Jun 292019
 
 June 29, 2019  Posted by at 10:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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


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

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Mostly it all just sounds stupid to me.

Not A Rate-Cut Economy (WS)

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

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


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

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The sooner the Fed is gone the better.

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

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


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

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No more global player.

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

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

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


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

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They should always talk.

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

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


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

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India and Iran.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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They still pretend it’s about software.

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

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


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

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There we go…

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

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

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


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

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Tidings from the Empire.

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

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

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


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

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

Say Anything! (Kunstler)

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


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

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Jun 282019
 
 June 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Salvador Dali Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion 1930

 

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

 

 

Brought to you by the world’s richest country.

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

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


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

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

America’s Monopoly Crisis Hits the Military (AC)

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

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

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

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Well, they can still make cars…

US Car Industry Is Killing Itself (WS)

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

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


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

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Nothing a little QE won’t fix?!

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

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

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

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

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Not the Onion.

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

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


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

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Lowballing.

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

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

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

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

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Europe likes Iran just the way it is.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Concentrate.

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

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


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

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The story gets uglier by the day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mass suicide.

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

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

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

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

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Jun 172019
 


Pablo Picasso The sculptor and his statue 1933

 

The Bleak Mood Of Pre-Brexit UK (O.)
Boeing May Never Recover From 737 Debacle (Auerback)
Huawei Prepares For 40%-60% Fall In International Smartphone Shipments (R.)
Huawei Moves To Russia-China Operating System (Escobar)
Deutsche Bank To Set Up €50 Billion Bad Bank (R.)
How Wall Street Got Rich Off The Fresh Market Deal (Cohan)
Japan Demands More Proof From US That Iran Attacked Tankers (JT)
The S-400 Is a Formidable Threat to US Arms Industry (Pieraccini)
While Lam Relents, Hong Kong Calls Massively For Her Ouster (AT)
Chinese Activists Seek UN Investigation Into Tiananmen Crackdown (R.)

 

 

Broken. Completely.

The Bleak Mood Of Pre-Brexit UK (O.)

The survey by BritainThinks reveals an astonishing lack of faith in the political system among the British people, with less than 6% believing their politicians understand them. Some 75% say that UK politics is not fit for purpose. As the Conservative party focuses on who its new leader should be, and the Brexit impasse continues with no solution in sight, 86% think the UK needs a strong leader more than ever – but only 21% think the next prime minister, whoever it may be, will be up to the job. Some 52% believe the country is heading for a Boris Johnson premiership.

Pollster Deborah Mattinson said she was shocked by the findings. “I have been listening to people in focus groups since the late 1980s and I cannot recall a time when the national mood was more despairing. ‘Broken’, ‘sad’, ‘worried’, ‘angry’– the negatives tumble out, as does the long list of grievances. I’m hearing anxieties voiced in a way that I haven’t heard since the 1990s: a rundown NHS, job insecurity, teacher shortages.” BritainThinks polled more than 2,000 people and hosted several focus groups in London and Leicester to gauge the national mood.

Almost three-quarters of the British public believe the divisions on Brexit between Leavers and Remainers will deepen and get worse within the next year. Two-thirds feel depressed by rising poverty and homelessness. While people say Brexit has made them more politically engaged – 40% are paying more attention since the 2016 referendum, rising to 50% in those aged between 18 and 24 – the polling suggests the bitter political debate over leaving the EU has shattered public trust in the way the nation is governed. Some 83% feel let down by the political establishment and almost three-quarters (73%) believe the country has become an international laughing stock and that British values are in decline.

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Ralph Nader says the 737 MAX should never fly again.

Boeing May Never Recover From 737 Debacle (Auerback)

Many of us are familiar with the acronym “FUBAR.” A recent New York Times article on the Boeing 737 fiasco provides a perfect illustration of the concept. We’re now learning that the company “built deadly assumptions” into its newly designed 737 Max aircraft and, specifically, its Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). Even worse, the Times account concludes that the recent air crashes that have resulted in a worldwide grounding of the Boeing Max plane “might have been avoided, if employees and regulators had a better understanding of MCAS” and if the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) itself was not operating with outdated data on the software changes (which Boeing failed to provide).

The analysis is excellent as far as it goes. But the most damning fact only briefly hinted at in the article is that the problems were evident as early as 2012, some five years before the newest 737 version was marketed and sold across the globe. “At its core, this was a hardware problem, not a software issue. Even when Boeing was using a relatively “safer” version of the early MCAS software (that was later changed to a more dangerous version), the new 737 still had an engine too large to be accommodated in its traditional spot on the plane, which ultimately distorted “the relationship between the engine’s ‘thrust’ and its center of gravity,” as I’ve written before. The resultant aerodynamic problems could not be solved with a software “solution,” no matter how “safe” the original MCAS version (that was ultimately changed to an even more dangerous version) was purported to be.”

Just don’t expect any blowback from Washington. The whole episode provides yet another sick illustration of how the entire system of governance in the US has degenerated into a fully fledged “predator state.” About the only good thing that might emerge from this whole fiasco is that Boeing will provide future Master of Business Administration students with a textbook example of how not to manage a crisis. Likewise, future historians and political scientists will marvel in incredulity at the magnitude of corruption that enveloped the US during this very dark time in the life of the republic. Assuming, of course, that there still anything left worth studying by that point.

[..] Recall that the genesis of this disaster was a problem of hardware, not just MCAS. The extra lift of the far larger-diameter engines of the 737 Max (placed on a different position on the wing) caused the plane to pitch up whenever it approached stall angles of attack at both high and low speeds. This is a problem that should have become glaringly obvious to the greenest of aerodynamics personnel at Boeing the moment the first wind-tunnel model was tested at angles of attack higher than stall (it may have even been obvious on even earlier fluid-dynamics computer-simulation results).

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“.. In order to offset overseas decline, Huawei is aiming to grab up to half of China’s smartphone market in 2019..”

Huawei Prepares For 40%-60% Fall In International Smartphone Shipments (R.)

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is preparing for a 40% to 60% decline in international smartphone shipments, Bloomberg reported on Sunday. The Chinese technology company is looking at options that include pulling the latest model of its marquee overseas smartphone, the Honor 20, according to the article, which cited people familiar with the matter. The device will begin selling in parts of Europe, including Britain and France, on June 21, the report said. Executives will be monitoring the launch and may cut off shipments if the sales are poor, it said. Marketing and sales managers at the tech giant are internally expecting a drop in volumes of anywhere between 40 million to 60 million smartphones this year, the report said. In order to offset overseas decline, Huawei is aiming to grab up to half of China’s smartphone market in 2019, Bloomberg said.

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Be careful what you wish for. Sanctions made Russia stronger too.

Huawei Moves To Russia-China Operating System (Escobar)

Google cuts Huawei off Android; so Huawei may migrate to Aurora. Call it mobile Eurasia integration; the evolving Russia-China strategic partnership may be on the verge of spawning its own operating system – and that is not a metaphor. Aurora is a mobile operating system currently developed by Russian Open Mobile Platform, based in Moscow. It is based on the Sailfish operating system, designed by Finnish technology company Jolla, which featured a batch of Russians in the development team. Quite a few top coders at Google and Apple also come from the former USSR – exponents of a brilliant scientific academy tradition.

In 2014, Russian entrepreneur Grigory Berezkin started co-owning Jolla, and from 2016 his Mobile Platform company started developing a Russian version of the operating system. In 2018, Rostelecom, a state company, bought a 75% share in Open Mobile Platform. Ahead of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum last week, Huawei chairman Guo Ping discussed the possibility of adopting Aurora with Russian minister of digital development and communications, Konstantin Noskov. According to Guo, “China is already testing devices with the Aurora pre-installed.” In Moscow, before moving to St Petersburg, Presidents Putin and Xi Jinping discussed multiple possible deals; and these include Huawei-Aurora, as well as where to locate some of Huawei’s production lines in Russia.

Aurora could be regarded as part of Huawei’s fast-evolving Plan B. Huawei is now turbo-charging the development and implementation of its own operating system, HongMeng, a process that started no less than seven years ago. Most of the work on an operating system is writing drivers and APIs (application programming interfaces). Huawei would be able to integrate their code to the Russian system in no time. HongMeng, for its part, is a key project of Huawei 2012 Laboratories, the innovation, research and technological development arm of the Shenzhen colossus. No Google? Who cares? Tencent, Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo are already testing the HongMeng operating system, as part of a batch of one million devices already distributed.

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Mutti is not happy.

Deutsche Bank To Set Up €50 Billion Bad Bank (R.)

Deutsche Bank is planning to overhaul its trading operations by creating a “bad bank” to hold tens of billions of euros of assets and shrinking or shutting its U.S. equity and trading businesses, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. The bad bank would house or sell assets valued at up to 50 billion euros ($56.06 billion)- after adjusting for risk – and comprise mainly long-dated derivatives, the FT reported, citing four people briefed on the plan. With the creation of the bad bank, Chief Executive Officer Christian Sewing is shifting the German lender away from investment banking and focusing on transaction banking and private wealth management, the newspaper said.


As part of the restructuring, the lender’s equity and rates trading units outside continental Europe will be shrunk or closed entirely, the report said. The bank is planning cuts at its U.S. equities business, including prime brokerage and equity derivatives, to win over shareholders unhappy about its performance, four sources familiar with the matter told Reuters in May. “As we said at the AGM on May 23, Deutsche Bank is working on measures to accelerate its transformation so as to improve its sustainable profitability. We will update all stakeholders if and when required,” Deutsche Bank said in an emailed statement on Sunday in response to the FT report.

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Grand theft auto made legal.

How Wall Street Got Rich Off The Fresh Market Deal (Cohan)

Take the case of the March 2016, $1.36 billion cash buyout of a supermarket chain, Fresh Market, by Apollo Global Management, the firm started by Leon Black nearly 30 years ago that now manages more than $300 billion. In that deal Apollo teamed up with Ray Berry, the company’s founder, and his son, Brett, to buy out the company’s public stockholders. Before the buyout the Berrys owned about 10% of the public Fresh Market. They agreed to roll over that stake into the newly private Fresh Market, giving them about the same ownership in the private company—worth somewhere between $136 million and $930 million, if the alchemy of leveraged buyouts worked out. Apollo would own the remaining 90% of the equity of the private company.

Because the deal was, in effect, a management buyout of the company, Fresh Market set up a special three-member committee of independent directors to evaluate the Apollo proposal, as well as any others that might come in over the transom after the company decided to put itself up for sale shortly after September 1, 2015. As professional referees, the special committee hired JPMorgan Chase as its financial adviser, and Cravath, Swaine & Moore as one of its legal advisers. Their job was to evaluate the various proposals to buy Fresh Market, a collection of 186 stores in 27 states as of March 2016, and to make sure that the one chosen was, in the parlance of Wall Street, “fair” to the public shareholders of the company “from a financial point of view.”

That’s when things got interesting, especially since Apollo was the only final bid the company received. According to a class action shareholder lawsuit that is still wending its way through the Delaware Court of Chancery, Apollo used its long-standing financial ties to JPMorgan Chase and Cravath to co-opt the process for the benefit of itself and the Berrys, allowing them to buy the company on the cheap. In effect, the lawsuit alleges, by teaming up with the Berrys on an exclusive basis, Apollo was able to buy Fresh Market knowing that its competition for the company would be at a severe disadvantage, without being able to count on the Berrys support, and that JPMorgan Chase would likely bless the fairness of the deal.

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Japan, Germany, Corbyn…

Japan Demands More Proof From US That Iran Attacked Tankers (JT)

The Japanese government has been requesting the United States for concrete evidence to back its assertion that Iran is to blame for the attacks on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, government sources said Sunday. The request came after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a statement hours after the attacks blaming Iran but without offering proof. The Department of Defense later released a video allegedly showing an Iranian patrol boat removing an unexploded mine attached to the side of the Japanese-operated tanker Kokuka Courageous. But Japanese government officials remain unconvinced, the sources said. “The U.S. explanation has not helped us go beyond speculation,” said one senior government official.


Japan has been seeking more concrete evidence through various channels, including Foreign Minister Taro Kono who is likely to have made the request during a call with his counterpart on Friday, the sources said. Pompeo said in a press conference Thursday that the United States’ assessment was based on their “intelligence, the weapons used, the level of expertise needed to execute the operation, recent similar Iranian attacks on shipping, and the fact that no proxy group operating in the area has the resources and proficiency to act with such a high degree of sophistication.” A source close to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “These are not definite proof that it’s Iran.” “Even if it’s the United States that makes the assertion, we cannot simply say we believe it,” he said.

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AI at its best.

The S-400 Is a Formidable Threat to US Arms Industry (Pieraccini)

The US finds itself faced with a situation it has not found itself in over the last 50 years, namely, an environment where it does not expect to automatically enjoy air superiority. Whatever semblance of an air defense that may have hitherto been able to pose any conceivable threat to Uncle Sam’s war machine was rudely dismissed by a wave of cruise missiles. To give two prime examples that occurred in Syria in 2018, latest-generation missiles were intercepted and shot down by decades-old Russian and Syrian systems. While the S-400 system has never been employed in Syria, it is noteworthy that the Serbian S-125 systems succeeded in identifying and shooting down an American F-117 stealth aircraft during the war in the Balkans.

There is a more secret aspect of the S-400 that is little disclosed, either within Russia itself or without. It concerns the S-400’s ability to collect data through its radar systems. It is worth noting Department of Defense spokesman Eric Pahon’s alarm over Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400: “We have been clear that purchasing the S-400 would create an unacceptable risk because its radar system could provide the Russian military sensitive information on the F-35. Those concerns cannot be mitigated. The S-400 is a system built in Russia to try to shoot down aircraft like the F-35, and it is inconceivable to imagine.

Certainly, in the event of an armed conflict, the S-400’s ability to shoot down fifth-generation aircraft is a huge concern for the United States and her allies who have invested so heavily in such aircraft. Similarly, a NATO country preferring Russian to American systems is cause for alarm. This is leaving aside the fact that the S-400 is spreading around the world, from China to Belarus, with dozens of countries waiting in line for the ability to seal their skies from the benevolent bombs of freedom. It is an excellent stick with which to keep a prowling Washington at bay.

[..] The ability of the S-400 to collect data on both the F-35 and F-22 – the crown jewels of the US military-industrial complex – is a cause for sleepless nights for US military planners. What in particular causes them nightmares is that, for the S-400 to function in Turkey, it will have to be integrated into Turkey’s current “identification friend or foe” (IFF) systems, which in turn are part of NATO’s military tactical data-link network, known as Link 16.

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2 million. Beijing has said it stands behind her.

While Lam Relents, Hong Kong Calls Massively For Her Ouster (AT)

Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam issued a public apology Sunday evening (June 16) as hundreds of thousands of protestors dressed in black clogged the city’s streets in another massive protest demanding her resignation and the scrapping of a contentious bill that would allow for the extradition of suspects to mainland China. A day after Lam announced a surprise decision to indefinitely postpone the bill in a press conference on Saturday, the city’s leader vowed to “sincerely and humbly accept all criticism and to improve and serve the public” in a statement released at 8:30 pm as chanting crowds stood outside the gates of her office calling for her to step down.


“Carrie Lam’s press conference yesterday just made Hong Kong people angrier. We don’t think she will step down, but we must force her out,” said 27-year-old Chiew minutes before demonstrators began marching from Victoria Park in the scorching afternoon heat with the aim of forcing the government to rescind, rather than postpone, the controversial bill. Gripped by a surge of mass dissent, the Asian financial hub has been thrust into political crisis amid the largest political demonstrations and some of the worst scenes of violence since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. Organizers from the Civil Human Rights Front said almost two million people took part in Sunday’s march.


Protest organizers said almost two million people took part in a mammoth June 16 protest march. Photo: Nile Bowie

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Yeah, that’s going to happen.

Chinese Activists Seek UN Investigation Into Tiananmen Crackdown (R.)

More than 20 Chinese activists who took part in the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement called on Monday on the United Nations’ top human rights body to investigate Beijing’s deadly crackdown 30 years ago. Wang Dan and 21 others, backed by the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said they had submitted the complaint to the U.N. Human Rights Council, a Geneva forum which opens a three-week session on June 24. “We request the HRC investigate the gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms committed by the Chinese government during its military assault on peaceful protests,” they said in statement.


They also sought action over “the consistent pattern of human rights violations in persecuting Chinese citizens during the past three decades who broke the silence” about the events of June 3-4, 1989. The anniversary remains taboo in China. Beijing has not held a public inquiry nor permitted an independent investigation, the statement said. Beijing enjoys strong support among developing countries at the Human Rights Council, a 47-member state forum that has never adopted a resolution on China since being set up in 2006.

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May 212019
 


Albrecht Dürer Praying hands 1508

 

President Trump Takes Aim at the Military Industrial Complex (Cassandra)
Xi Sends Trump A Message: Rare-Earth Export Ban Is Coming (ZH)
US Judge Backs Democrats’ Request For Trump Financial Records (AFP)
Fed’s Powell: Business Debt No Subprime Crisis, But Still Merits Reflection (R.)
Deutsche Bank Death Spiral Hits New Low. European Banks Get Re-Hammered (WS)
The Missing Step (Craig Murray)
Battle Breaks Out For WikiLeaks Founder Assange’s Computers (Fox)
Joe Biden, The Tranquilizer (Jim Kunstler)
Nigel Farage Copied Italy’s Five Star Movement (G.)
Italian Dock Workers Refuse To Load Saudi Arms Ship Over Yemen War (RT)
New Ukraine President: “First Task” Is To “End War In Donbass” (ZH)
Yesterday The Definition of The Kilogram Changed Forever (SA)

 

 

It’s too contradictory to say such things after handing Bolton and Pompeo a job.

President Trump Takes Aim at the Military Industrial Complex (Cassandra)

President Donald Trump took aim at the military industrial complex in an interview with Fox News, saying that while he wants to bring troops home, “they never want to leave, they always want to fight.” The president was discussing Iran and how he prefers to solve tensions economically, but is up against people that would send “thousands of soldiers” into Syria if it was up to them. Hilton had asked the president if he could “reassure people you’re not looking for some kind of conflict in Iran?” His response was far different than his tough tweet about Iran on Sunday. “Well, I’m the one that talks about these wars that are 19 years (long), and people are just there. And don’t kid yourself, you do have a military industrial complex. They do like war,” Trump said in his interview with Fox News’s Steve Hilton.


“You know, In Syria with the caliphate, so I wipe out 100% of the caliphate that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have these crazy people going around, blowing up stores and blowing up things, these are seriously ill people…But I wiped out 100 percent of the caliphate,” Trump continued. “I said, I want to bring our troops back home — the place went crazy. They want to keep– you have people here in Washington, they never want to leave. I said, you know what I’ll do, I’ll leave a couple hundred soldiers behind, but if it was up to them they’d bring thousands of soldiers in.” Trump added, “someday people will explain it, but you do have a group, and they call it the military-industrial complex.” “They never want to leave, they always want to fight. No. I don’t want to fight, but you do have situations like Iran. You can’t let them have nuclear weapons. You just can’t let that happen,” Trump said.

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The problems with rare earth metals have been known for a long time. So preparations have been made. Weaponized?

Xi Sends Trump A Message: Rare-Earth Export Ban Is Coming (ZH)

Back in April of 2018, when the trade war with China was still in its early stages, we explained that among the five “nuclear” options Beijing has to retaliate against the US, one was the block of rare-earth exports to the US, potentially crippling countless US supply chains that rely on these rare commodities, and forcing painful and costly delays in US production as alternative supply pathways had to be implemented. As a result, for many months China watchers expected Beijing to respond to Trump’s tariff hikes by blocking the exports of one or more rare-earths, although fast forwarding one year later this still hasn’t happened. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, and overnight President Xi Jinping’s visit to a rare earths facility fueled speculation that the strategic materials will soon be weaponized in China’s tit-for-tat war [with] the US.

As Bloomberg reported overnight, shares in JL MAG Rare-Earth surged by the daily limit on Monday after Xinhua said the Chinese president had stopped by the company in Jiangxi, a scripted move designed to telegraph what China could do next. The reason for the dramatic market response is that the presidential visit flags policy priorities, and “rare earths have featured in the escalating trade spat between the U.S. and China.” Specifically, as Bloomberg notes, China raised tariffs to 25% from 10% on American imports, while the U.S. excluded rare earths from its own list of prospective tariffs on roughly $300 billion worth of Chinese goods to be targeted in the next wave of measures. And just in case the White House missed the message, Xi was accompanied on the trip to JL MAG by Liu He, the vice premier who has led the Chinese side in the trade negotiations.

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Lawyers laughing all the way to the bank. For years.

US Judge Backs Democrats’ Request For Trump Financial Records (AFP)

A US federal judge on Monday denied President Donald Trump’s efforts to quash a subpoena from Democratic lawmakers to release years of financial documents dating from before his time in the White House. The decision marked the first time that US courts have waded into the conflict pitting the president against the Democrats who, riding on their newfound majority in the House of Representatives, have opened a raft of probes into Trump. Trump, who says he is the victim of “harassment,” has refused to cooperate in the investigations focused on his tax returns, his finances or matters related to Russian efforts to tip the 2016 election in his favor. US District Judge Amit Mehta refused to block the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s subpoena for accounting firm Mazars USA pending litigation.


The lawmakers’ April 15 request for records dating back to 2011 followed testimony by Trump’s one-time lawyer Michael Cohen that his boss would often change the estimated value of his assets and liabilities on financial statements as he felt was needed for various purposes. On April 22, Trump and affiliated organizations and entities filed suit, requesting that the court declare the subpoena “invalid and unenforceable” as it questioned the legislative validity of the Democrats’ demands.] “So long as Congress investigates on a subject matter on which ‘legislation could be had,’ Congress acts as contemplated by Article I of the Constitution,” which guarantees the body its legislative powers, Mehta said. “Applying those principles here compels the conclusion that President Trump cannot block the subpoena to Mazars.”

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Unless his power is taken away, he will lead the US into oblivion.

Fed’s Powell: Business Debt No Subprime Crisis, But Still Merits Reflection (R.)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Monday dismissed comparisons between the rise of business debt to record levels in recent years and the conditions in U.S. mortgage markets that preceded the 2007-to-2009 economic crisis, but even so said caution was warranted. Comparisons to the years before the financial crisis are “not fully convincing” Powell said at an Atlanta Federal Reserve bank conference on financial markets, since the growth of debt seems in line with economic growth, debt service costs remain low, and the financial system is better positioned to absorb losses.


Despite that, he pointed to the lack of transparency about the funding sources and ultimate holders of corporate debt, and to risks that any economic downturn could worsen if indebted borrowers begin to fail as reasons for caution. “Business debt has clearly reached a level that should give businesses and investors reason to pause and reflect,” Powell said, with corporate borrowing at a record level of around 35 percent of corporate assets. Though growth in corporate debt has slowed lately, “another sharp increase…could increase vulnerabilities appreciably,” Powell said. That concern is another reason the Fed may be reluctant to cut interest rates, since lower borrowing costs could prompt firms to take on more debt.

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What you get when you don’t allow zombies to die.

Deutsche Bank Death Spiral Hits New Low. European Banks Get Re-Hammered (WS)

The amazing thing with Deutsche Bank shares is this: Since 2007, so for 12 years, bottom fishers have been routinely taken out the back and shot, every time, with relentless regularity – as have big institutional investors, from Chinese conglomerates to state-owned wealth funds, that thought they were picking the bottom. A similar concept applies to European banks in general. May 2007 was the high point. And it has been brutal ever since – 12 years of misery. Deutsche Bank shares dropped another 2.9% on Monday in Frankfurt, and closed at a new historic low of €6.64 after hitting €6.61 intraday. This time, the blame was put on UBS analysts that finally stamped “sell” on the stock, replacing their “neutral” rating. Deutsche Bank’s market cap is now down to just €13.8 billion. Shares have plunged 39% over the past 12 months and 60% since January 2018 (data via Investing.com):

The bank has been subject to years of revelations of shenanigans that span the palette. Once a conservative bank that primarily served its German business clientele in Germany and overseas, it decided to turn itself into a Wall Street high-flyer that caused its shares to skyrocket until May 2007, when it got tangled up in the Financial Crisis that then led to a slew of apparently never-ending hair-raising revelations, settlements with regulators, and huge fines. Since their death-spiral began in May 2007, Deutsche Bank shares have lost over 94% of their value. The UBS downgrade to sell came just in the nick of time:

[..] the stocks of European banks, as depicted by the Stoxx 600 Banks index – which tracks 44 representative banks – dropped 1.6% on Monday to the lowest level since January 9, 2019, and has plunged 30% since the end of January 2018. But going back 12 years, the plunge takes on different dimensions and parallels that of Deutsche Bank, with the index down 74% since May 2007, just bumping along the bottom, from hopeless to hope and back to hopeless:

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“The original Swedish request for Assange’s extradition was not issued by any court, but simply by the prosecutor.”

The Missing Step (Craig Murray)

In Sweden, prosecutors have applied to the Swedish courts to issue a warrant for Julian’s arrest. There is a tremendous back story to that simple statement. The European Arrest Warrant must be issued from one country to another by a judicial authority. The original Swedish request for Assange’s extradition was not issued by any court, but simply by the prosecutor. This was particularly strange, as the Chief Prosecutor of Stockholm had initially closed the case after deciding there was no case to answer, and then another, highly politically motivated, prosecutor had reopened the case and issued a European Arrest Warrant, without going to any judge for confirmation. [..] immediately after Assange lost his case against the warrant in the Supreme Court, the British government changed the law to specify that future warrants must be from a judge and not a prosecutor.

[..] The judgement against Assange in the UK Supreme Court on the point of whether the Swedish Prosecutor constituted a “judicial authority” hinged on a completely unprecedented and frankly incredible piece of reasoning. Lord Phillips concluded that in the English text of the EWA treaty “judicial authority” could not include the Swedish prosecutor, but that in the French version “autorite judiciaire” could include the Swedish prosecutor. The two texts having equal validity, Lord Phillips decided to prefer the French language text over the English language text, an absolutely stunning decision as the UK negotiators could be presumed to have been working from the English text, as could UK ministers and parliament when they ratified the decision.

[..] Sweden has not filed a request for arrest. Sweden is going through its judicial processes – which it skipped the first time – in order to decide whether or not to file a request for arrest. This gives Assange the opportunity to start the process of fighting the allegations, which he strenuously denies, in the Swedish courts. However at present his Swedish lawyer cannot access him in Belmarsh high security jail, which is typical of the abuses of process to which he is subject.

[..] Julian Assange revolutionised publishing by bringing the public direct access to massive amounts of raw material showing secrets the government wished to hide. By giving the public this direct access he cut out the filtering and mediating role of the journalistic and political classes. Contrast, for example, the Panama Papers which, contrary to promises, only ever saw less than 2% of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM intermediaries. Or compare Wikileaks to the Snowden files, the vast majority of which have now been buried and will never be revealed, after foolishly being entrusted to the Guardian and the Intercept. Assange cut out the intermediary role of the mediating journalist and, by allowing the people to see the truth about how they are governed, played a major role in undercutting public confidence in the political establishment that exploits them.

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“If anything surfaces, I can assure you it would’ve been planted,” he said. “Julian isn’t a novice when it comes to security and securing his information. We expected this to happen and protections have been in place for a very long time.”

Battle Breaks Out For WikiLeaks Founder Assange’s Computers (Fox)

On Monday, judicial authorities from Ecuador carried out an inventory of all the belongings and digital devices left behind at the London embassy following his expulsion last month from the diplomatic compound that had been his home the past seven years. It came as Sweden announced it was seeking Assange’s arrest on suspicion of rape, setting up a possible future tug-of-war with the United States over any extradition of Assange from Britain.

It’s not known what devices authorities removed from the embassy or what information they contained. But authorities said they were acting on a request by the U.S. prosecutors, leading Assange’s defenders to claim that Ecuador has undermined the most basic principles of asylum while denying the secret-spiller’s right to prepare his defense. “It’s disgraceful,” WikiLeaks’ editor in chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Ecuador granted him asylum because of the threat of extradition to the U.S. and now the same country, under new leadership, is actively collaborating with a criminal investigation against him.”

[..] Hrafnsson, who has visited the Australian activist in jail, said Assange saw his eviction coming for weeks as relations with President Lenin Moreno’s government deteriorated, so he took great care to scrub computers and hard drives of any compromising material, including future planned leaks or internal communications with WikiLeaks collaborators. Still, Hrafnsson said he fully expects Moreno or the Americans to claim revelations that don’t exist. He called Monday’s proceedings a “horse show” because no legal authority can guarantee Assange’s devices haven’t been tampered with, or the chain of custody unbroken, in the six weeks since his arrest. “If anything surfaces, I can assure you it would’ve been planted,” he said. “Julian isn’t a novice when it comes to security and securing his information. We expected this to happen and protections have been in place for a very long time.”

[..] According to the request for a detention order obtained by The Associated Press, Assange is wanted for “intentionally having carried out an intercourse” with an unnamed woman “by unduly exploiting that she was in a helpless state because of sleep.”

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Biden is damaged goods.

Joe Biden, The Tranquilizer (Jim Kunstler)

I call Mr. Trump the Golden Golem of Greatness for a reason (several really) but mainly for his seemingly implacable demeanor. He’s exactly like that folkloric figure from the mists beyond the Pale of Settlement, an animate hunk of impassive clay communing with spirits of the dead, blundering blindly about the land, scaring little children and turning the peasants’ blood to ice-water. You might even say he was conjured up by the very deacons of Wokesterism who now tremble at his every thundering footstep.

Uncle Joe Biden is surely the antidote to all that. He served four years under the Wokester Deacon-in-Chief, Mr. Obama, and cheerfully endured his ritual castration, rendering him harmless to all who must-be-believed, and other sub-categories of the aggrieved and oppressed. At 76, he is way older than anyone (anyone serious, that is) who ever ran for President before, perhaps bordering even on feeble, and that’s another plus: he couldn’t hurt a fly. At least not here in the States. He has no plans, apparently, to try to make America great again — but he still has a hearty appetite for international adventuring that might redound to the benefit of the US War industry and its handmaidens on K Street and Capitol Hill.

And, of course, Uncle Joe goes through these palliative motions of bringing tranquility to the Democratic scramble, his smile fixed, teeth gleaming, hair perfect, hand a’pumping, as ever more information emerges about the spectacular effrontery of his international money-grubbing while vice-president. He did what in Ukraine in 2014. And Uncle Joe’s son, Hunter, walked away with how many millions of dollars after being appointed to the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings? Uncle Joe even bragged to the Council on Foreign Relations about how he browbeat Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko into firing their equivalent of Attorney General, who was about to look into this fishy Burisma deal. And then there was the even bigger windful after Uncle Joe paid a call on China and Hunter’s shadowy company, Rosemont Seneca, landed a billion dollar private equity deal (whatever that means) from an equally shadowy company fronting for the Chinese government.

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If Casaleggio hadn’t suddenly died, M5S would have been much stronger.

Nigel Farage Copied Italy’s Five Star Movement (G.)

One day in January 2015, Nigel Farage gave his senior adviser, Raheem Kassam, an unusual bit of news. “On Monday, we’re going to Milano,” he said. (Farage always pronounced it “Mil-ar-no”, much to Kassam’s amusement.) “I was like: ‘What? Why?’” Kassam said. Farage, who was then the leader of the anti-European Union party Ukip, explained that they were going to sit down with Gianroberto Casaleggio. Kassam whipped out his phone and quickly Googled “Casaleggio” – he had never heard of him. Farage described Casaleggio to Kassam as the “genius behind Five Star”, the Italian political party that won a 25% vote share in 2013, the first national elections it had ever contested.

Nothing like this had happened before in modern Italian politics. Casaleggio and the comedian Beppe Grillo, who was famous in Italy for his rabble-rousing live shows, had founded the movement just four years earlier. They had largely built the Five Star Movement online, with remarkably little money or mainstream media attention. Five Star was only one step toward Casaleggio’s long-term ambition: to supplant parliament with an online democracy where citizens, highly informed through the internet, could fashion policy directly. Farage had “always been interested” in direct democracy, Kassam said, and in “turning everything over to the internet”. But Farage was more impressed by the fact that, after just a few years, Casaleggio’s largely online movement was on the verge of becoming Italy’s biggest political party.

He wanted to know how Casaleggio had done it – and then to replicate its success. In Milan, Farage was struck by how Casaleggio was using social media and the internet to create a new model for political communications. Five Star members were discussing and voting on policy and nominating and electing each other to run for office while being steeped in party propaganda, all on a single online platform. This made supporters feel as if the movement’s identity was emerging organically from their online interactions, while Casaleggio and Grillo could guide those interactions with messaging from above. What’s more, the “movement” was dominated by a private company owned by Casaleggio.

Five Star was in many ways less like a political party than a publicly traded company in which members were voting shareholders, but Casaleggio had the controlling stake. Farage left Milan “very excited” about bringing Five Star’s style of digital democracy to the UK, Kassam said. So did Farage’s ally Liz Bilney, who was also present at the Milan meeting and went on to found the pro-Brexit group Leave.EU. “If I was starting Ukip today,” Farage told the political scientists Matthew Goodwin and Caitlin Milazzo around that time, “would I spend 20 years speaking to people in village halls or would I base it on the Grillo model? I know exactly what I would do.”

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Governments try to make blood money. Workers do not.

Italian Dock Workers Refuse To Load Saudi Arms Ship Over Yemen War (RT)

Italian unions have refused to load cargo onto a Saudi ship carrying weapons, in protest against Riyadh’s war on Yemen. The dock workers have gone on strike, refusing to work until the ship leaves port in Genoa. While the Saudi Arabian ship, the Bahri-Yanbu, was expected to leave for Jeddah by the end end of the day, it seems the delivery might end up being rather late. After unsuccessful attempts to have the ship barred from docking in Italy altogether, it was greeted by banners and a protests as it arrived in port Monday. Workers were joined by human rights campaigners who oppose stocking the ship over fears the supplies will be used against the civilian population in Yemen.


The demonstrators held signs opposing the war and arms trafficking. “We will not be complicit in what is happening in Yemen,” union leaders said in a statement. Port officials have acknowledged that the generators that protesters fear may be used for military purposes have been blocked from being brought on board, but say some non-critical goods will still be loaded. Union leaders are scheduled to meet with the port’s prefects to discuss the impasse. The ship was loaded with weapons in Belgium, but successfully blocked from picking up additional arms at a French port as a result of a similar protest.

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Sounds hopeful for sure.

New Ukraine President: “First Task” Is To “End War In Donbass” (ZH)

There’s fresh hope that unrest in Donbass raging since 2014 could find resolution as Ukraine’s new president, comedian and presidential impersonator turned overnight real political leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was just sworn in on Monday, and immediately he is dissolving parliament and urging peaceful settlement in the country’s east. The 41-year old Zelenskiy said in translated comments via The Moscow Times: “Our first task is to end the conflict in the Donbass.” With a clear mandate from Ukrainian voters who overwhelmingly want to see an easing of tensions with Russia, and the exit of oligarchs from power to halt mass political corruption, he announced during the inauguration ceremony from Kiev he wants to achieve a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, even if it means losing his post.

In his much anticipated inauguration speech, Zelenskiy switched from Ukrainian to Russian to say: “I believe that the first step to begin this dialogue will be the return of all Ukrainian prisoners [held by Russia].” He further emphasized he would pursue peace at a cost to his reputation — “and, if need be, even this job” — according to The Moscow Times. Zelenkiy’s upset victory over Petro Poroshenko by a double-digit margin has led some to dub him the “Donald Trump of Ukrainian politics” given his outside the system status and willingness to break from the establishment on the question of dialogue with Russia. He promised Ukrainians that he would seek to do this “without losing our territory, never.”

The five-year long conflict in the east involving Russian-backed separatists who’ve severed ties from Kiev in a move for de facto independence has killed an estimated 13,000 people and has at times threatened to escalate to the level of western intervention. The billionaire chocolate magnate Poroshenko, who came to power as a result of the West-backed so-called Euromaidan revolution gave one parting shot during his concession speech: in the Kremlin, he said, “they believe that with a new inexperienced Ukrainian president, Ukraine could be quickly returned to Russia’s orbit of influence,” according to a translation by the LA Times.

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Nerds ‘R’ Us.

Yesterday The Definition of The Kilogram Changed Forever (SA)

Finally, 130 years after it was established, the kilogram as we know it is about to be retired. But it’s not the end: tomorrow, 20 May 2019, a new definition will be put in place – one that’s far more accurate than anything we’ve had until now. After the shift was unanimously voted in at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles at the end of last year, the change is now finally about to become official. Le kilogramme est mort, vive le kilogramme. Most people don’t think about metrology – the science of measurement – as we go about our day. But it’s vastly important. It’s not just the system by which we measure the world; it’s also the system by which scientists conduct their observations. It needs to be precise, and it needs to be constant, preferably based on the laws of our Universe as we know it.

But of the seven base units of the International System of Units (SI), four are not currently based on the constants of physics: the ampere (current), kelvin (temperature), mole (amount of substance) and kilogram (mass). “The idea,” explained Emeritus Director of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) Terry Quinn to ScienceAlert, “is that by having all the units based on the constants of physics, they are by definition stable and unaltering in the future, and universally accessible everywhere.” For example, a metre is determined by the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299792458 of a second. A second is determined by the time it takes for a caesium atom to oscillate 9,192,631,770 times.

A kilogram is defined by… a kilogram. No, literally. It’s a kilogram weight called the International Prototype of the Kilogram (IPK), made in 1889 from 90 percent platinum and 10 percent iridium, and kept in a special vault in the BIPM headquarters. [..] For the last few years, metrologists have been talking about the need for a new standard. Now, they’re finally ready to redefine the kilogram based on the Planck constant, the ratio of energy to frequency of a photon, measured to its most precise value yet only last year. “It is only now that we can define the kilogram in terms of a constant of physics – the Planck constant, the speed of light and the resonant frequency of the caesium atom,” Quinn explained.


One of the IPK copies in its double bell jars. (NIST)

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Apr 302019
 


Edouard Manet The absinthe drinker 1859

 

Ros Rosenstein Resigns (ZH)
Trump Sues Capital One, Deutsche Over Complying With Subpoenas (Fox)
Russia Military Budget Continues To Decline (AFP)
One Child Dies From Yemen War And Side Effects Every 12 Minutes (MEE)
Letter to Dennis A. Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing (Ralph Nader)
Boeing Told Southwest 737 MAX Alert Feature NOT ON By Default (RT)
Boeing Boss Rejects Accusations About 737 MAX Jets That Crashed (G.)
Assange Accuses Ecuadorian Diplomatic Staff In London Of Spying (RT)
Why is Maria Butina in Prison? (Ron Paul)
Tom Petty was Right (Jim Kunstler)
The Gilets Jaunes Are Winning, What’s Next? (OffG)
Globalization is Waning (CNBC)
Climate Change Being Fuelled By Soil Damage (BBC)
Antibiotic Resistance As Big A Threat As Climate Change (G.)

 

 

I wonder what we’ll learn about Rosenstein now he’s stepped down. Offering to wear a wire to spy on Trump is still a very curious issue.

Ros Rosenstein Resigns (ZH)

While long-expected, amid two chaos-ridden years as the Justice Department’s No.2, the day has finally come when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has reportedly sent his resignation letter to President Donald Trump, will leave post May 11. “I am grateful to you for the opportunity to serve; for the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations; and for the goals you set in your inaugural address: patriotism, unity, safety, education and prosperity,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote in the letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. In his letter, Mr. Rosenstein cited the Justice Department’s progress in executing the Trump administration’s agenda: fighting violent crime, combating the nation’s drug abuse crisis, toughening immigration enforcement and supporting local law enforcement. “Productivity rose, and crime fell,” he wrote.


“Our nation is safer, our elections are more secure and our citizens are better informed about covert foreign efforts and schemes to commit fraud, steal intellectual property, and launch cyberattacks,” he wrote. “We also pursued illegal leaks, investigated credible allegations of employee misconduct and accommodated congressional oversight without compromising law enforcement interests.” Mr. Rosenstein made no mention of the special counsel in his resignation letter, but instead, as WSJ reports, wrote of the Justice Department’s responsibility to avoid partisanship. “Political considerations may influence policy choices, but neutral principals must drive decisions about individual cases,” he wrote.

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“..allegations of potential foreign influence on the U.S. political process..”

Really? That’s what this is about?

Trump Sues Capital One, Deutsche Over Complying With Subpoenas (Fox)

President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit Monday against Deutsche Bank and Capital One in an attempt to block congressional subpoenas for his business records, claiming House Democrats are simply attempting to harass him. Politico reported that in a joint statement, Reps. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the Trump suit “meritless.” They claimed Trump’s suit was a tactic to delay accountability. Waters is the chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee and Schiff is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff said at the time that the subpoenas were part of an investigation “into allegations of potential foreign influence on the U.S. political process.”

Two House committees subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and several other financial institutions earlier this month as part of investigations into Trump’s finances. The lawsuit by Trump, his sons Donald Jr. and Eric and his daughter Ivanka, was filed in Manhattan federal court. The Trump Organization and the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust are among the other plaintiffs. The Trumps want a federal judge to declare the subpoenas unlawful and unenforceable. The lawsuit also seeks to block the financial institutions from disclosing information and complying with the subpoenas. [..] “This case involves congressional subpoenas that have no legitimate or lawful purpose,” the suit, obtained by The New York Times, said.

“The subpoenas were issued to harass President Donald J. Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses and the private information of the president and his family, and to ferret about for any material that might be used to cause him political damage. No grounds exist to establish any purpose other than a political one.”

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AFP headline was: “US military spending up for first time in 7 years”. But that’s not the story. It’s Russia. Even France spends more. And stories keep on coming about Russia threatening just about everyone.

Russia Military Budget Continues To Decline (AFP)

US military spending has risen for the first time in seven years, reflecting Trump administration policy, according to a new report released Monday by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Worldwide military spending also rose by 2.6 percent to $1.8 trillion overall last year, SIPRI calculated. It was the second year running the global figure has risen, bringing military spending to its highest level since 1988. “The increase in US spending was driven by the implementation from 2017 of new arms procurement programmes under the Trump administration,” said Aude Fleurant, director of SIPRI’s Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme.


The US figure alone of $649 billion was as much as the next eight highest military budgets. But Chinese as well as US spending helped push the overall spending figures for the year higher, said the report. China’s spending has risen 83 percent since 2009, bringing it up to second place, ahead of Saudi Arabia, India — which is modernising its armed forces — and France. [..] Russia meanwhile dropped out of the top five spenders, with its military budget declining since 2016, said the report. Western countries’ economic sanctions against Russia, in place since 2014 because of its conflict with Ukraine, have hit the country’s military budget.

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“..the vast majority of the victims of Yemen’s conflict are children under five..”

One Child Dies From Yemen War And Side Effects Every 12 Minutes (MEE)

By the end of 2019, fighting in Yemen will have claimed about 102,000 lives, according to new figures from the United Nations that indicate the war has killed far more people than previously reported. A UN-commissioned report by University of Denver also revealed that more Yemenis were dying of hunger, disease and the lack of health clinics and other infrastructure than from fighting. About 131,000 Yemenis will have died from these side effects of the conflict between the beginning in 2015 and the end of 2019, according to the 68-page study, called Assessing the Impact of War on Development in Yemen. The combined death toll from fighting and disease is 233,000, or 0.8 percent of Yemen’s 30 million-strong population.


Researchers also said that those five years of conflict will have cost Yemen’s economy $89bn. “It’s worse than people expected,” Jonathan Moyer, an assistant professor and lead author on the report, told Middle East Eye. “It’s one of the highest-impact internal conflicts since the end of the Cold War. On par with Iraq, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – conflicts with an impact on development that lasts for a generation.” According to Moyer, the vast majority of the victims of Yemen’s conflict are children under five. The report says that one child dies from the war and its side effects every 11 minutes and 54 seconds. Moyer’s team also projected forward, calculating Yemen’s losses if the war were to drag on until 2030. If fighting continues until then, the death toll would reach 1.8 million, the economy would have lost $657bn, 84 percent of Yemenis would be malnourished and 71 percent of them would live in extreme poverty, researchers said.

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Nader is Boeing’s biggest fear. He lost a niece in the Ethiopia crash.

Letter to Dennis A. Muilenburg, CEO of Boeing (Ralph Nader)

Dear Mr. Muilenburg: On April 4, 2019 you somewhat belatedly released a statement that “We at Boeing are sorry for the lives lost in the recent 737 MAX accidents. These tragedies continue to weigh heavily on our hearts and minds….” You added that a preliminary investigation made it “apparent that in both flights” the MCAS “activated in response to erroneous angle of attack information.” These and other remarks reflect years of mismanagement by Boeing executives, now tragically bearing bitter fruit. Your acknowledgement of the problems with the 737 MAX somehow escaped inclusion in your messages to shareholders, the capital markets and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It is now stunningly clear that your overly optimistic outlook on January 20, 2019 – after the Indonesian Lion Air crash – was misleading. Whatever the public learns, day after day about the troubles of your company, it is still far less than what Boeing knows will come out day by day, and not just about the deadly design of the 737 MAX. Your narrow-body passenger aircraft – namely, the long series of 737’s that began in the nineteen sixties was past its prime. How long could Boeing avoid making the investment needed to produce a “clean-sheet” aircraft and, instead, in the words of Bloomberg Businessweek “push an aging design beyond its limits?” Answer: As long as Boeing could get away with it and keep necessary pilot training and other costs low for the airlines as a sales incentive.

Boeing kept on this track until the competition from its only competitor, Airbus, came along with its A320neo. The year 2011 was a crucial period for the company. Top management was into preliminary work on a new aircraft and then panicked over Airbus’s success. To compete with Airbus, Boeing equipped the 737 MAX with larger engines tilted more forward and upward on the wings than prior 737’s. Thus began the trail of criminal negligence that will implicate the company and its executives.

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Contradictory reports. Boeing seems to have a foot in its mouth.

Boeing Told Southwest 737 MAX Alert Feature NOT ON By Default (RT)

Southwest Airlines, the largest Boeing 737 MAX customer, says Boeing told them a standard flight angle alert system had to be bought separately to be activated, contradicting the manual – and only after the deadly Lion Air crash. The system in question, officially known as the angle of attack (AOA) disagree light, is basically an indicator at a plane’s control board. The light is expected to go on whenever the aircraft’s nose pitches up or down too far, warning its pilots of a potentially dangerous situation. Such a light was a standard issue on earlier models of Boeing planes, and was expected to work in the same manner on the ill-fated MAX 737 planes – except it wasn’t – instead coming as part of an additional indicator package.


When the new planes were delivered to Southwest Airlines, the “lights were depicted to us by Boeing as operable on all MAX aircraft” regardless of purchasing the add-on, the airline operator said in a statement. The manual for the aircraft showed that as well, the company said. After the first deadly crash of a 737 MAX plane in October, operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air, Boeing notified Southwest that the indicators were actually not working by default. The company then promptly installed the optional package that made the warning lights function as the Southwest pilots had expected. Boeing, in a statement to CNBC, said the disagree lights would in the future be included as a standard feature – that is if the grounded jet returns to operations.

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There are no accusations, just a statement by the WSJ that the systems were not activated. That’s either true or it is not.

Boeing Boss Rejects Accusations About 737 MAX Jets That Crashed (G.)

The boss of Boeing has denied accusations that its two 737 Max aircraft involved in fatal crashes lacked an optional safety feature, which might have alerted the pilots to technical malfunctions that partly caused the accidents. “We don’t make safety features optional,” Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s chairman and chief executive, said at the company’s annual meeting in Chicago on Monday. “Every one of our airplanes includes all of the safety features necessary for safe flight.” A preliminary investigation into the Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crash last month found it was triggered by a faulty “angle of attack” sensor, which monitors the inflight position of the plane.

The erroneous readings from the sensor in turn activated the aircraft’s maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), an auto-pilot program that encourages the plane’s nose to dip down. [..] It was revealed over the weekend that Boeing had removed warnings about pitch sensor malfunction from the standard 737 Max (MCAS) safety package. The Wall Street Journal reported that the warning system, which was present in previous 737 models, was only operative on 737 Max jets if the operator airlines had paid for a package of additional safety features. “In this case again, as in most accidents, there are a chain of events that occurred. It is not correct to attribute that to any single item,” Muilenburg said.

“We know that there are some improvements that we can make to MCAS and we will make those improvements.” He told shareholders that software updates being carried out would make the grounded 737 Max fleet “one of the safest airplanes ever to fly”, adding: “Yet, we know we can always be better. We have a responsibility to design, build and support the safest airplanes in the sky. The recent accidents have only intensified our dedication to it.” [..] It was also revealed on Monday that four Boeing employees had called the Federal Aviation Administration to raise serious concerns about the 737 Max. The calls began coming in within hours of Ethiopian investigators releasing a preliminary report on the crash.

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“Ecuadorian law provides penalties of up to five years in prison for each violation mentioned in the complaint.”

Assange Accuses Ecuadorian Diplomatic Staff In London Of Spying (RT)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has filed a criminal complaint in Ecuador, accusing the diplomatic staff at the London embassy of spying on the whistleblower before leaking illegally obtained data to a third party for extortion. Lenin Moreno’s government violated Assange’s privacy by secretly recording the journalist’s daily activities starting from March 2018, said a complaint submitted Monday to the attorney general’s office in Ecuador on behalf of the whistleblower. It says the spying was conducted with the help of Promsecurity, a private contractor firm which administers electronic surveillance at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.


Naming three officials of the diplomatic mission, including Ambassador Jaime Marchán, as well as four members of Promsecurity, the complaint alleges that the government violated at least four counts of domestic law by illicitly monitoring Assange’s activity. Those involved apparently tried to extort €3 million from WikiLeaks threatening to publish audio, video and personal documents of Assange unless they get paid. Ecuadorian law provides penalties of up to five years in prison for each violation mentioned in the complaint. The matter is “very sensitive and complicated” Ecuadorian lawyer Carlos Poveda told reporters after filing the case in Quito, asking for the judiciary to investigate the case. The lawyer did not reveal to whom the Australian’s personal information had been leaked to, but noted that that the Spanish authorities are already investigating the extortion scheme.

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“Maria Butina was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Why is Maria Butina in Prison? (Ron Paul)

Russian gun rights activist and graduate exchange student Maria Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison last week for “conspiracy to act as a foreign agent without registering.” Her “crime” was to work to make connections among American gun rights activists in hopes of building up her organization, the Right to Bear Arms, when she returned to Russia. She was not employed by the Russian government nor was she a lobbyist on Putin’s behalf. In fact the Putin Administration is hostile to Russian gun rights groups. Nevertheless the US mainstream media and Trump’s Justice Department are treating her as public enemy number one in a case that will no doubt set the dangerous precedent of criminalizing person-to-person diplomacy in the United States.

The Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) was passed in 1938 under pressure from the FDR Administration partly to silence opposition to the US entry into World War II. While a handful of cases were prosecuted during the war, between 1966 and 2015 the Justice Department only brought seven FARA cases for prosecution. Though very few cases have been brought on FARA violations, one of them was against Samir Vincent, who was paid millions of dollars by Saddam Hussein to lobby for sanctions relief without registering. He got off with a fine and “community service.” Millions of dollars in unregistered payments from Saddam Hussein gets no jail time, while Butina gets 18 months in prison for privately promoting a cause most Americans support! How is this justice?

The US Justice Department is not even as tough on illegals who commit capital crimes in the US! Unfortunately Maria Butina was in the wrong place at the wrong time. With the rise of the “Russiagate” hysteria, Butina’s case was seen as a useful tool by Democrats to push the idea that President Trump was put into office by the Russians. Plus, many of them are also hostile to our Second Amendment and to the National Rifle Association. So it was a perfect storm for Butina.

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Waiting is the hardest part.

Tom Petty was Right (Jim Kunstler)

The sense of gathering crisis persists. It is systemic and existential. It calls into question our ability to carry on “normal” life much farther into this century, and all the anxiety that attends it is so hard for the public to process that a dismaying number of citizens opt for suicide. There is no coherent consensus about what is happening and no coherent proposals to do anything about it. Bad ideas flourish in this nutrient medium of unresolved crisis. Lately, they dominate the scene on every side. A species of wishful thinking that resembles a primitive cargo cult grips the technocratic class, awaiting magical rescue remedies to extend the regime of Happy Motoring, consumerism, and suburbia that make up the crumbling armature of “normal” life in the USA.


The political Right seeks to Make America Great Again, as though we might return to a 1962 heyday of industrial mass production by wishing hard enough. The Left seeks the equivalent of an extended childhood for all, lived out in a universal safe space, where all goods and services come magically free from a kindly parent-like government, and the sunny days are spent training unicorns to find rainbows. The decade-long “recovery” from the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 amounted to ten years of fake-it-til-you-make-it — with the prospect nil of actually making it to something like economic and cultural soundness. Are we too far gone now? Some kind of shock therapy is surely in the offing, and probably in the form of a violent financial readjustment that will alter the terms of getting and spending so drastically as to topple the matrix of rackets that masquerades as the nation’s business.

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“..typical of Macron, revealing only how his personal authority is slipping away, and strangely enough, how irrelevant he is becoming to the entire debate.”

The Gilets Jaunes Are Winning, What’s Next? (OffG)

In the sharp light of spring it is clear that Macron’s winter strategy: the Great National Debate, has achieved nothing for the government and more tellingly perhaps, has further revealed Macron’s own incapacity to either change himself or shift course. As one anonymous French state official reportedly said: ‘Mitterrand gave them an extra week’s holiday, but Macron can’t manage anything’. He simply seems unable in any form to communicate with either the Gilets or the people of France. His constant speeches, with their casual insults and lack of empathy, remain one of the best recruitment tools the Gilets possess. His recent pronouncements continue this trend.

His promise to rebuild the cathedral in five years was met with scorn – ‘this is not a railway line’, said one commentator, while his invitation to the world (a typical empty gesture) angered and aroused traditionalists. Indeed, as has been widely reported, his endorsement of cash donations from billionaires, simply provided the Gilets with yet more free sticks to beat him and the state. Even his big showpiece speech was cancelled when the Cathedral burst into flames. And what was his big announcement? A freeze on hospital and school closures, the index-linking of pensions to inflation and the closing of the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA), the university that produces the country’s political and civil elite, all of which, particularly the last, were seen as too late and totally irrelevant.

After all it doesn’t put food on the table or help the people get to the end of the month with any money. As I noted in previous articles, this is typical of Macron, revealing only how his personal authority is slipping away, and strangely enough, how irrelevant he is becoming to the entire debate.

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Lost of people will deny this.

Globalization is Waning (CNBC)

Globalization is waning, and a U.S.-China trade deal would do nothing to reverse that phenomenon, according to a global investment strategist. Peak globalization has actually already come and gone, according to David Roche, president and global strategist at London-based Independent Strategy. “The actual reversal of globalization started over seven years ago,” well before the rise of U.S. President Donald Trump, as countries worldwide instituted more protectionist policies, Roche told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last week. In fact, even China — whose leaders are now some of the loudest proponents of global systems — will see most of its future growth come from domestic pursuits, he projected.


“Globalization is on a back foot, it’s not the trade deal with China, a trade deal agreement which would flip the switch and turn on the motor again — the damage has been done,” he added. “There is no way going forward that China is able to grow by using international trade. It is going to grow more domestically.” In fact, China is not the only country looking inward. For many years, Roche noted, countries like Italy have had populist governments adopting nationalist policies, prioritizing the short-term benefit of their citizens instead of embracing globalization and the interconnectivity it entails.

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Dig at your own peril.

Climate Change Being Fuelled By Soil Damage (BBC)

Climate change can’t be halted if we carry on degrading the soil, a report will say. There’s three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere – but that carbon’s being released by deforestation and poor farming. This is fuelling climate change – and compromising our attempts to feed a growing world population, the authors will say. Problems include soils being eroded, compacted by machinery, built over, or harmed by over-watering. Hurting the soil affects the climate in two ways: it compromises the growth of plants taking in carbon from the atmosphere, and it releases soil carbon previously stored by worms taking leaf matter underground.


The warning will come from the awkwardly-named IPBES – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – a panel studying the benefits of nature to humans. The body, which is meeting this week, aims to get all the world’s governments singing from the same sheet about the need to protect natural systems. IPBES will formally release its report on Monday 6 May. About 3.2 billion people worldwide are suffering from degraded soils, said IPBES chairman Prof Sir Bob Watson. “That’s almost half of the world population. There’s no question we are degrading soils all over the world. We are losing from the soil the organic carbon and this undermines agricultural productivity and contributes to climate change. We absolutely have to restore the degraded soil we’ve got.”

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Antibiotics in fish farming. We sure are beyond repair.

Antibiotic Resistance As Big A Threat As Climate Change (G.)

Protests against climate change should be extended to the other greatest threat facing humanity, according to England’s chief medical officer, who says an Extinction Rebellion-style campaign is needed to save people from antibiotics becoming ineffective in the face of overuse and a lack of regulation. The threat of antibiotic resistance is as great as that from climate change, said Dame Sally Davies, and should be given as much attention from politicians and the public. “It would be nice if activists recognised the importance of this,” she said. “This is happening slowly and people adjust to where we are, but this is the equivalent [danger] to extreme weather.”

Davies said efforts to combat the problem of common illnesses becoming untreatable by antibiotic medicines should be coordinated at a worldwide level in a similar way as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body of scientists set up in 1988 to tackle global warming. The IPCC warned last year that climate change would lead to disaster within 12 years if urgent action was not taken to reverse the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Davies said the consequences of antibiotic resistance posed at least as great a threat to humanity’s future, and in the same timescale, but few efforts had been made to deal with the issue. “There is not the appetite [among pharmaceutical companies] to develop new medicines,” she said. “There is a systemic failure. We need something similar to the IPCC.”

She listed a series of problems that the world has allowed to build up, from overuse of antibiotics and a lack of restraints on prescribing strong medications, to the rampant use of the drugs on animals, including by farmers for “growth promotion”, as the drugs can make animals put on weight faster. Such use has been banned in Europe and the US, but is common elsewhere, and even in the EU and US, the use of strong antibiotics critical to human health is still allowed on animals despite scientific advice to the contrary.

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Apr 252019
 


Giovanni Bellini Pietà 1505

 

There Will Be No Soft Brexit Now. It’s No Deal, Revoke Or Another Vote (G.)
More British Families Than Ever Depend On Food Banks (Ind.)
Curbing Pensioner Benefits Could Help The Young (G.)
Deutsche Bank Handing Over Trump Loan Documents To NY Officials (AFP)
Former AG Mukasey Shreds CNN For Misleading Russia Conspiracy Theories (RT)
She Wrote The Patriot Act. Her Next Job Is With Facebook (ZH)
Iceland Court Orders Valitor (Formerly VISA) to Pay WikiLeaks $10 Million (GP)
Global Grounding Of 737 Max Will Cost Boeing More Than $1 Billion (G.)
Tesla Reports Another Doozie (WS)
Belt and Road Forum: China’s ‘Project Of The Century’ Hits Tough Times (G.)
Past Role and Current Risks from China – Anne-Stevenson Yang (HF)
Declare Capitalism Dead – Before It Takes Us All Down With It (Monbiot)
‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’: Vast Expanse Of Rainforest Lost In 2018 (G.)

 

 

There’s sweet poetic justice in the European elections playing a decisive role in what Brexit means.

There Will Be No Soft Brexit Now. It’s No Deal, Revoke Or Another Vote (G.)

Until recently, my view could have been summarised as follows: Brexit remains a lamentable event I will always oppose; but, in the absence of public permission to overturn it, a softer version would be less bad than a hard one, and could provide the fragile basis for an eventual form of reintegration with Europe down the line. At times in the past five months, ever since the UK and the EU struck the withdrawal agreement, a pragmatic compromise of this kind has seemed tantalisingly viable. Desperately though they tried through the winter, the hard Brexiteers failed to harden the original deal or take down May in the way they wanted. That left a space in the political centre.

So, when May finally made an opening to Labour in early April, there was a possibility that a Brexit compromise was on the cards – even at the eleventh hour and in spite of the immense party political difficulties it might entail for both. But it hasn’t happened. The talks between the government and Labour continue. But they are not going anywhere. This week both May and Jeremy Corbyn accused the other of dragging their feet. That could be a cunning joint deception, preparing their respective parties for a surprise deal. But it isn’t the case – believe me. There is an increasing air of unreality about the whole thing. On both sides of the table, the participants are looking over their shoulders at their own colleagues, not negotiating in earnest.

There are three big issues on the table in these talks. But there is no agreement on any of them. The first is over the terms of a future customs union and on single market alignment. The second, on which the two sides have had the biggest arguments, is on “future-proofing” any agreement against the next Conservative leader. The third is over the role, if any, of a confirmatory second vote. On each of these, May is unwilling to make concessions – or even to put options on the table – that would further divide the Tories, while Corbyn remains deeply reluctant to become co-owner of a joint agreement that might end in the overturning of Brexit.

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Parliament’s too busy with Brexit.

More British Families Than Ever Depend On Food Banks (Ind.)

Food bank use has soared to record levels, with the number of emergency supplies distributed across the UK having risen by nearly a fifth in one year, new figures show. Campaigners said it was “shameful” that a growing number of Britons were unable to feed themselves after data published by the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank provider, revealed 1,583,668 three-day emergency food supplies were distributed in the year to March 2019 – a 19 per cent rise on the previous year. More than half a million of these (577,618) went to children, fuelling concerns about rising child poverty, after government figures last month revealed that the number of youngsters living in absolute poverty had increased by 200,000 in a year – to a total of 3.7 million.


The figures have also prompted renewed criticism of the government’s flagship welfare reform, universal credit, as the Trussell Trust said issues with moving onto the new system were a “key driver” of increasing need, primarily due people having to wait five weeks for payment under the new system. Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood branded the sharp rise “shocking” and said the “need for emergency food parcels in one of the richest countries of the world” was “shameful”. “Nobody in our society should be forced to turn to food banks to survive. Despite ministers’ attempts to explain away food bank use, the Trussell Trust is very clear that cuts to social security and the five-week wait for universal credit payments are key reasons for the rise,” she added.

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Free TV licenses? What century is this? But seriously, this is why I think a UBI is inevitable. Taking from the old to give to the young is not an answer.

Curbing Pensioner Benefits Could Help The Young (G.)

Free TV licences for over-75s should be scrapped, the age threshold for free bus passes raised and the triple-lock on pensions abolished to close the widening gap between young and old in Britain, according to a Lords report. The House of Lords committee on intergenerational fairness and provision said it was time to rebalance government policy in favour of the young, to remove the risk of the social bonds between generations fraying further. For reasons of fairness and because many pensioner households across the UK have become better off on average than many working-age families, it called on ministers to curb several benefits targeted at older Britons.


The report said the triple-lock – which raises state pension payments in line with the highest of consumer price inflation, average earnings growth, or 2.5% – should be removed. The increase in annual pension payments should instead track average earnings, it said. Free TV licences based on age should be phased out but could be offered based on household income instead. The age when older people can apply for a free bus pass and receive winter fuel payments should also rise to at least five years after a person becomes eligible for the state pension, said the report. It added that this could be phased in to coincide with the state pension age rising to 67 from 2026.

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And there we go again.

NB: Deutsche just announced the death of the merger with Commerzbank.

Deutsche Bank Handing Over Trump Loan Documents To NY Officials (AFP)

Deutsche Bank has begun to provide documents on financing for some of President Donald Trump’s projects to New York State authorities, a source familiar with the matter told AFP on Wednesday. In mid-March, New York Attorney General Letitia James subpoenaed the German bank, demanding records related to loans and lines of credit granted to the Trump Organization. The money was intended to finance projects such as Trump hotels in Washington, DC, Miami and Chicago, another source told AFP last month on the condition of anonymity. It was unclear whether Deutsche Bank had provided all the documents requested.


“We remain committed to cooperating with authorized investigations,” a bank spokesman told AFP, while declining to comment on a CNN report that the company was handing over the documents. James’ office also declined to comment on the status of the documents regarding financing for the Trump Organization, the holding company that has been run by Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr since he entered the White House. New York authorities also wanted records related to the Trump Organization’s failed attempt in 2014 to buy the Buffalo Bills football team, the source said on condition of anonymity.

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On CNN, no less: “In essence, panels of people sitting around a table inhaling their own exhaust, and getting high on it.”

Former AG Mukasey Shreds CNN For Misleading Russia Conspiracy Theories (RT)

Retired US Attorney General Michael Mukasey slammed CNN on its own network for what he said was flawed coverage of the special counsel investigation into US President Donald Trump. Appearing for a one-on-one interview on Cuomo Prime Time on Tuesday, Mukasey said CNN was “misleading a lot of people” in its coverage of the investigation, which sought to determine whether then-candidate Trump conspired with Moscow to win the 2016 presidential election. “You have a big audience – getting smaller by the minute now,” he said to host Chris Cuomo, who laughed nervously. Mukasey served as attorney general from 2007 to 2009 under the George W. Bush administration.


While the special counsel’s final report did not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy with Russia, the report was for weeks the subject of intense speculation in the media. Mukasey was not impressed with CNN’s performance in the lead-up to the report’s publication, as the network insisted on the collusion narrative. “Your network was devoting days of people sitting around and talking about a report whose contents they didn’t know – that they hadn’t seen,” Mukasey said. “In essence, panels of people sitting around a table inhaling their own exhaust, and getting high on it.” He added that CNN helped to whip the country into “a state of absolute hysteria” over the investigation. “Consider this,” he said, “[Trump is] being investigated for a crime that didn’t happen, and that he certainly didn’t commit.”

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Facebook = CIA.

She Wrote The Patriot Act. Her Next Job Is With Facebook (ZH)

Facebook announced Monday that Jennifer Newstead, a Trump appointee who served in the Department of Justice (DoJ) under President Bush, will join the social media company as General Counsel, supervising its global legal functions. Newstead replaces Colin Stretch, who announced in 3Q18 that he will exit. Stretch will remain with Facebook through the transition phase, expected to be completed in the coming months. “Jennifer is a seasoned leader whose global perspective and experience will help us fulfill our mission,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. “We are also truly grateful to Colin for his dedicated leadership and wise counsel over the past nine years. He has played a crucial role in some of our most important projects and has created a strong foundation for Jennifer to build upon.”

Newstead brings a terrifying history of lobbying and legislating for an Orwellian style of mass electronic surveillance of Americans. The Hill explains she was credited with writing the controversial 2001 Patriot Act, a piece of legislation that stripped Americans of their First and Fourth Amendments in the name of fighting the War on Terror. In a 2002 statement, Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh described Newstead’s role in drafting the Patriot Act: “Her enhanced leadership duties and her excellent service on a range of issues — including helping craft the new U.S.A. Patriot Act to protect the United States against terror — have earned her this important distinction. She is first among equals.”


Congress enacted the Patriot Act in the wake of September 11, 2001 attacks, the Act expanded the scope of the government’s surveillance powers to investigate terrorism, organized crime, and drug trafficking. It allowed government investigators to use roving wiretaps and the ability to collect telephone records from US carriers.

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That means Assange defense.

Iceland Court Orders Valitor (Formerly VISA) to Pay WikiLeaks $10 Million (GP)

The Icelandic court has ordered Valitor, formerly VISA Iceland, to pay WikiLeaks $10 million in damages over the 2011 banking blockade. Valitor had been ordered to process card payments for WikiLeaks in 2013 by the same court, and was told they would face daily penalties if they refused to comply. By not reinstating services, the company was fined $204,900 per month or $2,494,604 per year for continuing the blockade. On Wednesday, Icelandic media reported that the company has now been ordered to pay up. Valitor has stated that they are likely to appeal, according to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks had launched a case against Valitor in Reykjavik back in June of 2012 over the unlawful suspension of financial services against Wikileaks.


Ten days after WikiLeaks published Cablegate, they were blockaded by Bank of America, VISA, MasterCard, PayPal and Western Union. The political effort to defund the organization lead to a wave of hacks and cyber attacks against the companies by transparency activists. “The blockade is outside of any accountable, public process. It is without democratic oversight or transparency. The US government itself found that there were no lawful grounds to add WikiLeaks to a US financial blockade. But the blockade of WikiLeaks by politicized US finance companies continues regardless,” WikiLeaks said in a statement at the time.

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Appears to be a real low amount. They lose a billion a month from not building 52 but 42 planes.

Global Grounding Of 737 Max Will Cost Boeing More Than $1 Billion (G.)

The global grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max jets will cost the company more than $1bn, the company said on Wednesday. In its first quarterly earnings report since the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines disasters, Boeing announced it had abandoned its 2019 financial outlook and halted share buy-backs in mid-March as it deals with the crisis. Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s chairman and chief executive officer, said: “We have great sorrow for the families affected. This weighs heavily on us.” He said the company’s first priority was to get the 737 Max back in the air and that the company was working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulators to end the aircraft grounding.


The announcement was a sharp reversal from Boeing’s last earnings report in January, when executives unveiled plans to deliver more than 900 jetliners this year alongside higher sales and profits. The world’s largest plane-maker reported first-quarter revenue and cashflow below sharply lowered Wall Street estimates, largely due to stopping deliveries of the 737 Max jets, which were grounded in March after the two crashes. [..] Boeing cut production of the jets following the crashes to 42 aircraft per month, down from 52, and its operating cash flow in the first quarter was about $350m lower than a year earlier.

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Musk’s business models are all based on subsidies.

Tesla Reports Another Doozie (WS)

It would be a joke for a small niche automaker, specialized in luxury cars, with a global market share of less than 1% to get this kind of global attention. But Tesla is unique because of its extraordinarily ludicrous stock price. Though that price has come down by about 32% from its peak in June 2017, it’s still ludicrously high. More on that in a moment. We’re going to skip over all the glossy stuff and go straight to the financial statement, more specifically to the bottom line of the income statement, where Tesla reported a zinger of a net loss of $702 million, its third-worst quarterly net loss ever. We note here that part of Tesla’s business model is to sell taxpayer-funded pollution credits to other companies, but they’re not fully disclosed until Tesla files its 10-Q at a later date:

These pollution credits are pure profit. For Q1, Tesla disclosed only $15 million of these credits. For the full disclosure we have to wait until Tesla files its 10-Q report for Q1 at a later date, when no one pays attention. For example, in the miraculous third quarter last year, Tesla reported a profit of $311 million on October 24, and all the world was left speculating and digging into how it accomplished this. At the time, it disclosed $52 million in “regulatory credits,” as it calls them. But then on November 2, Tesla filed its 10-Q for that quarter, disclosing that $189.5 million of its $311 million in profits had come from the sale of those “regulatory credits,” a much larger amount than typical.


[..] at the price of $258.66 a share at the close today, Tesla has a market capitalization of $44.7 billion. By comparison, GM – and I’m no fan of GM at this price – which made $48 billion in net income over the past four years and whose revenues of $147 billion in 2018 were seven times the size of Tesla’s, has a market cap of $56.6 billion. And at peak Tesla nuttiness, there were long periods when the market cap of Tesla exceeded that of GM. So to have some fun, I created this chart to show the difference in market cap (GM minus Tesla) in billion dollars.

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“debt trap diplomacy”

Belt and Road Forum: China’s ‘Project Of The Century’ Hits Tough Times (G.)

As China fetes its Belt and Road initiative at a summit this week, Chinese officials will be working hard to defend the flagship project from growing international criticism. The three-day forum starting on Thursday is meant to promote Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s “project of the century”, a foreign policy initiative launched in 2013 to revive ancient trading routes between Asia and Europe, as well as build new links in the Middle East, Africa, and South America. But in contrast to its first summit two years ago, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) takes place in a much less welcoming environment. Critics say the initiative is an effort to cement Chinese influence around the world by financially binding countries to Beijing by way of “debt trap diplomacy”.


“The ‘Belt and Road initiative’ (BRI) is not a geopolitical tool but a platform for cooperation,” Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said last week, ahead of the forum “We welcome all parties to take part in it.” This week’s event is especially important for Beijing, which uses the forum as a way to convince the international community, as well as its own citizens, of the success of the project. Beijing is likely to laud the memoranda of understanding signed at the event, which will conclude with a joint communique. [..] The event is to be attended by 37 leaders, including Russian president Vladimir Putin, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte, UK chancellor Philip Hammond, Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan and the heads of state of the 10 Asean (Association of South-east Asian Nation) states.

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“In this week’s episode of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with China expert Anne Stevenson-Yang about the imminent dangers facing global financial markets in the event of a break in the renminbi-dollar peg.”

“I really have never seen a listed company in China that did not have material and significant fraud.” – Anne Stevenson-Yang”

Past Role and Current Risks from China – Anne-Stevenson Yang (HF)

The problem is that China generated a tremendous amount of money and credit since the GFC, in particular, and therefore risks a major devaluation in the value of the RMB should the country no longer be able to get the foreign exchange reserves it needs through a sustainable current account surplus. They are, at the moment, running a negative current account, a negative fiscal balance (of roughly 9% of GDP), their foreign exchange reserves are declining for the first time ever, while the country’s external debt has doubled in the last five years, increasing by an average of $70 billion per quarter since the beginning of 2017. More than half of this debt is short-term, which means it needs to be constantly rolled over.


Up until the Fed paused it’s tightening cycle, the rising interest rates coupled with new tariffs on Chinese goods were creating a pincer-like effect on China’s economy and on its ability to maintain its peg, forcing it to fund more of its dollar needs through borrowing at ever higher interest rates. China cannot maintain a credible peg between the RMB and the USD when its money supply is growing, by some calculations at more than 10x that of the United States over the last 10 years. This is a fundamental problem of accounting. If China were completely self-sufficient – if it had access to sufficient energy, food, base metals, etc. within its own borders – then its inability to obtain dollars would not be an issue. The problem is that it is desperately short these commodities as inputs for its manufacturing and domestic consumption.

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Not a Monbiot fan, but surely a discussion point. Unlike him, do come with an alternative.

Thunberg: ‘That future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once.’

Declare Capitalism Dead – Before It Takes Us All Down With It (Monbiot)

Capitalism’s failures arise from two of its defining elements. The first is perpetual growth. Economic growth is the aggregate effect of the quest to accumulate capital and extract profit. Capitalism collapses without growth, yet perpetual growth on a finite planet leads inexorably to environmental calamity. Those who defend capitalism argue that, as consumption switches from goods to services, economic growth can be decoupled from the use of material resources. Last week a paper in the journal New Political Economy, by Jason Hickel and Giorgos Kallis, examined this premise. They found that while some relative decoupling took place in the 20th century (material resource consumption grew, but not as quickly as economic growth), in the 21st century there has been a recoupling: rising resource consumption has so far matched or exceeded the rate of economic growth.

The absolute decoupling needed to avert environmental catastrophe (a reduction in material resource use) has never been achieved, and appears impossible while economic growth continues. Green growth is an illusion. A system based on perpetual growth cannot function without peripheries and externalities. There must always be an extraction zone – from which materials are taken without full payment – and a disposal zone, where costs are dumped in the form of waste and pollution. As the scale of economic activity increases until capitalism affects everything, from the atmosphere to the deep ocean floor, the entire planet becomes a sacrifice zone: we all inhabit the periphery of the profit-making machine.

[..] The second defining element is the bizarre assumption that a person is entitled to as great a share of the world’s natural wealth as their money can buy. This seizure of common goods causes three further dislocations. First, the scramble for exclusive control of non-reproducible assets, which implies either violence or legislative truncations of other people’s rights. Second, the immiseration of other people by an economy based on looting across both space and time. Third, the translation of economic power into political power, as control over essential resources leads to control over the social relations that surround them.

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The only thing we’re acutally good at is destruction.

‘Death By A Thousand Cuts’: Vast Expanse Of Rainforest Lost In 2018 (G.)

Millions of hectares of pristine tropical rainforest were destroyed in 2018, according to satellite analysis, with beef, chocolate and palm oil among the main causes. The forests store huge amounts of carbon and are teeming with wildlife, making their protection critical to stopping runaway climate change and halting a sixth mass extinction. But deforestation is still on an upward trend, the researchers said. Although 2018 losses were lower than in 2016 and 2017, when dry conditions led to large fires, last year was the next worst since 2002, when such records began. Clearcutting of primary forest by loggers and cattle ranchers in Brazil dominated the destruction, including invasions into indigenous lands where uncontacted tribes live.

Losses were also high in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Indonesia. Indonesia is the only major country where government protections appear to be significantly reducing the losses. Ghana and Ivory Coast recorded the biggest percentage rises in rainforest destruction, driven by gold mining and cocoa farming. “We are nowhere near winning this battle,” said Frances Seymour from the World Resources Institute, part of the Global Forest Watch (GFW) network, which produced the analysis. “It is really tempting to celebrate a second year of decline since peak tree cover loss in 2016 but, if you look back over the last 18 years, it is clear that the overall trend is still upwards.”

“The world’s forests are now in the emergency room – it is death by a thousand cuts,” she said. “Band-Aid responses are not enough. For every hectare lost, we are one step closer to the scary scenario of runaway climate change.” There are many government and corporate efforts to combat deforestation, but they are not proving to be enough, Seymour said.

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Mar 192019
 


René Magritte The conquerer 1926

 

Boeing, FAA Under Intense Scrutiny Over 737 MAX Certification (AFP)
7 In 10 Americans Say Economy In Good Shape (CNN)
UK In Constitutional Chaos After Speaker Blocks Third Vote On Brexit Deal (G.)
Are The English Ready For Self-Government? (Fintan O’Toole)
Hardline Tory Brexiteers Threaten Strike If Brexit Delayed By A Year (Sun)
UK Students Studying Abroad Left In Limbo (G.)
Deadly Serious (Jim Kunstler)
Paris Police Chief Sacked After Riots (G.)
Merging Deutsche Bank And Commerzbank Won’t Solve Their Problems (Coppola)
China’s Banks Have a Hidden Wave of Bad Debt (Balding)
Chelsea Manning and the New Inquisition (Chris Hedges)
Bumblebee Added To The Ever-Growing List Of Endangered Species (SNR)

 

 

 

 

“Unlike France, where criminal investigations into aviation accidents seems common, it is very, very rare in the US..”

Boeing, FAA Under Intense Scrutiny Over 737 MAX Certification (AFP)

Boeing and US aviation regulators are coming under intense scrutiny over the certification of the 737 MAX aircraft after news that two recent crashes share similarities. On March 11, just a day after the Ethiopia crash left 157 dead, a grand jury in Washington issued a subpoena to at least one person involved in the plane’s certification, according to a Wall Street Journal article citing people close to the matter. The subpoena, which came from a prosecutor in the Justice Department’s criminal division, seeks documents and correspondence related to the plane, according to the report. A criminal inquiry is “an entirely new twist,” said Scott Hamilton, managing director of the Leeham Company, who recalled a probe of a 1996 ValuJet crash as the only other aviation probe that was not a civil investigation.

“Unlike France, where criminal investigations into aviation accidents seems common, it is very, very rare in the US,” Hamilton added. The Transportation Department’s inspector general also is probing the approval of the 737 MAX by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), The Wall Street Journal also reported. The probe is focusing on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, implicated in the Lion Air crash, which authorities have said shared similarities with the latest accident. The Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 came less than five months after a 737 MAX 8 operated by Lion Air crashed in Indonesia, killing 189. While it may take months for definitive conclusions, Ethiopian officials said Sunday there were “clear similarities” between the two catastrophes based on information from the flight data recorder.

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Still only 19% of Democrats report an improved financial situation?!

7 In 10 Americans Say Economy In Good Shape (CNN)

Americans give the nation’s economy glowing reviews in a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, and Donald Trump’s approval rating may be reaping the benefits. Overall, 71% say the nation’s economy is in good shape, the highest share to say so since February 2001, and the best rating during Trump’s presidency by two points. A majority give the President positive reviews for his handling of the nation’s economy (51% approve), and his overall approval rating has ticked up to 42% in the new poll. The 51% who say they disapprove of the President’s job performance overall represent the lowest share to do so in CNN polling since the start of his presidency.

Trump’s 42% approval rating at this point in his presidency puts him near the bottom of the list of modern elected presidents, between President Bill Clinton in 1995 (44%) and President Ronald Reagan in 1983 (41%). Both were re-elected to second terms. The President’s approval ratings for other major issues have largely held steady or turned downward. On handling foreign affairs, 40% approve – the same share who said so in early February before the President’s abruptly-ended summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. About 4 in 10 approve of Trump’s handling of taxes (42%), roughly the same as just before the midterm elections last year.

[..] The President’s strong reviews on the economy come as a plurality say their personal financial situation is better off today than it was three years ago — before Trump took office. About 4 in 10 (42%) say they are better off now, a similar share (41%) say they’re about the same, and 15% say they’re worse off than they were three years ago. Those results are closely tied to partisanship, with Republicans most apt to report an improved financial situation (65%), and Democrats far less so (19%).

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Because 1604.

UK In Constitutional Chaos After Speaker Blocks Third Vote On Brexit Deal (G.)

Theresa May’s government has been plunged into constitutional chaos after the Speaker blocked the prime minister from asking MPs to vote on her Brexit deal for a third time unless it had fundamentally changed.
With 11 days to go until Britain is due to leave the EU, May was forced to pull her plans for another meaningful vote because John Bercow said she could not ask MPs to pass the same deal, after they rejected it twice by huge margins. EU officials, meanwhile, were considering offering her a new date for a delayed Brexit to resolve the crisis. Quoting from the guide to parliamentary procedure, Erskine May, Bercow said the question “may not be brought forward again during the same session” and that it was a “strong and longstanding convention” dating back to 1604.

It must be “not different in terms of wording, but different in terms of substance”, he said, suggesting there must be a change in what the EU is offering. Bercow’s surprise intervention means May is likely to have to go to Thursday’s Brussels summit with a request for a long extension to article 50, which could mean the UK has to spend more than £100m on participating in European parliament elections. During the delay, parliament would have to make a decision on how to break the deadlock, potentially with a second referendum, an election or a cross-party proposal for a softer Brexit. Alternatively, government sources suggested May could negotiate a lengthy extension with the EU, with a “get-out clause” enabling it to be cut short if her Brexit deal is passed by parliament before the European parliamentary elections.

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“..the House of Commons was a Benny Hill chase on acid, running through a Salvador Dali painting in a spaceship on its way to infinity”

Are The English Ready For Self-Government? (Fintan O’Toole)

“The alleged aptitude of the English for self-government,” wrote Bernard Shaw in his preface to Androcles and the Lion, “is contradicted by every chapter of their history.” Shaw was, of course, parodying British imperialist rhetoric and its insistence that lesser peoples – including his own nation, the Irish – were not ready to govern themselves. He was being naughtily provocative, which only the most irresponsible of commentators would dare to be in these grave times. But there is nonetheless some tinge of truth in his words. Aptitude for self-government is not what comes to mind when one looks in from the outside at the goings-on in Westminster last week, when, as Tom Peck so brilliantly put it in the London Independent, “the House of Commons was a Benny Hill chase on acid, running through a Salvador Dali painting in a spaceship on its way to infinity”.

Let’s just say that if Theresa May were the head of a newly liberated African colony in the 1950s, British conservatives would have been pointing, half-ruefully, half-gleefully, in her direction and saying “See? Told you so – they just weren’t ready to rule themselves. Needed at least another generation of tutelage by the Mother Country.” There is a surreal kind of logic to this. If, as the Brexiteers do, you imagine yourself to be an oppressed colony breaking away from the German Reich aka the European Union, perhaps you do end up with a pantomime version of the travails of newly independent colonies, including the civil wars that often follow national liberation.

And without wishing to rub it in, Shaw’s quip does point up two of the deep problems that underlie, and undermine, the whole Brexit project. First, the problem of this imagined effort at self-government is the “self” bit. What is the self of the British polity? As in all nationalist revolts, the easy bit of “Them against Us” is Them: in this case the EU. The hard bit is Us. Brexit appeals to a collective British self but it is itself the most dramatic symptom of the unravelling of that very thing. The anarchy at Westminster is the political expression of anarchy in the UK, the sundering of a common sense of belonging. Brexit is a fabulous form of displacement – it acknowledges a profound and genuine unhappiness about how the British are governed but deflects it on to Europe.

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Get in line.

Hardline Tory Brexiteers Threaten Strike If Brexit Delayed By A Year (Sun)

Hardline Tory Brexiteers have threatened Theresa May they will go on strike if she carries out her vow to delay Brexit by a year. No10 on Monday set a deadline of late on Tuesday for MPs to agree the PM’s exit deal before Thursday’s European summit. But instead of buckling to the pressure, diehard Tory MP Leavers raised the stakes back on the PM with a pledge to withdraw their cooperation. As many as 20 members of the hardline European Research Group have told whips they will carry out “vote strikes” – a move that would push Mrs May’s minority government to the verge of collapse. On another dramatic day in Westminster:

Fears among Tory Brexiteers began to rise that the PM is preparing to put her Brexit deal to a second In/Out referendum rather than go ahead with a long delay, Mrs May was given a boost when ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg signalled he was ready to switch his vote to support her deal, Boris Johnson was accused by his own allies of torpedoing his fading hopes of taking the Tory leadership after he vowed to block Theresa May’s Brexit deal. As Conservative tensions over Brexit reached boiling point around the PM’s ultimatum strategy, one senior Tory backbencher told The Sun: “If she tried to go ahead with a long extension, there will be vote strikes on all Government legislation.

“She will lose us, and lose us permanently if she goes ahead with this, and that has been made crystal clear to her.” Staring down Mrs May in the ultra-high stakes game of bluff, ERG member Lee Rowley added: “The Prime Minister is going to have to reflect very carefully over the next few days. “I don’t think she wants to be a PM who has failed to get a deal through, and then has to enforce a two-year extension. “That won’t look very good.”

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One of countless issues they had over 2 years to prepare for.

UK Students Studying Abroad Left In Limbo (G.)

For Alice Watkins, a Manchester University student, a year in Paris, then Madrid, as part of her degree was a dream. Now, with the turmoil of Brexit, she is preparing to arrive in France this summer with nowhere to live and no idea whether the money will still be there to support her. “It’s horrible not knowing,” Watkins says. “We’ve been told to take at least £1,200 of our own cash to cover us for the first six weeks, and that we can’t realistically sort any accommodation before we arrive. Turning up abroad with nowhere to live is a big stress.” Last Wednesday the European parliament voted to guarantee funding for UK students already studying abroad on the Erasmus+ student exchange programme, in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March.

It also promised to continue supporting European students already in the UK on the scheme. But uncertainty hangs over the 17,000 British students who had planned to study in Europe under Erasmus+ from this September. A technical note, published by the government at the end of January, failed to guarantee any funding for the scheme if Britain leaves the EU with no deal. In recent weeks both Spain and Norway have advised their students planning to study in the UK to go elsewhere. [..] Vivienne Stern, director of the international arm of Universities UK, the vice-chancellors’ body, says the organisation had been under the impression that the government would create a national alternative to the Erasmus+ scheme to protect students in the event of no deal. She says, however, there is no evidence of this happening. “As we understand it, there is no money on the table for an alternative scheme, and no work is under way in the DfE to prepare one.”

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American pitchforks.

Deadly Serious (Jim Kunstler)

Last week, coincidental with the New Zealand mosque massacre, Mr. Trump said the following: “You know, the left plays a tougher game. It’s very funny. I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. O.K.? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump. I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

As usual, his syntax is disastrous as well as his habit of placing himself at the center of every issue. But, also as usual with Mr. Trump, and because of his filter-less tongue, he lays out matters that should be extremely troubling to all Americans: that the land is full of men with tremendous potential for violence — and most particularly men with military and paramilitary training in killing and warfare, who have, so far, barely expressed in action their discontent with the tactics of their adversaries on the Left. This Pandora’s box of calamity includes the Left’s recent campaign to denigrate men as toxic and without value, especially white men wearing their scarlet letter “P” for privilege.

The Left had better sober up and join an intelligible good faith debate about US immigration policy and the enforcement of existing laws or this will lead to exactly what Brent Tarrant laid out and what Mr. Trump maladroitly hinted at. Instead, of course, we will more likely commence another bootless campaign over guns. Here are some plain facts about that. There are already enough firearms of every sort loose in this land to commence hot civil warfare and they will not be surrendered by their owners. The horses are out of the barn on that one, even if sales of military-style weapons are outlawed. Any effort to confiscate them from people already possessing them will only provoke more overt antagonism between the two poles of American politics — and would probably lead to exactly the sort of violence that sober observers discern on the horizon.

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Basically, for not using enough violence.

Paris Police Chief Sacked After Riots (G.)

The French government has removed the Paris police chief and announced it will shut down all anti-government street protests by the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) in central parts of Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse if violent groups are spotted in the crowds. The prime minister, Édouard Philippe, announced the hardline measures on Monday after the government admitted failures in dealing with rioting and arson in Paris this weekend. “From next Saturday, we will ban ‘yellow vest’ protests in neighbourhoods that have been the worst hit as soon as we see sign of the presence of radical groups and their intent to cause damage,” Philippe said in a televised statement. He replaced the Paris police chief, Michel Delpuech, with Didier Lallement, a colleague serving in western France.

The government was on the defensive after security forces were again unable to prevent violence, arson and looting on the Champs Élysées at the weekend. Several hundred black-clad rioters caused havoc for more than seven hours as 10,000 gilets jaunes protesters marched in the capital. More than 90 shops and businesses, including luxury stores such as Longchamp and Bulgari, were damaged and looted, and a bank and a restaurant were burnt. Since the end of December the number of protesters has fallen, but each Saturday thousands of people still take to the streets in the movement, which began as a fuel tax revolt and morphed into a protest against the government. The interior ministry has said violence at the demonstrations is carried out by rioters from far-right and far-left groups as well as anarchists.

The police have been criticised for alleged excessive use of force and weapons against protesters, and the United Nations recently called for a full investigation. Rights groups have tried to force a ban on the handheld rubber bullet launchers used by police, noting that France is one of only a handful of western countries to use them. Lawyers have said a number of people have lost eyes or hands as a result of the use of rubber-bullet launchers and explosive sting grenades. However, the French government argued that not enough force was used by police at the weekend, and urged a greater use of weapons by police.

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A $2 trillion zombie in the heart of Europe. This can blow up the ECB.

Merging Deutsche Bank And Commerzbank Won’t Solve Their Problems (Coppola)

Rumors of a potential merger between Germany’s two biggest banks have now crystallized. Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are officially engaged in talks. Not that either bank seems enthusiastic about being dragged to the altar. The broker of this marriage appears to be the German government, which has ideas about creating a national bank large enough to compete with American investment banks. But it is not at all clear that a merger would solve the banks’ problems, let alone create a “national champion.” Both banks are zombies. Commerzbank, the smaller of the two, was bailed out after swallowing up Germany’s third largest bank, Dresdner Bank, in the 2007-8 financial crisis: the German government still holds 15% of its shares.

Despite years of “restructuring” (aka cost-cutting), Commerzbank is still struggling to deliver much in the way of returns to shareholders: return on equity for the third quarter of 2018 was a pathetic 4% and earnings per share only 60 euro cents (which is less than 1 dollar). Unsurprisingly, investors are encouraged by the merger talks: the share price rose by 6.81% today. Investors are less impressed with the merger prospects for Deutsche Bank: the share price was only up 4.15%. This might be because Deutsche Bank is in very deep trouble. Although it has now put behind it most of its litigation and conduct issues, the business has enormous structural problems. It has a very high cost/income ratio, large debts and no profitable business lines.

Since 2010 its share price has collapsed from over 76.00 to 8.00, and its market cap is now a paltry $18.35bn, the lowest it has been since the 2008 financial crisis. And after years of losses, it is still barely making a profit, though it has now restored a small dividend. Earnings per share and return on equity are both negative. Quite why the German government thinks that merging two zombie banks would create a national flag-carrier capable of competing successfully with the giant American banks is a mystery. It is surely much more likely that this merger would just create a much larger zombie.

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“..newly soured debt was coming through the front door as fast as banks could shovel it out the back.”

China’s Banks Have a Hidden Wave of Bad Debt (Balding)

China’s banks may have a flood of bad loans waiting in the wings. Not that you’d know it from looking at official levels for 2018, which suggest the problem was broadly contained. The reality is that newly soured debt was coming through the front door as fast as banks could shovel it out the back. Authorities worked hard to restrain financial-system leverage in 2018. Outstanding credit increased a relatively modest 10 percent, with growth in new loans falling 14 percent. The government accomplished this primarily by tightening restrictions on shadow banking and moving that lending into the formal banking system, which recorded a 13 percent jump in new loans last year.

To make way for that increase, and with new deposits falling 1 percent last year, banks sold a lot of nonperforming debt to asset management companies. Sales to AMCs and other disposals totaled almost 1.8 trillion yuan ($268 billion), according to a report by Jason Bedford, executive director of Asian financials research at UBS Group AG in Hong Kong. To put that in perspective, China began the year with 1.7 trillion yuan in bad loans and ended it with 2 trillion yuan. In other words, after selling roughly their entire declared stock of soured advances, lenders still closed the year with more than they started with.

This has a couple of implications. First, banks are having to dedicate more earnings to loan loss-provisions. In the first half of 2018, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. allocated 43 percent of pre-provision profit to boosting capital reserves. At Agricultural Bank of China Ltd., impairment losses were equal to 56 percent of first-half profit, up from 41 percent a year earlier.

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Who among the two dozen Democrat candidates will stand up for her?

Chelsea Manning and the New Inquisition (Chris Hedges)

Manning has always insisted her leak of the classified documents and videos was prompted solely by her own conscience. She has refused to implicate Assange and WikiLeaks. Earlier this month, although President Barack Obama in 2010 commuted her 35-year sentence after she served seven years, she was jailed again for refusing to answer questions before a secret grand jury investigating Assange and WikiLeaks. While incarcerated previously, Manning endured long periods in solitary confinement and torture. She twice attempted to commit suicide in prison. She knows from painful experience the myriad ways the system can break you psychologically and physically. And yet she has steadfastly refused to give false testimony in court on behalf of the government.

Her moral probity and courage are perhaps the last thin line of defense for WikiLeaks and its publisher, whose health is deteriorating in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been holed up since 2012. Manning—who was known as Bradley Manning in the Army—has undergone gender reassignment surgery and needs frequent medical monitoring. Judge Claude M. Hilton, however, dismissed a request by her lawyers for house arrest. Manning was granted immunity by prosecutors of the Eastern District of Virginia, and because she had immunity she was unable to invoke the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination or to have her attorney present. The judge found her in contempt of court and sent her to a federal facility in Alexandria, Va.

Hilton, who has long been a handmaiden of the military and intelligence organs, has vowed to hold her there until she agrees to testify or until the grand jury is disbanded, which could mean 18 months or longer behind bars. Manning said any questioning of her by the grand jury is a violation of First, Fourth and Sixth Amendment rights. She said she will not cooperate with the grand jury. “All of the substantive questions pertained to my disclosures of information to the public in 2010—answers I provided in extensive testimony, during my court-martial in 2013,” she said on March 7, the day before she was jailed. “I will not comply with this, or any other grand jury,” she said later in a statement issued from jail. “Imprisoning me for my refusal to answer questions only subjects me to additional punishment for my repeatedly-stated ethical objections to the grand jury system.”

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Maybe the saddest thing is the lack of alarm.

Bumblebee Added To The Ever-Growing List Of Endangered Species (SNR)

The bumblebee has been officially added to the list of endangered species along with the gray wolf, grizzly bear, the northern spotted owl, and about 700 other extinct animal species. According to National Geographic: “The rusty-patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), once a common sight, is “now balancing precariously on the brink of extinction,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Once thriving in 28 states and the District of Columbia, but over the past two decades, the bee’s population has plummeted nearly 90 percent. There are more than 3,000 bee species in the United States, and about 40 belong to the genus Bombus—the bumblebees.” ”Advocates for the rusty-patched bumblebee’s listing are abuzz with relief, but it may be the first skirmish in a grueling conflict over the fate of the Endangered Species Act under the Trump administration.”

According to James Stranger, a research entomologist, and Bumblebee ecologist: “There are a few little spots where we know they are. But only a really few spots.” The scientific name of the bee, Bombus affinis, was given due to the red patch in its abdomen. Even though the original listing date as an endangered species was set for April 2018, it was not until now that it was listed. According to Xerces Society director of endangered species Sarah Jepsen: “We are thrilled to see one of North America’s most endangered species receive the protection it needs. Now that the Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the rusty-patched bumble bee as endangered, it stands a chance of surviving the many threats it faces — from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides to diseases.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: “Bumblebees are among the most important pollinators of crops such as blueberries, cranberries, and clover, and almost the only insect pollinators of tomatoes. The economic value of pollination services provided by native insects (mostly bees) is estimated at $3 billion per year in the United States.” One of the main factors in the declining trend of its population was the human encroachment which led to the subsequent loss of their natural habitat. Therefore, this classification will protect the grasslands needed by these bees and other pollinators.

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 March 11, 2019  Posted by at 10:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Jean Metzinger Soldier playing chess 1915

 

Brexit Talks ‘Deadlocked’, Says Downing Street (G.)
Brexit Fallout On UK Finance Intensifies (R.)
How Central Bankers Blew Up The Global Economy (ABC.au)
What Fed Chair Powell Said On 60 Minutes (ZH)
China’s GDP Growth Could Be Half Of Reported Number – Pettis (SCMP)
Brookings Says China Overstated Size Of Its Economy By 12% (ZH)
Deutsche Bank Begins Talks Over Merger With Rival Commerzbank (G.)
Leaked Documents Reveal DOJ Protected Steele After FBI Shunning (KK)
How US Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda (Greenwald)
US “Gets Its Ass Handed To It” In World War III Simulations (ZH)
Why The Shale Boom Left California Behind (Rapier)
Elderly Americans Are Dying Without Getting To Read Mueller’s Report (NW)

 

 

Crunch time starts tomorrow. The backstop is the big issue. EU cannot ‘budge’, because it would mean leaving Ireland out in the cold. It’s called the Irish backstop for a reason.

Brexit Talks ‘Deadlocked’, Says Downing Street (G.)

Downing Street has described the Brexit talks in Brussels as “deadlocked” after negotiations over the weekend failed to find a breakthrough on the Irish backstop. Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, spoke on the telephone on Sunday evening, but plans for the prime minister to visit the Belgian capital to sign off on any compromise are on hold. The EU refuses to budge on the British proposal for what it believes is an attempt to build a unilateral exit mechanism into the Irish backstop, the arrangement that would keep the UK in a customs union to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, is unlikely without such a concession to revise his legal opinion, given before the last vote on May’s deal, that the backstop could be in force “indefinitely”. The prime minister pledged in parliament to put her deal to the Commons on Tuesday but she is being urged by senior Conservative MPs to pull the vote if she fails to secure significant concessions from Brussels. Leading Tories have warned Downing Street it could face a second huge defeat similar to the historic 230-vote loss in January if the government goes ahead. They have advised May instead to replace the vote with a motion setting out the sort of Brexit deal that would be acceptable to Tory MPs, in the hope that this would trigger concessions from the EU.

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All they have left is finance. Austerity ate the rest.

Brexit Fallout On UK Finance Intensifies (R.)

More than 275 financial firms are moving a combined $1.2 trillion in assets and funds and thousands of staff from Britain to the European Union in readiness for Brexit at a cost of up to $4 billion, a report from a think tank said on Monday. UK lawmakers are due to vote on Tuesday on an EU divorce settlement. But with less than three weeks to go before Brexit day on March 29, it is still unclear whether the deal will be approved, whether departure from the EU will be delayed, or whether it will happen without agreement. The report by the New Financial think tank, one of the most detailed yet on the impact of Brexit on financial services, said Dublin alone accounted for 100 relocations, ahead of Luxembourg with 60, Paris 41, Frankfurt 40, and Amsterdam 32.

The independent think tank said half of the affected asset management firms, such as Goldman Sachs Investment Management, Morgan Stanley Investment Management and Vanguard, had chosen Dublin, with Luxembourg the next port of call, attracting firms like Schroders, JP Morgan Wealth Management and Aviva Investors. Nearly 90 percent of all firms moving to Frankfurt are banks, while two-thirds of those going to Amsterdam are trading platforms or brokers. Paris is carving out a niche for markets and trading operations of banks and attracting a broad spread of firms.

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This still needs to be explained, apparently.

How Central Bankers Blew Up The Global Economy (ABC.au)

We humans are a social lot. We just love being part of a pack, a member of a team. We crave acceptance, to the point where isolation or banishment ranks among the worst forms of punishment. Even when it comes to the dodgy art of forecasting, everyone seems to cluster around a central position, which kind of defeats the point of forecasting. And so, in July two years ago, when the groundswell of opinion began to shift — that the Reserve Bank would be raising interest rates — arguing otherwise was a fairly lonely position. As time went on, almost everyone shifted position as we dug in here, here and here.

To be fair, most of the highly paid, well-heeled professional market economists were being egged on by the authorities, and particularly the Reserve Bank, which was spinning the line that the next rate move was up. In the past fortnight, however, the pack suddenly has turned on its tail as fears about the global economy and a sudden slowdown in our own growth forced a rethink. The switch to a rate cut has turned into a stampede. Put aside all the complex formula. Forget the high-level macro-economic analysis. There’s a very simple reason the Reserve Bank couldn’t and can’t raise interest rates. There’s too much debt. Australian households are among the world’s most indebted when compared with their income.

And we’ve spent most of it on real estate. What these two graphs show is how the Reserve Bank, effectively, snookered itself. Back in 2012, when debt and housing prices already were elevated, it fired up the east coast housing market, and construction, to take up the employment slack as the mining boom unwound. But it created a monster. As housing went on a tear, the short-term sugar hit turned toxic. Employment took off. But housing became unaffordable to almost everyone under 35. And our household debt levels reached for the stars. The end result? It couldn’t cut rates if it needed. That would add heat to a dangerously inflated housing bubble. And it could never raise rates, because that would kill household spending.

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3 Stooges.

Nomi Prins: “Number of times the word “bubble” appeared in the 60 Minutes interview with Fed. Chair Jerome Powell. Zero.”

A central bank can have benefits, but not when it only serves the rich. If we don’t get rid of Fed and ECB, there’ll be very steep prices to pay.

Note: there’s a video at the link, but it started itself so I threw it out.

What Fed Chair Powell Said On 60 Minutes (ZH)

A decade after Ben Bernanke appeared on “60 Minutes”, vowing that the Fed could easily crush inflation, as it could “raise interest rates in 15 minutes”, of course with the occasional “pause” along the way should the S&P dip by 20% or so, current Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will follow in his footsteps on Sunday night, when surrounded by former Fed Chairs Bernanke and Yellen, he will try to reach beyond the Fed’s traditional audience of markets, journalists and lawmakers to counter the attacks from President Trump, even after the Fed’s paused on raising interest rates, said Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University, quoted by MarketWatch.

“He wants to counter the president’s message that policy is all wrong,” Binder said. Binder said she was struck by the still photo of the “60 Minutes” interview that shows Powell alongside his two predecessors Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke. “This puts a human face on the central bank. It says, ‘we’re the Fed and we’re here to help,’” Binder said. Bernanke also faced criticism when he went on “60 Minutes” in March 2009. The Fed was facing concerted attacks by lawmakers and populist “End the Fed” groups, who considering the record wealth divide in the US created by the central bank, were spot on.

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I’m going with Xiang Songzuo: “..China’s GDP growth for 2018 could be 1.67 per cent or even negative..”

China’s GDP Growth Could Be Half Of Reported Number – Pettis (SCMP)

If China’s bad debts were written down, its economic growth rate would be half the recorded number, a US economist at a prominent Chinese university has warned. In a speech in Shanghai this week, Michael Pettis, professor of finance at Peking University, warned that China’s debt is closely linked to the government’s perceived overstatement of its GDP. The government is accused of perpetuating the existence of “zombie companies”, by granting loss-making companies loans. Banks in turn treat these companies as creditworthy, whereas in reality they should be written off as bad debt, Pettis said. “If you believe there is bad debt that has not been sufficiently written down, you must believe that China’s GDP is overstated, relative to what it would be in any other country. That must be true,” Pettis said.

“If we are able to calculate GDP correctly, it would probably be half of the recorded number.” Pettis is not alone seeing troubles with China’s official growth number. In December, Xiang Songzuo, an outspoken professor from the Renmin University of China, who previously served as chief economist for Agricultural Bank of China, cited unidentified internal reports as saying that said China’s GDP growth for 2018 could be 1.67 per cent or even negative, a far cry from the official figures. Furthermore, a group of four economists published a paper this week arguing that China might have overstated its annual growth rate by 2 percentage points on average from 2008 to 2016. China’s official statistics agency said the country’s economic growth rate was 6.6 per cent in 2018.

The Chinese government said it would try to achieve an economic growth rate between 6.0 to 6.5 per cent in 2019, a moderate slowdown from previous years, but nevertheless a much faster rate compared with other major economies. Pettis is a renowned expert on China’s economy. For decades, he has been commenting on financial affairs in China and was among the early observers of the imbalances in the Chinese economy. He said in his speech on Wednesday that China’s growth will significantly decelerate as the country’s debt level rises.

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Brookings is many years late.

Brookings Says China Overstated Size Of Its Economy By 12% (ZH)

Since China managed to weather the fallout from the financial crisis without registering much of a slowdown in its “official” GDP figures, playing “guess the real growth rate” has become one of the most popular parlor games among the professional economist set. Whereas the stakes are much higher for academics on the mainland (one of whom was censored and threatened by government thugs after speculating that GDP growth on the mainland might be closer to 2%), researchers at American think tanks have freely offered estimates ranging from 2% to 4% (which, admittedly, would still put China well ahead of the US).

But as investors and economists once again cast a wary eye toward China as signs of flagging growth are once again threatening to sink the whole world into a recession, a team of researchers from the Brookings Institute has published a carefully researched paper detailing the exact mechanism by which authorities in Beijing inflate the country’s GDP figures, while estimating that China’s economy is roughly 12% smaller than the official figures would suggest. Brookings published the paper on Thursday, just two days after Party leaders at the annual National Party Congress lowered their economic growth forecast to between 6% and 6.5% of GDP.

Though the paper focused on the period between 2008 and 2016, it’s the latest evidence that China’s economic slowdown has been more severe than believed, and that the growth rate from last year – China’s worst since the early 1990s – might, in reality, be just under 6% (compared with 6.6%). According to Brookings, much of the manipulation in Chinese official government statistics takes place at the local level. In what the FT described as “a legacy of Maoist state planning”, authorities in Beijing hand down growth targets to local officials, who use it to goalseek the official statistics they hand back. “China’s national accounts are based on data collected by local governments. However, since local governments are rewarded for meeting growth and investment targets, they have an incentive to skew local statistics. China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) adjusts the data provided by local governments to calculate GDP at the national level,” the study’s authors said.

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Two staggering drunks lean on each other so they can make it to the bar and continue drinking.

Deutsche Bank Begins Talks Over Merger With Rival Commerzbank (G.)

Deutsche Bank has begun tentative merger talks with rival Commerzbank, which would create Europe’s second biggest bank behind HSBC and fend off unwanted potential bidders such as French giant BNP Paribas. Reports in Germany’s Welt am Sonntag suggest that the banks have come under political pressure to consider a merger and avert a foreign takeover of Commerzbank, much the smaller partner in any deal. Deutsche is regarded as a bank of global importance, but has been plagued by three years of losses, boardroom battles, money laundering issues and its role as the biggest lender to the Trump business empire.

Despite Germany’s industrial dominance in Europe, it has only one bank in the continent’s top 20, and Berlin is understood to be keen to create a larger national champion. The combination of the two banks mean that Deutsche, currently fifth biggest, and Commerzbank, currently 23rd, will become Europe’s second biggest bank and only marginally behind HSBC. Deutsche Bank’s chief executive Christian Sewing was seen to be the main opponent of a merger, but investor pressure – Deutsche’ shares are trading at around €7.68 compared with €32 five years ago – is understood to have forced his hand. The talks are believed to be at a very early stage – “unofficial contacts in a very small group” according to Welt am Sonntag – but are likely to be welcomed by major shareholders.

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This is getting too stupid. But who’s going to investigate the DOJ and FBI?

Leaked Documents Reveal DOJ Protected Steele After FBI Shunning (KK)

Steele was cut off by the FBI for revealing his relationship with the Bureau to the media – but Ohr continued to pass information from Steele to his colleagues, regularly spoke to him via email and phone, and met up with him face-to-face on several occasions. Information watchdog Judicial Watch has released 339-pages of US Department of Justice records, revealing former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr remained in regular contact with ex-MI6 operative Christopher Steele after Steele’s status as a paid confidential informant was terminated by the FBI in November 2016.

“These smoking gun documents show Christopher Steele, a Hillary Clinton operative and anti-Trump foreign national, secretly worked hand-in-glove with the Justice Department on its illicit targeting of President Trump. These documents leave no doubt that for more than a year after the FBI fired Christopher Steele for leaking, and for some 10 months after Donald Trump was sworn in as president, Bruce Ohr continued to act as a go-between for Steele with the FBI and Justice Department. The anti-Trump Russia investigation, now run by Robert Mueller, has been thoroughly compromised by this insider corruption,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

Whether an accurate appraisal or not, it’s clear from the assorted communications Ohr was determined to ensure Steele retained access to the Bureau, and this contact remained hidden from public view – for instance, when acting Attorney General Sally Yates was fired by Trump January 2017, Steele feared Ohr would be fired too, and texted him to express his “sympathy and support”. “If you end up out, I really need another contact point/number who is briefed. We can’t allow our guy to be forced to go back home. It would be disastrous all round, though his position right now looks stable. A million thanks,” Steele wrote. In response, Ohr assured the Orbis chief he could “certainly” give him an FBI contact “if it becomes necessary”.

On 6 March that year, Senator Chuck Grassley wrote to then-FBI Director James Comey, seeking clarity on the nature of Steele’s relationship with the FBI. The next day, Steele texted Ohr to say he was “very concerned” by the letter, and its “possible implications for our operations and sources…We need some reassurance…Really fundamental issues at stake here”. Days later, with Comey scheduled to testify before Congress, Steele told Ohr he was “a bit apprehensive” and hoped “important firewalls will hold”. On 24 March, Ohr and Steele discussed their “response” to the testimony, as he understood “an approach from the Senate Intelligence Committee” to Orbis was imminent.

On 26 October, Steele said he’s “very concerned” about documents the FBI intended to turn over to Congress about his work and “relationship with them”. “Can we have a word tomorrow please? Just seen a story in the media about the Bureau handing over docs to Congress…Peoples live may be engangered [sic],” he despaired.

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Same as it ever was.

How US Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda (Greenwald)

[..] on February 23, when the narrative shifted radically in favor of those U.S. officials who want regime change operations in Venezuela. That’s because images were broadcast all over the world of trucks carrying humanitarian aid burning in Colombia on the Venezuela border. U.S. officials who have been agitating for a regime change war in Venezuela – Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, the head of USAid Mark Green – used Twitter to spread classic Fake News: they vehemently stated that the trucks were set on fire, on purpose, by President Nicolas Maduro’s forces. [..] on Saturday night, the New York Times published a detailed video and accompanying article proving that this entire story was a lie.

The humanitarian trucks were not set on fire by Maduro’s forces. They were set on fire by anti-Maduro protesters who threw a molotov cocktail that hit one of the trucks. And the NYT’s video traces how the lie spread: from U.S. officials who baselessly announced that Maduro burned them to media outlets that mindlessly repeated the lie. [..] While the NYT’s article and video are perfectly good and necessary journalism, the credit they are implicitly claiming for themselves for exposing this lie is totally undeserved. That’s because independent journalists – the kind who question rather than mindlessly repeat government claims and are therefore mocked and marginalized and kept off mainstream television – used exactly this same evidence on the day of the incident to debunk the lies being told by Rubio, Pompeo, Bolton and CNN.

On February 24, the day the lie spread, Max Blumenthal wrote from Venezuela, on the independent reporting Grayzone site, that “the claim was absurd on its face,” noting that he “personally witnessed tear gas canisters hit every kind of vehicle imaginable in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, and I have never seen a fire like the one that erupted on the Santander bridge.” He compiled substantial evidence strongly suggesting that the trucks were set ablaze by anti-Maduro protesters, including Bloomberg video showing them using Molotov cocktails, to express serious doubts about the mainstream narrative. On Twitter, in response to Marco Rubio’s lie, he wrote: “I did not see any Venezuelan government forces set fire to US aid trucks on the Colombian side of the border. And neither did you. Actually, the evidence so far is pointing in the other direction.”

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Is this going to have the neocons clamor for war today, before everyone understands it?

US “Gets Its Ass Handed To It” In World War III Simulations (ZH)

In simulated World War III scenarios, the U.S. continues to lose against Russia and China, two top war planners warned last week. “In our games, when we fight Russia and China, blue gets its ass handed to it” RAND analyst David Ochmanek said Thursday. RAND’s wargames show how US Armed Forces – colored blue on wargame maps – experience the most substantial losses in one scenario after another and still can’t thwart Russia or China – which predictably is red – from accomplishing their objectives: annihilating Western forces. “We lose a lot of people. We lose a lot of equipment. We usually fail to achieve our objective of preventing aggression by the adversary,” he warned.

In the next military conflict, which some believe may come as soon as the mid-2020s, all five battlefield domains: land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace, will be heavily contested, suggesting the U.S. could have a difficult time in achieving superiority as it has in prior conflicts. The simulated war games showed, the “red” aggressor force often destroys U.S. F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters on the runway, sends several Naval fleets to the depths, destroys US military bases, and through electronic warfare, takes control of critical military communication systems. In short, a gruesome, if simulated, annihilation of some of the most modern of US forces. “In every case I know of,” said Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense with years of wargaming experience, “the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”

So, as Russia and China develop fifth-generation fighters and hypersonic missiles, “things that rely on sophisticated base infrastructures like runways and fuel tanks are going to have a hard time,” Ochmanek said. “Things that sail on the surface of the sea are going to have a hard time.” “That’s why the 2020 budget coming out next week retires the carrier USS Truman decades early and cuts two amphibious landing ships, as we’ve reported. It’s also why the Marine Corps is buying the jump-jet version of the F-35, which can take off and land from tiny, ad hoc airstrips, but how well they can maintain a high-tech aircraft in low-tech surroundings is an open question,” said Breaking Defense.

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Love Robert, but talking about shale is interesting only when you include industry debt.

Why The Shale Boom Left California Behind (Rapier)

Many people are unaware about California’s importance in the U.S. oil industry. In fact, 100 years ago California was the top oil producer in the U.S., responsible at one point for nearly 40% of U.S. oil production. California oil production rose throughout most of the 20th century, briefly eclipsing one million barrels per day in the early 1980s. Oil production began to decline there after peaking in 1985. The same pattern took place in many other states, and in fact was the case for the entire U.S., where oil production peaked in 1970, and then declined over the next 35 years. But the shale boom changed the trajectory of U.S. oil production.

Oil production that had fallen for decades reversed direction and began to surge about a decade ago. Almost every state with shale oil resources saw a similar surge in production. Since 2010, U.S. oil production has increased by 131%, with huge gains in oil production in the following states (among others): • North Dakota – up 634% • Colorado – up 508% • New Mexico – up 377% •Texas – up 330% • Oklahoma – up 238%. In fact, only three major oil-producing states have seen a decline in oil production since 2010: California, Louisiana, and Alaska. One of the graphics I created for my presentation shows the stark contrast between oil production in Texas and California as the shale boom unfolded.

During the 1980s and 1990s, oil production in Texas was declining faster than it was in California. Had that trajectory been maintained, Texas oil production may have fallen below California’s in about 2010. Instead, the shale boom has added nearly four million BPD of oil production in Texas. Millions of barrels were added in other states as well, and California began to slide down the ranks of leading oil producers. Just a few years ago California was still in 2nd place, but now it has slipped to 6th, behind Texas, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Alaska.

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“.. And They’re Hot Happy About It”. Not the Onion, but Newsweek.

Elderly Americans Are Dying Without Getting To Read Mueller’s Report (NW)

As special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is reportedly coming to an end, elderly and sick Americans are trying to hold on to their lives so they can read the highly-anticipated report that has been nearly two years in the making. World War II veteran Mitchell Tendler—a man who survived numerous historic milestones, including the Korean War, Vietnam, Watergate and President BIll Clinton’s impeachment—fell sick on Dec. 29, at 93 years old, reported NPR. “I got a call at 11 o’clock. My mom said, ‘Well, Dad’s not feeling well—he really can’t stand,'” Tendler’s son, Walter, recalled. “Within a couple of hours they called 911 and got him into the ER because it wasn’t getting any better.”

Tendler survived two implantable defibrillators throughout his life. But while on his third, he started to fade. After he was provided painkillers by doctors, Tendler voiced his final thoughts. “It just was quiet for a little while,” Walter Tendler told the news outlet, “and then he just sits up in bed halfway and looks at me and he goes, ‘S***, I’m not going to see the Mueller report, am I?’ And that was really the last coherent thing that he said.” Richard Armstrong, a 94-year-old currently in hospice care in New Jersey, related to Tendler’s sentiments. “I know exactly how he feels. I feel the same way. I’ve been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” Armstrong told NPR.

“I was hoping to live to see the outcome of what I think it should be—justice. I’ll be surprised and disappointed if it isn’t.” After seeing Tendler’s words—shared on Twitter by Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution—Kristina Makansi, who lives in Arizona, thought about her mother who passed away at the age of 94 in January. “When I saw that tweet about the Mueller report and the old man on his deathbed, I thought, Oh my gosh, that’s the kind of thing that my mother would say,” she said. “I think she really wanted to see that justice was done… and that the investigation was allowed to proceed without any shenanigans and obstruction.”

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Feb 122019
 
 February 12, 2019  Posted by at 11:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh On the outskirts of Paris 1887

 

Global Insect Decline May See ‘Plague Of Pests’ (BBC)
Complex, Dynamic Environmental Destabilisation (BBC)
Politicians Are Complicit In The Killing Of Our Insects (G.)
Should We Really Not Worry About The Fed’s Balance Sheet? (Roberts)
Party Leaders Reach Deal To Avoid Fresh US Government Shutdown (AP)
Warren’s Foreign Policy Shows She’s Missing Why Trump Was Elected (G.)
Mistaken Futures (Kunstler)
May To Ask MPs For Further Fortnight’s Grace In Brexit Talks (G.)
Europeans Must Get Rid Of The Failing EU One Way Or Another (MW)
“Insane” Deutsche Bank Drowning Under Soaring Funding Costs (ZH)
Nearly A Fifth Of The EU’s Budget Goes On Livestock Farming (G.)
China Has No Use For Democracy. It Needs A Strong Leader Like Xi (SCMP)
History’s 10 Most Culturally Significant Dick Pic Scandals (Taibbi)

 

 

Roaches in a nuclear winter.

Global Insect Decline May See ‘Plague Of Pests’ (BBC)

A scientific review of insect numbers suggests that 40% of species are undergoing “dramatic rates of decline” around the world. The study says that bees, ants and beetles are disappearing eight times faster than mammals, birds or reptiles. But researchers say that some species, such as houseflies and cockroaches, are likely to boom. The general insect decline is being caused by intensive agriculture, pesticides and climate change. Insects make up the majority of creatures that live on land, and provide key benefits to many other species, including humans. They provide food for birds, bats and small mammals; they pollinate around 75% of the crops in the world; they replenish soils and keep pest numbers in check.

Many other studies in recent years have shown that individual species of insects, such as bees, have suffered huge declines, particularly in developed economies. But this new paper takes a broader look. Published in the journal Biological Conservation, it reviews 73 existing studies from around the world published over the past 13 years. The researchers found that declines in almost all regions may lead to the extinction of 40% of insects over the next few decades. One-third of insect species are classed as Endangered. “The main factor is the loss of habitat, due to agricultural practices, urbanisation and deforestation,” lead author Dr Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, from the University of Sydney, told BBC News.

“Second is the increasing use of fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture worldwide and contamination with chemical pollutants of all kinds. Thirdly, we have biological factors, such as invasive species and pathogens; and fourthly, we have climate change, particularly in tropical areas where it is known to have a big impact.” [..] “Fast-breeding pest insects will probably thrive because of the warmer conditions, because many of their natural enemies, which breed more slowly, will disappear,” said Prof Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex who was not involved in the review. “It’s quite plausible that we might end up with plagues of small numbers of pest insects, but we will lose all the wonderful ones that we want, like bees and hoverflies and butterflies and dung beetles that do a great job of disposing of animal waste.” Prof Goulson said that some tough, adaptable, generalist species – like houseflies and cockroaches – seem to be able to live comfortably in a human-made environment and have evolved resistance to pesticides.

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Nobody listened so far; why would they now?

Complex, Dynamic Environmental Destabilisation (BBC)

• Topsoil is being lost 10 to 40 times faster than it is being replenished by natural processes • Since the mid-20th Century, 30% of the world’s arable land has become unproductive due to erosion • 95% of the Earth’s land areas could become degraded by 2050 • Since 2005, the number of floods has increased by a factor of 15, extreme temperature events by a factor of 20, and wildfires sevenfold • Vertebrate populations have fallen by an average of 60% since the 1970s, and insect numbers – vital for pollination – have declined even faster in some countries.

Scientists warn of a potentially deadly combination of factors. These include climate change, mass loss of species, topsoil erosion, forest felling and acidifying oceans. The report from the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research says these factors are “driving a complex, dynamic process of environmental destabilisation that has reached critical levels. “This destabilisation is occurring at speeds unprecedented in human history and, in some cases, over billions of years.” The UK is described as one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Some 2.2 million tonnes of UK topsoil is eroded annually, and over 17% of arable land shows signs of erosion. Nearly 85% of fertile peat topsoil in East Anglia has been lost since 1850, with the remainder at risk of being lost over next 30–60 years. The IIPR says many scientists believe we have entered a new era of rapid environmental change.

The report warns: “We define this as the ‘age of environmental breakdown’ to better highlight the severity of the scale, pace and implications of environmental destabilisation resulting from aggregate human activity.” Simon Lewis, Professor of Global Change Science at University College London, told BBC News: “IPPR are right to say that environmental change is happening ever-faster and threatens to destabilise society. “Future problems with food supplies could cause price spikes that drive civil unrest, while increases in levels of migration can strain societies. “Both together could overload political institutions and global networks of trade. “This century will be marked by rapid social and environmental change – that is certain. What is less clear is if societies can make wise political choices to avoid disaster in the future.”

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Written of course by a politician. Who thinks politicians can turn this around. Because they can do anything.

Politicians Are Complicit In The Killing Of Our Insects (G.)

Most of us spend more time swatting away or avoiding wasps and moths than we do contemplating their importance to the web of life. But it is no exaggeration to say that the horrifying decline in the number of these creatures – the most widespread on Earth – is a barometer for the whole planet. The new global scientific review into the perilous condition of our insects reports that more than 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction while the mass of insects is declining by 2.5% a year. This catastrophic decline is a direct cause of the existential threat to other animals, insects being at the bottom of the chain and the primary food source. Since 1970, 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have been wiped out.

The review identifies a key driver towards this mass extinction: habitat loss and conversion to intensive agriculture with its associated use of pesticides. Given this is a manmade disaster, surely we are capable of tackling and reversing it? As a member of the European parliament’s agriculture committee, I regularly debate the use of pesticides in farming with my colleagues. I have lost count of the number of times I have begun meetings with what feels like a sermon on the Armageddon taking place in our countryside. I am always greeted with patient, patronising smiles from many of my fellow MEPs, before they go on to ignore the warnings and refuse to limit the use of pesticides in our fields.

Some of the members of this committee are themselves farmers who have grown increasingly dependent on powerful and toxic pesticides. But others have taken the agribusiness shilling and believe that their role in policymaking is simply to support the corporations that sell these poisons. And this is the nub of the issue. What might accurately be dubbed insectageddon is being driven by the agrichemicals industry. This situation is compounded by compliant politicians and policymakers who fall prey to lobbying pressure and then refuse to implement science-driven policy to protect wildlife.

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What we should do is end the Fed. And replace it with markets.

Should We Really Not Worry About The Fed’s Balance Sheet? (Roberts)

Bill Dudley, who is now a senior research scholar at Princeton University’s Center for Economic Policy Studies and previously served as president of the New York Fed and was vice-chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee, recently penned an interesting piece from Bloomberg stating: “Financial types have long had a preoccupation: What will the Federal Reserve do with all the fixed income securities it purchased to help the U.S. economy recover from the last recession? The Fed’s efforts to shrink its holdings have been blamed for various ills, including December’s stock-market swoon. And any new nuance of policy — such as last week’s statement on “balance sheet normalization” — is seen as a really big deal. I’m amazed and baffled by this. It gets much more attention than it deserves.”

[..] In his opening paragraph, Bill attempts to dismiss the linkage between the balance sheet and the financial markets. “Yes, it’s true that stock prices declined at a time when the Fed was allowing its holdings of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities to run off at a rate of up to $50 billion a month. But the balance sheet contraction had been underway for more than a year, without any modifications or mid-course corrections. Thus, this should have been fully discounted.” While this is a true statement, what Bill forgot to mention was that Global Central banks had stepped in to flood the system with liquidity. As you can see in the chart below, while the Fed had stopped expanding their balance sheet, everyone else went into over-drive.

The chart below shows the ECB’s balance sheet and trajectory. Yes, they are slowing “QE” but it is still growing currently.

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Far from over.

Party Leaders Reach Deal To Avoid Fresh US Government Shutdown (AP)

Democratic and Republican leaders announced late Monday that they had reached a deal to avoid a government shutdown when funding under a stopgap agreement expires at midnight on Friday. The proposal would require the signature of Donald Trump to avert a new shutdown. The agreement would allocate far less money for Trump’s border wall than the White House’s $5.7bn wish list, settling for a figure of nearly $1.4bn, according to congressional aides. The funding measure is through the fiscal year, which ends 30 September. The agreement means 55 miles of new fencing — constructed through existing designs such as metal slats instead of a concrete wall — but far less than the 215 miles the White House demanded in December. The fencing would be built in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

At a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Monday Trump said he had been informed about the committee’s progress. “Just so you know, we’re building the wall anyway”, he added. Negotiators have been trying to reach a deal to fund nine government departments that partially closed for 35 days in December and January. Trump and congressional Democrats agreed on 25 January to temporarily fund the departments and negotiate a funding solution by 8 February. Talks most recently broke down on Sunday, reportedly over a disagreement about the maximum number of undocumented immigrants who might be detained at any one time.

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Warren is irrelevant.

Warren’s Foreign Policy Shows She’s Missing Why Trump Was Elected (G.)

The United States, Warren says, has embarked on “a series of seemingly endless wars, engaging in conflicts with mistaken or uncertain objectives and no obvious path to completion”. It’s fine rhetoric but the obvious path to completion is merely to end the wars. And yet the Bush White House couldn’t or didn’t want to. And Obama vacillated and expanded to the point where bombing and killing was being pursued in almost a dozen countries when he left office. And as for Trump? He’s done little and he’s been publicly admonished by his own secretary of defense when he decided he wanted to end just one of those conflicts.

But “the United States”? Really? Other than Afghanistan after 9/11 – and that’s all – “the United States” didn’t embark on these wars. The national security community did. The government. Overtly, covertly, with high hopes or unwarranted self-confidence, they got their way. Who is the real culprit then? It isn’t Warren’s “elites”, the corporation, or Trump. It is Washington and its ability, indeed even its self-appointed duty, to stand in the way of anything that it sees as not in its interest.

She may not think it, but Warren is merely genuflecting before this deep state, declaring her allegiance to a “muscular military” and calling for “strong yet pragmatic security policies”. She of course offers a laundry list of things that must be preserved or strengthened that’s non-military – from technological superiority to diplomacy to strong alliances. And she decries the military and civilian policymakers who “seem [in]capable of defining success”. But in her innocence as to why we are stuck in seemingly endless wars she also seems oblivious to the fact that she is already capitulating to the very forces that ensure that we can’t change anything.

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Will the Green New Deal Make America Great Again?

Mistaken Futures (Kunstler)

The self-proclaimed socialists are actually seeing the world through a rear-view mirror. What they are really talking about is divvying up the previously-accumulated wealth, soon to be bygone. Entropy is having its wicked way with that wealth, first by transmogrifying it into ever more abstract forms, and then by dissipating it as waste all over the planet. In short, the next time socialism is enlisted as a tool for redistributing wealth, we will make the unhappy discovery that most of that wealth is gone. The process will be uncomfortably sharp and disorientating. The West especially will not know what hit it as it emergently self-reorganizes back into something that resembles the old-time feudalism.

We have a new kind of mass squalor in America: a great many people who have nothing to do, no means of support, and the flimsiest notions of purpose in life. The socialists have no answers for them. They will not be “retrained” in some imagined federal crusade to turn meth freaks into code-writers for Google. Something the analysts are calling “recession” is ploughing across the landscape like one of those darkly majestic dust-storms of the 1930s, only this time we won’t be able to re-fight anything like World War Two to get all the machines running again in the aftermath. Nor, of course, will the Make America Great Again fantasy work out for those waiting in the squalid ruins of the post-industrial rust-belt or the strip-mall wastelands of the Sunbelt.

Most of the beliefs and attitudes of the present day will be overturned with the demise of the industrial orgy, like the idea that humanity follows an unerring arc of progress, that men and women are interchangeable and can do exactly the same work, that society should not be hierarchical, that technology will rescue us, and that we can organize some political work-arounds to avoid the pain of universal contraction. There are no coherent ideas in the political arena just now. Our prospects are really too alarming. So, jump on-board the socialism ship and see if it makes you feel better to sail to the end of the earth. But mind the gap at the very edge. It’s a doozie.

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And 2 more weeks after that etc. till the clock runs out.

May To Ask MPs For Further Fortnight’s Grace In Brexit Talks (G.)

Theresa May hopes to convince the House of Commons on Tuesday to give her another fortnight’s grace to keep pushing for changes to the Irish backstop – despite the insistence of Michel Barnier that it is Britain that must compromise. With 45 days to go until Britain is due by law to leave the EU, with or without a deal, the prime minister will address MPs about progress in the Brexit talks, No 10 announced on Monday. She is unlikely to signal any shift towards a closer future relationship with the EU, after writing to Jeremy Corbyn to underline her continued objections to a customs union, and instead she will focus on the backstop.

“We are absolutely clear on this: we’re not considering Jeremy Corbyn’s customs proposals, we’re not considering any proposals to remain in the customs union. We must have our own, independent trade policy,” May’s spokesman said on Monday. May will stress her continued focus on the backstop, but the EU’s chief negotiator insisted on Monday there was no question of Brussels giving in to Downing Street’s demands. “We’re waiting for clarity and movement from the United Kingdom,” Barnier told reporters after talks in Luxembourg with the country’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel.

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The EU has the exact same flaws as its member states, but in the latter the losers can get voted out.

Europeans Must Get Rid Of The Failing EU One Way Or Another (MW)

Populism is sweeping Europe, because the European Union and its constituent governments have become as unresponsive as the 18th century aristocracies those replaced.The EU antecedent, the European Economic Community (1957) was created to prevent another World War by integrating the continent’s iron and steel industries and then its broader continental markets for goods, services, capital and labor. The process created a politically unaccountable bureaucracy, whose broad policy directions are set by consensus among the national heads of government and cabinet ministers. However, Brussels enjoys wide administrative discretion in supervising the customs union, agricultural and fisheries management, and national subsidies, anticompetitive practices, and other behavior that could undermine the “single market.”

Through a succession of treaties and agreements, national leaders “pooled sovereignty” to empower the European Commission to issue edicts that member states must directly obey or conform national laws and regulations in areas such as social policy and human rights, consumer protection and product standards, transportation, and immigration. European Court rulings have direct application in national courts, and 19 of the 28 states have ceded monetary policy to the European Central Bank by adopting the euro. To win votes, mainstream national politicians have endemically statist impulses, and hue to globalist views regarding the virtues of freer trade and more open immigration, regulatory responses to environmental challenges like climate change rather than mitigation, and impelling cultural diversity as opposed to preserving local cultures.

In Europe, national leaders have empowered the commission to impose the pain and constraints on private freedoms that such globalist policies require. Then they can point to Brussels to alibi they are just advancing a stronger European Union.

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Deutsche is a wager gone horribly wrong.

“Insane” Deutsche Bank Drowning Under Soaring Funding Costs (ZH)

Following years of dismal performance, uncovered attempts at market manipulation and fraudulent activities, and painful corporate reorganizations which its latest earnings report showed have “cut deeply into the muscle”, Deutsche Bank is a shadow of its former self, with its stock price trading just shy of all time lows. But an even bigger problem for Germany’s biggest lender is that it is now forced to pay the highest financing rates on the euro debt market for a leading international bank this year according to the FT, and also the highest rates among large banks to raise debt this year according to Bloomberg, in a further sign of the German lender’s uphill struggle to turn its operations around and reduce its funding costs.

As the FT first reported, followed promptly by Bloomberg, the bank raised eyebrows last week when it sold a total of €3.6BN in euro-denominated debt, paying 180 bps over the benchmarks for a two-year bond, a steep rate for short-term funding. Deutsche Bank also paid 230 bps over benchmarks for a senior seven-year bond that can absorb losses in a crisis. By comparison, French banking giant BNP Paribas SA last month offered 50 bps less for equally-ranked notes that mature one year later. More embarrassing, Deutsche Bank paid a higher rate than Spanish lender CaixaBank, which recently raised five-year bonds at 225bp.

In a latest note to clients, Corinna Dröse, a Frankfurt-based bond analyst at DZ Bank, said: “The high spreads reflect [Deutsche’s] high idiosyncratic risk, which is rooted in the lender’s chronic weakness in earnings.” “Deutsche has to pay significantly higher risk premiums than almost all other large European banks . . . [the] high spreads express severe doubts, mainly triggered by its poor revenue,” said Michael Hünseler, head of credit portfolio management at Assenagon. Intimately linked with the bank’s deteriorating fortunes – and stock price – investors are increasingly demanding that Deutsche Bank pay higher rates of return than even some of Europe’s “most troubled banks” as the firm grapples with a prolonged decline in revenue.

Finance chief James von Moltke said last year that the bank was caught in a “vicious circle” of declining revenue, sticky expenses, a lowered credit rating and rising funding costs. While the firm cut expenses, revenue and the price of funding remain a concern. “A key priority for us now is lowering our funding costs and improving our credit ratings,” von Moltke said during a call with fixed-income investors last week. “We must not compromise on the strength of our capital, funding, or liquidity, but we have to prove that we can generate long-term, sustainable profitability.”

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It’s not about eating meat, it’s about industrial farming. All these scientists telling people what to eat are useless.

Nearly A Fifth Of The EU’s Budget Goes On Livestock Farming (G.)

Nearly a fifth of the EU’s total budget – more than £24bn of taxpayer money – goes to support livestock farming across Europe, according to new research by Greenpeace. At a time when scientists are calling for significant reductions in meat consumption, the report’s authors say taxpayers’ money should be redirected away from grain-fed, industrial animal farming. Last month, the Eat-Lancet Commission of scientists called for a new plant-focused diet to help avoid dangerous levels of climate change and the destruction of wildlife. Such a diet would require cutting red meat consumption in Europe by 77%.

Public Health England’s dietary guidelines recommend that meat and dairy, including non-animal-based protein alternatives such as beans and pulses, should make up no more than our 20% of dietary intake. Yet, Europeans eat more than twice as much meat as national dietary authorities recommend, as well as twice the global average. “Adopting diets lower in meat and dairy would not only tackle health problems but would also reduce the pressure on land, freeing up more space for nature,” said the Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero. [..] Researchers calculated that 125 million hectares (308 million acres) of land in Europe is used to graze livestock or produce feed – this includes more than 60% of arable land that could otherwise be used to grow food directly for human consumption.

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China has no idea what democracy is. But it has a ruling class just like our countries.

China Has No Use For Democracy. It Needs A Strong Leader Like Xi (SCMP)

Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to meet nearly every Chinese leader since the 1930s (with the exception of Mao Zedong), including Chiang Kai-shek, Wang Jingwei and more contemporary figures such as Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin and Xi. As individuals, they frequently came off as kind, caring and intelligent. From afar, as I watched them govern, I would view them in a different light, as dictators. This is the reality of leadership in China. Previously, emperors in China were said to rule because of their “Mandate of Heaven”. When Mao seized power, it was clear that he had won his position through revolution. Yet the selection of Xi, like the selection of his predecessors since Mao’s death in 1976, is cloaked in secrecy.

Even those in the US who question whether, and to what degree, Russian interference influenced the 2016 election will concede that, based on US law, Trump is a legally elected president. These results are publicly available, and have been analysed repeatedly by the media, politicians and the American public. But China lacks such luxuries. Its citizens have no official records to turn to for an explanation of why and how Xi was chosen. [..] Under Xi’s leadership, China has adopted a more aggressive stance internationally, imprisoned thousands of party members on corruption charges and removed constitutional limitations on presidential term limits. Amid these developments, the question of how Xi was chosen again comes to mind. The short answer is, we can only guess.

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Why, why and why?

History’s 10 Most Culturally Significant Dick Pic Scandals (Taibbi)

The AMI-Jeff Bezos scandal is set up to dominate headlines for a while. Who knows where it will lead? In the third world, an oligarch-president proxy war playing out in public like this usually presages a coup. If this were Thailand or Uruguay, bookies would already have odds on a Bezos-Mark-Zuckerberg-Sundar-Pichai junta being in power by May. This scandal will at least drag us through unprecedented legal and ethical conundrums. Can the president use the surveillance powers of the state to go after political enemies? Can a billionaire intelligence contractor and administrator of one of earth’s largest private data collections — including the so-called “Secret Region” cloud — fight back using his own surveillance trove through a newspaper he owns?

This story could blur the lines between public and private power to the point of meaninglessness. America could very well find its fate decided by a series of pre-dawn phone calls, after which we’d wake up to find Trump flying to Switzerland, Amazon lieutenants in the Joint Chiefs office and the presidency replaced by an executive board. At the center of all of this: a dick pic. Nothing could be more American than the fate of our democracy now hanging (!) on what Enquirer editor Dylan Howard euphemistically describes as a “below-the-belt selfie.”

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Jan 042019
 


Yasuhiro Ishimoto Untitled, Chicago 1950

 

Congratulations! Apple Loses Record $463 Billion in Market Cap in Three Months (Mish)
Apple Just Lost A Facebook (CNBC)
Apple Suffers Its Biggest Single-Day Loss In 6 Years (CNBC)
Why This Time Is Different (MooTrades)
Democrats Introduce Impeachment Articles On 1st Day In The House (RT)
Canada Says 13 Citizens Detained In China Since Huawei CFO’s Arrest (R.)
UBS Chairman Pours Cold Water On Deutsche Bank Merger Talk (R.)
Google Shifted $23 Billion To Tax Haven Bermuda In 2017 (R.)
Over Half Of Tory Members Consider Quitting Party Over May’s Brexit Deal (BI)
US Judge Limits Evidence In Trial Over Roundup Cancer Claims (R.)
New Brazil President Bolsonaro Launches Assault On Amazon Rainforest (G.)

 

 

Losing half a trillion in 3 months should be no surprise now central banks have killed the negative feedback from a functioning market. It’ll be runaway wild swings till it is restored.

Congratulations! Apple Loses Record $463 Billion in Market Cap in Three Months (Mish)

Apple set a record that will take a long time to beat. The first $ trillion company lost nearly half that in 3 months. On, August 2, Apple became the World’s First Trillion-Dollar Company at $207.05 per share. Hooray! On October 3, Apple had a peak market cap of about $1.138 trillion. Today, Apple’s market cap is about $675 billion. That’s a record market cap loss of $463 billion in three short months. Expect more stories similar to this, but this may be hard to top. Amazon has a chance but it needs a big disaster soon.

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• more than double the size of Wells Fargo • more than three times the size of McDonald’s • more than five times the size of Costco • more than 10 times the size of Raytheon.

Apple Just Lost A Facebook (CNBC)

In only three months, Apple has lost $452 billion in market capitalization, including tens of billions on Thursday as the tech giant’s stock sank further. Apple shares have fallen by 39.1 percent since Oct. 3, when the stock hit a 52-week high of $233.47 a share. With its market cap down to about $674 billion, those losses are larger than individual value of 496 members of the S&P 500 — including Facebook and J.P. Morgan. Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet and Berkshire Hathaway are the only S&P 500 members with larger market caps than Apple’s loss since its recent high.

To put the Apple market value plunge in context, $446 billion is: • more than double the size of Wells Fargo • more than three times the size of McDonald’s • more than five times the size of Costco • more than 10 times the size of Raytheon. Apple gave a sudden warning to investors on Wednesday afternoon, lowering its fiscal first-quarter revenue guidance. Wall Street reacted, with one analyst saying this will represent Apple’s “biggest miss in years” and another saying the company’s announcement “raises more questions than answers.” Apple CEO Tim Cook’s letter to investors blamed a variety of factors for the guidance cut, including declining iPhone revenue and China’s weakening economy.

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Only 6 years? That makes it sound cookie cutter.

Apple Suffers Its Biggest Single-Day Loss In 6 Years (CNBC)

Apple stock cratered almost 10 percent Thursday, a day after slashing revenue guidance in a rare acknowledgement of waning sales. The stock ended trading at $142.19, its lowest price level since July 2017. The plunge makes for Apple’s worst day of trading since January 2013, and it extends a painful year-end trend for Apple into 2019. The stock, which once traded above $230 per share, shed 30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Thursday’s losses push Apple’s market valuation below $700 billion and behind the market cap of Alphabet to become the fourth most valuable publicly traded U.S. company — down from the top spot just two months ago. The company has lost $450 billion in market value since its peak of about $1.1 trillion last year.

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Hard not to think that people working in finance still can’t believe the industry doesn’t function. They keep trying to explain what happens, from inside their faulty models.

Why This Time Is Different (MooTrades)

We have seen the last three bull markets catalyzed largely by loosening liquidity conditions during the bear markets that preceded them by central banks — in more and more of a globally coordinated fashion. This has led me to believe that the expansion of liquidity is the primary driver for consistent risk asset upward price revisions (aka bull markets). More than economic developments, earnings or political discourse. As a result it is crucial to realize that the ‘punch bowl’ of quantitative easing, the veritable liquidity spigot that juiced markets higher over the last 9.5 years, is not only running dry, but going in reverse (taking liquidity from markets). The impact of this reversal cannot overstated. It will be the primary catalyst that drives this bear market in equities lower. Only a reversal of tightening liquidity conditions will drive risk assets higher again.

Macro: • $1 of US GDP growth now costs $4 of debt, and is only growing as we push on the string of debt to borrow forward demand to today. • US now has $200 trillion of unfunded liabilities over the next 10 year period. • Debt monetization isn’t just important, it will become a necessity. Otherwise rates normalize and the party ends in a very bad way (insolvency and/or extreme austerity measures).

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Everybody is getting ready for a fight. Just not one that would benefit their voters.

Democrats Introduce Impeachment Articles On 1st Day In The House (RT)

Democrats are flexing their muscles as the incoming majority in the US House of Representatives, introducing articles of impeachment and even quixotic constitutional amendments even though they have no hope of passing. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced articles of impeachment on the first day of the 2019 Congress, starting with a resolution demanding President Donald Trump be impeached for “threatening, and then terminating” then-FBI Director James Comey in 2017. Reserving the option to introduce more articles later, Sherman told CNN he wanted to be able to “force the conversation on impeachment” when (if?) the Mueller report is released, “challenging” his Democratic colleagues who haven’t yet chosen to support Trump’s impeachment.

Sherman filed the exact same impeachment resolution in 2017 but could only muster one supporter, Rep. Al Green (D-TX), who later filed his own articles of impeachment. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) didn’t even wait until she was seated as a congresswoman to go after the president’s job, publishing an op-ed on Thursday entitled “Now is the time to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.” “We already have overwhelming evidence that the president has committed impeachable offenses,” she wrote, accusing Trump of “abuse of power and abuse of the public trust” along with a laundry list of crimes. In person, she was even more direct, reportedly telling a MoveOn.org reception, “We’re gonna impeach that mother**ker.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been noticeably reticent on impeachment, telling NBC on Thursday that Democrats should wait for the Mueller report before making any moves. “We shouldn’t be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn’t avoid impeachment for a political reason,” she said. Many rank-and-file Democrats ran on pro-impeachment platforms, but with polls indicating only a third of Americans support the idea and a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Senate required to remove the president, they are unlikely to make any sudden moves.

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“..there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the United States..”

Canada Says 13 Citizens Detained In China Since Huawei CFO’s Arrest (R.)

Canada has said 13 of its citizens have been detained in China since the Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in December in Vancouver at the request of the US. “At least” eight of those 13 have since been released, a Canadian government statement said, without disclosing what charges if any had been laid. Prior to Thursday’s statement, detention of only three Canadian citizens had been publicly disclosed. Diplomatic tensions between Canada and China have escalated since Meng’s arrest on 1 December. The Canadian government has said several times it sees no explicit link between the arrest of Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, and the detentions of Canadian citizens. But Beijing-based western diplomats and former Canadian diplomats have said they believe the detentions were a “tit-for-tat” reprisal by China.

Meng was released on a C$10m ($7.4m) bail on 11 December and is living in one of her two Vancouver homes as she fights extradition to the US. The 46-year-old executive must wear an ankle monitor and stay at home from 11pm to 6am. The 13 Canadians detained included Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor and Sarah McIver, a Canadian government official said on Thursday. McIver, a teacher, has been released and returned to Canada. Kovrig and Spavor remain in custody. Canadian consular officials saw them once each in mid-December. Overall there are about 200 Canadians who have been detained in China for a variety of alleged infractions and continue to face on-going legal proceedings. “This number has remained relatively stable,” the official said. In comparison there are almost 900 Canadians in a similar situation in the United States, the official said.

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Who’s going to save Deutsche? It’s far too big not to be saved. But it would drag down any other bank with it. Let the German government do it.

UBS Chairman Pours Cold Water On Deutsche Bank Merger Talk (R.)

Swiss bank UBS is not looking to merge with any other bank, Chairman Axel Weber told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, dismissing speculation that UBS could join forces with Deutsche Bank. “There is a lot of talk in Europe and the United States about mergers but nothing happens. These are all simulation games,” he said in an interview published on Thursday. Asked specifically about whether UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager, was running simulations about Germany’s biggest lender, Weber said: “Every company has to think things over, but it makes little sense to consider mergers at group level now. These paralyze companies for years.

“UBS is much stronger today than before the financial crisis, but combining with another bank — no matter which — would be premature at this moment. We want to grow primarily organically and we surely have to be able to walk before we want to run.” Weber, a former Bundesbank chief who joined UBS in 2012, said he could imagine remaining in his post until 2022. Asked how long Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti might stay, he said UBS wanted an orderly leadership transition and was under no pressure to act while it ensured the right talent was in place.

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The Dutch finance minister published a list of tax havens a few days ago. Holland wasn’t on it. These people don’t give a sh*t about their credibility.

Google Shifted $23 Billion To Tax Haven Bermuda In 2017 (R.)

Google moved 19.9 billion euros ($22.7 billion) through a Dutch shell company to Bermuda in 2017, as part of an arrangement that allows it to reduce its foreign tax bill, according to documents filed at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. The amount channeled through Google Netherlands Holdings BV was around 4 billion euros more than in 2016, the documents, filed on Dec. 21, showed. “We pay all of the taxes due and comply with the tax laws in every country we operate in around the world,” Google said in a statement. “Google, like other multinational companies, pays the vast majority of its corporate income tax in its home country, and we have paid a global effective tax rate of 26 percent over the last ten years.”

For more than a decade the arrangement has allowed Google owner Alphabet to enjoy an effective tax rate in the single digits on its non-U.S. profits, around a quarter the average tax rate in its overseas markets. The subsidiary in the Netherlands is used to shift revenue from royalties earned outside the United States to Google Ireland Holdings, an affiliate based in Bermuda, where companies pay no income tax. The tax strategy, known as the “Double Irish, Dutch Sandwich”, is legal and allows Google to avoid triggering U.S. income taxes or European withholding taxes on the funds, which represent the bulk of its overseas profits.

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“76% of Tory members said that warnings about no deal Brexit — like those on food & medicine — are “exaggerated or invented, and in reality leaving without a deal would not cause serious disruption.”

Over Half Of Tory Members Consider Quitting Party Over May’s Brexit Deal (BI)

Conservative party members overwhelmingly want MPs to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal, with more than half saying they have even considered ripping up their membership over it, according to a new poll. A survey of 1,215 Tory party members published on Friday found that 59% of Conservative party members oppose the Withdrawal Agreement May has negotiated with the European Union, while just 38% support it. Among all Conservative party members, more than half (56%) said they had considered quitting the party over May’s deal, according to YouGov polling for leading academics at the ESRC-funded Party Members Project.

The findings will spook figures in Downing Street who had hoped that Conservative MPs would return from their constituencies over Christmas having been urged by party members to get behind May and her deal. The prime minister was forced to postpone a parliamentary vote on her deal after more than 100 of her MPs announced that they planned to oppose it. [..] The Tory party membership is particularly supportive of leaving the EU without a deal, despite the myriad warnings from ministers about the disruption it would cause across multiple aspects of life in the UK, including food and medicine. A whopping 76% of Tory members said that warnings about a no deal Brexit are “exaggerated or invented, and in reality leaving without a deal would not cause serious disruption.” Just 18% said the warnings were realistic.

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The -legal- power of Monsanto should never be underestimated.

US Judge Limits Evidence In Trial Over Roundup Cancer Claims (R.)

A federal judge overseeing lawsuits alleging Bayer’s glyphosate-based weed killer causes cancer has issued a ruling that could severely restrict evidence that the plaintiffs consider crucial to their cases. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco in an order on Thursday granted Bayer unit Monsanto’s request to split an upcoming trial into two phases. The order initially bars lawyers for plaintiff Edwin Hardeman from introducing evidence that the company allegedly attempted to influence regulators and manipulate public opinion.

Thursday’s order applies to Hardeman’s case, which is scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 25, and two other so-called bellwether trials which will help determine the range of damages and define settlement options for the rest of the 620 Roundup cases before Chhabria. But Hardeman’s lawyers contended that such evidence, including internal Monsanto documents, showed the company’s misconduct and were critical to California state court jury’s August 2018 decision to award $289 million in a similar case. The verdict sent Bayer shares tumbling though the award was later reduced to $78 million and is under appeal. Under Chhabria’s order, evidence of Monsanto’s alleged misconduct would be allowed only if glyphosate was found to have caused Hardeman’s cancer and the trial proceeded to a second phase to determine Bayer’s liability.

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Time to cut all ties with Brazil.

New Brazil President Bolsonaro Launches Assault On Amazon Rainforest (G.)

Hours after taking office, Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has launched an assault on environmental and Amazon protections with an executive order transferring the regulation and creation of new indigenous reserves to the agriculture ministry – which is controlled by the powerful agribusiness lobby. The move sparked outcry from indigenous leaders, who said it threatened their reserves, which make up about 13% of Brazilian territory, and marked a symbolic concession to farming interests at a time when deforestation is rising again. “There will be an increase in deforestation and violence against indigenous people,” said Dinaman Tuxá, the executive coordinator of the Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil (Apib).

“Indigenous people are defenders and protectors of the environment.” Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous leader who stood as vice-presidential candidate for the Socialism and Freedom party (PSOL) tweeted her opposition. “The dismantling has already begun,” she posted on Tuesday. Previously, demarcation of indigenous reserves was controlled by the indigenous agency Funai, which has been moved from the justice ministry to a new ministry of women, family and human rights controlled by an evangelical pastor. The decision was included in an executive order which also gave Bolsonaro’s government secretary potentially far-reaching powers over non-governmental organizations working in Brazil.

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