Oct 242022
 


Paul Gauguin A seashore 1887

 

Russia Says Kyiv Preparing False Flag “Dirty Bomb” Detonation In Ukraine (EWN)
Kiev Denies Moscow’s ‘Dirty Bomb’ Allegations (RT)
US Rejects Russia’s Allegations Of Kyiv’s Preparations To Use Dirty Bomb (Az)
Macron Calls For Peace On Ukraine’s Terms (RT)
‘Dancing On Edge Of Volcano’ With Ukraine – Sarkozy (RT)
Scholz and Von der Leyen Want A Marshall Plan For Ukraine (NOS)
101st Airborne Deployed to Ukraine’s Border ‘Ready To Fight Tonight’ (Antiwar)
Weaponized Governmental Failure: A Primer (McKay)
On Going Seriously Boom (Fred Reed)
Musk Blasts ‘Hypocritical’ WaPo
EU Displays ‘Height Of Hypocrisy’ – Russia (RT)
Germany Should Go Back To Buying Gas From Russia – Saxony PM (RT)
Energy Costs Will Bankrupt 90% Of English Schools (RT)
Blocking Judicial Review Of A Half-trillion Tuition Giveaway (Turley)
A Closer Look at the Covid Mortality Rate (Miller)
A Pulse Check Of Australia As We Exit The Pandemic (news.com.au)

 

 

A Russian source whose name escapes me right now.

 

 

Quadruple

 

 

 

 

Gonzalo

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shoigu has allegedly also held multiple calls with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. No details were revealed.

Russia Says Kyiv Preparing False Flag “Dirty Bomb” Detonation In Ukraine (EWN)

UPDATE 4.44 pm (October 23) – Russian state-controlled media outlet TASS has reported that Russia’s Defence Minister Shoigu spoke to Britain’s Ben Wallace about Kyiv’s plans to detonate a “dirty bomb” in Ukraine as a false flag operation to “increase anti-Russian rhetoric.” The Russian Defence Ministry told reporters on Sunday, October 23 revealed that Shoigu spoke to Wallace via a phone call to discuss the situation in Ukraine and discuss “possible dirty bomb provocations by the Ukrainian armed forces”. The ministry said: “On 23 October 2022, Russian Defence Minister Army General S.K. Shoigu and British Defence Minister B. Wallace. The situation in Ukraine was discussed. “Sergey Shoigu conveyed to his British counterpart his concerns about the possibility of provocations by Kyiv using a dirty bomb.” Earlier, it was reported by the state-owned media outlet RIA that the UK was also involved in the process with regard to “the possible transfer of nuclear weapon components to the Kyiv authorities.”

ORIGINAL 8.33 am (October 23) – According to “credible sources in various countries – including Ukraine”, Kyiv is reportedly preparing a false flag attack on Ukraine involving the detonation of a so-called “dirty bomb” or a low-yield nuclear weapon, as reported by RIA on Sunday, October 23. The source reportedly told the Russian news outlet that the “purpose of the provocation is to accuse Russia of using weapons of mass destruction in the Ukrainian theatre of war and thereby launch a powerful anti-Russian campaign in the world aimed at undermining Moscow’s credibility.” RIA also said that according to its information, the management of the Eastern Mining and Processing Combine, located in the city of Zheltiye Vody, Dnipropetrovsk Region, as well as the Kyiv Institute for Nuclear Research, have been instructed by top Ukrainian officials to produce the “dirty bomb”, which is believed to be in its final stages.

The news outlet said that the UK is also involved in the process with regard to “the possible transfer of nuclear weapon components to the Kyiv authorities.” It added that if the provocation succeeds then “most countries will react extremely harshly to the ‘nuclear incident’ in Ukraine and as a result, Moscow will lose the support of many of its key partners, while the West will once again try to raise the issue of stripping Russia of its permanent UN Security Council membership status and increase anti-Russian rhetoric.”

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Linking Russia to nukes is a popular pastime.

Kiev Denies Moscow’s ‘Dirty Bomb’ Allegations (RT)

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has denied Moscow’s allegations that Kiev was preparing a false-flag attack with the use of a “dirty bomb,” and has pointed the finger at Russia instead. Zelensky was commenting on what he called “a phone carousel” by the Russian Defense Minister: on Sunday, Sergey Shoigu shared with his French, Turkish and British colleagues his concern over “possible provocations by Ukraine using a ‘dirty bomb.’” Russian state news agency RIA Novosti earlier reported that the goal of such a provocation would be to accuse Moscow of using weapons of mass destruction in a ploy to “launch a powerful anti-Russia campaign”. In a video address on social media, Zelensky claimed that “wherever Russia has brought death and degradation,” Ukraine is “returning a normal life.”

“And there’s only one subject who can use nuclear weapons in our part of Europe, and this subject is the one who ordered comrade Shoigu to call somewhere,” the Ukrainian leader said. So-called “dirty bombs” use conventional explosives along with radioactive material. While it could not rival a nuclear warhead in terms of power, such a device could disperse a radiation cloud around a radius of several kilometers from its explosion. Zelensky expressed confidence that “everyone understands” who is “the source of everything dirty that can be imagined in this war” and called on the world to react “in the toughest possible way” when it comes to “another escalating step” by Russia.

Earlier on Sunday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba also commented on Moscow’s allegations, saying that “Russian lies” about a “dirty bomb” “are as absurd as they are dangerous.” “Firstly, Ukraine is a committed NPT (non-proliferation treaty) member: we neither have any ‘dirty bombs’ nor plan to acquire any. Secondly, Russians often accuse others of what they plan themselves,” the minister said. According to the British Defense Ministry’s readout of the conversation between its head, Ben Wallace, and his Russian counterpart Shoigu, the Russian minister “alleged that Ukraine was planning actions facilitated by Western countries, including the UK, to escalate the conflict in Ukraine.” Wallace “refuted these claims” and warned Shoigu that “such allegations should not be used as a pretext for greater escalation,” the ministry said.

Earlier, in an interview with Deutsche Welle, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that any use of nuclear weapons by Russia in Ukraine will lead to “severe consequences” for Moscow, but refused to reveal details on these. At the same time, he said that the risk of such a Russian attack remains low. Numerous Russian officials have been insisting that the country wasn’t threatening anybody with nukes and have pointed to Russia’s military doctrine, which states that nuclear weapons may only be used if such arms or other weapons of mass destruction are being deployed against the state, or if it is faced with an existential threat from conventional arms.

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Take a look at John McCain’s view of Blinken.

US Rejects Russia’s Allegations Of Kyiv’s Preparations To Use Dirty Bomb (Az)

US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba to reaffirm the United States’ steadfast support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “Secretary Blinken expressed to Foreign Minister Kuleba that the United States rejects Russian Defense Minister Shoygu’s transparently false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory and that the world would see through any attempt by Russia to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation,” Price said.

 

 

McCain ..”Not only unqualified but one of the worst […] Mr Blinken has been a foreign policy advisor to VP Biden since his days in the Senate [but] Mr Biden has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy issue”
https://twitter.com/i/status/1584250474131517440

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Translation: Macron wants the war to continue indefinitely.

Second translation: The loser takes it all.

Macron Calls For Peace On Ukraine’s Terms (RT)

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Sunday for a peace deal in Ukraine, but insisted that Kiev will dictate the terms of such an agreement. The Ukrainian government, however, has repeatedly ruled out any compromise with Moscow. Speaking at a peace conference organized by a Catholic charity in Rome, Macron said that while “calls for peace might seem…like a betrayal” of Ukraine, the “international community” will one day support a negotiated settlement between Kiev and Moscow, the Associated Press reported. However, peace cannot be “captured by Russian power,” Macron added. “We want the Ukrainian people to decide at a certain point…the moment and the terms of peace.” The French president has expressed this same sentiment already, declaring earlier this summer that “Ukraine will decide when the conditions are met to build peace.”

The leaders of the US, UK, and NATO have issued similarly-worded statements while continuing to bankroll and arm Ukraine’s military, and France, along with the other members of the G7, has pledged to maintain this support for “as long as it takes.” Ukraine’s terms, however, will likely preclude any settlement in the near future. President Vladimir Zelensky has pledged not to negotiate with Russia as long as Vladimr Putin remains in power, signing a decree earlier this month forbidding talks with the Russian president. Zelensky has also promised to seize the regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye, which acceded to membership of the Russian Federation following referendums last month. Additionally, the Ukrainian leader has vowed to capture Crimea, which joined Russia following a referendum in 2014.

Not only would an assault on these territories present a formidable military challenge for Zelensky’s forces, a full-scale attack on Russian land would invite Moscow to retaliate with “all the means available” to it, Putin cautioned in a recent speech. Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was more blunt when he warned Kiev in July that an attack on Crimea would trigger “Judgement Day” for Kiev. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has warned the UK, France, and other Western powers that it believes Ukraine is preparing to detonate a so-called “dirty bomb” in a bid to frame Russia and escalate the conflict to the point of NATO intervention. While British Defense Minister Ben Wallace refuted these claims and intimated that London’s support for Ukraine would continue, he said after the call that the UK “stands ready” to “de-escalate this conflict.”

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Sarkozy does a lot better than Macron.

‘Dancing On Edge Of Volcano’ With Ukraine – Sarkozy (RT)

It’s high time for the EU to abandon its emotionally driven policies on Ukraine and start talking about achieving peace, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy has suggested. In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche on Saturday, Sarkozy criticized Brussels for its involvement in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has included sweeping sanctions on Moscow, weapons deliveries to Kiev, and calls for a military solution to the crisis. “The European Commission is primarily an administrative body. Moreover, I still haven’t understood under which article of the European treaties [the body’s president Ursula] von der Leyen justifies her competence in the field of arms purchases and foreign policy,” he said.

“The only thing the Europeans are hearing now is more and more billions of euros being spent on the purchase of weapons. More weapons, more deaths, more war,” the 67-year-old politician added. The EU’s policy regarding the conflict in Ukraine is driven by “miscalculation, exaltation, anger, superficial reactions,” and because of this “we’re dancing at the edge of a volcano,” said Sarkozy, who was the president of France between 2007 and 2012. The bloc was right to condemn Russia and show solidarity with Ukraine, but it also needs to exercise “composure” and work to prevent the escalation of the conflict, he added. “It’s high time for serious initiatives to be taken to start talking about the future and peace.”

Sarkozy also criticized Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky for signing a decree earlier this month, which officially made it “impossible” for him to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Such a stance amounted to “demanding a regime change in Moscow,” the veteran politician pointed out. “I consider this to be a dangerous leap into the unknown, although it’s understandable that it’s difficult for the Ukrainian president to talk to Putin,” he said. Moscow, which has repeatedly invited Kiev to come to the negotiating table in recent months, has blamed the Ukrainian side for undermining any potential for a peaceful settlement of the crisis.

It has also repeatedly condemned the deliveries of weapons to Zelensky’s government by the US, EU, UK and some other countries, arguing that they won’t change the outcome of the conflict, but will prolong the fighting and increase the risk of a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO. Zelensky previously set out the only conditions under which negotiations with Russia would be possible: “They can return our territory back to us if they want negotiations. They must withdraw from our territory and leave us our land within the internationally recognized borders of 1991. And then we will say in what format and with whom we are ready to talk.”

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Google translate. I think this will be costed at $349 billion, the amount George Webb has been mentioning all along. He connects it to Kolomoisky, who is Zelensky’s puppeteer, and to an Israel pipeline.

Scholz and Von der Leyen Want A Marshall Plan For Ukraine (NOS)

Ukraine’s reconstruction requires a strategy similar to the Marshall Plan after World War II. That write the German Chancellor Scholz and President von der Leyen of the European Commission in an opinion piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. According to the two politicians, supporting Ukraine is also in the interest of the European Union. “Ukraine also defends the international rule-based order, the basis of our peaceful coexistence and well-being worldwide,” they write. “So if we support Ukraine, we are building our future and that of our common Europe.” Scholz and von der Leyen call rebuilding the Russian-invaded country a lengthy task that must begin now. “While one has to be careful with historical comparisons, this is nothing less than a Marshall Plan for the 21st century.”

With the Marshall Plan, European countries received money, goods, raw materials and foodstuffs from the United States between 1948 and 1952. This was done in the form of loans and gifts. It was an initiative of the then US Secretary of State Marshall of State. The timing of Scholz and Von der Leyen’s plea is not coincidental. A conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine begins today in Berlin, which includes representatives from German and Ukrainian business. The summit will be opened by Scholz and Ukrainian Prime Minister Shmyhal. On Friday, von der Leyen announced that the European Union wants to support Ukraine with 1.5 billion euros every month next year. EU finance ministers have yet to work out the details of that new aid.

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“The 101st has not deployed to Europe since the last world war. ”

101st Airborne Deployed to Ukraine’s Border ‘Ready To Fight Tonight’ (Antiwar)

The White House has deployed thousands of American soldiers just miles from Ukraine to prepare for war, according to CBS News. Officers speaking with the outlet revealed they were there for combat against Russia. Brigadier General John Lubas confirmed nearly 5,000 troops from the 101st Airborne recently joined the 100,000 American soldiers already deployed to Europe. Lubas described his troops as being on “full deployment,” and they are preparing to fight Russian soldiers in Ukraine. “This is not a training deployment, this is a combat deployment for us. We understand we need to be ready to fight tonight,” he said. CBS Reporter Charlie D’Agata was embedded with the American forces as they conducted military drills – at a forward operating base – within four miles of Ukraine’s border.

The 101st Airborne is engaged in joint exercises with Romanian forces, simulating Ukrainian soldiers’ combat against Russian troops. Colonel Edwin Matthaidess said his forces have been “closely watching” the Russian soldiers, “building objectives to practice against” and conducting war games that “replicate exactly what’s going on” in Ukraine. CBS News reported, “[Russia’s] goal is to cut off all Ukrainian access to the sea, leaving the country and its military forces landlocked.” CBS News did not provide a source for that assertion. The Kremlin has publicly said its war goal is limited to eastern Ukraine. Lubas declared the division was “ready to defend every inch of NATO soil.” However, Moscow has never threatened to invade a NATO country. Ukraine is not a NATO member.

When President Zelensky said Ukraine should be allowed into the North Atlantic alliance last month, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg rejected Kiev’s proposal. The 101st Airborne is a light infantry division. It carries the nickname the “Screaming Eagles” as the Pentagon utilizes the 101st as a force that can deploy around the world within hours. Lubas described his division as bringing a “unique capability, from our air assault capability… We’re a light infantry force, but again, we bring that mobility with us, for our aircraft and air assaults.” Romanian Major General Lulian Berdila told CBS News that the presence of American troops was reminiscent of WWII, “The real meaning for me, to have the American troops here, is like if you were to have allies in Normandy before any enemy was there.” The 101st has not deployed to Europe since the last world war.

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“Middle-class voters tend to choose to live in places where they can expect to get actual value out of their tax dollars..”

So you fail them on purpose.

Weaponized Governmental Failure: A Primer (McKay)

Let’s call it Weaponized Governmental Failure. It’s the single most explicative factor in the breakdown of American political consensus in the 21st century, even though it’s been around since the latter part of the 20th century. The simple definition of Weaponized Governmental Failure is this: it’s the deliberate refusal to perform the basic tasks of urban governance for a specific political purpose. The crime and the graft and the potholes and the bad drainage, not to mention the spotty trash collection or nonexistent snow shoveling, aren’t incompetence. In fact, none of what you see in the American public sector is incompetence. The people responsible for it are quite highly educated and well-trained in their craft. You just need to understand what their craft is. It’s a choice to do a poor job with the more mundane tasks of running a city, and an educated and purposeful choice at that.

If you do those things effectively, after all, what you will get is middle-class voters moving in. Middle-class voters tend to choose to live in places where they can expect to get actual value out of their tax dollars — good roads, safe streets, functional drainage, decent schools, a friendly business climate, and a growing economy, among other things — and those things are hard to produce when you govern the way the Left does. Put a different way, middle-class voters are a pain in the ass. They want lots of things that make for unrewarding grunt work for a mayor, and a Democrat blowhard like a Mitch Landrieu or Ted Wheeler of Portland would rather spend his time on vacuous cultural aggressions like “social change” and offering wealth redistribution and excuses for the bad personal habits that cause so many people to be poor.

Not to mention tilting at bronze statues of better men long dead and nearly forgotten as a means of “making a difference.” For a Landrieu, or a Kwame Kilpatrick, Marion Barry, Bill de Blasio, or Lori Lightfoot, it is no great loss if those middle-class voters declare themselves fed up and decamp to the suburbs. Their exodus simply makes for an electorate that is a lot less demanding and easier to control. That “white flight” is a feature. It’s not a bug. And it isn’t all that white either. Those suburbs the folks are leaving for? Their minority population share usually increases as their population does. Why do you think that is? Simple: the black middle class has no more use for these woke urban Democrats than the white middle class does. And it’s quite a mutual sentiment, to be sure.

The urban socialist Left wants a manageably small core of rich residents and a teeming mass of poor ones, and nothing in between. That’s what Weaponized Governmental Failure produces, and it’s a wide-scale success. New Orleans votes 90 percent Democrat. Philadelphia is 80 percent Democrat. Chicago is 85 percent. Los Angeles? Seventy-one percent. None of those cities will have a Republican mayor or city council again, or at least not in the foreseeable future.Because there are very few middle-class voters left in the cities.

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“What would happen in, say, New York City even if, improbably, it were not bombed? ”

On Going Seriously Boom (Fred Reed)

A modern country is a system of systems of systems, interdependent and interconnected—water, electricity, manufacturing, energy, telecommunications, transportation, pipelines, and complex supply chains. These are interconnected, interdependent, and rely on large numbers of trained people showing up for work. Modern warheads are not the popgun squibs of Hiroshima. Talking of repair any time soon after the nuclear bombing of a conurbation is foolish because the city would have many hundreds of thousand of dead, housing destroyed, massive fires, horrendously burned people with no hope of medical care, and in general populations too focused on staying alive to worry about abstractions like supply chains.

The elimination of transportation might cause more death than the bombs. Cities, suburbs, and towns cannot feed themselves. They rely on a constant, heavy influx of food grown in remote regions. This food is shipped by rail or truck to distribution centers, as for example Chicago, whence it is transshipped to cities like New York. Heavy megatonnage on Chicago would disrupt rail lines and trucking firms. Trains and trucks need gasoline and diesel which come from somewhere, presumably in pipelines. These, broken by the blast, burning furiously, would take time to repair. Time is what cities would not have. What would happen in, say, New York City even if, improbably, it were not bombed?

Here we will ignore the likelihood of sheer, boiling panic and resultant chaos on learning that much of the country had been flattened. In the first few days there would be panic buying with shelves at supermarkets being emptied. Hunger would soon become serious. By day four, people would be hunting each other with knives to get their food. By the end of the second week, people would be eating each other. Literally. This happens in famines.Most things in America rely on electricity. This comes from generating plants which burn stuff, usually natural gas or coal. These arrive on trains, which would not be running, or in trucks, not likely to be running. They depend on oil fields, refineries, and pipelines unlikely to function.

All of the foregoing depend on employees continuing to go to work instead of trying to save their families. So—no electricity in New York, which goes dark. This means no telephones, no internet, no lighting, and no elevators. How would this work out in a city of high rises? Most people would be nearly incommunicado in a lightless city. Huge traffic jams would form as people with cars tried to leave—to go where?—as long as gasoline in the tank lasted.Where does water come from in New York? I don’t know, but it doesn’t flow spontaneously to the thirtieth floor. It needs to be pumped, which involves electricity, from wherever it comes from to wherever it has to go. No electricity, no pump. No pump, no water. And no flushing of toilets. River water could be drunk, of course. Think of the crowds.

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“The Washington Post is solely owned by Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos, who also owns Blue Origin, a private spaceflight firm in direct competition with SpaceX.”

Musk Blasts ‘Hypocritical’ WaPo

Elon Musk called the staff of the Washington Post “such hypocrites,” after the newspaper – which proclaims that “democracy dies in darkness” – ran a series of highly critical articles on him. One referred to the SpaceX CEO as a “security risk.” While it was Bloomberg that first reported the possibility that the federal government may investigate Musk’s companies after the billionaire made them “uncomfortable” with his remarks on Ukraine, the Washington Post fired off a salvo of fiercely critical articles on the SpaceX CEO on Saturday. One piece described how lawmakers in Washington allegedly consider Musk “too powerful and increasingly reckless,” partly over his since-abandoned demand that the government reimburse him for providing Starlink internet access to Ukraine for free.

An op-ed suggested that Musk’s Twitter musings on resolving the Ukraine conflict peacefully should make him “a person of interest to security hawks,” and another opinion piece slammed the supposed lack of “discipline and respectability” in Musk’s personal life. One of Musk’s Twitter followers called the newspaper out for its editorial line. “‘Democracy dies in darkness,’ their slogan says, but instead, ‘democracy dies when influential people use journalism to protect powerful interests while deceptive[ly] claim they are protecting common people’s interests,’” the commenter wrote. “Exactly,” Musk replied on Sunday. “WaPo are such hypocrites.”

Already under fire from the liberal media for his planned buyout of Twitter, Musk angered lawmakers in Washington and Kiev when he proposed a peaceful settlement to the Ukrainian conflict that would involve Ukraine abandoning its claim to Crimea. With one Ukrainian diplomat telling Musk to “f**k off” and US Senator Lindsey Graham proposing that the government pull subsidies to Tesla in response, the Washington Post declared that the tycoon’s “ego” put Ukraine’s “war efforts” in jeopardy. The Washington Post is solely owned by Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos, who also owns Blue Origin, a private spaceflight firm in direct competition with SpaceX. The two firms have competed for federal contracts, with Bezos’ company having a lawsuit against NASA dismissed last year, after the agency awarded a lunar lander contract to SpaceX.

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” The European Union has lost the moral right to speak about war crimes because, for eight years, it has turned a blind eye to the killing of civilians, women and children during the shelling of the Donbass by the regime in Kiev.”

EU Displays ‘Height Of Hypocrisy’ – Russia (RT)

The European Union doesn’t have the right to accuse Moscow of committing war crimes in Ukraine because the bloc has spent years ignoring the suffering of civilians in Donbass, the Russian Foreign Ministry has said. Russia’s statement came after EU’s main decision-making body, the European Council, condemned Moscow on Friday for “indiscriminate” missile and drone attacks on civilian targets in Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine, adding that there was “growing evidence” of war crimes against Ukrainians. In a response released on Saturday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova rebuffed the accusations as “the height of hypocrisy.”

The European Union has lost the moral right to speak about war crimes because, for eight years, it has turned a blind eye to the killing of civilians, women and children during the shelling of the Donbass by the regime in Kiev. Zakharova further accused the European bloc of “covering up Kiev’s criminal actions.” She argued that, instead of seeking a peaceful solution, the EU has been “senselessly investing significant sums into prolonging the fighting.” The spokeswoman also claimed that Ukrainian soldiers who receive Western training and weapons are targeting civilians.

Russia stepped up strikes on Ukraine this month, hitting many thermal power plants and power lines across the country, among other targets. President Vladimir Putin said the intensification was a retaliation against “terrorist attacks” on Russian soil, including a truck bombing that had recently damaged a strategic bridge connecting the Crimean Peninsula with Russia proper. Kiev has not confirmed its involvement in the bridge attack, but several top officials and government agencies openly celebrated the bombing. President Vladimir Zelensky later accused Russia of killing civilians on purpose during its renewed strikes on Ukrainian territory.

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And soon. Start peace talks to save your economy.

Germany Should Go Back To Buying Gas From Russia – Saxony PM (RT)

Germany needs to get back to purchasing gas from Russia as soon as the conflict in Ukraine ends, the prime minister of the German eastern state of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, said on Saturday. His nation would still need “pipeline gas” from Russia, the official believes. “When the war is over, we should use gas from Russia again,” Kretschmer told the German tabloid Bild’s weekend edition when asked what he would say to people demanding the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline be commissioned. Nord Stream 2 was one of the two pipelines designed to deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany via a route along the bed of the Baltic Sea. The project was shelved in late February as Germany halted its certification process when Russia recognized the two Donbass republics as independent.

Kretschmer believes Germany would need the Russian gas pipeline infrastructure to be fully restored if it seeks to ensure sufficient energy supply. He was asked if he believes the two Nord Stream pipelines damaged in an alleged act of sabotage in late September would be repaired. “We will need pipeline gas and that is only possible with functioning pipelines,” he told Bild. Russia should not be the only energy supplier for Germany in the future, the prime minister said, adding that Berlin should also secure long-term gas contracts with the US, Qatar and other Arab nations, as well as “develop our own gas [fields] in the North Sea.” His words came amid an acute energy crunch in Germany as the EU has been striving to wean itself off Russian energy supplies. Brussels’ sanctions policy against Moscow has so far brought more ill than good to Germany, Kretschmer believes.

An economic “tsunami is building up now,” the state leader warned. According to him, entrepreneurs in Saxony face a “dramatic” struggle “for survival” and many of them “are about to give up” in a matter of “weeks, not months.” Kretschmer also said that the federal government relief measures had not yet been properly implemented, while Berlin’s energy saving tips only “get people annoyed.” The prime minister also called for a speedy diplomatic solution to the ongoing conflict, adding that the EU should team up with the US, China, India and Japan to stop the war. At the same time, he said there was “not a single reason why Ukraine should give up even one square meter of its territory.”

Russia must also compensate for all the damage the conflict dealt to Ukraine, he added. Four former Ukrainian regions – the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, as well as Kherson and Zaporozhye regions – were officially declared part of Russia in early October, after voters in those territories overwhelmingly supported the move in referendums. Kiev and Western nations, including Germany, declared the votes a “sham” and continue to view the territories as part of Ukraine.

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Homeschooling?!

Energy Costs Will Bankrupt 90% Of English Schools (RT)

Schools in England are struggling to pay their electricity and heating bills, and 90% will run out of money next year, the Observer reported on Saturday. With the cost of living crisis forcing some schoolchildren to go hungry, the government plans to cut spending across all departments. The National Association of Head Teachers told the newspaper that 50% of their schools will be in deficit this year, with the figure rising to 90% by next September. Power and heating bills at some schools have risen from £26,000 a year to £89,000 ($100,609), the report stated. On top of this increase, schools are having to fund a 5% teachers’ pay rise announced this summer. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce spending cuts to all departments, including education, at the end of the month.

Several school trusts told the newspaper that they are eating into their cash reserves to keep their buildings heated and their teachers paid. However, “there comes a point where we simply run out of money,” said Garry Ratcliffe, whose trust runs three primary schools in Kent. Furthermore, Ratcliffe said he’s seen an increase in the number of families unable to pay their own bills or feed their children. “Families who have never required support before are coming to us,” he said. “There is a great sense of shame for the dad who works every hour he can but still has to walk into school and ask for help.” A survey released last week by Chefs in Schools found that 83% of teachers reported children coming to school hungry because their parents were unable to afford food. Nearly a quarter said that children at their schools skipped lunch “due to poverty.”

Energy costs and inflation – which had been creeping upwards since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic – have skyrocketed since the UK decided to cut itself off from Russian fossil fuels. Outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss exacerbated the economic crisis with a disastrous ‘mini-budget’ last month that crashed the British pound, and attempted to blame Britain’s economic woes on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Responding to The Observer’s latest report, a Department of Education spokesperson took a similar tack, blaming the “cost pressures” on schools on “international events,” and promising to offset the costs via an energy relief scheme.

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“No vote of Congress — just hundreds of billions of dollars written off by Biden, as if he is an American tsar.”

Blocking Judicial Review Of A Half-trillion Tuition Giveaway (Turley)

In a speech at Delaware State University on Friday, President Biden was positively exuberant as he announced that he had prevailed in asserting unilateral authority to forgive hundreds of billions of dollars in tuition loans. He declared that “just yesterday, a state court and the Supreme Court said, ‘No, we’re on Biden’s side.’” Some of us immediately noted that these were actually federal judges and they did not rule that he has this authority but that the other parties in two cases did not have legal standing to challenge his authority. Indeed, one of those Biden “supporters” was Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who simply denied an emergency application to the court. If it seems unlikely that Barrett is now “on Biden’s side,” it is because the claim is perfectly delusional.

No one could possibly read these decisions as even remotely supporting Biden’s claim to have virtually absolute authority to give away roughly $500 billion owed to the American people shortly before a critical midterm election. Within a few hours of Biden’s boast, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit enjoined the lower court. However, even the Eighth Circuit will not decide whether to be “on Biden’s side” but only whether six states have the constitutional right to bring any challenge as a matter of legal standing. Even the trial judge said the merits of the challenge raised “important and significant” concerns about Biden exceeding his authority.

Overwhelming constitutional concerns are raised by this massive election-year giveaway. Biden simply announced that he would forgive up to $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000 annually; those who received Pell grants could receive up to $20,000 in relief; couples can qualify despite a joint annual income of $250,000. No vote of Congress — just hundreds of billions of dollars written off by Biden, as if he is an American tsar.

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“..the initial WHO estimates were off by 99% for 94% of the world’s population..”

A Closer Look at the Covid Mortality Rate (Miller)

The median infection fatality rate for those aged 0-59 was 0.035%. This represents 86% of the global population and the survival rate for those who were infected with COVID pre-vaccination was 99.965%. For those aged 0-69, which covers 94% of the global population, the fatality rate was 0.095%, meaning the survival rate for nearly 7.3 billion people was 99.905%. Those survival rates are obviously staggeringly high, which already creates frustration that restrictions were imposed on all age groups, when focused protection for those over 70 or at significantly elevated risk would have been a much more preferable course of action. But it gets worse. The researchers broke down the demographics into smaller buckets, showing the increase in risk amongst older populations, and conversely, how infinitesimal the risk was amongst younger age groups.

They added that “Including data from another 9 countries with imputed age distribution of COVID-19 deaths yielded median IFR of 0.025-0.032% for 0-59 years and 0.063-0.082% for 0-69 years.” These numbers are astounding and reassuringly low, across the board. But they’re almost nonexistent for children. Yet as late as fall 2021, Fauci was still fear-mongering about the risks of COVID to children in order to increase vaccination uptake, saying in an interview that it was not a “benign situation:” “We certainly want to get as many children vaccinated within this age group as we possibly can because as you heard and reported, that this is not, you know, a benign situation.” It’s nearly impossible for any illness to be less of a risk, or more “benign” than a 0.0003% risk of death.

Even in October 2021, during that same interview with NPR, Fauci said that masks should continue on children as an “extra step” to protect them, even after vaccination:And when you have that type of viral dynamic, even when you have kids vaccinated, you certainly – when you are in an indoor setting, you want to make sure you go the extra step to protect them. So I can’t give you an exact number of what that would be in the dynamics of virus in the community, but hopefully we will get there within a reasonable period of time. You know, masks often now – as we say, they’re not forever. And hopefully we’ll get to a point where we can remove the masks in schools and in other places. But I don’t believe that that time is right now.

Nothing better highlights the incompetence and misinformation from Dr. Fauci than ignoring that pre-vaccination, children were at vanishingly small risks from COVID, that vaccination uptake amongst kids was entirely irrelevant since they do not prevent infection or transmission, and that mask usage is completely ineffective at protecting anyone. Especially for those who didn’t need protection in the first place. The CDC, “expert” community, World Health Organization, media figures — all endlessly spread terror that the virus was a mass killer while conflating detected case fatality rates with infection fatality rates. Yet now we have another piece of evidence suggesting that the initial WHO estimates were off by 99% for 94% of the world’s population.

Read more …

Things that don’t rhyme:

“..37 per cent said they had not taken any vaccine..”

“..Only 35 per cent out of more than 45,000 people said they were vaccinated..”

“..more than 20 million Australians have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, or more than 95 per cent of the over-16 population..”

A Pulse Check Of Australia As We Exit The Pandemic (news.com.au)

Today Covid has become an afterthought for many. We no longer have to isolate after a positive test, masks are rarely seen – even on flights. And the tense — and at times explosive — conversations between friends and family members over issues like vaccines are largely behind us. But we want to know how you feel as Australia emerges from the pandemic. Take our poll and see how the rest of the country views what we’ve been through and where we sit today.

After a day of voting, each question has received more than 42,000 responses, ranging up to more than 50,000. The results are striking. More than half of respondents either said they regret getting vaccinated, or were unvaccinated and happy with their decision. Only 35 per cent out of more than 45,000 people said they were vaccinated and would make the same decision again. Not a single person said they were unvaccinated and regret the decision. One fifth of respondents said they had received two doses of a vaccine, 26 per cent had three and 16 per cent had four shots, while 37 per cent said they had not taken any vaccine.

According to Health Department data, more than 20 million Australians have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, or more than 95 per cent of the over-16 population. An overwhelming majority of respondents said they were no longer concerned about Covid and no longer wore masks in public settings. Half of respondents said they caught Covid, with 6 per cent of those catching it more than once, while 40 per cent said they never did. Meanwhile, more than two thirds of respondents said Australia‘s leaders had been too heavy-handed in the pandemic response, 25 per cent said they did they best they could, and 8 per cent said as well as any other country.

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Yottabyte

 

 

 

 

Battery

 

 


Changing of the guards, Parliament building, Syntagma square, Athens

 

 

 

 

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Oct 122018
 
 October 12, 2018  Posted by at 1:12 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Alfred Eisenstaedt Egyptian Fishing Boats. Suez Canal near Port Said 1935

 

According to Middle East Eye, Richard Branson, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Economist editor-In-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, New York Times, Financial Times, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshah, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and AOL founder Steve Case have all withdrawn from Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative conference, to be held this month in Riyadh. Branson also put a $1 billion investment plan on hold.

Also, on Wednesday, former US energy secretary Ernest Moniz said that he had suspended his role on the board of Saudi Arabia’s planned mega business zone NEOM, to which he was named on Tuesday. The Harbour Group, a Washington firm that has been advising Saudi Arabia since April 2017, ended its $80,000 a month contract on Thursday. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is still scheduled to speak at the conference, as is Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga, but they won’t risk the damage to their reputations.

All this is due, obviously, to the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a former close aquaintance of the Saud family, who moved to the US and wrote for the Washington Post (how’s Amazon’s Saudi business, Jeff Bezos?) after falling out with the House of Saud.

As the what someone actually labeled “unfolding diplomatic crisis” takes shape, there is really only one thing to say about these people and organizations: they the worst group of hypocrites ever. And their reasons to boycott the conference must be questioned.

Because before Khashoggi vanished they all apparently though it was quite okay to go feed at the Saud trough, despite the still ongoing slaughter of millions of people in the ‘war’ in Yemen. Which makes one suspect it’s not so much about their principles but about their public image.

Donald Trump said he won’t stop weapons sales to the Saudi’s because they would just buy their arms from someone else, like Russia (it would be interesting to get Putin’s view on Khashoggi). And while Trump is completely wrong here, at least he’s not hypocritical about it.

Not selling guns and tanks is by no means the most forceful action vs MBS and his dad, and not just because they can buy them elsewhere. What’s much stronger as a protest against what apparently happened to Khashoggi is to hit the Sauds where it hurts: in their wallet. That wallet is being filled by the sale of oil.

Simply stop buying their oil. Tell Shell and Exxon and BP and Total to get the hell out of the country. It’s just that to top off the hypocrisy, the best -only?- replacement for Saudi oil is Russian oil, and the US and Europe are engaged in a long drawn out smear campaign to isolate Russia from their world order.

But as long as Richard Branson flies his planes on Saudi oil, what’s the use of him boycotting a conference? Well, other than he hopes it makes him look good in the eyes of the world and feel good about himself? The carnage in Yemen has been going on for years, and all that time Branson has been silent. And was planning to get into a $1 billion investment as emaciated Yemeni babies are fed leaves.

And the idea is not to single him out, those major media organizations and the World Bank are just as bad. They all just hope that no-one will notice or speak out when they grab the Saudi money, and that when they are caught in the middle they will collect applause for making their ‘heroic’ decision not to attend a conference.

That said, it’s interesting to see the story move through the media. Is it the power of Jeff Bezos that gets it so much -and sustained- attention? Did the Saudi’s know that Turkey had their consulate bugged? Isn’t that against international law? How much Saudi oil does Turkey use? Did US intelligence know what was going to happen? Did Turkey?

Why so much more interest in this case than all the other disappearing journalists? Khashoggi is/was no Christ; he was close to the royal family for years while women and gay people and dissidents were under severe threat.

Just more hypocrisy. And if we want to end that, let’s boycott Saudi oil. Let’s use different oil, or none. And until then let’s not fall for the stage performances of all those who all of a sudden want to be seen as principled actors. That’s just about as bad as sawing a guy into pieces.

 

 

Jun 132018
 


John French Sloan South Beach Bathers 1908

 

Capital Flight to Germany in Full Swing (Mish)
The Big Italy Short Was Hiding In Plain Sight (R.)
G7 Summit Highlights Western Leaders Hypocrisy (Lacalle)
Donald Trump Was Right. The Rest Of The G7 Were Wrong (Monbiot)
Centrists Very Concerned That Donald Fucking Trump Isn’t Hawkish Enough (CJ)
May Heads Off Major Defeat After Last-Minute Climbdown To Rebels (Ind.)
Tesla To Cut 9% Of Staff In Profitability Drive (G.)
Americans Just Paid Off A Ton Of Credit-Card Debt—But Here’s The Bad News (MW)
India Farmers Sow Unapproved Monsanto Cotton Seeds, Risking Arrest (R.)
One in Three British Mammal Species Could Be Gone Within A Decade (Ind.)

 

 

“The only door left open is door number 3.”

Capital Flight to Germany in Full Swing (Mish)

I have commented on Target2 liabilities before. Perhaps a Mish-modified translation from the Welt article Imbalance in the Euro System Reaches a New Record will ring a bell. The central banks of Germany’s euro partners Italy, Spain and France owe the Bundesbank almost a trillion euros . This is a new high. – more than ever before. Tendency continues to rise. There is no security for this money. Read that last line again and again until it sinks in. Italy is €464.7 billion in the hole. Spain is €376.6 billion in the hole. Creditors owe Germany, the Netherlands, and Finland over €1.157 trillion. In May, Italian liabilities increased by almost 40 billion euros.

“Capital flight to Germany is in full swing,” says Hans-Werner Sinn, longtime head of the Ifo Institute and one of the most prominent economists in the Federal Republic. Originally, Target2 was designed to facilitate cross-border transactions within the eurozone. The system achieved this goal. From the point of view of critics, this means that the Deutsche Bundesbank provides long-term unsecured and non-interest-bearing loans to the central banks of other eurozone countries , especially the central banks of southern countries Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Target2 is a fundamental problem of the Eurozone. • The ECB guarantees these loans. • As long as they are guaranteed, then hells bells, why not make more loans? Germany will pay one way or another. Here are the possibilities. 1) Germany and the creditor nations forgive enough debt for Europe to grow. This is the transfer union solution. 2) Permanently high unemployment and slow growth in Spain, Greece, Italy, with stagnation elsewhere in Europe 3) Breakup of the eurozone. Those are the alternatives. Germany will not allow number 1. It is unreasonable to expect number 2 to last forever. The only door left open is door number 3.

Read more …

Nothing about this needs to be invented.

The Big Italy Short Was Hiding In Plain Sight (R.)

The marriage of politics and finance in Italy regularly produces strange offspring. But a suggestion, floated over the weekend in the country’s most-respected newspaper, of a James Bond-style plot by some big investors to sink Italian financial markets added a new twist. More curious was the theory’s abrupt disappearance by Monday. The episode highlights the degree to which Europe’s most chaos-resilient economy has entered a risky new paradigm with the arrival of the most populist government since the Italian Republic’s founding in 1946. On Saturday, Corriere della Sera, the Milanese voice of the establishment, published an article which speculated that some investors betting against Italian assets might have helped engineer a market crisis.

The trigger for the Italian panic was the May 15 publication by Huffington Post’s Italian website of a draft version of the new government’s “contract”, which included language pertaining to a possible exit from the single European currency. That document, HuffPo has said, arrived in an unmarked envelope. Markets went haywire over the prospect that the government cobbled together by the two parties who gained the most seats in the March election – the right-wing League and hard-to-label 5-Star Movement – would adopt an explicitly anti-euro platform. The difference between the yields on 10-year German and Italian government bonds surged to almost 320 basis points from just around 130 basis points before the draft appeared. Any bets against Italian sovereign credit would have produced a tidy profit.

Corriere has substantially revised the story. It no longer includes language that one hedge fund, Brevan Howard, considered defamatory. That firm’s AH Master Fund, run by Alan Howard, gained 37 percent in May, thanks in part to bets on the direction of Italian assets. On Tuesday, the newspaper appended an author’s note to the piece in which it said: “We never intended to accuse or suggest that there were any kind of offenses or improper conduct by Howard in trading or in his involvement in the case of documents filtered to the Huffington Post.” In a statement to Reuters Breakingviews, the author, Federico Fubini, defended the piece. “We have run a fact-based article whose substance remains.” The paper decided “to amend the text to avert a potentially time-consuming case in foreign courts.”

Read more …

EU, China protectionism.

G7 Summit Highlights Western Leaders Hypocrisy (Lacalle)

The G7 failure to come to terms on trade highlights the problem of governments trying to macromanage trade. And no, the failure to even agree to disagree cannot be blamed on President Trump and his new-found economic nationalism. The list of countries with the largest trade surplus with the United States is led by China, which exports $375 billion more than it imports. It is followed, very far away, by Mexico ($71 billion), Japan (69 billion), Germany (65 billion), Vietnam (38 billion), Ireland (38 billion) and Italy ($31 billion). Not surprisingly, the markets with most protectionist measures against the United States are China, the European Union, Japan, Mexico and India.

These facts explain much more about the failure of the G7 summit than any Manichean analysis on Trump, Trudeau, Macron, or any of the leaders gathered there. During the last twenty years, the world has carried out a widespread practice in governments’ disastrous idea of “sustaining” GDP with demand-side policies. Build excess capacity, subsidize it, and hope to export that excess to the United States. Especially China, Germany, and Japan have economies with high state interventionism and therefore very high excess capacity, in part due to a high personal savings rate. Steel and aluminum, like the automobile industry, are examples of building unnecessary capacity and subsidizing it, country by country, hoping it will be somebody else who closes its inefficient factories to be able to export more to that country.

In Germany, the influence of the automobile industry over the government is legendary. What isn’t are the relatively high tariffs American manufacturers face when exporting to Europe and the low tariffs America itself imposes on automobile imports. What is also ironic is that modern-day protectionism didn’t start with Trump. Barriers against global trade increased between 2009 and 2016. The World Trade Organization warned, year after year, since 2010, about the increase in protectionism. The Obama administration, faced with the exponential increase in its trade deficit, was the one that introduced the highest number of protectionist measures between 2009 and 2016. The only difference between Trump and Obama was that Obama didn’t publicize this much and the mainstream media didn’t complain.

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True, these deals need a sunset clause.

Donald Trump Was Right. The Rest Of The G7 Were Wrong (Monbiot)

He gets almost everything wrong. But last weekend Donald Trump got something right. To the horror of the other leaders of the rich world, he defended democracy against its detractors. Perhaps predictably, he has been universally condemned for it. His crime was to insist that the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) should have a sunset clause. In other words, it should not remain valid indefinitely, but expire after five years, allowing its members either to renegotiate it or to walk away. To howls of execration from the world’s media, his insistence has torpedoed efforts to update the treaty.

In Rights of Man, published in 1791, Thomas Paine argued that: “Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies.” This is widely accepted – in theory if not in practice – as a basic democratic principle. Even if the people of the US, Canada and Mexico had explicitly consented to Nafta in 1994, the idea that a decision made then should bind everyone in North America for all time is repulsive. So is the notion, championed by the Canadian and Mexican governments, that any slightly modified version of the deal agreed now should bind all future governments.

But the people of North America did not explicitly consent to Nafta. They were never asked to vote on the deal, and its bipartisan support ensured that there was little scope for dissent. The huge grassroots resistance in all three nations was ignored or maligned. The deal was fixed between political and commercial elites, and granted immortality. In seeking to update the treaty, governments in the three countries have candidly sought to thwart the will of the people. Their stated intention was to finish the job before Mexico’s presidential election in July. The leading candidate, Andrés Lopez Obrador, has expressed hostility to Nafta, so it had to be done before the people cast their vote. They might wonder why so many have lost faith in democracy.

[..] Trump was right to spike the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He is right to demand a sunset clause for Nafta. When this devious, hollow, self-interested man offers a better approximation of the people’s champion than any other leader, you know democracy is in trouble.

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Caitlin again.

Centrists Very Concerned That Donald Fucking Trump Isn’t Hawkish Enough (CJ)

[..] by far the most common concerns being expressed about the Singapore summit are based not on a fear of this administration making insufficiently aggressive demands of Pyongyang, but on pure ridiculous nonsense. “President Trump seems to have given away two or three of the major things that Kim Jong-Un wanted,” Schumer complained at the aforementioned press conference. “A meeting. The flags next to each other. Now a delay of exercises with South Korea, without getting anything in return.” Huh? A meeting? Flags next to each other? I can kinda-sorta-almost see into Schumer’s twisted reality tunnel when it comes to temporarily suspending military drills along the DPRK’s border as an act of good faith, but on what planet is having a meeting or putting two flags next to each other a win of any kind?

Well, going by the outcry I’m seeing from Twitter pundits, the concern appears to be that it “legitimizes” Kim Jong-Un. What exactly that means is hard to fathom in terms of actual, tangible reality, but for years that term has been passed around like it has as much relevance as war or starvation sanctions. This imaginary product of “legitimacy” is, according to influential mainstream political commentators, meant to be withheld from Kim until he gives up everything he has and grovels on his belly begging for it. This just shows you the power of narrative, where repeating some meaningless placeholder syllables over and over again can create the illusion that a purely mental construct is as relevant in peace negotiations as nuclear warheads.

It isn’t hard to see through for anyone who doesn’t have a vested interest in subscribing to that narrative, though, and Pyongyang certainly has no such interest. [..] There are many, many perfectly valid things to criticize the Trump administration for. Opening up peace talks with North Korea is not one of them, and anyone who says it is is not a friend of humanity. The fact that nobody on either side of the aisle seems to have their foot anywhere near the brake pedal when it comes to war should concern us all, and we need to do something about it.

Read more …

Might as well stop the whole process right now.

May Heads Off Major Defeat After Last-Minute Climbdown To Rebels (Ind.)

Rebel Conservatives have forced Theresa May into a climbdown, handing parliament greater control of Brexit if she fails to seal a deal. After the prime minister was threatened with what could have been a damaging commons defeat, she promised key concessions in dramatic last minute talks with pro-EU rebels. It is likely to mean her accepting a deadline by which she must secure a deal with Brussels, if she wants to stay in the driving seat for negotiations. Her ministers must now spell out the detail of her compromises within days, with Tory rebels warning a failure to do so would reignite the prospect of a major commons loss destabilising her leadership.

It followed a day which started with the resignation of a minister and passed into febrile commons debate that saw ministers bargaining openly with rebels in the chamber. Rebel MP Nicky Morgan told The Independent: “The whole point of what has come about is that we are going to have a process to this, something which does not simply allow us to drift into a hard Brexit.” The row was precipitated by the Lords last month passing a plan that would have given parliament the power to direct Ms May’s actions if she failed to seal a Brexit deal later this year. Ministers were demanding Tory MPs vote it out of existence in the Commons on Tuesday, but had also refused to consider a more palatable compromise proposed by the former Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve.

It would have instead seen Ms May being tied into a strict timetable of having to set out her own proposals if she failed to seal a deal by November, and then gain parliamentary approval for them – the stronger powers for MPs to direct her action would only come into play if a deal had still not been reached by February.

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What, no new loans?

Tesla To Cut 9% Of Staff In Profitability Drive (G.)

Tesla is slashing thousands of jobs, its chief executive, Elon Musk, announced Tuesday, as the electronic car company attempts to hit production targets and reach profitability. Musk called the job cuts, which will affect about 9% of the company’s more than 40,000 employees, “difficult, but necessary” in a tweet that contained the email he had sent to employees announcing the layoffs. “What drives us is our mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable, clean energy, but we will never achieve that mission unless we eventually demonstrate that we can be sustainably profitable,” the billionaire entrepreneur wrote in the email.

The job cuts will be centered on salaried employees, not factory workers, Musk said, writing, “This will not affect our ability to reach Model 3 production targets in the coming months.” Tesla has been under intense pressure to prove that it can achieve mass production of the Model 3, its first mass market vehicle. The company has yet to reach Musk’s goal of producing 5,000 cars a week – originally promised for the end of 2017. At Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting on 5 June, Musk said he believed the company would hit the 5,000 cars-a-week goal by the end of June, and that he thought the company could be profitable later this year.

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They paid off so much because they owe so much.

Americans Just Paid Off A Ton Of Credit-Card Debt—But Here’s The Bad News (MW)

A lot of Americans paid big credit-card bills in the first quarter of 2018. And they still have a long way to go. Americans repaid $40.3 billion in credit card debt during the first quarter of 2018, according to a new analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Reserve and credit agency TransUnion by the personal-finance website WalletHub. That’s the second-highest amount paid off in one quarter since the first quarter of 2009, when consumers paid off more than $44 billion. Now, the bad news: That doesn’t mean their debts are getting that much smaller. Americans ended 2017 with $91.6 billion in new credit-card debt, the largest annual amount since 2007 and 104% above the post-recession average.

Outstanding credit card debt is at the second-highest point since the end of 2008, the report said. In 2017, Americans hit a record high of $1.021 trillion in outstanding revolving debt (often categorized as credit-card debt). In April 2018, they still had more $1.030 trillion to pay off, according to the Federal Reserve. Consumers’ recent debt payoff “is not as dramatic as the dollar amount makes it seem,” said Nick Clements, the co-founder of personal finance company MagnifyMoney, who previously worked in the credit industry. The reason: The total amount of credit-card debt Americans have has also been growing.

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How Monsanto sneaks in illegal seeds.

India Farmers Sow Unapproved Monsanto Cotton Seeds, Risking Arrest (R.)

Many Indian farmers are openly sowing an unapproved variety of genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds developed by Monsanto, as the government sits on the sidelines for fear of antagonizing a big voting bloc ahead of an election next year. India approved the first GM cotton seed trait in 2002 and an upgraded variety in 2006, helping transform the country into the world’s top producer and second-largest exporter of the fiber. But newer traits are not available after Monsanto in 2016 withdrew an application seeking approval for the latest variety due to a royalty dispute with the government. The herbicide-tolerant variety, lab-altered to help farmers save costs on weed management, has, however, seeped into the country’s farms since then. Authorities say they are still investigating how that happened.

“I will only use these seeds or nothing at all,” said Rambhau Shinde, a farmer who has been cultivating cotton for nearly four decades in the western state of Maharashtra. The federal environment ministry said last year planting the seeds violated the Environment Protection Act, and farmers who did so were risking potential jail terms. But many farmers are desperate to boost their incomes after poor yields over the past few years and are willing to ignore the warnings. A government official in New Delhi, who deals with matters related to GM crops, said it was difficult to keep farmers away from something that they saw benefit in. “If you don’t allow them to plant legally, illegal planting will happen,” the official said, requesting anonymity, adding that Monsanto had yet to reapply for an approval to sell its latest variety of GM cotton in India.

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Bats and cats and rats.

One in Three British Mammal Species Could Be Gone Within A Decade (Ind.)

Populations of much-loved British mammals including hedgehogs and water voles have dropped by up to two-thirds over the past 20 years, and many more are threatened with imminent extinction. Even some apparently common creatures such as rabbits have been driven into decline by human pressures such as harmful farming activities and climate change. These findings come from a review carried out by the Mammal Society and Natural England, the first of its kind to be conducted in more than two decades. The country has undergone significant changes since the last analysis in 1995, and some of the species at risk then – including badgers and otters – have since made considerable recoveries.

However, pesticide use, invasive species and road deaths have all taken their toll, and the scientists behind the study have warned Britain is on “a precipice” and must take urgent action to save its mammals. “This is happening on our own doorstep so it falls upon all of us to try and do what we can to ensure that our threatened species do not go the way of the lynx, wolf and elk and disappear from our shores forever,” said Professor Fiona Mathews, chair of the Mammal Society. The review, which made use of data collected by members of the public as well as scientists over the course of decades, covered all 58 of the country’s land mammal species.

The scientists constructed the first ever “red list” for British mammals, and found 12 are threatened with extinction. This means animals like the wildcat, greater mouse-eared bat and even the black rat are likely to be gone forever from Britain’s shores within the next 10 years. However, they noted this is likely to be an underestimate, and the real number could be as high as one in three.

Read more …

Feb 132017
 
 February 13, 2017  Posted by at 10:49 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


New York City Under 26 Inches Of Snow, 1947

 

Why Does Economic Growth Keep Slowing Down? (StLouisFed)
The Market Will Be Repricing Dramatically Downward – Stockman (CNBC)
Jim Rogers: “A Lot Of People Will Disappear” (ZH)
US Trade Deficit Last Year Was Widest Since 2012 (WSJ)
Trump Reviews Top White House Staff After Tumultuous Start (Pol.)
Mike Flynn’s Position as National Security Adviser Grows Tenuous (WSJ)
Refugee-Embracing Trudeau Set to Bite His Tongue on Trump Visit (BBG)
Romania Protests Enter Day 13, Call For Government Of ‘Thieves’ To Resign (G.)
Germany Repatriates Gold Faster Than Planned As Faith In Euro Plunges (RT)
Brussels’ Hypocrisy Over The Closing Of Borders (Nikos Devletoglou)
Greece: The Low-Noise Collapse Of An Entire Country (FE)

 

 

Even though the St. Louis Fed people can’t seem to read their own numbers properly, or at least interpret them, here it is. As the Automatic Earth has said for many years: the peak of our wealth was sometime in the 1970’s or even late 1960’s.

Everything after that was borrowed or printed. Here’s the proof. Sent this to Nicole earlier saying ‘We’ve been vindicated by the Fed itself.’ “Real GDP growth fell and leveled off in the mid-1970s, then started falling again in the mid-2000s”

Why Does Economic Growth Keep Slowing Down? (StLouisFed)

The U.S. economy expanded by 1.6% in 2016, as measured by real GDP. Real GDP has averaged 2.1% growth per year since the end of the last recession, which is significantly smaller than the average over the postwar period (about 3% per year). These lower growth rates could in part be explained by a slowdown in productivity growth and a decline in factor utilization. However, demographic factors and attitudes toward the labor market may also have played significant roles. The figure below shows a measure of long-run trends in economic activity. It displays the average annual growth rate over the preceding 40 quarters (10 years) for the period 1955 through 2016. (Hence, the first observation in the graph is the first quarter of 1965, and the last is the fourth quarter of 2016.)

Long-run growth rates were high until the mid-1970s. Then, they quickly declined and leveled off at around 3% per year for the following three decades. In the second half of the 2000s, around the last recession, growth contracted again sharply and has been declining ever since. The 10-year average growth rate as of the fourth quarter of 2016 was only 1.3% per year. Total output grows because the economy is more productive and capital is accumulated, but also because the population increases over time. The next figure compares long-run growth rates of real GDP and real GDP per capita. Both series display similar behavior. Although population growth has been slowing, the effect is not big enough to change the qualitative results described above. The third figure adds long-run growth rates of real GDP divided by the labor force. Dividing by the labor force instead of the total population accounts for the effects of changing demographics and labor market attachment.

From the 1970s until the 2000s, long-run growth rates of real GDP divided by the labor force remained well below those of real GDP per capita. There are two main factors that explain this: 1) Lower fertility and longer lifespans steadily increased the potential labor force relative to the total population. 2) Labor force participation increased significantly from the 1960s until 2000, largely driven by increased female labor force participation. When accounting for both of these factors, economic activity from 1975 to 1985 looks more depressed than in the two decades that followed. This seems consistent with the negative effects that the 1970s oil shocks and efforts to reduce inflation in the early 1980s had on the economy.

The trend in labor force participation reversed in 2000, as participation rates have been steadily decreasing since then. This explains why real GDP divided by labor force growth rates are now higher than real GDP per capita growth rates. Having accounted for the long-term effects of changes in demographics and labor market attitudes, we can now look at the effects of productivity growth and factor utilization. The final figure compares long-run growth rates in real GDP divided by the labor force with long-run growth rates in total factor productivity and long-run averages of capacity utilization (i.e., the actual use of installed capital relative to potential use). Note that data for capacity utilization are only available since 1967.

Read more …

“The market is apparently pricing in a huge Trump stimulus. But if you just look at the real world out there, the only thing that’s going to happen is a fiscal bloodbath and a White House train wreck like never before in U.S. history.”

The Market Will Be Repricing Dramatically Downward – Stockman (CNBC)

Stocks are booming under President Donald Trump, but long-time critic David Stockman warns traders are living in a “fantasy land” that can’t last —and Trump’s policies will derail the market for years to come. The former Reagan administration OMB director appeared on CNBC’s “Futures Now”last week to emphasize that Trump has become seemingly distracted by issues other than his proposed economic agenda. That should be a particular point of worry for investors, who Stockman argued have been far more optimistic about Trump’s presidency than might be warranted by the facts. In other words, while all three major market indexes continued to hit record highs last week, the former Reagan aide sees the current market rally as moot and not reflective of the current political climate.

“What’s going on today is complete insanity,” said Stockman. “The market is apparently pricing in a huge Trump stimulus. But if you just look at the real world out there, the only thing that’s going to happen is a fiscal bloodbath and a White House train wreck like never before in U.S. history.” Since the election, the S&P 500 Index has rallied more than 8%, the Nasdaq about 6% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average a whopping 10%. Last week, all three benchmarks rallied to new record highs. Yet if anything, according to Stockman’s predictions, those gains may be lost. Most of Trump’s actions “[have] nothing to do with the economic agenda” he’s proposed, Stockman told CNBC. That, along with a debt ceiling debate that will take place on March 15 in Congress, and a market rally that has gone on for a while, leads Stockman to think that a big downturn is on the way.

“There’s going to be no tax action this year,” said Stockman, echoing the concerns of Goldman Sachs and a few other Wall Street economists who say Trump’s plans for the economy are facing mounting political risks. Last week, the president vowed that tax reform could happen this year, and promised an announcement within the next few weeks. “If there’s any next year it will be deficit neutral, which means it’s not going to add the $15 to earnings like these people expect,” Stockman said, speaking of the rosy expectations of some analysts who think tax reform could boost corporate earnings in the medium-term. “My argument is there is not going to be any economic rebound, there is not going to be any profit surge,” Stockman added. “Therefore the market will be repricing dramatically downward once it’s clear that that’s the case.”

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Rogers adds a new dimension of doom: “..a lot of institutions, people, companies even countries, certainly governments and maybe even countries are going to disappear.”

Jim Rogers: “A Lot Of People Will Disappear” (ZH)

On the Greater Depression… …get prepared because we’re going to have the worst economic problems we’ve had in your lifetime or my lifetime and when that happens a lot of people are going to disappear. In 2008 Bear Stearns disappeared, Bear Stearns had been around over 90 years. Lehman Brothers disappeared. Lehman Brothers had been around over 150 years. A long, long time, a long glorious history they’ve been through wars, depression, civil war they’ve been through everything and yet they disappear. So the next time around it’s going to be worse than anything we’ve seen and a lot of institutions, people, companies even countries, certainly governments and maybe even countries are going to disappear.

I hope you get very worried. When you start having bear markets as you I’m sure well know one bad thing happens and another bad thing happens and these things snowball just like in bull markets good news comes out then more good news comes out the next thing you know you’re five or six or seven years into a bull market. Well bear markets do the same thing and so we have a lot of bad news on the horizon. I haven’t even gotten to war. I haven’t even gotten to trade war or anything like that but you know things do go wrong.

On Trump and the possibility of trade wars…and real wars Mr. Trump has also said he’s going to have trade war with China, Mexico, Japan, Korea a few other people that he has named. He swore that on his first day in office he would impose 45% tariffs against China. He’s been there three weeks, two or three weeks and he hasn’t done it yet but he still got it in his head I’m sure or maybe he’s just another politician like all the rest of them. He says one thing and he doesn’t mean it at all but he does have at least three people in high levels in his group who are very, very keen to have trade wars with China and other people.

If he does that Eric, it’s all over. I mean history is very clear that trade wars always lead to problems, often to disaster, sometimes even to real war, a shooting war. So I don’t know, I’m not sure Mr. Trump knows. He said so many things and many of the things are contradictory. Now if he’s not going to have trade wars with various people then chances are for a while happy days are here… [The dollar is] going to go too high, may turn into a bubble, at which point I hope I’m smart enough to sell it because at some point the market forces are going to cause the dollar to come back down because people are going to realize, oh my gosh, this is causing a lot of turmoil, economic problems in the world and it’s damaging the American economy. At that point the smart guys will get out. I hope I’m one of them.

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Sputtering engines all around.

US Trade Deficit Last Year Was Widest Since 2012 (WSJ)

The U.S. logged a $502.25 billion trade deficit in 2016, the largest in four years and a gap President Donald Trump is setting out to narrow to bolster the U.S. economy. The new president faces obstacles in the coming months and years, including the potential for a stronger dollar, larger federal budget deficits and low national saving rates compared with much of the rest of the world, all of which could force trade deficits to widen. As in past years, the 2016 gap reported Tuesday by the Commerce Department reflected a large deficit for U.S. trade in goods with other countries, offset in part by a trade surplus for services. The gap in terms of goods only was $347 billion with China last year, $69 billion with Japan, $65 billion with Germany and $63 billion with Mexico.

For December, the total trade gap decreased 3.2% from November to a seasonally adjusted $44.26 billion. Exports rose 2.7%, including increased sales of civilian airplanes and aircraft engines. Imports were up 1.5% in December, including a rise in car imports. [..] The interplay between trade, growth and employment is complex and difficult to manage. The U.S. has run trade deficits for decades, during periods of expansion and low unemployment as well as during recessions and high unemployment. The gap widened starting in the late 1990s with China’s emergence as a world trading power and recent research shows a surge of imports from China put downward pressure on U.S. wages and manufacturing employment.

Economists generally say trade has overall if uneven benefits, including lower prices for consumers.In 2016, the total deficit rose modestly from the prior year to its highest dollar level since 2012. But it shrank slightly to 2.7% as a share of U.S. economic output after hovering at 2.8% of GDP in 2013 through 2015. The gap fundamentally reflects the fact that Americans consume more than they produce relative to the rest of the world. To shrink the gap, they would either have to produce more or consume less. If Americans consumed less, the deficit could contract along with the broader economy, as happened during the 2001 and 2007-2009 recessions, leaving workers no better off. To produce more, U.S. firms could export more or take market share from imports. Tariffs could help that happen, but other countries might retaliate.

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This was always going to happen. It’s been clear from the start that not all these people would last very long. It’s Trump-style: throw out some stuff and see what sticks. And this is where the anti-Trump stance of the media bites: WaPo or CNN or NYT or in this case Politico have lost any and all signs of objectiveness. Which colors their reporting on this too, or so one must assume. We could have done with some credible sources.

Trump Reviews Top White House Staff After Tumultuous Start (Pol.)

President Donald Trump, frustrated over his administration’s rocky start, is complaining to friends and allies about some of his most senior aides — leading to questions about whether he is mulling an early staff shakeup. Trump has told several people that he is particularly displeased with national security adviser Michael Flynn over reports that he had top-secret discussions with Russian officials about and lied about it. The president, who spent part of the weekend dealing with the Flynn controversy, has been alarmed by reports from top aides that they don’t trust Flynn. “He thinks he’s a problem,” said one person familiar with the president’s thinking. “I would be worried if I was General Flynn.”

Yet Trump’s concern goes beyond his embattled national security adviser, according to conversations with more than a dozen people who have spoken to Trump or his top aides. He has mused aloud about press secretary Sean Spicer, asking specific questions to confidants about how they think he’s doing behind the podium. During conversations with Spicer, the president has occasionally expressed unhappiness with how his press secretary is talking about some matters — sometimes pointing out even small things he’s doing that he doesn’t like. Others who’ve talked with the president have begun to wonder about the future of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Several Trump campaign aides have begun to draft lists of possible Priebus replacements, with senior White House aides Kellyanne Conway and Rick Dearborn and lobbyist David Urban among those mentioned.

Gary Cohn, a Trump economic adviser who is close with senior adviser Jared Kushner, has has also been the subject of chatter. For now, Priebus remains in control as chief of staff. He was heavily involved in adviser Stephen Miller’s preparation for appearances on Sunday morning talk shows, which drew praise from the president. If there is a single issue where the president feels his aides have let him down, it was the controversial executive order on immigration. The president has complained to at least one person about “how his people didn’t give him good advice” on rolling out the travel ban and that he should have waited to sign it instead of “rushing it like they wanted me to.” Trump has also wondered why he didn’t have a legal team in place to defend it from challenges.

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A very strange position to be in for a career intelligence man.

Mike Flynn’s Position as National Security Adviser Grows Tenuous (WSJ)

The White House is reviewing whether to retain National Security Adviser Mike Flynn amid a furor over his contacts with Russian officials before President Donald Trump took office, an administration official said Sunday. Mr. Flynn has apologized to White House colleagues over the episode, which has created a rift with Vice President Mike Pence and diverted attention from the administration’s message to his own dealings, the official said. “He’s apologized to everyone,” the official said of Mr. Flynn. Mr. Trump’s views toward the matter aren’t clear. In recent days, he has privately told people the controversy surrounding Mr. Flynn is unwelcome, after he told reporters on Friday he would “look into” the disclosures.

But Mr. Trump also has said he has confidence in Mr. Flynn and wants to “keep moving forward,” a person familiar with his thinking said. Close Trump adviser Steve Bannon had dinner with Mr. Flynn over the weekend, according to another senior administration official, and Mr. Bannon’s view is to keep him in the position but “be ready” to let him go, the first administration official said. Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, as of Sunday evening hadn’t yet weighed in, the official said. Mr. Flynn initially said that in a conversation Dec. 29 with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, he didn’t discuss sanctions imposed that day by the outgoing Obama administration, which were levied in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Flynn now concedes that he did, administration officials said, after transcripts of his phone calls show as much. He also admits he spoke with the ambassador more than once on Dec. 29, despite weeks of the Trump team’s insisting it was just one phone call, officials said. Mr. Pence, in television interviews, vouched for Mr. Flynn, based on a private conversation, and he was angered he repeated information publicly that turned out to be untrue, administration officials said. Messrs. Pence and Flynn spoke twice on Friday, one official said. If Mr. Flynn had promised any easing of sanctions once Mr. Trump took office, he may have violated a law that prohibits private citizens from engaging in foreign policy, legal experts have said.

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Who does the headlines at Bloomberg?

Refugee-Embracing Trudeau Set to Bite His Tongue on Trump Visit (BBG)

More than two decades ago, with Donald Trump already atop a real-estate empire, a young Justin Trudeau set out to explore the world. He toured Europe and Africa with friends, hiding their beer from customs agents before boarding the Trans-Siberian railway to China. On the train, he sketched, read “War and Peace” and gazed at the remnants of the Soviet Union. It was a defining trip, he’d later write, that left him praising both diversity and compromise. Both values will be tested Monday. The now-45-year-old Canadian prime minister – hailed by Joe Biden as one of the last champions of liberalism – heads to Washington for his first meeting with the new U.S. president, 70, whose bellicose statements and immigration restrictions reveal a deep gulf between the two leaders. But U.S. liberals hoping for Trudeau to emerge as Trump’s foil shouldn’t hold their breath.

He’s already bit his tongue and focused almost exclusively on an economic relationship that accounts for three-quarters of Canada’s exports. The White House visit will test just how far Trudeau can go to woo the president and preserve trade without selling out his core values. “We both got elected on commitments to strengthen the middle class, and support those working hard to join it,” Trudeau said last week. “And that’s exactly what we’re going to be focused on.” He has little choice. Nearly two-thirds of all Canadian trade is with the U.S., the highest ratio of Group of 20 nations and quadruple all but Mexico. Almost all of Canada’s oil goes to the U.S. and most of the country’s manufacturing is geared toward meeting U.S. demand. Americans hold C$2.3 trillion ($1.8 trillion) in Canadian assets, almost exactly the same amount held by Canadians in the U.S. A Deutsche Bank report this month that looked at the potential impact of Trump policies on all the U.S.’s major partners found Canada would be among the hardest hit, forcing the country to cede about $70 billion in trade to the U.S. [..]

The threats to Canada from Trump’s agenda go beyond trade. Trump has shown an interest in overhauling the U.S. tax system in a way that would impose financial disincentives against imports. The border-adjusted tax plan would focus levies on domestic income and imports while exempting exports and offshore income. It has met opposition from retailers and oil refiners but is supported by major exporters. It’s unclear whether the president fully favors that approach. All this, however, is unlikely to be detailed Monday. Instead, Trudeau will seek to lay out a joint economic narrative with Trump. The prime minister’s conciliatory spirit traces back to that Trans-Siberian railway trip. On New Year’s Eve 1994, Trudeau drank vodka with the conductor, captivated by stories but abhorred by “his casual racism to our fellow passengers,” he wrote in his autobiography.

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Corruption interrupted.

Romania Protests Enter Day 13, Call For Government Of ‘Thieves’ To Resign (G.)

Tens of thousands of Romanians have braved the cold and returned to the streets in protest, calling on the government to resign as they accused it of attempting to water down anti-corruption laws. “Thieves! Resign!” chanted protesters gathered in front of the seat of government in Bucharest on Sunday night, as they used the lights from their mobile phones to project the blue, yellow and red colours of the Romanian flag. Up to 50,000 protesters took part in the Bucharest march, according to Romanian media reports. The authorities did not give any estimate of their own. Some 20,000 more took to the streets in other major cities, calling on the government to stand down. “We want to give the government a red card,” one of the protesters, 33-year-old businessman Adrian Tofan, said.

Sunday’s demonstrations, the 13th consecutive day of protests against the government, took place despite the administration backing down over a planned controversial decree which would have made abuse of power a crime punishable by jail only if the sums involved exceeded 200,000 lei ($47,500). The demonstrations, the largest since the ousting and summary execution of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, have continued despite the resignation on Thursday of justice minister Florin Iordache. “The justice minister’s resignation isn’t enough after what they tried to do,” said Tofan. Another demonstrator also said he had completely lost faith in the government. “We want this government to stand down. We don’t trust it, they want us to go backwards,” said Bogdan Moldovan, a doctor.

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Highly speculative, but….“..some economists in Germany say the repatriated gold may be needed to back a new deutschmark should the eurozone collapse..”

Germany Repatriates Gold Faster Than Planned As Faith In Euro Plunges (RT)

Berlin is bringing home its gold reserves stored in New York, London and Paris faster than scheduled, Germany’s central bank said Thursday. The move is linked to surging euroskepticism, as new governments in France and Italy may ditch the single currency. The German Bundesbank has already moved 583 tons of gold out of New York and Paris, planning to have a half of its gold back in Germany by the end of 2017, which is ahead of the 2020 plan. The rest will be split between the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Bank of England. “We have a lot of discussions about Trump, regarding implications on monetary policy, macroeconomics, etc., but we trust the central bank of the US,” Bundesbank board member Carl-Ludwig Thiele told a news conference. “Trump has not triggered a discussion about the storage facility in New York,” he said.

As French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen and Italy’s 5-Star Movement are openly calling to pull out of the euro, some economists in Germany say the repatriated gold may be needed to back a new deutschmark should the eurozone collapse. During the Cold War, 98% of Germany’s bullion was stored abroad, and so far the biggest repatriation was in 2000 when the Bundesbank repatriated 931 tons from the Bank of England. When the relocation is complete, Germany will still have 1,236 tons in New York, 432 tons in London and the rest in Frankfurt. The current repatriation involves moving 300 tons from New York and 374 tons from Paris. The Bundesbank said it is not worried about keeping gold in England despite Brexit, as London remains a key gold trading market and a safe place. Germany has the second-largest gold reserves in the world after the US with 3,381 tons.

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Amen.

Brussels’ Hypocrisy Over The Closing Of Borders (Nikos Devletoglou)

Sir, It seems remarkable that today’s leaders of the EU, encouraged by the overreaction of the global mass media, reserve for themselves the appearance of virtue and goodness and generally resent the refreshing American principle summed up by president Donald Trump as America First. Americans have shed blood, along with vast material expense, defending human rights in Europe — regardless of ethnicity, geography, culture or religion, demonstrably having guaranteed the continent’s survival in freedom and subsequent prosperity, including that of Germany, after the second world war.

The EU’s hypocrisy offends. Indeed, it remains a mystery how Brussels feels justified in its heavy criticism of America’s increasing vigilance over its own borders when the EU itself continues to turn a blind eye to the formidable barbed-wire militarised fortifications erected all along the northern frontiers of Greece by its neighbours, pitilessly blocking the passage of hundreds of thousands refugees desperately fleeing the war in Syria. These refugees still dearly hope to reach Germany first and eventually other parts of Europe, but are instead inhumanely trapped in Greece practically under the authority of the EU — which, further, even condones the closing of borders in Austria and Hungary. These are provocative double standards. The scant remaining resources in Greece are already stretched to their limits.

Previously prosperous islands in the Aegean Sea – Chios, Samos and Lesbos were until recently celebrated high-profile tourist destinations worldwide – are currently overrun by multitudes of refugees, understandably aggressively inclined by now, at the expense of social cohesion elsewhere in Greece as well. Still worse, the country remains undeservedly caught in a deepening economic and financial crisis, a result of blind austerity policies inspired by Germany that the EU rigorously enforces to this day, manifestly ruling out growth and prosperity in Greece any time soon. Both the IMF and the European authorities still fail to appreciate that reducing Greek debt by one-third in the present circumstances would consistently reflect the social, economic and financial damage they themselves have caused by arbitrarily depressing the Greek economy since 2010.

Nicos E Devletoglou, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Athens, Greece

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Bitter, bitter tragedy. “The human and social cost of this austerity policy is not included in the Excel tables of the Eurogroup. But it is paid cash by the population.”

Greece: The Low-Noise Collapse Of An Entire Country (FE)

European officials may argue that their bailout is working, they welcome the recovery of Greece and the budget surpluses, but the situation is quite different: passively we are witnessing the low-noise collapse of a whole country. While forecasts foresee a rebound of the Greek economy in 2016, with growth of at least 2.6%, these risks once again prove to be false. If a slight start was recorded at the beginning of the year, it continued to slacken. In the last few months, the engine seems to have stalled. According to Markit figures published on February 1st, manufacturing activity recorded its largest decline in 15 months. “The decline is related to both the decline in production and new orders. While rising import prices have accelerated to their highest level in 70 months, companies nevertheless lower their selling prices,” explains the economic and financial institute, pointing to the fall in consumption and the lack of outlets.

In seven years Greece’s GDP decreased by a third. Unemployment affects 25% of the population and 40% of young people between 15 and 25 years. One third of companies have disappeared in five years. Successive cuts imposed everywhere in the name of austerity now bite in all regions. There are no more trains, no more buses in whole parts of the country. No more schools, sometimes. Many secondary schools had to close in the most remote corners because of lack of funding. Per capita spending on health has declined by a third since 2009, according to the OECD. More than 25,000 doctors were dismissed. Hospitals lack personnel, medicines, everything. The human and social cost of this austerity policy is not included in the Excel tables of the Eurogroup.

But it is paid cash by the population. One fifth of the population lives without heating or telephone. 15% of the population has now fallen into extreme poverty compared to 2% in 2009. The Bank of Greece, which cannot be suspected of complacency, has drawn up a report on the health of the Greek population, published in June 2016. The figures it gives are overwhelming: 13% of the population are excluded medical care; 11.5% cannot buy prescription drugs; People with chronic health problems are up to 24.2%. Suicides, depression, mental illness show exponential increases. Worse: while the birth rate has fallen by 22% since the beginning of the crisis, the infant mortality rate almost doubled in a few years to reach 3.75% in 2014.

After seven years of crisis, austerity and European plans, the country is exhausted, financially, economically and physically. “The situation is getting worse. What we need most now is food. This shows that the problems relate to the essential and not the quality of life. It’s about subsistence,” says Ekavi Valleras, head of the NGO Desmos. And it is to this country that Europe asks moreover to assume alone or almost the reception of the refugees coming to Europe.

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Feb 042017
 
 February 4, 2017  Posted by at 10:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


Henri Cartier Bresson Paris 1952

Judge Blocks Trump Travel Ban Nationwide (ZH)
Airlines Told To Allow Banned Travelers Into US After Judge’s Order (G.)
Trump’s Travel Ban Has Revoked 60,000 Visas For Now (R.)
If Americans Truly Cared About Muslims, They Would Stop Killing Them (BAR)
Iran To Name US Individuals Involved In ‘Helping And Founding’ Terrorists (ZH)
EU Flirts With Hypocrisy In Criticising Trump’s Refugee Ban (EUO)
America Is Shedding Its Whole Middle Class (Jim Kunstler)
Vancouver Home Sales Plummeted 40% In 2016 On Foreign Buyer Tax (AFR)
Amazon Accounts For 43% Of US Online Retail Sales (BI)
UniCredit Writedowns Ring Alarm Bells For Italian Banks (R.)
Euro Too Weak For Germany But Too Strong For Others (R.)
Eurocrats ‘Beg States To Agree To Deeper Integration To Save The Bloc’ (Exp.)
Grexit? Greece Again On The Brink As Debt Crisis Threatens Break With EU (G.)

 

 

“It’s a case of that magnitude, it’s a case that frankly I think will ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, so that would not surprise me one way or the other.”

Judge Blocks Trump Travel Ban Nationwide (ZH)

Following a brief moment of ‘success’ for the Trump administration as a Boston judge ruled Trump’s immigration policy was not a Muslim ban, a Bush-appointed federal judge in Seattle, who said the states of Washington and Minnesota can sue claiming their residents were harmed by the ban, granted a nationwide temporary restraining order blocking Trump’s immigration ban. District Judge James Robart ruled the executive order would be stopped nationwide effective immediately: his ruling was the most comprehensive legal rebuke of Trump’s Jan. 27 executive order prohibiting immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Syria and four other nations from entering the U.S. for 90 days. Judges in Brooklyn, New York, Los Angeles and Alexandria, Virginia, had previouslyissued orders that are less sweeping.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson was delighted with the decision: “The Constitution prevailed today,” Ferguson said in a statement after the ruling. “It is not the loudest voice that prevails on the Constitution,” Ferguson continued speaking outside the courthouse. “We are a nation of laws, not even the president can violate the Constitution. It’s our president’s duty to honor this ruling and I’ll make sure he does,” Ferguson added hopefully. Good luck with that. In his ruling, Robart said that “the state has met its burden in demonstrating immediate and irreparable injury” while Fergsuon added that “Judge Robart’s decision, effective immediately, effective now, puts a halt to President Trump’s unconstitutional and unlawful executive order. It puts a stop to it immediately, nationwide.” The court order, effective immediately, will remain in place until the judge considers a motion – probably within a month – to permanently invalidate the president’s order, Ferguson said.

Ferguson, a Democrat, filed the lawsuit three days after Trump signed the executive order. The suit argued that the travel ban targets Muslims and violates constitutional rights of immigrants and their families. In his request for the order, according to Bloomberg, Ferguson had said the effects on the state included economic consequences for employers based there, including Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon.com. Expedia, based in Bellevue, Washington, had about 1,000 customers with flight reservations in or out of the U.S. from the seven countries, he said. Minnesota, like Washington, cited the effect of the ban on students at its colleges and universities, as well as health care centers including the Mayo Clinic. The state’s 5.4 million residents included 30,000 immigrants from the affected countries, it said in the lawsuit.

According to The Hill, in a phone interview with CNN Friday evening, Ferguson said he “expected win, lose or draw” that the case would move “fairly quickly through, up to the Ninth Circuit” Court of Appeals – “just because of the magnitude of the executive order.” And hinting that the Supreme Court showdown we suggested previously now appears inevitable, Ferguson added that he is “prepared for this case to go all the way to the Supreme Court whichever way the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals goes,” he said, anticipating a challenge to Robart’s ruling. “It’s a case of that magnitude, it’s a case that frankly I think will ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, so that would not surprise me one way or the other.”

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Trump’s legal team senses difficulties ahead: “..The justice department later said it would not immediately file for an emergency stay..”

Airlines Told To Allow Banned Travelers Into US After Judge’s Order (G.)

Customs officials have reportedly told US airlines that they can board passengers who had been barred from entering the country after a federal judge in Seattle ordered a temporary halt on Donald Trump’s travel ban for refugees and people from seven predominantly-Muslim nations. District judge James Robart granted a temporary restraining order on Friday after hearing arguments from Washington state and Minnesota that the president’s order had unlawfully discriminated against Muslims and caused unreasonable harm. It was not immediately clear whether authorities would comply with the broad order, especially after officials reacted in confusion a week earlier, detaining valid visa holders and arguing with lawyers.

Late on Friday, the White House released a statement saying that it would seek an emergency stay against Robart’s ruling; an earlier request for a stay by a justice department attorney had been denied by the judge. “At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this outrageous order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate. The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people,” press secretary Sean Spicer said. In a second “updated” statement, the White House removed the word “outrageous”. The justice department later said it would not immediately file for an emergency stay, at least on Friday night, and reports said Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had informed US airlines that they should board travelers who had been barred by an executive order last week.

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Looks like the worst of the chaos may be over. Trump can’t afford too many court battles, certainly if he loses them. He’s being told to confer with the lawyers first now.

Trump’s Travel Ban Has Revoked 60,000 Visas For Now (R.)

About 60,000 visas were revoked under U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, the State Department said on Friday, in one of several government communications clarifying how the order is being rolled out. The revocation means the government voided travel visas for people trying to enter the United States but the visas could be restored later without a new application, said William Cocks, a spokesman for consular affairs at the State Department. “We will communicate updates to affected travelers following the 90-day review,” he said. Earlier news reports, citing a government attorney at a federal court hearing, put the figure at more than 100,000 visas.

The government issued over 11 million immigrant and non-immigrant visas in fiscal year 2015, the State Department said. The immigration executive order signed by Trump a week ago temporarily halted the U.S. refugee program and imposed a 90-day suspension on people traveling from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Trump said the measures would help protect Americans from terrorist attacks. Under President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor, the United States added those seven countries as “countries of concern” under its visa waiver program, effectively toughening U.S. visa procedures for individuals who visited those places during the past five years.

Trump’s executive order was at least in part informed by those restrictions. The new president, who took office on Jan. 20, went further by temporarily barring passport holders from those seven countries. The State Department first issued the guidance about revoking the visas on Jan. 27, the day Trump signed his executive order, according to a memo filed in a court case in Massachusetts. But confusion about the roll out of the order sparked protests at airports across the country where people had been detained and led to a wave of lawsuits filed by individuals, states and civil rights groups.

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“.. so much American hatred is directed at Muslims that Democrats and establishment Republicans must struggle to keep the Russians in the “hate zone” of the American popular psyche.”

If Americans Truly Cared About Muslims, They Would Stop Killing Them (BAR)

In the most dramatic expression of insider opposition to a sitting administration’s policies in generations, over 1,000 U.S. State Department employees signed on to a memo protesting President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries setting foot on U.S. soil. Another recent high point in dissent among the State Department’s 18,000 worldwide employees occurred in June of last year, when 51 diplomats called for U.S. air strikes against the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad. Neither outburst of dissent was directed against the U.S. wars and economic sanctions that have killed and displaced millions of people in the affected countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Rather, the diplomatic “rebellion” of last summer sought to pressure the Obama administration to join with Hillary Clinton and her “Big Tent” full of war hawks to confront Russia in the skies over Syria, while the memo currently making the rounds of State Department employees claims to uphold “core American and constitutional values,” preserve “good will towards Americans” and prevent “potential damage to the U.S. economy from the loss of revenue from foreign travelers and students.” In neither memo is there a word of support for world peace, nor a hint of respect for the national sovereignty of other peoples – which is probably appropriate, since these are not, and never have been, “core American and constitutional values.” “The diplomatic ‘rebellion’ of last summer sought to pressure the Obama administration to join with Hillary Clinton and her ‘Big Tent’ full of war hawks to confront Russia in the skies over Syria.”

Ironically, the State Department “dissent channel” was established during one of those rare moments in U.S. history when “peace” was popular: 1971, when a defeated U.S. war machine was very reluctantly winding down support for its puppet regime in South Vietnam. Back then, lots of Americans, including denizens of the U.S. government, wanted to take credit for the “peace” that was on the verge of being won by the Vietnamese, at a cost of at least four million Southeast Asian dead. But, those days are long gone. Since 2001, war has been normalized in the U.S. – especially war against Muslims, which now ranks at the top of actual “core American values.” Indeed, so much American hatred is directed at Muslims that Democrats and establishment Republicans must struggle to keep the Russians in the “hate zone” of the American popular psyche.

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Could be interesting.

Iran To Name US Individuals Involved In ‘Helping And Founding’ Terrorists (ZH)

Following the escalation on Friday morning, in which the US Treasury Department published a list of 13 Iranian individuals and 12 Iranian entities facing new restrictions following Iran’s recent ballistic missile test, Tehran promptly denounced the latest round of sanctions imposed by the US and said it would retaliate – something it has previously said it would do – however added a new twist when Tehran announced it would impose legal restrictions on American individuals and entities helping “regional terrorist groups”, a Foreign Ministry statement read as quoted by TV. For obvious reasons, this naming and shaming of US-based terrorists promises to be far more interesting than if Iran were to actually ban, say, the US national chess team. Such an action will quickly coalesce the world’s attention on a handful of US entities, putting under a microscope all of their offshore activities.

“The new sanctions … are not compatible with America’s commitments and resolution 2231 of the U.N. Security Council that endorsed the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six powers,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry statement said late on Friday.Tehran said it will react accordingly to any U.S. measure aimed at the Iranian nation’s interests. “In retaliation for the U.S. sanctions, Iran will impose legal restrictions on some American individuals and entities that were involved in helping and founding regional terrorist groups,” the Foreign Ministry statement said. It said names of the entities and individuals would be announced later, although it was not clear when exactly that is. As reported earlier, on Friday, the US Treasury Department blacklisted 13 individuals and a dozen businesses as part of the sanctions. The majority of the individuals in question are from Iran, as well as three Chinese nationals and two Arabs.

“Iran’s continued support for terrorism and development of its ballistic missile program poses a threat to the region, to our partners worldwide, and to the United States,” John E. Smith, acting director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said. He added that in countering what he called “Iranian malign activity,” Washington will not hesitate to put more pressure and restrictions “to address this behavior.” Countering rising US rhetoric, Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said in a twitter post that “Iran unmoved by threats as we derive security from our people.” “We’ll never initiate war, but we can only rely on our own means of defense,” he stressed. Iran’s Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan noted that Tehran “will not allow foreigners to interfere” in the country’s defense issues and insisted “the test did not violate the nuclear deal or (UN) Resolution 2231.”

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Understatement of the year.

EU Flirts With Hypocrisy In Criticising Trump’s Refugee Ban (EUO)

The EU rightly spoke out against Donald Trump’s entry ban on asylum seekers from Syria. But its own track record leaves much to be desired. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday (Jan 30) that the EU would continue to host refugees. “It’s our identity: we celebrate when walls are brought down and bridges are built,” she said in a tweet. Her comments appeared the same day a young man from Pakistan suffocated to death in a tent at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. He was trying to keep warm. It was the third death at the camp in a week. The misery of people is well documented in so-called hotspots set up by the EU in both Italy and in Greece. The conditions are so bad that many, including Syrian refugees, have volunteered to return to Turkey from the Greek islands.

The EU blames the Greek government. The Greek government blames EU states for not relocating asylum seekers and for sealing off the Western Balkan route. When Hungary erected a wall on its border with Serbia, the European Commission said it was a national issue. When a Syrian refugee protested against the barrier, Hungarian authorities gave him a 10-year prison sentence. The EU talks endlessly about solidarity. But in reality, solidarity does not exist except among the nameless volunteers on the ground. And some of those are risking jail for their efforts. One Danish woman went on trial for people-smuggling after giving a family of refugees a ride to Copenhagen. A similar case is unfolding in Sweden. Only around 10,000 people have been relocated from Italy and Greece to other EU states.

The two-year scheme, which ends in September, had called for 160,000. Many more have been kicked out. Almost 11,000 people were sent home last year, a four-fold increase compared with 2015 when 3,565 migrants were returned in 66 operations. Both EU commission and member states now appear to oppose issuing humanitarian visas for people in need. Germany may stand out as an exception after welcoming some 1 million in 2015. But the fact that the world’s richest nations are unwilling to properly care for the thousands stranded in Greece and on its islands is a disgrace. The task has largely been delegated to volunteers, NGOs and international aid organisations. With populist parties gaining ground in the Netherlands, France and Germany, the anti-immigrant discourse has also gone mainstream.

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte last week told Muslims to “act normal, or go away”. France’s conservative presidential contender Francois Fillon has promised to erect national borders and German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere wants zones outside Europe to screen applicants before arrival. De Maiziere’s proposal is gaining traction. The plan is to offshore the problem to war-torn Libya. The job is already under way in a handful of other African states and Afghanistan. This is the EU’s invisible wall.

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Good to see Jim is still reading the Automatic Earth.

America Is Shedding Its Whole Middle Class (Jim Kunstler)

I guess you’ve noticed by now that the center didn’t hold. Instead of a secure platform for political premises like tradition, precedent, rationality, and cultural norms, you see a fiery maw of sheer emotion between the camps of the so-called Left and the so-called Right. I say so-called because the campus Left and the Trump Right have escaped the categorical corrals they formerly occupied. And they may have left their customary official parties stranded and dying too. It may be fatuous to say whether that is a good or bad thing; it just is, for the moment. They are two halves of a polity so broken and so far apart that it is also hard to see how they might ever come back together into a consensus about how a society might operate successfully.

Not having a consensus — some substantial overlap between circles of perspective — it’s not surprising that America can’t construct a coherent view of what is happening, or make a plan for what to do about it. Mainly what’s happening is the running down of fossil fuel based techno-industrial economies, and the main symptom is falling standards of living, with fading prospects for future happiness and security. As I’ve said before, our economic picture is basically untenable due to the falling energy-return-on-investment of the crucial oil supply. At the high point of 1920s oil production the ratio was around 100-1. The shale oil “miracle” is good for about 5-1. The aggregate of all oil these days is under 30-1. Below that number, you’ve got to shed some activities in our complex economy (or they just get too expensive to support) — things like high-paying labor jobs, medical care, tourism, college, commuting, heating 2500 square foot homes…).

Oddly the way it’s actually working out is that America is simply shedding its whole middle class and all its accustomed habits and luxuries. At least that’s how it adds up in effect. Naturally, that produces a lot of bad feeling. President Trump is unlikely to be able to fix that essential problem, unless he can pilot the whole political-economy into a glide-path leading toward neo-medievalism — what I call the World Made By Hand. Trump’s call for restoring the factory economy of 1962 is a low-percentage prospect. Instead, he’ll be saddled with the collateral damage caused by the dishonest effort of his recent predecessors to borrow from the future to pay for the way we live now — that is, racking up debt.

This mighty debt-load, never before seen in history, and the accounting fraud that enables it, has helped produce all kinds of distortions, perversities, and fragilities in our money system (finance and banking) which can easily slip into collapse if a crucial prop fails here or there, and that is exactly what I think will happen under Trump. It will not be his fault, but he’ll get blamed for it. And when it happens, he won’t be able to give his attention to anything but that.

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People don’t recognize it yet, but this is how you spell success.

Vancouver Home Sales Plummeted 40% In 2016 On Foreign Buyer Tax (AFR)

Home sales in Vancouver plummeted 39.5% in January from a year ago and fell 11% from December, five months after the government slapped a tax on foreign buyers. January marked the sixth consecutive month of falling sales in Canada’s hottest real estate market, where an influx of mainly Chinese offshore buyers has helped push the price of a typical home to more than 12 times the median resident’s household income. Vancouver topped a list of cities around the world that UBS has identified as most at risk of a housing bubble. Sydney placed fourth after London and Stockholm. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver said the monthly sales – 1523 homes sold in January – marked a 10.3pc drop on the 10-year average for the month.

‘It’s a lukewarm start to the year compared to 2016,” said Dan Morrison, the board’s president. “While we saw near record-breaking sales at this time last year, home buyers and sellers are more reluctant to engage so far in 2017.” The government of British Columbia – Vancouver is the province’s biggest city – acted last year to cool the market, slapping a new 15% tax on offshore buyers in August. The average benchmark price for detached properties in the Pacific port has fallen 17.8% to $C1,474,800 from a record high of $C1.83 million in January 2016. The average price has fallen 6.6% in the past six months and edged 0.6% lower from December. The composite benchmark price for all residential properties – detached, units and townhomes – has fallen 3.7% since June.

The BC Ministry of Finance earlier reported that the %age of sales in Vancouver to foreign residents had plummetted since the new foreign buyers’ tax went into effect on August 2. In September, foreign purchasers were involved in 1.3% of all transactions in the city of 1.5 million people. “From June 10 to August 1, the period before the additional tax took effect, foreign purchasers were involved in 13.2% of residential property transfers in Metro Vancouver,” a ministry statement said.

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Companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon have become far too big for anyone’s good. Time to cut them down to size.

Amazon Accounts For 43% Of US Online Retail Sales (BI)

An analysis by Slice Intelligence released this week found that 43% of all online retail sales in the US went through Amazon in 2016, as the e-commerce giant’s market share continues to grow. According to the study, which analyzed more than 4 million online purchases, Amazon accounted for the majority (53%) of the growth in US e-commerce sales for the year. Simply put, Amazon’s already dominant share of the US e-commerce market is only increasing. It reportedly captured 33% of all US online purchases in 2015, according to Internet Retailer, up from 25% in 2012. If those estimates are correct, then the company increased its share of the US e-commerce market by 10% in 2016, an incredible accomplishment given that it already controlled such a sizeable chunk of the space.

Slice said that Amazon’s growth in 2016 was driven by sales in the electronics, home, and apparel categories. Electronics contributed to an estimated 18% of the company’s sales growth in 2016, as the number of US households that own an Amazon Echo device more than doubled from 2015. The next biggest contributors were the home and kitchen category (15%), apparel and accessories (12%), food (11%), and health and beauty (10%), illustrating that Amazon is seeing significant growth in consumer packaged goods (CPGs). The company’s recent expansion of its Dash Buttons to its online site and mobile app should help fuel further growth in these categories. Amazon’s success has also been fueled by high customer loyalty and brand awareness.

The Amazon Prime subscription service continues to grow: One study released last September by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners found that 20% of all US consumers are Prime members. Meanwhile, an Internet Retailer survey of 500 US consumers last December found that more than half of them (52%) go directly to Amazon when they shop online. Although the company faces a wide range of competition in the e-commerce market from both legacy retailers and new entrants, none of them can match Amazon’s customer loyalty and brand awareness when it comes to online shopping. Other online retailers will have to build up their brand awareness to compete with Amazon, but they’ll also likely need to sell through Amazon’s marketplace to stay relevant as its market share keeps growing.

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Slo-mo suffocation. Much better to swallow the bitterness and start afresh.

UniCredit Writedowns Ring Alarm Bells For Italian Banks (R.)

UniCredit has heavily written down the value of its €700 million ($756 million) investment in Italy’s bank rescue fund and other investors are likely to follow suit, sources told Reuters, complicating efforts to stabilize the nation’s banking sector. Italy biggest bank has cut the value of its investment in the Atlante fund by significantly more than a third on its books, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The move is part of its plan to clean up its balance sheet before it taps the market for 13 billion euros in a share issue next week. By writing down the stake, UniCredit is indicating that it does not believe it will make money on the investment it made into the state-managed fund created to recapitalize a number of failing Italian banks and help the industry offload bad loans.

A source at another bank estimated UniCredit’s writedown could be closer to 70%. Intesa Sanpaolo, which together with UniCredit is Atlante’s biggest investor, on Friday said it had written down the value of its stake in the fund by 33%. A group of about half a dozen other banks that have invested in Atlante have held a series of meetings in recent days to discuss the scale of their own possible writedowns, said another source with direct knowledge of the talks. They are also likely to write down their investments by 30%, according to the source, who did not name the lenders. Atlante executives have acknowledged that the value of investments has fallen but have said the fund created last April has an investment horizon of five years and aims to create value for its backers over that period.

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And that in a nutshell is what condemns the single currency.

Euro Too Weak For Germany But Too Strong For Others (R.)

In an attack on Germany, U.S. President Donald Trump’s top trade adviser said the euro was “grossly undervalued”, a charge which may ring true for the German economy but not for the 19-member currency zone as a whole. The adviser, Peter Navarro, said Germany, the euro zone’s economic powerhouse, was exploiting the euro exchange rate for trade purposes, a charge rejected by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. There’s no clear method of establishing how much a currency is under or overvalued but many economists think that some economic measures show the German economy could easily cope with a stronger euro. It hit a 14-year low of $1.0339 last month. Even German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Friday the single currency could be a bit stronger for Germany.

But he agreed with economists that this would make life hard for other euro members. For weaker economies such as Greece, economic measures show the exchange rate is too strong, and for the whole currency area it is only moderately underpriced. “The euro is below most estimates of fair value. And German exporters appear to be benefiting more than most,” said Jennifer McKeown at Capital Economics. The White House is concerned about the exchange rate because German companies sell cars, vehicle parts, pharmaceuticals, planes and helicopters around the world, competing with American, as well as other European, manufacturers. Exports account for nearly half Germany’s economic output, with 9.5% going to the United States and around 35% to euro zone countries.

In 2015, the United States became the top destination for German exports, overtaking France for the first time since 1961 due to an upturn in the U.S. economy but also due to the weaker euro. The currency has lost more than 20% of its value against the U.S. dollar since mid 2014. A handful of recent reports found that while the euro was undervalued for Germany it was too strong for other countries. The World Price Index (WPI) published by research firm World Economics each month found that the euro was undervalued on a purchasing power parity basis, a measure that takes into account what money can buy in two different currencies based on inflation and the cost of living. A “German euro” was nearly 17% undervalued against the dollar in PPP terms, while a “French euro” was overvalued by nearly 5%. A “Greek euro” was overvalued by 7%.

“German exporters remain the beneficiaries of a system that is causing stagnation and unemployment in the rest of Europe,” World Economics said in the report. The IMF also said last year that the euro was undervalued by anywhere from 0 to 10% for the region as a whole. But for Germany that undervaluation was anywhere between 10 and 20%, making it the most undervalued exchange rate for any of the 29 countries and jurisdictions around the world covered in the report.

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The last gasps: ..Mr Tusk will reportedly urge leaders to pledge allegiance to the crumbling Brussels bloc..”

Eurocrats ‘Beg States To Agree To Deeper Integration To Save The Bloc’ (Exp.)

Desperate Eurocrat Donald Tusk will urge EU nations to agree to deeper integration and recommit to the sprawling superstate, a leaked report has hinted. Mr Tusk will reportedly urge leaders to pledge allegiance to the crumbling Brussels bloc and agree to “an ambitious vision” of “political consolidation”. The European Council president will cite “unprecedented external threats” during a meeting in Malta with leaders from EU nations as a reason for recommitting to the European project. According to Politico, the document which will be proposed to officials later today, says “the EU is at a historical turning point” and is “facing important internal challenges as exemplified by Brexit”. Tusk’s lackeys, along with Italian and Maltese officials, will use Friday’s meeting to draft the proposed “Rome declaration” which will outline a future vision for the bloc.

The document urges leaders to commit to “greater unity in foreign policy and more investments in our defence” and “further deepening the Economic and Monetary Union” – two key reasons why Britain chose to divorce itself from the EU. EU leaders will also be told to sign up to an ever-increasing swathe of legislative measure in June following the “Rome declaration” a few months earlier. The report moans that Trump, Brexit, terrorism, increased military expansion by Russia and the migrant crisis pose serious threats to the stability of the EU. It also details the financial instability in Greece as another hinderance to the volatile political union. It adds that the upcoming meeting in Rome in March should “offer an ambitious vision on how to preserve unity and achieve political consolidation”. The EU is set to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome – which laid the basis for “ever closer union” between nation states and which critics argue has forced countries towards a federal Europe.

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“We have become a society that has no hope, not even a slice or piece of hope for the future,” he sighed. “The only reason people want to stay in the euro is because they fear the consequences if we were to leave, but if things don’t get better that will change too.”

Grexit? Greece Again On The Brink As Debt Crisis Threatens Break With EU (G.)

Syriza, like every governing party before it, has been hollowed out by the eviscerating effects of having to apply policies that it came to power vowing to oppose. On Tuesday its parliamentary spokesman took Greeks by storm proposing that Grexit be discussed “without taboo” in the 300-member house. The once unassailable popularity of Tsipras, meanwhile, has been pummelled by the implementation of some of the harshest measures to date and few believe he has the political capital to enforce another round of austerity. “It is not a can but a bomb being kicked down the road,” said one western diplomat. “In a world where liberal values are under threat we could be looking at a very dangerous scenario where the cradle of democracy also collapses.”

Bereft of growth and battered by cuts and tax increases, Greeks have become poorer and ever more cognizant of their own insolvency in a state where sovereignty exists in little more than name. One in three now live below the poverty line and unemployment hovers around 23%. The latest impasse has not only seen emigration levels rise and non-repayment of household and business loans soar but also nostalgia for the drachma grow. That is what worries Panagopoulos, the pollster, most. What was once a minority view is changing fast, with the majority of Greeks in a recent Alco survey saying it was wrong to have joined the euro. “We have become a society that has no hope, not even a slice or piece of hope for the future,” he sighed. “The only reason people want to stay in the euro is because they fear the consequences if we were to leave, but if things don’t get better that will change too.”

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