Aug 142020
 


Marlon Brando screentest 1951

 

US Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID Vaccine (KHN)
Israeli Hospital Trials Fast Saliva Test for COVID-19 (R.)
The Pandemic and Medicare for All (TMI)
NYC Is Dead Forever. Here’s Why (Altucher)
What Kamala Harris Really Thinks of WikiLeaks (Lauria)
Some Questions About Kamala Harris’ Eligibility (NW)
China’s Banks At Risk As $500 Billion In Non-Performing Loans Revealed (SCMP)
China’s Debt Collectors Flourish As Consumers Flounder (R.)
US Seizes $2 Million From Terror-Linked Cryptocurrency Accounts (CNBC)
United Arab Emirates Sells Out Palestine For Israel (EI)
Experts Debunk Claims of GMO Crops Success (OffG)
Ford Is Slashing 10,000 Jobs, 6 Factories In Europe (ZH)
7 Million Jobs At Risk, European Airlines Could See “Further Declines” (ZH)
Volume of Greek Air Traffic Plunged 74.3% in 2020 (GR)

 

 

I was reading a piece by law professor John Eastman yesterday, before the entire left stumbled over each other to condemn it. I was thinking in my innocence that it’s interesting to know if questions over who’s a “natural born citizen” in America have ever truly been settled by politics or courts.

But I’m naive, and it’s attack time. They will defend Kamala Harris with all they got, with the entire MSM serving as their bullhorns. Which means Trump and his people have no choice but to go after her with all they got. Still, remembering the Obama birther fiasco, do they really want to die on this hill? Can’t we just leave it to the court system and legal experts? Or simply answer Eastman’s questions?

It’s all among signs of things to come between here and Nov. 3. Bill Barr yesterday promised that a first news flash from the Durham investigation into Russiagate origins will come out today, and that all of it will before Nov. 3. US elections are really just entertainment. Opium for the masses. Clickbaits, drama, anger, scandal. And I always thought it should be about people.

 

 

Not much movement in the numbers. We’re stuck in a broken record, with no progress anywhere. Not good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are 328 million Americans. 74 million of them are children. That leaves 254 million adults, of which 107 million are obese, or 42%. 42.4% have a BMI over 30. 9% are morbidly obese.

From this point of view, COVID is hardly the worst threat to either the people or the health care system. Or, to put it another way, it’s the people themselves that are the threat to the health care system.

Again, take high fructose corn syrup out of the diet, and you solve a huge chunk of that problem. Ban stuff that kills people, or make it much harder to get.

US Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID Vaccine (KHN)

For a world crippled by the coronavirus, salvation hinges on a vaccine. But in the United States, where at least 4.6 million people have been infected and nearly 155,000 have died, the promise of that vaccine is hampered by a vexing epidemic that long preceded COVID-19: obesity. Scientists know that vaccines engineered to protect the public from influenza, hepatitis B, tetanus and rabies can be less effective in obese adults than in the general population, leaving them more vulnerable to infection and illness. There is little reason to believe, obesity researchers say, that COVID-19 vaccines will be any different. “Will we have a COVID vaccine next year tailored to the obese? No way,” said Raz Shaikh, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

“Will it still work in the obese? Our prediction is no.” More than 107 million American adults are obese, and their ability to return safely to work, care for their families and resume daily life could be curtailed if the coronavirus vaccine delivers weak immunity for them. In March, still early in the global pandemic, a little-noticed study from China found that heavier Chinese patients afflicted with COVID-19 were more likely to die than leaner ones, suggesting a perilous future awaited the U.S., whose population is among the heaviest in the world. And then that future arrived.

As intensive care units in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere filled with patients, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that obese people with a body mass index of 40 or more — known as morbid obesity or about 100 pounds overweight — were among the groups at highest risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. About 9% of American adults are in that category. As weeks passed and a clearer picture of who was being hospitalized came into focus, federal health officials expanded their warning to include people with a body mass index of 30 or more. That vastly expanded the ranks of those considered vulnerable to the most severe cases of infection, to 42.4% of American adults.

Read more …

More rapid testing. Good. Bring it. Test yourself everyday at breakfast.

Israeli Hospital Trials Fast Saliva Test for COVID-19 (R.)

A newly developed saliva test aims to determine in less than a second whether or not you are infected with the novel coronavirus, Israel’s largest medical center said Thursday. Patients rinse their mouth with a saline wash and spit into a vial. This is then examined by a small spectral device that, in simple terms, shines light on the specimen and analyzes the reaction to see if it is consistent with COVID-19. With machine learning it gets more accurate over time. Eli Schwartz of the Center for Geographic Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center, who is leading the trial, said it was easier to use than PCR swabs commonly used to detect COVID-19.


“So far we have very promising results in this new method which will be much more convenient and much cheaper,” he said. The center said in an initial clinical trial involving hundreds of patients, the new artificial intelligence-based device identified evidence of the virus in the body at a 95% success rate. Amos Panet, an expert in molecular virology at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, said he would like to see more data and comparisons with existing tests before making a final judgment. The amount of virus present in saliva increases as patients get sicker, he said, and a big challenge is to detect in “people who are borderline.” “It will be a game changer only if we see validation of this technology against the current technology,” he said.

Read more …

Would M4A benefit the obese and hence diabetic? A long time ago, someone said: we’re raising a generation of blind amputees. How would a health care system deal with that?

The Pandemic and Medicare for All (TMI)

When the novel coronavirus first arrived in the United States, it spurred on remarkable message discipline among America’s political class. The consensus that emerged on both sides of the aisle dictated that no matter what happened, Americans ought to be glad they do not live in a country with socialized medicine. At the final Democratic presidential debate on March 15, former Vice President Biden pointed to COVID numbers in Italy as evidence that not only was Medicare for all not a solution to the crisis, but it would put the country at greater risk. “With all due respect for Medicare for all, you have a single-payer system in Italy,” the former vice president said. “It doesn’t work there. It has nothing to do with Medicare for all. That would not solve the problem at all.”

Weeks later, in early April, Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden echoed the sentiment in a Twitter spat with a Medicare for All supporter. “You might want to check out the death rate in France before you think the form of health system is the answer here,” she tweeted. Not long after, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen declaring the COVID-19 pandemic was “an indictment of socialized medicine.” “If you think today’s pandemic bolsters the case for socialized medicine, then ask yourself a simple question: If you came down with a serious case of COVID-19, would you rather be in an Italian hospital or an American one?” the piece opens, before lauding Biden’s debate answer.

Such arguments were never fair — the pandemic was only just starting in the United States, while COVID-19 had indeed rampaged across Europe, there were contributing factors like years of austerity and a lack of supply chain redundancy in the modern globalized economy. But now, just a few months later, these arguments completely and utterly fail. New infections are still surging in the U.S. while countries with national health care programs have long since gotten a handle on the virus. On Tuesday, the U.S. reported more new COVID cases in a single day than Italy, France, and the U.K. reported last month combined, and roughly 45 percent of their total deaths.

Read more …

Nice account from James Altucher. is he just getting old, or is New York really beyond salvation?

NYC Is Dead Forever. Here’s Why (Altucher)

People say, “NYC has been through worse” or “NYC has always come back.” No and no. First, when has NYC been through worse? Even in the 1970s, and through the 80s, when NYC was going bankrupt, and even when it was the crime capital of the US or close to it, it was still the capital of the business world (meaning: it was the primary place young people would go to build wealth and find opportunity), it was culturally on top of its game – home to artists, theater, media, advertising, publishing, and it was probably the food capital of the US. NYC has never been locked down for five months. Not in any pandemic, war, financial crisis, never. In the middle of the polio epidemic, when little kids (including my mother) were going paralyzed or dying (my mother ended up with a bad leg), NYC didn’t go through this.

This is not to say what should have been done or should not have been done. That part is over. Now we have to deal with what IS. In early March, many people (not me), left NYC when they felt it would provide safety from the virus and they no longer needed to go to work and all the restaurants were closed. People figured, “I’ll get out for a month or two and then come back.” They are all still gone. And then in June, during rioting and looting a second wave of NYC-ers (this time me) left. I have kids. Nothing was wrong with the protests but I was a little nervous when I saw videos of rioters after curfew trying to break into my building. Many people left temporarily but there were also people leaving permanently. Friends of mine moved to Nashville, Miami, Austin, Denver, Salt Lake City, Austin, Dallas, etc.

Now a third wave of people are leaving. But they might be too late. Prices are down 30-50% on both rentals and sales no matter what real estate people tell you. And rentals soaring in the second and third-tier cities. I’m temporarily, although maybe permanently, in South Florida now. I also got my place sight unseen. Robyn was looking at listings around Miami and then she saw an area we had never been to before. We found three houses we liked. She called the real estate agent. Place #1. Just rented that morning 50% higher than the asking price. Place #2. Also rented (New Yorkers – “they came from New York for three hours, saw the place, got it, went back to pack.”). Place #3. “Available.” “We’ll take it!” The first time we physically saw it was when we flew down and moved in. “This is temporary, right?” I confirmed with Robyn. But…I don’t know. I’m starting to like the sun a little bit. I mean, when it’s behind the shades. And when I am in air conditioning.

Read more …

All US politics is united against Julian Assange.

What Kamala Harris Really Thinks of WikiLeaks (Lauria)

During a September 2017 U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee debate on an intelligence bill a line was inserted that said WikiLeaks “resembles a non-state hostile intelligence service” and that the U.S. “should treat it as such.” “This language would help investigators secure the authorization needed to surveil those U.S. citizens thought to be associated with WikiLeaks,” a McClatchy report quoted a government lawyer as saying. “You need to show that someone is an agent of a foreign power,” said the lawyer, Robert Deitz, who held senior legal positions at the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Security Agency. “It’s possible that Assange has colleagues in this country that they need to focus on,” McClatchy quoted Deitz as saying, “noting that such action can only be done under court order.”

The non-state hostile agency phrase was directly lifted from a scurrilous speech by Mike Pompeo in his first address as CIA director. The language survived the committee and made it into the bill voted on by the full Senate. But before it did two senators raised objections to it. One was Ron Wyden of Oregon. The other was Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the presumptive Democratic vice presidential candidate in November’s election. According to the McClatchy report, “Harris declared that she is ‘no supporter of WikiLeaks,’ which she said had done ‘considerable harm’ to the United States. But the clause on the group is ‘dangerous’ because it ‘fails to draw a bright line between WikiLeaks and legitimate news organizations that play a vital role in our democracy,’ according to her remarks for the record.”

Harris left no doubt that she is an enemy of WikiLeaks, as is her running mate, Joe Biden, who agreed it was more like a high-tech terrorist organization that Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers. Harris made clear she cared only about establishment media (which almost universally undergirds aggressive U.S. foreign policy) and was worried about it getting caught up in a WikiLeaks dragnet. She said she wants a “bright line” between publications such as The New York Times and WikiLeaks. Except, there can be no such legal line drawn as both establishment papers, like the Times, and WikiLeaks have done the exact same thing: possessed and published classified material.

Because there is no legal distinction, the Obama administration, which desperately wanted to indict WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, backed away citing its “New York Times problem.” The Trump administration had no such qualms and had Assange arrested in April 2019 and indicted on conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and 17 counts of the Espionage Act. The only bright line that can be drawn is political: a decision by the Department of Justice to not prosecute big media but to prosecute WikiLeaks for the same “crime”, which conflicts with First Amendment press freedoms. This is what Harris was calling for: Protect the state-managed corporate media but go after a serious publication that dares to reveal crimes of the U.S. government, which Harris wants to protect. In other words, for the same activity, the Times is afforded First Amendment protections, but WikiLeaks is not.

Read more …

There are questions one can’t ask.

Some Questions About Kamala Harris’ Eligibility (NW)

The fact that Senator Kamala Harris has just been named the vice presidential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has some questioning her eligibility for the position. The 12th Amendment provides that “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.” And Article II of the Constitution specifies that “[n]o person except a natural born citizen…shall be eligible to the office of President.” Her father was (and is) a Jamaican national, her mother was from India, and neither was a naturalized U.S. citizen at the time of Harris’ birth in 1964. That, according to these commentators, makes her not a “natural born citizen”—and therefore ineligible for the office of the president and, hence, ineligible for the office of the vice president.

“Nonsense,” runs the counter-commentary. Indeed, PolitiFact rated the claim of ineligibility as “Pants on Fire” false, Snopes rated it simply “False,” and from the other side of the political spectrum, Conservative Daily News likewise rated it “False.” All three (and numerous others) simply assert that Harris is eligible because she was born in Oakland—and is therefore a natural-born citizen from location of birth. The 14th Amendment says so, they all claim, and the Supreme Court so held in the 1898 case of U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark. But those claims are erroneous, at least as the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment was originally understood—an error to which even my good friend, renowned UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh, has fallen prey.

The language of Article II is that one must be a natural-born citizen. The original Constitution did not define citizenship, but the 14th Amendment does—and it provides that “all persons born…in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens.” Those who claim that birth alone is sufficient overlook the second phrase. The person must also be “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, and that meant subject to the complete jurisdiction, not merely a partial jurisdiction such as that which applies to anyone temporarily sojourning in the United States (whether lawfully or unlawfully). Such was the view of those who authored the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause; of the Supreme Court of the United States in the 1872 Slaughter-House Cases and the 1884 case of Elk v. Wilkins; of Thomas Cooley, the leading constitutional treatise writer of the day; and of the State Department, which, in the 1880s, issued directives to U.S. embassies to that effect.

The Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in Wong Kim Ark is not to the contrary. At issue there was a child born to Chinese immigrants who had become lawful, permanent residents in the United States—”domiciled” was the legally significant word used by the Court. But that was the extent of the Court’s holding (as opposed to broader language that was dicta, and therefore not binding). Indeed, the Supreme Court has never held that anyone born on U.S. soil, no matter the circumstances of the parents, is automatically a U.S. citizen.

Read more …

I’ve said it often before: none of this means much without also tallying shadow banks’ numbers.

China’s Banks At Risk As $500 Billion In Non-Performing Loans Revealed (SCMP)

China’s top banking regulatory official said on Thursday that the country’s banks have to deal with 3.4 trillion yuan (US$489.5 billion) worth of non-performing loans in 2020 – flagging a big risk for the banking system in the world’s second-largest economy. The total marks a hefty increase from 2.3 trillion yuan in 2019, and the value of bad loans could be even higher in 2021. Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said in an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency that the increase in non-performing loans (NPLs) – loans in default or close to default – will put huge pressure on the country’s banks, especially small and regional ones.

“As many loans are rolled over [in 2020], some problems will only emerge next year,” Guo was quoted by Xinhua as saying, adding that a rebound in bad loans is “inevitable” since the coronavirus shock has adversely affected so many companies. The warning by Guo, who is also the Communist Party secretary at the People’s Bank of China, came at a time when many of the country’s small banks are facing a moment of reckoning after years of undisciplined balance sheet expansion, as well as instances of fraud and corruption. Meanwhile, Guo said, Chinese banks have improved their loan structure – with more lending going toward manufacturing, infrastructure, technology and small businesses.

Guo added that Chinese banks are now being told to enhance their support of small businesses. In addition, he said he will encourage banks to invest more in corporate bonds. According to official statistics from Guo’s agency, the NPL ratio in China was among the lowest in the world. The ratio for Chinese commercial banks rose 0.03 percentage points in the second quarter to 1.94 per cent at the end of June. But hidden bad loans, if exposed, could easily wipe out bank profits and erode capital bases. In the first half of this year, the combined profits of Chinese banks dropped for the first time in more than a decade – falling 9.4 per cent to 1 trillion yuan in the first half of the year, government data shows.

Read more …

So, question is: who are the shadow banks’ debt collectors? Vinnie the Kneecapper and his friends?

China’s Debt Collectors Flourish As Consumers Flounder (R.)

It’s not a good sign for any economy when debt collectors are booming and in China right now, the industry is on a hiring spree. Whole Scene Asset Management, a debt recovery firm based in the southern province of Hunan, plans to double staff numbers to 400 people this year as it expands into new cities. “Debt collection companies have been mushrooming,” said company founder Zhang Haiyan. “And with bad loans growing this year, everyone is adding new hands.” Rival Bricsman is also hiring – hoping to boost headcount of around 1,000 by 400-500 this year after landing a deal to collect delinquent consumer loans for China Minsheng Bank (600016.SS), people with knowledge of the matter said, declining to identified as they were not authorised to talk to media.

Bricsman, which is based in the eastern province of Jiangsu and counts other large banks amongst its clients, did not respond to a request for comment. As increasing numbers of consumers struggle with lost income in an economy battered by the coronavirus and U.S-China tensions, a burgeoning wave of non-performing loans is sparking concern among lenders – both at specialist consumer financing firms and traditional banks – and even among debt collectors. China is the midst of “an unfolding debt crisis”, says Joe Zhang, a business consultant and until last month vice chairman at the country’s largest debt collector YX Asset Recovery. The delinquency rate for consumer debt is climbing and collecting on those loans has become much harder, he added, estimating that at some weaker non-bank consumer lenders, soured loans may account for 30% to 50% of their portfolios.

[..] Chinese consumer debt has ballooned over the past five years, fuelled in part as banks scrambled to issue credit cards, with outstanding debt for bank-issued cards doubling to 17.6 trillion yuan ($2.5 trillion). Internet-based consumer financing, which is only lightly regulated, has also grown – by a dizzying 400 times to nearly 8 trillion yuan since 2014, according to the Guanghua School of Management. And Chinese household debt – including mortgages and unsecured consumer loans – has swollen to levels equivalent to nearly 60% of GDP, up from 18% in 2008, the peak of the global financial crisis.

Read more …

300 anonymous accounts?!

US Seizes $2 Million From 300 Terror-Linked Cryptocurrency Accounts (CNBC)

The Justice Department said it dismantled an elaborate cyber campaign used by overseas terror organizations to finance their operations and seized $2 million from more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts in what it described as the largest-ever seizure of its kind. The Justice Department said three overseas terrorist groups — al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing; al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS — used cryptocurrencies and social media to raise funds for their terror campaigns. “It should not surprise anyone that our enemies use modern technology, social media platforms and cryptocurrency to facilitate their evil and violent agendas,” Attorney General William Barr said in a release.


“As announced today, we will seize the funds and the instrumentalities that provide a lifeline for their operations whenever possible,” he added. “Terrorist networks have adapted to technology, conducting complex financial transactions in the digital world, including through cryptocurrencies. IRS-CI special agents in the DC cybercrimes unit work diligently to unravel these financial networks,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in a release. In one of the cases, the U.S. secretly took over websites that were operated by al-Qassam Brigades and monitored those who thought they had opened up their cyber wallets to the terror group but instead donated money to an account controlled by the U.S. government, according to court documents unsealed Thursday in the District of Columbia.

Read more …

Successfully dividing the Arab world’s support for Palestinians.

United Arab Emirates Sells Out Palestine For Israel (EI)

The United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to full normalization of relations, bringing their decades-long clandestine dealings proudly into the open. The so-called “Abraham Accords” sealing the deal were brokered by US officials. The deal is named for “the father of all three great faiths,” David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, told reporters at the Oval Office on Thursday. Religious and cultural tolerance is often used by Arab states and Israel to mask their efforts to normalize ties. Painting conflict in the region as stemming from a lack of understanding among religions is also a way to obscure its true origin: Israel’s violent dispossession of Palestinians and ongoing military occupation and steady ethnic cleansing of their land.

In exchange for normalization, Israel agreed to suspend plans to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank “and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world,” according to the joint statement. However, this is spin. In reality, it was the United States that put Israel’s annexation plans on ice weeks ago. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to annexation shortly after the announcement of the agreement. The UAE is merely using the American-imposed freeze as an opportunity to bring its secret ties with Israel dating back to the 1990s into the open. These secret relations have included military and intelligence cooperation and even joint military exercises.

[..] Relations between Israel and Gulf States including Saudi Arabia and the UAE are founded on a mutual enmity towards Iran. Liquidating Palestinian rights and bypassing the Palestinian issue is seen as key to building up this anti-Iran alliance under American oversight. Annexation, moreover, would only be a formal rubber stamp for what Israel has been doing on the ground for decades: stealing land, forcibly displacing Palestinians and building colonies in flagrant breach of international law. This violent colonization has never ceased and will not stop as a result of this agreement.

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India is Monsanto’s wet dream.

Experts Debunk Claims of GMO Crops Success (OffG)

On 6 July 2020, an article extolling the benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops appeared on the BloombergQuint website based on an interview with Dr Ramesh Chand, a member of the key Indian Government think tank Niti Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) . On 17 July, another piece that placed a positive spin on GM crops and gene-editing technology (Feeding 10 Billion People will Require Genetically Modified Food) appeared on the same site. According to Prof Andrew Paul Gutierrez, Dr Hans R Herren and Dr Peter E Kenmore, internationally renowned agricultural researchers, the pieces reported “sweeping unsupported claims” about the benefits of and need for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and related technologies in agriculture in India.

The three academics felt that “a responsible and factual response” was required and have written a letter – containing what could be described as the definitive analysis of Bt cotton in India – to Dr Ramesh Chand, Dr Rajiv Kumar (Niti Aayog Vice Chancellor) and Dr Amitabh Kant (Niti Aayog CEO). Chand is reported as saying that there is no credible study to show any adverse impact of growing Bt cotton in the last 18 years in the country (India’s only officially approved GM crop). This is simply not the case. Moreover, Gutierrez et al argue that all of the credible evidence shows any meagre increases in cotton yield after the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002 were largely due to increases in fertiliser use. Before proceeding, it is pertinent to address the claim that ‘feeding 10 billion people will require genetically modified food’.

If we take the case of India and its 1.3 billion-plus population, it has achieved self-sufficiency in food grains and has ensured that, in theory at least, there is enough food available to feed its entire population. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables and fruit. However, food security for many Indians remains a distant dream. Hunger and malnutrition remain prevalent. But that is not because farmers don’t produce enough food. These problems result from other factors, including inadequate food distribution, social and economic policies, inequality and poverty. It is a case of ‘scarcity’ amid abundance (reflecting the situation globally). India even continues to export food while millions remain hungry. Productivity is not the issue.

And while proponents say GM will boost productivity and help secure cultivators a better income, this too ignores crucial political and economic contexts; with bumper harvests, Indian farmers still find themselves in financial distress. India’s farmers are not experiencing hardship due to low productivity. They are reeling from the effects of neoliberal policies and years of neglect. It’s for good reason that the calorie and essential nutrient intake of the rural poor has drastically fallen. Yet the pro-GMO lobby has wasted no time in wrenching these issues from their political contexts to use the notions of ‘helping farmers’ and ‘feeding the world’ as lynchpins of its promotional strategy.

Read more …

Everything travel related is getting hammered. There is no telling when it all will be back, or if it ever will. Bailing out the firms involved seems an awful waste of money. You do that for firms that have a future, not those that have a past.

Ford Is Slashing 10,000 Jobs, 6 Factories In Europe (ZH)

The auto industry continues to grapple with one of the worst recessions ever for the notoriously capital intensive sector. Ford, which feels like it has been in the midst of a yearslong “restructuring” that has never fully panned out or ended (and has involved numerous CEOs), continues to make major changes to its global personnel to try and find the right mix for its business going forward. This means that 10,000 positions are now being cut across Europe, the automaker disclosed yesterday. Ford is also going to be reducing the number of its plants in Europe to 17 from 23, the company revealed in a JP Morgan conference presentation on Wednesday.

In a slide called “Ford Euope: Road to Sustainable Profitability”, the company also disclosed it would be discontinuing underperforming vehicles, like its C-MAX and Grand C-Max. The company also plans on “leveraging” its relationship with VW. The company says it is on track to deliver on its 2020-2021 CO2 targets without credits or penalties and 13 new electic vehicles will be on sale by the end of 2020, up from just 5. This news comes days after it was announced that Ford would be replacing its CEO on relatively short notice. Ford said days ago it had tapped Jim Farley to replace a relatively still-newly appointed Jim Hackett as CEO. Hackett replaced former CEO Mark Fields and, for the most part, has failed to inspire confidence during his tenure at Ford.

Ford is currently in the middle of an $11 billion restructuring that is supposed to help to accelerate its development of new vehicles, including hybrids and EVs. Hackett had only just started with Ford back in 2017 and has said he will retire effective October. General Motors is following with a C-suite shakeup of its own, as its CFO leaves after just two years to work at a fintech startup. The company announced earlier this week that John Stapleton, GM North America chief financial officer, has been named its acting global chief financial officer, effective Aug. 15, after the resignation of the company’s current CFO, Dhivya Suryadevara.

Read more …

Isn’t that what we wanted? Less flying, less pollution?

7 Million Jobs At Risk, European Airlines Could See “Further Declines” (ZH)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) published a new report Thursday that warns the virus-induced downturn will continue to pressure air passenger numbers, employment and economies across Europe. IATA said passenger flights are expected to decline by 60% in 2020, resulting in millions of job losses in the aviation and tourism industries. IATA issued a similar warning of what has been announced by airlines, of which, complete recovery in passenger demand might not be seen until 2024. “The near-term outlook for recovery in Europe remains highly uncertain with respect to the second wave of the pandemic and the broader global economic impact it could have. Passenger demand in Europe is expected to recover gradually and will not reach 2019 levels until 2024. -IATA

IATA’s job loss estimate was increased by 17% from its June report, from 6 million to 7 million, mostly because the highly anticipated V-shaped recovery has failed to materialize. “It is desperately worrying to see a further decline in prospects for air travel this year, and the knock-on impact for employment and prosperity. said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe. Schvartzman said, “It shows once again the terrible effect that is being felt by families across Europe as border restrictions and quarantine continue. It is vital that governments and industry work together to create a harmonized plan for reopening borders.”

If another wave of the virus were to hit Europe, justifying nationwide lockdowns, it could intensify the recession. Though the German tabloid newspaper Bild has said: “There will be no second hard lockdown in Europe because that would lead to a monster recession that would not be accepted by the population.”

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20% of Greek GDP is tourism. So are at least 20% of jobs.

Volume of Greek Air Traffic Plunged 74.3% in 2020 (GR)

A report came out on Thursday confirming the worst fears of Greek economic experts, stating that the country had seen a drop of 74.3% in the number of passengers who had traveled through their airports so far this year. This amounts to only 9 million air travelers who had used airports in the country so far in 2020, a staggering drop of almost three-quarters of its business. The number of international visitors coming into Greek airports this year so far amounts to 1,126,429, a stunning decrease from last year’s banner tourism season, which saw a total of 4,096,657 international arrivals. Although very disappointing, the numbers did not come as a shock to any in the sector, due to the punishing effects of travel bans imposed on many nations because of the coronavirus pandemic.


According to Greek media reports, the Civil Aviation Authority, or CAA, reported the precipitous drop in business in the first seven months of this year relative to the numbers seen in 2019. For the month of July 2020 alone, the high season for summertime travel to the country, passenger traffic at Greek airports had decreased 72.6%. During the month of July, a total of only 2,722,854 million passengers came through Greece’s airports; in that same period, there was a precipitous drop of 72.5% in the number of foreign arrivals. This means that there were fewer passengers overall in the first seven months of 2020 than there had been in the month of July only in 2019.

Read more …

 

 

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Feb 242020
 


John Vachon Rain. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1941

 

 

Wuhan Eases Coronavirus Lockdown As Xi Warns Of Historic ‘Crisis’ (G.)
Large Parts Of China Relax Coronavirus Curbs, Many Report Zero New Cases (R.)
Coronavirus China’s Fastest-Spreading Public Health Crisis – Xi Jinping (SCMP)
Chinese Workers Refuse To Go Back To Work Despite Beijing’s Demands (ZH)
Coronavirus Credit Crunch Hits Millions Of Chinese Firms (BBC)
85% Of Chinese Businesses Set To Run Out Of Cash In 3 Months (ZH)
“Tsunami-Like” Coronavirus Floods South Korea With New Cases (ZH)
COVID19 Did Not Originate In Wuhan Seafood Market – Chinese Scientists (SCMP)
Austria Stops Passenger Train Traffic With Italy Amid Coronavirus Panic (RT)
North Korea Quarantines Foreigners Amid Virus Fears (BBC)
Record Two Million Britons At Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes (Ind.)
What If Bernie Has Already Won This Thing? (Hill)
Chris Matthews Faces Calls For Resignation (Hill)
Chief Magistrate In Assange Case Was Funded By Shadowy Groups (DMav)
An End of Aboriginal Rights and Title (IC)

 

 

Before we get to the virus news, an observation: I was watching Trump arrive in India today on CNN, and thought: poor CNN, they have no choice but to cover this. How can they make him look bad now? Imagined Jeff Zucker, who wanted ONLY impeachment news as that circus went on, pacing up and down his office trying to find an angle. Then they found it: one of the talking heads said Trump and Modi are both right-wing populists who don’t like Muslims! AND they made sure that during Trump’s speech a bit later, there was always a talking head talking, so nobody could hear what Trump said. Well done!

 

As the virus continues to spread, rapidly, China starts to relax lockdown measures in certain regions, citing zero new cases there. For some reason this coincides with plummeting western stock markets and an incredible surge in gold (almost 3%). “As virus fears mount” says the media. “As China relaxes lockdown measures”, says I.

In reality, China makes a Russian roulette (Chinese roulette?) kind of gamble. Beijing realizes that if it doesn’t restart the economy real fast now, problems risk becoming insurmountable. So they say: no new cases in 1-2 days? Let’s go! Workers are less eager to get back, however. After all, they see President Xi declaring this the biggest health crisis, and 2 minutes later telling them it’s safe to take the subway or bus to work.

South Korea (red alert, 800 cases), Italy (152 cases) and Iran (12 deaths) are in various stages of exponential outbreak, and maybe Japan should be in that list as well, if only because infections aboard the Diamond Princess rose to 691. Oh well, maybe it’s good news that the Worldometer mortality rate has dropped to 9% (see below).

Turkey, Pakistan have closed borders with Iran, while Austria and soon others closed them with Italy. Note that the Schengen Treaty is under severe threat from this. Oh, and Axios reports shortages of 150 essential drugs likely.

 

Cases 79,707 (+ 841 from yesterday’s 78,866).

Deaths 2,626 (+ 162 from yesterday’s 2,464, a sharp rise from 102)

 

From SCMP:

 

 

Note: Worldometer mortality rate has dropped to 9%

 

 

 

 

The vast majority of cases and deaths are still in Hubei province, but who cares, we must produce. The economy forces us into the worst possible decisions.

Wuhan Eases Coronavirus Lockdown As Xi Warns Of Historic ‘Crisis’ (G.)

Wuhan, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in China, has loosened lockdown measures and several provinces have lowered their emergency alert levels, as top officials sought to assure the public that the virus is being contained. On Monday, China’s National Health Commission reported its highest number of deaths in 11 days, with another 150 dead and 409 new cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in China to 77,150. All but one of the fatalities and 11 of the new infections were in Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak.


Officials had delayed the daily announcement of the data, a day after a major speech and meeting held by China’s leader, Xi Jinping. Xi warned the Covid-19 crisis was “both a crisis and a big test” for the country, according to Xinhua News agency. Xi said the virus was a major public health emergency, which had spread quickly, causing the most extensive and difficult-to-contain infection since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. “The outbreak of novel coronavirus pneumonia will inevitably have a relatively big impact on the economy and society,” Xi said, but added that the impact would be temporary and generally manageable. Some observers greeted Monday’s figures with scepticism and as part of efforts to project a sense of control over the crisis. Chinese officials have twice changed the criteria for confirmed infections, making the data harder to parse.

Read more …

Key: “China’s GDP may slow in the first quarter, possibly easing to 3% growth or even lower..”

Large Parts Of China Relax Coronavirus Curbs, Many Report Zero New Cases (R.)

Urged to restore economic activity by President Xi Jinping, large parts of China relaxed curbs on transport and movement of people on Monday as reported new cases of the coronavirus outside the worst-hit province fell to the lowest in a month. Figures released by the national health authority on Monday showed 24 out of China’s 31 provinces and regions – including Beijing, Shanghai and populous provinces such as Henan and Anhui – reported zero cases of new infections on Feb. 23, the best showing since it began publishing nationwide figures on Jan. 20. There were just 11 new cases in six other provincial-level jurisdictions, while in Hubei province, the epicenter of the epidemic, the number of new cases fell to 398 from 630 a day earlier.

On Sunday, President Xi hailed the positive trend, and urged businesses to resume work and safeguard jobs. He also told low-risk provinces to restore economic activity and output, while high-risk regions focused on controlling the epidemic. Yunnan, Guangdong, Shanxi and Guizhou on Monday lowered their coronavirus emergency response measures from the most serious level, joining the provinces of Gansu and Liaoning in relaxing restrictions on traffic and movement of people. The coronavirus has infected nearly 77,000 people and killed more than 2,500 in China in one of the most serious public health crises in decades. The pathogen has also spread to other countries such as South Korea, Italy and Iran. Whether or not China can defeat the epidemic is “a major test of (Communist) Party organizations, party members and cadres of all levels,” Xi said, warning officials to avoid complacency.

In the rest of China, factories, businesses and construction sites have already gradually restarted. Large state-owned enterprises have been told to spearhead a recovery in industry while policymakers roll out measures to support struggling small and medium-sized companies. China’s GDP may slow in the first quarter, possibly easing to 3% growth or even lower, from 6% in the previous quarter – which was already the weakest pace in nearly 30 years, economists estimated. “The risk is that, with the emphasis on the economy and a differentiation of regions based on the number of new infection cases, the quality of new infection data reported by local governments could be compromised again,” Nomura wrote in a research note. “Cover-ups could lead to slack preventions…” it said.

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But do go to work!

Coronavirus China’s Fastest-Spreading Public Health Crisis – Xi Jinping (SCMP)

In a meeting on an unprecedented scale, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the coronavirus epidemic was the country’s most serious public health crisis and promised more pro-growth policies to help overcome it. According to state news agency Xinhua, Xi’s address via teleconference on Sunday was open to every county government and every military regiment throughout the country. He said the epidemic was “the fastest spreading, with the most infected and was the most difficult to prevent and control” since the founding of the People’s Republic. “This is a crisis for us and it is also a major test,” he said, acknowledging that the country needed to learn from the “obvious shortcomings exposed” in its response, so it could improve its ability to handle future crises. But Xi also told the Communist Party cadres that “the party Central Committee’s assessment of the epidemic is accurate, all the work arrangements are timely, and the measures adopted are effective”.


“The effectiveness of the prevention and control work has once again demonstrated the significant advantages of the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system with Chinese characteristics,” he said. He said that controlling the outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and the wider province of Hubei as well as preventing the epidemic from spreading to Beijing, China’s political centre, were the country’s top two strategic goals. “First, [we must] resolutely curb the spread of epidemic … increase the rate of treatment and cure, and reduce the infection and death rates effectively in Hubei and Wuhan,” he said. “Second, [we need to] make every effort to prevent and control the spread in Beijing … strengthen joint defenses and control in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, and cut off the source of infection as much as possible.”

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Your virus or your money…

Chinese Workers Refuse To Go Back To Work Despite Beijing’s Demands (ZH)

When we commented earlier that the coronavirus pandemic means that the vast majority of Chinese small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have at most 2-3 months of cash left, a potentially catastrophic outcome that will not only crippled China’s economy but its $40 trillion financial system, we summarized the circular quandary in which Beijing finds itself, to wit: “… unless China reboots its economy, it faces an economic shock the likes of which it has never seen before in modern times. Yet it can’t reboot the economy unless it truly stops the viral pandemic, something it will never be able to do if it lies to the population that the pandemic is almost over in hopes of forcing people to get back to work. Hence the most diabolic Catch 22 for China’s social and economic system, because whereas until now China could easily lie its way out of any problem, in this case lying will only make the underlying (viral pandemic) problem worse as sick people return to work, only to infect even more co-workers, forcing even more businesses to be quarantined.”

Shockingly (or perhaps not at all in light of China’s tremendous human rights record), Beijing has picked output over life expectancy, and in a furious scramble to restart its economy, which as we showed earlier remains flatlined… … according to most high-frequency metrics, it has been “advising” people to get back to work, even as new coronavirus cases are still coming in, in the process threatening to blow out the current epidemic with orders of magnitude more cases as places of employment become the new hubs of viral distribution.

As Bloomberg picked up late on Sunday, following what we said earlier namely that “local governments around the country face a daunting question of whether to focus on staving off the virus or encourage factory reopenings” China’s central and local governments are one again easing the criteria for factories to resume operations “as they walk a tightrope between containing a virus that has killed more than 2,400 people and preventing a slump in the world’s second-largest economy.” This schizophrenic dilemma for a government which faces two equally terrible choices, was best summarized by the following two banners observed in China:

And yet, even with both options equally terrible, Beijing also has no choice but to pick one. As a result, as Bloomberg writes, “the rush to restart has been propelled by China’s leader Xi Jinping and top leaders, who are urging companies to resume production so the country can continue to meet lofty goals for growth and economic development in 2020.” Regular Zero Hedge readers know the rest: with most of Chinese economic output paralyzed, officials in China’s provinces have taken up Xi’s call, with one region after another relaxing rules that had kept more than half the nation’s industrial base idle following the Lunar New Year holiday.

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Why I warn for too much focus on Apple and iPhones: “Small- and medium-sized companies account for 60% of the economy and 80% of jobs..”

Coronavirus Credit Crunch Hits Millions Of Chinese Firms (BBC)

Mounting debts have hit Chinese companies struggling to pay workers and suppliers amid the coronavirus outbreak. President Xi Xinping said on Sunday that China faces a “big test” to combat the virus. The government has asked banks to offer more credit for an economy stunned as the virus spreads rapidly. But a survey of small and medium Chinese firms found millions at the edge of survival. The Chinese Association of Small and Medium Enterprises said around 60% could cover regular payments for only one to two months before running out of cash. Only 10% said they could hold out six months or longer. At the same time, the industry group said that “nearly 60% of the enterprises (surveyed) have resumed work.” Small- and medium-sized companies in China are a particular focus because they account for 60% of the economy and 80% of jobs, according to the People’s Bank of China.

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“..as of last Monday, only about 25% of people had returned to work in China’s tier-one cities..”

85% Of Chinese Businesses Set To Run Out Of Cash In 3 Months (ZH)

And here is the stark reality of China’s T-minus 3 months countdown: 85% of 1,506 SMEs surveyed in early February said they expect to run out of cash within three months, according to a report by Tsinghua University and Peking University. And forget about profits for the foreseeable future: one-third of the respondents said the outbreak is likely to cut into their full-year revenue by more than 50%, according to the Nikkei. “Most SMEs in China rely on operating revenue and they have fewer sources for funding” than large companies and state-owned enterprises, said Zhu Wuxiang, a professor at Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management and a lead author of the report.

The problem with sequential supply chains is that these also apply to the transfer of liquidity: employers need to pay landlords, workers, suppliers and creditors – regardless of whether they can regain full production capacity anytime soon. Any abrupt and lasting delays will wreak havoc on China’s economic ecosystem. “The longer the epidemic lasts, the larger the cash gap drain will be,” Zhu said, adding that companies affected by the trade war face a greater danger of bankruptcy because many are already heavily indebted. “Self-rescue will not be enough. The government will need to lend help.”

So where are we nearly two months after the epidemic started? Well, as of last Monday, only about 25% of people had returned to work in China’s tier-one cities, according to an estimate by Japanese brokerage Nomura, based on data from China’s Baidu. By the same time last year, 93% were back on the job. And making matters worse, as we first noted several weeks ago, local governments around the country face a daunting question of whether to focus on staving off the virus or encourage factory reopenings, as the following tweet perfectly captures.

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“..bringing the total of 763, a 25-fold increase in cases in one week,..”

“Tsunami-Like” Coronavirus Floods South Korea With New Cases (ZH)

Update (2200ET): In a release that was about 4 hours late, China’s Hubei province said it has 398 New Coronavirus Cases As Of Feb 23 and 149 New Coronavirus Deaths. Overall, China reported an additional 409 coronavirus cases across the entire nation, and 150 additional deaths as of February 23 vs. 648 additional cases and 97 deaths on February 22. This brings the total number of cases across China to 77,150, and total deaths to 2592. None of these numbers are even remotely credible any more, and serve merely the propaganda purpose of giving the impression that Beijing is winning the war against the spread of the Coronavirus, when in reality nobody has any idea anymore what is going on on the ground in China, and is why workers refuse to show up to their place of business.

Consider this: two days ago, WaPo reporters pointed to a clear case of manipulation where the authorities suppressed the true number of cases. Authorities in Hubei province reported good news Thursday: There were only 349 new coronavirus cases the previous day, the lowest tally in weeks. The bad – and puzzling – news? Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, reported 615 new cases all by itself. And then there was the Hunan doctor who said he had treated no less than 50 patients with coronavirus on the same day official data reported just one new case.

Update (2015 ET): The epidemic in South Korea is accelerating exponentially, with the country reporting 161 additional virus cases, bringing the total of 763, a 25-fold increase in cases in one week, along with two more deaths bringing the death toll there to seven. The Kospi is continuing its decline and is down 3.0% and approached the 2100 level on the downside. More ominously, the number of cases under inspection is nearly 10,000. Earlier in the day, S.Korea elevated the virus alert level to “red”, the highest in its four-tier system. According to Yonhap, in escalating the virus alert level, President Moon said, “a few days from now is a watershed moment.” In the first 30 days, S. Korea seemed to have been effectively combating the Covid-19. But within the past few days, the number of confirmed cases spiked, first linked to a religious sect and now starting to spread across the country. Yet, the city of Daegu and the Gyeongbuk area have a higher concentration of virus cases – representing 84% of the total number of infections – than other regions.

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Let’s check that lab, shall we?

COVID19 Did Not Originate In Wuhan Seafood Market – Chinese Scientists (SCMP)

The novel coronavirus that has claimed the lives of more than 2,400 people did not originate at a seafood market in the central China city of Wuhan as was first thought, according to a new study by a team of Chinese scientists. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was instead imported from elsewhere, said researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Institute for Brain Research. The team, led by Dr Yu Wenbin, sequenced the genomic data of 93 SARS-CoV-2 samples provided by 12 countries in a bid to track down the source of the infection and understand how it spreads.

What they found was that while the virus had spread rapidly within the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, there had also been two major population expansions on December 8 and January 6. According to the study, which was published on the institute’s website on Thursday, analysis suggested that the coronavirus was introduced from outside the market. “The crowded market then boosted SARS-CoV-2 circulation and spread it to the whole city in early December 2019,” it said. Earlier reports by Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organisation said that the first known patient showed symptoms on December 8, and that most of the subsequent cases had links to the seafood market, which was closed on January 1.

The research went on to say that based on the genome data it was possible that the virus began spreading from person to person in early December or even as early as late November. “The study concerning whether Huanan market is the only birthplace of SARS-CoV-2 is of great significance for finding its source and determining the intermediate host, so as to control the epidemic and prevent it from spreading again,” the research team said.

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Note the use of the word “panic”.

Austria Stops Passenger Train Traffic With Italy Amid Coronavirus Panic (RT)

Authorities in Austria have stopped an incoming train at the Italian border, after it emerged that two passengers may be infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus. Later, all train traffic to and from Italy was halted.
The Eurocity 86 train was stopped at the Brenner Pass border crossing on Sunday, after officials at Italian State Railways told their Austrian counterparts that two passengers on board had fever symptoms consistent with the Covid-19 coronavirus.The train, bound for Munich in Germany, was halted and returned to the Italian side of the alpine crossing, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer confirmed.

Austrian authorities later stopped all train traffic to and from Italy, tabloid newspaper OE24 said on its website. The stoppage marks the first time European borders have been shut following the outbreak of the deadly disease, which surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019 and has to date spread to more than 30 countries worldwide, killing nearly 2,500 people. At least 100 cases and three deaths have been recorded in Italy, making the Mediterranean country Europe’s coronavirus hotspot, and the only European country to see fatalities. Cities and towns in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto have been placed on lockdown, and Venice’s world-famous carnival has ended two days early, as authorities grapple to stop the spread of the illness.

In Milan, grocery stores were emptied by panic-stricken shoppers, and shortages of disinfectant and respirators have been reported. Europe’s largely porous borders could pose a serious risk for further transmission across the continent. However, EU officials have told the public that “there is no need to panic.” “The EU has full confidence in the Italian authorities and the decisions they are taking,” the bloc’s economic affairs commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, said on Sunday.

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If they have an outbreak, will we ever know?

North Korea Quarantines Foreigners Amid Virus Fears (BBC)

North Korea has quarantined 380 foreigners in a bid to stop the coronavirus from breaking out. The foreigners are mostly diplomats stationed in the capital Pyongyang, said news agency Yonhap, quoting the Korean Central Broadcasting Station. Around 200 foreigners had already been confined to their compounds for the past 30 days – but as that came to an end, the quarantine has been extended. There have not been any reported cases of Covid-19 in North Korea. It’s not known how long the new quarantine for foreigners will last. [..] North Korea has not confirmed any cases – but there are clearly fears of it spreading, as the country shares a border with China.


All foreigners coming into the country must be quarantined for 30 days. There are relatively few foreigners in North Korea, and only around 200 westerners, according to one expert. North Korean authorities have also cancelled the annual Pyongyang marathon, which typically sees people from all over the world participating. Around 3,000 people in North Pyongan province – a north-western region bordering China – are also now under monitoring for reportedly showing suspected symptoms, said state media.

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Reminds me of a doctor in the southern States who said a few years ago: We’re raising a generation of blind amputees.

Record Two Million Britons At Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes (Ind.)

A record number of people are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, increasing their chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke, the NHS has warned. A “growing obesity crisis” has led to nearly two million people in England being exposed to the condition that causes the level of sugar in the blood to become too high. As part of efforts to tackle the problem, a radical new liquid diet will be available on the NHS to put type 2 diabetes into remission. Five thousand patients will be restricted to 800 calories per day for three months in a pilot to be rolled out from April.


This will be followed by a further nine months of support to help them maintain weight loss. According to new NHS figures, there are 1,969,610 patients registered with a GP who have non-diabetic hyperglycaemia, a condition that puts people at risk of type 2 diabetes. The health service warned the problem could become greater still due to the rise in obesity levels. Projections indicate the growing number of diabetes sufferers could lead to 39,000 extra people suffering a heart attack in 2035 and more than 50,000 experiencing a stroke. One in six hospital beds are now occupied by someone with diabetes, the NHS said.

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If it were just about the votes, sure.

What If Bernie Has Already Won This Thing? (Hill)

Virtually all of the political oxygen in the room over the past two weeks has been consumed by former NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg’s recent rise in the polls. After skipping almost an entire year of campaigning, more than half a dozen debates, as well as the first four caucuses and primaries, suddenly Bloomberg is finding himself taken seriously. Spending nearly half a billion dollars will buy you some attention, it turns out. Certainly, Bloomberg is due for scrutiny, with his extensive history of horrifying statements about the trans community, the financial collapse, stop and frisk, sexual harassment, the NSA — honestly pick a topic and Bloomberg has been on the wrong side of it…

…but I want you to consider the possibility that this 24/7 Bloomberg media frenzy is hiding the real story of the 2020 Democratic primary: Has Bernie Sanders already won this thing? I know. I know. I’m probably getting ahead of myself. We hit Nevada, but we’re still waiting on a Super Tuesday and the truly delegate-rich states. There’s a lot of campaign left to be had, and any number of twists and turns could develop between now and the (possibly contested) Dem convention. But hear me out. By every traditional standard, Bernie Sanders is in a stronger position at this point in the primary process than any Democratic candidate stretching back decades. Bernie received the most votes in the disastrous Iowa caucuses and won the New Hampshire primary as well.

South Carolina follows, and while Bernie is not yet positioned to definitively take first there, he has turned Biden’s once-dominant lead into an effective tie. In the most delegate-rich Super Tuesday states, the RealClearPolitics polling average for California has Bernie up by 12, and Texas effectively tied between Sanders and Biden. He’s looking quite strong in a number of other states. Nationally, Bernie Sanders now holds a 15 point lead over second-place Joe Biden. That’s a jump of 8 points in just one month, as Biden has plummeted. The story is effectively the same when you turn to the much talked about “electability” measure, with Bernie now leading at 30 percent when asked who has the best chance to defeat Donald Trump.

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Bernie the Jewish anti-semite.

Chris Matthews Faces Calls For Resignation (Hill)

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews is under fire after comparing Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) decisive win in the Nevada caucuses to the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, with some on social media calling for the “Hardball” host to resign. “I was reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940,” Matthews said during MSNBC’s live coverage of the caucuses on Saturday. “And the general, Reynaud, calls up Churchill and says, ‘It’s over.’ And Churchill says, ‘How can that be? You’ve got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over?’ He said, ‘It’s over.'” Criticism quickly poured in on social media over Matthews using the analogy.


Sanders, who is Jewish, had most of his family killed in the Holocaust. One such response came from Mike Casca, who serves as Sanders’s 2020 communications director. “..never thought part of my job would be pleading with a national news network to stop likening the campaign of a jewish presidential candidate whose family was wiped out by the nazis to the third reich…but here we are.”

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Please let something good come out of Julian’s extradition hearing today. Only 16 spots for the media, that’s not a good sign.

Chief Magistrate In Assange Case Was Funded By Shadowy Groups (DMav)

The senior judge overseeing the extradition proceedings of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange received financial benefits from two partner organisations of the British Foreign Office before her appointment, it can be revealed. It can further be revealed that Lady Emma Arbuthnot was appointed Chief Magistrate in Westminster on the advice of a Conservative government minister with whom she had attended a secretive meeting organised by one of these Foreign Office partner organisations two years before. Liz Truss, then Justice Secretary, “advised” the Queen to appoint Lady Arbuthnot in October 2016. Two years before, Truss — who is now Trade Secretary — and Lady Arbuthnot both attended an off-the-record two-day meeting in Bilbao, Spain.

The expenses were covered by an organisation called Tertulias, chaired by Lady Arbuthnot’s husband — Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom, a former Conservative defence minister with extensive links to the British military and intelligence community exposed by WikiLeaks. Tertulias, an annual forum held for political and corporate leaders in the UK and Spain, is regarded by the UK Foreign Office as one of its “partnerships”. The 2014 event in Bilbao was attended by David Lidington, the Minister for Europe, while the Foreign Office has in the past funded Lord Arbuthnot’s attendance at the forum. The Foreign Office has long taken a strong anti-Assange position, rejecting UN findings in his favour, refusing to recognise the political asylum given to him by Ecuador, and even labelling Assange a “miserable little worm”.

Lady Arbuthnot also benefited financially from another trip with her husband in 2014, this time to Istanbul for the British-Turkish Tatlidil, a forum established by the UK and Turkish governments for “high level” individuals involved in politics and business. Both Tertulias and Tatlidil are secretive gatherings about which little is known and are not obviously connected — but Declassified has discovered that the UK address of the two organisations has been the same. Lady Arbuthnot personally presided over Assange’s case as judge from late 2017 until mid-2019, delivering two controversial rulings. Although she is no longer personally hearing the Assange extradition proceedings, she remains responsible for supporting and guiding the junior judges in her jurisdiction. Lady Arbuthnot has refused to declare any conflicts of interest in the case.

The new revelations follow previous investigations by Declassified showing that Lady Arbuthnot received gifts and hospitality in relation to her husband from a military and cybersecurity company exposed by WikiLeaks. Declassified also revealed that the Arbuthnots’ son is linked to an anti-data leak company created by the UK intelligence establishment and staffed by officials recruited from US intelligence agencies behind that country’s prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder.

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Canada’s Supreme Court was very clear in 1997. But various governments, including Trudeau’s, piss on them. Love the photo, and the cape.

No Surrender: An End of Aboriginal Rights and Title (IC)

The Wet’suwet’en Nation has never signed treaties or ceded territory to the Canadian government — a fact that its leaders have defended fiercely in court as well as on the ground. Its hereditary chiefs were behind a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in 1997 known as Delgamuukw vs. the Queen, which recognized the existence of aboriginal title, whereby Indigenous people have the right to “exclusive use and occupation” of territory. However, because of a technicality, the court did not resolve the boundaries of the Wet’suwet’en’s claim to 8,500 square miles of land, stating that title would have to be sought through separate legal or treaty-making proceedings, which were never completed.

Documents obtained by the Canadian publication The Narwhal show that the Delgamuukw decision sent chills through Canadian extractive industries. The documents indicate that the government of British Columbia, a province largely made up of unceded territory, rushed to reassure industry officials, inviting them to provide input on a treaty-making process meant to settle questions over authority on unceded land. In one memo, describing a meeting held in the wake of the ruling, Marlie Beets, then vice-president of the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, told B.C. officials that Indigenous nations must hand over their land to Canada. “The decision makes the need for certainty through surrender all the more clear,” she said. “We see no other alternative.”

Other industries echoed the alarm. “The oil and gas industry in particular has expressed concern about their ability to continue to do business in the province absent a clear direction from the government on how it will address the implications of the Delgamuukw decision,” stated a memo by a Delgamuukw strategy team formed by the government. At a meeting set up by British Columbia’s treaty officials, one lawyer, whose client is unclear, underlined that “what is needed is a clear exchange and an end of Aboriginal rights and title for a defined set of treaty rights.”


Ts’akë ze’ Howihkat, Freda Huson, passes an installation of red dresses as she waits for police to enforce Coastal GasLink’s injunction at the Unist’ot’en healing center on Feb. 9, 2020. The red dresses are a symbol of the thousands of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Photo: Amber Bracken

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Jan 212016
 
 January 21, 2016  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


Harris&Ewing Goodyear Blimp at Washington Air Post ,DC 1938

Global Shareholders Have $27 Trillion Locked in Bear Markets (BBG)
US Futures Drop With Asia Stocks as Oil Falls (BBG)
Emerging Markets Lost $735 Billion in 2015, $2 Trillion in 2016 (BBG)
US Oil Posts Biggest One-Day Percentage Loss Since September (WSJ)
Energy Sector’s Default Risk Higher Than In Great Recession (MW)
Some Bankrupt Oil and Gas Drillers Can’t Give Their Assets Away (BBG)
PBOC Injects Most Cash in Three Years in Open-Market Operations (BBG)
China Stock Rout Seen Getting Uglier as Derivative Trigger Looms (BBG)
China Is Drowning In Private Sector Debt (Ormerod)
Deutsche Bank Shares Fall 6% On News Of €2.1 Billion Loss (BBG)
One In 6 Americans Go Hungry, One In 3 Kids Will Develop Diabetes (Ind.)
For the Sake of Capitalism, Pepper Spray Davos (Yra Harris)
6 Years Suffering The Violence Of A 1,000 Economic Cuts (DI)
We’ve Hugely Underestimated The Overfishing of The Oceans (WaPo)
Italy’s Blockbuster Quo Vado? Draws On Bitter Economic Reality (Guardian)
EU Chief Tusk Gives Refugee Plan 2 Months To Work (AP)
‘We Will Come To Athens And Burn Them All’: Protest Returns To Greece (Guardian)
IMF Cancels Systemic Exemption Rule Created In 2010 To Bail Out Greece (AFP)
Greece Re-Opens Refugee Camp On Border in Sub-Zero Weather (Kath.)
Two Refugees –One 5-Year Old Child– Die Of Hypothermia Off Lesvos (Kath.)

Losses to date estimated at $15 trillion.

Global Shareholders Have $27 Trillion Locked in Bear Markets (BBG)

At least 40 stock markets around the world with a total value of $27 trillion are in bear territory, as investors witness the worst start to a year on record. The U.K. was the latest market to fall 20% from its peak, while India is 1% away from crossing the threshold that traders describe as the onset of bear market. Nineteen countries with $30 trillion have declined between 10% and 20%, thereby entering a so-called correction, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from the 63 biggest markets.

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“People are just bottom-fishing.”

US Futures Drop With Asia Stocks as Oil Falls (BBG)

U.S. index futures declined after a rally in Asian stocks reversed, pushing a gauge of global equities back to the brink of a bear market. Oil fell and the yen strengthened. Benchmark share measures in Tokyo, Shanghai and Manila slumped at least 2.8%, while Standard & Poor’s 500 Index contracts erased early gains to trade 0.9% lower. European index futures slid after the region’s stocks plunged the most since August on Wednesday. China’s equitiesfell despite a drop in money-market rates as the People’s Bank of China injected the most cash via open-market operations since 2013. The yen approached a one-year high reached Wednesday. Copper pared an advance.

Volatility has coursed through financial markets in 2016, amid turmoil in Chinesemarkets and the almost uninterrupted selloff in crude oil. The S&P 500’s plunge Wednesday triggered a technical signal indicating U.S. stocks were oversold, spurring a paring of losses that prevented the MSCI All-Country World Index from entering a bear market. The ECB meets Thursday, the first major monetary authority to review interest rates and policy since turmoil gripped markets at the start of the year. “The ground right now is so unstable, and there’s so much anxiety,” said Ayako Sera at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust. “We saw a rally, but I wouldn’t say that we’re in a full rebound yet. People are just bottom-fishing.”

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“The 31 biggest developing markets have lost a combined $2 trillion in equity values since the start of 2016.”

Emerging Markets Lost $735 Billion in 2015, More to Go (BBG)

Global investors and companies pulled $735 billion out of emerging markets in 2015, the worst capital flight in at least 15 years, the Institute of International Finance said. The amount was almost seven times bigger than what was recorded in 2014, the Washington-based think tank said in a report on Wednesday. China was the biggest loser, with $676 billion leaving its markets. The IIF predicted investors may withdraw $348 billion from developing countries this year. Emerging-market stocks are trading at the lowest levels since May 2009 and a gauge of 20 currencies has slumped to a record. A meltdown in commodity prices and concern over the slowdown in China’s growth to the weakest since 1990 are spurring investors to dump assets from China to Russia and Brazil.

The 31 biggest developing markets have lost a combined $2 trillion in equity values since the start of 2016. “We’ve seen massive outflows from emerging markets to the benefit of the euro zone and Japan,” said Ibra Wane at Amundi Asset Management. “Institutional investors have been more attracted by these regions.” Wane said the shift in flows is a result of monetary-policy changes, as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in December for the first time in almost a decade, which is also partly to blame for the volatility in emerging-market currencies. “I’d rather look first at stabilization of currencies,” Wane said. “If this were to come true, then probably also flows would come on top of it.”

All 24 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg have depreciated against the dollar in the past year, with the Argentine peso, the Brazilian real and the South African rand getting hit the worst. “Countries with large current-account deficits, high levels of foreign-exchange corporate indebtedness and questionable macro policy frameworks would come under particular pressure in the event of further emerging-market retrenchment,” the IIF report said. “At-risk countries include Brazil, South Africa and Turkey.” The Chinese yuan’s 5.5% drop in the past 12 months was one of the drivers of outflows from the world’s second biggest economy, according to the IIF report. “The 2015 outflows largely reflected efforts by Chinese corporates to reduce dollar exposure after years of heavy dollar borrowing, as expectations of persistent RMB appreciation were replaced by rising concerns about a weakening currency,” the report said.

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If global equities lost $15 trillion so far, what’s the tally for oil?

US Oil Posts Biggest One-Day Percentage Loss Since September (WSJ)

The selloff in oil prices accelerated Wednesday, intensifying a slide in global financial markets as investors worried that oil’s relentless downdraft signaled global economic gloom. The front-month U.S. oil contract settled down 6.7%, posting the biggest one-day loss since September. Oil prices have dropped more than 25% this year. Much of the 19-month oil-market selloff has been driven by concerns about ample supplies. What’s increasingly weighing on investors is the fear that demand growth is wilting, particularly in China, which could reflect deeper economic woes. “Global economic forces appear to be driving down demand for commodities, ” Citigroup said in a note. “There is no doubt that declining expectations of global growth are exacerbating the results of oversupply across commodity markets.”

Light, sweet crude for February delivery settled down $1.91 to $26.55 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The February contract expires at settlement Wednesday. Brent, the global benchmark, fell 82 cents, or 2.9%, to $27.94 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, also on track for the lowest settlement since 2003. Oil investors fear that demand in China, which consumes about 12% of world’s crude, may falter as the country shifts to a less energy-intensive economic model. On Tuesday, the Chinese authorities announced the country’s gross domestic product rose 6.9% in 2015, its slowest pace in 25 years. ESAI Energy said Wednesday that the pace of demand growth in China from 2015 to 2030 will be 60% slower than the pace of demand growth from 2000 to 2015.

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Spring cleaning?!

Energy Sector’s Default Risk Higher Than In Great Recession (MW)

Markets are pricing in a higher default risk for the energy sector than they did at the peak of the Great Recession, according to data from Schwab and Barclays. As continued concerns about oil’s global supply glut pushed crude futures below $27 a barrel, sparking a global stock selloff, energy spreads surpassed their 2009 peak. A spread is a yield differential between the index and comparable risk-free Treasurys. Widening spreads mean investors are pricing in more risk for the energy sector and require a higher yield as compensation for their risk. As the following chart shows, the spread on the energy sector of the Barclays U.S. Corporate High-Yield Bond Index, a widely followed gauge of market-priced risk, reached 1,530 basis points as of Tuesday’s close, compared with 1,420 basis points reached during the height of the financial crisis seven years ago. One basis point is equivalent to 0.01% or one hundredth of a percentage point.

Credit-market spreads are often viewed as a leading indicator for equity markets. Spreads in the energy sector have been widening since the summer of 2014, and spiked over the past few months amid the recent rout in oil prices. That dynamic has certainly played out lately. Stocks followed oil’s decline, weighed by sinking shares of energy companies. The energy sector was the worst performer on the S&P 500 on Wednesday, and is down nearly 15% since the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, energy companies led decliners among the Dow industrials. Widening credit spreads imply that “the market is clearly expecting the default rate to pick up, as the balance sheets of some of the riskier energy companies won’t be able to sustain this drop in oil prices” said Collin Martin, director of fixed-income strategy for the Schwab Center for Financial Research.

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Orderly way down or mayhem?

Some Bankrupt Oil and Gas Drillers Can’t Give Their Assets Away (BBG)

Oil is in free fall and Terry Clark couldn’t be happier. In mid-2014, when the crude price topped $100 a barrel, Clark made an offer to buy properties from Dune Energy, a small driller with money trouble. Dune turned him down. A year later, as oil plunged to $60 a barrel, Dune filed for bankruptcy and Clark’s White Marlin Oil & Gas picked up the assets at auction at a deep discount. “What we offered versus what we got it for, it’s a great price,” Clark said. “We’re going to continue to play these bankruptcies. We’re participating in two more right now.” Winners and losers are emerging from the energy bust. What’s a meal for Clark is indigestion for banks that financed the boom using oil and gas properties as collateral. The four biggest U.S. banks – Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo – have set aside at least $2.5 billion combined to cover souring energy loans and have said they’ll add to that if prices stay low.

There’s plenty to keep Clark bargain-hunting. Last year, 42 U.S. energy companies went bankrupt, owing more than $17 billion, according to a report from law firm Haynes & Boone. Dune went belly up owing $144.2 million. Its assets sold for $20 million. In May, American Eagle filed for bankruptcy with debts of $215 million. Its properties sold for $45 million in October. BPZ Resources owed $275.2 million. Its assets fetched about $9 million. Endeavour went into bankruptcy owing $1.63 billion. The company sold some assets for $9.65 million and handed over the rest to lenders. ERG Resources opened an auction with a minimum bid of $250 million. Response? No takers. “A lot of people got into this business and didn’t really understand the ups and downs of price cycles,” said Becky Roof, a managing director for turnaround and restructuring with the consulting firm AlixPartners. “They’re getting a very bad dose of reality right now.”

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It worked for mere hours. Reminiscent of Bernanke’s 2008 moves.

PBOC Injects Most Cash in Three Years in Open-Market Operations (BBG)

The People’s Bank of China injected the most cash in almost three years in its open-market operations, helping ease a cash squeeze as the coming Chinese New Year holiday spurs demand for funds at a time when capital outflows are mounting. The central bank said it conducted 110 billion yuan ($16.7 billion) of seven-day reverse-repurchase agreements and 290 billion yuan of 28-day contracts. That compares with 160 billion yuan of contracts that matured and resulted in a net cash injection of 315 billion yuan for this week’s two auctions. Other lending tools were used to add about 700 billion yuan this week for terms ranging from three days to a year.

China is trying to hold borrowing costs down to support its economy without spurring an exodus of funds that drove the yuan to a five-year low this month. Gross domestic product rose last year at the slowest pace in a quarter century and intervention to prop up the exchange rate led to a record $513 billion plunge in the nation’s foreign-exchange reserves. The Chinese New Year holiday – a period for feasting and exchanging gifts – will shut China’s financial markets throughout the week starting Feb. 8. “The market is a bit nervous and liquidity is also needed to cover the Chinese New Year,” said Frances Cheung, Hong Kong-based head of rates strategy for Asia ex-Japan at Societe Generale.

“The fact that they are going for longer tenors on reverse repos and its MLF does add to market expectations for a delay in a reserve-ratio cut, which in itself could be linked to the currency market performance.” The central bank injected 410 billion yuan into the banking system via three- and 12-month loans under its Medium-Term Lending Facility this week, while Short-term Liquidity Operations were used to add 55 billion yuan of three-day loans on Monday and another 150 billion yuan of six-day funds on Wednesday. The PBOC also auctioned 80 billion yuan of treasury deposits on behalf of the Ministry of Finance this week.

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“Many of those products have a “knock-in” feature at the 8,000 level that will spur banks to cut futures positions..”

China Stock Rout Seen Getting Uglier as Derivative Trigger Looms (BBG)

If Bank of America is right, Chinese stocks in Hong Kong are poised for a fresh wave of selling. That’s because the benchmark Hang Seng China Enterprises Index is approaching a level that forces investment banks to pare back their bullish futures positions, according to William Chan, the head of Asia Pacific equity derivatives research at BofAML in Hong Kong. The trades, tied to banks’ issuance of structured products, are likely to start unwinding when the index falls through 8,000, a level it briefly breached on Wednesday. The gauge dropped 1% to 7,932.24 at 1:05 p.m. local time on Thursday. Banks have purchased futures on the gauge of so-called H shares to hedge exposure to structured products that they’ve sold to clients, according to Chan.

Many of those products have a “knock-in” feature at the 8,000 level that will spur banks to cut futures positions to maintain the effectiveness of their hedges, he said. Additional pressure points may also come at lower levels, Chan said. “As the market goes lower from here, the downward move may accelerate,” he said. “There will be a large amount of hedging in futures which dealers need to unwind.” While the opaque nature of structured products makes it difficult to gauge how much money is riding on any particular level of the Hang Seng China index, Chan came to his conclusion by analyzing regulatory data from South Korea, one of the few countries that publicizes such figures.

The nation is among the region’s biggest markets for structured products and there’s currently a notional value of about $34 billion from Korea linked to the Hang Seng China measure, according to Chan. When banks sell the structured products to investors, they take on an exposure that’s similar to purchasing a put option on the index, Chan said. To hedge against the possibility of a rally, the banks buy Hang Seng China index futures. If the stock gauge falls below knock-in levels for the structured products – the price at which investors begin to lose their principal – the sensitivity of the bank’s position to index swings gets smaller, and banks respond by selling futures to reduce their hedge.

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Along with everyone else.

China Is Drowning In Private Sector Debt (Ormerod)

The eyes of the financial and economic worlds are now fixed on China, with focus predominantly on Chinese stock markets and the country’s GDP figures. A fascinating perspective was provided last week in the leafy borough of Kingston upon Thames. The university there has recruited the Australian Steve Keen as head of its economics department, and it was the occasion of his inaugural lecture. Keen was one of the few economists to highlight the importance of private sector debt before the financial crisis began in 2008. The title of the lecture itself was exciting: “Is capitalism doomed to have crises?” Judging by the beards and dress style of the audience, many may have expected a Corbynesque rant. Instead, we heard an elegant exposition based on a set of non-linear differential equations.

Private sector debt is the sum of the debts held by individuals and companies, excluding financial sector firms like banks. Keen pointed out that, in the decade prior to the massive crash of 1929, the size of private debt relative to the output of the economy as a whole (GDP) rose by well over 50%. The increase from the late 1990s onwards meant that debt once again reached dizzy heights. In ten years, it rose from being around 1.2 times as big as the economy to being 1.7 times larger. This may seem small. But American GDP in 2007 was over $14 trillion. If debt had risen in line with the economy, it would have been about $17 trillion. Instead, it was $24 trillion, an extra $7 trillion of debt to worry about. Japan experienced a huge financial crash at the end of the 1980s.

The Nikkei share index lost no less than 80% of its peak value, and land values in Tokyo fell by 90%. During the 1980s, private sector debt rose from being some 1.4 times as big as the economy to 2.1 times the size. In China, in 2005, the value of private debt was around 1.2 times GDP. It is now around twice the size. Drawing parallels with the previous experiences of America and Japan, a major financial crisis is not only overdue but it is actually happening. And Keen suggests there is still some way to go. So is it all doom and gloom? Up to a point, Lord Copper. High levels of private sector debt relative to the size of the economy do indeed seem to precede crises. But there is no hard and fast rule on the subsequent fall in share prices.

Japanese shares fell 80% and have not yet recovered their late 1980s levels. In the 1930s, US equities fell 75%, and took until 1952 to bounce back. In the latest financial crisis, they fell by 50% but are even now above their 2007 high. Equally, output responds to these falls in completely different ways. In the 1930s, American GDP fell by 25%, compared to just 3% in the late 2000s. Japan has struggled, but never experienced a major recession. Still, Keen’s arguments leave much food for thought.

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World’s biggest bank. Huge derivatives holdings.

Deutsche Bank Shares Fall 6% On News Of €2.1 Billion Loss (BBG)

Deutsche Bank AG, Germany’s biggest lender, expects to post a €2.1 billion loss for the fourth quarter after setting aside more money for legal matters and taking a restructuring charge. The stock is at the lowest since 2009. About €1.2 billion were earmarked for litigation and €800 million for restructuring and severance costs, mainly in the private and business clients division, the Frankfurt-based firm said Wednesday in a statement. “Challenging market conditions” also hurt earnings at the investment bank during the quarter, cutting group revenue to about €6.6 billion, it said. The bank had reported €7.8 billion of net revenue a year earlier. Co-CEO John Cryan has been seeking ways to restore investor confidence and earnings growth battered by costs tied to past misconduct.

Under his overhaul, Deutsche Bank plans to shrink headcount by 26,000, or a quarter of the workforce, by 2018 while planning to suspend the dividend to help shore up capital buffers. “A real fresh start means even lower stated net profits for some time,” Daniele Brupbacher at UBS in Zurich who has a neutral rating on the shares, wrote in a note on Thursday. Conditions for the company will probably “remain challenging” in the first quarter, he wrote. The stock fell as much as 6% and was down 3.5% at 17.10 euros as of 9:16 a.m. in Frankfurt, the biggest decline in the 46-member Stoxx Europe 600 Banks Index. Deutsche Bank’s 24% decline this year means it’s the worst-valued global bank.

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“..obesity and poverty “are neighbours”

One In 6 Americans Go Hungry, One In 3 Kids Will Develop Diabetes (Ind.)

Film director Lori Silverbush has spoken out on hunger in the US and says it is still a massive problem three years after making a documentary on the subject. The US faces staggering statistics on food poverty – the highest under the current government administration since the 1970s when hunger was almost eradicated in the US. One in six Americans are hungry, while 30% of Americans are described as “food insecure” – meaning they can’t guarantee they can always put food on the table. Mrs Silverbush’s film “A Place At The Table”, which she co-directed alongside Kristi Jacobsen, reveals that 44 million Americans rely on food stamps, which are worth around $3 to $4 per day.

Insufficient funds mean that people can’t afford to buy fresh fruit or vegetables, which have gone up in price by 40% since the obesity crisis began, according to author Marion Nestle, and instead they rely on cheap, processed foods. As a result, obesity and poverty “are neighbours”, said End Hunger Network founder Jeff Bridges. Speaking at the Brooklyn Historical Society on Tuesday evening, Mrs Silverbush said her “blood boiled” when she realized that food poverty is a result of politics. The government has spent $0.75 trillion since 1995 on subsidies to wealthy agriculture companies that are responsible for processed foods, a policy that started during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“We didn’t know there was hunger in every county or that there were millions of working families that were hungry,” she said. “Malnutrition and hunger cause a cascade of terrible, life-long consequences for kids.” The film also revealed that one in three children born in the year 2000 will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Hunger is expensive. It costs the US government $167 billion a year, according to the film. One interviewee, Barbie Izquierdo, lives in Philadelphia with two children, and her food stamps were taken away once she secured full time employment, leaving her without enough money to feed her family. “Define starving,” she said. “Are you starving if you don’t eat for a day?“

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Can’t we just ignore it instead?

For the Sake of Capitalism, Pepper Spray Davos (Yra Harris)

Please, PEPPER SPRAY ALL THE ATTENDEES OF DAVOS in order to halt the rape of taxpayers and consumers across the globe. This annual conclave is responsible for more wealth destruction and the widening disparity in GINI coefficients than any public policy. I believe that the cost of attending Davos is priced at such an extravagant rate because it is a giant insider scam. Hobnob with politicians and policy makers in an effort to be part of the “smart money” crowd. It was the great moral philosopher and economist Adam Smith who so presciently noted: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for the merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” The conspiracy against the public has been the financial repression of the global middle class in an effort to bail out those who are attached themselves to the public treasury to maintain the “animal spirits” of crony capitalism.

The cost of an entrance pass to this private/public congress of mover and shakers should sound an alarm to all those who desire transparency in financial markets. In contemporizing the words of Adam Smith, Samuel Huntington was credited in the online research cite, Acton Commentary, as creating the phrase DAVOS MAN: “A soulless man, technocratic, nationless and cultureless, severed from reality. The modern economics that undergirded Davos capitalism is equally soulless, a managerial capitalism that reduces economics to mathematics and separates it from human action and human creativity.”

Friday’s release of the 2010 FOMC transcripts reveals that Chair Bernanke raised concerns “… about inappropriate access to information by outsiders other than the media, including consultants, market people and so on.” It was earlier revealed that Bernanke had held discussions with ECB President Trichet about the seriousness of the European sovereign debt crisis. The Reuters story post-transcript release–“Fed Helped ECB With Swaps after Trichet ‘Personal Appeal’”–quotes Chairman Bernanke: “Yesterday [ECB Chief] Jean-Claude Trichet called me and made what I would characterize as a personal appeal to re-open the swaps that we had before,” Bernanke told his colleagues at the UNSCHEDULED meeting.”

In a further analysis by Reuters, the article notes, “The transcripts, which are released after five years, show how closely Bernanke worked with Trichet, who shared ‘highly confidential’ information about the ECB’s part in a trillion-dollar ‘shock and awe’ rescue plan launched by EU leaders to combat an escalating financial crisis in Europe.” Ten months later Chairman Bernanke is openly warning FOMC members about leaks from its meetings. Curious about how much the DAVOS crowd made from the whispers emanating from the Fed Board Room? It costs more than $600,000 to be a strategic partner at Davos and be allowed into the most high-level meetings with the most important CEOs and policy makers. But if the inside scoop is info beyond the ears of mere mortals PRICE IS NO OBJECT BUT INSIDER PROFITS CERTAINLY ARE. More pepper spray to stop the rapes.

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H/t Steve Keen.

6 Years Suffering The Violence Of A 1,000 Economic Cuts (DI)

“My generation can’t afford houses. My generation can’t afford to have children. My generation are either leaving the country or jumping in rivers. That’s my generation, man,” Blindboy said on RTE’s Late Late Show on 8 January. “My generation is dealing with neoliberalism [sic] economic policies that are similar enough to the economic liberalism at the time of the Famine,” he said. “It’s a laisse-faire system, where our resources of the country are being sold for private interests and our generation, my generation is screwed.” When I saw that, it got me thinking: negative perceptions of the working class are so strong in Irish society that people who use food banks would rather call themselves “poor” than “working class”. This is the result of successful divide-and-conquer tactics.

Because the truth is that these days – the poor, the working poor, the working class, the middle-class – almost all of us are screwed. The wealth is trickling upwards to a very few. You can see it in a survey the Dublin think tank TASC released in December, which laid out the division of wealth in Ireland. The top 20% are the ones squeezing everybody’s middle: they have almost 73% of Ireland’s wealth. So if we look at a financial definition of working class, rather than a cultural one, the majority of us fit right in there together, even those notionally middle-class people who would recoil if you tried to tell them they were working class. Given this situation, I would expect to see howls of protest in the mainstream media, all the time. But I don’t see this kind of media outcry, and I wonder why.

Maybe it’s because the mainstream media usually take the side of the market, seeing issues from a market perspective. And I guess the market doesn’t care if our generation is screwed. It might actually be a good thing, from a market perspective, because it ensures there’s a steady supply of young people desperate for jobs, which keeps demand for wages and benefits to a minimum. And that would be rather attractive to multinationals looking for cheap workers. Meanwhile, journalists are just trying to survive too. Most of them are in precarious positions, and, unless they want a ticket to the hunger games, it’s human nature for them to keep their heads down and go with the status quo.

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Eat jellyfish.

We’ve Hugely Underestimated The Overfishing of The Oceans (WaPo)

The state of the world’s fish stocks may be in worse shape than official reports indicate, according to new data – a possibility with worrying consequences for both international food security and marine ecosystems. A study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications suggests that the national data many countries have submitted to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has not always accurately reflected the amount of fish actually caught over the past six decades. And the paper indicates that global fishing practices may have been even less sustainable over the past few decades than scientists previously thought. The FAO’s official data report that global marine fisheries catches peaked in 1996 at 86 million metric tons and have since slightly declined.

But a collaborative effort from more than 50 institutions around the world has produced data that tell a different story altogether. The new data suggest that global catches actually peaked at 130 metric tons in 1996 and have declined sharply – on average, by about 1.2 million metric tons every year – ever since. The effort was led by researchers Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller of the University of British Columbia’s Sea Around Us project. The two were interested investigating the extent to which data submitted to the FAO was misrepresented or underreported. Scientists had previously noticed, for instance, that when nations recorded “no data” for a given region or fishing sector, that value would be translated into a zero in FAO records – not always an accurate reflection of the actual catches that were made.

Additionally, recreational fishing, discarded bycatch (that is, fish that are caught and then thrown away for various reasons) and illegal fishing have often gone unreported by various nations, said Pauly. “The result of this is that the catch is underestimated,” he said. So the researchers teamed up with partners all over the world to help them examine the official FAO data, identify areas where data might be missing or misrepresented and consult both existing literature and local experts and agencies to compile more accurate data. This is a method known as “catch reconstruction,” and the researchers used it to examine all catches between 1950 and 2010. Ultimately, they estimated that global catches during this time period were 50% higher than the FAO reported, peaking in the mid-1990s at 130 million metric tons, rather than the officially reported 86 million. As of 2010, the reconstructed data suggest that global catches amount to nearly 109 million metric tons, while the official data only report 77 million metric tons.

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Bigger than Star Wars.

Italy’s Blockbuster Quo Vado? Draws On Bitter Economic Reality (Guardian)

A comedy that captures Italians’ love for il posto fisso – a job for life – has become an unlikely blockbuster hit in Italy. Quo Vado? – or Where Am I Going? – is close to overtaking Avatar as the highest-grossing film in Italian box office history, having generated €59m since its opening on New Year’s Day and beaten international rivals such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Even Matteo Renzi, the energetic Italian prime minister, is said to have seen the film with his children. He told one newspaper that he laughed “from the beginning to the end”. The success of Quo Vado? reflects a relatively recent change in Italy: the cushy public sector jobs promising steady income and great benefits that were a staple of the country’s economic engine are now considered a thing of the past.

In their place has come high unemployment – which, while improving, is still at 11.3% – and job insecurity, which has hit young workers particularly hard. Alessandro Giuggioli, a film-maker who produced an independent film, In Bici Senza Sella (On a Bike Without a Saddle), about precarious jobs, said the posto fisso was like the holy grail in Italy: “You know it is a possibility and that you are never going to reach it.” While his parents’ generation enjoyed lifelong job security, Giuggioli said young people in Italy today had to make do with rolling short-term contracts, which have become the new normal. He partly blames Italy’s tax system and bureaucracy. “If an employer wants to hire you for €1,000 (£770) a month, they end up paying €2,500 a month. It’s crazy. And so they hire you for three months instead, paying €600,” he said.

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Tusk is the bottom of the barrel, he represents the lowest the EU has to offer. Brussels is setting itself up for a world of pain.

EU Chief Tusk Gives Refugee Plan 2 Months To Work (AP)

The European Union’s top official warned Tuesday the bloc has just two months to get its migration strategy in order amid criticism that its current policies are putting thousands of people in danger and creating more business for smugglers. “We have no more than two months to get things under control,” European Council President Donald Tusk told EU lawmakers, warning that a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on March 17-18 “will be the last moment to see if our strategy works.” The EU spent most of 2015 devising policies to cope with the arrival of more than 1 million people fleeing conflict or poverty but few are having a real impact. A refugee sharing plan launched in September has barely got off the ground and countries are still not sending back people who don’t qualify for asylum.

A package of sweeteners earmarked for Turkey – including €3 billion, easier visa access for Turkish citizens and fast-tracking of the country’s EU membership process – has borne little fruit. The failure has raised tensions between neighbors, particularly along the Balkan route used by migrants arriving in Greece to reach their preferred destinations like Germany or Sweden further north. Tusk warned that if Europe fails to make the strategy work “we will face grave consequences such as the collapse of Schengen,” the 26-nation passport-free travel zone.

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2016 can only be a hot year.

‘We Will Come To Athens And Burn Them All’: Protest Returns To Greece (Guardian)

Farmers’ roadblocks, ferries immobilised in ports, pensioners taking to the streets: protest has returned to Greece in what many fear could be the beginning of the crisis-plagued country’s most confrontational winter yet. From the Greek-Bulgarian frontier to the southern island of Crete, farmers are up in arms over the spectre of more internationally mandated austerity. “It’s war,” says Dimitris Vergos, a corn grower speaking from the northern town of Naoussa. “If they [politicians] go on pushing us to the edge, if they want to dehumanise us further, we will come to Athens and burn them all.” With the rhetoric at such levels, prime minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist-led administration has suddenly found itself on the defensive. Faced with a series of demonstrations – fishermen and stockbreeders will join blockades on Thursday when public and private sector workers also take to the streets – analysts say any honeymoon period Tsipras may once have enjoyed is over.

On Wednesday, convoys of tractors in Thessaly, the nation’s breadbasket, blocked the road at Tempi, effectively cutting the country’s main north-south highway. Hundreds more lined the seafront in Thessaloniki while, further north, police were forced to fire rounds of tear gas at protestors barricading Evangelos Apostolou, the agriculture minister, in an administrative building as fierce clashes erupted in Komotini. The focus of their fury was proposed pension and tax measures, the latest in a battery of reforms set as the price of the debt-stricken nation receiving a third, €86bn, bailout last summer. For farmers, the draft policies are tantamount to the kiss of death. “We are going for all out confrontation,” said the prominent unionist Yannis Vangos, warning that by Friday roadblocks would be erected across a large swath of the county.

“It seems we can’t see eye to eye at all. Things are out of control. It’s not just one thing we have to negotiate.” Six years into Athens’ economic crisis, even more Greeks claim they have been pushed to the point where they can no longer survive the rigours of austerity. With an unprecedented 1.2 million people unemployed – more than 25% of the population – many have been pauperised by the biting effects of keeping bankruptcy at bay. Pensioners, whose incomes have been reduced 12 times at the behest of the EU and IMF, this week also upped the ante taking to the streets. Creditors argue that at 17% of GDP, Greece’s pension system is Europe’s costliest and to great degree the generator of its fiscal dysfunction. But those who stand to be affected by the overhaul counter the changes go too far. For farmers, the reforms will not only raise social security contributions from 6.5% to 27%, but double income tax payments from 13% to 26%, eradicating more than three quarters of their annual earnings.

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How can AFP write this without questioning what the IMF did to bail out Ukraine?

IMF Cancels Systemic Exemption Rule Created In 2010 To Bail Out Greece (AFP)

The IMF abolished Wednesday a rule created in 2010 that allowed it to participate in an international bailout of Greece despite doubts about the country’s debt sustainability. “Today the executive board of the IMF approved an important reform to the Fund’s exceptional access lending framework, including the removal of the systemic exemption,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in a brief statement. The “systemic exemption” amounted to a loophole in the IMF’s longstanding policy that required the crisis lender to judge a member country’s public debt to be sustainable with “high probability” before it could provide financial assistance that exceeds a member’s contribution to the institution.

Reeling from budget and banking crises in 2010, deeply indebted Greece did not meet the sustainability condition and the IMF decided that a debt restructuring could pose severe negative spillovers on the rest of the eurozone. The IMF thus created the “systemic exemption” provision which paved the way for it to join the EU and the ECB in the so-called “troika” of international lenders throwing a lifeline to Greece. For the IMF, that amounted to 30 billion euros ($32.7 billion) in May 2010, then an additional 18 billion euros in a second bailout two years later. The systemic exemption was used more than 30 times to permit loan payments to Greece but also for Ireland and Portugal, two other eurozone members receiving assistance from the troika, by end-May 2014.

Its use, nevertheless, has stirred criticism, notably from some emerging-market countries that saw it as giving favorable treatment to European states in response to pressure from Western powers. With the elimination of the loophole, the IMF is seeking to close a controversial chapter in its recent history as it decides whether to join the EU and ECB in a third bailout of Greece launched last August. In a sign that the abolition of this “systemic exemption” was already effectively in place, the IMF is demanding this time, before unblocking any new loans, that the Europeans first agree to ease Greece’s debt burden to ensure its sustainability.

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Greece needs to protest much louder in Brussels.

Greece Re-Opens Refugee Camp On Border in Sub-Zero Weather (Kath.)

Some 350 refugees and migrants, including many children, had gathered by Wednesday night in freezing conditions near Idomeni on Greece’s border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) after the latter closed its borders. Greek officials said that the border has been closed since Tuesday night, leaving dozens of people unable to cross into FYROM and continue their journeys to Central and Northern Europe. Seven coaches full of refugees and migrants that had traveled north from Greece’s Aegean islands arrived at the border on Wednesday, prompting the government to allow the camp in Idomeni that had been constructed by nongovernmental organizations during the summer to be used to provide shelter and medical assistance to the migrants. Over the last few weeks, officials had refused to allow the camp to be used due to fears that hundreds of people would start gathering at the border again. The cold weather has also made conditions difficult on the islands.

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Neverending?!

Two Refugees –One 5-Year Old Child– Die Of Hypothermia Off Lesvos (Kath.)

Two refugees – one a 5-year-old child – died from hypothermia on Lesvos on Wednesday. The child died after the dinghy it was traveling in capsized off the island. It was taken to a medical center on Lesvos but doctors were unable to save its life. The coast guard rescued 46 people. The other person who died was a woman who reached the island safely but succumbed to the subzero temperature. Authorities said that despite the worsening weather, about 1,000 people arrived on Lesvos on Tuesday and another 1,000 reached the island on Wednesday.

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Apr 022015
 
 April 2, 2015  Posted by at 10:05 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Esther Bubley Passengers on Memphis-Chattanooga Greyhound bus 1943

I think I’ve never understood the American – and international – fascination with money, with gathering wealth as the no. 1 priority in one’s life. What looks even stranger to me is the idolization of people who have a lot of money. Like these people are per definition smarter or better than others. It seems obvious that most of them are probably just more ruthless, that they have less scruples, and that their conscience is less likely to get in the way of their money and power goals.

America may idolize no-one more than Warren Buffett, the man who has propelled his fund, Berkshire Hathaway, into riches once deemed unimaginable. For most people, Buffett symbolizes what is great about American society and its economic system. For me, he’s the symbol of everything that’s going wrong.

Last week, Buffett announced a plan to merge a number of ‘food’ companies in a deal he set up with Brazilian 3G Capital. For some reason, they all have German names (I’m not sure why that is or what it means, if anything): Heinz, Kraft, Oscar Mayer. Reuters last week summed up a few of the ‘foods’ involved:

His move on Wednesday to inject Velveeta cheese, Jell-O, Lunchables, Oscar Mayer wieners, and Kool-Aid into his portfolio, stuffs an already amply supplied larder. The additions came from the acquisition of Kraft Foods Group Inc by H.J. Heinz Co, which is controlled by 3G Capital and Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. His larder already included everything from Burger King’s Triple Whopper burgers, Coca-Cola soft drinks and Tim Horton donuts to See’s Candies and Dairy Queen icecream Blizzards, as well as such Heinz brands as Tomato Ketchup, Ore-Ida fries, bagel bites and T.G.I. Friday’s mozzarella sticks.

Isn’t it curious to see that once people have more than enough to eat, they sort of make up for that by drastically lowering the quality of their food, like there’s some sort of balance that needs to be found? Give them more than plenty, and they’ll start using it to poison themselves.

The key term here, the one that tells you where this goes awry, is what in economics is called ‘externalities’. Something large industries are very good at circumventing. The larger the are, the better they get at it. Mostly this has to do with environmental destruction as a result of resource extraction, but the razing of large swaths of natural habitat for the construction of highways and suburbs that make people use more products provided by the oil industry, is a good example too. That and the direct effect these products have on people’s physical health.

Buffett, the supposed genius, can only do these deals because nobody demands anybody to pay for the externalities that arise as a result of Warren pushing crap posing as food upon the American people. And then when he’s done getting even richer off of poisoning your kids, he’ll donate billions to their well-being.

But in a better and wiser world, Warren should pay into the health care system right now, he should pay for the obesity and diabetes costs his ventures and investments are going to cause. And he should do so in advance, not just after the fact in some warped and distorted kind of philanthropy. Warren Buffett kills American kids for profit. Huge profits.

The ballooning waistlines of America can be traced back, in a very simple and straight line, to the sorts of ‘food’ that Buffett’s new conglomerate produces. That’s where type 2 diabetes comes from. This is not some vague future scare scenario, it’s here and it’s now. As someone in a poor black community said a few years back: ‘we’re raising a generation of blind amputees’.

And it’s of course not just Buffett, the poisoning and degradation of America’s food runs across and through industries, both vertically and horizontally. The insanity of corn syrup and processed food ranges from Monsanto to Cargill to McDo’s to a zillion other companies and products. Who, as an industry, have managed to keep any responsibility, let alone litigation, at bay.

Who would even dream of taking McDonald’s to court for poisoning American kids? In the present set-up, it would be an impossible and unwinnable case. But that’s not because the accusation is absurd or even far-fetched. It’s because the narrative is that, even if it could be proven, people still have the right to choose to eat what they want.

The companies get the profits, society at large gets the damage. It’s the ultimate form of the Tragedy of the Commons. If you allow people – and companies – to dump the negative consequences, and the costs, of their undertakings on the public, they will, and they can get very rich off of that.

Yeah, Warren has Coke and Utz Potato Stix for breakfast. What a great story… But does that mean he is too thick to understand what happens in America? Does he not see the bulging waistlines? Or is his own bottom line simply that much more important? Does Warren Buffett consider his own profits way more important than the future of America’s children?

You could be forgiven for thinking so, couldn’t you? Warren Buffett is revered all over the place, but in reality, he’s the schoolbook example of everything that’s wrong with America. That whole money before and over anything else (including people’s health and well-being) mentality.

It makes people stupid, and it makes for stupid people. And sick ones, too. It’s their own choice, though, and their own responsibility, advocates of the model will say. All the industry does is help them make that choice by bombarding them with endless feel-good ads. But is that really a good idea if and when it means the world’s health care systems threaten to implode because of it?

Like many other industries, Buffett’s crap-for-food enterprise would not nearly be as profitable (probably not even viable) if it were to be charged for the damage it does to society and the people living in it. That’s what’s wrong with the current American economic model, and Warren epitomizes this.

This Tragedy of the Commons abuse is so ingrained in the economy that it’s hard to see how it can be changed. And that does not bode well for anyone except the Warren Buffetts profiteering from it.