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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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… 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”.

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“..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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.=

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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“..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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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“..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.

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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.

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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.

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“..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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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“..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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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 [..]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Aug 292019
 
 August 29, 2019  Posted by at 9:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Odilon Redon Two trees 1875

 

Boris Johnson Sparks Outrage After Forcing Suspension Of Parliament (AFP)
1.2 Million Britons Sign Petition To Stop Proroguing Of Parliament (G.)
The Queen’s Active Role in the Right Wing Coup (Craig Murray)
London Homeowners Are Panic Selling Homes Ahead Of Brexit Deadline (ZH)
The High Price of Dollar Safety (Coppola)
Mnuchin Says US Seriously Considering Ultra-Long Bonds (R.)
FBI Studies Two Broken Cameras Outside Cell Where Epstein Died (R.)
Hong Kong Police Ban Mass Protest Over Safety Fears (AFP)
Chinese Troop Movement Into Hong Kong Prompts Unease (G.)
Fear Stalks Cathay Staff After Hong Kong Protest Sackings (AFP)
New Lip-Reading CCTV Will Have People Fall Silent In Public (ZH)
All 4 Carter Page FISA Warrants Were Illegally Obtained – Joe diGenova (WE)
The G-7 Blues (Kunstler)

 

 

Courts.

Boris Johnson Sparks Outrage After Forcing Suspension Of Parliament (AFP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sparked fury among pro-Europeans and MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit by forcing the suspension of parliament weeks before Britain’s EU departure date. The pound slid on the surprise news Wednesday, which opponents branded a “coup” and a “declaration of war” but Johnson claimed was necessary to allow him to pursue a “bold and ambitious” new domestic agenda. It came a day after opposition parties vowed to seek legislative changes to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Queen Elizabeth II approved the request to end what has been the longest session of parliament in nearly 400 years in the second week of September and reopen it on October 14 — just over two weeks before Brexit.

Thousands of people protested in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and other cities, while an online petition decrying the decision had garnered more than 1.1 million signatures by early Thursday. At the biggest rally, crowds gathered near parliament in London chanting “stop the coup” and waving EU flags. “Parliament will have the opportunity to debate the government’s overall programme, and approach to Brexit,” Johnson, who leads the Conservative party, vowed in a letter to MPs. However, his decision incensed lawmakers vehemently against Britain leaving the EU without a deal on October 31.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, denounced the move as “a smash-and-grab against democracy” and reiterated he may call a no-confidence vote in Johnson’s government, which commands a majority of just one seat. Former chancellor Philip Hammond also pledged to keep fighting against no deal. “It would be a constitutional outrage if parliament were prevented from holding the government to account at a time of national crisis,” he said. US President Donald Trump weighed into the row by praising Johnson as “great” and claiming it would be “very hard” for Corbyn to topple him in a no-confidence vote. The Labour leader shot back, tweeting Johnson was “a compliant Prime Minister who will hand Britain’s public services and protections over to US corporations in a free trade deal”.

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Bit late perhaps?

1.2 Million Britons Sign Petition To Stop Proroguing Of Parliament (G.)

A petition calling on the government not to prorogue parliament has already been signed by more than 1.2 million people. It was launched on Tuesday by Mark Johnston, a pro-EU campaigner from Reigate in Surrey, a day before Boris Johnson announced his request to suspend parliament. The text of the petition reads: “Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.” By early afternoon on Wednesday it had already attracted more than 100,000 signatories, passing the threshold to be considered for a debate in parliament.[..] It is the fastest-growing parliamentary petition since more than 6 million people signed a statement calling for article 50 to be revoked earlier this year.

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Craig Murray is Scottish.

The Queen’s Active Role in the Right Wing Coup (Craig Murray)

Our obsequious media is actively perpetuating the myth than the monarch can do no wrong, and is apolitical. In fact the monarchy has been active and absolutely central to the seizure of power from the Westminster parliament in a right wing coup. Yesterday’s collaboration at Balmoral between the Queen and Jacob Rees Mogg is only the latest phase. The monarch appoints the UK Prime Minister. The convention is that this must be the person who can command the support of the majority in the House of Commons. That does not necessarily have to be from a single party, it can be via a coalition or pact with other parties, but the essential point, established since Hanoverian times, is that the individual must have a majority in the Commons.

The very appointment of Boris Johnson by Elizabeth Saxe Coburg Gotha was a constitutional outrage. Johnson may have been selected by Conservative Party members, but that is not the qualification to be PM. Johnson very plainly did not command a majority in the House of Commons, proven by the fact that still at no stage has he demonstrated that he does. Johnson’s flagship policy was always No Deal Brexit. Contrary to the monarchist propaganda spewed out across the entire MSM, not only is it untrue that the Queen had “no constitutional choice” but to appoint Johnson, the Queen had a clear constitutional duty not to appoint a Prime Minister whose flagship policy had already been specifically voted down time and again by the House of Commons.

The Queen has now doubled down on this original outrage by proroguing the Westminster parliament in conspiracy with old Etonians Rees Mogg and Johnson, specifically so that the House of Commons cannot vote down Johnson. The monarchy will always be an extremely useful institution in promoting the political aims of the upper classes, not least because of the ludicrous media promulgation of its infallibility. When you have former Prime Minister John Major, senior Tories like Philip Hammond and Michael Heseltine, and the Speaker of the House of Commons himself all talking of “consitutional outrage”, it is plainly preposterous to insist that the monarchy cannot, by definition, have done anything wrong.

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How much panic will we see in the next 2 months? How much protest, violence?

London Homeowners Are Panic Selling Homes Ahead Of Brexit Deadline (ZH)

The pound sterling has lost nearly 10% of its value in the last 120 days, as a no-deal Brexit has become more likely. The Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 Index, also called the FTSE 100 Index, has fallen into a bear market in the same period. Fear is spreading across the United Kingdom, also affecting the real estate market. Nested, a London-based “data-driven” real estate firm, is reporting 29% of London homeowners are slashing their asking prices ahead of Brexit’s Oct. 31 deadline, reported Property Reporter. The new report shows over £2 billion ($2.43 billion) of price cuts have so far occurred in the London Metropolitan Region ahead of the deadline.


About 11% of the listings in London (12,078) have seen at least £37,800 ($46,166) cut from the initial list price. Top areas of where the most substantial price discounts are being observed are in Westminster Kensington & Chelsea, Wandsworth, Camden, and Tower Hamlets. Another 18% of homes listed in the London area have seen price drops of at least 10% ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline. Jamie Salisbury, a property expert at Nested, said: “Amid this endless uncertainty and gloom there are great opportunities out there for buyers if they’re bold enough to seize them. This is particularly true for homeowners who are trading up, presenting an opportunity to buy a new home that might otherwise have been out of reach.”

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Everyone wants dollars and dollar-denominated “safe assets”.

The High Price of Dollar Safety (Coppola)

The world is saving like crazy. Corporations are building up cash mountains that they can’t or won’t invest in expanding their businesses. Individuals are building up pensions and precautionary savings. Governments, especially in developing countries, are building up FX reserves. The “savings glut,” as former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke dubbed it, shows no signs of dissipating. It is sloshing around the world looking for a productive home. But there isn’t one – or at least, not one that offers the safety that fearful investors desperately crave. That, fundamentally, is what is driving down the returns on assets.

It is also the primary cause of the wide US trade deficit. The President likes to think that the reason for the US’s persistent trade deficits is unfair trade practices and currency manipulation. And for some countries, these are undoubtedly contributing factors. But the biggest reason by far is the global dominance of the dollar, and above all, the pre-eminence of dollar-denominated financial assets as the world’s preferred savings vehicles. The world loves to save in dollar-denominated “safe assets” – not only the dollar itself, but also US Treasuries, mortgage-backed securities, dollar-denominated debt issued by other governments in good standing, and dollar-denominated blue-chip corporate debt.

When global demand for these assets rises and/or their supply falls, dollars become relatively scarcer internationally, both because foreigners increase their holdings of dollars and because they buy or borrow more dollars to buy other dollar-denominated safe assets. This drives up the dollar exchange rate against all other currencies. It also depresses yields, both on dollar-denominated safe assets and on all other financial assets. Thus the strong dollar and negative yields are both primarily caused by the world’s dollar saving habit, not by its trade practices. And the dollar safety quest intensifies as political tensions rise.

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Everyone wnats bonds? So give them what they want.

Mnuchin Says US Seriously Considering Ultra-Long Bonds (R.)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday the possibility of issuing ultra-long U.S. bonds is “under very serious consideration” by the Trump administration, Bloomberg News reported. “If the conditions are right, then I would anticipate we’ll take advantage of long-term borrowing and execute on that,” Mnuchin told Bloomberg in an interview. Mnuchin said his renewed interest in 50- or 100-year bonds was unrelated to the drop in yields on shorter-term U.S. debt, Bloomberg reported.


Currently, the 30-year bond is the longest-dated U.S. Treasury bond. Earlier this month, the Treasury Department asked for feedback from market participants about the possibility of selling ultra-long bonds. The department posed a similar inquiry in 2017. U.S. Treasury debt yields fell on Wednesday, with 30-year yields setting all-time lows, as fears about a recession and U.S.-China trade tensions stoked unrelenting demand for low-risk government debt.

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FBI. Very reassuring.

FBI Studies Two Broken Cameras Outside Cell Where Epstein Died (R.)

Two cameras that malfunctioned outside the jail cell where financier Jeffrey Epstein died as he awaited trial on sex-trafficking charges have been sent to an FBI crime lab for examination, a law enforcement source told Reuters. Epstein’s lawyers Reid Weingarten and Martin Weinberg told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan on Tuesday they had doubts about the New York City chief medical examiner’s conclusion that their client killed himself. The two cameras were within view of the Manhattan jail cell where he was found dead on Aug. 10. A source earlier told Reuters two jail guards failed to follow a procedure overnight to make separate checks on all prisoners every 30 minutes.


He had been taken off suicide watch prior to his death. The cameras were sent to Quantico, Virginia, site of a major FBI crime lab where agents and forensic scientists analyze evidence. The Washington Post reported on Monday that at least one camera in the hallway outside Epstein’s cell had footage that was unusable. The newspaper said there was other usable footage captured in the area.

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That’ll stop them.

Hong Kong Police Ban Mass Protest Over Safety Fears (AFP)

Hong Kong police have banned a mass pro-democracy rally from going ahead on Saturday over public safety concerns, organisers said, after last weekend saw some of the worst violence in three months of political unrest in the financial hub. In a letter to the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) on Thursday, police said they feared some participants would commit “violent and destructive acts”. Protesters have not only carried out “arson and large scale road blockades but also used petrol bombs, steel balls, bricks, long spears, metal poles, as well as various self-made weapons to destroy public property on a large scale, damage social order and cause injury to others,” the letter said of previous protests.


The rare move comes after officers deployed water cannon and fired a warning gunshot to fend off radical protesters on Sunday night, after a sanctioned rally turned ugly. Saturday’s rally was set to mark five years since Beijing rejected political reforms in Hong Kong, a decision which sparked the 79-day Umbrella Movement. The CHRF, responsible for the largest rallies the city has seen in decades, said they would appeal the decision. “You can see the police’s course of action is intensifying, and you can see (Hong Kong leader) Carrie Lam has in fact no intention to let Hong Kong return to peace, but is trying to incite the anger of more citizens through tough measures,” the group’s leader Jimmy Sham told reporters.

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“.. the use of troops in Hong Kong will be the end of Hong Kong..”

Chinese Troop Movement Into Hong Kong Prompts Unease (G.)

Chinese military vehicles have been seen moving across the border into Hong Kong, in what the military said were regular troop movements, as fears rose that the city could see a Beijing-led crackdown after months of political unrest. Following witness reports of the movements in the early hours of Thursday, state-run news agency Xinhua released a report that the Hong Kong Garrison of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was making a scheduled rotation and that it was an “annual normal routine”. The images published by Xinhua showed armoured carriers and trucks carrying troops at the border, and a naval vessel arriving in Hong Kong. In the previous two rotations – in 2017 and 2018 – state media reports noted that the number of troops and equipment had not changed.


This year the report does not include that detail. It is estimated there are between 8,000 and 10,000 troops in the garrison, on either side of the border. The movements come before a major anti-government demonstration planned for Saturday, as Hong Kong nears its third month of mass protests. On Thursday, the organiser of the demonstration, Civil Human Rights Front, received notice that police had banned the event. Hong Kong lawmaker Dennis Kwok of the Civic party called the troop movements political posturing. “I believe this is a deliberate posture on the part of the PLA to tell or warn the Hong Kong people that it may be deployed,” Kwok told public broadcaster RTHK. “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.”

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Pretty crazy story.

Fear Stalks Cathay Staff After Hong Kong Protest Sackings (AFP)

A fortnight ago Cathay Pacific said it “wouldn’t dream” of muzzling the views of its 27,000 Hong Kong staff, but after the dismissal of several pro-democracy supporters among its workforce under Chinese pressure, employees say this is exactly what has happened. Hong Kong, a financial centre that was once a byword for stability and prosperity, has been plunged into an unprecedented crisis by anti-government protests, framed by fears over growing Chinese influence. The chaos put airline Cathay in a bind over whether to allow its staff to take part in — or voice support for — the massive demonstrations, or risk losing its China-facing business.

In mid-August, the carrier’s position seemed unequivocal and in line with the city’s culture of free speech. “We employ 27,000 different staff in Hong Kong… we have virtually every opinion on every issue amongst our staff,” Chairman John Slosar told reporters. “We certainly wouldn’t dream of telling them what they have to think about something.” But the company’s tune soon changed as a move by China’s aviation regulator to bar staff supporting protests from working on flights to the mainland or through Chinese airspace began to bite. Four Cathay staff were fired — including two pilots.

A fifth, Rebecca Sy, a union organiser and cabin crew for Cathay Dragon, a regional arm, says she was dropped from a Chinese flight rota and then dismissed a day later without explanation. “It’s now like feeding a wolf… how many people do they have to fire to feel content?” Sy told AFP on Wednesday at a protest against Cathay’s about-turn. Crew fear a witch-hunt is underway for anyone who has expressed support for the protests, which started in June but show no sign of abating. “We’re being monitored. It’s obvious,” a staff member from the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union told AFP, requesting anonymity. “I’m really afraid of the system of ratting people out.”

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Lessons from Hong Kong: lasers, umbrellas etc.

New Lip-Reading CCTV Will Have People Fall Silent In Public (ZH)

While UK citizens are no strangers to having their every move in public captured by the country’s extensive network of CCTV cameras, new lip-reading technology will leave people “cupping their hands over their mouths” just to old a conversation in the street, according to the government’s surveillance watchdog, Tony Porter. “Among the new technologies Mr Porter expressed concern about were lip-syncing programs that can decipher what people are saying at distance as well as gait-analysis software, which can identify an individual just by the manner of their walk.” -The Telegraph. “The capability to run lip-sync technology to determine what people are saying would have a very suppressive effect. It would change the nature of our society,” Porter told the Evening Standard.

“People wouldn’t feel they could have a conversation outside. We increasingly see the football manager cupping his hand over his mouth to give instructions for fear of being exposed.” “Just extrapolate that by millions and what it would mean if people knew there was a capability of walking down the town and your lips moving could be picked up and extrapolated into a conversation,” he added. Porter’s comments follow the launch of an official investigation into the use of facial recognition technology by the Metropolitan Police by Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham – who says her office is “deeply concerned” about the software.

“Earlier this month, the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch also warned it had uncovered an “epidemic” of facial recognition technology being used around shopping centres, museums and conference venues in the UK. The pressure group said it had found that millions of people were now having their facial features unknowingly scanned and stored in data bases. Mr Porter conceded that such technologies could become an important tool for law enforcement. However, he added: “It’s important to protect a free and open society and at the moment we are at risk of ceding that to the impact of technology.”

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From the Washington Examiner, next to an Elizabeth Warren campaign ad. Oh irony.

All 4 Carter Page FISA Warrants Were Illegally Obtained – Joe diGenova (WE)

The Justice Department inspector general has determined all four Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against onetime Trump campaign aide Carter Page were illegally obtained, attorney Joe diGenova said this week. In an investigation that began last year, Inspector General Michael Horowitz examined the Justice Department’s and FBI’s compliance with legal requirements as well as policies and procedures in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court related to Page as part of a larger counterintelligence inquiry into President Trump’s campaign. Back in May, diGenova, a former U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said the three FISA warrant extensions against Page were illegally obtained, adding “the only question now is whether or not the first FISA was illegally obtained.”


Now diGenova says Horowitz made the same determination about the warrant that started it all. “I can report categorically that the inspector general has found that all four FISA warrants were illegal. They were based on false information supplied to the FISA Court. And Michael Horowitz has concluded that all four FISA warrants were illegal,” he told WMAL on Monday. The announcement comes days after The Hill’s John Solomon reported Horowitz had completed his investigation and, after a declassification period, could be released sometime between mid-September to early October.

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“The movements were exquisitely tuned, along with the money flows that circulated freely, like blood carrying oxygen to each organ. All of that is coming to an end.”

The G-7 Blues (Kunstler)

Europe is near the end of its North Sea oil bonanza and there’s nothing in the on-deck circle for them. Germany tried to prove that they could run the country on “renewables” and that experiment has flopped. They have no idea what they’re going to do to keep the game going in their patch of nations. They must be freaking out in their charming capital cities. The next economic bust is going to amount to the crack-up of the oil age, and the “global economy” that emerged in its late stage. It was all about moving fantastic quantities of things around the planet. The movements were exquisitely tuned, along with the money flows that circulated freely, like blood carrying oxygen to each organ. All of that is coming to an end.

The nations of the world must be feeling desperate, despite the appearance of good manners at meetings like the G-7. What’s at stake for everybody in the dark background is the ability to maintain high standards of living only recently attained. And the fear behind that is not knowing just how far backward these high standards of living may have to slide. A lot of people still alive in China must remember a daily existence on par with the 12th century. In the USA, where democracy is mostly represented by low-order thinking skills, the memory of life before electricity and running water is long gone. We’ve been living in Futurama since the end of the last world war. That war, by the way, is not entirely forgotten in Europe, despite all the charm currently on display and the tourists swarming with their selfie sticks.

The place was a charnel house for centuries and the Euro folk will do about anything to suppress conflict. Lately, it looks like they’re willing to give up on Western Civilization itself to keep the peace. Lord knows what Mr. Trump’s strategy is with these so-called “trade talks.” He has explicitly enough pushed for the re-industrialization of America, and that implies — among other things — decoupling from the China’s torrential merchandise supply lines, cutting off its revenues. Closing off China’s access to US markets itself might be enough to finally blow up China’s deeply fraudulent banking system. Maybe the aim is to just disable China, derail it from its seeming aim of becoming the next world hegemon. Does Mr. Trump think he can do that without blowing up the rest of the world’s financial arrangements?

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Aug 282019
 


Salvador Dali Cadaques 1923

 

US Yield Inversion Deepens, Stokes Recession Fears (R.)
Ex-NY Fed Chief Bill Dudley Urges Jay Powell To Prevent Trump Re-Election (ZH)
Comey Confidant: Expect Andrew McCabe to be Indicted Any Day (GP)
Hong Kong Ponders Emergency Legislation Likened To Martial Law (HKFP)
Hong Kong Protesters Say They Have Nothing To Lose (R.)
Business Group Warns On China’s Corporate ‘Social Credit’ Plan (R.)
Chinese Government To Launch Cryptocurrency (F.)
Prince Andrew ‘Knows What He’s Done’, Should ‘Come Clean’ – Giuffre (Ind.)
Up to 30 Jeffrey Epstein Accusers To Speak Out At New York Court Hearing (G.)
Purdue Pharma Offers $10-$12 Billion To Settle Opioid Claims (NBC)
Near-Total Ban On Sending Wild Elephants To Zoos Agreed (AFP)
Boris Johnson, GMOs and Glyphosate (CP)

 

 

Treasuries safe haven.

US Yield Inversion Deepens, Stokes Recession Fears (R.)

The U.S. yield curve inversion deepened on Tuesday to levels not seen since 2007, rekindling fears of a looming recession that spurred a sell-off on Wall Street and stoked even more safe-haven demand for government bonds. The intense interest in Treasuries supported demand for $40 billion worth of two-year government debt for sale, part of this week’s $113 billion fixed-rate Treasury supply. The yield curve often inverts prior to a U.S. recession. “As the curve inverts further, it has inspired more long-end buying,” said Mike Lorizio, head of Treasuries trading at Manulife Asset Management in Boston.


The Treasury Department sold its latest two-year, fixed-rate note supply at a yield of 1.516%, which was the lowest at an auction of this maturity since September 2017. The Treasury will sell $41 billion of five-year notes on Wednesday, followed by a $32 billion auction of seven-year debt on Thursday. It will also offer $18 billion in floating-rate notes on Wednesday. On the open market, 10-year Treasury yields were 1.488%, down 5.60 basis points on the day. They reached a three-year low of 1.443% on Monday. The yields on two-year notes were 1.531%, down 2.00 basis points. On Monday, they declined to 1.449%, the lowest since September 2017.

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Curious op-ed by Dudley, good comment from Tyler.

“Trump now has documentary evidence that, by extension, the Fed also had the ability to ensure his re-election..”

Ex-NY Fed Chief Bill Dudley Urges Jay Powell To Prevent Trump Re-Election (ZH)

[..] while Dudley refers to the Fed as apolitical, underscoring that further in the next paragraph where he says that “I understand and support Fed officials’ desire to remain apolitical”, he immediately refutes himself by admitting that the Fed has never been apolitical and in fact, it is the US central bank that, through its actions chooses who the US president is, to wit: Central bank officials face a choice: enable the Trump administration to continue down a disastrous path of trade war escalation, or send a clear signal that if the administration does so, the president, not the Fed, will bear the risks — including the risk of losing the next election. And the punchline: “There’s even an argument that the election itself falls within the Fed’s purview.”

Translation: “there is even an argument”, Dudley says tongue-in-cheek, that the Fed should crush the economy (arguably by hiking or not cutting rates) and start the next recession, thereby preventing Trump from getting re-elected. And while we appreciate Dudley’s de facto confirmation of what we have said for years, namely that the Fed is not only a political entity, one which picks the US president as the former NY Fed president admitted, but that the Fed is an even more powerful entity than the top US executive (an entity which as Bernanke’s former advisor once said: “people would be stunned to know the extent to which the Fed is privately owned”). One hopes that finally a discussion can take place, whether in Congress or elsewhere, if such an entity should exist.


As for Dudley’s “modest proposal”, we look forward to Trump’s response, because if there is one thing the US president needed in writing, it was just such an op-ed, one written from a former Fed member to the current Fed chair, recommending what amounts to mutiny against Trump should Trump proceed with his current course of action. Because if things don’t work out, well Trump now has documentary evidence that, by extension, the Fed also had the ability to ensure his re-election, and if things seem like they are headed off course on the way to November 2020, we will sit back and enjoy as the war between Trump and the Fed goes nuclear.

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What’s taking so long?

Comey Confidant: Expect Andrew McCabe to be Indicted Any Day (GP)

Comey confidant Benjamin Wittes said in a Lawfare blog post on Tuesday that he expects former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to be indicted any day now. Benjamin Wittes is a ‘resistance’ lawyer and James Comey’s friend who runs the Lawfare Group. Wittes wrote in a blog post Tuesday that he was “shocked” to find out federal prosecutors were in the final stages of deciding whether to indict McCabe on charges he lied to federal investigators, referring to the New York Times bombshell released Monday. The potential indictment of McCabe stems from the Inspector General’s findings that the FBI official lied to federal investigators.

McCabe was criminally referred to the US Attorneys office for prosecution in the Spring of 2018 and they are finally getting around to (maybe) indicting him. The process has been dragged out because of internal deliberations and the case is taking so long that the term expired for the grand jury evidence. One of the lead prosecutors on the case has since left the DOJ out of frustration, according to the NYT. The New York Times reported that McCabe’s lawyers met with DAG Jeffrey Rosen, who is involved in the decision whether to prosecute the former FBI official.

In two meetings last week, Mr. McCabe’s lawyers met with the deputy attorney general, Jeffrey A. Rosen, who is expected to be involved in the decision about whether to prosecute, and for more than an hour with the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie K. Liu, according to a person familiar with the meetings. The person would not detail the discussions, but defense lawyers typically meet with top law enforcement officials to try to persuade them not to indict their client if they failed to get line prosecutors to drop the case. Mr. Wittes says these meetings only take place when an indictment is imminent.

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Hong Kong’s commerce minister is a bad liar.

Hong Kong Ponders Emergency Legislation Likened To Martial Law (HKFP)

Hong Kong’s commerce minister has said the city’s trade status may not be affected if the government uses emergency legislation, though democrat James To has said that such measures would be akin to martial law. The Emergency Regulations Ordinance (ERO) would grant the city’s leader and her council of advisors the power to “make regulations on occasions of emergency or public danger.” The plan was first reported by pro-government newspaper Sing Tao Daily, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam saying on Tuesday that she would consider using all laws in Hong Kong. The law was last used during the 1967 riots.

Asked if the government would consider using the ERO, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau said the government will act in accordance with the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and existing laws. “I believe most people hope that violence in Hong Kong will stop, and that things return to peace and order,” he said on Tuesday when meeting reporters. “Internationally, every place and government would use different means to do their work well, if they face a situation like in Hong Kong.” Asked if using the ERO would harm Hong Kong’s trade status, Yau said: “I don’t see that. From a trade perspective, without a stable and peaceful environment, any economic activity would be affected.”

Democratic Party lawmaker James To, appearing on a Commercial Radio programme on Wednesday, said the ERO was a “colonial suppressive law” that had unlimited power. “It is the same as announcing martial law,” he said. “It would be a disproportionate use of power.” He said the Hong Kong police can handle the situation, and the government should respond to protesters’ demands to move forward.

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“If we don’t succeed now, our freedom of speech, our human rights, all will be gone.”

Hong Kong Protesters Say They Have Nothing To Lose (R.)

Exasperated with the government’s unflinching attitude to escalating civil unrest, Jason Tse quit his job in Australia and jumped on a plane to join what he believes is a do-or-die fight for Hong Kong’s future. The Chinese territory is grappling with its biggest crisis since its handover to Beijing 22 years ago as many residents fret over what they see as China’s tightening grip over the city and a relentless march toward mainland control. The battle for Hong Kong’s soul has pitted protesters against the former British colony’s political masters in Beijing, with broad swathes of the Asian financial center determined to defend the territory’s freedoms at any cost.

Faced with a stick and no carrot – chief executive Carrie Lam reiterated on Tuesday protesters’ demands were unacceptable – the pro-democracy movement has intensified despite Beijing deploying paramilitary troops near the border in recent weeks. “This is a now or never moment and it is the reason why I came back,” Tse, 32, said, adding that since joining the protests last month he had been a peaceful participant in rallies and an activist on the Telegram social media app. “If we don’t succeed now, our freedom of speech, our human rights, all will be gone. We need to persist.”

Since the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997, critics say Beijing has reneged on a commitment to maintain Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms under a “one country, two systems” formula. Opposition to Beijing that had dwindled after 2014, when authorities faced down a pro-democracy movement that occupied streets for 79 days, has come back to haunt authorities who are now grappling with an escalating cycle of violence. “We have to keep fighting. Our worst fear is the Chinese government,” said a 40-year-old teacher who declined to be identified for fear of repercussions. “For us, it’s a life or death situation.”

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“Companies “cannot decide between legal and illegal anymore. You have to decide where you want to be on the good and bad scale..”

Business Group Warns On China’s Corporate ‘Social Credit’ Plan (R.)

The rollout of China’s controversial corporate “social credit system” is well under way and accelerating, a European business lobby in the country said on Wednesday, warning that foreign governments need to wake up to the plan’s potential risks. Beijing has been developing a globally unprecedented plan to give companies and individual people “social credit” scores, a goal that has drawn international concerns that it could heighten to Orwellian levels the already strict control that the ruling Communist Party has over society and the economy. In a roadmap plan released in 2014, China said it would by 2020 create the system to reward or punish individuals and corporations using technology to record various measures of financial credit, personal behavior and corporate misdeeds.


Some experts say that the system remains nascent and could help tackle social problems like fraud or food security, while reducing government discretion in regulating companies. But one of the authors of a new European Union Chamber of Commerce in China report on the system’s implications for companies said that it could become a “surgical instrument” for compelling companies to meet China’s political aims. “It is a very, very potent instrument of regulating, controlling and steering companies in a targeted way,” Bjoern Conrad, chief executive officer of Sinolytics, a consulting firm that helped draft the report, told reporters. Companies “cannot decide between legal and illegal anymore. You have to decide where you want to be on the good and bad scale,” Conrad said.

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Who would accept it?

Chinese Government To Launch Cryptocurrency (F.)

China’s central bank will launch a state-backed cryptocurrency and issue it to seven institutions in the coming months, according to a former employee of one of the institutions who is now an independent researcher. Paul Schulte, who worked as global head of financial strategy for China Construction Bank until 2012, says the largest bank in the world, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the second largest bank in the world, his former employer, the Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China; two of China’s largest financial technology companies, Alibaba and Tencent; and Union Pay, an association of Chinese banks, will receive the cryptocurrency.

A separate source, who’s involved in the development of the cryptocurrency, dubbed DC/EP (Digital Currency/Electronic Payments), confirmed that the seven institutions would be receiving the new asset when it launches, adding that an eighth institution could also be among the first tier of recipients. The source declined to provide the name of the additional company. Speaking under terms of anonymity, the source, who previously worked for the Chinese government, confirmed that the technology behind the cryptocurrency has been ready since last year and that the cryptocurrency could launch as soon as November 11, China’s busiest shopping day, known as Singles Day.

At the time of launch, the recipient institutions will then be responsible for dispersing the cryptocurrency to 1.3 billion Chinese citizens and others doing business in the renminbi, China’s fiat currency, according to the source. The source added that the central bank hopes the currency will eventually be made available to spenders in the United States and elsewhere through relationships with correspondent banks in the West. “That’s the plan, but that won’t happen right away,” the source said.

[..] What sets China’s DC/EP apart from libra and Carney’s “synthetic hegemonic currency” (SHC), according to Shulte, is that while libra is little more than early-stage computer code and the SHC doesn’t appear to have gone much further than Carney’s mind, the Chinese cryptocurrency is ready to launch. “China is barreling forward on reforms and rolling out the cryptocurrency,” says Schulte, who now runs an eponymous bank research firm. “It will be the first central bank to do so.”

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It’s time to hear Andrew and Ghislaine under oath. It’s also time for Bill Barr to recuse himself.

Prince Andrew ‘Knows What He’s Done’, Should ‘Come Clean’ – Giuffre (Ind.)

A woman who claims she was forced to have sex with the Duke of York when she was 17-years-old has dismissed his repeated denials and said she hopes “he comes clean about it”. Prince Andrew “knows exactly what he’s done”, Virginia Roberts Giuffre said outside a New York court where a succession of women said the disgraced paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused them at a young age. Many lamented that his jailhouse suicide earlier this month had deprived them of the opportunity to obtain justice. It later emerged that he signed a will just two days before his death, placing all his property, worth more than £469m, into a trust, making it harder for victims to claim. Ms Giuffre has previously alleged in court papers filed in Florida, that she had sex with Prince Andrew “three times”.


She said she took part in ”one orgy” in London and one on “his private island in the Caribbean”. Prince Andrew has repeatedly and strenuously denied the claim that he had sex with Ms Giuffre, who at 17 would have been under the age of consent in Florida. [..] Ms Giuffre has alleged that she 15 when was recruited to perform sex acts on Epstein when she was working at Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. Speaking outside court on she said: “It’s not how Jeffrey died, it’s how he lived.” She added: “I won’t stop fighting – I will never be silenced until these people are brought to justice.” Other women were invited to speak both inside and outside the court.

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The judge still can’t believe what happened.

Up to 30 Jeffrey Epstein Accusers To Speak Out At New York Court Hearing (G.)

Up to 30 women are expected to take a judge up on his invitation to speak at a hearing after Jeffrey Epstein killed himself while facing sex trafficking charges. The hearing on Tuesday morning was scheduled last week by US district judge Richard Berman, who presided over the case prosecutors brought against Epstein after the 66-year-old convicted criminal was arrested on 6 July after he arrived at a New Jersey airport from Paris. A New York coroner has formally classified Epstein’s death as a suicide. He died on 10 August. Epstein, long accused of abusing teen girls, was faced with sex trafficking and sex trafficking conspiracy counts. Berman on Tuesday morning in the New York courtroom addressed Epstein’s death prior to victim testimony.


“The news on August 10 2019 that Jeffrey Epstein had been found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the MCC, was certainly shocking,” Berman said. “Most of you, and myself for that matter, were anticipating that the next steps in this case would be defense motion practice – including motion to dismiss – followed by a trial on the merits before a jury if the motions were not successful, through which the accusers and the accused would come face-to-face allowing everyone to get their day in court.” He continued: “Mr. Epstein’s death obviously means that a trial in which he is a defendant cannot take place. It is a rather stunning turn of events.”

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For 400,000 American lives.

Purdue Pharma Offers $10-$12 Billion To Settle Opioid Claims (NBC)

Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, are offering to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against the company for $10 billion to $12 billion. The potential deal was part of confidential conversations and discussed by Purdue’s lawyers at a meeting in Cleveland last Tuesday, Aug. 20, according to two people familiar with the mediation. Brought by states, cities and counties, the lawsuits — some of which have been combined into one massive case — allege the company and the Sackler family are responsible for starting and sustaining the opioid crisis. At least 10 state attorneys general and the plaintiffs’ attorneys gathered in Cleveland, where David Sackler represented the Sackler family, according to two people familiar with the meeting. David Sackler, who was a board member of the company, has recently been the de facto family spokesperson.


The lawsuits that Purdue and the Sacklers are seeking to settle allege that their company’s sales practices were deceptive and at least partly responsible for the opioid crisis, which claimed more than 400,000 lives from 1999 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of the lawsuits also allege that after 2007 the Sackler family drained the company of money to enrich themselves. “The Sackler family built a multibillion-dollar drug empire based on addiction,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in May when his state joined others in suing the Sackler family and their company. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was the first to name family members in her suit in January.

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Some things are just too obvious.

Near-Total Ban On Sending Wild Elephants To Zoos Agreed (AFP)

The regulator of global wildlife trade decided Tuesday to impose a near-total ban on sending African elephants captured from the wild to zoos, in a decision hailed by conservationists as “momentous”. Following a heated debate at a meeting of parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Geneva, the member countries approved a proposed text after a revision by the European Union included some exceptions to the ban. The decision met with strong opposition from Zimbabwe in particular, which along with Botswana is the main provider of wild African elephants to zoos outside of the continent and tried in vain to block the vote.

But with 87 in favour, 29 against and 25 abstaining, the vote for the amended text secured the two-thirds majority needed to pass. “This is a momentous CITES decision for Africa’s elephants,” said Audrey Delsink, the wildlife director at Humane Society International (HSI)’s Africa division. The vote in plenary altered slightly a decision taken at the start of the 12-day conference — set to wrap up Wednesday — prohibiting the transfer of all African elephants caught in the wild to so-called captive facilities. The decision only impacts African elephants. Asian elephants already enjoy more protection against international trade.

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With an in-depth look at the dangers for humans.

Boris Johnson, GMOs and Glyphosate (CP)

In his first speech to parliament as British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.” Johnson reads from a well-rehearsed script. The ‘GM will feed the world mantra’ is pure industry spin. There is already enough food being produced to feed the global population yet around 830 million are classed as hungry. Feeding the world effectively, sustainably and equitably involves addressing the in-built injustices of the global food system.

The never-ending push to force GM on the public under the guise of saving humanity is a diversion that leaves intact the root causes of world hunger and undernutrition: neoliberal deregulation and privatisation policies, unfair WTO rules, poverty, land rights issues, World Bank/IMF geopolitical lending strategies and the transformation of food secure regions into food deficit ones, etc. Even in regions where productivity in agriculture lags behind or concerns exist about climate change, numerous high-level reports have recommended that (non-GMO) agroecological practices should be encouraged to enhance biodiversity and deal with food and climate crises.

However, pro-Brexiteer Conservative politicians talk of the essential need for Britain and the world to adopt GM is little more than an attempt to justify a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington that will effectively incorporate the UK into the US’s regulatory food regime. The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson really means is the UK adopting unassessed GM crops and food and a gutting of food safety and environmental standards.

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Aug 262019
 
 August 26, 2019  Posted by at 9:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Marc Chagall The Smolensk newspaper 1914

 

Yield Curve Screams “Recession” as Trade War Picks Up Steam (Mish)
China’s Yuan Slumps To 11-Year Low, Stocks Fall As Trade War Escalates (R.)
Trump Says China Called Twice To Restart Trade Talks (MW)
China Willing To Resolve Trade Dispute With US Via Dialogue (R.)
Mnuchin: If China Agreed To Fair Relationship, We’d Sign ‘In A Second’ (CNBC)
Hong Kong Police Arrest 36 After Running Battles With Protesters (R.)
Australia’s Big Banks Gear Up For Capital Raising Rush (R.)
Why The Next ECB Stimulus Plan May Fail (Lacalle)
Britain Can ‘Easily Cope’ With No-Deal Brexit, Claims Boris Johnson (G.)
Has Anyone Loved Being Prime Minister As Much As Boris Johnson? (Peston)
England’s Homeless Children Problem (ZH)
English Police Could Patrol Northern Ireland Border After No-Deal Brexit (RT)

 

 

To think that until recently this was not considered possible at all.

Yield Curve Screams “Recession” as Trade War Picks Up Steam (Mish)

Futures pick up where they left off Friday with equity prices and bond yields lower. Sunday Evening Futures: • Equities Down • Gold Up • Treasury Yields Down As of 1:36 AM Central on Monday morning, the 30-year long bond is a record low 1.942%. It’s now inverted 17.8 basis points with the Fed Funds rate. The 5-year note is a whopping 78.4 basis points inverted. Few seem to believe it, but the yield curve is now screaming recession.

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“The impact of the new tariffs on China’s economic growth will be sizeable..”

China’s Yuan Slumps To 11-Year Low, Stocks Fall As Trade War Escalates (R.)

China’s yuan slumped to a fresh 11-year low against the dollar on Monday and stocks fell as the Sino-U.S. trade war sharply escalated, threatening to inflict more damage on the world’s largest economies and weigh further on global growth. In Hong Kong, a weekend flare-up in violence during anti-government protests added to pressure on share prices. The onshore yuan fell 0.6% in early trade to 7.15 per dollar, its weakest since February 2008 and its second biggest one-day drop of the month. The offshore yuan fell to a record low of 7.1850, before regaining some ground to around 7.1595.


The Chinese authorities have allowed the tightly-managed yuan to fall some 3.6% so far this month as trade tensions between Beijing and Washington worsened, sparking fears of a global currency war. It was trading around 7.1419 by 0330 GMT. On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump announced an additional duty on some $550 billion of targeted Chinese goods, hours after China unveiled retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. goods. “This tit-for-tat escalation shows how unlikely a trade deal and de-escalation have become,” Louis Kuijs, of Oxford Economics, wrote in a note late on Sunday. “The impact of the new tariffs on China’s economic growth will be sizeable,” he said.

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China denies.

Trump Says China Called Twice To Restart Trade Talks (MW)

In a comment that moved financial markets, President Donald Trump on Monday said serious negotiations with China will begin after the U.S. received two “very good calls” from Beijing. “China called last night our top trade people and said let’s get back to the table,” the president said after meeting Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. “I have great respect for it.” Trump said “we are going to start talking very seriously.” He says the Chinese want to make a deal and he thinks one will finally be reached. Trump says he’ll say more about China later Monday.


China’s foreign ministry meanwhile said it wasn’t aware of any such calls and that a U.S.-China decoupling will lead to market chaos, according to wire reports. After the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -2.37% dropped 623 points on Friday, U.S. stock futures were higher in the early hours of Monday morning. The dollar rose against the Japanese yen. Europe stocks were a bit weaker, with trading light with the U.K. market closed for a holiday.

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All has to be said in a way that avoids losing face.

China Willing To Resolve Trade Dispute With US Via Dialogue (R.)

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He said on Monday that China is willing to resolve its trade dispute with the United States through calm negotiations and resolutely opposes the escalation of the conflict, a state-backed newspaper reported. Liu, China’s top trade negotiator, was speaking at a tech conference in Chongqing in southwest China, the Chongqing Morning Post reported. The comments come after U.S. President Donald Trump last week announced an extra 5% duty on some $550 billion of Chinese goods, the latest tit-for-tat move announced hours after China unveiled its retaliatory tariffs on $75 billion worth of U.S. products.

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“They have free entrance into our markets, our investments, our companies and we do not have the same thing there. That’s the only reason why we are in this situation..”

Mnuchin: If China Agreed To Fair Relationship, We’d Sign ‘In A Second’ (CNBC)

American Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin doubled down on the White House’s latest punch in the U.S.-China trade war by calling out Beijing for unfair trade practices. “We do not have free trade with them,” Mnuchin said Sunday on the sidelines of the G-7 meeting in France. “It’s a one way street: They have free entrance into our markets, our investments, our companies and we do not have the same thing there. That’s the only reason why we are in this situation with China. If China would agree to a fair and balanced relationship, we would sign that deal in a second,” he added.


“Sometimes you’ve got to take stern measures,” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said alongside Mnuchin, adding that American companies should heed the president’s call to leave China. “Come home to America, we’ve got the best tax system, we’ve got the best regulatory system, it’s an easy place to make money, the best technology in the world. Come home. That’s what the president is saying,” Kudlow said. Before leaving for the G-7, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would raise existing duties on $250 billion in Chinese products to 30% from 25% on Oct. 1. Additionally, he said, tariffs on another $300 billion of Chinese goods, which start to take effect on Sept. 1, will now be 15% instead of 10%.

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Protesters are escalating because their demands are ignored.

Hong Kong Police Arrest 36 After Running Battles With Protesters (R.)

Hong Kong police said on Monday they arrested 36 people, the youngest aged 12, after violence during anti-government demonstrations escalated as protesters hurled Molotov cocktails at security forces who responded with water cannon and tear gas. Sunday’s protests saw some of the fiercest clashes yet between police and demonstrators since protests escalated in mid-June over a now-suspended extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong people to be sent to mainland China for trial. Police fired water cannon and volleys of tear gas in running battles with brick-throwing protesters on Sunday, the second day of violent clashes in the Chinese-ruled city.

Six officers drew their pistols and one officer fired a warning shot into the air, police said in a statement. “The escalating illegal and violent acts of radical protesters are not only outrageous, they also push Hong Kong to the verge of a very dangerous situation,” the government said in a statement.

More demonstrations are planned in the days and weeks ahead, including a rally at Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways headquarters on Wednesday to protest against perceived “white terror”, a common expression to describe anonymous acts that create a climate of fear. Cathay has emerged as the biggest corporate casualty of the protests after China demanded it suspend staff involved in, or who support, the anti-government demonstrations that have plunged the former British colony into a political crisis. The protests also pose the gravest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he took power in 2012, with Beijing eager to quell the unrest ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct 1.

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Bubbling below the surface.

Australia’s Big Banks Gear Up For Capital Raising Rush (R.)

Australia’s biggest banks are expected to cut dividend payments and tap bond markets for more funding to cope with tougher capital requirements as regulators look to safeguard the sector from future market volatility, according to analysts and bankers. This week, Commonwealth Bank of Australia Chief Executive Matt Comyn and Chief Financial Officer Alan Docherty will finalise a roadshow with Australian equity investors before holding similar meetings in New York next month as well as London and Hong Kong. The bank traditionally meets with investors following its full-year results and the presentations have often preceded CBA tapping the bond markets. However, the meetings this year come as Australia’s banks are under increasing pressure to boost their capital.


Last week, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) said local banks would only be allowed to have 25% of their tier one capital – core funds held to help absorb losses – exposed to international operations or related parties from January 2021, down from the current 50%. That means banks such as Australia and New Zealand Banking Group face higher costs because they will have to fund each unit separately. The news came on top of another decision by APRA last month ruling that Australian banks would need to raise an extra A$50 billion ($33.8 billion) of so-called “tier two” bonds – riskier instruments that suffer losses before tier one capital is touched – by 2024 as part of its new total loss absorbing capital rules.

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“..all this happens amidst an unprecedented chained stimulus.”

Why The Next ECB Stimulus Plan May Fail (Lacalle)

When many analysts tell us that Europe “is not so bad” or that “it is only a slowdown,” they ignore that all this happens amidst an unprecedented chained stimulus. The results are not only extremely poor, but they are also deeply worrying. According to Morgan Stanley, the European Central Bank could be preparing a new repurchase program of between 2.2 and 3.3 billion euros. Not only buying back bonds from governments, but also from banks and companies. What for? Even Italy – in the midst of a political crisis – has negative real sovereign bond yields. The sovereign debt of all the eurozone countries shows negative yields in two-year maturity and negative as well going up to seven years. Germany has just launched a 30-year bond at -0.11%.

Is it really necessary to artificially depress yields even more? In the eurozone there are already fourteen junk bonds listed with negative yields and high-risk bonds of banks and companies are listed with ridiculous returns of 3-4%. The problem of the eurozone is not lack of liquidity, when excessive liquidity reaches 1.8 trillion euros, or low rates when they are already negative,. The eurozone problem is precisely the constant practice of using monetary policy as a perverse incentive to maintain structural imbalances. Monetary policy works as a huge transfer of wealth from savers and productive sectors of the eurozone to inefficient governments and unproductive sectors that are constantly refinanced, zombifying the economy, putting obstacles to productivity and technological change.

The stimulus chain described above can be summed up in the phrase: a huge subsidy to low productivity. Here is the debate. Why has it worked in the US and not in Europe? First, because it is not true that the United States owes its improvement to quantitative easing. In a report by Stephen Williamson for the Federal Reserve, he already warned that “there is no relationship between greater economic activity and quantitative easing.” The US economy is the most dynamic, open and least dependent on bank financing of the world’s leading countries. The Federal Reserve never accounted for 100% of the demand for government bonds, it always kept an eye on the secondary market. The ECB became seven times the bond supply, according to Deutsche Bank.

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Blaming the EU will not work.

Britain Can ‘Easily Cope’ With No-Deal Brexit, Claims Boris Johnson (G.)

Britain could “easily cope” with a no-deal Brexit, which would be the fault of EU leaders’ “obduracy”, Boris Johnson claimed at the summit of G7 countries in France, as he continued to resist mounting pressure to spell out his own plans for breaking the deadlock. “I think we can get through this, this is a great, great country, the UK, we can easily cope with a no-deal scenario,” Johnson insisted in Biarritz, as he made his debut on the international stage as prime minister with a series of bilateral meetings with world leaders including Donald Trump, the EU council president Donald Tusk and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. Johnson said preparations for no deal were being ramped up to help secure an agreement, but also “so that if and when we are forced by the obduracy by our European friends to come out on 31 October without a deal that things are as smooth as they can possibly be”.


Johnson claimed food shortages – one of the risks outlined in the leaked Operation Yellowhammer documents on no-deal planning – were “highly unlikely”, and offered a “guarantee” that patients would be able to access medicines unhindered. The prime minister said that in the event of no deal the UK would withhold much of the £39bn financial settlement agreed by Theresa May – and insisted it was up to the EU27 to avert that eventuality. “If we come out without an agreement it is certainly true that the £39bn is no longer, strictly speaking, owed,” he said “There will be very substantial sums available to our country to spend on our priorities. It’s not a threat. It’s a simple fact of reality.”

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Robert Peston was once a serious journalist. What is this, the elites are closing ranks?

Has Anyone Loved Being Prime Minister As Much As Boris Johnson? (Peston)

I’ve learned only one thing at the G7 summit of big rich countries here in Biarritz: Boris Johnson absolutely loves being Prime Minister. There’s little of the conspicuous sense of duty that weighed on the shoulders of Theresa May, Gordon Brown and Sir John Major. Nor is there that unnerving claim to embody the spirit of a nation that Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher perhaps made too often and believed too much. There’s a touch of David Cameron’s Old Etonian entitlement, the idea that it would be odd if he weren’t PM. But mostly Johnson simply seems to be having fun – whether by pointing a joshing finger at the imperious president of France or telling an incredulous President of the EU that they agree on absolutely everything.


Johnson’s bonhomie is all the more odd because the UK – as his advisers remind him continuously – is in the grips of the most acute peacetime crisis for generations, over how and even whether to leave the EU, and Johnson’s grip on power is almost non-existent, with no majority in Parliament and fratricide in his own Tory party as unremarkable as shaking hands. But in Johnson we have the clown prince of prime ministers, who – for the first time in years, or perhaps ever – plainly thinks he is home. His interlocutors – Emmanuel Macron, Donald Tusk, Justin Trudeau – all laugh. With him or at him? I am not sure that matters, in that he seems to cheer them up.

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Feel-good Boris.

England’s Homeless Children Problem (ZH)

New estimates from the Children’s Commissioner’s Office for England have revealed that, in addition to the official figure for child homelessness of 124 thousand, there are thought to be around 92 thousand children ‘sofa surfing’ in the country. Statista’s Martin Armstrong notes that the report, ‘Bleak Houses’ also found that the temporary accommodation of families and children is often not fit for human habitation with shipping containers, office blocks and B&Bs being re-purposed to house them.

Commenting on the findings, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said: “It is a scandal that a country as prosperous as ours is leaving tens of thousands of families in temporary accommodation for long periods of time, or to sofa surf.” On the reasons for the current situation, Polly Neate, chief executive of charity Shelter blamed “a cocktail of punitive welfare policies, a woeful lack of social homes and wildly expensive private rents mean this is frighteningly commonplace.”

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Oh no.

English Police Could Patrol Northern Ireland Border After No-Deal Brexit (RT)

Despite a wealth of history suggesting that it’s a very bad idea, UK politicians have reportedly devised detailed plans to deploy English police officers in Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit. According to a report in The Sunday Times, the plans would first see approximately 300 Scottish police drafted in to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) as a preliminary step. However, if tensions between the unionist and nationalist communities boil over or civil unrest erupts, officers from English forces will be deployed in the province.


A source at London’s City Hall told the newspaper: “All the police forces have agreed to give support to Northern Ireland. It is a concern. Thankfully it wouldn’t affect too many London officers, but we would be there. Imagine it: officers from the mainland in Northern Ireland. Bloody hell.” Unsurprisingly the report has triggered alarm bells in Northern Ireland and Ireland with many people worrying that it could incite anger among Irish nationalists and endanger the fragile peace in the region. “English police on the Irish border. What could go wrong? Don’t remember this on the referendum ballot paper or being debated in 2016? In the week we have remembered Mo Mowlam I despair at such a reckless attitude to hard-won peace,” Labour MP Anna Turley said.

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Aug 212019
 
 August 21, 2019  Posted by at 9:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Felix Vallotton On the beach 1899

 

How Negative Interest Rates Screw Up the Economy (WS)
Gundlach Says Federal Reserve Has Lost Control (R.)
Bank Watchdogs Approve Rule To Loosen Ban On Risky Wall Street Trades (Hill)
10 Declassified Russia Collusion Revelations Could Rock DC This Fall (Solomon)
Italian PM Resigns, Denounces Salvini For Sinking Government (R.)
EU Rebuffs Boris Johnson’s Brexit Gambit (R.)
Alibaba Postpones Up To $15 Billion Hong Kong Listing (R.)
China Could Overwhelm US Military In Asia In Hours – Report (CNN)
US Will Act If Tanker Carrying Iranian Oil Delivers Oil: Pompeo (R.)
Trump Scraps Denmark Visit After Danes Say Greenland Not For Sale (AFP)
Canada Election: Parties, Charities Warned Against Climate Change Ads (BBC)
More Than 2,300 Tigers Killed And Trafficked This Century (AFP)
40 Rebuttals To The Media’s Smears Of Julian Assange (Fidel Narváez)

 

 

“Negative interest rates are terrible for banks. They destroy the business model for banks. They make future bank collapses more likely because banks cannot build capital to absorb losses.”

How Negative Interest Rates Screw Up the Economy (WS)

Now there is talk everywhere that the United States too will descend into negative interest rates. And there are people on Wall Street and in the media that are hyping this absurd condition where government bonds and perhaps even corporate bonds, and eventually even junk bonds have negative yields. All of that NIRP absurdity is already the case in Europe and Japan. There is now about $17 trillion – trillion with a T – in negative yielding debt in the world, government and corporate debt combined. This started out as a short-term emergency experiment. And now this short-term emergency experiment has become the new normal. And now more short-term emergency experiments need to be added to it, because, you know, the first batches weren’t big enough and haven’t worked, or have stopped working, or more realistically, have screwed things up so badly that nothing works anymore.

So how will this end? The ECB rumor mill over the past two weeks hyped the possibility of a shock-and-awe stimulus package, on top of the shock-and-awe stimulus packages the ECB has already implemented, namely negative interest rates, liquidity facilities, and QE. The entire German government bond market, even 30-year bonds have negative yields. And the German economy shrank in the last quarter. That gives Germany two out of the last four quarters where its economy shrank – despite negative interest rates from the ECB and despite the negative yields on its government bonds, and despite the negative yields among many corporate bonds. In other words, the German economy, the fourth largest in the world, is hitting the skids despite or because of negative yields. And now the ECB wants to flex its muscles to get yields to become even more negative.

And there are folks who want to prescribe the same kind of killer application to help out the US economy – which is growing just fine. Since the ECB’s shock-and-awe package started to appear in the rumor mill at the beginning of August, the European bank stock index – it includes banks in all EU countries, not just those that use the euro – well, since that shock-and-awe rumor appeared, the stock index for those banks has dropped 11%. Negative interest rates are terrible for banks. They destroy the business model for banks. They make future bank collapses more likely because banks cannot build capital to absorb losses.

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Any control they seemed to have was always fake.

Gundlach Says Federal Reserve Has Lost Control (R.)

The Federal Reserve has lost control of interest rates as evidenced by the federal funds rate trading higher than any part of the U.S. Treasury yield curve, Jeffrey Gundlach, the chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, said on Tuesday. “What else do you need to call it an inversion?” Gundlach said in a telephone interview. “Everyone is parsing all of these little arbitrary things. But we’ve got an inversion.” At around 1.55% and 2.03%, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note and 30-year Treasury bond, respectively, are below the target federal funds rate of 2.25% to 2.5%. The yield on the two-year Treasury note is currently around 1.51%.


Three weeks ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell characterized the U.S. central bank’s first rate cut since 2008 as a “mid-cycle adjustment to policy,” suggesting the move was not the start of a lengthy series of rate cuts. Gundlach, who oversees more than $140 billion in assets, told Reuters last week that Powell’s message to the markets have been inconsistent. He said Powell “can’t put a back-to-back consistent message together. It is different at every single meeting – the mid-cycle adjustment statement is not going to hold up.”

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Crisis leads to measures which are then watered down which leads to crisis. Rinse and repeat.

Bank Watchdogs Approve Rule To Loosen Ban On Risky Wall Street Trades (Hill)

Two federal bank regulators voted Tuesday to approve a significant rollback of a controversial ban on risky trades passed in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) on Tuesday adopted a weakened version of the so-called “Volcker Rule,” which bans banks from making high-risk bets with their own assets. While the OCC and FDIC are but two of five agencies that must sign off on the new Volcker Rule, their approval of the proposal is the first step in a massive lobbying victory for some of the largest U.S. banks. The Volcker Rule was one of several provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law designed to ban risky and overly complex investments that helped crash the global financial system in 2008.


While advocates for banks have fought to loosen several aspects of Dodd-Frank in the nine years since its passage, firms with mammoth trading desks such as Goldman Sachs have paid particular attention to the Volcker Rule. Named after its chief advocate, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, the rule bans banks from certain “proprietary” trades, or investments using the bank’s own capital. Industry advocates insisted that while banks supported stricter limits on risk, the Volcker Rule was too complex and burdensome to be effective. “The new Volcker Rule finalized today is recognition that the original rule was overly complex and unworkable,” said Greg Baer, president and CEO of the Bank Policy Institute, a research and advocacy group representing 17 of the largest banks and financial firms.

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Fighting Intelligence is not easy.

10 Declassified Russia Collusion Revelations Could Rock DC This Fall (Solomon)

Behind the scenes, some major events were set in motion last autumn that could soon change the tenor in Washington, at least as it relates to the debunked Russia collusion narrative that distracted America for nearly three years. It was in September 2018 that President Trump told my Hill.TV colleague Buck Sexton and me that he would order the release of all classified documents showing what the FBI, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and other U.S. intelligence agencies may have done wrong in the Russia probe.


About the same time, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, under then-Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), voted unanimously to send 53 nonpublic transcripts of witnesses in its Russia review to the director of national intelligence (DNI) for declassification. The transcripts were officially delivered in November. Now, nearly a year later, neither release has happened. To put that into perspective, it took just a couple of months in 2004 to declassify the final report on the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks after a presidential commission finished its work, which contained some of the nation’s most secretive intelligence revelations. But the long wait for transparency may soon end.

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Salvini smells power.

Italian PM Resigns, Denounces Salvini For Sinking Government (R.)

Italy’s prime minister resigned on Tuesday after launching a blistering attack on his own interior minister, Matteo Salvini, accusing him of sinking the ruling coalition and endangering the economy for personal and political gain. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, addressing parliament after it was recalled from its summer recess to decide the future of the 14-month-old government, accused the far-right League party chief Salvini of seeking to cash in on his rising popularity. In a shock move on Aug. 8, Salvini declared that his alliance with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement was dead and called for elections, but the gambit could yet prove a big political blunder and open the door to power for his rivals.


Politicians from 5-Star and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) are openly discussing forming a new coalition which would push the League into opposition and give Italy a more centrist, pro-European government. “The interior minister has shown that he is following his own interests and those of his party,” Conte told a packed Senate, a stony-faced Salvini sitting by his side. “His decisions pose serious risks for this country.” He described Salvini’s actions as reckless and “liable to tip the country into a spiral of political uncertainty and financial instability”.

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The UK will have to define an alternative to the backstop, but it has nothing so far.

EU Rebuffs Boris Johnson’s Brexit Gambit (R.)

The European Union on Tuesday rebuffed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s demand that it reopen the Brexit divorce deal, saying Britain had failed to propose any realistic alternative to an agreed insurance policy for the Irish border. After more than three years of Brexit crisis, the United Kingdom is heading towards a showdown with the EU as Johnson has vowed to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 without a deal unless it agrees to renegotiate the divorce terms.


In his opening bid to the EU ahead of meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Johnson wrote a four-page letter to European Council President Donald Tusk asking to ax the Irish border “backstop”. Johnson proposed that the backstop – part of the Withdrawal Agreement that then-prime minister Theresa May agreed last year – be replaced with a “commitment” to implement alternative arrangements as part of a deal on the post-Brexit relationship. Merkel, Europe’s most powerful leader, said the EU would consider “practical solutions” but that the Withdrawal Agreement, which contains the protocol on the Irish border “backstop”, did not need to be changed.

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The finance hub crumbles. Not good for China either.

Alibaba Postpones Up To $15 Billion Hong Kong Listing (R.)

China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd has delayed its up to $15 billion listing in Hong Kong amid growing political unrest in the Asian financial hub, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. Alibaba’s Hong Kong-listing plans are being closely watched by the financial community for indications on the business environment in the Chinese-controlled territory and provides a window into Beijing’s reading of the situation.


While no new timetable has been formally set, Alibaba could potentially launch the deal as early as October, still seeking to raise $10 billion-$15 billion, depending on whether political tensions had eased and market conditions became more favorable, one of the people said. The decision to postpone the deal, initially set to launch in late August, was taken at a board meeting before Alibaba’s earnings release last week, the second person said. The delay was due to the lack of financial and political stability in Hong Kong, the people added, following more than 11 weeks of frequently violent pro-democracy demonstrations which have plunged the city into turmoil.

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Message brought to you by the US military-industrial complex.

China Could Overwhelm US Military In Asia In Hours – Report (CNN)

The US military is no longer the primary force in Asia, and missiles from China’s rapidly improving military could overwhelm its bases in hours, according to a new report. The study by the United States Study Center, at the University of Sydney, in Australia, warned that America’s defense strategy in the Indo-Pacific region “is in the throes of an unprecedented crisis” and could struggle to defend its allies against China. That means Australia, Japan and other US partners need to build up and refocus their forces in the region, and consider increased cooperation with the US, to ensure their security, the study claimed.


The report highlights areas where China’s military is making huge strides in comparison to the US and its Asian allies and partners. Chief among those is in missiles. “China has deployed a formidable array of precision missiles and other counter-intervention systems to undercut America’s military primacy,” the report states. Those missiles number in the thousands, the report says. Almost all US military installations in the Western Pacific, as well as those of its key partners and allies, “could be rendered useless by precision strikes in the opening hours of a conflict,” according to the report. China’s Foreign Ministry said Monday it had not seen the report, but spokesperson Geng Shuang stressed that the country’s military policy was “defensive in nature.”

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Time for Russia or China to send a tanker?!

US Will Act If Tanker Carrying Iranian Oil Delivers Oil: Pompeo (R.)

The United States will take every action it can to prevent an Iranian tanker from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of U.S. sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Tuesday. “We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States,” Pompeo told reporters. “If that ship again heads to Syria we will take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that.” The Adrian DArya – formerly the Grace 1 – left Gibraltar on Aug. 18 and ship-tracking data showed the vessel was heading toward the Greek port of Kalamata.

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“The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct..”

Trump Scraps Denmark Visit After Danes Say Greenland Not For Sale (AFP)

US President Donald Trump Tuesday postponed a planned visit to Denmark after Danish officials insisted its autonomous territory of Greenland was not for sale. Trump’s decision confirms just how interested he was in purchasing Greenland, an idea initially dismissed as a joke by some, but which the White House later insisted had a serious purpose because of its strategic location. “Based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump tweeted.


During a Sunday visit to Greenland — the largest island on Earth — Frederiksen called Trump’s idea “absurd.” “The Prime Minister was able to save a great deal of expense and effort for both the United States and Denmark by being so direct,” Trump tweeted. “I thank her for that and look forward to rescheduling sometime in the future!”.

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One party says climate change is not real, and now all other parties -and third parties- are banned from talking about it. It’s not just ads.

Canada Election: Parties, Charities Warned Against Climate Change Ads (BBC)

Canada’s election watchdog has warned environmentalists that saying climate change is real could break the law. The issue arose because one party running in October’s election denies climate change is a threat. That has led Elections Canada to warn groups that running paid advertisements about climate change could be considered partisan activity. Advocates called the guidance “ludicrous” and say it will dampen urgent climate discussions. The UN has called for decisive political action by 2020 to put an end to climate change. “The guidance is extremely troubling,” Stephen Cornish, the CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, an environmental charity, told the BBC.

“We would have to bury the scientific consensus around climate change when we should be ramping up our activities.” Canada has strict regulations on partisan advertising during the election period, whether they be from candidates, parties or third-party organisations. Individuals or organisations that take out “issue” advertisements that cost C$500 ($375, £309) or more during the election period have to register with Elections Canada as a third party. “Issue” advertisements are paid media campaigns that take positions on issues related to parties’ platforms but do not explicitly address a particular candidate or party.

The election period will begin when the writ is dropped sometime in September, before Canadians head to the polls on 21 October. Keith Brooks, programme director for advocacy group Environmental Defence, says Elections Canada told him that because one candidate denies that climate change is an issue, any ad urging action on climate change, or calling climate change an emergency, could be considered partisan. Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, has said numerous times that he does not believe climate change is a crisis. “There is no climate change urgency in this country,” Mr Bernier said in June.

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97% of tigers are already gone.

More Than 2,300 Tigers Killed And Trafficked This Century (AFP)

More than 2,300 endangered tigers have been killed and illegally trafficked since the turn of the century, according to a report published Tuesday, urging more action to protect the giant cats. With an average of more than 120 illegally trafficked tigers seized each year – which amounts to over two each week – since year 2000, conservation group Traffic warned there was little sign of respite for the species. Report author Kanitha Krishnasamy, who heads Traffic’s Southeast Asia operations, said the numbers were deeply concerning. “It looks like we are losing this fight,” she told AFP.

In 1900, more than 100,000 tigers were estimated to roam the planet. But that fell to a record low of 3,200 globally in 2010. Since then, population numbers have inched upwards, but there are still estimated to be fewer than 3,900 tigers left in the wild. “This pernicious trafficking,evidenced by the continuously high number of whole skins, whole animals – both dead and alive – and bones is testament to the ongoing demand for Tiger parts,” Krishnasamy said. “The time for talking is over: words must be turned into action to prevent further Tiger loss,” she said in a statement. Traffic, which campaigns to protect endangered animals and help governments catch those who trade in their parts, published a new analysis looking at 19-years of tiger seizure data from across the globe.


It found that an estimated total equivalent to 2,359 individual tigers were seized from 2000 to 2018 across 32 countries and territories. Skins are the single most frequently seized tiger part, with on average 58 whole tiger skins seized each year, the report found, also noting a clear increase in seizures of whole animals, both dead and alive. The study also highlighted the growing role breeding centres play in fuelling the illegal tiger trade, especially in Southeast Asia. The tiger farm industry often argues the trade in captive animals helps to relieve the pressure on wild felines, but wildlife groups argue it reduces the stigma around buying the animals or their body parts and could create new markets for them.

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Fidel Narváez served as consul and then first secretary at the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2010 until July 2018.

40 Rebuttals To The Media’s Smears Of Julian Assange (Fidel Narváez)

The Western corporate media has shown extreme bias against the whistleblowing publication WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange. Nowhere is this more evident than in a recent CNN article on the imprisoned journalist, which completely botches the facts. On July 15, CNN published an exclusive report that sent shock waves through the press: “Security reports reveal how Assange turned an embassy into a command post for election meddling.” This two-pronged hit piece mixes character assassination with a clumsy attempt to show that he and WikiLeaks supposedly served as agents of chaos for the Kremlin during the 2016 US presidential election.

But the article contains numerous errors, omissions, examples of bias, speculations, and simply false information. CNN’s attempts to shape the narrative on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are not new. On March 28, the TV program Conclusiones, on CNN Español, claimed — without evidence — that Assange had published the famous INA Papers leak, exposing the corruption of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno and his family. The fact that WikiLeaks never published a single document or image of Moreno or his family did not matter to CNN Español. The intentions of the show were immediately transparent from the loaded questions made by the reporters: “How long will Julian Assange remain at the Ecuadorian embassy in London?” “Aren’t you going to kick him out?” “What has Julian Assange brought to Lenin Moreno’s government but headaches?”

This baseless accusation was subsequently used two weeks later by the Ecuadorian government to justify expelling Assange from its London embassy, in a flagrant violation of international law. This pattern of smear pieces against WikiLeaks and its publisher begs the question: Why CNN is shaping public opinion against Julian Assange, as he prepares to defend himself from continued political persecution by the US government?

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