Dec 092018
 
 December 9, 2018  Posted by at 10:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Edouard Manet Berthe Morisot with a bouquet of violets 1872

 

Incoming House Judiciary Chair Planning To End Probe Into FBI, DOJ (ZH)
France Is The New Tax Hell In Europe And Beyond (RT)
Paris Under Siege As Gilets Jaunes Open ‘Act IV’ – 4th Weekend Of Protest (O.)
No Hope Of Success And No Plan B – But Theresa May Won’t Blink (O.)
UK Cabinet Splits Over Second Referendum On Brexit Deal (G.)
Majority Of UK Now Wants To Remain In The EU – Poll (Ind.)
Theresa May Warns Of ‘Uncharted Waters’ Ahead Of Key Vote (BBC)
EU Will Negotiate If May Loses Commons Brexit Vote – Prodi (G.)
China Threatens Canada With ‘Grave Consequences’ If Huawei CFO Not Freed (R.)
Putin Doesn’t Rule Out Extending Turkish Stream Pipeline Into Greece (RT)
COP24 Fails To Adopt Key Climated Change Report (BBC)

 

 

But of course. Let’s invite more chaos in.

Incoming House Judiciary Chair Planning To End Probe Into FBI, DOJ (ZH)

During a break during former FBI Director James Comey’s heated closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill on Friday, incoming House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler confirmed to reporters what many had already suspected: That Nadler (and probably his fellow Democratic leaders) would put the kibosh on the House’s investigation into alleged political bias at the highest levels of the FBI and DOJ as they launched an investigation into the Trump campaign – an investigation that eventually morphed into the Mueller probe. While Democrats prepare to ramp up investigations into everything from Trump’s “war on the media” to his involvement in his family business, Nadler told a group of reporters that he intends to end the House Judiciary Committee’s involvement in the Congressional probe as soon as he takes the reins next year.

Asked why he intends to end the committee’s involvement in the probe, Nadler responded that “it was a waste of time to begin with” and a “distraction” from the real-wrong doing here – that is, lawbreaking committed by Republicans, according to the Hill. “Yes, because it is a waste of time to start with,” Nadler said in response to a question about whether he would end the probe. Nadler characterized the Republican investigation as a political sideshow that aims to distract from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. “The entire purpose of this investigation is to be a diversion of the real investigation, which is Mueller. There is no evidence of bias at the FBI and this other nonsense they are talking about,” he continued.

If the House investigation into suspected FBI malfeasance is just a “sideshow”, as Nadler claims, how would he explain the fact that the FBI knew the allegations contained in the Steele dossier – the linchpin of the FBI’s FISA warrant application that kicked off the Russia probe in earnest – were bogus before applying for surveillance? Or the many conflicts of interest between senior FBI officials involved with the probe (Andrew McCabe, Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok, and, yes, Comey himself) – or the fact that McCabe was fired following after the DOJ’s inspector general confirmed that McCabe had lied under oath to try and conceal the fact that he told an FBI spokesman to leak a story about the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation just days before the election. McCabe could still face criminal charges from his lies. But Congress’s attempt to hold the FBI accountable is just a “distraction?”

Read more …

Not unimportant when it comes to the yellow vests.

France Is The New Tax Hell In Europe And Beyond (RT)

While the dust has not yet settled in the streets of Paris, after sweeping protests against fuel tax hikes, it just so happens that France has taken the crown from Denmark as the most taxed country in 2017, the OECD found. Among the 34 developed members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Emmanuel Macron leads the nation with the highest tax-to-GDP ratio, the organization reported. France leads with 46.2% of GDP against the average of 34.2% of other members, thus dropping the long-standing leader in the rating, Denmark.

The Scandinavian country’s numbers, meanwhile, shrank to 46%, down by 0.2 since last year. Sweden, Italy, and Greece round out the top five, while Mexico is the last on the list at 16.2%. Notably, tax revenues for OECD member states, on average, reached historically high levels in 2017, rising to 34.2% of GDP. It is up only slightly from 34%, the previous peak recorded by the organization in 2016.

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Quite the series of demands. But hard to gauge how much support they have; there are not leaders or anything.

Paris Under Siege As Gilets Jaunes Open ‘Act IV’ – 4th Weekend Of Protest (O.)

A charter of gilets jaunes’ “suggestions to end this crisis” has been circulating on Facebook. While far from “official” – the movement has no agreed representatives – it does illustrate the diverse, and sometimes contradictory, nature of their demands:

Economy/work A full review of taxation, with no citizen to be taxed at more than 25% of income; an immediate 40% increase in the minimum wage, pensions and benefits; “mass hirings” in the state sector to restore quality of services in hospitals, schools, etc; 5m new homes; make banks “smaller”.

Politics France’s constitution to be rewritten “by the people and for the interests of the people”; lobbying to be banned; France should leave the EU; recover €80bn lost to tax evasion each year; halt and/or reverse all privatisations; removal of “useless” speed cameras; reform of education system, removal of all “ideologies”; quadruple budget of judicial system, which must be simplified, free and accessible for all; break up media monopolies and end cosy relationship between media and the political class; open media up to the people.

Health/environment 10-year guarantee on products to end planned obsolescence; ban plastic bottles; limit power of pharmaceutical companies; ban GM foods, carcinogenic pesticides, monoculture; reindustrialise France to reduce imports and therefore pollution.

Geopolitics Pull France out of Nato and foreign wars; end the plunder of French-speaking Africa; prevent migration flows that cannot be welcomed or integrated given current “civilisational crisis”; scrupulous respect for international law and engagements.

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Tuesday is the big vote in the Commons. May looks certain to lose big. So, chaos in France AND the UK. Where are Britain’s yellow vests anyway?

No Hope Of Success And No Plan B – But Theresa May Won’t Blink (O.)

For several weeks Theresa May has been holding private meetings in Downing Street and the Commons with MPs [..] She has used all her powers of persuasion to try to win them around ahead of Tuesday’s historic “meaningful vote” on her deal. Tory whips have tried to cajole their wavering backbenchers day and night, arguing the case for the May deal and reminding the more ambitious among them where their best career interests lie. Two weeks ago May made the campaign a national one – writing directly to the people of Britain and asking them to put more pressure on their MPs to support her. A special Tory website called Back the Brexit Deal was launched by the party to rally grassroots Tories behind the cause, with limited success.

Constituency chairmen were lobbied heavily, too. Ominously for the prime minister, however, the ultra-hard sell has achieved almost nothing. Some Tories even think it has had the reverse effect to that intended – making people focus in more detail on her deal than they would have done, only for them to conclude they could never back it. One senior Conservative said the party machine had deployed every resource it could muster but had failed totally. “Whether it is our backbenchers, or the party faithful, or the public, it is the same. If anything, I think the whole ‘going to the country thing’ has made things worse.”

[..] By this weekend more than 100 backbench Tory MPs had declared themselves ready to vote against May’s deal. Surveys of Tory members show they are against, too, by a big majority. After a dreadful week in which May’s government was found to be in contempt of parliament for refusing to publish the full legal advice on Brexit, the chief whip, Julian Smith, has been telling No 10 that it is on course for a huge defeat. [..] More junior members of the government are rumoured to be ready to quit before Tuesday because they can’t live with the deal as it is. With two days to go, there is no sign May is ready to delay, change course or blink at all. One senior Tory said: “If she has a plan B, no one knows what it could be. It looks like a crisis with no solution. She seems ready to march on into the gunfire.”

Labour is keen to make out that Tuesday’s vote will be tighter than everyone expects. It is desperate to promote this view in case May limits a defeat to far less than 100. [..] But with all but a handful of the 257 Labour MPs, the entire block of 35 SNP members, all but one of the 11 Liberal Democrats, and the 10 DUP members set to vote against it – and more than 100 Tories on record as being opposed – the arithmetic points to a far worse outcome for the prime minister.

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Divisions everywhere. And opportunism. If you’re in the Cabinet, and May loses real bad, what’s your political future?

UK Cabinet Splits Over Second Referendum On Brexit Deal (G.)

A deep cabinet split has opened up over whether Theresa May should back a second referendum in a final attempt to end the political deadlock over Brexit, as senior Conservatives predicted on Saturday night that her blueprint for leaving the EU was heading for a crushing House of Commons defeat. Adding to a mounting sense of constitutional crisis ahead of Tuesday’s crucial parliamentary vote, No 10 is braced for more resignations of ministers and aides who want another referendum, or who believe May’s deal fails to deliver on Brexit. Will Quince, the Colchester MP and aide to the defence secretary Gavin Williamson, quit his post on Saturday night in protest at the Brexit deal.

Cabinet ministers have told the Observer that attempts to convince May to delay the vote to avoid one of the largest and most humiliating defeats in recent parliamentary history had not been heeded. This was despite what they saw as a clear danger that such a result could provoke a leadership challenge and split the party irrevocably. Some cabinet ministers now believe that May is so wedded to her Brexit deal that her only method of gaining approval will be through another referendum – and that the arguments for a second vote are emerging as stronger than those for a soft Brexit. The prime minister has so far refused to entertain any idea of a second public vote.

One cabinet source said it might prove to be the only way of saving May’s deal and her reputation. “She is so committed to her deal, and a second referendum could now be the only way of getting it. The polls have been remarkably stable for a while, but there does seem to be some kind of movement [to Remain], and that could well develop in the coming days and weeks.”

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1,500 people is not a large enough poll.

Majority Of UK Now Wants To Remain In The EU – Poll (Ind.)

A majority of the country now think Britain should remain inside the European Union, according to a new poll released days before the critical Brexit vote in parliament. The exclusive research for The Independent shows that, as of this month, 52% favour staying in the trading bloc. The data from pollsters BMG Research reveals support for remaining has grown month by month since the summer, and broke past 50% in December as the complex realities of Brexit were brought home to the country. The poll also revealed that almost half of people think the withdrawal agreement settled by Theresa May is a “bad deal” for Britain, with around as many saying MPs should reject the deal outright when they take the critical decision on Tuesday.

The BMG Research study lays waste to any hope that a concerted publicity drive, which has seen Ms May and her ministers tour the country to persuade people of its merits, has been a success. Instead it shines a light on the deep divisions that still exist, with none of the immediate alternative paths beyond Ms May’s plan – a second referendum, a Norway-style relationship or no deal – enjoying majority support. [..] In a further development ex-European Commission president Romano Prodi said Brussels could renegotiate the deal if MPs vote against it, creating the opportunity for Ms May to seek further concessions.

[..] When BMG asked some 1,500 respondents, “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union, or leave the European Union”, 52% said “remain”, 40% said “leave”, six% said they did not know and one% refused to say. The remain option has been in the high 40s most of this year, but from September to October it rose one point and then another point to 49% in November, meaning it rose three points in December to its current level. When respondents were asked whether they believed the withdrawal agreement and political declaration on the future relations secured by Ms May are a “good deal” or a “bad deal”, 49% chose the latter. Just over one in ten, 13%, said it was a good deal,

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As in something to fear. Whereas her party strangling the poorer is not.

Theresa May Warns Of ‘Uncharted Waters’ Ahead Of Key Vote (BBC)

With two days to go until the crucial Brexit vote, the prime minister has warned MPs they face “uncharted waters” if they reject her deal. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, the PM said a rejection of her proposals would mean “grave uncertainty” for the UK. She warned MPs their actions could lead to a general election, and there was a “very real risk of no Brexit”. Downing Street has also denied newspaper suggestions that Theresa May could postpone Tuesday’s vote. “The vote is going ahead,” a spokesman said. Last month, the UK agreed a Brexit deal with the EU – but it still needs to be approved by Parliament. Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the DUP, and dozens of Conservative MPs have said they cannot support the deal, meaning it is unlikely to pass.

If the deal is rejected, it is unclear what happens next – with Mrs May insisting her deal was best for the country. “When I say if this deal does not pass we would truly be in uncharted waters, I hope people understand this is what I genuinely believe and fear could happen,” Mrs May said. “It would mean grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit or leaving the European Union with no deal. “We have a leader of the opposition who thinks of nothing but attempting to bring about a general election, no matter what the cost to the country. “As someone who cares passionately about my country and my party, I believe Jeremy Corbyn getting his hands on power is a risk we cannot afford to take.”

Read more …

Who asked Prodi?

EU Will Negotiate If May Loses Commons Brexit Vote – Prodi (G.)

The EU will come back to the negotiating table if parliament votes down Theresa May’s deal with Brussels, according to Romano Prodi, a former European commission president. Prodi, who twice served as Italian prime minister and had Jean-Claude Juncker’s job until 2004, said that the EU needed to do everything it could to avoid the “economic catastrophe” of a no-deal Brexit. On signing an agreement with the British prime minister last month, Juncker described the draft withdrawal treaty and accompanying political declaration on the future relationship as “the deal – the only deal possible”.

May has also said there is no scope for any further negotiation in Brussels if her deal is rejected when it comes to a vote in the Commons on Tuesday, and that the consequence of it being rejected would be “no deal or no Brexit”. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, described those who believed there could be a renegotiation as “delusional”. But in an interview with the Observer, Prodi suggested it would still be possible to find a negotiated settlement in the increasingly likely event May suffers a heavy defeat in the Commons.

Asked how he expected the commission to respond after the vote, Prodi said: “Negotiate. We must keep free trade between us because it is in the British interests and European interest. The UK has no alternative – the EU is a large part of its trade. Always the problem of Northern Ireland, but it is possible. Common sense helps.” On the EU’s insistence there could be no more negotiations, Prodi added: “Look, when the British parliament has still to vote you are obliged to be in this position. But then of course the day after you start dealing. This is politics.”

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And Canada will seek to blame the US.

China Threatens Canada With ‘Grave Consequences’ If Huawei CFO Not Freed (R.)

China has warned Canada there would be severe consequences if it did not immediately release Huawei’s chief financial officer, calling the case “extremely nasty”. Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada on 1 December and faces extradition to the United States, which alleges that she covered up her company’s links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran despite sanctions. The executive is the daughter of Huawei’s founder. If extradited to the US, Meng would face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions, a Canadian court heard on Friday, with a maximum sentence of 30 years for each charge. No decision was reached at the extradition hearing after nearly six hours of arguments and counter-arguments, and the hearing was adjourned until Monday.

In a statement on Saturday, China’s foreign ministry said the vice-foreign minister, Le Yucheng, had issued the warning to release Meng to Canada’s ambassador in Beijing, summoning him to lodge a “strong protest”. China’s official news agency Xinhua reported Le summoned the Canadian ambassador, John McCallum, in protest and urged Ottawa to release Meng immediately or face “grave consequences that the Canadian side should be held accountable for”. Adam Austen, a spokesman for the Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said on Saturday there was “nothing to add beyond what the minister said yesterday”. Freeland told reporters on Friday the relationship with China was important and valued, and Canada’s ambassador in Beijing has assured the Chinese that Meng would receive consular access.

Read more …

Greece wants to be everyone’s friend.

Putin Doesn’t Rule Out Extending Turkish Stream Pipeline Into Greece (RT)

Russia is ready to cooperate with Athens in the energy sector, President Vladimir Putin has said, not ruling out the prospect of extending the Turkish Stream gas pipeline into Greece. “We are ready to carry out large infrastructural energy projects together with Greece. It includes the possibility to link Southern Europe through Greece to the Turkish Stream,” Putin said on Friday during a joint conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Moscow. “A pipeline from Greece to Italy has been nearly completed. The pipe is built, yet there’s no gas there. Yet we’ll think together on how to fill this line with some real product,” Putin added.

“It’s certainly possible, I don’t rule it out, moreover I believe it to be quite realistic.” Such a project increases the significance of Greece as the “regional energy hub,” Tsipras said on his part, complaining, however, over “double standards” the EU bureaucrats have been showing over the Turkish Stream and other projects involving Russia. Greece used to be one of the countries to host a section of the now-deprecated South Stream gas pipeline. The project, however, met stiff resistance in Brussels, which pressed participating countries – namely Bulgaria – to stop working on it. The project was scrapped late in 2014, ultimately giving way to the Turkish Stream

The Turkish Stream was agreed by Russia and Turkey in October 2016. The first branch will deliver gas to Turkish consumers, while the second one will bring it to countries in southern and south-eastern Europe. In November, Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, unveiled the offshore section of the pipeline, which is expected to be fully completed late in 2019. So far, there are plans to extend it into Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia.

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Useless reports anyway. These conferences will not solve a thing. Our political systems don’t allow for that.

COP24 Fails To Adopt Key Climated Change Report (BBC)

Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed. The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October. Scientists and many delegates in Poland were shocked as the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to this meeting “welcoming” the report. It was the 2015 climate conference that had commissioned the landmark study. The report said that the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century rather than 1.5C. Keeping to the preferred target would need “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. If warming was to be kept to 1.5C this century, then emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced by 45% by 2030.

The report, launched in Incheon in South Korea, had an immediate impact winning praise from politicians all over the world. But negotiators here ran into serious trouble when Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Kuwait objected to the conference “welcoming” the document. Instead they wanted to support a much more lukewarm phrase, that the conference would “take note” of the report. Saudi Arabia had fought until the last minute in Korea to limit the conclusions of the document. Eventually they gave in. But it now seems that they have brought their objections to Poland. The dispute dragged on as huddles of negotiators met in corners of the plenary session here, trying to agree a compromise wording. None was forthcoming. With no consensus, under UN rules the passage of text had to be dropped.

Read more …

Dec 072018
 
 December 7, 2018  Posted by at 8:05 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Paul Almasy Paris 1950

 

The concept of the EU might have worked, but still only might have, if a neverending economic boom could have been manufactured to guide it on its way. But there was never going to be such a boom. Or perhaps if the spoils that were available in boom times and bust had been spread out among nations rich and poor and citizens rich and poor a little more equally, that concept might still have carried the days.

Then again, its demise was obvious from well before the Union was ever signed into existence, in the philosophies, deliberations and meetings that paved its way in the era after a second world war in two score years fought largely on the European continent.

In hindsight, it is hard to comprehend how it’s possible that those who met and deliberated to found the Union, in and of itself a beneficial task at least on the surface in the wake of the blood of so many millions shed, were not wiser, smarter, less greedy, less driven by sociopath design and methods. It was never the goal that missed its own target or went awry, it was the execution.

Still, no matter how much we may dream, how much some of the well-meaning ‘founding fathers’ of the Union may have dreamt, without that everlasting economic boom it never stood a chance. The Union was only ever going to be tolerated, accepted, embraced by its citizens if they could feel and see tangible benefits in their daily lives of surrendering parts of their own decision making powers, and the sovereignty of their nations.

There are 28 countries in the Union at this point, and one of them is already preparing to leave. There are 28 different cultures too, and almost as many languages. It was always going to be an uphill struggle, a hill far too steep for mere greed to master and conquer. History soaked Europe in far too much diversity through the ages for that. To unify all the thousands of years of beauty and darkness, of creativity and annihilation, of love and hatred, passed on through the generations, a lot more than a naked and bland lust for wealth, power and shiny objects was needed.

And sure, maybe it just happened on the way, in the moments when everyone was making new friends and not watching their backs for a moment. But they all still should have seen it coming, because of those same thousands of years that culminated in where they found themselves. The European Union is like a wedding and marriage without a prenup, where partners are too afraid to offend each other to do what would make them not regret the ceremony later.

 

Today, there are far too few of the 28 EU countries that have been lifted out of their poverty and other conditions that made them want to join the Union. And within many of the countries, there are way too many people who are, and feel, left behind. While Brussels has become a bastion of power that none of the disadvantaged feel they can properly address with their grievances.

The main fault of the EU is that the biggest party at the table always in the end, when things get serious, gets its way. The 80 million or so people of Germany de facto rule the 500 million of the Union, or you know, the three handfuls that rule Germany. No important decision can or will ever be taken that Berlin does not agree with. Angela Merkel has been the CEO of Europe Inc. since November 22 2005, gathering more power as time went by. That was never going to work unless she made everyone richer. Ask the Greeks about that one.

Merkel was the leader of both Germany and of Europe, and when things got precarious, she chose to let German interests prevail above Italian or Greek ones. That’s the fundamental flaw and failure of the Union in a nutshell. All other things, the Greek crisis, Salvini, Macron, Brexit, are mere consequences of that flaw. In absence of a forever economic boom, there is nothing left to fall back on.

 

Traditional right/left parties have been destroyed all across Europe in recent national elections. And it’s those traditional parties that still largely hold power in Brussels. As much as anyone except Germany and perhaps the European Commission hold any power at all. The shifts that happened in the political spectrum of many countries is not yet reflected in the European Parliament. But there are European elections in less than 6 months, May 23-26 2019.

About a quarter of the votes in the last such election, in 2014, went to euroskeptic parties. It’s not a terrible stretch of the imagination to presume that they’ll get half of the votes this time. Then we’ll have half or more of representatives speaking for people who don’t have faith in what they represent.

And on the other hand you have the Brussels elite, who continue to propagate the notion that Europe’s problems can best, nay only, be solved with more Europe. Of that elite Emmanuel Macron is the most recent, and arguable most enthusiastic from the get-go, high priest. Which can’t be seen apart from his domestic nose-diving approval rating, and most certainly not from the yellow vest protests and riots.

Macron won his presidency last year solely because he ran against Marine Le Pen in the second round of the elections, and a vast majority on the French will never vote for her; they’ll literally vote for anyone else instead. In the first round, when it wasn’t one on one, Macron got less than 25% of the votes. And now France wants him to leave. That is the essence of the protests. His presidency appears already over.

 

Among the 28 EU countries, the UK is a very clear euroskeptic example. It’s supposed to leave on March 2019, but that’s by no means a given. Then there’s Italy, where the last election put a strongly euroskeptic government in charge. There are the four Visegrad countries, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. No love lost for Brussels there. In Belgium yesterday, PM Michel’s government ally New Flemish Alliance voted against the UN Global Compact on Migration.

Spain’s Mariana Rajoy was supported by the EU against Catalonia, and subsequently voted out. The next government is left-wing and pro EU, but given the recent right wing victory in Andalusia it’s clear there’s nothing stable there. Austria has a rightwing anti-immigration PM. Germany’s CDU party today elected a successor for Merkel (in the first such vote since 1971!), but they’ve lost bigly in last year’s elections, and their CSU partner has too, pushing both towards the right wing anti-immigrant AfD.

And with Macron gone or going, France can’t be counted on to support Brussels either. So what is left, quo vadis Europa? Well, there’s the European elections. In which national parties, often as members of a ‘voting alliance’, pick their prospective candidates for the European Parliament, then become part of a larger European alliance, and finally often of an even larger alliance. You guessed right, turnout numbers for European elections are very very low.

 

Of course Brussels is deaf to all the issues besieging it. The largest alliances of parties, the EPP (people’s party) and the “socialists”, have chosen their crown prince ‘spitzenkandidat’ to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission, and they expect for things to continue more or less as usual. The two main contenders are Manfred Weber and Frans Timmermans, convinced eurocrats. How that will work out with 50% or more of parliamentarians being euroskeptic, you tell me. How about they form their own alliance?

The Union appears fatally wounded, and that’s even before the next financial crisis has materialized. Speaking of which, the Fed has been hiking rates and can lower them again a little if it wants, but much of Europe ‘works’ on negative rates already. That next crisis could be a doozy.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First thing on the menu is Macron tomorrow, and the yellow vests in the streets of Paris and many other French cities -and rural areas. He has called for 90,000 policemen on the streets, but they’ll come face to face with their peers who are firemen, ambulance personnel, you name it, lots of folks who also work for the government. Will they open fire?

Can Macron allow for French people to be killed in the streets? Almost certainly not. There’ll be pitchforks and guillotines. The only way out for him, the only way to calm things down, may be to announce his resignation. The French don’t fool around when they protest. And who’s going to be left to drive the reform of Europe then? Not Merkel, she’s gone, even if she wants to be German Chancellor for three more years. But then who? I’m trying to think of someone, honest, but I can’t.

It’ll be quite the day Saturday in Paris.

 

 

Dec 062018
 
 December 6, 2018  Posted by at 10:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Louis Anquetin Avenue de Clichy, Five O’Clock in the Evening 1887

 

Sell-Offs Caused By Machines That Control 80% Of US Stock Market (CNBC)
Arrest of Huawei CFO Shows ‘The Gloves Are Now Fully Off’ – Eurasia Group (CNBC)
China May Target Us Tech Executives After Arrest Of Huawei CFO (MW)
British Telecom Removes Huawei Equipment From Parts Of 4G Network (PA)
Macron Scraps French Fuel Tax Rise Amid Nationwide Protests And Rioting (Ind.)
France’s Yellow Vest movement Strikes A Victory For Working People Across The EU (RT)
Leave ‘Very Likely’ Won EU Referendum Due To Illegal Overspending (Ind.)
Facebook Offered Secret User Data To Netflix And Airbnb (Ind.)
World ‘On Track’ For Devastating 3ºC Warming (Ind.)
War With Russia? (Stephen Cohen)
Is This It?: A Trump-Hater’s Guide To Mueller Skepticism (Frank)

 

 

Time for the whole thing to blow up?! Because: cui bono?

Sell-Offs Caused By Machines That Control 80% Of US Stock Market (CNBC)

80 percent of the daily moves in U.S. stocks are machine-led, a fund manager told CNBC on Wednesday. The phenomenon, also called algorithm or algo trading, refers to market transactions that use advanced mathematical models to make high-speed trading decisions. Many believe that the different sell-off episodes seen throughout 2018 were caused by these machines, as they act on immediate data releases, without taking the time to digest them as humans would. “80 percent of daily volume in the U.S. is done by machines, so what you get is a lack of focus on earnings, a lack of focus on outlooks and you just get short-term movements based on very specific data that is released every day and that creates noise,” Guy De Blonay, fund manager at Jupiter Asset Management, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

The daily volume of algo trading can change according to volatility. But over the last few years its impact has become more visible. In 2017, J.P. Morgan said that “fundamental discretionary traders” accounted for only 10 percent of trading volume in stocks. This is when traders look at companies’ performance and outlook before deciding whether to buy or sell the shares. [..] Salman Ahmed, chief investment strategist at Lombard Odier, said: “The rise of algorithm-based trading means that there are in these algorithms some levels which trigger sell-off, i.e. sell orders. “Yes, I can argue that we needed some kind of correction, given what has happened over the last few months. But the ferociousness of the intra-day sell-off is driven by these pre-set sell orders, which come programed in these algorithms automatically.”

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Not sure about that. Certainly an odd move though.

Arrest of Huawei CFO Shows ‘The Gloves Are Now Fully Off’ – Eurasia Group (CNBC)

The arrest of Huawei’s global chief financial officer in Canada, reportedly related to a violation of U.S. sanctions, will corrode trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing, risk consultancy Eurasia Group said Thursday. “Beijing is likely to react angrily to this latest arrest of a Chinese citizen in a third country for violating U.S. law,” Eurasia analysts wrote. In fact, Global Times — a hyper-nationalistic tabloid tied to the Chinese Communist Party — responded to the arrest by posting on Twitter a statement about trade war escalation it attributed to an expert “close to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.”

“China should be fully prepared for an escalation in the #tradewar with the US, as the US will not ease its stance on China, and the recent arrest of the senior executive of #Huawei is a vivid example,” said the statement, paired with a photo of opposing fists with Chinese and American flags superimposed upon them. Canada’s Department of Justice said on Wednesday the country arrested Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver, where she is facing extradition to the U.S. The arrest is related to violations of U.S. sanctions, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters. U.S. authorities have been probing Huawei, one of the world’s largest makers of telecommunications network equipment, since at least 2016 for allegedly shipping U.S.-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of U.S. export and sanctions laws, sources told Reuters in April.

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“If I was an American tech executive, I wouldn’t travel to China this week…”

China May Target Us Tech Executives After Arrest Of Huawei CFO (MW)

“If I was an American tech executive, I wouldn’t travel to China this week.” That’s what James Lewis, a former Commerce Department official and current director of technology policy at the think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Axios on Wednesday after Canada arrested a top executive for China’s Huawai on behalf of the U.S. government. Lewis told Axios that “Huawei is one of the Chinese government’s pet companies,” and warned “They will retaliate and China will take hostages.” Earlier Thursday, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou — the daughter of the telecom giant’s founder — was arrested in Vancouver and was being prepared for extradition to the U.S. to face charges of violating sanctions against Iran.

China immediately protested the arrest, and demanded Canada and the U.S. “rectify wrongdoings” and release her from custody. The incident may raise tensions between the U.S. and China, just days after it appeared progress had been made to ease the ongoing trade war. U.S. stock futures and Asian stock markets fell after reports of the arrest. The U.S. government has long worried about cybersecurity risks from Huawei equipment, and has pressed allies to stop using the company’s products. The U.S. has restricted Huawei’s business in the U.S., and earlier this year, Australia barred Huawei from its 5G mobile network, citing a security risk. In October, a Silicon Valley semiconductor startup accused Huawei of conspiring to steal its technology. Huawei is the world’s biggest maker of telecom equipment, and the No. 2 smartphone maker in the world, surpassing Apple during the second quarter of 2018.

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The Five Eyes coordinate.

British Telecom Removes Huawei Equipment From Parts Of 4G Network (PA)

BT has confirmed it is removing Huawei equipment from key areas of its 4G network as concerns are raised about the Chinese firm’s presence in critical telecoms infrastructure. Governments in the US, New Zealand and Australia have already moved to block the use of Huawei’s equipment as part of the future rollout of 5G networks. Earlier this week the head of MI6 also suggested the UK needed to decide if it was “comfortable” with Chinese ownership of the technology being used. [..] In a statement, the UK telecoms group has confirmed it is in the process of removing Huawei equipment from the key parts of its 3G and 4G networks to meet an existing internal policy not to have the Chinese firm at the centre of its infrastructure.

“In 2016, following the acquisition of EE, we began a process to remove Huawei equipment from the core of our 3G and 4G mobile networks, as part of network architecture principles in place since 2006,” BT said. “We’re applying these same principles to our current RFP (request for proposal) for 5G core infrastructure. As a result, Huawei have not been included in vendor selection for our 5G core. Huawei remains an important equipment provider outside the core network and a valued innovation partner.” The news comes in the wake of the head of MI6, Alex Younger, questioning whether Chinese firms such as Huawei should be involved in UK communications infrastructure.

He said that the UK would have to make “some decisions” about such firms after other governments had taken steps to block the firm. “We need to decide the extent to which we are going to be comfortable with Chinese ownership of these technologies and these platforms in an environment where some of our allies have taken a very definite position,” he said.

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He didn’t have the guts to go on TV himself, but let his PM do it. Who said that it was his own decision.

Macron Scraps French Fuel Tax Rise Amid Nationwide Protests And Rioting (Ind.)

Emmanuel Macron has scrapped a fuel tax rise following weeks of nationwide protests in France and the worst rioting in Paris in decades. Protesters celebrated the victory on Wednesday, but critics said Mr Macron’s surrender came too late and is unlikely to quell mounting anger at the president, whom demonstrators consider out of touch with ordinary people. Amid fears of new violence, Mr Macron decided to “get rid” of the tax planned for next year, an official in the president’s office said. Prime minister Edouard Philippe told lawmakers the tax is no longer included in the 2019 budget. But the decision has ramifications beyond France, since the fuel tax rise was part of Mr Macron’s efforts to wean France off fossil fuels in order to reduce greenhouse gases and help slow climate change.

[..] Mr Macron’s popularity has slumped to a new low since the demonstrations began. The former investment banker, who has pushed pro-business economic reforms to make France more competitive globally, is accused of being the “president of the rich” and of being estranged from the working classes. On Wednesday, France’s largest farmers union said it will launch anti-government protests next week, after trucking unions called for a rolling strike. Trade unions so far have not played a role in the yellow vest protest movement but are now trying to capitalise on growing public anger. A joint statement from the CGT and the FO trucking unions called for action on Sunday night to protest a cut in overtime rates. The FNSEA farmers union said it would fight to help French farmers earn a better income but would not officially be joining forces with the “yellow vests”..

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You really think that working class or working people are terms that still have relevance?

France’s Yellow Vest movement Strikes A Victory For Working People Across The EU (RT)

Straddling the world stage like a colossus in his own mind, but a low rent Napoleon in everyone else’s, with his talk of a European army, Macron is the epitome of the confected politician to which neoliberalism has given birth over the years. Even before the current crisis his approval rating was so low it was drilling its way through the floor; yet as with other leaders who are cut from the same expensive cloth, being impervious to the real world is deemed compatible with strong leadership. It really does beg the question of when, if ever, those who inhabit this cloistered Western neoliberal establishment will finally wake up to the consequences of their ruinous economic dictatorship?

In the UK we have the unedifying sight of Tony Blair being wheeled out as the de facto leader of the ‘reverse Brexit’ movement. That there is anyone who actually believes that the man who took petrol and matches to the Middle East, and who carries about as much weight in the country’s Brexit heartlands as a fly’s wing, is capable of directing anything except his chauffeur from one of his gilded mansions to a TV studio and back again, is remarkable. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the lid of Hillary Clinton’s political coffin has been prised open by an out of touch Washington liberal establishment – one that left planet earth after Trump’s election in 2016 and has been floating around somewhere in outer space since.

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Wouldn’t it be fun if this would make the whole enchilada invalid?

Leave ‘Very Likely’ Won EU Referendum Due To Illegal Overspending (Ind.)

It is “very likely” that the UK voted for Brexit because of illegal overspending by the Vote Leave campaign, according to an Oxford professor’s evidence to the High Court. An exhaustive analysis of the campaign’s digital strategy concludes it reached “tens of millions of people” in its last crucial days, after its spending limit had been breached – enough to change the outcome. The evidence will be put to the High Court on Friday, in a landmark case that is poised to rule within weeks whether the referendum result should be declared void because the law was broken. Professor Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute, at the university, said: “My professional opinion is that it is very likely that the excessive spending by Vote Leave altered the result of the referendum.

“A swing of just 634,751 people would have been enough to secure victory for Remain. “Given the scale of the online advertising achieved with the excess spending, combined with conservative estimates on voter modelling, I estimate that Vote Leave converted the voting intentions of over 800,000 voters in the final days of the campaign as a result of the overspend.” [..] Professor Howard’s report is based on separate research which found that 20-30 per cent of people decided how to vote within a week of polling day, with half of these doing so on election day itself. If, as he has concluded, Vote Leave’s Facebook adverts reached tens of millions of people after they had should have stopped, they influenced huge numbers of voting decisions.

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Shameless.

Facebook Offered Secret User Data To Netflix And Airbnb (Ind.)

Facebook offered companies, including Netflix and Airbnb, access to data about users’ friends that it did not make available to other apps, according to documents released by parliament. The 223 pages released yesterday were internal communications from 2012 to 2015 between company leaders, including chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, shedding light on allegations that Facebook has engaged in anti-competitive behaviour. The documents show that Facebook tracked growth of competitors and denied them access to key data. Zuckerberg agreed to senior executive Justin Osofsky’s request in 2013 to stop giving friends’ list access to Vine on the day that social media rival Twitter launched the video-sharing service. “We’ve prepared reactive PR,” Mr Osofsky wrote, to which Mr Zuckerberg replied: “Yup, go for it.”

The documents also raised questions about Facebook’s transparency. An exchange from 2015 shows Facebook leaders discussing how to begin collecting call logs from Android users’ smartphones without subjecting them to “scary” permissions screens. [..] In a summary of the 250-page cache, which includes internal emails involving Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and other members of staff, Damian Collins MP, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, highlighted a number of “key issues”. He claimed the documents show Facebook chose to “whitelist” selected companies, allowing them to maintain “full access” to the data of a user’s Facebook friends even after the company announced changes in 2015 to end such access.

Mr Collins suggested the cache also showed Facebook regularly discussed the value of data on the platform, and said: “The idea of linking access to friends’ data to the financial value of the developers’ relationship with Facebook is a recurring feature of the documents.”

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COP24 is as much CON24 as COP21 was CON21. ‘World leaders’ won’t solve this.

World ‘On Track’ For Devastating 3ºC Warming (Ind.)

Global carbon pollution is on track to reach unprecedented levels in 2018, smashing hopes that the world had reached peak emissions. Growing energy demands combined with an unwillingness by many nations to let go of coal and oil are expected to result in a 2 per cent boost for emissions. Released at the major COP24 summit in Poland, the news marks the end of a year in which climate change has made itself felt, driving heatwaves, droughts and wildfires across the planet. It comes after a UN report warned that as emissions continue to creep upwards, nations must increase their commitments to tackling global warming by five times to avoid its worst effects.

CO2 pollution shot up in 2017 after a three-year decline that led many to speculate the world had hit peak carbon. With the data suggesting this trend has continued into 2018, experts have redoubled their desperate warnings to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible to avoid climate disaster. “With this year’s growth in emissions, it looks like the peak is not yet in sight,” said Professor Corinne Le Quere, from the University of East Anglia, who led the analysis. “To limit global warming to the Paris agreement goal of 1.5C, CO2 emissions would need to decline by 50 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero by around 2050. “We are a long way from this and much more needs to be done because if countries stick to the commitments they have already made, we are on track to see 3C of global warming.”

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Solid and long from America’s no. 1 Russia expert.

War With Russia? (Stephen Cohen)

Russiagate’s core allegations—US-Russian collusion, treason—all remain unproven. Yet they have become a central part of the new Cold War. If nothing else, they severely constrain President Donald Trump’s capacity to conduct crisis negotiations with Moscow while they further vilify Russian President Vladimir Putin for having, it is widely asserted, personally ordered “an attack on America” during the 2016 presidential campaign. Some Hollywood liberals had earlier omitted the question mark, declaring, “We are at war.” In October 2018, the would-be titular head of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, added her voice to this reckless allegation, flatly stating that the United States was “attacked by a foreign power” and equating it with “the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

Clinton may have been prompted by another outburst of malpractice by The New York Times and The Washington Post. On September 20 and 23, respectively, those exceptionally influential papers devoted thousands of words, illustrated with sinister prosecutorial graphics, to special retellings of the Russiagate narrative they had assiduously promoted for nearly two years, along with the narrative’s serial fallacies, selective and questionable history, and factual errors. Again, for example, the now-infamous Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for several months in 2016, was said to have been “pro-Kremlin” during his time as a lobbyist for Ukraine under then-President Viktor Yanukovych, when in fact he was pro–European Union.

Again, Trump’s disgraced national-security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, was accused of “troubling” contacts when he did nothing wrong or unprecedented in having conversations with a Kremlin representative on behalf of President-elect Trump. Again, the two papers criminalized the idea, as the Times put it, that “the United States and Russia should look for areas of mutual interest,” once the premise of détente. And again, the Times, while assuring readers that its “Special Report” is “what we now know with certainty,” buried a related acknowledgment deep in its some 10,000 words: “No public evidence has emerged showing that [Trump’s] campaign conspired with Russia.”

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Let’s keep it going for another 2 years or so. It sells papers and airtime.

Is This It?: A Trump-Hater’s Guide To Mueller Skepticism (Frank)

For many Robert Mueller watchers, the air these days is electric. People sense the big shoes are about to drop. Donald Trump has submitted his written answers to Mueller’s questions. Paul Manafort has entered a plea agreement, but then continued to lie—at least according to Mueller. Jerome Corsi, fringe-right author and personality, is vowing to go to jail for life rather than sign on to Mueller’s version of events. Roger Stone is expecting to be indicted for something. So is Donald Trump Jr. And, most significant of all to those looking for a big payoff, Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timeline of a deal he was trying to make to construct a 100-story Trump-branded tower in Moscow.

It turns out that the deal exploration continued past the time Trump had secured the Republican nomination, and Cohen and his associate Felix Sater, a real-estate promoter and one-time racketeer, had even discussed giving Vladimir Putin a $50 million penthouse in the building. “This is it,” people are saying. “This is the big one!” But, with all due reverence to the deity Ganesha, why? We see the familiar cycle of hype, and there’s no use fighting it, but, once heart rates have slowed, the same old question remains: so what? Some of the news, such as a Guardian story that Manafort met three times with Julian Assange, seems to be based on nothing at all. But even the solid news turns out to be generally non-earth-shattering.

As the journalist Aaron Maté has been pointing out, we already knew the timeline of Cohen’s Moscow efforts, because BuzzFeed had already detailed them in May, painting a picture of a bumbling duo getting high on their own supply. (As for the latest revelations, did Sater and Cohen really think a president of Russia would move into a free $50 million penthouse provided by a U.S. presidential candidate? You have to wonder if they were hitting each other on the head with bricks.) Those who hope that Mueller reveals a shambolic operation with a lot of rascals engaged in sleazy and embarrassing behavior will be happy with the fruits of his labors. But those who hope for an unveiling of indictments linking Putin and Trump in a grand conspiracy have no more reason to celebrate than they did a week or a month ago.

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Nov 042018
 
 November 4, 2018  Posted by at 10:53 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Francisco Goya The straw mannequin 1791-92

 

Where the Heck are Share Buybacks in This Rotten Market? (WS)
Corporate Buybacks Return, Supporting Market (WSJ)
US Mortgage Rates Rise Sharply to Fresh 7-Year Highs (MND)
Theresa May’s ‘Secret’ Brexit Deal (Ind.)
Brexit Puts Good Friday Agreement At Risk – Irish PM (Ind.)
UK Business Leaders Call For Second Brexit Vote (BBC)
Brexit Is Just A Sideshow For An EU Beset By Problems On All Sides (G.)
“Posh Ghost Towers”: Gloom Spreads Over London Housing Market (DQ)
33 Trillion More Reasons Why New York Times Gets Russiagate Wrong (CN)
Break-in Attempted at Assange’s Residence in Ecuador Embassy (CN)

 

 

No blackout, no market. Only deceit.

Where the Heck are Share Buybacks in This Rotten Market? (WS)

Shares fell today in part because Apple, the giant in the indices, gave iffy guidance for the holidays Thursday evening; and with product sales not going anywhere, and only price increases boosting revenues, it said it would no longer disclose unit sales. This combo worked like a charm, and shares dropped 6.6%. So where are the corporate share buybacks when you need them? This is when companies buy back their own shares in order to prop up their price and thereby the overall market. Where is this panacea that was considered securities fraud until 1982? Throughout October, Wall Street gurus promised that shares would rise as soon as companies emerged from their “blackout” period that prevents them from buying back their shares. Alas, there is no federally mandated “blackout” period.

[..] Let’s take a gander at International Business Machines [IBM], one of the biggest share buyback queens. Since 2000, it blew $146 billion on share buybacks. The chart below shows the cumulative amounts since 2013 that IBM wasted on share buybacks: $43 billion (data via YCharts):

Wall Street gurus keep hyping that share buybacks “unlock shareholder value,” or “return cash to shareholders,” or some such thing. But here’s what IBM’s share buybacks did to shareholder value, as measured by the stock price:

[..] IBM has been buying back the shares it issued its own executives as part of their stock compensation plans, and the shares it issued to buy other companies, including minuscule privately-owned startups for billions of dollars. Buybacks covered up the dilutive effects from those actions. IBM could have spent this money on research and invented something cool. But that would have been too hard. Far better to farm out much of the work to cheap countries like India, shut down US operations, waste money on share buybacks in a vain effort to manipulate up its shares, and instead watch them go to heck.

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There are no functioning markets without price discovery, so what exactly is supported here? Deceit?

Corporate Buybacks Return, Supporting Market (WSJ)

U.S. companies are ramping up share buybacks again, offering potential support to volatile markets. Share buybacks fell ahead of earnings season, when regulations bar such repurchases. As that so-called blackout period ends, there has been a resurgence, with companies making the most of last month’s selloff. That has eased analysts’ concerns that the year’s buyback boom is over. Net buybacks in the month totaled just $12 billion by Oct. 19, but jumped to $39 billion by Oct. 29, according to estimates from JPMorgan Chase & Co. That is more than the $30 billion recorded in September and just under the $48 billion recorded in August.

The bank’s estimates are based on the average drop in share count across the S&P 500, FTSE Russell1000, Datastream U.S. and MSCI U.S. indexes. Some analysts hope a resurgence in buybacks could help support share prices during a period of geopolitical and economic uncertainty. Others are skeptical that companies can continue purchasing their own shares at the current pace, particularly as the stream of repatriated cash that helped drive the year’s buybacks slows down. “It is possible that some companies saw the equity correction as an opportunity to buy back their stock” in October, said Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, global-markets strategist at JPMorgan. “But this raises the hurdle for November.”

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Great jobs numbers equals higher rates.

US Mortgage Rates Rise Sharply to Fresh 7-Year Highs (MND)

Mortgage rates had a bad week and an especially bad day following a much stronger-than-expected jobs report. The Employment Situation (the most important piece of labor market data and arguably the most important economic report as far as interest rates are concerned) showed the highest pace of wage growth since before the recession and a surprisingly robust addition of new jobs in October. Strong jobs data is the nemesis of low interest rates and today was no exception. Mortgage rates were already operating fairly close to long-term highs, but today’s move easily took them to new highs. The average lender is now quoting conventional 30yr fixed rates of 5% for relatively ideal scenarios.

Those without a big down payment or without perfect credit/income can expect to see even higher rates. Most lenders ended up recalling the morning’s initial rate sheets and reissuing higher rates at least once today. There’s really no silver lining apart from the fact that the higher rates go, and the quicker they get there, the closer we get to the point that the economy slows down as a result. When that happens, rates will begin to fall before just about anything else. Unfortunately, the expected time frame for such things is incredibly wide (not the sort of thing you hope for if you need to buy/refi). And yes… it’s also unfortunate that our one source of solace at the moment involves an economic downturn, but if you want low interest rates, that tends to come with the territory.

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The wool over your eyes.

Theresa May’s ‘Secret’ Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May has reportedly secured concessions from Brussels to keep the whole of the UK in a customs union in the wake of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. The agreement reached would prevent the need for Northern Ireland to be treated differently from the rest of the UK, a main stumbling block during Brexit negotiations. The “secret” deal would avoid the need for an Irish backstop and will be written into the legally-binding deal, according to The Sunday Times. However, Downing Street has poured cold water on the report, calling it speculation. The EU has reportedly suggested a backstop post-Brexit customs arrangement covering all of the UK could give mainland Britain some scope to set trade rules.

Preparations for a final deal were far more advanced than previously disclosed, the report said, and would lead to a document of 50 pages or more being published. The agreement would include an “exit clause” designed to convince Brexit-supporting MPs that remaining in the customs union was only temporary, The Sunday Times said. Ms May’s cabinet would meet on Tuesday to discuss her plan, and she hoped there would be enough progress by Friday for the EU to announce a special summit, the newspaper reported. The prime minister’s office has described the report as speculation, but claimed the majority of a deal on Britain’s exit from the bloc in March 2019 had been agreed.

“This is all speculation,” a spokesman for Ms May said. “The prime minister has been clear that we are making good progress on the future relationship and 95 percent of the withdrawal agreement is now settled and negotiations are ongoing.”

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Peace in Ireland is the no.1 concern.

Brexit Puts Good Friday Agreement At Risk – Irish PM (Ind.)

Brexit is “fraying” the relationship between the UK and Ireland and putting peace in Northern Ireland at risk, Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said. The Taoiseach said the Good Friday Agreement was being “undermined” by fractious relations between the two countries over how the Northern Irish border should be managed once Britain leaves the EU. It comes just a day after Theresa May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, travelled to Dublin to hold talks with his Irish counterpart, Simon Coveney, in a bid to improve relations between the two governments.

But speaking within hours of the visit, Mr Varadkar described the relationship between the two countries as “fraying”. He told Irish broadcaster RTE: “Brexit has undermined the Good Friday Agreement and is fraying the relationship between Britain and Ireland. “Anything that pulls the communities apart in Northern Ireland undermines the Good Friday Agreement, and anything that pulls Britain and Ireland apart undermines that relationship.” The warning comes despite Mr Coveney having claimed a deal between the UK and the EU was “very close”.

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Many sides will call for this.

UK Business Leaders Call For Second Brexit Vote (BBC)

More than 70 business leaders have signed a letter to the Sunday Times calling for a public vote on the UK’s Brexit deal. The chief executive of Waterstones and former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King are among those saying a “destructive hard Brexit” will damage the UK economy. A group called Business for a People’s Vote will launch on Thursday. A Downing Street source told the BBC the Prime Minister was clear that there would be no new referendum. The letter was coordinated by The People’s Vote campaign, which wants a ballot on whether to accept the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU. Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent Drinks, Lord Myners, the former chairman of Marks and Spencer and Martha Lane Fox, the founder of Lastminute.com, also signed the letter.

It reads: “The business community was promised that, if the country voted to leave, there would continue to be frictionless trade with the EU and the certainty about future relations that we need to invest for the long term. “Despite the Prime Minister’s best efforts, the proposals being discussed by the government and the European Commission fall far short of this. “The uncertainty over the past two years has already led to a slump in investment.” The letter concludes: “We are now facing either a blindfold or a destructive hard Brexit. “Given that neither was on the ballot in 2016, we believe the ultimate choice should be handed back to the public with a People’s Vote.”

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The only true Brezit reality. Merkel’s departure is a far bigger issue for Europe.

Brexit Is Just A Sideshow For An EU Beset By Problems On All Sides (G.)

There is a weariness to the coterie of diplomats and officials based in Brussels intimately involved in the negotiations over the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European union. Privately they describe it as “Brexit fatigue”, the result of second-guessing a chaotic situation in Westminster for two years, and working through the summer in response to the demand from the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, for continuous negotiations. These officials from the 27 other EU member states were picked as the brightest and the best for the existential crisis of the time, but the hard truth for these ambitious men and women is that the crisis in question is no longer Brexit.

“You go to the capitals, you can see that, because no one talks about it any more,” said Fabian Zuleeg, chief executive of the leading EU thinktank, the European Policy Centre. Speaking to his parliament on his return to Madrid from the recent leaders’ summit in Brussels, Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, put it succinctly: “The British spend 24 hours a day thinking about Brexit and the Europeans think about it for four minutes every trimester.” While the UK’s chaotic withdrawal has become a dreary process to be managed, the EU is being dealt hammer blows from elsewhere – from crises that really could make or break the bloc, along with many diplomatic careers.

Foremost on the list of problem zones right now is Italy. “Nothing and nobody, no big or small letter will make us backtrack,” the country’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, and leader of the far-right League, told his followers in a Facebook video made in his office in Rome on Friday. “Italy will no longer be a slave and will no longer kneel down.”

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Let’s build a few highways to nowhere too.

“Posh Ghost Towers”: Gloom Spreads Over London Housing Market (DQ)

After decades of mind-boggling growth, home prices in metropolitan London, according to official numbers, started to fall this year, if barely. Between March and September, they slid 2.3%. But it’s a lot worse in the most expensive parts of the city: Prices in central London have already dropped 15% since 2014, according to James Hyman, head of the residential agency division at Cluttons. He expects another 7% drop over the next year and a half. And the total volume of transactions has fallen by a fifth, according to Residential Analysts. In 2014, a change in the stamp duty made buying high-end homes in the UK more costly. In London, the city that hosts the highest number of super-rich individuals per capita in the world, high-end homes are the staple product.

And it’s getting harder and harder to offload them: The Guardian reported that over half of the 1,900 ultra-luxury apartments built in London last year failed to sell. This freeze at the high end is fueling concerns that the city would be left with dozens of “posh ghost towers.” The newest phantom skyscraper is London’s Centre Point Tower, a 33-story office building from the 1960s that was recently converted into multi-million-pound luxury apartments. But demand is anemic and the developer behind the project, Almacantar, has all but given up trying to sell the flats after receiving too many “detached from reality” lowball offers. Until conditions improve, half of the tower’s 82 flats will lie empty.

Yet even as demand for upscale real estate in London fades, there’s little sign of any slow down in the construction of luxury apartments, meaning there will be an even greater glut of upscale real estate in the near future. That’s likely to further exacerbate the fall in prices. It’s the latest in a long line of reality checks for London. Clearly, those at the thin upper crust of the global wealth and income scale — just about the only people left who can afford to buy residential property in London these days — either have less money to spend on over-priced high-end London real estate or are splashing it elsewhere, including in other parts of the UK.

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Russiagate is a non-story kept alive by papers and TV stations.

33 Trillion More Reasons Why New York Times Gets Russiagate Wrong (CN)

Even more damning evidence has come to light undermining The New York Times‘ assertion in September that Russia used social media to steal the 2016 election for Donald Trump. The Times‘ claim last month that Russian Facebook posts reached nearly as many Americans as actually voted in the 2016 election exaggerated the significance of those numbers by a factor of hundreds of millions, as revealed by further evidence from Facebook’s own Congressional testimony. Further research into an earlier Consortium News article shows that a relatively paltry 80,000 posts from the private Russian company Internet Research Agency (IRA) were engulfed in literally trillions of posts on Facebook over a two-year period before and after the 2016 vote.

That was supposed to have thrown the election, according to the paper of record. In its 10,000-word article on Sept. 20, the Times reported that 126 million out of 137 million American voters were exposed to social media posts on Facebook from IRA that somehow had a hand in delivering Trump the presidency. The newspaper said: “Even by the vertiginous standards of social media, the reach of their effort was impressive: 2,700 fake Facebook accounts, 80,000 posts, many of them elaborate images with catchy slogans, and an eventual audience of 126 million Americans on Facebook alone.” The paper argued that 126 million was “not far short of the 137 million people who would vote in the 2016 presidential election.”

But Consortium News, on Oct. 10, debunked that story, pointing out that reporters Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti failed to report several significant caveats and disclaimers from Facebook officers themselves, whose statements make the Times’ claim that Russian election propaganda “reached” 126 million Americans an exercise in misinformation. [..] only an estimated 29 million FB users may have gotten at least one story in their feed in two years. The 126 million figure is based only on an assumption that they shared it with others, according to Stretch. Facebook didn’t even claim most of those 80,000 IRA posts were election–related. It offered no data on what proportion of the feeds to those 29 million people were.

In addition, Facebook’s Vice President for News Feed, Adam Moseri, acknowledged in 2016 that FB subscribers actually read only about 10 percent of the stories Facebook puts in their News Feed every day. The means that very few of the IRA stories that actually make it into a subscriber’s news feed on any given day are actually read.

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Completely insane. Next time it might be police, military, mercenaries. Julian’s supporters need to stand watch 24/7 now.

Break-in Attempted at Assange’s Residence in Ecuador Embassy (CN)

An attempted break-in at Julian Assange’s residence inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Oct. 29, and the absence of a security detail, have increased fears about the safety of the WikiLeak’s publisher. Lawyers for Assange have confirmed to activist and journalist Suzie Dawson that Assange was awoken in the early morning hours by the break-in attempt. They confirmed to Dawson that the attempt was to enter a front window of the embassy. A booby-trap Assange had set up woke him, the lawyers said. Scaffolding has appeared against the embassy building in the Knightsbridge section in London which “obscures the embassy’s security cameras,” the lawyers said.


Scaffolding near balcony where Assange has appeared. (Sean O’Brien)

On the scaffolding electronic devices, presumably to conduct surveillance, can be seen, just feet from the embassy windows. Later on the day of the break-in, Sean O’Brien, a lecturer at Yale University Law School and a cyber-security expert, was able to enter the embassy through the front door, which was left open. Inside he found no security present. Someone from the embassy emerged to tell him to send an email to set up an appointment with Assange. After emailing the embassy, personnel inside refused to check whether it had been received or not. O’Brien then noticed more scaffolding being erected and observed the devices, which he photographed. Though a cyber-security expert, O’Brien said he could not identify what the devices are.


One of the apparent surveillance devices. (Sean O’Brien.)

“I’ve never seen devices quite like this, and I take photos of surveillance equipment often,” O’Brien said. “There were curious plastic tubes with yellow-orange caps, zip-tied to the front. I have no idea what these are but they seem to have equipment inside them.” The devices are pointed towards the embassy, where all the blinds were open, and not the street, he said. “The surveillance devices in the photos reveals no manufacturer branding, serial numbers or visible device information,” Dawson said. “The combination of the obscuring of the street-facing surveillance cameras and the installation of surveillance equipment pointed into instead of away from the Embassy, is alarming.”

[..] On Thursday the government suddenly barred all access to Assange visitors, including his legal team until next Monday, raising fears that no witnesses could be present should there be an attempt to abduct Assange over the weekend.

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Oct 232018
 
 October 23, 2018  Posted by at 9:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso Still life 1918

 

Turkey Yet To Share Information On Khashoggi Case With Any Country: FM (R.)
Erdogan To Reveal ‘Naked Truth’ About Khashoggi’s Death (G.)
Turkey Believes MBS Bodyguard Took Khashoggi Body Part To Riyadh (MEE)
Khashoggi Case Has Put Saudi Prince Right Where Erdogan Wants Him (G.)
The Real Reason They Hate Trump (Gelernter)
Twitter Removes More Accounts Affiliated With Infowars (R.)
Facebook And Google Are Run By Today’s Robber Barons. Break Them Up (G.)
EU Regulation Could End YouTube As We Know It, CEO Warns (RT)
By Going Nuclear the EU Has Already Lost Its Battle with Italy (Luongo)
US Judge Affirms Monsanto Weed-Killer Verdict, Slashes Damages
Pesticide-Free Organic Food Lowers Your Blood Cancer Risk By 86% (DM)
Plastic Found In Faeces Of Everyone Who Took Part In Europe-Wide Study (Ind.)

 

 

Timing’s a bit weird. As Erdogan prepares his speech fior noon local time (5am EDT), I’m doing this with what may soon be old news. Trump flew CIA head Gina Haspel to Ankara overnight, did she convince Erdogan not to talk?

Turkey Yet To Share Information On Khashoggi Case With Any Country: FM (R.)

Turkey has not yet shared any information with any country from its probe into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, hours before President Tayyip Erdogan was due to reveal what he has said were details in the case. Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comment in a televised interview with the state-run Anadolu news agency. Cavusoglu also said that Turkey is ready cooperate with any international investigation into Khashoggi’s killing. Authorities have been investigating Khashoggi’s disappearance after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2. After weeks of denial, Saudi Arabia at the weekend said the journalist had been killed at the consulate. Erdogan has said that he would share the information of the investigation in a speech on Tuesday.

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Or so he says.

Erdogan To Reveal ‘Naked Truth’ About Khashoggi’s Death (G.)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears primed to assemble two weeks of leaks, insinuation and police evidence in an explosive speech in the Turkish parliament on Tuesday alleging that the Saudi Arabian government murdered the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Turkish soil. After weeks of leaks by Turkish police implying that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, must have known of a premeditated murder, there was no last-minute sign that the Turkish president would hold back from revealing what he has described as the “naked truth” about Khashoggi’s death. On Monday an aide vowed: “Nothing will remain secret.” Erdogan’s statement to members of his AK party coincides with the opening by the crown prince himself of an investment conference in Riyadh. Aides say Erdogan will address Saudi Arabia’s belated admission that Khashoggi died inside the Saudi consulate, where he was last seen on 2 October.

[..] Erdogan also has the chance in his speech to reveal details of an audio recording that purportedly exists of the moments of Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment. Reports on Monday suggested Saud al-Qahtani, an influential adviser to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, participated in a Skype call to the room in the consulate where Khashoggi was held. A Turkish intelligence source told Reuters that at one point Qahtani told his men to dispose of Khashoggi. “Bring me the head of the dog,” he said. If true, the allegations would confirm reporting in the Guardian on Sunday that Turkey had intercepted the hit squad’s communications.

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The info drip-drip continues to the last minute.

Turkey Believes MBS Bodyguard Took Khashoggi Body Part To Riyadh (MEE)

Turkish authorities believe part of Jamal Khashoggi’s body was transported out of Turkey by one of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s bodyguards, sources have told Middle East Eye. Maher Abdulaziz Mutrib, an intelligence officer implicated in the killing of the Saudi journalist, is thought to have taken the body part out in a large bag, the sources said. Mutrib, who is often seen travelling with the heir to the Saudi throne, left Istanbul on 2 October, the day of Khashoggi’s death, on a private jet that departed at 18:20 local time. His bags were not checked as he passed through the VIP lounge at Ataturk airport and neither was the plane, with tail registration HZ-SK1.

This was because the plane left before the alarm was raised. A second plane was searched from top to bottom and nothing was found, according to the sources. Mutrib, who carried a diplomatic passport, appeared to be in a hurry, they said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Sunday to reveal the “naked truth” over the killing of Khashoggi, saying that he would make a new statement on the case on Tuesday. “We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps but in all its naked truth,” Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul.

Erdogan held a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Sunday where the two leaders agreed the Khashoggi case needed to be clarified “in all its aspects,” a Turkish presidential source said. Saudi Arabia, which on Friday finally admitted after 17 days that its officials had killed Khashoggi, says it does not know the body’s whereabouts. Anonymous Saudi officials have told media that the body was rolled into a carpet and handed to a “local collaborator” to be disposed of. However, on Sunday a Turkish source told MEE that Khashoggi’s body was cut into 15 pieces. “They did not roll anything up in anything,” the source said.

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Lots of theories. This one’s an option.

Khashoggi Case Has Put Saudi Prince Right Where Erdogan Wants Him (G.)

At about noon on Tuesday two regional leaders are due to make landmark addresses. In Riyadh, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, will open an investment showpiece declaring the kingdom open for business. In Ankara, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is expected to make a speech that may well shut down the beleaguered kingdom. Such are the stakes when Erdogan takes to a podium to discuss the death of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi that the region may not be the same when he’s finished. Three weeks to the day since Khashoggi vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Erdogan has pledged to table the “naked truth” about what happened to the columnist and critic, whose fate continues to grip both countries and polarise the Middle East.

If he stays true to his pledge, much of the evidence that Turkey has gathered, incriminating Saudi Arabia in a plot to kill Khashoggi, will be revealed: in pictures, video and even bloodcurdling audio said to document his torture and death. Setting the scene on Monday, a spokesman for the ruling party for the first time described Khashoggi’s death as a “complicated murder” that was “monstrously planned”. [..] Erdogan has the Saudis – in particular, the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (AKA MbS) – right where he wants him. Out of crisis has come opportunity for the veteran Turkish leader, who has never warmed to the brash 33-year-old, and thinks even less of his regional allies.

The two men have vastly different visions for the future of the region: Erdogan has been a champion of political Islam both at home and abroad, particularly since the rise and fall of Mohamed Morsi, the ill-fated former president of Egypt who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood. The Turkish president has partnered with Qatar, Riyadh’s regional foe, given shelter to those exiled after Morsi fell, and remained a bulwark for a movement that Riyadh and its ally the United Arab Emirates see as existential threats. But he has remained on the losing end of the struggle for regional power and influence.

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Not entirely my view, but good bits for sure.

The Real Reason They Hate Trump (Gelernter)

He’s the average American in exaggerated form—blunt, simple, willing to fight, mistrustful of intellectuals. Every big U.S. election is interesting, but the coming midterms are fascinating for a reason most commentators forget to mention: The Democrats have no issues. The economy is booming and America’s international position is strong. In foreign affairs, the U.S. has remembered in the nick of time what Machiavelli advised princes five centuries ago: Don’t seek to be loved, seek to be feared. The contrast with the Obama years must be painful for any honest leftist. For future generations, the Kavanaugh fight will stand as a marker of the Democratic Party’s intellectual bankruptcy, the flashing red light on the dashboard that says “Empty.” The left is beaten.

This has happened before, in the 1980s and ’90s and early 2000s, but then the financial crisis arrived to save liberalism from certain destruction. Today leftists pray that Robert Mueller will put on his Superman outfit and save them again. For now, though, the left’s only issue is “We hate Trump.” This is an instructive hatred, because what the left hates about Donald Trump is precisely what it hates about America. The implications are important, and painful. Not that every leftist hates America. But the leftists I know do hate Mr. Trump’s vulgarity, his unwillingness to walk away from a fight, his bluntness, his certainty that America is exceptional, his mistrust of intellectuals, his love of simple ideas that work, and his refusal to believe that men and women are interchangeable.

Worst of all, he has no ideology except getting the job done. His goals are to do the task before him, not be pushed around, and otherwise to enjoy life. In short, he is a typical American—except exaggerated, because he has no constraints to cramp his style except the ones he himself invents. Mr. Trump lacks constraints because he is filthy rich and always has been and, unlike other rich men, he revels in wealth and feels no need to apologize—ever. He never learned to keep his real opinions to himself because he never had to. He never learned to be embarrassed that he is male, with ordinary male proclivities. Sometimes he has treated women disgracefully, for which Americans, left and right, are ashamed of him—as they are of JFK and Bill Clinton.

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On what authority? Jones must sue Jack.

Twitter Removes More Accounts Affiliated With Infowars (R.)

Twitter Inc confirmed on Monday it has removed more accounts affiliated with Infowars, the website of U.S. conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The company confirmed a CNN report, which said Twitter permanently suspended 18 accounts, partly because of their attempts to help Infowars and Jones circumvent the ban placed on them by Twitter in September. Last month, Twitter permanently banned Jones and Infowars from its platform, saying in a tweet that the accounts had violated its behavior policies. Twitter had said back then that it would evaluate any reports regarding other accounts potentially associated with Jones and Infowars. Tech companies like Apple, Google parent Alphabet and Facebook have also recently banned Infowars and content produced by Jones while payments processor PayPal had ended its business relationship with the website in September.

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The idea is better than the article.

Facebook And Google Are Run By Today’s Robber Barons. Break Them Up (G.)

If Tom Wolfe were still alive, he might be turning his critical pen towards people like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or the Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, playfully describing the disruption that their companies bring to our lives on a daily basis. Just as Wolfe’s novel The Bonfire of the Vanities focused on the financiers whose greed defined the economy of the 1980s, the writer might today focus on the behaviour of these entrepreneurs whose technological innovations are overthrowing the old economy, creating entirely new digital marketplaces. And rather than the greed of the 1980s, ethics might be the focus of Wolfe’s attention. Not the ethics of the algorithms running these businesses, for algorithms don’t have ethics. Even smart algorithms don’t have ethics.

Algorithms are just bits of mathematics. Algorithms do, however, capture the ethics of the people behind them. And there is so much material Wolfe could write about this in 2018. Wind back the clock nearly two years. In October 2016, the investigative nonprofit newsroom ProPublica discovered that Facebook let advertisers exclude black, Hispanic and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing adverts. In the United States, housing and job adverts that exclude people based on race, gender and similar factors are prohibited by the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Facebook admitted this was “a failure” and promised to prevent such discrimination in the future. More than a year later, in November 2017, ProPublica found Facebook was still allowing such adverts to be placed.

[..] This isn’t the first time we’ve faced such problems. In the first industrial revolution, some of the first to benefit were so rapacious they became known as the “Robber Barons”. Chief among them was the industrialist John D Rockefeller, arguably the wealthiest man to live in modern times. Rockefeller was notorious for the unethical and illegal business practices that helped his company Standard Oil control up to 90% of the world’s oil refineries. The History of the Standard Oil Company, published by Ida Tarbell in 1904, described the espionage, price wars and courtroom antics that allowed the company to dominate the oil business. Eventually Standard Oil became so powerful it had to be broken up into 34 new companies.


John D Rockefeller (left). Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

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The EU doesn’t understand what the internet is, how it has changed news and info dissemination. They don’t understand the amount of information, and how it necessitates changes. They’re handing the internet to America and taking it away from their own citizens.

EU Regulation Could End YouTube As We Know It, CEO Warns (RT)

YouTube’s CEO has urged creators on the popular video site to organize against a proposed EU internet regulation, reinforcing fears that the infamous Article 13 could lead to content-killing, meme-maiming restrictions on the web. The proposed amendments to the EU Copyright Directive would require the automatic removal of any user-created content suspected of violating intellectual property law – with platforms being liable for any alleged copyright infringement. If enacted, the legislation would threaten “both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki warned the site’s content creators in a blog post on Monday.

The regulation would endanger “hundreds of thousands of job,” Wojcicki said, predicting that it would likely force platforms such as YouTube to allow only content from a hand-picked group of companies. “It would be too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content,” Wojcicki wrote. While acknowledging that it was important to properly compensate all rights holders, the YouTube chief lamented that the “unintended consequences of Article 13 will put this ecosystem at risk.” She encouraged YouTubers to use the #SaveYourInternet hashtag to tell the world how the proposed legislation would impact them personally.

[..] The proposal has stirred considerable controversy in Europe and abroad, with critics claiming that the legislation would essentially ban any kind of creative content, ranging from memes to parody videos, that would normally fall under fair use. Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, has opposed Article 13 for months. The measure was advanced in June by the European Parliament. A final vote on the proposed regulation is expected to take place sometime next year. World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have also spoken out against Article 13.

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Playing hardball is all Brussels knows how to do.

By Going Nuclear the EU Has Already Lost Its Battle with Italy (Luongo)

Former Dutch Minister of Finance and former President of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, went on CNBC on Friday to declare all-out financial war on Italy. That’s the way Zerohedge put it. As a ‘former’ big wig it was his job to go out and state the position of those currently in power who can safely hide behind his words. And if you watch the clip from CNBC in the linked article you’ll note that CNBC excised the most important quotes, where Dijsselbloem threatened the Italians that no exit from the euro is on the table. But, why would he say this when Italy hasn’t brought it up at all? In fact, Italy’s leadership has been nothing but supportive of the European Project while standing firm on it adopting fairer rules for member countries.

[..] As always, the heavy-handed Djisselbloem has his thumb on the pulse of the EU’s problems, opening his mouth and making things worse, just like he did with Greece. In Greek negotiations, the EU was calm. It told Greece over and over, “No.” Greece threatened the nuclear option, leaving the euro and its bluff was called. So, Dijesselbloem’s warning is just like Greece’s threats and they are going nuclear on Italy. They have to. The EU has zero leverage over Italy. The so-called populists in charge in Italy know exactly what they are doing. They are killing the EU with kindness. Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio reiterated over the weekend that there is “no Plan B” for leaving the EU. The goal is to reform it from within.

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Nice, but as teh Guardian adds: “The judge said in her ruling Monday that if Johnson did not accept the lower punitive damages, she would order a new trial for Monsanto.”

US Judge Affirms Monsanto Weed-Killer Verdict, Slashes Damages (R.)

A U.S. judge on Monday affirmed a verdict against Bayer unit Monsanto that found its glyphosate-based weed-killers responsible for a man’s terminal cancer, but said the $250 million punitive damages portion of the award had to be reduced. According to a ruling in San Francisco’s Superior Court of California, Judge Suzanne Bolanos said she would slash the punitive damages award to $39 million if lawyers for school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson agreed. Monsanto, which denies the allegations, had asked the judge to throw out the entire original $289 million verdict or order a new trial on the punitive damages portion. A jury on Aug. 10 found the company’s glyphosate-based weed-killers, including RoundUp and Ranger Pro, had caused Johnson’s cancer and that the company failed to warn consumers about the risks.

The verdict wiped 10 percent off the value of the company and marked the first such decision against Monsanto, which faces more than 8,000 similar lawsuits in the United States. “The court’s decision to reduce the punitive damage award by more than $200 million is a step in the right direction, but we continue to believe that the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial or the law and plan to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal,” Bayer said in a statement. [..] Lawyers for Johnson in a statement on Monday said they were still reviewing whether to accept the reduced award or retry the punitive damages portion. “The evidence presented to this jury was, quite frankly, overwhelming,” the lawyers said.

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But we’re still going to poison most of our food, and that of others?

Pesticide-Free Organic Food Lowers Your Blood Cancer Risk By 86% (DM)

Cutting out pesticides by eating only organic food could slash your cancer risk by up to 86 percent, a new study claims. The biggest impact was seen on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma risk, which plummeted among those who shunned chemical-sprayed food, according to the survey of nearly 70,000 French adults. Overall, organic eaters were 25 percent less likely to develop any cancer, and their risks of skin and breast cancers dropped by a third. The finding comes amid a flurry of interest in the cancer risks of pesticides, spurred by this summer’s Monsanto trial, when a jury awarded a cancer-suffering groundsman $250 million after concluding that Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer. The health benefit was far greater for obese people, they found.

However, the diet had no significant effect on bowel cancer – which is soaring in numbers globally – or prostate cancer. ‘Our results indicate that higher organic food consumption is associated with a reduction in the risk of overall cancer,’ lead author Dr Julia Baudry of the Centre of Research in Epidemiology and Statistics Sorbonne, Paris said. ‘We observed reduced risks for specific cancer sites – postmenopausal breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and all lymphomas – among individuals with a higher frequency of organic food consumption. ‘Although our findings need to be confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer.’

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By the time we acknowledge how bad this is, we’ll be full of plastic already.

Plastic Found In Faeces Of Everyone Who Took Part In Europe-Wide Study (Ind.)

Scientists have discovered up to nine different types of plastic in the faeces of every person who took part in a Europe-wide study. On average, researchers found 20 microplastic particles in every 10 grams of stool, suggesting humans are swallowing them in food. Particles between 50 and 500 micrometres across were found, the most common being polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Diaries kept by each participant in the week before the stool tests showed that they were all exposed to plastic by consuming plastic-wrapped food or drinking from plastic bottles. Plastic in the gut could suppress the immune system and aid transmission of toxins and harmful bugs or viruses, experts believe.

Lead researcher Dr Philipp Schwabi, from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, said: “Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases. “While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver. “Now that we have first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.” The pilot study recruited eight participants from the UK, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Austria. None were vegetarians, and six ate sea fish. It is estimated up to 5 per cent of all plastics produced end up in the sea.

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Oct 082018
 
 October 8, 2018  Posted by at 9:18 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Paul Gauguin The Great Buddah 1897

 

ACT NOW IDIOTS (BBC)
World Must Take ‘Unprecedented’ Steps To Avert Worst Of Global Warming (R.)
Energy Sector’s Carbon Emissions To Grow For Second Year Running (G.)
Clouds Gather Over The IMF’s Paradise (O.)
US Inflation Is The World’s Most Important Economic Variable (CNBC)
Ron Paul: US Barreling Towards A Stock Market Plunge Of At Least 50% (CNBC)
China Stocks Return From Holiday, Tumble 3% As PBOC Eases Bank Rates (MW)
FBI’s Smoking Gun: Redactions (Solomon)
Italy’s Di Maio Predicts ‘Political Earthquake’ For European Union (RT)
Salvini Resists Germany’s Plans To Send Migrants Back To Italy (RT)
Austerity Is The Wrong Prescription For The World’s Wellbeing (G.)
Greece ‘to Claim €280 Billion’ in War Reparations from Germany (GR)
‘The World Is Against Them’: New Era Of Cancer Lawsuits Threaten Monsanto (G.)

 

 

Sure, but do what? Has anyone defined that?

ACT NOW IDIOTS (BBC)

It’s the final call, say scientists, the most extensive warning yet on the risks of rising global temperatures. Their dramatic report on keeping that rise under 1.5 degrees C states that the world is now completely off track, heading instead towards 3C. Staying below 1.5C will require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. It will be hugely expensive, the report says, but the window of opportunity is not yet closed. After three years of research and a week of haggling between scientists and government officials at a meeting in South Korea, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued a special report on the impact of global warming of 1.5C.

The critical 33-page Summary for Policymakers certainly bears the hallmarks of difficult negotiations between climate researchers determined to stick to what their studies have shown and political representatives more concerned with economies and living standards. Despite the inevitable compromises, there are some key messages that come through loud and and clear. “The first is that limiting warming to 1.5C brings a lot of benefits compared with limiting it to 2 degrees. It really reduces the impacts of climate change in very important ways,” said Prof Jim Skea, who is a co-chair of the IPCC.

“The second is the unprecedented nature of the changes that are required if we are to limit warming to 1.5C – changes to energy systems, changes to the way we manage land, changes to the way we move around with transportation.” “Scientists might want to write in capital letters, ‘ACT NOW IDIOTS’, but they need to say that with facts and numbers,” said Kaisa Kosonen, from Greenpeace, who was an observer at the negotiations. “And they have.” The researchers have used these facts and numbers to paint a picture of the world with a dangerous fever, caused by humans. We used to think if we could keep warming below 2 degrees this century then the changes we would experience would be manageable.

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The IPCC’s estimates have been off by a large margin. Political pressure?

World Must Take ‘Unprecedented’ Steps To Avert Worst Of Global Warming (R.)

Society would have to enact “unprecedented” changes to how it consumes energy, travels and builds to meet a lower global warming target or it risks increases in heat waves, flood-causing storms and the chances of drought in some regions as well as the loss of species, a U.N. report said on Monday. Keeping the Earth’s temperature rise to only 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) rather than the 2C target agreed to at the Paris Agreement talks in 2015, would have “clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems,” the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on Monday in a statement announcing the report’s release.

The IPCC report said at the current rate of warming, the world’s temperatures would likely reach 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 after an increase of 1C above pre-industrial levels since the mid-1800s. Keeping the 1.5C target would keep the global sea level rise 0.1 meter (3.9 inches) lower by 2100 than a 2C target, the report states. That could reduce flooding and give the people that inhabit the world’s coasts, islands and river deltas time to adapt to climate change.

The lower target would also reduce species loss and extinction and the impact on terrestrial, freshwater and coastal ecosystems, the report said. “There were doubts if we would be able to differentiate impacts set at 1.5C and that came so clearly. Even the scientists were surprised to see how much science was already there and how much they could really differentiate and how great are the benefits of limiting global warming at 1.5 compared to 2,” Thelma Krug, vice-chair of the IPCC, told Reuters in an interview. “And now more than ever we know that every bit of warming matters,” Krug said.

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And after all the big words, here is reality.

Energy Sector’s Carbon Emissions To Grow For Second Year Running (G.)

Carbon emissions from the energy sector are on track to grow for the second year running, in a major blow to hopes the world might have turned the corner on tackling climate change. Preliminary analysis by the world’s energy watchdog shows the industry’s emissions have continued to rise in 2018, suggesting that an increase last year was not a one-off. The finding comes as the world’s leading climate scientists issue a landmark report on whether the world can meet a tougher global warming target, of limiting temperature rises to 1.5C.

Dr Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), told the Guardian: “When I look at the first nine months of data, I expect in 2018 carbon emissions will increase once again. This is definitely worrying news for our climate goals. We need to see a steep decline in emissions. We are not seeing even flat emissions.” Emissions largely flatlined in 2014–16 after climbing for decades, raising hopes that global action on climate change was beginning to turn the tide – but in 2017 they grew by 1.4%.

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Silliest metaphor ever? “..while it is tempting to sail alone, countries must resist the siren call of self-sufficiency – because as the Greek legends tell us, that leads to shipwreck..”

Clouds Gather Over The IMF’s Paradise (O.)

On Tuesday, the [IMF] will update its World Economic Outlook and has already warned that the effects of rising debt and trade wars are affecting the global projections. Last week, the IMF’s head, Christine Lagarde, said the outlook “has become less bright”, despite projections during the summer that there would be 3.9% growth for 2018 and 2019. [..] Adding to Lagarde’s comments, there were warnings last week in the IMF’s global financial stability report, which said there was a risk of another financial meltdown because both governments and regulators have failed to put in place needed reforms to protect the system. Lagarde said that while expansion of the global economy was running at its fastest rate in seven years, there were signs of slowdown.

In September, factory activity dropped as a result of changes in trading with the US – and Donald Trump did not escape (admittedly veiled) criticism. The growing use of trade barriers had resulted in a drop in imports and exports, Lagarde said, and investment and manufacturing output had also been hit. Trump has consistently championed unilateral trade deals in an effort to further his “America First” agenda. “History shows that, while it is tempting to sail alone, countries must resist the siren call of self-sufficiency – because as the Greek legends tell us, that leads to shipwreck,” said Lagarde. Also central to the concerns about the future of the global economy are debt levels, currently well above those seen at the time of the 2008 crash. The IMF warned that there was a risk that unregulated parts of the financial system could trigger a panic.

The rise of unregulated “shadow banks” and the lack of restrictions on insurers and asset managers were pinpointed as concerns – as was the growth of global banks to a scale larger than 2008 and the fear that they are again “too big to fail”. Lagarde has said she is concerned that the total value of global debt has risen by 60% in the last 10 years to reach an all-time high of £139tn. As central banks in more advanced economies raised interest rates, attracting investors back to them, she said, developing countries were suffering. “That process could become even more challenging if it were to accelerate suddenly. It could lead to market corrections, sharp exchange rate movements, and further weakening of capital flows.”

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I think perhaps it’s that 1.5ºC one?!

US Inflation Is The World’s Most Important Economic Variable (CNBC)

U.S. inflation is the world’s most important economic variable. That proposition is explained by its corollary: Rising inflation is the only problem the U.S. Federal Reserve cannot solve by increasing its money supply. The Fed can deal with structural problems in credit markets by means of enhanced supervision, regulatory provisions and, all else failing, by open-ended lending in cases of systemic threats to the financial system’s stability. But none of those measures are applicable to situations of accelerating inflation and a deteriorating outlook for the value of fixed-income assets. That is a problem the Fed must address with sustained liquidity withdrawals, increasing credit costs and the ensuing growth recession of the U.S. economy.

[..] U.S. inflation has reached a point in an accelerating economy where the Fed needs to step in with a prompt and credible action to anchor inflation expectations. Markets are signaling that such measures are long overdue. The Fed is now well beyond the stage where it could think of fine tuning the economic activity in an environment of stable costs and prices. The U.S. economy is moving along at twice the rate of its noninflationary growth potential. That is unsustainable. As in the past, the restoration of American price stability will lead to a growth recession of unknown amplitude and duration.

The global reach of the dollar, and of the American financial system, are direct and powerful channels through which the Fed’s rising interest rates will affect demand, output and employment in the rest of the world. Those who think that they can avoid the impact of U.S. monetary policies should think again. The dollar remains an irreplaceable linchpin to the international monetary system. And that’s the way it will be for the foreseeable future. There is simply no viable alternative to the dollar’s global role as a unit of account, a means of payment, a transactions currency and a store of value.

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The name is Bonds. Sovereign bonds.

Ron Paul: US Barreling Towards A Stock Market Plunge Of At Least 50% (CNBC)

Ron Paul believes the bond trading pits are giving investors a dire message about the state of the nation’s economy. According to the former Republican Congressman from Texas, the recent jump in Treasury bond yields suggest the U.S. is barreling towards a potential recession and market meltdown at a faster and faster pace. And, he sees no way to prevent it. “We’re getting awfully close. I’d be surprised if you don’t have everybody agreeing with what I’m saying next year some time,” he said last Thursday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.”

His remarks came as the benchmark 10-Year Treasury yield, which moves inversely to its price, rallied to seven year highs, intensifying fears over rising inflation. It may be beneficial for personal savings accounts, but it could deliver irrevocable damage to those in adjustable mortgages, or for auto buyers looking to finance a new vehicle. “It can be pretty well validated by looking at monetary history that when you inflate the currency, distort interest rates and live beyond your means and spend too much, there has to be an adjustment,” he said. “We have the biggest bubble in the history of mankind.”

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The world’s fastest growing economy for years now needs stimulus.

China Stocks Return From Holiday, Tumble 3% As PBOC Eases Bank Rates (MW)

Chinese stocks led weaker action across Asia markets on Monday, as traders returned to work after a weeklong holiday, brushing aside the latest rate cut by the People’s Bank of China. Chinese stocks returned from the Golden Week holiday with opening declines of 2% after last week’s wide selling in Asia and a U.S.-listed benchmark of mainland companies falling nearly 5%. The major indexes in both Shanghai and Shenzhen were last down around 3%. On Sunday, the PBOC made a one percentage-point cut in banks’ reserve-requirement ratios. The central bank was widely expected to cut the metric again before year-end amid ongoing stimulus efforts.

But Monday was expected to be an up-and-down day as investors try and price in not just what’s happened so far this month but also what continues to lie ahead on the trade front. “This monetary policy tweak is the fourth in 2018 and despite the weakening Yaun and the Feds embarking on a more aggressive rate hike tangent than expected, suggests the Pboc are putting their greatest energies behind stimulating the flagging economy as opposed to the U.S.-China trade wars or Fed policy for that matter,” said Stephen Innes, head of trading APAC, at OANDA. A survey of China’s service sector came in mixed, with the sector expanding at a faster pace in September, but a subindex of employment abruptly contracted, falling to its lowest level since March 2016.

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Declassify!

FBI’s Smoking Gun: Redactions (Solomon)

To declassify or not to declassify? That is the question, when it comes to the FBI’s original evidence in the Russia collusion case. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI have tried to thwart President Trump on releasing the evidence, suggesting it will harm national security, make allies less willing to cooperate, or even leave him vulnerable to accusations that he is trying to obstruct the end of the Russia probe. Before you judge the DOJ’s and FBI’s arguments — which are similar to those offered to stop the release of information in other major episodes of American history, from the Bay of Pigs to 9/11 — consider Footnote 43 on Page 57 of Chapter 3 of the House Intelligence Committee’s report earlier this year on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Until this past week, the footnote really had garnered no public intrigue, in part because the U.S. intelligence community blacked out the vast majority of its verbiage in the name of national security before the report was made public. From the heavy redactions, all one could tell is that FBI general counsel James Baker met with an unnamed person who provided some information in September 2016 about Russia, email hacking and a possible link to the Trump campaign. Not a reporter or policymaker would have batted an eyelash over such a revelation. Then, last Wednesday, I broke the story that Baker admitted to Congress in an unclassified setting — repeat, in an unclassified setting — that he had met with a top lawyer at the firm representing the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and received allegations from that lawyer about Russia, Trump and possible hacking.

It was the same DNC, along with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, that funded the unverified, salacious dossier by a British intel operative, Christopher Steele, that became a central piece of evidence used to justify the FBI surveillance of the Trump campaign in the final days of the election And it was the same law firm that made the payments for the dossier research so those could be disguised in campaign spending reports to avoid the disclosure of the actual beneficiaries of the research, which were Clinton and the DNC. And it was, in turns out, the same meeting that was so heavily censored by the intel agencies from Footnote 43 in the House report — treated, in other words, as some big national security secret.

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He might well be right.

Italy’s Di Maio Predicts ‘Political Earthquake’ For European Union (RT)

The bloc may expect a “political earthquake” after the 2019 European Parliament election, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio warned. Di Maio said he believes that what happened in Italy after the general election in March 4, when the popular vote brought an unlikely coalition of two anti-establishment parties to power, will happen in the whole Europe. The pro-EU centrist parties shrank significantly as a result of the latest Italian parliamentary elections. With the plebiscite that is scheduled for May next year “there will be a political earthquake at the European level,” Di Maio, who is also the Minister of Economic Development and the head of the Five Star Movement (M5S), stated. “All the rules will change,” the Italian high-ranking politician promised.

The Italian government and the EU authorities are at loggerheads over Rome’s targeted budget deficit at 2.4 percent of the GDP that exceeds the limits set by the EU. Rome believes that the forthcoming elections would favor the opponents of austerity. “The Europe of bankers, founded on mass immigration and economic insecurity, keeps on threatening and insulting Italians and their government? Relax, in six months 500 million voters will fire them. We keep going,” Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said.

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“Rome fears that Germany might eventually attempt to send back to Italy as many as 40,000 people..”

Salvini Resists Germany’s Plans To Send Migrants Back To Italy (RT)

Rome has still not reached an agreement with Berlin on the repatriation of asylum seekers who had first registered in Italy, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said, vowing to close airports to German flights transferring refugees. “If someone in Berlin or Brussels thinks of dumping dozens of migrants in Italy via unauthorized charter flights, they should know that there is not and there will be no airport available,” Salvini said in a statement, adding that Italy will “close the airports” just as it earlier closed its ports to NGO vessels carrying migrants rescued in the Mediterranean. His sharp statement comes in response to the rumors first circulated by the Italian La Repubblica daily that Germany plans to speed up repatriation procedures ahead of the regional elections in the state of Bavaria, the home state of the Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

The first charter flight carrying asylum seekers from Germany to Italy is reportedly scheduled for Tuesday, October 9, the media reported. Other media reports set the date of the flight on Thursday, October 11. Germany’s refugee and migration agency, the BAMF, allegedly already sent “dozens of letters” to the would-be repatriates informing them about the planned transfers to Italy, according to La Repubblica. Earlier, the German dpa news agency also said that such a flight is scheduled for “the coming days.” This information, however, was neither confirmed nor denied by the German authorities. Rome fears that Germany might eventually attempt to send back to Italy as many as 40,000 people, who arrived there from the southern European country, the Italian media report.

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“The country’s death rate had risen by about 5.6% in the decade running up to the first bailout in 2010 but then jumped by 17.6% in the six years that followed.”

Austerity Is The Wrong Prescription For The World’s Wellbeing (G.)

Greece, which endured a slump longer and deeper than the Great Depression in the US, was forced by the so-called troika of the IMF, the EU and the ECB to cut health expenditure at a time when other European countries were raising theirs. Under Greece’s bailout, health spending fell from 9.8% of GDP in 2008 to 8.1% in 2014, a time when national output was contracting rapidly. The country’s death rate had risen by about 5.6% in the decade running up to the first bailout in 2010 but then jumped by 17.6% in the six years that followed. The rate rose three times faster than the rate in Western Europe overall.

[..] The troika’s austerity programme helped French and German banks avoid losses on their loans but at the expense of a rising Greek death rate. That has resulted in 50% less public hospital funding in 2015 than 2009, hospitals being left without basic supplies, the long-term unemployed stripped of their health insurance and those on low pay finding drugs more expensive because of a 20% cut in the minimum wage. The number of individuals with unmet healthcare needs has nearly doubled since 2010, with a considerable fraction reporting cost as the main reason for not receiving the recommended healthcare services.

Greece is not short of healthcare expertise. It has the second highest number of doctors per 1,000 people in the EU but that medical workforce has been forced to watch impotently as the health system has descended into chaos and people have died when they could have been saved. For the past eight years, Greece has been used in a laboratory experiment to test out a theory. The evidence from the report in the Lancet could hardly be clearer. Austerity kills.

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Not a chance, but kudos for trying.

Greece ‘to Claim €280 Billion’ in War Reparations from Germany (GR)

Greece is about to launch a campaign to claim €280 billion ($323 billion) in war reparations from Germany, reports Der Spiegel. The German magazine notes that as long as Greece was dependent on EU support, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had avoided raising the issue. But now, after the end of the third bailout program, Athens is ready to take initiatives to claim the money, it says. The issue is resurfacing a few days before the official visit of Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Athens where he will meet the President of the Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Tsipras. Der Spiegel says it is no coincidence that the two highest ranking Greek politicians have both raised the issue in the last few days.

It marks the beginning of a long campaign, which, according to the German magazine, will start in November. The Greek Parliament will endorse an audit report ready since August 2016, according to which Greece is entitled to €269.5 billion of repairs from the Second World War. In addition, Greece demands the repayment of a €10.3 billion occupation loan. The report remained under wraps throughout the last two years, but Tsipras seems ready to bring it back to the surface and start a campaign for war reparations, says Der Spiegel. In the second phase, Greece intends to present its arguments at world organizations such as the European Parliament, the European Council, and the UN.

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8,700 plaintiffs.

‘The World Is Against Them’: New Era Of Cancer Lawsuits Threaten Monsanto (G.)

[Dewayne Johnson’s] award of $289m, which included $250m in punitive damages, is a game-changer for the 46-year-old, who will leave behind a wife and three children. But Monsanto is fighting to keep it from him. “It’s a big red flag for the company,” said Jean M Eggen, professor emerita at Widener University Delaware Law School: “It brings more people out who might not otherwise sue.” Roughly 8,700 plaintiffs have made similar cases in state courts across the country, alleging that exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides led to various types of cancer. The impact could be huge if Monsanto continues to fight and lose in jury trials, and an accumulation of wins could force the company to consider settling with plaintiffs. “It could become very costly,” said Eggen, comparing the fight to the tobacco industry, which aggressively fought cases in court but eventually decided settlements were the best option. “It’s really a business decision.”

Monsanto may ultimately consider changing the labels to warn consumers about cancer risks and work to settle with consumers who have had high exposures, said Lars Noah, University of Florida law professor: “It’s sort of a wake-up call that their strategy was unrealistic.” Of the thousands of cases, there are more than 10 trials on track to start in 2019 and 2020, with court battles ramping up in California, Montana, Delaware, Kansas City and St Louis (where Monsanto is headquartered). Farmers, gardeners, government employees, landscapers and a wide range of others have alleged that Monsanto’s products sickened them or killed their loved ones. “This is a tremendous number of trials for one year and will allow plaintiffs to get critical evidence in front of juries – evidence not seen before,” said the attorney Aimee Wagstaff.

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Sep 052018
 
 September 5, 2018  Posted by at 2:18 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso The actor 1904

 

 

I’ve had a few comments lately wondering why I’m against Brexit, while before the referendum I was not. Someone even remembered I had been talking about Beautiful Brexit back in 2016. It’s real simple. Brexit could be, or could have been, a good idea. There’s a lot wrong with the way the European Union is set up. There’s nothing democratic about Germany always having the last say when it comes to important decisions. Slaughtering the entire nation of Greece on the altar of saving Deutsche and Commerzbank says it all.

But Brexit today is not the same -anymore- as it was before or during the June 23 2016 vote. What happened is that nothing happened. The Brits wasted two whole years and change, and the complexity of the process never allowed for that kind of delay. There are many thousands of pages of EU rules and regulations that not only has the UK been bound by over the past 45 years, but that have shaped its own society.

It’s not just that these ties have to be untangled, they have to be replaced by other rules and regulations. And no, the UK can’t just go back to what they had before 1973; too much water under the bridge, both domestically and internationally. Politically, the EU may be a disaster, but the single market is quite the achievement. And they’re not going to risk it by letting London cherry-pick the rules it likes while leaving others behind. It’s a package deal.

But that is what the Brits, or at least the Tories, appear to have counted on: cherry-picking. They still do. It’s going to be a cold shower. And obviously, they’re going to blame it all on the EU, but that’s neither true nor credible. Still, expect a huge blame campaign. They’re practicing on Labour and its leader Jeremy Corbyn, who the entire UK press including the BBC and Guardian, who are supposed to balance out the slew of Murdoch rags that shape opinion, started accusing of anti-semitism a few weeks ago.

It’s as concerted an effort as the D-Notice gag orders issued earlier this year in the novichok cases. And now that the few media outlets who once had some degree of independence start saying the same things as their smut peers, Brits can safely assume they have no press left that attempts to inform them. It’s now all a propaganda machine.

 

As for Jeremy Corbyn, one can feel sorry for him, but he doesn’t even try to defend himself. Needs to take some cues from Trump? Still, if Corbyn’s a jew hater, I’m Napoleon. There’s nothing in the man’s life that points to that. Just saying that Palestinians are not treated fairly doesn’t mean you hate Jews. That this has become the thread of the ‘discussion’ is an ominous sign.

How are Brits supposed to find out what’s happening in their own country, let alone the rest of the world? There’s no-one left to tell them who doesn’t subscribe to pre-gurgitated ideas and politics. So Theresa May can claim today they know who poisoned the Skripals, and threaten further sanctions against Russia, without sharing any proof with anyone. She can do that because there are no media left in Britain that will ask questions.

If no. 10 says the Russians did it, everyone reports that. If the Blair section of the Labour party says their own leader is an anti-Semite, everyone reports that. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that both Huxley and Orwell were Brits. There is no proof needed anymore: the media will parrot anything the ‘authorities’ say.

Well, kiddo’s, enjoy it while you can, because Brexit is going to shatter that little controlled world of yours into very little pieces. Pretend won’t do it anymore after that. You will need proof for that one, in the form of actual food, and actual trade and jobs. And you won’t have those to offer.

 

Today, Bloomberg reports that both Germany and the UK are willing to accept less stringent conditions for Brexit, but after Brexit day, March 29 2019, goods can no longer move across borders the way they used to. Yes, there is a 21-month transition period, but British products will have to comply with ALL EU rules and laws to be sold to Europe, including Ireland. The same goes for products and services and people that move the opposite way. And in the meantime, the UK cannot close any trade deals with 3rd part countries that don’t comply with EU rules.

Taking control of the narrative(s), as has been the UK’s model, only gets you so far. Britain can trade with the EU, but it cannot simultaneously trade with the US under entirely different conditions. Likewise, London can let Polish people pick British fruits, but not without letting other Europeans work in Britain as well. These rules are broad, and there can be no exceptions, since 27 other countries will want them too.

Now, if only Britain had a press that would tell people what’s going on. It doesn’t. The press only parrots. And if only Jeremy Corbyn told his anti-Semitism accusers to shut up or be sued for libel, and unveil an actual alternative plan for how to do Brexit -or not-. Nobody’s seen any such plan, and Corbyn doesn’t say a thing.

The whole place is just swirling down the drain, watching silly weddings and cooking shows, sipping gin and dreaming of a lost empire nobody can actually remember anymore. And the pace of the swirling can be adapted a little, but no-one is trying to stop it from happening. Oh well, tragedy can be beautiful too.

 

 

Sep 022018
 
 September 2, 2018  Posted by at 9:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Salvador Dali Portrait of Picasso 1947

 

Is The US Economic Boom Beginning To Fizzle Out? (Coppola)
Former Eurogroup Head Dijsselbloem Says Demands On Greeks Were Too Heavy (R.)
The IMF Abetted The European Union’s Subversion Of Greek Democracy (Mody)
Ethiopia Debt Woes Curtail China Funding (R.)
May Vows No Compromise With EU On Brexit Plan (BBC)
Pentagon Cancels Aid To Pakistan Over Record On Militants (R.)
Monsanto-Bayer: Eliminating The Name Will Not Erase The Criminal History (CD)
What’s Happening To Our Weather? The Answers Are Hiding In Arctic Air (G.)

 

 

Bit short today. I think because all the focus is one two funerals I don’t care much about. In one, a bishop grabs boobs, in the other the one person not invited gets all the attention.

Is that a surprise?

Is The US Economic Boom Beginning To Fizzle Out? (Coppola)

President Trump is not going to be too happy with the New York Fed’s latest nowcast for Q3 2018. The staff projection, based upon the latest data, shows annualized quarter-on-quarter GDP growth slowing to 2% per annum. At the end of 2017 it was 4%, and even at the end of Q2 it was 3%.

The Atlanta Fed’s nowcast, which calculates GDP growth in the same way as the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, also shows GDP growth slowing in Q3, though from a higher level. The Atlanta Fed’s growth estimate for Q3 is 4.1%. President Trump will no doubt be happy with this, but not so happy with the fact that at the beginning of August the estimate was 5%.

So what has gone wrong? Why are the nowcasts suggesting that U.S. economic growth is beginning to slow? The indicators that go into the NY Fed’s nowcasts have been gradually turning red for some time now. There appears to be something of a downturn going on in the housing market; both new starts and sales have fallen. Exports have fallen and imports have risen, apparently because of worsening terms of trade, most likely due to the strong dollar. Most recently, manufacturers have drawn down inventories, and there is a fall in orders and shipments for durable goods. There are no dramatic drops, but it all adds up to a gradual economic slowdown.

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How long have you realized this, Jeroen, and what have you done to repair it?

Former Eurogroup Head Dijsselbloem Says Demands On Greeks Were Too Heavy (R.)

Euro zone countries have asked for too much from the Greek people in return for international bailout loans, former Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said in an interview on Dutch television on Saturday. “On reforms, we have asked a lot from the Greek people, too much,” Dijsselbloem told current affairs program Nieuwsuur. “Reforms are hard enough to accomplish in a society with a well-functioning government, but this was obviously not the case in Greece.” Greece emerged from the biggest bailout in economic history on Aug. 20, after receiving 288 billion euros in financial aid since 2010, with the European Union as its biggest lender.

During the crisis, the Greek economy shrank by a quarter, pushing a third of the population into poverty and driving thousands to move abroad. “Greece is obviously not a success story,” Dijsselbloem said. “Their crisis has been so deep, that you can’t call it a success.” Dijsselbloem chaired the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers from 2013 until the beginning of 2018, and led dozens of lengthy emergency meetings during which bailouts for Greece, Cyprus and the Spanish banking sector were grudgingly pieced together.

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Sister act.

The IMF Abetted The European Union’s Subversion Of Greek Democracy (Mody)

European authorities never allowed a conversation around the core imperative of reducing Greece’s debt burden. Syriza formed a government on January 25, 2015. On January 31, Erkki Liikanen, governor of Finland’s central bank and, in that capacity, a member of the ECB’s Governing Council, threatened that the ECB would stop funding Greek banks if the Greek government did not agree to the terms of the creditors. And on February 4, the ECB decided Greece’s fate. In an aggressive move that took everyone by surprise, the ECB cut off funding to Greek banks, preemptively immobilizing the Greek government before it could begin negotiations with its creditors.

The ECB withdrew an earlier arrangement under which Greek banks used their government bonds as collateral (security) to obtain funds for running their day-to-day operations. Although Greek government bonds had a junk rating and normally only higher-rated bonds qualified as collateral, the ECB had waived that requirement to help the banks stay afloat. With its February 4 decision, the ECB revoked that waiver. Greek banks could now borrow only from the Greek central bank under an Emergency Liquidity Arrangement (ELA); ELA funds carried a higher interest rate and, moreover, could be turned off at any time, thus choking the Greek financial system.

Stock prices of Greek banks fell sharply, and two days later, the rating agency S&P pushed the government bonds’ rating further into junk territory. With continuing deposit flight from Greek banks and the threat of a financial meltdown, the Syriza government rapidly lost all leverage before it could use its economic argument in a political negotiation.

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More Belt and Road.

Ethiopia Debt Woes Curtail China Funding (R.)

Ethiopia has been lauded by experts from China’s ruling Communist Party as a “model country” in Beijing’s $126 billion Belt and Road initiative to build rail, road and sea links tying China to Eurasia and Africa. But as the Horn of Africa nation of 100 million people faces debt distress, there are signs that China, a major creditor, is slowing financing to Ethiopia as doubts grow over the profitability of some infrastructure projects there. “The intensifying repayment risks from the Ethiopian government’s debt reaching 59 percent of GDP is worrying investors,” China’s mission to the African Union in Addis Ababa said on its website in July.

It said that Chinese investment in the country was cooling and that the China Export and Credit Insurance Corp was reducing the scale of its investment there. Against a backdrop of rising worry over African indebtedness to China, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will visit Beijing for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which starts on Monday. He is due to meet Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and is expected to court investment from Chinese firms into Ethiopia’s agro-industrial and pharmaceutical businesses, China’s Xinhua news agency said. Ethiopia has been a top destination for Chinese loans in Africa, despite its lack of natural resources, with state policy banks extending it more than $12.1 billion since 2000, according to the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington (SAIS).

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Not your call, Theresa.

May Vows No Compromise With EU On Brexit Plan (BBC)

Theresa May has insisted she will not be forced into watering down her Brexit plan during negotiations with the EU. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the prime minister says she will “not be pushed” into compromises on her Chequers agreement that are not in the “national interest”. But Mrs May also warns she will not “give in” to those calling for a second referendum on the withdrawal agreement. She says it would be a “gross betrayal of our democracy and… trust”. The People’s Vote, a cross-party group including some MPs, is calling for a public vote on the final Brexit deal. The UK is on course to leave the EU on 29 March and the government had previously ruled out another referendum.

The prime minister writes that the coming months are “critical in shaping the future of our country”, but that she is “clear” about her mission in fulfilling “the democratic decision of the British people”. She adds that following the Chequers agreement in July – which led to the resignation of two cabinet ministers – “real progress” has been made in Brexit negotiations. While there is more negotiating to be done, Mrs May writes: “We want to leave with a good deal and we are confident we can reach one.” The government has been preparing for a no-deal scenario, even though this would create “real challenges for both the UK and the EU” in some sectors, she says. But the PM adds: “We would get through it and go on to thrive.”

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Just as they’ve voted in Imran Khan, who once suggested he might order the shooting down of U.S. drones if they entered Pakistani airspace, [and] has opposed the United States’ open-ended presence in Afghanistan.

Pentagon Cancels Aid To Pakistan Over Record On Militants (R.)

The U.S. military said it has made a final decision to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan that had been suspended over Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against militants, in a new blow to deteriorating ties. The so-called Coalition Support Funds were part of a broader suspension in aid to Pakistan announced by President Donald Trump at the start of the year, when he accused Pakistan of rewarding past assistance with “nothing but lies & deceit.” The Trump administration says Islamabad is granting safe haven to insurgents who are waging a 17-year-old war in neighboring Afghanistan, a charge Pakistan denies. But U.S. officials had held out the possibility that Pakistan could win back that support if it changed its behavior.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in particular, had an opportunity to authorize $300 million in CSF funds through this summer – if he saw concrete Pakistani actions to go after insurgents. Mattis chose not to, a U.S. official told Reuters. “Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said. Faulkner said the Pentagon aimed to spend the $300 million on “other urgent priorities” if approved by Congress. He said another $500 million in CSF was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million. The disclosure came ahead of an expected visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top U.S. military officer, General Joseph Dunford, to Islamabad. Mattis told reporters on Tuesday that combating militants would be a “primary part of the discussion.”

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8,000 lawsuits. And Bayer is not a US company, big difference.

Monsanto-Bayer: Eliminating The Name Will Not Erase The Criminal History (CD)

Cancelling out Monsanto’s name and keeping only that of Bayer, does not mean forgetting the wrongdoings of a company which, according to the verdict of the Monsanto Tribunal of The Hague, is stained with crimes of ecocide. With Bayer’s official takeover of Monsanto, the giant multinational also inherits its liabilities. On the eve of the start of the integration process, Monsanto has been held liable for causing cancer through the use of its glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup and ordered to pay $289 million of damages to the plaintiff Dewayne Lee Johnson in the first landmark case, settled in California in mid August 2018. The jury also found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression.”

According to Reuters, the number of lawsuits brought against Bayer’s newly acquired Monsanto is approximately 8000 in the US alone. UN experts Ms Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food and Mr. Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, defined the ruling “a significant recognition of the human rights of victims, and the responsibilities of chemical companies.” Revelations in reports published last year, most notably the “Monsanto Papers” and the “Poison Papers“, have shed light on strategies of big agrochemical groups to expand their empires: from lobbying, interference in government agencies’ proceedings, attacks in collusion with institutions on independent science, to mega mergers and acquisitions.

For the first time part of these documents were shown to a jury, which were able, among other things to also see that, “at least starting 20 years ago, Monsanto has known that their product can cause cancer, and has gone out of its way to ignore it and/or fight any science that suggests a link”, as declared to Democracy Now by Brent Wisner, the lead trial counsel for Dewayne Lee Johnson in his lawsuit against Monsanto. Added to this, in the same week, California’s Supreme Court rejected a challenge by Monsanto to the state’s decision to include glyphosate in its Proposition 65 list of carcinogens.

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How clean is the air?

What’s Happening To Our Weather? The Answers Are Hiding In Arctic Air (G.)

I am standing on the ocean. Ahead of me, the world is split into two perfect halves: blue sky above, white sea ice below. The view is clean and simple, but a continuous waltz of swirling and shunting is hidden inside those two colours: the inner workings of the Arctic engine. This place is special for many reasons, and to appreciate one of the most unusual all I need to do is to live; to breathe. The air is -2C, but the air coming from my lungs is invisible. The familiar wisps of cold breath that I associate with crisp winter air in Britain are absent. They cannot form here. And that anomaly is connected in a fundamental way to our presence here, on a scientific expedition to study this environment. For two months, the Swedish icebreaker Oden is home to 74 of us, living and working at the top of the world to tap into the stories that the blue and the white have to tell.

The Arctic has held on to its mystique for centuries. Many western explorers have pitted their wits, strength, and endurance against this environment, while traditional Arctic communities have learned to work with the complexities of the ice rather than against them. Those of us who live well south of the Arctic circle hear a lot about how the white in the north is changing, but less about how it is. It’s hard to construct a secondhand mental image of what it’s like here. There are no landmarks and you cannot step in the footprints of the past. This is an ocean with an icy shell that cracks and shifts as it’s pushed by the wind, breaking apart into separate floes or piling up to form ridges.

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Aug 122018
 
 August 12, 2018  Posted by at 1:21 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Henri Matisse View of Nôtre Dame 1914

 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan became Prime Minister of Turkey in 2003. His AKP party had won a major election victory in 2002, but Erdogan was banned from political office until his predecessor Gül annulled the ban. Which he had gotten in 1997 for reciting an old poem to which he had added the lines “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers….”

The Turkish courts of the time saw this as “an incitement to violence and religious or racial hatred..” and sentenced him to ten months in prison (of which he served four in 1999). The courts saw Erdogan as a threat to the secular Turkish state as defined by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey in the 1920’s. Erdogan is trying to both turn the nation towards Islam and at the same time not appearing to insult Ataturk.

The reality is that many Turks today lean towards a religion-based society, and no longer understand why Ataturk insisted on a secular(ist) state. Which he did after many years of wars and conflicts as a result of religious -and other- struggles. Seeing how Turkey lies in the middle between Christian Europe and the Muslim world, it is not difficult to fathom why the ‘father’ of the country saw secularism as the best if not only option. But that was 90 years ago.

And it doesn’t serve Erdogan’s purposes. If he can appeal to the ‘silent’ religious crowd and gather their support, he has the power. To wit. In 2003, one of his first acts as prime minister was to have Turkey enter George W.’s coalition of the willing to invade Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. As a reward for that, negotiations for Turkey to join the EU started. These are officially still happening, but unofficially they’re dead.

In 2014 Erdogan finally got his dream job: president. Ironically, in order to get the job, Erdogan depended heavily on the movement of scholar and imam Fethullah Gülen, who, despite moving to Pennsylvania in 1999, still had (has?) considerable influence in Turkish society. Two years after becoming president, Erdogan accused Gülen of being the mastermind behind a ‘failed coup’ in 2016, after which tens of thousands of alleged Gülenists were arrested, fired, etc.

 

Fast forward to the past week. Donald Trump imposed tariffs on Turkey, ostensibly because Erdogan refuses to free an American pastor. The result was a god-almighty drop in the Turkish lira. Analysts at Goldman Sachs said if it reached 7:1 vs the USD, it would be game over for Turkish banks. It got to 6.8:1 before falling back to 6.4:1. And without support from China or the IMF, it would indeed appear the game’s up.

With a stronger dollar, investors’ urge to have their money in emerging markets fades away. And with Turkey being the ugliest horse in the EM factory (perhaps after Argentina, but that’s a whole different story), it’s only logical it would be the first emerging market to see foreign investment disappear. It’s the easiest thing in the world, and It looks something like this:

Here, Turkey’s the main outlier. Tyler Durden’s comment: “as JPMorgan showed 2 months ago, Turkey faces a secondary threat in addition to its gaping current account deficit: a massive and growing debt load. If foreign buyers of Turkish debt go on strike, or if Turkey is unable to rollover near-term maturities, watch how quickly the currency crisis transforms into a broad economic collapse.”

 

 

This next graph from the IIF shows how much debt Turkey has, and in which sectors. Not much household debt, which is positive, but a monster non-financial corporate debt, which is definitely not. NOTE: Hungary is no. 2 on this one, but look at the graph above, and you see that while Turkey has a current account DEFICIT and RISING external debt, Hungary has a current account SURPLUS and FALLING external debt. Don’t do the apples and oranges thing! Also note that Argentina’s debt is almost all government (bonds)

Along that same line, I saw Tom Luongo today compare Turkey anno now to Russia in 2014/15, but Moscow’s USD and EUR debt is about 25%, while Turkey’s is at 70%. it’s a very bad comparison. Russia has had sanctions for ages, and it’s and plenty time to adapt its economy to them. They have to hold some USD and Treasury’s, but they’re largely fine. Turkey is not.

 

 

The third graph is useful because it depicts what currencies countries’ non-financial sectors have borrowed in. Again, Turkey is an outlier, this time in its USD exposure.

 

 

And unsurprisingly, we have EU banks exposed to Turkey. What’s wrong with BBVA? What’s wrong with Draghi?

 

 

But this is easy stuff. We know all this, or we could have. Turkey has been splurging on debt at least ever since Erdogan became PM 15 years ago. He bought his popularity to a large extent with large scale infrastructure projects, without letting on the country -and its corporate sector- were financing the projects with money borrowed from abroad (he built a $100 million, 1000-room palace for himself as well).

Where I think it gets really interesting, and I’ve been keeping away a bit from what others have written the past few days, is in what Erdogan knows about this, and how long he’s known how dire the situation is, and what he’s planning to do next. Because if he knows how bad things are, and he has it for a while, he may well have orchestrated the recent fall-out with Trump et al, to use it as a political tool.

What Erdogan needs is someone to blame for his collapsing economy. And also, if he can get it, a bail-out from somewhere anywhere. Problem with the bail-out thing is, no matter what option might be available, and it’s only might be, he will be forced to relinquish a lot of the central control he’s carefully built up through constitution amendments etc.

His -maybe- options are the IMF, Russia and China. The IMF equals America, and even if they feel a loan to Istanbul is better than an outright collapse, they will take his control over the central bank away, and probably much more – austerity on steroids.

Russia might want to assist, if only to get Turkey away from NATO, which Putin sees as a growing threat now it keeps approaching his borders ever more. Greece is presently in an angry spat with Moscow because the latter is trying to frustrate the Macedonia name deal that the US has been encouraging, which would lead to Macedonia NATO membership, and even more NATO troops right on Russian borders.

But Putin hasn’t forgotten Erdogan shooting down a Russian jet fighter in 2015, and you can bet he will avenge that ‘incident’. He’s at best ambivalent about supporting Erdogan, but he recognizes the potential advantages. Then again, he also recognizes the pluses of letting Turkey slide into a position where Erdogan will be forced out and the secular state reinstated. Russia doesn’t want more Muslim states on its borders anymore than it wants more NATO. Suffice it to say Putin’s watching closely. And he’s got his moves ready.

China sees things differently; it can of course appreciate the potential of Turkey as a strategic gem, if only for its Belt and Road Initiative, but Beijing can also see the potential problems. It’s easier -and much cheaper- to buy up Greek assets for that same purpose -and for pennies on the dollar- now that the EU and US have forced the country’s economy to slide into third world territory. Still if Erdogan gets desperate enough, XI may yet jump in. But Erdogan will not be an independent actor anymore, in his own country. Xi does not dole out Christmas gifts.

 

On Saturday, Erdogan -again- summoned Turks to bring home their foreign funds and to change all dollars and euros and bonds for lira. That may seem strange -and it probably is- because the first reaction is for people to do the exact opposite as long as the lira is plunging. But it appeals to that same religious sentiment that he has founded his entire political power on. Without it, he’s done anyway.

His approach now is to blame someone else for Turkey’s economic problems. Which is nonsense for anyone who has the valid details, but remember, his gutting of the press after the alleged ‘coup’ two years ago has left precious little information available to the Turkish people.

Erdogan has said he will look for other friends than the US. As detailed above, that will not be easy unless he’s prepared to give up substantial amounts of his power. He’s not prepared for that. It’s much easier for him, let alone advantageous, to claim there’s an economic war against Turkey being leveled. And he wouldn’t even be 100% wrong.

Thing is, to prevent the latest escalation, all he would have had to do was to release an American pastor. The fact that he didn’t is perhaps more telling than anything in all this. He’s looking for someone, come country, some organization perhaps, to present as an enemy to the Turkish people.

Since I’ve spent a lot of time in Athens in the past few years, I wouldn’t be surprised if Turkey, whose jetfighters’ violations of Greek air space have become so routine not even the Greek press tries to keep track, would invade, and claim ownership of, some Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, even if they’re just some uninhabited rocks, to whip up nationalist sentiment back home.

Recep Tayyip has long seen this coming. His economy is collapsing, his currency is collapsing, so he’ll focus on what’s left: Turkey’s strategic position on the map, its NATO membership, the negotiations for EU membership, and most of all the support of the Muslim contingent in Turkey that solidifies his power.

I don’t really want to make any historical comparisons, they appear obvious enough. Suffice it to say this ain’t over by a long shot, and it could lead to big trouble.

And don’t let’s forget that Turkey presently hosts millions of Syrian refugees. Erdogan can just buy a bunch of dinghies (he can still afford that) and cause absolute chaos in Greece and the EU.

Who’s going to be buying lira’s on Monday?

 

 

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


Vincent van Gogh The red tree house 1890

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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Social media and its consequences.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All they need to do is release a pastor.

Trump’s Sanctions Causing Turmoil In Turkey (CNBC)

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

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

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

Turkish Banks Scramble to Stave Off Debt Crisis (DQ)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Catch 22.

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

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

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

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

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“Have the Saudis gone stark-raving bonkers?”

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

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

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

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

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Destruction in its wake.

London Is The World’s Airbnb Capital (ZH)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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All the Presidents’ lies.

The American Sea of Deception (TD)

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

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

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

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

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