Jun 212019
 
 June 21, 2019  Posted by at 8:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso La guerre 1951

 

Trump Approved Strikes On Iran But Cancelled Them: Reports (AlJ)
The Drone Iran Shot Down Was a $220 Million Surveillance Monster (W.)
The Real Meaning Of Trump’s Deplorable Aggression Against Iran (Stockman)
Senate Blocks Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia In Bipartisan Trump Rebuke (ZH)
More Spent On S&P 500 Buybacks Than All 2018 R&D (Axios)
China Concerned Over Possible US Dollar Shortage Risk (SCMP)
US Spend Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education (F.)
Bring on Higher Oil Prices: They’ll Boost the US Economy (WS)
Defiant Italy Urges Changes To EU Rules (R.)
UK Will Be ‘Diminished’ After Brexit – Dutch PM Rutte (Pol.eu)
Ecuador Judge Frees Ola Bini, Swedish Programer Close To Assange (R.)
Ten Cities Ask EU For Help To Fight Airbnb Expansion (G.)
The Dangerous Methane Mystery (CP)

 

 

When something like this is leaked to multiple news outlets at the same time, isn’t it likely the White House itself does the leaking?

Kim Dotcom’s take:

Trump: Attack Iran now!
General: Iran can sink our Carrier strike group in the region.
Trump: What?
General: If we strike Iran now they can retaliate against thousands of US sailors.
Trump: WTF!
General: This isn’t Syria Sir.
Trump: Call it off.
THE END

Trump Approved Strikes On Iran But Cancelled Them: Reports (AlJ)

US President Donald Trump approved military strikes on Friday against Iran in retaliation for the downing of an unmanned surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching the attacks, the New York Times reported. A US official told Associated Press that the military made preparations on Thursday night for limited strikes on Iran in retaliation for drone shootdown, but approval was abruptly withdrawn. The official, who was not authorised to discuss the operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the targets would have included radars and missile batteries.


Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles fired, when the order to stand down came, the Times cited one senior administration official as saying. The abrupt reversal put a halt to what would have been Trump’s third military action against targets in the Middle East, the paper added, saying Trump had struck twice at targets in Syria, in 2017 and 2018. However, it is not clear whether attacks on Iran might still go forward, the paper said, adding that it was not known if the cancellation of strikes had resulted from Trump changing his mind or administration concerns regarding logistics or strategy.

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This thing is huge: “..a wingspan of more than 130 feet and a maximum takeoff weight of more than 16 tons..”

Why would Iran want that in its airspace?

The Drone Iran Shot Down Was a $220 Million Surveillance Monster (W.)

Early Thursday morning, Iran shot down a United States unmanned aerial vehicle over the Strait of Hormuz, which runs between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Iran identified the drone as an RQ-4A Global Hawk, a $220 million UAV that acts as a massive surveillance platform in the sky. The attack marks an escalation with tensions already running high between the US and Iran—particularly because of the value and technical sensitivity of the downed drone. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said on Thursday that the Northrup Grumman-made Global Hawk—part of a multibillion-dollar program that dates back to 2001—had entered Iranian airspace and crashed in Iranian waters; US Central Command confirmed the time and general location of the attack, but insists that the drone was flying in international airspace.


Alamy

The incident comes on the heels of another situation last week in which the US accused Iran of attacking two fuel tankers in the Gulf of Oman. The US also said that Iran had attempted to shoot down a different UAV—an MQ-9 Reaper drone—but failed. The Pentagon also linked Iran to an attack on a Reaper drone in Yemen two weeks ago that caused the vehicle to crash. Thursday’s attack, though, targeted a massive and much more expensive surveillance drone, and likely represents a more definite escalation. “There’s a lot going on here, and we’re probably only seeing some of it,” says Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


“This is a more expensive, higher-altitude, more capable, long-range intelligence surveillance reconnaissance craft. If they’re shooting down aircraft in international airspace over international waters, that’s likely to elicit some kind of measured reprisal.” Global Hawks are massive surveillance platforms, in operation since 2001, with a wingspan of more than 130 feet and a maximum takeoff weight of more than 16 tons, equivalent to roughly seven shipping containers of cocaine. They have a range of more than 12,000 nautical miles, can fly at strikingly high altitudes of 60,000 feet, and can stay aloft for 34 hours straight.


U.S. military drone RQ-4A Global Hawk – Eric Harris/U.S. Air Force/Handout via REUTERS

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Iran has no army to speak of, and hardly an economy. But it does have friends.

The Real Meaning Of Trump’s Deplorable Aggression Against Iran (Stockman)

Iran has no blue water Navy that could even get to the Atlantic and only 18,000 sailors including everyone from admirals to medics; an aging, decrepit fleet of war planes with no long range flight or refueling capabilities; ballistic missiles that mainly have a range of under 800 miles; a very limited air defense based on a Russian supplied S-300 system (not the far more capable S-400); and a land Army of less than 350,000 or approximately the size of that of Myanmar. Indeed, Iran’s defense budget of less than $15 billion amounts to just 7 days of spending compared to the Pentagon’s $750 billion; and it is actually far less even in nominal terms than Iran’s military budget under the Shah way back in the late 1970’s. In inflation-adjusted dollars, Iran’s military expenditure today is less than 25% of the level prior to the Revolution.

Whatever the foibles of today’s Iranian theocratic state, a thriving military power it is not. In fact, that’s the real irony. Mostly what comprises the core of Iran air force is left over 40-50 year-old planes that had been purchased from the US under the Shah, and which have been Jerry-rigged with bailing wire and bubble gum to stay aloft and to accommodate some modest avionics and armaments modernizations. As one analyst further noted, some of its planes were actually gifts from Saddam Hussein! Much of the IRIAF’s equipment dates back to the Shah era, or is left over from Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi air force, which flew many of its planes to Iran during the 1991 Persian Gulf War to avoid destruction. American-made F-4, F-5 and F-14 fighters dating from the 1970s remain the backbone of the Iranian air force.

So military threat has absolutely nothing to do with it. Washington is knee deep in harms’ way and on the verge of starting a war with Iran solely on account of a misguided notion that the Persian Gulf is an American Lake that needs to be policed by the US Navy; and, more crucially, that Washington has the right to control Iran’s foreign policy and determine what alliances it may and may not have in the region – including whether or not they pass muster with Bibi Netanyahu. Stated differently, the missions of protecting the oil supply lines and regulating the foreign policy of what amounts to a two-bit economic power is straight out of the playbook of Empire First. As such, it amounts to a foolish policy of putting America’s actual security last.

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When your own party turns against you, it’s time to pay attention.

Senate Blocks Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia In Bipartisan Trump Rebuke (ZH)

The Senate voted on Thursday to block billions of dollars of armaments to Saudi Arabia in what the New York Times described as a “sharp and bipartisan rebuke of the Trump administration’s attempt to circumvent Congress” by declaring an emergency over Iran. “In the first of a series of three back-to-back votes, Republicans joined Democrats to register their growing anger with the administration’s use of emergency power to cut lawmakers out of national security decisions, as well as the White House’s unflagging support for the Saudis despite congressional pressure to punish Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the killing last October of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi”. -NYT

The vote marks the sharpest division between the White House and lawmakers to date – and is the second time in recent months that the administration has faced bipartisan pushback against foreign policy. In April, both the House and Senate voted to cut off military assistance to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen under the 1973 War Powers Act, only for Trump to veto the measure (the second of his presidency). And once again, Trump will use his veto power to override Congress: “While the Democratic-controlled House is also expected to block the sales, Mr. Trump has pledged to veto the legislation, and it is unlikely that either chamber could muster enough support to override the president’s veto”. -NYT

“This vote is a vote for the powers of this institution to be able to continue to have a say on one of the most critical elements of U.S. foreign policy and national security,” said New Jersey Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez, lead sponsor of the resolutions of disapproval. “To not let that be undermined by some false emergency and to preserve that institutional right, regardless of who sits in the White House.” 22 pending arms sales to three Arab nations were announced in late May utilizing an emergency provision contained in the Arms Export Control Act. In total, $8.1 billion in munitions are part of the sales.

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Call that an economy?

More Spent On S&P 500 Buybacks Than All 2018 R&D (Axios)

Total research and development spending in the U.S. last year totaled $608 billion, according to data from the Federal Reserve, while corporations in the S&P 500 spent $806 billion buying back their own stock. The total for all companies was well over $1 trillion. What it means: In 2018, the 500 biggest U.S. companies spent 33% more on their stock buyback programs than the country is investing in research and development. The trend looks to be continuing this year as the U.S. is on pace to spend $642 billion on R&D in 2019 and poised to surpass last year’s $1.085 trillion total in buyback spending.

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Starting to sound serious.

China Concerned Over Possible US Dollar Shortage Risk (SCMP)

Anbang Insurance Group’s plan to sell its condos at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York is the latest in the string of high-profile Chinese divestments that underscores China’s concern that the nation is running short of US dollars. The Chinese holding company bought the Waldorf for a record US$1.95 billion in 2014, but under pressure from the Chinese government, is reported to be seeking buyers for the 375 flats at the hotel despite a glut of unsold luxury flats in Manhattan. In total, it is aiming to shed a portfolio of assets that includes 15 hotels having, like other highly leveraged Chinese conglomerates with overseas investments, been placed under scrutiny by Beijing.

Chinese real estate mogul Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group has dumped US$25 billion in assets since 2017, while troubled conglomerate HNA Group was forced to sell everything from Hong Kong land parcels, to its stakes in Deutsche Bank, Hilton Grand Vacations as well as its airlines. Chinese oil giant CEFC China Energy also wants to sell 100 properties worldwide. The government’s dramatic about-face from encouraging aggressive overseas acquisitions to cracking down on risky lending and overseas transfers underscores worries over the risk that the nation could run short of enough US dollars to make the interest and principal payments on its mounting debt at a time when the current account balance is coming under pressure.

“These companies are selling their assets because they don’t have enough US dollars,” said Kevin Lai, chief economist for Asia excluding Japan at Daiwa Capital Markets. “China does not want to use its US$3 trillion foreign reserves for the debt repayments, so that is why these companies need to sell their assets.” On the surface, China should be the last country to worry about a US dollar shortage given that its US$3.1 trillion worth of foreign exchange reserves is the largest help by any nation.

But analysts believe China’s reserves may be insufficient to pay for its massive imports and debt payments in response to a worse-case scenario caused by the ongoing trade war with the United States, particularly since many of its assets cannot readily be turned into cash to help the central bank to save a crashing financial system or sharp devaluation of the yuan’s exchange rate. “In reality, they don’t have as much as US$3.1 trillion of liquid reserves,” said Rabobank analyst Michael Every. “I would estimate they probably only have a little bit more liquid reserves than what they hold in US Treasuries.”

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Fuel fools.

US Spend Ten Times More On Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than Education (F.)

A new International Monetary Fund (IMF) study shows that USD$5.2 trillion was spent globally on fossil fuel subsidies in 2017. The equivalent of over 6.5% of global GDP of that year, it also represented a half-trillion dollar increase since 2015 when China ($1.4 trillion), the United States ($649 billion) and Russia ($551 billion) were the largest subsidizers. Despite nations worldwide committing to a reduction in carbon emissions and implementing renewable energy through the Paris Agreement, the IMF’s findings expose how fossil fuels continue to receive huge amounts of taxpayer funding. The report explains that fossil fuels account for 85% of all global subsidies and that they remain largely attached to domestic policy.


Had nations reduced subsidies in a way to create efficient fossil fuel pricing in 2015, the International Monetary Fund believes that it “would have lowered global carbon emissions by 28 percent and fossil fuel air pollution deaths by 46 percent, and increased government revenue by 3.8 percent of GDP.” The study includes the negative externalities caused by fossil fuels that society has to pay for, not reflected in their actual costs. In addition to direct transfers of government money to fossil fuel companies, this includes the indirect costs of pollution, such as healthcare costs and climate change adaptation. By including these numbers, the true cost of fossil fuel use to society is reflected.

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Yeah, try and sell that to your voters.

Bring on Higher Oil Prices: They’ll Boost the US Economy (WS)

Powered by the iffy situation in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Gulf of Oman, with attacks on tankers and now the downing of a US drone, the price of crude oil got a little nervous in recent days. WTI jumped about 6% today to over $57 a barrel. But this was just a minor uptick in the overall scheme of things: The US, which has become the largest oil producer in the world, is in the middle of its second oil bust in five years:

P These two oil busts are largely a consequence of surging US crude oil production. During the oil bust of 2014-2016, the price of WTI collapsed by over 75%, careening from $107 per barrel to a low of $27 per barrel in 18 months, before starting to rebound. In the process, a slew of oil-and-gas drillers filed for bankruptcy. For a while it looked like the shale boom, where all the growth in production had come from, was running out of money, and therefore out of fuel. Production fell sharply from early 2015 through much of 2016, but then new money from Wall Street appeared, and production began to soar again, hitting new records all along the way.


Shale wells produce a variety of liquid hydrocarbons (they also produce gaseous hydrocarbons which are not included here). This production of crude oil and petroleum products soared from just over 7 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2010 to 16.6 million bpd currently, according to EIA data:

P The US used to be the largest net importer of crude oil and petroleum products in the world. Between 2005 and 2008, “net imports” (imports minus exports) of crude oil and petroleum products exceeded 12 million bpd. But surging production in the US has slashed imports. And recently exports have surged, and the trade in crude oil and petroleum products is now nearly balanced between the US and the rest of the world. And the net imports are heading toward zero – the point where the US imports as much as it exports. In February, net imports were down to just 176,000 barrels a day, the lowest in the EIA data going back to 1971. In March, the most recent data available, net imports were 842,000 barrels a day:

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“We have a stability and growth pact that focuses on stability and not on growth. We want to invert this order..”

Defiant Italy Urges Changes To EU Rules (R.)

Italy’s prime minister defied European Union concern over its debt on Thursday, saying the bloc’s fiscal rules should focus on growth rather than stability, and blaming partners for unfair tax competition and excessive surpluses. Arriving at a meeting of European leaders in Brussels, Giuseppe Conte dismissed warnings over Rome’s growing debt and said Italy was complying with EU fiscal rules. “We have a stability and growth pact that focuses on stability and not on growth. We want to invert this order,” Conte told reporters. Under current rules, EU states with large public debts should gradually reduce them, but Rome’s debt increased last year and is forecast to expand further until 2020.


Conte said the Italian government will complete the assessment of its finances in a meeting on Wednesday after which he expects new estimates to point to a 2019 deficit of around 2.1% of output, below the EU commission’s expectations. It is unclear, however, whether this would be enough for the EU Commission to stop a disciplinary procedure against Italy, which Brussels has said would be warranted on the basis of 2018 data and EU forecasts. [..] At the summit where EU leaders are discussing the bloc’s top jobs for the coming years, Conte echoed belligerent tones used by Italy’s deputy prime minister and far-right leader Matteo Salvini in attacking other EU members for unfair competition. He said there was something wrong in the fact that Italian firms relocate to other EU states for tax reasons – a probable reference to low corporate levies and lenient regulatory approaches in places like Luxembourg, the Netherlands or Ireland.

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“..you are not big enough to have an important position, important enough on the world stage, on your own.”

UK Will Be ‘Diminished’ After Brexit – Dutch PM Rutte (Pol.eu)

No U.K. prime minister would be able to mitigate the economic impact of Brexit on Britain or sustain its global power outside of the EU, especially after a no-deal exit, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned Conservative leadership candidates today. Speaking ahead of the European Council summit in Brussels, he told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program this morning: “With a hard Brexit — even with a normal Brexit — the U.K. will be a different country. It will be a diminished country. “It is unavoidable. Because you are not any longer part of the European Union and you are not big enough to have an important position, important enough on the world stage, on your own.”

The leader of the Netherlands, who described himself as an “Anglophile,” also said the next occupant of Downing Street must be clear about what they want from the EU if they aim to modify the so-called Political Declaration on the future relationship between the two sides; however he ruled out any reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement struck by outgoing British premier Theresa May. He dismissed claims by leadership hopeful Boris Johnson that the U.K. could be granted a Brexit transition period after a no-deal departure. “As Boris Johnson would say, Brexit is Brexit, and a hard Brexit is a hard Brexit,” Rutte said. “I don’t see how you can sweeten that.”

Home Secretary and Johnson’s rival Sajid Javid’s claim that he could renegotiate the controversial backstop plan directly with Dublin also got short shrift from Rutte, who said Ireland is an integral part of the EU and “we cannot have a backdoor” to the single market. Both Johnson and Javid have vowed to take Britain out of the EU, deal or no deal, by the current deadline of October 31 if they fail to renegotiate the exit plan with Brussels before then. The Dutch leader warned that any no-deal departure would be “chaos.” He said if a new British PM wanted an extension to continue negotiating on Brexit, something Environment Secretary Michael Gove has proposed, they would have to be clear about “making changes to the red lines the U.K. is currently holding.”

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Will the courts dare turn against Lenin Moreno?

Ecuador Judge Frees Ola Bini, Swedish Programer Close To Assange (R.)

An Ecuadorean judge on Thursday ordered that a Swedish citizen and personal friend of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be freed, two months after he was detained for alleged participation in a hacking attempt on the government. But Ola Bini, a 36-year-old software developer who has lived in Ecuador for five years, remains under investigation in the case and will be barred from leaving the country, according to the court ruling. Bini was detained in April at the Quito airport before boarding a flight to Japan, hours after Ecuador withdrew asylum for Assange, who had lived at its London embassy for almost seven years while facing spying charges related to WikLeaks’ 2010 publication of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.


Ecuador’s Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo had accused him of seeking to destabilize the Andean country’s government and compromising its national security. Bini has denied those allegations, but has acknowledged being close to Assange. “His right to freedom was violated,” judge Patricio Vaca said, reading the Thursday court ruling. “We accept the habeas corpus action proposed by the Swedish citizen Ola Bini, who can be immediately freed.” Bini worked at the Quito-based Center for Digital Autonomy, an organization focusing on cybersecurity and data privacy. His lawyer, Carlos Soria, told journalists on Thursday that he would ask “international courts” to determine any “prejudice” to the case that may have resulted from his arrest. “We will take actions against everyone because the court has determined that his detention was arbitrary. Now they will have to pay,” Soria said. “We will demonstrate Ola Bini’s innocence.”

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Better do it fast.

Ten Cities Ask EU For Help To Fight Airbnb Expansion (G.)

Ten European cities have demanded more help from the EU in their battle against Airbnb and other holiday rental websites, which they argue are locking locals out of housing and changing the face of neighbourhoods. In a joint letter, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bordeaux, Brussels, Krakow, Munich, Paris, Valencia and Vienna said the explosive growth of global short-stay lettings platforms must be on the agenda of the next set of European commissioners. In April the advocate general of the European court of justice found in non-binding opinion that under EU law Airbnb should be considered a digital information provider rather than a traditional real estate agent.

That status, if confirmed by the court, would allow Airbnb and similar platforms to operate freely across the bloc and, crucially, relieve them of any responsibility to ensure that landlords comply with local rules aimed at regulating holiday lets. European cities believe homes should be used first and foremost for living in, the cities said in a statement released by Amsterdam city council. Many suffer from a serious housing shortage. Where homes can be rented out more lucratively to tourists, they vanish from the traditional housing market. The cities said local authorities must be able to counter the adverse effects of the boom in short-term holiday lets, such rising rents for full-time residents and the continuing touristification of neighbourhoods, by introducing their own regulations depending on the local situation .

“We believe cities are best placed to understand their residents needs”, they said. “They have always been allowed to regulate local activity through urban planning and housing rules. The advocate general seems to imply this will no longer be possible when it comes to internet giants”. After several years of strong growth, Airbnb currently has more than 18,000 listings in Amsterdam and Barcelona, 22,000 in Berlin and nearly 60,000 in Paris. Data from the campaign group InsideAirbnb last year suggested that more than half were whole apartments or houses, and that even in cities where short-term lets were restricted by local authorities, up to 30% were available for three or more months a year.

Many cities say the short-term holiday lettings boom is contributing to soaring long-term rents, although speculation and poor social housing provision are also factors. Last year Palma de Mallorca voted to ban almost all listings after a 50% increase in tourist lets was followed by a 40% rise in residential rents.

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The Big Burp.

The Dangerous Methane Mystery (CP)

The East Siberian Arctic Shelf (“ESAS”) is the epicenter of a methane-rich zone that could turn the world upside down. Still, the ESAS is not on the radar of mainstream science, and not included in calculations by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and generally not well understood. It is one of the biggest mysteries of the world’s climate puzzle, and it is highly controversial, which creates an enhanced level of uncertainty and casts shadows of doubt. The ESAS is the most extensive continental shelf in the world, inclusive of the Laptev Sea, the East Siberian Sea, and the Russian portion of the Chukchi Sea, all-in equivalent to the combined landmasses of Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy and Japan.

The region hosts massive quantities of methane (“CH4”) in frozen subsea permafrost in extremely shallow waters, enough CH4 to transform the “global warming” cycle into a “life-ending” cycle. As absurd as it sounds, it is not inconceivable. Ongoing research to unravel the ESAS mystery is found in very few studies, almost none, except by Natalia Shakhova (International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska/Fairbanks) a leading authority, for example: “It has been suggested that destabilization of shelf Arctic hydrates could lead to large-scale enhancement of aqueous CH4, but this process was hypothesized to be negligible on a decadal–century time scale. Consequently, the continental shelf of the Arctic Ocean (AO) has not been considered as a possible source of CH4 to the atmosphere until very recently.”


[..] early-stage warning signals are clearly noticeable; ESAS is rumbling, increasingly emitting more and more CH4, possibly in anticipation of a “Big Burp,” which could put the world’s lights out, hopefully in another century, or beyond, but based upon a reading of her latest report in Geosciences, don’t count on it taking so long. Shakhova’s research is highlighted in a recent article in Arctic News: “When Will We Die?” d/d June 10, 2019, which states: “Imagine a burst of methane erupting from the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean that would add an amount of methane to the atmosphere equal to twice the methane that is already there.”

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Oct 212018
 


Pablo Picasso Harlequin and woman with necklace 1917

 

The Global Dollar Shortage is Here – And It’s Becoming A Big Problem (Palisade)
The Party’s Far From Over For The US Economy, As GDP Will Show (MW)
Trump, Europeans Call Saudi Account Of Khashoggi Death Inadequate (R.)
Trump Says US Will Pull Out Of Nuclear Arms Deal With Russia (AFP)
Social Security Does Not Add To The Federal Deficit (F.)
PM Tsipras Says EU Approved Greek Budget Without Pension Cuts (R.)
700,000 March To Demand A Final Say On Brexit (Ind.)
Series Of Small Earthquakes Detected Near UK Fracking Site (G.)
Facebook Shareholders Call For Zuckerberg To Be Kicked Out As Chairman (Ind.)
What Has Google Ever Done for Us? (Varoufakis)

 

 

More dollars borrowed globally than the Fed ever issued. And now it issues fewer.

The Global Dollar Shortage is Here – And It’s Becoming A Big Problem (Palisade)

The credit market – in my opinion – is indicating an inevitable ‘crunch’ coming up. And even worse – we’re seeing the global dollar shortage deepening. [..] Personally – I think this may be the trigger that kicks off a brutal, worldwide, financial crisis. . . For instance – just look at what’s happened with Emerging Markets because of a tightening Federal Reserve, a stronger dollar, and drying liquidity. Don’t forget – a dollar shortage is synonymous with disappearing liquidity. Which means we can expect more violent and sudden market crashes to occur – just like we saw over the last two weeks.

Stock markets (and bond markets) around the world took big losses. The only thing that really outperformed was gold. The fear of rising ‘real’ U.S. interest rates and slowing economic growth (especially from China) is making investors rethink their positions. Not to mention the cost of borrowing short-term dollars via LIBOR (aka London Interbank Offered Rate) is indicating aggressive financial tightening. Take a look at the 3-month U.S. dollar LIBOR rate – it just had its biggest one day jump since late May. And even more startling – it’s now at its highest level since 2008.

So what does this mean? Well – it’s indicating that the short-term borrowing of dollar denominated debt’s getting very expensive. And investors – especially overseas – are finding it harder and costlier to get their hands-on U.S. dollars. This isn’t a big surprise – but what’s making me worried is just how costly and scarce these dollars are becoming. . . Corporations worldwide borrowing dollars for business operations. And even ordinary citizens with mortgages and credit cards (which are mostly driven by LIBOR) will face higher interest payments.

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Ahead of the tariffs kicking in, imports and exports rose. There’s a time lag here.

The Party’s Far From Over For The US Economy, As GDP Will Show (MW)

The official scorecard for the economy, known as gross domestic product, will be released Friday. While economists polled by MarketWatch predict a 3% increase in third-quarter GDP, some estimates such as the Atlanta Federal Reserve’s “Nowcast” are closer to 4%. A few big wild cards are in play. The U.S. trade deficit shrank in the second quarter, for instance, but it looks set to expand in the third quarter. How come? Many American companies in the spring hastened to export soybeans and other goods to China and elsewhere before U.S. and retaliatory foreign tariffs kicked in. Exports have since declined.

At the same time, imports have risen to a record high. Americans are better off than they’ve been in years and they can afford to buy more imported goods. The strong dollar also makes foreign products cheaper. Businesses, for their part, ramped up production in the summer and restocked warehouse shelves. An increase in inventories boosts GDP, but it’s a herky-jerky statistic that’s always hard to predict. “Trade will be a significant drag [on GDP], but inventories will add to growth,” said Richard Moody, chief economist at Regions Financial.

More importantly, though, Americans kept spending. They almost certainly didn’t spend as much as they did in the spring, but they still spent a lot. Consumer spending accounts for some 70% of U.S. economic activity. If GDP generates the biggest headlines, the real story of where the economy is headed can be seen through the monthly tally on new orders for long-lasting products. These “durable” goods include new cars, appliances, computers, furniture and such. In any case, the economy cannot grow rapidly in the long run and generate a higher standard of living absent strong investment.

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Trump takes a viewpoint. Then takes a step back, and then another one. Negotiating. It all looks completely different when you’re trying to figure out what’s going on than when your opinion is already made up.

Now people are saying Trump’s in Saudi pockets. The same people who said he’s in Putin’s pockets. So which is it? Both? And does everyone involved know this?

Trump’s been hammered on entirely false topics -Russiagate- for far too long for the hammerers to pull back now and move to the real ones. Dangerous.

Trump, Europeans Call Saudi Account Of Khashoggi Death Inadequate (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump joined European leaders on Saturday in pushing Saudi Arabia for more answers about Jamal Khashoggi after Riyadh changed its story and acknowledged that the journalist died more than two weeks ago at its consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia said early on Saturday that Khashoggi, a critic of the country’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had died in a fight inside the building. Germany called that explanation “inadequate” and questioned whether countries should sell arms to Saudi Arabia, while France and the European Union urged an in-depth investigation to find out what happened to the Washington Post columnist after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2 for documents for his marriage.

Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi, a Saudi national and U.S. resident, was killed inside the consulate by a team of Saudi agents and his body cut up. The Khashoggi case has caused international outrage and frayed political and business ties between Western powers and U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, the world’s No.1 oil exporter. Asked during a trip to Nevada if he was satisfied that Saudi officials had been fired over Khashoggi’s death, Trump said: “No, I am not satisfied until we find the answer. But it was a big first step, it was a good first step. But I want to get to the answer.” In an interview with the Washington Post, Trump said that “obviously there’s been deception, and there’s been lies.”

Trump’s comments about the Khashoggi incident in recent days have ranged from threatening Saudi Arabia with “very severe” consequences and warning of economic sanctions, to more conciliatory remarks in which he has played up the country’s role as a U.S. ally against Iran and Islamist militants, as well as a major purchaser of U.S. arms.

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Bolton. Time for Trump and Putin to meet again.

Trump Says US Will Pull Out Of Nuclear Arms Deal With Russia (AFP)

President Donald Trump confirmed Saturday that the United States plans to leave a Cold War-era nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, which criticized the move as Washington’s latest effort to be the sole global superpower. Trump claims Russia has long violated the three-decade-old Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF, was signed in 1987 by president Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. But a foreign ministry source told the RIA Novosti state news agency that Washington’s “main motive is a dream of a unipolar world,” one that won’t be realized.

“We’re the ones who have stayed in the agreement and we’ve honored the agreement, but Russia has not unfortunately honored the agreement, so we’re going to terminate the agreement and we’re going to pull out,” Trump told reporters in Elko, Nevada. “Russia has violated the agreement. They’ve been violating it for many years. I don’t know why president (Barack) Obama didn’t negotiate or pull out. And we’re not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons (while) we’re not allowed to.”

Trump spoke as his National Security Advisor John Bolton was set to meet next week with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, ahead of what is expected to be a second summit between Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin this year. Bolton was also set to meet with Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and Putin aide Yuri Ushakov. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a “possible meeting” was being prepared between Putin and Bolton. The Trump administration has complained of Moscow’s deployment of 9M729 missiles, which Washington says can travel more than 310 miles (500 kilometers), and thus violate the INF treaty.

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So there. But in 15 years it’ll be broke.

Social Security Does Not Add To The Federal Deficit (F.)

This is not a political column, it’s a push back on the political distortion of legal and math facts about Social Security. Recently political leaders, such as the Senate leader Mitch McConnell, as Michael Hiltzik writes in the LA Times, are gunning to cut Social Security benefits to reduce the federal deficit. But Social Security can’t, by law, add to the federal deficit. Medicare and Medicaid can, but not Social Security. Social Security is self-funded. It is correct to say that Congress added to the deficit, not Social Security . The deficit rose substantially because of the 2017 tax cut, which reduced total revenue by 5% and revenue from corporate taxes by 35%.

And because it must balance its books Social Security is prudently funded. It collects revenue and saves for expected costs. Currently, Social Security has a $2.8 trillion trust fund built up by the boomer generation paying more in taxes than needed to pay current benefits. The trust fund is a vital way workers save for retirement. With tax revenues and earnings and principal from the trust fund Social Security is estimated to be solvent until 2034. After that, if it doesn’t get more revenue Social Security will only pay 77% of promised benefits. Social Security can’t add to the deficit because it pays for itself. If revenue falls short, benefits are cut.

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Why am I thinking someone will say not a chance?! Or is it ‘give the dog a bone’?

PM Tsipras Says EU Approved Greek Budget Without Pension Cuts (R.)

The European Union’s executive has approved Greece’s first post-bailout budget without requiring the implementation of legislated pension cuts, the country’s prime minister said on Saturday. “The European Commission approved the Greek budget without pension cuts after eight years of austerity,” Alexis Tsipras said, calling the development a “success”. The country’s third international bailout program ended in Augusts. The government aims to outperform on primary surplus targets for a fifth straight year to be in a position to avoid implementing painful austerity measures agreed with creditors.

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You’ll need more people, and do it every week, and then every day.

700,000 March To Demand A Final Say On Brexit (Ind.)

The crowds stretched so far back that plenty of people never even made it to the rally. Masses overflowed through the streets of London for more than a mile, from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square, as an estimated 670,000 protesters took their demand for a fresh Brexit referendum right to Theresa May’s doorstep. They came from every corner of the UK, in what is believed to be the largest demonstration since the Iraq War march in 2003, when more than a million people turned out in the capital to oppose the conflict.

Amid the swathes of EU flags and banners, there was also a growing sense that campaigners, MPs and activists were realising, perhaps for the first time, that this was a battle that could be won. “We were the few, and now we are the many,” Tory MP Anna Soubry told the crowds crammed into Parliament Square. “We are winning the argument and we are winning the argument most importantly against those who voted Leave.” She said: “We will not walk away. We will take responsibility and sort out this mess with a people’s vote.”

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After two days?! Promising!

Series Of Small Earthquakes Detected Near UK Fracking Site (G.)

A series of small earthquakes have been detected in Lancashire close to the site where fracking operations began this week. The British Geological Survey (BGS), which provides impartial advice on environmental processes, recorded four tremors in the vicinity of the energy firm Cuadrilla’s site on Preston New Road near Blackpool on Friday. Fracking was stopped in 2011 after two earthquakes, one reaching 2.3 on the Richter scale, were triggered in close proximity to the site of shale gas test drilling. A subsequent report found that it was highly probable that the fracking operation caused the tremors. On Monday Cuadrilla began drilling again after campaigners lost a high court legal challenge.

The BGS said: “Since hydraulic fracturing operations started at Preston New Road, near Blackpool, we have detected some small earthquakes close to the area of operations. “This is not unexpected since hydraulic fracturing is generally accompanied by micro-seismicity. The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) has strict controls in place to ensure that operators manage the risk of induced seismicity. “All of the earthquakes detected at Preston New Road so far are below the threshold required to cease hydraulic fracturing.” One of Friday’s tremors measured 0.3, the level beyond which the BSG says hydraulic fracking should proceed with caution. Tremors above 0.5 would force operations to cease.

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Facebook has much bigger issues than who gets to play chairman.s

Facebook Shareholders Call For Zuckerberg To Be Kicked Out As Chairman (Ind.)

Mark Zuckerberg’s strong control over Facebook has come under question after several high-profile investors called for him to step down as chairman of the company. The shareholder proposal follows a series of controversies and scandals at the technology firm, including large-scale data breaches and accusations that the social network has become a platform for misinformation campaigns and political propaganda. State and city treasurers from Illinois, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania joined the New York City Pension Funds and Trillium Asset Management in requesting the Facebook board of directors to make the role of chairman an independent position. “Doing so is best governance practice that will be in the interest of shareholders, employees, users, and our democracy,” the filing states.

The proposal cites Facebook’s “mishandling” of “severe controversies,” including how the social network was used to manipulate the 2016 US presidential elections through Russian troll farms, and the sharing of data with Chinese device manufacturers like Huawei. According to the shareholders, Facebook’s governance structure puts investors at risk and should fall in line with other major tech firms like Google, Microsoft and Apple in having separate CEO and chairperson roles. “Facebook plays an outsized role in our society and our economy. They have a social and financial responsibility to be transparent – that’s why we’re demanding independence and accountability in the company’s boardroom,” said New York City Comnptroller Scott Stringer.

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A fresh take on something Varoufakis first mentioned a few years ago in the first -Greek- version of his book Talking to my Daughter About the Economy: make Big Tech partly public companies.

What Has Google Ever Done for Us? (Varoufakis)

When James Watt built one of his famed steam engines, it was his creation, his product. A buyer who put the engine to work in, say, a textile factory could think of his profit stream as a just reward for having taken the risk of purchasing the machine and for the innovation of coupling it to a spinning jenny or a mechanical loom. By contrast, Google cannot credibly argue that the capital generating its profit stream was produced entirely privately. Every time you use Google’s search engine to look up a phrase, concept, or product, or visit a place via Google Maps, you enrich Google’s capital. While the servers and software design, for example, have been produced capitalistically, a large part of Google’s capital is produced by almost everyone.

Every user, in principle, has a legitimate claim to being a de facto shareholder. Of course, while a substantial part of Big Tech’s capital is produced by the public, there is no sensible way to compute personal contributions, which makes it impossible to calculate what our individual shares ought to be. But this impossibility can be turned into a virtue, by creating a public trust fund to which companies like Google transfer a percentage – say, 10% – of their shares. Suddenly, every child has a trust fund, with the accumulating dividends providing a universal basic income (UBI) that grows in proportion to automation and in a manner that limits inequality and stabilizes the macro-economy.

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Mar 092015
 
 March 9, 2015  Posted by at 7:05 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


NPC Skating night, Washington DC 1919

The Global Dollar Funding Shortage Is Back With A Vengeance (Zero Hedge)
“Ignore This Measure Of Global Liquidity At Your Own Peril” (Zero Hedge)
China Inc Flocks To Euro Debt For Funding (FT)
Heta Damage Spreads in Austrian Downgrades, German Losses (Bloomberg)
Europe Is Being Torn Apart – And The Torture Will Be Slow (Guardian)
IMF Could Do More For EU Than ECB’s QE (CNBC)
Tsipras At Crossroads Between Euro And Drachma (Kathimerini)
Juncker Urges EU To Face Up To ‘Serious’ Greek Troubles (AFP)
Jean-Claude Juncker Calls For EU Army (Guardian)
Greece Mulls Referendum as No Deal With Lenders in Sight (Bloomberg)
Greece Threatens New Elections If Eurozone Rejects Planned Reforms (Guardian)
Eurozone: Greek Reform Outline Helpful, But Needs ‘Troika’ Scrutiny (Reuters)
UK Treasury ‘Not Ready For Next Financial Crisis’ (Guardian)
An Inflection Point For Keynesian Parlor Tricks (Mark St. Cyr)
Goldman Sachs Stress Test Results Could Endanger Big Profit Source (NY Times)
Russia’s Anti-US Sentiment Now Is Even Worse Than It Was In Soviet Union (WaPo)
How Everything Will Change Under Climate Change (Naomi Klein)
Upcoming Supermoon Eclipse Will Dazzle Britain, Hit Europe’s Power Grids (RT)

“..different to previous episodes of dollar funding shortage such as the ones experienced during the Lehman crisis or during the euro debt crisis, the current one is not driven by banks.”

The Global Dollar Funding Shortage Is Back With A Vengeance (Zero Hedge)

[..].. all else equal, there is at least enough downside to push the fx basis as far negative at -50 bps: this would make the USD shortage the most acute it has ever been, at least as calculated by this key metric! And since this is essentially a risk-free arb for credit issuers, and since there are many more stock buybacks that demand credit funding, one can be certain that the current fx basis print around – 20 bps will most certainly accelerate to a level never before seen, a level which would also hint that something is very broken with the financial system and/or that transatlantic counterparty risk has never been greater. Unlike us, JPM hedges modestly in its forecast where the basis will end up:

Whether the above YTD trends continue forward is a difficult call to make. The widening of USD vs. EUR credit spreads shown in Figure 4 has the propensity to sustain the strength of Reverse Yankee issuance putting more downward pressure on the basis. On the other hand, this potential downward pressure on the basis should be offset to some extent by Yankee issuance the attractiveness of which increases the more negative the basis becomes.

In all, different to previous episodes of dollar funding shortage such as the ones experienced during the Lehman crisis or during the euro debt crisis, the current one is not driven by banks. It is rather driven by the monetary policy divergence between the US and the rest of the world. This divergence appears to have created an imbalance in funding markets and a shortage in dollar funding. It is important to monitor how this dollar funding shortage and issuance patterns evolve over time even if the currency implications are uncertain.

And to think the Fed’s cheerleaders couldn’t hold their praise for the ECB’s NIRP (as first defined on these pages) policy. Because little did they know that behind the scenes the divergence in Fed and “rest of the world” policy action is leading to two things: i) the fastest emergence of a dollar shortage since Lehman and ii) a shortage which will be arbed to a level not seen since Lehman, and one which assures that over the coming next few months, many will be scratching their heads as to whether there is something far more broken with the financial system than merely an arbed way by US corporations to issue cheaper (hedged) debt in Europe thanks to Europe’s NIRP policies.

If and when the market finally does notice this gaping dollar shortage (as is usually the case with the mandatory 3-6 month delay), watch as the Fed will once again scramble to flood the world with USD FX swap lines in yet another desperate attempt to prevent the global dollar margin call from crushing a matched synthetic dollar short which according to some estimates has risen as high as $10 trillion. Until then, just keep an eye on the Fed’s weekly swap line usage, because if the above is correct, it is only a matter of time before they are put to full use once again. Finally what assures they will be put to use, is that this time the divergence is the direct result of the Fed’s actions, and its insistence that despite what is shaping up to be a 1% GDP quarter, that it has to hike rates. Well, as JPM just warned it in not so many words, be very careful what you wish for, and what you end up getting in your desire to telegraph just how “strong” the US economy is.

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Absolute must read: “when the dollar rallies strongly, as is the case now, FX intervention rapidly dries up and can even reverse, exerting a massive monetary tightening on emerging economies and ultimately the entire over-inflated global financial complex…”

“Ignore This Measure Of Global Liquidity At Your Own Peril” (Zero Hedge)

With all eyes squarely on the ECB as Mario Draghi prepares to flood the EMU fixed income market with €1.1 trillion in new liquidity starting Monday, Soc Gen’s Albert Edwards reminds us that “another type of QE” is drying up thanks largely to the relative strength of the US dollar. The printing of currency to buy US dollar denominated assets in an effort to prop up “mercantilist export-led growth models [is] no different to the Fed’s QE,” Edwards says, explicitly equating EM FX intervention with the asset purchase programs employed by the world’s most influential central banks in the years since the crisis. Via Soc Gen:

Clearly when the dollar is declining sharply, global FX intervention accelerates as the Chinese central bank, for example, needs to debauch its own currency at the same rate. Conversely, when the dollar rallies strongly, as is the case now, FX intervention rapidly dries up and can even reverse, exerting a massive monetary tightening on emerging economies and ultimately the entire over-inflated global financial complex… The swing in global foreign exchange reserves is one key measure of the global liquidity tap being turned on and off ? with the most direct and immediate effect being felt in emerging economies.

Given the above, we should expect to see global foreign exchange reserves falling…

… with the most pronounced move in EM reserves…

Edwards goes on to note that even as China dials back the market’s expectations for Chinese GDP growth, a look at the variables that Premier Li Keqiang himself has said are a better proxy for economic growth in the country (electricity usage, rail freight volume, and credit growth) suggest GDP growth in China may actually be running below 4%…

The bottom line is that in a world of over-inflated asset values, the strength of the dollar is resulting is a rapid tightening of global liquidity as emerging economies (and indeed the Swiss) stop printing money to buy the US dollar. This should be seen for what it is a clear tightening of global liquidity. Traditionally these periods of dollar strength are highly disruptive to emerging markets and often end in the weakest links blowing up the entire EM and commodity complex and sometimes much else besides! Investors ignore this at their peril.

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The craziness continues unabated.

China Inc Flocks To Euro Debt For Funding (FT)

Chinese companies are ditching the renminbi and flocking to the euro to raise new offshore debt, as the imminent launch of quantitative easing in the single currency bloc sends ripples through global markets. So far this year, mainland-based companies have sold $2.9 billion worth of euro-denominated debt, according to Dealogic, compared with nothing in the first quarter of last year and within striking distance of the $3.3 billion raised during the whole of 2014. Meanwhile, Chinese borrowers have shunned offshore renminbi debt, known better as “dim sum” bonds. The total raised in the market this year is only $250 million, a dramatic drop from the $6.6 billion issued during the first three months of last year. US dollar borrowing has been steadily high, with $16.3 billion of bonds sold this year.

Funding costs for euro debt have been tumbling since the ECB announced plans to start its own program of quantitative easing, which is due to begin on Monday. More than €1.5 trillion of sovereign eurozone bonds now offer investors negative yields, according to JPMorgan estimates. The new focus on euro debt also marks a change in Chinese corporate funding habits, in part a reflection of increasing eurozone assets held by some of Asia’s most acquisitive companies. Euro bonds can be used for deal financing or for currency management. In the past six months, the euro has dropped 13% against the renminbi, which has a managed peg to the US dollar.

Beijing-based State Grid, which owns stakes in grid operators in Portugal and Italy, borrowed €1 billion in January. Another euro bond issuer, Fosun International, already owns financial and healthcare assets in Portugal, duty free shops in Greece, and German fashion brand Tom Tailor. It successfully completed a €939 million deal for French holiday resort group Club Méditerranée last month. “Going out and borrowing in euros is a pretty good way to hedge,” said Jon Pratt, head of debt capital markets in Asia at Barclays, adding that many more Chinese companies were expected to tap the euro market in the coming months. “Investors are starting to follow it as an asset class. It’s reaching a real critical mass.”

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Wait till German exposure starts to hit.

Heta Damage Spreads in Austrian Downgrades, German Losses (Bloomberg)

Austria’s decision to wind down Heta Asset Resolution sent ripples through the financial system, causing credit rating downgrades in Austria and bank losses in Germany. Moody’s cut the rating of Carinthia province, which guarantees €10.2 billion of Heta’s debt, by four levels to Baa3 from A2, and said it may lower the ratings of three state-owned Austrian banks exposed to it. Dexia’s German unit, Deutsche Pfandbriefbank and NRW.Bank said yesterday they own Heta bonds that may suffer losses. “Notwithstanding the intention of the central government to protect taxpayers under the new banking resolution regime, Moody’s sees the steps taken so far as adding higher uncertainty to developments,” the ratings company said late Friday in a statement on the Carinthia downgrade. “Susceptibility to an adverse scenario has increased as a result.”

Austria paved the way for imposing losses on Heta’s bondholders when it ruled out further support for the “bad bank” of Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank March 1. Using powers set out in European Union and Austrian bank laws covering debt reorganization, the Finanzmarktaufsicht regulator ordered a 15-month debt moratorium while it plans resolution of Heta’s €18 billion of assets. Carinthia’s guarantees, which peaked at €25 billion in 2006, were the main justification for Hypo Alpe’s public rescue in 2009 and the biggest conundrum in its wind-down. With budgeted revenue of €2.36 billion this year, the southern province of 556,000 people would be unable to honor the guarantees if they came due now or in a year’s time, Governor Peter Kaiser told Austrian radio ORF on Tuesday.

The guarantees “could exceed Carinthia’s liquidity resources, lead to increased financial leverage and could require some form of extraordinary central government support,” Moody’s said. Finance Minister Hans Joerg Schelling has said repeatedly that the Austrian government isn’t liable to cover Carinthia’s guarantees. Among Heta’s liabilities affected by the moratorium and a future bail-in are €1.24 billion Heta owes to Pfandbriefbank, which issues bonds on behalf of Austrian provincial banks.

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“There is a great deal of ruin in a nation,” said Adam Smith.”

Europe Is Being Torn Apart – And The Torture Will Be Slow (Guardian)

“If the euro fails, Europe fails”: thus spake Angela Merkel. Unfortunately, the euro is failing, but it is failing slowly. Even if Greece grexits, the eurozone seems unlikely to fall apart in the near future, although there is still a chance that it will. There is a much higher chance that it will grind along like a badly designed Kazakh tractor, producing slower growth, fewer jobs and more human suffering than the same countries would have experienced without monetary union. However, the misery will be unevenly distributed between debtor and creditor countries, struggling south and still prospering north. These different national experiences will be reflected through rational elections, creating more tensions of the kind we have already seen between Germany and Greece. Eventually, something will give, but that process may take a long time.

“There is a great deal of ruin in a nation,” said Adam Smith. Given the extraordinary achievements of the 70 years since 1945, and the memories and hopes still invested in the European project, there is a lot of ruin still left in our continent. I recently participated in an event in Frankfurt attended by representatives of leading European investors. A multiple-choice instant poll was taken, offering a number of scenarios for how the eurozone would look in five years’ time, and asking which we found most probable. Nearly half those present opted, as I did, for “Japan in the 1990s”. Around 20% voted for “what eurozone?”; 18% went for “the UK after Thatcher”, by which they presumably meant a leaner, meaner economy, with the policies of austerity and structural reform producing growth, but also dislocation and inequality.

The catch is that even in this last, “best” case, the inequality would not be within one country, such as Britain, but unevenly distributed between different countries. Germans and a few other north European nations would go on taking most of the gain, others the pain. To say this is to endorse an economic analysis that mainstream German politicians and economists will fiercely dispute. Austerity and structural reform are the one true way to salvation, they insist. As Merkel put it in 2013: “What we have done, everyone else can do.”

There are at least three problems with this. First, as every wise doctor knows, even the theoretically right medicine can be disastrous if administered in too strong a dose to a weakened patient. Second, Greeks, Italians and French are not Germans. Their economies certainly need structural reforms, which have, for example, boosted exports from Spain, but their societies and companies simply do not respond in the same way. Third, even if the whole eurozone becomes one giant German-style Exportweltmeister, who will be the consumer? Some of the demand must come from inside the eurozone, and especially from richer countries such as Germany. If everyone else is to behave more like Germany, then Germany must behave a bit less like Germany. But Germany is not prepared to do that.

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Curious notion.

IMF Could Do More For EU Than ECB’s QE (CNBC)

Have you ever thought of the IMF as a peacemaker? Here is what Christine Lagarde, the IMF’s managing director, was telling the warring Ukrainians last Wednesday (March 4): “… We are trying to help Ukraine with … a set of reforms, massive financial support, but all of that is really going to depend on how it stabilizes … the east … and how the … conflict stops.” She went on to say that the fighting in the eastern part of Ukraine “has been a huge distraction” for the country’s leaders who, in her view, “are really determined to reform the economy.” The message is clear: Stop fighting, strive for peace and we – the IMF and international investors – will help you to rebuild, reform and modernize your economy. And here is the money. Ms. Lagarde announced that over the next four years $40 billion – half of that from the IMF – would be provided to support the Ukrainian economy.

If there is peace, you can think of these $40 billion as seed money. With its vast and fertile land, its skilled labor force and a diversified (if rusty) industrial base this beautiful country could easily attract large private direct investment inflows. The IMF is clearly playing a key role here, because it is hard to see how large-scale fund disbursements to support Ukraine’s meaningful and sustainable economic reforms can be carried out unless the guns fall silent. With no other source of finance readily available, the IMF’s political clout could be decisive in the successful implementation of the latest round of cease-fire and peace agreements negotiated in Minsk, Belarus, on February 12, 2015. Europe would then be extricated from the claws of its old demons of division, exclusion and medieval savagery.

That is what some European leaders are counting on. Their foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told a meeting of the group’s top diplomats last Friday (March 6) that “… around our continent … cooperation is far better than confrontation.” She was echoing increasingly pressing calls to stop Ukraine’s fighting and restore Europe’s unimpeded flows of commerce and finance. All this puts the IMF in an interesting position. By forcing the warring parties in Ukraine to seek peace as a condition of economic survival, the IMF can also help the recovery of the European economy by removing obstacles to intra-regional trade that are costing hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Arguably, that would be of far greater help than the ECB’s debasement of the euro with an avalanche of new liquidity that no area economy needs with an already record-low interest rate of 0.05%. Even Germany opposed that ill-conceived policy. Never an advocate of a weak currency, Germany does not need a sinking euro to maintain a trade surplus exceeding 7% of its economy.

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“Clearly Tsipras has been persuaded that the eurozone and the ECB will not allow Greece to go bankrupt and that things will change politically in Europe come autumn.”

Tsipras At Crossroads Between Euro And Drachma (Kathimerini)

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will soon find himself having to choose between the euro and the drachma. He can’t take the euro road with Panayiotis Lafazanis and certain other SYRIZA officials on his team. Privatizations, looser labor laws, pension cuts and other measures required for a eurozone deal will not be approved by MPs who are of a completely different mindset. Nevertheless, the eurozone “bosses” have decided that rules are rules and that if the preliminary agreement with Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is not implemented swiftly the country’s liquidity will remain at zero. Meanwhile, the prime minister believes our partners are trying to bring back the troika and the memorandums through the back door.

Well, they never hid their intentions. While they may have dubbed the troika “institutions” and the memorandum “funding program,” they have never suggested that there would be no evaluation or a new program. Meetings with the troika may be taking place in Brussels and certain Greek government initiatives may be accepted but at the end of the day it comes down to strict supervision and the program. Some think that it is only Berlin insisting on terms. They are mistaken; everyone is behind it, from the governments of southern Europe, to the ECB and the IMF. People who care about our country, such as Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, have spent plenty of political capital by supporting Greece but will eventually give up. Besides, we have eroded their trust through leaks, irresponsible comments and an unbelievable lack of professionalism. We are losing friends on a daily basis and won’t admit it.

Clearly Tsipras has been persuaded that the eurozone and the ECB will not allow Greece to go bankrupt and that things will change politically in Europe come autumn. The problem is that autumn is too far away and a Greek default is no longer such a big threat. The IMF thinks it’s manageable, in contrast to 2012 when Christine Lagarde persuaded Angela Merkel of the opposite. Markets also believe it manageable and this is bad in terms of our own negotiating capital. Certain cabinet officials still suggest that a solution could come from China or Russia. Whatever assistance these countries could offer, it would not solve Greece’s funding problem or entail a rift with Europe.

Tsipras must keep his party and ministers under control in order to move on with the negotiation. He will also need to offer a couple of major trade-offs in order to persuade the “bosses” not to cut off the country’s cash flow. I don’t know what these could be but I can safely predict that they will not be an easy sell to his party. Tsipras cannot take the euro road as his party stands today. The danger is if he starts leaning toward a euro exit without actually having decided to do so, simply because time and political capital are running out.

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He may feel forced to act if Grexit takes shape. He’s responsible for keeping it all together.

Juncker Urges EU To Face Up To ‘Serious’ Greek Troubles (AFP)

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker called on the European Union to recognize the gravity of the situation in Greece — both for the country’s impoverished citizens and for the wider risks to the eurozone. “We must be sure that the situation does not continue to deteriorate in Greece. What worries me is that not everyone in the European Union has understood how serious the situation in Greece is,” Juncker told German paper Die Welt in an interview published Saturday. He did not specify whom his comments were aimed at, but they appeared two days after the European Central Bank took a tough stance on extending more financial help to Greece. Juncker noted in his comments that a quarter of Greeks are not covered by social security, unemployment is the highest in the eurozone and the country sees regular protests.

Although Greece’s debt problems are far from being resolved, Juncker repeated previous assertions that Athens should not leave the eurozone, noting this would amount to an “irreparable loss of reputation” for the single currency. However, the European Commission president also advised Greece to stick to reforms agreed upon with its creditors. “If the government wants to spend more money, it must compensate with savings or supplemental income,” he added. After July, when Greek bonds held by the European Central Bank come due, there needs to be “reflecting about the ways international creditors must behave toward countries that find themselves in a critical economic situation,” Juncker said. “It is not acceptable that a prime minister must negotiate reforms with civil servants. One is an elected official, the others are not,” he added.

Juncker did not directly mention the meeting of eurozone finance ministers set for Monday in Brussels nor the date of his next meeting with Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras. Tsipras called for the meeting just after a speech Thursday from ECB President Mario Draghi, which stated that all supplemental help to Greece would be conditional on the rapid completion of reforms promised by Athens. The ECB “is still holding the rope which we have around our necks,” said Tsipras, according to excerpts of an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel. The remark came after Athens received no help from the Frankfurt-based institution to address a cash squeeze caused by the non-delivery of promised loans.

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“Europe’s image has suffered dramatically and also in terms of foreign policy, we don’t seem to be taken entirely seriously.”

Jean-Claude Juncker Calls For EU Army (Guardian)

The EU needs its own army to help address the problem that it is not “taken entirely seriously” as an international force, the president of the European commission has said. Jean-Claude Juncker said such a move would help the EU to persuade Russia that it was serious about defending its values in the face of the threat posed by Moscow. However, his proposal was immediately rejected by the British government, which said that there was “no prospect” of the UK agreeing to the creation of an EU army. “You would not create a European army to use it immediately,” Juncker told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in Germany in an interview published on Sunday. “But a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union.”

Juncker, who has been a longstanding advocate of an EU army, said getting member states to combine militarily would make spending more efficient and would encourage further European integration. “Such an army would help us design a common foreign and security policy,” the former prime minister of Luxembourg said. “Europe’s image has suffered dramatically and also in terms of foreign policy, we don’t seem to be taken entirely seriously.” Juncker also said he did not want a new force to challenge the role of Nato. In Germany some political figures expressed support for Juncker’s idea, but in Britain the government insisted that the idea was unacceptable. A UK government spokesman said: “Our position is crystal clear that defence is a national – not an EU – responsibility and that there is no prospect of that position changing and no prospect of a European army.”

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Would make sense. As I said earlier on, they need a mandate to act.

Greece Mulls Referendum as No Deal With Lenders in Sight (Bloomberg)

Greece’s anti-austerity coalition is considering calling a referendum on government policy as euro-area finance ministers are set to withhold further aid payments at a meeting in Brussels tomorrow. European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said he doesn’t expect the Eurogroup to make any decisions on Greece on Monday. Reform proposals must first be approved by the Greek parliament and then implemented before the next bailout disbursement is made, Dombrovskis said in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Greek reform plans are “far from” complete. No disbursements are seen in March, Dijsselbloem, who also chairs the meetings of the currency bloc’s finance ministers, said at an event organized by de Volkskrant in Amsterdam.

Greece’s anti-austerity coalition has so far been unable to agree with creditors on the terms for the disbursement of an outstanding aid tranche totaling about 7 billion euros ($7.6 billion). The deadlock threatens to lead the country into defaulting on its payments, since Greece’s only sources of financing are emergency loans from the euro area’s crisis fund and the International Monetary Fund. Its banks are being kept afloat by an Emergency Liquidity Assistance lifeline, subject to approval by the European Central Bank. “I can only say that we have money to pay salaries and pensions of public employees,” Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told Italy’s Il Corriere della Sera in an interview today. “For the rest we will see.” In separate interviews this weekend, Greece’s finance and defense ministers said that if the country’s creditors raise requests which aren’t acceptable to the government, then the people of Greece may have to decide on how to break the deadlock.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also signaled the referendum option is being considered. “If we were to hold a referendum tomorrow with the question, ‘do you want your dignity or a continuation of this unworthy policy,’ then everyone would choose dignity regardless of difficulties that would accompany that decision,” Tsipras told Der Spiegel Magazine, in an interview published Saturday. Greece may call new elections or hold a referendum if European finance ministers reject the government’s reform proposals, Varoufakis told Corriere della Sera. A referendum would only be held if negotiations with creditors fail, spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said by telephone. The government believes a solution will be found in negotiations with creditors, though it doesn’t expect an aid tranche disbursement decision from tomorrow’s meeting, Sakellaridis said. Any referendum is unlikely, and if held, it would approve or reject government policy, not consider Greece’s euro membership, he added.

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“If [lenders] question the will of the Greek people and of the government, one possible response would be to carry out a referendum..”

Greece Threatens New Elections If Eurozone Rejects Planned Reforms (Guardian)

Greece’s anti-austerity government has raised the spectre of further political strife in the crisis-plagued country by saying it will consider calling a referendum, or fresh elections, if its eurozone partners reject proposed reforms from Athens. Racheting up the pressure ahead of a crucial meeting of his eurozone counterparts on Monday, the Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, said the leftist-led government would hold a plebiscite on fiscal policy if faced with deadlock. “We are not attached to our posts. If needed, if we encounter implacability, we will resort to the Greek people either through elections or a referendum,” he told Italy’s Il Corriere della Sera in an interview on Sunday. Varoufakis was the second high-ranking official in as many days to suggest the possibility of a referendum being held.

On Saturday, Panos Kammenos, who heads the government’s junior partner in office, the small, rightwing Independent Greeks party, said such a ballot could be a “possible response” to protracted disagreement with creditor bodies propping up Greece’s debt-stricken economy. “If [lenders] question the will of the Greek people and of the government, one possible response would be to carry out a referendum,” Kammenos, who is also defence minister, told the financial weekly Agora. Reforms have been set as a condition for unlocking a €7.2bn (£5.2bn) tranche of aid that Athens has yet to draw down from its €240bn bailout programme agreed with the EU, ECB and IMF. With Greece shut out of capital markets, the disbursement is vital to meeting debt obligations.

A letter outlining prospective government reforms – including the novel idea of clamping down on tax evasion by enlisting the support of tourists and housewives – was dispatched to the Euro group chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Friday. But with the proposals reportedly receiving a lukewarm response, the Greek finance ministry spent the weekend feverishly fine-tuning the policies. One EU official in Brussels was quoted as saying that the leaked letter “bore no relation” to the deal recently reached between Athens and its creditors enabling the country to extend its current bailout programme until June. Another described the proposals as “amateurish”. Faced with the prospect of a new credit crunch, the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, also worked the phones at the weekend, speaking with French President François Hollande and the ECB president Mario Draghi.

Insolvent Greece has reached this point before. But patience is also running out with Athens. The elevation to office of Tsipras’ anti-establishment Syriza party has strained relations with partners – not least Germany, which has provided the bulk of Athens’s bailout finds – more than ever before.

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Lovely choice of words/

Eurozone: Greek Reform Outline Helpful, But Needs ‘Troika’ Scrutiny (Reuters)

The reform outline sent by Greece to eurozone ministers to unblock loans is “helpful,” but needs to be scrutinized by representatives of the country’s creditors, according to the head of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, whose group meets on Monday to discuss Greece, was responding to a letter he received on Friday from the new left-wing government in Athens asking for an immediate resumption of talks with creditors. It also described seven reforms it wants to launch to achieve goals agreed to by the previous government. Once steps to reach these goals are taken, Greece would become eligible for more credit from the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund, and its banks could again finance themselves at ECB open market operations. But time is pressing because Greece will run out of cash later this month.

“This document will be helpful in the process of specifying the first list of reform measures,” Dijsselbloem said in a written reply to the Greek letter ahead of Monday’s meeting. Greece’s main creditors are eurozone governments and the IMF. They are represented in talks with Athens by three institutions dubbed the troika – the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF. “The proposals described in your letter will thus need to be further discussed with the institutions,” Dijsselbloem wrote in the letter, obtained by Reuters. “Let me also clarify that in the course of the current review the institutions will have to take a broad view covering all policy areas,” Dijsselbloem wrote. His remarks refer to plans of the new Greek government to replace some of the budget consolidation measures agreed to by the previous government with different reforms. Eurozone officials say such substitution is fine only if the end result in budgetary terms will be the same.

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Never will be.

UK Treasury ‘Not Ready For Next Financial Crisis’ (Guardian)

The Treasury is not doing enough to prepare for the possibility of another financial crash, a cross-party committee of MPs said on Monday. The Commons public administration committee said that it was surprised financial and economic risks were not included in the government’s national risk register and that, although some planning has taken place, it has not been thorough enough. “The Treasury has done a lot, but there is more to be done to be ready for another financial crisis,” said Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP and chair of the committee, which set out its comments in a general report on how Whitehall addresses future challenges. “We still have institutions which are ‘too big to fail’ but with so much national borrowing capacity used up, they may prove ‘too big to save’ if it happens again.

We did not find evidence that government and the City are actively practising and exercising for this worst case scenario.” The committee said that financial risks should be included in the government’s national risk register, and that the Treasury should plan for financial crises that could be triggered by non-financial events. It also said there was “no comprehensive understanding across government as a whole of the future risks and challenges facing the UK”. But a Treasury spokesman flatly rejected the committee’s analysis, saying the report “takes no account of the relevant facts”. He went on: “By focusing on Whitehall procedures they have entirely missed the point: the lessons of the financial crisis have been learned and acted upon by putting in place a reformed regulatory system, ring-fencing the banks, ending the ‘too big to fail’ problem, and dealing with the risks posed to the economy by an unsustainable deficit.

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“.. the rabbit falling out comatose in front of all the children seated in the front rows.”

An Inflection Point For Keynesian Parlor Tricks (Mark St. Cyr)

Suddenly everywhere you look, one after another, a story is making its way into the main stream press (albeit a trickle but that’s a tidal wave in comparison) that we may be, in fact; experiencing a “bubble” in stock prices. All I can say is the line made famous by Jim Nabors as Gomer Pyle, “Well surprise – surrrr-prise!” But there’s a whole lot more going on here and it too is bubbling up more and more for all to see. The once magic trick performed by the Federal Reserve via QE is turning from a one time grand spectacle of illusion used to levitate the markets; and is quickly being laid bare and exposed for its street corner value of tricks. That fact is becoming unavoidable. Even those who still believe in unicorns and rainbows (cue CNBC™) are finding it harder and harder to hold onto the magic.

Anyone with just a smidgen of common sense knows what’s being presented as “a miracle of economic intervention” has been nothing more than a grand escapade only made possible through the use of monetary smoke and mirrors. Everyone now knows how the tricks are being done. And those who continue espousing that this market is based on “fundamentals” as well as “fairly priced” (cue the media’s next in-rotation “everything is awesome” fund manager) are being hard pressed to control the snickering if not out right fits of laughter by others as they continue trying to make their case. e.g., “This past earnings season was a bona-fide beat!” In reality we all know its only been possible through the use of extraordinary record stock buy backs made possible by a ZIRP, along with such an adulteration of GAAP via Non-GAAP: it’s a wonder why they even need calculators any more.

These numbers (in my opinion) have more in common with illusion and magical thinking than anything based in reality – so why even bother. Be honest, just go for it, and declare, “We’re making all this shit up!” because: it just isn’t fooling anyone anymore. Now the real issue from here for both the Fed. as well as Keynesians everywhere will be in trying to maintain some form, as in: “illusion of control” going forward. Surely there’s more magical thinking and sleight of hand needed now more than ever to keep up this grand deceptive appearance or “wealth effect” we were all told we’d be experiencing by now. After all, unemployment just hit 5.5% and the markets are at record levels. “Where’s the pony?” Who needs an economy based on fundamental monetary principles when you can report economic numbers like this?

Unless you’re one of the over 92 million souls unable to find work. The Keynesian answer to this? You just apply today’s version of Keynesian economic math and principles to any statistic that gets in the way of the illusion. Then “poof” just like magic, another irritating issue to the “everything is awesome” narrative is gone. No cape required for that one. Yet the Fed board of magic seemed to have an issue with the illusion of “control” as it faltered a bit on Friday. Having more in common with an assistant dropping the magician’s hat: and the rabbit falling out comatose in front of all the children seated in the front rows.

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Crazy world. Making a profit from buying back your own shares.

Goldman Sachs Stress Test Results Could Endanger Big Profit Source (NY Times)

Concerns have emerged that Goldman Sachs — long the leader on Wall Street — may lose an important engine of profitability. On the Federal Reserve stress tests last week, Goldman performed poorly compared with other big banks. Now analysts and investors are worried that the bank could be barred by regulators from buying back its own stock or increasing dividends. Goldman has used dividends and share buybacks to appeal to investors at a time when other elements of the bank’s business have faced challenges. When companies buy shares of their own stock on the open market, it generally increases the amount of profits attributed to every share, an important metric for investors.

Several analysts have released research questioning whether the Federal Reserve would allow Goldman to continue its buyback programs given the results of the stress tests. Brian Kleinhanzl, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, estimated that if Goldman is unable to repurchase shares, it could earn 42 cents a share less than expected this year, and $1.78 a share less than expected next year. “There is an expectation that they could be at risk,” said Steve Chubak, a bank analyst with Nomura. Shares of Goldman fell 1.7% on Friday, the day after the stress tests, while the broader bank sector was up.

The bank’s predicament highlights how the Fed’s stress test, which has become a powerful tool for Wall Street regulators, can trip up even a bank like Goldman, which came out of the financial crisis looking stronger than many rivals. The stress tests are intended to ensure that banks have an adequate cushion to sustain losses if another financial crisis hits. The Fed does not allow banks to give money back to shareholders if it would leave the banks with less of a cushion than they would need in a severe crisis. The Fed will not publicly give its final verdict on Goldman’s buyback plans until Wednesday. Its decision is likely to hinge on how it analyzes the results of the stress test, and it may have determined that Goldman is strong enough to use profits to buy back shares.

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The WaPo just can’t believe it… How can they not love us? It must be that conspiracy propaganda…..

Russia’s Anti-US Sentiment Now Is Even Worse Than It Was In Soviet Union (WaPo)

Thought the Soviet Union was anti-American? Try today’s Russia. After a year in which furious rhetoric has been pumped across Russian airwaves, anger toward the United States is at its worst since opinion polls began tracking it. From ordinary street vendors all the way up to the Kremlin, a wave of anti-U.S. bile has swept the country, surpassing any time since the Stalin era, observers say. The indignation peaked after the assassination of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, as conspiracy theories started to swirl – just a few hours after he was killed – that his death was a CIA plot to discredit Russia. (On Sunday, Russia charged two men from Chechnya, and detained three others, in connection with Nemtsov’s killing.) There are drives to exchange Western-branded clothing for Russia’s red, blue and white. Efforts to replace Coke with Russian-made soft drinks. Fury over U.S. sanctions.

And a passionate, conspiracy-laden fascination with the methods that Washington is supposedly using to foment unrest in Ukraine and Russia. The anger is a challenge for U.S. policymakers seeking to reach out to a shrinking pool of friendly faces in Russia. And it is a marker of the limits of their ability to influence Russian decision-making after a year of sanctions. More than 80% of Russians now hold negative views of the United States, according to the independent Levada Center, a number that has more than doubled over the past year and that is by far the highest negative rating since the center started tracking those views in 1988. Nemtsov’s assassination, the highest-profile political killing during Vladiimir Putin’s 15 years in power, was yet another brutal strike against pro-Western forces in Russia. Nemtsov had long modeled himself on Western politicians and amassed a long list of enemies who resented him for it.

The anti-Western anger stands to grow even stronger if President Obama decides to send lethal weaponry to the Ukrainian military, as he has been considering. The aim would be to raise the cost of any Russian intervention by making the Ukrainian response more lethal. But even some of Putin s toughest critics say they cannot support that proposal, since the cost is the lives of their nation’s soldiers. “The United States is experimenting geopolitically, using people like guinea pigs,” said Sergey Mikheev, director of the Kremlin-allied Center for Current Politics, on a popular talk show on the state-run First Channel last year. His accusations, drawn out by a host who said it was important to “know the enemy,” were typical of the rhetoric that fills Russian airwaves. “They treat us all in the same way, threatening not only world stability but the existence of every human being on the planet,” Mikheev said.

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A 2nd chapter from her book.

How Everything Will Change Under Climate Change (Naomi Klein)

The alarm bells of the climate crisis have been ringing in our ears for years and are getting louder all the time – yet humanity has failed to change course. What is wrong with us? Many answers to that question have been offered, ranging from the extreme difficulty of getting all the governments in the world to agree on anything, to an absence of real technological solutions, to something deep in our human nature that keeps us from acting in the face of seemingly remote threats, to – more recently – the claim that we have blown it anyway and there is no point in even trying to do much more than enjoy the scenery on the way down. Some of these explanations are valid, but all are ultimately inadequate. Take the claim that it’s just too hard for so many countries to agree on a course of action. It is hard.

But many times in the past, the United Nations has helped governments to come together to tackle tough cross-border challenges, from ozone depletion to nuclear proliferation. The deals produced weren’t perfect, but they represented real progress. Moreover, during the same years that our governments failed to enact a tough and binding legal architecture requiring emission reductions, supposedly because cooperation was too complex, they managed to create the World Trade Organisation – an intricate global system that regulates the flow of goods and services around the planet, under which the rules are clear and violations are harshly penalised. The assertion that we have been held back by a lack of technological solutions is no more compelling.

Power from renewable sources like wind and water predates the use of fossil fuels and is becoming cheaper, more efficient, and easier to store every year. The past two decades have seen an explosion of ingenious zero-waste design, as well as green urban planning. Not only do we have the technical tools to get off fossil fuels, we also have no end of small pockets where these low carbon lifestyles have been tested with tremendous success. And yet the kind of large-scale transition that would give us a collective chance of averting catastrophe eludes us.

Is it just human nature that holds us back then? In fact we humans have shown ourselves willing to collectively sacrifice in the face of threats many times, most famously in the embrace of rationing, victory gardens, and victory bonds during world wars one and two. Indeed to support fuel conservation during world war two, pleasure driving was virtually eliminated in the UK, and between 1938 and 1944, use of public transit went up by 87% in the US and by 95% in Canada. Twenty million US households – representing three fifths of the population – were growing victory gardens in 1943, and their yields accounted for 42% of the fresh vegetables consumed that year. Interestingly, all of these activities together dramatically reduce carbon emissions.

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Sounds awesome.

Upcoming Supermoon Eclipse Will Dazzle Britain, Hit Europe’s Power Grids (RT)

This spring should reward plenty of star-gazers, especially in Britain, which will experience its deepest solar eclipse in 15 years, as well as a Supermoon, all at the same time – an event that will sink the island into twilight for two whole hours. The Supermoon eclipse, as the phenomenon is known, is an astronomical alignment where the Moon is sent on a trajectory between the Sun and the Earth, depriving us of light. The event will occur on March 20 at around 8:40GMT. Scotland will have it best though, with a whopping 98% of the sky darkened, compared to about 85% for the south of England. For best results the Scottish need to look up starting 9:36 am. Other areas in Britain will only get around 30%. Similar events took place in 2006, 2008 and 2011, but neither of them can touch the upcoming Supermoon eclipse, except an event that occurred in 1999.

[..] Britain will remain relatively unscathed, compared to its European neighbors, where up to 10% of energy is generated sustainably, meaning they depend more on the sun. According to the UK’s energy body, only 1.5% of power there is generated by solar panels. And since people will be going out in droves to watch the spectacle, energy consumption should drop almost at the same time the shortages will strike, it says. The European Network Transmission System Operators for Electricity says, according to the Independent, “with the increase of installed photovoltaic energy generation, the risk of an incident could be serious without appropriate countermeasures.” “Within 30 minutes the solar power production would decrease from 17.5 gigawatts to 6.2GW and then increase again up to 24.6GW. This means that within 30 minutes the system will have to adapt to a load change of -10GW to +15GW,” said Patrick Graichen, executive director of the Berlin-based think-tank on renewable energy Agora Energiewende, as cited by the FT.

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