Sep 102019
 
 September 10, 2019  Posted by at 9:23 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Marc Chagall The painter to the moon 1917

 

 

To everyone used to receiving Automatic Earth posts in their email, I’m sorry but since Saturday they’re suddenly bouncing again en masse. This makes me very tired by now, but I’ll look for a solution. I suspect there may be a connection between this and Google accusing me of violating their rules, without telling me what rules I’m supposed to have violated.

 

 

 

 

Real US Debt Levels Could Be A Shocking 2,000% of GDP (CNBC)
Boris Johnson Loses Second Attempt To Trigger Early General Election (Ind.)
Parliament Suspension Begins As Johnson’s Election Bid Fails (BBC)
MPs Order Boris Johnson To Hand Over Government Communications (Ind.)
Why Europe Remains Unfazed By The UK’s Ongoing Political Drama (MW)
Judge Lets Facebook Privacy Class Action Proceed, Calls Company’s Views ‘So Wrong’ (R.)
Hong Kong Leader Tells US Not To ‘Interfere’ After Fresh Protests (AFP)
And The Word Was God (Kunstler)
How 50 Years Of The ‘Nobel Prize’ In Economics Redrew Our Map Of Society (PEP)
Over 700 Migrants Cross Into Greece Over the Weekend (GR)

 

 

At this stage, what’s the difference between 1,000% and 2,000%?

Real US Debt Levels Could Be A Shocking 2,000% of GDP (CNBC)

Total potential debt for the U.S. by one all-encompassing measure is running close to 2,000% of GDP, according to an analysis that suggests danger but also cautions against reading too much into the level. AB Bernstein came up with the calculation — 1,832%, to be exact — by including not only traditional levels of public debt like bonds but also financial debt and all its complexities as well as future obligations for so-called entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and public pensions. Putting all that together paints a daunting picture but one that requires nuance to understand. Paramount is realizing that not all of the debt obligations are set in stone, and it’s important to know where the leeway is, particularly in the government programs that can be changed either by legislation or accounting.


“This conceptual difference is important to acknowledge because this lens is often used by those who wish to paint a dire picture about debt,” Philipp Carlsson-Szlezak, chief U.S. economist at AB Bernstein, said in the report. “While the picture is dire, such numbers don’t prove we are doomed or that a debt crisis is inevitable.” Crisis measures cut both ways — sometimes a seemingly smaller level of debt can cause outsized problems during times of economic stress, such as during the financial crisis. And larger levels of debt can be sustained so long as other conditions, like leverage levels, or debt to capital, are manageable.

Read more …

He lost all 6 of his first 6 votes. Unique.

Boris Johnson Loses Second Attempt To Trigger Early General Election (Ind.)

Boris Johnson has lost his second attempt to trigger an early general election in his sixth humiliating Commons defeat since becoming prime minister. Ahead of parliament being suspended by the government for five weeks, MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit again deprived the prime minister of the required votes for an early poll in the last major showdown of the current session. Less than a week after his first bid to seek an election was scuppered, Mr Johnson again asked the Commons to vote on a motion to bypass a law setting out that the next vote should not take place until 2022.


From Dutch newspaper NRC

Read more …

5 whole weeks, But trust me, they won’t be silent weeks.

Parliament Suspension Begins As Johnson’s Election Bid Fails (BBC)

Parliament has officially been suspended for five weeks, with MPs not due back until 14 October. Amid unusual scenes in the House of Commons, some MPs protested against the suspension with signs saying “silenced” while shouting: “Shame on you.” It comes after PM Boris Johnson’s bid to call a snap election in October was defeated for a second time. Opposition MPs refused to back it, insisting a law blocking a no-deal Brexit must be implemented first. In all, 293 MPs voted for the prime minister’s motion for an early election, far short of the two thirds needed. Parliament was suspended – or prorogued – at just before 02:00 BST on Tuesday.


As Speaker John Bercow – who earlier announced his resignation – was due to lead MPs in a procession to the House of Lords to mark the suspension, a group of angry opposition backbenchers appeared to try to block his way. It is normal for new governments to suspend Parliament, but the length and timing of the prorogation in this case has sparked controversy.

Read more …

Wonder how they’re going to go about not complying.

MPs Order Boris Johnson To Hand Over Government Communications (Ind.)

Boris Johnson’s government has suffered another humiliating Commons defeat, as MPs ordered the release of internal communications between the prime minister’s top advisers over the decision to suspend parliament. The emergency motion – passed by 311 to 302 votes – means the government will also be forced to publish its no-deal planning documents under Operation Yellowhammer. Put forward by the ex-Tory MP Dominic Grieve, the motion orders ministers to surrender the documents by Wednesday and includes the private communications of Mr Johnson’s chief-of-staff, Dominic Cummings. It demands “all correspondence, whether formal or informal in both written and electronic form” relating to the prorogation sent by officials since the day before Mr Johnson’s arrival in office on 24 July.


And their emergency motion makes clear this should include messages sent via the WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Signal apps, by text or iMessage and from “private email accounts both encrypted and unencrypted”. It lists nine individuals in Mr Johnson’s administration, including Mr Cummings, Hugh Bennett, Simon Burton, Dominic Cummings, Nikki da Costa, Tom Irven, Sir Roy Stone, Christopher James, Lee Cain and Beatrice Timpson. Mr Grieve, who is now sitting as an independent MP after losing the Tory whip, said public officials had given him information relating to prorogation that informed him “they believed the handling of this matter smacked of scandal”.

Read more …

Europe at least pretends it has bigger fish to fry. Ireland, Holland, Belgium, France will be hit, but many others truly don’t care much.

Why Europe Remains Unfazed By The UK’s Ongoing Political Drama (MW)

Reason No. 1: the economy, and an end to uncertainty. Trust Macron to come back swinging at the next EU council meeting mid-October, when a possible request for an extension might be discussed if U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson abides by the law voted by Parliament. In March, the French president argued that it would be a waste of time. Others were in favor of granting the U.K. a longer extension, of up to a year. The irony is that Macron defends the same line as the hardest Brexiteers — mainly that there is a cost to uncertainty that at some point may exceed the cost of a no-deal Brexit. [..]

Reason No. 2: Diplomacy, and an EU desire to move on. A new European Commission is taking over on Nov. 1 — the day after the Brexit deadline — and Europe has challenges of its own to focus on. The influence of euroskeptic governments and movements on the EU’s deliberations is the first challenge, just as the EU has embarked on the tough discussions over its multiyear budget. Europe also needs to come together on the many challenges it is facing: whether to boost joint defense capabilities or what policy to adopt toward Russia, for example, in addition to optimizing its positioning vis-à-vis U.S. President Donald Trump. [..]

Reason No. 3: Politics, and the fact that Brexit isn’t a European domestic problem. For EU leaders, there is little political capital to lose by playing hardball with London. Brexit has never been a European problem, and it never figured as a topic in the many national electoral campaigns that have taken place since the Brexit referendum in 2016. EU leaders don’t even really care about the possible blame game that would follow a hard Brexit, if they appear to have slammed the door on London.

Read more …

Facebook is the opposite of privacy, that’s its business model.

Judge Lets Facebook Privacy Class Action Proceed, Calls Company’s Views ‘So Wrong’ (R.)

A federal judge on Monday ordered Facebook to face most of a nationwide lawsuit seeking damages for letting third parties such as Cambridge Analytica access users’ private data, calling the social media company’s views on privacy “so wrong.” While dismissing some claims, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco said users could try to hold Facebook liable under various federal and state laws for letting app developers and business partners harvest their personal data without their consent on a “widespread” basis. He rejected Facebook’s arguments that users suffered no “tangible” harm and had no legitimate privacy interest in information they shared with friends on social media.


“Facebook’s motion to dismiss is littered with assumptions about the degree to which social media users can reasonably expect their personal information and communications to remain private,” Chhabria wrote. “Facebook’s view is so wrong.” A Facebook spokeswoman said the company considered protecting people’s information and privacy “extremely important,” but believed its practices were consistent with its disclosures and “do not support any legal claims.” Lesley Weaver and Derek Loeser, two of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said in a joint statement that they were pleased with the decision, and “especially gratified that the court is respecting Facebook users’ right to privacy.”

Read more …

“It’s extremely inappropriate for any country to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs,” she told reporters.

But for many Hong Kongers, China is that country.

Hong Kong Leader Tells US Not To ‘Interfere’ After Fresh Protests (AFP)

Hong Kong’s embattled leader warned the United States on Tuesday not to “interfere” with her government’s response to the city’s pro-democracy movement, after fresh protests called on Washington to ramp up pressure on Beijing. Millions of people have demonstrated over the last 14 weeks in the biggest challenge to China’s rule of the financial hub since its handover from Britain in 1997. Protesters took to the streets again on Sunday, marching to the American consulate to call on Congress to pass a bill expressing support for the pro-democracy movement.


The proposed law could undermine Hong Kong’s special US trade privileges by mandating regular checks on whether authorities were respecting the Basic Law that underpins the city’s semi-autonomous status. But Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that any change to its economic relationship with Washington would threaten “mutual benefits”. “It’s extremely inappropriate for any country to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs,” she told reporters. “I hope that no more people in Hong Kong actively reach out to tell the United States to pass the act.” [..] Washington has rejected Beijing’s allegations that it is backing the demonstrators and China has provided little evidence to back its claims beyond supportive statements from some US politicians.

Read more …

Jim standing up for teaching proper language skills.

And The Word Was God (Kunstler)

Enough about me. Obviously, the racial shuffle has been going on for decades in the New York City school system, but in these times of white privilege and intersectionality, the escape routes of G & T and SP must be plugged. No extra gruel for you! But I have a remedy for the persistent problem of underperformance, one that has not really been tried: intense concentration, starting in preschool and going forward as long as necessary, in spoken English. Language is the foundation of learning, certainly of reading skill, and too many children just can’t speak English. Without it, they’ll be unable to learn anything else, including math. The reasons for their poor language skills are beside the point.


Whether they are newcomers from foreign lands or the descendants of slaves, they need to learn how to speak English and to do it correctly, with all the tenses and correct verbs. They need to be intelligible to others and to themselves to make sense of the world. The resistance to this idea would be mighty and furious, I’m sure. Some people will always be smarter than others, but the disparities at issue are badly aggravated by poverty in language. We don’t even pretend to want to take the obvious steps to correct this, even though it is obviously correctable. Learning anything puts people out of their comfort zone, so that can’t be used as an excuse. Diversity in language is a handicap, and it does not make you specially abled. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Read more …

I used to rant a lot against the Fauxbel, haven’t for a bit. But my friend Steve Keen is involved in this round.

How 50 Years Of The ‘Nobel Prize’ In Economics Redrew Our Map Of Society (PEP)

Who shaped our world more Neil Armstrong, Jimi Hendrix, or the King of Sweden? By any standards, 1969 was a momentous year. Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon, half a million people came to Woodstock to hear Jimi Hendrix, and the Stonewall riots kicked off the gay liberation movement. The same year, less well remembered, an event in Stockholm arguably shaped our world today even more. And not for the best. Fifty years ago this year, the King of Sweden presented with royal pomp the first ever Nobel medals in economics. The prize has been dogged by controversy ever since. Alfred Nobel the founder of the awards never wanted an economics prize, his descendants want it scrapped and the economist F.A. Hayek said it was dangerous.

That’s not the half. Serious thinkers argue that the prize in ‘economic sciences’, as it’s called, has given economic ideas which favour the rich and powerful the gloss of scientific truth. The prize, still paid for every year by Sweden’s Central Bank, has helped weaken democratic control of money, they argue, and helped one school of economic thought – known as neoclassical – dominate the rest. It has contributed to a crisis of conformity in economics and trouble well beyond the ivory tower. This narrow economic thinking celebrated by the Nobels has often ignored, and exacerbated, the multiple crises staring us in the face: ecological breakdown, financial crashes, and politically toxic inequality.

Take the 2018 winner William Nordhaus: his models may have delayed action on climate change. Or consider the 1997 winners Robert Merton and Myron Scholes: their hedge fund had to be bailed out to the tune of $3.6 billion less than a year after they won the prize. Or wrap your head around the equations of the 1996 winner, James Mirrlees, whose work contributed to plummeting tax on the super-rich around the world. All of these “contributions” are described as economic science: the political values and choices inherent in the models are rarely acknowledged or discussed. Debate is closed down.

Read more …

It may have started again. Erdogan is threatening to send over 5.5 million refugees and migrants if a safe area in northern Syria in not funded by the west.

Over 700 Migrants Cross Into Greece Over the Weekend (GR)

At east 207 migrants landed just on the island of Lesvos early on Monday, bringing the total number of illegal migrants landing on all Aegean islands over the weekend to 726. As migrant flows increase, Greek premier Mitsotakis said that Turkey should not try to coerce either Greece or Europe in its attempts to receive support for a plan to resettle Syrian refugees in northern Syria. Turkey is currently proposing to resettle one million refugees there, and it may reopen the route for illegal immigrants to flow into Europe if it does not receive adequate international support for the plan, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.


“Mr. Erdogan must understand that he cannot threaten Greece and Europe in an attempt to secure more resources to handle the refugee (issue),” Mitsotakis told a news conference in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. “Europe has given a lot of money, six billion euros in recent years, within the framework of an agreement between Europe and Turkey and which was mutually beneficial,” the Greek PM said.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 062019
 


Claude Monet Éretrat sunset 1882-3

 

The Trade War Is Smart Geopolitics (NR)
China’s Growth Is Slowing, but not Because of the Trade War (PIIE)
The Ugly Truth About The Trade War (Alt-M)
Fed QE Unwind Continues Via Sharp Drop In MBS (WS)
Trump Administration Backs Privatizing Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac (MW)
Is Armed Conflict Possible in Today’s Europe? (Spiegel)
Boris Johnson: I’d Rather Be Dead In a Ditch Than Delay Brexit (BBC)
Hong Kong Braces For More Protests As Merkel Calls For Peaceful Solution (R.)
The Pentagon Wants More Control Over the News. What Could Go Wrong? (Taibbi)
Germany Announces Plan to Ban Glyphosate (CD)
Targeting the Tongass National Forest for Amazon-like Destruction (CP)
They Want Him Dead As A Warning (Maurizi)

 

 

A bunch of views on the trade war. I’d say take your pick. Something for everyone.

The Trade War Is Smart Geopolitics (NR)

Why is our industrial supply chain located inside of an adversary? Why does our military readiness therefore depend on that adversary? Why are American companies allowed to transfer critical technologies to China in exchange for short-term market access? Why can Tesla build self-driving cars in Shanghai? Why can Google run an AI lab in Beijing after canceling an AI contract with the Pentagon? The free traders have an answer: because the market wills it. But of course, markets have no reason to prefer one global power over another, and there’s no market rule barring a surveillance state from winning the competition. In that competition, our ideological commitment to free trade is nearly as great a handicap as the Soviet Union’s commitment to central planning was during the Cold War.

Free trade with China means allowing its distortions into our market. Refusing to allow our government to “pick winners” by rejecting industrial-policy support to key sectors means that Beijing will pick winners for us. Depending on Ricardian comparative advantage to organize supply chains means, in effect, that we will watch helplessly as American innovations are transformed into growth-boosting industries elsewhere, as firms reap efficiency gains by locating their engineering and management operations next to their manufacturing. Inevitably, the innovation will depart too. A recent survey of 369 manufacturers found that American firms are moving their R&D operations to China not just to take advantage of lower costs, but to be in close proximity to their supply chains.

Some 50 percent of foreign R&D centers in China are now run by American companies, helping China achieve first place in market share for manufacturing R&D. If we remain neutral as to where supply chains are located, “we innovate, they build” will become “they innovate, they build.” China’s rise may be inevitable. But given the danger represented by that rise, America can choose to minimize its risk. It can reduce opportunities for China to erode the long-term competitive advantage of American firms through forced technology transfer and R&D migration, and reduce our dependence on Chinese manufacturing for crucial industrial and military supply chains. In a word: decoupling.

Read more …

China’s problem is the dollar. It’s not dependent on the US for its GDP, but that is a problem in itself. If exports to the US were larger, it would receive more dollars.

China’s Growth Is Slowing, but not Because of the Trade War (PIIE)

First, as is well known, US taxpayers, not Chinese consumers and companies, are bearing the burden of Trump’s tariffs. The president acknowledged as much when he postponed new tariffs on goods (such as toys and consumer electronics) likely to be purchased during the US holiday shopping season. US tariffs on imports from China will likely subtract about half a percentage point from US GDP growth in 2019.

But second, China’s growth began to slow long before the trade war started (see figure). The pace of growth has moderated from the double-digit pace of 2010 to only 6.2 percent in the most recent quarter. As for the assertion that the trade war has accelerated China’s economic decline, the facts show the opposite. As shown in the figure, the pace of the slowdown has moderated since the initial imposition of tariffs by the United States in July 2018. Most of the slowdown is the result of President Xi Jinping’s ill-advised policy choice of allocating credit and other resources to less efficient state firms rather than private firms. Moreover, since 2017, China has reduced the growth of credit overall in order to reduce financial risk at a time of growing corporate indebtedness, a trend that also contributes to slowing growth throughout the economy.

Third, properly measured, China’s dependence on exports to the United States is not as large as some, including President Trump, may think. China’s exports to the United States before tariffs were imposed ran at $500 billion annually, or 4 percent of its $12.25 trillion GDP, which in theory is a significant number. In fact, the percentage is far less. The potential impact of US tariffs on China’s growth needs to be adjusted to measure only value added by China. GDP is measured in value-added terms; US imports from China are measured in gross sales. The value-added share in US imports from China is about one-half, so the direct contribution to China’s GDP from its sales to the United States is approximately $250 billion or only 2 percent of China’s GDP.

Read more …

Brandon Smith doesn’t appear to fully agree with PIIE.

The Ugly Truth About The Trade War (Alt-M)

The US only comprises around 18% of Chinese exports. While this is a nice piece of the pie, it’s hardly enough leverage to bring down China’s economy. China would suffer profit losses in certain sectors as well as a recession, but not the kind of crisis that some in the alternative media are predicting. Around 40% of China’s GDP is generated domestically, and 80% of its GDP growth comes from private consumption. For quite some time I have warned that China was shifting its economic model from an export based system to a more self reliant domestic based system, and that this might be an indication of a coming economic war with the US. As it turns out, this is exactly what has happened. Since 2010, China’s domestic market has grown dramatically, indicating that China has no intention of relying on the US consumer as an economic pillar.

The US consumer is almost tapped out. While retail sales in certain areas remain steady and this has been used by the mainstream media and the Fed to promote the idea that the economy is still “going strong”, this is not the big picture. The reality is that US consumption is driven by historic levels of debt. Household debt is now FAR above levels last seen after the last financial crisis, with total debt at $1.2 trillion higher today than its last peak in 2008. The downturn in retail is more obvious in the steady closings of thousands of outlets in 2019 alone. This year has seen a 29% increase in store closings compared to 2018, even though 2018 saw a considerable spike in store shutdowns. Around 12,000 stores are slated to close this year.

So the question is, with the US consumer stretched thin by debt and US retail on the verge of a recessionary plunge, why would China feel threatened by the loss of the American consumer market? They are losing it already by attrition. The truth is they aren’t threatened, which is why, as I predicted last year, the trade war continues unabated despite the fact that so many people argued that China would “quickly fold” to Trump’s demands. I realize this is not what many people want to hear, but it is foolish to get caught up in a farcical mob mentality and ignore the fundamentals in the trade war. If you think that the US is going to “win” based on leverage, you are sorely mistaken. The US is in no better shape economically than China; in many ways we are much worse off.

Read more …

Close down the place before it can do even more harm.

Fed QE Unwind Continues Via Sharp Drop In MBS (WS)

In August, the Fed shed Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) at a rate that exceeded its self-imposed “cap” of $20 billion for the fourth month in a row, but added some Treasury securities, with a new emphasis on short-term Treasury bills. Total assets on the Fed’s balance sheet fell by $20 billion, to $3.76 trillion, as of the balance sheet for the week ended September 4, released this afternoon. This brought the balance sheet to the lowest level since September 2013. So far this year, the Fed has shed $314 billion in assets. Since the beginning of the “balance sheet normalization” process, the Fed has shed $700 billion. Since peak-QE in January 2015, it has shed $738 billion:

During the month of August, $70 billion in Treasury securities in the Fed’s portfolio matured and were redeemed by the US Treasury Department. The Fed replaced all those with new Treasury securities. This replacement would have kept its holdings level. Per its new plan to replace its MBS securities with Treasury securities – more on that in a moment – it added about $15 billion in Treasury securities, bringing the total to $2.095 trillion. This was the first monthly increase since the end of 2017, bringing its Treasury holdings back to the level of last July, and just above the September 2013 level:

As part of its new regime to shorten the overall maturity of its holdings, the Fed’s holdings now include $3 billion in Treasury bills (maturing in one year or less), up from zero a few months ago. After “Operation Twist,” which was layered between QE-2 and “QE Infinity,” the Fed had not held any Treasury bills. About four months ago, it started dabbling in them again, but in August it got serious. These T-bills replaced some of the MBS that ran off its balance sheet.

Read more …

Trump giveth and the Fed taketh away. End the Fed AND Fannie and Freddie.

Trump Administration Backs Privatizing Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac (MW)

The Trump administration said it would support returning mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to private hands, a development that could keep the companies at the center of the housing market for decades to come. The principles announced Thursday represent a major reversal from what leaders of both parties over the past decade promised — to abolish the companies, which guarantee roughly half the U.S. mortgage market. The approach, which doesn’t require approval by Congress, would mark an important win for investors who have been betting politicians wouldn’t follow through on those promises. Treasury officials said they would aim to privatize the government-controlled firms without making it tougher and more expensive for people to get mortgages.


They generally avoided making specific policy recommendations on how to accomplish these goals in a report released Thursday. They said they would work with federal regulators to flesh out the details on how to put Fannie and Freddie on a sounder financial footing as well as to curtail the firms’ roles in housing finance. The process could take years to implement and won’t affect existing mortgages. “Our view is that the government footprint has become too big,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview ahead of Thursday’s report. ”There are people in Washington who are happy to leave this the way it is for another 10 or 20 years, and that’s not us. We feel an obligation to try to fix this.”

Read more …

“The direction of European history would seem to have changed – shifting away from convergence and back to delineation.”

Is Armed Conflict Possible in Today’s Europe? (Spiegel)

“The war changed everything.” This statement by the late British historian Tony Judt contains the kernel of modern-day Europe. It was the war that made possible an extended period of peace. Things had to get extremely bad before they could get good again. For the last 75 years, there has been peace on the Continent, with just a few exceptions. Now, this Europe finds itself in crisis. It is no longer the Europe where national thinking is slowly dwindling. It is no longer the Europe that is growing together step by step. It is no longer the Europe in which all countries seem to be committed to democracy forever. The direction of European history would seem to have changed – shifting away from convergence and back to delineation.


What does that mean for the most important of all questions, the question of war or peace? At the moment, it doesn’t look at all as though the long period of peace is going to come to an end. There is no reason for alarm. But if the direction of European history is changing, we should take a close look at what that could mean. Not in the immediate future, but in the long term. History is a snail that persistently crawls along its path. Exactly 80 years ago, the war that changed everything began — on Sept. 1, 1939, with Adolf Hitler’s Germany invading neighboring Poland. Almost six years later, more than 60 million people around the world were dead as a result of the violence, huge portions of the Continent were destroyed, millions of Europeans had been forced from their homes and millions more were plunged into poverty. A state of shock reigned.

Read more …

When will he quit?

Boris Johnson: I’d Rather Be Dead In a Ditch Than Delay Brexit (BBC)

Boris Johnson has said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than ask the EU to delay Brexit beyond 31 October. But the PM declined to say if he would resign if a postponement – which he has repeatedly ruled out – had to happen. Mr Johnson has said he would be prepared to leave the EU without a deal, but Labour says stopping a no-deal Brexit is its priority. The prime minister’s younger brother, Jo Johnson, announced earlier that he was standing down as a minister and MP. Speaking in West Yorkshire, Boris Johnson said Jo Johnson, who backed Remain in the 2016 referendum, was a “fantastic guy” but they had had “differences” over the EU.

Announcing his resignation earlier in the day, the MP for Orpington, south-east London, said he had been “torn between family loyalty and the national interest”. During his speech at a police training centre in Wakefield, the prime minister reiterated his call for an election, which he wants to take place on 15 October. He argued it was “the only way to get this thing [Brexit] moving”. “We either go forward with our plan to get a deal, take the country out on 31 October which we can or else somebody else should be allowed to see if they can keep us in beyond 31 October,” Mr Johnson said.

Read more …

Mutti? You here?

Hong Kong Braces For More Protests As Merkel Calls For Peaceful Solution (R.)

Hong Kong is bracing for more demonstrations this weekend, with protesters threatening to disrupt transport links to the airport, after embattled leader Carrie Lam’s withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill failed to appease some activists. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel raised Hong Kong with Chinese premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Friday, saying a peaceful solution is needed. “I stressed that the rights and freedoms for (Hong Kong) citizens have to be granted,” said Merkel. “In the current situation violence must be prevented. Only dialogue helps. There are signs that Hong Kong’s chief executive will invite such a dialogue. I hope that materializes and that demonstrators have the chance to participate within the frame of citizens’ rights,” she said during a visit to Beijing.


Li told a news conference with Merkel: “The Chinese government unswervingly safeguards ‘one country, two systems’ and ‘Hong Kong people govern Hong Kong people’”. He said Beijing supported the Hong Kong government “to end the violence and chaos in accordance with the law, to return to order, which is to safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability”. Protesters plan to block traffic to the city’s international airport on Saturday, a week after thousands of demonstrators disrupted transport links, sparking some of the worst violence since the unrest escalated three months ago. Many protesters have pledged to fight on despite a withdrawal of the extradition bill, saying the concession is too little, too late.

Read more …

The Pentagon will protect you from “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks” by publishing “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks..”

The Pentagon Wants More Control Over the News. What Could Go Wrong? (Taibbi)

If there’s a worse idea than the Pentagon becoming Editor-in-Chief of America, I can’t remember it. But we’re getting there: From Bloomberg over Labor Day weekend: “Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” as the top Republican in Congress blocks efforts to protect the integrity of elections.” One of the Pentagon’s most secretive agencies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is developing “custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips.”

Once upon a time, when progressives still reflexively distrusted the military, DARPA was a liberal punchline, known for helping invent the Internet but also for developing lunatic privacy-invading projects like LifeLog, a program to “gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees, or does.” DARPA now is developing a semantic analysis program called “SemaFor” and an image analysis program called “MediFor,” ostensibly designed to prevent the use of fake images or text. The idea would be to develop these technologies to help private Internet providers sift through content. It’s the latest in a string of stories about new methods of control over information flow that should, but for some reason do not, horrify every working journalist.

From the Senate dragging Internet providers to the Hill to demand strategies against the sowing of “discord,” to tales of hundreds of Facebook sites zapped for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” following advice by government-connected groups like the Atlantic Council, it’s been clear the future of the information landscape is going to involve elaborate new forms of algorithmic regulation. Stories about the need for such technologies are always couched as responses to the “fake news” problem. Unfortunately, “fake news” is a poorly-defined, amorphous concept that the public has been trained to fear without really understanding.

Read more …

Why wait 4 years?

Germany Announces Plan to Ban Glyphosate (CD)

The German government announced Wednesday it had agreed on a plan to phase out the use of glyphosate—the key chemical in the weedkiller Roundup—with a total ban set to begin by the end of 2023. “Way to go, Germany!” tweeted the U.S.-based advocacy group Organic Consumers Association. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet agreed to the plan Wednesday. The proposal, reported Bloomberg, also says that the “government intends to oppose any request for the E.U. to renew the license to produce the weedkiller, according to a release by the environment ministry.” The European Commission, the E.U.’s rules and regulations body, in 2017 renewed the license for glyphosate in the bloc through the end of 2022.


Germany’s environment Minister, Svenja Schulze, framed the new move as necessary to protect biodiversity, and said that “a world without insects is not worth living in”. “What harms insects also harms people,” Schulze said at a press conference. “What we need is more humming and buzzing.” Glyphosate is no longer exclusive to Monsanto’s Roundup, as it “is now off-patent and marketed worldwide by dozens of other chemical groups including Dow Agrosciences and Germany’s BASF,” as Reuters noted. That’s despite the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s 2015 designation of glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen,” increasing concerns over its health effects, and mounting legal woes for Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year, as multiple juries have found Roundup to have been a factor in plaintiffs’ cancers.

Read more …

Stop calling them conservatives.

Targeting the Tongass National Forest for Amazon-like Destruction (CP)

Alaskan politicians, the governor, Mike Dunleavy, and the two senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, all Republican, convinced Trump to dismantle federal protections of the Tongass National Forest. The Trump administration ordered the Forest Service to approve this process of destruction. In March 16, 2019, the Forest Service designed a 15-year logging project in the Prince of Wales Island that included the opening of 164 miles of new roads in 67 square miles of land and the clearcutting of up to 23,000 acres of old-growth trees – trees several centuries old.

Environmental organizations like Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Alaska Wilderness League, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, National Audubon Society, Natural Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Forest Service and the US Department of Agriculture for violating the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws. They pointed out that such massive timber sale from the projected clearcutting of old growth trees was “wasteful, destructive, and a giveaway” to a timber industry contributing less than 1 percent to the economy of Alaska.

In addition, clearcutting 23,000 acres of ancient trees would harm the Alexander Archipelago wolf, flying squirrels, and birds like Goshawk. Why this violent attack on a forest these environmental organizations call the crown jewel of America? The Alaskan politicians, like Bolsonaro of Brazil, have a distorted and selfish vision: satisfy the landowners in Brazil and the timber barons in Alaska. Do these politicians, including Trump, ever think about the real bad effects, ecological and social, of their actions? They must have heard of the inferno in the Brazilian Amazon and its potentially horrific consequences on the planet. They cannot really assume or believe that adding quite a bit more carbon to the atmosphere from logging Tongass would be a good thing for America or the world? Or could they?

The only reasonable explanation of the murky world of Trump and the Republican politicians (of Alaska and the rest of the country) is that they reject science. Certainly, the Evangelicals do. These Christian Republicans support Trump. They make no secret they expect Jesus to rise up, thus signaling the end of life on Earth. This delusion gets scary as high officials of the Trump administration are its fervent believers.

Read more …

Long-time Assange confidant Stefania Maurizi talks to Roger Waters.

They Want Him Dead As A Warning (Maurizi)

He is one of the legends of rock famous for his progressive battles. At seventy-six, the Pink Floyd co-founder, Roger Waters, has not given up at all and does not hesitate to call his country, Great Britain, “disgusting” for its treatment of Julian Assange. Last Monday, Waters sang his great classic, “Wish You Were Here” in front of the UK Home Office in London in support of Assange, while the Australian journalist, John Pilger, explained the serious risk the WikiLeaks founder runs of being extradited to the US, and Assange’s brother, Gabriel, described an emotional meeting with Julian Assange. Roger Waters is currently in Venice to present his film “US + Them”. Repubblica interviewed him.


What made you go very public about Julian Assange’s situation? “Clearly, there has been a really powerful and international smear campaign, really since the Collateral Murder video. I have been watching it developing. Assange is the pet hate of Western governments, particularly the government of the United States, because he published evidence that shows the United States to have committed heinous war crimes, crimes against humanity in a big way. This smear campaign against him is all about getting him extradited to the US. They want him dead as a warning: they want to persuade any young person who might be thinking about the work of Julian Assange, or any whistleblower or any investigative journalist, that to pursue the path of truth-telling is extremely bad for your health. The message is: if you tell the truth, we will kill you, watch! The same with Chelsea Manning”.

Read more …

 

Withdrawing the extradition bill is no longer enough:

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 052019
 
 September 5, 2019  Posted by at 8:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Henri Matisse Bathers by a river 1909-16

 

UK Government Gives Up Trying To Stop Brexit Delay Bill In Parliament (R.)
Bill Designed To Stop No-Deal Brexit ‘Will Clear Lords’ (BBC)
Fed’s Rate-Cut Debate Focuses On ‘Robust’ US Consumer (R.)
Why Millions Of Millennials Are Not Homeowners (CNBC)
Inequality and Taxes (Flassbeck)
Chinese Paper Says Hong Kong Demonstrators Now Have No Excuse For Violence (R.)
John Doe Begs Judge Not To Name Names In Epstein Gal Pal Case (NYP)
‘Hundreds Of Other People Could Be Implicated’ In Epstein, Maxwell Case (CNBC)
Erdogan Says It’s Unacceptable That Turkey Can’t Have Nuclear Weapons (R.)
US Offered Millions In Cash To Captain Of Iranian Tanker (AFP)
400 Million Facebook Users’ Phone Numbers Exposed In Privacy Lapse (AFP)
Plastic Pollution Has Entered The Fossil Record (G.)

 

 

Good lines: “There was a realization by those on the other side that this was more than usually stupid, and they were looking stupid, and we needed to find a way forward .. ”

UK Government Gives Up Trying To Stop Brexit Delay Bill In Parliament (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government abandoned attempts in the upper house of parliament to block a law aimed at stopping the country from leaving the European Union without a deal. The move paved the way for Johnson being required to ask the EU for a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline, if he fails to reach a renegotiated transition deal with the bloc by the middle of October. Johnson has said he is opposed to an extension and that he is prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal if necessary. Conservative Party members of the upper house of parliament had tabled a series of amendments in an attempt to run down the clock on the delay bill and prevent it being passed before parliament is suspended on Monday.


But in the early hours of Thursday, the government in the upper house, known as the House of Lords, announced it was dropping its opposition to the legislation. Richard Newby, an opposition member of the Lords, who had taken his duvet to parliament in preparation to spend the night discussing the law, said the government dropped its opposition after suffering heavy defeats on some of the proposed amendments. “There was a realization by those on the other side that this was more than usually stupid, and they were looking stupid, and we needed to find a way forward,” he told BBC Radio.

Read more …

OK, what’s next? Friday is the last day Parliament is in session until mid-October.

Bill Designed To Stop No-Deal Brexit ‘Will Clear Lords’ (BBC)

The government has said a bill to stop a no-deal Brexit will complete its passage through the Lords on Friday. The proposed legislation was passed by MPs on Wednesday, inflicting a defeat on Prime Minister Boris Johnson. There were claims pro-Brexit peers could deliberately hold up the bill so it could not get royal assent before Parliament is prorogued next week. But the Conservative chief whip in the Lords announced a breakthrough in the early hours after talks with Labour.


The peers sat until 01:30 BST, holding a series of amendment votes that appeared to support predictions a marathon filibuster session – designed to derail the bill – was under way. But then Lord Ashton of Hyde announced that all stages of the bill would be completed in the Lords by 17:00 BST on Friday. He added that the Commons chief whip had also given a commitment that MPs will consider any Lords amendments on Monday and that the government intends that the “bill will be ready” to be presented for royal assent.

Read more …

End the Fed.

Fed’s Rate-Cut Debate Focuses On ‘Robust’ US Consumer (R.)

Slowing global economies, the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing and a warning sign of recession flashing in the U.S. Treasury market have all fed expectations the Federal Reserve is poised to lower rates at the close of its Sept. 17-18 meeting. But sentiment is much less well-defined within the Fed over whether to reduce borrowing costs for the second time this year, and if so by how much. In remarks this week, their last chance to speak publicly before their next rate-setting meeting, U.S. central bankers broadly agreed that trade policy uncertainty is hurting U.S. businesses. Whether they believe a rate cut is in order appears to hinge largely on their view of the consumer.

John Williams, president of the hugely influential New York Federal Reserve, said on Wednesday consumer spending is “robust” and one reason the U.S. economy is in a “favorable” place.” Still, after his prepared remarks he told reporters: “I don’t see consumer spending really continuing to grow faster into the future like it has been.” Household spending accounts for about 70% of the U.S. economy and surged last quarter despite a drop in business investment. The Fed, he said, is ready to “act as appropriate” to help America avoid an economic downturn, echoing closely language used by Fed Chair Jerome Powell used last month which fed expectations of another quarter-point interest-rate cut in September.

But Williams also told reporters he expects the economy to grow at an above-trend pace of 2.0%-2.5% in 2019. “Doesn’t sound like someone ready to ease 50 basis points. Or at all,” quipped Northern Trust economist Carl Tannenbaum on Twitter. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, who in July opposed the first Fed rate cut since 2008, said on Tuesday there is no reason to cut rates as long as the economy keeps growing at around 2%.

Read more …

Because the Fed has blown a gigantic housing bubble and made millenials poorer in the process. That’s why.

Why Millions Of Millennials Are Not Homeowners (CNBC)

Homeownership eludes millions of millennials. There is a whole host of reasons, including personal preferences and economic disadvantages, that explain why the homeownership rate for the largest generation in U.S. history is lower than that of their parents and grandparents. “In my generation — I’m a baby boomer — you bought a home as quickly as you could,” said Laurie Goodman of the Urban Institute. “You didn’t take a vacation for years to save for the down payment on your first home.” Millennials are in less of a rush to get their hands on house keys, Goodman said. Delayed marriage has one of the biggest impacts on their low homeownership rate, the Urban Institute found. Marriage increases one’s likelihood of owning a home by 18 percentage points.

Yet millennials are wedding later — and less. In 1960, the average age at which women and men first married was in their early 20s. Today, the median age for a first marriage is closer to 30. And millennials are three times as likely to have never married as members of the silent generation — those in their 70s and 80s — when they were young. “Homeownership represents a stable place to live for the rest of my life,” Goodman said. “And a lot of single people think this isn’t the rest of my life — I’m going to find a mate and we’re going to put roots down together.” To be sure, even without saying, “I do,” many young people still want to become homeowners. Unmarried couples accounted for 16% of first-time homebuyers in 2017, the highest share on record, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Single men and women accounted for a quarter of first-time homebuyers. Today, just 57% of first-time homebuyers are married, compared with 75% in 1985. Young people are also in no rush to have kids. The share of married households with children, aged 18 to 34, dropped to 25% in 2015, from 37% in 1990. And having a child increases a person’s chance of owning a house by 6 percentage points, the researchers at the Urban Institute calculated. Millennials are also a far more diverse generation than previous ones, and homeownership rates are lower among Hispanic, black and Asian Americans compared with white Americans. While almost 39% of white millennials, aged 18 to 34, own a house, just 14.5% of those black Americans do, according to the Urban Institute.

Read more …

Germany has much less of a housing bubble, but they’re not doing much better. The inequality discussion will have to be had. America’s most prosperous era, the baby boomer boom, took place against a backdrop of 70-80% income taxes for the rich.

Inequality and Taxes (Flassbeck)

A modest proposal by a small party to reintroduce a wealth tax is rejected by conservatives quietly foaming at the mouth. This shows us a little of what is really going on in Germany. Germany at the end of summer 2019 is a country lacking any perspective. It doesn’t know how to deal with climate change; it lacks any notion of what to do about the obvious recession in its own country; it has no way of tackling the serious shortcomings in its infrastructure; it has no idea how to tame its disrupted agriculture and prevent traffic congestion; it debates this and that, but largely without any sense and without any intellectual or political direction.

What is particularly remarkable is how the plans of a small party to (re)introduce a very small and modest wealth tax have been answered by fuming attacks across almost all media and conservative political parties. Remember, this tax was once disposed of politically simply by doing nothing after a limp ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court. It is also worth remembering that inequality in income and wealth has since reached completely new dimensions. Don’t forget that the conservative parties constantly make the average voter believe that they are there for him. The media and political reaction to this modest proposal, which currently has no chance of being implemented, gives an idea of what power-relations in the country really are like and what would happen if one seriously tried to do something about inequality.

The paid scribblers in the dominant media know exactly what they have to do when the interests of those in power in the big media houses are threatened. The fact that a newspaper like Handelsblatt comes up with the headline “Robbery of the rich” on the subject of a wealth tax shows that all reason has been abandoned and all standards set aside when it comes to issues of wealth distribution. The Süddeutsche Zeitung shamelessly characterises the SPD’s initiative as an attempt “to make the discrediting of performance and success socially acceptable”. The newspaper, which still has a liberal image, accuses the SPD of betraying its own goal of “advancement” and “mobilising against high performers” (although, to be fair, the SZ also wrote a commentary in favour of a wealth tax, which I should not conceal from you).

Read more …

Christopher Balding on Twitter: “No, she hasn’t formally withdrawn the bill. The video with the subtitles say she hasn’t withdrawn the bill. She will PROPOSE withdrawing the bill in a month when the legislature reconvenes.”

Chinese Paper Says Hong Kong Demonstrators Now Have No Excuse For Violence (R.)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill that had sparked widespread protests was an olive branch that leaves demonstrators with no excuse to continue violence, the official China Daily said on Thursday. The withdrawal of the bill on Wednesday came after weeks of protests that had sometimes turned into pitched battles across the former British colony of more than 7 million people. More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested. The bill would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party. Its withdrawal was one of the five key demands of the protesters.


The state-run China Daily said the decision was “a sincere and earnest response to the voice of the community … (that) could be interpreted as an olive branch extended to those who have opposed the bill over the past few months”. The protests began in March but snowballed in June and have evolved into a push for greater democracy for the city, which returned to China in 1997 as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). It was not clear if pulling the bill – which had been suspended since June – would help end the unrest. The headline of the China Daily’s editorial said “protesters now have no excuse to continue violence”

Read more …

Who do we protect, the victims or some John Doe?

John Doe Begs Judge Not To Name Names In Epstein Gal Pal Case (NYP)

An anonymous man terrified he’s about to be named in court papers related to Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell’s alleged child sex trafficking ring is begging a judge not to release his name and identities of others accused — because it could tarnish their reputations, according to a surprise motion filed Tuesday. Lawyers for the John Doe filed the letter Tuesday — just a day before Epstein’s self-proclaimed “sex slave” Virginia Roberts Giuffre is expected to join her lawyers in court as they continue efforts to unseal thousands of pages of documents related to her civil lawsuit against the dead pedophile’s alleged procuress.

“As a non-party to these proceedings, Doe lacks specific knowledge about the contents of the Sealed Materials,” his lawyers wrote to Manhattan federal court judge Loretta Preska. “But it is clear that these materials implicate the privacy and reputational interests of many persons other than the two primary parties to this action, Giuffre and Maxwell.” The letter goes on to say a prior judge overseeing the case summarized the still-secret documents as containing a “range of allegations of sexual acts involving Plaintiff and non-parties to this litigation, some famous, some not; the identities of non-parties who either allegedly engaged in sexual acts with Plaintiff or who allegedly facilitated such acts.”

Doe’s lawyers do not say in the papers if he is famous, or what accusations he expects to face in the court papers. Meanwhile, Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies told The Post he expects Wednesday’s hearing to determine a roadmap for how to deal with the remaining mountain-range of material. “It’s a whole new set of documents, five to 10 times larger in volume than what has been released so far,” the lawyer said, referring to nearly 2,000 pages of case documents that were made public on Aug. 9 — just a day before Epstein’s death by suicide at a lower Manhattan jail. Boies said the still-sealed tranche contains depositions from never-before-heard witnesses, but declined to provide any names. And he said that while his client is planning to attend, he doubts her legal adversary will appear.

Read more …

Why we need Julian Assange. He helped Australian police track down pedophiles, he can do it again in the US.

‘Hundreds Of Other People Could Be Implicated’ In Epstein, Maxwell Case (CNBC)

Still-secret court filings related to sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein and his alleged procurer Ghislaine Maxwell could implicate “hundreds of other people,” Maxwell’s lawyer said Wednesday during a hearing. But finding out who they are will take some time. Maxwell’s lawyer and an attorney for women who claim Epstein, a financier, sexually abused them told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska they have not agreed how the documents should be unsealed. Preska was clearly irritated with their lack of progress on the documents, which are part of a defamation lawsuit that one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, filed several years ago against Maxwell, a British socialite.

The case files are known to contain claims by Giuffre that she was sexually abused by “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister and other world leaders.” “Did you people not talk about this?” Preska asked the lawyers in federal court in Manhattan when she was told there was no plan in place for reviewing the documents. Preska ended the hearing with a tentative plan to have the attorneys take the next two weeks to hash out a process for categorizing the thousands of pages of sealed documents. After that, the lawyers would have a week to designate which group of documents should be unsealed first, with a rolling week-to-week process thereafter to evaluate the material and argue over how much or how little should be disclosed publicly.

There could be up to 10 categories for the documents. Jeffrey Pagliuca, a lawyer for Maxwell, said the sealed documents include “literally hundreds of pages of investigative reports that mention hundreds of people.” “There are hundreds of other people who could be implicated” in the documents, Pagliuca said.

Read more …

Patriotism on steroids.

Erdogan Says It’s Unacceptable That Turkey Can’t Have Nuclear Weapons (R.)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday it was unacceptable for nuclear-armed states to forbid Ankara from obtaining its own nuclear weapons, but did not say whether Turkey had plans to obtain them. “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But (they tell us) we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept,” he told his ruling AK Party members in the eastern city of Sivas. “There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them,” Erdogan said. In fact, many developed countries do not have nuclear weapons. Turkey signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1980, and has also signed the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear detonations for any purpose.

Read more …

“Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail..”

US Offered Millions In Cash To Captain Of Iranian Tanker (AFP)

A senior US official personally offered several million dollars to the Indian captain of an Iranian oil tanker suspected of heading to Syria, the State Department confirmed Wednesday. The Financial Times reported that Brian Hook, the State Department pointman on Iran, sent emails to captain Akhilesh Kumar in which he offered “good news” of millions in US cash to live comfortably if he steered the Adrian Darya 1 to a country where it could be seized. “We have seen the Financial Times article and can confirm that the details are accurate,” a State Department spokeswoman said. “We have conducted extensive outreach to several ship captains as well as shipping companies warning them of the consequences of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization,” she said, referring to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.


The Adrian Darya 1 was held for six weeks by the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on suspicion that it was set to deliver oil from Iran to its main Arab ally Syria — a violation of European Union sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad’s iron-fisted regime. Gibraltar released the ship, formerly called the Grace 1, on August 18 over US protests after receiving written assurances that the vessel would not head to countries sanctioned by the European Union. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mocked Hook’s initiative as he pointed to the Financial Times story. “Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail — deliver us Iran’s oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself,” Zarif tweeted.

Read more …

Facebook does not rhyme with privacy.

400 Million Facebook Users’ Phone Numbers Exposed In Privacy Lapse (AFP)

Phone numbers linked to more than 400 million Facebook accounts were listed online in the latest privacy lapse for the social media giant, US media reported Wednesday. An exposed server stored 419 million records on users across several databases — including 133 million US accounts, more than 50 million in Vietnam, and 18 million in Britain, according to technology news site TechCruch. The databases listed Facebook user IDs — unique digits attached to each account — the profiles’ phone numbers, as well as the gender listed by some accounts and their geographical locations, technology website TechCrunch reported.


The server was not password protected, meaning anyone could access the databases, and remained online until late Wednesday when TechCrunch contacted the site’s host. Facebook confirmed parts of the report but downplayed the extent of the exposure, saying that the number of accounts so far confirmed was around half of the reported 419 million. It added that many of the entries were duplicates and that the data was old. “The dataset has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP.

Read more …

We can not stop ourselves.

Plastic Pollution Has Entered The Fossil Record (G.)

Plastic pollution is being deposited into the fossil record, research has found, with contamination increasing exponentially since 1945. Scientists suggest the plastic layers could be used to mark the start of the Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch in which human activities have come to dominate the planet. They say after the bronze and iron ages, the current period may become known as the plastic age. The study, the first detailed analysis of the rise in plastic pollution in sediments, examined annual layers off the coast of California back to 1834. They discovered the plastic in the layers mirrors precisely the exponential rise in plastic production over the past 70 years.

Most of the plastic particles were fibres from synthetic fabrics used in clothes, indicating that plastics are flowing freely into the ocean through waste water. “Our love of plastic is being left behind in our fossil record,” said Jennifer Brandon, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, who led the study. “It is bad for the animals that live at the bottom of the ocean: coral reefs, mussels, oysters and so on. But the fact that it is getting into our fossil record is more of an existential question. “We all learn in school about the stone age, the bronze age and iron age – is this going to be known as the plastic age?” she said. “It is a scary thing that this is what our generations will be remembered for.”

Many millions of tonnes of plastic are discarded into the environment every year and are broken down into small particles and fibres that do not biodegrade. Microplastics have been found everywhere from the deepest oceans to high mountains and even the Arctic air, showing pervasive pollution of the planet. Research is limited but eating plastic is known to harm marine creatures. Humans are believed to consume at least 50,000 microplastic particles a year through food and water. The health impact is unknown but microplastics can release toxic substances and may penetrate tissues.

Read more …

 

The Hong Kong government runs ads in the international press:

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 042019
 


Marcel Duchamp Sonata 1911

 

To Cut Or Not? Dueling Fed Views Boost Pressure On Powell (R.)
The Economic Future of a Negative Interest Rate World (AIER)
Fed’s Balance Sheet Could End Up Higher Than $4 Trillion (R.)
Boris Johnson In New Battle After Commons Vote Defeat (BBC)
Boris Johnson Wants Election, Corbyn Says No-Deal Must Be Gone First (Ind.)
Rebel MPs Defy Threats From Boris Johnson In Vote Against No-Deal (Ind.)
Johnson To Expel Churchill’s Grandson From Conservative Party (R.)
Hong Kong Stocks Surge On Extradition Bill Withdrawal (AFP)
Meanwhile, In Hong Kong… (ZH)
US Judge Orders Big Drug Companies To Face Opioid Trial (R.)
‘Stratfor Hacker’ Moved To Jail With Manning To Testify Against Assange (RT)

 

 

The Fed should tell the world they’re done interfering in the markets. And they’re sorry they ever did.

To Cut Or Not? Dueling Fed Views Boost Pressure On Powell (R.)

The Federal Reserve should use its meeting in two weeks to aggressively cut interest rates, one U.S. central banker said on Tuesday. Less than an hour later, a second U.S. central banker said he saw no need to use up the Fed’s precious firepower when the economy is growing, inflation looks stable and labor markets are in good shape. The dueling views – from St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, who called for a half-a-percentage-point rate cut, and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, who saw no immediate need for any move – show the tight spot Fed Chair Jerome Powell finds himself in as the Fed’s next policy-setting meeting approaches.

On one hand, the escalating U.S.-China trade war and a global economic slowdown have begun to pinch U.S. business spending and manufacturing output, posing a threat to the broader U.S. economy. President Donald Trump has demanded the Fed cut rates to bolster growth as he piles tariffs on Chinese imports to try to win a better trade deal. But Americans continue to spend, wages are rising and employers keep adding jobs, suggesting a downturn is not on the horizon. Although Powell has said the Fed will act “as appropriate” to keep the economy growing, there is plenty of disagreement among his fellow rate-setters about what that two-word phrase means in practice.

In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Bullard argued that the Fed needs to get ahead of both financial market expectations for a small rate cut and a global trade war that has become a broader “reckoning” over how the world economy is organized. Underscoring his concerns, data released earlier on Tuesday showed the U.S. manufacturing sector had contracted for the first time in three years. U.S. stocks slid and benchmark Treasury yields hit their lowest in three years on concern the drawn-out trade war was taking an increasing toll on the U.S. and global economies. “We are too high,” Bullard said of Fed interest rates, noting that the central bank’s current target policy rate of between 2% and 2.25% was higher than the current yield of all U.S. Treasury securities. Even the 30-year bond has dipped below 2%.

Read more …

Half the economy is made up of zombies by now.

The Economic Future of a Negative Interest Rate World (AIER)

Excessively low interest rates support assets, favor the rich over the poor, favor the rentier over the business investor, encourage leverage and stock buybacks over capital expenditure and equity-capital formation. Income inequality grows, and social instability follows. Corporations that, under a more normal interest rate regime, would have been placed into receivership are able to continue to operate. New, more innovative enterprises, which should thrive as inefficient incumbent corporations exit the gene pool, are stifled at birth by a dearth of investment and lack of opportunity. Trend economic growth suffers. In an excessively low–interest rate environment, financial sleight of hand trumps improvement in total factor productivity every time.

Since the great financial crisis of 2008–9, global economic growth has been sluggish when compared with past recoveries. The slashing of interest rates spawned a new credit cycle, protecting the overextended corporations and individuals who, during the previous boom, borrowed too heavily. The problem in 2008 was too much debt, and the predictable knee-jerk regulatory response was to tighten bank capital requirements. Had that been the sole response, an even-deeper recession would have ensued. Many companies would have defaulted, investors would have been wiped out, and asset markets would eventually have cleared. Painful, but necessary, capital destruction is the nuclear solution to an overblown credit binge, but in a caring modern democracy the collateral damage to the electorate is too great for any elected administration to contemplate.

The actual policy response took different forms from country to country. Forsaking the advice of Walter Bagehot, who stated that the function of a central bank during a panic was to lend freely at a penalty rate against good collateral, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates, lending freely, at a far-from-penalty rate, against poor collateral. Even this monetary largesse failed to suffice, prompting the U.S. Treasury to introduce the Troubled Asset Relief Program, enabling bloated U.S. financial institutions to walk away from large swathes of their nonperforming loans.

Read more …

Hold on for dear life?! Like, literally?

Fed’s Balance Sheet Could End Up Higher Than $4 Trillion (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s balance sheet could end up between $3.8 trillion and $4.7 trillion by 2025, according to projections collected by the New York Fed. The regional arm of the central bank, which manages the Fed’s massive bond holdings, released the projections in a report on Tuesday drawn from surveys of Wall Street traders. The New York Fed’s report showed the Fed could start buying Treasuries as soon as 2019 or as late as 2025, but the decision would depend on the growth of bank reserves and other Fed liabilities, including currency. The Fed currently holds about $3.8 trillion in assets, including bonds purchased to stimulate the economy after the 2008 global financial crisis.


After the crisis, the Fed bulked up its holdings by buying Treasuries using bank reserves it created. Eventually, it started letting bonds and reserves decline to bring policy back to normal. In July, Fed officials decided to end that bond roll-off by August. They made the decision at the same time as they cut rates for the first time in more than a decade, citing inflation that has fallen below their target, the U.S.-China trade war and other economic concerns. To keep control of rates, officials will eventually have to start buying bonds again and building up bank reserves.

Read more …

He could have known it was coming. Did he?

Boris Johnson In New Battle After Commons Vote Defeat (BBC)

Boris Johnson faces a new battle in the Commons after his first vote as PM saw him lose to rebel Tories and opposition MPs who object to a no-deal Brexit. The Commons voted 328 to 301 to take control of the agenda, allowing them to bring a bill requesting a Brexit delay. The PM said he would call for a general election if he was forced to request an extension to the 31 October deadline. MPs will now vote on the Brexit delay bill. If it passes, the vote on whether to hold an election will follow. Wednesday in the Commons will also see Chancellor Sajid Javid outline the government’s spending plans, with the health service, education and the police expected to fare well.


Speaking late on Tuesday to a packed House of Commons, the prime minister said the MPs’ bill would “hand control” of Brexit negotiations to the EU and bring “more dither, more delay, more confusion”. He told MPs he had no choice but to press ahead with efforts to call an October election, adding: “The people of this country will have to choose.” The BBC understands the government intends to hold an election on 15 October, two days before a crucial EU summit in Brussels. This is a day later than the BBC was previously reporting. Jeremy Corbyn said the bill needed to be passed to take the no-deal option completely “off the table” before his party would support the call for a general election.

Read more …

Does Corbyn pull the strings now, or does Cummings have something up his sleeve?

Boris Johnson Wants Election, Corbyn Says No-Deal Must Be Gone First (Ind.)

The government is tabling a motion for a general election in the wake of a humiliating Commons defeat on Boris Johnson’s strategy of putting Britain on course to crash out of the EU. The prime minister said he would put forward the motion, which must win the support of two-thirds of the Commons in order to trigger a poll, after rebel Tories defied his threat to throw them out of the party and united with opposition MPs to seize control of Commons business, paving the way for a vote tomorrow on a bill that would outlaw a no-deal Brexit. However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that in order for Labour to back the government motion, which would see the UK hold its third general election in the space of five years, tomorrow’s bill would first have to become law.

Labour fear that when the election is called Mr Johnson may simply move the date beyond October 31, the date Britain is due to leave the EU, which – given that there is little sign of his administration striking a deal with the bloc – would cause a no-deal exit by default. “The leader of the opposition has been begging for an election for two years,” Mr Johnson told the Commons immediately after losing the vote. “He has thousands of supporters outside calling for an election. I don’t want an election but if MPs vote tomorrow to stop negotiations and to compel another pointless delay to Brexit potentially for years then that would be the only way to resolve this.

“I can confirm that we are tonight tabling a motion under the Fixed Term Parliament Act.” Mr Corbyn responded that while Mr Johnson was free to table a motion for a general election, his party would not back it while no-deal remained as an option. He said the government must “get the bill through first in order to take no-deal off the table”. “We do not have a presidency, we have a Prime Minister who governs with the consensus of the House of Commons representing the people within whom the sovereignty rests,” he said. “There is no majority to leave without a deal within the country”.

Read more …

Another vote today. If it doesn’t pass, there will be no election.

Rebel MPs Defy Threats From Boris Johnson In Vote Against No-Deal (Ind.)

Rebel MPs have defied threats from Boris Johnson to vote through a motion paving the way for legislation to block a no-deal Brexit. MPs voted to seize control of the Commons agenda on Wednesday afternoon in order to force through a bill requiring the prime minister to request an extension in Brexit talks to 31 January unless he secures a deal with Brussels or parliamentary approval for no deal by 19 October. The government’s defeat by a margin of 328 to 301 leaves Mr Johnson’s Brexit strategy in tatters by potentially robbing him of the threat of no-deal, which he has repeatedly said is essential to obtain concessions from the EU. Responding from the despatch box immediately after the crushing result, Mr Johnson confirmed he is tabling a bill to trigger a general election, with a vote expected to take place soon after the anti-no deal bill completes its passage through the Commons on Wednesday.

Read more …

“That’s fortunes of war. I knew what I was doing.”

Johnson To Expel Churchill’s Grandson From Conservative Party (R.)

Nicholas Soames, the grandson of Britain’s World War Two leader Winston Churchill, will be expelled from the Conservative Party after voting against Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Brexit. The move against the Conservative Party grandee marks one of the most bizarre turns in the three-year Brexit crisis that has gripped a country once touted as a confident pillar of Western economic and political stability. Soames was one of 21 Conservative lawmakers who rebelled, including Ken Clarke, 79, the longest continuously sitting British lawmaker in the House of Commons, and former finance minister Philip Hammond. All are to be expelled.

When Soames was asked if this was the end of the Conservative Party his grandfather would have known, he said: “No. But it’s a bad night. “It is a pity – a great pity – that this has in my view all been planned: this is exactly what they wanted and they will try to have a general election which is what they wanted.” Since he took office as prime minister six weeks ago, Johnson has been ruthless: He oversaw one of the biggest purges of cabinet ministers in modern British history and has cut short a session of parliament to increase the likelihood Britain will leave the EU, with or without a deal.

[..] “I have been told by the chief whip, who is my friend and who I like very much, that it will be his sad duty to write to me tomorrow to tell me I have had the whip removed after 37 years as a Conservative member of parliament,” Soames said. “That’s fortunes of war. I knew what I was doing.” Soames, 71, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2014, has been a member of parliament since 1983 and previously served as a junior defense minister. He is the son of Mary Soames, the youngest of Churchill’s five children. [..] As a young boy, Soames said he was unaware of his grandfather’s significance and has recounted how, when aged five, he once visited Churchill in his bedroom and asked him: “Grandpapa, is it true that you are the greatest man in the world?” Churchill replied: “Yes, now bugger off.”

Read more …

“..troubled airliner Cathay Pacific soaring nearly 9 percent.”

Hong Kong Stocks Surge On Extradition Bill Withdrawal (AFP)

Hong Kong’s stock market soared Wednesday after local media reported that the city’s embattled leader is planning to fully withdraw a loathed extradition bill, one of the main demands of pro-democracy protesters. The Hang Seng index leapt more than three percent in afternoon trade after the South China Morning Post and HK01 both published reports that the city’s pro-Beijing chief executive Carrie Lam was planning to shelve the bill. The semi-autonomous city has been battered by three months of huge, sometimes violent, protests that were initially sparked by a plan to allow suspects to be extradited to the Chinese mainland for the first time.

The protests evolved into a wider democracy campaign involving clashes between protesters and police, in the biggest challenge to China’s rule of Hong Kong since its 1997 handover from the British. For the last three months both Lam and Beijing have refused to make any concessions to the protesters beyond agreeing to suspend the bill, a move that fell far short of demands that it be permanently shelved. But on Wednesday the first indications that some type of compromise might be offered began to emerge. [..] Citing sources, the South China Morning Post reported that Lam would announce a full withdrawal of the bill later in the afternoon. Local news website HK01 had similar reports.

[..] That speculation sparked jubilation on the stock market which has been battered by both China’s trade war with the United States and Beijing’s refusal to find a political solution to the weeks of protests in the international financial hub. Shares leapt on the news with companies like HSBC rising 3.4 percent and troubled airliner Cathay Pacific soaring nearly 9 percent.

Read more …

How much of this is due to the state of the Chinese economy?

Meanwhile, In Hong Kong… (ZH)

If the nightly images of water cannons and molotov cocktails were not enough to spark fears about the state of Hong Kong’s economy, tonight’s almost unprecedented collapse in IHS Markit Hong Kong Purchasing Manager’s Index should slap reality back to the top of mind. The whole economy PMI crashed to 40.8, the lowest reading since Feb 2009. This is the 17th consecutive month of contraction (sub-50) for the survey. Business activity fell at the steepest rate since the end of 2008, reflecting a sharper decline in new order intakes. Pessimism spread to more firms, with business confidence slumping to its lowest on record.

“The rates of decline in output, new orders and export sales accelerated sharply in August, with the only other time that the PMI survey has recorded a steeper downturn, in its more than two decades of history, been during the SARS epidemic in 2003 and the global financial crisis in 2008-2009.” Nearly half of survey respondents reported reduced Chinese demand, citing the ongoing US-China trade dispute, a sharp depreciation in the renminbi and large-scale protests as reasons.

Commenting on the latest survey results, Bernard Aw, Principal Economist at IHS Markit, said: “The latest PMI data reveal a Hong Kong economy flirting with recession in the third quarter as business activity is increasingly aggravated by protest-related paralysis. “The executive authorities of the Hong Kong SAR recently unveiled an economic stimulus plan to support flagging growth momentum, but any further economic weakness will mean policymakers are likely to consider larger stimulus measures.

Read more …

Remember: 400,000 deaths.

US Judge Orders Big Drug Companies To Face Opioid Trial (R.)

A U.S. judge on Tuesday rejected efforts by major drugmakers, pharmacies and distributors to dismiss claims that they caused the nation’s opioid crisis, clearing the way for a scheduled landmark trial even as he pushes for a nationwide settlement. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who oversees roughly 2,000 opioid lawsuits by states, counties and cities, said the plaintiffs can try to prove that drugmakers’ deceptive marketing of the painkillers caused a harmful, massive increase in supply that pharmacies and distributors did not do enough to stop. “A factfinder could reasonably infer that these failures were a substantial factor in producing the alleged harm suffered by plaintiffs,” the Cleveland-based judge wrote.


The ruling was among seven decisions and orders totaling 80 pages from Polster ahead of a scheduled Oct. 21 trial by two Ohio counties against Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin maker accused of fueling the epidemic, and several other defendants. Polster also refused to dismiss civil conspiracy claims against drugmakers, pharmacies and distributors, and said federal law did not preempt much of the plaintiffs’ case. Other defendants included the drugmakers Endo International Plc and Johnson & Johnson; pharmacy operators CVS Health Corp, Rite Aid Corp, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc and Walmart Inc; and distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and McKesson Corp.

Read more …

Our best and bravest need our help: “..he pled guilty to hacking Stratfor in 2013 in order to avoid giving up information on his fellow activists, including those at WikiLeaks, and has no intention of doing so now.”

‘Stratfor Hacker’ Moved To Jail With Manning To Testify Against Assange (RT)

Jeremy Hammond, who helped feed millions of emails from ‘private CIA’ Stratfor to WikiLeaks, has reportedly been moved to Virginia to testify before a grand jury, which he refuses to do, jeopardizing his early release from prison. Hammond has been moved to the same Eastern District where whistleblower Chelsea Manning is currently being held for refusing to testify against Julian Assange, the Jeremy Hammond Support Committee revealed on Tuesday in a statement. While neither Hammond nor his supporters are certain of the nature of the summons, he pled guilty to hacking Stratfor in 2013 in order to avoid giving up information on his fellow activists, including those at WikiLeaks, and has no intention of doing so now.


While Hammond received the maximum 10 year sentence in exchange for his non-cooperating guilty plea, he was granted immunity from further prosecution in all other federal courts and was due to be released in December, having received a sentence reduction for participating in the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Residential Drug Abuse Program. Transferring him from Memphis, Tennessee, where he was incarcerated, to Alexandria, Virginia, cuts short his participation in the program and guarantees he will serve at least another year in prison. And he could be locked up much longer, given his refusal to testify, which will place him in the same legal limbo where Manning is currently entrapped.

Read more …

 

Grand Bahama island. 70% is below water level.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 032019
 
 September 3, 2019  Posted by at 8:49 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Head of a woman 1939

 

Resurrecting the American Economy With Stalinism 2.0 (Dmitry Orlov)
Use Old Chinese Debt To Default On Beijing’s $1 Trillion Treasuries (RT)
Boris Johnson Faces Showdown In Parliament (BBC)
The Realities Of A No-Deal Brexit (Ivan Rogers)
Ahead of Brexit, UK Factories Go Quiet (R.)
Hong Kong Leader Says She Would ‘Quit’ If She Could (R.)
Carrie Lam: Hong Kong Leader ‘Never Tendered Resignation To Beijing’ (BBC)
The Quickening (Kunstler)
Jeffrey Epstein’s Model-Scouting Pal Has ‘Disappeared Without A Trace’ (NYP)
New Delays Could Keep Boeing 737 MAX Grounded Into Holiday Travel Season (MW)
All Of Us Are In Danger: John Pilger Has Chilling Warning From Assange (RT)

 

 

Lovely from Dmitry. Do read the whole thing. What the US must do to save its economy is imitate China.

Resurrecting the American Economy With Stalinism 2.0 (Dmitry Orlov)

Donald Trump has recently ordered US corporations to move production out of China and into the US. Easier said than done!—or, rather, undone. Moving production to China (and, in case of IT, to India) allowed US corporations to benefit from the large wage differential and an easier regulatory environment in order to be more profitable. They spent these excess profits by buying back their own stock, paying generous dividends to their shareholders and using their artificially inflated stock prices to justify exorbitant executive salaries and bonuses.

Along the way, they impoverished American workers by depriving them of gainful deployment, eroded the skill base of the American population and, perhaps most importantly, destroyed demand for their products because more and more Americans could no longer afford them. As these trends played out, making China prosperous and the US increasingly distressed and impoverished, with close to 100 million working-age people permanently jobless, US corporations could no longer profit from their offshored production to the same extent, and so they took advantage of low interest rates to borrow huge sums of money and use it to continue buying back their own shares, paying dividends and continuing with the exorbitant executive compensation.


By now, many of the major US corporations are financial zombies, waiting for an uptick in interest rates to drive them into bankruptcy. And it is these zombies that are being tasked with bringing production back to the US. Good luck with that! Which is to say, it is highly unlikely that such an effort could possibly succeed. But even if it could succeed, would it solve the problem—which is that the US is gradually degenerating into a bankrupt third world country? Perhaps not, because, you see, the entire theory of “making America great again” is based on a fallacy—which is that China became the world’s largest economy (by purchasing power) and the world’s factory simply by virtue of the fact that American corporations offshored production to it.

Read more …

The webs we weave…

Use Old Chinese Debt To Default On Beijing’s $1 Trillion Treasuries (RT)

[..] the trade war adversaries are already considering options beyond tariffs. Beijing, which enjoys a trade surplus with the US, has hinted it could use rare earth metals as a leverage. There is also China’s “nuclear” option of dumping US Treasuries. Meanwhile, Washington has been reminded of China’s century-old bonds incurred before the nation adopted communism, which, adjusted for inflation, interest and other fees, amount to around $1 trillion, perfectly covering Beijing’s holdings of US Treasury Bills. “The US will simply default on $1 trillion of UST bonds held by China and claim, based on these old bonds, that they are justified in doing so,” Max Keiser, the host of RT’s Keiser Report, said.


While it’s really doubtful that China would ever pay out, the US’ attempt to claim the money would only trigger serious economic problems and make the already turbulent situation worse, investment guru Jim Rogers told RT. “If America gets a ruling that they [China] must pay then what America would do is freeze Chinese assets in America… take those assets or seize those assets. And then you have a very serious trade war going on,” Rogers said, adding that China would certainly retaliate to such a move. The individual holders of the antique bonds can do little to get any money from China, which has never recognized the debt. Firstly, they would have to have their claim recognized, win the case, and then find some way to force China to cash out, according to Duke University professor Mitu Gulati. However, it would be a completely different story if the Trump administration steps in.

Read more …

How does he feel about Bitcoin?

ECB Official Mersch Calls Facebook’s Libra ‘Treacherous’ (MW)

A high-ranking European Central Bank official on Monday outlined problems with the planned cryptocurrency Libra, the latest in a series of warnings from government officials. “I sincerely hope that the people of Europe will not be tempted to leave behind the safety and soundness of established payment solutions and channels in favor of the beguiling but treacherous promises of Facebook’s siren call,” said Yves Mersch, a member of the ECB’s executive board.

In a speech at a Frankfurt legal conference, he wryly noted that Libra was coming from “the very same people who had to explain themselves in front of legislators in the United States and the European Union on the threats to our democracies resulting from their handling of personal data on their social media platform,” a reference to Facebook. One concern Mersch raised is that the Libra coins will be issued by a cartel of players in the fields of payments, technology, e-commerce and telecommunications. Called the Libra Association, it will control the blockchain and collect the seigniorage income. Libra Association members include Mastercard, PayPal, eBay, and Uber.


“With such a setup, it is difficult to discern the foundational promises of decentralization and disintermediation normally associated with cryptocurrencies and other digital currencies. On the contrary, similarly to public money, Libra will actually be highly centralized, with Facebook and its partners acting as quasi-sovereign issuers of currency,” he said. Public money also is centralized, but unlike Libra, has a “sovereign entity and a central issuance authority.” The corporate entities, by contrast, are accountable to their shareholders and will “get privileged access to private data that they can abusively monetize.”

Read more …

More than one. Chaos galore.

Boris Johnson Faces Showdown In Parliament (BBC)

Boris Johnson faces a showdown in Parliament later after No 10 officials warned he would call for a snap general election on 14 October if MPs succeed in seizing control of Commons business. Rebel Tories and Labour MPs are planning a bill to stop the UK leaving the EU on 31 October without a deal. Mr Johnson said he did not want an election, but progress with the EU would be “impossible” if the MPs win. Jeremy Corbyn said the Labour Party was ready for a general election. But shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd later said Labour would vote against any government plans to hold a general election before the UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October.


He said Labour “will not have Boris Johnson dictate the terms of an election that crashes this country out with no deal”. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, Mr Johnson would require the backing of two-thirds of the UK’s 650 MPs to trigger a poll in the autumn. A number of MPs have come together across party political lines in a fresh bid to stop a no-deal Brexit, after Mr Johnson vowed to leave the EU with or without a deal on 31 October. When Parliament returns on Tuesday after recess, they are expected to put forward legislation under Standing Order 24 – a rule that allows urgent debates to be heard.

Read more …

Rogers was the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union from 4 November 2013 until 3 January 2017.

The Realities Of A No-Deal Brexit (Ivan Rogers)

No developed country has taken itself out of a trade bloc since the war because the costs of deliberately making trade substantially more difficult with your closest neighbours are obviously large. No trade deal has ever been struck between partners actively seeking to get further apart. Trade deals have always been between those aspiring to converge and to increase trade flows, not diverge and decrease them. No amount of repetition of ‘this will all be terribly easy’ ever makes it true. It is not unpatriotic or ‘declinist’ to point out that a process of ‘differential disentanglement’ – which is actually what Brexit is – will be hard, complex and lengthy. How, seriously, after more than three years can so much of our political elite still be in denial on this?

If you leave a club whose other members are prepared to integrate more deeply politically and juridically than you, because they see economic and political benefits from doing so, you cannot tell the public that any adverse consequences of leaving are all the club’s fault, for wilfully not carrying on giving you club benefits when you leave. Nor can you just wish away issues at borders, whether on land or cross-Channel, when the entire purpose of leaving the Single Market and Customs Union must be to run deliberately different regulatory regimes – chosen by your own Parliament – where you believe it suits you. Such choices by definition entail a hard border. Borders across the whole world demarcate different regulatory regimes.


Even the border between Sweden and Norway, one in the EU, the other out of it but wanting to remain much closer ‘in’ to EU institutional and legal frameworks (Single Market, Schengen) than our government, is a hard border. If alternative arrangements currently existed which obviated the need for any such border, they would already be operating right there. They are not.

Read more …

“Another contraction in the current quarter would officially herald a recession.”

Ahead of Brexit, UK Factories Go Quiet (R.)

British manufacturing contracted last month at the fastest rate in seven years, rocked by the deepening Brexit crisis and the global downturn, boding poorly for the chances of an economic rebound in the third quarter, a survey showed on Monday. The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 47.4 from 48.0 in July, a full point lower than the median forecast in a Reuters poll of economists and well below the 50 dividing line for growth and contraction.


Only German manufacturing fared worse among the national PMIs produced for Europe by data company IHS Markit. “The big picture is that manufacturing is on track to contract for a second consecutive quarter, and a meaningful recovery is unlikely given the ongoing struggles of global manufacturing,” Andrew Wishart, UK economist at consultancy Capital Economics, said. Britain’s overall economy shrank in the second quarter too, a hangover from the stockpiling boom in advance of the original March Brexit deadline. Another contraction in the current quarter would officially herald a recession.

Read more …

What she said in private…

Hong Kong Leader Says She Would ‘Quit’ If She Could (R.)

Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said she has caused “unforgivable havoc” by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording of remarks she made last week to a group of businesspeople. At the closed-door meeting, Lam told the group that she now has “very limited” room to resolve the crisis because the unrest has become a national security and sovereignty issue for China amid rising tensions with the United States. “If I have a choice,” she said, speaking in English, “the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology.”

Lam’s dramatic and at times anguished remarks offer the clearest view yet into the thinking of the Chinese leadership as it navigates the unrest in Hong Kong, the biggest political crisis to grip the country since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Hong Kong has been convulsed by sometimes violent protests and mass demonstrations since June, in response to a proposed law by Lam’s administration that would allow people suspected of crimes on the mainland to be extradited to face trial in Chinese courts. The law has been shelved, but Lam has been unable to end the upheaval. Protesters have expanded their demands to include complete withdrawal of the proposal, a concession her administration has so far refused. Large demonstrations wracked the city again over the weekend.


Lam suggested that Beijing had not yet reached a turning point. She said Beijing had not imposed any deadline for ending the crisis ahead of National Day celebrations scheduled for October 1. And she said China had “absolutely no plan” to deploy People’s Liberation Army troops on Hong Kong streets. World leaders have been closely watching whether China will send in the military to quell the protests, as it did a generation ago in the bloody Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing. Lam noted, however, that she had few options once an issue had been elevated “to a national level,” a reference to the leadership in Beijing, “to a sort of sovereignty and security level, let alone in the midst of this sort of unprecedented tension between the two big economies in the world.”

Read more …

… and now denies in public.

Carrie Lam: Hong Kong Leader ‘Never Tendered Resignation To Beijing’ (BBC)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has denied ever offering to resign, after audio was leaked of her saying she would if she could. Yesterday a recording of a private meeting emerged where she is heard saying: “If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit.” On Tuesday she said she had “never tendered any resignation”, but did not deny the authenticity of the recording. [..] The audio, published by Reuters on Monday, was recorded at a private meeting of business leaders that Ms Lam attended last week. In it she is heard blaming herself for igniting the territory’s political crisis, saying it was unforgiveable of her to have caused such huge havoc. “If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology, is to step down,” the voice on the tape says.


[..] She also says in the recording that China does not have a deadline by which it wants to solve the crisis in Hong Kong, and that Chinese authorities would not send in troops to end the protests. At a weekly press conference, Ms Lam was asked about the leaked audio. She said it was “totally unacceptable” that her remarks made in private had been recorded and passed to the media. “I have never tendered a resignation to the Central People’s Government,” the chief executive told reporters. “I have not even contemplated to discuss a resignation with the Central People’s Government.” “The choice of not resigning is my own choice,” she said, insisting she wanted “to help Hong Kong in a very difficult situation and to serve the people of Hong Kong”.

Read more …

“..the RussiaGate ploy alerted Americans that there truly is a Deep State with its own self-winding agenda.”

The Quickening (Kunstler)

Cue the rise of the redistributionists, that is, the people who want the government to determine who gets what and where to get it. Or, shall we say, who to take it from. Elizabeth Warren is leading the pack for now — the Oklahoma once-Republican grandma turned Leon Trotsky wannabe. I’ll give her this: she’s a helluva cheerleader. And she’s energetic for an old broad, prancing around the stage in her spandex yoga pants, arms akimbo, head vibrating. I wonder, though, whether voters (those aforesaid citizens) will remember that she vowed to give free health care to border-jumpers. Or that she pretended to be a Cherokee for career advancement at snooty Harvard. A rowdy-dowdy financial smash-up will tarnish the Trump MAGA brand for sure.


But will the Golden Golem of Greatness simply stew in the oval office or try some desperate new stunts to salvage his quixotic political career? And will his shaky marriage with the Republican Party veer into divorce court, with the party turning to a steadier and more conventional figure in the coming election year? They’ll get beat anyway as economic depression mounts, but they’ll save face in defeat. That is, if Mr. Trump manages to not start World War Three in the meantime. Odious as he is to many, history will record one salutary effect of his term in office: the RussiaGate ploy alerted Americans that there truly is a Deep State with its own self-winding agenda. A few perp-walks upcoming may have a chastening effect on future Swamp critters entertaining a higher calling, as the slippery James Comey put it — meaning, using the powerful machinery of government for your own purposes.

Read more …

Can’t find any of his accomplices, can we?

Jeffrey Epstein’s Model-Scouting Pal Has ‘Disappeared Without A Trace’ (NYP)

The model agency boss accused of scouting young girls for pedophile pal Jeffrey Epstein has disappeared like a “ghost,” as investigators scour the globe searching for him, a new report said. French authorities want to quiz Jean-Luc Brunel, 72, over his ties to Epstein as part of their own probe into the late financier who had a house in Paris, according to the Daily Mirror. “He is a ghost who has disappeared without a trace,” a legal source in Paris told the paper of Brunel, who discovered some of the biggest names in modeling, including Christy Turlington and Angie Everhardt. Investigators have made inquiries throughout the US and Europe, as well as Brazil, where the Frenchman was seen looking for girls just three months before Epstein, 66, was arrested, the paper says. “There is no address for him, all his internet accounts, including social media, have been wiped out. He is uncontactable,” the source told the Mirror.

Read more …

Sounds crazy: Boeing simply doesn’t answer questions.

New Delays Could Keep Boeing 737 MAX Grounded Into Holiday Travel Season (MW)

Friction between Boeing and international air-safety authorities threatens a new delay in bringing the grounded 737 MAX fleet back into service, according to government and pilot union officials briefed on the matter. The latest complication in the long-running saga, these officials said, stems from a Boeing briefing in August that was cut short by regulators from the U.S., Europe, Brazil and elsewhere, who complained that the plane maker had failed to provide technical details and answer specific questions about modifications in the operation of MAX flight-control computers.


Boeing as a result now has to resubmit briefing documents describing proposed software changes, these people said. The changes then have to be vetted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration before a follow-up meeting with the same participants can be held and crucial simulator and flight tests of the final software revisions scheduled. The upshot, the people said, is likely to be several more weeks of delay that could significantly reduce the likelihood that many of the planes would be back flying passengers in North America during the Christmas holidays, as Boeing and some U.S. carriers have publicly projected. The meetings and the fallout haven’t been reported before.

Read more …

At the Roger Waters performance of Wish You Were Here last night.

All Of Us Are In Danger: John Pilger Has Chilling Warning From Assange (RT)

Journalist John Pilger has delivered a stark warning from WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, who said that his persecution is intended to kill dissent. “Speak up now,” Pilger said, or face “the silence of a new kind of tyranny.” Assange is currently serving a 50 week sentence in Belmarsh Prison for skipping a bail hearing in 2012. US authorities are seeking his extradition for his role in publishing classified documents, accusing him of espionage. Speaking at a rally outside the Home Office in London on Monday, Pilger passed on a message from the WikiLeaks editor who, if extradited and convicted, could be sentenced to 175 years in prison.

It’s not just me. It’s much wider. It’s all of us. It’s all journalists, and all publishers who do their job who are in danger.


“The danger Julian Assange faces can easily spread to the present and past editors of the Guardian, the New York Times, Der Spiegel, El Pais in Spain, the Sydney Morning Herald, and many other newspapers and media outlets that published the WikiLeaks revelations about the lies and crimes of our governments,” Pilger continued. “By defending Julian Assange we defend our most sacred rights,” Pilger warned. “Speak up now or wake up one morning to the silence of a new kind of tyranny.”

Read more …

 

In these difficult times, the UK press asks the hard-hitting questions:

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 022019
 


Strongest storm ever to threaten Florida east coast

 

 

‘Get Ready for Brexit’: Government Launches Information Blitz (G.)
Johnson’s Brexit Gambit Puts Queen in a Tight Spot (Spiegel)
Leaked No-Deal Report Says Lorries Could Face 48-Hour Delays At Dover (PA)
Irish Border After Brexit – All Ideas Beset By Issues Says Secret Paper (G.)
Many US Firms Already Have Ditched China, More On The Way (CNBC)
Hong Kong Students Boycott Classes As Chinese Media Warns ‘End Is Coming’ (G.)
Why Has The U.S. CEO-To-Worker Pay Ratio Increased So Much? (Colombo)
In The Era Of Neurocapitalism, Your Brain Needs New Rights (Vox)
Hollywood Reboots Russophobia For The New Cold War (Parry)
A Black Hole So Big It Shouldn’t Even Exist Is Baffling Scientists (RT)

 

 

After carefully making sure there were no needy people left in the country, and no children were going hungry, the new UK gov decided to spend £100+ million on an advertising campaign. They’re going to absolutely bombard, if not strangle, you with this stuff. You won’t be able to escape it.

‘Get Ready for Brexit’: Government Launches Information Blitz (G.)

The billboards have been unveiled, the branded mugs have been ordered and the adverts will soon start following you around the internet after the government launched what it claimed to be the largest ever public information campaign in an effort to prepare the British public for leaving the EU. The Get Ready for Brexit campaign went live on Sunday, stating that the UK would be leaving the EU on 31 October and urging the public to visit a new website to check what they needed to do to prepare for a no-deal exit. The slogan appeared for the first time on a giant advertising screen next to a John Lewis store at the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, east London, looming over visitors.

Downing Street has previously briefed that the taxpayer-funded advertising campaign will cost up to £100m, although doubts have been raised over whether the government will realistically be able to spend that much on a campaign lasting just two months. One leading advertising industry source pointed out that this figure was substantially higher than the amount spent on traditional advertising in the UK by major consumer brands such as Amazon, Tesco and Asda in the whole of 2018. This suggests that either the government is overstating the amount it intends to spend in an attempt to draw extra attention or that Downing Street really is launching an advertising campaign that will be unequalled in its ubiquity.


Michael Gove, the cabinet minister in charge of no-deal planning, said: “Ensuring an orderly Brexit is not only a matter of national importance, but a shared responsibility” as he launched the adverts by referring to government polling that showed only 50% of the population thought it was likely the UK would leave the EU on 31 October. The same research found that 42% of small- to medium-sized businesses were still unsure of how they could prepare for Brexit and just a third of the British public have looked for information on what they will need to do, suggesting large-scale ignorance of what Brexit will involve with less than two months to go until the expected departure date.=

Read more …

View from Germany: “..the last intact pillar of the United Kingdom: its queen…”

Johnson’s Brexit Gambit Puts Queen in a Tight Spot (Spiegel)

[..] the anger of the masses isn’t being directed solely at the man in Downing Street. One of the last taboos for many Brits has also been broken: blatant criticism of the queen. “The. Queen. Did. Not. Save. Us,” tweeted Labour Party politician Kate Osamor, and hinted at the abolition of the monarchy. Her party leader Jeremy Corbyn asked the queen in writing for a personal meeting to protest against Johnson’s coup. Jo Swinson, the head of the EU-friendly Liberal Democrats, also wrote to the queen asking for an “urgent meeting.” After three years of the country beating itself up in the Brexit debate, Johnson is now leading Britain into the last round of the ordeal – an unprecedented showdown between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary, which, incidentally, threatens to damage the last intact pillar of the United Kingdom: its queen.


It’s impossible to predict what will ensue in the coming weeks – aside from chaos. But there is much to suggest Johnson wants precisely that, and at any cost, in order to deliver the main promise he made to become British prime minister – to lead his country out of the EU on Oct. 31, with or without an agreement. After the G-7 summit in Biarritz, Johnson may have praised the EU’s willingness to compromise, he may have put the chances of no deal at “one in a million,” and the majority of Brits and their elected representatives may be against leaving the EU without a deal, but no one in the betting crazy UK is now likely to bet on there being any agreement between London and Brussels in the end.

Read more …

Blame France.

Leaked No-Deal Report Says Lorries Could Face 48-Hour Delays At Dover (PA)

Leaked government documents which reportedly say there could be 48-hour delays at Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit have moved hauliers to warn of the “clear and present danger” to the UK supply chain. Sky News said it had seen documents which suggest vehicles could face a two-day delay at the Kent port in a no-deal scenario, and the revelation has led to industry insiders saying the government has “failed to deliver”. Rod McKenzie, the managing director of policy at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said it came as absolutely no surprise to him that such a document existed, adding that there was still no sign of a new customs process with just weeks left before the UK is expected to leave the EU.

He had not seen the Department for Transport documents (DfT), but said he understood they were more recent than the leaked Operation Yellowhammer files which contained predictions of a three-month “meltdown” at ports in the event of no deal. “The Road Haulage Association has been saying this for quite literally years now that if there is a no-deal Brexit, there will be very substantial queues at the border,” McKenzie said. “We have got a very, very serious problem with the UK supply chain if there is a no-deal Brexit on 31 October from where we are now. “This is a clear and present danger to the supply chain on which we all depend, and we are calling on the government in the clearest terms to make it clear what traders have to do to trade with the continent. This they have failed to do so far.”


Sky News said on Sunday night that analysis commissioned by the DfT suggested that on the first day of a no-deal Brexit, the worst-case scenario would be a two-day maximum delay for freight and vehicles at Dover, and an average wait of a day-and-a-half. McKenzie said any delay at the ports would cause a “very, very substantial traffic jam”, adding: “What we are saying is that we urgently need clarity from this government, having not had it from the previous government, we urgently need clarity from this government of what traders have to do to get ready for a no-deal Brexit.”

Read more …

Troubles.

Irish Border After Brexit – All Ideas Beset By Issues Says Secret Paper (G.)

All potential solutions to the post-Brexit Irish border are fraught with difficulty and would leave smaller businesses struggling to cope, experts have said, as leaked government papers outline major concerns just two months before Britain is due to leave the EU. A report summarising the findings of the government’s official “alternative arrangements” working groups concluded that there are issues with all the scenarios put forward to try to replace the backstop arrangement. There are also specific concerns over whether any technological solution could be delivered to monitor cross-border trade. Critics said the paper, seen by the Guardian, should “ring alarm bells” across government over how likely it is that alternative arrangements to the backstop will be found.

The dossier marked “official-sensitive” prepared for the EU Exit Negotiations Board is dated 28 August. It details how the findings of all advisory groups informing the government on the Northern Irish border are being kept deliberately under wraps to try to avoid hampering Britain’s intended renegotiation of the backstop agreed to by Theresa May. Alternative systems to avoid a hard Northern Irish border after Brexit have become the central tenet of Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy. He sees this as a way of unlocking a new deal with Europe and has claimed that there are “abundant solutions”.


However, the damning report shows there is no single deliverable solution at present, despite the fact Johnson is almost a third of the way through the “30 days” target that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, gave him to come up with a fresh border proposal. The report said: “It is evident that every facilitation has concerns and issues related to them. The complexity of combining them into something more systemic and as part of one package is a key missing factor at present.”

Read more …

This will take a long time.

Many US Firms Already Have Ditched China, More On The Way (CNBC)

President Trump rattled Wall Street when he demanded U.S. firms move production out of China. But many have already taken steps to do so, and, in earnings calls just over the past month, dozens of chief executives have signaled plans to further diversify their supply chains amid the intensifying trade war. On Aug. 23, Trump took to Twitter, ordering American companies to “immediately start looking for an alternative to China” and urging them instead to start making their products in the U.S. In doing so, he cited the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) — passed in 1977 to deal with an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” [..]

Trump doubled down on Friday, attacking General Motors for its significant presence in China and questioning whether the automaker should move the operations to the U.S. “Sometimes you’ve got to take stern measures,” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the sidelines of the G-7 meeting in France. Kudlow added that American companies should heed the president’s call to leave China. No U.S. president has invoked the law as leverage in a commercial dispute, let alone to sever commercial ties with one of its largest trading partners. Indeed, over the past century, U.S. administrations have mainly deployed the IEEPA to prosecute drug trafficking or financial terrorism through sanctions or other economic penalties.


[..] in an annual survey conducted in June by the U.S.-China Business Council, nearly 30% of the 220 respondents said they have already delayed or cancelled investments in China or the U.S. due to mounting trade uncertainty. Though just 13% said they had plans to specifically move operations out of China, that’s steadily increased from 10% in 2018 and 8% in 2017.

Read more …

Peace please.

Hong Kong Students Boycott Classes As Chinese Media Warns ‘End Is Coming’ (G.)

For the last 13 weeks, protesters have come to the streets to demand the formal withdrawal of a bill that would allow extradition to mainland China, which critics fear will be used by Beijing to target those who criticise the ruling Chinese communist party. As the protests have dragged on, they have taken on new forms and other demands including instituting democratic reforms and conducting an independent investigation into police behaviour. On Sunday, demonstrators attempted to lay siege to the airport, prompting a swift response from riot police. On Saturday, riot police stormed a metro station, attacking trapped protesters with batons. Monday’s class boycott was accompanied by a call for a general strike. It followed two days of mass protests where demonstrators paralysed links to airport, and clashed with police outside government buildings and in MTR stations.


Several editorials in Chinese state media on Monday condemned the protesters as “crazy and vicious” for bringing “catastrophe” upon the Hong Kong economy. An editorial on the website of the state-run news agency Xinhua warned “the end is coming for those attempting to disrupt Hong Kong”. The shift of the protests to school campuses is comes after Chinese officials have blamed the protests on the city’s liberal education curriculum. In recent weeks, Beijing has criticised teachers and parents for not instilling patriotic values in students and called for an overhaul of Hong Kong’s education system, which includes topics like the Chinese military’s violent crack down on democracy demonstrators on 4 June, 1989.

Read more …

Is capitalism itself at fault or just the excesses it allows for?

Why Has The U.S. CEO-To-Worker Pay Ratio Increased So Much? (Colombo)

MarketWatch recently published a piece about the soaring U.S. CEO-to-worker pay ratio, which hit 278-to-1 in 2018 (up from just 58-to-1 in 1989 and 20-to-1 in 1965) –

“CEO pay has increased 1,008% between 1978 and 2018, while typical worker pay has edged up 12%. [..] In 2018, CEOs in the country’s top 350 businesses were paid $17.2 million on average. Employees working in those industries — ranging from retail to technology and manufacturing — typically earned $64,500, researchers said. Overall, there’s a 278-to-1 pay ratio between workers and CEOs. In 1989, the compensation ratio was 58-to-1 and in 1965, it was 20-to-1. Stock awards and cashed-in stock options averaged $7.5 million of CEO pay in 2017 and 2018, the study added. Incorporating stock in pay arrangements is one way to incentivize CEO, and rising salaries illustrate the market for talent in the C-suite, some observers say.”


Left-leaning economists, politicians, and other commentators frequently use the soaring CEO-to-worker pay ratio as an example of why capitalism is inherently flawed and always leads to the rich getting richer, but my research has found that it is a byproduct of central banking and fiat (i.e., “paper”) currency rather than capitalism. To make a long story short, the Federal Reserve has excessively inflated the financial markets in its attempt to create an economic recovery from the Great Recession. This excessive asset price inflation has pushed U.S. household wealth far out of line with its historic relationship to the GDP, as the chart below shows. The wealthy have been the greatest beneficiaries of this asset price inflation because they own a disproportionate share of the assets that have been inflated by the Fed, which are stocks, bonds, and high-end real estate.

The Fed’s inflation of the U.S. stock market is the primary reason why the CEO-to-worker pay ratio has increased so much. The CEOs of public corporations usually receive stock options as part of their compensation packages, which means that they can benefit greatly when their stock prices rise. As the chart below shows, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio surges during asset bubbles, but falls back down when the bubbles burst (it correlates with the chart above). The current asset bubble is no different and the excesses will be corrected in the form of a strong bear market, just like they always are.

Read more …

Elon Muck can’t even produce a decent electric car. How big a threat is he?

In The Era Of Neurocapitalism, Your Brain Needs New Rights (Vox)

“Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” That’s from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, published in 1949. The comment is meant to highlight what a repressive surveillance state the characters live in, but looked at another way, it shows how lucky they are: At least their brains are still private. Over the past few weeks, Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink have announced that they’re building tech to read your mind — literally. Mark Zuckerberg’s company is funding research on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words. The researchers say they’ve already built an algorithm that can decode words from brain activity in real time.

And Musk’s company has created flexible “threads” that can be implanted into a brain and could one day allow you to control your smartphone or computer with just your thoughts. Musk wants to start testing in humans by the end of next year. Other companies such as Kernel, Emotiv, and Neurosky are also working on brain tech. They say they’re building it for ethical purposes, like helping people with paralysis control their devices. This might sound like science fiction, but it’s already begun to change people’s lives. Over the past dozen years, a number of paralyzed patients have received brain implants that allow them to move a computer cursor or control robotic arms. Implants that can read thoughts are still years away from commercial availability, but research in the field is moving faster than most people realize.


Your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer. Some neuroethicists argue that the potential for misuse of these technologies is so great that we need revamped human rights laws — a new “jurisprudence of the mind” — to protect us. The technologies have the potential to interfere with rights that are so basic that we may not even think of them as rights, like our ability to determine where our selves end and machines begin. Our current laws are not equipped to address this.

Read more …

Russiagate, the sequel.

Hollywood Reboots Russophobia For The New Cold War (Parry)

In the Cold War, Tinseltown played an important role in the cultural battlefield against the USSR and anti-Soviet paranoia was an ever-present theme in American cinema for decades, from the McCarthy era until the Berlin Wall fell. Contemporaneously, a revival of geopolitical tensions between the United States and the Russian Federation — which many have dubbed a second Cold War — has seen the return of such tropes on the silver screen. Most recently, it has resurfaced in popular web television shows such as the third season of Netflix’s retro science fiction/horror series Stranger Things, as well as HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl, which dramatizes the 1986 nuclear accident in Soviet Ukraine.

It was a famous cinematic work that many believe ominously foreshadowed Chernobyl in Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 science fiction film, Stalker, less than a decade prior to the calamity. It is unlikely that HBO would have been as interested in green-lighting a five-part program on the disaster without the current hysteria surrounding the unproven allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and ‘collusion’ between Moscow and the Trump campaign. ‘Russiagate’ has become a national obsession and suddenly the very idea of corruption and intrigue has been made synonymous with the Kremlin. Hollywood liberal figures have been some of the hoax’s biggest proponents, including the show’s writer, Craig Mazin.


It is equally as hard to imagine Americans themselves being as captivated by a re-enactment of the nuclear accident without the current political climate of fear-mongering bombarding them every day in corporate media. From the perspective of the U.S. political establishment, what better way to deflect attention away from its own sins than onto a manufactured adversary?

Read more …

The black hole’s mass is 100 times greater than that of the sun.

M87* is an example of a black hole that is 6.5 billion times as massive as the Sun.

A Black Hole So Big It Shouldn’t Even Exist Is Baffling Scientists (RT)

Scientists may have spotted a black hole that is so enormous, it shouldn’t even exist, although they aren’t quite sure if it even does. The black hole’s mass is 100 times greater than that of the sun. The potential black hole, which is twice as large as what physicists had believed was possible, was detected by the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors at the European Gravitational Observatory. A black hole is usually formed when a star collapses after it runs out of fuel, but this only happens when the star’s core is less than 50 times the mass of the Sun, Quanta Magazine explains. Stars with larger masses, between 50-130 times the mass of the Sun, either shed matter until they are small enough, or destroy themselves in a powerful explosion, meaning this new potential black hole defies what scientists understand to be possible.


Black holes that are larger than 130 solar masses can also form when their core’s collapse is too strong to stop. M87* is an example of a black hole that is 6.5 billion times as massive as the Sun. Scientists are scratching their heads trying to figure out how this newly spotted potential large black hole came into being. According to Qanta, they suspect that the black hole could be the result of smaller black holes colliding and merging into one gigantic one. They think it is possible that somewhere in a dense area of the universe, a 30 and 50 solar mass black hole could have merged and that the new black hole then combined with another one, which could explain the signals they detected.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 012019
 


Edouard Vuillard The two sisters 1899

 

Hong Kong Protesters Plan To Disrupt Airport After Night Of Chaos (R.)
The Sheer Scale Of The Crisis Facing Britain’s Decrepit Constitution (O.)
How A Secret Plan To Close Parliament Sparked Uproar Across Britain (O.)
British PM Johnson Challenges Lawmakers To Deliver Brexit (R.)
EU’s Barnier Not Optimistic About Avoiding A No-Deal Brexit (R.)
Lagarde Says Negative Rates Have Helped Europe More Than They’ve Hurt (MW)
Bianco Warns “Negative Rates Are Extremely Toxic” (Gisiger)
Low Interest Rates Compound The Big Problems Facing Pension Funds (MW)
Bernie Sanders Proposes Canceling $81 Billion US Medical Debt (R.)
Breaking The Media Blackout on the Imprisonment of Julian Assange (MPN)
Fifty Shades of Epstein (Hope Kesselring)

 

 

Get the parties involved around a table before people get killed.

Hong Kong Protesters Plan To Disrupt Airport After Night Of Chaos (R.)

Pro-democracy demonstrators planned on Sunday to choke travel routes to Hong Kong’s international airport after a chaotic night of running battles between police and masked protesters, the latest wave of unrest to hit the Chinese-ruled city. Protest organizers have urged the public to overwhelm road and rail links to the airport, one of the world’s busiest, on Sunday and Monday, potentially disrupting flights. People would begin gathering at 1 p.m. (0500 GMT), protest groups said. The airport closed one of its car parks and advised passengers to use public transport, without giving a reason.

A similar so-called “stress test” of the airport last weekend failed to gain momentum. Three weeks ago, some flights were delayed or canceled after protesters swarmed the airport. Late on Saturday and into the early hours, police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets and protesters threw petrol bombs, escalating clashes that have plunged the Asian financial center into its worst political crisis in decades. As government helicopters hovered overhead, protesters who had been banned from demonstrating set fires in the streets and threw bricks at police near government offices and Chinese military headquarters.

Officers fired two warning shots in the air to scare off a group of protesters who had them surrounded and were trying to steal their pistols, the police said, only the second time live rounds have been used in more than three months of unrest. Police sprayed demonstrators with blue-dyed water to make it easier to identify them later. Parts of the metro system ground to a halt as skirmishes spread to the subway, with television showing images of people being beaten as they cowered on the floor behind umbrellas. Police said they arrested 40 people inside Prince Edward metro station on suspicion of obstructing officers, unlawful assembly and criminal damage. Three stations stayed shut on Sunday.

Read more …

“..the eight-word British constitution established in 1689 – What The Crown Assents In Parliament Is Law – is a decaying, time-worn construct on which to protect and advance today’s democracy..”

The Sheer Scale Of The Crisis Facing Britain’s Decrepit Constitution (O.)

To prorogue parliament for no better reason than to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of a no-deal Brexit may have been an intolerable abuse of power, and an affront to democracy, but in Britain it is constitutionally possible. As a result, for all the threats of judicial review and court actions, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to challenge. For the prime minister controls everything, from the business of the House of Commons to the ability to prorogue it. He or she is lent monarchial sovereignty, the same sovereignty that Charles 1 tried to justify because the monarch was supposedly God’s representative on Earth: the divine right of kings, now transmuted into the divine right of Boris.

Part of the-then cleverness of the 17th-century deal was that it co-opted the crown into being the above-the-fray, holder-of-the-ring of proper parliamentary procedure and process. But today, that capacity has evaporated. So when Jacob Rees-Mogg travelled to Balmoral last week to ask the Queen to prorogue parliament, there was virtually no prospect of her refusing – as an elected head of state might have done. She did have the option of saying that on such a controversial use of prerogative power she wanted to go beyond the minimum quorate of three for a privy council meeting (the chief whip and leader of the House of Lords accompanied Rees-Mogg on a separate plane to Balmoral to avoid suspicion) and call for a full meeting including former ministers from other parties, purportedly the constitutional forum to advise her on use of the royal prerogative.

But that would have been seen as a political act. She folded. Exposed as a constitutional cipher, the case for an elected head of state has suddenly become unanswerable. It is but one of the many constitutional earthquakes triggered by Brexit whose aftershocks will be felt for decades. Even the character of the referendum itself is testament to our lack of a constitution. No super-majority was required for this fundamental change in Britain’s relationship with Europe, any more than it was for the Scottish referendum: amazingly, a 42-year and a 300-year union could be ripped apart by a majority of one citizen’s vote.

Read more …

It is a peculiar chain of events no matter what you think of it.

How A Secret Plan To Close Parliament Sparked Uproar Across Britain (O.)

For much of August the plan to shut down parliament for five weeks was kept a very tight secret at the heart of government. For the few Whitehall officials who were made aware of it early on, however, it was not difficult to decipher whose fingerprints were all over it. It was clear to that small group that the bombshell idea had been hatched by Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, Dominic Cummings, and No 10’s director of legislative affairs, Nikki da Costa. Cummings has long been known at Westminster for his disdain for Whitehall and the way the entire system of British government works. He doesn’t mince his words or tolerate those he regards as fools. “If he meets resistance from ministers or officials he will just tell them to fuck off, whoever they are,” said one Whitehall source, who has worked with him.

[..] Last Friday an email between a Whitehall official and No 10 was leaked to this newspaper. It made clear that Johnson had approached Cox for advice on a five-week suspension from around 9 September to 14 October. Cox’s initial view, the correspondence made clear, was that it would probably be legal, unless various court actions being planned by Remainers to block prorogation were successful. Downing Street’s official response when asked about the leak was, at first, muted. “No 10 officials ask for legal and policy advice every day,” said a government source.

But when the Observer story broke last Saturday evening, as Johnson and his team were in Biarritz for the G7 summit preparing for meetings with US president Donald Trump and EU council president Donald Tusk the next day, Downing Street changed tack and tried to dismiss the story in a way that was to backfire spectacularly. Johnson’s press team issued a statement saying that “the claim that the government is considering proroguing parliament in September in order to stop MPs debating Brexit is entirely false”. It did not deny that the attorney general had been consulted about prorogation but its intent was clear: to create the impression that shutting down parliament was not going to happen.

But less than 72 hours later more leaks were to follow from people inside the government machine to media organisations saying that the prime minister was to make an announcement about prorogation on Wednesday morning. After the BBC got wind of the new leaks, some senior staff were initially dubious that they were genuine, given No 10’s previous denials. When Johnson announced the exact same plan on which his team had poured buckets of cold water four days earlier, large sections of the media, as well as MPs and much of the country, were understandably furious.

Read more …

Johnson is just a figurehead.

British PM Johnson Challenges Lawmakers To Deliver Brexit (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson challenged lawmakers to deliver on the Brexit vote and not thwart his plans to take Britain out of the European Union on October 31. Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit with or without a deal, but opposition lawmakers – and several lawmakers from Johnson’s Conservatives – want to act to rule out a no deal Brexit when parliament returns from recess on Tuesday. Previous votes have indicated a majority in parliament opposing a no-deal Brexit, but in a newspaper interview, Johnson said that backing opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn risked there being no Brexit at all.


“The fundamental choice is this: are you going to side with Jeremy Corbyn and those who want to cancel the referendum? Are you going to side with those who want to scrub the democratic verdict of the people — and plunge this country into chaos?,” Johnson told the Sunday Times. “Or are you going to side with those of us who want to get on, deliver on the mandate of the people and focus with absolute, laser-like precision on the domestic agenda? That’s the choice.”

Read more …

He’s seen enough.

EU’s Barnier Not Optimistic About Avoiding A No-Deal Brexit (R.)

The European Union’s top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said he was not optimistic about avoiding a no-deal scenario as the EU could not meet Britain’s demands that the backstop for the Irish border is removed from the withdrawal agreement. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Barnier said that the so-called “backstop” had to stay to protect the integrity of the EU’s single market while ensuring an open border on the island of Ireland. “I am not optimistic about avoiding a no-deal scenario, but we should all continue to work with determination,” Barnier said, according to extracts of his article on the newspaper’s front page.


“The backstop is the maximum amount of flexibility that the EU can offer to a non-member state.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal on October 31. Opposition lawmakers plan to act next week to stop no-deal in parliament. Writing in the same newspaper, Johnson’s de facto deputy Michael Gove said that to remove the option of a no-deal Brexit on Oct 31 would “diminish” the “chances of securing changes” to the Brexit deal that could get it passed through parliament.

Read more …

Translation: the new ECB head does not have confidence in free markets. She thinks central bankers can do a better job.

Lagarde Says Negative Rates Have Helped Europe More Than They’ve Hurt (MW)

The next head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, appears to be as much of a fan of negative interest rates as the current chief, Mario Draghi. In written answers provided to the European Parliament that were released on Thursday, Lagarde said negative interest rates have helped Europe. The ECB’s deposit rate is negative 0.4%. “On the one hand, banks may decide to pass the negative deposit rate on to depositors, lowering the interest rates the latter get on their savings,” she wrote. “On the other hand, the same depositors are also consumers, workers, and borrowers. As such they benefit from stronger economic momentum, lower unemployment and lower borrowing costs.


“All things considered, in the absence of the unconventional monetary policy adopted by the ECB – including the introduction of negative interest rates – euro area citizens would be, overall, worse off.” European banks have complained about the impact on profitability, but even there the current managing director of the International Monetary Fund defended the move. “With regard to the impact of negative rates on banks’ profitability, empirical analysis suggests that the negative effects on banks’ net interest income have been so far more than offset by the benefits from more bank lending and lower costs for provisions and impairments due to the better macroeconomic environment, which to a significant extent is a result of accommodative monetary policy,” she wrote.

Read more …

“..Trump is “going to eleven” on trade: He’s going to turn it up so high that there is going to have to be a deal. That’s the way he wants to do this. He will just make it intolerable so everybody has to sit down and cut a deal.”

Bianco Warns “Negative Rates Are Extremely Toxic” (Gisiger)

Jim Bianco, President of Bianco Research, cautions against evermore unconventional monetary policy interventions. He fears that the global slowdown is going to get worse and he spots opportunities in long-term bonds and gold. The global economy is on the brink: Europe is headed for recession, Japan as well and China’s growth rate is the slowest in almost thirty years. Only the economy in the United States seems to hold up. But for how long? «We live in a global world and if Japan and Europe are struggling and the world has a problem it’s going to come to the US eventually», says Jim Bianco. According to the internationally renowned macro strategist, the biggest threat to the US economy is the inverted yield curve.

«This is the market’s way of saying the Federal Funds Rate is too high and must come down», Mr. Bianco is convinced. Against this backdrop, the founder and President of Chicago based Bianco Research argues that the Federal Reserve should cut its target rate by 50 basis points at the next FOMC meeting. He also cautions against introducing negative interest rates in the United States during the next recession because in his view that would cripple the global financial system.

[..] First, the trade and currency wars where the situation reminds me somewhat of «This Is Spinal Tap». It’s a cult satire movie from the eighties about a rock band and they coined the phrase «up to eleven» because that’s how high their amplifier went. So the expression «turning it up to eleven» refers to the act of taking something to an extreme. I’m saying this because I think Trump is “going to eleven” on trade: He’s going to turn it up so high that there is going to have to be a deal. That’s the way he wants to do this. He will just make it intolerable so everybody has to sit down and cut a deal.

Read more …

Pension funds are dead.

Low Interest Rates Compound The Big Problems Facing Pension Funds (MW)

The largest public pension funds have over $1 trillion in aggregate unfunded liabilities. Low interest rates are going to make it harder for these and other pension plans to rely on investment returns alone to meet their obligations to retirees. Interest rates in the U.S. have been declining for over 20 years, and short-term rates have been hovering close to zero over the last decade. Negative interest rates in Japan and Europe and mounting expectations of rate cuts by the Federal Reserve have expanded the pool of bonds with negative yields to more than $16 trillion, or around 27% of the global bond market. Initially, low interest rates are good for asset prices.

Simplistically, this is because investors seeking similar returns as before are now forced to take capital that they would have otherwise invested in safe government bonds and deploy it into riskier assets (equities, high yield bonds, etc.), thereby driving up prices of these assets. In addition to stronger economic growth coming out of the 2008 financial crisis, this is one of the factors leading to strong performance of equities over the past decade. However, going forward it is unlikely that asset returns are going to be similar to what we witnessed over the last decade. One of the reasons is that risky asset returns are generally priced as a spread over risk-free real returns (i.e. inflation-adjusted returns). This makes intuitive sense, as investors would demand additional return for taking on risk.

If the risk-free rate is low, and there is high demand for risky assets, then the total investment return (risk free rate + risk premia/spread) will likely be lower than in a scenario with higher interest rates, all else being equal. According to Voya Investment Management’s capital market assumptions, expected returns for equities over the next 10 years is likely to be around 1.50 percentage points to 3.3 percentage points lower than assumptions in 2013.

Read more …

Like with student debt, helping only some people appears counter-productive.

Bernie Sanders Proposes Canceling $81 Billion US Medical Debt (R.)

U.S. presidential contender Bernie Sanders proposed a plan on Saturday to cancel $81 billion in existing past-due medical debt for Americans, but offered no details on how it would be financed. Sanders, an independent U.S. senator from Vermont, said in a statement that under his plan, the government would negotiate and pay off past-due medical bills that have been reported to credit agencies. The proposal, he said, would also repeal some elements of the 2005 Bankruptcy reform bill and allow other existing and future medical debt to be discharged. “In the United States of America, your financial life and future should not be destroyed because you or a member of your family gets sick,” said Sanders.


“That is unacceptable. I am sick and tired of seeing over 500,000 Americans declare bankruptcy each year because they cannot pay off the outrageous cost of a medical emergency or a hospital stay.” According to Sanders, medical debt is the leading cause of consumer bankruptcy, with more than half a million Americans filing due to medical expenses each year. He said the 2005 Bankruptcy reform bill made it difficult to discharge medical debt by imposing strict means tests and eliminated fundamental consumer protections for Americans. “It also trapped families with medical debt in long-term poverty, mandated that they pay for credit counseling before filing for bankruptcy, and increased the need for expensive legal services when filing a case for medical bankruptcy,” the senator said.

Read more …

“..the strategy of the powerful appears to be to know as much as possible about the rest of us while ensuring that we know as little as possible about them and how they operate..”

Breaking The Media Blackout on the Imprisonment of Julian Assange (MPN)

The role of journalism in a democracy is publishing information that holds the powerful to account — the kind of information that empowers the public to become more engaged citizens in their communities so that we can vote in representatives that work in the interest of “we the people.” There is perhaps no better example of watchdog journalism that holds the powerful to account and exposes their corruption than that of WikiLeaks, which exposed to the world evidence of widespread war crimes the U.S. military was committing in Iraq, including the killing of two Reuters journalists; showed that the U.S. government and large corporations were using private intelligence agencies to spy on activists and protesters; and revealed how the military hid tortured Guantanamo Bay prisoners from Red Cross inspectors.

It’s this kind of real journalism that our First Amendment was meant to protect but engaging in it has instead made WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange the target of a massive smear campaign for the last several years — including false claims that Assange is working with Vladimir Putin and the Russians and hackers, as well as open calls by corporate media pundits for him to be assassinated. The allegations that Assange conspired with Putin to undermine the 2016 election and American democracy as a whole fell completely flat earlier this month when a U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed this case as “factually implausible,” with the judge noting that at no point does the prosecution’s “threadbare” argument show “any facts” at all, and concluding that the idea that Assange conspired with Russia against the Democratic Party or America is “entirely divorced from the facts.”


[..] It is important to ask ourselves what Julian Assange’s real crime is. In an era, dubbed the Information Age, where the strategy of the powerful appears to be to know as much as possible about the rest of us while ensuring that we know as little as possible about them and how they operate, Assange worked to prevent that imbalance from becoming a rout, and stuck like a bone in the throat of the mighty.

Read more …

Interesting take for sure.

Fifty Shades of Epstein (Hope Kesselring)

A few weeks ago, half the top ten Amazon best sellers in romantic erotica were based around the trope of the BDSM billionaire, with Grey by E. L. James holding firm in the top ten. In the world of erotic romance, the 50 Shades of Grey series has been a continuous presence for over seven years. Thousands of riffs on the sexy and sadistic billionaire exist: Russian billionaire, billionaire blackmailer, billionaire stepbrother. I’m not trying to kink shame, but it would take a lot of money to convince me to write detailed descriptions of torture sessions in a gilded dungeon. This is especially true in the shadow of financier Jeffrey Epstein’s death. Mental and sexual abuse by an obscenely wealthy man now just seems, well, obscene.


I should point out that James’ character, Christian Grey, strikes me as more a domestic abuser than a real BDSM enthusiast. He is a billionaire in the tech industry who fixates on Ana, a 21-year old virgin. He puts surveillance software on her phone. He harasses her to sign a submissive’s contract, and even though she never signs it, he still treats her like a sex slave. He manipulates Ana into doing sex acts for which she doesn’t give consent. Blatant consumerism sits on the page in stark contrast to real life. 50 Shades of Grey eroticizes money and abuse. The writing is universally panned and mocked by critics, yet it’s sold 125 million copies. How in the world of publishing did it even come to be? Let’s go back to 2008. That year the economy was melting down, Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to a felony sex offense, and the Twilight series of vampire romance novels for teen girls were bestsellers.

Twilight was a young adult twist on the long-popular vampire romance, which had flourished in that market since Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire appeared. Probably some of Epstein’s victims read the Twilight books. 50 Shades of Grey marks a shift in the erotic romance genre from vampires to billionaires. In 2009, E. L. James started publishing her version of Twilight on fanfiction websites, churning out a chapter every couple of days. Master of the Universe, as it was called then, was popular but criticized for being too racy, so she moved it to her own website and renamed the characters. James didn’t know it yet, but she was about to be catapulted to international fame by some upper middle class moms in the suburbs of New York City.


[..] In the autumn of 2011, news about Occupy Wall Street, a movement that began in reaction to the deeds of the predatory class, dominated headlines. Posters portrayed the 1% as greedy Monopoly men, far from sexy. Occupy protesters had the media’s attention for a short time before the idea was squashed. That November, Jeffrey Epstein registered as a sex offender in New York after completing his jail term and moving back into his Manhattan mansion, free to continue abusing girls. 2012 was E. L. James’ year. A prominent lifestyle blog (started by an NYU communications graduate married to a talent manager) promoted James’ fanfiction novel as sexually liberating to fashion-conscious moms in upscale suburban New York. James got a book deal and “mommy porn” was born. Paperbacks with necktie covers appeared on bookshelves and in beach bags everywhere.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 312019
 


Salvador Dali Cabaret scene 1922

 

Hong Kong Protesters Occupy Major Roads Despite Police Warning (ST)
Messaging App Telegram Moves To Protect Identity Of Hong Kong Protesters (R.)
China’s Factory Activity Shrinks For Fourth Month As Trade Pressure Mounts (R.)
Trump Confirms Latest China Tariffs Set For Sunday Are ‘On’ (AFP)
UK Government Warns Food Manufacturers Of Post-Brexit Shortages (BI)
Apple iPhone Hack Exposed By Google Breaks WhatsApp Encryption (F.)
Twitter Took 18 Long Minutes To Recover CEO Jack Dorsey’s Hacked Account (F.)
Comey’s Classified Misconduct And The Media’s Flawed Coverage Of It (Solomon)
Fish Fry (Kunstler)
WWII Anniversary Without Russia Is Just Rewriting History (RT)

 

 

Inevitable.

Hong Kong Protesters Occupy Major Roads Despite Police Warning (ST)

Protesters in Hong Kong have occupied major roads in several districts on Saturday (Aug 31) amid tighter security as authorities prepare for possible violence after demonstrations have gone ahead despite a ban. As demonstrators flooded roads in the popular Causeway Bay shopping district, the civic district in Admiralty, Wan Chai and the Central business district – a nearly 3km stretch – police issued several warnings for the crowd to disperse. Armed with umbrellas in muggy rainy weather, tens of thousands marched on the roads shouting slogans including “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong”.

Security in the city has been ramped up this weekend, with huge water-filled barricades set up around the buildings next to Beijing’s liaison office in Sai Ying Pun – a previous target of some hardcore protesters. Roads in the area have been blocked to cut off access to the office. The police’s new anti-riot water cannons, which were deployed for the first time in Tsuen Wan last Sunday, were also spotted in the area. [..] In an alert to residents in the city, police on Saturday morning warned the public of “severe disruptions” ahead of a “public event this afternoon”.


Fresh calls on Saturday morning circulating via messaging app Telegram urged netizens to assemble in Causeway Bay at 2pm. This follows calls circulated on social media on Friday for people to join a Christian gathering at Wan Chai and to march to Central and Upper Albert Road. By 1pm, thousands have gathered at Southorn Playground in Wan Chai chanting “Hong Kong, gah yau”, or “Hong Kong, keep it up”, as they started marching despite police warnings against unauthorised protests.

Read more …

Encrypted spying.

Messaging App Telegram Moves To Protect Identity Of Hong Kong Protesters (R.)

Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app, will allow users to cloak their telephone numbers to safeguard Hong Kong protesters against monitoring by authorities, according to a person with direct knowledge of the effort. The update to Telegram, planned for release over the next few days, will allow protesters to prevent mainland Chinese and Hong Kong authorities from discovering their identities in the app’s large group chats. Hong Kong’s Security Bureau told Reuters it has “been acting responsibly to deal with the current difficult time with a view to restoring the public order”. It declined to comment about whether it had tried to identify protesters by using the Telegram app.

[..] Thousands of Hong Kong protesters take their cues from more than 100 groups on Telegram, according to protest organizers and supporters. Protesters use encrypted apps like Telegram to mobilize swiftly through multiple group chats, with less risk of police infiltration, an in-depth report published by Reuters earlier this month said. The groups are used to post everything from news on upcoming protests to tips on dousing tear gas canisters fired by the police to the identities of suspected undercover police and the access codes to buildings in Hong Kong where protesters can hide.


Some protesters express concern that authorities could use the movement’s reliance on Telegram to monitor and arrest organizers. Telegram chat groups used to organize public protests are often accessible to anyone and participants use pseudonyms. Telegram allows users to search for other users by uploading phone numbers. This function allows a new user to quickly learn whether those in a phone’s contact book are already using the app, the group said. Some protesters say they believe Chinese or Hong Kong security officials have exploited the function by uploading large quantities of phone numbers.

Read more …

“Export orders fell for the 15th straight month in August..”

China’s Factory Activity Shrinks For Fourth Month As Trade Pressure Mounts (R.)

Factory activity in China shrank in August for the fourth month in a row as the United States ramped up trade pressure and domestic demand remained sluggish, pointing to a further slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. Persistent weakness in China’s vast manufacturing sector could fuel expectations that Beijing needs to roll out stimulus more quickly, and more aggressively, to weather the biggest downturn in decades. The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 49.5 in August, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, versus 49.7 in July, below the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.


The official factory gauge showed growing trade frictions with the United States and cooling global demand continued to wreak havoc on China’s exporters. Export orders fell for the 15th straight month in August, although at a slower pace, with the sub-index picking up to 47.2 from July’s 46.9. Total new orders – from home and abroad – also continued to fall, indicating domestic demand remains soft, despite a flurry of growth-boosting measures over the past year. Manufacturers in consumption-oriented industries such as the auto sector have been especially vulnerable. Carmakers such as Geely and Great Wall have slashed expectations for sales and profits. The data showed activity at medium and small-sized firms contracted, even as large manufacturers, many backed by the government, managed to expand in August.

Read more …

Links tariffs to Hong Kong.

Trump Confirms Latest China Tariffs Set For Sunday Are ‘On’ (AFP)

US President Donald Trump confirmed Friday that steep new tariffs on Chinese goods will kick in on Sunday and said that his economic pressure is forcing Beijing to take a more moderate line in Hong Kong. “They’re on,” Trump told reporters, two days before the levies on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese imports are set to rise in the latest escalation of the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. Trump also said that US economic pressure on China was responsible for preventing the authorities from carrying out a harsher crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. “Because of what I’m doing with trade that’s really keeping down the temperature,” he said at the White House.

Trump’s tough line — and his claim that events in Hong Kong are linked to the trade war — follows his insistence over the last week that Chinese negotiators are keener than ever to strike a deal. However, despite repeated hints that high-level communications have been reopened on the standoff, White House officials have sparked skepticism by failing to provide details of those reported talks. His confirmation that the new tariffs will go ahead underlines the reality that the two sides remain at loggerheads.


[..] His comments on Hong Kong could touch political nerves in China, which bristles at anything it sees as outside interference in the restive city. Asked if he saw a connection between the way the Chinese respond to the unrest and the difficulties their economy faces under US pressure, Trump said: “I do, I do.” “If it weren’t for the trade talks Hong Kong would be in much more trouble,” he said, reiterating a call for Beijing to “handle it in a humane fashion.”

Read more …

“..up to 60% of lorries would not have the correct documentation to move between Dover and Calais..”

UK Government Warns Food Manufacturers Of Post-Brexit Shortages (BI)

Government officials this week warned food industry leaders that supplies of liquid egg could run out if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without a Brexit deal in October. Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week publicly dismissed warnings that there would be food shortages, telling Sky News that it is “highly unlikely” that food stocks would dry up. However, officials in the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs privately warned industry leaders that delays at the border risked causing a shortage of liquid egg, much of which is imported from the EU to make a large variety of food products in the UK.


Liquid egg is egg removed from its shell before being sold to manufacturers, which use it as an ingredient in a range of goods, including cakes, pastries, and sauces. When transported in bulk and sold to the food industry, it has a shelf life of two to three days, according to the European Food Safety Authority. [..] Industry figures were told that in a no-deal Brexit scenario, the government expected that up to 60% of lorries would not have the correct documentation to move between Dover and Calais, with some lorries potentially having to wait up to two days before crossing the Channel. This in turn would disrupt the flow of liquid egg, plus other foods like soft fruit and vegetables, reaching the UK.

Read more …

Encryption? What encryptioin?

Apple iPhone Hack Exposed By Google Breaks WhatsApp Encryption (F.)

The potential impact of the latest attack on iPhones is massive, not to mention hugely concerning for every user of Apple’s famous smartphone. That simply visiting a website can lead to your iPhone being hacked silently by some unknown party is worrying enough. But given that, according to Google researchers, it’s possible for the hackers to access encrypted messages on WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram and others, the attacks undermine the security promised by those apps. It’s a stark reminder that should Apple’s iOS be compromised by hidden malware, encryption can be entirely undone. Own the operating system, own everything inside.

Among the trove of data released by Google researcher Ian Beer on the attacks was detail on the “monitoring implant” hackers installed on the iPhone. He noted that it had access to all the database files on the victim’s phone used by those end-to-end encrypted apps. Those databases “contain the unencrypted, plain-text of the messages sent and received using the apps.” The implant would also enable hackers to snoop on Gmail and Google Hangouts, contacts and photos. The hackers could also watch where users were going with a live GPS location tracker. And the malware stole the “keychain” where passwords, such as those for all remembered Wi-Fi points, are stored.


Shockingly, according to Beer, the hackers didn’t even bother encrypting the data they were stealing, making a further mockery of encrypted apps. “Everything is in the clear. If you’re connected to an unencrypted Wi-Fi network, this information is being broadcast to everyone around you, to your network operator and any intermediate network hops to the command and control server,” the Google researcher wrote. “This means that not only is the end-point of the end-to-end encryption offered by messaging apps compromised; the attackers then send all the contents of the end-to-end encrypted messages in plain text over the network to their server.” Beer’s ultimate assessment is sobering: “The implant has access to almost all of the personal information available on the device, which it is able to upload, unencrypted, to the attacker’s server.”

Read more …

Slow.

Twitter Took 18 Long Minutes To Recover CEO Jack Dorsey’s Hacked Account (F.)

This certainly doesn’t inspire confidence. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey experienced a major security breach affecting his Twitter account on Friday before the Labor Day weekend. At about 3:45 p.m. ET, Dorsey’s Twitter account began broadcasting several vulgar tweets including those that contained ethnic slurs such as the N-word, as well as the suggestion a bomb had been placed at Twitter headquarters, and used the hashtag ChucklingSquad. In a statement, Twitter said that it is “aware that Jack was compromised and investigating what happened.” It’s not that unusual for someone’s Twitter account to get hacked. In June 2016, the company famously experienced a major security breach that involving hackers taking over accounts of many of its top users such as Katy Perry, Mark Zuckerberg, and Kylie Jenner.


But what’s most surprising about this latest hack is that the tweets, most of which were crafted specifically to be offensive or alarming, remained on the network for a whole 18 minutes after they were initially tweeted. Jack Dorsey’s unauthorized tweets were broadcast to more than 4 million users and sent Twitter into a frenzy, with many actively tagging Twitter Security and Twitter Communications, hoping to alert them to the problem. It’s unclear how the account was hacked, but the unauthorized tweets were apparently sent from Cloudhopper, a service that Twitter bought in 2010 to improve SMS service. Whether this service is at fault remains to be determined.

Read more …

John Solomon is angry.

Comey’s Classified Misconduct And The Media’s Flawed Coverage Of It (Solomon)

A major headline from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) latest inspector general report is that fired FBI Director James Comey mishandled classified information. But you’d never know it from most of the day-after media reporting on the historic findings. The internal DOJ watchdog documented, irrefutably, that Comey leaked the contents of a classified memo to his legal team, first orally and then by providing a copy of the document. Some of the memo’s content was then leaked to a media organization by one of his lawyers. I first reported this when sources contacted me in late July and told me the inspector general (IG) had referred Comey to the Justice Department for possible prosecution for mishandling classified information.

Attorney General William Barr’s team declined to bring charges. My reporting was directly confirmed when the IG released its final report Thursday. The information I laid out in my July 31 column was laid bare in the IG report’s official timeline. IG Michael Horowitz declared Comey’s conduct so egregious that it created a “dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees — and the many thousands more former FBI employees — who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information.” For some reason, not one but two Washington Post columns have emerged, suggesting I misled readers. Media critic Erik Wemple suggested I had “slimed” Comey. Another columnist, Aaron Blake, suggested my reporting led to a misleading narrative on Fox News.


When confronted like this, a professional journalist has an obligation: Either retract and correct what you got wrong, or show the public the facts that affirm the reporting. I will do the latter.

Read more …

“I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Mr. Comey was wearing a wire during that, and several other, meetings he had with Mr. Trump..”

Fish Fry (Kunstler)

[..] certain remorseless legal machinery has been set in motion now that could send a whole boardroom of former Obama administration higher-ups into disgrace, infamy, and possibly the federal slammer. Think: former CIA Director John Brennan in his future role as ping-pong round-robin manager at the Allenwood, PA, penitentiary; Loretta Lynch paring turnips at Camp Alderson, WV; James Clapper trying to catch a little tan in the ‘yard’ at Lompoc…. Somewhere along the line, someone is going to point a finger at Mr. Obama and those who were around him in the dear dead days of 2016.

There’s no precedent for this, of course, not even the case of ole Tricky Dick Nixon, who never had to take a witness chair in the Watergate matter and received a pardon from his successor, Gerald Ford, which made the whole tiresome business go away pronto. Wouldn’t it be a kind of poetic justice if Mr. Trump had to do the same for Mr. Obama? The New York Times would surely find a way to spin that as “racist.” CNN would declare war on FlyoverLand and send Don Lemon to Kentucky in a Lincoln Navigator with a light-saber to subdue the Ku Klux Klan and the satanic hosts of White Supremacy. Well, you see how easily this country could lose its shit.

In the meantime, cries of consternation rise from Right at the DOJ’s demurral to actually indict Mr. Comey on any of the charges listed rather explicitly in the new report. The explanation goes something like this: Comey gave an official FBI memo of his own composition to pal (and attorney) Daniel Richman, and instructed him to leak the contents (though not the memo itself) to a New York Times reporter. The memo involved recollections of a one-to-one meeting with Mr. Trump in which the case of General Flynn came up, with Mr. Trump making the case that there was nothing illegal about the National Security Advisor speaking with the Russian ambassador — since, after all, that is precisely what ambassadors from foreign lands are in Washington to do.

I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that Mr. Comey was wearing a wire during that, and several other, meetings he had with Mr. Trump — before the president grokked that he was being personally set-up for an obstruction-of-justice rap and issued Mr. Comey a pink slip. In sum, this particular matter amounted to a rinky-dink charge, where Mr. Barr’s prosecutors are concerned, compared to the greater and darker matter of Mr. Comey’s role in defrauding the FISA judges to get warrants to spy on US citizens. That will likely be Mr. Comey’s true Waterloo. So, he greeted this week’s IG report with a smarmy Twitter tweet celebrating his imagined “exoneration.” Imagine instead what his cortisol level will be in the months ahead as he awaits further moves by Messrs Barr, Durham, and IG Horowitz.

Read more …

Insulting millions of people who died in the war.

WWII Anniversary Without Russia Is Just Rewriting History (RT)

Having US and former Axis leaders attend the 80th anniversary of WWII, but not inviting Russia, shows the event in Poland has nothing to do with paying respects to history, and everything to do with present-day politics. The German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 is universally considered as the start of the Second World War. To mark 80 years since that fateful date, the Polish authorities have chosen to invite “present allies and partners in NATO and the EU” to a commemoration that has been moved to Warsaw for the occasion. This means US Vice President Mike Pence will be at the ceremony, alongside the leaders of many countries that were members of the Axis during the war – from Germany and Italy to Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary and Romania. Yet Russia will not be welcome.


For the past week the media in both Poland and the West have harped on about the non-aggression pact signed by the USSR and Germany on August 23, 1939 and known as Molotov-Ribbentrop, after their respective foreign ministers. The pact “doomed half of Europe to decades of misery,” argued the governments of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania this week, pointing out that its anniversary has since been declared the “European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Totalitarian Regimes,” by which they mean “Nazism and Stalinism.” It’s a bit baffling the Latvians are complaining about Nazism, actually, since they keep celebrating their participation in the Waffen-SS. As for the Romanians, would those “victims” include their 3rd and 4th Armies that got crushed at Stalingrad? Which, for the geographically challenged, is about 1,500 kilometers east of the Romanian border…

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 302019
 

 

Of course the notion of addressing Hong Kong has been in my mind for a while, but it’s a bit of a moving target: things change all the time, and seemingly on the fly. However, with today’s fresh developments, it seems silly to wait any longer. Hong Kong Civic party lawmaker Dennis Kwok yesterday expressed the reason way better than I could:

As I said time and again, the use of troops in Hong Kong will be the end of Hong Kong, and I would warn against any such move on the part of the central people’s government.”

He said that before today’s arrests -and subsequent release on bail- of a handful of alleged protest leaders Joshua Wong, Andy Chan, and Agnes Chow. Who, if you read between the lines, didn’t lead much of anything; they may be figure-heads, but that’s not the same thing. The protests are either lacking leaders or everyone’s a leader, depending on who you ask. So why arrest them to begin with? You tell me.

What I did find enlightening was Reuters’ report yesterday on Beijing having rejected Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s (how is CEO a political function?) proposal to communicate with the protesters and perhaps allow some concessions to their demands. I know it’s only one source, but it appears quite feasible.

Carrie Lam is between a rock and a hard place, and she admits it -at least according to the Reuters piece-, though not to the protesters. Beijing is in exactly such a spot, but won’t admit it, ever. And that right there is Hong Kong’s main issue.

 

China Rejected Hong Kong Plan To Appease Protesters

Earlier this summer, Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, submitted a report to Beijing that assessed protesters’ five key demands and found that withdrawing a contentious extradition bill could help defuse the mounting political crisis in the territory.

The Chinese central government rejected Lam’s proposal to withdraw the extradition bill and ordered her not to yield to any of the protesters’ other demands at that time, three individuals with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. China’s role in directing how Hong Kong handles the protests has been widely assumed, supported by stern statements in state media about the country’s sovereignty and protesters’ “radical” goals.

Beijing’s rebuff of Lam’s proposal for how to resolve the crisis, detailed for the first time by Reuters, represents concrete evidence of the extent to which China is controlling the Hong Kong government’s response to the unrest. The Chinese central government has condemned the protests and accused foreign powers of fuelling unrest. The Foreign Ministry has repeatedly warned other nations against interfering in Hong Kong, reiterating that the situation there is an “internal affair.”

Why the extradition bill, which would have allowed for people to be extradited from Hong Kong to the mainland was ever proposed, g-d only knows. Remember, the transfer of control over the city to China is still 28 years away. Why do it now? It was obvious all along it would meet with fierce resistance.

Blindness or blinders in the Politburo? Quite possible, it’s not as if those guys typically get out much. It’s just that they’re taking a giant risk, because as Dennis Kwok says, “the use of troops in Hong Kong will be the end of Hong Kong”. What he means, and Beijing surely understands, is the end of Hong Kong’s status as a trade and finance center.

Not a trifle matter for sure. Hong Kong has built that status over a long period -that happens in fields where trust is so crucial-, much like the City of London and Wall Street. You can break that down in no time, but you can’t rebuild the trust elsewhere in anywhere near that timeframe, it takes many years.

China has major plans to ‘move’ and/or ‘share’ Hong Kong’s financial and trade ‘qualities’ to/with neighboring Macau and Shenzhen, but it’s nowhere near ready to make that transition. Remember, Hong Kong has its own dollar, the HKD. That’s not going to move to the mainland, not even in 2047. China only have the yuan, which is quite useless for international trade and FX.

 

 

Alors, what are we going to do about it, guys? On the one side, you have Beijing, which tried to push through the extradition bill and got it thrown back in its face with interest. But Beijing is allergic to losing face. On the other side you have the protesters, who realize this is now or never, that if they give in now, their freedom(s) will never come back.

Two immovable entities, but Beijing seems to think they can move this, that they have the upper hand. Do they, though? 7.5 million people live in Hong Kong, a fair amount of whom are below the age of 10 or above the age of 75. So the 1.5 million that were already out on the streets in some of this year’s protests added up to a quarter of the population. That’s a lot of people.

Sending in troops would hurt China’s economy something real bad, because it would mean the end of the Hong Kong trade hub (corporations, banks, rich people would leave). And most of the population understand the now-or-never notion. I read somewhere that though 92% of the people are ‘Chinese’, only 11% call themselves that.

The vast majority ‘identifies’ as Hong Kongers. And (perceived) freedom is a big part of that. Many of those Hong Kongers are young and highly educated, salaries are high (finance sector), they can travel freely, study abroad. Those who are older are often the parents of these young people, who’ve worked very hard to give their kids these options.

There have been -and will be again- protests from groups of doctors, lawyers, finance professionals, you name it. They don’t want to run the risk of being picked off the streets by mainland Chinese soldiers OR by Hong Kong police forces instructed by Beijing.

When/If things get down to the wire, Hong Kongers will prove very much to be an immovable force. They have too much to lose not to be. They have, in their own view, everything to lose (which some people would translate as nothing to lose, but meaning the same). And they’re up against a Politburo that reacts to them like it’s never left the early 1900s.

This does not bode well for anyone, and if g-d forbid it comes down to serious fighting in the streets, it will bode ill for the entire world. Not only China depends on Hong Kong for much of its trade, the US and EU do, too, for their trade with China, from which they procure much of what is sold in their stores.

 

High time for everyone to sit down and talk. If there’s still time. The mass protest scheduled for tomorrow, August 31, may have been ‘officially’ called off, but there’s no proof Hong Kongers will stay home because of that. There IS proof of more military movements just across the Hong Kong border in Shenzhen, however.

Pre-emptively arresting and releasing a pair of 22-year-old kids may not do the job anymore for Beijing. But the Communist Party CCP thinks they cannot possibly lose. They may be wrong. 1.3 billion people is a mighty potential force, but it’s not always only about numbers. Sometimes it’s about now or never.

To me, personally, it feels like what is needed is for the CCP to modernize. But its very structure is set against that. It appears to be this inertia-laden colossus attempting to rule the 21st century with 100-year-old ideas. And yes, they’re talking about shutting down the internet in Hong Kong.

But that would mean shutting down the banks and trading houses too. As would sending in the tanks. According to the 1990s transition treaty signed with the UK, Beijing has until 2047 to fully incorporate Hong Kong. It may not go down smoothly then either, granted, but why push it today?

The West, the EU, UK, US -Putin even?!- can easily come up with a proposal for meetings on Hong Kong to be held over the next 28 years until 2047 that would allow Beijing to save face today. Let’s get it done, soon, win everyone involved some time, they all need it. We need it. And 28 years is plenty time. Before we inadvertently land in another Boxer War or Opium War or WWIII.

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 302019
 


Marc Chagall The soldier drinks 1912

 

We Have A Russian Asset Sitting In The Oval Office (BI)
China Rejected Hong Kong Plan To Appease Protesters (R.)
Hong Kong Police Ban Upcoming Rally Citing Public Order Concerns (HKFP)
Saturday Protest Canceled In Hong Kong After Sudden Arrest Of Key Activists (ZH)
Hong Kong Activist Joshua Wong Arrested In Crackdown On Protests (R.)
No Need Yet For Hong Kong To Use Emergency Powers: Senior Official (R.)
Hong Kong Emergency Powers ‘Would Be Used In A Measured Way’ – Adviser (SCMP)
I’m Going To Court To Stop Proroguing Parliament (Gina Miller)
BNP Paribas Plans Bid For Deutsche Bank’s Equity Derivatives (R.)
In Search of a Russiagate Scalp: The Entrapment of Maria Butina (Kiriakou)
Australia’s High Household Debt Could Complicate Rate Decisions – RBA (R.)
Australia Downgrades Outlook For Great Barrier Reef To ‘Very Poor’ (AFP)
The Amazon Is Not Earth’s Lungs (Atl.)

 

 

The echo chamber continues unabated. It answers only to itself. James Comey even demands apologies after leaking internal FBI info to get Mueller started.

We Have A Russian Asset Sitting In The Oval Office (BI)

“It’s hard to see the bar anymore since it’s been pushed so far down the last few years, but President Trump’s behavior over the weekend was a new low.” That was the assessment an FBI agent who works in counterintelligence gave Insider of President Donald Trump’s performance at this year’s G7 summit in Biarritz, France. The agent requested anonymity because they feared that speaking publicly on the matter would jeopardize their job. Trump’s attendance at the G7 summit was peppered with controversy, but none was more notable than his fervent defense of Russia’s military and cyber aggression around the world, and its violation of international law in Ukraine.

Trump repeatedly refused to hold Russia accountable for annexing Crimea in 2014, blamed former President Barack Obama for Russia’s move to annex it, expressed sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and castigated other G7 members for not giving the country a seat at the table. Since being booted from the G8 after annexing Crimea, Russia’s done little to make up for its actions. In fact, by many accounts, it’s stepped up its aggression. In addition to continuing to encroach on Ukraine, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 US election and was behind the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy in the UK. US officials also warn that as the 2020 election looms, the Russians are stepping up their cyberactivities against the US and have repeatedly tried to attack US power grids.

“What in God’s name made Trump think it would be a good idea to ask to bring Russia back to the table?” the FBI agent told Insider. “How does this serve US national-security interests?” Trump’s advocacy for Russia is renewing concerns among intelligence veterans that Trump may be a Russian “asset” who can be manipulated or influenced to serve Russian interests, although some also speculate that Trump could just be currying favor for future business deals. A former senior Justice Department official, who worked closely with the former special counsel Robert Mueller when he was FBI director, didn’t mince words when reacting to Trump’s performance at the G7 summit: “We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office.”

Read more …

Lots of Hong Kong today. Let’s start here.

China Rejected Hong Kong Plan To Appease Protesters (R.)

Earlier this summer, Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, submitted a report to Beijing that assessed protesters’ five key demands and found that withdrawing a contentious extradition bill could help defuse the mounting political crisis in the territory. The Chinese central government rejected Lam’s proposal to withdraw the extradition bill and ordered her not to yield to any of the protesters’ other demands at that time, three individuals with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. China’s role in directing how Hong Kong handles the protests has been widely assumed, supported by stern statements in state media about the country’s sovereignty and protesters’ “radical” goals.

Beijing’s rebuff of Lam’s proposal for how to resolve the crisis, detailed for the first time by Reuters, represents concrete evidence of the extent to which China is controlling the Hong Kong government’s response to the unrest. The Chinese central government has condemned the protests and accused foreign powers of fuelling unrest. The Foreign Ministry has repeatedly warned other nations against interfering in Hong Kong, reiterating that the situation there is an “internal affair.” Lam’s report on the tumult, made before an Aug. 7 meeting in Shenzhen about Hong Kong led by senior Chinese officials that examined the feasibility of the five demands of the protesters, analyzing how conceding to some of these might quiet things down, the individuals with direct knowledge said.

In addition to the withdrawal of the extradition bill, the other demands analyzed in the report were: an independent inquiry into the protests; fully democratic elections; dropping of the term “riot” in describing protests; and dropping charges against those arrested so far. The withdrawal of the bill and an independent inquiry were seen to be the most feasible politically, according to a senior government official in the Hong Kong administration, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said the move was envisioned as helping pacify some of the more moderate protesters who have been angered by Lam’s silence.

[..] The extradition bill is one of the key issues that has helped drive the protests, which have drawn millions of people into the streets of Hong Kong. Lam has said the bill is “dead,” but has refused to say explicitly that it has been “withdrawn.” Beijing told Lam not to withdraw the bill, or to launch an inquiry into the tumult, including allegations of excessive police force, according to the senior government official. Another of the three individuals, who has close ties with senior officials in Hong Kong and also declined to be identified, confirmed the Hong Kong government had submitted the report. “They said no” to all five demands, said the source. “The situation is far more complicated than most people realize.”

Read more …

Question is: how many people will come out? Some rallies saw 1.5 million of the city’s 7.5 million on the streets.

Hong Kong Police Ban Upcoming Rally Citing Public Order Concerns (HKFP)

Hong Kong police have banned both a rally and a march organised by the Civil Human Rights Front planned for Saturday, according to the group’s convener Jimmy Sham. It marked the first time that an entire event organised by the pro-democracy coalition has been prohibited owing to concerns over public order. Sham said police had cited previous confrontations between protesters and police as the reason for the ban. The event was themed around reiterating the five core demands of anti-extradition law protesters on the fifth anniversary of Beijing’s decision to impose restrictive measures on Hong Kong elections. The original plan was to rally at Chater Garden at 2:30pm then march to the China Liaison Office in Sai Wan at 3pm.


Sham said the Front will appeal the decision after speaking with lawyers: “We did not see a very clear reason [to ban the protest] in the objection letter,” he said. “We will discuss ways for residents to exercise their right to protest in a safe and legal way,” he added. “[Chief Executive] Carrie Lam has not allowed Hong Kong to return to calm, but she has used different means to make Hong Kong people even angrier.” The police previously banned the Front’s march on August 18, citing public security concerns, but approved a static rally at Victoria Park. However, protesters marched peacefully to Central nonetheless, without facing any police interference.

Read more …

China understands only fear, it would seem.

Saturday Protest Canceled In Hong Kong After Sudden Arrest Of Key Activists (ZH)

Summary: Saturday’s planned protest in Hong Kong has been canceled after the arrest of three of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest leaders on Friday; Joshua Wong, Andy Chan, and Agnes Chow. CNBC’s Eunice Yoon notes that the arrests are being described on Chinese media as a crackdown on “the activists who create chaos in Hong Kong.”

Update (0105ET): Saturday’s planned protest marking the fifth anniversary of the 2014 event which sparked the Umbrella Movement has been canceled, according to The Guardian. Bonnie Leung from the Civil Human Rights Front said: “The appeal board has just rejected our appeal. Our first principle is always to protect all the participants and make sure that no one could bear legal consequences because of participating in the protest that we organised. However, because of the appeal board’s decision, we can see no way that we can keep this principle and also continue our march and protest. Therefore the civil human rights front has no option but to cancel the march tomorrow.”

The Civil Human Rights Front would like to sincerely apologise to the public and hope you can understand what we explained and the difficulty we are facing. At the same time, we understand that the right to march and the right to protest is a human right and is very important to Hong Kong people. The CHRF will continue to apply for marches and apply for rallies. “I think the police are using all kinds of excuses to arrest all kinds of people including us. They arrested Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow this morning so there is a real danger we could face the same consequences as well. We will try our best to preserve CHRF as a legal organiser. If we do otherwise, the police may use that as an excuse to give us even more trouble in the future,” she added.

Read more …

He’s like the guy in front of the tank in Tiananmen.

Hong Kong Activist Joshua Wong Arrested In Crackdown On Protests (R.)

Wong, the icon of pro-democracy demonstrations five years ago that foreshadowed the latest turbulence, is the highest-profile arrest since protests escalated in mid-June over fears Beijing was exerting greater control over the city. Two other prominent activists, Andy Chan and Agnes Chow, have also been detained. The bespectacled Wong, who was 17 when he became the face of the student-led Umbrella Movement, has not been a prominent figure in current protests which have no identifiable leaders. He was released from jail in June after serving a five-week term for contempt of court. “He was suddenly pushed into a private car on the street,” Wong’s political party Demosisto, which advocates for greater democracy in Hong Kong, said on its official Twitter account.


“He has now been escorted to the police headquarters in Wan Chai,” it said. Demosisto’s lawyers were working on the case, it said. Police said Wong and Chow, both 22, were arrested on Friday on suspicion of “organizing unorganized assembly” and “knowingly participating in unauthorized assembly”. Chan, a founder of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party that was banned last September, was arrested at Hong Kong’s international airport on Thursday on suspicion of “participating in riots” and “attacking police” during a protest on July 13, police said. Police have refused permission for a pro-democracy march on Saturday and an appeal by organizers to allow the demonstration to proceed was turned down on Friday.

Read more …

If they don’t respond to the protesters’ demands, they will have no choice.

No Need Yet For Hong Kong To Use Emergency Powers: Senior Official (R.)

Hong Kong is a long way from having to declare emergency powers or to ask the Chinese military to intervene, a senior official with China’s parliament and pro-Beijing Hong Kong politician told Reuters, as months of protests show no sign of abating. Hong Kong has been engulfed in angry and sometimes violent protests against the government since mid-June, sparked by a now-suspended extradition bill and concerns that Beijing was trying to bring the territory under greater mainland control. Police fired water cannon and tear gas at anti-government demonstrators on Sunday, and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam warned later that authorities would be forced to stamp down on the escalating violence.

Maria Tam, deputy director of the Chinese parliament’s Basic Law Committee, told Reuters in Beijing late on Thursday emergency legislation was not something for which Hong Kong’s government would have to ask Beijing’s permission. “The emergency legislation is something that is left behind by the colonial British government. It’s nothing to do with the Basic Law. It’s entirely in the power of the highly autonomous region,” Tam said, referring to the mini-constitution under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 return to China.

“At the moment there are still plenty of tools. We have different articles in the police force ordinance and articles in the public order ordinance which we can still invoke to control the situation. We haven’t got to the stage when we really have to engage in enacted laws by the chief executive with the executive council to, for example, enact anti-mask or interception of internet messages. We’re quite a distance from that,” she said. However, there may come a stage when Hong Kong has to do this, Tam said. “I think if its come to the stage when all the other ordinances I have mentioned have failed to work, then I suppose the chief executive may have to consider it,” she said.

Read more …

China needs Hong Kong as a trade center.

Hong Kong Emergency Powers ‘Would Be Used In A Measured Way’ – Adviser (SCMP)

The use of any emergency powers at the government’s disposal to end Hong Kong’s escalating protest crisis would have to come in a measured way rather than a blanket crackdown, to protect the city’s status as an international financial centre, a top adviser to the city’s embattled leader said on Wednesday. However, Executive Council convenor Bernard Chan said that while Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s administration had the option of using the Emergency Regulations Ordinance, the city was nowhere near requiring such a move, which would grant the power to seize property or shut down the internet.

Chan was speaking at the latest China Conference organised by the South China Morning Post, this time focusing on Beijing’s ambitious Greater Bay Area (GBA) plan in the context of Hong Kong’s advantages and challenges. The GBA national plan is to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine other Guangdong cities into a financial and technological powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley by 2035, with the two special administrative regions playing a leading role on the strength of the unique “one country, two systems” policy under which they are governed.

[..] he cautioned that speculative news reports were unnecessarily inciting fear, and suggested the government would not turn the city upside down overnight. “I know in some countries they decide to shut down the whole internet, that’s crazy, that would be so unhelpful for all the businesspeople in Hong Kong,” Chan said. “I think whatever decision we make, it has to be very measured, and equitable, and lawful.”

Read more …

One of many court cases. They appear to be too many in too many different courts for now. Focus!

I’m Going To Court To Stop Proroguing Parliament (Gina Miller)

My legal team and I have been in communication with Johnson’s legal advisers since early July. They repeatedly and comprehensively reassured me that prorogation was not an option for him, and that the whole issue was of no more than “academic” interest. I was therefore stunned by the announcement on Tuesday, not least because their last reply to us was on Monday evening. Lies are being told, professional rules broken, and a ruthless prime minister is subjecting our unwritten constitution to stresses that would have been unimaginable a few years ago.

As a country we have more of a political constitution than a legal one, and as such it operates via conventions and precedents. I believe those conventions and precedents mean that prorogation is not to be used in the manner Johnson has announced, and disagree with the views of the eminent former supreme court justice Jonathan Sumption when he says this is not a matter for the courts. The effect of a prorogation of this length will be to prevent parliament from fulfilling its statutory duty to scrutinise any agreement between the UK and the EU. When you add to this the fact that the government must exercise its prerogative powers in good faith, I believe there is a legal principle at stake that qualifies for judicial review. I also think that Sumption has failed to take account of the evolutionary nature of the UK constitution, and that in these unprecedented constitutional times, the legal arguments involved can also be expected to be unprecedented.

The charge the Johnson government is making against me is that I am using the courts to subvert the will of the people. But a no-deal Brexit was never the will of the people, and at no point during the EU referendum campaign did the people authorise any government to abandon not just parliamentary democracy, but the laws of the land. Our laws are ultimately all that protect us from tyranny, and before them we are all equal – prime ministers and private citizens alike. Even against the desperate time constraints imposed upon us, I am hopeful that the courts will be able to check the omnipotent power Johnson wants for himself.

• Gina Miller is a businesswoman and transparency activist, and is taking legal action to prevent Boris Johnson proroguing parliament.

Read more …

For how many pennies on the dollar?

BNP Paribas Plans Bid For Deutsche Bank’s Equity Derivatives (R.)

French lender BNP Paribas plans to bid for Deutsche Bank’s equity derivatives book and is hopeful it can beat off rival bidders to secure a deal in the next few weeks, according to sources familiar with the matter. Deutsche Bank is selling the portfolio as part of a restructuring that will see it exit equities trading and other unwanted businesses and shed 18,000 staff globally. CEO Christian Sewing is hoping the plan will turn around the bank, whose shares hit a record low this month. Deutsche Bank plans to auction its equity derivatives portfolio next month having received significant expressions of interest from banks, private equity firms and hedge funds, the sources told Reuters. It may sell the book in separate tranches rather than in its entirety, they said.

BNP is already close to taking control of Deutsche Bank’s prime brokerage business, which serves hedge fund clients. A preliminary deal was struck in July which is expected to be formalized early next month. Any equity derivatives deal would be separate from that transaction, the sources said. Reuters reported last month that Deutsche Bank’s derivatives exposure is tying up capital that could have generated income of 500 million euros a year. Reuters also reported the bank has set aside over 1 billion euros to cover the cost of offloading derivatives moved to its so-called “bad bank,” or capital restructuring unit to be wound down or sold.

The restructuring has seen the bank hive off 288 billion euros of assets into the bad bank. Equities, including equity derivatives, accounted for around 170 billion euros of those assets. Fixed-income assets, including long-dated interest rate and credit derivatives, accounted for 79 billion euros. The equity derivatives are short-dated and expected to attract a lot of interest from buyers, meaning Deutsche Bank may not have to take a discount to offload them. The bank’s longer-dated interest rate and credit derivatives are expected to be much harder to sell, as they require high levels of capital to be held against them, and could require deep writedowns [..]

Read more …

More Comey.

In Search of a Russiagate Scalp: The Entrapment of Maria Butina (Kiriakou)

Forgive me if this is burying the lede, but I also want to talk about how Maria Butina got into this predicament in the first place. We know that she was very active in the gun rights movement in both Russia and the U.S. and that she sought to improve contact between gun groups in both countries. We also know that she met and began dating Patrick Byrne, the founder and CEO of Overstock.com. We learned recently, thanks to Byrne himself, that he was a longtime FBI source and that the FBI directed him to begin dating Butina. He did so. And he reported back to the FBI that she was simply a graduate student. That wasn’t good enough for the FBI, though and, according to Byrne, he was instructed to go back to Butina, to begin a sexual relationship with her, and to again report back to the FBI. He did that, too.

In the end, the Justice Department accused her publicly of “trading sexual favors” for access, an accusation that prosecutors had to withdraw. It was patently untrue. But that didn’t stop them from accusing her in the press of being a Russian spy, which she was not. And it didn’t stop the judge from giving her three times the maximum sentence called for by the sentencing guidelines. I will ask your forgiveness again if I sound like a broken record. But this is how the FBI makes their cases. They entrap people. I’ve written extensively about how the FBI brazenly carried out a sting operation against me (unsuccessfully) that could have resulted in an espionage conviction and as much as 30 years in prison. They did the same thing to Butina.

Butina wasn’t committing a crime, so they just made something up, leaked it to the press, allowed it to influence the public and the judge, and hoped she would cave and take a plea. She did. Byrne went on CNN last week to say that two of the three people who instructed him to do all of this were James Comey, Peter Strzok, and another as-yet-unnamed individual. The operation was hatched at the top. The whole story sickens me.

Read more …

EU countries with high household debt are out of luck. They don’t make their own decisions.

Australia’s High Household Debt Could Complicate Rate Decisions – RBA (R.)

High household debt in Australia could make the economy less resilient to shocks and complicate future interest rate decisions, the country’s central bank said on Friday. A long boom in Australia’s housing market that ended in 2017 had sent the household debt to income ratio to all-time highs, prompting regulators to tighten bank lending standards which in-turn led to home prices crumbling. The recent property downturn together with miserly wage growth have squeezed household balance sheets and hurt consumer spending, a major reason why the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) cut interest rates twice since June to a record low of 1%.


“Movements in asset values and leverage may be more important for economic developments than in the past given the already high levels of debt on household balance sheets,” the RBA said in its 2019/20 corporate plan. The household debt to income ratio is above 190%, among the highest in the developed world. “Especially in the context of weak growth in household income, high debt levels could complicate future monetary policy decisions by making the economy less resilient to shocks,” it added.

Read more …

First you destroy, then you downgrade.

Australia Downgrades Outlook For Great Barrier Reef To ‘Very Poor’ (AFP)

The long-term outlook for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was downgraded to “very poor” for the first time Friday by the official agency charged with managing the world heritage site. In its latest five-yearly report on the health of the world’s largest coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority singled out rising sea temperatures due to climate change as the biggest threat to the giant organism. “The significant and large-scale impacts from record-breaking sea surface temperatures have resulted in coral reef habitat transitioning from poor to very poor condition,” the government agency said. It said “strong and effective management actions are urgent at global, regional and local scales” to rescue the 2,300-kilometre (1,400-mile) reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site.


“The Reef is core to Australia’s identity and improving its outlook is critical,” it said, adding that in addition to countering climate change, further action was needed to halt the run-off of agricultural pollutants into reef areas. “The window of opportunity to improve the reef’s long-term future is now,” it said. The conservative Australian government has faced criticism from environmentalists for favouring an expansion of its massive coal mining and export industry over action to curb climate change. Friday’s reef report coincided with the release of new government data showing that Australia’s emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for climate change continued a four-year rising trend during the first half of 2019.

Read more …

Science counts.

The Amazon Is Not Earth’s Lungs (Atl.)

As tongues of flame lapped the planet’s largest tract of rain forest over the past few weeks, it has rightfully inspired the world’s horror. The entire Amazon could be nearing the edge of a desiccating feedback loop, one that could end in catastrophic collapse. This collapse would threaten millions of species, from every branch of the tree of life, each of them—its idiosyncratic splendor, its subjective animal perception of the world—irretrievable once it’s gone. This arson has been tacitly encouraged by a Brazilian administration that is determined to develop the rain forest, over the objections of its indigenous inhabitants and the world at large. Losing the Amazon, beyond representing a planetary historic tragedy beyond measure, would also make meeting the ambitious climate goals of the Paris Agreement all but impossible.

World leaders need to marshal all their political and diplomatic might to save it. The Amazon is a vast, ineffable, vital, living wonder. It does not, however, supply the planet with 20 percent of its oxygen. As the biochemist Nick Lane wrote in his 2003 book Oxygen, “Even the most foolhardy destruction of world forests could hardly dint our oxygen supply, though in other respects such short-sighted idiocy is an unspeakable tragedy.” The Amazon produces about 6 percent of the oxygen currently being made by photosynthetic organisms alive on the planet today. But surprisingly, this is not where most of our oxygen comes from.

In fact, from a broader Earth-system perspective, in which the biosphere not only creates but also consumes free oxygen, the Amazon’s contribution to our planet’s unusual abundance of the stuff is more or less zero. This is not a pedantic detail. Geology provides a strange picture of how the world works that helps illuminate just how bizarre and unprecedented the ongoing human experiment on the planet really is. Contrary to almost every popular account, Earth maintains an unusual surfeit of free oxygen—an incredibly reactive gas that does not want to be in the atmosphere—largely due not to living, breathing trees, but to the existence, underground, of fossil fuels.

Read more …