Aug 202020
 


Pierre-Auguste Renoir The Return of the Boating Party 1862

 

Clinesmith Pleads Guilty In First Criminal Case Arising From Durham Probe (Fox)
Clinesmith Gets The Wolfe Plea Deal… (CT)
You Would Never Get The Deal That Clinesmith Got (SAC)
Operation Legend: Over 200 Charged With Federal Crimes, 1,000 Arrested (Fox)
Judge Orders New Election In New Jersey Race Cited For Mail-In Fraud (Hill)
Iraq War Cheerleaders Front & Center At Last Night’s DNC AC)
You Don’t Have To Be Excited (Sirota)
History Is On Edward Snowden’s Side (Hill)
New Zealand Lockdown Unlawful For First Nine Days, High Court Finds (NZH)
Gold Pressures Empire (Brown)
Germany Launches Universal Basic Income Experiment (ZH)
Brilliant Trump Puts Himself On All Postage Stamps (Babylon Bee)
Biden: ‘I Don’t Have Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Or Alzheimer’s’ (Babylon Bee)

 

 

US new cases now remain consistently lower than they’ve been since the last week of June. Surely a positive sign.

But the global trend looks very different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grenell LBGT issues

 

 

There’s a feeling that people in the DOJ conspire with the FBI to single out Clinesmith, paint him as a lone wolf, and leave his superiors, which also include Mueller and Weissmann, alone.

That constitutes an enormous risk for the credibility of the DOJ, the FBI, and the entire US judicial system. For better or for worse, the right will simply not accept it.

Clinesmith Pleads Guilty In First Criminal Case Arising From Durham Probe (Fox)

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to making a false statement in the first criminal case arising from U.S. Attorney John Durham’s review of the investigation into links between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia James Boasberg accepted the plea. Clinesmith’s sentencing date has been set for Dec. 10 at 11 a.m. ET. Durham’s office on Wednesday said that Clinesmith’s guilty plea was to “one count of making a false statement within both the jurisdiction of the executive branch and judicial branch of the U.S. government, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000.”

Clinesmith was referred for potential prosecution by the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office, which conducted its own review of the Russia investigation. The inspector general accused Clinesmith, though not by name, of altering an email about former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page to say that he was “not a source” for another government agency. Page has said he was a source for the CIA. The Justice Department relied on Clinesmith’s assertion as it submitted a third and final renewal application in 2017 to eavesdrop on Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

During the plea hearing, Boasberg asked Clinesmith to affirm that he “intentionally altered an email, and added language” that “individual number one” was “not a source…and you knew that statement was in fact not true.” Clinesmith replied, “At the time I thought the information I was providing was accurate, but I am agreeing the information I inserted was not originally there, and I inserted the information.” Boasberg went on to ask: “You intentionally altered the email to insert information that was not originally in the email?” “Yes, your honor,” replied Clinesmith.

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Looks like he got a sweetheart plea deal without giving up anything for it.

Clinesmith Gets The Wolfe Plea Deal… (CT)

As noted in the DOJ press release: “Former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith, 38, pleaded guilty today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a false statement offense stemming from his altering of an email in connection with the submission of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) application.” Despite the falsification of court documents within a FISA document; and despite the likelihood of an intentional conspiracy to commit fraud upon the court in order to obtain a Title-1 surveillance warrant against the Trump campaign – via Carter Page; the DOJ entered into a plea agreement on a single count of lying to federal officers. The agreement holds a maximum penalty of zero to six months in federal prison and a $250k fine.

This is the same plea agreement the DOJ (DC U.S. Attorney) previously gave to the Senate Intelligence Committee Security Director James Wolfe, who leaked the SAME, earlier, top-secret classified FISA application to the media on March 17, 2017. Judge James Boasberg noted early in the phone hearing that he is “currently the presiding judge for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” but that “this case, however, is a criminal case, it is not a FISC case, and it is a case that was randomly assigned.” As anticipated Boasberg said the FISA court could be seen as a “victim” in the case, but also said he would preside over the case fairly without recusing himself. He stated if either the defense or prosecution wanted him to recuse, then he would. Neither party requested.

Judge Boasberg noted the maximum penalty for a single false statements charge was five years in prison but the sentencing guideline calls for zero to six months. Sentencing is scheduled for December 10, 2020, after the election, at 11am. [..] From the nature of the plea, and the defense arguments in court and public, it is obvious there is no arrangement for Clinesmith’s assistance or cooperation on other investigative matters. This does not bode well for the proper administration of justice….

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How dumb is Clinesmith?

You Would Never Get The Deal That Clinesmith Got (SAC)

Judge James E. Boasberg of the federal district court in Washington, D.C.who oversees the case reminded Clinesmith that he had the right to a trial by jury, which Clinesmith declined. Boasberg accepted his guilty plea Wednesday and scheduled a Dec. 10, sentencing hearing. Clinesmith’s lawyers reiterated that their client deeply regretted his actions which were not intentional but none-the-less were in violation of the law. What? Let’s talk about what Clinesmith did and think about what would happen to you if you lied on a document like a FISA warrant? Wait, look at what happened to Trump friend and advisor Roger Stone who was accused of lying to Congress (by the way, former CIA director John Brennan, former DNI James Clapper and a litany of others blatantly lied to Congress and are now selling books on Amazon).

Clinesmith didn’t just tell a small lie, he specifically omitted information that allowed the FBI to spy on a presidential campaign for political reasons. He had worked at the FBI for four years and was a subordinate that was made the fall guy by FBI leadership. He altered an email he received from the CIA in 2017 that showed Page was in no way a Russian asset and that he was an asset for the CIA. The Judges at the FISC court approved the application to wiretap Page, according to court records and numerous investigations. He altered an official government email indicating that Page wasn’t “a source” for the CIA, when it originally said he was. WOW! Folks, that is no small crime.

More than 100 participants listened in to the court ‘plea agreement hearing’ Wednesday and listened as Clinesmith waived his right to a trial by jury. He is expected to get only six months or less for altering the FISA application, which is considered one of the most classified documents pertaining to national security and its contents must be validated thoroughly by the FBI before being submitted to the court. “Mr. Clinesmith you understand we’ve already talked about your jury rights,” said Boasberg. He then said do you understand your decision to waive your rights to a jury?” “Yes, your honor,” said Clinesmith.

What about all those above Clinesmith, who absolutely ordered him to operate the way he did and who tacitly approved his omission in the FISA application. Clinesmith is nothing more than the fall guy. He’ll serve a short sentence for a massive crime against our nation and duly elected president.

Obamagate

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Peaceful protesters one and all.

Operation Legend: Over 200 Charged With Federal Crimes, 1,000 Arrested (Fox)

At least 217 people have been charged with a federal crime, and more than 1,000 arrests have been made in major metropolitan cities since the Department of Justice launched Operation Legend in July, U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced on Wednesday. Nearly 400 firearms have been seized by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Barr launched Operation Legend on July 8 as “a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime,” the DOJ said in a release.

It was named in honor of 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept in the early morning of June 29 in Kansas City, Mo. Last week, a Jackson County prosecutor announced second-degree murder charges against his suspected killer, 22-year-old Ryson Ellis, who was being held in Tulsa County Jail. “LeGend is a symbol of the many hundreds of innocent lives that have been taken in the recent upsurge of crime in many of our urban areas,” Barr said at a press conference in Kansas City. “His life mattered and the lives of all of those victims matter. His name should be remembered and his senseless death, like those of all the other innocent victims in this recent surge, should be unacceptable to all Americans.”

Barr said the federal government has dispatched to nine U.S. cities more than 1,000 additional agents from the FBI, ATF, Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Marshals Service to work shoulder to shoulder with state and local partners on homicide and assault squads to crack cases. The government has also allocated $78.5 million in grants to support additional police positions, hire more prosecutors and improve technology to solve firearms crimes. “We saw one result of those efforts last week when Kansas City Police arrested the suspected murderer of LeGend,” Barr said. “This arrest will not bring LeGend back but it will make his case an example of how we can come together to take violent criminals off the street and to make our communities safer.”

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Election result in August 2021?

Judge Orders New Election In New Jersey Race Cited For Mail-In Fraud (Hill)

A New Jersey judge on Wednesday ordered a new election for a Paterson City Council seat whose apparent winner has been charged with voter fraud. State Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela ruled Wednesday that the new election will be held in November, The Associated Press reported. Alex Mendez appeared to have won the May 12 special election, but the U.S. Postal Service’s law enforcement branch said hundreds of mail-in ballots had been found in a Paterson mailbox. The Passaic County Board of Elections ultimately discounted 800 ballots. In June, Mendez and Paterson Council Vice President Michael Jackson were charged with voter fraud.


Officials also charged two other men, Abu Rayzen of Prospect Park and Shelim Khalique of Wayne, according to the AP. Lawyers for Councilman William McKoy, Mendez’s opponent, secured an injunction against Mendez being sworn in. All four defendants have denied the charges. President Trump has seized on the case, saying allowing nationwide mail-in voting in the fall election will lead to a similar scenario. In June, he cited the case, saying that comparatively, “Absentee Ballots are fine,” although many states make no such distinction between absentee and mail-in voting. The president’s reelection campaign on Tuesday sued the state in an attempt to stop plans to conduct the election predominantly by mail.

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The virtual war party. Why AOC was snubbed: a giant move to the right is how the Dems see themselves win. They feel they have BLM and #MeToo in their pocket, so now they can leave them behind.

Iraq War Cheerleaders Front & Center At Last Night’s DNC AC)

Democrats want to woo disaffected Republican and independent voters. But the degree to which the DNC convention prime time speaking slots favored defecting Republican neocons like Cindy McCain, John Kasich and Colin Powell over upstart fresh-faced Democrats like Julián Castro, Rep. Pramila Jayapal or Rep. Ayanna Pressley, was jarring; unabashed support for the Iraq War seemed to be the main thread that connects these erstwhile Republicans with Democrat speakers like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. On the first night, in a speech recorded at a literal crossroads in Westerville, Ohio, former Ohio governor John Kasich, said, “I’m a lifelong Republican, but that attachment holds second place to my responsibility to my country. That’s why I’ve chosen to appear at this convention. In normal times, something like this would probably never happen. But these are not normal times.”

Kasich was followed by former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R-N.J.), former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) and former Hewlett-Packard and eBay CEO and failed Republican gubernatorial candidate, Meg Whitman. Ostensibly, the purpose of this procession of former Republicans was to solidify Biden’s ranking with independent voters on the fence, but activists on the left were quick to notice the snub given their own compatriots’ positions. “The party should be focused on energizing Democratic voters rather than using their convention to reassure billionaires, corporate donors and Republican lobbyists that they won’t actually try to challenge the status quo,” said David Sirota, a former speechwriter for Senator Bernie Sanders and editor of Jacobin magazine.

While the left’s rising star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was given just a minute to speak, wherein she endorsed Bernie Sanders, Iraq War supporters and cheerleaders were prominently featured: failed Democratic presidential candidate and Obama’s former Secretary of State John Kerry unabashedly intoned that Joe Biden “knows you can’t spread democracy around the world, if you don’t practice it at home.” Gen. Colin Powell, chiefly remembered for his 2003 speech to the United Nations packed with lies about WMDs to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq, said Biden would “restore… values to the White House.” Sen. John McCain’s widow Cindy McCain also endorsed the long-time Delaware Senator, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will endorse him Wednesday night.

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Sirota is sticking out his neck, and it won’t be appreciated that he tears into his own party, but he’s also still stuck in “but Trump is so much worse” mode.

You Don’t Have To Be Excited (Sirota)

I’m wondering because this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I’m told I should be bouncing up in the morning, uplifted by the Democratic convention and its promise of a new era soon — 75 days. But at least for me, watching the cable TV snippets, the convention speeches and the celebratory Twitter dunks has left me with that feeling you get after eating junk food — full, but not nourished, bloated, tired and vaguely nauseous. I’ve worked on a lot of Democratic campaigns, wins and losses. I’m literally married to a Democratic elected official. Over 20 years, I’ve put in an almost embarrassing amount of time working to support the Democratic Party.

So these feelings are somewhat new for me, and I don’t think I’m having them just because Democratic officials decided to turn this year’s convention into a promotional platform for Republican icons who attacked unions, laid off thousands of workers, promoted climate denial, endangered 9/11 survivors and lied us into a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people. I’m also not glum just because the Democrats’ presidential standard-bearer is often an uninspiring mishmash of incoherent here’s-the-deal colloquialisms that mean nothing. I think the despair is deeper — and has something to do with the now-yawning gap between social expectation and reality.

Right now, if you are following politics at all, you are asked to feel chipper and energized. We are expected — no, required — to conjure 2008-level enthusiasm during this even darker time than the financial crisis, all so that we can move into a new, glorious moment of Hope™. Enthusiasm, though, comes from the assumption that the process is authentic and that what we’re told by our leaders is real. But that feeling has waned, because there is no pretense. For all the high-minded rhetoric, everyone on all sides of this situation — and I mean literally everyone — knows that Democratic politics today is more about brand and pantomime than about power and legislative action. You may not say it out loud, you may not like thinking about it — but I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, because somewhere deep down in there, everyone senses the fraudulence at hand.

Minds are wiped and Iraq War architects become Resistance heroes and Democratic convention speakers. Memories are scrubbed and Wall Street thieves become Democratic economic gurus and treasury secretaries. Amnesia takes hold and the Democratic governor of Mount Covid becomes a pandemic mancrush. Democrats lose a presidential campaign to Donald Trump by defending the Washington establishment — and now four years later they are running the same Washington valor campaign again, telling themselves they’re too legit to quit, baby.

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If someone can explain the logic to me of pardoning Snowden but not Assange, I’m game.

History Is On Edward Snowden’s Side (Hill)

It is an addictive tendency in politics to feel a sense of history about what it is one is fighting for. Everyone wants to believe that their heroes from ages past are smiling down on them while simultaneously rolling in their graves at the sight of whatever the opposition is doing. But the fact of the matter is that the vast network of scandal-ridden government agencies, clandestine secret courts, and diabolically unconstitutional statutes trying to destroy Snowden hails from a particularly dark, shameful chapter of America’s past. Snowden stands accused of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, championed by then-President Woodrow Wilson. Passed just two months after America’s entrance into World War I, the law sought to silence criticism of the war effort and crush dissent within the ranks of the armed forces.

In his State of the Union address just two years earlier, Wilson begged Congress to pass it, declaring, “Such creatures of passion, disloyalty, and anarchy must be crushed out… they are infinitely malignant, and the hand of our power should close over them at once.” Now the law has withstood over a century of criticism and legal challenges from civil liberties advocates, and the misery it has inflicted on countless Americans has proven painfully obvious. In 1918, antiwar activist Charles Schenck was arrested for distributing flyers encouraging men to resist the draft. That same year, socialist Eugene V. Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison, deprived of his citizenship, and disenfranchised for life over nothing more than a speech he made criticizing the war. In January 1919, however, the Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to freedom of speech by concluding that neither’s arrest constituted a violation of the First Amendment.

And these are far from the only people to have been victimized by the very law being used to terrorize Snowden today. A search for just a few of the more well-known cases will yield the stories of journalist Victor L. Berger, activists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, former U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning, and former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) employee Henry Kyle Frese. Discussing recent events in an April 2020 interview with journalist and constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald, Snowden warned, “Now, the only thing we have left — our rights, our ideals, our values as people — that’s what they’re coming for now, that’s what they’re asking us to give up, that’s what they’re wanting to change. And remember that, from the perspective of a free society, a virus is a serious problem… but the destruction of our rights is fatal — that’s permanent.”

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Unlawful but the right thing to do. Yeah, you’re really helping.

New Zealand Lockdown Unlawful For First Nine Days, High Court Finds (NZH)

The first nine days of lockdown were unlawful, a High Court decision says. New Zealanders were not actually required by law to stay at home in their bubbles until April 3, more than a week into lockdown, today’s ruling has found. “Even as this country returns to a state of semi-lockdown, there is one thing on which most commentators are agreed. The decisions taken by the New Zealand Government in March this year to “go hard and go early” were the right ones,” said the High Court decision, released this afternoon. “Even in times of emergency, however, and even when the merits of the Government response are not widely contested, the rule of law matters.” That was why Wellington lawyer Andrew Borrowdale sought a judicial review of the lockdown decision, asking for declarations of illegality in relation to three aspects of the Government’s initial Covid-19 response.

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People like to blame the rise of gold on the demise of the dollar. But is it really the weakest horse in the glue factory?

Gold Pressures Empire (Brown)

Before COVID and since the repo crisis of 2019 the stability and safety of the US financial system has increasingly come into focus. The US financial system has been forced to lower real interest rates to real negative territory, causing gold to look more attractive than holding increasingly worthless US dollars, since gold has intrinsic value when the US dollar has none. Instead of a classic store for inflationary dollars, the new demand for settlement in real bullion threatens the existence of the US gold exchange (COMEX) and threatens serious financial loss for the largest global players, including HSBC, JP Morgan, and UBS. Even Goldman Sachs has warned of this threat.

So… what has changed? It appears that some new element is at work. As explored in a prior article, the US regime’s new cold war versus China has caused that country to re-assess its relationship to US assets. China began divesting itself of US debt instruments in 2019. And, seldom reported in the west, China has recently escalated its effort to divest itself of US public debt (Treasury) holdings in 2020. In tandem with improved convertibility of the yuan (CNY) intel sources indicate that China may be the second largest holder of gold globally. Likewise, China may be using gold as a medium of exchange to avoid the aforesaid weaponization of the US dollar so favored by the current US regime. Even so, the foregoing does not fully explain the events we are seeing.

Traditionally the Federal Reserve and their dealers have controlled gold to limit central bank losses and prevent gold from effectively competing with or displacing the US dollar as a primary trusted monetary medium. But someone or some entity somewhere is now battling the US central bank for that control. Bottom line, monetary realists as observers still don’t understand why the historic central bank market manipulation of gold is presently failing. The US Central Bank must suppress the price of gold or face catastrophic losses that will cause an escalating downward spiral in the standing of the US dollar. [..] Regardless, argue, ignore, or deny it… the golden rule, “He who hath the gold rules” is as true now as it has ever been. The problem arises when that being of real value is supplanted by illusion. And it is only the illusion we have seen since August, 15th, 1971.

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One “experiment” with a group of 120 people, the other with 668. The term “universal” is apparently very hard to understand. But it’s in UBI for a reason.

Germany Launches Universal Basic Income Experiment (ZH)

Germany is about to try their hand at a universal basic income (UBI), after 1,500 people signed up for a three-year study to observe the effects on the economy and the wellbeing of the recipients, according to Business Insider. Of those who signed up, 120 individuals will receive the equivalent of US$1,430 per month for three years – just above Germany’s poverty line. Their lives will be compared to the remaining 1,380 people who will not receive the payments. The participants will be asked to complete questionnaires about their lives – including their emotional state and their work status, to see if UBI has had a meaningful impact.

Of course, as we and others have noted over and over and over, UBI experiments typically end in disaster. That said, it really helps if you’ve got a giant printing press and happen to be the world’s reserve currency during a pandemic (and for how long?). The study will also seek to determine whether UBI is a disincentive to work, or whether people will continue to ‘do fulfilling work, become more creative and charitable, and save democracy,’ according to the study’s lead investigator, Jürgen Schupp. Germany’s experiment has been funded by 140,000 private donations, and is being conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research.

“Universal basic income is the idea that a government should pay a lump sum of money to each of its citizens, usually once a month, regardless of their income and employment status, effectively replacing means-tested benefits. Its proponents argue that it would reduce inequality and also improve public wellbeing by providing people with more financial security. Its opponents say it would be too expensive and discourage people from going to work. The idea has gained traction in recent years amid recent financial crises and growing inequality in some Western countries.” -Business Insider

“A pro-basic income lobby group called Mein Grundeinkommen is funding the experiment. The group has used donations from its supporters to fund monthly €1,000 ($1,194) payments of for 668 people since 2014. Finland experimented its with own form of Universal Basic Income for nearly two years between January 2017 and December 2018 but concluded that while it led to people out of work feeling happier, it did not lead to increased employment, the BBC reported. During the experiment, 2,000 unemployed Finns received €560 ($667) a month.” -Business Insider

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“..forcing the Democrats to reverse course and abolish the USPS once and for all.”

Brilliant Trump Puts Himself On All Postage Stamps (Babylon Bee)

..Forcing Democrats To Push For Abolishing USPS


Sources are reporting that Trump has dealt a killer blow in his ongoing war against his sworn enemy, the U.S. Post Office. In a move of sheer, mind-blowing brilliance, Trump directed the Post Office to put his face on every single stamp, forcing the Democrats to reverse course and abolish the institution once and for all. The new stamp, dubbed “The Trump-Stamp,” to be used on all pieces of mail features a smiling Donald Trump, with the caption “GREATEST PRESIDENT EVER.” Don Lemon broke the news in a tearful address to the nation last night. “Our democracy is over,” he said. “It doesn’t exist anymore. I will never send another piece of mail ever again, and neither should you or else you’re a racist.” Antifa and BLM responded by marching on local post offices and burning them down. Enthusiastic Trump supporters quickly bought up all the stamps. They are now selling for $3,000 apiece online.

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“Oh, and he also cleared me of Alzheimer’s.”

Biden: ‘I Don’t Have Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Or Alzheimer’s’ (Babylon Bee)

In a recent live stream, Joe Biden proudly declared that his physician had cleared him of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. “My doc says I don’t have Alzheimer’s, dementia, or Alzheimer’s,” he said confidently. “Oh, and he also cleared me of Alzheimer’s.” Aides could be heard scrambling around to try to cut the video feed. “Yep — completely clear of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Alzheimer’s,” he said. “Wait – who are you people? What are all these cameras doing here? Who am I? WHO AM I!?!?!” At the end of the video, after aides finally calmed him down but before they were able to cut the feed, Biden added, “My doc says I don’t have Alzheimer’s, dementia, or Alzheimer’s.” The Press quickly praised the speech as one of Biden’s most coherent.

Read more …

 

 

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Video Carl Jung

 

 

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Jul 262020
 


Elaine de Kooning Fairfield Porter #1 1954

 

 

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that the first half of 2020 has brought, among many other things, renewed calls for the demise of the US dollar. It’s been pretty much a non-stop call for over a decade now, and longer. But this time, like all previous ones, I’m thinking: I don’t see it. I guess my first question is always: please explain why the dollar would collapse before the euro does.

For one thing, the dollar would have to collapse/default against one or more “entities”. The dollar is not like one of those highrises that collapse upon themselves. It will have to default or collapse against something(s) else. Since it is the world reserve currency, that means there would have to be a replacement reserve currency. Yes, that could also be for example gold or SDR’s, or even a basket of currencies, and something like that may happen eventually, but it doesn’t appear in the cards in the short run.

There are really only two candidates for the role, and neither looks at all fit to play it. The euro may have some ambitions in that direction, but it has far too many problems still. The yuan/renminbi certainly has such ambitions, but the Communist party refuses to let it get on stage to show what it’s got. As I recently wrote:

 

The main sticking point for Beijing is a conundrum it cannot solve. The CCP wants to have BOTH a global currency AND total control over that currency. It will have to choose between the two, and cannot make up its mind. So it pretends it doesn’t have to choose. Sure, there has been some advancement for the yuan, but I bet most of that is on the back of the Belt and Road (BRI), and that will turn out to be one of the main victims of the coronavirus. The BRI is China’s very clever way of exporting its overproduction, but potential buyers have other things on their mind today.


Meanwhile, even with that, the yuan is used in only 1.8% of cross-currency payments. [..] The sudden, and rushed, take-over of Hong Kong with the new security law will not help China’s plans to be accepted internationally. [..] The world’s large investors will not put their money into something that Xi Jinping can declare devalued by 50% on a rainy morning when he sees fit. He will have to cede that kind of control.

The euro has made some gains vs the USD recently, going from 1.07 to 1.16 or so, but that means very little once you look at the broader picture. Moreover, the reason the financial press provides for -much of- those gains, which is that the EU supposedly showed “unity” in its recent Recovery Fund talks, is bollocks.

If it showed one thing, it was a lack of unity. That’s why these were the longest talks they ever had. And if this had not been Angela Merkel’s last hurrah, they might not have agreed at all. They paid off the Frugal Four to the tune of hundreds of millions, and that’s how they got a deal. Horse traders.

A simple screenshot from Bloomberg of the USD vs EUR over the last five years makes clear why the recent changes are no big deal. (All BBG screenshots are from July 24 just before 10 AM EDT and all cover a 5 year period.)

 

 

A reserve currency has two roles: being the currency that most international trade is conducted in, and -closely related- being the currency that countries hold most as foreign exchange (FX) reserves. After WWII, the US dollar became the most important currency for trade more or less by default, a position that it greatly strengthened with the petrodollar.

A 2015 SWIFT paper provides details about the US dollar’s share of international trade:

The US dollar prevails as the dominant international trade currency, with a 51.9% share of the value of international currency usage in 2014. The euro is second, with a 30.5% share of the total value. The British pound is third, with a 5.4% share of the total value, followed by Asian currencies such as the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan.

That’s from five years ago, but things won’t have changed much. The system is complex and inert, it has a very strong resistance against large and sudden changes. (Do note that the euro’s share of international trade is substantially skewed because it includes payments between countries that use the euro as their currency, plus those EU countries that don’t -yet-). Single market, international trade.

And then there’s the dollar’s FX role.

In September 2019, Eswar Prasad at Brookings reported that the dollar’s share of global FX reserves remains around 65%.

The drop from 66 percent in 2015 to 62 percent in 2018, is probably a statistical artifact related to changes in the reporting of reserves. Compared with 2007, however, the dollar’s share of global FX reserves has declined by 2 percentage points while the euro’s share is down 6 percentage points. Over this period, the Japanese yen’s share has risen by 2 percentage points, while other less prominent reserve currencies have increased their total share by 4 percentage points. The renminbi, which was not an official reserve currency in 2007, now accounts for 2 percent of global FX reserves. [..] .. the euro has stumbled, the renminbi has stalled, and dollar supremacy remains unchallenged.

[..] In July 2019, China’s total official reserve assets amounted to just over $3.2 trillion, of which $3.1 trillion (97 percent of the total) was held in the form of FX reserves. Gold holdings amounted to about $89 billion [..] Coming amid rising trade tensions with the U.S., the 5 percent increase in China’s gold stock and the 24 percent increase in the value of its official gold holdings during 2019 have been interpreted as a sign of China’s attempting to diversify its reserve holdings away from U.S. dollars.

If this interpretation was indeed correct, China has a long way to go. Gold now accounts for 3 percent of China’s gross international reserves. From a global financial market perspective, and especially relative to its overall international reserves, the $18 billion increase in the value of China’s gold reserves during 2019 is trivial; it barely registers as a shift in the composition of China’s overall reserves.

Assuming that China still holds 58 percent of its FX reserves in dollar-denominated assets, the value of those assets in July 2019 was $1.8 trillion. So, the value of its gold reserves, $94 billion, is a mere one twentieth of that of China’s dollar-denominated reserves.

With the euro and yuan out of the way as potential reserve currency candidates, we can take a look at gold. Senior commenter Dr.D at the Automatic Earth recently wrote: “As advertised, the US$ is defaulting. What? Where? US$ has been cut in half compared to Silver in 3 months. US$ has been cut in half compared to BTC in 3 months. US$ has been cut in half compared to Gold in 4 years.

Like many people talking about a USD demise, perhaps that’s too much of a dollar-centric view and conclusion. Surely gold and silver can rise vs the USD without announcing an imminent collapse of the latter. And since precious metals tend to go up in times of uncertainty, and COVID has brought shovels full of just that, you would expect them to rise.

Therefore you would have to also look at how they do vs for example the euro, before concluding anything. Note: I didn’t include Bitcoin because it’s too new and volatile. Makes me think of the Lindy Effect, often cited by Nassim Taleb, the idea that the older something is, the longer it’s likely to be around in the future.

Here are a few more Bloomberg screenshots. And yes, gold has done well vs the USD in, say, the past two years, no doubt.

 

 

But gold has pretty much followed the exact same pattern vs the euro:

 

 

Silver has done even better, more recently, vs the USD, though compared to where it was in 2016 it’s not that big a step (barely more than 10%):

 

 

And the pattern of silver vs the euro is so similar it’s almost eery.

 

 

I don’t see anything there that would make me think the dollar is collapsing, no more than the euro is. What I see is gold and silver rising. People move into precious metals, perceived as safe havens; they always do when the world is in turmoil. And don’t forget there are trillions in additional recent central bank money sloshing around that have to move somewhere.

As for the changes of the USD vs the euro: we’ve already seen that they are not exceptional. Losing a few percent vs the euro will not collapse the dollar.

Also, there’s something missing in the discussion as far as I’ve seen: the option that it’s the US itself that wants a lower dollar at this point in time, and actively works to get it lower. A strong dollar works for a strong economy, but not for one weakened by a pandemic and an acrimonious political climate.

But the US has borrowed so much money!, you say. Yes, but so have Europe, and Japan, and China, everyone has who could.

 

A little more about gold, since some are clamoring for a return to the gold standard. Which is not likely, because too many parties would resist, either for ideological or practical reasons. But say you would consider it, then you would as one of the first things you do, look at gold reserves. Here are the top ten gold holding countries per March 2020, as assembled by TradingEconomics.com:

 

 

Note: Britain is not there, because “Between 1999 and 2002 the Treasury sold 401 tonnes of gold – out of its 715-tonne holding – at an average price of $275 an ounce, generating about $3.5bn during the period.” (BBC). Gold is at $1,900 today. Nuff said.

The US gold reserves are so large it would appear to give them an unfair advantage if a gold standard were considered. Same as they have in the current set-up. Then again, if you insert population numbers into the equation, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, even the Netherlands, have more in relative terms. Question is: where does that leave all the others?

Long story short: I don’t see a US dollar default or collapse in the near future. But by all means enlighten me.

 

 

 

 

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Jul 262020
 
 July 26, 2020  Posted by at 9:35 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Youngest little girl of motherless family, Toppenish, Yakima Valley WA 1939

 

The Key To Defeating COVID19 Already Exists. We Need To Start Using It (NW)
Over 40% Of US Adults Are Susceptible To Severe COVID-19 (ZH)
UK Quarantines Travellers From Spain In Sudden Blow To Europe’s Revival (R.)
Australia Reports Jump In Daily New Cases, Record Deaths (R.)
US Renters Brace For Evictions As Moratorium Ends (Pol.)
Mass Evictions Set To Begin – Communities Of Color To Be Hardest Hit (F.)
A Record 170 Tons Of Physical Gold Were Just Delivered On The COMEX (JN)
49% of Voters Believe Kremlin Interfered In Brexit Referendum (O.)
How Our Spies Missed Russian Bid To Sway Brexit (G.)
Dozens Gather In MAGA Hats In Hopes Washington Post Will Defame Them (BBee)

 

 

I’d like to pay more attention to the spreading protests/riots in the US, but I find it’s very hard to find anything neutral. Who are the bad guys and who the good guys entirely depends on your news source. And then you have opinion, not news. Lots of videos of violence perpetrated by both sides. I don’t like the use of the term stormtroopers, because that’s straight out of nazi Germany. Which is not where we are, though I know, some people would say it is.

 

 

It’s Sunday, so no new records. Just persistently high numbers. Flare-ups in Melbourne, Hong Kong, EU countries. South Africa is getting bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, HCQ. From a professor of epidemiology at Yale. Sometimes it feels like HCQ has its own private cancel culture.

The Key To Defeating COVID19 Already Exists. We Need To Start Using It (NW)

As professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, I have authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications and currently hold senior positions on the editorial boards of several leading journals. I am usually accustomed to advocating for positions within the mainstream of medicine, so have been flummoxed to find that, in the midst of a crisis, I am fighting for a treatment that the data fully support but which, for reasons having nothing to do with a correct understanding of the science, has been pushed to the sidelines. As a result, tens of thousands of patients with COVID-19 are dying unnecessarily. Fortunately, the situation can be reversed easily and quickly.

I am referring, of course, to the medication hydroxychloroquine. When this inexpensive oral medication is given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control, it has shown to be highly effective, especially when given in combination with the antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline and the nutritional supplement zinc. On May 27, I published an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE) entitled, “Early Outpatient Treatment of Symptomatic, High-Risk COVID-19 Patients that Should be Ramped-Up Immediately as Key to the Pandemic Crisis.” That article, published in the world’s leading epidemiology journal, analyzed five studies, demonstrating clear-cut and significant benefits to treated patients, plus other very large studies that showed the medication safety.

Physicians who have been using these medications in the face of widespread skepticism have been truly heroic. They have done what the science shows is best for their patients, often at great personal risk. I myself know of two doctors who have saved the lives of hundreds of patients with these medications, but are now fighting state medical boards to save their licenses and reputations. The cases against them are completely without scientific merit. Since publication of my May 27 article, seven more studies have demonstrated similar benefit. In a lengthy follow-up letter, also published by AJE, I discuss these seven studies and renew my call for the immediate early use of hydroxychloroquine in high-risk patients.

These seven studies include: an additional 400 high-risk patients treated by Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, with zero deaths; four studies totaling almost 500 high-risk patients treated in nursing homes and clinics across the U.S., with no deaths; a controlled trial of more than 700 high-risk patients in Brazil, with significantly reduced risk of hospitalization and two deaths among 334 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine; and another study of 398 matched patients in France, also with significantly reduced hospitalization risk. Since my letter was published, even more doctors have reported to me their completely successful use.

Read more …

How about you close McDonald’s permanently?

Over 40% Of US Adults Are Susceptible To Severe COVID-19 (ZH)

Several studies have found that the risk of contracting severe Covid-19 that can result in hospitalization, ICU admission, mechanical ventilation or death increases with age as well as the presence of underlying health conditions. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a study showing that a considerable share of the American population has some form of underlying health issue, which, as Statista’s Niall McCarthy details below, places them at risk from severe forms of the virus. The study’s findings are based on the 2018 Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and U.S. Census population data and it determined that 40.7 percent of U.S. adults (aged 18 and over) have a pre-existing health condition.

The most prevalent condition in the study is obesity, affecting just over 30 percent of Americans and it followed by diabetes which has a national prevalence of 11.2 percent. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease have a prevalence of just under 7 percent while chronic kidney disease is at approximately 3 percent. The CDC stated that “while the estimated number of persons with any underlying medical condition was higher in population-dense metropolitan areas, overall prevalence was higher in rural nonmetropolitan areas.” It also added that “the counties with the highest prevalences of any condition were concentrated in Southeastern states, particularly in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia, as well as some counties in Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and northern Michigan, among others”.

Read more …

Several EU countries have new flare-ups. Second Wave? I don’t think so. Just the effect of loosening restrictions, and people thinking it’s all over.

UK Quarantines Travellers From Spain In Sudden Blow To Europe’s Revival (R.)

Britain abruptly imposed a two-week quarantine on all travellers arriving from Spain after a surge of coronavirus cases, a dramatic and sudden reversal on Saturday to the opening of the European continent to tourism after months of lockdown. The quarantine requirement was due to take effect from midnight (2300 GMT on Saturday), making it impossible for travellers to avoid it by rushing home. The British foreign ministry also announced it was recommending against all but essential travel to mainland Spain, a move likely to prompt tour operators to cancel package holidays and trigger claims against insurers.

Spain’s Canary and Balearic Islands were not covered by the advice to avoid travel to the mainland, but holidaymakers returning to Britain from the islands will still be subject to quarantine on return. Britain’s government urged employers to be “understanding” towards staff who are unable to return to their place of work for two weeks after they return from holiday. The sudden British move followed steps this week by other European countries. On Friday Norway said it would re-impose a 10-day quarantine requirement for people arriving from Spain from Saturday, while France advised people not to travel to Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia.

But the total collapse of tourism from Britain would have far more impact. Britain accounted for more than 20% of the foreign visitors to Spain last year, the largest group by nationality. Tourism normally accounts for some 12% of Spain’s economy. Spain had been on a list of countries that the British government had said were safe for travellers to visit – meaning tourists returning home would not have to go into quarantine. The announcement of such lists just weeks ago had allowed Europe’s tourism sector to begin its revival after the near total shut-down prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more …

Almost all Melbourne.

Australia Reports Jump In Daily New Cases, Record Deaths (R.)

Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, recorded 459 cases of the new coronavirus, the second-highest daily total and up from 357 cases the previous day, the state’s leader said on Sunday. Premier Daniel Andrews also told a press briefing that Victoria had reported 10 COVID-19 deaths in past 24 hours, Australia’s highest ever daily number. The state’s second wave is being driven by workplace infections, including at aged-care and healthcare facilities, big distribution centres, slaughterhouses, cold-storage facilities and warehouses, Andrews said. “What that tells you is that some people… are feeling sick, they have symptoms and they are still going to work,” he said.


“If that continues, then we will just continue to see more and more cases.” The cases were found on the day with the highest number of coronavirus tests, at more than 45,000. Australia has avoided the worst of coronavirus crisis seen in other countries, but authorities are struggling to contain an outbreak in Victoria. It has recorded more than 14,400 cases so far. Victorians are subject to a six week lockdown, border closures with other states and mandatory face mask wearing.

Read more …

I’d like to know how many “homeowners” face eviction.

US Renters Brace For Evictions As Moratorium Ends (Pol.)

Columbus, Ohio, has turned part of its convention center into an evictions court. Denver is creating a handful of designated campsites for homeless people. And Milwaukee saw a 17 percent increase in eviction filings last month after a state ban lapsed. Cities across the country are bracing for a surge of evictions as a four-month federal moratorium that has protected millions of tenants from losing their homes in the middle of the pandemic expires Friday at midnight, with no relief in sight from Congress. The ban is ending just as a federal enhancement to unemployment benefits — a $600-a-week boost that has helped many laid off tenants pay at least some of their rent — also lapses this weekend.

Estimates of the number of people who stand to lose their homes are rough, given the patchwork of state and local bans on evictions, many of which are also expiring. But they range in the millions, and a disproportionate share of them are people of color. “The wave of evictions has already begun, and now Congress needs to act to prevent it from becoming a tsunami,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “If the federal ban is not extended, if the state and local eviction moratoriums that are scheduled to expire in the coming weeks do, and if no emergency rental assistance is provided, then from the end of August through fall, millions of Americans will be evicted from their homes,” Yentel said.

While states have imposed their own eviction moratoriums, 24 of them have already allowed the temporary bans to lapse. That leaves somewhere between 19 million and 23 million people — about one in five renters in the U.S. — at risk of eviction by the end of September if Congress fails to extend both the federal ban and supplemental unemployment benefits, according to an estimate by the Aspen Institute. The situation was dire even before both protections lapsed: Roughly 9.4 million renters have no confidence they will be able to make next month’s rent payment, according to the latest weekly survey by the Census Bureau, conducted the second week of July. Another 14.3 million have only “slight” confidence they will be able to make rent next month.

Read more …

Well, duh!

Mass Evictions Set To Begin – Communities Of Color To Be Hardest Hit (F.)

On March 27, the CARES Act was signed into law and included a moratorium through July 24 on evictions for those living in homes funded by federally backed mortgages or who rely on housing vouchers. This protection covers roughly a third of renters and expires today, putting millions of families at risk of losing their homes in the middle of an unprecedented health and unemployment crisis. Once the moratorium ends, landlords must still give renters 30 days’ notice before filing a complaint in court. Some states and cities have their own bans on evictions so renters should check with their local government if they receive notice. Over 17 million Americans are still unemployed and unable to find work, and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases only continues to rise.


Removing families from their homes amid the surge in cases will result in even more lives being lost. According to a report by The Center for Public Integrity, communities of color are most at risk of losing their homes. This same group is also the most vulnerable to the disease because of structural conditions. One example is that Black and other people of color are more likely to be considered essential workers or work in jobs that can’t be done remotely. The disparities in the quality and access to healthcare for Black individuals has been widely documented as well. These factors mean that the expiration of the moratorium on evictions will disproportionately affect Black and brown communities, and widen the racial wealth gap.

Read more …

Interesting story. If the spread between New York and London gold is too large, it pays to fly huge gold shipments around the world.

A Record 170 Tons Of Physical Gold Were Just Delivered On The COMEX (JN)

Three elements cause physical delivery on the COMEX to have reached record highs this year: strong demand for futures in New York, a persisting spread between the price of futures in New York versus spot gold in London, and arbitrage. Physical delivery on the largest gold futures exchange in the world, the COMEX in New York, has reached all time highs this year. In June more than 170 tonnes were physically delivered (5.5 million ounces). Usually, delivery is “neglectable.” What has changed? An important change in the global gold market occurred on March 23, 2020. On that day the price of gold futures in New York started drifting higher than the price for spot gold in London. Ever since, the spread has persisted, though it continuously widens and narrows.

[..] The world’s most dominant gold spot market is the London Bullion Market, where mostly “loco London” gold is traded. Meaning the metal is physically settled within the environs of the M25 London Orbital Motorway. The most dominant gold futures market is located in New York, where metal can be physically delivered within a 150-mile radius of the City of New York. Before March 23, the price in London (spot) and the price in New York (near month futures contract) always traded in tight lockstep because of arbitrage. If, for example, the futures price would trade above spot, arbitragers would “buy spot and sell futures” until the spread was closed. Arbitragers would hold their positions—long spot, short futures—until maturity of the futures contract, because at expiry the price of the futures contract was guaranteed to converge with the spot price.

In this example we can see that strong demand in New York would be translated into spot buying in London. Worth noting is that when a futures trader rolled its position into the next month, and his initial futures buying was translated into spot buying in London by an arbitrager, on a systemic level the arbitrager would roll its position as well. Of course, the opposite happened as well. When futures traded below spot, arbitragers would “buy futures and sell spot” until the spread was closed. So far, a simplified version of the market before March 23. Since March 23 of this year, futures have persistently been trading above spot, though the spread isn’t constant. As a result, arbitragers aren’t assured the futures price in New York will converge with the spot price in London. An arbitrage trade as described above, through a position in both markets, incurs risk.

What arbitragers currently do to profit from the spread is buy spot, sell futures, fly the metal to New York, and physically deliver the gold. This is how the profit is locked in. If the spread between spot and futures is $40 per ounce, the arbitrager’s profit is $40 minus costs for transport, insurance, storage, etc. Now you can see why the persistent spread between New York and London has increased physical delivery on the COMEX through arbitrage. Conclusion: Physical delivery on the COMEX is elevated because of the current unusual situation in the global gold market. The gold delivered in New York has been imported from spot markets such as Singapore, Switzerland and Australia. U.S. imports directly from the U.K. are rare, because in London 400-ounce bars are traded and the main futures contract in New York requires smaller bars for delivery.

Read more …

Just the Guardian confirming its propaganda works in Britain.

49% of Voters Believe Kremlin Interfered In Brexit Referendum (O.)

Almost half the British public believes the Russian government interfered in the EU referendum and last year’s general election, according to a poll. The latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that 49% of voters think there was Russian interference in the Brexit referendum, with 23% disagreeing. Some 47% believed Russia interfered in the December general election. The poll findings come after the long-awaited publication of the report into Russian interference by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee last week. It found that the government had not attempted to investigate potential Russian interference in the referendum. It said the UK had “badly underestimated” the Russian threat.

Opinium asked people whether they thought there was any involvement from Russia in the last three general elections, the EU referendum and the Scottish referendum. For each, the public were more likely to think that the Russian government had interfered than that it had not. Two-fifths (40%) thought Russia had interfered in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Remainers were more likely (63%) to think that the Russian government interfered in the EU referendum than Leavers (39%). Asked about the 2019 general election, 70% of Lib Dem voters and 62% of Labour voters believed the Russian government interfered, compared with 39% of Conservative voters. However, even Conservative voters were more likely to believe that the Russian government interfered in that election (39%) than not (33%).

Read more …

And for those still not with the program, Luke Harding explains that the only possible reason no Russian interference was found is that they weren’t looking. Just like Robert Mueller.

How Our Spies Missed Russian Bid To Sway Brexit (G.)

[..] the Russia report – published last week after a 10-month delay – paints a damning picture of British spooks who were too timorous or too incompetent to do much about a growing Russian threat, or the Kremlin’s surreptitious attempt to sway the Brexit vote. Over the last four years British and Russian policy have been remarkably aligned. For Theresa May as prime minister and her successor Boris Johnson, Brexit has been about delivering the “will of the people”. From Moscow, Brexit is seen as a wild success, diminishing the UK and estranging London from its European partners. And perhaps hastening Scottish secession too. The MPs who sit on parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) were incredulous at the lack of cooperation from the UK’s security agencies.


Asked about Moscow and Brexit, MI5 produced “six lines of text”, the report said. GCHQ didn’t drill down into the St Petersburg troll factory, which pumped out millions of pro-Leave messages. And MI6 failed to ask its secret agents what exactly the Kremlin was up to. Agency sources suggest such criticism is unfair. Yes, they say, MI5 has a permanent counter-intelligence mission. Its job is to keep Britain safe. Yet it also has a statutory duty to protect UK democracy. Whitehall sources last night insisted the security services fulfilled such responsibilities without political interference. Others say the security services depend on “tasking” from inside Whitehall – the Cabinet Office, the joint intelligence committee, and No 10. They have less operational freedom than the FBI in the US and they are culturally and historically reluctant to wade into politics. Plus the instructions never came.

Read more …

Babylon Bee.

Dozens Gather In MAGA Hats In Hopes Washington Post Will Defame Them (BBee)

After Nick Sandmann settled yet another nine-figure lawsuit today, dozens of people went out in MAGA hats, gathering outside The Washington Post’s offices in hopes that they too would be defamed by the newspaper. The clever entrepreneurs stood outside the paper’s headquarters wearing the pro-Trump headgear. They just stood there, not chanting or protesting or breaking anything, a protest tactic that immediately confused the liberals working at the Post. “It’s very strange — they’re not burning anything. They must not be peaceful protesters. Nonetheless, we will not be fooled by this tactic,” said a WaPo editor. “We will be able to resist the urge to commit libel against these deplora–I mean, these ordinary Americans.” At publishing time, The Washington Post had written defamatory articles about all of them. They are all preparing to retire comfortably.

Read more …

 

 

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Mar 292020
 


Dorothea Lange Kern County, California 1938

 

Trump Backs Off Threat Of Coronavirus Quarantine For NYC Area (NYP)
Florida Coronavirus Cases Are Growing Fast. Here’s What That Means. (TBT)
Rhode Island Door Knocks in Search of Fleeing New Yorkers (AP)
700 N.J. Police Officers Have Tested Positive For Coronavirus (NJ.com)
More Than 500 Members Of The NYPD Have Coronavirus (NYP)
Italy PM Adopts New Measures To Help Coronavirus-Hit Economy (R.)
Home Confinement In France Extended To April 15 (SA)
UK Coronavirus Death Toll Under 20,000 Would Be ‘Good Result’ – Health Chief (R.)
UK To Turn Birmingham Airport Into Mortuary (BBC)
UK Broadband Providers To Lift Data Caps During COVID-19 Lockdown (G.)
“There’s No Gold” – COMEX Report (ZH)
Biden Consolidates Support, But Trails Badly In Enthusiasm (ABC)

 

 

Lost an hour overnight because Europe finally went to Daylight Saving Time. That one hour extra/less between the two sides of the ocean always throws me off-rhythm. The missing hour also shows up in the numbers, but we’ll make that up tomorrow.

Since the US is now the world no. 1, it’s inevitable that much of the news switches there as well. I AM unpleasantly surprised to see the numbers of police officers infected, and I would like to know how that happens. Trump’s notion of a NYC lockdown seemed to make sense, but “wiser” voices prevailed. As NYC has turned into not just the American, but the global center.

 

 

Cases 672,086 (+ 63,819 from yesterday’s 613,829)

Deaths 31,737 (+ 3,508 from yesterday’s 28,229)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 18% –

 

 

From SCMP: (Note, SCMP numbers have done a little sprint, their US deaths are even higher than Worldometer now)

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

Did Trump get talked out of it by the likes of Cuomo? As NYC is turning into the global epicenter? Cuomo keeps calling for equipment, but refuses to ponder measures that could make that less important.

Trump Backs Off Threat Of Coronavirus Quarantine For NYC Area (NYP)

President Donald Trump on Saturday night backed off a daylong threat to lock down NYC and the tri-state area — a proposal that had thrown three governors for a loop. “A quarantine will not be necessary,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets Saturday night, reasoning that a travel advisory would suffice. “On the recommendation of the White House CoronaVirus Task Force, and upon consultation with the Governor’s (sic) of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, I have asked the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to issue a strong Travel Advisory, to be administered by the Governors, in consultation with the Federal Government,” Trump tweeted.


Trump had told reporters outside the White House earlier Saturday that he was considering a regional lockdown to stop the spread of the disease, to the dismay of the tri-state’s governors. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he and Trump spoke just a day before, on Friday, and the idea wasn’t brought up. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wouldn’t even know how such a lockdown would be instituted. “I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable and from a medical point of view don’t know what you would be accomplishing, but I can tell you I don’t even like the sound of it,” he told reporters Saturday.. He appeared on CNN later, where he likened the concept to starting a “Civil War,” and called it “preposterous.”

Read more …

Still photos of full beaches.

Florida Coronavirus Cases Are Growing Fast. Here’s What That Means. (TBT)

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida is doubling every three days, putting the state on a trajectory to see tens of thousands of infections in the coming weeks, a Tampa Bay Times analysis shows. No rigorous model has been calculated for Florida to predict the disease’s spread in detail. Those usually take months to create. But at this point, experts say the math is simple. The number of cases is already past the point of easy containment and infections are growing faster and faster, at what statisticians call an exponential rate. Without dramatic steps, they worry that the epidemic will balloon across Florida and place an unprecedented strain on hospitals and health clinics.


Thomas Hladish, a University of Florida research scientist who specializes in disease modeling and has been advising the state on the outbreak, said that while epidemiologists might disagree on the nuances of their projections, they all agree on the main point. “We do understand the math and the models well enough to say with great confidence that Florida is going to have a huge public health crisis,” Hladish said. “And we are just at the beginning of it right now.” By 11 a.m. Saturday, Florida had reported more than 3,700 cases — an increase of nearly 1,000 in 24 hours. Florida remains one of the few states with a large outbreak not to issue a statewide order to keep residents at home. Several counties across the state, including Hillsborough and Pinellas, issued “safer at home” orders in the last week.

Some public health experts say it will take the more extreme step of shutting down the state to halt the disease’s rapid spread in Florida. Nine hundred Florida healthcare workers had signed a petition by Friday asking for the same thing. The effects of the intervention wouldn’t be apparent right away. The same is true for the smaller steps that have already been taken in Florida, like social distancing or closing restaurants and fitness studios. “We are not going to see the benefits for a few weeks, which is frustrating to everyone,” said Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at Florida International University.

Read more …

If not the craziest thing around, a solid contender.

Rhode Island Door Knocks in Search of Fleeing New Yorkers (AP)

The Rhode Island National Guard started going door to door on Saturday in coastal areas to inform any New Yorkers who may have come to the state that they must self-quarantine for 14 days while Gov. Gina Raimondo expanded the mandatory self-quarantine to anyone visiting the state. Raimondo also ordered residents to stay at home, with exceptions for getting food, medicines or going to the doctor, and ordered nonessential retail businesses to close Monday until April 13 to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. She also directed realtors and hotel operators to include new requirements that any out-of-state residents must quarantine for 14 days in their purchase agreements.

State Police set up a checkpoint on I-95 in Hope Valley on Friday where drivers with New York license plates must stop and provide contact information and were told to self-quarantine for two weeks, WPRI.com reported. If New Yorkers don’t comply, they face fines and jail time, Raimondo said, adding that that’s not the goal. “I want to be crystal clear about this: If you’re coming to Rhode Island from New York you are ordered into quarantine. The reason for that is because more than half of the cases of coronavirus in America are in New York,” Raimondo said, adding that it’s not meant to be discriminatory.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the order “reactionary” and unconstitutional, saying he’d sue Rhode Island if the policy isn’t rescinded but believed they could “work it out.” “I understand the goal … but there’s a point of absurdity, and I think what Rhode Island did is at that point of absurdity,” said Cuomo, a Democrat. “We have to keep the ideas and the policies we implement positive rather than reactionary and emotional.”

Read more …

Insane. How did this happen?

700 N.J. Police Officers Have Tested Positive For Coronavirus (NJ.com)

About 700 New Jersey police officers have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Saturday. “There’s more than 700 police officers quarantined at home, and there’s about the same … number that have tested positive from all 21 counties,” Col. Patrick Callahan, acting superintendent of the State Police, said in Trenton during the state’s daily coronavirus press briefing. that amount is far higher than previously known. Newark, Jersey City, NJ Transit, the Port Authority, Fanwood, Hazlet and the State Police have all reported cases. Two officers that were in “serious condition” are now stable, Callahan said. None have died. Testing sites in Bergen and Holmdel were only testing symptomatic first responders Saturday, Gov. Phil Murphy previously said.


There are about 36,000 full-time officers in the state, according to recent State Police data, and experts said the public should not be concerned about a looming officer shortage. “If you have the right officers and you have the right supervisors … we are good,” said Maria Haberfeld, a police science professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Crime has also dropped in the state, officials have said, which could help departments cope with any short-staffing, according to Jon Shane, a retired Newark police captain who teaches at John Jay. [..] New Jersey has at least 11,124 known cases of the virus overall, including at least 140 known deaths, officials announced Saturday.

Read more …

Seriously, how? Are they infecting each other? Like at the stations?

More Than 500 Members Of The NYPD Have Coronavirus (NYP)

Nearly 200 more NYPD cops tested positive for the coronavirus in less than a day — causing the number of infected department members to soar above 550, officials said Friday. According to a spokesman for the NYPD, 486 uniformed officers and 71 civilian employees have now contracted COVID-19. Late Thursday, 294 cops and 57 civilians were positive. Friday’s figures — the largest daily increase in confirmed cases on the force — come a day after the NYPD lost its first employee to the coronavirus, Dennis Dickson, 62, a civilian cleaner at police HQ, and Deputy Commissioner John Miller was hospitalized in critical condition with severe COVID-19 symptoms.


The potentially deadly virus has been sweeping through the department over the past week, leaving the NYPD without at least 11 percent of its patrol officers, who called out sick. About 375 more cops called out sick Friday. According to the NYPD, 4,111 officers were out ill — nearly four times the average number of cops out sick.

Read more …

Italy is finally free to do what it wants financially, the EU is silent.

Italy PM Adopts New Measures To Help Coronavirus-Hit Economy (R.)

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday he had approved a new package of measures to help those worst hit by the coronavirus emergency, including supplying shopping vouchers and food packages. Conte said in a news conference that €4.3 billion ($4.79 billion) would be made immediately available to mayors to deal with theirs citizens’ needs and another 400 million would be provided in a special fund for “people who don’t have the money to do their shopping.” Italy, the country that has suffered most deaths from the coronavirus epidemic, already approved a 25 billion euro stimulus package earlier this month and has promised another one of at least the same size in April.


Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri, speaking at the same news conference, criticized the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, for appearing to dismiss the need for issuance of common debt by European Union countries. “The commission president’s words were a mistake and I regret that she made them,” he said, adding that Europe would need “a great Marshall Plan” to relaunch its economy after the coronavirus emergency is over.

Read more …

What an unsympathetic term.

Home Confinement In France Extended To April 15 (SA)

The Covid-19 home confinement period will be extended for “at least two weeks” beyond the initial two-week period, the French prime minister has announced this afternoon. The obligation to stay at home, with limited exceptions, started at noon on Tuesday March 17 and was scheduled to last until Tuesday March 31 at least and until further notice. Now Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has confirmed it will definitely be extended and will not end before Wednesday April 15. “It is clear that we are only at the beginning of the wave of this epidemic,” he said specifying that the same rules, such as needing a form to go out of the house, will continue to apply.


He said the period could be extended further again if the health situation makes it necessary. On Tuesday, the official scientific committee advising the government said an extension to the confinement period was essential and pleaded for a period of six full weeks from its implementation i.e. until Tuesday April 28. A new extension could be decided “if and only if the health situation requires it,” said Mr Philippe. “Those who do not respect the rules of confinement are few in number and will be severely punished, because the health of everyone is at stake, especially the most fragile among us,” the prime minister added while praising citizens “for their civic-mindedness, patience and solidarity” during this period.

Read more …

Prepare to die. Just don’t dare blame Boris.

UK Coronavirus Death Toll Under 20,000 Would Be ‘Good Result’ – Health Chief (R.)

The United Kingdom will do well if it manages to keep the coronavirus death toll below 20,000, a senior health official said on Saturday after the deadliest day so far of the outbreak saw the number of fatalities rise to more than 1,000. Stephen Powis, the medical director of National Health Service England, warned the public against complacency and said everyone had to play their part in hindering the spread of the virus. The number of confirmed cases stood at 17,089 on Saturday morning. The death toll rose by 260 in a day to 1,019, the seventh highest toll in the world behind Italy, Spain, China, Iran, France and the United States.


When asked if Britain was on the same trajectory as Italy, where the death toll has passed 9,000, Powis said that if the public adhered to the nationwide lockdown the total toll could be kept below 20,000. “If it is less than 20,000… that would be a good result though every death is a tragedy, but we should not be complacent about that,” he said at a news conference in Downing Street. Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first leader of a major power to announce a positive test result for coronavirus on Friday. He is self-isolating in Downing Street but still leading the UK response to the crisis.

Read more …

1,500 bodies? How small is that airport?

UK To Turn Birmingham Airport Into Mortuary (BBC)

Work to turn part of Birmingham Airport into a mortuary able to store at least 1,500 bodies has begun. Bosses previously said discussions were under way, but West Midlands Police confirmed the project had started. An airport spokesperson said it was working to provide land and a hangar for the temporary morgue. Police said there was “scope to expand” the starting capacity of 1,500, as the region prepared for a predicted rise in coronavirus deaths. The force said regional mortuaries may close as staff were transferred to the new facility, which could eventually accommodate all deaths across the West Midlands. This would include those unrelated to coronavirus, it said.


The force said it would do everything possible to accommodate religious requirements and that it was “vital” to give people “the utmost dignity and respect” at all times. Senior coroner for Birmingham, Louise Hunt, said: “We understand that it is a very difficult time for everyone and we will do all that we can to make sure bereaved families understand what is happening to their loved ones and to release them for funeral as soon as we can.” Assistant Chief Constable Vanessa Jardine said public sector agencies and their partners were working together “to better deal with this challenge… at a critical time of need”.

Read more …

It’s essential that Boris talk to you.

UK Broadband Providers To Lift Data Caps During COVID-19 Lockdown (G.)

All data allowance caps on current fixed broadband services will be removed in a deal struck by the government and telecommunications companies to help vulnerable people stay connected through the pandemic. It is among a range of immediately effective measures agreed by major internet service and mobile providers including BT/EE, Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, and KCOM. The companies have pledged that anyone who is struggling to pay their bill due to the pandemic will be treated fairly and appropriately supported, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said.

The firms have also agreed to offer generous new mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected and the most vulnerable continue to be supported. These could put users in line for packages featuring data boosts at low prices and free calls from their landline or mobile. Vulnerable customers or those who are self-isolating, who are faced with priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines which cannot be carried out, should be given alternative methods of communication wherever possible, the companies said.

The digital secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “It’s fantastic to see mobile and broadband providers pulling together to do their bit for the national effort by helping customers, particularly the most vulnerable, who may be struggling with bills at this difficult time. It is essential that people stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. This package helps people to stay connected whilst they stay home.” Watchdog Ofcom’s chief executive, Melanie Dawes, said: “We recognise providers are dealing with unprecedented challenges at the moment. So we welcome them stepping up to protect vulnerable customers, at a time when keeping in touch with our friends and families has never been more important.”

Read more …

Tik tok.

“There’s No Gold” – COMEX Report (ZH)

While the demand for gold has been soaring as a safe haven asset amid the multiple global crises we are currently facing, forced paper gold liquidation (as leveraged funds scramble to cover margin calls) and unprecedented logistical disruptions created a frantic hunt for actual bars of gold. Specifically, as Bloomberg details, at the center of it all are a small band of traders who for years had cashed in on what had always been a sure-fire bet: shorting gold futures in New York against being long physical gold in London. Usually, they’d ride the trade out till the end of the contract when they’d have a couple of options to get out without marking much, if any, loss. The real price.. for real gold? Nearer $1,800. If you can get it.

“There’s no gold,” says Josh Strauss, partner at money manager Pekin Hardy Strauss in Chicago (and a bullion fan). “There’s no gold. There’s roughly a 10% premium to purchase physical gold for delivery. Usually it’s like 2%. I can buy a one ounce American Eagle for $1,800,” said Josh Strauss. “$1,800!” “The case for gold is simple,” says Strauss. “You want to own gold in times of financial dislocation and or inflation. And that’s been the case since time immemorial. And gold behaves well in those cases. In those cases stocks behave poorly. It’s a great portfolio hedge. Gold does poorly when you’ve got strong economic growth and low inflation. Tell me when that’s going to happen. Gold held its value during 2008 and after all that money printing it tripled over the next three years.”

And in case you doubted this, the cost of an American Eagle one ounce coin at the US Mint is now $2,175…

Read more …

Really bad theater.

Biden Consolidates Support, But Trails Badly In Enthusiasm (ABC)

Former Vice President Joe Biden has emerged as Democrats’ top choice for the presidential nomination in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, but with only bare majority support within his party and a massive enthusiasm gap in a November matchup against President Donald Trump. Indeed, strong enthusiasm for Biden among his supporters – at just 24% – is the lowest on record for a Democratic presidential candidate in 20 years of ABC/Post polls. More than twice as many of Trump’s supporters are highly enthusiastic about supporting him, 53%. Trump’s still-strong rating on the economy is another challenge for Biden. So is this: Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who prefer Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the nomination, 15% say they’d back Trump over Biden in the fall.

In the nomination contest, 51% of leaned Democrats now prefer Biden vs. 42% for Sanders. That’s a vast 34-point gain for Biden since mid-February, with other candidates having left the race and endorsed him. Sanders gained 10%age points. Yet even as he’s advanced in his party, Biden’s slipped against Trump in a November matchup. The two are locked into essentially a dead heat among registered voters, 49-47%, Biden-Trump, after a slight Biden lead, 52-45%, in February. Biden does better vs. Trump among all adults (Democrats are less apt to be registered), 50-44%. That’s a slight lead, but it was more solidly significant in February, 52-44%.


Perhaps the Democrats’ biggest risk is under the surface, in Trump’s big advantage in backers who are “very” enthusiastic about supporting him. Strong enthusiasm for a candidate can help boost turnout on Election Day, a must-have particularly for Democrats, who rely more on motivating less-frequent voters to come to the polls. While trailing Trump by 29 points in high-level enthusiasm, Biden makes up some of the difference with those who are “somewhat” enthusiastic. But he still trails Trump by 12 points in the combined measure, 74 vs. 86%.

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run a joint like the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderful and generous donations over the past few days. The rest of you: don’t be strangers.

 

 

 

 


Jennifer Baer

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Mar 192020
 


DPC Cab stand at Madison Square, NY c1900

 

‘A Generation Has Died’ (G.)
Scientists Say Mass Tests In Italian Town Have Halted COVID-19 (G.)
Japanese Flu Drug ‘Clearly Effective’ Against Coronavirus, But.. (G.)
UK Failures Over COVID-19 Will Increase Death Toll, Says Leading Doctor (G.)
Asian Nations Face Second Wave Of Imported Cases (BBC)
Dollar Resumes Ascent As Investors Panic, Scramble For Cash (R.)
Cash Is King As Emergency Stimulus Fails To Stop Market Panic (R.)
Misunderestimate: Banks Are Going To Drown In An Ocean Of Defaults (Black)
Airline Industry Turmoil Deepens As Coronavirus Pain Spreads (R.)
The COVID-19 Crisis Is A Chance To Do Capitalism Differently (Mazzucato)
Russia Coronavirus Disinformation Designed To Sow Panic In West – EU (R.)
‘Putin’s Chef’ Threatens To Sue US Over Charges Of 2016 Election Meddling (G.)
Ghislaine Maxwell Sues Jeffrey Epstein’s Estate Over Legal Fees (BBC)

 

 

 

Cases 221,934 (+ 19,664 from yesterday’s 202,270)

Deaths 8,999 (+ 987 from yesterday’s 8,012)

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate briefly touched 10% –

 

 

From SCMP: (Note: the SCMP graph was useful when China was the focal point; they are falling behind now)

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (New format lacks new cases and deaths)

 

 

I wanted to show you how widespread the virus has become. Worldometer keeps a constantly updated record of new cases and deaths every day. Here is the harvest of just the past 10 hours; I left out the sources, go to their site for those.

• 1 new case in Sweden
• 5 new cases in Sri Lanka
309 new cases and 7 new deaths in Belgium
• 12 new cases in Bahrain
• 35 new cases in Norway
756 new cases and 3 new deaths in Germany
• 10 new cases in Tunisia
• 245 new cases and 2 new deaths in Spain
• 10 new cases in Peru
• 22 new cases in Pakistan
• 12 new cases in Armenia
• 104 new cases and 2 new deaths in Switzerland
• 2 new cases in Lithuania:
• 28 new cases in Finland
• 3 new cases in Tanzania
• 3 new cases in the State of Palestine
• 4 new cases in Bangladesh
• 4 new cases in Guam
• 5 new cases in Brunei Darussalam
• 1 new death in Greece
• 13 new cases and 1 new death in Croatia
• 4 new cases in Morocco
• 6 new cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina
• 15 new cases in the Philippines
• 7 new cases and 1 new death in Algeria
75 new cases and 2 new deaths in Denmark
• 2 new cases in Ghana
113 new cases in Australia (NSW), including a 6-year-old child
• 6 new cases in Slovakia
• 7 new cases in the DR Congo
• 6 new cases in Lebanon
96 new cases in Israel
• 132 new cases and 2 new deaths in Luxembourg

• 15 new cases in Latvia
• 50 new cases in Czechia
1st death in Russia
• 110 new cases in Malaysia

• 14 new cases in Faeroe Islands
• 6 new cases in Kuwait
• 1 new case in Cuba: a Canadian citizen
60 new cases in Thailand
• 82 new cases and 6 new deaths in Indonesia

• 18 new cases in Poland
• 8 new cases in Kazakhstan
1st death in Mexico
• 197 new cases and 1 new death in Austria

• 3 new cases in Bangladesh
• 8 new cases in Serbia
• 2 new cases in Sri Lanka
• 5 new cases in India
• 15 new cases in Hungary
• 2 new cases in Georgia
• 8 new cases in Taiwan
• 2 new cases and 1 new death in Bulgaria
• 5 new cases in Uzbekistan
• 5 new cases in Armenia
205 new cases and 5 new deaths in the United States
• 9 new cases and 3 new deaths in Japan
• 3 new cases in Honduras
• 2 new cases in Trinidad and Tobago
• 1 new case in French Polynesia
• 1 new death in Argentina
1st case in Nicaragua
• 1st case in El Salvador
• 1st case in Fiji

• 1 new death in Curaçao.
• 9 new cases in Colombia
152 new cases and 7 new deaths in South Korea
• 8 new cases in New Zealand
• 34 new cases, 8 new deaths (all in Hubei) in China

 

 

Time to wonder about mental health as well.

‘A Generation Has Died’ (G.)

Coffins awaiting burial are lining up in churches and the corpses of those who died at home are being kept in sealed-off rooms for days as funeral services struggle to cope in Bergamo, the Italian province hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had killed 2,978 across Italy, all buried or cremated without ceremony. Those who die in hospital do so alone, with their belongings left in bags beside coffins before being collected by funeral workers. In Bergamo, a province of 1.2 million people in the Lombardy region, where 1,640 of the total deaths in the country have taken place, 3,993 people had contracted the virus by Tuesday. The death toll across the province is unclear, but CFB, the area’s largest funeral director, has carried out almost 600 burials or cremations since 1 March.

“In a normal month we would do about 120,” said Antonio Ricciardi, the president of CFB. “A generation has died in just over two weeks. We’ve never seen anything like this and it just makes you cry.” There are about 80 funeral companies across Bergamo, each receiving dozens of calls an hour. A shortage of coffins as providers struggle to keep up with demand and funeral workers becoming infected with the virus are also hampering preparations. Hospitals have adopted more stringent rules regarding the handling of the dead, who need to be placed in a coffin straight away without being clothed due to the risk of infection posed by their bodies. “Families can’t see their loved ones or give them a proper funeral, this is a big problem on a psychological level,” said Ricciardi. “But also because many of our staff are ill, we don’t have as many people to transport and prepare the bodies.”

For those who die at home, the bureaucratic process is lengthier as deaths need to be certified by two doctors. The second is a specialist who would ordinarily have to certify the death no later than 30 hours after a person has passed away. “So you have to wait for both doctors to come and at this time, many of them are also ill,” added Ricciardi. Stella, a teacher in Bergamo, shared the story of one of the deceased with the Guardian. “Yesterday, an 88-year-old man died,” she said. “He’d had a fever for a few days. There was no way to call an ambulance because the line was always busy. He died alone in his room. The ambulance arrived an hour later. Obviously, nothing could be done. And since no coffins were available in Bergamo, they left him on the bed and sealed his room to keep his relatives from entering until a coffin could be found.”

Adding to the torment is the fact that relatives cannot visit their loved ones in hospital, or give them proper funerals. “Usually you would be able to dress them and they would stay one night in the family home. None of this is happening,” said Alessandro, whose 74-year-old uncle died in Codogno, the Lombardy town where the outbreak began. “You can’t even see them to say goodbye, this is the most devastating part.” The harrowing impact of the virus on Bergamo can be gleaned from the obituary section of the local newspaper L’Eco di Bergamo. On Friday, reader Giovanni Locatelli shared online footage comparing the newspaper’s obituary section on 9 February, when listings took up just one page, to a copy dated 13 March, when 10 pages were needed to commemorate the dead.

Read more …

Test? Where do I get one?

Scientists Say Mass Tests In Italian Town Have Halted COVID-19 (G.)

The small town of Vò, in northern Italy, where the first coronavirus death occurred in the country, has become a case study that demonstrates how scientists might neutralise the spread of Covid-19. A scientific study, rolled out by the University of Padua, with the help of the Veneto Region and the Red Cross, consisted of testing all 3,300 inhabitants of the town, including asymptomatic people. The goal was to study the natural history of the virus, the transmission dynamics and the categories at risk. The researchers explained they had tested the inhabitants twice and that the study led to the discovery of the decisive role in the spread of the coronavirus epidemic of asymptomatic people.

When the study began, on 6 March, there were at least 90 infected in Vò. For days now, there have been no new cases. “We were able to contain the outbreak here, because we identified and eliminated the ‘submerged’ infections and isolated them,” Andrea Crisanti, an infections expert at Imperial College London, who took part in the Vò project, told the Financial Times. “That is what makes the difference.” The research allowed for the identification of at least six asymptomatic people who tested positive for Covid-19. ‘‘If these people had not been discovered,” said the researchers, they would probably have unknowingly infected other inhabitants.

“The percentage of infected people, even if asymptomatic, in the population is very high,” wrote Sergio Romagnani, professor of clinical immunology at the University of Florence, in a letter to the authorities. “The isolation of asymptomatics is essential to be able to control the spread of the virus and the severity of the disease.” [..] the problems of mass tests are not only of an economic nature (each swab costs about 15 euros) but also at a organisational level. [..] Massimo Galli, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Milan and director of infectious diseases at the Luigi Sacco hospital in Milan, warned carrying out mass tests on the asymptomatic population could however prove to be useless. “The contagions are unfortunately constantly evolving,” Galli told the Guardian. “A man who tests negative today could contract the disease tomorrow.”

Read more …

Every day brings new stories of miracles. And then you read them.

Japanese Flu Drug ‘Clearly Effective’ Against Coronavirus, But.. (G.)

Medical authorities in China have said a drug used in Japan to treat new strains of influenza appeared to be effective in coronavirus patients, Japanese media said on Wednesday. Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, said favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, had produced encouraging outcomes in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients. “It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang told reporters on Tuesday. Patients who were given the medicine in Shenzhen turned negative for the virus after a median of four days after becoming positive, compared with a median of 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug, public broadcaster NHK said.


In addition, X-rays confirmed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of the patients who were treated with favipiravir, compared to 62% or those without the drug. Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, which developed the drug – also known as Avigan – in 2014, has declined to comment on the claims. Shares in the firm surged on Wednesday following Zhang’s comments, closing the morning up 14.7% at 5,207 yen, having briefly hit their daily limit high of 5,238 yen. Doctors in Japan are using the same drug in clinical studies on coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms, hoping it will prevent the virus from multiplying in patients. But a Japanese health ministry source suggested the drug was not as effective in people with more severe symptoms. “We’ve given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn’t seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied,” the source told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Read more …

Not the first time we mention Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet.

UK Failures Over COVID-19 Will Increase Death Toll, Says Leading Doctor (G.)

A “collective failure” to appreciate the enormity of the coronavirus pandemic and enact swift measures to protect the public will lead to unnecessary deaths, according to a leading doctor, who said the UK ignored clear warning signs from China. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet, rounded on politicians and their expert advisers for failing to act when Chinese researchers first warned about a devastating new virus that was killing people in Hubei eight weeks ago. The team from Wuhan and Beijing reported in January that “the number of deaths was rising quickly” as the virus spread in China. They urged the global community to launch “careful surveillance” in view of the pathogen’s “pandemic potential”.


But writing in the Guardian, Horton said the warning was met with complacency in Britain, where for unknown reasons, medical and scientific advisers watched and waited. At the time, scientists advising ministers appeared to believe it could be treated like influenza, and that a “controlled epidemic” would generate “herd immunity” that would help protect the most vulnerable against the infection. The scenario called for upwards of 60% of the population to contract the virus. The government’s strategy changed dramatically on Monday when the prime minister announced that new modelling from Imperial College London demonstrated that more draconian measures were needed to slash the estimated death toll from 260,000 to about 20,000. Without those measures, which have transformed society, the NHS would be overwhelmed, leading to a situation that has driven a brutal death toll in Italy.

Read more …

Excuse me, but why do they let it happen? Once you’ve been through Wave 1, shouldn’t you know better than to let people travel abroad and come back?

Asian Nations Face Second Wave Of Imported Cases (BBC)

South Korea, China and Singapore are among the Asian countries facing a second coronavirus wave, spurred by people importing it from outside. China, where the virus first emerged, reported no new domestic cases on Thursday for the first time since it started recording numbers in January. But it reported 34 new cases among people recently returned to China. South Korea saw a jump in new cases on Thursday with 152, though it is not clear how many were imported. A new cluster there is centred on a nursing home in Daegu, where 74 patients have tested positive. On Wednesday, Singapore reported 47 new infections – of which 33 were imported, including 30 residents who had been infected abroad and brought the infection back.


In China, there were eight more deaths, all in the central province of Hubei and most of them in Wuhan. All three countries had been showing success in controlling domestic cases, but there is concern that increases elsewhere could unravel their progress. Much of the focus has now shifted to Europe and the US, but the new numbers signal that the outbreak is far from over in Asia. Malaysia’s senior health office on Wednesday begged people to “stay at home and protect yourself and your family. Please”. The country has tallied 710 people with the virus, many of them linked to one religious event in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, in February. “We have a slim chance to break the chain of COVID-19 infections,” Noor Hisham Abdullah, director general of Health Malaysia, said on Facebook. “Failure is not an option here. If not, we may face a third wave of this virus, which would be greater than a tsunami, if we maintain a ‘so what’ attitude.”

Read more …

Far as I can see, the dollar sold of a lot recently. But now people need dollars to pay off their losses.

Dollar Resumes Ascent As Investors Panic, Scramble For Cash (R.)

The dollar resumed its relentless climb against major currencies on Thursday as wild financial market volatility and worries over tightening liquidity triggered by the coronavirus pandemic sparked an investor flight into cash. Sterling teetered near the lowest since at least 1985 against the greenback. The Australian dollar skidded to a 17-year low, while the New Zealand dollar crashed to an 11-year low as investors dumped riskier assets. The euro briefly rose against the dollar and the pound after the European Central Bank announced a €750 billion asset-purchase programme in response to the coronavirus outbreak, but even this effort was overwhelmed by a stampede into the dollar.


Investors are selling what they can to keep their money in dollars due to the unprecedented amount of uncertainty caused by the virus epidemic, which threatens to paralyse large swaths of the global economy. “This is similar to what happened during the global financial crisis in that investors are even selling what are normally considered safe-haven assets,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior foreign exchange strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo. “The logic is the biggest hedge against risk is holding your money in cash, so the dollar is being bought. Investor uncertainty is about as high as it can get.” [..] In some cases investors are unloading Treasuries and gold in order to keep their money in dollars. This has confounded many analysts because investors normally buy government debt and precious metals during times of uncertainty.

Read more …

Same as above. “We’re in this phase where investors are just looking to liquidate their positions..” We’re in the phase where they have to pay their gambling debts. “Investor” just sounds better than “gamblig addict”.

Cash Is King As Emergency Stimulus Fails To Stop Market Panic (R.)

The dollar surged and everything else was blown away on Thursday as emergency central bank measures in Europe, the United States and Australia failed to halt a fresh wave of panic selling. “There’s no buyers, there’s not much liquidity and everyone is just getting out,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Melbourne brokerage Pepperstone. Stocks, bonds, gold and commodities fell as the world struggles to contain coronavirus and investors and businesses scramble for hard cash. U.S. stock futures were a hair’s breadth from hitting session down limits. The growth-sensitive Australian dollar was crushed 4% to a more than 17-year low. Nearly every stock market in Asia was down and circuit breakers were hit in Seoul, Jakarta and Manila.

Traders reported huge strains in bond markets as distressed funds sold any liquid asset to cover losses in stocks and redemptions from investors. Benchmark 10-year sovereign bond yields in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Korea and Singapore and Thailand surged as prices tumbled. Gold fell 1% and copper hit its downlimit in Shanghai. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 5% to a four-year low, with Korea and Hong Kong leading losses. The Nikkei fell nearly 1%, the ASX 200 nearly 3%, while the Kospi lost 8% and the Hang Seng 5%. “We’re in this phase where investors are just looking to liquidate their positions,” said Prashant Newnaha, senior interest rate strategist at TD Securities in Singapore.

[..] J.P. Morgan economists forecast the U.S. economy to shrink 14% in the next quarter, and the Chinese economy to drop more than 40% in the current one, one of the most dire calls yet as to the scale of the fallout. “There is no longer doubt that the longest global expansion on record will end this quarter,” they said in a note. “The key outlook issue now is gauging the depth and the duration of the 2020 recession.”

Read more …

We could all write this by now.

Misunderestimate: Banks Are Going To Drown In An Ocean Of Defaults (Black)

On November 6, 2000, then US presidential candidate George W. Bush told a crowd of cheering supporters, “they misunderestimated me.” [..] ‘Misunderestimate’ seems to be a conflation of the words ‘misunderstand’ and ‘underestimate’. And while that was utterly hysterical 20 years ago when Bush first said it, ‘misunderestimate’ may be the most appropriate word of today. The entire world has completely ‘misunderestimated’ the Corona Virus. Banks are about to drown in an ocean of defaults. I’ll talk about this a lot more in the coming days, but briefly:

• There’s $250 TRILLION in global debt right now– mortgages, credit card debt, business loans, government debt, etc.
• And banks own a large portion of that debt.
• This virus crisis is going to trigger a wave of defaults from consumers, businesses, and even governments.
• Think about it: tourism alone makes up 10% of global GDP. Revenue in that entire sector– hotels, airlines, cruise ships, etc. has collapsed, and many of those companies aren’t going to survive.
• The crash in oil prices is going to wipe out countless oil companies.
• Many large retail chains, which were already struggling in the age of e-commerce, will likely declare bankruptcy.
• Countless businesses around the world have ‘temporarily’ closed due to public health policies, and many of them will go out of business entirely.
• MOST of these businesses owe lots of money to the banks, whether it’s a small business working line, or the $34 billion in debt that American Airlines owes. So the defaults are going to be massive.
• On top of that, millions of people are going to lose their jobs and be unable to make payments on their credit card debt, auto loans, and even mortgages.
• Again, there’s $250 trillion in global debt right now. Total bank capital worldwide is less than $10 trillion.
• So if the coming defaults trigger a mere 4% loss in total debt, it will exceed the entirety of global bank capital.
• And this doesn’t even take into consideration the impact of the $1 QUADRILLION derivatives exposure.

Misunderestimate? Absolutely.

Read more …

Why save something so bloated?

Airline Industry Turmoil Deepens As Coronavirus Pain Spreads (R.)

Airline industry turmoil deepened on Thursday as Qantas told most of its 30,000 employees to take leave and India prepared a rescue package of up to $1.6 billion to aid carriers battered by coronavirus, government sources said. The U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization called on governments to ensure cargo operations were not disrupted to maintain the availability of critical medicine and equipment such as ventilators, masks, and other health and hygiene items that will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Passenger operations have collapsed at an unprecedented rate as the virus spreads around the world, with Delta Air parking more than 600 jets, cutting corporate pay by as much as 50%, and scaling back its flying by more than 70% until demand begins to recover.

Shares in U.S. airlines fell sharply on Wednesday after Washington proposed a rescue package of $50 billion in loans, but no grants as the industry had requested, to help address the financial impact from the deepening coronavirus crisis. The Trump administration’s lending proposal would require airlines to maintain a certain amount of service and limit increases in executive compensation until the loans are repaid. American Airlines in a memo to staff rebuffed criticism that it had rewarded its shareholders with too many dividends and stock buybacks in better times, leaving it with less cash to manage the crisis. “Unfortunately, this is no ordinary rainy day,” said Nate Gatten, American’s senior vice president global government affairs. “These are extraordinary circumstances, and additional support is necessary to protect jobs and ensure that the flying public can continue to rely on our industry after the crisis ends.”

[..] Air Canada said it was gradually suspending the majority of its international and U.S. transborder flights by March 31. India is poised to join a growing list of countries offering aid to its aviation industry. The Finance Ministry is considering a proposal worth up to $1.6 billion that includes temporary suspension of most taxes levied on the sector, according to two government sources who have direct knowledge of the matter. New Zealand on Thursday outlined the first tranche of a NZ$600 million ($344 million) aviation relief package, including financial support for airlines to pay government passenger charges and cover air traffic control fees.

Read more …

Mariana Mazzucato is professor of economics at University College London.

I understand the temptation to theorize and wax enthusiastically about underlying systems, but isn’t it more useful to talk about how we can have 1 million tests per day by tomorrow morning?

The COVID-19 Crisis Is A Chance To Do Capitalism Differently (Mazzucato)

Since the 1980s, governments have been told to take a back seat and let business steer and create wealth, intervening only for the purpose of fixing problems when they arise. The result is that governments are not always properly prepared and equipped to deal with crises such as Covid-19 or the climate emergency. By assuming that governments have to wait until the occurrence of a huge systemic shock before they resolve to take action, insufficient preparations are made along the way. In the process, critical institutions providing public services and public goods more widely – such as the NHS in the UK, where there have been cuts to public health totalling £1bn since 2015 – are left weakened.

The prominent role of business in public life has also led to a loss of confidence in what the government can achieve alone – leading in turn to the many problematic public-private partnerships, which prioritise the interests of business over the public good. For example, it has been well documented that public-private partnerships in research and development often favour “blockbusters” at the expense of less commercially appealing medicines that are hugely important to public health, including antibiotics and vaccines for a number of diseases with outbreak potential. On top of this, there is a lack of a safety net and protection for working people in societies with rising inequality, especially for those working in the gig economy with no social protection.

But we now have an opportunity to use this crisis as a way to understand how to do capitalism differently. This requires a rethink of what governments are for: rather than simply fixing market failures when they arise, they should move towards actively shaping and creating markets that deliver sustainable and inclusive growth. They should also ensure that partnerships with business involving government funds are driven by public interest, not profit. First of all, governments must invest in, and in some cases create, institutions that help to prevent crises, and make us more capable to handle them when they arise. The UK government’s emergency budget of £12bn for the NHS is a welcome move. But equally important is a focus on long-term investment to strengthen health systems, reversing the trends of recent years.

Second, governments need to better coordinate research and development activities, steering them towards public health goals. Discovery of vaccines will necessitate international coordination on a herculean scale, exemplified by the extraordinary work of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

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Unbelievable. More harmful than the virus. Or rather a virus in itself, one that kills slowly.

Russia Coronavirus Disinformation Designed To Sow Panic In West – EU (R.)

Russian media have deployed a “significant disinformation campaign” against the West to worsen the impact of the coronavirus, generate panic and sow distrust, according to a European Union document seen by Reuters. The Kremlin denied the allegations on Wednesday, saying they were unfounded and lacked common sense. The EU document said the Russian campaign, pushing fake news online in English, Spanish, Italian, German and French, uses contradictory, confusing and malicious reports to make it harder for the EU to communicate its response to the pandemic. “A significant disinformation campaign by Russian state media and pro-Kremlin outlets regarding COVID-19 is ongoing,” said the nine-page internal document, dated March 16…

“The overarching aim of Kremlin disinformation is to aggravate the public health crisis in Western countries…in line with the Kremlin’s broader strategy of attempting to subvert European societies,” the document produced by the EU’s foreign policy arm, the European External Action Service, said. An EU database has recorded almost 80 cases of disinformation about coronavirus since Jan. 22, it said, noting Russian efforts to amplify Iranian accusations online, cited without evidence, that coronavirus was a U.S. biological weapon. Most scientists believe the disease originated in bats in China before passing to humans. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed to what he said was the lack in the EU document of a specific example or link to a specific media outlet.

“We’re talking again about some unfounded allegations which in the current situation are probably the result of an anti-Russian obsession,” said Peskov. The EU document cited examples from Lithuania to Ukraine, including false claims that a U.S. soldier deployed to Lithuania was infected and hospitalized. It said that on social media, Russian state-funded, Spanish-language RT Spanish was the 12th most popular news source on coronavirus between January and mid-March, based on the amount of news shared on social media. The European Commission said it was in contact with Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft. An EU spokesman accused Moscow of “playing with people’s lives” and appealed to EU citizens to “be very careful” and only use news sources they trust.

[..] Russian media in Europe have not been successful in reaching the broader public, but provide a platform for anti-EU populists and polarize debate, analysis by EU and non-governmental groups has shown. The EEAS report cited riots at the end of February in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic now seeking to join the EU and NATO, as an example of the consequences of such disinformation. It said a fake letter purporting to be from the Ukrainian health ministry falsely stated here were five coronavirus cases in the country. Ukrainian authorities say the letter was created outside Ukraine, the EU report said. “Pro-Kremlin disinformation messages advance a narrative that coronavirus is a human creation, weaponized by the West,” said the report, first cited by the Financial Times.

It quoted fake news created by Russia in Italy – which is suffering the world’s second most deadly outbreak of coronavirus – alleging that the 27-nation EU was unable to effectively deal with the pandemic, despite a series of collective measures taken by governments in recent days.

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$50 billion.

‘Putin’s Chef’ Threatens To Sue US Over Charges Of 2016 Election Meddling (G.)

A businessmen allied with Vladimir Putin has said he will sue the US for $50bn (£41bn) in damages after prosecutors dropped charges of meddling in the 2016 elections. Yevgeny Prigozhin, often dubbed “Putin’s chef,” claimed in a statement on Tuesday that he had been “wrongfully persecuted” by US prosecutors who said his company Concord had funded an internet troll factory that had promoted Donald Trump’s candidacy during the US elections. The charges, which were filed by special counsel Robert Mueller following his nearly two-year investigation into Russian meddling, were abruptly dropped on Monday, a month before trial. Prosecutors said the Russian company had “no exposure to meaningful punishment” and that the prosecution risked exposing investigative sources and methods.


A day later, Prigozhin went on the attack, saying the dropped charges showed that the US government “feared publicity and just court proceedings”. “This means that the allegations that ‘Prigozhin interfered in the US presidential election,’ ‘Concord interfered in the US presidential election,’ or ‘Russia interfered in the US presidential election’ are mendacious and false,” said Prigozhin, according to the statement released by his company. Prosecutors had previously complained that documents they had provided to the defence had ended up online, and had been hesitant to deliver more sensitive information to Concord’s defence team. It is not clear whether the plans to file a lawsuit are serious, where the lawsuit will be filed, and why Prigozhin values the damages against him at $50bn. The company’s press office declined to give any more information about Prigozhin’s plans on Tuesday.

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Threats on her life. But not from the FBI.

Ghislaine Maxwell Sues Jeffrey Epstein’s Estate Over Legal Fees (BBC)

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein, is suing the late US financier’s estate seeking reimbursement for legal fees and security costs, court documents say. Ms Maxwell’s complaint states that she “had no involvement in or knowledge of Epstein’s alleged misconduct” and that he had promised to cover her costs. She also “receives regular threats to her life and safety”, it adds. [..] Ms Maxwell, a long-time friend of Epstein, has not been accused by the authorities of wrongdoing. Ms Maxwell’s lawsuit, which is dated 12 March but was made public on Wednesday, claims that “extensive global coverage” of the investigation resulted in her having to “hire personal security and find safe accommodation”. It adds that she “formed a legal and special relationship” with Epstein that obligated the estate to compensate her, and that “assurances” were made but later ignored after she filed a reimbursement claim in November.

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Jan 062020
 
 January 6, 2020  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Esther Bubley Soldiers with their girls at the Indianapolis bus station 1943

 

Gold, Oil Soar, Shares Slip As US And Iran Rattle Sabers (R.)
Iraqi PM Claims Soleimani Was On Peace Mission When Assassinated (GZ)
Iraqi Parliament Calls For Expulsion Of Foreign Troops (AlJ)
Boeing Reports “Previously Unreported Concerns” With Wiring In 737 MAX (CNN)
Why We’ll Never Get Rich By Putting Cash Away For A Rainy Day (Bell)
Fed Focuses On Repo Market Exit Strategy After Avoiding Year-End Crunch (R.)
PBOC Says Its Prudent Policies Will Continue (CD)
Trump Admin Pressed Dutch Hard To Cancel China Chip-Equipment Sale (R.)
Handwritten Note Found In Jeffrey Epstein’s Jail Cell (CBS)
Ghislaine Maxwell Under 24-Hour Guard By Former US Navy Seals (DM)
Victoria’s Secret Models Got Much Thinner Over Last 23 Years (WBUR)
Ricky Gervais Skewers Hollywood’s A-List (R.)

 

 

With war cries rulling the waves, “investors” wonder where their money is safest: with a sweat-shop using company that buys back its shares all the time, or with gold. Given volumes, governments, central banks also appear involved.

Gold, Oil Soar, Shares Slip As US And Iran Rattle Sabers (R.)

Tensions in the Middle East after the killing of a top Iranian general by the United States pushed an index of Asian shares off an 18-month high on Monday as investors pushed safe-haven gold near a seven-year high, and oil jumped to four-month peaks. The United States detected a heightened state of alert by Iran’s missile forces, as President Donald Trump warned the United States would strike back, “perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” if Iran attacked any American person or target. Iraq’s parliament on Sunday recommended all foreign troops be ordered out of the country after the U.S. killing of a top Iranian military commander and an Iraqi militia leader in a drone strike on a convoy at Baghdad airport.


Spot gold gained 1.6% to $1,579.55 per ounce in jittery trade to reach its highest since April 2013. Oil prices extended gains on fears any Middle East conflict could disrupt global supplies. Brent crude futures rose $1.9 to $70.50 a barrel, while U.S. crude climbed $1.5 to $64.57. “The risk of further escalation has clearly gone up – given the direct attack on Iran, Iran’s threat of retaliation and Trump’s desire to look tough – posing the threat of higher oil prices,” said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital. “Historically though oil prices need to double to pose a severe threat to global growth and we are long way from that.”

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Max Blumenthal takes a bit much as gospel: “Iraqi PM Reveals…”

Iraqi PM Claims Soleimani Was On Peace Mission When Assassinated (GZ)

At a January 3 State Department briefing, where reporters finally got the chance to demand evidence for the claim of an “imminent” threat, one US official erupted in anger. “Jesus, do we have to explain why we do these things?” he barked at the press. Two days later, when Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi addressed his country’s parliament, Trump’s justification for killing Soleimani was exposed as a cynical lie. According to Abdul-Mahdi, he had planned to meet Soleimani on the morning the general was killed to discuss a diplomatic rapproachment that Iraq was brokering between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Abdul-Mahdi said that Trump personally thanked him for the efforts, even as he was planning the hit on Soleimani – thus creating the impression that the Iranian general was safe to travel to Baghdad.


Soleimani had arrived in Baghdad not to plan attacks on American targets, but to coordinate de-escalation with Saudi Arabia. Indeed, he was killed while on an actual peace mission that could have created political distance between the Gulf monarchy and members of the US-led anti-Iran axis like Israel. The catastrophic results of Soleimani’s killing recall the Obama administration’s 2016 assassination of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur, a Taliban leader who was eager to negotiate a peaceful end to the US occupation of Afghanistan. Mansur’s death wound up empowering hardline figures in the Taliban who favored a total military victory over the US and triggered an uptick in violence across the country, dooming hopes for a negotiated exit.

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Again: who gets what they wanted?

Iraqi Parliament Calls For Expulsion Of Foreign Troops (AlJ)

Iraq’s parliament has passed a resolution calling on the government to expel foreign troops from the country as Iran-US tensions escalate following the killing of a top Iranian military commander and Iraqi armed group leader in a US strike in Baghdad. In an extraordinary parliamentary session on Sunday, parliament called on the government to end all foreign troop presence in Iraq and to cancel its request for assistance from the US-led coalition which had been working with Baghdad to fight ISIL. “The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory,” the resolution read.


“The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason.” Parliament resolutions, unlike laws, are non-binding and the move would require new legislation to cancel the existing agreement. Ahead of the vote, chants of “No, no, America…long live Iraq”, rang out inside the hall, before Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also called on parliament to end foreign troop presence. “Despite the internal and external difficulties that we might face, it remains best for Iraq on principle and practically,” said Abdul Mahdi in an address to parliament ahead of the vote.

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Latest proposal: mandatory simulator trainning for all pilots. That’s what started the whole charade, so a nice round circle.

Boeing Reports “Previously Unreported Concerns” With Wiring In 737 MAX (CNN)

[..] as part of a December audit of the plane’s safety ordered by the US Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing found “previously unreported concerns” with wiring in the 737 Max, according to a report earlier Sunday from the New York Times. The company informed the FAA last month that it is looking into whether two sections of wiring that control the tail of the plane are too close together and could cause a short circuit — and potentially a crash, if pilots did not react appropriately — the Times reported, citing a senior Boeing engineer and three people familiar with the matter. A Boeing spokesperson confirmed the report to CNN Business on Sunday, saying the issue was identified as part of a “rigorous process” to ensure the plane’s safety.


“Our highest priority is ensuring the 737 Max meets all safety and regulatory requirements before it returns to service,” the spokesperson said. “We are working closely with the FAA and other regulators on a robust and thorough certification process to ensure a safe and compliant design.” The spokesperson said it “would be premature to speculate” whether the discovery will lead to new design changes for the plane, or further extend the timeline for its recertification. It will be a challenge for Boeing’s new chief executive, David Calhoun, who officially takes over the job on January 13 after former CEO Dennis Muilenburg was ousted on December 23. “A change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders,” the company in December.

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We would still do much better if central banks wouldn’t strangle interest rates.

Why We’ll Never Get Rich By Putting Cash Away For A Rainy Day (Bell)

Norway has a wealth tax. Now, I’m in favour of a greater role for wealth taxes but, whatever your view, there’s at least one benefit we should all appreciate: lots of data on who owns what. Recent research delves into this Norwegian data mine and helps us investigate the popular view that those with more wealth build it up by saving more. You might call this the “wealth as the reward for doing the right thing” view of the world. But the research finds it’s nonsense – Norwegians save around 7% of their income, however much they may own. Despite saving the same proportion as those with much less, those with lots accumulate more. Why? Because we can accumulate wealth by the rising value of assets, such as property and shares.


The wealthier have more assets and more capital gains. These are banked, not consumed, so the gap grows. This is a huge deal, explaining 80% of wealth growing faster than income in Norway. The UK has also seen a wealth boom from rising house prices. These unexpected windfalls – rather than active savings like paying off a mortgage – explain 82% of increased property wealth since the early 1990s. Yet we pretend that wealth comes from savings and we ignore these capital gains when considering who is doing well, and so we make a dog’s dinner out of taxing them. It’s time we woke up to where wealth has actually come from in modern Britain … and Norway.

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They can only exit repo if they support banks somewhere else.

Fed Focuses On Repo Market Exit Strategy After Avoiding Year-End Crunch (R.)

Wall Street’s worst fears of a year-end funding squeeze never materialized thanks in large part to the quarter-trillion dollars the Federal Reserve stuffed into the market to ensure nothing became gummed up. The question now, though, is what it will take for the U.S. central bank to withdraw from its daily liquidity operations in the $2.2 trillion market for repurchase agreements, or repos – after it became a dominant player in a short three months. “The repo operations are a band-aid, but the wound isn’t healed fully,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an interest rate strategist at TD Securities. The New York Fed began injecting billions of dollars of liquidity into the repo market in mid-September, when a confluence of events sent the cost of overnight loans as high as 10%, more than four times the Fed’s rate at the time.

A month later, the Fed moved to expand its balance sheet – and boost the level of reserves – by snapping up $60 billion a month in U.S. Treasury bills. The Fed will continue pumping tens of billions a day into the repo market through at least the end of January. Its ability to exit from the repo market after that time will depend on how long it takes the central bank to make the balance sheet large enough so there are adequate reserves in the banking system – and the repo operations are no longer needed. “It seems implausible to me that the Fed will be able to stop their repo operations by the end of January,” said Mark Cabana, head of U.S. rates strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Minutes from the Fed’s December policy meeting released on Friday showed its staffers expected repo operations to be “gradually” reduced after mid-January. However, staff members also said the central bank may need to continue offering some repo operations until at least April, when tax payments could reduce the level of reserves. Another challenge for Fed officials: Deciding just how big the central bank’s balance sheet, which is currently about $4 trillion, should be.

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Michael Pettis on Twitter: “So far “prudent policies” has meant that for several years China has generated nearly five times as much debt per unit of GDP as the rest of the world — even more if you think GDP growth has been overstated on a comparable basis.”

PBOC Says Its Prudent Policies Will Continue (CD)

China will maintain a prudent monetary policy while keeping it flexible this year to ensure reasonably adequate liquidity, and it will strengthen adjustments to support economic growth, the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, said in a statement on Sunday. [..] The PBOC will promote credit financing for small and private companies, it said in its statement. Last year, it increased large commercial banks’ loans for small and micro companies by more than 30 percent, leading to a drop in lending costs of 1 percentage point. “These targets have been over-fulfilled,” it said.

The central bank is aiming this year to “win the battle of preventing and reducing large financial risks” and reiterated its role as “the lender of last resort”, which means the it will provide money to financial institutions that are experiencing financial difficulty to prevent their collapse. Last year, financial regulators took over Baoshang Bank in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and provided liquidity to prevent the spread of financial risks. To support liquidity and improve commercial bank’s asset quality, the PBOC will supplement commercial banks’ capital in 2020 through issuance of perpetual bonds — a credit instrument having no date to pay back.

Other risk-control measures will be taken for internet and real estate financing, and a macro-prudential regulatory system will be built to supervise cross-border capital flows, according to the central bank. Regulatory control over monetary policy operations is expected to continue to strengthen in China. “Monetary easing, if any, is expected to be limited and should not translate into relaxed regulatory control over the riskier types of leverage, which is positive to system stability,” said Rowena Chang, associate director of Non-Banks Asia Pacific at Fitch Ratings, an international rating agency.

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Military use is a deal killer.

Trump Admin Pressed Dutch Hard To Cancel China Chip-Equipment Sale (R.)

The Trump administration mounted an extensive campaign to block the sale of Dutch chip manufacturing technology to China, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lobbying the Netherlands government and White House officials sharing a classified intelligence report with the country’s Prime Minister, people familiar with the effort told Reuters. The high-level push, which has not previously been reported, demonstrates the importance the White House places on preventing China from getting hold of a machine required to make the world’s fastest microprocessors. It also shows the challenges facing the U.S. government’s largely unilateral efforts to stem the flow of advanced technology to China.

The U.S. campaign began in 2018, after the Dutch government gave semiconductor equipment company ASML, the global leader in a critical chip-making process known as lithography, a license to sell its most advanced machine to a Chinese customer, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Over the following months, U.S officials examined whether they could block the sale outright and held at least four rounds of talks with Dutch officials, three sources told Reuters. The effort culminated in the White House on July 18 when Deputy National Security Advisor Charles Kupperman raised the issue with Dutch officials during the visit of Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who was given an intelligence report on the potential repercussions of China acquiring ASML’s technology, according to a former U.S. government official familiar with the matter.

The pressure appears to have worked. Shortly after the White House visit, the Dutch government decided not to renew ASML’s export license, and the $150 million machine has not been shipped. [..] The ASML machine uses extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light beams, generated by lasers and focused by giant mirrors, to lay out extraordinarily narrow circuits on slabs of silicon known as wafers. That in turn makes it possible to create faster and more powerful microprocessors, memory chips and other advanced components, which are critical for consumer electronics and military applications alike. Only a few companies, including America’s Intel, South Korea’s Samsung and Taiwan’s TSMC, are currently capable of manufacturing the most sophisticated chips.

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Curious: CBS puts a whole team on this for 5 months, and then writes about a note that says nothing, instead of photos that say a lot. Bloody neck, bloodless noose.

Handwritten Note Found In Jeffrey Epstein’s Jail Cell (CBS)

While Epstein surrounded himself with a collection of powerful and high profile figures, the wealthy financier lived a majority of his life in privacy, avoiding television appearances and media interviews almost entirely. And though the federal charges brought against Epstein in July served as a gateway into learning more about the secretive life the 66 year-old led, filled with a controversial plea deal, luxurious travels around the world and alleged sex abuse rings, public intrigue about Epstein, who neglected to give any public statements following his arrest, has heightened.


In the course of a five-month investigation, 60 Minutes obtained photos of Epstein’s cell after his apparent suicide. Also found was a note, giving the world a look into what Jeffrey Epstein may have been thinking in his final days. The note was written on yellow lined paper with a blue ballpoint pen and there were complaints about jail conditions. The note says that one guard “kept me in a locked shower stall for 1 hour.” “[Another prison guard] sent me burnt food.” “Giant bugs crawling over my hands. No fun!!” Epstein’s apparent discomfort about jail conditions comes as no surprise. According to Bruce Barket, Epstein’s former cellmate’s lawyer, Jeffrey Epstein and his legal team took up one of the two attorney visiting rooms “all day, every day.”

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No, I don’t know how credible the Daily Mail is here. But it’s good to keep the conversation going.

Ghislaine Maxwell Under 24-Hour Guard By Former US Navy Seals (DM)

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, is being guarded round the clock by former US Navy SEALs amid concern that her life is in danger, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. A source says ex-special forces are shuttling the 58-year-old friend of Prince Andrew from one safe house to another across the American Midwest following ‘credible death threats’. She is now the principal focus of an FBI investigation and is said to hold the key to the truth about the Duke of York’s relationship with the disgraced financier and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. The Duke has repeatedly denied these allegations and any suggestion of wrongdoing.


While Miss Maxwell has never been accused by the authorities of criminal wrongdoing, Epstein’s alleged victims have portrayed her as his ‘madam’ and ‘fixer’. A source said: ‘There has been so much rubbish written about Ghislaine. The reality is she receives multiple, credible death threats on a daily basis. The hate mail is sometimes 2ft high. ‘She is constantly moving. Her life is in danger. She is being guarded by the best of the very best and that includes former US Navy SEALs. She’s not under the protection of any government. She’s on her own.’ Asked about reports last week that Miss Maxwell was being sheltered in Israel and supported by wealthy friends, the source said: ‘I only wish. This is costing her a fortune. She moves constantly. The reports are just b*******.’

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The reason Victoria’s Secret had no 2019 show is Epstein. But interesting that as America gets fatter fast, models go the opposite way. Neither looks very healthy.

Victoria’s Secret Models Got Much Thinner Over Last 23 Years (WBUR)

Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Neelam Vashi says she is fascinated by women’s waist-to-hip ratio, the hourglass curve from the narrowest point of the waist to the widest point of the hips. She was curious, she says, to see whether previous cross-cultural findings that men tend to prefer women with a 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio would hold true across time in a group known for beauty — models in the famed Victoria’s Secret fashion show. So Vashi, an assistant professor of dermatology at Boston University and director of the Cosmetic and Laser Center at Boston Medical Center, and colleagues analyzed the measurements of models who walked the runway at the now-defunct fashion show over 23 years, from 1995 to 2018.

She found that the 0.7 ratio — roughly a 24-inch waist divided by 35-inch hips — did hold true for the models, a nice confirmation of her hypothesis. But the results from other measures the team examined were surprising — and, she says, concerning. “Overall, these models became slimmer and their dress size decreased,” says Vashi. “The ratio stayed the same, but each one of those measurements did decrease.” And as Victoria’s Secret models got thinner, the average American woman’s measurements grew — with the average woman now at least a size 16. Concern over that rising disparity comes across in the research paper’s title, which begins: “Unattainable Standards of Beauty.”

“These findings represent an ideal of beauty that continuously moves further away from the characteristics of the average American woman,” says a news release accompanying the study. In 2019, with ratings low, Victoria’s Secret canceled the fashion show, saying it needed to evolve and be rethought for a new media era. As a cosmetic dermatologist, Vashi focuses on enhancing people’s looks, she says, but she also hopes people recognize that Victoria’s Secret models, “have bodies that are just not attainable by an average person.” Though that hasn’t stopped some from trying. The study notes a dramatic recent rise in cosmetic surgery, “with buttock and lower body lift [procedures] increasing by 4295% and 256%, respectively, since 2000.”

[..] The study found that bust measurements dropped from 32.9 inches in the 1990s, to 32 inches 20 years later. Waist size dropped from 24.7 inches to 23.6 inches, and hips shrank from 34.9 inches to 34.4 inches. Average dress size dropped from 5.2 to 3.7. The research also found the models became more racially and ethnically diverse. “To decrease a dress size from 5.2 to 3.7, that’s a significant difference,” Vashi says. “To slim an inch off one’s waist — that’s very hard to do.”

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And then you realize you really couln’t get one single American to say it. Painful.

Ricky Gervais Skewers Hollywood’s A-List (R.)

British comedian and actor Ricky Gervais returned to host the Golden Globe awards on Sunday, cracking scathing jokes about Hollywood’s elite that got both laughs and disapproving looks from the A-list audience. Gervais last hosted the Globes four years ago, before the #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite movements shined a spotlight on the underrepresentation of women and minorities in Hollywood. He said the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hands out the Golden Globes, had planned to have a segment honoring celebrities who died in 2019, “but when I saw the list of people who died, it wasn’t diverse enough.”


Gervais also called out Hollywood actors as hypocrites for giving impassioned political speeches at awards shows while working in movies or television series produced by major tech and media corporations. “You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for – I mean, unbelievable – Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent, wouldn’t ya?,” he asked. “So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You are in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. “So if you win, right? Come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God” and leave the stage, he concluded, using an expletive.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 022019
 
 December 2, 2019  Posted by at 9:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Russell Lee Migrant family in trailer home near Edinburg, Texas Feb 1939

 

White House Says It Will Not Participate In Wednesday Impeachment Hearing (R.)
Political Affiliation Bias: We’re Embracing It Fervently (RT)
Could America Survive a Truth Commission? (CHS)
Why a Second American Revolution Is Necessary for the Entire World (Zuesse)
US Digs Deeper Into Deutsche Role In Danske Money Laundering Scandal (R.)
Albert Edwards Is Watching To Decide When The US Becomes “Japanified” (ZH)
Prince Andrew ‘Has Kept In Constant Touch With Ghislaine Maxwell (DM)
Serbia, Slovakia Join Sudden Eastern European Gold Repatriation Push
Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? (Marçal)
What Is COP25 And Can It Save The World? (G.)

 

 

“We may consider participating in future Judiciary Committee proceedings if you afford the administration the ability to do so meaningfully..”

White House Says It Will Not Participate In Wednesday Impeachment Hearing (R.)

The White House told Democratic lawmakers on Sunday that U.S. President Donald Trump and his lawyers would not participate in a congressional impeachment hearing this week, citing a lack of “fundamental fairness.” Trump’s aides responded defiantly to the first of two crucial deadlines he faces in Congress this week as Democrats prepare to shift the focus of their impeachment inquiry from fact-finding to the consideration of possible charges of misconduct over his dealings with Ukraine. The Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, tasked with considering charges known as articles of impeachment, had given Trump until 6 p.m. on Sunday to say whether he would dispatch a lawyer to take part in the judiciary panel’s proceedings on Wednesday.

“We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the President a fair process through additional hearings,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, according to a copy of a letter seen by Reuters. Cipollone – while citing a “complete lack of due process and fundamental fairness afforded the president” in the impeachment process – did not rule out participation in further proceedings. But he signaled that Democrats would first have to make major procedural concessions.


[..] “We may consider participating in future Judiciary Committee proceedings if you afford the administration the ability to do so meaningfully,” Cipollone wrote, laying out a list of demands, including allowing Trump’s Republicans to call additional witnesses. Cipollone also complained that Democrats had scheduled Wednesday’s hearing – “no doubt purposely” – to overlap with Trump’s absence from the United States to attend a NATO summit in London.

Read more …

Next year: can Republicans still marry Democrats?

Political Affiliation Bias: We’re Embracing It Fervently (RT)

In an ultra-PC society where even the suggestion of racial, ethnic or gender bias can get a person fired or ostracized, another type of discrimination – a political affiliation-based one – is thriving, according to a new study. Discrimination may have become taboo in US society, but it hasn’t gone away. A new study shows discriminatory behavior thrives in the one area where it remains socially acceptable to judge people based on shared attributes: political affiliation. Politics remains one of the few personal characteristics not protected by equal opportunity hiring laws, and if this study is any indication, lawmakers will want to get on top of that quickly.

Shared political ideology outweighs seemingly more important factors like professional qualifications in hiring decisions, researchers from Clemson University and the University of Kansas confirmed in a study published this month in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Unchecked, this kind of discrimination is liable to produce powerful echo chambers, in which groupthink eventually becomes a prerequisite for employment. Study participants readily picked a job candidate with whom they shared a political affiliation over a more qualified candidate without that affiliation when presented with Facebook profiles containing clear indicators of the prospective hire’s political alignment. These might include statements about leading a campus Democrat or Republican group, or party symbols like the Democratic donkey or GOP elephant.


The closer the participant, acting as a recruiter, identified with a party, the higher ratings they gave to candidates who touted their membership in that party – qualifications were nigh on irrelevant. The effect held true even when candidate profiles didn’t include explicit statements of political loyalty. Recruiter participants still picked candidates who agreed with them based on profiles sporting either a pro-choice or pro-life statement; pro-Second Amendment or pro-gun control material; or support of Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter, a second experiment revealed.

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Maybe we should ask: Can Americans still recognize the truth?

Could America Survive a Truth Commission? (CHS)

You’ve probably heard of the Truth Commissions held in disastrously corrupt and oppressive regimes after the sociopath/kleptocrat Oligarchs are deposed. The goal is not revenge, as well-deserved as that might be; the goal is national reconciliation via the only possible path to healing: name names and tell the plain, unadorned truth, stripped of self-serving artifice, spin, propaganda and PR. Is such a stripped-of-spin truthful account of names and events even possible in the U.S.? Sadly, there is precious little evidence that a Truth Commission in the U.S. would be anything more than a travesty of a mockery of a sham, a parade of half-truths, misdirections, falsehoods and fabrications, all aimed at one goal: protecting the powerful from the consequences of their decisions and actions.

Sadly, we’ve lost the capacity to simply tell the truth: everything, and I mean everything, is crafted to protect the guilty, polish the putrid decay of legalized looting, defraud the unwary, ease the most venal, power-mad sociopaths into positions of unparalleled power, sell low-quality goods and services nobody needs or would even want if the marketing weren’t so Orwellian, persuade debt-serfs to borrow more and bamboozle voters into further enriching the few at the expense of the many. The truth is no match for greed is good and don’t be evil, unless it’s incredibly profitable, in which case, go for it but cover your tracks (here’s looking at you, Big Tech). Outrage is reserved for whistleblowers who name names and reveal the sordid truths that the status quo has expended the nation’s treasure to protect from the light of day.


This is the pathetic state of America: our outrage is reserved for those telling the truth, not for the legions who lie, cheat, steal and prevaricate to conceal the truth at all costs.

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“All of these invasions and coups are based on nothing but lies, and the media are a necessary part of that.”

Why a Second American Revolution Is Necessary for the Entire World (Zuesse)

On November 11th, the very disturbing but clearly true “Lessons To Learn From The Coup In Bolivia” was posted to the Web. That anonymous author (a German intelligence analyst) documented the evilness of the overthrow of Evo Morales in Bolivia, and the threat now clearly posed to the world by the US regime — a spreading cancer of expansionist fascism, led from Washington. But, even more than this, he indicated that unless the individuals who are responsible for the advancing fascism are executed, there won’t be any real hope for democracy anywhere in the world.

Either this impunity will stop, or else the spread of the US international dictatorship — not only by CIA coups such as this, but by illegal international invasions such as of Iraq 2003, Libya 2011, Syria 2012-, and Yemen 2015-, — will continue and will engulf in misery ultimately the entire world. He makes clear the complicity of US ‘news’-media in the lies that ‘justify’ this coup (and ‘justified’ those invasions). It’s, by now, clearly the way the US regime functions. Of course, none of those media will publish any such truth; they all cover-up constantly for the regime, because they actually are an essential part of it. (All of these invasions and coups are based on nothing but lies, and the media are a necessary part of that.) Censorship in America is thus actually extreme, and constant.


For example: how many US-and-allied media have even reported that fascists took over in Bolivia? Instead, we’ve got newspaper editorials such as the New York Times blaming the extraordinarily successful and popular democratically elected President of Bolivia for the coup which overthrew him and replaced him by fascists (and never using the word “coup,” except once derisively, by saying that “British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, cried ‘coup’” — as if it weren’t a coup — and making no mention whatsoever that it had been done by committed fascists).

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It’s been 5 years since the first whistleblower stepped forward. Who’s in jail?

US Digs Deeper Into Deutsche Role In Danske Money Laundering Scandal (R.)

The U.S. Department of Justice has in recent weeks stepped up its investigation into Deutsche Bank’s role in the 200 billion euro ($220 billion) Danske Bank money laundering scandal, four people familiar with the inquiry told Reuters. One source said the DoJ’s new line of inquiry is whether Deutsche helped move tainted money from Danske, Denmark’s largest lender, into the United States. If proven, that could lead to steep financial penalties. Officials from the DoJ, who have been working closely with Estonian prosecutors for around a year, have also begun cooperating with Frankfurt state prosecutors, the sources said. The Frankfurt prosecutors have been exploring Deutsche’s role in processing payments for the Danish bank.


The DoJ’s focus on Germany’s largest bank and its work with Frankfurt prosecutors have not previously been reported. A Danske spokesman said it continued to cooperate with the authorities in Estonia, Denmark, France and the United States. [..] Although the Justice Department requested information from Deutsche last year relating to Danske transactions, at the time its executives believed that the investigation was focused onDanske and that the German bank itself was not a target. However, Deutsche officials were made aware in recent months that the scope of the DoJ probe had broadened to the bank’s role in facilitating the Danske trades and its possible failure to report suspicious transactions quickly enough, one of the people said.

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No inflation.

Albert Edwards Is Watching To Decide When The US Becomes “Japanified” (ZH)

There is another reason why Edwards dismisses any incipient signs of inflation in the US: his latest piece is titled “Japanification of the US beckons”, in which he writes that despite the Fed’s recent announcement of a halt to further rate cuts, “GDP growth looks fragile and there is good evidence to suggest that core CPI inflation is set to collapse towards zero. In fact, a resumption of Fed easing on the back of recessionary data and sliding inflation is likely to accelerate the convergence of US yields towards negative eurozone and Japanese yields.” Hence, the Japanification of the US, and as he further notes, if the US economy slides into recession, it is clear that “inflation will likely fall ever closer toward Japanese-style deflation.

But a rapid decline in key inflation measures, like core CPI, may be beginning to unfold already, irrespective of whether a recession is about to start or not.” To make his point, Edwards points out the October CPI data which “shocked” him, but not for the surprisingly high 0.4% headline rise M/M, but because of a specific data set that he will now be watching very closely to determine if US inflation is indeed converging with that of Japan: shelter CPI. it was this key component of the CPI basket that last month collapsed to almost zero. And since shelter has a very heavy 33% weighting in the overall CPI and an overwhelmingly dominant 42% weighting in the closely watched core CPI (ie ex food and energy), it’s only a matter of time before the decline in shelter hits the broader inflation basket.

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Not what he said in the interview.

Prince Andrew ‘Has Kept In Constant Touch With Ghislaine Maxwell (DM)

Prince Andrew has kept in constant contact with billionaire paedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, it has been claimed today. The Duke of York, 59, invited Maxwell, 57, to Buckingham Palace in June, just a month before Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges. But a source has now claimed the pair have been in touch by phone and email throughout the scandal over the prince’s links to the convicted sex offender. They claim there is an ‘unswerving loyalty’ between the pair, who both deny any wrongdoing despite their close relationships with Epstein. The source told the Sun: ‘They have remained constantly in touch by phone and email. The Duke has an unswerving loyalty to Ghislaine and she is also very loyal to him.


‘Ghislaine will do anything to protect the Duke and the feeling is mutual. They both share the same view they have done nothing wrong.’ There is no indication of how the source knows about Andrew and Maxwell’s communications. In his car crash Newsnight interview Andrew claimed he had not spoken about Epstein when he was last in contact with Maxwell because he ‘wasn’t in the news’. [..] Ms Guiffre Roberts will give a tell-all interview to BBC Panorama tomorrow night in a programme that will also probe Maxwell’s involvement in Epstein’s criminal activity.

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They don’t have very much, do they? But yeah, why keep your gold stored abroad?

Serbia, Slovakia Join Sudden Eastern European Gold Repatriation Push

Just a few short days after Poland’s government touted its economic might after completing the repatriation of 100 tons of the barbarous relic; and with Hungary’s anti-immigrant Prime Minister Viktor Orban also ramping up holdings of the safe-haven asset to boost the security of his reserves, more Eastern European nationalist leaders are demanding their country’s gold back on home soil. As Bloomberg reports, former Slovak Premier Robert Fico, whose odds of returning to power are rising quickly, urged parliament to compel the central bank into repatriating the nation’s gold stocks, which are currently stored in the U.K.. Perhaps most vocally reflecting what many other nations also believe – sometimes your international partners can betray you.

Citing a 1938 pact by France, Britain, Italy and Germany allowing Adolf Hitler to annex a chunk what was then Czechoslovakia, Fico told reporters: “You can hardly trust even the closest allies after the Munich Agreement. I guarantee that if something happens, we won’t see a single gram of this gold. Let’s do it as quickly as possible.” Additionally, Serbia’s strongman leader Aleksandar Vucic took note, ordering the central bank to boost reserves and prompting the purchase of nine tons in October. Vucic said last week that more should be bought because “we see in which direction the crisis in the world is moving.”


The various leaders have a recent example to prove their fears right as the Bank of England refused to return Venezuela’s gold stock over political differences. “Gold is a symbol,” said Vuk Vukovic, a political economist in Zagreb. “When states purchase it, people everywhere see it as a sign of economic sovereignty.” The gold rush mirrors steps by Russia and China to diversify reserves exceeding $3 trillion away from the dollar amid flaring geopolitical tensions with the U.S.

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Interesting topic, and women need more say, but still, in many societies, women do a lot of things besides cooking and cleaning. That’s more of a western thing, and not even a modern one.

Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? (Marçal)

Men have always been allowed to act out of self-interest – as in economics, so in sex. For women, this freedom has been taboo. If not flat-out forbidden. Woman has been assigned the task of caring for others, not of maximizing her own gain. Society has told her that she cannot be rational because childbirth and menstruation tie her to the body, and the body has been identified as the opposite of reason. In women, lust and greed has always been criticized more harshly than it has in men. It has been viewed as something threatening, destructive, dangerous and unnatural. ‘People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute,’ wrote Rebecca West. Women have never been allowed to be as selfish as men.

And if economics is the science of self-interest, how does woman fit in? The answer is that man has been allowed to stand for self- interest and woman has stood for the fragile love that must be conserved. By being excluded. Even though the word ‘economy’ comes from the Greek oikos, which means home, economists have long been uninterested in what exactly happens at home. Woman’s self-sacrificing nature was said to tie her to the private sphere, and thus she was not economically relevant. Activities like raising children, cleaning, washing or ironing for her family – these don’t create tangible goods that can be bought, traded or sold. So they also didn’t contribute to prosperity, thought economists in the 1800s.


Prosperity was everything that could be transported, that had a limited supply, and that either directly or indirectly gave pleasure or prevented pain. This definition meant that everything that women were expected to dedicate themselves to went unseen. The fruits of male labour could be stacked in piles and measured in money. The results of women’s work were intangible. Dust that is swept away collects again. Mouths that have been fed grow hungry. Children who sleep, wake. And after lunch it’s time to do the dishes. After the dishes comes dinner. And more dirty dishes.

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In December 2015, when COP21 was held in Paris, I wrote in CON 21:

“COP21 is not a major event, that’s only what politicians and media make of it. In reality, it’s a mere showcase in which the protesters have been co-opted. They’re not in the director’s chair, they’re not even actors, they’re just extras.”

4 years later, nothing has changed. It’s still just theater.

What Is COP25 And Can It Save The World? (G.)

[..] There are far bigger issues hanging over COP, but they will not be decided this year, just hinted at. The biggest alarm is that the aspiration set in Paris to constrain temperature rises will require unprecedented efforts to achieve. But individual country commitments to steer the world towards that best-case scenario were not part of the binding Paris deal, but contained in a non-binding addition. So emissions are increasing again, temperatures are higher than ever, countries are not mandated by law to act – and time is running out: the IPCC concluded that on current rates we have little over a decade to halt emissions growth and bring down carbon rapidly to keep warming within the 1.5C threshold.


Current commitments made by national governments under the Paris agreement fall far short of what is required – taken together, they would still condemn the world to an estimated temperature rise of more than 3C by the end of the century. According to the UN’s latest “emissions gap” report, published a few days before the start of this year’s talks, countries must reduce their greenhouse gases by about 7.6% a year for the next 10 years, to stay within the 1.5C limit. Closing that gap will be COP26’s biggest task.

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Oct 142019
 
 October 14, 2019  Posted by at 8:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Martin Johnson Heade Thunderstorm on Narragansett Bay 1868

 

Syrian Army Deployed To Country’s Northeast To Counter ‘Turkish Aggression’ (RT)
Putin Says Trump Not To Blame For Lack Of Improvement In Russia-US Ties (R.)
“If The Entire System Collapses, Gold Will Be Needed To Start Over” (ZH)
Lisa Page’s ‘Quid Pro Quo’ With State Department Over Hillary Email (DM)
Johnson To Set Out Post-Brexit Law And Order Drive In Queen’s Speech (R.)
China 9-Month Exports To US Down 10.7%, Imports Fall 26.4% (R.)
Emirates President Does Not Expect To Take Any Boeing 777x In 2020 (R.)
Ecuador Repeals Law Ending Fuel Subsidies In Deal To Stop Protests (BBC)
Catalonia Leaders Jailed For Between 9 And 13 Years By Spanish Court (BBC)

 

 

Now we can wait for US media suggesting Trump left Syria so Putin could move in.

Syrian Army Deployed To Country’s Northeast To Counter ‘Turkish Aggression’ (RT)

Syrian government troops have reportedly entered Tell Tamer, a town in the middle of Kurdish-controlled part of the country, amid a continued Turkish offensive against Kurdish militias. Troops of the Syrian Arab Army have entered the town on Monday, according to the news agency SANA. Tell Tamer is a relatively small town, but it’s located on an intersection of several major roads and has strategic importance. Earlier the government troops were reported entering Al-Thawrah, a city in the Raqqa governorate located on the Euphrates River and famous for its proximity to a major dam. The relocation of Syrian troops comes as Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria face an incursion from neighboring Turkey.

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See? He’s Putin’s lapdog.

Putin Says Trump Not To Blame For Lack Of Improvement In Russia-US Ties (R.)

Moscow is not blaming U.S. President Donald Trump for failing to improve U.S.-Russian relations, a pledge he had made during his election campaign, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with Arab broadcasters. “We know that, including during his previous election campaign, he spoke in favor of a normalization (of U.S.-Russia relations), but unfortunately it has not happened yet,” Putin told Al Arabiya, Sky News Arabia and RT Arabic. “But we have no claims because we see what’s going on in U.S. domestic politics,” he said, according to a transcript published on the Kremlin’s website on Sunday.


Putin said the “internal political agenda” was not allowing Trump to take steps aimed at a drastic improvement of bilateral relations, adding Moscow would in any case work with any U.S. administration to the extent that Washington itself wants. Putin also said Russia had weapons that neutralize any threat from NATO’s missile deployments in Poland and Romania. “This obviously poses a threat to us because it’s an attempt to level out our strategic nuclear potential. It’s bound to fail, this attempt, it’s already obvious,” he said.

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A: There’s only one central bank in Europe. B: A lot of Dutch gold is in London and the US.

“If The Entire System Collapses, Gold Will Be Needed To Start Over” (ZH)

An article published by the De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), or Dutch Central Bank, has shocked many with its claim that “if the system collapses, the gold stock can serve as a basis to build it up again. Gold bolsters confidence in the stability of the central bank’s balance sheet and creates a sense of security.” [..] The article, titled “DNB’s Gold Stock” states: “A bar of gold retains its value, even in times of crisis. This makes it the opposite of “shares, bonds and other securities” all of which have inherent risk and prices can go down. According to the IMF’s latest data, the DNB holds 615 tons (15,000 bars) of gold mainly in Amsterdam, with other stores in the U.K. and North America; the value of this gold reserve is over €6 billion ($6.62 billion).


Calling gold the “trust anchor,” the article details briefly why the hard asset is so important to wealth building and the global economy, claiming: “Gold is… the trust anchor for the financial system. If the whole system collapses, the gold stock provides a collateral to start over. Gold gives confidence in the power of the central bank’s balance sheet.” Why this sudden admission of what goldbugs have been saying for years? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that on October 7, the bank announced it would soon be moving a large part of its gold reserves to “the new DNB Cash Center at military premises in Zeist.” Almost as if the Netherlands is preparing for the grand reset, and is moving its most valuable asset to a “military” installation just for that purpose.

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These people really thought they were running the country.

Lisa Page’s ‘Quid Pro Quo’ With State Department Over Hillary Email (DM)

An FBI employee who texted with her in-house lover about blocking Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions wrote in 2016 of a ‘quid pro quo’ with the State Department to hide the fact that an email found on Hillary Clinton’s home-brew email server was considered classified. Lisa Page fretted in the closing days of the presidential campaign about a pending Freedom of Information Act disclosure of a discussion between top State and Justice Department officials about the potential trade. Under the arrangement, the State Department would have given the FBI more legal attachés for its overseas division in exchange for altering the basis for keeping one of the Clinton emails from the public.


At the time, the email in question was exempt from FOIA requests because it was classified – a fact that was ultimately made public. The FBI had asked the State Department to ‘change the basis of the FOIA withhold [decision] … from classified to something else.’ The plot was never consummated. But Page, an FBI lawyer, was worried enough about it at the time to alert her colleagues that other employees had told investigators about it. One of those colleagues was Peter Strzok, the married FBI agent she was having an affair with.

The email came to light on Monday as part of a raft of material released by Judicial Watch, a conservative government transparency group whose standard practice is to sue government agencies that slow-walk the disclosure of public records. Page and Strzok became poster children in 2017 for conservatives’ claims that the Burean was biased against Trump and took actions to tilt the election in Clinton’s favor despite the national security threats posed by classified material found on her unsecured private email server.

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“What we’ve got in effect is a party political broadcast from the steps of the throne.”

Johnson To Set Out Post-Brexit Law And Order Drive In Queen’s Speech (R.)

Queen Elizabeth will on Monday announce several new pieces of legislation to reform Britain’s justice system, in a ceremonial speech setting out Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit plans. The so-called Queen’s Speech is the highlight of a day of elaborate pageantry in Westminster and is used to detail all the bills the government wants to enact in the coming year. It is written for the 93-year old monarch by the government. But, with Brexit unresolved, and any plans beyond even the next seven days likely subject to an unpredictable election, rival parties said Johnson was misusing the politically-neutral Queen for political gain.

The speech will lay out 22 new bills – pieces of proposed legislation – including several covering tougher treatment for foreign criminals and sex offenders, and new protection for victims of domestic abuse. “Keeping people safe is the most important role of any government, and as the party of law and order it is the Conservatives who are cracking down on crime and better protecting society,” a statement from Johnson’s office setting out some details of the speech said. It will almost certainly include a section on a law to enact a Brexit deal. But, while any deal is still in the balance, new details are unlikely. The speech will also touch on election campaign issues like the health service and living standards.


“Having the Queen’s Speech and the State Opening of Parliament tomorrow is ludicrous, utterly ludicrous,” Corbyn said in a Sky News interview broadcast on Sunday. “What we’ve got in effect is a party political broadcast from the steps of the throne.”

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Think it’s all the trade war?

China 9-Month Exports To US Down 10.7%, Imports Fall 26.4% (R.)

China’s exports to the United States fell 10.7% from a year earlier in dollar terms in January-September, while U.S. imports dropped 26.4% during that period, a Chinese customs spokesman said on Monday. Trade frictions with the United States have led to some pressure on Chinese trade, although the latest Sino-U.S. trade talks have yielded favorable outcomes in some areas, customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters.

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Boeing has a lot of problems.

Emirates President Does Not Expect To Take Any Boeing 777x In 2020 (R.)

Emirates doubts it will receive any of the 115 Boeing 777-9s it has ordered next year, its president said on Monday, as the U.S. planemaker grapples with challenges in building the jet. Emirates, a launch customer of the world’s biggest twin engined jet, was to receive its first 777-9 in 2020 but the manufacturer has suspended load testing of the plane. “… By the end of next year we were to have eight of them. Now it doesn’t look like we will have any,” Tim Clark said at a conference in Dubai. Boeing suspended load testing of the new widebody in September when media reports said a cargo door failed a ground stress test.


There have also been issues with General Electric’s new GE9X turbine engine that will power the jet. Boeing has said it expects to hold the initial flight test in 2020 and is aiming for the 777X to enter commercial service in the same year. Clark said he had told Boeing he insists on a 13 to 16 month test period for the new jet. Emirates ordered 150 777X jets, including 777-8 variants, in 2013. It later placed a preliminary order for 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets in 2017, which Clark said he still saw a place for in the airline’s fleet plans. Boeing has also been unable to deliver any of its 737 MAX aircraft since the single-aisle plane was grounded worldwide in March…

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Are they going to let Moreno stay in power?

Ecuador Repeals Law Ending Fuel Subsidies In Deal To Stop Protests (BBC)

Ecuador’s government has agreed to restore fuel subsidies in a deal with indigenous leaders to end mass protests that have brought the capital, Quito, to a standstill, the UN says. It came after the two sides held talks brokered by the UN and the Roman Catholic Church. The talks, which were broadcast live on state television, came after nearly two weeks of violent demonstrations. President Lenín Moreno had imposed a curfew enforced by the military. The announcement after Sunday’s meeting sparked late night celebrations in Quito. Fireworks were set off and car drivers honked their horns. A joint statement said the government had withdrawn an order removing the fuel subsidies. “With this agreement, the mobilisations… across Ecuador are terminated and we commit ourselves to restoring peace in the country,” it said.

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Europe, 2019.

Catalonia Leaders Jailed For Between 9 And 13 Years By Spanish Court (BBC)

Spain’s Supreme Court has sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition over their role in an independence referendum in 2017. Three other defendants were found guilty of disobedience but will not serve prison sentences. The 12 politicians and activists had all denied the charges. Separatists in Catalonia were planning mass civil disobedience ahead of the verdict. The prosecution had sought up to 25 years in prison for Oriol Junqueras, the former vice-president of Catalonia and the highest-ranking pro-independence leader on trial.

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It’s time for much larger crowds.

 

 

 

 

Feb 022019
 


Pablo Picasso The bathers 1918

 

Russia Suspends INF Treaty In ‘Mirror Response’ To US – Putin (RT)
US Payrolls Surge By 304,000, Smashing Estimates Despite Shutdown (CNBC)
Big Trouble in Little China (Schmid)
How Fast Housing Markets in Sydney & Melbourne Are Coming Unglued (WS)
Venezuela To Sell Gold Reserves To UAE Without Russia’s Help (RT)
Italy Rejects Guaido, Says Venezuela is a Sovereign State (Telesur)
Whitehall Begins ‘Serious Work’ On Customs Union With EU (Ind.)
Judge Considers Gag Order On Roger Stone And Prosecution (BBC)
America’s Kurdish Allies Risk Being Wiped Out – By NATO (Graeber)
Rigging the Science of GMO Ecotoxicity (Latham)

 

 

US arms producers eye their ultimate bid for trillions in development fees. But Russia is not fazed at all.

“Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic..”

Russia Suspends INF Treaty In ‘Mirror Response’ To US – Putin (RT)

President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is halting its participation in the Cold War-era INF nuclear agreement after Washington’s decision to suspend it. Russia will develop missiles previously forbidden under its terms. “Ours will be a mirror response. Our US partners say that they are ceasing their participation in the treaty, and we are doing the same,” the Russian president said in Moscow on Saturday in reference to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). “They say that they are doing research and testing [on new weapons] and we will do the same thing,” Putin said during a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

The Russian leader emphasized that while Moscow’s offers on modernizing the 1987 treaty and making it more transparent “are still on the table,” no more talks should be initiated with the Americans to try and save it. “Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic, which is extremely important for us, them, and the entire world,” Putin said. In December, the Trump administration threatened to quit the agreement, which limits nuclear and conventional land-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500km within 60 days, unless Russia stopped allegedly violating it with its 9M729 missile, which Washington claims exceeds the permitted range.

Moscow denied that it had broken the treaty, and offered additional mutual inspections during failed talks in Geneva last month. On February 1, Washington officially confirmed that the bilateral agreement signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan will be suspended for 180 days. Washington also signaled intentions to entirely withdraw from it afterwards. During the meeting in front on the cameras on Saturday, Lavrov insisted that Moscow “attempted to do everything we could to rescue the treaty.” This included “unprecedented steps going far beyond our obligations,” he said, accusing Washington of systematically undermining the INF Treaty at least since the late 1990s.

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“December’s big initially reported gain of 312,000 was knocked all the way down to 222,000..”

US Payrolls Surge By 304,000, Smashing Estimates Despite Shutdown (CNBC)

Job growth in January shattered expectations, with nonfarm payrolls surging by 304,000 despite a partial government shutdown that was the longest in history, the Labor Department reported Friday. The unemployment rate ticked higher to 4 percent, a level where it had last been in June, a likely effect of the shutdown, according to the department. However, officials said federal workers generally were counted as employed during the period because they received pay during the survey week of Jan. 12. On balance, federal government employment actually rose by 1,000. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected payrolls to rise by 170,000 and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 3.9 percent.

In all, it was a powerful performance at a time when economists increasingly have said they expect growth to slow in 2019. January marked 100 months in a row of positive job creation, by far the longest streak on record. Stock futures and Treasury yields jumped in response to the better-than-expected report. The news was not all good, though, as data revisions pushed previous numbers lower. December’s big initially reported gain of 312,000 was knocked all the way down to 222,000, while November’s rose from 176,000 to 196,000. On net, that took the two months down by 70,000, bringing the three-month average to 241,000. That’s still well above the trend that would be common this far into an economic expansion dating back 9 1/2 years.

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“Real GDP fell by 1.7 percent and 0.6 percent in Q3 and Q4 respectively compared with the official figures showing growth of 6.4 percent and 6 percent..”

Big Trouble in Little China (Schmid)

There are those who think “China will take over the world” with its technocratic central planning. Then there are those who say its debt bubble is so gigantic, the economy will crash and burn. The truth, probably, lies somewhere in the middle. And it looks like we are getting closer to know the truth. Official GDP growth, is of course on track at 6.6 percent for the year 2018, stellar among industrial and even emerging economies. But nobody believes these figures, even though they are the worst since 1990. “Real GDP fell by 1.7 percent and 0.6 percent in Q3 and Q4 respectively compared with the official figures showing growth of 6.4 percent and 6 percent,” Enodo Economics chief economist Diana Choyleva wrote in a note to clients about the annualized growth during the past two quarters of 2018. According to Choyleva, China is experiencing an unofficial recession.

While this doesn’t mean the crash and burn scenario is unavoidable, the flurry of official and unofficial economic indicators flashing red make the “take over the world” scenario quite unbelievable for the intermediate future. No matter which official indicator you look at, the Chinese economy is in decline. Retail sales growth is barely above 5 percent, the lowest level since 2003 with automobile sales crashing 13 percent. Total imports in U.S. dollar terms are down 7.6 percent in December of 2018 as compared to the year before.

The main problem of the Chinese economy is debt and overcapacity. Debt has blown up to 300 percent of GDP through the state-controlled banking system. The financing went into building trains, roads, airports, apartments, shipyards, anything that can be built. And while some of the stuff is undoubtedly useful, a lot of it is not. If it’s not useful or sustainable, it won’t generate the returns necessary to service said debt. This problem could have been nipped in the bud, but Chinese central planners wanted ever more steel mills and high speed trains and push back the day of reckoning when most of the unprofitable companies would go bankrupt. So in order to keep the gravy train running, more debt had to be issued to build more stuff.

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How Fast Housing Markets in Sydney & Melbourne Are Coming Unglued (WS)

“Can we still describe this as an orderly slowdown in housing conditions?” mused CoreLogic Asia Pacific’s head of research Tim Lawless about the Australian housing market today. Over the last three months, the index for Sydney dropped 4.5%, and the index for Melbourne 4.0%, the “largest rolling quarterly fall since at least the 80’s.” Across the metro area of Sydney, prices of all types of homes combined, according to CoreLogic’s Daily Home Value Index, fell 1.35% in January from December, the third month in a row with a monthly decline of over 1%. The 4.5% decline over the past three months pencils out to an annual rate of decline of 17%. The index is now down about 12% from its peak in July 2017. Note the accelerating decline over the past three months:

The 12% drop from the peak in July 2017 pushed the index back where it been in July 2016 – which shows how crazy and unsustainable the price boom had been on the way up. Now it is getting unwound at a slightly slower pace on the way down. Over the 12-month period through January, the index fell 9.7%, with house prices down 10.9% and condo prices down 6.9%. At the same time, the number of homes of all types listed for sale in the Sydney metro jumped by 24%. [..] In the Melbourne metro, the second largest market in Australia, the housing bust is also taking on momentum, instead of slowing down, but started about four months behind Sydney’s. According to the CoreLogic Daily Home Value Index, since the peak in November 2017, prices of all types of homes fell about 9%, which pushed prices back to January 2017 levels. Note the acceleration over the past three months:

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US sanctions deprive Maduro of food and medicine. Seen as a way to create a revolt.

Venezuela To Sell Gold Reserves To UAE Without Russia’s Help (RT)

Caracas plans to sell 29 tons of gold to the United Arab Emirates in return for euro in cash, Reuters cites a senior government official as saying. The money is needed to provide liquidity for imports of basic goods.
According to the official, the sale of the nation’s gold began with the shipment of 3 tons on January 26, following the export last year of $900 million in unrefined gold to Turkey. The source denied Moscow’s involvement in the operation after rumors circulated this week that mysterious Russian-operated airplanes arrived in the country and planned to leave with Venezuelan gold on board. That is incorrect, according to the official. Caracas reportedly needs cash for imports of basic products that it sells to the population at subsidized prices.

A possible explanation for the payment for the gold in euros is US sanctions, which restrict Venezuela’s use of the dollar. Venezuela’s central bank reportedly began to sell gold reserves to allied countries after supplies of unrefined gold from small mines began to run low. The bank held 150 tons of gold in January 2018. By the end of November holdings had fallen to 132 tons between the central bank’s vaults and the Bank of England, according to central bank data. The Bank of England has refused to return an estimated 31 tons of Venezuelan gold worth $1.2 billion. Bankers in Britain are allegedly concerned that Venezuelan officials would sell state-owned gold “for personal gain.”

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“..this same mistake was made in Libya, and everyone today recognizes it. We must prevent the same thing happening in Venezuela.”

Italy Rejects Guaido, Says Venezuela is a Sovereign State (Telesur)

On Thursday the Italian Government withdrew from the position assumed by the European Parliament and informed that it does not recognize Juan Guaido as “president in charge” of Venezuela. “Italy does not recognize the self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido,” Italy’s Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Manlio Di Stefano, said. The senior official explained that Italy is “totally against” that a country or a group of countries “can determine the internal policies” of a sovereign State. “This is called the principle of non-intervention and is enshrined by the United Nations,” Di Stefano said. He also expressed the Italian Government’s concern to prevent a warlike confrontation in the South American nation and stressed that “this same mistake was made in Libya, and everyone today recognizes it. We must prevent the same thing happening in Venezuela.”

Last Wednesday the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, warned the international community that it is not “prudent” to support one of the opposing parties in Venezuela, since “an invasive attitude would generate more division in the world.” “We do not consider it opportune to rush to recognize investitures that have not gone through an electoral process,” said Conte. Nevertheless, violating international law, and adding to the U.S.-driven coup d’état, the European Parliament approved a resolution Thursday that recognizes Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s “interim president.”

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With just 56 days left, great moment to start.

Whitehall Begins ‘Serious Work’ On Customs Union With EU (Ind.)

Whitehall officials have begun “serious work” on the UK staying in a permanent EU customs union as a route to rescuing the Brexit deal, despite Theresa May ruling out the move, The Independent can reveal. Preparations are underway at a high level, amid a belief the beleaguered prime minister will be forced to offer the potentially crucial compromise to Labour. Ms May has repeatedly rejected a customs union – fearing a further revolt by anti-EU Tories – but some cabinet ministers are pushing her to accept that the red line will have to be dropped if her deal is to be rescued. They believe it could tempt scores of Labour MPs to back the deal when it returns to the Commons, even if Jeremy Corbyn himself still refuses to drop his opposition.

Now a well-placed Whitehall source has told The Independent: “There is serious work going on about a customs union. We need to be prepared, so we are ready if the politics moves in that direction.” Although the prime minister has not yet been won over, she will come under fierce pressure if, as expected, the EU rejects her plea to replace the backstop – before fresh Commons votes in just 12 days’ time. The concession of a customs union is unlikely to be enough to persuade Mr Corbyn to throw his weight what he is determined to brand “a Tory Brexit”, but many Labour MPs are expected to switch sides. Furthermore, despite inevitable Tory outrage, some Conservative MPs could be persuaded that a customs union would make it less likely the Irish backstop they oppose – designed to guarantee an open border – will ever be needed.

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“To storm my house with greater force than was used to take down (Osama) bin Laden or El Chapo or Pablo Escobar, to terrorise my wife and my dogs, is unconscionable..”

Judge Considers Gag Order On Roger Stone And Prosecution (BBC)

The judge overseeing the criminal case against ex-Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone says she is considering a gagging order on both him and the prosecution. Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the case was “a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign”. Mr Stone has been charged on seven counts by special counsel Robert Mueller, including witness tampering and lying to Congress. He denies any wrongdoing and has made frequent jibes against Mr Mueller. Mr Stone, 66, a longstanding ally of the president, has previously vowed to resist any gagging order, saying on Tuesday: “I will fight and the deep state is in panic mode.”

Mr Mueller is overseeing an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and whether Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow. President Trump denies collusion, calling the investigation “a witch hunt”, and the Kremlin denies any meddling. At a court hearing in Washington on Friday, Judge Jackson cited a number of “extrajudicial statements by the defendant”. She said that if a gagging order was imposed, Mr Stone would still be able to talk to the media about issues not connected to the case. She asked both sides to respond to the possible order by 8 February. The charges against Mr Stone are linked to an alleged Russian-led hack into the emails of Democratic Party officials. The information contained in the emails was released by Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign.

Since his arrest, Mr Stone has given a string of media interviews. He has been highly critical of his arrest, describing it as political theatrics. “To storm my house with greater force than was used to take down (Osama) bin Laden or El Chapo or Pablo Escobar, to terrorise my wife and my dogs, is unconscionable,” he told reporters. He has accused Mr Mueller of running a politically motivated “inquisition”. In an interview with Reuters, Mr Stone dismissed the charges as “process crimes” with no intentional lies. He said any failure to disclose emails or texts had been an “honest mistake”. In a phone interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his radio programme Infowars, Mr Stone said he intended to “fight for my life”.

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“This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members. ”

America’s Kurdish Allies Risk Being Wiped Out – By NATO (Graeber)

Remember those plucky Kurdish forces who so heroically defended the Syrian city of Kobane from Isis? They risk being wiped out by Nato. The autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava in Northeast Syria, which includes Kobane, faces invasion. A Nato army is amassing on the border, marshaling all the overwhelming firepower and high-tech equipment that only the most advanced military forces can deploy. The commander in chief of those forces says he wants to return Rojava to its “rightful owners” who, he believes, are Arabs, not Kurds. Last spring, this leader made similar declarations about the westernmost Syrian Kurdish district of Afrin. Following that, the very same Nato army, using German tanks and British helicopter gunships, and backed by thousands of hardcore Islamist auxiliaries, overran the district.

According to Kurdish news agencies, the invasion led to over a 100,000 Kurdish civilians being driven out of Afrin entirely. They reportedly employed rape, torture and murder as systematic means of terror. That reign of terror continues to this day. And the commander and chief of this Nato army has suggested that he intends to do to the rest of North Syria what he did to Afrin. I am speaking, of course, of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is, increasingly, Turkey’s effective dictator. But it’s crucial to emphasize that these are Nato forces. This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members. Fighter jets, helicopter gunships, even Turkey’s German-supplied Panzer forces – they all degrade extremely quickly under combat conditions.

The people who continually inspect, maintain, repair, replace, and provide them with spare parts tend to be contractors working for American, British, German or Italian firms. Their presence is critical because the Turkish military advantage over Northern Syria’s “People’s Defense Forces” (YPG) and “Women’s Defense Forces” (YPJ), those defenders of Kobane that Turkey has pledged to destroy, is entirely dependent on them. That’s because, aside from its technological advantage, the Turkish army is a mess. Most of its best officers and even pilots have been in prison since the failed coup attempt in 2016, and it’s now being run by commanders chosen by political loyalty instead of competence. Rojava’s defenders, in contrast, are seasoned veterans. In a fair fight, they would have no more problem fending off a Turkish incursion than they had driving back Turkish-backed Jihadis in the past.

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Precautionary principle. The only response.

Rigging the Science of GMO Ecotoxicity (Latham)

Researchers who work on GMO crops are developing special “artificial diet systems”. The stated purpose of these new diets is to standardise the testing of the Cry toxins, often used in GMO crops, for their effects on non-target species. But a paper published last month in the journal Toxins implies a very different interpretation of their purpose. The new diets contain hidden ingredients that can mask Cry toxicity and allow them to pass undetected through toxicity tests on beneficial species like lacewings (Hilbeck et al., 2018). Thus the new diets will benefit GMO crop developers by letting new ones come to market quicker and more reliably. Tests conducted with the new diets are even being used to cast doubt on previous findings of ecotoxicological harm.

The resulting crops are usually called Bt crops. Cry toxins kill insects that eat the GMO crop because the toxin punches a hole in the membranes of the insect gut when it is ingested, causing the insect to immediately stop feeding and eventually die of septicaemia. Cry toxins are controversial. Although the biotech industry claims they have narrow specificity, and are therefore safe for all organisms except so-called ‘target’ organisms, plenty of researchers disagree. They suspect that Cry toxins may affect many non-target species, even including mammals and humans (e.g. Dolezel et al., 2011; Latham et al., 2017; Zdziarski, et al., 2018).

The Cry toxin mode of action, we and others have noted, does not necessarily discriminate between species. Any organism with a membrane-lined gut is, in principle, vulnerable if it consumes the GMO Bt crop. In these Bt crops the leaves, straw, roots, nectar, and pollen, all typically contain Cry toxins. Therefore, most organisms in agricultural landscapes will at some point in their life-cycle be exposed to GMO plant material. As pollinator declines and a more generalised insect apocalypse have revealed, the question of the effects of such crops on biodiversity is far from trivial.

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GMO Cry toxins
Cry toxins are a family of highly active protein toxins originally isolated from the gut pathogenic bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Latham et al., 2017). They confer insect-resistance and up to six distinct ones are added to GMO corn, cotton, and other crops (Hilbeck and Otto, 2015).

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Feb 012019
 


Vincent van Gogh Outskirts of Paris: Road with Peasant Shouldering a Spade 1887

 

Death Of 95% Of Indigenous People In Colonization Of America Cooled Earth (RT)
Who Bought the Gigantic $1.5 Trillion of New 2018 US Government Debt? (WS)
Central Bank Gold Buying Hits Highest Level In Half A Century (CNBC)
Refusal To Return Venezuelan Gold Means End Of Britain As Financial Center (RT)
Brexit Could Be Delayed Because Government Is Not Ready (Ind.)
What Corbyn Must Do To Rescue Britain From Its Brexit Torture (Varoufakis)
UK Homeless Crisis Is Worse Than Ever (Ind.)
US Home Sales to Get Even Uglier in Near Future (WS)
US New Home Prices Drop 12% as Supply Surges (WS)
Trump Says Border-Wall Talks ‘A Waste Of Money And Time’ (MW)
With World Bank and IMF In Crisis, Time To Push Radical New Vision (DiEM25)
Apple Punishes Facebook, Google Over App Rules (BBC)
Greece Raises Minimum Wage By 11% (K.)
25% of Greeks Cannot Afford To Heat Their Homes (K.)

 

 

The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. 95% of them, 56 million, had died by 1600. But who knows this? The history we’ve been told about is white man’s history, almost exclusively. In his lovely books 1491 and 1493, Charles Mann describes this from a different view. First, he says as many people lived in North America as in Europe when Columbus came 500 years ago. Second, the image of roaming herds of buffalo was not accurate then: there was no place for them, the land was farmed. Only after the people had died did the buffalo take over and multiply.

Death Of 95% Of Indigenous People In Colonization Of America Cooled Earth (RT)

European colonization of the Americas contributed to the advent of the 17th century ‘Little Ice Age,’ a new study says. As some 55 million indigenous people were wiped out, their farmland turned into forest and sucked out CO2. Much of the continental US may feel like it is living through a ‘mini ice age’ due to the polar vortex weather pattern. But while this will come and go, there was a proper global drop in temperatures about four centuries ago, which is commonly called the ‘Little Ice Age.’ A team of scientists from University College London says that humans were partially to blame for it – particularly Europeans traveling to the New World for treasure and new life. While there were some natural reasons behind the oddball phenomenon, much of it remains veiled in mystery.

The British researchers argue that they have found a missing link – the “Great Dying” of indigenous people as result of the European conquest. The scientists found that some 56 million hectares of land were abandoned by the native population of the Americas as they fled or died due to epidemics, war, slavery and subsequent famine. Those lands were reclaimed by forests that, in turn, absorbed so much carbon dioxide that the process cooled Earth. “The resulting terrestrial carbon uptake had a detectable impact on both atmospheric CO2 and global surface air temperatures in the two centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution,” according to the study, published in the Quaternary Science Reviews.

Using a combination of counting methods, the researchers found that prior to the arrival of Europeans in 1492, the Americans were inhabited by some 60.5 million people. About 95 percent of them, or 56 million, had died by 1600. Some 55.8 million hectares (138.3 million acres) of what was previously farmland was reclaimed by the forests and led to a 7.4 pentagram carbon uptake, according to the paper. One pentagram (Pg) of carbon is equivalent to a billion metric tons. “These changes show that the Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas is necessary for a parsimonious explanation of the anomalous decrease in atmospheric CO2,” the paper notes.

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Treasuries stay at home. Foreigners no longer want them. Japan, China, Russia are all selling.

Who Bought the Gigantic $1.5 Trillion of New 2018 US Government Debt? (WS)

Under the impact of a stupendous spending binge peppered with juicy tax cuts, the Treasury Department has had to issue a flood of Treasury securities to fund the cash outflow. So, over the past 12 months, the US gross national debt has ballooned by $1.5 trillion to $22 trillion as of January 30, according to Treasury Department data. And these are the good times when the economy is hopping. At the next recession, this is going to get cute. But who the heck is buying all this debt? That question will grow increasingly important and worrisome as we move forward with this gigantic ballooning debt, fueled by deficits that Fed chairman Jerome Powell calls “unsustainable” at every chance he gets:

So, who bought all this debt? US government debt, as expensive as it is in terms of interest payments for US taxpayers, is a mildly income-producing asset for the creditors of the US. Somebody has to buy it, every last dollar of it. The US relies on it. So, who bought this pile of debt that got issued in 12 months? China, Japan, other foreign investors? Nope. They’re gradually unloading this debt. All foreign investors combined slashed their holdings of marketable Treasury securities in November by $105 billion from November a year earlier, to $6.2 trillion, according to the Treasury Department’s TIC data released today.

The Treasury Department divides these foreign investors into two categories: “Foreign official” holders (foreign central banks and government entities) cut their holdings by $144 billion over the 12 months, to $3.9 trillion at the end of November. But private-sector investors (foreign hedge funds, banks, individuals, etc.) increased their holdings by $52 billion, to $2.3 trillion. The two largest foreign creditors of the US — China and Japan — have both been unloading their Treasury securities: • China’s holdings fell by $55 billion from a year earlier to $1.12 trillion. • Japan’s holdings fell by $47 billion from a year earlier to $1.04 trillion, having now reduced its stash by 16% since the peak at the end of 2014 ($1.24 trillion).

[..] American banks (very large holders), hedge funds, pension funds, mutual funds, and other institutions along with individual investors in their brokerage accounts or at their accounts with the US Treasury were huge net buyers, while nearly everyone else was selling, increasing their holdings by $1.36 trillion over the 12-month period. These American entities combined owned the remainder of the US gross national debt, $7.5 trillion, or 34.4% of the total!

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It’s mostly Russia really: The Russian central bank sold almost all of its U.S. Treasury stock to buy 274.3 tons of gold in 2018.

Central Bank Gold Buying Hits Highest Level In Half A Century (CNBC)

The amount of gold bought by central banks in 2018 reached the second highest annual total on record, according to the World Gold Council (WGC). Central banks bought the most gold by volume since 1967, according to the industry research firm, which also highlighted it was the largest amount since former U.S. President Nixon Richard’s decision to end the dollar’s peg to bullion in 1971. Central bank net purchases reached 651.5 metric tons in 2018, 74 percent higher than in the previous year when 375 tons were bought. The WGC has estimated that central banks now hold nearly 34,000 tons of gold. The Federal Reserve is reported to hold the most, amounting for almost three quarters of the nation’s foreign-exchange reserve pot.

Taking the current spot price of $1,321.15 per troy ounce, gold purchases by central banks in 2018 amounted to a $27.7 billion spending splurge on the precious metal. “Heightened geopolitical and economic uncertainty throughout the year increasingly drove central banks to diversify their reserves and re-focus their attention on the principal objective of investing in safe and liquid assets,” said the report released on Thursday. The WGC said the bulk of the buying was carried out by a handful of central banks with Russia leading the way as it looks to swap out dollars from its portfolio. The Russian central bank sold almost all of its U.S. Treasury stock to buy 274.3 tons of gold in 2018.

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Every country should hold its own gold. What’s the problem with that?

Refusal To Return Venezuelan Gold Means End Of Britain As Financial Center (RT)

The freezing of Venezuelan gold by the Bank of England is a signal to all countries out of step with US interests to withdraw their money, according to economist and co-founder of Democracy at Work, Professor Richard Wolff.
He told RT America that Britain and its central bank have shown themselves to be “under the thumb of the United States.” “That is a signal to every country that has or may have difficulties with the US, [that they had] better get their money out of England and out of London because it’s not the safe place as it once was,” he said. The Bank of England is currently withholding $1.2 billion in gold from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, but is being urged by Washington to release it to the chairman of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido.

Last week, the US backed Guaido as the legitimate president of Venezuela, after he declared himself interim president. According to Professor Wolff, control of Venezuela’s oil has always been an urgent issue for Washington. He also said that the collapse of Britain as a global power, which was accelerated by Brexit, is now about to take another step. “One of the few things left for Britain is to be the financial center that London has been for so long. And one of the ways you stay a financial center is if you don’t play games with other people’s money,” he said.

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Pretty much a given now.

Brexit Could Be Delayed Because Government Is Not Ready (Ind.)

Jeremy Hunt has said Brexit could be delayed as the government may need “extra time” to pass key legislation if Theresa May can agree a deal at the eleventh hour. The foreign secretary admitted that a technical delay to the Article 50 process could be necessary to prepare for Britain’s exit from the EU, which is legally due to take place on 29 March. MPs ordered the prime minister to go back to Brussels to renegotiate a key part of her Brexit deal after her plan was resoundingly defeated in the Commons earlier this month. But despite the Tory truce, Ms May faces an uphill battle to convince the EU to reopen talks on the withdrawal agreement, with European leaders lining up to rebuff her efforts.

Asked about Britain’s exit date, Mr Hunt told the Today programme: “I think that depends on how long this process takes. “I think it is true that if we ended up approving a deal in the days before 29 March then we might need some extra time to pass critical legislation. But if we are able to make progress sooner, then that might not be necessary. “We can’t know at this stage exactly which of those scenarios would happen.” There is growing concern among ministers that there is not enough time to pass the necessary legislation before exit day, amid reports that the February recess could be cancelled to give Ms May more time to win over the EU.

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Ironically, Varoufakis points out exactly why Corbyn is too late (all he’s done is wait):

“Irresolute princes, to avoid present dangers, generally follow the neutral path, and are generally ruined” – Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

What Corbyn Must Do To Rescue Britain From Its Brexit Torture (Varoufakis)

Britain’s prime minister has been remarkable in resolutely following a ruinous path that she keeps insisting remains the least perilous road to Brexit. Theresa May’s first crime against logic was to trigger Article 50 without a plan of what to do on 29 March 2019 if no deal had been struck with Brussels. Her second was to forfeit any bargaining power she had by accepting Michel Barnier’s two-phase negotiation (first London delivers all that Brussels demands, then Brussels considers what London wants). May’s two colossal errors combined to allow a gloating European Commission to dictate to her a withdrawal agreement that, independently of whether one is pro-Leave or pro-Remain, resembles the kind of treaty imposed upon a nation defeated at war.

Unsurprisingly, Brexit has turned into a process tearing Britain apart while revealing its constitutional inadequacies. The next few weeks are depressingly predictable. The prime minister will continue to run down the clock putting all the pressure on Remainers, both Tory and Labour, to avert a no-deal Brexit by accepting hers. That was the point of backing the Brady amendment on Tuesday: to take Brexit revocation off the table, gain two weeks during which to pretend to negotiate with a European Commission that does not have the mandate to negotiate and then take a version of the same withdrawal agreement, possibly with some pointless addenda, to parliament. If her blackmail fails again, she will apply for an extension of Article 50 until 1 July to start the same war of attrition anew.

It is imperative that May is prevented from following this path. Those who can stop her and fail to do so will not be forgiven by at least one generation of Britons. Which brings me to my friend and comrade Jeremy Corbyn and his team. Labour’s leadership understands that, with weeks to go before the cliff’s edge, Niccolò Machiavelli’s counsel applies just as much to them too. “Irresolute princes, to avoid present dangers, generally follow the neutral path, and are generally ruined” – Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

Until now it was right and proper for Labour to avoid distracting a Tory government while it was making a mess of things. Jeremy Corbyn’s critics were wrong to chastise him for delaying to call a vote of no confidence or for not backing a second referendum. Labour just did not have the numbers to win such votes. However, the time has come for Jeremy Corbyn to give a speech of hope for Britain, one that contains a clear vision of a country that heals itself after two years of wanton destruction by a short-sighted, clueless prime minister thinking solely of the unity of her divided government and party.

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Why Brexit?!

UK Homeless Crisis Is Worse Than Ever (Ind.)

Housing charities have criticised government claims of falling numbers of rough sleepers as homeless shelters across Britain report unprecedented demand. Communities secretary James Brokenshire said his department’s strategy was “starting to have an effect” as official figures showed that, on a “snapshot night in autumn”, the number of people sleeping on the street had dropped to 4,677 from 4,751 the year before. But Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of charity Crisis, said the count was widely believed to be an “unreliable” source which “significantly underestimated” the number of people experiencing the devastation of sleeping rough.

Shelters in England, Wales and Scotland contacted by The Independent all reported record levels of demand as temperatures in parts of the country dropped as low as -14C. On the snapshot count, Mr Sparkes said: “The problem is, these counts and estimates inevitably miss a significant number of people, including those not rough sleeping on that particular night, those hidden from view and who aren’t bedded down for the night.” Figures published by his organisation in December revealed levels of rough sleeping in the UK – including sleeping on public transport and in tents – had doubled in five years, rising by 20 per cent to 24,000 in just 12 months.

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Lawrence Yun still has a job. Amazing.

US Home Sales to Get Even Uglier in Near Future (WS)

What will home sales look like in January and February? Very, very lousy, according to pending home sales, a measure that counts how many contracts were signed. Contract signings run roughly one or two months ahead of when the sales close and are reported as sales. The measure of pending home sales for December projects actual home sales in January and February. To that tune, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said that its Pending Home Sales Index for December fell to the lowest level since April 2014. “It’s been dripping down, down, down,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in the interview.

“Frustrating that the housing market is not recovering.” Compared to December a year earlier, contract signings dropped 9.8%, the 12th month in a row of year-over-year declines, and the worst year-over-year decline since the days of housing and mortgage crisis. To show the acceleration of the declines of contract signings toward the end of the year, I marked October, November, and December in red. The NAR’s report blamed the stock market swoon that had sapped consumer confidence, unaffordable home prices – that, after years of price gains had far outgrown wage gains – and mortgage rates. The latter is an interesting theory because mortgage rates, after a peak in early November, were falling starting in mid-November and fell throughout December.

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Let’s see the Fed tackle this one.

US New Home Prices Drop 12% as Supply Surges (WS)

The Commerce Department has reopened for business, and the good folks there are now in hyperdrive to put together and release the data that was blocked during the partial government shutdown that had also shut down the Commerce Department. This morning, it released the sales data for new homes whose sales closed in November. This report had originally been scheduled for the end of December. In the near future, the Commerce Department will further catch up and release the new-home sales data for December, which had been scheduled for last week. So, time to catch up, and here we go. The median prices of new single-family houses that sold across the US in November 2018 fell 11.9% from November 2017 to $302,400, the lowest median price since October 2016, and in the same range as the median price in November and December 2014:

This new-home sales data – produced jointly by the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development – is very volatile, and subject to revisions in the following months. But after a while, and despite the jumpiness of the data, as the above chart shows, the trend becomes clear. The year-over-year decline of 11.9% was the third months in a row of year-over-year declines, and the largest year-over-year decline since Housing Bust 1. Note the many double-digit year-over-year price increases in prior years, which attest to the boom in prices that has now outrun what the market can bear:

Just how far prices have ballooned before they began to deflate becomes apparent in this long-term chart of the median price of new houses. At the price peak in December 2017 ($343,300), the median price was 31% above the crazy bubble peak in March 2007, before it all blew apart:

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Pelosi will have to come with something. Does she understand this?

Trump Says Border-Wall Talks ‘A Waste Of Money And Time’ (MW)

Negotiations with Congress are a waste of time if Democrats won’t discuss border-wall funding, President Donald Trump said Thursday, vowing to build a wall with or without congressional approval. In a wide-ranging Oval Office interview published Thursday night by the New York Times, Trump also said he’s done playing nice with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, expressed optimism over reaching a trade deal with China and issued numerous denials related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Pelosi has adamantly opposed any funding to build a wall along America’s southern border, and the specter of another government shutdown looms in two weeks, when a temporary funding deal expires.

“If she doesn’t approve the wall, the rest of it’s just a waste of money and time and energy.” A 17-member panel of lawmakers has been tasked with reaching a border-funding compromise. Trump suggested in the interview that an emergency order could be issued if Congress won’t allocate the $5.7 billion that he’s demanded for the wall. “I’ll continue to build the wall, and we’ll get the wall finished,” he told the Times. “Now whether or not I declare a national emergency — that you’ll see.” About Pelosi, Trump said: “I’ve actually always gotten along with her, but now I don’t think I will any more. . . . I think she’s doing a tremendous disservice to the country.”

When asked about a number of other subjects, Trump said he ”never did” speak to Roger Stone about WikiLeaks during his campaign; denied he was tampering with witnesses through his tweets; and said testimony by his intelligence chiefs earlier this week was mischaracterized by the media, despite the fact that video of the hearing was shown, along with a 42-page written transcript. He also called being president a “loser” job, financially. “I lost massive amounts of money doing this job,” he said. “This is not the money. This is one of the great losers of all time. You know, fortunately, I don’t need money.”

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Varoufakis and David Adler. Personally, when someone says we need $8 trillion a year for a Green New Deal, I think: forget it. People think in terms of keeping present energy use levels alive, just switching to different sources. But the No. 1 issue should be to use less energy.

With World Bank and IMF In Crisis, Time To Push Radical New Vision (DiEM25)

“Prosperity, like peace, is indivisible,” said the US treasury secretary, Henry Morgenthau, in his inaugural speech to the Bretton Woods conference, which gave birth to the World Bank (then the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and to the IMF. “We cannot afford to have it scattered here or there among the fortunate or enjoy it at the expense of others.” The original Bretton Woods plan was for exchange rates to be fixed, with the IMF helping heavily indebted countries restructure their debt and a stabilization fund curbing capital flight. Meanwhile, the World Bank would offer development finance and an international commodity stabilization corporation would “bring about the orderly marketing of staple commodities at prices fair to the producer and consumer alike”.

Finally, the whole system would be dollar-denominated, with the greenback being the only currency exchangeable for gold at a fixed rate. John Maynard Keynes, the chief British negotiator at Bretton Woods, was worried that the new system could only rely on the dollar as long as America had a trade surplus. The moment the United States became a deficit country, the system would collapse. So, Keynes suggested that instead of building the new world order on the dollar, all major economies would subscribe to a multilateral International Clearing Union (ICU). While keeping their own currencies, and central banks, countries would agree to denominate all international payments in a common accounting unit, which Keynes named the bancor, and to clear all international payments through the ICU.

Once set up, the ICU would tax persistent surpluses and deficits symmetrically so as to balance out capital flows, volatility, global aggregate demand and productivity. Had it been instituted, the ICU would have worked alongside the World Bank to keep the global economy in balance and build shared prosperity worldwide. But Keynes’s ICU was rejected. The United States was unwilling to replace the dollar as the anchor of the new monetary system. And so the IMF was downgraded to a bailout fund, the World Bank was limited to lending from its own reserves (contributed by stressed member states) and, crucially, any possibility of the IMF leveraging the World Bank’s investments (like a central bank might have done) was jettisoned.

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They got young people ‘volunteering’ to be spied upon to an even higher degree than they already were.

Apple Punishes Facebook, Google Over App Rules (BBC)

Apple revoked Google’s ability to offer its employees internal-only iPhone apps, likely causing significant disruption to the search giant. Apple was punishing its rival for breaking its developers’ policy, a day after it took the same action against Facebook. The move came after both firms used special access for market research. Apple restored Google’s access to the software by the end of the working day on Thursday. After more than 24 hours of disruption, Facebook had its access restored earlier on Thursday. “We are in the process of getting our internal apps up and running” a spokeswoman told the BBC. “To be clear, this didn’t have an impact on our consumer-facing services.”

Apple allows companies the ability to exert special control over employee devices in order to add additional security and control. Many firms use this to distribute apps that might contain private information to employees but not the wider public. Some firms also distribute test or beta versions of apps the firm is working on such as, in Google’s case, Maps, Hangouts and Gmail. Both firms use internal iOS apps to help employees access services such as travel. However, Apple explicitly prohibits firms from using this access on regular consumers. On Monday it was revealed that Facebook had used its enterprise access to distribute a market research app to the public, including teenagers. On Tuesday it became known that Google was doing something similar with its own app, Screenwise.

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The Troika is not happy.

Greece Raises Minimum Wage By 11% (K.)

An 11 percent increase in Greece’s minimum wage and the abolition of the so-called subminimum wage paid to young employees which were announced by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during a cabinet meeting early this week came into effect on Friday. “Today, a new era begins for the country’s young employees. An era with more rights, more dignity,” Labor Minister Effie Achtsioglou told state-run news agency ANA-MPA. “With the increase in the minimum wage and the abolition of the sub-minimum wage, we restore part of what austerity policies deprived employees of. And this is an act of justice.” The hike, the first such wage change in the country in almost a decade, raises the minimum wage from €586 to €650. The measure, however, has generated concern on the part of Greece’s creditors during their recent visit to the country to assess its post-bailout compliance.

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Why those minimum wage were raised. Imagine if Greece were further north.

25% of Greeks Cannot Afford To Heat Their Homes (K.)

Almost one in four Greeks cannot afford to heat their home sufficiently, according to Eurostat data collected as part of the annual EU survey on income and living conditions in the bloc. Based on the report, 25.7 percent of Greeks said they were not able to keep their home adequately warm due to their economic condition. Greeks buy heating oil at an average price of 1,025 euros per liter when the average price for the whole of the European Union is 0.794 euros per litre and 0.781 euros in the eurozone. The largest share of people who shared the same view was recorded in Bulgaria (37 pct), followed by Lithuania (29 pct), Greece, Cyprus (23 pct) and Portugal (20 pct).

In contrast, the lowest shares – close to 2 percent – were recorded in Luxembourg, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Austria. In 2017, eight percent of the EU population said in an EU-wide survey that they could not afford to heat their home sufficiently. This share peaked in 2012 with 11 percent, and has fallen continuously in subsequent years.

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