Sep 222020
 
 September 22, 2020  Posted by at 9:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Ray K. Metzker Marseille 1961

 

Assange’s Removal From Embassy Was on ‘Direct Orders From US President’ (Sp.)
160 Officials From Across The World Call For Assange’s Release (NBC)
A Second UK COVID19 Lockdown Is Doomed To Fail: Brits Won’t Comply (RT)
CDC Stumbles Again, Says COVID19 Guidance Posted ‘In Error’ (NBC)
China, WHO Could Have Helped Prevent Pandemic: Congressional Report (NYP)
Lancet Changes Editorial Policy After HCQ Study Retraction (G.)
Ballot Harvesting Party Will Be Over if Tulsi Gabbard Gets Her Way (NM)
Trump Says Aides Rejected His Request To Adjust Value Of Dollar (R.)
European Bank Stocks Swoon to 1988 Low (WS)
Virgin Islands AG Subpoenas Entirety Of Epstein Flight Logs (RT)
Kennedy’s US-Russia Joint Space Vision Must Be Revived (Ehret)
Activist Warns Left: Trump Might Pick First Black Female Justice (JTN)
Trump Fires Giant Pink Glitter Cannon To Reveal SCOTUS Nominee Gender (BBee)

 

 

1 million global deaths is not far off. Expect a ton of publicity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cassandra is a Trump supporter – but an even stronger Assange supporter- who just proved that the trial is political. Which means Julian cannot under British law be extradited. Or at least that’s what the law says.

Assange’s Removal From Embassy Was on ‘Direct Orders From US President’ (Sp.)

Journalist Cassandra Fairbanks has informed the court in Julian Assange’s extradition hearing that Arthur Schwartz, who is known as Donald Trump Jr’s “fixer”, had advance warning of the US indictment against the WikiLeaks publisher. Julian Assange’s removal from the Ecuadorian Embassy was done so “on direct orders from the [US] president”, according to information provided to American journalist Cassandra Fairbanks. Ms Fairbanks’ explosive testimony would appear to support to position that Mr Assange’s prosecution has a political dimension and reflected a shift in the government’s attitude with a change in administration from that of former president Barack Obama.

According to Ms Fairbanks’ witness statement, which was read into the court by the defence in Mr Assange’s extradition hearing on 21 September 2020, she was contacted by Arthur Schwartz, “a wealthy GOP donor who does communications for [former Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell] and works as an informal adviser to Donald Trump Jr”. During this phone call, which Ms Fairbanks recorded, Mr Schwartz was panicking because he believed a Tweet that she published revealed “classified information”. Ms Fairbanks attempted to calm down Mr Schwartz saying that she didn’t publish classified information and that she merely shared a link to a report from ABC news which described the role that Mr Grenell played in coordinating Mr Assange’s release.

Mr Schwartz was not put at ease by Ms Fairbanks’ assurances and asked her to delete the Tweet. “I don’t want to go to prison” Mr Schwartz told Ms Fairbanks, adding that people are aware of the fact that the two have been communicating with each other and have been seen with each other. Mr Grenell was acting “on the orders from the president” Mr Schwartz can be heard saying during the recorded conversation. “So, you’re going to punish me because he took orders from the president?” he asked Ms Fairbanks who responded that she wasn’t punishing him she was merely retweeting a report by ABC. Mr Schwartz begged Ms Fairbanks to delete the Tweet which she ultimately agreed to do. Ms Fairbanks is a contributor to the Pro-Trump Gateway Pundit news outlet and she notes that she herself “endorsed [Mr Trump’s] presidency over a number of years”.

Her witness statement says that she “believed Schwartz’s statement [that Mr Grenell coordinated Mr Assange’s removal from the embassy] to be correct because his close personal ties to both President Trump and Grenell are well-known”. The statement also says that her interactions with Mr Schwartz, on the subject of Mr Assange and WikiLeaks, first began after she dropped a link to an interview with Mr Assange’s mother, Christine Assange, into “a direct message group [in October 2018] containing multiple people who either worked for President Trump or were close to him in other ways – along with several other reporters and political commentators”. Among those in the group were then US Ambassador to Germany Mr Grenell as well as Mr Schwartz.

After she put the link to the interview into the group chat, Ms Fairbanks’ statement says that she received a phone call from Mr Schwartz who was “very angry”: “[Mr Schwartz] repeatedly insisted that I stop advocating for WikiLeaks and Assange, telling me that ‘a pardon isn’t going to f**king happen.’ He knew very specific details about a future prosecution against Assange that were later made public and that only those very close to the situation then would have been aware of. He told me that it would be the ‘Manning’ case that he would be charged with and that it would not involve the Vault 7 publication or anything to do with the DNC. He also told me that they would be going after Chelsea Manning. I also recollect being told, I believe, that it would not be before Christmas. Both of these predictions came true just months later.”

“Kidnapping a political refugee” from the Ecuadorian Embassy would be “an act of war”, Ms Fairbanks said to Mr Schwartz, to which he apparently responded “not if they let us”.

Read more …

Is the mainstream press getting involved now?

160 Officials From Across The World Call For Assange’s Release (NBC)

More than 160 current and former world leaders, lawmakers and diplomats have endorsed a call for the U.K. to free WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and stop his extradition to the U.S. The signatories of the open letter, addressed to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and several government ministers, included the president of Argentina and two former presidents of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. [..] The letter was first written by the group Lawyers for Assange in August, and then received the support of the international signatories whose names were released on Monday. It laid out several legal reasons why Assange shouldn’t be extradited, including the claim that he wouldn’t face a fair trial in the U.S., and that he would “be exposed to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

His extradition “would gravely endanger freedom of the press,” the letter said. “This demonstrates the growing opposition around the world to U.S. efforts to extradite and prosecute Assange, and the political nature of this case,” Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, told NBC News. Many of the letter’s signatories, which also include Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro and former Ecuadoran leader Rafael Correa, are fierce critics of the U.S. and have previously spoken out against American foreign policy. Last week, Robinson told a London court that Assange was offered a presidential pardon in 2017 by then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and Trump associate Charles Johnson if he helped to resolve the “ongoing speculation about Russian involvement” in the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails leaked during the 2016 U.S. election campaign.

At the hearing in London on Friday, James Lewis, prosecutor for the U.S. government, said: “The position of the government is we don’t contest these things were said. We obviously do not accept the truth of what was said by others.”

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What you gonna do? Arrest them all and throw them into virus-infected prisons?

A Second UK COVID19 Lockdown Is Doomed To Fail: Brits Won’t Comply (RT)

Now armed with statistics and expert advice, the British public are much better informed about Covid than in March and won’t countenance another lockdown imposed by politicians who have mishandled the pandemic at every turn. A looming second lockdown in the UK, as part of the Government’s haphazard approach to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, is destined to fail for one reason: the revered ‘Blitz spirit’ that we’re all in this together has vanished. Now it’s everyone for themselves. For several days now, there has been talk of another imminent imposition of harsh restrictions on our movement. While the first national lockdown was universally accepted, any follow-up – call it ‘a circuit breaker’ or whatever clever name you like – is going to be a little trickier.

Look at what’s happened in Madrid over the weekend, where a wave of protests hit the Spanish capital with people taking offence at the regional president’s efforts to reduce an infection rate in some areas of more than 1,000 per 100,000 by restricting the movements of 850,000 people. And when Isabel Dìaz Ayuso bluntly suggested it was the “way of life” of the immigrants living in those neighbourhoods that was contributing to the problems, the mob insisted she resign. What for? Trying to keep them safe? Remember, Spain had a draconian three-month lockdown that saw kids shut up indoors over summer, but they recognised they were all in it together and stuck to their guns. Now that spirit has dissolved, as people claim the government is spreading fear and hatred among already marginalised communities. Attention has turned away from battling the pandemic to fighting among themselves.

That easygoing compliance has hardened in the UK as well. We’re not so accepting of the words coming from the familiar Downing Street podium these days. Because we’ve now had months of expert home tutoring by the impressive duo of government scientists Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, whose careful, measured explanations and predictions have driven the real narrative behind the boosterism of the government’s “moonshots” and “world-beating” boasts. Last week it was Boris Johnson telling us it would all be over by Christmas. Now Health Secretary Matt Hancock says maybe not. That kind of ‘he said, she said’ nonsense is a test to anyone’s patience, but you can see where the desperate-to-be-loved PM is coming from. People want a return to normal, even if that ‘normal’ is different to what we are used to, and BoJo is keen to be the one to deliver the good news.

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And Americans won’t comply either, thanks to BS like this.

It is really only yesterday that I said: “Do they still have any credibility left? You know, after Redfield’s “Act for one Man and one Mask”?”

CDC Stumbles Again, Says COVID19 Guidance Posted ‘In Error’ (NBC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday walked back information posted on its website just three days ago, which stated the coronavirus can spread through aerosolized droplets. The CDC now says that Friday’s guidance was posted “in error,” and that new information will be issued shortly. The move is yet another misstep for the nation’s leading public health agency, which recently reversed its guidance for the second time on testing asymptomatic people for the coronavirus. On Friday, an update posted to the CDC’s website stated the virus can be transmitted through tiny, aerosolized droplets that are “produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes.”

That information was already well known, according to infectious disease experts. It was “not surprising or jarring,” Dr. Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said. “The scientific community has been raising the alarm about this since February, that airborne spread can happen,” said Joseph Allen, an associate professor in the department of environmental health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. So infectious disease experts were perplexed Monday, when the CDC scrubbed that section of the website of any mention of airborne transmission, writing that “a draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website.”

[..] “This is so destructive to this incredibly wonderful agency that we have loved and admired our entire careers,” Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the school of public health at Brown University, said. “This is amateur hour.” Science evolves and is guided by what doctors and researchers learn over time, but clear messaging is critical to a proper public health response to the virus. “The CDC is like a North Star in terms of guiding this pandemic,” Weatherhead said. “It’s important that there is clear and concise communication so that everybody is on the same page.” “Hopefully we will get communication from the CDC to better understand why they’re walking back on what we already know to be factual,” she added.

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An overly polite headline. It doesn’t include “criminally negligent”.

China, WHO Could Have Helped Prevent Pandemic: Congressional Report (NYP)

The coronavirus pandemic might have been prevented if not for Chinese cover-ups in the early days of the outbreak and the World Health Organization “parroting” Beijing propaganda, according to a damning audit from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The 96-page report — obtained by The Post ahead of its planned Monday release — says the Chinese Communist Party destroyed evidence and buried troubling data, while nationalizing the supply chains and limiting exports of US companies 3M and General Motors, keeping key goods in the country.

“It is beyond doubt that the CCP actively engaged in a cover-up designed to obfuscate data, hide relevant public health information, and suppress doctors and journalists who attempted to warn the world,” reads the report, authored by Republican members of the Democrat-held committee. Had China been more transparent and proactive when the first signs of the burgeoning health crisis emerged in Wuhan in late 2019, the outbreak could have been largely contained — potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide, the pols wrote.

“Research shows the CCP could have reduced the number of cases in China by up to 95 percent had it fulfilled its obligations under international law and responded to the outbreak in a manner consistent with best practices,” the report said, citing a study on Medrxiv, a Yale University-linked online clearinghouse for medical manuscripts. “It is highly likely the ongoing pandemic could have been prevented,” the report said. Instead, on Jan. 1, CCP officials ordered that the Wuhan wet market from which the contagion is believed to have sprung “be closed and sanitized, destroying forensic evidence that may have provided insight into the origins of the outbreak,” the report said.

Read more …

It was a classis hit job from the start. And the Lancet bought and swallowed it whole. But HCQ remains banned in many places, so it worked.

Lancet Changes Editorial Policy After HCQ Study Retraction (G.)

One of the world’s leading medical journals, the Lancet, has reformed its editorial policies following a shocking case of apparent research misconduct involving the study of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19. In May, the Lancet published a peer-reviewed study about the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine, which concluded Covid-19 patients who received the drug were dying at higher rates and experiencing more heart-related complications than other virus patients. The large observational study analysed data purported to be from nearly 15,000 patients with Covid-19 who received the drug alone or in combination with antibiotics, comparing this data with 81,000 controls who did not receive the drug.

This data was recorded by hospitals around the world in a database by a US data analytics company known as “Surgisphere”, the Lancet paper said. The findings prompted the World Health Organization to halt its clinical trials of the drug, given the paper’s findings that it was linked with deaths and complications. But days after the paper was published, Guardian Australia revealed issues with the Australian data in the study. Figures on the number of Covid-19 deaths and patients in hospital cited by the authors did not match up with official government and health department data. Senior clinicians involved in Covid-19 research told Guardian Australia they had never heard of the Surgisphere database.

Researchers from other countries identified similar issues with the data from their hospitals, and a further Guardian Australia investigation revealed doubts that the database used by the study authors likely did not even existed. Sapan Desai was a co-author of the paper and founder of the Surgisphere database. Following the revelations, information about Surgisphere was deleted from the internet. It was also revealed that none of the co-authors of the paper had seen the Surgisphere data for themselves, and they said that Desai did not give them access to it even after questions about the paper were raised by Guardian Australia and the research community. The paper’s co-authors, which included a highly respected vascular surgeon, supported the retraction of the paper and distanced themselves from the data.

Read more …

Go Tulsi!

Ballot Harvesting Party Will Be Over if Tulsi Gabbard Gets Her Way (NM)

Ballot-harvesting is a voting related practice allowing paid political operatives to collect an unlimited number of ballots, subsequently delivering them into the hands of election officials. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, recently introduced legislation, The Election Fraud Prevention Act, which if passed would effectively slow down or even put a halt to the practice. The legislation could potentially be in effect in time for November’s all-important 2020 presidential election. When Rep. Gabbard made her run for the Oval Office during the Democratic presidential primaries, the public learned that she was a proud member of the Army National Guard, having served in two Mideast deployments. Currently, she is a major in the Army Reserves.


Rep. Gabbard’s proposed legislation, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-IL, would amend a 2002 act, and if passed would deny certain federal payments to states that permit ballot harvesting. This type of reform could go a long way in helping to prevent a particularly heinous kind of corruption of the electoral process. If ballot-harvesting remains in place, or worse, if its use becomes widespread nationally, special interest groups aligned with a particular candidate or political party may be able to manipulate the results of legitimate elections. As Rep. Gabbard noted, “While some states have prohibited vote harvesting, many states lack any regulations that would stop third-parties from fraudulently collecting and mishandling ballots as has occurred in recent elections.”

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‘Sir, we can’t do that. It has to float naturally.’

There are actually people who react to this by saying Trump didn’t know the dollar floats.

Trump Says Aides Rejected His Request To Adjust Value Of Dollar (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said he was rebuffed when he asked officials to adjust the exchange rate of the dollar to counteract what he described as repeated currency manipulation by China of its yuan. Trump told thousands of supporters at a political rally in Dayton, Ohio, that his policies were saving jobs in the political battleground state after years of inaction to confront China’s aggressive behavior in global markets. “I go to my guys, ‘What about doing a little movement on the dollar?’” he said, but they countered that was not possible. “‘Sir, we can’t do that. It has to float naturally.’”

The Republican president, who is seeking reelection to a second term in the Nov. 3 national poll, repeated his claim – which China denies – that Beijing deliberately changes the value of its currency to gain competitive advantage in global markets. China’s central bank has denied intervening to weaken the yuan and lower the cost of its exports to the United States. The yuan has firmed for eight weeks straight against a softening dollar. Trump gave no details on his conversation about tweaking the dollar’s value, and no comment was immediately available from the U.S. Treasury Department, which is expected to release its long-delayed semi-annual currency report in coming weeks.

[..] Trump in May reversed course and backed a “strong dollar” after years of railing against the dollar’s relative strength as a factor harming U.S. competitiveness. The Treasury Department in January dropped its designation of China as a “currency manipulator”, days before U.S. and Chinese officials signed the Phase 1 trade deal, saying Beijing had agreed to refrain from competitive devaluation.

Read more …

How many arrests so far?

European Bank Stocks Swoon to 1988 Low (WS)

The Stoxx 600 Banks index, which covers major European banks, slumped 5.7% on Monday, to close at 81.1, just a smidgen above the multi-decade low, of 79, set in March. The last time before March that the index was below today’s level was in February 1988, during the sell-off that followed Black Monday in October 1987, when it also slumped as low as 79. The index has collapsed by 85% since its peak in May 2007, after having quadrupled over the preceding 12 years. Here are the wondrous European bank stocks going back to 2007:

Not even the promise of more industry consolidation, facilitated by shotgun mergers of big, struggling banks with smaller struggling banks, has stemmed the slide of Europe’s banking shares. Three weeks ago, Spain’s third largest lender, CaixaBank, announced plans to buy majority state-owned Bankia, with money largely provided by the State, to form what will be Spain’s largest domestic bank. Spain’s MSCI rose only slightly in response and is now lower than it was. Today, it wasn’t just banking stocks that had a rough day. European stocks overall were down by 3.9%, as concerns grow over a second wave of the coronavirus. But banks were particularly hard hit.


One reason for the rout was the release of a report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists on lenders that had facilitated $2 trillion in suspicious transactions. HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of New York Mellon, were implicated. Over almost two decades, the five banks had “enrich[ed] themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the work of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins,” the report said.

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I wouldn’t put any money on her actually getting them. Unredacted. National security, don’t you know.

Virgin Islands AG Subpoenas Entirety Of Epstein Flight Logs (RT)

The US Virgin Islands Attorney General has subpoenaed 21 years’ worth of deceased pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s flight logs, reportedly striking fear in the hearts of high-profile passengers not yet exposed as Lolita Express riders. Passenger logs for Epstein’s four helicopters and three planes have been subpoenaed by Virgin Islands AG Denise George, who recently sued the disgraced financier’s estate for 22 counts including human trafficking, child abuse, neglect, prostitution, aggravated rape, and forced labor, according to a Sunday report by the UK Mirror. In addition to the passenger lists, George has requisitioned “complaints or reports of potentially suspicious conduct” and any “personal notes” the pilots made while flying Epstein’s alleged harem of underage girls around the world.

She also wants the names and contact information of anyone who worked for the pilots – or who “integrated with or observed” Epstein and his passengers. Epstein pilot David Rodgers previously provided a passenger log in 2009 tying dozens of politicians, actors, and other celebrities to the infamous sex offender – including former US President Bill Clinton, actor Kevin Spacey, and model Naomi Campbell. However, lawyers for Epstein’s alleged victims have argued that list did not include flights by Epstein’s chief pilot, Larry Visoski, who allegedly worked for him for over 25 years. “The records that have been subpoenaed will make the ones Rodgers provided look like a Post-It note,” a source told the Mirror over the weekend, claiming that George’s subpoena had triggered a “panic among many of the rich and famous.”

Epstein’s private plane, nicknamed the Lolita Express, counted among its passengers such luminaries as the UK’s Prince Andrew, celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz, actor Chris Tucker, Harvard economist Larry Summers, Hyatt hotel mogul Tom Pritzker, and model agency manager Jean-Luc Brunel along with Campbell, Spacey, and Clinton (who the logs show flew with Epstein over two dozen times). However, the passengers who enjoyed his other aircraft have not been made public – yet. George has also subpoenaed more than 10 banks – including JPMorgan, Citibank, and Deutsche Bank – in her quest to get to the bottom of the financial edifice Epstein built up before he died. The financial institutions have been ordered to submit documents related to some 30 corporations, trusts, and nonprofit entities tied to the predatory playboy.

Read more …

How did we ever get from Kennedy to Russiagate?

Kennedy’s US-Russia Joint Space Vision Must Be Revived (Ehret)

September 20th marked the anniversary of the last speech John F Kennedy delivered to the United Nations’ General Assembly. This event bears more relevance upon our present crisis than most people could possibly imagine. This is true not only because it is wise to pay homage to great ideas of the past which lesser souls allowed to slip away and get buried under the sands of time, but also because history provides many of the solutions to seemingly impossible problems in our own time. During his short speech, Kennedy outlined the very same fundamental obstacles to survival faced by our own world 57 years later: “The spectre of nuclear annihilation looming overhead, poverty and the evils of colonialism staining humanity on earth, and the dominance of destructive modes of thinking which have prevented honest dialogue between the west and east who have so many common interests and yet have been blocked from acting upon them for want of creativity, understanding and faith.”

Although it is far too rarely displayed in history, great leaders (those who are beholden to their consciences) recognize that there are solutions to every problem. From Plato to Cicero to Confucius and Christ in ancient times or Thomas More, Benjamin Franklin, Lincoln, and Kennedy in our modern age, these rare but vitally important individuals demonstrate through their words and deeds that when the dominant social rules of the game prevent those necessary and possible solutions from manifesting, then only one course of action becomes possible: Change the rules of the game. The martyred Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin eloquently touched on this truth in 1992 shaking the hands with Yasser Arafat and advancing a two-state solution saying: “The future belongs to those who have the courage to change their axioms.”

Such was the case of John F. Kennedy who recognized early on in his short-lived presidency that the geopolitical “closed system” thinking dominant among the military and foreign policy experts of the west held only the seeds for humanity’s destruction. In his speech of September 20, 1963, Kennedy revisited a theme which he first unveiled on the day of his inaugural address in 1961: A joint U.S.-USSR space program to transform the rules of the Cold War and usher in a new creative age of reason, win-win cooperation and boundless discoveries. In his 1961 inaugural speech, Kennedy ushered in the theme that would animate his next three years saying:

“Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce. Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah–to “undo the heavy burdens . . . (and) let the oppressed go free.” Ten days later, Kennedy re-iterated this idea during his first state of the Union inviting Russia “to join with U.S. in developing… a new communication satellite program in preparation for probing the distant planets of Mars and Venus, probes which may someday unlock the deepest secrets of the universe”.

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Wait a minute. That was my line.

Activist Warns Left: Trump Might Pick First Black Female Justice (JTN)

An activist group formally launched the “She Will Rise” campaign Monday to call for an African American female judge to be nominated to the Supreme Court. A supporter of the group, Nikole Hannah-Jones, who authored The New York Times’ 1619 Project, warned that President Trump might be the president who picks the first black female justice following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “I think this is a case of be careful what you wish for because it’s certainly possible that Trump could appoint a black women but it’s also very possible it could be just as cynical as it was when the second black Supreme Court justice became Clearance Thomas,” she said during a discussion organized by the nonprofit advocacy group Demand Justice.


“You can certainly find a black woman who is extremely conservative; who is a strict constructionist; who is going to align with the most conservative people on the court and that again will be a hollow victory. In some ways, again, that is a very cynical choice because it puts black people in the position of having to argue against the first black woman to go on the bench because the first black woman is not someone who we feel will actually serve our communities well so yeah, that’s possible,” she also said. Trump said this past weekend that he would nominate a female to fill Ginsburg’s seat. Some African American male judges appear on Trump’s public shortlist of potential Supreme Court nominee, but there are currently no African American female judges included. A hispanic female and male judge are on his list.

Read more …

And then finally there’s the good news, courtesy of the Babylon Bee.

Trump Fires Giant Pink Glitter Cannon To Reveal SCOTUS Nominee Gender (BBee)

It was a festive occasion, as gender reveals often are, and a crowd brimming with excitement gathered outside the White House to find out from President Trump what gender the nominee for Supreme Court Justice would be. “Oh I sure hope it’s a boy!” yelled one man. “No way! It has to be a girl!” yelled a nearby woman. However, some unhappy citizens gathered in the crowd only to protest how primitive and cis-heteronormative a gender reveal party for a Supreme Court Justice is. “This is so backwards,” yelled local non-binary furry queen-king Yoox Bellavix. “The nominee hasn’t even been questioned by the Senate to determine what gender they identify with! Gender is not the same as biological sex! We need hearings now!”


Trump suddenly appeared on the White House lawn and greeted all the gathered crowd with a wide beaming smile like that of an expectant father. “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen and Democrats and Fake News media! I am very happy, so very happy, I don’t even remember the last time I was this happy, to announce the gender of our nominee to fill the seat!” he said. The crowd erupted in joyous applause as the Secret Service rolled out a giant wheeled cannon similar to a civil war artillery piece and pulled the trigger to send an enormous cloud of pink glitter into the air. “Of course it’s a girl! It’s a girl!” Trump said as he made an hourglass curve gesture with his hands. “Tremendous. Thank you very much!”

At publishing time, all the assembled media figures stood completely covered in pink glitter. The White House lawn is also entirely covered. The EPA estimates it could take up to 12 years for the pristine swamp environment of the White House lawn to return to normal.

Read more …

 

 

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Mar 272020
 

 

 

More People Are Dying Of COVID-19 In The US Than We Know (BF)
We Could Watch Entire Populations Vanish (IC)
Coronavirus Could Kill 81,000 In US, Subside In June – Washington U. (R.)
Hold The Line (M.)
China Promotes Bear Bile As Coronavirus Treatment (NatGeo)
Fed Balance Sheet Tops $5 Trillion For First Time (R.)
Broward Poll Workers Test Positive For COVID-19 (L10)
Moscow Laboratories Will Conduct 13,000 Tests For Coronavirus Every Day (Tass)
New Zealand Coronavirus Deaths During Lockdown Could Be Just 20 – Modelling (G.)
Coronavirus Job Losses Will Raise Mortgage Stress More Than GFC Did (ABC.au)
France, Czechs, & Other US Allies Exit Iraq Over COVID-19 Fears (ZH)
Spike in Unemployment Claims is Even More Horrid Than it Appears (WS)
What Should The EU Do Now: 3-Point Plan For Averting A Depression (Varoufakis)
Dylan Ratigan: “An Abomination Beyond Comprehension” – “Bernie Folded” (Dore)
Muder Most Foul (Bob Dylan)

 

 

A word about testing. There are stories everywhere of people dying without even having beenn tested, and of doctors not getting permission to test. Many countries have a central body that must give permission for a test, and they often don’t until it’s too late in the game (the life). To a larg extent, this is because politicians simply failed to procure test kits. But there’s another thing: political incentives for massive and accurate testing hardly exist at all (in the short term), while incentives for not testing are obvious: you look better.

The UK testing story could change that all, with its potential finger-prick 15 minute test, but only if that test is at least 95% accurate. I know they claim it is, but we’ll have to see. There are stories about Chinese tests that are 30% accurate, and it’s easy to see why that is useless. But I was talking to someone yesterday who said: there are now tests that are fast and 70% accurate! But isn’t that useless too. No, they can do a better test with those who test negative! Yes, but the 70% applies to the positives too… So 70% means you have to retest everyone. And we haven’t even mentioned asymptomatic cases yet…

 

 

Note: we may see the first time that 100,000 new cases come within 24 hours

Cases 542,385 (+ 55,683 from yesterday’s 486,702)

Deaths 24,368 (+ 2,347 from yesterday’s 22,021)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close) US: 17,000 cases in a day

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 16% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

Not in the US, everywhere.

More People Are Dying Of COVID-19 In The US Than We Know (BF)

Medical professionals around the US told BuzzFeed News that the official numbers of people who have died of COVID-19 are not consistent with the number of deaths they’re seeing on the front lines. In some cases, it’s a lag in reporting, caused by delays and possible breakdowns in logging positive tests and making them public. In other, more troubling, cases, medical experts told BuzzFeed News they think it’s because people are not being tested before or after they die. In the US, state and county authorities are responsible for collecting data on cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and deaths. The data is then reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In California, one ER doctor who works at multiple hospitals in a hard-hit county told BuzzFeed News, “those medical records aren’t being audited by anyone at the state and local level currently and some people aren’t even testing those people who are dead.” “We just don’t know. The numbers are grossly underreported. I know for a fact that we’ve had three deaths in one county where only one is listed on the website,” the doctor said. A spokesperson for the California Department of Health told BuzzFeed News in an email that “local health jurisdictions are required to report all positive COVID-19 cases to the state. In addition, when a death or impending death from COVID-19 occurs, health care facilities must immediately notify their local health jurisdiction and the state.”

[..] two of the hardest-hit areas in the nation — New York City and Los Angeles County — released guidance earlier this week encouraging doctors not to test patients unless they think the test will significantly change their course of treatment. That means that potentially more people in both places could be admitted to hospitals with severe respiratory symptoms and recover — or die — and not be registered as a coronavirus case.

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Africa. Pray.

We Could Watch Entire Populations Vanish (IC)

On March 18, Burkina Faso suffered the first confirmed Covid-19 fatality in all of sub-Saharan Africa. The victim was Rose-Marie Compaoré, the first vice president of the Sahelian nation’s parliament. Tiny, impoverished, and conflict-scarred, Burkina Faso is now West Africa’s worst-affected country, with 146 confirmed cases, including four government ministers. The U.S. ambassador to Burkina Faso, Andrew Young, has also tested positive for the disease. Burkina Faso has seen more than its share of hardships: poverty, drought, hunger, coups. But the coronavirus poses a new kind of threat to a country wracked by a war that has displaced around 700,000 Burkinabe in the last year.

Many of those people now find themselves under great physical and emotional strain, lacking proper shelter, food, and the other necessities — all of which makes them more vulnerable to the pandemic. Experts fear that Covid-19 could decimate entire settlements of Burkina Faso’s displaced, and they are bracing for devastating outbreaks in conflict zones, refugee camps, and the poorest countries in the developing world. Globally, millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, or IDPs, living in cramped, squalid conditions find themselves at risk. “When the virus hits overcrowded settlements in places like Iran, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Greece, the consequences will be devastating,” warned Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council [..] He also spoke of “carnage when the virus reaches parts of Syria, Yemen, and Venezuela where hospitals have been demolished and health systems have collapsed.”

[..] I have no reason to believe Moumoumi Sawadogo had Covid-19 when I met him eight weeks ago in Burkina Faso. After living 89 years in an arid, impoverished land on the fringe of the Sahara Desert, surviving a massacre, walking for a week and enduring hunger and homelessness, it was clear that Sawadogo was a survivor. But Covid-19 posed a different kind of danger. “These populations are already very vulnerable to diseases that are otherwise easy to treat. But that’s not the case when they have no access to water or proper sanitation or health care,” Alexandra Lamarche, senior advocate for West and Central Africa at Refugees International, told The Intercept. “We could watch entire populations vanish.”

Read more …

Modelling is only as good as its initial assumptions. Which in this case come out of hot thin air.

Coronavirus Could Kill 81,000 In US, Subside In June – Washington U. (R.)

The coronavirus pandemic could kill more than 81,000 people in the United States in the next four months and may not subside until June, according to a data analysis done by University of Washington School of Medicine. The number of hospitalized patients is expected to peak nationally by the second week of April, though the peak may come later in some states. Some people could continue to die of the virus as late as July, although deaths should be below epidemic levels of 10 per day by June at the latest, according to the analysis. The analysis, using data from governments, hospitals and other sources, predicts that the number of U.S. deaths could vary widely, ranging from as low as around 38,000 to as high as around 162,000.

The variance is due in part to disparate rates of the spread of the virus in different regions, which experts are still struggling to explain, said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study. The duration of the virus means there may be a need for social distancing measures for longer than initially expected, although the country may eventually be able relax restrictions if it can more effectively test and quarantine the sick, Murray said. The analysis also highlights the strain that will be placed on hospitals. At the epidemic’s peak, sick patients could exceed the number of available hospital beds by 64,000 and could require the use of around 20,000 ventilators. Ventilators are already running short in hard-hit places like New York City.

The virus is spreading more slowly in California, which could mean that peak cases there will come later in April and social distancing measures will need to be extended in the state for longer, Murray said. Louisiana and Georgia are predicted to see high rates of contagion and could see a particularly high burden on their local healthcare systems, he added.

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Let the caretakers talk. They need to, and we need to hear them.

Hold The Line (M.)

As an infectious disease epidemiologist (although a lowly one), at this point I feel morally obligated to provide some information on what we are seeing from a transmission dynamic perspective and how they apply to the social distancing measures. Like any good scientist I have noticed two things that are either not articulated or not present in the “literature” of social media. I have also relied on my much smarter infectious disease epidemiologist friends for peer review of this post; any edits are from peer review. Specifically, I want to make two aspects of these measures very clear and unambiguous. First, we are in the very infancy of this epidemic’s trajectory. That means even with these measures we will see cases and deaths continue to rise globally, nationally, and in our own communities in the coming weeks.

This may lead some people to think that the social distancing measures are not working. They are. They may feel futile. They aren’t. You will feel discouraged. You should. This is normal in chaos. But this is normal epidemic trajectory. Stay calm. This enemy that we are facing is very good at what it does; we are not failing. We need everyone to hold the line as the epidemic inevitably gets worse. This is not my opinion; this is the unforgiving math of epidemics for which I and my colleagues have dedicated our lives to understanding with great nuance, and this disease is no exception. I want to help the community brace for this impact. Stay strong and with solidarity knowing with absolute certainty that what you are doing is saving lives, even as people begin getting sick and dying. You may feel like giving in. Don’t.

Second, although social distancing measures have been (at least temporarily) well-received, there is an obvious-but-overlooked phenomenon when considering groups (i.e. families) in transmission dynamics. While social distancing decreases contact with members of society, it of course increases your contacts with group (i.e. family) members. This small and obvious fact has surprisingly profound implications on disease transmission dynamics. Study after study demonstrates that even if there is only a little bit of connection between groups (i.e. social dinners, playdates/playgrounds, etc.), the epidemic isn’t much different than if there was no measure in place. The same underlying fundamentals of disease transmission apply, and the result is that the community is left with all of the social and economic disruption but very little public health benefit. You should perceive your entire family to function as a single individual unit; if one person puts themselves at risk, everyone in the unit is at risk.

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This is about wildlife, not economic pessimists. Just in case you were confused.

China Promotes Bear Bile As Coronavirus Treatment (NatGeo)

Less than a month after taking steps to permanently ban the trade and consumption of live wild animals for food, the Chinese government has recommended using Tan Re Qing, an injection containing bear bile, to treat severe and critical COVID-19 cases. It is one of a number of recommended coronavirus treatments—both traditional and Western—on a list published March 4 by China’s National Health Commission, the government body responsible for national health policy. This recommendation highlights what wildlife advocates say is a contradictory approach to wildlife: shutting down the live trade in animals for food on the one hand and promoting the trade in animal parts on the other. Secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, bile from various species of bears, including Asiatic black bears and brown bears, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since at least the eighth century.

It contains high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid, also known as ursodiol, which is clinically proven to help dissolve gallstones and treat liver disease. Ursodeoxycholic acid has been available as a synthetic drug worldwide for decades. [..] Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners typically use Tan Re Qing to treat bronchitis and upper respiratory infections. Clifford Steer, a professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, has studied the medical benefits of ursodeoxycholic acid. He knows of no evidence that bear bile is an effective treatment for the novel coronavirus. But, he says, ursodeoxycholic acid is distinct from other bile acids in its ability to keep cells alive and may alleviate symptoms of COVID-19 because of its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to calm the immune response.

Although use of bear bile from captive animals is legal in China, bile from wild bears is banned, as is the import of bear bile from other countries. According to Aron White, wildlife campaigner for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)—a nonprofit based in London, England, that exposes wildlife crimes—his organization learned first about the Chinese government’s recommendations to treat COVID-19 via social media posts from illegal traders. “We were witnessing how this government recommendation was being coopted by the traffickers to advertise their illegal products as a treatment,” White says. Illegal bile from wild bears is produced in China, he says, and is also imported from wild and captive bears in Laos, Vietnam, and North Korea.

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If numbers get big enough, they lose meaning.

Fed Balance Sheet Tops $5 Trillion For First Time (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s balance sheet soared past $5 trillion in assets for the first time this week as it scooped up bonds and extended loans to banks, mutual funds and other central banks in its unprecedented effort to backstop the economy in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic. The Fed’s total balance sheet size exploded by more than half a trillion dollars in a single week, roughly twice the pace of the next-largest weekly expansion in the financial crisis in October 2008. As of Wednesday, the Fed’s stash of assets totaled $5.3 trillion, according to data released on Thursday.

The Fed bought $355 billion of Treasuries and mortgage-backed bonds in the last week in what is now an open-ended commitment to stabilize financial markets rocked by the outbreak and the halt in economic activity that has come in its wake. It also offered more than $200 billion in credit through so-called foreign currency swap lines to other central banks to allow them to pump much-needed greenbacks into their jurisdictions to help foreign borrowers stay current with their dollar-denominated liabilities.

The weekly snapshot of the Fed’s balance sheet, released each Thursday, also showed sizable demand for a pair of brand new liquidity facilities aimed at stabilizing money markets and supporting primary dealers, the banks that transact directly with the central bank. The new Primary Dealer Credit Facility had been tapped for $27.7 billion in loans as of Wednesday, while the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility had borrowings of $30.6 billion.

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Which bunch of fools decided to have that vote?

Broward Poll Workers Test Positive For COVID-19 (L10)

Two poll workers have been positively diagnosed with coronavirus, according to a statement from The Broward County Supervisor of Elections. One of the workers was only at Precinct V011 on Tuesday, March 17, Election Day, which is located at the Martin Luther King Community Center in Hollywood. The other worked at V020 at the David Park Community Center (also in Hollywood) as well as a Weston early voting location. The supervisor said that county staff as well as other poll workers at the locations have been notified of the situation. However, voters who were at the polls in person on March 17 at either of those locations or who voted early at the Weston early voting location may “wish to take appropriate steps and seek medical advice.”

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Because of western testing that may seem like a high number, but it’s not.

Moscow Laboratories Will Conduct 13,000 Tests For Coronavirus Every Day (Tass)

The laboratories in Moscow will carry out up to 13,000 tests for the novel coronavirus per day, Deputy Mayor Anastasiya Rakova said on Thursday. “Last week, only federal laboratories were authorized to conduct tests. We have fully joined this effort, launching nine laboratories. Today we are conducting nearly 4,000 tests for the coronavirus in Moscow laboratories. In the coming week w will boost the capacity to 13,000 [tests] per day,” Rakova told a TV program hosted by Vladimir Solovyov on Rossiya-1 channel. According to Rakova, the authorities were preparing for all scenarios of how the events would unfold. “Increasing the number of people who are to be tested for the coronavirus is a necessary condition and a crucial step for stopping the spread of the virus,” she stressed.


In late December 2019, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus – named COVID-19 by the WHO – have been reported in more than 150 countries. [..]Russia has recorded 840 coronavirus cases, with more than half of them in Moscow. Some 38 people have recovered and have been discharged from hospitals, and two people have died.

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When the desire for optimist political messaging becomes fully irresponsible.

New Zealand Coronavirus Deaths During Lockdown Could Be Just 20 – Modelling (G.)

Jacinda Ardern has implored New Zealanders to “stay local” during a four-week countrywide lockdown as modelling showed that strict measures adopted by the country could limit deaths to 0.0004% of the population – or about 20 people. Research released by Te Punaha Matatini suggested that, left unchecked, the virus could eventually infect 89% of New Zealand’s population and kill up to 80,000 people in a worst-case scenario. According to the research, intensive care beds would reach capacity within two months and the number of patients needing intensive care would exceed 10 times capacity by the time the virus peaked.


However, with the strictest suppression measures, which the country has adopted, the fatalities would drop to just 0.0004%. Hospital capacity would not be exceeded for over a year. These measures included physical distancing, case isolation, household quarantine, and closing schools and universities and would require the restrictions to remain in place until a vaccine or other treatment was developed. However, researchers noted such strategies can “delay but not prevent the epidemic”. “When controls are lifted after 400 days, an outbreak occurs with a similar peak size as for an uncontrolled epidemic,” the researchers wrote. The government has currently mandated a four-week lockdown.

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Zero recognition of living in a bubble.

Coronavirus Job Losses Will Raise Mortgage Stress More Than GFC Did (ABC.au)

As job losses continue to rise because of shutdowns in place to fight the coronavirus crisis, the number of Australians struggling to repay their mortgages is expected to lift to higher levels than seen during the global financial crisis. Credit rating agency S&P Global has warned the number of Australians falling behind on their mortgage repayments is likely to soar. “We currently expect increases in arrears to be higher than during the 2008 global financial crisis, given the wide-ranging effects on the economy stemming from the sudden disruption to economic activity,” S&P analyst Erin Kitson said. Australia avoided mass defaults during the GFC, with mortgage arrears rising to 1.69 per cent after the 2008 crisis, from a pre-crisis average of about 1.40 per cent.

The latest S&P data said mortgage arrears were 1.36 per cent in January, up from 1.28 per cent last December. Ms Kitson could not put a number on the exact number of Australian households that would be impacted by arrears but noted that many of those facing difficulty would be the self-employed. But the Federal Government’s stimulus packages and hardship relief measures from banks would limit some of the damage, Ms Kitson added. To fight the economic threat, the Government will announce a third stimulus package, expected within days. Many banks have also recently announced COVID-19 support packages that provide affected borrowers with an option to defer their repayments for up to six months.

The Reserve Bank cuts interest rates to a record low and announces a quantitative easing program for the first time in its history to help prevent a coronavirus-driven recession. And regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), has said if a borrower who has been meeting their repayment obligations until recently chooses to take up the repayment holiday, then the bank need not classify that period as “arrears”. Other emergency measures aimed at banks include an emergency interest rate cut and $90 billion in cheap 0.25-per-cent funding for three years for small business loans.

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One day the Pentagon stops all troop movements, the next day the US declares Maduro a terrorist, and the allies, want nno part of this.

Seeing your soldiers die of corona would be much too close to WWI mass Spanish flu deaths in the trenches.

France, Czechs, & Other US Allies Exit Iraq Over COVID-19 Fears (ZH)

The United States has shown itself willing to both keep up its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran and its proxies while riding roughshod over Iraqi sovereignty by remaining in the country even as Baghdad leaders and the broader population demand a final exit. But in another sign Europe is ready to divorce itself from US aims in the region, France has abruptly withdrawn its forces from the country after being there for five years. Interestingly the prime reason given was troop safety concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, but we imagine European leaders likely now see an opportunity to make a swift and easy exit without provoking the ire of their US counterparts. International correspondents say this includes French withdrawal from six bases, with a small contingent of about 100 troops remaining in the country.


The Czech Ministry of Defense also announced the exit of its forces Wednesday, which followed a large contingent of British forces leaving last week, also on fears of coronavirus exposure during the mission. “British, French, Australian and Czech troops who were coaching Iraqi counterparts were being temporarily sent home as Baghdad had put a hold on training operations to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” reports the AFP this week. All had been there to support coalition anti-ISIL operations led by Washington. But as the US mission to defeat the Islamic State has lately become less relevant given the demise of the terror group, Washington’s focus became Iranian influence inside Iraq – far beyond the original mission scope. The US itself had been reportedly drawing down from certain bases, but is not expected to ultimately depart given the current high state of tensions with Iran-backed militias in the country.

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The stimulus bill has opened access to assictance for the entire gig economy.

Spike in Unemployment Claims is Even More Horrid Than it Appears (WS)

This morning, the US Dept. of Labor announced that 3.283 million people had filed initial unemployment claims in the week ended March 21. We were warned yesterday that today’s initial claims would be horrid. In his press conference yesterday concerning the coronavirus, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that California by itself had “just passed the 1 million mark” in unemployment claims since March 13 — and this might include claims to be reflected in the next reporting week. And it’s going to get worse. The five largest counties of the San Francisco Bay Area were the first major region in the US to go into lockdown on March 17. The State of California followed on March 20, toward the end of the unemployment-claims reporting week (through March 21), and many other states followed within days – and many of those claims were filed after this reporting week had ended. This is the mind-blowing effect what started to happen in the week ended March 21:

The report by the Department of Labor this morning listed some sectors that were particularly hard hit by “COVID-19 virus impacts”: • Services industries broadly, particularly accommodation and food services; • health care and social assistance services; • arts, entertainment and recreation; • transportation and warehousing; • manufacturing industries. However, this horrid spike in claims only shows a partial picture. Since the end of that reporting week, lockdowns have spread to many other states, and companies in those states are now struggling with how to cope. Many companies had already laid off people before the lockdowns – and this is reflected in today’s unemployment claims. But much of the fallout from those lockdowns and their secondary effects will be reflected in future reports.


The gig economy, as the US economy has been called due to the growth of business models that shift labor from employees to contract workers, is unprepared for this. Under current rules, gig workers cannot file for unemployment claims – though the stimulus package will change this. And for now, they have not filed for unemployment claims. But their hours of many have been cut, and others lost their gigs entirely. This includes musicians whose gigs were eliminated when bars, restaurants, and clubs shut down. It includers actors and singers and artists. It includes Uber and Lyft drivers whose business has dwindled. It includes self-employed vacation-rental entrepreneurs with some units on Airbnb that no one is booking because the travel industry has shut down. It includes tech workers whose projects have been put on hold. It includes instructors and coaches of all kinds – such as figure skating coaches, language coaches, and corporate coaches. And so on. Many millions of people.

Read more …

The battle between getting closer together and staying further apart. Stuck between social distancing and political distancing.

What Should The EU Do Now: 3-Point Plan For Averting A Depression (Varoufakis)

With Lives, Livelihoods and the Union on the brink, the COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest test of the European project in the history of the Union — and we are failing. Solidarity was meant to be a foundational principle of the EU. But solidarity is missing at the moment it is most needed. COVID-19 has revealed a fundamental truth: Europe is only as healthy as its sickest resident, only as prosperous as its most bankrupted. But the EU’s leadership is paralysed by its beggar-thy-neighbour – and now sicken-thy-neighbour – mindset. The price of this failure will not merely be lives lost and livelihoods destroyed. It will be the disintegration of the Union itself. In line with its Green New Deal for Europe, DiEM25 offers a 3-point plan to protect all European residents, avert an economic depression, and prevent the collapse the Union.

Our plan is premised on four basic facts.
1) Public debt will, and must, rise: The precipitous fall in private sector incomes must be replaced by government expenditure. If not, bankruptcies will destroy much of Europe’s productive capacity and, thus, deplete the tax base even further.

2) The wholesale rise in public debt must not divide us: The last euro crisis wrecked some member-states’ fiscal position while improving the fiscal position of others. The results are wildly different fiscal absorption capacities across the eurozone. If the rise in public debt is not a shared burden, the new euro crisis will destroy the last chance to hold the European Union together once the virus itself has been defeated.

3) A Eurobond is essential, but the devil is in its details: Nine eurozone governments have rightly demanded the issue of a Eurobond so that the burden of rising public debt is shared. But the most important questions remain: Which institution should issue it? And who will back it? DiEM25 believes there is only one answer: an ECB-Eurobond backed solely by the ECB.

4) A Eurobond is essential, but it is not enough: Two more interventions are needed. During the pandemic, Europe must inject directly cash into every citizen’s bank account immediately so as to prevent as many bankruptcies and lost livelihoods as possible. Once the pandemic recedes, Europe must embark upon a sizeable, effective and common green investment program so as to improve Europe’s overall capacity to bounce back.

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I haven’t had time to listen to the whole thing. But I miss Dylan Ratigan.

Dylan Ratigan: “An Abomination Beyond Comprehension” – “Bernie Folded” (Dore)

Jimmy Dore talks to Dylan Ratigan

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In the midst of the corona crisis,, Bob Dylan dropped a 17-minute song, on the murder of JFK. It’s his first original song in 8 years, and also of course since getting the Nobel Prize.. And why not. For help with lyrics go here

The day that they killed him, someone said to me, ‘Son
The age of the Antichrist has only begun.’
Air Force One coming in through the gate
Johnson sworn in at 2:38
Let me know when you decide to thrown in the towel
It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul


What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say?
I said the soul of a nation been torn away
And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay
And that it’s 36 hours past Judgment Day

Muder Most Foul (Bob Dylan)

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Readership is up, but ad revenue is not. I’ve said it before, it must be possible to run a joint like the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderful donations over the past few days.

 

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Nov 232019
 
 November 23, 2019  Posted by at 9:44 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Drought hit OK farm family on way to CA Aug 1936

 

Former Ukraine MP: Bidens Got $12M Kickback From Burisma Owner (CDM)
MSM Ignores Hunter Biden Buds’ $130 Million Taxpayer Cookie Jar Raid (ZH)
The Ukrainian Influence-Peddling Rings, Part 2 (Stockman)
Responding to Lt. Col. Vindman About My Ukraine Columns (Solomon)
The Storms of December (Kunstler)
‘No One Out There’: The Democrats’ Lack Of Star Power (G.)
The All-Women MSNBC Debate Panel Was a Right-Wing Disaster (Lazare)
JFK’s Vision For The Future (Ehret)
The Next Wave of Debt Monetization Will Be a Disaster (Lacalle)
Barr Says Epstein Died By A Series Of Coincidences (CJ)
Light Pollution Is Key ‘Bringer Of Insect Apocalypse’ (G.)

 

 

There’s a new Orange Man Bad “bombshell” going around, something about Giuliani and Mike Pompeo being in cahoots about Ukraine and “dirt on Biden”. It’s trying to make John Solomon part of the “conspiracy” as well. You’ll hear a lot about it. Meanwhile, CD Media continues:

Former Ukraine MP: Bidens Got $12M Kickback From Burisma Owner (CDM)

Update: In further clarification of information provided, CD Media can now report that the $32M referenced below was sent to London, where it was seized by British officials and criminal charges were levied against Zlochevsky. Vice President Biden actively sought to have the charges thrown out in the United Kingdom for Zlochevsky in exchange for the $12M being diverted to Hunter Biden, according to Onyshchenko. Hunter Biden was then brought onto the board of directors at Zlochevsky’s company Burisma and received further payments of $3.1M over a period of months.

KYIV — Former Ukrainian MP Oleksandr Onyshchenko has provided CD Media with information on a transaction in 2013 where Biden family-related companies allegedly received a $12 million illegal kickback while Joe Biden was Vice President of the United States. Onyshchenko alleges the payment was made to gain Biden’s influence in affairs of the group of companies called Burisma owned by Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, who sold a port facility in Ukraine and shifted partial proceeds of the sale to Hunter Biden. CD Media has already reported on ‘off the books’ payments to Hunter Biden by Burisma.

Onyshchenko alleges that during the sale of the port of Kherson on the Dnepr River in Ukraine in 2013 for approximately $32M, Biden received $12M of that amount illegally. Onyshchenko declared to CD Media that he is providing this information on the money flows to Biden to the U.S. Department of Justice

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It wasn’t all Burisma.

MSM Ignores Hunter Biden Buds’ $130 Million Taxpayer Cookie Jar Raid (ZH)

On Thursday, the Washington Examiner reported that an investment firm central to Hunter Biden’s financial dealings received more than $130 million in federal bailout loans while Joe Biden was vice president. Rosemont Capital – named after former Secretary of State John Kerry’s 90-acre Heinz family estate outside of Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania – was founded by Hunter Biden, Christopher Heinz, and longtime friend Devon Archer. According to the report, Rosemont was one of just 177 firms to participate in Obama’s 2009 Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), which issued billions of dollars in favorable loans to investors who agreed to buy bonds from struggling banks, including college and auto loans.

“The Federal Reserve funded as much as 90% of the investments. If the bonds were profitable, the borrowers benefited. If not, the department agreed to take over the depreciated assets with no repercussions for the borrowers. Under the terms for the program, any U.S. company looking to invest in select categories of bonds was eligible to apply for the loans. However, the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve maintained the “right to reject a borrower for any reason,” and the internal selection process was criticized by some lawmakers as opaque and open to corruption. One of the firms that benefited was Rosemont Capital, a company led by Hunter Biden’s business partners, Chris Heinz and Devon Archer. The firm received the loans at a crucial time for Hunter Biden. The younger Biden had stepped down from his lobbying business in late 2008, reportedly due to pressure on his father’s vice presidential campaign.” -Washington Examiner

And while the Examiner reviewed “federal banking and corporate records” for their report, the MSM is completely silent about this obvious graft. CNN, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and FOX have all been radio silent on this report.

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Davis Stockman in excellent -long- form. There’s a link to part 1 in the article.

The Ukrainian Influence-Peddling Rings, Part 2 (Stockman)

Sometimes you need to call a spade a spade, and Tuesday’s testimony before Adam’s Schiff Show by former NSC official Tim Morrison is just such an occasion. In spades! In his opening statement, this paranoid moron uttered the following lunacy, and it’s all you need to know about what is really going on down in the Imperial City. “I continue to believe Ukraine is on the front lines of a strategic competition between the West and Vladimir Putin’s revanchist Russia. Russia is a failing power, but it is still a dangerous one. The United States aids Ukraine and her people so they can fight Russia over there and we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

Folks, that just plain whacko. The Trump-hating Dems are so feverishly set on a POTUS kill that they have enlisted a veritable posse of Russophobic, right-wing neocon cretins – Morrison, Taylor, Kent, Vindman, among others – to finish off the Donald. But in so doing they have made official Washington’s real beef against Trump crystal clear; and it’s not about the rule of law or abuse of presidential power or an impeachable dereliction of duty. To be sure, foolish politicians like Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler and the Clintonista apparatus at the center of the Dem party are so overcome with inconsolable grief and anger about losing the 2016 election to Trump that their sole purpose in life is to drive the Donald from office. But that just makes them “useful idiots” or compliant handmaids of the Deep State, which has a far more encompassing and consequential motivation.

To wit, whether out of naiveté, contrariness or just plain common sense, the Donald has declined to embrace the War Party’s Russian bogeyman and demonization of Putin. He thereby threatens the Empire’s raison d’être to the very core. Indeed, that’s the real reason for the whole concerted attack on Trump from the Russian Collusion hoax, through the Mueller Investigation farce to the present UkraineGate and impeachment inquisition. The Deep State deeply and profoundly fears that if Trump remains in office – and especially if he is elected with a new mandate in 2020 – he might actually make peace with Russia and Putin. So in Part 1 we advert to the basics. Without the demonization of Russia, Ukraine would be the no count failed state and cesspool of corruption it actually is, and not a purported “front line” buffer against Russian aggression.

Likewise, it would not have been a recipient of vast US and western military and economic aid – a condition that turned it into a honeypot for the kind of Washington influence peddling which ensnared the Bidens, induced its officials to meddle in the 2016 US election, and, in return, incited Trump’s justifiable quest to get to the bottom of the malignancy that has ensued.

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I have no space for all 28 “primary factual elements” here. But do read them.

Responding to Lt. Col. Vindman About My Ukraine Columns (Solomon)

I honor and applaud Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s service to his country. He’s a hero. I also respect his decision to testify at the impeachment proceedings. I suspect neither his service nor his testimony was easy. But I also know the liberties that Lt. Col. Vindman fought on the battlefield to preserve permit for a free and honest debate in America, one that can’t be muted by the color of uniform or the crushing power of the state. So I want to exercise my right to debate Lt. Col. Vindman about the testimony he gave about me. You see, under oath to Congress, he asserted all the factual elements in my columns at The Hill about Ukraine were false, except maybe my grammar

Here are his exact words: “I think all the key elements were false,” Vindman testified. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y, pressed him about what he meant. “Just so I understand what you mean when you say key elements, are you referring to everything John Solomon stated or just some of it?” “All the elements that I just laid out for you. The criticisms of corruption were false…. Were there more items in there, frankly, congressman? I don’t recall. I haven’t looked at the article in quite some time, but you know, his grammar might have been right.” Such testimony has been injurious to my reputation, one earned during 30 years of impactful reporting for news organizations that included The Associated Press, The Washington Post, The Washington Times and The Daily Beast/Newsweek.

And so Lt. Col. Vindman, here are the 28 primary factual elements in my Ukraine columns, complete with attribution and links to sourcing. Please tell me which, if any, was factually wrong.

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“The parade of State Department diplomats in charge of this-and-that suggests that Ukraine is virtually an occupied territory.”

The Storms of December (Kunstler)

If the senate majority poohbahs were wise, they would warmly welcome a trial based on articles of impeachment, which would, of course, feature no artificial limits on the witness list, nor on questions that might be asked. The list might start with the UkraineGate “Whistleblower.” Among the many untruths uttered by Adam Schiff was the nonexistent law that gave that shadowy figure a right to anonymity. And besides, in any trial based on due process, the accused has an absolute right to face his accuser. Oddly, a month ago Mr. Schiff was avid to stick his “Whistleblower” in the witness chair, and perhaps not with a black hood over his head.

Then it was discovered that the “Whistleblower” had been consorting at least with Mr. Schiff’s staff members before blowing his fabled whistle, and that they had likely assisted in the assembly of his complaint, and in connecting him to the right lawyers in the Great Blue Okefenokee backwaters of DC lawyerdom, and, naturally, nobody from sea to shining sea over age nine who had paid attention to these antics believed that Mr. Schiff could not know who this “Whistleblower” was. Likewise, the brave Col. Vindman. Both of them deserve some time in a senate witness chair, and Mr. Schiff especially is due some sort of penalty for subjecting the country to his three years of dishonorable, seditious shenanigans — beginning with expulsion from the House and perhaps proceeding to a trial of his very own.

These UkraineGate hearings of the past two weeks raised some additional questions that have not otherwise been aired much in the public arena, chiefly, exactly how much does the US government seek to control the affairs of Ukraine? And how did we become the superintendent of this partially failed state? The parade of State Department diplomats in charge of this-and-that suggests that Ukraine is virtually an occupied territory. Do we realistically suppose that, in the natural course of things, we can shield Ukraine forever from the influence of its neighbor (and former sovereign), Russia?

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Bit of a problem perhaps.

‘No One Out There’: The Democrats’ Lack Of Star Power (G.)

Too old. Too young. Too white. Too leftwing. Anxiety over Democrats’ failure to find a standout candidate is raising fears that, despite astounding unpopularity and potential impeachment, Donald Trump could win re-election by default. The Democratic primary’s top tier of candidates does not include a person of colour even in the biggest and most diverse field in history. The leader of national opinion polls turned 77 this week and delivered another stumbling debate performance while fending off questions about his son’s foreign business dealings. The poll leader in Iowa, which will get the first say, is the 37-year-old mayor of a small city who in some surveys is polling close to zero with African American voters.

Two more septuagenarians have seen their momentum stall amid criticism that their healthcare reforms are too radical and unaffordable. And then there are two last-minute would-be saviours: an ageing billionaire from New York and a former east coast governor who this week cancelled a campaign event when only two people showed up. Watching it all with glee are Trump and Republicans, hardly able to believe their luck that they might not have to win next year’s election so much as watch Democrats lose it, just as Hillary Clinton did by failing to motivate turnout in crucial states in 2016. This week’s debate in Atlanta showed that the party is struggling again to find a nominee as inspiring as Barack Obama. “When I ask my students, is there anyone on that debate stage tonight who you see as being presidential, most of them say no, there’s no one out there,” said Monika McDermott, a political science professor, at Fordham University in New York.

“And they’re political junkies so they know as much as any of us do. ..] Indeed, Trump is showing resilience in the polls. A survey of 801 registered voters by the Marquette Law School in the all-important state of Wisconsin over 13-17 November showed only the long shot Cory Booker beating Trump in a head-to-head match up (45% to 44%). The president led Biden 47% to 44%, Sanders 48% to 45%, Warren 48% to 43% and Buttigieg 47% to 39%. John Zogby, a Democratic pollster, said: “In most polls nationwide and in the key states, the president is competitive against every one of the major candidates. The Democrats are still kind of fumbling for a message: it’s really not enough to be against Trump.

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Anything that has Rachel Maddow in it is a disaster.

The All-Women MSNBC Debate Panel Was a Right-Wing Disaster (Lazare)

The fifth Democratic presidential debate received an outpouring of praise for its all-woman cast of moderators: Rachel Maddow and Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC, Ashley Parker of the Washington Post, and Kristen Welker of NBC. Writing in the Nation, Joan Walsh asserted that the event “showed us what American political life would look like if women’s concerns were routinely at the center of the conversation.” “Democratic Debate Moderator Panel Of All Women Is Celebrated By Viewers,” reads a Huffington Post headline. “Female moderators = more questions to the rights and burdens of women,” tweeted Clara Jefferey, editor in chief of Mother Jones. “When all the moderators are women, issues that affect women get more attention. Funny how that works,” said Michelangelo Signorile, host of the Michelangelo Signorile Show.

The idea that women’s representation in itself — regardless of who those women are — is a boon to women everywhere is hardly new to US political discourse. But what makes the fawning over the November 20 debate particularly tone-deaf is that the moderators’ questions were both inane and right-wing. Their inquiries were almost entirely premised on defending the benevolence of US empire, marginalizing political positions deemed too far left, and asking “gotcha” questions from the right on issues from health care to immigration. Trapped within these ideological constraints, the debate actually struck a blow against feminism — and was a blessing to the forces of chauvinism and austerity.

[..] Andrea Mitchell was responsible for another low point in the moderation when she said: “President Trump has dramatically changed America’s approach to our adversaries by holding summits with Kim Jong-un, getting out of the Iran nuclear deal, and at times embracing Vladimir Putin and other strongmen. So let’s talk about what kind of commander-in-chief you would be. Senator Harris, North Korea is now threatening to cancel any future summits if President Trump does not make concessions on nuclear weapons. If you were commander in chief, would you make concessions to Kim Jong-un in order to keep those talks going?” Mitchell has long doubled as a stenographer for the national security state, but this question was hawkish even by her standards.

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Don’t fight the Deep State. It’s bad for your health.

JFK’s Vision For The Future (Ehret)

Wall Street’s Dulles Brothers who together ran the CIA and the State Department had made several major efforts to sabotage Kennedy’s “new frontiers” initiative that gripped the imaginations of young and old alike. Kennedy’s program was driven by large scale infrastructure at home and advanced scientific and technological progress in the Developing sector abroad. Attempting to break that trajectory, Allen Dulles had prepared the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba months before Kennedy entered the scene which was a near disaster for the world.

Just days before Kennedy’s inauguration, Allan Dulles ensured that a pro-Kennedy ally who had just recently gained power in the Congo named Patrice Lumumba was assassinated in cold blood knowing that JFK would be blamed, and every effort was made to back up the French fascists trying to stop the Algerian independence movement behind JFK’s back. Both the Cuban invasion and the assassination of Lumumba have been blamed on Kennedy to this day. In response to this treachery, JFK made the bold move of firing CIA director Allan Dulles, and two Wall Street-connected CIA directors on November 29, 1961 saying that he would soon “splinter the C.I.A. in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”

Recognizing the insanity of the zero sum Cold Warriors who could only look at the world through the perversity of a Hobbesian leans of “each against all”, JFK not only stood alone against the entire array of war-hungry Joint Chiefs calling for war with Russia during the infamous “13 day showdown” and parodied by Kubrick’s brilliant Dr. Strangelove, but also took the advice of Generals MacArthur, and Charles de Gaulle who warned him to avoid all entrapments of a “land war in Vietnam”. On this point, JFK introduced NSAM 263 in October 1963 to begin a full withdrawal from Southeast Asia.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1197290359228944384

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All these waves have been.

The Next Wave of Debt Monetization Will Be a Disaster (Lacalle)

According to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the IIF (Institute of International finance), global debt has soared to a new record high. The level of government debt around the world has ballooned since the financial crisis, reaching levels never seen before during peacetime. This has happened in the middle of an unprecedented monetary experiment that injected more than $20 trillion in printed money into the economy and lowered interest rates to the lowest levels seen in history. The balance sheet of the major central banks rose to levels never seen before, with the Bank of Japan at 100 percent of the country’s GDP, the European Central Bank (ECB) at 40 percent, and the Federal Reserve at 20 percent.

If this monetary experiment has proven anything it’s that lower rates and higher liquidity are not tools to help deleverage debt, but to incentivize it. Furthermore, this dangerous experiment has proven that a policy that was designed as a temporary measure due to exceptional circumstances has become the new norm. The so-called normalization process of raising interest rates lasted only a few months in 2018, only for asset purchases and rate cuts to resume. Despite the largest fiscal and monetary stimulus in decades, global economic growth is weakening, and the productivity growth of leading economies is close to zero. Money velocity, a measure of economic activity relative to money supply, thus, goes down.

It’s been explained many times why this happens. Low rates and high liquidity are perverse incentives to push the crowding-out of the private sector by government; they also perpetuate overcapacity due to endless refinancing of non-productive and obsolete sectors to lower rates, and the number of zombie companies—those that cannot pay their interest expenses with operating profits—rises.

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Barr is simply saying you’ll never find out. Too many “upstanding” people would be damaged goods.

Barr Says Epstein Died By A Series Of Coincidences (CJ)

In an interview with Associated Press, US Attorney General William Barr put all conspiracy theories to rest once and for all by assuring the world that alleged sex trafficker and alleged billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s death was simply the result of a very, very, very long series of unfortunate coincidences. “I can understand people who immediately, whose minds went to sort of the worst-case scenario because it was a perfect storm of screw-ups,” Barr told AP on Thursday.

This perfect storm of unlucky oopsies include Epstein being taken off suicide watch not long after a previous suicide attempt and shortly before his successful suicide, suggestions that the first attempt may have actually been an assault via attempted strangulation inflicted by someone else, two security guards simultaneously falling asleep on the job when they were supposed to be checking on Epstein, one of those guards not even being an actual security guard, security footage of two cameras outside Epstein’s cell being unusable due to a mysterious technical glitch, at least eight Bureau of Prisons officials knowing Epstein wasn’t meant to be left alone in his cell and leaving him alone in his cell anyway, Epstein’s cellmate being transferred out of their shared space the day before Epstein’s death, Epstein signing a will two days before his death, unexplained injuries on Epstein’s wrists and shoulder reported by his family after the autopsy, and a forensic expert who examined Epstein’s body claiming that his injuries were more consistent with homicide than suicide.

“The attorney general also sought to dampen conspiracy theories by people who have questioned whether Epstein really took his own life, saying the evidence proves Epstein killed himself,” AP reports. “He added that he personally reviewed security footage that confirmed that no one entered the area where Epstein was housed on the night he died. Well if reporting that he’s reviewed footage which we were previously told didn’t exist isn’t enough to dampen those kooky conspiracy theories, I don’t know what is. So there you have it. The US government says that an intelligence asset with damning information on many powerful individuals did in fact kill himself due to an admittedly bizarre and wildly unlikely series of strange coincidences. I for one have no more questions. Checkmate, conspiracy theorists.

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The whole world as a Christmas tree.

Light Pollution Is Key ‘Bringer Of Insect Apocalypse’ (G.)

Light pollution is a significant but overlooked driver of the rapid decline of insect populations, according to the most comprehensive review of the scientific evidence to date. Artificial light at night can affect every aspect of insects’ lives, the researchers said, from luring moths to their deaths around bulbs, to spotlighting insect prey for rats and toads, to obscuring the mating signals of fireflies. “We strongly believe artificial light at night – in combination with habitat loss, chemical pollution, invasive species, and climate change – is driving insect declines,” the scientists concluded after assessing more than 150 studies. “We posit here that artificial light at night is another important – but often overlooked – bringer of the insect apocalypse.”


However, unlike other drivers of decline, light pollution was relatively easy to prevent, the team said, by switching off unnecessary lights and using proper shades. “Doing so could greatly reduce insect losses immediately,” they said. Brett Seymoure, a behavioural ecologist at Washington University in St Louis and senior author of the review, said: “Artificial light at night is human-caused lighting – ranging from streetlights to gas flares from oil extraction. It can affect insects in pretty much every imaginable part of their lives.” Insect population collapses have been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, and the first global scientific review, published in February, said widespread declines threatened to cause a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”. The latest review says: “Insects around the world are rapidly declining. Their absence would have devastating consequences for life on this planet.”

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A poster that was put up around Houston in the weeks before JFK visited.

 

 

 

 

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Aug 152019
 


Felix Vallotton Verdun 1917

 

It’s been a few days since I did anything but my news aggregator, and that’s not so strange, since so much of it ‘encircled’ Jeffrey Epstein. Now that he’s supposedly died, though we have no proof of that, from an ‘apparent suicide’, there are other topics as well that we can turn to.

But let’s start with Epstein just for good measure. We still don’t have an autopsy report, though New York City Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson apparently performed one on Epstein on Sunday, which private pathologist Michael Baden “observed on behalf of Epstein’s representatives”.

Q: Which representatives? Q2: Why Baden, who investigated JFK’s death, and Michael Brown’s? The guy’s 85! So yes, he has experience, but also ostensibly experience with presenting the facts as certain people want them presented.

So there’s no autopsy report, for whatever reason, but details have been leaked to the WaPO. Epstein hade multiple broken bones in his neck, and the focus is on the hyoid bone, which breaks much more easily in strangulation than it does in self-imposed hanging. “The hyoid bone is a U-shaped mobile bone situated in the anterior portion of the neck at the level of the C3 vertebra, in the angle between the mandible and the thyroid cartilage..”

And then today we read that an Epstein representative has claimed his remains. Again, what representative? We don’t even know it was Epstein’s body, though between his death and today that could have been established, through DNA for instance. But we’re going to be stuck with that one autopsy, -because the body will be gone- which may or may not be convincing and/or conclusive. Who knows?

And AG Bill Barr can talk all he wants about seeking justice for the victims, but he should know that at this point it’s all about transparency. Tell people what you know when you know it. Because if you don’t, that’s going to turn against you. But perhaps he thinks doing so may turn against him even more.

Or maybe he’s just another tool protecting DC elites, on both sides of the aisle. There’s this story out there that nobody is able to locate Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s enabling madam, though the Daily Mail came up the other day with a property north of Boston, but there’s a few things missing there.

First, she apparently is not on the premises, and second, she would have to be very confident of being “protected”, to be in the US at this point. For one thing, she might want to be somewhere that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the US. But still, US intelligence can locate you or me in a matter of minutes if not seconds if they so desire, and Maxwell’s essentially been unaccounted for for years?

Epstein had industrial capacity paper and even carpet shredders, first on his Caribbean island, which were then shipped to Manhattan. Every single day Maxwell is not “found” gives her more time to shred whatever she wants (and what other people may went shredded too).

And this is not something that started when Epstein was arrested on July 6 at Teterboro Airport either. Though that is still the big mystery: why was he apprehended there and then? After ten years, or even 30 years if you will of abusing underage girls? Why there and then? Who gave the order? Who had that power? Who wanted him jailed, after he’d been protected all that time? After the 13-month sweetheart deal that saw him abuse girls even while he was serving his sentence?

But look, we don’t even know if the body autopsied was Epstein. They may be lying about that too.

It’s like we’re replaying JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald all over again and Jack Ruby got access to Epstein’s cell and that’s the official story so stop asking questions.

 

 

 

 

Jun 162019
 


David Hockney A Bigger Splash 1967

 

Just trying to find angles here. Trying to find people who could help Julian Assange. But so many of them are already dead. Can you imagine how different things might have been if Martin Luther King had still been alive to speak out on his situation? Or Muhammad Ali, JFK and Bobby Kennedy? Nelson Mandela? How about Bob Marley? Or, you know, Johnny Cash? Joe Strummer? We lost so many voices, and so few appear to have emerged to take their place. Have we lost too many? Are we done? Is this it?

I was thinking about Jerry Dammers recently. Not a well-known name to many. But he wrote and produced an incredibly strong song and video in the last days that Nelson Mandela was still in captivity. And I was thinking why doesn’t anyone produce something equally as strong for Assange today? And no, I couldn’t come up with an answer. The world has changed enormously, but if the P. Diddys, the Coldplays, Radioheads and Beyonce’s of this world would want to release a song like Jerry Dammers did 35 years ago, they could, and through social media, they could give it as much weight as back then. And where’s Bruce Springsteen anyway?

So here’s calling on all those people. Here’s what Dammers and his brilliant crew did in 1984, and I can’t not notice how it involves both black and white people working seamlessly together. At that time in Britain, that was normal. Try that today with all the Brexit crap and the Hostile Environment nonsense.

 

 

So why can’t we have an equally powerful song for Julian Assange? What happened to music? Was Mandela’s situation that much worse than Assange’s? Was the pressure to free him that much stronger? And if so, who applied that pressure? Sure, 21 years in captivity is more than 7, but is there an essential difference? Are you so blind that you cannot see? Are you so deaf that you cannot hear? In the end both men were locked up for all the wrong reasons, no?

Sure, that could have been contested by the South African apartheid regime back when, just as it is by the US apartheid regime today, but does anybody in either case really think any of it is justified?

A month ago, I wrote Julian Assange Is Today’s Martin Luther King, and many people said something in the vein of: “he’s nowhere near”. But is that even true, and even if it were, does that justify the way he’s being treated?

Julian Assange has been smeared with sexual allegations, just like MLK. In MLK’s case it was courtesy of J. Edgar Hoover. In Assange’s case, it was -is- way more elaborate, they have 3-4 governments involved. Imagine Hoover having the tools the FBI and MI6 have today. How scary is that? Well, we’re not so far removed from just that, and Assange was the primary person to warn us about exactly this.

He saw it all coming. It’s why he was brought down. Too smart. He fought the law and the law won (well, the law…). But that is not a good thing for you or me, at all.

 

 

But, you know, where is Jerry Dammers? We know where Johnny Cash and Bob Marley are, and Joe Strummer and Nelson Mandela. They’re long gone. But we’re supposed to replace them with equal voices of our own, or whatever they’ve done, the sacrifices they’ve made, will fade into some distant haze.

What’s going on here? Everybody values their bank accounts more than their freedom now? Would you like to talk to Johnny Cash or Bob Marley about that choice? Are we just dumbing down, no more opinions of our own, no more principles?

You too want to be breaking rocks in the hot sun? You’re well on your way.

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 172018
 


Jacobello Alberegno The Beast of the Apocalypse 1360-90

 

The Guardian ran an article yesterday by one of its editors, David Shariatmadari, that both proves and disproves its own theme at the same time: “An Information Apocalypse Is Coming”. Now, I don’t fancy the term apocalypse in a setting like this, it feels too much like going for a cheap thrill, but since he used it, why not.

My first reaction to the headline, and the article, is: what do you mean it’s ‘coming’? Don’t you think we have such an apocalypse already, that we’re living it, we’re smack in the middle of such a thing? If you don’t think so, would that have anything to do with you working at a major newspaper? Or with your views of the world, political and other, that shape how you experience ‘information’?

Shariatmadari starts out convincingly and honestly enough with a description of a speech that JFK was supposed to give in Dallas right after he was murdered, a speech that has been ‘resurrected’ using technology that enables one to make it seem like he did deliver it.

 

An Information Apocalypse Is Coming. How Can We Protect Ourselves?

“In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason, or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality, and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”

John F Kennedy’s last speech reads like a warning from history, as relevant today as it was when it was delivered in 1963 at the Dallas Trade Mart. His rich, Boston Brahmin accent reassures us even as he delivers the uncomfortable message. The contrast between his eloquence and the swagger of Donald Trump is almost painful to hear.

Yes, Kennedy’s words are lofty ones, and they do possess at least some predictive qualities. But history does play a part too. Would we have read the same in them that we do now, had Kennedy not been shot right before he could deliver them? Hard to tell.

What’s more, not long before JFK was elected president America had been in the tight and severe grip of J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign, in which lots of reality was replaced with rhetoric, something Kennedy undoubtedly had in mind while writing the speech. JFK was not just addressing future threats, he was talking about the past as well.

But the writer slips into a much bigger faux pas right after: injecting Trump into the picture. It’s fine if someone doesn’t like Trump, but naming him there and then, in an article about ‘information apocalypse’, also means confusing objectivity with regards to your topic with subjectivity concerning your political ideas. While the Kennedy speech item relates to -advancing(?)- technology, a valid part of the apocalypse, mentioning Trump has nothing to do with that apocalypse, at least not objectively. Back to David Shariatmadari:

The problem is, Kennedy never spoke these words. He was killed before he made it to the Trade Mart. You can only hear them now thanks to audio technology developed by a British company, CereProc. Fragments of his voice have been taken from other speeches and public appearances, spliced and put back together, with neural networks employed to mimic his natural intonation. The result is pretty convincing, although there’s a machine-like ring to some of the syllables, a synthetic stutter. Enough to recognise, if you already know, that this is a feat of technology, not oratory.

We like to think of innovation as morally neutral. We empower scientists and engineers to range freely in the hope they might discover things that save labour and lives. The ends to which these are put aren’t the responsibility of the researchers. The agile robots produced by Boston Dynamics might look like they could cheerfully pin you up against a wall and snap your neck, but do we really want to close off this avenue of research? After all, they might equally be capable of performing life-saving surgery. The methods used to resurrect JFK can also help people with illnesses such as motor neurone disease – like the late Stephen Hawking – that affect their ability to speak.

It’s certainly true that we are so ‘geared’ towards progress, we ‘conveniently’ forget and ignore that every next step carries its own shadow side, every yin comes with its yang. ‘Progress’ and ‘innovation’ – and related terms- ring so positive in our eyes and ears it borders on -wilful- blindness. That blindness is set to play a major role in our future, and in our acceptance as gospel of a lot of ‘information’.

“Dual use” of technology is not a new problem. Nuclear physics gave us both energy and bombs. What is new is the democratisation of advanced IT, the fact that anyone with a computer can now engage in the weaponisation of information; 2016 was the year we woke up to the power of fake news, with internet conspiracy theories and lies used to bolster the case for both Brexit and Donald Trump.

Ouch! See, he does it again. This is not an objective discourse on ‘information disinformation’, but a way to make people think -through a method he’s supposed to be exposing- that ‘fake news’ led to Brexit and Trump. That’s a political view, not a neutral one. Yes, there are many voices out there who connect ‘fake news’ directly to things they don’t like, but that’s just a trap.

And as I said, it may have to do with the fact that the writer works for a major newspaper, which of course he wants to, and wishes to, see as some kind of beacon against fake news, but if he lets his own personal views slip into an objective treatment of a topic this easily, it automatically becomes self-defeating.

There is no proof that Trump and Brexit’s success are down to fake news more than their opposite sides, ‘fake news’ is everywhere, and that very much includes the Guardian. The coverage of the UK government accusations against Russia in the poisoning case proves that more than ever.

You can be anti-Trump, anti-Brexit and anti-Putin all you want, but they don’t define fake news or an information apocalypse, any more than ‘commies’ did in the days of Hoover and McCarthy.

We may, however, look back on it as a kind of phoney war, when photoshopping and video manipulation were still easily detectable. That window is closing fast. A program developed at Stanford University allows users to convincingly put words into politicians’ mouths. Celebrities can be inserted into porn videos. Quite soon it will be all but impossible for ordinary people to tell what’s real and what’s not.

That is am almost bewildering line. Does the writer really think ‘ordinary people’ can today tell apart what’s real and what’s not? If his paper had honestly covered his country’s, and his government’s, involvement in the wars all over the Middle East and North Africa over the past decades, would his readers still be supportive of the politicians that today inhabit Westminster?

Or does the paper prefer supporting the incumbents over Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, because it owes its reputation and position and revenues to supporting the likes of Theresa May and Tony Blair? Yeah, I know, with a critical view, yada yada, but when has the Guardian labeled any UK politician a war criminal? Much easier to go after Farage, isn’t it? The question is: what part of this is fake, and what is not?

What will the effects of this be? When a public figure claims the racist or sexist audio of them is simply fake, will we believe them? How will political campaigns work when millions of voters have the power to engage in dirty tricks? What about health messages on the dangers of diesel or the safety of vaccines? Will vested interests or conspiracy theorists attempt to manipulate them?

This appears to make sense, but it does not really. We are way past that. ‘Ordinary people’ have already lost their capacity to tell truth from fiction. Newspapers and TV stations have long disseminated the views of their owners, it’s just that they now have -newfound- competition from a million other sources: the blessings of social media.

The core issue here is that 1984 is not some point in the future, as we for some reason prefer to think. We are living 1984. Perhaps the fact that we are now 34 years past it should give us a clue about that? People tend to think that perhaps Orwell was right, but his predictions were way early. Were they, though?

Also: Orwell may not have foreseen the blessings and trappings of social media, but he did foresee how governments and their media sympathizers would react to them: with more disinformation.

Unable to trust what they see or hear, will people retreat into lives of non-engagement, ceding the public sphere to the already powerful or the unscrupulous? The potential for an “information apocalypse” is beginning to be taken seriously.

This is a full-blown time warp. If it is true that people only now take the potential for an “information apocalypse” seriously, they are so far behind the curve ball that one must question the role of the media in that. Why didn’t people know about that potential when it was an actual issue? Why did nobody tell them?

The problem is we have no idea what a world in which all words and images are suspect will look like, so it’s hard to come up with solutions.

Yes, we do have an idea about that, because we see it around us 24/7. Maybe not with images as fully fabricated as the JFK speech, but the essence is manipulation itself, not the means by which it’s delivered.

Perhaps not very much will change – perhaps we will develop a sixth sense for bullshit and propaganda, in the same way that it has become easy to distinguish sales calls from genuine inquiries, and scam emails with fake bank logos from the real thing.

David, we ARE all bullshitters, we all lie all the time, for a myriad of reasons, to look better, to feel better, to seem better, to get rich, to get laid. It’s who we are. We lie to ourselves most of all. A sixth sense against bullshit and propaganda is the very last thing we will ever develop, because it would force us to face our own bullshit.

But there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to defend ourselves from the onslaught, and society could start to change in unpredictable ways as a result. Like the generation JFK was addressing in his speech, we are on the cusp of a new and scary age. Rhetoric and reality, the plausible and the possible, are becoming difficult to separate. We await a figure of Kennedy’s stature to help us find a way through. Until then, we must at the very least face up to the scale of the coming challenge.

We are not “on the cusp of a new and scary age”, we are in the smack middle of it. We haven’t been able to separate rhetoric and reality, the plausible and the possible, for ages. What’s different from 100 years ago, or 50 years ago, is that now we are faced with an information overload so severe that this in itself makes us less capable of separating chaff from wheat.

So yes, that perhaps is new. But bullshit and propaganda are not. And labeling Trump and Brexit the main threats misses your own topic by miles. You could make an equally valid point that they are the results of many years of bullshit and propaganda by old-style politics and old-style media.

Maybe they’re what happens when ‘ordinary people’ switch off from an overload of bullshit and propaganda forced upon them by people and institutions they grew up to trust. And then feel they were betrayed by. A sixth sense after all.

 

 

Mar 022018
 


Harold Steggels Essex landscape 1932

 

Trump’s Steel And Aluminum Tariffs Trigger Market Sell-Off In US, Asia (G.)
Trump’s Tariffs Throw a Wrench in the Global Trading System (BBG)
S&P 500 Breaks Below 100-Day Average Technical Inflection Point (BBG)
JFK-Trump S&P500 Analog Chart (MW)
NRA Members On Trump Gun Control Plans: ‘Every Word Of It Was A Betrayal’ (G.)
Putin On New US Nuclear Stance: If Attacked, Russia Will Use Nukes (RT)
China Bans Orwell’s Animal Farm And Letter ‘N’ Amid Anger At Xi (Ind.)
‘Cleanest In History’ Diesel Cars Still Pollute Far Above Legal Limits (Ind.)
US Breaks 47-Year-Old Monthly Oil Production Record (Robert Rapier)
Bitcoin’s Plunge in Volume Stirs Questions About Its Popularity (BBG)
Making the Business Case for Gender Equality (PS)
UK Risks Running Out Of Gas, Prices Soar (G.)
UK Food Crisis Looms Without Brexit Deal (BBG)
Pesticides Put Bees At Risk, European Watchdog Confirms (CNBC)
‘Doomsday’ Seed Vault Gets Makeover As Arctic Heats Up (AFP)

 

 

What he was elected on. Why should the US be dependent on imports for all of its steel?

Trump’s Steel And Aluminum Tariffs Trigger Market Sell-Off In US, Asia (G.)

World stock markets have tumbled after Donald Trump said the United States would impose tariffs of 25% on steel imports and 10% on imported aluminum next week. The threat of a trade war with China and higher goods prices led to a sharp sell-off in Wall Street on Thursday, causing Asian markets to take fright on Friday. The Nikkei index in Japan fell 2.4%, Hong Kong and South Korea were down 1.6%, and the ASX200 in Sydney was off 1% in early afternoon trading. Asian steelmakers bore the brunt. South Korea’s Posco fell 3% and Japan’s Nippon Steel 4%. Michael McCarthy of CMC Markets in Sydney said it was a “sharp reminder of the initial negative reaction to the election of Mr Trump ..

… An explanation may come, but the initial market interpretation of the move is rank populism. The lack of structure makes anticipating further measures and possible responses to retaliatory moves difficult to predict.” The Dow Jones Industrial Average had initially fallen more than 570 points, with heavy losses for manufacturers like Caterpillar and Boeing. The index closed down 420 points and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both dropped on the day. Trump campaigned on the promise of protecting the US steel industry but until now has done little to make good on those promises. At a meeting with US industry officials at the White House, he vowed to rebuild American steel and aluminum industries, saying they had been treated unfairly by other countries for decades.

The move is likely to increase tensions with China, whose top trade official, Lui He, is in Washington for trade talks. “People have no idea how badly our country has been treated by other countries, by people representing us that didn’t have a clue,” Trump said at a White House press conference attended by executives from the steel and aluminum industries. “Or if they did, then they should be ashamed of themselves because they’ve destroyed the steel industry, they’ve destroyed the aluminum industry, and other industries, frankly, when you look at all the plants, the car plants, automobile plants that moved down to Mexico for no reason whatsoever, except we didn’t know what we were doing. So we’re bringing it all back.”

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Bloomberg claims that “..it looked like the global economy was running on all cylinders ..” No it didn’t.

Trump’s Tariffs Throw a Wrench in the Global Trading System (BBG)

Just when it looked like the global economy was running on all cylinders, President Donald Trump injected a degree of risk to the otherwise favorable outlook. The U.S. president announced on Thursday plans to impose 25% tariffs on imported steel and 10% tariffs on foreign aluminum, with more details to be unveiled next week. American equities cratered for a third day as fears of a trade war spread and expectations for U.S. economic growth weakened a bit. The move to protect American metals producers threatens to raise prices for consumers and businesses that buy goods made with the raw materials. That will have implications for a U.S. central bank that’s debating how fast to raise interest rates this year.

“If tariffs go up, it will, at the margin, tend to put more upward pressure on prices, and those upward pressure on prices will have to be considered by the monetary authority,” New York Fed President William Dudley said in a speech in Brazil on Thursday. The extent of any economic damage will depend on the fine-print of Trump’s new policies and the severity of countries’ retaliation. Some economists worried the move might presage a shift toward an era of more economy-inhibiting protectionism just when it looked like the growth headwinds were fading. “It is possible that a more aggressive shift in policy is under way that could undermine the pro-growth tilt of fiscal policy, harming the U.S. and global economic expansions,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a research note after Trump’s announcement.

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Jay Powell gets a warm welcome.

S&P 500 Breaks Below 100-Day Average Technical Inflection Point (BBG)

The stock market is flirting with a technical inflection point again. The S&P 500 Index briefly broke below its 100-day moving average Thursday, sinking as much as 2% after President Donald Trump said the U.S. will impose harsh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The announcement added fuel to a fire that’s been smoldering since last month’s selloff, as investors continue to worry about rising inflation and interest rates. That anxiety has brought the market close to collapsing through the line of defense the moving average represents.

“You’ve broken down below the halfway point, now you’re toying below the initial high after the collapse, and you’ve gotten into all sorts of technical problems,” Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Weeden, said by phone. “Breaking some technical averages here is starting to scare people.” The S&P 500 fell 1.1% to 2,684.02 as of 3:27 p.m. in New York, after going as low as 2,659.65. The index is down about 2.5% on the week. Before February’s correction, the gauge hadn’t touched the 100-day barrier since last August. And while the market is recovering some of Thursday’s losses late in the session, it still risks closing below the line for the third time in a month.

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Causation and correlation.

JFK-Trump S&P500 Analog Chart (MW)

Last month, MarketWatch used a chart overlay to illustrate how the stock market under John F. Kennedy has closely followed its performance over the same time frame with Donald Trump in the White House. Fast forward three weeks and, as of Wednesday’s close, the S&P 500, in relative terms, sat almost exactly where it did at this point during Kennedy’s administration. If the trend persists—a HUGE if, of course—prepare for some rather steep losses in the coming weeks. Perhaps it’s already started, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down nearly 600 points at its Thursday low.

“After 328 trading days since election day, the Trump S&P 500 sits right on top of the JFK S&P 500,” the blogger behind the Global Macro Monitor wrote. ”The index, 328 trading days after the election day of each president, is less than five basis points within one another. Rather stunning, don’t you think?”

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Trump needs Democrat support on this. Where are they?

NRA Members On Trump Gun Control Plans: ‘Every Word Of It Was A Betrayal’ (G.)

NRA members have branded Donald Trump’s plans for stricter gun control legislation “stupid” and a “betrayal” after the president suggested reforms on Wednesday. In an open meeting with congressional Democrats and Republicans, Trump embraced raising the age limit on purchasing certain weapons and suggested that law enforcement should be allowed to confiscate people’s guns before going through due process in a court. Joe Biggs, an Austin, Texas-based NRA member and chief executive of Rogue Right, a conservative news website, was among those unimpressed by the proposal. “That’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Hopefully he was just having a momentary brain fart, a lapse of judgment,” Biggs said.

He added: “Hopefully someone pulled him into the back and said: ‘You’ve just lost half your base by saying something that stupid.’” During the meeting Trump called for a “beautiful” bill which would expand background checks on gun purchases and restrict young people from purchasing certain weapons. But it was his suggestion that in some cases law enforcement should be allowed to “take the guns first, go through due process second” – that most alarmed gun owners on the right. “You spend your whole life on the right and you always think that Democrats are going to be the ones who take your guns,” Biggs said. “And then you hear President Trump say: ‘Oh we’re gonna take your guns and go through due process later.’” Biggs said he would vote for another candidate in the 2020 presidential election if Trump pushed through his reforms.

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Putin in his state of the union announced to his people that Russia can defend itself from any attacks, including nuclear. Western media twist his words; the Guardian claims that “Russia threatens arms race” and even Zero Hedge says :“..the era of the Western world attempting to prevent Russia’s expansion is over.”

That’s all straight from NATO’s playbook.

Putin On New US Nuclear Stance: If Attacked, Russia Will Use Nukes (RT)

The new US nuclear posture allows a nuclear strike in response to a conventional attack. President Vladimir Putin said Russia, if attacked with nuclear weapons, would not hesitate to respond in kind. The warning came during a state of the nation address delivered by the Russian president on Thursday, in which he presented a number of new advanced strategic weapon systems which, he said, would render all anti-missile capabilities that the US currently has powerless. Putin also mentioned the new American nuclear posture, which has relaxed some rules on when the US is prepared to use its nuclear weapons. “We are greatly concerned by some parts of the new nuclear posture, which reduces the benchmark for the use of nuclear weapons…

..Whatever soothing words one may try to use behind closed doors, we can read what was written. And it says that these weapons can be used in response to a conventional attack or even a cyber-threat,” he said. “Our nuclear doctrine says Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons only in response to a nuclear attack or an attack with other weapons of mass destruction against her or her allies, or a conventional attack against us that threatens the very existence of the state.” “It is my duty to state this: Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies, be it small-scale, medium-scale or any other scale, will be treated as a nuclear attack on our country. The response will be instant and with all the relevant consequences,” Putin warned.

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Xi as a stand up comedian.

China Bans Orwell’s Animal Farm And Letter ‘N’ Amid Anger At Xi (Ind.)

The Chinese government has banned George Orwell’s dystopian satirical novella Animal Farm and the letter ‘N’ in a wide-ranging online censorship crackdown. Experts believe the increased levels of suppression – which come just days after the Chinese Communist Party announced presidential term limits would be abolished – are a sign Xi Jinping hopes to become a dictator for life. The China Digital Times, a California-based site covering China, reports a list of terms excised from Chinese websites by government censors includes the letter ‘N’, Orwell’s novels Animal Farm and 1984, and the phrase ‘Xi Zedong’. The latter is a combination of President Xi and former chairman Mao Zedong’s names.

Search terms blocked on Sino Weibo, a microblogging site which is China’s equivalent of Twitter, include “disagree”, “personality cult”, “lifelong”, “immortality”, “emigrate”, and “shameless”. It was not immediately obvious why the ostensibly harmless letter ‘N’ had been banned, but some speculated it may either be being used or interpreted as a sign of dissent. [..] Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have long been blocked in the country and even Winnie the Pooh recently found himself subject to China’s latest internet crackdown. In July, references to the cartoon bear on Sina Weibo were removed after his image was compared to President Xi.

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Our car addiction is deeply rooted. We built our communities around them. Not around ourselves. That is a much bigger problem than what fuel a car uses to power a vehicle 10-20 times heavier than its driver, with a 10% fuel efficiency.

‘Cleanest In History’ Diesel Cars Still Pollute Far Above Legal Limits (Ind.)

Over half of diesel cars recently approved for sale in Europe are emitting pollutants far above current legal air pollution limits, despite being marketed as the “cleanest in history”. Analysis of emissions data from nearly 100 car models revealed many vehicles from the new “Euro 6” generation would not be allowed on the market if they were tested today. An investigation by Greenpeace found dozens of these high-polluting vehicles were approved for sale during a “monitoring period” in which there was no limit set on the amount of nitrogen oxide (NOx) they could emit on roads. Many of these vehicles have only gone on sale across Europe in the recent months. The news comes after a German court ruled cities can impose driving bans on certain diesel cars in an effort to deal with the country’s air pollution.

Such restrictions on diesel cars – including the clean air zones found in London and other UK cities – tend to focus on older, dirtier car models. However, Greenpeace campaigners emphasised that while newer Euro 6 models are described as “light years away from their older counterparts” many of them still have the capacity to emit high levels of pollutants. Following the so-called “dieselgate” scandal in 2015, which found VW had installed “cheat software” in its vehicles to fool lab emissions tests, there was a widespread push for tough new regulations. In the aftermath of the scandal, testing revealed diesel cars that met the latest “Euro 6” limits for NOx emissions in lab tests were massively exceeding those limits when driving on the road.

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Our old Oil Drum pal Robert. I’d be interested to see how fast and how sharp the shale numbers are expected to start falling.

US Breaks 47-Year-Old Monthly Oil Production Record (Robert Rapier)

In a recent post, I wrote that the U.S. would almost certainly set a new oil production record this year. I noted that the most recent data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed that last November U.S. oil production exceeded 10 million barrels per day (BPD) for the first time since 1970. This week the EIA revised November’s oil production upward, which pushed it into the #1 spot for monthly production. The revision increased U.S. oil production in November to 10.057 million BPD, just edging out the previous record of 10.044 million BPD from November 1970. However, many new records should be set this year, as the EIA projects that oil production will reach 11 million BPD by year-end.

This would push the U.S. into first place among the world’s oil producers. But depending on how it is measured, the U.S. is already #1. The 2017 BP Statistical Review of World Energy ranks the U.S. #1 in oil production, but that’s because they include natural gas liquids (NGLs), which have surged in the U.S. along with natural gas production. The gains in U.S. oil production are being driven by production gains across tight oil plays in the Bakken and Eagle Ford, and especially the Permian Basin – where oil production is approaching a staggering 3 million BPD.

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Are they buying their own?

Bitcoin’s Plunge in Volume Stirs Questions About Its Popularity (BBG)

Earlier this year, when Bitcoin’s price fell by more than 60% from its record close, a less-noticed Bitcoin figure also plunged: the number of daily transactions. There are many explanations for the fall-off in trading, from software- to news-related. What’s less understood is why the level hasn’t recovered as Bitcoin’s price made a 50% comeback since Feb. 5. That’s left some investors wondering whether the cryptocurrency is waning in popularity. The average number of trades recorded daily has roughly dropped in half from the December highs and touched its lowest in two years last month, even as Bitcoin became a household name and roared back above $10,000.

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1) Why does it take a guy to make that case?

2) “$28 trillion would be added to the global economy by 2025” sounds like a male argument. If the only advantage of more women is that the same arguments are made by different voices, why bother?

Making the Business Case for Gender Equality (PS)

Around the world, gender bias is attracting renewed attention. Through protest marches and viral social-media campaigns, women everywhere are demanding an end to sexual harassment, abuse, femicide, and inequality. But, as successful as the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have been in raising public awareness, the struggle for parity is far from over. Empowering women and girls is key to achieving all 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. At the moment, however, gender bias remains a significant obstacle to global progress, and it is particularly acute in the workplace. Today, only 5% of S&P 500 companies are led by women, according to Catalyst, a non-profit CEO watchdog.

That dismal figure is all the more remarkable when one considers that 73% of global firms allegedly have equal-opportunity policies in place, according to a survey by the International Labour Organization (ILO). Moreover, while research shows a clear link between a company’s gender balance and its financial health, women occupy fewer than 20% of governing board seats in the world’s largest companies. Addressing such deficiencies is both an economic and a moral imperative. A 2015 report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that if women and men played an “identical role in labor markets,” $28 trillion would be added to the global economy by 2025. These global gains would be in addition to the benefits for individual companies.

Firms with greater gender equality are more innovative, generous, and profitable. But, at the current rate of female empowerment, it would take nearly 220 years to close the gender gap. The world cannot afford to wait that long; we need a new approach.

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The thrills of the just in time economy.

UK Risks Running Out Of Gas, Prices Soar (G.)

National Grid has warned that the UK would not have enough gas to meet public demand on Thursday, as temperatures plummeted and imports were affected by outages. But the government said households would not notice disruptions to their supply or any increase in energy bills because suppliers, including British Gas, bought energy further ahead. The energy minister Claire Perry said people should cook and use their heating as they would normally. But experts said there was a strong chance that industrial users could experience interruptions to their gas supply. Within-day wholesale gas prices soared 74% to 200p per therm after the formal deficit warning, which acts as a call to suppliers to bring forward more gas.

It is the first time such an alert has been issued since 2010. By lunchtime on Thursday the price had spiked even higher, hitting a high of 275p per therm at one point. National Grid’s forecast for the day initially showed a shortfall across the day of 49.5m cubic metres (mcm) below the country’s projected need of 395.7mcm, which would normally be around 300mcm at this time of year. The gas deficit warning aims to fill the gap, which has since narrowed to 16.5mcm. “We are in communication with industry partners and are closely monitoring the situation,” the company said.

Gas demand is now at a five-year high, according to the market watchers S&P Global Platts. Simon Wood, a gas analyst at the group, said: “There’s a strong chance you’ll see some interruptions for industrial users to balance the system.” Big energy users such as car manufacturers have supply contracts which can be interrupted in return for lower prices. The situation has been compounded by several supply outages, which can relate to very cold weather. There have been problems with a pipeline to the Netherlands, reductions in gas flows from Norway, and technical issues at facilities in the UK, including at the North Morecambe Barrow terminal.

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Gas shortage, food shortage. Self-sufficiency, anyone?

UK Food Crisis Looms Without Brexit Deal (BBG)

Brexit would lead to an unprecedented food shortage if the U.K. leaves the European Union without a deal, the CEO of the country’s second-biggest grocer said. “The impact of closing the borders for a few days to the free movement of food would result in a food crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen,” J Sainsbury CEO Mike Coupe said in an interview. “It’s inconceivable to me that there won’t be a solution found.” Tensions are simmering between London and Brussels, with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May saying Wednesday that no one in her position could ever agree to the draft Brexit treaty published by the EU.

May is seeking to get the EU to sign on to a transition phase at a summit of leaders later this month, but Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, warned Thursday that any such agreement could still unravel before Britain’s scheduled exit in March 2019. Almost half of the food eaten in the U.K. is imported. Trade barriers would be especially damaging to Britain’s fresh-food retailers, who rely heavily on the unencumbered movement of perishable goods throughout the EU. In 2016, the U.K. imported 22.4 billion pounds ($30.8 billion) worth of meat, fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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Hey, don’t keep us from poisoning ourselves. It’s our god-given right.

Pesticides Put Bees At Risk, European Watchdog Confirms (CNBC)

Wild bees and honeybees are put at risk by three pesticides from a group known as neonicotinoids, Europe’s food safety watchdog said on Wednesday, confirming previous concerns that prompted an EU-wide ban on use of the chemicals. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report, which covered wild bees and honeybees and included a systematic review of scientific evidence published since EFSA’s 2013 evaluation, is seen as crucial to whether the European moratorium on neonicotinoid use remains in place. The updated risk assessment found variations due to factors such as species of bee, exposure and specific pesticide, “but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed,” said Jose Tarazona, head of EFSA’s pesticides unit.

The European Union has since 2014 had a moratorium on use of neonicotinoids — made and sold by various companies including Bayer and Syngenta — after lab research pointed to potential risks for bees, which are crucial for pollinating crops. EU nations will discuss a European Commission proposal to ban three neonicotinoids next month in the Plant Animal Food and Feed Standing Committee. “This is strengthening the scientific basis for the Commission’s proposal to ban outdoor use of the three neonicotinoids,” a spokeswoman for the EU executive said.

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The whole concept is based on permafrost. Or was.

‘Doomsday’ Seed Vault Gets Makeover As Arctic Heats Up (AFP)

Designed to withstand a nuclear missile hit, the world’s biggest seed vault, nestled deep inside an Arctic mountain, is undergoing a makeover as rising temperatures melt the permafrost meant to protect it. Dubbed the “Noah’s Ark” of food crops, the Global Seed Vault is buried inside a former coal mine on Svalbard, a remote Arctic island in a Norwegian archipelago around 1,000 kilometres (650 miles) from the North Pole. Opened in 2008, the seed bank plays a key role in preserving the world’s genetic diversity: it is home to more than a million varieties of seeds, offering a safety net in case of natural catastrophe, war, climate change, disease or manmade disasters.

But warmer temperatures have disrupted the environment around the vault. In an unexpected development, the permafrost, which was meant to help keep the temperature inside the vault at a constant -18 Celsius (-0.4 Fahrenheit), melted in 2016. “The summer season was (warmer) than expected. We had water intrusions in the (access) tunnel that could be related to climate change,” Asmund Asdal, one of the seed bank’s coordinators, told AFP. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, scientific studies show. And while Europe is at the moment experiencing a subzero cold spell, the North Pole recently registered above-zero temperatures, 30 degrees higher than normal.

Scientists say warm spells like this are occurring with increasing frequency in the Arctic. Norway recently announced it would contribute 100 million kroner (10 million euros, $12.5 million) to improve the repository in a bid to protect the precious seeds. “We want to be sure that the seed vault will be cold throughout the whole year, even if the temperature continues to increase in Svalbard,” Norway’s Agriculture Minister Jon Georg Dale told AFP.

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Oct 292017
 
 October 29, 2017  Posted by at 2:17 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Salvador Dalí The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus 1959

 

Let’s get one thing straight: Donald Trump is as American as apple pie (even if both are imports). He’s brash and loud and abrasive and entirely focused on money, he’s given to exaggeration, he stretches the truth, he constantly seeks to appear bigger and richer than he really is; he ticks all the boxes of what it is to be American.

Trump’s role in US society is that he’s a mirror for America, he’s not just holding up a mirror, he is the mirror. But many Americans don’t like what they see reflected in him. They’re really just looking at themselves, and their society, but they don’t want to acknowledge that. They just want to get away from the mirror, or preferably, break it. But when someone holds up a mirror to you, the idea is for you to learn something, not break it.

Of course not every individual American fits the picture, but he’s very much the almost perfect reflection of what the country, the society, has become. And one point in which Trump is different from other ‘leaders’ is that he doesn’t try to look different from what he is, he doesn’t play a role like just about every other politician does.

He has that in common with Bernie Sanders, which is ironic given how different the two men are. Neither tries to, or even has the ability to, concoct a cool and calculated attempt at pleasing their viewers and listeners and voters at every twist and turn. With both Bernie and the Donald what you see is what you get.

That they appeal to different groups of people is obvious. As is the fact that Sanders is much less of an (arche)typical American than Trump is. Which means he has to work harder to get his points across. Sanders appeals to a part of America that people have largely forgotten.

Another thing that is true for both is that they are candidates for parties that are deeply broken, and inside a system that has no tolerance for other parties. Which makes you wonder whether it’s not the system itself that is broken. Where Hillary Clinton’s people managed to shove aside Sanders in the Democratic primaries, Trump’s Republican party had no such ‘luck’. Trump’s too all-American.

Of course the next issue must be that neither truly represent either party. They’re both ‘outsiders’ who’ve taken over existing -but failing- structures. Where this leads is unclear. Trump is busy ‘sanitizing’ the GOP, aka draining the swamp’, a process that may or may not cost him his job, and the Democrats would do well to undertake a similar spring cleaning. But the incumbent squids have their tentacles everywhere. Then again, that didn’t stop Trump. So far.

 

Then we get to the litany in investigations that are being conducted. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has apparently laid the first charges in the Russia collusion investigation. Of course, like every single move in the case, this one too has to be as confusing and murky as possible. The indictment was sealed by a judge, and subsequently leaked to the press. Which is probably highly illegal.

We have no idea who’s going to be indicted, it will all be revealed on Monday. Or not. If Mueller’s team has confined itself to investigating whether the Trump campaign has colluded with the Russians, there wouldn’t seem to be too much at hand. But Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein authorized Mueller to pursue “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”, so the net is cast so broadly it sounds like anything goes.

They may go after Paul Manafort, known for his involvement with people in Russia and the Ukraine. Whether that included anything illegal is unclear. That it would have amounted to outright collusion by the Trump campaign is highly unlikely. Manafort has been gone from the Trump entourage since August 2016.

But there are so many people involved in the campaign, who knows? If you have a former FBI head hiring lawyers and researchers left and right for six months without any constraints, budgetary or otherwise, it would be baffling if they found nothing at all. Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner?

 

What’s more interesting to come out of this circus is the picture of Washington -all of it- as an absolute cesspool and shithole. That these are the people, on either side of the aisle, that get to make the decisions is so worrisome it should make people think of leaving the country.

You have a conservative group led by the Free Beacon, funded by hedge-funder Paul Singer, that starts an ‘opposition research’ project to dig up dirt on Trump during the primaries. When that fails to halt Trump, the DNC and Clinton campaign take over the funding and expand it to include Washington dirt digger firm Fusion GPS, who in turn hire Christopher Steele to produce a very dubious dossier. Fusion GPS execs all took the fifth when asked.

Somewhere along the way the FBI got involved too. That means James Comey and Robert Mueller. Who has such a ‘great reputation’ for being impartial. What a swamp it is. The echo chambers on both sides know exactly, and in advance, who’s to blame. But anyone who finds those chambers too deafening must be awfully confused and conflicted by now. Who to believe?

The Russia collusion thing has been going on for a long time, first in the press, then on Capitol Hill, in the FBI and then the Special Counsel. During the process, both the same FBI and the Hillary camp, including the DNC have been exposed as having ties to Russian elements.

No proof has been presented of Putin supporting Trump through illegal channels. Will Mueller’s indictment(s) be the turning point? If Mueller doesn’t deliver clear and strong, if he doesn’t have something and someone too obvious to dispute, the whole scene may get a lot more hostile.

 

Over the past week, we’ve witnessed the exits stage left of Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, in sometimes dramatic fashion decrying anything Trump. Who simply reacts by saying neither would have been re-elected anyway (about Corker: “he couldn’t get elected dog-catcher in Tennessee”).

Essentially, what these guys do is try and play Trump’s game. But he’s much better at it than they are. The game has changed profoundly, and they missed out on that. Which is the number one reason why Trump got elected president, and none of the ‘old guard’ did. Well, that and all GOP candidates in the primary debates looked completely lost.

A description from the Guardian:

Battle Hymns of the Republicans: Trump Civil War is Just Getting Started

“It is time for our complicity and our accommodation for the unacceptable to end,” Flake said, in explosive remarks that were instantly labeled as a historic act of defiance. “There are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles. Now is such a time.” The senator delivered a 17-minute speech, framing the moment as an existential crisis for the party, taking direct aim at Trump’s conduct and what his presidency symbolized in a lacerating critique. It was an extraordinary event that would have otherwise been regarded as a major breach of decorum. But this is Washington in 2017. The norms have already been broken.

A handful of Flake’s colleagues sat stony-faced in the chamber as he implored Republicans not to acquiesce on core principles in the pursuit of appeasing Trump’s angry nationalist base. “We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal,” he said. Flake went on, thrusting the knife even further into Trump, though avoiding naming him: “Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.”

Among those who bore witness to Flake’s remarks was John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona who just a week previously blasted “half-baked, spurious nationalism” in a coded attack on so-called “Trumpism”. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, looked on stoically. As the speech reached its conclusion, one senator applauded: Ben Sasse, a young Republican from Nebraska who, like Flake, declined to endorse Trump in the 2016 election. Many of the Senate’s 52 Republicans were nowhere to be found.

They had just left a closed-door lunch with the president, dining over chicken marsala, green beans and Trump’s favorite, meatloaf, before a major push to overhaul the tax code. Much of the meeting featured Trump – characteristically – singing his own praises, according to some attendees. There was general discussion of taxes, but few specifics from a president who takes little interest in the policy details. It was nonetheless a cordial meeting, by Trump’s standards, embodied by the takeaway quote of John Kennedy, of Louisiana: “Nobody called anyone an ignorant slut.”

Many anti-Trump voices now speculate that he will try to fire Robert Mueller. Given how close the longtime FBI chief is to many of the parties involved, that might not be that crazy, but it would be explosive. He could also recuse himself on exactly those grounds. He won’t.

Then again, if he stays on, he will have to broaden his investigation to include the Clintons, the DNC and possibly the FBI itself. From the New York Post, and yes, I know what they are, but if I quote one article each from both sides of the echo chamber, maybe I find some balance:

Robert Mueller Should Resign

Their claim that nobody in the campaign or the DNC knew anything about the deal doesn’t pass the smell test. When as much as $12 million goes out the window for a document that aimed to win the election — and failed — everybody knows something. While the link to Clinton answers some questions, it raises others. For example, while it is certain her campaign spread the dossier among the media last summer, it remains uncertain whether the dossier was used by the White House and the FBI to justify snooping on the Trump campaign. One hint that it was is that Comey, while still in office, called the document “salacious and unverified,” but briefed Obama and President-elect Trump on its contents last January.

[..] the FBI never denied reports that it almost hired Steele, the former British spy, to continue his work after the campaign. The mystery might soon be solved because the FBI, after months of stonewalling, agreed last week to tell Congress how it used the dossier and detail its contacts with Steele. If the bureau did use the dossier to seek FISA warrants to intercept communications involving the Trump campaign, it would mean the FBI used a dirty trick from the candidate of the party in power as an excuse to investigate the candidate from the opposition party. Somewhere, Richard Nixon is wondering why he didn’t think of that.

There is also the issue of the “unmasking” of Trump associates caught up in the snooping, with the names leaked to anti-Trump media. It is essential to investigate that angle, but it would lead right to the Obama White House, which is why Mueller is not the man for the job. As for Clinton, the dossier revelation was not her only new problem. In fact, the second blow might be the most serious yet. At the urging of Congress and Trump, the Justice Department lifted its gag order on an informant who can now testify to Congress about bribery and other wrongdoing surrounding Moscow’s gaining control of 20% of US uranium production.

The 2010 transaction was approved by Obama officials, including Clinton, then secretary of state. About the same time, Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for a speech to a Russian bank involved in the transaction. Later, tens of millions of dollars — $145 million by one estimate — were said to be donated to the Clinton Foundation by individuals having a stake in the deal. The informant’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing, told Fox News the speech fee and the donations amount to a “quid pro quo” for Hillary Clinton’s help. “My client can put some meat on those bones and tell you what the Russians were saying during that time,” Toensing said.

Is it a disgrace that Trump is president? Perhaps it is. Ideally, the country should do much better. But he didn’t get America into the troubled situation it’s in. He is not the rot in the system, he just lays it bare. He simply came along at the appropriate moment to expose what the country has become, and to what extent its political system has devolved into a veritable swamp of special interests and incumbent squids.

And Trump hasn’t won a thing yet. Don’t be surprised if the whole sordid Harvey Weinstein tale is used, if not set up from the start, to go after the Donald. In a cynical link to that, George H.W. Bush has been accused of groping women, at the same time his role in the JFK assassination was questioned. He was the only American who didn’t remember where he was when the murder took place. Turns out, the CIA operative happened to be in Dallas.

Interestingly, Trump will fly to Asia on November 3. By then we should know who Mueller has indicted. Will Trump even be allowed to return? It would be better for America if he is, because there are a lot of lessons left to be learned.

 

 

Oct 292017
 
 October 29, 2017  Posted by at 9:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Springenberg Luther nails his theses to the church door

 

Trump Frustrated By Secrecy With JFK Files (AP)
Battle Hymns of the Republicans (G.)
Markets Await Trump’s Decision on Fed Chair (Rickards)
The Informant Cometh (Jim Kunstler)
In 2019, Central Bank Liquidity Finally Turns Negative (ZH)
All Hail British Banks: Self-absorbed, Short-termist And Spivvy (G.)
Sacked Catalonia Leader Calls For Opposition To Madrid’s Rule (R.)
Latin America and Caribbean No Longer US Backyard – Russia (TSur)
HUD Explores Temporarily Housing Puerto Ricans on US Mainland (BBG)
Barbuda PM Calls For Help From Britain To Rebuild Island (G.)
We Need A 21st-Century Martin Luther To Challenge The Church Of Tech (G.)

 

 

And released it all anyway. Still not besties with US Intelligence.

Trump Frustrated By Secrecy With JFK Files (AP)

Just before the release Thursday, Trump wrote in a memorandum that he had “no choice” but to agree to requests from the CIA and FBI to keep thousands of documents secret because of the possibility that releasing the information could still harm national security. Two aides said Trump was upset by what he perceived to be overly broad secrecy requests, adding that the agencies had been explicitly warned about his expectation that redactions be kept to a minimum. “The president and White House have been very clear with all agencies for weeks: They must be transparent and disclose all information possible,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said Friday.

Late last week, Trump received his first official briefing on the release in an Oval Office meeting that included Chief of Staff John Kelly, White House Counsel Don McGahn and National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg. Trump made it clear he was unsatisfied with the pace of declassification. Trump’s tweets, an official said, were meant as a signal to the intelligence community to take seriously his threats to release the documents in their entirety. According to White House officials, Trump accepted that some of the records contained references to sensitive sources and methods used by the intelligence community and law enforcement and that declassification could harm American foreign policy interests. But after having the scope of the redactions presented to him, Trump told aides he did not believe them to be in the spirit of the law.

On Thursday, Trump’s top aides presented him with an alternative to simply acquiescing to the agency requests: He could temporarily allow the redactions while ordering the agencies to launch a new comprehensive examination of the records still withheld or redacted in part. Trump accepted the suggestion, ordering that agencies be “extremely circumspect” about keeping the remaining documents secret at the end of the 180-day assessment. “After strict consultation with General Kelly, the CIA and other agencies, I will be releasing ALL JFK files other than the names and addresses of any mentioned person who is still living,” Trump wrote in a Friday tweet. “I am doing this for reasons of full disclosure, transparency and in order to put any and all conspiracy theories to rest.”

Read more …

Is the swamp being drained?

Battle Hymns of the Republicans (G.)

The November election did not put an end to the Republican Party’s civil war – a chasm between the establishment in Washington and grassroots activists that deepened with the rise of the Tea Party movement of 2009. Trump has only amplified it. Flake, after all, was not alone in his scathing criticism of the president. All week, a feud between Trump and Bob Corker, the Republican chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, soared to new heights – or depths. It culminated in Corker issuing his own stunning rebuke of Trump. “When his term is over, the constant non-truth-telling, the name-calling, the debasement of our nation, will be what he will be remembered most for,” Corker told CNN. Corker announced his own retirement last month, joining the ranks of a small but growing number of Republicans who have come to see Trump’s presidency as a moment of reckoning.

On one side is Trump, the most unpopular president in modern US history, ushered in by a grassroots movement with Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, at its helm. On the other is the old guard of Republican leaders, struggling to distance themselves from Trump’s toxicity and a party base that he increasingly drives with racially motivated nationalism. Critics like Flake, Corker and McCain subscribe to the views espoused by Republican presidents back to Ronald Reagan – a belief in limited government, moderate positions on immigration and trade – but Bannonites have waged war on “globalists” and used race and class to drive a wedge between the establishment and a rancorous base unmoored by the economic and cultural dislocation of the last 20 years.

The friction has prompted a battle for the soul of the Republican party. A strategist aligned with Bannon told the Guardian that Trump’s victory unleashed an insurgent movement that wants to overthrow the party establishment in Washington. “The strategy is to make everyone look over their shoulders,” the Bannon ally said, “so they understand that they are no longer in charge of the Republican party.” As reports of Flake’s retirement surfaced, another ally of Bannon swiftly celebrated the news by claiming “another scalp”. The departure of another moderate senator – at least, a moderate within the current Republican party – was the latest victory in Bannon’s mission to reshape the conservative movement.

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White House leaks say Powell will be next Fed head. Rickards expects Kevin Warsh. But yeah, Trump will be in Asia after November 3. What effect does that have on the Mueller thingy?

Markets Await Trump’s Decision on Fed Chair (Rickards)

President Trump is expected to nominate the next Federal Reserve chair within a matter of days. As I’ve explained before, Donald Trump has the opportunity to appoint a higher percentage of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve system at one time than any president since Woodrow Wilson. President Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act during the creation of the Fed in 1913 when they had a vacant board. At that time, the law said the secretary of the Treasury and the comptroller of the currency were automatically on the Fed’s board of governors. But besides that, President Wilson selected all of the other participating members. Due to vacancies he inherited and key resignations, Trump now has the opportunity to fill more seats on the Fed’s Board of Governors than any president since then. That’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

To review, the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors is made up of seven appointees. That means that they can make a majority decision with four votes. If you’re reading about the Fed, you might also see reference to “regional reserve bank presidents.” These are roles within the Federal Reserve System, but the real power is found on seven-member Board of Governors. Trump will own the Fed. Meaning, whatever the president wants monetary policy to be, he’ll get. In other words, Donald Trump will be able to shape the Fed’s majority. But the tricky part is figuring out how he plans to shape it… During the campaign season, Trump called China and other nations currency manipulators. That signaled he believed the dollar was too strong and wanted it to weaken. But then the North Korean nuclear crisis rose to the fore.

Trump backed off his threats against China because China has the most economic influence over North Korea, and Trump wanted China to use that leverage to convince the North to back off its nuclear program. But China didn’t deliver as Trump had hoped, and a trade war with China is now likely. That’s especially true now. Chinese president Xi Jinping has solidified his hold on power after the Chinese Politburo re-appointed him yesterday. Xi had avoided rocking the boat in recent months while his position was uncertain. But now that his lock on power is secure, Xi can afford to be much more confrontational with Trump. Trump’s trade policy has led many to believe that Trump will appoint a lot of “doves” to the Board. But don’t be surprised if Trump goes with a hard-money board. In fact, that’s what I expect. These will be hard-money, strong-dollar people, contrary to a lot of expectations.

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The Fed’s credibility. And Mueller’s. And Comey’s.

The Informant Cometh (Jim Kunstler)

Now, it also happens that the deal for Tenex to buy Uranium One had to be approved by nine federal agencies and signed off on by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which she did shortly after her husband Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 to give a speech in Moscow sponsored by a Russian bank. The Clinton Foundation also received millions of dollars in “charitable” donations from parties with an interest in the Tenex / Uranium One deal. It happened, too, that the CEO of Uranium One at the time of the Tenex sale, Frank Guistra, was one of eleven board members of the Clinton Foundation. The informant remained undercover for the FBI for five years. None of the Clinton involvement was included in the previously mentioned federal bribery and racketeering prosecutions.

Meanwhile, the informant had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the Obama Justice Department, only just lifted last week. As of this morning, the story is absent from The New York Times, formerly the nation’s newspaper of record. The FBI’s credibility is at stake in this case. Robert Mueller, who was Director of the agency during the Tenex/Uranium One deal, with all its Clintonian-Russian undertones, is in the peculiar position now as special prosecutor for the Russian election “meddling” alleged to involve President Trump. Whatever that investigation has turned up is not known publicly yet, but the massive leaking from government employees that turned the story into roughly 80% of mainstream legacy news coverage the past year, has ceased — either because Mueller has imposed Draconian restraints on his own staff, or because there is nothing there.

The FBI has a lot to answer for in overlooking the Clinton connection to the Uranium One deal. The informant, soon to be attached to a name and a face, is coming in from the cold, to the warm, wainscoted chambers of the house and senate committees. I wonder if Mr. Trump, or his lawyers, will find grounds to attempt to dismiss Special Prosecutor Mueller, given what looks like Mueller’s compromised position vis-à-vis Trump’s election opponent, HRC. It’s hard to not see this thing going a long way — at the same time that financial markets and geopolitical matters are heading south. Keep your hats on.

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Once people start thinkng they’re actually going to do this, the effects will be felt way before 2019.

In 2019, Central Bank Liquidity Finally Turns Negative (ZH)

[..] the great Central Bank liquidity tide, which generated over $2 trillion in central bank purchasing power in 2017 alone – and which as Bank of America said last month is the only reason why stocks are at record highs, is now on its way out. This was a point first made by Deutsche Bank’s Alan Ruskin two weeks ago, who looked at the collapse in global vol, and concluded that “as we look at what could shake the panoply of low vol forces, it is the thaw in Central Bank policy as they retreat from emergency measures that is potentially most intriguing/worrying.

We are likely to be nearing a low point for major market bond and equity vol, and if the catalyst is policy it will likely come from positive volatility QE ‘flow effect’ being more powerful than the vol depressant ‘stock effect’. To twist a phrase from another well know Chicago economist: Vol may not always and everywhere be a monetary phenomena – but this is the first place to look for economic catalysts over the coming year.” He showed this great receding tide of liquidity in the following chart projecting central bank “flows” over the next two years, and which showed that “by the end of next year, the combined expansion of all the major Central Bank balance sheets will have collapsed from a 12 month growth rate of $2 trillion per annum to zero.”

Shortly after, Fasanara Capital’s Francesco Filia used this core observation in his own bearish forecast, when he wrote that “the undoing of loose monetary policies (NIRP, ZIRP), and the transitioning from ‘Peak Quantitative Easing’ to Quantitative Tightening, will create a liquidity withdrawal of over $1 trillion in 2018 alone. The reaction of the passive community will determine the speed of the adjustment in the pricing for both safe and risk assets.”

Fast forward to today, when Bank of America’s Barnaby Martin is the latest analyst to pick up on this theme of great liquidity withdrawal. Looking at (and past) the ECB’s announcement, Martin writes that “as expected, Mario Draghi took a knife to the ECB’s quantitative easing programme yesterday. From January 2018, monthly asset purchases will decline from €60bn to €30bn, and continue for another 9m (and remain open ended). The ECB now joins an array of central banks across the globe that are either shrinking their balance sheets or heavily scaling back bond buying.” [..] However, as Ruskin and Filia warn, Martin underscores that it is the bigger point that is ignored by markets, namely that it is all about the “flow” of central bank purchases.

And in this context, the BofA strategist warns that it will take just over a year before the global liquidity tide not only reaches zero, but turns negative… some time in early 2019. Chart 1 shows year-over-year changes in global asset purchases by central banks (we also include China FX reserves here). Given this year’s slowdown in ECB and BoJ QE (the latter, in particular, is striking in USD terms), we are well past the peak in global asset buying by central banks. But with the Fed now embarking on balance sheet shrinkage, the start of 2019 should mark the point where year-over-year asset purchases finally turn negative – a trend change that will come after four straight years of expansion.

Read more …

Government and banks want one thing: keep housing prices high.

All Hail British Banks: Self-absorbed, Short-termist And Spivvy (G.)

It’s not only the government that is obsessed with lending to prop up property owners and developers – the banking sector is keen, too. The report sets out the way UK banks mostly lend abroad, with loans to UK businesses accounting for just 5% of total UK bank assets, compared with 11% in France, 12% in Germany and 14% on average across the rest of the eurozone. Property loans to businesses and individuals in the UK account for more than 78% of all loans to individuals and non-financial businesses – which means those outside the Square Mile. After stripping out real estate, loans to UK businesses account for just 3% of all banking assets. As a transmission mechanism for diverting the nation’s savings into worthwhile, productive businesses, the banks fail miserably. And the rest of the financial sector is just as bad.

The IPPR report accused hedge funds, proprietary traders (which use investment bank cash) and high-frequency traders – a group that collectively makes up 72% of trades in on the London market – of paying themselves depending on performance against rivals and over short timescales, “not long-term value creation”. This spivvy trading arena has the knock-on effect of making short-term demands on the boards of listed companies. Such is the pressure to avoid being caught in traders’ headlights that in a survey of more than 400 executives, some 75% said they “would sacrifice positive economic outcomes” if it helped smooth their profit figures from one quarter to the next. The report argues that this self-absorbed world of stock market trading needs to support longer-term investment in a way that also benefits savers and business owners.

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At least for now it’s peaceful. But Puidgemont seems to have weakened.

Sacked Catalonia Leader Calls For Opposition To Madrid’s Rule (R.)

Sacked Catalonian president Carles Puigdemont on Saturday called for peaceful “democratic opposition” to the central government’s takeover of the region following its unilateral declaration of independence from Spain. Puigdemont, whose regional government was dismissed by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday, accused Madrid of “premeditated aggression” against the will of the Catalans. Rajoy removed Puigdemont, took over the administration of the autonomous region and called a new election after Catalonia’s parliament declared itself an independent nation on Friday. The bold if to all appearances futile action marked a potentially dangerous escalation of Spain’s worst political crisis in the four decades since its return to democracy.

“It’s very clear that the best form of defending the gains made up until now is democratic opposition to Article 155,” Puigdemont said in a brief statement he read out in the Catalan city of Girona, referring to the legal trigger for the takeover. But he was vague on precisely what steps the secessionists would take as the national authorities are already moving into Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia to enforce control. Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said it would welcome Puigdemont’s participation in the regional elections it has called for Dec. 21. “I‘m quite sure that if Puigdemont takes part in these elections, he can exercise this democratic opposition,” Mendez de Vigo told Reuters TV in an interview.

[..] Puigdemont signed the statement as President of Catalonia, demonstrating he did not accept his ousting. “We continue persevering in the only attitude that can make us winners. Without violence, without insults… and also respecting the protests of the Catalans who do not agree with what the parliamentary majority has decided,” he said.

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“All actors must respect international law instead of ignoring it and proclaiming themselves special states..”

Latin America and Caribbean No Longer US Backyard – Russia (TSur)

A Russian official said the region no longer can be treated inappropriately by the United States. The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned the United States that Latin American and the Caribbean are no longer its “backyard.” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zajarova said the region has tired of the United State’s attempt to control its people by political, social or military force. “The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have long ceased to be the U.S. backyard,” Zajarova said. In addition, she said the region has had many opportunities to “put Washington in its place on the inappropriateness of its conduct regarding Latin America,” urging the United States to respect international law and the sovereignty of nations, in order to “avoid conflicts.”

“Each state has its objectives, but we should start from common game rules and, at the same time, respect national interests,” she said. “All actors must respect international law instead of ignoring it and proclaiming themselves special states, this is the only way of preserving our own interests, and interacting and avoiding conflicts,” Zajarova added. The Russian official said development in the region in economics, politics, and science has shown “such potential that they can’t be treated as if an older brother were addressing other members of the lesser developed family.” Russia recently said it hopes countries around the world “refrain from the policy of pressure and sanctions” against countries in the region such as is being done in Venezuela, calling the attempts “counterproductive.”

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No matter what they do, it must be massive.

HUD Explores Temporarily Housing Puerto Ricans on US Mainland (BBG)

The Trump administration is exploring ways to relocate tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland for an extended period as parts of the territory remain devastated more than a month after Hurricane Maria. Officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development late last week started to develop a plan to provide housing to some of Puerto Rico’s displaced population, according to people familiar with the matter. And given the shortage of available options on the island, the possibility of evacuating large numbers to the mainland has emerged as an option. Two of the people who spoke to HUD officials said using large commercial cruise liners had been suggested to move residents en masse.

The most recent push for a solution began after a meeting on Friday that included officials from HUD, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the White House and others, according to the people. But it’s unclear if the White House or any agencies outside of HUD are coordinating with the housing agency, or if the ideas are only being developed within the department for now. Agency officials in the past two days have contacted executives in the housing industry, investment managers with ties to Puerto Rico, and others in an attempt to brainstorm potential solutions, said the people [..] Thousands of Puerto Rico residents have already fled to Florida and elsewhere since Maria struck as a Category Four storm on Sept. 20.

Much of the territory, including the outer islands of Vieques and Culebra, remains without electricity. Potable drinking water is scarce in some areas, and thousands of miles of roads are still closed. The evacuation idea is in the earliest stages, and given immense logistical challenges it may never come to pass. An orchestrated mass movement and temporary resettlement would require coordination between various parts of the government and a willingness by local communities to house any evacuees, at a substantial cost.

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Poorer nations offer help, the rich do not.

Barbuda PM Calls For Help From Britain To Rebuild Island (G.)

Independent islands in the Caribbean are fearful that their infrastructure will be left in ruins as countries such as the UK focus relief and aid efforts on their own overseas territories. Gaston Browne, prime minster of Antigua and Barbuda, said his country was being overlooked in relief efforts because it was an independent island and had a higher per capita income than some Caribbean countries. “Technically, the Queen is still our head of state, which means there should be some empathy,” he said. “But I think because we are independent, and they’re looking at some artificial per capita income criteria, we are being overlooked.” The island of Barbuda was devastated by Hurricane Irma in September, with 95% of all properties on the island destroyed. When it was feared Barbuda would be struck again by Hurricane Jose a few days later, all 2,000 residents were evacuated to the larger sister island of Antigua.

The evacuees are living with friends and family on Antigua, or in large shelters run by the government in technical colleges, churches and a cricket stadium. People have begun to return to the island for a few days at a time to start the clear-up, often sleeping in tents on their lawns. Barbuda still has no water or electricity. Browne praised developing countries that had offered help, naming Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, as well as Qatar, China and India. Even the small Caribbean island of Dominica pledged $250,000 before Dominica itself was hit and devastated by Hurricane Maria, Browne said. “We reciprocated afterwards by pledging $300,000,” he added “Even among countries that were devastated, there is a form of human cooperation to help each other.”

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He’s actually written 95 theses.

We Need A 21st-Century Martin Luther To Challenge The Church Of Tech (G.)

A new power is loose in the world. It is nowhere and yet it’s everywhere. It knows everything about us – our movements, our thoughts, our desires, our fears, our secrets, who our friends are, our financial status, even how well we sleep at night. We tell it things that we would not whisper to another human being. It shapes our politics, stokes our appetites, loosens our tongues, heightens our moral panics, keeps us entertained (and therefore passive). We engage with it 150 times or more every day, and with every moment of contact we add to the unfathomable wealth of its priesthood. And we worship it because we are, somehow, mesmerised by it. In other words, we are all members of the Church of Technopoly, and what we worship is digital technology.

Most of us are so happy in our obeisance to this new power that we spend an average of 50 minutes on our daily devotion to Facebook alone without a flicker of concern. It makes us feel modern, connected, empowered, sophisticated and informed. Suppose, though, you were one of a minority who was becoming assailed by doubt – stumbling towards the conclusion that what you once thought of as liberating might actually be malign and dangerous. But yet everywhere you look you see only happy-clappy believers. How would you go about convincing the world that it was in the grip of a power that was deeply hypocritical and corrupt? Especially when that power apparently offers salvation and self-realisation for those who worship at its sites?

It would be a tough assignment. But take heart: there once was a man who had similar doubts about the dominant power of his time. His name was Martin Luther and 500 years ago on Tuesday he pinned a long screed on to the church door in Wittenberg, which was then a small and relatively obscure town in Saxony. The screed contained a list of 95 “theses” challenging the theology (and therefore the authority) of the then all-powerful Catholic church. This rebellious stunt by an obscure monk must have seemed at the time like a flea bite on an elephant. But it was the event that triggered a revolution in religious belief, undermined the authority of the Roman church, unleashed ferocious wars in Europe and shaped the world in which most of us (at least in the west) grew up. Some flea bite.

[..] Why not, I thought, compose 95 theses about what has happened to our world, and post them not on a church door but on a website? Its URL is 95theses.co.uk and it will go live on 31 October, the morning of the anniversary. The format is simple: each thesis is a proposition about the tech world and the ecosystem it has spawned, followed by a brief discussion and recommendations for further reading. The website will be followed in due course by an ebook and – who knows? – perhaps eventually by a printed book. But at its heart is Luther’s great idea – that a thesis is the beginning, not the end, of an argument.

Read more …

Oct 272017
 
 October 27, 2017  Posted by at 9:33 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Salvator Rosa Lucrezia as poetry 1640-41

 

The World’s Witnessing A New Gilded Age (G.)
ECB Sees Option for Ending QE With Short Taper in 2018 (BBG)
The Fed Balance Sheet Unwind Myth (Roberts)
Alarm Sounds Over State Of UK High Street As Sales Crash (G.)
75% of UK MPs Don’t Know Where Money Comes From (CityAM)
China’s Minsky Moment (Muir)
Catalonia’s Leader Rules Out Snap Election, Crisis Deepens (R.)
Catalan Companies Face Boycott Over Independence Push (AFP)
New JFK Files Reveal FBI Warning On Oswald And Soviets’ Missile Fears (G.)
Australian Court Rules Deputy PM Ineligible For Parliament (R.)
‘I Want The Government … To Bring Kindness Back’ (RNZ)

 

 

A hundred years ago.

The World’s Witnessing A New Gilded Age (G.)

The world’s super-rich hold the greatest concentration of wealth since the US Gilded Age at the turn of the 20th century, when families like the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts controlled vast fortunes. Billionaires increased their combined global wealth by almost a fifth last year to a record $6tn – more than twice the GDP of the UK. There are now 1,542 dollar billionaires across the world, after 145 multi-millionaires saw their wealth tick over into nine-zero fortunes last year, according to the UBS/PwC Billionaires report. Josef Stadler, the lead author of the report and UBS’s head of global ultra high net worth, said his billionaire clients were concerned that growing inequality between rich and poor could lead to a “strike back”. “We’re at an inflection point,” Stadler said. “Wealth concentration is as high as in 1905, this is something billionaires are concerned about.

The problem is the power of interest on interest – that makes big money bigger and, the question is to what extent is that sustainable and at what point will society intervene and strike back?” Stadler added: “We are now two years into the peak of the second Gilded Age.” He said the “$1bn question” was how society would react to the concentration of so much money in the hands of so few. Anger at so-called robber barron families who built up vast fortunes from monopolies in US rail, oil, steel and banking in the late 19th century, an era of rapid industrialisation and growing inequality in America that became known as the Gilded Age, led to President Roosevelt breaking up companies and trusts and increasing taxes on the wealthy in the early 1900s. “Will there be similarities in the way society reacts to this gilded age?,” Stadler asked. “Will the second age end or will it proceed?”

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We’re doing so well we need to keep throwing money at bankers.

ECB Sees Option for Ending QE With Short Taper in 2018 (BBG)

European Central Bank policy makers implicitly assume their newly-extended bond-buying program will be tapered to a halt by the end of next year so long as the inflation outlook improves, according to officials with knowledge of the discussions. The Governing Council, which met on Thursday, focused on the first nine months of next year for its quantitative-easing program and didn’t formally debate options for what to do after that, said the people, asking not to be named because the talks are private. While tapering would be possible, extending the program without changing the pace of purchases is also a credible option if inflation doesn’t show sufficient progress, one of them said. Whether to set a firm end-date on the bond-buying program has been a key sticking point for some officials.

The council agreed to cut monthly purchases in half, to €30 billion ($35 billion), and President Mario Draghi said that a “large majority” backed the decision to include a pledge to extend again if needed. He added that “it’s never been our view that things should stop suddenly.” The meeting came after governors were presented with several scenarios at a seminar on Wednesday, according to the people. Those included a reduction to 40 billion euros a month through June, and a 12-month tapering through December, similar to the Federal Reserve’s exit from its own program. The latter scenario wasn’t considered a realistic policy option, one of the people said. Governors also looked at a three-month scenario that would see buying after September tapered in monthly steps to 20 billion euros, 10 billion euros and 5 billion euros, another official said.

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“..In fact, just last week the Fed increased their balance sheet by over $13.5 billion dollars. No wonder the stock market shot higher.”

The Fed Balance Sheet Unwind Myth (Roberts)

Since the beginning of the year, the Federal Reserve has been heavily discussing, warning rather, they were going to begin to “unwind” their gargantuan balance sheet. As Michael Lebowitz recently penned in his subscription-only article “Draining The Punchbowl:” “Since QE was first introduced, the S&P 500 has gained 1,546 points. All but 355 points were achieved during periods of QE. Of those remaining 355 points, over 80% occurred after Trump’s victory.” That is a pretty amazing set of stats. I have previously noted the high correlation of the financial markets relative to the ongoing liquidity operations of the Federal Reserve. I have updated that analysis to show the reduction in the balance according to the Fed’s proposed schedule.

While the market stumbled following the end of QE in the United States, global QE, as shown in the charts of the major global Central Banks picked up the slack.

But now, the ECB has already begun discussing their plans to begin cutting the amount of their QE program by half in the coming year. The hope, of course, by Central Bank officials is that global economies are now humming along at a pace strong enough to withstand the reduction of “emergency measures.” Of course, the real question is whether the Central Bank’s “measures” of economic strength are accurate. While there are certainly indicators such as GDP growth, production, and employment measures which suggests that global economies are indeed on a cyclical upswing, there are also numerous measures which suggest the opposite.

With the Fed trying to raise interest rates, and reduce the balance sheet simultaneously, the “tightening of monetary policy” is a drag on economic growth and ultimately the stock market. But as I stated above, while the Fed is currently “discussing” the reduction of their balance sheet beginning in October, they actually haven’t. In fact, just last week the Fed increased their balance sheet by over $13.5 billion dollars. No wonder the stock market shot higher.

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It’s the weather. Too warm to shop.

Alarm Sounds Over State Of UK High Street As Sales Crash (G.)

The fastest monthly fall in high street sales since the height of the recession in 2009 has raised fears for the retail sector ahead of the crucial Christmas trading period. A survey by the the CBI found that 50% of retailers suffered declining sales in October while only 15% benefited from an increase, leaving a rounded balance of -36%, the lowest since March 2009. The business lobby group said the survey showed retailers were “feeling the pinch” from rising inflation, which has eaten into consumer incomes and squeezed profit margins. Uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the UK’s Brexit negotiations has also preyed on consumer confidence, which has declined sharply over the past 18 months and depressed spending. Figures estimating GDP growth in the third quarter showed the services sector holding up despite recent declines in wages adjusted for inflation.

However, the construction sector fell into recession. Rain Newton-Smith, the CBI chief economist, said: “While retail sales can be volatile from month to month, the steep drop in sales in October echoes other recent data pointing to a marked softening in consumer demand.” The gloomy CBI survey came as Debenhams warned of an “uncertain” environment on the high street in the run up to Christmas after suffering a 44% dive in profits. [..] Warm autumn weather and low consumer confidence in the wake of the Brexit vote have also combined to deliver a “grim” October, according to the John Lewis boss, Paula Nickolds, who revealed last week that shoppers are continuing to put off expensive household purchases. That comes after the UK retail sector recorded its lowest growth rate in four years for the three months to the end of September, according to official data.

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Maube the Bank of England should send them their reports?

75% of UK MPs Don’t Know Where Money Comes From (CityAM)

Only 15% of MPs surveyed answered correctly when asked a true/false question on whether banks create money when they make loans. Almost two-thirds of the 50 MPs surveyed by Dods for campaign group Positive Money wrongly thought banks can’t create money, while a quarter admitted they didn’t know. In a far from stellar field Conservative MPs outperformed slightly “in this regard”, with 19% answering correctly, compared to only one in 20 Labour MPs. More than three-quarters of the MPs surveyed incorrectly believed that only the government has the ability to create new money. Some 23% knew this to be false, with Labour performing better than the Conservatives. The Bank of England has previously intervened to point out that most money in the UK begins as a bank loan.

In a 2014 article the Bank pointed out that “whenever a bank makes a loan, it simultaneously creates a matching deposit in the borrower’s bank account, thereby creating new money.” The perception of money creation has been complicated further by the unorthodox use of quantitative easing, in which the government creates money electronically, which is then used to buy financial assets. Fran Boait, executive director of Positive Money, said: “Despite their confidence in telling the public that there is ‘no magic money tree’ to pay for vital services, politicians themselves are shockingly ignorant of where money actually comes from. “There is in fact a ‘magic money tree’, but it’s in the hands of commercial banks, such as Barclays, HSBC and RBS, who create money whenever they make loans.”

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The difference between short and long term.

China’s Minsky Moment (Muir)

Sometimes you have to love the naivety of the markets. At this week’s Communist Party Congress meeting in Beijing, the governor of the PBoC (People’s Bank of China) said the following; “If we are too optimistic when things go smoothly, tensions build up, which could lead to a sharp correction, what we call a ‘Minsky moment’. That’s what we should particularly defend against.” Yet instead of focusing on this dire warning, markets are busy trying to discount the chance of a Powell Fed or a Republican tax cut. Although both of these developments would be important, China is the tail that wags the dog. Full stop. Figure out China, and all the other financial market forecasts become that much easier. Some might argue this “Minsky moment” warning is nothing more than a Central Bank whistling in the wind.

Didn’t Greenspan caution about a similar concern with his “irrational exuberance” speech? And didn’t that end up being a complete non-event? Yet I would argue that China is not the same as other countries. Although there are market elements to their economy, to a large degree, China is still a command economy. If Chinese leadership wants a particular outcome, they can just demand it, and it will happen. So when the head of the PBoC warns about a “Minsky moment”, it’s probably not a good idea to load up on financial assets. For the longest time, China exported goods and imported developed nation debt and other financial assets. They had already started down the road of re-balancing their economy away from this export driven model, but this recent development confirms that the old playbook should be thrown out the window.

The global financial system is changing, and China is leading the way. Their moves will reverberate for years in the future. The Chinese authorities have just put up the warning flag, and you would be foolish to not believe it. This long term warning coincides with my belief that over the short term, the risks are all to the downside. I have been banging the drum on the fact that the Chinese government have done everything in their power to keep markets stabilized through their Communist Party Congress. They haven’t even hidden this fact. From the big sign above the Shenzhen Securities Exchange building that read “Use every effort to protect the stability of stock market for 20 days,” to the recent release that the Chinese government has asked firms to delay bad result during Congress, the message is clear.

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Too many last minute turnarounds. But still explosive.

Catalonia’s Leader Rules Out Snap Election, Crisis Deepens (R.)

Catalonia’s leader Carles Puigdemont on Thursday said he would not hold a new regional election to break the deadlock between Madrid and separatists wanting to split from Spain, sharpening a political crisis that could turn into direct confrontation. Puigdemont had been expected to announce an election to head off moves by Madrid to take direct control of the autonomous region in the next few days. But, speaking in the courtyard of the regional government headquarters in Barcelona, Puigdemont said the central government had not provided sufficient guarantees that holding an election would prevent the imposition of direct rule. “I was ready to call an election if guarantees were given. There is no guarantee that justifies calling an election today,” Puigdemont said.

He said it was now up to the Catalan parliament to move forward with a mandate to break from Spain following an independence referendum that took place on Oct. 1 – a vote which Madrid had declared illegal and tried to stop. Some independence supporters are pushing him to unilaterally declare independence. Late on Thursday, the regional government’s business head resigned over his opposition to a unilateral declaration, a sign of growing division in the separatist movement. Puigdemont’s stand sets the stage for the Spanish Senate on Friday to approve the take-over of Catalonia’s institutions and police, and give the government in Madrid the power to remove the Catalan president.

But this could spark confrontation on the streets as some independence supporters have promised to mount a campaign of civil disobedience. Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, speaking in a Senate committee, said: “The independence leaders have shown their true face – they have promised a dream but are performing tricks.” The aim of Article 155 – the constitutional trigger for direct rule – was to permit any election to take place in a normal and neutral situation, she said. The Spanish government has said it would call such a vote within six months of taking over Catalonia.

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Sad.

Catalan Companies Face Boycott Over Independence Push (AFP)

Calls for a boycott of Catalan food, cars and other goods, to punish the region for its separatist push, are worrying businesses who fear the economy will suffer. “You have to hit them where it hurts the most: the wallet,” a Twitter user wrote under the hashtag #boycottcatalanproducts. “We Spaniards who do not want Spain to be broken up… we can take action by adopting dissuasive steps of an economic nature,” reads a Facebook page calling for consumers to snub Catalan products. Appeals for a boycott have become more urgent since Catalonia’s separatist regional government held a banned independence referendum on October 1 in defiance of Spain’s central government and courts. The campaign targets Catalonia’s key agriculture and food sectors, with consumers urged to shun cava, a sparkling wine, Estrella Damm beer, as well as Vichy Catalan and Font Vella bottled water.

Medicines are also on the list to hurt Catalonia’s important pharmaceutical sector, as well as cars made by Seat, German carmaker Volkswagen’s Spanish unit in the region. Products made by foreign multinationals in Catalonia, including Nestle and Unilever, have also been swept up in the campaign. Mobile phone applications help consumers identify which products come from the rebel region. The impact of the boycott campaign is hard to measure to date. “We have had some clients who have bought less,” especially in Madrid, Rosa Rebula, a manager at cava producer Rosell i Formosa, told AFP. But she said the company will only be able to confirm the trend in November — a peak period for sales of cava ahead of the Christmas holiday season.

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CIA/FBI got to Trump? They’ve had 50 years to redact docs, but need 6 months more? Best comment I read: A whole generation knows where they were when Kennedy was shot, except George HW Bush. Turns out he was in Dallas.

New JFK Files Reveal FBI Warning On Oswald And Soviets’ Missile Fears (G.)

The US government released 2,800 documents on Thursday, but President Donald Trump delayed the release of others, saying he had “no choice” but to consider “national security, law enforcement and foreign affairs concerns” raised mostly by the FBI and CIA. One of the first interesting documents to be unearthed, as journalists, scholars and the public pored over them, was a memo written by director J Edgar Hoover that said the FBI had warning of a potential death threat to Oswald, who was then in police custody. “There is nothing further on the Oswald case except that he is dead,” Hoover wrote on 24 November 1963. “Last night we received a call in our Dallas office from a man talking in a calm voice and saying he was a member of a committee organized to kill Oswald.

[..] The files comprise almost the final 1% of records held by the federal government and their publication follows a release in July when the record-keepers, the National Archives, posted 3,801 documents online, mostly formerly released documents with previously redacted portions. An administration official told reporters on Thursday that the files that remain secret have information that “remains sensitive depending on its context”. Trump ordered the agencies to review those redactions over the course of six months, the official said, to ensure more documents reach the public. The next deadline for documents is 26 April 2018. According to the National Archives, 88% of records related to Kennedy’s murder were already fully open and another 11% released but partially redacted. In total, that makes for about 5m pages.

The newly released documents also reveal that Soviet Union leaders considered Oswald a “neurotic maniac who was disloyal to his own country and everything else”, according to an FBI memo documenting reactions in the USSR to the assassination. The Soviet officials feared a conspiracy was behind the death of Kennedy, perhaps organised by a rightwing coup or JFK’s successor Lyndon Johnson. They also feared a war in the aftermath of Kennedy’s death, according to the memo: “Our source further stated that Soviet officials were fearful that without leadership, some irresponsible general in the United States might launch a missile at the Soviet Union.”

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How many more?

Australian Court Rules Deputy PM Ineligible For Parliament (R.)

Australia’s High Court ruled on Friday that Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is ineligible to remain in parliament, a stunning decision that cost the government its one-seat parliamentary majority and forced a by-election. The Australian dollar fell a quarter of a U.S. cent after the unexpected decision. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he accepted the court’s ruling, even though it was “clearly not the outcome we were hoping for”. Turnbull did not name a new deputy leader during a short news conference in Canberra soon after the court’s ruling. The Australian leader had been scheduled to travel to Israel on Saturday for a week-long visit but a spokesman for Turnbull told Reuters his departure has now been delayed. The spokesman said the new travel arrangements are still be finalised.

Turnbull’s center-right coalition is now in a precarious position. His Liberal Party is the senior party in a coalition with the smaller National Party, which Joyce led. He must now win the support of one of three independent lawmakers to keep his minority government afloat, with two sitting weeks of parliament left until it recesses for the year. At least two independent lawmakers have promised their support. Independent MP Bob Katter told Reuters he would support the government, but he may reconsider that if the coalition tried to block renewed efforts for a sweeping investigation into the scandal-ridden financial system. “I think we have the numbers for a commission into the banks and, if the government tries to block that, then I think we will get into murky waters,” Katter said. The opposition Labor Party immediately went on the attack and threatened to launch a legal challenge to every decision made by Joyce since last year’s election.

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Great intentions. But she has to talk to Trump, Xi et al.

‘I Want The Government … To Bring Kindness Back’ (RNZ)

Shortly before she was sworn in as the new Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern spoke to Checkpoint with John Campbell as she was on her way to Government House in a Crown car. She said she wants the new government to “feel different”, to be empathetic and kind. There was a significant part of her that was focused on the work that needed to be done, she said. “Once you’re there, get on with it.” She said she wanted the government to feel different. “I want it to feel like we are a government that’s truly focused on everybody. Perhaps I’m more acutely aware of that sense having now led a set of negotiations in our government that brings together a range of parties.

“I know I need to transcend politics in the way that I govern for this next term of Parliament but I also want this government to feel different, I want people to feel that it’s open, that it’s listening and that it’s going to bring kindness back. “I know that will sound curious but to me if people see they have an empathetic government I think they’ll truly understand that when we’re making hard calls that we’re doing it with the right focus in mind.” She said there were tough times during the coalition negotiations. “It’s not about just preserving people’s political careers. It’s not about power. It’s about being in a position to make a difference to people who need it most. “This will be a government that works with others. “There is a lot to do.” Asked if there was a central tenet to her approach to the new role, she said it was empathy.

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