency could launch as soon as November 11, China’s busiest shopping day, known as Singles Day.

At the time of launch, the recipient institutions will then be responsible for dispersing the cryptocurrency to 1.3 billion Chinese citizens and others doing business in the renminbi, China’s fiat currency, according to the source. The source added that the central bank hopes the currency will eventually be made available to spenders in the United States and elsewhere through relationships with correspondent banks in the West. “That’s the plan, but that won’t happen right away,” the source said.

[..] What sets China’s DC/EP apart from libra and Carney’s “synthetic hegemonic currency” (SHC), according to Shulte, is that while libra is little more than early-stage computer code and the SHC doesn’t appear to have gone much further than Carney’s mind, the Chinese cryptocurrency is ready to launch. “China is barreling forward on reforms and rolling out the cryptocurrency,” says Schulte, who now runs an eponymous bank research firm. “It will be the first central bank to do so.”

Read more …

It’s time to hear Andrew and Ghislaine under oath. It’s also time for Bill Barr to recuse himself.

Prince Andrew ‘Knows What He’s Done’, Should ‘Come Clean’ – Giuffre (Ind.)

A woman who claims she was forced to have sex with the Duke of York when she was 17-years-old has dismissed his repeated denials and said she hopes “he comes clean about it”. Prince Andrew “knows exactly what he’s done”, Virginia Roberts Giuffre said outside a New York court where a succession of women said the disgraced paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused them at a young age. Many lamented that his jailhouse suicide earlier this month had deprived them of the opportunity to obtain justice. It later emerged that he signed a will just two days before his death, placing all his property, worth more than £469m, into a trust, making it harder for victims to claim. Ms Giuffre has previously alleged in court papers filed in Florida, that she had sex with Prince Andrew “three times”.


She said she took part in ”one orgy” in London and one on “his private island in the Caribbean”. Prince Andrew has repeatedly and strenuously denied the claim that he had sex with Ms Giuffre, who at 17 would have been under the age of consent in Florida. [..] Ms Giuffre has alleged that she 15 when was recruited to perform sex acts on Epstein when she was working at Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Speaking outside court on she said: “It’s not how Jeffrey died, it’s how he lived.” She added: “I won’t stop fighting – I will never be silenced until these people are brought to justice.” Other women were invited to speak both inside and outside the court.

Read more …

The judge still can’t believe what happened.

Up to 30 Jeffrey Epstein Accusers To Speak Out At New York Court Hearing (G.)

Up to 30 women are expected to take a judge up on his invitation to speak at a hearing after Jeffrey Epstein killed himself while facing sex trafficking charges. The hearing on Tuesday morning was scheduled last week by US district judge Richard Berman, who presided over the case prosecutors brought against Epstein after the 66-year-old convicted criminal was arrested on 6 July after he arrived at a New Jersey airport from Paris. A New York coroner has formally classified Epstein’s death as a suicide. He died on 10 August. Epstein, long accused of abusing teen girls, was faced with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy counts. Berman on Tuesday morning in the New York courtroom addressed Epstein’s death prior to victim testimony.


“The news on August 10 2019 that Jeffrey Epstein had been found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the MCC, was certainly shocking,” Berman said. “Most of you, and myself for that matter, were anticipating that the next steps in this case would be defense motion practice – including motion to dismiss – followed by a trial on the merits before a jury if the motions were not successful, through which the accusers and the accused would come face-to-face allowing everyone to get their day in court.” He continued: “Mr. Epstein’s death obviously means that a trial in which he is a defendant cannot take place. It is a rather stunning turn of events.”

Read more …

For 400,000 American lives.

Purdue Pharma Offers $10-$12 Billion To Settle Opioid Claims (NBC)

Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, are offering to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against the company for $10 billion to $12 billion. The potential deal was part of confidential conversations and discussed by Purdue’s lawyers at a meeting in Cleveland last Tuesday, Aug. 20, according to two people familiar with the mediation. Brought by states, cities and counties, the lawsuits — some of which have been combined into one massive case — allege the company and the Sackler family are responsible for starting and sustaining the opioid crisis. At least 10 state attorneys general and the plaintiffs’ attorneys gathered in Cleveland, where David Sackler represented the Sackler family, according to two people familiar with the meeting. David Sackler, who was a board member of the company, has recently been the de facto family spokesperson.


The lawsuits that Purdue and the Sacklers are seeking to settle allege that their company’s sales practices were deceptive and at least partly responsible for the opioid crisis, which claimed more than 400,000 lives from 1999 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of the lawsuits also allege that after 2007 the Sackler family drained the company of money to enrich themselves. “The Sackler family built a multibillion-dollar drug empire based on addiction,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in May when his state joined others in suing the Sackler family and their company. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was the first to name family members in her suit in January.

Read more …

Some things are just too obvious.

Near-Total Ban On Sending Wild Elephants To Zoos Agreed (AFP)

The regulator of global wildlife trade decided Tuesday to impose a near-total ban on sending African elephants captured from the wild to zoos, in a decision hailed by conservationists as “momentous”. Following a heated debate at a meeting of parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva, the member countries approved a proposed text after a revision by the European Union included some exceptions to the ban. The decision met with strong opposition from Zimbabwe in particular, which along with Botswana is the main provider of wild African elephants to zoos outside of the continent and tried in vain to block the vote.

But with 87 in favour, 29 against and 25 abstaining, the vote for the amended text secured the two-thirds majority needed to pass. “This is a momentous CITES decision for Africa’s elephants,” said Audrey Delsink, the wildlife director at Humane Society International (HSI)’s Africa division. The vote in plenary altered slightly a decision taken at the start of the 12-day conference — set to wrap up Wednesday — prohibiting the transfer of all African elephants caught in the wild to so-called captive facilities. The decision only impacts African elephants. Asian elephants already enjoy more protection against international trade.

Read more …

With an in-depth look at the dangers for humans.

Boris Johnson, GMOs and Glyphosate (CP)

In his first speech to parliament as British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.” Johnson reads from a well-rehearsed script. The ‘GM will feed the world mantra’ is pure industry spin. There is already enough food being produced to feed the global population yet around 830 million are classed as hungry. Feeding the world effectively, sustainably and equitably involves addressing the in-built injustices of the global food system.

The never-ending push to force GM on the public under the guise of saving humanity is a diversion that leaves intact the root causes of world hunger and undernutrition: neoliberal deregulation and privatisation policies, unfair WTO rules, poverty, land rights issues, World Bank/IMF geopolitical lending strategies and the transformation of food secure regions into food deficit ones, etc. Even in regions where productivity in agriculture lags behind or concerns exist about climate change, numerous high-level reports have recommended that (non-GMO) agroecological practices should be encouraged to enhance biodiversity and deal with food and climate crises.

However, pro-Brexiteer Conservative politicians talk of the essential need for Britain and the world to adopt GM is little more than an attempt to justify a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington that will effectively incorporate the UK into the US’s regulatory food regime. The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson really means is the UK adopting unassessed GM crops and food and a gutting of food safety and environmental standards.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 262019
 


Joan Miro The farmer’s wife 1923

 

In Jackson Hole on Friday, Bank of England’s outgoing governor Mark Carney talked about a Synthetic Hegemonic Currency (SHC) that the world ‘must’ create, and I thought: that sounds as creepy as anything Halloween. Now, Carney is a central banker as well as a former Giant Squid partner, hence a certified cultist, but still.

He even mentioned Facebook’s Libra ‘currency’ as some sort of example for something that should replace the US dollar internationally. And that replacement is allegedly needed because countries are hoarding dollars. And/or “protecting themselves by racking up enormous piles of dollar-denominated debt.” Whichever comes first, I guess?!

I’ve read quite a few comments on Carney’s speech, but far as I’ve seen they all ignore one aspect of it: the current shape and form of globalization. See, Carney can see only one thing: more centralization, more things moving more in the same direction. Remember, he’s the man who with Michael Bloomberg in 2016 wrote “How To Make A Profit From Defeating Climate Change”. Aka things are worth doing only if they make you richer.

It’s a state of mind that works fine when you’re inside a system and an echo chamber, when you’re a central banker or a corporate banker. But there’s nothing that indicates it’s a useful state of mind when the system you’re serving must undergo change. What is as true when it comes to climate change as it is for changing the entire global economy. Carney’s got blinders on.

 

World Needs To End Risky Reliance On US Dollar: BoE’s Carney

Carney [..] said the problems in the financial system were encouraging protectionist and populist policies. [..] Carney warned that very low equilibrium interest rates had in the past coincided with wars, financial crises and abrupt changes in the banking system. As a first step to reorder the world’s financial system, countries could triple the resources of the IMF to $3 trillion as a better alternative to countries protecting themselves by racking up enormous piles of dollar-denominated debt.

In other words, to reorder the world’s financial system, you must put a ton of money into a fund that has served (and failed) to uphold the old system. Really?

“While such concerted efforts can improve the functioning of the current system, ultimately a multi-polar global economy requires a new IMFS (international monetary and financial system) to realize its full potential,” Carney said. China’s yuan represented the most likely candidate to become a reserve currency to match the dollar, but it still had a long way to go before it was ready. The best solution would be a diversified multi-polar financial system, something that could be provided by technology, Carney said.

There is no doubt that the present system is a little off balance, that the USD’s role in the financial system is way bigger then America’s share of global trade. But the yuan is completely unfit as a reserve currency because it’s not freely traded. And whether “technology” could “provide a diversified multi-polar financial system” (quite the statement) is very much in question. Perhaps that is true in theory, but Carney’s claims are not only about theory -anymore-.

Facebook’s Libra was the most high-profile proposed digital currency to date but it faced a host of fundamental issues that it had yet to address. “As a consequence, it is an open question whether such a new Synthetic Hegemonic Currency (SHC) would be best provided by the public sector, perhaps through a network of central bank digital currencies,” Carney said.

 

The most fundamental issue about Libra would appear to be that it doesn’t exist. Then there are a whole slew of other issues, like why should Facebook and its partners play any role at all in finance. Because they’re such benign enterprises who focus on guarding your privacy? Why Carney would present it as a potential ‘solution’ is totally unclear, other than Libra is something that could fit inside his echo chamber.

I’m still nervous about crypto, too many things still go wrong, too many thefts, too many things too many people don’t understand. But I would support Bitcoin over Carney’s “network of central bank digital currencies” any day. Because that’s the creepiness of this “Synthetic Hegemonic Currency” in all its infamy.

Carney and his echo chamber banker mates seek control, we get it. But that doesn’t mean we want them to have it. Look at the present system, which they created, and the failure of which necessitates the creation of yet another system. And then they want to control that one too?

 

But that’s still all a bit of a sideshow. I’m thinking Carney is not just wearing blinders, he’s simple too late. The globalization that his proposals might serve is already past its peak. He may not be able to see beyond it, but we should.

Globalization is a process, it’s something that moves, it can’t stand still. And now that it’s fully reached China, there’s nowhere else for it to go. Sure, there are some smaller countries that might be willing to produce at even lower prices, like Vietnam or Cambodia, but they could never do it at the same scale as China has.

The same goes for Africa. Moving the entire manufacturing capacity to Africa that was transferred from the west to China starting 20-30 years ago, would be such a logistical nightmare nobody would seriously consider it, And so we have come to a standstill. Globalization can no longer move, because it has nowhere to move to. The world is as fully globalized as it ever will be. But globalization is a process.

Perhaps counterintuitively, the only thing it can really do is to move back. For a number of different reasons, I think that’s exactly what will happen. And I don’t think that’s all that bad. Trump is of course already preparing part of that move with his tariffs war. But it can, and I’m quite sure will, go much further.

If globalization only means, and is restricted to, the transfer of manufacturing anything and everything from the US and Europe to China, and that’s what it appears to mean, the drawback for the former(s) is painfully obvious. So is the one for the planet.

 

It may make sense to produce high end products, like intricate complex electronics, in one location in the world, but why on earth should China produce our underwear? Yeah, they can do it cheaper, sure, but the main effect of that is it kills our jobs. The narrative about this over the past few decades has been that we were building a ‘knowledge economy’ or a ‘service economy’, but that’s a whole lot of BS.

Not only do we now depend on China to make our underwear, all those panties and shorts and shirts have to be hauled halfway across the planet by fossil-fuel-powered behemoth container ships. While we could make them right where we live, pay people a living wage to do it, and lower pollution in the process. Not a hard choice, even if your boxers would cost a dollar more.

And whether you worry about the planet and climate and species extinction or not, enough people do to make it an ever growing factor in decision making on these topics. And there’s more. Henry Ford understood it: people must be paid enough to afford your products if your business is to be successful. The whole “globalization” towards lower wage countries has not only lowered prices in the US and Europe, but also wages.

And that in turn has opened the way towards higher pay for executives, higher stock prices and dividends etc., in other words towards more inequality. Very few people understand the mechanics that drive this, but more of them will and must as their wages become the same as those in China.

 

So anyway, Mark Carney’s grand Synthetic Hegemonic plans are too little too late. Not that that will keep him from blabbing about them, he represents the ruling classes after all, which are doing just fine and would like to be doing even finer. But even he, and they, cannot deny that globalization is like a shark that dies when it can no longer move. Scary movie title: Globalization Never Sleeps…

And Trump plays his role in this just dandy. Not that he’s the smartest guy around, far from it, but he does recognize how globalization hurts America. And that China, a third world country not long ago, is now perhaps the world’s largest economy and will have to be subject to entirely different rules and scrutiny than in, say, 1980.

China must open up its economy to US and EU products, or the latter must close theirs to what China produces. That’s what the trade war, and/or the currency war, the whole enchilada, is about. And perhaps it needed an elephant like Trump to say it, but that’s not important. The entire world economy has reached the limits of its lopsided-ness , and the imbalance must be fixed. Simple stuff.

I’ve been using underwear as an example, but we all know -or we could- how much of what we purchase daily comes from China. Well, that, too, like globalization, and because of it, has reached its peak. We will make our own underwear again. It that a bad thing? How? Henry Ford would have understood it is not, even if he might have been the first to move his production lines to Shenzhen if he would have had the option.

Ford understood the link between prices and wages, but that knowledge appears to be gone. Except perhaps in China, but their model relies exclusively on exports and that can’t last either. Ford sought to sell his cars to his own workers. Which is just about the very opposite of what today’s financial elites are after, and why Carney wants a -belated- Synthetic Hegemonic Currency.

See the point? I predict Carney and his ilk will propose a cloud-based world currency soon, ‘guaranteed’ by -probably- the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDR), but that is totally unfit for the role they have in mind.

Because you don’t need such a currency to pay for the underwear that’s produced by your neighbors just down the road. You only need it for the underwear that comes from China.

 

 

 

 

Jul 172019
 
 July 17, 2019  Posted by at 9:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Piet Mondriaan Place de la Concorde 1938-43

 

FBI Spreadsheet Puts A Stake Through The Heart Of Steele’s Dossier (Solomon)
Sic Transit Gloria Mueller (Ray McGovern)
House Floor In Chaos Over Pelosi Speech On Trump Tweets (RC)
House Condemns Trump Over ‘Racist Comments’ Tweeted At Congresswomen (R.)
Republican Support For Trump Rises After Racially Charged Tweets (R.)
Pentagon To Review If It Exposed Americans To Weaponised Ticks (G.)
Bitcoin Tumbles As US Senators Grill Facebook On Crypto Plans (R.)
Twitter CEO Maxes Out Donations To Tulsi Gabbard (RT)
Everything’s Fine Until Suddenly it Isn’t: How a Leveraged Loan Blows Up (WS)
Boris Johnson’s New Plan To Sideline Parliament, Guarantee No Deal Brexit (ZH)
Labour Peers Tell Corbyn: You Have Failed Test Of Leadership (G.)
Berlin Buys 670 Flats From Private Owner (G.)
Freeing Julian Assange: Part Three (Suzie Dawson)

 

 

“.. the spreadsheet found upward of 90 percent of the dossier’s claims to be either wrong, nonverifiable or open-source intelligence found with a Google search..”

FBI Spreadsheet Puts A Stake Through The Heart Of Steele’s Dossier (Solomon)

Over months of work, FBI agents painstakingly researched every claim Steele made about Trump’s possible collusion with Russia, and assembled their findings into a spreadsheet-like document. The over-under isn’t flattering to Steele. Multiple sources familiar with the FBI spreadsheet tell me the vast majority of Steele’s claims were deemed to be wrong, or could not be corroborated even with the most awesome tools available to the U.S. intelligence community. One source estimated the spreadsheet found upward of 90 percent of the dossier’s claims to be either wrong, nonverifiable or open-source intelligence found with a Google search. In other words, it was mostly useless.


“The spreadsheet was a sea of blanks, meaning most claims couldn’t be corroborated, and those things that were found in classified intelligence suggested Steele’s intelligence was partly or totally inaccurate on several claims,” one source told me. The FBI’s final assessment was driven by many findings contained in classified footnotes at the bottom of the spreadsheet. But it was also informed by an agent’s interview, in early 2017, with a Russian that Steele claimed was one of his main providers of intelligence, according to my sources.

Read more …

“..the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.”

Sic Transit Gloria Mueller (Ray McGovern)

As the truth seeps out, there will be plenty of crow to go around. To avoid eating it, the Democrats on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, the stenographers who pass for journalists at the Times and Post, and the “Mueller team” will need all the time they can muster to come up with imaginative responses to two recent bombshell revelations from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Perhaps the most damning of the two came last Monday, when it was disclosed that, on July 1, Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered Mueller to stop pretending he had proof that the Russian government was behind the Internet Research Agency’s supposed attempt to interfere via social media in the 2016 election.

While the corporate media so far has largely ignored Judge Friedrich’s order, it may well have been enough to cause very cold feet for those attached to the strained Facebook fable. (The IRA social-media “interference” has always been ludicrous on its face, as journalist Gareth Porter established.) Ten days is not a lot of time to conjure up ways to confront and explain Judge Friedrich’s injection of some unwelcome reality. Since the Democrats, the media, and Mueller himself all have strong incentive to “make the worst case appear the better” (one of the twin charges against Socrates), they need time to regroup and circle the wagons. The more so, since Mueller’s other twin charge — Russian hacking of the DNC — also has been shown, in a separate Court case, to be bereft of credible evidence.

No, the incomplete, redacted, second-hand “forensics” draft that former FBI Director James Comey decided to settle for from the Democratic National Committee-hired CrowdStrike firm does not qualify as credible evidence. Both new developments are likely to pose a strong challenge to Mueller. On the forensics, Mueller decided to settle for what his former colleague Comey decided to settle for from CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC despite it’s deeply flawed reputation and well known bias against Russia. In fact, the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.

Read more …

Good read on a pretty nutty spectacle.

House Floor In Chaos Over Pelosi Speech On Trump Tweets (RC)

Amid debate over whether to condemn tweets by President Donald Trump as racist on Tuesday, the House descended into parliamentary chaos, with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, who was presiding, abruptly dropping the gavel and saying, “I abandon the chair.” It was an extraordinary moment on an extraordinary day, as the House considered a resolution condemning Trump’s tweets from the weekend that told four freshman Democrats from the House to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Before Cleaver’s action, House debate had come to an abrupt halt when Georgia Republican Doug Collins took a rare procedural step to “take down” comments by Speaker Nancy Pelosi characterizing Trump’s tweets as racist.


“Every member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us to condemn the president’s racist tweets,” said Pelosi, speaking on the House floor. Collins interjected unsuccessfully, but once Pelosi was finished speaking, made Pelosi an offer. “I was just going to give the gentle speaker of the House, if she would like to rephrase that comment?” he asked. Pelosi responded that she cleared her remarks with the parliamentarian before she read them on the floor. “I ask that her words be taken down,” Collins said as Pelosi walked away from the rostrum to a spattering of applause. “I make a point of order that the gentlewoman’s words are unparliamentary and request they be taken down.” Collins set off a more than hour-long review and debate over Pelosi’s comments before a decision could be rendered.

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Virtue signalling 101. As if the divide isn’t wide enough yet.

House Condemns Trump Over ‘Racist Comments’ Tweeted At Congresswomen (R.)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to condemn President Donald Trump for “racist comments” against four minority Democratic congresswomen, a symbolic measure aimed at shaming Trump and his fellow Republicans who stood by him. The 240-187 vote, which split mainly along party lines, was the culmination of three days of outrage sparked by a Trump tweetstorm that diverted attention from other business in Washington but had little impact on the president’s overall approval rating, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. Trump is seeking re-election next year. Trump had told the group of congresswomen on Sunday to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” [..]


“These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting and these comments are racist,” Pelosi said. “Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets.” Pelosi’s comments put the House into a two-hour limbo after Republicans argued she went too far in her comments and broke debate rules. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy criticized Democrats for remarks that upset the “order and decency” of the chamber, saying: “Today is the day that historians will write about.”

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Not surprising. The trenches have been dug.

Republican Support For Trump Rises After Racially Charged Tweets (R.)

Support for U.S. President Donald Trump increased slightly among Republicans after he lashed out on Twitter over the weekend in a racially charged attack on four minority Democratic congresswomen, a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows. The national survey, conducted on Monday and Tuesday after Trump told the lawmakers they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” showed his net approval among members of his Republican Party rose by 5 percentage points to 72%, compared with a similar poll that ran last week.


Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has lost support, however, with Democrats and independents since the Sunday tweetstorm. Among independents, about three out of 10 said they approved of Trump, down from four out of 10 a week ago. His net approval – the percentage who approve minus the percentage who disapprove – dropped by 2 points among Democrats in the poll. Trump’s overall approval remained unchanged over the past week. According to the poll, 41% of the U.S. public said they approved of his performance in office, while 55% disapproved.

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Craziest topic in a long time. Lyme comes from an army lab.

Pentagon To Review If It Exposed Americans To Weaponised Ticks (G.)

The US House of Representatives has called for an investigation into whether the spread of Lyme disease had its roots in a Pentagon experiment in weaponising ticks. The House approved an amendment proposed by a Republican congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, instructing the defence department’s inspector general to conduct a review of whether the US “experimented with ticks and other insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975”. The review would have to assess the scope of the experiment and “whether any ticks or insects used in such experiment were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design”.


The amendment was approved by a voice vote in the House and added to a defence spending bill, but the bill still has to be reconciled with a Senate version. Smith said the amendment was inspired by “a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at US government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Plum Island, New York, to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons”. A new book published in May by a Stanford University science writer and former Lyme sufferer, Kris Newby, has raised questions about the origins of the disease, which affects 400,000 Americans each year. Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons, cites the Swiss-born discoverer of the Lyme pathogen, Willy Burgdorfer, as saying that the Lyme epidemic was a military experiment that had gone wrong.

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“..a U.S. senator said Facebook was “delusional” to believe people will trust it with their money.”

Bitcoin Tumbles As US Senators Grill Facebook On Crypto Plans (R.)

The cryptocurrency market took a beating on Tuesday with bitcoin losing over 10% in value after U.S. lawmakers grilled Facebook on its cryptocurrency plans, as political and regulatory scrutiny of digital coins intensifies. The social media giant is fighting to get Washington onside after it shocked regulators and lawmakers with its announcement on June 18 that it was hoping to launch its own digital coin called Libra in 2020. David Marcus, the company’s top executive overseeing the planned Libra project, answered questions from the Senate Banking Committee. During the hearing, a U.S. senator said Facebook was “delusional” to believe people will trust it with their money.


Facebook’s Libra plan, which is seen as a major step for wider adaptation of virtual currencies, has helped stoke this year’s rally in bitcoin, ethereum and other digital coins. “Libra is essentially slammed in the Senate,” said Lennon Sweeting, head trader at Coinsquare Capital Markets Ltd. “It’s just headline-driven volatility.” Digital currencies will likely recover with bitcoin returning to a $11,000-$12,000 trading range, Sweeting said. At 2:56 p.m. (1856 GMT), bitcoin fell 11.69% to $9,582.12 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange. It fell below $10,000 for the first time in two weeks.

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And the next moment Jack’s twisted head erased Julian Assange’s Unity4J support.

Twitter CEO Maxes Out Donations To Tulsi Gabbard (RT)

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has donated thousands of dollars to anti-war Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard – and Twitter users and mainstream media journalists are (rather ironically) up in arms about it. Dorsey gave the maximum donation of $5,600 to Gabbard’s campaign a day after her appearance during the first Democratic presidential campaign in June, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, reported on by BuzzFeed. Of all the Democrat contenders for the 2020 nomination, the Hawaii congresswoman has been a favorite punching bag for US journalists, who have accused her of being “pro-Russia” due to her anti-intervention foreign policy stances. She has also been consistently targeted for meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad during a 2017 trip to the war-torn country, with the media deriding her as an “Assad apologist” ever since.


BuzzFeed’s own story on Dorsey’s donations even smacks of disbelief, claiming that Gabbard is “probably best known for her visit to Syrian dictator” Assad, despite the fact that she is obviously well-known for other things, like being a high-profile congresswoman and Iraq war veteran. Later, BuzzFeed notes that Dorsey also scandalously “faved a bunch of tweets” from and about Gabbard. Needless to say, Dorsey’s own conspiracy machine – also known as Twitter – kicked into high gear, with people accusing him of being a Russian-bot-loving Assad apologist whose donations are “disappointing.”

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”And there are $1.3 trillion of them.”

Everything’s Fine Until Suddenly it Isn’t: How a Leveraged Loan Blows Up (WS)

Golden Gate Capital – the private equity firm now infamous for asset-stripping its portfolio company Payless ShoeSource into bankruptcy and liquidation – strikes again with another of its portfolio companies, Clover Technologies, whose $693-million leveraged loan has suddenly gone to heck. Slices of that leveraged loan are traded like securities. But because leveraged loans are loans, not securities, the SEC doesn’t regulate them. No one regulates them, though the Fed wrings its hands about them periodically. And there are $1.3 trillion of them.

The market for them is very illiquid, even during good times, and before Clover disclosed some issues on July 9, the loan still traded at 97 cents on the dollar, according to Bloomberg. This was the day investors, such as leveraged loan mutual funds and institutional investors that held these slices, suddenly woke up with the foul odor of debt restructuring and bankruptcy in the air. Within just a few days, the price of the loan plunged 35% to 62.625 cents on the dollar. The loan was “covenant-lite,” giving fewer protections to investors and allowing the company and its owners to get away with all kinds of things. This included the absence of certain disclosure requirements.


Not that we feel sorry for investors that suddenly got whacked: They knew that leverage loans are risky, that they’re issued by junk-rated over-leveraged companies with iffy cash-flows, often to fund their own leveraged buyout by a PE firm, and to fund special dividends back to the PE firm. Both factors apply to Clover’s leveraged loan. Investors don’t care. They’re chasing yield no matter what the risks, in a world where yield has been repressed by central-bank policies.

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Cheap tricks is what you need?!

Boris Johnson’s New Plan To Sideline Parliament, Guarantee No Deal Brexit (ZH)

The British pound tumbled to its weakest level in more than two years on Tuesday as fears of a ‘no deal’ Brexit continued to weigh on GBP, which has been steadily sinking during the Tory leadership contest that many expect will send Boris Johnson, a committed Brexiteer, to No. 10 Downing Street. And on Tuesday, Johnson – who said last night that he wouldn’t accept any time limits (both he and his rival Jeremy Hunt ruled out such a measure), unilateral escape hatches or any other kind of elaborate device to make the Irish Backstop more palatable – gave investors one more reason to worry: Sky News reports, citing anonymous sources from within Johnson’s campaign, that the candidate could delay a customary speech by the Queen that marks the beginning of the Parliamentary session – this would render MPs unavailable on Oct. 31, the day the UK is set to leave the EU.

Though Johnson’s rival Jeremy Hunt has said he’s open to another brief delay, Johnson’s position is that on Halloween, Brexit will finally mean Brexit. There have been some negotiations to work out an alternative to Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, but thanks to the inevitability of dealing with the hated Irish Backstop – which conservatives argue would effectively allow Europe to annex Northern Ireland – talks have once again been fraught. As Sky explains (for our American readers), Parliament is typically out of session for between one and two weeks ahead of the Queen’s speech – meaning MPs would in effect be unavailable to stop a no-deal Brexit immediately before October 31.

Johnson’s campaign confirmed that the delay is one option being explored, but insisted that no final decision had yet been made. But others pointed out that this move would scupper the chances of a last-minute deal, since Parliament wouldn’t be there to approve it. With an orderly Brexit is looking less likely by the day – even as some remainer Tories join the struggle to thwart their own future leader. And for anybody trying to discern what might happen next, well, BBG has put together yet another complicated Brexit flow chart.

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The Labour Blairites prefer Boris over Corbyn.

Labour Peers Tell Corbyn: You Have Failed Test Of Leadership (G.)

More than sixty Labour peers have taken out an advertisement accusing Jeremy Corbyn of having “failed the test of leadership” over his handling of antisemitism complaints within the party. The peers, including more than a dozen former ministers such as Peter Hain, Beverley Hughes and John Reid, have addressed the advert in the Guardian to Corbyn directly, saying: “The Labour party welcomes everyone* irrespective of race, creed, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (*except, it seems, Jews). This is your legacy, Mr Corbyn.”

Representing about a third of Labour’s members in the House of Lords, the signatories told Corbyn the party was “no longer a safe place for all members” and claimed that thousands have resigned their membership “because of the toxic culture you have allowed to divide our movement”. The advert has been taken out amid a backlash within the party about the leadership’s response to a BBC Panorama documentary that aired last week, in which eight former staff members accused the Labour of failing to tackle complaints about antisemitism properly and allowing Corbyn’s office to get involved in disputes.

Labour strongly denied any interference by the leader’s office, complained to the BBC and said the claims were made by “disaffected former officials including those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind”. In the advert, the 64 Labour peers state that Corbyn has not opened his eyes, taken responsibility or told the whole truth when it came to acknowledging the scale of complaints about antisemitism afflicting the party. “We are not asking if you are an antisemite. We are saying you are accountable as leader for allowing antisemitism to grow in our party and presiding over the most shaming period in Labour’s history,” they said.

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Government and central bank blow housing bubble, city must come to the rescue.

Berlin Buys 670 Flats From Private Owner (G.)

The state of Berlin has bought back 670 apartments on the historic Karl-Marx-Allee from a private owner after decades of property privatisation in the German capital. A 1950s prestige project for socialist East Germany, the grand boulevard that stretches from the city centre to Friedrichshain in the east has been the frontline of a months-long fight over gentrification and rising property prices. The struggle erupted last November when the property management firm Predac announced its intention to offload 700 apartments on the road to Berlin’s largest property company, Deutsche Wohnen. Fearing rent increases, tenants organised protest marches and hung banners from their apartments, eventually pushing the city senate to block the sale.


After months of legal wrangling, the senate confirmed on Monday that three blocs containing more than 670 apartments would instead be purchased by the state-owned housing provider Gewobag. While the price of the sale was not confirmed by either side, the move to renationalise the buildings on Karl-Marx-Allee is likely to come at a steep cost, with estimates ranging between €90m-€100m (£80m-£90m). Berlin’s mayor said the move was indicative of a wider strategy to reacquire housing stock sold to private investors in the 1990s, following rapid rises in rental costs in the city in recent years. “Berliners should be able to continue to afford living in the city,” said Michael Müller. “That is why it was and continues to be our intention to buy up apartments wherever we can, so that Berlin can regain control of its property market.”

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10,000 words on how to be an activist.

Freeing Julian Assange: Part Three (Suzie Dawson)

The movement to free Julian has already been a long battle but is likely to continue for many years to come. The movement to free Nelson Mandela was eight years to fruition, but some thirteen years of prior groundwork before that. Mandela was in prison for over a quarter century before being celebrated as a Nobel laureate or ascending to the Presidency of South Africa. These emancipation struggles are intergenerational. Nor are they guaranteed victories. There are no easy wins – they are hard. They are meaningful. And that’s why each win is so precious. Sometimes the same battle has to be won over and over again. At every stage, we individually and collectively have been, are and will be opposed by monied, institutional powers vastly greater than ourselves. To outmanoeuvre them takes great savvy.


It takes staunch, unmoving, determined activists willing to sacrifice the comforts of a conventional existence in service to greater principles. To be an activist like that, takes 50% natural talent and personal efficacy and 50% skill learned through experience, modelling and nurturing by other activists. I’m very lucky to have had both, and in this article I will attempt to pass on as much as I can of what I have learned, just as others did for me. In my nearly eight years of activism, I have traversed a rocky road fraught with peril and packed full of hard-learned lessons. I’ve gone from green, idealistic and largely oblivious, to jaded, seasoned and discerning. To varying extents, every other activist is somewhere along that path as well. Some are far, far more advanced than myself. (Julian would be a great example of this.)

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Apollo 11 U.S. Customs form after first moon landing

 

 

 

 

Jul 122019
 


Jack Delano Rebuilt Chicago and North Western Railroad caboose at the Proviso yard in Chicago 1943

 

Making Banking Boring Again: The Decline Of Deutsche Bank (NS)
The Parable of Deutsche Bank and Investment Banking (Wright)
Bank Of England Warns Of Lending Crisis For EU Firms After No-Deal Brexit (G.)
Epstein Sold ‘Lolita Express’ Weeks Before Arrest (ZH)
Did Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Work for Mossad? (Giraldi)
AOC on the 2020 Presidential Race and Trump’s Crisis at the Border (NYer)
Guardian Publishes, Then Censors Jewish Open Letter Defending Labour MP (GZ)
BBC Panorama’s Hatchet Job On Labour Antisemitism (Cook)
Bitcoin Extends Losses After Fed Chief Urges Halt To Facebook’s Libra (R.)
Japan Crypto Exchange Says $32 Million Missing In Hack (AFP)
Iran Calls On Britain To Release Seized Oil Tanker Immediately (R.)
Greek Growth Expected To Recover In The Second Half Of The Year (K.)

 

 

“If Deutsche falls, it could pull many other European banks down with it.” And American banks too.

Making Banking Boring Again: The Decline Of Deutsche Bank (NS)

There once was a time when Deutsche Bank’s central purpose was to expand its investment banking operations to compete with its American counterparts. On Sunday (7 July), its CEO declared those “days of spectacular ambition” over, announcing a major restructuring in a last attempt to save the bank from collapse. In a decade of decline for the once-great European investment banks, Deutsche has fared particularly badly. In the aftermath of the financial crash, it refused a German government bailout. Regulators have since discovered it was only able to do so by fiddling its books, earning it a large fine from the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The bank has remained fragile. The IMF called it the “most important net contributor to systemic risks in the global banking system”.


If Deutsche falls, it could pull many other European banks down with it. It has also been breaking rules in pursuit of a return to profitability. It earned big post-crisis fines for its role in the Libor rigging scandal, for laundering Russian money, and for violating US sanctions against a string of countries. The bank’s share price has fallen to below €7, from a pre-crisis peak of €112. The scale of its restructuring has shocked many analysts. Having already squeezed shareholders for huge amounts of capital, Deutsche aims to pay for it by cutting costs. Eighteen thousand jobs will be lost worldwide and the bank will shift away from expensive investment banking and return to its “traditional strengths” in corporate banking.

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Quite obvious what went wrong.

The Parable of Deutsche Bank and Investment Banking (Wright)

I first started writing about Deutsche Bank in the mid-1990s as a cub reporter on a City trade paper and this week’s news made me feel quite nostalgic. My first interview as a reporter in 1996 was on an empty trading floor in the City with someone called Edson Mitchell – the uber-trader hired by Deutsche Bank in 1995 to spearhead its ambitious project. He patiently explained to a clueless reporter why the bank was hiring 500 traders and what they would soon be doing. My first front page splash a few months later was that Deutsche Bank had hired the entire Latin American equities team of about 70 people from ING Barings. Why bother building a business from the bottom up when you can just buy the people from another firm that has already done so?

Those early moves were repeated many times over. You want to build the best trading business? Hire a huge team from Merrill Lynch. You want the best equities and advisory business? Take the best team on the street from SG Warburg. In the early days of the Deutsche Bank project it had the culture of an ambitious start-up: hire large teams of very good people, pay them a ton of money, focus on revenues, scale and market share – and eventually the profits will follow. Throw in as much leverage as your balance sheet can bear, and the numbers started adding up pretty quickly. It was a simple and successful formula. Soon Deutsche Bank graduated from hiring teams to buying entire firms: its acquisition of Bankers Trust in 1998 for $10bn – the biggest ever attempt by a European bank to break into the US market – briefly made it the biggest bank in the world in terms of assets.

It snapped up Scudder Investments a few years later, and Russian investment bank UFG a few years after that. The danger was that this ambitious start-up culture became the de facto culture of the investment bank. As a business model it worked when regulators around the world were more generous with how much leverage banks could have and when everyone was printing money in the years running up to the financial crisis. In 2007 the investment bank at Deutsche generated a shade under €20bn in revenues of a balance sheet that was just shy of €2 trillion. Two thirds of that revenue came from its huge sales and trading business. Pretax profits topped €5bn and its return on equity – a measure of profitability – was just under 20%. The Deutsche Bank project had worked.

The problem with this culture and business model – or rather, collection of businesses that had been rammed together over the previous decade – was that when the music stopped in 2008 it left Deutsche Bank with a huge and unproductive balance sheet, a cost-base that was nowhere near as flexible as it should have been, and a toxic culture in which many people’s expectation of how much they should be paid had become disconnected from the reality of the day-to-day business.

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“Britain has enabled UK companies banking with EU institutions located in Britain to keep on trading in the same way, even in a no-deal scenario, under special rules legislated for by the government. However, Brussels has not taken similar steps, the Bank warned.”

Bank Of England Warns Of Lending Crisis For EU Firms After No-Deal Brexit (G.)

The Bank of England has warned that a no-deal Brexit could trigger a material shock to the UK economy while causing widespread disruption for EU companies by cutting them off from London-based banks. Stating that the risk of Britain crashing out without a deal had risen, the Bank said the City of London was ready to withstand such a scenario and avoid banks failing, as they did in the financial crisis. However, there would still be major disruption for companies. Mark Carney, the Bank’s governor, said: “The perceived likelihood of no-deal Brexit has increased since last year. Although the degree of preparedness for such a scenario has improved, material risks still remain.”

He said the absence of further action by Brussels to get ready for Brexit could leave the door open to disruption for banks and their customers in the EU, while warning that the UK would face “material economic disruption” from a no-deal departure. “Although such disruption would primarily affect EU households and businesses, it could amplify volatility and spill back to the UK in ways that cannot be fully anticipated or mitigated,” he said. Against the backdrop of a rising threat of a no-deal Brexit, the central bank used its twice yearly financial stability report to say that UK, EU and international banks operating in London had made progress planning for a disorderly departure.

However, it warned that about half of EU companies using banks registered in Britain could be cut off from their banking services after the Halloween Brexit date, as they had yet to fully prepare. Britain has enabled UK companies banking with EU institutions located in Britain to keep on trading in the same way, even in a no-deal scenario, under special rules legislated for by the government. However, Brussels has not taken similar steps, the Bank warned.

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If they let him out on bail there’ll be riots.

Epstein Sold ‘Lolita Express’ Weeks Before Arrest (ZH)

A curious footnote has appeared in a court filing by Jeffrey Epstein’s attorneys suggesting that the registered sex offender sold his infamous Boeing 727-200 weeks before his Satuday arrest on suspicion of sex-trafficking minors. While arguing for why Epstein should be allowed to remain under house arrest pending trial, his attorneys made the case that the wealthy financier would “deregister or otherwise ground his private jet,” with the footnote reading “Mr. Epstein owns one private jet. He sold the other jet in June 2019,” placing the sale just weeks before his July 6 arrest upon his return from Paris in his Gulfstream G550 according to Bloomberg.

In other words, it looks like the financier unloaded the potentially ‘evidence-rich’ aircraft – said to have had a bed installed where passengers reportedly had group sex with young girls – right before the hammer came down. According to investigative journalist Conchita Sarnoff – who first revealed the former president’s extensive flights on Epstein’s “lolita express” in a 2010 Daily Beast exposé – former president Bill Clinton flew on the ‘lolita express’ no fewer than 27 times.

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Still just a theory. I would be careful with that.

Did Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein Work for Mossad? (Giraldi)

Questions about Epstein’s wealth also suggest a connection with a secretive government agency with deep pockets. The New York Times reports that “Exactly what his money management operation did was cloaked in secrecy, as were most of the names of whomever he did it for. He claimed to work for a number of billionaires, but the only known major client was Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder of several retail chains, including The Limited.” But whose intelligence service? CIA and the Russian FSB services are obvious candidates, but they would have no particular motive to acquire an agent like Epstein. That leaves Israel, which would have been eager to have a stable of high-level agents of influence in Europe and the United States.

Epstein’s contact with the Israeli intelligence service may have plausibly come through his associations with Ghislaine Maxwell, who allegedly served as his key procurer of young girls. Ghislaine is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, who died or possibly was assassinated in mysterious circumstances in 1991. Maxwell was an Anglo-Jewish businessman, very cosmopolitan in profile, like Epstein, a multi-millionaire who was very controversial with what were regarded as ongoing ties to Mossad. After his death, he was given a state funeral by Israel in which six serving and former heads of Israeli intelligence listened while Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized: “He has done more for Israel than can today be said”

[..] It will be very interesting to see just how far and how deep the investigation into Epstein and his activities goes. One can expect that efforts will be made to protect top politicians like Clinton and Trump and to avoid any examination of a possible Israeli role. That is the normal practice, witness the 9/11 Report and the Mueller investigation, both of which eschewed any inquiry into what Israel might have been up to. But this time, if it was indeed an Israeli operation, it might prove difficult to cover up the story since the pedophile aspect of it has unleashed considerable public anger from all across the political spectrum. Senator Chuck Schumer, self-described as Israel’s “protector” in the Senate, is loudly calling for the resignation of Acosta. He just might change his tune if it turns out that Israel is a major part of the story.

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Yes, the US needs to improve conditions at the border, no doubt about it. But calling it Trump’s crisis while it plays out in Obama facilities is a step too far. At least get some stories about what went on there before January 2017.

And AOC saying Trump called migrants “animals” is simply false. He was referring to MS-13 gang members (see video), and it’s very hard to believe she doesn’t know that. And then he compliments her. Maybe it’s time she pays him a compliment in return. Varoufakis said it very well:

“Come on, wake up! You can not say to Trump voters that they are idiots, and Putin duped them. You can say that, but then that’s it – you lose them forever. And it’s also not true.”
– Yanis Varoufakis

AOC on the 2020 Presidential Race and Trump’s Crisis at the Border (NYer)

So, we walked in and in one of the cells, the cell is just all concrete. There were just women on a concrete floor, and then there were two concrete slabs where they could sit, and then in the back there was a toilet, and a concrete slab in front of the toilet, but no door. And these women were just in these sleeping bags on the floor over each other. There’s no way that they could all sleep at once. Almost no way. And [..] it was, it was the physical manifestation of Trump’s rhetoric in calling migrants animals.


Caption: “[Trump] was responding during a White House event to a point made by a California sheriff about the MS-13 gang, which was started in the 1980s by immigrants from Central America.”

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The UK looks to be dissolving into complete chaos. Corbyn sympathizes with the Palestinians, and this is what happens.

Guardian Publishes, Then Censors Jewish Open Letter Defending Labour MP (GZ)

Britain’s leading newspaper The Guardian, which has relentlessly attacked Jeremy Corbyn and his leftist allies, published but then quickly removed an open letter signed by Noam Chomsky defending Labour MP Chris Williamson from “anti-Semitism” smears. Britain’s leading newspaper The Guardian has censored an open letter published by prominent Jewish intellectuals, writers, and activists that defended leftist Labour Party Member of Parliament Chris Williamson from “anti-Semitism” smears. The Guardian printed, but then quickly removed the letter without explanation. Meanwhile, the paper has refused to retract a wholly discredited article that maligned journalist and political prisoner Julian Assange which has remained on the website for more than seven months.

WikiLeaks says this piece is completely false, and has pledged to sue the newspaper over it. The retracted open letter was a defense of Chris Williamson emphasizing that the socialist and anti-imperialist MP “has a longer record of campaigning against racism and fascism than most of his detractors,” and “stands as we do with the oppressed rather than the oppressor.” Among the more than 100 signatories on the missive are world-renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky, accomplished scholar Norman Finkelstein, anti-war activists Medea Benjamin and Ariel Gold, legal expert and former UN special rapporteur Richard Falk, Holocaust survivors, Israeli dissidents, and leaders of progressive Jewish organizations in the United Kingdom.

Chris Williamson has been a key Corbyn ally in Parliament, advancing a staunchly progressive anti-war and anti-imperialist politics at a time when many Blairite holdovers in the Labour Party are pushing for more aggressive and bellicose policies against Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran, and Syria. Williamson was suspended in February after making comments which were later misrepresented by anti-Corbyn activists. He lamented that the Labour Party, which had “done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party.” “I’ve got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion,” the MP added. “We’ve backed off far too much, we’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.”

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Britain has a whole bunch of right wing papers, and then there’s the Guardian that has the same agenda phrased slightly differently, and then there’s the BBC. The media environment is perfect for smear jobs. Watch Assange.

There’s no way out anymore.

BBC Panorama’s Hatchet Job On Labour Antisemitism (Cook)

It is difficult to describe as anything other than a hatchet job the BBC Panorama special this week that sought to bolster claims that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become “institutionally antisemitic”. The partisan tone was set from the opening shot. A young woman whose name was not revealed tearfully claimed to have been abused with antisemitic taunts at a Labour Party conference. The decision not to disclose the interviewee’s identity is understandable. It would have discredited the whole narrative Panorama was trying so hard to build. The woman’s name is Ella Rose, a senior official in the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), an organisation representing Jewish and non-Jewish members of Labour at the forefront of attacks on Corbyn.

Rose has a secret past too: she once worked at the Israeli embassy in London. Two years ago she and other JLM officials were exposed collaborating with Shai Masot, an Israeli embassy official. He had to be hurriedly removed from the UK after an undercover Al Jazeera documentary showed him plotting with activists in the Labour and Conservative parties to discredit British politicians seen as a threat to Israel. Most observers believe that Masot was operating within the embassy, as part of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, which in turn has been running black ops against western critics of Israel. Corbyn, we can safely assume, is high on that list. Rose is on record as saying she was a close friend of Masot’s.

[..] Why, one can reasonably ask, did Panorama ignore Jewish Voice for Labour in this supposed “investigation” of Labour and anti-semitism? The group was specifically set up by Jewish members to counter the claims being made by activists like Rose. Groups like the Jewish Labour Movement have implied that Jewish supporters of Corbyn are the “wrong kind of Jews” – an extremely ugly insinuation that Panorama appeared to endorse by entirely sidelining them. This was one of the reasons the Labour leadership censured the programme-makers in a 50-page document presented to BBC boss Tony Hall, in which it argued that Panorama had “pre-determined the outcome of its investigation”.

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Trump doesn’t like crypto either. He thinks there should be banking charters required.

Bitcoin Extends Losses After Fed Chief Urges Halt To Facebook’s Libra (R.)

Bitcoin dipped almost 8% on Thursday, extending losses the day after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell called for a halt to Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project until concerns ranging from privacy to money-laundering were addressed. The original cryptocurrency initially fell 7.7% to $11,164 in early morning trade, following a 3.8% slide on Wednesday after Powell’s testimony on monetary policy before the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. It was last down 4.5%. Other major cryptocurrencies including Ethereum and Ripple’s XRP fell by similar levels.


“This is a direct response to the Powell testimony and comments on Facebook’s Libra and the implications that could have for the entire cryptocurrency space,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at FX trading platform OANDA. “Libra raises many serious concerns regarding privacy, money laundering, consumer protection and financial stability,” Powell told the committee, adding that he did not think the project could proceed unless those concerns were addressed.

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Hot wallets appear weak.

Japan Crypto Exchange Says $32 Million Missing In Hack (AFP)

A Tokyo-based cryptocurrency exchange said Friday it had halted all services after losing cryptocurrency worth more than $32 million in the latest apparent hack involving virtual money. Remixpoint said its subsidiary BITPoint Japan discovered overnight that about 3.5 billion yen ($32.3 million) in various digital currencies had gone missing from its management. The apparent hack was discovered after an error appeared in the firm’s outgoing funds transfer system on Thursday night. It said the cryptocurrency went missing from a so-called “hot wallet”, which is connected to the internet, but that currency held in “cold wallets” that are offline was not affected.


BITPoint Japan handles various virtual currencies, including bitcoin, ethereum and ripple. Remixpoint said the firm was still analysing the loss and offered no further details. It said it would compensate customers for the losses. Around 2.5 billion yen worth of the missing currency was customer funds, with the rest owned by the firm. Remixpoint shares plunged 18.6 percent following the announcement.

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It’s like Venezuela. Aggression gone completely wrong.

Iran Calls On Britain To Release Seized Oil Tanker Immediately (R.)

Iran called on Britain on Friday to immediately release an oil tanker that British Royal Marines seized last week on suspicion it was breaking European sanctions by taking oil to Syria, a foreign ministry spokesman told state news agency IRNA. “This is a dangerous game and has consequences … the legal pretexts for the capture are not valid … the release of the tanker is in all countries’ interest,” the spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said. Iran has warned of reciprocal measures if the tanker is not released.


Britain said on Thursday that three Iranian vessels tried to block a British-owned tanker passing through the Strait of Hormuz, which controls the flow of Middle East oil to the world, but backed off when confronted by a Royal Navy warship. Iran denied that its vessels had done any such thing. Tension between Iran and the West has increased a week after Britain seized the tanker and London said the British Heritage, operated by oil company BP, had been approached in the strait between Iran and the Arabian peninsula. Mousavi accused Britain of seizing the tanker under U.S. pressure. “Such illegal measures could increase tensions in the Persian Gulf,” he told IRNA.

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Oh, sure, the new right wing government will make things look like they recover. But the EU squeeze is still on and growth will only be a mirage. Watch the poor get poorer. As long as Greece has to have a 3.5% budget surplus, taking all that direly needed money out of its economy, growth is mathematically impossible.

Greek Growth Expected To Recover In The Second Half Of The Year (K.)

The Greek economy is expected to regain its growth momentum in the second half of the year, after a slowdown in the previous quarters, as a result of increased confidence and favorable monetary conditions, a report by the financial analysis department of the National Bank of Greece argues. The report projects that after a drop in the growth rate in late 2018 and at the start of 2019, economic activity is set to rebound in July-December, with the main indexes reflecting a trend for strengthening consumption and for increased investments.


Nevertheless, the NBG report adds that increased exports are making the economy more vulnerable to the slowdown of the European economy. This, it says, is also reflected in the stagnation of international tourism arrivals over the first four months of the year, on a year-on-year basis. The bank’s baseline scenario provides for a zero increase to tourism revenues in 2019 from the record year of 2018.

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Mexico wants out of the EU

 

 

 

 

Jun 192019
 


Pablo Picasso The circus 1933

 

The Fed Just Released a Damning Indictment of Capitalism (NYMag)
Russia to US: Drop Middle East Troop Plan And Stop Provoking Iran (R.)
Iran At The Center Of The Eurasian Riddle (Escobar)
The Sino-Russian Masterplan To End US Dominance In Middle East (Bodansky)
Russia, China, Block US Effort To Halt North Korea Fuel Deliveries (AFP)
US Lawmakers Call For Facebook To Pause Cryptocurrency Project (R.)
Japan Exports Slide For 6th Straight Month (R.)
Japanese Businesses See Economy Peaking Out, Want More Stimulus (R.)
The Truth vs Your Truth (Jim Kunstler)
Canada Approves Contentious Oil Pipeline Expansion (R.)
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada (CP)
Canadian Permafrost Thaws 70 Years Early (R.)

 

 

“The fundamental challenge in combating inequality is that wealth begets more wealth.”

The Fed Just Released a Damning Indictment of Capitalism (NYMag)

In 2011, Michael Norton of Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of Duke University published a study on Americans’ views of how wealth was distributed in their society, and how they felt it should be distributed. They found that, in the average American’s ideal world, the richest 20 percent would own 32 percent of national wealth. In reality, the top quintile owned 84 percent as of 2011. And that share has grown in the intervening years. Today, the one percent alone commands roughly 40 percent of all America’s wealth. Given all this, any politician who insists that American capitalism is “already great” is clearly a far-right extremist whose indifference to inequality puts him or her wildly out of step with ordinary people. But is it the case that Warren and Sanders would take things too far in the other direction?

Not remotely. I do not have the relevant data or skills to project precisely how the full implementation of either candidate’s agenda would influence America’s wealth distribution. But neither candidate is calling for a series of reforms that would place the United States far outside the Western European norm. In fact, both Warren and Sanders have cribbed their signature policies from European nations. As the 2018 World Inequality Report demonstrated, policy choices do matter — and income inequality is much lower in Western Europe than it is in the U.S.

But even Scandinavia’s social democracies feature far more inequitable distributions of wealth than Americans think to be fair, according to Ariely and Norton’s survey. What’s more, it will take a lot of redistribution just to prevent America’s current wealth gap from growing even larger. The fundamental challenge in combating inequality is that wealth begets more wealth. Those who can afford to invest in bonds get to collect annual interest payments; those who invest in stocks or real estate typically see their capital assets annually appreciate. Thus, most years, our nation’s collective capital stock directs loads of passive income to America’s wealthiest citizens.

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Things are shifting. And not a little bit.

Russia to US: Drop Middle East Troop Plan And Stop Provoking Iran (R.)

Russia told the United States on Tuesday to drop what it called provocative plans to deploy more troops to the Middle East and to cease actions that looked like a conscious attempt to provoke war with Iran. The comments, from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to Russian news agencies, followed an announcement from Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan a day earlier who said Washington planned to send around 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for defensive purposes. President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran would not wage war against any nation and the Kremlin called for restraint from all sides.


Ryabkov told reporters that Moscow had repeatedly warned Washington and its regional allies about what he called the “unthinking and reckless pumping up of tensions in an explosive region.” “Now what we see are unending and sustained U.S. attempts to crank up political, psychological, economic and yes military pressure on Iran in quite a provocative way. They (these actions) cannot be assessed as anything but a conscious course to provoke war,” Ryabkov was cited as saying. If Washington did not want war it had to show it, he said. “If that’s really how it is then the U.S. should step back from reinforcing its military presence,” said Ryabkov.

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“Xi was adamant; Beijing will keep developing ties with Tehran “no matter how the situation changes”.

Iran At The Center Of The Eurasian Riddle (Escobar)

With the dogs of war on full alert, something extraordinary happened at the 19th summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) late last week in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Virtually unknown across the West, the SCO is the foremost Eurasian political, economic and security alliance. It’s not a Eurasian NATO. It’s not planning any humanitarian imperialist adventures. A single picture in Bishkek tells a quite significant story, as we see China’s Xi, Russia’s Putin, India’s Modi and Pakistan’s Imran Khan aligned with the leaders of four Central Asian “stans”. These leaders represent the current eight members of the SCO. Then there are four observer states – Afghanistan, Belarus, Mongolia and, crucially, Iran – plus six dialogue partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and, crucially, Turkey.

The SCO is bound to significantly expand by 2020, with possible full membership for both Turkey and Iran. It will then feature all major players of Eurasia integration. Considering the current incandescence in the geopolitical chessboard, it’s hardly an accident a crucial protagonist in Bishkek was the ‘observer’ state Iran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani played his cards masterfully. Rouhani speaking directly to Putin, Xi, Modi and Imran, at the same table, is something to be taken very seriously. He blasted the US under Trump as “a serious risk to stability in the region and the world”. Then he diplomatically offered preferential treatment for all companies and entrepreneurs from SCO member nations committed to investing in the Iranian market.

[..] Xi was adamant; Beijing will keep developing ties with Tehran “no matter how the situation changes”. Iran is a key node of the New Silk Roads, or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). It’s clear for the leadership in Tehran that the way forward is full integration into the vast, Eurasia-wide economic ecosystem. European nations that signed the nuclear deal with Tehran – France, Britain and Germany – can’t save Iran economically.

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“..advance negotiations with all key oil producers – including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran – on substituting the petrodollar with a basket of currencies where the yuan, the euro and the ruble dominate.”

The Sino-Russian Masterplan To End US Dominance In Middle East (Bodansky)

Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin’s early June 2019 summit in Moscow with People’s Republic of China (PRC) Pres. Xi Jinping seems likely to have a disproportionate influence on the next phases of the crises unfolding in the greater Middle East, and therefore on the future of the region. The escalating confrontation between Iran and the US is both influencing and influenced by the mega-trends set by Russia and the PRC. Although the key meetings took place on June 5, 2019, the seeds of the new joint strategy were already planted during the May 13, 2019, summit in Sochi between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi. They went over all the key topics in preparation for the Putin-Xi summit.

On June 5, 2019, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping met in Moscow and decided to not only markedly upgrade the bilateral relations and alliance of their countries, but to use the new relations in order to shape the long-term posture of the entire Eastern Hemisphere in their favor. Emphasis was to be put on the Eurasian Sphere (the Kremlin’s high priority) and the New Silk Road (the Forbidden City’s high priority), as well as the Korean Peninsula which is most important for both. One of the first major confrontations with the US by Russia and the PRC was to be over the greater Middle East. The main reason was the advance negotiations with all key oil producers – including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran – on substituting the petrodollar with a basket of currencies where the yuan, the euro and the ruble dominate.

Using the currency basket would enable the sellers and buyers to go around the US-imposed sanctions and quotas. Indeed, Beijing and Moscow were now enticing the oil producers with huge, long-term export deals which were both financially lucrative and politically tempting by offering guarantees for the well-being of the participating governments. The crux of the proposal is regional and includes flagrant disregard of the US sanctions on Iran. However, the key to the extent of the commitment of both Beijing and Moscow lies in the growing importance and centrality of the New Silk Road via Central Asia. Persia had a crucial rôle in the ancient Silk Road, and both the PRC and Russia now expect Iran to have a comparable key rôle in the New Silk Road.

The growing dominance of heritage-based dynamics throughout the developing world, including the greater Central Asia and the greater Middle East, makes it imperative for the PRC to rely on historic Persia/Iran as a western pole of the New Silk Road. It is this realization which led both Beijing and Moscow to give Tehran, in mid-May 2019, the original guarantees that Washington would be prevented from conducting a “regime change”.

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Hands off Iran. Hands off Korea.

Russia, China, Block US Effort To Halt North Korea Fuel Deliveries (AFP)

Russia and China on Tuesday blocked an American initiative that aimed to halt fuel deliveries to North Korea, which Washington accuses of exceeding its annual ceiling for 2019, diplomatic sources said. Moscow and Beijing said more time was needed to study the US request, which was backed by 25 UN members including Japan, France and Germany, according to the sources. A week ago, the United States, in a report, accused North Korea of breaching the United Nations-imposed ceiling on fuel imports by carrying out dozens of ship-to-ship transfers this year.


The cap on fuel imports is among a series of tough sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council in response to North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests. The United States insists that “maximum pressure” from the sanctions must remain on North Korea until it agrees to dismantle its weapons program. Washington had asked that a United Nations sanctions committee rule that the annual cap of 500,000 barrels had been exceeded and order all countries to halt fuel deliveries. Countries on the sanctions committee, including Russia and China, had until Tuesday to raise objections to the request to cut off fuel shipments to North Korea.

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They simply don’t understand.

US Lawmakers Call For Facebook To Pause Cryptocurrency Project (R.)

Maxine Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, said Facebook should halt development of the product, dubbed Libra, until Congress and regulators can review the issue, and called on company executives to testify before Congress. “Facebook has data on billions of people and has repeatedly shown a disregard for the protection and careful use of this data,” she said in a statement. “With the announcement that it plans to create a cryptocurrency, Facebook is continuing its unchecked expansion and extending its reach into the lives of its users.” Her comments came after Representative Patrick McHenry, the senior Republican on her panel, also sought a hearing on Facebook’s new initiative. A Facebook representative said the company looked forward to answering lawmakers’ questions.


Facebook’s announcement was met with immediate backlash from U.S. lawmakers and regulators across the globe, who are concerned that Facebook is already too massive and careless with users’ privacy. “Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy. We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, in a statement. [..] French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called for more regulation of tech companies. “This instrument for transactions will allow Facebook to collect millions and millions of data, which strengthens my conviction that there is a need to regulate the digital giants,” he said in an interview on Europe 1 radio.

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Meanwhile, Japan is sinking.

Japan Exports Slide For 6th Straight Month (R.)

Japan’s exports fell for a sixth straight month in May as China-bound shipments of semiconductor manufacturing equipment and car parts weakened, in a sign of a deteriorating outlook for growth as the trade-reliant economy faces persistent pressure from slowing external demand. Sluggish exports have been a source of concern among Japanese policymakers, especially as a bruising U.S.-China tariff war has upended supply chains and hit global growth, trade and investment.


“The business sentiment of Japanese firms, and in particular exporters, is falling depending on the extent of U.S.-China trade tensions, and that will suppress exporters’ capital expenditure,” said Hiroshi Miyazaki, senior economist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities. “I think that will be a negative for Japan’s economy.” Ministry of Finance (MOF) data showed on Wednesday that exports declined 7.8% in May from a year earlier, down for the sixth straight month. The fall in shipments compared with a 7.7% annual decrease expected by economists in a Reuters poll, and followed a 2.4% year-on-year fall in April.

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But the BOJ already owns half the country…

Japanese Businesses See Economy Peaking Out, Want More Stimulus (R.)

Japan’s economy is likely to stop expanding this year and into next with the Sino-U.S. trade war and a planned sales tax hike expected to crimp activity, a Reuters poll of Japanese companies found, with most calling for fresh stimulus to prop up growth. The gloomy outlook suggests that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s reflationary policy mix, known as “Abenomics”, is sputtering. “A combination of the U.S.-China trade friction and the tax hike in October will almost certainly tip Japan into recession,” an electric machinery maker wrote in the monthly survey.The Corporate Survey found 42% of respondents see the economy contracting into next year, while 52% believe growth will remain stagnant.


Just 5% foresee it expanding, the June 4-13 poll showed. China and United States, the world’s two largest economies, have been locked in a tit-for-tat tariff war for nearly a year, which has curbed global trade and upended supply chains, pressuring Japan’s exports and factory output. Some 55% of Japanese firms said harsher U.S. punitive tariffs against China were affecting their business profits, with much higher proportions of transport machinery firms and chemicals makers taking a hit, the Reuters Corporate Survey showed. [..] To keep the economy from faltering, nearly two-thirds of companies called for fresh stimulus, with a quarter of respondents wanting an individual income tax cut and nearly as many demanding the government postpone the sales tax hike.

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“..America is too far gone intellectually to sort all this out.”

The Truth vs Your Truth (Jim Kunstler)

America’s relationship with authority is in grievous disrepair with Robert Mueller as exhibit-A — a would-be Moses-like figure, only with feet of clay and a head rotting like the proverbial fish of institutional corruption. He announced in his May 29th “news conference” — in which he refused to entertain questions — that he preferred not to testify in any further inquiries about his Special Counsel investigation. What a cheeky fellow! It was, perhaps, a message to Reps. Nadler, Schiff, and comrades on the various congressional committees to (hint hint) not even bother calling him. But Mr. Mueller was, after all, a mere employee of the US Department of Justice, not a herald of God Almighty.

I rather imagine that the Attorney General, Mr. Barr, has a few additional questions he would like to ask his “old friend.” Will Mr. Mueller, this Greta Garbo of jurisprudence, coyly demur? And on what basis, exactly? I don’t think he can get away with it. The complexities of RussiaGate make all previous government scandals look as simple as Pin the Tail on the Donkey. The Internet will prove to be both its doing and its undoing. The much abused and perverted official “truths” of the matter were amplified by the Internet. And, of course, these “truths” were enlisted in service of Mrs. Clinton and the rogue bureaucracy looking to defend her (and themselves) at all costs. The cost turns out to be the dismemberment of thinking itself in America.

It is now taken for granted that anyone who persists in thinking for him/her/zheself will be tossed out of the Internet’s large “social media” arenas in Mark Zuckerberg’s and Jack Dorsey’s quest to purify history. They will not succeed. But they have certainly succeeded in needlessly antagonizing Russia, shoving foreign policy debate into sequestered game rooms that are at once halls-of-mirrors and echo chambers, and making the world a much more dangerous place. There is also a pretty fair percentage chance that America is too far gone intellectually to sort all this out.

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Justin trying to lose the next election.

Canada Approves Contentious Oil Pipeline Expansion (R.)

Canada on Tuesday approved as expected a hotly contested proposal to expand the western Canadian crude oil pipeline it bought last year, providing hope for a depressed energy industry but angering environmental groups. Construction on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is scheduled to resume this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference. A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier that Ottawa expected legal challenges to the approval. The project would triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to carry 890,000 barrels per day from Alberta’s oil sands to British Columbia’s Pacific coast, alleviate congestion on existing pipelines and diversify exports away from the United States.


Trudeau, who faces a tough fight in a national election scheduled for October, has been under pressure both from western Canadian politicians who accuse him of doing too little for the oil industry, and from environmental groups, which see the oil sands as a highly polluting source of crude production. “This isn’t an either/or proposition. It is in Canada’s national interest to protect our environment and invest in tomorrow, while making sure people can feed their families today,” he said, adding he knew some people would be disappointed.

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Make Canada a colony again.

Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada (CP)

As we know, big lies can run free across borders with few joining the dots. For example, no media reports that China’s growing dispute with Canada is based on Canada’s enforcement of the Trump administration’s unilateral and illegal embargo against oil-competitor Iran. A cynical reply is that this is predictable. Canada attacks any designated US Enemy in junior partnership with global corporate command. But this time there is a new twist. Canada is attacking itself without knowing it. A US Big-Oil backed juggernaut of Conservative provincial governments and the federal Opposition are well advanced in a Canada campaign to reverse longstanding parliamentary decisions, environmental laws, climate action initiatives, Supreme Court directions, first-nations negotiations, and bring down the government of Canada.

Yet no-one in public or media circles has joined the dots. Canada’s vast tar-sands deposits are world famous as surpassing Saudi Arabia oil-field capacities in total barrels of potential yield. Great Canada! Yet few notice that over two-thirds of the entire tar-sands operations are owned by foreign entities sending their profits out of Canada, and almost all its raw product is controlled for refining and sale in the US. What is especially kept out of the daily news is the incendiary fact that the infamous, election-interfering and oft-EPA-convicted Koch brothers have a dominant stake in the toxic crude of the Alberta tar-sands seeking a massive BC-pipeline out to their US refineries.

Koch-owned industries have already extracted countless billions of their near $100-billion fortune from the tar-sands and deployed their well-known voter-manipulations to change the balance of power in Canada as they have done in the US. The objective is the same in both cases – ever more tax-free, publicly subsidized and state-enforced control by US Big Oil of Alberta’s massive oil resources with no government regulations or interferences in the way.

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Methane. Running around my brain.

Canadian Permafrost Thaws 70 Years Early (R.)

Permafrost at outposts in the Canadian Arctic is thawing 70 years earlier than predicted, an expedition has discovered, in the latest sign that the global climate crisis is accelerating even faster than scientists had feared. A team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks said they were astounded by how quickly a succession of unusually hot summers had destabilized the upper layers of giant subterranean ice blocks that had been frozen solid for millennia. “What we saw was amazing,” Vladimir E. Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the university, told Reuters by telephone. “It’s an indication that the climate is now warmer than at any time in the last 5,000 or more years.” With governments meeting in Bonn this week to try to ratchet up ambitions in United Nations climate negotiations, the team’s findings, published on June 10 in Geophysical Research Letters, offered a further sign of a growing climate emergency.

The paper was based on data Romanovsky and his colleagues had been analyzing since their last expedition to the area in 2016. The team used a modified propeller plane to visit exceptionally remote sites, including an abandoned Cold War-era radar base more than 300 km from the nearest human settlement. Diving through a lucky break in the clouds, Romanovsky and his colleagues said they were confronted with a landscape that was unrecognizable from the pristine Arctic terrain they had encountered during initial visits a decade or so earlier. The vista had dissolved into an undulating sea of hummocks – waist-high depressions and ponds known as thermokarst. Vegetation, once sparse, had begun to flourish in the shelter provided from the constant wind.

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God in his wisdom made the fly.
And then forgot to tell us why.

– Ogden Nash

 

 

 

 

Dec 072018
 


Claude Monet Camille on the Beach at Trouville 1870

 

Russia Seeks To ‘Feed The Whole Planet’ – PM (RT)
Markets Are Going Haywire, Sudden Moves Are Here To Stay (CNBC)
Did The Market Miss Powell’s Real Message? (Roberts)
Fed’s QE Unwind Reaches $374 Billion (WS)
The Fed Finally Broke Something (Muir)
Oil Drops As OPEC Makes Supply Cut Dependent On Russia (CNBC)
Bitcoin Plunges 10% As December Rout Continues (CNBC)
France To Deploy 90,000 Police Over Weekend Riot Fears (Ind.)
Chinese Giant Huawei Faces Catastrophe (G.)
White House, Trudeau Seek To Distance Themselves From Huawei Move (R.)
Lyft Races To Leave Uber Behind In IPO Chase (R.)
Mueller To Give Details On Russia Probe With Filings On Former Trump Aides (R.)
Mueller’s Gift to Obama (Kim Strassel)
Julian Assange Rejects UK-Ecuador Deal For Him To Leave The Embassy (Tel.)

 

 

Medvedev is funny, with a serious twist. Note that this has all happened because of US sanctions. Russian grain exports have surged more than 54% this year. Funny that Ukraine fed much of Europe not that long ago (100 years?!) because of its highly fertile back earth.

Russia Seeks To ‘Feed The Whole Planet’ – PM (RT)

Russia seeks to expand its agricultural exports, ultimately seeking to feed the whole planet, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said. The PM’s statement comes as the country enjoys a record surge in grain exports. “Our country is, as they say, destined by the heavens to feed the whole planet. And we’ll try and do that,” Medvedev told journalists of Russian TV channels in a major interview aired on Thursday. Apart from being the country’s “destiny,” the foods plainly make “nice export goods,” the prime minister added. Russia’s agriculture has expanded greatly over the past few years, becoming a solid and profitable industry, unlike the way it was a couple decades ago.

“Back in 1990s, the agriculture was called a ‘black hole’, where one should not invest, we were told we should not feed ourselves since we can purchase everything elsewhere,” Medvedev said. “Now, it feeds our whole country. We’ve reached the main goals regarding food security and we’re exporting grains, other goods to the world market.” This year, Russia has enjoyed vast growth of its agricultural exports, becoming the world’s top exporter of wheat. From January through September of 2018, exports of Russia’s wheat and meslin flour expanded by 54.3% compared to the previous year. The amount of food which the county imports, in its turn, continued to shrink. Imports of grains to Russia dropped by 11.1% during the same period. Imports of barley have suffered an enormous decline, dropping a whopping 94%.

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The logical consequences of central banks strangling price discovery.

Markets Are Going Haywire, Sudden Moves Are Here To Stay (CNBC)

Wherever Mark Connors looks at markets, from stocks to currencies to oil, he sees signs of the unknown. Equity investors got whipsawed this week during two rough and volatile sessions, but Connors, global head of risk advisory at Credit Suisse, had seen worrying signs long before that. A key technical measure he tracks, the correlation between the price of stocks and currencies, had broken down starting in April. That, along with sharp drops in the price of oil, point to one thing, he says: Uncertainty about the future as central banks around the world unwind programs that bought trillions of dollars of assets.

“We’re seeing two of the biggest asset classes, stocks and currencies, exhibit a degree of uncertainty in their relationship in 2018 that we’ve never seen before,” Connors said. “Crude just exhibited something very unusual in the context of the last 40 years.” The unwinding of central banks’ programs a decade after the financial crisis brought economies to the brink is known as quantitative tightening. J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said in July that one of his biggest fears is around how markets would behave as central banks removed their unprecedented stimulus. “If quantitative tightening continues, guess what’s going to happen? More of this,” Connor said, referring to unusually violent moves across markets.

Another factor in the speed of recent declines is the result of several important changes that have happened since the last financial crisis. Automated trading strategies from quant hedge funds and the massive shift to passive investing have helped to remove liquidity from the system in times of panic, according to Marko Kolanovic, J.P. Morgan’s global head of macro quantitative and derivatives research. He said in a September note that index and quant funds made up two-thirds of assets under management globally and the majority of daily trading. So when investors begin to sell, as they did on Tuesday amid concerns over the state of U.S. trade talks with China, the moves were probably amplified by computerized trading strategies.

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You’d have to have a -functioning- market for it to miss anything.

Did The Market Miss Powell’s Real Message? (Roberts)

[..] With the Fed Funds rate running at near 2%, if the Fed now believes such is close to a ‘neutral rate,’ it would suggest that expectations of economic growth will slow in the quarters ahead from nearly 6.0% in Q2 of 2018 to roughly 2.5% in 2019.” [..] the bond market has picked up on that realization as the yield has flattened considerably over the last few days as the 10-year interest rate broke back below the 3% mark. The chart below shows the difference between the 2-year and the 10-year interest rate.

Now, there are many who continue to suggest “this time is different” and an inverted yield curve is not signaling a recession, and Jerome Powell’s recent comments are “in line” with a “Goldilocks economy.” Maybe. But historically speaking, while an inversion of the yield curve may not “immediately” coincide with a recessionary onset, given its relationship to economic activity it is likely a “foolish bet” to suggest it won’t. A quick trip though the Fed’s rate hiking history and “soft landing” scenarios give you some clue as to their success.

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Useful to remember that this is -mostly- an irreversible process.

Fed’s QE Unwind Reaches $374 Billion (WS)

The Federal Reserve shed $54 billion in assets over the five weekly balance sheet periods that encompass the calendar month of November. This reduced the assets on its balance sheet to $4,086 billion, the lowest since January 15, 2014, according to the Fed’s balance sheet for the week ended December 5, released this afternoon. Since the beginning of the QE unwind — or “balance sheet normalization,” as the Fed calls it — in October 2017, the Fed has now shed $374 billion. The Fed holds a variety of assets, including the Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) that it had acquired as part of QE. Between the end of QE in late 2014 and the beginning of the QE unwind in October 2017, the Fed replaced maturing securities with new securities to keep their levels roughly the same. Starting in October 2017, the Fed has been shedding Treasury securities and MBS.

[..] Treasury Securities Until October, the QE unwind had been in ramp-up mode. In October, it reached cruising speed, according to the Fed’s plan. In the cruising-speed phase, the Fed is scheduled to shed “up to” $30 billion in Treasuries and “up to” $20 billion in MBS a month, for a total of “up to” $50 billion a month. So how did it go in November? From November 1 through December 5, the Fed’s holdings of Treasury Securities fell by $30 billion to $2,241 billion, the lowest since January 22, 2014. Since the beginning of the QE-Unwind, the Fed has shed $225 billion in Treasuries:

Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS) Under QE, the Fed also acquired residential MBS that were issued and guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae. Holders of residential MBS receive principal payments as the underlying mortgages are paid down or are paid off. At maturity, the remaining principal is paid off. To keep the balance of MBS from declining after QE ended, the New York Fed’s Open Market Operations kept buying MBS in the market. The Fed books the trades at settlement, which lags the trade by two to three months. Due to this lag, the amount of MBS on today’s balance sheet reflects trades in August and September when the cap for shedding MBS was $16 billion a month. And this is how it panned out. From November 1 through today’s balance sheet, the balance of MBS fell by $16 billion, to $1,653 billion, the lowest since May 7, 2014.

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There’s a lot of -often contradictory- talk about yield conversion. Kevin Muir picks out a nice detail: “..we will not see the same degree of yield curve inversion that we have in past cycles. There is simply too much debt out there..

The Fed Finally Broke Something (Muir)

[..] an inversion of the yield curve has traditionally been one of the best indicators presaging a recession. There has been tons of studies and even more conclusions drawn from the data, so you probably don’t need me to rehash them all. Yet I think it’s amusing to hear all the yield-curve-apologists (a term coined by my colourful pal, Janney’s Guy LeBas in this article) once again claiming that yield curve inversions don’t matter. Whether it’s the fact that we need to wait for the 3-month / 5-year to invert, or whether it is the long lead time between the 2-10-year spread inverting and the actual recession, there are plenty of excuses being offered up about why the yield curve inversion doesn’t matter.

Yeah, let me get this straight. The largest, most liquid market in the world is sending a signal that has consistently been one of the most reliable indicators that a recession is near and somehow it makes sense to fade it? As a trader who cut his eye-teeth in the equity market, I can tell you unequivocally, bond traders are smarter. They just are. Denying it is like trying to argue that people in Malibu are no better looking than any other big U.S. suburb. So when the yield curve starts inverting, you better believe I am paying attention. However, as usual, there is a catch. Market cycles are similar, but never exactly the same.

In the post-GFC era we will not see the same degree of yield curve inversion that we have in past cycles. There is simply too much debt out there. The global economy cannot handle the same amount of tightening as in past cycles. I know the crowd who believes that “Powell is different than all the other Fed Chairs” will cry out in anguish at this proclamation, but last week’s dovish shift shows his stomach to handle any sort of market disruption is way lower than previously believed. Powell will be no different than all the other Fed Chairs. At the end of the day, he will be loose.

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How about US shale? Won’t they cut production to help MbS?

Oil Drops As OPEC Makes Supply Cut Dependent On Russia (CNBC)

Oil prices fell on Friday, pulled down by OPEC’s decision to delay a final decision on output cuts, awaiting support from non-OPEC heavyweight Russia. International Brent crude oil futures fell below $60 per barrel early in the session, trading at $59.50 per barrel at 0144 GMT, down 56 cents, or 0.9% from their last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $51.24 per barrel, down 25 cents, or 0.5%. The declines came after crude slumped by almost 3% the previous day, with OPEC ending a meeting at its headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday without announcing a decision to cut crude supply, instead preparing to debate the matter on Friday.

“OPEC has decided to meet Friday again…(as) Russia remains the sticking point,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia/Pacific at futures brokerage Oanda in Singapore. Analysts still expect some form of supply reduction to be decided. “We are beginning to witness the outline of the next iteration of production cuts, with OPEC conforming to cut its own production by around 1 million barrels per day, with the cartel lobbying non-OPEC members to contribute more,” Japanese bank MUFG said in a note.

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Relentless.

Bitcoin Plunges 10% As December Rout Continues (CNBC)

As of Asia’s Friday afternoon trade, bitcoin had fallen nearly 10% against the U.S. dollar in 24 hours, marking another recent plunge for the world’s largest cryptocurrency. It’s been a rough December for the digital token: Its price dropped 8% on the first day of the month. Bitcoin traded at $3,337.32 as of 12:28 p.m. HK/SIN (11:28 p.m. ET on Thursday), falling 9.88% over the last 24 hours, according to data from industry site Coindesk. Meanwhile, prices for the second and third largest cryptocurrencies by market value, XRP and Ether, also saw sharp declines in the 24 hour period. XRP fell by 10.62% and Ether dropped 15.90%, according to Coindesk.

This calendar year has generally been unkind to cryptocurrency prices, with the industry seeing its entire market cap falling almost 87.09% from its highs in January, according to data from Coinmarketcap. 24-hour trading volumes have also plunged about 61.65% since then. In recent industry related news, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) posted an update on Thursday regarding the approval process for a rule change proposal for the allowance of a bitcoin exchange traded fund (ETF).

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The worst thing Macron could have done: “In a move questioned by both critics and supporters, the president has recently disappeared from public view.” And now his police are going to fire on protesters tomorrow?

France To Deploy 90,000 Police Over Weekend Riot Fears (Ind.)

French authorities are bracing for the possibility of more riots and violence at planned anti-government protests this weekend. The government is deploying tens of thousands of police and security forces across the country, while in Paris, museums, theatres and shops announced they would close on Saturday as a precaution – including the iconic Eiffel Tower. Police unions and city authorities held emergency meetings to decide how to handle the protests, which are being held despite Emmanuel Macron’s surrender to marchers demanding the scrapping of a planned fuel tax hike. Prime minister Edouard Philippe told senators on Thursday the government would deploy “exceptional” security measures for the protests in Paris and elsewhere.

Speaking on TF1 television, Mr Philippe said 89,000 police officers will be deployed on Saturday across France – up from 65,000 last weekend. In Paris alone, 8,000 police officers will be mobilised. They will be equipped with a dozen armoured vehicles – a first in a French urban area since 2005. Some “yellow vest” protesters, French union officials and prominent politicians across the political spectrum called for calm on Thursday after the worst rioting in Paris in decades last weekend. Mr Macron agreed to abandon the fuel tax hike, part of his plans to combat global warming, but protesters’ demands have now expanded to other issues hurting French workers, retirees and students. In a move questioned by both critics and supporters, the president has recently disappeared from public view.

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If this is true, US Big Tech will face the same.

Chinese Giant Huawei Faces Catastrophe (G.)

The arrest in Canada of the chief financial officer of the Chinese mobile network and handset tech firm Huawei marks a new stage in a technological cold war between western spy agencies and Beijing. This development could be catastrophic for Huawei: according to reports, the US suspects it broke sanctions by selling telecoms equipment to Iran. If that is proven, the response could exclude Huawei from many of the world’s most valuable markets. That quiet war of words had already begun to ramp up this week when first the head of the UK’s secret service, Alex Younger, said in a speech that “we need to have a conversation” about Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s telecoms network.

Then on Wednesday, BT revealed it is stripping out Huawei’s networking kit from parts of the EE mobile network. Huawei has been the world’s largest telecoms network equipment company since 2015, ahead of European rivals Ericsson and Nokia, and far above domestic competitor ZTE and South Korea’s Samsung. But the company has for years struggled against suspicions that it has bowed to pressure from the Chinese government to tap or disrupt telecoms systems in foreign countries. That has seen it banned from selling its profitable network equipment to the US, Australia and New Zealand – three of the “Five Eyes” group of intelligence-sharing countries (the other two being the UK and Canada).

But Meng Wanzhou’s arrest on a federal warrant in Canada is a dramatic escalation. As well as being the CFO and deputy chairwoman of one of the world’s largest makers of telecoms networking equipment that is essential to phone, smartphone and internet traffic, she is also the daughter of Huawei’s 74-year-old founder Ren Zhengfei. Ren attracted suspicion from western agencies because of his role working in IT for the Red Army before he set up the firm in 1987.

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Even Bolton has -belatedly- denied involvement.

White House, Trudeau Seek To Distance Themselves From Huawei Move (R.)

President Donald Trump did not know about plans to arrest a top executive at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei in Canada, two U.S. officials said on Thursday, in an apparent attempt to stop the incident from impeding crucial trade talks with Beijing. Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, the 46-year-old daughter of the company’s founder, was detained in Canada on Dec. 1, the same day Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping dined together at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. A White House official told Reuters Trump did not know about a U.S. request for her extradition from Canada before he met Xi and agreed to a 90-day truce in the brewing trade war.

Meng’s arrest during a stopover in Vancouver, announced by the Canadian authorities on Wednesday, pummeled stock markets already nervous about tensions between the world’s two largest economies on fears the move could derail the planned trade talks. [..] Meng’s detention also raised concerns about potential retaliation from Beijing in Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to distance himself from the arrest. “The appropriate authorities took the decisions in this case without any political involvement or interference … we were advised by them with a few days’ notice that this was in the works,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal in televised remarks.

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Top of the Bubble to you!

Lyft Races To Leave Uber Behind In IPO Chase (R.)

Ride-hailing company Lyft Inc beat bigger rival Uber Technologies Inc in filing for an initial public offering (IPO) on Thursday, defying the recent market jitters and taking the lead on a string of billion-dollar-plus tech companies expected to join Wall Street next year. Lyft’s IPO will test investors’ appetite for the most highly valued Silicon Valley companies and for the ride-hailing business, which has become a wildly popular service but remains unprofitable and has an uncertain future with the advance of self-driving cars. San Francisco-based Lyft, last valued at about $15 billion in a private fundraising round, did not specify the number of shares it was selling or the price range in a confidential filing with the SEC.

Lyft could go public as early as the first quarter of 2019, based on how quickly the SEC reviews its filing, people familiar with the matter said. Lyft’s valuation is likely to end up between $20 billion and $30 billion, one source added. The ride service was set up in 2012 by entrepreneurs John Zimmer and Logan Green and has raised close to $5 billion from investors. While it continues to grow faster than its larger competitor, Uber, it is also losing money. Lyft would follow a string of high-profile IPOs of technology companies valued at more than $1 billion this year, such as Dropbox and Spotify.

However, market turmoil fueled by the escalating trade tensions between the United States and China could dampen enthusiasm for the debuts of other 2019 hopefuls like apartment-rental service Airbnb, analytics firm Palantir. and Stripe Inc, a digital payment company. Including Lyft, these round out four of the top-10 most highly valued, venture-backed tech companies. “Market declines mean that the offer price will be lower than otherwise. But there’s a danger of waiting to go public as well. Markets could go even lower, and the companies could raise less money if they waited longer,” said Jay Ritter, an IPO expert and professor at the University of Florida.

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Later today. But forget about collusion. Not going to happen.

Mueller To Give Details On Russia Probe With Filings On Former Trump Aides (R.)

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller will provide new details on Friday on how two of President Donald Trump’s closest former aides have helped or hindered his investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election campaign. Mueller last month accused Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort of breaching a plea bargain deal by lying to prosecutors, and he will submit information on those alleged lies in a filing to a federal court in Washington. That could include shedding new light on Manafort’s business dealings or his consulting for pro-Kremlin interests in Ukraine.

Manafort, who maintains he has been truthful with Mueller, managed Trump’s campaign for three months in 2016. Also on Friday, Mueller’s office and the Southern District of New York are to file sentencing memos on Michael Cohen, Trump’s former private lawyer. Cohen pleaded guilty to financial crimes in a New York court in August, and last week to lying to Congress in a Mueller case. Sentencing for both of those cases will be handled by one judge. Attention will focus on whether Mueller discloses new information to supplement Cohen’s admission last week that he sought help from the Kremlin for a Trump skyscraper in Moscow late into the 2016 campaign.

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Kimberley Strassel is still a lone(ly) in the US mainstream.

Mueller’s Gift to Obama (Kim Strassel)

[..] what about the potential crimes that put Mr. Flynn in Mr. Mueller’s crosshairs to begin with? On Jan. 2, 2017, the Obama White House learned about Mr. Flynn’s conversations with Mr. Kislyak. The U.S. monitors phone calls of foreign officials, but under law they are supposed to “minimize” the names of any Americans caught up in such eavesdropping. In the Flynn case, someone in the prior administration either failed to minimize or purposely “unmasked” Mr. Flynn. The latter could itself be a felony. Ten days later someone in that administration leaked to the Washington Post that Mr. Flynn had called Mr. Kislyak on Dec. 29, 2016. On Feb. 9, 2017, someone leaked to the Post and the New York Times highly detailed and classified information about the Flynn-Kislyak conversation.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has called this leak the most destructive to national security that he seen in his time in Washington. Disclosing classified information is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison. The Post has bragged that its story was sourced by nine separate officials. The Mueller team has justified its legal wanderings into money laundering (Paul Manafort) and campaign contributions (Michael Cohen) on grounds that it has an obligation to follow up on any evidence of crimes, no matter how disconnected from its Russia mandate. Mr. Flynn’s being caught up in the probe is related to a glaring potential crime of disclosing classified material, yet Mr. Mueller appears to have undertaken no investigation of that. Is this selective justice, or something worse?

Don’t forget Mr. Mueller stacked his team with Democrats, some of whom worked at the highest levels of the Obama administration, including at the time of the possible Flynn unmasking and the first leak. The Flynn sentencing document, meanwhile, contained yet another outrageous gift to Obama alumni. In laying out the “serious” nature of Mr. Flynn’s crimes, the document asserts that one of the questions about the Flynn-Kislyak discussion was whether “the defendant’s actions violated the Logan Act,” a 1799 statute that criminalizes negotiation by unauthorized persons with foreign governments that are in dispute with the U.S. Only two defendants have ever been charged under the Logan Act, the more recent one in 1852, and neither was convicted.

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We have to turn to the Telegraph of all sources, since we -obviously- can’t trust info from the Guardian, which does run a piece on this. That piece was written by Dan Collyns in Quito. Thought for all those who’ve been feeding on the Guardian smear piece for well over a week: investigate instead the link between the paper and the Ecuador government., especially how it changes and intensified around teh time Moreno became president. But don’t forget that the Guardian already had people in the country in at least 2014.

Julian Assange Rejects UK-Ecuador Deal For Him To Leave The Embassy (Tel.)

Julian Assange’s lawyer has rejected an agreement announced by Ecuador’s president to see him leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London, after six years inside. Lenin Moreno, the president of Ecuador, has made no secret of his wish to be rid of the WikiLeaks founder, who sought asylum inside the embassy in June 2012 and has not left since. On Thursday Mr Moreno announced that a deal had been reached between London and Quito to allow Mr Assange, 47, to be released. “The way has been cleared for Mr Assange to take the decision to leave in near-liberty,” said Mr Moreno. He did not specify what “near liberty” meant.

[..] Mr Moreno added that Britain had guaranteed that the Australian would not be extradited to any country where his life is in danger. But Mr Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, told The Telegraph that the deal was not acceptable. The legal team have long argued that they will not accept any agreement which risks his being extradited to the United States. In November a filing error revealed that Mr Assange faced charges in the US – although it was not clear what those charges were. Many speculate they would be connected to the release of classified information, and Mr Assange fears a long prison sentence in the US for what his supporters say is publishing information in the public interest.

“The suggestion that as long as the death penalty is off the table, Mr Assange need not fear persecution is obviously wrong,” said Mr Pollack. “No one should have to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information. “Since such charges appear to have been brought against Mr Assange in the United States, Ecuador should continue to provide him asylum.”

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Nov 242018
 
 November 24, 2018  Posted by at 10:33 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Joseph Mallord William Turner The Sun Rising over Water 1825-30

 

Britain’s Opposition Labour Party Plots Overthrow Of Capitalism (R.)
This Sell-Off is Just One Step in Methodical Unwind of Stock Prices (WS)
Oil Plunges More Than 6% Despite Potential OPEC Cut (R.)
Bitcoin Loses 25% Of Its Remaining Value During Thanksgiving Week (CNBC)
Trump Dismisses Report He Is Unhappy With Treasury’s Mnuchin (R.)
Holiday Doings and Undoings (Kunstler)
Rising Fuel Price Protests Should Serve As A Red Alert For Macron (I.ie)
Gibraltar Rocks Final Stages Of Brexit Negotiation (AFP)
Ecuador Ousts Its London Ambassador, ‘Last Diplomat Assange Knew’ (RT)
Prosecution of Julian Assange, America’s Betrayal of Its Own Ideals (CD)
Why You Should Care About the Julian Assange Case (Taibbi)
Anonymous Blows Lid Off Huge Psyop In Europe Funded By UK & US (RT)

 

 

You really think you can win an election saying this?

Britain’s Opposition Labour Party Plots Overthrow Of Capitalism (R.)

The British Labour Party’s would-be finance minister, John McDonnell, has a message for the world: he is deadly serious about overthrowing capitalism and building a socialist society. McDonnell, 67, who describes Karl Marx as one of his main influences, has been at the vanguard of a left-wing revival in Britain’s main opposition party under fellow socialist Jeremy Corbyn. He has promised sweeping nationalization, higher public spending and an overhaul of the banking system. Asked about his entry in the Who’s Who directory of influential people which lists his passion for “generally fermenting the overthrow of capitalism”, McDonnell said it was a joke about beer-making, but he agrees with the principle.

“I believe it. I am serious in my intent. I want to transform this economy,” McDonnell told Reuters in an interview. “That means evolving into a system which can achieve that equality, that democracy, that fairness, and tackles the major challenges that we are facing.” With PM Theresa May’s grip on power looking ever more vulnerable as she faces the most perilous crisis of her premiership struggling to win backing for her Brexit deal, Labour are increasingly confident that they will be the next guardians of the world’s fifth-largest economy. McDonnell’s gambit is that the social discontent in Britain which fueled the shock 2016 Brexit vote runs much deeper, and that voters who feel left behind by decades of unchecked capitalism and wounded by years of public spending cuts will rally to his call.

“(It was) like everyone’s grievance went into one vote,” McDonnell said. The polls show that is only part of the picture: voters are tired of economic austerity and unhappy with May’s Brexit negotiations, but Labour are only marginally ahead of the ruling Conservative Party. Some commentators have suggested they should be polling better against a government in disarray. Nevertheless, the combination of an unsated appetite for change and a Brexit-inspired political crisis which has trashed the centrist orthodoxy of British politics, has left Labour confident they will soon win power. McDonnell said his ambition is create the most radical government in modern British history even as the country is grappling with its exit from the EU, the most complex negotiations in Europe since the end of World War Two.

[..] McDonnell has outlined a program of nationalizing the railways, energy and water companies and the postal service, raising taxes on businesses and the wealthy. This would be combined with increased spending on education, skills training, and health care, and harnessing the financial sector to help fund a huge infrastructure investment. At his party’s annual conference two months ago, McDonnell did little to conceal the scale of his ambition. Businesses were stunned by his plan to force all large companies to hand over a tenth of their equity to their workforce.

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Possible.

This Sell-Off is Just One Step in Methodical Unwind of Stock Prices (WS)

It was an ugly Monday and Tuesday followed by a Wednesday that at first look like a real bounce but ended with the indices giving up their gains. This was followed, mercifully, by Thursday when markets were closed, which was followed unmercifully by Friday, during which the whole schmear came unglued again. The S&P 500 index dropped 0.7% on Friday to 2,632 and 3.8% for Thanksgiving week, though this week is usually – by calendar black-magic – a good week, according to the Wall Street Journal: During Thanksgiving weeks going back a decade, the S&P 500 rose on average 1.3%. This leaves the S&P 500 index 1.5% in the hole year-to-date. It’s now back where it had first been on November 30, 2017:

Clearly, when seen over the longer term, the sell-off for now still belongs to the small-fry among sell-offs, with S&P 500 down just 10.5% from its peak:

The Dow dropped 0.7% on Friday and 4.4% during Thanksgiving week, to 24,286. It’s 1.75% in the hole for the year. Technically speaking, it’s not even in a correction, being down only 9.9% from its peak. And the Nasdaq, dropped 0.5% on Friday and 4.3% during Thanksgiving week. According to the Wall Street Journal, during Thanksgiving week over the past 20 years, the Nasdaq rose on average 1.3%. So this is no good for calendar-black-magic aficionados. Where’s the free-wheeling holiday spirit? The Nasdaq is now down 14.7% from its peak at the end of August but remains up 0.5% year-to-date. The Russell 2000 small-caps index edged down today and is down 14.5% from its peak on August 31. It’s 3% in the hole year-to-date and right back where it had first been on September 27, 2017:

The seven FANGMAN stocks – Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google’s parent Alphabet, Microsoft, Apple, and NVIDIA – fell 1.3% on Friday in combined market cap. Over Thanksgiving week, they have now plunged 6.7%, or by $259 billion. Those are real dollars gone in four trading days with just seven stocks. Since their combined market-cap peak of $4.63 trillion at the end of August, nearly $1 trillion — $994 billion to be precise – has dissolved into ambient air, as their combined market cap has plunged 21.5% in ca. 12 weeks. But if you look at them as individual stocks, it’s even worse. The saving grace for the group as a whole was Microsoft, the second largest stock by market cap, which is threatening to become the largest stock shortly if Apple continues to fall at this pace. Three of the seven have already plunged by 38% to nearly 50%. Two more have plunged by 26% to 27%.

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What is it, 34% since the high this year?

Oil Plunges More Than 6% Despite Potential OPEC Cut (R.)

Oil prices slumped more than 6 percent on Friday, with Brent set for a 12-percent plunge this week, as fears that supply would overpower demand intensified, even as major producers considered cutting output. Oil supply, led by U.S. producers, is growing faster than demand and to prevent a build-up of unused fuel such as the one that emerged in 2015, OPEC is expected to start trimming output after a meeting on Dec. 6. But this has done little so far to prop up prices, which have dropped more than 20 percent so far in November, in a seven-week streak of losses. Deep trade disputes between the world’s two biggest economies and oil consumers, the United States and China, have weighed upon the market.

“The market is pricing in an economic slowdown – they are anticipating that the Chinese trade talks are not going to go well,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. “The market doesn’t believe that OPEC is going to be able to act swiftly enough to offset the coming slowdown in demand.” [..] Market fears over weak demand intensified after China reported its lowest gasoline exports in more than a year amid a glut of the fuel in Asia and globally. Stockpiles of gasoline have surged across Asia, with inventories in Singapore, the regional refining hub, rising to a three-month high while Japanese stockpiles also climbed last week. Inventories in the United States are about 7 percent higher than a year ago.

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Starting to feel serious.

Bitcoin Loses 25% Of Its Remaining Value During Thanksgiving Week (CNBC)

Bitcoin continued its move lower Friday, struggling to find footing after a week of pain for the world’s largest cryptocurrency. The digital asset hit a low of $4,119 Friday, according to data from CoinDesk, bringing its seven-day losses to more than 25 percent. In dollar terms, bitcoin’s value dropped by about $1,400 over that time frame. Other cryptocurrencies didn’t hold up this week either. Not a single one in the top 28 by market capitalization was trading in the green Friday, according to CoinMarketCap.com. XRP, the second-largest by market capitalization, fell 6 percent Friday, bringing its one-week losses to 10 percent. Ether was down 7 percent in 24 hours and lost roughly 30 percent for the week.

The total market capitalization for cryptocurrencies fell to $138.6 billion Friday, according to CoinMarketCap data, its lowest level since September 2017. Since its peak, the market has lost about $700 billion in value, according to the data. The tumble for bitcoin started abruptly last week when it fell below $6,000 and hit a new low for the year. The plunge followed what had been a surprisingly calm few months for bitcoin and a break from the rest of its volatile trading year. Since then, prices have hit new 13-month lows and struggled to move out of the $4,300 range. The price dips are a stark contrast from last Thanksgiving when the cryptocurrency was entering a hot streak thanks to a wave of new retail investors. Since that holiday week last year, prices are down by more than 55 percent.

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“They never like to ask me for a quote b/c it would kill their story..”

Trump Dismisses Report He Is Unhappy With Treasury’s Mnuchin (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter on Friday that he was quite happy with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s performance, after The Wall Street Journal reported that the president was dissatisfied with Mnuchin. “I am extremely happy and proud of the job being done by @USTreasury Secretary @stevenmnuchin1,” Trump said in a tweet. The Journal reported that Trump blames Mnuchin for the appointment of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who has been steadily raising U.S. interest rates. Trump is concerned that higher rates could undercut economic gains ahead of his 2020 reelection bid, the newspaper reported.

Quoting unnamed sources, the Journal said Trump has also expressed displeasure with Mnuchin over stock market turbulence and the Treasury secretary’s skepticism about the White House trade actions against China. “The FAKE NEWS likes to write stories to the contrary, quoting phony sources or jealous people, but they aren’t true. They never like to ask me for a quote b/c it would kill their story,” Trump said on Twitter. Trump has repeatedly criticized the Fed’s rate increases under Powell. In October, he called the Fed “crazy,” “ridiculous” and “my biggest threat.”

A year ago when Trump picked Powell to head the Federal Reserve, Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker, was a strong advocate of his nomination. The Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the matter, said Trump, in a conversation with someone who praised Mnuchin’s performance, mentioned stock market volatility and said: “If he’s so good, why is this happening?”

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“..Somehow I doubt that this Christmas will win the Bing Crosby star of approval.”

Holiday Doings and Undoings (Kunstler)

Somehow I doubt that this Christmas will win the Bing Crosby star of approval. Rather, we see the financial markets breaking under the strain of sustained institutionalized fraud, and the social fabric tearing from persistent systemic political dishonesty. It adds up to a nation that can’t navigate through reality, a nation too dependent on sure things, safe spaces, and happy outcomes. Every few decades a message comes from the Universe that faking it is not good enough. The main message from the financials is that the global debt barge has run aground, and with it, the global economy. That mighty engine has been chugging along on promises-to-pay and now the faith that sustained those promises is dissolving.

China, Euroland, and the USA can’t possibly meet their tangled obligations, and are running out of tricks for rigging, gaming, and jacking the bond markets, where all those promises are vested. It boils down to a whole lot of people not getting paid, one way or the other — and it’s really bad for business. Our President has taken full credit for the bubblicious markets, of course, and will be Hooverized as they gurgle around the drain. Given his chimerical personality, he may try to put on an FDR mask — perhaps even sit in a wheelchair — and try a few grand-scale policy tricks to escape the vortex. But the net effect will surely be to make matters worse — for instance, if he can hector the Federal Reserve to buy every bond that isn’t nailed to some deadly derivative booby-trap.

But then he’ll only succeed in crashing the dollar. Remember, there are two main ways you can go broke: You can run out of money; or you can have plenty of worthless money.

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Urban vs rural. Just like in America.

Rising Fuel Price Protests Should Serve As A Red Alert For Macron (I.ie)

Within the space of a week, the gilets jaunes have managed to tap into wider discontent with Macron’s presidency and policies, gaining opposition support and momentum as a result. These are not the usual protests or strikes co-ordinated by political parties or unions in France. With no official organisation, no identified leader and no political affiliation, the gilets jaunes phenomenon has been almost completely co-ordinated on social media where it declares “[This] comes about only from the French people”. [..] one thing is certain: their actions have chimed with the public. This despite chaos across France last weekend with roads blocked by protesters at some 2,000 locations. Two people were killed – one when a driver panicked and accidentally accelerated their car into the crowd – in the protests and hundreds reported injured.

Nevertheless, a number of polls have shown that almost three-quarters of French voters approve of the demonstrations, one survey found that more than half of those who voted for Macron support them. The planned tax increases – the price of diesel is due to go up another 6.5 cents per litre and petrol by 2.9 cents – are to come into force in January. They follow a 23pc rise in the cost of diesel and 15pc in petrol in the past year. Internationally, Macron has made much of his commitment to battling climate change and these hikes are part of his domestic policies on that front. His ministers have also argued that the higher price of crude globally also necessitates a rise but protesters complain that fuel taxes have been increasing steadily over the past four years.

One survey this week found that 82pc believe Macron should drop the plans. It also showed that particular demographics – the self-employed and business leaders, plus pensioners and low-income households – were most supportive of the gilets jaunes. The episode also highlights the rift between France’s urban elite and those in its poor rural peripheries. Workers who rely on their cars to get to their jobs in the countryside are particularly aggrieved by the planned tax increases.

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One more topic they try to push into the limitless future.

Gibraltar Rocks Final Stages Of Brexit Negotiation (AFP)

Preparations for a summit to endorse Britain’s deal to quit the European Union risked running aground on the rock of Gibraltar Friday, as Spain defended its veto over the fate of the tiny territory. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and leaders of the other 27 EU member states are to meet Sunday to approve their divorce agreement and set a course for negotiating their future post-Brexit relationship. But Spanish officials emerged from talks Friday warning that Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez might not attend unless it is guaranteed that no future accord on EU relations involving Gibraltar will be signed without Madrid’s specific assent.

Visiting Cuba, Sanchez said that if the Gibraltar row is not resolved, he might not go to Brussels on Sunday, warning: “If there’s no agreement, it’s very clear hat will happen, there very probably won’t be a European Council.” In Brussels, Luis Marco Aguiriano Nalda, Spain’s secretary of state for European affairs, said Madrid wanted London to put in writing that it shared Madrid’s interpretation of the negotiated Brexit deal regarding Gibraltar. “We have demanded that it be published by the British authorities before the European Council on Sunday,” he said. In London, however, a Downing Street source said he did not know what document Aguiriano could be referring to and added: “We have negotiated on behalf of the whole of the UK family. That includes Gibraltar and the overseas territories.”

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The torture never stops.

Ecuador Ousts Its London Ambassador, ‘Last Diplomat Assange Knew’ (RT)

Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno has terminated the credentials of his UK ambassador, who has been at the center of negotiating the fate of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, as concerns mount over the whistleblower’s safety. The decree, with which Moreno effectively sacked Ecuador’s London ambassador Abad Ortiz, was published by WikiLeaks on Wednesday. The document does not offer any explanation as to why Ortiz, who had been his country’s ambassador to the UK since 2015, is now being permanently recalled. Nor does it name a successor for the outgoing diplomat. The decree is effective immediately.

WikiLeaks tweeted that Abad, appointed to the office under President Rafael Correa, was the last diplomat the long-term self-exiled editor knew in the embassy. “All diplomats known to Assange have now been transferred away from the embassy,” the whistleblowing site claimed. This new and sudden twist in the Assange saga has been met with concern by his supporters, with some suggesting that Moreno is doing Washington’s bidding by removing people who might have stood by Assange and opposed his potential handover to the British police – which is expected to bring about a swift extradition to the US. The dismissal has been called “a silent pro-US coup.”

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Best piece on Assange in a while, from Nozomi Hayase.

Prosecution of Julian Assange, America’s Betrayal of Its Own Ideals (CD)

Just as the Founding Fathers of the United States, by revolting against the autocratic rule of King George were regarded as traitors, by aiding ordinary people expose and defy unjust secret law, WikiLeaks too has been branded as an enemy of the state. Trump’s Secretary of State and the former CIA director, Mike Pompeo calls WikiLeaks a non-state hostile intelligence agency, claiming that the organization threatens American values and needs to be shut down. Members of the US Congress urged the Ecuadorian President to persecute Assange, calling him a “dangerous criminal” and a “threat to global security”. While all these vicious verbal attacks are thrown at him, Assange remains in confinement, over the past months, being completely shut out from the outside, being continually deprived of fresh air, access to medical care and sunlight by the UK government in violation of UN rulings.

All wars start and are fueled by lies and propaganda. Once it was the Vietnam War, where under the command of the US President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Gulf of Tonkin lies unleashed military forces into Southeast Asia. Then came the invasion of Iraq with the former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech at the UN, falsely claiming Iraq had ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. This battle against free speech is another secret war of this empire. It now has become a fog of war, where with the hype of Russia Gate that was created out of thin air, the public was prevented from seeing who the real enemies are.

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Taibbi’s piece is okay, and he says some good things, but he doesn’t appear to like Assange, and fails to hide that.

Valid point he makes: The -secret- charges vs Assange have nothing to do with Trump, they pre-date his presidency by years.

Why You Should Care About the Julian Assange Case (Taibbi)

It always seemed that Assange viewed his primary role as being a pain in the ass to this increasingly illegitimate system of secrets, a pure iconoclast who took satisfaction in sticking it to the very powerful. I didn’t always agree with its decisions, but Wikileaks was an understandable human response to an increasingly arbitrary, intractable, bureaucratic political system. That it even had to exist spoke to a fundamental flaw in modern Western democracies — i.e. that our world is now so complex and choked with secrets that even releasing hundreds of thousands of documents at a time, we can never be truly informed about the nature of our own societies. Moreover, as the Snowden episode showed, it isn’t clear that knowing unpleasant secrets is the same as being able to change them.

In any case, the institutions Wikileaks perhaps naively took on once upon a time are getting ready to hit back. Frankly it’s surprising it’s taken this long. I’m surprised Assange is still alive, to be honest. If Assange ends up on trial, he’ll be villainized by most of the press, which stopped seeing the “lulz” in his behavior for good once Donald Trump was elected. The perception that Assange worked with Vladimir Putin to achieve his ends has further hardened responses among his former media allies. As to the latter, Assange denies cooperating with the Russians, insisting his source for the DNC leak was not a “state actor.” It doesn’t matter. That PR battle has already been decided.

Courts have held reporters cannot be held liable for illegal behavior of sources. [..] It’s always been the source’s responsibility to deal with that civil or criminal risk. The press traditionally had to decide whether or not leaked material was newsworthy, and make sure it was true. The government has been searching for a way to change that equation. The Holy Grail would be a precedent that forces reporters to share risk of jail with sources. Separate from Assange, prosecutions of leakers have sharply escalated in the last decade. The government has steadily tiptoed toward describing publishers as criminal conspirators.

It’s impossible to know exactly what recent news about an indictment means until we see it (the Reporters’ Committee for the Freedom of the Press has already filed a motion to unseal the charges). If there is a case, it could be anything in the federal criminal code, perhaps even unrelated to leaks. Who knows? But the more likely eventuality is a prosecution that uses the unpopularity of Assange to shut one of the last loopholes in our expanding secrecy bureaucracy. Americans seem not to grasp what might be at stake. Wikileaks briefly opened a window into the uglier side of our society, and if publication of such leaks is criminalized, it probably won’t open again.

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Europe needs an enemy. Or rather, NATO does.

Anonymous Blows Lid Off Huge Psyop In Europe Funded By UK & US (RT)

Anonymous has published documents which it claims have unearthed a massive UK-led psyop to create a “large-scale information secret service” in Europe – all under the guise of countering “Russian propaganda.” In a document dump on November 5, the group exposed the UK-based ‘Integrity Initiative’, said to have been established by the ominously titled Institute for Statecraft in 2015. The main objective is “to provide a coordinated Western response to Russian disinformation and other elements of hybrid warfare.” The Institute for Statecraft is affiliated with the NATO HQ Public Diplomacy Division and the Home Office-funded ‘Prevent’ program, so objectivity is, of course, at the forefront of their work.

Operating on a budget of £1.9 million (US$2.4 million), the secretive Integrity Initiative consists of “clusters” of local politicians, journalists, military personnel, scientists and academics. The team is dedicated to searching for and publishing “evidence” of Russian interference in European affairs, while themselves influencing leadership behind the scenes, the documents claim. The UK establishment appears to be conducting the very activities of which it and its allies have long-accused the Kremlin, with little or no corroborating evidence. The program also aims to “change attitudes in Russia itself” as well as influencing Russian speakers in the EU and North America, one of the leaked documents states.

At present, the vast network allegedly has clusters for Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Norway, Serbia, and Montenegro… but there’s more! According to the Anonymous leak, major plans to expand the sphere of influence throughout eastern Europe, the US, and Canada, as well as the MENA region, are allegedly underway. The clusters’ work is apparently done under absolute secrecy via concealed contacts embedded throughout British embassies, the leak claims, some of which are listed as part of the documentation.

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