Nov 022020
 


Paul Klee Limits of Reason (Grenzen des Verstandes ) 1927

 

A Contagion Of Hatred And Hysteria (Sunetra Gupta)
Trump COVID Adviser Atlas Forced To Apologize For RT Interview (RT)
‘Bleak Midwinter’ In Europe As 250 Million Face Lockdown (NZH)
Bias In Journalism Has Become A Disease (Curtis)
MI Nov 1, 2020 Presidential Poll (Trafalgar)
The Complete Election Cheat Sheet: What Happens On And After November 3 (ZH)
In Defense Of The Electoral College (AT)
Trump Failed To Fight And Expose The Establishment’s COVID Narrative (Marsden)
Democrats Are Masking Biden’s Frailty (NYPost)
Add Vitamin D To Bread And Milk To Help Fight Covid, Urge Scientists (G.)
Non-Scalable Fence Being Built to Protect Trump During Election Day Unrest (GP)

 

 

The first lockdowns made sense, though too long; they were a response to a totally new virus. But policies should have been developed to make sure there would not be a second lockdown.

Such policies were not developed. Therefore, the second lockdowns merely disguise policy failures.

Days are getting shorter, nights are getting colder, and we’re locking down entire populations. The damage will be immense.

 

 

This looks funny at first. But at the end is no longer is. Biden copies Hillary word for word.

Tiptoe thru the tulips

Tucker Trunalimunumaprzure

 

 

Sunetra Gupta is a professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford. She has to run to the Daily Mail to be heard. Like Glenn Greenwald has to go on Tucker Carlson, and Scott Atlas talks to RT.

We must not discuss either Hunter Biden or lockdowns.

A Contagion Of Hatred And Hysteria (Sunetra Gupta)

Lockdown is a blunt, indiscriminate policy that forces the poorest and most vulnerable people to bear the brunt of the fight against coronavirus. As an infectious diseases epidemiologist, I believe there has to be a better way. That is why, earlier this month, with two other international scientists, I co-authored a proposal for an alternative approach — one that shields those most at risk while enabling the rest of the population to resume their ordinary lives to some extent. I expected debate and disagreement about our ideas, published as the Great Barrington Declaration. As a scientist, I would welcome that. After all, science progresses through its ideas and counter-ideas. But I was utterly unprepared for the onslaught of insults, personal criticism, intimidation and threats that met our proposal.

The level of vitriol and hostility, not just from members of the public online but from journalists and academics, has horrified me. I am not a politician. The hurly-burly of political life and being in the eye of the media do not appeal to me at all. I am first and foremost a scientist; one who is far more comfortable sitting in my office or laboratory than in front of a television camera. Of course, I do have deeply held political ideals — ones that I would describe as inherently Left-wing. I would not, it is fair to say, normally align myself with the Daily Mail. I have strong views about the distribution of wealth, about the importance of the Welfare State, about the need for publicly owned utilities and government investment in nationalised industries.

But Covid-19 is not a political phenomenon. It is a public health issue — indeed, it is one so serious that the response to it has already led to a humanitarian crisis. So I have been aghast to see a political rift open up, with outright abuse meted out to those who, like me, question the orthodoxy. At the heart of our proposal is the recognition that mass lockdowns cause enormous damage. We are already seeing how current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results — to name just a few — include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health.

Such pitfalls of national lockdowns must not be ignored, especially when it is the working class and younger members of society who carry the heaviest burden. I was also deeply concerned that lockdowns only delay the inevitable spread of the virus. Indeed, we believe that a better way forward would be to target protective measures at specific vulnerable groups, such as the elderly in care homes. Of course, there will be challenges, such as where people are being cared for in their own multi-generational family homes. I am certainly not pretending I have all the answers, but these issues need to be discussed and thrashed out thoroughly.

That is why I have found it so frustrating how, in recent weeks, proponents of lockdown policies have seemed intent on shutting down debate rather than promoting reasoned discussion. It is perplexing to me that so many refuse even to consider the potential benefits of allowing non-vulnerable citizens, such as the young, to go about their lives and risk infection, when in doing so they would build up herd immunity and thereby protect the lives of vulnerable citizens. Yet rather than engage in serious, rational discussion with us, our critics have dismissed our ideas as ‘pixie dust’ and ‘wishful thinking’.

Read more …

Scott Atlas can’t talk about lockdowns either other than on RT, “one of the Kremlin’s main propaganda platforms..” It’s safe to say that WaPo and CNN are propaganda platforms; RT, not so much.

Trump COVID Adviser Atlas Forced To Apologize For RT Interview (RT)

Trump administration Covid-19 adviser Scott Atlas ripped public-health officials for “egregious” policy failures – only to be forced to apologize after mainstream media deflected his points by attacking him for appearing on RT. On Saturday, the Stanford University doctor, who has emerged as President Donald Trump’s top adviser on responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, called the lockdown policies an “epic failure” and argued they are “killing people,” while speaking with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground show. “The public-health leadership have failed egregiously, and they’re killing people with their fear-inducing shutdown policies,” Atlas told RT.

“The lockdowns will go down as an epic failure of public policy by people who refuse to accept they were wrong – were wrong, refused to accept they were wrong, didn’t know the data, didn’t care. And it became a frenzy of stopping Covid-19 cases at all costs, and those costs are massive,” he said. “The argument is undeniable: The lockdowns are killing people.” Atlas then pointed to job losses, rising suicides, rising drug abuse and the harm being done to young people, tying the issues to the Covid-19 restrictions put in place. One study showed that 25 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 thought about killing themselves in June “due to the lockdown”, he said.


“We’re creating a generation of neurotic children, forcing them to wear masks and be six feet apart from their friends, or not even have school in person.” While Atlas’ counter-narrative comments might have been fodder for a serious discussion of public-health policy, mainstream media outlets instead spun the interview into a controversy over a Trump administration official granting an interview to a Russian state-owned outlet. Reporters such as CNN’s Jim Acosta, Politico’s Ryan Lizza and NBC’s David Gura immediately pounced, ignoring the substance of his comments and breathlessly telling their followers that he spoke to an alleged Kremlin mouthpiece. “White House Covid adviser appears on outlet that is described by US intel as one of the Kremlin’s main propaganda platforms,” Washington Post national-security correspondent Greg Miller said.

ScottAtlas apology

Read more …

Days are gettig shorter, nights are getting colder, and we’re locking down entire populations. The damage will be immense.

‘Bleak Midwinter’ In Europe As 250 Million Face Lockdown (NZH)

More than a quarter of a billion Europeans are now in, or facing, fresh lockdowns after a second wave of Covid-19 deluged the continent. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson grudgingly announced on the weekend that the 55 million residents of England would head into a four-week lockdown – even as some Brits headed off to Spain for autumn holidays. The UK nations of Wales and Northern Island are already in lockdown and Scotland has warned it may be forced to ramp up restrictions following the move in England. Britain joins a host of other nations, including France, Germany, Greece, Belgium, Ireland, Austria and the Czech Republic, in imposing new lockdowns.

It’s been dubbed the “bleak midwinter” as more than 250 million Europeans are now being told to stay at home for all of November. Other countries, such as Italy, Portugal and Spain, have imposed restrictions at a regional level and have warned they also may go into full lockdown mode. On Saturday, the UK PM said a four-week lockdown from November 5 was vital to avert a “medical and moral disaster” for the country’s health service, the NHS. He said deaths could reach “several thousand a day” and could peak above that of April’s lockdown. Johnson had previously vowed not to put England into a second lockdown, relying on regional restrictions to fight outbreaks. However, rising numbers – 22,000 new cases on Saturday alone – have pushed the UK into the one million coronavirus infections club.

[..] Statistically speaking, Belgium has been the European nation hardest hit by Covid-19 with more than 100 deaths per 100,000 population.From Monday, a strict lockdown will be accompanied by a curfew for up to six weeks. Belgium has been challenged by its small geographic size but highly devolved regional governments which has meant virus restrictions have varied, in some cases, from one town to another. Meanwhile in France, a cumulative 700km traffic jam choked the streets of the greater Paris region as residents streamed out of the city to spend a second lockdown in the country where many have second homes. Anyone leaving their home will have to fill out an “attestation” form declaring their reason for doing so.

[..] Despite the increasing number of lockdowns, a number of countries with lower infection rates are holding out against major restrictions. The Nordic nations of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland are largely lockdown-free. Sweden, which has relied on voluntary guidance rather than legal enforcement, is seeing an increase in cases. But deaths remain low. The Government has asked residents of Stockholm and Gothenburg to avoid heading indoors to gyms and shops in an attempt to reduce infections.

Read more …

“..we have gone beyond partisanship and into tribalism..”

Bias In Journalism Has Become A Disease (Curtis)

Glenn Greenwald is the latest big-name journalist to quit a title, leaving the Intercept in a censorship row. This trend is indicative of a media landscape that reflects a polarized society which discourages freedom of thought. Imagine having to resign from something that you co-founded. It can’t be a good feeling. You spend all of your time trying to build it up into something tenable, only for things to fall apart. That’s the position Glenn Greenwald has found himself in at news website, the Intercept. But even more galling for Greenwald is why things turned ugly. As his resignation letter stated, “The Intercept’s editors, in violation of my contractual right of editorial freedom, censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all New-York-based Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression. The censored article, based on recently revealed emails and witness testimony, raised critical questions about Biden’s conduct.”

Working on the assumption that what Greenwald said is true, this is a distressing occurrence that’s becoming all too familiar. It’s reminiscent of Bari Weiss and her issues at the New York Times, Ariana Pekary leaving MSNBC, and Andrew Sullivan quitting the New Yorker. Over and over again, we’re seeing journalists who don’t want to adhere to certain partisan views being forced into a situation where they have to leave their publication because they won’t play the cheerleader. This is a worrying trend. Sure, partisanship has been part of journalism as long as it has existed. People will inevitably have biases towards certain belief systems that they adopt. With that said, there is another inevitability, given how flawed humanity is. And this is that flawed humans aren’t going to be able uphold the standards that people with those beliefs expect them to. In short, no one is perfect, and everyone is open to criticism.


However, what we are seeing from certain partisan forces is a desire for any and all criticism from journalists to simply be swept under the carpet. At that point, can it really be classed as journalism? Readers expect journalists to ask questions. Some of those questions are going to be tough; some may even constitute criticism. But those questions and criticisms can open the way to improvement. There’s nothing wrong with being a conservative and being critical of other conservatives, or being a liberal and being critical of other liberals. But when that criticism has to be silenced or is met with outright hostility, we have gone beyond partisanship and into tribalism. And that is not a positive development.

Read more …

“This pollster is cool, the guy who got 2016 right, says “we take into account the fact that ppl may have one set of ideas n feelings in their local election and a complete different set of ideas n wishes in a national election.” He gets scale.”

MI Nov 1, 2020 Presidential Poll (Trafalgar)

 

 

Cahaly

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All the way to December 8?!

The Complete Election Cheat Sheet: What Happens On And After November 3 (ZH)

It’s after midnight on Nov 3, the US population has voted, and the election results are popping up across the media landscape. When will we know who is the next president? Well, due to the special circumstances surrounding this election including a record number of mail in ballots and countless court challenges involving the voting process, we may have to wait…. a while. Below we lay out a timeline of key events and catalysts that everyone should be aware of. After Election Day on November 3, the results of the election need to generally be finalized by December 8, which is known as the Safe Harbor Day, as this is when states select their EC Voters.

How to follow the news on Election Day. Here are a few tips from Bank of America: Here are a few tips:

• Be wary of exit polls: The track record of exit polls is tenuous at best. In 2004, exit polls showed John Kerry winning the popular vote by 51% to 48% only to ultimately lose by the same margin. Similarly, there were major flaws in the 2016 exit polls which substantially underestimated the number of white working-class voters while overestimating the number of college-educated white voters, leading to bias results favoring Hilary Clinton. Pollsters claim they have fixed the issues ailing Election Day polls but the better mouse trap is yet unproven. Moreover, there has been unprecedented surge in early voting (both in person and mail-in) with over 70mn votes cast nationwide to-date and there is a major skew in voter day preference by party. Admittedly, pollster are aware of this issue and will enhance their methodology by polling at large and early voting centers but nevertheless this creates greater uncertainty in their estimates.

• Brace for head fakes: Results from battleground states should begin to trickle in just after polls close within each state (Table 3). First battleground states to report will be Florida, Georgia and New Hampshire where polls close at 7pm EDT (polls in Florida’s panhandle will close at 8 pm), followed by North Carolina, Ohio and Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Type of ballots reported first will vary across states. For example, according to reporting done by the Upshot blog of the New York Times, battleground states such as Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Arizona, and Iowa will report early in-person and processed mail-in votes first. Meanwhile, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nevada will not follow any specific order. Getting a clear sense of who is winning will be difficult given the large number of early voting by mail and absentee ballots and different rules around processing ballots, which we discuss below.

• Key demographics: In 2016, President Trump was able to tip the election by winning the older and suburban vote. A post-mortem of the 2016 election by the Pew research center showed that Trump won the age groups 50-64 and 65+ by a margin of 6 and 9 points, respectively and edged out the suburban vote by 2 points. During the 2020 election cycle, polls have shown President Trump consistently running below his 2016 election numbers in these key demographic groups. In this context, keep an eye on results coming out of suburban areas such as Maricopa County in Arizona and Peach County in Georgia and older leaning regions such as Sumter County and Pinellas County in Florida. Results in these regions could prove to be a canary in the coalmine.

@TimMurtaugh

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The purpose of the Electoral Collage seems obvious. “..the Electoral College erects a constitutional check-and-balance to prevent corrupt urban politicians and voters from wielding disproportionate power..

In Defense Of The Electoral College (AT)

In the last twenty years, Democrats have twice lost presidential elections when the Electoral College has “trumped” the popular vote, leading to Republican victories. First came George W. Bush’s presidential victory over Al Gore in 2000, then Trump’s shocker over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Thus, radical Democrats demand the abolition of the Electoral College. “It’s undemocratic,” they say. “The will of the people should rule,” they cry. Yes, it’s undemocratic, which, believe it or not, is an exceptionally good thing. That’s because the United States is not, and never has been a “democracy.” The word “democracy” is not in the Constitution. In fact, the founders hated pure, unrestrained democracies.


Instead, Article 4, Section 4, states that the Constitution provides a “Republican” form of government. Not a democracy. There’s a difference. “Democracy” equals mob rule, where angry, fist-shakers “vote” for or demand whatever they want. Imagine that, against the rights and interests of others. Think of the mobs burning Portland and Seattle. “Republic” equals freedom and the rule of law, featuring internal checks-and-balances against overconcentration of power. Remember that phrase, checks-and-balances. It’s key to understanding the Electoral College. That’s because the Electoral College erects a constitutional check-and-balance to prevent corrupt urban politicians and voters from wielding disproportionate power over the less powerful. In this case, that means rural and small-town America. Though the Constitution contains 7 Articles and 27 Amendments, two powerful concepts emerge as keys to understanding the Constitution.

1. To Protect Freedom. First, the Constitution establishes government’s primary role, which is to protect individual freedom. The broadest freedoms designated for governmental protection are found at the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, guaranteeing Americans the right to life, liberty and property. Jefferson expresses a similar concept in the Declaration of Independence, discussing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So, protecting freedom is the government’s principal role, not to become a giant lollypop factory dispensing free goodies as the Democrats advocate.


2. A Restraining Device Against Overconcentration of Power. Here’s the second concept: The Constitution is also a restraining device against over-concentrated governmental power. When lecturing on the Constitution, to illustrate a point, I often show a photograph of a drunk driver, just after being arrested by police officers, with handcuffs clamping his hands behind his back. Likewise, the Constitution handcuffs government on multiple levels, restraining excessive governmental power to protect citizens.

Tom Fitton

Read more …

He listened to the scientists.

Trump Failed To Fight And Expose The Establishment’s COVID Narrative (Marsden)

The best thing about the Trump presidency is arguably that every morning, no matter how bad a day you’re having, you can be assured that when you open your Twitter feed alongside your morning coffee, Trump will have said something that will make you shoot your Nescafe out your nose. (That is, if partisan hysteria hasn’t caused you to completely lose your sense of humor.) Modern-day US presidents haven’t exactly been the epitome of statesmanship, but unlike them, at least Trump gives you a chuckle. The problem with his approach is that while Trump is focused on wisecracks – however entertaining they can be – the Covid counter-narrative led by the usual suspects in the Washington establishment and their unelected (but often equally political) specialists and advisors, is one of doom and gloom.

They bombard the public with cherry-picked figures – like the transition to a preference for advancing numbers of ‘cases’ over deaths – and capitalize on Trump’s more fatalistic approach to portray him as incompetent at best and a willfully negligent maniac at worst. Governments around the world have been hard-pressed to prove that they’re doing something – anything – to control the Covid situation. Even if the effectiveness of government actions are still difficult to reliably assess or to separate from pre-existing endemic social and cultural factors that could account for variation in outcomes across or within nations. Yet the establishment is arrogantly and absolutely certain that they have all the answers vis-à-vis a phenomenon that is, by definition, so new that it’s called the ‘novel coronavirus’.


They vilify anyone who deviates from their views. We’ve seen this kind of establishment groupthink before. One example being the issue formerly known as “global warming” (now known as ‘climate change’, or, more recently, ‘climate deregulation’, because the issue was rebranded when it became difficult to explain how supposed ‘warming’ was causing colder weather). Any deviation from conventional establishment wisdom on this results in a pile-on and cancellation – just ask Mike Shellenberger. The same establishment hacks also persist with the simplistic narrative of good guys (America and its allies) versus bad guys (Russia and China, and their allies). This worldview is peddled every time they attempt to ramp up support for a natural resource grab or geopolitical power-play in some part of the world. Why should anyone trust their narrative when it comes to Covid? They’ve proven repeatedly that they’re anything but trustworthy and transparent.

Read more …

“..he was treating the man who would be president like an invalid. ”

Democrats Are Masking Biden’s Frailty (NYPost)

Has there been a worse candidate in history than Joe Biden? When this election is over, the books revealing what went on backstage will be illuminating. But the truth is there for anyone with eyes to see. Take Biden’s car rally in Flint, Mich., Saturday, with a star-power assist from Barack Obama. Awkward barely covers it. Obama, effortlessly cool, gave a warmup speech to the assembled cars before ramping up to a dramatic introduction: “My friend, the next president of the United States of America: Joe Biden!” Moments ticked by, but there was no sign of the candidate. “Joe Biden!” Obama repeated, a little less confidently. But still no show. Obama tried a third time: “Joe Biden!” Biden at last emerged from a nearby building and did a pantomime slow jog to the stage.

The worst part came later. After Biden had shouted his way through a short teleprompter speech, Obama came back onstage, perhaps to escort him off, because Biden did not seem to know where he was. Obama mimed an elbow pump with his former VP to signal they should leave the stage and then quietly whispered to him, after which it dawned on Biden he’d forgotten his mask, not for the first time. When your entire campaign is about mask-shaming Trump supporters, it’s not a forgivable lapse. Poor Biden looked like a chastened schoolboy as he fumbled through his folder and all his pockets looking for that pesky piece of cloth.

He walked back to the lectern and searched, to no avail, before fumbling through his pockets again. Finally, he found the mask in his left trouser pocket, held it aloft sheepishly at Obama, and placed it on his face. But then he paused and looked in seeming confusion at the microphone lying on the lectern where he’d left it. He picked it up and held it briefly to his masked face before laying it down again and rejoining Obama. Whatever emotions were going through Obama’s mind at that point he kept under wraps, but he did slow down and look back solicitously as he shepherded Biden down the stairs and away from prying eyes. In other words, he was treating the man who would be president like an invalid.

Really, it was sad.

Read more …

Let’s do a 10-year study first.

Add Vitamin D To Bread And Milk To Help Fight Covid, Urge Scientists (G.)

Scientists are calling for ministers to add vitamin D to common foods such as bread and milk to help the fight against Covid-19. Up to half the UK population has a vitamin D deficiency, and government guidance that people should take supplements is not working, according to a group convened by Dr Gareth Davies, a medical physics researcher. Low levels of vitamin D, which our bodies produce in response to strong sunlight, may lead to a greater risk of catching the coronavirus or suffering more severe effects of infection, according to some studies. Last week, researchers in Spain found that 82% of coronavirus patients out of 216 admitted to hospital had low vitamin D levels. The picture is mixed, however – some research shows that vitamin D levels have little or no effect on Covid-19, flu and other respiratory diseases.


Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults – soft bones that lead to deformities – and children with severe vitamin D deficiency are prone to hypocalcaemia – low levels of calcium in the blood – which leads to seizures and heart failure. However, Public Health England (PHE) and the Department of Health and Social Care have rejected calls over the past 10 years to fortify foods such as milk, bread and orange juice, which is the practice in Finland, Sweden, Australia, the US and Canada. “In my opinion, it is clear that vitamin D could not only protect against disease severity but could also protect against infection,” Davies said. “Food fortification would need careful planning to be rolled out effectively, particularly as people are now taking supplements. Picking the right foods to fortify would need to be done carefully. “But it’s clear that the current policy is not working – at least half the population have a vitamin D deficiency.”

Read more …

The White House on lockdown. And it’s not for COVID.

Non-Scalable Fence Being Built to Protect Trump During Election Day Unrest (GP)

Federal agents are set to begin building a non-scalable fence around the White House, Ellipse and Lafayette Square and 250 National Guardsman have been placed on standby to protect President Donald Trump during any election day unrest. Major riots and destruction have been promised by leftist extremists should President Trump win reelection. “The White House on lockdown: A federal law enforcement source tells NBC that beginning tomorrow, crews will build a ‘non-scalable’ fence to secure the WH complex, Ellipse and Lafayette Square,” Geoff Bennett from NBC News tweeted. “250 National Guardsmen have been put on standby, reporting to Metro Police officials.”

Read more …

 

 

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Scary dog

 

 

 

 

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Oct 302020
 


Minor White Windowsill Daydreaming Rochester NY 1958

 

A Fake Persona Laid The Groundwork For A Hunter Biden Conspiracy Deluge (NBC)
NY Post’s ‘Smoking Gun’ Hunter Biden Email 100% Authentic (DC)
Joe Biden’s Biggest Problem Is That There Is No Vaccine For Trumpism
‘We’ve Got To Stop The Bleeding’: Democrats Sound Alarm In Miami (Pol.)
Glenn Greenwald Leaves The Intercept After Editors Refuse Biden Criticism (ZH)
The ‘Censored’ Biden Story That Made Glenn Greenwald Quit The Intercept (ZH)
FBI Initially Turned Down Purported Hunter Biden Laptop (JTN)
UPS Suddenly Locates “Lost” Biden Evidence, Returns Docs To Tucker Carlson (ZH)
Western Rewriting History Of WW2 Has Incensed Russians (Robinson)
US GDP Booms At 33.1% Rate In Q3 (CNBC)
COVID Measures ‘Monument Of Collective Hysteria And Folly’: Ex-Judge (G.)

 

 

 

 

Someone said on Twitter yesterday: “You two are creating a world characterized by illogic, distrust and uncertainty. It’s a world no one wants our kids to grow up in. It’s sad that you do this. Here’s the absurdity behind the false Christopher Balding story:”

I am one of the two this person talks about, don’t know who the other is. (S)he is referring to an NBC article yesterday, “How A Fake Persona Laid The Groundwork For A Hunter Biden Conspiracy Deluge”.

It is about the report Christopher Balding published on Oct 22, (see here), but NBC’s criticism of the “Balding report” does not address its contents, only its shape, and calls it “FAKE”. That is, Balding and others invented a person who was cited as the author of it. And yes, that is a peculiar way to publish something, but Balding has always said the real author needs protection.

Then the NBC piece attempts to mix the report with other stories, the ones derived from the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop. But there is hardly any overlap. It appears to be a intentional confusion, so people will believe everything regarding Hunter Biden accusations is fake. But at the same moment, the Daily Caller reports that forensic analysis proves “NY Post’s ‘Smoking Gun’ Hunter Biden Email 100% Authentic”. And that in turn comes one day after the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said all Bobulinski material has been verified.

Christopher Balding has reacted on Twitter, his entire reaction thread is here.

Balding reacts

 

 

A Fake Persona Laid The Groundwork For A Hunter Biden Conspiracy Deluge (NBC)

One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden’s laptop, a fake “intelligence” document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and business in China. The document, a 64-page composition that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump, appears to be the work of a fake “intelligence firm” called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents. The author of the document, a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen, is a fabricated identity, according to analysis by disinformation researchers, who also concluded that Aspen’s profile picture was created with an artificial intelligence face generator.

The intelligence firm that Aspen lists as his previous employer said that no one by that name had ever worked for the company and that no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches. One of the original posters of the document, a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, took credit for writing parts of it when asked about it and said Aspen does not exist. Despite the document’s questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing, its claims that Hunter Biden has a problematic connection to the Communist Party of China have been used by people who oppose the Chinese government, as well as by far-right influencers, to baselessly accuse candidate Joe Biden of being beholden to the Chinese government.

The document and its spread have become part of a wider effort to smear Hunter Biden and weaken Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, which moved from the fringes of the internet to more mainstream conservative news outlets. An unverified leak of documents — including salacious pictures from what President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and a Delaware Apple repair store owner claimed to be Hunter Biden’s hard drive — were published in the New York Post on Oct. 14. Associates close to Trump, including Giuliani and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, have promised more blockbuster leaks and secrets, which have yet to materialize. The fake intelligence document, however, preceded the leak by months, and it helped lay the groundwork among right-wing media for what would become a failed October surprise: a viral pile-on of conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden.

The Typhoon Investigations document was first posted in September to Intelligence Quarterly, an anonymous blog “dedicated to collecting important daily news,” according to its “about” section. Historical domain records show the blog was registered to Albert Marko, a self-described political and economic adviser, who also lists the blog on his Twitter bio. When asked about the provenance of the document, Marko said he received it from Balding. Balding, previously an associate professor at Fulbright University Vietnam who studied the Chinese economy and financial markets, posted the document on his blog on Oct. 22, seven weeks after it was initially published.

Logan Hall NBC

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“Graham said the only way the email could have been faked is if someone hacked into Google’s servers, found the private key and used it to reverse engineer the email’s DKIM signature.”

NY Post’s ‘Smoking Gun’ Hunter Biden Email 100% Authentic (DC)

An email Hunter Biden received in April 2015 from a Burisma executive discussing an introduction to then-Vice President Joe Biden, which lies at the heart of a New York Post investigation, is unquestionably authentic, a cybersecurity expert told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Thursday. The DCNF obtained a full copy of Hunter Biden’s alleged laptop from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday. The DCNF provided Robert Graham, the founder of the cybersecurity firm Errata Security, with a copy of the email and its metadata for forensic analysis. Graham, who has been cited as a cybersecurity expert in The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Wired, Engadget and other news and technology outlets, told the DCNF that he used a cryptographic signature found in the email’s metadata to validate that Vadym Pozharsky, an advisor to Burisma’s board of directors, emailed Hunter Biden on April 17, 2015.

In the email, Pozharsky thanked Hunter Biden for “inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together.” The New York Post first reported the email in October, describing it as a “smoking-gun” showing that Hunter Biden had introduced his father to the Burisma executive in 2015. The email was sent less than a year before Joe Biden pressured former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire a prosecutor who was reportedly investigating the gas company in return for a $1 billion loan guarantee. Graham previously told the DCNF that emails sent from Gmail, such as Pozharski’s message to Hunter Biden, can be “absolutely verified beyond a shadow of a doubt” by testing its contents against the unique DKIM signature found in its metadata.


Graham used the DKIM signature within the email to verify with a private key on Google’s servers that the sender, recipient, subject, date and body of the message that the DCNF obtained from Giuliani were unchanged from when the email was originally sent in April 2015. Graham said the only way the email could have been faked is if someone hacked into Google’s servers, found the private key and used it to reverse engineer the email’s DKIM signature.

Daily Caller vs NBC

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“America is past the “I have a plan” phase. A sizable contingent of regular citizens have decided either that the disease is a “hoax,” or that it’s not worth altering their everyday lives for in any major way.”

Joe Biden’s Biggest Problem Is That There Is No Vaccine For Trumpism

As the 2020 presidential election hurls itself at us, there is one thing upon which the far right and far left agree: The COVID-19 pandemic should be over within days after Nov. 4. The right says the “deep state” is holding on to a secret vaccine that it will introduce to the world once Donald Trump is thrown out of office. The left says that Trump is the primary cause of the virus’ spread, and that with the biological weapon in chief out of office, people will soon be out safely ingesting each other’s disgusting germs.Alas, despite these extremes being so far out there that they meet again in the back, neither is right. Trump is not entirely to blame for the virus’ spread, and Joe Biden’s election will not be a panacea in stopping it.

Sure, Biden has a “plan” to solve COVID-19, and it contains all the commonsense proposals: vaccine funding, paid leave, more protective equipment and more funding for testing. But America is past the “I have a plan” phase. A sizable contingent of regular citizens have decided either that the disease is a “hoax,” or that it’s not worth altering their everyday lives for in any major way. In other words, COVID-19 is a cultural problem, not a governmental one. It is the cultural component in which Trump has failed America the most. Over the summer, it appeared the virus was waning — businesses had quickly ramped up production of masks and ventilators needed in hospitals and emergency rooms and limited state shutdowns were being enforced. Infection rates were dropping around the country.

Then, in the wake of the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd’s at the hands of police, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest, effectively signaling the end of lockdowns. Science professionals who urged staying home were silent on the protests, leading those on the right to throw up their hands and say, “Well, I guess lockdown is over.” That is where Trump’s mismanagement has cost America. In the early days of the virus, Trump said all the wrong things, telling Americans it was just “one person coming in from China” and it would “disappear one day, it’s like a miracle.” And speaking of miracles, he vowed to have churches open for Easter.

Say we were to give Trump some benefit of the doubt — in the early months of the spread, everyone was still figuring out what was happening, and rapid spread would have occurred under any president. [..] Unless Biden can legislate trust in the media and politicians, the pandemic will stretch well into his presidency. The reality is a sizable portion of America is carrying on, waiting for a vaccine — which, ironically, many of them won’t take because it will probably be Joe Biden at the helm of the country when it is released. And sadly, there is no vaccine for Trumpism.

Read more …

“To date, Republicans have turned out 59 percent of their voters in Miami-Dade and Democrats have turned out 53 percent, a 6-point margin. That’s twice the margin Republicans had at this point in 2016..“

‘We’ve Got To Stop The Bleeding’: Democrats Sound Alarm In Miami (Pol.)

Democrats are sounding the alarm about weak voter turnout rates in Florida’s biggest county, Miami-Dade, where a strong Republican showing is endangering Joe Biden’s chances in the nation’s biggest swing state. No Democrat can win Florida without a huge turnout and big winning margins here to offset losses elsewhere in the state. But Democrats are turning out at lower rates than Republicans and at lower rates than at this point in 2016, when Hillary Clinton won by 29 percentage points here and still lost the state to Donald Trump. One particular area of concern is the relative share of ballots cast by young voters of color and less-reliable Democratic voters.

Part of the problem, according to interviews with a dozen Democratic elected officials and operatives, is the Biden campaign‘s decision to discourage field staff from knocking on doors during the pandemic and its subsequent delay in greenlighting — and funding — a return to door-to-door canvassing. “We did not get the kind of funding for different vendors who would do that type of work until late in the campaign,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, a party institution who represents Miami’s heavily Black congressional district. Wilson said the good news is that Biden’s running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, is working with her on a turnout event for this weekend geared toward young Black men.


But the veteran congresswoman said there are still skilled operatives in her district who excel at turnout work who have yet to get approved by the campaign, a puzzling delay for an operation that raised a record $363 million the month before. “I screamed. Hollered. I called. I lobbied from the top to the bottom,” Wilson said of her efforts to get turnout operations started in the community, including sending written proposals to Biden’s campaign and having virtual Zoom meetings with his advisers.

Read more …

The election, actually the entire Trump presidency, has brought out the best and the worst in US journalism. It will never be the same.

Glenn Greenwald Leaves The Intercept After Editors Refuse Biden Criticism (ZH)

The Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald resigned from the outlet on Thursday, after ‘editors censored an article I wrote this week, refusing to publish it unless I remove all sections critical of Joe Biden, the candidate vehemently supported by all Intercept editors involved in this effort at suppression.’ Greenwald writes at his new home (greenwald.substack.com):”The censored article, based on recently revealed emails and witness testimony, raised critical questions about Biden’s conduct. Not content to simply prevent publication of this article at the media outlet I co-founded, these Intercept editors also demanded that I refrain from exercising a separate contractual right to publish this article with any other publication.


I had no objection to their disagreement with my views of what this Biden evidence shows: as a last-ditch attempt to avoid being censored, I encouraged them to air their disagreements with me by writing their own articles that critique my perspectives and letting readers decide who is right, the way any confident and healthy media outlet would. But modern media outlets do not air dissent; they quash it. So censorship of my article, rather than engagement with it, was the path these Biden-supporting editors chose.”Apparently he’s also blocked from publishing the article elsewhere, though he’s “asked my lawyer to get in touch with FLM to discuss how best to terminate my contract.”

People who quit
https://twitter.com/APompliano/status/1321915427522576384

Read more …

“Rather than condemn Biden for ignoring these questions — the natural instinct of a healthy press when it comes to a presidential election — journalists have instead led the way in concocting excuses to justify his silence.”

The ‘Censored’ Biden Story That Made Glenn Greenwald Quit The Intercept (ZH)

Publication by the New York Post two weeks ago of emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop, relating to Vice President Joe Biden’s work in Ukraine, and subsequent articles from other outlets concerning the Biden family’s pursuit of business opportunities in China, provoked extraordinary efforts by a de facto union of media outlets, Silicon Valley giants and the intelligence community to suppress these stories. One outcome is that the Biden campaign concluded, rationally, that there is no need for the front-running presidential candidate to address even the most basic and relevant questions raised by these materials. Rather than condemn Biden for ignoring these questions — the natural instinct of a healthy press when it comes to a presidential election — journalists have instead led the way in concocting excuses to justify his silence.

After the Post’s first article, both that newspaper and other news outlets have published numerous other emails and texts purportedly written to and from Hunter reflecting his efforts to induce his father to take actions as Vice President beneficial to the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, on whose board of directors Hunter sat for a monthly payment of $50,000, as well as proposals for lucrative business deals in China that traded on his influence with his father. Individuals included in some of the email chains have confirmed the contents’ authenticity. One of Hunter’s former business partners, Tony Bubolinski, has stepped forward on the record to confirm the authenticity of many of the emails and to insist that Hunter along with Joe Biden’s brother Jim were planning on including the former Vice President in at least one deal in China.

And GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who appeared in one of the published email chains, appeared to confirm the authenticity as well, though he refused to answer follow-up questions about it. Thus far, no proof has been offered by Bubolinski that Biden ever consummated his participation in any of those discussed deals. The Wall Street Journal says that it found no corporate records reflecting that a deal was finalized and that “text messages and emails related to the venture that were provided to the Journal by Mr. Bobulinski, mainly from the spring and summer of 2017, don’t show either Hunter Biden or James Biden discussing a role for Joe Biden in the venture.”

But nobody claimed that any such deals had been consummated — so the conclusion that one had not been does not negate the story. Moreover, some texts and emails whose authenticity has not been disputed state that Hunter was adamant that any discussions about the involvement of the Vice President be held only verbally and never put in writing.

Read more …

And then sat on it for a year.

FBI Initially Turned Down Purported Hunter Biden Laptop (JTN)

The family of the Delaware shop owner who says he came into possession of a laptop purportedly belonging to Hunter Biden first tried to turn over the computer to the FBI in summer 2019 but was rebuffed, only to have agents return months later during President Trump’s impeachment proceedings, his lawyer said Thursday night. In a lengthy statement to Just the News, attorney Brian Della Rocca provided a detailed timeline of the actions his client, John Paul Mac Isaac, says he took in trying to get authorities to investigate the laptop. The lawyer also decried public figures on both sides of the aisle for politicizing the episode and for attacking the Delaware computer repairman without having the facts.

Mac Isaac “unwittingly became the target of a smear campaign by doing what he thought was right,” Della Rocca said. “John Paul is not a right-wing fanatic, nor is he a Russian hacker.” In the statement that was originally drafted to be an op-ed, Della Rocca made several new revelations about the laptop that has stirred worldwide political intrigue on the eve of the American presidential election, an FBI investigation, and a news media and social media censorship campaign. Among the revelations: • A man claiming to be Hunter Biden dropped off three laptops on April 12, 2019 to Mac Isaac’s shop to be repaired, and returned two days later with an external hard drive. The man believed to be Hunter Biden eventually abandoned one of the laptops and the external hard drive without paying for them. • Mac Isaac’s father, a retired Air Force colonel, first tried to provide a copy of the laptop to an FBI office in Albuquerque, N.M., in summer 2019, but the bureau turned him away.


• FBI agents from Albuquerque, N.M., contacted the father in October 2019, as impeachment proceedings were ongoing in Washington, to discuss the laptop and then to interview the younger Mac Isaac in Delaware. A few weeks later, FBI agents in Delaware seized the original laptop from Mac Isaac. • On Oct. 13 of this year, Hunter Biden’s attorney contacted Mac Isaac to discuss the hard drive and followed up with an email but no further action. Three people familiar with the matter told Just the News on Thursday that the FBI has an ongoing investigation into business transactions involving firms associated with Hunter Biden and other business associates. The investigation began in 2019 around the time the FBI followed up on Mac Isaac’s concerns and has since expanded to issues raised by an IRS whistleblower complaint filed a year ago. The probe got new evidence in recent days when Hunter Biden’s former business partner Tony Bobulinski turned over documents and other materials during an FBI interview, one person with knowledge of the case said.

Read more …

This story just gets crazier.

UPS Suddenly Locates “Lost” Biden Evidence, Returns Docs To Tucker Carlson (ZH)

Delivery giant UPS confirmed Thursday it found a lost trove of documents that Fox News’ Tucker Carlson said would provide revelations in the ever-growing scandal involving Joe Biden’s son Hunter and his overseas business dealings. UPS Senior Public Relations Manager Matthew O’Connor told Business Insider on Thursday afternoon that the documents are located and are being sent to Carlson. “After an extensive search, we have found the contents of the package and are arranging for its return,” he said in a statement. “UPS will always focus first on our customers, and will never stop working to solve issues and make things right. We work hard to ensure every package is delivered, including essential goods, precious family belongings and critical healthcare.”

It came after Glenn Zaccara, UPS’s corporate media relations director, confirmed Carlson used the company to ship the materials before they were lost. “The package was reported with missing contents as it moved within our network,” Zaccara said before they were located. “UPS is conducting an urgent investigation.” During his Wednesday night broadcast, Carlson said that a UPS employee notified them that their package “was open and empty … apparently, it had been opened.” “The Biden documents never arrived in Los Angeles. Tuesday morning we received word from our shipping company that our package had been opened and the contents were missing,” Carlson also remarked. “The documents had disappeared.”


On Tuesday night, Carlson interviewed former Hunter Biden associate Tony Bobulinski, who claimed that the former Democratic vice president could be compromised by the Chinese Communist Party due to Hunter and brother James Biden’s business dealings in the country. Joe Biden has not responded to Bobulinski’s allegations. Last week during his debate with President Donald Trump, he said he had “not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life.”

Read more …

Paul Robinson is a professor at the University of Ottawa. He writes about Russian and Soviet history, military history, and military ethics.

Western Rewriting History Of WW2 Has Incensed Russians (Robinson)

It used to be simple: The Nazis and their allies were the bad guys, and the Americans, British, and Soviets were the good guys. Then contemporary politics took over and the narrative around WW2 became a modern battleground. The conflict ended 75 years ago. But the struggle over its history has perhaps never been as intense as it is today. In the first few decades after the war, the interpretation of it was fairly clear, and almost universally accepted: The war was a product of German aggression and the extreme ideology of the Nazis. The Germans were the criminals; and the peoples of the Allied powers were the victims. Quantitatively, the largest group of these victims was in Eastern Europe – Jews and citizens of the Soviet Union, who the Nazis killed in the millions.

From the mid-1980s, a new narrative began to creep into public discourse in the West. This maintained that Nazism was not uniquely evil nor solely responsible for the war. Rather Nazism and communism were equally morally repugnant, and Germany and the Soviet Union were mutually responsible for the tragedy. The USSR, rather than being a victim of aggression, was itself one of the prime aggressors of the era. At first, this revisionist view was restricted to a narrow group of academics. Most notable was the German historian Ernst Nolte, who in 1986 provoked the Historikerstreit (‘Historians’ Dispute’) in what was then West Germany, by suggesting that the genocidal campaign of the Nazis was just one of many such campaigns by other states, most notably the Soviet Union, in an overall ‘age of genocide’.

This theme was then popularized by certain other historians of an anti-Soviet, and later anti-Russian, bent. But what really gave it legs was the collapse of communism and the rise of nationalism among states of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. In countries such as Poland, Latvia, and post-2014 Ukraine, nationalist leaders have sought to promote their own legitimacy by adopting a strong anti-Russian line, and historical revisionism has proven to be an essential part of their toolkit. As part of this process, history has been rewritten to portray the Soviet Union as having occupied and oppressed the nations of Eastern Europe during World War II, to suggest a moral equivalence between the Nazis and the communists, and in extreme cases to portray locals who fought alongside the Germans as heroes rather than collaborators. For instance, in Ukraine.

[..] It was in this context that Russian President Vladimir Putin this week denounced any attempt to equate the USSR and Nazi Germany. This followed a complaint by Elena Yampolskaya, a member of the Russian parliament, who noted that two books had recently been published in Russia which suggested similarities between Nazism and communism, and in one case argued that “the Soviets were worse than the Nazis.” Putin agreed with Yampolskaya’s complaint that this was “absolutely unacceptable.” The Russian Federation should pass legislation similar to that of other countries which criminalizes denial of the Armenian genocide, Putin said, adding that, “We will not allow this heroic page in history to be crossed out.”

Read more …

Good for Trump in the election?

US GDP Booms At 33.1% Rate In Q3 (CNBC)

Coming off the worst quarter in history, the U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace ever in the third quarter as a nation battered by an unprecedented pandemic started to put itself back together, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. Third-quarter gross domestic product, a measure of the total goods and services produced in the July-to-September period, expanded at a 33.1% annualized pace, according to the department’s initial estimate for the period. The gain came after a 31.4% plunge in the second quarter and was better than the 32% estimate from economists surveyed by Dow Jones. The previous post-World War II record was the 16.7% burst in the first quarter of 1950.

Markets reacted positively to the news, with Wall Street erasing a loss at the open and turning mostly positive. “It’s obviously good news that the economy bounced back in the third quarter,” said Eric Winograd, senior economist at AllianceBernstein. “There’s still a lot of work to do here and the pace of improvement … is going to slow. The stimulus programs that provided much of the economic lift last quarter have expired or are expiring. Fiscal support is diminishing. That is part of the reason that the pace of growth is going to slow from here.” Increased consumption along with sold gains in business and residential investment as well as exports fueled the third-quarter rebound. Decreases in government spending following the expiration of the CARES Act rescue funding subtracted from GDP.

The powerful growth pace came after states across the country shut down large swaths of activity in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11. [..] While the news on Q3 was good for the $21.2 trillion economy, the U.S. faces a tougher road ahead as coronavirus cases increase and worries grow over the health and economic impacts. Nearly half the 22 million jobs lost in March and April remain unfilled and the unemployment rate remains at 7.9%, more than double its pre-pandemic level as 12.6 million Americans are still out of work.


“This is going to be seized upon by both ends of the political spectrum as either evidence of the strength of the post-lockdown economic rebound or a cursory warning that the gains could be short-lived,” said James McCann, senior global economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “The reality is that the GDP numbers demonstrate that the U.S. economy did indeed rebound strongly as lockdown measures were lifted.”

Read more …

Jonathan Sumption, former British supreme court justice, slams ‘cavalier use of coercive powers’ and ‘loss of freedom’.

COVID Measures ‘Monument Of Collective Hysteria And Folly’: Ex-Judge (G.)

The government has deliberately stoked fear over coronavirus while behaving like an authoritarian regime relying on police state tactics, according to the former supreme court justice Jonathan Sumption. In his most forceful critique to date of the government’s handling of the pandemic, the outspoken lawyer condemned the way “the British state exercised coercive powers over its citizens on a scale never previously attempted”. Delivering the Cambridge Freshfields annual law lecture, Lord Sumption said: “The ease with which people could be terrorised into surrendering basic freedoms which are fundamental to our existence … came as a shock to me in March 2020.”

He is not the only former judge recently to lament the loss of effective parliamentary scrutiny of emergency Covid powers. Last month Lady Hale, former president of the supreme court, alleged that MPs and peers had surrendered their role during the coronavirus pandemic.In his address Sumption said the emergency measures were “the most significant interference with personal freedom in the history of our country”. He stated: “I do not doubt the seriousness of the epidemic, but I believe that history will look back on the measures taken to contain it as a monument of collective hysteria and governmental folly.”

The government, he noted, had already tried to avoid parliamentary scrutiny during Brexit by proroguing parliament, a procedure subsequently ruled unlawful by the supreme court last year. “Governments hold power in Britain on the sufferance of the elected chamber of the legislature,” Sumption argued. “Without that we are no democracy. The present government has a different approach. It seeks to derive its legitimacy directly from the people, bypassing their elected representatives.” Sage, the government’s panel of expert scientific advisers, he said, had this year noted: “Citizens should be treated as rational actors, capable of taking decisions for themselves and managing personal risk.” That warning, Sumption said, had been ignored.

[..] The police had repeatedly exceeded their powers, he suggested. “When I ventured to criticise them in a BBC interview for acting beyond their powers I received a letter from the Derbyshire police commissioner objecting to my remarks on the ground that in a crisis such things were necessary. The implication was that in a crisis the police were entitled to do whatever they thought fit, without being unduly concerned about their legal powers. That is my definition of a police state.” By using “propaganda”, he said, the government had “to some extent been able to create its own public opinion – fear was deliberately stoked up by the government”.

Read more …

 

 

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Taiwan COVID
https://twitter.com/i/status/1310613292293984256

 

 

 

 

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Dec 222019
 
 December 22, 2019  Posted by at 10:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  15 Responses »


Esther Bubley Passengers on Memphis-Chattanooga Greyhound bus 1943

 

Trump Claims ‘Breakthrough’ In Trade Talks With China (RT)
Xi Jinping Seeks To Sign Trade Deal As Soon As Possible (CNBC)
Only Washington Got What It Wants In US-China Trade Deal (SCMP)
Bannon: Trump Impeachment Will Be “Trial Of The Century” (RCP)
The Real Reasons Tulsi Gabbard Did Not Vote to Impeach Donald Trump (MPN)
We Live in Hysteric Times (Jatras)
2019 – The Year of Manufactured Hysteria (OffG)
2019 Year In Review: “I Fought The Fed, And The Fed Won” (Dave Collum)
Swedish Justice Ministry Manipulated Crime Statistics (RT)
Julian Assange’s Mother Christine Breaks Her Silence, Reveals Her Agony (HS)

 

 

But then he says it on average every other day.

Trump Claims ‘Breakthrough’ In Trade Talks With China (RT)

US President Donald Trump has said that Beijing and Washington, locked in a bitter trade dispute, will be inking a trade deal “very shortly,” claiming a breakthrough has been achieved in the recent talks. Trump was speaking at the Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday, as he made the announcement. “We just achieved a breakthrough on the trade deal and we will be signing it very shortly,” he said, without providing any additional details as to the terms of the mooted agreement or the timeframe within which it is expected to be signed.

Trump said that he spoke to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on Friday, noting that Beijing has been “already buying billions and billions of agricultural products” from US farmers. The US push for China to step up purchase of US farm products has been one of the key demands of the Trump administration in the negotiations, that had dragged on for almost two years without bearing much fruit. However, last week Washington and Beijing announced that they finally reached “a historic and enforceable agreement” that will see the US lowering levies on $120 billion worth of Chinese imports, while 25% tariffs an another $250 billion worth of Chinese goods would still remain in effect.

China reciprocated by agreeing to boost purchase of American products to up to $200 billion over the next two years, that include agricultural products. In addition, Beijing suspended a new tariff hike on a series of US goods, ranging from corn and wheat to vehicles and auto parts.

Read more …

If the deal is so good for the US, why this? Is Xi just saving face?

Xi Jinping Seeks To Sign Trade Deal As Soon As Possible (CNBC)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping said on Friday the “phase one” trade deal is beneficial to both China and the U.S., according to state-run media agency Xinhua. “The first-phase economic and trade agreement reached between the U.S. and China is a good thing for the U.S., China, and the entire world,” Xi said. “Both the U.S. and Chinese markets and the world have responded very positively to this. The U.S. is willing to maintain close communication with China and strive to sign and implement it as soon as possible.”


Xi acknowledged a phone call he had on Friday with President Donald Trump regarding the trade agreement. Trump said earlier Friday that they had a “very good talk,” that China has started “large scale” purchases of U.S. agricultural products and a formal deal signing is being arranged. The Xinhua report didn’t mention any detail in the limited trade deal. The two countries announced last week that they had agreed on the text of the agreement that includes some tariff relief and increased agricultural buying. Xi expressed serious concerns over the U.S.2 recent involvement in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, saying these practices interfered with China’s internal affairs, harmed China’s interests, and were not conducive to mutual trust and cooperation.

Read more …

The SCMP lifts part of the veil.

Only Washington Got What It Wants In US-China Trade Deal (SCMP)

The different approaches adopted by American and Chinese officials in dealing with the long-awaited first trade deal reflect their different sentiments and views on the result of the marathon deliberations. US President Donald Trump has been super proud of the accord, praising it as “a big deal”, “an amazing deal”, and “a historic deal”. In sharp contrast, Beijing has maintained a rarely seen cautious attitude, with its often superlatively upbeat state media muted and shying away from commenting on the development. The only positive word used in China’s official statement is “significant”. In news briefings, United States officials gave detailed information and specific numbers about the accord, trying to give the impression that the deal is “measurable, enforceable and verifiable”.

Chinese officials, by comparison, released just the outlines of agreement in nine areas without giving any specifics. The fact that Beijing has released fewer details about the deal than Washington might speak volumes. The downgraded signing ceremony for the “significant” deal might be more evidence of differing views over the significance of the accord. The deal will not be signed by both presidents as planned, but instead by their lead negotiators – US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, a change that is likely to have been a Chinese suggestion. From the beginning, the US-China trade talks have been a one-way avenue as they are all about a deal between what the US wants and what China can give.

Trump initiated the tariff war with the aim of forcing China to overhaul its state-dominated system and market-unfriendly policy, and to change what the US claimed were unfair trade practices. The nine areas outlined in the 86-page document China released are largely about how it has to make changes – in other words, the accord is a must-do list for Beijing. In the tariff war, Washington apparently has the upper hand as the US has imported much more from China than vice versa. Thus Washington slapped tariffs on US$550 billion worth of Chinese products, while Beijing, in turn, lashed back at US$185 billion worth of American products – with the sum of both figures equivalent to about the entire trade volume between the two countries.

[..] Beijing’s compromises are substantive. For instance, the Chinese pledge to purchase an additional US$100 million of American products and services in each of the next two years represents a 77 per cent jump in US imports from the 2017 level of US$130 billion. Beijing’s commitment to purchase US$40 billion to US$50 billion of agricultural produce over that period also represents a sharp increase from an all-time peak of US$29 billion and a current annual run rate of less than US$10 billion. These pledges, as they are easily described and verifiable, reflected China’s eagerness to reach a deal.

Read more …

I know many people don’t like Bannon, and don’t like Fox, but that doesn’t make this less interesting.

Bannon: Trump Impeachment Will Be “Trial Of The Century” (RCP)

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will be the “trial of the century” in an interview with FOX Business Network’s Trish Regan. “I think this trial is going to be the trial of the century, and the mainstream media is going to be all over it,” Bannon said. “That’s why I think it’s so important not just for his legacy, but for his presidency and his second term. He’s got to engage in this. He’s got to take them on. He’s got to have the whistleblower; we have to have the Bidens in front of the nation and the world. They’re going to have to stand and deliver under oath. And we’re going to get to the bottom of this. And I think that’s going to lead to an exoneration, not just an acquittal, but an exoneration of President Trump.”

“The trial of the century. Wow. You know, a lot of people are worried, well, you get John Bolton. What is he going to do? What is John Bolton going to say? And what is this one going to say? What is that one going to say? What do you say to those concerns?” Regan asked. “The call was perfect. He looked at everything that led up to it,” Bannon answered. “This is why the American people heard him. And you just saw the bureaucrats that were in it that were testified. This is because that is the managed decline of the United States. This is about the Washington consensus. The Washington Post published the Afghanistan papers last week. Two trillion dollars. 2,400 dead. Tens of thousands wounded.

What’s that? That’s the inter-agency consensus in 18 years that betrayed our country. That’s what betrayed our countries. With Brennan, that’s what betrayed our country, not Donald Trump. Donald Trump has stood up. The reasons people cheer for him, it’s their sons and daughters that have died in Afghanistan. It’s their lives, their kids’ lives being thrown away, and their tax dollars. And they understand that Donald Trump is fighting that. That’s why we need a trial, a real trial and Senate with witnesses. So, before the world, Donald Trump could get his day in court.”

Read more …

Tulsi reveals how democratic the Democratic party really is.

The Real Reasons Tulsi Gabbard Did Not Vote to Impeach Donald Trump (MPN)

Along strongly partisan lines, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on two articles, by a total of 230-197-1 on abuse of power and 229-198-1 on obstruction of Congress. The first stems from his alleged pressuring of the Ukranian government to announce investigations into his political rival, Joe Biden. The second is because of his alleged refusal to cooperate with the investigation, withholding evidence and barring aides from testifying. The notable “1” in both counts was Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who, instead of siding with the overwhelming majority of her fellow Democrats, voted “present” both times.

[..] The Hawaii congresswoman explained her stance yesterday with a press release on her campaign website. “I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing,” she said. “I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country. When I cast my vote in support of the impeachment inquiry nearly three months ago, I said that in order to maintain the integrity of this solemn undertaking, it must not be a partisan endeavor. Tragically, that’s what it has been.”

She also introduced a resolution calling on the House to censure Trump on five issues she implied were far more substantial. Those include carrying out wars without congressional approval, illegally “occupying and pillaging” Syria, “recklessly enabling” Turkey to invade Northern Syria and ethnically cleanse Kurds (a U.S. ally), continuing to support Saudi Arabia’s “genocidal war” in Yemen and scrapping nuclear agreements with Iran and Russia, thereby strongly increasing the risk of nuclear proliferation.

While her move was undeniably unpopular within the Democratic Party she is hoping to lead into the next election, impeachment itself is a highly controversial tactic. The latest poll from Gallup (published Wednesday) shows support for impeachment dropping well below 50 percent while the president’s approval ratings continue to move upwards. Furthermore, it is entirely unclear how Democrats intend to actually remove Trump from office as to do so would require a similar vote from the Republican-controlled Senate.

[..] the entire process is a high-risk strategy from the Democrats that some feel could end up backfiring. “Trump is going to be able to say there was a conspiracy against him– with some justification,” Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi said. “It’s a disaster. If they had just not done this and argued against Trump’s presidency on other grounds– on how is America doing, inequality, all those things, it would have been tough for him. But now they’ve handed him a couple of issues, huge ones, that he’ll be able to carry all the way to the finish line…it’s amazing that they did this.”

Read more …

Team Maggot and Team Corpse..

We Live in Hysteric Times (Jatras)

With Trump’s impeachment it’s time to say goodbye to yesteryear’s Team Evil and Team Stupid. Say hello in 2020 to Team Maggot and Team Corpse! Even though Trump has not turned out to be the transformative and restorative president that many of his supporters might have hoped for, he certainly will be (assuming he survives impeachment, which he probably will) the lesser of evils in November 2020 compared to whoever ends up as the Maggot Party nominee. Worse from his opponents’ point of view, he remains a toxic avatar of the old America they thought would be well and truly laid to rest for ever and ever, amen, when Hillary Clinton came into her kingdom.

That having misfired in 2016, partisans of that legacy America’s marginalization, displacement, and eventual extinction can’t breathe easy while Trump remains in office lest he, however unlikely in view of his failures of performance, serve as a catalyst for revival of the historic American nation facing loss of its birthright: an organic, uncontrived, living ethnos characterized by European, mainly British origin (a/k/a, “white”); Christian, mainly Protestant; and English-speaking, as augmented by members of other groups who have totally or partially assimilated to it. The certified victim classes standing on the threshold of the permanent, total power that eluded them three years ago are haunted by the knowledge that there’s still lots of them Muricans in red MAGA hats rallying to Trump out there in Flyover Country ….

In short, Democrats hate Trump not so much for what he’s done (which, contrary to what his passionate supporters think based on his Tweets, isn’t much) but as an expression of an amorphous dread that by some mysterious populist alchemy he might still breathe life back into the Corpse Party’s deplorable base.

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Lots of 2019 overviews, of course. I don’t agree with thinking that this is a 2019 issue, though. For hysteria, look at 2020.

2019 – The Year of Manufactured Hysteria (OffG)

Then it happened … perhaps the loudest popcorn fart in political history. The Mueller Report was finally delivered. And just like that, Russiagate was over. After three long years of manufactured mass hysteria, corporate media propaganda, books, T-shirts, marches, etc., Robert Mueller had come up with squat. Zip. Zero. Nichts. Nada. No collusion. No pee-tape. No secret servers. No Russian contacts. Nothing. Zilch.

Cognitive dissonance gripped the nation. There was beaucoup wailing and gnashing of teeth. Resistance members doubled their anti-depressant dosages and went into mourning. Shell-shocked liberals did their best to pretend they hadn’t been duped, again, by authoritative sources like The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, MSNBC, et al., which had disseminated completely fabricated stories about secret meetings which never took place, power grid hackings that never happened, Russian servers that never existed, imaginary Russian propaganda peddlers, and the list goes on, and on, and on … and hadn’t otherwise behaved like a bunch of mindless, shrieking neo-McCarthyites.

Except that Russiagate wasn’t over. It immediately morphed into “Obstructiongate.” As the corporate media spooks explained, Mueller’s investigation of Trump was never about collusion with Russia. No, it was always about Trump obstructing the investigation of the collusion with Russia that the investigation was not about, and that everyone knew had never happened. In other words, Mueller’s investigation was launched in order to investigate the obstruction of his investigation.

[..] Never mind that the entire planet continues to be ruled by global capitalism, transnational corporations, and supra-governmental bodies, and that most of it is occupied by the U.S. military, NATO, and other GloboCap allies, and assorted corporate military contractors. Never mind that Russia isn’t “attacking” anyone, and that the “Nazis” haven’t taken over anything, and that no one is rounding up and murdering the Jews, or the Mexicans, or anyone else for that matter … because when have facts had anything to do with maintaining an official narrative?

The answer, in case you were wondering, is “never.” We are, all of us, living in a fiction. A fiction authored by those in power to serve the interests of those in power. That’s what an official narrative is. It makes no difference whether we believe it or not. It functions as “reality” regardless. If you doubt that … well, just ask Jeremy Corbyn. Or watch as the Labour “anti-Semitism crisis” evaporates into thin air, as the War on Terror did in 2016, once it no longer served a useful purpose.

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We go back a long way with Dave. Which has been hindered a lot by Twitter removing him from my feed. Extra good to see he still reads the Automatic Earth as one of his staples.

As for the review.. who has the time?

2019 Year In Review: “I Fought The Fed, And The Fed Won” (Dave Collum)

I read many blogs, but those I read religiously include mailings from Ron Griess’s The Chart Store, Jim Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, Bill Fleckenstein’s Daily Rap, Tony Greer’s daily TGMacro mailings, Grant Williams Things That Make You Go Hmmm, Automatic Earth, Jesse Felder’s blog, and selected podcasts from Grant Williams’ and Raoul Pal’s RealVisionTV. I am a huge supporter of Adam Taggart’s and Chris Martenson’s Peak Prosperity. And then there’s Zerohedge: you can love ‘em or hate ‘em, but I am a die-hard fan of Zerohedge.

“Maturing is realizing how many things don’t require your comment.”

~ @LifeTipsPage

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Sweden has lots of serious issues, Assange is just one of them. I’m still surprised at the lack of assertiveness of the Swedish people. So much so that sometimes I think perhaps they deserve what’s happening to them. That this may be the only way to wake them from their mental slumber.

Swedish Justice Ministry Manipulated Crime Statistics (RT)

Sweden’s Ministry of Justice pressured the country’s Crime Prevention Council to hide, manipulate, or ignore potentially embarrassing crime statistics, a university study has found. Sweden’s Crime Prevention Council (Brå) has a difficult task. In a country where media outlets omit police-circulated descriptions of suspects’ ethnicity, and the government actively downplays the surge in gun crime and bombings in its immigrant ghettoes, Brå is charged with compiling factual, accurate crime statistics. According to a study published by Linköping University this week, the government intervenes here too to downplay “politically sensitive” data.


Employees told the university researchers that their managers – acting on orders from the country’s Justice Ministry – instructed them to manipulate results on “hot potato” issues. Presumably, these results were ones that could embarrass the government, and likely dealt with issues of race or immigration. One interviewee stated that “methodological deficiencies” was the reason given for the change. Brå’s own statistics show an upsurge in lethal violence since 2014, particularly among criminals and in disadvantaged and immigrant neighborhoods. They also show a sharp rise in sexual violence, assaults, threats and robbery since 2015, when the country welcomed more than 160,000 refugees and migrants – more per capita than any other European country.

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Not the greatest interview, but a great message nonetheless. Julian should be with his family for Christmas.

Julian Assange’s Mother Christine Breaks Her Silence, Reveals Her Agony (HS)

Exclusive: The mother of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will not be celebrating Christmas again this year. Distraught that her son remains in the notorious Belmarsh prison, Australian Christine Assange said she has nothing to mark. “All I want for Christmas is my son Julian to be home safe with his family, under the protection of his country, to be free from this nine-year unlawful and brutal political persecution and to heal from the human rights abuses and torture which have damaged his mind and body,” said Ms Assange. Unable to speak with her son since he was jailed earlier this year, Ms Assange said all she has for Christmas this year are memories.

“Our Christmases were never boring. Julian would delight the children in the family with special Christmas performances,” said Ms Assange, in her first interview since his imprisonment. She revealed he would delight the children with a trick involving shaving sparklers and putting them in the mouth of a tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur toy, lighting it, giving the impression that he was alive and breathing fire. She said Julian had a lot of fun with his own son Daniel, decorating the Christmas tree. “He was a devoted, innovative and playful father,” she said. “Julian would love to string up the fairy lights …. we would make homemade decorations together.

“Julian’s Christmas presents were always very thoughtful. “He chose presents for the children in the family that would encourage curiosity, creativity and inventiveness.” “He would give me art books and materials because he knew I had a passion for art.” “I really miss our family Christmases … they have never been the same without him. There is something missing. We haven’t had a proper family Christmas since he has been detained … nothing is the same”.

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Nov 032018
 


Winslow Homer Cloud shadows 1890

 

The World Has Two Years To Secure A Deal To Halt Species Extinction – UN (G.)
US Wage Growth Hits Nine-Year High (BBC)
America’s Wealth Bubble Is Boosting Consumer Confidence (Colombo)
Inside The Trump Gold Rush At CNN (VF)
Who’s Really ‘Undermining’ US Democracy? (Stephen Cohen)
Perpetual Hysteria ( Kunstler)
Trump Will Grant 8 Waivers To Buy Iranian Oil (CNBC)
Europe Vows To Defy US Sanctions Against Iran (RT)
Europe’s Top Banks Ease Past ECB’s Latest Stress Tests (CNBC)
Erdogan Says ‘Highest Level’ Saudi Officials Ordered Khashoggi Murder (RT)
Public Prosecutors Charge Catalan Independence Leaders With Rebellion

 

 

The actual headline of this Guardian piece is “Stop Biodiversity Loss Or We Could Face Our Own Extinction”. Mine is better, because it illustrates, providing it’s accurate, how hopeless the situation is. If only because of what’s already in the pipeline. The prospect of 2 more years of meetings doesn’t change a thing.

The World Has Two Years To Secure A Deal To Halt Species Extinction – UN (G.)

The world has two years to secure a deal for nature to halt a ‘silent killer’ as dangerous as climate change, says biodiversity chief

The world must thrash out a new deal for nature in the next two years or humanity could be the first species to document our own extinction, warns the United Nation’s biodiversity chief. Ahead of a key international conference to discuss the collapse of ecosystems, Cristiana Pasca Palmer said people in all countries need to put pressure on their governments to draw up ambitious global targets by 2020 to protect the insects, birds, plants and mammals that are vital for global food production, clean water and carbon sequestration.

“The loss of biodiversity is a silent killer,” she told the Guardian. “It’s different from climate change, where people feel the impact in everyday life. With biodiversity, it is not so clear but by the time you feel what is happening, it may be too late.” Pasca Palmer is executive director of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity – the world body responsible for maintaining the natural life support systems on which humanity depends. Its 196 member states will meet in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, this month to start discussions on a new framework for managing the world’s ecosystems and wildlife. This will kick off two years of frenetic negotiations, which Pasca Palmer hopes will culminate in an ambitious new global deal at the next conference in Beijing in 2020.

Conservationists are desperate for a biodiversity accord that will carry the same weight as the Paris climate agreement. But so far, this subject has received miserably little attention even though many scientists say it poses at least an equal threat to humanity. The last two major biodiversity agreements – in 2002 and 2010 – have failed to stem the worst loss of life on Earth since the demise of the dinosaurs. Eight years ago, under the Aichi Protocol, nations promised to at least halve the loss of natural habitats, ensure sustainable fishing in all waters, and expand nature reserves from 10% to 17% of the world’s land by 2020. But many nations have fallen behind, and those that have created more protected areas have done little to police them. “Paper reserves” can now be found from Brazil to China.

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3 days to midterms.

US Wage Growth Hits Nine-Year High (BBC)

Wages in the US grew at their fastest pace for nine years last month, the latest official figures show. The US Labor Department said wages grew at an annual rate of 3.1% in October, accelerating from a rate of 2.8% the month before. The economy also added 250,000 jobs last month, beating expectations, while the jobless rate remained at 3.7%. The report quickly became fodder for political debate ahead of next week’s high stakes congressional election. President Donald Trump celebrated the figures on Twitter as “incredible” and urged his followers to “Vote Republican”. In an unusual move, the White House also organised a briefing call for reporters to promote the gains.

The top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, issued a statement of his own, aiming to redirect voter attention. The latest numbers “may look good” but should be considered alongside other economic policies, he said. “When the average family sees their health care costs go up because of Republican actions, these numbers will mean little,” he said. Among economists, there was wider agreement that the jobs report pointed to strength in the US economy, despite recent worries that weakness may be emerging in some sectors such as housing and trade.

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There’s something wonderfully ironic in this. Getting your confidence from hot air.

America’s Wealth Bubble Is Boosting Consumer Confidence (Colombo)

ZeroHedge posted an interesting chart a few days ago showing how affluent Americans (those making over $50,000 a year) have not been more confident since the dot com bubble. While strong consumer confidence may seem like a good thing when taken at face value, the contrarian in me sees it as a warning of the kind of over-exuberance seen during bubbles like the dot-com bubble and housing bubble.

Unfortunately, I believe that the U.S. is experiencing an unsustainable, artificial household wealth bubble that is causing affluent consumers to be over-optimistic despite the fact that our economic boom is largely driven by cheap credit and is going to end in a painful bust. As I explained in a recent presentation, U.S. household wealth has surged by approximately $46 trillion or 83% since 2009 to an all-time high of $100.8 trillion. Since 1951, household wealth has averaged 379% of the GDP, while the Dot-com bubble peaked at 429%, the housing bubble topped out at 473%, and the current bubble has inflated household wealth to a record 505% of GDP (see the chart below):

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As I’ve said numerous times, Trump sells better than sex, and he’s keeping CNN alive. The suggestion that CNN allows both sides into teh debate is ludicrous, though.

Inside The Trump Gold Rush At CNN (VF)

Zucker was on the phone talking about why Trump sucks up so much of CNN’s oxygen. “People say all the time, ‘Oh, I don’t want to talk about Trump. I’ve had too much Trump,’ ” he told me. “And yet at the end of the day, all they want to do is talk about Trump. We’ve seen that, anytime you break away from the Trump story and cover other events in this era, the audience goes away. So we know that, right now, Donald Trump dominates.” Zucker, the guy who first brought our president to the small screen when he green-lighted The Apprentice in 2004 while running NBC, had arguably schooled Trump in the art of reality television.

Halfway through Trump’s first term, his instincts remain just as acute. If Fox News represents Trump’s base and MSNBC has become a friendly platform for the resistance, CNN is the arena where both sides show up for cantankerous battle. “On Fox, you rarely hear from people who don’t support Trump,” Zucker told me. “On MSNBC, you rarely hear from people who do support Trump. We want to be home to both those points of view.” He continued, as if rebuking a common critique of the network. “It is true some of these folks are not very good with the facts, but that’s O.K. in the sense that it’s our job then to call them out.”

[..] Even though CNN still trails Fox News and MSNBC in prime-time audience size, its ratings have never been better. The average number of people watching on a given day has been above 700,000 each year since 2016, compared to around 400,000 in the pre-Trump news cycle. That’s also considerably larger than any other time over the past 25 years, an astonishing feat given the ubiquity of news and the decline of cable.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1058528086680051712

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Russiagate undermines democracy.

Who’s Really ‘Undermining’ US Democracy? (Stephen Cohen)

Even though still unproven, charges that the Kremlin put Trump in the White House have cast a large shadow of illegitimacy over his presidency and thus over the institution of the presidency itself. This is unlikely to end entirely with Trump. If the Kremlin had the power to affect the outcome of one presidential election, why not another one, whether won by a Republican or a Democrat? The 2016 presidential election was the first time such an allegation became widespread in American political history, but it may not be the last. Now the same shadow looms over the November 6 elections and thus over the next Congress. If so, in barely two years, the legitimacy of two fundamental institutions of American representative democracy will have been challenged, also for the first time in history.

And if US elections are really so vulnerable to Russian “meddling,” what does this say about faith in American elections more generally? How many losing candidates on November 6 will resist blaming the Kremlin? Two years after the last presidential election, Hillary Clinton and her adamant supporters still have not been able to do so. We know from critical reporting and from recent opinion surveys that the origins and continuing fixation on the Russiagate scandal since 2016 have been primarily a product of US political-intelligence-media elites. It did not spring from the American people – from voters themselves. Thus a Gallup poll recently showed that 58 percent of those surveyed wanted improved relations with Russia. And other surveys have shown that Russiagate is scarcely an issue at all for likely voters on November 6. Nonetheless, it remains a front-page issue for US elites.

Indeed, Russiagate has revealed the low esteem that many US political-media elites have for American voters – for their ability to make discerning, rational electoral decisions, which is the bedrock assumption of representative democracy. It is worth noting that this disdain for rank-and-file citizens echoes a longstanding attitude of the Russian political intelligentsia, as recently expressed in the argument by a prominent Moscow policy intellectual that Russian authoritarianism springs not from the nation’s elites but from the “genetic code” of its people.

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Certainly looks like the Democrats need to hit some kind of bottom before they can rise again. If that ever happens.

Perpetual Hysteria ( Kunstler)

Back in the last century, when this was a different country, the Democrats were the “smart” party and the Republicans were the “stupid” party. How did that work? Well, back then the Democrats represented a broad middle class, with a base of factory workers, many of them unionized, and the party had to be smart, especially in the courts, to overcome the natural advantages of the owner class. In contrast, the Republicans looked like a claque of country club drunks who staggered home at night to sleep on their moneybags. Bad optics, as we say nowadays. [..] The Republican Party has, at least, sobered up some after getting blindsided by Trump and Trumpism. Like a drunk out of rehab, it’s attempting to get a life.

Two years in, the party marvels at Mr. Trump’s audacity, despite his obvious lack of savoir faire. And despite a longstanding lack of political will to face the country’s problems, the Republicans are being forced to engage on some real issues, such as the need for a coherent and effective immigration policy and the need to redefine formal trade relations. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party has become the party of bad ideas and bad faith, starting with the position that “diversity and inclusion” means shutting down free speech, an unforgivable transgression against common sense and common decency. It’s a party that lies even more systematically than Mr. Trump, and does so knowingly (as when Google execs say they “Do no Evil”).

[..] I hope that Democrats lose as many congressional and senate seats as possible. I hope that the party is shoved into an existential crisis and is forced to confront its astounding dishonesty. I hope that the process prompts them to purge their leadership across the board. If there is anything to salvage in this organization, I hope it discovers aims and principles that are unrecognizable from its current agenda of perpetual hysteria.

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Overreach. America’s anti-Iran stance hinges to a large extent on Saudi interests. Which have taken a huge hit.

Trump Will Grant 8 Waivers To Buy Iranian Oil (CNBC)

The Trump administration will grant eight jurisdictions special exceptions to continue importing oil from Iran after U.S. sanctions on the country snap back into place on Monday, according to cabinet members. President Donald Trump gave oil buyers 180 days to wind down purchases of Iranian crude when he pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May. The eight waivers will allow the jurisdictions to more gradually reduce their purchases after the Nov. 4 deadline. Oil market watchers have been closely monitoring the situation to determine how forcefully the Trump administration will enforce the sanctions.

State Department officials initially said importers must cut their purchases to zero by November, but administration officials subsequently telegraphed that some exceptions would be made. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday declined to name the eight jurisdictions during a conference call with reporters. The officials said all of the countries or territories have significantly reduced their purchases and will be given more time to further reduce their imports. [..] Japan, India and South Korea are among the countries, and China is still negotiating a waiver, Bloomberg News reported earlier on Friday, citing a senior administration official. Pompeo confirmed on Friday that the EU is not one of the jurisdictions that will receive a waiver.

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Russia and China will stand by Iran. Europe may as well.

Europe Vows To Defy US Sanctions Against Iran (RT)

European countries have vowed to maintain “effective financial channels” and to keep trading with Tehran after the US announced that the EU is not among those spared from its sweeping sanctions against Iran. European countries suddenly discovered that they were not on the list of the ‘lucky ones’ that their ally, the US, decided to exempt from the new wave of all-encompassing sanctions it plans to unleash on Iran. The sanctions, targeting Iran’s shipping, finance and energy sectors, which come into force on November 5, are also designed to punish those countries that dared to do business with the Islamic Republic in defiance of the US pressure.

Only eight nations were graciously granted exemptions by the US, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. However, Pompeo made it clear that the EU as a single entity is not on the list, sparking an angry reaction from the US’ western allies. Washington also specifically mentioned that it plans to target the special mechanism the EU has been creating to circumvent the restrictions, prompting its allies to fight back.

In response, the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, together with the foreign and finance ministers of Germany, France and the UK, vowed to maintain “effective financial channels with Iran” and in particular to continue buying the Islamic Republic’s oil and gas. They also said that despite Washington’s pressure the EU is still committed to establishing a “Special Purpose Vehicle” for Iran-EU trade. The European nations will seek to protect its companies engaged in “legitimate business with Iran,” the statement said, adding that the EU will cooperate with Russia and China in particular to achieve these goals.

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Central banks are incapable of doing stress tests that matter.

Europe’s Top Banks Ease Past ECB’s Latest Stress Tests (CNBC)

Results of the stress test of Europe’s bigger banks released Friday revealed that all of the financial institutions in the EU wide examination passed the European Central Bank’s “adverse scenario”. The stress tests were carried out by the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) to gauge the health of the European banking system. The EBA said in findings published on their website that all 48 banks beat the common tier ratio of 5.5 percent under adverse stress. British bank Barclays ranked lowest in the test, scoring a common tier ratio of just 6.37 percent in the adverse scenario. Fellow U.K. bank Lloyds also performed poorly with a score of 6.8 percent.

Commenting after the results, the Bank Of England said the results showed that U.K. banks could absorb the effect of the EBA’s worst scenario. Europe’s biggest bank, Deutsche Bank, performed better than some forecasters had predicted, registering a core tier of 8.14 percent, again in an adverse scenario. EBA said under their adverse scenario, the capital depletion across the banks at the end of 2020 was 236 billion euros ($268 billion) and 226 billion euros on a “transitional and fully loaded basis respectively.” The ECB added that the EBA test showed that banks in Europe were now “more resilient to financial shocks.”

Italian banks were also under scrutiny but managed to record satisfactory scores according to banking regulators. Unicredit, Italy’s largest lender, scored a common tier ratio of 9.34 while UBI Banca scored 7.42 percent. The lowest score among Italian banks was for Banco BPM which registered 6.67 percent.

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Erdogan was insulted by the Saudi chief prosecutor visiting Ankara/Istanbul.

Erdogan Says ‘Highest Level’ Saudi Officials Ordered Khashoggi Murder (RT)

The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was sanctioned at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, trying to play kingmaker in Riyadh and bolster his credentials in the West. “We know that the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government,” the Turkish leader wrote in a surprise contribution to Friday’s Washington Post, vowing to “reveal the identities of the puppet masters” behind the murder. “No one should dare to commit such acts on the soil of a NATO ally again,” Erdogan wrote dramatically. “Had this atrocity taken place in the United States or elsewhere, authorities in those countries would have gotten to the bottom of what happened.”

“It would be out of the question for us to act any other way,” he added, noting that Ankara has already “moved heaven and earth to shed light on all aspects of this case.” The Turkish leader also used the opportunity to burnish his credentials in the West, saying that as a responsible NATO member, Turkey will not just leave this case uninvestigated and will act in exactly the same way as the US or any of its allies would in its place. Erdogan openly accused Riyadh of “trying to cover up the murder” by stalling the investigation and refusing to cooperate with the Turkish authorities, singling out the Saudi chief prosecutor Saud Al Mojeb, who visited Turkey earlier this week. “The refusal of the Saudi public prosecutor… to cooperate with the investigation and answer even simple questions is very frustrating,” he wrote, adding that Al Mojeb’s “invitation for Turkish investigators to Saudi Arabia … felt like a desperate and deliberate stalling tactic.”

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Franco’s still alive and kicking.

Public Prosecutors Charge Catalan Independence Leaders With Rebellion

The public prosecution on Friday morning filed its written accusation against Catalan secessionist leaders who are in pretrial detention for their role in the unauthorized referendum of October 1, 2017 and the unilateral independence declaration that followed. As expected, prosecutors are seeking a 25-year prison term for ex-deputy premier Oriol Junqueras for rebellion and misuse of public funds, and they also want the Catalan Republican Party (ERC) leader barred from holding public office for the next 25 years. Prosecutors are also seeking 17-year jail terms for Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, the former heads of civic associations that campaigned actively for independence, and for Carme Forcadell, the former speaker of the Catalan parliament.

Other defendants in the upcoming trial face penalties ranging from economic fines to prison terms of 16 years. Meanwhile, Spain’s Solicitor General, who represents the Spanish state in the courts, has not accused Catalan secessionist leaders of rebellion. Instead, the written accusation focuses on the crimes of sedition and misuse of public funds in connection with the referendum and unilateral independence declaration. In its written accusation, the Solicitor General’s Office has called for Junqueras to be sentenced to 12 years in prison and a 12-year ban on holding public office.

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Jul 122017
 
 July 12, 2017  Posted by at 9:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Paul Cézanne The Card Players 1895

 

The Media’s Mass Hysteria Over ‘Collusion’ Is Out Of Control (WaPo)
Donald Trump’s Very Own Big, Fat, Ugly Bubble (Stockman)
Canada’s Housing Boom Expected to Spark Rate Rise (WSJ)
The Return Of The “Minsky Moment” (Rosso)
Martin Luther King’s Economic Dream Changed The Federal Reserve Forever (BI)
Russia Will Retaliate If US Does Not Release Property – Lavrov (R.)
Qatar’s First Shipment of Air-Lifted Cows Lands in Doha (BBG)
Greece’s Market Return May Be Imminent (R.)
NGOs Fearful Of Handing Island Refugee Camps To Greek State (K.)
EU Migrant Rescue Mission ‘Led To Increase In Deaths’ (Ind.)

 

 

The echo chamber smells trouble and starts eating its own tail. The WaPo turns on its co-conspirators.

The Media’s Mass Hysteria Over ‘Collusion’ Is Out Of Control (WaPo)

Hysteria among the media and Trump opponents over the prospect of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin may have hit its crescendo this week. That’s right: The wailing from the media and their allies about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with some “Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer” (whatever that means) may be the last gasp of this faux scandal. Good riddance. Predictably, the New York Times started the ball rolling with front-page coverage, going so far as to argue, “The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.” As if this were some breakthrough moment. The Times followed up with a headline yesterday that the meeting request and subject matter discussed in the prior story were transmitted to Trump Jr. via an email.

Holy cow. The Times is so desperate to move the story that the meeting’s arrangement over email is being made into Page 1 news. You would have thought it had come through a dead drop under a bridge somewhere. And, of course, CNN has been apoplectic in its breathless coverage, running one story after another about this “development” on the air and online. But Politico takes the prize for the most over-the-top, made-up news, claiming that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting could amount to a crime. As I have written before, there are always people hovering around campaigns trying to peddle information and traffic in supposed silver bullets. There should be nothing to report on when a private citizen who works at a campaign takes a meeting with a friend of a friend offering information about an opponent. And yet, the media wants to make it a smoking gun.

[..] Regarding the delusion that a crime actually occurred in any of this, my favorite allegation is that by having this meeting and listening to what was said, Donald Trump Jr. somehow could have violated the law. According to Politico, Trump Jr.’s “statements put him potentially in legal cross hairs for violating federal criminal statutes prohibiting solicitation or acceptance of anything of value from a foreign national, as well as a conspiracy to defraud the United States.” I’m just barely a lawyer, but I know over-lawyering when I see it. I mean, by that standard, what if someone walked into a campaign and suggested an idea that led to that candidate’s victory? Would it have been a crime to accept “a thing of value” in the form of an idea? Of course not. This whole thing is getting weird.

For many in the media and elsewhere, the collective grievances that they have against Trump personally, the White House as a whole and Trump’s policies somehow justify their zealous promotion of the “collusion scandal.” But not because the story is valid. Rather, the media know that they are not getting to Trump with anything else. Today, much of the “news coverage” of Trump and Co. is about payback. The media thinks they aren’t getting the truth and so they don’t have to deliver it either. It is a bad cycle that is not working for the White House or the media. With this much intensity, it is hard to see how this ends well..

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Rumor has it Gary Cohn will take over from Yellen.

Donald Trump’s Very Own Big, Fat, Ugly Bubble (Stockman)

The overwhelming source of what ails America economically is found in the Eccles Building. During the past three decades the Federal Reserve has fostered destructive financial mutations on Wall Street and Main Street. Bubble Finance policies have fueled an egregious financial engineering by the C-suites of corporate America. This bubble has skyrocketed to the tune of $15 trillion of stock buybacks, debt-fueled mergers deals and buyouts of the last decade. The Fed fostered a borrowing binge in the household sector after the 1980s. It eventually resulted in Peak Debt and $15 trillion in debilitating debts on the homes, cars, incomes and futures of what used to be middle class America. It also led politicians down the path of free lunch fiscal policy.

By monetizing $4.2 trillion of Treasury and GSE debt during the last three decades, the Fed numbed the US economy from effects of crowding out and rising interest rates that would have come from soaring government deficits. This left the public sector impaled on Peak Debt. Ever since Alan Greenspan launched Bubble Finance in the fall of 1987, public debt outstanding has increased by nearly 9 times. Measured against national output, the Federal debt ratio has risen from 47% to 106% of GDP. These actions have stripped-mined balance sheets and cash flow from main street businesses. The Fed has stifled economic growth while delivering multi-trillion windfalls into the hands of a few thousand speculators on Wall Street.

These rippling waves of financial mutation are why the US economy is visibly failing and why vast numbers of citizens in Flyover America voted for Donald Trump for president. Ironically, even as he stumbled to his victory on November 8, Trump barely recognized that the force behind all the economic failure that he railed against was the nation’s rogue central bank. Only when it occurred to him that Janet Yellen was doing everything possible to insure Clinton’s victory did he let loose an attack on the Fed. In his famous warning, he leveled that America was threatened by a big, fat, ugly bubble. [..] When Wall Street launched a phony Trump Reflation trade during the wee hours of election night, the Donald forgot all about the great bubble. In fact, he quickly embraced it as a sign that investors were enthusiastically embracing Trump-O-Nomics.

No new arrival in the Oval Office was ever more mistaken.

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Create the bubble with ZIRP, milk it for all you can, then walk out and leave millions with grossly overvalued assets as the economy sinks.

Canada’s Housing Boom Expected to Spark Rate Rise (WSJ)

The Bank of Canada is widely expected on Wednesday to raise its benchmark policy rate for the first time in seven years, signaling the Canadian economy is on the path to recovery after years of tepid growth following the global slump in commodities. Canada’s central bank, led by Gov. Stephen Poloz, is joining peers at the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank as they dial back on the extraordinary run of ultralow interest rates aimed at jump-starting the global economy in the aftermath of the recession of 2008-09. In Canada, which was hit with an income shock after the downturn in prices of oil and other commodities, low rates have resulted in an extended period of loose money that has fueled a housing boom in pockets of the country.

Some analysts say soaring real-estate prices, which have stretched affordability and forced official measures to curb investing, could be a factor driving Wednesday’s expected increase. Canadian housing starts rose 9.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 212,695 units in June, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said on Tuesday. Amid recent growth in gross domestic product and robust job creation, Mr. Poloz has signaled he will remove stimulus this week, monetary-policy analysts said. That is even though inflation—at an annualized 1.3% rate in May—remains well below the central bank’s 2% target, and wage growth remains stubbornly low.

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See, I don’t know who Rosso means when he talks about people having forgotten Minsky. Are those the people whose investments he advises on?

The Return Of The “Minsky Moment” (Rosso)

As he was a proponent of a pliable system of reform which could be altered based on the innovative risk humans create, Minsky would have been disappointed to know that the interconnected global shadow banking web continues to expand, Federal Reserve policies have created a great misallocation of financial resources, price discovery of risk assets is basically non-existent and the segment of the population or Main Street that was a concern for him, suffers great wealth inequality and wage disparity. Several catalysts exist today that may remind investors of Minsky. Readers should remain vigilant and keep the following concerns in mind as they invest and manage their personal wealth. The Federal Reserve has appeared to gravitate from data dependent to data ignorant.

Economic data remains sub-par. Inflation has fallen below the Fed’s target of two percent, yet they appear in their statements, determined to continue hiking short-term rates. In theory, a rate-tightening cycle is designed to take the edge off, tap the brake on accelerating economic growth. So, with GDP running below the long-term average of three percent and the personal consumption expenditures or PCE Index, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation slipping to 1.4% year-over-year in May, the lowest in six months, a question begs asking. Yellen, what are you putting a brake on? Based on the analysis below, the Fed has no reason to continue rate hikes this year. However, they seem hell-bent to ignore the data. Why?

The Fed may be on an unofficial mission to curb stock market speculation. Several Fed officials including Vice-Chairman Stanley Fischer and San Francisco Fed President John Williams have voiced their concerns over lofty stock market valuations. Regardless, of the Fed’s agenda to forge ahead with rate hikes, it’s crucial to remember that low interest rates have been the primary accelerant for stock market appreciation, not earnings growth; rising rates along the yield curve eventually puts a damper on the economy and sets up a prime catalyst for market correction. If the Fed moves too quickly or inflation heats up to warrant swifter action, then a Minsky Moment may be closer than pundits believe.

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Undoubtedly well meant, but it turned the Fed into a political instrument. Not a good thing.

Martin Luther King’s Economic Dream Changed The Federal Reserve Forever (BI)

Most Americans have watched or heard Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in 1963. Few know his rousing call for racial equality was the culmination of an event called the March for Jobs and Freedom. This is crucial because it reveals the central, and largely unrecognized, role of the American civil rights movement of the 1960s on the US approach to economic policy. That included a more prominent role for government in economic stimulus policies and, importantly, a broader, jobs-focused mandate for the Federal Reserve. That role is the focus of a new report by a group of Fed policy activists known as Fed Up, a coalition of community and pro-poor groups that have been pushing the Fed to adopt a more consciously pro-full employment stance.

“From the 1930’s and through the rise of the civil rights movement, racial justice activists including Coretta Scott King, called for a coordinated federal effort to attain full employment,” says the report, published in conjunction with the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, referring to Martin Luther King’s wife, who continued his fight after his assassination in 1968. “They envisioned an economy where every person who seeks employment can secure a job. King joined Congressional leaders Augustus Hawkins and Hubert Humphrey in eventually passing the landmark 1978 Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act (Humphrey-Hawkins) which legally required the Fed to pursue maximum employment.” Before the act, the mandate had been limited to low, stable inflation. To this day, Fed Chair Yellen’s semi-annual address to Congress on monetary policy, which is taking place on Wednesday, is known as the Humphrey-Hawkins testimony.

Fed Up and CEPR argue that the employment mandate, while not fully realized, has already generated millions of additional jobs over time, particularly in poor communities, which are most affected by steep levels of persistent unemployment. “There can be no question that the Fed would never have allowed the late 1990s boom and the consequential sharp reduction in the unemployment rate if it did not have a full employment mandate,” the study argues after reviewing data from that period and the rationale used by then-chairman Alan Greenspan for keeping interest rates low despite falling unemployment. The debate remains highly relevant today given that some Fed officials, despite their duty to maintain maximum employment, have recently expressed curious worries about the unemployment rate falling too quickly.

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Expectation is Russia will expel 30 US diplomats.

Russia Will Retaliate If US Does Not Release Property – Lavrov (R.)

Russia will retaliate in a reciprocal manner if the United States does not heed its demands for a return of diplomatic assets, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday. “We hope that the United States, as a country which promotes the rule of law, will respect its international obligations,” Lavrov told reporters after a meeting in Brussels with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. “If this does not happen, if we see that this step is not seen as essential in Washington, then of course we will take retaliatory measures. This is the law of diplomacy, the law of international affairs, that reciprocity is the basis of all relations.” He declined to answer when asked if that meant that Russia would expel U.S. diplomats and seize diplomatic property.

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Qatar flying in cows from Australia and fruit from Peru says a lot about what’s wrong with the world.

Qatar’s First Shipment of Air-Lifted Cows Lands in Doha (BBG)

The first batch of an anticipated 4,000 dairy cows was flown into Qatar Tuesday, five weeks after the start of a Saudi Arabia-led boycott of the Gulf country. A shipment of 165 cows, sourced from Germany and flying via Budapest, are ready to produce milk immediately and the product should reach local markets this week, according to a spokesman for Power International Holding, which is importing the animals. Other shipments will include cows from Australia and the U.S., and should arrive every three days, the company spokesman said Tuesday. In total, the bovine airlift is expected to bring in the 4,000 cows within about a month. Led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar has been accused of supporting Islamic militants, charges the sheikdom has repeatedly denied.

The boycott that started on June 5 has disrupted trade, split families and threatened to alter long-standing geopolitical alliances. The showdown has forced the world’s richest country per capita to open new trade routes to bring in food, building materials and equipment for its natural gas industry. As part of its response, Qatar has imported Turkish dairy goods along with Peruvian and Moroccan fruit. Until last month, most of the fresh milk and dairy products for Qatar’s population of 2.7 million was imported from Saudi Arabia. When all the cows purchased by Power International Chairman Moutaz Al Khayyat are flown in, his brand of milk will supply about 30 percent of the country’s needs

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What’s Schäuble up to now?

Greece’s Market Return May Be Imminent (R.)

Greece could return to financial markets in the next few weeks, investors and bankers close to the discussions told Reuters, raising private cash that would mark an important step towards ending its dependence on official funding next year. Athens’ largest creditor, the European Stability Mechanism, said on Monday that Greece should develop a strategy to end a three-year exile from markets before its current bailout program expires in mid-2018. Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos met with investors in London last month and one of those funds, BlueBay Asset Management, said the volume of calls they are receiving from bankers about a potential deal suggest it’s very close. “Over the last few months we would get one call on this every couple of weeks (from bankers), but over the last 10 days it seems to be every day I’m getting a call asking about this particular topic,” BlueBay’s Mark Dowding told Reuters.

“One senses we are getting to a point where this feels more imminent. We could well expect to see a deal in the next couple of weeks before investors depart for their summer holidays.” Dowding said BlueBay holds Greek bonds and would buy a new bond issue if the price was attractive. Tsakalotos also met investors including the world’s biggest bond fund PIMCO and US-based asset manager Standish, sources close to those meetings told Reuters. [..] A senior Greek government official told Reuters last week that no decision had yet been made on the timing of a deal. A banker advising Greece on its market return told Reuters on condition of anonymity: “They (Greece) are monitoring the market and they are trying to do something right now, so I wouldn’t rule out a deal within the next week or two.”

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FIghts in the Lesbos Moria camp yesterday.

NGOs Fearful Of Handing Island Refugee Camps To Greek State (K.)

Seven top NGOs aiding refugees in Greece have issued a joint statement expressing their concerns over the handover of responsibilities at migrant camps on the Greek islands to the government as of August 1. The NGOs say the Greek government has released few details about how it plans to continue providing existing assistance to residents at the camps. A deterioration of living conditions and diminished access to essential services are the main concerns cited if the Greek government does not communicate a plan to the NGOs before the handover. Since the start of the year, more than 9,500 refugees and migrants have arrived on the Greek islands, where nearly 14,000 are currently stranded. “Without a transitional plan, vulnerable men, women and children will be put at greater risk,” the statement said.

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The EU: where people go to drown.

EU Migrant Rescue Mission ‘Led To Increase In Deaths’ (Ind.)

A major naval mission spearheaded by the EU has failed to tackle people smuggling in the Mediterranean and may even be leading to higher death tolls, a new report has found. Operation Sophia, launched in 2015, has had little effect in deterring migration and its mandate should not be renewed, according to findings by the House of Lords EU External Affairs Sub-Committee. But the report concludes that the operation’s search and rescue work which has saved the lives of many people should continue. The initiative, involving 25 EU member states including the UK, was set up in the wake of disasters in which hundreds of migrants drowned attempting to reach Europe.

Yet detection of irregular migrants on the central Mediterranean route was at its highest level in 2016, when 181,436 people arrived in Europe by this route — an increase of 18 per cent on 2015, when the figure was 153,842. A naval mission is the “wrong tool” to tackle irregular migration, which begins onshore, the assessment found. It claimed an unintended consequence of Operation Sophia’s destruction of vessels had been that the smugglers have managed to adapt, sending migrants to sea in unseaworthy vessels. This led to a tragic increase in deaths, with 2,150 in 2017 to date, the report added. But it also noted that Operation Sophia vessels have rescued more than 33,000 people since the start of the mission.

The report comes just days after Amnesty International said “reckless” EU operations were destroying smugglers’ safest boats in the Mediterranean and causing more refugee deaths. It claimed the EU had “turned its back” on the search and rescue strategy. A report by the human rights group argued that the search-and-rescue measures implemented in 2015 dramatically decreased the numbers of deaths at sea, but that EU governments had now shifted their focus to disrupting smugglers and preventing boats departing from Libya. It said the EU strategy was “exposing refugees and migrants to even greater risks at sea”, destroying so many of the wooden boats used by smugglers that huge numbers of people had now started making the crossing on less safe rubber dinghies.

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Dec 172016
 
 December 17, 2016  Posted by at 10:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Country filling station, Granville County, NC 1939

Debt Nation: The Problem, the Solutions (Valentin Schmid)
American Credit Card Debt Nears All Time Highs (BI)
It’s Been A Nightmare Year For Australian Retail (News.com.au)
Italy Prepares To Pump €15 Billion Into Ailing Banks (R.)
Euro Parity With Dollar ‘Only A Matter Of Time’ – ING (CNBC)
The Fed Is Pushing China Into A Messy Catch-22 (CNBC)
China Vows To Contain Asset Bubbles, Avert Financial Risk In 2017 (R.)
Cold War Hysteria vs. US National Security (Stephen F. Cohen)
Obama Says Russia Is A Smaller, Weaker Country Than The US (CNBC)
Obama Goes Off the Clinton Script (WSJ)
Schaeuble Could Destroy Eurozone, Not Just Greece (EUO)
Greek PM Tells Merkel ‘Wounds Of Crisis’ Must Be Healed (R.)

 

 

Excellent overview of debt-related issues. Steve’s Debt Jubilee warrants serious discussion at high levels. But it’s not happening.

Debt Nation: The Problem, the Solutions (Valentin Schmid)

There are only two ways to wipe out debt if it cannot be repaid by increases in output. The worst for the economy, even though it may be the fairest, is bankruptcy and debt deflation or destruction. A company or an individual—and sometimes a government—just says it can’t repay its debt. The lender takes control of the assets, if there are any, and tries to recover as much of the loan as possible, making up for the shortfall with its capital provision. This is exactly what happened during the Great Depression, when companies and individuals defaulted in droves, driving thousands of banks into bankruptcy as well. “If you borrowed money to buy a house or a machine, you couldn’t repay the debt, no matter how productive you were. Deflation penalized producers who misjudged the value of their assets at the time,” said Oliver.

Private debt declined 20% from 1930 to 1933 but GDP declined 38%, so the debt-to-GDP ratio actually increased from 175 to 225%, according to data from Debt Economics. “Deflation can increase the level of private debt to GDP, because GDP falls faster than private debt. Paying down the debt, withdrawing money from circulation and reducing its velocity, reduces GDP more than the decline in the debt,” said Keen. So this exercise is best avoided, which is precisely what central banks did during the 2008 crisis with their QE programs and bank bailouts. They managed to avoid a second Great Depression, but they didn’t get rid of the private debt. Despite the evident flaws in a system that has provided incentives for borrowers and lenders to indulge in too much debt for their own good, there are creative ways to reset the system and at least get the economy growing again.

“Every debt collapse in history has had a combination of debt forgiveness and inflation. That is how debt problems are dealt with historically,” said Oliver. Western central banks have tried to create inflation through their QE programs but weren’t successful because of deflationary pressures: overcapacity in China, technological innovation, and the fact that their money printing ended up in the hands of financial actors, who bought a lot of stocks, rather than real people, who would repay debt and buy goods and services. Many economists, including Keen, therefore call for QE for the private sector, rather than the banks, a concept dubbed “helicopter money.” “The creative way to get around it, is use the government’s capacity to create money. You use the same power the central banks did with QE but pay it into private sector accounts rather than commercial bank accounts. Households and companies can use it to pay down debt and those who don’t have debt, can get a cash injection,” he said.

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“..America’s putative economic strength might be a mirage [..] the economy may in fact be a lot weaker than all the happy indicators are leading people to believe.”

American Credit Card Debt Nears All Time Highs (BI)

By most accounts, the American economy seems to be humming along very nicely. Unemployment just hit a nine-year low, the stock market this month climbed to all-time highs, and consumer confidence is as chipper as its been in two years. But at least one indicator suggests that much of the US is actually struggling financially: Americans are piling on credit card debt at record levels that we haven’t seen since the financial crisis. Households added $21.9 billion in credit card debt in the third quarter — the largest increase for that period since 2007 — bringing the amount of outstanding credit card debt to $927.1 billion, according to the latest study from WalletHub. That matches the mark in 2007 before the recession began, and it’s the highest tally since the end of 2008, when the global economy was experiencing a full-on implosion.

Racking up credit card debt isn’t inherently bad, so long as it’s being paid back. And so far, Americans are defaulting on their credit card debt at near historically low levels. Charge-off rates – the percentage of credit card debt that the companies are unable to collect on — are only at 2.86%, compared with 3.95% in 2007 the quarter before the Great Recession began and in excess of 10% in the years following the crisis, according to WalletHub. But holding a balance is a lousy move from a personal finance perspective — a sign of financial fragility. The fact that the average household with debt now owes $7,941 to credit card companies, according to WalletHub, suggests that America’s putative economic strength might be a mirage – that the economy may in fact be a lot weaker than all the happy indicators are leading people to believe.

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Something’s off.

It’s Been A Nightmare Year For Australian Retail (News.com.au)

It’s been a nightmare year for Australian retail, with a parade of the nation’s best-known brands decimated one after another. And experts say things will only get worse if business leaders and governments do not pick up their game. First it was Dick Smith Electronics, then the Woolworths-owned Masters home improvement chain that went under. Now, thousands more workers will be jobless at Christmas after a fresh slew of corporate collapses rounded out 2016. Payless Shoes this week announced plans to close its doors by the end of February, hot on the heels of Howards Storage World’s demise, and that of children’s fashion label Pumpkin Patch.

While Treasurer Scott Morrison seized on the latest bad news to bolster the Coalition’s tax reform agenda, market watchers say there is far more that needs to be done. Retail analyst Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus said neither corporate leaders nor government had acknowledged what he called “an attitudinal recession” that was restraining businesses. While the nation was yet to tip into an official recession – despite having just marked its worst quarterly performance since the global financial crisis – Australians remained apprehensive about their futures, he said. And any business that failed to respond to this by recapturing the public imagination with a compelling, value-driven offering would simply fall by the wayside.

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JPMorgan’s role is interesting. So is Beppe Grillo’s view of that role: “Italy’s opposition 5-Star Movement has called for JPMorgan’s fees to be voided if taxpayers have to come to the rescue..”

Italy Prepares To Pump €15 Billion Into Ailing Banks (R.)

Italy’s government is ready to pump €15 billion into Monte dei Paschi di Siena and other ailing banks, sources said, as the country’s third-largest lender pushes ahead with a private rescue plan that is widely expected to fail. The world’s oldest bank has until Dec. 31 to raise €5 billion in equity or face being wound down by the European Central Bank, potentially triggering a wider banking and political crisis in Italy. If needed, the government will pump €15 billion into the Siena-based lender and several other smaller banks to prevent that, two sources close to the matter said on Thursday. One source said unlisted regional banks Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, which were rescued this year by a state-backed fund, would also get support from the state.

The government would make the €15 billion available in a decree on Dec. 22, La Repubblica newspaper said on Thursday, adding that Banca Carige could also benefit. Italy’s banking sector is saddled with €356 billion of bad loans, around a third of the euro zone’s total and a legacy of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis when, unlike Spain or Ireland, Italy did not act to help its banks. Monte dei Paschi di Siena, advised by investment banks JPMorgan and Mediobanca, plans to raise equity to remove €28 billion in bad loans from its books. Italy’s opposition 5-Star Movement has called for JPMorgan’s fees to be voided if taxpayers have to come to the rescue. “We would have never done a deal like that with JPMorgan. In any case we would not pay the commissions (if the bank had to be nationalized,” Alessio Villarosa, a 5-Star lawmaker, said.

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It’s not going to stop at parity.

Euro Parity With Dollar ‘Only A Matter Of Time’ – ING (CNBC)

Divergence in monetary policy between the United States and Europe will bring parity between the value of the euro and dollar, according to ING. On Thursday the euro hit a low of 1.0364 against the dollar, the lowest level since August 2003 when it traded as low as 1.0357. Dollar strength is the key driver as investors believe the Federal Reserve will adopt a higher rate rise path in 2017 as the U.S. economy gathers momentum. Conversely, the ECB has just announced it will inject a further €540 billion of QE stimulus into the stuttering EU economy.

Analysts at ING wrote Friday that with European inflation struggling to edge higher and yesterday’s dip in to the 1.03 handle, euro/dollar parity is now firmly in view. “With the U.S. economy close to reaching escape velocity (and sustainable 2% inflation), it will only reinforce the downside risks to EUR/USD.” “Expect some consolidation around the 1.0450-1.0500 area, but this week’s fresh EUR/USD low means that the move down to parity is now only a matter of time,” the note reads.

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“..either hike the interest rate (as) the U.S. does, or they give up the exchange rate..”

The Fed Is Pushing China Into A Messy Catch-22 (CNBC)

An interest rate decision in the United States is causing a dilemma for Beijing. The U.S. dollar index surged to a near 14-year high after the Fed’s rate hike on Wednesday and its surprise forecast for three more increases — instead of the two that were expected previously — to come in 2017. Higher interest rates in the United States make it tempting for China to raise its own rates, because Beijing doesn’t want more money to flee the country into higher-yielding U.S. bonds. That flight also hurts China’s currency, the yuan. But Beijing could get its economy into trouble by hiking rates, since its continued economic growth is very heavily driven by borrowing. “You had this pressure that was already building, and the Fed has basically complicated and added to that with a more hawkish message,” said Logan Wright at Rhodium Group.

China’s yuan subsequently fell to its lowest level since 2008, and the country’s 10-year bond yield jumped to its highest level in more than a year. Declines in five-year and 10-year Chinese bond futures were reportedly so drastic Thursday that trade was halted due to a market trading limit. “The bond market itself, it’s raising a lot of attention, and it’s likely reflecting [that] policymakers in China are facing a difficult choice right now,” said Kai Yan, an economist at the IMF. He noted that “the speculation in the market is high because the central bank wants to stand in front of currency pressure to prevent capital outflow.” Chinese policymakers must “either hike the interest rate (as) the U.S. does, or they give up the exchange rate,” Yan said. “It is likely they will do a combination of the two.”

[..] China’s financial and economic challenges have been on the back burner for U.S. markets for much of the past year. The yuan’s depreciation versus the dollar has been largely ignored by global markets, as economic updates out of China have held up thanks largely to a flood of debt that’s propping up the country’s economy. Earlier this year, the Fed was seen as giving China some breathing room to stabilize its currency and economic growth. The U.S. central bank cited international concerns in avoiding a rate hike in the fall of 2015 and reducing its expectations for 2016 rate increases. Those decisions from the Fed helped keep the dollar steady, allowing China to avoid a significant depreciation of its currency. Now, however, some say the Fed may be less concerned about China since the U.S. economy is on firmer footing and can expect big domestic government spending from President-elect Donald Trump’s proposals.

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“Houses are for people to live in, not for people to speculate..” Sounds nice, but real estate has been a major contributor to China’s economy and GDP.

China Vows To Contain Asset Bubbles, Avert Financial Risk In 2017 (R.)

China will stem the growth of asset bubbles in 2017 and place greater importance on the prevention of financial risk, while keeping the economy on a path of stable and healthy growth, media said, citing leaders at an economic planning meeting. China has seen growth stabilize this year, but corporate leverage and credit continue to expand, increasing risks to the world’s second-largest economy as it looks to push forward structural reforms. The annual meeting is attended by China’s top leaders and is closely watched by investors for clues on policy priorities and main economic targets for the year ahead. Monetary policy will be kept “prudent and neutral” in 2017, leaders attending the Central Economic Work Conference said in a statement, as reported by the official Xinhua news agency on Friday.

“Monetary policy will be kept prudent and neutral, adapt to new changes in money supply … and strive to smooth monetary policy transmission channels and improve mechanism to help maintain liquidity basically stable,” they said. The People’s Bank of China has maintained a prudent monetary policy since 2011, raising or cutting interest rates in line with shifts in the economy. The pro-active fiscal policy has been in place since the depths of the global crisis. The property market will be a focus of risk control, as authorities will restrain property bubbles and prevent price volatility, they said. The leaders called for a strict limit on credit flowing into speculative buying in the property market and for a boost in the supply of land for cities where housing prices face stiff upward pressure. “Houses are for people to live in, not for people to speculate,” Xinhua said, citing the statement.

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Cohen of course is America’s no. 1 expert on Russia.

Cold War Hysteria vs. US National Security (Stephen F. Cohen)

Thus far, no actual facts or other evidence have been made publicly to support allegations that the hacking was carried out on the orders of the Russian leadership, that Russian hackers then gave the damaging materials to WikiLeaks, or that the revelations affected the electoral outcome. Nor are Russian President Putin’s alleged motives credible. Why would a leader whose mission has been to rebuild Russia with economic and other partnerships with the West seek to undermine the political systems of those countries, not only in America but also in Europe, as is charged? Judging by the public debate among Russian policy intellectuals close to the Kremlin, nor is it clear that the Kremlin so favored the largely unknown and unpredictable Trump.

But even if Putin was presented with such a possibility, he certainly would have understood that such Russian interference in the US election would become known and thus work in favor of Clinton, not Trump. (Indeed, a major tactic of the Clinton campaign was to allege that Trump was a “Putin puppet,” which seems not to have helped her campaign with voters.) Still worse, since the election these allegations have inspired a growing Cold War hysteria in the American bipartisan political-media establishment, still without any actual evidence to support them. One result is more neo-McCarthyite slurring of people who dissent from this narrative. Thus a New York Times editorial (December 12) alleges that Trump had “surrounded himself with Kremlin lackeys.” And Senator John McCain ominously warned that anyone who disagreed with his political jihadist vendetta against Putin “is lying.”

A kind of witch hunt may be unfolding, not only of the kind The Washington Post tried to instigate with its bogus “report” of scores of American websites said to be “fronts for Russian propaganda,” but at the highest level. Thus, Trump’s nominee for secretary of state is said to be “a friend of Putin” as a result of striking a deal for Exxon-Mobil for Russian oil reserves, something he was obliged to do as the company’s CEO. Several motives seem to be behind this bipartisan American campaign against the President-elect, who is being equated with Russian misdeeds. One is to reverse the Electoral College vote. Another is to exonerate the Clinton campaign from its electoral defeat by blaming that instead on Putin and thereby maintaining the Clinton wing’s grip on the Democratic Party. Yet another is to delegitimate Trump even before he is inaugurated. And certainly no less important, to prevent the détente with Russia that Trump seems to seek.

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Obama sounds smaller and weaker here.

Obama Says Russia Is A Smaller, Weaker Country Than The US (CNBC)

In his final news conference of the year, President Barack Obama emphasized that Russia cannot change or significantly weaken the U.S., adding that Russia is a smaller and weaker country. He said Russia’s economy “doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy,” except oil, gas and arms. The only way Russia can affect the U.S., he said, is “if we lose track of who we are” and “abandon our values.” “Mr. Putin can weaken us just like he’s trying to weaken Europe if we start buying into notions that it’s OK to intimidate the press, or lock up dissidents or discriminate against people,” he said. When asked if he would specifically name Russian President Vladimir Putin as directly responsible for the election hacking, Obama said he wanted to give the intelligence community a chance to gather the information necessary.

He added, however, that “not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin,” reaffirming that the hacking happened at the highest levels of the Russian government. “This is a pretty hierarchical operation,” he said. “Last I checked, there’s not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation, particularly when it comes to policies directed at the United States.” Obama reaffirmed his message of political unity and bipartisanship, urging the country to reunite across party lines to defend itself against Russia and others. “Our vulnerability to Russia or any other foreign power is directly related to how divided, partisan, dysfunctional our political process is,” he said. “That’s the thing that makes us vulnerable.”

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“His main complaint is that “I don’t think she was treated fairly” by the press corps and the Russian hacks became “an obsession that dominated the news coverage.”

Obama Goes Off the Clinton Script (WSJ)

Hillary Clinton told her donor base at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel on Thursday that Russian cyber attacks were both “a personal beef against me” and meant to undermine “the integrity of our democracy,” and Democrats fanned out this week to spread this Kremlin-hacked-the-election narrative. President Obama was asked about all this in his year-end Friday press conference, but even he couldn’t square the contradictions. As liberals assailed the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s victory, Mr. Obama defended “the integrity of our election system,” noting that there is no evidence that ballots weren’t counted fairly. So much for those Jill Stein, Clinton-endorsed recounts, or the conspiracies about compromised voting machines. The President also explained that the emails stolen from John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee were “not some elaborate, complicated espionage scheme.”

He said intelligence and law enforcement were “playing this thing straight” and disclosed sufficient information about the hacks for “the American public to make an assessment as to how to weigh that going into the election.” Mr. Obama conceded that some of the leaked content was “embarrassing or uncomfortable” but all in all “pretty routine stuff.” His main complaint is that “I don’t think she was treated fairly” by the press corps and the Russian hacks became “an obsession that dominated the news coverage.” Really? The Podesta and DNC emails mostly revealed that the Clinton apparat don’t much like conservative Catholics or Bernie Sanders. Mr. Trump’s offenses against beauty queen Alicia Machado in the 1990s and his Billy Bush video were far bigger stories. The emails that really harmed Mrs. Clinton were those she stored on a personal server as Secretary of State, because the arrangement was potentially criminal and underscored doubts about her political character and judgment.

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Not could, will. Curious that Dijsselbloem’s solo act in deciding to halt Greek debt relief doesn’t get more attention.

Schaeuble Could Destroy Eurozone, Not Just Greece (EUO)

The sudden suspension of Greece’s short-term debt relief measures on Wednesday evening (14 December) has sparked fierce criticism by a number of EU officials. EU commissioner Pierre Moscovici, European Parliament president Martin Schultz, French president Hollande and finance minister Michel Sapin, along with many MEPs from the GUE/NGL, S&D and the Greens groups, have echoed support for Greece and prime minister Alexis Tsipras’s decision to give a one-time relief package to low-income pensioners. In essence, there has been no official decision taken by the Eurogroup, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), or the European Council. Instead, there’s been unilateral action from the head of the Eurogroup without prior coordination with his colleagues.

Creditors should respect their own part of the deal and conclude the second review of the bailout programme, and acknowledge that there are open issues that need be addressed. The Greek government is fully implementing the bailout deal, moving on to needed reforms, providing safety nets for the vulnerable social groups. It’s possible Tsipras’s announcement was brought about by German finance minister Schaeuble and other circles pushing Greece to the limit. But in truth, we need not investigate who has taken the decision but instead focus on substantial issues. These issues include lowering primary surplus targets after 2018 and loosening tax rates so that the economy can become stable and growth can reach sustainable levels.

Even with such strict deadlines, the Greek government has achieved all fiscal targets for 2016, increasing public income and reaching a higher primary surplus than expected. This positive development prompted Tsipras, a few days ago, to announce a one-time relief package for low-income pensioners; a substantive decision after 12 consecutive pension cuts between 2010 and 2014, a loss of more than 30% of national GDP, during the same period, with a considerable part of the population facing poverty and social exclusion. The Greek government’s urgent measures are the least this government can do to temporarily do something for the worse off.

Dimitrios Papadimoulis is vice president of the European Parliament and head of the Syriza party delegation.

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Merkel sides with Schaeuble.

Greek PM Tells Merkel ‘Wounds Of Crisis’ Must Be Healed (R.)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday his country was set for strong economic growth and this would help to “heal the wounds of crisis” after years of austerity imposed under international bailouts. On a visit to Berlin, Tsipras was keen to emphasise Greek progress on reforms demanded by Germany as the EU’s most powerful economy and paymaster – a situation that has made Merkel a hate figure for some Greeks. The trip’s timing was also significant, as Greece wrangles with its creditors over terms for its current bailout, the latest of three. On Thursday it snubbed its lenders by passing legislation to give pensioners a one-off Christmas bonus.

Tsipras told reporters before meeting Merkel that he would inform the chancellor of the positive momentum of the Greek economy and his government’s “spectacular overachievement” of revenue targets. “The projections for the Greek economy are extremely positive for next year,” Tsipras said, adding authorities expected 2.7% growth in 2017 and 3.1% in 2018. But Greece’s economic development should not simply be confined to statistics and numbers, he added. “We want it to heal the wounds of crisis and to alleviate all those who have over these difficult years made huge sacrifices in the name of Europe,” Tsipras said.

Merkel showed little willingness to take a position on the disputed question of whether the pre-Christmas payout to pensioners was compatible with bailout obligations. Standing next to Tsipras, she said decisions lay in the hands of the Troika institutions handling negotiations with Greece but “the Greek prime minister’s assessment of the situation will certainly play a role in our discussions.” A German Finance Ministry spokesman said the institutions involved in Greece’s aid programme were critical of Athens in a preliminary report assessing the unilaterally announced measure. “To make the aid programme a success, it’s essential that measures are not decided unilaterally or are not taken back without advance notice,” said spokesman Dennis Kolberg.

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