Jun 202019
 
 June 20, 2019  Posted by at 6:42 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Caravaggio I musici 1595-96

 

The investigation into the crash of the MH17 Malaysia Airlines plane in East Ukraine was always compromised, right from the start. The crash on July 17 2014 came shortly after the “Euromaidan revolution” in Kiev – which first began in November 2013 and culminated in the ousting of elected president Yanukovich on 23 February 2014, happily helped along by John McCain, Victoria Nuland and then-US ambassador to Ukraine (now ambassador to Greece) Geoffrey Pyatt for the USA, as well as various EU actors.

Russia reacted by “annexing” Crimea – a large majority of whose people had voted for Yanukovich, thereby safeguarding its access to its only warm water port. Not a shot was fired there, but it was very different in East Ukraine (Donbass), where people -of Russian origin- also didn’t want to be subjected to a new regime under Nuland’s puppet Yatsenyuk -and later Poroshenko. They started a civil war which continues to this day.

It was in that heated political climate that the MH17 came down, killing all its 298 passengers, 196 of whom had the Dutch nationality. 3 weeks later, on August 8, a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) was formed, which was to be led by Holland, and to also include representatives from Australia, Belgium and Ukraine. Which is odd, since at that time, Ukraine certainly was a potential perpetrator of the downing.

Malaysia joined only in December, allegedly because only then did it finally agree to allow Ukraine, a nation that was a suspect, a veto over any conclusions that the team would publish. Malaysia had already been handed the black boxes by pro-Russian rebels in the area, and passed them on to the team in August. Summarized, the way the JIT was formed was highly curious. The countries even signed a secret agreement.

 

Immediately after the crash, people like then-US VP Joe Biden, as well as Frans Timmermans, then-Dutch Foreign Minister and today candidate for the EU top job, pointed the finger at Russia as the party responsible for shooting down the plane. Also curious, since there had been no investigation and the plane crashed in a civil war zone where access was almost impossible. There was talk at the time of the US having satellite images, but none have ever been produced.

In that atmosphere, the JIT yesterday, June 19 2019, held another press conference, in which it accused four men, three from Russia and one from Ukraine, of being “involved” in shooting down the plane. But again, almost 5 years after the incident, the team produced no evidence for its accusations, saying it will only be presented 9 months from now when a trial will start in the Netherlands.

It also again accused Russia of refusing to cooperate, though Russia has offered its help ever since the MH17 came down. It’s just not the help the people want who have accused the Russians since before there was any hint of evidence it was involved. And there still is no evidence. Russia has filed long and detailed reports on the incident despite being ignored, but these reports have been … ignored.

 

The trial will take place starting March 9 2020 without the accused, since Russia doesn’t extradite its citizens, and neither does Ukraine. Moreover, the one Ukrainian who is accused is thought to be in the Donbass, where the government has no access.

So this will be a show trial. And one must wonder why it is staged. What’s the use of a trial where defendants don’t defend themselves? Sure, the official line is they would love to have the men provide a defense, but that smells a bit too much like what has happened to Julian Assange. What are the odds of a fair trial when so many conclusions have been drawn at such early times?

There is not a soul in Europe west of the Russian border who doesn’t believe the Russians did it. The media take care of that. Nor is there in the US. But the Malaysian PM himself yesterday, again, said the team has proven nothing, and only provided hearsay. I kid you not, I read a piece on the BBC today that asked if the 93-year-old who lost 43 of his countrymen only said that because he wanted to sell palm oil to Russia.

And in the meantime, the evidence is not there, and won’t be for another 9 months, if ever, and the EU today added another year to its Russia sanctions over Crimea, and 4 men can deny their involvement all they want, but they can make their case only in March 2020, and only at a show trial, with international search warrants hanging over their heads.

 

The four men in question, by the way, are not accused of firing the BUK missile that supposedly downed the MH17. They are only accused of facilitating the transport of the missile and launcher from Russia to Ukraine -and back. The JIT Ukrainian team bases the entire story of that transport on serial numbers it says it has found.

On September 17 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense in a YouTube response to a May 24 2018 JIT exhibition, said it had tracked down those serial numbers, 8868720, and 1318869032, and 9M38, and said both the launcher and missile corresponding to the numbers were purchased by Ukraine from Russia as far back as 1986, transferred there, and had never left the country since.

I get that information from a lengthy, deep-digging and highly recommended essay by Eric Zuesse, from December 2018, MH17 Turnabout: Ukraine’s Guilt Now Proven, which I’ve been reading the past few days, in which Eric says: “…if the JIT’s supplied evidence is authentic — which the Ukrainian team asserts it to be — then it outright convicts Ukraine. This is an evidentiary checkmate, against the Ukrainian side.”

Zuesse also details, in that article, contentions from multiple sources that, while the MH17 may have been hit with a BUK missile, it certainly wasn’t the only thing that hit it. There was at least one fighter jet seen close to the plane before it came down, as multiple eye-witness reports claim, and it is alleged that they fired on the cockpit for sure and perhaps other parts of the plane. It is an excellent article that is very well researched and chock-full of links to prove its points.

 

There are many things wrong with the MH17 investigation. Having the PM of one of your member investigative countries complain that after 5 years you produce only hearsay and no evidence may be the least of the worries. The Netherlands, as main victim, leading the investigation, is strange. How neutral could they be? Their Foreign Minister blamed Russia way before any investigating was done. And Holland was a main sponsor in the “Euromaidan revolution”, i.e. the ousting of an elected president.

Still, Ukraine’s position in all this must be the biggest warning sign. They stood a lot to gain from committing atrocities and then blaming Russia for them. Plus, Yatsenyuk and Nuland and the US and the EU were mightily angry that Russia had outsmarted them all over Crimea.

But instead of keeping Ukraine out of the investigation, they became a major contributor, and were even given veto rights on anything that came out of it, as far as we know the only party with such rights. If you present a crime novel or movie with ingredients like that, nobody would believe you. Such things don’t happen in real life.

 

 

 

 

Apr 062015
 
 April 6, 2015  Posted by at 9:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


G.G. Bain ‘Casino Theater playing musical ‘The Little Whopper’, NY 1920

7 Unfounded Fears About An Exit From The Euro (Beppe Grillo)
Teachers Warn Of ‘Victorian’ Poverty Among Pupils (BBC)
Once Over $12 Trillion, the World’s Reserves Are Now Shrinking (Bloomberg)
How Criminals Built Capitalism (Bloomberg)
Greek Political Unrest And Deepening Crisis Fuel Talk Of Snap Election (Guar.)
Greek Economy Staring At Recession Again (Kathimerini)
What Happens If Greece Defaults On Its IMF Loans? (Telegraph)
Greece and IMF Hold Talks on Crucial Debt Payment (NY Times)
Varoufakis Meets Lagarde: ‘Greece Will Pay All Creditors Including IMF’ (GR)
How Much Of Brazil’s Economy Got Lost In Petrobras Scandal? (Forbes)
Petrobras Woes Reach Europe, US (Bloomberg)
Japan’s Wary Manufacturers Resist Abe’s Urge To Splurge (Reuters)
The Inbred Bernanke-Summers Debate On Secular Stagnation (Steve Keen)
Leader Of Ukraine Neo Nazi Right Sector Appointed As Army Advisor (Zero Hedge)
Eastern Ukraine Leaders Appeal To Merkel, Hollane To End Embargo (DW)
Saudi Arabia Rejects Russian UN All-Inclusive Arms Embargo on Yemen (RT)
Record Gasoline Output to Curb Biggest US Oil Glut in 85 Years (Bloomberg)
UK Law Changed To Force Nuclear Waste Dumps On Local Communities (Guardian)

Beppe is not just an entertainer.

7 Unfounded Fears About An Exit From The Euro (Beppe Grillo)

1) Mortgages – Mortgages will be converted into the new currency the day we exit the Euro. For anyone with a variable interest rate, this will still remain linked to the Euribor and thus it will remain stable. In relation to mortgages, Italians will benefit.

2) Inflation – Just think that the goods (home, car, telephone) that we want to buy will come down in price. If we don’t spend, the economy stagnates. This is what is happening today with deflation. A low level of inflation is thus necessary to keep the economy going. On the other hand, it mustn’t be too high to avoid devaluing our ability to spend. This won’t happen because Italian products will become more competitive than foreign products and the products that we are obliged to import from abroad (for example: crude oil) have a limited impact on the final price (for example: in the last year the value of the Euro has fallen by about 25% in relation to the dollar, but the high level of customs duties on petrol, has meant that the effect has not been apparent).

3) Current account – Your current account in Euro will be converted into the new currency. But, just even today, you can have a different currency in your bank account. You will still be able to do that after the exit from the Euro. So you could have dollars, Euro, pounds sterling, francs or a new currency.

4) Government bonds – 95% of Italian State bonds will be converted into the new currency (given that 95% are issued in accordance with Italian legislation and so they would inherit the national currency). The State will pay out on them and will issue them in the new currency. Given the low yields and the high risk that we already see right now, Italian State bonds are not a good buy for an Italian citizen.

5) Transition from the Euro to the lira – There’ll probably be a 1 to 1 conversion with the new currency and it will then probably devalue a bit. The effect on prices will probably be that they stay the same as today but they will be given in the new currency.

6) Increase in the price of petrol – The price of petrol is a false problem as most of the price (64%) is paid in taxes. International prices of crude oil and the exchange rate only relate to 26% of the price. If we also consider that the price of crude oil is at a record low right now, an exit from the Euro will surely be no problem from this point of view.

7) Imports: increase in the prices of imported products – This problem, that is particularly important for technology products, can only be resolved by investing in innovation after the destruction of companies like Olivetti and the downsizing of Telecom Italia. Innovation is the only way to develop the country. Staying in the Euro is not going to help. Throughout history, we have exported and traded with the countries nearest to us, but not because they have the Euro, simply because they are the closest and the geographic location has made it easier to trade with them ever since the time of the Roman Empire.

However, the value of exports going into the countries using the Euro, has being going down ever since we joined the Euro. Just in 2007, those accounted for 60%, and today that’s now down to less than 50%. The only areas where the value of our exports is growing is outside the Euro zone as can be seen from research into Italian exports: “emerging markets currently represent the biggest proportion of our exports, while the importance of the Euro area has seen a significant fall“.

Read more …

While Cameron is boasting this huge recovery.

Teachers Warn Of ‘Victorian’ Poverty Among Pupils (BBC)

Teachers say they are seeing “Victorian conditions” with pupils arriving at school hungry and not wearing the right clothes needed for the weather. The NASUWT teachers’ union says schools and teachers are increasingly having to deal with the consequences of poor housing and poverty. Teachers reported bringing in their own food to school to give to children. The Conservatives said the number of children in poverty had fallen by 300,000 under the coalition government. The Liberal Democrats said they had helped families by introducing free school meals for all infant children. Tristram Hunt, Labour’s shadow education secretary, warned of the “quiet indignity of poverty that can wreak havoc with a child’s confidence”. He said poverty was one of the “biggest barriers” to pupils achieving in school.

Claims about poverty in the school-age population will be heard at the NASUWT teachers’ union annual conference in Cardiff. The union asked members for their experiences and received almost 2,500 responses. It was not a representative sample of teachers, but among those replying more than two in three reported seeing pupils come to school hungry. “Children in 2015 should not be hungry and coming to school with no socks on and no coats – some children are living in Victorian conditions – in the inner cities,” said one unnamed teacher. Almost one in four of the teachers who responded said they had brought in food for pupils who were hungry, and an even higher proportion had seen the school feeding pupils.

More than three in four had seen pupils arriving at school with “inappropriate clothing” such as no socks or coats in bad weather. Similar numbers claimed that a bad diet meant that pupils were unable to concentrate on their work. More children were being sent home with letters about unpaid school meals and pupils who were sick were still being sent to school because parents could not afford to take time off work, claimed teachers. The comments from the survey suggest teachers felt that they were having to cope with the wider problems linked to family hardship, such as children living in temporary accommodation or relying on food banks.

Read more …

All about emerging markets. They’re going to be steamrollered.

Once Over $12 Trillion, the World’s Reserves Are Now Shrinking (Bloomberg)

The decade-long surge in foreign-currency reserves held by the world’s central banks is coming to an end. Global reserves declined to $11.6 trillion in March from a record $12.03 trillion in August 2014, halting a five-fold increase that began in 2004, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While the drop may be overstated because the strengthening dollar reduced the value of other reserve currencies such as the euro, it still underlines a shift after central banks – with most of them located in developing nations like China and Russia – added an average $824 billion to reserves each year over past the decade. Beyond being emblematic of the dollar’s return to its role as the world’s undisputed dominant currency, the drop in reserves has several potential implications for global markets.

It could make it harder for emerging-market countries to boost their money supply and shore up faltering economic growth; it could add to declines in the euro; and it could damp demand for U.S. Treasury bonds. “It’s a big challenge for emerging markets,” Stephen Jen, a former IMF economist, said. They “now need more stimulus. The seed has been sowed for future volatility,” he said. Stripping out the effect from foreign-exchange fluctuations, Credit Suisse estimates that developing countries, which hold about two-thirds of global reserves, spent a net $54 billion of this stash in the fourth quarter, the most since the global financial crisis in 2008. China, the world’s largest reserve holder, together with commodity producers contributed to most of the declines, as central banks sold dollars to offset capital outflows and shore up their currencies.

A Bloomberg gauge of emerging-market currencies has lost 15% against the dollar over the past year. China cut its stockpile to $3.8 trillion in December from a peak of $4 trillion in June, central bank data show. Russia’s supply tumbled 25% over the past year to $361 billion in March, while Saudi Arabia, the third-largest holder after China and Japan, has burned through $10 billion in reserves since August to $721 billion. The trend is likely to continue as oil prices stay low and growth in emerging markets remains weak, reducing the dollar inflows that central banks used to build reserves, according to Deutsche Bank.

Such a development is detrimental to the euro, which had benefited from purchases in recent years by central banks seeking to diversify their reserves, according to George Saravelos at Deutsche Bank. The euro’s share of global reserves dropped to 22% in 2014, the lowest since 2002, while the dollar’s rose to a five-year high of 63%, the International Monetary Fund reported March 31. “The Middle East and China stand out as two regions that are likely to face ongoing pressures to run down reserves over the next few years,” Saravelos wrote in a note. The central banks there “need to sell euros,” he said.

Read more …

By a gut named Clive Crook, no less.

How Criminals Built Capitalism (Bloomberg)

Whenever buyers and sellers get together, opportunities to fleece the other guy arise. The history of markets is, in part, the history of lying, cheating and stealing — and of the effort down the years to fight commercial crime. In fact, the evolution of the modern economy owes more than you might think to these outlaws. That’s the theme of “Forging Capitalism: Rogues, Swindlers, Frauds, and the Rise of Modern Finance” by Ian Klaus. It’s a history of financial crimes in the 19th and early 20th centuries that traces a recurring sequence: new markets, new ways to cheat, new ways to transact and secure trust. As Klaus says, criminals helped build modern capitalism. And what a cast of characters.

Thomas Cochrane is my own favorite. (He was the model for Jack Aubrey in Patrick O’Brian’s “Master and Commander” novels.) Cochrane was an aristocrat and naval hero. At the height of his fame in 1814 he was put on trial for fraud. An associate had spread false rumors of Napoleon’s death, driving up the price of British government debt, and allowing Cochrane to avoid heavy losses on his investments. Cochrane complained (with good reason, in fact) that the trial was rigged, but he was found guilty and sent to prison. The story is fascinating in its own right, and the book points to its larger meaning. Cochrane, in a way, was convicted of conduct unbecoming a man of his position. Playing the markets, let alone cheating, was something a man of his status wasn’t supposed to do.

Trust resided in social standing. As the turbulent century went on, capitalism moved its frontier outward in every sense: It found new opportunities overseas; financial innovation accelerated; and buyers and sellers were ever more likely to be strangers, operating at a distance through intermediaries. These new kinds of transaction required new ways of securing trust. Social status diminished as a guarantee of good faith. In its place came, first, reputation (based on an established record of honest dealing) then verification (based on public and private records that vouched for the parties’ honesty). Successive scams and scandals pushed this evolution of trust along.

Gregor MacGregor and the mythical South American colony of Poyais (“the quintessential fraud of Britain’s first modern investment bubble,” Klaus calls it); Beaumont Smith and an exchequer bill forging operation of remarkable scope and duration; Walter Watts, insurance clerk, theatrical entrepreneur and fraudster; Harry Marks, journalist, newspaper proprietor and puffer of worthless stocks. On and on, these notorious figures altered the way the public thought about commercial trust, and spurred the changes that enabled the public to keep on trusting nonetheless.

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They’ll only do snap if the polls allow for it. Doesn’t look anywhere near.

Greek Political Unrest And Deepening Crisis Fuel Talk Of Snap Election (Guar.)

The worsening Greek debt crisis has reanimated talk within the ruling Syriza party of a snap general election if discussions with creditors fail, as the country faces a Thursday deadline to repay a €450m loan to the IMF. The Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, was scheduled to hold informal talks with the IMF’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, in Washington DC on Sunday, while warnings of early elections underscored the political unrest in Athens. The slow pace of negotiations with creditors and worsening state of the Greek economy brought a warning from the far-left Syriza of snap polls being held before the summer – just months after winning power. “If we are not satisfied [with the outcome] we will go to the people,” Kostas Chrysogonos, a prominent Syriza MEP told local media at the weekend.

“We have a popular mandate to bring about a better result,” he said of the talks aimed at concluding a reform-for-cash programme to keep the crisis-hit country afloat. “If, ultimately, creditors insist on following an inflexible line … then the electoral body will have to assume its responsibilities.” Varoufakis’ unexpected meeting with the IMF chief has been arranged as senior government officials repeated assurances that Greece was not about to to default on its debt repayments. The deputy finance minister, Dimitris Mardas, said the IMF payment would be made and civil service wages would be paid. “There is money for the payment of salaries, pensions and whatever else is needed in the next week.”

The prospect of renewed political strife in Greece coincided with mounting dissent within Syriza over the extent to which it should roll back on pre-electoral reforms. The anti-austerity government led by Alexis Tsipras has found itself increasingly cornered with creditors – the so-called troika – refusing to endorse proposed reforms under an extension of its €240bn bailout. Militants led by energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis have ratcheted up the pressure by rejecting any notion of making necessary concessions starting with privatisations.

On Sunday, Lafazanis denounced Greece’s international creditors for treating the country with “unbelievable prejudice and as a colony”. Raising the prospect of a deal with Russia, he said, “A Greek-Russian agreement would help our country greatly in negotiations with lenders.” Despite assertions over the weekend that Sunday’s talks were part of the negotiation process, Athens is believed to harbour hopes that the IMF – which has proved to be a more conciliatory partner than either the EU or ECB in negotiations – will agree to cut the government some slack when Varoufakis discusses the reform programme with Lagarde. On Friday, Syriza’s parliamentary spokesman, Nikos Filis, also piled on the pressure saying Tsipras’ leftist-led coalition would prefer to pay salaries and pensions than bondholders if forced to make a choice.

Read more …

“The combination of a better-than-expected tax collection in March, the postponement of some budget expenditures and internal borrowing from some state entities and other sources made it possible for the government to pay both creditors and pensioners and civil servants last month.”

Greek Economy Staring At Recession Again (Kathimerini)

The Greek state may be able to service its debt and pay pensions and salaries to civil servants in April. However, the limited progress in negotiations between the government and the official creditors on the conclusion of the economic policy program increases uncertainty, reduces credit availability and adversely affects domestic demand despite less austerity. The economic damage has increased the risk of recession. The combination of a better-than-expected tax collection in March, the postponement of some budget expenditures and internal borrowing from some state entities and other sources made it possible for the government to pay both creditors and pensioners and civil servants last month. Greece paid an estimated €2.5 billion to the IMF and other creditors in March without including T-bills.

Assuming tax revenues remain on track and more general government entities lend part of their cash reserves to the state, we would expect Greece to be able to meet its obligations to creditors in April but it will face a tougher hurdle in May. It is reminded the state owes about 458 million euros to the IMF on April 9 and has to find an additional €700 million or so for T-bills maturing on April 14 which are held by international investors and most likely will not be rolled over. It will also have to pay €194 million to private bondholders on April 17 and €80 million to the ECB on April 20, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofA). Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas, who is in charge of the General Accounting Office, assured recently that the state will make the payment to the IMF on time and pay wages to some civil servants in the middle of the month.

This contrasts with leaks in the press, citing other government officials’ warnings that Greece would run out of money on April 9. Although no one disputes that the central government is in a tough financial position, some abroad suspect these warnings are also part of a Greek strategy to get some funding from the EU via the EFSF or indirectly from the ECB. Even if Greece is able to overcome this hurdle in April, it will have to pass another test in early May, assuming it has not reached an agreement with its creditors by then. It will have to pay €200 million to the IMF on May 1 and an additional €763 million on May 12, according to a recent report by BofA.

Of course, the country has shown that it intends to honor its obligations so far and could be able to continue doing so in the rest of April and even May to the extent that it is able to mobilize the cash reserves of state entities, collect more revenues than targeted in the adjustment program and postpone expenditures to suppliers and others for the future, building arrears.

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This will take until at least June. “According to IMF protocol, Greece would be afforded a 30-day grace period..” They’ll pay on April 9. The next payments are May 1 and 12. Add 30 days to that. That’s when payments to other creditors are due.

What Happens If Greece Defaults On Its IMF Loans? (Telegraph)

The Greek government faces another crucial deadline in its interminable bail-out drama this week, as fears mount that the country could become the first developed nation to ever default on its international obligations. After a harrowing March, cash-strapped Athens now faces a €448m payment to the IMF on Thursday. But with public sector wages and pensions to pay out, a cacophony of voices on Syriza’s Left have vowed to prioritise domestic obligations unless creditors finally unlock the remainder of its €240bn bail-out programme. “We are a Left-wing government. If we have to choose between a default to the IMF or a default to our own people, it is a no-brainer,” a senior Greek official told The Telegraph last week.

The rhetoric is a far cry from February, when Greece’s finance minister pledged his government would “squeeze blood out of a stone” to meet its obligations to the Fund. Yanis Varoufakis will now spend Easter Sunday with IMF director Christine Lagarde in a bid to gain some leeway on the country’s reforms-for-cash programme. Greece owes €9.7bn to the IMF this year. Missing its latest installment in order to pay out its social security bill on April 14, would see the country fall into an arrears process, unprecedented for a developed world debtor. Although no nation has ever officially defaulted on its obligations in the post-Bretton Woods era, Greece would join an ignominious list of war-torn nations and international pariahs who have failed to pay back the Fund on time.

What happens after April 9? Missing Thursday’s payment would not immediately trigger a default however. According to IMF protocol, Greece would be afforded a 30-day grace period, during which it would be urged to pay back the money as soon as possible, and before Ms Lagarde notifies her executive board of the late payment. Following this hiatus, a technical default could be declared a month later, when “a complaint regarding the member’s overdue obligations is issued by the Managing Director to the Executive Board”. In the interim, Greece may well stump up the cash having spooked creditors and the markets of the possibility of a fatal breach of the sanctity of monetary union. Should no money be forthcoming however, the arrears process may well extend indefinitely. Greece’s IMF burden would also start piling up, with the government due to pay another €963m by May 12.

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Very predictable.

Greece and IMF Hold Talks on Crucial Debt Payment (NY Times)

Mr. Varoufakis, from the moment he became finance minister this year, has gone out of his way to cultivate ties with Ms. Lagarde and has said that paying the fund was a priority for Greece. Over the last month, however, the economic situation in Greece has worsened greatly. Deposits worth about €25 billion have been withdrawn from Greek banks, some of which are now on life support with the European Central Bank. The government’s tax collections are also suffering as companies and consumers fret over the prospect that Greece might be forced to abandon the euro. Now, with Europe refusing to permit Greece access to temporary lines of liquidity — such as letting its banks issue more short-term treasury notes — Greece is running out of cash.

Which means that if it were to pay the fund €458 million this Thursday, there might not be enough left in the coffers to pay pensions and public sector wages the next week, some Greek officials say. Mr. Varoufakis, who came to power on a platform of ending the policy of putting the needs of Greece’s creditors above its suffering citizens, was to make the case to Ms. Lagarde that his government could not meet all of its commitments. “This government has made strong statements that they will meet their commitments,” said a person who was involved in the negotiations but was not authorized to speak publicly. The problem is, this person said, Greek officials have made commitments to their own people as well. “They are being pushed to the wall.”

There is some wiggle room. Even if Greece does not pay up on Thursday, it will not be in technical default as there is a 30-day grace period that could allow the government to pay its pension and wage obligations and strike a broader deal so that its creditors could disburse the needed funds. Mr. Varoufakis is also planning to meet with officials in the United States Treasury on Monday in the hope that the United States, as the dominant voice at the I.M.F., might pressure fund officials, and Europe as well, to cut Greece some slack. The United States has been quietly critical of Europe’s harsh stance toward Greece, warning of the consequences that a Greek default and exit from the euro would have on financial markets.

Read more …

Hollow phrases exercise.

Varoufakis Meets Lagarde: ‘Greece Will Pay All Creditors Including IMF’ (GR)

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said Greece will pay all its creditors, including the upcoming International Monetary Fund installment, as he was exiting a meeting with IMF managing director Cristine Lagarde in Washington, DC on Sunday April 5. Greece faces a deadline to repay a €450m loan to the International Monetary Fund on April 9th, and many sources had speculated that the crisis-hit country won’t be able to pay the installment. “Greece was a founding member of Bretton Woods institutions,” the Greek Finance Chief noted to reporters outside the IMF. Christine Lagarde made the following statement after the meeting: “Minister Varoufakis and I exchanged views on current developments and we both agreed that effective cooperation is in everyone’s interest. We noted that continuing uncertainty is not in Greece’s interest and I welcomed confirmation by the Minister that payment owing to the Fund would be forthcoming on April 9th.”

“I expressed my appreciation for the Minister’s commitment to improve the technical teams’ ability to work with the authorities to conduct the necessary due diligence in Athens, and to enhance the policy discussions with the teams in Brussels, both of which will resume promptly on Monday. I reiterated that the Fund remains committed to work together with the authorities to help Greece return to a sustainable path of growth and employment.” The Greek finance minister traveled to Washington, DC to hold an informal discussion on the Greek government’s reform program with the IMF’s managing director, Christine Lagarde. The Varoufakis-Lagarde meeting started at 6.15 pm on Sunday and lasted for two hours. The Greek Finance minister is also scheduled to meet with President Obama’s top economic and national security adviser Caroline Atkinson on Monday.

Read more …

Lowballing.

How Much Of Brazil’s Economy Got Lost In Petrobras Scandal? (Forbes)

A study out this week in Brazil estimates just how much the country lost to this ugly Petrobras oil scandal. The price tag: R$87 billion ($27.1 billion) that is expected to have been lost in GDP this year because of Petrobras’ corrupt, little ways. All told, that comes out to a little more than 1% of Brazil’s GDP burned up in scandal. Brazil’s GDP is about $2.2 trillion. The study was done by the Getulio Vargas Foundation. It based its estimates on Petrobras planned reduction in investments this year, which will hit oil and gas service firms, construction, engineering and consumer spending. Layoffs in construction will likely take at least R$13.6 billion from federal coffers this year. Two construction companies that colluded with Petrobras in the scandal, OAS and Galvao, have both filed for bankruptcy.

Construction companies are expected to reduce GDP by another R$10 billion, with the Foundation estimating a massive blood-letting in the job market, well into the thousands. Petrobras has yet to release earnings due to its third party auditors fearing repercussions if it signs off on phony accounts. So far, the market has April 30 as the date to discover just what Petrobras earned last year. But that can be delayed because shareholder lawsuits in New York have forced the Securities and Exchange Commission to review the earnings data before it is released to the market. The SEC will have their final say. At least three law firms have filed class action suits against the Brazilian oil giant. New York law firm Pomerantz is lead counsel on the case. Earnings will not include losses accrued from the scandal, the local Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper reported this week.

The newspaper also said that changes to the way auditors and regulators are reviewing Petrobras’ books might work in the oil firm’s favor. Last year, Deloitte said that Petrobras inflated its assets to the tune of R$88.6 billion. That number is expected to decline by at least half. Petrobras’ ex-CEO Maria Gracas Foster and her auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers are part of the shareholder lawsuit along with Brazilian bank Itau Unibanco. Estimates are for Brazil’s economy to contract by around 0.5% this year. “Brazil’s problems are all domestic and you can trace it to Petrobras,” says economist Alex Wolf at Standard Life Investments. “Consumer sentiment is down, unemployment is up slightly and investment is still down. We think Brazil is one of the most vulnerable emerging markets around.”

Read more …

“It’s a stark reversal from five years ago when a wave of European and US oil-services companies eagerly flocked to Brazil to build plants and set up offices.”

Petrobras Woes Reach Europe, US (Bloomberg)

When Italian oil services company Saipem spent $300 million at the start of the decade in Brazil, it joined a long list of foreign companies jockeying for business with Petrobras. Now it’s struggling to get paid. Saipem is one of at least five European companies that spoke about late payments, delivery delays or other difficulties in Brazil during fourth-quarter earnings calls. While day-to-day operations are functioning, Petrobras partners are also facing decision-making obstacles that are inhibiting planning, said officials at partners Galp Energia, BG Group and Repsol who asked not to be named. It’s a stark reversal from five years ago when a wave of European and US oil-services companies eagerly flocked to Brazil to build plants and set up offices.

Back then, Petrobras was ramping up investments to more than $100 million a day after making the Western Hemisphere’s biggest crude finds in decades. Today, Petrobras is slashing spending as oil prices plunge and it’s all but locked out of credit markets because of a sweeping corruption scandal. “Brazil’s a big market,” Terje Soerensen, CEO of Norwegian Siem Offshore, said in a telephone interview. “When that stops, it affects the entire industry.” Siem doesn’t know if the four to six vessels it had marked for Brazilian contracts will be needed now, Soerensen said. Saipem executives said in a February 16 earnings call that some payments from Petrobras were late. Norway’s Aker CEO Luis Araujo said in a March 17 interview that the company was asked to delay equipment deliveries.

Vallourec, a French oil-pipeline maker, and Alfa Laval, a Swedish oil industry engineering firm, also cited a difficult business environment in February conference calls. US oilfield-service providers Halliburton and Schlumberger echoed similar concerns. Halliburton sees activity continuing to decline in Brazil, President Jeff Miller said in a conference call earlier this year. The spending cuts Petrobras has announced will create “challenges” this year, Schlumberger CEO Paal Kibsgaard said.

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“But Japan’s bankers are laughing all the way to the…”

Japan’s Wary Manufacturers Resist Abe’s Urge To Splurge (Reuters)

Hirotoshi Ogura, a self-described “factory geek”, is Daikin Industries’ master of doing more with less – and part of the reason Japan’s recovery remains stuck in the slow lane. As Japan heads into the season of peak demand for room air-conditioners, Ogura and other Daikin managers have been tasked with figuring out how to boost output by some 20% at a plant in western Japan that six years ago the company had almost given up on as unprofitable. The wrinkle: they have no budget for new capital investment at the 45-year-old Kusatsu plant.

The still-evolving workaround shown to a recent visitor involves home-made robots for ferrying parts, experimental systems using gravity rather than electricity to power parts of the line, more temporary workers on seasonal contracts and dozens of steps to chip away at the 1.63 hours it takes to make a typical new air conditioner. “We can do a lot without spending anything,” says Ogura, a 33-year Daikin veteran who joined the company just after high school. “Anything we need, we first try to build ourselves.” Like Daikin, a number of Japanese manufacturers are shifting production back to Japan from China and elsewhere to take advantage of a weaker yen.

Rival Panasonic has pulled back some production of room air-conditioners, Sharp has brought back production of some refrigerators, and Canon has repatriated some output of high-end copiers, according to a list compiled by Nomura. But even as output recovers, Japanese companies remain cautious about new capital investment in factories and equipment. The trend is especially pronounced for smaller firms down the supply chain. After increasing capital spending by 6% in the just-completed fiscal year, small manufacturers plan a 14% decrease in the current year, according to the Bank of Japan’s quarterly survey released this week. Big manufacturers like Daikin plan a 5% increase, but overall investment remains 10% below pre-crisis 2007 levels.

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Economics and inbreeding.

The Inbred Bernanke-Summers Debate On Secular Stagnation (Steve Keen)

Ben Bernanke has recently started blogging (and tweeting), and his opening topics were why interest rates are so low around the world, and a critique of Larry Summers’ “secular stagnation” explanation for this phenomenon, and for persistent low growth since the financial crisis. Summers then replied to Bernanke’s argument, and a debate was on. So who is right: Bernanke who argues that the cause is a “global savings glut”, or Summers who argues that the cause is a slowdown in population growth, combined with a dearth of profitable investment opportunities, not only now but for the foreseeable future? I’d argue both of them, and neither simultaneously—both, because they can both point to empirical data that support their case; neither, because they are only putting forward explanations that are consistent with their largely shared view of how the economy works.

And the extent to which they are the product of a single way of thinking about the world simply cannot be exaggerated. It goes well beyond merely belonging to the same school of thought within economics (the “Neoclassical School” as opposed to the “Austrian”, “Post Keynesian”, “Marxist” etc.), or even the same sect within this school (“New Keynesian” as opposed to “New Classical”). Far beyond. They did their graduate training in the same economics department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They attended the same macroeconomics class: Stanley Fisher’s course in monetary economics at MIT for graduate students (was it the same year—does anybody know?) Some of their fellow Fisher alumni included Ken Rogoff and Olivier Blanchard.

And that’s not all—far from it. Paul Samuelson (MIT) was overwhelming the intellectual architect of what most people these days think is Keynesian economics. Paul Samuelson is Larry Summers’ uncle. Samuelson’s “Foundations of Economic Analysis” was the core of the MIT approach to economics, and it became the model for economics textbooks around the world. Gregory Mankiw’s (PhD, MIT) market-dominating text today is a pale echo of Samuelson’s original. This group has been notably dismissive of other approaches to doing economics. Krugman (PhD MIT) leads the pack here, deriding views that are outside this mindset.

If I were describing a group of thoroughbred horses, alarm bells would already be ringing about a dangerous level of in-breeding. Sensible advice would be proffered about the need to inject new blood into this dangerously limited breeding pool. But the issue would only be of importance to the horseracing community. Instead I am talking about a set of individuals whose ideas have had enormous influence upon both the development of economic thought and the formation of economic policy around the globe for the last four decades. The fact that so much of the dominant approach to thinking about the economy emanates, not merely from such a limited perspective, but from such a limited and interconnected pool of people, should be serious cause for alarm – especially given how the world has fared under the influence of this thoroughbred group.

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Time to stop our support right here and now.

Leader Of Ukraine Neo Nazi Right Sector Appointed As Army Advisor (Zero Hedge)

With Greece on the verge of either getting kicked out of Europe or suffer through yet another government overhaul, one which many suggest may usher the “last” option for Greece, the ultra nationalist, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party into governance, some wonder if it is not Europe’s ulterior intention to force a populist shift toward right wing, nationalist parties (perhaps best observed in France where Marine le Pen’s dramatic rise to power has left many dazed and confused) one which will lead to social instability and shortly thereafter, war (because in a world in which every Keynesian voodoo trick to revive the economy has failed, war is the last remaining outcome).

So while we await to see if Europe’s turn to ultra right wing movements accelerates in the coming months, we just learned of a very disturbing development in just as insolvent Ukraine, where moments ago the website of the local Ministry of Defense reported that Dmytro Yarosh, leader of Ukraine’s “Right Sector” political party, whose political ideology has been described as nationalist, ultranationalist, neofascist, right-wing, or far right, was just appointed as Advisor to Chief of General Staff. From the Ukraine ministry of defense:

Dmytro Yarosh appointed as Advisor to Chief of General Staff – Dmytro Yarosh, leader of ‘Pravyi Sector’ (Right Sector) political party, appointed as Advisor to Chief of General Staff. Yesterday, Colonel General Viktor Muzhenko, Chief of General Staff, and Dmytro Yarosh agreed the format of cooperation between ‘Pravyi Sector’ and the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Colonel General Viktor Muzhenko stressed the Ukrainian army had become one of the strongest armies of Europe; the Ukrainian soldiers proved they knew how to fight and appreciated the contribution of volunteer battalions to defense of Ukraine and said: “We understand the needs of changes and increase of efficiency at all the army levels. We also consider various models of formation of the army reserve.

We are developing the reforms and will implement them. We gathered all the patriots and defenders of Ukraine under single leadership. The enemy understands our unity and that its attempts end in failure. We have one goal and the united Ukraine. The Army becomes stronger each week”. Dmytro Yarosh underlined the unity was the key precondition for further successful fighting and demonstrated the readiness to establish the cooperation and integration of volunteer battalions to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. ‘Pravyi Sector’ is ready to be subordinated to military leaders in issues related to defense of state from the external enemy.

In other words, the leader of Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis will, as a local “patriot and defender of Ukraine” be advising, i.e., fighting for, what little remains of Ukraine’s army. Sadly the parallels with Europe of the 1920s and 1930s, not to mention the decade just following, grow more visible with every passing day.

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“..the UN warned in December that Kyiv’s embargo might be a violation of its obligations to citizens in the rebel-held territory.”

Eastern Ukraine Leaders Appeal To Merkel, Hollande To End Embargo (DW)

Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, the elected leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk, called for an end to Kyiv’s embargo on government services in eastern Ukraine on Saturday. In an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande, they asked the leaders who helped negotiate the ceasefire in Ukraine to use their “influence to encourage Ukrainian offices to begin paying out welfare services to Donbass residents once again.” The government in Kyiv placed an embargo on social services to the country’s eastern residents in November following what it deemed illegal elections that gave power to Zakharchenko and Plotnitsky.

Although the EU, the US and the UN also condemned the polls, the UN warned in December that Kyiv’s embargo might be a violation of its obligations to citizens in the rebel-held territory. “The fate for many [in those areas] may well be life-threatening,” the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.” Kyiv had not only ceased paying out pensions, but had also relocated hospitals, schools and prisons, leaving a what the UNHCHR described as a “severe protection gap.”

The open letter to Merkel and Hollande also pointed to numerous violations of a ceasefire, which was implemented in February. Both Kyiv and Donbass have blamed each other for not upholding the truce. Over the weekend, three soldiers were killed by a landmine near Donetsk. Those were the first deaths reported since Monday, when one soldier was killed. Fighting in the region has claimed roughly 6,000 lives since last spring.

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The whole world should speak up against this warfare. Where’s the US?

Saudi Arabia Rejects Russian UN All-Inclusive Arms Embargo on Yemen (RT)

Saudi Arabia has rejected Russia’s amendments to a Security Council draft resolution which would see an all-inclusive arms embargo on all parties in the Yemeni conflict, as it continues to spiral out of control with civilian death toll climbing up. “There is little point in putting an embargo on the whole country. It doesn’t make sense to punish everybody else for the behavior of one party that has been the aggressor in this situation,”Saudi Arabia’s representative to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said after a closed emergency UN Security Council meeting on Saturday. Al-Mouallimi added that he “hopes” Russia won’t resort to its veto power in case the all-inclusive embargo clause is not added into the draft submitted by the Gulf Cooperation Council that urges an arms embargo only on the Houthis.

At the same time, Riyadh agreed with Moscow’s calls for need of “humanitarian pauses” in the Saudi-led coalition’s air campaign in Yemen – though saying that Saudi Arabia already cooperates fully in this regard. “We always provided the necessary facilities for humanitarian assistance to be delivered,” Al-Mouallimi told reporter heading out of the meeting. “We have cooperated fully with all requests for evacuation.” Moscow convened an emergency meeting on a draft resolution demanding “regular and obligatory” breaks in air assaults against Houthi rebels, in which many civilians keep dying in increasing numbers. The Russian-proposed draft circulated on Saturday demanded “rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches people in need.”

The current council president and Jordan’s Ambassador Dina Kawar said that the council members “need time” to consider the Russian draft resolution, adding that the talks would continue. “We hope that by Monday we can come up with something,” Kawar said. The 15-member council is considering the possibly of merging the Russian and Gulf Cooperation Council proposed drafts into one. The Security Council meeting coincided with the call from the International Committee of the Red Cross for a “humanitarian pause.” The NGO urged to break hostilities for at least 24 hours. “We urgently need an immediate halt to the fighting, to allow families in the worst affected areas, such as Aden, to venture out to get food and water, or to seek medical care,” said Robert Mardini, head of the ICRC’s operations in the Near and Middle East.

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As per these geniuses, Americans are going to drive like crazy. Storage problem? Just make gasoline! It’s the Forrest Gump approach.

Record Gasoline Output to Curb Biggest US Oil Glut in 85 Years (Bloomberg)

Refiners are poised to make gasoline at a record pace this year, keeping the biggest U.S. crude glut in more than 80 years from overflowing storage. They’re enjoying the best margins in two years as they finish seasonal maintenance of their plants before the summer driving season. They’ll increase output to meet consumer demand and they’ve added more than 100,000 barrels a day of capacity since last summer, when they processed the most oil on record. Booming crude production expanded inventories this year by 86 million barrels to 471 million, the highest level since 1930. Analysts from BofA to Goldman Sachs have said storage space may run out. What looks like an oversupply to banks is turning into an all-you-can-eat buffet for those making gasoline and diesel fuel.

“A lot of the excess crude we’ve been sitting on is going to get chewed up quickly,” Sam Davis at Wood Mackenzie, said in Houston April 2. “We’re going to move from a stock build to a stock draw.” Goldman Sachs and Bank of America have said storage builds are increasing the risk of breaching storage capacity, sending prices tumbling. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, already has lost more than half its value since June as growing U.S. shale production led to a global oversupply. Inventories surged as U.S. output rose 71% over the past five years as drillers used techniques like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to tap previously inaccessible oil in shale rock layers.

In Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for WTI futures, supplies have more than tripled since early October to a record 58.9 million barrels. Last July, refiners processed 16.5 million barrels of crude a day, the highest level in monthly Energy Department data going back to 1961. Refining margins in March have averaged $28.09 a barrel, the most since March 2013. Refiners typically schedule maintenance shutdowns in the spring and fall, reducing oil demand during that time. U.S. refiners increased crude runs by an average 1.1 million barrels a day in April through July over the past five years. During that period, U.S. crude inventories have fallen an average of 24.7 million barrels from the end of May through September.

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Just lovely.

UK Law Changed To Force Nuclear Waste Dumps On Local Communities (Guardian)

Nuclear waste dumps can be imposed on local communities without their support under a new law rushed through in the final hours of parliament. Under the latest rules, the long search for a place to store Britain’s stockpile of 50 years’ worth of the most radioactive waste from power stations, weapons and medical use can be ended by bypassing local planning. Since last week, the sites are now officially considered “nationally significant infrastructure projects” and so will be chosen by the secretary of state for energy. He or she would get advice from the planning inspectorate, but would not be bound by the recommendation. Local councils and communities can object to details of the development but cannot stop it altogether.

The move went barely noticed as it was passed late on the day before parliament was prorogued for the general election, but has alarmed local objectors and anti-nuclear campaigners. Friends of the Earth’s planning advisor, Naomi Luhde-Thompson, said: “Communities will be rightly concerned about any attempts to foist a radioactive waste dump on them. We urgently need a long-term management plan for the radioactive waste we’ve already created, but decisions mustn’t be taken away from local people who have to live with the impacts.” Objectors worry that ministers are desperate to find a solution to the current radioactive waste problem to win public support to build a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Zac Goldsmith, one of the few government MPs who broke ranks to vote against the move, criticised the lack of public debate about such a “big” change. “Effectively it strips local authorities of the ability to stop waste being dumped in their communities,” he said. “If there had been a debate, there could have been a different outcome: most of the MPs who voted probably didn’t know what they were voting for.”

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Sep 062014
 
 September 6, 2014  Posted by at 7:38 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , ,  


Arnold Genthe Manhattan 1932

It’s exceedingly safe to assume that the main reason the Kiev government agreed to a ceasefire on Friday was that the Ukraine army was losing on just about all fronts. Which they blame on Russian troops and weaponry being involved in increasing numbers, but there’s still to this day no proof for that.

The ‘rebels’ suspect that Kiev will use the ceasefire only to regroup, send in more men and guns, and fortify its positions. Moreover, the same ‘rebels’, who in the western press are increasingly awarded the “pro-Russian” label, even though they have no intention of joining Russia, have accused Kiev of having already violated the ceasefire within hours of it being announced.

Does anyone truly believe the US/EU/NATO coalition, which has spent billions on their Ukraine regime change project, are going to leave it at this? That they’re willing to admit defeat and will now retreat to their original positions, minus East Ukraine? If so, please have a look at the Brooklyn Bridge I have up for sale on Ebay. It has an absolutely lovely weathered look, literally tons of patina, and a history to die for.

I still haven’t seen one single western journalist take an in-depth look at the role of Victoria Nuland, Geoffrey Pyatt and their EU accomplices. Nobody seems interested in what these people have done over the past years that led up to Yanukovych’ ouster in February, and the subsequent civil war Kiev unleashed upon its own people. Not one single western journalist. And it’s not as if there’s no story there.

Meanwhile, the demonization of Vladimir Putin by those same journalists continues unabated. I saw something pass by just now about a Ukrainian priest claiming Putin is obsessed by Satan, no less. That’s the sort of thing that is duly reported in the west. Not Victoria Nuland.

And western politicians too play the same grossly over the top game like they were born for it. US officials have announced they will ‘degrade’ Islamist State (Obama) and chase them into Hell where they belong (Joe Biden). That’s the kind of language that ‘earns’ them applause.

As if there’s nothing wrong with using the images of an American being decapitated for hollow political gain. As if honor has nothing to do with it. In the exact same way that using 298 deaths on flight MH17 didn’t keep anyone from assigning blame, in graphical terms and without any evidence. I guess this is welcome to the age of communication. The more there is, the more is hidden. Perhaps there comes a point where communication equates to propaganda, where information can’t help turning into spin.

But so, yes, I don’t see the west giving up on Ukraine anytime soon. But I don’t see either the Donbass people, or those who support them, doing so either. And the more bases and attack and defense systems, and rapid deployment troops, NATO positions ever close to Russia’s borders, the more Moscow will feel obliged to counter-act.

It’s a stupid way to deal with things when you have two heavily militarized forces opposite each other. But it’s what we see develop as we’re watching. And it looks as if the media war in the west has been won by the west, to the extent that nothing that can be said from here on in will ever be able to wipe the completely invented anti-Putin allegations from our cumulative unconsciousness.

Even if Tuesday’s preliminary MH17 report by the Dutch Safety Board, for which reportedly so many detectives were engaged that no other crimes were solved at all the past two months or so, points not to Putin or Donbass rebels as the guilty party or parties, the allegations against them will still be left in everyone’s unconscience.

Not that I think there’s much chance of that; My guess is the preliminary report will leave so many questions open that there’ll be plenty room to keep the suspicions against Russia and the Donbass alive. The full report won’t be concluded until next summer, so the artificially induced bad taste can simmer and fester for another year.

But I’m still curious to see the report. As I am to see the Russian Union of Engineers’ report which we will present here at the Automatic Earth shortly.

To get back to why I started writing this, I don’t see a truce or ceasefire holding for long. The ‘rebels’ have a lot of reasons to keep fighting: first off, there were winning, and second, they were on their way to establish a land bridge to the Crimea, which would lift their isolation.

And as I said, I don’t see the west give up on their expansionist project. They can now make all of their people believe it was Putin who violated the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act (not that anyone has any idea what that is), that NATO is right to expand eastward, even if it’s obvious that Russia can only respond by countering that expansion with force.

The west will find a reason to blame the other side, rebels or imagined Russians, for violating the ceasefire, and use it to increase its military power. Americans and Europeans alike have so far taken all the ‘news’ they were served hook line and sinker, and why should that change? In other words, US/EU/NATO are free to do whatever they want, as long as they can spin a somewhat credible anti-Putin line in their media. And just about any line is credible by now.

But the ceasefire will truly stop when conditions are laid upon the table. Kiev will never ever again rule over the Donbass, the sole region to make Ukraine an economically viable entity. The gory and bloody attempts over the past 6 months to subdue the east Ukraine population have failed, and there won’t be a second chance.

What’s left of the Donbass after the shelling by its own official government will not agree to be governed by that same government. Ukraine as we draw it on the map today has ceased to exist. But that doesn’t mean the west won’t be willing to give it another try.

No matter how awry this goes, the likes of Obama and Barroso and Juncker still think they’ll win because they have bigger dicks a.k.a. guns. And the guys behind the curtains are laughing out loud. They have the ‘bigger’ view.

US Jobs Bombshell Raises Questions Of New Weakness (CNBC)

August’s nonfarm payrolls growth of just 142,000 raises concerns that the economy is healing unevenly, but economists say the stunningly weak jobs report could be just a temporary setback in a stronger trend. The soft employment data, however, is also questionable enough to add fuel to the debate about labor slack when the Fed meets later in the month, though economists don’t see any change in Fed policy. The total August payrolls growth is the first below 200,000 in seven months, and included revisions that cut a combined 28,000 jobs from June and July. The jobless rate fell to 6.1 from 6.2 but it accompanied a drop in labor force participation to 62.8% from 62.9%. “I think it’s just a clunker. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on it. It is disturbing .We had six months of 200,000 and now we have a clunker,” said John Canally, market strategist and economist at LPL Financial. Canally said August payroll data have been below expectations 17 of the last 18 years.

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The ECB Is Blowing Smoke In Our Eyes (AEP)

Mario Draghi has played a weak hand with skill, as always. He is a superb actor. Yet the package of measures unveiled by the ECB yesterday is pitifully small and mostly window dressing, an effort to buy time with a mix of vague gestures and outright gimmicks, a substitute for decisive action “This is a classic ECB play of the kind we have seen so many times over the last three years,” said Andrew Roberts, credit chief at RBS. “There is huge smoke and mirrors at the time of the announcement, but when you go through the figures 24 hours later you realise it is nothing like what you thought.” The delirious reaction of market traders is interesting, but essentially just noise. What the ECB did will not move the macroeconomic dial by one iota. As Christian Schulz from Berenberg Bank puts it, the latest rate cuts are a screen to “paper over divisions”. The ECB could not secure German political consent for genuine reflation, so it put on a pantomime instead.

The new measures add little to what was already on the table in June. Some are marginally helpful, some trivial, with a shocking lack of detail about the one point that really matters The ECB has had years to plan asset purchases (QE Lite), yet Mr Draghi dodged all questions about the scale. You might conclude that there is still no real agreement on the course of action. Little wonder since Germany’s member of the ECB board – Sabine Lautenschlaeger – said only two months ago that QE is unthinkable except in an “emergency”, and no such emergency exists By default, the ECB is making the same mistake as the Bank of Japan in its dog days, trying to buy time with half measures, hoping that global recovery will lift Europe off the reefs without anything being done. They may get away with this, but there is a very high risk that Europe will instead remain trapped in mass unemployment, with ever rising debt ratios. [..]

If the brilliant Mr Draghi were running a real central bank, he would simply carry out old-fashion open-market operations – with an eight hundred year history – and keep buying assets on whatever scale is needed to meet the ECB’s 2pc inflation target. Instead he running a zoo. He is forced by abominable circumstances to blow smoke in our eyes. He is good at it though.

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East Ukraine Calm After Ceasefire, But Residents Doubt It Will Last (Reuters)

A ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine appeared to be holding on Friday evening, despite some initial shelling in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk. However, many residents and combatants were skeptical that the ceasefire could last long or turn into a basis for a durable peace settlement after six months of conflict. The two sides remain far apart on the future of the region. The ceasefire was approved by envoys from Ukraine, the separatist leadership, Russia and Europe’s OSCE security watchdog meeting in Minsk as part of a peace road map that also includes an exchange of prisoners and the creation of a humanitarian corridor for refugees and aid. Minutes after the ceasefire began at 1500 GMT, three blasts were heard north of Donetsk, followed by scattered mortar and artillery fire, but this later fell quiet.

Fighting had raged for much of the day in two flashpoints in eastern Ukraine – near the strategic port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov and further north in Donetsk, mostly around the city’s airport which remains in government hands. Kiev says its forces have been trying to repel a big offensive by the rebels to take Mariupol, whose port is crucial to Ukraine’s steel exports. It stands about halfway between Russia and the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula. Ukrainian commanders denied separatist claims that separatist forces had entered Mariupol on Friday.

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Kiev Forces Continue Shelling Despite Ceasefire: Donetsk Militia (RIA)

Ukrainian special forces continued shelling towns and militia positions in the Donetsk region late Friday despite the ceasefire established hours before, the militia forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said Saturday. “The people’s militia’s subdivisions in Horlivka and Makiivka fell under mortar shelling in the Donetsk direction at 20 hours 15 minutes [17:15 GMT],” said in the DPR headquarters. Some 1.5 hours later, the Ukrainian forces attacked the city of Yasynuvata, and at 10:30 p.m. (19:30 GMT), the positions of the militia forces’ at the Donetsk airport, according to militia. “Along the whole contact line with the enemy, [militia forces] adhered to the commander’s order not to fire back,” the DPR representatives said.

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Russia ‘Will React’ If EU Implements New Sanctions (Reuters)

Russia’s Foreign Ministry vowed on Saturday to react if the European Union implements new sanctions against Moscow over its role in the Ukraine crisis. The EU announced the additional measures late on Friday but said they could be suspended if Moscow withdraws its troops from Ukraine and observes a newly agreed ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. The new sanctions include adding a further 24 people to a list of people barred from entry to the 28-nation bloc and whose assets are frozen. They are due to be implemented on Monday. “If they (new sanctions) are implemented of course there will be a reaction from our side,” the ministry said in a statement.

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Russia Lashes Out Over NATO Spearhead Force In Eastern Europe (RT)

Moscow has accused NATO of using the Ukrainian crisis as a “pretext” to “push its military presence closer to Russia’s borders,” and says that plans for a new rapid response force will sabotage the peace process in eastern Ukraine. “The [expansion] plans have been harbored by NATO for a long time, and recent events have served as a pretext to put them into action,” said a statement published on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website, following the wrapping up of the NATO summit in Wales. “Together with the rhetoric at the summit, and the planned military exercises before the end of the year, this will increase tension, destabilization the nascent peace process, and further widen the division in Ukraine,” the ministry’s statement said.

“The above is also testament to NATO’s unconditional support for the extremists and neo-fascists in Kiev, including the Right Sector political movement,” it stressed. During the two-day summit, the 28 NATO member states instituted the creation of a rapid response unit numbering at least 4,000. It could be deployed in Eastern Europe – where it will be based – in less than 48 hours. The primary stated reason for the initiative is “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.” Russia’s NATO envoy, Aleksandr Grushko, also denounced NATO’s policy, suggesting that the alliance was engaged in “Cold War thinking,” and risked undermining the landmark 1997 treaty in which Moscow and Brussels officially proclaimed that they were no longer “adversaries.”

In a TV interview, Grushko said that NATO was “flexing its muscles,” and pointed out that an increased presence of NATO vessels in the Baltic and Black Sea would destroy the recently built-up level of trust in what were once the potential flashpoints in the standoff. Grushko also called the planned NATO-Ukraine exercises a “provocation” because “foreign troops will appear in a country that is fighting its own people.” “NATO must play no role in the Ukrainian conflict,” the official told Rossiya-24 network. He also accused the US of “trying to unload the financial burden of maintaining NATO onto its allies.”

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Word.

‘The People On Wall Street Aren’t Seeing What Really Goes On In America’ (ZH)

Today’s jobs data was almost 5 standard deviations below Wall Street’s best-and-brightest’s estimate and has already been dismissed by many as an ‘anomaly’ or ‘unbelievable’. Despite the fact that the National Retail Foundation noted over 17,000 layoffs in August “calling into question how much momentum the economy really has,” one member of the public was able to #NailTheNumber on CNBC’s great payroll-guessing game. Ronnie Squires explains to a silenced CNBC anchor the real state of America…

Apologies for audio quality…

The uncomfortable truth…

“I do a lot of traveling around the country and there’s still a lot of folks who say ‘there’s no jobs out there’.

I watch [CNBC] every day and I just don’t see it.

I don’t know if the people on Wall Street are not really getting out and seeing what’s really going on [in America].

When you go to small towns, like I do, and talk to people – people don’t have much confidence in the numbers you hear.

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Central banks print money to keep the S&P 500 at record levels.

What’s The Point Of Hiding It Any Longer? (Zero Hedge)

Compare and contrast.

From the Chicago Mercantile Exchange 2012 10-K:

Customer Base: Our customer base includes professional traders, financial institutions, institutional and individual investors, major corporations, manufacturers, producers and governments.

And from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange 2013 10-K:

Customer Base: Our customer base includes professional traders, financial institutions, institutional and individual investors, major corporations, manufacturers, producers, governments and central banks.

And there you have it At this point why even pretend there is a “market”? The “market”, and by “market” we mean stocks – it has long been known that central banks actively trade bonds, FX and commodities – is whatever central banks say it is. Finally, if central banks are going to be rigging the market as they now conclusively are on a daily basis, perhaps they can disclose ahead of the trading day start to everyone, and not just the primary dealers, what the closing S&P 500 price for any given day is.

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And they still all think tomorrow’s going to be better.

The American Family Makes $200 More A Year Than It Did In 1989 (MarketWatch)

As of a year ago, typical U.S. households still hadn’t recovered all of the wealth they lost in the Great Recession of 2008-09, according to the latest Survey of Consumer Finances released by the Federal Reserve on Thursday. Median net worth fell 2% (inflation-adjusted) between 2010 and 2013 to $81,200 per family, down about 40% from the $135,400 they had in 2007, just before home prices and stock prices plunged, the Fed reported. (The median means that half of families had more wealth, and half had less. Net worth is the value of all assets minus the value of all liabilities or debts.) The Survey of Consumer Finances is considered one of the most comprehensive studies on income, wealth and debt. Unfortunately, it’s only produced every third year, and it’s published about 18 months after the survey. A lot can change in that 18 months, including a 14% increase in home prices and a 30% gain in the stock market.

If the typical family thinks the Great Recession never ended, here’s a good explanation: Median incomes have dropped about 12% in real terms since 2007, just before the recession began. In inflation-adjusted terms, the typical family makes only about $200 more a year than it did in 1989. There was some steady progress in median incomes from 1992 to 2004, but that’s all been wiped away. Some groups have done better than others: Incomes of the top 10% have risen about 18% in real terms since 1989. But those in the 60th to 80th%ile — the once-prosperous middle class — have seen their incomes rise just 4% in 24 years.

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Oh, sweet recovery.

Millions Struggle To Get Enough To Eat Despite Jobs Returning (NPR)

The number of U.S. families that struggled to get enough to eat last year was essentially unchanged from the year before, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest report on “food security.” The agency says that about 17.5 million families — or 1 in 7 — were food insecure last year. That means that at some point during the year, the household had trouble feeding all of its members. In 2012, the number was 17.6 million. The number of households experiencing what the government calls “very low food security” — which means people actually miss meals or cut back their intake because they don’t have enough money for food — was also essentially unchanged last year at 6.8 million households. Anti-hunger groups say the fact that so many families are still struggling to put enough food on the table, even as the economy improves, is a sign that more needs to be done to help them out.

“These startling numbers prove there has been no true economic recovery for tens of millions of struggling U.S. families,” Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, said in a statement. “It is clearer than ever that we need a massive new government jobs program, a significant increase in the minimum wage and a robust increase in the federal nutrition safety net program.” USDA sociologist Alisha Coleman-Jensen, an author of the report, says the numbers have not declined as much as one might expect with a drop in unemployment, because higher food prices and inflation last year offset the benefits of a brighter job market. She notes that over a two-year period, the drop in the%age of struggling families was statistically significant — from 14.9% in 2011 to 14.3% last year. Still, the level of food insecurity remains much higher than it was before the recession. In 2007, about 11% of households struggled to get enough to eat.

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“Student loans issued from 2007 to 2012 are on target to produce $66 billion in profit for the United States government.”

Elizabeth Warren: The Market Is Broken (CNN)

Senator Elizabeth Warren says she picked up a lot of her feistiness from reading Nancy Drew novels as a kid. Today she believes the most important mystery to solve is how to get the American economy working for someone other than billionaires. It’s a message she’s been taking all over the country, and she isn’t afraid to call banks, credit card companies and some employers cheats and tricksters. “The biggest financial institutions figured out they could make a lot of money by cheating people on mortgages, credit cards and payday loans,” she told a packed auditorium at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she spoke alongside New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. The Democrat from Massachusetts even said the market is broken in many regards. “This is about getting markets to work for real people,” she said. The biggest applause of the night was on three issues that come up frequently in Warren’s speeches.

1) Financial regulation: Warren was the driving force behind the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after the 2008 financial crisis. The agency has returned billions of dollars to Americans who were wronged. “Traffic works better with traffic lights,” she explained. In her eyes, a true capitalist system would have transparency so consumers could make informed choices. But in a world of “mice type” with pages and pages of fine print that no one reads or understands, the market breaks down.

2) Reducing student loans: Last summer Warren made headlines for arguing that student loans should have the same interest rates that banks get when they borrow money from the Federal Reserve. This year she’s pushing to allow people to re-finance their student loans at the historically low rates currently in place. As she likes to remind people, “Student loans issued from 2007 to 2012 are on target to produce $66 billion in profit for the United States government.”

3) Raising the minimum wage: “No one should work full time and still live in poverty,” Warren said. She uses her own family story to illustrate how critical it is for workers to make a living wage. Her father had a heart attack when she was 12, and her mother had to go back to work in retail at Sears to support the family.

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And, let’s guess, 2/3 of them don’t make enough money?!

Freelance Nation: One-Third Of US Workers Are Freelancers (Yahoo)

When the Labor Department releases its latest jobs report on Friday, it will likely show that the economy added about 200,000 jobs in August and the unemployment rate remained near 6.2%. What it won’t show is the extent to which many workers are no longer on payroll but self-employed as freelancers. The Freelancers Union, a national organization, released a survey today showing that 53 million Americans, or 34% of the country’s workforce, are freelancers. The trend started “decades ago, then accelerated,” says Sara Horowitz, the group’s founder and executive director. “Freelancing is everywhere.” She calls it a “new normal.”

Some say the freelance trend is not the worker’s friend and is a result of layoffs, forcing many to find work any way they can. But Horowitz says freelance work is “meaningful independence” — a “new way” of work that people like because “they can really organize their time [and] have flexibility.” Freelancing gives people a sense of control over their work lives, Horowitz tells Yahoo Finance in the video above. “Workers are saying ‘if I’m not going to have an employer that’s going to have loyalty to me and if I don’t have expenses that are so high, I can actually start to control my life by working freelance in these different ways,'” says Horowitz. It’s particularly popular among millennials, according to the survey which found that 38% of them are freelancing.

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Yeah, right, not enough credit=debt is being created…

When The Next Housing Bust Hits, Blame The Bankers (MarketWatch)

The U.S. economic recovery is being endangered by a slowing housing market, as prospective homeowners with lower incomes and credit scores are finding it nearly impossible to get a mortgage. Six years after the collapse of home prices, the mortgage-lending industry is going through an upheaval. Wells Fargo has the largest share of the mortgage market, but CEO John Stumpf in an interview with the Financial Times last week said his company would be unwilling to lend to lower-income borrowers and those with relatively low credit scores. That is, unless regulators made it more difficult for investors to force banks to repurchase securitized loans. “If you guys want to stick with this program of ‘putting back’ any time, any way, whatever, that’s fine, we’re just not going to make those loans and there’s going to be a whole bunch of Americans that are underserved in the mortgage market,” Stumpf said.

He was referring to loan-repurchase demands by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and private investors. J.P. Morgan CEO James Dimon, during a July conference call, said the bank’s volume of loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration was “way down,” and that the bank had “lost a tremendous sum of money on the FHA,” which had disputed roughly a third of all insurance claims. “We want to help the consumers there, but we can’t do it at great risk to J.P. Morgan, so until they come up with some kind of safe harbors or something, we’re going to be very, very cautious in that line of business,” Dimon said. Even Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said in June: “It is difficult for any homeowner who doesn’t have pristine credit these days to get a mortgage,” which was one of the causes of the limp housing recovery.

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Big report by Glenn Greenwald.

The US Government’s Secret Plans To Spy For American Corporations (Greenwald)

Throughout the last year, the U.S. government has repeatedly insisted that it does not engage in economic and industrial espionage, in an effort to distinguish its own spying from China’s infiltrations of Google, Nortel, and other corporate targets. So critical is this denial to the U.S. government that last August, an NSA spokesperson emailed The Washington Post to say (emphasis in original): “The department does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.” After that categorical statement to the Post, the NSA was caught spying on plainly financial targets such as the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras; economic summits; international credit card and banking systems; the EU antitrust commissioner investigating Google, Microsoft, and Intel; and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In response, the U.S. modified its denial to acknowledge that it does engage in economic spying, but unlike China, the spying is never done to benefit American corporations.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, for instance, responded to the Petrobras revelations by claiming: “It is not a secret that the Intelligence Community collects information about economic and financial matters…. What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of—or give intelligence we collect to—U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”

But a secret 2009 report issued by Clapper’s own office explicitly contemplates doing exactly that. The document, the 2009 Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review—provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—is a fascinating window into the mindset of America’s spies as they identify future threats to the U.S. and lay out the actions the U.S. intelligence community should take in response. It anticipates a series of potential scenarios the U.S. may face in 2025, from a “China/Russia/India/Iran centered bloc [that] challenges U.S. supremacy” to a world in which “identity-based groups supplant nation-states,” and games out how the U.S. intelligence community should operate in those alternative futures—the idea being to assess “the most challenging issues [the U.S.] could face beyond the standard planning cycle.”

One of the principal threats raised in the report is a scenario “in which the United States’ technological and innovative edge slips”— in particular, “that the technological capacity of foreign multinational corporations could outstrip that of U.S. corporations.” Such a development, the report says “could put the United States at a growing—and potentially permanent—disadvantage in crucial areas such as energy, nanotechnology, medicine, and information technology.” How could U.S. intelligence agencies solve that problem? The report recommends “a multi-pronged, systematic effort to gather open source and proprietary information through overt means, clandestine penetration (through physical and cyber means), and counterintelligence” (emphasis added). In particular, the DNI’s report envisions “cyber operations” to penetrate “covert centers of innovation” such as R&D facilities.

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The fight that keeps on taking.

Argentina Senate Passes Debt Swap Plan In Defiance Of US Courts (Reuters)

Argentina’s Senate on Thursday passed a bill aimed at circumventing U.S. court decisions regarding its defaulted debt by changing payment jurisdiction, sending the proposal to the lower house Chamber of Deputies for final approval. The chamber, like the Senate, is controlled by government allies who are expected to vote the bill into law. Debate in the lower chamber is set to start next week. The Senate vote approving the measure was 39 to 27. President Cristina Fernandez wants to resume servicing sovereign bonds that were restructured after Argentina’s previous default in 2002. Her government missed a coupon payment on its restructured bonds in July, thrusting the South American country into default.

The proposed law, which says that foreign debt can be paid through intermediaries outside the United States, is Fernandez’s attempt at getting back on a paying basis by putting government debt out of reach of U.S. courts that have jurisdiction over some of the original bond contracts. The bill would replace Bank of New York Mellon with state-controlled bank Banco Nacion as the trustee for bond payments. It would also allow holders of restructured bonds governed by foreign law to swap them for paper governed by Argentine law. Both moves would be in violation of U.S. court orders. [..] “Sometimes there are court decisions that cannot be followed,” said Miguel Angel Pichetto, head of the government’s Frente para la Victoria coalition in the Senate. “To pay the vulture funds would be very dangerous.” The bill is expected to become law before Sept. 30, when the next payment on Argentina’s restructured bonds is due.

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Italy Economy In ‘Acute Emergency’: Ex-PM Monti (CNBC)

Italy is still embroiled in a financial crisis—but one that is insufficiently severe to convince the public that reforms are urgently needed, the country’s former prime minister told CNBC on Friday. “The acute emergency that we now have in the real economy, and in the employment situation, is there. It bites deeply into society,” Mario Monti, the economist who led an Italian technocrat government between 2011 and 2013, told CNBC from the annual economic Ambrosetti Forum in Italy. “But of course, it is not so visible as an emergency that brings the whole of public opinion to rally around a tough political project to introduce the structural reforms that are needed to slowly go out of that crisis.”

The Italian economy is seen shrinking again this year, after contracting 0.2% in the second-quarter. Unemployment remains above both the euro zone and the Europe-wide average, hitting 12.6% in July. The country needs to create 2.5 million new jobs to meet the European Union target of 75% employment by 2020, according to Ambrosetti economists. Despite this, both Monti and his successor Matteo Renzi have struggled to free up Italy’s high restrictive labor market. Firms currently lack flexibility in hiring and firing and are inhibited by the practice of nationwide collective bargaining.

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Limits to Growth has always been right. Other than in little details, but it was never about details.

Limits to Growth Was Right. New Models Show We’re Nearing Collapse (Guardian)

The 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilisation would probably collapse some time this century, has been criticised as doomsday fantasy since it was published. Back in 2002, self-styled environmental expert Bjorn Lomborg consigned it to the “dustbin of history”. It doesn’t belong there. Research from the University of Melbourne has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. If we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario, expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon. Limits to Growth was commissioned by a think tank called the Club of Rome. Researchers working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model to track the world’s economy and environment. Called World3, this computer model was cutting edge. The task was very ambitious. The team tracked industrialisation, population, food, use of resources, and pollution.

They modelled data up to 1970, then developed a range of scenarios out to 2100, depending on whether humanity took serious action on environmental and resource issues. If that didn’t happen, the model predicted “overshoot and collapse” – in the economy, environment and population – before 2070. This was called the “business-as-usual” scenario. The book’s central point, much criticised since, is that “the earth is finite” and the quest for unlimited growth in population, material goods etc would eventually lead to a crash. So were they right? We decided to check in with those scenarios after 40 years. Dr Graham Turner gathered data from the UN (its department of economic and social affairs, Unesco, the food and agriculture organisation, and the UN statistics yearbook). He also checked in with the US national oceanic and atmospheric administration, the BP statistical review, and elsewhere. That data was plotted alongside the Limits to Growth scenarios.

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Not going to happen. They don’t have anywhere near enough control.

UN Aims To Stop Ebola Transmission In Six To Nine Months (Reuters)

The United Nations plans to set up an Ebola crisis center to coordinate the response to the deadly virus and to strive to halt its spread in West African countries in six to nine months, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Friday. Ban called on the international community to provide $600 million needed for supplies in West Africa, where more than 3,500 confirmed or probable cases of the hemorrhagic fever have been reported and more than 1,900 people have died since March. “The number of cases is rising exponentially. The disease is spreading far faster than the response. People are increasingly frustrated that it is not being controlled,” Ban told reporters.

“The goal is to stop Ebola transmission in affected countries within six to nine months, and to prevent the international spread of the virus,” he said. “This can be done only if the urgent and necessary mobilization is done both in the affected countries and by the international community.” Countries affected by the epidemic include Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. An outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is unrelated to and independent of the West African epidemic, the World Health Organization has said. It is the worst outbreak since the virus was discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now Democratic Republic of Congo. The WHO has said casualty figures may be up to four times higher than reported, and that up to 20,000 people may be affected before the outbreak ends.

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