Dec 042018
 
 December 4, 2018  Posted by at 10:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen Kendal Street, Byker, Newcastle 1969

 

Yield Curve: What Bond Market Most Feared Is Starting To Happen (CNBC)
UK Government Accused Of Holding Parliament In Contempt On Legal Advice (G.)
Four Million British Workers Live In Poverty (G.)
1.5 Million Demands For Second Referendum Handed To Downing Street (Ind.)
Europe’s Top Court To Rule On Whether The UK Can Cancel Brexit (CNBC)
‘Death Threats’ Halt France Protest Summit (BBC)
Mueller Withheld “Details That Would Exonerate Trump” (ZH)
Jerome Corsi Legal Ethics Complaint Against Robert Mueller (Klayman)
Manafort Tried to Broker Deal With Ecuador to Hand Assange Over to US (NYT)
Ford’s Restructuring Could Slash More Jobs Than GM’s – Morgan Stanley (MW)
Future Of Auto Industry Lies In Car Sharing – Chinese Execs (CNBC)
US-China Trade Talks: Forced Tech Transfers, Intellectual Property Theft (CNBC)
Bitcoin Drops 8% To Kick Off December (CNBC)
David Attenborough: Collapse Of Civilisation Is On The Horizon (G.)

 

 

Powell, Draghi and Kuroda to the rescue!

Yield Curve: What Bond Market Most Feared Is Starting To Happen (CNBC)

The bond market sees storm clouds on the horizon, despite the trade ceasefire between President Donald Trump and China. But not all strategists agree with the dire warnings, though they do note some unusual behavior. On Monday, the difference between the 10-year Treasury yield, at 2.97 percent, and the 2-year yield, at 2.82 percent, dramatically narrowed by 5 basis points, the biggest one day move since late March. Traders have been watching the difference between the yields on various Treasurys for months, along what is called the yield curve between the longer and shorter-term bonds.

And in this time, the longer duration 10-year yield has gotten closer and closer to the yield on the 2-year. If the two should flip, and the 2 -year yield actually rises above the benchmark 10-year, that inversion would be a signal of a recession. The two yields are currently just under 15 basis points apart, the narrowest since around the time they last inverted in June 2007. What’s worrisome for some is that on Monday, the difference between the yields on the 3-year and 5-year, and those of the 2-year and 5-year, inverted.

Read more …

Final warning.

UK Government Accused Of Holding Parliament In Contempt On Legal Advice (G.)

A senior minister is at risk of being suspended from the House of Commons after Labour and the Democratic Unionist party were allowed to submit an emergency motion accusing the government of holding parliament in contempt for failing to publish the full Brexit legal advice. John Bercow, the Speaker, allowed Labour, the DUP and four other opposition parties to lay down a motion that will be voted on Tuesday, immediately before before the start of the five-day debate on the Brexit deal. The motion, submitted late on Monday, calls on MPs to find “ministers in contempt for their failure to comply” and is signed by the shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer; the DUP’s Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds; and the Scottish National party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green party.

No penalty is spelled out in the motion, which is intended to act as a final warning, but Labour said that if it was passed on Tuesday and not still complied with then the party would seek further sanctions. The party indicated it would then seek to hold a senior minister – likely to be either the Cabinet Office minister, David Lidington, or the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox – in contempt and seek their suspension from the Commons. Bercow ruled in the evening that he would accept a contempt motion after the six parties wrote to him jointly complaining that the summary Brexit legal advice released on Monday did not comply with a Commons resolution agreed on 13 November.

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Holding Parliament in contempt is one thing, holding your people in contempt is another one altogether.

Four Million British Workers Live In Poverty (G.)

More than 500,000 British workers have been swept into working poverty over the past five years, according to a report that shows the number of people with a job but living below the breadline has risen faster than employment. In the latest sign that the link between entering work and making ends meet has become increasingly frayed in 21st-century Britain, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said that the number of workers in poverty hit 4 million last year, meaning about one in eight in the economy are now classified as working poor. Nearly all of the increase comes as growing numbers of working parents find it harder to earn enough money to pay for food, clothing and accommodation due to weak wage growth, an erosion of welfare support and tax credits and the rising cost of living.

Half a million more children have become trapped in poverty over the past five years as a direct consequence, reaching 4.1 million last year, the charity’s report added. It means that in a typical classroom of 30 children, nine would come from a household in poverty. Campbell Robb, chief executive of the JRF, said: “We are seeing a rising tide of child poverty as more parents are unable to make ends meet, despite working. This is unacceptable.” In the findings of JRF’s report, UK Poverty 2018, the number of children who slipped into poverty from a working family rose more steeply than at any time for 20 years.

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There is no time for a second round of talks even if the people demand it.

1.5 Million Demands For Second Referendum Handed To Downing Street (Ind.)

Campaigners for a new referendum have handed in petitions carrying almost 1.5 million names to Downing Street, demanding the British public be given a final say on the outcome of Brexit. The group representing The Independent’s Final Say campaign and the People’s Vote initiative handed over the petitions as Theresa May prepared for what is set to be a bruising five-day Commons debate on her Brexit deal. Pressure for a new referendum is increasing ahead of the vote that will come at the end of that debate next week, with the prime minister looking at a heavy personal defeat if MPs reject the deal she agreed with the EU. Anger over her deal increased on Monday, when the government published a legal paper confirming that under Ms May’s plan, the UK will be indefinitely locked in to the controversial ‘backstop’ arrangement.

Campaigners carrying EU flags and placards chanted calls for a new referendum as they met outside the Churchill War Rooms in Westminster, before marching to No10 to deliver the petitions on Monday morning. Conservative ex-cabinet minister Justine Greening said: “Britain has choices ahead of it. The key issue that we’re saying today, and that’s why we’re delivering a petition signed by a million people in this country, is that those choices are ones that should be made by the British people. “Parliament is gridlocked … This is no way to decide the most fundamental question facing Britain for the next 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years.”

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Again dependent on Europe. Reuters headline just now: “Britain can revoke Brexit unilaterally, EU court adviser says”. Court decision expected to take a few more weeks.

Europe’s Top Court To Rule On Whether The UK Can Cancel Brexit (CNBC)

The legal advisor for the European Union’s top court will publish his opinion Tuesday on whether the U.K. can cancel Brexit without asking anybody else for permission. A group of Scottish lawmakers have sought a legal ruling on if and how the U.K.’s request under Article 50 to leave the European Union could be unilaterally revoked before the Brexit deadline of March 29, 2019. Article 50 allows a country to trigger the process that takes them out of Europe’s political and economic union. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May invoked the exit clause in March 2017. Backed by a crowdfunding appeal, the case has been put together by a cross-party group of Scottish politicians, along with the high-profile barrister Jolyon Maugham QC.

The final ruling on whether Article 50 could be canceled without input from the EU’s other 27 countries will be granted by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). [..] The EU is worried that allowing a country to trigger Article 50 and then reverse the decision with no additional input could become a tool for those unsatisfied with the policies of Brussels. For the U.K. government and pro-Brexit politicians, there are likely concerns it could pave the way for a second referendum, giving the public an option of remaining in the EU.

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Macron is cornered. Many in France say he’s done.

‘Death Threats’ Halt France Protest Summit (BBC)

Protesters from France’s “gilet jaunes” (yellow vests) movement have pulled out of a meeting with PM Edouard Philippe scheduled for Tuesday. Some members of the group said they had received death threats from hardline protesters warning them not to enter into negotiations with the government. The PM is due to make a major statement possibly as early as Tuesday. The yellow vests oppose a controversial fuel tax but now reflect more widespread anger at the government. A spokeswoman for the movement, Jacline Mouraud, said: “The meeting today at Matignon [the prime minister’s office] has been cancelled in the face of threats.

“There are calls to prevent us from going. If I were to get on a train, I would run the risk of being recognised.” Three people have died since the unrest began and the resulting violence and vandalism – notably when statues were smashed at the Arc de Triomphe last Saturday – have been widely condemned. [..] The French president held an urgent security meeting on Monday. Ministers said that while no options had been ruled out, imposing a state of emergency had not been discussed during the talks. Mr Macron has also cancelled a planned trip to Serbia to concentrate on the crisis. Culture Minister Franck Riester told reporters that Mr Philippe would announce “a strong conciliatory gesture in the coming days”, without giving details. AFP news agency reports that the prime minister will announce a moratorium on fuel tax.

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Color me unsurprised.

Mueller Withheld “Details That Would Exonerate Trump” (ZH)

It appears that special counsel Robert Mueller withheld key information in its plea deal with Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, which would exonerate Trump and undermine the entire purpose of the special counsel, according to Paul Sperry of RealClearInvestigations. Cohen pleaded guilty last week to lying to the Senate intelligence committee in 2017 about the Trump Organization’s plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow – telling them under oath that negotiations he was conducting ended five months sooner than they actually did. Mueller, however, in his nine-page charging document filed with the court seen by Capitol Hill sources, failed to include the fact that Cohen had no direct contacts at the Kremlin – which undercuts any notion that the Trump campaign had a “backchannel” to Putin.

“On page 7 of the statement of criminal information filed against Cohen, which is separate from but related to the plea agreement, Mueller mentions that Cohen tried to email Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office on Jan. 14, 2016, and again on Jan. 16, 2016. But Mueller, who personally signed the document, omitted the fact that Cohen did not have any direct points of contact at the Kremlin, and had resorted to sending the emails to a general press mailbox. Sources who have seen these additional emails point out that this omitted information undercuts the idea of a “back channel” and thus the special counsel’s collusion case.” -RCI

Page 2 of the same charging document offers further evidence that there was no connection between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin; an August 2017 letter from Cohn to the Senate intelligence committee states that Trump “was never in contact with anyone about this [Moscow Project] proposal other than me,” an assertion which Mueller does not contest as false – which means that “prosecutors have tested its veracity through corroborating sources” and found it to be truthful, according to Sperry’s sources. Also unchallenged by Mueller is Cohen’s statement that he “ultimately determined that the proposal was not feasible and never agreed to make a trip to Russia.”

“Though Cohen may have lied to Congress about the dates,” one Hill investigator said, “it’s clear from personal messages he sent in 2015 and 2016 that the Trump Organization did not have formal lines of communication set up with Putin’s office or the Kremlin during the campaign. There was no secret ‘back channel.’” “So as far as collusion goes,” the source added, “the project is actually more exculpatory than incriminating for Trump and his campaign.” -RCI”

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Court document (PDF). For one thing, the Mueller team demands that Corsi keep any plea agreement secret and under seal, which would ‘criminally and civilly violate’ Corsi’s obligations as a securities dealer.

Jerome Corsi Legal Ethics Complaint Against Robert Mueller (Klayman)

On or about May 17, 2017, Robert Swan Mueller III (“Special Counsel Mueller”) was appointed as a Special Counsel for a limited purpose investigation as defined by the order of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. A copy of Robert Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel is attached as Exhibit A. Dr. Corsi has been investigated by Special Prosecutor Mueller and the attorneys whom he hired to serve as prosecutors under him [..] This Complaint concerns the politically-motivated criminal investigation of Dr. Corsi, an investigative journalist, whose activities are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Dr. Corsi has been threatened with immediate indictment by Mueller’s prosecutorial staff unless he testifies falsely against Roger Stone and/or President Donald Trump and his presidential campaign, among other false testimony. Dr. Corsi is placed in an impossible, no-win scenario and is in immediate legal jeopardy. If he were to lie under oath to testify as the Special Prosecutor and his prosecutorial staff demand, some later prosecutor could accuse Dr. Corsi of perjury and/or violating any plea deal. The Special Prosecutor and his prosecutorial staff have already accused Dr. Corsi of lying when Dr. Corsi is in fact telling the truth and told the truth. Either way, Dr. Corsi remains at risk of a perjury prosecution without the relief demanded. Dr. Corsi is being investigated for the “crime” of doing his job as a foreign policy and national security journalist.

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WikiLeaks: “Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno tried to sell Assange to U.S. in exchange for cash loans as early as May 2017..”

Manafort Tried to Broker Deal With Ecuador to Hand Assange Over to US (NYT)

In mid-May 2017, Paul Manafort, facing intensifying pressure to settle debts and pay mounting legal bills, flew to Ecuador to offer his services to a potentially lucrative new client — the country’s incoming president, Lenín Moreno. Mr. Manafort made the trip mainly to see if he could broker a deal under which China would invest in Ecuador’s power system, possibly yielding a fat commission for Mr. Manafort. But the talks turned to a diplomatic sticking point between the United States and Ecuador: the fate of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In at least two meetings with Mr. Manafort, Mr. Moreno and his aides discussed their desire to rid themselves of Mr. Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012, in exchange for concessions like debt relief from the United States, according to three people familiar with the talks, the details of which have not been previously reported.

They said Mr. Manafort suggested he could help negotiate a deal for the handover of Mr. Assange to the United States, which has long investigated Mr. Assange for the disclosure of secret documents and which later filed charges against him that have not yet been made public. Within a couple of days of Mr. Manafort’s final meeting in Quito, Robert S. Mueller III was appointed as the special counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters, and it quickly became clear that Mr. Manafort was a primary target. His talks with Ecuador ended without any deals. Mr. Moreno’s team increasingly looked to resolve their Assange problem by turning to Russia.

In the months after Mr. Moreno took office, the Ecuadorean government granted citizenship to Mr. Assange and secretly pursued a plan to provide him a diplomatic post in Russia as a way to free him from confinement in the embassy in London. (That plan was ultimately dropped in the face of opposition from British authorities, who have said they will arrest Mr. Assange if he leaves the embassy.)

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10 years after Detroit bailouts, Ford too is in trouble. It’s industry wide.

Ford’s Restructuring Could Slash More Jobs Than GM’s – Morgan Stanley (MW)

Ford Motor Co.’s restructuring would be “more extensive” than GM’s and could involve laying off tens of thousands of employees around the world, analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a note Monday. The analysts used Ford’s planned expenses as part of their calculations and compared them to General Motors’s expenses in the latter’s planned restructuring announced last week. Regardless, Ford is likely “next in line” in announcing layoffs as GM’s move “reflects an industrywide phenomenon” with potentially larger cuts, the analysts said. Ford last October announced an $11 billion restructuring plan, with a cash cost around $7 billion, but has not provided any details yet.

GM is spending as much as $ 2 billion of cash (up to $3.8 billion of total charges) to close seven plants and lay off about 14,000 workers. “Extrapolated to Ford’s planned expenditure, this could imply 20 plants and up to (50,000) employees,” the Morgan Stanley analysts said. “Our estimate of Ford’s restructuring plan involves as many as (25,000) head count reductions globally.” “A large portion” of Ford’s restructuring actions will likely be focused on Ford Europe, they said.

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Might as well move to public transit then?! The Chinese don’t have a car dependent society like the US, they can take a wider view.

Future Of Auto Industry Lies In Car Sharing – Chinese Execs (CNBC)

Several Chinese auto and transportation industry leaders are preparing for a future in which people share cars, rather than own them individually. “(The new generation), they’re not interested in the ownership. They’re probably more interested in accessibility,” Freeman Shen, founder and CEO of Chinese electric car company WM Motor, said last week at CNBC’s East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China. Technological advances in the last several years have aided the rise of multibillion-dollar ride-hailing giants such as Uber and Didi. They, in turn, have challenged the traditional taxi driver system and cultivated a habit of on-demand car services for tens of millions of users globally despite ongoing safety concerns.

Traditional automakers, many already trying to navigate rising interest in the electric vehicle market, are paying close attention to the ride sharing trend. Notably, General Motors is testing the waters with its own rental program. In China, Feng Xing Ya, general manager of Guangzhou-based automaker GAC, also said the future of the auto industry lies in car sharing. “(It’s) a challenge for the auto industry because people may buy fewer cars,” Feng said in Mandarin, according to a CNBC translation, during a Nov. 27 conference session. Without giving much detail on a plan, Feng said he favored a strategy of entering — rather than avoiding — the car sharing economy, which he said can still generate a lot of income for a company.

However, such a rapid change in consumer tastes could give start-ups an advantage. Shen, formerly a director at Fiat Chrysler and Chinese automaker Geely, said traditional automakers are too focused on selling cars rather than improving user experiences. He said his company’s focus on software and newness to the market means he has everything to gain and little to lose from a shift to ride sharing.

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It’s about much more than tariffs.

US-China Trade Talks: Forced Tech Transfers, Intellectual Property Theft (CNBC)

Two contentious issues were notably downplayed in the deal between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit over the weekend: China’s alleged practice of forcing technology transfers and apparent theft of intellectual property from American companies. U.S. concerns over forced technology transfers in China, intellectual property violations and cyber-crime issues will likely become a central focus going forward, as trade negotiations between both countries continue, experts told CNBC on Monday. However, they added, a resolution may not be immediately forthcoming. “It is interesting to note that IP/cyber was only mentioned in paragraph four of the White House statement, reflecting Trump’s focus on trade deficits,” Steven Okun at McLarty Associates told CNBC on Monday.

“Still, this does not mean this is not core to the U.S. tariffs.” [..] One expert, however, said that downplaying those issues could reflect the reality of what to expect from ongoing negotiations — that there are no quick fixes to the complexities of forced technology transfers and intellectual property violations. “I have argued for some time that there is no quick resolution to these issues, so there is no simple win for the Trump Administration here,” Adam Posen, president of the Peterson Institute of International Economics said. “The downplaying could therefore be a welcome dose of realism from the Trump Administration about what to expect from negotiations.” Or, it could represent a desire to calm things down with China, he added. “Either way, this issue is not going to go away,” Posen told CNBC by email.

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Try the brave face.

Bitcoin Drops 8% To Kick Off December (CNBC)

Bitcoin is kicking off the last month of 2018 with another downward drop. After ending November deeply in the red, the world’s largest cryptocurrency fell as much as 8 percent on Monday to a low of $3,790.96, according to data from CoinDesk. At this time last year, bitcoin was beginning its climb to almost $20,000 and ended last December up 40 percent. It entered its hot streak just after Thanksgiving last year, surging in price largely because retail investors were buying in. But the tail end of this year has been a different story: Bitcoin is now down 73 percent since the beginning of January. Twenty-four-hour trading volumes are down 56 percent since Jan. 1, while the entire cryptocurrency market capitalization has fallen 80 percent.

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World ‘leaders’, no matter how much lip service they pay, are the very last people you should trust to bring about change. The statement by UN secretary general António Guterres says all you need to know on that. You can’t buy your way out of this one, but that’s the only trick they’ve learned. And their power depends on that. They’ll announce trillions in investment, and matters will only get worse. This is all about the production side of things, aimed at keeping consumption levels the same. But those have to come down drastically.

David Attenborough: Collapse Of Civilisation Is On The Horizon (G.)

The collapse of civilisation and the natural world is on the horizon, Sir David Attenborough has told the UN climate change summit in Poland. The naturalist was chosen to represent the world’s people in addressing delegates of almost 200 nations who are in Katowice to negotiate how to turn pledges made in the 2015 Paris climate deal into reality. As part of the UN’s people’s seat initiative, messages were gathered from all over the world to inform Attenborough’s address on Monday. “Right now we are facing a manmade disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change,” he said. “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

“Do you not see what is going on around you?” asks one young man in a video message played as part of a montage to the delegates. “We are already seeing increased impacts of climate change in China,” says a young woman. Another woman, standing outside a building burned down by a wildfire, says: “This used to be my home.” Attenborough said: “The world’s people have spoken. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now. Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands.”

[..] António Guterres, the UN secretary general: “Climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late,” he said. “For many, people, regions and even countries this is already a matter of life or death.” Guterres said the two-week summit was the most important since Paris and that it must deliver firm funding commitments. “We have a collective responsibility to invest in averting global climate chaos,” he said. He highlighted the opportunities of the green economy: “Climate action offers a compelling path to transform our world for the better. Governments and investors need to bet on the green economy, not the grey.”

Read more …

Nov 272018
 
 November 27, 2018  Posted by at 10:34 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Otto Dix Ice drift 1940

Putin ‘Seriously Concerned’ After Ukraine Votes To Impose Martial Law (G.)
The Latest Ukronazi Provocation In The Kerch Strait (Saker)
Trump Says He Isn’t Happy With GM Decision To Shed 14,700 Jobs (G.)
GM Cuts 14,700 Jobs As Auto Bubble Begins To Burst (Colombo)
Tesla China Sales Plunge 70% In October (R.)
May’s Brexit Deal Sounds Like A ‘Great Deal For The EU’ – Trump (G.)
Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Could Cost UK £100bn Over A Decade (G.)
Shares Rally As Italy Edges Away From Brussels Budget Clash (G.)
Bitcoin Is Down More Than 80% From Last Year’s High (CNBC)
Human Rights Watch Asks Argentina To Probe MbS Over Yemen, Khashoggi (R.)
The ‘Sharing Economy’ Has Been Seized By Big Money (G.)
Who Will Fix Facebook? (Matt Taibbi)
Investors Go After Zuckerberg After Facebook Plunges 40% In 4 Months (CNBC)
Fighting Climate Change Can Be America’s New New Deal (R.)
The Detention and Isolation from the World of Julian Assange (Stefania Maurizi)

 

 

Here’s what this is about:

“Since the completion of the bridge over the Kerch strait, Moscow has demanded that Ukrainian ships not only give notice of their intention to transit the strait but request permission, a change that Kiev has rejected. According to western diplomats, the dispatch of the three ships was intended to assert freedom of navigation..”

Russia came close to losing its only warm water ports in early 2014. They won’t let that happen again.

Putin ‘Seriously Concerned’ After Ukraine Votes To Impose Martial Law (G.)

Russian president Vladimir Putin has expressed “serious concern” over Ukraine’s decision to impose martial law, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, as the simmering confrontation between Moscow and Kiev sparked a new global crisis. In a phone conversation with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin also said he hoped the German leader could intervene to rein in Kiev. Putin “expressed a serious concern over Kiev’s decision to put its armed forces on alert and to introduce martial law,” the Kremlin said in a statement following the call. He also said he hoped “Berlin could influence the Ukrainian authorities to dissuade them from further reckless acts,” it added.

The political efforts came after Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian vessels and their crews in the Kerch strait separating Crimea from the Russian mainland. Ukrainian MPs responded by voting to impose martial law. Six Ukrainians were reported to be injured, one of them critically, in the clash at the mouth of the Sea of Azov, where Russia has been building up its naval presence and seeking to restrict Ukrainian access since completing a bridge across the strait in May. The Ukrainian government released video footage of one of its ships being rammed by a Russian vessel. The incident sparked an emergency debate at the UN security council, where the Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors accused each other’s governments of seeking to trigger a conflict to deflect from their own domestic unpopularity.

The Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, Volodymyr Yelchenko, said the Russian naval authorities had been notified that the three Ukrainian vessels – two cutters and a tugboat – wished to pass through the strait, and had been waiting to hear confirmation on Sunday morning when the vessels were attacked. [..] Since the completion of the bridge over the Kerch strait, Moscow has demanded that Ukrainian ships not only give notice of their intention to transit the strait but request permission, a change that Kiev has rejected. According to western diplomats, the dispatch of the three ships was intended to assert freedom of navigation and also to reinforce a very small Ukrainian naval presence in the Sea of Azov.

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“..Considering the current single-digit popularity rating of Poroshenko and the fact that he has no chance in hell to be re-elected ..”

The Latest Ukronazi Provocation In The Kerch Strait (Saker)

Second, let me give you the single most important element to understand what is (and what is not) taking place: the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea are, in military terms, “Russian lakes”. That means that Russia has the means to destroy any and all ships (or aircraft) over these two seas: on the Black Sea the life expectancy of any intruder would be measured in minutes, on the Sea of Azov in seconds. Let me repeat here that any and all ships deployed in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov are detected and tracked by Russia and they can all easily be destroyed. The Russians know that, the Ukrainians know that and, of course, the Empire knows that. Again, keep that in mind when trying to make sense of what happened.

Third, whether the waters in which the incident happened belong to Russia or not is entirely irrelevant. Everybody knows that Russia considers these waters are belonging to her and those disagreeing with this have plenty of options to express their disagreement and challenge the legality of the Russian position. Trying to break through waters Russia considers her own with several armed military vessels is simply irresponsible and, frankly, plain stupid (especially considering point #2 above). That is simply not how civilized nations behave (and there are plenty of contested waters on our planet).

Fourth, one should not be too quick in dismissing Poroshenko’s latest plan to introduce martial law for the next 60 days. Albeit Poroshenko himself declared that this mobilization does not mean that the Ukronazi regime wants war with Russia, the fact is that the first-line reserves will be mobilized. This is important because the situation resulting from the introduction to martial law could be used to covertly increase the number of soldiers available for an attack on Novorussia or, God forbid, Russia herself. In fact, Poroshenko also officially appealed to the veterans of the war against Novorussia to be ready for deployment.

[..] Considering the current single-digit popularity rating of Poroshenko and the fact that he has no chance in hell to be re-elected it is pretty darn obvious of why the Ukronazi regime in Kiev decided to trigger yet another crisis and then blame Russia for it. The very last thing Russia needs is yet another crisis, especially not before a possible Putin-Trump meeting at the G20 Buenos Aires summit later this month. In fact, Ukrainian bloggers immediately saw this latest provocation as an attempt to scrap upcoming elections.

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Remind me, what did it cost to keep GM alive?

Trump Says He Isn’t Happy With GM Decision To Shed 14,700 Jobs (G.)

General Motors has announced it will halt production at five North American facilities and cut 14,700 jobs as it deals with slowing sedan sales and the impact of Donald Trump’s tariffs. More than 6,000 blue-collar jobs will be hit by GM plans to stop production at a car plant in Canada and two more in Ohio and Michigan. Two transmission plants in the US will also be mothballed, putting the future of those plants in doubt. The cuts will also include 15% of GM’s 54,000 white-collar workforce, about 8,100 people, and come as 18,000 GM workers have been asked to accept voluntary redundancy. Trump, who won over voters in many of the states affected by GM’s decision by promising to save their jobs, told reporters he was not happy with the decision.

“We don’t like it,” he told reporters. “This country has done a lot for General Motors. They better get back to Ohio, and soon.” Mary Barra, GM’s chief executive, was due to meet with top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow later on Monday. “We are taking this action now while the company and the economy are strong to keep ahead of changing market conditions,” Barra said in a conference call. GM’s share price rose 5.5% on the news. The car plants – Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Oshawa Assembly – all build slow-selling cars. Trump held a rally close to the Lordstown plant in July and told workers not to sell their homes because “jobs are coming back”.

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Fiat/Chrysler increased sales (but its CEO died recently), Ford and GM lost big.

GM Cuts 14,700 Jobs As Auto Bubble Begins To Burst (Colombo)

On Monday, General Motors announced that it will cut 14,700 jobs or 15% of its North American workforce in addition to closing three assembly plants and two other facilities: While GM’s CEO Mary Barra is spinning this move as a positive, I am highly suspicious because it is taking place at the same time that global auto sales are plunging (see chart below). Ford also said recently that it will cut more than 20,000 jobs across the globe as part of an $11 billion restructuring.

The reason why I criticized President Trump’s excitement about Ford’s decision was because I’ve been warning (then and now) that the U.S. automobile sales boom was driven by a debt bubble that would end very badly. Since 2010, total outstanding U.S. auto loans increased by $445 billion or 64% to over $1.1 trillion as Americans took advantage of record low interest rates to finance automobile purchases.

U.S. Auto Loans

After the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates to record low levels and held them there for a record length of time, making it much cheaper to take out loans of all kinds. Notice how the total outstanding U.S. auto loans in the chart above start to soar shortly after interest rates were cut to record lows (based on the chart below)? That is certainly no coincidence. Low interest rates lead to borrowing booms that end when interest rates go back up, which is what has been happening over the last few years. Rising interest rates are threatening the U.S. automobile sales and loan bubble and will eventually cause its popping.

Interest Rates

It’s entirely possible that GM is aware of the risk of a more serious auto sales downturn ahead as higher interest rates start to bite, which is why they decided to cut jobs and close the plants before it’s too late. If that’s the case, it’s a smart move on CEO Mary Barra’s part.

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70% may seem a lot, but the remaining 30% consisted of just 211 cars. Non-story.

Tesla China Sales Plunge 70% In October (R.)

Tesla Inc’s vehicle sales in China sank 70 percent last month from a year ago, the country’s passenger car association told Reuters on Tuesday, underscoring how the Sino-U.S. trade war is hurting the U.S. electric carmaker. An official from China Passenger Car Association said data from the industry body showed Tesla sold just 211 cars in the world’s largest auto market in October. The electric carmaker, which imports all the cars it sells in China, said in October that tariff hikes on auto imports were hammering its sales there. In July, Beijing raised tariffs on imports of U.S. autos to 40 percent amid a worsening trade standoff with the United States. While so-called new-energy vehicle sales have continued to climb in China, wider auto sales have slowed sharply since the middle of the year, taking the market to the brink of its first annual sales contraction in almost three decades.

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First vote is December 11, the second around Christmas time.

May’s Brexit Deal Sounds Like A ‘Great Deal For The EU’ – Trump (G.)

Donald Trump has delivered a weighty blow to Theresa May’s hopes of steering her Brexit deal through parliament, saying it sounded like a “great deal for the EU” that would stop the UK trading with the US. Trump was speaking to reporters outside the White House when he was asked about the deal May struck with the EU’s other 27 heads of state and government on Sunday. “Sounds like a great deal for the EU,” the president said. “I think we have to take a look at, seriously, whether or not the UK is allowed to trade. Because, you know, right now, if you look at the deal, they may not be able to trade with us … I don’t think that the prime minister meant that. And, hopefully, she’ll be able to do something about that.”

Trump’s intervention caught Downing Street off-guard and is likely to weaken May’s hand at a time when she is seeking to get the deal approved by parliament, where she faces determined resistance from 89 Tory backbenchers who argue the deal does not secure sufficient freedom of action for the UK. A vote is due on 11 December after a five-day debate. A No 10 spokesman argued that Trump’s take on Brexit was wrong: “The political declaration we have agreed with the EU is very clear we will have an independent trade policy so that the UK can sign trade deals with countries around the world – including with the US.”

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Insert any number you can think of. And then realize that people actually get paid to issue these fully hollow reports.

Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Could Cost UK £100bn Over A Decade (G.)

Theresa May’s Brexit deal is expected to cost the UK economy as much as £100bn over the next decade compared with remaining in the EU, according to one of the country’s leading economic thinktanks. An analysis of the prime minister’s EU withdrawal agreement from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggested that by 2030, Britain would lose GDP growth equivalent to the annual economic output of Wales. The study, commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum, found GDP over the long term was forecast to be about 4% less than it would have been had the UK stayed in the EU.

It comes as the government prepares to publish its own analysis of the impact of the deal this week, possibly on Wednesday, to help inform MPs before they vote on whether to back it in parliament. NIESR said the cost to the economy of the prime minister’s deal would be the equivalent of losing about £1,000 a year for every person in the UK. Garry Young, the director of macroeconomic modelling and forecasting at NIESR, said: “Leaving the EU will make it more costly for the UK to trade with a large market on our doorstep and inevitably will have economic costs.” The NIESR report found May’s deal would not be as damaging for the economy as Britain leaving the EU without an agreement, which would cost the economy about £140bn over the next 10 years.

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The emptiness of the rumors that drive this stuff is deafening. These are not markets.

Shares Rally As Italy Edges Away From Brussels Budget Clash (G.)

Italy has shown the first signs of backing away from a budget clash with Brussels, sparking a share rally in Rome. On a day when equities rose across the globe, tentative signs of progress in negotiations between the European commission and Italy’s populist leaders resulted in the key barometer of the Italian stock market rising by almost 3%. Bank shares – seen as particularly vulnerable in the event of a loss of confidence in Italian assets triggered by a prolonged confrontation – were up by 5% on Monday. Reports that Rome was willing to cut its budget deficit from 2.4% of national output to as low as 2% also led to a fall in the interest rate the Italian government pays to borrow on the world’s financial markets.

Italy’s main stock market index – the FTSE MIB – was the best performer of the leading European bourses on a day of across-the-board gains, closing 2.8% higher. Frankfurt’s Dax index rose by 1.45%, while the City’s FTSE 100 ended the day up by 1.2% at 7,036. After sharp falls last week, shares rallied on Wall Street and the Dow Jones industrial average ended Monday trading 1.5% higher amid signs of strong Black Friday spending by American consumers. Ever since it came to power in the spring, Italy’s coalition government has been on a collision course with the commission over its plans to stimulate growth by running a bigger budget deficit. The proposed move would violate the eurozone’s fiscal rules and in the past few weeks investors have become increasingly more nervous about Italy’s public finances.

The concessions hinted at by the Rome government would go nowhere near far enough to meet the demands made by Brussels, however. A proposed budget deficit of 2% of GDP would still leave open the possibility of Rome being fined by the commission’s excessive deficit procedure rules but even a partial climbdown was enough to trigger a fall in 10-year Italian bond yields – a key benchmark of official borrowing costs. The spread between the interest rate Italy pays and the much cheaper interest rates for Germany fell to its lowest in more than a month.

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Nice try, but Bitcoin no longer is what it was 10 years ago at birth. So fluctuations aren’t either. Who’s going to put serious money into something that loses 81% in less than a year?

Bitcoin Is Down More Than 80% From Last Year’s High (CNBC)

Bitcoin is only 10 years old, but the cryptocurrency has already seen its fair share of bear markets. The most recent one, which some are dubbing “crypto winter,” worsened over the weekend. The cryptocurrency slid below $3,500 for the first time in 14 months, then later recovered toward the $3,900 level by Monday, according to data from CoinDesk. That brings its decline from last year’s peak to more than 81 percent. That loss isn’t the worst bitcoin has suffered, but the world’s largest digital currency is getting close. Bitcoin’s current level is still well above the fraction of a penny price where it first began trading in 2010— and its early investors are mostly wealthier because of it. By June 2011, it had risen to a new all-time high of roughly $30. But by that November, the cryptocurrency was back below $2.50, tumbling more than 92 percent from their high.

That year, volume was still low and the dozens of now popular trading exchanges like Coinbase didn’t exist yet. Tokyo-based Mt. Gox was handling roughly 70 percent of all cryptocurrency transactions in the world. [..] Roughly $700 billion has been wiped off cryptocurrencies’ global market capitalization since the high, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com. The price of one bitcoin has dropped more than $15,000 since December. Bitcoin skyrocketed to current its all-time high of almost $20,000 in December 2017. Coinbase’s CEO said this summer that at the height of that boom, the exchange was opening up 50,000 new accounts a day, for mostly retail investors. The all-time high also came ahead of the availability of bitcoin futures. Those products have also fallen. On Monday, they dropped to their lowest levels since launching.

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Not going to happen. Unless they find a vigilante prosecutor.

Human Rights Watch Asks Argentina To Probe MbS Over Yemen, Khashoggi (R.)

Human Rights Watch has asked Argentina to use a war crimes clause in its constitution to investigate the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in possible crimes against humanity in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Argentina’s constitution recognizes universal jurisdiction for war crimes and torture, meaning judicial authorities can investigate and prosecute those crimes no matter where they were committed. Human Rights Watch said its submission was sent to federal judge Ariel Lijo.

HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson said the international rights group took the case to Argentina because Prince Mohammed, also known as MbS, will attend the opening of the G20 summit this week in Buenos Aires. “We submitted this info to Argentine prosecutors with the hopes they will investigate MbS’s complicity and responsibility for possible war crimes in Yemen, as well as the torture of civilians, including Jamal Khashoggi,” Whitson told Reuters. Argentine media cited judicial sources as saying it was extremely unlikely that the authorities would take up the case against the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

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Gee, what a surprise. Downplaying the economic losses to communities caused by Airbnb, Uber and Amazon doesn’t help.

The ‘Sharing Economy’ Has Been Seized By Big Money (G.)

[..] The year 2018 is to the sharing economy what 2006 was to user-generated content: it can only go downhill. Platforms won’t disappear; far from it. However, the initial lofty objectives that legitimised their activities will give way to the prosaic and occasionally violent imperative imposed by the iron law of competition: the quest for profitability. Uber may help some make ends meet through occasional driving gigs. The need to achieve profitability, however, means that it will have no qualms about ditching its drivers for fully automated vehicles; a company that lost $4.5 bn in 2017 alone would be silly to do otherwise.

Airbnb may have presented itself as an ally of the middle classes against entrenched economic interests. But the drive for profits already forces it to partner with the likes of Brookfield Property Partners, one of the world’s largest real-estate firms, to develop Airbnb-branded hotel-like residencies, often by purchasing and converting existing apartment blocks. Few entrenched interests – save, perhaps, for the tenants who see their apartment blocks become Airbnb-run hotels – get disrupted here. Given the huge sums involved, the most likely outcome of current battles in sectors such as ride-sharing will be more centralisation, with just one or two platforms controlling each region. Uber’s surrender – in China, India and Russia, as well as much of southeast Asia and Latin America – to local players, many of them also backed by Saudi money, suggests as much.

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What ails the Automatic Earth: “Small blogs cannot exist without Facebook..”. But Facebook shut down access to our account, and thousands of ‘friends’, without one single word of explanation. So what now? Set up a new accoint, only for them do to it again? Are you beginning to see what’s wrong here?

Who Will Fix Facebook? (Matt Taibbi)

James Reader tried to do everything right. No fake news, no sloppiness, no spam. The 54-year-old teamster and San Diego resident with a progressive bent had a history of activism, but itched to get more involved. So a few years ago he tinkered with a blog called the Everlasting GOP Stoppers, and it did well enough to persuade some friends and investors to take a bigger step. “We got together and became Reverb Press,” he recalls. “I didn’t start it for the money. I did it because I care about my country.”

[..] The site took off, especially during the 2015-16 election season. “We had 30 writers contributing, four full-time editors and an IT worker,” Reader says. “At our peak, we had 4 million to 5 million unique visitors a month.” Through Facebook and social media, Reader estimates, as many as 13 million people a week were seeing Reverb stories. Much of the content was aggregated or had titles like “36 Scariest Quotes From the 2015 GOP Presidential Debates.” But Reverb also did original reporting, like a first-person account of Catholic Church abuse in New Jersey that was picked up by mainstream outlets.

Like most independent publishers, he relied heavily on a Facebook page to drive traffic and used Facebook tools to help boost his readership. “We were pouring between $2,000 and $6,000 a month into Facebook, to grow the page,” Reader says. “We tried to do everything they suggested.” Publishers like Reader jumped to it every time Facebook sent hints about changes to its algorithm. When it emphasized video, he moved to develop video content. Reader viewed Facebook as an essential tool for independent media. “Small blogs cannot exist without Facebook,” he says. “At the same time, it was really small blogs that helped Facebook explode in the first place.”

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The investors are not the answer to the problem. The links to secret services are.

Investors Go After Zuckerberg After Facebook Plunges 40% In 4 Months (CNBC)

It’s been a brutal few months for Facebook investors. Shares of the social network have tumbled almost 40 percent since reaching a high on July 25, even after a modest rebound on Monday. The company has faced a barrage of attacks related to the numerous ways the platform has been manipulated to spread false information and for leadership’s insufficient and controversial response, which the New York Times detailed in a lengthy investigative report earlier this month. Some of the almost $200 billion of market value that’s been wiped out since the stock’s peak can be attributed to a broader sell-off in tech stocks, which have plummeted since August amid concern about a slowdown in global economic growth and President Trump’s threats of a trade war.

But Facebook’s slide started well before that and the stock has badly underperformed the Nasdaq and its big-tech peers this year. The problem for Facebook is in finding a way out. Facebook’s business model, which relies on a growing number of users to share more information and for advertisers to continue to pay up to reach them, starts to look shaky as trust in the network deteriorates. Yet at the top of the company, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, 34, has so much ownership and control that the board and shareholders have a very limited ability to exert any influence.

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Might as well give up on people ever understanding that climate change is not an economic problem, and can therefore not be solved by economics.

Whoever links the demise of the planet to solutions offered by the same money that is causing it, is blind.

Fighting Climate Change Can Be America’s New New Deal (R.)

Fighting climate change can be America’s new New Deal. The effects of global warming on virtually all aspects of U.S. society could be devastating, according to a government report released on Friday. Rather than seize on its findings as a way to boost American innovation, economic output and jobs, President Donald Trump’s administration snuck the report out late on Friday after Thanksgiving – and then played down its devastating findings. That’s a big missed opportunity Unchecked, climate change could lop as much as a tenth off the nation’s GDP by the end of the century, according to the authors of Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

That overall figure doubtless underestimates regional variances. The overall cost of the wildfires that hit California in 2017, for example, amounted to 6.5 percent of the Golden State’s economic output, estimated AccuWeather. Factor in everything from water scarcity to pollution to energy production to human health, and in some parts of the country the economic impact could be far worse. The cost in financial and human terms drops by up to 70 percent if greenhouse-gas emissions peak before the middle of the century and then drop, the report says. It requires investment, of course – which some Republicans like Senator Mike Lee deride as being harmful to the economy.

That’s clearly a ruse. Fully decarbonizing by 2050 the world’s cement, steel, plastics, trucking, shipping and aviation sectors could require investing some 0.5 percent of global GDP a year using mostly existing technology, according to the Energy Transitions Commission. But it would bring efficiencies, employment and advances in technology that could more than offset the costs. Similarly, modernizing aging infrastructure has multiple benefits. Investing the $800 billion or so needed to upgrade America’s water systems could generate an almost 300 percent return, according to the U.S. Water Alliance – and generate 1.3 million jobs.

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Stefania Maurizi gained access to Assange recently. The cat is gone. So sorry for Julian. Maurizi makes a point that everyone should make: the role of the UK press. I wrote earlier this year about a series of smear pieces the Guardian published. Nothing has changed. These are the same folk that shout out about freedom of the press when Trump is concerned. They’re at the very least no better than he is.

The Detention and Isolation from the World of Julian Assange (Stefania Maurizi)

They are destroying him slowly. They are doing it through an indefinite detention which has been going on for the last eight years with no end in sight. Julian Assange has become one of the most widely known icons of freedom of the press and the struggle against state secrecy. [..] After eight months of failed attempts, la Repubblica was finally able to visit the WikiLeaks founder in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after the current Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno had cut him off from all contacts last March with the exception of his lawyers.

[..] The friendly atmosphere we had always experienced during our visits over the last six years is now gone. The Ecuadorian diplomat who had always supported the WikiLeaks founder, Fidel Narvaez, has been removed. Not even the cat is there anymore. With its funny striped tie and ambushes on the ornaments of the Christmas tree at the embassy’s entrance, the cat had helped defuse tension inside the building for years. But Assange has preferred to spare the cat an isolation which has become unbearable and allow it a healthier life.

The news that surfaced last week, revealing the existence of criminal charges against Julian Assange by the US authorities, charges which were supposed to remain under seal until it was impossible for Assange to evade arrest, vindicates what Assange has feared for years. He is now waiting for the charges to be unsealed, but in the meantime he is silent: the risk that he could suddenly lose Ecuador’s protection due to some public statement is not improbable these days. Two years ago, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) established that the UK (at that time Sweden as well) is responsible for detaining Assange arbitrarily: it should free him and compensate him. London did not welcome this decision: they tried to appeal it, but lost the appeal and since then have simply ignored it.

The British media has never called on the UK authorities to comply with the UN body’s decision, quite the opposite: some even lashed out against the UN body. If Julian Assange ends up in the hands of the UK authorities in the upcoming months and the US asks for his extradition, where will the British medial stand? Never before has the life of the WikiLeaks founder been so crucially in the hands of public opinion and in the hands of one of the few powers whose mission it is to reign in the worst instincts of our governments: the press.

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Nov 142015
 
 November 14, 2015  Posted by at 10:11 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Unknown Paris 1900

Calm Broken as US Stocks Post Worst Week Since August Selloff (Bloomberg)
Nomi Prins Warns: “It’s All Coming To An End” (KWN)
Albert Edwards: The Global Economy Will Be Thrown Into Chaos (ZH)
Ten Ex-Deutsche Bank, Barclays Traders Charged in Euribor Probe (Bloomberg)
3 Accused Euribor Rate Manipulators Members of ECB Crisis Focus Group (ZH)
Central Bankers Are Heroes: OECD’s Gurria (CNBC)
China’s Yuan Takes Leap Toward Joining IMF Currency Basket (Reuters)
VW Said to Seek as Much as €20 Billion in Bridge Funds (Bloomberg)
How GM’s Bailout Became China’s Bonanza (Bloomberg)
Portuguese Revolution Falls Far Short (Paul Craig Roberts)
EU Commissioner’s Dire Warning: “The Only Alternative To Europe Is War” (ZH)
Greece Says Turkey Turning Blind Eye To Refugee Smugglers (AFP)
Greece Warns EU To Hold Turkey To Account On Refugee Crisis (Kath.)
World’s Largest Ocean Cleanup Operation One Step Closer To Launch (Guardian)
Monstrous Wave Of Paris Attacks Underlines France’s Year Of Terror (RT)
Let Mercy For Refugees Be The Response To The Paris Attacks (Margaret Corvid)
The Annihilation Of Nature (Woods Inst.)

People still pretending there are functioning markets.

Calm Broken as US Stocks Post Worst Week Since August Selloff (Bloomberg)

You have to go back to August’s selloff to find a week as bad as this one for U.S. equities. Catalysts that drove the S&P 500’s 12% summer tumble, from interest rate dread to a commodities rout, surfaced again after being sidelined during October’s surge. Signs of slowing growth from China to Europe rekindled concern that weakness could spread to America as the Federal Reserve prepares to tighten monetary policy. While equities are nowhere near their August lows, the weekly slump raised concern that the S&P 500’s six-week rally went too far, too fast. Volatility jumped after an October lull, with a measure of price swings surging 40%.

Bank of America says shares are more likely to decline before New Year’s amid weak consumer earnings and the specter of higher borrowing costs. “For the next month and a half I think there may be more downside than upside risk to stocks,” Savita Subramanian at Bank of America said by phone. “The market is going to be more skittish about seeing the first Fed rate hike. We’re not going to get there without a little more volatility.” The S&P 500 Index fell 3.6% in the five days, sliding below its average price for the past 100 days for the first time in three weeks. The decline snapped a run of six weekly gains, the longest rally of the year that included an 8.3% surge in October.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index jumped above 20 for the first time since August, when it touched a four-year high. For Subramanian, who in October lowered her year-end target for the S&P 500 to 2,000 from 2,100, the list of worries is tallying up. Weak corporate earnings and the prospect for higher rates will keep a lid on gains through the remainder of the year, she said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Earnings are not coming in particularly great for sectors like consumer stocks, and on top of that you’ve got the Fed in December,” Subramanian, head of U.S. equity and quantitative strategy, said by phone. “Those all kind of conspire against near-term gains.”

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“And so that keeps the artificial game in play through the middle or fall of 2016..”

Nomi Prins Warns: “It’s All Coming To An End” (KWN)

Today Nomi Prins, the keynote speaker who recently addressed the Federal Reserve, IMF and the World Bank, warned King World News “It’s all coming to an end.” Eric King: “Nomi, we went through a round of terror in 2008, and certainly China just went through that again recently when their stock market crashed along with the emerging markets, but when does this whole global Ponzi scheme finally come unraveled?” Nomi Prins: “We are seeing small unravelings all the time. Brazil is doing badly, Mexico is struggling, currencies around the world relative to the dollar are hurting, which means relationships of imports to exports and money coming into those countries are hurting.

China has had problems but its central bank has been big enough and strong enough to boost it at least somewhat back up again. The United States is in complete denial in terms of what the economic indicators are said to be vs what they actually are and how the markets themselves are being continually buoyed either by the Federal Reserve or the Fed’s associations with some of the big banks in terms of continuing to buy Treasury bonds… “The ECB is still on a mission, and as of the November 12th announcement from Mario Draghi, an even stronger mission to continue to infuse those markets with artificial money and perhaps even enhance their quantitive easing program. So you ask, ‘When is this all coming to an end?’

It is all coming to an end, but you have all these actors trying to prop up different pieces of it (the global financial system) and so that’s why there is all this enhanced volatility and you have so many ups and downs (in global markets). (The end will come) when there are no more creative concepts on the part of these central banks to provide the artificial stimulus to the markets. And that could be the middle or the end of 2016, only because one big central bank in play has already committed to doing their part of it (with enhanced stimulus). And so that’s why we continue to have enhanced volatility to the downside in global markets that is also met with intervention, which is unprecedented. But it (the stimulus) does exist and we have to recognize that, as unprecedented and bizarre as it is, and there are indications that it will continue.

And so that keeps the artificial game in play through the middle or fall of 2016. But in the core of markets and economies things are not stable, which is why all of these (volatile) movements are happening. If anything was stable for real, the Federal Reserve would have raised rates years ago, the ECB wouldn’t have needed to come up with another round of quantitative easing, the People’s Bank of China wouldn’t need to reduce the reserve requirements to their financial institutions in order to give them more money to play with — none of that would be happening. So we are in a state of deterioration. The timing of an eventual implosion has to do with when the big banks have nothing left to counteract the artificial markets coming apart that they themselves have created.

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“The rotten fruit of the Fed’s seemingly innocuous inaction will now be clear to onlookers as it is ripped to shreds on the battlefield by the powerful credit monster.”

Albert Edwards: The Global Economy Will Be Thrown Into Chaos (ZH)

SocGen’s permarealist, Albert Edwards, has been the one person who for the past decade has firmly held the belief that a “deflationary Ice Age” is upon the world – courtesy of an unmanageable debt load – no matter what central banks do. There is, of course, one way to short circuit said Ice Age, and it involves paradropping money in an act of terminal fiat desperation (the outcome is always hyperinflation) onto the general population, something which as we reported last Friday is already in the works courtesy of first Adair Turner and the IMF, and soon all other “very serious people”.

Keep an eye on Japan as this is where said paradropping will be attempted first as Ben Bernanke suggested back in 2003 when he said to “consider for example a tax cut for households and businesses that is explicitly coupled with incremental Bank of Japan purchases of government debt – so that the tax cut is in effect financed by money creation.” But before we get there, here is a snapshot of where, according to Edwards, we are now and why “there” is getting very close. In his latest note he says, quite simply, that it is now too late to put the “Orc-like monster” of excess debt and declining cash flows back in the bottle, and why “the global economy will be thrown into chaos.”

The deeply held wish of central bankers not to de-rail the fragile economic recovery is on display for all to see as they grasp at the slightest excuse for their continued inaction. The UK’s central bank governor, Mark Carney, exceeded all dovish expectations recently in his latest rate flip-floppery. But what is this? The Fed has finally summoned up its courage and looks set to raise rates next month. It is, however, already too late. Having delayed way beyond the point when it might typically have raised rates in previous cycles, it has allowed an Orc-like monster to incubate, hatch and emerge into the sunlight, snarling and ready to do battle.

Free Fed money has led to an unprecedented corporate credit binge of excess spending, especially on share buybacks. This is even bigger than it was at the time of the 2000 technology and telecom bubble. The rotten fruit of the Fed’s seemingly innocuous inaction will now be clear to onlookers as it is ripped to shreds on the battlefield by the powerful credit monster. The global economy will be thrown into chaos.

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And each single one is named…

Ten Ex-Deutsche Bank, Barclays Traders Charged in Euribor Probe (Bloomberg)

U.K. prosecutors charged 10 former Deutsche Bank and Barclays employees with manipulating a benchmark interest rate, including high-profile trader Christian Bittar, with an 11th facing indictment as soon as next week. Six traders from Deutsche Bank employees and four from Barclays were charged with conspiracy to manipulate the Euribor benchmark, the Serious Fraud Office said in a statement Friday. Another trader listed anonymously in court documents may also be charged, according to three people familiar with the case. Alongside Bittar, those linked to Deutsche Bank are Andreas Hauschild, Joerg Vogt, Ardalan Gharagozlou, Achim Kraemer and Kai-Uwe Kappauf. Former Barclays employees Colin Bermingham, Carlo Palombo, Philippe Moryoussef and Sisse Bohart also face charges.

The SFO won the first conviction by trial tied to benchmark manipulation in August, when former UBS trader Tom Hayes was found guilty of rigging the London interbank offered rate and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Banks and other financial institutions have paid about $9 billion in fines tied to Libor and other key rates. One other person has pleaded guilty in the Libor probe. Lawyers for Bittar, Hauschild and Moryoussef said they will contest the allegations. Lawyers for the other eight either declined to comment or didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The nine men and one woman are scheduled to appear in a London magistrates court on Jan. 11.

Documents distributed in the case have listed an unidentified 11th trader that will be charged, according to people familiar with the matter who declined to be named because the prosecution isn’t public. The trader could be charged as soon as next week, one of the people said. Other than Bermingham, the 10 defendants named by the SFO all live outside Britain, according to an SFO spokeswoman. Bittar and Moryoussef live in Singapore, Bohart in Denmark and Palombo in the U.S. and Italy, while the remaining five are in Germany. All have been notified they face charges. No extradition requests have been made and all appearances will be voluntary at present, the SFO said.

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The riggers work for the ECB! Oh, what a tangled web.

3 Accused Euribor Rate Manipulators Members of ECB Crisis Focus Group (ZH)

[..] we find out that the ECB – the same ECB where policymakers like to meet with banks and asset managers before major policy meetings, actually had three of the traders accused of gaming Euribor by Britain’s Serious Fraud Office on Friday in a group that helped the the bank craft its response to the financial crisis! From Reuters:

The documents on the ECB website show that former Barclays euro money market desk head Colin Bermingham and Joerg Vogt and Ardalan Gharagozlou from Deutsche Bank – three of 10 people charged by the SFO on Friday – were part of the central bank’s Money Market Contact Group at the height of the crisis. The group regularly met and held conference calls as the central bank scrambled to stabilise markets that were threatening to push debt-strained Greece, Portugal, Ireland and even Italy and Spain out of the euro in 2010 and 2011.

Amusingly, the 10 people charged include Deutsche Bank’s Christian Bittar who can’t seem to get away from his title as rate rigger par excellence (although that’s not the term Anshu Jain used, that’s the spirit of a conversation the ex-Deutsche CEO once had about Bittar with a colleague back in the good ol’ days). Here’s Bloomberg:

U.K. prosecutors charged 10 former Deutsche Bank and Barclays employees with manipulating a benchmark interest rate, including high-profile trader Christian Bittar, with an 11th facing indictment as soon as next week. Six traders from Deutsche Bank employees and four from Barclays were charged with conspiracy to manipulate the Euribor benchmark, the Serious Fraud Office said in a statement Friday. Another trader listed anonymously in court documents may also be charged, according to three people familiar with the case. Alongside Bittar, those linked to Deutsche Bank are Andreas Hauschild, Joerg Vogt, Ardalan Gharagozlou, Achim Kraemer and Kai-Uwe Kappauf. Former Barclays employees Colin Bermingham, Carlo Palombo, Philippe Moryoussef and Sisse Bohart also face charges.

Ok, so the ECB was regularly communicating with three traders who are now charged with manipulating Euribor. Here’s what Francesco Papadia, head of market operations at the ECB during the financial and euro zone debt crises has to say about the group: “They helped understand what was going on beyond what you see on the screens.” If you follow financial markets and that doesn’t strike you as hilarious, then check your pulse. That is, we bet they did “help the ECB what was going on behind the screen”, after all, they were the ones colluding to fix the market! In any case, we’ll have to see what the time frames were here and if there was any overlap between when the allegations stem from and when this ECB committee operated (it’s probably a better bet that the manipulation took place before the euro debt crisis), but in any case, we’ll close with the following amusing quote for now: “The ECB plays no role in the setting of the Euribor rate,” the ECB said in a statement. Are you guys sure about that?…

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The lunatics and the asylum: “We’ve got to get all cylinders of the growth engine firing again. There is no room for complacency..”

Central Bankers Are Heroes: OECD’s Gurria (CNBC)

“Super” Mario Draghi’s nickname is very much justified, according to Angel Gurria, the secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), who has called on governments to do more to tackle the global growth slowdown. “Central bankers have been the heroes of this story since this financial and economic crisis hit in 2008, but the problem is they have run out of room. It’s time for the governments,” Gurria told CNBC Friday. The most influential central banks in the Western world, the U.S. Federal Reserve, European Central Bank (of which Draghi is president) and the Bank of England, have been running ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing programs for years in some cases, to try and handle the fallout from the credit crisis.

With the Fed likely to become the first to signal a return to more normal monetary policy by raising rates, potentially as early as December, Gurria gave the central bank his blessing – although he said it should have started sooner. On Monday, the OECD cut its forecast for global growth to around 2.9% this year – well below its long-term average – citing a further sharp downturn in emerging market economies and world trade. Gurria, who was speaking at the G-20 summit of the heads of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, said: “The issue is about getting growth and trade back. It’s very ominous that trade is growing at about 2% when the world economy is growing at 2.9%. There’s only five years in the last 50 at which trade has grown at a rate lower than the world GDP and there has always been a recession following that.” “We’ve got to get all cylinders of the growth engine firing again. There is no room for complacency,” he added.

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How much of Beijing’s control over its currency will this take away?

China’s Yuan Takes Leap Toward Joining IMF Currency Basket (Reuters)

China’s yuan moved closer to joining other top global currencies in the IMF’s benchmark foreign exchange basket on Friday after Fund staff and IMF chief Christine Lagarde gave the move the thumbs up. The recommendation paves the way for the Fund’s executive board, which has the final say, to place the yuan on a par with the U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, British pound and euro at a meeting scheduled for Nov. 30. Joining the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket would be a victory for Beijing, which has campaigned hard for the move, and could increase demand for the yuan among reserve managers as well as marking a symbolic coming of age for the world’s second-largest economy. Staff had found the yuan, also known as the renminbi (RMB), met the criteria of being “freely usable,” or widely used for international transactions and widely traded in major foreign exchange markets, Lagarde said.

“I support the staff’s findings,” she said in a statement immediately welcomed by China’s central bank, which said it hoped the international community would also back the yuan’s inclusion. Staff also gave the green light to Beijing’s efforts to address operational issues identified in a report in July, Lagarde said. The executive board, which represents the Fund’s 188 members, is seen as unlikely to go against a staff recommendation and countries including France and Britain have already pledged their support for the change. This would take effect in October 2016, during China’s leadership of the Group of 20 bloc of advanced and emerging economies. China has rolled out a flurry of reforms recently to liberalize its markets and also help the yuan meet the IMF’s checklist, including scrapping a ceiling on deposit rates, issuing three-month Treasury bills weekly and improving the transparency of Chinese data.

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Sales down 5.3%. Cash evaporating.

VW Said to Seek as Much as €20 Billion in Bridge Funds (Bloomberg)

Volkswagen is working with banks to put together as much as €20 billion in short-term bridge financing to show that the automaker has adequate liquidity to weather the emissions cheating crisis, two people familiar with the matter said. VW does not need the money currently and is seeking extra funds to create a financial cushion, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private talks. The automaker will begin meeting with about a dozen prospective banks on Monday at its headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, to go over the proposed funding, which it aims to have in place before the end of the year, the people said.

“We have always considered that a well-diversified portfolio of funding tools gives us the necessary flexibility to offer appropriate and competitive financing options for our customers as well as our industrial investment needs,” Volkswagen said in an e-mailed statement. “It is perfectly normal that we are in a constructive ongoing dialog.” The scandal has spread since Volkswagen first admitted in September to cheating on diesel pollution tests. The carmaker will need to recall as many as 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide and admitted earlier this month that another 800,000 cars had unexplained inconsistencies in carbon dioxide output. By 2017, the price tag of VW’s emissions woes will probably reach about €25 billion, Barclays estimated on Friday.

“It makes perfect sense” to shore up financing, said Sascha Gommel at Commerzbank. “In order to protect their rating, they need to show that liquidity will never become an issue for them, because then you have a vicious circle. If the ratings agencies think you won’t have cash and they downgrade you, then your funding gets more expensive.” Volkswagen has the equivalent of €2.57 billion in bonds maturing this year, €14.3 billion next year and €13.5 billion in 2017. The company said earlier Friday it has put bond financing on hold because it needs time to update its documentation to reflect potential fines and penalties. Thus far, the automaker has set aside €6.7 billion to recall diesel cars and estimated the economic risk of the CO2 irregularities at another €2 billion.

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Bailed out by workers losing their jobs…

How GM’s Bailout Became China’s Bonanza (Bloomberg)

During the 2012 election, President Barack Obama held up his bailout of General Motors as a model in the fight against China’s growing manufacturing dominance, telling voters that the auto rescue would reverse the industry’s multi-decade trend of outsourcing. A single election cycle later, the question of government support for automakers has all but disappeared from the political discourse, yet Detroit is back to sending jobs out of the industrial Midwest. And now GM is leading the way on Chinese outsourcing, announcing it will become the first U.S. firm to import a vehicle made in China to the U.S. It’s about time taxpayers ask what their $50 billion rescue really bought them. Starting next year, GM will import between 30,000 and 40,000 Buick Envision crossovers annually from a plant in Shandong Province.

That won’t make the Envision one of GM’s best-selling models, but it will greatly outsell the only other Chinese-import car on the market, the Volvo S60L. More importantly, GM’s pioneering Chinese import will likely help break down the consumer stigma attached to Chinese cars, leading the way for other automakers to follow suit. If a bailed-out company can get away with selling Chinese cars in the U.S., there’s no doubt that the rest will try too. The Envision is just the tip of GM’s Chinese iceberg: though the firm has not announced further plans to import other vehicles from Asia, it is increasingly making China a hub for new vehicle development and global exports. The next generation of GM’s small- and medium-sized vehicles will be offered with a new engine and high-tech dual-clutch transmission co-developed with its Chinese partner, the Shanghai Automobile Industry Corporation.

The two companies are also jointly creating an entire family of small vehicles to be exported from China to markets around the world. Taxpayers aren’t the only ones GM appears to be abandoning. The United Auto Workers is incensed by the Envision decision. As union vice president Cindy Estrada told the Detroit Free Press in August when the rumors of the plan surfaced, “after the sacrifices made by U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. workforce to make General Motors the profitable quality company it is today, UAW members are disappointed with the tone-deaf speculation that the Envision would be imported from China.” Yet given that the UAW has a new wage-raising contract nearing ratification, it can be argued that the union may have brought some of this disappointment upon itself.

But perhaps it is in Canada, where the government spent $10 billion rescuing G.M. and Chrysler, where anger is most justified. With GM’s “vitality commitment” – made to protect jobs in Canada as a condition of its bailout – expiring at the end of next year, the automaker has already decided to cut 1,000 jobs from its Oshawa, Ontario, plant when production of the Chevrolet Camaro ends there next week. GM has hinted that more outsourcing could follow. And as a new Liberal government is taking power in Ottawa, GM is pushing for “more amenable” subsidies than the $750 million in loans that had been offered by the outgoing Conservatives. If new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t bow to GM pressure – turning those loans into grants that it need not repay – the automaker may well pull even more jobs from a country that stood by it at its darkest hour.

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“..the right-wing Portuguese president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, a creature of Washington and the big banks..”

Portuguese Revolution Falls Far Short (Paul Craig Roberts)

The austerity imposed on the Portuguese people by the 1% has resulted in the election of a coalition government of socialists, communists, and a “left bloc.” In the 20th century, socialism and the fear of communism humanized Europe, but beginning with Margaret Thatcher the achievements of decades of social reforms have been rolled back throughout Europe as bought-and-paid for governments have given all preference to the One%. Public assets are being privatized, and social pensions and services are being reduced in order to make interest payments to private banks. When the recent Portuguese vote gave a majority to the anti-austerity bloc, the right-wing Portuguese president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, a creature of Washington and the big banks, announced that the leftwing would not be permitted to form a government, just as the senior British general announced that a Labour Government formed by Jeremy Corbyn would not be permitted to form.

True to her word, Anibal reappointed the austerity prime minister, Passos Coelho. However, the unity of the socialists with the communists and the left bloc swept Coelho from office and the president had to recognize a new government. The new government means that for the first in a long time there is a government in Portugual that possibly could represent the people rather than Washington and the One%. However, if the new government leaves the banks in charge and remains committed to the EU, the current president, previous prime minister, and previous finance minister, Maria Luis Albuquerque, will continue to work to overthrow the people’s will as occurred in Greece. The new Portuguese government cannot escape austerity without nationalizing the banks and leaving the EU. The failure of the Greek government to bite the bullet resulted in the Greek government’s acceptance of the austerity that it was elected to oppose.

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No, it’s the EU itself that means war.

EU Commissioner’s Dire Warning: “The Only Alternative To Europe Is War” (ZH)

While the saying goes “good fences make good neighbors,” it appears the leadership of The EU is starting to get frustrated with the lack of acquiescence among some of the ‘union’s’ newer or more marginal members. In a somewhat stunning statement, following ongoing and contentious meetings to discuss solutions to the migrant ‘problem’, EU Commissioner Timmermanns appeared to warn disagreeable member states, “There is an alternative to everything. I believe in EU cooperation because of all other forms in history have been tried to help Europeans get on better, and with the exception of this one, all other forms have led to war – so let’s stick to this one.” As Elsevier reports (via Google Translate),

European leaders read the last few days the alarm about the survival of the European Union (EU). Prague said Commissioner Frans Timmermans (PvdA) Friday that the EU is only one alternative: war. “The only alternative to the EU is war,” said Timmermans Friday gave a speech at a conference in Prague, said a reporter for The Times of London who attended the speech. Timmermans is the way Europe responds to the migration crisis’ the biggest threat to the EU ever. The Commissioner underlined that countries should cooperate better when it comes to border controls. “Migration is part of life, but we must lead these movements together in the right direction,” said Timmermans.

Matching words Timmermans in the alarmist tone that European leaders were heard in recent days about the survival of the EU. Earlier this week, Timmermans at the House of Europe Lecture in Amsterdam that he fears for the survival of the EU. “I do not optimistic about doing that, because I’m just not.

The current migration crisis is the European ideal of free movement shaking on its foundations. EU President Donald Tusk said that the EU is engaged in “a race against the clock.” “But we are determined to win this race,” said Tusk. “As I warned earlier, the only way not to dismantle the Schengen ensure proper management of the external borders of the EU.” The EU appears to be unable to curb migration flows. Because the borders are not guarded, seeing more and more countries are forced to protect their own borders. Even the welcoming Sweden went on Thursday to intensive checks on the southern border.

Remember when Hank Paulson waved the “Mutual Assured Destruction” card in the face of the U.S. with his infamous “blank check” three page term sheet? Now, it’s Europe’s turn. What’s worse, however, for things to devolve this much, it confirms that the European ‘Union’ is rapidly disintegrating, much more than the recent surge in barbed wire fences around European nations will demonstrate, and as Timmermanns warns, that means war.

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Much more than a blind eye.

Greece Says Turkey Turning Blind Eye To Refugee Smugglers (AFP)

Greece’s migration minister on Friday said refugee smuggling in Turkey was conducted in “broad daylight” as he called on the EU to step up relocation plans. “The entries (from Turkey) are happening in an organized fashion,” junior interior minister for migration Yiannis Mouzalas told a news conference. “It is happening in broad daylight, with villages gathering around to watch the refugees being put in boats by the traffickers. There is no secrecy in this,” he said, citing evidence from Turkish media and the Greek coastguard. Greek PM Alexis Tsipras will travel to Turkey next week to press the country’s leaders to take a stronger stance against refugee traffickers.

Turkey “is spending a lot of money, it is holding three million refugees on its soil, but we believe it has the ability and it must acquire the will to stop the flows from its coasts,” Mouzalas said. Greece has been overwhelmed this year by a migration crisis unseen in Europe since the Second World War. The United Nations on Friday said over 800,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year, with over 3,400 dying in the attempt. EU states put together a scheme to share out some 160,000 people inside the bloc, but fewer than 2,000 relocation places have been found so far. And the program is already threatened by undue inflexibility, Mouzalas said.

“One EU country said it was prepared to accept 12 people. We wanted to send 14 as they were a family, and the country did not accept the extra two. Such cancellations could cancel out the substance of relocation,” he said. Greece has pledged to find accommodation for 20,000 refugees by January. Another 20,000 will be temporarily housed in rented flats under a UN scheme, Mouzalas said. And registration centres on Greek islands created with EU funds, known as hotspots, will provide short-term accommodation for over 6,500 people, he said. “If (registration) procedures go smoothly people will stay 48-72 hours” before moving to the mainland, the minister said.

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The EU just throws $3 billion in taxpayer money at Erdogan and hope something sticks.

Greece Warns EU To Hold Turkey To Account On Refugee Crisis (Kath.)

Greece has warned the European Union to obtain specific commitments from Turkey ahead of putting together a €3 billion fund for Ankara to help tackle the refugee crisis. The key role of Turkey in the process of stemming the flow of refugees and migrants was discussed on Friday during the second and last day of a summit in Malta. According to sources, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stressed to his EU counterparts that Brussels has to make it clear what it will be getting in return for providing Turkey with emergency funding and assistance. For instance, Tsipras said that in return for receiving new equipment for its coast guard, Turkey should be made to prove that it is cracking down on human-trafficking gangs.

The Greek premier said that if the EU is going to provide money for the construction of reception centers on Turkish soil, then Ankara has to commit to allowing the relocation of refugees to take place directly from these camps. Also, Tsipras said that if the EU is going to lift visa restrictions on Turkish citizens, Ankara’s readmission agreement with Greece should be upgraded to a pact between Turkey and the EU. It is expected that these will be some of the key points that Tsipras will raise when he visits Ankara next week, ahead of an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels on November 29. Tsipras held a meeting with Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias in Athens on Friday to begin preparation for the upcoming trip to Turkey.

Alternate Minister for Immigration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas said that Greece has no plans to create more spaces at relocation camps on the eastern Aegean islands beyond those needed as part of Athens’s commitment to the EU for the relocation scheme. Mouzalas said that those refugees who will be included in the transfer process would be moved on from the islands to the mainland. He said the government plans to have reception centers capable of holding 2,000 arrivals on Lesvos, 1,500 on Samos, 1,000 on Chios, 1,000 on Kos and around 800 on Leros.

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Of course private citizens have to do this. Governments are too busy.

World’s Largest Ocean Cleanup Operation One Step Closer To Launch (Guardian)

A crowdfunded 100km-long boom to clean up a vast expanse of plastic rubbish in the Pacific is one step closer to reality after successful tests of a scaled-down prototype in the Netherlands last week. Further trials off the Dutch and Japanese coasts are now slated to begin in the new year. If they are successful, the world’s largest ever ocean cleanup operation will go live in 2020, using a gigantic V-shaped array, the like of which has never been seen before. The so-called ‘Great Pacific garbage patch’, made up largely of tiny bits of plastic trapped by ocean currents, is estimated to be bigger than Texas and reaching anything up to 5.8m sq miles (15m sq km). It is growing so fast that, like the Great Wall of China, it is beginning to be seen from outer space, according to Jacqueline McGlade, the chief scientist of the UN environmental programme (Unep).

“We have to admit that there has been a market failure,” she told the Guardian. “Nevertheless, we have to create a market success that brings in new forms of chemistry and technology.” The Ocean Cleanup project aims to do the technology part with a floating barrier as long as the Karman line that reaches from the sea to outer space. Sea currents and winds will be used to passively funnel plastic debris into an elbow made of vulcanised rubber where it can be concentrated for periodic collection by vessels. Sub-sea buoys at depths of up to 30 metres would anchor the contraption in depths of up to 4.5km. Sea currents flowing beneath its booms would allow fish to escape, while hoovering up 42% of the Pacific’s plastic soup. At least, that is the plan.

“Everything is unknown so everything is a potential problem,” said Lourens Boot, the programme’s chief engineer, who has previously worked on offshore oil and gas rigs. “The risk matrix is big, but one by one we are tackling those risks.” One of the biggest has been finance. Charles Moore, the racing boat captain who discovered the floating vortex in 1997, once said that the cost of a cleaning operation would “bankrupt any country”. But around half the scheme’s initial €30m (£20m) budget has now been raised through online donations and wealthy sponsors. In the long term, the project plans to finance itself with a major retail line of ocean plastic fashion wear.

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Quite a list.

Monstrous Wave Of Paris Attacks Underlines France’s Year Of Terror (RT)

Waves of deadly attacks have held France in a constant state of stress, anger and grief over the past 12 months, as the country has faced a series of deadly assaults and terror acts by radicalized Islamists and jihadists. It all started just before Christmas on December 20, 2014, in the largest suburb of the city of Tours, in Central France, when an attacker of Burundian origin, shouted “Allahu Akbar” [God is great] before attacking officers at a police station with a knife. The assailant, identified as Bertrand Nzohabonayo, injured three policemen before officers took him down. The following day, on December 21, a man in the French city of Dijon run over 11 pedestrians in five areas of the city. The driver – who also shouted “Allahu Akbar” – was arrested. Authorities later stated that the attacker ploughed into passers-by because he suffered from severe psychiatric problems.

On the third day after the initial attack, a man in a white van rammed over ten pedestrians at a Christmas market in the French city of Nantes. The driver is said to have stabbed himself and officials said he appeared to be in an unstable metal condition. One civilian died in those attacks. The spate of attacks forced the French government to heighten security by deploying 300 soldiers onto the country’s streets. In early January, the French nation was in state of horror after a series of five terrorist attacks, which took place in and around Paris. The four attacks killed at least 20 people and wounded dozens more, before three of the assailants were killed by special forces. The fourth terrorist remains at large.

The intimidation of the French public began on January 7, after two gunmen, identified as Cherif and Said Kouachi, attacked the headquarters of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, over the publication’s depiction of the Prophet Mohammed. Twelve people, including two police officers, were killed in the onslaught, while eleven others were injured. The suspects fled the scene. Hours after the Charlie Hebdo attack, a third assailant, Amedy Coulibaly, shot a 32-year-old man who was out for a run in a park near Coulibaly’s home. On January 8, the same attacker shot and killed a municipal police officer in a suburb of Paris. A street sweeper was also wounded in that attack. The following day, on January 9, the Charlie Hebdo attackers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, attacked a signage production company in Dammartin-en-Goele, taking hostages on premises.

At the same time, Coulibaly, entered a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes killing four people and taking the rest of the people in the store hostage. To neutralize the attackers, French special forces conducted simultaneous raids in Dammartin and at Porte de Vincennes, killing three terrorists. The fourth suspect, believed to be Coulibaly’s wife is still on the run. January’s atrocities became the deadliest act of terrorism in France since 1961, when a bomb on a Strasbourg–Paris train took the lives of 28 people. Following Charlie Hebdo attacks, the French government announced the creation of 2,680 new positions in the French military and intelligence agencies. The €425 million program was unrolled with the sole purpose to monitor a population of approximately 3,000 people with any possible connections to terrorist groups abroad. Furthermore, the government deployed some 122,000 police, military and gendarmes to provide security across France.

But terror in France did not stop there. On June 26, 2015 a French Muslim of North African descent, Yassine Salhi, decapitated his employer before driving his van into gas cylinders at a gas factory near Lyon. This caused an explosion and injured two other people. Prior to ramming his van in an effort to destroy the factory, Salhi placed his boss’s decapitated head on a fence along with two Jihadist black flags. The suspect was arrested after being taken down by the firefighters that rushed to the scene. That attack on the factory near Lyon coincided with a number of other Islamist terrorist attacks that have taken place in Tunisia and Kuwait. Finally, before the monstrous wave of attacks on Friday, a Thalys train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris via Brussels was attacked by an assailant who opened fire in a carriage before being subdued by off duty US servicemen aboard the train. Four people were injured but luckily none fatally.

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It’s one approach.

Let Mercy For Refugees Be The Response To The Paris Attacks (Margaret Corvid)

There have been horrible, disgusting terrorist attacks in France this night, with over 120 dead already reported. In response, premier François Hollande has declared a state of emergency for the first time since the Second World War. The media are subject to state control, gendarmes can enter any private home, and the borders are shut. The borders that have been the last hope for so many refugees crowding the camps of Calais and elsewhere, the borders that are so important to the women, children and men shivering in the rain, their feet rotting, have been closed by a frightened France. Probably the rest of Europe will follow suit. I hope not. A handful of terrorists—maybe French nationals, maybe not—blew up a crowd in a stadium with grenades, killed diners and walkers and concert-goers with guns and suicide bombs, traumatizing Paris to its core.

And what Hollande has done in response is to close the borders, the lifeline to the many suffering people fleeing war in Syria—even before we know for sure who the murderers are, or what their aims were. Reports claim the terrorists fought in Syria’s name. But if they did, and if they were ISIS, then the tens of thousands of refugees shivering in camps hate and fear them as much as the friends and families of the dead of Paris do. The refugees huddling in France, Germany, Turkey, Greece, and elsewhere are not the terrorists. They are fleeing the same terrorists—fleeing death, torture and destruction, trusting their lives to crumbling boats, washing up on shore hated, beaten, half-dead—and we are forsaking them.

I am a member of a Facebook group where people organize aid for the refugee camp in the northern seafront town of Calais. Now a shanty town of a full 6,000 refugees, such aid has never been more needed. Shoes are rotting on the feet of the camp’s dwellers as the weather worsens, food and medical care are scarce, and graves are rapidly filling. The lifesavers in the camp are not the government or the UN refugee groups—they are ordinary people connecting with tiny charities to bring desperately needed wood, food, medicine, blankets, water. Closing the borders as the terrifying war continues in Syria will not punish the terrorists; it will only cause more needless suffering and death, including to innocent children.

Why is Hollande using the refugees as hostages, condemning them with his border closure to a death that is slower but no less certain than that of a head chopped by a guillotine, or that of a concert-goer blown up by a grenade? He only helps the terrorists. ISIS and those in the West who hate the refugees want the same thing: martial law, state control of discourse, the spreading of Islamophobia, and a global atmosphere of suspicion and discord. In such a world, ISIS gets its youthful cannon fodder—those disaffected by the climate of hate and brutal racism—and the Front Nationales, the Ukips, all the soft and hard white supremacists of the world, get their white utopia, where a refugee child cannot migrate but guns and money can.

Tonight, Paris mourns, and the world mourns with Paris. I mourn, and my anguish at needless death drives these words. Forsake vengeance. Open the borders, Hollande. Open them even further than the painful trickle that they allowed before, and let mercy be the response to horror. Open them, Cameron. Let those people fleeing for their lives through the borders—through all the borders—fly all the way through to peace and safety in whatever countries they wish to reach. Open the borders, Obama, and let those people through, those people just like us, just like the diners and concert-goers of Paris, who are trying to save their lives.

If they all die of illness and exposure in their tents, fighting starvation, sickness, fire, fear or hate, it will neither save a single life from terrorism, nor avenge a single soul. Even if terrorists slip in among the refugees, each one of them who dies, each day they are locked down, will make more terrorists, watered by the tears of grief of their families and friends. No high-security level can ever end the threat of terrorism. Only mercy can do that; only the mercy of refuge, of acting like the just countries we believe ourselves to be—rather than what the terrorists believe us to be—can make us safe.

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A thousand times faster than the natural rate. We’ll kill it all. Or at least enough to make the earth hostile to our own species.

The Annihilation Of Nature: Human Extinction of Birds and Mammals (Woods Inst.)

This book shows us the face of Earth’s sixth great mass extinction, revealing that this century is a time of darkness for the world’s birds and mammals. In The Annihilation of Nature: Human Extinction of Birds and Mammals, three of today’s most distinguished conservationists tell the stories of the birds and mammals we have lost and those that are now on the road to extinction. These tragic tales, coupled with eighty-three color photographs from the world’s leading nature photographers, display the beauty and biodiversity that humans are squandering. Gerardo Ceballos, Anne H. Ehrlich, and Paul R. Ehrlich serve as witnesses in this trial of human neglect, where the charge is the massive and escalating assault on living things.

Nature is being annihilated, not only because of the human population explosion, but also as a result of massive commercial endeavors and public apathy. Despite the well-intentioned work of conservation organizations and governments, the authors warn us that not enough is being done and time is short for the most vulnerable of the world’s wild birds and mammals. Thousands of populations have already disappeared, other populations are dwindling daily, and soon our descendants may live in a world containing but a minuscule fraction of the birds and mammals we know today. The Annihilation of Nature is a clarion call for engagement and action. These outspoken scientists urge everyone who cares about nature to become personally connected to the victims of our inadequate conservation efforts and demand that restoration replace destruction. Only then will we have any hope of preventing the worst-case scenario of the sixth mass extinction.

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 May 23, 2015  Posted by at 10:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


G. G. Bain Hudson-Fulton celebration. Union League Club. New York. 1909

Our $58 Trillion Love Affair With Debt, In One Crazy Chart (CNBC)
Fed On Track To Hike Rates As Economic Headwinds Wane: Yellen (Reuters)
BRICS To Establish New Multi-Currency Financial Order (RT)
How ‘Mathiness’ Made Me Jaded About Economics (Bloomberg)
Jim Chanos Thinks China Could Be The Next Greece (MarketWatch)
Greece and Creditors Struggle for Elusive Deal (WSJ)
Eurozone Says No Greek Deal Without IMF (FT)
Yanis Varoufakis Is More Than His Clothes (AlJazeera)
How Politics Will Seal The Fate Of Greece (FT)
German Business Morale Weakens And Trade Dampens Q1 Growth (Reuters)
The Strikes Sweeping Germany Are Here To Stay (Guardian)
Bank Of England Secretly Investigates Financial Fallout Of Brexit (Guardian)
GM Inquiry Said to Find Criminal Wrongdoing (NY Times)
Ireland Says Yes To Same-Sex Marriage By Up To 2:1 Margin (Ind.ie)
‘March Against Monsanto’ in 38 Countries, 428 Cities (RT)
Bayer CEO: The World Needs An Antibiotics Bailout (Reuters)
California Accepts Offer By Farmers To Cut Water Usage By 25% (Guardian)
Attacks On The Last Elephants And Rhinos Threaten Entire Ecosystems (Monbiot)
Yet Another Antarctic Ice Mass Is Becoming Destabilized (WaPo)

The one area where the US sees actual growth.

Our $58 Trillion Love Affair With Debt, In One Crazy Chart (CNBC)

Those having a hard time finding growth in the U.S. economy are looking in the wrong places. Forget about real estate, technology or manufacturing: The real American growth industry is debt. While gross domestic product has lingered in the 2 to 2.5% growth range for years, the level of debt as measured through credit market instruments has exploded. As the nation entered the 1980s, there was comparatively little debt—just about $4.3 trillion. That was only about 1.5 times the size of gross GDP. Then a funny thing happened. The gap began to widen during the decade, and then became basically parabolic through the ’90s and into the early part of the 21st century.

Though debt took a brief decline in 2009 as the country limped its way out of the financial crisis, it has climbed again and is now, at $58.7 trillion, 3.3 times the size of GDP and about 13 times what it was in 1980, according to data from the Federal Reserve’s St. Louis branch. (The total debt measure is not to be confused with the $18.2 trillion national debt, which is 102% of GDP and is a subset of the total figure.) Of the total debt, nonfinancial debt leads the way at $41.4 trillion, which breaks down as household and nonprofits holding just shy of $13.5 trillion, nonfinancial business debt at $12 trillion and total government debt at $15.9 trillion.

Growth, such as it is, has been present in all debt categories: In the fourth quarter of 2014, when GDP was growing at just a 2.2% rate, business debt jumped 7.2%, federal government debt surged 5.4% and household debt rose 2.7%, with overall domestic nonfinancial debt up 4.7. So while many economists have bemoaned the 0.2% GDP growth in the first quarter and the dimming prospects for growth the remainder of the year, the debt engine is keeping things humming along—until, of course, the next crisis comes and we start all over again.

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What was it? 0.2% GDP growth in Q1? That can’t be the reason. The Fed made up its mind a long time ago.

Fed On Track To Hike Rates As Economic Headwinds Wane: Yellen (Reuters)

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen was clearer than ever on Friday that the central bank was poised to raise interest rates this year, as the U.S. economy was set to bounce back from an early-year slump and as headwinds at home and abroad waned. Yellen spoke amid growing concern at the Fed about volatility in financial markets once it begins to raise rates, and a desire to begin coaxing skeptical investors toward accepting the inevitable: that a 6-1/2-year stretch of near-zero interest rates would soon end. In a speech to a business group in Providence, Rhode Island, Yellen said she expected the world’s largest economy to strengthen after a slowdown due to “transitory factors” in recent months, and noted that some of the weakness might be due to “statistical noise.”

The confident tone suggested the Fed wants to set the stage as early as possible for its first rate rise in nearly a decade, with Yellen stressing that monetary policy must get out ahead of an economy whose future looks bright. While cautioning that such forecasting is always highly uncertain, and citing room for improvement in the labor market, the Fed chief said delaying a policy tightening until employment and inflation hit the central bank’s targets risked overheating the economy. “For this reason, if the economy continues to improve as I expect, I think it will be appropriate at some point this year to take the initial step to raise the federal funds rate target,” and begin normalizing monetary policy, Yellen told the Providence Chamber of Commerce.

In a speech in March, Yellen said only that a rate hike “may well be warranted later this year,” though the Fed was at the time giving “serious consideration” to making the move. Investors globally are attempting to predict when the Fed will modestly tighten policy. Most economists point to September, while traders in futures markets held firm on December. Ahead of a three-day U.S. holiday weekend, Treasury yields hit session highs after Yellen spoke on Friday, and short-term interest rate futures extended losses, hitting session lows. U.S. stocks were largely flat. “This is probably the most telegraphed Fed lift-off in some time,” said Bruce Zaro at Bolton Global. “I think they’re concerned about the market’s reaction – they don’t want to have a period of volatility that causes the market to react in a crash-type form.”

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At some point it will reach critical mass.

BRICS To Establish New Multi-Currency Financial Order (RT)

The new BRICS initiatives break the monopoly of existing western institutions over the financial order – a very important symbolic change, as it’s the first time a global financial institution is led by developing countries, said experts to RT. “If the new development bank experiment succeeds, it will show the world that the emerging countries can do and manage a multilateral economic institution by themselves,” Akshay Mathur, geo-economic fellow head of research at the Indian Council on Global Relations, told RT at the BRICS academic forum. While talking about the bank’s challenge to western-dominated financial system, he said that one of its goals is to stimulate lending to countries in local currencies for the new projects in that region.

“Right now the bank has clauses in its charter to encourage lending in local currencies. It can do it for lending in the new projects in the East, for Russian projects in the ruble,” he said. BRICS has already employed tools to move away from US dollar dominance, believes H.H.S. Viswanathan, Distinguished Fellow at India’s Observer Research Foundation. “A lot of trade between China and Russia is already taking place in local currencies. As far as India is concerned, it’s not that advanced, but in some areas – yes, we are using local currencies,” he said adding that the main advantage of the banks’ moving away from the dollar is that trading in local currencies reduces the operational cost.

Akshay Mathur also pointed out the potential risks the bank may face, cautioning that China, the largest of the five BRICS economies, could end up dominating the new financial institution. China has already shown notable success in internationalizing yuan. It is issuing foreign loans in its national currency and has currency swaps with 21 countries. “China is lending now more than the World Bank and the IMF combined in Africa and Latin America. So, what I mean about the risk of Chinese financial architecture is that we want to move to a more multilateral multi-currency equitable architecture, because now we have been moving from the risks of one currency to the risks of another,” he said.

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“..math is central to everything that economists do. But the way math is used in macroeconomics isn’t the same as in the hard sciences..”

How ‘Mathiness’ Made Me Jaded About Economics (Bloomberg)

Economics has a lot of math. In no other subject except mathematics itself will you see so many proofs and theorems. Some branches of econ, such as game theory, could legitimately be housed in university math departments. But even in fields such as macroeconomics, which ostensibly deal with real-world phenomena, math is central to everything that economists do. But the way math is used in macroeconomics isn’t the same as in the hard sciences. This isn’t something that most non-economists realize, so I think I had better explain.

In physics, if you write down an equation, you expect the variables to correspond to real things that you can measure and predict. For example, if you write down an equation for the path of a cannonball, you would expect that equation to let you know how to aim your cannon in order to actually hit something. This close correspondence between math and reality is what allowed us to land spacecraft on the moon. It also allowed engineers to build your computer, your car and most of the things you use. Some economics is the same way, especially in microeconomics, or the study of individuals’ actions — you can predict which kind of auction will fetch the highest prices, or how many people will ride a train. But macroeconomics, which looks at the broad economy, is different.

Most of the equations in the models aren’t supported by evidence. For example, something called the consumption euler equation is at the core of almost every modern macroeconomic model. It specifies a relationship between consumption growth and interest rates. But when researchers looked at real data on consumption growth and interest rates, they found that the equation gives exactly the wrong predictions! Yet it continues to be used as the core of almost every macro model. If you read the macro literature, you see that almost every famous, respected paper is chock full of these sort of equations that don’t match reality. This paper predicts that everyone will hold the same amount of cash. This paper predicts that people buy financial assets that only pay off if people are able to change the wage that they ask to receive.

These and many other mathematical statements don’t remotely correspond to observable reality, nor do they have any evidence in support of them. Yet they are thrown into big multi-equation models, and those models are then judged only on how well they fit the aggregate data (which usually isn’t very well). That whole approach would never fly in engineering. Engineering is something you expect to work. But macroeconomists often treat their models as simply ways, in the words of David Andolfatto, vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, to “organize our thinking” about the world. In other words, macroeconomists use math to make their thoughts concrete, to persuade others, and to check the internal consistency of their (sometimes preposterous) ideas, but not to actually predict things in the real world.

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So do I: .

Jim Chanos Thinks China Could Be The Next Greece (MarketWatch)

China could be the next Greece and its debt woes may even exceed the European country’s in the next few years, predicts prominent hedge-fund manager Jim Chanos of Kynikos Associates. “I joke to my Chinese friends, somewhat half-seriously, another three-four years they are going to be like my homeland Greece,” said Chanos in an interview, which will air this weekend on Wall Street Week, a show hosted by Anthony Scaramucci, co founder of investment-management firm SkyBridge Capital. The perennial China bear pointed to China’s debt-to-GDP ratio of nearly 300% and projected that the ratio is likely to balloon to 400% over the next few years. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

“The problem is the credit story,” Chanos said. “China’s banking system is bloated and it’s basically taking on more and more leverage.” Chanos declined to elaborate further when contacted for comments but he has been an unabashed critic of China’s debt-fueled economic growth and has been sounding alarm bells of possible hard landing for the world’s second largest economy for several years. A so-called hard landing can refer to a rapid economic slowdown that occurs typically as a government’s central bank is attempting to tighten fiscal policy and combat inflation. China’s total debt hit $28.2 trillion in 2014, equivalent to 280% of its gross domestic product, according to The Wall Street Journal. Chinese monetary officials earlier this month lowered interest rates to combat a worse-than-expected economic slowdown as companies and governments struggled under heavy debt. China’s GDP rose 7% in the first quarter, slowing from the 7.3% growth in the fourth quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said in April.

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As I predicted, the June 5 date is no longer a stumbling block. The 16th looks darker, though.

Greece and Creditors Struggle for Elusive Deal (WSJ)

Greece and its lenders are casting around for ways to prevent the country from defaulting on debts to the International Monetary Fund in June, as negotiations to unlock bailout aid barely inch forward and the Athens government runs dangerously low on cash. Greece needs financial help in some form by mid-June in order to repay a series of IMF loans falling due, several officials from the country and its creditors said. The Greek government is expected to be able to cover pensions and public-sector wages in May, and it can probably scrape together enough cash to repay a €300 million IMF loan on June 5, these people said.

But three subsequent IMF payments totaling €1.25 billion due in mid-June pose a severe challenge to Athens’s bare treasury, the officials say, and could force the government to either take politically costly measures such as raiding pension funds or delay the payments and risk an unpredictable fallout at home and abroad. Missing an IMF payment would signal that Athens’s coffers are empty. That could spark heavy deposit withdrawals from Greek banks and force capital controls, deepening the country’s economic crisis, said Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

The looming IMF payments are putting massive pressure on the government, led by the left-wing Syriza party, to agree by early June to the economic-overhaul demands of its creditors. The IMF itself, which is withholding fresh loans pending a deal on policy measures, wants tough pension cutbacks and labor deregulation, without which it believes Greece can’t achieve sustainable growth or solvency. Those measures are anathema to Syriza, elected in January on an antiausterity platform, leaving Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faced with only unappealing options. Signing the creditors’ terms and putting them to parliament could split his party. A referendum or elections would need time, which is fast running out, and could trigger uncertainty, bank runs and capital controls.

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The White House will be needed to get the IMF in line.

Eurozone Says No Greek Deal Without IMF (FT)

European leaders have told Greece there will be no deal to release desperately needed bailout aid without approval from the more hardline IMF, setting up a stand-off that could leave cash-strapped Athens without funds well into June. The message, delivered by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, to Alexis Tsipras, her Greek counterpart, at a private meeting in Riga, Latvia’s capital, as well as by lower-level European officials to their Greek interlocutors, comes as the IMF has been weighing whether to withhold its €3.6bn portion of the €7.2bn bailout tranche Athens needs to avoid default. Eurozone and Greek negotiators have been pushing to complete a deal by the end of the month to free up bailout funds before the first in a series of loan repayments owed the IMF totalling €1.5bn falls due June 5.

But securing IMF approval for a bailout deal significantly complicates that timeline. IMF officials believe Mr Tsipras’s government has reversed many of the economic reforms the IMF had agreed with previous Greek governments and do not feel Athens will be able to hit budget targets that would allow its growing debt pile to be reduced quickly. IMF staff have told their board they would not disburse aid without a “comprehensive” deal that started to lower debt levels. They also want EU assurances that Greece will be able to pay its bills for the next 12 months, a demand that could require eurozone governments to commit to another bailout programme. “It has to be a comprehensive approach, not a quick and dirty job,” Christine Lagarde, IMF chief, said at an event in Rio de Janeiro on Friday..

Greek officials have told their eurozone counterparts they are worried about the IMF’s hardline stance and have argued their conditions are politically undeliverable, especially when it comes to the pension reforms, which remain the biggest stumbling block. The IMF has clashed with the European Commission over how tough a line to take, with the commission going so far as to moot cutting the IMF out of a deal. But German officials have bristled at the commission’s interventions and have made clear all three bailout monitors — the IMF, the commission and the ECB — must approve any deal. “The deal must be concluded with the three institutions,” Ms Merkel said at a gathering of leaders from the EU and former Soviet states on Friday. “There is very, very intensive work to be done.”

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“..when close to a solution, the EU goes back to the table with demands that make no sense in the current context..”

Yanis Varoufakis Is More Than His Clothes (AlJazeera)

As the media picked apart Varoufakis, from his smirk to his casual footwear, ugly stereotypes about Greeks resurfaced. In a German daily, the reporter wrote that while “the other finance ministers looked pale and tired, Varoufakis looked as if he had just come back from vacation.” The fallacy of hardworking northerners and lazy southerners should have been put to rest with the 20th century but is still around in 2015. The press briefings cited in most media — which come almost exclusively from unofficial, anonymous sources — said that the discussions that took place over the past few months were no better. They spoke of Greece having no viable proposals and of living in an alternative reality.

They accused Varoufakis of being an ideologue, as though German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s notion of “expansionary contraction,” which was used to justify the austerity dogma, wasn’t in and of itself an ideological intervention (let alone a contradiction in terms). They even complained that Varoufakis was lecturing them on macroeconomics. He was, in a way. “One of the great ironies of the Eurogroup is that there is no macroeconomic discussion. It’s all rules based, as if the rules are God given and as if the rules can go against the rules of macroeconomics,” Varoufakis said in The Irish Times, in response to a criticism by Ireland’s finance minister that he was “too theoretical.”

For now, Varoufakis, like Greece, enjoys too much unwanted attention. While support for Syriza is growing and the party is now leading with 21 percentage points over New Democracy, everyone from everyday supporters of the party (as recent polls have shown) to Greek businesses agrees that the negotiations have gone on too long. But it’s also becoming obvious that when close to a solution, the EU goes back to the table with demands that make no sense in the current context. Earlier this week The Wall Street Journal reported that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble “showed no willingness to compromise in the negotiations to unlock the final installment of Greece’s €245 billion bailout.”

And in late-night talks on Thursday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with his counterparts from France and Germany; the atmosphere, Bloomberg reported, was convivial, but the team failed to reach an agreement to release additional bailout funds. We’re running out of time, as we’re only a few weeks before Greece is forced to default on billions of euros in debt repayments. Europe and the international media should stop talking about its finance minister’s clothes and address his nation’s needs and the ideas that he is putting on the table.

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Wait, who said that before? “The Greek crisis was always as much about politics as economics. Now it is all about politics.” I sure didn’t use the same ‘logic’, however: Greece Is Now Just A Political Issue .

How Politics Will Seal The Fate Of Greece (FT)

Forget debt ratios, fiscal balances, liquidity crunches and the rest. The EU and IMF technicians negotiating with Athens are going through the motions. The Greek crisis was always as much about politics as economics. Now it is all about politics. There are two theories of the Syriza government led by Alexis Tsipras. One presents a cast of bungling amateurs who have spent the past several months digging Greece into an ever deeper economic hole — all the while squandering the trust and goodwill of its eurozone partners. The other says the antics of Yanis Varoufakis, finance minister, are an elaborate political charade calculated to set Greece free from the shackles of merciless creditors.

The first hypothesis is the most popular. The preening and pirouetting, the interviews in glossy magazines, the undergraduate Marxism and love of the limelight — all point to a colossal failure on Mr Varoufakis’s part to grasp the depth of Greece’s plight or the sensitivities of its European partners. Along the way, tens of billions of dollars have drained from Greek banks as citizens stash their savings elsewhere. The conspiracy theory, though, also has its adherents. They start with the assumption that no one could be quite as witless as Syriza has often seemed. Mr Tsipras’s government knew from the outset that it could not reconcile its domestic promises with Greece’s international obligations.

The problem was that Greeks had voted at once for an end to austerity and to stay in the euro. A crisis had to be manufactured to show the government’s hand had been forced. By the Germans, of course. I lean towards the former theory, but it hardly matters. Even at this late hour it would be unwise to say that a deal with creditors is absolutely impossible. High-stakes politics occasionally demands that pigs are seen to fly. What strikes me, though, is how far the conversation in other capitals has moved on. The risk of contagion in the rest of the eurozone has long been discussed. The talk now is about the chaos that would descend on Greece after default and euro exit. Would it be manageable or would the EU be left with a failed state?

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More ‘logic’: “..in view of the long recovery the German economy already has behind it, it was normal that its growth rate would be weaker than the rest of the euro zone..”

German Business Morale Weakens And Trade Dampens Q1 Growth (Reuters)

German business morale deteriorated slightly in May for the first time in seven months though it remained at a high level overall, a leading survey showed, adding to signs of softening in Europe’s largest economy. Although growth levels remain decent, separate data published on Friday showed the slowing of the German economy during the first quarter was down to a drag from foreign trade, which had propelled the economy for much of the past decade. The Munich-based Ifo think tank said its business climate index, based on a monthly survey of 7,000 firms, edged down to 108.5 in May from 108.6 in April. That was slightly above the Reuters consensus forecast for 108.3, sending the euro to a day’s high against the dollar.

It comes after ZEW’s survey this week showed investor sentiment weakening and a purchasing managers’ survey (PMI) showed private sector expansion slowing. “With today’s GDP data, yesterday’s PMIs and now the Ifo, new doubts about the strength of the German economy could emerge again,” said Carsten Brzeski, economist at ING. “Germany is at the end of a very positive reform-growth cycle, which is artificially extended by external tailwinds,” he said, adding that in view of the long recovery the German economy already has behind it, it was normal that its growth rate would be weaker than the rest of the euro zone. The Ifo survey showed companies were more optimistic about the current situation than at any point since June 2014 but they became slightly more pessimistic about their future prospects.

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Germany is not used to inequality.

The Strikes Sweeping Germany Are Here To Stay (Guardian)

German strikes once seemed like German jokes: a contradiction in terms. But no more: this year, Europe’s largest economy is on course to set a new record for industrial action, with everyone from train drivers, kindergarten and nursery teachers and post office workers staging walkouts recently. The strike wave is more than a conjunctural blip: it is another facet of the inexorable disintegration of what used to be the “German model”. Good economic conditions play a part, but unions in the thriving export industries are not the ones that are striking these days. Strikes cluster in domestic services, especially the public sector, and indications are that they are here to stay.

In the old days, the powerful unions of the metalworkers set the pace for wage increases throughout the economy. But the last time IG Metall went on a nationwide strike was in 1984. In the 1990s, its members, in particular those in the large car factories, learned the hard way that manufacturing jobs could more easily than ever be moved abroad, to China or the formerly communist eastern Europe. International competition is now no longer just about market share, but also employment. It did not take long for the union leadership to notice this. Fear of unemployment, incidentally, accounts also for German manufacturing workers’ unwillingness to contribute to macroeconomic balance under European monetary union by pushing for higher wages in order to bring down the German export surplus.

Today, the action has shifted to services, where job export is more difficult. But other factors also account for the rise of industrial disorder. Since unification, public employers, in pursuit of fiscal consolidation, have broken up Germany’s peculiar public sector collective bargaining regime, which covered everyone from refuse collectors to professors and generated, essentially, the same yearly wage increases for all. Moreover, several occupations – including train drivers, teachers and postal workers – lost the uniquely German employment status of Beamter, of civil servants without a right to strike but with lifelong tenure and guaranteed pay raises in line with the rate of economic growth.

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How is this a big story? Of course the BoE studies Brexit.

Bank Of England Secretly Investigates Financial Fallout Of Brexit (Guardian)

Bank of England officials are secretly researching the financial shocks that could hit Britain if there is a vote to leave the European Union in the forthcoming referendum. The Bank blew its cover on Friday when it accidentally emailed details of the project – including how the bank intended to fend off any inquiries about its work – direct to the Guardian. According to the confidential email, the press and most staff in Threadneedle Street must be kept in the dark about the work underway, which has been dubbed Project Bookend. It spells out that if anyone asks about the project, the taskforce must say the investigation has nothing to do with the referendum, saying only that staff are involved in examining “a broad range of European economic issues” that concern the Bank.

The revelation is likely to embarrass the bank governor, Mark Carney, who has overhauled the central bank’s operations and promised greater transparency over its decision-making. MPs are now likely to ask whether the Bank intended to inform parliament that a major review of Britain’s prospects outside the EU was being undertaken by the institution that acts as the UK’s main financial regulator. Carney is also likely to come under pressure within the Bank to reveal whether there are other undercover projects underway.

Officials are likely to have kept the project under wraps to avoid entering the highly charged debate around the EU referendum, which has jumped to the top of the political agenda since the Conservatives secured an overall majority. Many business leaders and pro-EU campaigners have warned that “Brexit” would hit British exports and damage the standing of the City of London.

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More cooperative criminals?!

GM Inquiry Said to Find Criminal Wrongdoing (NY Times)

Justice Department investigators have identified criminal wrongdoing in General Motors’ failure to disclose a defect tied to at least 104 deaths, and are negotiating what is expected to be a record penalty, according to people briefed on the inquiry. A settlement could be reached as soon as this summer. The final number is still being negotiated, but it is expected to eclipse the $1.2 billion paid last year by Toyota for concealing unintended acceleration problems in its vehicles, said the people, who did not want to be identified because the negotiations weren’t complete. GM’s eagerness to resolve the investigation – a strategy that sets it apart from Toyota, which fought prosecutors – is expected to earn it so-called cooperation credit, one of the people said.

That credit could translate into a somewhat smaller penalty than if GM had declined to cooperate. Former GM employees, some of whom were dismissed last year, are under investigation as well and could face criminal charges. Prosecutors and GM are also still negotiating what misconduct the company would admit to. For more than a year, federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the F.B.I. have homed in on whether the company failed to comply with laws requiring timely disclosure of vehicle defects and misled federal regulators about the extent of the problems, the people who were briefed on the inquiry said. The authorities also examined whether GM committed fraud during its bankruptcy proceedings in 2009 by not disclosing the defect.

An agreement with the Justice Department, which could still fall apart, would represent a crucial step as GM tries to move past a scandal-laden year that tainted its reputation for quality and safety and damaged its bottom line. “We are cooperating fully with all requests,” the automaker said in a statement. “We are unable to comment on the status of the investigation, including timing.” In February 2014, the automaker began recalling 2.6 million Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars with faulty ignitions that could unexpectedly turn off the engine, disabling power steering, power brakes and the airbags. The switch crisis prompted a wave of additional recalls by GM for various safety issues. All told, GM recalled more than 30 million vehicles worldwide last year – a record for the automaker.

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Is there any other choice?

Ireland Says Yes To Same-Sex Marriage By Up To 2:1 Margin (Ind.ie)

The same-sex marriage referendum will be comfortably passed, based on early tallies from across the country. The margin of victory is tipped to be heading towards a 2:1 majority. The high turnout favoured Yes campaigners as the efforts to get the vote out worked effectively, particularly among young voters. Few, if any locations, are showing a No vote winning the referendum. Even in traditionally conservative rural area, the vote is coming in at 50:50. Dublin will be strongly Yes, right across the city and county. But this trend is being matched in locations across the country.

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“Monsanto is a monopoly, and it’s acting like one. It’s basically controlling 90% of the seed market in the United States..”

‘March Against Monsanto’ in 38 Countries, 428 Cities (RT)

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in 428 cities are expected to turn out this weekend to protest agribusiness giant Monsanto. The third annual ‘March Against Monsanto’ seeks to highlight the company’s part in control of the food supply. The worldwide protest scheduled for May 23 is a continuation of growing awareness and opposition to industrial agriculture’s increasing consolidation of farming resources and methods, according to organizers. In 2013, the first March Against Monsanto garnered more than 2 million protesters in 436 cities across the world, according to a previous report by RT. Similar numbers were reported for last year’s demonstrations.

Monsanto’s track record has been scrutinized ever since it aided US warfare during the Vietnam war. Agent Orange was manufactured for the US Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation, the use of which is estimated to have killed and maimed around 400,000 while causing birth defects for 500,000 children. Scientific studies have linked the chemicals in Monsanto’s biocides to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and cancer. “People are fed up. We should break up Monsanto,” Adam Eidinger of Occupy Monsanto told RT. “Monsanto is a monopoly, and it’s acting like one. It’s basically controlling 90% of the seed market in the United States. We wouldn’t let one cell phone company control 90% of the cell phones. But for some reason we let food be controlled.”

As the most powerful multinational biotech corporation today, Monsanto has drawn the ire of those within the movement for its firm grip on the global food chain. The company’s control and advancement of genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds is of prime concern. “In polls conducted by the New York Times, Washington Post, Consumer Reports, and many others, over 90% of respondents were in support of national GMO labeling – an initiative that has been defeated time and time again at the state level thanks to heavy spending by Monsanto-backed lobbying groups,” wrote March Against Monsanto in a news release.

Amid a wave of concern over genetically engineered foods sweeping through the US and around the world, major agribusiness and biotechnology conglomerates like Monsanto have spent immense amounts of cash to cloud the ‘right-to-know’ movement in the US. According to the Center for Food Safety, dozens of US states have in recent years considered labeling legislation and ballot initiatives while a handful have passed laws mandating GMO transparency. Vermont’s governor signed the nation’s first clean GMO-labeling requirement into law in 2014, to take effect in 2016, but a coalition of biotech firms filed a lawsuit to prevent that from happening. Other states have passed labeling laws, but with strings attached.

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These are the people who are instrumental in creating the problem, and now want us to pay them for a solution.

Bayer CEO: The World Needs An Antibiotics Bailout (Reuters)

German drugmaker Bayer expects the world’s largest economies to pool billions of euros in funding for the development of antibiotics against the growing threat of drug-resistant superbugs, its chief executive said on Friday. “I expect a multinational fund for antibiotics research. One country alone can’t shoulder it,” CEO Marijn Dekkers told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, according to an excerpt of an interview provided to Reuters on Friday. The funds were expected to be pledged during the June summit of the Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations in Germany, he was quoted as saying. He mentioned reports that four new antibiotics would cost $22.4 billion to develop, saying that was “maybe a bit too much, but it will be really expensive”.

The World Health Organization has deemed the rising tide of drug-resistant bacteria, or so-called superbugs, as the “single greatest challenge in infectious diseases”. Germany’s health ministry has said Berlin would seek to address drug-resistant superbugs as part of the country’s presidency of the G7, leading up to the G7 summit in Bavaria in June. Governments should award development contracts for more antibiotics to pharmaceuticals companies, modelled on development contracts tendered to the defence industry, Dekkers told Der Spiegel. The pharma industry has argued that the private sector was being deterred from funding the development of new antibiotics because, to prevent the emergence of even more resistant bacteria, they would only be used when existing therapies have failed.

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A frist step. But nobody knows if it will be enough.

California Accepts Offer By Farmers To Cut Water Usage By 25% (Guardian)

California’s drought has produced a plot twist too singular even for Chinatown: farmers volunteering to give up a quarter of their water. Scores of farmers in the delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers made the unprecedented offer on Friday in a deal to stave off even steeper mandatory cuts. Agricultural players have fiercely guarded their water rights since the 19th century, rebuffing competing claims from cities and other rivals in the so-called water wars, a web of intrigues immortalised in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. The film’s fictional farmers never countenanced voluntarily cutting their water use but as California endures a fourth year of drought growers in the delta calculated it was the lesser evil.

By promising to forfeit a quarter of this season’s water – by fallowing land or finding other measures to cut usage – they have averted harsher restrictions from state authorities. The State Water Board had warned it was days away from ordering some of the first cuts in more than 30 years to senior water rights holders. “This proposal helps delta growers manage the risk of potentially deeper curtailment, while ensuring significant water conservation efforts in this fourth year of drought,” State Water Board chair Felicia Marcus said in a statement.

“It allows participating growers to share in the sacrifice that people throughout the state are facing because of the severe drought, while protecting their economic well-being by giving them some certainty regarding exercise of the State Water Board’s enforcement discretion at the beginning of the planting season.” The agreement applies only to so-called riparian rights holders – farmers with direct access to streams. Those who participate can opt to reduce water diversions from streams by 25%, or fallow 25% of their land. In both cases, the reductions will be from 2013 levels.

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They threaten my mental sanity, too.

Attacks On The Last Elephants And Rhinos Threaten Entire Ecosystems (Monbiot)

Until 2008, conservationists, in some places at least, appeared to be winning. But in that year the number of rhinos killed in South Africa rose (from 13 in 2007) to 83. By 2011, the horrible tally had risen to 448. It climbed to 668 in 2012, 1004 in 2013 and 1215 in 2014. In the first four months of this year, 393 rhinos have been killed there, which is 18% more than in the same period last year. The reasons for this acceleration in the Great Global Polishing are complex and not always easy to tease out. But they appear to be connected to rising prosperity in Vietnam, the exhaustion of illegal stocks held by Chinese doctors and, possibly, speculative investment in a scarce and tangible asset during the financial crisis. Corruption and judicial failure help to keep the trade alive.

Already, the western black rhino is extinct (the declaration was made in 2011). The northern white rhino has been reduced to five animals: a male at the end of its anticipated lifespan and four females, scattered between Kenya, the US and the Czech Republic. Similar stories can be told about some populations of elephants – in particular the forest elephants of west and central Africa. It’s not just these wonderful, enchanting creatures that are destroyed by poaching, but also many of the living processes of the places they inhabit. Elephants and rhinos are ecological engineers, creating conditions that hundreds of other species have evolved to exploit. As the paper in Science Advances notes, the great beasts maintain a constantly shifting mosaic of habitats through a cycle of browsing and toppling and trampling, followed by the regrowth of the trees and the other plants they eat.

They open up glades for other herbivores, and spaces in which predators can hunt. They spread the seeds of trees that have no other means of dispersal (other animals are too small to swallow the seeds whole, and grind them up). Many trees in Africa and Asia are distributed exclusively by megaherbivores. They transport nutrients from rich places to poor ones and in some places reduce the likelihood of major bushfires, by creating firebreaks and eating twigs and leaves that would otherwise accumulate as potential fuel on the ground. Many animal species have co-evolved with them: the birds that eat their ectoparasites, the fish that feed on hippos’ fighting wounds (some of these species, I believe, are now used for fish pedicures), the wide range of life that depends on their dung for food and moisture, on their wallows for habitats, on the fissures they create in trees for nesting holes.

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Crumbling stability all around.

Yet Another Antarctic Ice Mass Is Becoming Destabilized (WaPo)

The troubling news continues this week for the Antarctic peninsula region, which juts out from the icy continent. Last week, scientists documented threats to the Larsen C and the remainder of the Larsen B ice shelf (most of which collapsed in 2002). The remnant of Larsen B, NASA researchers said, may not last past 2020. And as for Larsen C, the Scotland-sized ice shelf could also be at potentially “imminent risk” due to a rift across its mass that is growing in size (though it appears more stable than the remainder of Larsen B). And the staccato of May melt news isn’t over, it seems.

Thursday in Science, researchers from the University of Bristol in Britain, along with researchers from Germany, France and the Netherlands, reported on the retreat of a suite of glaciers farther south from Larsen B and C along the Bellingshausen Sea, in a region known as the Southern Antarctic Peninsula. Using satellite based and gravity measurements, the research team found that “a major portion of the region has, since 2009, destabilized” and accounts for “a major fraction of Antarctica’s contribution to rising sea level.” The likely cause of the change, they say, is warmer waters reaching the base of mostly submerged ice shelves that hold back larger glaciers — melting them from below.

This has been a common theme in Antarctica recently — a similar mechanism has been postulated for melting of ice shelves in nearby West Antarctica (which contains vastly more ice, and more potential sea level rise, than does the Antarctic peninsula). “This is one of now three really quite substantial signals that we’ve seen from different parts of West Antarctica and the Antarctic peninsula that is all going in the same way,” said Jonathan Bamber of the University of Bristol, one of the paper’s authors. The other two are the losses of ice in the Larsen ice shelf region — where glaciers have sped up their seaward lurches following past ice shelf collapses — and in West Antarctica.

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