Aug 082018
 August 8, 2018  Posted by at 8:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »

Vincent van Gogh The red tree house 1890


Tesla Shares Soar After Elon Musk Floats Plan To Take Company Private (G.)
Securities Lawyers Shocked By Elon Musk’s Tweet (CNBC)
Alex Jones Pleads With Donald Trump To Fight ‘Censorship’ (Ind.)
US Think Tank’s Tiny Lab Helps Facebook Battle Fake Social Media (R.)
Trump’s Sanctions Causing Turmoil In Turkey (CNBC)
Turkish Banks Scramble to Stave Off Debt Crisis (DQ)
Europe ‘Needs To Get A Backbone’ On Trump’s Iran Sanctions – Ron Paul (RT)
EU Foreign Policy Chief Calls On Firms To Defy Trump Over Iran (G.)
The Blowup With Canada Is the Latest Saudi Overreach (IC)
London Is The World’s Airbnb Capital (ZH)
My Amsterdam Is Being Un-Created By Mass Tourism (G.)
First Trial Alleging Monsanto’s Roundup Causes Cancer Goes To Jury (R.)
The American Sea of Deception (TD)



$82 billion in funding arranged? Perhaps the SEC should have a word with Musk about that.

Tesla Shares Soar After Elon Musk Floats Plan To Take Company Private (G.)

Elon Musk has launched a campaign to take Tesla private on a day that included several provocative tweets, a suspension (and resumption) of trading in the company’s shares, reports of a significant Saudi investment, a surge in stock price, and an evocative, Musk-tinged appeal to the Tesla faithful: “The future is very bright and we’ll keep fighting to achieve our mission.” The ride started with Tesla’s stock rising more than 7% after Musk tweeted he was “considering taking Tesla private” and had funding in place to do so at a price of $420 (£325) per share. Shortly afterwards, Tesla published a blogpost written by Musk entitled ‘Taking Tesla private’ that had been sent to all employees.

The tweet appeared to be triggered by a report in the Financial Times that Saudi Arabia has built up a stake in Tesla worth up to $2.9bn. At $420 a share, Tesla would have an enterprise value of about $82bn including debt, well above its stock market value, which reached $63.8bn on Tuesday. Shares closed up 11% at $378. To take Tesla private, Musk would have to pull off the largest leveraged buyout in history, surpassing Texas electric utility TXU’s in 2007. Analysts say Tesla doesn’t fit the typical profile of a company that can raise tens of billions of dollars of debt to fund such a deal. In a follow up tweet, Musk wrote: “I don’t have a controlling vote now and wouldn’t expect any shareholder to have one if we go private. I won’t be selling in either scenario.”

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Social media and its consequences.

Securities Lawyers Shocked By Elon Musk’s Tweet (CNBC)

“If his comments were issued for the purpose of moving the price of the stock, that could be manipulation, it could also be securities fraud,” former SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt told CNBC on Tuesday. “The use of a specific price for a potential going private transaction is highly unprecedented and therefore raises significant questions about what his intent was. So, that would have to be investigated.” [..] Five years ago the Securities and Exchange Commission had to clarify its social media policy after Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings set off a firestorm of his own.

Companies can use social media like Facebook and Twitter to announce key information and be OK under Fair Disclosure regulations as long as investors know that they can find that information on the social media accounts. Reg FD was designed to make sure investors could get information at the same time, rather than having select disclosures to some before others. The SEC’s enforcement division had investigated Hasting’s use of a personal Facebook page back in 2012 to say the streaming service’s monthly online viewing had exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time.

The SEC didn’t take any action against Netflix or Hastings but clarified its social media policy. “Personal social media sites of individuals employed by a public company would not ordinarily be assumed to be channels through which the company would disclose material corporate information,” the SEC said in a statement at the time. There might not be any SEC action this time, either, but it’s only a matter of time before an executive gets accused of making a false or misleading statement on social media, said Kevin LaCroix, an attorney focused on management liability issues. “There will be a case someday.”

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A hard one for Trump. Alex Jones is his biggest media asset. But how can Washington stop Silicon Valley?

Alex Jones Pleads With Donald Trump To Fight ‘Censorship’ (Ind.)

Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has appealed to Donald Trump to pursue an end to “censorship” after the InfoWars host was banned from all but one of the West’s major content platforms. On Monday, Apple deleted most of Mr Jones’s podcasts saying they contained hate speech; Facebook removed four of his pages down for “repeated violations of community standards”; YouTube terminated Mr Jones’s account after he violated a 90-day ban; and Spotify removed one of Jones’s podcasts for “hate content”. In a free-wheeling monologue posted online, the prominent far-right personality praised the president, condemned the mainstream press, and accused China of meddling in US elections.

“Mr President, America knows you’re real. They know the Democrats are the anti-American globalists allied with the ChiComms, radical Islam, the unelected EU, and others,” he said. “If you come out before the midterms and make the censorship the big issue of them trying to steal the election. “And if you make the fact we need an Internet Bill of Rights, and anti-trust busting on these companies, if they don’t back off right now. “And if you don’t come out and point out that the communist Chinese have penetrated and infiltrated and are way, way worse than the Russians …. then they will be able to steal the midterms and start the impeachment.” He said cracking down on China and speaking out against censorship was “the right thing to do”.

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The Atlantic Council doesn’t find the truth, it makes its own. Main Russiagate proponents.

US Think Tank’s Tiny Lab Helps Facebook Battle Fake Social Media (R.)

A day before Facebook announced that it had discovered and disabled a propaganda campaign designed to sow dissension among U.S. voters, it exclusively shared some of the suspicious pages with an online forensics team so busy it hasn’t put a nameplate on the door. The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab is based in a 12-foot-by-12-foot office in the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the nearly 60-year-old Council, a think tank devoted to studying serious and at times obscure international issues. Facebook is using the group to enhance its investigations of foreign interference. Last week, the company said it took down 32 suspicious pages and accounts that purported to be run by leftists and minority activists.

While some U.S. officials said they were likely the work of Russian agents, Facebook said it did not know for sure. It fell to the lab to point out similarities to fake Russian pages from 2016 during Facebook’s news conference last week. Facebook began looking for outside help amid criticism for failing to rein in Russian propaganda ahead of the 2016 presidential elections. The U.S. Justice Department won indictments against 13 Russians and three companies for using social media in that election to influence voters. U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security team warned last week of persistent attempts by Russia to use social media against the 2018 congressional elections as well.

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All they need to do is release a pastor.

Trump’s Sanctions Causing Turmoil In Turkey (CNBC)

The Turkish lira and benchmark sovereign bond hit a record low as the threat of U.S. sanctions added pressure to already ailing markets. The U.S. dollar rose to 5.4 against the lira on Monday before trading around 5.29 on Tuesday. Turkey’s 10-year bond fell to a record low on Tuesday, pushing its yield up to around 20 percent before hovering around 18.8 percent. Bond prices move inversely to yields. Turkish capital markets have struggled this year as the country deals with a weakening economy. The sharp moves down come after President Donald Trump threatened last month to slap “large sanctions” on the Middle Eastern nation if it refuses to free Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor.

The U.S. then announced on Aug. 1 sanctions on Turkey’s justice and interior ministers, prohibiting U.S. citizens from doing business with them. “This is a shot across the bow,” said Marcus Chenevix, an analyst at TS Lombard. “Now, I think the U.S. will give them time to respond. It’s not like the U.S. sees this as a pressing political matter, it just can’t seem to be backing down to these hostage tactics.” Turkey detained Brunson in October 2016, accusing him of spying and trying to overthrow the government after a failed coup earlier that year. Trump demanded in a July 26 tweet the Turkish government release Brunson.

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20% yields on bonds… As the lira has lost 25% or so of its value..

Turkish Banks Scramble to Stave Off Debt Crisis (DQ)

Highly leveraged companies currently face a potent cocktail of soaring borrowing costs and a plunging Lira. As the local currency weakens against the dollar and the euro, it gets harder and harder for local companies to service foreign currency bonds. That’s how a currency crisis becomes a debt crisis. Turkish companies are sitting on $337 billion in debt. With as much as $100 billion in debt scheduled to come due over the course of the next year, Turkish banks are under growing pressure to restructure foreign-currency denominated corporate loans as those companies struggle to service them.

The banks have proposed rules to accelerate the restructuring of company debt and allow lenders to avoid booking these loans as “non-performing loans,” a move that may help prevent defaults from piling up. As has happened in Italy since Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, the banks will try to extend loans indefinitely in order to avoid gaping holes developing on their balance sheets. But it may already be too late. The downgrades, both sovereign and corporate, are coming thick and fast. On July 20, Fitch Ratings downgraded the Long-Term Foreign Currency Issuer Default Ratings (LTFC IDRs) of 24 Turkish banks and their subsidiaries, in many cases by two notches.

The agency also slashed Turkey’s sovereign rating deeper into junk territory, downgrading its Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘BB’ from ‘BB+’ with a negative outlook. Moody’s also downgraded the ratings of 17 banks in July. These downgrades will make it even more costly for Turkish banks and the Turkish government to raise funds, with the yield on Turkey’s benchmark 10-year bond soaring to an eye-watering 19% on Tuesday.

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“In time people are going to realize we might have to adjust because countries are not going to tolerate what we have done..”

Europe ‘Needs To Get A Backbone’ On Trump’s Iran Sanctions – Ron Paul (RT)

Washington is powerful, but Europe needs to “stick to its guns” against President Donald Trump’s threats that any countries doing business with Iran will not to do business with the US, according to former Congressman Ron Paul. In an interview with RT, Paul said that while the US can “throw its weight around” the EU needs to “get some backbone” to resist Trump’s threats. “If they stick to their guns I think the United States would have to adjust our policies a bit, because how are they going to enforce that? You know, if China and Russia and other countries and India, they do business with Iran — how are we going to punish them?” he said. Paul acknowledged that standing up to Washington might be difficult if major companies are faced with the threat of losing business in the US. “In time people are going to realize we might have to adjust because countries are not going to tolerate what we have done,” he said.

Asked about the anti-Russia sentiment currently gripping the US, Paul said that the people who are in favor of taking a very negative view of Russia — and who are pushing the narrative that Trump colluded with Russia to win the presidency — are in control in both the media and in Congress. “I think it’s tragic what’s happening, because they have no proof of anything and for some reason these senators have come up with this new [Russia sanctions] bill — Graham and McCain and Menendez — just out of the clear blue, they have no evidence whatsoever of their charges that they have made,” he said. Paul, who has long advocated a non-interventionist foreign policy and taken a negative view of sanctions, said that the US tendency to blame other countries for everything, slapping them with sanctions and then complaining when they retaliate is “very, very bad foreign policy.”

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Catch 22.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Calls On Firms To Defy Trump Over Iran (G.)

The EU is set on a collision course with Donald Trump after its foreign policy chief called for Europeans to increase their business dealings with Iran in defiance of bellicose statements from the US president. As Trump vowed to block those trading with Iran from the US market, the EU stepped up efforts to save the Iran nuclear deal by encouraging its companies to ignore the White House. Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, said Brussels would not let the 2015 agreement with Tehran die, and she urged Europeans to make their own investment decisions. The EU, China and Russia remain signatories to the joint comprehensive plan of action under which economic sanctions on Iran have been lifted in return for the regime curtailing its nuclear aspirations.

Trump reneged on the deal in May, describing it as “a horrible one-sided deal that should never, ever have been made”. The clash risks destabilising the wider transatlantic relationship weeks after the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, and Trump vowed in the White House rose garden to increase tariff-free trade between the EU and the US and to move on from recent disagreements. During a trip to Wellington, New Zealand, on Tuesday, Mogherini said: “We are doing our best to keep Iran in the deal, to keep Iran benefiting from the economic benefits that the agreement brings to the people of Iran, because we believe this is in the security interests of not only our region but also of the world.

“If there is one piece of international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation that is delivering, it has to be maintained. We are encouraging small and medium enterprises in particular to increase business with and in Iran as part of something [that] for us is a security priority.” Hours earlier, Trump had tweeted: “The Iran sanctions have officially been cast. These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will NOT be doing business with the United States. I am asking for WORLD PEACE, nothing less!”

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“Have the Saudis gone stark-raving bonkers?”

The Blowup With Canada Is the Latest Saudi Overreach (IC)

Have the Saudis gone stark-raving bonkers? First, they pick a fight with Canada — yeah, that Canada! Maple syrup-loving, hockey-playing, poutine-eating, liberal, multicultural Canada; the land with free health care and a prime minister who wears “Eid Mubarak” socks. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia (over)reacted to a single tweet from the Canadian foreign ministry. The tweet called on the Saudis to “immediately release” imprisoned activist Samar Badawi, sister of Raif, as well as “all other peaceful #humanrights activists.” The Saudi foreign ministry lambasted the Canadians for an “unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable” statement, announced the “freezing of all new trade and investment transactions” with Canada, demanding the Canadian ambassador leave the country “within the next 24 hours.”

At the same time, Saudi trolls took to Twitter to declare their loud support for … Quebec’s independence. Who knew that an absolute Persian Gulf monarchy was so passionate about a French-speaking secessionist movement 6,000 miles away? (Hey, Canadian trolls — if you even exist — my advice would be to retaliate by offering Ottawa’s backing for independence in the restless, Shia-dominated Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. It’ll drive them totally nuts.) And Saudi Arabia was just getting started. On Monday, the kingdom escalated the row by suspending scholarships “for about 16,000 Saudi students” studying in Canada, the Toronto Star reported, “and ordered them to attend schools elsewhere.” (Can you think of a better example of biting your bigoted nose to spite your intolerant face?)

Then — and this is my favorite part of this whole bizarre episode — a Saudi group put out an image on Twitter of a Canadian airliner flying directly toward Toronto’s tallest building over a warning against interfering in others’ affairs. (The Saudi group later deleted it and apologized) Are. You. Kidding. Me?

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Destruction in its wake.

London Is The World’s Airbnb Capital (ZH)

10 years ago, in early August 2008, the website went online, marking the birth of Airbnb. Back then the three founders, Brian Cheky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk wanted to help short-term travelers find affordable accommodation and provide renters with an opportunity to make an extra buck by renting out spare rooms or even just the namesake airbed on the floor. However, as Statista’s Felix Richter notes, little did they know that 10 years later their little venture would be one of the hottest private companies in the world, valued at nearly $30 billion.

Over the years, Airbnb has developed into much more than what it was originally meant to be. These days you can rent millions of houses, apartments and rooms on the platform. For many young travelers is has become the favorite if not the only way to find accommodation when travelling. Luckily for Airbnb, its rise coincided with a steep increase in city tourism. In cities such as London, Paris or New York, where hotel rooms are often hard to find and/or expensive, Airbnb has become an affordable and popular way to experience cities in a less touristy way.

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Politicians can’t keep up with tech developments. They’re always late. They sit on their hands until someone else does something.

“..the red light district is no longer under government control at weekends. Criminals operate with impunity; the police can no longer protect citizens; ambulances struggle to reach victims on time.”

My Amsterdam Is Being Un-Created By Mass Tourism (G.)

The word on everyone’s lips is “Venice”. It starts as a whisper, some time in early spring, when the lines in front of the Rijksmuseum get a little longer, and the weekend shopping crowds in the Negen Straatjes begin to test your bike-navigation skills. By the time it’s July those streets are flooded. You don’t even try steering through the crowds. You’d be like Moses, except that God is not on your side, the Red Sea will not part in your favour, and the crowds will wash you away: the middle-aged couples from the US and Germany, here for the museums; and the stag parties from Spain, Italy and the UK, here in their epic attempt to drink all the beer and smoke all the pot.

So you learn to take the long way round to your destination and skip entire areas of Amsterdam – which nevertheless means that, perhaps once every summer, you’ll be down on the pavement after crashing into a distracted tourist who walked in front of your bike, and the whisper becomes a curse: “Fucking Venice!” (The Dutch like to swear in English.) “Venice”is shorthand for a city so flooded by tourists that it no longer feels like a city at all. In the famed 2013 Dutch documentary I Love Venice a tourist asks: “At what time does Venice close?” It’s very funny, except, of course, that it is not funny at all.

This year Amsterdam’s 850,000 inhabitants will see an estimated 18.5 million tourists flock to the city – up 11% on last year. By 2025, 23 million are expected. Last week the city’s ombudsman condemned the red light district as no longer under government control at weekends. Criminals operate with impunity; the police can no longer protect citizens; ambulances struggle to reach victims on time. [..] There are several ways to react. One is to leave town. A study shows that in the past five years 40% of couples relocated to smaller towns after their first child. Many feel this is no longer a city to raise kids.

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Hard to prove, I said it before. But a jury might decide anyway. Huge case, 5,000 more plaintiffs to come.

First Trial Alleging Monsanto’s Roundup Causes Cancer Goes To Jury (R.)

Groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson is one of more than 5,000 plaintiffs across the United States who claim Monsanto’s glyphosate-containing herbicides, including the widely-used Roundup, cause cancer. His case, the first to go to trial, began in San Francisco’s Superior Court of California four weeks ago. Johnson’s lawyer Brent Wisner on Tuesday urged jurors to hold Monsanto liable and punish them with a verdict he said would “actually change the world.” Wisner claimed Monsanto knew about glyphosate’s cancer risk, but decided to bury the information. Monsanto, a unit of Bayer following a $62.5 billion acquisition by the German conglomerate, denies the allegations and says expert testimony on which Johnson and others rely does not satisfy any scientific or legal requirements.

“The message of 40 years of scientific studies is clear: this cancer is not caused by glyphosate,” Monsanto’s lawyer George Lombardi said, according to an online broadcast of the trial by Courtroom View Network. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September 2017 concluded a decades-long assessment of glyphosate risks and found the chemical not likely carcinogenic to humans. The World Health Organization’s cancer arm in 2015 classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” If it finds Monsanto liable, the jury can decide to award punitive damages on top of the more than $39 million in compensatory damages Johnson demanded. The jury is expected to start deliberating on Wednesday.

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All the Presidents’ lies.

The American Sea of Deception (TD)

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt lied to Congress and the American people when he claimed that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was “unprovoked” by the U.S. and a complete “surprise” to the U.S. military. President Dwight Eisenhower flatly lied to the American people and the world when he denied the existence of American U-2 spy plane flights over Russia. President John F. Kennedy lied about the supposed missile gap between the United States and the Soviet Union. And Kennedy lied when he claimed that the United States sought democracy in Latin America, Southeast Asia and around the world. President Lyndon Johnson lied on Aug. 4, 1965, when he claimed that North Vietnam attacked U.S. Navy destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. This provided a false pretext for a massive escalation of the U.S. war on Vietnam, resulting in the deaths of more than 50,000 U.S. military personnel and millions of Southeast Asians.

Regarding Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg recalled 17 years ago that his 1971 release of the Pentagon Papers exposed U.S. military and intelligence documents “proving that the government had long lied to the country. Indeed, the papers revealed a policy of concealment and quite deliberate deception from the Truman administration onward. … A generation of presidents,” Ellsberg noted, “chose to conceal from Congress and the public what the real policy was. …” President Richard Nixon lied about wanting peace in Vietnam (his agent, Henry Kissinger, actively undermined a peace accord with Hanoi before the 1968 election) and about respecting the neutrality of Cambodia. He lied through secrecy and omission about the criminal and fateful U.S. bombing of Cambodia—a far bigger crime than the burglarizing of the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate complex, about which he of course famously lied.

The serial fabricator Ronald Reagan made a special address to the nation in which he lied by saying, “We did not—repeat—we did not trade weapons or anything else [to Iran] for hostages, nor will we.” President George H.W. Bush falsely claimed on at least five occasions in the run-up to the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War that Iraqi forces, after invading Kuwait, had pulled babies from incubators and left them to die.

President Bill Clinton shamelessly lied about his White House sexual shenanigans with Monica Lewinsky. He falsely claimed to be upholding international law and to be opposing genocide when he bombed Serbia for more than two months in early 1999. The serial liar George W. Bush and his administration infamously, openly and elaborately lied about Saddam Hussein’s alleged Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” and about Iraq’s purported links to al Qaida and the 9/11 jetliner attacks. After the WMD fabrication was exposed, Bush falsely claimed to have invaded Iraq to spread liberty and democracy.

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Jun 242014
 June 24, 2014  Posted by at 3:17 pm Finance Tagged with: , ,  3 Responses »

John Vachon Soft drinks and war bonds truck, Montgomery AL March 1943

The age of financial innnovations found such an exalted high priest in Alan Greenspan that in his days as Fed governor he couldn’t stop talking about the dangers of regulating them, even though that was in his job description, and even though he had far too little detailed knowledge of them. His sidekicks over at the Treasury, Bob Rubin and Larry Summers, made sure their friends at Citi and JPMorgan had nothing to fear from the US government in this regard either, just as Glass-Steagall was repealed.

That’s how we got see the spread of a zillion kinds of securities and derivatives, and that’s why the vast majority of them were lauded as being highly beneficial for the economy, and therefore for all of us. Many of these instruments were and are being touted as insurance policies for the finance industry, in the same way farmers had been able to buy crop insurance since the days of old.

But that’s at best only part of the story. For instance, whether the hugely popular credit default swap may or may not initially have been ‘invented’ to serve as an insurance tool in the financial markets, is hardly interesting or relevant. What’s more important is that it very rapidly became, while it got cheaper as its popularity soared, a way for corporations and financial institutions to hide, and get rid of, their debts and liabilities.

In somewhat simplified terms, once you can claim that you have insurance against potential losses on your assets, you no longer have to carry reserves against the risk of these losses. At the height of the crisis this made many a balance sheet look a whole lot better than it really was .

And that situation continues to this day. Even if conditions have changed, and been adapted. A lot of the riskiest paper has been bought up by central banks since 2008. That buying spree, too, continues. This has lowered the risks – of credit defaults – substantially, at least for now and at least in the eyes of the industry.

And since the central banks have not only taken on a lot of the worst risk, but also made sure stock markets have been propped up and interest rates kept low, and moreover are today even increasingly purchasing stocks and bonds themselves, asset prices are skyhigh and risk assessments are ultra low. Stocks, bonds, securities have all been bought up with central banks’ thin air money in such quantities that central banks have become the markets instead of regulating them.

The reality of central bank stimulus measures, such as QE 1,2,3,x, is as different from perception as that of credit default swaps. And their aim and function are very similar: to hide from sight the risks that exist inside the financial system. Both for CDS and for QE this so far works like a charm. The dark side is, however, that if no-one knows the real value of any assets anymore, they have no way of gauging the risks involved either.

Central banks’ policies today are geared towards one goal, and one only: that no-one will find out what anything at all is really worth. The very fact that the Chinese, Japanese, European and American central banks engage in this behavior in the first place should raise flaring red flag suspicions about actual values.

Both QE and CDS – along with many other “securities” – are weapons of mass deception. We live in a global economic system that has been intentionally deprived of the means to find out what assets are worth, and that’s not a coincidence. The system couldn’t survive in its present state if there were price discovery; real values and losses may have been hidden, but they haven’t gone away.

Values may have been artificially inflated, and losses artificially limited, but nothing of the underlying reality has changed. Quite the contrary: decisions are being made on a daily basis by governments, companies and individuals, based on the false assumptions about values, risks and losses that result from financial innovations specifically designed to produce an artificial portrait of where we stand.

The consequence is that no-one truly knows where they stand anymore, but almost everyone thinks they do, thinks that we’re in a rough patch, but otherwise doing fine, that we’re growing, just at a temporarily slow pace. While in reality, we haven’t grown in years, and have very little chance of doing so in the next decade, at least.

We don’t like the idea that everything we see that looks and feels good in this regard needs to be borrowed from somebody’s future. So we ignore it. We’re a sad lot, really, we can’t face our own truth. We’d rather sell our souls for a lie that makes us feel better for a fleeting moment. We all like to think our homes, our pensions, our investments are worth more than they are.

QE, CDS et al are “innovations” designed to take advantage of that.

“There’s something going on in derivatives land … ”

The Market Has Never Been More Fearful Of An Extreme Event (Zero Hedge)

“There’s something going on in derivatives land,” is the warning from ADM’s Andy Ash and as Paul Mylchreest notes the relationship between VIX and SKEW suggests the options market is pricing in the possibility of a major market event. The process enables professionals to maintain the illusion of calmness in VIX while hedging their positions (as they attempt to unwind as we have shown). Whether this ‘event’ is a crash or melt-up is historically unclear but given the taper and the trend of the last few years, we suspect the former more likely that the latter.

Via ADM Investor Services’ Paul Mylchreest: “A rather thought-provoking chart which we’ve been looking at is the ratio of the SKEW (the chance of an extreme or outlier event, i.e. OTM versus ATM options) versus the VIX (the expectations for more ‘normal’ day-to-day volatility – the price of hedging implied by ATM options)… and is an indicator of how the market is pricing the possibility of a potential black swan event. You can see how extended we are right now… (actually at record highs)

We can’t help wondering when Bill Gross tells the world that he is selling volatility, whether he is, in fact, selling ATM vol and buying OTM vol ??? While (curiously) 2000 didn’t register, the two previous highs in the SKEW/VIX ratio were 1994 and 2007 which turned out to be pivotal dates in terms of changes in market direction. One up and one down… Which does it look like this time?

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Abenomics is a disaster.

Bank of Japan At Risk Of QE Failure (CNBC)

The unprecedented quantitative easing (QE) program the Bank of Japan launched last year to revive the country’s stalled economy could be at risk of failure, Oxford Economics says. “Economic activity has indeed picked up since the QE program began early last year, but there are now serious warning signs that this progress may not be maintained,” Adam Slater, senior economist at Oxford Economics wrote in a report. The central bank’s large-scale asset purchases were designed to boost money supply growth, asset prices and inflation expectations while holding down interest rates. However, broad money growth slowed markedly in recent months and is now negative in real terms, a clear danger sign. “Higher inflation expectations have done little to boost credit demand so far, as continued aversion to debt among firms and households may be blunting the effectiveness of this channel,” he said.

In May, the broadest money supply measure grew just 2.7% on year, according to Oxford Economics. With headline inflation running at 3.2% in May, real broad money growth is negative. “This risks generating a significant economic slowdown – a slowdown in real broad money growth was a lead indicator of the downturns in 1998, 2005, 2009 and 2012,” Slater said. Meanwhile, the impact of monetary stimulus on asset prices is waning. QE aims to boost economic activity through shifting asset prices; for Japan, the two key prices are the stock market and the exchange rate. “Both of these asset prices have moved the ‘right way’ as a result of the QE program – stocks are up, and the exchange rate is down. But the big moves were a year ago or more, so the impact is starting to wane,” Slater said. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 has declined over 6% so far this year, after rising nearly 60% last year. The yen, meantime, has appreciated over 3% against the U.S. dollar, following 21% depreciation last year. [..]

“The Bank of Japan should have ensured that monetary stimulus was sufficiently strong to offset the drag from the consumption tax rises. Recent developments in broad money and credit suggest they have failed to do so, and recent communications do not suggest any urgency on the part of the BOJ to act,” he said. “The case for delaying the second planned consumption tax rise (scheduled for 2015) is growing increasingly strong,” he added. Ultimately, the BOJ’s inaction risks turning the QE program from a qualified success into a failure. “We have long expected the BOJ to add to its QE program but had generally assumed this would be a measured decision aimed at heading off lingering downside risks to growth and inflation. Now, the danger is increasing that this will instead be a tardy response to a significant deterioration in economic conditions,” he said.

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And then came the ….

Dollar Volatility at Record Low on Bets Fed to Keep Zero Rates (Bloomberg)

Expectations for price swings in the dollar-yen currency pair fell to a record as signs of an uneven U.S. economic recovery fueled bets the Federal Reserve will keep borrowing costs at unprecedented lows. The dollar was poised for declines this quarter against most of its 16 major counterparts before U.S. reports this week that economists said will show new home sales slowed and gross domestic product contracted more than earlier estimated. The pound was about 0.2% from the strongest level since 2008 before Bank of England Governor Mark Carney testifies today to U.K. lawmakers.

Taiwan’s dollar gained as quarterly equity inflows climb toward the most since 2009. “You would need to see some prospect of change in the trajectory of U.S. monetary policy” before you see any pickup in volatility, said Emma Lawson, a senior currency strategist at National Australia Bank Ltd. in Sydney. “We don’t expect the dollar to deteriorate, but equally, it’s not expected to really take off until we get some indication of a change.”

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Only expensive homes sell, because only the rich got richer.

Guess Who Is Propping Up The US Housing Market (Zero Hedge)

Moments ago the NAR released its May data, which on first blush was widely lauded as bullish: the topline print came at a 4.9% increase, rising from 4.65MM to 4.89MM, above the 4.74MM expected. Great news… if only on the surface. So what happens when one drills down into the detail? As usual, we focused on the last slide of the NAR breakdown, located at the very end of the supplementary pdf for good reason, because what it shows is hardly as bullish. So how does this “housing recovery” in which the NAR has proclaimed the “sales decline is over” look on a granular basis. The answer is below, and it is even worse than the April data. It also explains why first time buyers have dropped to even further cycle lows of just 27%, down from 29% both a month and year ago.

This is bad because while in April there was a modest increase sales in house buckets from $250 all the way up to $1MM +, in May the only bucket that had an increase in sales from a year ago was that exclusively reserve for the ultra-richest, i.e., those who benefit the most from the Fed’s non-trickle downing wealth effect policies. In fact, on a price bucket basis, the May data was unformly worse than April!

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It shouldn’t be used for Abe’s political purposes.

‘Japan Pension Fund Should Hold Cash After Dumping Bonds’ (Bloomberg)

The world’s biggest pension fund should consider sitting on cash after selling Japanese sovereign bonds, said the government’s top adviser on the overhaul, after the Topix (TPX) index of stocks rebounded 10% amid anticipation of retirement-plan buying. While the Government Pension Investment Fund must take the opportunity to sell debt amid central-bank stimulus that is holding down yields, there’s less pressure to invest the proceeds, said Takatoshi Ito, who led a panel that advised the government on overhauling the 128.6 trillion yen ($1.3 trillion) fund. GPIF should avoid buying into markets that have rallied on bets its purchases will boost prices, he said. “It’s OK if there’s a gap in timing between selling JGBs and buying Japanese stocks and overseas assets,” Ito, a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, said in a June 19 interview.

“If they hold cash and short-term bills, they also have the option of buying back some bonds after yields finish rising.” The Topix surged 10% from a May 21 low through yesterday, outpacing a global stock rally, as investors speculated that inflows from the world’s biggest pension fund would accelerate. GPIF may change its strategy as soon as August, and putting 20% of its assets into local stocks wouldn’t be too much, Yasuhiro Yonezawa, who heads its investment committee, told the Nikkei newspaper this month. GPIF should cut its target holdings of domestic bonds to 40% from 60%, while boosting local shares to 20% from 12%, Ito said. After completing his role advising on pensions, Ito currently heads a Ministry of Finance panel working on reviving Japan’s capital markets.

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The whole economy will have huge problems with rising rates.

Bond Market Has $900 Billion Mom-and-Pop Problem When Rates Rise (Bloomberg)

It’s never been easier for individuals to enter some of the most esoteric debt markets. Wall Street’s biggest firms are worried that it’ll be just as simple for them to leave. Investors have piled more than $900 billion into taxable bond funds since the 2008 financial crisis, buying stock-like shares of mutual and exchange-traded funds to gain access to infrequently-traded markets. This flood of cash has helped cause prices to surge and yields to plunge. Now, as the Federal Reserve discusses ending its easy-money policies, concern is mounting that the withdrawal of stimulus will lead to an exodus that’ll cause credit markets to freeze up. While new regulations have forced banks to reduce their balance-sheet risk, analysts at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) are focusing on the problems that individual investors could cause by yanking money from funds.

There’s a bigger risk “that when the the Fed starts hiking in earnest, outflows from high-yielding and less-liquid debt will lead to a free fall in prices,” JPMorgan strategists led by Jan Loeys wrote in a June 20 report. “In extremis, this could force a closing of the primary market and have serious economic impact.” Last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said she didn’t see more than a moderate level of risk to financial stability from leverage or the ballooning volumes of debt. Even though it may be concerning that Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data shows yields on junk bonds have plunged to 5.6%, the lowest ever and 3.4%age points below the decade-long average, the outlook for defaults does look pretty good.

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” … it will be 10 to 20 years before the potential growth rate rises”. Japan doesn’t have 10 to 20 years.

Japan’s Abe Unveils ‘Third Arrow’ Of Reforms, Disappoints (Reuters)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unveiled a package of measures on Tuesday aimed to boost Japan’s long-term economic growth, from phased-in corporate tax cuts to a bigger role for women and foreign workers, but applause from investors is likely to be muted after Tokyo backpedaled on bolder reforms. Abe took office 18 months ago pledging to end deflation and generate sustainable growth with a three-pronged strategy of monetary easing, fiscal spending and reform. Experts say the latest installment of his so-called “Third Arrow” of long-term economic policies, most of which had been trailed in advance, is a step in the right direction, but want to see how they are fleshed out and implemented. Private economists surveyed by Reuters forecast that the plan could boost Japan’s potential growth rate by 0.2-1.5 percentage points from its current level of around 0.5%. But they noted that it would take time.

“Even after the government growth strategy is announced, various legislation must be enacted and it will take time for companies to begin to act. Therefore, it will be 10 to 20 years before the potential growth rate rises,” said Kenji Yumoto, vice chairman of the Japan Research Institute. Yumoto said it was possible, but very difficult, for Japan to hit the 2% growth level the government says is needed to reduce its mammoth public debt. Among the steps outlined so far is a future cut in Japan’s effective corporate tax rate – among the highest in the world – to below 30% over the next several years, and a promise to reform the $1.26 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund in ways likely to reallocate more money to the stock market.

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At least it would be in tune with the entire casino theme.

Better A Lucky Central Banker Than A Correct One? (CNBC)

Better a lucky governor than one who’s always right. At least, that’s what Mark Carney will be hoping for as he faces politicians on Tuesday – almost a year to the day since he took over as Bank of England Governor. After all, the Treasury Select Committee could find plenty of things to quiz Carney about. A starter for 10 would be his scattergun communication record on interest rates. His volte face on rates this month caused short-term borrowing costs to spike in the biggest one-day jump since 2009, back when the U.K. was in the midst of a financial crisis.

The Monetary Policy Committee minutes may say the Bank was surprised a rate rise hadn’t been factored in earlier – but most participants would argue they had simply trusted the governor. But it’s not just Carney’s credibility in the bond market that’s at question. The governor got it wrong on his unemployment target, on the pace of recovery in the U.K., and his fuzzy guidance has been, well, fuzzy, testing the patience of politicians and borrowers alike. Certainly, even Carney can’t pretend to have got it right in his forecasts about the pace of Britain’s recovery. Until recently, the “guidance” seemed to be that Carney was in no big hurry to raise rates – believing the economy was still fragile.

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Just give everyone $1000 a month for life, that would be much cheaper.

UK Living Wage Commission: End “National Scandal” Of Poverty (Telegraph)

Measures should be taken to cut the number of low-paid workers by a million to end the “national scandal” of poverty, according to a new report. A year-long study by the Living Wage Commission recommended a series of “low-cost” moves to tackle low pay, by building on the UK’s economic recovery. The commission, chaired by Archbishop of York John Sentamu, said increasing the pay of half a million public sector workers to the Living Wage could be more than met by higher tax revenues and reduced in-work benefits from a similar number of employees in private firms. Professional service firms such as accountancy, banks and construction companies could boost the pay of 375,000 workers if they agreed to pay the Living Wage, currently set at £8.80 an hour in London and £7.65 elsewhere, compared to the national minimum wage of £6.31, said the report.

The commission, made up of business, union and voluntary sector leaders, said extending the Living Wage depended on the Government adopting a goal to increase the voluntary take up of the companies payinh higher rate to at least a million more workers by 2020, otherwise families will continue to rely on food banks and “unsustainable debt”. Dr Sentamu said: “Working and still living in poverty is a national scandal. For the first time, the majority of people in poverty in the UK are now in working households. “The campaign for a Living Wage has been a beacon of hope for the millions of workers on low wages struggling to make ends meet. If the Government now commits to making this hope a reality, we can take a major step towards ending the strain on all of our consciences. Low wages equals living in poverty.”

Dr Adam Marshall, director of policy and external affairs at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The return to economic growth means that many employers are now looking again at increasing levels of pay for their employees after a tough period for business. “Many thousands of companies already pay their employees a Living Wage, and many more have an aspiration to do so. As the recovery gathers pace, they should be supported and encouraged to make this happen without facing compulsion or regulation, which could lead to job losses and difficulties – particularly for younger people entering the labour market.

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I think it’s Brussels that’s dragging down Europe.

France And Germany ‘Dragging Down’ Eurozone Recovery (Telegraph)

They are meant to be the powerhouses of Europe, but the latest figures show that the “core” economies of France and Germany are faltering while growth in the rest of the eurozone is at its strongest since pre-recession levels. France’s economy was hit by a steep downturn, and in Germany the pace of expansion was at its weakest in eight months, according to a flash reading of most recent Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) report by Markit. Across “peripheral” Europe – including the countries that were hit the hardest by the global financial crisis – output accelerated and growth is at the strongest since August 2007. Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said that these divergent trends between the “core” and “peripheral” countries of Europe were a “big concern”.

He said: “Although the survey suggests the eurozone as a whole should grow by at least 0.4pc in the second quarter, France appears to be entering a renewed downturn after GDP stagnated in the first quarter. “Germany meanwhile looks set to grow by 0.7pc or more in the second quarter, albeit with signs that the upturn is starting to lose momentum again. “It is the rest of the region, outside of France and Germany, which – as a whole – is seeing the strongest growth momentum at the moment, highlighting how the ‘periphery’ is recovering.” The PMI report showed that in France, business contracted for the second month running ad suffered the steepest downturn with headcounts cut at the fastest rate since February. Despite the slow increases that were recorded in both the manufacturing and service sectors in Germany, the latter remained optimistic about prospects for output growth in the year ahead, with positivity hitting a three year high.

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Trojan horse story.

Berlin Is Playing With Fire Over The EU’s Top Job (Open Europe)

The fight over the appointment of the next European Commission President has reached fever pitch and left David Cameron facing the prospect of being the first EU leader ever to be outright outvoted on the matter. It would set a range of unfortunate precedents for the UK – as a new Open Europe briefing explains here. However, it would also set a very worrying precedent – and be a big gamble – for Berlin. Many representatives of Germany’s chattering classes have chosen to throw their weight behind the idea of “Spitzenkandidaten” – the notion that the European Parliament, rather than EU leaders, appoints the Commission President. Somehow, Jean-Claude Juncker has been depicted as the “people’s choice” and David Cameron the chief enemy of democracy.

There are a range of complicated reasons behind this odd series of events, including Merkel’s own coalition partner, the SPD, successfully cornering her over her decidedly lukewarm support for a candidate she herself had endorsed. Now, it’s Europe’s worst kept secret that Italy’s Matteo Renzi and France’s Francois Hollande are looking for a horse-trade: their votes for Juncker are conditional on greater flexibility in the eurozone’s rules on budget deficits, the very opposite of what Merkel and most Germans want. This has led mega-tabloid Bild – that backed Juncker a few weeks ago – to blast the “shabby haggling” over Juncker’s candidacy. It argued: “Juncker should be warned and be made aware that he must not be a chief at the mercy of Southern Europe.”

The irony of a process intended to boost transparency now being concluded via various backroom deals should not be lost on anyone. However, for Germany it also poses two huge risks going forward. First, this may set a troublesome anti-Ordnungspolitik precedent. A candidate to head the European Commission with an alleged “public mandate” who promised the Mediterranean block goodies in return for support under Qualified Majority Voting (meaning that Germany, like the UK, has no veto) surely must be Berlin’s worst nightmare. What if the next Commission President chosen by the Eurobond friendly European Parliament campaigns on a platform of debt pooling and laxer fiscal rules (on the latter, the Commission does have a key role). Berlin is just about to give away even more control over one of its key post-World War pillars.

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These guys already cooperate much more than they compete; they have the same goals. My bet is some sort of merger comes out of this and then a name change, in the same fashion that Blackwater became Academi, a brilliant name for an ordinary bunch of mercenaries. Wonder what they paid the guy who came up with it.

Monsanto Said to Have Weighed $40 Billion Syngenta Deal (Bloomberg)

The desire to avoid U.S. corporate taxes has now spread to agricultural giants – as a dead deal shows. Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company worth $64 billion, recently explored a takeover of $34 billion Swiss rival Syngenta in a transaction that would have allowed the U.S. firm to move its tax location to Switzerland. The deal, which is now defunct according to people familiar with the matter, is another sign of how U.S. firms in many sectors are trying to avoid corporate taxes by moving their headquarters overseas. U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc. pursued U.K.- based AstraZeneca Plc, offering as much as $117 billion before abandoning the deal, while North Chicago, Illinois-based AbbVie. is chasing Dublin-based Shire for $46.5 billion.

Monsanto and Syngenta held preliminary talks with advisers in the past few months about a combination before Syngenta’s management decided against negotiations, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks were private. Company officials also spoke informally with each other about a potential deal, two of the people said. There were concerns about the strategic fit, antitrust issues and relocating the company to Switzerland for tax reasons, they said. The talks, which valued Syngenta at more than $40 billion, fizzled out in late May, one of the people said. An additional concern was that U.S. politicians would close the inversion loophole, thereby removing that benefit, another person said.

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How to communicate collapse.

Answers to Tough Questions (Dmitry Orlov)

1. How can we communicate the reality of collapse to family and friends in ways that are constructive rather than destructive and find helpful ways to reflect our “endarkenment” in our everyday behavior?

“In many cases I don’t think it’s possible to communicate the reality of collapse to family and friends, because some people are simply unable to shake themselves loose from the dominant paradigm of endless growth, and will go to their graves believing that a return to growth is just around the corner, regardless of all evidence to the contrary. There are many intelligent, educated people—chairmen of central banks and professors of economics—who believe in infinite growth, even though it is mathematically impossible, and they are educated in math. Given this level of denial, how can I even start to communicate collapse to my wife if she believes in infinite growth, while neither of us are professors of economics?” “If friends and family have a vested interest in the status quo, they will stay with it. It doesn’t matter if it’s crumbling or increasingly insecure. It’s a bit like the scenario depicted in E.M. Forster’s old story ‘The Machine Stops.’

Inertia and reluctance to make abrupt changes is a major factor—not only for others but for oneself. And exactly what alternative is on offer? Jettison one’s attachment to the current status quo—for what exactly? What is one to do if one has a job and needs it to put food on the table? The consequence is that as the ship goes down, the passengers remain willfully oblivious, and even the few who do know what’s going on are confused about what is to be done.” “If you can’t fix this problem then you are on your own—and lost. It took each of us a lifetime to build our closest family relationships and we are not going to be able to walk out on them and start afresh. It also took us a long time to get to our individual understandings of where we are in terms of collapse, and there is no shortcut—so the answer is patience, mutual tolerance, and facilitating the learning process in one’s nearest circle.”

“I’ve warned everyone I know about imminent collapse. Now I no longer have any friends. But seriously, I approach it from a different angle altogether, where preparing for collapse becomes logical from the standpoint of offering a less threatening reality. For example, start by discussing medicinal plants as a way of resolving health issues. Then extend that discussion to freedom from expensive doctors and costly pharmaceuticals. Then project it further to the joys of developing the personal security and independence from large bureaucratic systems, Before you know it, you can talk about collapse without ever dropping the ‘C’ word.”

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In cases like this, it’s safe to take the worst case scenario, because things always get even worse than that.

Britain’s Nuclear Clean-Up Bill May Soar To $370 Billion (Telegraph)

The bill for cleaning up Britain’s nuclear waste has topped £110bn, after a £6.6bn increase in the cost estimate for work required over the next 120 years The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said that the biggest increase derived from a fresh assessment of the work required at Sellafield, the country’s biggest and most toxic nuclear site. Sellafield, in Cumbria, is now estimated to cost £79.1bn to clean up, but the NDA warned that the total would “increase significantly next year” once it had fully assessed a new “performance plan” for the site.

The NDA controversially renewed a contract with Nuclear Management Partners to manage Sellafield despite fierce criticism from MPs on the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office of the company’s performance. The NDA’s annual report and accounts make clear the huge scale of uncertainty that exists over the ultimate bill for Britain’s civil and military nuclear waste. It says it has “reviewed a number of scenarios with a range of possible outcomes” and found that “the estimated cost could have a potential range from £88bn to £218bn”. The figure of £110bn is on an “undiscounted” basis. Once discounted, the total is £65bn.

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World Posted Warmest May on Record as Oceans Heat Up (Bloomberg)

The world had its warmest May in more than a century as the planet’s oceans also set a record for heat, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The globe’s combined land and sea temperature for May was 59.93 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 Celsius), or 1.33 degrees warmer than the 20th century average, breaking the mark of 1.3 degrees set in 2010, NOAA said in a monthly climate report today. “The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for May 2014 was the highest for May since record keeping began in 1880,” the agency said. “The last below-average global temperature for May occurred in 1976 and the last below-average temperature for any month occurred in February 1985.”

The oceans contributed the most to the overall temperature, with a record of 62.4 degrees, while the period from January to May was the fifth-warmest start to any year, NOAA said. In the Arctic, ice covered 4.9 million square miles, 4.6% below the 1981-2010 average, or the third-smallest extent for May since record-keeping began in 1979, NOAA’s National Snow and Ice Data Center said. Antarctic sea ice covered 4.6 million miles, the most for May on record.

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Welcome to the New Warm Normal: Global Temps Break Another Record (Bloomberg)

The average temperature of Earth’s surface last month exceeded all other Mays before it, since recordkeeping began in 1880, according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. The monthly temperature was 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the average May. That may not seem like much, but on a planetary scale, it’s huge. It ties the highest departure from average for any single month, in weather records that predate electric lights in Manhattan. But the truly disturbing part isn’t that we’ve hit a new record. It’s that we live in a season of new records. This may be the the new warm normal.

To find previous hottest Mays, you don’t have to search far; four of the five hottest Mays on record have occurred since 2010. More difficult is finding a cool May. The last time the month fell below its 20th-century average was 39 years ago. The planetary hot streak is driven by rapidly rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. Global warming is already being felt around the world, resulting in bigger heat waves, rising seas and changing patterns of precipitation. No one under age 30 has been alive for a single month when the planet’s average surface temperature was below average.

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The more it’s clear that and why we should leave ban chemicals from our soils and food, the more power the old chemical giants like Monsanto and Bayer get.

Insecticides Put World Food Supplies At Risk (Guardian)

The world’s most widely used insecticides have contaminated the environment across the planet so pervasively that global food production is at risk, according to a comprehensive scientific assessment of the chemicals’ impacts. The researchers compare their impact with that reported in Silent Spring, the landmark 1962 book by Rachel Carson that revealed the decimation of birds and insects by the blanket use of DDT and other pesticides and led to the modern environmental movement. Billions of dollars’ worth of the potent and long-lasting neurotoxins are sold every year but regulations have failed to prevent the poisoning of almost all habitats, the international team of scientists concluded in the most detailed study yet. As a result, they say, creatures essential to global food production – from bees to earthworms – are likely to be suffering grave harm and the chemicals must be phased out.

The new assessment analysed the risks associated with neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides on which farmers spend $2.6bn (£1.53bn) a year. Neonicotinoids are applied routinely rather than in response to pest attacks but the scientists highlight the “striking” lack of evidence that this leads to increased crop yields. “The evidence is very clear. We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment equivalent to that posed by organophosphates or DDT,” said Jean-Marc Bonmatin, of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, one of the 29 international researchers who conducted the four-year assessment.

“Far from protecting food production, the use of neonicotinoid insecticides is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it.” He said the chemicals imperilled food supplies by harming bees and other pollinators, which fertilise about three-quarters of the world’s crops, and the organisms that create the healthy soils which the world’s food requires in order to grow. Professor Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, another member of the team, said: “It is astonishing we have learned so little. After Silent Spring revealed the unfortunate side-effects of those chemicals, there was a big backlash. But we seem to have gone back to exactly what we were doing in the 1950s. It is just history repeating itself. The pervasive nature of these chemicals mean they are found everywhere now. “If all our soils are toxic, that should really worry us, as soil is crucial to food production.”

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We ditched the precautionary principle in favor of profits long ago. There’s a price to pay for that.

Autism, Developmental Delays Linked To Pesticide Exposure During Pregnancy (RT)

Exposure to several common agricultural pesticides during pregnancy increases the risk of developmental delays and autism in children by two-thirds, a new study found. While researchers did not say pesticides cause autism, a direct link is plausible. Researchers at the University of California, Davis’ MIND Institute tracked associations with specific classes of pesticides (including organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates) and later diagnoses of autism and developmental delay in children. They used maps from the California Pesticide Use Report (1997-2008) and the addresses of expectant mothers to track women’s exposure to agricultural pesticide spraying during their pregnancies. Developmental delay, in which children take extra time to reach communication, social or motor skills milestones, affects about four% of US. kids, the authors wrote.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), also marked by deficits in social interaction and language. Of the 970 children covered by the study, 486 had an ASD, 168 had developmental delays and 316 had typical development. “We mapped where our study participants’ lived during pregnancy and around the time of birth. In California, pesticide applicators must report what they’re applying, where they’re applying it, dates when the applications were made and how much was applied,” principal investigator Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a MIND Institute researcher and professor and vice chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis, said in a statement. “What we saw were several classes of pesticides more commonly applied near residences of mothers whose children developed autism or had delayed cognitive or other skills.”

The Northern California-based Childhood Risk of Autism from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study was published online in Environmental Health Perspectives. It found that approximately one-third of the study participants lived in “close proximity” (just under one mile) of commercial pesticide application sites. “This study of ASD strengthens the evidence linking neurodevelopmental disorders with gestational pesticide exposures, and particularly, organophosphates and provides novel results of ASD and DD associations with, respectively, pyrethroids and carbamates,” the researchers said in the study. Proximity to organophosphates at some point during gestation was associated with a 60% increased risk for ASD, researchers said.

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