Mar 072021
 
 March 7, 2021  Posted by at 10:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  29 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Red Vineyards at Arles 1888

 

American Rescue Plan Could Set Stage for $4 Trillion of Debt (CRFB)
Yellen Coddles Up to Powell on Rising Long-Term Yields (WS)
Italy’s Government Is Outsourcing Its Economic Strategy To McKinsey (Jac.)
US Covid Cases Continue To Decline After Brief Plateau (JTN)
Connecticut Lifting All Covid-19 Capacity Restrictions On Businesses (F.)
The Nightingale Alternative (Gillian Dymond)
Trump Sends Legal Notice To GOP To Stop Using His Name (Pol.)
Congressmen Demand Twitter’s Internal Docs Regarding Trump Censorship (JTN)
Is China Hacking Random Servers To Put Itself Into A Bad Light? (MoA)
Bitcoin Could Soon Run Head First Into US Money Laundering Laws (ZH)
The Dark Side Of “Eating Lower On The Food Chain” (Turchin)
Mobile Devices Alter Children’s Minds, Change How They Perceive The World (JTN)

 

 

 

 

Jack Posobiec: Trump sent $1800 stimulus out, Biden sent $1400 but if you look closely you may start to notice the media being slightly biased about this story.

Kevin Gosztola: Jobless benefits were $600/week for 4 months in the COVID-19 relief that passed under Trump in March 2020. Biden and Senate Democrats are cutting jobless benefits for citizens in crisis to $300/week for same period—half of what passed in GOP-controlled Senate.

 

 

 

 

Already, people will get $1,400 checks, while the rescue will cost them some $5,700 each.

American Rescue Plan Could Set Stage for $4 Trillion of Debt (CRFB)

The American Rescue Plan Act is estimated to cost over $1.9 trillion through 2031, but the ultimate price tag could be twice as high if some of the policies in the bill are extended beyond their current expiration dates. The bill includes several extensions of tax credits that supporters have previously proposed on a permanent basis and several temporary economic relief measures that are slated to end before the economy has fully recovered. If the tax credits were made permanent and these relief measures were extended for the duration of the crisis, it would raise the total cost of the bill to $3.8 trillion through 2031, or $4.1 trillion with interest.

Several measures in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that provide temporary relief are likely to be extended past their expiration dates. Most significantly, expanded unemployment benefits would expire at the end of August (though that may soon be changed to September), after which all unemployed workers would lose the benefit supplement and many would lose benefits entirely. In addition, a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits would end in September, after which benefits would immediately snap back to their previous level. Other smaller relief efforts also end abruptly. Extensions of these policies are likely in our view. While the actual cost would depend on the length and nature of those extensions, we believe a reasonable extension and phase-out scenario could cost roughly $300 billion.

More substantially, the American Rescue Plan Act includes one- or two-year versions of several longstanding policy priorities of President Biden’s or Congressional Democrats’. It includes over $100 billion for a one-year expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which increases the credit from $2,000 to $3,000 (or $3,600 for children under age 6) and makes it fully refundable. The bill also includes a $15 billion, one-year expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers that many have been seeking for years, and an $8 billion expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC), which closely matches President Biden’s campaign proposal to increase the maximum credit from $2,100 to $8,000 and from covering 35 percent of expenses to 50 percent of expenses. Finally, the legislation includes a $35 billion, 2-year increase in Affordable Care Act premium subsidies that closely matches a similar proposal in President Biden’s campaign plan and $10 billion in small Medicaid expansions that last five years.

Making the expanded CTC permanent would cost an additional $1.1 trillion, assuming the expiring provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which boosted the credit from $1,000 to $2,000 and eliminated the dependent exemption, are eventually extended or the policy is modified after 2026. Relative to current law, we estimate this would cost more like $1.5 trillion. Meanwhile, making the EITC and CDCTC extensions permanent would cost over $200 billion, and making the health care provisions permanent would cost about $250 billion. Altogether, we estimate these potential extensions would cost $1.9 trillion before interest, boosting the overall cost of the bill to $4.1 trillion when interest is included.

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“The Wall Street crybabies are clamoring for this because massive highly leveraged bets on Treasury securities are producing massive losses.”

Yellen Coddles Up to Powell on Rising Long-Term Yields (WS)

It seems to be a rare sight that a Treasury Secretary and a Fed Chair color-coordinate their comments about rising long-term yields. On Friday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in an interview on PBS NewsHour echoed what Fed Chair Jerome Powell had said on Thursday in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. When Yellen was asked about the rising long-term yields that the crybabies on Wall Street are getting so nervous about, Yellen said in her quiet manner: “Long term interest rates have gone up some, but mainly I think because market participants are seeing a stronger recovery, as we have success with getting people vaccinated and a strong fiscal package that’s going to get people back to work.” “Rising interest rates don’t concern you?” she was then asked.


“I think they’re a sign that the economy is getting back on track, and market participants see that, and they expect a stronger economy,” Yellen said. “And instead of inflation lingering below levels that are desirable for years on end, they’re beginning to see inflation get back to a normal range of around 2%.” And inflation may rise more than that, but it’s going to be transitory, she said. So on Friday, the Treasury 10-year yield rose to 1.57%, still ludicrously low, given the outlook on inflation, and given the Fed’s insistence that it will let inflation run over 2% – as measured by “core PCE,” the inflation measure that nearly always produces the lowest inflation readings in the US. But that 1.57% was nevertheless the highest since February 14, 2020:

The spread between the Treasury 2-year yield (0.14%) and the 10-year yield (1.57%) widened to 1.43 percentage points. By this measure, the yield curve is the steepest since November 2015:

This rise in the 10-year yield has set off clamoring among the crybabies on Wall Street for the Fed to do something to bring them down. They have already outlined the remedies, including prominently another “Operation Twist,” where the Fed sells Treasury securities with short maturities and buys Treasury securities with long maturities. This concentrated buying of long-dated Treasuries would raise their prices and thereby push down their yields. The Wall Street crybabies are clamoring for this because massive highly leveraged bets on Treasury securities are producing massive losses.

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This must be crossing some line.

Italy’s Government Is Outsourcing Its Economic Strategy To McKinsey (Jac.)

Upon its formation last month, Mario Draghi’s new government was heralded by almost all Italian and international media as a rescue operation. Where the former European Central Bank (ECB) chief Draghi had “saved the euro” in the 2010s, most outlets gushed over “Super Mario” and his plan to “save Italy” by splashing a mooted €209 billion in European recovery fund cash while “reforming” its lackluster economy. The kind of “reforms” this meant went unmentioned — and after all, this government bears no relation to voter decisions, or the coalitions that ran in the last general election. But for the fourth time since the 1990s, a president called on a technocrat from the world of finance and banking to form a cabinet, halfway through a parliament. Eight of Draghi’s twenty-three ministers are unelected technocrats, in a so-called government of experts.

If these figures are not party-political, they have similar backgrounds and instincts. Economy minister Daniele Franco is a former Bank of Italy official who drafted the famous 2011 ECB letter instructing the government to implement privatizations and cut back collective bargaining. Former Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao — today innovation and digital transition minister — is a former partner at private consultants McKinsey & Company. Now, it has been revealed that McKinsey is going to be tasked with writing Italy’s economic plan for the coming period, to be submitted for review by the European Commission at the end of next month. Notorious for its role in the Enron scandal as well as the 2008 financial crisis — as it promoted the boundless securitization of mortgage assets — and the botched vaccine rollout in France, the firm is now being called on to shape the Draghi government’s “reform” agenda.

La Repubblica, the country’s leading center-left daily, gushed over the move. “Faced with a race against time,” Draghi’s government “has assumed the position of a private corporation faced with a new business opportunity that isn’t part of its core activities.” While this same paper reported on March 1 that the need for “hurry” meant Draghi himself would write the recovery plan, together with finance minister Franco, this has now been outsourced. The suggestion that this is a purely “technical” collaboration — that McKinsey’s choices will not be political — is patently absurd, not least given that this claim is also widely made for Draghi’s “technical” government itself. For decades, the imposition of neoliberal recipes in Italy has been advanced through this same procedure, with the agenda advanced by privatizers couched in the dogma of “unavoidable choices.”

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And still nobody knows why?!

US Covid Cases Continue To Decline After Brief Plateau (JTN)

Daily new COVID-19 cases in the United States have continued declining after a brief plateau following a sharp drop from the beginning of the year. Cases have declined steeply since early January, baffling scientists who are struggling to explain the unexpected drop in COVID activity, particularly after weeks of dire warnings from health officials about the potential for a post-holiday spike. That decline leveled out in late February, with daily average case numbers appearing to be on a slightly upward trajectory at one point, leading experts to warn that positive test results could be preparing to explode again.


Yet cases appear to be dropping again, according to several data sources. The COVID Tracking Project indicates that daily average case numbers began slowly decreasing again around Feb. 27 and have continued on that downward trend over the past week. Likewise, the data website Worldometers also identifies average daily case numbers beginning a new decline at right around the same day. According to COVID Tracking, COVID-19 hospitalizations have continued on a seemingly unabated downward trajectory since early January, on Friday reaching levels not seen since late October.

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Not all restrictions.

Connecticut Lifting All Covid-19 Capacity Restrictions On Businesses (F.)

Connecticut will lift all capacity limits on certain businesses including restaurants, gyms, offices and houses of worship starting March 19, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday, going further than most other Democratic-led states to roll back Covid-19 restrictions even as public health officials advise governors not to do so. Restaurants, retail businesses, libraries, personal services, indoor recreation facilities, gyms, fitness centers, museums, aquariums, zoos, offices and houses of worship will all have their capacity limits repealed. Social distancing protocols will still be in place and face masks will be required, and there will be some restrictions: theaters will remain restricted to 50% capacity, restaurants are limited to eight people per table and must close at 11 p.m. and bars that only serve beverages will still be closed entirely.


The state’s mask mandate will remain in effect. Gathering limits on social and recreational gatherings will also be increased March 19 to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors at a private residence, or 100 people indoors and 200 outdoors at a commercial venue. On April 2, the state will open outdoor amusement parks, open indoor stadiums at 10% capacity and increase occupancy at outdoor event venues to 50% capacity or up to 10,000 people. Connecticut will be one of only a few Democratic-led states to have such relaxed capacity restrictions: Virginia does not have capacity restrictions at restaurants or places of worship but does at gyms, Wisconsin’s capacity limit order has expired and Kansas’ restrictions are determined by county, with many having few or no limits.

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“..depriving us all of autonomy and of the comforting, real-world support of friends and family, and robbing the less fortunate among us of health, of livelihoods, and, in the worst cases, of life itself.”

The Nightingale Alternative (Gillian Dymond)

It is a year now since I last took a train: a short return trip, from Leamington Spa to Oxford. On the journey out, I was lucky enough to find a seat in which, for some forty minutes, I shared the air with my fellow travellers. At Oxford station I rubbed shoulders with a multiplicity of strangers as I joined the throng surging towards the exit and proceeding slowly through the congested barriers, then made my way along busy streets, brushing against other human beings on the narrow pavements. At the Ashmolean I met a friend, and together we mingled freely with the rest of the visitors at the well-frequented Rembrandt exhibition, then chatted at length over a late lunch in the museum café, where the tables – disdaining any hint of anti-social distancing – were full to capacity.

Later, after a walk through Christchurch Meadow and along the river, exchanging smiles and occasionally the odd word with those I passed along the way, I spent some time browsing the shelves of Blackwell’s in daring proximity with other booklovers before deciding on a purchase and braving the jostle of the station platform to board a packed train back to Leamington. It was a very ordinary day – a day passed without fear as I came into contact with numerous unknown people, some of whom, no doubt, were suffering from the common cold or harbouring incipient or suppressed symptoms of influenza or even of Covid-19 (which, as we now know, had already been on the loose for several, possibly many, months at that time). Not for a moment did this disturb me.

Like all those in good health and unafflicted by obsessive-compulsive disorder, I judged the hasard of stepping out boldly into the microbial soup which surrounds and permeates our existence to be a risk worth taking in exchange for the spontaneous social interaction without which human beings cannot thrive. I never guessed that this could be the last time I would be free to enjoy a day of such unexceptionable pleasures. True, rumblings of the pandemic had been growing over the previous weeks, but memories of previous damp squibs – SARS, bird flu, swine flu – which the worst-case speculations of computer-modellers had repeatedly failed to ignite encouraged me to hope that present reports from China and Italy, too, would soon fade into a penumbra of failed sensationalism.

[..] And the lockdowns, distancing and masking began. For close on a year now official statistics and figures spun out by a team of approved government experts into webs of cautionary speculation have justified rule by decree, depriving us all of autonomy and of the comforting, real-world support of friends and family, and robbing the less fortunate among us of health, of livelihoods, and, in the worst cases, of life itself. To anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of economic interdependence, the consequences of this decision to quarantine the whole nation were obvious from the start, and were uncannily favourable to the objectives of Agendas 21 and 2030, as handed down from the UN, via national administrations, to local governments throughout the world: but the people of the UK, it seemed, were convinced by the official “narrative”, thousands of them assembling on their doorsteps each Thursday evening to shake their fists at The Virus, and demonstrate solidarity with the NHS.

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Ha ha!

“As one of President Trump’s MOST LOYAL supporters, I think that YOU, deserve the great honor of adding your name to the Official Trump ‘Thank You’ Card.”

Trump Sends Legal Notice To GOP To Stop Using His Name (Pol.)

Lawyers for former President DONALD TRUMP sent out cease-and-desist letters Friday to the three largest fundraising entities for the Republican Party — the RNC, NRCC and NRSC — for using his name and likeness on fundraising emails and merchandise, a Trump adviser tells Playbook. We reported yesterday that Trump was furious that his name has been bandied about by organizations that help Republicans who voted to impeach him — without his permission. Trump, who made his fortune in licensing, has always been sensitive to how his name has been used to fundraise and support members, even while in office.

On Friday, the RNC sent out two emails asking supporters to donate as a way to add their name to a “thank you” card for Trump. “President Trump will ALWAYS stand up for the American People, and I just thought of the perfect way for you to show that you support him!” the email states. “As one of President Trump’s MOST LOYAL supporters, I think that YOU, deserve the great honor of adding your name to the Official Trump ‘Thank You’ Card.” A follow-up email was sent hours later to “President Trump’s TOP supporters” warning of a deadline of 10 hours to get their names on the card.

None of the committees returned a request for comment. But privately GOP campaign types say it’s impossible not to use Trump’s name, as his policies are so popular with the base. If Trump really wants to help flip Congress, they argue he should be more generous. His team, however, sees this differently. “President Trump remains committed to the Republican Party and electing America First conservatives, but that doesn’t give anyone – friend or foe – permission to use his likeness without explicit approval,” said a Trump adviser.

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They’ll refuse.

Congressmen Demand Twitter’s Internal Docs Regarding Trump Censorship (JTN)

Two Republican representatives are renewing a demand that Twitter hand over internal documents regarding its decisions to censor and moderate content on its platforms, accusing the tech company of harboring significant bias against a large part of its user base. Reps. Jim Jordan and Ken Buck claimed in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey this week that Twitter itself has played “a leading role in silencing and censoring political speech of conservative Americans.” The letter repeats a request that Jordan lodged last summer with which Twitter reportedly did not comply.


“In recent months, Twitter throttled the dissemination of a mainstream newspaper article critical of then-candidate Joe Biden’s son,” they wrote in the letter, “and later took the unprecedented step of de-platforming the sitting President of the United States. If Twitter can do this to the President of the United States, it can do it to any American for any reason.” The politicians demanded that Twitter hand over “an accounting of all content moderation decisions made by Twitter over the past year for users located within the United States, including which Twitter rule or policy the user allegedly violated and the content of the moderated tweet,” as well as “all documents and communications” related to its decision to censor several of then-President Donald Trump’s tweets last year.

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“Why would a state sponsored hacking campaign, especially from China, actually want that? Why would China want to attract more negative news about its country?”

Is China Hacking Random Servers To Put Itself Into A Bad Light? (MoA)

In January 2021, through its Network Security Monitoring service, Volexity detected anomalous activity from two of its customers’ Microsoft Exchange servers. Volexity identified a large amount of data being sent to IP addresses it believed were not tied to legitimate users. A closer inspection of the IIS logs from the Exchange servers revealed rather alarming results. … Through its analysis of system memory, Volexity determined the attacker was exploiting a zero-day server-side request forgery (SSRF) vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange (CVE-2021-26855). The attacker was using the vulnerability to steal the full contents of several user mailboxes. This vulnerability is remotely exploitable and does not require authentication of any kind, nor does it require any special knowledge or access to a target environment. The attacker only needs to know the server running Exchange and the account from which they want to extract e-mail.

The hackers used four different zero-day security holes in Exchange Server products. A zero-day security hole is one that was previously unknown and has never been used before. To find new zero-day security holes is difficult and expensive. But after they are found and made operational they are often easy to use. Whoever did this hack has invested quite some effort. Besides extracting emails the hackers also installed backdoors that give them remote access to the hacked Exchange systems. On March 2 Microsoft released patches for the four security holes. In its release it accused China of being behind the hack:

“Today, we’re sharing information about a state-sponsored threat actor identified by the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) that we are calling Hafnium. Hafnium operates from China, and this is the first time we’re discussing its activity. It is a highly skilled and sophisticated actor. Historically, Hafnium primarily targets entities in the United States for the purpose of exfiltrating information from a number of industry sectors, including infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions, defense contractors, policy think tanks and NGOs. While Hafnium is based in China, it conducts its operations primarily from leased virtual private servers (VPS) in the United States.”

[..] The attribution Microsoft makes is in light of the above quite weak. The direct attacks came from rented virtual private servers within the U.S. These were, says Microsoft, operated through machines in China. But how does Microsoft know who has actually control over those machines in China? Could they not be hacked too? Couldn’t the real actors sit anywhere on this planet and access them through the Internet? Microsoft also says that its attribution is “based on observed victimology, tactics and procedures”. The victims are described as “infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions, defense contractors, policy think tanks and NGOs”.

For a state sponsored campaign, especially one that burns four expensive zero-days, that victimology is unusually wide. It practically guaranteed that the attack would be detected fairly soon. “Tactics and procedures” are something that is even harder to attribute than the code used in the attack. Microsoft details some of these: “HAFNIUM has previously compromised victims by exploiting vulnerabilities in internet-facing servers, and has used legitimate open-source frameworks, like Covenant, for command and control. Once they’ve gained access to a victim network, HAFNIUM typically exfiltrates data to file sharing sites like MEGA.

This hack used legitimate open source tools that are widely available and are also used by many cybercrime organizations and secret services. What then are the specific ‘tactics and procedures’ which attribute this to China? Microsoft won’t say. There is also a fact that the hackers have gone into overdrive as soon as Microsoft released the patches. They now infect any system they can find. That surely will result in an extreme amount of international publicity. Why would a state sponsored hacking campaign, especially from China, actually want that? Why would China want to attract more negative news about its country? Could there be some other country that has an interest in pushing public accusations against China by linking it to massive global hacking campaign?

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Governments and central banks want control.

Bitcoin Could Soon Run Head First Into US Money Laundering Laws (ZH)

Among the challenges in regulating bitcoin will be the Biden administration’s handling of recent anti-money laundering laws put into place by the Trump administration pertaining to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. The rules, implemented at the last-minute by the Trump administration, seek requirements for financial services firms to report identities of cryptocurrency holders, according to Bloomberg. The point of the rules is to stop attempts to use crypto as a means of transferring money illicitly. Lobbying against the regulations are “heavyweights from both K Street and Wall Street”, according to Bloomberg, including Fidelity and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce has said the rule would have “unintended long-term consequences” on the virtual currency industry.

Also lobbying against the rule have been “Republican lawmakers, including former Representative Cynthia Lummis, who is now a Wyoming senator; Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii”. The rules were implemented by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network or FinCEN, after President Trump lost the 2020 election. The move drew criticism and even the threat of lawsuits from pro-crypto trade groups. The rule would require filings to the Treasury every time a customer moves at least $10,000 worth of virtual currency into a wallet not hosted at an exchange. These are similar to the reports that banks already send under existing AML laws when customers take out $10,000 or more in cash.

The regulation would also require banks and exchanges to keep records of customers who send $3,000 or more of virtual currencies to someone else’s unhosted wallet. Obviously, such regulation would maim one of bitcoin’s biggest “assets”: the ability to transfer money anonymously and “outside the system”. Should Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen move forward with the rules, crypto services could wind up becoming more expensive – and some cryptocurrencies could even disappear altogether.

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Nice take.

The Dark Side Of “Eating Lower On The Food Chain” (Turchin)

Nine years ago I made one of the most consequential decisions of my life—I switched to the so-called Paleo Diet (“paleo” is a bit misleading, as I explain in the post). Had I not done so, I would certainly have contributed to the rising obesity statistics for the United States. Within six months of switching to Paleo diet I lost 20 pounds before equilibrating at my current weight. But weight is actually the least important thing. Much more important was a dramatic improvement of my general health I experienced in the months since switching. I feel better today than ten years ago, despite being (obviously enough) ten years older. The major change was eating much higher on the food chain. The only way to get protein on a purely plant-based diet is to eat grains and pulses, which means wheat and beans.

But those are precisely the foods elimination of which resulted in my health improvement. I sometimes unknowingly consume small amounts of wheat, when a restaurant chef uses flour for the sauce (despite explicit entreaties not do so). The next day I know that I had been poisoned. The other thing is that it’s not just protein deficiency. Your body doesn’t need that much protein. The biggest problem with purely plant diet is that you don’t get enough healthful fat. Instead you end up poisoning yourself with seed oils. This is why I watch with increasing alarm the current trend to “cancel” meat. Last year the town of Cambridge, home of one of two best universities in UK, banned meat. So Cambridge is now off my list of places to go to (fortunately, I visited it years ago, when it was still safe for carnivores).

I am very worried that the veganism tide will continue spreading, leaving us carnivores on reservations (or even driving people following Paleo diet to extinction). Somebody is sure to immediately accuse me that I don’t care about the environment. Au contraire. Some of the most depressing environments that I’ve seen are giant agricultural fields (e.g. driving through Iowa).

Compare it to what they looked like before:

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“..children who frequently use mobile devices are more likely to process stimuli on a “local” level, for example they “process the details” of an image first rather than the overall image itself.”

Mobile Devices Alter Children’s Minds, Change How They Perceive The World (JTN)

Researchers in Hungary this week announced the findings of studies into what effects digital devices have on young minds, concluding that the increased usage of such technology has changed how younger individuals interact with the world around them. In a press release, scientists at Eötvös Loránd University said that children of the “Alpha Generation,” or those born after 2010, “typically grow up with mobile devices in their hands” which “seems to change how they perceive the world.” Summarizing their findings, the Hungarian researchers claim that children who frequently use mobile devices are more likely to process stimuli on a “local” level, for example they “process the details” of an image first rather than the overall image itself.


The results “show that the type of experiences children meet matters much,” the release said, “because at this age the brain is very plastic, so such massive early exposure may have a significant long-term effect.” “The atypical attentional style in mobile user children is not necessarily bad,” one of the scholars commented, “but different for sure, and we cannot ignore this – for example in pedagogy.

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 222020
 
 December 22, 2020  Posted by at 10:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Banks of the Seine with Pont de Clichy in the Spring 1887

 

Lockdowns Do Not Control the Coronavirus (AIER)
Yuletide Visitations (Kunstler)
Chris Krebs Takes Blame For Massive Hack: ‘It Happened On My Watch’ (NYP)
Krebs’ CISA Was Flagged Repeatedly For Poor Performance (JTN)
Dominion Voting Website Scrubbed Of Reference To SolarWinds (JTN)
House Passes 5593 Page Stimulus Bill Without Anyone Having Read It (ZH)
Pelosi Calls $600 COVID19 Payments To Americans ‘Significant’ (JTN)
A Slap in the Face: Anger at Pelosi, Democrats Over $600 Stimulus Check (MPN)
COVID19 Relief Bill Doubles Health Care Budget – For Congress (IC)
Barack Obama Has Nothing to Say About Central America (Goodfriend)
A Pandemic of ‘Russian Hacking’ (McGovern/Lauria)
If Assange’s Fate Were Up To a Jury, He, Too, Might Have Walked Free (Glass)

 

 

 

 

Tulsi
https://twitter.com/i/status/1341027010353750016

 

 

A very long list of research. We can’t afford not to ask questions.

Lockdowns Do Not Control the Coronavirus (AIER)

The use of universal lockdowns in the event of the appearance of a new pathogen has no precedent. It has been a science experiment in real time, with most of the human population used as lab rats. The costs are legion. The question is whether lockdowns worked to control the virus in a way that is scientifically verifiable. Based on the following studies, the answer is no and for a variety of reasons: bad data, no correlations, no causal demonstration, anomalous exceptions, and so on. There is no relationship between lockdowns (or whatever else people want to call them to mask their true nature) and virus control.

Perhaps this is a shocking revelation, given that universal social and economic controls are becoming the new orthodoxy. In a saner world, the burden of proof really should belong to the lockdowners, since it is they who overthrew 100 years of public-health wisdom and replaced it with an untested, top-down imposition on freedom and human rights. They never accepted that burden. They took it as axiomatic that a virus could be intimidated and frightened by credentials, edicts, speeches, and masked gendarmes. The pro-lockdown evidence is shockingly thin, and based largely on comparing real-world outcomes against dire computer-generated forecasts derived from empirically untested models, and then merely positing that stringencies and “nonpharmaceutical interventions” account for the difference between the fictionalized vs. the real outcome.

The anti-lockdown studies, on the other hand, are evidence-based, robust, and thorough, grappling with the data we have (with all its flaws) and looking at the results in light of controls on the population. Much of the following list has been put together by data engineer Ivor Cummins, who has waged a year-long educational effort to upend intellectual support for lockdowns. AIER has added its own and the summaries. The upshot is that the virus is going to do as viruses do, same as always in the history of infectious disease. We have extremely limited control over them, and that which we do have is bound up with time and place. Fear, panic, and coercion are not ideal strategies for managing viruses. Intelligence and medical therapeutics fare much better.

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“She acts like someone who knows something, and knows that the something she knows is not altogether a good something. Notice the giggling has ceased.”

Yuletide Visitations (Kunstler)

It says something, does it not, that the corporeal Joe Biden is missing-in-action? You’d think he’d be bustling around like crazy out there, trying to, at least, give some impression of being at-large-and-in-charge, preparing to launch a score of battles against the enemies of peace and prosperity lately afflicting this sore-beset nation, yo-yo-ing back and forth between Jake Tapper and Rachel Maddow to reassure their cringing viewers of Wokedom come, wolfing down plates of field peas, ham hocks, and cornbread to display his allyship with the downtrodden masses of this-and-that color, gender, flavor, and texture, comforting the homeless on the pitiless streets of the ailing cities, volunteering to get stuck with vaccine needles of every pharma company on the S & P, with side orders of hydroxychloroquine, Ivermectin, and famotidine, huddling with the nabobs of Wall Street to halt the sinking dollar, visiting the troops with plane-loads of turkey dinners — you know… rallying the worried people of this anxious land in their time of trouble….

And what of Kamala Harris? Did she steal off to some Caribbean beach to mull over her options? It appears that she’s still holds that seat in the US Senate, let’s face it, a very cushy sinecure that “fixes” its exalted members for life, and in more ways than one, if you know what I mean. Of all the thoughts racing through Ms. Harris’s skull these dark days, I suspect the dimmest of them concerns the actual possibility she may actually end up as president. She acts like someone who knows something, and knows that the something she knows is not altogether a good something. Notice the giggling has ceased.

And so, we pass through a weekend of predictable news that Congress has authorized another gazillion dollars to bail out stock markets and banks, under the guise of helping ordinary Americans hopelessly crushed by lockdowns and government-induced small business failures, and we hurtle toward what’s likely to be the bluest Christmas in memory with the republic in the balance. The president… that would be Mr. Trump… is portrayed in the nervous mainstream news media as flailing wildly around the West Wing, confabbing with Krakens, battling with his “closest advisors,” all importuning him to concede the election. D’ya think so? Maybe, but I’m not so sure.

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Not long ago, Krebs said the 2020 elections were the safest and most secure in history. Where are the questions to him?

Chris Krebs Takes Blame For Massive Hack: ‘It Happened On My Watch’ (NYP)

The former head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security accepted the blame for the hack that infiltrated the computer systems of a number of federal agencies, including the Pentagon, and scores of companies in the private sector. In a Sunday interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Chris Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, was asked by host Jake Tapper who was at fault for the breach. “So, the way I look at it is, yes, it happened on my watch at CISA. And we missed it. A bunch of other folks missed it,” he responded. Krebs, who was fired by President Trump last month for contradicting him over whether there was fraud during the 2020 election, said he didn’t become aware of the hack that was launched in March until it became public last week.


“This came out in the public after I was terminated,” he said. But Trump has not blamed Krebs for the attack. During the interview, Krebs said he trusts the “intelligence community” that Russia was behind the hack, a stand contrary to the president, who has claimed it was China. “Everything I have heard, whether it’s from private-sector cybersecurity threat intelligence experts, things I have heard out of Congress and the intelligence community, it’s Russia,” Krebs said. “I mean, they’re exceptionally good at this, particularly the foreign intelligence service, the SVR. They’re good. They’re quiet. They’re deliberate. They’re patient and they’re careful,” he continued.

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If anything, Trump fired him far too late.

Krebs’ CISA Was Flagged Repeatedly For Poor Performance (JTN)

In the weeks just before President Trump fired its leader, the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) was repeatedly flagged by the Homeland Security Department’s watchdog for poor performance, including inadequate physical security planning for election sites, poor intelligence sharing with its private and public partners and weak information security for its own systems, internal reports show. The repeated Inspector General’s warnings in September and October about CISA — under then-Director Chris Krebs’ leadership — provide a stark contrast to Democrats’ and the news media’s portrayal of Krebs as a skilled leader whose firing jeopardized national security.


The internal memos, reviewed by Just the News, also provide some fodder to understand how the U.S. government could have failed to detect for nine months one of the largest cyberattacks in history, which was finally revealed earlier this month. CISA is primarily responsible for quarterbacking cybersecurity at civilian federal agencies. “Risks to the Nation’s systems and networks continue to increase as security threats evolve and become more sophisticated. As such, the cyber threat information DHS provides to Federal agencies and private sector entities must be actionable to help better manage this growing threat,” the inspector general warned in one report earlier this fall. “Until CISA improves the quality of its information sharing, AIS participants remain restricted in their ability to safeguard their systems and the data they process from attack, loss, or compromise.”

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A special counsel seems called for. Sidney Powell has reportedly visited the White House almost every day lately.

Dominion Voting Website Scrubbed Of Reference To SolarWinds (JTN)

Dominion Voting Systems recently scrubbed a reference on its web site to a company at the center of a major cybersecurity breach allegedly carried out by Russian hackers. The Austin, Texas-based software company SolarWinds has been the subject of explosive controversy, due to revelations that a hacker or group of hackers, possibly originating from Russia, used vulnerabilities in its software to breach “U.S. government agencies, critical infrastructure entities, and private sector organizations” starting in at least March 2020, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said Thursday.

The breach occurred in part via SolarWinds’s Orion platform, which CISA described as “an enterprise network management software suite that includes performance and application monitoring and network configuration management along with several different types of analyzing tools.” SolarWinds said on its website that the hack “could potentially allow an attacker to compromise the server on which the Orion products run.” The company “currently believes the actual number of customers that may have had an installation of the Orion products that contained this vulnerability to be fewer than 18,000,” SolarWinds said in SEC filings on Monday.

Multiple government agencies including the Treasury, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security may have been affected by the breach, according to reports. Dominion Voting Systems, the company that for the last six weeks has been at the center of controversy and allegations surrounding the 2020 election, had a reference on its Web site until sometime last week indicating it used SolarWinds to manage its DVS file share system, according to archival web captures. Dominion’s Web site suggested it utilized SolarWinds’s Serv-U FTP file transfer platform to manage that system. Yet some time between Dec. 14 and Dec. 18, the company scrubbed the reference to SolarWinds from the current FTP login page.

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When will we all realize that this is all Washington is capable of anymore? That it has nothing to do with which party you vote for?

House Passes 5593 Page Stimulus Bill Without Anyone Having Read It (ZH)

In the immortal words of Nancy Pelosi: “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.” Because, as Utah Senator Mike Lee so rambunctiously pointed out tonight, the bill is so huge that Lee said it will take three hours just to print out. And they’ll still have to vote on the bill tonight. It’s unreal. Lee noted that “this is by far the longest bill I’ve ever seen,” and added that members won’t be allowed to amend the bill in any way: “Here’s the really sad thing: we’re being told that there will be no opportunity to amend or improve it. As a result, nearly every member of Congress – House and Senate, Democrat or Republican – will have been excluded from the process of developing this bill, which will cost American taxpayers trillions of dollars.


“This process, by which members of Congress are asked to defer blindly to legislation negotiated entirely in secret by four of their colleagues, must come to an end. It won’t come to an end until no longer works for those empowered by it. That can happen, but only when most members of both houses and both political parties stop voting for bills they haven’t read—and, by design, cannot read until after it’s too late.”

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They come up with these things together, and then blame each other for the failures.

“Pelosi, it’s worth noting, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with a net worth estimated at more than $100 million (she makes $223,000 a year in salary)”

Pelosi Calls $600 COVID19 Payments To Americans ‘Significant’ (JTN)

A $900 billion compromise bill heading toward passage on Capitol Hill includes a $600 check for Americans struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, an amount that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls “significant.” Under the last stimulus bill passed by Congress in March, more than 150 million Americans received $1,200 payments as the government returned nearly $270 billion to Americans. In a short statement on the House floor on Monday, Pelosi took the opportunity to bash President Trump as she discussed the new relief checks. “I would like them bigger, but they are significant, and they will be going out soon,” Pelosi said.


“The president may insist on having his name on the check. But make no mistake, those checks are from the American people. The American people’s name should be on that check, no individual.” Pelosi, it’s worth noting, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with a net worth estimated at more than $100 million (she makes $223,000 a year in salary). And for the record, when Trump signed into law tax cuts that prompted numerous businesses to give $1,000-$2,5000 bonuses to millions of workers, Pelosi called that amount “crumbs.”

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“Congress just decided you get $600. Add that to the $1,200 from March, and it totals $6.69 a day since the country shut down in March. Both parties don’t care if we live or die or sleep in a box on a sidewalk in January..”

A Slap in the Face: Anger at Pelosi, Democrats Over $600 Stimulus Check (MPN)

Lawmakers in Washington agreed to a new $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package yesterday. The bill, like the previous CARES Act, appears to include huge new tax breaks for corporations and the very wealthy. However, of most note to average Americans is the means-tested check of up to $600 plus $600 per child that Republicans and Democrats decided on. Although far less than the $1,200 checks mailed out to Americans in the spring, Democratic lawmakers are presenting the deal as a triumph. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York described it as “a strong, strong shot in the arm to get things going.” Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi agreed, although she blamed the GOP for holding the agreement up. “What took so long is because we could not get our Republican colleagues to crush the virus…Why would they not want to invest in the science?” she said at a press conference on Sunday.

The bill also includes a $300 boost to federal unemployment benefits (half of what it was six months ago) and a pause on evictions for an unspecified length of time. Despite senior Democrats’ spin, it appeared that the primary public reaction to the deal was one of anger, judging by comments on social media. “Congress just decided you get $600. Add that to the $1,200 from March, and it totals $6.69 a day since the country shut down in March. Both parties don’t care if we live or die or sleep in a box on a sidewalk in January,” said Professor Anthony Zenkus of the Columbia School of Social Work. “This country sucks,” and “Congress is laughing at the $600. They don’t give a shit about you,” were also popular refrains. Others described the $600 as “a slap in the face” rather than a shot in the arm.

David Sirota, a former speechwriter and senior advisor to Senator Bernie Sanders, described the bill as a “victory for an austerity ideology that somehow still reigns supreme in Washington,” and “not even the bare minimum that should be considered acceptable during an economic meltdown that has been punctuated by mass starvation and intensifying poverty.” There was also considerable anger aimed at Speaker Pelosi herself. “You are corrupt and despicable,” wrote Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah, “You denied people relief before the election as a political ploy and you still lost seats. Now you give people who are losing jobs and homes $600. The ice cream in your freezer is worth more than that!”

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Pork for Christmas.

COVID19 Relief Bill Doubles Health Care Budget – For Congress (IC)

In a flurry of last-minute legislating over coronavirus relief, congressional leaders abandoned hazard pay for essential workers and emergency funding for local governments that may be on the brink of municipal bankruptcy. But lawmakers did find funding to dramatically increase the budget for the exclusive government-run health clinic that serves Congress. The Office of Attending Physician, which provides medical services to lawmakers, received a special boost of $5 million, more than doubling its annual budget, which is currently around $4.27 million. The increase in funding to the OAP, if passed, is the third budget hike Congress has provided to its own health clinic over the last year. The 2019 omnibus provided an increase in funding to the OAP, along with the CARES Act, which passed this past March.

The OAP, described as “some of the country’s best and most efficient government-run health care,” employs several physicians and nurses to provide on-call treatment to legislators on Capitol Hill. The new funding is justified by new services required for confronting the pandemic, though the office also provides lawmakers with the services of a chiropractor, on-site physical therapy, radiology, routine examinations, and a pharmacist. The office, led by Dr. Brian Monahan, has been in the news in recent days for administering the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer to congressional leaders. The office has treated lawmakers who have been infected by the virus and provided guidance for reopening Congress after the initial surge of infections earlier this year.

The significant increase in funding for congressional health services comes as some provisions for working-class Americans were sharply curtailed or eliminated entirely. Earlier versions of the second round of stimulus legislation included $200 billion to pay front-line essential workers an additional $13 per hour. The special funding would have provided a special boost to nurses and other front-line medical workers. That provision did not make it to the final bill released on Monday. The proposed $1,200 stimulus checks were also reduced to $600. The coronavirus relief legislation also contains dozens of provisions that benefit business owners and investors, including tax benefits for owners of racehorses, the full expansion of the “three-martini lunch” tax deduction for business meals, and the so-called double dip tax deduction for recipients of Paycheck Protection Program stimulus money to use tax-free grants from the federal government to reduce taxable income.

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“..an extraordinarily self-indulgent exercise that oscillates between false modesty, petty recrimination, sputtering justification, and auto-hagiography.”

Barack Obama Has Nothing to Say About Central America (Goodfriend)

Barack Obama’s seven-hundred-page memoir — nine hundred including photos and notes — is an extraordinarily self-indulgent exercise that oscillates between false modesty, petty recrimination, sputtering justification, and auto-hagiography. Many have noted how Obama takes the opportunity to rewrite history, asserting new explanations for controversial actions. But the book is also notable for its omissions. Despite the painful absence of an editor’s hand to curb the president’s excesses, significant events, even entire regions, have been deleted from Obama’s account of his rise to power and first term in office.

In 1981, Reagan’s UN Ambassador called Central America “the most important place in the world for the United States.” The site of US bloody counterrevolutionary interventions during the Cold War, a laboratory of neoliberal restructuring in the 1990s and 2000s, and the source of increasingly criminalized and stigmatized mass migration to the United States, Central America and Central Americans have occupied an outsized role in US policy and political discourse over the last fifty years. Yet Central America is among the casualties of Obama’s book, assigned to oblivion together with other unsavory notables like Hugo Chávez or Bernie Sanders.

On June 1, 2009, Obama’s secretary of state Hillary Clinton traveled to El Salvador to attend the inauguration of President Mauricio Funes, a progressive journalist who made history as the first leftist president ever to govern the country, elected on the ticket of the party of the former Marxist-Leninist insurgency that fought the US-backed military dictatorship to a draw in 1992. Just weeks later, Clinton’s State Department rushed to legitimize a military coup against Manuel Zelaya, the democratically-elected, increasingly left-leaning president of Honduras next door. The coup shocked the hemisphere and was the first brazen attack in a cascade of reaction against the progressive and left governments that had been elected throughout Latin America over the course of the previous decade.

In her 2014 memoir, Clinton dedicated two pages to the affair, writing that in the coup’s aftermath, “We strategized on a plan to restore order in Honduras and ensure that free and fair elections could be held quickly and legitimately, which would render the question of Zelaya moot and give the Honduran people a chance to choose their own future.” That line, together with the entire account of the coup, was quietly eliminated from the paperback edition. Obama learned Clinton’s lesson and then some. Honduras receives no mention in his book, save a single reference with respect to Tim Kaine’s mission work. Indeed, Central America as a whole is mentioned precisely once, in a passing comment on migration. Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, and Belize do not appear at all.

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Bipartisan: failed stimulus and Russiagate.

A Pandemic of ‘Russian Hacking’ (McGovern/Lauria)

The hyperbolic, evidence-free media reports on the “fresh outbreak” of the Russian-hacking disease seems an obvious attempt by intelligence to handcuff President-elect Joe Biden into a strong anti-Russian posture as he prepares to enter the White House. Biden might well need to be inoculated against the Russophobe fever. There are obvious Biden intentions worrying the intelligence agencies, such as renewing the Iran nuclear deal and restarting talks on strategic arms limitation with Russia. Both carry the inherent “risk” of thawing the new Cold War. Instead, New Cold Warriors are bent on preventing any such rapprochement with strong support from the intelligence community’s mouthpiece media. U.S. hardliners are clearly still on the rise.

Interestingly, this latest hack story came out a day before the Electoral College formally elected Biden, and after the intelligence community, despite numerous previous warnings, said nothing about Russia interfering in the election. One wonders whether that would have been the assessment had Trump won. Instead Russia decided to hack the U.S. government. Except there is (typically) no hard evidence pinning it on Moscow. The official story is Russia hacked into U.S. “government networks, including in the Treasury and Commerce Departments,” as David Sanger of The New York Times reported. But plenty of things are uncertain. First, Sanger wrote last Sunday that “hackers have had free rein for much of the year, though it is not clear how many email and other systems they chose to enter.”

The motive of the hack is uncertain, as well what damage may have been done. “The motive for the attack on the agency and the Treasury Department remains elusive, two people familiar with the matter said,” Sanger reported. “One government official said it was too soon to tell how damaging the attacks were and how much material was lost.” On Friday, five days after the story first broke, in an article misleadingly headlined, “Suspected Russian hack is much worse than first feared,” NBC News admitted: “At this stage, it’s not clear what the hackers have done beyond accessing top-secret government networks and monitoring data.” Who conducted the hack is also not certain.

NBC reported that the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency “has not said who it thinks is the ‘advanced persistent threat actor’ behind the ‘significant and ongoing’ campaign, but many experts are pointing to Russia.” At first Sanger was certain in his piece that Russia was behind the attack. He refers to FireEye, “a computer security firm that first raised the alarm about the Russian campaign after its own systems were pierced.” But later in the same piece, Sanger loses his certainty: “If the Russia connection is confirmed,” he writes. In the absence of firm evidence that damage has been done, this may well be an intrusion into other governments’ networks routinely carried out by intelligence agencies around the world, including, if not chiefly, by the United States. It is what spies do.

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A delightful angle.

If Assange’s Fate Were Up To a Jury, He, Too, Might Have Walked Free (Glass)

When the magistrate presiding last September at Julian Assange’s extradition hearing, Vanessa Baraitser, confined the defendant to a bullet-proof glass cage at the back of the court, she had precedent on her side. All who entered her courtroom at London’s Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, had to pass a plaque memorializing a case against another defender of free speech and thought. The finely wrought marble plaque reads:

Near this Site
William Penn and William Mead
were tried in 1670
for preaching to an unlawful assembly
in Grace Church Street
This tablet Commemorates
The courage and endurance of the Jury, Thos. Vere, Edward Bushell
and ten others who refused to give a verdict
against them and were fined for their final
Verdict of Not Guilty…

William Penn, then a 26-year old Quaker firebrand, stood accused of preaching doctrines anathema to the established Church of England during an unlawful assembly. When the judges asked how he pleaded, Penn demanded to know which law he had broken. Sir John Howell, the recorder of London, told him he was charged under common law. Penn asked, “Where is that common law?” The exchange continued:

HOWELl: You must not think that I am able to run up so many years, and over so many adjudged cases, which we call common law, to answer your curiosity.

PENN: This answer, I am sure, is very short of my question, for if it is common, it should not be so very hard to produce.

HOWELL: The question is, whether you are guilty of the indictment.

PENN: The question is not, whether I am guilty of this indictment, but whether this Indictment is legal.

The recorder called him “an impertinent fellow” and banished him to the bale-dock for the rest of the trial. Like Assange’s glass box, the bale-dock was a locked cubicle separated from the rest of the court. Its underfloor location prevented Penn from witnessing the proceedings—and the jurors from seeing him.

Just as Assange admitted publishing American government documents that exposed war crimes, Penn did not deny preaching to his fellow Quakers. If ever a jury deserved the accolade “12 good men and true,” Penn’s did. Foreman Edward Bushell and the other 11 jurors retired to consider their verdict. When they returned, they declared Penn not guilty. The furious Recorder ordered that “you shall be locked up without meat, drink, fire, and tobacco…. We will have a verdict by the help of God or you will starve for it.” For two days, they starved. When they still refused to recant, the court fined them 40 marks, a large sum for the time, and sent them to prison. The jurors appealed, the chief justice ordered their release, and the principle of jury independence was enshrined in English law. Penn went free and 12 years later established the colony of Pennsylvania on the principles of religious tolerance and free thought.

Cut to New York, 1735. Another free thinker, printer John Peter Zenger, was tried for seditious libel over allegations leveled in the New York Weekly Journal at Royal Governor William Cosby. Cosby, in common with the US Justice Department’s vendetta against Assange, sought to prosecute Zenger at any cost. He had copies of the Journal burned. Although two grand juries refused to indict Zenger, Cosby threw him into prison anyway and brought him to trial. Zenger was fortunate in his choice of lawyer, Pennsylvanian Andrew Hamilton. Hamilton’s strategy was to present evidence of Cosby’s corruption—proving that Zenger had published the truth. The prosecutor answered that “being true is an aggravation of the crime.” As in the Assange case, truth appeared not to be a defense so much as evidence of guilt. Hamilton appealed to the jurors rather than the bench. As former US senator Charles Goodell wrote in his 1973 Political Prisoners in America, “Hamilton asked the twelve to do what the judges refused to do, and what they ruled the jury had no right to do, to consider Cosby’s record as a justification for Zenger’s crime.” The Bushell-Penn precedent gave the jury the right to overrule the judges, and they did. Zenger’s newspaper resumed its vilification of Cosby, who died in disgrace two years later.

Read more …

 

 

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Xylophone plays Bach in a forest.

 

 

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Dec 202020
 


Edward Hopper Sunday 1926

 

Sarah Palin Calls for Julian Assange to Be Pardoned (GP)
FDA Investigating Multiple Allergic Reactions To Pfizer Vaccine (Hill)
Netherlands Bans Air Travel From UK Till 2021 Over New Covid19 Strain (RT)
Desperate Families Flee London Ahead Of Tier 4 Misery (DM)
Trump Lashes Out At Media For Blaming Russia For Hacking: It ‘May Be China’ (RT)
US Agencies’ Trust In Untested Software Opened The Door To Hackers (Pol.)
Trump Floated Naming Sidney Powell As Special Counsel For Election Fraud (Hill)
Pro-Trump Group to Challenge 364K Voter Registrations in Georgia (NW)
Georgia: Election Software Updates Not Covered By Open Records Requests (JTN)
Analyst Says Redacted Dominion Report ‘Shows Very Clearly’ Problems (JTN)
2020: The Year we Let Ourselves be Infantilised and Dehumanised (Slane)

 

 

While the World is on a vaccine frenzy, the Indian Government is distributing a home Covid Kit with Zinc, Doxycycline and Ivermectin. The cost: $2.65 per person.

 

 

Not sure if this would help his case.

Sarah Palin Calls for Julian Assange to Be Pardoned (GP)

The legendary Sarah Palin has made a touching video calling for Julian Assange to be pardoned. Palin has been an unlikely supporter of the organization, as WikiLeaks published Palin’s own hacked emails during the 2008 election while she was a presidential candidate. “Hey this is Sarah Palin up in Alaska and I am the first one to admit when I make a mistake,” Palin begins in the video. “I made a mistake some years ago, not supporting Julian Assange — thinking that he was a bad guy, that he leaked material that perhaps he shouldn’t — and I’ve learned a lot since then.” “I think Julian did the right thing, and Julian did us all a favor in America… did the world a favor… by fighting for what he believed was right — and ultimately he’s been proven to be right. He deserves a pardon. He deserves all of us to understand more about what he has done in the name of real journalism, and that’s getting to the bottom of issues that the public really needs to hear about and benefit from.”


Palin says that “some years ago I publicly spoke out against Julian and I made a mistake.” “I know that it’s coming down to the wire on whether he’s going to be pardoned or not. I want more Americans to speak out on his behalf, and to understand what it is that he has done — and what has been done to him,” Palin says. “He was working on the people’s behalf to allow information to get to us so that we could make up our minds about different issues, about different people. He did the right thing. I support him, and I hope that more and more people, especially as it comes down to the wire, will speak up in support of pardoning Julian. God bless him.” Though Palin’s emails did not contain anything scandalous, the Washington Post and other news organizations called for volunteers to help their reporters dig through them and treated the publication far differently than they did when DNC emails leaked in 2016.

Sarah Palin

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Makes me wonder if nothing at all happened during Pfizer’s trials.

FDA Investigating Multiple Allergic Reactions To Pfizer Vaccine (Hill)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is investigating allergic reactions to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine that were reported in multiple states after it began to be administered this week. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told reporters late Friday that the reactions had been reported in more than one state besides Alaska and that the FDA is probing five reactions. “We are working hand in hand with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and we’ve actually been working closely with our United Kingdom colleagues, who of course reported the allergic reaction. I think we’ll be looking at all the data we can from each of these reactions to sort out exactly what happened, and we’ll also be looking to try to understand which component of the vaccine might be helping to produce them,” Marks said.

“I think we have at this point the right … mitigation strategy with the availability of treatment for a severe allergic reaction being at the ready, and we’ll continue to monitor it very closely,” he added. Marks said the FDA was not certain what caused the reactions but indicated a chemical called polyethylene glycol, which is present in the vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech as well as by Moderna “could be the culprit.” He added that the reaction some people have experienced could be more common than once thought. “We’ll obviously be monitoring very closely what’s going on. We’re working very closely with the CDC on these, and there have been meetings between the CDC and FDA pretty much every day this week making sure we’re keeping very close track of what’s going on,” he said. The reports of allergic reactions in Alaska follow two similar cases reported last week in Britain, the first nation to approve Pfizer’s vaccine.

The FDA’s current guidance says that most Americans with allergies should be cleared to take the vaccine but that people who’ve had severe reactions to other vaccines should not get vaccinated. It also said Friday that people with a history of severe allergic reactions to any components of the Moderna shot should avoid getting that vaccine. “FDA takes very seriously the safety of the medical products that we authorize and approve, and certainly in a vaccine setting, it’s one of the reasons Dr. Marks and his team, in collaboration with the CDC, has set up a very robust surveillance system for assessing safety. One of the things that FDA does very well and uniquely is really getting to the bottom of events like allergic reactions so we can completely understand the circumstances and better inform the public and also our regulatory decisions,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

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Very little is known about “the much-feared new strain”, including its severity.

Netherlands Bans Air Travel From UK Till 2021 Over New Covid19 Strain (RT)

The Dutch government has imposed a ban on commercial flights from the UK to the Netherlands after it reported a first case of the new, fast-spreading Covid-19 strain. The ban will be in effect until at least January. The travel restrictions will apply to all passenger flights from the UK bound to the Netherlands starting 6:00am Sunday local time, the government said in a statement issued several hours before the ban was due to come into force. It described the sweeping ban on air travel for the whole Christmas period as a “precautionary measure” needed to “limit” potential further exposure of the population to the new strain of the virus, which was first detected in the UK and is allegedly highly contagious.

Citing data by a local health agency, which recommended the ban, the Dutch government revealed that the strain, believed to be the same that prompted UK PM Boris Johnson’s latest lockdown, was detected in the Netherlands “at the beginning of December” as part of a case study. In light of the situation in the UK, the government said it would “further investigate” the case to determine “how the infection came about” on Dutch soil, and whether there are more cases triggered by the mutant strain. While suspending only passenger flights for the time being, Amsterdam did not rule out that the ban will be expanded to cover other means of transportation as well.

The Dutch government has also hinted that more restrictions on UK travellers may be imposed at the European Union level to stem the spread of the desease, stating that it “will look into the possibilities of further restricting import of the virus from the UK” with other members of the bloc “in the coming days.” The move comes shortly after Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas for those living in London, the Southeast, and the city of Peterborough, placing those areas under so-called Tier 4 restrictions. Those affected by the plan have been barred from “mixing with anyone outside their own household at Christmas,” with Johnson saying the much-feared new strain is to blame for the no-go rule. There’s currently no evidence it’s more lethal or more vaccine-resistant than the earlier variant of the virus, however.

UK #SARSCoV2
https://twitter.com/AliNouriPhD/status/1340505791841841152

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“..first evacuation of London since 1939..”

Someday someone will make a movie out of this.

Desperate Families Flee London Ahead Of Tier 4 Misery (DM)

Families were last night fleeing areas of England that have been plunged into the tightest restrictions in what one leading expert described as a ‘mini exodus’. Edmund King, president of the AA, said that within 90 minutes of Boris Johnson’s bombshell announcement, there were reports of people jumping into cars and taxis and even hiring vehicles to escape London before draconian new rules were imposed at midnight. ‘There are certainly elements of an exodus of some people from tier 4,’ he told The Mail on Sunday. ‘I have heard of people actually hiring cars to get out of London to get to Liverpool because a lot of the trains are either restricted or booked. ‘We have even heard of taxi drivers taking people longer distances – people calling minicab offices and saying, “I need to get to Nottingham”.

‘It is almost like a wall is coming down around London and the South East and some people are scrambling to get away to save their Christmas before midnight.’ Last night footage emerged of a large crowd queuing on a packed platform at London’s St Pancras Station to board the last train to Leeds before restrictions were introduced at midnight. An announcement warned passengers that it would not be possible to maintain social distancing on the train. Branding it the ‘last train out of Saigon’ – a reference to the evacuation of US personnel during the Vietnam War – journalist Harriet Clugston wrote: ‘Every person on this train including myself has made what is probably a very silly and irresponsible decision to travel albeit within the law. ‘But that’s what people were always going to do to be together at Christmas.’

Travel into and out of the new tier 4 zone, which includes London and large swathes of the South East of England, has been banned in a desperate bid to contain a mutant strain of the coronavirus. International travel for the 16.4 million people who live in tier 4 is also prohibited unless it is for work purposes, while Mr Johnson urged families in the rest of the country to ‘carefully consider’ whether they needed to go abroad. The Prime Minister’s announcement shattered the plans of millions of families who were set to embark on the traditional Christmas getaway in the coming days to see friends and family. Last year around 17 million people hit Britain’s roads between December 22 and 28, but Mr King believes that number will now plummet to around two million.

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“..evidence-free..”

Trump Lashes Out At Media For Blaming Russia For Hacking: It ‘May Be China’ (RT)

President Donald Trump has broken with the media and his own Secretary of State, brushing aside allegations that Russia was behind a massive computer hack. Trump instead claimed that the real culprit could be Beijing. “The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality,” Trump tweeted on Saturday, adding that “everything is well under control.” “Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!).” As well as hitting out at the “Lamestream” media for blaming Russia, Trump also suggested that there may have “been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election.”


The president has often cited a series of unexplained computer“glitches” as proof that someone interfered to deny him victory in five key swing states. The “Cyber Hack” referred to by Trump, however, is a hacking operation that targeted the SolarWinds Orion Platform, a network monitoring tool used by nearly every Fortune 500 corporation and multiple US government agencies, among them the State Department, NASA, and the Pentagon. The hack was revealed earlier this month, and pinned on Russia evidence-free by none other than the Washington Post, quoting its usual anonymous sources.

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What was that connection between SolarWinds and Dominion again?

US Agencies’ Trust In Untested Software Opened The Door To Hackers (Pol.)

The massive months-long hack of agencies across the US government succeeded, in part, because no one was looking in the right place. The federal government conducts only cursory security inspections of the software it buys from private companies for a wide range of activities, from managing databases to operating internal chat applications. That created the blind spot that suspected Russian hackers exploited to breach the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Institutes of Health and other agencies. After embedding code in widely used network management software made by a Texas company called SolarWinds, all they had to do was wait for the agencies to download routine software updates from the trusted supplier.

As investigators race to assess the damage from the hacks, experts and lawmakers are calling for increased scrutiny of the third-party code that government agencies allow on their networks and demanding a fix for a long-known weakness. “The government desperately needs to set minimum security requirements for software and services, and refuse to buy anything that doesn’t meet those standards,” said Senator Ron Wyden. “It is incredibly self-defeating for federal agencies to spend billions on security and then give government contracts to companies with insecure products.” Over the past week, agencies rushed to scrub the malicious code from their networks while senior officials huddled in emergency meetings – all amid reports of more victims in the federal government, state governments and private industry.

As the extent of the attack became clearer, cyber experts warned that cleaning up the mess could take months or years. SolarWinds, whose 330,000 customers include key federal agencies, major telecommunications firms, every branch of the military and four-fifths of the Fortune 500, is one of the most extreme examples of the dysfunction that made this hack possible, but it is far from the only poorly guarded vendor with hooks into the most important computer networks in the world. The US government relies on private vendors of all sizes to supply its agencies with software. Some have expert security teams, such as Amazon, which provides cloud hosting services, and SAP, whose software helps agencies process large quantities of data. But others, both large and small, have less rigorous security testing procedures and are more vulnerable to this kind of compromise, cyber analysts say.

On Thursday, federal investigators said SolarWinds’ Orion software was not the only way the hackers had invaded their targets, warning of “additional initial access vectors and tactics, techniques, and procedures … that have not yet been discovered.”

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And now Michael Flynn is also back.

Trump Floated Naming Sidney Powell As Special Counsel For Election Fraud (Hill)

President Trump on Friday discussed the idea of naming Sidney Powell, an attorney once associated with his campaign, to the position of special counsel for an investigation into alleged voter fraud and the 2020 election, The New York Times, Politico and the Wall Street Journal reported. The former Trump campaign lawyer made headlines earlier in the year when she took part in an effort to reverse election results in the state of Georgia. However, those challenges were tossed by various courts. She, along with the president and his allies, have repeatedly claimed that the election has been tainted by widespread election fraud. However, there has been no substantial evidence to support this claim.

Following the 2020 election, several election officials stated that the race was one of the most secure in U.S. history. According to two sources briefed on the discussion, most of his advisers opposed the idea of the appointment including the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, according to the Times. Powell herself was in attendance at the meeting, as well as former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to a senior administration official, Politico reported. The meeting reportedly devolved into yelling and screaming, according to the senior official, and the lawyers were accusing each other of not putting in enough effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Both Flynn and Powell reportedly claimed the administration was not working hard enough to reverse Trump’s loss. The Wall Street Journal reported that Cipollone and Meadows also opposed the idea of the appointment. The senior official also told Politico that National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien participated in the meeting via phone. It’s unclear if Trump will continue to push for Powell’s appointment.

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16 days to the runoff battle. With voting machines.

Pro-Trump Group to Challenge 364K Voter Registrations in Georgia (NW)

Conservative political group True the Vote announced plans on Friday to preemptively file more than 360,000 electoral challenges in Georgia before the state’s special elections are expected to occur in January. Georgia’s run-off elections have garnered nationwide attention. If the Democrats who are running for office—Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock—obtain victory over Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, then Democrats would be equally represented in the U.S. Senate. However, Democrats would have a distinct advantage over Republicans in the case of a tie, as Democrat Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the one voting to break the deadlock.

Some observers, including President Donald Trump, have baselessly alleged that Georgia’s processes during the November election were unfairly manipulated by Democrats. According to True the Vote founder and President Catherine Engelbrecht, the challenges could help validate the results of the January election by ensuring “the sanctity of every legal vote.” “Filing the challenges preemptively, before absentee ballots are opened, will help ensure only legal, eligible votes are counted in Georgia’s January 5 runoff elections,” Engelbrecht said in a Friday statement.

Georgia law allows individuals to challenge the validity of any voter in a Georgia county if there is probable cause that the person being challenged does not meet the requirements for voting legally. True the Vote plans on filing 364,541 elector challenges across all 159 Georgia counties. “It is our hope that this historic challenge marks the beginning of the great awakening of American voters to serve our democracy by getting involved in the process,” Engelbrecht said.

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Transparency is overrated.

Georgia: Election Software Updates Not Covered By Open Records Requests (JTN)

A recently revealed memo shows a top-ranking Georgia election official informing county election workers that they are not required to provide journalists and citizens with records of software updates applied to voting machines in the state. Chris Harvey, the state elections division director, said in the Nov. 17 memo that “multiple counties have reported receiving Open Records Requests asking for data information” including, in part, “copies of any software patches performed on Dominion voting machines in the state of Georgia prior to the November 3, 2020 General Election.”


“Under the Open Records Act,” Harvey writes in the memo, “providing copies of software, software updates, or thumb drives containing software or software updates is not subject to open records requests.” Information “that could harm the security of the election equipment” is forbidden from being shared, he added. The letter was first reported on this week by the activist group VoterGA. Georgia, like numerous other states, has been the focus of intense media scrutiny following the results of the 2020 election, in which numerous irregularities and allegations have surfaced regarding the integrity of the election results.

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“It shows very clearly that races were flipped.”

Analyst Says Redacted Dominion Report ‘Shows Very Clearly’ Problems (JTN)

An analyst whose company oversaw the audit of Dominion Voting Systems machines in Antrim County, Michigan is claiming that the redacted version of the forensic analysis of those machines obscured the allegedly conclusive revelations that the audit revealed. Russell Ramsland Jr., a member of Allied Security Operations Group, said on Newsmax on Friday that the final report “show[ed] exactly what we did and exactly the findings.” Yet redactions in the report have covered up those conclusions, he argued. The analysis, which allegedly determined a ballot error rate of 68%, was ordered released earlier this week by a Michigan judge.


“The original report had log evidence that we published in the report to show exactly what we did and exactly the findings,” Ramsland told host Greg Kelly. “Now, those did ultimately get redacted. And so now, the complaint is ‘well, but there’s no real proof,’ and Dominion says ‘no, these things can’t be done’.” “But at that point, Dominion’s argument is no longer with us,” he continued. “Dominion’s argument is with their own user’s manual and their own logs. Because the logs, had they been able to be published, show very clearly that the RCV [ranked-choice voting] algorithm was enacted. It shows very clearly that the error messages were massive. It shows very clearly that races were flipped.”

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We’ll see a lot of these pieces between now and New Year’s Day.

2020: The Year we Let Ourselves be Infantilised and Dehumanised (Slane)

I recently wrote a satirical speech by our Prime Minister, in which I imagined him coming up with all sorts of absurd rules for the Christmas season. It was really hard. Not because I was unable to come up with hundreds of such rules, were I minded to do so, but because the whole point of satire is to raise the absurdities up a step or two, in order to highlight the ridiculousness of what is happening. But how do you do this when the real-life absurdities have already been turned up to 11 on the amplifier? I kid you not when I tell you that my original list included a rule against playing certain board games over Christmas — which I rejected — only to see a few days later SAGE coming out and advising against the playing of board games.

We have now had nearly nine months of being treated like utter imbeciles. A once great country with a once free people has been reduced to the level of being governed by pathetic, childish slogans. And for some reason we have allowed ourselves to be infantilised. I am utterly baffled as to how people can have sat through some of these slogans being introduced without responding with howls of laughter. “Stay Alert. Control the Virus. Save Lives.” What on earth is this actually supposed to mean? Stay Alert? For what? Are we supposed to be on our guard for a virus that is approximately 120 nanometres, or around 1,000th the width of a human hair? Are we to carry an electron microscope around with us wherever we go, just in case?

One of my favourite signs is an electronic one I sometimes see on my occasional drives into the office. On one day, it says, “Stay Alert. Control the Virus.” On another, it says, “Stay Alert. Watch out for Cyclists.” It should be noted that cyclists are considerably bigger than 120nm and even often wearing the kind of hi-vis jackets that coronaviruses refuse to wear. Control the Virus? Say what? You mean they actually think we’re stupid enough to think they’re clever enough to devise schemes that can actually control those little invisible 120 nm virus particles that are in the air and on surfaces. Apparently so.

Save Lives? I am yet to hear a convincing argument as to how I and my family, not having any symptoms and thus not being infected by the virus, can possibly stop the spread of said virus that we don’t have by staying at home or wearing a piece of cloth over or respiratory passages, such that we save lives. More recently, it has been decided that the slogans were maybe a bit too high-brow and needed to be simplified further, this time into monosyllables: “Hands. Face. Space.” Although I tend to avoid watching Comrade Johnson and Co as they spout this nonsense at their regular stand-ups, on the occasions when I have had that misfortune, it has felt eerily like suddenly being thrust into the world’s largest Kindergarten with teacher talking down to his little charges as if they were really, really stupid.

But the infantilising of an entire population is by no means the worst thing they have done to us. Worse by far has been the dehumanising of millions of people, which has been done via a number of enormously destructive methods. Chief of them is the idea that we must all avoid each other. I cannot even begin to think how destructive this has become. In a normal society, if you or I have symptoms of a particularly nasty seasonal respiratory illness, which is what Covid-19 is, we would avoid one another. Obviously. But the idea of perfectly healthy people avoiding other perfectly healthy people must qualify as one of the most absurd concepts ever dreamt up.

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 192020
 


Sergio Larraín Valparaiso Passage Bavestrello 1952

 

Facebook Joins Twitter In Reverting To Pre-Election News Feed Algorithms (RT)
Lawmakers Ask Whether Massive Hack Amounted To Act Of War (Hill)
California Reports Record COVID Cases and Deaths—Despite Strict Lockdown (FEE)
Research Suggests COVID19 Enters The Brain, May Be Autoimmune Disease (RT)
Trump Blasts John McCain After New Texts From FBI Lover Peter Strzok (DM)
Steele Dossier Was ‘Intended To Influence’ Media – Strzok (RT)
The Gyre Widens (Jim Kunstler)
When Deplorables Become Ungovernables (Escobar)
Peter Navarro Releases Report About The 2020 Presidential Election (JTN)
Tesla, the Largest-Cap Stock Ever to Enter S&P 500 (RA)
FDR Knew Exactly How to Solve Today’s Unemployment Crisis (Ellen Brown)
LeBron James To Be Appointed As Ambassador To China (BBee)

 

 

John Hussman:

 

 

Just in time delivery.

Facebook Joins Twitter In Reverting To Pre-Election News Feed Algorithms (RT)

Facebook has reversed its election-season policy of prioritizing mainstream media stories in News Feed after a similar move from Twitter. This is as Mark Zuckerberg is sued for allegedly helping tip the vote in favor of Joe Biden. An algorithm tweak that saw Facebook users deluged with mainstream media stories following last month’s elections has been reversed, the social media behemoth told the New York Times on Wednesday, insisting that the change – which significantly boosted traffic for establishment outlets like CNN, NPR, and the Times itself while suppressing alt-media and right-wing sites – was never meant to be permanent.

Boosting the importance of “news ecosystem quality,” essentially a reputational score applied to news outlets, was “a temporary change we made to help limit the spread of inaccurate claims about the election,” Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne told the outlet. He explained that the platform was still prioritizing so-called “authoritative and informative news” on “important global topics like elections, Covid-19 and climate change.” The tech giant opted to return to pre-election policies despite the protests of some employees who preferred the “nicer news feed,” sources present at one post-vote Facebook meeting claimed, describing the prioritization of establishment sources as one of several “break glass measures” designed for the care and feeding of a desirable post-election narrative.

Twitter also admitted that adding ‘context’ to its Trending section – which essentially turned the feature into a yawn-inducing list of mainstream media headlines accompanied by the ‘correct’ opinion users should have about them – made it “less relevant for many people’s interests.” Both platforms liberally applied “misinformation” warnings to content questioning the integrity of last month’s election results, despite allowing – even encouraging – users to question the legitimacy of 2016’s presidential election for years after the fact. Supporters of President Donald Trump cried foul, especially after dozens of the commander-in-chief’s own posts regarding alleged election fraud were censored, hidden, and otherwise suppressed.

Read more …

Twitter and Facebook will now deliver this sort of insanity.

Lawmakers Ask Whether Massive Hack Amounted To Act Of War (Hill)

Lawmakers are raising questions about whether the attack on the federal government widely attributed to Russia constitutes an act of war. The hacking may represent the biggest cyberattack in U.S history, and officials are scrambling to respond. The response is further complicated by the presidential transition — President Trump has yet to comment publicly on the attack — and the fact that the U.S. has no clear cyber warfare strategy. “We can’t be buddies with Vladimir Putin and have him at the same time making this kind of cyberattack on America,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said of the attack during an interview Wednesday on CNN. “This is virtually a declaration of war by Russia on the United States and we should take that seriously.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday compared the incident to Russian bombers “flying undetected over the entire country,” and harshly criticized Trump for not doing enough to counter the attack. “Our national security is extraordinarily vulnerable,” Romney said on SiriusXM’s “The Big Picture with Olivier Knox.” “In this setting, not to have the White House aggressively speaking out and protesting and taking punitive action is really, really quite extraordinary.” Hackers believed to be part of a nation state have had access to federal networks since March after exploiting a vulnerability in updates to IT group SolarWinds’s Orion software. The hack has compromised the Treasury, State and Homeland Security departments and branches of the Pentagon, though it is expected to get worse. SolarWinds counts many more federal agencies as customers, along with the majority of U.S. Fortune 500 companies.

On Thursday, Politico reported that the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, was also compromised, further raising the stakes. Lawmakers say the scope of the attack, widely presumed to be by Russia, which has denied responsibility, demands some kind of response. “No response is not appropriate, and that’s been our national policy by and large for the past 10 or 15 years,” Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), the co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC), said during an event hosted by Defense One on Thursday. “I want somebody in the Kremlin, sitting around that table to say, ‘wait a minute boss, if we do this we are liable to get whacked in some way,’ and right now they are not making that calculus.”

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Time for questions. High time.

California Reports Record COVID Cases and Deaths—Despite Strict Lockdown (FEE)

Newsom’s decision to reimpose lockdowns in light of the evidence we have today has left some California public officials puzzled. “During the first Shelter in Place order, which I wholeheartedly endorsed, the virus was brand new and had the capability of spreading exponentially due to zero immunity and people’s complete lack of awareness,” San Mateo County Health Officer Scott Morrow recently observed on the county’s website. “[That order] was very much consistent with my long-held views about the judicious use of power.…However, I very quickly rescinded my initial orders shuttering society and focused my new orders on the personal behaviors that are driving the pandemic… .” Morrow implied that many of the actions being taken suggest California officials have learned little since the spring.

“Just because one has the legal authority to do something, doesn’t mean one has to use it, or that using it is the best course of action,” he wrote. “What I believed back in May, and what I believe now, is the power and authority to control this pandemic lies primarily in your hands, not mine.” Morrow was blunt in his appraisal of the restrictions being imposed across the Golden State. “I’m not sure we know what we’re doing,” he wrote. “I look at surrounding counties who have been much more restrictive than I have been, and wonder what it’s bought them.” Morrow appears to have gleaned an insight once observed by the economist Milton Friedman. “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results,” Friedman famously observed.

With every passing week the results of government lockdowns become more clear. They cause tremendous and widespread harms—no one disagrees on this point—but the supposed benefits of the policies remain tenuous. Despite the bevy of evidence they possess, lawmakers continue to embrace restrictions because of bad incentives. The great economist Ludwig von Mises noted long ago that a great deal of modern social conflict is a struggle over who gets to design the world, individuals or authorities. Mises believed that individuals, if left to their own devices, would generally make rational decisions based on their own self interest. This is why he saw few things as dangerous as central planners who seek to supplant individual planning with their own (despite their knowledge limitations) in an effort to create a more perfect society.

“The planner is a potential dictator who wants to deprive all other people of the power to plan and act according to their own plans,” Mises wrote in Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis. “He aims at one thing only: the exclusive absolute pre-eminence of his own plan.” The Washington Post reported yesterday that nearly 8 million Americans have slipped into poverty since summer. When one considers the damage government lockdowns have wrought compared to the positive results they’ve achieved, one begins to see why Mises saw the unchecked power of authorities as such a threat.

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Autoantibodies.

Research Suggests COVID19 Enters The Brain, May Be Autoimmune Disease (RT)

A new study by Yale University has found that critical Covid-19 patients disproportionately possess so-called ‘autoantibodies’ that weaponize their immune systems against them, making their condition far worse. Researchers used an advanced screening technique on 170 hospitalized patients to detect “autoantibodies” that inflict collateral damage on the patient by attacking their own organs and immune system as opposed to targeting the virus. They compared the antibodies to those who had milder or asymptomatic infections, as well as those who had not been infected. In the hospitalized Covid-19 patients, they found autoantibodies – such as interferons, natural killer cells, and T cells – that could disrupt the work of the body’s frontline immune system troops, which had essentially been made to defect to the enemy, on the viral side.

The presence of autoantibodies was repeatedly detected in the most critical Covid-19 patients, and tests on mice indicated that the autoantibodies likely exacerbated the disease. Unfortunately, the researchers did not find any Covid-19 specific autoantibodies that might alert medical staff to an impending, developing severe case of Covid-19 in patients. The mystery surrounding the varying severity of the disease remains, but the research suggests that people with pre-existing autoantibodies in their systems are likely at higher risk of a severe bout of Covid-19. The research, which has yet to be peer reviewed, supports the idea that, for some unfortunate patients at least, Covid-19 could well be considered an autoimmune disease triggered by the coronavirus.

Several previous studies revealed that patients without a history of autoimmune disease had been found to have developed these autoantibodies after contracting Covid-19. Elsewhere, other research found that patients with severe Covid-19 infections can also develop autoantibodies to interferons – another key component of humans’ ability to fight viral infections.

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Yes, sure, Durham is investigating, but…

Trump Blasts John McCain After New Texts From FBI Lover Peter Strzok (DM)

President Donald Trump has vented his fury at late Senator John McCain, following the release of newly declassified text messages from former FBI agent Peter Strzok indicating that McCain leaked the infamous ‘dirty dossier’ to legendary journalist Carl Bernstein.’Check out last in his class John McCain, one of the most overrated people in D.C.’ Trump tweeted late on Wednesday of the Arizona Republican who died of brain cancer in 2018, linking to a report on the new messages. The text messages, released by Republican Senators Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley on Wednesday, include a January 9, 2017 exchange between Strzok and Lisa Page, then the FBI lawyer with whom he was having an affair.

‘Carl Bernstein (yes that Carl) called [Office of Public Affairs], said he got a ‘dossier’ from McCain,’ Strzok texted Page, who quickly replied: ‘Awesome, let Carl run it down then.’ McCain aide David Kramer has previously testified that he leaked British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s anti-Trump dossier to journalists including Bernstein. Bernstein, the former Washington Post reporter who broke the Watergate scandal alongside Bob Woodward, had a byline on the January 12, 2017 CNN report that revealed the existence of the so-called ‘dirty dossier’. The dossier, which included salacious allegations, was funded in part by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Some of its allegations have been discredited, and others remain unproven.

The dossier became a key piece of intelligence under-girding Strzok’s ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ FBI probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election. Strzok, who also ran the FBI’s ‘Midyear Exam’ probe into Clinton’s private email server, later joined Special Counsel Robert Muller’s team, along with Page. Both Strzok and Page left the FBI in disgrace after their secret love affair was discovered by supervisors. Mueller’s probe failed to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. The legality of the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation is now the subject of a separate probe, led by US Attorney John Durham, who himself was appointed as a special counsel earlier this month.

The new text messages revealed on Wednesday also suggest that the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe was opened earlier that has been officially admitted. A Justice Department Inspector General report in December 2019 claimed that the FBI opened its Trump-Russia investigation on July 31, 2016, after receiving a tip from an Australian diplomat. However, a Stzrok text message to Page on July 28, 2017, the same day the Australian tip was received, says he wants to discuss ‘[o]ur open C[ounter-]I[ntelligence] investigations relating to Trump’s Russian connections’.

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“I would definitely say at a minimum Steele’s reports should be viewed as intended to influence as well as to inform.”

Steele Dossier Was ‘Intended To Influence’ Media – Strzok (RT)

A report filled with unverified claims about Donald Trump that prompted a probe into his alleged ties to Russia, was tailored to score points with the press, ex-FBI agent Peter Strzok suggests, in a recently declassified message. Senate Republicans on Thursday released a new batch of text messages from Strzok, who was fired by the FBI in 2018 after internal communications showed that he wanted to use the agency’s investigation into Russian collusion as an “insurance policy” to attack Trump if he won the White House. In one newly revealed message dated September 23, 2016, Strzok appears to acknowledge that the dodgy dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, and later used by the FBI to obtain warrants to spy on the Trump campaign, could at the very least be used to create a media narrative.

Referring to a Yahoo article based on an unnamed source that alleged Trump campaign adviser Carter Page attended a secret summit in Moscow with two Kremlin insiders, Strzok wrote: “I would definitely say at a minimum Steele’s reports should be viewed as intended to influence as well as to inform.” The FBI ended its relationship with Steele after it became clear that he was leaking information to the press. However, the agency failed to inform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that Steele had been a source for the Yahoo article, which was used to corroborate the dossier and obtain a warrant to spy on Page. In January 2020, a court ruled that two of the four warrant applications submitted by the FBI to snoop on Page were “invalid.”

Another newly-released Strzok message, from January 12, 2017, shows that the FBI recorded a phone call between former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and an unnamed executive at Fox News. Notably, the Justice Department never obtained a warrant to spy on Papadopoulos or Fox, and likely used a so-called National Security Letter to carry out the surveillance.

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“..America’s own domestic enemies, who must be neutralized first before we’re capable of dealing with outsiders..”

The Gyre Widens (Jim Kunstler)

The trouble is, Mr. Trump actually does have the evidence, and he intends to use it after four years of being remorselessly fucked around by his antagonists. So, the nation is at the point in this long, winding drama that has become a fight to the death and there will be no rituals of torch-passing just to keep up appearances that everything is functioning normally. Mr. Trump has the evidence of widespread, yes widespread, ballot fraud. He is the president, after all, and he has all the information. As he’s said more than once, he’s caught them all. And they know it. Of course, the CIA and the FBI, those pillars of the Intel Community, are still trying to withhold what they can, but the president is not having it.

He’s taking away the CIA’s most precious asset: its resources for making mischief on-the ground — its airplane fleet and its armaments, handing them over to the Pentagon — reducing the CIA to the simple task of analyzing signals from the world scene. And so, the CIA has been refusing to cooperate with the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, as a last gasp to preserve its long-running illicit prerogatives. That will eventually trigger the president’s invocation of the 2018 Executive order 13848, allowing, at long last, the arrest and prosecution of many desperate characters who tried to run away with the US Government. But probably not before the last legal avenues have been traveled: Sidney Powell’s case against the Dominion vote system in the Supreme Court, a long-shot like all the other cases that the court is loath to touch..

[..] and the business of the alternate electoral college slates to be hashed out in the Senate on January 6, Vice-President Mike Pence, presiding. Democrats and their coastal elite supporters are not going to like it. If they call out their Antifa troops, those feckless weenies with their hoisted cell phones and stupid umbrellas are going to be crushed this time, not indulged like three-year-olds. The wild-card all of a sudden is what the nation will also do about the foreign actors reportedly messing around with the government’s most critical computer systems. China? Iran? Russia? They’re a match for America’s own domestic enemies, who must be neutralized first before we’re capable of dealing with outsiders. The gyre widens.

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“The error was to steal too many votes. This grand theft indicts the whole system, that has always been corrupt.”

When Deplorables Become Ungovernables (Escobar)

China, Russia and Iran are the top three existential “threats” to the U.S., according to the National Security Strategy. Three features distinguish the top three. They are all sovereign powers. They are under varying degrees of sanctions. And they are the top three nodes of the 21st century’s most important, evolving geopolitical process: Eurasia integration. What do the three sovereigns see when they examine the dystopia that took over Exceptionalistan? They see, once again, three – discombobulated – nodes in conflict: 1) the post-historic Pacific and Atlantic coasts; 2) the South – a sort of expanded Dixieland; and 3) the Midwest – what would be the American heartland.

The hyper-modern Pacific-Atlantic nodes congregate high-tech and finance, profit from Pentagon techno-breakthroughs and benefit from the “America rules the waves” ethos that guarantees the global primacy of the U.S. dollar. The rest of America is largely considered by the Pacific-Atlantic as just a collection of flyover states: the South – which regards itself as the real, authentic America; and the Midwest, largely disciplined and quite practical-minded, squeezed ideologically between the littoral powerhouses and the South. Superstructure, though, is key: no matter what happens, whatever the fractures, this remains an Empire, where only a tiny elite, a de facto plutocratic oligarchy, rules.

It would be too schematic, even though essentially correct, to assert that in the presidential election, invisible campaigner Joe Biden represented the Pacific-Atlantic nodes, and Trump represented the whole South. Assuming the election was not fraudulent – and that remains a big “if” – the Midwest eventually swung based on three issues. 1) Trump, as much as he relied on a sanctions juggernaut, could not bring back manufacturing jobs home. 2) He could not reduce the military footprint across the Greater Middle East. 3) And, before Covid-19, he could not bring down immigration. Everything that lies ahead points to the irreconcilable – pitting the absolute majority that voted Dem in the Atlantic-Pacific nodes versus the South and a deeply divided Midwest. As much as Biden-Harris is bound to isolate the South even more, their prospects of “pacifying” the Midwest are less than zero.

Whose ground control? Beyond the raucous altercations on whether the presidential election was fraudulent, these are the key factual points. 1) A series of rules in mostly swing states were changed, through courts, bypassing state legislatures, without transparence, before the election, paving the way to facilitate fraud schemes. 2) Biden was de facto coronated by AP, Google and Twitter even before the final, official result, and weeks before the electoral college vote this past Monday. 3) Every serious, professional audit to determine whether all received and tabulated votes were valid was de facto squashed. In any Global South latitude where the empire did “interfere” in local elections, color revolution-style, this set of facts would be regarded by scores of imperial officials, in a relentless propaganda blitz, as evidence of a coup.

On the recent Supreme Court ruling, a Deep State intel source told me, “the Supreme Court did not like to see half the country rioting against them, and preferred the decision be made by each state in the House of Representatives. That is the only way to handle this without jeopardizing the union. Even prominent Democrats I know realize that the fix took place. The error was to steal too many votes. This grand theft indicts the whole system, that has always been corrupt.”

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‘The Immaculate Deception’

Peter Navarro Releases Report About The 2020 Presidential Election (JTN)

Dr. Peter Navarro released a report on Thursday related to the 2020 election titled “The Immaculate Deception: Six Key Dimensions of Election Irregularities.” “From the findings of this report, it is possible to infer what may well have been a coordinated strategy to effectively stack the election deck against the Trump-Pence ticket,” the report states. “Indeed, the observed patterns of election irregularities are so consistent across the six battleground states that they suggest a coordinated strategy to, if not steal the election outright, strategically game the election process in such a way as to ‘stuff the ballot box’ and unfairly tilt the playing field in favor of the Biden-Harris ticket.” The report argues that the election results could shift to a win for President Trump, even if just some of the ballots related to “identified election irregularities” were tossed out as unlawful.


“The ballots in question because of the identified election irregularities are more than sufficient to swing the outcome in favor of President Trump should even a relatively small portion of these ballots be ruled illegal,” the report states. Navarro, who advises President Trump as the Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, hosted a call on Thursday “in his capacity as a private citizen” to speak about his findings, according to a press release. The report warns that without a rigorous investigation, many Americans will consider a Joe Biden presidency to be illegitimate: “Absent a thorough investigation prior to Inauguration Day, a cloud and a stain will hang over what will be perceived by many Americans as an illegitimate Biden administration,” the report says.

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“By the close of trading on December 21, index funds, ETFs, and other index-tracking strategies will have purchased Tesla shares valued at nearly $220 billion..”

Tesla, the Largest-Cap Stock Ever to Enter S&P 500 (RA)

Tesla is entering the S&P 500 with a stupendously high valuation and will likely be ranked sixth in the index. Traditional cap-weighted indices, such as the S&P 500, are structured to buy high and sell low—and Tesla is a prime example of this maxim. The eightfold increase in Tesla’s share price since its March low meets our two-part definition of a bubble: 1) implausible assumptions are needed to justify its valuation, and 2) buyer interest is based on a great narrative rather than being supported by a conventional valuation model. Our research shows that a continuation of Tesla’s 2020 share-price performance is vulnerable on two additional fronts: 1) as a top-dog stock (top 10 market-cap stocks), the odds are against its remaining a top-dog stock, and 2) as an addition to the S&P 500, history indicates it is likely to underperform the market (S&P 500) in the year after entry.

[..] On November 16, S&P Dow Jones Indices announced that Tesla will (finally) join the prestigious S&P 500 Index on December 21. From the beginning of 2020 to the announcement date, Tesla’s share price rose 400% from $83.67 to $408.09. Most of that run-up occurred after the media began speculating in March about Tesla’s likely addition to the index. From the announcement date through December 7, Tesla’s share price rose another 49% to $608.32. That’s an eightfold increase from its March low. Given Tesla’s very large market-cap, the US Index Committee, which maintains the S&P 500, did consider a gradual transition into the index rather than adding the company’s full weight at one time.

Currently about $11 trillion in assets track the index,1 and a substantial portion will seek to buy Tesla at the exact closing price on December 21. On December 1 the Index Committee announced that Tesla will be added all in one go, which prompted another 10% share-price increase the following week. The result is that founder Elon Musk now has the second-largest fortune in history. For now, only Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is wealthier. Tesla will be the largest stock to enter the S&P 500 in the history of the index, by both rank (likely the sixth largest company in the index2) and absolute market capitalization ($608 billion as of the December 7, 2020, market close). By the close of trading on December 21, index funds, ETFs, and other index-tracking strategies will have purchased Tesla shares valued at nearly $220 billion, most seeking to trade at the opening price.

To make way for this purchase, these funds and strategies will sell a similar dollar amount from the other 505 stocks in the index (corporate actions have pushed the number of S&P 500 holdings to 505 names). At well under 1% of the outstanding market-cap of these companies, the requisite sales are not likely to precipitate major price moves. Because Tesla’s addition to the index is not a secret, we can comfortably surmise that hedge fund managers and other liquidity suppliers have already stockpiled most of the $220 billion and are ready to supply the shares to the indexers for this largest single trade in history. What does it all mean for investors?

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“A self-funding national infrastructure bank..”

FDR Knew Exactly How to Solve Today’s Unemployment Crisis (Ellen Brown)

A self-funding national infrastructure bank modeled on the “American System” of Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt would help solve not one but two of the country’s biggest problems. Millions of Americans have joined the ranks of the unemployed, and government relief checks and savings are running out; meanwhile, the country still needs trillions of dollars in infrastructure. Putting the unemployed to work on those infrastructure projects seems an obvious solution, especially given that the $600 or $700 stimulus checks Congress is planning on issuing will do little to address the growing crisis. Various plans for solving the infrastructure crisis involving public-private partnerships have been proposed, but they’ll invariably result in private investors reaping the profits while the public bears the costs and liabilities. We have relied for too long on private, often global, capital, while the Chinese run circles around us building infrastructure with credit simply created on the books of their government-owned banks.

Earlier publicly-owned U.S. national banks and U.S. Treasuries pulled off similar feats, using what Sen. Henry Clay, U.S. statesman from 1806 to 1852, named the “American System” – funding national production simply with “sovereign” money and credit. They included the First (1791-1811) and Second (1816-1836) Banks of the United States, President Lincoln’s federal treasury and banking system, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) (1932-1957). Chester Morrill, former Secretary of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, wrote of the RFC: [I]t became apparent almost immediately, to many Congressmen and Senators, that here was a device which would enable them to provide for activities that they favored for which government funds would be required, but without any apparent increase in appropriations. . . . [T]here need be no more appropriations and its activities could be enlarged indefinitely, as they were, almost to fantastic proportions.

Even the Federal Reserve with its “quantitative easing” cannot fund infrastructure without driving up federal expenditures or debt, at least without changes to the Federal Reserve Act. The Fed is not allowed to spend money directly into the economy or to lend directly to Congress. It must go through the private banking system and its “primary dealers.” The Fed can create and pay only with “reserves” credited to the reserve accounts of banks. These reserves are a completely separate system from the deposits circulating in the real producer/consumer economy; and those deposits are chiefly created by banks when they make loans. New liquidity gets into the real economy when banks make loans to local businesses and individuals; and in risky environments like that today, banks are not lending adequately even with massive reserves on their books.

A publicly-owned national infrastructure bank, on the other hand, would be mandated to lend into the real economy; and if the loans were of the “self funding” sort characterizing most infrastructure projects (generating fees to pay off the loans), they would be repaid, canceling out the debt by which the money was created. That is how China built 12,000 miles of high-speed rail in a decade: credit created on the books of government-owned banks was advanced to pay for workers and materials, and the loans were repaid with profits from passenger fees. Unlike the QE pumped into financial markets, which creates asset bubbles in stocks and housing, this sort of public credit mechanism is not inflationary. Credit money advanced for productive purposes balances the circulating money supply with new goods and services in the real economy. Supply and demand rise together, keeping prices stable. China increased its money supply by nearly 1800% over 24 years (from 1996 to 2020) without driving up price inflation, by increasing GDP in step with the money supply.

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“Colin Kaepernick was also floated but ultimately didn’t get picked.”

LeBron James To Be Appointed As Ambassador To China (BBee)

The incoming Biden administration has floated LeBron James as its ambassador to China, sources learned today. James says he’s “excited” to be able to once again normalize relations between the two countries and make sure that the United States doesn’t do anything to upset the world power, like call attention to its slave labor camps and poor conditions for workers, or the fact that it unleashed a deadly virus on the globe. “LeBron will do a great job ensuring we do everything China wants us to,” said Joe Biden. “He’s a great football player, one of the best. In my day, the leagues were segregated, but that’s all behind us now. You know, I played a little pigskin in my day. You know why they call it pigskin? Well, we used to cook up a little bacon and some pulled pork, and we’d take the leftover pig and roll it up in a little ball and start hucking it at one another, as was the style in those days.” Colin Kaepernick was also floated but ultimately didn’t get picked.

Read more …

 

 

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Reason Assange

 

 

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Jul 162020
 


Irving Underhill Irving Trust Building, Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York 1931

 

‘Over Half’ Of Trial Participants Had Adverse Reactions To Moderna Vaccine (JTN)
Obesity May Stack the Deck for COVID-19 Risk (WebMD)
Victoria Gov’t Refuses To Say How Many Health Workers Have COVID19 (G.)
Italy’s Call For Urgent Help Was Ignored As Virus Swept Through Europe (G.)
Hackers Convinced Twitter Employee to Help Them Hijack Accounts
Twitter Silences Some Top Accounts After Internal Systems Hacked (R.)
Twitter Hack Is A Nightmare Not Just For Twitter (BV)
Delta’s Passenger Revenue -94%. How it Plans to Stay Alive (WS)
Adam Schiff Just Can’t Stop Lying (Roger Stone)
“They Always Do It Within 24 to 48 Hours” – Sidney Powell (GP)
Ghislaine Maxwell Is Married, Refuses To Name Spouse (G.)
Cleaners Remove Banksy Artwork From London Tube Train (BBC)
Indigenous Group Accidentally Blows Up Rio Tinto’s Headquarters (Chaser)

 

 

The most disturbing thing about the Twitter hacks may not even be how easy it is to break into the company and take control over many things, but that, as screenshots show, Twitter very much DOES appear to have the power to shadow ban etc. accounts. And that is not what @jack told Congress.

 

 

Both the US and the world come up just short of new records. But there are rumblings about manipulated and inflated Florida numbers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moderna

 

 

So much for a rapid vaccine: “..they intend to follow participants “for 1 year after the second vaccination..”

‘Over Half’ Of Trial Participants Had Adverse Reactions To Moderna Vaccine (JTN)

A highly anticipated clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine managed in part by the American drug company Moderna has resulted in some adverse effects in more than half of the trial’s participants, with one test group reporting “severe” symptoms. The trial, which is also being sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, administered the vaccine “as a 0.5-ml injection in the deltoid muscle” in two shots spaced about one month apart. Two separate groups received 25-microgram and 100-microgram doses, respectively. A third group with a 250-microgram dose was subsequently added. The vaccine “induced anti–SARS-CoV-2 immune responses in all participants,” the research team reported Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers said that “no trial-limiting safety concerns were identified.” Yet a majority of participants still reported at least one side effect. “Solicited adverse events that occurred in more than half the participants included fatigue, chills, headache, myalgia, and pain at the injection site,” the report states. Fever, joint pain and nausea were also reported. Side effects grew more common with more (and larger) injections, the scientists write: “Systemic adverse events were more common after the second vaccination, particularly with the highest dose, and three participants (21%) in the 250 microgram dose group reported one or more severe adverse events.”

Notably, every participant in the two larger-dose groups reported adverse reactions after their second injections. One study participant in the smallest-dose group, meanwhile, was removed due to having developed hives after the first round of injections. The scientists said that due to the ongoing status of the project, they are not yet “able to assess the durability of the immune responses” generated by the vaccine, but that they intend to follow participants “for 1 year after the second vaccination” and examine regular blood samples to monitor the vaccine’s effects.

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Overall big risk. As is smoking, which also returns as a major COVID risk.

Obesity May Stack the Deck for COVID-19 Risk (WebMD)

Stephen O’Rahilly recently spent a week in a hospital, sick with COVID-19 and struggling to breathe. “My lungs were quite badly affected,” says O’Rahilly, 62, who spent almost a week getting extra oxygen in what’s known as a high-intensity care unit in the U.K. The experience got him thinking: While about 80% of cases of COVID-19 can be treated at home, why do some people, including him, wind up with more severe infections? Besides his age, O’Rahilly knew he had another strike against him when it comes to COVID-19 infection: his weight. His BMI, or body mass index, is over 30. O’Rahilly, who directs the MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit at Cambridge University, is considered one of the world’s leading obesity researchers.

He was knighted in 2013 by Queen Elizabeth II for his work, which includes the discovery of a genetic condition that robs the body of the hormone leptin, which controls appetite and weight. And so after his brush with the coronavirus, he started digging into exactly what it is about obesity that makes it so risky for a COVID-19 infection. It has become clearer that people who are obese are one of the groups at highest risk from the disease, regardless of their age. The CDC recently refined its risk categories for COVID-19, stating that obesity was as big a risk for COVID as having a suppressed immune system or chronic lung or kidney disease. The agency also lowered the bar for where that risk starts — from a BMI of 40 to a BMI of 30. Roughly 40% of Americans have a BMI over 30.

The CDC’s change in BMI risk comes after a British study of more than 17 million people found that people living with severe obesity were about twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as people who were not obese. That was true even after other things like their age and sex were taken into account. The study also found that risk rises with the degree of obesity. The bigger a person, the higher their risk of a COVID-19 death. [O’Rahilly] he thinks the risk comes from the fact that fat makes and regulates hormones. For example, people who are obese make more of something called “complement” proteins. These proteins can trigger out-of-control blood clotting, which is a problem in patients with severe COVID-19.

People with obesity also have lower blood levels of a hormone called adiponectin. Recent studies in mice show that adiponectin protects the lungs. O’Rahilly thinks that if you have lower levels to begin with, you may be more likely to have lung inflammation during an infection like COVID-19. Adiponectin also helps keep blood vessels clean and open. So if the insides of your blood vessels are sticky, and a virus causes your immune system to go haywire and create more blood clots, that sets the stage for blockages. These blockages can cause heart attacks, strokes, and lung damage — all problems seen in COVID-19 patients. To compound the problem, people with obesity appear to have more ACE2 receptors on their cells than others. ACE2 receptors are the doors the virus uses to infect cells and then make more copies of itself.

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Oh, why not, you’re at the other end of the world anyway.

Victoria Gov’t Refuses To Say How Many Health Workers Have COVID19 (G.)

The Victorian government has refused to answer questions about hospital surge capacity or the number of healthcare workers and medical institutions coping with outbreaks of Covid-19, with hundreds of health staff now in precautionary quarantine due to potential exposure to the virus. An email from the chief executive of Victoria’s largest public health service, Monash Health, said 77 staff across the service were in precautionary quarantine following three potential sources of exposure. Infections have been found in five employees. Monash Health services a quarter of the state. “We must use this opportunity to reinforce processes, to make sure that we all understand them, and are doing what we need to do to stay safe,” the email said, urging staff to use protective gear properly and undertake frequent infection risk assessments.


Meanwhile, 14 staff from St Vincent’s hospital in Melbourne are recovering from the virus, an email sent from the chief executive to staff on Thursday said. The emergency and general medical departments of the hospital are undergoing deep cleaning following “potential exposures,” the email said. All emergency staff have undergone testing. There are 10 inpatients with Covid-19 at the hospital. The email said “a small number of emergency department staff” had contracted the virus, so precautions were being taken. There had also been a potential exposure in the intensive care ward, the email said. Contact tracing is underway and several intensive care and general medical team staff are now in isolation. As of Thursday, 70 staff associated with the Royal Melbourne Hospital were also in precautionary quarantine, with 12 positive staff and 48 inpatients with the virus. The ABC has confirmed Melbourne’s Northern Health has 142 staff in self-isolation.

Read more …

EU has zero power, and zero decision-making process.

Italy’s Call For Urgent Help Was Ignored As Virus Swept Through Europe (G.)

It was a moment of chilling clarity. On 26 February, with the numbers of Italians known to be infected by coronavirus tripling every 48 hours, the country’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, appealed to fellow EU member states for help. His hospitals were overwhelmed. Italian doctors and nurses had run out of the masks, gloves and aprons they needed to keep themselves safe, and medics were being forced to play God with the lives of the critically-ill due to an acute lack of ventilators. An urgent message was passed from Rome to the European commission’s Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels. The specifications of Italy’s needs were uploaded into the EU’s Common Emergency Communication and Information System (CECIS). But what happened next came as a shock. The distress call was met with silence.

“No member state responded to Italy’s request and to the commission’s call for help,” said Janez Lenarcic, the European commissioner responsible for crisis management. “Which meant that not only is Italy is not prepared … Nobody is prepared … The lack of response to the Italian request was not so much a lack of solidarity. It was a lack of equipment.” It was as millions of Europeans prepared for their New Year’s Eve celebrations that officials in the Stockholm office of the EU public health agency, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), first received notice of a cluster of pneumonia cases in China of unknown origin. Established in 2005 in reaction to the Sars outbreak two years before, the ECDC offers scientific advice. It can do no more.

Responsibility for health remains entirely with the national governments of the EU, and not in the European commission or its agencies. Despite its limitations, the ECDC’s job is to look to the full European horizon, and call the alarm whether capitals listen or not. The agency gave its first threat assessment on 9 January, the body’s director Dr Andrea Ammon recalled. “At that time, the notion [was] most of the cases were linked to this live animal market [in the Chinese city of Wuhan]”, she told the Guardian. “Roughly two weeks later it turned out it is human to human transmission which of course changes what you need to do”. The initial concern was how to keep the disease outside the EU’s borders. On 17 January a first coronavirus conference call was held by another EU body born out of previous health crises – but again lacking the powers retained by the national governments.

[..] The stark reality was that in the months and years before coronavirus arrived in Europe, stocks of personal protective equipment (PPE) had dwindled. Emergency supplies of masks had expired, been destroyed and never replaced. Pandemic preparedness plans were out of date. “Several European countries had a strategic stock of masks that were outdated … Most of them were just destroyed,” said one scientific adviser. France held 1.7bn protective masks in 2011, but now had only 117m. Between January and March this year it incinerated 1.5m. In 2017, Belgium ordered the destruction of 38m masks and they were never replaced. No one, it appeared, had a hold on what was out there. Up until 23 February, flights carrying donations of PPE were leaving Europe for China in the hope of containing the virus there. But the unpalatable truth was that Europe itself was exposed.

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Hmmm…looks like@jack lied to Congress.

“Alleged leaked pictures from the Twitter admin control panel that was compromised showcase the buttons ‘Trends Blacklist’ and ‘Search Blacklist’, indicating Twitter DOES have the ability to shadowban its users.”

What is Congress going to do about that?

Hackers Convinced Twitter Employee to Help Them Hijack Accounts

A Twitter insider was responsible for a wave of high profile account takeovers on Wednesday, according to leaked screenshots obtained by Motherboard and two sources who took over accounts. On Wednesday, a spike of high profile accounts including those of Joe Biden, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Uber, and Apple tweeted cryptocurrency scams in an apparent hack. “We used a rep that literally done all the work for us,” one of the sources told Motherboard. The second source added they paid the Twitter insider. Motherboard granted the sources anonymity to speak candidly about a security incident. A Twitter spokesperson told Motherboard that the company is still investigating whether the employee hijacked the accounts themselves or gave hackers access to the tool.

The accounts were taken over using an internal tool at Twitter, according to the sources, as well as screenshots of the tool obtained by Motherboard. One of the screenshots shows the panel and the account of Binance; Binance is one of the accounts that hackers took over today. According to screenshots seen by Motherboard, at least some of the accounts appear to have been compromised by changing the email address associated with them using the tool. In all, four sources close to or inside the underground hacking community provided Motherboard with screenshots of the user tool. Two sources said the Twitter panel was also used to change ownership of some so-called OG accounts—accounts that have a handle consisting of only one or two characters—as well as facilitating the tweeting of the cryptocurrency scams from the high profile accounts.

Twitter has been deleting some screenshots of the panel and has suspended users who have tweeted them, claiming that the tweets violate its rules. The panel is a stark example of the issue of insider data access at tech companies. Whereas in other cases hackers have bribed workers to leverage tools over individual users, in this case the access has led to takeovers of some of the biggest accounts on the social media platform and tweeted bitcoin related scams in an effort to generate income. The screenshots show details about the target user’s account, such as whether it has been suspended, is permanently suspended, or has protected status. One of the screenshots is a Twitter user posting images of the panel themselves. At the time of writing that account has been suspended.

Data breach monitoring and prevention service Under The Breach obtained a similar screenshot and tweeted it as the worker hijacked several accounts. The person in control of the Under The Breach account told Motherboard Twitter then removed the tweet with the screenshot and suspended them for 12 hours. A message replacing the tweet now says it violated the Twitter rules.

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Most are back up.

Twitter Silences Some Top Accounts After Internal Systems Hacked (R.)

Twitter said hackers accessed its internal systems to hijack some of the platform’s top voices including U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, former U.S. President Barack Obama and billionaire Elon Musk and used them to solicit digital currency. Twitter said employees with access to its internal systems had been successfully targeted by hackers who “used this access to take control of many highly-visible (including verified) accounts and Tweet on their behalf.” “We’re looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed and will share more here as we have it,” the company said.


Twitter temporarily took the extraordinary step of preventing for several hours at least some verified accounts from publishing messages altogether. It said it would restore access only when it was certain it could do so securely. Publicly available blockchain records show the apparent scammers received more than $100,000 worth of cryptocurrency. Chief Executive Jack Dorsey earlier said the company was diagnosing the problem and pledged to share “everything we can when we have a more complete understanding of exactly what happened.” “Tough day for us at Twitter. We all feel terrible this happened,” he said in a tweet. Shares in the social media company tumbled almost 5% in trading after the market close before paring their losses.

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“Twitter’s average monetizable daily active users hit 166 million in the first quarter, an almost 25% increase.”

Twitter Hack Is A Nightmare Not Just For Twitter (BV)

A hack of prominent Twitter accounts is a nightmare for more than just the social network itself. Fake tweets soliciting digital currency on Wednesday from figures like Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk and U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden mean Twitter’s cybersecurity costs will rise. But if that’s all that happens, founder Jack Dorsey can count himself lucky. Posts on the social network have the potential to move markets, or worse. The intrusion was severe enough that Twitter locked down so-called verified accounts – its label for those owned by high-profile people. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, former President Barack Obama and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos were among those that had appeared to solicit bitcoins from other users – saying that whatever was given would be doubled by them and returned. It sent Twitter’s stock down by almost 4% in after-market trading.

For investors in tech companies, a major hacking incident usually means one thing: higher costs. Twitter’s expenses already rose nearly 20% in the first quarter of the year, resulting in an operating loss of $7 million compared to a profit of $94 million a year earlier. Ideally, that’s offset by a reduced risk of future embarrassing events. The scam, though, could have been worse. Tweets from business leaders can move markets. Then there’s President Donald Trump, who uses the platform to announce new policies – and communicate with, or about, other world leaders. It’s not hard to see how a fake tweet could send markets reeling, or even pose a national security risk.

So what can be done? Users with public profiles could start behaving differently online, even if Trump doesn’t. The company, like other social media networks, benefits from having highly active celebrity users, and Covid-19 has actually proved good for business. Twitter’s average monetizable daily active users hit 166 million in the first quarter, an almost 25% increase. Fewer prominent tweeters could impact that trend, and hurt ad revenue. And if users don’t proceed with caution, regulators could also step in. Expect law enforcement agencies, and Congress, to want to know more about Twitter’s security processes. The social network could even emerge stronger for the scrutiny. The world, as well as the company’s investors, should hope it does.

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There go the jobs.

Delta’s Passenger Revenue -94%. How it Plans to Stay Alive (WS)

Delta Airlines confirmed today why Warren Buffett dumped his huge stake in mid-crash: Airlines are in an existential crisis, and there is no V-shaped recovery, according to Delta’s earnings report for the second quarter this morning, which was beyond dismal. There were the huge losses. In the quarter ended June 30, Delta booked a pretax loss of $7.01 billion and an after-tax net loss of $5.72 billion. That translates into a loss of $9.01 a share. These losses include $2.1 billion in write-downs of its stakes in Latam Airlines and Aeromexico, both of which filed for bankruptcy in the US recently, and in Virgin Atlantic Airways, which may go into “administration” in the UK.

Then there were the revenues, with a breath-taking plunge:
• Passenger revenue – which last year was 90% of total revenues – collapsed by 94% year-over-year to just $678 million.
• Its highly profitable business cabin and other premium sales (usually over 1/3 of total revenues): -95%.
• Revenues, domestic flights -93%; Atlantic -97%; Latin America -98%; Pacific -95%.
• Cargo revenue: -42% to just $108 million.
• “Other revenues” (loyalty programs, its own refinery, etc.): -31% to $682 million.
• Total revenues: -88%, to $1.47 billion, from $12.5 billion a year ago

So Delta is shrinking into “a smaller, more efficient airline,” and is shedding its older less efficient planes this year, including all of its ancient MD-88, MD-90, plus its 777 and 737-700 fleets, and portions of its 767-300ER and A320 fleets. Shedding these planes comes with shedding the people that fly them and take care of them. Today, Delta said it would “proactively manage headcount and rescale operations” via “voluntary separation and early retirement programs.” In late June, Delta said it would send WARN notices to nearly 20% of its pilots, notifying them of potential furloughs. On October 1, the layoff restrictions attached to the bailout funds expire, and then the involuntary layoffs can commence.

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Let Stone talk for a minute. He has as much right as anyone else.

Adam Schiff Just Can’t Stop Lying (Roger Stone)

On Dec. 10, 2017 Schiff once again stated, “We have all of these facts in chronology, you’d have to believe that these were all isolated incidents, not connected to each other — just doesn’t make rational sense … We do know this: the Russians offered help, the campaign accepted help, the Russians gave help and the president made full use of that help. That is pretty damning, whether it is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of conspiracy or not.” Again, the Trump campaign accepted and made use of nothing. But don’t interrupt little Adam Schiff when he’s on a rhetorical roll. Schiff stated on Feb. 7, 2018 that there was “certainly a lot of evidence” of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. He added, “In terms of ethical violations and acting against the interest of the United States, that evidence is already ample and in the public view.”

Again, the congressman from West Hollywood has produced evidence of no such thing. In what appeared to be a direct reversal, Schiff appeared on ABC’s “The View” on March 1, 2018. He refused to cite any specific evidence the panel he co-chaired had found that proved that the Trump campaign “colluded” with the Russian government during the 2016 election. Yet on April 15, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Schiff made a point to say that it was “simply not true” that there had been no evidence the 2016 presidential campaign for Donald Trump colluded with Russia. Schiff, the ever-hopeful wannabe star, continued making headlines such as this one on April 27, 2018: “ADAM SCHIFF ANNOUNCES DEMOCRATS HAVE EVIDENCE OF TRUMP/RUSSIA COLLUSION.” The story quoted Schiff: “In fact, we found evidence of collusion in the abundant secret meetings and communications between Trump campaign officials and associates.”

None of this of course even touches on his ridiculous antics during the Ukrainian impeachment hoax where Schiff once again got caught lying about contact with the so-called “whistleblower.” Now, incredibly, Schiff is trying to fan the embers of the Russian collusion delusion one more time. One thing is abundantly clear. If Robert Mueller and his minions had any proof whatsoever that I worked with Russian intelligence to steal and disseminate data from the democrats, they most certainly would have charged me with it. If Mueller and his henchmen had any evidence that I had received documents from WikiLeaks and passed them on to the Trump campaign, they would have charged me with that. In fact, if Mueller and his 12 angry Democrats had any proof beyond the plea bargain-induced uncorroborated claims of convicted liars Michael Cohen and Rick Gates that I ever even spoke to Donald Trump about WikiLeaks, they surely would have indicted me on that charge and would have used it to impeach the president.

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It’s not Bill Barr, it’s her.

“They Always Do It Within 24 to 48 Hours” – Sidney Powell (GP)

General Michael Flynn was lied to, set up multiple times before and after the Trump inauguration, excessively and to the point of illegally unmasked, targeted, ambushed in the White House, falsely accused, threatened with his son being indicted, provided corrupt legal counsel (the same firm where corrupt Obama former AG Eric Holder works), harassed for 3 years, belittled, slandered, besmirched by the judge, harassed by the judge, and then the attorneys going after him were the same attorneys who represented the corrupt Sally Yates who lied and told President Trump General Flynn lied.

The government reviewed General Flynn’s case and determined it never should have occurred. When the government and Flynn’s attorneys, including Sidney Powell, went to the court to have the case thrown out, the judge overseeing the case wouldn’t do it. Next the government and Powell went to the DC Circuit court to have the case thrown out and the Circuit Court two weeks ago ordered Judge Sullivan to do so. This interview discusses the entire case from Sidney Powell’s perspective and the current status of this corrupt case not being thrown out by this corrupted judge. At the 1:30 mark in the video the following exchange occurs:

Jan Jekielek: The DC Circuit Court of Appeals has basically said, has ordered Judge Sullivan to close the case and I think he had 24 hours to do so and he didn’t do it, so what’s going on? Where we at here?

Sidney Powell: Well they don’t really put a time limit on the order but I can’t say in my decades of practice, and we’re not going to number those, that I’ve ever seen a judge not do what he was told to do by what’s called a ‘writ of mandamus’ or extraordinary writ order directly from the Circuit Court of Appeals to do something. They always do it within 24 to 48 hours. I just haven’t seen that happen with the possible exception of one case way back when I had to get a writ of mandamus against a Federal District Judge twice in the same case. Now we are certainly hoping that doesn’t have to happen here and that the order will be signed shortly. Because he’s not party to the case. That doesn’t mean the full court can’t review the case on its own but it would be unprecedented to do so in these circumstances.

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Let’s go crazier. Anyway, no bail for her, which would have set up a storm.

Ghislaine Maxwell Is Married, Refuses To Name Spouse (G.)

The British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who faces federal charges in Manhattan for allegedly enabling Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking of minor girls, is married, prosecutors said during a court proceeding. Prosecutors made the revelation on Tuesday when arguing that Maxwell should be detained pending trial. Maxwell, who had asked for release on a $5m bond co-signed by six people, was ultimately denied bail. Maxwell pleaded not guilty to the charges. They also said Maxwell had “declined” to identify her spouse to court officials. “In addition to failing to describe in any way the absence of proposed co-signers of a bond, the defendant also makes no mention whatsoever about the financial circumstances or assets of her spouse whose … identity she declined to provide to pretrial services,” assistant US attorney Alison Moe told Judge Alison Nathan.

“There is no information about who will be co-signing this bond or their assets and no details whatsoever.” News of Maxwell’s purported marriage surfaced in earnest on Wednesday morning. Maxwell’s arraignment and bail proceeding was conducted via video, and audio repeatedly cut out for those observing from the courthouse; transcripts that became available late last night filled in some of these gaps. However, many details of Maxwell’s secretive personal life were audible – including information on how she wound up living on the 156-acre Bradford, New Hampshire, estate where she was arrested on 2 July. A real estate agent involved with the property’s sale told an FBI agent that the buyers introduced themselves as “Scott and Janet Marshall, who both have British accents”.

“Scott Marshall told her that the … that he was retired from the British military and he was currently working on writing a book. Janet Marshall described herself as a journalist who wants privacy. They told the agent they wanted to purchase the property quickly through a wire and that they were setting up an LLC,” Moe said, noting that this conversation took place in November 2019. “Following [Maxwell’s] arrest, the real estate agent saw a photograph of [Maxwell] in the media and realized that the person who had introduced herself as Janet Marshall … was the defendant, Ghislaine Maxwell.”

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Love it. This is why he made the video. But it’s still a few million pounds they cleaned off.

Cleaners Remove Banksy Artwork From London Tube Train (BBC)

It was a smudge on a cleaning cloth long before the artist revealed on social media he’d done it. In the current climate, it is perhaps reassuring that the cleaners on the Tube did their job quickly and efficiently and cleaned off the work so quickly. Graffiti is regarded – certainly in the transport world and by many commuters – as something that contributes to a threatening, unwelcoming atmosphere. Of course there will be those who say it should have been kept or protected as art but that is somewhat academic. You get the feeling Banksy, who has previously destroyed his art on purpose, knew exactly what would happen to his work by putting it inside a carriage.


This was perhaps all part of the plan. An official statement said the art was removed “some days ago” in line with the London Underground’s “strict anti-graffiti policy”. All public transport users in London must wear a face covering, and TfL said it appreciated “the sentiment of encouraging people” to do so. “We’d like to offer Banksy the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location,” it added.

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Bit of Australian humor.

Indigenous Group Accidentally Blows Up Rio Tinto’s Headquarters (Chaser)

The Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation have today apologised to the traditional owners of the Rio Tinto headquarters located in urban-Australia after learning that the site held special importance to the group who hold claim over the land. “We apologize to the traditional owners of the site,” explained a representative for the indigenous group, “and we hope that we can work together in the future to ensure that other mining-related artifacts aren’t destroyed without consultation with the corporation’s elders.” However, critics have pointed out that Rio Tinto was simply getting in the way of progress, with the P.A.C. acting well within their rights to explore for minerals underneath the skyscraper.


“We can’t seriously expect to just waste such precious resources because of some group that superstitiously believes that some rocks are valuable and are a source of power,” explained one Aboriginal expert with a degree in White Studies. “The reality is that at the end of the day, if we lost a few accounting books tracing the history of the company, that’s a small price to pay for progress.” Asked what they will be doing to make amends, the Aboriginal group said it all happened in the past, so instead of any meaningful action they will simply put up a plaque explaining why blowing up a building might be considered bad in hindsight, but also pointing out that people three hours ago held different views around these things so we shouldn’t judge them by the standards of the current time.

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Jan 232020
 
 January 23, 2020  Posted by at 10:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Jack Delano Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad locomotive shops San Bernardino, CA 1943

 

Adam Schiff’s Opening Argument At Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)
Gabbard Suing Clinton For Defamation Over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments (Hill)
Black South Carolina Elected Official Now Backing Sanders Over Biden (AP)
Hunter Biden Ordered To Appear In Court Next Week For Contempt Hearing (ZH)
UN Demands US Probe Of Alleged Saudi Hack of Bezos’ Phone (ZH)
The Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)
Ghislaine Maxwell’s Personal Emails Were Hacked (DM)
TEPCO Estimates It Will Take 44 Years To Decommission Fukushima No. 2 (JT)
Australia Red Cross: $11 Million ‘Administration Cost’ For Bushfire Help (7N)
Monarch Butterfly Population Critically Low On California Coast – Again (G.)

 

 

China Lunar New Year is from Jan 24-30. Hundreds of millions of Chinese traveling.

China Quarantines 11 Million In Wuhan As Virus Kills 17, With 95 Critical (RT)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has commended China’s swift response to a rapidly moving virus gripping the country, but despite a quick-climbing infection tally, the agency is reluctant to classify it a global health threat. “What they are doing is a very, very strong measure and with full commitment,” WHO director-general Tedros Ahanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday, referring to Beijing’s shutdown of all public transportation in and out of the city of Wuhan, the viral epicenter. As of 10am local time, all trains, buses, railways and ferries traveling to and from Wuhan have halted operations until further notice in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, with the government calling on the city’s 11 million residents to refrain from leaving without “special reasons.”

Medical personnel were also posted at toll gates and checkpoints along major roadways to screen commuters for the illness. The comments followed an emergency WHO meeting in Geneva on Wednesday, where the health agency mulled whether to declare the novel coronavirus – now dubbed “2019-nCoV” – a worldwide emergency. Still unsure after a day of deliberation, however, WHO will meet again Thursday, with Tedros saying he took the decision “extremely seriously.” China’s National Health Commission (NHC), meanwhile, has provided the latest figures tracking the impact of the dangerous pathogen, with 131 newly confirmed infections bringing the total to 571 across some 25 Chinese provinces.

Seventeen people have died from the illness thus far, all in central China’s Hubei province, with another 95 in critical condition with severe pneumonia-like symptoms. There are also now 393 suspected infections in China – 257 of them registered on Wednesday alone – with 5,897 additional cases of “close contact,” the NHC said.

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Couldn’t find any relevant write-ups of Schiff’s marathon, so here’s the text -not sure it covers all 3.28 minutes of it. But who cares? He had nothing new and what he had, he repeated 20+ times. Including the very dead: “The United States aids Ukraine and her people so that they can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

The Hunter Biden/Burisma story has not been debunked as Schiff repeats ad nauseum, what has been debunked -by Mueller- is Russiagate. But who cares?

Michael Tracey: “Counted at least 57 references to Russia or Putin in today’s impeachment trial which is why it’s a total fallacy to separate this episode from the Russiagate narrative which has dominated US politics for 3+ years. What’s happening now is just its inevitable culmination..”

Adam Schiff’s Opening Argument At Senate Impeachment Trial (Pol.)

Mr. Chief Justice, Senators, counsel for the President, and my fellow House managers: “When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”


Those words were written by Alexander Hamilton in a letter to President George Washington, at the height of the Panic of 1792, a financial credit crisis that shook our young nation. Hamilton was responding to sentiments relayed to Washington as he traveled the country, that America, in the face of that crisis, might descend from “a republican form of Government,” plunging instead into “that of a monarchy.” The Framers of our Constitution worried then—as we worry today—that a leader could come to power not to carry out the will of the people that he was elected to represent, but to pursue his own interests. They feared that a president could subvert our democracy by abusing the awesome power of his office for his own personal or political gain. And so they devised a remedy as powerful as the evil it was meant to combat: Impeachment.

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Go Tulsi. Someone has to break the DNC, or the Democrats are finished as a party..

Gabbard Suing Clinton For Defamation Over ‘Russian Asset’ Comments (Hill)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is suing Hillary Clinton for defamation over the former secretary of State’s remarks on a podcast characterizing the Democratic presidential candidate as a Russian asset. Gabbard filed the defamation lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Gabbard’s lawyers allege that Clinton’s comments have “smeared” Gabbard’s “political and personal reputation.” “Tulsi Gabbard is a loyal American civil servant who has also dedicated her life to protecting the safety of all Americans,” Gabbard’s lawyer Brian Dunne said in a statement. “Rep. Gabbard’s presidential campaign continues to gain momentum, but she has seen her political and personal reputation smeared and her candidacy intentionally damaged by Clinton’s malicious and demonstrably false remarks.”


Gabbard’s campaign referred all questions on the lawsuit to Dunne. In response to the lawsuit, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said “that’s ridiculous.” [..] The lawsuit claims that Clinton is a “cutthroat politician” and “sought retribution” for Gabbard endorsing Clinton’s 2016 Democratic primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Gabbard is now facing Sanders in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary. “Clinton’s false assertions were made in a deliberate attempt to derail Tulsi’s presidential campaign,” it says. Gabbard’s lawyers claim Clinton’s “peddling of this theory” has harmed Gabbard, voters and “American democracy.” “Tulsi brings this lawsuit to ensure that the truth prevails and to ensure this country’s political elites are held accountable for intentionally trying to distort the truth in the midst of a critical Presidential election,” the lawsuit says.

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No. 1 for DNC: dump Biden. He’s roadkill.

Black South Carolina Elected Official Now Backing Sanders Over Biden (AP)

A South Carolina elected official who endorsed Joe Biden last month is switching her allegiance to Bernie Sanders in the state’s first-in-the-South presidential primary, saying she had viewed the former vice president — whose support in the state is considered deep — as “a compromise choice.” Dalhi Myers told AP on Wednesday that she was making the change in part because she values what she sees as Sanders’ strength in being able to go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump in the general election. “I looked at that, and I thought, ‘He’s right,’” said Myers, a black woman first elected to the Richland County Council in 2016. “He’s unafraid and he’s unapologetic. … I like the fact that he is willing to fight for a better America — for the least, the fallen, the left behind.”


Sanders, a Vermont senator, frequently calls out what he sees as Trump’s dishonesty, referring on the campaign trail to the president as a “pathological liar.” Biden, whose relationships in South Carolina go back decades, has led polling in the state, particularly among the black voters who make up most of the state’s Democratic primary electorate. Sanders, whose 47-point loss to Hillary Clinton in 2016 in South Carolina blunted the momentum generated in opening primary contests and exposed his weakness with black voters, has focused on strengthening his ties in the state’s black community. In December, Myers, a corporate lawyer in Columbia, was among more than a dozen South Carolina elected officials to endorse Biden, saying at the time in a release from the Biden campaign that he was “the only candidate with the broad and diverse coalition of support we need to win” against Trump in the general election.

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No, really. Dump Biden.

Hunter Biden Ordered To Appear In Court Next Week For Contempt Hearing (ZH)

Hunter Biden has been ordered to stand in front of an Arkansas judge next Tuedsay to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for failing to produce a laundry list of financial and personal information in his ongoing child support dispute with stripper Lunden Alexis Roberts. Roberts asked the court on Tuesday to hold Biden in contempt for failing to disclose financial information, contact information, and “a list of all companies he currently owns or in which he has an ownership interest,” as well as “all companies in which he has had an ownership interest in the past five years.” Also sought are a copy of Biden’s 2017 and 2018 tax returns, deeds to properties he owns, and an executed copy of a financial records release Biden has been avoiding filing unless the court allows him to do so under seal.


“The defendant continues to act as though he has no respect for this Court, its orders, the legal process in this state, or the needs of his child for support,” reads the filing, which adds “This is but another example of the defendant’s unnecessary actions to frustrate prompt adjudication of this matter and increase the plaintiff’s litigation costs.” Circuit Court Judge Holly Meyer agreed, ordering Biden to appear in person to explain his failure to produce the requested information which was due in August, 2019. In November, a DNA test revealed Hunter to be the father of the unnamed child with Roberts. In order to determine what Biden can cough up, Roberts has sought extensive financial records for periods which include his time on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was the Obama administration’s point-man on Ukraine.

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Still don’t quite get this. Did MbS pose as a Nigerian prince? Will the UN get involved if your phone is hacked? Are the UN and Bezos trying to seek vengeance for Khashoggi in a roundabout way?

UN Demands US Probe Of Alleged Saudi Hack of Bezos’ Phone (ZH)

Despite the Saudi Embassy’s denial of the “absurd” claims that MbS hacked Jeff Bezos’ phone, United Nations experts have called for an “immediate investigation” by the United States. Independent experts Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions and extrajudicial killings, and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, said in a statement Wednesday: “The information we have received suggests the possible involvement of the Crown Prince in surveillance of Mr. Bezos, in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia.” “The circumstances and timing of the hacking and surveillance of Bezos also strengthen support for further investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities of the allegations that the Crown Prince ordered, incited, or, at a minimum, was aware of planning for but failed to stop the mission that fatally targeted Mr. Khashoggi in Istanbul.”


“The alleged hacking of Mr. Bezos’s phone, and those of others, demands immediate investigation by U.S. and other relevant authorities, including investigation of the continuous, multi-year, direct and personal involvement of the Crown Prince in efforts to target perceived opponents.” The U.N. experts reviewed a 2019 digital forensic analysis of Bezos’ iPhone, which they said was made available to them as U.N. Special Rapporteurs. The experts said that records showed that within hours of receipt of a video from the crown Pprince’s WhatsApp account, there was “an anomalous and extreme change in phone behavior” with enormous amounts of data from the phone being transmitted over the following months.

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Oh cut it out.

Boeing CEO Expects To Resume 737 MAX Production Before Mid-Year (R.)

Boeing Chief Executive Dave Calhoun told reporters on Wednesday the U.S. planemaker expects to resume 737 MAX production months before its forecasted mid-year return to service and said it did not plan to suspend or cut its dividend. The company announced a production halt in December, when the global grounding of the fast-selling 737 MAX following two deadly crashes in five months looked set to last into mid-2020 — a timeline pushed back after Boeing endorsed new simulator training for pilots. Calhoun said the company is not considering scrapping the MAX and expects it will continue to fly for a generation.


“I am all in on it and the company is all in on it,” Calhoun said, adding Boeing will not launch a marketing campaign to get customers to get back on 737 MAX planes. The company said on Tuesday it now expects regulators to approve the plane’s return to service in the middle of the year. Calhoun said he did not see recent issues raised about wiring or software as “serious problems.” The production delay threatens to cut U.S. GDP by as much as 0.5 percentage points. President Donald Trump on Wednesday told CNBC Boeing is a “very disappointing company.” United Airlines said Wednesday it does not expect to fly the Boeing 737 MAX this summer.

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Subtitle: US Fracking Gushes Bankruptcies, Defaulted Debt, and Worthless Shares

The Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust (WS)

Following the sharp re-drop in oil and natural gas prices in late 2018, bankruptcy filings in the US by already weakened exploration and production companies , oilfield services companies, and “midstream” companies (they gather, transport, process, or store oil and natural gas) jumped by 51% in 2019, to 65 filings, according to data compiled by law firm Haynes and Boone. This brought the total of the Great American Shale Oil & Gas Bust since 2015 in these three sectors to 402 bankruptcy filings. The debt involved in these bankruptcies in 2019 doubled from 2018 to $35 billion. This pushed the total debt listed in these bankruptcy filings since 2015 to $207 billion. The chart below shows the cumulative total debt involved in these bankruptcies since 2015.

But this does not include the much larger losses suffered by shareholders that get mostly wiped out in the years before the bankruptcy as the shares descend into worthlessness, and that then may get finished off in bankruptcy court. The banks, which generally had the best collateral, took the smallest losses; bondholders took bigger losses, with unsecured bondholders taking the biggest losses. Some of them lost most of their investment; others got high-and-tight haircuts; others held debt that was converted to equity in the restructured companies, some of which soon became worthless again when the company filed for bankruptcy a second time. The old shareholders took the biggest losses.


The Great American Fracking Bust started in mid-2014, when the price of WTI dropped from over $100 a barrel to below $30 a barrel by early 2016. Then the price began to recover, going over $70 a barrel in September and October 2018. But then it began to re-plunge. By the end of 2018, WTI had dropped to $47 a barrel. [..]

And 2020 is starting out terrible for natural gas producers. The price of natural gas has plunged to $1.90 per million Btu at the moment, a dreadfully low price where no one can make any money. Producers in shale fields that produce mostly gas, such as the Marcellus, are in deeper trouble still, because oil, even at these prices, would be a lot better than just natural gas. Producing areas with constrained takeaway capacity (it takes a lot longer to build pipelines than to ramp up production) are subject to local prices, which can be lower still. In some areas, such as the Permian in Texas and New Mexico, the most prolific oil field in the US, where natural gas is a byproduct of oil production, limited takeaway capacity has caused local prices to collapse, and flaring to surge.

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Sent to WIkiLeaks yet?

Ghislaine Maxwell’s Personal Emails Were Hacked (DM)

Ghislaine Maxwell’s personal emails have been hacked, and damaging information, including the names of individuals linked to Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking case, are at risk of being publicly released. The revelation was made in a letter filed by the British socialite’s lawyers in the defamation case brought against her by Jeffrey Epstein accuser Virginia Guiffre, DailyMail.com has learned. The letter was sent by Maxwell’s attorney, Ty Gee, on December 5 to New York federal court Judge Loretta A. Preska but made public last week. The letter addresses the materials that should remain sealed or redacted in the case. It notes ‘the difficulty and complexity’ of the process as there are more than 8,600 pages, adding that it is ‘difficult-to-overstate importance to the lives of Ms. Maxwell and the non-parties’.

Gee’s letter says that the project ‘could not be accomplished by scanning or speed-reading’ as each page had to be carefully analysed to redact, for example, ‘a surname or an email address’. He refers to details that were released in error in the 2,000 pages that were made public in August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Those filings revealed allegations that Maxwell procured underage girls for Epstein. She has denied those charges. ‘Despite the Second Circuit’s best efforts, it made serious mistakes. For example, it redacted a non-party’s name in one location but not another; so the media immediately gained access to that name,’ Gee wrote.

‘As another example, it redacted Ms. Maxwell’s email address (which linked to her own domain name) in one location but not another; shortly afterward hackers breached the host computer.’ The hack may have implications for Prince Andrew after it was revealed in December that the Duke of York exchanged emails with Maxwell in 2015 about Giuffre. In that email, revealed on Panorama, Maxwell and the British royal discussed Giuffre – despite denials from Prince Andrew that he had never met the then-teenager and that a photo of them together was a fake. ‘Let me know when we can talk. Got some specific questions to ask you about Virginia Roberts,’ Prince Andrew wrote in an email to Maxwell. She replied: ‘Have some info – call me when you have a moment.’

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Make that 70.

TEPCO Estimates It Will Take 44 Years To Decommission Fukushima No. 2 (JT)

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. has outlined plans for the decommissioning of its Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power station, estimating that the process will take 44 years. Tepco presented the outline of decommissioning plans to the town assembly of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, one of the two host towns of the nuclear plant, on Wednesday. According to the outline, the decommissioning process will have four stages, taking 10 years for the first stage, 12 years for the second stage and 11 years each for the third and fourth stages.


Tepco will survey radioactive contamination at the nuclear plant in the first stage, clear equipment around nuclear reactors in the second, remove the reactors in the third and demolish the reactor buildings in the fourth. Meanwhile, the plant operator will transfer a total of 9,532 spent nuclear fuel units at the plant to a fuel reprocessing company by the end of the decommissioning process, and 544 unused fuel units to a processing firm by the start of the third stage.

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Like it behooves a major charity. When interviewing such a CEO, always ask what their salaries are.

Australia Red Cross: $11 Million ‘Administration Cost’ For Bushfire Help (7N)

The Australian Red Cross has admitted it may spend as much as $11 million processing the millions of dollars people from across the globe have donated to its bushfire appeal. However, in the face of public outcry, the charity has been forced to revise an earlier statement that suggested a large proportion of the $95 million raised could be quarantined for future natural disasters. The charity also pledged on Thursday to speed up the rate of its delivery of emergency funds to bushfire ravaged communities. “We’re now paying a million dollars a day and we’re keen to continue to speed that up, we know the assistance is needed now,” Red Cross’s director of emergencies, Noel Clement, told 7 NEWS.


Clement said the charity had already dispensed 700 grants of $10,000 each, totalling $7 million. He conceded however that of the revised total of $115 million donated so far – up from yesterday’s figure of $95 million – as much as $11 million could be spent on administration costs. Such a figure – roughly 10 per cent of total revenue raised – is generally considered to be the uppermost limit of acceptable administrative costs among large charitable organisations.

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1980s: 4.5 million. 2019: 29,000.

Monarch Butterfly Population Critically Low On California Coast – Again (G.)

The western monarch butterfly population wintering along California’s coast remains critically low for the second year in a row, a count by an environmental group released Thursday showed. The count of the orange-and-black insects by the Xerces Society, a not-for-profit environmental organization that focuses on the conservation of invertebrates, recorded about 29,000 butterflies in its annual survey. That’s not much different than last year’s tally, when an all-time low 27,000 monarchs were counted. “We had hoped that the western monarch population would have rebounded at least modestly, but unfortunately it has not,” said Emma Pelton, a monarch conservation expert with the Xerces Society.


By comparison, about 4.5 million monarch butterflies wintered in forested groves along the California coast in the 1980s. Scientists say the butterflies are at critically low levels in the Western US due to the destruction of their milkweed habitat along their migratory route as housing expands into their territory and use of pesticides and herbicides increases. Researchers also have noted the effect of climate change. Along with farming, climate change is one of the main drivers of the monarch’s threatened extinction, disrupting an annual 3,000-mile migration synced to springtime and the blossoming of wildflowers.


Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

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Jul 302019
 
 July 30, 2019  Posted by at 9:28 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Odilon Redon The winged man (The fallen angel) 1880

 

Pound Worth Just 85 Euro Cents At UK Airports (Ind.)
Boris Johnson Refuses To Meet EU Leaders Unless They Scrap Backstop (G.)
EU Rejects Dominic Raab’s ‘Easier’ No-Deal Brexit Claim (G.)
Boris Johnson’s New Brexit Chief Wants To Scrap Workers’ Rights (Ind.)
Things to Come (Kunstler)
Fake Cash, Fake Accounting: China Regulators Halt 46 IPOs, Bond Offerings (WS)
US Firms See Little Clarity On Huawei As US-China Talks Resume (R.)
Capital One: Information Of Over 100 Million People In US, Canada Hacked (R.)
The World is Not Enough (Statista)
Lost Cities and Climate Change (SciAm)

 

 

In currency markets, sterling is still worth 10% more than the euro, not 15% less. Three years ago it was worth 25% more. Scary to think what a no-deal Brexit could do. Well, unless you’re a short seller.

Pound Worth Just 85 Euro Cents At UK Airports (Ind.)

The pound has sunk well below €1 at Britain’s biggest airports – while the dollar is at parity. At the ICE desk at Heathrow airport on Tuesday morning, The Independent was quoted £117 for buying €100 – making each pound worth just 85 euro cents. At Gatwick airport on Monday night, the rate was £1 = €0.90. With commission added to a €100 transaction, the cost in sterling was £116. The interbank rate at 7am sank below £1 = €1.09, as the downward pressure on the pound continued. The currency market has marked down sterling as the prospect of a no-deal Brexit appears increasingly likely. At the peak of the holiday season, prices for British travellers will be at a two-year high.


The best rates for the euro found by The Independent were for “click and collect” transactions at London bureaux de change: €1.08 at branches of Thomas Exchange Global or ICE at Waterloo station. The interbank rate for dollars was £1 = $1.21, but Moneycorp at Gatwick airport was quoting parity: £1 = $1. Anyone changing £1,000 into the US currency and immediately back to sterling would lose over one-third of their money, receiving just £648.

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I don’t see how they could scrap the backstop, Brussels must stand up for its member state, Ireland. No choice. For Brussels, Ireland is a full-fledged nation. For London, it still doesn’t appear to be.

Boris Johnson Refuses To Meet EU Leaders Unless They Scrap Backstop (G.)

Boris Johnson is refusing to sit down for talks with EU leaders until they agree to ditch the Irish backstop from the Brexit withdrawal agreement, despite invitations to meetings from the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron. His official spokeswoman said the prime minister had made clear that he wanted to strike a deal, but that there was no point in holding face-to-face talks unless the EU agreed to reopen the agreement. But on a visit to the Trident nuclear base at Faslane in Scotland on Monday, Johnson painted a more optimistic picture of the prospects for talks, telling reporters there was “ample scope” to achieve a new deal.

He said: “We are not aiming for a no-deal Brexit at all. What we want is to get a deal and I’ve had some interesting conversations with our European partners. I’ve talked to [the European commission president] Jean-Claude [Juncker] and Angela Merkel and we’re reaching out today to [the Irish prime minister] Leo Varadkar. The feeling is, yes there’s no change in their position, but it’s very, very positive.” But he added: “They all know where we are: we can’t accept the backstop, it was thrown out three times, the withdrawal agreement as it stands is dead and everybody gets that. But there is ample scope to do a new deal and a better deal.”

While Johnson has spoken to Merkel and Macron, there are no plans to accept their invitations to visit without a change in their position on the backstop. Irish officials are understood to view the delay in contacting Varadkar as indicative of an unwillingness to enter serious talks. Varadkar is adamant that the backstop must stay to prevent a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland and preserve the integrity of the single market.

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Blame Games ‘R’ Us.

EU Rejects Dominic Raab’s ‘Easier’ No-Deal Brexit Claim (G.)

European Union officials have rejected Dominic Raab’s claim that negotiating a free-trade deal would be “much easier” after a no-deal Brexit. While the foreign secretary contends that leaving the EU without an agreement would ease the way to solving the disputed Irish border question, European sources fear a no-deal Brexit would trigger an acrimonious blame game. “It would mean the complete breakdown of political relations and I don’t think there would be much trust on the EU side with the Tories, or with the prime minister,” a senior diplomat said. “Eventually we would get around it because we are pragmatic, but this would be really, really bad, because of all the rhetoric around blaming.”


A second diplomat, speaking before Raab’s intervention, argued that all contact would cease after a no-deal Brexit. “Our phones will not be connected at that time … I don’t think they will be connected to someone who has reneged on their obligations,” they said. European officials agree that a precondition of talks would be a British pledge to honour the three core parts of the withdrawal agreement – citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the financial settlement. At the weekend, the EU budget commissioner, Günther Oettinger, told Der Tagesspiegel the UK’s credit rating would be hit if Boris Johnson carried out his threat not to honour payments promised to the EU. Tanja Fajon, the Social Democrat member of the European parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said: “To negotiate a free trade agreement usually takes years and I believe the UK doesn’t have that time after a no-deal Brexit.”

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The UK has been instrumental in defining EU law for 40 years. Now they want to cherry-pick? That would put any future trade deals at risk. Unfair competition.

Boris Johnson’s New Brexit Chief Wants To Scrap Workers’ Rights (Ind.)

Boris Johnson’s new Brexit chief wants to scrap Theresa May’s commitment to protect British workers’ rights, and has suggested Brexit is an opportunity to escape the EU’s “heavy labour market regulation”, The Independent can reveal. Just two months ago David Frost said he was opposed to the approach advocated “by the leaders of both major political parties”, and argued that EU rights should not automatically be written into law after Brexit. Mr Frost, former chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was appointed last week by Mr Johnson to replace Olly Robbins as Downing Street’s EU chief, a role that will see him leading any future talks with Brussels.

“Business organisations have often in the past criticised the EU’s drift towards heavy labour market regulation,” Mr Frost said in May 2019 in an article reproduced on the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry website. “So I will take some persuading it will be a good outcome if the EU is able to set new UK labour market rules without any UK say – as currently seems to be envisaged by the leaders of both major political parties.” Theresa May committed the government to maintaining the current level of European Union workers rights, and also went even further, legislating for parliament to automatically be given votes on staying aligned with the bloc’s rules when future legislation emerges.

The “dynamic alignment” plans were unveiled by the government in a failed bid to get Labour MPs to back the withdrawal agreement. Additionally, during the transition period included in the withdrawal agreement, the UK would have to accept rights with no say at all, as rejected by Mr Frost. Brussels has also suggested the UK would have to stay aligned with future EU workers’ rights, as well as environmental and social legislation, past the end of the transition period – if it wants a trade agreement. Chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said the bloc would seek non-regression clauses to ensure Britain does not backslide on rules and try to undercut its neighbours.

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“Now, there is just suspicion that we’ve reached the limits of borrowing. Soon it will be a fact and that fact will upend everything we’ve been doing. ”

Things to Come (Kunstler)

The economic contraction ahead will put this borderline psychotic country through some interesting ch-ch-ch-changes. Mr. Trump now fully owns the Potemkin status quo of record stock markets poised against a withering rot of human capital at the core of an industrial society in sunset mode. Leadership at every corner of American life — politics, business, media — expects an ever-higher tech magical updraft of fortune from an increasingly holographic economy of mere fugitive appearances in which everybody can get more of something for nothing. The disappointment over how all this works out will be epic.

Globalism is wobbling badly. It was never what it was cracked up to be: a permanent new plateau of exquisitely-tuned international economic cooperation engineered to perfection. It was just a set of provisional relations based on transient advantage. As it turned out, every move that advantaged US-based corporations blew back ferociously on the American public and the long-term integrity of the social order. Sinister as it seems, the process was simply emergent: a self-organizing evolution of forces previously set in motion. And, like a lot of things in history, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

“Off-shoring” US industry jacked up corporate profits while it decimated working class livelihoods. In return, that large demographic got “bargain shopping” at Walmart, a life of ever-upward revolving debt, and dead downtowns. The country got gigantic trade deficits and government debt loads. In effect, globalism compelled America to borrow as much as possible from the future to keep running things the way they were set up to run. Now, there is just suspicion that we’ve reached the limits of borrowing. Soon it will be a fact and that fact will upend everything we’ve been doing.

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What is real in China?

Fake Cash, Fake Accounting: China Regulators Halt 46 IPOs, Bond Offerings (WS)

On Monday, Jinhe Biotechnology and Liande Automatic Equipment disclosed in filings that they had been ordered by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) to suspend their plans to sell bonds. On Sunday night, four companies — Hunan Baili Engineering Sci&Tech, Jiaao Enprotech Stock, MLS Co., and Woer Heat-Shrinkable Material Co. – disclosed in filings that they had been ordered by the CSRC to suspend their IPOs in Shanghai and Shenzhen. Regulators also stopped four IPOs on Shanghai’s Star Market, which itself debuted just last week with great fanfare. The 25 stocks listed on it gained 140% on the very first day, followed by steep declines the second day.


[..] On Sunday, two companies disclosed that their bond offerings were stopped by regulators, according to Yicai. On Friday, seven companies disclosed that their bond offerings have been halted. In total, regulators suspended 46 IPOs and bond offerings, based on filings made at the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges, including Shanghai’s Star Market, as of Monday, according to the South China Morning Post. The reason: these companies had chosen Ruihua Certified Public Accountants as their auditors. Ruihua, the second largest audit firm in China, has been embroiled in scandals involving large amounts of fake data, including fake cash, on its clients’ books. The fakeness of this cash became obvious when these companies defaulted on debt that they could have easily serviced with the cash they claimed to have on their books but didn’t. And Ruihua had just signed off on those fake books.

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“..the department has yet to respond to any of a total of around 50 license requests from about 35 companies..”

US Firms See Little Clarity On Huawei As US-China Talks Resume (R.)

A month after President Donald Trump said he would allow U.S. companies to resume selling to blacklisted Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei HWT.UL, his administration has done little to clarify what sales will be permitted. The lack of clarity on what U.S. firms can supply to the world’s top producer of telecommunications equipment as long as it’s on a so-called “entity list” is likely to cast a shadow over this week’s U.S.-China trade negotiations in Shanghai. Trump had pledged to allow the sales as a goodwill gesture to President Xi Jinping when the two met last month and agreed to restart talks to try to resolve their year-long trade war.


China, for its part, agreed to restart large-scale agricultural purchases. U.S. chipmakers cheered Trump’s announcement, which administration officials clarified afterwards meant the government would issue export licenses in cases where there is no national security risk and where the items are “non-sensitive” and readily replaced by rivals. But the department has yet to respond to any of a total of around 50 license requests from about 35 companies, sowing uncertainty in the industry and in Beijing. “At this stage, there is mass confusion,” said William Reinsch, a former Commerce official, adding that the plan for case-by-case decisions “maximizes the uncertainty.”

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No information is safe.

Capital One: Information Of Over 100 Million People In US, Canada Hacked (R.)

Capital One Financial Corp said on Monday that personal information including names and addresses of about 100 million individuals in the United States and 6 million people in Canada were obtained by a hacker who has been arrested. The suspect, a 33-year-old former Seattle technology company software engineer identified as Paige Thompson, made her initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. According to a complaint filed in the District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle, Thompson posted information from her hack, which occurred between March 12 and July 17, on coding platform GitHub. Another user saw the post and notified Capital One of the breach.


Law enforcement officials were able to track Thompson down as the page she posted on contained her full name as part of its digital address, the complaint said. Capital One said it identified the hack on July 19. A representative for the U.S. Attorney’s office said it was not immediately clear what the suspect’s motive was. The incident is expected to cost between $100 million and $150 million in 2019, mainly because of customer notifications, credit monitoring and legal support, Capital One said. The hacker did not gain access to credit card account numbers, but about 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 linked bank account numbers were compromised, Capital One said. Other personal information accessed included phone numbers and credit scores.

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Are we immune to this yet?

The World is Not Enough (Statista)

Earth Overshoot Day came on July 29 this year. This is the second time the day, which marks the time at which humanity has used up its allotment of natural planetary resources for the year, occurred in the month. It had occurred in August between 2010 and 2017. The day, whose existence is highlighted by the NGO Global Footprint Network, means that all humans on Earth for this year have already used up more natural resources than mother nature can reproduce annually. Emissions, but also of resources like wood or fish and the use of land for crops, are among the things counted in when calculating Earth Overshoot Day.


Industrialized nations have the biggest share in pushing its date forward, as seen in the organization’s country profiles. The U.S. is the biggest offender. If all nations lived like U.S. residents, the resources of five Earths would be needed each year in order for the natural environment to regenerate. The U.S. overshoot day is therefore on March 15. Australia, which had been ahead of the U.S. for some years, now had its overshoot day on March 31, with 4.1 “Earths” used annually. India was among the countries whose style of living would use up less than a whole Earth each year if practiced globally, which also has to do with poverty still being widespread in the country.

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“The scariest thing about climate change is what it will make us do to each other.”

Lost Cities and Climate Change (SciAm)

Not far from my grandmother’s house is a ghost city. At Angel Mounds on the Ohio river about eight miles west of Evansville, there are a few visible earthworks and a reconstructed wattle-and-daub barrier. There is almost nothing left of the people who build these mounds; in a final insulting erasure, the site is now named after the white settler family who most recently farmed the land. There are traces of other dead villages along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, mounds scattered from present-day Indiana to Arkansas and Alabama. In southern Illinois, a few miles from the Missouri border, hidden among empty corn and soy fields, is the center of that dead civilization’s gravity: the lost city of Cahokia.

Cahokia was larger than London, centrally planned, the Manhattan of its day. Most people there would have come from somewhere else. There were defensive foundations, playing fields, and a magnificent temple. There would have been sacred ceremonies and salacious gossip. It must have been a very exciting place to live. And then, relatively abruptly, it ceased to exist. We know of the city only because of the physical traces left behind. Few stories of Cahokia have survived; it disappeared from oral tradition, as if whatever happened to it is best forgotten. The archaeological record shows traces of the desperation and bloodshed that almost always accompany great upheavals: skeletons with bound hands, pits full of strangled young women.

The North American Drought Atlas, a historical record of climate conditions pieced together from the rings of old trees, provides a hint of what might have happened. The tenth century CE, when the Cahokia civilization would have developed, marked a distinct shift in the regional climate from persistent drought to rainier conditions more suitable for agriculture, centralization, and civilization. But the good times were not to last. In the middle of the fourteenth century, the climate swung back toward drought. This shift was likely associated with shifting temperature patterns in the ocean that affected the jet stream, pulling cool air down from the Arctic and displacing rainfall patterns.

These changes are attributable to some combination of natural internal climate variability and externally forced changes from solar activity and increased volcanic eruptions. Their effects were profound. In Europe around the same time, a confluence of natural factors perhaps related and perhaps separate from the forces drying out the Mississippi Valley caused it to rain heavily in the summer of 1314. The rains continued into the winter, and then into the next year, and then the next. Crops rotted in the fields, and the entire continent went hungry. Contemporaneous historical records complain of rain and famine, villages forced to eat dogs and cats, the dead, and even each other.

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Sep 082017
 
 September 8, 2017  Posted by at 9:29 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Irma heads for Florida

 

Irma Heads For Florida (R.)
Magnitude 8.4 Earthquake Strikes Off Mexico’s Southern Coast (DW)
Worst US Consumer Data Hack Ever? Equifax Confesses (WS)
Consumer Credit & The American Conundrum (Roberts)
Low Interest Rates Major Source Of Concern – German Financial Watchdog (CNBC)
Japan’s April-June Economic Growth Much Slower Than Preliminary Reading (R.)
The North Korean Endgame is Playing Out Now – Rickards (DR)
Theresa May Apponts Cronies In ‘Sweeping Power Grab’ (Ind.)
At Democracy’s Birthplace, Macron Dreams Of Europe 2.0 (AP)

 

 

650,000 mandatory evacuations. But gas shortages make it hard to get away. Irma is twice the size of hurricane Andrew.

Irma Heads For Florida (R.)

The eye of Hurricane Irma grazed the Turks and Caicos Islands on Thursday, rattling buildings after it smashed a string of Caribbean islands as one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, killing 14 people on its way to Florida. With winds of around 185 miles per hour (290 km per hour), the storm the size of France has ravaged small islands in the northeast Caribbean in recent days, including Barbuda, Saint Martin and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, ripping down trees and flattening homes and hospitals. Winds dipped on Thursday to 165 mph as Irma soaked the northern coasts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti and brought hurricane-force winds to the Turks and Caicos Islands. It remained an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm, the highest designation by the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Irma was about 55 miles (85 km) south of Great Inagua Island and is expected to bring 20-foot (6-m) storm surges to the Bahamas, before moving to Cuba and ploughing into southern Florida as a very powerful Category 4 on Sunday, with storm surges and flooding due to begin within the next 48 hours. Across the Caribbean authorities rushed to evacuate tens of thousands of residents and tourists. On islands in its wake, shocked locals tried to comprehend the extent of the devastation while simultaneously preparing for another major hurricane, Jose, now a Category 3 and due to hit the northeastern Caribbean on Saturday.

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“Mexico earthquake is most powerful to hit the country in a century, president says”

Magnitude 8.4 Earthquake Strikes Off Mexico’s Southern Coast (DW)

The quake struck late on Thursday, and was recorded as a magnitude 8.4 on the Richter scale according to Mexico’s National Seismological Service. Government officials said that at least five people died in the country’s south. The US Tsunami Warning Center has cautioned that widespread, devastating tidal waves were possible on Mexico’s coast, as well as in Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and Ecuador. Shortly thereafter, authorities reported a tsunami was indeed headed towards the coast, fortunately only 0.7 meters (2.3 feet) tall. While there were no immediate reports of major damage, Mexico’s civil protection agency reported that it was the strongest tremor to hit the country since a 1985 earthquake that killed thousands and destroyed entire buildings.

Its epicenter was about 123 km (76 miles) south of the town of Pijijiapan in Chiapas state, but the shock was felt as far away as Mexico City, sending residents fleeing swaying buildings and knocking out electricity in parts of the city. The quake was also felt in much of Guatemala, which borders Chiapas. Civil Defense officials wrote on Twitter that their personnel were patrolling the streets in Chiapas aiding residents and looking for damage. They also issued a warning for aftershocks, several of which themselves registered a 5.0 magnitude according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). Chiapas Governor Manuel Velasco told broadcaster Televisa some homes had been damaged and a shopping center had collapsed in the town of San Cristobal. “Homes, schools and hospitals have been affected,” Velasco said.

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The execs delayed reporting the hack so they could offload their shares. Why are these guys walking around free?

Worst US Consumer Data Hack Ever? Equifax Confesses (WS)

Equifax, as a consumer credit bureau, collects financial, credit, and other data on every US consumer. It has names, birth dates, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, mortgage data, and payment history data, including to utilities, wireless service providers, and the like. It collects data on bank balances, loan balances, credit card balances, credit card purchases, and myriad personal details. It has massive digital dossiers on every consumer in the US and in some other countries. And it sells this data to other companies, such as banks, credit card companies, car dealerships, retailers, and others, as a routine part of its business model. That’s how it makes money. But when someone breaks in and steals this data without paying Equifax for it, well, that’s a huge deal. And it is.

Turns out, Equifax got hacked – um, no, not today. Today it disclosed that it had discovered on July 29 – six weeks ago – that it had been hacked sometime between “mid-May through July,” and that key data on 143 million US consumers was stolen. There was no need to notify consumers right away. They’re screwed anyway. But it gave executives enough time to sell 2 million shares between the discovery of the hack and today, when they crashed 13% in late trading. Given the quantity and sensitivity of the stolen data, it may well be the biggest and worst breach in US history. That stolen data “primarily includes”:• Names • Social Security numbers • Birth dates • Addresses • “In some instances,” driver’s license numbers.

In addition, the stolen data includes: • Credit card numbers of around 209,000 US consumers • “Certain dispute documents with personal identifying information” of around 182,000 US consumers. • “Limited personal information for certain UK and Canadian residents.” This is the kind of information with which identities can be stolen and money can be borrowed in your name. Those data points are the crown jewels for hackers.

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It has all been built on debt for decades.

Consumer Credit & The American Conundrum (Roberts)

Under more normal circumstances rising consumer credit would mean more consumption. The rise in consumption should, in theory, led to stronger rates of economic growth. I say, in theory, only because the data doesn’t support the claim. Prior to 1980, when the amount of debt used to support consumption was fairly stagnant, the economy, wages, and personal consumption expanded. However, as I noted previously, that all changed with financial deregulation in the early 80’s which fostered three generations of debt driven excesses. In the past, if they wanted to expand their consumption beyond the constraint of incomes they turned to credit in order to leverage their consumptive purchasing power. Steadily declining interest rates and lax lending standards put excess credit in the hands of every American. (Seriously, my dog Jake got a Visa in 1999 with a $5000 credit limit) .

This is why during the 80’s and 90’s, as the ease of credit permeated its way through the system, the standard of living seemingly rose in America even while economic growth rate slowed in America along with incomes. Therefore, as the gap between the “desired” living standard and disposable income expanded it led to a decrease in the personal savings rates and increase in leverage. It is a simple function of math. But the following chart shows why this has likely come to the inevitable conclusion, and why tax cuts and reforms are unlikely to spur higher rates of economic growth.

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Draghi has a fight on his hands. And he’s going to lose it.

Low Interest Rates Major Source Of Concern – German Financial Watchdog (CNBC)

The continued low interest environment in key markets such as Europe, the U.S. and the U.K. is a “major source of concern”, according to Felix Hufeld, the president of the German financial regulatory authority. Alluding to the results of a recent survey, the authority over which he presides carried out alongside staff at Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, Hufeld described the effect on domestic banks. “The impact is massive and is creeping into the balance sheets more and more. The longer it continues, the higher the risk for a change of interest rates is increasing as well,” he warned, speaking from the Handelsblatt annual banking summit in Frankfurt on Thursday. His wariness comes despite his acknowledgment that the banking system has become much more solid than it was 10 years ago when the financial crisis broke out.

“Both the amount as well as the quality of capital has been massively increased. Risk management procedures have been improved, governance procedures have been improved. Remuneration has been curbed – so all sorts of things – a very wide range of things have been done,” he explained before sounding a note of caution. “But one thing should be clear – no regulatory system and no financial market in the world is invulnerable. There can be and there will be new crises coming up somewhere in the future,” Hufeld declared, pointing to real estate as the most notable cause for concern. The BaFin president’s comments echoed those of fellow Handelsblatt summit participants such as Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan and Goldman Sachs’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Cryan joined Hufeld in warning of the possibility of bubbles forming in certain asset classes, adding, “If you look at the higher risk end of the market, I don’t think you get the right reward for the risk you’re taking right now.”

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What a surprise.

Japan’s April-June Economic Growth Much Slower Than Preliminary Reading (R.)

Japan’s economic growth in the second quarter was much slower than seen in a stellar preliminary reading, government data showed on Friday, confounding hopes for a long awaited pick-up in domestic demand. The downgrade was widely expected after data used to revise gross domestic product figures showed capital spending in April-June rose at a slower annual pace than the previous quarter. While the disappointing data may weaken confidence in the government’s economic policies and the business outlook, analysts still expect the economy to sustain a steady recovery as robust global demand underpins exports and a tightening job market improves the prospects for higher wages.

Japan’s economy, the world’s third largest, expanded at an annualized rate of 2.5% in the April-June quarter, less than the initial estimate of annualized 4.0% growth, Cabinet Office data showed. That was also lower than a median market forecast for a revision to a 2.9%. On the quarter, the economy grew a revised 0.6% in real, price-adjusted terms, against a preliminary reading of a 1.0% increase and the median estimate of a 0.7% expansion. Capital expenditure, a key component of GDP, rose 0.5% for the quarter, marked down from the preliminary estimate of a 2.4% increase.

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“The United States is facing a six month window to act and I believe they will.”

The North Korean Endgame is Playing Out Now – Rickards (DR)

“North Korea has already beaten the world to the punch. They’ve been building up their strategic oil reserves. What that means is they have an estimated year’s worth of held in reserve and China has played a role in these things in the past.” “The area that would be effective for a reactionary measure would be for the United States to exclude the People’s Bank of China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and some of the other major Chinese banks from within the U.S dollar payment systems. The U.S could completely shut down the U.S operations.” “Ultimately, the Chinese are facilitating the North Korean finance. The move would be a kind of sanction with bite behind it. My expectation would be that China wouldn’t necessarily put pressure on North Korea. In reaction we could see escalation of further sanctions from the Chinese against the United States leaving for a trade and financial war without solving the North Korean situation.”

“Currently, North Korea is in what is classified as a ‘break out.’ Under typical nuclear development phases, we’ve normally seen countries that are cheating on nuclear development programs complete their operations in baby steps. In the process they proceed gradually and when they do draw attention will stall programs until beginning again at a later date. North Korea has put that pattern aside and is in complete breakout.” “To give a U.S football comparison, they’re in the red zone and the quarterback is simply about to throw a pass into the end zone. The leader of North Korea is going for it and not hiding anything. The leadership in North Korea is hoping that the United States is bluffing and that they will be able to get a serviceable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a hydrogen bomb that could threaten or destroy Los Angeles before the U.S could do anything. The United States is facing a six month window to act and I believe they will.”

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The mess keeps getting bigger.

Theresa May Apponts Cronies In ‘Sweeping Power Grab’ (Ind.)

Theresa May is poised to make an unprecedented attempt to fix the parliamentary system, allowing her to grab sweeping powers ahead of Brexit, The Independent can reveal. A late-night Commons vote to secure the Conservatives the muscle to use so-called “Henry VIII powers” to make new laws – behind the backs of MPs – will be staged next week. The move has been disguised on the Commons order paper under the innocuous description of “motions relating to House business”, but will be a decisive act in the Brexit process. It will allow the Tories to pack a crucial Commons committee with their own MPs, in defiance of Parliament’s rules, in order to carry out the power grab. To win the vote, the Conservatives will need the backing of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), under the much-criticised “cash-for-votes” deal that props up Ms May in power.

Opposition parties immediately accused the Prime Minister of a bid to “sideline Parliament and grant ministers unprecedented powers” – despite promises to restore sovereignty to MPs. “This is an unprecedented power grab by a minority government that lost its moral authority as well as its majority at the general election,” Valerie Vaz, Labour’s Shadow Commons Leader, told The Independent. And Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat chief whip, said: “The Tories seem determined to ram through their destructive hard Brexit even though they have no mandate for it.” The bid to seize control of the Committee of Selection comes despite unequivocal advice from parliamentary officials that the Tories must not do so, after losing their Commons majority at the election. Without the fix, it would be impossible to force through up to 1,000 “corrections” to EU law as intended through the EU (Withdrawal) Bill – the reason for the accusations of a power grab.

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Europe 2.0 won’t be a democracy.

At Democracy’s Birthplace, Macron Dreams Of Europe 2.0 (AP)

Standing at a Greek site where democracy was conceived, French President Emmanuel Macron called on members of the European Union to reboot the 60-year-old bloc with sweeping political reforms or risk a “slow disintegration.” Macron, on a visit on Thursday to Athens, urged EU nations to carry out six-month national reviews on EU reforms before imposing them — signaling his distance with the German-backed approach based on fiscal discipline within the eurozone. “It would be a mistake to abandon the European ideal,” Macron said. “We must rediscover the enthusiasm that the union was founded upon and change, not with technocrats and not with bureaucracy.” Elected by a landslide in May, the 39-year-old Macron has vowed to back efforts for closer integration in the EU, which has been rattled by a financial crisis, migration issues, a populist backlash and Britain’s decision to leave.

His proposal found enthusiastic support in bailout-stricken Greece, which considers France a vital ally and counterweight to fiscally hawkish Germany in its efforts to ease the stringent terms of its international rescue loans. Reinforcing his message, Macron urged the IMF to step back from its role in European bailouts — breaking with a widely accepted policy adopted when Greece sought international help seven years ago. “I don’t think it was the right method for the IMF to supervise European programs and intervene in the way it did,” he said. “Let’s work within Europe and not turn to outside agencies.” The eurozone rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism, should play the lead role in financial rescue within the euro currency zone, he said. France, Europe’s No. 2 economy, had previously backed Germany’s insistence in involving the IMF to enforce austerity measures that came with bailout programs in Greece and other rescued economies including Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus.

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Aug 102017
 
 August 10, 2017  Posted by at 9:18 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


Dorothea Lange Rooms for Rent, Mission District. Slums of San Francisco, California 1936

 

An Indicator of Peril (Lebowitz)
Former CBO Director: Fall 2017 Will Be “Very Scary”, Expect A Market Crash (ZH)
US Still Stuck Firmly In The Great Recession (BI)
10 Years After Crisis, Another Crash Is ‘Almost Inevitable’ – Steve Keen (RT)
This $5 Trillion Time Bomb Will Devastate Americans (IM)
New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack (N.)
Unverified ‘Russiagate’ Allegations a Grave Threat to America (Stephen Cohen)
European Commission Spending Thousands On ‘Air Taxis’ For Top Officials (G.)
Refugee Crisis Triggers Heightened Risk Of Slavery In EU Supply Chains (G.)

 

 

“The data point, Real Value Added, is currently in negative territory and may, therefore, be a harbinger of an economic downturn. If it is a false signal, it would be the first in a 70-year history of observations.”

An Indicator of Peril (Lebowitz)

Gross Value Added (GVA) and Real Value Added (RVA). GVA is a measure of economic activity, like GDP, but formulated from the production side of the economy. It measures the dollar value of all goods and services produced less all the costs required to produce those goods or services. For example, if 720Global buys $100 worth of wood, $20 worth of other materials and employs $30 worth of labor to build a chair, we have produced a good for $150. If that good is sold for $200, 720Global has created $50 of economic value. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the more popular measure of economic activity, calculates the level of commerce based on the dollar value of the final goods and services produced. It may help to think of GDP as economic activity measured from the demand side and GVA as measured from the supply side.

Despite the differences, the levels of economic activity reported are remarkably consistent. Since 1948, nominal GDP has averaged annual growth of 6.55% while GVA has averaged 6.50%. It is important to note that, while they track each other very well over the longer term, they are less correlated quarter to quarter. Economists prefer to measure economic activity without the effect of inflation. If inflation were rampant when making the chair in the example above, some of the incremental value was due to the general trend of rising prices and not value added by 720Global. To strip out the effect of inflation and compute a pure measure of value added, it is commonplace to subtract inflation from GVA. The result is Real Value Added (RVA = GVA less CPI). The graph below plots RVA since 1948. Periods deemed recessionary by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) are denoted in gray.

Currently, three of the last four quarters have produced negative RVA levels. Real GDP is not producing similar results, having averaged 2% growth over the same quarters. As mentioned earlier, RVA and Real GDP may not be well correlated over short time frames. RVA is just one source of data arguing that economic trouble lies ahead, therefore, we would be wise not to read too much into this one indicator. Of concern, however, is that negative RVA readings have an impeccable pattern of signaling recession as a coincident indicator.

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Debt ceiling solution far from done.

Former CBO Director: Fall 2017 Will Be “Very Scary”, Expect A Market Crash (ZH)

Rudy Penner, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office and the person described by MarketNews international as “one of Washington’s most respected fiscal policy experts”, told MNI Wednesday in an exclusive interview that he expects a “very scary” fall 2017 due to fiscal issues, with market-disrupting battles ahead on both the debt ceiling and fiscal year 2018 spending. Penner directed the CBO under president Reagan, worked at high level posts in the White House budget office, and the Council of Economic Advisers. He is currently a fellow at the Urban Institute and sits on the board of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “There are so many politically hard issues and so little consensus on budget and tax policy. I assume we’ll somehow get through this, but not without getting frightened on a regular basis,” Penner said.

“Probably the best we can hope for is muddling through the (FY 2018) budget and the debt limit and getting very limited health, tax, and infrastructure legislation. There is not going to be significant stimulus coming out of Washington in the foreseeable future,” he said, echoing what many other pundits have said before. Penner said a “bipartisan negotiation is badly needed” to forge even a limited FY 2018 spending agreement. But he’s not certain this will occur. “Even a very limited spending agreement might be an impossible dream. We may just stumble into a series of short-term CRs,” he said, referring to temporary spending bills to keep the government funded. While the “record polarization” rhetoric is familiar, the clock is starting to tick ever louder: the 2018 fiscal year begins on October 1, 2017 and extends until September 30, 2018. None of the 12 annual spending bills for FY 2018 have yet been approved by Congress.

On to the debt ceiling, the one item on the calendar which Morgan Stanley (and others) have said will be the biggest hurdle for the market in the next two months, Penner said he believes it will be “very challenging” for Congress to pass legislation this fall to increase the statutory debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has asked Congress to lift the debt ceiling by the end of September. Penner countered that a “plausible path” for dealing with the debt ceiling is to pass legislation in September to suspend the debt ceiling until after the November 2018 mid-term elections. However, such legislation, he said, may have to be negotiated by an unusual coalition assembled by House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat. Such an agreement, Penner said, “could put Speaker Ryan’s job in peril” by conservative Republicans who oppose it. He said he believes the debt ceiling is “an incredibly stupid law that makes no logical sense.”

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What happens when you save banks only.

US Still Stuck Firmly In The Great Recession (BI)

Expectations are everything, especially in economics. That’s why a distinct lack of progress in a few basic measures of economic progress, particularly relative to pre-crisis expectations, has left many Americans questioning how much they have personally benefitted from the economic recovery. A new report from the Roosevelt Institute, a liberal think tank in Washington, highlights a number of ways in which “the recovery since 2009 is, in a sense, a statistical illusion.” The study finds the nation’s total economic output, its gross domestic product, “remains about 15% below the pre-recession trend, a larger gap than at the bottom of the recession.” The first chart below shows that lag, while the second offers insights into just how badly the crisis dented expectations about the future.

Strong employment gains in recent months have brought the jobless rate down to a historically-low 4.3%. However, this decline has not been accompanied by rising incomes or consumer prices, generally associated with a sustainable economic boom. Some Federal Reserve policymakers have found this trend puzzling, while many labor economists point to underlying weaknesses in the job market, including high levels of underemployment and long-term joblessness, as drags on income. Stagnant wages amid rising profits have meant that the wage share in US national income has fallen from 63% to 57% in the last 15 years, according to the report. “It is impossible for the wage share to ever rise if the central bank will not allow a period of ‘excessive’ wage growth,” writes J.W. Mason, who authored the report. “A rise in the wage share necessarily requires a period in which wages rise faster than would be consistent with longterm macroeconomic stability.”

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Zombie-to-be economies.

10 Years After Crisis, Another Crash Is ‘Almost Inevitable’ – Steve Keen (RT)

Speaking to RT, Keen said another financial crisis could be just around the corner unless a fundamentally different approach to debt is adopted. He says we are too focused on government debt, when what actually caused the crisis was “run-away private debt.” “The economy in the UK is not stable. It’s in the aftermath of the biggest financial crisis since the great depression, and there’s still a lack of awareness in the political classes about what actually caused the crisis in the first place,” Keen said. “The Tories were incredibly successful in convincing the electorate that the crisis was caused by government spending, which is absurd. That is technically saying government spending in the UK caused the financial crisis in the United States. Which is just nonsense. “And that gave us austerity for the last 10 years. That austerity has actually further weakened the economy.”

Keen says the level of private debt in the UK peaked at about 195% of GDP post-crisis. While it is now down to about 170% of GDP, it is roughly three times the level of debt England carried before the Margaret Thatcher era, he says. “That’s the stuff that’s being ignored. Nothing is really being done about that. With the amount of debt just sitting there we are still likely to have another crisis – but more likely, we are going to have stagnation.” What is cause for concern, Keen says, is what he calls the “zombie-to-be” economies, such as Australia, Belgium, China, Canada, and South Korea, which avoided the 2008 crisis by borrowing their way through it. Now they have a bigger debt burden to deal with when the next crisis hits, which could be between 2017 and 2020, he says.

“[The ‘zombie-to-be’ economies] are roughly equivalent in size to the American economy. So when they fall, then there will be a crisis that affects the rest of the world, including the UK.” Keen sees China as a terminal case. It has expanded credit at an annualized rate of around 25% for years on end. With private sector debt exceeding 200% of GDP, China resembles the over-indebted economies of Ireland and Spain prior to 2008. He also has little hope for his native Australia, whose credit and housing bubbles failed to burst in 2008. Last year, Australian private sector credit nudged above 200% of GDP, up more than 20 percentage points since the global financial crisis. Australia shows “that you can avoid a debt crisis today only by putting it off until tomorrow,” Keen says.

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Pensions.

This $5 Trillion Time Bomb Will Devastate Americans (IM)

Over 3,000 millionaires have fled Chicago in recent months. This is the largest outflow of wealthy people from any US city right now. It’s also one of the largest outflows of wealthy people in the world. But it’s not just millionaires… Every five minutes someone leaves Illinois. In a recent poll, 47% of people in Illinois said they want to leave the state. Over the last decade, more than half a million people have done just that. This is the largest outflow of people from any state in the country. The people who leave are generally better educated, more skilled, and earn more money than those who stay. Entire towns of affluent Illinois refugees have sprouted up in Florida, Arizona, and other states. Illinois is bleeding productive people. This is a major warning sign. Wealthy people are often the first to leave a bad situation. They have the means to simply get up and go.

And when they do, they take their money and their businesses with them. This hurts the local property market and the rest of the local economy. Many of Illinois’ millionaires own businesses that employ large numbers of people. As they leave, there are fewer people and businesses left to shoulder the state’s enormous and growing financial burdens. Many of these people are leaving for one simple reason: rising taxes. Illinois’ leftist tax-and-spend politicians are continuing to increase all sorts of taxes, which were already high in the first place. The state just passed a 32% income tax hike. Rising taxes are pushing more and more productive people to make the chicken run… and at the worst possible moment for the state’s coffers. Illinois is the most financially distressed state in the US. Every month, it spends $600 million more than it takes in.

It’s now $15 billion behind on its bills and counting. Illinois is about to become America’s first failed state. Even its governor has described it as a “banana republic.” Today, Illinois can’t pay contractors to fix the roads. It doesn’t have enough cash to pay lottery winners. (What happened to the money it collected selling lottery tickets?) The state can’t even afford food for its prisoners. Here are the sad facts. Illinois has: Nearly $15 billion in overdue bills (including $800 million in interest). A $7 billion budget deficit. And an eye-watering $250 billion bottomless pit of unfunded pension obligations. This $250 billion tab is one of the worst public pension crises in the US.

[..] While Illinois has the worst pension situation, it’s not the only state or city in crisis. California’s public pension system is also broken beyond repair. It’s $750 billion underfunded. State pension plans in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and many other states are taking on water, too. Unfunded public pension liabilities in the US have surpassed $5 trillion. And that’s during an epic stock and bond market bubble.

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A long overview of all the evidence.

New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack (N.)

It is now a year since the Democratic National Committee’s mail system was compromised—a year since events in the spring and early summer of 2016 were identified as remote hacks and, in short order, attributed to Russians acting in behalf of Donald Trump. A great edifice has been erected during this time. President Trump, members of his family, and numerous people around him stand accused of various corruptions and extensive collusion with Russians. Half a dozen simultaneous investigations proceed into these matters. Last week news broke that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had convened a grand jury, which issued its first subpoenas on August 3. Allegations of treason are common; prominent political figures and many media cultivate a case for impeachment.

The president’s ability to conduct foreign policy, notably but not only with regard to Russia, is now crippled. Forced into a corner and having no choice, Trump just signed legislation imposing severe new sanctions on Russia and European companies working with it on pipeline projects vital to Russia’s energy sector. Striking this close to the core of another nation’s economy is customarily considered an act of war, we must not forget. In retaliation, Moscow has announced that the United States must cut its embassy staff by roughly two-thirds. All sides agree that relations between the United States and Russia are now as fragile as they were during some of the Cold War’s worst moments. To suggest that military conflict between two nuclear powers inches ever closer can no longer be dismissed as hyperbole.

All this was set in motion when the DNC’s mail server was first violated in the spring of 2016 and by subsequent assertions that Russians were behind that “hack” and another such operation, also described as a Russian hack, on July 5. These are the foundation stones of the edifice just outlined. The evolution of public discourse in the year since is worthy of scholarly study: Possibilities became allegations, and these became probabilities. Then the probabilities turned into certainties, and these evolved into what are now taken to be established truths. By my reckoning, it required a few days to a few weeks to advance from each of these stages to the next. This was accomplished via the indefensibly corrupt manipulations of language repeated incessantly in our leading media.

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America still ignores its no. 1 Russia expert.

Unverified ‘Russiagate’ Allegations a Grave Threat to America (Stephen Cohen)

Considering all these unprecedented factors, it needs to be emphasized again: President Trump is right about this “all-time low & very dangerous” moment in US-Russian relations. Having recently returned from Russia, Cohen reports that the political situation there is also worsening, primarily because of the Cold War fervor in Washington, including the politics of Russiagate and and new sanctions. Contrary to opinion in the American political-media establishment, Putin has long been a moderate, restraining factor in the new Cold War, but his political space for moderation is rapidly diminishing. His reaction to the congressional sanctions—reducing the number of personnel in US official outposts in Russia to the far lesser number of Russians in American ones—was the least he could have done.

Far harsher political and economic countermeasures are being widely discussed in Moscow, and urged on Putin. For now, he resists, explaining, “I do not want to make things worse,” but he too has a surrounding political elite and it is playing a growing role against any accommodation or restraint in regard to US policy. Meanwhile, the pro-American faction in Russian governmental circles is being decimated by Washington’s actions; and, as always happens in times of escalating Cold War, the space for Russian opposition and other dissident politics is rapidly shrinking.

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Well, if you build yourselves €1 billion offices, who cares?

European Commission Spending Thousands On ‘Air Taxis’ For Top Officials (G.)

Jean-Claude Juncker and his top officials are spending tens of thousands of euros on chartering private planes, according to documents detailing the European commission’s travel expenses. After three years of battling with transparency campaigners fighting for full disclosure, the EU’s executive has released two months of travel costs for 2016, revealing regular use of chartered planes to transport Brussels’ 28 commissioners. The most expensive mission for which details have been released was in the name of Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs. It cost €77,118 for her and aides to travel by “air taxi” to summits in Azerbaijan and Armenia between 29 February and 2 March 2016.

A two-day visit by Juncker, the European commission president, with a delegation of eight people to see Italy’s political leaders in Rome in February 2016 cost €27,000, again due to the chartering of a private plane. Mina Andreeva, a commission spokeswoman, said the use of air taxis was only allowed where commercial flights were either not available or their flight plans did not fit in with a commissioner’s agenda. Security concerns would also allow the chartering of a private plane under commission rules. She said of Juncker’s trip that there had been “no available commercial plane to fit the president’s agenda” in Italy, where he met the Italian president and prime minister, among other dignitaries. The spokeswoman added that the EU’s total spending on such administrative costs was publicly available and that the organisation led the way in being transparent in their work.

The commission was not able to provide details of how many planes are chartered by Brussels every year, although she insisted the number was limited. The travel costs accumulated by the commissioners come out of the general budget, agreed by the member states. [..] According to documents relating to the two months in 2016, total travel and accommodation costs for visits by commissioners to European parliament sessions in Strasbourg, the World Economic Forum in Davos and official missions to countries came to €492.249, an average of €8,790 a month per commissioner.

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That’ll teach them to stay home.

Refugee Crisis Triggers Heightened Risk Of Slavery In EU Supply Chains (G.)

The migrant crisis has increased the risk of slavery and forced labour tainting supply chains in three-quarters of EU countries over the past year, researchers have found. Romania, Italy, Cyprus and Bulgaria – all key entry points into Europe for migrants vulnerable to exploitation – were identified by risk analysts as particularly vulnerable to slavery and forced labour. The annual modern slavery index, produced by Verisk Maplecroft, assessed the conditions that make labour exploitation more likely. Areas covered by the index include national legal frameworks and the severity, and frequency, of violations. Countries outside Europe, such as North Korea and South Sudan, were judged to be at the greatest risk of modern slavery, but the researchers said the EU showed the largest increase in risk of any region over the past year.

“In the past, the slavery story has been in supply chains in countries far away, like Thailand and Bangladesh,” said Dr Alexandra Channer, a human rights analyst at Verisk Maplecroft. “But it is now far closer to home and it something that consumers, governments and businesses in the EU have to look out for. With the arrival of migrants, who are often trapped in modern slavery before they enter the workplace, the vulnerable population is expanding.” The International Labour Organisation estimates that 21 million people worldwide are subject to some form of slavery. The biggest global increase in the risk of slavery was in Romania, which rose 56 places in the indexand is the only EU country classified as “high risk”. Turkey came a close second, moving up 52 places, from medium risk to high risk.

The influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing war, combined with Turkey’s restrictive work permit system, has led to thousands of refugees becoming part of an informal workforce, said the study. The government, which is focused on political crackdown, does not prioritise labour violations, further adding to the risk. Over the past year, several large brands from Turkish textile factories have been associated with child labour and slavery. The picture in Romania is more complex, researchers said. The country’s high risk category reflects more severe and frequent instances of modern slavery, but also reflects a greater number of criminal investigations in Romania, usually in collaboration with EU enforcement authorities. Both Romania and Italy, which rose 17 places, have the worst reported violations in the EU, including severe forms of forced labour such as servitude and trafficking, the study said.

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May 132017
 
 May 13, 2017  Posted by at 8:47 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


Fred Stein Subway Steps New York 1943

 

Hackers Hit Dozens of Countries Exploiting Stolen NSA Tool (NYT)
UK Health Service, Targeted in Cyberattack, Ignored Warnings for Months (NYT)
Hurricane Bearing Down on the Casino (Stockman)
$500 Trillion in Derivatives “Remain an Important Asset Class” – NY Fed (WS)
The Great Misconception of a Return to “Normal” (Econimica)
US Nears $100 Billion Arms Deal For Saudi Arabia (R.)
Wells Fargo Bogus Accounts Balloon To 3.5 Million (R.)
EU To Decide Future Of Uber, Airbnb In Europe (NE)
A Populist Storm Stirs in Italy (WSJ)
Macron To Visit Germany To Seek Support For A Beefed Up Eurozone (G.)
Blood Sports (Jim Kunstler)
Greece and the Bond Market. Friends Reunited? (BBG)
China’s Xi Offers Indebted Greece Strong Support (R.)
Varoufakis Accuses Tsipras, Tsakalotos Of Giving In To Creditors (K.)
IMF, Eurozone Say Need More Time To Reach Greek Debt Relief Deal (R.)

 

 

Edward Snowden @Snowden: “In light of today’s attack, Congress needs to be asking @NSAgov if it knows of any other vulnerabilities in software used in our hospitals.”

Hackers Hit Dozens of Countries Exploiting Stolen NSA Tool (NYT)

Hackers exploiting malicious software stolen from the National Security Agency executed damaging cyberattacks on Friday that hit dozens of countries worldwide, forcing Britain’s public health system to send patients away, freezing computers at Russia’s Interior Ministry and wreaking havoc on tens of thousands of computers elsewhere. The attacks amounted to an audacious global blackmail attempt spread by the internet and underscored the vulnerabilities of the digital age. Transmitted via email, the malicious software locked British hospitals out of their computer systems and demanded ransom before users could be let back in – with a threat that data would be destroyed if the demands were not met.

By late Friday the attacks had spread to more than 74 countries, according to security firms tracking the spread. Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity firm, said Russia was the worst-hit, followed by Ukraine, India and Taiwan. Reports of attacks also came from Latin America and Africa.[..] The hackers’ weapon of choice on Friday was Wanna Decryptor, a new variant of the WannaCry ransomware, which encrypts victims’ data, locks them out of their systems and demands ransoms. Researchers said the impact and speed of Friday’s attacks had not been seen in nearly a decade, when the Conficker computer worm infected millions of government, business and personal computers in more than 190 countries, threatening to overpower the computer networks that controlled health care, air traffic and banking systems over the course of several weeks.

One reason the ransomware on Friday was able to spread so quickly was that the stolen N.S.A. hacking tool, known as “Eternal Blue,” affected a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows servers. Hours after the Shadow Brokers released the tool last month, Microsoft assured users that it had already included a patch for the underlying vulnerability in a software update in March. But Microsoft, which regularly credits researchers who discover holes in its products, curiously would not say who had tipped the company off to the issue. Many suspected that the United States government itself had told Microsoft, after the N.S.A. realized that its hacking method exploiting the vulnerability had been stolen.

Privacy activists said if that were the case, the government would be to blame for the fact that so many companies were left vulnerable to Friday’s attacks. It takes time for companies to roll out systemwide patches, and by notifying Microsoft of the hole only after the N.S.A.’s hacking tool was stolen, activists say the government would have left many hospitals, businesses and governments susceptible. “It would be deeply troubling if the N.S.A. knew about this vulnerability but failed to disclose it to Microsoft until after it was stolen,” Patrick Toomey, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union, said on Friday. “These attacks underscore the fact that vulnerabilities will be exploited not just by our security agencies, but by hackers and criminals around the world.”

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Don’t just blame the hospitals. Blame the government that squeezes them so dry they have to choose patients over computers.

UK Health Service, Targeted in Cyberattack, Ignored Warnings for Months (NYT)

Britain’s National Health Service ignored numerous warnings over the last year that many of its computer systems were outdated and unprotected from the type of devastating cyberattack it suffered on Friday. The attack caused some hospitals to stop accepting patients, doctor’s offices to shut down, emergency rooms to divert patients, and critical operations to be canceled as a decentralized system struggled to cope. At some hospitals, nurses could not even print out name tags for newborn babies. At the Royal London Hospital, in east London, George Popescu, a 23-year-old hotel cook, showed up with a forehead injury. “My head is pounding and they say they can’t see me,” he said. “They said their computers weren’t working. You don’t expect this in a big city like London.”

In a statement on Friday, the N.H.S. said its inquiry into the attack was in its early phases but that “at this stage we do not have any evidence that patient data has been accessed.” Many of the N.H.S. computers still run Windows XP, an out-of-date software that no longer gets security updates from its maker, Microsoft. A government contract with Microsoft to update the software for the N.H.S. expired two years ago. Microsoft discontinued the security updates for Windows XP in 2014. It made a patch, or fix, available in newer versions of Windows for the flaws that were exploited in Friday’s cyberattacks. But the health service does not seem to have installed either the newer version of Windows or the patch.

“Historically, we’ve known that N.H.S. uses computers running old versions of Windows that Microsoft itself no longer supports and says is a security risk,” said Graham Cluley, a cybersecurity expert in Oxford, England. “And even on the newest computers, they would have needed to apply the patch released in March. Clearly that did not happen, or the malware wouldn’t have spread this fast.” Just this month, a parliamentary research briefing noted that cyberattacks were viewed as one of the top threats facing Britain. The push to make medical records systems more interconnected might also make the system more vulnerable to attack. Britain plans to digitize all patient records by 2020.

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The anti-Trump battle will be fought with financial weapons. And the Donald is walking into that trap.

Hurricane Bearing Down on the Casino (Stockman)

Yesterday I said the Donald was absolutely right in canning the insufferable James Comey, but that he has also has stepped on a terminal political land-mine. And he did. That’s because the entire Russian meddling and collusion narrative is a ridiculous, evidence-free attempt to re-litigate the last election. And now that the powers that be have all the justification they need. And what is already an irrational witch-hunt will be quickly turned into a scorched-earth assault on a sitting president. I have no idea how this will play out, but as a youthful witness to history back in 1973-1974 I observed Tricky Dick’s demise in daily slow motion. But the most memorable part of the saga was how incredibly invincible Nixon seemed in early 1973. Nixon started his second term, in fact, with a massive electoral landslide, strong public opinion polls and a completely functioning government and cabinet.

Even more importantly, he was still basking in the afterglow of his smashing 1972 foreign policy successes in negotiating detente and the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty with Brezhnev and then the historic opening to China on his Beijing trip. So I’ll take the unders from anyone who gives the Donald even the 19 months that Nixon survived. After all, Trump lost the popular vote, is loathed by official Washington, barely has a functioning cabinet and is a whirling dervish of disorder, indiscipline and unpredictability. To be sure, the terms of the Donald’s eventual exit from the Imperial City will ultimately by finalized by the 46th President in waiting, Mike Pence. But I’m pretty sure of one thing: Between now and then, there is not a snow ball’s chance in the hot place that Donald’s severance package will include the ballyhooed Trump Tax Cut and Fiscal Stimulus.

Markets slipped today because of carnage in the retail sector (which I’ve been warning readers about). But these fantasies are apparently still “priced-in” to a market that has now become just plain stupid. What is surely coming down the pike after the Comey firing, however, is just the opposite. That is, Washington will soon become a three-ring circus of investigations of Russia-gate and the “hidden” reasons for Trump’s action. The Imperial City will get embroiled in bitter partisan warfare and the splintering of the GOP between its populist and establishment wings. In that context, what passes for “governance” will be reduced to a moveable Fiscal Bloodbath that cycles between debt ceiling showdowns and short-term continuing resolution extensions.

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The swamp that can’t be drained without causing explosions.

$500 Trillion in Derivatives “Remain an Important Asset Class” – NY Fed (WS)

Economists at the New York Fed included this gem in their report on a two-day conference on “Derivatives and Regulatory Changes” since the Financial Crisis: “Though the notional amount [of derivatives] outstanding has declined in recent years, at more than $500 trillion outstanding, OTC derivatives remain an important asset class.” An important asset class. A hilarious understatement. Let’s see… the “notional amount” of $500 trillion is 25 times the GDP of the US and about 7 times global GDP. Derivatives are not just an “important asset class,” like bonds; they’re the largest “financial weapons of mass destruction,” as Warren Buffett called them in 2003.

Derivatives are used for hedging economic risks. And they’re used as “speculative directional exposures” – very risky one-sided bets. It’s all tied together in an immense and opaque market interwoven with the banks. The New York Fed: The 2007-09 financial crisis highlighted weaknesses in the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives markets and the increased risk of contagion due to the interconnectedness of market participants in these markets. This chart from the New York Fed shows how derivatives ballooned 150% – or by $360 trillion – in less than four years before the Financial Crisis. They ticked down during the Financial Crisis, then rose again during the Fed’s QE to peak at $700 trillion. After the end of QE, they declined, but recently ticked up again to $500 trillion. I added in red the Warren Buffett moment:

The vast majority of the derivatives are interest rate and credit contracts (dark blue). Banks specialize in that. For example, according to the OCC’s Q4 2016 Report on Derivatives, JPMorgan Chase holds $47.5 trillion of derivatives at notional value and Citibank $43.9 trillion. The top 25 US banks hold $164.7 trillion, or 8.5 times US GDP. So even a minor squiggle could trigger some serious heartburn.

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Try use “normal” and “derivatives” in one sentence and put on a straight face.

The Great Misconception of a Return to “Normal” (Econimica)

Since 2009, there has been ongoing discussion of the size & composition of major central bank balance sheets (I’m focusing on the Federal Reserve Bank, European Central Bank, and the Bank of Japan) but little discussion of why these institutions felt (and continue to feel) compelled to “buy” assets. The chart below highlights the ongoing collective explosion of these bank “assets” since 2009 after a previous period of relative stability. These institutions clearly have the capability and willingness to digitally conjure “money” from nothing and have felt compelled to remove over $10 trillion worth of assets from the markets since 2009. This swap of illiquid assets for liquid cash had (and continues to have) the effect of squeezing the prices of the remaining assets higher (more money chasing fewer assets=price appreciation).

A prime example of that squeeze, the US stock market total valuation (represented by the Wilshire 5000, below) is $10 trillion higher than the “bubble” peak of 2008…and $11 trillion higher than the 2001 “bubble” peak. Likewise, US federal debt since 2008 has increased by…you guessed it, $10 trillion. The narrative seems to be that 2009 was a one off event and that the central banks role was and still is to “stabilize” the situation until things “normalize”. But right there…that idea that 2009 was a “one-off” or “abnormal” couldn’t be more wrong. So what is “normal” growth, at least from a consumption standpoint? Normal is never the same twice…it is ever changing and must be constantly rediscovered.

To determine “normal” growth in consumption, all we need do is figure the change in the quantity of consumers (annual population growth) and the quality of those consumers (their earnings, savings, and utilization of credit). The chart below details the ever changing “normal” that is the annual change in the under 65yr/old global population broken down by wealthy consuming nations (blue line) and the rest of the (generally poor) world (red line). The natural rate of growth in consumption has been declining ever since 1988 (persistently less growth in the population on a year over year basis)…but central banks and central governments have substituted interest rate cuts and un-repayable debt to maintain an unnaturally high consumption growth rate.

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If we don’t put a stop to this, we have no chance. This is where it all begins and ends.

US Nears $100 Billion Arms Deal For Saudi Arabia (R.)

The United States is close to completing a series of arms deals for Saudi Arabia totaling more than $100 billion, a senior White House official said on Friday, a week ahead of President Donald Trump’s planned visit to Riyadh. The official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the arms package could end up surpassing more than $300 billion over a decade to help Saudi Arabia boost its defensive capabilities while still maintaining U.S. ally Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors. “We are in the final stages of a series of deals,” the official said. The package is being developed to coincide with Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia. Trump leaves for the kingdom on May 19, the first stop on his maiden international trip.

Reuters reported last week that Washington was pushing through contracts for tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, some new, others already in the pipeline, ahead of Trump’s visit. The United States has been the main supplier for most Saudi military needs, from F-15 fighter jets to command and control systems worth tens of billions of dollars in recent years. Trump has vowed to stimulate the U.S. economy by boosting manufacturing jobs. The package includes American arms and maintenance, ships, air missile defense and maritime security, the official said. “We’ll see a very substantial commitment … In many ways it is intended to build capabilities for the threats they face.” The official added: “It’s good for the American economy but it will also be good in terms of building a capability that is appropriate for the challenges of the region. Israel would still maintain an edge.”

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How many executives in jail, you said?

Wells Fargo Bogus Accounts Balloon To 3.5 Million (R.)

Wells Fargo may have opened as many as 3.5 million unauthorized customer accounts, far more than previously estimated, according to lawyers seeking approval of a $142 million settlement over the practice. The new estimate was provided in a filing late Thursday night in the federal court in San Francisco, and is 1.4 million accounts higher than previously reported by federal regulators, in what became a national scandal. Keller Rohrback, a law firm for the plaintiff customers, said the higher estimate reflects “public information, negotiations, and confirmatory discovery.” The Seattle-based firm also said the number “may well be over-inclusive, but provides a reasonable basis on which to estimate a maximum recovery.”

Wells Fargo spokesman Ancel Martinez in an email said the new estimate was “based on a hypothetical scenario” and unverified, and did not reflect “actual unauthorized accounts.” Nonetheless, it could complicate Wells Fargo’s ability to win approval for the settlement, which has drawn opposition from some customers and lawyers who consider it too small. “This adds more credence to the fact there is not enough information to assess whether the settlement is fair and adequate,” Lewis Garrison, a partner at Heninger Garrison Davis in Birmingham, Alabama who represents some objecting customers, said in an interview. U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco is scheduled to consider preliminary approval at a May 18 hearing. The accounts scandal mushroomed after Wells Fargo agreed last September to pay $185 million in penalties to settle charges by authorities including the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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They better be thorough, or individual countries must each formulate their own responses.

EU To Decide Future Of Uber, Airbnb In Europe (NE)

An opinion issued by the European Court of Justice on May 11 could prevent people from using or working for services such as Uber and Airbnb. The opinion from the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice follows a case that has been brought by Spanish taxi drivers against the ride sharing service Uber. It found that Uber should be regulated like a transportation company, not as an “information society service”. If the opinion is upheld, these services could be required to apply for specific licences or be restricted in number as is the case with taxis in various European cities in an attempt to keep prices artificially high.

The court is slated to deliver a final ruling on whether Uber should be classified as a transport company or as a passive internet intermediary, in the coming months. Usually, the judges follow the opinion of the Advocate General. It remains to be seen whether the case will impact other so-called sharing economy services as Airbnb. Speaking after the opinion was issued, Dan Dalton, European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) spokesman on the EU internal market said: “The opinion given today has huge implications for innovative, consumer driven digital services all across Europe… It is right that there are safeguards for consumers, but applying analogue era regulation to the digital world only strangles innovation and entrenches privileged monopolies.”

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Beppe always had one goal first: get rid of corruption. The WSJ can talk all it wants about M5S teething problems, but there are bigger issues here.

A Populist Storm Stirs in Italy (WSJ)

Europe’s establishment breathed a sigh of relief after the pro-European Union centrist Emmanuel Macron was elected French president this week. But another populist storm is brewing in Italy, where the euroskeptic 5 Star Movement has remained strong. Fueled by discontent with slow growth, high unemployment and disillusionment with mainstream politicians, 5-Star has won local elections in Rome, Turin and elsewhere, partly on the strength of its leaders’ call for a referendum on Italy’s use of the European single currency. Pollsters say about 30% of Italian voters support the movement founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, a level of popularity that has stood firm despite a series of high-profile stumbles, especially by its mayor in Rome.

The self-described association of free citizens has replaced the center-left Democratic Party at the top of most polls ahead of national elections to be held by May 2018. Now, the group that has flouted the rules of the game for establishment parties in Italy is experiencing growing pains as it prepares for the possibility of taking power. The prospect of Mr. Grillo and his supporters winning and forming a government has made investors nervous and pushed up yields on Italian bonds in recent months. On Friday, the spread between Italian and German 10-year sovereign bond yields was 1.85 percentage points, nearly five times the corresponding spread between French and German bonds.

Mr. Grillo and 5 Star waged a successful campaign to block constitutional changes sought by former Democratic Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, effectively forcing him from office in December. Since then, a caretaker government has run Italy. The movement has vowed to institute tougher anticorruption laws and deliver a minimum guaranteed income for all working-age and retired Italians if it emerges from upcoming elections as head of a minority government or in a governing coalition with other euroskeptic parties.

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There is no support for a beefed up EU or eurozone. Besides, Macron will be fighting the unions over the summer.

Macron To Visit Germany To Seek Support For A Beefed Up Eurozone (G.)

Emmanuel Macron will take power as French president on Sunday and immediately face the twin challenges of European Union reform and loosening strict labour laws in France. After walking up the red carpet to the Élysée Palace on Sunday morning, being briefed on the nuclear deterrent by the outgoing Socialist leader François Hollande, and making his first speech, Macron will on Monday fly to Berlin to meet the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. It is traditional for French leaders to make Berlin their first European trip. The pro-European centrist Macron wants to boost the French-German motor at the heart of Europe and press for closer cooperation, including creating a parliament and budget for the eurozone. Merkel welcomed Macron’s decisive election victory over the far-right Marine Le Pen, saying he carried “the hopes of millions of French people and also many in Germany and across Europe”.

But if Macron is to push for eurozone reform, he must also prove to Berlin and other European allies that he can deliver the changes he has promised on France’s sluggish economy and deficit problem. The German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, in an interview with the weekly Spiegel, kept up his country’s pressure on France to reduce its budget deficit to the EU ceiling of 3%. “France can make it,” he said. Macron, 39, France’s youngest elected leader, vowed during his campaign that he would immediately loosen France’s rigid labour regulations, giving businesses more power over setting working hours and deciding working conditions. He said that if needed, he would push through these changes by decree soon after taking office. Trade unions and leftwing demonstrators are warning of street protests if changes are not handled carefully.

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Jim waxes nostalgic on Nixon.

Blood Sports (Jim Kunstler)

I remember that sweaty August day that he threw in the towel. (I was a young newspaper reporter when newspapers still mattered.) It was pretty much a national orgasm. “NIXON RESIGNS!” the headlines screamed. A moment later he was on the gangway into the helicopter for the last time. Enter, stage right, the genial Gerald Ford…. Forgive me for getting caught up in the very nostalgia I castigate. And now here we are in the mere early months of Trumptopia about to hit the replay button on a televised inquisition. In my humble opinion, Donald Trump is a far more troubling personality than Tricky Dick ever was, infantile, narcissistic, at times verging on psychotic, but the RussiaGate story looks pretty flimsy. At this point, after about ten months of NSA-FBI investigation, nothing conclusive has turned up about Trump’s people “colluding” with Russia to gain unfair advantage in the election against You-Know-Who.

Former NSA chief James Clapper has publicly stated twice in no uncertain terms that there’s no evidence to support the allegations (so far). And there remains the specter of the actual content of the “collusion” — conveniently ignored by the so-called “Resistance” and its water-carriers at The New York Times — the hacked emails that evince all kinds of actual misbehavior by Secretary of State HRC and the DNC. The General Mike Flynn episode seems especially squishy, since it is the routine duty of incoming foreign affairs officials to check in with the ambassador corps in Washington. Why do you think nations send ambassadors to other countries? The upshot of all this will be a political circus for the rest of the year and the abandonment of any real business in government, at a moment in history when some very weighty black swans circle above the clouds waiting to crash land. Enjoy the histrionics if you dare, and pay no attention to collapsing economy as it all plays out.

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Draghi need to buy Greek bonds, and bring down those rates.

Greece and the Bond Market. Friends Reunited? (BBG)

Greece is considering tapping the capital markets for the first time in three years. Let’s hope its second attempt to regain market access goes more smoothly for investors than its first. A bond sale in July or September is being considered – if a deal on debt relief is reached, and the ECB adds Greek debt to the shopping list of securities it can buy through its quantitative easing program, according to the Wall Street Journal. The news comes as the U.S. presses European officials to ease Greece’s debt burden at informal talks during the Group of Seven gathering currently taking place in Italy.Investors can be forgiven if they feel a sense of déjà vu.In April 2014, Greece sold €3 billion of 4.75% bonds repayable in 2019 in its first issue for almost four years.

The country had sought to raise €2.5 billion; orders from more than 550 investors, though, exceeded €20 billion, and, five months later, the bond was increased by a further €1 billion. The then PM Antonis Samaras called the sale “one more decisive step toward exiting the crisis.”Except … it turned out Greece was about to get worse, not better. The day after the sale, the price of the bonds slipped by a bit more than half a point. By the end of the year, they’d lost almost 20% of their value. And by the middle of 2015, they slumped to as low as 40% of face value as the government was forced to introduce capital controls in an effort to stanch the flood of money leaving the country’s banking system. The bond price recovered as the Greek government dropped its defiance against the terms demanded by its lenders, implemented pension and labor market reforms and accelerated the sale of government assets.

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Does Brussels really want China to buy up Greece?

China’s Xi Offers Indebted Greece Strong Support (R.)

Chinese President Xi Jinping offered the prime minister of deeply indebted Greece strong support on Saturday, saying the two countries should expand cooperation in infrastructure, energy and telecommunications. Xi told Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that Greece was an important part in China’s new Silk Road strategy. “At present, China and Greece’s traditional friendship and cooperation continues to glow with new dynamism,” China’s Foreign Ministry cited Xi as saying. Cooperation in infrastructure, energy and telecommunications should be “deep and solid”, Xi added, without giving details. Tsipras is in Beijing to attend a summit to promote Xi’s vision of expanding links between Asia, Africa and Europe underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment called the Belt and Road initiative.

Greek infrastructure development group Copelouzos has signed a deal with China’s Shenhua Group to cooperate in green energy projects and the upgrade of power plants in Greece and other countries, the Greek company said on Friday. The deal will involve total investment of €3 billion, Copelouzos said in a statement, without providing further details. China has been investing heavily in Greece in recent years. Its biggest shipping company, COSCO Shipping, bought a majority stake in Piraeus Port Authority last year under a plan to turn Greece into a transhipment hub for rapidly growing trade between Asia and Eastern Europe. Xi said China and Greece should focus their efforts on turning the Piraeus port into an important international transhipment hub and key part of the new Silk Road, the Chinese ministry said.

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Yanis says Greece’s future is Kosovo, Steve Keen said Somalia. They’re both right.

Varoufakis Accuses Tsipras, Tsakalotos Of Giving In To Creditors (K.)

In an interview Friday on Skai TV, former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis hit out at his erstwhile government colleagues, accusing both his successor Euclid Tsakalotos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of giving in to the country’s international creditors. “There is no new agreement, just a new surrender,” he said of the latest deal with Greece’s lenders. “The first memorandum burned Papandreou, the second Samaras, the third Tsipras. The fourth will require a new prime minister,” he said. As for Greece’s prospects, his prediction was bleak. “We will become Kosovo, a protectorate run by an employee of the European Union.”

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Never seen a more broken record.

IMF, Eurozone Say Need More Time To Reach Greek Debt Relief Deal (R.)

The IMF and eurozone government lenders need more time to reach an agreement on debt relief for Greece because the eurozone is still not sufficiently clear in its intentions, IMF chief Christine Lagarde said on Friday. Top eurozone officials and Lagarde met on Friday morning to discuss debt relief for Athens which eurozone finance ministers, or the Eurogroup, promised in May 2016, but under strict conditions. “We will carry on working on this debt relief package. There is not enough clarity yet. Our European partners need to be more specific in terms of debt relief, which is an imperative,” Lagarde told reporters in the city of Bari in Italy. German Finance Ministers Wolfgang Schaeuble, also at the meeting of the G7 advanced economies in Bari, asked if he would be prepared to ease the conditions for debt relief, said: “We are prepared to stick to what we have agreed in May 2016. That is the basis on which we are working … I am still in favor of getting a solution, at least a political solution, in the Eurogroup on the 22nd of May.”

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