Oct 082019
 


Paul Gauguin Breton woman and goose by the water 1888

 

Trump Appears to Reverse Syria Decision (USNews)
Trump Vows To OBLITERATE Turkish Economy If It Does ‘Anything Off Limits’ (RT)
Joe, Hunter Biden Could Be Forced To Testify In Senate Impeachment Trial (WT)
A Hard Rain (Jim Kunstler)
US Federal Deficit Estimated At $984 Billion, Highest In Seven Years (Hill)
US Blacklists China Organisations Over Xinjiang ‘Uighur Abuse’ (BBC)
Hong Kong ‘Won’t Rule Out’ Chinese Help Over Protests – Lam (AFP)
Court Rejects Latest Request To Force PM To Ask For Brexit Extension (G.)
Irish Border Is A Matter Of Life And Death, Not Technology (Fintan O’Toole)
Convicted Pedophile Gary Glitter To Earn Big From ‘Joker’ Movie (CNBC)
Southwest Pilots Sue Boeing Over 737 MAX (AFP)
Twitter, Facebook Could Face Billions In Fines After Ireland Probes (CNBC)
Ecuadorians Revolt Against Moreno’s IMF-Imposed Neoliberal Policies (GZ)
Russian, US Visitors Targets For Spanish Firm That Spied On Assange (El Pais)

 

 

Less war? Condemnation on all sides of all aisles.

Trump Appears to Reverse Syria Decision (USNews)

A senior administration official on an organized call with reporters appeared to contradict President Donald Trump about Syria policy late Monday, refuting interpretations of his statements from earlier in the day that prompted broad outrage from supporters and opponents alike. The U.S. is not removing its forces from Syria in the face of a Turkish incursion, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Rather, the president ordered roughly 50 special operations troops in northern Syria to relocate to a different part of the country after he learned that Turkey has planned an offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria. The official said that offensive had not yet begun.

The latest assertion, however, appears to conflict with a flurry of tweets the president issued Monday, further explaining a White House statement late Sunday that first announced the withdrawal, but offered few details. “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump wrote in one tweet. The idea of the U.S. withdrawing any of its roughly 1,000 troops still in Syria – even just from the front lines where they operate with Kurdish allies – prompted widespread outrage on Capitol Hill, including from some of the president’s staunchest allies like Sen. Lindsay Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They feared that the decision amounted to abandoning the Kurds, who have been instrumental in defeating the Islamic State group, but which Turkey has labeled as terrorists and vowed to attack.

Read more …

Pleasing Erdogan is never a good idea.

Trump Vows To OBLITERATE Turkish Economy If It Does ‘Anything Off Limits’ (RT)

In a fairly blunt warning to the NATO ally, US President Donald Trump vowed to “obliterate” the Turkish economy if he thinks it’s stepped out of line in Syria. He then told Ankara to “watch over” ISIS fighters in the US’ absence. “If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)” the president threatened via tweet on Monday – an odd turn of phrase for what otherwise seemed like a dire warning to a supposed ally. Trump called for Turkey to join “Europe and others” in “watch[ing] over the captured ISIS [Islamic State] fighters and families” just hours after announcing the US would finally pull out of northern Syria on Monday.


The announcement triggered howls of fury from hawks in Congress and the media, as well as sudden experts in Middle Eastern politics who cried that leaving Syria would abandon the Kurds to be torn apart by Turkey. The Pentagon “does not endorse a Turkish operation in Northern Syria,” a Pentagon statement issued on Monday clarified, stating “the US Armed Forces will not support, or be involved in any such operation.” While Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG militia an extension of the banned terrorist group PKK, the US has been arming and protecting the Kurds for years – and, as Trump pointed out in his earlier announcement, paying them “massive amounts of money and equipment.”

Read more …

Ukraine as Pandora’s box.

Joe, Hunter Biden Could Be Forced To Testify In Senate Impeachment Trial (WT)

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter could be forced to testify if the Senate ends up holding an impeachment trial of President Trump, say congressional aides who questioned whether Democrats have thought through the full implications of their impeachment drive. Not only could Mr. Biden be forced to be in D.C. at a critical moment in the presidential campaign, but so could many of his chief rivals — the half-dozen senators also vying for Democrats’ presidential nomination, impeachment experts said.


For that matter, if the House chooses to impeach Mr. Trump on charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation, aides said it could open the door to witnesses such as fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok or even major figures from the Obama administration. Mr. Trump could even be present for the entire spectacle. Experts said the Senate would have a hard time refusing him if he demanded to confront the witnesses against him.

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A lifelong liberal has had his fill.

A Hard Rain (Jim Kunstler)

A lot of readers (some of them former readers now) have been angrily twanging me by email for writing about the three-year Resistance effort to un-do the 2016 election. I did not vote for Mr. Trump (or Mrs. Clinton) but I resent the coup mounted to overthrow him. I object to the bad faith and dishonesty of the Resistance. I object to the criminal misconduct among the federal bureaucracy, and the mendacity of its partners in the news media, and the hysteria they continue to generate — at the expense of other matters that concern our future. The political disorder spooling out is the political expression of the long emergency that the nation faces as it finally encounters the limits to growth we were warned about decades ago.

The techno-industrial phase of history is ending, and we are left only with inadequate fantasies for coming to terms with it and moving forward. The dynamic relationship between affordable energy supplies and the operations of money roils at the core of this predicament. They are undoing each other and the result will be a contraction of human activity. The big question we refuse to face is how to cope with contraction. Beyond the ongoing orchestrated coup stands a reality-optional political Left consumed by serial hysterias, uninterested in truth, steeped in social despotism, and apparently willing to do anything to gain power. We should be very concerned with what they intend to do with that power.

As they attempt to redistribute wealth, they will make the unhappy discovery that the wealth itself is subject to the wholesale contraction underway. The overvalued “assets” representing “money” hoarded by the “wealthy” will turn out to be figments of a runaway debt crisis. We have already debased the operations of banking, and the tokens that banks issue — currencies and securities — levitate over an abyss. We already have plenty of evidence for what the Left will do to the principle of political liberty. Their shibboleths of “diversity” and “inclusion” really mean shutting down free speech and telling everybody how to think. They are less interested in “social justice” than in plain coercion, the pleasure they take in pushing people around. What’s worse is that they want to use government as the instrument for enforcing their will.

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Who’s counting anymore? The US will end up with only the rich and the desolate.

US Federal Deficit Estimated At $984 Billion, Highest In Seven Years (Hill)

The federal budget deficit for 2019 is estimated at $984 billion, a hefty 4.7 percent of GDP and the highest since 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Monday. The difference between federal spending and revenue has only ever exceeded $1 trillion four times, in the period immediately following the global financial crisis. The deficit, which has grown every year since 2015, is $205 billion higher than it was in 2018, a jump of 26 percent. The CBO has warned that the nation’s debt is on an unsustainable path. Higher levels of debt increase borrowing costs, make it harder for the government to battle economic downturns and increase the share of future spending devoted to paying off interest costs.


Since President Trump took office, the GOP has passed a massive tax cut package that reduced revenue, while Democrats and Republicans have agreed to increase spending year after year. Budget watchers note that the main drivers of the deficit, however, come from automatic spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. “Democrats and Republicans must be held responsible for the outrageous deficit reported today by the CBO,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs at the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks. “This unsustainable situation is only going to get worse,” he added.

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Always fun to see the US accuse others of its own signature practices.

US Blacklists China Organisations Over Xinjiang ‘Uighur Abuse’ (BBC)

The US has blacklisted 28 Chinese organisations for their alleged involvement in abuses against ethnic Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province. The organisations are now on the so-called Entity List, which bars them from buying products from US companies without approval from Washington. The 28 targets include both government agencies and technology companies specialising in surveillance equipment. It is not the first time the US has put Chinese groups under a trade ban. In May, the Trump administration added telecommunications giant Huawei to the Entity List because of security fears over its products.


A Commerce Department filing said the organisations are “implicated in human rights violations and abuses”. Rights groups say Beijing is severely persecuting the mostly Muslim Uighurs in detention camps. China calls these “vocational training centres” to combat extremism. The Commerce Department said in its decision on Monday that these 28 entities are implicated in “China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.” Xinjiang province’s Public Security Bureau is on the list, along with 19 other smaller government agencies.

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“..if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance.”

Well, Hong Kong wants a chance to get rid of you.

Hong Kong ‘Won’t Rule Out’ Chinese Help Over Protests – Lam (AFP)

Hong Kong’s under-fire leader Carrie Lam said Tuesday she would not rule out accepting help from mainland China in tackling increasingly violent pro-democracy protests. The financial hub has been gripped by four months of rallies, and last weekend saw much of the city grind to a halt as masked demonstrators took to the streets in defiance of a controversial ban on face coverings. Lam’s decision last Friday to invoke colonial-era emergency powers — not used for half a century — to impose the ban sparked some of the most violent scenes since the crisis began, as hardcore protesters trashed dozens of subway stations, vandalised shops with mainland China ties, built fires and blocked roads.


As much of the city returned to work after a three-day weekend, Lam told reporters that while she believes the city’s authorities can cope with the unprecedented troubles, China could be called upon if the situation becomes “so bad”. “At this point in time, I still strongly feel that we should find the solutions ourselves. It is also the position of the central government (in Beijing) that Hong Kong should tackle the problem on her own. “But if the situation becomes so bad, then no options can be ruled out if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance.”

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But ties him down in the process. The Court also has the power to write the extension request for the PM.

Court Rejects Latest Request To Force PM To Ask For Brexit Extension (G.)

Anti-Brexit campaigners have failed in an attempt to force Boris Johnson to ask for an extension to article 50 if he is unable to get a Brexit deal through parliament. Lord Pentland, sitting in the court of session in Edinburgh, rejected their request for a court order instructing the prime minister to seek an extension if he cannot get a deal passed by the Commons this month. Pentland said he had to take at face value pledges made by the UK government on Friday that Johnson would write the letter seeking an extension on 19 October as required under the so-called Benn act. Pentland said those assurances were unequivocal.


“I approach matters on the basis that it would be destructive of one of the core principles of constitutional propriety and of the mutual trust that is the bedrock of the relationship between the court and the crown for the prime minister or the government to renege on what they have assured the court that the prime minister intends to do,” the judge ruled. [..] Anti-Brexit campaigners are expected to appeal against the decision on Tuesday, when they will ask another Scottish court to write the article 50 extension letter if Johnson fails to do so. The campaigners – Dale Vince, a green energy entrepreneur, Jolyon Maugham QC, an anti-Brexit campaigner, and Joanna Cherry QC, a Scottish National party MP – want the inner house of the court of session to use its unique nobile officium powers to act on Johnson’s behalf. Those powers allow the court of session to take action in a situation where a remedy is needed, but this case is seen as highly unusual.

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“Essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks.”

Irish Border Is A Matter Of Life And Death, Not Technology (Fintan O’Toole)

Spaff some money on some geeks.” According to Chris Cook’s excellent account of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations with Brussels, that was the instruction issued to the civil service by May’s enforcer Fiona Hill in late 2016. It had finally dawned on the British government that it had committed itself to two incompatible things. One was that under no circumstances would there be a return to a hard border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The other was that all of the UK was going to leave the EU’s customs union. May faced exactly the same problem that her successor Boris Johnson is struggling with: you can do one or other of these things but you cannot do both. If Northern Ireland leaves the customs union, there will be border controls.

And so May tried to do what Johnson is still proposing: throw money at nerds and hope that they can somehow transform a political problem into a technical issue. The old (superbly condescending) joke was that whenever the Irish question was about to be solved, the Irish would change the question. But the British government has been trying to solve the riddle of Brexit’s Irish question not just by changing the question, but by changing the entire conceptual framework. It has to be removed from a discourse of history and geography and memory and translated into the languages of technology and managerialism. That is how Johnson sought to define the problem in his speech to the Tory party conference last week: “Essentially a technical discussion of the exact nature of future customs checks.”

Previously, of course, he suggested that crossing the Irish border was similar to going from one borough of London to another, and that any problem it creates could be solved with the same technology used to operate the city’s congestion charge. This is a way of minimising and dismissing an inconvenient truth. But it also goes to the heart of the complete failure of Johnson’s proposals for a replacement of the backstop designed to keep the border invisible. Everybody in Ireland, north and south, knows that there are many technical questions thrown up by Brexit. But nobody – not even Johnson’s DUP allies – really believes that what Brexit does to John Bull’s Other Island is a matter for a “technical discussion”. In Ireland, it’s about lives – and deaths.

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Every single sports stadium in the US has played Rock and Roll Part 2 all the time for decades. He should be filthy rich already.

Convicted Pedophile Gary Glitter To Earn Big From ‘Joker’ Movie (CNBC)

The contentious inclusion of a song by convicted pedophile Gary Glitter in “Joker” has sparked a wave of criticism from moviegoers, with many concerned the disgraced former glam rock singer will be entitled to lucrative music royalties. The R-rated comic book movie smashed box office records over the weekend, with Warner Bros. hauling in $93.5 million in the U.S. alone. That marked the highest debut for a film released in October in cinematic history. “Joker” also garnered $140.5 million internationally, bringing the film’s total ticket sales to $234 million, Warner Bros. said Sunday. But, despite the film’s opening weekend success, the makers of the movie have stoked controversy for featuring Glitter’s 1972 hit “Rock and Roll Part 2” in a lengthy scene.


The song plays for approximately two minutes as Joaquin Phoenix, who has received rave reviews for his portrayal of the eponymous villain, dances down a long flight of steps outside his Gotham City apartment. Glitter, whose real name is Paul Gadd, is reportedly expected to receive a lump sum for allowing the recording to be used in “Joker.” He is also thought to be in line for music royalties depending on the success of movie theater ticket sales, DVD sales and film soundtrack sales. The 75-year-old was jailed for a total of 16 years in 2015 for attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault and one count of having sex with a girl under 13. All six offenses were committed in the 1970s and 1980s. He was first jailed in 1999 when he admitted to possessing images of child abuse.

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Boeing accused of endangering pilots’ lives for profit.

Southwest Pilots Sue Boeing Over 737 MAX (AFP)

Pilots from Texas-based Southwest Airlines said Monday they had filed a lawsuit against Boeing, accusing it of “deliberately misleading” them over the 737 MAX, which has been grounded after two deadly crashes. Nearly 350 people died in crashes in Indonesia in October 2018 and in Ethiopia in March this year. “We have to be able to trust Boeing to truthfully disclose the information we need to safely operate our aircraft,” captain Jonathan Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), said. “In the case of the 737 MAX, that absolutely did not happen.”


The grounding of the 737 MAX since March eliminated more than 30,000 scheduled Southwest flights and caused over $100 million in lost wages for pilots, SWAPA said. Southwest is the largest operator of the 737 MAX, and the aircraft may not return to passenger service until 2020. The lawsuit, which was filed in Dallas, Texas, said Boeing had falsely claimed the plane was airworthy. In both crashes, pilots had difficulty controlling the plane once the MCAS anti-stall handling system was activated, according to preliminary investigations.

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Let’s see it first.

Twitter, Facebook Could Face Billions In Fines After Ireland Probes (CNBC)

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission has concluded investigations into Facebook’s WhatsApp and Twitter over possible breaches of EU data privacy rules, a spokesperson for the agency revealed to CNBC Monday. The investigations will now move into the decision-making phase, according to Graham Doyle, head of communications for Ireland’s DPC. During this next phase, Ireland’s chief data regulator, Helen Dixon, will issue draft decisions, which are expected to come toward the end of the year. These would mark Ireland’s first decisions related to U.S. multinational companies since Europe’s privacy law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect on May 2018.


In her draft decisions, Dixon will determine the penalty, if any, that either company faces for breaching data privacy rules. Companies can be fined up to 4% of global annual revenues for breaching Europe’s data privacy law called GDPR. For Facebook, that could mean a fine of more than $2 billion based on its fiscal year 2018 revenue. Because many big tech companies have their EU headquarters in Ireland, the Irish DPC supervises the firms under GDPR. Ireland’s DPC has opened more than a dozen investigations into big tech companies including Facebook, Apple, Google and Twitter.

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Delivers Assange, gets loan, turns against his people, declares state of emerrgency, flees the capital and moves it elsewhere.

Ecuadorians Revolt Against Moreno’s IMF-Imposed Neoliberal Policies (GZ)

“Se acabó la zanganería” — “The zanganería is over.” With these words, uttered on October 4, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno proclaimed the end of a 40-year policy of fuel and petrol subsidies, which had traditionally benefited his country’s working-class population. [..] The decision to cut the government’s decades-old fuel subsidies was just one element in a package of neoliberal economic reforms presented by the Moreno government on October 1. The program was part of a bid to satisfy the demands of the IMF. This October, the reform package set off an explosion of mass protests across the nation. Moreno claimed the drastic new economic measures were necessary to reduce “wasteful” public spending and balance the government’s budget.


The most controversial measure of all has been the elimination of the petrol subsidies that had been in place since the 1970s. This removal led to a staggering 123 percent rise in the price of diesel, with similar increases in the price of other fuels. The package also introduced a 20 percent decrease in the salary of public employees, and initiated plans to privatize pensions and removed workplace security and job security safeguards. When he announced the wildly unpopular austerity package, President Lenin Moreno sensed that large protests against his government were inevitable. So he declared a national “state of emergency,” and immediately deployed both the police and the military against protesters in the capital of Quito and other areas around the country.

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The lawlessness is staggering.

“Employees of UCE Global took apart and photographed the cellphones of North American journalists who visited the founder of WikiLeaks..”

Russian, US Visitors Targets For Spanish Firm That Spied On Assange (El Pais)

David Morales, the director and owner of Undercover Global S. L., the Spanish defense and security company in charge of protecting the Ecuadorian embassy in London during Julian Assange’s long stay there, called on his team to catalogue “the Russian and American citizens” who visited the cyberactivist as a maximum priority, according to testimonies and documents to which EL PAÍS has had access. The company allegedly spied on the WikiLeaks founder for the US intelligence services, and in the wake of revelations published by this newspaper is being investigated by the Spanish High Court, the Audiencia Nacional. Morales gave written instructions to his employees in London for them to give advance warning of the priority targets from both countries.

All of the information collected about these and other visitors was sent to an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server in Jerez de la Frontera, the headquarters of UCE Global S. L., in southern Spain. This kind of “big brother” was the place were all of the information collected was stored in an orderly fashion, including files from cellphones, profiles by nationality (Russians, North Americans, Germans, etc.), professions, and documents from attorneys, diplomats, journalists, doctors, and so on. Employees who worked for UCE Global S. L. have told this newspaper that the CIA had access to this server, and that Morales did not want to reveal the identity of “his American friends” when there were technical problems and there was a request for contact with the client.

The IP numbers registered come from the US and one of them corresponds to a company that provides security services for the FBI. A study of the reports that were created over a period of years by this company reveals that international current affairs and events surrounding the cyberactivist defined and modified the objectives of the company and its “North American clients.” [..] The monitoring of the dozens of people who visited Assange during the seven years he was in the embassy was comprehensive. But in the case of the priority targets – North Americans, Russians, attorneys and journalists – it was intensified as much as possible. Employees of UCE Global took apart and photographed the cellphones of North American journalists who visited the founder of WikiLeaks, according to testimony and graphic documents to which EL PAÍS has had access.

Read more …

 

How the top tax rate for highest incomes has changed in the US.

 

 

 

 

Oct 072019
 
 October 7, 2019  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Print your own Assange mask

 

The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t (Taibbi)
DNC Colluded With Ukraine To Boost Hillary By Harming Trump – Report (DWire)
Bob Woodward: GOP Senators ‘Choking’ On Trump-Ukraine Scandal (WE)
Trump Gives Blessing To Turkish Operation In Northern Syria (AFP)
In Last Minute Call, Erdogan Agrees To Meet Trump Over Syria ‘Safe Zone’ (ZH)
Arise, Commissioner Farage! (Pol.eu)
Brexit Border Talk Stirs Up Bad Memories In Northern Ireland (G.)
An Actual Conspiracy Kept Jeffrey Epstein’s Accomplices out of Prison
Chinese Farmers Raise Mutant Pigs The Size Of Polar Bears (ZH)
Lula’s Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. He Refuses. (Greenwald)
HSBC Planning To Cut 10,000 More Staff (AFP)

 

 

Not even close.

The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t (Taibbi)

Start with the initial headline, in the story the Washington Post “broke” on September 18th: “TRUMP’S COMMUNICATIONS WITH FOREIGN LEADER ARE PART OF WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT THAT SPURRED STANDOFF BETWEEN SPY CHIEF AND CONGRESS, FORMER OFFICIALS SAY”. The unnamed person at the center of this story sure didn’t sound like a whistleblower. Our intelligence community wouldn’t wipe its ass with a real whistleblower. Americans who’ve blown the whistle over serious offenses by the federal government either spend the rest of their lives overseas, like Edward Snowden, end up in jail, like Chelsea Manning, get arrested and ruined financially, like former NSA official Thomas Drake, have their homes raided by FBI like disabled NSA vet William Binney, or get charged with espionage like ex-CIA exposer-of-torture John Kiriakou.


It’s an insult to all of these people, and the suffering they’ve weathered, to frame the ballcarrier in the Beltway’s latest partisan power contest as a whistleblower. I’ve met a lot of whistleblowers, in both the public and private sector. Many end up broke, living in hotels, defamed, (often) divorced, and lucky if they have any kind of job. One I knew got turned down for a waitressing job because her previous employer wouldn’t vouch for her. She had little kids. The common thread in whistleblower stories is loneliness. Typically the employer has direct control over their ability to pursue another job in their profession. Many end up reviled as traitors, thieves, and liars. They often discover after going public that their loved ones have a limited appetite for sharing the ignominy. In virtually all cases, they end up having to start over, both personally and professionally.

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When will the MSM start publishing about the “DNC-UKRAINE SCANDAL”? The Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine was convicted in Ukraine for interfering in the U.S. presidential election in 2016…

DNC Colluded With Ukraine To Boost Hillary By Harming Trump – Report (DWire)

The Blaze has released an audio recording that they recently obtained that appears to show Artem Sytnyk, Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, admitting that he tried to boost the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton by sabotaging then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. The connection between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Ukrainian government was veteran Democratic operative Alexandra Chalupa, “who had worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Clinton administration” and then “went on to work as a staffer, then as a consultant, for Democratic National Committee,” Politico reported.

Chalupa was working directly with the Ukrainian embassy in the United States to raise concerns about Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and, according to Politico, she indicated that the Embassy was working “directly with reporters researching Trump, Manafort and Russia to point them in the right directions.” The Ukrainian embassy political officer who worked at the embassy at the time, Andrii Telizhenko, stated that the Ukrainians “were coordinating an investigation with the Hillary team on Paul Manafort with Alexandra Chalupa” and that “the embassy worked very closely with” Chalupa. The Blaze highlighted an email from WikiLeaks from Chalupa to Louise Miranda at the DNC:

“Hey, a lot coming down the pipe. I spoke to a delegation of 68 investigative journalists from Ukraine last night at the Library of Congress, the Open World Society forum. They put me on the program to speak specifically about Paul Manafort. I invited Michael Isikoff, who I’ve been working with for the past few weeks, and connected him to the Ukrainians. More offline tomorrow, since there was a big Trump component you and Lauren need to be aware of that will hit in the next few weeks. Something I’m working on that you should be aware of.” The Blaze then reported that Sytnyk, who eventually “was tried and convicted in Ukraine for interfering in the U.S. presidential election in 2016,” released a “black ledger” on Manafort during the 2016 presidential election that eventually led to Manafort’s downfall.

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Republicans drowning in donations.

Bob Woodward: GOP Senators ‘Choking’ On Trump-Ukraine Scandal (WE)

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward said Republican senators are “choking” on President Trump’s Ukraine scandal. At his second appearance in Spokane, Washington, in as many days, the famed Watergate sleuth discussed the precarious situation GOP lawmakers find themselves in as Trump faces controversy for encouraging foreign countries to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son Hunter. “I know Republican senators, and they are choking on this,” Woodward said on Friday, according to the Spokesman-Review. “Whether they say that’s too much, I don’t know.” Some Republicans in the upper chamber have begun to break ranks after Trump openly encouraged Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens on Thursday.

Among those who have vented publicly are Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, as well as Texas Rep. Will Hurd in the House. Trump, who claims his overtures were about corruption and not crippling a political opponent in the 2020 election, repeatedly castigated Romney on Saturday, even calling for his impeachment. In a discussion with college students on Thursday, Woodward said the situation for Trump is getting “more serious each day” and predicted that impeachment in the House “is almost certainly going to happen to Trump.” He added, “But then there’s a trial in the Senate.”

On Friday, Woodward acknowledged that Trump encouraging foreign countries to investigate the Biden family is “probably not criminal,” but he nonetheless referred to the controversy as being wide in scope. Speaking of the House impeachment inquiry, Woodward said, “They’re looking through a keyhole, and it’s a panorama.” Woodward also noted how some Republicans in the Senate are seeing an advantage from the Democrats’ impeachment venture. He mentioned that Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former Trump critic who has become one of his most vociferous defenders, is seeing an influx of donations. Woodward said the South Carolina Republican told him he “couldn’t count the money fast enough.”

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If the US leaves the Kurds alone to be cannon fodder for Erdogan, it will deeply regret it. No-one counting on US support will ever trust it again.

Picked up on Twitter: “…the US persuaded the SDF Kurds to dismantle defensive positions that deterred Turkey, promising security guarantees in exchange. Then once the SDF Kurds became defenseless, Trump gave Erdogan the green light to invade. Hard to imagine a more sinister sequence of events.”

All that said, Trump has been pressing EU countries for a long time to deal with ISIS fighters from their countries. They have refused to even let them come back “home”. That would leave the US to hold them for a long time, and at great cost.

Trump Gives Blessing To Turkish Operation In Northern Syria (AFP)

Donald Trump on Sunday gave his blessing to a Turkish operation targeting Kurdish militants in northern Syria, saying the United States will stand aside as Ankara launches its “long-planned” operation. The move marks a major shift in US policy, and effectively abandons an American ally in the battle against the so-called Islamic State group that took over swathes of Syria. “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” a White House statement issued late Sunday evening said.


“The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area,” it said, using another acronym for the Islamic State (IS) group. The statement, which followed a call between the US president and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also criticized “France, Germany, and other European nations” for what it said was their refusal to take back citizens detained in northern Syria. “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial ‘Caliphate’ by the United States,” the statement said.

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Erdogan blames the US for not establishing the safe zone.

In Last Minute Call, Erdogan Agrees To Meet Trump Over Syria ‘Safe Zone’ (ZH)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan again threatened this weekend to initiate a military incursion into northeast Syria, where US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are based (and bolstered locally by small American bases), saying an offensive “both on land and air” would come “as soon as today or tomorrow.” Like many threats of an “imminent” invasion, it appears this proverbial can will be kicked further down the road, as presidents Trump and Erdogan held a “last minute” phone call on Sunday, where it appears the two leaders came to some level of an understanding. They discussed Turkey’s proposed “safe zone” east of the Euphrates in Syria — which Erdogan has long urged a resistant Washington to cooperate militarily on — and though exact details of the exchange weren’t published, they agreed to meet in Washington next month upon Trump’s invitation.

“Erdogan expressed Turkey’s unease with U.S. military and security bureaucracies not doing what is required by the agreement between the two countries, the presidency said, adding that the two men agreed to meet,” Reuters reported of the call. As we reported previously, Turkey’s military is reportedly on high alert, ready to carry out the Turkish president’s orders on short notice, after a longtime military build-up along the border. “We will carry out this operation both on land and air as soon as today or tomorrow,” Erdogan said on Saturday. “We gave all warnings to our interlocutors regarding the east of Euphrates and we have acted with sufficient patience,” the Turkish president added.

He further slammed the prospect of cooperating with the US on a US-Turkey administered safe zone “a fairytale” given Washington’s recalcitrance regarding Syria’s Kurds, the ethnic group’s militias of which Turkey considers “terrorists”. The Kurdish dominated and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has vowed it will treat any invading Turkish soldiers as an act of war. In a statement the SDF said it would “not hesitate to turn any unprovoked (Turkish) attack into an all-out war” to defend its region in northeast Syria, according to Reuters.

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Given what Dominic Cummings thinks of Farage, hard to see him taking up a job with much publicity.

Arise, Commissioner Farage! (Pol.eu)

London may not be planning to nominate a commissioner to Brussels but if it does, some say there’s only one option: Nigel Farage. Conservative MP Steve Baker told the Telegraph’s Chopper Brexit Podcast that the Brexit Party member of the European Parliament would be the obvious choice to be the U.K.’s European commissioner, if Brexit is delayed and the country is able to nominate one. “I think we should appoint somebody with about twenty years experience … we should appoint somebody who’s incredibly well-known throughout the institutions, somebody who can be absolutely relied upon at all times to support our exit from the European Union,” he said.


“And therefore I unashamedly back Nigel Farage to be our next European commissioner in the event, in the unfortunate event, should it transpire, though I think it unlikely, that we have to remain in.” Baker, who leads the pro-Brexit European Research Group of MPs in the U.K. parliament, said the idea would be “inspired by the film Armageddon,” referring to a 1998 science fiction movie. There is a scene where “they’re trying to save the world, and so what they do is they land on the asteroid, and they put a nuclear weapon in the heart of the asteroid, and Nigel Farage is that nuclear weapon,” Baker said. “I’ve reason to think he might say that he would accept such an offer,” Baker added, while noting that “my sympathy for Nigel Farage, which has not always been at very high levels, has dramatically increased the more that I am demonized.”

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A traumatized people. Too easily forgotten.

Brexit Border Talk Stirs Up Bad Memories In Northern Ireland (G.)

Remnants of Hurricane Lorenzo unleashed wind and rain from the Atlantic across the area, a rural pocket of County Fermanagh that marks Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic. “Stay back, stay high, stay dry,” advised the authorities, and residents duly hunkered down. Lorenzo passed without major damage. [..] Around Gortmullan, businesses and ordinary people were left wondering if – and where – to seek cover, a dilemma dating from the 2016 referendum result that now thrummed with urgency. “We’re setting up new companies on both sides of the border,” said Liam McCaffrey, CEO of Quinn Industrial Holdings, which supplies building materials.

Customs checks would be bad enough, but Johnson’s apparent plan to give the Stormont assembly a veto over trading arrangements verged on surreal, said McCaffrey. Power sharing in Northern Ireland collapsed in January 2017 and shows little sign of reviving. “The future of how we trade is to be decided every four years by an assembly that hasn’t sat in three years? Bizarre.” Such was the challenge of Storm Boris. Perhaps it was hot air, a plan destined for oblivion to be superseded by who knows what. Or perhaps it was a blast of what is to come in a no-deal crash-out, or a deal negotiated in the next few weeks or after a general election. The uncertainty was head spinning.

[..] The 310-mile border, drawn in 1922 during the partition of Ireland, bristled with military patrols and fortifications during the Troubles. The 1998 Good Friday agreement and the EU’s single market rendered it invisible, helping to seal the peace. [..] A complex web connects the economies on both sides of the border. Trade in goods is worth about £5.2bn. About a third of Northern Ireland’s goods and services exports are sold to the Republic, while about a quarter of its imports come from the south. Downing Street says electronic paperwork and a “very small number” of physical inspections at traders’ premises would limit disruption. Farmers and business leaders dispute that. Some warn of disaster. Diageo, which makes Guinness and Baileys, estimates a hard border could cost it £1.3m, based on an estimate of an hour’s delay for each of the 18,000 beer trucks that traverse the border each year. Smaller businesses with tight margins could face ruin.

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How could this ever happen? “The parties anticipate that this agreement will not be made part of any public record. If the United States receives a Freedom of Information Act request or any compulsory process commanding the disclosure of the agreement, it will provide notice to Epstein before making that disclosure.”

An Actual Conspiracy Kept Jeffrey Epstein’s Accomplices out of Prison (MJ)

But not limited to: It was just a four-word phrase, a bit of plain contractual verbiage, but even now, more than a decade later, Spencer Kuvin has a hard time expressing just how bizarre it was. “It’s incredibly odd language,” said Kuvin, an attorney in Florida. “I’ve never seen it before in a non-prosecution agreement.” Kuvin and I were talking about the infamous and inexplicable 2007 plea deal offered by then–US Attorney Alexander Acosta, last seen slinking out of the Labor Department’s back door. Kuvin had represented three of Epstein’s victims at the time of the agreement, and Kuvin is still exercised about the deal, in particular its brief immunity clause that continues to protect Epstein’s co-conspirators.

According to a ruling by US District Judge Kenneth Marra in February 2019, “from between about 1999 and 2007, Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused more than 30 minor girls…at his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, and elsewhere in the United States and overseas.” The ruling goes on to describe a child sex ring: “In addition to his own sexual abuse of the victims, Epstein directed other persons to abuse the girls sexually. Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him. Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.”

But back in 2007, Epstein was charged only with procuring an underage girl for prostitution, having struck an unbelievable sweetheart deal with Acosta. Epstein served 13 months in a Palm Beach County jail, of which six days a week were spent on work release in his high-rise office, a limo chauffeuring him to and from jail. He was also required to register as a sex offender. The deal on its face is incredibly favorable to Epstein. If you look closer, things get even better for him:

“The United States also agrees that it will not institute any criminal charges against any potential co-conspirators of Epstein, including but not limited to Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff, or Nadia Marcinkova.” The four women named had allegedly helped recruit underage girls for Epstein at his direction. But that four-word phrase “but not limited to” gave a free pass to anybody who would have helped Epstein acquire or traffic underage girls for sex. How could the government agree to immunize “any potential co-conspirators” of an alleged serial child rapist? The question is at the center of so many conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s life and death.

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Me when I see this, I’m thinking Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.

Chinese Farmers Raise Mutant Pigs The Size Of Polar Bears (ZH)

Amid one of the worst food crises in recent memory, Chinese farmers are reportedly trying to breed larger pigs as the African swine fever – less affectionately known as ‘pig ebola’ – has destroyed over 100 million pigs, between one-third and a half of China’s supply of pigs by various estimates, causing pork prices to explode to levels never seen before. As Beijing scrambles to make up for the lost domestic supply with imports, even desperately waiving tariffs on American pork products in what China’s politicians tried to sell to their population (and Washington) as a “gesture of goodwill”, farmers in southern China have raised a pig that’s as heavy as a polar bear.

Once slaughtered, these giant mutant pigs can fetch a, well, giant price on the market. Here’s more from Bloomberg: “The 500 kilogram, or 1,102 pound, animal is part of a herd that’s being bred to become giant swine. At slaughter, some of the pigs can sell for more than 10,000 yuan ($1,399), over three times higher than the average monthly disposable income in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi province where Pang Cong, the farm’s owner, lives.” Soaring pork prices have encouraged small and large farms to experiment with DIY genetic experimentation, in the name of raising pigs that are about 40% heavier than the ‘normal’ weight of 125 kilos.

“High pork prices in the northeastern province of Jilin is prompting farmers to raise pigs to reach an average weight of 175 kilograms to 200 kilograms, higher than the normal weight of 125 kilograms. They want to raise them “as big as possible,” said Zhao Hailin, a hog farmer in the region.”

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The entire case is falling to bits.

Lula’s Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. He Refuses. (Greenwald)

The same Brazilian prosecutors who for years exhibited a single-minded fixation on jailing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are now seeking his release from prison, requesting that a court allow him to serve the remainder of his 11-year sentence for corruption at home. But Lula — who believes the request is motivated by fear that prosecutorial and judicial improprieties in his case, which were revealed by The Intercept, will lead to the nullification of his conviction — is opposing these efforts, insisting that he will not leave prison until he receives full exoneration. In seeking his release, Lula’s prosecutors are almost certainly not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Quite the contrary: Those prosecutors have often displayed a near-pathological hatred for the two-term former president.

Last month, The Intercept, jointly with its reporting partner UOL, published previously secret Telegram messages in which the Operation Car Wash prosecutors responsible for prosecuting Lula cruelly mocked the tragic death of his 7-year-old grandson from meningitis earlier this year, as well as the 2017 death of his wife of 43 years from a stroke at the age of 66. One of the prosecutors who participated publicly apologized, but none of the others have. Far more likely is that the prosecutors are motivated by desperation to salvage their legacy after a series of defeats suffered by their once-untouchable, widely revered Car Wash investigation, ever since The Intercept, on June 9, began publishing reports based on a massive archive of secret chats between the prosecutors and Sergio Moro, the judge who oversaw most of the convictions, including Lula’s, and who now serves as President Jair Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice and Public Security.

The prosecutors’ cynical gambit, it appears, is that the country’s Supreme Court — which two weeks ago nullified one of Moro’s anti-corruption convictions for the first time on the ground that he violated core rights of defendants — will feel less pressure to nullify Moro’s guilty verdict in Lula’s case if the ex-president is comfortably at home in São Paulo (albeit under house arrest) rather than lingering in a Curitiba prison. But this strategy ran into a massive roadblock when Lula demanded that he not be released from prison unless and until he is fully exonerated.

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Weep for the bankers.

HSBC Planning To Cut 10,000 More Staff (AFP)

HSBC is planning to lay off up to 10,000 staff, a report said Monday, just weeks after announcing the resignation of its chief executive and the cutting of 4,000 posts citing a weak global outlook. The latest losses, mostly in high-paid roles, are part of a fresh cost-cutting drive by interim boss Noel Quinn as the banking titan struggles to adjust to falling interest rates, Brexit and the long-running trade war, the Financial Times reported. “We’ve known for years that we need to do something about our cost base, the largest component of which is people — now we are finally grasping the nettle,” the paper quoted an unnamed source as saying.


“There’s some very hard modelling going on. We are asking why we have so many people in Europe when we’ve got double-digit returns in parts of Asia.” The London-headquartered bank last month announced the shock exit of CEO John Flint after just 18 months in the hot seat but gave no reason for the decision. At the same time it revealed it would axe two percent of its global workforce, or roughly 4,000 mostly management jobs, in a new restructuring aimed at weathering the global turmoil. Still, its reported first-half net profit rose 18.6 percent on-year to $8.5 billion. It is due to report third-quarter earnings at the end of October.

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Oct 012019
 


Paul Gauguin Sunken lane 1884

 

Dear America, Civil War Is Not A Joke – Or A Picnic (RT)
Civil War On (Kunstler)
Impeachment…or CIA Coup? (Ron Paul)
Hillary Clinton’s Big Comeback Begins Tuesday (WT)
US Dollar Status as Global Reserve Currency Slides (WS)
No End In Sight For ECB’s Inflation Problem (MW)
Twitter Executive For Middle East Is British Army ‘Psyops’ Soldier (MEE)
Johnson Planning To Bypass Brussels In Bid For New Brexit Deal (Ind.)
UK Proposes Customs Posts On Both Sides Of Irish Border (RTE)
France’s Overtures Toward Russia (Moisi)
Assange’s Lawyers Were Under Surveillance. That’s Not The Whole Story (Canary)

 

 

Nebojsa Malic, senior writer at RT, lived through the Yugoslavia civil war.

Dear America, Civil War Is Not A Joke – Or A Picnic (RT)

Critics have reacted to President Donald Trump’s Twitter warning about his impeachment causing a civil war with both shrieks of outrage and jokes. Notably absent: any self-awareness of what such a war would be like or how to avoid it. “If the Democrats are successful in removing the president from office, I’m afraid it will cause a Civil War-like fracture in this nation from which this country will never heal,” Texas televangelist Robert Jeffress said Sunday night on Fox News. Trump quoted him in a tweet the next morning, and Twitter lost its collective mind. The typical response was to accuse Trump of calling for a new civil war, mind-reading what he must have really meant by the quote. He was “priming his base” to think of war, according to unnamed “experts of fascism,”a liberal comedian argued in just one example.

Others dismissed the very notion of a civil war as crazy, joking about bringing the potato salad and biodegradable forks – or hamberders and covfefe – to the fight, as soon as they get out of yoga class, using the hashtag #CivilWarSignup. There were also scornful takes about Americans being too fat to fight, or rural Americans being too scared to “take the subway in New York or drive in Los Angeles,” much less take a rifle and “take their country back from elite urbanites.” It’s unclear whether the people joking about bringing food to the fight were deliberately channeling the spirit of Washingtonians who turned out to the first Battle of Manassas/Bull Run, in June 1861, as if it were a picnic, bringing baskets and blankets to enjoy the show.

As anyone who’s studied that era of US history knows, their glee quickly turned to horror and panic, when the Union army lost – and they found themselves shoved aside on crowded roads leading back to Washington by the routed troops in blue. Wars never go as planned. No plan survives first contact with the enemy, who also gets a vote. If there is one ironclad rule of war through the ages, no matter the level of technology, that is it. Yet the corollary is that civilians always forget about it, and it comes back to bite them.

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“Does this sound a little like part of the origin story of RussiaGate? Is that not exactly the potential criminal matter that the current attorney general, Mr. Barr, is officially investigating?”

Civil War On (Kunstler)

Someone in Impeachmentville is not paying attention. Of course, diverting the rubes is exactly the point of the latest CIA operation to negate the 2016 election. Has nobody noticed that there is treaty between Ukraine and the USA, signed at Kiev in 1998 and ratified by the US Senate in 2000. It’s an agreement on “Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.” Here, read the cover letter for yourself:

What part of the following do Nancy Pelosi and the news media not understand? “The Treaty is self-executing. It provides for a broad range of cooperation in criminal matters. Mutual assistance available under the Treaty includes: taking of testimony or statements of persons; providing documents, records, and articles of evidence; serving documents; locating or identifying persons; transferring persons in custody for testimony or other purposes; executing requests for searches and seizures; assisting in proceedings related to restraint, confiscation, forfeiture of assets, restitution, and collection of fines; and any other form of assistance not prohibited by the laws of the requested state… ([etc].”


How does this not permit Mr. Trump asking the president of Ukraine for “assistance” in criminal matters arising out of “collusion with Russia,” as specified within the scope of Robert Mueller’s special prosecutor activities? For instance, the matter of CrowdStrike. The cybersecurity firm was co-founded by Russian ex-pat Dmitri Alperovitch, who also happens to be a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, an anti-Russian think tank funded by Ukrainian billionaire, Viktor Pinchuk, who donated at least $25 million to the Clinton Foundation before the 2016 election. Crowdstrike was the company that “examined” the supposedly hacked DNC servers, while somebody in the Obama administration prevented the FBI from ever seeing them. Does this sound a little like part of the origin story of RussiaGate? Is that not exactly the potential criminal matter that the current attorney general, Mr. Barr, is officially investigating?

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Obvious nonsense though it may be, people will continue to accuse me of supporting Trump. But you can’t accuse Ron Paul of that.

Impeachment…or CIA Coup? (Ron Paul)

You don’t need to be a supporter of President Trump to be concerned about the efforts to remove him from office. Last week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced impeachment proceedings against the President over a phone call made to the President of Ukraine. According to the White House record of the call, the President asked his Ukrainian counterpart to look into whether there is any evidence of Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election and then mentioned that a lot of people were talking about how former US Vice President Joe Biden stopped the prosecution of his son who was under investigation for corruption in Ukraine.

Democrats, who spent more than two years convinced that “Russiagate” would enable them to remove Trump from office only to have their hopes dashed by the Mueller Report, now believe they have their smoking gun in this phone call. It this about politics? Yes. But there may be more to it than that. It may appear that the Democratic Party, furious over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, is the driving force behind this ongoing attempt to remove Donald Trump from office, but at every turn we see the fingerprints of the CIA and its allies in the US deep state. In August 2016, a former acting director of the CIA, Mike Morell, wrote an extraordinary article in the New York Times accusing Donald Trump of being an “agent of the Russian Federation.”

Morell was clearly using his intelligence career as a way of bolstering his claim that Trump was a Russian spy – after all, the CIA should know such a thing! But the claim was a lie. Former CIA director John Brennan accused President Trump of “treason” and of “being in the pocket of Putin” for meeting with the Russian president in Helsinki and accepting his word that Russia did not meddle in the US election. To this day there has yet to be any evidence presented that the Russian government did interfere. Brennan openly called on “patriotic” Republicans to act against this “traitor.” Brennan and his deep state counterparts James Comey at the FBI and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper launched an operation, using what we now know is the fake Steele dossier, to spy on the Trump presidential campaign and even attempt to entrap Trump campaign employees. Notice a pattern here?

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Too predictable to be newsworthy.

Hillary Clinton’s Big Comeback Begins Tuesday (WT)

Media attention will intensify on Hillary Clinton on Tuesday. The former first lady, senator, secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate is ready for another round in the public arena. She has a new book arriving, written with the help of a very close relative. Behold. Here comes “The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience” — all 464 pages of it. Indeed, the new book of essays now landing on the shelves is written by Mrs. Clinton and her daughter Chelsea Clinton, is published by Simon & Schuster. Some informed observers speculate the book could be yet another indicator — along with increased public appearances and commentary — that Mrs. Clinton pines for a political comeback.


What kind of comeback? Oh, maybe the bumper stickers will read BIDEN/CLINTON 2020, WARREN/CLINTON 2020 — or even CLINTON/CLINTON 2020. Who the heck knows? “Word on the political street now is the rumbling that the impeachment probe launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be the crack that opens the door for another presidential run by Hillary Clinton. This time, the thinking goes, Hillary would be running with vindication that the 2016 election was ‘stolen’ from her and she can ascend in 2020 to reclaim the mantle for her party and the majority of the country that voted for her,” writes Nate Ashworth, editor in chief of Election Central.

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Wolf Richter mostly manages to deny his own headline.

US Dollar Status as Global Reserve Currency Slides (WS)

If the US dollar loses its hegemony as a global reserve currency, it would be a sea change globally, and specifically for the US economy. Today, we got the next installment in that saga, via the IMF’s quarterly COFER data on foreign exchange reserves. Total global foreign exchange reserves in all currencies ticked up 1.1% from the first quarter, to $11.7 trillion. US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves rose only 0.7% to $6.79 trillion, and their share of total global foreign exchange reserves fell to 61.63%, down from 61.86% in the prior quarter. And this has been going on for years in baby steps:

The US dollar’s share of global reserve currency declines when central banks other than the Fed proportionately reduce their dollar-denominated assets and add assets denominated in other currencies. Compared to the mega-moves in the 1970s, the recent moves have been muted. Nevertheless, the current share of USD-denominated foreign exchange reserves of 61.63% is the lowest since the year-end in 2013. The bump in 2014, 2015, and 2016 has now been unwound:

These US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves are US Treasury securities, US corporate bonds, and other financial assets that central banks other than the Fed are holding in their foreign exchange reserves. The Fed’s own holdings of Treasury securities and Mortgage-Backed Securities are not included in “foreign exchange reserves.” However, the Fed’s holdings of foreign-currency denominated assets are included in the other currencies. Unlike some other central banks, the Fed holds just a smidgen in foreign currency assets – currently $20.6 billion worth, compared to, for example, China’s $3.1 trillion in foreign exchange reserves.


[..] The chart below shows the dollar’s slowly declining but still hegemonic share of foreign exchange reserves, the euro’s essentially flat share, and the other reserve currencies’ comparatively tiny share. The renminbi (RMB) is the short red line near the very bottom:

To shed some light on the tangle of currencies at the bottom of the chart above, it’s useful to look at them without the US dollar and the euro overshadowing the neighborhood:

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Inflation is not Europe’s problem. The ECB is.

No End In Sight For ECB’s Inflation Problem (MW)

Unemployment in the eurozone declined to 7.4% in September, its lowest level since August, 2008, the EU’s statistics institute Eurostat said Monday. But this good news about the European economy helps underline the predicament the European Central Bank has long struggled with: the persistent low level of inflation. The ECB has undershot its official price stability target, set at “below but close to 2%”, every year since 2013. Keeping the eurozone on that steady inflation path is the only official remit of the ECB. It hasn’t been tasked with other economic policy objectives, like the U.S. Federal Reserve on employment, or the Bank of England on supporting the government’s economic objectives.


Inflation in the eurozone stood at an annual 1% in August, according to Eurostat. The closest the ECB was to its target was last year, when inflation reached 1.8%. That was up from 1.5% in 2017, and 0.2% in both preceding years. The risk of debilitating deflation – falling prices – was the rationale behind the ECB’s first massive quantitative easing program, launched in 2015. The central bank is now citing the financial markets’ declining inflation expectations for 2021 as the main reason for its latest monetary easing package, announced on September 12: They have fallen from 1.8% to 1.5% since the beginning of this year, according to ECB chief economist Philip Lane.

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“..the 77th Brigade is giving the British military “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level..”

Twitter Executive For Middle East Is British Army ‘Psyops’ Soldier (MEE)

The senior Twitter executive with editorial responsibility for the Middle East is also a part-time officer in the British Army’s psychological warfare unit, Middle East Eye has established. Gordon MacMillan, who joined the social media company’s UK office six years ago, has for several years also served with the 77th Brigade, a unit formed in 2015 in order to develop “non-lethal” ways of waging war. The 77th Brigade uses social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, as well as podcasts, data analysis and audience research to wage what the head of the UK military, General Nick Carter, describes as “information warfare”.

Carter says the 77th Brigade is giving the British military “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level”; to shape perceptions of conflict. Some soldiers who have served with the unit say they have been engaged in operations intended to change the behaviour of target audiences. What exactly MacMillan is doing with the unit is difficult to determine, however: he has declined to answer any questions about his role, as has Twitter and the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD). Twitter would say only that “we actively encourage all our employees to pursue external interests”, while the MoD said that the 77th Brigade had no relationship with Twitter, other than using it for communication.

The 77th Brigade’s headquarters is located west of London. It brought together a number of existing military units such as the Media Operations Group and the 15 Psychological Operations Group. At its launch, the UK media was told that the new unit of “Facebook warriors” would be around 1,500 strong, and made up of both regular soldiers and reservists. In recent months, the army has been approaching British journalists and asking them to join the unit as reservists.

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In reality, he’s preparing to blame everyone else for his own failures. And Dominic Cummings will blame Boris.

Johnson Planning To Bypass Brussels In Bid For New Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Boris Johnson is to attempt a last-ditch charm offensive on EU leaders to get a Brexit deal over the line, after delivering his proposals for a new withdrawal agreement to Brussels as early as the end of this week. With EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier viewed in Downing Street as a stickler for rules who will be hard to shift from the deal struck with Theresa May, Mr Johnson is keen to speak with key European leaders who may be ready to show flexibility ahead of the crunch Brussels summit on 17 October. Plans were made to fly the prime minister to the funeral of ex-president Jacques Chirac for talks in the margins with sympathetic leaders, but it was decided the opportunity did not justify breaking off his attendance at the Conservative conference in Manchester.


London believes a key to any deal will be securing the acceptance of Irish premier Leo Varadkar and German chancellor Angela Merkel. News that negotiator David Frost has finalised a legal text of the UK proposals – said by a senior government source to be “game changing” – emerged as ministers attending cabinet admitted that they were not absolutely sure what the PM plans to do if his hopes of a deal fall flat. With speculation that the plan is known only to a tiny circle around Mr Johnson and his chief adviser Dominic Cummings, housing minister Esther McVey said she did not “know what is necessarily going on in Boris’s head”, while even chancellor Sajid Javid when asked if he knew what the PM would do could say only that “I think I do”.

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And you thought they’d steer clear of hammering Good Friday…

UK Proposes Customs Posts On Both Sides Of Irish Border (RTE)

The UK has proposed the creation of a string of customs posts along both sides of the Irish border as part of its effort to replace the backstop, RTÉ News understands. The ideas, which would be highly controversial, are contained in proposals sent from London to the European Union – extracts of which have been seen by RTÉ News. The proposals would effectively mean customs posts being erected on both sides of the border, but located perhaps five to ten miles ‘back’ from the actual land frontier. This is because under British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the UK is insisting that Northern Ireland remain completely outside the EU’s customs union for industrial goods and agri-food products.

Even more controversial is a proposal that the goods moving from a so-called “customs clearance site” on the northern side of the border to a similar site on the southern side would be monitored in real time using GPS via mobile phone data, or tracking devices placed on trucks or vans. The ideas are contained in one of four so-called ‘non-papers’ submitted by UK officials during recent technical discussions in Brussels. Under the British proposals, both the UK and EU would create what are believed to be called “customs clearance sites”, but to all intents and purposes a customs post. Traders would have a choice of either a straightforward customs declaration which would have to be lodged and cleared on either side of the border, or the so-called ‘transit’ system.

Under a transit scheme, the exporter becomes a registered ‘consigner’ at base, and the importer becomes a registered ‘consignee’. The method requires a bond from a financial institution to guarantee that the relevant customs duty, excise and VAT have been paid and that the goods do not go illegally off the beaten track en route. The UK proposals have been discussed in technical talks with the European Commission’s Brexit Task Force under Michel Barnier. However, the details of the four non-papers have not been disclosed to EU member states.

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Macron playing Napoleon again. He can’t stop himself.

France’s Overtures Toward Russia (Moisi)

French President Emmanuel Macron is convinced that now is the right time to reset relations with Russia. He has therefore made it a diplomatic priority to restore a climate of trust between Paris and Moscow. Three compelling reasons underlie this move… First and foremost, the international strategic context has changed dramatically. China is rising, while the United States, although still the world’s dominant power, is distancing itself from its global responsibilities. And Russia, with an aging, shrinking population and a huge, largely uninhabited landmass, is a natural prey for China’s long-term ambitions. European leaders should not resign themselves passively to seeing Russia, lacking any other alternative, align with China.

Instead, they should try to convince Russians that their future is with Europe, and not as China’s junior partner in a deeply unbalanced relationship. Russia’s destiny lies in the West, not the East. Moreover, although Russia is no match for China, it has returned as a serious global actor. Many current conflicts, from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, simply cannot be addressed without involving Russia. This represents a triumph of sorts for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who first came to power nearly 20 years ago pledging to restore his country’s geopolitical clout. In particular, Putin wanted the US to treat Russia not as a mere object of history, as it had done under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, but as a real interlocutor.

And while it might be impossible to restore the bipolar world of the Cold War years, at least the US would be forced to recognize the importance of a modernized and operational Russian army that could intervene in the former Soviet sphere and beyond. This represents a triumph of sorts for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who first came to power nearly 20 years ago pledging to restore his country’s geopolitical clout. In particular, Putin wanted the US to treat Russia not as a mere object of history, as it had done under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, but as a real interlocutor.

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If these revelations don’t stop Assange’s extradition, nothing will. And Britain will be nothing but a deep black hole.

Assange’s Lawyers Were Under Surveillance. That’s Not The Whole Story (Canary)

A private security company organised 24/7 surveillance of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. This included confidential meetings between Assange and members of his legal team. The surveillance was provided directly to the CIA. These revelations could possibly jeopardise the viability of the US extradition case. But within this story there lies another that raises serious questions about the establishment media and allegiances. According to El Pais, Spanish security firm UC Global was responsible for the surveillance of Assange when he was a guest of the Ecuadorian government at their London embassy. UC Global, a firm with an address in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz), was hired by Senain, the former Ecuadorian intelligence service, ostensibly to provide protection for Assange.


However, it’s now been revealed that the company’s owner David Morales passed on the results of the operations to the CIA. He even installed a video streaming service direct to the US. Also monitored were meetings between Assange and his lawyers, including Melynda Taylor, Jennifer Robinson, and Baltasar Garzón. After Rafael Correa was replaced by the right-wing Lenín Moreno as president of Ecuador in May 2017, the latter cancelled the UC Global contract. Moreno then issued a new contract to Ecuadorian company Promsecurity. Video recordings and photos taken by that firm were subsequently used in an extortion attempt.

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Jan 072019
 


Berthe Morisot Julie and her boat 1884

 

China Has a Dangerous Dollar Debt Addiction (Balding)
China Drops Hints Of Trade Pain Ahead (BV)
US and China To Resume Trade Talks With Both Eager For Compromise (G.)
May To Hold Parliamentary Brexit Vote On January 15 (R.)
Theresa May Pleads For EU To Give Ground And Rescue Brexit Deal (G.)
Germany and Ireland Step Up Efforts To Find Brexit Border ‘Fix’ (G.)
Average UK Unsecured Household Debt Hits Record £15,400 (G.)
UK Car Sales Record Biggest Fall Since Financial Crisis (R.)
France’s Macron Reeling As Tough Stance Against ‘Yellow Vests’ Backfires (R.)
The Euro: A Mindless Idea – Ashoka Mody (Spiked)

 

 

$1.2 trillion will have to be rolled over this year. There are $90 billion of offshore renminbi deposits in Hong Kong available to buy dollars. Good luck.

China Has a Dangerous Dollar Debt Addiction (Balding)

China’s foreign debt has been rising rapidly, and that’s becoming an increasingly big problem — for the country and, potentially, the world. Officially, China lists its outstanding external debt at $1.9 trillion. For a $13 trillion economy, that’s not a major amount. But focusing on the headline number significantly understates the underlying risks. Short-term debt accounted for 62% of the total as of September, according to official data, meaning that $1.2 trillion will have to be rolled over this year. Just as worrying is the speed of increase: Total external debt has increased 14% in the past year and 35% since the beginning of 2017. External debt is no longer a trivial slice of China’s foreign-exchange reserves, which stood at just over $3 trillion at the end of November, little changed from two years earlier. Short-term foreign debt increased to 39% of reserves in September, from 26% in March 2016.

The true picture may be more precarious. China’s external debt was estimated at between $3 trillion and $3.5 trillion by Daiwa Capital Markets in an August report. In other words, total foreign liabilities could be understated by as much as $1.5 trillion after accounting for borrowing in financial centers such as Hong Kong, New York and the Caribbean islands that isn’t included in the official tally. Circumstances aren’t moving in China’s favor. The nation’s companies rushed to borrow in dollars when there was a 3% to 5% spread between Chinese and U.S. interest rates and the yuan was expected to strengthen. Borrowing offshore was cheaper and offered the additional bonus of likely currency gains. Now, the spread in official short-term yields has shrunk to near zero and the yuan has been depreciating for most of the past year. Refinancing debt in dollars has become harder, and more risky.

Beijing’s policies have exacerbated the buildup of foreign debt. To promote Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, the president’s landmark foreign policy endeavor, China has been borrowing dollars on international markets and lending around the world for everything from Kenyan railways to Pakistani business parks. With this year and 2020 being the peak years for repayments, China faces dollar funding pressure. To repay their dollar debts, Chinese firms will either have to draw from the central bank’s foreign-exchange reserves (a prospect Beijing is unlikely to allow) or buy dollars on international markets. This creates a new set of problems. There are only 617 billion yuan ($90 billion) of offshore renminbi deposits in Hong Kong available to buy dollars. If China was to push firms to bring debt back onshore, this would necessitate significant outflows that would push down the yuan’s value against the dollar.

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More trickle down fails.

China Drops Hints Of Trade Pain Ahead (BV)

While a cut in the reserve requirement ratio, China’s fifth in a year, was not surprising, the 100-basis point shift that started off 2019 was larger than anticipated. Of course, demand for cash tends to spike around this time of year, due to both the Chinese New Year holiday and tax deadlines, but the economy is cooling uncomfortably fast. Official figures may show growth slowed to 6.3% in the fourth quarter, Standard Chartered reckons. Friday’s announcement adds to other easing measures: People’s Bank of China officials last month announced a new policy tool to encourage lenders to disburse their cash more widely. The “targeted medium-term lending facility” will make cheaper funding available to banks that the PBOC judges to be doing their part by lending more to small companies.

It’s certainly not full-blown monetary stimulus yet; the central bank has not fired its heavier artillery, such as a benchmark rate cut. The market has also been kept waiting for reductions to cost of borrowing from the PBOC’s more important channel, its regular medium-term lending facility. But the overall direction of travel is clear, and both recent moves point to structural issues that worry pessimists: the extra liquidity pumped into the system does not seem to be translating into more loans for smaller companies, which may signal deeper problems with capital allocation, not to mention the private sector’s nervousness about politics in 2019.

All of this is bad news for Beijing’s trade negotiators, when they hold talks with U.S. counterparts face-to-face this week. As the pain mounts, they may be pushed to yield more in order to gain relief. They could, for example, agree to formally drop the controversial “Made in China 2025” plan, or to announce concrete measures to beef up enforcement of intellectual property rights. Trump said on Sunday that weakness in China’s economy will push officials to negotiate. He may be right.

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Tariffs rose Jan 1. It’s getting urgent.

US and China To Resume Trade Talks With Both Eager For Compromise (G.)

US officials arrived in China for the first face-to-face negotiations since a 90-day truce was declared in a trade war between Washington and Beijing, in the hope of ending a bruising confrontation between the world’s two largest economies. Hopes that the sixth round of negotiations between the two sides could yield a breakthrough helped Asian shares rise on Monday, combined with optimism about the state of the global economy on the back of strong US jobs figures on Friday. In Tokyo, the Nikkei soared more than 3% and there were also strong positive moves in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney. US and Chinese trade representatives were set to hold talks on Monday and Tuesday.

After failing to reach an agreement in December when Donald Trump and Xi Jinping met, both sides agreed to suspend tariff increases while holding discussions on technology transfers, as well as intellectual property theft and cybersecurity. If no agreement is reached, US tariffs on $200bn of Chinese goods will increase in March to 25% from the current 10%. Trump said on Sunday that China was under pressure to do a deal amid signs of a slowdown in its economy. “I think China wants to get it resolved. Their economy’s not doing well. I think that gives them a great incentive to negotiate,” he said. “China’s slowdown is occurring across the board, affecting almost every industry and region,” said Scott Kennedy, a trade expert focused on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Resolving the trade war or at least finding some common ground with Washington will be needed to fully restore confidence,” he said.

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Whatever the outcome, chaos guaranteed. You can jot down next Tuesday night in your agenda for that.

May To Hold Parliamentary Brexit Vote On January 15 (R.)

Prime Minister Theresa May will hold a delayed parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal on Tuesday, January 15, the BBC reported on Monday, citing government sources. May was forced to pull the vote on her deal in December after she said it would be defeated by a large majority. The government had previously said the vote would be held in the week of January 14. May said on Sunday that Britain would be in uncharted territory if her Brexit deal is rejected by parliament, despite little sign that she has won over sceptical lawmakers.

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In case you were still wondering who will be blamed.

Theresa May Pleads For EU To Give Ground And Rescue Brexit Deal (G.)

Theresa May is preparing to make another desperate plea to EU leaders to offer a concession on the Irish backstop as she attempts to win over Brexiters who have vowed to vote down the government’s deal. The prime minister on Sunday promised to hold the meaningful vote in parliament in the week beginning 14 January despite growing opposition from Conservative backbenchers and the Democratic Unionist party, whose votes are required to push the deal through parliament. As MPs prepare to return to Westminster with the crucial Commons vote looming on the withdrawal agreement, Downing Street insisted that new compromises could still be won from Europe that would ensure the safe passage of May’s plan.

The hope of new developments came as opposition to the prime minister’s deal hardened. The hurdles facing May include: • Brexiters say the government faces a disaster if it fails to ditch the current deal, with DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds describing the Irish backstop as “toxic”. • EU sources say talks to be held in Dublin on Tuesday between Leo Varadkar and Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, will not seek to reopen negotiations over the 585-page withdrawal agreement. • Senior MPs including Yvette Cooper and Nicky Morgan are launching a parliamentary campaign to rewrite government legislation to block a no-deal Brexit. • Chris Patten, the former Conservative Party chairman, called for a second referendum on the UK’s decision to leave the EU. • More than 200 MPs have signed a letter calling for Theresa May to rule out a no-deal Brexit. Tory ex-minister Dame Caroline Spelman, who organised the letter with Labour’s Jack Dromey, said the group had been invited to see the prime minister on Tuesday.

In an interview on Sunday, May said the vote, which was due to be held last month and postponed, would go ahead next week, as she sought further clarification from the EU to address MPs’ concerns. She also said she would look at giving parliament a greater say in how the UK’s future relationship would be negotiated, but refused to say exactly what that might be. Asked if there had been any changes she could offer to backbenchers who were expected to vote down her deal, she told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “What we will be setting out over the next few days are assurances in three areas: first are measures specific to Northern Ireland; the second is a greater role for parliament as we take these negotiations forward into the next stage for our future relationship; and third – and we are still working on this – is further assurances from the European Union to address the issues that have been raised.”

Whitehall sources insisted that a compromise could still be found with the EU and that further planned announcements will be made this week that would win over MPs opposed to the deal. “We will be working flat out. There will be further contacts with the EU leaders. The issue of the backstop is not yet over,” the source said.

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“The EU cannot now give another concession ahead of the vote because if the deal isn’t ratified, it means any new concessions will simply be banked again to no benefit at all. It would be pointless.”

Germany and Ireland Step Up Efforts To Find Brexit Border ‘Fix’ (G.)

Germany’s foreign affairs minister is to fly to Dublin on Tuesday for Brexit talks as relations with Ireland intensify in an attempt to find a “fix” that will help Theresa May get the EU withdrawal agreement ratified. Heiko Maas will address an annual gathering of Ireland’s global diplomatic corps and take part in an unofficial fourth round of talks between Ireland and German leaders since Thursday. He will make the address in English, with a large German media contingent accredited, a reflection of how significant his speech is deemed back in Berlin. Last week the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, had a lengthy telephone call with Angela Merkel. He then flew to Munich to address a meeting of her coalition partners, the CSU, and on Friday met the Germany chancellor’s successor as CDU leader, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, for discussions on Brexit and the future of Europe.

The emerging Irish-German nexus on the Irish border backstop “fix” is being seen as significant in Irish political circles, where people also point to the fact that Varadkar speaks German and has a good working relationship with Merkel. They point out it was Merkel, not the taoiseach, who requested the phone call with Varadkar last Thursday. The talks lasted 40 minutes and were, according to Varadkar, “an opportunity to kind of brainstorm a bit as to what we could do to assist prime minister Theresa May in securing ratification of the withdrawal agreement”. But informed EU sources say Brexiters should not raise their hopes of a reopening of negotiations. The “fix” will be further details in the political declaration on the future relationship and not the 585-page withdrawal agreement. “That is locked,” said one EU source.

There is deep frustration that the British cannot see how far the EU went to break the impasse on the Irish border talks, yielding to May’s demands for a UK-wide customs arrangement. One EU source said: “The EU was totally opposed to this in 2017 and again in March and June in 2018. It then emerged out of the tunnel in the autumn as the solution, but the Brexiters did not see it for what it was – a major concession. [..] “They are now looking for more concessions, but they just can’t be given. The Brits banked this major concession and just did nothing with it. People can’t understand why it wasn’t sold as a victory for May. “The EU cannot now give another concession ahead of the vote because if the deal isn’t ratified, it means any new concessions will simply be banked again to no benefit at all. It would be pointless.”

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That’s about $20,000. Not including mortgages and student loans.

Average UK Unsecured Household Debt Hits Record £15,400 (G.)

Britain’s household debt mountain has reached a new peak, with UK homes now owing an average of £15,385 to credit card firms, banks and other lenders, according to the TUC. The trade union body said household debt rose sharply in 2018 as years of austerity and wage stagnation forced households to increase their borrowing. The TUC said in its annual report on the nation’s finances that the amounts owed by British households rose to a combined £428bn in the third quarter of 2018. Each household owed £886 more than it did 12 months previously, it said. The figures do not include outstanding mortgage debts but do include student loans.

The level of unsecured debt as a share of household income is now 30.4%, the highest level it has ever been at. It is well above the £286bn peak in 2008 before the financial crisis, the TUC said. That figure also included student loans, but tuition fees then were £3,000 a year compared with up to £9,250 now. [..] The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Household debt is at crisis level. Years of austerity and wage stagnation has pushed millions of families deep into the red. The government is skating on thin ice by relying on household debt to drive growth. A strong economy needs people spending wages, not credit cards and loans.”

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They’re going to stay home?!

UK Car Sales Record Biggest Fall Since Financial Crisis (R.)

British new car sales in 2018 fell at their fastest rate since the global financial crisis a decade ago, hit by a slump in demand for diesel, stricter emissions rules and waning consumer confidence due to Brexit, according to an industry body. Demand dropped by nearly 7% last year to 2.37 million vehicles, the largest fall since registrations nosedived 11.3% in 2008, preliminary data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) showed. A nearly 30% drop in demand for diesel was the most significant factor in the decline. Diesel has been pummelled since the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal of 2015, prompting a crackdown and higher levies.

But the industry also warned that Britain’s departure from the European Union due at the end of March risks the future of a sector which employs over 850,000 people and has been one of Britain’s few manufacturing success stories since the 1980s. “It’s still hard to see any upside to Brexit,” said SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes. “Everyone recognises that Brexit is an existential threat to the UK automotive industry and we hope a practical solution will prevail,” he said, calling for lawmakers to back Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal to guarantee a transition period. [..] After record highs in 2015 and 2016, demand fell in 2017 and some analysts see car demand as a leading indicator which could be a harbinger for future economic performance. Britain’s economy slowed to a crawl at the end of 2018, the housing market is stalling and lending to consumers growing at its slowest pace in nearly four years, according to data released on Friday.

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Macron is not just a fool himself, he’s surrounded by them as well. His spokesman after fleeing his office out of a back door as protesters invaded the courtyard and smashed up several cars said: “It wasn’t me who was attacked.” “It was the Republic.”.

Because the government is the Republic. The population is not.

France’s Macron Reeling As Tough Stance Against ‘Yellow Vests’ Backfires (R.)

Emmanuel Macron intended to start the new year on the offensive against the ‘yellow vest’ protesters. Instead, the French president is reeling from more violent street demonstrations. What began as a grassroots rebellion against diesel taxes and the high cost of living has morphed into something more perilous for Macron – an assault on his presidency and French institutions. The anti-government protesters on Saturday used a forklift truck to force their way into a government ministry compound, torched cars near the Champs Elysees and in one violent skirmish on a bridge over the Seine punched and kicked riot police officers to the ground.

The French authorities’ struggle to maintain order during the weekend protests raises questions not just over policing tactics but also over how Macron responds, as he prepares to bring in stricter rules for unemployment benefits and cut thousands of public sector jobs. On Sunday evening, Macron wrote on Twitter: “Once again, the Republic was attacked with extreme violence – its guardians, its representatives, its symbols.” His administration had hardened its stance against the yellow vests after the protest movement appeared to have lost momentum over the Christmas holidays.

The government would not relent in its pursuit of reforms to reshape the economy, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said on Friday, branding the remaining protesters agitators seeking to overthrow the government. Twenty-four hours later, he was fleeing his office out of a back door as protesters invaded the courtyard and smashed up several cars. “It wasn’t me who was attacked,” he later said. “It was the Republic.”

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“There is a Euro, which is a single currency in an incomplete monetary union, with a set of fiscal rules that are evidently economically illiterate..”

The Euro: A Mindless Idea – Ashoka Mody (Spiked)

[..] most serious of all is the notion of common economic development as a basis for Europe. It was briefly true after the Treaty of Rome in 1957, which opened up the borders, but the momentum ran out within two decades. You open borders, but once they’re open, there’s not a lot more you can do. Even the gains from the so-called Single Market are very limited beyond a certain point. Every economist understands that. On the Euro, there was never any question that it was a bad idea. Nicholas Kaldor, an economist at Cambridge University, wrote in March 1971 that a single currency was a terrible idea, both as economics and as politics. And Kaldor has been proven right time and again.

But the entire European establishment just ignores every subsequent warning from well-regarded economists, and produces defensive counternarratives. For example, I often hear that Europe needs fixed exchange rates in order to have a Single Market. Why? Germany is trading a lot with Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which are in the Single Market, but have different currencies. These fluctuate, but the trade continues apace. You don’t need a single currency for a Single Market.

spiked: When did your critique of the European project emerge? Was it during your involvement in the Irish bailout? Mody: When I finished at the IMF I planned to write a book on the Euro crisis. And I began writing it as an IMF economist would – what happened before the crash, the bubble, the bubble bursting, the panic, the fact it wasn’t well managed, and so on. But I soon realised that something wasn’t right here. And so I spent two years tracing the history of the Euro, and asking the question: what brought the Euro into existence in its current form? You see, it is not just that there is a Euro. There is a Euro, which is a single currency in an incomplete monetary union, with a set of fiscal rules that are evidently economically illiterate – and nobody questions the fact that they are economically illiterate, that they lack a necessary fiscal backstop and the necessary fiscal union. So why does it exist?

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May 232018
 


Brassaï Couple on a bench, Paris 1932

 

The End Is Nigh For The Biggest Tech Bubble Ever (CNBC)
ECB’s Negative Interest Rate Policy The Funniest Monetary Joke Ever (WS)
The Italian Crisis Is Far From Over (ZH)
Turkish Lira Hits Record Low, Down 20% Against Dollar This Year (R.)
American Women’s $1 Trillion Burden (MW)
22% Of Americans Can’t Pay Bills; 41% Have Less Than $400 In Cash (ZH)
French Unemployment Rises To 9.2% In First Quarter (MW)
EU Rejects May’s Plan For Northern Ireland Border (Ind.)
Nationwide’s UK Mortgage Lending Slumps By A Third (G.)
House Votes To Ease Bank Rules And Send Bill To Trump’s Desk (CNBC)
How Russia and China Gained a Strategic Advantage in Hypersonic Technology
Former Trump Adviser Makes Claim About A Second Informant (DC)
Illegal Online Sales Of Endangered Wildlife Rife In Europe (G.)
Landmark Lawsuit Claims Monsanto Hid Roundup Cancer Danger For Decades (G.)

 

 

Unicorns as defined by venture capitalist Aileen Lee back in 2013: Privately-held startups valued at $1 billion or more.

The End Is Nigh For The Biggest Tech Bubble Ever (CNBC)

In case you missed it, the peak in the tech unicorn bubble already has been reached. And it’s going to be all downhill from here. Massive losses are coming in venture capital-funded start-ups that are, in some cases, as much as 50% overvalued. The age of the unicorn likely peaked a few years ago. In 2014 there were 42 new unicorns in the United States; in 2015 there were 43. The unicorn market hasn’t reached that number again. In 2017, 33 new U.S. companies achieved unicorn status from a total of 53 globally. This year there have been 11 new unicorns, according to PitchBook data as of May 15, but these numbers tend to move around, and I believe the 279 unicorns recorded globally in late February by TechCrunch was the peak, where the start-up bubble was stretched to its limit.

A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that, on average, unicorns are roughly 50% overvalued. The research, conducted by Will Gornall at the University of British Columbia and Ilya Strebulaev of Stanford, examined 135 unicorns. Of those 135, the researchers estimate that nearly half, or 65, should be more fairly valued at less than $1 billion. In 1999 the average life of a tech company before it went public was four years. Today it is 11 years. The new dynamic is the increased amount of private capital available to unicorns. Investors new to the VC game, including hedge funds and mutual funds, came in when the Jobs Act started to get rid of investor protections in 2012, because there were fewer IPOs occurring.

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The US Treasury two-year yield is 2.57% over 10 times higher than the Italian. Go Draghi!

ECB’s Negative Interest Rate Policy The Funniest Monetary Joke Ever (WS)

The distortions in the European bond markets are actually quite hilarious, when you think about them, and it’s hard to keep a straight face. “Italian assets were pummeled again on mounting concern over the populist coalition’s fiscal plans, with the moves rippling across European debt markets,” Bloomberg wrote this morning, also trying hard to keep a straight face. As Italian bonds took a hit, “bond yields climbed to the highest levels in almost three years, while the premium to cover a default in the nation’s debt was the stiffest since October,” it said. “Investors fret the anti-establishment parties’ proposal to issue short-term credit notes – so-called ‘mini-BOTs’ – will lead to increased borrowing in what is already one of Europe’s most indebted economies.”

This comes on top of a proposal by the new coalition last week that the ECB should forgive and forget €250 billion in Italian bonds that it had foolishly bought. The proposals by a government for a debt write-off, and the issuance of short-term credit notes as a sort of alternate currency are hallmarks of a looming default and should cause Italian yields to spike into the stratosphere, or at least into the double digits. And so Italian government bonds fell, and the yield spiked today, adding to the prior four days of spiking. But wait…Five trading days ago, the Italian two-year yield was still negative -0.12%. In other words, investors were still paying the Italian government – whose new players are contemplating a form of default – for the privilege of lending it money.

And now, the two-year yield has spiked to a positive but still minuscule 0.247% at the moment. By comparison, the US Treasury two-year yield is 2.57% over 10 times higher! [..] This is an over-indebted government that doesn’t control its own currency and cannot print itself out of trouble and whose new leadership – made up of the coalition of the Five Star Movement on the left and the League on the right – is proposing a haircut for its creditors to make the debt burden easier, and is also proposing the issuance of an alternate currency to give it more money to spend, even as it also promises to crank up government deficit spending and cut taxes too.

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“As parallel currencies and debt-cancellation become serious discussion points for an Italian government, so European break-up risk is resurging.”

The Italian Crisis Is Far From Over (ZH)

The Italian crisis is far from over and the concept of their ‘mini-BoT’ parallel currency is throwing up some very red flags about the future of the European Union… You just have to know where to look. As Bloomberg’s Tasos Vossos notes, a gauge of euro re-denomination risk (based on the so-called ‘ISDA Basis’ in Italy’s credit default swaps) blew out. What’s more, redenomination risks are spreading as the measure widened in Portugal, Spain, and in France to a lesser extent, according to CMAN data. As parallel currencies and debt-cancellation become serious discussion points for an Italian government, so European break-up risk is resurging.

Simply put, the higher this chart goes, the lower the market ‘values’ an Italian Euro relative to say a German Euro… and thus it is measuring the risk that the European Union – so long defended by Draghi et al. as indestructible – will break up. As Marcello Minenna, head of Quantitative Analysis and Financial Innovation at Consob – the Italian securities regulator, previously noted, “markets do not lie… Italy must avoid remaining with short end of the stick. I wonder if our leadership will rise to the challenge.”

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Erdogan wants lower rates, but if this goes on, he’ll end up with the opposite.

Turkish Lira Hits Record Low, Down 20% Against Dollar This Year (R.)

The Turkish lira weakened sharply against the dollar on Wednesday, bringing its losses to some 20% this year, as investors pushed it to fresh record lows on growing concern about President Tayyip Erdogan’s influence on monetary policy. At 0724 GMT, the lira stood at 4.7642 against the U.S. currency, paring its losses after touching an all-time low of 4.8450 in Asian trade overnight. It has lost as much as 21% of its value since the start of the year. The lira also fell sharply against the Japanese yen, amid talk of Japanese retail investors selling the lira as stop-loss levels were hit.

“The lira fall is now on the agenda of world markets and some are saying there is an increased risk of contagion in other emerging markets from the Turkey risk,” said GCM Securities analyst Enver Erkan. “The necessity of the Turkish central bank taking a significant step is increasing,” he said. A self-described “enemy of interest rates”, Erdogan wants borrowing costs lowered to spur credit growth and construction and said last week he would seek greater control over monetary policy after elections set for June 24.

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Almost twice as much as men. And then they get paid less at the jobs they find.

American Women’s $1 Trillion Burden (MW)

Student debt is on its way to becoming a universally American problem, but there’s more evidence to indicate that it’s a particularly acute challenge for women. The gap between the amount of debt shouldered by male and female graduates has nearly doubled in the past four years, according to a report released Monday by the American Association for University Women. On average, female bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with $2,700 more in debt in 2016 than their male counterparts. That’s up from about a $1,400 gap in 2012. If trends continue on their current trajectory, Kevin Miller, a senior researcher at AAUW and the author of the report, estimates that the outstanding student debt held by women alone could reach $1 trillion over the next year.

If the ratio of debt owed by women versus men stays the same, then men hold about $550 billion at that time. “We’ll be keeping a watch on it,” he said. The data adds to the growing body of evidence — much of which has been published by AAUW — that student debt is a women’s issue. Although they make up just 56% of American college students, women hold nearly two-thirds of America’s outstanding student debt, or about $890 billion, and take longer to pay it off. There are a variety of reasons why this is the case, according to Miller.

For one, women typically have to rely more on loans to finance college because they earn less from their work before they enter college (if they have a job before they start) and while they’re in school. And once women graduate college, the gender pay gap continues to play a role. Women working full-time with college degrees earn 26% less than their male colleagues, according to AAUW, delaying their efforts to repay their loans.

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Small part of a large survey.

22% Of Americans Can’t Pay Bills; 41% Have Less Than $400 In Cash (ZH)

Almost nine years into an economic recovery, 41% of adults in 2017 are unable to afford an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing money or selling something, down from 44% last year. When faced with a hypothetical expense of only $400, 59% of adults in 2017 say they could easily cover it, using entirely cash, savings, or a credit card paid off at the next statement (referred to, altogether, as “cash or its equivalent”). Even without an unexpected expense, the report reveals, 22% of adults expected to forgo payment on some of their bills in the month of the survey. “One-third of those who are not able to pay all their bills say that their rent, mortgage, or utility bills will be left at least partially unpaid.” Altogether, one-third of adults are either unable to pay their bills or are one modest financial setback away from financial hardship, slightly less than in 2016 (35%).

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Protests against Macron are becoming massive.

French Unemployment Rises To 9.2% In First Quarter (MW)

French unemployment rose in the first quarter of the year, the latest indication that the surging eurozone recovery of 2017 is losing momentum in 2018. The unemployment rate in France–the eurozone’s second-largest economy–rose to 9.2% in the first quarter from 9% at the end of 2017, national statistics agency Insee said Wednesday. The deterioration in French unemployment comes as economic growth slowed abruptly in the first quarter of the year after a sharp acceleration at the end of 2017.

The soft economic data and lower business confidence are adding to uncertainty over whether the eurozone is on the cusp of a broad slowdown or just catching its breath before resuming stronger growth. The French government has said unemployment remains in a downward trend despite fluctuations from one quarter to another. In the first quarter of 2017, unemployment stood at 9.6%. France’s statistics agency said Wednesday that increases in unemployment were particularly strong at the start of 2018 and youth unemployment remained above 20%. Long-term unemployment was unchanged in the first quarter from the end of 2017.

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Everybody knew this would happen. But May has nothing else.

EU Rejects May’s Plan For Northern Ireland Border (Ind.)

Brussels has rejected Theresa May’s new customs proposal less than 24 hours after the prime minister set it out in a bid to placate Brexiteers in her cabinet. European Commission officials told The Independent Ms May’s plan would be unacceptable and would go back on previous commitments made by British negotiators. A day earlier the prime minister had said the “backstop” plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland – which keeps Britain in alignment with the single market and customs union if no other agreement is reached – would be time limited. The move was an attempt to assuage Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson, who fear that it would become a backdoor way to keep Britain tied indefinitely to the EU through the customs union and single market.

The controversial fallback arrangements look increasingly likely to come into play, with no other plan for the Northern Ireland border in sight and Ms May’s cabinet deadlocked on what Britain’s future customs relationship with the EU should be. European Commission officials close to the talks told The Independent that British negotiators had already made written commitments for the backstop to apply “unless and until” another solution was found in Northern Ireland, and that there was no way it could be time limited. Facing a backlash over the plan from her pro-Brexit ministers, the prime minister sought to calm their fears, telling reporters on Monday: “If it is necessary, it will be in a very limited set of circumstances for a limited time.”

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They blame it on competition.

Nationwide’s UK Mortgage Lending Slumps By A Third (G.)

Nationwide has reported declining profits for the second year in a row, as net mortgage lending slumped by a third amid intense competition. The UK’s largest building society reported a 7.3% drop in statutory profits to £977m for the year to 4 April, down from £1.05bn the previous year. Profits include the £116m cost of buying back debt. Net mortgage lending fell from £8.8bn to £5.8bn, and Nationwide’s share of the market nearly halved, from 25.4% to 13.0%. Even so, it said it remained the UK’s second-biggest mortgage lender, behind Halifax. The Swindon-based mutual blamed fierce competition that forced it to lower mortgage rates, hurting profit margins, and said there was no sign of a let-up.

Mark Rennison, the Nationwide chief financial officer, said: “Our view is price competition will continue, which is good news for customers.” Nationwide has been hit by the end of the Bank of England’s term funding scheme, which was launched after the Brexit vote to provide cheap finance to enable banks to lend at lower interest rates. Rennison said competition had increased because the big five banks had returned to the market after ringfencing their high street banking operations from the riskier parts of their businesses.

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Two words: Glass-Steagall.

House Votes To Ease Bank Rules And Send Bill To Trump’s Desk (CNBC)

The House voted Tuesday to pass the biggest rollback of financial regulations since the global financial crisis. The margin was 258-159, with 33 Democrats supporting the legislation. The bill will now go to President Donald Trump’s desk. He is expected to sign it into law. The Senate already passed the legislation with bipartisan support. The bill makes good on Republican promises to cut red tape they say hurts businesses, but does not go nearly as far as some GOP lawmakers had hoped. It also appeases some Democrats who argue financial rules passed following the financial meltdown unnecessarily hamstrung small and mid-sized lenders.

The measure eases restrictions on all but the largest banks. It raises the threshold to $250 billion from $50 billion under which banks are deemed too important to the financial system to fail. Those institutions also would not have to undergo stress tests or submit so-called living wills, both safety valves designed to plan for financial disaster. It eases mortgage loan data reporting requirements for the overwhelming majority of banks. It would add some safeguards for student loan borrowers and also require credit reporting companies to provide free credit monitoring services.

Republicans have argued the post-crisis regulations held down lending and economic growth. On Tuesday ahead of the vote, House Speaker Paul Ryan promoted the bill as a boon for community banks — though it boosts medium-sized and regional institutions, as well. “This is a bill for the small banks that are the financial anchors of our communities. … It addresses some of Dodd Frank’s biggest burdens to ease the regulatory costs on these small banks — costs which are ultimately transferred on to consumers,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

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It makes wars useless.

How Russia and China Gained a Strategic Advantage in Hypersonic Technology

The development of hypersonic weapons has been part of the military doctrine that China and Russia have been developing for quite some time, driven by various motivations. For one thing, it is a means of achieving strategic parity with the United States without having to match Washington’s unparallelled spending power. The amount of military hardware possessed by the United States cannot be matched by any other armed force, an obvious result of decades of military expenditure estimated to be in the range of five to 15 times that of its nearest competitors. For these reasons, the US Navy is able to deploy ten carrier groups, hundreds of aircraft, and engage in thousands of weapon-development programs.

Over a number of decades, the US war machine has seen its direct adversaries literally vanish, firstly following the Second World War, and then following the collapse of the Soviet Union. This led in the 1990s to shift in focus from one opposing peer competitors to one dealing with smaller and less sophisticated opponents (Yugoslavia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, international terrorism). Accordingly, less funds were devoted to research in cutting-edge technology for new weapons systems in light of these changed circumstances. This strategic decision obliged the US military-industrial complex to slow down advanced research and to concentrate more on large-scale sales of new versions of aircraft, tanks, submarines and ships.

With exorbitant costs and projects lasting up to two decades, this led to systems that were already outdated by the time they rolled off the production lines. All these problems had little visibility until 2014, when the concept of great-power competition returned with a vengeance, and with it the need for the US to compare its level of firepower with that of its peer competitors. Forced by circumstances to pursue a different path, China and Russia begun a rationalization of their armed forces from the end of the 1990s, focusing on those areas that would best allow them the ability to defend against the United States’ overwhelming military power.

[..] After sealing the skies and achieving a robust nuclear-strategic parity with the United States, Moscow and Beijing begun to focus their attention on the US anti-ballistic-missile (ABM) systems placed along their borders, which also consist of the AEGIS system operated by US naval ships. As Putin warned, this posed an existential threat that compromised Russia and China’s second-strike capability in response to any American nuclear first strike, thereby disrupting the strategic balance inherent in the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD).

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This story will be getting bigger fast.

Former Trump Adviser Makes Claim About A Second Informant (DC)

Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo had much to tell on Monday night when he claimed on Fox News he was approached by a second government informant during his stint on President Donald Trump’s team. “Let me tell you something that I know for a fact,” Caputo said on “The Ingraham Angle” with host Laura Ingraham. “This informant, this person [who] they tried to plant into the campaign … he’s not the only person who came at the campaign. And the FBI is not the only Obama agency who came at the campaign.” “I know because they came at me. And I’m looking for clearance from my attorney to reveal this to the public. This is just the beginning.”

Stefan Halper, a Cambridge professor, has been identified as one FBI informant who approached campaign advisers Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis. Halper, a veteran of three Republican administrations, approached Page in July 2016 and maintained a relationship through September 2017. Halper approached Papadopoulos on Sept. 2, 2016, with an offer to fly him to London and pay $3,000 for a policy paper on energy issues. Papadopoulos accepted the offer and met Halper several times in London. Halper asked Papadopoulos whether he knew about Russian hacks of Democrats’ emails.

Caputo did not say why he believes he was contacted by a second government informant; he declined to offer additional details, saying he needed clearance from his attorney. He did say the encounter occurred prior to Halper’s outreach to Page. “When we finally find out the truth about this, Director Clapper and the rest of them will be wearing some orange suits,” Caputo said on, referring to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

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The horror. The horror.

Illegal Online Sales Of Endangered Wildlife Rife In Europe (G.)

The online sale of endangered and threatened wildlife is rife across Europe, a new investigation has revealed, ranging from live cheetahs, orangutans and bears to ivory, polar bear skins and many live reptiles and birds. Researchers from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) spent six weeks tracking adverts on 100 online marketplaces in four countries, the UK, Germany, France and Russia. They found more than 5,000 adverts offering to sell almost 12,000 items, worth $4m (£3m) in total. All the specimens were species in which trade is restricted or banned by the global Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species.

Wildlife groups have worked with online marketplaces including eBay, Gumtree and Preloved to cut the trade and the results of the survey are an improvement compared to a previous Ifaw report in 2014. In March, 21 technology giants including Google, eBay, Etsy, Facebook and Instagram became part of the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online, and committed to bring the online illegal trade in threatened species down by 80% by 2020. “It is great to see we are making really significant inroads into disrupting and dismantling the trade,” said Tania McCrea-Steele at Ifaw. “But the scale of the trade is still enormous.”

Almost 20% of the adverts were for ivory and while the number had dropped significantly in the UK and France, a surge was seen in Germany, where traders developed new code words to mask their sales. “It is a war of attrition and we can never let our guard down,” said McCrea-Steele. The UK is implementing a stricter ban on ivory sales and the EU is under pressure from African nations to follow suit.

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Internal Monsanto communications indicate they knew all along.

Landmark Lawsuit Claims Monsanto Hid Roundup Cancer Danger For Decades (G.)

At the age of 46, DeWayne Johnson is not ready to die. But with cancer spread through most of his body, doctors say he probably has just months to live. Now Johnson, a husband and father of three in California, hopes to survive long enough to make Monsanto take the blame for his fate. On 18 June, Johnson will become the first person to take the globa; seed and chemical company to trial on allegations that it has spent decades hiding the cancer-causing dangers of its popular Roundup herbicide products – and his case has just received a major boost.

Last week Judge Curtis Karnow issued an order clearing the way for jurors to consider not just scientific evidence related to what caused Johnson’s cancer, but allegations that Monsanto suppressed evidence of the risks of its weed killing products. Karnow ruled that the trial will proceed and a jury would be allowed to consider possible punitive damages. “The internal correspondence noted by Johnson could support a jury finding that Monsanto has long been aware of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicides are carcinogenic … but has continuously sought to influence the scientific literature to prevent its internal concerns from reaching the public sphere and to bolster its defenses in products liability actions,” Karnow wrote.

“Thus there are triable issues of material fact.” Johnson’s case, filed in San Francisco county superior court in California, is at the forefront of a legal fight against Monsanto. Some 4,000 plaintiffs have sued Monsanto alleging exposure to Roundup caused them, or their loved ones, to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Another case is scheduled for trial in October, in Monsanto’s home town of St Louis, Missouri.

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Mar 092018
 


Broadway, New York 1954

 

Trump’s Historic Bet on Kim Summit Shatters Decades of Orthodoxy (BBG)
Trump Sets Steel And Aluminum Tariffs; Canada, Mexico Exempted (R.)
There Will Be No Economic Boom – Part II (Roberts)
“Gary Cohn, We Hardly Knew Ya” (David Stockman)
The Risk Lurking In The US Mortgage Market (CNN)
The End of Cheap Debt Will Bring a Wave of – Green- Bankruptcies (Mises)
Tesla Chief Musk Says China Trade Rules Uneven, Asks Trump For Help (R.)
China Will Rely Less On Stimulus As It Battles Risks From Debt – PBOC (CNBC)
UK Retirement Bill Rises More Than £1 Trillion In Five Years (Ind.)
Shares, Profits Of Britain’s Largest Estate Agent Countrywide Plummet (G.)
Toronto Home Builders Just Had Their Busiest February Since 1948 (BBG)
EU Freezes Brexit Talks Until Britain Produces Irish Border Solution (Ind.)
Calais ‘To Be 10 Times Worse Than Irish Border’ After Brexit (G.)
Bitcoin Tumbles Further In Broad Selloff For Cryptocurrencies (MW)
US Is Experiencing The Highest Drug Overdose Death Rates Ever (ZH)
Chinese Panda Conservation Park To Be Twice The Size Of Yosemite (G.)
Discarded Fishing Gear Massacres Whales, Dolphins, Seals, Turtles, Birds (Ind.)

 

 

Question is whether that is a bad thing. Or you could say: Trump brings along his own orthodoxy.

Trump’s Historic Bet on Kim Summit Shatters Decades of Orthodoxy (BBG)

Donald Trump took the biggest gamble of his presidency on Thursday, breaking decades of U.S. diplomatic orthodoxy by accepting an invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The bet is that Trump’s campaign to apply maximum economic pressure on Kim’s regime has forced him to consider what was previously unthinkable: surrendering the illicit nuclear weapons program begun by his father. If the president is right, the U.S. would avert what appeared at times last year to be a steady march toward a second Korean War. It was classic Trump, showing an unerring confidence to get the better end of any negotiation.

But it was also Trump in another way: high risk and high reward, with little regard for those in the foreign policy establishment who worry it’s too much, too soon. “He’s taking a risk,” said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. “By seizing an opportunity for a summit meeting, a decision that would have taken much more time in another administration, the president has said, ‘I’m going to go right now. And we’re going to test this.”’

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“If you don’t want to pay tax, bring your plant to the USA..”

Trump Sets Steel And Aluminum Tariffs; Canada, Mexico Exempted (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump pressed ahead on Thursday with import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% for aluminum but exempted Canada and Mexico and offered the possibility of excluding other allies, backtracking from an earlier “no-exceptions” stance. Describing the dumping of steel and aluminum in the U.S. market as “an assault on our country,” Trump said in a White House announcement that the best outcome would for companies to move their mills and smelters to the United States. He insisted that domestic metals production was vital to national security. “If you don’t want to pay tax, bring your plant to the USA,” added Trump, flanked by steel and aluminum workers.

Plans for the tariffs, set to start in 15 days, have stirred opposition from business leaders and prominent members of Trump’s own Republican Party, who fear the duties could spark retaliation from other countries and hurt the U.S. economy. Within minutes of the announcement, U.S. Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a Trump critic, said he would introduce a bill to nullify the tariffs. But that would likely require Congress to muster an extremely difficult two-thirds majority to override a Trump veto. Some Democrats praised the move, including Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who said it was “past time to defend our interests, our security and our workers in the global economy and that is exactly what the president is proposing with these tariffs.”

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Perhaps somewhat surprising: The consumer spending part of GDP only rises.

There Will Be No Economic Boom – Part II (Roberts)

When the “tax cut” bill was being passed, everyone from Congress to the mainstream media, and even the CFP’s I spoke with yesterday, regurgitated the same “storyline:” “Tax cuts will lead to an economic boom as corporations increase wages, hire and produce more and consumers have extra money in their pockets to spend.” As I have written many times previously, this was always more “hope” than “reality.” The economy, as we currently calculate it, is roughly 70% driven by what you and I consume or “personal consumption expenditures (PCE).” The chart below shows the history of real, inflation-adjusted, PCE as a percent of real GDP.

If “tax cuts” are going to substantially increase the growth rate of the U.S. economy, as touted by the current Administration, then PCE has to be directly targeted. However, while the majority of consumers will receive an “average” of $1182 in the form of a tax reduction, (or $98.50 a month), the increase in take-home pay has already been offset by surging health care cost, rent, energy and higher debt service payments. [..] But this is nothing new as corporations have failed to “share the wealth” for the last couple of decades.

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Those crazy earnings numbers WILL come crashing down.

“Gary Cohn, We Hardly Knew Ya” (David Stockman)

That was quick. The trade war scare was over by noon yesterday, and by the market close they were singing “Gary Cohn, we hardly knew ya”. Folks, what more evidence do you need that the financial markets are completely uncoupled from reality and that these feeble bounces between the 50-day and 20-day chart points are essentially the rigor mortis of a dead bull? At the moment, the 50-day stands at 2740 on the S&P 500 and is functioning as “resistance” according to the chart mavens, while the 20-day at 2700 is purportedly acting as “support”. So there’s that, but also this: At the exact mid-point of 2720, the broad market is currently trading at 25.6X reported earnings for 2017.

That’s the nosebleed section of history no matter how you slice it – and most especially in the context of an earnings growth trend that is shackled to the flat line, and which has no prospect of breaking away before the next recession, either. With virtually every company having reported, it turns out that GAAP earnings for 2017 came in at $109.46 per share on the S&P 500. Then again, 40 months earlier in September 2014 reported LTM earnings were $105.96 per share. That tabulates to a 1.0% per year gain during what will surely prove to have been the sweet spot (month #63 to month #102) of the current long-in-the-tooth business expansion.

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Non-banks. How is that different from China?

The Risk Lurking In The US Mortgage Market (CNN)

Low interest rates. Easy credit. Poor regulation. Toxic mortgages. These were just a few reasons regulators gave for the collapse of the US housing market a decade ago. Since then, regulators have improved the standards that lenders use when Americans apply for mortgages. But today increasing danger lurks in the mortgage market, and economists say it could put the financial system at “even greater risk” when the next recession strikes or too many borrowers fall behind on their mortgage payments. A growing segment of the mortgage market is being financed by so-called non-bank lenders — financial institutions that offer loans to consumers but don’t provide saving or checking accounts.

Borrowers with poor credit have increasingly turned to these alternative lenders instead of traditional banks. The alternative lenders are subject to far less regulation and have fewer safeguards when borrower defaults start to pile up. “A collapse of the non-bank mortgage sector has the potential to result in substantial costs and harm to consumers and the US government,” economists at the Federal Reserve and the University of California, Berkeley, write in a paper released Thursday at a Brookings Institution conference. As of 2016, non-bank financial institutions originated close to half of all mortgages. They originated three-quarters of mortgages with explicit government backing, underscoring the risk to taxpayers.

“The experience of the financial crisis suggests that the government will be pressured to backstop the sector in a time of stress,” the authors write. The danger is that non-banks may have fewer resources to weather economic shocks to the mortgage market, like a rise in interest rates or a decline in house prices. “What happens if interest rates rise and non-bank revenue drops? What happens if commercial banks or other financial institutions lose their taste for extending credit to non-banks? What happens if delinquency rates rise and servicers have to advance payments to investors?” the authors write. “We cannot provide reassuring answers to any of these questions,” they write.

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The entire Green Facade depends on cheap credit. And subsidies.

The End of Cheap Debt Will Bring a Wave of – Green- Bankruptcies (Mises)

The end of the era of cheap money highlights the risk of “Enron-style” bankruptcies in many sectors, including renewable energy. With the path of three rate hikes in the United States in 2018 confirmed by the Federal Reserve and a nervous equity market, the challenges are more evident than ever. The past eight years of massive liquidity and low rates have not helped deleverage, and many companies have used this period to increase imbalances and create complex debt structures. In fact: • Corporate net debt to EBITDA levels is at record highs. About 20% of US corporates face default if rates rise, according to the IMF. • The number of zombie companies has risen above pre-crisis levels according to the Bank of International Settlements (BIS). • This is particularly evident in the renewable sector where, even in the years of high liquidity and low rates, bankruptcies soared.

The renewable sector has undergone an absolutely spectacular transformation in the past eight years. Technology advanced, costs fell and global leaders strengthened when their strategy was to develop an energy model. Understanding that disruptive technologies cannot be more leveraged than traditional ones was key. When technology reduces costs and disrupts inflationary models, basing the business on ever-increasing subsidies and higher prices and financing it with massive debt is suicidal. In the era of cheap money and extreme liquidity, many companies used the “green” subterfuge to implement an extremely leveraged builder-developer model, ignoring demand, costs, and competition. A model whose sole objective was to install for the sake of installing capacity, whether there was a demand or not, and that pursued subsidies while stating that it is very competitive.

Even in a period of falling interest rates and very high liquidity, there have been spectacular bankruptcies, so imagine what can happen when rates rise. [..] If a technology is viable, it does not need subsidies. If it is unviable, no subsidies will change it. Bankruptcies in the solar sector exceed all those of the inefficient coal and fracking companies combined. This domino of bankruptcies, which includes more than 120 corpses of large companies around the world, was self-inflicted. And now, winter is coming. [..] The global renewable sector faces refinancing needs in the next seven to eight years that exceed its entire market capitalization (134 billion euros, Renixx Index).

It is not a problem of technology, it is the addiction to cheap debt and growth for growth sake. And it’s not just a problem in the renewable sector. The combination of lower revenues and increased debt costs is a danger. Cost of debt rises, and cost of equity soars due to higher perceived risk, which in turn can dry up the market for capital increases and refinancing. It is not just renewables, but it is worth highlighting that energy is -again- the most vulnerable sector due to the cyclical nature of its revenues and the perpetuation of overcapacity of the past eight years.

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Musk is the leader of the Green Facade.

Tesla Chief Musk Says China Trade Rules Uneven, Asks Trump For Help (R.)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on Thursday to call on U.S. President Donald Trump to challenge China’s auto trade rules, which limit foreign ownership of Chinese ventures and impose steep tariffs on imported cars. In a series of tweets aimed at the president, Musk said he was “against import duties in general, but the current rules make things very difficult. It’s like competing in an Olympic race wearing lead shoes.” Tesla has been pushing hard to build cars in China, the world’s largest auto market, but has hit roadblocks in negotiations with local authorities, in part because Musk is keen to keep full control of any local venture. “No U.S. auto company is allowed to own even 50% of their own factory in China, but there are five 100% China-owned EV (electric vehicle) auto companies in the U.S.,” Musk wrote in another tweet.

Tesla “raised this with the prior administration and nothing happened. Just want a fair outcome, ideally where tariffs/rules are equally moderate. Nothing more. Hope this does not seem unreasonable,” he said. Trump quoted one of Musk’s tweets in his announcement on new tariffs and said American automakers have not been treated fairly by trade rules around the world. Trump announced steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports on Thursday. Politicians “have known it for years and never did anything about it. It’s got to change,” Trump said, saying he plans to impose a “reciprocal tax” on other countries. “We’re changing things,” Trump added. “We just want fairness.”

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Yeah, we all believe that.

China Will Rely Less On Stimulus As It Battles Risks From Debt – PBOC (CNBC)

China has moved away from its old growth model which was heavily reliant on investment and will rely less on stimulus to boost the economy in future, People’s Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan said on Friday. Zhou’s comments echoed those of other top officials at China’s parliament this week which suggested that Beijing will be more cautious about spending this year while it focuses on reducing the risks from a rapid build-up in debt. After years of heavy pump-priming, markets worry less generous stimulus could retard the pace of growth not only in China but globally. But analysts believe Beijing will continue to keep the system well supplied with cash to avoid the risk of a sharp slowdown in economic growth, even as they continue to tighten the screws on financial regulations.

“We now emphasize the new normal of the economy, shifting from the past growth model of quantitative growth… referring to the accumulation of capital and investment to boost economic growth,” Zhou told reporters on the sidelines of the annual parliament session. “While pursuing higher quality growth, we will have to reduce our reliance on the old growth model of investment,” said Zhou, in what was likely his last news briefing before his expected retirement this month. Zhou said China needs to improve its regulatory supervision as soon as possible to curb risks to the financial system. He said China has begun to make progress in reducing such risks, but numerous threats remain, such as a lack of transparency at financial holding companies and digital currencies.

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The Brexit fiasco continues to expose the hidden weaknesses. Which in the case of pensions are global, but mostly remain hidden.

UK Retirement Bill Rises More Than £1 Trillion In Five Years (Ind.)

The UK’s pension funding crisis reached a new crisis milestone this week as the Office for National Statistics revealed the UK’s pension funding liabilities rose to £7.6 trillion at the end of 2015. The figure – the total amount promised to pay Brits’ future retirement income – includes £5.3 trillion of pension entitlements that were the responsibility of central and local government, most of which – around £4 trillion – came from State Pension entitlements. The remaining £2.3 trillion were private sector employee pension entitlements with £2 trillion due to final salary pensions, up from £1.4 trillion in 2010. As things stand, expert commentators suggest there is only around a third of that ‘in the bank’ in company pension funds.

The remainder, it is hoped, will be generated by future working populations. The figures are designed to provide a snapshot of household retirement entitlements, though they don’t include self-invested personal pensions, which have grown significantly in recent years thanks to legislative changes known as pensions freedoms. “While these are obviously large amounts of money, it is important to remember that the payments will be drawn over many years,” says Darren Morgan, head of national accounts for the ONS. “The figures say nothing about the sustainability of our pension system in future.”

In fact, pensions experts have been shocked by the statistics, which come just days after official warnings from the Government Actuary that National Insurance may have to increase by 5% to pay for future state pay outs. “The figures published by the ONS today are astonishing and bring into sharp relief the reasons behind proposed increases in the state pension age,” adds Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell. “Unfunded state pension entitlements are worth more than double UK GDP – these are promises that will, ultimately, have to be paid for by future generations either through higher taxes, a lower state pension income or a later retirement age.

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Why not say it like it is?

Shares, Profits Of Britain’s Largest Estate Agent Countrywide Plummet (G.)

Countrywide, Britain’s largest estate agent, has reported a 22.5% fall in core annual earnings and scrapped its dividend, sending its shares to record lows. It pledged to go “back to basics” to return its sales and lettings business to profitable growth after what it described as a disappointing year. “We have got to put our resources back in the front line and not at the head office,” said the executive chairman, Peter Long, adding that restructuring would reduce headcount to 350 from 400. Countrywide said its 2018 property pipeline was “significantly lower” and that it expected a fall of about 36% (£10m) in first-half adjusted earnings before interest, taxation and amortisation (Ebitda).

Its 2017 adjusted Ebitda fell 22.5% to £64.7m while group income fell almost 9% to £671.9m. Shares in Countrywide plunged to a record low of 66.64p before rising to 77p in mid-morning trading, down 13.4% . “The next few months will be messy as new plans are put into place,” Jefferies analysts said in a note to clients. “However, banks are lending their support to the new plan and we believe those equity investors who choose to do the same will have their patience rewarded.”

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As sales are down 35%.

Greater Toronto Home Sales Down 35% From February 2017

Toronto Home Builders Just Had Their Busiest February Since 1948 (BBG)

Toronto developers had one of their busiest months on record in February in another sign the condo market is alive and well in Canada’s biggest real estate market, even amid a broader slowdown. Builders began work on 5,677 units during the month, most of them multiple-unit projects like condos, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Thursday in Ottawa. That’s the strongest February, and the sixth-highest figure for any month, in records back to 1948. The bulk of Toronto condo units are typically sold before construction begins, so the latest surge may simply reflect past sales. But the report also suggests developers are betting the condo market will be less affected by headwinds including higher borrowing costs and tighter mortgage qualification rules that are currently hitting Toronto housing.

“It’s probably lagging a little bit. Historically you tend to see supply follow demand,” said Robert Kavcic, an economist at Bank of Montreal. “The other nuance here is that a lot of the policy changes we’ve seen over the last year, they really had a bigger impact on the higher end of the single detached housing market.” [..] Construction is picking up in Toronto just as sales begin to slide, after various levels of government and regulators took measures to curb surging prices. Most recently, tougher mortgage guidelines came into play on Jan. 1, making it harder for prospective buyers to qualify for loans. Many buyers rushed into the market in December to get ahead of the rules.

Transactions fell 35% in February from a year earlier to 5,175 units, according to data released Tuesday by the Toronto Real Estate Board. It was the weakest February for sales since 2009. Prices are holding up better, particularly in the condo segment, which has gained consistently over the past year and is up 20% since last February. Prices for single-detached homes have fallen 12% since reaching a record last year. Fundamentals that favor condos seem to be at work, as rising immigration levels drive demand. And since the net effect of the new regulations is to limit the size of mortgage credit, the tougher rules may be buoying the less-expensive condo market.

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Thumbscrews.

EU Freezes Brexit Talks Until Britain Produces Irish Border Solution (Ind.)

The EU has thrown down an ultimatum to Theresa May in Brexit talks, warning that it will not open discussions about trade or other issues until the Irish border question is solved. Speaking in Dublin alongside the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, European Council President Donald Tusk said talks would be a case of “Ireland first” and that “the risk of destabilising the fragile peace process must be avoided at all costs”. “We know today that the UK Government rejects a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, the EU single market, and the customs union,” the Mr Tusk said. “While we must respect this position, we also expect the UK to propose a specific and realistic solution to avoid a hard border.

“As long as the UK doesn’t present such a solution, it is very difficult to imagine substantive progress in Brexit negotiations. “If in London someone assumes that the negotiations will deal with other issues first before the Irish issue, my response would be: Ireland first.” British negotiators have long been keen to move to discussions about trade and had hoped to do so after the March meeting of the European Council in two weeks, but Mr Tusk’s latest ultimatum suggests further delays could be in store. The EU says a withdrawal agreement must be negotiated by October to give it time to ratify the deal before the UK falls out of the bloc in March 2019.

Mr Tusk recalled that the Good Friday Agreement, whose 20th anniversary is next month, had been “ratified by huge majorities north and south of the border”. “We must recognise the democratic decision taken by Britain to leave the EU in 2016 – just as we must recognise the democratic decision made on the island of Ireland in 1998 with all its consequences,” he said, in a play on the rhetoric used by Brexiteers regarding the 2016 EU referendum. The EU27 nations granted the UK “sufficient progress” to move to the rest of Brexit talks in the December meeting of the European Council after the UK made a commitment to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland at all costs.

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30-mile lines of waiting trucks. That was reason no. 1 to establish the EU. Well, they’re back.

Calais ‘To Be 10 Times Worse Than Irish Border’ After Brexit (G.)

The boss of the port of Calais has said there could be tailbacks up to 30 miles in all directions and potential food shortages in Britain if a Brexit deal involves mandatory customs and sanitary checks at the French ferry terminal. Jean-Marc Puissesseau made an impassioned plea to Theresa May and Michel Barnier to put plans in place immediately to avert congestion in Calais and Dover, where bosses have already warned of permanent 20-mile tailbacks. At the same time a leading politician for the Calais region said the problems in France would be 10 times worse than at the Irish border. At a private meeting at the European parliament, Xavier Bertrand, a former French health minister and the president of the Hauts-de-France political region, said politicians needed to grasp the magnitude of the problem.

“I know Ireland is going to be a real problem, but please remember the economic issues in Ireland are 10 times smaller than what is going to happen here,” he said. “This is a black scenario, but it is going to get darker and darker,” he said, urging politicians in Brussels and London to take urgent action by setting up working groups and listening to business. Bertrand angrily denounced those who had power to influence the Brexit outcome. It was not right that economic operators should be expected to “sit on their hands waiting very anxiously for something to happen”.

At the same meeting, Puissesseau said both sides would be affected by the problems at the ports, with suppliers from the UK trying to get their goods through strict EU controls treated no better than those from a developing country. “The UK is part of the 21st century. But this takes us back 100 years. This is sad,” he said. “From Brexit day, 100% of our traffic will be from outside the EU. I tell you honestly that GB will be a third country, this frightens me. There’s such a long history between the UK and EU.” “At the moment, 70% of food imported comes from the EU. Even if that goes down to 50% after Brexit because of controls, it still needs to flow smoothly; people still need to eat,” he said.

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$8,500 as I write this, -8.46%.

Bitcoin Tumbles Further In Broad Selloff For Cryptocurrencies (MW)

Selling intensified for digital currencies on Friday, as the price of the No.1 cryptocurrency bitcoin pushed below $9,000. The price of a single bitcoin fell 4.8% to $8,847.85, but bounced off a low of $8,370.80, according to CoinDesk. In a week, bitcoin has dropped around 20%. Losses were widespread across cryptocurrencies. Ether was down 4.5% to $671.66, bitcoin cash slid 6.4% to $970.66 and Litecoin fell 6.2% to $166.22, according to CoinDesk. Ripple tumbled 10% to $0.78, according to CoinMarketCap. The moves build on sharp drops on Thursday, which some suggested were due to technical factors.

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Winning.

US Is Experiencing The Highest Drug Overdose Death Rates Ever (ZH)

Across the United States, government officials are struggling to combat the next wave of the opioid epidemic, which is expected to deliver a massive blow to the heartland. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms the opioid crisis has dramatically worsened since the second half of 2016. Raw data from hospital emergency rooms show a significant increase in drug overdoses across the U.S. In a press briefing on Tuesday, CDC Director Anne Schuchat, M.D., warned that the U.S. is currently experiencing the highest drug overdose death rates ever.

In the newly issued report, which examined data from 16 states, emergency department visits for suspected opioid overdoses jumped 30% from July 2016 through September 2017. In some regions of the country, overdoses were far more significant, but overall, data from most areas showed the opioid crisis is worsening, despite President Trump’s new initiative to tackle the epidemic.

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Save the symbols?!

Chinese Panda Conservation Park To Be Twice The Size Of Yosemite (G.)

The Bank of China has pledged at least 10bn yuan (£1.1bn) to create a vast panda conservation park in south-west Sichuan province, the Chinese forestry ministry has said. The Sichuan branch of the central bank signed an agreement with the provincial government to finance the vast national park’s construction by 2023. The park aims to bolster the local economy while providing the endangered animals with an unbroken range in which they can meet and mate with other pandas in order to enrich their gene pool.The ministry said the park will measure 2m hectares (5m acres), making it more than twice the size of Yellowstone national park in the US.

Zhang Weichao, a Sichuan official involved in the park planning, told the state-run China Daily the agreement would help alleviate poverty among the 170,000 people living within the project’s proposed territory. Plans for the park were initiated in January last year by the ruling Communist party’s central committee and the state council, the China Daily reported. Giant pandas are China’s unofficial national mascot and live mainly in the Sichuan mountains, with some in neighbouring Gansu and Shaanxi provinces. An estimated 1,864 live in the wild, where they are chiefly threatened by habitat loss. Another 300 live in captivity.

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By treating the oceans as our garbage bin, we will make it exactly that.

Discarded Fishing Gear Massacres Whales, Dolphins, Seals, Turtles, Birds (Ind.)

The world’s biggest seafood firms are all contributing to the deaths of more than 100,000 whales, dolphins, seals, turtles and seabirds that are killed in agony every year by discarded fishing equipment, according to a new report. Many of the creatures are drowned, strangled or mutilated by plastic gear lost or abandoned at sea, while others suffer “a prolonged and painful death, usually suffocating or starving” either because they cannot fish or their stomachs are full of plastic. Campaigners believe the fishing litter problem is becoming so bad that the oceans could end up unable to provide any catches for humans to eat.

They say “ghost gear” has become a huge but overlooked threat to marine life, and 640,000 tons of it are added to the oceans each year – a rate of more than a ton every minute. A new study analysed the approaches to fishing equipment of the world’s 15 biggest seafood companies, to rank them in five categories – but found that none could be ranked in the top two as having “best practice” or making “responsible handling” of their fishing gear integral to their business strategy. [..] The report, entitled Ghosts beneath the Waves, says abandoned and lost gear is four times more likely to trap and kill creatures than all other forms of marine debris combined, and more than 70% of visible plastic in the sea is fishing-related.

Microplastics – minuscule pieces – were found in the digestive tracts of 80% of seals tested off the coast of Ireland, while other research cited found that plastic accounted for 69% of the debris ingested by whales. Other studies said 98% of whale entanglements involved ghost gear, while 82% of North Atlantic right whales have become entangled at least once. “This is a huge crisis of animal suffering, yet hardly anyone is talking about it,” said World Animal Protection. In one deep water fishery in the north east Atlantic 25,000 nets have been recorded as lost or discarded each year, according to the report. “Even within small areas, the amount of ghost gear can be staggering,” it said. “The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, for example, is estimated to be littered with 85,000 active ghost lobster and crab pots.

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