Nov 052018
 
 November 5, 2018  Posted by at 9:55 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  


Jean-Francois Millet The Young Shepherdess 1870-73

 

Iran Vows To ‘Proudly Bypass’ US Sanctions (AFP)
China Says Its Lawful Trade With Iran Should Be Respected (R.)
Iran Hardline Cleric: We’ll “Instantly” Create $400 Oil By Seizing Tankers (ZH)
The Global US Squeeze On Iran Has Started (EM)
Trump’s War on the Fed (Ellen Brown)
David Stockman: Epic Downturn Is Here, Brace For 40% Market Plunge (CNBC)
The Challenge for Deutsche Bank (Whalen)
The Real Economic Gamble Is Too Little Government Borrowing (Ind.)
Theresa May’s Chances Of Striking Irish Border Deal ’50-50′ – EU (G.)
1,400 UK Top Lawyers Call On May To Give Voters Final Say On Brexit Deal (Ind.)
Saudi Sent ‘Cover-Up Team’ To Dispose Of Khashoggi Body (AFP)
Khashoggi’s Sons Appeal For Return Of His Body (R.)
2nd Kavanaugh Accuser Admits She Lied (ZH)
Senate Judiciary Republicans Say No Evidence Found Against Kavanaugh (Hill)

 

 

Iran remembers the sjah, and US involvement in his reign, and the Savak. Americans forget at their own peril. Painting Iran as the aggressor while siding with the Saudi’s against it is not 100% credible, to say the least.

Iran Vows To ‘Proudly Bypass’ US Sanctions (AFP)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic republic “will proudly bypass sanctions” by the United States that took effect on Monday targeting the country’s oil and financial sectors. “I announce that we will proudly bypass your illegal, unjust sanctions because it’s against international regulations,” Rouhani said in a televised speech. “We are in a situation of economic war, confronting a bullying power. I don’t think that in the history of America, someone has entered the White House who is so against law and international conventions,” he added. The measures described by Washington as “the toughest sanctions ever” follow US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision in May to abandon the multi-nation nuclear deal with Tehran.

The latest tranche aim to significantly cut Iran’s oil exports – which have already fallen by around one million barrels a day since May – and cut it off from international finance. The United States has given temporary exemptions to eight countries – including India, Japan and Turkey – to continue buying oil in a bid to avoid disturbing their economies and global markets. But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to push Iran’s oil sales to zero. “Watch what we do. Watch as we’ve already taken more crude oil off the market than any time in previous history,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.


Iranian General Qasem Soleimani posted this

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Clear and concise.

China Says Its Lawful Trade With Iran Should Be Respected (R.)

China said on Monday its lawful trade cooperation with Iran should be respected and expressed regret that the United States re-imposed sanctions on the Middle Eastern country. Speaking at a daily news briefing in Beijing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying did not directly comment on whether China had been granted exemption from the Iran sanctions by the United States. The restoration of U.S. sanctions on Monday targeting Iran’s oil sales and banking sector is part of an effort by U.S. President Donald Trump to force Iran to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes outright, as well as its support for proxy forces in conflicts across the Middle East.

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“The UAE and Saudi Arabia will be destroyed in 60 minutes. After 90 minutes the U.S. will have nothing in this country. And we haven’t even started with Israel. Beware of the day we go after Israel, too.”

Iran Hardline Cleric: We’ll “Instantly” Create $400 Oil By Seizing Tankers (ZH)

Powerful Shia cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda is the Friday Prayer leader in Mashhad, considered Iran’s spiritual capital and among the holiest places in Shia Islam, and sits on the government’s “Assembly of Experts” but has no formal government role or decision-making ability. However, he’s a powerful leader and chief spiritual force behind Iran’s conservative faction who has long been at odds with President Hassan Rouhani. Iranian opposition sources report that Alamolhoda told his followers during his Friday prayer sermon: “If we reach a point that our oil is not exported, the Strait of Hormuz will be mined. Saudi oil tankers will be seized and regional countries will be leveled with Iranian missiles.”

The cleric is further reported to have declared that Iran has the power to “instantly” create conditions for $400 a barrel oil prices if it decides to act in the Persian Gulf. He said as reported in regional opposition media: “If Iran decides, a single drop of this region’s oil will not be exported and in 90 minutes all Persian Gulf countries will be destroyed. The UAE and Saudi Arabia will be destroyed in 60 minutes. After 90 minutes the U.S. will have nothing in this country. And we haven’t even started with Israel. Beware of the day we go after Israel, too. That’s why they want us to round up our missiles.”

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“General Qassem Soleimani has said to President Hassan Rouhani: “You walk and we stand ahead of you. Don’t respond to Trump’s provocations because he is insolent and not at your level. I shall face him myself“

The Global US Squeeze On Iran Has Started (EM)

Today the harshest and highest level economic and energy sanctions that can be imposed on any country are being imposed unilaterally on Iran. The US establishment will try its best to bring the Islamic Republic to its knees and Tehran will do its best to cross the US minefield. Whatever the outcome, Iran will never submit to Washington’s twelve conditions.Iran is not a fledgeling country ready to collapse at the imposition of the first tight sanctions, nor will Iran allow its oil exports to be frozen without reacting. In fact, US and UN sanctions against Iran date to the beginning of the Islamic Revolution and the fall of the Shah in 1979.No doubt the Iranian economy will be affected. Nevertheless, Iranian unity today has reached new heights.

President Trump has managed to bring reformists and radicals together under the same umbrella! Iranian General Qassem Soleimani has said to President Hassan Rouhani: “You walk and we stand ahead of you. Don’t respond to Trump’s provocations because he is insolent and not at your level. I shall face him myself”. Rouhani believes “US policy and its new conspiracy will fail”. All responsible figures in the Iranian regime are now united under the leadership of Imam Ali Khamenei against the US policy whose aim is to curb the regime. Under the previous worldwide sanctions regime, Iran began developing missile technology and precision weapons. Iran has never yielded in support of its allies because these alliances are an integral part of its ideology.

Today, Tehran is not standing alone against the US and is waiting to see what course global sanctions will take before reacting. Officials in Tehran, convinced that Trump will win a second term, are preparing for a long siege. Sayyed Ali Khamenei said his country will never strike any deal with the US and won’t be a party to any future agreement because the US is fundamentally untrustworthy. Iran relies on the unity of its own citizens and on the support of its partners in the Middle East, Europe (a crucial strategic ally), and Asia.

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End the Fed. Is that Trump’s endgame?

Trump’s War on the Fed (Ellen Brown)

[..] perhaps the president’s goal is not to subtly affect Fed behavior so much as to make it patently obvious who is to blame when the next Great Recession hits. And recession is fairly certain to hit, because higher interest rates almost always trigger recessions. The Fed’s current policy of “quantitative tightening”—tightening or contracting the money supply—is the very definition of recession, a term Wikipedia defines as “a business cycle contraction which results in a general slowdown in economic activity.” This “business cycle” is not something inevitable, like the weather. It is triggered by the central bank. When the Fed drops interest rates, banks flood the market with “easy money,” allowing speculators to snatch up homes and other assets.

When the central bank then raises interest rates, it contracts the amount of money available to spend and to pay down debt. Borrowers go into default and foreclosed homes go on the market at fire-sale prices, again to be snatched up by the monied class. But it is a game of Monopoly that cannot go on forever. According to Elga Bartsch, chief European economist at Morgan Stanley, one more financial cataclysm could be all that it takes for central bank independence to end. “Having been overburdened for a long time, many central banks might just be one more economic downturn or financial crisis away from a full-on political backlash,” she wrote in a note to clients in 2017. “Such a political backlash could call into question one of the long-standing tenets of modern monetary policy making—central bank independence.”

And that may be the president’s endgame. When higher rates trigger another recession, Trump can point an accusing finger at the central bank, absolving his own policies of liability and underscoring the need for a major overhaul of the Fed. Trump has not overtly joined the End the Fed campaign, but he has had the ear of several advocates of that approach. One is John Allison, whom the president evidently considered for both Fed chairman and treasury secretary. Allison has proposed ending the Fed altogether and returning to the gold standard, and Trump suggested on the campaign trail that he approved of a gold-backed currency.

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At some point David will be right.

David Stockman: Epic Downturn Is Here, Brace For 40% Market Plunge (CNBC)

David Stockman warns a 40 percent stock market plunge is closing in on Wall Street. Stockman, who served as President Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget director, has long warned of a deep downturn that would shake Wall Street’s most bullish investors. He believes the early rumblings of that epic downturn is finally here. It comes as the S&P 500 Index tries to rebound from its worst month since 2011. “No one has outlawed recessions. We’re within a year or two of one,” he said Thursday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.” He added that: “fair value of the S&P going into the next recession is well below 2000, 1500 — way below where we are today.” This is far from the first time he’s issued a dire warning. But this time, he suggests the latest leg down is an early tremor of the pain that lies ahead.

“If you’re a rational investor, you need only two words in your vocabulary: Trump and sell,” said Stockman, in a reference to President Donald Trump. “He’s playing with fire at the very top of an aging expansion.” According to Stockman, Trump’s efforts to get the Federal Reserve to put the brakes on hiking interest rates from historical lows is misdirected. “He’s attacking the Fed for going too quick when it’s been dithering for eight years. The funds rate at 2.13 percent is still below inflation,” he said. Stockman cited the trade war as another major reason why investors should brace for a prolonged sell-off. “The trade war is not remotely rational,” he said. If the dispute worsens, it “is going to hit the whole goods economy with inflation like you’ve never seen before because China supplies about 30 percent of the goods in the categories we import.”

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The world’s fattest zombie?!

The Challenge for Deutsche Bank (Whalen)

When we first heard news reports about a new investor in Deutsche Bank (DB), we of course assumed that this meant the purchase of new shares and thus an increase in capital. But no, it was merely an “activist investor” taking a stake in existing shares. Is this really news or merely a sign of a top in large bank stocks? The DB common is trading a hair over $10 or just 0.3x book value and has a beta of 1.5. Douglas Braunstein, founder and managing partner of Hudson Executive Capital and J.P. Morgan’s former CFO, said in an interview with CNBC that the firm has taken on the stake over the last few months after studying the stock for a year. We’ve been following DB for a lot longer than that and have great difficulty constructing a bull case for the name. But let’s take a look anyway.

First on the list of concerns is profitability. DB has been struggling for years to find a business strategy to deliver consistent profitability, the key measure of stability for any bank. Through the first nine months of the year, DB delivered net income of less than a €1 billion compared with €1.6 billion a year ago. For the full year 2017 the bank lost €750 million. As yet, no one on the management team – if we may so dignify DB’s executives – have been able to articulate a coherent plan to move forward. Second is capital. DB has just €61 billion or 4% capital to total assets of €1.5 trillion, one of the lowest simple leverage ratios of any major bank worldwide. The bank tries to hide this capital deficiency behind calculations that exclusively use “risk weighted “assets” of just €354 billion. In the bank’s non-GAPP disclosure, there is just €54 billion in tangible capital disclosed for a leverage ratio closer to 3%.

In the Q3 ’18 earnings call, when CEO Christian Sewing said that “we committed to conservative balance sheet management and maintaining a CET1 ratio above 13%,” he was referring to risk weighted assets, not total assets. If one assumes that the entire Basel III/IV framework is a confused mess when it comes to describing risk, then the leverage ratio is what matters. Risk weighted assets is a way to pretend that the rest of the banks in Europe and Asia are solvent. To be fair to DB, most European banks play the game of only referring to “risk weighted assets” in their financial disclosure to investors. The EU bank regulators are entirely complicit in this charade. Indeed, since the end of 2017 DB’s total capital has actually fallen 4%.

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Italy knows. Austerity is under justified pressure. With Merkel leaving, and Juncker too.

The Real Economic Gamble Is Too Little Government Borrowing (Ind.)

With his dad jokes and fetish for spreadsheets, Philip Hammond does not fit the stereotype of a “gambler”. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) nevertheless argues that the chancellor rolled the dice in last week’s Budget and took a rather risky wager. Instead of using his lower borrowing projection “windfall” from the official independent forecaster to reduce the deficit more rapidly, Hammond essentially spent it all on the health service, while leaving the overall path of government borrowing more or less unchanged. He could have had a projected budget surplus in five years’ time, but instead there’s still set to be around £20bn of borrowing in 2023-24.

Virtually the entire UK news media took up this “gambler” theme in their headline coverage of the aftermath of the Budget. Yet we should be extremely wary of this framing. Because it obscures the crucial truth that, in economics, the gamble is sometimes borrowing too little, not too much. The IFS, to be fair, was using the phrase in a narrow sense of the chancellor jeopardising his chances of meeting his own self-imposed fiscal rules. Those Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) borrowing downgrades – whose origins remain mysterious given the official forecaster hasn’t upgraded its nominal GDP or growth forecasts which would be the most obvious explanations for higher than expected tax receipts lately – could very well be reversed in future budgets.

Since 2010, most underlying borrowing revisions have been negative (implying more borrowing than previously expected) rather than positive for the public finances. What the lord of forecasting (in this case OBR director Robert Chote) giveth, he can also taketh away. He even warned as much last week. And what would happen then?

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if only she gives in she can have a deal yesterday.

Theresa May’s Chances Of Striking Irish Border Deal ’50-50′ – EU (G.)

The chances of Theresa May striking a deal with Brussels on the Irish border that she can sell to the cabinet and parliament are said by EU officials to be “50-50” as the fraught talks enter their final stretch. The British negotiating team and the European commission’s taskforce, led by Michel Barnier, are to enter a secretive phase known as the “tunnel” this week, but senior EU figures involved in the talks warned the competing redlines remain “incompatible” in key areas. The British government has set out its stall to make “decisive progress” on the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop by Friday, in the hope that Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, could then call an extraordinary Brexit summit for the end of the month to seal the deal.

One Whitehall source said, should sufficient ground be made in the coming days, a tentative new date of 22 November is being floated for a meeting of the EU’s heads of state and government. Downing Street has insisted it does not have a deal ready for signoff, in response to reports over the weekend of there being an agreement in the making. “We are not sitting on powder keg knowledge that we have signed a secret deal,” the No 10 source said. “We are not on the cusp of some seismic shift.” Some at the highest levels of government fear that, unless progress is agreed by Tuesday when May sees her senior ministers and parliament breaks for recess, the cabinet may not have a direct input before a summit announcement is made.

“The reality is that we need a November summit more than the EU do,” a government source said. They suggested that a December deal would mean not only a later parliamentary vote but would require spending on no-deal planning and changes to the roles of hundreds of civil service.

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Hard to see how May can avoid a Final Say.

1,400 UK Top Lawyers Call On May To Give Voters Final Say On Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Fourteen hundred of the UK’s top lawyers have urged Theresa May and MPs to back a second Brexit referendum, saying that democratic government “is not frozen in time”. Labour peer Baroness Kennedy QC, former Court of Appeal judge Konrad Schiemann and David Edward, a former judge of the Court of Justice of the European Communities, are among those who have called for a people’s vote on EU membership. In a letter to Mrs May, they say parliament should not be bound by the 2016 vote any more than it should be by the 1975 referendum that took Britain into the EU, especially when there are question marks over its validity.

They wrote that voters are entitled to know what they are voting for, and said: “There was a key difference between 1975 and 2016. The earlier referendum was held after negotiations were complete, so voters knew what they were voting for. “In 2016, the nature of the negotiation process and its outcome were unknown. Voters faced a choice between a known reality and an unknown alternative. “In the campaign, untestable claims took the place of facts and reality.” Human rights specialist Jonathan Cooper, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, said: “The current state of the Brexit negotiations is worrying people throughout the UK and the legal profession is no exception to that. “We represent people from across industry and society and we see every day the way the prospect of a catastrophic Brexit deal is already causing real harm.

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First team of 15 to kill him, 2nd team of 11 to get rid of the body 9 days later. Question: what happened during those 9 days? The Turkish probably know.

Saudi Sent ‘Cover-Up Team’ To Dispose Of Khashoggi Body (AFP)

Saudi Arabia deployed a chemist and toxicology expert to Istanbul after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in an attempt to cover up evidence of the killing, a Turkish newspaper reported on Monday. The murder of the Saudi royal-insider-turned critic inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul has provoked widespread international outrage. Turkish authorities have released gruesome details of a killing that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said was a targeted hit. While Riyadh officials have admitted the murder was planned, they have so far declined to release details of the whereabouts of the 59-year-old journalist’s missing body.

According to Turkey’s pro-government Sabah daily, Saudi Arabia sent an 11-member “cover-up team” to Istanbul on October 11, nine days after the Washington Post contributor vanished after entering the diplomatic compound to obtain paperwork for his marriage. The paper said chemist Ahmad Abdulaziz Aljanobi and toxicology expert Khaled Yahya Al Zahrani were among “the so-called investigative team”, which visited the consulate every day until October 17, before leaving Turkey on October 20. Saudi Arabia finally allowed Turkish police to search the consulate for the first time on October 15.

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That might be a tad difficult. you know, between the bone saw and the acid…

Khashoggi’s Sons Appeal For Return Of His Body (R.)

The sons of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Sunday issued an appeal for the return of their father’s body and said they wanted to return to Saudi Arabia to bury him. In an interview with CNN, Salah and Abdullah Khashoggi said that without their father’s body, their family is unable to grieve and deal with the emotional burden of their father’s death. “It’s not a normal situation, it’s not a normal death at all. All what we want right now is to bury him in Al-Baqi (cemetery) in Medina (Saudi Arabia) with the rest of his family,” Salah Khashoggi said. “I talked about that with the Saudi authorities and I just hope that it happens soon.”

[..] Khashoggi’s body has not been recovered, and Saudi authorities are conducting an official investigation. Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an international businessman, said on Sunday that the probe will exonerate the country’s leader. Salah Khashoggi on Oct. 24 met in Riyadh with the crown prince and King Salman to receive condolences along with other Khashoggi family members. Salah departed for Washington a day later, and his CNN interview was his first public comments since then. He said King Salman assured him that those involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder would be brought to justice.

“We just need to make sure that he rests in peace,” Salah Khashoggi said of his father. “Until now, I still can’t believe that he’s dead. It’s not sinking in with me emotionally,” he said, adding that there has been a lot of “misinformation” about the circumstances of the death.

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At some point we must ask ourselves: what have we been watching?

2nd Kavanaugh Accuser Admits She Lied (ZH)

A Kentucky woman who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of rape has been referred to the Department of Justice after she admitted that she lied. The woman, Judy Munro-Leighton, took credit for contacting the office of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) as “Jane Doe” from Oceanside, California. Jane Doe claimed – without naming a time or place – that Kavanaugh and a friend raped her “several times each” in the backseat of a car. Harris referred the letter to the committee for investigation. “They forced me to go into the backseat and took 2 turns raping me several times each. They dropped me off 3 two blocks from my home,” wrote Munro-Leighton, claiming that the pair told her “No one will believe if you tell. Be a good girl.”

Kavanaugh was questioned on September 26 about the allegation, to which he unequivocally stated: “[T]he whole thing is ridiculous. Nothing ever – anything like that, nothing… [T]he whole thing is just a crock, farce, wrong, didn’t happen, not anything close.” The next week, Munro-Leighton sent an email to the Judiciary committee claiming to be Jane Doe from Oceanside, California – reiterating her claims of a “vicious assault” which she said she knew “will get no media attention.” Upon investigation, the Judiciary Committee investigators found that Munro-Leighton was a left wing activist who is decades older than Judge Kavanaugh, who lives in Kentucky. When Committee investigators contacted her, she backpedaled on her claim of being the original Jane Doe – and said she emailed the committee “as a way to grab attention.”

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“The witnesses that Dr. Ford identified as individuals who could corroborate her allegations failed to do so, and in fact, contradicted her..”

Senate Judiciary Republicans Say No Evidence Found Against Kavanaugh (Hill)

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee late Saturday released a 414-page report in which the panel members say they found no supporting evidence for any of the allegations of sexual misconduct made against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh ahead of his confirmation. “Committee investigators spoke with 45 individuals and took 25 written statements relating to the various allegations made in the course of the #SCOTUS confirmation process,” the Senate Judiciary Committee tweeted Saturday. “In neither the committee’s investigation nor in the supplemental background investigation conducted by the FBI was there ANY evidence to substantiate or corroborate any of the allegations.”

The committee investigators “found no verifiable evidence that supported” Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed in the early 1980s and attempted to remove her clothes while covering her mouth with one hand. “The witnesses that Dr. Ford identified as individuals who could corroborate her allegations failed to do so, and in fact, contradicted her,” the report notes. It also states that committee investigators “found no verifiable evidence” to support Deborah Ramirez’s claim that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party when they were both at Yale. The report additionally dismisses allegations from Julie Swetnick, forwarded by lawyer Michael Avenatti.

“Indeed, the evidence appears to support the position that Julie Swetnick and Mr. Avenatti criminally conspired to make materially false statements to the Committee and obstruct the Committee’s investigation,” the report writes. Avenatti and Swetnick have both been referred to the Department of Justice for potential criminal investigations into their behavior during Kavanaugh’s confirmation process. Avenatti has been referred a second time.

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Oct 262018
 
 October 26, 2018  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Ernst Haas Greece 1952

 

Expect a “Lost Decade”, Stock Market Rout “Only Just a Start” (Mish)
Asian Stocks Hit 20-Month Lows, S&P Futures Slide As Investors Flee Risk (R.)
Friday Hasn’t Even Started Yet, But It’s Already Ugly (WS)
ECB Keeps Rates On Hold But Reaffirms QE Exit Plans (CNBC)
UK Labour Pledges To Reverse Cuts And ‘End Austerity’ (G.)
Grassley Refers Avenatti And Swetnick For DOJ Investigation (G.)
World’s Billionaires Became 20% Richer In 2017 (G.)
Twitter Bans Former Asst. Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts (ZH)
Judge Says Assange Hearing Needs A Translator Fluent In ‘Australian’ (RT)
Canadian Doctors To Start Prescribing Museum Visits (AFP)
Entire Great Barrier Reef At Risk Of Bleaching And Coral Death (G.)

 

 

So what’s the net effect of QE?

Expect a “Lost Decade”, Stock Market Rout “Only Just a Start” (Mish)

October has been a terrible month for equities. Yet, this is only a start of what’s to come.

Despite the rout, the S&P is just barely down for the year.

Expect a “Lost Decade”

Why?

The Shiller PE Ratio also known as “CAPE”, the Cyclically Adjusted Price-Earnings Ratio, is in the stratosphere. It’s not a timing mechanism, rather it’s a warning mechanism. The main idea is that earnings are mean reverting. On that basis, stocks are more overvalued than any time other than the DotCom era. But that is misleading. In 2000 there were many sectors that were extremely cheap. Energy was a standout buy then. So were retail and financials. It’s difficult to find any undervalued sectors now other than gold.

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Another Reuters headline says: “World stocks head for worst losing streak in over half a decade..”

Asian Stocks Hit 20-Month Lows, S&P Futures Slide As Investors Flee Risk (R.)

Asian shares skidded to 20-month lows, S&P futures fell sharply and China’s yuan weakened at the end of a turbulent week for financial markets on Friday, as anxiety over corporate profits added to lingering fears about global trade and economic growth. The gloom enveloping Asia was at odds with a bounce on Wall Street overnight, highlighting fragile investor confidence, as shares of tech titans Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc fell sharply after the closing bell on disappointing earnings. In Friday’s Asian session, S&P E-mini futures slumped 0.88 percent, setting up a potentially rough session for U.S. markets which had crumbled on Wednesday on concerns about earnings and sent global equities into a tailspin.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.04 percent, erasing tiny gains made in the opening hour and hitting its lowest level since February 2017. Not helping was a slide in the Chinese yuan past a key level, refocusing market attention on slowing growth in the world’s second-biggest economy. Shares in Europe are seen following Asia down, with London’s FTSE expected to open 0.9 percent lower, Germany’s DAX off 1 percent and France’s CAC 40 down 1.2 percent, according to David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK. “There’s no question that the weight of sentiment has been building,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut in Brisbane, highlighting in particular rising geopolitical tensions including Brexit, and “internal financial tension” in China.

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Big tech big losses.

Friday Hasn’t Even Started Yet, But It’s Already Ugly (WS)

So far in October, the S&P 500 has booked 13 losing days, including October 10, when the index dropped 3.3%, and October 24, when it dropped 3.1%. Then came today, with the feel-good moment of a boisterous 1.9% gain. And then came after-hours trading, and nearly everything went to heck, particularly the FANGMAN stocks that weigh so heavily on the index with their $4-trillion market cap. And Friday morning looks already ugly.

All of the FANGMAN stocks were in the red in late trading:
Facebook [FB]: -2.3%
Amazon [AMZN]: -7.4%
Netflix [NFLX]: -2.8%
Google’s parent Alphabet [GOOG]: -3.7%
Microsoft [MSFT]: -1.5%
Apple [AAPL]: -0.4%
NVIDIA [NVDA]: -2.8%

There were some standout reasons: Amazon plunged after it reported record profit but missed on revenues and guided down Q4 expectations for sales and profits, a sign of slowing revenue growth. It was down as much as $150 a share, or almost 9%. Google’s parent Alphabet reported that revenues grew 22%, which missed expectations. Earnings beat, but a considerable slice – $1.38 billion! – of those earnings came from the gains in its portfolio of equity securities. CFO Ruth Porat warned that traffic acquisition costs would increase further as consumers are shifting search activity from desktop computers to mobile devices. Shares plunged up to 5%.

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Can Draghi stop purchasing Italian bonds?

ECB Keeps Rates On Hold But Reaffirms QE Exit Plans (CNBC)

The European Central Bank (ECB) took no action on Thursday, leaving its benchmark interest rates unchanged. However, the ECB confirmed that its plan to end monetary easing by the end of the year remains on track. “Regarding non-standard monetary policy measures, the Governing Council will continue to make net purchases under the asset purchase programme (APP) at the new monthly pace of 15 billion euros until the end of December 2018,” the ECB said in a statement. “The Governing Council anticipates that, subject to incoming data confirming the medium-term inflation outlook, net purchases will then end,” the bank added.

The decision takes place as concerns mount over Italy’s fiscal policies and their potential impact over the stability of the euro area. The end of the ECB’s massive crisis-era stimulus program could be a challenging moment for European bonds, given that the ECB will no longer be in the market purchasing sovereign paper and providing some sort of backstop. This could add further pressure, mainly on Italy, given the widespread concerns over its debt pile.

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There’s a taste of Italy here, though political leanings are very different.

UK Labour Pledges To Reverse Cuts And ‘End Austerity’ (G.)

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has said Labour would reverse cuts made by the government since 2010 as Labour highlighted more than £108bn needed to “end austerity”. Labour’s pre-budget review said it would take £42bn to reverse departmental spending cuts. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) had already highlighted another £19bn needed to stop further cuts to government. Some £33.5bn would be required to reverse cuts to social security and social care, Labour said. McDonnell pledged to increase spending on the National Health Service, adult social care, and schools, at a speech in London to business and trade union representatives.

Earlier this month the prime minister, Theresa May, also said she would end the policy of austerity instituted by her predecessor David Cameron and continued by the current government. May told the Conservative party conference: “After a decade of austerity, people need to know that their hard work has paid off.” However, policy experts have highlighted that the government’s pledge leaves room for manoeuvre. The £19bn bill calculated by the IFS, a non-partisan thinktank, would be needed to prevent further cuts in spending to government departments whose budgets are not protected, under one definition of “ending austerity”.

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Why invite more of the same?

Grassley Refers Avenatti And Swetnick For DOJ Investigation (G.)

Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee, has referred the lawyer Michael Avenatti and Julie Swetnick, one of Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, for criminal investigation. In a statement, Grassley said he was referring the two to the justice department for a “criminal investigation relating to a potential conspiracy to provide materially false statements to Congress and obstruct a congressional committee investigation”. Swetnick, who was represented by Avenatti, came forward in late September to allege that Kavanaugh took part in efforts to gang-rape women at drunken parties. She said she too was gang-raped at one such party, but did not directly accuse Kavanaugh of being involved.

Kavanaugh categorically denied the accusations calling them “a joke” and “a farce” in his testimony before the Senate. Avenatti has become an increasingly high-profile opponent of Donald Trump after coming to prominence as the lawyer of Stormy Daniels, a porn star who claims she had an affair with Trump. Avenatti has been an outspoken critic of Trump on cable TV and social media. He is also mulling a run for the White House in 2020. Swetnick was the third woman to come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct during his confirmation process for the supreme court. The Senate approved Kavanaugh’s nomination by a 50-48 vote in early October.

Grassley accused Swetnick and Avenatti of knowingly misleading the committee. “That’s unfair to my colleagues, the nominees and others providing information who are seeking the truth,” said the Iowa Republican. “It stifles our ability to work on legitimate lines of inquiry. It also wastes time and resources for destructive reasons. Thankfully, the law prohibits such false statements to Congress and obstruction of congressional committee investigations. For the law to work, we can’t just brush aside potential violations. I don’t take lightly making a referral of this nature, but ignoring this behavior will just invite more of it in the future,” Grassley said.

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Inequality has become a dangerous game, but greed wins the day every day.

World’s Billionaires Became 20% Richer In 2017 (G.)

Billionaires made more money in 2017 than in any year in recorded history. The richest people on Earth increased their wealth by a fifth to $8.9tn (£6.9tn), according to a report by Swiss bank UBS. The fortunes of today’s super-wealthy have risen at a far greater rate than at the turn of the 20th century, when families such as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast wealth. The report by UBS and accountants PwC said there was so much money in the hands of the ultra-rich that a new wave of rich and powerful multi-generational families was being created. “The past 30 years have seen far greater wealth creation than the Gilded Age” the UBS Billionaires 2018 report said.

“That period bred generations of families in the US and Europe who went on to influence business, banking, politics, philanthropy and the arts for more than 100 years. With wealth set to pass from entrepreneurs to their heirs in the coming years, the 21st century multi-generational families are being created.” The world’s 2,158 billionaires grew their combined wealth by $1.4tn last year, more than the GDP of Spain or Australia, as booming stock markets helped the already very wealthy to achieve the “greatest absolute growth ever”. More than 40 of the 179 new billionaires created last year inherited their wealth, and given the number of billionaires over 70 the report’s authors expect a further $3.4tn to be handed down over the next 20 years.

“A major wealth transition has begun,” the report said. “Over the past five years, the sum passed by deceased billionaires to beneficiaries has grown by an average of 17% each year, to reach $117bn in 2017. In that year alone, 44 heirs inherited more than a billion dollars each.

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Completely insane.

Twitter Bans Former Asst. Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts (ZH)

Twitter has suspended noted anti-war commentator, economist and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Paul Craig Roberts. Roberts, 79, served in the Reagan administration from 1981 to 1982. He was formerly a distinguished fellow at the Cato Institute and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, and has written for the Wall Street Journal and Businessweek. Roberts maintains an active blog. He’s also vehemently against interventionary wars around the world, and spoke with Russia’s state-owned Sputnik news in a Tuesday article – in which Roberts said that President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty was a handout to the military-security complex.

The former Reagan administration official clarified that he does not think “that the military-security complex itself wants a war with Russia, but it does want an enemy that can be used to justify more spending.” He explained that the withdrawing from the INF Treaty “gives the military-security complex a justification for a larger budget and new money to spend: manufacturing the formerly banned missiles.” [..] The economist highlighted that “enormous sums spent on ‘defense’ enabled the armaments corporations to control election outcomes with campaign contributions,” adding that in addition, “the military has bases and the armaments corporations have factories in almost every state so that the population, dependent on the jobs, support high amounts of ‘defense’ spending.”

“That was 57 years ago,” he underscored. “You can imagine how much stronger the military-security complex is today.” -Sputnik. Roberts also suggested that “The Zionist Neoconservatives are responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the INF treaty, just as they were responsible for Washington’s unilateral abandonment of the ABM Treaty [in 2002], the Iran nuclear agreement, and the promise not to move NATO one inch to the East.”

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So Assange still doesn’t have his internet back, but he does talk to an Ecuador court via video link.

Judge Says Assange Hearing Needs A Translator Fluent In ‘Australian’ (RT)

The presiding judge in WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange’s case against the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry has reportedly said that the court made a mistake by appointing an English translator who doesn’t speak Australian. The anecdote was reported by Bloomberg on Thursday and allegedly took place at the first hearing of Assange’s lawsuit against the ministry. Speaking via video link, Australian-born Assange complained to the court that his state-appointed translator from English to Spanish was not cutting it. It’s unclear what exactly the issue was, but Judge Karina Martinez apparently thought Assange’s Australian accent was thick enough to warrant a dedicated expert.

While Australian English is the most spoken dialect Down Under, it is by no means a separate language. The Australian dialect originated in the late 18th and early 19th century from convicts who were the first British settlers to arrive in New South Wales. Admittedly, the Australian vernacular is quite distinct, has rich slang, and peculiar terms. Differences in pronunciation and vocabulary can at times leave an average British or American English speaker perplexed. Assange’s accent, however, is far from the thickest around. Last week, he filed a lawsuit against Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Jose Valencia, accusing the government of violating his “fundamental rights and freedoms” with a set of new rules.

The government files released by an Ecuadorian opposition lawmaker last Tuesday outline the efforts of the Latin American country to prevent Assange from engaging in activities that “could be considered political or interfering with the internal affairs of other states.” They also limit Assange’s visitation rights, force him to pay his own medical bills, and even threaten to take away his cat if he doesn’t look after it properly. Assange’s lawyer, Baltasar Garzon, has accused Valencia of “isolating and muzzling” the fugitive, himself an Ecuadorian citizen since December 2017. Garzon said Assange still has no access to the internet, despite Ecuador’s earlier announcement it would restore communications.

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Worth a try.

Canadian Doctors To Start Prescribing Museum Visits (AFP)

A group of Canadian doctors are to begin prescribing trips to an art gallery to help patients suffering a range of ailments become a picture of health. A partnership between the Francophone Association of Doctors in Canada (MFdC) and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) will allow patients suffering from a number of physical and mental health issues, along with their loved ones, to take in the benefits of art on health with free visits. The pilot project is unprecedented globally, according to its organizer. The project will see participating physicians prescribe up to 50 visits to the MMFA during treatment, each pass valid for up to two adults and two minors.

So far 100 doctors have enrolled to take part over the course of a year, Nicole Parent, head of the MFdC, told AFP Thursday. The numbers offer proof that doctors have “a sensitivity and openness to alternative approaches if you want” Parent said, citing scientifically proven benefits of art on health. The benefits are similar to those patients can get from physical activity, prompting the secretion of a similar level of feel-good hormones, and can help with everything from chronic pain to depression, stress and anxiety. The pilot program will allow organizers to gather data and analyze results, allowing for the development of protocol for identifying patients.

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This summer (which starts Dec 20).

Entire Great Barrier Reef At Risk Of Bleaching And Coral Death (G.)

Mass bleaching and coral death could be likely along the entire Great Barrier Reef this summer, according to a long-range forecast that coral experts say is “a wake-up call” for the Australian government. The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) has forecast a 60% chance that the entire Great Barrier Reef will reach alert level one, which signals extreme heat stress and bleaching are likely. The forecast period covers November 2018 to February 2019 and the risk extends to the southern Great Barrier Reef, which escaped the mass mortality seen in the middle and northern parts of the reef in 2016 and 2017.

“This is really the first warning bells going off that we are heading for an extraordinarily warm summer and there’s a very good chance that we’ll lose parts of the reef that we didn’t lose in the past couple of years,” said marine biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland. “These are not good predictions and this is a wake-up call.” Hoegh-Guldberg said it was particularly worrying that the long-range forecasts were already showing high chances of bleaching and mortality before March, which is the main month of the year for bleaching events.

He said if the models proved accurate it would mean the entire Great Barrier Reef would be damaged by climate change and coral populations would trend towards very low levels, affecting the reef’s tourism and fishing industries and the employment they support. “To really have the full picture we’re going to have to wait for those projections that cover the main part of bleaching season,” he said. “Given sea temperatures usually increase as we get towards March, this is probably conservative.”

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Sep 222018
 
 September 22, 2018  Posted by at 9:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


René Magritte Memory of a voyage 1955

 

Rosenstein Proposed Secretly Recording Trump, Invoking 25th Amendment (ZH)
NY Times, McCabe Give Trump Perfect Cover To Fire Rosenstein, Sessions (Hill)
Grassley Extends Deadline On Kavanaugh Accuser’s Decision To Testify (Pol.)
Ding Dong…. (Jim Kunstler)
Theresa May Demands European Leaders Show UK Respect (Ind.)
Legal Action To Revoke Article 50 Referred To European Court Of Justice (G.)
UK PM May Facing Ministerial Resignations Over Brexit Plan (R.)
Russia, Turkey Agree Borders Of Syria Demilitarised Zone (AFP)
Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans To Track Search Users In China (IC)
French Court Orders Psychiatric Assessment of Marine Le Pen (Sp.)
Russia’s Secret Plan To Help Julian Assange Escape From UK (G.)
Ecuador Pledged to Not Kick Out Assange – Lawyer (RT)
Ecuador Reportedly Mulled Sending Assange As A Diplomat To Russia (RT)

 

 

The New York Times now helps Trump, or do they think this hurts him?

Rosenstein Proposed Secretly Recording Trump, Invoking 25th Amendment (ZH)

[..] the NYT recounted on Friday an aborted mutiny attempt organized by Rosenstein, who allegedly tried to organize members of Trump’s cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment to oust Trump from office. In an attempt to persuade the clearly reluctant members of Trump’s cabinet, Rosenstein suggested that he or other officials should secretly tape Trump “to expose the chaos” he said was engulfing the West Wing. According to NYT, the sources were either briefed on Rosenstein’s plans, or learned about it from the files of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired after being disgraced by an inspector general investigation. ABC News, which also reported the story, cited sources familiar with McCabe’s files. A grand jury is also weighing whether to press charges against McCabe for allegedly misleading the inspector general.

“Mr. Rosenstein made the remarks about secretly recording Mr. Trump and about the 25th Amendment in meetings and conversations with other Justice Department and F.B.I. officials. Several people described the episodes, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions and comments. None of Mr. Rosenstein’s proposals apparently came to fruition. It is not clear how determined he was about seeing them through, though he did tell Mr. McCabe that he might be able to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions and John F. Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security and now the White House chief of staff, to mount an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

[..] Mr. Rosenstein disputed this account. “The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect,” he said in a statement. “I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.”

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Yeah, strange things are happening…

NY Times, McCabe Give Trump Perfect Cover To Fire Rosenstein, Sessions (Hill)

It has been a year of ironies: President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, once said he would take a bullet for Trump and now seeks to destroy him (and to do so pro bono). Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) once denounced Trump for suggesting Cruz’s father was a presidential assassin but now politically relies on and praises the man who called him “Lying Ted.” The greatest irony of all, however, could be how the newspaper that Trump loves to call “the failing New York Times” succeeded in delivering to him what he has long wanted: a clean shot at firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and then installing a new AG to oversee special counsel Robert Mueller.

To make this more bizarre, Trump could rely for all this on the man he publicly called on to be fired and possibly prosecuted — former FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe. The Times dropped a bombshell story late Friday that Rosenstein discussed secretly recording Trump and seeking cabinet support to force him out of office as being incapacitated under the 25h Amendment. Rosenstein denies the story as “inaccurate and factually incorrect,” insisting “there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.” However, McCabe reportedly wrote memos stating that Rosenstein did discuss the possibility of taping and entrapping the president. Trump has previously referred to McCabe’s memos as “fake.”

At least one source has said the comments about secret taping were made in jest. Of course, joking about secretly taping your boss or forcing him from office is not a huge improvement, particularly when you are technically controlling a special counsel’s investigation of the president. Even in jest, it fulfills Trump’s long narrative of a Justice Department set against him from the outset. So how could the Times clear the way for Trump to clean house at Justice and end up with Mueller directly controlled by an attorney general of his choosing? Simple.

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The Kavanaugh story tries hard to be even more absurd than the Rosenstein one.

Grassley Extends Deadline On Kavanaugh Accuser’s Decision To Testify (Pol.)

[..] late Friday, Grassley tweeted: “Five times now we hv granted extension for Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w her desire stated one wk ago that she wants to tell senate her story Dr Ford if u changed ur mind say so so we can move on I want to hear ur testimony. Come to us or we to u.” Minutes later, he added: “Judge Kavanaugh I just granted another extension to Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w the statement she made last week to testify to the senate She shld decide so we can move on I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive.”

Grassley followed with a candid lament that he was being outmaneuvered by Democrats: “With all the extensions we give Dr Ford to decide if she still wants to testify to the Senate I feel like I’m playing 2nd trombone in the judiciary orchestra and [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer is the conductor.” Grassley and other Republicans want Ford to appear on Wednesday, though Ford has requested a Thursday appearance. They accepted some of Ford’s requests after holding a conference call on Friday morning such as allowing one camera in the room, making sure Kavanaugh and Ford aren’t in the same hearing room at the same time and giving Ford breaks during testimony as well as security from the U.S. Capitol Police.

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“Fourth Turning horror show with whipped cream and a cherry on top…”

Ding Dong…. (Jim Kunstler)

This might come as a shock to readers, but the time is not far off when the remaining not-insane cohort of adult Americans gets good and goddamn sick of political sex bombing. Especially given this case of shuck-and-jive. Consider that the same CNN this week produced an entire segment about the shape and size of the President’s generative organ (as reported by an expert in these matters, the porn star and prostitute known as Stormy Daniels). It must be a subject of extraordinary interest to CNN’s Anderson Cooper. On the other flank of the news this week is the much more perilous showdown between the Department of Justice (and the FBI), and Mr. Trump, the cis-hetero-white Golem who happens to be president.

He has ordered these agencies to produce a set of un-redacted documents pertaining to the long-running Russia investigation, set into motion by personnel at these very places. It’s his prerogative under the constitution to do that. In turn, these agencies are being egged on by possibly culpable characters in this melodrama, such as former CIA Director John Brennan and Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Cal), to stonewall the Golem. If I were president — and I may get there yet — I’d send federal marshals into Rod Rosenstein’s office to seize these documents before they are mysteriously “lost.” A tremendous tension hangs over this transaction. Imagine the awful possibility that Mr. Trump may have to declare some kind of martial law to roust out these seditious rascals and clean up their departments. There’s your Fourth Turning horror show with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

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There are plenty other plans. She just doesn’t like them.

Theresa May Demands European Leaders Show UK Respect (Ind.)

Theresa May has demanded EU leaders show Britain respect, branding their public rejection of her Brexit proposals “not acceptable”. In a statement at Downing Street, the prime minister hit out at the way European Council President Donald Tusk discarded her plans without giving a detailed explanation or offering alternatives. Ms May said neither of the options previously offered by the EU were acceptable, stated that talks are now at an “impasse” and underlined her willingness to walk away if needs be – finishing with the words “we stand ready”. But the prime minister also made a new pledge to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Her intervention won approval from cabinet Brexiteers and to an extent from MPs on Conservative benches, steadying a volatile political situation which hours earlier had seen critics predicting the collapse of her strategy. Mr Tusk had surprised British officials by making an unexpectedly strong statement at the end of a summit in Salzburg this week, saying Ms May’s proposals for Brexit “will not work” and following it up with a social media post mocking her negotiating strategy. With pressure mounting, Ms May acknowledged from inside No.10 that Mr Tusk said the UK proposals would undermine the single market, but added: “He didn’t explain how in any detail or make any counter-proposal. So we are at an impasse.”

She said: “Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it. “At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals. “So we now need to hear from the EU what the real issues are and what their alternative is so that we can discuss them. Until we do, we cannot make progress.”

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Someone in Scotland’s been digging into the law.

Legal Action To Revoke Article 50 Referred To European Court Of Justice (G.)

A legal action to establish whether the UK can unilaterally stop Brexit has been referred to the European court of justice by the court of session in Edinburgh. The case was brought by a cross-party group of six Scottish MPs, MEPs and MSPs, who want the ECJ to offer a definitive ruling on whether the UK can halt the article 50 process without needing the approval of all other 27 EU member states. Rejecting the argument put forward by lawyers for the UK government, that ministers have repeatedly made it clear they have no intention of stopping the Brexit process, even if there were no deal with the EU, Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Carloway, said: “It seems neither academic nor premature to ask whether it is legally competent to revoke the notification and thus to remain in the EU.”

Carloway, one of three judges to consider the case on appeal after it was initially rejected in June as “academic and hypothetical”, noted that the Commons would be required to vote on whether to ratify any Brexit deal before 29 March 2019, “a date which is looming up”, and that a judgment from the ECJ would “have the effect of clarifying the options open to MPs in the lead-up to what is now an inevitable vote”. Lord Menzies said: “There will have to be a vote, and it appears to me to be legitimate for those who are involved in that vote to know, by means of a judicial ruling, the proper legal meaning of article 50, and in particular whether a member state which has given notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU may revoke that notification of intention unilaterally before the expiry of two years after the notification.”

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Monday could be good. New plans are demanded, but there’s no time for them.

UK PM May Facing Ministerial Resignations Over Brexit Plan (R.)

Some of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s ministers will demand a “Plan B” on her Brexit proposal next week and could quit if she does not change course, the Telegraph newspaper reported late on Friday, citing unnamed sources. Ministers will demand an alternative plan to her “Chequers” proposal at a Cabinet meeting on Monday, the Telegraph said. That plan had already been savaged by European Union leaders in Salzburg earlier in the week, prompting May to defiantly challenge leaders of the bloc to come up with its own plans. Pro-Brexit members of May’s party on Friday had welcomed her defiant tone, but her Chequers proposal has many domestic critics, too.

The Telegraph said there was “speculation” that work and pensions minister Esther McVey might walk out of Monday’s meeting if no new proposal was presented, while international development minister Penny Mordaunt was also tipped as a possible resignation candidate, though the newspaper said friends denied she would resign. Earlier on Friday, Mordaunt said that the EU’s attitude was increasing support within Britain for an exit from the bloc, even if it meant leaving without a deal. .

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Let’s hope Russia got this one right.

Russia, Turkey Agree Borders Of Syria Demilitarised Zone (AFP)

Russia and Turkey have agreed on borders of a demilitarised zone in northern Syria, Russia’s top diplomat said Friday, part of a deal that could check an assault on the last rebel enclave in Idlib. “Just yesterday or the day before, the militaries of Russia and Turkey agreed the concrete frontiers of the demilitarised zone,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with his Bosnian counterpart Igor Crnadak. Moscow says the demilitarised zone would help stop attacks from Idlib on Syrian army positions and Russia’s military bases in the region. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed the establishment of the 15 to 20 kilometre (9.3-12 miles) buffer zone on Monday after talks that lasted more than four hours.

Security in the zone, which includes parts of Idlib and neighbouring provinces including the city of Aleppo, will be overseen by Turkish contingents and Russian military police. The agreement will prevent military action against the city of Idlib, Russia’s defence minister said. “It’s an intermediate step… but a necessary step,” Lavrov said of the zone. “By mid-October, all (fighters of the Al-Nusra Front) must leave this demilitarised zone, and all heavy military equipment must be pulled out of there,” he said.

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Practising for the west?

Google Suppresses Memo Revealing Plans To Track Search Users In China (IC)

Google bosses have forced employees to delete a confidential memo circulating inside the company that revealed explosive details about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, The Intercept has learned. The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, codenamed Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location — and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have “unilateral access” to the data. The memo was shared earlier this month among a group of Google employees who have been organizing internal protests over the censored search system, which has been designed to remove content that China’s authoritarian Communist Party regime views as sensitive, such as information about democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

According to three sources familiar with the incident, Google leadership discovered the memo and were furious that secret details about the China censorship were being passed between employees who were not supposed to have any knowledge about it. Subsequently, Google human resources personnel emailed employees who were believed to have accessed or saved copies of the memo and ordered them to immediately delete it from their computers. Emails demanding deletion of the memo contained “pixel trackers” that notified human resource managers when their messages had been read, recipients determined.

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For posting ISIS execution pictures.

French Court Orders Psychiatric Assessment of Marine Le Pen (Sp.)

The request is connected with a series of images she posted on Twitter showing Daesh* executions. France’s National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen took to Twitter to express her anger with the court order. “I thought I had been through it all: well, no! For denouncing the horrors of Daesh (Isis) with tweets, the “justice system” has referred me for a psychiatric assessment. How far will they go?!” she said. “This regime is really starting to be frightening,” Le Pen added. Le Pen noted that, contrary to French media reports, the procedure was not customary. According to a decision made on September 11, which Le Pen posted on Twitter, the purpose of the psychiatric assessment was to answer the question: “Can she [Le Pen] understand the statements and answer the questions.”

In the list of questions given to the experts, there were eight points, among which were: “whether she acted under the influence of forces or circumstances of force majeure” as well as “is she in a dangerous state from the standpoint of psychiatry or forensic science, and what is the forecast,” among others. The National Assembly (lower house of parliament) of France in November 2017, at the request of the Nanteré Prosecutor’s Office, deprived Le Pen of parliamentary immunity in connection with the publication on Twitter. If the French court finds her guilty, the leader of the party may face up to three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros.

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More Guardian smear, sources that are known have long been discredited, Mueller’s allegations have been keelhauled, anonymous sources are suspect.

Russia’s Secret Plan To Help Julian Assange Escape From UK (G.)

Russian diplomats held secret talks in London last year with people close to Julian Assange to assess whether they could help him flee the UK, the Guardian has learned. A tentative plan was devised that would have seen the WikiLeaks founder smuggled out of Ecuador’s London embassy in a diplomatic vehicle and transported to another country. One ultimate destination, multiple sources have said, was Russia, where Assange would not be at risk of extradition to the US. The plan was abandoned after it was deemed too risky. The operation to extract Assange was provisionally scheduled for Christmas Eve in 2017, one source claimed, and was linked to an unsuccessful attempt by Ecuador to give Assange formal diplomatic status.

The involvement of Russian officials in hatching what was described as a “basic” plan raises new questions about Assange’s ties to the Kremlin. The WikiLeaks editor is a key figure in the ongoing US criminal investigation into Russia’s attempts to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Robert Mueller, the special counsel conducting the investigation, filed criminal charges in July against a dozen Russian GRU military intelligence officers who allegedly hacked Democratic party servers during the presidential campaign. The indictment claims the hackers sent emails that embarrassed Hillary Clinton to WikiLeaks. The circumstances of the handover are still under investigation. According to Mueller, WikiLeaks published “over 50,000 documents” stolen by Russian spies. The first tranche arrived on 14 July 2016 as an encrypted attachment. Assange has denied receiving the stolen emails from Russia.

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Very promising.

Ecuador Pledged to Not Kick Out Assange – Lawyer (RT)

Despite widespread speculation a few months ago that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may be kicked out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the country’s new leadership, his asylum seems to be safe for now, his lawyer told RT. In July, there were numerous reports that Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, may revoke the political asylum given to Assange by his predecessor, Rafael Correa, as part of an effort to establish closer ties with the US. The threat never materialized, but his long-time lawyer said “anything could happen at any time.” “Ecuador has made it clear in the past few months – after this wide-spread speculation that he would be forced to leave – that they will respect the asylum,” she said.

Assange remains cut off from all communications and kept in what is effectively solitary confinement with no access to outdoor areas. His health is deteriorating, and the UK authorities have made sure that he won’t get treatment without leaving the embassy, she said. Assange was granted asylum in August 2012, skipping bail in the UK justice system. At that time, he was fighting extradition to Sweden, where he faced prosecution over a now-closed case over alleged sex offenses. He said he had to seek Ecuador’s protection because if forced to go to Sweden, he could be extradited to the US and face serious charges over his actions as WikiLeaks founder.

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Would have been a good solution.

Ecuador Reportedly Mulled Sending Assange As A Diplomat To Russia (RT)

London refused to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange diplomatic immunity so he could escape the confinement of the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK and relocate to Russia, Reuters reports, citing government communications. The persona of Julian Assange has become a thorn in Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno’s side and, ever since assuming office in May of last year, Moreno has made every effort to make sure the Australian’s stay at Ecuador’s embassy in London comes to an end as soon as possible. To shift the responsibility for Assange’s protection against US persecution, Ecuador allegedly mulled offering the WikiLeaks founder a diplomatic post in Russia, which the country hoped would enable him –protected by diplomatic immunity– to finally leave the embassy after six years of arbitrary detention.

London, however, refused to honor Moreno’s move to authorize “special designation” for 47-year-old to carry out diplomatic functions in Moscow, and declined to grant the whistleblower a free passage out of the country, Reuters reports, citing a letter by Ecuador’s foreign ministry to opposition legislator Paola Vintimilla. According to the letter, Quito abandoned its idea to relocate the whistleblower to Moscow after the UK Foreign Office refused to recognize Assange’s special status, or any privileges and immunities awarded under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The “special designation” status awarded by the Ecuadorian president would allow Assange to hold diplomatic posts abroad even if the whistleblower is not career diplomat. However, under English law, the 47 year-old can only enjoy diplomatic privileges, such as immunity, only if his credentials are accepted by the Foreign Office.

[..] Citing at least four, traditionally anonymous, sources, the Guardian wrote that Moscow was plotting to smuggle Assange out of London on Christmas eve last year, but dropped the plan because it was “deemed too risky.” The paper, claimed that Ecuador’s former London consul, Fidel Narvaez, was in talks with Russian diplomats and in constant contact with a ‘Russian businessman’ who coordinated the proposed operation with the Kremlin. It took the newspaper a mere five paragraphs of its 1,000-word report to bring up “questions about Assange’s ties to the Kremlin” in the context of the notorious Mueller probe and alleged ‘Russian hacking’ of the US elections.

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