Sep 112020
 


René Magritte The Art of Conversation 1963

 

‘We Quarantined The Healthy And Exposed The Sick’ (JTN)
One in 100 COVID19 Patients Suffer Punctured Lung (RT)
UK Extradition Hearing For Julian Assange Postponed Over COVID19 Concerns (R.)
US Hinders Spanish Probe Into CIA Ties To Firm That Spied On Assange (ElPais)
Trump: If Woodward Found My Covid19 Quotes Dangerous, Why Sit On Them? (RT)
Senate Democrats Block GOP Relief Bill (Hill)
Schiff’s Latest ‘Whistleblower’ Probed By House Intel, IG, Fired From DHS (ZH)
Sidney Powell On Weissmann/Mueller Special Counsel Destroying Evidence (CT)
DOJ Records Show Members Of Mueller Team Wiped Phones During Trump Probe (Fox)
Say Goodbye To Globalization, ‘The Age Of Disorder’ Is Coming – Deutsche (RT)
Trouble Mounts For The ECB And Christine Lagarde (NaYM)
Misery In Moria Is Europe’s Migration Policy (Howden)
Macron: ‘Turkey Is No Longer A Partner In East Mediterranean’ (RT)
The Plot Against Libya: An Obama-Biden-Clinton Criminal Conspiracy (Draitser)

 

 

Not good: Global new daily cases set a new record. India adds about a third of that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conspiracy or incompetence?

‘We Quarantined The Healthy And Exposed The Sick’ (JTN)

Citizens and public authorities fixated on society-wide lockdowns as a key measure to combat COVID-19 have failed to account for the devastating effects those measures can have on society as a whole, a Stanford professor of medicine says. Jay Bhattacharya, the director of Stanford’s Program on Medical Outcomes as well as the director of the school’s Center on the Demography and Economics of Health and Aging, said in an interview this week on the John Solomon Reports podcast that he found it “shocking” that, as countless countries earlier this year moved to shut down ahead of COVID-19, so many had forgotten to “think about both the cost and benefits” of such policies. “Country after country made the same decision with a couple of exceptions,” Bhattacharya said. “And I think that was a major problem.”

The professor said the global community largely abandoned the playbooks followed during earlier pandemics, instead “jump[ing] to a global lockdown.” Bhattacharya alluded to the policies in states such as New York and Pennsylvania that instructed nursing homes to accept COVID-19-positive patients, decisions which critics have claimed led to a significantly elevated death rate in nursing homes. “We essentially, in effect, exposed people who were at high risk in nursing homes, in assisted care facilities, elderly populations,” Bhattacharya said. “We essentially, in the early days of the epidemic, did the inverse of the right policy.” “We quarantined the healthy, and we exposed the sick,” he added.

The professor noted that the World Health Organization, early on in the pandemic, suggested that the death rate for the disease might be as high as 3.4%, significantly higher than that of seasonal influenza. Revised estimates have put that rate as low as 0.26%, though some studies have put it closer to 0.5%. Health institutions “were guided by models that were not based on actual data,” Bhattacharya said. “They were based on assumptions of worst cases.” He said such policy was a “worldwide phenomenon” and not limited to any one country. [..] “I can’t understand how so many people jumped to this mitigation strategy,” he added, “when there had been a playbook … to address the epidemic in ways that took into account both the cost and benefits of the policies.”

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There are 28 million cases and counting. That’s 280,000 punctured lungs.

One in 100 COVID19 Patients Suffer Punctured Lung (RT)

As many as one in every hundred patients hospitalized with Covid-19 suffer ‘punctured lung’ according to new research led by Cambridge University, further complicating treatment for those affected. Symptoms of a pneumothorax or ‘punctured lung’ include shortness of breath and sudden, stabbing chest pains that are exacerbated by taking deep breaths during the coughing fits associated with Covid-19. A punctured lung allows air to seep out and become trapped between the outside of the lung and the chest wall, eventually leading to the organ’s collapse under the accumulated pressure.

According to the new study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, tall young men or older patients with underlying lung disease were most at risk of suffering a punctured lung while undergoing treatment for severe Covid-19 infection (they are already considered at higher risk even before infection with the coronavirus). The Cambridge researchers behind the study used admissions data from the 16 hospitals and consulted colleagues across the UK who reported similar findings. “We started to see patients affected by a punctured lung, even among those who were not put on a ventilator,” says Professor Stefan Marciniak from the Cambridge Institute of Medical Research.

[..] even patients who would not fall into the aforementioned at-risk categories might suffer punctured lungs warned Marciniak, as many of the incidents of punctured lungs were diagnosed “by chance.” Almost two thirds of patients who suffered a punctured lung survived but the researchers recorded just a 42 percent survival rate for patients over 70. Men were three times more likely to suffer a punctured lung than women, possibly as a growing body of research indicates men are disproportionately affected by severe Covid-19 than women.

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Would they really mind if Julian gets infected?

UK Extradition Hearing For Julian Assange Postponed Over COVID19 Concerns (R.)

The London extradition hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was postponed on Thursday because of concern that one of the lawyers involved might have been exposed to COVID-19. Assange is fighting extradition to the United States where he is wanted for conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law over the release of confidential cables by WikiLeaks in 2010-2011. Judge Vanessa Baraitser adjourned the case until Monday after being told one of the lawyers representing the United States might have been exposed to the virus. The lawyer was being tested on Thursday with the result due on Friday, she said. “At the moment we would respectfully submit we have to go ahead on the assumption that she has COVID,” Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s lawyer told London’s Old Bailey court where the hearings are taking place.


“If that is the correct assumption … we shouldn’t really be here: COVID would be here in the courtroom and it’s not possible to tell how far it’s extended,” he added. The extradition hearings began for a week in February and were due to resume in May, but were then delayed until this week because of the coronavirus lockdown. Assange’s lawyers have argued he should be granted bail because he himself is at particular risk from COVID-19 as he has suffered from respiratory infections and has had heart problems. However, the judge has ordered him to be kept in jail because he is considered a flight risk, having skipped bail and fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was wanted at the time to answer questions on alleged sex crimes. Those allegations have since been dropped.

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Investigating the CIA? Not done.

US Hinders Spanish Probe Into CIA Ties To Firm That Spied On Assange (ElPais)

There will be no judicial cooperation forthcoming from the United States unless a Spanish judge reveals his information sources in an investigation into alleged espionage against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while he was living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Judge José de la Mata of Spain’s High Court (Audiencia Nacional) has sent a request for judicial cooperation to US authorities as part of his probe into a Spanish private security company named UC Global S.L. and its owner David Morales, on allegations that this firm secretly recorded Assange’s private meetings with lawyers, politicians, relatives and journalists at the embassy, where he took refuge in 2012 to avoid separate legal proceedings against him in Sweden.

Morales was arrested a year ago and released pending trial. According to testimony from several protected witnesses and former UC Global workers who gave evidence in connection with the case, Morales provided the CIA with recordings, video material and reports detailing the activities of the 49-year-old Australian cyber-activist inside the diplomatic mission, where he lived until his eviction in April 2019. Judge De la Mata, who is heading the probe into UC Global, has asked US prosecutors for the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of the computers or other networked devices that allegedly connected from American soil to a server held by the private security firm at its headquarters in the southern Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera.

That server stored all the recordings made by cameras at the embassy, where UC Global was in charge of security, as well as reports drafted by company employees detailing each visit that Assange received, images of the visitors’ passports, and photographs of their cellphones and electronic devices. According to testimony by several ex-workers as well as e-mails used as evidence in the investigation, US intelligence services allegedly had access to this central server. US prosecutors have now sent a letter to María de las Heras, a liaison judge for Spain in the US, asking her to convey their demands to De la Mata. These include showing proof that the requested IP addresses are “relevant and substantial to the investigation.”

The document requests further details about the Spanish probe, including the sources of information for most of the assertions made in the request for judicial cooperation. The Spanish judge has been asked to answer a long list of questions regarding every aspect of his investigation, including who he believes that Morales was providing information to, or whether the judge thinks Morales was working for a foreign information service or as an agent for a foreign power – or whether it was simply a case of bribery. US prosecutors have asked for all this information to be relayed before October 16, otherwise “we will assume that Spanish authorities are not interested” and the request will be shelved.

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Woodward knew Trump said what he did after having been briefed by O’Brien. Who’s not a scientist. And that Trump right after talked to Fauci et al, who didn’t agree with the assessment.

Trump: If Woodward Found My COVID19 Quotes Dangerous, Why Sit On Them? (RT)

Donald Trump is hitting back at Bob Woodward’s claims that he downplayed the deadliness of Covid-19, saying if the veteran reporter really felt his approach to the pandemic was “dangerous” he should have made it public sooner. “Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If he thought they were so bad or dangerous, why didn’t he immediately report them in an effort to save lives?” the president tweeted on Thursday. Audio from Woodward’s interview with Trump discussing the coronavirus was recorded in February. It has now been released just a few weeks before Woodward’s book ‘Rage’ goes on sale — and there are reportedly more tapes soon to drop. Trump questioned whether Woodward had an “obligation” to come forward if he really felt his thoughts on the virus were so bad. “Didn’t he have an obligation to do so? No, because he knew they were good and proper answers. Calm, no panic!” he tweeted.


In the released audio, the president admits Covid-19 is “deadly” and worse than the flu. He also says he will “always play it down” so he doesn’t create public panic. Weeks after the audio was recorded, Trump publicly compared Covid-19 to the common flu. He also made public comments suggesting that the virus would eventually just “go away.” At a Wednesday press conference, the president slammed Woodward’s book and audio as a “political hit job.” While Woodward’s work is being celebrated by Trump critics, parts of his book have been disputed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who works on the White House coronavirus task force. Fauci claims he does “not recall” uttering several negative quotes about the president attributed to him in the book — and said Trump “didn’t really say anything different” about the pandemic in private than he did in public.

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Or the other way around, depending on your affiliation.

Senate Democrats Block GOP Relief Bill (Hill)

Senate Democrats blocked a GOP coronavirus bill on Thursday amid a deep stalemate over the next relief package. Senators voted 52-47 on the roughly $500 billion Republican bill, which marked the first coronavirus-related legislation the chamber has voted on since it passed a $484 billion package in April. The vote handed a symbolic victory to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who spent weeks haggling with Republicans and the White House over the contours of the pared-down GOP bill as he sought to overcome deep divisions over the path forward. GOP leadership worked behind the scenes to lock down 51 votes, a U-turn from last month when McConnell predicted that up to 20 GOP senators wouldn’t vote for any additional legislation.

GOP Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) was the only Republican to vote against the bill on Thursday. But it failed to get the 60 votes needed to overcome Thursday’s procedural hurdle as congressional Democratic leadership and the White House remain at a standoff over a fifth coronavirus package. The brinkmanship was on full display ahead of Thursday’s vote, with McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) trading barbs on the Senate floor. [..] there’s no sign that congressional Democrats or the White House is willing to break the stalemate.

Mnuchin, Meadows, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) remain far apart not only on the price tag but also on significant policy issues including unemployment insurance and more money for state and local governments. Republicans unveiled a $1.1 trillion bill in late July, and Mnuchin has suggested the White House could go as high as $1.5 trillion. But he’s also suggested this week that his focus is shifting to an end-of-the-month deadline to fund the government. There are no talks currently scheduled between the foursome.

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That record’s definitely broken.

Schiff’s Latest ‘Whistleblower’ Probed By House Intel, IG, Fired From DHS (ZH)

On Wednesday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) has unveiled a new whistleblower – former DHS intelligence official Brian Murphy, who claims that Trump administration officials at the White House and Department of Homeland Security suppressed intelligence reports that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election, and ‘altered intelligence’ related to comments made by President Trump. “We’ve received a whistleblower complaint alleging DHS suppressed intel reports on Russian election interference, altered intel to match false Trump claims and made false statements to Congress,” Schiff tweeted, adding “We will investigate.” Except, Schiff did investigate – his whistleblower – for allegedly ‘providing incomplete and potentially misleading information to Committee staff,’ according to the New York Times.


Not only that, Murphy was fired from his job as the head of DHS’s intelligence branch and reassigned after he compiled reports about protesters and journalists reporting on the Trump administration’s response to the riots in Portland, Oregon in July. “Brian Murphy, the acting under secretary for intelligence and analysis, was reassigned to a new position in the department after his office disseminated to the law enforcement community “open-source intelligence reports” containing Twitter posts of journalists, noting they had published leaked unclassified documents, according to an administration official familiar with the matter. It was not clear what Mr. Murphy’s new position would be.” -New York Times As a result of Murphy’s actions, acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf asked the Inspector General to investigate.

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“Sullivan’s court appointed amicus response brief is due [today]..”

Sidney Powell On Weissmann/Mueller Special Counsel Destroying Evidence (CT)

Michael Flynn defense attorney Sidney Powell appears for an interview with Liz MacDonald to discuss the developments in the Flynn case (note: Sullivan’s court appointed amicus response brief is due tomorrow), and the background information recently highlighted. As you review this interview, retain the 30,000/ft perspective. Ms. Powell also discusses the Weissmann/Mueller special counsel erasing evidence by wiping phones and hiding evidence of their corrupt activity. Additionally, Liz Mac circles back to the 2017 FISA report by Rosemary Collyer to support the most recent 2019 opinion filed by the FISA court showing the NSA database search abuse is ongoing.

(1) We know to a demonstrable certainty the special counsel took apart the FBI investigative file of Washington Field Office Supervisory Special Agent Brian Dugan in order to protect their corrupt investigation and the collaborative effort of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And Durham/Aldenberg knows that we know. (2) We also know with a high degree of certainty the special counsel created a missing Woods File for the Carter Page application when the IG started sniffing around and announced his intent to review the four FISA applications. And Durham/Aldenberg knows that we have strong, very strong, evidence pointing in that direction. (3) And now today we discover the same special counsel team destroyed their iPhones in an effort to cover their tracks. These three events all happened within an almost identical time-frame. C‘mon man… this is not coincidental.

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“At least 27 phones used by the Mueller team were wiped before they could be checked for records.”

DOJ Records Show Members Of Mueller Team Wiped Phones During Trump Probe (Fox)

Newly released records from the Department of Justice show that the cell phones of multiple people on then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team were “wiped” for various reasons during the probe. The records show at least several dozen phones were wiped of information because of forgotten passcodes, irreparable screen damage, loss of the device, intentional deletion or other reasons — and came before the DOJ’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) could review the devices. The documents show that Mueller deputy Andrew Weissman “accidentally wiped” his phone twice after entering the wrong passcode too many times in March 2018. Lawyer James Quarles’ phone “wiped itself” without his intervention, the records say. The documents were released after a lawsuit from the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.


[..] The records indicate Attorney Greg Andres phone was also wiped due to a forgotten passcode. And they say the phones of both Mueller deputy Kyle Freeny and Rush Atkinson were wiped accidentally after they entered the wrong passcode too many times. The records say that a phone belonging to FBI lawyer Lisa Page – whose anti-Trump texts with FBI agent Peter Strzok were of interest to investigators — was restored to factory settings when the inspector general’s office received it. Other officials, whose names are redacted, claim to have unintentionally restored their phone to its factory settings, deleting all records of communication. Next to the name of one redacted person, the record says: “Phone was in airplane mode, no passcode provided, data unable to be recovered so had to be wiped.”

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“The analysts note that the Chinese economy will be closing the gap with the US and could finally outperform it by the end of the decade.”

But doesn’t China’s growth come from globalization?

Say Goodbye To Globalization, ‘The Age Of Disorder’ Is Coming – Deutsche (RT)

The four-decade era of globalization may be coming to an end, and we could be entering “The Age of Disorder,” which will reshape both economies and politics, Deutsche Bank analysts have said in a new research note. One of the key characteristics of the new era will be the reversal of unfettered globalization, a team of analysts led by strategist Jim Reid predicted. While we saw “the best combined asset price growth of any era in history, with equity and bond returns very strong across the board” since 1980, “the Age of Disorder” is likely to break this trend. Deteriorating US-China relations is another theme (out of eight) that will define the next distinct era of modern times, “which is hastened, but not caused by, the pandemic.” The analysts note that the Chinese economy will be closing the gap with the US and could finally outperform it by the end of the decade.

“A clash of cultures and interests therefore beckons, especially as China grows closer to being the largest economy in the world,” the report says. Fortunately, this economic standoff is unlikely to trigger a real military conflict between the two states, as usually happens when a rising power tries to challenge the ruling one. Economic war – with tariffs, sanctions, and attacks in the technology sphere – will go on instead, the analysts believe. No matter who wins the 2020 presidential election in the US, the rift between the two superpowers will grow. While the coronavirus crisis has already put the European economy at a crossroads, Deutsche Bank says that the next decade may become “a make-or-break decade for Europe.” Among other factors defining the future are higher debt and helicopter money (distributing cash to the public) becoming mainstream – policies which are likely to spike inflation.

Inequality may even get worse in the post-Covid-19 world, before a backlash and reversal takes place, the bank says. Inequality is closely connected with the intergenerational gap, but the analysts expect that the number of younger voters will exceed those born before 1980 by the end of the decade. This could lead to major policy changes in many spheres – from taxes to climate.

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Doctors and pharmacists always tend to play “hard to understand”. And so do central bankers.

Trouble Mounts For The ECB And Christine Lagarde (NaYM)

Today is ECB ( European Central Bank ) day where we get the results of their latest deliberations. We may get a minor move but essentially it is one for what we have come to call open mouth operations. This is more than a little awkward when the President has already established a reputation for putting her Hermes shod foot in her mouth. Who can forget this from March 12th? “Lagarde: We are not here to close spreads, there are other tools and other actors to deal with these issues.” If you are ever not sure of the date just take a look at a chart of the Italian government bond market as it is the time when the benchmark ten-year yield doubled. As many put it the ECB had gone from “Whatever it takes” to “Whatever.”

This issue has continued and these days President Lagarde reads from a script written for her which begs the issue of whether the questions from the press corps are known in advance? It also begs the issue of who is actually in charge? This is all very different from when prompted by an admiring Financial Time representative she was able to describe herself as a “wise owl” like her brooch. Whoever was in charge got her to change her tune substantially on CNBC later and got a correcting footnote in the minutes. “I am fully committed to avoid any fragmentation in a difficult moment for the euro area. High spreads due to the coronavirus impair the transmission of monetary policy. We will use the flexibility embedded in the asset purchase programme, including within the public sector purchase programme. The package approved today can be used flexibly to avoid dislocations in bond markets, and we are ready to use the necessary determination and strength.”

Next comes her promise to unify the ECB Governing Council and have it singing from the same hymn sheet, unlike the term of her predecessor Mario Draghi. This has been crumbling over the past day or two as we have received reports of better economic expectations from some ECB members. This has been solidified by this in Eurofi magazine today. “Now that we have moved past the impact phase of the shock, we can shift our attention toward the recovery phase. Recently, forward looking confidence indicators look robust, while high frequency data suggest that mobility is recovering. These developments solidify the confidence in our baseline projection with a more favorable balance-of-risks. However, even if no further setbacks materialize economic activity will only approach pre-corona levels at the end of 2022.”

That is from Klass Knot the head of the DNB or Netherlands central bank and any doubts about his view are further expunged below. “Relying too heavily on monetary policy to get the job done might have contributed to perceptions of a “central bank put” in the recovery from the euro area debt crisis, where the ECB bore all of the downside risk to the economy.” Might?!

Read more …

Sleeping by the side of the road with little children, while cars rush by. The local stores won’t sell them anything, including water.

Misery In Moria Is Europe’s Migration Policy (Howden)

Five years ago, when the refugee camp at Moria was still just a bad idea, a local army officer was asked to assess the site. Surveying the hillside of olive groves, Stavros Miroyiannis warned the authorities they were going to “build a favela.” If they had to choose this site, he said, they should at least plan the camp as they would a village. They ignored him on both counts. Miroyiannis would go on to put his own advice into practice a few kilometers away as the camp manager at Lesvos’ much smaller and more humane Kara Tepe camp. Meanwhile, Moria, which burned to the ground this week, came to resemble a detention camp and function like the slum he predicted. And yet, while the ashes of Moria are still smoldering, the one certainty is that it will be rebuilt.

Moria, in all its miserable, dehumanizing squalor, was designed to be that way. It was not a mistake. The camp was the product of political calculations in Brussels and European capitals and that calculus has not changed. It is fireproof. When thousands, and then tens of thousands, of asylum seekers began to arrive by sea on Greece’s islands in 2015, the European Union’s strategic response was the creation of so-called “hot spots.” Moria was the largest and most notorious of these, and its architecture and evolution most graphically demonstrated its true intention. Its concrete terraces, nested fences and razor wire amounted to an anti-shelter. It was not meant to receive and give shelter, it was a spectacle intended to deter future asylum seekers.

Moria became the emblem of an EU deterrence policy in which the warehousing of asylum seekers in humiliating circumstances was the point. Any other approach was and is seen as creating a “pull factor” that will attract another 2015-style surge of arrivals. Migration experts have spent the last five years explaining to policymakers why this is not true but the base assumption has proven to be impervious to evidence. The European deterrence consensus is concealed behind technocratic jargon like “managed migration” but it is really evidence that the Continent prefers to pay the poor to contain the poorest. Europe’s leaders no longer care whether human warehouse fees are paid to Turkey or to Greece, or spent on a lower cost per capita basis in Jordan or Lebanon. The deal that underpins the consensus was the EU-Turkey statement unveiled in 2016.

That agreement foresaw Turkey preventing the departure for Europe of the vast majority of asylum seekers in return for billions of euros in financial assistance. The terms transformed refugees and migrants into a commodity that could be leveraged by the unpredictable and autocratic regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan When the deal collapsed six months ago, it quickly became apparent that there were no new ideas on the EU side. All diplomatic efforts have dwelt on renegotiating the old deal with some minor tweaks. Meanwhile, the dreadful logic of its original terms has reached its inevitable, damaging conclusion: People trying to access asylum in Europe are cast not as “people like us” but an invading horde — weapons in an asymmetric war.

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“We must be tough with the Turkish government and not with the Turkish people who deserve more than the Erdogan government..”

Macron: ‘Turkey Is No Longer A Partner In East Mediterranean’ (RT)

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the French president’s critical comments on the standoff in the eastern Mediterranean are a sign “of his own weakness and despair.” Macron “has again made an arrogant… statement,” the ministry in Ankara said after the French president urged European leaders earlier in the day to stand up to Turkey’s “unacceptable provocations.” He hosted an emergency summit in Corsica with seven leaders of EU countries that border the Mediterranean Sea at a time when Ankara seeks to expand its energy resources and influence in the eastern Mediterranean. The meeting came amid fears of an open conflict with Turkey stemming from tensions over offshore oil and gas drilling. Ankara has already lashed out at France and the EU for siding with Greece and Cyprus in the dispute.

Ahead of the Med-7 Summit, Macron said that “Turkey is no longer a partner in the Mediterranean region.” He made it clear that the meeting was summoned to clarify “red lines” if a “fruitful dialogue” with Turkey was to restart. The EU states should avoid an escalation, but that does not mean they should be passive in disputes with Ankara, Macron said. “We must be tough with the Turkish government and not with the Turkish people who deserve more than the Erdogan government,” the French leader was quoted as saying. “All unilateral actions of Turkey, such as the Turkish-Libyan memorandum, without respecting the rights of Greece, are unacceptable.”

Apart from the Foreign Ministry in Ankara, Turkey’s ruling party did not leave Macron’s comments unnoticed either, accusing him of extending his country’s “long history of colonialism.” Omer Celik, spokesman for the Justice and Development (AK) Party, described the French leader’s statement as an “old and immoral game” of colonialists. “They offered a false show of love to exploit the people, but targeted patriotic leaders,” he tweeted.

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“The cattle brands on their faces tell a story more tragic than anything produced by Hollywood. These are slaves: human beings bought and sold for their labor.”

The Plot Against Libya: An Obama-Biden-Clinton Criminal Conspiracy (Draitser)

The scorching desert sun streams through narrow slats in the tiny window. A mouse scurries across the cracked concrete floor, the scuttling of its tiny feet drowned out by the sound of distant voices speaking in Arabic. Their chatter is in a western Libyan dialect distinctive from the eastern dialect favored in Benghazi. Somewhere off in the distance, beyond the shimmering desert horizon, is Tripoli, the jewel of Africa now reduced to perpetual war. But here, in this cell in a dank old warehouse in Bani Walid, there are no smugglers, no rapists, no thieves or murderers. There are simply Africans captured by traffickers as they made their way from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, or other disparate parts of the continent seeking a life free of war and poverty, the rotten fruit of Anglo-American and European colonialism.

The cattle brands on their faces tell a story more tragic than anything produced by Hollywood. These are slaves: human beings bought and sold for their labor. Some are bound for construction sites while others for the fields. All face the certainty of forced servitude, a waking nightmare that has become their daily reality. This is Libya, the real Libya. The Libya that has been constructed from the ashes of the US-NATO war that deposed Muammar Gaddafi and the government of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The Libya now fractured into warring factions, each backed by a variety of international actors whose interest in the country is anything but humanitarian. But this Libya was built not by Donald Trump and his gang of degenerate fascist ghouls.

No, it was the great humanitarian Barack Obama, along with Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Susan Rice, Samantha Power and their harmonious peace circle of liberal interventionists who wrought this devastation. With bright-eyed speeches about freedom and self-determination, the First Black President, along with his NATO comrades in France and Britain, unleashed the dogs of war on an African nation seen by much of the world as a paragon of economic and social development. But this is no mere journalistic exercise to document just one of the innumerable crimes carried out in the name of the American people. No, this is us, the antiwar left in the United States, peering through the cracks in the imperial artifice – crumbling as it is from internal rot and political decay – to shine a light through the gloom named Trump and directly into the heart of darkness. There are truths that must be made plain lest they be buried like so many bodies in the desert sand.

To understand the depth of criminality involved in the US-NATO war on Libya, we must unravel a complex story involving actors from both the US and Europe who quite literally conspired to bring about this war, while simultaneously exposing the unconstitutional, imperial presidency as embodied by Mr. Hope and Change himself. In doing so, a picture emerges that is strikingly at odds with the dominant narrative about good intentions and bad dictators. For although Gaddafi was presented as the villain par excellence in this story told by the Empire’s scribes in corporate media, it is in fact Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, former French President Nicholas Sarkozy, French philosopher-cum-neocolonial adventurist Bernard Henri-Levy, and former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who are the real malevolent forces. It was they, not Gaddafi, who waged a blatantly illegal war on false pretenses and for their own aggrandizement. It was they, not Gaddafi, who conspired to plunge Libya into chaos and civil war from which it is yet to emerge. It was they who beat the war drums while proclaiming peace on earth and good will to men.

Read more …

 

 

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Aug 112020
 


Joan Miró Caballo, pipa y flor roja (Horse Pipe and Red Flower) 1920

 

FBI Director Wray Subpoenad For All Records Related to Crossfire Hurricane (GP)
Sen. Johnson Subpoenas FBI Director Wray, Puts Bidens On Notice (ZH)
House Will Be Out Of Session For Additional Week In September (Hill)
Schumer Says Democrats Ready For Coronavirus Aid Talks, If Republicans Move (R.)
MSNBC Public Editor Pekary: A Strained Symbiosis With Obama (CJR)
US Demands Hong Kong Exports To US Be Relabelled ‘Made in China’ (SCMP)
No, Americans Aren’t Suddenly Flying Again, Despite What the Media Says (WS)
Let The Dogs Out (Jim Kunstler)
Seattle City Council Approves Millions In Police Budget Cuts (JTN)
Lebanon PM, President Were Warned About 2,750 Tonnes Of Ammonium Nitrate (R.)
US Special Forces Active in 22 African Countries (MPN)
Libya Begins Negotiations With Greece To Demarcate Maritime Borders (LibyaR.)
Greece Armed Forces Placed On High Alert (K.)

 

 

You keep going with these numbers like this, and you might just turn me into an optimist!

The discovery of “SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies in uninfected individuals, particularly prevalent in children and adolescents”, could well do the rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly for the doctors amongst us (let’s hear you!), but a bit of good news for everyone:

“SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies were readily detectable [..] in SARS-CoV-2-uninfected individuals and were particularly prevalent in children and adolescents.”

Pre-Existing And De Novo Humoral Immunity To SARS-CoV-2 In Humans (Biorxiv)

Several related human coronaviruses (HCoVs) are endemic in the human population, causing mild respiratory infections1. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the etiologic agent of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is a recent zoonotic infection that has quickly reached pandemic proportions2,3. Zoonotic introduction of novel coronaviruses is thought to occur in the absence of pre-existing immunity in the target human population. Using diverse assays for detection of antibodies reactive with the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein, we demonstrate the presence of pre-existing humoral immunity in uninfected and unexposed humans to the new coronavirus.

SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies were readily detectable by a sensitive flow cytometry-based method in SARS-CoV-2-uninfected individuals and were particularly prevalent in children and adolescents. These were predominantly of the IgG class and targeted the S2 subunit. In contrast, SARS-CoV-2 infection induced higher titres of SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive IgG antibodies, targeting both the S1 and S2 subunits, as well as concomitant IgM and IgA antibodies, lasting throughout the observation period of 6 weeks since symptoms onset.

SARS-CoV-2-uninfected donor sera also variably reacted with SARS-CoV-2 S and nucleoprotein (N), but not with the S1 subunit or the receptor binding domain (RBD) of S on standard enzyme immunoassays. Notably, SARS-CoV-2-uninfected donor sera exhibited specific neutralising activity against SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-2 S pseudotypes, according to levels of SARS-CoV-2 S-binding IgG and with efficiencies comparable to those of COVID-19 patient sera. Distinguishing pre-existing and de novo antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 will be critical for our understanding of susceptibility to and the natural course of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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“..Crossfire Hurricane was a scam, based on absurd gossip and innuendo. This document is Exhibit A to Obamagate, the worst corruption scandal in American history.”

FBI Director Wray Subpoenad For All Records Related to Crossfire Hurricane (GP)

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) FINALLY subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray for all records related to the bureau’s CI investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane.” The subpoena, which was issued on August 6, demands Wray appear before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee by August 20 with all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. In July of 2016, Peter Strzok opened a counterintel investigation into Trump’s camp dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” on suspicions (based on no evidence) that the Russians had infiltrated Trump’s circle. The “electronic communication” that launched Crossfire Hurricane was written by Peter Strzok and obtained by Judicial Watch in May of this year as the result of a FOIA lawsuit.

The EC reveals Peter Strzok opened Crossfire Hurricane based on third-hand information that the Russian government “had been seeking prominent members of the Donald Trump campaign in which to engage to prepare for potential post-election relations should Trump be elected U.S. President.” Peter Strzok also alleged Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos claimed to an unnamed individual that “they (the Russians) could assist the Trump campaign with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.” Republican lawmakers have asked why documents related to Crossfire Hurricane have been kept secret for so many years.

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said its because the Obama Admin had no basis for opening the investigation. “No wonder the DOJ and FBI resisted the public release of this infamous ‘electronic communication’ that ‘opened’ Crossfire Hurricane – it shows there was no serious basis for the Obama administration to launch an unprecedented spy operation on the Trump campaign,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton previously stated. “We now have more proof that Crossfire Hurricane was a scam, based on absurd gossip and innuendo. This document is Exhibit A to Obamagate, the worst corruption scandal in American history.”

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Maybe that basement is soundproof, and he can’t hear you.

Sen. Johnson Subpoenas FBI Director Wray, Puts Bidens On Notice (ZH)

FBI Director Christopher Wray has been subpoenaed by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to produce “all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” which includes “all records provided or made available to the Inspector General” regarding the FISA probe, as well as documents regarding the 2016-2017 presidential transition, according to Politico. The subpoena was issued by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) as part of his investigation into the origins of Russiagate. It gives Wray until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20 to produce the documents. Johnson also released a lengthy letter on Monday in which he defended his Committee’s investigation and accused Democrats of initiating “a coordinated disinformation campaign and effort to personally attack” himself and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in order to distract from evidence his committee has gathered on Joe and Hunter Biden’s Ukraine dealings.

“We didn’t target Joe and Hunter Biden for investigation; their previous actions had put them in the middle of it,” reads the Monday letter, which outlines the timeline and connections between Joe Biden’s policy actions in Ukraine and his son Hunter’s relationship with Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, according to Just The News. “Many in the media, in an ongoing attempt to provide cover for former Vice President Biden, continue to repeat the mantra that there is ‘no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity’ related to Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board,” wrote Johnson. “I could not disagree more.”

Johnson noted evidence gathered by his committee showed Joe Biden met with his son’s business partner, Devon Archer, in April 2014 and within a month the vice president then visited Ukraine and both his son Hunter and the business partner were put on the Burisma board as the firm faced multiple corruption investigations. “Isn’t it obvious what message Hunter’s position on Burisma’s board sent to Ukrainian officials?” Johnson asked. “The answer: If you want U.S. support, don’t touch Burisma. It also raised a host of questions, including: 1) How could former Vice President Biden look any Ukrainian official (or any other world leader) in the face and demand action to fight corruption? 2) Did this glaring conflict of interest affect the work and efforts of other U.S. officials who worked on anti-corruption measures?” -Just The News

Johnson also denied that he had been on contact with, or received documents from, Russian-tied Ukrainians. “The only problem with their overblown handwringing is that they all knew full well that we have been briefed repeatedly, and we had already told them that we had NOT received the alleged Russian disinformation,” wrote Johnson. “The very transparent goal of their own disinformation campaign and feigned concern is to attack our character in order to marginalize the eventual findings of our investigation.”

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What? They’re going campaigning in COVID time? And what’s even better, they are, but Biden is not?

There are 19 weeks left in the year. House members will only be in Washington for 6 of them.

House Will Be Out Of Session For Additional Week In September (Hill)

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced Monday that the chamber won’t be called back into session until the week of Sept. 14, giving members an additional week in their districts next month. Lawmakers have been advised that they could be called back before then if there’s a deal on coronavirus-relief legislation. He said they would given 24 hours notice in the event of a vote. The House was previously scheduled to be back in session Sept. 8. Monday’s announcement gives incumbents more time to campaign in their districts ahead of November’s election. If lawmakers don’t return until mid-September, they’ll face a tight deadline to pass government funding legislation by Sept. 30 to avert a shutdown. Under the new schedule, House lawmakers will only be in Washington for six weeks through the end of the calendar year.

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Everyone’s ready as long as the other side moves first so they themselves don’t lose face. It’s a game, and not a very uplifting one.

Schumer Says Democrats Ready For Coronavirus Aid Talks, If Republicans Move (R.)

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday that Democrats are ready to return to the negotiating table over coronavirus relief, if Republicans would agree to a larger bill than they have been willing to accept up to now. “Democrats remain ready to return to the table. We need our Republicans to join us there and meet us half way and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. Last week, Schumer used similar language to urge White House negotiators to agree to a legislative package at least $1 trillion larger than the $1 trillion bill that Senate Republicans have already proposed. The White House rejected the offer, ending nearly two weeks of almost daily negotiations.

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“A less corrupt, less wealth-enslaved, less warmongering Democratic Party—a party that had paid more than lip service to the needs of working people over the previous eight years—would have walked away with the 2016 election.”

MSNBC Public Editor Pekary: A Strained Symbiosis With Obama (CJR)

Barack Obama and MSNBC have a lot in common. They are rich, sleek, and corporate-friendly. They staff their organizations with urbane meritocrats. Both institutions rely on a kind of soft-focus patriotism that stops shy of nationalism—an American-exceptionalist-lite rhetoric that takes refuge in hope and in appeals to “who we are,” among other superficial aspirational slogans. Consequently, it’s no surprise that Obama meets with little criticism on MSNBC. The alignment isn’t merely political; it’s aesthetic, generational, and class-based. Reverence for Obama is by now the network’s stock-in-trade. It has never critically assessed his presidency.

[..] The Obama brand is appealing, especially in comparison with the current president. Obama is everything that Trump is not: handsome, well read, reasonable-seeming, beautifully turned out; even today, the sight of Obama on television is enough to persuade people that things are still halfway okay. Sadly, however, things are really not all that okay. I’d like to believe the highly artificialized vision of the world that television conjures up in order to seduce, titillate, and comfort the maximum number of people. But how well does the glossy, TV-friendly facade serve the needs of the network’s viewers? Not very, according to former MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary, who quit her job some days ago in an apparent crisis of conscience.

Pekary wrote a much-circulated blog post about her decision to quit the network in early August, calling the cable news obsession with ratings “a cancer” that stokes political division by amplifying the most outrageous voices. The ratings obsession risks lives, she said, by focusing on Trump’s failures in the pandemic, in preference to vital scientific and epidemiological news; it risks democracy itself, by allowing Trump’s excesses to dominate coverage, in preference to intelligent and serious discussion of the threats our society and our world are facing. All of this is true, and worth thinking about, but MSNBC’s coverage demonstrates something subtler and farther-reaching still. Though Pekary was held up by right-wing media as a critic of MSNBC particularly, her concerns were economic, not ideological. “The flawed structure of the industry,” she said, “affects everyone.”

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Even if opinions are divided on this, at least the direction is clear. Endless talks have provided too little result.

US Demands Hong Kong Exports To US Be Relabelled ‘Made in China’ (SCMP)

Goods made in Hong Kong for export to the United States will have to be labelled “Made in China” after September 25, according to a draft US government notice. The move, in accordance with the suspension of the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and the invoking of US President Donald Trump’s executive order on “Hong Kong Normalisation”, will see Hong Kong companies subjected to the same trade war tariffs levied on mainland Chinese exporters, should they make products subject to these duties. A notice will be published on the US Federal Register on August 11, stipulating that “45 days after the date of publication”, goods “must be marked to indicate that their origin is ‘China’”. The move is “due to the determination that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to justify differential treatment in relation to China”.


The confirmation of a move implied by Trump’s previous legislation is another blow to Hong Kong’s struggling economy and to the high-value, if low-volume base of exporters in the city. Goods that fail to comply will face a punitive 10 per cent duty at US ports. Hong Kong has a higher trade deficit with the US than with any other economy, though this dropped by 16 per cent last year to US$26 billion. From January to May this year, Hong Kong’s exports to the US fell by 22.3 per cent in volume from a year earlier. Hong Kong is much more significant as a re-export hub than a direct trading hub in its own right. Its economy is a much different beast than in the 1970s and ’80s, when it was a manufacturing stronghold. Now, only 1 per cent of goods shipped from Hong Kong are made in the city, which instead serves as a logistical gateway to mainland China for both goods made there and going there.

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Between all the work from home scheduled, and the holidays by car, you have to wonder where airlines will be a year from now.

No, Americans Aren’t Suddenly Flying Again, Despite What the Media Says (WS)

The best day – meaning the least catastrophically worst day – in terms of air passengers entering to security zones at airports to board flights during the Pandemic wasn’t yesterday, as the financial media wanted to have us think, but July 2, when the count of TSA airport security screenings was down by only -63.4% from the same weekday in the same week last year, and on July 3, when the count was down by only -67.1% from a year earlier. That was over the extended Independence Day travel weekend. Now it’s peak summer travel season. Yesterday’s TSA screenings – Sunday being a peak travel day – reached 831,789, the highest during the Pandemic. But it’s peak travel season and Sunday is one of the peak travel days, so last year on that Sunday, the TSA performed 2.65 million screenings, and this Sunday’s was down by -68.6% from Sunday a year ago. And the year-over-year decline has remained roughly in the same range since the beginning of July:

People are traveling to go on vacation. But they’re driving. All kinds of lodgings near or in national parks are booked. People want to get out and do stuff, and they have the stimulus money and the extra $600 a week in federal unemployment insurance. Early indications are that they’re driving more for vacation purposes than they did last year. That’s the big thing. But flying is still an iffy proposition for most people. The seven-day moving average of the daily TSA screenings, which irons out the day-to-day ups and downs, has remained about the same since its best days since the beginning of July – “best” meaning least catastrophically down days. This indicates that the recovery of passenger volume has stalled since the beginning of July and is still terrible, terrible, terrible for the airlines:

Nevertheless, this situation caused the financial media to hyperventilate in an effort to pump up the shares. For example, CNBC reported breathlessly:

No capital-intensive business, such as an airline, can survive for long with roughly three-quarters of its business wiped out overnight, unless it undertakes a large-scale trimming-down, and unless it gets lots of financial help from all corners, including central banks and taxpayers. And that’s happening with airlines. That’s the part in CNBC’s headline that nailed it: Another $25 billion bailout has been tucked into the next stimulus package. It comes on top of the prior $25 billion in bailouts, mostly grants, that were designed to preserve airline jobs until September 30. Airlines have since told over 70,000 employees that they could lose their jobs after the deadline, and have incentivized them to leave voluntarily before the deadline, using a range of incentives, from buyout packages to early retirements.


Today, the WOLF STREET airline index of the seven largest US airlines – Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United – jumped 7.0%. Since word of the second $25 billion bailout package started circulating last Monday, the index has surged 15.7%. But it’s still down 44% from the end of the Good Times in mid-January 2020, and down a whole bunch more since January 2018. That 15.7% gain since last Monday is the little thing sticking up on the right of the chart (market cap data via YCharts):

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“..America unleashes its dogs of war upon itself…”

Let The Dogs Out (Jim Kunstler)

Attorney General Barr sat through a leisurely chat with Mark Levin on TV last night, a curious hour of understatement and elision, especially concerning the momentous matter of US Attorney John Durham’s way-overdue actions in the Russia Collusion hoax. Mr. Levin dropped the ball so many times in his questioning that it seemed deliberate — for instance failing to ask whether Mr. Barr had detected any prosecutorial misconduct in the pursuit of General Michael Flynn. There’s plenty of reason to suppose that Robert Mueller’s lawyers royally misbehaved in that case, colluding with FBI director Christopher Wray to withhold a ton of exculpatory evidence even to this day.

There are plenty more reasons to suppose that the entire Mueller investigation was a knowing, seditious sham, and that several of his “team” members — e.g. Andrew Weissmann, Jeannie Rhee, Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad, Aaron Zebley, plus US Attorney Tanisha Guahar, and possibly Mr. Mueller himself — deserve to be indicted for their efforts to overthrow a president. (And, of course, there’s a long list of other now well-known characters in the DOJ, FBI, CIA, and other festering places who played roles in Coup-O-Rama).

Speaking of General Flynn, his mandamus petition comes before an en banc session of the DC Court of Appeals on Tuesday. It’s hard to see how they can get around their earlier three-judge panel’s order under a mandamus petition for DC District Judge Emmet Sullivan to vacate the case, as now demanded by the federal prosecutors who brought it in the first place. We won’t rehearse the tedious legal arguments, except to say that where there is no prosecution, there is no case, and Judge Sullivan has no standing to act as prosecutor himself under the separation of powers in the constitution. But in these dark days of a weaponized judiciary, with its Lawfare henchmen grubbing away in the shadows, there’s no telling what bad faith gears may be turning in that mill.

So, buckle up for what, all of a sudden, looks like an action-packed week. Lay in some tonic water and gin for both Covid-19 relief and some self-prescribed anesthesia as America unleashes its dogs of war upon itself.

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I don’t know enough about how police are funded across the US. It appears to be a cesspool with many different faces.

Seattle City Council Approves Millions In Police Budget Cuts (JTN)

In the state of Washington the Seattle City Council on Monday approved millions of dollars in police budget cuts. “Total initial cuts to SPD’s budget during the summer session are a down-payment for future potential reductions to the SPD budget. These reductions equate to nearly $4 million in cuts, which actualized over a year will equate to an estimated $11 million,” according to a release. “Cut 32 officers from patrol,” is one of the multiple funding decreases listed. Self-described socialist council member Kshama Sawant, who blasted the city’s budgetary maneuvering, which included other moves in addition to the police funding decreases, said that the police budget cuts were not nearly large enough.


“This budget fails to address the systemic racism of policing, trimming only $3 million from the bloated department’s remaining 2020 budget of $170 million just weeks after 6 of the 8 other Councilmembers publicly declared they would support defunding SPD by 50 percent, as our Peoples Budget and the Justice for George Floyd movement have demanded” Sawant said in the statement.

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No wonder they resign en masse.

Lebanon PM, President Were Warned About 2,750 Tonnes Of Ammonium Nitrate (R.)

Lebanese security officials warned the prime minister and president last month that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port posed a security risk and could destroy the capital if it exploded, according to documents seen by Reuters and senior security sources. Just over two weeks later, the industrial chemicals exploded in a massive blast that obliterated most of the port, killed at least 163 people, injured 6,000 more and destroyed some 6,000 buildings, according to municipal authorities. A report by the General Directorate of State Security about events leading up to the explosion included a reference to a private letter sent to President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab on July 20.


While the content of the letter was not in the report seen by Reuters, a senior security official said it summed up the findings of a judicial investigation launched in January, which concluded the chemicals needed to be secured immediately. The state security report, which confirmed the correspondence to the president and the prime minister, has not previously been reported. “There was a danger that this material if stolen, could be used in a terrorist attack,” the official told Reuters. “At the end of the investigation, Prosecutor General (Ghassan) Oweidat prepared a final report which was sent to the authorities,” he said, referring to the letter sent to the prime minister and president by the General Directorate of State Security, which oversees port security. “I warned them that this could destroy Beirut if it exploded,” said the official, who was involved in writing the letter and declined to be named.

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So does China. And France is going back in.

US Special Forces Active in 22 African Countries (MPN)

A new report published in South African newspaper The Mail and Guardian has shed light on the opaque world of the American military presence in Africa. Last year, elite U.S. Special Operations forces were active in 22 African countries. This accounts for 14 percent of all American commandos deployed overseas, the largest number for any region besides the Middle East. American troops had also seen combat in 13 African nations. The U.S. is not formally at war with an African nation, and the continent is barely discussed in reference to American exploits around the globe. Therefore, when U.S. operatives die in Africa, as happened in Niger, Mali, and Somalia in 2018, the response from the public, and even from the media is often “why are American soldiers there in the first place?”

The presence of the U.S. military, especially commandos, is rarely publicly acknowledged, either by Washington or by African governments. What they are doing remains even more opaque. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) generally claims that special forces go no further than so-called “AAA” (advise, assist and accompany) missions. Yet in combat, the role between observer and participant can become distinctly blurry. The United States has roughly 6,000 military personnel scattered throughout the continent, with military attachés outnumbering diplomats in many embassies across Africa. Earlier this year, The Intercept reported that the military operates 29 bases on the continent. One of these is a huge drone hub in Niger, something The Hill called “the largest U.S. Air Force-led construction project of all time.”

[..][ Washington claims that the military’s primary role in the region is to combat the rise of extremist forces. In recent years, a number of Jihadist groups have arisen, including Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and other al-Qaeda affiliated groups. However, much of the reason for their rise can be traced back to previous American actions, including the destabilization of Yemen, Somalia, and the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. It is also clear that the United States plays a key role in training many nations’ soldiers and security forces. For example, the U.S. pays Bancroft International, a private military contractor, to train elite Somali units who are at the forefront of the fighting in the country’s internal conflicts. According to The Mail and Guardian, these Somali fighters are likely also funded by the U.S. taxpayer.

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This is all about Turkey. Greece already has a new deal with Egypt on maritime borders. Turkey is seeking to claim a lot of area in the region.

Libya Begins Negotiations With Greece To Demarcate Maritime Borders (LibyaR.)

Libya’s Interim Government’s Foreign Minister, Abdul-Hadi Al-Hawaij, revealed that his ministry has held talks with its Greek counterpart. Both Libya and Greece agreed to begin negotiations to demarcate their maritime borders, as well as discuss a number of issues between the two countries. Al-Hawaij noted that Libya welcomes a solution through Article 74 of the Law of the Sea, relating to solutions based on agreements and good-neighbourliness. The Libyan FM welcomed the agreement demarcating the maritime borders between Egypt and Greece. He stressed that Libya welcomes any agreement that is in line with the UN’s Law of the Sea and which preserves the rights of Libyans.


He pointed out that the visits of the Libyan Speaker of Parliament, Ageela Saleh, to a number of countries was meant to clarify the Libyan-Egyptian political initiative. The Speaker claimed that the Libyan people were exhausted from the presence of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. “One of the most significant conditions for consensus among Libyans is to push the Turkish intervention in the country away, and leave the matter for Libyans to address the crisis”, he added. Al-Hawaij called on Libyans to end the use of force, and to diminish the power of militias. He stressed that the international community was managing the crisis, and not trying to solve it. He pointed out that Libyans were able to establish a leadership in 1922, in similar circumstances in the city of Sirte, and could be able to do so again.

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This is serious. The Turkish lira is under severe stress; the central bank tried to support it by buying lira with its dollar reserves two weeks ago, but that failed, and now it has no dollars left. This could be very bad for Erdogan, who will go for support among patriots, muslims (re: Hagia Sophia). Prediction: Greece will not give in.

Greece Armed Forces Placed On High Alert (K.)

Greece was placed on high alert Monday after Turkey sent its Oruc Reis survey ship into an area within the Greek continental shelf, a move which Athens described as a threat to peace and stability in the region. According to a navigational telex it issued, Ankara reserved an area south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo to conduct research over the next two weeks. In response, Greece’s armed forces were placed in a state of absolute readiness, with units of the Hellenic Navy and Air Force deployed in the wider sea area where the Turkish research was expected. When the Oruc Reis accompanied by ships of the Turkish Navy entered the Greek continental shelf, Greek warships sent messages at a frequency of about 15 minutes requesting the vessel’s removal from the area.

The messages went unanswered by the vessel which, however, moving at a low speed – similar to that appropriate for a search process – had prepared cables to lower to the seabed in order to proceed with research activities in the area. However, according to sources, exploratory activities were rendered impossible due to the noise caused by the many naval units sailing in the area. This is because exploration of this sort entails the transmission of data from the seabed and the noise of the ships made this transmission impossible. In Athens, an emergency meeting of the country’s top decision-making body on foreign affairs and defense matters, KYSEA, was convened. Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias issued a stern statement calling on Turkey to “immediately end its illegal actions that undermine peace and security in the region.”

He added that the Turkish navtex “is a new serious escalation and exposes in the most obvious way the destabilizing and threatening role of Turkey.” “Greece will not accept any blackmail. It will defend its sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he said.

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Full Moon Aug 3, Astypalea Island, Greece. Photo George Tsitouras.

 

 

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Jan 282020
 
 January 28, 2020  Posted by at 10:17 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  27 Responses »


Walker Evans Vicksburg, Mississippi. “Vicksburg Negroes and shop front.” 1936

 

Coronavirus Has Killed 106 And Infected 4,515 People In China (CNBC)
Coronavirus Death Toll Climbs To 106, Infections Rise To 4,515 (BBC)
US and Japan To Fly Out Citizens As Coronavirus Deaths Rise (G.)
China Coronavirus Cases Almost Double Overnight (ZH)
Hong Kong Scientist Insists 44,000 Already Infected In Wuhan (ZH)
How Testing Woes Slowed China’s Coronavirus Response (R.)
Coronavirus ‘Significant Threat’ To Chinese Economic Growth (G.)
Japan Warns About Risks To Economy From China Virus Outbreak (R.)
Coronavirus Prompts Automakers To Evacuate Workers From China (CNBC)
Boeing Secures Over $12 Billion In Financing To Fight 737 Max Crisis (CNBC)
Oil Chief Urges West To Call Out Foreign Meddling In Libya Conflict (G.)
Canary Trap (Kunstler)
Prince Andrew Told To ‘Stop Playing Games’ Over Epstein Inquiry (G.)
Aid Groups Seek Safe Ports For Nearly 500 Migrants Rescued In The Mediterranean (RT)

 

 

Watched a fair bit of the Trump team arguments in the Senate yesterday, quite a bit seemed to make sense, but it no longer appears to matter. Tricky, because in the end the law is the law. But what that is, is ultimately up to the Supreme Court. Until it gets involved, every word said is one too many. So I won’t say too much about this.

I do wonder why Democrats argue that the Biden corruption story has been debunked (please tell me when and by whom) but the Russia meddling tale stands tall (remember Mueller?). But them, that is just the character of the “conversation”. Everyone only talks to those who already agree with them. Boring as hell. Yesterday, I said:

“There doesn’t appear to be any underlying proof for Bolton’s claim that Trump tied aid to an investigation (or he wouldn’t/couldn’t have held on to it for so long). That in turn makes it another he said/she said topic, and we’ve seen enough of those in this “trial” process.


Moreover, if Trump would have asked for an investigation into a guy who was kicked out of the Navy for cocaine abuse only to land a very plush job just months later at a very corrupt company operating in a field and a country that he knew nothing about, while his dad was US VP, would that have been a high crime?”

 

 

Given developments in the past 24 hours, we can’t very well not focus on the coronavirus. Note: Some of the numbers appear more than once in the articles below, but they all have different numbers as well. China’s official data today say:

• Hubei infections 2,714 (up 1291 overnight – 91% surge).

• China total infections 4,515. (Almost as many cases outside Wuhan as inside. The virus spreads).

• 1,000 people in critical condition

• 30,453 under observation

..nearly 7,000 more cases suspected and awaiting confirmation .. From 5,800 Monday

• 2 days in a row of 15 deaths added, followed by 2 days with 25 added. Too much coincidence.

• A few days ago, the big news was a 1,000 bed hospital being built in 1 week. Today, the news is that 100,000 beds (!) are being reserved (opened up) in existing Hubei hospitals.

• China tells people not to travel abroad, US tells Americans not to travel to China. Businesses are getting hurt. So are stock “markets”, obviously.

• Hong Kong scientist says: at the peak of the pandemic [April/May], as many as 150,000 new cases could be confirmed every day in Chongqing alone

 

And we are still skirting close to the Fibonacci sequence:


Fibonacci

 

Medical supplies sent to Wuhan: 14,000 protective suits and 110,000 pairs of gloves. Emergency supplies of 3 million masks, 100,000 protective suits and 2,180 pairs of goggles.

Coronavirus Has Killed 106 And Infected 4,515 People In China (CNBC)

Chinese health authorities said Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak has killed 106 people and infected 4,515. The officials also said 60 people had been discharged. The majority of the reported cases are in mainland China, where local authorities have quarantined several major cities and canceled Lunar New Year’s events in Beijing and elsewhere. The U.S. Department of State on Monday raised its travel advisory for China from Level 2 to Level 3 asking Americans to “reconsider travel to China due to the novel coronavirus.” They added that some areas have “added risk.” [..] Multiple cases of the virus have been confirmed in Hong Kong, Macao, Taipei, Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, France and the United States.


On Monday, local authorities in Germany confirmed the country’s first case. Nepal has confirmed one case. Cambodia confirmed its first case on Monday, according to Reuters, citing Health Minister Mam Bunheng. Sri Lanka also confirmed its first case on Monday, Reuters reports. [..] China stepped up efforts to increase medical supplies to Wuhan that includes transferring 14,000 protective suits and 110,000 pairs of gloves from the central medical reserves, according to the State Council. Emergency supplies of 3 million masks, 100,000 protective suits and 2,180 pairs of goggles were also made available. More than 1,600 medical staff are said to be sent to the Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, to assist in containing the virus.

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Beijing annd Shanghai may be about to be locked down. Hong Kong residents demand for the border to be closed.

Coronavirus Death Toll Climbs To 106, Infections Rise To 4,515 (BBC)

The death toll from the new coronavirus now stands at 106, as cases of new infections have almost doubled in a day, Chinese authorities have said. The number of total confirmed cases in China rose to 4,515 as of 27 January, up from 2,835 a day earlier. Travel restrictions have been tightened and wearing masks in public is now mandatory in some cities. The city of Wuhan is at the epicentre of the outbreak but it has spread across China and internationally. Wuhan, and the province it is located in Hubei, are already effectively in lockdown with transport restrictions in and out of the area.


On Tuesday, the country’s immigration administration encouraged citizens to reconsider the timing of overseas travel to reduce cross-border movement. Beijing and Shanghai have introduced a 14-day observation period for people arriving from Hubei. Of the 106 deaths in China, 100 were in Hubei province while the province’s number of reported infections is at 2,714. Authorities have postponed the new semester for schools and universities nationwide, without giving a resumption date.

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They will all have to spend 14 days in quarantine.

US and Japan To Fly Out Citizens As Coronavirus Deaths Rise (G.)

The death toll from the coronavirus has risen to 106, Chinese officials confirmed on Tuesday, as countries scrambled to fly their citizens out of the city at the centre of the outbreak. Japan said it would send a chartered flight to Wuhan on Tuesday night to evacuate its citizens, while the US government is also preparing an airlift. The state department had planned a flight for Tuesday evening, but it was unclear if it would land as scheduled. Both South Korea and France are also aiming to fly out citizens this week. Several countries have also stepped up their warnings over travel to China, including the US, which now advises citizens to avoid non-essential visits to any part of the country.

[..] Around 4,515 cases of the illness have now been recorded across China, with almost 1,000 people in critical condition, according to state media. On Tuesday, Beijing confirmed the city’s first death from the virus. Though the number of cases appears to have risen quickly, from 2,887 on Monday, this was likely to be due to better reporting, and the numbers remain small compared with the population. Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi said around 650 Japanese citizens were hoping to return to Japan, and that the first flight could carry around 200 passengers. He added the government was making arrangements for additional flights that would leave for Wuhan as early as Wednesday.

It was not clear if a US flight scheduled to land in Wuhan at 10pm on Tuesday would arrive as scheduled, with some reports suggesting it had been delayed until Wednesday. American citizens have been told there is only limited space available on the plane. [..] China has encouraged citizens to reconsider the timing of overseas travel, and introduced sweeping measures to try to stop the spread of the disease across the country. On Monday, officials postponed the end of this week’s Lunar New Year holiday until at least 2 February in an effort to reduce the chances of infection during what is the country’s busiest travel season. In Shanghai, which has recorded 66 cases of the virus, the end of the holiday has been postponed until 9 February.

Travel restrictions have been announced in many cities, with long-distance bus services banned, while big chains have said they will temporarily close their stores in some areas. There were nearly 7,000 more cases suspected and awaiting confirmation, China’s national health commission said on Monday.

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Hubei has 2714 cases, but opens up 100,000 hospital beds. Nuff said.

China Coronavirus Cases Almost Double Overnight (ZH)


• 4,515 Cases confirmed worldwide
• 106 Dead worldwide
• 2714 Cases in Hubei (up 1291 overnight – a stunning 91% surge)
• 100 Dead in Hubei (up 24 overnight – a 24% surge)

While China currently has about 3,000 total cases as reported earlier, according to the latest report from China’s Center for Disease Control, the real number of infections may be substantially higher, because as of Jan 26 (the update for Jan 27 is due shortly) some 30,453 people are currently under observation for the coronavirus. Needless to say, it is very likely that a substantial number of these people will end up positive for the disease, even as the total of people under observation grows by thousands every single day.


Earlier in the day, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, China’s Hubei Province, is opening up 100,000 hospital beds in an effort to contain the disease, the province’s vice governor announced on Jan. 27. In a press conference on Jan. 27 evening, Hubei vice governor Yang Yunyan said authorities have designated 112 medical institutions to treat patients with the deadly novel coronavirus, according to Chinese state media. They have freed up around 100,000 hospital beds in the province, with 3,000 of them in Wuhan city alone, where the disease first broke out. As the Epoch Times observes, “The urgency and scale of the authorities’ orders have raised fears that the outbreak has spread far more widely than authorities admit.”

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“..peak between late April and early May, and at the peak of the pandemic, as many as 150,000 new cases could be confirmed every day in Chongqing alone..”

Hong Kong Scientist Insists 44,000 Already Infected In Wuhan (ZH)

University of Hong Kong academics are urging the city’s government to embrace “draconian” measures to stop history from repeating itself. Hong Kong was rocked by SARS 17 years ago, when the virus – one of seven coronavirus strains (a family that also includes nCoV and MERS) – tore through the city’s financial district, causing 300 deaths, according to the SCMP. As we mentioned earlier, the dean of HKU’s med school revealed research during a presser on Monday showing that the virus had already infected nearly 44,000 people in Wuhan. Meanwhile, Professor Neil Ferguson, at least the second UK academic to publicly share his projections, said over the weekend that 100,000 people could already be infected with the virus around the world, according to the Guardian. Lead researcher and dean of HKU’s faculty of medicine Gabriel Leung said their models indicated that the number of cases in China would double in 6.2 days.

Officials around the world have only confirmed 2901 cases so far, while 2839 of those are in Mainland China. Among other things, Leung said sustained human-to-human transmission has already been proven. “We have to be prepared, that this particular epidemic may be about to become a global epidemic,” he said. Though Leung warned that additional measures to contain the virus could improve projections, the team’s model predicted the number of infections in five mainland megacities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing – would peak between late April and early May, and at the peak of the pandemic, as many as 150,000 new cases could be confirmed every day in Chongqing alone because of its large population and intense travel volume with Wuhan.


Since Leung sits on Carrie Lam’s advisory committee, he said he would encourage “draconian” steps to stop the virus, including a travel lockdown, cancellation of all public gatherings, and forcing all companies to come up with work-from-home arrangements. “Substantial, draconian measures limiting population mobility should be taken immediately,” he said, calling for the cancellation of mass gatherings, along with school closures and work-from-home arrangements. Possibly with an eye toward Beijing, Leung called on the government to take “one, two, three or more steps” to broaden the scope of the border closure.

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Fist death was Jan 10, but “testing kits for the disease were not distributed to some of Wuhan’s hospitals until about Jan. 20”..

How Testing Woes Slowed China’s Coronavirus Response (R.)

“My brother and I have been queuing at the hospital every day. We go at 6 and 7 in the morning, and queue for the whole day, but we don’t get any new answers,” Zhang told Reuters. “Every time the responses are the same: ‘There’s no bed, wait for the government to give a notice, and follow the news to see what’s going on.’ The doctors are all very frustrated too.” [..] Officially known as 2019-nCoV, the new form of coronavirus was first identified as the cause of death of a 61-year-old man in Wuhan on Jan. 10, when China shared gene information on the virus with other countries. Some, such as Japan and Thailand, started testing travelers from China for the virus within three days.


However, testing kits for the disease were not distributed to some of Wuhan’s hospitals until about Jan. 20, an official at the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Hubei CDC) told Reuters. Before then, samples had to be sent to a laboratory in Beijing for testing, a process that took three to five days to get results, according to Wuhan health authorities. During that gap, hospitals in the city reduced the number of people under medical observation from 739 to just 82, according to data compiled by Reuters from Wuhan health authorities, and no new cases were reported inside China.


REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Despite the lack of reliable data and testing capacity in Wuhan, Chinese authorities assured citizens in the days after the virus had been identified that it was not widely transmissible. In previous weeks, it had censored negative online commentary about the situation, and arrested eight people it accused of being “rumor spreaders.” “The doctor didn’t wear a mask, we didn’t know how to protect ourselves… no one told us anything,” a 45-year-old woman surnamed Chen told Reuters. Her aunt was confirmed to have the virus on Jan. 20, five days after she was hospitalized. “I posted my aunt’s photos on (Chinese social media site) Weibo and the police called the hospital authorities. They told me to take it down.”


[..] Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang, told Chinese state television on Monday he recognized that “all parties were not satisfied with the disclosure of our information.” But he pointed to strictures placed upon him by provincial and national leaders. “In local governance, after I receive information, I can only release it when I’m authorized,” he said. Zhou told a media briefing on Sunday that a further 1,000 people could be diagnosed with the virus in Wuhan, based on the number of patients yet to be tested.

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Apple has announced potential iPhone delivery issues.

Coronavirus ‘Significant Threat’ To Chinese Economic Growth (G.)

The coronavirus outbreak will have a “significant” impact on Chinese growth, economists have warned, with the “wildcard” of still unknown infections posing potentially serious risks for the global economy. Shares in Asia Pacific continued to fall on Tuesday in the wake of heavy losses at the start of the week which has seen the death toll from the outbreak in China almost double in two days to 105. The number of infections has risen to 4,500, – that’s up 45% from Monday, with China’s authorities confirming the virus can be transmitted by “respiratory droplet transmission” or by touch. Markets in mainland China are closed until 3 February at the earliest, providing a bulwark to losses, but the financial contagion has spread across Asia and the rest of the world.


South Korea, where a fourth case was confirmed on Tuesday, saw its Kospi index fall more than 3% and Australia’s ASX200 was off 1.3%. Shares in Europe and the US suffered similar heavy losses on Monday. The yuan, China’s currency, dropped to its lowest level for a month. Economists agreed that the outbreak will have a negative impact in China but the lack of understanding about how the virus spreads and how bad it might be was adding to uncertainty to the mix and compounding investor concerns. Citigroup said on Tuesday: “The wildcard is not the fatality rate, but how infectious the Wuhan virus is. The economic impact will depend on how successfully this outbreak is contained.” “The outbreak is developing too rapidly to predict with any confidence the final extent of the economic damage,” said Capital’s chief Asia economist Mark Williams. “But it is now certain that the outbreak will have a significant impact on China’s GDP this quarter.”

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” The Chinese make up 30% of all tourists visiting Japan and nearly 40% of the total sum foreign tourists spent last year..”

Japan Warns About Risks To Economy From China Virus Outbreak (R.)

Japanese Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura warned on Tuesday that corporate profits and factory production might take a hit from the coronavirus outbreak in China that has rattled global markets and chilled confidence. Asian stocks extended a global selloff as the outbreak in China, which has killed 106 people and spread to several countries, fueled concern over the damage to the world’s second largest economy – an engine of global growth. “There are concerns over the impact to the global economy from the spread of infection in China, transportation disruptions, cancellation of group tours from China and an extension in the Lunar Holiday,” Nishimura told a news conference after a regular cabinet meeting.


“If the situation takes longer to subside, we’re concerned it could hurt Japanese exports, output and corporate profits via the impact on Chinese consumption and production,” he said. China is Japan’s second largest export destination and a huge market for its retailers. The Chinese make up 30% of all tourists visiting Japan and nearly 40% of the total sum foreign tourists spent last year, an industry survey showed. The outbreak could hit Japanese department stores, retailers and hotels, which count on a boost to sales from an inflow of Chinese tourists visiting during the Lunar Holiday.

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And it’s early days still..

Coronavirus Prompts Automakers To Evacuate Workers From China (CNBC)

Automakers are withdrawing employees from China and weighing whether to suspend manufacturing in the country as the virus that emerged in the city of Wuhan less than a month ago ravages the mainland. Most major automakers have restricted or banned travel to the country due to the fast-spreading disease, which as of Monday had taken the lives of at least 82 people in China and sickened 2,900 worldwide. Manufacturing in China was temporarily halted in honor of the Lunar New Year, which kicked off this weekend, but normal operations were due to resume this week. Automakers across the globe with operations in China could keep those plants closed even longer, people familiar with the matter said. Automakers with notable operations in Wuhan include GM, Honda and Nissan, which currently has a facility under construction with Wuhan-based Dongfeng.

Honda Motor and PSA Group are withdrawing employees working around Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. A Honda spokesman on Monday confirmed 30 “associates and their families” who work at the plant near Wuhan were being sent home to Japan. PSA Group said in an email to CNBC that the decision to repatriate its employees working in Wuhan will be done “according the proposition of the French authorities in complete cooperation with Chinese authorities.” They are expected to start flying French citizens home from Wuhan by the middle of this week, company spokesman Pierre-Olivier Salmon said. Nissan also has plans to withdraw a majority of its employees and their family members from the Wuhan area back to Japan, a person familiar with the company’s plans told CNBC on Monday.


General Motors, which is by far the largest U.S. automaker in China, is “taking it one day at a time” regarding the outbreak, according to a spokesman. It hasn’t yet decided whether it will extend the work stoppage in China beyond Feb. 2, particularly at an assembly plant in Wuhan that employs about 6,000 workers, he said. The automaker operates 15 assembly plants with Chinese partners in the country. “Out of an abundance of caution, GM has placed a temporary restriction on travel to China,” the company said. “Employees are also reminded to take necessary protection measures suggested by medical authorities. GM will continue to closely monitor this situation.” Others, such as Ford Motor, Fiat Chrysler and Volkswagen of America, are said to be doing the same regarding business operations and travel to the country.

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Secret deal with the Fed?!

Boeing Secures Over $12 Billion In Financing To Fight 737 Max Crisis (CNBC)

Boeing has secured commitments of more than $12 billion in financing from more than a dozen banks, according to people familiar with the matter, as the industrial giant shores up its balance sheet amid the nearly yearlong grounding of the 737 Max. The manufacturer was trying to secure a loan of at least $10 billion, CNBC reported last week. [..] The size of the loan, at least $2 billion more than originally sought, is a vote of confidence in the manufacturer from lenders. Boeing is expected to detail its financing strategy when it reports earnings before the market opens on Wednesday.


The financing will be a two-year delayed-draw loan, the people said, meaning that Boeing doesn’t have to use it all immediately, and is set to cost 100 points over Libor. [..] The timing of the jets’ return to service is still uncertain. Boeing last week said it doesn’t expect regulators to recertify the 737 Max until midyear, but the head of the Federal Aviation Administration recently told airlines that the agency’s approval may come before that. New CEO Dave Calhoun told reporters last week that the company is planning to resume 737 Max production before the planes return to service.

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But it’s the west that’s doing the meddling…

Oil Chief Urges West To Call Out Foreign Meddling In Libya Conflict (G.)

World powers will be complicit in the collapse of the rule of law in Libya if they do not do more to call out the countries backing those responsible for disrupting the country’s oil exports, the head of the Libyan national oil corporation has said. Mustafa Sanalla said too many western powers were happy to let the countries meddling in Libya sign non-intervention agreements that they had no intention of honouring. He said his country was facing “a disaster and a nightmare” as a nine-day blockade of oil ports by forces loyal to the Libyan National Army (LNA), headed by Gen Khalifa Haftar, continued. Oil production has fallen from 1.2m barrels a day to 260,000 barrels.

Sanalla said production would soon drop to 70,000 barrels, and the cumulative impact would be a loss of $440m. He said it would soon be impossible to pay 1.3m public sector salaries in east and west Libya, requiring the country to look for loans on the international market. The production blockage could also be causing long-term damage to Libyan pipelines, as crude oil left in pipes will corrode them. Sanalla, seen as one of the few authoritative neutral voices in Libya, said: “The international community has to understand that if it tolerates or even rewards those who break the law in Libya, then it will be complicit in the end of the rule of law in our country. And that means more corruption, more crime, more injustice and more poverty.”


He said world powers “seem happy when they secure agreement from a wide range of countries to international statements calling for ceasefires and political settlements. But they know that many of those countries will sign anything and then continue to supply weapons to the war fighters, and to pour poison into social media with their sophisticated disinformation campaigns, undermining the very solutions they have officially supported. “We need not just words but action from UN security council members, particularly the UK, US and France, who all pride themselves on their support for the rule of law. We need them to call out the hypocrisy of those countries – or those within their governments – who prefer instead to pursue their own national interests at the expense of the Libyan people.”

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“..Adam Schiff has been hurling false accusations and retailing mendacious narratives for three years. He deserves the most public disgrace that can possibly be arranged..”

Canary Trap (Kunstler)

Surely Adam Schiff thinks that testimony from John Bolton was his ace-in-the-hole to corroborate the House’s impeachment case. Maybe his staff (of former NSC moles) had a hand in orchestrating the leaks from the NSC to The New York Times at exactly the right moment — hours before Mr. Trump’s lawyers would begin to argue the main body of his defense in the Senate, to produce an orgasmic gotcha. But what if Mr. Trump’s lawyers and confidants were ahead of the scheme and knew exactly when and how Mr. Schiff would call the play? It’s actually inconceivable that Mr. Trump’s team did not know this play was coming. Do you suppose they didn’t know that Mr. Bolton had written a book on contract for Simon & Schuster, and much more?

After all, a president has access to information that even a sedulous bottom-feeder like Mr. Schiff just doesn’t command. Maybe the canary trap is only the prelude to a booby trap — and remember, boobies are much larger birds than canaries. Maybe, despite prior protestations about not calling witnesses, the Bolton ploy will actually be an excuse for Mr. Trump’s defense team to run the switcheroo play and accede to the calling of witnesses. Perhaps they are not afraid of what Mr. Bolton might have to say in the ‘splainin’ seat. Perhaps what he has to say turns out to be, at least, the proverbial nothingburger with mayo and onion, or, at worst, a perfidious prevarication motivated by ill-will against the employer who sacked him ignominiously.

Perhaps Mr. Trump’s lawyers are longing for the chance to haul in some witnesses of their own, for instance the “whistleblower.” It is also inconceivable that the actual progenitor of this mighty hot mess would not be called to account in the very forum that his ploy was aimed to convoke. And from the unmasked “whistleblower,” the spectacle would proceed straightaway to Adam Schiff himself in the witness chair. That will be an elongated moment of personal self-disfigurement not seen in American history since William Jennings Bryan was left blubbering in the courtroom at Dayton, Tennessee, 1925, after he spearheaded the malicious prosecution of John Scopes for teaching evolution in a high school biology class…

…or the moment of national wonder and nausea in June 1954 when Army Chief Counsel Joseph Welch rose from his chair and asked witch-hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” In a deeply imperfect world, California’s 28th congressional district has produced a true marvel: the perfect scoundrel. Adam Schiff has been hurling false accusations and retailing mendacious narratives for three years. He deserves the most public disgrace that can possibly be arranged, on nationwide television, with all his many media enablers at CNN and MSNBC having to call the play-by-play. Then the nation needs to expel him from the House of Representatives. And then, maybe, the USA can get on with other business.

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They must shame him on a daily basis. And the Queen for letting him get away.

Prince Andrew Told To ‘Stop Playing Games’ Over Epstein Inquiry (G.)

A US lawyer has called on Prince Andrew to “stop playing games” and assist authorities with their investigation into the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking inquiry. Lisa Bloom, who represents five of Epstein’s alleged victims, said it was time for the Duke of York to “do the right thing” and speak with investigators in the US. The US attorney Geoffrey Berman said at a news conference on Monday that Andrew had provided “zero cooperation”, despite his lawyers being contacted by prosecutors and the FBI as part of the investigation. Bloom told BBC News on Tuesday: “It is time for anyone with information to come forward and answer questions. “Prince Andrew himself is accused of sexual misconduct and he also spent a great deal of time with Jeffrey Epstein. So it’s time to stop playing games and to come forward to do the right thing and answer questions.”


She said Berman had been left with “no choice” but to comment publicly about Andrew’s alleged lack of cooperation into the investigation. She said: “He [Berman] doesn’t have the power to subpoena Prince Andrew as part of the criminal investigation, so what else can he do except use the power of the press to come forward publicly and say: ‘You know what, Prince Andrew, you said you would fully cooperate with law enforcement and you have not done it.’”] Berman, who is overseeing the Epstein investigation, told reporters outside the disgraced financier’s New York mansion that “to date, Prince Andrew has provided zero cooperation”. Buckingham Palace was not commenting on the matter, but a source said: “This issue is being dealt with by the Duke of York’s legal team.”

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What year is this?

Aid Groups Seek Safe Ports For Nearly 500 Migrants Rescued In The Mediterranean (RT)

Nearly 500 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean by two boats run by aid agencies were looking for safe ports in Malta and Italy, the groups said on Monday. The ‘Ocean Viking’ vessel run by SOS Mediterranee in partnership with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was carrying 407 people rescued in a total of five operations carried out over 72 hours. Another 78 people were taken on board the ‘Alan Kurdi’, run by the Sea-Eye organization based in Germany. They were rescued in two operations. Sea-Eye tweeted on Sunday that the ‘Alan Kurdi’ was headed for Italy, after Malta refused them a safe port.


Ocean Viking has rescued 184 men, women and children on two inflatable rafts, off the Libyan coast. Despite the winter, bad weather, and very few vessels dedicated to the rescue in the area, “boats are still leaving Libya in numbers,” Aloys Vimard, MSF’s coordinator on board the Ocean Viking, told AFP. “The survivors tell us about the deteriorating security situation in Libya where there is active conflict.” MSF had refused an offer to land them at Libya as “it is not a safe place.”

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Bernie leads in Iowa one week before the primary, and Trump is catching up on all Democrats.

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Aug 242018
 
 August 24, 2018  Posted by at 7:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh Café, le soir, Arles 1888

 

Thoughts On The ‘Longest Bull Market Ever’ (Black)
New Reality of China’s Failing Economy Is Coming Soon (Rickards)
UK Tells Drug Companies To Stockpile Medicine In Case Of No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)
Big Oil Asks Government To Protect It From Climate Change (AP)
Scott Morrison New Australian PM As Turnbull Denounces ‘Insurgency’ (G.)
Saudi Modernisation Drive Is Reflected In Aramco’s Faltering Sale (G.)
Libya Refuses To Take Migrants Rejected By Italy (AFP)
Italy Threatens To Stop EU Funding Unless Other States Accept Refugees (ZH)
Inflation Adjusted Gold Is At Historical Lows (von Greyerz)
Monsanto Faces A Surge In Lawsuits Following Cancer Ruling (BBC)
‘Monsanto’s History Is One Full of Vast Lies’ (Spiegel)
After 70 Years, Korean Father, Son Share A Drink For First, Last? Time (H.)

 

 

“..a full SIXTY PERCENT of corporate debt issued by companies in the Russell 2000 is rated as JUNK..”

Thoughts On The ‘Longest Bull Market Ever’ (Black)

Well, it happened. Yesterday the US stock market broke the all-time record for the longest bull market ever. This means that the US stock market has been generally rising for nearly a decade straight… or even more specifically, that the market has gone 3,453 days without a 20% correction. That’s a pretty big milestone. And there’s no end in sight. So it’s possible this market continues marching higher for the foreseeable future. But if you step back and really look at the big picture, there are a lot of things that might make a rational person scratch his/her head. For example– the Russell 2000 index (which is comprised of smaller companies whose shares are listed on various US stock exchanges) is currently right at its all-time high.

Yet simultaneously, according to the Wall Street Journal, a full SIXTY PERCENT of corporate debt issued by companies in the Russell 2000 is rated as JUNK. How is that even possible– a junk debt rating coupled with an all-time high? It’s as if investors are saying, “Well, there’s very little chance these companies will be able to pay their debts… but screw it, I’ll pay a record high price to buy the stock anyhow.” It just doesn’t make any sense. Looking at the larger companies in the Land of the Free (which make up the S&P 500 index), the current ‘CAPE ratio’ is now the second highest on record. ‘CAPE’ stands for ‘cyclically-adjusted price/earnings ratio’. Essentially it refers to how much investors are willing to pay for shares of a company, relative to the company’s long-term average earnings.

And right now investors are willing to pay 33x long-term average earnings for the typical company in the S&P 500. The median CAPE ratio based on data that goes back to the 1800s is about 15.6. So at 33, investors are literally paying more than TWICE as much for every dollar of a company’s long-term average earnings than they have throughout all of US market history. And it’s only been higher ONE other time– just before the 2000 stock market crash (when the dot-com bubble burst). 33 is higher than right before the 2008 crisis. It’s even higher than it was before the Great Depression.

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Building zombies for the future.

New Reality of China’s Failing Economy Is Coming Soon (Rickards)

There’s no denying China’s remarkable economic progress over the past thirty years. Hundreds of millions have escaped poverty and found useful employment in manufacturing or services in the major cities. Infrastructure gains have been historic, including some of the best trains in the world, state-of-the-art transportation hubs, cutting edge telecommunications systems, and a rapidly improving military. Yet, that’s only half the story. The other half is pure waste, fraud and theft. About 45% of Chinese GDP is in the category of “investment.” A developed economy GDP such as the U.S. is about 70% consumption and 20% investment. There’s nothing wrong with 45% investment in a fast-growing developing economy assuming the investment is highly productive and intelligently allocated.

That’s not the case in China. At least half of the investment there is pure waste. It takes the form of “ghost cities” that are fully-built with skyscrapers, apartments, hotels, clubs, and transportation networks – and are completely empty. This is not just western propaganda; I’ve seen the ghost cities first hand and walked around the empty offices and hotels. Chinese officials try to defend the ghost cities by claiming they are built for the future. That’s nonsense. Modern construction is impressive, but it’s also high maintenance. Those shiny new buildings require occupants, rents and continual maintenance to remain shiny and functional. The ghost cities will be obsolete long before they are ever occupied.

Other examples of investment waste include over-the-top white elephant public structures such as train stations with marble facades, 128 escalators (mostly empty), 100-foot ceilings, digital advertising and few passengers. The list can be extended to include airports, canals, highways, and ports, some of which are needed and many of which are pure waste. Communist party leaders endorse these wasteful projects because they have positive effects in terms of job creation, steel fabrication, glass installation, and construction. However, those effects are purely temporary until the project is completed. The costs are paid with borrowed money that can never be repaid. China might report 6.8% growth in GDP, but when the waste is stripped out the actual growth is closer to 4.5%. Meanwhile, China’s debts grow faster than the economy and its debt-to-GDP ratio is even worse than the U.S.

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It’s beginning to hit home that time has run out. Wait till the days shorten for real.

UK Tells Drug Companies To Stockpile Medicine In Case Of No-Deal Brexit (Ind.)

Health secretary Matt Hancock has told drug companies to ensure they have six weeks additional supplies of medicines on top of their normal stockpiles to avoid disruption caused by a possible no-deal Brexit. The remarks from Mr Hancock came as Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, released the first tranche of technical notes outlining the government’s preparations and warnings to businesses if Britain crashes out of the bloc without a deal. Among the 24 detailed papers it was also revealed that credit card users could be hit with a new “Brexit tax” amounting to £166m, UK citizens living in Europe face the prospect of losing access to pension income and new red tape could delay foreign sperm donations arriving in Britain.

In one of the most stark warnings, Mr Hancock told NHS staff and service providers that the move to increase pharmaceutical companies’ stockpiles was necessary “in case imports from the EU through certain routes” are affected if Theresa May fails to strike a deal with negotiators in Brussels. The request, according to the chief executive of the UK Bioindustry Association, Steve Bates, would be a “massive challenge” for the industry to deliver in less than 200 days. But Mr Hancock also warned that hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies should not hoard or stockpile additional drugs “beyond their business” as usual levels.

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Priceless.

Big Oil Asks Government To Protect It From Climate Change (AP)

As the nation plans new defenses against the more powerful storms and higher tides expected from climate change, one project stands out: an ambitious proposal to build a nearly 60-mile “spine” of concrete seawalls, earthen barriers, floating gates and steel levees on the Texas Gulf Coast. Like other oceanfront projects, this one would protect homes, delicate ecosystems and vital infrastructure, but it also has another priority — to shield some of the crown jewels of the petroleum industry, which is blamed for contributing to global warming and now wants the federal government to build safeguards against the consequences of it.

The plan is focused on a stretch of coastline that runs from the Louisiana border to industrial enclaves south of Houston that are home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of petrochemical facilities, including most of Texas’ 30 refineries, which represent 30 percent of the nation’s refining capacity. Texas is seeking at least $12 billion for the full coastal spine, with nearly all of it coming from public funds. Last month, the government fast-tracked an initial $3.9 billion for three separate, smaller storm barrier projects that would specifically protect oil facilities.

That followed Hurricane Harvey, which roared ashore last Aug. 25 and swamped Houston and parts of the coast, temporarily knocking out a quarter of the area’s oil refining capacity and causing average gasoline prices to jump 28 cents a gallon nationwide. Many Republicans argue that the Texas oil projects belong at the top of Washington’s spending list. “Our overall economy, not only in Texas but in the entire country, is so much at risk from a high storm surge,” said Matt Sebesta, a Republican who as Brazoria County judge oversees a swath of Gulf Coast. But the idea of taxpayers around the country paying to protect refineries worth billions, and in a state where top politicians still dispute climate change’s validity, doesn’t sit well with some.

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Another rightwing anti-immigrant yokel. That’s all they have down under.

Scott Morrison New Australian PM As Turnbull Denounces ‘Insurgency’ (G.)

Australia will have a new prime minister in Scott Morrison – the socially conservative architect of Australia’s hardline anti-asylum seeker policies – after he mounted a late challenge during a drawn-out struggle for power in the governing Liberal party. On Friday, incumbent Malcolm Turnbull failed in his attempt to stare down a challenge from hard right MP Peter Dutton, with insurgents in his party gathering enough signatures to call for a “spill” of the leadership. It led to a three-way challenge that included Morrison, Turnbull’s treasurer, and Julie Bishop, the foreign minister. Turnbull himself stood aside from the contest.

In a party room ballot, Bishop was eliminated in the first round, and Morrison won against former home affairs minister Dutton in a subsequent run-off, 45 votes to 40, suggesting the party is still deeply divided. There appears no end in sight to the civil war consuming the ruling Liberal-led coalition government. The country may be headed to an election, with Turnbull saying he will not stay in parliament. His resignation in between general elections would erase the government’s single-seat majority in the House of Representatives. Australia has now had five prime ministers in just over five years. Since 2010 four prime ministers have lost office not at the ballot box, but torn down by their own parties, earning Canberra the unhappy appellation “the coup capital of the Pacific”.

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Selling 5% of Aramco was supposed to finance ‘diversification’.

Saudi Modernisation Drive Is Reflected In Aramco’s Faltering Sale (G.)

For the Saudis, the implications of the Paris agreement were obvious: the drive to decarbonise the world economy would mean that a considerable part of their oil reserves would have to stay in the ground. This made a warning at the turn of the millennium by the former Saudi energy minister Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, seem suddenly urgent. “Thirty years from now, there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers”, Yamani said. “Oil will be left in the ground. The stone age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”

It was not long before Saudi’s rulers responded to this twin challenge. In the short term, they sought to persuade fellow oil producing nations to agree production curbs that would limit supply, drive up crude prices and so ease the pressures on the public finances. At the current oil price of around $70 a barrel, the Saudis can make their budget arithmetic stack up. In the longer term, there was a plan to diversify the economy away from oil. Saudi Vision 2030 was announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in April 2016, shortly after the oil price reached its trough. The idea was to make Saudi Arabia a global investment giant, to turn the country into a hub linking the three continents of Europe, Asia and Africa and to be the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds.

The proposed sale of part of the state-owned oil company – Saudi Aramco – was a key part of this attempt to transform and modernise the economy. Proceeds were earmarked for the country’s sovereign wealth fund so it could continue investing in companies such as the electric car company Tesla and the ride-hailing app Uber.

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Thank you Barack and Hillary.

Libya Refuses To Take Migrants Rejected By Italy (AFP)

Libya has refused to take in a group of 177 migrants stranded on an Italian coastguard boat off a Sicilian port after Rome insisted they would not be allowed to disembark. Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini threatened earlier this week to return the migrants to the North African country unless other European governments offered to take some of them in. But Mohamed Siala, foreign minister of the UN-backed Libyan unity government, said that “Libya does not accept this unjust and illegal measure because it already has more than 700,000 migrants” on its territory.

In a statement late Wednesday, he called on the international community “to put pressure on the countries of departure to repatriate their nationals”, adding that Libya had only served as a transit point. The Italian boat “Diciotti” arrived on Monday night off the Sicilian port of Catania. Plunged into chaos following the fall and killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, Libya has become a prime transit point for sub-Saharan African migrants making dangerous clandestine bids to reach Europe. The country takes in migrants whose boats are intercepted in its waters by the Libyan coastguard, but it has repeatedly rejected those rescued by foreign navies or by humanitarian organisations off its coast.

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Who’s going to blame them?

Italy Threatens To Stop EU Funding Unless Other States Accept Refugees (ZH)

On Thursday, out of the blue, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio threatened to stop financial contributions to the European Union next year unless other states agreed to take in migrants being held on a coastguard ship in Sicily. The Italian’s ultimatum comes less two months after Europe triumphantly announced a “vaguely worded” deal on how to resolve the continent’s migrant influx. “If tomorrow at the meeting of the European Commission nothing is decided on the redistribution of migrants and the Diciotti ship, I and the entire Five Star Movement are not willing to give 20 billion to the European Union,” Di Maio said in a video posted on his Facebook page.

He echoed statements by Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini, who has refused to allow 177 migrants to leave the Italian coastguard ship Ubaldo Diciotti, which is docked in the Sicilian port of Catania. While Italian prosecutors opened an investigation into the detention of the migrants and 29 children were allowed to disembark, Salvini still won’t allow the rest of the people to come ashore and has attacked the EU for its “cowardly silence.” Salvini described those aboard as “illegal immigrants,” and said they won’t be allowed to step foot on Italian soil. Instead, he insisted fellow European Union nations take in some of the asylum-seekers. “Italy’s no longer Europe’s refugee camp,” he tweeted. “Upon my authorization, no one is disembarking from the Diciotti.”

Salvini, who is also interior minister, was defiant in the face of a criminal probe into possible kidnapping charges for forcing the migrants to remain on the vessel. The chief prosecutor from the Agrigento court, Luigi Patronaggio, on Wednesday boarded the Diciotti and said afterwards he had opened a probe against “unknown” persons for holding the migrants against their will. “There’s a court that is investigating whether those illegally on board the ship have been kidnapped,” Salvini said in a radio interview. “I’m not unknown. My name is Matteo Salvini… I’m the Interior Minister and I think it is my duty to defend the security of this country’s borders.”

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Just liked the graph, don’t want to tell anyone to buy anything.

Inflation Adjusted Gold Is At Historical Lows (von Greyerz)

Gold at $1,220, adjusted for real inflation, is almost as cheap as it was in 1999 at the $250 low. More importantly, inflation adjusted gold is now very near the 300 year low of 1999. So right now gold is again unloved and undervalued and therefore a bargain. On an inflation adjusted basis, the 1980 high of $850 would today be $16,650. Long before we get hyperinflationary gold prices, that $16,600 level should be easily reached. Owning physical gold for wealth protection purposes is the best preserved secret in the West. In this part of the world, virtually nobody holds gold. At the same time, the wise people in the East continue to buy all the gold that is produced annually. China, India, Iran, Turkey, Russia and many more Eastern nations understand history and economics. That is why they are accumulating major gold reserves at these levels.

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Bayer really didn’t see this coming.

Monsanto Faces A Surge In Lawsuits Following Cancer Ruling (BBC)

American agro-chemicals company Monsanto is facing a surge in lawsuits that may cost its new owners, Bayer, billions in damages. Monsanto manufactures glyphosate-based weedkillers which some believe are carcinogenic. Last month it lost a $289m (£225m) court case that alleged its products Roundup and RangerPro had led to a Californian man’s terminal cancer. Bayer said the number of outstanding cases had risen from 5,200 to 8,000. The German firm’s shares have lost 11% of their value since it lost the case in a California court to groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who claimed Monsanto herbicides containing glyphosate, had caused his non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Bayer shares fell another 1.7% on Thursday. Chief executive Werner Baumann said that when it bought Monsanto, Bayer “could not foresee the scope of the current lawsuits.” The $63bn deal was completed earlier this month. “In the course of the acquisition, we carried out due diligence as is standard practice when taking over a listed company. In doing so, we of course also considered the legal risks,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper. In a conference call on Thursday, Mr Baumann added: “Our view is that the number is not indicative of the merits of the plaintiffs’ cases”.

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“..Another program is called “Freedom to Operate.” Its purpose is to eliminate everything that might disrupt sales of their products – laws, scientific articles, they go after everything.”

‘Monsanto’s History Is One Full of Vast Lies’ (Spiegel)

On Aug. 10, lawyer Brent Wisner, 34, scored a landmark verdict on behalf of his client, cancer patient Dewayne Johnson. A court in San Francisco ruled that Monsanto was guilty of concealing the potential health risks associated with its weed killer glyphosate, which is sold in the United States under the brand name Round Up. The jury ordered the company to pay $289 million in damages to the plaintiff, who had used Round Up at his job as a janitor for a school district. The court said Monsanto should have labeled the product’s possible dangers for consumers. Monsanto, which was recently acquired by German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, has denied any link between the product and the disease. Wisner spoke to DER SPIEGEL about the case in an interview.

[..] DER SPIEGEL: How much does Monsanto have to do with the fact that a verdict was reached only now? Wisner: A lot! Monsanto has an internal program called “Let Nothing Go.” The aim of this program is to attack scientists who are critical of Monsanto products. They go after people directly and discredit them. They also pay others to do so. DER SPIEGEL: Are there other such PR strategies? Wisner: Another program is called “Freedom to Operate.” Its purpose is to eliminate everything that might disrupt sales of their products – laws, scientific articles, they go after everything. As part of that effort, they also engage lobbyists – scientists who Monsanto pays for their opportunism. Such programs reflect a corporate culture that shows no interest whatsoever in public health, only in profits.

DER SPIEGEL: Monsanto continues to dispute that it tried to influence scientific research. What was the critical factor for jurors in reaching the verdict? Wisner: I believe it was the scientific findings themselves. The 12 jurors were not lightweights after all. There was a molecular biologist, an environmental engineer, a lawyer. Some colleagues told me: “Be careful Brent, so much intelligence can be an impediment.” But I was certain that the arguments in the critical studies, parts of which were suppressed, were the strongest evidence we had.

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Sad and joyful. Why Korea’s really want peace.

After 70 Years, Korean Father, Son Share A Drink For First, Last? Time (H.)

As soon as 91-year-old Lee Gi-sun got up on the morning of Aug. 22, he pulled out one of the bottles of soju, a potent distilled liquor, that he’d stashed in the bottom of his suitcase. He’d brought this precious liquor to accompany a ceremony for which he’d waited his entire life – a daytime drink with his son! At 10 am on Aug. 22, the final day of the three-day reunion for families divided by the Korean War, family members met in the banquet hall on the second floor of the Mt. Kumgang Hotel to say their goodbyes. A few hours hence, they would return to their respective homes in South and North Korea, with no guarantee of seeing each other again. The father filled a cup with the soju he’d brought.

After taking a sip himself, he silently passed the cup to his son. Gi-sun’s North Korean son, Gang-son (69 years old himself), was also silent as he took the cup and brought it to his lips. This was the first drink shared by the white-haired father and son, and it very well might be their last. It was a heartrending moment when the father’s lifelong dream came true. “We were separated when he was two years old. Two years old,” the father said, letting the last phrase linger in the air. In Jan. 1951, he and his older brother had left their families behind in their home of Yonbaek County, Hwanghae Province, fleeing south with UN troops beaten back by the Chinese onslaught. Gi-sun had assumed he would soon be able to return.

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Aug 012018
 
 August 1, 2018  Posted by at 8:59 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Getty Marilyn Monroe in NY subway 1955

 

Apple Buybacks Eclipse Value Of Most S&P 500 Companies (R.)
A Record 18% Of China’s GDP Goes To Debt Service (ZH)
IMF Warns On Greek Debt Sustainability (ZH)
The Greatest Depression (Coppola)
EU’s Brexit Declaration Could Be Just ‘Four Or Five Pages’ Long (G.)
UK Government Accused Of Trying To Hide Devastating Impact Of Brexit (Ind.)
No UK Car Manufacturer Ready For Brexit (Ind.)
Seymour Hersh On Novichok, Russian Links To Donald Trump And 9/11 (Ind.)
Please Sign Letter To Pope Francis Seeking Help For Julian Assange (LACW)
Julian Assange And Lawyer Want Malcolm Turnbull To ‘Stand Up To US’ (N.)
As Long As Assange Is Silenced, Claims Against Him Are Illegitimate (CJ)
Italian Ship Violates International Law, Returns Rescued People To Libya (G.)

 

 

Why are Apple shares rising? We can’t know. This is not a market.

Apple Buybacks Eclipse Value Of Most S&P 500 Companies (R.)

Apple Inc said on Tuesday it handed its shareholders $20 billion through share buybacks in the June quarter, bringing its tally this year to a record $43 billion and helping push its stock price to an all-time high. With a mountain of overseas cash freed up by last year’s sweeping U.S. corporate tax cuts, Apple’s share repurchases in the first half of calendar 2018 exceed the stock market value of almost three quarters of the companies in the S&P 500, including Ford, Delta Air Lines and Twitter Inc. Apple’s share repurchases in the June quarter were only eclipsed in the history of the S&P 500 by Apple repurchasing $22.8 billion of its shares in the prior quarter, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices analyst Howard Silverblatt.

The recent pace of Apple’s buybacks, disclosed in a quarterly report that beat Wall Street’s expectations, could help support the iPhone maker’s stock as investors worry that some high-flying technology companies have become too expensive. Confidence in top-shelf technology and consumer stocks has been shaken in recent days following poor results from Facebook and Netflix. Apple said in May it was adding $100 billion to its budget for buybacks. Its stock is up 16% in 2018, compared with the S&P 500’s 5% rise. “I see the buybacks as a major determinant of near-term price appreciation,” said D.A. Davidson & Co analyst Thomas Forte.

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Effectively borrowing at an 18% interest rate?!

A Record 18% Of China’s GDP Goes To Debt Service (ZH)

Think China’s new “proactive” fiscal policy shigt will be sufficient to kick start the local economy, and boost global GDP? Think again. In the latest analysis from Vertical Group’s Gordon Johnson, the strategist writes “that China’s proactive fiscal policy pledge could fall short as servicing its existing credit stock absorbs an increasing share of GDP.” As a reminder, last week, China’s State Council said it will adopt a proactive fiscal policy, outlining ways to fund ¥1.4tn in bonds to local government for infrastructure & provide ¥1.1tn in tax cuts, among other actions (e.g., R&D tax credits), all while urging no broad-based stimulus.

In Johnson’s view, this is a narrative that is rather reminiscent of ‘14, when the gov’t unleashed a wave of “micro-stimulus” measures after a string of weak data points (i.e., 5 mos. of contracting real estate investment). Yet, as he notes, the most recent PBoC mini-stimulus is much smaller than ‘14, while key restrictions remain in place for real estate/shadow loans (historically growth-driving conduits), compounded by the law of diminishing returns, suggesting a smaller boost from a much larger base this time around.

Moreover, China’s total credit stock is markedly higher now than in ’14, implying more of every yuan in stimulus is going to service outstanding debt. How much? That may well be the critical question to gauge the flow through from any new fiscal policy. Here is Vertical Group’s answer: While China exited ’17 with an est. 266% of total credit to GDP, some economists put that ratio at >300% today. On trailing 12-mo. nominal GDP of ¥86.5tn, as of 2Q, this equates to >¥259.5tn in credit, which, assuming an avg. borrowing cost of 6%, means China’s annual debt service is ~¥14.3tn, or 18.0% of GDP – sensitizing interest & credit-to-GDP, to a respective range of 4-7% & 285-320%, puts China’s debt service at 14-22% of GDP.

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Insanity: “..Greece’s debt costs will “begin an uninterrupted rise” after 2038 — costing around 20% of the country’s GDP every year..”

IMF Warns On Greek Debt Sustainability (ZH)

As Greeks attempt to recover from the devastating and deadly wildfires, The IMF has decided to pile on the pain with a new report that raises questions about Greece’s debt sustainability, warning that the nation’s cash buffer is set to drop by half by end of 2022. IMF Mission Chief for Greece Peter Dohlman told reporters on conference call this morning that Greece’s cash buffer will rise to EU24b as a result of debt relief measures agreed by euro-area finance ministers in June, but that amount is set to drop by half to EU12b by end of 2022. Translating The IMF’s newspeak, it is explaining that without more generous debt relief measures, Greece “could struggle to maintain market access over the long run”, the fund said in its last economic assessment of the country before the end of its bailout on August 20.

The fund’s calculations find Greece’s debt costs will “begin an uninterrupted rise” after 2038 — costing around 20% of the country’s GDP every year. It is at this point that “additional relief would be needed to secure debt sustainability”, said the report. [..] Additionally, the fund suggests that Greek banks raise capital: “Stress tests results published by the ECB in May point to the resilience of the Greek banks in the baseline scenario but significant capital depletions in the adverse scenario,” IMF says in Art. IV report on the state of the Greek economy. IMF “staff estimates that if the three banks with lower CET1 were asked to maintain capital ratios under adverse conditions in line with a capital requirement of 7.5–8.0%, the related capital shortfall could be in the range of €1.3–1.9 billion”.

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Any recovery stories for Greece are bogus. Oh, and Zero Hedge is a ‘satirical blog’?

The Greatest Depression (Coppola)

The IMF has just released its latest review of the Greek economy. “Following a deep and protracted contraction,” it says in its press release, “growth has finally returned to Greece.” The green light has been given for Greece’s exit from its bailout program in August 2018. For many, this is welcome news. Greece has turned a corner. The dark days are behind it, and the future will be bright. But is this really the end of Greece’s troubles – or will there be more pain to come? The magnitude of Greece’s collapse over the last decade is extraordinary. Right at the start of the IMF’s review is this chart, which compares the fall in Greek output over the last 10 years with other major historical contractions, including the U.S.’s Great Depression:

The Greek people have just lived through a Depression as deep as the Great Depression and considerably longer. It is now the greatest recorded peacetime Depression. Fortunately, the Greatest Depression may now have run its course. The Greek economy grew by 1.4% in 2017, and the IMF projects that GDP growth will rise to 2% in 2018 and 2.4% in 2019. Of course, IMF growth forecasts for Greece need to be treated with considerable caution. As the Greek economy sank ever deeper into depression, the IMF continued to predict that growth would rebound “any day now.” The satirical blog ZeroHedge lampooned the IMF’s dire forecasting record as “hockey stick comedy.” But Greece did emerge from its long-running depression in 2017, and indications so far are that growth will be maintained this year.

[..] The legacy of the Greatest Depression, even with the doubtful benefit of those structural reforms, is a terribly weak and deeply damaged economy. Adult unemployment, which peaked at over 25% at the height of the Greatest Depression, is still over 20%, while youth unemployment is twice as high. In a footnote to its review, the IMF comments that structural unemployment (the average excess of people over jobs across the business cycle) was 15% in 2016 and is expected to fall only gradually “over the next two decades.” Many of Greece’s young people will be middle-aged by the time there is any work for them. Some may never work at all. An entire generation thrown on the scrap heap.

Despite all the pain the Greeks have endured to fix their country’s finances, Greece’s fiscal situation remains extremely precarious. The IMF staff predictions show absolutely no room for fiscal expansion, even though it is desperately needed, not least to relieve extremely high poverty levels. One in four people in Greece is living below the poverty line.

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The EU doesn’t think May will last much longer.

EU’s Brexit Declaration Could Be Just ‘Four Or Five Pages’ Long (G.)

The EU’s declaration on the trade and security relationship with the UK after Brexit will be just five to 30 pages long, reflecting a lack of time to have an internal debate and scepticism that Theresa May will remain in Downing Street to deliver it, officials in Brussels have disclosed. While the UK is seeking a “precise and substantive” document, to match the recently published 100-page white paper, officials in Brussels say the EU’s political declaration on the “future framework” has diminishing importance for them. Brussels is aware that the prime minister needs the document, due in the autumn, to be a “sweetener” to the main withdrawal agreement, which will commit the UK to pay a £39bn divorce bill and spell out whatever difficult deal is sealed on the issue of the Irish border.

The declaration will not be legally binding on either party but is designed to offer major economic actors some reassurance through a vision of the future trading and security relationship, and it will form part of the package on which the UK parliament and MEPs will ultimately vote in the new year. Given doubts in Brussels that May will get a deal through parliament, or remain in Downing Street for long if she manages it with the help of Labour votes, there will not be the high level of detail that the British government has been seeking, sources said.

A senior EU official told The Guardian that the paper could even be as short as “four or five pages”, the same length as the European council guidelines setting out the bloc’s headline objectives. “It can either be four five pages, or it could be a bit more elaborate but I think we are in the league of five to 25 to 35 pages. We have not time to thrash out the details,” the official said. “The more details you want the more advanced you should be in these negotiations.” The official added: “The reality is that, imagine after March next year the UK gets rid of May, the hard Brexiters take over and Boris says: ‘Too bad. I am not interested in all this. I want a basic free trade agreement, I want all my freedom.’ We have to adjust.

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And it will get a lot worse.

UK Government Accused Of Trying To Hide Devastating Impact Of Brexit (Ind.)

Ministers have been accused of misleading the public after denying that plans to “turn most of Kent into a giant lorry park” are because of Brexit. Work is underway to convert four lanes of a 13-mile stretch of the M20 motorway to allow hundreds of articulated lorries to park up if they are delayed in reaching the Port of Dover. The Department for Transport (DfT) claimed the work was simply an improvement on the existing Operation Stack, a way of managing traffic used many times to cope with “serious disruption to cross-channel transport”. But it has now emerged that the project has been renamed Operation Brock – which Kent County Council says stands for “Brexit Operations Across Kent”.

Vast extra space for lorries will be needed if the Brexit talks fail and, as Theresa May has threatened, the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal next year. There will be massive disruption if any extra checks are required in future – with one study warning of immediate 20-mile tailbacks at Dover if the time taken to clear customs merely doubles from the current two minutes. Virendra Sharma, a Labour MP and supporter of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain group, said: “The government is trying to hide the devastating impact of their Brexit policy. “Food will rot on the motorway and jobs are at risk as manufacturing supply chains are muddled and slowed by Brexit. We cannot let ministers use secrecy to railroad the concerns of councils about Brexit.”

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Nobody’s ready. If only because they don’t know what to be ready for.

No UK Car Manufacturer Ready For Brexit (Ind.)

The British motor industry has warned that “no one would confess to being Brexit ready” in their trade. Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), argues that his members are “increasingly concerned” about the prospects for the UK leaving the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, in the light of developments since Theresa May published the government’s latest Brexit white paper, which he and the SMMT welcomed. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has since expressed scepticism about the proposed Facilitated Customs Arrangement (FCA), which would have been of particular value to manufacturing and the automotive sector.

In the light of EU resistance, and growing UK political volatility, the chances of the UK going to a “no deal” exit are increasing, meaning that Britain would move to WTO terms, as opposed to staying in the Single Market, the customs union or the FCA. This would imply tariffs of up to 10% in UK-EU trade in cars and parts, and greater bureaucracy in both directions, which would only be partly mitigated by “stockpiling” in the short run, given the demands of “just in time” manufacturing techniques and integrated cross-border supply chains. There is a tail risk that factory production of models such as the Mini at BMW’s plant in Oxford could be disrupted if crucial car components become unavailable.

Mr Hawes added that the prospect of a “no deal” Brexit was something no-one wished to see and that industry leaders wished to see “all options open as long as possible”. Reflecting on the 1,100 trucks that enter the UK from Europe every day to feed its factories, he said that the eight months remaining until formal Brexit on 29 March 2019 were “a real challenge”. British car production for the home market almost halved in June, compared to the same month a year ago, due to what the industry calls “a perfect storm” of factors that resulted in a freakish result.

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“The day after 9/11 we should have gone to Russia. We did the one thing that George Kennan warned us never to do – to expand NATO too far..”

Seymour Hersh On Novichok, Russian Links To Donald Trump And 9/11 (Ind.)

Hersh is honest enough to admit that today he might not have made it. He worked during the heyday of American journalism – when he was paid handsomely for exposes and when media outlets had the financial muscle to fund serious writing. When he covered the Paris Peace Accords for The Times, he was put up at the world famous five-star deluxe Hotel de Crillon. It is not long before we discuss contemporaneous events including the alleged Russian hacking of the US presidential election. Hersh has vociferously strong opinions on the subject and smells a rat. He states that there is “a great deal of animosity towards Russia. All of that stuff about Russia hacking the election appears to be preposterous.” He has been researching the subject but is not ready to go public… yet.

Hersh quips that the last time he heard the US defence establishment have high confidence, it was regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He points out that the NSA only has moderate confidence in Russian hacking. It is a point that has been made before; there has been no national intelligence estimate in which all 17 US intelligence agencies would have to sign off. “When the intel community wants to say something they say it… High confidence effectively means that they don’t know.” Hersh is also on the record as stating that the official version of the Skripal poisoning does not stand up to scrutiny. He tells me: “The story of novichok poisoning has not held up very well. He [Skripal] was most likely talking to British intelligence services about Russian organised crime.”

The unfortunate turn of events with the contamination of other victims is suggestive, according to Hersh, of organised crime elements rather than state-sponsored actions – though this flies in the face of the UK government’s position. [..] He ends the Goldsmiths talk with an anecdote about having lunch with his sources in the wake of 9/11. He vents his anger at the agencies for not sharing information. One of his CIA sources fires back: “Sy you still don’t get it after all these years – the FBI catches bank robbers, the CIA robs banks.” It is a delicious, if cryptic aphorism.

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The Pope is not a bad idea.

Please Sign Letter To Pope Francis Seeking Help For Julian Assange (LACW)

Your Holiness,

In your first Papal visit outside of Rome only months after your election as Supreme Pontiff, you choose the Italian island of Lampedusa, a refuge for migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the prospect of death. You did so to express your closeness and love to suffering people, to promote their dignity, which was under threat at home and in jeopardy in the countries where they seek refuge. Your first act upon arrival was to lay a wreath in the sea in memory of all those who had lost their lives seeking refuge. We, the undersigned, write to you, Your Holiness, as a loving Father to those who lives are in imminent danger, begging and beseeching you to speak up for someone whose life is in imminent danger.

A life that can only be saved by your intervention. In order to lessen the possibility of us laying a wreath in the coming days, in memory of the stateless asylum seeker Julian Assange, we ask that you speak out on his behalf. Julian is possible moments or hours away but certainly days away from being abducted by a SAS squad from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where his asylum status is about to be revoked. Based on the precedent the risk of death is very high. Last time the SAS entered an Embassy in London they assassinated their targets after they had surrendered and were unarmed lying on the ground.

With all legal avenues exhausted and the British, American, Ecuadorian and Australian governments all arranging the imminent raid on Julian, we cry out to you, Holy Father and ask that you encourage nations to respect the life of Julian Assange and to cease his arbitrary detention (as cited by the United Nations) and grant him asylum status where he can continue his work as a journalist, telling the truth, that is the truth that respects the dignity of persons. Please, Holy Father speak up and defend this life which so many powerful nations want to end and whose life only you can plead for leniency in a manner which may be heeded by the powerful who seek to end him.

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Australia should honor its own laws. And that means protecting its citizens.

Julian Assange And Lawyer Want Malcolm Turnbull To ‘Stand Up To US’ (N.)

[..] new British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed Assange was facing “serious charges” from local police. But there is confusion about what they are, as he is only facing a minor charge for breaching bail. Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer in London, told news.com.au she was “obviously very concerned” about the speculation he could be forced from the embassy. “We are monitoring that really closely. From our point of view he requires ongoing protection (because) the risk of prosecution is as high as it has ever been.” The Times quoted a source familiar with the case who expected Assange would “lose his asylum status imminently. This means he will be expelled from the embassy. When this will happen is impossible to say.”

It was Ms Robinson’s view, and Assange’s, that Australia could help break the stalemate. “Julian is still an Australian citizen and they have an obligation — and I think a duty — to exercise rights of protection over an Australian citizen,” she said. “They could usefully engage in this to help solve the impasse.” Ms Robinson said Canberra had good relationships with both the UK and US, so it shouldn’t be a difficult matter. “For me as a fellow Australian citizen, it is disappointing the government has not done more — but that doesn’t preclude them from doing it now and I very much hope that they will.” She said it raised concerns about the Federal Government’s willingness to “stand up for Australians” when the US Government was involved.

[..] Ms Robinson was mystified as to what charges Mr Hunt was referring to. “Jeremy Hunt’s statement is curious in the sense that Mr Assange doesn’t face any charges whatsoever … A magistrate will have to decide whether to bring bail proceedings against him when he leaves the embassy.” [..] “So is Mr Hunt talking about an extradition request from the US where he would face serious charges?” asked Ms Robinson. “Has he misspoken and disclosed that?” She told news.com.au that would be a serious matter. Assange’s legal team had sought assurances from the UK there was no extradition request and had been met with a “standard, blanket will not confirm or deny”. “So if Mr Hunt is talking about serious charges … there are none on the public record, so of course, we are concerned about what that might be from the US.”

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“..prosecuting a journalist for publishing authentic documents would arguably constitute a greater leap in the direction of Orwellian dystopia than the Patriot Act.”

As Long As Assange Is Silenced, Claims Against Him Are Illegitimate (CJ)

As attempts to evict Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London get more and more aggressive, we are seeing a proportionate increase in the establishment smear campaign against him and against WikiLeaks. This is not a coincidence. The planned campaign to remove Assange from political asylum and the greatly escalated smear campaign to destroy public support for Assange are both occurring at the same time that Assange has been cut off from the world without internet, phone calls or visitors, completely unable to defend himself from the smear campaign. This, also, is not a coincidence.

The ability to control the narrative about what is going on in the world is of unparalleled importance to the plutocrats who use governments as tools to advance their agendas. The agenda to make an example of a leak publisher with a massive platform who has repeatedly exposed the corruption of the establishment upon which western plutocrats have built their empires will require continuous narrative spin, since the precedent set by prosecuting a journalist for publishing authentic documents would arguably constitute a greater leap in the direction of Orwellian dystopia than the Patriot Act.

Among the latest components of this campaign has been a viral dump of Twitter DMs being promoted as a hot news item by outlets like Motherboard, The Hill, Forbes and Think Progress and across #Resistance Twitter. The fact that the juicy bits from those DMs had already been published months ago by The Intercept, and the fact that the smears and spin we’re seeing reruns of today were long ago ripped to shreds in journalist Suzie Dawson’s epic essay “Being Julian Assange” after the Intercept publication, has not dampened the orgiastic frenzy with which this non-story is being bandied about by establishment loyalists and defenders of power as evidence of Assange’s nefariousness.

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Are we ever going to have that UN Emergency Meeting?

Italian Ship Violates International Law, Returns Rescued People To Libya (G.)

A search and rescue charity has alleged that an Italian ship returned scores of people rescued from the Mediterranean to Libya, even though Libya is not regarded by Europe as a safe place under international law. In what would be an unprecedented case if confirmed, the Asso 28, an oil rig support vessel, allegedly saved 108 people from a dinghy and then took them to Tripoli. The allegation was made by Òscar Camps, the founder of Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish sea search and rescue NGO. It is unclear whether the ship had received instructions from the Italian coastguard. “The Asso 28, with an Italian flag, rescued 108 people in international waters and is now deporting them to Libya, a country where human rights are not respected. No chance [for them] to get asylum or shelter,” Camps wrote on Twitter.

Camps’ allegation was supported by Nicola Fratoianni, an Italian politician with Free and Equal, a small leftwing party, who was on board the Proactiva rescue ship. “We don’t know yet if this operation was instructed by the Italian coastguard, but if so it would be a very serious precedent, a real collective rejection, which Italy and the captain of the ship would have to respond to in court,” Fratoianni said. Two weeks ago Italy assured Germany that it would continue to accept migrants rescued at sea until an EU-wide plan on redistributing people across the continent was established. The pledge came after high-profile moves by Matteo Salvini, the interior minister and leader of the far-right League, to block rescue ships from docking at Italian ports.

In a response to Camps’ allegation on Tuesday, Salvini made no mention of the alleged involvement of an Italian ship in the incident. He wrote on Twitter: “The Libyan coastguard has rescued and brought back 611 immigrants in recent hours. The NGOs protest and the traffickers lose business? Fine, we’ll continue in this direction!” In another post, on Facebook, he wrote: “The Italian Coast Guard has not coordinated and participated in any of these operations, as falsely declared by a foreign NGO and a poorly informed leftist MP.”

Read more …

Jul 092018
 


Vincent van Gogh Bridge in the rain (after Hiroshige) 1887

 

David Davis Resigns As Brexit Secretary (Ind.)
World Trade Has Decelerated Sharply (Ashoka Mody)
Market Turmoil Pushes Some China Funds To The Brink (R.)
US Faces Soaring Trade Deficits, But Rising Energy Prices Bigger Danger (CNBC)
White House Close To Refusing Interview With Russia Investigation (G.)
America the Failed State (Chris Hedges)
BOJ’s Kuroda Expresses Resolve To Keep Ultra-Easy Monetary Policy (R.)
A Parallel Currency For Italy Is Possible (Pol.eu)
Berlin Eyes Deal For Migrant Returns With Greece By End July (K.)
Italy Promises Billions To Libya If It Accepts The Return Of Migrants (EN)

 

 

Oh man, I wrote one little article and mere hours later they’re all running for cover…

David Davis Resigns As Brexit Secretary (Ind.)

David Davis has quit his cabinet job following a major row with Theresa May over her plans for post-Brexit relations with the EU. His resignation as Brexit secretary deals a heavy blow to the stability of the prime minister’s administration, with two other ministers almost immediately following suit. The departure of Mr Davis, Steve Baker and Suella Braverman, who had also served in the Department for Exiting the EU, could now embolden other senior figures to quit.
Ms May had been hoping to win over Brexiteers to her proposals agreed by the cabinet, including Mr Davis, on Friday – but since then Leave-backing Tory MPs have called for a change in leadership.

The move comes on the eve of a major test for the prime minister as she faces the house of commons on Monday, to explain her proposals, and then a stormy meeting of Conservative MPs. In his resignation letter, Mr Davis wrote: “As you know there have been a significant number of occasions in the last year or so on which I have disagreed with the Number 10 policy line, ranging from accepting the [European] Commission’s sequencing of negotiations, through to the language on Northern Ireland in the December Joint Report. “At each stage I have accepted collective responsibility because it is part of my task to find workable compromises, and because I considered it was still possible to deliver on the mandate of the referendum, and on our manifesto commitment to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market.

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China slowing down.

World Trade Has Decelerated Sharply (Ashoka Mody)

World trade has decelerated sharply. This ill omen portends severe risks in the months to come. The greatest risks are in the eurozone – where Italy is the fault line along which the most acute vulnerabilities lie. In the three months ending in April, the annual pace of world trade growth dipped slightly below 4 percent, a sharp decline from 5.5 percent rate in the second half of 2017. Trade growth in 2017 was both a barometer and cause of rare “synchronized” GDP growth with nearly every country experiencing buoyant conditions. That sweet spot is fading because the Chinese economy is slowing down. With its huge size and extensive global trade relationships, changes in Chinese domestic economic priorities have a huge impact on trade and the world economic outlook.

A blistering pace of Chinese imports propped world trade growth until January this year, and a slowdown since then in Chinese imports has dampened world trade. The shift is a consequence of the attempt by Chinese leadership to diffuse a grossly oversized credit bubble. But reduced credit has squeezed investment in infrastructure projects and, hence, in the imports of goods and materials to support those projects. Recently, retail sales have also slowed. China’s credit bubble may yet burst, causing global economic and financial mayhem. Even if the Chinese economy merely slows down, which it seems almost certain to, global trade deceleration will continue. If, in addition, the global trade war escalates, global economic conditions could deteriorate rapidly.

Growth deceleration is already evident in the eurozone. German growth relies to an extraordinary degree on exports to China and, not surprisingly, German industrial production has been in the doldrums in the past few months. Moreover, when German exporters face weaker growth prospects, they buy less from their largely European suppliers, which significantly dampens economic growth in Europe. Italy will face the ill-effects of a global slowdown most acutely. After abysmal performance through much of the last decade, Italian GDP growth had picked up to annual rate of 1.8 percent in the second half of 2017. But that did not last. Already, Italian GDP growth is slowing and forecasts for the 2018 have are down to just above a 1 percent annual growth rate.

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“.. fewer than 10 of the 800-plus Chinese equity mutual funds have made a positive return this year..”

Market Turmoil Pushes Some China Funds To The Brink (R.)

It’s already been a harsh year for Chinese funds, hit by new rules aimed at reining in debt in the country’s financial system. Now, the sell-off in China stocks induced by trade war anxiety further threatens their health and for some, their survival. Case in point: private fund house Nanjing Hu Yang Investment Co has seen its assets under management halve to 50 million yuan ($7.5 million) over the past year on redemptions and investment losses. Its chairman, Zhang Kaihua, said he is putting his funds, which bet on consumer stocks, into “a state of dormancy”. He’s also stopped publishing fund performances and shelved capital raising plans. “Our only hope is that our existing clients can stick with us so that we can survive,” he said, adding that he has seen many of his peers drop out of the market.

In the past when market turmoil has hit China’s fund industry, such as in 2015, it has managed to bounce back on loose monetary policies and relaxations in rules for the sector. But this time, asset managers face a double whammy of fleeing investors and a central bank keen to see a mopping up of excessive liquidity in the financial system – pointing to prolonged pain for the industry. And as the U.S.-China trade war heats up – the two slapped tariffs on $34 billion worth of each other’s goods on Friday – the worry is that further declines in Chinese shares, which have fallen 10 percent since late June to two year-lows, could be the last straw for some funds.

According to Morningstar, fewer than 10 of the 800-plus Chinese equity mutual funds it tracks have made a positive return this year. Even before trade war fears ramped up last month, changes to asset management rules first outlined in 2017 and aimed at encouraging banks to reel in their investments in stocks and bonds had taken their toll. Equity fundraising dwindled to minimal levels, while redemptions and liquidations spiked.

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Global trade decelerates, but US trade defecit soars.

US Faces Soaring Trade Deficits, But Rising Energy Prices Bigger Danger (CNBC)

America’s foreign trade deficits on goods transactions are getting worse. After an increase of 7.7 percent in 2017, those deficits were growing in the first five months of this year at an almost identical annual rate. Particularly disappointing is the fact that there is no progress at all in bringing trade deficits down with the European Union and China. The deficit with those two large economic systems came in at $218 billion during the January-May period, accounting for nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of America’s total trade gap. That deficit was 11.3 percent more than recorded over the same interval of last year, and, at an annual rate, it comes close to half-a-trillion dollars.

Looking at the detail of these numbers, one can clearly see that trade deficits with the EU and China, growing at respective annual rates of 15 percent and 10 percent, are driven by a strong and unrelenting import penetration of American markets by European and Chinese companies. On current evidence, the short-term outlook for American foreign trade is not good for reasons of (a) different growth dynamics, (b) confrontational trade policies and (c) the political and security fallout exacerbated by intensifying trade disputes. Barring an inflation-induced recession, of which more later, the U.S. aggregate demand components — household consumption, residential investments and business capital outlays — are underpinned by high employment, increasing inflation-adjusted after tax incomes, low credit costs and targeted fiscal incentives.

An anticipated economic growth in the area of 2.5 to 3.0 percent for the rest of this year would still be more than an entire percentage point above the estimated non-inflationary potential of the U.S. economy. That strong demand pressure will continue to spill over into the rest of the world, and will support America’s vigorous imports of foreign goods and services. That’s music to European and Chinese ears.

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And then what is Mueller going to do?

White House Close To Refusing Interview With Russia Investigation (G.)

Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has warned Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, that the White House is close to refusing to grant an interview with the president. Giuliani took the increasingly belligerent tone of the White House up a notch on Sunday when he called the Russian investigation the “most corrupt I’ve ever seen”. Speaking on This Week on ABC News, he accused the special counsel of assembling a team of investigators around him that included “very, very severe partisans working on an investigation that should have been done by people who are politically neutral”.

Asked whether they had made a decision on whether or not Trump should participate in an interview with the inquiry, he replied: “We have not determined he will not sit down with Mueller, but we are close to that.” Giuliani’s round of the Sunday TV political talkshows is the latest sign that the core Trump team has decided to abandon its earlier approach of being seen to cooperate with the Russia investigation, and move towards an antagonistic position. On Friday, Giuliani told the New York Times that Mueller would get his interview with the president only if he could satisfy the White House that he had evidence that Trump had committed a crime.

The attorney and former mayor of New York, who is a long-standing friend of Trump’s, walked back that suggestion a little on Sunday. He said the White House did not require evidence of a criminal deed but at least some factual basis supporting suspicion of a crime. Giuliani revealed to CNN’s State of the Union that the White House legal team had debriefed all the witnesses to the Mueller investigation, and reviewed 1.4m pages of documents handed over to the special counsel. As a result, he claimed, he could confidently say that Trump had nothing to answer. “I have a pretty good idea because I’ve seen all the documents they have, we’ve debriefed all their witnesses. They have nothing. They would not be pressing for this interview if they had anything.”

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John Ralston Saul is an interesting voice.

America the Failed State (Chris Hedges)

Our “corporate coup d’état in slow motion,” as the writer John Ralston Saul calls it, has opened a Pandora’s box of evils that is transforming America into a failed state. The “unholy trinity of corruption, impunity and violence,” he said, can no longer be checked. The ruling elites abjectly serve corporate power to exploit and impoverish the citizenry. Democratic institutions, including the courts, are mechanisms of corporate repression. Financial fraud and corporate crime are carried out with impunity. The decay is exacerbated by the state’s indiscriminate use of violence abroad and at home, where rogue law enforcement agencies harass and arrest citizens and the undocumented and often kill the unarmed.

A depressed and enraged population, trapped by chronic unemployment and underemployment, is overdosing on opioids and beset by rising suicide rates. It engages in acts of nihilistic violence, including mass shootings. Hate groups proliferate. The savagery, mayhem and grotesque distortions familiar to those on the outer reaches of empire increasingly characterize American existence. And presiding over it all is the American version of Ubu Roi, playwright Alfred Jarry’s gluttonous, idiotic, vulgar, narcissistic and infantile king, who turned politics into burlesque.

“Congress works through corruption,” Saul [..] said when we spoke in Toronto. “I look at Congress and I see the British Parliament in the late 18th century, the rotten boroughs. Did they have elections? Yes. Were the elections exciting? Yes. They were extremely exciting.” Rotten boroughs were the 19th-century version of gerrymandering. The British oligarchs created electoral maps through which depopulated boroughs—50 of them had fewer than 50 voters—were easily dominated by the rich to maintain control of the House of Commons.

In the United States, our ruling class has done much the same, creating districts where incumbents, who often run unchallenged, return to Congress election after election. Only about 40 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are actually contested. And given the composition of the Supreme Court, especially with Donald Trump poised to install another justice, it will get worse. The corruption of the British system was amended in what Saul called “a wave upwards.” The 1832 Reform Act abolished a practice in which oligarchs, such as Charles Howard, the 11th Duke of Norfolk, controlled the election results in 11 boroughs. The opening up of the British parliamentary system took nearly a century. In the United States, Saul said, the destruction of democracy is part of “a wave downwards.”

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No going back.

BOJ’s Kuroda Expresses Resolve To Keep Ultra-Easy Monetary Policy (R.)

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda on Monday stressed that the central bank would maintain its ultra-loose monetary policy until inflation hits its 2 percent target. He also reiterated that Japan’s economy would see inflation accelerate towards the BOJ’s target as the output gap improved and medium- to long-term inflation expectations heightened. “Japan’s economy is expected to continue expanding moderately,” Kuroda said in a speech at a quarterly meeting of the central bank’s regional branch managers. Under a yield curve control policy adopted in 2016, the BOJ pledges to guide short-term interest rates at minus 0.1 percent and the 10-year government bond yield around zero percent.

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The EU can’t accept it.

A Parallel Currency For Italy Is Possible (Pol.eu)

In Joseph Stiglitz’s recent article for the POLITICO Global Policy Lab (“How to Exit the Eurozone,” June 29, 2018), the Nobel-prize wining economist proposes that Italy issue a parallel currency as a way to retake control of its monetary policy. It’s an insightful idea, and one worth exploring. However, Stiglitz is wrong when he suggests that “introducing a parallel currency, even informally, would almost certainly violate the eurozone’s rules and certainly be against its spirit.” Our organization — the Group of Fiscal Money — has been very active in developing and promoting such a dual-currency scheme. We call it “Fiscal Money” and believe it could be used to avoid the uncertainties of exiting the euro while allowing Italy to recover economically without breaking any EU rule.

Our proposal is for government to issue transferable and negotiable bonds, which bearers can use for tax rebates two years after issuance. Such bonds would carry immediate value, since they would incorporate sure claims to future fiscal savings. They could be immediately exchanged against euros in the financial market or used (in parallel to the euro) to purchase goods and services. Fiscal Money would be allocated, free of charge, to supplement employees’ income, to fund public investments and social spending programs, and to reduce enterprises’ tax on labor. These allocations would increase domestic demand and (by mimicking an exchange-rate devaluation) improve enterprise competitiveness through a reduction in the cost of labor.

As a result, Italy’s output gap — that is, the difference between potential and actual GDP — would close without affecting the country’s external balance. Note that under Eurostat rules, Fiscal Money bonds would not constitute debt, since the issuer would be under no obligation to reimburse them in cash. Also, as non-payable tax assets (of which many examples already exist), they would not be recorded in the budget until used for tax rebates — that is, two years after issuance when output and fiscal revenue have recovered.

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Blackmail.

Berlin Eyes Deal For Migrant Returns With Greece By End July (K.)

Even as Germany’s interior minister Horst Seehofer threatens the launch of mass returns of migrants if bilateral agreements are not achieved, German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen has suggested that such an accord with Greece may be signed by the end of the month. In comments to Der Spiegel, Seehofer said the absence of bilateral deals was “not a good strategy” and that Germany will start returning migrants reaching its border if that situation is not rectified. For his part, Alexander Dobrindt of the Christian Social Union said he believed German plans to return asylum seekers to European Union countries of first entry would not necessarily be met by cooperation.

“Whoever is not in a position to honor fundamental European regulations cannot expect cooperation in other areas,” he said. Von der Leyen, for her part, expressed her conviction that a bilateral agreement with Greece was a matter of time. “We want an agreement with Greece by the end of the month,” she told the Funke publishing group, adding that such an accord could be an example for other countries. “The Italians want us to help them in exchange,” she said. “Solidarity is significant, for everyone, irrespective of who is in government in Rome,” she said.

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1 in 10 now drown.

Italy Promises Billions To Libya If It Accepts The Return Of Migrants (EN)

Italy and Libya have agreed to reactivate a friendship treaty signed a decade ago that allowed migrants to be returned to Libyan territory. “We agreed to reactivate the 2008 Italian-Libyan friendship treaty,” said Libya’s foreign minister Mohamad Siala in a joint press conference in Tripoli with Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi. He hailed the agreement reached during his first visit to Tripoli as “significant and promising”. The original treaty was signed by former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and Italy’s then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, as they sought to turn a page on 40 years of stormy relations between the North African country and its former coloniser.

But the deal was suspended in February 2011, after the start of the uprising that saw Gadhafi forced from power and killed. The original treaty envisaged unlocking 4.2 billion euros of Italian investment in Libya as compensation for colonisation by Rome. In exchange, Libya would work to stop illegal migrants embarking from its shores — and receive those sent back to it. In Tripoli on Saturday the two ministers did not say if the text of the reactivated treaty had been amended. The agreement means “all the conditions are in place to work hand in hand to support stabilisation … (of) Libya’s security and unity”, Milanesi said. Libya “shares with the European Union the responsibility and the duty to deal with migrants”, he added.

The new anti-immigrant government in Rome has vowed to turn away all migrants who make it across the Mediterranean and into Italy. In recent days the UN has urged Rome to change its policy and re-allow charity rescue ships to operate in its waters and dock at its ports. It states that, whilst the amount of migrant attempting the crossing has gone down, the number of drownings has gone up.

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Jun 192018
 
 June 19, 2018  Posted by at 12:07 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Why are you angry? 1896

 

Yes, you have every right to be outraged at the disgraceful treatment of children on America’s borders. But that does not give you the right to NOT be outraged by what America has done and is today still doing to children in, just to name a few places, Syria, Libya and Yemen. Be outraged, but don’t make it an echo chamber issue. Because if you do, you, too, are in a cage.

So if you see the wives of former presidents speak out about the child separation policies, ask yourself where they get the moral authority to speak out on such issues, after their husbands have bombed the crap out of many countries, killing many many children in the process. And don’t let’s get started about Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.

Presently in Yemen, 20 million people depend on humanitarian aid, and the US are helping Saudi Arabia et al bomb the only port left through which that aid can reach them, to smithereens. 8.5 million Yemenis are already starving, and some 3 million of them are children. Where is your outrage over that?

Where is the outrage over the American and international treatment of Julian Assange, who has been in the Ecuador embassy in London for six years today? Where is it?

Don’t get coaxed into selective outrage by your news media, who like nothing better than to tell you what to be outraged by, and what not. If you allow that to happen, you have lost your freedom and your independence. Ask why they tell you a certain story at the moment they tell it. Ask why they tell it the way they do.

Yes, it has come to this. Every single story you read or hear needs to be scrutinized. Because there’s an agenda behind all of them, left, right or middle. And because the media have figured out that constantly driving you from one selective outrage to another is very profitable for them. Critical thought is not.

Yes, there are sociopaths in the Trump administration. But that’s nothing new. There have been sociopaths in every administration. It’s how our political systems work. Sh*t floats to the top.

Yes, US border policies have intensified. But whatever you think of that, migrants and refugees are not a new issue. Nor are the reasons why people flee their homes and communities. Whether it’s Africa or Central America, people flee because of what western governments, military and intelligence services have done to their homelands.

And until we stop doing that, they will keep coming. So much of our prosperity and power is derived directly from other people’s poverty and despair. So much of our wealth has been stolen from other people’s resources. If you want to be outraged at something or someone, start with yourself. Start thinking.

What is happening today is awful. But so many awful things happened in the past that you never showed outrage about. And yet these things are all inextricably linked. One leads to another.

America shouldn’t be outraged about Trump without being outraged about its entire political system, and all of its actors. Without that, outrage about Trump has no meaning, and will lead to nothing at all. Or rather, it will lead to a more divided country, full of people played for profit and political games.

The US invasion of Vietnam ended to a large extent because of protests in the streets. Perhaps that is what is needed once again. But the underlying issues, the ones that had led to the invasion in the first place, were not solved then. And that is what it is all about.

Nor is it an American problem per se. Europe is just as culpable. Children drowning, children in cages, what’s the difference, in the end it all comes from the same mindset. Which needs a radical reset. But what are the odds of that happening?

Our cultures are based on exploiting other peoples and nations, and then telling ourselves we deserve what we have. How are you going to change that? The only way to resolve the global refugee problem is to make sure people have a future where they are born. And the only thing we actually do is to make that impossible.

Yes, be outraged.

 

 

Mar 212018
 
 March 21, 2018  Posted by at 9:24 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Dirk de Herder Amstel Bridge, Amsterdam1946

 

Sign of Pending Recession? Total American Net Worth Ratio At New High (CNBC)
EU To Unveil Digital Tax Targeting Facebook, Google (AFP)
UK Tells Facebook’s Auditors Visiting Cambridge Analytica To Stand Down (CNBC)
Whatsapp Co-Founder Who Made Billions From Facebook Now Says To Delete It (MW)
The NSA Worked To “Track Down” Bitcoin Users – Snowden Documents (IC)
Bitcoin Bust Is Like Nasdaq Crash, But Faster (BBG)
German Prosecutors Launch New Enquiry Into VW Over Market Manipulation (R.)
Capitalism And The Veil Of Ignorance (Claire Connelly)
Libya: The True Face Of ‘Humanitarian Intervention’ (RT)
France’s Bird Population Collapses As Pesticides Kill Off Insects (AFP)

 

 

Net worth my ass.

Sign of Pending Recession? Total American Net Worth Ratio At New High (CNBC)

Nine years into the second-longest bull market run in history, the level of total net worth compared with income has reached a record, according to Joe LaVorgna, chief economist for the Americas at Natixis, citing Federal Reserve data. Since the Great Recession ended in June 2009, the disparity between net worth and income has soared, attributable in large part to the growth in financial assets, which have increased by $33.9 trillion, compared with $10.4 trillion in nonfinancial assets. Essentially, that means that American wallets have grown fatter from the accumulation of financial assets like stocks and mutual fund holdings than they have from gains in their homes and other physical assets like autos.

In all, total net worth of $98.75 trillion is now 6.79 times the $14.55 trillion in disposable income for households as of the fourth quarter, according to Fed financial accounts figures. That’s up from 6.71 times in the third quarter. The previous tops came in the first quarter of 2006, with 6.51, and the first quarter of 2000, at 6.12. Those two levels cast ominous signals over the U.S. economy. “A recession started four quarters from the peak of the former and eight quarters from the zenith in the latter,” LaVorgna said Tuesday in a note to clients. As a practical matter, the level should serve as a yellow flag for Fed officials, who are on a course of hiking rates gradually but steadily.

[..] The Fed is an important part of the equation in that it helped boost financial assets through historically low interest rates and an aggressive policy of monthly bond buying called quantitative easing. This is the first meeting for new Chairman Jerome Powell, who must navigate the Fed through rate increases aimed at controlling but not stopping growth. After years of mostly steady gains since the bull market run began in 2009, volatility has crept in 2018 and raised the specter that forward gains will be tougher to achieve. “Powell needs to be mindful of the current backdrop and not signal aggressive rate hikes to come,” LaVorgna said. “Otherwise, stock prices and the economy are in trouble.”

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Brussels and Facebook: they’re going to come for part of the loot of selling your data.

EU To Unveil Digital Tax Targeting Facebook, Google (AFP)

The EU will unveil proposals for a digital tax on US tech giants on Wednesday, bringing yet more turmoil to Facebook after revelations over misused data of 50 million users shocked the world. The special tax is the latest measure by the 28-nation European Union to rein in Silicon Valley giants and could further embitter the bad-tempered trade row pitting the EU against US President Donald Trump. EU Economics Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici will present proposals aimed at recovering billions of euros from mainly US multinationals that shift earnings around Europe to pay lower tax rates.

The transatlantic blow has been championed by French President Emmanuel Macron and will be discussed over dinner at an EU leaders summit on Thursday. “This will be given top priority as tax file. There is a lot of political momentum on this issue,” an EU official said ahead of the announcement. The unprecedented tech tax follows major anti-trust decisions by the EU that have cost Apple and Google billions and also caught out Amazon. The commission’s tax, expected to be about 3% of sales, would affect revenue from digital advertising, paid subscriptions and the selling of personal data.

The EU tax plan will target mainly US companies with worldwide annual turnover above 750 million euros ($924 million), such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Airbnb and Uber. Spared are smaller European start-ups that struggle to compete with them. Companies like Netflix, which depend on subscriptions, will also avoid the chop. Brussels is seeking to choke tax-avoidance strategies used by the tech giants that, although legal, deprive EU governments of billions of euros in revenue.

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Got to admit, hard to say who I’d trust least with this, Facebook or the UK deep state.

UK Tells Facebook’s Auditors Visiting Cambridge Analytica To Stand Down (CNBC)

The U.K.’s data protection watchdog ordered Facebook’s auditors to back down from a probe into a political analytics company accused of wrongly harvesting the data of millions of its users. The tech giant was planning to investigate Cambridge Analytica’s servers and systems, but the Information Commissioner’s Office told Facebook on Monday that it should withdraw from the research firm’s London premises. The ICO said it would seek to gain its own warrant to access the company’s computers and servers.

Facebook had said Monday that it was pursuing a forensic audit of Cambridge Analytica and had hired digital forensics firm Stroz Friedberg to determine whether the data analytics company still possessed Facebook user data. But in an updated statement later that day, Facebook said: “Independent forensic auditors from Stroz Friedberg were on site at Cambridge Analytica’s London office this evening. At the request of the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office, which has announced it is pursuing a warrant to conduct its own on-site investigation, the Stroz Friedberg auditors stood down.”

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Sold his shares first?!

Whatsapp Co-Founder Who Made Billions From Facebook Now Says To Delete It (MW)

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton left Facebook last year. Now he’s saying others should do the same. In a tweet Tuesday, Action said: “It is time. #deletefacebook,” referencing the online movement that is gaining steam in the wake of revelations that the personal data of 50 million Facebook users was used without their permission by political data company Cambridge Analytica during the 2016 presidential campaign. He did not immediately expand on his comment. While his Facebook profile was still active for hours after his tweet, it appeared deactivated later Tuesday night.

Acton and fellow co-founder Jan Koum sold the messaging service WhatsApp to Facebook in 2014 for $22 billion. Acton received about $3 billion in the deal, and has a net worth of about $5.5 billion, according to Forbes. After staying on for three years, Acton quit Facebook in September, and is now a major backer of rival messaging service Signal, which boasts encryption to make its messages resistent to government surveillance. In February, he joined the newly launched nonprofit Signal Foundation as executive chairman, and invested $50 million into the app.

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Now connect this to the Facebook stories.

The NSA Worked To “Track Down” Bitcoin Users – Snowden Documents (IC)

Classified documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the National Security Agency indeed worked urgently to target bitcoin users around the world — and wielded at least one mysterious source of information to “help track down senders and receivers of Bitcoins,” according to a top-secret passage in an internal NSA report dating to March 2013. The data source appears to have leveraged the NSA’s ability to harvest and analyze raw, global internet traffic while also exploiting an unnamed software program that purported to offer anonymity to users, according to other documents. Although the agency was interested in surveilling some competing cryptocurrencies, “Bitcoin is #1 priority,” a March 15, 2013 internal NSA report stated.

The documents indicate that “tracking down” bitcoin users went well beyond closely examining bitcoin’s public transaction ledger, known as the Blockchain, where users are typically referred to through anonymous identifiers; the tracking may also have involved gathering intimate details of these users’ computers. The NSA collected some bitcoin users’ password information, internet activity, and a type of unique device identification number known as a MAC address, a March 29, 2013 NSA memo suggested. In the same document, analysts also discussed tracking internet users’ internet addresses, network ports, and timestamps to identify “BITCOIN Targets.”

The agency appears to have wanted even more data: The March 29 memo raised the question of whether the data source validated its users, and suggested that the agency retained bitcoin information in a file named “Provider user full.csv.” It also suggested powerful search capabilities against bitcoin targets, hinting that the NSA may have been using its XKeyScore searching system, where the bitcoin information and wide range of other NSA data was cataloged, to enhance its information on bitcoin users. An NSA reference document indicated that the data source provided “user data such as billing information and Internet Protocol addresses.” With this sort of information in hand, putting a name to a given bitcoin user would be easy.

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One took 519 days, the other 35 days. That’s an actual compariosn?

Bitcoin Bust Is Like Nasdaq Crash, But Faster (BBG)

Bitcoin has long been compared to the dot-com bubble. Morgan Stanley says its recent moves are similar to the tech boom and bust, but on steroids. Bitcoin’s recent moves almost mirror that of the Nasdaq Composite Index in the lead-up to and aftermath of 2000, but at 15 times the speed, Morgan Stanley said. The Nasdaq climbed 278% in 519 days in the rally leading up to its high in March 2000, while Bitcoin soared 248% in 35 days in the last leg of the rally to its $19,511 high in December, according to the report. There have been three waves of weakness since Bitcoin peaked in December, with prices falling between 45% and 50% each time, before rebounding.

The Nasdaq’s bear market from 2000 had five price declines, averaging a similar 44%. The bear market also looks similar on the way up. There have been two Bitcoin bear market rallies of 43% on average, while the Nasdaq bear market rallies averaged 40%. Bear markets are nothing new for the first decentralized digital currency. Since the coin’s creation in 2009 there have been four bear markets with price declines ranging from 28% to 92%. From the December peak to the most recent low on February, Bitcoin’s price fell by 70%, “nothing out of the ordinary,” Morgan Stanley said.

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C’mon, close them down already. This movie’s getting boring.

German Prosecutors Launch New Enquiry Into VW Over Market Manipulation (R.)

German prosecutors said on Tuesday they had searched Volkswagen’s headquarters as part of a new investigation into whether the carmaker had overstated the fuel efficiency of more vehicles than previously disclosed. The news is the latest setback in the German company’s efforts to move on from a 2015 scandal in which it admitted to cheating U.S. emissions tests on diesel engines. Prosecutors from the city of Braunschweig searched 13 offices at Volkswagen’s (VW) headquarters in nearby Wolfsburg at the start of March, seizing documents and computer files that will now be reviewed, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said, confirming a report by German magazine WirtschaftsWoche.

They were checking a statement issued by VW on Dec. 9, 2015—about three months after its “dieselgate” scandal broke in the United States—over suspicions its contents were incorrect In that statement, VW said its own investigations found it had understated fuel consumption, and hence carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, on no more than 36,000 vehicles. That was much lower than its preliminary estimate of around 800,000 diesel and gasoline vehicles produced five weeks earlier, which caused VW to warn it could face a 2 billion euro ($2.5 billion) hit to profits from the disclosure. VW also said in its December 2015 statement that it had found no evidence of unlawful alterations to CO2 emissions data.

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We might as well keep thinking as long as we still can.

Capitalism And The Veil Of Ignorance (Claire Connelly)

So our taxes don’t pay for spending, so what? So the government can’t run out of money. Big deal. Does that change anything? ‘We can’t afford it’ has been the proverbial comforter of opponents of the welfare state harking back to the Clinton / Blair days. Perhaps even earlier. And while it might make you feel good to believe that, it is simply untrue. This argument has been used as an emotional crutch for people who don’t want to admit that they’re comfortable with homelessness and unemployment if it keeps export prices low. Or the currency competitive. Or their bottom line stable. Ultimately, this comes down to what government is for, and what role markets should play in our lives. People are divided on this. And that is ok. Civil disagreements are a hallmark of a civilised society.

Economies and markets are complex beasts, that perform differently in different environments, under different conditions. Arguably across the duration of time, a range of potential solutions could apply at any given scenario. And the best solution is to pick and choose from a range of different economic schools of thought, and use them in combination. Unfortunately, across the world, the economists and historians that are seeking to gain greater clarity of how to do just that, by understanding the true function of economies and markets are being pushed out of universities and barred from institutions and organisations that would allow their research to come to fruition. This is not a mark of a civilised society, but corporate fascism that is actively suppressing research that threatens the dominance of late-stage capitalism.

If you feel comfortable convincing yourself that unemployment and homelessness is acceptable, if you think the fact that wages have not only stagnated but are in many countries actually going backwards somehow doesn’t affect you, that what most people earn in a lifetime will be insufficient to cover a modestly comfortable retirement should not concern you, that addressing any one of these things would be a detriment not only to your bottom line but to the economy itself, if you can justify that position without relying on arguments over deficits and balanced budgets, well, more power to you, I guess. But we should be honest about our disagreements. And our opinions should be informed by an as accurate understanding of how wealth is created as possible.

For many people, whether or not government can afford to address unemployment and social spending isn’t the issue, the question is whether it should. The argument over budgets, debt ceilings and deficits have been used as a national pacifier that would have us believe that the health of the economy and our ability to earn a living relies on a degree of human suffering. We have been convinced that the balancing of federal budgets somehow relates to our ability to put food on the table, when in fact the opposite is true. These lies have made us paranoid and competitive, where the well-being of everyone else is a direct threat to our own. It’s a pretty genius strategy, really.

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On the 15th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

“Libya had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent. Less people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands.”

Libya: The True Face Of ‘Humanitarian Intervention’ (RT)

Seven years ago today, NATO began its “humanitarian bombing” of Libya. While “humanitarian bombing” is an oxymoron, many believe that a country is not truly advancing human rights if it’s not bombing another back to the Stone Age. As an initial matter, it must be said that while the UN had authorized a NATO fly-zone over Libya to protect civilians – all civilians, by the way – there was never authorization for the full-scale invasion which was carried out and which quickly became aimed at regime change. Therefore, the NATO operation which actually took place was illegal.

[..] the intervention was spearheaded by Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and Susan Rice – three self-described warriors for human and women’s rights. Instead, they became three ushers of the Apocalypse. In addition, Italy and France, which also helped lead the charge for invasion, had their own reasons for intervening in Libya. For his part, French President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to be singularly focused on killing Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who allegedly gave him €50 million for his presidential campaign – a claim which was just coming to light and to which Gaddafi was the chief witness.

[..] Gaddafi had taken Libya from being the least prosperous country in Africa to the being the most prosperous by the time of the NATO operation. Thus, as one commentator explains, before the intervention, “Libya had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent. Less people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands.” Moreover, one of the main reasons, we were told, that NATO needed to intervene in 2011 was to save Benghazi from imminent harm from the government forces of Gaddafi.

However, Hillary Clinton’s own internal emails show that her team recognized that any humanitarian problems confronting Benghazi had passed by the time of the NATO bombing. For example, Clinton’s assistant, Huma Abedin, in an email dated February 21, 2011 – that is, just a mere four days after the initial anti-government protests broke out in Libya – explains that the Gaddafi forces no longer controlled Benghazi and that the mood in the city was indeed “celebratory” by that time. Then, on March 2, just over two weeks before the bombing began, Harriet Spanos of USAID sent an email describing “[s]ecurity reports” which “confirm that Benghazi has been calm over the past couple of days.”

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Rhinos, insects, birds. You are next.

Bird populations in France have fallen by 33% in just 15 years.

France’s Bird Population Collapses As Pesticides Kill Off Insects (AFP)

Bird populations across the French countryside have fallen by a third over the last decade and a half, researchers have said. Dozens of species have seen their numbers decline, in some cases by two-thirds, the scientists said in a pair of studies – one national in scope and the other covering a large agricultural region in central France. “The situation is catastrophic,” said Benoit Fontaine, a conservation biologist at France’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the studies. “Our countryside is in the process of becoming a veritable desert,” he said in a communique released by the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), which also contributed to the findings.

The common white throat, the ortolan bunting, the Eurasian skylark and other once-ubiquitous species have all fallen off by at least a third, according a detailed, annual census initiated at the start of the century. A migratory song bird, the meadow pipit, has declined by nearly 70%. The museum described the pace and extent of the wipe-out as “a level approaching an ecological catastrophe”. The primary culprit, researchers speculate, is the intensive use of pesticides on vast tracts of monoculture crops, especially wheat and corn. The problem is not that birds are being poisoned, but that the insects on which they depend for food have disappeared.

“There are hardly any insects left, that’s the number one problem,” said Vincent Bretagnolle, a CNRS ecologist at the Centre for Biological Studies in Chize. Recent research, he noted, has uncovered similar trends across Europe, estimating that flying insects have declined by 80%, and bird populations has dropped by more than 400m in 30 years. Despite a government plan to cut pesticide use in half by 2020, sales in France have climbed steadily, reaching more than 75,000 tonnes of active ingredient in 2014, according to EU figures. “What is really alarming, is that all the birds in an agricultural setting are declining at the same speed, even ’generalist’ birds,” which also thrive in other settings such as wooded areas, said Bretagnolle.

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Nov 292017
 
 November 29, 2017  Posted by at 10:06 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Claude Monet The Manneporte (Étretat) 1883

 

VIX – From Fear Index To Greed Index (Tchir)
When VIX Trade Finally Blows Up, It Could Get Ugly All Over (MW)
DB’s “2018 Credit Outlook” – Bearish Not Benign Conclusion (ZH)
The GOP Tax Bill: Fuggedaboutit! (Stockman)
Number Of US Store Closings Triples From Last Year (Snyder)
Trump Deserves Some Credit for the Rally in Stocks (A. Gary Shilling)
Fed Chair Nominee Jerome Powell Says Too Big To Fail Is Over (BI)
Britain Close To Deal On Brexit Bill With EU (R.)
Former New Zealand PM John Key Lied About Mass Surveillance Program (NZH)
Senior Saudi Prince Freed In $1 Billion Settlement Agreement (R.)
Europe Needs a Way to Prevent the Next Greek-Style Debt Crisis (BBG)
Controversial Glyphosate Weedkiller Wins New 5-Year Lease In Europe (G.)
New Zealand Fault Line Wakes Up: “We Must Think Japan 2011 Ruptures” (SHTF)
Libya “Chose” Freedom, Now It Has Slavery (CP)
The EU Created Libya’s Migrant Abuses, Now It Must Address Them (CP)

 

 

The crazy idea of ultra low risk will be found out.

VIX – From Fear Index To Greed Index (Tchir)

We have all heard the VIX or volatility index referred to as the Fear Index or Fear Gauge. Rising VIX was meant to signal fear in the markets. That is how most investors have historically thought about VIX and traded it (directly or through Exchange Traded Products). I have gone back in time and combined the total assets under management of XIV and SVXY (two short VIX products) and UVXY and VXX (the two largest long VIX products). There are others and it doesn’t account for the fact that UVXY incorporates leverage, but the point is the same. The funds that in theory helped investors ‘hedge’ their portfolios went from being the dominant species to those that enable investors to sell volatility.


Short VIX Funds are Larger than Long VIX Funds (source Bloomberg)

This has rarely been the case. Typically investors had more interest in hedging their portfolios despite the evidence that the long VIX ETFs and ETNs had to continually perform reverse splits as their share prices drifted lower (some would argue “raced” lower is a more accurate description). While the products looking to benefit on a volatility spike still attract inflows (otherwise their assets under management would be even lower), they have lost the competition to the VIX sellers. The only other gap of similar size and duration was in late August 2015 – AFTER the market sold off and volatility spiked. This time, it is occurring as stock markets are near all-time highs and VIX is still close to the all-time low it set just a few weeks ago (VIX is only calculated since 1990). [..] A spike in volatility could be far more problematic than the market is prepared for as even a small spike could turn into a larger problem with so many people positioned the other way.

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“.. it has the potential to destabilize the entire financial system on its own.”

When VIX Trade Finally Blows Up, It Could Get Ugly All Over (MW)

Bitcoin’s face-melting rally toward $10,000 is the talk of financial circles these days. But if the digital currency is, indeed, the dangerous bubble many believe it to be, its inevitable implosion will pale in comparison to the potential damage caused by the demise of one of the best trades the Wall Street has ever seen: Shorting the VIX. You’d have to be living under a rock — or maybe just a normal person who doesn’t fixate on the stock market — to not notice the incredible lack of volatility in this bull run. This persistent trend has lined the pocket of any investor who’s been savvy/lucky enough to bet against the VIX. Count Seth Golden, a former Target manager, among those fortunate to be on the right side of it. He told the Times this summer his net worth exploded from $500,000 to $12 million in about five years thanks to his VIX shorts. This chart shows insane it’s been:

But all good things come to an end, and when this historic trend finally reverses, the fallout could be devastating. In our call of the day, Kevin Muir of the Macro Tourist blog warns that these people face getting completely “wiped out” when volatility returns to this market. And it won’t end there. “A VIX spike is dangerous not only for everyone that is playing in the VIX square, but for all market participants,” he explained in a recent blog post. “Given the size of the VIX complex, it has the potential to destabilize the entire financial system on its own. If the move is abrupt and large enough, it will not only bankrupt many different parties, but will cause a ripple effect in other markets.”

Muir went on to warn the real worry here is not just that those who have made enormous sums on shorting the VIX are about to give it all back. No, he believes they, as well as many others, stand to lose a whole lot more. “Shorting VIX, at these low levels, in the size they are doing, is not only dumb, but crazily dangerous, not only to the parties trading it, but also to the stability of the entire financial system,” he said.

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How can the VIX remain low in the face of this?

DB’s “2018 Credit Outlook” – Bearish Not Benign Conclusion (ZH)

Heading into 2018, Reid characterises risk assets as a tightrope walker who’s successfully negotiated a hire wire since the 2008 crisis. However, the confidence of our risk asset funambulist was always fortified by the knowledge that there was a huge safety net direct beneath him in the shape of the central bank put. In Reid’s own words. “The best analogy for our view on 2018 is that risk assets are like a highly skilled but still relatively inexperienced tightrope walker. Our tightrope walker started his career immediately after the GFC and earned his apprenticeship in very difficult conditions with lots of crosswinds but with the knowledge that a huge safety net existed beneath him. This allowed him to walk across the narrow line with slow but ever-increasing confidence, skill and aplomb. In our analogy the safety net is the central bank put that has continued to help financial markets’ confidence over the last several years in spite of very challenging conditions.”

As the tightrope walker steps from December 2017 into January 2018, he’s going to notice a disconcerting change in his safety net. “However in 2018 our tightrope walker will have to move onto the next phase of his career where the structural support of the safety net will likely be slowly weakened. Every time he looks down he’ll figuratively see a central banker loosen or take away a supporting rope. As such his skills and confidence are likely to be tested more than in recent years.” Reid is specifically referring to the growth in the size of the big four DM central bank balance sheets, i.e. the Federal Reserve, ECB, Bank of Japan and the Bank of England. At the end of 2017, the combined size of the big four’s balance sheets is estimated to reach about $14.9 trillion, an increase of about $1.8 trillion on the end of 2016. That’s about to change radically, as he notes. “Assuming fairly neutral and consensus assumptions, central bank balance sheet growth will fall sharply over the next 12-24 months from the near peak levels currently seen.”

The chart below shows that on a rolling twelve-month basis, growth will fall sharply, beginning in 2Q 2018. By the end of 2018, DM estimates that the rolling twelve-month growth will have declined about 75% from its 2017 level to about $450 billion. By August 2019, growth will have declined to zero according to DB’s estimate.

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Hope the GOP reads these missives.

The GOP Tax Bill: Fuggedaboutit! (Stockman)

The GOP has become so politically desperate that they might as well enact a two-word statute and be done with it. It would simply read: Tax Bill! Actually, that’s not far from where they are in the great scheme of things. The Senate Finance Committee’s bill is a dog’s breakfast of K-Street/Wall Street pleasing tax cuts, narrowly focused revenue raisers that will be subject to withering attack on the Senate floor, nonsensical vote-driven compromises and outrageous fiscal gimmicks – the most blatant of which is the sun-setting of every single individual tax provision after 2025. This latter trick is designed to shoe-horn the revenue loss into the $1.5 trillion 10-year allowance in the budget reconciliation instruction and also comply with the Senate’s “Byrd Rule” which allows a point of order to strike down a reconciliation bill that increases the deficit after year 10.

Save for these gimmicks, the actual 10-year cost of the Senate bill would be $2.2 trillion including interest on the added deficits. Nevertheless, this and other sunset gimmicks also underscore how threadbare the whole undertaking has become. To wit, the bill provides interim, deficit-financed tax relief of $1.38 trillion during 2018-2025 before these budget gimmicks kick-in, which is not a big number in the scheme of things: it amounts to just 4.2% of current law revenue collections during the eight year period, and only 0.8% of GDP. Since the bill doesn’t even really cut marginal rates during this interim period (the top bracket drops from 39.6% to 38.5%), its hard to see how a mere 0.8% “stimulus” to GDP is going to incite a tsunami of growth and jobs.

As we have frequently pointed out, the Reagan tax cut of 1981 – which had no measureable effect on the trend rate of economic growth – slashed marginal rates from 70% to 50% and as a total package paled the current Senate Plan into insignificance: It reduced the Federal revenue base by 26%, not 4.2%; and it amounted to 6.2% of GDP, not 0.8%, when fully effective in the later 1980s. Moreover, the “fully effective” part is especially salient because the Senate bill’s impact does not widen with time, as do most permanent tax cuts which require phase-in periods, but, instead, shrinks into virtual insignificance. Thus, the bill’s net tax cut amounts to $225 billion or 1.1% of GDP in 2019, but by 2022 the net cut shrinks to $199 billion and 0.9% of GDP – and then to just $145 billion or 0.6% of GDP in 2025 when the sunset gimmick kicks in.

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Changing the landscape.

Number Of US Store Closings Triples From Last Year (Snyder)

Did you know that the number of retail store closings in 2017 has already tripled the number from all of 2016? Last year, a total of 2,056 store locations were closed down, but this year more than 6,700 stores have been shut down so far. That absolutely shatters the all-time record for store closings in a single year, and yet nobody seems that concerned about it. In 2008, an all-time record 6,163 retail stores were shuttered, and we have already surpassed that mark by a very wide margin. We are facing an unprecedented retail apocalypse, and as you will see below, the number of retail store closings is actually supposed to be much higher next year. Whenever the mainstream media reports on the retail apocalypse, they always try to put a positive spin on the story by blaming the growth of Amazon and other online retailers.

And without a doubt that has had an impact, but at this point online shopping still accounts for less than 10% of total U.S. retail sales. Look, Amazon didn’t just show up to the party. They have been around for many, many years and while it is true that they are growing, they still only account for a very small sliver of the overall retail pie. So those that would like to explain away this retail apocalypse need to come up with a better explanation. [..] Of course the truth is that the economy is not doing well. The U.S. economy has not grown by at least 3% in a single year since the middle of the Bush administration, and it isn’t going to happen this year either. Overall, the U.S. economy has grown by an average of just 1.33% over the last 10 years, and meanwhile U.S. stock prices are up about 250% since the end of the last recession.

The stock market has become completely and utterly disconnected from economic reality, and yet many Americans still believe that it is an accurate barometer for the health of the economy. [..] So far this year, more than 300 retailers have filed for bankruptcy, and we are currently on pace to lose over 147 million square feet of retail space by the end of 2017. Those are absolutely catastrophic numbers. And some analysts are already predicting that as many as 9,000 stores could be shut down in the United States in 2018.

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Deregulation.

Trump Deserves Some Credit for the Rally in Stocks (A. Gary Shilling)

Reducing government regulation is tough. It’s resisted by all those who benefit, including government employees who administer the many programs. Every president since Jimmy Carter has attempted to lower the cost of regulation. At best, any cuts have been tiny and mostly centered on trimming paperwork. But less regulation is one campaign promise made by Donald Trump that is coming true. With tax and health-care reform problematic and given the president’s protectionist leanings, deregulation is probably a major driver of the stock market rally. The size and scope of the federal government give the president immense powers. In relation to gross domestic product, federal spending rose from 16% in 1946 to 22% in the 2017 fiscal year. Executive orders give the chief executive, in effect, legislative powers.

President Barack Obama issued many in his waning days, especially affecting power plants and oil pipelines. The Competitive Enterprise Institute last year found regulation cost American businesses $1.9 trillion, dwarfing the $344 billion in corporate taxes. About 56% of CEOs see overregulation as a major threat to their organization, more than cybersecurity (50%), rising taxes (41%) or even protectionism (27%). Whenever a new regulation is made or changed, it must be chronicled in the Federal Register. In the last years of the Obama administration, regulatory activity went parabolic, hitting almost 97,000 pages in a year. The annualized pace under Trump through July 31 was 61,330 pages, the fewest since the 1970s.

This year through June, the federal government had made 1,731 preliminary, proposed or final rules, the least since 2000 and down 40% from the 2011 peak under Obama. Many actions taken under Trump are reversals of earlier rules made under Obama. Of 66 completed actions at the Environmental Protection Agency, a third were rule withdrawals. Shares of banks have benefited, as those with more than $50 billion in assets are now able to merge without increased scrutiny. Scaling back the Volcker Rule would allow big banks to resume proprietary lending. The delay and likely alterations of the fiduciary requirement would aid brokers and insurers. The House has already approved a widespread rewrite of Dodd-Frank.

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I think he meant it.

Fed Chair Nominee Jerome Powell Says Too Big To Fail Is Over (BI)

Jerome Powell, Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve Chair, just made a frightening statement that suggests he is far too sanguine about risks in the US and global financial systems. During his confirmation hearing at the Senate on Tuesday, when pressed on the issue of whether any US banks are still considered too big to fail, Powell said simply: “No.” It’s the kind of blind optimism that could come back to haunt him during his tenure, which begins in February. Too big to fail, of course, is the financial crisis-era term for banks that the US government would be forced to bail out in a crisis because they might take the entire system down with them. Think of Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs. They underpin too much of our financial network to be allowed to falter.

“Dodd-Frank did a lot of things, but ending Too Big To Fail can’t be listed among its accomplishments,” Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research at Compass Point, told Business Insider. “The system is far safer given the capital and liquidity rules, and new mandates such as living wills and orderly liquidation authority should blunt panic in a crisis, but I doubt anyone in Washington or on Wall Street truly believes the federal government would stand idly by in the event of another systemic banking crisis,” he said. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren also took issue with Powell’s opening statement, which talked about “easing the burden” of regulation for banks.

“I’m troubled that you believe the biggest problem with bank regulations is that they are too tough,” Warren said during the hearing, arguing that it was that kind of mindset that led to the financial crisis of 2007-2008. At that time, many large investment banks were rescued by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve after their investments in housing soured quickly as a historic boom turned to bust. Treating the banks as victims of burdensome rules — rather than perpetrators of a historic crisis in need of deeper and more constant supervision — could lay the groundwork for a repeat. When it comes, Powell is going to regret that he didn’t have more to say about this.

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The pound surged on this news, but without solving the Irish border issue, none of it is worth a thing.

Britain Close To Deal On Brexit Bill With EU (R.)

Britain has offered to pay much of what the European Union was demanding to settle a Brexit “divorce bill”, bringing the two sides close to agreement on a key obstacle to opening talks on a future free trade pact, EU sources said on Tuesday. The offer, which British newspapers valued at around 50 billion euros, reflected the bulk of outstanding EU demands that include London paying a share of post-Brexit EU spending on commitments made before Britain leaves in March 2019 as well as funding of EU staff pensions for decades to come. A British government official said they “do not recognize” this account of the talks going on ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Theresa May to Brussels this coming Monday.

EU officials close to the negotiations stressed that work was still continuing ahead of May’s talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. But EU diplomats briefed on progress said the British offer was promising and that, on the financial settlement, the two sides were, as one said, “close to a deal”. Nonetheless, others cautioned that Britain had yet to make a fully committed offer and that essential agreement from the other 27 member states could not yet be taken for granted. The EU set the condition of “significant progress” on three key elements of a withdrawal treaty before it would accede to London’s request for negotiations on a free trade pact that could keep business flowing after Brexit in 16 months.

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See you in court.

Former New Zealand PM John Key Lied About Mass Surveillance Program (NZH)

Sir John Key’s story of how and why he canned a “mass surveillance” programme are at odds with official papers detailing development of the “Speargun” project. The issue blew up in the final days of the 2014 election with Key claiming the programme was long-dead and had been replaced by a benign cyber-security system called Cortex. Key always claimed the Speargun project to tap New Zealand’s internet cable was stopped in March 2013. But new documents show development of Speargun continued after the time he had said he ordered a halt – apparently because the scheme was “too broad”. Instead, they show Speargun wasn’t actually stopped until after Key was told in a secret briefing that details were likely to become public because they could be in the trove of secrets taken by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

With days to go until voting in 2014, Key found himself accused by some of the world’s most high-profile and outspoken surveillance critics of secretly developing a mass surveillance system with the United States’ National Security Agency. It was high stakes for Key, also Minister of the GCSB, as he had previously promised the public he would resign as Prime Minister if there was ever mass surveillance of New Zealanders At the Kim Dotcom-organised “Moment of Truth” event, journalist Glenn Greenwald and Snowden claimed our Government Communications Security Bureau spy agency had developed the “Speargun” project to tap New Zealand’s internet cable and suck out masses of data.

Key denied it, saying Speargun had been canned in March 2013 because it was too intrusive. He said: “We made the call as government and I made the call as the Minister and as Prime Minister, that actually it was set too broadly. “What we ultimately did, when it comes to Speargun, in my opinion, I said it’s set too far. I don’t even want to see the business case.” The NZ Herald has found – after three years of refusals and information going missing – that the former Prime Minister’s version of events doesn’t match that of documents created at the time.

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As if MbS is any different.

Senior Saudi Prince Freed In $1 Billion Settlement Agreement (R.)

Senior Saudi Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, once seen as a leading contender to the throne, was freed after reaching an “acceptable settlement agreement” with authorities paying more than $1 billion, a Saudi official said on Wednesday. Miteb, 65, son of the late King Abdullah and former head of the elite National Guard, was among dozens of royal family members, ministers and senior officials who were rounded up in a graft inquiry partly aimed at strengthening the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The official, who is involved in the anti-corruption campaign, said Miteb was released on Tuesday after reaching “an acceptable settlement agreement”. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed but the official said it is believed to be the equivalent of more than $1 billion.

“It is understood that the settlement included admitting corruption involving known cases,” the official said. According to a Saudi official, Prince Miteb was accused of embezzlement, hiring ghost employees and awarding contracts to his own firms including a $10 billion deal for walkie talkies and bulletproof military gear worth billions of Saudi riyals. The allegations against the others included kickbacks, inflating government contracts, extortion and bribery.

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Easy: let the banks take the losses, not the people.

Europe Needs a Way to Prevent the Next Greek-Style Debt Crisis (BBG)

If there was ever a textbook example of how not to handle a sovereign debt crisis, it was Greece. Nearly a decade since Athens first asked for help from its euro zone partners and the IMF, the Greek economy is still struggling to recover. Even after a steep restructuring, sovereign debt remains unsustainable. If Greece is not to be crippled by its debt load, European governments will have to accept further debt-reducing measures, on top of the maturity extensions and the cut in interest rates they have already agreed to. So it’s no surprise that one of the key debates on the future of the euro zone relates to how sovereign debt restructuring should be made easier. There is little doubt that forcing losses on creditors at an earlier stage, as some propose, would increase the chance that a program of financial assistance is successful.

However, the euro zone should be wary of automatic triggers; they risk bringing on the very crisis they are designed to avert. The debate on the future of debt restructuring in the euro zone largely involves two positions. The first, which is widely shared in Germany, sees an orderly debt restructuring mechanism as an essential next step for the currency union. When a country applies for financial help from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), creditors should face some form of debt restructuring immediately. This would ensure a better distribution of risks between debt-holders and the ESM. The threat of a haircut will make investors more discerning in their lending, contributing to fiscal discipline within the euro zone.

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Because Bayer is a German chemical company with very deep roots in Berlin, and it’s buying Monsanto. Ironically, the only party that can stop that purchase is the EU… German media say Merkel was angry at the German representative for going it alone on Germany’s decision to support this stance. So let’s see her reverse it.

Controversial Glyphosate Weedkiller Wins New 5-Year Lease In Europe (G.)

Glyphosate, the key ingredient in the world’s bestselling weedkiller, has won a new five-year lease in Europe, closing the most bitterly fought pesticide relicensing battle of recent times. The herbicide’s licence had been due to run out in less than three weeks, raising the prospect of Monsanto’s Roundup disappearing from store shelves and, potentially, a farmers’ revolt. Instead, an EU appeal committee voted on Monday to reauthorise the substance despite a petition by 1.3 million EU citizens last week calling for a ban. In 2015, the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, the IARC, famously declared glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans,” although several international agencies, including Efsa, subsequently came to opposite conclusions. Monsanto insists glyphosate is safe.

The EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said: “Today’s vote shows that when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making.” However, the approval falls far short of the 15-year licence the commission had originally sought and Conservative MEPs lashed out at what they called “an emotional, irrational but politically convenient fudge”. Ashley Fox, the Conservative party’s delegation leader in the European parliament, said that the vote “simply prolongs the uncertainty for our farmers, who are being badly let down. They cannot plan for the future without long term assurances about the availability of substances they rely on.”

A re-run of the struggle to reauthorise glyphosate will now begin again in two years’ time, with a new safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa). Greenpeace EU food policy director, Franziska Achterberg, commented: “The people who are supposed to protect us from dangerous pesticides have failed to do their jobs and betrayed the trust Europeans place in them.” The Green party called it “a dark day for consumers, farmers and the environment”.

[..] Traces of glyphosate are routinely found in tests of foodstuffs, water, topsoil, and human urine in amounts way above safe limits set by regulators. Ben & Jerry’s recently introduced a new line of organic ice cream, in a bid to sate public concern. Campaigners say Monsanto ghostwrote research papers for regulators, enlisted EPA officials to block a US government review of glyphosate and formed front groups to discredit critical scientists and journalists, citing documents revealed in a US lawsuit by non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma sufferers. More than 280 similar lawsuits are now pending against Monsanto, according to the US right to know campaign.

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A tad scary?!

New Zealand Fault Line Wakes Up: “We Must Think Japan 2011 Ruptures” (SHTF)

The devastating Kaikura earthquake in 2016 has resurrected the Hikurangi subduction zone where two tectonic plates clash and one is pushed down. Geologists are now warning that this trench could cause a massive earthquake on the ocean floor, and could trigger other 9.0 magnitude earthquakes and tsunamis that will reach the western coast of the islands in just seven minutes. The Australian plate is heading north while the Pacific plate is heading west, and the combination of these motions means that the Pacific plate, which includes much of the South Island, is moving relative to the Australian plate at a rate of about 40millimeters each year in a southwesterly direction. Ursula Cochran, from the science firm GNS, told The Marlborough Express: “We need to think Japan 2011 basically, because if our whole plate boundary ruptured it would be a magnitude-9 earthquake.”

The Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami smashed through the country’s north-eastern coast killing almost 16,000 people and destroying the lives of thousands more. It also triggered a major ongoing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant. “One of the biggest hazards of that kind of earthquake is the tsunami that is triggered by a fault rupture offshore.,” Cochran added. “We know from tsunami modeling from a hypothetical earthquake from the Hikurangi subduction zone that the travel times could be very short to the coast, so seven minutes for some of the south Wairarapa coast.” One year after it struck, scientists are also warning that the Kaikoura quake was not the “big one” for the Hikurangi subduction zone. The quake on the Hikurangi subduction zone was devastating. The magnitude 7.8 that destroyed houses, lifted the Kaikoura seabed by 2m, tore apart farmland, and wrecked kilometers of State Highway 1, may be minor compared to what could come, Cochran said.

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Has the west ever ended slavery?

Libya “Chose” Freedom, Now It Has Slavery (CP)

NATO’s military intervention in Libya in 2011 has justifiably earned its place in history as an indictment of Western foreign policy and a military alliance which since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been deployed as the sword of this foreign policy. The destruction of Libya will forever be an indelible stain on the reputations of those countries and leaders responsible. But now, with the revelation that people are being sold as slaves in Libya (yes, you read that right. In 2017 the slave trade is alive and kicking Libya), the cataclysmic disaster to befall the country has been compounded to the point where it is hard to conceive of it ever being able to recover – and certainly not anywhere near its former status as a high development country, as the UN labelled Libya 2010 a year prior to the ‘revolution’.

Back in 2011 it was simply inconceivable that the UK, the US and France would ignore the lessons of Iraq, just nine years previously in 2003. Yet ignore them they did, highlighting their rapacious obsession with maintaining hegemony over a region that sits atop an ocean of oil, despite the human cost and legacy of disaster and chaos which this particular obsession has wrought. When former UK Prime Minister David Cameron descended on Benghazi in eastern Libya in the summer of 2011, basking in the glory of the country’s victorious ‘revolution’ in the company of his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, he did so imbued with the belief he had succeeded in establishing his legacy as a leader on the global stage. Like Blair before him, he’d won his war and now was intent on partaking of its political and geopolitical spoils.

Cameron told the crowd, “Your city was an inspiration to the world, as you threw off a dictator and chose freedom.” The destruction of Libya by NATO at the behest of the UK, the US and France was a crime, one dripping in the cant and hypocrisy of Western ideologues for whom the world with all its complexities is reduced to a giant chessboard upon which countries such as Libya have long been mere pieces to be moved around and changed at their pleasure and in their interests – interests which are inimical to the people of the countries they deem ripe for regime change.

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Europe’s politicians care only about their careers.

The EU Created Libya’s Migrant Abuses, Now It Must Address Them (CP)

Revelations into Libya’s awful migrant detention centres showed the humanitarian emergency that occurs within them. The international community – particularly the European Union, has not only failed to address this problem, but is responsible for causing it. After Libya descended into chaos following long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, the nation became a major hub of slavery and migrant-trafficking. For the hundreds of thousands of those fleeing war-torn areas in Sub-Saharan Africa, Libya serves as a strategic point to reach the safe havens of Europe. However, those who fail to reach Europe face equally dire circumstances to their homeland after being detained by Libyan authorities, as part of an EU-deal with the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) penned in February.

This deal entails the Libyan coastguard stopping migrant vessels leaving Libya. It was quite rightly slammed as ‘inhumane’ by the UN recently. Due to lack of protections for migrants from in this deal, migrants are either brutally tortured, abused and even sexually assaulted by Libyan authorities in camps, or are sold into slavery by unscrupulous smugglers. A CNN investigation showed the true horrors of human-trafficking. Migrants are treated like cattle, sold for as little as four hundred dollars, and sometimes moved from one slave master to another. Others on the scene report migrants in camps showing signs of torture, burns, lashings, and other abuses. An Italian doctor Pietro Bartolo slammed them as ‘concentration camps’. “You must realise that in Libya, black people are not considered human beings, they’re seen as inferior, you can do whatever you want to them,” Bartolo told Euro News.

Observers foresaw the humanitarian consequences soon after the deal with Libya was agreed. German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel warned in April that thousands of men, women and children would face “catastrophic conditions”. It turns out Gabriel and other’s predictions were correct. The EU must therefore accept the blame for creating this crisis, for backing these unregulated, barbaric camps with the Libyan authorities. However, Europe has a clear geopolitical aim: to contain migrants, rather than help them – even if their suffering is enhanced. In doing so it uses Libya – a frail nation itself, as a dumping ground, to rid itself of the migrant issue. It has no regard for the human rights of those in detention centres.

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Oct 312017
 
 October 31, 2017  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Salvador Dalí The persistence of memory 1931

 

A Monstrous Bubble – The Destroyer Called Amazon (Stockman)
How The Actual Magic Money Tree Works (G.)
UK Debt Averages £8,000 Per Person – Not Including Mortgages (G.)
Surge In UK Consumer Borrowing Fuels Likely Interest Rate Rise (G.)
Theresa May Faces Snap Election If Defeated By Parliament On Brexit Deal (ES)
Russia Could Hold Congress Of Syrian Peoples In Mid-November (DS)
Europhile Left Deluded On EU Reform Process (Bilbo)
Four Trajectories for Europe’s Future (Turchin)
How Europe Exported Its Refugee Crisis To North Africa (G.)
Libyan Path To Europe Turns Into Dead End For Desperate Migrants (G.)

 

 

Will Washington be swallowed whole by the swamp? Might be a good outcome. Endless articles about Trump and Russia and Mueller. But very hard to find anything neutral. Journalism has become opinionism.

Is Papadopoulos a plant? Where did he come from? Did Fusion GPS set up the Trump Tower meeting after consulting with the DNC? Isn’t there a country to run? I’m getting tired, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

 

 

Stockman doesn’t buy it.

A Monstrous Bubble – The Destroyer Called Amazon (Stockman)

when it comes to wanton destruction we can think of no better evidence than the $63 billion market cap eruption visited upon Amazon owing to its purported “blow-out” earnings report on Friday. Except it wasn’t all that. In the year ago quarter AMZN’s pre-tax earnings came in at $491 million, which was actually alot more than the $316 million figure posted for Q3 2017. In fact, the company’s niggardly current quarter profit represented 36% plunge from prior year, but thanks to the company’s tax cut “selfie” the headline reading robo-machines didn’t even notice this rather dramatic setback. To wit, AMZN effective tax rate plunged from an aberrantly high 46.6% last year to a quite low 18.4% this year. As a result, its reported net income remained flat relative to prior year.

Stated differently, the blow-out earnings figure of $0.53 per share reported Friday was exactly the same the same $0.53 per share reported last year, but the “blow-out” part was due to the “beat” from the $0.02 street consensus. Then again, the street consensus had been for $1.91 per share only 90 days ago! As per usual, it had been “guided “down by 99% in the interim. If nothing else, this proves that the whole SEC “Fair Disclosure” (FD) is an absolute farce and that the SEC itself is an utter waste of taxpayer money. It also proves, of course, that a bevy of high priced advisors are far more efficacious at cutting tax rates than a House (of Representatives) full of Republicans foaming at the mouth about the topic. But how in the world does this kind of hyper-fiddling with accounting statement tax rates justify a market cap gain in one day ($63 billion) that exceeds the entire market cap of GM($61 billion) or Aetna ($57 billion)?

As it happened, Amazon’s LTM net income of $1.926 billion for the quarter might be a slightly better indicator of its profitability because the company’s four-quarter tax rate averaged out close to the US statutory rate, meaning that the company is being valued at 280X under normal tax rates. Moreover, even if you pro forma the results with the GOP’s vaunted 20% tax rate you would get LTM net income of $2.48 billion and a PE multiple of 217X; and for that matter, just go ahead and abolish the corporate tax entirely and AMZN’s PE at the zero bracket would still compute to 174X. We dwell on the absurdity of Amazon’s PE multiple in the first instance because there is absolutely nothing in its financial performance that warrants these massive market cap gains. Thus, way back in Q3 2014, AMZN’s operating income was $510 million. As shown below, it has been staggering around like a drunken sailor ever since – lapsing to just $347 million in the purportedly red hot quarter just ended.

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“..house prices rise to meet the amount the lender is prepared to lend, rather than being moored to wages..”

How The Actual Magic Money Tree Works (G.)

Shock data shows that most MPs do not know how money is created. Responding to a survey commissioned by Positive Money just before the June election, 85% were unaware that new money was created every time a commercial bank extended a loan, while 70% thought that only the government had the power to create new money. The results are only a shock if you didn’t see the last poll of MPs on exactly this topic, in 2014, revealing broadly the same level of ignorance. Indeed, the real shock is that MPs still, without embarrassment, answer surveys. Yet almost all our hot-button political issues, from social security to housing, relate back to the meaning and creation of money; so if the people making those choices don’t have a clue, that isn’t without consequence. How is money created? Some is created by the state, but usually in a financial emergency.

For instance, the crash gave rise to quantitative easing – money pumped directly into the economy by the government. The vast majority of money (97%) comes into being when a commercial bank extends a loan. Meanwhile, 27% of bank lending goes to other financial corporations; 50% to mortgages (mainly on existing residential property); 8% to high-cost credit (including overdrafts and credit cards); and just 15% to non-financial corporates, that is, the productive economy. What’s wrong with that? On the corporate financial side, bank-lending inflates asset prices, which concentrates wealth in the hands of the wealthy. On the mortgage side, house prices rise to meet the amount the lender is prepared to lend, rather than being moored to wages. The lender benefits enormously from larger mortgages and longer periods of indebtedness; the homeowner benefits slightly from a bigger asset, but obviously spends longer in debt servitude; the renter loses out completely.

Is there a magic money tree? All money comes from a magic tree, in the sense that money is spirited from thin air. There is no gold standard. Banks do not work to a money-multiplier model, where they extend loans as a multiple of the deposits they already hold. Money is created on faith alone, whether that is faith in ever-increasing housing prices or any other given investment. This does not mean that creation is risk-free: any government could create too much and spawn hyper-inflation. Any commercial bank could create too much and generate over-indebtedness in the private economy, which is what has happened. But it does mean that money has no innate value, it is simply a marker of trust between a lender and a borrower. So it is the ultimate democratic resource. The argument marshalled against social investment such as education, welfare and public services, that it is unaffordable because there is no magic money tree, is nonsensical. It all comes from the tree; the real question is, who is in charge of the tree?

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Why do they borrow? Is it for essentials?

UK Debt Averages £8,000 Per Person – Not Including Mortgages (G.)

More than 6 million Britons don’t believe they will ever be debt free, according to new research which has also found the average person in the UK owes £8,000 – on top of any mortgage debt. Almost a quarter of all Britons said they are struggling to make ends meet, while 62% said they were often worried about their levels of personal debt, according to research for Comparethemarket.com. Earlier this month, the price comparison website asked 2,000 adults detailed questions about their personal finances. They found that 10% of respondents had “maxed out” on a credit card, while a similar number said they had been overdrawn within the past 12 months. A third of those interviewed told researchers that they were already planning on taking on additional debt – in the form of credit cards, loans car finance and mortgages – in the next year.

Over a third said they could not see themselves ever being in a financial position to help younger family members, breaking the tradition of the “bank of mum and dad”. The results chime with a recent study by the Financial Conduct Authority which found that that 4.1 million people are already in serious financial difficulty. The survey, the biggest ever by the city regulator, concluded that half of the UK population are financially vulnerable, with 25- to 34-year-olds the most over-indebted. Shakila Hashmi, head of money at Comparethemarket.com, said: “Right now millions of Brits could be in danger of suffering from one of the longest financial hangovers in history. While it may be hard to see an end in sight, the worst thing people in debt can do right now is stick their head in the sand. As well as reining in spending, there are other ways you can reduce debt, like switching to credit cards that help you get on top of debt with interest-free periods.”

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If you borrow too much, we’ll make it costlier.

Surge In UK Consumer Borrowing Fuels Likely Interest Rate Rise (G.)

A near-double-digit increase in lending to households in the year to September has left the Bank of England on track to raise interest rates on Thursday, amid concerns that consumers are creating an unmanageable mountain of unsecured debt. The pace of annual consumer credit growth was 9.9% last month, according to figures from the central bank, as borrowing on credit cards, overdrafts and unsecured loans jumped. The consistent appetite for borrowing is likely to put further pressure on the Bank to raise interest rates this week, with other indicators such as inflation and unemployment already supporting the case for a rise. Last month the Bank said British lenders needed to hold an extra £11bn of capital to guard against consumer loans going sour, due to concerns that banks had overestimated the creditworthiness of their borrowers.

Consumer credit has rocketed since 2014 when it was running at an annual rate of 4%. Last year the annual growth rate hit 12%, with the latest September numbers creating a a consumer debt of more than £204bn. Analysts were unsure whether the increase was a sign of growing confidence among consumers or desperation as wages growth stagnated and inflation rises. Only a steep fall in car loans in recent months has stopped the overall level of consumer credit creeping back to last year’s levels. Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, said regulators should monitor the effects of an interest rate rise, which will increase pressure on many household finances.

“With household debt a growing concern and an interest rate rise likely as early as this week, we encourage households to exercise caution before taking on additional borrowing – and consider how they would be able to cope with repayments in the event of a shock to their income. “Millions of people will have never experienced an interest rate rise. We are concerned that a small rise, combined with high levels of borrowing, rising living costs and slow wage growth could be enough to push many households into financial difficulty,” she said.

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How Britain goes to the dogs.

Theresa May Faces Snap Election If Defeated By Parliament On Brexit Deal (ES)

Theresa May was threatened with a snap general election today if she is defeated by Parliament on her Brexit deal. Tory right wingers raised the “nuclear threat” of a forced election in what was seen as an attempt to see off calls to empower the Commons to amend the deal or call for fresh negotiations. Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader and leading Brexit-backer, said it would be on “a confidence issue” and defeat would make the Government “head towards” a general election. “It will be the most important vote of the entire Parliament and if the Government loses it you head towards that conclusion,” he told the Evening Standard. Mrs May is aiming to hammer out a leaving deal with the EU by October or November next year.

The decision on whether Parliament gets a “take it or leave it” vote or the right to amend the deal is shaping up to be the key battle of Brexit. John Whittingdale, the former Culture Secretary, claimed the vote itself would be “a vote of confidence in government” that would trigger an election if defeated. “I think for the Government to come to Parliament and say we have a deal … and for Parliament then to turn around and say, ‘well, actually, we don’t agree it’s a good deal and we’re going to throw it out’, that is a vote of confidence in government,” he told The Westminster Hour. “I can’t see how the government could say ‘oh alright then, we’ll go and have another go’. I think there would have to be a general election.”

But MPs backing a softer pro-business Brexit said Mrs May must keep Parliament involved. Nicky Morgan, the chair of the Treasury Select Committee, said: “Ministers have promised Parliament a meaningful vote. They need to keep Parliament informed and involved to avoid problems at the end. “They resisted a Parliamentary vote on Article 50 until compelled to give way. They should do all they can to avoid a repetition.” Former minister Bob Neill said the eurosceptic threat smacked of “desperation”.

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Where will the US be?

Russia Could Hold Congress Of Syrian Peoples In Mid-November (DS)

A Moscow-backed congress of all Syria’s ethnic groups could take place in Russia as soon as next month and launch work on drawing up a new constitution, the RIA news agency reported Monday, citing a source familiar with the situation. RIA said the Congress of Syrian peoples, the idea of which President Vladimir Putin first mentioned at a forum with foreign scholars earlier this month, could take place in mid-November in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. According to the source, 1,000-1,300 participants from the Assad regime and pro-regime forces as well as various opposition groups will participate. The source added that representatives of various ethnic groups, including Kurds and Turkmens, and religious clergy are also expected. Special U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura agreed to participate in the congress but set out a list of terms and conditions that have to be met before the event. Putin says the congress could be an important step toward a political settlement and could also help draft a new constitution for the country.

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Permanent austerity. Strong by Bill Mitchell.

Europhile Left Deluded On EU Reform Process (Bilbo)

The Europhiles maintain a blind faith in what they claim to be a reform process, which when carried through will reduce some of the acknowledged shortcomings (I would say disastrously terminal design flaws). They don’t put any time dimension on this ‘process’ but claim it is an on-going dialogue and we should sit tight and wait for it to deliver. Apparently waiting for ‘pigs to fly’ is a better strategy than dealing with the basic problems that this failed system has created. I think otherwise. The human disaster that the Eurozone has created impacts daily on peoples’ lives. It is entrenching long-term costs where a whole generation of Europeans has been denied the chance to work.

That will reverberate for the rest of their lives and create dysfunctional outcomes no matter what ‘reforms’ are introduced. The damage is already done and remedies are desperately needed now. The so-called ‘reforms’ to date have been pathetic (think: banking union) and do not redress the flawed design. And to put a finer point on it: Germany will never allow sufficient changes to be made to render the EMU a functioning and effective federation. The Europhile Left is deluded if it thinks otherwise.

[..] here is the OECD Economic Outlook data (from 1960 to 2016) for the Greek unemployment rate, which confirms the veracity of the tweet statement (at least as far as Greek unemployment goes). The fact that the Greek unemployment averaged just 6.6% prior to the crisis (from 1960 to 2008) and has averaged 20.9% since then (2009-2016) and has been above 20% since 2012 tells me that the policy structures in place have failed badly since the GFC. That means – the austerity imposed under the Stability and Growth Pact, the lack of a federal fiscal capacity and the lack of a ‘federal sentiment’ which would have eased the way for generous funds transfers to Greece to allow it to restore domestic demand relatively quickly.

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Halting fragmentation seems futile.

Four Trajectories for Europe’s Future (Turchin)

Scenario 1. The disintegrative trends that I and others have written about are just a “blip”, a temporary set-back that will be soon overcome. The grand project of European integration will soon recover and by 2027 everybody will look back and have fun at the expense of “doomsayers”. I think that this trajectory is extremely unlikely. First, because of the shift in the social mood of the Germans, to which I referred above. Second, because all across Europe the well-being of large segments of the population is declining. To give just two examples, think of the extraordinary high unemployment rates for the young workers in countries like Spain, and of declining real wages of UK workers over the past decade.

Scenario 2. The EU continues to muddle through. Neither integrative, nor disintegrative trend dominates over the next decade, and in 2027 we are pretty much where we are now. In my opinion, this inertial scenario is more likely than the optimistic Scenario 1, but still not too likely. An equilibrium is a dynamic process, it can maintain itself only when two opposite forces cancel each other out. I don’t see any compelling signs of an integrative force that would cancel the disintegrative forces. Empirically, history doesn’t stand still. So things will either improve, or get worse. [..] my money is on the disintegrative trend prevailing (although personally I wish it was otherwise). Incidentally, the governing elites of the EU behave as though they all believe in Scenario 1 (or, at worst, Scenario 2).

Scenario 3. The next 10 years will see an increasingly fragmented European landscape. The EU will not be formally abolished, but it will increasingly lose its capacity to influence constituent countries. Led by Hungary and Poland, other small and medium-sized countries will increasingly set their national policies without much regard for Brussels. This fragmentation will be accomplished largely in a nonviolent way. Perhaps not in ten years, as it may take longer, but eventually the EU will look much like the Holy Roman Empire. This “HRE” scenario is probably the most likely, at least in my opinion.

Scenario 4. Like in the previous scenarios, the disintegrative trend will dominate, but dissolution of the EU will not be peaceful. I think (I hope) that the violent disintegration scenario is much less likely than the Scenario 3. And I know that almost nobody believes that a violent break-up is possible. Very few people remain who fought in World War II. And this is the danger. The government of Mariano Rajoy apparently can’t imagine that one result of their push to suppress the Catalonian independence movement could be a bloody civil war.


The Holy Roman Empire in 1618

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“We are creating chaos in our own backyard and there will be a high price to pay if we don’t fix it..”

How Europe Exported Its Refugee Crisis To North Africa (G.)

Something happened to the deadly migrant trail into Europe in 2017. It dried up. Not completely, but palpably. In the high summer, peak time for traffic across the Mediterranean, numbers fell by as much as 70%. This was no random occurrence. Even before the mass arrival of more than a million migrants and refugees into Europe in 2015, European policymakers had been desperately seeking solutions that would not just deal with those already here, but prevent more from coming. From Berlin to Brussels it is clear: there cannot be an open-ended invitation to the miserable millions of Europe’s southern and eastern periphery. Instead, European leaders have sought to export the problem whence it came: principally north Africa.

The means have been various: disrupting humanitarian rescue missions in the Mediterranean, offering aid to north African countries that commit to stemming the flow of people themselves, funding the UN to repatriate migrants stuck in Libya and beefing up the Libyan coastguard. The upshot has been to bottleneck the migration crisis in a part of the world least able to cope with it. Critics have said Europe is merely trying to export the problem and contain it for reasons of political expediency, but that this approach will not work. “We are creating chaos in our own backyard and there will be a high price to pay if we don’t fix it,” said one senior European aid official, who did not wish to be named.

The new hard-headed approach crystallised with the EU-Africa trust fund in November 2015, when European leaders offered an initial €2bn to help deport unwanted migrants and prevent people from leaving in the first place. Spread between 26 countries, the fund pays for skills training in Ethiopia and antenatal care in South Sudan, as well as helping migrants stranded in north Africa return home on a voluntary basis. Separately the European commission has signed migration deals with five African countries, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia. These migration “compacts” tie development aid, trade and other EU policies to the EU’s agenda on returning unwanted migrants from Europe. For instance, in the first year of the compact, Mali took back 404 voluntary returnees and accepted EU funds to beef up its internal security forces and border control and crack down on smugglers.

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Europe is feeding gangs.

Libyan Path To Europe Turns Into Dead End For Desperate Migrants (G.)

UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, estimates that there are about 30 government-run detention centres in Libya, but that doesn’t include clandestine facilities run by traffickers and militias. Several hundred thousand migrants are thought to be in the country. “In general, conditions are really bad in these detention centers,” says UNHCR Libya chief Roberto Mignone. “At best, they are more or less functional, but serious human rights violations and sexual assaults are committed there.” UNHCR is trying to help migrants move out of the illicit detention centres and into facilities that it manages. But the agency’s freedom to operate is limited by a parlous security situation: Mignone and his staff operate out of neighbouring Tunisia, with the help of a few dozen Libyan associates.

“The security situation is very complicated and it is frustrating not to have free access to all in need. We have no overview of the militias’ or traffickers’ detention centres or prisons,” says Mignone. Since Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in 2011, Libya has served as both a magnet and a funnel for migrants desperate to start new lives in Europe. After record-breaking numbers of arrivals in Italy in 2016 and unprecedented numbers dying in the Mediterranean over the past two years, the EU signalled a new determination to head of the migration problem closer to the source with a series of deals with Libya earlier this year. One part of the strategy involved the south of the country – where more than 2,500km (1,550 miles) of desert borders with Algeria, Chad, Niger and Sudan provide multiple channels north.

A series of consultations was established between the Italian interior minister, Marco Minniti, and south Libyan mayors, who represent local groups and tribes. The deal pinpointed seven “elements” to pacify the different factions, from the Tebu to the Beni Suleiman, in the name of a common commitment to halt migrant trafficking. This project was heavily supported by Ahmed Maetig, vice-president of the Libyan presidential council, and greeted warmly in southern Libya, by the mayor of Sebha, Hamed Al-Khayali. “The project we are carrying forward now with Italy involves the development and growth of southern Libya within the framework of the fight against illegal immigration,” Khayali said.

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