Mar 122021
 
 March 12, 2021  Posted by at 9:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Yellow haystacks (Golden harvest) 1889

 

The New COVID-19 Relief Bill Is Good, But Not Good Enough (Jac.)
The Rights Of The Naturally Immune (AIER)
Fauci Was ‘Blind To The Harms Of The Lockdowns’ That Didn’t Work Anyway (JTN)
Advisory Committee On Pandemic Needs Variety Of Experts, Not Just Doctors (K.)
Generation Threatened As Pandemic Sets Back Childhood Development (Barrons)
Sweden’s Failed Covid Strategy Leaves The Country Deeply Divided (Peroni)
These Seven States Have Dropped All Covid-19 Restrictions (F.)
EU Investigates 30 Reports Of Blood-clotting Linked To AstraZeneca jab (RT)
New York Assembly Speaker Lays Groundwork For Cuomo Impeachment (JTN)
1000s Of Illegal Immigrant Children Penned In ‘Facilities Akin To Jails’ (JTN)
House Price Inflation in CPI is of Course Complete Baloney, But … (WS)
China Is Winning The Great 21st Century Tech War (Chang)
Journalists Start Demanding Substack Censor its Writers (Greenwald)
The Golden Question — Time vs Money (Ren.)

 

 

 

 

BIDEN: “If we do our part… by July 4, there’s a good chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day… Small groups will be able to get together”

 

 

 

 

“..the party avoided including any measures that might generate significant opposition from powerful corporate lobbies in Washington. ”

The New COVID-19 Relief Bill Is Good, But Not Good Enough (Jac.)

When Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan (ARP) on Friday, he will prove that the Democratic Party is finally willing — at least for a moment — to turn on the money hose and for once aim it not at Wall Street moguls, but instead at the raging wildfire of poverty and desperation incinerating the poor and middle class. That’s the very good news. The bad news is that the party’s COVID-19 relief bill also indicates that Biden might have been serious when he promised a room full of wealthy donors that nothing would fundamentally change about the macro-economy’s structure. Democrats did not use the must-pass bill to make essential, long-term changes to protect Americans against future emergencies. Instead, the party avoided including any measures that might generate significant opposition from powerful corporate lobbies in Washington.

Even worse, the ARP could make it far more difficult to enact structural changes in the health care sector that has been at the center of the pandemic and that helped make our country so uniquely unprepared for such a threat in the first place. To be sure, the package is a necessary rejection of austerity politics that have dominated Democratic politics since Bill Clinton promised in 1996 that “the era of big government is over” and since Joe Biden proudly cast himself as a deficit hawk in juxtaposition to his party’s New Deal tradition. This tectonic shift has been abrupt: When Democrats held a whopping fifty-eight Senate seats during the 2009 recession, Barack Obama listened to austerians like Lawrence Summers and passed a wholly inadequate $787 billion stimulus bill.

By contrast, with Democrats only holding fifty Senate seats amid the COVID crisis, Biden rejected Summers’s and his acolytes, and passed a $1.9 trillion bill.Biden only begrudgingly arrived at his current position. In August 2020, his campaign was telling reporters that “the pantry is going to be bare” and deficits meant “we’re going to be limited” in being able to spend any money at all. Then, in December, the New York Times reported that Biden was urging Democratic lawmakers to accept a COVID-19 aid package that included no direct aid checks at all.

After promising voters in Georgia that $2,000 checks “will go out the door immediately,” Biden quickly downgraded the amount to $1,400. The White House also entertained sharply limiting eligibility for those checks and cutting off payments to forty million Americans who received them in previous bills. (The final legislation wasn’t quite as draconian: it only penalized eleven million people.) The larger shift against this kind of austerity, then, reflects progressive pressure successfully shifting the terms of the budget debate away from the deficit scolds and away from Biden’s own previous ideology.

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Those rights are being vaccinated away. That makes the virus more dangerous.

The Rights Of The Naturally Immune (AIER)

There is an important issue that, in the midst of all the talk of vaccines, has not gotten nearly the attention it deserves: the civil rights of those who have already developed natural immunity to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that is said to cause Covid. Yesterday, I got the results of the test I took to detect whether I had developed a T-Cell response to the virus. Like the antibody test I took almost 2 months ago, it was positive. These two things would appear to demonstrate that for all intents and purposes my body knew exactly what to do with this virus and that it probably has the equipment to dispose of it again were it, or one of its cousins, to revisit me in the near-to-medium term. And even if one or another related strain were to visit me in that future, studies suggest strongly that the attack would be considerably less virulent than the one I overcame without excessive trouble in December.

In a halfway rational world, what to do going forward in regard to getting a vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 virus would be something I’d discuss with my doctor in the discreet quarters of the examination room. Were it to be offered, I would politely refuse it. And he, seeing the test evidence in my file, would raise no objection. And since the danger to me in the future from the virus is minuscule, and the science has clearly borne out what Fauci and Maria Van Kerkhove of the WHO flatly said was true before someone upstairs got to them—that asymptomatic transmission of respiratory diseases of this type is virtually nonexistent—I’d be free to live my life as I pleased without a mask, and with complete freedom of movement. But instead of this, I am facing enormous pressure to get a vaccine in order to recover my basic rights as a citizen.

And even then, those in charge are saying, I will still have to run around with a completely useless, breath-robbing and personality-canceling mask on my face. And all this for a disease that, even before the introduction of vaccines, gave those infected by it a roughly 997.5 out of 1,000 chance of survival. The civil authorities have decided, in effect, that fully indemnified pharmaceutical companies, whose pasts are obscenely littered with fraud, and the calculated creation of crises in order to up revenues on their products (OxyContin anyone?), have the de facto “right” to force me to take an experimental vaccine that, in the very, very best of circumstances, will only match what my apparently well-functioning body has already given me without any side effects.

And this, while straight out telling me that even if I submit to their government-coerced medical experiment I will probably still not get my full constitutional rights back. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed much more vigorously than has been the case up until now.

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Don’t let a virologist with large ties to Big Pharma run your country for a whole year.

Fauci Was ‘Blind To The Harms Of The Lockdowns’ That Didn’t Work Anyway (JTN)

Stanford University Professor of Medicine Jay Bhattacharya has been arguing for months that coronavirus lockdowns ultimately cause far more harm than good. As a co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, he has been advocating an alternative to the public health establishment’s comprehensively restrictive COVID-19 mitigation policies — a strategy known as “focused protection,” which would instead tailor protective measures to the elderly and other high-risk groups while minimizing harm to the larger society by allowing those at lower risk to resume a semblance of their normal lives. Now Bhattacharya and the other signatories to the declaration may have received some empirical support from an unlikely source — a little-remarked new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the very epicenter of the pro-lockdown public health establishment.

While the study trumpets its findings of statistical correlations of mask mandates and in-person dining bans with better outcomes for coronavirus case rates and death rates, the positive effects reported were decidedly modest in scale. Bhattacharya, who spoke with Just the News earlier this week, said that despite clear evidence that “lockdowns haven’t worked to stem the pandemic,” he sees a “strange desire to continue the lockdown,” especially in the upper echelons of the federal government. In Bhattacharya’s view, Biden administration chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci and other top public health officials have failed to view the risks to a subset of the U.S. population in the indispensable context of risks to the larger population produced by drastic mitigation policies like socially and economically stultifying lockdowns that blanketed much of the country over the past year.

“Part of the problem for Dr. Fauci,” Bhattacharya said, “is that he is blind to the harms of the lockdown … He seems not to understand that the lockdown creates all kinds of physical problems, psychological problems, harms that I’ve never seen him talk about.” Among the issues to which Bhattacharya alludes are rises in child abuse, depression, and divorce rates. Not to mention the large swaths of the American economy that have been decimated, and countless small businesses that will never reopen. Many of the pandemic restrictions didn’t “actually have any effect on slowing the pandemic or protecting people,” Bhattacharya asserted. “They were just indiscriminate closures that essentially protected the ‘Zoom class’ — the people who could afford to stay at home — while exposing the working class, other poor people and the vulnerable.”

[..] Beyond mask mandates (which he has previously said do not work to slow the spread of the disease) and restaurant closures, though, Bhattacharya says that the “single biggest problem” America is going to see as a result of a year of lockdowns “is the harm to children.” “There’s one estimate that the closure of schools will cause almost five and a half million life years lost to our children,” he said. “That’s because, if you’re less well-educated, you live a less healthy life, you live a less long life, it has this ripple effect that lasts forever.”

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From Greece. Dysfunctional.

Advisory Committee On Pandemic Needs Variety Of Experts, Not Just Doctors (K.)

The existing committee of experts advising the government on the pandemic must reshape to add experts from different research disciplines instead of one to become more efficient, according to a professor on Friday. Manolis Dermitzakis, professor of genetics at the University of Geneva, told Skai television that, in the first wave of the pandemic, the decisions for the committee were simple. It only had to decide whether some activities should open or close, while the public largely complied with the restrictive measures. But the complexity of the situation as the pandemic continued from the summer onwards was so great that a commission which includes only doctors could not function.


Dermitzakis also argued that the panel must have fewer members. “A committee that has 30-40 members and consists only of doctors cannot function,” he said. “It is a moment when we have to say that this committee is tired, perhaps it has passed the point where it can function. Maybe some of its members could continue to be useful, but what is needed is interdisciplinarity, that is, many different experts and a fewer people – five not 30.” Dermitzakis also said he supported the reopening of schools, stores and outdoor eating venues.

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“The number of children who are hungry, isolated, abused, anxious, living in poverty and forced into marriage has increased..”

Generation Threatened As Pandemic Sets Back Childhood Development (Barrons)

Closed schools, surging poverty, forced marriages and depression — after a year of the pandemic, indicators measuring child and adolescent development have all regressed, a setback that heralds lasting stigma for an entire generation, UNICEF has warned. “The number of children who are hungry, isolated, abused, anxious, living in poverty and forced into marriage has increased,” Henrietta Fore, executive director of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, said in a statement released exactly one year since the World Health Organization classified Covid-19 as a pandemic. “Their access to education, socialization and essential services including health, nutrition and protection has decreased. The signs that children will bear the scars of the pandemic for years to come are unmistakable,” Fore said in the statement.


Faced with such “devastating” effects, Fore urged for children to be placed “at the heart of recovery efforts,” particularly by “prioritizing schools in reopening plans.” UNICEF cited a series of worrying figures in support of Fore’s words. While the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the elderly, children and adolescents under 20 make up 13 percent of the 71 million coronavirus cases reported in the 107 countries that provided age-specific data. In developing countries, projections show a 15 percent increase in child poverty. Six to seven million more children could suffer from malnourishment in 2020, an increase of 14 percent that could translate to more than 10,000 additional deaths per month, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

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‘opinion corridor’

Sweden’s Failed Covid Strategy Leaves The Country Deeply Divided (Peroni)

Sweden, a bastion of welfare and one of the countries that scores highest on pretty much anything to do with the wellbeing of its inhabitants, seems to have woken up to a serious identity crisis.The choice to adopt and follow a COVID-19 strategy unlike any other in Europe has recently led to an extreme polarization in an otherwise rather homogenous public debate. Statistics prove beyond a shadow of doubt that the other Scandinavian countries, which enforced much stricter policies, have suffered considerably fewer losses. Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who firmly opposed face masks and believed that measures should rely only on the Swedish people’s sense of personal responsibility, enjoyed overwhelming support in the early phases of the crisis.

Fan pages, mostly on Facebook, counted tens of thousands of members. His face featured on T-shirts, gadgets and even a tattoo, worn on the arm by one of his proudest admirers. The alluring message that Sweden’s approach was right and everybody else’s self-isolation regime was hopelessly wrong reached well beyond the nation’s borders. In other European countries, staunch critics of lockdowns pointed at footage of happy, bare-faced Swedes hanging out in crowded bars as evidence that the draconian measures imposed elsewhere were an unnecessary violation of civil rights. The Swedish model became a symbol for anti-lockdown and no-mask movements across the world. But now, one year after the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Scandinavia, the situation has changed dramatically.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency recently announced that several among its key figures have been granted police protection. Tegnell himself is currently enduring massive criticism and even death threats. In one instance, a citizen went so far as to argue that he should be “executed by a firing squad on live state television”. And yet, despite the fact that both King Carl XVI Gustaf and prime minister Stefan Löfven in December publicly acknowledged that the Swedish approach had failed, Tegnell has never retracted anything, let alone made an official apology. Until very recently, an astounding, near total lack of criticism, not only from public opinion but even from major opposition parties, characterised Sweden’s COVID. This might be due to the so-called åsiktskorridor (‘opinion corridor’). This is a Swedish concept meaning that the public debate tends to take place within certain limits, along an established path. Those who disagree, often choose not to speak out. They feel out of tune with the rest of society.

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Inevitable.

These Seven States Have Dropped All Covid-19 Restrictions (F.)

Oklahoma became the latest to lift virtually all Covid-19 restrictions on Thursday, bringing the total number of states that have chosen to fully reopen—despite warnings from public health officials—to seven, with a number of others also moving in that direction.

Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) said he will be signing an executive order on Friday that will roll back his few remaining coronavirus restrictions, removing limits on events and public gatherings, as well as the state-wide mask mandate (the state averaged 643 cases and 23.9 deaths each day over the past week).

Wyoming: Gov. Mark Gordon (R) announced March 8 that the state would repeal its statewide mask mandate and allow “bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms to resume normal operations” on March 16, but stipulated face masks will remain mandatory inside the state’s schools (the state averaged 7,343 cases and 1.3 deaths each day over the past week).

Texas: The largest state to remove all restrictions, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced on March 2 that Texas would be nixing its mask mandate and allowing businesses to reopen “100%” this Wednesday, banning jurisdictions from implementing local mask mandates unless they meet certain hospitalization metrics (the state averaged 4,909 cases and 189.9 deaths each day over the past week).

Mississippi: Gov. Tate Reeves (R) also decided to drop the state’s mask mandate and all Covid-19 restrictions on March 2, with the limits lifted the next day (the state averaged 396 cases and 14.6 deaths each day over the past week).

Montana: Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) announced the end of Montana’s mask mandate on Feb. 12, removing the last of the state’s restrictions, though some local jurisdictions have kept face covering requirements in place (the state averaged 129 cases and 2 deaths each day over the past week).

North Dakota: The state opted not to renew its mask mandate, first enacted in November, when it expired in January 2021, ending North Dakota’s restrictions (the state averaged 78 cases and 0.4 deaths each day over the past week).

Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) ended the last of the state’s restrictions, the mask mandate issued in November 2020, in early February (the state averaged 481 cases and 14.4 deaths each day over the past week).

All seven of the states that have fully reopened are run by Republican governors. A number of other states have also significantly rolled back restrictions this month, but haven’t gone as far as the above states in eliminating both statewide mask mandates and limits on businesses. Connecticut and West Virginia, for example, have both lifted limits on most businesses, but kept their mask mandates, with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) noting: “This is not Texas, this is not Mississippi.” South Carolina has dropped some of its mandatory mask requirements, though the state never had a full mandate, and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he will remove his state’s mask mandate if hospitalizations rates and test positivity is below a certain threshold when it’s set to end on March 31.

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“thromboembolic events.”

EU Investigates 30 Reports Of Blood-clotting Linked To AstraZeneca jab (RT)

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Thursday that it was investigating after two people inoculated from the same batch of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine died from blood clotting and several countries stopped using the jabs. The inquiry comes after Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Latvia all suspended their rollouts of the AstraZeneca vaccine over fears that they may induce blood clotting – known medically as “thromboembolic events.” “There is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine,” the EMA said in a statement, adding that its own risk assessment committee was investigating the matter.


As of March 10, there were 30 cases of thromboembolic events reported out of the 5 million people to have received the AstraZeneca jab so far in the European Economic Area, the EMA said in an update on Thursday. The agency also stressed that the vaccine’s “benefits continue to outweigh its risks.” A 60-year-old woman in Denmark died from blood clotting after she received an AstraZeneca jab from batch ABV5300, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported on Thursday. On Wednesday, it was reported that a 49-year-old nurse in Austria who was vaccinated from the same batch died from multiple thrombosis 10 days after her jab. Another woman in Austria was hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism after she received one of the batch’s 1 million doses that were sent to 17 different EU countries.

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Drip.

New York Assembly Speaker Lays Groundwork For Cuomo Impeachment (JTN)

The speaker of New York’s state Assembly has asked that its Judiciary Committee begin an investigation into Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which would be the first in moving toward an impeachment of the Democratic governor. Speaker Carl Heastie, a Democrat, during a closed-door meeting strongly recommended launching the probe during a private meeting of select Assembly Democrats, and again during a meeting of the entire party conference, multiple sources told The New York Post. Heastie said the committee should examine the accusations that Cuomo groped and sexually harassed several female aides and his administration’s alleged cover-up of the total number of nursing home deaths from COVID-19, at least one of the sources told the newspaper.

The news report came after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday called for Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, to resign after a sixth woman accused him of sexual misconduct. “It is disgusting to me,” de Blasio said during a press conference. “He can no longer serve as governor. It’s as simple as that. Anna Ruch, a former Biden 2020 campaign worker, told The New York Times this month that the governor made unwanted sexual advances toward her after they met at a wedding in New York City in 2019. She also accused Cuomo, 63, of kissing her without her permission, even as she tried to pull away. Ruch said the encounter left her “confused and shocked and embarrassed.” Another accuser, Charlotte Bennett, a former Cuomo aide, alleges that the governor inquired about her sex life and asked her whether she would be amenable to a relationship with an older man.

And another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo “made inappropriate comments about her appearance, kissed her without her consent at the end of a meeting and once suggested they play strip poker while aboard his state-owned jet,” the Associated Press reported. Three more women have made similar allegations. The latest woman said the governor groped her last year at the executive mansion after she had called there to do some work. She said she was alone with the governor in the mansion when he “closed the door and allegedly reached under her blouse and began to fondle her,” a source told the Albany Times Union. The incident has not been corroborated.

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Where is the press? Where is AOC?

1000s Of Illegal Immigrant Children Penned In ‘Facilities Akin To Jails’ (JTN)

The Biden administration has reportedly penned thousands of illegal immigrant children in federal facilities following a massive surge of immigration at the southern U.S. border — a striking reversal from the anguished immigration rhetoric of the Biden-Harris campaign, which mourned it as a “national shame” when “children are locked away in overcrowded detention centers and the government seeks to keep them there indefinitely.” Immigration officials are reportedly holding more than 3,200 migrant children, many of them in “facilities akin to jails,” according to the New York Times. Multiple media outlets reported that many of the detained children were being held past the statutory deadline for such detainment, and in shelters that were originally built to house adults.

The detention crisis comes as border patrol agents have been contending with a major surge of illegal immigration activity along the southern border. According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s most recent statistics, the U.S. Border Patrol logged 285,217 “encounters” at U.S. borders through January of fiscal year 2021. That’s roughly 70% of the total for all of fiscal year 2020 in just three months. The Border Patrol claimed last week that the agency is on track to arrest a “record number” of immigrant sex offenders this year. Agents in Laredo, Texas, meanwhile, have multiple times this month apprehended over one hundred illegal immigrants over short periods of time.

Much of the surge is likely driven by immigrants hoping the Biden administration will show leniency toward immigrants seeking entry into the country and/or asylum. During his presidential campaign, Biden famously criticized the Trump administration’s relatively tough immigration policy, vowing a more compassionate approach to dealing with both legal and illegal immigrants. The current mass detention of child immigrants, on the other hand, presents a sobering challenge to both the Biden administration and to immigration advocates who hoped for a major shift under Biden in how the U.S. deals with illegal entries across the southern border.

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CPI is of Course Complete Baloney, But

House Price Inflation in CPI is of Course Complete Baloney, But … (WS)

For most Americans, housing costs are the largest item in their budget, ranging from 30% to 60% of their total monthly spending. In its Consumer Price Index (CPI) for February, released yesterday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the costs of homeownership (which the BLS calls “Owner’s equivalent rent of residence”) have increased by just 2.0% from a year ago, and that rents (“rent of primary residence”) have increased by 2.0%. They’re the biggest items among the 211 items in the CPI basket and together account for about one-third of overall CPI. They play a huge role in CPI. So… Rent inflation of 2.0% year-over-year on average across the US might be roughly on target, from what I can see in other rental data. But homeowner’s inflation of just 2.0%, given the skyrocketing home prices? Ludicrous. In its latest release, the Case-Shiller National Home Price index jumped by 10.4%.


This discrepancy between home price increases and the CPI for homeowners – which has for years contributed to understating the overall CPI – is depicted in the chart of the Case-Shiller National Home Price Index (red line) and the CPI for “owner’s equivalent rent of residence” (black line). I set the homeowners CPI at 100 for January 2000 to match the Case-Shiller index, which is set by default at 100 for January 2000. This allows you to see the progression of both indices on the same axis. The “owner’s equivalent rent of residence” accounts for 24.2% of CPI. If it had increased by 10.4%, in line with the Case-Shiller index, instead of 2.0%, the overall CPI would have increased by 2.03 percentage points more. So add the 2.03 percentage points to the reported overall CPI increase of 1.7%. And the thus corrected overall CPI would have shot up by 3.7%!

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The real WWIII?

China Is Winning The Great 21st Century Tech War (Chang)

At the ongoing “Two Sessions” in Beijing, the Communist Party has publicly told us how it will accomplish its ambitious goal. If the Chinese ruling party succeeds, the rest of the 21st century will be painted only in shades of red. Fortunately, America is beginning to mobilize itself. Americans, however, need to act, immediately. Tech is the real arms race of our era. On March 5, at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, Premier Li Keqiang announced the 14th Five-Year Plan, which begins this year. China, pursuant to the plan, will increase spending 7% per year to achieve “major breakthroughs” in areas of “frontier technology.” Specifically, the country, will devote resources to artificial intelligence; quantum information; semiconductors; brain science; genomics and biotech; clinical medicine and health; and deep space, deep sea, and deep earth.


Moreover, Beijing is also talking about the Sci-Tech Innovation 2030 Agenda and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035. Officials are silent when it comes to Xi Jinping’s now-notorious Made in China 2025 initiative — the plan is on its face a violation of the country’s trade obligations — but there is no question that the effort remains underway nonetheless. China is going all-in on what Wang Zhigang, the head of the Ministry of Science and Technology, called the development of a “new ecology” for innovation. In that ecology, China has been able to lead the world in important areas, such as “unhackable” quantum communications. Moreover, the country is not far behind — if it is behind at all — in quantum computing and artificial intelligence.

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Glad I have a platform.

Journalists Start Demanding Substack Censor its Writers (Greenwald)

On Wednesday, I wrote about how corporate journalists, realizing that the public’s increasing contempt for what they do is causing people to turn away in droves, are desperately inventing new tactics to maintain their stranglehold over the dissemination of information and generate captive audiences. That is why journalists have bizarrely transformed from their traditional role as leading free expression defenders into the the most vocal censorship advocates, using their platforms to demand that tech monopolies ban and silence others. That same motive of self-preservation is driving them to equate any criticisms of their work with “harassment,” “abuse” and “violence” — so that it is not just culturally stigmatized but a banning offense, perhaps even literally criminal, to critique their journalism on the ground that any criticism of them places them “in danger.”

Under this rubric they want to construct, they can malign anyone they want, ruin people’s reputations, and unite to generate hatred against their chosen targets, but nobody can even criticize them. Any independent platform or venue that empowers other journalists or just ordinary citizens to do reporting or provide commentary outside of their repressive constraints is viewed by them as threats to be censored and destroyed. Every platform that enables any questioning of their pieties or any irreverent critiques of mainstream journalism — social media sites, YouTube, Patreon, Joe Rogan’s Spotify program — has already been systematically targeted by corporate journalists with censorship demands, often successfully.

Back in November, the media critic Stephen Miller warned: “It’s only a matter of time before the media tech hall monitors turn their attention to Substack.” And ever since, in every interview I have given about the success of Substack and every time I have written about journalist-led censorship campaigns, I have echoed that warning that they would soon turn their united guns on this platform. Miller’s prediction was prompted by a Columbia Journalism Review article entitled “The Substackerati” which claimed that Substack was structurally unfair because “most” of “the most successful people on Substack” are “white and male; several are conservative” and “have already been well-served by existing media power structures.”

All of that was false. The most-read and highest-earning writer on Substack is Heather Cox Richardson, a previously obscure Boston College History Professor who built her own massive readership without ever working at a corporate media outlet. And the writers that article identified in support of its claim — Matt Taibbi, Andrew Sullivan, Matt Yglesias and myself — do not remotely owe our large readerships to “existing media power structures.”

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“My grandfather would get home from work [and the family]… would sit around the dinner table, and have a conversation”, says Skoyles. “Nobody can be making money from that. Maybe they’d sit and listen to the radio…[which is]…something that’s already been paid for. Nobody can really be making any more money from that.”

The Golden Question — Time vs Money (Ren.)

In a capitalist society the pressure people have to do more, quickly, runs up against a number of problems. As Jan Skoyles acknowledges, the ‘time is money’ paradigm not only inhibits the creative process but, perhaps counter-intuitively, also undermines efficiency: “I think we see that often with governments”, says Skoyles. “They have a four or five year window. They think they have to achieve things quickly [but]…actually nothing’s really achieved in the end….We also have to think about how our time is becoming increasingly an economic activity…Even when we’re in our homes people can be using our time for their own financial gain.” Skoyles illustrates how much more economic value is extracted from the technologically more advanced societies of today compared to the traditional, stable ‘nuclear families’ of the past:

“My grandfather would get home from work [and the family]… would sit around the dinner table, and have a conversation”, says Skoyles. “Nobody can be making money from that. Maybe they’d sit and listen to the radio…[which is]…something that’s already been paid for. Nobody can really be making any more money from that. Now we’ll get home from work, we’ll sit around the table, we’ll hopefully have a conversation, but nine times out of ten someone’s got their phone out.” Consequently, data companies, advertisers, websites and Amazon are all making money [on the back of it]. “You’re constantly being advertised to and listened to and so our time is actually becoming increasingly valuable. But at the same time more and more decisions are being made for us which have a bigger impact”, claims Skoyles.

As the analyst acknowledges, with reference to Brexit, this comes with not only financial but also health costs: “People are stressed — that’s money in itself. So I think ‘time is money’ is definitely becoming more and more of an economic concept than I think it’s ever been.” A capitalist system that’s wrapped up in an ethos in which time and money increasingly overlap and which the notion of being busy is fetishized, imbues a sense of guilt for those who are not busy. Skoyles explains the phenomenon with reference to the ‘new mum’ perspective: “Everyone works more than an eight hour day. But if you had a full time job beforehand and then you go to looking after this little baby and it needs you, the fact that you’re focused on one thing — which to many people that’s the most important job in the world — but.. you feel quite guilty that that’s all you’ve been doing all day.”

Read more …

 

 

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fed chairs

 

 

 

 

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Sep 042017
 
 September 4, 2017  Posted by at 7:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Edouard Manet Jeanne Duval, Baudelaire’s Mistress, Reclining (Lady with a Fan) 1862

 

How To Make The Financial System Radically Safer (AM)
Funding Battle Looms As Texas Sees Harvey Damage At Up To $180 Billion (R.)
Canadians Are Borrowing Against Real Estate At The Fastest Pace Ever (BD)
China Battles “Impossible Trinity” (Rickards)
Socialism For The Best Of Us, Capitalism For The Rest Of Us (CC)
Britain’s Addicted To Debt And Headed For A Crash (G.)
Global Negative Yielding Debt Hits One Year High Of $7.4 Trillion (ZH)
Greece Property Auctions Certain To Drive Market Prices Even Lower (K.)
Italy FinMin Says The Euro Zone Still Faces Problems – Even In Germany (CNBC)
Italy’s 5-Star Says Euro Referendum Is ‘Last Resort’ (R.)
Turkey Will Never Become EU Member, Says Angela Merkel (Ind.)
How Our Immune Systems Could Stop Humans Reaching Mars (Tel.)

 

 

Take away the political power of central banks.

How To Make The Financial System Radically Safer (AM)

At the same time, the new financial reforms haven’t minimized risk. Moreover, they’ve set taxpayers – that’s you – up for a future fleecing. Congressman Robert Pittenger elaborated this fact in a Forbes article last year: “Even Dodd-Frank’s biggest selling point, that it would end “too big to fail,” has proven false. Dodd-Frank actually created a new bailout fund for big banks–the Orderly Liquidation Authority–and the Systemically Important Financial Institution designation enshrines “too big to fail” by giving certain major financial institutions priority for future taxpayer-funded bailouts.” What gives? Regulations, in short, attempt to control something by edict. However, just because a law has been enacted doesn’t mean the world automatically bends to its will. In practice, regulations generally do a poor job at attaining their objectives. Yet, they often do a great job at making a mess of everything else.

Dictating how banks should allocate their loans, as Dodd-Frank does, results in preferential treatment of favored institutions and corporations. This, in itself, equates to stratified price controls on borrowers. And as elucidated by Senator Wallace Bennett over a half century ago, price controls are the equivalent of using adhesive tape to control diarrhea. The dangerous conceit of the clueless… the house of cards they have built is anything but “safe” and they most certainly can not “fix anything”. Listening to their speeches that seems to be what they genuinely believe. A rude awakening is an apodictic certainty, but we wonder what or who will be blamed this time. Not enough regulations? The largely absent free market? As they say, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” (this quote is often erroneously attributed to Mark Twain: we think it doesn’t matter whether he created it, it is often quite apposite and this is a situation that certainly qualifies).

The point is that planning for future taxpayer-funded bailouts as part of compliance with destructive regulations is asinine. In this respect, we offer an approach that goes counter to Fed Chair Janet Yellen and the modus operandi of all central planner control freaks. It’s really simple, and really effective. The best way to regulate banks, lending institutions, corporate finance and the like, is to turn over regulatory control to the very exacting, and unsympathetic, order of the market. That is to have little to no regulations and one very specific and uncompromising provision: There will be absolutely, unconditionally, categorically, no government funded bailouts. Without question, the financial system will be radically safer.

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Want to bet it’ll be a lot more?

Funding Battle Looms As Texas Sees Harvey Damage At Up To $180 Billion (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday challenged Congress to raise the government’s debt limit in order to free up relief spending for Hurricane Harvey, a disaster that the governor of Texas said had caused up to $180 billion in damage. Harvey, which came ashore on Aug. 25 as the most powerful hurricane to hit Texas in more than 50 years, has killed an estimated 50 people, displaced more than 1 million and damaged some 200,000 homes in a path of destruction stretching for more than 300 miles (480 km). As the city of Houston and the region’s critical energy infrastructure began to recover nine days after the storm hit, the debate over how to pay for the disaster played out in Washington. Texas Governor Greg Abbott estimated damage at $150 billion to $180 billion, calling it more costly than Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy, which devastated New Orleans in 2005 and New York in 2012.

The administration of President Donald Trump has asked Congress for an initial $7.85 billion for recovery efforts, a fraction of what will eventually be needed. Even that amount could be delayed unless Congress quickly increases the government’s debt ceiling, Mnuchin said, as the United States is on track to hit its mandated borrowing limit by the end of the month unless Congress increases it. “Without raising the debt limit, I am not comfortable that we will get money to Texas this month to rebuild,” Mnuchin told Fox News. Republican lawmakers, who control both houses of Congress, have traditionally resisted raising the debt ceiling, but linking the issue to Harvey aid could force their hand with people suffering and large areas of the fourth-largest U.S. city under water. Beyond the immediate funding, any massive aid package faces budget pressures at a time when Trump is advocating for tax reform or tax cuts, leading some on Capitol Hill to suggest aid may be released in a series of appropriations.

Katrina set the record by costing U.S. taxpayers more than $110 billion. In advocating for funds to help rebuild his state, Abbott said damage from Harvey would exceed that. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city expected most public services and businesses to be restored by Tuesday, the first day after Monday’s Labor Day holiday. “Over 95% of the city is now dry. And I‘m encouraging people to get up and let’s get going,” Turner told NBC News. Even so, Houston mandated the evacuation of thousands of people on the western side of town on Sunday to accommodate the release of water from two reservoirs that otherwise might sustain damage. The storm stalled over Houston, dumping more than 50 inches (1.3 m) on the region. Houston cut off power to homes on Sunday to encourage evacuations. The area was closed off on Sunday and military vehicles were stationed on the periphery to take people out.

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What Canada learned from history.

Canadians Are Borrowing Against Real Estate At The Fastest Pace Ever (BD)

Canadian real estate prices have soared, and so did borrowing against that value. Our analysis of domestic bank filings from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) shows that loans secured against property has reached an all-time high. More surprising is the unprecedented rate of growth experienced this year.

Loans secured against residential real estate shattered a few records in June. Over $313.66 billion in real estate was used to secure loans, up 3.43% from the month before. The rise puts annual gains 11.16% higher than the same month last year, an increase of $31.51 billion. The monthly increase is the largest increase since March 2012. The annual gain is unprecedented according to an aggregate of domestic bank filings. Not all borrowing against residential property is all bad, sometimes it’s a calculated risk. For example, someone may need to secure a business loan, and use the loan for operating risks. It doesn’t mean the property is safe, but it’s a risk that could potentially boost the economy.

This is opposed to non-business loans, which is used as short-term financing. This type of financing is often used for things like renovations, and putting a fancy car in the driveway. Experts have observed that more homeowners are using these to prevent bankruptcy. Bottom line, it’s not typically healthy looking debt. So let’s remove loans obtained for business reasons, and take a peek at higher risk debt. The majority of these loans are non-business related according to bank filings. The current total is over $266 billion as of June 2017, a 1.01% increase from the month before. This is a 4.9% increase from the same month last year, which works out to $12.49 billion more. Fun fact, that’s around $23,763 per minute. The number is astronomical.

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“..no country can have an open capital account, a fixed exchange rate and an independent monetary policy at the same time..”

China Battles “Impossible Trinity” (Rickards)

The Impossible Trinity theory was advanced in the early 1960s by Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Mundell. It says that no country can have an open capital account, a fixed exchange rate and an independent monetary policy at the same time. You can have one or two out of three, but not all three. If you try, you will fail — markets will make sure of that. Those failures (which do happen) represent some of the best profit-making opportunities of all. Understanding the Impossible Trinity is how George Soros broke the Bank of England on Sept. 16, 1992 (still referred to as “Black Wednesday” in British banking circles. Soros also made over $1 billion that day). The reason is that if more attractive total returns are available abroad, money will flee a home country at a fixed exchange rate to seek the higher return.

This will cause a foreign exchange crisis and a policy response that abandons one of the three policies. But just because the trinity is impossible in the long run does not mean it cannot be pursued in the short run. China is trying to peg the yuan to the U.S. dollar while maintaining a partially open capital account and semi-independent monetary policy. It’s a nice finesse, but isn’t sustainable. China cannot keep the capital account even partly closed for long without drying up direct foreign investment. Similarly, China cannot raise interest rates much higher without bankrupting state-owned enterprises. China is buying time until the Communist Party Congress in October. It’s important to realize that for Beijing, the Chinese economy is more than about jobs, goods and services. It’s a means of ensuring its legitimacy.

The Chinese regime is deeply concerned that a faltering economy and mass unemployment could threaten its hold on power. Chinese markets are wildly distorted by the actions of its central bank. Given the problems inherent in trying to manage an economy without proper price signals, the challenge facing Beijing gets harder by the day. China has a long history of violent political fracturing, and the government is deeply worried about regime survival if it stumbles. Many in the West fail to appreciate Beijing’s fears and overestimate the support it has among the disparate Chinese people. What does China do next? Under the unforgiving logic of the Impossible Trinity, China will have to either devalue the yuan or see its reserves evaporate. In the end, China will have to break the yuan’s peg to the dollar in order to stop capital outflows without killing the economy with high rates. The Impossible Trinity really is impossible in the long run. China will find this out the hard way.

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How do we make government independent?

Socialism For The Best Of Us, Capitalism For The Rest Of Us (CC)

To the elected darlings of the free market: I hate to burst your bubble but – you have been living a lie. Your lifetime government pensions: socialism. Overly generous retirement packages, Superannuation and 401ks: socialism. Travel budgets, expense accounts, access to private drivers and town cars, government reimbursement for travel and living arrangements: socialism, socialism, socialism, socialism, socialism. Central banking: socialism. Not to mention fossil-fuel & mining subsidies and tax concessions: socialism, socialism, socialism. The bank bail-outs of 2008: One of the greatest acts of socialism of all time. Where were our free-market representatives then? When the financial system went into melt-down, the banks were not told to suck it up and stand on their own two feet. More than a trillion dollars were poured into the banks, most of which went towards profit margins and CEO bonuses.

These so-called champions of capitalism have the nerve to claim that it is social welfare recipients that are a drain on the system while government representatives take home all kinds of state-provided benefits the rest of us could only dream of: the best health insurance the country has to offer, lifetime pensions and generous retirement packages which drain many more billions from the economy than social welfare ever will. Moreover, corporate welfare pales in comparison to either. The private sector has its own dole system paid for by Federal Governments. Yet many Congressmen, Representatives and MPs still have the nerve to stand before the people who elected them and rail against social spending, claiming people ought to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when no such obligation has ever existed for the corporate sector. Most of the world’s most successful corporations don’t get out of bed without a subsidy.

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If it makes you feel better: Britain’s not alone.

Britain’s Addicted To Debt And Headed For A Crash (G.)

[..] if the debtors at the bottom aren’t at crisis point yet, the signs of a surfeit of debt are everywhere. Alex Brazier, executive director of financial stability at the Bank of England, warned last month that consumer loans had gone up by 10% in the past year, with average household debt having already eclipsed 2008 levels. He warned against the economy having to sit through “endless repeats of the ‘Debt Strikes Back’ movie”. There is something obscurely insulting about being warned about household debt by the Bank of England. It never warns employers about stagnant wages, or the government about the benefit freeze. It only ever mentions these in terms of the impact of inflation, as if any consideration of the human decisions behind them are too political for comment. But personal debt, miraculously, isn’t political at all.

But that doesn’t make Brazier wrong. Edward Smythe of the campaign group Positive Money, breaks it down: “If you look at total outstanding consumer loans, in July, they’re at £200bn, an £18.5bn net increase every year.” Households spent more than their income by £17.5bn in the first quarter of this year. Economists are interested in where that money comes from – whether it’s access to credit, selling assets or spending savings. The government is presumably, in some dusty corner, interested in why that money is needed, whether it is a result of pauperised wages– real wage growth is negative and looks set to decrease – benefit changes, or some rush of blood to the head where we all suddenly need Sky Sports and cigarettes but aren’t prepared to work for them.

The sources of all this debt are changing: about half the net increase was in personal contract purchase car loans. Four in five new cars are now bought by PCP – an inherently unstable system that leaves both consumers and car manufacturers exposed. It’s a bit like a mortgage system for cars, except you don’t own it at the end, ideally you wouldn’t be living in it, and while a housing crash has been seen before, nobody yet knows what a car crash would look like. Student loan debt is counted separately from consumer loans, and stands at £13bn a year. However much you think you’ve accommodated student fees into your picture of Britons’ finances, it is always astounding to consider how life-changing that decision has been for the younger generation.

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“What global recovery?!”

Global Negative Yielding Debt Hits One Year High Of $7.4 Trillion (ZH)

Two weeks ago, we were surprised to find that despite the recent “growth promise” of what has been called a coordinated global recovery, the market value of bonds yielding less than 0% had quietly jumped by a quarter in just one month to the highest since October 2016. Since then, the paradoxical divergence between the reported “strong” state of the “reflating” global economy and the amount of negative yielding debt, has only grown, and as JPM reports as of Friday, Sept. 1, the global market value of government bonds trading with negative yield within the JPM GBI Broad index rose to $7.4 trillion, up 60% from its low of $4.6 trillion at the beginning of the year. Some more details from JPM:

We calculate the market value by multiplying the dirty price with the amount outstanding for each bond within JPM GBI Broad Index and then convert it to US dollars at today’s exchange rate. The market value of bonds trading with negative yield,including central banks’ purchases, stands at 30% of the total JPM GBI Broad index. What makes the latest rise in negative yielding debt especially bizarre is that it was mainly driven by Japan, where 10-year government bond yields have fallen significantly over the past month and have turned negative this week for first time since the US presidential election, even as the Bank of Japan has twice in the past month reduced the amount of JGB debt it purchases in the open market in the 5-to-10 year bucket, following on Friday, by a 30BN yen reduction of buying in the 3-to-5 year debt range.

As a result, the total universe of Japanese bonds trading with negative yield within the JPM global government bond index (GBI Broad) now stands at $4.6tr, or 62% of the outstanding amount. The remaining government bonds trading with negative yields worth $2.8 trillion are from Europe, of which more than half are from France and Germany.

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Capital destruction 101 (thanks, Schaeuble!):

“..the stock of unsold properties of all types comes to 270,000-280,000, in a market with no more than 15,000 transactions per year..”

BTW, the only buyers left are those who want to profit from Airbnb. Mostly foreigners.

Greece Property Auctions Certain To Drive Market Prices Even Lower (K.)

Professionals in the property sector are warning that the auctioning of tens of thousands of buildings in the next few years could evolve into an unknown – probably negative – factor regarding the course of prices in the market. It is estimated that a wave of auctions expected to begin soon will see market rates drop at least 10%. Clearing firms are currently involved in an extensive program of property valuations to establish starting prices for the auctions. Ilias Ziogas, head of property consultancy company NAI Hellas and one of the founding members of the Chartered Surveyors Association, said that the property market is certain to suffer further as a result of the auctions: “The impact on prices will be clearly negative, not because the price of a property will be far lower at the auction than a nearby property, but because it will diminish demand for the neighboring property.”

He added that a market with already reduced demand that receives more supply at more attractive rates through auctions will definitely see buyers turn to the latter. He also said that they will only look at other buildings if they are not satisfied with what the auctions have to offer. This view is also shared by Giorgos Litsas, head of the GLP Values chartered surveyor company, which cooperates with PQH. He told Kathimerini that the only way is down for market rates. “I believe that unless there is an unlikely coordination among the parties involved – i.e. the state (tax authorities, social security funds etc.), the banks and the clearing firms – in order to prevent too many properties coming onto the market at the same time, rates will go down by at least 10%.”

He noted that “we estimate the stock of unsold properties of all types comes to 270,000-280,000, in a market with no more than 15,000 transactions per year. Therefore the rise in supply will send prices tumbling.” Yiannis Xylas, founder of Geoaxis surveyors, added, “I fear the auctions will create an oversupply of properties without the corresponding demand, which translates into an immediate drop in rates that may be rapid if one adds the portfolios of bad loans secured on properties that will be sold to foreign funds at a fraction of their price.”

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He sounds confused.

Italy FinMin Says The Euro Zone Still Faces Problems – Even In Germany (CNBC)

Italy’s finance minister delivered an upbeat tone on his country’s banking sector but highlighted that major hurdles still remain in the euro zone, including in Germany. Germany might be known as the powerhouse of the euro zone economy but it has its own banking problems to deal with, Pier Carlo Padoan told CNBC on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti Forum on Sunday. “I think that there are some German banking problems and I’m confident the German authorities will deal with them,” Padoan said when asked about remarks made by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi last year. “Germany has been the country that has by far poured much more public money into the banking sector in terms of the hundreds of billions of euros in the past when the rules where different of course.

This is a sign that maybe we all have to recognize that we have problems and we all have to recognize that we need to cooperate much more effectively to provide European solutions to those problems,” he said. Though Italy keeps making headlines due to its financial sector, analysts have also warned on banking problems in Germany. These include the reliance on the shipping industry, which used to be a stable investment before the euro zone debt crisis. Other issues include the sheer number of banks in Germany with very little consolidation. There are approximately 2,400 separate banks with more than 45,000 branches throughout the country and over 700,000 employees, according to Commercial Banks Guide, an industry website.

As such, Padoan told CNBC that it is crucial to conclude the banking union – a project created in 2012 in response to the sovereign debt crisis that aims to have one single set of rules for all banks across the European Union. He told CNBC that so far the banking union hasn’t been fully implemented, not because of resistance from certain countries, but because of different national perspectives. “We are however making progress in one thing: That we are building trust among ourselves and we are also recognizing that we have to reconcile historically-driven different traditions in banking sectors and they have to merge into a new European banking culture,” Padoan said.

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He sounds like Varoufakis.

Italy’s 5-Star Says Euro Referendum Is ‘Last Resort’ (R.)

A referendum on Italy’s membership of the euro currency would be held only as a “last resort” if Rome does not win any fiscal concessions from the European Union, a senior lawmaker from the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement said on Sunday. Luigi Di Maio’s comments reflect a striking change of tone by some senior officials in the party in recent months as they have retreated from 5-Star’s original pledge. Seeking to reassure an audience of bankers and business leaders, Di Maio – widely tipped to be 5-Star’s candidate for prime minister at a general election due by next year – played down the referendum proposal, calling it a negotiating tool with the EU. “Austerity policies have not worked, on monetary policy we deserve the credit for triggering a debate… this is why we raised the issue of a referendum on the euro, as a bargaining tool, as a last resort and a way out in case Mediterranean countries are not listened to,” he said.

Two years ago the party gathered the signatures from the public needed to pave the way for a referendum that it said was vital to restore Italy’s fiscal and monetary sovereignty. But now, running neck-and-neck with the ruling Democratic Party (PD) in opinion polls and with the election in sight – scheduled to be held by May 2018 – it is hitting the brakes on the idea. This underlines the crucial challenge facing the party as it seeks to please some core supporters, while trying to shed its populist image and convince foreign capitals and financial markets that it can be trusted in office. [..] The party wants several changes to the euro zone’s economic rules to help its more sluggish economies, like Italy. These include stripping public investment from budget deficits under the EU’s Stability Pact and creating a European “bad bank” to deal with euro zone lenders’ bad loans.

“We are not against the European Union, we want to remain in the EU and discuss some of the rules that are suffocating and damaging our economy,” said Di Maio, who serves as deputy speaker of the Chamber of Deputies. An opinion poll in La Stampa daily on Sunday had 24% of respondents saying Di Maio most deserved to run the country in the next five years, against 17% for former PD Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and 12% for center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi.

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Schulz and Merkel are the same person.

Turkey Will Never Become EU Member, Says Angela Merkel (Ind.)

Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said Turkey should categorically not become a member of the European Union in comments that are expected to further inflame tensions between the Nato allies. Speaking at a televised election debate with her rival, Martin Schulz, she said she would seek a joint EU position with other leaders to ensure Turkey never became a member. “The fact is clear that Turkey should not become a member of the EU,” she said after Mr Schulz said he would stop Turkey’s bid to join the EU if he was elected chancellor. “Apart from this, I’ll speak to my colleagues to see if we can reach a joint position on this so that we can end these accession talks,” she added.

[..] Her comments are likely to worsen already strained ties between the countries after Ms Merkel said Berlin should react decisively to Turkey’s detention of two more German citizens on political charges. It comes just weeks after German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Turkey it will never become a member of the EU as long as it is governed by the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “It is clear that in this state, Turkey will never become a member of the EU,” Mr Gabriel said. Mr Erdogan has urged German Turks to boycott Germany’s main parties in next month’s general election.

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Good to know. Still, if people really want to go, maybe we should just let them.

How Our Immune Systems Could Stop Humans Reaching Mars (Tel.)

The astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson commented that ‘dinosaurs are extinct today because they lacked the opposable thumbs and brainpower to build a space programme’ Yet although we now have the technological ability to leave Earth, scientists have found another stumbling block to colonising new worlds – our own immune system. Although it is said we are all made of ‘star stuff’ when it comes to travelling away from our home planet humans are far more vulnerable to the rigours of space than our interstellar origins might suggest. Billions of years of evolution has effectively backed mankind into a corner of the Solar System that it may be now be tricky to leave. A team of scientists from Russia and Canada analysed the effect of microgravity on the protein make-up in blood samples of 18 Russian cosmonauts who lived on the International Space Station for six months.

They found alarming changes to the immune system, suggesting that they would struggle to shake off even a minor virus, like the common cold. “The results showed that in weightlessness, the immune system acts like it does when the body is infected because the human body doesn’t know what to do and tries to turn on all possible defense systems,” said Professor Evgeny Nikolaev, of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and theSkolkovo Institute of Science and Technology. The effects of spaceflight on the human body have been studied actively since the mid-20th century and it is widely known that microgravity influences metabolism, heat regulation, heart rhythm, muscle tone, bone density, the respiration system. Last year research from the US also found that astronauts who travelled into deep space on lunar missions were five times more likely to have died from cardiovascular disease than those who went into low orbit, or never left Earth.

Astronauts are fitter than the general population and have access to the best medical care, meaning that their health is usually better than the general population. Those of comparable age but who never flew, or only achieved low Earth orbit, had less than a one in 10 chance of death from cardiovascular disease. [..] To gain a deeper understanding of the changes in human physiology during space travel, the research team quantified concentrations of 125 proteins in the blood plasma of cosmonauts. Proteins change as the immune system alters and so can be used as a measure of how it is functioning. Blood was taken from the cosmonauts 30 days before they travelled to the ISS and then on their immediate return to Earth. They were also tested seven days after touchdown. Individual proteins were then counted using a mass spectrometer.

”When we examined the cosmonauts after their being in space for half a year, their immune system was weakened,” said Dr Irina Larina, the first author of the paper, a member of Laboratory of Ion and Molecular Physics of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. “They were not protected from the simplest viruses. We need new measures of disorder prevention during a long flight.

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