Sep 052019
 
 September 5, 2019  Posted by at 8:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Henri Matisse Bathers by a river 1909-16

 

UK Government Gives Up Trying To Stop Brexit Delay Bill In Parliament (R.)
Bill Designed To Stop No-Deal Brexit ‘Will Clear Lords’ (BBC)
Fed’s Rate-Cut Debate Focuses On ‘Robust’ US Consumer (R.)
Why Millions Of Millennials Are Not Homeowners (CNBC)
Inequality and Taxes (Flassbeck)
Chinese Paper Says Hong Kong Demonstrators Now Have No Excuse For Violence (R.)
John Doe Begs Judge Not To Name Names In Epstein Gal Pal Case (NYP)
‘Hundreds Of Other People Could Be Implicated’ In Epstein, Maxwell Case (CNBC)
Erdogan Says It’s Unacceptable That Turkey Can’t Have Nuclear Weapons (R.)
US Offered Millions In Cash To Captain Of Iranian Tanker (AFP)
400 Million Facebook Users’ Phone Numbers Exposed In Privacy Lapse (AFP)
Plastic Pollution Has Entered The Fossil Record (G.)

 

 

Good lines: “There was a realization by those on the other side that this was more than usually stupid, and they were looking stupid, and we needed to find a way forward .. ”

UK Government Gives Up Trying To Stop Brexit Delay Bill In Parliament (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government abandoned attempts in the upper house of parliament to block a law aimed at stopping the country from leaving the European Union without a deal. The move paved the way for Johnson being required to ask the EU for a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline, if he fails to reach a renegotiated transition deal with the bloc by the middle of October. Johnson has said he is opposed to an extension and that he is prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal if necessary. Conservative Party members of the upper house of parliament had tabled a series of amendments in an attempt to run down the clock on the delay bill and prevent it being passed before parliament is suspended on Monday.


But in the early hours of Thursday, the government in the upper house, known as the House of Lords, announced it was dropping its opposition to the legislation. Richard Newby, an opposition member of the Lords, who had taken his duvet to parliament in preparation to spend the night discussing the law, said the government dropped its opposition after suffering heavy defeats on some of the proposed amendments. “There was a realization by those on the other side that this was more than usually stupid, and they were looking stupid, and we needed to find a way forward,” he told BBC Radio.

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OK, what’s next? Friday is the last day Parliament is in session until mid-October.

Bill Designed To Stop No-Deal Brexit ‘Will Clear Lords’ (BBC)

The government has said a bill to stop a no-deal Brexit will complete its passage through the Lords on Friday. The proposed legislation was passed by MPs on Wednesday, inflicting a defeat on Prime Minister Boris Johnson. There were claims pro-Brexit peers could deliberately hold up the bill so it could not get royal assent before Parliament is prorogued next week. But the Conservative chief whip in the Lords announced a breakthrough in the early hours after talks with Labour.


The peers sat until 01:30 BST, holding a series of amendment votes that appeared to support predictions a marathon filibuster session – designed to derail the bill – was under way. But then Lord Ashton of Hyde announced that all stages of the bill would be completed in the Lords by 17:00 BST on Friday. He added that the Commons chief whip had also given a commitment that MPs will consider any Lords amendments on Monday and that the government intends that the “bill will be ready” to be presented for royal assent.

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End the Fed.

Fed’s Rate-Cut Debate Focuses On ‘Robust’ US Consumer (R.)

Slowing global economies, the escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing and a warning sign of recession flashing in the U.S. Treasury market have all fed expectations the Federal Reserve is poised to lower rates at the close of its Sept. 17-18 meeting. But sentiment is much less well-defined within the Fed over whether to reduce borrowing costs for the second time this year, and if so by how much. In remarks this week, their last chance to speak publicly before their next rate-setting meeting, U.S. central bankers broadly agreed that trade policy uncertainty is hurting U.S. businesses. Whether they believe a rate cut is in order appears to hinge largely on their view of the consumer.

John Williams, president of the hugely influential New York Federal Reserve, said on Wednesday consumer spending is “robust” and one reason the U.S. economy is in a “favorable” place.” Still, after his prepared remarks he told reporters: “I don’t see consumer spending really continuing to grow faster into the future like it has been.” Household spending accounts for about 70% of the U.S. economy and surged last quarter despite a drop in business investment. The Fed, he said, is ready to “act as appropriate” to help America avoid an economic downturn, echoing closely language used by Fed Chair Jerome Powell used last month which fed expectations of another quarter-point interest-rate cut in September.

But Williams also told reporters he expects the economy to grow at an above-trend pace of 2.0%-2.5% in 2019. “Doesn’t sound like someone ready to ease 50 basis points. Or at all,” quipped Northern Trust economist Carl Tannenbaum on Twitter. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, who in July opposed the first Fed rate cut since 2008, said on Tuesday there is no reason to cut rates as long as the economy keeps growing at around 2%.

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Because the Fed has blown a gigantic housing bubble and made millenials poorer in the process. That’s why.

Why Millions Of Millennials Are Not Homeowners (CNBC)

Homeownership eludes millions of millennials. There is a whole host of reasons, including personal preferences and economic disadvantages, that explain why the homeownership rate for the largest generation in U.S. history is lower than that of their parents and grandparents. “In my generation — I’m a baby boomer — you bought a home as quickly as you could,” said Laurie Goodman of the Urban Institute. “You didn’t take a vacation for years to save for the down payment on your first home.” Millennials are in less of a rush to get their hands on house keys, Goodman said. Delayed marriage has one of the biggest impacts on their low homeownership rate, the Urban Institute found. Marriage increases one’s likelihood of owning a home by 18 percentage points.

Yet millennials are wedding later — and less. In 1960, the average age at which women and men first married was in their early 20s. Today, the median age for a first marriage is closer to 30. And millennials are three times as likely to have never married as members of the silent generation — those in their 70s and 80s — when they were young. “Homeownership represents a stable place to live for the rest of my life,” Goodman said. “And a lot of single people think this isn’t the rest of my life — I’m going to find a mate and we’re going to put roots down together.” To be sure, even without saying, “I do,” many young people still want to become homeowners. Unmarried couples accounted for 16% of first-time homebuyers in 2017, the highest share on record, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Single men and women accounted for a quarter of first-time homebuyers. Today, just 57% of first-time homebuyers are married, compared with 75% in 1985. Young people are also in no rush to have kids. The share of married households with children, aged 18 to 34, dropped to 25% in 2015, from 37% in 1990. And having a child increases a person’s chance of owning a house by 6 percentage points, the researchers at the Urban Institute calculated. Millennials are also a far more diverse generation than previous ones, and homeownership rates are lower among Hispanic, black and Asian Americans compared with white Americans. While almost 39% of white millennials, aged 18 to 34, own a house, just 14.5% of those black Americans do, according to the Urban Institute.

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Germany has much less of a housing bubble, but they’re not doing much better. The inequality discussion will have to be had. America’s most prosperous era, the baby boomer boom, took place against a backdrop of 70-80% income taxes for the rich.

Inequality and Taxes (Flassbeck)

A modest proposal by a small party to reintroduce a wealth tax is rejected by conservatives quietly foaming at the mouth. This shows us a little of what is really going on in Germany. Germany at the end of summer 2019 is a country lacking any perspective. It doesn’t know how to deal with climate change; it lacks any notion of what to do about the obvious recession in its own country; it has no way of tackling the serious shortcomings in its infrastructure; it has no idea how to tame its disrupted agriculture and prevent traffic congestion; it debates this and that, but largely without any sense and without any intellectual or political direction.

What is particularly remarkable is how the plans of a small party to (re)introduce a very small and modest wealth tax have been answered by fuming attacks across almost all media and conservative political parties. Remember, this tax was once disposed of politically simply by doing nothing after a limp ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court. It is also worth remembering that inequality in income and wealth has since reached completely new dimensions. Don’t forget that the conservative parties constantly make the average voter believe that they are there for him. The media and political reaction to this modest proposal, which currently has no chance of being implemented, gives an idea of what power-relations in the country really are like and what would happen if one seriously tried to do something about inequality.

The paid scribblers in the dominant media know exactly what they have to do when the interests of those in power in the big media houses are threatened. The fact that a newspaper like Handelsblatt comes up with the headline “Robbery of the rich” on the subject of a wealth tax shows that all reason has been abandoned and all standards set aside when it comes to issues of wealth distribution. The Süddeutsche Zeitung shamelessly characterises the SPD’s initiative as an attempt “to make the discrediting of performance and success socially acceptable”. The newspaper, which still has a liberal image, accuses the SPD of betraying its own goal of “advancement” and “mobilising against high performers” (although, to be fair, the SZ also wrote a commentary in favour of a wealth tax, which I should not conceal from you).

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Christopher Balding on Twitter: “No, she hasn’t formally withdrawn the bill. The video with the subtitles say she hasn’t withdrawn the bill. She will PROPOSE withdrawing the bill in a month when the legislature reconvenes.”

Chinese Paper Says Hong Kong Demonstrators Now Have No Excuse For Violence (R.)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill that had sparked widespread protests was an olive branch that leaves demonstrators with no excuse to continue violence, the official China Daily said on Thursday. The withdrawal of the bill on Wednesday came after weeks of protests that had sometimes turned into pitched battles across the former British colony of more than 7 million people. More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested. The bill would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, where courts are controlled by the Communist Party. Its withdrawal was one of the five key demands of the protesters.


The state-run China Daily said the decision was “a sincere and earnest response to the voice of the community … (that) could be interpreted as an olive branch extended to those who have opposed the bill over the past few months”. The protests began in March but snowballed in June and have evolved into a push for greater democracy for the city, which returned to China in 1997 as a Special Administrative Region (SAR). It was not clear if pulling the bill – which had been suspended since June – would help end the unrest. The headline of the China Daily’s editorial said “protesters now have no excuse to continue violence”

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Who do we protect, the victims or some John Doe?

John Doe Begs Judge Not To Name Names In Epstein Gal Pal Case (NYP)

An anonymous man terrified he’s about to be named in court papers related to Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell’s alleged child sex trafficking ring is begging a judge not to release his name and identities of others accused — because it could tarnish their reputations, according to a surprise motion filed Tuesday. Lawyers for the John Doe filed the letter Tuesday — just a day before Epstein’s self-proclaimed “sex slave” Virginia Roberts Giuffre is expected to join her lawyers in court as they continue efforts to unseal thousands of pages of documents related to her civil lawsuit against the dead pedophile’s alleged procuress.

“As a non-party to these proceedings, Doe lacks specific knowledge about the contents of the Sealed Materials,” his lawyers wrote to Manhattan federal court judge Loretta Preska. “But it is clear that these materials implicate the privacy and reputational interests of many persons other than the two primary parties to this action, Giuffre and Maxwell.” The letter goes on to say a prior judge overseeing the case summarized the still-secret documents as containing a “range of allegations of sexual acts involving Plaintiff and non-parties to this litigation, some famous, some not; the identities of non-parties who either allegedly engaged in sexual acts with Plaintiff or who allegedly facilitated such acts.”

Doe’s lawyers do not say in the papers if he is famous, or what accusations he expects to face in the court papers. Meanwhile, Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies told The Post he expects Wednesday’s hearing to determine a roadmap for how to deal with the remaining mountain-range of material. “It’s a whole new set of documents, five to 10 times larger in volume than what has been released so far,” the lawyer said, referring to nearly 2,000 pages of case documents that were made public on Aug. 9 — just a day before Epstein’s death by suicide at a lower Manhattan jail. Boies said the still-sealed tranche contains depositions from never-before-heard witnesses, but declined to provide any names. And he said that while his client is planning to attend, he doubts her legal adversary will appear.

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Why we need Julian Assange. He helped Australian police track down pedophiles, he can do it again in the US.

‘Hundreds Of Other People Could Be Implicated’ In Epstein, Maxwell Case (CNBC)

Still-secret court filings related to sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein and his alleged procurer Ghislaine Maxwell could implicate “hundreds of other people,” Maxwell’s lawyer said Wednesday during a hearing. But finding out who they are will take some time. Maxwell’s lawyer and an attorney for women who claim Epstein, a financier, sexually abused them told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska they have not agreed how the documents should be unsealed. Preska was clearly irritated with their lack of progress on the documents, which are part of a defamation lawsuit that one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, filed several years ago against Maxwell, a British socialite.

The case files are known to contain claims by Giuffre that she was sexually abused by “numerous prominent American politicians, powerful business executives, foreign presidents, a well-known Prime Minister and other world leaders.” “Did you people not talk about this?” Preska asked the lawyers in federal court in Manhattan when she was told there was no plan in place for reviewing the documents. Preska ended the hearing with a tentative plan to have the attorneys take the next two weeks to hash out a process for categorizing the thousands of pages of sealed documents. After that, the lawyers would have a week to designate which group of documents should be unsealed first, with a rolling week-to-week process thereafter to evaluate the material and argue over how much or how little should be disclosed publicly.

There could be up to 10 categories for the documents. Jeffrey Pagliuca, a lawyer for Maxwell, said the sealed documents include “literally hundreds of pages of investigative reports that mention hundreds of people.” “There are hundreds of other people who could be implicated” in the documents, Pagliuca said.

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Patriotism on steroids.

Erdogan Says It’s Unacceptable That Turkey Can’t Have Nuclear Weapons (R.)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday it was unacceptable for nuclear-armed states to forbid Ankara from obtaining its own nuclear weapons, but did not say whether Turkey had plans to obtain them. “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But (they tell us) we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept,” he told his ruling AK Party members in the eastern city of Sivas. “There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them,” Erdogan said. In fact, many developed countries do not have nuclear weapons. Turkey signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1980, and has also signed the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear detonations for any purpose.

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“Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail..”

US Offered Millions In Cash To Captain Of Iranian Tanker (AFP)

A senior US official personally offered several million dollars to the Indian captain of an Iranian oil tanker suspected of heading to Syria, the State Department confirmed Wednesday. The Financial Times reported that Brian Hook, the State Department pointman on Iran, sent emails to captain Akhilesh Kumar in which he offered “good news” of millions in US cash to live comfortably if he steered the Adrian Darya 1 to a country where it could be seized. “We have seen the Financial Times article and can confirm that the details are accurate,” a State Department spokeswoman said. “We have conducted extensive outreach to several ship captains as well as shipping companies warning them of the consequences of providing support to a foreign terrorist organization,” she said, referring to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.


The Adrian Darya 1 was held for six weeks by the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on suspicion that it was set to deliver oil from Iran to its main Arab ally Syria — a violation of European Union sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad’s iron-fisted regime. Gibraltar released the ship, formerly called the Grace 1, on August 18 over US protests after receiving written assurances that the vessel would not head to countries sanctioned by the European Union. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif mocked Hook’s initiative as he pointed to the Financial Times story. “Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail — deliver us Iran’s oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself,” Zarif tweeted.

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Facebook does not rhyme with privacy.

400 Million Facebook Users’ Phone Numbers Exposed In Privacy Lapse (AFP)

Phone numbers linked to more than 400 million Facebook accounts were listed online in the latest privacy lapse for the social media giant, US media reported Wednesday. An exposed server stored 419 million records on users across several databases — including 133 million US accounts, more than 50 million in Vietnam, and 18 million in Britain, according to technology news site TechCruch. The databases listed Facebook user IDs — unique digits attached to each account — the profiles’ phone numbers, as well as the gender listed by some accounts and their geographical locations, technology website TechCrunch reported.


The server was not password protected, meaning anyone could access the databases, and remained online until late Wednesday when TechCrunch contacted the site’s host. Facebook confirmed parts of the report but downplayed the extent of the exposure, saying that the number of accounts so far confirmed was around half of the reported 419 million. It added that many of the entries were duplicates and that the data was old. “The dataset has been taken down and we have seen no evidence that Facebook accounts were compromised,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP.

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We can not stop ourselves.

Plastic Pollution Has Entered The Fossil Record (G.)

Plastic pollution is being deposited into the fossil record, research has found, with contamination increasing exponentially since 1945. Scientists suggest the plastic layers could be used to mark the start of the Anthropocene, the proposed geological epoch in which human activities have come to dominate the planet. They say after the bronze and iron ages, the current period may become known as the plastic age. The study, the first detailed analysis of the rise in plastic pollution in sediments, examined annual layers off the coast of California back to 1834. They discovered the plastic in the layers mirrors precisely the exponential rise in plastic production over the past 70 years.

Most of the plastic particles were fibres from synthetic fabrics used in clothes, indicating that plastics are flowing freely into the ocean through waste water. “Our love of plastic is being left behind in our fossil record,” said Jennifer Brandon, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, who led the study. “It is bad for the animals that live at the bottom of the ocean: coral reefs, mussels, oysters and so on. But the fact that it is getting into our fossil record is more of an existential question. “We all learn in school about the stone age, the bronze age and iron age – is this going to be known as the plastic age?” she said. “It is a scary thing that this is what our generations will be remembered for.”

Many millions of tonnes of plastic are discarded into the environment every year and are broken down into small particles and fibres that do not biodegrade. Microplastics have been found everywhere from the deepest oceans to high mountains and even the Arctic air, showing pervasive pollution of the planet. Research is limited but eating plastic is known to harm marine creatures. Humans are believed to consume at least 50,000 microplastic particles a year through food and water. The health impact is unknown but microplastics can release toxic substances and may penetrate tissues.

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The Hong Kong government runs ads in the international press:

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 022019
 


Strongest storm ever to threaten Florida east coast

 

 

‘Get Ready for Brexit’: Government Launches Information Blitz (G.)
Johnson’s Brexit Gambit Puts Queen in a Tight Spot (Spiegel)
Leaked No-Deal Report Says Lorries Could Face 48-Hour Delays At Dover (PA)
Irish Border After Brexit – All Ideas Beset By Issues Says Secret Paper (G.)
Many US Firms Already Have Ditched China, More On The Way (CNBC)
Hong Kong Students Boycott Classes As Chinese Media Warns ‘End Is Coming’ (G.)
Why Has The U.S. CEO-To-Worker Pay Ratio Increased So Much? (Colombo)
In The Era Of Neurocapitalism, Your Brain Needs New Rights (Vox)
Hollywood Reboots Russophobia For The New Cold War (Parry)
A Black Hole So Big It Shouldn’t Even Exist Is Baffling Scientists (RT)

 

 

After carefully making sure there were no needy people left in the country, and no children were going hungry, the new UK gov decided to spend £100+ million on an advertising campaign. They’re going to absolutely bombard, if not strangle, you with this stuff. You won’t be able to escape it.

‘Get Ready for Brexit’: Government Launches Information Blitz (G.)

The billboards have been unveiled, the branded mugs have been ordered and the adverts will soon start following you around the internet after the government launched what it claimed to be the largest ever public information campaign in an effort to prepare the British public for leaving the EU. The Get Ready for Brexit campaign went live on Sunday, stating that the UK would be leaving the EU on 31 October and urging the public to visit a new website to check what they needed to do to prepare for a no-deal exit. The slogan appeared for the first time on a giant advertising screen next to a John Lewis store at the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, east London, looming over visitors.

Downing Street has previously briefed that the taxpayer-funded advertising campaign will cost up to £100m, although doubts have been raised over whether the government will realistically be able to spend that much on a campaign lasting just two months. One leading advertising industry source pointed out that this figure was substantially higher than the amount spent on traditional advertising in the UK by major consumer brands such as Amazon, Tesco and Asda in the whole of 2018. This suggests that either the government is overstating the amount it intends to spend in an attempt to draw extra attention or that Downing Street really is launching an advertising campaign that will be unequalled in its ubiquity.


Michael Gove, the cabinet minister in charge of no-deal planning, said: “Ensuring an orderly Brexit is not only a matter of national importance, but a shared responsibility” as he launched the adverts by referring to government polling that showed only 50% of the population thought it was likely the UK would leave the EU on 31 October. The same research found that 42% of small- to medium-sized businesses were still unsure of how they could prepare for Brexit and just a third of the British public have looked for information on what they will need to do, suggesting large-scale ignorance of what Brexit will involve with less than two months to go until the expected departure date.=

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View from Germany: “..the last intact pillar of the United Kingdom: its queen…”

Johnson’s Brexit Gambit Puts Queen in a Tight Spot (Spiegel)

[..] the anger of the masses isn’t being directed solely at the man in Downing Street. One of the last taboos for many Brits has also been broken: blatant criticism of the queen. “The. Queen. Did. Not. Save. Us,” tweeted Labour Party politician Kate Osamor, and hinted at the abolition of the monarchy. Her party leader Jeremy Corbyn asked the queen in writing for a personal meeting to protest against Johnson’s coup. Jo Swinson, the head of the EU-friendly Liberal Democrats, also wrote to the queen asking for an “urgent meeting.” After three years of the country beating itself up in the Brexit debate, Johnson is now leading Britain into the last round of the ordeal – an unprecedented showdown between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary, which, incidentally, threatens to damage the last intact pillar of the United Kingdom: its queen.


It’s impossible to predict what will ensue in the coming weeks – aside from chaos. But there is much to suggest Johnson wants precisely that, and at any cost, in order to deliver the main promise he made to become British prime minister – to lead his country out of the EU on Oct. 31, with or without an agreement. After the G-7 summit in Biarritz, Johnson may have praised the EU’s willingness to compromise, he may have put the chances of no deal at “one in a million,” and the majority of Brits and their elected representatives may be against leaving the EU without a deal, but no one in the betting crazy UK is now likely to bet on there being any agreement between London and Brussels in the end.

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Blame France.

Leaked No-Deal Report Says Lorries Could Face 48-Hour Delays At Dover (PA)

Leaked government documents which reportedly say there could be 48-hour delays at Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit have moved hauliers to warn of the “clear and present danger” to the UK supply chain. Sky News said it had seen documents which suggest vehicles could face a two-day delay at the Kent port in a no-deal scenario, and the revelation has led to industry insiders saying the government has “failed to deliver”. Rod McKenzie, the managing director of policy at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said it came as absolutely no surprise to him that such a document existed, adding that there was still no sign of a new customs process with just weeks left before the UK is expected to leave the EU.

He had not seen the Department for Transport documents (DfT), but said he understood they were more recent than the leaked Operation Yellowhammer files which contained predictions of a three-month “meltdown” at ports in the event of no deal. “The Road Haulage Association has been saying this for quite literally years now that if there is a no-deal Brexit, there will be very substantial queues at the border,” McKenzie said. “We have got a very, very serious problem with the UK supply chain if there is a no-deal Brexit on 31 October from where we are now. “This is a clear and present danger to the supply chain on which we all depend, and we are calling on the government in the clearest terms to make it clear what traders have to do to trade with the continent. This they have failed to do so far.”


Sky News said on Sunday night that analysis commissioned by the DfT suggested that on the first day of a no-deal Brexit, the worst-case scenario would be a two-day maximum delay for freight and vehicles at Dover, and an average wait of a day-and-a-half. McKenzie said any delay at the ports would cause a “very, very substantial traffic jam”, adding: “What we are saying is that we urgently need clarity from this government, having not had it from the previous government, we urgently need clarity from this government of what traders have to do to get ready for a no-deal Brexit.”

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Troubles.

Irish Border After Brexit – All Ideas Beset By Issues Says Secret Paper (G.)

All potential solutions to the post-Brexit Irish border are fraught with difficulty and would leave smaller businesses struggling to cope, experts have said, as leaked government papers outline major concerns just two months before Britain is due to leave the EU. A report summarising the findings of the government’s official “alternative arrangements” working groups concluded that there are issues with all the scenarios put forward to try to replace the backstop arrangement. There are also specific concerns over whether any technological solution could be delivered to monitor cross-border trade. Critics said the paper, seen by the Guardian, should “ring alarm bells” across government over how likely it is that alternative arrangements to the backstop will be found.

The dossier marked “official-sensitive” prepared for the EU Exit Negotiations Board is dated 28 August. It details how the findings of all advisory groups informing the government on the Northern Irish border are being kept deliberately under wraps to try to avoid hampering Britain’s intended renegotiation of the backstop agreed to by Theresa May. Alternative systems to avoid a hard Northern Irish border after Brexit have become the central tenet of Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy. He sees this as a way of unlocking a new deal with Europe and has claimed that there are “abundant solutions”.


However, the damning report shows there is no single deliverable solution at present, despite the fact Johnson is almost a third of the way through the “30 days” target that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, gave him to come up with a fresh border proposal. The report said: “It is evident that every facilitation has concerns and issues related to them. The complexity of combining them into something more systemic and as part of one package is a key missing factor at present.”

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This will take a long time.

Many US Firms Already Have Ditched China, More On The Way (CNBC)

President Trump rattled Wall Street when he demanded U.S. firms move production out of China. But many have already taken steps to do so, and, in earnings calls just over the past month, dozens of chief executives have signaled plans to further diversify their supply chains amid the intensifying trade war. On Aug. 23, Trump took to Twitter, ordering American companies to “immediately start looking for an alternative to China” and urging them instead to start making their products in the U.S. In doing so, he cited the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) — passed in 1977 to deal with an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” [..]

Trump doubled down on Friday, attacking General Motors for its significant presence in China and questioning whether the automaker should move the operations to the U.S. “Sometimes you’ve got to take stern measures,” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the sidelines of the G-7 meeting in France. Kudlow added that American companies should heed the president’s call to leave China. No U.S. president has invoked the law as leverage in a commercial dispute, let alone to sever commercial ties with one of its largest trading partners. Indeed, over the past century, U.S. administrations have mainly deployed the IEEPA to prosecute drug trafficking or financial terrorism through sanctions or other economic penalties.


[..] in an annual survey conducted in June by the U.S.-China Business Council, nearly 30% of the 220 respondents said they have already delayed or cancelled investments in China or the U.S. due to mounting trade uncertainty. Though just 13% said they had plans to specifically move operations out of China, that’s steadily increased from 10% in 2018 and 8% in 2017.

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Peace please.

Hong Kong Students Boycott Classes As Chinese Media Warns ‘End Is Coming’ (G.)

For the last 13 weeks, protesters have come to the streets to demand the formal withdrawal of a bill that would allow extradition to mainland China, which critics fear will be used by Beijing to target those who criticise the ruling Chinese communist party. As the protests have dragged on, they have taken on new forms and other demands including instituting democratic reforms and conducting an independent investigation into police behaviour. On Sunday, demonstrators attempted to lay siege to the airport, prompting a swift response from riot police. On Saturday, riot police stormed a metro station, attacking trapped protesters with batons. Monday’s class boycott was accompanied by a call for a general strike. It followed two days of mass protests where demonstrators paralysed links to airport, and clashed with police outside government buildings and in MTR stations.


Several editorials in Chinese state media on Monday condemned the protesters as “crazy and vicious” for bringing “catastrophe” upon the Hong Kong economy. An editorial on the website of the state-run news agency Xinhua warned “the end is coming for those attempting to disrupt Hong Kong”. The shift of the protests to school campuses is comes after Chinese officials have blamed the protests on the city’s liberal education curriculum. In recent weeks, Beijing has criticised teachers and parents for not instilling patriotic values in students and called for an overhaul of Hong Kong’s education system, which includes topics like the Chinese military’s violent crack down on democracy demonstrators on 4 June, 1989.

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Is capitalism itself at fault or just the excesses it allows for?

Why Has The U.S. CEO-To-Worker Pay Ratio Increased So Much? (Colombo)

MarketWatch recently published a piece about the soaring U.S. CEO-to-worker pay ratio, which hit 278-to-1 in 2018 (up from just 58-to-1 in 1989 and 20-to-1 in 1965) –

“CEO pay has increased 1,008% between 1978 and 2018, while typical worker pay has edged up 12%. [..] In 2018, CEOs in the country’s top 350 businesses were paid $17.2 million on average. Employees working in those industries — ranging from retail to technology and manufacturing — typically earned $64,500, researchers said. Overall, there’s a 278-to-1 pay ratio between workers and CEOs. In 1989, the compensation ratio was 58-to-1 and in 1965, it was 20-to-1. Stock awards and cashed-in stock options averaged $7.5 million of CEO pay in 2017 and 2018, the study added. Incorporating stock in pay arrangements is one way to incentivize CEO, and rising salaries illustrate the market for talent in the C-suite, some observers say.”


Left-leaning economists, politicians, and other commentators frequently use the soaring CEO-to-worker pay ratio as an example of why capitalism is inherently flawed and always leads to the rich getting richer, but my research has found that it is a byproduct of central banking and fiat (i.e., “paper”) currency rather than capitalism. To make a long story short, the Federal Reserve has excessively inflated the financial markets in its attempt to create an economic recovery from the Great Recession. This excessive asset price inflation has pushed U.S. household wealth far out of line with its historic relationship to the GDP, as the chart below shows. The wealthy have been the greatest beneficiaries of this asset price inflation because they own a disproportionate share of the assets that have been inflated by the Fed, which are stocks, bonds, and high-end real estate.

The Fed’s inflation of the U.S. stock market is the primary reason why the CEO-to-worker pay ratio has increased so much. The CEOs of public corporations usually receive stock options as part of their compensation packages, which means that they can benefit greatly when their stock prices rise. As the chart below shows, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio surges during asset bubbles, but falls back down when the bubbles burst (it correlates with the chart above). The current asset bubble is no different and the excesses will be corrected in the form of a strong bear market, just like they always are.

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Elon Muck can’t even produce a decent electric car. How big a threat is he?

In The Era Of Neurocapitalism, Your Brain Needs New Rights (Vox)

“Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimeters inside your skull.” That’s from George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, published in 1949. The comment is meant to highlight what a repressive surveillance state the characters live in, but looked at another way, it shows how lucky they are: At least their brains are still private. Over the past few weeks, Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink have announced that they’re building tech to read your mind — literally. Mark Zuckerberg’s company is funding research on brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) that can pick up thoughts directly from your neurons and translate them into words. The researchers say they’ve already built an algorithm that can decode words from brain activity in real time.

And Musk’s company has created flexible “threads” that can be implanted into a brain and could one day allow you to control your smartphone or computer with just your thoughts. Musk wants to start testing in humans by the end of next year. Other companies such as Kernel, Emotiv, and Neurosky are also working on brain tech. They say they’re building it for ethical purposes, like helping people with paralysis control their devices. This might sound like science fiction, but it’s already begun to change people’s lives. Over the past dozen years, a number of paralyzed patients have received brain implants that allow them to move a computer cursor or control robotic arms. Implants that can read thoughts are still years away from commercial availability, but research in the field is moving faster than most people realize.


Your brain, the final privacy frontier, may not be private much longer. Some neuroethicists argue that the potential for misuse of these technologies is so great that we need revamped human rights laws — a new “jurisprudence of the mind” — to protect us. The technologies have the potential to interfere with rights that are so basic that we may not even think of them as rights, like our ability to determine where our selves end and machines begin. Our current laws are not equipped to address this.

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Russiagate, the sequel.

Hollywood Reboots Russophobia For The New Cold War (Parry)

In the Cold War, Tinseltown played an important role in the cultural battlefield against the USSR and anti-Soviet paranoia was an ever-present theme in American cinema for decades, from the McCarthy era until the Berlin Wall fell. Contemporaneously, a revival of geopolitical tensions between the United States and the Russian Federation — which many have dubbed a second Cold War — has seen the return of such tropes on the silver screen. Most recently, it has resurfaced in popular web television shows such as the third season of Netflix’s retro science fiction/horror series Stranger Things, as well as HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl, which dramatizes the 1986 nuclear accident in Soviet Ukraine.

It was a famous cinematic work that many believe ominously foreshadowed Chernobyl in Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 science fiction film, Stalker, less than a decade prior to the calamity. It is unlikely that HBO would have been as interested in green-lighting a five-part program on the disaster without the current hysteria surrounding the unproven allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and ‘collusion’ between Moscow and the Trump campaign. ‘Russiagate’ has become a national obsession and suddenly the very idea of corruption and intrigue has been made synonymous with the Kremlin. Hollywood liberal figures have been some of the hoax’s biggest proponents, including the show’s writer, Craig Mazin.


It is equally as hard to imagine Americans themselves being as captivated by a re-enactment of the nuclear accident without the current political climate of fear-mongering bombarding them every day in corporate media. From the perspective of the U.S. political establishment, what better way to deflect attention away from its own sins than onto a manufactured adversary?

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The black hole’s mass is 100 times greater than that of the sun.

M87* is an example of a black hole that is 6.5 billion times as massive as the Sun.

A Black Hole So Big It Shouldn’t Even Exist Is Baffling Scientists (RT)

Scientists may have spotted a black hole that is so enormous, it shouldn’t even exist, although they aren’t quite sure if it even does. The black hole’s mass is 100 times greater than that of the sun. The potential black hole, which is twice as large as what physicists had believed was possible, was detected by the LIGO and Virgo gravitational-wave detectors at the European Gravitational Observatory. A black hole is usually formed when a star collapses after it runs out of fuel, but this only happens when the star’s core is less than 50 times the mass of the Sun, Quanta Magazine explains. Stars with larger masses, between 50-130 times the mass of the Sun, either shed matter until they are small enough, or destroy themselves in a powerful explosion, meaning this new potential black hole defies what scientists understand to be possible.


Black holes that are larger than 130 solar masses can also form when their core’s collapse is too strong to stop. M87* is an example of a black hole that is 6.5 billion times as massive as the Sun. Scientists are scratching their heads trying to figure out how this newly spotted potential large black hole came into being. According to Qanta, they suspect that the black hole could be the result of smaller black holes colliding and merging into one gigantic one. They think it is possible that somewhere in a dense area of the universe, a 30 and 50 solar mass black hole could have merged and that the new black hole then combined with another one, which could explain the signals they detected.

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Jul 232019
 


Odilon Redon Sunset n.d.

 

US Justice Department Tells Mueller To Limit Congressional Testimony (R.)
What Goes Around (Kunstler)
A Non-Hack That Raised Hillary’s Hackles (Ray McGovern)/span>
Inequality is Destroying Democratic Capitalism (Deaton)
Who Was Jeffrey Epstein Calling? (NYMag)
Chelsea Clinton Denies Ties To Jeffrey Epstein’s Alleged ‘Madam’ (MN)
UK’s May Takes Parting Shot at Putin in Desperate Diversion From Failure (SCF)
Iran Warns West Against Starting Conflict (R.)
France To Shut Down Nuclear Plants Due To Heatwave (Montel)
Huge Swathes Of The Arctic On Fire, Satellite Images Show (Ind.)

 

 

He might as well stay home. Can’t talk about Concord, can’t talk about anything not in the report.

US Justice Department Tells Mueller To Limit Congressional Testimony (R.)

The U.S. Justice Department told former Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Monday he should limit his testimony before Congress this week to discussing his public report on the Russia probe. In a letter to Mueller, Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer said his testimony set for Wednesday “must remain within the boundaries of your public report because matters within the scope of your investigation were covered by executive privilege.” The letter said “these privileges would include discussion about investigative steps or decisions made during your investigation not otherwise described in the public version of your report.”

Mueller completed in March his nearly two-year-long probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump. The Justice Department released a redacted copy of his 448-page report in April. A spokesman for Mueller, Jim Popkin, said no one at the Justice Department, Congress or the White House would review Mueller’s statement before he delivers it on Wednesday. In back-to-back hearings before the House of Representatives Judiciary and Intelligence committees, Democrats are expected to try to get Mueller to focus his testimony on specific examples of Trump’s misconduct.

[..] Mueller has been using offices at his former law firm WilmerHale and working with a small team from the special counsel’s office to prepare for Wednesday’s hearings, Popkin said. “He will come well prepared,” Popkin said. “His team has been working on this for a while and they will be ready for whatever comes their way.”

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“is it possible that he’s just not very bright?”

What Goes Around (Kunstler)

The entrapment operation that was the Special Counsel’s covert mission has turned out to be Mr. Mueller own personal booby-trap, prompting the question: is it possible that he’s just not very bright? Though Mr. Mueller’s final report asserted that the Russian government interfered in “a sweeping and systemic fashion” to influence the 2016 election, the 450-page great tome contains zero evidence to support that claim, and the discrepancy was actually noticed by federal judge Dabney Friedrich who is presiding over the case against the alleged Russian Facebook trolls that was one of the two tent-poles in the RussiaGate fantasy. The case is now blowing up in Robert Mueller’s face.

In early 2018, Mr. Mueller sold a DC grand jury on producing indictments against a Russian outfit called the Internet Research Agency and its parent company Concord Management, owned by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin for the so-called election meddling. The indictment was celebrated as a huge coup at the time by the likes of CNN and The New York Times, styled as a silver bullet in the heart of the Trump presidency. But the indicted parties were all in Russia, and could not be extradited, and there was zero expectation that any actual trial would ever take place — leaving Mueller & Co. off-the-hook for proving their allegations.

To the great surprise of Mr. Mueller and his “team,” Mr. Prigozhin hired some American lawyers to defend his company in court. Smooth move. It automatically triggered the discovery process, by which the accused is entitled to see the evidence that prosecutors hold. It turned out that Mr. Mueller’s team had no evidence that the Russian government was involved with the Facebook pranks. This annoyed Judge Friedrich, who ordered Mr. Mueller and his lawyers to desist making public statements about Concord and IRA’s alleged “sweeping and systemic” collusion with Russia, and threatened legal sanctions if they did.

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Three years ago. That went by fast.

A Non-Hack That Raised Hillary’s Hackles (Ray McGovern)/span>

Three years ago Monday WikiLeaks published a trove of highly embarrassing emails that had been leaked from inside the Democratic National Committee. As has been the case with every leak revealed by WikiLeaks, the emails were authentic. These particular ones, however, could not have come at a worse time for top Democratic Party officials. The emails made it unmistakably clear that the DNC had tipped the scales sharply against Democratic insurgent Bernie Sanders, giving him a snowball’s chance in hell for the nomination. [..] A mere four days after the WikiLeaks release, a well orchestrated Democratic Convention nominated Clinton, while many Sanders supporters loudly objected.

Thus, she began her campaign under a cloud, and as more and more Americans learned of the fraud that oozed through the DNC email correspondence — including the rigging of the Democratic primaries — the cloud grew larger and darker. On June 12, 2016, six weeks before the convention, WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange had announced in an interview on British TV, “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton … We have emails pending publication.” Independent forensic investigations demonstrated two years ago that the DNC emails were not hacked over the Internet, but had been copied onto an external storage device — probably a thumb drive. Additional work over recent months has yielded more evidence that the intrusion into the DNC computers was a copy, not a hack, and that it took place on May 23 and 25, 2016.

No one knew how soon WikiLeaks would publish the emails, but the DNC offense/defense would surely have to be put in place before the convention scheduled to begin on July 25. That meant there were, at most, six weeks to react. But it only took two days. As early as July 24, about 48 hours after the leaks were published, and a day before the convention, the DNC first blamed Russia for hacking their emails and giving them to WikiLeaks to sabotage Clinton. Granted, it was a stretch — and the DNC would have to hire a pliable cybersecurity firm to back up their claim. But they had good reason to believe that CrowdStrike would perform that service. It was the best Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook and associates could apparently come up with.

If they hurried, there would be just enough time to prepare a PR campaign before the convention and, best of all, there was little doubt that the media could be counted on to support the effort full bore. [..] It pretty much worked like a charm. The late Senator John McCain and others were quick to call the Russian “hack” an “an act of war.” Evidence? None. For icing on the cake, then-FBI Director James Comey decided not to seize and inspect the DNC computers. Nor, as we now know, did Comey even require a final report from CrowdStrike.

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Not sure having it discussed by well-paid economists is all that useful.

Inequality is Destroying Democratic Capitalism (Deaton)

At the risk of grandiosity, I think that today’s inequalities are signs that democratic capitalism is under threat, not only in the US, where the storm clouds are darkest, but in much of the rich world, where one or more of politics, economics, and health are changing in worrisome ways. I do not believe that democratic capitalism is beyond repair nor that it should be replaced; I am a great believer in what capitalism has done, not only to the oft-cited billions who have been pulled out of poverty in the last half-century, but to all the rest of us who have also escaped poverty and deprivation over the last two and a half centuries. It also provides our jobs and the cornucopia of goods and services that we take for granted.

And Milton Friedman, whose starry-eyed view of capitalism has much to answer for, was not entirely wrong when he extolled the freedom that free markets can bring. Though history has not been kind to his view that equality would be guaranteed by using markets to pursue freedom. But we need to think about repairs for democratic capitalism, either by fixing what is broken, or by making changes to head off the threats; indeed, I believe that those of us who believe in social democratic capitalism should be leading the charge to make repairs.

As it is, capitalism is not delivering to large fractions of the population; in the US, where the inequalities are clearest, real wages for men without a four-year college degree have fallen for half a century, even at a time when per capita GDP has robustly risen. Mortality rates are rising for the less-educated group at ages 25 through 64, and by enough that life expectancy for the entire population has fallen for three years in a row, the first time such a reversal has happened since the end of the first world war and the great influenza epidemic. Less educated Americans are dying by their own hands, from suicide, from alcoholic liver disease, and from overdoses of drugs. Morbidity is rising too, and they are also suffering from an epidemic of chronic pain that, for many, makes a misery of daily life.

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“If you watch Fox News, you will believe Bill Clinton was Epstein’s No. 1 pal and enabler. If you watch MSNBC, this scandal is usually all about Donald Trump. ”

Who Was Jeffrey Epstein Calling? (NYMag)

Perhaps, at long last, a serial rapist and pedophile may be brought to justice, more than a dozen years after he was first charged with crimes that have brutalized countless girls and women. But what won’t change is this: the cesspool of elites, many of them in New York, who allowed Jeffrey Epstein to flourish with impunity. For decades, important, influential, “serious” people attended Epstein’s dinner parties, rode his private jet, and furthered the fiction that he was some kind of genius hedge-fund billionaire. How do we explain why they looked the other way, or flattered Epstein, even as they must have noticed he was often in the company of a young harem?

Easy: They got something in exchange from him, whether it was a free ride on that airborne “Lolita Express,” some other form of monetary largesse, entrée into the extravagant celebrity soirées he hosted at his townhouse, or, possibly and harrowingly, a pound or two of female flesh. If you watch Fox News, you will believe Bill Clinton was Epstein’s No. 1 pal and enabler. If you watch MSNBC, this scandal is usually all about Donald Trump. In fact, both presidents are guilty (at the very least) of giving Epstein cover and credibility.

There are so many unanswered questions about Epstein, but one that looms over all of them is whether the bipartisan crowd who cleared a path for him will cover its tracks before we can get answers — not just Clinton and Trump and all those who drank at Epstein’s trough but also (among others) institutions like Harvard, Dalton, and the Council on Foreign Relations, or lawyers like the New York prosecutor Cy Vance Jr., whose office tried to downgrade Epstein’s sex-offender status; Kenneth Starr, who tried to pressure Republican Justice Department officials to keep the Epstein case from ever being prosecuted; and Alan Dershowitz, who tried to pressure the Pulitzer Prizes to shut out the Miami Herald for its epic investigative reporting that cracked open the case anew.

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People are going to start talking soon, if only to protect themselves. But why hasn’t Maxwell been arrested yet?

Chelsea Clinton Denies Ties To Jeffrey Epstein’s Alleged ‘Madam’ (MN)

Since Jeffrey Epstein’s latest arrest on sex trafficking charges, a who’s who of the rich and powerful — notably Donald Trump, Prince Andrew and Bill Clinton — have rushed to downplay their associations with the financier who is accused of abusing underaged girls. Now Chelsea Clinton has joined her ex-president father on this who’s who list. Her representative issued a statement to Politico over the weekend denying reports that the former First Daughter was close friends with Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s ex-girlfriend and the alleged “madam” who has been accused of helping him procure underaged girls for sex.

Politico’s report on Maxwell, 57, focuses on how the daughter of the late British publishing mogul Robert Maxwell helped Epstein, the Brooklyn-born son of a New York City parks groundskeeper, gain access to social circles that allowed him to become friendly with two U.S. presidents, billionaire business moguls, America’s media elite and at least one member of the British royal family. Maxwell has not been criminally charged, but has settled two lawsuits filed by women who say she participated in Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking, the New York Times reported last week. She has denied any wrongdoing. Politico said Maxwell first grew close to the Clinton family after former president Bill Clinton left office, and eventually became friends with Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation.

According to the news outlet, the two women vacationed together on a yacht in 2009, and Maxwell attended Chelsea’s wedding to Marc Mezvinsky in 2010, Politico reported. A photo of Maxwell at the wedding has circulated online. Maxwell also participated in the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative as recently as 2013, through The TerraMar Project, an oceanic non-profit she founded, according to the Initiative’s website. The contacts between Chelsea Clinton and Maxwell appear to have occurred after Maxwell’s name first emerged in accounts of Epstein’s alleged sexual abuse. “Ghislaine was the contact between Epstein and Clinton,” a person familiar with the relationship told Politico. “She ended up being close to the family because she and Chelsea ended up becoming close.”

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May goes away in July. Bye.

UK’s May Takes Parting Shot at Putin in Desperate Diversion From Failure (SCF)

In what was billed as her last major speech before quitting Downing Street, Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May focused her concerns on Russian President Vladimir Putin, lashing out at his “cynical falsehoods” and admonishing her successor “to stand up to” the Russian leader. Given her ignominious failure as premier over the Brexit fiasco, it seemed a strange choice of topic as she addressed the Chatham House think tank in London this past week. Her speech dealt with the wider theme of rising “populist politics” in the US and Europe. And she sought to portray Putin as an archetypal sinister figure fomenting populist threat to the “liberal” democratic order.

At one point, May claimed: “No one comparing the quality of life or economic success of liberal democracies like the UK, France and Germany to the Russian Federation would conclude that our system is obsolete.” This was supposed to be a riposte to an interview given by Putin to the Financial Times last month ahead of the G20 summit in Japan. During a lengthy interview on a wide range of issues, the Russian president was quoted as saying: “The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.”

Putin was apparently explaining a fairly straightforward and, to many observers, valid assessment of international politics. Namely, that Western establishments and institutions, including the mainstream media, are experiencing a crisis in authority. That crisis has arisen over several years due to popular perception that the governance of the political class is not delivering on democratic demands of accountability and economic progress. That in turn has led people to seek alternatives from the established parties, a movement in the US and Europe which is denigrated by the establishment as “populist” or rabble rousing.

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Boris is capable of doing very stupid things.

Iran Warns West Against Starting Conflict (R.)

Iran’s foreign minister warned the West on Monday against “starting a conflict,” saying it was not seeking confrontation after its military seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz last week. London described the seizure of the Stena Impero as “state piracy” and on Monday called for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz. Speaking in Nicaragua, Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif said Iran had taken measures against the ship to implement international law, not in retaliation for the British capture of an Iranian tanker two weeks earlier in Gibraltar.


“Starting a conflict is easy, ending it would be impossible,” Zarif told reporters after meeting his Nicaraguan counterpart. “It’s important for everybody to realize, it’s important for Boris Johnson to understand, that Iran does not seek confrontation,” he said, referring to the front-runner to become Britain’s new prime minister. “Iran wants to have normal relations based on mutual respect,” he added. Zarif said Iran acted when it observed that the UK ship did not follow regulations. “The UK ship had turned down its signal for more time than it was allowed to (and) was passing through the wrong channel, endangering the safety and security of shipping and navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, for which we are responsible,” Zarif said.

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France imports UK wind energy.

France To Shut Down Nuclear Plants Due To Heatwave (Montel)

French weather service Meteo France issued a 40C heatwave warning on Monday for 21 regions across France, while utility EDF will shut down nearly 3 GW of nuclear capacity this week amid cooling water issues. Golfech 2 (1.3 GW) on the Garonne river would be stopped from Tuesday at 23:00 until 29 July at 23:59, while Golfech 1 (1.3 GW) would be halted from Wednesday at 02:00 until 29 July at 23:59. Low river flows and high water temperatures can force operators to cut output if it breaches environmental limits. Flows on key French rivers had “significantly” weakened over the last two weeks amid persistent hot and dry weather, the ministry of energy told Montel recently.


The St Alban 1 and 2 (2.6 GW) reactors, meanwhile, saw their output cut over the weekend, and though both reactors are now back online, EDF warned last week it could curb output at its nuclear plants located along the river Rhone – which also included Bugey (3.7 GW) – due to declining flows amid the hot weather. The temperature of the Rhone around St Alban and Tricast in was currently 26C, while it was 23.4C at Bugey, estimates from Montel’s Energy Quantified showed, with 28C deemed unsafe. French TSO RTE expected power demand to peak at 59.4 GW on Thursday and 58.6 GW on Friday, with a surge expected due to an increase in need for cooling.

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Ugly. Peat fires are impossible to control.

Huge Swathes Of The Arctic On Fire, Satellite Images Show (Ind.)

Vast swathes of the Arctic are suffering from “unprecedented” wildfires, new satellite images have revealed. North of the Arctic circle, the high temperatures are facilitating enormous wildfires which are wreaking ecological destruction on a colossal scale. It comes after the world’s hottest June on record which has been followed by a devastating heatwave in the US, with Europe forecast for the same treatment later this week. Satellite images reveal fires across Greenland, Siberia and Alaska, with warm dry conditions following ice melt on the enormous Greenland icesheet commencing a month earlier than average.

Pierre Markuse, a satellite photography expert, posted images showing smoke billowing across massive areas of uninhabited and wild land. The pictures show forest fires and burning peat. They also reveal the extent of the damage the fires leave behind. In Alaska wildfires have already burned more than 1.6 million acres of land. Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast, said the amount of CO2 emitted by Arctic wildfires between 1 June and 21 July 2019 is around 100 megatonnes and is approaching the entire 2017 fossil fuel CO2 emissions of Belgium.


Satellite image processed by Pierre Markuse showing numerous wildfires burning in Russia just south of the Arctic Circle (Pierre Markuse/Creative Commons)

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May 232019
 


Leonardo da Vinci The madonna of the carnation1478-80

 

Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi Warfare Hits New Level (USA Today)
AG Barr Puts Former Intel Bosses Clapper, Brennan On Notice (Brock)
Trump To Declassify “Bucket 5” Russiagate Docs (ZH)
Avenatti Indicted For Defrauding Stormy Daniels, Extorting Nike (ABC)
Inside The Epic Fall Of Michael Avenatti (VF)
Credit-Card Charge-Offs Rise Across Banking System (WS)
The Corporate Maginot Line (Lebowitz)
The Truth About US Inequality (Colombo)
Xi Calls Trade War “New Long March” (R.)
Panasonic, Toshiba Join Firms Stepping Away From Huawei (AFP)
FAA Chief Has No Timetable For Boeing 737 MAX Approval (R.)
UK Government To Lodge Complaint Over UN’s Austerity Report (G.)
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter Are Parasites (Hawley)

 

 

Whoever you favor, it seems obvious that calling for impeaching Trump makes bipartisan work on issues impossible. Pelosi doesn’t do that, but most of her party does.

Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi Warfare Hits New Level (USA Today)

President Donald Trump’s decision to storm out of an infrastructure meeting with Democrats left lawmakers scrambling to assess whether the fallout would reach other White House priorities, including a pending trade deal with Canada and Mexico that the president hopes will replace NAFTA. Fuming about longstanding Democratic investigations, Trump refused to shake hands with Democrats Wednesday and walked out of a meeting, prompting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to accuse the president of throwing “a temper tantrum for us all to see.” Trump disputed the characterization in a tweet late Wednesday. “This is not true. I was purposely very polite and calm, much as I was minutes later with the press in the Rose Garden,” Trump wrote. “Can be easily proven. It is all such a lie!”


Trump has already indicated he’s prepared to push most of his legislative agenda off until after the 2020 election, a recognition that Democrats and Republicans were unlikely to reach consensus on much of anything as nearly two dozen Democratic presidential candidates barnstorm early primary states in the hunt for the nomination. Trump appeared to further close the door on bipartisan agreement with a hastily called statement Wednesday in the Rose Garden in which he indicated Washington could not be on an “investigations” track while also pursuing legislation. “Let them play their games. We’re going to go down one track at a time,” Trump said of Democrats. “Let them finish up. And we’ll be all set.”

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Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, was an FBI special agent for 24 years and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

AG Barr Puts Former Intel Bosses Clapper, Brennan On Notice (Brock)

Attorney General William Barr has signaled that his interest in examining the origins of the investigation into the Trump campaign extends beyond whether the FBI operated “by the book,” as former FBI Director James Comey asserts. Barr also wants to understand the role that the larger intelligence community, or IC, may have played in all of this. Barr has thrown punches that have left an interesting mix of characters with a standing eight count. Certain eyes around D.C. are a little glassy right now. Barr’s words and actions are telling. First, he raised the concern that the Trump campaign was “spied” upon. His use of the word “spying” appears more calculated than casual. The wailing and gnashing of teeth that followed is also telling.

“The FBI doesn’t spy” became the sputtering counter-refrain of those trying to mask their nervousness. It’s a fair point that’s beside the point. The FBI is charged with acting under strict legal restrictions and court orders. Spying is not a term traditionally associated with those activities. But it also misses the point Barr appears to be making. The IC does spy; that’s what they do. Barr may have been referring less to the FBI and more to the IC’s possible murky involvement. This seems to be validated by Barr’s second haymaker in as many weeks: his appointment of a surrogate investigator, U.S. Attorney John Durham.

Why would the attorney general add a third investigation to those under way by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz and U.S. Attorney John Huber? Because those investigations are focused on the FBI. Durham’s assignment is not similarly constrained; his marching orders appear broader. Through Durham, Barr can start dusting for fingerprints across the government, not just the FBI. The squirming has begun.

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Wonder what will be kept secret.

Trump To Declassify “Bucket 5” Russiagate Docs (ZH)

As Congressional Democrats insist on conducting post-Mueller probes into President Trump and those around him, much of the recent infighting and backpedaling we’ve seen from former Obama intel chiefs is starting to make sense. Appearing with Fox News’s Sean Hannity Tuesday night, The Hill’s John Solomon revealed that according to his sources (and Hannity’s as well), President Trump will begin declassifying ‘Russiagate’ documents in the next 6-7 days. Among those will be the so-called “Bucket Five” – documents which were originally presented to the Gang of Eight in 2016, which included everything the FBI and DOJ used against Trump campaign aide Carter Page – including the FISA surveillance application and its underlying exculpatory intelligence documents which the FISA court may have never seen.

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The MSM’s favorite boy. What a story. He even forged Stormy Daniels’ signature. Tried to shake down Nike for $20 million. He could spend the rest of his life in jail.

Avenatti Indicted For Defrauding Stormy Daniels, Extorting Nike (ABC)

Federal prosecutors in New York charged Michael Avenatti with additional financial crimes Wednesday, including allegedly forging the signature of his former client Stormy Daniels and diverting nearly $300,000 owed to her for a book advance into his own account, according to court records filed on Wednesday. Prosecutors said that he then used money he took from Daniels to make monthly payments on his Ferrari, as well as to cover airfare, dry cleaning, hotels and restaurant bills, as well as payroll and insurance costs for his law firm’s employees. The new charges accuse Avenatti of misappropriating money that was supposed to be paid to Daniels when Avenatti was representing the adult film actress in her public battle against President Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen.


“Avenatti used misrepresentations and a fraudulent document purporting to bear his client’s name and signature to convince his client’s literary agent to divert money owed to Avenatti’s client to an account controlled by Avenatti,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. “Avenatti then spent the money principally for his own personal and business purposes.” Federal prosecutors in Manhattan – who have already accused Avenatti of extortion in a case involving Nike – also indicted him separately on extortion charges in the Nike case on Wednesday.

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Background at Vanity Fair.

Inside The Epic Fall Of Michael Avenatti (VF)

[..] federal prosecutors in Los Angeles filed a 197-page complaint accusing him of wire and bank fraud, in which the office detailed allegations of Avenatti misappropriating client settlement money for personal use (the receipts were gaudy: $216,720 to a Neiman Marcus, six figures to a Porsche dealership, and $68,500 at a luxury watch store). The complaint also claimed that Avenatti defrauded a bank by submitting false tax returns in order to obtain millions of dollars in loans. A few weeks later, on April 11, federal officials in California handed down a 36-count indictment, including 19 tax-related charges, 10 counts of wire fraud, 4 counts of bankruptcy fraud, and 2 bank-fraud charges. Avenatti had “[taken] money from one scheme and [used] it to lull clients, to string them along, to prevent them from going to authorities and [took] money from different pots as needed.”


One such client was a paraplegic man who had reached a $4 million agreement to settle a case related to his injuries but had not received the money. Avenatti allegedly deposited some of the settlement into a personal account associated with his car-racing team. Avenatti pleaded not guilty. He would not get into specifics about the case, but told me, “I look forward to all of the documents and all of the facts coming to light when it comes to the allegations set forth.” He noted: “The facts, in reality, are not as clear-cut as the government has made them out to be.”

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Are we about to see bank failures again?

Credit-Card Charge-Offs Rise Across Banking System (WS)

In the first quarter, the credit-card “charge-off” rate at the 4,650 or so smaller US commercial banks – all banks other than the largest 100 banks – ticked down to 7.37%, the sixth quarter in a row above 7%. During the peak of the Financial Crisis, the charge-off rate at these banks was above 7% only four quarters, but not in a row, topping out at 8.9%. These smaller banks have taken a lot of risk in their credit card strategies in recent years, going aggressively after subprime customers that had run out of luck at the largest banks. The credit-card charge off rate at the largest 100 banks rose to 3.78%, the highest since the first quarter of 2013. For all commercial banks combined, the charge-off rate rose to 3.83%, the highest since the fourth quarter 2012. The largest banks have learned a costly lesson during the Financial Crisis, when they got hammered with double-digit charge-off rates and have since focused on customers with lower risk profiles. And yet, slowly but surely, credit card charge-offs are rising across the board:

These data points that the Federal Reserve Board of Governors reported Tuesday afternoon are another warning in consumer land where serious auto-loan delinquencies, driven by subprime loans, have reached Q3 2009 levels. Credit cards have not yet reached this stage, but problems are beginning to pile up. A credit card loan is deemed “delinquent” when it is 30 days or more past due. Balances are removed from the delinquency basket when the customer cures the delinquency, or when the bank “charges off” the delinquent balance (net of whatever it was able to recover) against its loan loss reserves. The charge-off rate is figured as a percent of average credit-card balances, and is annualized.


The delinquency rate on credit-card loan balances at commercial banks other than the largest 100 banks declined to 5.43%, after having spiked to 6.2% in the third quarter. During peak-Financial Crisis, the delinquency rate at these smaller banks topped out at 5.9%. So these smaller banks got walloped last year, and they’re now scrambling to clean up, and tighten the lending standards.

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Remember AAA? Guess where your pension fund is invested today.

The Corporate Maginot Line (Lebowitz)

Since the post-financial crisis era began more than a decade ago, record low-interest rates and the Fed’s acquisition of $4 trillion of the highest quality fixed-income assets has led investors to scratch and claw for any asset, regardless of quality, offering returns above the rate of inflation. Financial media articles and Wall Street research discussing this dynamic are a dime-a-dozen. What we have not heard a peep about, however, are the inherent risks within the corporate bond market that have blossomed due to the way many corporate debt investors are managed and their somewhat unique strategies, objectives, and legal guidelines.

[..] Often overlooked, the bifurcation of investor limits and objectives makes an analysis of the corporate bond market different than that of the equity markets. The differences can be especially interesting if a large number of securities traverse the well-defined BBB-/BB+ “Maginot” line, a metaphor for expensive efforts offering a false line of security. The U.S. corporate bond market is approximately $6.4 trillion in size. Of that, over 80% is currently rated investment grade and 20% is junk-rated.This number does not include bank loans, derivatives, or other forms of debt on corporate balance sheets.

Since 2000, the corporate bond market has changed drastically in size and, importantly, in credit composition. Over this period, the corporate bond market has grown by 378%, greatly outstripping the 111% growth of GDP. The bar chart below shows how the credit composition of the corporate bond market shifted markedly with the surge in debt outstanding.

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Very long from my friend Jesse. Haven’t had time to read it yet, it’s a huge project. named Explaining Capitalism. Agree with most of what I have seen, but he has to be careful about terminology. Elizabeth Warren is not a far left politician for most people in the world, that’s at best a narrow US view.

Also: a 70% top-tax-rate is not by definition socialist; we know because the US in the 1950s-60s was not a socialist country.

As for wealth redistribution, I’m afraid you can’t escape it, because the whole edifice has gotten so out of whack. Even if you would turn back all the Fed’s failed policies today, you wouldn’t repair the consequences. Call that socialist if you want, but if you don’t do it, all hell will break loose.

The Truth About US Inequality (Colombo)

Rising economic inequality and how to address it has been one of the most important issues in the United States since the Great Recession ended in 2009. Rising inequality has spurred a powerful left-wing economic movement that kicked off with Occupy Wall Street in 2011, led to the 2016 presidential campaign of socialist Bernie Sanders (which was very popular with young Americans), and has now contributed to the rise and growing clout of far-left politicians including Elizabeth Warren and millennial socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who are both calling for wealth redistribution policies. At the core of this left-wing economic movement is a growing disbelief and distrust in capitalism itself, as well as the belief that an excessive rich-poor gap is an inevitable outcome of capitalism.


As a result, young Americans now favor socialism over capitalism. Even 45% of Republican voters support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 70% top-tax-rate proposal, while “conservative” Fox News host Tucker Carlson threw in the towel on capitalism. The report you are reading – “The Truth About U.S. Inequality” – completely turns the conventional wisdom (i.e., the left-biased explanation) about growing U.S. wealth and income inequality on its head. Here’s the reality in a nutshell: growing U.S. economic inequality is not the fault of capitalism, but the byproduct of unbacked fiat (aka “paper”) currency, central banking/the Federal Reserve, and a massive wealth bubble that has been inflated by the Fed. Instituting free market capitalism and sound money is actually the only solution to America’s growing economic inequality.

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Still longing back to Mao.

Xi Calls Trade War “New Long March” (R.)

China must prepare for difficult times as the international situation is increasingly complex, President Xi Jinping said in comments carried by state media on Wednesday, as the U.S.-China trade war took a mounting toll on tech giant Huawei. The world’s two largest economies have escalated tariff increases on each other’s imports after talks broke down to resolve their dispute, and the acrimony has intensified since Washington last week blacklisted Chinese telecom equipment company Huawei. The listing, which curbs Huawei’s access to U.S.-made components, is a potentially devastating blow for the company that has rattled technology supply chains and investors, and saw several mobile carriers on Wednesday delay the launch of new Huawei smartphone handsets.


During a three-day trip this week to the southern province of Jiangxi, a cradle of China’s Communist revolution, Xi urged people to learn the lessons of the hardships of the past. “Today, on the new Long March, we must overcome various major risks and challenges from home and abroad,” state news agency Xinhua paraphrased Xi as saying, referring to the 1934-36 trek of Communist Party members fleeing a civil war to a remote rural base, from where they re-grouped and eventually took power in 1949. “Our country is still in a period of important strategic opportunities for development, but the international situation is increasingly complicated,” he said. “We must be conscious of the long-term and complex nature of various unfavorable factors at home and abroad, and appropriately prepare for various difficult situations.”

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Feels like this is going to take a long time.

Panasonic, Toshiba Join Firms Stepping Away From Huawei (AFP)

Japan’s Panasonic said Thursday it would stop supplying some components to Huawei, joining a growing list of firms distancing themselves from the Chinese telecoms giant after a US ban over security concerns. Japan’s Toshiba also announced it was temporarily halting shipments to Huawei to check whether US-made parts were involved, in order to comply with Washington’s new restrictions. The moves came a day after major Japanese and British mobile carriers said they would delay releasing new Huawei handsets, upping the pressure on the world’s second-largest smartphone manufacturer.


In an official statement emailed to AFP, Panasonic said it had announced in an “internal notification” that it would “suspend transactions with Huawei and its 68 affiliates that were banned by the US government”. It declined to comment on “other transactions that are not banned by the US”. Asked about its opinion about the news, Huawei pointed to a statement on Panasonic’s Chinese website that said the firm was supplying Huawei “normally” and doing so “strictly abiding by the relevant laws and regulations of countries and regions where Panasonic is present”.

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Loud calls for simulators. Which don’t exist. First one to be delivered by December. This ain’t over.

FAA Chief Has No Timetable For Boeing 737 MAX Approval (R.)

The acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday he does not have a specific timetable to approve Boeing Co’s 737 MAX for flight after two fatal crashes since October prompted the plane to be grounded worldwide. The FAA is meeting with more than 30 international air regulators including China, the European Union, Brazil and Canada on Thursday to discuss a software fix and new pilot training that Boeing has been developing to ensure the jets are safe to fly. “It’s a constant give and take until it is exactly right,” Deputy FAA Administrator Dan Elwell told reporters of the discussions with Boeing. “It’s taking as long as it takes to be right,” he said, adding: “I’m not tied to a timetable.”

[..] Asked if it is realistic that the 737 MAX could be flying again by August, Elwell declined to be specific. “If you said October I wouldn’t even say that, only because we haven’t finished determining exactly what the training requirements will be,” Elwell said. “If it takes a year to find everything we need to give us the confidence to lift the (grounding) order so be it.” Elwell said he plans to share the FAA’s “safety analysis that will form the basis for our return to service decision process” on Thursday. But he said the agency is still waiting for Boeing to formally submit the software upgrade for approval, and emphasized the FAA has not decided on the revised training requirements, including whether to require simulator training.

Elwell rejected any idea that he was trying to win consensus with international regulators over the path to re-approving the MAX at the meeting. “We have to be the first to lift the order. We are the state of design,” he said. [..] Foreign regulators have signaled disagreements over measures to end the grounding, with Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau calling in April for pilots to receive simulator training for the MAX, rather than just computer courses. Canada and Europe said on Wednesday they would bring back the grounded aircraft on their own terms if their specific concerns are not addressed. “From our point of view, if we all work together and we all reach the same aim, fine. If we don’t, we’ll choose our own time to decide when the planes are safe to fly again,” Canada’s Garneau told Reuters in an interview.

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The Tories are set for historic losses in the EU elections this weekend. They feel the pressure. Getting rid of May won’t solve a thing.

UK Government To Lodge Complaint Over UN’s Austerity Report (G.)

The work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, plans to lodge a formal complaint with the UN about the damning report on austerity in Britain by its special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston. Rudd will argue that Alston is politically biased and did not do enough research. The minister is seeking guidance from the Foreign Office on the best way to respond after Alston compared her department’s welfare policies to the creation of Victorian workhouses. Alston quoted the 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes to warn that unless austerity was ended and welfare cuts were reversed, millions of poorer Britons faced lives that would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”.

The 21-page report said the government appeared unwilling to debate the impact of its austerity policies since 2010, which it said were “in clear violation of the country’s human rights obligations”. Alston accused ministers of “window dressing to minimise political fallout” by insisting the country was enjoying record lows in absolute poverty, children in workless households and unemployment. The “endlessly repeated” mantra about rising employment overlooked that “close to 40% of children are predicted to be living in poverty two years from now, 16% of people over 65 live in relative poverty and millions of those who are in work are dependent upon various forms of charity to cope,” he said. The report will be formally presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 27 June.

The government believes Alston, a New York-based human rights lawyer, could not credibly have reached his conclusions after only an 11-day trip to the UK. Last November he visited nine towns and cities in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, holding town hall meetings and visiting poverty-related charities and organisations including food banks and youth programmes. Rudd is said to be particularly frustrated by Alston’s accusation that the government was responsible for the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population”. She also believes Alston ventured off his beat by making criticisms about cuts to police numbers and legal aid. In a statement, the government said his report was “a barely believable documentation of Britain based on a tiny period of time spent here” and “a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty”.

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Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, is on the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights. He wants Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to disappear completely.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter Are Parasites (Hawley)

Social media consumers are getting wise to the joke that when the product is free, they’re the ones being sold. But despite the growing threat of consumer exploitation, Washington still shrinks from confronting our social media giants. Why? Because the social giants have convinced the chattering class that America simply can’t do without them. Confront the industry, we’re told, and you might accidentally kill it — and with it, all the innovation it has (supposedly) brought to our society. Maybe. But maybe social media’s innovations do our country more harm than good. Maybe social media is best understood as a parasite on productive investment, on meaningful relationships, on a healthy society.

Maybe we’d be better off if Facebook disappeared. Ask the social giants what it is that they produce for America and you’ll hear grand statements about new forms of human interaction. But ask where their money comes from and you’ll get the real truth. Advertising is what the social giants truly care about, and for an obvious reason. It’s how they turn a profit. And when it comes to making money, they’ve been great innovators. They’ve designed platforms that extract massive amounts of personal data without telling consumers, then sell that data without consumers’ permission.

And in order to guarantee an audience big enough to make their ads profitable, big tech has developed a business model designed to do one thing above all: addict. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — they devote massive amounts of money and the best years of some of the nation’s brightest minds to developing new schemes to hijack their users’ neural circuitry. That’s because social media only works — to make money, anyway — if it consumes users’ time and attention, day after day. It needs to replace the various activities we enjoyed and did perfectly well before social media existed.

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May 142019
 


Pablo Picasso Napping 1932

 

AG Barr Appoints US Attorney To Investigate FBI/DOJ Spying On Trump (ZH)
Who Were the Mueller Report’s Hired Guns? (RCI)
US Accuses Iran Of Attack On Saudi Tankers (ZH)
Sweden Wants To Extradite Assange Over Rape Allegation (R.)
Lewinsky Scandal Beginning Of The End Of American Journalism – Taibbi (SHTF)
The CNN Search Engine? Google Favors Stories From Liberal News Sites (RT)
The Trend is Not Your Friend (Jim Kunstler)
US Police Raid Venezuelan Embassy To Evict Pro-Maduro Activists (RT)
Britain Risks Heading To US Levels Of Inequality – Angus Deaton (G.)
Theresa May Remains Opposed To Any Form Of Brexit Referendum (G.)
Uber & Lyft IPOs Turn into Colossal Flops (WS)
California Jury Awards Couple $2 Billion In Monsanto/Bayer Cancer Trial (RT)
Bayer Says Monsanto Likely Kept Files On Influential People Across Europe (R.)
German Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future (Spiegel)
415.26 Parts Per Million: CO2 Levels Hit Historic High (AFP)

 

 

To what extent can US intelligence take care of its own? We’re about to find out.

AG Barr Appoints US Attorney To Investigate FBI/DOJ Spying On Trump (ZH)

Attorney General William Barr has appointed US Attorney John H. Durham of Connecticut to examine the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation to determine if the FBI’s spying on the Trump campaign was “lawful and appropriate,” according to Fox News. The move comes as the Trump administration has demanded answers over the use of “informants” on his 2016 campaign. According to Fox, Barr is “serious” and has assembled a team from the DOJ to participate in the probe, adding that Durham is known as a “hard-charging, bulldog” prosecutor according to their source.

“Sources familiar with matter say the focus of the probe includes the pre-transition period – prior to Nov. 7, 2016 – including the use and initiation of informants, as well as potential Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses. An informant working for U.S. intelligence posed as a Cambridge University research assistant in September 2016 to try extracting any possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia from George Papadopoulos, then a Trump foreign policy adviser, it emerged earlier this month. Papadopoulos told Fox News the informant tried to “seduce” him as part of the “bizarre” episode. Durham previously has investigated law enforcement corruption, the destruction of CIA videotapes and the Boston FBI office’s relationship with mobsters. He is set to continue to serve as the chief federal prosecutor in Connecticut.” -Fox News

Of note – in January House Republicans Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows wrote to Durham, saying that they had “discovered” he was “investigating former FBI General Counsel James Baker” over unauthorized leaks to the media, adding “We know the DOJ and FBI departed from traditional investigative and prosecutorial practices, and insufficiently adhered to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Durham has a history of serving as a special prosecutor, investigating wrongdoing among national security officials – including the FBI’s ties to a Boston crime boss, as well as accusations of CIA detainee abuse. According to the report, Durham’s review would run in parallel with the ongoing DOJ probe by Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz. Meanwhile, Republicans have been seeking answers from US Attorney for Utah, John Huber, who was appointed by former AG Jeff Sessions to review FBI and DOJ surveillance abuses, as well as authorities’ handling of the probe into the Clinton Foundation.

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Mueller and Steele. A fine pair. If Mueller really worked with Steele and Fusion GPS, he should be investigated, because he knew they were Hillary assets.

Who Were the Mueller Report’s Hired Guns? (RCI)

[..] The arrangement has led congressional investigators, government watchdog groups and others to speculate that the private investigators and researchers who worked for the special counsel’s office might have included Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS, the private research firm that hired Steele to produce the Russia collusion dossier for the Clinton campaign. U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the report should be renamed “The Mueller Dossier,” because he says it contains a lot of similar innuendo. Even though Mueller failed to corroborate key allegations leveled in the dossier, Nunes said his report twists key facts to put a collusion gloss on events.

He also asserted that it selectively quotes from Trump campaign emails and omits exculpatory information in ways that cast the campaign’s activities in the most sinister light. Steele’s 17-memo dossier alleged that the Trump campaign was involved in “a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” with the Russian government to rig the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. It claimed this conspiracy “was managed on the Trump side by Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, who was using foreign policy adviser Carter Page and others as intermediaries.” Specifically, the dossier accused Page of secretly meeting with Kremlin officials in July 2016 to hatch a plot to release dirt on Hillary Clinton. And it accused Manafort of being corrupted by Russian President Vladimir Putin through his puppets in the Ukraine.

Likewise, Mueller’s report focuses on Manafort and Page and whether they “committed crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.” [..] Mueller’s team worked closely with dossier author Steele, a long-retired British intelligence officer who worked for the Clinton campaign. Mueller’s investigators went to London to consult with Steele for at least two days in September 2017 while apparently using his dossier as an investigative road map and central theory to his collusion case. Steele now runs a private research and consulting firm in London, Orbis Business Intelligence. It’s not clear if Mueller’s office paid Steele, but recently released FBI records show the bureau previously made a number of payments to him, and at one point during the 2016 campaign offered him $50,000 to continue his dossier research. Steele was also paid through the Clinton campaign, earning $168,000 for his work on the dossier.

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“Oh, and that would be the Persian Gulf for those wondering, not the Gulf of Tonkin..”

US Accuses Iran Of Attack On Saudi Tankers (ZH)

Update: Just as everyone with half a frontal lobe had expected, the WSJ reported late on Monday that according to an initial U.S. assessment, “Iran was likely behind the attack” on the two Saudi Arabian oil tankers and two other vessels damaged over the weekend near the Strait of Hormuz, a U.S. official said, a finding that, whether confirmed or not, will certainly inflame military tensions in the Gulf and likely result in a global proxy war that drags in the US, China and Russia. Oh, and that would be the Persian Gulf for those wondering, not the Gulf of Tonkin, which is where another famous False Flag naval incident occurred. Furthermore, as we predicted would happen on Sunday, this “official assessment”, was the first suggestion by any nation that Iran was responsible for the attack and follows a series of U.S. warnings against “aggression” by Iran or its allies and proxies against military or commercial vessels in the region.

Some more details from the WSJ: “The U.S. official, who declined to be identified, didn’t offer details about what led to the assessment or its implications for a possible U.S. response. The U.S. has said in the past week that it was sending an aircraft carrier, an amphibious assault ship, a bomber task force and an antimissile system to the region after it alleged intelligence showed Iran posed a threat to its troops. “If they do anything, they will suffer greatly. We’ll see what happens with Iran,” President Trump said while meeting with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the White House earlier on Monday.”

The assessment, predictable from a mile away, squares perfectly with CIA veteran Mike Pompeo’s warning from just two days before the alleged attack, in which he said that “The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against US interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive US response,” the US Secretary of State wrote in a statement warning that Iran should not mistake US “restraint” for a “lack of resolve,” and criticizing Iran for “an escalating series of threatening actions and statements in recent weeks.”

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There was a preliminary investigation. The case was closed three times. The word “rape” never came up until propaganda started.

Sweden is a country full of very sick people. I haven’t seen even one raise their voice. Avoid Sweden. Don’t buy IKEA.

Sweden Wants To Extradite Assange Over Rape Allegation (R.)

Sweden reopened an investigation into a rape allegation against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday and will seek to extradite him from Britain, a potential setback to efforts by the United States to put him on trial over a huge release of secret documents. Deputy Chief Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson told a news conference in Stockholm she would continue a preliminary investigation that was dropped in 2017 without charges being brought after Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Assange, who denies the accusation, was arrested in Britain last month after spending seven years hiding inside the embassy.


The Swedish prosecutor said she would request Assange be detained in his absence on probable cause for an allegation of rape and that her office would issue a European arrest warrant – the start of the extradition process. The United States is also seeking to extradite him on conspiracy charges relating to the public release by Wikileaks of a cache of secret documents, including assessments of foreign leaders, wars and security matters. The British courts will have to rule on the two extradition requests, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid having the final say on which one takes precedence. “I am well aware of the fact that an extradition process is ongoing in the UK and that he could be extradited to the US,” Persson said.

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Yes, true. But is it all about anger? Or is the anger merely a substitute for identity and belonging?

Lewinsky Scandal Beginning Of The End Of American Journalism – Taibbi (SHTF)

In a new “On Contact” episode, host Chris Hedges and Taibbi dive into the roots of the decay of journalism in the United States, which preys on prejudices and fear while pitting people against each other and paving the way for demagogues. According to RT, Taibbi says this all started back when Bill Clinton was president. From Monica Lewinski to Hillary Clinton, the coverage of major news stories by the U.S. media has grown increasingly strident, with cable channels no longer trying to project a picture of objectivity but “selling a story that makes people angry,” Taibbi, an award-winning journalist, and author says. Taibbi says that the result of this journalistic decay and emotional fear mongering is a public addicted to hating each other.


Americans have become addicted to the news that agrees with their bias, and it was set up that way on purpose. The only thing anyone will hear when they turn on the news are stories specifically crafted to manufacture outrage, make you hate the other side, and fuel the addiction to anger. Taibbi is the author of Hate Inc: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another. “In this characteristically turbocharged new book, Matt Taibbi provides an insider’s guide to the variety of ways today’s mainstream media tells us lies. Part tirade, part confessional, it reveals that what most people think of as “the news” is, in fact, a twisted wing of the entertainment business. “Heading into a 2020 election season that promises to be a Great Giza Pyramid Complex of invective and digital ugliness, Hate Inc. will be an invaluable antidote to the hidden poisons dished up by those we rely on to tell us what is happening in the world.” –Hate Inc. description, Amazon

If video doesn’t show properly, please go to the Automatic Earth site

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“..CNN is stuck in a vicious cycle; criticized for focusing too much on negative Trump stories, yet not being able to stop for fear of losing more viewers.”

The moment CNN is labeled “left” is where insanity takes off.

The CNN Search Engine? Google Favors Stories From Liberal News Sites (RT)

Researchers from Northwestern University performed an “algorithm audit” of the ‘Google Top Stories’ box, which is a major driver of traffic to news publishers and therefore prime online real estate. They examined results for nearly 200 searches relating to news events for one month in late 2017 and found “a left-leaning ideological skew.” The researchers did allow some leeway for Google to defend itself, however, saying that while the left-leaning bias was detected, it is possible that the dominance of particular sources is a result of “successful strategic behavior” by those sources to achieve “algorithmic recognizability” — but whatever the reason, liberal sources still far eclipsed conservatives ones.

CNN, perhaps the outlet most-reviled by conservatives, was Google’s overall favorite source. Of the 6,302 articles appearing on Google’s ‘top stories’ during the month in focus, more than 10 percent came from CNN. The New York Times and Washington Post were up next, garnering 6.5 and 5.6 percent of the results, respectively. Fox News, the most mainstream right-wing outlet, was the source for only 3 percent of stories appearing in the top box. Then it was back to liberal outlets, with the BBC, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, Politico and ABC News filling out the rest of the top 10. Overall, 62.4 percent of the most common sources were left-leaning, while only 11.3 perfect were said to be right-leaning.

Ironically, despite the heavy promotion from Google in the online realm, CNN’s overall audience declined by a colossal 26 percent in April compared to a year earlier — and network boss Jeff Zucker admitted last November that CNN’s audience just “goes away” any time the channel switches from its (overwhelmingly negative) coverage of President Donald Trump to other topics. So it seems CNN is stuck in a vicious cycle; criticized for focusing too much on negative Trump stories, yet not being able to stop for fear of losing more viewers. Perhaps an even more damning indictment than Google’s detected liberal bias, however, is that nearly all (86 percent) of the stories promoted by the search giant came from just 20 sources across the entire internet, which doesn’t exactly display much of a commitment to diversity of information and opinion.

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“All that, to paraphrase the immortal words of Mr. Dylan, balances like a mattress on a bottle of wine.”

The Trend is Not Your Friend (Jim Kunstler)

By the mid-1980s, the non-OPEC world was once again swimming in oil from the last great bonanzas of the oil age: The Alaska North Slope and the North Sea. Twenty years later, they were running down. Meanwhile, the USA had fecklessly “offshored” its factories in the mistaken belief that we had entered a shimmering new digital economy of virtual business were nobody had to make real stuff. China became the world’s workshop and the USA became the world’s financial bucket-shop, churning out endless swindles and frauds. The predictable result was the financial crisis of 2008, which coincided with oil prices rising to over $140-a-barrel (and six months later they crashed, with the economy, to under $30-a-barrel).

The “recovery” from that was based on Wall Street’s premier swindle: the shale oil “miracle,” based on high-risk lending to companies that couldn’t make a red cent even while accomplishing the majestic stunt of exceeding America’s old 1970 oil production peak of around 10 million barrels-a-day (now at around 12 million). Notice, too, that the final push to 12-million barrels occurred during the last two years: thus, Mr. Trump’s miracle economy. All that, to paraphrase the immortal words of Mr. Dylan, balances like a mattress on a bottle of wine.

The China-US trade impasse, if it stands for even a few months, will crash the US economy again and it will also crash the price of shale oil back to levels that destroy oil companies. You understand, of course, that the rise of shale oil was amazingly swift, ten years, and that its fall will be similarly fast and furious. The feds may have to either bail it out or nationalize the whole shootin’ match — and that will end up as just another rat-hole we pound sand into, along with our long-running campaign to build failed states overseas. Translation: not so good for the value of the US dollar.

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Sore losers.

US Police Raid Venezuelan Embassy To Evict Pro-Maduro Activists (RT)

Pro-Maduro activists occupying the Venezuelan embassy in Washington have refused to vacate the premises in defiance of a notice threatening them with arrest and police entering the building but stopping short of evicting everyone. “We are expecting the police to come in and violate the Vienna convention with their fictional government, nongovernment claiming that we should leave,” the Embassy Civilian Protection Collective said in a video message shortly before the police arrived at the doors of the diplomatic premises to the cheers of the pro-Guaido camp outside. At least four embassy ‘protectors’ have remained inside the building and could be seen through the windows – even after police entered and left, apparently stopping short of forcefully evicting everyone – for now.


Despite their resolve to defend the diplomatic mission from “illegal seizure” by Guaido-appointed US representative Carlos Vecchio, many of the activists have left the embassy – apparently tired of the siege and worried about the threat of arrest – after a notice, which was not signed by any US government agency, urged them to “depart immediately” from the building in which they have lived for the last 34 days. “The United States does not recognize the authority of the former Maduro regime or any of its former representatives to allow any individuals to lawfully enter, remain on this property, or take any action with respect to this property,” a notice taped to the door of the building earlier in the day read.

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The Guardian tries to make this about the finance sector. It is not.

Britain Risks Heading To US Levels Of Inequality – Angus Deaton (G.)

Rising inequality in Britain risks putting the country on the same path as the US to become one of the most unequal nations on earth, according to a Nobel-prize winning economist. Sir Angus Deaton is leading a landmark review of inequality in the UK amid fears that the country is at a tipping point due to a decade of stagnant pay growth for British workers. The Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank, which is working with Deaton on the study, said the British-born economist would “point to the risk of the UK following the US” which has extreme inequality levels in pay, wealth and health. Speaking to the Guardian at the launch of the study, he said: “There’s a real question about whether democratic capitalism is working, when it’s only working for part of the population.


“There are things where Britain is still doing a lot better [than the US]. What we have to do is to make sure the UK is inoculated from some of the horrors that have happened in the US.” His warning comes as analysis from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) showed that real wages in the finance sector had outstripped average salaries in the UK over the decade since the financial crisis. Earnings after inflation in the finance sector have grown by as much as £120 a week on average, compared with the average British worker still being about £17 a week worse off after taking account of rising living costs over the past decade. Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “It’s not right that pay is racing ahead in the City when most working people are still worse off than a decade ago.”

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Who cares anymore? Wait till she loses bigly in the EU elections in two weeks. Then nobody will care.

Theresa May Remains Opposed To Any Form Of Brexit Referendum (G.)

Downing Street has said the prime minister remains opposed to any form of referendum being attached to a Brexit deal, as the government prepares to enter its seventh week of talks with Labour to find a compromise. The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, and the deputy Labour leader, Tom Watson, have said a deal is unlikely to pass without a referendum as part of the package, with up to 150 of the party’s MPs prepared to vote against an agreement without one. Key figures from both sides including Starmer, John McDonnell and Rebecca Long-Bailey, as well as the chancellor, Philip Hammond, Theresa May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, and the environment secretary, Michael Gove, are set to meet again on Monday afternoon.


Downing Street said May had made clear her views about a second public vote: “She has said on many occasions that she is focused on delivering the result of the first referendum.” May’s spokesman declined to put a deadline on the talks but said the government was prepared to move on to a series of indicative votes in parliament if no resolution was possible. “If we were able to make progress with Labour then we would look to bring the bill before the House of Commons before the European elections,” he said. Both Labour and government sources have suggested the two sides will need to take stock on the likely progress of the talks this week, and the effectiveness of continuing discussions is likely to be discussed at cabinet on Tuesday morning.

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Scams “R” Us.

Uber & Lyft IPOs Turn into Colossal Flops (WS)

The Nasdaq composite dropped 3.4% today. In the six trading days since its peak on May 3 (8,164), it has dropped 6.3%, after a historic surge of 32% from December 24 through May 3. I mean, what did you expect? The index is now back where it had first been on June 6, 2018. Uber, which had sold its China operations and is no longer significantly tangled up in the US-China trade war, is morphing from the biggest, most hyped tech IPO in recent memory into the most colossal flop in recent memory. Shares plunged nearly 11% today to $37.10 a share. This left shares down 17.6% from its IPO price of $45, at which Uber had extracted another $8.1 billion from gullible investors. Prior investors are even deeper in the hole.


Uber extracted nearly $7 billion from institutional investors between December 2015 and February 2017 by selling them 140 million shares at $48.77 a share, over half of them to Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and these folks are now down nearly 24%. Shares of Softbank, which also holds a large stake in Uber, fell 5.5% today. Lyft dropped another 5.7% today, to a new closing low of $48.15. Lyft had been the trailblazer this year for the hottest most hyped IPOs. On March 28, Lyft priced the IPO shares at $72 and extracted at this price about $2.3 billion in new money from IPO investors. On March 29, the first day of trading, it took hours of machinations before shares finally started trading, with a heavily mediatized “pop” of 21%, at $87.24. Then, Lyft shares plunged 10% in 4 Hours from “pop” to close. Today, shares were down 45% from the pop.

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At what point are Bayer shareholders going to protest?

California Jury Awards Couple $2 Billion In Monsanto/Bayer Cancer Trial (RT)

A US jury has awarded $2 billion in punitive damages to a California couple after concluding that Roundup weed killer caused their cancer and that Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, failed to warn them of the chemical’s health risks. Glyphosate, the signature ingredient in Roundup, was found by jury in Alameda County Superior Court to be the cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in both Alva and Alberta Pilliod of Livermore. The couple has used the herbicide since the 1970s. In their ruling on Monday, the jury noted that American agrochemical giant Monsanto (now owned by Germany’s Bayer AG) failed to properly warn Roundup users about potential detrimental effects to their health.


Pointing out deliberate negligence by the company, the jury went on to award $18 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages to Alva Pilliod. His wife Alberta was awarded another $37 million in compensatory and $1 billion in punitive damages. The ruling marks the third time since August 2018 that a US jury has found glyphosate to be a cause of cancer. Thousands of lawsuits with similar claims have been filed against Monsanto, which was acquired by the German pharmaceutical giant last June.

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Bayer trying to clear its name. And the press just prints it, no questions asked.

Bayer Says Monsanto Likely Kept Files On Influential People Across Europe |(R.)

Bayer said on Monday its Monsanto unit, which is being investigated by French prosecutors for compiling files of influential people such as journalists in France, likely did the same across Europe, suggesting a potentially wider problem. French prosecutors said on Friday they had opened an inquiry after newspaper Le Monde filed a complaint alleging that Monsanto – acquired by Bayer for $63 billion last year – had kept a file of 200 names, including journalists and lawmakers in hopes of influencing positions on pesticides. On Sunday, Bayer acknowledged the existence of the files, saying it does not believe any laws were broken but that it will ask an external law firm to investigate.

“It’s safe to say that other countries in Europe were affected by lists … I assume that all EU member states could potentially be affected,” Matthias Berninger, Bayer’s head of public affairs and sustainability, told journalists on Monday. While he did not say there had any illegal activity and added it was up to the external law firm to evaluate the conduct, Berninger said there were signs Monsanto had not played fairly in the use of private data. “There have been a number of cases where – as they would say in football – not the ball was played but the man, or woman, was tackled,” Berninger, who joined Bayer in January, said on a conference call.

Bayer said in its initial statement on Sunday that “Currently, we have no indication that the preparation of the lists under discussion violated any legal provisions.” It added, “Bayer will ask an external law firm to investigate the project Monsanto commissioned and evaluate the allegations. The law firm will also inform all of the persons on the lists of the information collected about them”.

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The point of my article last week was that renewables don’t scale up the way people are told to believe. Not in Germany and not elsewhere.

German Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future (Spiegel)

The German government made a key mistake when it announced the end of the nuclear era in Germany eight years ago: It announced it was turning away from nuclear power, without simultaneously initiating the end of coal. Wind turbines and solar panels were installed across the country — but the coal-fired power plants kept operating. The government set up a clean energy system alongside the dirty one. But why? Because Berlin was afraid of do anything that might harm a single company or voter. Germany has never come up with a clear strategy for the shift to renewables, fully thought out from the beginning to end. There have always been two competing concepts of the Energiewende, even before Merkel.


Politicians like former Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, a Green Party politician who was part of the cabinet of the center-left Social Democratic (SPD) Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, were in favor of a radical shift, no matter what the cost. Others, like the SPD Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel and his successor Peter Altmaier, from Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), were more concerned about German industry and job numbers. Neither side trusted the other and a stalemate ensued. Progress halted. This helps explain why the government never dared set up an Energy Ministry that might have had the ability to move things forward, and instead divided up the project among the Chancellery, the Environment Ministry and the Economics Ministry.

It is an unholy trinity that has continually followed the same pattern: The Environment Ministry surges ahead, the Economics Ministry warns of dramatic job losses and the Chancellery avoids making a decision. The expansion of Germany’s electrical grid has suffered the most from this lack of political impetus. More than a decade ago, the German government passed a resolution to quickly build the necessary high-voltage transmission lines, with experts today saying there is a need for 7,700 kilometers (4,800 miles) of such lines. But only 950 have been built. And in 2017, only 30 kilometers of lines were built across the whole country. In Berlin, one can hear the wry observation that 30 kilometers is roughly the distance that a snail can travel in a year.

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“..the increase is increasing at an increasing rate!”

415.26 Parts Per Million: CO2 Levels Hit Historic High (AFP)

Scientists in the United States have detected the highest levels of planet-warming carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere since records began, sounding new alarm over the relentless rise of man-made greenhouse gas emissions..26 The Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, which has tracked atmospheric CO2 levels since the late 1950s, on Saturday morning detected 415.26 parts per million (ppm). It was also the first time on record that the observatory measured a daily baseline above 415 ppm. The last time Earth’s atmosphere contained this much CO2 was more than three million years ago, when global sea levels were several metres higher and parts of Antarctica were blanketed in forest.

“It shows that we are not on track with protecting the climate at all. The number keeps rising and it’s getting higher year after year,” Wolfgang Lucht, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), told AFP. “This number needs to stabilise.” But far from stabilising, levels of CO2 – one of a trinity of greenhouse gases produced when fossil fuels are burnt – are climbing ever more rapidly. Ralph Keeling, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s CO2 Programme, said the trend would probably continue throughout 2019 – likely to be an El Nino year in which temperatures rise due to warmer ocean currents. “The average growth rate is remaining on the high end. The increase from last year will probably be around three parts per million whereas the recent average has been 2.5 ppm,” he said. “Likely we’re seeing the effect of mild El Nino conditions on top of ongoing fossil fuel use.”

[..] “I’m old enough to remember when passing 400ppm was a big deal,” Gernot Wagner, a research associate at Harvard University, said on Twitter. “Two years ago we hit 410ppm for the first time. By now, it’s 415ppm. And oh, the increase is increasing at an increasing rate!”

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Feb 132019
 


Edouard Manet Osny, The road-menders, Rue de Berne 1878

 

America’s 1% Hasn’t Had This Much Wealth In 100 Years (MW)
Senate Has Found No Direct Evidence of Trump-Russia Conspiracy (NBC)
NBC Has A Hard Time Accepting There’s No Collusion (ZH)
Mitch McConnell To Force Senate Vote On Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal (CNBC)
For The Stock Market, A Trade-War Win May Be A Hollow Victory (MW)
Labour To Set Out Plans To Decarbonise UK, Fulfil Green Jobs Pledge (G.)
Mark Carney: Brexit Is The First Test Of A New Global Order (G.)
EU’s Verhofstadt Suggests Brexiteers Could ‘End Up On The Guillotine’ (Ind.)
Theresa May’s Brexit Tactic: My Way Or A Long Delay (G.)
Dark Money Is Pushing For A No-Deal Brexit. Who Is Behind It? (Monbiot)
Spanish PM May Call Snap Election If Budget Rejected (G.)
Australia Rate Cut Calls As Home Loans Fall At Fastest Rate Since GFC (SMH)
Chinese Banks Resist Maxing Out Credit Cards (R.)
China’s Private Firms Hit By Default Contagion (R.)
Russia Takes Steps To Survive Global Internet Shutdown With Its Own Web (RT)

 

 

My friend Jesse Colombo is right to point out the impact of imploding asset bubbles is the main takeaway. But I think even more than that, it’s who will be the main victims of that: those who have no assets. The losses will land on their shoulders.

America’s 1% Hasn’t Had This Much Wealth In 100 Years (MW)

It’s not fashionable to wear flapper dresses and do the Charleston, but 1920s-style wealth inequality is definitely back in style. New research says America’s ultra-rich haven’t held as much of the country’s wealth since the Jazz Age, those freewheeling times before the country’s finances shattered. “U.S. wealth concentration seems to have returned to levels last seen during the Roaring Twenties,” wrote Gabriel Zucman, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Zucman said all the research on the issue also points to large wealth concentrations in China and Russia in recent decades. The same thing is happening in France and the U.K., but at a “more moderate rise,” the paper said.

In 1929 — before Wall Street’s crash unleashed the Great Depression — the top 0.1% richest adults’ share of total household wealth was close to 25%, according to Zucman’s paper, which was distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Those rates plunged in the early 1930s and continued dropping to below 10% in the late 1970s, findings show. Rates have been on the rebound since the early 1980s, and are currently close to 20%. It’s become especially hard to measure the full extent of riches these days. “Since the 1980s, a large offshore wealth management industry has developed which makes some forms wealth (namely, financial portfolios) harder to capture,” the paper added.


MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto, Everett Collection

[..] Millions of Americans live paycheck to paycheck; the recent federal government’s partial government shutdown forced some federal workers to food pantries, and cast a harsh light on Americans’ lack of savings. Jesse Colombo says people should be more worried about issues other than the current gap between the rich and poor. “America’s wealth inequality is not a permanent situation, but a temporary one because the asset bubbles behind the wealth bubble are going to burst and cause a severe economic crisis,” he added. “My argument is that our society should be worrying more about these asset bubbles than the temporary inequality.” “What is the common denominator between U.S. wealth inequality during the Roaring Twenties and now?” he said. “A massive stock market bubble.”

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The inevitable fall-out of a press that no longer reports the news, but manufactures it.

Senate Has Found No Direct Evidence of Trump-Russia Conspiracy (NBC)

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the 2016 election has uncovered no direct evidence of the Trump campaign conspiring with Russia, Democrats and Republicans on the committee told NBC News. But different parties’ investigators in the probe, which is winding down, disagree over the implications of a pattern of contacts between Trump associates and Russians. Last week, Sen. Richard Burr, the panel’s Republican chairman, told CBS News that, while more facts may be uncovered, “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.” Democratic Senate investigators told NBC News on condition of anonymity that Burr’s characterizations, while accurate, lacked context. One aide said, “We were never going find a contract signed in blood saying, ‘Hey Vlad, we’re going to collude.'”

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For MS(NBC), Russigate has been a major investment. And they’re still trying to squeak past it by saying an official report will take many more months etc., but it’s done as far as the Senate is concerned. And Mueller has given zero indication of having anything collusion-related.

NBC Has A Hard Time Accepting There’s No Collusion (ZH)

We knew this day was coming, but watching an MSNBC anchor and guest pundits squirm during a live Tuesday morning update in which NBC News intelligence and national security correspondent, Ken Dilanian, read aloud that the Senate Intelligence Committee admits it has found “no direct evidence” of collusion between President Trump and Russia, is a segment that itself perhaps belongs to the history books. Mediaite described of the “stunned” MSNBC host’s demeanor: “The report met surprise first, then skepticism, with Jackson and her guests.” They awkwardly and visibly try to make sense of hard and unambiguous reporting that runs contrary to everything being parroted in the MSNBC echo chamber over the past 2 years.

To drive home the explosive significance of the findings, Dilanian noted just how long the ‘collusion’ incessant drumbeat has lasted: “After two years and interviewing more than 200 witnesses, the Senate intelligence Committee has not uncovered any direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia,” said Dilanian. “That’s according to sources on both the Republican and the Democratic side of the aisle.” And in a prior NBC News article Tuesday morning, Dilanian spelled out: “After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.”

MSNBC anchor Hallie Jackson and her guest panelists’ faces looked visibly confused and uncomfortable as they learned the Senate report is going in the opposite direction of everything MSNBC and other mainstream outlets have been breathlessly reporting on a near 24/7 basis. More importantly, if this is a precursor of what the Mueller report concludes in a few weeks/months, the TV station that built its current reputation on the premise of Russian collusion, may have no option but to go on indefinite hiatus. Watch the segment above, with host Hallie Jackson appearing to grow exasperated by the 2:20 mark:“If and when the president, as he may inevitably do, points to these conclusions and says look, the Senate intelligence committee found I am not guilty of conspiracy… he would be correct in saying that?”

Dilanian noted that while the Republican chair of the committee made what he characterized as “partisan” comments the week prior, it turned out be unanimous fact. “What I found,” he said, “is that Democrats don’t dispute that characterization.” [..] Dilanian also noted the Senate intel committee has access to classified material, which means “if there was an intercept between officers suggesting they were conspiring with the Trump campaign, [the committee] would see that. And that has not emerged.” “So that evidence does not exist, and Trump will claim vindication,” he repeated.

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McConnell thinks it’s best to be fast in voting it down, before there’s more detailed discussion, for instance about which parts could work and which don’t. He’s probably right.

Mitch McConnell To Force Senate Vote On Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal (CNBC)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the Senate would vote on the Green New Deal introduced last week by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. “I’ve noted with great interest the Green New Deal, and we’re going to be voting on that in the Senate to give everybody an opportunity to go on record,” McConnell told reporters. The bill, which is not expected to pass the Republican-dominated upper chamber, could force some Democrats to make a politically awkward calculation. Democratic liberals, including all of the senators currently running for president, have come out in support of the legislation, which calls for generating 100% of the nation’s power from renewable sources within 10 years. Scientists have said that dramatic, immediate action is necessary to stem the catastrophic effects of climate change.

Democratic moderates have been less than enthusiastic about the proposal. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi derisively referred to the House version of the bill as a “green dream,” while only 11 of the 47 senators who caucus with the Democrats have signed on to sponsor the bill. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is widely expected to enter into the 2020 race, has declined to say whether he supports the proposal. “I’m not going to take position on every bill that’s coming out,” he said Tuesday, according to Politico. “I support a Green New Deal. I think we need to aggressively support climate change [legislation]. That’s my answer.” Republicans control the Senate, with 53 members of the 100-seat chamber. Democrats control the House of Representatives, but it is not clear if the House will vote on the measure under Pelosi’s leadership.

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Stocks are up when the deficit is up.

For The Stock Market, A Trade-War Win May Be A Hollow Victory (MW)

Sometimes losing can pay dividends in unexpected ways, and that seems particularly true in the case of stocks and trade. For the past five decades, the U.S. stock market has comparatively outperformed when the trade deficit widened and vice versa, suggesting that even if the U.S. emerges victorious from its trade war with China, investors may have few reasons to rejoice. At face value, it may seem counterintuitive, but for the U.S., which relies on trade to fuel its economic juggernaut, a deficit can actually be a sign that all is well. “Since at least 1970, U.S. stocks have done best when its trade deficit worsens,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Group, who explained that if imports rise, it indicates that domestic consumption is healthy.

“And if exports go up, it means foreign demand is strong. So when we have a trade deficit, it means the U.S. is doing better,” he said. A trade balance is the difference between how much a country sells and buys from abroad, and a deficit is often viewed as a negative, chiefly as it means a country is spending more than it is making. But as the chart below demonstrates, U.S. stocks vis-a-vis foreign equities have done quite well notwithstanding all the depressing headlines over the years about how the rest of the world is taking advantage of the U.S.

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And Labour wants part of the Green New Deal fame too. But what do any of these people really know about physics, about energy? It all still looks like a typical dumb politics approach: we’ll get rich while going green, promise!

Labour To Set Out Plans To Decarbonise UK, Fulfil Green Jobs Pledge (G.)

Labour is to set out how the UK can move swiftly to a decarbonised future to tackle the unfolding climate crisis and put “meat on the bones” of its promise to create hundreds of thousands of high-skilled, unionised green jobs. Trade unionists and industry leaders will come together with academics, engineers and public institutions to build detailed regional plans setting out the challenges and opportunities ahead. The proposal, due to be outlined on Wednesday by Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business secretary, will involve a national call for evidence and a series of regional events to build “a detailed action plan” to maximise the benefits of moving to a zero-carbon future.

“A decade of austerity and decades of neoliberalism have left many in our country asking: what is Britain for?” Long-Bailey told the Guardian. “This has been brought into focus by the government’s handling of Brexit, which is at its core deeply pessimistic, with nothing to say about the future.” She said a future Labour government would oversee an economic revolution to tackle the climate crisis, using the full power of the state to decarbonise the economy and create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in struggling towns and cities across the UK. “We believe that together, we can transform the UK through a green jobs revolution, tackling the environmental crisis in a way that brings hope and prosperity back to parts of the UK that have been held back for too long.”

[..] Long-Bailey said Labour was determined to move beyond rhetoric about a green revolution and work out exactly how that could be achieved, and how it could translate to new well-paid, unionised jobs across the UK. “We’re launching an unprecedented call for evidence about what this means for your town, your city, your region,” she said. “We want to bring unions, industry, universities, the public sector and others together to build this vision out into a practical reality.” Labour says a key plank of its plan will be to ensure a “just transition” to high quality green jobs for those currently working in carbon-emitting industries. To do that it will have to persuade its trade union backers, who represent people in high-carbon industries, that there is a viable economic alternative.

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More liberalism! No matter that it played a big role in Britons voting for Brexit. These people are one-dimensional.

Mark Carney: Brexit Is The First Test Of A New Global Order (G.)

Brexit is an acid test of whether it is possible to reshape globalisation in a way that offers the benefits of trade while allaying public fears about the erosion of democracy, the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said. Speaking in London, Carney said the ramifications of the UK’s departure from the EU would be felt around the world and would determine whether it was possible to shrug off rising protectionism in favour of a new era of international cooperation. The governor cited trade tensions and the result of the 2016 referendum as examples of fundamental pressures to reorder globalisation. “It is possible that new rules of the road will be developed for a more inclusive and resilient global economy. At the same time, there is a risk that countries turn inwards, undercutting growth and prosperity for all.”

Carney’s recent comments about Brexit have highlighted the short-term risks to the economy of leaving the EU next month without an agreement in place, but he used his speech on the state of the global economy to provide a more upbeat assessment. “In many respects, Brexit is the first test of a new global order and could prove the acid test of whether a way can be found to broaden the benefits of openness while enhancing democratic accountability,” he said, speaking at a Financial Times event in London. “Brexit can lead to a new form of international cooperation and cross-border commerce built on a better balance of local and supranational authorities. In these respects, Brexit could affect both the short and long-term global outlooks.”

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Just trying to make friends, I guess. Best of all, he has no idea it could just as well be him on that guillotine.

EU’s Verhofstadt Suggests Brexiteers Could ‘End Up On The Guillotine’ (Ind.)

The politicians pushing Brexit should be careful not follow in the footsteps of revolutionary leaders who “ended up on the guillotine”, the European Parliament’s Brexit chief has said. At a press conference in Strasbourg Guy Verhofstadt compared Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg to Georges Danton and Maximilien Robespierre – leading figures in the French revolution who were ultimately executed by their former comrades. He said it was “important to remind” the senior Conservatives that their historical counterparts had ended up losing their heads.

“I know that within the Tory party the hard Brexiteers are compared to the leaders of the French revolution. I think Gove is Brissot, and Boris Johnson is Danton, and Rees-Mogg is compared to Robespierre,” Mr Verhofstadt said. “We should not forget that the efforts of these men were not appreciated by the common man they claimed to represent – because they all ended up on the guillotine. So that’s important to remind [them].” His comments come a week after European Council president Donald Tusk caused a story in the UK by saying there was a “special place in hell” for Brexiteers who had advocated leaving the EU without a serious plan of how to do it.

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44 days.

Theresa May’s Brexit Tactic: My Way Or A Long Delay (G.)

Theresa May’s high-stakes Brexit strategy may have been accidentally revealed after her chief negotiator Olly Robbins was overheard in a Brussels bar saying MPs will be given a last-minute choice between her deal and a lengthy delay. The prime minister has repeatedly insisted that the government intends to leave the EU as planned on 29 March, and urged MPs to “hold our nerve”, while she tries to renegotiate changes to the Irish backstop. “So our work continues,” she told MPs on Tuesday. “Having secured an agreement with the European Union for further talks, we now need some time to complete that process. The talks are at a crucial stage. We now all need to hold our nerve to get the changes this house requires and deliver Brexit on time.”

But Robbins, the most senior civil servant involved in the Brexit process, was overheard by a reporter from ITV, holding a late-night conversation in which he appeared to suggest she would wait until March – and then give MPs the choice between backing her, or accepting a long extension to article 50. According to the broadcaster, Robbins said the government had “got to make them believe that the week beginning end of March … extension is possible, but if they don’t vote for the deal then the extension is a long one.” The tactic appears to be aimed squarely at members of the backbench Tory European Research Group (ERG), who may fear Brexit could ultimately be cancelled altogether, if MPs accept a delay.

“The issue is whether Brussels is clear on the terms of extension,” Robbins was overheard saying. “In the end they will probably just give us an extension.” On the backstop, Robbins appeared to confirm that the government’s initial plan was for the backstop, which effectively keeps the UK in a customs union, to form a temporary “bridge” to the long-term trading relationship. “The big clash all along is the ‘safety net’,” Robbins said. “We agreed a bridge but it came out as a ‘safety net’.”

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I don’t think Monbiot should be writing about this, not his field. But nobody else does, either, and the issue will re-appear very very bigly if Brexit becomes reality.

Dark Money Is Pushing For A No-Deal Brexit. Who Is Behind It? (Monbiot)

In Britain, for example, we now know that the EU referendum was won with the help of widespread cheating. We still don’t know the origins of much of the money spent by the leave campaigns. For example, we have no idea who provided the £435,000 channelled through Scotland, into Northern Ireland, through the coffers of the Democratic Unionist party and back into Scotland and England, to pay for pro-Brexit ads. Nor do we know the original source of the £8m that Arron Banks delivered to the Leave.EU campaign. We do know that both of the main leave campaigns have been fined for illegal activities, and that the conduct of the referendum has damaged many people’s faith in the political system.

But, astonishingly, the government has so far failed to introduce a single new law in response to these events. And now it’s happening again. Since mid-January an organisation called Britain’s Future has spent £125,000 on Facebook ads demanding a hard or no-deal Brexit. Most of them target particular constituencies. Where an MP is deemed sympathetic to the organisation’s aims, the voters who receive these ads are urged to tell him or her to “remove the backstop, rule out a customs union, deliver Brexit without delay”. Where the MP is deemed unsympathetic, the message is: “Don’t let them steal Brexit; Don’t let them ignore your vote.”

So who or what is Britain’s Future? Sorry, I have no idea. As openDemocracy points out, it has no published address and releases no information about who founded it, who controls it and who has been paying for these advertisements. The only person publicly associated with it is a journalist called Tim Dawson, who edits its website. Dawson has not yet replied to the questions I have sent him. It is, in other words, highly opaque. The anti-Brexit campaigns are not much better. People’s Vote and Best for Britain have also been spending heavily on Facebook ads, though not as much in recent weeks as Britain’s Future.

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He has 84 of the 350 seats in congress… And is propped up by the Catalans.

Spanish PM May Call Snap Election If Budget Rejected (G.)

Spain’s socialist government could be forced to call a snap general election if rightwing parties and Catalan secessionists make good on their threats to reject the national budget in a key vote on Wednesday. The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, faces an uphill battle to secure approval for the budget in the face of opposition from critics of his minority government. Sánchez’s PSOE, which holds 84 of the 350 seats in congress, relied on the support of Basque and Catalan nationalist parties to seize power from the conservative People’s party in a confidence vote last year. If, as seems likely, the budget is rejected by rightwing parties as well as the Catalan Republican Left and the Catalan European Democratic party, Sánchez is expected to call a snap general election in April or May.

The next general election is due to be held next year. The prime minister had been banking on the fact that the prospect of an early election – and a possible win for rightwing parties that fiercely oppose Catalan secession – would make the two big Catalan pro-independence parties swing behind the budget. But, speaking to the Guardian and other European media, the Catalan leader, Quim Torra, said the secessionist groupings would not be forced into supporting Sánchez’s budget plans. “Are we meant to approve the budget because we’re afraid of the Spanish right?” said Torra. “Mr Sánchez can obviously decide to call elections whenever he wants – he’s the prime minister. But why would he make dialogue conditional on approving the budget?

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I wouldn’t be surprised if Australia were the first to fall into crisis. It hasn’t had a recession in I think 27 years, and that is like saying a homeowner hasn’t done a proper spring cleaning in decades.

Australia Rate Cut Calls As Home Loans Fall At Fastest Rate Since GFC (SMH)

The sharpest fall in home loans since the depths of the global financial crisis has prompted calls for the Reserve Bank to slice interest rates and cast doubt over the state of the budget leading into the federal election. As the NAB said the Reserve may have to cut rates within months, figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed first time buyers and investors deserting the property market in a sign house prices may fall even further. Home loans in December fell by 5.9%. It was the second largest monthly fall since 2008-09 while the annual fall of 19.8% was the worst since the global financial crisis.

Investor loans have tumbled 28% over the past year while those for owner-occupiers have slumped by 16%. Since their peak in mid-2015, investor lending has dropped by almost 48%. First home buyers have been a key part of the market over the past year as they have taken advantage of falling prices but even they are now resisting the chance to enter the market. The number of loans to first time buyers fell 8% in the month to be 12% lower over the past year. NSW and Victoria are leading down the national market with sharp falls in total loan numbers through 2018. It’s not just housing. Business loans dropped by 9.7% in December to be 6.2% lower over the year.

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China and borrowing, not a happy marriage: “recovery rates, sometimes estimated at below 16% ..”

Chinese Banks Resist Maxing Out Credit Cards (R.)

Chinese banks are wise to resist maxing out their credit cards. Lenders have issued hundreds of millions of them to local consumers, facilitating debt-fuelled shopping sprees. It’s a lucrative but risky supplement to other types of loans, and some now appear to be pulling back. Banks in the People’s Republic issued more than 650 million credit cards as of the third quarter of 2018, up from less than 450 million three years earlier, official data show. Balances payable on cards reached 6.6 trillion yuan ($980 billion), an increase of more than 120% over the same period. Lenders are keen on the business. There’s a big opportunity for growth given relatively low penetration: the average Chinese individual has only half of a credit card, whereas the average American has three.

Plastic can be profitable, too, yielding higher interest rates and fees than typical corporate loans. That boosts net interest margins. Yet a reassessment may be underway, according to analysts at Citi Research. At Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, for instance, credit card lending made up 35% of total new loans in 2017. In the first half of 2018, that figure collapsed to negative 5%. It’s a similar story at China Merchants Bank and other lenders covered by the analysts – although some are still aiming at rapid growth, including Ping An Bank and Postal Savings Bank of China. Household credit stood at around half of GDP by the middle of last year, up from 18% a decade earlier, according to the Bank for International Settlements. Fitch Ratings projects household debt might reach 100% of disposable income by 2020, just below the 105% ratio in the US.

The current economic slowdown could make bankers’ affection for plastic look rash. Individuals tend to default on card debt first, and chasing after them in court is time-consuming, while recovery rates, sometimes estimated at below 16%, compare poorly with between 50% to 60% for corporate borrowers.

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Firms guaranteeing each other’s debt. Never seen a bigger Ponzi. Click the pic for a much larger version. It’s brilliant insanity very strongly bordering on fraud.

China’s Private Firms Hit By Default Contagion (R.)

The collapse in China of a complex web of debt guarantees involving several private firms highlights risks in its financial system and opens up a potentially hazardous front for an economy in the grip of its slowest growth in nearly three decades. It is the last thing Beijing needs as it tries to fight off intensifying pressure on growth from a months-long trade dispute with the United States. Yet, as the government steps up economic support measures and moves to loosen gummed-up funding, it might be inadvertently inflaming financial risks with its call on state banks to sharply boost lending to the private sector.

The warning bells are already sounding in the once-prosperous eastern city of Dongying, a hub for oil refining and heavy industry in Shandong province. Here, at least 28 private companies are seeking to restructure their debts and avoid bankruptcy, mainly due to souring loans that they guaranteed for other firms, court rulings seen by Reuters show. Among the 28 firms are Shandong Dahai Group and Shandong Jinmao Textile Chemical Group, which were on the 2018 top 500 best-run private enterprises in China. For a private firm to get bank loans in China, especially those in traditional, capital-intensive industries, it often needs substantial collateral or the guarantee of another company. The guarantor itself is very likely to have taken on loans guaranteed by other firms.

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Wonder how many other countries are protecting themselves this way.

Russia Takes Steps To Survive Global Internet Shutdown With Its Own Web (RT)

Russia is preparing itself to be disconnected from the World Wide Web. The Lower House of Parliament passed in the first reading a law ensuring the security of the Russian part of the internet. The bill envisions the ‘Runet’ – the Russian segment of the internet – being able to operate independently from the rest of the world in case of global malfunctions or deliberate internet disconnection. The measures to ensure internet stability include the creation of a national DNS system that stores all of the domain names and corresponding IP numbers. The new legislation was drafted in response to the new US cyber strategy that accuses Russia, along with China, Iran, and North Korea, of using cyber tools to “undermine” its economy and democracy.

It also threatens dire consequences for anyone conducting cyber activity against the US. The autonomous system would ensure that Russia doesn’t face a total internet shutdown if relations with the West completely collapse and the US goes as far as cutting off Russian IP addresses from the World Wide Web. Back in 2012, then-US President Barack Obama signed an executive order allowing him to take control of all communications on American soil, including those crucial for the normal operation of the internet. The US National Security Agency actually caused a three-day internet blackout in Syria in November 2012, whistleblower Edward Snowden told Wired magazine. NSA hackers accidently ‘bricked’ one of the core routers while trying to install spyware on it.

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Jan 212019
 


Martin Luther King, Jr. following his 1963 arrest in Birmingham

 

 

Rebranding MLK (Fikre)
A Call to Reinvestigate American Assassinations of the 1960s (CN)
The Number Of Births In China Hit Its Lowest Level Since 1961 (CNBC)
China Economic Growth Lowest In 28 Years (MW)
China Real Estate Sales Growth Slows Down (R.)
Theresa May ‘Considers Amending Good Friday Agreement’ To Break Deadlock (Ind.)
May Tries To Break Brexit Deadlock By Winning More EU Concessions (R.)
No Solutions To Irish Backstop In May’s Brexit Call With Cabinet (G.)
Bizarre Turn Of Events Could Push May’s Brexit Deal Through After All (Ind.)
Clashes in Athens Over Neighbour’s Name Change (BBC)
World’s 26 Richest People Own As Much As Poorest 3.8 Billion (G.)

 

 

Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He’s been dead long enough that everyone feels safe, if not entitled to, appropriating his name and celebration. But who in America today truly lives up to his legacy and message? Not many. The screwed up scenes at a high school, and the way media and individuals react to it, make that abundantly clear. There are many voices calling for serious harm to, if not murder of, a group of schoolchildren, voices who will in their very next breath seek to take possession of Dr. King’s name.

It’s time for all Americans, and not just Americans either, to find a nice bright mirror and face the beams in their own eyes. All sides focus on promoting hate of the others, and really, that is the opposite of what Dr. King said. How could you forget? You don’t solve anything be demanding other people change, you solve things only by changing yourself. You have no more right to hate Trump and his supporters than they have of hating you, or anyone else.

MLK: “a slogan ‘Power for Poor People’ would be much more appropriate than the slogan ‘Black Power.’”

Rebranding MLK (Fikre)

Lost in the chorus of politicians, pundits and media personalities who are praising MLK is the core message that he was pushing before he was felled on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. King evolved in his thinking; instead of seeking Civil Rights for “African-Americans”, he made the fatal decision to fight for economic justice for all. King realized that the infringements against “black” folks in America were interconnected to the injustices felt by marginalized people throughout the world. That awakening is the reason he traveled to Memphis, by standing up for striking sanitation workers, he was hoping to form a bridge between poor folks irrespective of their skin color.

The establishment love people who lead sectional movements—those who seek exclusive justice are doing the work of the status quo—what they will not abide are those who try to unify the oppressed and inspire collective actions. King paid with his life for having the courage to pursue inclusive justice. After he was murdered, institutions of power—from government, academia to mainstream media and beyond—kicked in, stealthy erased King’s legacy and replaced it with disinformation. What has taken place over the past fifty years is a systematic and coordinated effort to blacken his narrative and dilute the power of his message. What MLK fought for, and ultimately died on behalf of, was for equality and fairness for all. By narrowing the scope of his cause and containing his sacrifice to only as a struggle for “black” people, opinion leaders successfully ghettoized him in an effort to lessen his appeal to a broader constituency.

[..] “One unfortunate thing about [the slogan] Black Power is that it gives priority to race precisely at a time when the impact of automation and other forces have made the economic question fundamental for blacks and whites alike. In this context a slogan ‘Power for Poor People’ would be much more appropriate than the slogan ‘Black Power.’” This was a quote from King in August of 1967, eight months before he was executed.

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All for it. But who’s impartial and strong enough to do it?

A Call to Reinvestigate American Assassinations of the 1960s (CN)

To mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day a group of academics, journalists, lawyers, Hollywood artists, activists, researchers and intellectuals, including two of Robert F. Kennedy’s children, are calling for new investigations into four assassinations of the 1960s. On the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a group of over 60 prominent American citizens is calling upon Congress to reopen the investigations into the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

* We call upon Congress to establish continuing oversight on the release of government documents related to the presidency and assassination of President John F. Kennedy, to ensure public transparency as mandated by the JFK Records Collection Act of 1992. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform should hold hearings on the Trump administration’s failure to enforce the JFK Records Act.

* We call for a major public inquest on the four major assassinations of the 1960s that together had a disastrous impact on the course of American history: the murders of John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. This public tribunal, shining a light on this dark chapter of our history, will be modeled on the Truth and Reconciliation process in post-apartheid South Africa. The inquest — which will hear testimony from living witnesses, legal experts, investigative journalists, historians and family members of the victims — is intended to show the need for Congress or the Justice Department to reopen investigations into all four assassinations.

* On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we call for a full investigation of Reverend King’s assassination. The conviction of James Earl Ray for the crime has steadily lost credibility over the years, with a 1999 civil trial brought by Reverend King’s family placing blame on government agencies and organized crime elements. Following the verdict, Coretta Scott King, the slain leader’s widow, stated: “There is abundant evidence of a major, high-level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband.” The jury in the Memphis trial determined that various federal, state and local agencies “were deeply involved in the assassination … Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.” Reverend King’s assassination was the culmination of years of mounting surveillance and harassment directed at the human rights leader by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and other agencies.

* We call for a full investigation of the Robert F. Kennedy assassination case, the prosecution of which was a mockery of a trial that has been demolished by numerous eyewitnesses, investigators and experts — including former Los Angeles County Coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi, who performed the official autopsy on Senator Kennedy. The forensic evidence alone establishes that the shots fired by Sirhan Sirhan from in front of Senator Kennedy did not kill him; the fatal shot that struck RFK in the head was fired at point–blank range from the rear. Consequently, the case should be reopened for a new comprehensive investigation while there are still living witnesses — as there are in all four assassination cases.

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I looked this one up: Chinese population in 1961 was about 670 million. Today it’s more than twice that. That would seem to say birth rates have halved.

The Number Of Births In China Hit Its Lowest Level Since 1961 (CNBC)

The number of babies born in China in 2018 was the lowest the country has seen in nearly 60 years, according to Chinese financial services firm Wind Information. China on Monday reported that there were 15.23 million births last year — the lowest since 1961 when 11.87 million births were reported, data on Wind showed. Last year’s birth figure was 11.6 percent lower than 17.23 million in 2017, according to Wind. The release of China’s latest birth data puts the country’s population at 1.395 billion in 2018, the Associated Press reported, citing data by the National Bureau of Statistics. That means the population grew 3.81 percent compared to a year earlier, according to the news wire. AP also reported that the Chinese government estimated that its population will peak in 2029 at 1.442 billion, and then start to decline in the year after that.

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And that’s just official numbers. Economics professor Xiang Songzuo put it as low as 1.67% in December.

China Economic Growth Lowest In 28 Years (MW)

China’s economic expansion languished to its slowest pace in nearly three decades last year, as a bruising trade fight with the U.S. exacerbated weakness in the world’s second-largest economy. The 6.6% growth rate for 2018 reported Monday is the slowest annual pace that China has recorded since 1990. The economic downturn, which has been sharper than Beijing expected, deepened in the final months of 2018, with fourth quarter growth rising 6.4% from a year earlier. Adding to the gloom was the trade conflict with Washington. The uncertain outlook for Chinese exporters caused companies to delay investing and hiring and in some cases even to resort to layoffs–a practice that is often discouraged by China’s stability-obsessed Communist Party rulers. The official jobless rate ticked up to 4.9% last month from 4.8% in November.

In the southern technology and export-manufacturing center of Shenzhen, for instance, many private makers of electronics, textiles and auto parts furloughed workers more than two months before the Lunar New Year holiday, which begins in February, according to business owners and local officials. The neighboring city of Guangzhou saw growth slump to 6.5% last year–well short of the 7.5% annual target set by the city government–as trade tensions hit the city’s manufacturing sector hard. Some economists and investors have said China’s economy is far more anemic than the government’s 6.6% rate of expansion for 2018. They note the government’s move on Friday, just ahead of Monday’s data release, to cut the 2017 growth rate to 6.8% from 6.9%, which they said provides a slightly lower base, giving a slight boost to the fresh 2018 data.

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Consumer spending in general is slowing in China. That’s the biggest danger for its economy.

China Real Estate Sales Growth Slows Down (R.)

Growth in property investment in China cooled to the second slowest pace in 2018 in December, adding to signs of a further slackening in the real estate market in a blow to a key driver economic growth. Real estate investment, which mainly focuses on the residential sector but includes commercial and office space, rose 8.2 percent in December from a year earlier, down from 9.3 percent in November, according to Reuters calculations based on data released by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Monday. That was just ahead of the slowest pace of growth last year at 7.7 percent recorded for October. For the full year, property investment increased 9.5 percent from the year-earlier period, down from 9.7 percent in January-November.

In December, property sales by floor area, a major indicator of demand, rose a touch by 0.9 percent from a year earlier, the first gain in four months and compared with November’s 5.1 percent drop. For 2018, property sales by area rose a modest 1.3 percent from a year earlier, official data showed. Analysts say a continued downturn in sales on the back of tight government controls to curb speculation could add to the growing pressure on the world’s second-largest economy. The real estate sector is a key pillar of the economy, so any further weakness in sales could influence the pace and scope of fresh stimulus measures expected from Beijing this year.

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It took decades to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement, after 1000s of lives were lost. May should not be allowed to touch it.

Theresa May ‘Considers Amending Good Friday Agreement’ To Break Deadlock (Ind.)

Theresa May is considering an attempt to amend the Good Friday Agreement in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock and win support for a negotiated exit deal, it has been reported. Ministers believe the move could avoid the UK having to commit to a backstop as part of the prime minister’s “plan B”, The Daily Telegraph reported on Sunday. The EU has insisted on a backstop measure to ensure an open border remains between Northern Ireland and the Republic after the UK leaves the bloc. Ms May has been forced to find alternatives to her original Brexit deal after it was crushed in the Commons on Tuesday.

Under the PM’s plan, it is reported, London and Dublin would either agree a new set of principles or add words to the Good Friday Agreement in order to guarantee an open border. The 1998 peace deal effectively brought an end to the Troubles after years of failed talks, and established a power-sharing structure to accommodate unionist and nationalist politicians. It follows separate reports that Ms May planned to pitch to the Irish government a bilateral treaty that would remove the need for the backstop so hated by many Conservative MPs; the arrangement would see the UK enter into a temporary customs union with the EU, and Northern Ireland agree to abide by European rules on goods until a subsequent deal was reached.

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Parliament demanded a Plan B today. May has none. She speaks 1530 GMT.

May Tries To Break Brexit Deadlock By Winning More EU Concessions (R.)

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday will try to crack the deadlock over Brexit by setting out proposals in parliament that are expected to focus on winning more concessions from the European Union. With just over two months left until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29 there is no agreement in London on how and even whether it should leave the world’s biggest trading bloc. After her Brexit divorce deal was rejected by 402 lawmakers in the 650-seat parliament last week, May has been searching for a way to get a deal through parliament.

Attempts to forge a consensus with the opposition Labour Party failed so May is expected to focus on winning over 118 rebels in her own party and the small Northern Irish party which props up her government with concessions from the EU. In a sign of just how grave the political crisis in London has become, the Daily Telegraph reported that May was even considering amending the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland. The Daily Telegraph said EU sources cast May’s plan a non-starter as a renegotiation of such a significant international treaty would require the consent of all the parties involved in Northern Ireland. May told British ministers she would focus on securing changes from Brussels designed to win over rebel Conservatives and the Northern Irish DUP, The Times said.

May will make a statement in parliament at about 1530 GMT and put forward a motion in parliament on her proposed next steps on Brexit, though some lawmakers are planning to wrest control of Britain’s exit from the government. After May’s motion is published, lawmakers will be able to propose amendments to it, setting out alternatives to the prime minister’s deal.

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Time to send her away. She’s a dead end.

No Solutions To Irish Backstop In May’s Brexit Call With Cabinet (G.)

Theresa May is expected to reject calls to forge a cross-party consensus on Brexit when she lays out her plan B to parliament on Monday, choosing instead to back new diplomatic efforts in Brussels to renegotiate the Irish backstop. The prime minister held a conference call with her bitterly divided cabinet from the country retreat of Chequers on Sunday evening. Cabinet sources said the consensus on the 90-minute call was to renew efforts to find acceptable changes to the backstop arrangement but that the conversation was light on specifics. One said there were “no actual solutions” proposed during the call. “It is difficult to know – as ever – what she will do,” another said. “But the broad agreement is on the need to bring DUP and Tory rebels on board.”

Despite her claim in the wake of last week’s significant defeat in parliament that she would speak to “senior parliamentarians” from all parties to seek a compromise, government sources insisted her overriding priority was to prevent a historic split in the Tory party. Several senior Conservative MPs have suggested they could form a breakaway party if May opted to support a customs union – one of Labour’s central demands, which is also backed by Tory supporters of a Norway-style soft Brexit. Whitehall sources said the prime minister’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, had counselled her to consider a customs union after last week’s catastrophic defeat, when her deal was rejected by an overwhelming majority of 230 votes. But when the government tables a formal statement on Monday, setting out its next steps, it is instead expected to focus on seeking changes to the Irish backstop in order to win over Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group and the DUP.

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Party before country.

Bizarre Turn Of Events Could Push May’s Brexit Deal Through After All (Ind.)

Yvette Cooper is in many ways the alternative leader of the opposition. The Labour MP who chairs the home affairs select committee will table a bill in the House of Commons on Monday, under the catchy title of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 3) Bill, which could be decisive in breaking the Brexit deadlock. It could lead to parliament being forced to make a straight choice between Theresa May’s deal and postponing Brexit in order to hold a new referendum. If that is what happens, I think there would be a small majority for the prime minister’s deal. The importance of Cooper’s bill is that it changes the default setting in law. At the moment, if parliament fails to act, the UK will leave the EU on 29 March.

Cooper’s bill says that, if a deal has not been approved by 7 March, the government would be required to seek an extension of the Article 50 deadline. That would mean asking the EU to postpone the UK’s departure until the end of this year – and EU leaders have said they would agree to an extension if it were to hold another referendum. This would transform the situation in the House of Commons. Jacob Rees-Mogg and the rest of the cohort of Conservative MPs who want to leave without a deal would have to think again. At the moment they are happy to vote everything down, knowing that this gets them what they want. But Cooper’s bill would take what they want off the table. They would then have to choose between the prime minister’s deal and putting off Brexit for at least nine months.

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They would still get to call themselves Macedonians. Insult and injury. Tsipras should be very careful.

Clashes in Athens Over Neighbour’s Name Change (BBC)

Protesters have clashed with police in the Greek capital Athens at a big rally to oppose the government’s deal with Macedonia on changing its name. Police fired tear gas at some of those attending a protest which attracted tens of thousands to the city. The deal, which is yet to be approved, designates Greece’s northern neighbour as Republic of North Macedonia. The name Macedonia is sensitive for many Greeks who say it implies a claim on the Greek province of the same name. Years of wrangling finally brought an agreement last June between Greece’s left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Macedonian counterpart. A vote on the deal, which aims to end a 28-year row between the nations, is set to take place in the Greek parliament this week.

The dispute dates back to 1991 and the break-up of Yugoslavia. Macedonia was a Yugoslav republic and adopted the name Macedonia when it became an independent nation. Greece has long argued the use of the name implied a territorial claim and cultural appropriation. At the UN the country was formally known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom). [..] Greek nationalists argue that the name Macedonia can only refer to the Greek province of the same name. The dispute has led to Greece to blocking Macedonia’s hopes of joining Nato and the EU. Under the deal, the country’s language would be Macedonian and its people known as Macedonians (citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia). The move has met with sharp resistance in both countries because nationalists believe it erodes their identity.


EPA

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They’re not going to solve the issue by themselves, they can’t help it.

World’s 26 Richest People Own As Much As Poorest 3.8 Billion (G.)

The growing concentration of the world’s wealth has been highlighted by a report showing that the 26 richest billionaires own as many assets as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the planet’s population. In an annual wealth check released to mark the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the development charity Oxfam said 2018 had been a year in which the rich had grown richer and the poor poorer. It said the widening gap was hindering the fight against poverty, adding that a 1% wealth tax would raise an estimated $418bn (£325bn) a year – enough to educate every child not in school and provide healthcare that would prevent 3 million deaths. Oxfam said the wealth of more than 2,200 billionaires across the globe had increased by $900bn in 2018 – or $2.5bn a day.

The 12% increase in the wealth of the very richest contrasted with a fall of 11% in the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population. As a result, the report concluded, the number of billionaires owning as much wealth as half the world’s population fell from 43 in 2017 to 26 last year. In 2016 the number was 61. Among the findings of the report were: • In the 10 years since the financial crisis, the number of billionaires has nearly doubled. • Between 2017 and 2018 a new billionaire was created every two days. • The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to $112bn. Just 1% of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 105 million people. • The poorest 10% of Britons are paying a higher effective tax rate than the richest 10% (49% compared with 34%) once taxes on consumption such as VAT are taken into account.

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Oct 112018
 
 October 11, 2018  Posted by at 1:22 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Pieter Bruegel the Elder The Triumph of Death 1562

 

Finally financial ‘markets’ go through a substantial dip, which Steve Mnuchin claims is just temporary and Donald Trump says is caused by the fact that the Fed is ‘loco’. Mnuchin may well be right, but it won’t be because he knows something you don’t.

And Trump is certainly right, but in reality the Fed has been loco for many years, so why be surprised if it acts crazy now? The reason Mnuchin and a million other ‘experts’ may be right without realizing it is that the Fed has been crazy enough to kill the financial markets.

Or at least killed what made the markets functional, and beneficial to society. And that may well be exactly what Jay Powell is trying to repair, but he may well not be aware of that either. Looked at from a ‘benign’ angle, Powell is perhaps raising rates so people can regain insight into what they’re buying.

The pre-Powell Fed pushed up asset prices (don’t let’s say ‘values’) to such heights nobody has any insight anymore into what anything is truly worth. And in what was formerly known as the financial markets that was not important, because what were formerly known as investors were making heaps of money regardless.

Surely they must all have known that this wouldn’t continue?! That it’s just a matter of timing, of knowing when it would end? Oh, but that’s not really possible, is it, without the very price discovery process the Fed successfully strangulated?

Still, there must also be tons of people left thinking the Fed can kick that can six times to the moon and back, or sixty. If only because they’ve never bothered to think about price discovery, and what role it plays in the very ‘markets’ they volunteer to spend their money in.

And along those same lines, many acknowledge housing bubbles in Sydney and Vancouver but think the US has learned its lesson a decade ago. And the loco Fed plays its role there too: mortgage rates have been ultra-low, enticing the last left batch of greater fools not mortally wounded by the last fire to jump in this time. Wolf Richter’s Case-Shiller graph says plenty in that regard:

 

 

But of course things tend back to normalcy, and it doesn’t take all the overleveraged stock- and home buyers longing for price discovery; it takes just a few to get the engine started. And then everyone will be along for the ride. So from that angle Jay Powell looks anything but crazy raising rates, we just can’t be sure if he knows what the consequences will be.

Not that it matters all that much what he does or does not know. What was formerly the market is like a pendulum swung so far out of balance that it costs ever more effort and money to keep it from moving towards equilibrium, and that process has only one possible outcome.

For mortgage rates, it looks something like this, and to make anyone able to buy any home at all higher rates will of necessity mean lower prices. You can’t, nobody can, not the Fed or the government can, keep that pendulum away from its tendency towards equilibrium forever.

 

 

For stocks it looks much the same. So why try, you’d think?! To prevent incumbents and ruling classes from being exposed as swimming naked, that’s why. They invented a way to make the entire nation swim naked, thinking they’d never be found out because the water levels were so high.

Whether yesterday’s 831-point Dow dip is temporary or not is of little interest. Much more important is that the entire asset prices situation is temporary. It doesn’t matter if the Fed pumps $1, $10, or $100 trillion into what once were markets, in the end it all comes down to how many people can pay how much money for the assets.

And since there is never an unending supply of greater fools, we know where this is going. The easy money and low rates and asset purchases at central banks and stock buybacks by companies can and will result only in more profits and more wealth for a few, and sheer endlessly less for the many.

Inequality in the US has now reached such extremities that the country’s AAA rating threatens to be taken away –as Moody’s indicated-; the government has so many people it must support financially (or let perish) that its financial position comes under pressure. Which is, again, negative for the many, for the few; they don’t care about that rating.

Yes, too many people are on some form of welfare in America. And Washington would love to throw many of them off of it. The many have no representation on Capitol Hill anymore. Just about any senator and congress(wo)man is a millionaire or certainly well-off.

 

How can the country get its rating back, or at least not lose it due to its increasing inequality? There seem to be two ways: let the 80 million now on welfare die by the side of the road, or provide them with jobs that allow them a fruitful life. That may sound like socialism or something, but it’s really the exact opposite.

It’s not the government’s role to give people jobs, but it is its role to make sure conditions are in place for the private sector to provide them. Trump’s ‘trade wars’ look crazy to many, but the intent is to get jobs back to the US. But there is much more.

America was once prosperous. What changed?

Here’s one thing: In what was -arguably?- America’s wealthiest time as a nation, the post-World War II period, income taxes for the richest were as high as 90% (1952: 92%); they were slowly brought down towards 70%. Only when Ronald Reagan took over in 1980 did they really fall (1982: 50%). This was ‘justified’ by lowering the highest income bracket (1982: $85,600, it had been between $200,000 and $400,000 for years).

In 1988, the top rate plunged to 28%, and the highest bracket to $29,750. Today, the top rate is 39.6% and the high bracket $400,000. In a graph, the consequences look like this:

 

 

The corporate tax rate, meanwhile, pulled this one, and don’t get started on tax havens etc.:

 

 

And that situation has led to a huge financial crisis, to the Fed going crazy and handing out trillions to the exact wrong part of society, those who already have a lot of money, and the result has been an absolute disaster, at least for the country; not so much for its elites.

But as even Moody’s now recognizes, you can’t run an AAA-rated country on elites alone. Despite the crazy Fed trillions, the US has achieved negative growth (imagine where it would be without):

 

 

Something must be done. Problem is, with only those millionaires in charge in the House and Senate, the likelihood of boosting income tax levels up to where they were when America was most prosperous is extremely low. And Trump’s tariffs are not on their own going to bring back the jobs; they can’t rebuild the lost infrastructure, for one thing.

Something must be done, and it’s entirely unclear what, or rather, who’s going to do it. The Democrats have nothing, or nothing but frustrated millionaires and Bernie Sanders. The GOP has only Trump. None of these people are going to vote to double their income taxes.

Much of what needs to be done will be classified as socialism, ridiculed and thrown out the window, even if the country was anything but socialist under Eisenhower and Kennedy, during its -at least economic- Golden Age.

It’s a nice puzzle, isn’t it? Well, maybe not so nice after all.

 

 

Oct 112018
 


Pablo Picasso Bather 1908

 

Dow Tumbles 830 Points In One Day, Trump Says The Fed Has ‘Gone Crazy’ (MW)
World Stock Markets Dive As Trump Attacks ‘Crazy’ US Rate Hikes (G.)
Tech Stocks Have Their Worst Day Since August 2011 (CNBC)
“Rising Inequality” Could Impact America’s AAA Credit Rating (SH)
How Will 6% Mortgage Rates Deal with Housing Bubble 2? (WS)
Brexit Deal Within Reach If May Agrees On Customs Union, Says Barnier (G.)
Hysteria Over the Italian Budget Is Wrong-Headed (Costantini)
Trump Campaign Claims Wikileaks Not Liable For Releasing Hacked Emails (G.)
Acropolis To Close In One-Day Strike Over Privatisation Fears (G.)
Trump Will Be The Last ‘Pure Human’ Leader – Scott Adams (Y!)
Judge Moves To Allow Monsanto New Trial After $289m Cancer Verdict (G.)
HSBC Issues Dire Warning On Antibiotics Resistance (BI)
Historic Climate Litigation Result Stands After Dutch Court Victory (CE)

 

 

Low volatility anyone?

Dow Tumbles 830 Points In One Day, Trump Says The Fed Has ‘Gone Crazy’ (MW)

‘I think the Fed is making a mistake. It’s so tight, I think the Fed has gone crazy’. That is the view that President Donald Trump shared of the Federal Reserve on Wednesday in the wake of a virtual bloodbath on Wall Street that resulted in the worst daily decline for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 since both U.S. equity benchmarks tumbled into correction territory back in early February. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, suffered its ugliest day since U.K. voters coalesced around a market-disrupting plan to exit from the European Union’s trade bloc back in June 2016.

In all, it was a withering session for an administration that has closely watched stock-market performance and views it, at least partly, as a gauge of the success of its economic policies, including corporate tax cuts and deregulation. However, those efforts, Trump says, are imperiled by the policies of the Fed, which has raised interest rates three times this year and has signaled its intention to do so a fourth time before year-end. IMF managing director Christine Lagarde dismissed Trump’s comments Thursday. “I would not associate Jay Powell with craziness,” she told CNBC at the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Bali, Indonesia.

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Everything’s going down. ‘Investors’ are jittery.

World Stock Markets Dive As Trump Attacks ‘Crazy’ US Rate Hikes (G.)

A jittery, volatile week on global financial markets has burst into a frenzy of selling, triggered by heavy losses on Wall Street and comments by Donald Trump describing US interest rate hikes as “crazy”. The Nikkei index in Tokyo was down by 4.25% on Thursday afternoon, while in Hong Kong the index was down 3.9% and Shanghai was at its lowest mark for four years after a plunge of 4.15%. In Sydney the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index closed down 2.74%, slipping below the 6,000-point mark for the first time since early June. European markets were braced for more losses with the FTSE100 in London poised to fall almost 2% and close to dropping down below 7,000 points for the first time since March.

The rout was triggered by a fall of more than 800 points in the Dow Jones industrial average on Wall Street on Wednesday. It was the worst drop in eight months and was led by sharp declines in technology stocks. Despite a booming US economy, low inflation and low unemployment, investors are concerned about rising bond yields that have been drawing money out of the stock market, and rising US interest rates. “It’s a bit of a bloodbath,” said Ed Campbell, senior portfolio manager at QMA, the asset management branch of Prudential Financial in New York. “It’s primarily the cumulative effect of interest rate moves over the past five days and news reports about trade impacting companies.”

[..] The Chinese yuan slipped against the dollar again on Thursday as Beijing tries to mitigate the impact of US tariffs. But it was the only currency across the region that was feeling the pressure from higher bond yields as the Australian dollar slipped under US71c. “The yuan has already weakened significantly, to offset the tariffs announced so far,” said Alan Ruskin, Deutsche’s global head of G10 FX strategy in Sydney. “Further weakness could exacerbate concerns of a self-fulfilling flight of capital, and a loss of control.”

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Most overvalued sinks fastest.

Tech Stocks Have Their Worst Day Since August 2011 (CNBC)

Technology stocks got clobbered on Wednesday, suffering their worst day in more than seven years, as concerns over rising interest rates punished the overall market, particularly shares of companies that have been the best performers. The S&P 500 Information Technology Index closed at $1,220.62, down 4.8 percent, marking the biggest decline since August 18, 2011, when the index dropped 5.3 percent. All 65 members of the index fell. The broader S&P 500 dropped by 3.3 percent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 3.2 percent. The tech sector includes the largest companies by market cap in the U.S. and those that have been the biggest contributors to the extended rally. Shares of Apple, Microsoft and Amazon are up sharply for the year as investors bet they will continue to deliver strong earnings growth and take market share.

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“The wider the income gap becomes, the more the government will have to spend in order to support lower-income households.”

“Rising Inequality” Could Impact America’s AAA Credit Rating (SH)

“Since 1995, the top 10% of US income earners have experienced an overall median net worth increase of close to 200%, while the bottom 40% of income earners have seen a decline. There has been a particularly sharp increase in wealth and income inequality ratios since the global financial crisis,” Moody’s noted in a report released on Monday. “The global financial crisis exacerbated the effects of these trends by disproportionately affecting poorer overleveraged households and by reducing the mobility of households with negative home equity and, oftentimes, negative net wealth as a result,” says Moody’s Vice President William Foster. “Wealthier households with a higher concentration of equity market holdings in retirement savings plans and personal portfolio investments have disproportionately benefited from the significant gains in the US and global stock markets since the global financial crisis.”

In turn, that rising inequality “will exacerbate already material fiscal challenges on the horizon,” Moody’s continued. “Should inequality go unaddressed, social tensions will continue to rise, leading to a more fractious political landscape that increases political risk, and with it a less predictable policy environment.” But it’s not just about taxes, either. Everything from globalization, automation, technological advancements requiring advanced job skills, elevated premium on education and the increasing costs associated with education have played a role in widening inequality. So what does it mean for the U.S.’ AAA rating? According to Moody’s Vice President William Foster, the widening gap between rich and poor is a threat, but the U.S. government, of course, has other aspects supporting the rating—at least in the medium term (2-5 years). Chief among them is the debt denominated in dollars.

Still, Moody’s cites rising inequality as the U.S.’ weakest rating factor. Why? It’s simple math: The wider the income gap becomes, the more the government will have to spend in order to support lower-income households. These costs, Moody’s notes, “are unlikely to be offset by revenue raising measures following recent tax cuts”. At the end of the day, even though the economy is chugging along nicely—nicely enough, in fact, for everyone to ignore rising inequality that will contribute to widening fiscal deficits and a growing debt burden.

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Timebomb.

How Will 6% Mortgage Rates Deal with Housing Bubble 2? (WS)

What many in 2016 thought would never happen again is now reality. It finally happened – a line in the sand has been breached. The average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) and a 20% down-payment did what people had thought in 2016 we’d never see again: It breached 5%. It hit 5.05%, to be precise, for the week ending October 5, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) this morning. This is the highest average rate since January 5, 2010 (chart via Investing.com):

This is likely not the pain-threshold for the housing market, though it is already putting pressure on it at the margin, with some potential buyers being scared off and other potential buyers finding the inflated home prices of today with the current mortgage rates outside their range of affordability. As interest rates have risen, some potential buyers have fallen by the wayside – though not a huge number just yet. But 6% will likely be the pain threshold, in my estimates. It will block a considerable number of potential buyers from buying at current prices. Home prices would have to fall first.

If the maximum a household can afford is a mortgage payment of $1,720 a month, they can finance $320,000 over 30 years with a 5% fixed rate mortgage. But if the mortgage rate rises to 6%, they’re maxed out at $287,000. In other words, the price they can afford would drop by about 10% if the rate rises by 1 percentage point. This principle goes for all budget-constrained buyers. And 6% has moved into view. This is still historically low. It would take rates back to December 2008, when the Fed was kicking off its first round of QE to repress long-term rates and inflate asset prices. Beyond that are the now unimaginably high rates of 7% and 8%:

Mortgage rates move more or less in tandem with the 10-year Treasury yield, but are higher. The spread between the MBA’s average 30-year fixed mortgage rate and the 10-year yield runs around 1.5 to 2.0 percentage points over time. With today’s 10-year yield at 3.22%, the spread is 1.83 percentage points.

[..] This new mortgage rate environment is meeting home prices across the US that have surged over the past years. Affordability issues, already tough to deal with at 4% and 4.5% and even tougher to deal with at 5%, are going to be much tougher at 6%.

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Barnier knows that the DUP and hardliners won’t accept.

Brexit Deal Within Reach If May Agrees On Customs Union, Says Barnier (G.)

Michel Barnier has claimed a Brexit deal could be within reach by next Wednesday but warned the prime minister that only by abandoning a key red line and agreeing to a customs union can impediments on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK be avoided. The British government would have to give up on its plans for free-trade deals with China and the US under such an agreement, the EU’s chief negotiator insisted, but otherwise a customs and regulatory border within the territory of the UK will have to be erected.

The EU’s contentious proposal for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland after Brexit is for Northern Ireland to, in effect, stay in the customs union and remain under single market regulations, while the rest of the UK withdraws. In a speech in Brussels, Barnier reiterated his rejection of the counter-proposals hammered out by the cabinet at Chequers, which Theresa May insists is the only deal that respects both the referendum result and the constitutional integrity of the UK by ensuring “frictionless” trade and no hard border.

The prime minister’s plan for a common rulebook on goods and a customs arrangement that meant the UK could avoid border checks, while allowing the country to sign its own bespoke trade deals, would give British companies “a huge competitive edge” and be “counter to our very foundations”, Barnier said. He instead encouraged Britain to make a final push in the talks, offering to launch “around 10 negotiations running in parallel” from April 2019 on an EU-UK trade deal, if agreement can be found now on the Irish border issue and the principles of a Canada-style free trade deal.

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Why the EU-Italy feud will be fierce.

Hysteria Over the Italian Budget Is Wrong-Headed (Costantini)

Even the moderate face of the coalition, the Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte, stepped up to question the priorities of the European Commission, the Bank of Italy, and the IMF: He assured that his government remains committed to containing the public debt and maintaining fiscal stability, but claimed that goal is impossible to achieve without economic development. The minister for European affairs, economist Paolo Savona, said that, in fact, a higher deficit-to-GDP ratio than 2.4% would be helpful. The heated reactions to the new fiscal plan are unjustified. In fact, the estimated targets that the new fiscal plan would (minimally) breach are unreliable and based on wrong macroeconomic principles.

Moreover, despite accusations of profligacy, Italy has in fact been running large primary surpluses (the budget balance minus interest payments), and will keep doing so even if the government confirms its plans. If anything should be of “serious concern,” it is the fact that the country continues down the road of austerity, which has proven to be contractionary; it has locked the country into stagnation and exposed its banking system to still more stress. With public investments at historically low levels, unemployment still above the 2008 rate in all regions, and a youth unemployment rate above 30%, it is hard not to see a strong case for fiscal stimulus.

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It’s all about Russiagate and Mueller’s indictment of ‘Russian hackers’. All nonsense. Free Assange and let him provide the evidence.

Trump Campaign Claims Wikileaks Not Liable For Releasing Hacked Emails (G.)

The Trump campaign argued in a legal filing that Wikileaks could not be held liable for publishing emails that were stolen by Russian hackers ahead of the 2016 US election because the website was simply serving as a passive publishing platform on behalf of a third party, in the same way as Google or Facebook. Questions about Wikileaks’ publication of thousands of hacked emails, which it allegedly obtained following a plot by Russian military intelligence to steal the emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic party, are at the heart of Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The campaign also said in a legal filing that any alleged agreement between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks to publish the emails could not have been a “conspiracy” because Wikileaks’ decision to release the stolen emails was not an illegal act. The court filing was written in response to a civil lawsuit brought against the Trump campaign by two of Hillary Clinton’s donors and a former employee of the Democratic party. The Trump campaign’s surprising defence of Wikileaks marks a stark departure from official US policy, which has condemned the website for frequently targeting the US government and for publishing thousands of classified documents about covert policies.

[..] Analysts say the legal filing is also significant because it hints at how officials in the Trump White House or individuals who served on the campaign may eventually seek to defend themselves against any criminal charges alleging that they conspired with Wikileaks to release the emails. The legal arguments suggest the Trump White House would argue Wikileaks was not criminally liable for the release of the emails and that it therefore would not be a criminal conspiracy to work with the website on their release. The filing also makes the case that, under the campaign’s first amendment right to free speech, it had the right to publish information – even if it was stolen – as long as it did not participate in the theft of the emails. The hacked materials were a matter of “significant public concern”, the filing said.

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They need to move well beyond one day to get attention. And whoever signed those secret deals (Tsipras, Troika!) needs their day in court.

Acropolis To Close In One-Day Strike Over Privatisation Fears (G.)

Striking trade unionists in Greece are forcing the shutdown of the country’s prime ancient sites, including the Acropolis, in a one-day protest over privatisation fears. The 24-hour walkout on Thursday is expected to close the majority of Greece’s 275 archaeological sites, monuments and museums, which generate about €100m in revenue, mostly from ticket sales, every year. “We are doing this to protest the prospect of any of these sites being exploited by foreign funds,” said Grigoris Vafiadis, the head of the association of culture ministry employees. “Every day we are discovering that monuments have been transferred to the privatisation fund set up at the request of [bailout] lenders. No country in the world, for whatever reason, has mortgaged its cultural heritage.”

The sites, which protestors say include Knossos on Crete, are believed to have been placed on a list of properties overseen by a superfund established in 2016 with the express purpose of managing state assets for the next 99 years. The body, which also handles state asset sales, was part of the price the debt-burdened country had to pay to keep default at bay and remain in the eurozone. Vafiadis, whose union represents more than 3,000 cultural ministry officials, mostly in the Greater Attica region surrounding Athens and central Greece, said sites were listed in the superfund by code. “It’s a long process to work out what the codes refer to on the land registry. For all we know, they might even include the Acropolis which is not just Greek but a world heritage site and should never be put in the hands of any foreign fund,” he said.

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Interesting assessment.

Trump Will Be The Last ‘Pure Human’ Leader – Scott Adams (Y!)

Scott Adams, the creator of the office-themed comic strip “Dilbert,” isn’t laughing about the future of American democracy. Having expressed his admiration for Donald Trump over the past few years, Adams believes the tech industry poses a threat to the president as well as to the country as a whole. “I think President Trump will be the last pure human leader,” Adams told Grant Burningham, host of the Yahoo News podcast “Bots & Ballots.” “Everything after this will be a human and he will be elected, he or she, but the decisions will really come from the algorithm after that.”

The algorithm, Adams said, was the one unleashed on the world by Silicon Valley tech companies that has the power to shape popular opinion that, in turn, will determine how politicians express themselves. “There are people making decisions at the tech companies — the Googles and Twitters and Facebooks. Those decisions get turned into algorithms, and once they’re turned into algorithms, the humans no longer really understand them,” Adams said. Adams has likened Trump’s off-the-cuff communications approach in the 2016 presidential election to a form of hypnosis that helped insulate him from the powers of the algorithm.

“President Trump is unique in that his persuasion skills are greater than the tech companies’. It’s probably the only reason he got elected,” Adams said. “I can imagine no one else who would have beat Hillary Clinton. So, after him, I think if you get in an ordinary politician, and it doesn’t matter which party they’re in, the algorithm will push the voters and the voters will push the politicians and everybody will think they have free will, they will think they made up their own minds. They will think they did their own research, they came up with independent decisions, but we’re no longer in that world.”

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Monsanto will appeal until the next century.

Judge Moves To Allow Monsanto New Trial After $289m Cancer Verdict (G.)

A California judge has moved to grant the agrochemical company Monsanto a new trial after a landmark jury verdict found its herbicide had caused a man’s terminal cancer. Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, won a $289m award in August in a trial alleging that the popular Roundup weedkiller had made him sick and that Monsanto had failed to warn him of the risks. Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company, immediately appealed the verdict, which included punitive damages and economic losses and also found that Monsanto had “acted with malice or oppression”.

The San Francisco superior court judge Suzanne Bolanos cited the “insufficiency of the evidence to justify the award for punitive damages” in a tentative written ruling issued before a hearing on Wednesday. She is expected to make a final decision after attorneys submit additional arguments. Monsanto sought to overturn the verdict and has continued to argue that it is safe to use glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide. Glyphosate-based products, including the Roundup and Ranger Pro brands, are now worth billions of dollars in revenues, approved for use on more than 100 crops, and registered in 130 countries. Timothy Litzenburg, one of the attorneys who represented Johnson in the trial, told the Guardian that regardless of the outcome, the original ruling would still have a long-term impact: “There’s been a loud and clear message.”

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Precautionary principle? Not for Monsanto, not for Big Pharma.

HSBC Issues Dire Warning On Antibiotics Resistance (BI)

According to the global research team at HSBC, the use of antibiotics in meat production could have “devastating” consequences for humanity. When farmers feed antibiotics to their animals, they create antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can lead to antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” in humans. Over time, this could make it difficult to treat even common infections like strep throat. The report’s authors liken the impact of antibiotic resistance to climate change: The causation may not be immediately clear, but the evidence suggests a catastrophic future. Scientific experts now predict that antibiotic resistance could lead to 10 million deaths annually by 2050, exceeding cancer as one of the most common forms of death worldwide.

While some of this is related to the overprescribing of antibiotics by doctors, it also has to do with the antibiotics that are fed to key sources of produce, such as chickens, cows, and pigs. According to the report, more than half of global antibiotics are used in agriculture rather than medicine. Although China accounts for 60% of the world’s agricultural antibiotics, the US also uses antibiotics in around 70% of its agricultural products. Most of these antibiotics are used in meat production, which has risen by 90% per capita globally since the 1960s. In June, an analysis of more than 47,000 US government lab tests found an increase in the number of pork chops and ground beef that were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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Court decides because of “a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights”. If that is true in Holland, it will also be in 26 other countries. Moreover, as Elliot Sherber said in his article in yesterday’s Debt Rattle:

“According to the legal maxim that “the health of the people should be the supreme law” (another type of emergency brake – one cited by jurists, and those contesting coercive power, since antiquity), there is a legal duty to pursue this as well (for, among other things, human health is contingent on the health of its general environment – and freedom from oppression). Indeed, if we are to take this maxim seriously, we must recognize that it implies that conditions that are inimical to health (harmful to the health of the people) must be corrected in order to comply with the “supreme law.”

Historic Climate Litigation Result Stands After Dutch Court Victory (CE)

Climate litigators are celebrating after a second landmark court victory that will hold the Netherlands government to account for greater action on climate change. The Hague Court of Appeal has upheld a historic win for the Urgenda Foundation on behalf of 886 Dutch citizens in their climate case, rejecting the Dutch government’s arguments. A day after the UN IPCC report outlined the urgent climate action needed to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees, the Dutch court today affirmed that any less than a 25% reduction in carbon emissions by the Netherlands government before 2020 would be a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Dutch emissions are currently only 13% lower compared to 1990 levels and have stagnated during the last six years.

The original legal victory by Urgenda inspired a wave of climate lawsuits worldwide, brought by people determined to hold their governments accountable for a lack of climate action. ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: “Today’s news shows just what a powerful tool climate litigation has become in holding decision-makers to account for their climate inaction. “For a second time now, a Dutch court has ruled that the country’s government has a constitutional duty to protect its citizens from the impacts of climate change and that anything less is a violation of their human rights. “This second victory shows that Dutch judges have been clear about what the government must do now: accept both decisions and refocus its efforts on reducing its carbon emissions by 25% by 2020.

“This is the climate case that started it all, inspiring similar lawsuits worldwide. It has completely changed the debate on climate policy and will inspire people everywhere to use the power of the courts to hold their leaders to account for greater action on climate change.”

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Sep 092018
 


Vincent van Gogh A Restaurant at Asnieres 1887

 

The ‘Most Striking Development’ In 40 Years Of The US Economy (BI)
This Insider Betrayal Is A Sorry Precedent (Observer ed.)
Argentina, Turkey, Mexico … Fear Of Contagion Haunts Emerging Markets (G.)
No-Deal Brexit Could Lead To “Military On The Streets” (Ind.)
Brexit Talks At Risk Of Collapse (Ind.)
Bombshell Poll Reveals Heavy Union Backing For Second Brexit Vote (G.)
YouGov Poll Shows Support For A People’s Brexit Vote Is Solid (G.)
Fresh From End Of Bailout, Greek PM Announces Tax Breaks (R.)
Protect Assange From US Extradition, Amnesty International Tells UK (RT)
The Latest Incarnation of Capitalism (Jacobin)
What’s The Biggest Influence On The Way We Think? (G.)

 

 

This is going spectacularly wrong. Somone better stop it.

The ‘Most Striking Development’ In 40 Years Of The US Economy (BI)

French economist Thomas Piketty is one of the world’s leading researchers of global income and wealth inequality, and became well-known in the United States when the English translation of his book “Capital in the 21st Century” became a surprise bestseller. For the past year, Piketty has been speaking about the 2018 World Inequality Report, published by the Paris School of Economics’ World Inequality Lab last December. Piketty coauthored the report alongside Facundo Alvaredo, Lucas Chancel, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman. In his talks in the US, Piketty has paid special attention to the following chart, which shows what he and his coauthors called “perhaps the most striking development in the United States economy over the last four decades.”

The authors write that “the incomes of the top 1% collectively made up 11% of national income in 1980, but now constitute above 20% of national income, while the 20% of US national income that was attributable to the bottom 50% in 1980 has fallen to just 12% today.” Further, “while average pre-tax income for the bottom 50% has stagnated at around $16,000 since 1980, the top 1% has experienced 300% growth in their incomes to approximately $1,340,000 in 2014. This has increased the average earnings differential between the top 1% and the bottom 50% from 27 times in 1980 to 81 times today.”

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The Guardian/Observer, leading anti-Trump voice, has a piece ‘Unfit for President, but…” Look, just like the NYT, you no longer are a voice, because you’ve spent two years 24/7 denouncing the man with rumors and half-truths -like you did with Corbyn being anti-semite. You can’t now turn around and be a voice for democracy. You’re done.

This Insider Betrayal Is A Sorry Precedent (Observer ed.)

[..] the president’s discomfort, and his detractors’ glee, should not obscure more serious issues raised by this affair and by similarly critical revelations contained in a new exposé by the celebrated Watergate reporter Bob Woodward. Whatever one’s opinion of Trump, it is a matter of concern that unelected, unnamed officials are apparently willing and able to act in ways contrary to an elected president’s stated wishes and calculated to thwart his policies. Trump’s worst instincts must undoubtedly be resisted, as Barack Obama, rejoining the fight last week, has declared. The best way to achieve that, as ever in a democracy, is through public scrutiny and open debate. Every leader needs candid advisers.

But who are these self-described “adults in the room” to clandestinely decide what is in the best interests of the country? Their motives may be sound, but their illicit actions, boasted of publicly, set a worrisome precedent. They have also gifted Trump a golden opportunity to peddle his favourite narrative of an establishment conspiring against him, aided and abetted by media organisations – which he terms “enemies of the people”. Speaking in Montana on Thursday, he seized his chance. “Unelected, deep state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself,” he declared.

The anonymous writer tried to provide reassurance that things in the White House are not as bad as they seem. Woodward’s new book, Fear, suggests the exact opposite: they are worse. It describes a “Crazytown” of tantrums, endless crises, serial lying, unhinged behaviour, and an administration in a recurring state of nervous breakdown.

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It’s not so much dominoes falling one by one, it’s the USD that crashes down everything.

Argentina, Turkey, Mexico … Fear Of Contagion Haunts Emerging Markets (G.)

In the past six months, some of the world’s fastest-growing economies have found themselves flat on the floor, gasping for breath and, in one case, seeking help from the global financial rescue centre otherwise known as the IMF. Argentina’s $50bn bailout by the Washington-based lender of last resort is the most extreme event so far, but it sits alongside the dramatic collapse of the Turkish lira, a recession in South Africa and dire economic predictions for the Philippines, Indonesia and Mexico. Making matters worse, the US is poised to slap tariffs as high as 25% on as much as $200bn worth of Chinese goods. If the US goes ahead, Beijing has already threatened to retaliate, which would only incense President Donald Trump further.

This tit-for-tat might only end when tariffs are applied to the entire $500bn of Chinese goods imported by America each year. In response, the stock markets of many developing nations have slumped in value, leaving investors to ask themselves whether they are witnessing an emerging-markets meltdown akin to the Asian crisis of 1997: a panic that wrecked the finances of several hedge funds and proved to be an hors d’oeuvre before the dotcom crash of 1999 and the global financial crisis of 2008. Investors have run for safety to such an extent that the MSCI Emerging Markets index, which measures the value of shares in emerging economies, has tumbled by more than 20% since the beginning of the year.

That slump appeared to be over in July, when Turkey and Argentina were seen as being isolated, and more importantly ringfenced, economic trouble spots. But figures last week showing that the US economy is steaming along like a runaway train – underlining the likelihood of more US interest rate rises – have sent the currencies and stock markets of most emerging-market economies tumbling again. Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at currency dealer FXTM, says that a sense of doom is lingering in the financial markets as fears of contagion from the “brutal emerging-market sell-off” rattle investor confidence. “More pain seems to be ahead for emerging markets as the combination of global trade tensions, prospects of higher US interest rates and overall market uncertainty haunt investor attraction,” he says.

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Now we’re talking.

No-Deal Brexit Could Lead To “Military On The Streets” (Ind.)

A no-deal Brexit could lead to the “real possibility” of police calling upon the military to help with civil disorder, a leaked document claims. Contingency plans are being drawn up by police chiefs if there is chaos on the streets due to shortages of goods, food and medicine, The document prepared by the National Police Co-ordination Centre (NPoCC) warns of traffic queues at ports with “unprecedented and overwhelming” disruption to the road network. Concerns around medical supplies could “feed civil disorder”, while a rise in the price of goods could also lead to “widespread protest”, the document obtained by the Sunday Times said.

The potential for a restricted supply of goods raised concerns of “widespread protest which could then escalate into disorder”. It could also trigger a rise in non-Brexit-related acquisitive crime such as theft. The document, set to be considered by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) later this month, also sets out concerns of increased data costs, loss of warrant cards and queues at ports and docks around the country. Shadow police minister Louise Haigh lashed out at the Government’s handling of the situation. “This is the nightmare scenario long feared; according to the UK’s most senior police officers a no-deal Brexit could leave Britain on the brink,” she said.

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May keeps pushing the same button after it’s failed 1000 times. The EU won’t give.

Brexit Talks At Risk Of Collapse (Ind.)

Brexit talks are at risk of collapse as a planned EU compromise on the critical question of the Irish border has been branded “unacceptable” by British cabinet ministers. The Independent has learnt that EU officials believe they have struck upon “the only way” to bring the two sides together on the Irish border in a bid to secure a withdrawal agreement later this year. But their proposal has already been outright rejected by at least two cabinet ministers, with one going further and branding the EU’s suggestion “bollocks”. The impasse over the Irish border threatens to bring the talks crashing down with Theresa May’s beleaguered Chequers proposal already lacking support both in Europe and among her own MPs in Westminster.

The Independent now understands that the EU will try to break the deadlock in negotiations by offering the UK a vague political declaration on the future UK-EU relationship in return for a deal on the Irish border. A well-placed Brussels source said: “This may well prove the only way to respect the EU’s red lines and allow Theresa May to win approval for a deal in the UK parliament. “The political declaration holds the key to reaching a deal.” Since the start of Brexit talks Brussels has insisted the UK sign up to a legally binding “backstop”, which would come into play if no arrangement to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland is found before Brexit day. It would see Northern Ireland effectively remain in the EU’s customs union and single market, creating a customs border down the Irish sea – something both Ms May and her DUP partners say is unacceptable.

[..] The strength of opposition indicates Ms May could face a further round of cabinet resignations if she were to consider agreeing to such a proposal, with Boris Johnson and David Davis having already quit earlier this year. A government spokesman said: “We don’t comment on speculation. The proposals we have put forward for our future relationship would allow both sides to meet our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland in full and we are working hard to get a deal on that basis. “But we are clear the EU backstop proposals are unacceptable.”

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The Tories are thinking: we got rid of unions, didn’t we?

Bombshell Poll Reveals Heavy Union Backing For Second Brexit Vote (G.)

Members of Britain’s three biggest trade unions now support a new referendum on Brexit by a margin of more than two to one, according to a bombshell poll that will cause political shockwaves on the eve of the party conference season. The survey of more than 2,700 members of Unite, Unison and the GMB by YouGov, for the People’s Vote campaign, also finds that a clear majority of members of the three unions now back staying in the EU, believing Brexit will be bad for jobs and living standards. The poll comes as union delegates gather in Manchester for the annual TUC conference, where Brexit will be debated on Monday, and two weeks before the Labour party conference in Liverpool, where delegates are expected to debate and vote on Brexit policy. They will also consider calls to keep open the option of a fresh referendum on any deal Theresa May may strike on the UK’s exit from the EU.

In an interview with the Observer before the poll findings were released, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said his preferred option was still for voters to be offered a say on the government’s handling of Brexit – and any deal brought back from Brussels by May – in a general election. But he said that if Labour was unable to force one in the coming months, he wanted to “keep all options open”, including supporting a new referendum. McDonnell said he was sure there would be a full debate, and votes, on Brexit at the Labour conference. And he went out of his way to praise the People’s Vote campaign, which he said had been very “constructive” and had made clear that its attempts to influence Labour policy should not be seen “as an attack on Jeremy Corbyn or positioning around the leadership. It should be a constructive debate and that is right.”

The poll found that members of Unite, the country’s biggest union, and Labour’s largest financial backer, now support a referendum on the final Brexit deal by 59% to 33% and support staying in the EU by 61% to 35%. GMB’s members support putting the issue back to the people by 56% to 33% and its members want the UK to stay in the EU by 55% to 37%. Unison members back another referendum by 66% to 22% and would opt to stay in the EU by 61% to 35%.

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That second vote will come, or else…

YouGov Poll Shows Support For A People’s Brexit Vote Is Solid (G.)

Thirty years ago this week, Jacques Delors came to Bournemouth to urge Britain’s trade unions to change their stance on Europe. The president of the European commission told TUC delegates that the EU was good for workers’ jobs, workers’ rights and workers’ living standards. It was a decisive moment in the union movement’s relationship with Brussels. This week could be equally decisive for the TUC – perhaps even more so – given the precarious balance of forces at Westminster. And the clear message from YouGov’s poll of more than 2,700 members of the TUC’s three biggest unions is that most trade union members think Brexit is bad for jobs; they want a fresh public vote and the chance to keep the UK in the EU.

Can we be sure that YouGov’s figures are right? Do the people it polled accurately reflect the views of all the members of the three big unions? I recall the same questions being asked when YouGov first showed Jeremy Corbyn well ahead in the race for the Labour leadership three years ago. Nonsense, said the critics. YouGov’s respondents, they claimed, were hopelessly biased towards leftwing activists. When it came to it, Corbyn won by almost precisely the majority reported in the final poll. And the methods YouGov used in the latest union survey are essentially the same as it used in Labour’s leadership election three years ago.

It’s not that trade union members are indulging in gesture politics or ideological breast-beating. They are worried about the impact of Brexit on jobs, taxes, living standards and the NHS. They fear a Brexit Britain would find it harder to sell products and services abroad. Their attitudes to immigration are especially significant. In the 2016 referendum, one of the arguments for Brexit was that immigrant workers were undercutting the pay of low-paid British workers. Brexit, so the argument ran, would allow Britain to stop this. As a result, there would be more, and better-paid, jobs for British workers.

Many Unite, Unison and GMB members earn below-average wages. They might be expected to support that part of the Brexit agenda. They don’t. Overwhelming majorities, ranging from 74% to 85%, want EU citizens either to have complete freedom of movement to come to the UK, or the freedom to settle here if they have a job or university place lined up.

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Tsipras is trying to create the impression that he decides and is bold. He has no say at all.

Fresh From End Of Bailout, Greek PM Announces Tax Breaks (R.)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Saturday unveiled plans for tax cuts and pledged spending to heal years of painful austerity, less than a month after Greece emerged from a bailout program financed by its EU partners and the IMF. Tsipras, who faces elections in about a year’s time, used a keynote policy speech in the northern city of Thessaloniki to announce a spending spree that he said would help fix the ills of years of belt-tightening, and help boost growth. But he said Athens was also committed to sticking to the fiscal targets and reforms promised to its lenders. Greece has agreed to maintain an annual primary budget surplus – which excludes debt servicing costs – of 3.5 percent of GDP up to 2022.

So far, it has outperformed on fiscal goals and the economy has returned to growth. “We will not allow Greece to revert to the era of deficits and fiscal derailment,” he told an audience of officials, diplomats and businessmen. He said would beat its primary surplus target again this year and, following a debt relief deal in June, he could “safely plan its post-bailout future”. Government officials have put this year’s fiscal room at 800 million euros. Tsipras promised a phased reduction of corporate tax to 25 percent from 29 percent from next year, as well as an average 30 percent reduction in a deeply unpopular annual property tax on homeowners, rising to 50 percent for low earners.

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Amnesty’s Aussie branch. Timing?!

Protect Assange From US Extradition, Amnesty International Tells UK (RT)

Amnesty International has backed calls to not extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, arguing that this would put his human rights at serious risk of abuse. The statement, issued Friday by the group’s Australian branch, backed Assange’s lawyers and supporters’ claim that if he is sent to the US, “he would face a real risk of serious human rights violations due to his work with WikiLeaks.” Amnesty said that Assange could face several human rights violations in the event that he is extradited to the US, including: violation of his right to freedom of expression; right to liberty; right to life if the death penalty were sought; and being held in conditions that would violate his right to humane treatment.

While Amnesty said it took “no position” on Ecuador’s decision to grant, and then withdraw, Assange’s diplomatic asylum, it did call on the UK government to recognize the “need for international protection vis-a-vis the USA” in relation to the whistleblower’s case. Amnesty has joined several other humanitarian organizations by backing Assange and denouncing any extradition attempt. These include the UN Human Rights office, Human Rights Watch, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

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How cheap money saved and doomed the world at the same time.

The Latest Incarnation of Capitalism (Jacobin)

Financialization — “the increasing importance of financial markets, financial motives, financial institutions, and financial elites in the operation of the economy” — is a process that began in the 1980s with the removal of barriers to capital mobility. Global capital flows rose from about 5 percent of world GDP in the mid-1990s to about 20 percent in 2007. This is about three times faster than world trade flows. Increases in capital mobility helped facilitate the emergence of large imbalances between creditor countries with large current account surpluses and debtors with large current account deficits. According to textbook economic theory, these imbalances should be self-correcting.

When a country runs a deficit, currency is flowing out of the country. If this currency does not return in the form of capital inflows, the resulting increase in supply will exert downward pressure on the currency. A less valuable currency makes your exports cheaper to international consumers and should therefore increase demand for those exports. Played out over the scale of the global economy, this should lead to equilibrium. In the lead-up to the crisis, the fact that this equilibrium was not forthcoming puzzled some economists. Deficit countries should have been experiencing large currency depreciations, given the size of their current account deficits. These depreciations should, in turn, then have increased the competitiveness of their goods.

Ben Bernanke, then chairman of the Fed, accused a number of emerging economies of “hoarding” savings to protect themselves from future crises, preventing the global economy from reaching equilibrium. In fact, deficit countries were able to maintain strong currencies because, even though there was relatively little demand for their goods, there was strong demand for their assets — particularly financial assets. The main reason for the high demand for UK and US assets was the financial deregulation undertaken by neoliberal governments in these states in the 1980s, which facilitated a dramatic expansion in the provision of private credit to individuals, businesses, and financial institutions.

In the UK, consumer debt — primarily composed of mortgage lending — reached 148 percent of household disposable incomes in 2008, the highest it has ever been. While UK banks’ lending to the non-financial economy rose 50 percent between 2005-8, their lending to other financial institutions rose by 260 percent. Capital from the rest of the world flowed into banks in the UK and the US, which were generating significant returns from this lending.

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Google shapes are thought and we have no idea.

What’s The Biggest Influence On The Way We Think? (G.)

Google search is in a different league from earlier tools, and so the consequences of being dependent on it are more serious and far-reaching – for two inter-related reasons. The first is that it can influence what you think you know and shape the way you think because it knows more about you than you realise. And secondly, it’s not a passive tool that you own and control, but the property of a huge corporation that has acquired strange – and in some ways unprecedented – powers. Ten years ago, Nicholas Carr published a striking article – “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” – in the Atlantic. The title was misleading because the thrust of the piece was actually about how the internet might be messing with our brains, and in that sense Carr was using Google as a proxy for the technology in general.

Which is a pity because there are plenty of important questions to be asked about Google’s impact on the way we think. Its search results, for example, are heavily influenced by how many websites it finds that are supposedly relevant to a query. Sometimes, that’s fine. But sometimes it’s toxic – yet many people think it provides the “truth”. And because people’s search queries can sometimes be very revealing, the company knows more about people’s innermost secrets, fears and fantasies than even their friends or partners. We ask Google questions that we would not breathe to any living soul.

So Google, as philosopher Benjamin Curtis points out, is anything but a passive cognitive tool. Its current offerings, boosted by machine learning algorithms, are increasingly suggestive. Its Maps not only provide navigational help but give us “personalised location suggestions that it thinks will interest us”. Gmail makes helpful suggestions about what to type in a reply and Google News highlights stories that it believes we will find interesting. “All of this,” says Curtis, “removes the very need to think and make decisions for ourselves.” It “fills gaps in our cognitive processes, and so fills gaps in our minds”.

In two short decades, therefore, Google has gone from being a geeky delight to something that influences the way we think. All of which brings to mind something that John Culkin, a buddy of Marshall McLuhan, said many years ago: “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” Amen to that. And you can Google him to check the quote.

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