May 272020
 


G. G. Bain Metropolitan Opera baritone Giuseppe De Luca, New York 1920

 

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)
WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)
Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)
Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .
Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)
China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)
Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)
Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)
How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)
Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)
Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)
Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)
Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)
The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

 

 

• 100,000 deaths broached in the US.

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 19,582
• Brazil + 17,838
• Russia + 8,915
• UK 4,938
• India + 6,604
• Peru + 5,772

 

 

 

 

 

We’re back to “normal” numbers: about 100,000 new cases and 4,500 new deaths.

Cases 5,709,518 (+ 99,864 from yesterday’s 5,609,654)

Deaths 352,750 (+ 4,428 from yesterday’s 348,322)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- Note: see bottom 2: Pakistan passed Belgium in cases, but has 5 deaths per million pop. vs Belgium’s 806.

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Capitalism at its peak.

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)

Desperation for the limited supply of remdesivir is so great that Virginia will hold a lottery to determine which of the almost 1,500 severely ill patients in the state will be able to get its several hundred donated doses of the drug. In Minnesota, state officials have come up with an action plan to allocate their supply of the Covid-19 treatment, which calls for designating “triage officers” who will randomly choose among equally eligible patients. And in Alabama, physicians on a coronavirus task force set up by the governor will determine which patients get remdesivir. Some hospitals there will receive just a single course of treatment. Still, Alabama’s state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, recently offered his thanks to Gilead, the drug’s manufacturer, which donated some 940,000 vials of the drug to the federal government that are being distributed by state health departments.

“Although the total supply of remdesivir is limited, we are grateful that hospitalized COVID-19 patients with severe disease in Alabama can receive this potentially lifesaving medication,” said Harris. It is amid these feelings of scarcity and indebtedness that Gilead is setting the price for its antiviral medicine. The company, which has already arranged for distribution of remdesivir in 127 countries, is expected to begin selling it commercially as soon as June. And while a 10-day course of the drug, which was developed as a potential Ebola treatment with at least $79 million in U.S. government funding, costs only about $10 to produce, according to an estimate by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, its market price is expected to be several hundred times that amount.

Still, price gouging isn’t what has many scientists upset about remdesivir. It’s the fact that the coronavirus drug that has boosted hopes and sent Gilead’s stock price (and according to some analysts, the entire stock market) soaring doesn’t seem to do much for coronavirus patients. said William Haseltine, a scientist who has spent decades studying viruses and helped lead the U.S. government response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “It is comparable to Tamiflu and maybe not even as good,” Haseltine added, referring to another antiviral drug that has been available by prescription for 20 years and is expected to be sold over the counter in the coming months.

Haseltine, who founded the divisions of biochemical pharmacology and human retrovirology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, pointed out that Gilead hasn’t released data showing remdesivir’s effect on viral load in people with Covid-19. Meanwhile, the only available information on how the drug affects the amount of the coronavirus in patients, a Chinese study of the drug published in The Lancet, showed that the drug did not lower the viral load. “That’s why I call it the fuzzy-wuzzy drug,” said Haseltine. “When the Chinese tried to find the antiviral effect, it wasn’t there.” Instead, the excitement about remdesivir is based largely on a study sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that showed people taking the drug had a faster recovery than those who didn’t take it: 11 days on average compared to 15 for those taking a placebo.

An article published on May 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed mild improvement in hospitalized patients that took remdesivir, though the drug didn’t appear to be of any help to the sickest patients, who needed to receive high-flow oxygen through ventilators or other means. Nor did the drug significantly improve a patient’s chance of surviving Covid-19. Nevertheless, at an April 29 Oval Office press conference with President Donald Trump, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci declared that preliminary results from that trial proved that “a drug can block this virus.” Since then, remdesivir has been positioned as our savior and Gilead as its benevolent dispenser.

While some patients and their families have spent the past few weeks frantically trying to procure remdesivir, another Covid-19 treatment has been quietly been shown to be more effective. Although neither option appears to be the much-needed cure for Covid-19, a three-drug regimen offered a greater reduction in the time it took patients to recover than remdesivir did. People who took the combination of interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin got better in seven days as opposed to 12 days for those who didn’t take it. Critically, the treatment has another leg up on Gilead’s: It clearly reduced the amount of the coronavirus in patients who took it, according to a study published in The Lancet on May 8.

Yet so far there has been no stampede of patients demanding the new regimen or lotteries to mete out the doses, which may be due at least in part to the fact that the treatment hasn’t been the subject of a major marketing campaign. It’s worth noting that each of the three drugs in the new combination is generic, or no longer under patent, which means that no company stands to profit significantly from its use.

Read more …

We’d want to see all the other research from the past 65 years as well, please.

WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday promised a swift review of data on hydroxychloroquine, probably by mid-June, after safety concerns prompted the group to suspend the malaria drug’s use in a large trial on COVID-19 patients. U.S. President Donald Trump and others have pushed hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, but the WHO on Monday called time after the British journal The Lancet reported patients getting hydroxychloroquine had increased death rates and irregular heartbeats. “A final decision on the harm, benefit or lack of benefit of hydroxychloroquine will be made once the evidence has been reviewed,” the body said. “It is expected by mid-June.”


Those already in a 17-country study, called Solidarity, of thousands of patients who have started hydroxychloroquine can finish their treatment, the WHO said. Newly enrolled patients will get other treatments being evaluated, including Gilead Science’s remdesivir and AbbVie’s Kaletra/Aluvia. Separate hydroxychloroquine trials, including a 440-patient U.S. study by Swiss drugmaker Novartis, are continuing enrollment. Novartis and rival Sanofi have pledged donations of tens of millions of doses of the drug, also used in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, for COVID-19. Novartis said The Lancet study, while covering 100,000 people, was “observational” and could not demonstrate a causal link between hydroxychloroquine and side effects. “We need randomised, controlled clinical trials to clearly understand efficacy and safety,” a Novartis spokesman said.

Read more …

You can’t do accurate testing for antibodies if too small a segment of a population is infected.

Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)

Antibody tests used to determine if people have been infected in the past with Covid-19 might be wrong up to half the time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance posted on its website. Antibody tests, often called serologic tests, look for evidence of an immune response to infection. “Antibodies in some persons can be detected within the first week of illness onset,” the CDC says. They are not accurate enough to use to make important policy decisions, the CDC said. “Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities,” the CDC says.

“Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.” Health officials or health care providers who are using antibody tests need to use the most accurate test they can find and might need to test people twice, the CDC said in the new guidance. “In most of the country, including areas that have been heavily impacted, the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibody is expected to be low, ranging from less than 5% to 25%, so that testing at this point might result in relatively more false positive results and fewer false-negative results,” the CDC said.

[..] The CDC explains why testing can be wrong so often. A lot has to do with how common the virus is in the population being tested. “For example, in a population where the prevalence is 5%, a test with 90% sensitivity and 95% specificity will yield a positive predictive value of 49%. In other words, less than half of those testing positive will truly have antibodies,” the CDC said. “Alternatively, the same test in a population with an antibody prevalence exceeding 52% will yield a positive predictive greater than 95%, meaning that less than one in 20 people testing positive will have a false positive test result.”

Read more …

While just 15 have seen cases fall for 14 days.

Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .

Twenty U.S. states reported an increase in new cases of COVID-19 for the week ended May 24, up from 13 states in the prior week, as the death toll from the novel coronavirus approaches 100,000, according to a Reuters analysis. Alabama had the biggest weekly increase at 28%, Missouri’s new cases rose 27% and North Carolina’s rose 26%, according to the analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak. New cases in Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, rose 21% after two weeks of declines. The state attributed the increase to a backlog of test results and more testing. Nationally, new cases of COVID-19 fell 0.8% for the week ended May 24, compared with a decline of 8% in the prior week.


All 50 states have now at least partially reopened, raising fears among some health officials of a second wave of outbreaks. The increase in cases could also be due to more testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended states wait for their daily number of new COVID-19 cases to fall for 14 days before easing social distancing restrictions. As of May 24, 15 states had met that criteria, up from 13 in the prior week, according to the Reuters analysis. Washington state, where the U.S. outbreak started, has the longest streak with cases falling for eight weeks in a row, followed by Hawaii at seven weeks and Pennsylvania and New York at six weeks.

Read more …

Viruses don’t use strategies. That’s just another absurdity provoked by all the war comparisons. How can you be at war with something that’s not even considered alive? You might as well declare war on a rock or a mountain, or the sky, the ocean.

The vast majority of people alive in the west today have no first hand experience of war, and neither do the politicians who speak to them in terms of war. What makes them feel comfortable with the language, then? Is it Hollywood?

Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)

The novel coronavirus uses the same strategy to evade attack from the human immune system as HIV, according to a new study by Chinese scientists. Both viruses remove marker molecules on the surface of an infected cell that are used by the immune system to identify invaders, the researchers said in a non-peer reviewed paper posted on preprint website bioRxiv.org on Sunday. They warned that this commonality could mean Sars-CoV-2, the clinical name for the virus, could be around for some time, like HIV. Virologist Zhang Hui and a team from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou also said their discovery added weight to clinical observations that the coronavirus was showing “some characteristics of viruses causing chronic infection”.


Their research involved collecting killer T cells from five patients who had recently recovered from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Those immune cells are generated by people after they are infected with Sars-CoV-2 – their job is to find and destroy the virus. But the killer T cells used in the study were not effective at eliminating the virus in infected cells. When the scientists took a closer look they found that a molecule known as major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, was missing. The molecule is an identification tag usually present in the membrane of a healthy cell, or in sick cells infected by other coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars. It changes with infections, alerting the immune system whether a cell is healthy or infected by a virus.

Coronavirus spread would dramatically drop if 80% of a population wore masks – AI researcher

Read more …

Zhong Nanshan again, who said in late January that the epidemic in Wuhan would be over in 10 days. That was spoken as a Beijing mouthpiece, and that’s what he still is.

China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)

The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has shocked the scientist leading the fight against the disease in China, with the respiratory disease expert attributing the magnitude of American fatalities to a failure by policymakers to heed scientists’ advice. More than 1.66 million Covid-19 infections have been reported in the US, with 98,226 people dying from the disease – the highest number of deaths for any country. In all, 5.49 million people have been infected globally and more than 340,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. “Seventeen years ago, the Sars epidemic was handled so well in the US, completely differently from the situation now,” said Zhong Nanshan, director of the National Clinical Research Centre for Respiratory Disease and the leader of a team of scientists advising the government.

“You can say that [the US] carried out very extensive screening or more screening than other countries … But the heavy casualties still shocked me,” he said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post. Zhong said his counterparts in the US told him that the American system was ill-prepared for the epidemic, despite the country’s high level of medical care, equipment and facilities. He said this was similar to the early response in Wuhan – the central Chinese city where the outbreak was first identified – when many medical personnel were infected and died. But the main problem in the US was the failure to listen to medical experts, he said. As a result, US President Donald Trump “underestimated the disease’s infectious power as well as its harmful nature. He thought it was a big flu.

US officials also did not listen to medical experts’ views concerning the reopening of the economy, he said. “Opening the economy quickly can be risky. I think they should follow the rules of science and reopen the economy step by step,” Zhong said. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has cautioned against businesses reopening too soon because of the threat of a second wave of infections. Fauci, who is the government’s top medical specialist, has said repeatedly that “the virus will decide when the country is to open back up”.

Read more …

Do explain, Justin. Tell us how you do not see elderly people as disposable. See, there’s no way you never saw a single complaint before the virus came.

Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)

Canadian troops deployed to long-term care homes overwhelmed by coronavirus outbreaks found neglected and malnourished residents, rotten food and insect infestations, and a blatant disregard for critical safety protocol, according to a bombshell report from the country’s armed forces. Military medics were dispatched to long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario in late April, with aim of blunting Covid-19 outbreaks among vulnerable populations. Soldiers deployed to five of Ontario’s worst-hit care homes encountered rotten food, cockroaches and residents in soiled diapers, according to the report published on Tuesday. At one facility, residents had not been bathed in weeks. At another, staff made “derogatory or inappropriate comments directed at residents’”.

Neglect of resident hygiene and health, often leading to infection, was documented at all facilities. At one point, “patients [were] observed crying for help with staff not responding for 30 mins to over two hours,” the report said. [..] Long-term care homes in Canada, many of which are privately run, have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with residents making up nearly eight out of 10 Covid-19-related deaths across the country. The damage has been felt most acutely in Ontario and Quebec, which have the vast majority of the country’s coronavirus cases and fatalities. An estimated 225 people died at the five homes where the military was assisting in Ontario.

The report chronicled widespread “burnout” among staff, a number of whom hadn’t seen family in weeks. The military also found numerous examples of staff showing little knowledge of how to properly wear personal protective equipment when dealing with coronavirus cases. [..] Meanwhile, the Canadian military said today that some 36 members working in long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec have become sick with Covid-19.

Read more …

Peak America.

Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)

In 2018, hospitals, nursing homes, and their lobbyists gave $2.3 million to New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s political apparatus. Now health care executives are getting immunity for their deadly negligence during the coronavirus pandemic. Critics say New York’s liability shield is linked to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic.

As Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful health care industry group suddenly poured more than $1 million into a Democratic committee backing his campaign. Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing-home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The provision, inserted into an annual budget bill by Cuomo’s aides, created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for health care industry officials, according to legal experts.

Critics say Cuomo removed a key deterrent against nursing home and hospital corporations cutting corners in ways that jeopardize lives. As those critics now try to repeal the provision during this final week of Albany’s legislative session, they assert that data prove such immunity is correlating to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic — both in New York and in other states enacting similar immunity policies. New York has become one of the globe’s major pandemic hot spots — and the epicenter of the state’s outbreak has been nursing homes, where more than five thousand New Yorkers have died, according to Associated Press data.

Those deaths have occurred as Cuomo’s critics say he has taken a hands-off approach to regulating the health care industry interests that helped bankroll his election campaign. In March, Cuomo’s administration issued an order that allowed nursing homes to readmit sick patients without testing them for COVID-19. Amid allegations of undercounted casualties, the governor also pushed back against pressure to have state regulators more stringently record and report death rates in nursing homes. And then came Cuomo’s annual budget — which included a little-noticed passage shielding corporate officials who run New York hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities from liability for COVID-related deaths and injuries.

Read more …

You think we’ll listen now, listen more, listen better? I predict yes, we will. For two whole weeks.

How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)

Coronavirus has ravaged care homes across Europe and America, killing tens of thousands, but in Hong Kong, not a single resident in care has even contracted Covid-19. Its apparent success offers vital lessons – ones that the city learned the hard way almost two decades ago. In Sweden and Belgium, care home residents make up roughly half of each country’s Covid-19 deaths. In Spain alone, almost 18,000 nursing home residents have died from the virus, El País estimates. And in England and Wales, more than 90 per cent of those who have died from the coronavirus have been people over the age of 65, including 12,500 care home residents, according to the Office for National Statistics.

No one would have been surprised if Hong Kong suffered from a major Covid-19 epidemic. It shares a border with mainland China, which is crossed by hundreds of thousands of people every day. Most of the city’s tourists come from the mainland, accounting for tens of millions of visitors every year. In early February, Hong Kong had its first death from coronavirus – only the second death outside of mainland China. But to this day, there have been only four Covid-19 deaths in Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million. This is not the first time Hong Kong has faced a novel coronavirus. In 2003, six years after the former British colony was handed back to China, it became the epicentre of the SARS outbreak: 299 people died, accounting for almost 40 per cent of the global death toll. The disease had first appeared the year before in Guangdong, the Chinese province that borders Hong Kong.

As is the case with Covid-19, the elderly were the most susceptible to SARS, and similar to the UK, about a fifth of Hong Kong’s population is over the age of 65. By the epidemic’s end, 54 nursing homes had had cases of SARS. Two nursing home workers died. It was not a trauma the industry would quickly forget. “The nightmare of SARS is still on everyone’s minds, so [care homes] were really afraid,” Prof Terry Lum, the head of the department of social work and social administration at the University of Hong Kong, told The Independent. “We had learned a very painful lesson,” he continued, “and since then the nursing homes had been preparing for another outbreak.” Seventeen years after SARS, Hong Kong’s nursing homes were taking no chances.

On 21 January, an infected tourist from Wuhan crossed the border into Hong Kong, becoming the city’s first case. Four days later, the government announced that it would be enacting the emergency phase of its infectious disease protocol. Because of Hong Kong’s collective memory of SARS, individuals, organisations and businesses did not need to wait for instructions from the government. Nursing homes enacted their own measures, Prof Lum recounted. They began limiting the length of workers’ leaves, in order to prevent them from taking weekend trips to mainland China and possibly bringing the virus back. When nursing homes were instructed to take the temperature of all visitors, they took it one step further: they banned visitors altogether, effectively closing off their residents from the outside world by the end of January. There were still only 13 confirmed cases in Hong Kong at the time.

Read more …

Send your kid to law school. That’s where the money is.

Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)

Camping in Scarborough, Maine. Gathering for church in Chincoteague, Virginia. Or just grabbing a burger at Poopy’s Pub and Grub in Savanna, Illinois. Each of these activities became the subject of a federal lawsuit, as residents, businesses and even lawmakers challenged state shutdown orders designed to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. The cases test where the lines are safely drawn, as governors balance protecting public health against individual liberties. Governors say strict rules save lives, but critics who are forced to stay home or shutter their businesses called the steps “draconian” or compared them to “house arrest.” The lawsuits come as President Donald Trump has become increasingly vocal in criticism of state restrictions, encouraged protests at state capitols and urged churches to reopen despite restrictions.

More than 1,300 state and federal lawsuits have been filed over COVID-19, including 240 dealing with civil rights, as of Friday, according to Hunton Andrews Kurth, a law firm tracking the cases. USA TODAY reviewed more than 80 lawsuits that often dealt with conditions at prisons and nursing homes, voting rights, and university tuition. USA TODAY focused on legal challenges to restrictions such as stay-at-home orders and business closures, and also whether abortion or church services can be limited during the pandemic, to gauge which orders were being challenged and how states were responding. The eventual rulings could redefine the balance between state police powers and constitutional rights that advocates contend are too important to sacrifice even temporarily.

Abortions are time sensitive. Buyers want guns during times of crisis. And parishioners seek solace at church. Other lawsuits test whether rules go beyond legislative authorities by requiring people to isolate themselves, stay apart in public and wear masks. “I tend to think there will be some new law made only because there are new scenarios that courts haven’t encountered before,” said Polly Price, a law professor at Emory University. “What they’re balancing is the scientific basis for a particular measure and the state’s need for it, in the face of uncertainty, to protect the public health.”

Read more …

CNN and the WaPo as fact-checkers. Oh boy.

No matter what else happens, Twitter just volunteered to go from being a platform to being a publisher. That has consequences.

Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)

President Trump on Tuesday night lambasted Twitter because the company slapped a message on two of his tweets that linked to a page disputing the accuracy of his posts. “@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” the president tweeted. “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he added in another tweet. Twitter labeled two of Trump’s tweets in which he warned that mail-in voting is ripe for fraud—he specifically warned that absue would be committed in California. Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month signed an executive order for every registered voter to receive mail-in ballots for the November 2020 general election.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one,” President Trump tweeted in a two-tweet series. “That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!” Twitter plastered a message on both of Trump’s tweets that says “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” That message links to a page that pushes back against the president’s assertions.

“On Tuesday, President Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the page says. “These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”

Read more …

Something tells me it will never be enough.

Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)

Japan will compile a fresh stimulus package worth $1.1 trillion that will include a sizable amount of direct spending to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, a draft of the budget obtained by Reuters showed on Wednesday. The stimulus, which will be funded partly by a second extra budget, will be on top of a $1.1 trillion package already rolled out last month, putting the total amount Japan spends to combat the virus fallout at 234 trillion yen – roughly 40% of Japan’s GDP. The government’s 117 trillion yen ($1.1 trillion) in fresh stimulus, to be compiled on Wednesday, will include 33 trillion yen in direct spending, the draft showed.


To fund the costs, Japan will issue an additional 31.9 trillion yen in government bonds under the second supplementary budget for the current fiscal year ending in March 2021, according to the draft. “We must protect business and employment by any means in the face of the tough road ahead. We must also take all necessary measures to prepare for another wave of epidemic,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a meeting with ruling party lawmakers on Wednesday. Government officials have said the new package will include steps such as an increased medical spending, aid to firms struggling to pay rent, support for students who lost part-time jobs, and more subsidies to companies hit by slumping sales. In the second extra budget, the government will also set aside 10 trillion yen in reserves that can be tapped for emergency spending, the draft showed.

Read more …

Macron comes close to giving away cars for free to save the planet.

Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)

President Emmanuel Macron announced an 8 billion euro ($8.8 billion) plan on Tuesday to make France the top producer of clean vehicles in Europe and urged French carmakers to make vehicles in their own country. French car plants are only just starting to rev up production after the coronavirus lockdown, which hit the auto sector badly, and Macron wants to accelerate the transition to electric cars to help revive the industry. “We need a motivational goal: make France Europe’s top producer of clean vehicles by bringing output (up) to more than one million electric and hybrid cars per year over the next five years,” Macron told a news conference. To achieve that goal, he said France would increase the state bonus for consumers buying electric cars to €7,000 euros ($7,690) from €6,000.


But to help dealerships sell the 400,000 vehicles left unsold because of the lockdown, Macron said people buying a traditional car would also receive a €3,000 bonus under a scheme that would apply to three-quarters of households. “Our fellow citizens need to buy more vehicles, and in particular clean ones. Not in two, five or 10 years – now,” Macron said following a visit to a Valeo car parts factory in northern France. No car model currently produced in France should be manufactured abroad, he said. Renault, which produces its Zoe electric model in France, had pledged to make a future Renault-Nissan electric engine in France and not in Asia, as initially envisaged, he said.

Read more …

It’ll be an extreme election season. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.

The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

Just 17 days before President Trump took office in January 2017, then-FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok texted bureau lawyer Lisa Page, his mistress, to express concern about sharing sensitive Russia probe evidence with the departing Obama White House. Strzok had just engaged in a conversation with his boss, then-FBI Assistant Director William Priestap, about evidence from the investigation of incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, codenamed Crossfire Razor, or “CR” for short. The evidence in question were so-called “tech cuts” from intercepted conversations between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to the texts and interviews with officials familiar with the conversations.

[..] The text messages, which were never released to the public by the FBI but were provided to this reporter in September 2018, have taken on much more significance to both federal and congressional investigators in recent weeks as the Justice Department has requested that Flynn’s conviction be thrown out and his charges of lying to the FBI about Kislyak dismissed. U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen of Missouri (special prosecutor for DOJ), the FBI inspection division, three Senate committees and House Republicans are all investigating the handling of Flynn’s case and whether any crimes were committed or political influence exerted.

The investigators are trying to determine whether Obama’s well-known disdain for Flynn, a career military intelligence officer, influenced the decision by the FBI leadership to reject its own agent’s recommendation to shut down a probe of Flynn in January 2017 and instead pursue an interview where agents might catch him in a lie. They also want to know whether the conversation about the Presidential Daily Briefings involved Flynn and “reporting” the FBI had gathered by early January 2017 showing the incoming national security adviser was neither a counterintelligence nor a criminal threat. “The evidence connecting President Obama to the Flynn operation is getting stronger,” one investigator with direct knowledge told me.

“The bureau knew it did not have evidence to justify that Flynn was either a criminal or counterintelligence threat and should have shut the case down. But the perception that Obama and his team would not be happy with that outcome may have driven the FBI to keep the probe open without justification and to pivot to an interview that left some agents worried involved entrapment or a perjury trap.” The investigator said more interviews will need to be done to determine exactly what role Obama’s perception of Flynn played in the FBI’s decision making. Recently declassified evidence show a total of 39 outgoing Obama administration officials sought to unmask Flynn’s name in intelligence interviews between Election Day 2016 and Inauguration Day 2017, signaling a keen interest in Flynn’s overseas calls.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1265258033392820228

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And a bit of Dominic Cummings at the end.

If Boris loses the Daily Mail in this fashion, what can he do?

 

 

 

 

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Jan 012016
 
 January 1, 2016  Posted by at 10:29 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


Unknown Gurley-Lord service station, San Francisco 1929

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China December Factory Activity Shrinks (Reuters)
Chicago PMI Plummets To Lowest Since 2009 (MarketWatch)
VW Buybacks, Payments For Hard-to-Fix Diesels Will Be Very Costly (GCR)
Keiser Report feat. Gerald Celente: ‘Bankism’, Oil Prices And More (RT)
EU’s Trillion Euro Bank Bail-Outs Are Over (Telegraph)
In Europe, 2016 Will Be The Year Of Lawsuits (Coppola)

“A very unrewarding year.” Yeah, well, brace yourselves.

US Stocks Close Out The Worst Year For The Market Since 2008 (AP)

U.S. stocks closed lower on Thursday, capping the worst year for the market since 2008. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index ended essentially flat for the year after the day’s modest losses nudged it into the red for 2015. Even factoring in dividends, the index eked out a far smaller return than in 2014. The Dow Jones industrial average also closed out the year with a loss. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fared better, delivering a gain for the year. “It’s a lousy end to a pretty lousy year,” said Edward Campbell, portfolio manager for QMA, a unit of Prudential Investment Management. “A very unrewarding year.” Trading was lighter than usual on Thursday ahead of the New Year’s Day holiday. Technology stocks were among the biggest decliners, while energy stocks eked out a tiny gain thanks to a rebound in crude oil and natural gas prices.

The Dow ended the day down 178.84 points, or 1%, to 17,425.03. The S&P 500 index lost 19.42 points, or 0.9%, to 2,043.94. The Nasdaq composite fell 58.43 points, or 1.2%, to 5,007.41. For 2015, the Dow registered a loss of 2.2%. It’s the first down year for the Dow since 2008. The Nasdaq ended with a gain of 5.7%. The S&P 500 index, regarded as a benchmark for the broader stock market, lost 0.7% for the year. According to preliminary calculations, the index had a total return for the year of just 1.4%, including dividends. That’s the worst return since 2008 and down sharply from the 13.7% it returned in 2014. While U.S. employers added jobs at a solid pace in 2015 and consumer confidence improved, several factors weighed on stocks in 2015.

Investors worried about flat earnings growth, a deep slump in oil prices and the impact of the stronger dollar on revenues in markets outside the U.S. They also fretted about the timing of the Federal Reserve’s first interest rate increase in more than a decade. The uncertainty led to a volatile year in stocks, which hit new highs earlier in the year, but swooned in August as concerns about a slowdown in China’s economy helped drag the three major stock indexes into a correction, or a drop of at least 10%. The markets recouped most of their lost ground within a few weeks. “The market didn’t go anywhere and earnings didn’t really go anywhere,” Campbell said.

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From $114(?) to $37 in two years time.

Oil Drops 31% In 2015 On Global Crude Glut (MarketWatch)

Oil futures ended higher Thursday in the final trading session of 2015, but posted a steep annual drop for the second year in a row as markets continue to wrestle with a global glut of crude. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light, sweet crude futures for delivery in February rose 44 cents, or 1.2%, to finish at $37.04 a barrel. For the year, the U.S. benchmark dropped 30.5% and has lost 62.4% over the last two years. Crude hadn’t dropped two years in a row since 1998. February Brent crude, the global benchmark, rose 82 cents, or 2.3%, on London’s ICE Futures exchange to settle at $37.28 a barrel. Brent fell 35% in 2015, marking its third straight yearly drop. Oil trimmed gains somewhat after oil-field services firm Baker Hughes said the total number of U.S. oil rigs fell by two this week to 536.

Oil’s bounceback on Thursday likely reflected some short covering ahead of year-end and a three-day weekend, said Phil Flynn at Price Futures. U.S. markets will be closed Friday for the New Year’s Day holiday. Flynn said traders might be nervous about maintaining short positions amid rising tensions within Iran that could threaten the implementation of a nuclear accord that was expected to result in the lifting of sanctions that have prevented the country from exporting oil. Iran’s president has ordered his defense minister to expedite the country’s ballistic missile program following newly planned U.S. sanctions, he said Thursday, according to The Wall Street Journal. With U.S. production “growing for the last few weeks and global inventories being near storage limits, this is yet another reminder that the supply glut could take a long time to clear, which may mean even lower oil prices in the near term,” said Fawad Razaqzad at Forex.com.

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Platinum and palladium are the more interesting metals when it comes to determining where economies are going.

Gold Sinks 10% For 3rd Annual Loss as Platinum, Palladium Hit Hard (Reuters)

Gold was steady on Thursday, ending the year down 10% for its third straight annual decline, ahead of another potentially challenging year in 2016 amid the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates and a robust dollar. Largely influenced by U.S. monetary policy and dollar flows, the price of gold fell 10% in 2015 as some investors sold the precious metal to buy assets that pay a yield, such as equities. The most-active U.S. gold futures for February delivery settled at $1,060.2 per ounce on Thursday, almost flat compared with Wednesday’s close of $1,059.8 and close to six-year lows of $1,046 per ounce earlier in December. Spot gold was down 0.2% at $1,061.4 an ounce at 1:57 p.m. EDT, during the last trading session of the year. Volumes were thin ahead of the New Year holiday on Friday.

“The key factor for gold remains the strong dollar and that ultimately trumps all other issues including the economy and the geopolitics,” said Ross Norman, CEO of bullion broker Sharps Pixley. The dollar was on track for a 9% gain this year against a basket of major currencies, making dollar-denominated gold more expensive for holders of other currencies. Other precious metals have also been hit by dollar strength and the gold slump, and were headed for sharp annual declines. The most-active U.S. silver futures settled at $13.803 per ounce on Thursday, down 0.3% from Wednesday and ending the year down 12%. Spot prices were down 0.2% at $13.83 an ounce. Industrial metals platinum and palladium were harder hit, notching up big yearly losses partly due to oversupply from mines and concerns about growth in demand. Platinum futures settled at $893.2 per ounce, down 26% from a year ago, while the most-active palladium futures ended at $562, down 30% on the year.

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Copper and zinc -25%, nickel -42%, palladium -30%, platinum -26%.

Copper Ends Dismal Year on a Low Note (WSJ)

Copper prices fell in London on Thursday ending a dismal year as industrial metals were battered by a toxic mix of oversupply and concern over demand from China. Analysts don’t expect much respite for copper in 2016, with the oversupply expected to continue and the macroeconomic picture still uncertain. Among other factors, commodity prices have been hit by a stronger dollar, and few economists expect the greenback to weaken in any meaningful way. “I think that the bear market is not totally complete,” said Boris Mikanikrezai, an analyst at financial markets research company Fastmarkets. “Although a temporary rally in metal prices is possible over a one-to-three-month horizon, the macro fundamental picture may warrant lower prices.”

On Thursday, the London Metal Exchange’s three-month copper contract was down 0.5% at $4,720.50 a metric ton in midmorning European trade. Other base metals were mixed. Copper has lost about a quarter of its value this year. Among other base metals, nickel has lost 42%, zinc is down 25% while aluminum fell 18% over the year. “In retrospect, 2015 will be considered a year that can be safely forgotten when it comes to copper,” analysts at Aurubis, Europe’s largest copper producer, said in a report.

Worries about the health of the Chinese economy will continue to roil metals markets in 2016, analysts said. The country is the biggest source of global demand for metals, accounting for nearly half of total global zinc consumption, 45% of global copper consumption and 40% of lead production. “It will be another challenging year for China and that will affect metals,” said Xiao Fu, head of commodity markets strategy at BOCI Global Commodities. “Still, we expect the government’s fiscal stimulus package announced this year to provide some support for demand in 2016.”

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More to come.

Half a Million Bank Jobs Have Vanished Since 2008 Crisis (BBG)

Staff reductions at some of the world’s biggest banks are far from over. Deutsche Bank, which has held employment close to its 2010 peak, plans to slash 26,000 positions by 2018, following a trend that began with the financial crisis. Announced cuts in the fourth quarter total at least 47,000, following 52,000 lost jobs in the first nine months of 2015. That would bring the aggregate figure since 2008 to about 600,000. UniCredit says it will eliminate about 18,200 positions. Citigroup, which has reduced its workforce by more than a third, plans to eliminate at least 2,000 more jobs next year.

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Not growing slower, but contracting.

China December Factory Activity Shrinks (Reuters)

China looked set for a soggy start to 2016 after activity in the manufacturing sector contracted for a fifth straight month in December, suggesting the government may have to step up policy support to avert a sharper slowdown. While China’s services sector ended 2015 on a strong note, the economy still looked set to grow at its slowest pace in a quarter of a century despite a raft of policy easing steps, including repeated interest rate cuts, in the past year or so. The world’s second-largest economy faces persistent risks this year as leaders have pledged to push so-called “supply-side reform” to reduce excess factory capacity and high debt levels.

The official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) stood at 49.7 in December, in line with expectations of economists polled by Reuters and up only fractionally from November. A reading below 50 suggests a contraction in activity. Still, economists seemed to find some comfort that there were no signs of a sharper deterioration which has been feared by global investors. The slight pick up in the manufacturing PMI “suggests that (economic) growth momentum is stabilizing somewhat … however, the sector is still facing strong headwinds, said Zhou Hao, China economist at Commerzbank in Singapore. “In order to facilitate the destocking and deleveraging process, monetary policy will remain accommodative and the fiscal policy will be more proactive.”

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More contracting economic activity.

Chicago PMI Plummets To Lowest Since 2009 (MarketWatch)

Economic activity in the Midwest contracted at the fastest pace in more than six years in December, according to the Chicago Business Barometer, also known as the Chicago PMI. The index fell to 42.9 from 48.7 in November. Economists had expected it to rise 1.3 points to 50 in the December reading. The index has spent much of the year below the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction. Order backlogs were the biggest drag in December, dropping 17.2 points to 29.4. That’s the lowest since May 2009 and marked the 11th-straight month in contraction. The last time such a sharp decline was registered was 1951. New orders also sank to the lowest level since May 2009. That’s bad news for activity down the road. Still, 55.1% of survey respondents said they expect stronger demand in 2016 than in 2015.

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TBTF banks will still be protected.

EU’s Trillion Euro Bank Bail-Outs Are Over (Telegraph)

Europe has called an end to the era of mass bank bail-outs as new rules to stop taxpayers from footing the cost of financial rescues come into force. Private sector creditors will be forced to take the hit for bank failures as the EU seeks to end the age of “too big to fail”, which has cost member states more than €1 trillion since 2008. The measures – which will come into force on January 1 and apply to eurozone states – are designed to break the vicious cycle between lenders and governments that bought the single currency to its knees four years ago. Senior bondholders and depositors over €100,000 will be in line to be “bailed-in” if a bank goes bust, a departure from the mass government-funded rescues seen in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece in the wake of the financial crisis.

Brussels’ tough new Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD) will require shareholders and bond owners to incur losses of at least 8pc of their total liabilities before receiving official sector aid. Britain will not be subject to the rules. The EU’s commissioner for financial stability, Britain’s Jonathan Hill, said: “No longer will the mistakes of banks have to be borne on shoulders of the many”. Struggling banks in Italy, Portugal and Greece have rushed to recapitalise themselves in a bid to avoid falling foul of the new regime. The rules resemble the bail-in of creditors first seen in the eurozone during Cyprus’ banking crash in 2013, where savers were forced to endure losses as part of the international rescue package.

More than €1.6 trillion (£1.18 trillion) has been pumped into troubled banks by member states between October 2008 and December 2012, according to figures from the European Commission. This amounts to 13pc of the bloc’s total economic output (GDP) and imperiled the public finances of Ireland and Spain. “We now have a system for resolving banks and of paying for resolution so that taxpayers will be protected from having to bail-out banks if they go bust”, said Lord Hill. A new eurozone wide insolvency fund, the Single Resolution Mechanism, will also become operational on January 1. It will build up contributions from the banking industry over the next eight years to use in cases of financial collapse. Europe’s banks have been required to beef up their capital buffers and comply with tough new regulations in the wake of the financial crisis.

The ECB has also assumed direct supervisory responsibility for 129 “systemically” important lenders in a bid to create a fully-fledged banking union in the currency bloc. However, analysts have warned Brussels’ tentative steps towards banking union remain incomplete and could cause more uncertainty for ordinary depositors after January 1. “Taking 8pc losses from creditors has never been tested in reality”, said Nicolas Veron, of think-tank Bruegel. “The first few test cases will be very important . There is the combination of uncertainty over how the SRM will work with ECB, and then additional uncertainty over how creditor losses will work in practice.”

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$10 billion in the US alone, before lawsuits?!

VW Buybacks, Payments For Hard-to-Fix Diesels Will Be Very Costly (GCR)

Hundreds of thousands of diesel-VW owners are waiting to find out how their cars will be updated to meet emissions standards, once modifications are approved by regulators. And Volkswagen Group has clearly been tarnished by the emission-cheating scandal, which affects 11 million cars worldwide. But the costs of the entire affair remain to be tallied; some analysts have said that the $7.1 billion set aside several months ago will not be nearly enough. A Bloomberg article earlier this month cites an estimate by Bloomberg Intelligence that payments and buybacks for owners in the U.S. alone could range from $1.5 billion to $8.9 billion. And those are just the damages or buyback payments that “customers should get for being duped into buying high-polluting vehicles,” it notes.

About 157,000 of the 482,000 affected 2.0-liter TDI diesel cars sold in the U.S. with “defeat device” software are already fitted with Selective Catalytic Reduction after-treatment systems (also known as urea injection). They’re likely to require no more than software updates or perhaps minor hardware tweaks to bring them into compliance. VW then might only have to pay owners for diminished value, plus some penalty. But for 325,000 VW Golfs, Jettas, and Beetles and Audi A3 cars without the SCR systems fitted, the prognosis is much grimmer. Most analysts agree that the cost and complexity of retrofitting a urea tank, a different catalyst, and all the associated plumbing could exceed the value of cars that are now as much as seven years old. Those cars, some suggest, may all have to be bought back and either destroyed or exported.

Using an average price of $15,000, that would cost $4.9 billion alone–before any civil or criminal penalties are levied. On top of the hundreds of thousands of 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI cars, 85,000 more VW, Audi, and Porsche vehicles were sold in the U.S. with a 3.0-liter V-6 TDI engine. That engine contains several undisclosed software routines, and one of those qualifies as a “defeat device” as well. The admission by Volkswagen that it cheated makes the case close to unique, suggests Paul Hanly, a plaintiffs’ lawyer quoted in the Bloomberg article. It may point to an early settlement, he says, since culpability doesn’t have to be established first. All that’s left is to settle on the costs and penalties. That just applies, however, to more than 450 lawsuits filed by Volkswagen customers in the wake of the mid-September disclosure.

On December 8, those lawsuits were consolidated and will be heard in California, where a high proportion of the affected TDI diesel vehicles were sold. The state also has a large number of VW dealers. Volkswagen had opposed the designation of California, asking that the suits be heard in Detroit instead. That did not happen. On top of the customer lawsuits, which will lead to cash payments and perhaps buybacks, Volkswagen faces criminal investigations in several states. But no settlements can move forward until regulators agree on modifications to the various sets of vehicles to bring them into compliance with tailpipe emission laws. Volkswagen submitted its proposals for those updates to the U.S. EPA and the California Air Resources Board in November.On December 18, CARB extended its own deadline for responding to VW’s proposal until mid-January. That leaves owners in a holding pattern at least until then, and likely far longer.

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Andrew Jackson: “One man of courage makes a majority.”

Keiser Report feat. Gerald Celente: ‘Bankism’, Oil Prices And More (RT)

In this special New Year’s Eve episode of the Keiser Report, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert talk to trends forecaster Gerald Celente of TrendsResearch.com about the upcoming trends for 2016. They recall that a few years ago, Celente forecasted on the Keiser Report that we would see currency war, trade war and hot war, and they ask whether or not this has come true in 2015. They discuss ‘bankism’, oil prices and US election insanity and what they hold for the future of the global economy.

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They should have devised a template long ago. They didn’t because the more chaos the more calls for more union.

In Europe, 2016 Will Be The Year Of Lawsuits (Coppola)

2016 is fast approaching, and with it another phase in the EU’s attempts to make creditors pay for failed banks. The European Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (EBRRD) has been law in all EU countries since January 2015, but up till now the bail-in rules have not been fully implemented. The EBRRD provides bank regulators with four main tools for resolving a failed bank:

• Sale of the failed bank partly or entirely to another entity
• Creation of a “bridge bank” containing the good assets, which would be sold to another entity or floated as an independent business
• Creation of a “bad bank”, or asset management vehicle, which would be gradually wound down over time (to prevent state aid rules being breached, this tool must be used in conjunction with at least one of the other tools)
• Write-down of creditor claims (or conversion to equity) in order of rank.

Mergers, “bad banks” and even “bridge” banks are all familiar tools from the financial crisis. But writing down creditor claims or converting them to shares (haircut or bail in) is more controversial. During the financial crisis, creditors – and sometimes even shareholders – were made good at taxpayer expense. But these expensive bailouts have left a very sour taste, and no-one has any appetite for them anymore. These days, creditors are expected to pay. Well, some of them, anyway. In all recent bank failures (apart from Duesseldorfer Hypothekenbank), subordinated debt holders have been bailed in, leaving senior creditors untouched. This sounds straightforward: subordinated debt holders rank junior to senior unsecured bondholders and all depositors, so should expect to lose their investments first in the event of bank insolvency.

However, bailing in subordinated debt holders has proved to be anything but simple. A roll-call of recent bail-ins shows just how difficult it can be:

• In 2013, the UK’s Co-Op Bank attempted to bail in its subordinated debt holders; but the deal failed and the subordinated debt holders took over the bank, to the considerable annoyance of the Co-Op Group (the bank’s owner), which lost the majority of its stake.

• In 2014, Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santo was split in two: subordinated debt holders were left in the residual “bad bank” along with the bank’s impaired assets, while senior and official creditors sailed off into a new entity, the aptly named Novo Banco, along with all the good assets. But the Bank of Portugal now faces lawsuits from disgruntled subordinated debt holders who claim they were never given a chance to provide more capital and rescue the bank themselves, Co-Op Bank style.

• In Austria – and increasingly in Germany too – the tangled web of claims and counterclaims in the Heta mess becomes ever more complex. These days it is not even clear exactly how the claims are ranked. The settlement agreement between Heta and the State of Bavaria in October effectively converted 60% of BayernLB’s subordinated claim into a senior claim, diluting the other senior creditors – many of whom are themselves only “senior” because of deficiency guarantees from the Province of Carinthia, which the Austrian federal government has repeatedly tried (but so far failed) to repudiate.

• In the Netherlands, the government was forced to offer compensation to SNS Reaal subordinated debt holders for its expropriation of their claims.

But why should a few problems with bail-in of subordinated debt holders spoil a good directive? Undeterred, the EU is pressing ahead with the next phase. From January 2016, senior as well as subordinated creditors will be bailed in in the event of bank insolvency. Bail-in of 8% of total liabilities (plus complete wiping of equity, of course) will be required before state aid can be granted.

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