Sep 172021
 
 September 17, 2021  Posted by at 8:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  42 Responses »


Henri Matisse The painter and his model1916-17

 

Interview with Dr. Vanessa Schmidt-Kruger (Enformt)
Biden Seizes And Rations Supply Of Life-Saving Monoclonal Antibodies (RT)
Delta Poised To Acquire Full Resistance To Wild-type Spike Vaccines (Biorxiv)
Israeli Study Claims Covid Vaccine Boosters Reduce Infection Risk TENFOLD (RT)
Pfizer, Moderna Release Data Supporting Booster Shot (Claus)
UK Study To Test Mixed Covid Vaccines On Children & Teens (RT)
The Plot Against Ivermectin (Bonvie)
France Suspends 3,000 Unvaccinated Health Workers (F24)
China Fully Vaccinates More Than 1 Billion People (RFI)
Clinton Lawyer Michael Sussmann Indicted For Lying to FBI (CTH)
Powell, Juggling Policy And Renomination, Now Faces An Ethics Blowup (R.)
Powell Orders Ethics Review Of Federal Reserve (JTN)
China Braces For “Nightmare Scenario” As Evergrande Collapses (ZH)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember a lot of these people died because early treatment and prophylaxis was forbidden. And what’s with the white flags? We surrendered?

 

 

Been reading up on this a little. This is from January, but interesting. About the consistency (integrity) of the vaccines. Which changed a lot from clinical trials to mass production. Who knew? They’re not the same substance at all.

Hearing # 37 of German Corona Extra-Parliamentary Inquiry Committee. 30 January, 2021

Interview with Dr. Vanessa Schmidt-Kruger (Enformt)

We know that normally vaccine development takes a very long time. It’s not just the clinical phase: with this vaccine, it’s set at three times two and a half years, i.e., three phases of 2.5 years each plus the evaluation phase, which makes 7 1/2 years in total. And then one shouldn’t forget that the production optimisation is also important, at least a year would surely be needed for that. That hasn’t taken place at all. The vaccine is already being sold and used, but the production optimisation isn’t yet by any means completed. And there are considerable deficiencies. One issue I would like to discuss are the deficiencies relating to the active substance: by that, I mean the modified RNA that they are synthesising.

As a second issue there are deficiencies in the consistency of the various production batches: they need to always be consistent so that one always obtains the same vaccine volume and quality. The problem that BioNTech had is that in the clinical phase the product, i.e. the RNA, was produced with completely different techniques to how it is being produced now. During the clinical phase they only needed small volumes of vaccine, they were able to use very expensive techniques that delivered highly purified end products. Now that they have entered mass production, that is no longer possible, they have had to switch to lower-cost processes, e.g. using huge quantities of DNA that functions as the substrate to be able to produce the RNA in an in-vitro transcription reaction.

This is done via bacteria, via the fermentation of transformed bacteria that contain this DNA. The bacteria multiply the DNA in huge amounts, and this leads to new dangers or risks, particularly contamination. At the moment for instance the situation is that the DNA is transformed in the bacteria, it is multiplied, next the bacteria are opened and the DNA is extracted, then it is linearised via enzymes, and after that the linearised DNA undergoes in-vitro transcription to produce the RNA using various procedures. The EMA Committee made various requirements of the vaccine manufacturer, i.e. BioNTech. The applicant needs to now develop and introduce various analysis processes to ensure that the substrate is free of microbiological contaminants – they probably mean E Coli bacteria for example.

There don’t seem to be any processes to ensure or monitor for that. They also need to ensure that all the buffers – those are the solvents that are used – are free of RNAses. RNAses are enzymes that degrade RNA. If there are any contaminants of these RNAse solvents, then RNA in the vaccine will be degraded and the vaccine won’t have any effect anymore. They also have to analyse how strong the activity of the enzymes is; that is very important because I explained that after that the RNA is transcribed from the DNA and then the DNA has to be eliminated, it is digested by enzymes: by DNAses. And if this DNA is not digested well enough, if residues are left, this harbours risks – I’ll come back to the risks from DNA residues, but the activity of the enzymes has to be monitored well and at the end you need to have a pure RNA without any more DNA. And that is not the case. BioNTech has admitted that there are DNA contaminants.

[..] It was found that the integrity of the RNA always varies in the batches that had been made. I will come back to that again. There needs to be a standard that is always the same for each batch. This should be used as the reference to measure the standard. And they only have this of course for the processes of the clinical phase. Now we have to generate a new standard for the new manufacturing processes, i.e., for the commercial sales. That hasn’t been done yet, they are in the process of doing that now.

So – the integrity of the RNA means of course the RNA quality. They have found that this is not very high: it was higher for the processes during the clinical phase. In this report they don’t say how high it is, but I have other information that says 78% of the RNA was good [translator: this refers to the integrity], the remainder was not, but now they have found new batches with only 55% RNA integrity, i.e., half of it is basically unviable.

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Politics kills. The only shortages here are those that are created. “The manufacturer has confirmed supplies are ample..”

Biden Seizes And Rations Supply Of Life-Saving Monoclonal Antibodies (RT)

Seven southern US states, mostly led by Republican governors, say they are now facing shortages of monoclonal antibody treatments for Covid-19 after the federal government took over the distribution, citing the need for “equity.” Monoclonal antibodies (MAB) are lab-created proteins that help those already infected deal with the virus. They have been intensively deployed in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas – states dealing with the recent surge of Delta-variant cases. With the exception of Louisiana, they are all run by Republicans. On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced it would take over the distribution of these treatments using the Defense Production Act and would be centralizing them under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A HHS spokesperson said this was being done to avoid shortages, as the seven states account for 70% of all orders.

“Given this reality, we must work to ensure our supply of these life-saving therapies remains available for all states and territories, not just some,” the spokesperson told CNN. “HHS will determine the amount of product each state and territory receives on a weekly basis. State and territorial health departments will subsequently identify sites that will receive product and how much,” the spokesperson said. “This system will help maintain equitable distribution, both geographically and temporally, across the country – providing states and territories with consistent, fairly-distributed supply over the coming weeks.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has clashed with President Joe Biden on Covid policies – from mask mandates to compulsory vaccination – said that the move has resulted in cutting the supply to his state by more than 50%.

The federal government has allocated fewer than 31,000 doses to Florida this week, while the average need for hospitals and state clinics is 72,000, his office said. DeSantis said on Thursday that he has reached out to GlaxoSmithKline, another pharmaceutical company, to purchase their MAB treatment in order to make up the shortfall. In Texas, the Biden administration told the state “to reduce its use of the therapeutic treatment that has literally been saving lives and reducing hospitalizations,” Mark Keough, a judge in charge of Montgomery County, just north of Houston, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “The manufacturer has confirmed supplies are ample but due to the Defense Production Act, the White House and it’s agencies are the only entities who can purchase and distribute this treatment,” Keough added.

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“.. it is necessary to develop vaccines that protect against such complete breakthrough variants..”

There has never been a vaccine against a coronavirus, but this is all you can take away from this?

Delta Poised To Acquire Full Resistance To Wild-type Spike Vaccines (Biorxiv)

mRNA-based vaccines provide effective protection against most common SARS-CoV-2 variants. However, identifying likely breakthrough variants is critical for future vaccine development. Here, we found that the Delta variant completely escaped from anti-N-terminal domain (NTD) neutralizing antibodies, while increasing responsiveness to anti-NTD infectivity-enhancing antibodies. Although Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2-immune sera neutralized the Delta variant, when four common mutations were introduced into the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the Delta variant (Delta 4+), some BNT162b2-immune sera lost neutralizing activity and enhanced the infectivity.


Unique mutations in the Delta NTD were involved in the enhanced infectivity by the BNT162b2-immune sera. Sera of mice immunized by Delta spike, but not wild-type spike, consistently neutralized the Delta 4+ variant without enhancing infectivity. Given the fact that a Delta variant with three similar RBD mutations has already emerged according to the GISAID database, it is necessary to develop vaccines that protect against such complete breakthrough variants.

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Wait, where is that graph?

Israeli Study Claims Covid Vaccine Boosters Reduce Infection Risk TENFOLD (RT)

A third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine could cut the risk of Covid infection by more than 10 times in elderly patients, according to an Israeli study, which was peer-reviewed just ahead of a key FDA meeting on boosters for Americans. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday night, the newly peer-reviewed study found that infections and severe Covid cases “were substantially lower among those who received a booster (third) dose of the [Pfizer-BioNTech] vaccine” compared to those who took only two. “The rate of confirmed infection was lower in the booster group than in the nonbooster group by a factor of 11.3,” the study said, also finding the rate of severe illness was slashed by nearly twentyfold, or by a factor of 19.5.


The findings are based on a review of official data for some 1.1 million Israelis over the age of 60, who were divided into two groups: those who received a booster within 5 months of their second dose, and those who did not. Citing ‘other recent research’, the study noted that vaccine-induced immunity could drop significantly in just six months after a recipient’s second dose – providing only twice the protection compared to non-vaccinated individuals. After a third shot, however, effectiveness was pushed back up to 95%, “a value similar to the original vaccine efficacy reported against the alpha variant,” the study said. While the researchers said they did their best to correct for any potential biases in the data, they acknowledged that their findings could reflect “behavioral changes after vaccination” rather than improved immunity alone, as the study did not attempt to measure antibody levels and instead relied on official case counts.

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Brave New Bizarro World.

Note that this is based on research from before mass vaccination.

“88 known breakthrough cases out of 11,431 individuals who had been vaccinated between December of 2020 and March of 2021, compared with 162 such cases out of a total of 14,746 trial subjects who had received their inoculations in July through October of 2020.”

Pfizer, Moderna Release Data Supporting Booster Shot (Claus)

Late on Wednesday, the pharmaceutical firm Moderna released new data regarding breakthrough cases of the coronavirus that it says supports the need for a third booster shot of its coronavirus vaccine. Earlier the Pfizer Corporation had announced that evidence from Israel shows a third coronavirus vaccine shot restores protection back up to the original effectiveness rate of 95% as it made the case to the US Food and Drug Administration for boosters. Pfizer stated that the need for the authorization of a booster shot is in response to what it called an “urgent emerging public health issue” as the much more contagious Delta variant of the virus races across the globe.

Adding further assurance to those who may shun the third shot for fear of additional side effects, Pfizer officials stated that such occurrences are similar to those observed after receiving the second dose of the vaccine. For its part, Moderna officials offered up a new analysis that showed breakthrough Coronavirus cases were experienced less often in those who were more recently vaccinated, indicating that the effectiveness of the shot does indeed wane over time. The Cambridge, Massachusetts firm noted that analysis gleaned from its phase three study showed the incidence of breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated people, occurred less often in a group of trial volunteers who had been inoculated recently, suggesting that immunity for those who received the coronavirus vaccines has begun to wane. In all, Moderna cited a total of 88 known breakthrough cases out of 11,431 individuals who had been vaccinated between December of 2020 and March of 2021, compared with 162 such cases out of a total of 14,746 trial subjects who had received their inoculations in July through October of 2020.

[..] Meanwhile, FDA officials declined earlier on Wednesday to endorse any position regarding Pfizer’s third shots, saying that there is a lack of verified data at this point. As of now, there has been no peer review of the Moderna analysis. The new flurry of vaccine claims appeared on the scene just two days before an important FDA vaccine advisory committee meeting; this initial panel of outside experts is tasked with debating whether or not there is enough evidence to support the wide distribution of booster shots across the country. This advisory group, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, was also the first body to consider the first coronavirus vaccine to come on the market in November of last year. Now it will debate the administration of a third dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech product.

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But of course. “Informed consent” from a 12-year old. They should look you people up.

UK Study To Test Mixed Covid Vaccines On Children & Teens (RT)

British researchers are set to study the effects of mixed vaccine schedules on children and teens, hoping to figure out whether second doses have the intended immune response in youths amid concerns of possible side effects. Designed by the Oxford Vaccine Group and dubbed “Com-COV3,” the upcoming trial will recruit 360 volunteers aged 12 to 16 in order to better understand how to distribute second doses to younger age groups. The study comes soon after UK health officials approved Covid vaccinations for kids 12 to 15-years-old, which will begin next week.

“This will provide the [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] with information crucial to informing their advice about immunising teenagers in the UK,” Matthew Snape, the trial’s head researcher and an associate professor in pediatrics and vaccinology at Oxford, told reporters on Thursday. While all trial participants will be given an initial dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, second doses administered eight weeks later will be divided into four different groups: a full or half dose of Pfizer, a full dose of the jab developed by Novavax, or a half dose of Moderna’s immunization.

“As well as looking at the standard two full doses of the Pfizer vaccine, we will look at how well volunteers respond when their second dose of Pfizer is half that of the first dose, or if different vaccines are used altogether, such as the vaccines manufactured by Moderna or Novavax,” Snape added. However, while vaccinations for the 12-15 age group will begin in a matter of days, British health orgs have approved only a single dose for youths so far due to possible adverse reactions from additional shots. Snape explained the “concern here is about the risks of myocarditis, particularly with the second dose with Pfizer vaccine in young men.”

Bhakdi

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About the “horse paste” calls to the Mississippi Department of Health: “..not 70%, as stated by the state epidemiologist, Dr. Paul Byers, but under 2%..”

Q: does the state epidemiologist still have a job?

The Plot Against Ivermectin (Bonvie)

When the Mississippi Department of Health released a “Health Alert Network” bulletin on August 20th stating that “70% of the recent calls (to its state poison control)” were over people taking livestock versions of the human drug ivermectin, the media went wild. Outlets such as The Hill, The New York Times, The Washington Post and scores of local news stations reported on this “crazy Covid” treatment that so many Mississippians were taking. Only, it just wasn’t true. Despite a retraction by the Associated Press on August 25th on this “erroneously reported” information, the Mississippi alert created a media feeding frenzy generating sexy headlines over people taking a “horse dewormer” for Covid-19 that has persisted to this day – one reason perhaps being that the Mississippi Department of Health has kept the uncorrected alert still posted and in public view.

After several freedom-of-information-act requests, it turns out that the actual number of calls during August 2021 to Mississippi Poison Control over animal ivermectin was not 70 percent, as stated by the state epidemiologist, Dr. Paul Byers, but under two percent – representing 11 inquiries related to people taking veterinary versions of the drug. If you include July in the tally, it’s down to around one percent of calls. So why did the Mississippi Department of Health put out such erroneous information, one that still states that media-mesmerizing 70 percent number? At this point, various print and broadcasting outlets, major, minor and even alternative, all have their own spurious slants on the supposedly grave danger ivermectin veterinary drugs pose to a gullible public trying to treat or prevent Covid-19.

These range from a bogus report that doctors can’t treat gunshot victims at an Oklahoma hospital because they’re too busy handling ivermectin overdoses to claims of poison-control centers around the country being overrun with ivermectin calls to the slandering of an Arkansas prison doctor, accused of “cruel and unusual punishment” after prescribing human-grade ivermectin (referred to as “cow dewormer”) to his inmates to treat Covid. From the extensive research I’ve done, it appears that this “horse/cow dewormer” narrative went into full swing with the issuance of that Mississippi alert. Rather than work these facts into a story, I’ve compiled a timeline that begins on August 18.

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Our hospitals are overwhelmed! Let’s make it worse!

France Suspends 3,000 Unvaccinated Health Workers (F24)

Thousands of health workers across France have been suspended without pay for failing to get vaccinated against Covid-19 ahead of a deadline this week, Health Minister Olivier Veran said Thursday. “Some 3,000 suspensions were notified yesterday to employees at health centres and clinics who have not yet been vaccinated,” Veran told RTL radio. He added that “several dozens” had turned in their resignations rather than sign up for the jabs. That compares with 2.7 million health workers overall, Veran said, adding that “continued healthcare is assured”.


President Emmanuel Macron gave staff at hospitals, retirement home workers and the fire service an ultimatum in July to get at least one shot by September 15 or face unpaid suspension. Many nurses in particular have been reluctant to get vaccinated, citing safety or efficacy concerns, posing the risk that France’s inoculation drive could stall. France’s national public health agency estimated last week that roughly 12 percent of hospital staff and around six percent of doctors in private practices have yet to be vaccinated. Overall, 70 percent of the French have received both doses required to be fully vaccinated, which are available to everyone over age 12 — one of the highest rates in the world.

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“..most young children remain unvaccinated in China, sparking fears that the latest Fujian outbreak could hit the most vulnerable people in the country disproportionately.”

China Fully Vaccinates More Than 1 Billion People (RFI)

China has fully vaccinated more than one billion people against the coronavirus — 71 percent of its population — official figures showed Thursday. The country where the virus was first detected has mostly curbed the virus within its borders, but is racing to get the vast majority of its population vaccinated as a new outbreak flickers in the southeast. “As of September 15, 2.16 billion vaccine doses have been administered nationwide,” said National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng at a press briefing. Chinese health authorities said late last month that 890 million people in China had been fully vaccinated and two billion doses administered.


The government has not publicly announced a target for vaccination coverage, but top virologist Zhong Nanshan said last month that the country is likely to have 80 percent of its population inoculated by the end of the year, reaching herd immunity. China is currently battling an outbreak of the Delta variant in the southeastern province of Fujian that has infected almost 200 people so far in three cities, dozens of whom are schoolchildren. The Fujian cluster is the biggest rebound in weeks and comes after the country declared the Delta variant under control, in a test of China’s “zero-case” approach to the pandemic. China reported 49 new domestic transmissions on Thursday, the vast majority in Fujian. Authorities said the cluster’s suspected patient zero was a man who had recently returned from Singapore to the city of Putian, and developed symptoms after completing a 14-day quarantine and initially testing negative for the virus.

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But what role did the FBI play in this?

Clinton Lawyer Michael Sussmann Indicted For Lying to FBI (CTH)

U.S. Special Counsel John Durham has released an indictment of Perkins Coie lawyer Michael Sussmann for lying to federal investigators in 2016 about the people and motives behind his FBI contact. He failed to tell them his intent was to spread a false Alfa Bank conspiracy theory on behalf of the Clinton campaign. Working for the Perkins Coie law firm, while under contract with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, partner Michael Sussmann contacted FBI Legal Counsel James Baker to pitch evidence that a Russian bank was in digital communications with servers in Trump Tower. The Alfa Bank allegation was one of the key components for the ridiculous Trump-Russia narrative put together by the Hillary Clinton campaign. Sussmann wanted the FBI to investigate Donald Trump, so that Hillary Clinton could push a political fabrication about Donald Trump working with Russians to steal the presidential election.


According to the indictment, Sussmann failed to tell the FBI that he was giving them this information on behalf of the Clinton campaign. The FBI investigated the claims and found nothing; however, it was the appearance of the investigation that Clinton needed in order to leak/push the Trump-Russia story to the media and stir up the controversy. There had to be something to the “Trump-Russia” story, because the FBI was investigating it. That fabricated smear served its intended purpose, and the media ran with it.

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Do they present it this way so you will think the Fed is accountable to you?

Powell, Juggling Policy And Renomination, Now Faces An Ethics Blowup (R.)

It is perhaps as predictable as it is problematic: Within days of news that two Federal Reserve bank presidents had engaged in controversial stock trades, one of the fiercest critics of the U.S. central bank’s financial system oversight demands new ethics rules that would bar such dealings in the future. For Fed Chair Jerome Powell, however, it is the wrong problem at the wrong time. Under consideration for reappointment as Fed chief while also juggling how to pull off a critical change in U.S. monetary policy, Powell faces a controversy of the Fed’s own making that helps reinforce arguments by progressives for broader change at the central bank.

Powell remains favored for renomination by President Joe Biden, and if history is a guide a decision may come in the weeks between the Fed’s policy meeting next week and its two-day session on Nov. 2-3. That would match a point in the calendar when the last two Fed chair appointments have been announced. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren’s Wednesday letter to the Fed’s 12 regional presidents asking them to “impose strong and enforceable ethics and financial conflicts of interest rules” and send her an action plan “no later than Oct. 15,” is at a minimum a distraction to Powell at a time when he is steering the Fed through complex debate over monetary policy.

The Fed meets next week and is expected to take a potentially decisive step that flags likely changes to some of its pandemic crisis programs at an upcoming meeting. It is the type of moment that requires deft communication at the Fed chair’s post-meeting press conference – now muddled by likely queries about his colleagues’ investing habits and the possible blow to public trust. “Institutionally, it’s a bad look,” said Tim Duy, chief U.S. economist at SGH Macro Advisors and an economics professor at the University of Oregon. “It’s better to get ahead of this.” Powell has moved to do so, launching a broad review of the Fed’s rules governing investments by senior officials.

But unless change comes quicly, Warren’s direct demands set up a possible clash with a key Democratic lawmaker when Biden’s eventual Fed pick goes for Senate confirmation. Warren, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which will provide the initial vetting of the nominee, voted against Powell as Fed chair four years ago, has criticized the Fed’s approach to financial regulation on his watch and has yet to state an opinion about his possible renomination. She credited the move by Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren to sell the investments in question, but said a decision “made amidst an ethic firestorm” left no guarantee “that Fed officials are acting solely in the public interest, not based on their own financial interests.”

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Thought I’d add this one because of this line:

“Current Fed regulations forbid the trading of individual stocks by senior officials around the time of policy meetings due to the sharing of information that could have significant influence on the nation’s economy.”

You mean like 15 minutes before and 15 mimues after, but otherwise you’re fine?

Powell Orders Ethics Review Of Federal Reserve (JTN)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell ordered staff to review ethics guidelines governing the financial dealings by top central bank officials. News of Powell’s inquiry broke after Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sent 12 letters to the Fed’s regional banks demanding stricter ethics guidelines be implemented by the Fed’s top officials. The Massachusetts Democrat called on each president to ban the ownership and trading of personal stocks by top officials at each regional bank office. Powell requested the ethics review late last week, a spokesperson said in a statement, following reports that two regional presidents actively invested during 2020. A Fed spokesperson told CNBC that Powell ordered the review “because the trust of the American people is essential for the Federal Reserve to effectively carry out our important mission.”


According to documents released last week, Fed Presidents Robert Kaplan and Eric Rosengren both bought or sold private stocks in excess of $1 million dollars. Other Fed presidents reported little to no trading activity. Amid the public backlash and scrutiny from Congress, both Kaplan and Rosengren said they would sell any individual stock holdings by the end of the month. Current Fed regulations forbid the trading of individual stocks by senior officials around the time of policy meetings due to the sharing of information that could have significant influence on the nation’s economy. Powell emphasized that although it is not illegal for regional presidents to buy or sell stocks, the Fed’s internal rules require officials to avoid even the appearance of conflict or of using their position for personal gain.

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“..unfinished properties with enough floor space to cover three-fourths of Manhattan..”

China Braces For “Nightmare Scenario” As Evergrande Collapses (ZH)

Up until now the collapse of China’s Evergrande was very much a slow motion affair, captured perhaps best by Forte Securities trader Keith Temperton who said that “the Asian banks will get hit hard if there’s a default, but then there will be a 10-year recovery process. The market’s getting a hang of it. The way they’ve managed the news flow seems quite clever. They haven’t let a swathe of bad news at once.” But while Beijing was indeed successful in extending the period of collapse as long as possible, now that Evergrande is effectively insolvent and having suspended its bonds from trading we have finally gotten to the endgame and the realization that hundreds of billions in capital (Evergrande’s total debt was just over $300 billion) is gone for ever.

This realization has already prompted angry protesters at China Evergrande Group offices across the country as the developer has fallen further behind on promises to more than 70,000 investors. Construction of unfinished properties with enough floor space to cover three-fourths of Manhattan grinds to a halt, leaving more than a million homebuyers in limbo. In an effort to appease its angry (and very soon, poor) stakeholders, Evergrande plans to let consumers and staff bid on discounted properties this month to repay them for billions in overdue investment products as the embattled developer seeks to preserve cash, according to people familiar with the matter.

According to Bloomberg, the company will organize an online property event by Sept. 30 for investors who opt for discounted real estate in lieu of cash, said two employees who were briefed on an internal call Thursday and asked not to be identified. The world’s most-indebted property developer is pushing the discounted real estate as the preferred of three options for angry investors seeking repayments. The high-yield “shadow bank” products paying as much as 13% a year have become a lightning rod for cash-strapped Evergrande, with investors and staff protesting losses and delayed payments from investments that were marketed as safe. Indeed, demonstrations that are breaking out across China could sway any bailout decisions by the government, which places a high priority on social stability, although it’s likely too late for that.

More than 70,000 people bought the products, including many Evergrande employees, Bloomberg reported earlier, citing an executive of Evergrande’s wealth division. And with about 40 billion yuan ($6.2 billion) of them are now due according to Caixin, there is about to be a whole lot of angry investors, who will not be swayed by the company’s hail mary plan to offer steep discounts on property assets. Investors can invest in residential housing units at a 28% discount, offices at a 46% discount and stores and parking units at 52%. Discounted rates can’t be lower than price floors designated by local governments. The property discounts are a voluntary repayment option, according to the briefing.

[..] As Bloomberg notes, it’s impossible to know for sure what would happen if Beijing allows Evergrande’s downward spiral to continue unabated, but China watchers are already mapping out worst-case scenarios as they contemplate how much pain the Communist Party is willing to tolerate. Pressure to intervene is growing as signs of financial contagion increase and as more and more popular anger builds. “As a systemically important developer, an Evergrande bankruptcy would cause problems for the entire property sector,” said Shen Meng, director at Beijing investment bank Chanson & Co. “Debt recovery efforts by creditors would lead to fire sales of assets and hit housing prices. Profit margins across the supply chain would be squeezed. It would also lead to panic selling in capital markets.”

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There’s a Cuomo in there!

 

 

 

 

 

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Jan 252021
 
 January 25, 2021  Posted by at 4:14 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  18 Responses »


Ary Scheffer Faust in his Study c1840

 

 

The essence of the story of Faust is simple: He is a man who sells his -future- soul to the devil in return for short term gain, for riches “now”. But years later, the devil comes to collect his prize.

Here’s a modern allegory.

 

In 2015 -or thereabouts- many of the mainstream media (MSM) outlets were facing dire times. Social media were taking over much of their readers’ attention, their ad revenue plummeted, and they didn’t have big stories to tell that would revert that trend. Things did not look good for the survival of CNN, New York Times or MSNBC. The Washington Post suffered the same problems, but they were owned by the world’s richest man.

And then the salvation presented itself on their doorstep in the form of Donald Trump. It’s not something they planned for, it just happened; it even took them a while to figure it out, but once they did, they went for it headfirst and all-in. How could they not? They were dying. Their finance departments told them anything negative about Trump was selling like hotcakes. And Trump willingly added to the fire.

The MSM made a Faustian pact with the devil (through his messenger Mephistopheles) for survival. And that devil was not Donald Trump, they never signed a deal with him, the devil disguised himself in the shape of clickbait, which very much has the devil’s signature, since it required them to do their “reporting” based on promoting hatred, conflict, division, anger, negativity, bitterness, resentment. All of which sells. Like nothing else. You don’t get people’s attention with happy stories, you get it by making them angry.

 

Not that the devil didn’t appreciate, and promote, the fact that they presented Trump as him, mind you. Indeed, disguise is the best trick of all, because it makes people fail to recognize him. But yes, you have to wonder when the devil will come for his payment, when he will come for their souls, as he comes for Dr. Faust’s in the original story. Because they’ve sold them alright, they traded their future souls for riches in the present.

Not that anyone would ever acknowledge that while they do. Faust is just a metaphor, an allegory, after all. But even if they don’t, we still can. And they’re not going to stop doing it. They will come after Trump with all they can think of, because for now, he’s still their meal ticket.

So there will be much attention for the next impeachment attempt, which may be the first one that tries to impeach someone who’s already left office, and they’ll bleed it for all they got, aided and abetted by the Democratic party. There will be a ton of lawsuits as well, Trump will be dragged from courtroom to courtroom. They all smell blood in the water. They want him humiliated, they want him bankrupt. And above all, they desperately want clickbait.

They’ll go after all other Republicans they can as well, and the ones who once supported Trump are easy pickings. They won’t stop until there’s no GOP left. Yeah, yeah, the spoils of war and all that. There’s something to say for leaving a system intact that at least appears to allow room for more than one point of view, but, you know, feeding frenzy.

The Dems, while clamoring for diversity, intend to leave only those people standing who agree with their ideas, so in reality that diversity only refers to skin color, gender, sexual orientation. Not to what you think. Y’all have to think what they do, or else. Not that they themselves all think the same, mind you, there’s miles between Biden and AOC, Hillary and Kamala, but you’ll be told about that later. First, the division.

Praising Biden will work for a little while, but only as long as you can compare him favorably to Trump. Once Trump exists stage left, there will be an enormous void that none of the parties involved, the Dems, the media, US intelligence, know how to fill. And that’s where things will get dangerous. What will they feed their clickbait hunger with? War? Russia, China, Syria, Iran?

 

The easy part: the media can lock themselves up in their echo chambers, provided they tempt enough people to go with them. Clickbait made sure they did. The hard part: they lost half their potential audience. But clickbait made sure the half they still had, paid three times as much attention. The hardest part: the MSM will no longer be seen as reliable news sources, or reliable only for half the population. How do they regain that audience?

They can’t turn on Biden, or Kamala, or Obama or HIllary. Those are all part of the deal that brought us Russiagate, Mueller, the Steele dossier and impeachment 1.0. All entirely empty hollow stories, ergo: ideal for generating clickbait. So who will they turn on once they’re done with Trump? They can’t risk creating sympathy with the Donald either, so making him the underdog is risky.

 

If we follow the Faust analogy, the obvious question becomes: how are the media going to save their souls? Interestingly, there are different versions of the story. The original German folk legend is from about 1500. The first written version, from Shakespeare contemporary Christopher Marlowe (some say Marlowe IS Shakespeare), from about 1600, Goethe’s Faust from 1800. “In the early tales, Faust is irrevocably corrupted and believes his sins cannot be forgiven; when the term ends, the Devil carries him off to Hell.”

But Goethe changed this. His Faust “ends with the titular character evading damnation and finding redemption in God’s grace and love for other people, with Mephistopheles losing his hope of attaining Faust’s soul. Ultimately, Faust goes to Heaven, for he loses only half of the bet. Angels, who arrive as messengers of divine mercy, declare at the end of Act V: “He who strives on and lives to strive / Can earn redemption still” (V, 11936–7).”

It is Gretchen, a young girl “debased” by Faust, whose purity and forgiveness ultimately salvages him. In the context, it is suggested she perhaps stands for all of womanhood. We’re in an allegory, after all. Ergo, the media will have to earn redemption “through God’s grace, divine mercy and their love for other people.” And whatever that may be, it sure sounds like the opposite of clickbait. Or the devil will come to carry them off into Hell. And all this time they made you believe it was Trump who was Mephistopheles.

It will be interesting to watch. How will they save their souls, their integrity, their credibility, their revenue? Or will they be dragged into Hell never to be heard from again?

Selling your soul, your integrity, never comes cheap. The MSM are about to find that out, as are the social media giants who pretend to have the authority to decide who can speak and who must be silenced in a world that until recently hailed free speech.

Or we can just lose it all, and obey our new masters. Mephistopheles would be so delighted if we do.

 

 

 

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Aug 102020
 


Cy Twombly Fifty Days at Iliam: Like a Fire that Consumes All before It 1978

 

 

Might as well call it a social experiment. Any other name, like “coup” or “fishing expedition” or “hookers peeing on a bed” or “justice being done” would just inflame “passions” and lead away from what should be the actual topic.

Whatever you call it, the fact remains that Donald Trump has been the first US president to be under continued investigation for the entire 4 years of his first term, and for about a year before it as well. And that should be a cause for alarm for anyone who cares even a little bit about the American political system, including those who abhor Trump. Because once you do that, it’s no longer about just one president, it’s about all who will follow him, and inevitably about the integrity and validity of the system as a whole.

In principle, there should be no investigations of a sitting president, and not even of a presidential candidate, because this risks endangering 1) the entire electoral process, and 2) the Office of the President (not for once, but for ever). In principle. If there must be an investigation, it must be based on solid evidence available beforehand, it must be short, and the President must be removed. If all of these three things are not guaranteed, no investigation is warranted, and the accusing parties should be “liberated” from the positions they held when they initiated the investigation regardless. Skin in the game.

 

 

It gets increasingly harder to write about American politics, or express an opinion in any other way, without being dumped into one of two camps, never to be heard from again in the other (except for ridicule or slander). There is no such thing as a neutral or objective viewpoint anymore. You’re either with us or you’re against us – or them.

Seeing -and projecting- the world in black and white is a tempting proposal for anyone afraid of being confused; it should, however, never be an excuse for the media to not present its viewers and readers with a full color palette. But we can see every single day how that went. Black and white it is. And in that environment, too claustrophobic to be put in a box, I might as well paint the picture as I see it. Yes, in color.

 

The “social experiment” I see progressing has two parts:

1) can a political party, aided and abetted by the media and intelligence services, unseat an elected president it has just lost an election to?

2) can a presidential candidate be elected while shunning the media, debates, etc., and only appear at times and in forms that have been pre-selected by her/his handlers for maximum effect, while hiding his/her weaknesses?

 

As for no. 1, it has evidently not succeeded, but that is certainly not for lack of trying. One investigation has followed the other non-stop since 2016, in public and behind the scenes, and they have all come up empty. Of course one side would contest that and still say there was lots of evidence, but if so, it obviously wasn’t very strong, or Trump would have been gone.

People may also claim that the mandate of the Mueller investigation was too narrow, but really, go back and watch the man’s pathetic (sorry, but it was) testimony in Congress after the fact, that should be enough. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler and others have promised solid and inconvertible evidence many times, but we never saw any. Rest assured, whatever Trump may have done wrong, you would have heard about it by now.

Or to put it another way: he probably did many things wrong, but not the things he was accused of. In fact, the entire Putin puppet narrative is so idiotic it’s impossible not to ponder from time to time that it was designed from the get-go to support Trump, not hurt him.

As for no. 2, that looks even more experimental. The approach is helped along “wonderfully” by the pandemic, which provides plenty excuses to keep Biden hidden, but it goes against everything presidential campaigns have been built upon throughout American history: contact with voters. That very few people would believe Biden is his own man, and not a sock puppet, can’t help.

But there is more at stake. Presidential campaigns are one element of a much bigger process, and you can’t separate the two. Both parts of the “social experiment” seem to run afoul of the respect that bigger process, and ultimately the entire political system, necessarily demands from all participants, from an individual voter to a President. And that is much more important than either candidate. You can’t temporarily switch off that respect if and when that might suit your purpose, because you risk for it never to be switched on again.

 

You may dislike a presidential candidate, perhaps even intensely so, but that should never make you lose sight of the integrity, if not the sacredness, of the election process, of the political system, of the institutions, of the Constitution, and certainly not of the Office of the President of the United States. Because once you do that, you open the door for everyone to do the same in the future. And no, you can’t blame that on the candidate you don’t like, you do it.

When a candidate is selected through the primaries of his/her party, you must respect that, because if you don’t respect the process, you are lost, the system is lost, and there’s no telling when you’ll see it back, if ever. If that candidate is then elected President, a lot of doors that before allowed you to question and criticize him/her, should be closed. The country at that point has either a new President, or a second-term one. A different phase of the political process starts.

The House and the Senate become the critics, empowered by the system to hold the President accountable. But only the House and the Senate. Not the media, whose role it is, other than in the occasional opinion piece, to report on decisions made; not intelligence services, whose role it is to serve the country, and the new President it just elected; and not the opposition party, whose role it is to prepare for the next election, and to provide a degree of counterbalance, depending on how bad their loss was, on Capitol Hill.

The entire picture is crystal clear. So is everybody’s role in it. But now and then people -try to- refuse to accept their roles, obviously believing that they are more important than the integrity of the political system, and ignoring that in doing so they put the whole system at risk.

 

What was happening first became apparent in late 2015 – early 2016, when the New York Times began running multiple stories every day directed against Donald Trump. Mostly small bits, based on innuendo about his past, with a whiff of truth perhaps, but not more. The word “gratuitous” comes to mind. At a certain point, they did a dozen per day of the stories, it became assembly line work for the writers and editors..

The Washington Post chimed in, and so did CNN, MSNBC and others, including international press. It turned into a feeding frenzy, with all of them completely losing sight, voluntarily or not, of their roles as news providers. They all shape-shifted into opinion-only-makers, confident that their audience would not notice the difference, at least not at first. At that point it became a very Pavlovian thing.

Which is why I was initially going to name this essay “Trump vs Pavlov”. 100+ years ago, Ivan Pavlov “found” that if he rang a bell in front of a dog, and then gave her food, she would start to associate the two. When he increased the time-lapse between first, the bell, and then, the food, the dog would salivate in expectation of food at just the sound of the bell. In the end, all he had to do was ring the bell, with no food around, and the dog would salivate. So he had nothing to offer, no food, no substance, but the reaction was the same.

That is a very accurate description of what a large part of the US media have done -and become-. All they have to do at this point is mention Trump, or just show his picture, and their public will react the same every single time: Orange Man Bad. There doesn’t have to be any substance, any factual journalistic reports of wrongdoing. The “conditioned reflex” as Pavlov described it, has set in.

And their readers and viewers have become addicted to this. How could they not? They’ve been bombarded with 1000s of these bells ringing, and the substance may not be there, but the expectation of it is. If you’re a regular viewer of Rachel Maddow, what are the odds that your opinion is still your own after hearing RussiaRussia a million times? The only way it could be yours is if you switch her off.

I’ve written before that I don’t even think they really set out to do this. Initially, there were probably just some CEOs and owners and editors who didn’t like Trump and/or were affiliated in one way or another with the other party -and later candidate-. Who was counted on to win big anyway, so why not (well, because of the integrity of the political system!).

It was only later that they found out 24/7 anti-Trump “reporting” was a great business model for them. CNN was dying in early 2016, the New York Times was nor far behind, and all of a sudden numbers of viewers and readers and subscribers went through the roof.

Their problem is that if they succeed in making Trump lose in November, they will be back to where they came from before he appeared on the political scene. All of their “reporting” on US politics has devolved into a scheme based on ringing a bell, and on the scandal and anger their non-stop salivating audience have become addicted to, and mistake for substance.

If Joe Biden should win, that scheme is dead. They may hope to last a bit longer on the angry scandal of a possible persecution of Trump if he leaves office, but that would be it, and that’s not a business model. They can’t very well now turn on Biden and his puppeteers.

New York Times writer and editor Bari Weiss said it very well when she left the paper a few weeks ago, she summarized the essence of the MSM problem in just a few words:

“[..] the lessons that ought to have followed the election – lessons about the importance of understanding other Americans, the necessity of resisting tribalism, and the centrality of the free exchange of ideas to a democratic society—have not been learned. Instead, a new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else”.


Why edit something challenging to our readers, or write something bold only to go through the numbing process of making it ideologically kosher, when we can assure ourselves of job security (and clicks) by publishing our 4000th op-ed arguing that Donald Trump is a unique danger to the country and the world?

 

That’s the media. Second in line is US intelligence. Which, there’s no other way to put it, conspired against a presidential candidate and, when he was elected, a sitting president. The Strzok-Page “insurance policy”, the Obama Oval Office conversations where Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Susan Rice were present, plus 1,000 other things, the overall picture doesn’t exactly point to that famous seamless transition, and US Intel played a pivotal, because accommodating, role in that.

The best way to show this is perhaps that US intelligence themselves did not (could not) come up with a report on alleged links between the -prospective- president’s team and Russia, but took a dossier paid for by the president’s opposition and used it to discredit and persecute him and people in his team. The dossier was written by a two-bit MI6 hustler who hadn’t set foot in Russia in at least a decade, and whose main ‘Russian source’ wasn’t there either, but sitting in an office in the US.

That source in turn had contacts with a group of Russians whose very business model it was to make up and embellish whatever stories the highest bidder required, while failing to deal with their own severe drinking problems. That dossier was the entire foundation (or 99% of it) behind Rod Rosenstein appointing Bob Mueller as a Special Counsel. The appointment would never have been made, never have been possible, without the Steele dossier.

 

How was the dossier vetted by US intelligence, if at all? It’s very clear now what was wrong with it, but the all knowing and very clever intelligence people could not have figured that out 4 years ago, and instead cleared it for Mueller, for further FBI use, for FISA applications? How about their treatment of Michael Flynn, who they had already cleared only to resurrect the dead corpse of their investigation into his talks with Russian ambassador Kislyak? How would you, personally, spell “in good faith”?

We will see in the near future what the Durham investigation into all Russiagate players will come to. Apparently, Durham has just another three weeks to present at least something, because there is a two-month “no-go-zone” before the election, during which he would be accused of tampering with the election. And the premise for the Democrats and their sympathizers is that if Biden wins, all slates will be wiped clean.

They won’t, by the way. America still has a justice system, even if it is oftentimes crippled and grinding(ly) slow. Just watch Michael Flynn attorney Sidney Powell and her team. They have vowed to not only have their client be exonerated, but to fully clear his name, which according to their view has been besmirched by everyone up to and including Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

 

The third leg of the “creature” is the Democratic party. Who have stepped so far over their boundaries, nobody recognizes anymore that there were any. Or that the political system they are an integral part of, dictates that there are things they cannot do, lest they corrupt that system to the core.

Once you lose a presidential election, you prepare for the next one. You don’t use the next 4 years to try and frustrate the president you just lost to with all you got. The system should not allow it and can not tolerate it. There should be skin in the game for opposition politicians, who when they come with accusations of gross misconduct serious enough to remove a president, should be forced to step down when the accusations don’t lead to the intended result.

It should never be a free for all, in which you can simply try again the next morning. Because the system cannot work if that is possible. It can’t be that if you win a midterm election and get a majority in the House, you can then use that majority to make it impossible for a president to work on the agenda that made millions vote for him/her. That would cause the system to grind to a halt, and the system must always be more important than its temporary participants (even those who “sit” for 40-50 years).

When you look at the speaker’s list for the Democrat -non- convention next week where Joe Biden will be confirmed as their -virtual- candidate, you see that other than AOC, it’s just a long list of the same old people who were already there when they lost in 2016, and co-losers Hillary and Obama still have a very tight grip on the power and the purse strings.

Why they stick with Joe Biden, g-d only knows, and the same goes for whichever highly unpopular black woman they pick as VP who could soon be president. And sorry, but they all are. Kamala Harris was among the first to step down during the primaries because she didn’t get any votes. Susan Rice is not exactly “loved by the people” either, and the rest are no-names, except for Warren, but she’s both too left and much too white.

So you’re thinking: what’s going on there? That’s really the best you can do? But it does seem to be, likely because Barackillary have a small group of confidantes to choose from who they themselves are confident will be willing to cede all actual power to them once elected. And if Harris and Rice don’t get picked as VP, they’ll still exert a lot of power.

As will Pelosi, Schiff, Nadler, there’s more new blood at Madame Tussaud’s than at the upper echelons of the Democratic party. Yes, AOC can come in to represent the squad in a cynical move (no power but brings in lots of votes), but that’s it. For the rest it’s still just the broken left wing of the war party. But you’re right, they’re none of them, Trump. And that at the same time is the sole identity they possess.

 

Anti-Trumpism has become a political religion. Because Trump is the only topic that attracts clickbait and viewers. The only topic that rings a bell. Joe Biden rings no bells whatsoever. A while back Donald Trump jr tweeted:

Trump is really running against the media, Silicon Valley, the establishment, the swamp, Hollywood and maybe Joe Biden.

While investor GreekFire23 did even better:

Trump is running against himself in this election. The vote will come down to those who love him vs those who hate him. Biden is totally irrelevant and not even campaigning. Biden has no platform, no slogan, no stickers, no signs, no rallies, no followers. It’s Trump vs Trump.

What can still sink Trump is obvious: it’s the economy and the pandemic. America’s problem is that no matter who wins, those will still be its main problems by January 2021. And another problem has been added in the course of 2020: protests and violence in the streets.

 

Update: I thought I could leave it at that for now, step out for a moment, have a glass of wine, let it all sink in, and write a closing paragraph. But then I was sitting outside in gorgeous Athens and this popped up, which I very obviously can’t leave out:

Senate Chairman Subpoenas FBI Director Wray For Russiagate Records; Puts Bidens On Notice

FBI Director Christopher Wray has been subpoenaed by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to produce “all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” which includes “all records provided or made available to the Inspector General” regarding the FISA probe, as well as documents regarding the 2016-2017 presidential transition..

[..] The subpoena was issued by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) as part of his investigation into the origins of Russiagate. It gives Wray until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20 to produce the documents. Johnson also released a lengthy letter on Monday in which he defended his Committee’s investigation and accused Democrats of initiating “a coordinated disinformation campaign and effort to personally attack” himself and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in order to distract from evidence his committee has gathered on Joe and Hunter Biden’s Ukraine dealings.

[..] Johnson’s committee has secured testimony from at least one State Department official who worked in Ukraine, and says the Bidens’ conduct created the appearance of a conflict of interest. “The appearance of family profiteering off of Vice President Biden’s official responsibilities is not unique to the circumstances involving Ukraine and Burisma,” wrote Johnson. “Public reporting has also shown Hunter Biden following his father into China and coincidentally landing lucrative business deals and investments there.

“Additionally, the former vice president’s brothers and sister-in-law, Frank, James and Sara Biden, also are reported to have benefited financially from his work as well.

I can’t let that go because it addresses exactly what my closing paragraph would have been about. Which is the risk of the giant divide that has developed in US society, getting even wider, and potentially leading to utter mayhem. Actually, it’s not even ‘potentially’ anymore, there already has been a lot of violence.

The Democrats think they will win easily on November 3, and then push through all of their their policies, after dumping on Trump for 4 years with their media and intelligence friends, but the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump, and most of their family and friends with them, don’t think so. That’s not a threat, it’s an observation.

They feel cheated out of their 2016 victory. They realize (or should I say “suspect”) that Russiagate and the Mueller probe and the Zelensky-linked impeachment “hearings” were empty vessels directed against the election outcome that they won fair and square, and I guarantee you they won’t take it sitting down.

Which means that no matter who wins, polarization will reach levels America has never seen, and, frankly, should never wish to. Because all of the people involved, bar just a precious few, will have to live together in the same country, and share the same society, streets, highways, stores and resources.

And sometimes I wonder: how are they going to do that? If Trump should win, how will the entire so-called left react, from the Democrats through the MSM to BLM? Will they just increase the protests and the violence in the streets?

Alternatively, if Joe Biden wins, how will the Conservative side of America react? Will they all go home and wait for what the DNC has in store for them, or will their reaction be pro-active? I know which reaction I would see them lean towards.

You have these two sides in society who appear further apart than even Moses could have hoped to bring back together again, you have the media who thrive on widening that divide even further, it’s a scary picture.

 

And in the meantime, while everyone’s busy blaming each other, who’s going to take care of the country?

 

 

 

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Jun 092019
 
 June 9, 2019  Posted by at 9:52 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Georges Seurat A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte 1884

 

Angst and Madness at the End of Empire (Orphan)
Theresa May: The Total Decay Of Political Integrity And Vision (Ind.)
Boris Johnson Threatens To Withhold $50 Billion Brexit Payment (R.)
US Auto Loans Hit Record (CNBC)
Used-Car Wholesale Prices Surge (WS)
ECB Policymakers Open To Cut Rates If Growth Weakens (R.)
China Banking Regulator Says Small Bank Risks Manageable (R.)
IMF Warns Of Giant Tech Firms’ Dominance (BBC)
Amazon Gets Booted by FedEx (WS)
The End Of The Arctic As We Know It (G.)

 

 

“..those expensive bases of aggression around the world will begin to cost more than they bring in profit.”

Angst and Madness at the End of Empire (Orphan)

[..] the angst of the American bourgeoisie is demonstrated more by what it doesn’t speak about than what it does. It is a disquiet which is at once terrified of the collapse that looms ahead and horrified at the idea of losing the status quo arrangement, even though that status quo is benefiting fewer and fewer people. It stands simultaneously aghast and paralyzed before the obvious madness of its rulers, and yet continually grasps at failed “lesser evilism” as a solution. And it largely still buys into the noxious mythology of it being the “greatest country on earth.” The corporate elite, having stripped down civic education over decades, robbed them of their political agency and resistance and replaced it with a sanitized history and demoralizing optimism, or “positive thinking,” which places all blame for their collective state and its inadequacies on the individual.

That it has been so lauded by Wall Street should cause anyone to wonder why it has been so internalized by the disenfranchised masses. To be sure, this arrangement is rapidly meeting its end. Banking and corporate corruption, never really having been dealt with in the last “Great Recession” or its notorious state funded “bailout,” has only become more blind and reckless. The membrane of the bubble created after that fiasco, born in avarice, is thinning in plain sight. It is about to burst again, and this time it will be far more catastrophic. The endless imperialistic wars that the US has engaged in for the last decades are also creating a financial strain.

Coupled with climate breakdown those expensive bases of aggression around the world will begin to cost more than they bring in profit. In the US itself biblical floods are wiping clean the soil graded for agriculture throughout the Midwest and causing tremendous economic hardship for scores of rural and commercial farmers. Droughts offer a grim alternative to this increasingly chaotic climate pattern. Food prices will undoubtedly rise in the future thanks to a capitalist system which creates artificial shortages and surpluses.

Read more …

“..our so called leaders are devoid of principle, immune to responsibility and seem only to prioritise their own interests, power and most importantly private profit above all. Theresa May is exhibit one. ”

Theresa May: The Total Decay Of Political Integrity And Vision (Ind.)

As an NHS doctor, making a diagnosis is quite an important part of my job. Central to it in fact. One has to process and put together information while providing care to your patients. Attention to detail is critical. For many of us working within the NHS therefore, it has been abundantly clear that the diagnosis for Theresa May has been terminal for some time. But where did it all go wrong? Was it always destined to end like this? What could have been done? Watching her face crumple and tears fall as she defended her claim to have “tackled Britain’s burning injustices”, as well as saying she had proudly served the country she loved, surely only the coldest of hearts could not have pity for a woman who had done her very best at the worst of times?

Well let me answer in the only way I know how: honestly, Theresa May is a mere symptom of the problem. The diagnosis is much greater and much more devastating than this one tragic figure. What we appear to be all bearing witness to is the total decay of political integrity and vision. We now live in a world where our so called leaders are devoid of principle, immune to responsibility and seem only to prioritise their own interests, power and most importantly private profit above all. Theresa May is exhibit one.

The woman who has supposedly tackled “burning injustices” has consciously implemented measures to ensure inequality has soared, overseen childhood and old-age poverty skyrocket, had life expectancy fall under her watch, ordered the Home Office to send out racist, xenophobic anti-immigration “Go Home” vans, and who oversaw a “hostile environment” policy that led to the deportation of many of the Windrush generation.

Read more …

Hollowness echoes with the people.

Boris Johnson Threatens To Withhold $50 Billion Brexit Payment (R.)

Boris Johnson, the leading candidate to succeed Theresa May as Britain’s next prime minister, said he would withhold a previously agreed 39 billion pound ($50 billion) Brexit payment until the European Union gives Britain better exit terms. The EU has repeatedly said it will not reopen discussion of the Brexit transition deal it reached with May last year, which British lawmakers have rejected three times, prompting May to announce her resignation earlier this month. May stepped down as leader of the governing Conservatives on Friday. Johnson, a former foreign secretary in May’s cabinet, is popular with ordinary Conservative Party members, who will decide between the two candidates who come top in a series of votes by Conservative lawmakers over the coming weeks.


“I always thought it was extraordinary that we should agree to write that entire cheque before having a final deal. In getting a good deal, money is a great solvent and a great lubricant,” Johnson told the Sunday Times. Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31. If Parliament does not approve a deal – and the government does not ask the EU for another delay – there risks being major economic disruption from a disorderly departure. The 39 billion pounds represents outstanding British liabilities to the EU, which would be paid over a number of years according to the withdrawal agreement negotiated by May. Johnson also said border arrangements with Ireland should be settled only as part of a long-term agreement, rejecting a “backstop” which would avoid checks on Northern Ireland’s border but which Conservative lawmakers fear is a backdoor way of requiring Britain to continue to follow EU rules after Brexit.

Read more …

Record loans for clunkers.

US Auto Loans Hit Record (CNBC)

People buying a new vehicle are borrowing more and paying more each month for their auto loan. Experian, which tracks millions of auto loans each month, said the average amount borrowed to buy a new vehicle hit a record $32,187 in the first quarter. The average used-vehicle loan also hit a record, $20,137. “We have not seen a slowdown in loan demand. In fact, volume for new and used loans is up from previous years,” said Melinda Zabritski, senior director of automotive financial solutions for Experian. With sales of new vehicles moderating slightly after the four best years the industry has ever seen in the U.S., dealers and auto executives are watching whether consumers will be more resistant to the steady increase in new car prices.


That is not happening. In fact, the average amount borrowed topped $32,000 for the first time ever. As a result, the average monthly payment for a new vehicle continued to climb to a new high of $554 and to a record $391 for used vehicles, according to Experian. While new car sales and loans are still strong, people with the best credit scores are increasingly buying a used model instead of new. Experian says 61.8% of those with a prime credit rating and 44.7% of those with a super prime credit rating took out loans to buy a used vehicle in the first quarter. Those are the highest percentages Experian has ever recorded for prime and super prime used vehicle borrowing.

Read more …

There’s something very ironic hidden in here.

Used-Car Wholesale Prices Surge (WS)

Prices of used vehicle that were sold in May at wholesale auctions rose 4.0% compared to May last year, according to Manheim, the largest auto-auction house in the US, running about 8 million vehicles through its venues a year. The chart of the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index, which is adjusted for mix, mileage, and seasonality, shows the two price surges from end of March 2017 and March 2018 that were subsequently only partially unwound. And the 2019 selling season is beginning likewise. The last time there was such an extended period of year-over-year price gains was from the trough of the Financial Crisis. After prices had collapsed in 2008, they started bouncing off sharply in January 2009.

By the time the “Cash for Clunkers” program started officially on July 1, 2009, used vehicle prices had already recovered to their prior pre-crisis levels (see chart below). But “cash for clunkers” boosted prices further. Congress had appropriated $1 billion that was supposed to last through November. But by July 30, it was gone. Congress appropriated another $2 billion, which was soon gone too. Car buyers were handed this $3 billion to trade in their “clunkers” and buy a new vehicle. Cash for clunkers was designed to boost new-vehicle sales. The engines of these trade-ins under the program were destroyed and the vehicle was then towed to the salvage yard for parts.


As a side effect, the program destroyed a portion of the most affordable vehicles – another devastating blow to lower-income car buyers in subsequent years. Not only were the most affordable vehicles gone; but by removing this supply from the market, Cash for Clunkers caused the prices up the entire scale of used cars to surge. This included my three-year-old car. Its book value rose month after month, even as the car got older and accumulated miles, something I’d never seen before, and I’d spent many years in the car business.

Read more …

So Europeans can buy clunkers too?!

ECB Policymakers Open To Cut Rates If Growth Weakens (R.)

European Central Bank policymakers are open to cutting the ECB’s policy rate again if economic growth weakens in the remainder of the year and a strong euro hurts a bloc already bearing the brunt of a global trade war, two sources said. The ECB said on Thursday that its interest rates would stay “at their present levels” until mid-2020 but President Mario Draghi added rate setters had started a discussion about a possible cut or fresh bond purchases to stimulate inflation. The apparently mixed message failed to convince some investors, who saw it as too tenuous a commitment to more stimulus. This sent the euro rallying to a 2-1/2 month high of $1.1347 against the U.S. dollar.


But two sources familiar to the ECB’s policy discussions said a rate cut was firmly in play if the bloc’s economy was to stagnate again after expanding by 0.4% in the first quarter of the year. “If inflation and growth slow, then a rate cut is warranted,” said one of the sources, who requested anonymity because the ECB’s deliberations are confidential. The ECB’s deposit rate is already 40 basis points below zero and the bloc’s top-rated governments, such as Germany’s, can borrow at negative rates for up to a decade. In this context, countering the euro’s strength, rather than lowering already rock-bottom borrowing costs, would be the main reason for a further cut to that deposit rate, one of the sources said.

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What else are they going to say?

China Banking Regulator Says Small Bank Risks Manageable (R.)

China’s banking regulator says risks at small and mid-sized banks are manageable, a central bank publication reported on Sunday, in the latest move to soothe investors’ concerns after the government took over a troubled regional lender last month. The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) took control of Inner Mongolia’s Baoshang Bank due to “serious” credit risks on May 24, rattling Chinese markets and prompting the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) to inject cash into the banking system. While authorities said it was a standalone case, the seizure comes as Beijing is urging banks to boost lending to help cushion an economic slowdown, fuelling concerns about rising debt and more bad loans.


“At present, small and mid-sized banks are operating smoothly, liquidity is relatively ample, and overall risks are fully manageable,” the CBIRC said in a Q&A interview with the Financial News. The regulator also said big banks are willing to continue interbank business with small banks to safeguard the stability of financial markets. Some small banks rely heavily on short-term borrowing from the interbank market, leaving other banks at risk if they run into trouble. A Reuters analysis showed at least 18 smaller institutions have not published up-to-date financial reports, and in some of those cases senior regulatory officials have been appointed for bank management oversight.

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Can I add a warning about IMF dominance?

IMF Warns Of Giant Tech Firms’ Dominance (BBC)

Giant technology companies might cause significant disruption to the world’s financial system, the head of the International Monetary Fund has warned. Christine Lagarde said just a few firms with big data access and artificial intelligence could run the global payment and settlement arrangements. Her warning came as the G20 finance ministers met in Japan. The summit is also discussing the need to close tax loopholes for internet giants like Facebook and Google. One of the options being considered is to tax such companies where they make their profits – rather than where they base their headquarters.


“A significant disruption to the financial landscape is likely to come from the big tech firms,” Ms Lagarde said in Japan’s south-western city of Fukuoka. She said such firms “will use their enormous customer bases and deep pockets to offer financial products based on big data and artificial intelligence”.”This presents a unique systemic challenge to financial stability and efficiency,” she added. She cited China as a most recent example. “Over the last five years, technology growth in China has been extremely successful and allowed millions of new entrants to benefit from access to financial products and the creation of high-quality jobs,” Ms Lagarde said. “But it has also led to two firms controlling more than 90% of the mobile payments market.”

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Can Bezos buy FedEx?

Amazon Gets Booted by FedEx (WS)

Amazon is aggressively butting in on freight carriers with its own planes, trucks, and delivery infrastructure, and is at the same time aggressively pushing for faster and cheaper service from freight carriers such as FedEx, UPS, and the US Postal Service. And FedEx has had it with Amazon, announcing today that it was dumping Amazon as customer of its FedEx Express division. “FedEx has made the strategic decision to not renew the FedEx Express U.S. domestic contract with Amazon.com, Inc. as we focus on serving the broader e-commerce market,” it said in a surprise statement. The current contract ends June 30.


Its other units that do business with Amazon and its international services with Amazon are not impacted by this decision, FedEx said. FedEx is not overly dependent on Amazon – unlike some other freight companies that now have come to grief under Amazon’s boots, including New England Motor Freight, a less-than-truckload carrier that “stunned” the transportation world when it filed for bankruptcy in February. Interestingly, FedEx chose to address this point explicitly in the statement: “Amazon.com is not FedEx’s largest customer. The percentage of total FedEx revenue attributable to Amazon.com represented less than 1.3 percent of total FedEx revenue for the 12-month period ended December 31, 2018.”

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“It will go when stratification breaks down completely and the Atlantic takes over the whole region.”

The End Of The Arctic As We Know It (G.)

If the Arctic were a patient, doctors would be alarmed by its vital signs. As well as hot flushes, asthma and contamination (the researchers are following up on studies that suggest the Fram strait has one of the highest levels of microplastics in the world), the ocean has also been diagnosed with a weakening of its immune system. For centuries, the Arctic’s distinctive character has been shaped by a layer of cold, relatively fresh water just below the surface, produced by melting ice and glaciers. This has insulated the sea ice from the warmer, denser, saltier waters of the Atlantic currents that flow in the depth. But this stratification is collapsing as temperatures rise.

The oceanic shift was outlined in a landmark study published last year in Science, which found that the water density and temperature of the Fram strait and Barents Sea were increasingly like those of the Atlantic, while further east, Russia’s Laptev sea was starting to resemble what the Barents used to be. “The polar front is shifting,” the lead author, Dr Sigrid Lind, of the Institute of Marine Science and the University of Bergen, told the Guardian this year. “The Arctic as we know it is about to become history. It will go when stratification breaks down completely and the Atlantic takes over the whole region.”


This has not happened for more than 12,000 years, but the shift is well under way. First to succumb, according to Lind, will be the Barents Sea, which will have no fresh water by 2040, then the Kara sea. The consequences will be far-reaching. The food chain is already affected. Atlantic species of cod, herring and mackerel are moving northwards. For the next 20 to 30 years this could boost fishing catches, but forecasts by Norway suggest boom will turn to bust later as the waters grow too warm for fish larvae.


Photograph: Denis Sinyakov/Greenpeace

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Mar 272018
 


Paul Klee Cat 1939

 

Dow Surges 670 Points But Stock Market Is On The Brink Of A Breakdown (MW)
Trump Sends To-Do List to China on Trade (WS)
America’s State Wreck Gathers Steam Part 2 (Stockman)
Integrity Has Vanished From The West (Paul Craig Roberts)
Western Allies Expel Scores Of Russian Diplomats Over Skripal Attack (G.)
New Zealand Says It Would Expel Russian Spies … But It Can’t Find Any (G.)
Whistleblower Questions Brexit Result, Says Campaigners Broke Election Law (R.)
Brexit Referendum Campaign Accused of Breaking Spending Rules (BBG)
Theresa May Stands By Adviser Who Outed Brexit Whistleblower (G.)
Underfunded Public Pensions To Persist (R.)
Hood Ornament Buffer (Jim Kunstler)
Meeting Paris Agreement Targets Will Take Massive Cuts in Emissions (BBG)
Ultra-Thin Sun Shield Could Protect Great Barrier Reef (AFP)
Brazil Senate Considers Lifting Ban On Sugarcane Production In Amazon (G.)

 

 

What you’re watching is not real.

Dow Surges 670 Points But Stock Market Is On The Brink Of A Breakdown (MW)

The stock market surged on Monday—and it really needed to. U.S. stocks are coming off the biggest weekly decline in more than two years, and the aftermath of that drop has market technicians warning that major indexes are on the verge of a full-fledged, technical breakdown. “The extent of the deterioration in equities is very much a concern given the combination of near-term technical damage, along with the decline in longer-term momentum after having reached record overbought conditions into late January,” wrote Mark Newton at Newton Advisors, in a Monday research note. Here are some levels that the market is trying to defend or retake after last week’s withering action:

A Dow Theory sell signal was close to forming. According to MarketWatch columnist Mark Hulbert there are a number of steps, but as of Friday, the market had just to see the Dow Jones Transportation Average close below its Feb. 9 low of 10,136.61 to trigger that sell signal after the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, on Friday closed below its February low. On Monday, the transports closed up 2.1% at 10,373.21.

According to data from Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading, a little more than half of Dow components were trading below their 200-day moving averages, which hadn’t happened since 2015. Meanwhile, about 50% of the S&P 500 components were trading above their 200-day moving averages, with a break below indicating “notable technical damage has been done to this market,” O’Rourke wrote.

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All obvious.

Trump Sends To-Do List to China on Trade (WS)

Negotiations – led on the US side by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, and on the Chinese side by Liu He, a newly anointed vice premier and President Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser – about how to address the gigantic China-US trade imbalance have quietly begun, the infamous “people with knowledge of the matter” told the Wall Street Journal. On Saturday, Mnuchin called Liu, which was confirmed by the Treasury Department. A spokesman said that they “also discussed the trade deficit between our two countries and committed to continuing the dialogue to find a mutually agreeable way to reduce it.” Now Mnuchin is considering a trip to Beijing to pursue the negotiations, one of these people told the Wall Street Journal.

And last week, according to these people, Mnuchin and Lighthizer sent Liu a to-do list on trade with specific items the White House wants China to undertake, including:
• A reduction of the 25% tariffs that China imposes on US-made cars
• Increased purchases by China of US-made semiconductors. China would need to shift these purchases from Japanese and South Korean manufacturers, which aren’t going to be happy
• Reduce subsidies to state-owned enterprises
• Provide more regulatory transparency
• Ease restrictions on US companies in China, particularly requirements that they operate as joint ventures in which the US company’s ownership may be limited to 51%
• Giving US financial firms greater access to the Chinese market.

Clearly, in leaking these negotiations and the existence of this to-do list to the financial press, the White House is hoping to calm the markets, because the last thing it wants is to preside over a stock market plunge, though the stock market has all the best reasons to swoon, and the US-China trade situation isn’t needed to accomplish that.

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“Trump’s new War Cabinet of John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Gina Haspel and Mad Dog Mattis is arguably the most interventionist, militarist, confrontationist and bellicose national security team ever..”

America’s State Wreck Gathers Steam Part 2 (Stockman)

Last week the Donald’s incipient trade war got Wall Street’s nerves jangling, but that wasn’t the half of what’s coming. To wit, Trump has now essentially formed a War Cabinet and signed a Horribus spending bill that is a warrant for fiscal meltdown. Indeed, the two essentially comprise a self-fueling doom loop which means Washington’s descent into fiscal catastrophe is well-nigh unstoppable; it’s all over except for the screaming in the bond pits. That is, Trump’s new War Cabinet of John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Gina Haspel and Mad Dog Mattis is arguably the most interventionist, militarist, confrontationist and bellicose national security team ever assembled by a sitting President.

We cannot think of a single country that has even looked cross-eyed at Washington in recent years where one or all four of them has not threatened to drone, bomb, invade or decapitate its current ruling regime. That means Imperial Washington’s rampant War Fever owing to the Dem-left declaration of war on Russia and Putin is now about to be drastically intensified by the complete victory of the neocon-right in the Trump Administration. The result will be sharpened confrontation, if not actual outbreak of hostilities, across the full spectrum of adversaries – Iran, Russia, China, Syria and North Korea – and an escalating tempo of military operations and procurement to implement the policy.

At the same time, the Donald’s pathetic Fake Veto maneuver on Friday cemented the special interest lobbies’ absolute control over domestic appropriations. Of course, Chuckles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi crowed loudly about the $63 billion annual domestic spending increase they got in return for the Donald’s $80 billion defense add-on, but the victory was not partisan; it belonged to the Swamp creatures who suckle the politicians of both parties and own the appropriations committees lock, stock and barrel.

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TV was just a first step in creating opinions from scratch. We can do much more than that now. Will we still curtail Facebook, Google?

Integrity Has Vanished From The West (Paul Craig Roberts)

Among Western political leaders there is not an ounce of integrity or morality. The Western print and TV media is dishonest and corrupt beyond repair. Yet the Russian government persists in its fantasy of “working with Russia’s Western partners.” The only way Russia can work with crooks is to become a crook. Is that what the Russian government wants? Finian Cunningham notes the absurdity in the political and media uproar over Trump (belatedly) telephoning Putin to congratulate him on his reelection with 77% of the vote, a show of public approval that no Western political leader could possibly attain. The crazed US senator from Arizona called the person with the largest majority vote of our time “a dictator.” Yet a real blood-soaked dictator from Saudi Arabia is feted at the White House and fawned over by the president of the United States.

The Western politicians and presstitutes are morally outraged over an alleged poisoning, unsupported by any evidence, of a former spy of no consequence on orders by the president of Russia himself. These kind of insane insults thrown at the leader of the world’s most powerful military nation—and Russia is a nation, unlike the mongrel Western countries—raise the chances of nuclear Armageddon beyond the risks during the 20th century’s Cold War. The insane fools making these unsupported accusations show total disregard for all life on earth. Yet they regard themselves as the salt of the earth and as “exceptional, indispensable” people.

Think about the alleged poisoning of Skirpal by Russia. What can this be other than an orchestrated effort to demonize the president of Russia? How can the West be so outraged over the death of a former double-agent, that is, a deceptive person, and completely indifferent to the millions of peoples destroyed by the West in the 21st century alone. Where is the outrage among Western peoples over the massive deaths for which the West, acting through its Saudi agent, is responsible in Yemen? Where is the Western outrage among Western peoples over the deaths in Syria? The deaths in Libya, in Somalia, Pakistan, Ukraine, Afghanistan? Where is the outrage in the West over the constant Western interference in the internal affairs of other countries? How many times has Washington overthrown a democratically-elected government in Honduras and reinstalled a Washington puppet?

The corruption in the West extends beyond politicians, presstitutes, and an insouciant public to experts. When the ridiculous Condi Rice, national security adviser to president George W. Bush, spoke of Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction sending up a nuclear cloud over an American city, experts did not laugh her out of court. The chance of any such event was precisely zero and every expert knew it, but the corrupt experts held their tongues. If they spoke the truth, they knew that they would not get on TV, would not get a government grant, would be out of the running for a government appointment. So they accepted the absurd lie designed to justify an American invasion that destroyed a country.

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Diplomats are stationed abroad to make communication possible. This does not help.

Western Allies Expel Scores Of Russian Diplomats Over Skripal Attack (G.)

The US has ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian officials who Washington says are spies, including a dozen based at the United Nations, and told Moscow to shut down its consulate in Seattle, which would end Russian diplomatic representation on the west coast. The EU members Germany, France and Poland are each to expel four Russian diplomats with intelligence agency backgrounds. Lithuania and the Czech Republic said they would expel three, and Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands two each. Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, Sweden and Romania each expelled one Russian. Iceland announced it would not be sending officials to the World Cup in Russia.

Ukraine, which is not an EU member, is to expel 13 Russian diplomats, while Albania, an EU candidate member, ordered the departure of two Russians from the embassy in Tirana. Macedonia, another EU candidate, expelled one Russian official. Canada announced it was expelling four diplomatic staff serving in Ottawa and Montreal who the Canadian government said were spies. A pending application from Moscow for three more diplomatic posts in Canada is being denied. Australia confirmed that it too would expel two Russian diplomats who were in the country as undeclared intelligence officers, giving them seven days to leave.

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Someone will find some for them.

New Zealand Says It Would Expel Russian Spies … But It Can’t Find Any (G.)

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, and foreign affairs minister, Winston Peters, say they would expel Russian spies from the country, if there were any. More than 100 Russian diplomats alleged to be spies in western countries have been told to return to Moscow, in response to the use of a chemical weapon in the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, a former Russia/UK double agent, and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, England on 4 March. The New Zealand government has condemned the attack and supports the international action, but says there are no such “Russian intelligence agents” in the country.

The Russian ambassador to New Zealand was summoned to a meeting “to reiterate our serious concern” over the Salisbury attack. “While other countries have announced they are expelling undeclared Russian intelligence agents, officials have advised there are no individuals here in New Zealand who fit this profile. If there were, we would have already taken action,” said Ardern. She said New Zealand will review what further action it can take to support the international community over the attack. “We remain steadfast with our international partners in our shared concern about the Salisbury nerve agent attack,” Ardern said.

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There are tw0 such whistleblowers now. Here’s no. 1:

Whistleblower Questions Brexit Result, Says Campaigners Broke Election Law (R.)

A whistleblower at the heart of a Facebook data scandal on Monday questioned the result of Britain’s 2016 Brexit referendum as his lawyers presented evidence that they said showed the main campaign for leaving the EU had broken the law. With just a year until Britain is due to leave the European Union, two whistleblowers – one from the British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica and one from the Vote Leave group – have alleged that Brexit campaigners funded their campaign illegally. By doing so, they have pulled Brexit into a scandal that has forced Mark Zuckerberg to apologise for how Facebook handled users’ data, and raised questions about how Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign employed data.

Vote Leave officials on Monday denied breaking election rules and said they were facing an attempt to undermine Brexit by smearing their reputations. The whistleblowers’ law firm, London-based Bindmans, released 53 pages of selected evidence on Monday. In a legal opinion, Bindmans said there was a prima facie case that Vote Leave broke election spending limits by donating to an allied group known as BeLeave, with which it was working closely.

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And this is no. 2:

Brexit Referendum Campaign Accused of Breaking Spending Rules (BBG)

Campaigners for Brexit may have conspired to break spending limits in the U.K.’s 2016 referendum on European Union membership, according to allegations by a whistle-blower who worked for one of the Leave groups. Vote Leave, the main pro-Brexit campaign, gave money to a smaller campaign group, BeLeave, and then helped direct how it was spent, according to a 50-page legal opinion by attorneys from London’s Matrix Chambers. The lawyer are acting on behalf of people who flagged potential violations in the campaign.

If that 625,000-pound ($889,000) donation had been included in Vote Leave’s accounts, it would have taken the group over its 7 million-pound spending limit. “It’s important that it’s the will of the people and not the bought will of the people that is expressed at the ballot box,” Tamsin Allen told reporters at a briefing Monday afternoon in London. Allen is a lawyer for Shahmir Sanni, a BeLeave campaigner who argues the rules were broken.

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No. 2 was outed as gay by his own government as revenge for being a whistleblower. His family in Pakistan has hired security.

Theresa May Stands By Adviser Who Outed Brexit Whistleblower (G.)

Theresa May has insisted her political secretary, Stephen Parkinson, “does a very good job”, as he faces mounting pressure over the outing of the Brexit whistleblower Shahmir Sanni. Sanni said he had endured one of the “most awful weekends” of his life after telling the Observer how Vote Leave channelled money through BeLeave, a group linked to Cambridge Analytica, to get around electoral law. On Friday Sanni was outed as gay by Parkinson, one of May’s closest advisers and a former Vote Leave official, with whom Sanni had a relationship during the campaign. Privately, some Conservative MPs believe Parkinson should stand down. “He’ll have to go,” said one backbencher.

The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw challenged the prime minister in the House of Commons on Monday about what Downing Street said was a “personal statement” by Parkinson. “How is it remotely acceptable that when a young whistleblower exposes compelling evidence of law-breaking by the leave campaign, implicating staff at No 10, one of those named instead of addressing the allegations issues an officially sanctioned statement outing the whistleblower as gay and thereby putting his family in Pakistan in danger?” he said. “It’s a disgrace, prime minister, you need to do something about it.”

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As sure as death and taxes.

Underfunded Public Pensions To Persist (R.)

Investment returns have been uneven and funding levels have yet to recover. Many pension funds have meanwhile attempted to boost returns by loading up on alternative investments to levels unheard of a decade earlier. “Some just cannot grow their way out of it. We have had several years of stellar (stock market) returns and it barely improved the underfunding situation,” said Mikhail Foux, municipal credit analyst at Barclays in New York. The benchmark S&P 500 U.S. stock index has tripled in the past nine years, driven in part by unprecedented zero interest rate policies and massive monetary stimulus from central banks around the globe aimed at combating the deepest recession in a generation.

But pension returns struggled to match the broad market, and recent wobbles in U.S. equities have fed fears of another downturn. “Now what happens when markets are falling 10 to 15%?” Foux asked. In 2007, a year before the crisis began, the median funded level was 92% for state retirement and 97% for local plans, according to Wilshire Funding Studies. That fell to 68% for states and 72% for local governments by 2016, the most recent data. A lower funded ratio indicates the overall soundness of a pension fund is weaker and more money is required to meet future obligations.

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Best description yet of Stormy. Big announcements and an empty interview. Presidents showing their virility makes them more popular, not less. Ask France.

Hood Ornament Buffer (Jim Kunstler)

Newsflash: President Donald J. Trump had sex with a whore twelve years ago. Let that sink into your limbic lobes, you poor, opiated, Facebook-addled, morbidly-obese, fly-over nation of lumbering, deplorable, gun-gripping, Jesus-haunted voters. A hoor! Do you hear? Wait a minute, you say. Stormy Daniels is no such thing, She’s an actress in, and director of, adult films, an auteur, if you like, at least a sex worker, toiling in the rolling mills of eros, sweating and grunting as much as any Mahoning Valley steel worker, or hood ornament buffer on the Tesla assembly line. And anyway, three times over the years she denied having sex with that man, at least once in writing, though last night on CBS’s Sixty Minutes she stated that she actually did have sex with the Golden Golem of Greatness.

In which case, she may be some kind of a lyin’ hoor… or savior of a nation yearning to cast off the loathsome rule of this odious president-by-mistake. The Sixty Minutes make-up and costume crew knocked themselves out coming up with her on-camera look Sunday night: WalMart Shopper. That reddish blouse, for instance, which did not display Stormy’s… er… assets in the usual way (i.e., an enticing fleshy slot descending into deep milky realms of mystery), but just innocently swimming around in there like a couple of frolicking dolphins confined in an above-the-ground backyard pool. Who wouldn’t want to jump in and swim with them? Maybe not the undistractible Anderson Cooper, who did ferret out many interesting particulars of that one romantic encounter: Stormy accepted Trump’s invitation for dinner… in his hotel suite. Just the two of them, ahem.

They watched a TV show about sharks. It apparently lacked aphrodisiac punch. So he showed her a magazine with his picture on the cover, perhaps to get the point across that he was a really important person in case she didn’t already know. She said she ought to take it and spank him with it. He concurred, dropped trou, and presented the rear of his tighty-whitey small-clothes to facilitate that proposal. After that ice-breaker, he said, “I really like you!” and “You remind me of my daughter” — instantly be-sliming the proceedings with overtones of incest. Stormy went to the bathroom and emerged to find Trump perched on the bed. “Here we go,” the thought popped into her head, she says. But she didn’t say “no.”

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Not going to happen. Paris was just meant to make you feel good.

Meeting Paris Agreement Targets Will Take Massive Cuts in Emissions (BBG)

Meeting the Paris accord’s temperature targets will take massive cuts to greenhouse gas emissions within 15 years, but won’t require them to be reduced to zero, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. If those targets—between 1.5 to 2ºC (2.7 to 3.6ºF)—are overshot, the consequences would likely require both drastic cuts to emissions and geoengineering efforts to remove carbon from the atmosphere, according to the paper by Katsumasa Tanaka at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan and Brian O’Neill at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research. “If we overshoot the temperature target, we do have to reduce emissions to zero. But that won’t be enough,” Tanaka said in a statement.

“We’ll have to go further and make emissions significantly negative to bring temperatures back down to the target by the end of the century.” Tanaka’s team began looking at both the accord’s temperature goals and requirement that countries “achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the second half of this century,” according to the statement. The scientists created scenarios that would achieve both the temperature goals and emissions guidelines. The group concluded to do so would necessitate cutting emissions 80% by 2033 to meet the 1.5 degree target or about 66% by 2060 to meet the 2 degree mark. “In both these cases, emissions could then flatten out without ever falling to zero,” according to the statement.

[..] The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is working on a report which is expected to conclude that geoengineering will be needed to meet the 1.5 degree goal. Recognizing this difficulty, Tanaka and O’Neill looked at the possibility the targets would be missed. If the 1.5-degree mark is missed, emissions would have to fall to zero by 2070 and then be negative for the rest of the century. In the 2-degree scenario emissions would have to drop to zero by 2085 and then stay negative for a shorter period of time to get back below 2 degrees. Both scenarios would require removing carbon from that atmosphere. The researchers also looked at scenarios reducing emissions to zero by 2060 and 2100. In the first case, the temperature rose 2 degrees before declining. In the second instance, it rose above that mark by 2043 and stayed there for 100 years or more.

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Yes, of course. We’ll cover the ocean in plastic, just as we do our food. And then ourselves.

Ultra-Thin Sun Shield Could Protect Great Barrier Reef (AFP)

An ultra-fine biodegradable film some 50,000 times thinner than a human hair could be enlisted to protect the Great Barrier Reef from environmental degradation, researchers said Tuesday. The World Heritage-listed site, which attracts millions of tourists each year, is reeling from significant bouts of coral bleaching due to warming sea temperatures linked to climate change. Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Biology have been buoyed by test results of a floating “sun shield” made of calcium carbonate that has been shown to protect the reef from the effects of bleaching. “It’s designed to sit on the surface of the water above the corals, rather than directly on the corals, to provide an effective barrier against the sun,” Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden said.

The trials on seven different coral types found that the protective layer decreased bleaching of most species, cutting off sunlight by up to 30 percent. “It (the project) created an opportunity to test the idea that by reducing the amount of sunlight from reaching the corals in the first place, we can prevent them from becoming stressed which leads to bleaching,” Marsden said. Researchers from a breadth of disciplines contributed to the project, which was headed by the scientist who developed the country’s polymer bank notes. “In this case, we had chemical engineers and experts in polymer science working with marine ecologists and coral experts to bring this innovation to life,” Marsden said.

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Yeah, just great. The entire deterioration process of teh planet is fast accelerating.

Brazil Senate Considers Lifting Ban On Sugarcane Production In Amazon (G.)

A bill being rushed through Brazil’s senate would lift a ban on the cultivation of sugarcane for ethanol fuel in the Amazon, driving more deforestation and making it harder for the country to meet its commitments under the Paris Climate Deal. The bill, which has been roundly condemned by environmentalists, companies and even Brazil’s union of sugarcane producers (UNICA), marks the latest move by a conservative congress to unravel Amazon protections. Five former environment ministers have also criticised it. “This is another setback that should not thrive,” said one, José Carvalho. Under a 2009 decree, sugar cane production is not allowed in the Amazon biome.

Allowing the highly-profitable crop to be raised on deforested land in the region would push out other crops and encourage more deforestation, said Marcio Astrini, public policy coordinator for Greenpeace in Brazil. It could be “one of the biggest disasters for the forest,” he said. The bill was first introduced in 2011 by Flexa Ribeiro, a senator for the centre-right Brazilian Social Democratic party in the Amazon state of Pará, and suddenly put up for a vote on Tuesday afternoon. It would allow ethanol production on vaguely-defined areas of Amazon land, including “altered areas” and “general land”. If approved on Tuesday and given presidential sanction, it could become law. Brazil’s ethanol fuel is seen as a clean fuel alternative to gasoline by millions of motorists. According to UNICA, 27m cars in Brazil, 73% of the total can use either gasoline or ethanol, as can 4m motorbikes.

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