Jul 282019
 


Pablo Picasso Portrait of Dora Maar 1937

 

UK Top Civil Servant Urged To Block Dominic Cummings Appointment (Ind.)
Johnson’s Key Adviser Dominic Cummings Must Face Sanctions, Demand MPs (G.)
UK To Ramp Up Funding For No-Deal Brexit Preparations (R.)
Ex-Chancellor Hammond Plots With Labour To Kill Johnson’s No-Deal Brexit (G.)
China Retreats Globally (F.)
How Close Is China To A Financial Crisis? (F.)
FAA Let Boeing Sign Its Own Safety Certifications On 737 MAX (ZH)
Tanker Seizures and Resurgent Imperialism (Craig Murray)
Hong Kong Protesters Defy Police Again On Sunday (AFP)
Alaskan Glaciers Melting 100 Times Faster Than Previously Thought (NatGeo)

 

 

The name Cummings dominates the news. In the US there’s Elijah Cummings, attacks on whom by Trump are making the word ‘racist’ popular again in the Dems camp suddenly. In the UK it’s Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s key adviser, who draws the ire of MPs.

As I wrote a few days ago, Boris bringing in Dominic Cummings can only mean elections. Because that’s what he’s good at, and he wouldn’t come in for other reasons. Another aspect is Cummings doesn’t play second fiddle. He’s got the key to no. 10 now. So not only does the UK have its second unelected PM in a row, the PM has handed power to someone in the shadows. To ensure Brexit.

UK Top Civil Servant Urged To Block Dominic Cummings Appointment (Ind.)

The head of the civil service has been urged to block the appointment of Brexit mastermind Dominic Cummings to a senior Downing Street role. Boris Johnson’s decision to invite Mr Cummings to become a key No 10 adviser has sent shockwaves through Westminster, coming only months after he was found in contempt of parliament for refusing to give evidence to the Commons fake news inquiry. The move also sparked fears among Tory moderates about the new prime minister’s Brexit approach, as Mr Cummings was the architect of Vote Leave’s Take Back Control slogan and the pledge to claw back £350m a week from the EU for the NHS. The Liberal Democrats have written to Sir Mark Sedwill, the UK’s most senior mandarin, urging him to intervene as they warned the news should “send shivers down the spines” of the British public.

Layla Moran MP argued the Brexiteer’s conduct fell short of necessary Whitehall standards due to his admonishment for contempt and his involvement in Vote Leave’s “misleading” campaign about NHS funds. She also pointed to the decision by Mr Cummings to leak a confidential Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report, when he reportedly declared “f*** the charlatans embargo” before posting the document on his personal blog. Ms Moran told The Independent: “The appointment of Dominic Cummings should send shivers down the spines of UK citizens. This is a man who has peddled lies and flouted the truth for sheer, cynical political gain. “The dark arts that he proffers should have no place in government, and no place in Downing Street.

[..] Mr Cummings is respected among Brexiteers as being instrumental to the success of the 2016 referendum campaign, but his vocal criticism of MPs and civil servants has ruffled feathers. Since the referendum, Mr Cummings has described Brexit as a “train wreck”, and said triggering Article 50 too early was like “putting a gun in your mouth and pulling the trigger”. He also branded David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, “thick as mince and lazy as a toad”, and described the Tory European Research Group as “useful idiots for Remain”.

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Just as I said a few days ago: “In his new role at Downing Street Cummings appears to be getting Johnson on an election footing..”

Johnson’s Key Adviser Dominic Cummings Must Face Sanctions, Demand MPs (G.)

Prominent MPs on the committee investigating fake news and disinformation want Boris Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings, who has been found in contempt of parliament, to face sanctions in his new role at the heart of government. These could include docking his salary, denying him a security pass and putting pressure on the prime minister to force him to give evidence to parliament. Johnson’s decision to appoint Cummings as a key adviser outraged many MPs because it came less than four months after parliament unanimously passed a motion, tabled by the government, to censure him for failing to testify at the fake news inquiry. Some also have concerns about his role as mastermind of the Brexit campaign. The official Vote Leave group has been found to have broken electoral law and referred to the police.

“This is someone who campaigned to take back control for parliament, and yet has decided the only person who shouldn’t be accountable to parliament is him,” said MP Sarah Wollaston, who has left the Tory party and sits as an independent. “What does that say about the prime minister’s attitude to parliament? It’s a terrible error of judgment.” Wollaston admitted there was no mechanism to enforce motions holding individuals in contempt of parliament. But members of the committee that originally summoned Cummings to give evidence say they want to recall him again, and have suggested a range of sanctions. “We need to demand that he attends to give evidence and call on Boris Johnson [to ensure] that he does attend. We would expect the prime minister to fully support our call for evidence,” said Jo Stevens, one of the MPs on the committee.

She also suggested any decision to give him a security pass should be closely scrutinised. “Everyone who works in parliament has to go through a very stringent security procedure. How can someone who oversaw a campaign that is the subject of a serious criminal investigation pass that test? He will have access not just to parliament but to the inner sanctum of No 10. There are obvious and serious security implications to that.” [..] In his new role at Downing Street Cummings appears to be getting Johnson on an election footing; the Conservative party Facebook page has fielded hundreds of ads since his appointment. Although they are spending relatively small amounts, the range of ads allow them to test voters’ responses and gather data on those who do interact with the advertisements.

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Don’t think one billion will do much. Especially if it’s spent on PR campaigns.

UK To Ramp Up Funding For No-Deal Brexit Preparations (R.)

New British finance minister Sajid Javid plans to announce spending of around 1 billion pounds to make sure the country is properly prepared for a possible no-deal Brexit in October, a newspaper reported. Javid told the Sunday Telegraph he would overhaul the British Treasury’s approach to Brexit, starting with “significant extra funding” announcements in the coming days to get Britain fully ready to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a deal. The extra spending would include financing a major public information campaign for individuals and businesses.


The Sunday Telegraph also quoted Javid as saying he had plans for 500 new Border Force officers and possible new infrastructure around the country’s ports. Javid’s predecessor Philip Hammond, who opposed leaving the EU without a transition deal, was accused by Brexit supporters of failing to spend enough money to get Britain ready for a no-deal Brexit, undermining its negotiating position with Brussels.

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BIG fight coming up.

Ex-Chancellor Hammond Plots With Labour To Kill Johnson’s No-Deal Brexit (G.)

The former Tory chancellor Philip Hammond held private talks with Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer shortly before Boris Johnson entered Downing Street last Wednesday, to plot cross-party moves aimed at preventing the new prime minister agreeing to a no-deal Brexit. The meeting in the House of Commons – which took place shortly after Hammond had resigned from the government – is evidence of the fierce backlash Johnson faces from MPs of all parties if he tries to defy parliament and take the UK out of the EU without an agreement on 31 October.

It is understood that the former political opponents Hammond and Starmer agreed to work together through the summer recess with other leading parliamentarians who oppose no deal, including former Tory ministers Oliver Letwin and Dominic Grieve, to thrash out how best to use parliamentary votes to torpedo no deal. On Saturday night Starmer confirmed that Johnson’s arrival in No 10 had spurred more cross-party discussions at high levels involving senior Tories sacked by Johnson, or who chose to resign, as opponents of no deal prepared a cross-party counter-offensive against his new hard-Brexit cabinet and government.

“The political direction of travel under Boris Johnson is clear,” said Starmer, “and so it is more important than ever that we build a strong cross-party alliance to stop a no-deal Brexit. “That work will intensify over the summer, before parliament resumes in September.” The plans being hatched include amending Brexit-related legislation that has to pass through parliament before the UK can leave the EU in a way that would force the Johnson to ask for a further extension to the UK’s membership if no Brexit agreement has been reached by early October. A “last resort” option is for Hammond and other Tory Remainers to vote for a no-confidence motion in their own government if no deal still appears on the cards.

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Written a lot about this. China doesn’t have the foreign reserves to let its people spend freely across the world. That was true even before the trade war. When are the Chinese tourists going to disappear from western streets?

China Retreats Globally (F.)

China has retreated globally – not from its artificial islands in the South China Sea but economically and financially. It seems just yesterday that the Middle Kingdom, as China calls itself, resembled an unstoppable juggernaut, cutting constructions contracts and buying properties all over the world. That is no longer the case. Trade war with the United States bears much of the blame (or gets the credit, depending on one’s perspective), but even if Washington and Beijing were to sign a deal tomorrow, China would not regain its old momentum. Official Ministry of Finance (MOF) figures, not surprisingly, offer a soothing picture of moderate decline, but private sources tell a much more dramatic story.

According to the American Enterprise Institute’s well-regarded China Global Investment Tracker (CGIT), Chinese overseas investments of all kinds in the first half of this year averaged only $27.5 billion, half the rate averaged during the same time in 2018 and barely a quarter the rate of 2017’s first half. This year’s figures are lower than any time since 2008. Construction contracts, largely in the third world as part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, have fallen off, too, but less dramatically. China clearly has become much less engaged with the world than it was. Two things have caused this retreat. One is a growing hostility among host countries toward Chinese investment. Especially developed countries, the US in particular, have balked over the Chinese practice of extracting technology.

Suspicions along these lines have held up approvals for Chinese purchases and other direct flows of funds. Some familiar with Chinese practice have gone a step further. The European Chamber of Commerce has warned against developing a dependence on China and Chinese funds. This combination of concerns and suspicions have centered primarily on China’s huge state owned enterprises and less on private Chinese investment. But if private investment has fallen off less dramatically, this growing reluctance in the West has had its effect there, too. More significant is China’s relative shortage of hard currency. Despite Beijing’s efforts to make the yuan a global currency, it is little used in currency transactions – no more than 2% of the total in fact – and so is of little use in overseas purchases.

Meanwhile the trade war with the United States has already begun to cut into Beijing’s supplies of foreign exchange. Beijing actually anticipated the problem and in 2017 and began to ration foreign exchange even before the White House added any tariffs. The first major investment declines occurred in late 2018, when the While House first imposed 10% tariffs on a range of Chinese products. The next drop coincided with this past spring’s increased tensions. To be sure, Beijing’s foreign exchange hoard remains huge, but officials are wary of how rapidly it has shrunk, falling some 25% from almost $4 trillion at its peak in 2014 to barely over $3 trillion during the first half of this year. Beijing’s rationing of these financial resources has affected the state-owned sector in particular. Private companies have a greater willingness and ability to borrow hard currencies abroad.

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Dangerously close.

How Close Is China To A Financial Crisis? (F.)

China haters have been waiting for a financial crisis out of China since at least the early 2000s. Each and every time, the People’s Bank of China’s plunge protection team or the central planners in Beijing would throw buckets of ice water on their heads. This time might be different. This time they are dealing with a trade war. Most investment banks have some proprietary model that gives their fund managers a gauge on crises. For Nomura Securities, no country is flashing red more than China. “China has the second-highest number of flashing early warning indicators after Hong Kong,” says Rob Subbaraman, an Asia economist for Nomura in Singapore.

Months of protests against an stalled prisoner extradition bill with China have turned into protests against the Hong Kong government, with the very real possibility of the U.S. doing away with its special trade relationship with Hong Kong. If that ever happened, the Hong Kong dollar would no longer be a de facto source of U.S. dollars for mainland China, assuming Washington included Hong Kong in its mainland China tariff regime. Chinese policymakers need to guard against a renewed build-up of financial stability risks, Subbaraman says. Out of 60 early warning indicators flashing on Nomura’s Cassandra risk assessment program, Hong Kong has 49 covered. China has 25. The U.S. has precisely zero.

Cassandra has reliably signaled around two thirds of the past 50 financial crises in a sample of 30 emerging market and advanced countries, including the U.S., since the early 1990s, Nomura says. Casandra looks at five early warning indicators, including debt-service ratio gap (DSR) with a particular country’s historic average; joint credit and real property price gaps with the average; joint credit and real effective exchange rate (REER) gaps; joint DSR and REER gaps; and finally, a combination of all three credit indicators above. The predefined thresholds of pain-points for a country are set in a way that the early warning indicators flash when one of those thresholds is breached. That means a crisis is likely to hit within three years.

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No surprise there. But that model is over.

FAA Let Boeing Sign Its Own Safety Certifications On 737 MAX (ZH)

Thanks to a ‘broken regulatory process,’ the Federal Aviation Administration has been passing off routine oversight tasks to manufacturers for years. In the case of the beleagured 737 Max, however, the plane was so advanced that the regulator “handed nearly complete control to Boeing,” which was able to sign off on its own safety certificates, according to the New York Times. The lack of regulatory oversight meant that the FAA had no clue how Boeing’s automated anti-stall system, known as MCAS, worked. In fact, “regulators had never independently assessed the risks of the dangerous software” when they issued a 2017 approval for the plane.

“The company performed its own assessments of the system, which were not stress-tested by the regulator. Turnover at the agency left two relatively inexperienced engineers overseeing Boeing’s early work on the system. The F.A.A. eventually handed over responsibility for approval of MCAS to the manufacturer. After that, Boeing didn’t have to share the details of the system with the two agency engineers. They weren’t aware of its intricacies, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.” -New York Times.

During the late stages of the Max’s development, Boeing engineers decided to increase the plane’s reliance on MCAS to fly smoothly. Unfortunately, a new version of the system relied on a single sensor which could malfunction and push the plane into a nosedive. Boeing never submitted a formal assessment of the MCAS system following its upgrade – which wasn’t required by FAA rules. An agency official claims that an engineering test pilot was familiar with the changes, however his job was to evaluate its effect on how the plane flew – not on its safety. The jet was eventually certified as safe to fly, and the FAA required very little pilot training until the second Max crashed less than five months after the first.

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There are very clear laws that forbid seizure of tankers. Give them all back.

Tanker Seizures and Resurgent Imperialism (Craig Murray)

[The] UN Convention which is one of the base blocks of international law [..] does not state that the right to transit through straits can be subject to any sanctions regime which the coastal state chooses to impose; indeed it is clearly worded to preclude such coastal state activity. Nor can it be overridden by any regional grouping of which the coastal state is a member. Jeremy Hunt’s statement to parliament that the Iranian tanker had “freely navigated into UK territorial waters” was irrelevant in law and he must have known that. The whole point of passage through straits is that it is by definition through territorial waters, but the coastal state is not permitted to interfere with navigation.

It is therefore irrelevant whether, as claimed by the government of the UK and their puppets in Gibraltar, the tanker was intending to breach EU sanctions by delivering oil to Syria. There is a very strong argument that the EU sanctions are being wilfully misinterpreted by the UK, but ultimately that makes no difference. Even if the EU does have sanctions seeking to preclude an Iranian ship from delivering Venezuelan oil to Syria, the EU or its member states have absolutely no right to impede the passage of an Iranian ship through the Strait of Gibraltar in enforcement of those sanctions. Anymore than Iran could declare sanctions against Saudi oil being delivered to Europe and close the Straits of Hormuz to such shipping, or Indonesia could declare sanctions on EU goods going to Australia and close the Malacca Strait, or Russia could declare sanctions on goods going to Ukraine and close the Strait of Kerch.

[..] I was for three years the Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I was Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. I both negotiated, and drafted parts of, the Protocol that enabled the Convention to come into force. I was the Head of the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre and responsible for giving real time political and legal clearance, 24 hours a day, for naval boarding operations in the Gulf to enforce a UN mandated embargo. There are very few people alive who combine both my practical experience and theoretical knowledge of precisely the subject here discussed.

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“..leaving pools of blood in the same concourse where the suspected triads had attacked the previous weekend.”

Hong Kong Protesters Defy Police Again On Sunday (AFP)

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters defied a police ban and began marching through Hong Kong on Sunday, a day after riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in the latest violent confrontation to plunge the financial hub deeper into crisis. Huge crowds gathered in the heart of the city’s commercial district on Sunday afternoon, after police gave permission for a static protest in a park but banned a proposed march through the city. Yet protesters soon spilled into the streets outside the park and began marching in spite of the ban, ratcheting up the likelihood of renewed clashes. “I feel so conflicted, seeing young people sacrifice their future for Hong Kong,” a 22-year-old student protester called Marcus told AFP, breaking into tears.


The latest march comes a day after a town near the border with mainland China descended into chaos, as police battled protesters holding another banned rally against suspected pro-government triad gangs who beat up democracy demonstrators there last weekend. Riot police used tear gas throughout the afternoon and evening in Yuen Long after tense standoffs with protesters, some of whom were throwing projectiles and had surrounded a police van. Rubber bullets were fired later in the clashes which ended when officers baton-charged the last remaining demonstrators inside the town’s metro station, leaving pools of blood in the same concourse where the suspected triads had attacked the previous weekend.

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There’s a pattern.

Alaskan Glaciers Melting 100 Times Faster Than Previously Thought (NatGeo)

A new way of measuring how some glaciers melt below the surface of the water has uncovered a surprising realization: Some glaciers are melting a hundred times faster than scientists thought they were. In a new study published today in Science, a team of oceanographers and glaciologists unpeeled a new layer of understanding of tidewater glaciers—glaciers that end in the ocean—and their dynamic processes. “They’ve really discovered that the melt that’s happening is fairly dramatically different from some of the assumptions we’ve had,” says Twila Moon, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder who was uninvolved with the study. Some of this calving and glacial melt is a normal process that glaciers undergo during seasonal transitions from winter to summer, and even through the summer.


But a warming climate accelerates glacier melting across the globe, potentially through melting across the surface of the glacier, but also through underwater melting. Glaciers can extend hundreds of feet below the surface, explained Ellyn Enderlin, a glaciologist at Boise State University who was not involved with the study. Finding higher rates of submarine melting tells us that “glaciers are a lot more sensitive to ocean change than we’ve even thought.” Understanding the melting processes and calculating the amount of melt accurately is essential for planning for sea level rise. “We are just super jazzed that we can even do this,” says lead author David Sutherland, an oceanographer at the University of Oregon. “We weren’t 100 percent sure it was going to work.”

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The Saffron Goddess (1600 B.C.) is a detail from a Minoan fresco depicting a saffron harvest, Akrotiri, Santorini island, Greece.

 

 

 

 

Jun 202019
 


Pablo Picasso The artist and his model 1933

 

The Odds Of A Recession In The Next Year (Colombo)
$12 Trillion Of Negative-Yielding Bonds Are A Distress Signal (Qz)
There’s Not Much The Fed Can Do To Address A Liquidity Crisis – DDMB (FuW)
The Omnipresent Surveillance State (Whitehead)
China: The Perfect High-Tech Totalitarian State (Bergman)
Iran Says Has Shot Down US Drone Over Its Territory (AFP)
‘Credible Evidence’ Saudi Crown Prince Liable For Khashoggi Murder (Pol.eu)
Trump Plan To Sell Arms To Saudis Faces Senate Vote (R.)
FBI Was Warned Early And Often That Manafort File Might Be Fake (Hill)
US Beekeepers Lost 40% Of Honeybee Colonies Over Past Year (G.)
Himalayan Glaciers Melting Twice As Fast As Last Century (AFP)

 

 

“..bubbles are forming in global debt, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, emerging markets, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, European real estate, the art market, U.S. stocks, U.S. household wealth, corporate debt, leveraged loans, U.S. student loans, U.S. auto loans, tech startups, shale energy, global skyscraper construction, U.S. commercial real estate, the U.S. restaurant industry, U.S. healthcare, and U.S. housing once again.”

The Odds Of A Recession In The Next Year (Colombo)

According to the New York Fed’s recession probability model, there is a 30% probability of a U.S. recession in the next 12 months. The last time that recession odds were the same as they are now was in July 2007, which was just five months before the Great Recession officially started in December 2007. July 2007 was also notable because that is when Bear Stearns’ two subprime hedge funds lost nearly all of their value, which ultimately contributed to the investment bank’s demise and the sharp escalation of the U.S. financial crisis.

Many bullishly-biased commentators are trying to downplay the warning currently being given by the New York Fed’s recession probability model, essentially saying “So? There is only a 30% chance of a recession in the next year, which means that there is a 70% chance that there won’t be a recession in the next year!” The reality is that, as valuable as this model is, it has greatly underestimated the probability of recessions since the mid-1980s. For example, this model only gave a 33% probability of a recession in July 1990, which is when the early 1990s recession started. It only gave a 21% probability of a recession in March 2001, which is when the early-2000s recession started. It also only gave a 39% probability of a recession in December 2007, which is when the Great Recession started.


[..] The New York Fed’s model is based on the Treasury yield curve, which is based on U.S. interest rates. The early-1980s recessions were anomalous because they occurred as a result of Fed Chair Paul Volcker’s unusually aggressive interest rate hikes that were meant to “break the back of inflation.” I have found that only considering New York Fed recession probability model data after 1985, and normalizing that data so that the highest reading during that time period is set to 100%, gives more accurate estimates of recession probabilities in the past three decades. For example, this methodology warned that there was an 85% chance of a recession in December 2007, when the Great Recession officially started (the standard model only gave a 39% probability). This methodology is warning that there is a 64% chance of a recession in the next 12 months, which is quite alarming.

The reason why a two-thirds chance of a recession in the next year is so alarming is because the next recession is not likely to be a garden-variety recession or a mere ebb of the business cycle, as I explained two weeks ago. Not only has global debt increased by $70 trillion since 2008, but scores of dangerous new bubbles have inflated in the past decade thanks to ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing programs. These bubbles are forming in global debt, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, emerging markets, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, European real estate, the art market, U.S. stocks, U.S. household wealth, corporate debt, leveraged loans, U.S. student loans, U.S. auto loans, tech startups, shale energy, global skyscraper construction, U.S. commercial real estate, the U.S. restaurant industry, U.S. healthcare, and U.S. housing once again. I believe that the coming recession is likely to be caused by (and will contribute to) the bursting of those bubbles.

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Crazy experiments.

$12 Trillion Of Negative-Yielding Bonds Are A Distress Signal (Qz)

If reading financial markets is usually as inscrutable as reading tea leaves, bond investors have decided now is the time to send a message in big, bold letters. They want central banks to know they are concerned. Concerned about the strength of the global economy. Concerned about the US-China trade war. Concerned about geopolitics, particularly in the Middle East. Concerned about persistently low inflation. Investors are rushing to get their hands on the safest assets available, such as government bonds. So much so, that the amount of bonds with negative yields—meaning investors know they will get back less than what they paid if they hold the debt to maturity—has ballooned. Investors are anticipating a global shift in monetary policy towards lower interest rates, and loosening of financial conditions.


Meanwhile, the expectation of more stimulus has helped push stock markets close to record highs. Almost $12 trillion of investment grade corporate and government bonds have negative yields, predominately in Europe and Japan, according to Barclays data, the Financial Times reports. That’s the largest amount since the middle of 2016 when the UK voted to leave the European Union and the Bank of England restarted its bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing (QE), in response. Today, half of all European government bonds have a negative yield, with the total amount outstanding at €4.4 trillion ($5 trillion), compared to €3.3 trillion at the end of January, according to data from Tradeweb. At the end of May, 20% of European investment-grade corporate debt had negative yields.

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“..why do you insist on using this antiquated broken method? One of the staffers raised his hand and said if we didn’t use it, then the models would not work.”

There’s Not Much The Fed Can Do To Address A Liquidity Crisis – DDMB (FuW)

Ms. DiMartino Booth, why is the Federal Reserve bad for America?
Because of its intellectual dishonesty. The Fed noticed around 2009 that if they had had a more reliable and realistic inflation gauge on which to set policy, they would have seen the crisis coming. But despite that recognition, they chose to do nothing about it.

Are there more realistic inflation gauges?
Several Federal Reserve Districts have come up with alternative gauges. The underlying inflation gauge from the New York Fed for example also includes asset price inflation. And it runs about one percentage point higher than what the Fed measure is – they prefer the core Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index, the core PCE.

What would monetary policy look like with a more realistic inflation gauge?
Monetary policy would be much different. The Fed would not have been able to maintain a monetary policy as easy as it has done over the last couple of years. Central bankers are hiding behind the core PCE being at 1,6%. They’re saying that this gives them cover to not normalize interest rates. But even the core Consumer Price Index has been north of 2% for 14 months.

What does this mean for current monetary policy?
Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen lead the slowest rate hiking campaign in the history of the Fed. Had she been using a more realistic inflation gauge, she would not have left current Chair Jay Powell with having to play catch-up. He wasn’t able to normalize interest rates, nor to run down the balance sheet as much as he would have been able to otherwise – and had Ben Bernanke not insisted on the 2% inflation target.

What is the reason behind the inflation target of 2%?
Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker said that the best inflation rate as far as households and businesses are concerned is 0%. There is nothing that is damaging to a household about inflation being non-existent. As Greenspan and Volcker both pointed out: If you have 2% inflation steadily for 50 years, the value of the dollar in your wallet is diminished. Inflation is corrosive as a factor of time.

What about the risk of falling into deflation?
A deflation in wages, as we saw during the Great Depression, is the worst-case scenario. But Japan has served as a modern-day reminder that households are not going to be injured by very very low levels of inflation. In a disinflationary environment with a decent level of growth, you’re not running that risk. You’re still going to have job creation and economic growth. But you’re not going to have the pressure of rising prices on households. Housing makes up 33% of the average US household budget, and housing inflation has gone through the roof in recent years. Not that it’s captured correctly in the metric that the Fed uses.

So, why is the Fed aiming for 2%?
When Stanley Fisher was vice chair, he asked the same question during his first Federal Reserve meeting. He said, why do you insist on using this antiquated broken method? One of the staffers raised his hand and said if we didn’t use it, then the models would not work.

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“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

—George Orwell

The Omnipresent Surveillance State (Whitehead)

We are increasingly ruled by multi-corporations wedded to the police state. What many fail to realize is that the government is not operating alone. It cannot. The government requires an accomplice. Thus, the increasingly complex security needs of the massive federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental overreach.

In fact, Big Tech wedded to Big Government has become Big Brother, and we are now ruled by the Corporate Elite whose tentacles have spread worldwide. For example, USA Today reports that five years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the homeland security business was booming to such an extent that it eclipsed mature enterprises like movie-making and the music industry in annual revenue. This security spending to private corporations such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others is forecast to exceed $1 trillion in the near future.

The government now has at its disposal technological arsenals so sophisticated and invasive as to render any constitutional protections null and void. Spearheaded by the NSA, which has shown itself to care little to nothing for constitutional limits or privacy, the “security/industrial complex”—a marriage of government, military and corporate interests aimed at keeping Americans under constant surveillance—has come to dominate the government and our lives. At three times the size of the CIA, constituting one third of the intelligence budget and with its own global spy network to boot, the NSA has a long history of spying on Americans, whether or not it has always had the authorization to do so.

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All states tend towards the same model.

China: The Perfect High-Tech Totalitarian State (Bergman)

In China, censorship, now largely automated, has reached “unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition”, according to a recent Reuters report. It quotes Chinese censors as commenting: “We sometimes say that the artificial intelligence is a scalpel, and a human is a machete… When I first began this kind of work four years ago there was opportunity to remove the images of Tiananmen, but now the artificial intelligence is very accurate”. China’s severe censorship runs parallel to its severe suppression of religious freedom.

The President of the Religious Freedom Institute, Thomas F. Farr, at a November 2018 hearing at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, described China’s religious suppression as “the most systematic and brutal attempt to control Chinese religious communities since the Cultural Revolution”. As in other Communist regimes, such as that of the former Soviet Union, the Communist ideology does not tolerate any competing narratives. “Religion is a source of authority, and an object of fidelity, that is greater than the state,” Farr wrote. “This characteristic of religion has always been anathema to history’s totalitarian despots, such as Stalin, Hitler, and Mao…”

The brutal religious and cultural oppression of Tibetans in China has been ongoing for nearly 70 years, but China has not only sought to destroy the Tibetan religion. Christianity, for instance, was seen from the beginning as a threat to the People’s Republic of China when it was established in 1949. “This was especially true at the height of the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), when places of worship were demolished, closed, or reappropriated and religious practices were banned”, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Some Christian clerics have been imprisoned for nearly 30 years. In recent years, oppression of Christians in China has apparently surged. Since the late 1990s, the Chinese regime has also targeted the Falun Gong.

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Why did it fly there?

Iran Says Has Shot Down US Drone Over Its Territory (AFP)

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Thursday it had shot down a US “spy drone” over its territory after it violated Iranian airspace, according to Iranian state television. “The US-made Global Hawk surveillance drone was brought down by its Air Force” in the country’s southern coastal province of Hormozgan, the Revolutionary Guard added, according to the English-language Press TV. State television did not provide pictures of the drone. The incident comes at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States. The US has accused Iran of being behind a series of operations against oil tankers in highly sensitive Gulf waters.


Tehran has denied involvement and instead suggested Washington could be the author of the attacks, using the operation to justify force against Iran. Hormozgan borders the Strait of Hormuz, where the tanker attacks took place. The relationship between Tehran and Washington has been particularly strained since the US last year quit the multilateral 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran. [..] Tehran’s top security official said Wednesday there was no reason to worry about a conflict breaking out. “There will be no war (between Iran and the US) since there is no reason for a war,” said rear admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, quoted by the official news agency IRNA.

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UN special rapporteurs are not taken serious.

‘Credible Evidence’ Saudi Crown Prince Liable For Khashoggi Murder (Pol.eu)

There is “credible evidence” that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and other high-level officials are liable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a United Nations expert said in a report released Wednesday. The 101-page report by Agnès Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, calls on the U.N. secretary-general to initiate a follow-up criminal investigation into the killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. “There is credible evidence warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s,” Callamard wrote.


Riyadh maintains that Khashoggi’s death was caused by a “rogue” operation, but Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler, has long been suspected of ordering the journalist’s murder. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency reached the same conclusion in November. “No conclusion is made as to guilt,” Callamard wrote in her report, referring to bin Salman — also known as MBS — and high-level government officials such as former top advisor Saud al-Qahtani. “The only conclusion made is that there is credible evidence meriting further investigation, by a proper authority, as to whether the threshold of criminal responsibility has been met.”

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Will the GOP turn against MBS?

Trump Plan To Sell Arms To Saudis Faces Senate Vote (R.)

The U.S. Senate will vote on Thursday on legislation seeking to block President Donald Trump’s plan to complete $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, lawmakers said, making clear they want a harder line against what they see as human rights abuses by the two countries. Trump declared an emergency tied to threats from Iran in order to go ahead with the military sales in defiance of congressional objections. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced an agreement on Wednesday to hold the vote, after a group of lawmakers, including some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, last month filed 22 separate resolutions of disapproval objecting to the deals.


Backers of the resolutions said they thought the measures had a good chance of passing both the Senate and House, but acknowledged the difficulty of garnering the two-thirds support to override an expected veto from Trump. Bipartisan support for the action was a rare rebuke of the president by his fellow Republicans, who generally have provided overwhelming support for Trump’s policies. There has been increasing frustration with Saudi Arabia in Congress for months, over the devastating human toll of the air campaign in Yemen it is waging with the UAE. Many senators also want Saudi Arabia held accountable for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

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What a mess this is becoming.

FBI Was Warned Early And Often That Manafort File Might Be Fake (Hill)

When the final chapter of the Russia collusion caper is written, it is likely two seminal documents the FBI used to justify investigating Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign will turn out to be bunk. And the behavior of FBI agents and federal prosecutors who promoted that faulty evidence may disturb us more than we now know. The first, the Christopher Steele dossier, has received enormous attention. And the more scrutiny it receives, the more its truthfulness wanes. Its credibility has declined so much that many now openly question how the FBI used it to support a surveillance warrant against the Trump campaign in October 2016.

At its best, the Steele dossier is an “unverified and salacious” political research memo funded by Trump’s Democratic rivals. At worst, it may be Russian disinformation worthy of the “garbage” label given it by esteemed reporter Bob Woodward. The second document, known as the “black cash ledger,” remarkably has escaped the same scrutiny, even though its emergence in Ukraine in the summer of 2016 forced Paul Manafort to resign as Trump’s campaign chairman and eventually face U.S. indictment. In search warrant affidavits, the FBI portrayed the ledger as one reason it resurrected a criminal case against Manafort that was dropped in 2014 and needed search warrants in 2017 for bank records to prove he worked for the Russian-backed Party of Regions in Ukraine.

There’s just one problem: The FBI’s public reliance on the ledger came months after the feds were warned repeatedly that the document couldn’t be trusted and likely was a fake, according to documents and more than a dozen interviews with knowledgeable sources. For example, Ukraine’s top anticorruption prosecutor, Nazar Kholodnytsky, told me he warned the U.S. State Department’s law enforcement liaison and multiple FBI agents in late summer 2016 that Ukrainian authorities who recovered the ledger believed it likely was a fraud. “It was not to be considered a document of Manafort. It was not authenticated. And at that time it should not be used in any way to bring accusations against anybody,” Kholodnytsky said, recalling what he told FBI agents.

Likewise, Manafort’s Ukrainian business partner Konstantin Kilimnik, a regular informer for the State Department, told the U.S. government almost immediately after The New York Times wrote about the ledger in August 2016 that the document probably was fake. Manafort “could not have possibly taken large amounts of cash across three borders. It was always a different arrangement — payments were in wire transfers to his companies, which is not a violation,” Kilimnik wrote in an email to a senior U.S. official on Aug. 22, 2016. He added: “I have some questions about this black cash stuff, because those published records do not make sense. The timeframe doesn’t match anything related to payments made to Manafort. … It does not match my records. All fees Manafort got were wires, not cash.”

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Monsanto.

US Beekeepers Lost 40% Of Honeybee Colonies Over Past Year (G.)

Beekeepers across the US lost four in 10 of their honeybee colonies over the past year, as the worst winter on record for tracked bee populations raised fresh concerns over the plight of the crucial pollinators. Over the past winter, 37% of honeybee colonies were lost to beekeepers, the worst winter decline recorded in the 13-year history of a nationwide survey aimed at charting bees’ fortunes. Overall, 40% of colonies died off over the entire year to April, which is above the 38% average since the survey began. Researchers said the numbers were concerning given the intensive efforts to stem the loss of honeybees, which pollinate an estimated $15bn in US crops each year, enabling the farming of foods including apples, melons, cherries, almonds and blueberries.

Alarm over honeybee numbers has grown since 2006, when a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder became widely known. This problem, in which the majority of worker bees abandon the colony, has since receded but beekeepers are now faced with more general die-offs linked to disease, pesticide use and habitat loss. “It’s disconcerting that we’re still seeing elevated losses after over a decade of survey and quite intense work to try to understand and reduce colony loss,” said Geoffrey Williams, assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University. “We don’t seem to be making particularly great progress to reduce overall losses.”

[..] Native wild bee species, such as the American bumblebee, are also thought to be in sharp decline. The troubles faced by bees are part of a broader trend of stunning drops in insect abundance around the world, although the exact contours of this crisis are obscured by a lack of data in many places.

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Water for 2 billion people?!

Himalayan Glaciers Melting Twice As Fast As Last Century (AFP)

Himalayan glaciers are melting twice as fast now as they were before the turn of the century, according to a new study that relied on recently declassified Cold War-era satellite imagery. The study, which appeared in Science Advances on Wednesday, is the latest indication that climate change is eating the Himalayan glaciers, threatening water supplies for hundreds of millions of people downstream across South Asia. “This is the clearest picture yet of how fast Himalayan glaciers are melting over this time interval, and why,” said lead author Joshua Maurer, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University in New York.


Scientists combed 40 years of satellite observations spanning 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, and found that the glaciers have been losing the equivalent of a foot-and-a-half (45 centimeters) of ice each year since 2000. Many of the 20th-century observations came from recently declassified US spy satellite imagery. The figure is double the amount of melting that took place from 1975 to 2000.

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Apr 102019
 


Marcel Duchamp The chess game 1910

 

Putin Derangement Syndrome After Mueller (SCF)
‘Mountain Brought Forth A Mouse’: Putin On Mueller Report (RT)
Same People Behind Iraq War Lies Pushed Russian Collusion (Kelly)
May’s Hopes Dashed As EU Targets Brexit Delay Of Up To A Year (G.)
UK Finance Minister Says Lawmakers Might Revoke Brexit To Prevent No Deal (R.)
Democracy Is Overrated – Let The Queen Sort Out Brexit (Jan Fleischhauer)
Brexit Explained In Two Words: Basil Fawlty (G.)
IMF Says No-Deal Brexit Risks Two-Year Recession For UK (G.)
China To Join FAA’s Review Panel On Boeing’s 737 MAX (R.)
Boeing Shareholders Sue Over 737 MAX Crashes (R.)
India’s Modi Rides Nationalist Fervor Ahead Of Election (R.)
Two-Thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Alps ‘Will Melt By 2100’ (G.)

 

 

Like this. Contains dozens of links in the original.

Putin Derangement Syndrome After Mueller (SCF)

The West – its governments and its governments’ scribes – are obsessed with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Obsessed” is probably too weak a word to describe the years of impassioned coverage, airy speculation and downright nonsense. He is the world’s leading cover boy: military hats, Lenin poses, imperial crowns, scary red eyes, strait-jackets, clown hats; anything and everything. He’s the avatar of Stalin, he’s the avatar of the Tsars, he’s the Joker, he’s Cthulhu, he’s Voldemort, he’s Satan. He’s the palimpsest for the New World Order’s nightmares. Putin is always messing with our minds. He weaponises information, misinformation and sexual assault accusations. Childrens’ cartoons, fishsticks, Pokemon and Yellow Vests, “Putin’s warships” are lurking when they aren’t stalking; “Putin’s warplanes” penetrate European airspace; “Putin’s tanks”, massing in 2016, massing in 2018, still massing. His empire of rogue states grows. All Putin, all the time.


[..] The entire ramshackle construction is collapsing: if Mueller says there was no collusion then even the last ditch believers will have to accept it: Robert Mueller Prayer Candles are out of stock, time to toss the other tchotchkes, it wasn’t a Mueller Christmas after all. Clinton’s fabrication had two parts to it: 1) Putin interfered/determined the election 2) in collusion with Trump. When the second part is blown up, so must the first be. And then what will happen to all the loyal little allies crying “ours were interfered with too”!? The two halves of the story had the same authors and the same purpose: if one dies, so must the other. Now that Trump is secured from the obstruction charges that hung there as long as Mueller was in session, he is free to declassify the background documents that will show the origin, mechanics, authors and extent of the conspiracy. And he has said he will. In the process, both halves of the story will be destroyed: they’re both lies.

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Can we get back to talking now? Don’t hold your breath.

‘Mountain Brought Forth A Mouse’: Putin On Mueller Report (RT)

The Mueller probe has caused much fuss but predictably did not find any evidence to prove Donald Trump colluded with Russia, Vladimir Putin has said, sarcastically likening it to a “mountain bringing forth a mouse.”
“We said from the very beginning that this Mueller commission will find nothing because we know it better than anyone: Russia did not meddle in any US election, there was no collusion between [US President Donald] Trump and Russia that Mr. Mueller was looking for,” Putin told the International Arctic Forum on Tuesday.


Taking a lighter tone, the president said that the outcome was predictable, likening it to “a mountain that has brought forth a mouse.” According to Putin, US President Donald Trump “knows better what witch hunts are.” This was “a dark chapter in American history,” and no one wants to see it “come back.” The long-awaited report from the Mueller probe was submitted in late March to Attorney General William Barr. The inquiry specifically targeted alleged collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign team and Moscow. However, its key conclusions mentioned no evidence of a conspiracy.

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This is the same as me saying Trump’s enemies are the same as Assange’s enemies.

Same People Behind Iraq War Lies Pushed Russian Collusion (Kelly)

In between the two scandals was more than a decade of recriminations against once-trusted experts on the Right who led our nation into battle. The Iraq war cost the lives of more than 4,400 U.S. troops, maimed tens of thousands more and resulted in an unquantifiable amount of emotional, mental, and physical pain for untold numbers of American military families. Suicide rates for servicemen and veterans have exploded leaving thousands more dead and their families devastated. And it has cost taxpayers more than $2 trillion and counting. So, these discredited outcasts thought they found in the Trump-Russia collusion farce a way to redeem themselves in the news media and recover their lost prestige, power, and paychecks.

After all, it cannot be a mere coincidence that a group of influencers on the Right who convinced Americans 16 years ago that we must invade Iraq based on false pretenses are nearly the identical group of people who tried to convince Americans that Donald Trump conspired with the Russians to rig the 2016 election, an allegation also based on hearsay and specious evidence. It cannot be an innocent mistake. It cannot be explained away as an example of ignorance in the defense of national security or democracy or human decency. It cannot be justified as a mere miscalculation based on the “best available information at the time” nor should we buy any of the numerous excuses that they offered up to rationalize the war.

So why did they do it? Why did Kristol, McCain, Frum, Boot, et. al., dive headlong and without shame into a domestic political war with just as much thoughtless braggadocio as they brought to the disastrous Iraq war? Clearly, this war did not have the same deadly results as the war in Iraq but, nonetheless, it fueled an unprecedented degree of anger and division among our countrymen and toward our new president. It ensnared innocent people who suffered real-life consequences, their fate grotesquely cheered by these mendacious fraudsters. Why?

If you had the blood of so many young Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis on your hands because you peddled a lie, wouldn’t you be a tad more cautious before repeating that kind of mistake? If you assured Americans that the Iraq war would last just a few months, as Bill Kristol said in 2002, but instead it ended up lasting eight years, wouldn’t you be chastened about making more predictions? If your actions led directly to the election of a Democratic president who launched his winning campaign based on your egregious failures, wouldn’t you hesitate before inserting yourself in another scandal that gave fodder to your political opponents at your expense?

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The EU has zero reason to grant another short delay. Nothing has changed.

May’s Hopes Dashed As EU Targets Brexit Delay Of Up To A Year (G.)

Theresa May’s request for a short Brexit delay has been torn up, putting the EU on track to instead extend Britain’s membership until 2020.Despite the prime minister’s desperate dash to Paris and Berlin to convince leaders of her plan to break the Brexit impasse, the European council president, Donald Tusk, signalled EU politicians’ lack of faith in her cross-party talks. Against a backdrop of growing support among the EU27 for a lengthy Brexit delay, Tusk picked apart May’s appeal for a shorter delay to 30 June in a letter to the leaders inviting them to Wednesday’s summit, where they will agree the new end date.


An EU diplomat said on Tuesday, following a late-night meeting of ambassadors, that the two end dates crystallising in EU capitals were the end of December or the end of March 2020. A cabinet source voiced doubts over whether May could survive after presiding over such a long delay to Brexit, after previously having said she could not “as prime minister” accept a longer delay than 30 June. The source said some in No 10 now accept it is nearly game over and described all options as very difficult for the prime minister, raising questions about whether she can keep her warring party together much longer. May is facing a bitter backlash within her party over the likelihood of a long delay to Brexit and participation in EU elections, especially if that leads to any sort of deal with Labour involving a customs union.

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May was very careless in signing Article 50 when she did. But it made the Brexiteers happy.

UK Finance Minister Says Lawmakers Might Revoke Brexit To Prevent No Deal (R.)

British finance minister Philip Hammond raised the prospect of lawmakers revoking Article 50 this week rather than allowing Britain to leave the European Union without a deal if talks collapse, the Telegraph reported on Tuesday. Hammond warned that the value of the pound could fall significantly if Prime Minister Theresa May fails to reach agreement on a Brexit delay with Brussels, the Telegraph said. He made the comments during a meeting on Tuesday with other ministers in which various scenarios were discussed, the paper said, without citing sources. May invoked Article 50 to give notice that Britain was leaving the EU over two years ago, but the details of how, when and even if Brexit will happen are still far from clear.

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From Der Spiegel columnist.

“When she was born, the British empire stretched from Newfoundland to Papua New Guinea and covered almost a quarter of the world’s population. Today, Britain is a lovely island in the middle of the North Sea..”

Democracy Is Overrated – Let The Queen Sort Out Brexit (Jan Fleischhauer)

From Germany, it looks like the UK monarch is in the perfect position – after all, she has always responded to crises with dignity …

If there is someone who still reacts in the most difficult situations with dignity and decency, it is Queen Elizabeth II. I mean, this is the woman who survived Hitler and his V2s, the Great Smog, the “winter of discontent” and all the other trials and tribulations of her kingdom over the last nine decades. Surely, some well-placed words from her and this whole mess can be resolved. I often wonder how, sitting in Buckingham Palace, the Queen views the situation. When she was born, the British empire stretched from Newfoundland to Papua New Guinea and covered almost a quarter of the world’s population. Today, Britain is a lovely island in the middle of the North Sea that is rapidly becoming the size of Iceland in terms of political importance.

What does the Queen think of people who blithely painted a nation’s future in the rosiest colours and are now surviving from day to day? Royal courts traditionally indulged clowns who were permitted to make fools of them. But no self-respecting monarch would have come up with the idea of entrusting the fool with the fate of the country. I know there are narrow limits to the power of the Queen in a constitutional monarchy. But if you ask John Bercow to take a close look at the archives, he may find a precedent – moments when the power of government was transferred to the Queen when the country’s destiny is on the line. That’s the advantage of looking back on a few centuries of monarchist tradition: somewhere there is always a clause that legitimises you.

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“At moments, we all wish to retreat to an imaginary place: a womb with a view, if you will.”

Brexit Explained In Two Words: Basil Fawlty (G.)

In a crumbling edifice, a farce plays out. The hapless central character fawns on an aristocrat who turns out to be a conman. He then fails to disguise his unease when confronted with his European neighbours, doesn’t bother to mask a thorough contempt for the Irish, and enters a love-hate relationship with ostentatiously wealthy Americans. Meanwhile, there are questions over food safety and supply (specifically kippers, duck and veal cutlets) as workers scurry around trying to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary is happening. Always disaster hovers at the edge of vision.


[..] Fawlty Towers was, above all, an ensemble piece about isolation. It was a portrait of rage and frustration, an exploration of the impotence that results when the world as we wish it to be is so agonisingly at odds with the world as it is. It was the Brexit mindset incubating in the shabby surroundings of a down-at-heel hotel that had seen far better days. [..] Fawlty Towers now appears to have something of the downright prophetic about it. But let’s try to extract a moment of hope for these bleak times. In the end, whether clonked by a moose’s head, thrashing a recalcitrant car with a branch, derailed by a drunken Greek chef or outwitted by a wily Irish builder, Basil doesn’t get his way. His peculiar aspirations are curtailed and forced to conform to the realities of a complex, nuanced world.

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2-3-5-10-25, the IMF doesn’t know more than you and I.

IMF Says No-Deal Brexit Risks Two-Year Recession For UK (G.)

Britain’s already struggling economy would be pushed into a two-year recession by a no-deal Brexit, the International Monetary Fund has warned. Ahead of Theresa May’s plea to EU leaders for a further delay to Britain’s departure, the IMF used a downbeat half-yearly assessment of the global economy to predict that the UK economy could be 3.5% smaller than expected by 2021 if trade barriers were swiftly erected. The World Economic Outlook – completed in March before the latest developments in Brexit – predicted UK growth of 1.2% in 2019 on the assumption that a Brexit deal is done.


Growth in 2020 has also been revised down – by 0.1 points to 1.4% – since the fund’s last WEO in October, but the IMF said its projections were surrounded by uncertainty. It said there were alternative no-deal scenarios in which the UK would be hit by trade barriers, customs delays, barriers to financial services firms and the loss of preferential access to non-EU countries under trade deals negotiated by Brussels. The impact of these would be enough to cause output to decline in 2019 and 2020. It stressed that “a no-deal Brexit that severely disrupts supply chains and raises trade costs could potentially have large and long-lasting negative impacts on the economies of the United Kingdom and the European Union”.

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They’ll bring their Huawei phones I’m sure.

China To Join FAA’s Review Panel On Boeing’s 737 MAX (R.)

China has decided to accept an invitation to join the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) review panel on the Boeing 737 MAX, an official at the Chinese aviation regulator said on Tuesday. The FAA said last week it was forming an international team to review the safety of the aircraft, grounded worldwide following two deadly crashes – in Indonesia in October and in Ethiopia last month – that killed nearly 350 people. China was the first to ground the newest version of Boeing’s workhorse 737 model last month following the Ethiopian Airlines crash, prompting a series of regulatory actions by other governments worldwide.


The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has decided to send experts to be part of the FAA panel, the official, in the regulator’s media relations department, told Reuters. The CAAC said last week that it has been invited to join the panel. Chinese airlines operated 97 of the 371 737 MAX jets in service before the grounding, the most of any country, according to Flightglobal data. Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and Singapore have already confirmed that they will join the panel. The European Aviation Safety Agency did not respond immediately to a request for comment on whether it would join the panel.

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Wait till the victims’ families start suing.

Boeing Shareholders Sue Over 737 MAX Crashes (R.)

Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew on Tuesday as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX. Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg and Chief Financial Officer Gregory Smith were also named as defendants.


According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes. It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety. Richard Seeks, the lead plaintiff, said Boeing’s compromises began to emerge after the Ethiopian Airlines crash killed all 157 onboard, five months after the Lion Air crash killed 189.

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900 million voters. 4x US?! Did Modi antagonize Pakistan to boost his chances?

India’s Modi Rides Nationalist Fervor Ahead Of Election (R.)

India’s prime minister is rallying his nationalist base as the world’s biggest democracy begins a general election on Thursday, but it has become tighter than anticipated, thanks to dwindling incomes for farmers and scarce jobs. Polls predict Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party-led (BJP) alliance will just win a parliamentary majority, a sharp drop from his commanding mandate five years ago, when he vowed to turn India into an economic and military power. But his government’s inability to create a million jobs every month, and ease farmers’ distress over low product prices, has taken the shine off what is still the world’s fastest growing major economy.

From sugar farmers in northern Uttar Pradesh going unpaid for produce, to small businesses in the south shut because they are unable to meet the requirements of a new, unifying national tax, discontent has brewed for months. “The election has become a lot closer than we think, sitting in Delhi,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of a Modi biography and books on Hindu nationalist groups. “There is anger and disillusionment in the countryside.” In December, alarm bells rang for Modi’s Hindu nationalists after it lost three key states to the main opposition Congress and its allies, led by Rahul Gandhi. But a surge in tension with traditional foe Pakistan in February has pushed Modi ahead, as he projects himself as a defender of national security and paints his rivals as weak-kneed, sometimes even questioning their patriotism.

“People were very unhappy, angry that Modi makes tall promises and doesn’t deliver,” said Shiv Chandra Rai, an Uber driver in the commercial capital of Mumbai. “Everyone said there are no jobs, everywhere farmers are struggling. But on this issue of Pakistan we are confused now. Some people feel we have to vote for Modi on this issue, it is a national problem.” Modi ordered air strikes on a suspected camp of a militant group in Pakistan after it claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing in Indian Kashmir, launching the first such raid since the neighbors’ last war in 1971. The nuclear-armed foes engaged in a dogfight after Pakistan sent warplanes into India the next day. They also threatened each other with missile strikes, before Western powers, led by the United States, pulled them back.

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So many millions of Europeans who depend on the Alps for drinking water.

Two-Thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Alps ‘Will Melt By 2100’ (G.)

Two-thirds of the ice in the glaciers of the Alps is doomed to melt by the end of the century as climate change forces up temperatures, a study has found. Half of the ice in the mountain chain’s 4,000 glaciers will be gone by 2050 due to global warming already baked in by past emissions, the research shows. After that, even if carbon emissions have plummeted to zero, two-thirds of the ice will still have melted by 2100. If emissions continue to rise at the current rate, the ice tongues will have all but disappeared from Alpine valleys by the end of the century. The researchers said the loss of the glaciers would have a big impact on water availability for farming and hydroelectricity, especially during droughts, and affect nature and tourism.


“Glaciers in the European Alps and their recent evolution are some of the clearest indicators of the ongoing changes in climate,” said Daniel Farinotti, a glaciologist at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and one of the research team. “In the pessimistic case, the Alps will be mostly ice-free by 2100, with only isolated ice patches remaining at high elevation, representing 5% or less of the present-day ice volume,” said Matthias Huss, a senior researcher at ETH Zurich. In February, a study found that a third of the huge ice fields in Asia’s towering mountain chains were also doomed to melt because of climate change, with serious consequences for almost 2 billion people downstream. Glaciers along the Hindu Kush and Himalayan range are at higher, colder altitudes, but if global carbon emissions are not cut, two-thirds of their ice will melt by 2100.

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Sep 212018
 
 September 21, 2018  Posted by at 9:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Green field 1888

 

Global Economic Growth Has Peaked, Warns OECD (G.)
Why Trump’s Stock Market Cheering Is Dangerous (Colombo)
Post Crisis Measures Have Failed To Tame Derivatives Risks (Yves Smith)
Woodward: “No Evidence Of Trump-Russia Collusion, I Looked Hard” (DV)
Brexit: It’s A Border In The Irish Sea Or The Customs Union (G.)
Emmanuel Macron Calls Brexit Campaign Leaders ‘Liars’ (Ind.)
‘Not Enough Time’ To Hold Referendum On Final Deal Before Brexit Day (G.)
Historical Monuments and Museums Moved to Greece’s Privatization Fund (KTG)
Propping Up Glaciers To Avoid Cataclysmic Sea Level Rise (AFP)
558 Million-Year-Old Fossils Identified As Oldest Known Animal (G.)
Assange’s Last Interview Before Blackout (RT)

 

 

Presented as a surprise.

Global Economic Growth Has Peaked, Warns OECD (G.)

The west’s leading economic thinktank has warned that the expansion in the global economy may have peaked after cutting its growth forecasts for an array of rich and developing countries. In its latest update on the health of the world economy, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said the outlook for both 2018 and 2019 was less good than it had predicted in May. The Paris-based OECD called for immediate action to halt the “slide towards protectionism”, noting that trade tensions were already having an impact on confidence and investment. “The expansion may now have peaked,” the OECD said in its interim economic outlook. “Global growth is projected to settle at 3.7% in 2018 and 2019, marginally below pre-crisis norms, with downside risks intensifying.”

The OECD said it was cutting its 2018 forecast by 0.1 percentage points and its 2019 forecast by 0.3 points. Britain has had its growth forecast shaved by 0.1 points in both years to 1.3% and 1.2%, respectively – with the OECD saying the squeeze on living standards was affecting consumer spending and uncertainty about Brexit leading to soft investment. [..] The US is expected to be the fastest growing of the G7 group of industrialised countries in both 2018 and 2019, and the OECD said that in contrast to the broad-based expansion in late 2017 there were widening differences in growth performance between countries.

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You break it, you own it.

Why Trump’s Stock Market Cheering Is Dangerous (Colombo)

The S&P 500 hit another all-time high today and president Donald Trump tweeted, in his usual fashion, “S&P 500 HITS ALL-TIME HIGH Congratulations USA!” Though I am a conservative myself, president Trump’s stock market cheerleading angers me because he’s fanning the flames of a dangerous asset bubble, which is extremely irresponsible. I believe that the current stock market bubble will cause severe damage to the economy and our society when it ultimately pops. Imagine if George W. Bush constantly touted how surging U.S. housing prices were making Americans rich in the mid-2000s? We all know how that ended. Well, that’s what president Trump is doing with his stock market cheerleading – history will not look kindly upon it.

To make matters worse, Donald Trump knew that we were in a dangerous stock market bubble back in 2016 before he became president – he even called it a “big, fat, ugly bubble.” Now, the S&P 500 is 35% higher (and even more overvalued), but Trump is acting as if it’s an organic, sustainable boom rather than the debt-driven bubble that it really is. This is disingenuous behavior, plain and simple. The S&P 500 has surged over 300% since March 2009 due to the Federal Reserve’s pro-asset inflation policies:

[..] According to the U.S. stock market capitalization-to-GDP ratio (also known as Warren Buffett’s “favorite indicator”), the market is more overpriced and inflated than it was during even the dot-com bubble:

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“..the crisis was a derivatives crisis, and not a housing crisis, as it is too commonly depicted.”

Post Crisis Measures Have Failed To Tame Derivatives Risks (Yves Smith)

One of the frustrating aspects of the orgy of “ten years after Lehman” stories is that writers and pundits, many of whom are old enough to have missed the credit excesses that were evident in 2006 and 2007, are now screeching “A crisis is nigh” without necessarily focusing on likely triggers. As an aside, we are already in the midst of emerging market crises. The IMF agreed to give yet another monster bailout to Argentina. Pakistan is seeking an IMF rescue (or more accurately, trying to get shored up by any one other than the IMF but keeping the agency on the front burner in case other options fail). Turkey is still on the ropes. So calling a crisis is trivial because they are on now.

However, many of these writers are presumably anticipating something more like the global financial crisis, and too often are looking in the wrong places. There is a difference between market crashes that don’t impair the financial system, like the dot-com bust, because the assets that fell in price weren’t highly leveraged. You get real economy damage but not a financial crisis. You can also have lots of loans go bad and not impair the banking system because the credit risk was either well distributed among banks and/or significantly shifted onto investors who losses aren’t leveraged back to the financial system. However, one of the sources of systemic risk being overlooked is derivatives. That is particularly worrisome since the crisis was a derivatives crisis, and not a housing crisis, as it is too commonly depicted.

Even though the US and other housing markets were certain to suffer a nasty bust, a housing crisis alone would have resulted in something like a bigger, badder saving and loan crisis, not the financial coronary of September and October 2008. Derivatives allowed speculators to create synthetic exposures to the riskiest subprime housing debt that were 4-6 times its real economy value. Those bets wound up heavily at systemically important, highly leveraged financial institutions like Citigroup, AIG, the monolines, and Eurobanks.

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“’I did not, and of course, I looked for it, looked for it hard..’

Woodward: “No Evidence Of Trump-Russia Collusion, I Looked Hard” (DV)

After two years of exhaustive research for his book, Woodward says that he has found no evidence of collusion between Putin’s government and Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016. Zilch, nada, zero. And Woodward strained very hard looking for it. This largely ignored blockbuster admission came in a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt reported by Real Clear Politics [..] “In an interview with Hugh Hewitt on Friday, Bob Woodward said that in his two years of investigating for his new book, ‘Fear,’ he found no evidence of collusion or espionage between Trump and Russia. Woodward said he looked for it ‘hard’ and yet turned up nothing.

“’Did you, Bob Woodward, hear anything in your research in your interviews that sounded like espionage or collusion?’ Hugh Hewitt asked Woodward. “’I did not, and of course, I looked for it, looked for it hard,’ Woodward answered. ‘And so you know, there we are. …..’ “’But you’ve seen no collusion?’ Hewitt asked again to confirm. “’I have not,’ Woodward affirmed. “Hewitt would once again ask Woodward about collusion at the conclusion of the interview. “’Very last question, Bob Woodward, I just want to confirm, at the end of two years of writing this book, this intensive effort, you saw no effort, you, personally, had no evidence of collusion or espionage by the president presented to you?’ Hewitt asked. “’That is correct,’ Woodward said.”

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“The most important lesson of the Brexit negotiation is that it is not a negotiation..”

“..no amount of diplomatic politesse can conceal Brexit’s reality: one part of the UK will be economically split from another.”

Brexit: It’s A Border In The Irish Sea Or The Customs Union (G.)

Donald Tusk’s clear rejection of Theresa May’s Chequers plan at the Salzburg summit yesterday should not come as a surprise. The most important lesson of the Brexit negotiation is that it is not a negotiation, and never has been. Blessed with superior size, wealth and power, the EU has been able to dictate the framework and substance of the talks, and has refused any deviation from its red lines. The second most important lesson of the Brexit negotiation is that the EU will prioritise its economic and political cohesion above all else. That cohesion rests on two key outcomes: an undivided single market and an open border on the island of Ireland. It is these principles that have led us to Salzburg. The EU will not accept the Chequers plan, which proposes a single market in goods but not in services, capital or people.

It will also not accept any possibility of border infrastructure in Ireland, which is anathema to Dublin and, according to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, presents a credible risk of sectarian violence. That has duly paved the way for the Brexit endgame, which EU negotiator Michel Barnier has now confirmed: there will be a border for goods in the Irish Sea. The EU does not, however, want to antagonise or humiliate the UK, and has scrambled to defuse the drama of this development. Barnier stresses that most checks between Britain and Northern Ireland will take place in offices and warehouses, and only live animals and food products will need to be examined at ports themselves. But no amount of diplomatic politesse can conceal Brexit’s reality: one part of the UK will be economically split from another.

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“..they left the day after so as not to have to deal with it.”

Emmanuel Macron Calls Brexit Campaign Leaders ‘Liars’ (Ind.)

Emmanuel Macron has branded the leaders of the campaign for Brexit “liars”, in an extraordinary attack at the close of the Salzburg summit. The Leave victory was “pushed by those who predicted easy solutions”, the French president said, adding: “Those people are liars. They left the next day so they didn’t have to manage it.” At the press conference, Mr Macron also made clear he would not accept a “blind deal” – which would leave the nature of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU to be decided after departure day. The stance is another blow to Theresa May, given that the EU’s rejection of her Chequers plan has increasingly left a “blind Brexit” as the only possible agreement.

Mr Macron did not name the “liars” behind Brexit, but he targeted those who had promised that leaving the EU would “bring a lot of money home”. The Vote Leave campaign, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, infamously pledged it would deliver an extra £350m a week for the NHS – a claim now widely discredited. “Those who explain that we can easily live without Europe, that everything is going to be alright, and that it’s going to bring a lot of money home, are liars,” Mr Macron added. “It’s even more true since they left the day after so as not to have to deal with it.” Mr Macron made clear the prime minister would need to come up with fresh proposals by the next summit in October. “We all agreed on this today, the proposals in their current state are not acceptable, especially on the economic side of it. The Chequers plan cannot be take it or leave it.”

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Someone’s going to take this to court.

‘Not Enough Time’ To Hold Referendum On Final Deal Before Brexit Day (G.)

A referendum on the Brexit deal would take at least six months to organise legally, making it very difficult to have a second vote before the UK is scheduled to exit the EU on 29 March next year, constitutional experts have said. As EU leaders including the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babis called on Theresa May to change firm government policy and put a vote to the people, academics said there was not enough time if article 50 is enacted as scheduled. There are indications that a delay to the enactment of article 50 could be acceptable to the EU, but without this agreement time stands in the way of a second referendum, experts believe.

“It is just possible to hold one within six months, but the shorter the timescale, the higher the chance of the question or other aspects of the referendum being challenged over their legitimacy,” said Prof Robert Hazell of the constitution unit at the department of political science, University College London. Fresh legislation, testing of the question by the Electoral Commission and a 10-week regulated period for a campaign are all required before a referendum can take place, he pointed out. David Cameron’s Brexit referendum took just over a year to get to the ballot box.

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Liquidation. But: “Monuments are protected by the Constitution, they cannot be transferred or be sold..”

Historical Monuments and Museums Moved to Greece’s Privatization Fund (KTG)

Archaeologists and sites Guards are up in arms after the Greek Finance Ministry issued a decision ordering the trasnfer several historical sites and buildings, museums, monuments and historical buildings to the Super Privatization Fund. “They belong de facto to the state and are off any trade,” the Greek Archaeologists Association said in a statement with the title “No to sale of the country’s monuments” issued on Wednesday. According to the archaeologists a total of 10,119 archaeological sites, museums and historical buildings have been transferred to the Privatization Fund, many of them from the area in and around Chania on the island of Crete.

“Monuments are protected by the Constitution, they cannot be transferred or be sold,” the Association said, adding that this unprecedented transfer became known when the catalogue of the monuments in and around Chania became public. Among those monuments and museums in Chania are the new Archaeological Museum, the archaeological museum located inside the St Francis Church, the National Museum Eleftherios Venizelos, the Historical Archive of Crete, several Venetian and Byzantine moats, fortifications and bastions as well as properties where important Minoan architectural remains have been discovered. “Is Acropolis next?” the Association of Guards at archaeological sites said in an equally angry statement on Thursday adding that also land plot where excavations take place have been transferred. They threaten with strikes.

“Our response will be very tough. Our cultural heritage belongs to all Greeks, no government has the right to negotiate about it or transfer ownership,” they said in their statement.

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Yeah, smart species.

Propping Up Glaciers To Avoid Cataclysmic Sea Level Rise (AFP)

As global warming outpaces efforts to tame it, scientists have proposed building massive underwater structures to prevent an Antarctic glacier the size of Britain from sliding into the sea and lifting the world’s oceans by several metres. The more modest of two engineering schemes — which is still on the scale of a Panama or Suez Canal — to shore up Thwaites Glacier would require the construction of Eiffel Tower-sized columns resting on the seabed to support the glacier’s ocean-facing edge, or ice shelf. Option Two is a 100-metre tall underwater wall, or berm, running 80-100 kilometres (55-60 miles) beneath the ice shelf to block bottom-flowing warm water that erodes the glacier’s underbelly, rendering it unstable.

The ambitious projects, detailed Thursday in the European Geophysical Union journal The Cryosphere, reflect a gathering awareness that slashing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions — while essential — may not happen quickly enough to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts. “Thwaites could easily trigger a runaway ice sheet collapse that would ultimately raise global sea levels by about three metres,” said lead author Michael Wolovick, a researcher at Princeton University’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. Nor will reducing carbon pollution be enough: any credible pathway to a world in which global warming is capped below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels (3.6º Celsius) — the target enshrined in the 2015 Paris climate treaty — depends on sucking large quantities of CO2 out of the air.

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In the beginning there was nothing.

558 Million-Year-Old Fossils Identified As Oldest Known Animal (G.)

A fossilised lifeform that existed 558m years ago has been identified as the oldest known animal, according to new research. The findings confirm that animals existed at least 20m years before the so-called Cambrian explosion of animal life, which took place about 540m years ago and saw the emergence of modern-looking animals such as snails, bivalves and arthropods. The new fossils, of the genus Dickinsonia, are the remains of an oval-shaped lifeform and part of an ancient and enigmatic group of organisms called Ediacarans. These creatures are some of the earliest complex organisms on Earth, but their place within the evolutionary tree has long puzzled scientists. Suggestions as to what they were have ranged from lichens to failed evolutionary experiments to bacterial colonies.

Now, by identifying the remains of organic matter on newly discovered Ediacaran fossils as ancient cholesterol, the scientists have been able to confirm Dickinsonia was an animal, which makes it the oldest known animal. “It is the exact type and composition of that fat that was the giveaway that Dickinsonia was in fact an animal”, said Jochen Brocks of the Australian National University, one of the authors on the study. He added that the study solves “a decades-old mystery that has been the holy grail of palaeontology”. The fossils were discovered on two surfaces on a cliffside in the remote wilderness of north-west Russia by PhD student Ilya Bobrovskiy, who is lead author on the paper, published in the journal Science.


Dickinsonia fossils found in north-west Russia. Composite: Ilya Bobrovskiy/Ilya Bobrovskiy/ANU

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“This generation being born now… is the last free generation..”

Assange’s Last Interview Before Blackout (RT)

Before his links to the world was cut by his Ecuadorian hosts, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gave an interview on how technological advances are changing humankind. He said global surveillance will soon be totally unavoidable The interview was provided to RT by organizers of the World Ethical Data Forum in Barcelona. Assange, who is currently stranded in the Ecuadorean embassy in London with no outside communication except with his legal team, has a pretty grim outlook on where humanity is going. He says it will soon be impossible for any human being to not be included into global databases collected by governments and state-like entities.

This generation being born now… is the last free generation. You are born and either immediately or within say a year you are known globally. Your identity in one form or another –coming as a result of your idiotic parents plastering your name and photos all over Facebook or as a result of insurance applications or passport applications– is known to all major world powers. “A small child now in some sense has to negotiate its relationship with all the major world powers… It puts us in a very different position. Very few technically capable people are able to live apart, to choose to live apart, to choose to go their own way,” he added. “It smells a bit like totalitarianism – in some way.”

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