Jun 232019
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Saskia en profil in expensive attire 1640-45

 

Mapping the World’s Financial Weak Spots (IMF)
US Launched Cyber Attack On Iranian Rockets And Missiles (AP)
US To Hit Iran With ‘Major’ New Sanctions Monday: Trump (AFP)
Kushner’s Economic Plan For Mideast Peace Faces Broad Arab Rejection (R.)
Three Year Prison Sentence For Damaging EU Flag, German State Proposes (Exp.)
Johnson & Johnson Faces Multibillion Opioids Lawsuit (G.)
Istanbul Votes In Mayoral Re-Run, In Test For Turkish Democracy, Erdogan (R.)
EU Warns Turkey Of Sanctions For Cyprus Drilling (BBC)
Why Is UK Life Expectancy Faltering? (O.)
Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Giant Plastic Trap Put To Sea Again (AP)

 

 

But what does it tell us really?

Mapping the World’s Financial Weak Spots (IMF)

Where will the next financial crisis come from? The short answer is: We don’t know. We can, however, look for vulnerabilities in the system that, if left untreated, can develop into problems. What do we mean by a vulnerability? It is an area of weakness that can amplify and spread an unexpected economic shock, increasing the level of risk to the financial system. Imagine the impact of an earthquake on a house built on sand, as opposed to bedrock. In the financial world, cracks in the bedrock can arise from high levels of debt and mismatches of institutions’ risk factors such as currencies or the maturities of their exposures.


One such weak spot is the debt level in US corporations and the risks investors in their securities take. Lending to heavily indebted companies with weak credit ratings is on the rise and may be a widening crack in the system. This and other vulnerabilities are reflected in the Chart of the Week on a five-point scale ranging from lowest (dark green) to highest (red) for six sectors and five country groups. The chart shows the distribution of vulnerabilities across six sectors in five regions. It was constructed using dozens of indicators going back up to two decades.

Read more …

When I see “CrowdStrike” I stop believing anything.

US Launched Cyber Attack On Iranian Rockets And Missiles (AP)

The US military launched a cyber-attack on Iranian weapons systems on Thursday, according to sources, as President Donald Trump backed away from plans for a more conventional strike in response to Iran’s downing of a US surveillance drone. The hack disabled Iranian computer systems that controlled its rocket and missile launchers, two officials told the Associated Press, and were conducted with approval from Trump. A third official confirmed the broad outlines of the strike. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the operation.

Two of the officials said the attacks, which specifically targeted computer systems of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), had been provided as options after two oil tankers were bombed. The IRGC has been designated a foreign terrorist group by the Trump administration. Over the past year US officials have focused on persistently engaging with adversaries in cyberspace and undertaking more offensive operations. Tensions with Iran have escalated since the US withdrew last year from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and began a policy of “maximum pressure”. Iran has since been hit by multiple rounds of sanctions.[..]

The cyberattacks are the latest chapter in the US and Iran’s ongoing hacking of each other. In recent weeks hackers believed to be working for the Iranian government have targeted US government agencies, as well as sectors of the economy including finance, oil and gas, sending waves of spear-phishing emails, according to representatives of cybersecurity companies CrowdStrike and FireEye, which track such activity. This new campaign appears to have started shortly after the Trump administration imposed sanctions on the Iranian petrochemical sector this month.

Read more …

Inevitably hastening the demise of the reserve currency.

US To Hit Iran With ‘Major’ New Sanctions Monday: Trump (AFP)

President Donald Trump said Saturday that the United States would impose “major” new sanctions on Iran in two days — a move sure to exacerbate tensions with the Islamic republic inflamed by the downing of a US spy plane. Trump tamped down the threat of military action on Friday, when he called off retaliatory strikes at the last minute because the response was not “proportionate” to the drone’s destruction over the Strait of Hormuz. But he had said military action is still an option and brandished the threat of sanctions ever since. Now, he has set a timetable for fresh punitive economic measures to heap more pressure on an Iranian economy already reeling from the sanctions in place since Trump withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Tehran.


“We are putting major additional Sanctions on Iran on Monday,” Trump tweeted. “I look forward to the day that Sanctions come off Iran, and they become a productive and prosperous nation again – The sooner the better!” Earlier, before heading to Camp David for meetings with his advisors on the situation, Trump said he would be Iran’s “best friend” and that the Islamic republic could be a “wealthy” country if it renounced nuclear weapons. “We’re not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “When they agree to that, they’re going to have a wealthy country. They’re going to be so happy, and I’m going to be their best friend. I hope that happens.”

Read more …

In complete denial of what is at stake: “Homelands cannot be sold”.

Kushner’s Economic Plan For Mideast Peace Faces Broad Arab Rejection (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic vision as part of the wider plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was met with contempt, repudiation and exasperation in the Arab world, even as some in the Gulf called for it to be given a chance. The $50 billion “peace to prosperity” plan, set to be presented by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner at a conference in Bahrain next week, envisions a global investment fund to lift the Palestinian and neighboring Arab state economies. But the lack of a political solution, which Washington has said would be unveiled later, prompted rejection not only from Palestinians but also in Arab countries that Israel would seek normal relations with.

From Sudan to Kuwait, prominent commentators and ordinary citizens denounced Kushner’s proposals in strikingly similar terms: “colossal waste of time,” “non-starter,” “dead on arrival.” “Homelands cannot be sold, even for all the money in the world,” Egyptian analyst Gamal Fahmy said. “This plan is the brainchild of real estate brokers, not politicians. Even Arab states that are described as moderate are not able to openly express support for it.” Commentator Sarkis Naoum at Lebanon’s An-Nahar newspaper said, “This economic plan, like others, won’t succeed because it has no political foundation.”

While the precise outline of the political plan has been shrouded with secrecy, officials briefed on it say Kushner has jettisoned the two-state solution – the long-standing worldwide formula that envisages an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. The PLO has dismissed Kushner’s plans as “all abstract promises,” insisting that only a political solution will solve the problem. It said they were an attempt to bribe the Palestinians into accepting Israeli occupation.

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Huh?

Three Year Prison Sentence For Damaging EU Flag, German State Proposes (Exp.)

Anyone who attacks the blue and gold starred cloth displayed in public, rendering it “removed, destroyed, damaged, unusable or unrecognisable” could be slapped with a lengthy jail term or hefty fine. The proposed law will also protect the European anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, according to a report in Saarbrucken Zeitung, a daily newspaper in West Germany. The Saxon bill seeks to bring the status of the union’s flag into line with that of other foreign flags and national symbols. The new bill says attacks “on the reputation of the symbols of the European Union” are unacceptable, according to Saarbrucken Zeitung.


It states that it is “a commandment of self-respect and self-assertion” that the state protects the EU “against malicious contempt”. Paragraph 104 of Germany’s criminal code states that anyone who damages the flag or symbol of a foreign nation will be imprisoned or fined. A precondition is that Germany maintains diplomatic relations with the state. Saxony, home to four million people, sits in eastern Germany, where far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) emerged as the strongest group in last month’s European elections.

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Will we see as many jail terms as for the financial crisis?

Johnson & Johnson Faces Multibillion Opioids Lawsuit (G.)

Day after day, the memos flashing across screens in an Oklahoma courtroom have jarred with the family-friendly public image of Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical giant best known for baby powder and Band-Aid. In one missive, a sales representative dismissed a doctor’s fears that patients might become addicted to the company’s opioid painkillers by telling him those who didn’t die probably wouldn’t get hooked. Another proposes targeting sales of the powerfully addictive drugs at those most at risk: men under 40.

As the state of Oklahoma’s multibillion-dollar lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson has unfolded over the past month, the company has struggled to explain marketing strategies its accusers say dangerously misrepresented the risk of opioid addiction to doctors, manipulated medical research, and helped drive an epidemic that has claimed 400,000 lives over the past two decades. Johnson & Johnson profited further as demand for opioids surged by buying poppy growing companies in Australia to supply the raw narcotic for its own medicines and other American drug makers. One expert witness at the forefront of combatting the epidemic, Dr Andrew Kolodny, told the court he had little idea about Johnson & Johnson’s role until he saw the evidence in the case. “I think it’s fair to characterize Johnson & Johnson as a kingpin in our opioid crisis,” he said.

Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mike Hunter, is suing Johnson & Johnson for billions of dollars for its alleged part in driving addiction and overdoses in his state in the first full trial of a drug maker over the opioid epidemic. But Hunter’s lawsuit has put the wider industry in the dock, too, by laying out how opioid manufacturers worked together to drive up sales by using their huge resources to influence medical policy and doctor prescribing. Hunter said the strategy was motivated by the industry’s “greed” as profits surged. [..] Purdue Pharma kickstarted the epidemic with its high-strength, long-lasting opioid, OxyContin, in the mid-1990s. The court heard how Johnson & Johnson quickly realized the potential and set about competing.

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Erdogan wobbles.

Istanbul Votes In Mayoral Re-Run, In Test For Turkish Democracy, Erdogan (R.)

Millions of Istanbul residents voted on Sunday in a re-run of a mayoral election that has become a referendum on President Tayyip Erdogan’s policies and a test of Turkey’s ailing democracy. In the initial March 31 vote, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate secured a narrow victory over Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) in Turkey’s largest city, a rare electoral defeat for the president. But after weeks of AKP appeals, Turkey’s High Election Board in May annulled the vote citing irregularities. The opposition called the decision a “coup” against democracy, which has raised the stakes for round two.

“It is really ridiculous that the election is being re-run. It was an election won fair and square,” said Asim Solak, 50, who said he was voting for the opposition candidate in the CHP stronghold of Tesvikiye. “It is clear who canceled the election. We hope this election re-run will be a big lesson for them,” he said. Erdogan has repeated his line that “whoever wins Istanbul wins Turkey.” A second loss in the city, where in the 1990s he served as mayor, would be embarrassing for Erdogan and could weaken what until recently seemed to be his iron grip on power.

Turkey’s economy is in recession and the United States, its NATO ally, has threatened sanctions if Erdogan goes ahead with plans to install Russian missile defenses. A second AKP loss could also shed further light into what CHP mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu said was the misspending of billions of lira at the Istanbul municipality, which has a budget of around $4 billion. “If Imamoglu wins again, there’s going to be a chain of serious changes in Turkish politics,” journalist and writer Murat Yetkin said. “It will be interpreted as the beginning of a decline for AKP and for Erdogan as well,” he said, noting that the president himself had called the local elections “a matter of survival”.

Read more …

NATO and US need Turkey. It’s as central as Iran.

EU Warns Turkey Of Sanctions For Cyprus Drilling (BBC)

The EU has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if it continues “illegal drilling” in waters near Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. The warning came at an EU summit in Brussels. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called Turkey’s actions “totally unacceptable”. Turkey launched a second drilling ship – the Yavuz – on Thursday for natural gas and oil prospecting off Cyprus. The Republic of Cyprus is in the EU, but the breakaway north is pro-Turkey. The European Council – the EU government leaders – called on Turkey to “show restraint, respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus and refrain from any such actions”.


“The European Council endorses the invitation to the [EU] Commission and the EEAS [EU foreign affairs service] to submit options for appropriate measures without delay, including targeted measures,” the statement said. The self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognised only by Turkey, and is internationally isolated. Turkey said it was drilling inside its continental shelf, complying with international law. Reuters news agency reported that a Turkish drilling ship, the Fatih, had been anchored west of Cyprus since early May and had begun drilling. [..] Turkey – a key Nato partner for the West – has extensive trade ties with the EU and has not yet been hit with EU sanctions, unlike Russia. The US has threatened Turkey with sanctions if Mr Erdogan goes ahead with a deal to buy S-400 air defence missiles from Russia.

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Given the attacks on the NHS, this should not be surprising. Same as in US.

Why Is UK Life Expectancy Faltering? (O.)

In a few days, a team of researchers, statisticians and geographers will gather at University College London to tackle an issue of increasing concern for doctors and health experts. They will investigate why many UK citizens are now living shorter, less healthy lives compared with the recent past. The emergence of faltering life expectancy in Britain has caused particular alarm because it reverses a trend that has continued, almost unbroken, for close to 100 years. Over this period, lives have lengthened continuously, blessing more and more British people with the gift of old age. But now that increase has come to a halt, statisticians have discovered. Indeed, among many sections of the UK population, declines have set in.

Hence the meeting, organised by the British Society for Population Studies, which has been organised so delegates can use data – to be released this week by the Office for National Statistics – to update their life expectancy projections. “It is a perfect storm,” says Danny Dorling, professor of social geography at Oxford University, who has organised the London meeting. “Our faltering life expectancy rates show we have now got the worst trend in health anywhere in western Europe since the second world war. To achieve that, we must have made a lot of bad decisions,” he said. Statisticians first noticed in 2013 that rises in life expectancy in the UK had begun to slow down. Gradually, the graph – which been rising for decades – flattened out until, a few years ago, it started to decline for increasing numbers of people.

The elderly, the poor and the newborn were worst affected. For example, life expectancies for those over 65 have dropped by more than six months. The trend now causes considerable concern among doctors who view life expectancy figures as barometers of the health of Britain. From this perspective, the nation is sickening – and a host of different factors have been put forward as explanations. One frequently made claim is that humans have simply reached the peak of longevity. “Life expectancy cannot be expected to increase forever,” Robert Courts, a Tory MP, told the Commons recently. Many statisticians point out, however, that life expectancy has continued to rise – well above UK levels – in many other places, including Hong Kong, mainland China, Japan and Scandinavia. Other factors must be involved, they state.

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If breaks again will it ever sail again?

Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Giant Plastic Trap Put To Sea Again (AP)

A floating device designed to catch plastic waste has been redeployed in a second attempt to clean up a huge island of garbage swirling in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. Boyan Slat, creator of the Ocean Cleanup project, announced on Twitter that a 600-metre (2,000-foot) long floating boom that broke apart late last year was sent back to the Great Pacific garbage patch this week after four months of repair. A ship towed the U-shaped barrier from San Francisco to the patch in September to trap the plastic. But during the four months at sea, the boom broke apart under constant waves and wind and the boom wasn’t retaining the plastic it caught.

“Hopefully nature doesn’t have too many surprises in store for us this time,” Slat tweeted. “Either way, we’re set to learn a lot from this campaign.” Fitted with solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas, the device intends to communicate its position at all times, allowing a support vessel to fish out the collected plastic every few months and transport it to dry land. The plastic barrier with a tapered 3-metre deep (10-foot deep) screen is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8tn pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in the patch while allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.

During its first run, the organisation said marine biologists on board the support vessel did not observe any environmental impact. Slat has said he hopes one day to deploy 60 of the devices to skim plastic debris off the surface of the ocean.

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Jun 192015
 
 June 19, 2015  Posted by at 8:07 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Marion Post Wolcott Main Street. Sheridan, Wyoming 1941

Just about exactly three days ago, I wrote an article telling you that I will be going to Athens next week: The Automatic Earth Moves To Athens. I also announced in that article that I was setting up an Automatic Earth fund, the proceeds of which I will donate to needy Greek foodbanks and clinics. The reactions to that fund drive have been amazing in more ways than one. But first, here’s some of what what I wrote June 16:

I don’t think I can go to Athens and not try to see if there’s something I can do to alleviate some of the misery in my own small way. But since that way would be extremely small given where the Automatic Earth’s financial situation and funding stand at the moment, I thought of something.

I’m hereby setting up an “Automatic Earth for Athens” fund (big word), and I’m asking you, our readership, to donate to that fund. I will make sure the revenues will go to clinics and food banks, to the worthiest causes I can find. To not mix up donations for Athens with those for the Automatic Earth, which are also badly needed, I suggest I take any donation that ends with 99 cents, as in $25.99, and single those out for Greece. Does that sound reasonable? Let me know if it doesn’t, please.

I’m not expecting a flood of cash, but I hope that you, like me, think that in a civilized country people shouldn’t have to bring their own bedsheets to a hospital, or that these hospitals should be forced to work their doctors into burnouts, or simply lack basic treatments, medicines, etc.

Or for that matter that children should go hungry.

As I said, the reactions were amazing in more ways than one. Here’s the rundown: within 24 hours of posting the article, the count was already at close to $2000. I kid you not. Thing is, after that not much else has come in. We’re now, some 48 hours later, at $2217.49.

And that just don’t seem right. I think we should be able to do much better than that. If only because when I saw that initial run of donations, I realized we could do some real good. I had expected a few hundred bucks, but nothing like that. So that leads the mind to exploring more options, to thinking bigger.

Two things. Number one is that of those $2000, half came from just 1 individual in Colorado. Who in correspondence after told me how much he was touched by what I said, and how much he felt obliged to do what he could. He blew me away regardless.

Number two is that another sponsor of the “AE for Athens” fund, from California, who donated $200, suggested today that he would try and engage people and groups around him, community groups, to join in and collect donations, which we can then direct towards the people in Athens and the rest of Greece who need it most.

Please, if you at all can, follow that example, make it a group thing. I swear on all my ancestors’ graves that I will do all I can to make sure the money goes where it is most needed. EVen if at times I get the impression that this would mean just about every single street corner in ‘Athina’.

If you think it’s not all that bad, please read the Daily Mail article I will post at the bottom of this mercifully short post, an article, by the way, sent to me by a certain Nicole Foss ;-). That should tell you all you need to, and perhaps didn’t yet, know. It’s bad. Europe has created the third world inside its own borders. Me, personally, I find that inexcusable.

It makes me wonder how would Germany react in such a situation, or Holland, Britain? Where their life expectancy plummets, where babies are held ‘hostage’ in a hospital until the bill is paid up? They can’t even imagine this, while it’s happening right on their very doorstep.

But this post is not about politics, and some Americans may even say it happens stateside too. Which makes it sort of ironic that Americans are the most generous. So far. But maybe I can still turn that around. Maybe I can yet wake up the Europeans.

It’s their governments that made it happen, after all, though Washington is by no means an innocent bystander. The entire thing consists of dirty and ugly power politics executed in YOUR name, and that’s as true for Americans as it is for Europeans. And you have the opportunity to soothe some of the pain, even if it’s just a tiny bit.

So please, join the amazingly generous people who have donated so far, and show them they’re not alone in their generosity.

The amount donated so far is $2217.49. Isn’t that just amazing? We were close to $2000 in 24 hours!

And I have counted only the donations that end in $.99, for reasons I explained earlier. But I will donate as much as TAE can afford anyway, along with whatever comes into the fund.

So please, let your heart speak, and help me help. As I said, if the reason why is still not clear, here’s Ian Birrell for the Daily Mail. That should do it.

Thank you in advance, on behalf of those whose lives we can, together, make a little more bearable. It’s the least we can do. But, again, that’s just me.

You can donate through our Paypal widget at the top of the left sidebar. Make sure if you want to donate to Greece to end the amount with $.99.

You can also donate bitcoin at this address: 1HYLLUR2JFs24X1zTS4XbNJidGo2XNHiTT.

Thank you so much.

Greece Is Literally Dying To Leave The Euro

How does a nation die? This week, in the beleaguered hospitals of Athens, I saw a glimpse of the shocking answer. It is when its own people die in their thousands simply because the state cannot afford to heal them. [..]

There is no greater metaphor for a country’s health than its own healthcare system. And it is only when you see for yourself the horrors convulsing Greece’s NHS that you realise just how insane it is for this once-proud nation to continue as it is. If it was your country, it would make you weep with pain and shame. In its overloaded hospital wards, I either saw or heard first-hand accounts of babies held hostage for payments and dying patients left unattended; of porters sent out as paramedics, patients told to bring their own sheets, brakes failing on ancient ambulances travelling at high speed and hospitals running out of drugs and dressings.

Five years ago, Greece spent £13 billion on the health of its 11 million population – above the European average. It is now spending about half this. Worse still, in the first four months of this year the 140 state hospitals received just £31 million, a 94% fall on the previous year. And to make matters even blacker, any reserves have just been taken back by the government in its desperate scramble for cash to pay public servants and international debts.

There are claims of an astonishing three-year fall in a Greek person’s life expectancy in just five years since the country’s economy crashed. If confirmed, this would be without precedent in modern Europe. And the individual human stories are pitiful, verging on the macabre.

‘The situation is like a war zone without the bullets,’ said one source at the charity. ‘If things keep going the way they are, we could see a totally collapsing health system.’

The tragic consequences could be seen visiting Nikaia hospital in the port of Piraeus, as a handful of night-time staff struggled to cope with patients pouring in for emergency care. One old lady with a deathly countenance lay immobile on a trolley in a corridor, abandoned for the four hours I was there since she appeared to have no family to fight her corner.

Five more elderly people lay on trolleys, two clearly in pain and one in a neck brace, amid a scrum of patients with smashed faces, scraped bodies and fractured limbs being aided by relatives. Police officers escorted a blood-covered prisoner in chains. The daughter of an 84-year-old woman curled up in agony under a coat told me they had been there for four hours, staff shortages forcing her to wheel her mother to the X-ray unit and for blood tests. ‘Greek hospitals are like hell,’ she told me.

‘The decision to stop all hirings of medical staff was a criminal action in my view,’ said [neurosurgeon] Papanikolaou. ‘Intensive care doctors estimate we lose 2,000 people a year that should not be dying.’

Nurses told me there were no sheets so patients had to bring their own; at night, they placed nappies and light mattresses on top if patients bled or wet the bed since there were no replacements. In one ward, they clubbed together to buy a blood pressure monitor and thermometers due to equipment shortages. Since pay has been cut by one third as pressures surge, such actions highlight the heroism of some medical staff struggling to keep the system afloat.

[..] as another nurse put it: ‘If two people are dying, only one can get help – it is that bad.’ Later, I talked to an ambulance driver who told me of a recent incident in which the brakes on his 11-year-old vehicle had failed as he rushed a car crash victim to the hospital.

‘If you have a six-month wait to start radiotherapy there’s no point coming – either you die or the cancer is so advanced it is pointless,’ [..] cardiologist George Vichas set up a free community clinic staffed by volunteers, with 39 similar set-ups across the country.

The consultant said they had even come across five cases at a maternity hospital where new-born babies were held hostage until their parents paid for their treatment. ‘We have seen an absolute collapse of the state health system,’ he said.

How did it ever come to this? And what does it meas for the nation’s future in the eurozone – and the eurozone as a whole? Before the crash, Greece’s health service was inefficient, badly managed and corrupt like the rest of the public sector – yet it provided well-trained staff and one of the world’s most comprehensive healthcare systems. But after the crisis struck and the country was ordered by international lenders to cut costs, new benefit rules and rising unemployment saw the number of Greeks without health cover soar from 500,000 to 2.5 million people.[..]

The EU and the eurozone were projects designed to bring countries closer together. Instead, they have sparked poverty, decay and division. Yet still the euro-zealots demand further austerity, while the latest set of Greek politicians seem as incapable of resolving the crisis as their hapless predecessors. The country and its blighted people are trapped between many more years of this slow stagnation or the sharp pain of euro exit. No wonder the latter increasingly seems a better bet.

[..]it could do the one thing that is the modern definition of a nation: it could begin to cure its own people of their ills. Ultimately, what could be the rebirth of Greece may be the death of the original European dream.

Let’s leave the political ramifications alone for the moment, I deal with that on an almost daily basis here at the Automatic Earth already. Let’s for a moment focus on the more immediate. Let’s see what we can do here and now.

Please support the AE for Athens fund. You can donate through our Paypal widget at the top of the left sidebar, Make sure if you want to donate to Greece to end the amount with $.99.

You can also donate bitcoin at this address: 1HYLLUR2JFs24X1zTS4XbNJidGo2XNHiTT.

Thank you ever so much.