Jun 152020
 


Gustave Dore Dante before the wall of flames which burn the lustful 1868

 

The Masks Masquerade (Nassim Taleb)
Millions of US Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent (BBG)
Powell Is Now Helpless (Eric Peters)
US Labor Department Throws 401k Investors To The Wolves (F.)
UK Lawmakers Urge FM Sunak To Add 1 Million Workers To Income Schemes (R.)
Beijing Lockdown Spreads In Race To Control Outbreak (SCMP)
Sudden Jump In China Virus Cases Causes Futures To Tumble (ZH)
Second Wave Has Begun in US, Medical System May Be Stressed – Doctor (CNBC)
Greeks Against Second Lockdown – Survey (K.)
Macron Says France Must Seek Greater Economic Independence After Virus (R.)
Putin: Russia Soon Able To Counter “Indefensible” Hypersonic Weapons (ZH)
To Celebrate Obama Day, Here Are Barack’s Greatest Hits (Ben Norton)
Julian Assange Indictment Fails To Mention ‘Collateral Murder’ Video (G.)

 

 

Good thing I’m not into astrology:

• Trump’s birthday: June 14 (a.k.a Obama Day)

• Xi Jinping’s birthday: June 15

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 123,645.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 121,464 cases.

But the graph says cases always come down in the weekend, and I’m early today.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,004
• Brazil + 17,086
• Russia + 8,246
• India + 13,722
• Pakistan + 5,248
• Chile + 6,938

 

 

Cases 8,017,241 (+ 121,464 from yesterday’s 7,895,777)

Deaths 436,124(+ 3,242 from yesterday’s 432,882)

 

 

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 


 

 

Taleb goes into much more detail in the article, please read. The inane “doubts” about mask efficacy cost lives. Wear a Mask in Public!

The Masks Masquerade (Nassim Taleb)

Incompetence and Errors in Reasoning Around Face Covering

SIX ERRORS:

1) missing the compounding effects of masks,

2) missing the nonlinearity of the probability of infection to viral exposures,

3) missing absence of evidence (of benefits of mask wearing) for evidence of absence (of benefits of mask wearing),

4) missing the point that people do not need governments to produce facial covering: they can make their own,

5) missing the compounding effects of statistical signals,

6) ignoring the Non-Aggression Principle by pseudolibertarians (masks are also to protect others from you; it’s a multiplicative process: every person you infect will infect others).

In fact masks (and faceshields) supplemented with constraints of superspreader events can save us trillions of dollars in future lockdowns (and lawsuits) and be potentially sufficient (under adequate compliance) to stem the pandemic. Bureaucrats do not like simple solutions. [..] Note that by infecting another person you are not infecting just another person. You are infecting many many more and causing systemic risk.
Wear a mask. For the Sake of Others.

Read more …

This won’t sink in for a long time yet.

Millions of US Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent (BBG)

Twenty-year-old William Lovely used to work at Jason’s Deli in Virginia Beach, delivering catering orders to surrounding businesses. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, he’s struggling to pay his bills. Laid off in March, he’s gone from regular hours and pay to gigging for UberEats or Instacart, earning up to $100 on some days but often coming home with almost nothing. While the restaurant is trying to slowly reopen, Lovely reckons the best he can hope for is a part-time position, requiring him to keep his second job if he’s going to meet his expenses. “My job stopped, but the bills don’t,” he said. Lovely’s experience goes to the heart of the dilemma facing the world economy as it gradually emerges from the virus-enforced lockdown and unprecedented recession: How many of the millions of lost jobs are gone for good?

The hope is the waves of stimulus doled out by governments and central banks should eventually buoy economies and spark a revival in hiring. Furloughed or redundant workers would then return to their employers. The risk though is that the pandemic is inflicting a “reallocation shock” in which firms and even entire sectors suffer lasting damage. Lost jobs don’t come back and unemployment stays elevated. That would force workers to retrain or relocate, both of which are hard, and governments to do more than just try to spend their way out of trouble. It was a theme hit upon last week by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as U.S. central bankers forecast leaving interest rates near zero until 2022 in part because of a surge in unemployment to the highest level since the Great Depression.


There will be “well into the millions of people who don’t get to go back to their old job,” said Powell, who will testify to Congress on the economic outlook this week. “In fact, there may not be a job in that industry for them for some time.” Unfortunately, new research by Bloomberg Economics reckons 30% of U.S. job losses from February to May are the result of a reallocation shock. The analysis — based on the relationship between hiring, firing, openings and unemployment — suggests the labor market will initially recover swiftly, but then level off with millions still unemployed.

Read more …

The louder you say that the bigger the next bank bailout is going to be.

Powell Is Now Helpless (Eric Peters)

“We’re not even thinking about thinking of raising rates,” declared America’s Fed Chairman, all but eliminating uncertainty about the Fed policy path through 2022. The S&P 500 had completed a historic recovery from the pandemic lows to trade higher on the year, its price utterly disconnected from today’s economic devastation. But markets never discount today, they discount tomorrow. And no sooner had they taken a little peek at what prices looked like back on January 1st then they began to plunge. Some blamed signs of a viral resurgence, though that had swirled for days. Others blamed Millennials whose day-trading resembles the dot.com mania. And a few blamed General Milley, America’s top-ranking general, who apologized for joining the President on his ill-fated march to St. John’s Church.

You see, the generals have turned their backs on Trump over his response to demonstrators. The NFL has too; its commissioner apologized for having opposed taking a knee. Even NASCAR banned the Confederate Flag. And as Trump’s re-election prospects tanked, expectations for a dramatic restructuring of America’s economy soared. Efforts to rebalance the division of profits between capital and labor is demanded by a riotous Main Street. But this terrifies Wall Street, which has worked for years with Republicans, Democrats, CEOs and the Fed to extract an ever-increasing share of national prosperity for those who control capital.

This imbalance is central to today’s tumult. “If we held back because we think asset prices are too high – what would happen to those people who we are legally supposed to be serving?” asked Powell rhetorically, unsuccessfully defending himself from a rising chorus of critics who see the Federal Reserve as amplifying inequality. For decades, the central bank accommodated the financialization of the world’s largest economy. Now that the process is largely complete, even a modest market wobble threatens to devastate the real economy. And Powell is now helpless, caught in a trap of the Fed’s making.

Read more …

The Forbes headline says: “Trump DOL Throws…”, but the watering down of asset quality started a long time ago (Greenspan?!). We can pretend that stocks represent real value, but if that were true the Fed would get out of the way in a split second. As I always say: Remember AAA?

US Labor Department Throws 401k Investors To The Wolves (F.)

Trump U. S. Department of Labor watchdogs just opened the door for private equity wolves to sell the highest cost, highest risk, most secretive investments ever devised by Wall Street to 401k plan sponsors. 401k investors will be devoured like lambs to the slaughter. Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor opened the door for plan sponsors to add private equity funds to their 401(k) plans. That’s a huge win for the private equity industry since 401ks hold nearly $9 trillion in assets and a monstrous setback to American workers who invest in 401ks for retirement security.

After over three decades of egregious retail price gouging by mutual fund companies—as to which the DOL turned a blind eye—401k costs have in recent years been trending downward thanks primarily to widespread excessive-fee private class action litigation. Now, if private equity is embraced, 401k costs will skyrocket, risk will dramatically increase and transparency will plummet. Bad enough that DOL—the federal agency which is supposed to protect employer-sponsored retirement benefit plans—welcomed the wolves of Wall Street to feast on workers’ hard-earned savings, but the explanation the agency provided for its reckless action is perverse.

Ramping up the fees and risks to 401k savers will “overcome the effects the coronavirus had had on our economy” and “level the playing field for ordinary investors” by allowing workers to gamble their limited retirement savings like millionaires who can afford to lose lots. [..] Warren Buffett, arguably the world’s most respected investor, recently escalated his criticism of private equity firms. At last year’s Berkshire Hathaway BRK.B annual meeting Buffett stated, “We have seen a number of proposals from private equity firms where the returns are not calculated in a manner that I would regard as honest… If I were running a pension fund, I would be very careful about what was being offered to me.”

Read more …

Until he has a substantial part of the population on these schemes, and a UBI would likely be both cheaper and more efficient. But UBI is a blasphemy.

UK Lawmakers Urge FM Sunak To Add 1 Million Workers To Income Schemes (R.)

British finance minister Rishi Sunak must extend the government’s already huge coronavirus income support measures to include over 1 million more workers who have missed out, lawmakers said on Monday. People who started jobs after a cut-off date in March for the state’s wage subsidy scheme or who set up a company in the last year should not be excluded, the lawmakers from parliament’s influential Treasury Committee said.Self-employed people who earn more than a threshold set by the government, freelancers in industries such as theatre and television and directors of companies who pay themselves in dividends should also be covered, they said. Mel Stride, who chairs the committee, said Sunak had acted quickly to slow an expected surge in unemployment as the crisis escalated in March.


“If it is to be fair and completely fulfil its promise of doing whatever it takes, the government should urgently enact our recommendations to help those who have fallen through the gaps,” he said. Sunak has recognised that some people are not protected by his support plans but has shown no sign of expanding them again. Nearly 9 million jobs are covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which pays temporarily laid-off workers 80% of their salary, capped at 2,500 pounds a month. A separate scheme for self-employed people has received 2.6 million claims. Britain’s budget forecasters have estimated that the two programmes will cost nearly 70 billion pounds ($88 billion) this year, more than the entire government borrowing in the last financial year.

Read more …

This has birthday boy Xi really scared. 11 neigborhoods in Beijing have been shut down.

Beijing Lockdown Spreads In Race To Control Outbreak (SCMP)

Chinese vice-premier Sun Chunlan has prescribed “firm and decisive measures” to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Beijing, which reported another 36 new cases in a single day following an outbreak at a food market in the capital. Sun, who has been overseeing China’s Covid-19 control measures since January, told a meeting of the State Council late on Sunday that the risk of the latest outbreak spreading was “very high” because of the market’s large, densely packed and highly mobile population, according to state news agency Xinhua. The new cases bring the number of people affected in the capital by the latest outbreak to 79 – all of them linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market, a food distribution centre in southern Beijing which occupies 107 hectares and supplies food to northern provinces like Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei and Liaoning.


[..] Residential areas near Xinfadi market are once again under strict lockdown, with controlled access pending centralised testing for Covid-19. Beijing Health Commission spokesman Xia Xiaojun said 76,499 samples had been tested on Sunday, with 59 positive. Xia said some of those cases had already been included in the count of confirmed infections, while others were still waiting for diagnosis.

Read more …

Close to 100 new cases.

Sudden Jump In China Virus Cases Causes Futures To Tumble (ZH)

On a day when more than 20 US states are seeing a pick-up in cases, Tokyo reported a jump over the weekend and a fresh outbreak in Beijing prompted officials to close a market there, futures are tumbling, with Eminis down more than 40 points to 2,980 the lowest level since the start of June.The drop follows renewed fears of a second coronavirus wave which massacred shares on Thursday before a modest rebound Friday. But the trigger for tonight’s drop appears to have come out of China, which reported 49 new cases of COVID19 in China on June 14, including 10 imported cases and 39 local cases.

36 local cases were diagnosed in Beijing and 3 in Hebei province, according to the National Health Commission, with China’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan spooking traders saying that the risks are high for Beijing’s coronavirus resurgence to spread as all cases are related to Xinfadi wholesale market where a large population has visited, according to Xinhua. As reported yesterday, Beijing shut a major food market and imposed lockdown restrictions on residential areas nearby after dozens of people associated with the wholesale market were tested positive for coronavirus.

Additionally, the Global Times reported that 17 out of 19 new imported coronavirus cases registered on Saturday came from South Asia, Chinese health authorities said Sunday, a sharp spike which analysts said indicates that loosening restrictions and worsening contagion in the region poses a danger to the country’s domestic situation. The 17 patients were reported in South China’s Guangdong Province, with 14 flying from Bangladesh and three from India. The 14 patients and the three asymptomatic carriers arrived in Guangzhou on China Southern Airlines flight CZ392 from Dhaka to Guangzhou on Thursday, which prompted the Chinese aviation regulator to suspend the route for four weeks from June 22 in accordance with the latest policy.

Read more …

Here’s a doctor who claims a second wave has started in the US. But I don’t see it. What did happen was that peaks were not simultaneous all over the country, and the first ones were in some of the most populous areas (Northeast).

It’s really just been a shift from Northeast to South and West, though, and I see no overall second wave appearing yet. If and when it does, it will likely also be different in different regions of the country. Note: there is kind of a second wave in Houston.

 

 

 

 

Second Wave Has Begun in US, Medical System May Be Stressed – Doctor (CNBC)

A second wave of coronavirus has started in the U.S. — and people need to remain careful or risk stressing out the health-care system again, said William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “The second wave has begun,” said the professor of medicine told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday. “We’re opening up across the country, but many, many people are not social distancing, many are not wearing their masks.” Even so, he said he “cannot imagine” a second shutdown due to the impact of the first one. Several states in America have reported recent spikes in Covid-19 cases as measures are eased throughout the country. The U.S. has the highest number of cases in the world. Nearly 2.1 million people have been infected by the disease and more than 115,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Schaffner added that mass gatherings and religious services are also being held. “Many people are simply not being careful, they’re being carefree,” he said. “That, of course, will lead to more spread of the Covid virus.” Despite signs of a second wave, Schaffner said the option of another lockdown is “off the table.” Instead, governments, businesses and religious leaders have to work together to promote mask wearing and social distancing in order to flatten the curve. He said wearing masks is “very, very important” and authorities should “persuade and educate” their residents to make this a “social norm.” “If we all do that in respect of each other, then I think we can make some progress,” said Schaffner.

“If we do all the opposite — if we open up, do not have social distancing, don’t wear masks and congregate in large numbers again, we are going to be very stressed in the medical care system,” he warned. “The complete shutdown was such a financial disaster, and had so many social and cultural implications that I cannot imagine we’ll have a shutdown again,” he said. Other countries, however, have not shied away from reimposing measures when new clusters are detected in the community. In May, South Korea shut all night clubs and bars in Seoul after a new cluster surfaced there. Last week, Beijing reportedly banned tourism and locked down 11 neighborhoods in response to infections related to a wholesale market.

Read more …

If things go well, I should be back in Athens soon. The sentiment here is probably more or less the same as in many other countries.

Greeks Against Second Lockdown – Survey (K.)

Greeks are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on public health and the economy, while also skeptical about the causes and repercussions of the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by Pulse for Kathimerini. Eighty-four percent say that Covid-19 is “definitely” or “perhaps” a serious risk to public health. The risk appears greater among older age groups and educated individuals. Meanwhile, 76 percent say that the health measures, which damaged the economy, were “definitely” or “maybe” necessary. More specifically, the measures were deemed as necessary by 90 percent of New Democracy voters and 62 percent of SYRIZA voters. Concern is widespread. Thirty-two percent are more worried about their financial situation and 23 percent about their health, while 42 percent said that both issues have them “equally concerned.”

Most people say they are against a fresh lockdown in the case of a second wave in the autumn. The restrictions on public movement appear to have taken an economic and psychological toll. As a result, only 21 percent favor a repeat of the “horizontal restrictions.” Meanwhile, 65 percent favor restrictions only in places where a spike in cases is recorded while 10 percent say that the state “must only give recommendations” to citizens. The survey shows that people with lower education and income levels are more likely to question official theories about the origin of the virus. It appears that lower income individuals (usually people with limited educational opportunities) tend to associate Covid-19 with formal structures which they hold responsible for their condition.


More specifically, 33 percent believe that the virus is being used to “intimidate” the public, an equal share say it is being used to enforce compulsory vaccination, while 35 percent say that the virus is used as an excuse to compromise citizens’ personal data. However, Greeks appear relatively immune to the 5G coronavirus conspiracy, as only 10 percent believe there is any connection between the spread of Covid-19 and mobile phone technology. A key reason perhaps is that 5G technology is still not available in Greece. [..] More than half (52 percent) said Covid-19 was created by humans. Of these, 30 percent claim that the virus was created by humans with a specific purpose in mind (like an experiment on population control), while 22 percent say that the virus was created by mistake (like an accident in a lab). Eleven percent said they did not know where the virus might have come from.

Read more …

1) Does Macron -also- mean independence from the EU?
2) The French are not averse to a bit of nationalism, and Macron like many other leaders can and does use the idea that the virus came from abroad to play into it
3) Of course countries should cut their dependence on others when it comes to essential goods, but the EU wants the opposite
4) If there’s one police force that needs reform, it’s the French

Macron Says France Must Seek Greater Economic Independence After Virus (R.)

President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he was accelerating France’s exit from its coronavirus lockdown and that the crisis had laid bare the country’s need for greater economic independence. In a televised address to the nation, Macron promised that the 500 billion euro cost of keeping companies afloat and people in jobs during the worst downturn since World War Two would not be passed to households through higher taxes. Restaurants and cafes in Paris will be allowed to reopen fully from Monday, he said, the same day France lifts restrictions at its borders for European Union travellers, bringing sorely needed relief for the hospitality industry.

He said the coronavirus pandemic had exposed the “flaws and fragility” of France’s, and more broadly Europe’s, over-reliance on global supply chains, from the car industry to smart phones and pharmaceuticals. “The only answer is to build a new, stronger economic model, to work and produce more, so as not to rely on others,” Macron said. The coronavirus has killed more than 29,300 people in France and forced Macron, a former investment banker, to suspend his economic and social reform drive aimed at spurring growth, creating jobs and deregulating the economy. The government expects the economy to shrink by 11% in 2020. Macron said he would lay out a detailed blueprint for the final two years of his mandate in July.

[..] The global outpouring of anger has forced France to confront allegations from ethnic minorities and rights groups of racism and brutality within France’s own law enforcement agencies. Macron said skin colour too often reduced a person’s opportunities in France, promising to be unflinching against all discrimination. But he expressed support for French police and said fighting racism should not lead to a “hateful” re-writing of the history of France, whose empire once stretched from the Caribbean to the South Pacific and included much of north and west Africa. “I will be very clear tonight, compatriots: the Republic won’t erase any name from its history. It will forget none of its artworks, it won’t take down statues,” Macron said.

Read more …

The US can only play catch-up, and even that it’s not good at.

Putin: Russia Soon Able To Counter “Indefensible” Hypersonic Weapons (ZH)

The thing about hypersonic missiles is they are supposed to be impossible to defend against. Since Russia began touting its experimental arsenal two years ago, the prospect of devastating weapons capable of traveling at Mach 5, or at least a mile per second, has kept Pentagon generals up at night. “The hypersonic threat is real, it is not imagination,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves told a D.C. defense conference in 2018. “Greaves comments come amid reports that assess Russia will be capable of fielding a hypersonic glide vehicle, a weapon that no country can defend against, by 2020,” a report at the time underscored alarmingly.

The “indefensible” super weapon… but Russian President Vladimir Putin now says the Kremlin will soon have the technology to defend against it — this as more and more information has been slowly revealed concerning the US Department of Defense’s own multi-billion dollar hypersonics program. Putin made the new comments Sunday: “It’s very likely that we will have means to combat hypersonic weapons by the time the world’s leading countries have such weapons,” he said according to the RIA news agency. Russian state media further said Putin referenced an emerging hypersonins ‘arms race’. The Russian president said that Russia’s rivals will soon be “surprised” when they learn the Russian armed forces will be able to “combat them”.

Putin’s words, as conveyed by RT, were paraphrased as follows: Other nations are hastily designing their own hypersonic weapons – but by the time they are acquired, the Russian military will have learned how to shield the country from them, President Vladimir Putin said. The world’s leading military powers will eventually succeed in developing the ultra-fast weapons, President Vladimir Putin told Russia-1 TV. Russia, meanwhile, which seems to be leading the race for hypersonic dominance, won’t be caught off-guard once that happens, he pledged. I think that we can pleasantly surprise our partners with the fact that when they get these weapons, we will have the means of combating them, with a high degree of probability.

Read more …

Balance.

To Celebrate Obama Day, Here Are Barack’s Greatest Hits (Ben Norton)

To celebrate Obama Day, here are Barack’s greatest hits (wars, coups, slavery, sanctions, al-Qaeda, colonialism) In parts of the United States and the bottomless pit of the internet, today, June 14, is considered “Barack Obama Day.” On social media, the hashtag #ObamaDayJune14th is going viral. So I thought I would commemorate this day by listing some of the former Democratic president’s many accomplishments.

As his supporters are so keen to point out, Obama had no major scandals, you see, except for:
• wearing that tan suit one time
• deporting more people than any other president, 2.7 million, earning the ignominious title “deporter in chief”
• dropping 26,171 bombs on seven Muslim-majority countries in his last year in office alone
• overseeing a genocidal war in Yemen that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and unleashed the largest humanitarian catastrophe on Earth
• supporting al-Qaeda in Syria, funneling billions of dollars of weapons to hardened Salafi-jihadist fanatics to try to destroy the country, and fueling the rise of ISIS
• arming al-Qaeda in Yemen as well
• destroying Libya, once the most prosperous country in Africa, leaving behind a failed state with open-air slave markets
• giving the Israeli apartheid regime $38 billion in unconditional military aid and arming it as it bombed civilians in Gaza (in three separate, barbaric wars: 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014)
• creating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a neoliberal “free trade” monstrosity that would have ensured even more dystopian corporate tyranny over the global political and economic system

Oh yeah, and here are some more unforgettable classics from Obama:
• sponsoring the military coup in Honduras, overthrowing its democratically elected left-leaning government and installing a far-right narco-dictatorship led by a neoliberal autocrat whose drug lord brother smuggled thousands of tons of cocaine and machine guns
• managing Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, in which the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent thousands of guns to murderous drug cartels in Mexico
• backing the parliamentary coup in Brazil, removing the democratically elected Workers’ Party government and paving the way for the fascist Bolsonaro regime
• supporting a soft coup against the democratically elected government in Paraguay
• overseeing a violent coup against Ukraine’s Russia-leaning elected government with the “Euromaidan” movement, in which neo-Nazis and other fascists played a significant role
• subsequently arming the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine
• prolonging the military occupation of Afghanistan, after promising dozens of times he would end the war by 2014
• maintaining a daily “kill list” (known euphemistically as the “disposition matrix”) in which the US president personally approved extrajudicial assassinations of thousands of people, via a covert drone warfare program spanning multiple continents, regularly bombing countries including, but not limited to, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq

Read more …

The US totally ignores the video that’s central to the entire story, and the Guardian ignores teh fact that it’s published 1,000 Assange smear pieces. What a wonderful world.

Julian Assange Indictment Fails To Mention ‘Collateral Murder’ Video (G.)

US prosecutors have failed to include one of WikiLeaks’ most shocking video revelations in the indictment against Julian Assange, a move that has brought accusations the US doesn’t want its “war crimes” exposed in public. Assange, an Australian citizen, is remanded and in ill health in London’s Belmarsh prison while the US tries to extradite him to face 18 charges – 17 under its Espionage Act – for conspiracy to receive, obtain and disclose classified information. The charges relate largely to the US conduct of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Assange’s publication of the US rules of engagement in Iraq. The prosecution case alleges Assange risked American lives by releasing hundreds of thousands of US intelligence documents.

One of the most famous of the WikiLeaks releases was a video – filmed from a US Apache helicopter, Crazy Horse 1-8, as it mowed down 11 people on 12 July 2007 in Iraq. The video starkly highlights the lax rules of engagement that allowed the killing of men who were neither engaged with nor threatening US forces. Two of those Crazy Horse 1-8 killed in east Baghdad that day were the Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and a driver/fixer, Saeed Chmagh, 40. Their Baghdad bureau chief at the time, Dean Yates, said the US military had repeatedly lied to him – and the world – about what happened, and it was only when Assange released the video (which WikiLeaks posted with the title Collateral Murder) in April 2010 that the full brutal truth of the killings was exposed.

“What he did was 100% an act of truth-telling, exposing to the world what the war in Iraq looks like and how the US military lied … The US knows how embarrassing Collateral Murder is, how shameful it is to the military – they know that there’s potential war crimes on that tape,” Yates said.

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 282019
 
 December 28, 2019  Posted by at 10:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  18 Responses »


Alfred Palmer Conversion. Beverage containers to aviation oxygen cylinders 1942

 

OPCW Official Ordered ‘All Traces’ Of Dissenting Report On Douma Deleted (RT)
Interminable Impeachment (J.T. Young)
Democrats Brace For ‘Bloody’ Primary Season (Hill)
Bernie Sanders Warns ‘My God … Trump Will Eat Biden’s Lunch” (CD)
Biden Says He Won’t Comply With Senate Subpoena In Impeachment Trial (DMR)
Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign Issues Urgent Fundraising Plea (R.)
Rachel Maddow’s Defense In OAN Lawsuit Is That Her Words Are Not Fact (CTT)
FBI Investigates Ghislaine Maxwell, Others For Epstein Links (R.)
Evidence of Absence (Kunstler)
Guardian Corrects Article About Assange Embassy ‘Escape Plot’ To Russia (RT)
Russia Deploys First Hypersonic Missiles (G.)

 

 

WikiLeaks’ new leak. We now have OPCW, White Helmets, Bellingcat exposed as lying through their teeth about this. Much of their funding follows s similar trail: US government, Atlantic Council etc. The basis of US foreign policy.

OPCW Official Ordered ‘All Traces’ Of Dissenting Report On Douma Deleted (RT)

The leadership of the chemical weapons watchdog took efforts to remove the paper trail of a dissenting report from Douma, Syria which pointed to a possible false flag operation there, leaked documents indicate. In an internal email published by the transparency website WikiLeaks on Friday, a senior official from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) ordered that the document be removed from the organization’s Documents Registry Archive and to “remove all traces, if any, of its delivery/storage/whatever.” The document in question is a technical assessment written by inspector Ian Henderson after a fact-finding mission to Douma, a suburb of Damascus, in the wake of an alleged chlorine gas attack.

Western politicians and media said at the time that the government forces had dropped two gas cylinders as part of an offensive against jihadist forces, killing scores of civilians. The OPCW inspector said evidence on the ground contradicted the airdropping scenario and that the cylinders could have been placed by hand. Considering that the area was under the control of anti-government forces, the memo lands credence to the theory that the jihadists had staged the scene to prompt Western nations to attack their opponents. The final report of the watchdog all but confirmed that Damascus was behind the incident, but in the past months an increasing amount of leaked documents and whistleblower testimonies have emerged, pointing to a possible fabrication.


The OPCW leadership stands accused of withholding opinions contravening the West-favored narrative and using misleading language to report what the inspectors found on the ground. The alleged email was written by Sebastien Braha, Chief of Cabinet at the OPCW. Its authenticity is yet to be confirmed, but the organization never said any of the previously leaked documents were not real. Another document published on Friday outlines a meeting with several toxicology experts and their opinions on whether symptoms shown and reported in alleged victims of the attack were consistent with a chlorine gas poisoning. “The experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure,” the document said, adding that the chief expert suggested that the event could have been “a propaganda exercise.”

Read more …

J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.

Interminable Impeachment (J.T. Young)

President Trump’s acquittal in the U.S. Senate is a foregone conclusion. But it will not be impeachment’s conclusion for Democrats. Democrats’ decision not to send House impeachment articles to the Senate clearly signals their strategy: Delegitimize any action short of removal. They will not let impeachment go, now or ever, because they must counter their sagging – and President Trump’s strengthening – political position. Democrats have been calling for President Trump’s removal forever, pursuing de facto impeachment since taking the House this year, and pursuing it in fact since September. This marathon became a sprint: One week in the House Judiciary Committee and one day on the House floor.

Now, it has abruptly halted at what should be its climax. House leaders say they are not sending the impeachment articles to the Senate in order to leverage a fair trial there. How this gives them leverage, or how a trial there could be less fair than the House’s proceedings, is unclear. What is clear is that Democrats intend to maintain impeachment as an issue beyond its constitutional course. To rephrase Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over, even after the fat lady sings.” To understand why, it is necessary to understand the myriad reasons behind Democrats’ singular obsession with impeachment. First, they have a weak case. This was evidenced by the bipartisan opposition to impeachment and the Democrats’ inability to convince even one Republican to support it.


Democrats therefore must blame someone else, and they are laying the foundation for claiming that someone else – additional witnesses – could have provided it. Second, the left is pushing Democrats hard on impeachment, and Democrats are dependent on their left. The left forced impeachment on Democrats. The further left, the harder the push. Simply recall who Democrats’ impeachment leaders were and who stayed most assiduously away — even if ultimately voting for it. Democrats are as dependent on the left as the left is insistent on impeachment. The left is credited with the party’s 2018 success. In the Democrats’ 2020 presidential field, liberals dominate collectively, even if they have not yet coalesced around one candidate. The so-called moderates are running left, and the liberals are staying put.

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Sis weeks to Iowa. Time for the candidates to turn on each other. Time for Trump to laugh.

Democrats Brace For ‘Bloody’ Primary Season (Hill)

Democrats are bracing for a long, drawn-out primary season. With just six weeks until the Iowa caucuses, some Democrats say they don’t expect a likely nominee to emerge anytime soon after early-voting states hold their contests. Instead, they’re preparing for a bruising four-way match-up that could drag on for months as candidates compete for the chance to challenge President Trump. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have consistently topped nationwide polls, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg remain key contenders who show no signs of slowing down. “It’s going to be uglier than ugly,” one Democratic strategist said, pointing to surveys showing there is no clear winner across the first four states in the nominating process.

“It’s going to be a bloody slugfest. And the thing a lot of us fear is that Trump will benefit from all of it.” Democrats have focused their efforts on electability, making the case for rallying behind the kind of candidate who can topple Trump. Some Democrats say that while a progressive candidate can energize the party’s base and win in the primary, it would be much more difficult for that same White House hopeful to win the general election against Trump. Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, argued that because the top candidates each have strong pockets of support, the primary may even lead to a brokered convention in July. “Although people always say that, this time it could be true,” Zelizer said.

“Democrats are so desperate to defeat Trump they have very different visions of how to do this and won’t concede easily.” The party’s top four candidates — two progressive candidates and two moderate candidates — are indicative of where the Democratic Party is right now, said Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo. “It shouldn’t be a surprise you are seeing two progressives and two moderates vying for the top spot,” he said, adding that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also a wild card in the primary race. “What is the most interesting factor here is that voters are somewhat interchangeable between Biden and Sanders as they are between mayor Pete and Sen. Warren.”

[..] The Democratic strategist who predicted the primary would be a “bloody slugfest” said this election cycle is reminiscent of 2016, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sanders were locked in a bitter battle for the Democratic nomination. Clinton emerged the winner, but “she was damaged from the primary,” the strategist said. “And anyone who says Sanders didn’t hurt her has their head in the clouds,” the strategist said. This time around, a brokered convention “could only add further division at a time when we need it most. It’s a bit of a nightmare situation.”

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There you go. “Joe Biden is a personal friend of mine, but..”

Bernie Sanders Warns ‘My God … Trump Will Eat Biden’s Lunch” (CD)

Warning that President Donald Trump cannot be defeated by an establishment Democrat running a “same old, same old type of campaign,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times editorial board published Thursday that Trump would have a field day with former Vice President Joe Biden’s record of support for the Iraq War, job-killing trade deals, and other destructive policies. “Joe Biden is a personal friend of mine, so I’m not here to, you know, to attack him,” Sanders said. “But my God, if you are, if you’re a Donald Trump and you got Biden having voted for the war in Iraq, Biden having voted for these terrible, in my view, trade agreements, Biden having voted for the bankruptcy bill. Trump will eat his lunch.”

The Los Angeles Times interview was not the first time Sanders has distinguished his own record from Biden’s by highlighting the former vice president’s support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. During a Democratic primary debate in September, Sanders noted that, unlike Biden, he “never believed what Cheney and Bush said about Iraq.” “I voted against the war in Iraq, and helped lead the opposition,” the Vermont senator said. Sanders told the Times that defeating Trump in 2020 will require a candidate who embraces “ideas that are going to excite and energize millions of people who right now are not particularly active in politics, and who may not vote at all”—and the Vermont senator argued he is the Democratic contender best positioned to deliver such a campaign.


“The reason I believe that I am the strongest candidate, and the reason I believe our approach is right is if you want a large voter turnout, if we understand that there are tens of millions of people in this country who don’t vote, who’ve kind of given up on the political process… I think I am by far the strongest candidate to reach out to those people,” Sanders said. “I think I’m the strongest candidate to bring together a multiracial coalition of African Americans, of Latinos, of Asians.”

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Joe Biden’s biggest problem appears to be that he can’t identify his biggest problem. Either that or he knows there’s no escaping it.

Biden Says He Won’t Comply With Senate Subpoena In Impeachment Trial (DMR)

Former Vice President Joe Biden confirmed Friday he would not comply with a subpoena to testify in a Senate trial of President Donald Trump. The Democratically controlled U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump earlier this month alleging Trump abused his presidential power by tying foreign aid approved by Congress to a politically motivated investigation into a company on which Biden’s son Hunter Biden served on the board. Leaders in the House and Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate are trying to come to terms for an impeachment trial. Biden said in early December he wouldn’t comply with a subpoena by the Senate, and confirmed that statement Friday in an interview with the Des Moines Register’s editorial board.

He has not been subpoenaed, but Trump’s allies have floated the idea. Testifying before the Senate on the matter would take attention away from Trump and the allegations against him, Biden said. Not even “that thug” Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney and former New York City mayor, has accused Biden of doing anything but his job, the former vice president said. Biden also said any attempt to subpoena him would be on “specious” grounds, and he predicted it wouldn’t come to that. Biden said even if he volunteered to testify in an attempt to clear the air, it would create a media narrative that would let Trump off the hook.

“What are you going to cover?” Biden said to Register Executive Editor Carol Hunter in response to a question. “You guys are going to cover for three weeks anything that I said. And (Trump’s) going to get away. You guys buy into it all the time. Not a joke … Think what it’s about. It’s all about what he does all the time, his entire career. Take the focus off. This guy violated the Constitution. He said it in the driveway of the White House. He acknowledged he asked for help.” Shortly after the House voted to impeach Trump, Biden was campaigning in Iowa, where he called impeachment “a sad moment for our country.” It underscored the need for a president who can unify the country, he said.

“No one’s taken as much heat and as many lies thrown at them as I have, but again, this is not about me. It’s not about my family. It’s about the nation. And we have to reach out and unify this country,” Biden said in Ottumwa on Saturday. A centerpiece to Biden’s campaign is his ability to beat Trump in a general election. It was a sentiment most likely Democratic caucusgoers shared in a mid-November Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll. He was the only candidate whom a majority of respondents said they were either almost certain or fairly confident would defeat Trump, according to the poll.

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Warren and Bernie rely on the same donors. She may be gone in six weeks’ time.

Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential Campaign Issues Urgent Fundraising Plea (R.)

Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign told supporters on Friday its fundraising haul stands at just over $17 million and made a plea for more donations with just days left in the fourth quarter. The figure was a sharp drop from the previous quarter and accompanied the progressive Democrats’ slight slide in opinion polls in recent weeks in the Democratic contest to face Republican Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. “We’re only days away from the biggest fundraising deadline of the year, and we’re at risk of missing our $20 million goal,” Warren’s campaign said on its website. In an email to supporters, the campaign said its haul of a little over $17 million this quarter was “a good chunk behind where we were at this time last quarter.”


In the third quarter of 2019, Warren’s campaign reported raising $24.6 million, slightly behind the $25.3 million raised by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the only other 2020 Democratic candidate to swear off big-money fundraisers. Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, has for months been polling in the top three of the crowded Democratic field, along with Sanders and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Support for her White House bid has slid since she announced in November how she would finance her $20.5 trillion Medicare for All plan with new taxes on the wealthy and corporations but without raising middle-class taxes. The plan drew criticism from rivals who say it is unrealistic and from some voters concerned that it was too extreme.

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3 years of daily RussiaRussia rants transferred to the field of entertainment. Get real. Here’s hoping OAN does Maddow, MSNBC and Comcast real damage.

Rachel Maddow’s Defense In OAN Lawsuit Is That Her Words Are Not Fact (CTT)

One America News (OAN) is in court against MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow in a $10 million lawsuit after Maddow said her conservative competitor “really, literally is paid Russian propaganda.” Now, Maddow is arguing in court that her words should not be taken as fact. Her actual legal defense, put out in a motion by her lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr., reads: “…the liberal host was clearly offering up her ‘own unique expression’ of her views to capture what she saw as the ‘ridiculous’ nature of the undisputed facts. Her comment, therefore, is a quintessential statement ‘of rhetorical hyperbole, incapable of being proved true or false.’”

During one of her MSNBC segments, Maddow claimed, “In this case, the most obsequiously pro-Trump right wing news outlet in America is really literally is paid Russian propaganda,” and added, “Their on-air politics reporter (Kristian Rouz) is paid by the Russian government to produce propaganda for that government.” Leaving aside that Maddow now says her words should not be believed as fact, a linguistics professor’s testimony is leading observers to believe Maddow is also now lying in court. UC Santa Barbara linguistics professor Stefan Thomas Gries said, “it is very unlikely that an average or reasonable/ordinary viewer would consider the sentence in question to be a statement of opinion.”


[..] OAN host Jack Posobiec tweeted at Maddow after she made her defamatory remarks, writing “Do you understand how defamation laws work? Please feel free to respond to our lawyers.” OAN’s lawsuit also named MSNBC, Comcast, and NBC Universal Media as defendants, and accuses Comcast, MSNBC’s parent company, of “anti-competitive censorship” because the network refuses to carry OAN as part of its cable package.

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Who cares after all this time? Let’s see some action.

FBI Investigates Ghislaine Maxwell, Others For Epstein Links (R.)

The FBI is investigating British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell and several other people linked to U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, according to two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation. They said a principal focus of the FBI’s investigation is Maxwell, a longtime associate of Epstein, and other “people who facilitated” Epstein’s allegedly illegal behavior. Maxwell has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing. Her lawyers did not respond to a request for comment. The FBI also is following up on many leads received from women who contacted a hotline the agency set up at its New York field office in the wake of Epstein’s arrest in July, the sources said.

One of the sources said the probe remains at an early stage. The sources declined to give further details or identify the people they are looking at apart from Maxwell. However, they said the FBI has no current plans to interview Britain’s Prince Andrew, a friend of Epstein’s who stepped down from his public duties in November because of what he called his “ill-judged” association with the well-connected money manager. A representative for the British royal family said that whether the agency interviewed Andrew was “a matter for the FBI.” Following Epstein’s arrest, the FBI urged anyone who had been victimized by Epstein or had additional information to call the agency’s hotline.


U.S. Attorney General William Barr vowed to carry on the case against anyone who was complicit with the financier. “Any co-conspirators should not rest easy,” he said in August. The two law enforcement sources said the FBI’s principal focus is on people who facilitated Epstein and that Andrew does not fit into that category. They did not rule out the possibility that the FBI would seek to interview Andrew at a later date.

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“..an anxious nausea creeps over the land that Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham are dawdling toward a goal of deflecting justice from the sick institutions behind the three-year coup..”

Evidence of Absence (Kunstler)

What is most perilous for our country now, would be to journey through a second epic crisis of authority in recent times without anybody facing the consequences of crimes they might have committed. The result will be a people turned utterly cynical, with no faith in their institutions or the rule of law, and no way to imagine a restoration of their lost faith within the bounds of law. It will be a deadly divorce between truth and reality. It will be an invitation to civil violence, a broken social contract, and the end of the framework for American life that was set up in 1788.

The first crisis of the era was the Great Financial Crash of 2008 based on widespread malfeasance in the banking world, an unprecedented suspension of rules, norms, and laws. GFC poster-boy Angelo Mozilo, CEO and chairman of Countrywide Financial, a sub-prime mortgage racketeering outfit, sucked at least half a billion dollars out of his operation before it blew up, and finally was nicked for $67 million in fines by the SEC — partly paid by Countrywide’s indemnity insurer — with criminal charges of securities fraud eventually dropped in the janky “settlement.” In other words, the cost of doing business. Scores of other fraudsters and swindlers in that orgy of banking malfeasance were never marched into a courtroom, never had to answer for their depredations, and remained at their desks in the C-suites collecting extravagant bonuses. The problems they caused were papered over with trillions of dollars that all of us are still on-the-hook for. And, contrary to appearances, the banking system never actually recovered. It is permanently demoralized.

How it was that Barack Obama came on-duty in January of 2009 and got away with doing absolutely nothing about all that for eight years remains one of the abiding mysteries of life on earth. Perhaps getting the first black president into the White House was such an intoxicating triumph of righteousness that nothing else seemed to matter anymore. Perhaps Mr. Obama was just a cat’s paw for banksterdom. (Sure kinda seems like it, when your first two hires are Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.) The failure to assign penalties for massive bad behavior has set up the nation for another financial fiasco, surely of greater magnitude than the blow-up of 2008, considering the current debt landscape. Not a few astute observers say they feel the hot breath of that monster on the back of their necks lately, with all the strange action in the RePo market — $500 billion “liquidity” injections in six weeks.

But now we are a year into Attorney General Bill Barr coming on the scene — the crime scene of RussiaGate and all its deceitful spin-offs. The Mueller investigation revealed itself as not just a thumping failure, but part of a broader exercise in bad faith and sedition to first prevent Mr. Trump from winning the 2016 election and then to harass, obstruct, disable, and eject him from office. And six months after Mr. Mueller’s face-plant, out comes the Horowitz Report tracing in spectacular detail further and deeper criminal irregularities in the US Justice agencies. What’s more, tremendous amounts of evidence for all this already sits on-the-record in public documents. The timelines are well understood. And so, an anxious nausea creeps over the land that Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham are dawdling toward a goal of deflecting justice from the sick institutions behind the three-year coup — that our polity is so saturated in corruption nothing will be allowed to clean it up.

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But not really.

Guardian Corrects Article About Assange Embassy ‘Escape Plot’ To Russia (RT)

The Guardian has corrected an article describing a “plot” to “smuggle” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of London, more than a year after publication. Russia called the article “disinformation and fake news” from the outset. Assange is currently languishing in London’s Belmarsh Prison, awaiting a hearing on his extradition to the US where he is facing espionage charges. However, in the runup to Christmas 2017 he was still safe inside the city’s Ecuadorian embassy. At the time, Assange had become a thorn in the side of Ecuador’s new president, Lenin Moreno, and Moreno was reportedly mulling a plan to offer him a diplomatic post in Russia, shifting him out of the UK and away from the threat of extradition.

When The Guardian reported on the story in 2018, it turned up the drama. Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper described a “plot” to “smuggle” Assange out of London on Christmas Eve, speeding the fugitive publisher away in a diplomatic vehicle and onwards to refuge in Russia. Ultimately, the report claims, the plan was deemed “too risky” and called off. Though the report painted a picture of a Kremlin-instigated cloak-and-dagger operation, Ecuador would have been well within its rights to grant Assange diplomatic status, had the UK Foreign Office signed off on it. However, plots and plans sell better than backroom diplomatic wrangling, and the paper went with the spy-movie version of events.

It even shoehorned in a paragraph on Assange’s “ties to the Kremlin,” and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation, for good measure. The Russian embassy in London called the article a clear example of “disinformation and fake news by British media.” On Sunday, the Guardian itself issued a correction. “Our report should have avoided the words ‘smuggle’ and ‘plot’ since they implied that diplomatic immunity in itself was illicit,” read a statement from the paper. The correction was made after a complaint from Fidel Narvaez, who served as Ecuador’s London consul at the time of the alleged “plot.” The paper described Narvaez as a middleman between Assange and the Kremlin. Narvaez outright denied any discussions with Moscow.

Though The Guardian corrected its choice of words, the bulk of its story remains as is. The identity of the anonymous sources cited remain a mystery, as does the level of awareness the Russian government had about the plan at any stage in its formation. As events transpired, Assange was bundled out of the embassy by Metropolitan Police in April, after Ecuador revoked his asylum.

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Nothing more fitting mere days before 2020. Russia’s hypersonics travel at 27x the speed of sound. China’s testing 5x. The US? Nothing so far.

Russia Deploys First Hypersonic Missiles (G.)

Russia has deployed its first hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles, with Vladimir Putin boasting that it puts his country in a class of its own. The president described the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can fly at 27 times the speed of sound, as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite. Putin has said Russia’s new generation of nuclear weapons can hit almost any point in the world and evade a US-built missile shield, though some western experts have questioned how advanced some of the weapons programmes are. The Avangard is launched on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but, unlike a regular missile warhead, which follows a predictable path after separation, it can make sharp manoeuvres en route to its target, making it harder to intercept.

The defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, told Putin the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard had entered combat duty. “I congratulate you on this landmark event for the military and the entire nation,” Shoigu said later during a conference call with top military leaders. The strategic missile forces chief, Gen Sergei Karakaev, said during the call that the Avangard had been put on duty with a unit in the Orenburg region in the southern Ural mountains. Putin unveiled the Avangard and other prospective weapons systems in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018, saying its ability to make sharp manoeuvres on its way to a target would render missile defense useless. “It heads to target like a meteorite, like a fireball,” he said at the time.


China has tested its own hypersonic glide vehicle, believed to be capable of travelling at least five times the speed of sound. It displayed the weapon called Dong Feng 17, or DF-17, at a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese state. US officials have talked about putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles, particularly the hypersonic weapons. The administration also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the US can strike incoming missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.

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Jan 112019
 
 January 11, 2019  Posted by at 10:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Hieronymous Bosch The Haywain Triptych c.1516 (click to enlarge)

 

The Stock Market Just Got Off To Its Best Start In 13 Years (MW)
78% of US Workers Live Paycheck To Paycheck (CNBC)
Fed’s Powell Says He Is ‘Very Worried’ About Growing Amount Of US Debt (CNBC)
Trump Digs In As Shutdown Continues (BBC)
Michael Cohen To Testify Publicly Before Congress In February (G.)
China Set To Lower GDP Growth Target In 2019 (R.)
Can The Chinese Consumer Be Resurrected? (Jim O’Neill)
Why I Asked May If She Is On The Side Of Putin Or The People (Moran)
May’s Brexit Deal ‘Threat To National Security’ – Former MI6 Chief (Ind.)
May Begs Unions To Help Salvage Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)
US Defenses No Match For Russian Hypersonic Missiles – Retired US General (RT)
Bases, Bases, Everywhere… Except in the Pentagon’s Report (Turse)
Oceans Warming Faster Than Expected, Set Heat Record In 2018 (R.)
Julian Assange’s Living Conditions Deteriorate (Cassandra Fairbanks)

 

 

And there’s still people who claim the stock market reflects the economy.

The Stock Market Just Got Off To Its Best Start In 13 Years (MW)

Things are coming up roses in the stock market, lately. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 index and Nasdaq Composite Index are off to their best starts to a year since 2006 after a powerful series of gains. The Dow closed up 0.5% on Thursday, pushing its year-to-date gain to 2.89%, which would mark the best first seven days to a year since 2006, when stocks burst 3.04% higher over the same period. The S&P 500 rose 0.5% on the day and has returned 3.58% thus far this year, its best start since a 3.68% gain 13 years ago, while the Nasdaq Composite booked a 0.4% gain, enough for a 5.3% year-to-date advance, representing its best seven-session to kick off a year since its 5.72% rise also in 2006.

A late-session rally helped to solidify Thursday’s gains, coming after investors digested comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who pronounced at the Economic Club in Washington on Thursday afternoon that the economy is in good health, while adding that the central bank would be cognizant of stresses to financial markets amid rate hikes. The comments were a reiteration of Powell’s remarks last week during a broad panel discussion of current and former Fed bosses that helped to placate anxious investors and reverse what was shaping up to be another dismal year.

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Why is everybody quoting a 2017 report?

78% of US Workers Live Paycheck To Paycheck (CNBC)

The partial government shutdown, which began Dec. 22, has now stretched well into the new year. President Donald Trump said Friday that it would continue for “months or even years” until he receives the requested $5 billion in funding for a border wall. The shutdown has left approximately 800,000 federal workers in financial limbo. Around 420,000 “essential” employees are working without pay, while another 380,000 have been ordered to stay home, according to calculations provided to CNBC by Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University. In some cases, the furloughs have forced government employees to tap into their savings, rely on credit cards or crowdsource funds to make ends meet.

Government workers are far from alone in feeling stressed about not getting paid. Nearly 80% of American workers (78%) say they’re living paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2017 report by employment website CareerBuilder. Women are particularly vulnerable: 81% of them report living paycheck to paycheck, compared with 75% of men. Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, tells CNBC that the group has heard from hundreds of frantic federal employees. “They’re scared,” he says. “They don’t know how they’re going to put food on the table.” Various #ShutdownStories making that point have gone viral on Twitter.

It’s not merely those earning low wages who are struggling. CareerBuilder reports that nearly 10% of Americans with salaries of $100,000 or more live paycheck to paycheck as well. That means that many workers aren’t able to put anything significant into savings. More than 50% of respondents say that they save less than $100 per month. And a comparable 2017 survey from GOBankingRates found that 61% of Americans don’t have enough money in an emergency fund to cover six months’ worth of expenses. [..] more than 70% of all respondents say that they’re in debt, and a quarter of workers say they weren’t able to make ends meet at the end of every month of the past year.

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Which his own Fed has encouraged like nobody else could.

Fed’s Powell Says He Is ‘Very Worried’ About Growing Amount Of US Debt (CNBC)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is concerned about the ballooning amount of United States debt. “I’m very worried about it,” Powell said at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. “From the Fed’s standpoint, we’re really looking at a business cycle length: that’s our frame of reference. The long-run fiscal, nonsustainability of the U.S. federal government isn’t really something that plays into the medium term that is relevant for our policy decisions.” However, “it’s a long-run issue that we definitely need to face, and ultimately, will have no choice but to face,” he added. The Fed chief’s comments came as the annual U.S. deficit reaches new sustained highs above $1 trillion, a fact many economists worry could spell trouble for future generations.

Annual deficits have topped $1 trillion before, but never during a time of sustained economic growth like now, raising concern about what would happen if a recession hits. Total U.S. debt is about $21.9 trillion, of which $16 trillion is owed by the public. In part because of continued rate increases under Powell, the interest cost on that debt could start to become a bigger and bigger burden. Wall Street’s “bond king” and respected financial prognosticator Jeffrey Gundlach said in December that the Fed seems to be on a “suicide mission,” raising rates while the government deficit increases as a share of GDP. Normally when the deficit is expanding, the Fed would be lowering interest rates.

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View from the MSM: Trump digs in, not the Dems.

Trump Digs In As Shutdown Continues (BBC)

US President Donald Trump has threatened again to declare a national emergency to fund a border wall without Congress’s approval. “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” he told reporters. The White House has denied reports it is looking at diverting funds set aside for reconstruction projects. A political row over funding the wall has left the US government partially shutdown for 20 days, leaving about 800,000 federal employees without pay. President Trump has refused to sign legislation to fund and reopen the government if it does not include $5.7bn for a physical barrier along the US-Mexico border.

But budget talks have come to a standstill as Democrats – who control the House of Representatives – refuse to give him the money. Republican leaders insist the party stands behind the president, although some Republican lawmakers have spoken out in favour of ending the shutdown. On Thursday, Mr Trump visited a border patrol station in McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. He said that if Congress did not approve funding for the wall, he would “probably… I would almost say definitely” declare a national emergency to bypass lawmakers. But such a move is likely to face legal challenges. The money would also have to come from funds allocated by Congress for other purposes – which some Republicans would also oppose.

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Planning a huge media spectacle. Imagine all the readers and viewers… Trump keeps on giving. Bread and circuses it is.

Michael Cohen To Testify Publicly Before Congress In February (G.)

Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer and aide Michael Cohen says he has accepted an invitation from a top House Democrat to testify publicly before Congress next month. His testimony before the House oversight and reform committee on 7 February will be the first major public oversight hearing for Democrats, who have promised greater scrutiny of Trump after winning control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections. Cohen said in a statement: “I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired.”

The New Yorker, who is to begin a three-year prison sentence in March, is a pivotal figure in investigations by the special counsel Robert Mueller into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, and by federal prosecutors in New York into campaign finance violations related to hush-money payments to two women who say they had sex with Trump. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s chair, said the panel would avoid interfering with Mueller’s investigation. “We have no interest in inappropriately interfering with any ongoing criminal investigations, and to that end, we are in the process of consulting with Special Counsel Mueller’s office,” Cummings said in a statement.

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But not to the 1.67% predicted by professor Xiang Songzuo, I’m sure.

China Set To Lower GDP Growth Target In 2019 (R.)

China plans to set a lower economic growth target of 6% to 6.5% in 2019 compared with last year’s target of “around” 6.5%, policy sources told Reuters, as Beijing gears up to cope with higher U.S. tariffs and weakening domestic demand. The proposed target, to be unveiled at the annual parliamentary session in March, was endorsed by top leaders at the annual closed-door Central Economic Work Conference in mid-December, according to four sources with knowledge of the meeting’s outcome. Data later this month is expected to show the Chinese economy grew around 6.6% in 2018 — the weakest since 1990. Analysts are forecasting a further loss of momentum this year before policy support steps begin to kick in.

“It’s very difficult for growth to exceed 6.5% (this year), and there could be trouble if growth dips below 6%,” said one source who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. As the world’s second-largest economy loses steam, China’s top leaders are closely watching employment levels as factories could be forced to shed workers amid a trade war with the United States, despite a more resilient services sector, policy insiders said. Growth of about 6.2% is needed in the next two years to meet the ruling Communist Party’s longstanding goal of doubling gross domestic product and incomes in the decade to 2020, and to turn China into a “modestly prosperous” nation. [..] Local governments could be allowed to issue up to 2 trillion yuan worth of special bonds in 2019, up from 1.35 trillion yuan last year, they said.

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Goldman Sachs to the -image- rescue.

Can The Chinese Consumer Be Resurrected? (Jim O’Neill)

Last week, Apple published a letter to shareholders revising down its expected revenues for the first quarter of 2019, citing an economic slowdown in China, which has become an increasingly important market for iPhone, Mac, and iPad sales. Though tech industry analysts are debating whether internal dynamics at Apple might also explain the change, the company’s new guidance nonetheless adds to the evidence that Chinese consumption is slowing. A sustained decline in Chinese consumption would be even more worrying than the current US-China trade dispute.

Given that US trade policies and other external influences should not have much effect on domestic Chinese spending, the problem may be more deeply rooted in China’s economic model. To understand what is at stake, consider all that has changed just within the past decade. At the end of 2010, domestic consumption accounted for around 35.6% of Chinese GDP, according to official Chinese data. That was remarkably low compared to most other economies, not least the US, where consumption accounted for almost 70% of GDP. In nominal dollar terms, China’s domestic consumption thus was around $2.2tn, or almost five times lower than that of the US ($10.5tn).

Yet China’s high overall growth rate meant that Chinese consumers could potentially play a much larger role, with far-reaching benefits for global brands such as Apple, BMW, Burberry, Ford, and many others. As of 2017, Chinese consumption as a share of GDP had risen to 39.1%, representing just over $5tn in nominal dollar terms. That is an increase of almost $3tn in just seven years. And though Chinese consumer spending still lagged far behind that of the US ($13.5tn in 2017), the gap has narrowed. If China were to continue on the same trajectory in terms of nominal GDP growth and domestic consumption, its consumer spending could increase by another $2tn by 2020, putting it at around half that of the US. Chinese consumers would be more relevant to the global economy than anyone except Americans.

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From time to time you wonder what’s more hysterical, the Brexit mayhem or the UK’s fabricated Russophobia. This is pretty unbelievable, but it’s become normal.

Layla Moran is a Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon.

Why I Asked May If She Is On The Side Of Putin Or The People (Moran)

For all the farcical invoking of Blitz spirit, Brexit isn’t merely an absurdist experiment in English nationalist nostalgia – it is the most audacious example yet of a futuristic Russian nationalism that seeks to divide and rule Europe. If we can be judged by our friends then Brexit has no stauncher ally than Vladimir Putin. After all, Donald Trump has proved unreliable. But Putin? It is hard to think of anyone who has done more for the cause (and that is not to take anything away from the years of Brexit monologues by Tory MP Bill Cash). Russian bot farms have been exposed as having supported the Leave campaign. This comes on top of allegations of iffy Russian money funding Brexit campaigns, and Arron Banks’ almost comical inability to explain his donations to Leave.

Comical, that is, if his scarcely thought through Brexit wasn’t driving Britain to what Hilary Clinton has called the single biggest act of deliberate self-harm a nation has ever committed. As if Russian interference in the original referendum was not shocking enough, it is still going on. The Channel 4 drama Brexit: The Uncivil War might have relegated Russian involvement to the briefest postscript, but in reality Putin is still in the trenches fighting for a hard Brexit. At a recent press conference Putin attacked the idea of a referendum on the deal, claiming the original result should be respected. Oh, the irony! Putin, the arch kleptocrat, giving advice on democracy. “Don’t steal Brexit,” he seemed to demand, while probably stealing (sorry, being gifted) another superyacht.

It should have been sufficiently chilling to make even Boris Johnson pause for thought. And all while using the Brexiteer message script of delivering the will of the people. As any student of Russian history could tell you, “the people” are often invoked by the Kremlin, including when justifying the mass murder of innocent people. But rarely does the Kremlin actually ask “the people” for anything so radical as an opinion. For Putin, “the people” are to be manipulated and even killed for his own ends. And Putin’s ends are clear. He wants a weak and divided EU. Ultimately, he seeks to break it up, with the Eastern bloc – brought into the European fold by Margaret Thatcher’s single market – dragged back into the lair of the Russian bear.

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And why not? If all else fails, scare them.

May’s Brexit Deal ‘Threat To National Security’ – Former MI6 Chief (Ind.)

The former head of MI6 has warned Theresa May’s Brexit deal will “threaten the national security of the country”, in a call for Tory MPs to reject it. The agreement would “place control of aspects of our national security in foreign hands”, claims Sir Richard Dearlove, in an extraordinary letter to Conservative associations. It has also been signed by Lord Guthrie, a former chief of the defence staff, in a bid to stiffen grassroots resistance, ahead of next Tuesday’s vote.= Sir Richard and Lord Guthrie, who are both prominent Leave supporters, write: “Please ensure that your MP votes against this bad agreement.” The prime minister, a former home secretary, has insisted her agreement would protect national security by retaining existing cooperation arrangements during the 21-month transition.

However, she was forced to acknowledge the UK was likely to lose direct access to vital EU security databases after 2012, under the proposed long-term arrangements. In their letter, the ex-security chiefs argue the deal is dangerous because it would weaken membership of Nato and existing “close” defence and intelligence ties with the US. “This withdrawal agreement, if not defeated, will threaten the national security of the country in fundamental ways,” it says. Downing Street hit back immediately, insisting the letter was “completely wrong” and that the Brexit deal offered the broadest security agreement the EU has with any of its partners. But both sides of the Brexit divide seized on the intervention, arch-Brexiteer Owen Paterson calling it a “devastating warning”.

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After Tuesday all bets are off.

May Begs Unions To Help Salvage Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May has called the leaders of Britain’s biggest unions for the first time since becoming prime minister in a desperate bid to find backing for her Brexit deal. The calls to Unite leader Len McCluskey and the GMB’s Tim Roache – whose unions are Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest financial backers – mark just how far she is being forced to go in the hope of finding support for the deal expected to be rejected by MPs next week. She was scorned by second referendum-backing Mr Roache, who joked after his call that he was “glad the prime minister finally picked up the phone”. The unprecedented move came as she also sought to convince Labour MPs to back her by promising new commitments to maintain workers’ rights in line with EU standards after Brexit.

But expectations that she is heading for a heavy defeat on Tuesday simply grew further, with some estimates suggesting that opposition has actually grown since she delayed the vote on her deal in December. Capitalising on the deep Tory divisions, Mr Corbyn instead invited Conservative MPs to back a motion of no confidence in the government which he is promising to table if Ms May’s plans are defeated. Downing Street confirmed the calls to Mr Roache, whose union has 620,000 members, and Mr McCluskey, representing more than 1.4 million, and admitted it was the first time she had spoken to either of them since her arrival at No 10. The Independent understands the prime minister also attempted to call Dave Prentis, leader of Unison which also has some 1.4 million members, but could not get through because Mr Prentis was travelling.

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Click here for the original Hill article.

US Defenses No Match For Russian Hypersonic Missiles – Retired US General (RT)

A retired general and chief of staff has warned that the US’ missile defense systems are “simply incapable” of stopping the latest generation of Russian hypersonic missiles – some of which fly at 27 times the speed of sound. Now retired, Maj. Gen. Howard ‘Dallas’ Thompson was once Chief of Staff at US Northern Command in Ohio. In a column published by The Hill on Thursday, Thompson argues that military leaders have neglected to develop proper defenses against the hypersonic threat. There have been some calls for the US to pursue hypersonic weapons in defense policy circles, but America has lagged behind China – which conducted more tests in the last year than the US has is a decade – and Russia, which successfully tested such a missile in December. The ‘Avangard’ missile flew at Mach 27, and will be deployed in 2019.

At present, the US Missile Defense Agency’s sensors and radars are designed for one purpose: to counter an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fired by an adversary like Iran or North Korea. ICBMs have a predictable flight path, and the US’ Patriot and Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries stand a reasonable chance of intercepting and destroying any incoming missiles. Not so with hypersonics. Missiles like ‘Avangard’ fly low and fast, evading radar detection. They can also engage in evasive maneuvers to dodge surface-to-air rockets or missiles, further lowering the chances of a successful interception.

“The stark reality is that our current missile defense systems, as well as our operational mindset, are simply incapable versus this threat,” Thompson wrote. The retired General’s words are backed up by a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, which concluded that there are “no existing countermeasures” against the threat. Thompson claims that a massive collaborative program between the Department of Defense and arms companies is needed to counter Russian and Chinese advances. “Countering this threat will require U.S. investment in an extensive defensive architecture,” he wrote. “…a highly robust ‘family of systems’ that nonetheless must be envisioned, designed, developed and deployed in a completely holistic manner.”

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800 bases, of which 300 are unreported?!

Bases, Bases, Everywhere… Except in the Pentagon’s Report (Turse)

Within hours of President Trump’s announcement of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, equipment at that base was already being inventoried for removal. And just like that, arguably the most important American garrison in Syria was (maybe) being struck from the Pentagon’s books — except, as it happens, al-Tanf was never actually on the Pentagon’s books. Opened in 2015 and, until recently, home to hundreds of U.S. troops, it was one of the many military bases that exist somewhere between light and shadow, an acknowledged foreign outpost that somehow never actually made it onto the Pentagon’s official inventory of bases. Officially, the Department of Defense (DoD) maintains 4,775 “sites,” spread across all 50 states, eight U.S. territories, and 45 foreign countries.

A total of 514 of these outposts are located overseas, according to the Pentagon’s worldwide property portfolio. Just to start down a long list, these include bases on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, as well as in Peru and Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. But the most recent version of that portfolio, issued in early 2018 and known as the Base Structure Report (BSR), doesn’t include any mention of al-Tanf. Or, for that matter, any other base in Syria. Or Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or Niger. Or Tunisia. Or Cameroon. Or Somalia. Or any number of locales where such military outposts are known to exist and even, unlike in Syria, to be expanding.

[..] According to David Vine, author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, there could be hundreds of similar off-the-books bases around the world. “The missing sites are a reflection of the lack of transparency involved in the system of what I still estimate to be around 800 U.S. bases outside the 50 states and Washington, D.C., that have been encircling the globe since World War II,” says Vine

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The reporting on the issue seems broken.

Oceans Warming Faster Than Expected, Set Heat Record In 2018 (R.)

The oceans are warming faster than previously estimated, setting a new temperature record in 2018 in a trend that is damaging marine life, scientists said on Thursday. New measurements, aided by an international network of 3,900 floats deployed in the oceans since 2000, showed more warming since 1971 than calculated by the latest U.N. assessment of climate change in 2013, they said. And “observational records of ocean heat content show that ocean warming is accelerating,” the authors in China and the United States wrote in the journal Science of ocean waters down to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). Man-made greenhouse gas emissions are warming the atmosphere, according to the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, and a large part of the heat gets absorbed by the oceans.

That in turn is forcing fish to flee to cooler waters. “Global warming is here, and has major consequences already. There is no doubt, none!” the authors wrote in a statement. Almost 200 nations plan to phase out fossil fuels this century under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit warming. [..] Data due for publication next week will show “2018 was the warmest year on record for the global ocean, surpassing 2017,” said lead author Lijing Cheng, of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He told Reuters that records for ocean warming had been broken almost yearly since 2000. Overall, temperatures in the ocean down to 2,000 metres rose about 0.1 degree Celsius (0.18F) from 1971-2010, he said.

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Another issue on which reporting seems broken. We’re not getting anywhere.

Julian Assange’s Living Conditions Deteriorate (Cassandra Fairbanks)

I last visited Assange in March, days before the Ecuadorians placed the award-winning journalist in isolation for allegedly violating a draconian ban on all public political comments. [..] In order to visit the publisher last year, I simply organized it with him and his lawyer and went. This time I was required to provide details about my social media, my employer, and my reason for visiting in advance of my arrival and hope to be approved. If I wanted to bring my cell phone, I would have had to provide the brand, model, serial number, IMEI number and telephone number. Providing these details to a foreign nation with extreme surveillance seemed unwise, so I left it behind.

[..] Currently, Assange cannot even have a simple visit with a friend without it being monitored by some shadowy state actor. It’s like a scene from the Stasi spy drama The Lives of Others. While Ecuador presents this surveillance operation as a mission to “protect and support” Assange, this is contradicted by the fact that he isn’t even allowed to confidentially speak with a reporter and friend without being recorded. In May, the Guardian reported that there are “extraordinary reports” from these spies that include daily logs of Assange’s activities inside the embassy, even noting his “general mood.”

As John Pilger pointed out after his visit with Assange on New Year’s Eve, it could be any newspaper publisher or editor stuck in that embassy. For the crime of publishing journalism, Assange has not only had to give up his freedom, but also any semblance of privacy. It’s impossible to overstate how unsettling it feels to have multiple lenses pointed at you wherever you stand. Unable to speak privately, even with a noise machine attempting to muffle the microphones from picking up conversations, we resorted to passing notes. Assange is not only barred from sharing his views online under the new regulations — thanks to the constant surveillance, he can’t even do so among his friends in the embassy where he is arbitrarily detained.

If we value the principle of the freedom of speech — we must do something to stop this madness. While we do not know what Assange has been charged with by the U.S. as it remains under seal, we do know that it is related to his work as a publisher, the only publisher with a record of 100% accuracy. His dedication to truth is so profound that he has never once had to issue a correction or retraction.

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Dec 182018
 


Caravaggio St. John the Baptist in the wilderness 1604

 

S&P 500 Drops More Than 2% To New Low For 2018, Dow Dives 500 Points (CNBC)
The Latest Key Death Cross Is Poised To Engulf The Stock Market (MW)
Stock Market On Pace For Worst December Since Great Depression (CNBC)
How The Federal Reserve Could Spark A ‘Santa Claus’ Stock Rally (Yahoo!)
You Have A “Trading” Problem (Roberts)
China Politics Getting In The Way Of Reforms (G.)
China To Mark Economic Miracle That Pulled 700 Million People Out Of Poverty (RT)
Australia’s Central Bank Sees Risks From High Debt As House Prices Fall (R.)
‘No Existing Countermeasures’ To Russian Hypersonic Weapons – US Gov’t (RT)
The Bigotry Behind NY Times’ ‘Russians Targeted African-Americans’ (GJ)
Racist ‘Russians’ Targeted African-Americans In 2016 Election – Reports (RT)
Russia! The Gift That Keeps Giving For The BBC, Even In France (Bridge)
Fatal Over-Reach (Kunstler)
Coal Demand Will Remain Steady Through 2023 -IEA (CNBC)

 

 

Can’t wait for Christmas amd some days off. Close it down and it can’t fall further. Either that or give Jay Powell a call.

S&P 500 Drops More Than 2% To New Low For 2018, Dow Dives 500 Points (CNBC)

Stocks tanked on Monday, pushing the S&P 500 to a new low for the year amid growing concerns that the Federal Reserve’s plan to raise interest rates could be too much for the economy and stock market to handle. The S&P 500 fell as much as 2.5% to 2,530.54, surpassing its February intraday low of 2,532.69. The broad market index finished the session down 2% at 2,545.94, its lowest close for the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 507.53 points to close at 23,592.98, bringing its two-day losses to more than 1,000 points. Shares of Amazon and Goldman Sachs led the declines.

The Dow and S&P 500, which are both in corrections, are on track for their worst December performance since the Great Depression in 1931, down more than 7% so far for the month. The S&P 500 is now in the red for 2018 by 4%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.2% to finish the day at 6,753.73 as Microsoft dropped 2.9%. The Russell 2000 — which tracks the performance of smaller companies — entered a bear market, down 20% from its 52-week high. DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach said Monday that he “absolutely” believes the S&P 500 will go below the lows that the index hit early in 2018. “I’m pretty sure this is a bear market,” Gundlach told Scott Wapner on CNBC’s “Halftime Report. The major averages fell to session lows following his comments.

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There are so many death croses lately, the term loses meaning.

The Latest Key Death Cross Is Poised To Engulf The Stock Market (MW)

Ominous-sounding death crosses have been emerging in the stock market like weeds, with the latest — and arguably, the last important such cross — about to take hold in the Dow. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is on the verge of joining other major equity benchmarks in a so-called death cross, where the 50-day — a short-term trend tracker — crosses below the 200-day, used to determine a long-term trend in an asset. Chart watchers believe that such a cross marks the point where a shorter-term decline graduates to a longer-term downtrend.

Currently, the Dow’s 50-day moving average stands at 25,173.14, compared against its 200-day average at 25,083.23, according to FactSet data, as of Friday’s close of trading. That puts the 50-day less than 90 points shy of breaching the long-term average, which could occur by the end of this week or next, based on the current pace of decline. The Dow has suffered a series of punishing drops on nagging fears of slowing global growth, unresolved trade worries and the pace of the Federal Reserve’s rate increases, with Monday’s action placing the Dow at its lowest close since March 23, 2018.

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Thank the Fed.

Stock Market On Pace For Worst December Since Great Depression (CNBC)

Two benchmark U.S. stock indexes are careening toward a historically bad December. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 are on pace for their worst December performance since 1931, when stocks were battered during the Great Depression. The Dow and S&P 500 are down 7.8% and 7.6% this month, respectively. December is typically a very positive month for markets. The Dow has only fallen during 25 Decembers going back to 1931. The S&P 500 averages a 1.6% gain for December, making it typically the best month for the market, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac. While the S&P 500 began dissemination in 1950, the performance data was backtested through 1928. It’s worth noting that historically, the second half of December tends to see gains.

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The Fed has absolute control. I don’t see nearly enough people being afraid of that.

How The Federal Reserve Could Spark A ‘Santa Claus’ Stock Rally (Yahoo!)

After a bruising few months for stocks, investors are banking on a ‘Santa Claus’ rally to close out 2018. Even with just a handful of trading sessions left in 2018, there is still one remaining catalyst that could spark a stock rally: the Federal Reserve. The market is pricing in a 78% chance the Fed announces a rate hike Wednesday, when it wraps up its two-day policy meeting, according to CME futures data. The rate hike itself wouldn’t spark the rally. In fact, rate hikes make stocks less attractive. But this rate hike is so priced in, that not going forward with it could signal that the Fed is worried about the economy. This would be the Fed’s fourth interest rate hike of 2018. It was in June that the Fed telegraphed this fourth rate hike.

Instead, the stock rally could be sparked by the Fed’s guidance about monetary policy in 2019. “For U.S. stocks to drift higher this week, the Fed will have to strike an easier tone about future rate hikes without signaling undue concerns about U.S. economic growth,” wrote Nick Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research, in a note to clients Monday. But doing so may force them to downgrade U.S. economic growth forecasts for 2019, Colas said. “Changing course on rates without that air cover will make it look like the Fed is targeting asset price volatility (a.k.a. the “Fed Put”) or – worse – that the central bank is taking orders from the White House,” Colas noted, referring to President Trump’s months-long criticism — which occurred as recently as Monday — of the Fed’s monetary tightening.

[..] the Fed’s statement on Wednesday, roughly 200 words in length, will be scrutinized by investors. “The Fed could delete the words ‘gradual increases’ — meaning a hike every quarter is no longer a working assumption,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, a former Fed advisor and CEO of Quill Intelligence. “That would take March off the table in theory and could spark a rally, even if based only on technicals, that could run into year-end.” The Fed has started to use the phrase “gradual increases” when referring to interest rate hikes in its statements starting in June. Prior to that, many of the statements included the phrase “gradual adjustments.” “Investors are hungry for even a morsel of dovishness, and what they do not say could be even more powerful than what they do say,” Booth noted.

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I don’t think the problem is where Lance sees it.

You Have A “Trading” Problem (Roberts)

As Sy Harding says in his excellent book “Riding The Bear:” “No such creature as a ‘buy and hold’ investor ever emerged from the other side of the subsequent bear market.” Statistics compiled by Ned Davis Research back up Harding’s assertion. Every time the market declines more than 10%, (and “real” bear markets don’t even officially begin until the decline is 20%), mutual funds experience net outflows of investor money. To wit: “Lipper also found the largest outflows on record from stocks ($46BN), the largest outflows since December 2015 from taxable bond ($13.4BN) and Investment Grade bond ($3.7BN) funds, and the 4th consecutive week of outflows from high yield bonds ($2.1BN), offset by a panic rush into cash as money market funds attracted over $81BN in inflows, the largest inflow on record.”

Most bear markets last for months (the norm), or even years (both the 1929 and 1966 bear markets), and one can see how the torture of losing money week after week, month after month, would wear down even the most determined “buy and hold” investor. But the average investor’s pain threshold is a lot lower than that. The research shows that it doesn’t matter if the bear market lasts less than 3 months (like the 1990 bear) or less than 3 days (like the 1987 bear). People will still sell out, usually at the very bottom, and almost always at a loss. So THAT is how it happens. And the only way to avoid it – is to avoid owning stocks during bear markets. If you try to ride them out, odds are you’ll fail. And if you believe that we are in a “New Era,” and that bear markets are a thing of the past, your next of kin will have our sympathies.

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Xi is not reforming, he’s trying to keep China above water.

China Politics Getting In The Way Of Reforms (G.)

Xi’s speech comes as the Chinese leadership is facing criticism over slowing growth and confrontation with the US. Observers hoped his speech would lay out new directions or reforms needed to help the Chinese economy, weighed down by debt and lagging consumption, and an overly dominant state sector. Instead, Xi stressed that the Party’s leadership and strategy up to now have been “absolutely correct.” He promised to support the state sector while continuing reforms in appropriate areas. His remarks lacked any detail about new policies and failed to inspire confidence in Asian markets. Hong Kong and Shanghai both dropped sharply during the speech. They are now off 1% for the day while losses have deepened to 1.8% in Tokyo and more than 1% in Sydney.

“President Xi was perhaps unsurprisingly long on rhetoric and short on details,” said Tom Rafferty, regional manager for China at the Economist Intelligence Unit. “There will be a sense of disappointment, among both local and international investors, that Xi did not give clearer signals about the direction of future economic reform at a time when the Chinese government’s commitment to market liberalisation is seen to have waned.” Critics say politics are getting in the way of needed reforms – a rare challenge to Xi, who has amassed power more quickly than any of his predecessors.

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Central question is how much of it was borrowed. How much is based on unproductive investments and sheer waste?

China To Mark Economic Miracle That Pulled 700 Million People Out Of Poverty (RT)

China has pledged more economic reforms to push growth higher and help offset any impact from the US trade conflict. It comes as the world’s second-largest economy marks the 40th anniversary of “reform and opening up” this week. Statistics show that more than 700 million Chinese people have shaken off poverty since Beijing started its program of economic reforms four decades ago. The figure accounts for over 70% of global poverty reduction during that period. The first wave of reform, which lasted from 1978 to 1989, was characterized by agricultural reform and revival of the private sector. The second wave of reform (from 1992 to 2012) resulted in the legalization of the market economy, China’s accession to the WTO, and a booming private sector.

China’s record in poverty reduction since reform and opening up is without parallel in human history, according to Wang Yiwei, professor of the School of International Studies at Renmin University. “Between 1978 and 2017, China’s economy expanded at an annual average 9.5% growth rate, increasing in size almost 35 times,” he told Xinhua News. The total expansion of China’s economy over a 39 year period was almost three times as much as Japan’s, Ross noted, adding that “No other economy commencing sustained rapid economic growth even remotely approaches the 22.3% of the world’s population as China had in 1978 at the beginning of reform and opening up.”

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Australia hasn’t gone down in 2 decades. That takes a lot of debt.

Australia’s Central Bank Sees Risks From High Debt As House Prices Fall (R.)

A combination of falling home prices, stratospheric household debt and low wage growth posed downside risks to the Australian economy, the country’s central bank warned on Tuesday, even as it predicted the next move in interest rates would likely be up. Minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) December policy meeting showed members spent a considerable time discussing the recent slowdown in global growth momentum, partly caused by a bitter tariff dispute between the United States and China. Australia is heavily leveraged to global trade with China its No.1 trading partner so any deceleration in momentum overseas will likely be negative for the A$1.8 trillion economy.

Indeed, Australia’s gross domestic product expanded at a weaker-than-expected 2.8% pace last quarter, when policy makers were hoping for “above-trend” 3%-plus growth. Dismal private consumption was a major factor hurting economic activity, even though there were some early signs of a small uptick in wages growth. “The outlook for household consumption continued to be a source of uncertainty because growth in household income remained low, debt levels were high and housing prices had declined. Members noted that this combination of factors posed downside risks,” the RBA said.

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The key to why Russia is seen as a problem. And that in turn leads to all the articles following this one.

‘No Existing Countermeasures’ To Russian Hypersonic Weapons – US Gov’t (RT)

The US is currently unable to repel an attack from the hypersonic weapons that are being developed by Russia and China, as they can pierce most missile defense systems, a recent US government report has revealed.
“China and Russia are pursuing hypersonic weapons because their speed, altitude, and maneuverability may defeat most missile defense systems, and they may be used to improve long-range conventional and nuclear strike capabilities,” the report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reads. The report also highlights the challenges to American security posed by Chinese and Russian anti-satellite weapons and stealth aircraft that “could fly faster, carry advanced weapons, and achieve further distances.”

The rapid development of the cutting-edge technology “could force US aircraft to operate at father distances and put more US targets at risk,” the report notes. Speaking at a Valdai Club session in October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia surpassed its rivals in terms of hypersonic weapons, calling Russia’s prevalence in the field “an obvious fact.” “Nobody has precise hypersonic weapons. Some plan to test theirs in 18 to 24 months. We have them in service already,” Putin said. In March Putin unveiled several advanced weapons systems, including the Avangard hypersonic glider warheads and the Kinzhal –or Dagger– hypersonic cruise missile. The Kinzhal can fly at Mach-10 speed and has a reported range of 2,000 km (1243 miles).

It was reported that Russia’s advanced Sukhoi Su-57 jet might soon be armed with a missile similar to the Kinzhal. While the Avangard is about to enter military service, the Kinzhal has already been deployed with the force. Faced with the unmatched hypersonic capabilities, the Pentagon has launched about a dozen programs to protect the US from hypersonic weapons. A project named ‘Glide Breaker’ to develop an interceptor capable of neutralizing incoming hypersonic gliders has been in the works with The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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If you were African-American and you’re told all the time that you would have voted Hillary if not for the Russians co-opting you with $5,000 in ads, you would get mad too.

The Bigotry Behind NY Times’ ‘Russians Targeted African-Americans’ (GJ)

This morning, the New York Times decided to stop insulting our intelligence and instead chose to insult decency. In an article written by Scott Shane and Sheera Frenkel, Russians allegedly unleashed an intricate plot to targeted African-Americans in order to foment discontent and dupe “black people” to vote against their self-interest. According to the corporate recorders at the NY Times, the reason that African-Americans did not uniformly vote for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats is because they were too dimwitted to think for themselves and were subsequently manipulated by foreign agents. [..] Let me dispel some myths here about people who refused to vote for Hillary since I happen to be one of them.

I chose to withhold my support not because Russians conditioned me to think that way but because I refused to support a warmongering sociopath otherwise known as John McCain in pantsuits. I’ve followed Hillary’s career long enough to know that she is a corporate courtesan who can’t get enough of destabilizing nations and enriching herself by trading access for cash. Eight years of Obama catering to Wall Street and furthering George Bush’s war first policies was enough for me to tap out. [..] In other words, just because my skin color is “black” does not mean I owe my vote and loyalty to Democrats. True enough, there was a time where I was an unflinching supporter of team blue, but after seeing how Democrats are no different than Republicans, I chose to wake up.

[..] The level of duplicity on display by establishment voices is truly astounding. If leading Democrats and media personalities want to know who is responsible for the rise of Trump, they should look in the mirror. After all, it was Hillary Clinton’s “pied piper” strategy—heeded by her sycophants in the press—that elevated a reality show clown into a serious contender. Hillary Clinton and her cronies rigged the primaries, spent more than $1.2 billion and Trump was given more than a billion dollars in free media by CNN, MSNBC and their ilk, yet we are supposed to believe that $5,000 in Google ads and $50,000 on Facebook was enough to tilt the outcome of the 2016 elections.

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Who exactly here operates a troll factory?

Racist ‘Russians’ Targeted African-Americans In 2016 Election – Reports (RT)

Low voter turnout among African-Americans is usually blamed on purged voter rolls or decades of socioeconomic stasis – but in 2016, ‘evil’ Russia was the main culprit, according to two controversial reports for the US Senate. Though described as “Senate reports” by mainstream US media outlets, the two documents were actually compiled by third parties. The first was produced by a consultancy called New Knowledge, with the help of two other researchers, while the second was done by a group at Oxford University and the UK research firm Graphika. By the social media giants’ own admission, the criteria for labeling posts as “Russian” is so broad as to be practically meaningless.

That hasn’t stopped the authors of the two reports, though, who saw President Vladimir Putin’s fingerprints on every keyboard and under every bed. In particular, they argued, the “Russians” sought to depress the 2016 turnout by targeting Black Americans. Both groups relied on posts provided to the US government by Twitter, Facebook and Google and identified as coming from the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), also known as the “troll factory.” “These campaigns pushed a message that the best way to advance the cause of the African-American community was to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead,” said the Oxford report.

“The most prolific IRA efforts on Facebook and Instagram specifically targeted black American communities and appear to have been focused on developing black audiences and recruiting black Americans as assets,” says the New Knowledge report. While some African-American activists saw the reports as recognition of their community’s influence in US politics, others pointed out that blaming the “Russians” downplayed very real and long-standing racism in American society.

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African-Americans have no opinions of their own, and neither do Yellow Vests. They’re all like Putin’s zombie armies. Next up is Orban blaming Putin for Hungary’s protests.

Russia! The Gift That Keeps Giving For The BBC, Even In France (Bridge)

Given the rash of conspiracy theories leveled against Russia of late, it is no surprise that the BBC is deep-sea fishing for a Kremlin angle to explain the protests against the government of French President Emmanuel Macron. This new and improved beast of burden to explain every uprising, lost election, accident and wart, popularly known as ‘Russia’ – a strategy rebuked by none other than President Putin as “the new anti-Semitism” – provides craven political leaders with a ready-made alibi when the proverbial poo hits the fan. Yes! It can even rescue Emmanuel Macron, who just experienced his fifth consecutive weekend of protests in the French capital and beyond.

Here is the real beauty of this new media product, which promises to outsell Chanel No.5 this holiday season. Reporting on ‘Russia’ does not require any modicum of journalistic ethics, standards or even proof to peddle it like snake oil to an unsuspecting public. Simply uttering the name ‘Russia’ is usually all it takes for the fairytale to grow wings, spreading its destructive lies around the world. ‘Russia’ is truly the gift that keeps on giving! Allow me to demonstrate how easy it is to apply. Just this weekend, BBC journalist Olga Ivshina was engaged in correspondence with a stringer in France. In an effort to explain what has sparked the French protests, Ivshina gratuitously tossed out some live ‘blame Russia’ bait.

“And maybe some Russian business is making big bucks on it,” the BBC journalist solicited in an effort to conjure up fake news out of thin air. “Maybe they are eating cutlets out there en masse, for example. Or maybe the far-right are the main troublemakers?” When the question only managed to elicit an uncomfortable laugh from the stringer, the nonplussed BBC journalist exposed more trade secrets than was probably advisable. In fact, what followed seems to have been the only nugget of truth to emerge from the discussion. Ivshina confided that she was “looking for various angles” since the broadcaster, like a modern day Dracula flick, was “out for blood.”

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The next scheduled chapter in the story is Gen. Flynn’s sentencing this Tuesday. It would be a surprise if the Judge does not observe that Mr. Mueller has acted in contempt of court. Ditto if the charge against Gen. Flynn is not thrown out.

Fatal Over-Reach (Kunstler)

Last Friday morning, we adjourned the blog in anticipation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller handing over certain FBI documents in the General Flynn matter demanded by DC District Federal Judge Emmett G. Sullivan no later than 3:00 p.m. that day. Guess what. Mr. Mueller’s errand boys did not hand over the required documents — original FBI 302 interrogation reports. Instead, they proffered a half-assed “interview” with one of the two agents who conducted the Flynn interrogation, Peter Strzok, attempting to recollect the 302 half a year after it was written. Of course, Mr. Strzok was notoriously fired from the Bureau in August for bouts of wild political fury on-the-job as FBI counter-intel chief during and after the 2016 election. (This was the second time he was fired; the first was when Robert Mueller discarded him from the SC team in 2017 as a legal liability.)

So, 3:00 p.m. Friday has come and gone. It appears that the FBI 302 docs have come and gone, too. Actually, we have reason to believe that nothing ever created on a computer connected to the internet can actually disappear entirely. Rather, the data gets sucked into the bottomless well of the NSA server-farm out in Utah. Most likely, the original 302s exist and Mr. Mueller is pretending he can’t find them. In effect, it appears that Mr. Mueller has responded by gently whispering “fuck you” to Judge Sullivan.

Interestingly, The New York Times didn’t even report the story (nor The WashPo, nor CNN, nor MSNBC). Since their “Russia Collusion” narrative is foundering, they can’t tolerate any suggestion that their Avenging Angel of Impeachment, Mr. Mueller, is less than the sanctified plain dealer he affects to be. Judge Sullivan kept his own counsel all weekend. The next scheduled chapter in the story is Gen. Flynn’s sentencing this Tuesday. It would be a surprise if the Judge does not observe that Mr. Mueller has acted in contempt of court. Ditto if the charge against Gen. Flynn is not thrown out. After all, the main articles of evidence against him apparently don’t exist.

And if it turns out that Mr. Mueller and his team are disgraced by their apparent bad faith behavior in the Flynn case, what then of all the other cases connected to Mueller one way or another: Manafort, Cohen, Papadopoulos? And the other matters still in question, such as the Trump Tower meeting with the Russian “Magnitsky” lawyer and Golden Golem Junior, the porn star payoffs… really everything he has touched. What if it all falls apart?

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This is it. Given recent claims that emissions must be cut five times more than is now recognized, and there are just 2 years left to do anything meaningful concerning climate change, this is it.

Coal Demand Will Remain Steady Through 2023 -IEA (CNBC)

Coal consumption is expanding after two years of decline, but miners should brace for another period of sluggish growth, according to the International Energy Agency. In its latest annual report, the IEA forecasts global coal demand will remain essentially stable over the next five years, inching up by just over 1% between 2017 and 2023. The reason for coal’s stagnation remains unchanged from recent years: Developed nations are ditching the fossil fuel, while India and other emerging economies are turning to coal to quickly scale up electric power generation.

“In a growing number of countries, the elimination of coal-fired generation is a key climate policy goal. In others, coal remains the preferred source of electricity and is seen as abundant and affordable,” said the IEA, a Paris-based agency that advises developed nations on energy policy. The IEA’s forecast comes on the heels of a series of reports that the world is falling short of commitments to prevent catastrophic impacts from climate change and running out of time to take action. Burning coal for electric power and industrial purposes such as steelmaking is a major contributor to global warming.

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Dec 102018
 


Jerry Bywaters Oil Field Girls 1940

 

Investors Managing $32 Trillion In Assets Call For Climate Change Action (R.)
BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil Face Shareholder Challenge Over Carbon Targets (G.)
Bear Market Is Here, Stocks To Plunge At Least 20% – Ned Davis Research (CNBC)
Everyone Is Bearish But No-One Is Short (ZH)
Senior Tory Vultures Circle With May On Brink (Ind.)
EU’s Top Court Says UK Can Unilaterally Stop Brexit (R.)
UK Government Funds Secret Anti-Corbyn, Labour Unit (DR)
Comey: FBI Never Verified Steele Dossier Used To Justify Special Counsel (ZH)
Russian Stealth Jets To Be Armed With New Hypersonic Missiles (ZH)
Medical Researchers Still Routinely Hiding Funding From Big Pharma (RT)
Italian Priests Vow To Open Church Doors To Evicted Immigrants (G.)
Why Greeks Traditionally Decorate a Boat Instead of a Christmas Tree (GR)
The Antidote To Civilisational Collapse (Adam Curtis)

 

 

Right. Questions: How much of the $32 trillion was made doing things that increased emissions? How much of it is presently invested in polluting companies? And how much are the investors prepared to lose in order to comply with whatever it takes to lower emissions?

To put it simply: these people are talking their books. They got rich by polluting. They intend to get even richer by going green.

If you’re serious about the topic, don’t join them.

Investors Managing $32 Trillion In Assets Call For Climate Change Action (R.)

Global investors managing $32 trillion in assets have called on governments to accelerate steps to combat climate change, as policymakers meet for talks at a United Nations conference in Poland. A total of 415 investors from across the world including UBS Asset Management and Aberdeen Standard Investments signed the 2018 Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change demanding urgent action. “The global shift to clean energy is underway, but much more needs to be done by governments to accelerate the low carbon transition and to improve the resilience of our economy, society and the financial system to climate risks,” the statement said.

The intervention is the single largest on the topic to date, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change said, as talks continue in the Polish city of Katowice to agree how to slow global warming to below 2ºC. That goal was agreed at a 2015 meeting in Paris, but investors said national governments were being too slow in enacting the policies needed to help the world transition to a low-carbon economy. Failure to act could lead to permanent economic damage three or four times the scale of the impact of the financial crisis, British asset manager Schroders said.

As well as ramping up the involvement of the private sector, governments needed to commit to improving climate-related financial reporting, a move that would help investors better assess the risk and allocate capital to the right companies. “The reality is that the long-term nature of the challenge has, in our view, met a zombie-like response by many,” said Chris Newton, Executive Director Responsible Investment, IFM Investors. “This is a recipe for disaster as the impacts of climate change can be sudden, severe and catastrophic.”

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If these activist shareholders succeed, the value of their shares will plunge. That’s why in an earlier vote at Shell, 94% of shareholders votied against and 5% abstained. That reduces this to window dressing.

BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil Face Shareholder Challenge Over Carbon Targets (G.)

BP, Chevron and ExxonMobil face a shareholder challenge to set carbon targets in line with the Paris climate agreement, as a green group seeks to repeat its success in pressuring Shell to set environmental benchmarks. When Shell’s chief executive, Ben van Beurden, laid out an ambitious long-term carbon target last year, he acknowledged the role played by a resolution on carbon targets submitted by Dutch activist shareholders Follow This. Follow This is hoping to use investor power to push other major oil and gas firms into setting similar goals. The organisation has bought shares in several major fossil fuel groups and has submitted two resolutions to the European firms BP and Shell. It will file identical resolutions with the US companies Chevron and ExxonMobil later this week if other parties do not submit a similar demand.

Investors at the firms’ annual general meetings next year will be asked to vote in favour of them publishing climate change targets in alignment with the international goal of keeping the rise in global temperatures well below 2C. Mark van Baal, the founder of Follow This, said: “Targets should be on the agenda of every oil company, given that the oil industry can make or break the Paris climate agreement.” The group has little chance of winning by persuading a majority of the four companies’ shareholders to back the resolution but it believes the tactic can put public and investor pressure on firms. Although backed by the Church of England and major pension funds, the resolution filed for Shell’s AGM on carbon targets failed in 2017, with 94% of shareholders voting against and 5% abstaining.

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New Davis have no idea how big the fall will be, no more than you or I. And besides, they think that by spring, “the pain will be largely behind the Street”.

Bear Market Is Here, Stocks To Plunge At Least 20% – Ned Davis Research (CNBC)

The wild trading that’s gripped Wall Street may be no ordinary correction. According to Ned Davis Research’s Ed Clissold, a bear market is officially here. “If you take this as a typical bear market, not associated with a recession, it’s going to take you down around 20% — maybe a little bit more,” the firm’s chief U.S. market strategist told CNBC’s “Futures Now” last week. “That’s what we need to be thinking about over the next several months.” A bear market is defined as an environment when overwhelming pessimism sparks a 20% drop or more from recent highs. In this case, it would wipe out 588 points from the S&P 500’s all-time high of 2940.91 hit on Sept. 21. The index closed Friday in correction territory at 2,633.08. That’s down 10% from the high and 4.6% for the week.

Originally, Clissold called for a bear market to hit Wall Street in 2019, due to jitters over interest rate hike risks, U.S.-China trade tensions and slowing growth in earnings and the economy. However, he decided to move up his forecast due to “severe” technical damage from the October correction. Now, it appears the market may soon get hit with another batch of discouraging news. “Earnings growth is becoming a front-burner issue. Everybody expected it to slow down next year because we don’t have the benefit of tax cuts. But the slowdown is probably going to be more than expected,” said Clissold. [..] He may be predicting a deep pullback, but he does not see any signs of a recession. By spring, Clissold said, the pain will be largely behind the Street.

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Everyone still relies on central banks.

Everyone Is Bearish But No-One Is Short (ZH)

In the past two months we have written extensively on how most market participants got caught offside by the dramatic reversion in risk assets, and which after several attempts at bottom-fishing – attempts which have failed because as Morgan Stanley first noted two months ago the Buy The Dip trade no longer works…

… increasingly more traders have thrown in the towel, resulting in YTD returns which are truly “historic” with not one single asset generating positive returns for the first time since the Nixon presidency.

Well, that’s not exactly right: one asset is outperforming – the one which usually does best just as the economy slides into a recession or worse: cash. As Bank of America notes, the YTD score for the top global assets is the following: • equities -4.2%, • bonds -2.3%, • commodities -6.2%, • cash 1.7%, • US$ 4.9%.

Drilling down reveals an even uglier picture: the 2018 bear market has spared nobody with US Treasuries down -4.9%, the 5th largest loss since 1970, US IG bonds -3.3%, their 4th largest loss since 1970, meanwhile 1881 of 2767 global stocks are in a bear market, down more than 20%, 86 of 94 equity indices underwater, and the cherry on top – the FAANG bull market “leader” is down -26% from highs, which according to BofA’s Michael Hartnett is “a big nasty bear market.” The result, per Bank of America, is that “capitulation to lower credit & equity allocations begins but from high allocations to risk assets.” That’s the good news: the bad news is that even as investors are bailing out of risk assets, they are also dumping safe havens like treasuries, and in the last week we saw broad based risk-off flows, including $5.2BN outflow from equities, and $8.1BN outflow from bonds this week

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By the day, it becomes more like one of those Shakespeare plays with gossiping and backstabbing and all that. Love it.

Senior Tory Vultures Circle With May On Brink (Ind.)

Theresa May is set for the bleakest week of her time in power after leadership rivals publicly positioned themselves to grab the Tory crown if her Brexit plans collapse. Ex-cabinet ministers Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and Esther McVey all signalled a willingness to bid for the leadership amid speculation that Ms May faces a heavy defeat in the crunch Commons vote on her proposed Brexit deal. More resignations were expected from the front bench in the run-up to the vote, with government insiders indicating it could still be delayed. If she survives the first half of the week, Ms May is expected to head to Brussels where she will implore the EU to offer a concession on the hated “Irish backstop” so that she can try to sell the deal to Tory rebels one last time.

The prime minister spoke to president of the European Council Donald Tusk on Sunday, who said afterwards that it would be “an important week for the fate of Brexit”. In London thousands of protestors waving union jacks joined a “Brexit betrayal” march sponsored by Ukip and addressed by far-right activist Tommy Robinson, while even more were said to have turned up to an anti-fascist counter-march. The febrile atmosphere as the week starts is only set to intensify as MPs return to Westminster on Monday, with talk of Conservative plots and leadership challenges filling the air. One Tory backbencher told The Independent: “No one knows if the prime minister is still going to be in Downing Street at the end of the week.

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Ha ha! Don’t forget to say thank you to the EU for your freedoms, Brits! Rumor has it May’s Plan B will include a second vote that does not have a Remain option.

EU’s Top Court Says UK Can Unilaterally Stop Brexit (R.)

The European Union’s top court ruled on Monday that the United Kingdom can unilaterally revoke its divorce notice, raising the hopes of pro-Europeans ahead of a crucial vote in the British parliament on Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal. Just 36 hours before British lawmakers vote on May’s deal, the Court of Justice said in an emergency judgement that London could revoke its Article 50 formal divorce notice with no penalty. May’s government says the ruling means nothing because it has no intention of reversing its decision to leave the EU on March 29. But critics of her deal say it provides options — either to delay Brexit and renegotiate terms of withdrawal, or cancel it altogether if British voters change their minds. “The United Kingdom is free to revoke unilaterally the notification of its intention to withdraw from the EU,” the court said.

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Surprised? Don’t be.

UK Government Funds Secret Anti-Corbyn, Labour Unit (DR)

A secret UK Government-funded infowars unit based in Scotland sent out social media posts attacking Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. On the surface, the cryptically named Institute for Statecraft is a small charity operating from an old Victorian mill in Fife. But explosive leaked documents passed to the Sunday Mail reveal the organisation’s Integrity Initiative is funded with £2million of Foreign Office cash and run by military intelligence specialists. The “think tank” is supposed to counter Russian online propaganda by forming “clusters” of friendly journalists and “key influencers” throughout Europe who use social media to hit back against disinformation.

But our investigation has found worrying evidence the shadowy programme’s official Twitter account has been used to attack Corbyn, the Labour Party and their officials. [..] David Miller, a professor of political sociology in the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, added: “It’s extraordinary that the Foreign Office would be funding a Scottish charity to counter Russian propaganda which ends up attacking Her Majesty’s opposition and soft-pedalling far-right politicians in the Ukraine. “People have a right to know how the Government are spending their money, and the views being promoted in their name.”

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That’s not legal, is it?

Comey: FBI Never Verified Steele Dossier Used To Justify Special Counsel (ZH)

Former FBI Director James Comey didn’t know a lot during Friday’s congressional testimony – claiming hundreds of times (245 according to Trump) that he simply couldn’t remember various things. What Comey did remember, however, confirms that the FBI could not verify the dossier submitted by former UK spy Christopher Steele – which the agency used as the foundation of a spy warrant application to surveil the Trump campaign. While Comey said the dossier came from “a reliable source with a track record, and it’s an important thing when you’re seeking a PC warrant,” he also admitted that the FBI was unable to corroborate the document’s claims.

“But what I understand by verified is we then try to replicate the source information so that it becomes FBI investigation and our conclusions rather than a reliable source’s,” Comey said, adding “That’s what I understand it, the difference to be. And that work wasn’t completed by the time I left in May of 2017, to my knowledge.” The FBI is required to fully vet information they submit to FISA courts, which they of course did not do in their haste to deploy a counterintelligence dragnet on the Trump campaign during the final months of the 2016 US election. Steele, meanwhile, was fired by the FBI for leaking information to the press while the agency was using him as a source. To get around this, the FBI went through former #4 DOJ official Bruce Ohr – who was demoted twice for lying about his contacts with Steele.

Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for the embattled research firm Fusion GPS on the Trump dossier. Fusion GPS hired Steele as part of their ongoing effort to investigate the Trump campaign and any ties with Russia. It was discovered in 2017 that Fusion GPS was being paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the campaign’s law firm Perkins Coie to investigate any alleged ties between Trump and Russia. More importantly, the FBI used information from Steele, a foreign source who was openly antagonistic about Trump. In fact, Ohr told FBI officials that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,” as stated in the House Intelligence Committee investigation memo. -Sara Carter

Comey’s confirmation echoes comments made in a string of emails quietly requested by House Republicans for declassification – as reported last week by The Hill’s John Solomon. The emails – kept from Congressional investigators for over two years, “included then-FBI Director James Comey, key FBI investigators in the Russia probe and lawyers in the DOJ’s national security division,” according to the report – and took place in early to mid-October of 2016, prior to the FBI successfully securing a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

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In a worst case scenario, the US will use this as a reason to attack now, before Americans figure out they can’t win.

Russian Stealth Jets To Be Armed With New Hypersonic Missiles (ZH)

The advanced Sukhoi Su-57 multipurpose jet, Russia’s first domestically produced fifth-generation stealth fighter, will be armed with new hypersonic missiles, according to a Russian military source. “In accordance with Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027, Su-57 jet fighters will be equipped with hypersonic missiles,” a Russian defense industry source toldTASS news agency on December 06. “The jet fighters will receive missiles with characteristics similar to that of the Kinzhal missiles, but with inter-body placement and smaller size,” the source added. Moscow said the new Kinzhal (“Dagger”), a nuclear-capable air-launched ballistic missile, can hit speeds of up to Mach 10 and can perform evasive maneuvers that can render NATO’s US-led missile defense system completely “useless.”

The missile can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads with a range of about 1,200 miles. The new hypersonic missile will be much smaller than the current Kinzhal; this is due to size constraints of fitting the weapon inside the stealth aircraft’s weapons bay. The alternative would be mounting the missile on the outside of the plane, but that would increase the jet’s radar signature. No details within the report explain about a timetable for the development or the planned specifications for the new missiles. The Defense Ministry would neither confirm nor deny the information. The Kinzhal missile is currently being tested in field training exercises.

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The US needs to clean up its pharma, along with the entire healthcare system.

Medical Researchers Still Routinely Hiding Funding From Big Pharma (RT)

A huge proportion of scientists and doctors publishing in major medical magazines continue to conceal ties to corporations relevant to their research, while punishment for not declaring interests remains weak, says a new report. “The system is broken,” Mehraneh Dorna Jafari, assistant professor of surgery at the University of California, Irvine, told the New York Times and ProPublica, an investigative journalism non-profit. Jafari was one of the authors of a landmark study published back in August that took the names of the 100 doctors receiving the most funding from medical equipment and drug manufacturers, and then studied whether they declared a potential conflict of interest in their published research. Only 37 did.

For example, Dr. Howard A. Burris III, has been elected as the president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) that includes 40,000 members, and can make influential recommendations on cancer drugs worth tens of billions of dollars. Companies where Burris is an employee have been paid $114,000 in speaking fees, and $8 million in research funding by private corporations. Yet in none of his last 50 articles did the man, whose bio boasts that he “was selected by his peers as a ‘Giant of Cancer Care’ for his achievements in drug development,” think it was necessary to declare any potential biases resulting from corporate involvement.

In the latest investigation, the Times and ProPublica revealed that Dr. Robert J. Alpern, the dean of the Yale School of Medicine, writing about an experimental kidney disease drug failed to state that he was on the board of the company producing it. When journalists approached the publisher of the article, the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, its editor discovered that all 12 authors of the article in question had interests they failed to declare.

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Really? Salvini is about to take on the Pope?

Italian Priests Vow To Open Church Doors To Evicted Immigrants (G.)

Italian priests have declared their willingness to “open the church doors of every single parish” to people expelled from reception centres as an anti-immigration law from Italy’s rightwing government threatens to make thousands homeless. The so-called “Salvini decree” – named after Matteo Salvini, the interior minister and leader of the far-right League – left hundreds in legal limbo when its removal of humanitarian protection for those not eligible for refugee status but otherwise unable to return home was applied by several Italian cities soon after its approval by parliament earlier this month. The Catholic church expressed its profound disapproval immediately after the vote.

The Vatican’s position is “very clear”, its secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said last week. “You don’t leave migrants in the street … A profound sense of solidarity must prevail. You cannot put people in this position. You must always focus on people and their rights.” According to Italy’s ministry of the interior, between 2016 and 2017 Italy provided humanitarian protection to 39,145 asylum seekers, who under the Salvini decree risk being made homeless within weeks. In early December, a letter announcing the expulsion of 50 people was sent to the reception centre in Mineo, Sicily: the largest in Europe after the Moria camp in Greece.

The bishop of Caltagirone, Monsignor Calogero Peri, said he was prepared to provide 40 beds in nearby facilities owned by the church to welcome people who risk expulsion. “And if there are not enough beds? I have already spoken with other bishops: we will open the church doors of every single parish under our control,” he said. “It’s not a question of politics. It’s a matter of protecting individuals. Imagine this: in Italy now it is a crime to abandon dogs, but it is not a crime to abandon people. Even worse, abandoning men, women and children is now the law.”

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A little nothing news. But cute.

Why Greeks Traditionally Decorate a Boat Instead of a Christmas Tree (GR)

The most traditional symbol you will find in Greece during the holidays is a small boat decorated with lights, usually placed in the main square of a town and close to the more international Christmas tree. To karavaki, or small boat is rooted in the traditions of a country with a symbiotic relationship with the sea. In fact on the many Greek islands the Christmas boats remain the most popular ornament of the holiday season. Different legends explain the tradition of the Christmas Greek boat. One of them is related to Saint Nicholas (Agios Nikolaos), the Patron Saint of Sailors. This saint is celebrated on December 6, the day when many households start decorating their houses for Christmas. Some agree that this is why boats are decorated, in order to honor the saint.

It’s also true that Greece is proud of the large amount of sailors, fishermen and intrepid captains the country has, which makes them as a symbol of local identity. Men would often be away for months at a time, and those back home would be anxiously waiting for their return. On the islands, the wives, mothers, and daughters of seaman used to spend the cold and dark winter months with their heart and mind at sea. There, their men were battling the stormy seas during the holiday season. These were months of expectation, hope, and prayer for their safe return. The joy of seeing the boats coming back, approaching the shores, made the women celebrate in relief. The boat is a symbol to honor those brave men coming back home.

The tradition wanted the small wooden boats placed inside close to the fireplace and pointing towards the center of the house, never towards the door. They were also lovingly decorated to give a warm welcome to the men of the household. Even kids prepared their own boats with paper and chips of wood, and on Christmas Eve, they used these little boats to collect the treats they had received when singing the carols (kalanda) from house to house.

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Don’t miss the fantastic Adam Curtis. He knows more about what makes our world go round than just about anyone. Watch his docs, all of them.

The Antidote To Civilisational Collapse (Adam Curtis)

Adam Curtis: “HyperNormalisation” is a word that was coined by a brilliant Russian historian who was writing about what it was like to live in the last years of the Soviet Union. What he said, which I thought was absolutely fascinating, was that in the 80s everyone from the top to the bottom of Soviet society knew that it wasn’t working, knew that it was corrupt, knew that the bosses were looting the system, knew that the politicians had no alternative vision. And they knew that the bosses knew they knew that. Everyone knew it was fake, but because no one had any alternative vision for a different kind of society, they just accepted this sense of total fakeness as normal. And this historian, Alexei Yurchak, coined the phrase “HyperNormalisation” to describe that feeling.

I thought “that’s a brilliant title” because, although we are not in any way really like the Soviet Union, there is a similar feeling in our present day. Everyone in my country and in America and throughout Europe knows that the system that they are living under isn’t working as it is supposed to; that there is a lot of corruption at the top. But whenever the journalists point it out, everyone goes “Wow that’s terrible!” and then nothing happens and the system remains the same. There is a sense of everything being slightly unreal; that you fight a war that seems to cost you nothing and it has no consequences at home; that money seems to grow on trees; that goods come from China and don’t seem to cost you anything; that phones make you feel liberated but that maybe they’re manipulating you but you’re not quite sure. It’s all slightly odd and slightly corrupt.

[..] No one is really sure what Trump represents. My working theory is that he’s part of the pantomime-isation of politics. Every morning Donald Trump wakes up in the White House, he tweets something absolutely outrageous which he knows the liberals will get upset by, the liberals read his tweets and go “This is terrible, this is outrageous,” and then tell each other via social media how terrible it all is. It becomes a feedback loop in which they are locked together. In my mind, it’s like they’re together in a theatre watching a pantomime villain. The pantomime villain comes forward into the light, looks at them and says something terrible, and they go “Boo!!”. Meanwhile, outside the theatre, real power is carrying on but no one is really analysing it.

This is the problem with a lot of journalism, especially liberal journalism at the moment. It’s locked together with those people in the theatre. If you look at the New York Times, for example, it’s continually about that feedback loop between what Trump has said and the reaction of liberal elements in the society. It’s led to a great narrowing of journalism. So in a way, he is part of the hypernormal situation because it’s a politics of pantomime locked together with its critics. [..] ..It’s not a conspiracy. It’s a distraction from what’s really happening in the world. I would argue that there is a sense—in a lot of liberal journalism—of unreality. They’re locked into describing the pantomime politics and they’re not looking to what Mr Michael Pence is really up to, and what’s really happening outside the theatre.

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May 232018
 


Brassaï Couple on a bench, Paris 1932

 

The End Is Nigh For The Biggest Tech Bubble Ever (CNBC)
ECB’s Negative Interest Rate Policy The Funniest Monetary Joke Ever (WS)
The Italian Crisis Is Far From Over (ZH)
Turkish Lira Hits Record Low, Down 20% Against Dollar This Year (R.)
American Women’s $1 Trillion Burden (MW)
22% Of Americans Can’t Pay Bills; 41% Have Less Than $400 In Cash (ZH)
French Unemployment Rises To 9.2% In First Quarter (MW)
EU Rejects May’s Plan For Northern Ireland Border (Ind.)
Nationwide’s UK Mortgage Lending Slumps By A Third (G.)
House Votes To Ease Bank Rules And Send Bill To Trump’s Desk (CNBC)
How Russia and China Gained a Strategic Advantage in Hypersonic Technology
Former Trump Adviser Makes Claim About A Second Informant (DC)
Illegal Online Sales Of Endangered Wildlife Rife In Europe (G.)
Landmark Lawsuit Claims Monsanto Hid Roundup Cancer Danger For Decades (G.)

 

 

Unicorns as defined by venture capitalist Aileen Lee back in 2013: Privately-held startups valued at $1 billion or more.

The End Is Nigh For The Biggest Tech Bubble Ever (CNBC)

In case you missed it, the peak in the tech unicorn bubble already has been reached. And it’s going to be all downhill from here. Massive losses are coming in venture capital-funded start-ups that are, in some cases, as much as 50% overvalued. The age of the unicorn likely peaked a few years ago. In 2014 there were 42 new unicorns in the United States; in 2015 there were 43. The unicorn market hasn’t reached that number again. In 2017, 33 new U.S. companies achieved unicorn status from a total of 53 globally. This year there have been 11 new unicorns, according to PitchBook data as of May 15, but these numbers tend to move around, and I believe the 279 unicorns recorded globally in late February by TechCrunch was the peak, where the start-up bubble was stretched to its limit.

A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that, on average, unicorns are roughly 50% overvalued. The research, conducted by Will Gornall at the University of British Columbia and Ilya Strebulaev of Stanford, examined 135 unicorns. Of those 135, the researchers estimate that nearly half, or 65, should be more fairly valued at less than $1 billion. In 1999 the average life of a tech company before it went public was four years. Today it is 11 years. The new dynamic is the increased amount of private capital available to unicorns. Investors new to the VC game, including hedge funds and mutual funds, came in when the Jobs Act started to get rid of investor protections in 2012, because there were fewer IPOs occurring.

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The US Treasury two-year yield is 2.57% over 10 times higher than the Italian. Go Draghi!

ECB’s Negative Interest Rate Policy The Funniest Monetary Joke Ever (WS)

The distortions in the European bond markets are actually quite hilarious, when you think about them, and it’s hard to keep a straight face. “Italian assets were pummeled again on mounting concern over the populist coalition’s fiscal plans, with the moves rippling across European debt markets,” Bloomberg wrote this morning, also trying hard to keep a straight face. As Italian bonds took a hit, “bond yields climbed to the highest levels in almost three years, while the premium to cover a default in the nation’s debt was the stiffest since October,” it said. “Investors fret the anti-establishment parties’ proposal to issue short-term credit notes – so-called ‘mini-BOTs’ – will lead to increased borrowing in what is already one of Europe’s most indebted economies.”

This comes on top of a proposal by the new coalition last week that the ECB should forgive and forget €250 billion in Italian bonds that it had foolishly bought. The proposals by a government for a debt write-off, and the issuance of short-term credit notes as a sort of alternate currency are hallmarks of a looming default and should cause Italian yields to spike into the stratosphere, or at least into the double digits. And so Italian government bonds fell, and the yield spiked today, adding to the prior four days of spiking. But wait…Five trading days ago, the Italian two-year yield was still negative -0.12%. In other words, investors were still paying the Italian government – whose new players are contemplating a form of default – for the privilege of lending it money.

And now, the two-year yield has spiked to a positive but still minuscule 0.247% at the moment. By comparison, the US Treasury two-year yield is 2.57% over 10 times higher! [..] This is an over-indebted government that doesn’t control its own currency and cannot print itself out of trouble and whose new leadership – made up of the coalition of the Five Star Movement on the left and the League on the right – is proposing a haircut for its creditors to make the debt burden easier, and is also proposing the issuance of an alternate currency to give it more money to spend, even as it also promises to crank up government deficit spending and cut taxes too.

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“As parallel currencies and debt-cancellation become serious discussion points for an Italian government, so European break-up risk is resurging.”

The Italian Crisis Is Far From Over (ZH)

The Italian crisis is far from over and the concept of their ‘mini-BoT’ parallel currency is throwing up some very red flags about the future of the European Union… You just have to know where to look. As Bloomberg’s Tasos Vossos notes, a gauge of euro re-denomination risk (based on the so-called ‘ISDA Basis’ in Italy’s credit default swaps) blew out. What’s more, redenomination risks are spreading as the measure widened in Portugal, Spain, and in France to a lesser extent, according to CMAN data. As parallel currencies and debt-cancellation become serious discussion points for an Italian government, so European break-up risk is resurging.

Simply put, the higher this chart goes, the lower the market ‘values’ an Italian Euro relative to say a German Euro… and thus it is measuring the risk that the European Union – so long defended by Draghi et al. as indestructible – will break up. As Marcello Minenna, head of Quantitative Analysis and Financial Innovation at Consob – the Italian securities regulator, previously noted, “markets do not lie… Italy must avoid remaining with short end of the stick. I wonder if our leadership will rise to the challenge.”

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Erdogan wants lower rates, but if this goes on, he’ll end up with the opposite.

Turkish Lira Hits Record Low, Down 20% Against Dollar This Year (R.)

The Turkish lira weakened sharply against the dollar on Wednesday, bringing its losses to some 20% this year, as investors pushed it to fresh record lows on growing concern about President Tayyip Erdogan’s influence on monetary policy. At 0724 GMT, the lira stood at 4.7642 against the U.S. currency, paring its losses after touching an all-time low of 4.8450 in Asian trade overnight. It has lost as much as 21% of its value since the start of the year. The lira also fell sharply against the Japanese yen, amid talk of Japanese retail investors selling the lira as stop-loss levels were hit.

“The lira fall is now on the agenda of world markets and some are saying there is an increased risk of contagion in other emerging markets from the Turkey risk,” said GCM Securities analyst Enver Erkan. “The necessity of the Turkish central bank taking a significant step is increasing,” he said. A self-described “enemy of interest rates”, Erdogan wants borrowing costs lowered to spur credit growth and construction and said last week he would seek greater control over monetary policy after elections set for June 24.

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Almost twice as much as men. And then they get paid less at the jobs they find.

American Women’s $1 Trillion Burden (MW)

Student debt is on its way to becoming a universally American problem, but there’s more evidence to indicate that it’s a particularly acute challenge for women. The gap between the amount of debt shouldered by male and female graduates has nearly doubled in the past four years, according to a report released Monday by the American Association for University Women. On average, female bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with $2,700 more in debt in 2016 than their male counterparts. That’s up from about a $1,400 gap in 2012. If trends continue on their current trajectory, Kevin Miller, a senior researcher at AAUW and the author of the report, estimates that the outstanding student debt held by women alone could reach $1 trillion over the next year.

If the ratio of debt owed by women versus men stays the same, then men hold about $550 billion at that time. “We’ll be keeping a watch on it,” he said. The data adds to the growing body of evidence — much of which has been published by AAUW — that student debt is a women’s issue. Although they make up just 56% of American college students, women hold nearly two-thirds of America’s outstanding student debt, or about $890 billion, and take longer to pay it off. There are a variety of reasons why this is the case, according to Miller.

For one, women typically have to rely more on loans to finance college because they earn less from their work before they enter college (if they have a job before they start) and while they’re in school. And once women graduate college, the gender pay gap continues to play a role. Women working full-time with college degrees earn 26% less than their male colleagues, according to AAUW, delaying their efforts to repay their loans.

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Small part of a large survey.

22% Of Americans Can’t Pay Bills; 41% Have Less Than $400 In Cash (ZH)

Almost nine years into an economic recovery, 41% of adults in 2017 are unable to afford an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing money or selling something, down from 44% last year. When faced with a hypothetical expense of only $400, 59% of adults in 2017 say they could easily cover it, using entirely cash, savings, or a credit card paid off at the next statement (referred to, altogether, as “cash or its equivalent”). Even without an unexpected expense, the report reveals, 22% of adults expected to forgo payment on some of their bills in the month of the survey. “One-third of those who are not able to pay all their bills say that their rent, mortgage, or utility bills will be left at least partially unpaid.” Altogether, one-third of adults are either unable to pay their bills or are one modest financial setback away from financial hardship, slightly less than in 2016 (35%).

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Protests against Macron are becoming massive.

French Unemployment Rises To 9.2% In First Quarter (MW)

French unemployment rose in the first quarter of the year, the latest indication that the surging eurozone recovery of 2017 is losing momentum in 2018. The unemployment rate in France–the eurozone’s second-largest economy–rose to 9.2% in the first quarter from 9% at the end of 2017, national statistics agency Insee said Wednesday. The deterioration in French unemployment comes as economic growth slowed abruptly in the first quarter of the year after a sharp acceleration at the end of 2017.

The soft economic data and lower business confidence are adding to uncertainty over whether the eurozone is on the cusp of a broad slowdown or just catching its breath before resuming stronger growth. The French government has said unemployment remains in a downward trend despite fluctuations from one quarter to another. In the first quarter of 2017, unemployment stood at 9.6%. France’s statistics agency said Wednesday that increases in unemployment were particularly strong at the start of 2018 and youth unemployment remained above 20%. Long-term unemployment was unchanged in the first quarter from the end of 2017.

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Everybody knew this would happen. But May has nothing else.

EU Rejects May’s Plan For Northern Ireland Border (Ind.)

Brussels has rejected Theresa May’s new customs proposal less than 24 hours after the prime minister set it out in a bid to placate Brexiteers in her cabinet. European Commission officials told The Independent Ms May’s plan would be unacceptable and would go back on previous commitments made by British negotiators. A day earlier the prime minister had said the “backstop” plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland – which keeps Britain in alignment with the single market and customs union if no other agreement is reached – would be time limited. The move was an attempt to assuage Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson, who fear that it would become a backdoor way to keep Britain tied indefinitely to the EU through the customs union and single market.

The controversial fallback arrangements look increasingly likely to come into play, with no other plan for the Northern Ireland border in sight and Ms May’s cabinet deadlocked on what Britain’s future customs relationship with the EU should be. European Commission officials close to the talks told The Independent that British negotiators had already made written commitments for the backstop to apply “unless and until” another solution was found in Northern Ireland, and that there was no way it could be time limited. Facing a backlash over the plan from her pro-Brexit ministers, the prime minister sought to calm their fears, telling reporters on Monday: “If it is necessary, it will be in a very limited set of circumstances for a limited time.”

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They blame it on competition.

Nationwide’s UK Mortgage Lending Slumps By A Third (G.)

Nationwide has reported declining profits for the second year in a row, as net mortgage lending slumped by a third amid intense competition. The UK’s largest building society reported a 7.3% drop in statutory profits to £977m for the year to 4 April, down from £1.05bn the previous year. Profits include the £116m cost of buying back debt. Net mortgage lending fell from £8.8bn to £5.8bn, and Nationwide’s share of the market nearly halved, from 25.4% to 13.0%. Even so, it said it remained the UK’s second-biggest mortgage lender, behind Halifax. The Swindon-based mutual blamed fierce competition that forced it to lower mortgage rates, hurting profit margins, and said there was no sign of a let-up.

Mark Rennison, the Nationwide chief financial officer, said: “Our view is price competition will continue, which is good news for customers.” Nationwide has been hit by the end of the Bank of England’s term funding scheme, which was launched after the Brexit vote to provide cheap finance to enable banks to lend at lower interest rates. Rennison said competition had increased because the big five banks had returned to the market after ringfencing their high street banking operations from the riskier parts of their businesses.

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Two words: Glass-Steagall.

House Votes To Ease Bank Rules And Send Bill To Trump’s Desk (CNBC)

The House voted Tuesday to pass the biggest rollback of financial regulations since the global financial crisis. The margin was 258-159, with 33 Democrats supporting the legislation. The bill will now go to President Donald Trump’s desk. He is expected to sign it into law. The Senate already passed the legislation with bipartisan support. The bill makes good on Republican promises to cut red tape they say hurts businesses, but does not go nearly as far as some GOP lawmakers had hoped. It also appeases some Democrats who argue financial rules passed following the financial meltdown unnecessarily hamstrung small and mid-sized lenders.

The measure eases restrictions on all but the largest banks. It raises the threshold to $250 billion from $50 billion under which banks are deemed too important to the financial system to fail. Those institutions also would not have to undergo stress tests or submit so-called living wills, both safety valves designed to plan for financial disaster. It eases mortgage loan data reporting requirements for the overwhelming majority of banks. It would add some safeguards for student loan borrowers and also require credit reporting companies to provide free credit monitoring services.

Republicans have argued the post-crisis regulations held down lending and economic growth. On Tuesday ahead of the vote, House Speaker Paul Ryan promoted the bill as a boon for community banks — though it boosts medium-sized and regional institutions, as well. “This is a bill for the small banks that are the financial anchors of our communities. … It addresses some of Dodd Frank’s biggest burdens to ease the regulatory costs on these small banks — costs which are ultimately transferred on to consumers,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

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It makes wars useless.

How Russia and China Gained a Strategic Advantage in Hypersonic Technology

The development of hypersonic weapons has been part of the military doctrine that China and Russia have been developing for quite some time, driven by various motivations. For one thing, it is a means of achieving strategic parity with the United States without having to match Washington’s unparallelled spending power. The amount of military hardware possessed by the United States cannot be matched by any other armed force, an obvious result of decades of military expenditure estimated to be in the range of five to 15 times that of its nearest competitors. For these reasons, the US Navy is able to deploy ten carrier groups, hundreds of aircraft, and engage in thousands of weapon-development programs.

Over a number of decades, the US war machine has seen its direct adversaries literally vanish, firstly following the Second World War, and then following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This led in the 1990s to shift in focus from one opposing peer competitors to one dealing with smaller and less sophisticated opponents (Yugoslavia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, international terrorism). Accordingly, less funds were devoted to research in cutting-edge technology for new weapons systems in light of these changed circumstances. This strategic decision obliged the US military-industrial complex to slow down advanced research and to concentrate more on large-scale sales of new versions of aircraft, tanks, submarines and ships.

With exorbitant costs and projects lasting up to two decades, this led to systems that were already outdated by the time they rolled off the production lines. All these problems had little visibility until 2014, when the concept of great-power competition returned with a vengeance, and with it the need for the US to compare its level of firepower with that of its peer competitors. Forced by circumstances to pursue a different path, China and Russia begun a rationalization of their armed forces from the end of the 1990s, focusing on those areas that would best allow them the ability to defend against the United States’ overwhelming military power.

[..] After sealing the skies and achieving a robust nuclear-strategic parity with the United States, Moscow and Beijing begun to focus their attention on the US anti-ballistic-missile (ABM) systems placed along their borders, which also consist of the AEGIS system operated by US naval ships. As Putin warned, this posed an existential threat that compromised Russia and China’s second-strike capability in response to any American nuclear first strike, thereby disrupting the strategic balance inherent in the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD).

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This story will be getting bigger fast.

Former Trump Adviser Makes Claim About A Second Informant (DC)

Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo had much to tell on Monday night when he claimed on Fox News he was approached by a second government informant during his stint on President Donald Trump’s team. “Let me tell you something that I know for a fact,” Caputo said on “The Ingraham Angle” with host Laura Ingraham. “This informant, this person [who] they tried to plant into the campaign … he’s not the only person who came at the campaign. And the FBI is not the only Obama agency who came at the campaign.” “I know because they came at me. And I’m looking for clearance from my attorney to reveal this to the public. This is just the beginning.”

Stefan Halper, a Cambridge professor, has been identified as one FBI informant who approached campaign advisers Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis. Halper, a veteran of three Republican administrations, approached Page in July 2016 and maintained a relationship through September 2017. Halper approached Papadopoulos on Sept. 2, 2016, with an offer to fly him to London and pay $3,000 for a policy paper on energy issues. Papadopoulos accepted the offer and met Halper several times in London. Halper asked Papadopoulos whether he knew about Russian hacks of Democrats’ emails.

Caputo did not say why he believes he was contacted by a second government informant; he declined to offer additional details, saying he needed clearance from his attorney. He did say the encounter occurred prior to Halper’s outreach to Page. “When we finally find out the truth about this, Director Clapper and the rest of them will be wearing some orange suits,” Caputo said on, referring to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

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The horror. The horror.

Illegal Online Sales Of Endangered Wildlife Rife In Europe (G.)

The online sale of endangered and threatened wildlife is rife across Europe, a new investigation has revealed, ranging from live cheetahs, orangutans and bears to ivory, polar bear skins and many live reptiles and birds. Researchers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) spent six weeks tracking adverts on 100 online marketplaces in four countries, the UK, Germany, France and Russia. They found more than 5,000 adverts offering to sell almost 12,000 items, worth $4m (£3m) in total. All the specimens were species in which trade is restricted or banned by the global Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.

Wildlife groups have worked with online marketplaces including eBay, Gumtree and Preloved to cut the trade and the results of the survey are an improvement compared to a previous Ifaw report in 2014. In March, 21 technology giants including Google, eBay, Etsy, Facebook and Instagram became part of the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, and committed to bring the online illegal trade in threatened species down by 80% by 2020. “It is great to see we are making really significant inroads into disrupting and dismantling the trade,” said Tania McCrea-Steele at Ifaw. “But the scale of the trade is still enormous.”

Almost 20% of the adverts were for ivory and while the number had dropped significantly in the UK and France, a surge was seen in Germany, where traders developed new code words to mask their sales. “It is a war of attrition and we can never let our guard down,” said McCrea-Steele. The UK is implementing a stricter ban on ivory sales and the EU is under pressure from African nations to follow suit.

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Internal Monsanto communications indicate they knew all along.

Landmark Lawsuit Claims Monsanto Hid Roundup Cancer Danger For Decades (G.)

At the age of 46, DeWayne Johnson is not ready to die. But with cancer spread through most of his body, doctors say he probably has just months to live. Now Johnson, a husband and father of three in California, hopes to survive long enough to make Monsanto take the blame for his fate. On 18 June, Johnson will become the first person to take the globa; seed and chemical company to trial on allegations that it has spent decades hiding the cancer-causing dangers of its popular Roundup herbicide products – and his case has just received a major boost.

Last week Judge Curtis Karnow issued an order clearing the way for jurors to consider not just scientific evidence related to what caused Johnson’s cancer, but allegations that Monsanto suppressed evidence of the risks of its weed killing products. Karnow ruled that the trial will proceed and a jury would be allowed to consider possible punitive damages. “The internal correspondence noted by Johnson could support a jury finding that Monsanto has long been aware of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicides are carcinogenic … but has continuously sought to influence the scientific literature to prevent its internal concerns from reaching the public sphere and to bolster its defenses in products liability actions,” Karnow wrote.

“Thus there are triable issues of material fact.” Johnson’s case, filed in San Francisco county superior court in California, is at the forefront of a legal fight against Monsanto. Some 4,000 plaintiffs have sued Monsanto alleging exposure to Roundup caused them, or their loved ones, to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Another case is scheduled for trial in October, in Monsanto’s home town of St Louis, Missouri.

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May 142018
 


Brassaï Cat 1945

 

What’s happening to John McCain is tragic. It’s not something one should ever wish upon another human being. Nor is it decent, let alone useful, to wish that he would die. Wishing bad things upon someone because they did bad things is too close for comfort to what he himself did. But it’s good to remember that his brain tumor is not the most tragic part of McCain’s life on earth. And no, neither is his time as prisoner of war in Vietnam.

McCain’s main tragedy is that he didn’t learn the one lesson he should have learned about his time in Vietnam, and didn’t turn his back on warfare. Instead, he turned into the biggest and loudest pro-war campaigner in Washington for decades. Talk about a missed opportunity, a life wasted. If there was one person who was presented with the first-hand experience needed to turn against bloodshed, it was John McCain.

What’s more, during his time in the House and later the Senate, McCain completely missed out on a development that might yet have changed his mind. That is, wars became unwinnable. Something even that the US losing their war in Vietnam might have taught him. It entirely passed him by. McCain still never saw an opportunity to wage battle somewhere, anywhere on the planet, that he didn’t like.

That makes him a dinosaur and a fossil who should never have been allowed to remain in the Senate for as long as he did. At the age of 81, and after ‘serving’ for 35 years in Washington, it apparently becomes too difficult to see how the world outside changes, let alone to adapt to those changes. If you limit the time a president can serve, why not do the same for senators? Is it because those same senators would have to vote on that?

Moreover, if wars are unwinnable, but you incessantly call for new wars anyway, then regardless of moral issues about going to war in the first place, you have de facto become a threat to your own people and your own country that you purport to serve. Especially, and first of all, to the American soldiers you desire to send out there to fight those wars. But also a threat to the image of America around the globe.

 

When wars are unwinnable, there is no reason to fight them. Again, even apart from morals and ethics. You will have to find other ways to deal with ‘elements’ that feel and act less than friendly towards you. To find out what, it helps to realize that they understand it’s just as futile for them to attack you militarily as it is for you to attack them. It also helps to figure out why they are unfriendly.

What doesn’t help is to take yet another stab at Putin and say “Vladimir Putin is an evil man, and he is intent on evil deeds”, as McCain does in a forthcoming book. If that’s the best you can do, your best-by date has long since passed. That’s language fit for a 4-year old. And George W.

McCain’s father and grandfather were both 4-star US Navy admirals. Perhaps that partly explains his blindness to the evils of war, and the role the US has played in many conflicts, including -but certainly not limited to- Vietnam. It’s hard to imagine Apocalypse Now, Platoon or Full Metal Jacket being McCain’s favorite Hollywood classics.

And that is a bigger problem than it may seem. Because America has indeed been able to paint a vivid portrait for itself of why Vietnam was such an insane venture that should never have happened, and certainly not repeated. If your culture has the ability to put that in words and images, and as a nation you still don’t learn the lesson embedded in them, you’re pretty much lost.

Oh, and besides, you lost too, remember? You lost the war and the lives and limbs of tens of thousands of young Americans and over a million Vietnamese. To have been part of that and then turn around and strive to be Washington’s premier warmonger, that’s just totally bonkers. Or worse. Has McCain been promoting war all this time because he subconsciously wanted to redo Vietnam but this time not lose?

 

Unwinnable wars are bad news for the weapons industry. They will deny the existence of even such a concept as long and as strongly as they can. Because if you can’t win a war, why wage them? There will continue to be technological developments, but there’s no “throughput”. You can fire some missiles into some desert somewhere from time to time, and that’s it.

The military-industrial complex is happy only -because most profitable- if and when guns and missiles and jets constantly need to be replaced because they’ve been lost in a theater of war, along with young Americans. McCain knows this better than most. And he knows the captains of this complex, both the military side and the weapons producers. Far too well.

Being as beholden as it is to the arms makers and dealers, has made America lose whatever edge it once had militarily. In the US weapons are developed and sold to generate the largest profits possible; in Russia, they are developed to protect the country. This is largely why the American defense budget is 10 times larger than its Russian counterpart. All this happened on John McCain’s watch.

The entire narrative of “protecting and sharing our values” has become hollow propaganda. Because the US has engaged its military in more theaters of war and invasion than we can even keep track of anymore. The US armed forces don’t protect democracy or human rights around the world, they protect the financial interests of America’s elites, including the military-industrial complex. Does anyone believe John McCain doesn’t know this?

 

Unbeknownst to John McCain, the world has entered a whole new era. And this didn’t happen yesterday. Russia and China may have only recently announced new hypersonic missile technology, but it didn’t fall out of the sky. It does profoundly change things though. It ends all notions and dreams of American exceptionalism and unilateralism.

And America needs to learn that lesson. It will have to do it without John McCain. And it might as well, because McCain was incapable of changing, and of seeing the changes around him. But the American view of the world will have to change, because the world itself has.

Still, you’re right: the real tragedy is not that John McCain wasted his own life. It’s that he helped destroy so many others.