Feb 122020
 


Dorothea Lange Daughter of white tobacco sharecropper at country store. Person County, North Carolina 1939

 

China Reports 97 New Deaths, 2,059 New Cases Confirmed (SCMP)
Coronavirus Cases Fall, Experts Disagree Over Whether Peak Is Near (R.)
Japan Cruise Ship Virus Cases Jump To 175 (R.)
At Least 500 Wuhan Medical Staff Infected With Coronavirus (SCMP)
China’s Banks Face $6 Trillion Coronavirus Cataclysm (ZH)
China Home Sales Crash In First Week Of February ‘Worse Than SARS’ (ZH)
Trump Swipes At Resigned Prosecutors, Judge In Roger Stone Case (Hill)
Despite Iowa Fiasco, Nevada Democrats Plan to Use New Software “Tool” (Webb)
Executive Order (Kunstler)
Third Whistle-Blower Comes Forward To Corroborate Complaints About OPCW (RT)
Subprime Auto Loans, Serious Delinquencies Soar. These Are the Good Times (WS)
Job Openings Plunge the Most Since the Great Recession (WS)
How Unfunded Pensions Will Destroy Your Retirement (Raoul Pal)
Volkswagen and Daimler Push For More ‘Sustainable’ Chile Lithium (R.)

 

 

And there we go once more with the Covid19 statistics (will that new name ever stick?):

 

• Deaths: 1,115, up 97 from yesterday’s 1,108


• Cases: 45,171, up 2059 from yesterday’s 43,112

 

“Everyone” is saying the numbers are going down, and that must mean we’re over the peak, or something.

But I quoted Ben Hunt yesterday in Corona Cartoon Numbers as saying the numbers conformed to a simple quadratic function, and speaking in the “voice” of Xi Jinping:

Yesterday we told everyone that 500 people have died since the outbreak. That’s a made-up number, of course, but that’s what we told everyone. Today let’s tell everyone that an additional 15% of that number died yesterday, so 75 new deaths for 575 total dead. And tomorrow let’s tell everyone that 14% of that total number died, and the day after 13%, and then 12% and then 11%. Clear progress!

That was in reaction to this predicted sequence Hunt saw presented by Antimonic:

 

 

My updated interpretation of this was:

Today according to “official” numbers we have 43,103 cases and 1,018 fatalities, which is up 108 from yesterday’s 910. What’s that, 10.5%? Close enough for discomfort.

And sure enough, today’s 97 deaths constitute 9.5% of yesterday’s 1,108. If this sequence holds (note that it was never meant as anything precise, just a trend), tomorrow’s new added deaths should be around 8.5% of 1,115, or 93-96 deaths. Let’s see. If that is correct, we know Beijing has been reporting false deaths numbers according to that quadratic “formula” -we already know, really.

 

 

 

You wait 2,5 months to name the thing, and then expect everyone to use that name?

China Reports 97 New Deaths, 2,059 New Cases Confirmed (SCMP)

China’s health authority reported 97 new deaths attributable to the Covid-19 outbreak and 2,015 newly-confirmed cases as of Tuesday. This brings the national totals to 1,113 and 44,653, respectively. As of yesterday, 744 recovered patients have been discharged, while the total number of recovery cases stands at 4,740. Outside Hubei province – epicentre of the Covid-19 epidemic – new infections on the mainland fell for the eighth consecutive day. Health authorities in Hubei reported 94 new deaths attributable to the contagion, and 1,638 newly confirmed cases as of Tuesday. This brings the totals announced by the province’s health commission to 1,068 and 33,366, respectively.


Officials in Hubei had reported 103 fatalities and 2,097 newly confirmed cases a day earlier. Some 1,104 of the new cases announced were confirmed in Hubei’s capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated at a seafood and meat market. The figures from Hubei on Tuesday mark the lowest number of newly confirmed cases since the beginning of February. It is also the first time that Hubei has reported fewer than 2,000 new daily cases since February 2. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organisation’s head of emergency programmes, said on Tuesday in Geneva that Covid-19 had the potential to spread faster than either the Ebola or Sars viruses. Earlier this week, Covid-19 exceeded the Sars outbreak of 2002-03 in terms of deaths attributed to it.

Read more …

“China’s foremost medical adviser on the outbreak, Zhong Nanshan..” Who said two weeks ago it would all be over within a week or ten days. “China’s foremost medical adviser on the outbreak”. Zhong now says: “I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April..”

Coronavirus Cases Fall, Experts Disagree Over Whether Peak Is Near (R.)

China on Wednesday reported its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since late January, lending weight to a prediction from its senior medical adviser that the outbreak could be over by April. Global markets took heart from the outlook but other international experts remain alarmed by the spread of the flu-like virus, which has killed more than 1,100 people, all but two in mainland China, and said optimism could be premature. China’s foremost medical adviser on the outbreak, Zhong Nanshan, said the numbers of new cases were falling in some provinces, and forecast the epidemic would peak this month.

“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” Zhong, an epidemiologist whose previous forecast of an earlier peak turned out to be premature, told Reuters on Tuesday. Total cases of the new coronavirus in China have hit 44,653, according to health officials, including 2,015 new confirmed cases on Tuesday. That was the lowest daily rise in new cases since Jan. 30. China last week amended its guidelines on prevention and control of the coronavirus, saying that only when asymptomatic cases show clinical signs should they be recorded as a confirmed case. However, it is not clear if the government data previously included asymptomatic cases. The number of deaths on the mainland rose by 97 to 1,113 by the end of Tuesday.

While Chinese officials said the situation was under control, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the epidemic posed a global threat potentially worse than terrorism. The world must “wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy number one”, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday, adding the first vaccine was 18 months away. Asked about Zhong’s prediction, Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said: “I think it’s far too premature to say that.” “We’ve just got to watch the data very closely over the coming weeks before we make any predictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp, while praising China’s “Herculean efforts” to contain the virus.

[..] Even if the epidemic ends soon, it has already taken a toll on China’s economy, with companies laying off workers and other firms needing loans running into billions of dollars to stay afloat. Supply chains for car manufacturers to smartphone makers have broken down. Wu Chaoming, chief economist at Fortune Securities, wrote in a report that the impact on China’s labor market would be far greater than that of a 2002-2003 outbreak of another coronavirus that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. About 24% of the labor force, or 186 million people, “could face some risks in salary reduction or even being laid off”, he said. ANZ bank said China’s first-quarter growth would likely slow to 3.2-4.0% compared with an earlier projection of 5.0%. China’s aviation regulator urged countries to lift virus-related travel restrictions as soon as possible, but airlines showed no sign of easing their curbs on flights.

Read more …

Highest concentration of infections outside of China.

Japan Cruise Ship Virus Cases Jump To 175 (R.)

Another 39 people have tested positive for the coronavirus on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan as well as one quarantine officer, bringing the total to 175, the health ministry said on Wednesday. The Diamond Princess was placed in quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on Feb. 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus. About 3,700 people are aboard the ship, which usually has a crew of 1,100 and a passenger capacity of 2,670. The ministry said tests are being conducted for others who are deemed to need them and it will announce the results later.


The U.K.-flagged Diamond Princess is managed by Princess Cruise Lines, one of the world’s largest cruise lines and a unit of Carnival Corp. The government was considering allowing elderly and those with chronic illnesses to disembark before the Feb. 19 target date for ending the quarantine, some media reported, but added it would take time to figure out where they could be sent. As of last week, about 80% of the passengers were aged 60 or over, with 215 in their 80s and 11 in the 90s, the English-language Japan Times newspaper reported.

Read more …

Yup. Poor hygiene.

At Least 500 Wuhan Medical Staff Infected With Coronavirus (SCMP)

At least 500 hospital staff in Wuhan had been infected with the deadly new strain of coronavirus by mid January, multiple medical sources have confirmed, leaving hospitals short-staffed and causing deep concern among health care workers. While the government has reported individual cases of health care workers becoming infected, it has not provided the full picture, and the sources said doctors and nurses had been told not to make the total public.
The reason for this edict was not explained, but the authorities have been trying to boost morale among frontline medical staff, especially following the death of Li Wenliang, who was killed by the disease weeks after being reprimanded by police for warning colleagues about the new virus.


A slide circulating online, however, reveals the scale of infections among medical workers in Wuhan. It said that by mid-January there had been about 500 confirmed cases among hospital staff with a further 600 suspected ones. A source from a major hospital in Wuhan with knowledge of the situation confirmed that the slide was authentic. The figures shown on the slide were also in line with the figures given by two other doctors from major hospitals in Wuhan.

Read more …

How many businesses and banks can the PBOC save if the virus lasts into April or beyond?

China’s Banks Face $6 Trillion Coronavirus Cataclysm (ZH)

In a little noticed post back in November, we reported that as part of a stress test conducted by China’s central bank in the first half of 2019, 30 medium- and large-sized banks were tested; In the base-case scenario, assuming GDP growth dropped to 5.3% – nine out of 30 major banks failed and saw their capital adequacy ratio drop to 13.47% from 14.43%. In the worst-case scenario, assuming GDP growth dropped to 4.15%, some 2% below the latest official GDP print, more than half of China’s banks, or 17 out of the 30 major banks failed the test. Needless to say, the implications for a Chinese financial system – whose size is roughly $41 trillion – having over $20 trillion in “problematic” bank assets, would be dire.

Why do we bring this up now? Because according to many Wall Street estimates, as a result of the slowdown resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic, China’s economic growth is set to slow sharply, with some banks such as JPMorgan now expecting as little as 1% GDP growth in Q1 assuming the epidemic is contained in the next few weeks; if it isn’t, Chinese Q1 GDP growth may print negative for the first time on record. This is a big problem, because as noted above if the PBOC’s 2019 stress test is credible, more than half of China’s banks would fail the “stress test” should GDP drop to just 4.15%; and one can only imagine what happens to China’s banks if GDP prints negative.

Or, alternatively, one can read the fine print, where we find that among the immediate first order consequences of a GDP crunch is that the bad loan ratio at the nation’s 30 biggest banks would rise five-fold, flooding the country with trillions in non-performing loans, and potentially unleashing a tsunami of bank defaults. [..] “The banking industry is taking a big hit,” You Chun, a Shanghai-based analyst at National Institution for Finance & Development told Bloomberg. “The outbreak has already damaged China’s most vibrant small businesses and if it prolongs, many firms will go under and be unable to repay their loans.” [..] .. a recent nationwide survey showed that about 30% [of small businesses] expect to see revenue plunge more than 50% this year because of the virus and 85% said they are unable to maintain operations for more than three months with cash currently available.

Read more …

“..new apartment sales crashed 90% in the first week of February..[..] .. Sales of existing homes in 8 cities plunged 91% over the same period..”

That can’t last long, but: “Real estate transactions have been forbidden in many cities.”

Seen more reports on that seconnd pic: the virus spreading through pipes in buildings.

China Home Sales Crash In First Week Of February ‘Worse Than SARS’ (ZH)

Bloomberg cited a new report via China Merchants Securities (CMSC) that said new apartment sales crashed 90% in the first week of February over the same period last year. Sales of existing homes in 8 cities plunged 91% over the same period. “The sector is bracing for a worse impact than the 2003 SARS pandemic,” said Bai Yanjun, an analyst at property-consulting firm China Index Holdings Ltd. “In 2003, the home market was on a cyclical rise. Now, it’s already reeling from an adjustment.” Long before the coronavirus outbreak, China’s housing market has been on shaky grounds amid declining demand, stricter mortgage requirements, and price discounts.

The latest shock: two-thirds of China’s economy has come to a standstill, could generate enough pessimism to pop the country’s massive housing bubble. After all, coronavirus is a mass distraction from the overall domestic problems the Communist Party of China (CPC) faces. The CPC failed to stimulate the economy last year, with credit impulse not turning up as expected. The virus outbreak has allowed the CPC to scapegoat the slowdown and the inevitable crash. “…China’s ability to stimulate its economy is now virtually nil, since China’s record debt load has now made it virtually impossible to push the country’s credit impulse higher,” we noted last week. Real estate transactions have been forbidden in many cities. This means fire sales could be seen once selling restrictions end.

E-House China Enterprise Holdings Ltd.’s research institute said four units per day were being sold in Beijing last week, and this is down from several hundred per day during the same period in the previous year. China International Capital Corp. analyst Eric Zhang said demand could pick back up in April, assuming the virus outbreak is under control.

Read more …

The 4 prosecutors in the Roger Stone case should be investigated. They won’t be, if only because they’re not independent. But this feels like sour grapes for the Mueller report failure.

Stone is a dirty trickster, but he’s been that for decades, and he’s only one of many in DC, on both sides. You can’t be locked up for that. Stone faces two main allegations, IIRC:

1) Lying about his link to WIkiLeaks/Russia. But we know Stone never had any such links. He lied to the Trump campaign about having them though, and then to the DOJ about that. But in essence, he was lying about something that never existed.

Sentencing him for that serves only to keep the illusion alive (just like the coward Rober Mueller did), that WikiLeaks had Russia links, and it’s high time to get rid of that ridiculous notion once and for all.

2) Stone is accused of threatening Randy Credico, his friend who testified to the DOJ. Or more specifically, he’s accused of threatening to kill Credico’s dog, Bianca. Credico wrote to Judge Amy Berman last month pleading with her NOT to send Stone to prison, and saying neither the threats against him or Bianca were serious.

Summarized, there are (were) 4 prosecutors who wanted to send Stone to prison for 9 years for threatening a dog, which according to the dog’s owner wasn’t even a real threat. And if the DOJ or Barr or Trump criticize this, they become the accused, “lawless”, parties.

Trump Swipes At Resigned Prosecutors, Judge In Roger Stone Case (Hill)

President Trump on Tuesday swiped at the prosecutors and judge in the case of longtime confidant Roger Stone amid the fallout of the Justice Department’s decision to intervene in Stone’s sentencing recommendation. Trump weighed in on the sentencing late Tuesday even as Democrats and critics expressed alarm that the president seemed to be blurring the line between the executive branch and the Department of Justice (DOJ). “Who are the four prosecutors (Mueller people?) who cut and ran after being exposed for recommending a ridiculous 9 year prison sentence to a man that got caught up in an investigation that was illegal, the Mueller Scam, and shouldn’t ever even have started? 13 Angry Democrats?” Trump tweeted.

All four prosecutors who worked on Stone’s case resigned Tuesday after the DOJ asked a federal court to reduce the seven- to nine-year prison sentence they had originally recommended. One prosecutor, Aaron Zelinsky, worked on former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Stone, a 67-year-old right-wing provocateur, was found guilty in November of lying to Congress and witness tampering related to his efforts to provide the Trump campaign inside information about WikiLeaks in 2016. The timing of the DOJ’s involvement raised questions given that it came hours after Trump ridiculed the initial recommendation as a “miscarriage of justice” and previous accusations from Democrats that Attorney General William Barr has interceded at times in the president’s favor.

The president later told reporters he had not spoken with DOJ officials about Stone’s case but insisted he had the right to do so. He declined to say whether he was considering commuting Stone’s eventual sentence. “All starting to unravel with the ridiculous 9 year sentence recommendation!” Trump tweeted Tuesday night. Trump late Tuesday also swiped at D.C. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing the Stone case, implying she had treated his former campaign chairman unfairly. “Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!” Trump tweeted.

Read more …

The most boring show on TV. If you watch it or g-d forbid write about it, I feel for you.

Iowa: screwed up app, and ButtGeek gets bought into contention.

New Hampshire: Klobuchar gets bought into contention.

All of a sudden Warren and Biden are gone, and two no-no’s are Sanders’ only rivals left?

Despite Iowa Fiasco, Nevada Democrats Plan to Use New Software “Tool” (Webb)

Even while the chaos of the recent Iowa Caucus remains fresh in voters’ minds, the Nevada State Democratic Party is setting itself up for more of the same by using a new software application for reporting results that is set to be coded and tested in less than a month. The application, still currently under development, will come preloaded onto iPads that will be distributed to precinct chairs during Nevada’s upcoming caucus, scheduled for February 22. The scramble to create this new application followed revelations that the same company that had developed the software largely blamed for the Iowa debacle – known as Shadow Inc. – had also developed the two applications that Nevada Democrats had planned to use both for early voting and for Caucus Day.

[..] .. the Shadow Inc. app was reported to have been developed over a period of roughly two months, though the company’s CEO, Gerard Niemira, has since claimed that the app’s creation began last August. In contrast, Nevada Democrats are now slated to use a software application developed in less than half that time [..] Another issue is the fact that Nevada Democrats decided to go this route after consulting “a group of tech and security folks” whose names and affiliations were not provided. As previously mentioned, after the Iowa debacle, several media reports quoted technology and cybersecurity experts as well as software developers who had cited the rushed development of the Shadow Inc. app as having largely led to the app’s failure and the resulting chaos in Iowa.

It thus seems odd that a group of “tech and security folks” are urging Nevada Democrats to pay for the development of a new program in an even shorter time frame as a way to prevent Nevada’s caucus from repeating Iowa’s failures. Though the identity of this group remains unknown, concerns have been raised that some may have links to the 2020 presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg, given that the Shadow Inc.-developed app used in Iowa was found to have ties to the Buttigieg campaign and the Iowa caucus chaos clearly benefited the Buttigieg campaign. Concerns about possible connections between these tech and security consultants and the Buttigieg campaign have only grown since it was revealed that Nevada Democrats recently hired an organizer for Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, Emily Goldman, as the Caucus’ Voter Protection Director, just weeks before the caucus is set to take place.

Read more …

I felt a song coming on. From one of my favorite albums.

Executive Order (Kunstler)

In this pause between past and future Deep State seditions, and the full-blown advent of Corona Virus in every region of the world, we pause to consider Mr. Trump’s executive order requiring new federal buildings to be designed in the classical style. The directive has caused heads to explode in the cultural wing of Progressive Wokesterdom, since the worship of government power has replaced religion for them and federal buildings are their churches — the places from which encyclicals are hurled at the masses on such matters as who gets to think and say what, who gets to use which bathroom, and especially whose life and livelihood can be destroyed for being branded a heretic.

[..] A virtue of classicism is that it employs structural devices that allow buildings to stand up: arches, columns, colonnades. These are replicable in modules or bays along scales from small to large. These devices honestly express the tectonic sturdiness of a building within the realities of gravity. A hidden virtue of classicism is that it is based on the three-part representation of the human figure: the whole and all the parts within it exist in nested hierarchies of base-shaft-and-head. This is true of columns with capitols set on a base, of windows with their sills, sashes, and lintels, and the whole building from base to roof. Classical architecture follows proportioning systems universally found in nature, such as the Fibonacci series of ratios, which are seen in everything from the self-assembly of seashells to the growth of tree branches.

Thus, classicism links us to nature and to our own humanity. Classical ornaments — the swags, moldings, entablatures, cartouches, corbels, festoons, and what-have-you — are not mandatory, but, of course, they also provide a way of expressing our place in nature, which is a pathway to expressing truth and beauty.

Read more …

Just disband the thing alright. And defund Bellingcat.

Third Whistle-Blower Comes Forward To Corroborate Complaints About OPCW (RT)

A third whistle-blower has come forward to corroborate the previous complaints that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) tried to suppress evidence-gathering in the Douma probe, a report says. The alleged new whistleblower, whose redacted email was shared by the Grayzone Project on Tuesday, backed the complaints made by two former OPCW employees — South African engineer and organization’s veteran Ian Henderson, and another whistleblower known as ‘Alex.’ OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias had earlier dismissed the pair — dubbed Inspector A and Inspector B in the organization’s inquiry into their claims — as low-level rogue employees who conducted field work without proper authorization and which simply “could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence.”

However, the person, described by Grayzone as a former senior official with the OPCW, stood by Henderson and ‘Alex,’ writing that his time with the organization was “the most stressful and unpleasant” one in his life. “I feel ashamed for the Organization and I am glad I left it. “I fear those behind the crimes that have been perpetrated in the name of ‘humanity and democracy,’ they will not hesitate to do harm to me and my family,” the person wrote, explaining the decision to remain anonymous. Henderson was deployed with the fact-finding mission to Syria shortly after the alleged chemical attack in Douma. The inspector concluded that the cylinders, supposedly containing chlorine, were more likely manually placed on the ground rather than dropped from planes.

According to him, the higher-ups discarded his findings without explanation, and sidelined him from the rest of the mission. Its final report was later used by the US and some European countries to implicate the Syrian government of Bashar Assad in conducting the attack, which the Syrian authorities vehemently deny.

Read more …

What keeps America motoring.

Subprime Auto Loans, Serious Delinquencies Soar. These Are the Good Times (WS)

Auto loan and lease balances have surged to a new record of $1.33 trillion. Delinquencies of auto loans to borrowers with prime credit rates hover near historic lows. But subprime loans (borrowers with a credit score below 620) are exploding at a breath-taking rate, and they’re driving up the overall delinquency rates to Financial Crisis levels. Yet, these are the good times, and there is no employment crisis where millions of people have lost their jobs. All combined, prime and subprime auto-loan delinquencies that are 90 days or more past due – “serious” delinquencies – in the fourth quarter 2019, surged by 15.5% from a year ago to a breath-taking historic high of $66 billion, according to data from the New York Fed released today:

Loan delinquencies are a flow. Fresh delinquencies that hit lenders go into the 30-day basket, then a month later into the 60-day basket, and then into the 90-day basket, and as they move from one stage to the next, more delinquencies come in behind them. When the delinquency cannot be cured, lenders hire a company to repossess the vehicle. Finding the vehicle is generally a breeze with modern technology. The vehicle is then sold at auction, a fluid and routine process.[..] Seriously delinquent auto loans jumped to 4.94% of the $1.33 trillion in total loans and leases outstanding, above where the delinquency rate had been in Q3 2010 as the auto industry was collapsing, with GM and Chrysler already in bankruptcy, and with the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression approaching its peak. But this time, there is no unemployment crisis; these are the good times:

About 22% of the $1.33 trillion in auto loans outstanding are subprime, so about $293 billion are subprime. Of them, $68 billion are 90+ days delinquent. This means that about 23% of all subprime auto loans are seriously delinquent. Nearly a quarter!

Read more …

The biggest threat vs Trump’s re-election. Will the Dems weaponize it?

Job Openings Plunge the Most Since the Great Recession (WS)

The number of job openings in December dropped by 364,000 from November (seasonally adjusted), after having already plunged by 574,000 in November, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). This two-month plunge of 938,000 job openings came after a series of ups and downs with downward trend starting after the peak in January 2019. It brought the number of job openings in December to 6.42 million (seasonally adjusted), same level as in October 2017. Since the peak in January 2019, over 1.2 million job openings have dissolved into ambient air (November and December in red).

On a not-seasonally adjusted basis, job openings in December plunged by 14.9% from December 2018, the steepest since the Great Recession. In total, 1.05 million job openings have disappeared over the period. This was the seventh month in a row of year-over-year declines. Year-over-year comparisons eliminate seasonal fluctuations. And the fact that this year-over-year drop of 14.9% in December occurred in the not-seasonally adjusted data shows that the drop to 6.42 million job openings was not due to seasonal adjustments gone berserk. It was due to other reasons. There had been a minuscule dip into the negative in January 2013, and then the more visible dip into the negative in late 2016 and early 2017. What we’re seeing now is in an entirely different ballpark:

Read more …

I haven’t watched the entire video, but this is a topic that warrants much more scrutiny.

How Unfunded Pensions Will Destroy Your Retirement (Raoul Pal)

How can ordinary people behaving rationally create a generational threat? Raoul Pal, in his role as CEO and co-founder of Global Macro Investor, joins Real Vision to explain the interconnected problem of the everything bubble and the coming retirement crisis to answer the question, “why do we invest?” He explains in detail how the baby boomer generation, through the rational and reasonable behavior of seeking to live and retire comfortably, has fueled the creation of a massive financial bubble that touches nearly every corner of the economy as pensions take more and more risk. Pal breaks down the crucial demographic, economic, and political trends that have combined to create the problem and suggests potential solutions for Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Gen Xers to get out door before the fire of the coming recession. Filmed on February 4, 2020 in Grand Cayman.

Read more …

Now taking bets on when the term “sustainable” loses the last bit of its meaning. And no, electric cars don’t solve single problem. They create plenty new ones, though, so if problems are your thing…

Volkswagen and Daimler Push For More ‘Sustainable’ Chile Lithium (R.)

German automakers Volkswagen and Daimler have launched a study to push for more “sustainable” lithium mining in Chile, according to lobbyist filings reviewed by Reuters, a sign of growing supply chain concerns ahead of an expected electric vehicle boom. Chile’s Atacama salt flat is by far the biggest source of supply of the ultralight battery metal in South America’s so-called “lithium triangle.” The region, whose fragile ecosystem relies on a limited water supply, is home to the globe’s top two producers, U.S.-based Albemarle and Chile’s SQM. But concerns over sustainability have long plagued Atacama’s miners, which extract the metal from pools of brine beneath the world’s driest desert.

Residents and environmental groups worry about potential damage to a regional ecosystem home to an ancient indigenous culture, lagoons inhabited with rare flamingos and a booming tourism industry. Lobbying records show a team from German development agency GIZ and the public-private Fundacion Chile met with Cristóbal De La Maza, chief of top Chilean environmental regulator SMA, early this year to formally present plans for the “feasibility study.” “This project is driven by the Volkswagen and Daimler companies,” the filings read. “The growing importance of batteries has made the sustainability of lithium a key priority for these companies.”

Pressure is mounting on German carmakers to fast-track production of electric vehicles to meet increasingly stringent European Union anti-pollution rules. Volkswagen alone has staked its future on a $91 billion plan to profitably mass-producing zero-emission vehicles. That push has prompted beefed-up scrutiny of mining practices around key metals such as cobalt, copper and lithium, all of which are predicted to see a spike in demand in coming years. [..] Australia, the world’s No. 1 producer of the white metal, mines its lithium from hard rock, not brine.

Read more …

 

Joseph Shabalala died this week. He was the founder -and “father”- of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African vocal group that accompanied Paul Simon on his Graceland album and tour.

 

 

 

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Nov 122019
 


Pablo Picasso Still life with fruit basket 1942

 

Schiff Witness Vindman Testified He Advised Ukrainians to Ignore Trump (GP)
Gabbard Lawyers Demand Retraction Of Clinton’s Russia ‘Defamation’ (Hill)
Alexander Downer: Australia Should Reduce UK Intel Sharing If Corbyn Wins (G.)
Bolivian Coup Comes Less Than a Week After Morales Stopped Lithium Deal (CD)
Russia Accuses Bolivian Opposition Of Unleashing Wave Of Violence (R.)
Correa: Morales Was Forced Out In ‘Coup’, OAS Is ‘A US Instrument’ (RT)
Death Throes of a Party (Kunstler)
White Helmets ‘MI-6 Co-Founder’ Found Dead In Turkey
US Northeast ‘Siberian Express’ Arctic Blast Could Break 200 Records (Ind.)

 

 

As I write this there are many helicopters flying overhead because Xi Jinping is visiting the Akropolis Museum. And of course half the city center is closed.

And really, Vindman told Ukraine to not do what Trump wanted? Do we call that treason or is there a better word? Read the whole article.

Schiff Witness Vindman Testified He Advised Ukrainians to Ignore Trump (GP)

Adam Schiff’s star witness Alexander Vindman testified to the House Intel Committee that he “thought” the President was wrong in his policy with Ukraine. So he later told Ukrainians to ignore the President. Alexander Vindman’s testimony was recently released and it shows an ignorant underling in the NSC who believed the President’s policy in the Ukraine was flawed and because of this Vindman notified a group of ‘Ukrainians’ to ignore the President’s requests. The Conservative Treehouse reported on the release and highlighted some interesting pieces from the testimony. Apparently in his opening remarks young Vindman stated that he believed the President ‘demanded’ something from the Ukrainians. Representative Ratcliff destroyed him on this assertion –


Ratcliffe challenges Vindman to find in the President’s transcript of the call where the President ‘demanded’ anything from the Ukrainian President – Vindman could not name anywhere in the transcript where the President demanded anything and that it was all what Vindman perceived and not based on the law or others interpretations of the meeting. Vindman had concerns about the President’s policy (who is he?) – Congressman Ratcliffe next destroyed the witness Vindman pointing out how Vindman told Ukrainian officials (not detailed in the discussion) to ignore President Trump – a blatant crime committed by the underling –

Read more …

This has the potential to get really amusing.

Gabbard Lawyers Demand Retraction Of Clinton’s Russia ‘Defamation’ (Hill)

Lawyers representing Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on Monday called on Hillary Clinton to retract her comments alleging that the 2020 presidential candidate was a favorite candidate of the Russians, accusing the 2016 Democratic nominee of defamation. “Your statement is defamatory, and we demand that you retract it immediately,” Gabbard’s lawyer wrote in a letter, demanding that Clinton verbally retract the comments and post the retraction on Twitter. Clinton made the remarks last month on the “Campaign HQ” podcast. “She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her, so far,” Clinton said, without referring to Gabbard by name.

Clinton also said “they” are grooming Gabbard to run as a third-party candidate against the eventual Democratic nominee. A Clinton spokesman later said the former secretary of State had been referring to Republicans with the grooming comment. “It appears you may now be claiming that this statement is about Republicans (not Russians) grooming Gabbard,” Gabbard’s lawyer wrote in the letter. “But this makes no sense in light of what you actually said. After you made the statement linking Congresswoman Gabbard to the Russians, you (through your spokesman) doubled down on it with the Russian nesting dolls remark.”


Gabbard has consistently denied she is interested in a third-party White House bid. The congresswoman has faced repeated criticism for some of her foreign policy views, particularly about American military involvement in Syria.

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Well, well, look what the cat dragged in. Next up is Joseph Mifsud?

Alexander Downer: Australia Should Reduce UK Intel Sharing If Corbyn Wins (G.)

Australia’s former top diplomat in the United Kingdom, Alexander Downer, has intervened in the British election contest, declaring the Morrison government would need to “substantially reduce” intelligence sharing with London in the event Jeremy Corbyn wins on 12 December. In an excoriating assessment of the Labour leader at the National Press Club in Canberra, Downer contended that a Corbyn victory would imperil substantial Australian investments in Britain, and would trigger a reassessment of the “very intimate” security relationship between Canberra and London. Downer is a former leader of the Liberal party in Australia, and was foreign affairs minister in the Howard government for more than a decade. He was appointed after his retirement from politics as high commissioner in London by the Liberal government in Canberra.

[..] Downer’s appearance at Canberra’s National Press Club on Tuesday was billed as a situation report on Brexit, but the former diplomat and foreign affairs minister faced sustained questioning about his participation in the Barr inquiry in the United States. Donald Trump has established the Barr inquiry to discredit the Mueller investigation. The Mueller investigation began after Downer was allegedly told by George Papadopoulos, then a Trump campaign aide, that Russia had obtained damaging information about Hillary Clinton from her emails.


Downer then informed US authorities, which has led to accusations from Trump allies, such as the Senate judiciary committee chairman, Lindsey Graham, about the then high commissioner’s “directed” role in relaying information to US authorities about the Clinton emails. Australia has rejected those accusations. Downer refused to give direct answers to questions about the level of his participation in the Barr inquiry, or whether he now regretted his conversation in a London wine bar with Papadopoulos. He said he did not want to “play into the toxic politics of America” or disrupt the orderly business of the inquiry by providing commentary, although he signalled without saying so directly that he had been interviewed, and was “fully cooperating with the Australian government”.

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Morales had been talking about using the lithium reserves for the Bolivian people for much longer. Word has it that his plane is stuck in Paraguay because countries refuse to allow it in their airspace.

Bolivian Coup Comes Less Than a Week After Morales Stopped Lithium Deal (CD)

The Sunday military coup in Bolivia has put in place a government which appears likely to reverse a decision by just-resigned President Evo Morales to cancel an agreement with a German company for developing lithium deposits in the Latin American country for batteries like those in electric cars. “Bolivia’s lithium belongs to the Bolivian people,” tweeted Washington Monthly contributor David Atkins. “Not to multinational corporate cabals.” The coup, which on Sunday resulted in Morales resigning and going into hiding, was the result of days of protests from right-wing elements angry at the leftist Morales government. Sen. Jeanine Añez, of the center-right party Democratic Unity, is currently the interim president in the unstable post-coup government in advance of elections.

Investment analyst publisher Argus urged investors to keep an eye on the developing situation and noted that gas and oil production from foreign companies in Bolivia had remained steady. The Morales move on Nov. 4 to cancel the December 2018 agreement with Germany’s ACI Systems Alemania (ACISA) came after weeks of protests from residents of the Potosí area. The region has 50% to 70% of the world’s lithium reserves in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats. Among other clients, ACISA provides batteries to Tesla; Tesla’s stock rose Monday after the weekend. As Bloomberg News noted in 2018, that has set the country up to be incredibly important in the next decade:


“Demand for lithium is expected to more than double by 2025. The soft, light mineral is mined mainly in Australia, Chile, and Argentina. Bolivia has plenty—9 million tons that have never been mined commercially, the second-largest amount in the world—but until now there’s been no practical way to mine and sell it.” Morales’ cancellation of the ACISA deal opened the door to either a renegotiation of the agreement with terms delivering more of the profits to the area’s population or the outright nationalization of the Bolivian lithium extraction industry. As Telesur reported in June, the Morales government announced at the time it was “determined to industrialize Bolivia and has invested huge amounts to ensure that lithium is processed within the country to export it only in value-added form, such as in batteries.”

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Russia’s too quiet lately, on South America and in Syria.

Russia Accuses Bolivian Opposition Of Unleashing Wave Of Violence (R.)

Russia on Monday accused Bolivia’s opposition of unleashing a wave of violence in the South American nation and said it looked like a government push for dialogue had been swept aside by an orchestrated coup. Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Sunday he was resigning to ease violence that has gripped Bolivia since a disputed election, but he stoked fears of more unrest by saying he was the victim of a “coup” and faced arrest. Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement it was alarmed by the events and called on all political forces to show common sense and to act responsibly.

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The coup against Correa was way more subtle: his deputy Lenin Moreno did the deed.

Correa: Morales Was Forced Out In ‘Coup’, OAS Is ‘A US Instrument’ (RT)

Former leader of Ecuador Rafael Correa said the resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales was the result of a coup d’etat and that events could have ended in worse violence, if the socialist leader had not resigned. “Of course there was a coup d’etat,” Correa told RT Spanish in an exclusive interview on Monday, explaining that such an insubordination of the country’s armed forces “cannot exist in a constitutional state of law” or democracy. “If Evo Morales did not resign, there would have been a bloodbath because there was no public order,” he said. Morales resigned on Sunday at the demands of Bolivia’s military chief, following weeks of protests and only hours after he had promised fresh elections. Morales previously proclaimed he had won the October 20 general election with a 10-point lead, a result which was quickly contested by the opposition, who accused him of tampering with the vote.

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“Everybody over twelve in this land knows that his kid Hunter was on the grift in Ukraine, plain and simple, and that Joe assisted in the operation. Color him toast.”

Death Throes of a Party (Kunstler)

Is it possible that Rep. Adam Schiff was hung out to dry by the devious Ms. Pelosi, feeding his vanity to be a one-man impeachment wrecking crew, knowing that the congressman from Hollywood would utterly blow it? Hmmmmm. Begins to look that way as Mr. Schiff’s House Intel Committee goes public this Wednesday with its soviet-style format on full display. Well, first, why? Why allow this nitwit to stage an ersatz impeachment only to see it fail? Perhaps to cancel the Jacobin menace metastasizing in the Democratic Party and get on with the business of winning the 2020 elections — with old-school candidates hand-picked to end-run the gang of fantasists currently on display.

The House Speaker must sniff the odor of failure in the wind. Joe Biden, smiling cretinously, blunders through the primary venues with a big red “L” plastered on his forehead, often uncertain of what state he’s landed in, or what direction to face the camera. Everybody over twelve in this land knows that his kid Hunter was on the grift in Ukraine, plain and simple, and that Joe assisted in the operation. Color him toast. Elizabeth Warren has been caught lying very publicly twice now, first as a phony Cherokee Indian (for career advancement in academia), and lately claiming falsely that she was canned from a teaching job years ago for being pregnant (with a 2007 tape of her out telling a contradictory story). Of course, that’s just the cherry-on-top of her dazzlingly unsound policy proposals to bankrupt the nation. Doesn’t look like she can reel it all back in and pretend to be a credible person in time for a full-on campaign.


[..] Which brings us back to Rep. Adam Schiff and his monkeyshines in the star chamber of his personal devising. Now that the show goes public, will he haul many of the same characters back into the witness chair to spin out his engineered narrative, without any cross examination allowed, or other felicities of due process? Someone ought to advise him that playing the Robespierre role tends toward an unhappy ending for the player. Especially when Mr. Jordan of Ohio, newly-seated on the Intel Committee, starts barking out points-of-order. I’m even half-wondering if Mr. Durham, the federal attorney, has not already measured up bills of indictment for Mr. Schiff himself, for the phony CIA agent “whistleblower” Eric Ciaramella, the pre-wired IC Inspector General Michael Atkinson, US chargé d’affaires for Ukraine Bill Taylor, and the spectacularly seditious Colonel Vindman, whose antics stand out in this latest coup attempt against the elected president. And then what kind of bag does that leave Ms. Pelosi holding?

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There have been dozens of changes made to his Wikipedia page in the past day.

White Helmets ‘MI-6 Co-Founder’ Found Dead In Turkey (ZH)

The White Helmets, a roughly 3,000 member NGO formally known as the Syrian Civil Defense, was established in Turkey in “late 2012 – early 2013” Le Mesurier trained an initial group of 20 Syrians. The group then received funding from Le Mesurier’s Netherlands-based non-profit group, Mayday Rescue – which is in turn funded by grants from the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments. According to reporter and author Max Blumenthal, the White Helmets received at least $55 million from the British Foreign Office and $23 million from the Agency for International Development. They have also received millions from Qatar, which has backed several extremist groups in Syria including Al Qaeda.

The US has provided at least $32 million to the group – around 1/3 of their total funding – through a USAID scheme orchestrated by the Obama State Department and routed overseas using a Washington D.C. contractor participating in USAID’s Syria regional program, Chemonics. According to their website, the White Helmets have been directly funded by Mayday Rescue, and a company called Chemonics, since 2014. Yet there’s evidence that both of those organizations started supporting the White Helmets back in early 2013, right around the time the White Helmets claim to have formed as self-organized groups. Mayday Rescue, as we said, is funded by the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments. And Chemonics?


They are a Washington, D.C. based contractor that was awarded $128.5 million in January 2013 to support “a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria” as part of USAID’s Syria regional program. At least $32 million has been given directly to the White Helmets as of February 2018. -TruthInMedia Notably, the Trump administration cut US funding to the White Helmets last May, placing them under “active review.” While the White Helmets tout themselves as ‘first responders’, the group has been accused of staging multiple chemical attacks – including an April 7 incident in Duma, Syria which the White House used as a pretext to bomb Syrian government facilities and bases.

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See? Siberia!!! It’s the Russians again.

US Northeast ‘Siberian Express’ Arctic Blast Could Break 200 Records (Ind.)

An Arctic blast sweeping across the eastern United States was expected to bring below-freezing temperatures and as many as 200 record lows throughout the week, according to the National Weather Service. The unusually cold air mass came from Siberia — a phenomenon called “Siberian Express” — and was predicted to bring historic low temperatures from the Great Plains to the Gulf Coast beginning on Monday and lasting until Wednesday night. The cold front rolled through the upper Midwest on Sunday before heading south towards Texas, where forecasters said temperatures nearly 30 degrees Fahrenheit (17 degrees Celsius) below typical November averages would be felt beginning on Tuesday morning.


[..] The weather service’s Weather Prediction Centre tweeted on Monday morning that the nation’s cold spot was located in Malta, Montana, where the temperature sat at -24 degrees Fahrenheit (-31 degrees Celsius). The centre said earlier that 148 daily record lows were forecast “to be broken, tied, or come within 1 degree between Tuesday and Thursday this week,” while National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Donofrio told the Associated Press that some 200 records may be broken this week nationwide. The January-like temperatures are far from common at this time of year in the southeastern US, though it’s not the first time a Siberian Express brought historic lows to the country. The term was reportedly first coined during the January 1982 cold front with air from Siberian origins, which brought record-lows to many parts of the country.

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Watch this interview and replace every mention of “Jamie Dimon” with “Al Capone” and it works perfectly.

 

 

 

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May 082019
 


 

 

The Psychology of Russiagate (Gabor Maté)
Trump Tax Returns Show Over $1 Billion In Business Losses In A Decade (G.)
White House Orders Don McGahn Not To Comply With Congressional Subpoena (G.)
‘Bond King’ Gundlach: US National Debt ‘Totally Out Of Control’ (CNBC)
The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q1 2019 (WS)
Stocks Could Drop 10-20% If China And US ‘Dig In’ On Trade War – Siegel (CNBC)
China Says April Trade Surplus $13.84 Billion, Far Below Expectations (CNBC)
Germany, Wealthy Regions Are Biggest Winners Of EU Single Market (R.)
Hackers Steal $41 Million Worth Of Bitcoin From Binance Crypto Exchange (R.)
A War Is Brewing Over Lithium Mining At The Edge Of Death Valley (LA Times)
People Who Publicly Fret About Assange Rape Allegations Are Lying (CJ)
Humanity Is About to Kill 1 Million Species in a Murder-Suicide (NYMag)

 

 

This is fantastic. Please watch. Trump as a traumatized man. Elected by a society deeply in denial about its own trauma.

The Psychology of Russiagate (Gabor Maté)

What’s interesting is that in the aftermath of the Mueller thunderbolt of no proof of collusion, there were articles about how people are disappointed about this finding. Now, disappointment means that you’re expecting something and you wanted something to happen, and it didn’t happen. So that means that some people wanted Mueller to find evidence of collusion, which means that emotionally they were invested in it. It wasn’t just that they wanted to know the truth. They actually wanted the truth to look a certain way. And wherever we want the truth to look a certain way, there’s some reason that has to do with their own emotional needs and not just with the concern for reality.

And in politics in general, we think that people make decisions on intellectual grounds based on facts and beliefs. Very often, actually, people’s dynamics are driven by emotional forces that they’re not even aware of in themselves. And I, really, as I observed this whole Russiagate phenomenon from the beginning, it really seemed to me that there was a lot of emotionality in it that had little to do with the actual facts of the case. There is no question that for a lot of people in this country, the election of Trump was a traumatic event. Now, when a trauma reaction happens, which is to say you’re hurt and you’re pained and you’re confused and you’re scared and you’re bewildered, there’s basically two things you can do about it.

One is you can own that I’m pained and I’m hurt and I’m bewildered and I’m really scared. And then try and look at what happened to bring me to that situation. Or you can instead of dealing with those emotions come up with some kind of explanation that makes me feel better about them. So that I’ve got this pain. I’ve got this bewilderment. I’ve got this fear. So what I’m looking at, what does it say about American society that a man like this could even run for office, let alone be elected? What does it say about American society that so many people are actually enrolled in believing that this man could be any kind of a savior? What does that say about the divisions and the conflicts and the contradictions and the genuine problems in this culture? And how do we address those issues?

You can look at that. Or you can say there must be a devil somewhere behind all this, and that devil is a foreign power, and his name is Putin, and his country is Russia. Now you’ve got a simple explanation that doesn’t invite you or necessitate that you explore your own pain and your own fear and your own trauma.

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Is it just me, or is this a really strange way to present old news as new? They really can’t find anything on the man? Didn’t he even write a book about this?

Trump Tax Returns Show Over $1 Billion In Business Losses In A Decade (G.)

Donald Trump’s businesses lost a total of more than $1bn from 1985 to 1994, enabling him to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. The newspaper, which said it obtained printouts from Trump’s official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, found that Trump’s core businesses, including casinos, hotels and apartment buildings, lost $1.17bn over a decade. Trump posted losses in excess of $250m in both 1990 and 1991, according to the records, which appeared to be more than double any other individual US taxpayer in an annual IRS sampling of high-income earners.


The New York Times report comes amid a fresh battle between Democrats in Congress and the Trump administration over the release of the president’s tax returns. On Monday, the US Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, refused a request by the congressman Richard Neal, the Democratic chairman of the House ways and means committee, for Trump’s tax returns. Democrats want Trump’s tax data as part of their investigations of possible conflicts of interest posed by his continued ownership of extensive business interests, even as he serves as president. Responding to the New York Times’ revelations, Charles Harder, a lawyer for the president, said the tax information was “highly inaccurate”.

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Yeah, well, if they try to keep Russigate going at this point in time, it’s not going to be easy.

White House Orders Don McGahn Not To Comply With Congressional Subpoena (G.)

The White House has informed Congress that it has ordered the former counsel Don McGahn not to hand over documents subpoenaed by a congressional committee investigating the findings of the special counsel Robert Mueller. In a letter to the House judiciary committee chairman, Jerrold Nadler, the White House lawyer Pat Cipollone cited “significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege”. McGahn’s refusal is sure to set the Trump administration on course for another collision with the Democratic-led House over lawmakers’ pursuit of documents related to the Russia investigation.


In a subpoena, Congress had requested documents from McGahn pertaining to 36 matters, including discrete episodes in the Russia affair ranging from the resignation of the former national security adviser Michael Flynn to the 9 June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Cipollone said McGahn “does not have the legal right to disclose these documents to third persons”. In a follow-up letter to Congress, a lawyer for McGahn said he intended to follow the White House direction. “Where co-equal branches of government are making contradictory demands on Mr McGahn concerning the same set of documents,” the letter reads, “the appropriate response for Mr McGahn is to maintain the status quo unless and until the committee and the executive branch can reach an accommodation.”

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“Using leverage ratios alone, “45%, not just of the BBB but the entire corporate bond market would be junk right now..”

‘Bond King’ Gundlach: US National Debt ‘Totally Out Of Control’ (CNBC)

U.S. debt has climbed to an alarming level, according to DoubleLine CEO Jeffrey Gundlach. “People are starting to realize that the deficit and debt are totally out of control,” Gundlach said on CNBC’s “Halftime Report” Tuesday. Gundlach said the “main reason” the yield curve between 3-year and 5-year Treasury notes is steepening is the ballooning deficit. Last year, U.S. national debt increased by more than 6% of GDP, he said. An even bigger deficit could mean trouble in a recession, said Gundlach, whose DoubleLine has $130 billion in assets under management. Gundlach — sometimes known as the “bond king” — also flagged trouble in the corporate bond market, which got “dragged down” in the “economic mess that we’re in.”


“The corporate bond market is so much worse today than it was in 2006,” he said. Among Gundlach’s concerns: a corporate bond market that has tripled in size, and a BBB-rated bond market that is now bigger than the junk-bond market. Using leverage ratios alone, “45%, not just of the BBB but the entire corporate bond market would be junk right now,” he said, citing figures from Morgan Stanley. A recession or downturn could “spark” a wave of downgrades from investment grade bonds into junk bonds, he said. “The economy is in such bad shape to withstand a downturn again,” Gundlach said. “The national debt is exploding while we’re having some of the best GDP year over year that we’ve had in recent years.”

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Jubilee.

The State of the American Debt Slaves, Q1 2019 (WS)

Consumer debt – or consumer “credit” more euphemistically – includes auto loans, student loans, credit-card debt, and personal loans, but it excludes housing related debt, such as mortgages and HELOCs. Growing consumer debt helps prop up the US economy because it means that consumers – they’re called “consumers” not “people” for a reason – spend money they don’t have. There is always a reckoning in the future, but to heck with the future, and so here we go. Credit card debt and other revolving credit, such as personal lines of credit, in Q1 rose 3.4% compared to Q1 last year, to $1.0 trillion (not seasonally adjusted), according to the Federal Reserve Tuesday afternoon. This was a record for a first quarter, when consumers cut back while they try to dig themselves out from under their shopping season debts. But it wasn’t good enough. Credit card balances in Q1 were flat with Q4 2008, despite a decade of inflation, population growth, and economic growth. Our debt slaves are lackadaisical:

The thing is, over the same period, nominal GDP rose 5.1%. And in terms of GDP, credit card debts actually fell, which explains the soft-ish retail data in the first quarter. In a very un-American way, consumers were again lackadaisical in charging up their credit cards to the max. Credit cards are a key element in the banking industry’s profits. At commercial banks, the average interest rate on credit-card plans is 15.1% and the average assessed interest rate is 16.9%, on $1 trillion in outstanding credit balances. This amounts to around $150 billion to $169 billion a year in interest income! These banks rely on consumers to spend money they don’t have. So why don’t they consume with sufficient energy? That’s a baffling question for economists.


Total auto loans and leases outstanding for new and used vehicles in Q1 rose by $44.5 billion from a year ago, or by 4.0%, to a record of $1.16 trillion, despite new-vehicle sales that declined in Q1 by 3.2%, though there was some strength in used vehicles sales. The increase in borrowing was due to higher transaction prices of new and used vehicles, the rising average loan-to-value ratio, and the lengthening average duration of loans:

Student loans rose by 4.9% year-over-year in Q1, or by $74 billion, to a new record of $1.6 trillion (not seasonally adjusted). It has doubled since the beginning of 2010. Confusingly, enrollment in higher-education, based on the latest data available from the National Center for Education Statistics fell by 7% between 2010 and 2016. In other words, fewer students are enrolled, but all combined they borrow more as tuition continues to rise, and as the entire industry feeds on those government-guaranteed student loans. This ranges from device makers, such as Apple, text-book publishers, concert-ticket sellers, and commercial real estate investors specializing in student housing. Every dime a student borrows is spent, and it props up Corporate America, the university financial complex (UFI, my term), and the US economy overall – with heck to pay later:

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The Fed is the only thing dominating markets. Not China.

Stocks Could Drop 10-20% If China And US ‘Dig In’ On Trade War – Siegel (CNBC)

Stocks could drop significantly if the United States and China dig in during trade talks, Wharton finance professor Jeremy Siegel told CNBC on Tuesday. Tensions between the U.S. and China are high as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Monday that new tariffs on 25% of goods will go through on Friday. Siegel said this causes major risk to the downside. “If both sides dig in this market could go down 10% to 20%,” Siegel said on “Squawk Alley. ” “It’s a question of what happens on Friday. If it does happen on Friday, what is the retaliation of the Chinese? And that’s totally dominating the market for the next two or three weeks.”


Siegel said the market built in about a 90% chance that trade negotiations with China would be resolved. Since Trump’s tweets on Sunday threatening to raise tariffs the market, the market now projects no more than a 70% chance of a resolution, he said. This change is what is shocking the market downward, he said. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite all closed down more than 1.6% on Tuesday. Investors are waiting to see how the trade talks with China go this week but Trump will be watching the market, Siegel said. “The strongest thing that Donald Trump has going for him in next year’s election is the economy and the stock market. He cannot afford that to falter,” said Siegel.

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Why is Reuters still polling economists?

China Says April Trade Surplus $13.84 Billion, Far Below Expectations (CNBC)

China posted a big miss in its overall trade surplus for April, as exports unexpectedly fell and imports surprisingly rose. The numbers came on Wednesday as the trade impasse between the U.S. and China continues to drag on. Customs data on Wednesday showed that trade surplus for April came in at $13.84 billion. That was far lower than the $35 billion economists polled by Reuters had expected, and below the $32.65 billion posted in March. Dollar-denominated exports also missed expectations in April, falling 2.7% from a year ago, according to data from the China’s General Administration of Customs. Economists polled by Reuters expected an increase of 2.3% from a year earlier.


However, April imports unexpectedly rose by 4% from a year ago, compared to a decline of 3.6% that economists predicted. Imports in March fell 7.6%. China’s trade surplus with the U.S., meanwhile, rose to $21.01 billion in April from $20.5 billion in March, the data showed. U.S. and Chinese officials have met several times in a bid to hammer out a trade deal, but Washington said this week that tariffs on Chinese products will increase on Friday, fueling fears that negotiations could be derailed. The outlook for Chinese exports will remain challenging even if a trade deal is reached with the U.S. soon, said Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics.

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In other news: the sky is blue. What I like here is they state everyone is better off because of the single market. I don’t even want to see their ‘proof’ for that.

Germany, Wealthy Regions Are Biggest Winners Of EU Single Market (R.)

The European Union’s industrial heartlands, its urban regions and Germany are the biggest beneficiaries of the bloc’s single market, according to a study that highlights the economic and social inequalities plaguing the bloc. The single market seeks to guarantee free movement of goods, capital, services and labor across the 28-nation EU. A report by the Bertelsmann Foundation found that Germany, Europe’s largest economy, benefited most in absolute terms from the single market, earning an extra 86 billion euros ($96 billion) a year because of it. It found that each German was on average 1,046 euros richer as a result of single market membership, while on average EU citizens were only 840 euros richer. “Not everyone profits equally from the single market, but everyone does gain,” said Aart De Geus, president of the Germany-based foundation.


The inequalities highlighted in the report are shaping EU politics ahead of this month’s European Parliament elections, in which some have called for a continent-wide minimum wage, while Italy, wrestling with low growth, has demanded the right to break European fiscal rules to finance tax cuts. Wealthy, advanced economies near the EU’s economic core such as Austria and the Netherlands are also far richer as a result of being members, the report showed, while poorer southern and eastern European countries benefit far less. “For countries like the Netherlands or Austria, the internal market is gold, since they have competitive sectors but are reliant on exports because they have small domestic markets,” said Dominic Ponattu, one of the study’s authors.

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Call me crazy, but isn’t this happening a little too often?

Hackers Steal $41 Million Worth Of Bitcoin From Binance Crypto Exchange (R.)

Hackers stole bitcoin worth $41 million from Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, the company said on Wednesday, the latest in a string of thefts from cryptocurrency exchanges around the world. The 7,000 bitcoin were withdrawn by hackers using a variety of techniques, “including phishing, viruses and other attacks”, according to a post on Binance’s website by chief executive officer Zhao Changpeng. The post said user funds would not be affected because the company would use its secure asset fund for users to cover the loss.


Bitcoin’s price dropped by as much as 4.2 percent in early Asian trading as news of the hack broke, although it later recovered some of its losses. Zhao said on Twitter other crypto exchanges, including Coinbase, had blocked deposits from addresses linked to the hack. Last year, $950 million of cryptocurrencies was stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges and infrastructure services such as wallets, up nearly 260 percent from the previous year, research from U.S.-based cyber security firm CiptherTrace showed. Exchanges in Japan and South Korea accounted for 58 percent of the thefts last year, the research found.

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It ain’t easy being green.

A War Is Brewing Over Lithium Mining At The Edge Of Death Valley (LA Times)

A small Cessna soared high above the Mojave Desert recently, its engine growling in the choppy morning air. As the aircraft skirted the mountains on the edge of Death Valley National Park, a clutch of passengers and environmentalists peered intently at a broiling salt flat thousands of feet below. The desolate beauty of the Panamint Valley has long drawn all manner of naturalists, adventurers and social outcasts — including Charles Manson — off-road vehicle riders and top gun fighter pilots who blast overhead in simulated dogfights. Now this prehistoric lake bed is shaping up to be an unlikely battleground between environmentalists and battery technologists who believe the area might hold the key to a carbon-free future.


Recently, the Australia-based firm Battery Mineral Resources Ltd. asked the federal government for permission to drill four exploratory wells to see if the hot, salty brine beneath the valley floor contains economically viable concentrations of lithium. The soft, silvery-white metal is a key component of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and is crucial to the production of electric and hybrid vehicles. The drilling request has generated strong opposition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Defenders of Wildlife, who say the drilling project would be an initial step toward the creation of a full-scale lithium mining operation. They say lithium extraction would bring industrial sprawl, large and unsightly drying ponds and threaten a fragile ecosystem that supports Nelson’s bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and the Panamint alligator lizard, among other species.

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Why go into allegations that have no proven substance? There is no point in that which supports Assange. Tons of sympathy for Caitlin, but I really think this should be about Julian, not about her.

People Who Publicly Fret About Assange Rape Allegations Are Lying (CJ)

As a survivor of multiple sexual assaults, I have found it unspeakably infuriating the way this same patriarchal imperialist system which has allowed rape culture to thrive throughout the entirety of its existence has suddenly become deeply, deeply concerned about plot hole-riddled and completely unproven allegations against a man who just so happens to have published humiliating truths about that very same imperialist system. This same warmongering power structure which has never given a shit about women beyond our ability to fly a stealth bomber and squeeze new recruits out of our vaginas suddenly has the full force of its propaganda machine whipping liberals into a hysteria about allegations of acts that aren’t even illegal in the nations those liberals live in. Acts that these liberals have never even thought about pushing to make laws against in their own governments.


Do you know how you can be absolutely certain that anyone you see on social media rending their garments about Assange’s Swedish allegations is completely full of shit? Because no matter how hard you search through their post history, you will never, ever find any similarly enthusiastic push to ban the actions that Assange is accused of in their own government. In their own land, where their own daughters and sons will be impacted. They focus solely on shaky allegations against a target of the CIA and the Pentagon which are alleged to have happened in Sweden, a nation with very different sexual consent laws than the nations of these English-speaking concern trolls.

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Good headline.

Humanity Is About to Kill 1 Million Species in a Murder-Suicide (NYMag)

Human beings are more prosperous and numerous than we’ve ever been, while the Earth’s other species are dying off faster than at any time in human history. These two conditions are related. But if the second one persists long enough, we will be following our fellow organisms into the dustbin of geological history. This is the primary takeaway from a new United Nations report on our planet’s rapidly diminishing biodiversity. Humanity is reshaping the natural world at such scale and rapidity, an estimated 1 million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, according to the U.N. assessment.

Climate change is a major driver of all this death, but burning fossil fuels is far from our species’ only method of mass ecocide. We are also harvesting fish populations faster than they can reproduce themselves, annually dumping upward of 300 million tons of heavy metals and toxic sludge into the oceans, introducing devastating diseases and invasive species into vulnerable environments as we send people and goods hurtling across the globe, and simply taking up too much space — about 75 percent of the Earth’s land, and 85 percent of its wetlands, have been severely altered or destroyed by human development.

All this plunder has worked out fairly well for us, thus far. But all of our prosperity depends upon the natural world reproducing itself. As the New York Times notes, the U.N. has previously estimated that nature provides the economies of the Americas with $24 trillion worth of non-monetized benefits each year: “The Amazon rain forest absorbs immense quantities of carbon dioxide and helps slow the pace of global warming. Wetlands purify drinking water. Coral reefs sustain tourism and fisheries in the Caribbean. Exotic tropical plants form the basis of a variety of medicines. But as these natural landscapes wither and become less biologically rich, the services they can provide to humans have been dwindling.”

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There is no man or woman who can’t be touched

But you who come between them will be judged

-Leonard Cohen