John Vachon Beer signs on truck, Little Falls, Minnesota Oct 1940
For investors around the world, 2015 is turning into a year to forget. Stocks, commodities and currency funds are all in the red, and even the measly gains in bonds are being wiped out by what little inflation there is in the global economy. Rounding out its steepest quarterly descent in four years, the MSCI All Country World Index of shares is down 6.6% in 2015 including dividends. The Bloomberg Commodity Index has slumped 16%, while a Parker Global Strategies index of currency funds dropped 1.8%. Fixed income has failed to offer much of a haven: Bank of America’s global debt index gained just 1%, less than the 2.5% increase in world consumer prices shown in an IMF index. After three years in a virtuous cycle of rising share prices and unprecedented monetary easing, markets are now sinking as emerging economies from China to Brazil weaken and corporate profits slump.
Analysts have cut their global growth estimates for 2015 to 3% from 3.5% at the start of the year, and the turmoil has added pressure on central banks to prolong their stimulus programs, with traders scaling back forecasts for a Federal Reserve interest-rate increase by year-end. “There was an element of people believing they had found some sort of holy grail to investing, then this breakdown occurs and it breaks down in a way that’s remarkable,” said Tobias Levkovich, Citigroup’s chief U.S. equity strategist. “What seemed to trigger this all was China. It sent us on a wave of downward fears.” Investors suffered the brunt of this year’s losses in the third quarter. MSCI’s global equity index sank about 10% in the period, while the Bloomberg commodity index lost 14% in its biggest slump since the global financial crisis seven years ago.
The average level of Bank of America’s Market Risk index, a measure of price swings in equities, rates, currencies and raw materials, was the most this quarter since the end of 2011. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, a gauge of turbulence known as the VIX, reached the highest since 2011 in August. China has been the biggest source of anxiety for investors, after turmoil in the nation’s financial markets fueled concern that the country’s worst economic slowdown since 1990 was deepening. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 29% in the third quarter, the most worldwide, and the yuan weakened 2.4% after authorities devalued the currency in August. That sent a shudder around the world.
And all over the world too.
It’s the great unwind show. Admittedly, Glencore’s latest problems may run deeper and look more specific, but together with Vale and Rio, the other great international mining houses plus their suppliers, like America’s Caterpillar, all are suffering the fall-out from the end of the world’s biggest ever credit boom. Oil is testing recent lows and commodity prices almost across the board are skidding. Alongside, emerging market currencies are being trashed and some even fear that this turmoil will spill-over into a recession by next year. It will. Your white-knuckle ride is far from over. So how did we get here? The answer comes in three parts.
Firstly, the fragile global financial system that disintegrated spectacularly in 2008 has simply been taped back together and not fundamentally rebuilt, so leaving it vulnerable to a renewed bust of funding problems. Secondly, debt problems have not been tackled. By demanding “austerity”, many governments have simply reshuffled debts from their balance sheets on to more fragile private sector ones. Debt burdens across emerging markets, for example, have jumped since 2007. Lastly, the biggest factor is China. China is only just starting to adjust to its huge credit boom. Since the year 2000, the size of its asset economy has jumped an eye-watering 12-fold.
This includes the construction of new cities, thousands of miles of motorway, several airports and, as the brochures once advertised, a new skyscraper every 14-days, pushing up her credit markets to a bloated $25 trillion. History teaches us that there are four stages to every credit cycle: (1) 20-30% rates of new loan growth; (2) asset price bubbles in real estate, commodities, equities and often art; (3) banking problems, corruption and state intervention, and (4) currency collapse. China already ticks the first three boxes, and a pen is hovering over the fourth. The decision to weaken the renminbi in August may have less to do with exchange rate politics, as some have suggested, and more to do with a plain shortage of US dollars.
“..trading in the $36bn of bonds outstanding has moved to a cash basis, where prices are quoted in terms of cents on the dollar of face value.”
Traders have started to quote prices for Glencore debt in a manner normally associated with lower-quality paper, commonly known as junk bonds. The shift in pricing dynamics in the private over-the-counter markets this week came as shares in Glencore swung wildly as investors worry about the ability of the miner and trading house to manage its debt pile in a commodity downturn. The group retains an investment grade credit rating according to rating agencies and its $36bn of outstanding bonds have up to now been bought and sold on the basis of their yield, which moves inversely to price. But this week, dealers and investors say trading in the $36bn of bonds outstanding has moved to a cash basis, where prices are quoted in terms of cents on the dollar of face value. This form of pricing is generally used for junk bonds, which have a higher risk of default.
Pressure on the company’s debt and equity has intensified as analysts debate the effect of falling raw materials prices and rising debt costs. One investment bank warned on Monday that the group’s equity might be worthless if commodity prices did not recover swiftly. The company said it retained “strong lines of credit and access to funding”. Unsecured senior Glencore debt maturing in May 2016 traded below 93 cents on the dollar on Tuesday, with some trades occurring below 90 cents, according to investors. A buyer of the debt should receive a 0.85 cent coupon in November, and a dollar of principal back in eight months’ time. The return available from doing so is equivalent to around a 13% yield on an annual basis. Prices for longer-term debt fell even further as investors began to assess the potential recovery values for Glencore debt, most of which is unsecured. “Everything beyond five years is trading around or below 70 cents on the dollar,” Zoso Davies at Barclays said.
The history of three-quarter losing streaks is not pretty.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has suffered a third-straight quarterly decline for the first time since the Great Recession. This marks just the third time in nearly 40 years that a quarterly losing streak for the blue-chips benchmark stretched at least that long. The Dow surged 236 points on Wednesday, but has lost 1,335 points, or 7.6%, since the end of June. The Dow had lost 156.61 points, or 0.9%, over the second quarter and 46.95 points, or 0.3%, over the first quarter. The last time the Dow had a three-quarter losing streak was the six-quarter stretch ending the first quarter of 2009. Before that, there was a five-quarter losing streak ending with the first quarter of 1978, according to FactSet data.
In the Dow’s 119-year history, there have now been 20 quarterly losing streaks that stretched at least three quarters. The longest losing streak is six quarters, suffered twice, through the first quarter of 2009 and through the second quarter of 1970. There have been 12 quarterly losing streaks that have lasted longer than three quarters. If the current quarterly losing streak were to be snapped in the fourth quarter, the total three-quarter loss of 8.6% would be the smallest of all the other three-quarter losing streaks.
What a difference a week makes, and/or a survey…
Factory activity in China picked up in September, beating expectations, according to the government’s official manufacturing survey. The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) was up to 49.8 from 49.7 in August, but the sector did shrink for the second consecutive month.
China’s factory activity contracted at the fastest pace for six and a half years in September, according to a preliminary survey of the vast sector. The Caixin/Markit manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell to 47 in September, below forecasts of 47.5 and down from 47.3 in August.
More of that discrepancy in China numbers.
Chinese markets may be closed for the next week due to a national holiday but China’s goalseeked manufacturing survey(s), which were the most anticipated data points of the evening, came right on schedule (or rather, were leaked just ahead of schedule). And they certainly did not disappoint in their disappointment. First, it was the official NBS September PMI, which at 49.8 was the smallest possible fraction above both the previous and expected, both of which were 49.7. The number was leaked about 6 minutes before the official statement, and while the leaked print which all humans were aware of well before the official release time at 9pm Eastern, had no impact on markets, it was the flashing red headline which confirmed the leak and which was read by machine-reading algos everywhere, that sent the E-mini spasming higher.
But while the official “data” was bad, and confirmed the economy remains in contraction, the Caixin – aka the new HSBC – Markit PMIs were absolutely atrocious. We bring you… the HSBC Manufacturing print, which dropped from 47.3 to 47.2, and which according to Caixin was the lowest print since March 2009. From the report:
A key factor weighing on the headline index was a sharper contraction of manufacturing output in September. According to panellists, worsening business conditions and subdued client demand had led firms to cut their production schedules. Weaker customer demand was highlighted by a further fall in total new orders placed at Chinese goods producers in September. Furthermore, the rate of reduction was the steepest seen for just over three years. Data suggested that the faster decline in total new business partly stemmed from a sharper fall in new export work. The latest survey showed new orders from abroad declined at the quickest rate since March 2009.
Reflective of lower workloads, manufacturing companies cut their staff numbers again in September. Moreover, the latest reduction in employment was the fastest seen in 80 months. Meanwhile, reduced production capacity led to an increased amount of unfinished work, though the pace of backlog accumulation was only slight.
Manufacturing companies noted a further steep decline in average cost burdens during September. Furthermore, the rate of deflation was the sharpest seen since April. Reports from panellists mentioned that lower raw material prices, particularly for oil-related products, had cut overall input costs. Increased competition for new work led manufacturing companies to generally pass on their savings to clients, as highlighted by a solid decline in output charges.
“It’s one policy that’s part of a grand strategy to revive property investment and the whole national economy.”
China’s central bank cut the minimum home down payment required of first-time buyers for the first time in five years, stepping up support for the property market after five interest-rate reductions since November failed to reverse an economic slowdown. The People’s Bank of China cut the minimum down payment for buyers in cities without purchase restrictions to 25% from 30%, according to a statement released on its website Wednesday. The previous requirement had been in place since 2010, when the government boosted the ratio from 20% to help curb property speculation.
The move extends a year of loosening in the property market as Premier Li Keqiang seeks to boost demand in the world’s second-largest economy after fiscal and monetary stimulus produced few signs of a rebound. Growth will slow to 6.8% this year, according to the median of economist estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That’s below the government’s target for an expansion of about 7%. “Amid China’s economic slowdown, property’s role as a growth pillar has become even more important, and the government clearly sees it,” said Shen Jianguang at Mizuho in Hong Kong. “It’s one policy that’s part of a grand strategy to revive property investment and the whole national economy.”
While property investment has remained weak, home sales have recovered after mortgage policy easing and removal of purchase restrictions helped support demand. New-home prices rose in 35 of 70 cities in August, up from 31 in July and just two cities in February. UBS Group has estimated the real-estate industry accounts for more than a quarter of final demand in the economy when including property-related goods including electric machinery and instruments, chemicals and metals. The government also has urged some cities to allow citizens to borrow more from housing funds to help buyers, and encouraged cities to securitize more of those loans, according to a statement on the housing ministry’s website.
In Q4, a lot of ‘reserves’ must be marked to much more realistic levels. That’s going to hurt.
Oil futures tallied a loss of 24% for the third quarter, after ending Wednesday lower on the back of a report revealing the first U.S. crude-supply increase in three weeks. The report also showed a modest decline in domestic production, helping prices limit losses for the session. November West Texas Intermediate crude settled at $45.09 a barrel, down 14 cents, or 0.3%, on the New York Mercantile Exchange, trading between a high of $45.85 and a low of $44.68, according to FactSet data. WTI prices, based the front-month contracts, lost 8.4% for the month and were 24% lower for the quarter. Year to date, they’re down by more than 15%. November Brent crude on London’s ICE Futures exchange tacked on 14 cents, or 0.3%, to $48.37 a barrel.
Year to date, prices have fallen more than 15%. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday an increase of four million barrels in crude supplies for the week ended Sept. 25. That was the first climb in three weeks. Analysts polled by Platts expected supplies to be unchanged, while the American Petroleum Institute Tuesday said supplies jumped 4.6 million barrels. Part of the reason for the increase in crude supplies was less demand from refineries, where activity decreased with maintenance season in effect. Refinery utilization fell to 89.8% last week from 90.9%.
Volatility. Way outside Fed control.
A counterpoint to Bill Dudley’s Wednesday speech on bond market liquidity comes courtesy of TD Securities. While the New York Fed president argued that there’s little evidence so far that new financial regulation has cut into the ease of trading U.S. Treasuries, TD analysts Priya Misra and Gennadiy Goldberg think otherwise. They point to daily, wild swings in the bond market as evidence of diminished liquidity.
Our findings show that daily changes in 10-year Treasury yields exceeded one standard deviation (√) 58% of the time so far in 2015, considerably higher than the 49% observed last year. The 58% measure is the highest reading going back to 1975, suggesting that recent volatility in Treasury markets is unprecedented. As if a record number of “choppy days” were not enough, 10-year yield movements also exceeded 3√ in as many as 9% of trading days this year. This is higher than the average of 6% of days since 1975.
It’s a point that’s been brought up before, notably by Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Barnaby Martin. These observers argue that the number of assets registering large moves four or more standard deviations away from their normal trading range has been growing in recent months. Moves greater than one standard deviation should (based on a normal distribution of probabilities) happen about 32% of the time. Instead as the TD analysts point out, they are happening 58% of the time in U.S. Treasuries. Moves greater than three standard deviations should be happening about 1% of the time, not 9%.
While Dudley finds little evidence of average bond market liquidity having deteriorated, TD reckons the problem lies in so-called “tail events,” in which increased regulation and changes to market structure exacerbate the potential for extreme moves. Looking at average liquidity conditions won’t show much evidence of a problem, therefore. That might go some way toward explaining why all those market moves that are supposed to not happen very often keep occurring with some regularity.
If everybody does it, who are you going to punish?
New diesel cars from Renault, Nissan, Hyundai, Citroen, Fiat, Volvo and other manufacturers have all been found to emit substantially higher levels of pollution when tested in more realistic driving conditions, according to new data seen by the Guardian. Research compiled by Adac, Europe’s largest motoring organisation, shows that some of the diesel cars it examined released over 10 times more NOx than revealed by existing EU tests, using an alternative standard due to be introduced later this decade. Adac put the diesel cars through the EU’s existing lab-based regulatory test (NEDC) and then compared the results with a second, UN-developed test (WLTC) which, while still lab-based, is longer and is believed to better represent real driving conditions. The WLTC is currently due to be introduced by the EU in 2017.
[..] Emissions experts have warned for some time that there were problems with official lab-based NOx tests, meaning there was a failure to limit on-the-road emissions. “Gaming and optimising the test is ubiquitous across the industry,” said Greg Archer, an emissions expert at Transport & Environment. A recent T&E round-up of evidence found this affected nine out of 10 new diesel cars, which were on average seven times more polluting in the real world. But the Adac data are the first detailed list of specific makes and models affected. Adac also measured a Volvo S60 D4 producing NOx emissions over 14 times the official test level [..]
T&E argues that the Adac WLTC tests are minimum estimates of actual on-the-road emissions. Archer said the EU must back up the WLTC with on-the-road tests and end the practice of carmakers paying for the tests at their preferred test centres. “It is more realistic but it still isn’t entirely representative,” said Archer. “We still think there is a gap of about 25% between the WLTC test and typical average new car driving.”
“The admission means that the UK is one of the countries worst affected by the scandal..”
Volkswagen has revealed that almost 1.2m vehicles in the UK are involved in the diesel emissions scandal that has rocked the carmaker, meaning more than one in 10 diesel cars on the country’s roads are affected. VW said the diesel vehicles include 508,276 Volkswagen cars, 393,450 Audis, 76,773 Seats, 131,569 Skodas and 79,838 Volkswagen commercial vehicles. The total number of vehicles affected is 1,189,906. This is the first time VW has admitted how many of the 11m vehicles fitted with a defeat device to cheat emissions tests are in the UK.
The admission means that the UK is one of the countries worst affected by the scandal and will increase the pressure on the government to launch a full investigation. Figures from the Department for Transport show that there were 10.7m diesel cars on Britain s roads at the end of 2014 and that an estimated 5.3m of the petrol and diesel cars are Volkswagens or one of the groups sister brands. Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, said: The government s priority is to protect the public and I understand VW are contacting all UK customers affected. I have made clear to the managing director this needs to happen as soon as possible. “The government expects VW to set out quickly the next steps it will take to correct the problem and support owners of these vehicles already purchased in the UK.”
VW said 2.8m vehicles in Germany are involved, while 482,000 cars have been recalled in the US. The company intends to set up a self-serve process that will allow UK motorists to find out if their vehicle is affected. Dealers will also be sent the vehicle identification numbers of those involved. Affected customers will be contacted about visiting a mechanic to have their cars refitted. The cars fitted with a defeat device have EA 189 EU5 engines. However, VW is yet to reveal the full details of the recall plan, which will need to be approved by regulators. The carmaker said: “In the meantime, all vehicles are technically safe and roadworthy. Volkswagen Group UK is committed to supporting its customers and its retailers through the coming weeks.”
Members of Volkswagen’s supervisory board are concerned about the carmaker’s credit rating and are considering steps to prop it up but have no plans to sell off assets, two sources close to the board said. Volkswagen declined to comment on the sources, who spoke to Reuters late on Wednesday evening. They said that following recent actions from credit rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s, there were worries that a downgrade could inflict higher borrowing costs on the company, hampering its ability to win back the trust of investors. As a result, the board is considering cost cuts and revenue-generating measures. However no discussions on selling off VW assets or brands have taken place, the sources said. The Wolfsburg-based company has been hammered by the revelations that it manipulated diesel emissions tests.
An endless supply of stupidity. Or is it perfidiousness?
Eurozone inflation turned negative again in September as oil prices tumbled, raising pressure on the European Central Bank to beef up its asset purchases to kick start anaemic price growth. Prices fell by 0.1% on an annual basis, the first time since March that inflation has dipped below zero, missing analysts’ expectations for a zero reading after August’s 0.1% increase. The negative reading is a headache for the ECB, which is buying €60 billion of assets a month to boost prices. It has already said it may have to increase or extend the QE scheme because inflation may fall short of its target of almost 2% even in 2017.
Long term inflation expectations have dropped to their lowest since February, before the ECB’s asset purchases started, as China’s economic slowdown, the commodity rout and paltry euro zone lending growth reinforce pessimistic predictions. Even Finnish central bank chief Erkki Liikanen, normally considered an inflation hawk, has warned that euro zone growth is at risk from the slowdown in emerging markets and that inflation could fall short of already modest expectations. “We believe the ECB will extend its QE programme beyond September 2016, most likely until mid-2018, and that it could reach €2.4 trillion – more than twice the original €1.1 trillion commitment,” credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said on Wednesday.
Let’s see it first.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday indicated that Greece’s appeal for debt relief had been received far better in New York than in Brussels, continuing his US visit which included talks with Secretary of State John Kerry. “The Greek government has found far more open ears [here] than in Brussels for the need for there to be a fair resolution of the crisis and a necessary reduction of the unbearable and unsustainable public debt that has accumulated all those years,” Tsipras told reporters. He was speaking on the fifth day of an official visit to the US and following meetings with representatives of the Greek-American community in New York who he described as “the best ambassadors for Hellenism in the US, a country which plays the most significant role globally in all the crucial decisions that relate to our country’s future.”
Tsipras said Greeks have been “the victim of choices that led to the gradual erosion of the country’s national sovereignty and to the need for borrowing which resulted in the enforcement of measures which have… weakened the production base and the economy.” The comments came just a few days before representatives of Greece’s international creditors are to return to Athens for negotiations on the prior actions that Greek authorities must legislate to secure crucial rescue loans.
Yeah, that’ll do the trick…
The Greek securities regulator said on Wednesday it had banned short-selling of Greek bank shares to avoid pressure on prices ahead of the recapitalization of the sector. “The decision will come into effect starting Oct. 1 and will last until Nov. 9,” the Capital Markets Commission said in a statement. It affects the shares of the country’s four largest banks – National Bank, Alpha Bank, Eurobank and Piraeus Bank – and also the smaller Attica Bank.
“At a deeper level, the EU’s actions are promoting political radicalization on both the political right and left with unknown consequences.”
The Greek debt affair has also harmed the European Project, potentially irreparably. The problem is not that the eurozone found itself facing serious economic challenges. The issue is its failure to anticipate the risk of such a crisis ever happening, the lack of contingency planning, and the eurozone’s inability to deal with the problem on a timely basis. The Greek crisis is now over five years old, with no signs of a permanent solution. There are only unpalatable choices. Some concessions will not solve the problem. Other eurozone members will have to continue to provide additional financing to Greece, further increasing their risk. Favorable treatment for the Greek government risks opening a Pandora’s Box of demands from other countries to relax austerity measures.
Demands for relaxation of budget deficit and debt level targets are likely from Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and France. A write-down of debt would crystallize losses. It might threaten the governments of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Finland, the Netherlands, and Germany. If Greece leaves the euro, then the consequences for the eurozone are unclear. Should Greece prosper outside the single currency, it reduces the attraction of the eurozone for weaker members. Given the absence of painless solutions, it seems for the moment that neither Greece nor its creditors have any objectives other than avoiding having their fingerprints on the instrument that triggers default, the world’s largest sovereign debt restructuring or a breakup of the euro.
The approach of the EU has also undermined the European project. Major countries such as Germany have reacted to the inability to resolve the crisis by resorting to economic and political repression, entailing less, not more, flexibility, with tougher rules and stricter enforcement, including tighter supervision of national budgets. [..] The EU fails to recognize that its actions may destabilize Europe in unexpected ways. Greece has the potential to undermine Western security, creating a large corridor of vulnerability through the Balkans, the Levant, the Middle East, and Caucasus. While a member of the EU, Greece can veto sanctions reducing European power. Its actions or lack thereof can aggravate the serious refugee crisis confronting Europe. An embittered Greece, hostile to European partners and NATO, has caused alarm in the US. At a deeper level, the EU’s actions are promoting political radicalization on both the political right and left with unknown consequences.
Age old threat.
Many of Greece’s world-leading shipowners are actively exploring options to leave their home country, reacting to the prospect of sharply higher shipping taxes in the debt-ridden nation. Dominated by some 800 largely family-run companies that control almost a fifth of the global shipping fleet from their base at the main Greek port of Piraeus, the industry has long been a source of national pride. But at the behest of Greece’s international creditors, the newly re-elected Syriza-led government has reluctantly agreed to raise taxes on the long-protected sector. While Greek owners have agreed to voluntarily double until 2017 the amount they pay in tonnage tax-a fixed annual rate based on the size of each vessel-they are adamant on keeping their tax-free status on ship profits and money generated from ship sales.
Yet Greece’s creditors want taxes gradually to be applied on all shipping operations and are pushing for a permanent increase in the tonnage tax. Senior Greek government officials, who asked not to be named, said the finance ministry is trying to find alternative sources of income to avoid saddling owners with more taxes, but one said that “the exercise is proving very difficult.” Final decisions on the matter are expected by the end of October. Income-based shipping taxes, levied in countries such as the U.S., China and Japan, can raise much more revenue than tonnage taxes, levied in most European countries. An owner of a midsize vessel in Greece would pay a flat tonnage tax of $50,000 a year at the temporary double rate.
A comparable U.S. owner, depending on daily freight rates, might pay about $3.7 million in annual taxes, and a Japanese owner could pay $7 million. However, while European owners have to pay the tonnage tax every year regardless of profitability, U.S. and Japanese owners get substantial tax refunds if their vessels lose money. Many in the Greek shipping world say any increase in taxes on shipping operations would prompt a mass exodus of the country’s shipowners. Relatively low-tax global shipping centers such as Cyprus, London, Singapore and Vancouver are positioning themselves to benefit.
The head of Iceland’s main employers’ group says the nation is displaying some worrying signs. Wages are soaring much too fast and will ruin the economy if they continue unchecked, according to Thorsteinn Viglundsson, managing director of Business Iceland. “Another economic collapse is unavoidable, if we’re going to keep going down this path,” Viglundsson said in a phone interview in Reykjavik. Pay is set to rise about 30% through 2019 in many industries. Unions wanted increases as high as 50%, to compensate for years of moderate pay growth, but some were forced to settle for less after the government put the matter to an arbitration court. Icelanders, who work longer hours than their Nordic peers according to the OECD, are demanding a bigger share of the island’s economic recovery after eight years of belt-tightening.
Pay growth has barely kept pace with inflation, with real wages rising little more than 3% in the six years through 2014, statistics office figures show. Over the same period, real gross domestic product grew 29%. Viglundsson says wage growth above 25% through 2019 will have “very serious economic consequences.” “It will mean a surge in inflation, to which the central bank will respond by raising rates considerably,” he said. Iceland’s main policy rate is already above 6%, a developed-world record. “It will mean that, in the end, the krona will lose its value, like it has always done in the past under similar circumstances,” Viglundsson said.
To bring democracy. And protect our freedom.
When the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) abducts boys from Friday prayers at mosques or indoctrinates children as young as 10 to become fighters or suicide bombers, there is little the United States can do. But when recipients of U.S. military aid recruit children into their forces as soldiers, the United States has a lot of leverage. It is disappointing that the Obama administration has been reluctant to use it. This week, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to make his annual announcement about the issue, on whether he will waive sanctions on military foreign aid under U.S. law for any of the eight governments currently on the State Department’s list for using child soldiers.
In 14 countries around the world, according to the United Nations, children are recruited and used in armed conflicts as informants, guards, porters, cooks, and often, as front-line armed combatants. In some, only non-state armed groups are responsible for the practice, but in others, the perpetrators are rebel forces and governments alike. In South Sudan, child recruitment spiked sharply last year, with estimates that 12,000 children were fighting with both government and non-state armed groups. In Yemen, where UNICEF has estimated that one-third of all fighters are under 18, all sides to the ongoing conflict, including the government, use child soldiers. Yet both governments have received millions of dollars in U.S. military assistance.
In 2008, Congress enacted a law based on two simple ideas: first, that U.S. tax dollars should not support the use of child soldiers, and second, that suspending U.S. military assistance could be a powerful incentive to prompt governments to end this reprehensible practice. The law, the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, took effect in 2010, restricting U.S. military support to governments using children in their armed forces. But the Obama administration’s implementation of the law has fallen far short of the law’s goals. Our analysis found that during the five years the law has been in effect, President Obama has invoked “national interest” waivers to authorize nearly $1 billion in military assistance and arms sales for countries that are still using child soldiers. In contrast, we found that only $35 million in military assistance and arms sales – a mere 4% of what was sanctionable under the law – was actually withheld from these abusive governments.
Farrell may be on to something.
Warning to the next president, to all future U.S. presidents: They’re coming. More illegal immigrants. More refugees. Millions more than conservatives fear are here already. Millions more coming, like Syrian refugees storming Europe. This warning is targeted specifically for a future President Donald Trump. You cannot stop them. Nobody can. They will overrun America, add trillions more debt. Brag all you want, this is one deal you will never, never negotiate successfully. Never win. Worse, you lose, we lose big.
Can’t win? No, not even if you’re bankrolled with unlimited funds, a blank-check from a GOP-controlled Congress and Treasury … not even if you win carte blanche clearance to build your “classy, beautiful” dream wall to your specs … build it extra high… superthick … not even if you staff it with thousands of well-armed special-ops soldiers … add new guard towers … patrolled by thousands of drones, sonar ships, nuclear subs … all to stop every illegal coming by aircraft, by boats, using battering rams, secretly entering through an ever-increasing vast underground network built by drug cartels … a near impenetrable system operating as an integrated high-tech network designed by our best minds to keep out the new flood of illegal immigrants that you so fear … it still won’t stop them.
Give it up you guys: Nobody can stop the coming tidal wave rising dead ahead. Not you, Mr. Next President, not Congress, nor any combination of our Armed Forces, FBI, ATF, CIA will ever stop the coming flood, a tsunami of illegals and refugees. Why? Because they’re escaping dying lands, doing what is natural, fighting, desperate, in survival mode, for themselves, their families, future generations, escaping climate-caused natural disasters, droughts, water and food shortages, starvation, genocide, pandemics, dust bowls, and so many more dark consequences of global warming climate change. Yes, all this is so obvious, so predictable. In the next few decades the same conditions that created the Syrian civil war between President Bashar al-Assad and his people will overwhelm the American southwest.
As climate change puts increasing pressure on the 160 million people in Mexico and Central America, millions of refugees and illegal immigrants will escape north into the United States, overrunning us by the end of this century. Of course, this human tsunami will not be understood by the clueless mind of America’s climate-science-denying GOP Congress held captive by Big Oil. Nor by the candidates in the GOP presidential debates. Worse, this would be a total fantasy to a GOP President Trump who’s sole obsession is a slogan “Make America Great Again” by building a “beautiful” wall to keep out illegal refugees. Except they’re all just making matters worse, delaying the inevitable collapse of America.
Developing nations are in the middle of the biggest dam construction program in history to generate power, irrigate fields, store water and regulate flooding. Yet governments are finding it harder to move people, who have become less trusting of officials and more connected to information about the effects of the dams. Corruption and wrangles over payments have stalled projects from Indonesia to India for decades and frustrated governments are increasingly turning to the ultimate threat: Move, or we will flood you out. Jatigede is the latest example, and it is unlikely to be the last. Indonesia plans to build 65 dams in the next 4 years, 16 of which are under construction. India aims to erect about 230.
China is in the middle of a program to add at least 130 on rivers in the mountainous southwest and Tibetan plateau, including barriers across major rivers like the Mekong and Brahmaputra that flow into other countries. It is reported to have relocated people before inundating land. Like Jatigede, many are financed by Chinese banks and led by the nation s biggest dam builder, Sinohydro Corp. China is involved in constructing some 330 dams in 74 different countries, according to environmental lobbying group International Rivers, based in Berkeley, California. “Sending rising waters to flood out people like pests is barbaric”, said Professor Michael Cernea at the Brookings Institution. “Indonesia has the resources and know-how to resettle these people decently”.
“The relocation program is the responsibility of the government”, Sinohydro President Liang Jun said in an interview on Aug. 31 at the Jatigede dam. West Java governor Ahmad Heryawan said the dam will irrigate 90,000 hectares of land and provide water to Cirebon, a city of about 300,000 people on the northern coast of Java. At a ceremony on top of the dam on Aug. 31 to begin filling the reservoir, he acknowledged that not everyone had received compensation and that thousands remained in their homes. Those being relocated were “heroes of development, not victims”, he said. “We don t want them to suffer, we want to improve their welfare”. [..] Protests against dams have multiplied across Asia as activists mobilize residents and media against large projects and question their long-term benefits.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi plans about 200 hydropower projects on the mountainous rivers in northeast India, as well as a program of 30 large dams that would help link major rivers across the country. “We are considering approvals for about 20 to 30 hydro and about 15 irrigation dam projects at the moment,” said Ashwinkumar Pandya, chairman of India’s Central Water Commission, which gives technical and economic clearances for dams. “Dams are an important aspect of planning and they ensure that water and power requirements for the nation are met.” “There is not a single dam – not a single one – for which India has done proper rehabilitation of people,” said Himanshu Thakkar at South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People. “And typically, all of them have seen costs escalate and delays in building.”