Sep 112018
 
 September 11, 2018  Posted by at 9:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Claude Monet The Manneporte at Étretat 1886

 

 

Please Note: The mailing lists I’ve used for many years all of a sudden stopped working. This appears to be because there is some sort of discrepancy between Gmail and Apple Mail. I’ve lost all access to one Gmail account in Apple Mail, though it still works in a browser. Two other Gmail accounts still function in Apple Mail, but bounce back all mails sent as part of the mailing lists. Working on a solution.

Ilargi

 

 

 

America’s Sub-4% Unemployment Rate Means A Recession Is Not Far Off (Colombo)
Mass Evacuations Ordered As Hurricane Florence Heads Toward Carolinas (R.)
EU’s Barnier Says Brexit Deal Still ‘Realistic’ As Deadline Looms (Ind.)
Three-Bagger (Jim Kunstler)
Kim Jong Un Asks Trump For Another Meeting In ‘Very Warm’ Letter (R.)
US Threatens To Arrest ICC Judges Who Probe War Crimes (AFP)
Moscow Has Upped the Ante in Syria (VIPS)
Netherlands Ends Support To Syrian Militants & White Helmets (RT)
Catalan Separatists Plan Mass Rally Tuesday For Independence From Spain (R.)
Creditors Warn Greece On Debt Relief As Inspectors Return (AP)
Greece’s Moria Migrant Camp Faces Closure Over Living Conditions (K.)
US Teens Prefer Remote Chats To Face-to-Face Meeting (AFP)

 

 

Not all that glitters is gold.

America’s Sub-4% Unemployment Rate Means A Recession Is Not Far Off (Colombo)

The strong job market has become a reason for optimism for many Americans in the past couple years in stark contrast to the dark days of the Great Recession and the ensuing “jobless recovery.” The unemployment rate fell beneath 4% for the past several months, weekly jobless claims are at a 49-year low, and wages are growing at their fastest rate since 2009. So, what’s not to like? Obviously, everyone likes good news on the economic front, but these strong job market statistics are a sign that the economic cycle is much closer to the end (including a recession and bear market) rather than the beginning. As the chart below shows, when the U.S. unemployment rate falls under 4%, recessions follow soon after (recessions are marked by the gray shaded areas on the chart).

Historically, U.S. unemployment under 4% is quite rare and typically occurs after a long, powerful economic expansion. By the time the unemployment rate is under 4%, the economic cycle is already mature, the labor market is tight, and inflation is becoming a concern. At this time, the Federal Reserve has been hiking interest rates steadily, which eventually causes the demise of the economic cycle. According to Nicole Smith, chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce: “The 4 percent number is not exactly a number that economists are necessarily happy with.” “What’s been happening here is, if we look historically at other times when the unemployment rate has fallen below 4 percent, it’s times where it was the boom phase just before recession or just after a major war period.”

Read more …

Florence is dangerous. Get out of the way.

Mass Evacuations Ordered As Hurricane Florence Heads Toward Carolinas (R.)

Mass evacuations were ordered along the U.S. Atlantic Coast as Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm and the most powerful to menace the region in nearly three decades, barreled toward the region on Tuesday. Governor Ralph Northam issued an evacuation order for about 245,000 residents in flood-prone coastal Virginia beginning at 8 a.m. local time while South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has ordered more than 1 million residents along his state’s coastline to leave starting at noon on Tuesday. “This is a serious storm and it’s going to effect the entire state,” Northam told a news conference. “Everyone in Virginia needs to prepare.”

Florence, packing winds of 140 miles per hour (220 kph), was expected to grow even stronger before making landfall on Thursday, mostly likely in southeastern North Carolina near the South Carolina border, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a news conference his state was in “the bull’s eye.” At least 250,000 more people were due to be evacuated from the northern Outer Banks in North Carolina on Tuesday after more than 50,000 people were ordered on Monday to leave Hatteras and Ocracoke, the southernmost of the state’s barrier islands.

North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland governors have declared states of emergency. Authorities warned of life-threatening coastal storm surges and the potential for Florence to unleash prolonged torrential rains and widespread flooding, especially if it lingers inland for several days. NHC Director Ken Graham warned of “staggering” amounts of rainfall that may extend hundreds of miles inland and cause flash flooding across the mid-Atlantic region.

Read more …

If the UK change their positions, that is.

EU’s Barnier Says Brexit Deal Still ‘Realistic’ As Deadline Looms (Ind.)

It is “realistic” to believe Britain and the EU will sign a Brexit withdrawal agreement before the looming deadline, Michel Barnier has said. Speaking at the Bled Strategic Forum conference in Slovenia the EU’s chief negotiator said a deal was “possible” in the next six to eight weeks – the cutoff date set for talks. The pound jumped by nearly 1 per cent against the dollar on the foreign exchange markets following the comments, after traders apparently over-interpreted the official’s words. “If we are realistic, I want to reach an agreement on the first stage of the negotiation, which is the Brexit treaty, within six or eight weeks,” Mr Barnier said.

He added: “The treaty is clear, we have two years to reach an agreement before they leave… in March 2019. “That means that taking into account the time necessary for the ratification process in the House of Commons on one side, the European Parliament and the Council on the other side, we must reach an agreement before the beginning of November. I think it is possible.” The episode comes around a week after jumpy financial markets also boosted the pound after Mr Barnier repeated his mantra about wanting to do an ambitious and unique trade deal with the UK. Though little has changed on the ground, both sides of talks are staying publicly positive – if only to give them the upper hand in any ensuing blame game that follows a no deal.

Read more …

“..a cast of rogue spooks from the CIA, various FBI officers, and British Intelligence in a scheme that is now going to grand juries.”

Three-Bagger (Jim Kunstler)

The likely confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh may be a last straw for the “Resistance.” It would certainly affect the adjudication of any new disputes that arise over relations between Mr. Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the weeks ahead. The Mueller investigation into 2016 election “collusion” between Russia and Trump looks more and more like a case of displacement-projection syndrome, since dumpster-loads of evidence now point to collusion between the Hillary campaign, the DNC, a cast of rogue spooks from the CIA, various FBI officers, and British Intelligence in a scheme that is now going to grand juries.

All that nasty business, starting with the news that a grand jury has been secretly grilling former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for weeks, suggests that events are about to unspool dramatically. The story has been coiling for months as fresh documents emerge and officials, such as the DOJ Inspector General, confirm what they mean. It remains to be seen whether the Web chatter about dozens of “sealed indictments” coming down is horse-shit. The baffling part is the role of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. I’m inclined to doubt that Mr. Trump’s regular vilifications of Sessions are a ruse, meant to mislead the media about the AG’s activities in these matters. But the DC Swamp is unnerved by Sessions’ extraordinary absence of presence on the scene. Has he actually been involved in any of this, or is he playing animal lotto on his desk?

Read more …

The Korea’s want peace and unison. Let nobody put a loophole, a loophole in their way.

Kim Jong Un Asks Trump For Another Meeting In ‘Very Warm’ Letter (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump received a “very warm, very positive” letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un asking for a second meeting and the White House is looking at scheduling one, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Monday. The two countries have been discussing North Korea’s nuclear programs since their leaders met in Singapore in June, although that summit’s outcome was criticized for being short on concrete details about how and whether Kim is willing to give up weapons that threaten the United States. The likely timing of a second Trump-Kim meeting was unclear.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is scheduled to have his third summit with Kim next week in Pyongyang, and his government had pushed for a three-way summit involving Trump, with the aim of agreeing a joint declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War. The conflict ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the U.S.-led United Nations forces including South Korea technically still at war with North Korea. While South Korea had hoped an accord formally ending the conflict could have been unveiled on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later this month, Moon’s security chief Chung Eui-yong said last week, without elaborating, that the necessary conditions for a three-way meeting were missing.

Read more …

The ICC was only ever meant to go after Arican dictators fallen out of favor with the west. Bolton protects himself and his ilk.

US Threatens To Arrest ICC Judges Who Probe War Crimes (AFP)

The United States threatened Monday to arrest and sanction judges and other officials of the International Criminal Court if it moves to charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes. White House National Security Advisor John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and “outright dangerous” to the United States, Israel and other allies, and said any probe of US service members would be “an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.” “If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly,” Bolton said. He said the US was prepared to slap financial sanctions and criminal charges on officials of the court if they proceed against any Americans.

“We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system,” Bolton said. “We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.” Bolton made the comments in a speech in Washington to the Federalist Society, a powerful association of legal conservatives. Bolton pointed to an ICC prosecutor’s request in November 2017 to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees. [..] He also cited a recent move by Palestinian leaders to have Israeli officials prosecuted at the ICC for human rights violations.

Read more …

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) is made up of former intelligence officers, diplomats, military officers and congressional staffers.

Moscow Has Upped the Ante in Syria (VIPS)

Mr. President:

We are concerned that you may not have been adequately briefed on the upsurge of hostilities in northwestern Syria, where Syrian armed forces with Russian support have launched a full-out campaign to take back the al-Nusra/al-Qaeda/ISIS-infested province of Idlib. The Syrians will almost certainly succeed, as they did in late 2016 in Aleppo. As in Aleppo, it will mean unspeakable carnage, unless someone finally tells the insurgents theirs is a lost cause. That someone is you. The Israelis, Saudis, and others who want unrest to endure are egging on the insurgents, assuring them that you, Mr. President, will use US forces to protect the insurgents in Idlib, and perhaps also rain hell down on Damascus.

We believe that your senior advisers are encouraging the insurgents to think in those terms, and that your most senior aides are taking credit for your recent policy shift from troop withdrawal from Syria to indefinite war. Russian missile-armed naval and air units are now deployed in unprecedented numbers to engage those tempted to interfere with Syrian and Russian forces trying to clean out the terrorists from Idlib. We assume you have been briefed on that — at least to some extent. More important, we know that your advisers tend to be dangerously dismissive of Russian capabilities and intentions. We do not want you to be surprised when the Russians start firing their missiles.

The prospect of direct Russian-U.S. hostilities in Syria is at an all-time high. We are not sure you realize that. The situation is even more volatile because Kremlin leaders are not sure who is calling the shots in Washington. This is not the first time that President Putin has encountered such uncertainty . This is, however, the first time that Russian forces have deployed in such numbers into the area, ready to do battle. The stakes are very high. We hope that John Bolton has given you an accurate description of his acerbic talks with his Russian counterpart in Geneva a few weeks ago. In our view, it is a safe bet that the Kremlin is uncertain whether Bolton faithfully speaks in your stead, or speaks INSTEAD of you.

Read more …

A government spending million to support what it itself has labeled ‘terrorists’. We’re not even surprised. Standard fare in the west.

Netherlands Ends Support To Syrian Militants & White Helmets (RT)

The Netherlands has decided to end its support to militants in Syria, since the program did not yield “expected” results. The move comes as journalists found one of the groups had been labeled as terrorists by the country itself. “The opportunity to quickly change the situation [in Syria] is extremely small,” reads the letter the lower house of the parliament by Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok and Minister for Foreign Trade Sigrid Kaag, announcing the end of support programs for the militants in Syria. The program to support of “moderate” anti-government groups in Syria was established in close cooperation with “like-minded donors who pursued the same goals as the Netherlands” and cost the country over $80 million over the years, according to the document.

It failed to “bring the expected results,” however, and is to be closed since the Syrian troops “will soon win” the war against militant groups. Over the years, the Netherlands allocated $29 million to the so-called “non-lethal assistance” (NLA) program, $14.5 million were donated to the so-called White Helmets and $17.1 million went to the Access to Justice and Community Service (AJACS) program. The AJACS was supposedly designed to support “community police” work in Syria, specifically the so-called Free Syrian Police (FSP) group. The support for militants is set to end immediately, yet the White Helmets will be funded until December, according to the document.

Since the White Helmets now operate only in the Idlib province, which is believed to be the destination of the looming offensive by the Syrian Army and its allies, their future is quite doubtful, the document states. [..] The “non-lethal” goods supplied by the Dutch government included satellite phones, uniforms, assorted equipment and even the ‘iconic’ Toyota Hilux pick-up trucks, widely used by various militant groups in Syria. At least one of the groups supplied by the Netherlands, Jabhat al-Shamiya, turned out to be labeled a terrorist group by the country’s own justice department, the journalists have revealed. One Dutch man is currently prosecuted for joining the group back in 2015, with the indictment describing it as a “salafist and jihadist” movement which can qualify only as a “criminal organization with terrorist intent.”

Read more …

What year is it?

Catalan Separatists Plan Mass Rally Tuesday For Independence From Spain (R.)

Hundreds of thousands of Catalans are expected to fill the streets of Barcelona on Tuesday for the Spanish region’s first commemorative day since its leader declared independence last year and pitched the country into constitutional crisis. Supporters of splitting the wealthy northeastern region from the rest of Spain have in recent years used the Sept. 11 “Diada”, the anniversary of the fall of their coastal capital to Spanish forces in 1714, to promote the cause. This year, Catalonia’s leader Quim Torra, who took over from his exiled predecessor after Madrid ended an unprecedented period of direct rule, has called for a mass rally in support of his bid for a binding referendum on independence.

“Our government has committed to making the republic a reality,” Torra said in a televised address to mark the occasion. “I wish you all a very good Diada. Long live free Catalonia.” He wore a yellow ribbon signifying support for nine politicians whose jailing for their role in the independence bid is one of the Catalan government’s biggest grievances. Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who took power in June, has taken a softer approach to one of the thorniest issues in national politics than that of his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy, but he has stood firm against allowing a vote on secession, or any unilateral attempt by Catalonia to secede.

Last year’s Diada, in which marchers often climb on each other’s shoulders in shows of the traditional sport of forming human towers, fell as the regional government was preparing to hold a referendum in defiance of Madrid, which ultimately sent riot police to try to stop the vote.

Read more …

Sovereignty, 2018.

Creditors Warn Greece On Debt Relief As Inspectors Return (AP)

Greece’s lead creditor warned the country on Monday not to stray from reforms agreed upon before the end of its international bailout, as European monitors arrived to check the nation’s finances. The five-day inspection is expected to focus on government promises over the weekend to offer tax relief as well as plans to scrap promised pension cuts that are due to take effect in 2019. Klaus Regling, managing director of the European Stability Mechanism, the eurozone’s rescue fund, told Austria’s Die Presse newspaper that Greece’s needed to stick to its commitments. “We are a very patient creditor. But we can stop debt relief measures that have been decided for Greece if the adjustment programs are not continued as agreed,” he said.

“The debt level appears to be frighteningly elevated. But Greece can live with that as the loan maturities are very long and the interest rates on the loans are much lower than in most other countries.” Left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is trailing opposition conservatives in opinion polls and must call a general election within the next 12 months. Amid large protest rallies led by labor unions over the weekend, the prime minister said that relief measures promised to taxpayers would not jeopardize fiscal performance targets and would be introduced gradually. Greece has promised to deliver high primary surpluses — the budget balance before calculating the cost of servicing debt — for years to come, along with a series of reforms in exchange for better debt repayment terms.

The end of the bailout means Greece will have to return to international capital markets to finance itself. However, the country faces a troubled return after the financial turmoil in Turkey and Italy halted a decline in Greek borrowing rates. The yield on Greece’s 10-year-bond remains above 4 percent. The bailout program ended Aug. 20 but the country’s debt level remains near 180 percent of gross domestic product.

Read more …

Let’s see what happens in the next 30 days.

Greece’s Moria Migrant Camp Faces Closure Over Living Conditions (K.)

The Regional Authority of the Northern Aegean has given the Ministry of Migration Policy 30 days to clean up the overcrowded Moria hot spot for migrants and refugees on the island of Lesvos, or face closure. The announcement is part of a report compiled by environmental and health inspectors from Lesvos’ public health directorate who found the camp is unsuitable and dangerous for public health and the environment. According to the report, inspectors said there is an uncontrolled wastewater spill at the entrance of the camp, which ends into an adjacent stream or even on the road.

In another section of the camp, toilet waste pipes are broken, resulting in a strong stench and creating a danger to public health. Inspectors said the overcrowding living conditions in Moria, in which up to 15 people are squeezed into the small houses and up to 150 in every tent, increases the risk of disease transmission. “There was also a strong stench and insects (flies) due to the inability to properly clean the living quarters,” the report added. North Aegean Regional Governor Christiana Kalogirou says the ministry will have to restore every damage or problem detailed in the report, otherwise the authority will forbid the hot spot’s operation.

Read more …

It’ll take years to assess the damage. And then it’ll be too late.

US Teens Prefer Remote Chats To Face-to-Face Meeting (AFP)

American teenagers are starting to prefer communicating via text instead of meeting face-to-face, according to a study published Monday by the independent organization Common Sense Media. Some 35% of kids aged 13 to 17 years old said they would rather send a text than meet up with people, which received 32%. The last time the media and technology-focused nonprofit conducted such a survey in 2012, meeting face-to-face hit 49%, far ahead of texting’s 33%. More than two-thirds of American teens choose remote communication — including texting, social media, video conversation and phone conversation — when they can, according to the study. In 2012 less than half of them marked a similar preference.

Notably, in the six-year span between the two studies the proportion of 13 to 17-year-olds with their own smartphone increased from 41 to 89%. As for social networks, 81% of respondents said online exchange is part of their lives, with 32% calling it “extremely” or “very” important. The most-used platform for this age group is Snapchat (63%), followed by Instagram (61%) and Facebook (43%). Some 54% of the teens who use social networks said it steals attention away from those in their physical presence. Two-fifths of them said time spent on social media prevents them from spending more time with friends in person. The study was conducted online with a sample of 1,141 young people ages 13 to 17, from March 22 to April 10.

Read more …

Dec 262017
 
 December 26, 2017  Posted by at 11:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Edward Hopper Christmas card 1928

 

Shale Gas Fuels 40% Increase In Funding For Plastics Production (G.)
Bitcoin Could Crash Financial Markets Because Of Massive Borrowing (MW)
Was Coinbase’s Bitcoin Cash Rollout A Designed Hit? (Luongo)
Japan PM Abe Urges Firms To Raise Wages By 3% Or More (R.)
Japan’s Household Spending Jumps But BOJ Seen Keeping Stimulus (R.)
Shanghai Sets Population At 25 Million To Avoid ‘Big City Disease’ (G./R.)
Europe Banks Brace For Huge Overhaul That Opens The Doors To Their Data (CNBC)
Scotland United In Curiosity As Councils Trial Universal Basic Income (G.)
UK Asylum Offices ‘In A Constant State Of Crisis’, Say Whistleblowers (G.)
‘Normality’ To Be Restored At Moria By End of January – Greek Minister (K.)
UNHCR Calls For Migrant Transfers, Blames Greece For Grim Conditions (K.)

 

 

It’s up to you to refuse plastics. Nothing else will work.

Shale Gas Fuels 40% Increase In Funding For Plastics Production (G.)

The global plastic binge which is already causing widespread damage to oceans, habitats and food chains, is set to increase dramatically over the next 10 years after multibillion dollar investments in a new generation of plastics plants in the US. Fossil fuel companies are among those who have plooughed more than $180bn since 2010 into new “cracking” facilities that will produce the raw material for everyday plastics from packaging to bottles, trays and cartons. The new facilities – being built by corporations like Exxon Mobile Chemical and Shell Chemical – will help fuel a 40% rise in plastic production in the next decade, according to experts, exacerbating the plastic pollution crisis that scientist warn already risks “near permanent pollution of the earth.”

“We could be locking in decades of expanded plastics production at precisely the time the world is realising we should use far less of it,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the US Center for International Environmental Law, which has analysed the plastic industry. “Around 99% of the feedstock for plastics is fossil fuels, so we are looking at the same companies, like Exxon and Shell, that have helped create the climate crisis. There is a deep and pervasive relationship between oil and gas companies and plastics.” Greenpeace UK’s senior oceans campaigner Louise Edge said any increase in the amount of plastic ending up in the oceans would have a disastrous impact. “We are already producing more disposable plastic than we can deal with, more in the last decade than in the entire twentieth century, and millions of tonnes of it are ending up in our oceans.”

The huge investment in plastic production has been driven by the shale gas boom in the US. This has resulted in one of the raw materials used to produce plastic resin – natural gas liquids – dropping dramatically in price. The American Chemistry Council says that since 2010 this has led to $186bn dollars being invested in 318 new projects. Almost half of them are already under construction or have been completed. The rest are at the planning stage. “I can summarise [the boom in plastics facilities] in two words,” Kevin Swift, chief economist at the ACC, told the Guardian. “Shale gas.”

Read more …

For now, crypto is too small to sink anything at all, but a potential future issue is: If derivatives and leverage play such a big role in crypto, how exactly is it different from all other ‘investments’?

Bitcoin Could Crash Financial Markets Because Of Massive Borrowing (MW)

Bitcoin mania is starting to look like a religion. I say that because both bitcoin and religion involve faith in the unknowable. Some bitcoin investors believe the cryptocurrency, along with the underlying blockchain technology, will be a vital part of a new, decentralized, post-government society. I can’t prove that won’t happen — nor can bitcoin evangelists prove it will. Like life after death, they can only say it’s out there beyond the horizon. If you believe in bitcoin paradise, fine. It’s your business … until your faith puts everyone else at risk. As of this month, bitcoin is doing it. Is bitcoin in a price bubble? I think so. Asset bubbles usually only hurt the buyers who overpay, but that changes when you add leverage to the equation.

Leverage means “buying with borrowed money.” So when you buy something with borrowed money and can’t repay it, the lender loses too. The problem spreads further when lenders themselves are leveraged. For bitcoin mania to infect the entire financial system, like securitized mortgages did in 2008, buyers would have to use leverage. The bad news is that a growing number do just that. In the U.S., we have a Financial Stability Oversight Council to watch for system-wide vulnerabilities. The FSOC issued its 164-page annual report this month. Here’s its plan on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies: It is desirable for financial regulators to monitor and analyze their effects on financial stability. Sounds like FSOC is on the case — or at least will be on it, someday. Meanwhile, this month commodity regulators allowed two different U.S. exchanges to launch bitcoin futures contracts.

Oddly, instead of griping about slow regulatory approval, futures industry leaders think the government moved too fast. To get why, you need to understand how futures exchanges work. One key difference between a regulated futures exchange and a private bet between two parties is that the exchange absorbs counterparty risk. When you buy, say, gold futures, you don’t have to worry that whoever sold you the contract will disappear and not pay up. If you close your trade at a profit, the exchange clearinghouse guarantees payment. The clearinghouse consists of the exchange’s member brokerage firms. They all pledge their own capital as a backstop to keep the exchange running. So when the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) gave exchanges the green light to launch bitcoin futures, member firms collectively said (I’ll paraphrase here): “WTF?”

Read more …

No matter if crypto surges or collapses in 2018, controversies will be much much bigger than this year. Just getting started.

Was Coinbase’s Bitcoin Cash Rollout A Designed Hit? (Luongo)

[..] if there is a path to harming Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency market available to the money center banks, then they will always opt for it. I’ve been pretty vocal about the need for having a slow, annoying reserve asset in the cryptocurrency space. I’ve talked about it multiple times (here and here). This doesn’t jibe with Bitcoin Cash proponent and Bitcoin.com CEO Roger Ver’s image of Bitcoin. And that is to Roger’s credit, actually. It’s pretty obvious from a cursory glance at Roger’s Twitter feed that he approaches Bitcoin as a radical libertarian/Austrian Economist would — a purely decentralized, trustless money that can wrest control of the world’s monetary system from rentiers in Government and Banking. Music to my ears. On the other hand is the very shady attitude of Blockstream and the Bitcoin Core group who prevailed in the Segwit 2x fight, which, from Roger Ver’s perspective is actually a mop-up operation, not the decisive battle in the war.

“The reason there is so much hostility from Bitcoin Core towards Bitcoin Cash is because Core knows they have stolen the name but are advocating a completely different system than what was originally described by Satoshi. Bitcoin Cash is Bitcoin” — Roger Ver (@rogerkver) December 19, 2017

The real battle for the soul of Bitcoin happened back in August with the fork that created Bitcoin Cash. Complaining about all of these other forks, to Roger, is like closing the barn door after the horses are gone. By keeping Bitcoin slow and expensive they create the need for new solutions to improve it. Why solve a problem when you can artificially create one and then sell everyone the solution? So, I’m ambivalent about this fight for the soul of Bitcoin, because I want a real digital analogue to Gold which only moves the most important transactions. I don’t want all coins to be all things to all people. But, I also know that with this much money at stake there will be pushback from the ‘powers-that-be.’ The Banks and central banks are staring at an existential threat to their future and are doing what they can to stop it from happening. And that, to them, means gaining control over the Bitcoin blockchain. It also means cutting off the means of entry and exit from the cryptocurrency market for average people.

Read more …

Unemployment in Japan is almost non-existent, but apparently markets don’t work the way they’re supposed to. Tight labor doesn’t lead to higher wages.

Japan PM Abe Urges Firms To Raise Wages By 3% Or More (R.)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday urged companies to raise wages by 3% or more next year, keeping up pressure on firms to spend their huge cash pile on wages to broaden the benefits of his “Abenomics” stimulus policies.“We must sustain and strengthen Japan’s positive economic cycle next year to achieve our long-standing goal of beating deflation,” Abe said in a speech at a meeting of Japan’s biggest business lobby Keidanren. “For that, I’d like to ask companies to raise wages by 3% or higher next spring,” he said. Wages at big companies have been rising slightly more than 2% each year since 2014, government data shows, and an increase of 3% or more next year would help the Bank of Japan to reach its elusive 2% inflation target.

BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told the same meeting that companies remain hesitant to raise wages because they had become accustomed to prioritising job security over wage hikes during 15 years of deflation. “With consumers remaining reluctant to accept price rises, many firms are concerned about losing customers if they raise prices,” he said. “It seems so difficult for many firms to take the first step to raise their prices, that they wait and see what other firms are doing.” Sadayuki Sakakibara, chairman of Keidanren, made no reference to wages at his speech at the meeting, focusing instead on the need for Japan to get its fiscal house in order. “We’d like to strongly call on the need to restore fiscal health,” as worries over the sustainability of Japan’s social welfare system could discourage consumers to spend, he said.

Read more …

“..due mostly to a boost from rising fuel costs that is seen fading in 2018..”

Japan’s Household Spending Jumps But BOJ Seen Keeping Stimulus (R.)

Japan’s households spent more than expected in November while consumer inflation ticked up and the jobless rate hit a fresh 24-year low, offering the central bank some hope an economic recovery will drive up inflation to its 2% target. But the increase in prices was due mostly to a boost from rising fuel costs that is seen fading in 2018, keeping the Bank of Japan under pressure to maintain its huge monetary support even as other central banks seek an end to crisis-mode policies. Minutes of the BOJ’s October rate review showed that while most central bank policymakers saw no need to ramp up stimulus, they agreed on the need to sustain “powerful” monetary easing for the time being. “There’s a chance inflation may gradually accelerate toward the fiscal year beginning in April,” as a tightening job market pressures companies to raise wages, said Takeshi Minami, chief economist at Norinchukin Research Institute.

“But inflation remains distant from the BOJ’s 2% target, so the central bank will probably maintain its current policy framework.” Spending was driven by broadbased gains, with households loosening the purse strings for items such as refrigerators, washing machines, and sporting goods and services such as eating-out and travel. Data also showed wage earners’ disposable income rose 1.8% in November from a year earlier, suggesting that higher incomes have encouraged consumers to open their wallets. The nationwide core consumer price index (CPI), which includes oil goods but excludes volatile fresh food prices, rose 0.9% in November from a year earlier, government data showed on Tuesday, marking the 11th straight month of gains. The pace of price growth was just ahead of October’s 0.8% and a median market forecast of the same rate.

Read more …

Illusions of control. China’s no. 1 threat.

Shanghai Sets Population At 25 Million To Avoid ‘Big City Disease’ (G./R.)

China’s financial hub of Shanghai will limit its population to 25 million people by 2035 as part of a quest to manage “big city disease”, authorities have said. The State Council said on its website late on Monday the goal to control the size of the city was part of Shanghai’s masterplan for 2017-2035, which the government body had approved. “By 2035, the resident population in Shanghai will be controlled at around 25 million and the total amount of land made available for construction will not exceed 3,200 square kilometres,” it said. State media has defined “big city disease” as arising when a megacity becomes plagued with environmental pollution, traffic congestion and a shortage of public services, including education and medical care.

But some experts doubt the feasibility of the plans, with one researcher at a Chinese government thinktank describing the scheme as “unpractical and against the social development trend”. Migrant workers and the city’s poor would suffer the most, predicted Liang Zhongtang last year in an interview with state media, when Shanghai’s target was being drafted. The government set a similar limit for Beijing in September, declaring the city’s population should not exceed 23 million by 2020. Beijing had a population of 21.5 million in 2014. Officials also want to reduce the population of six core districts by 15% compared with 2014 levels. To help achieve this goal authorities said in April some government agencies, state-owned companies and other “non-core” functions of the Chinese capital would be moved to a newly created city about 100 kilometres south of Beijing.

Read more …

Well, actually, your data, that is.

Europe Banks Brace For Huge Overhaul That Opens The Doors To Their Data (CNBC)

From current accounts to credit cards, established lenders have access to vast amounts of information that financial technology (fintech) competitors could only dream of. In Europe, that could all be about to change. On January 8, banks operating in the European Union will be forced to open up their customer data to third party firms — that is, when customers give consent. EU lawmakers hope that the introduction of the revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) will give non-banking firms the chance to compete with banks in the payments business and give consumers more choice over financial products and services. Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has set out similar plans to let customers share their data with other banks and third parties.

With customer consent, U.K. banks will be required to give authorized third-party firms access to current account data. Those regulations form part of a conceptual transition known as “open banking.” Under an open banking framework, proponents say, non-banking firms — from corporations as big as Amazon and IBM to start-ups — would be able create new financial products by utilizing the data of banks. Banks will be required to build application programming interfaces (APIs) — sets of code that give third parties secure access to their back-end data. Those APIs serve as channels for developers to get to the data and build their own products and services around it.

Such information could serve as a tool to understand things such as customers’ spending habits or credit history, and could lead to the creation of new services. “In a world of open banking, the customer can choose a provider in each part of the value chain. And each bank has to participate in the value chain as an earners’ right to be there,” Anne Boden, co-founder and chief executive of U.K. mobile-only bank Starling, told CNBC in an interview earlier this year. [..] Some European lenders are giving early signals as to what a post-PSD2 world will look like. Spain’s BBVA, Denmark’s Saxo Bank, Nordic lender Nordea and Ireland’s Ulster Bank have already published open developer portals ahead of the EU legislation.

Read more …

UBI experiments that are poorly designed are real threats to the principle.

Scotland United In Curiosity As Councils Trial Universal Basic Income (G.)

In Scotland, a country wearily familiar with divisions of a constitutional nature, the concept of a basic income is almost unique in enjoying multi-party favour. Across the four areas currently designing basic income pilots – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and North Ayrshire – the projects have variously been championed by Labour, SNP, Green and, in one case, Conservative councillors. Matt Kerr, who has tirelessly lobbied for the idea through Glasgow city council, said: “Reactions to basic income have not split along the usual left/right party lines. Some people to the left of the Labour party think that it undermines the role of trade unions and others take the opposite view. But there should be room for scepticism; you need that to get the right policy.” Advocates are aware such unity of purpose is precious and worth preserving.

“The danger is that this falls into party blocks,” said Kerr. “If people can unite around having a curiosity about [it] then I’m happy with that. But having the first minister on board has done us no harm at all.” Inevitably, Sturgeon’s declared interest has invited criticism from her opponents. A civil service briefing paper on basic income, which expressed concerns that the “conflicting and confusing” policy could be a disincentive to work and costed its national roll-out at £12.3bn a year, was obtained by the Scottish Conservatives through a freedom of information request in October. The party accused her of “pandering to the extreme left of the [independence] movement”. But advocates argue the figures fail to take into account savings the scheme would bring.

The independent thinktank Reform Scotland, which published a briefing earlier this month setting out a suggested basic income of £5,200 for every adult, has calculated that much of the cost could be met through a combination of making work-related benefits obsolete and changes to the tax system, including scrapping the personal allowance and merging national insurance and income tax. [..] Joe Cullinane, the Labour leader of North Ayrshire council, said: “We have high levels of deprivation and high unemployment, so we take the view that the current system is failing us and we need to look at something new to lift people out of poverty. “Basic income has critics and supporters on the left and right, which tells you there are very different ways of shaping it and we need to state at the outset that this is a progressive change, to remove that fear and allow people to have greater control over their lives, to enter the labour market on their own terms.”

Read more …

“Two whistleblowers claim Home Office departments delay asylum applications for profit..

UK Asylum Offices ‘In A Constant State Of Crisis’, Say Whistleblowers (G.)

Staff in the Home Office’s asylum directorate are undertrained, overworked and operating in a “constant state of crisis”, two whistleblowers have claimed, as applicants endure long waits to have their case dealt with due to internal pressures. The Home Office staff have also told the Guardian that asylum case workers are making poor decisions about applications because they are under pressure to focus on more profitable visa applications. Despite a “shocking increase in complaints (from applicants) and MP enquiries questioning delays”, they say caseworkers have been told to brush off all enquires and “just give standard lines” of response when called to account.

A source from the UK Visa and Immigration Unit (UKVI) has alleged that caseworkers have been ordered to kick applications for spousal visas “into the long grass” because they can make more money for the directorate by processing student visas. Spousal visas, also known as settlement visas, cost more than student visas but take much longer to process. The source also claims visa applications are routinely labelled “complex” or ”non-straightforward” by staff – a term which excuses the UKVI from adhering to their standard processing times – it is, the source claimed, “just a euphemism for ‘there’s more profitable stuff we could be doing’”. Paying hundreds of pounds for priority services to try to avoid delays on decisions is a “waste of time”, they warned applicants.

The allegations reflect concerns expressed in a report earlier this year by David Bolt, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, who said the Home Office is not “in effective control” of its asylum process. [..] Some of the more shocking findings from Bolt’s report included pregnant women being made to wait more than two years for decisions on their immigration applications; an increasing numbers of applicants having their immigration applications registered as “not straightforward” and endlessly delayed; and Home Office employees being “pushed to the limit” by individual targets and threatened with disciplinary action as deadlines approach.

Read more …

At least one more month of utter despair, with little reason to assume any improvement by then. Mouzalas cannot escape his part of the blame.. That said, he’s not lying when he says “Here in Moria we have a problem with unaccompanied minor refugees. We have asked Europe to take a share of these children. It refuses to do so..”

‘Normality’ To Be Restored At Moria By End of January – Greek Minister (K.)

Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said Monday authorities were making huge efforts to improve conditions at the Moria camp on the eastern Aegean island of Lesvos, while accusing European officials of “hypocrisy” for failing to shoulder their share of the burden. Speaking after an unannounced visit at the infamous migrant and refugee processing center, Mouzalas said Greek authorities were hoping to restore “normality” at the facility by the end of January. “It all depends on arrivals,” Mouzalas said. “Today it was good weather and a total of 175 arrivals have been recorded on Lesvos as of this morning,” he said.

Responding to criticism over the scenes of misery and squalor documented by foreign media at Moria last week, the leftist minister said: “Europe must put an end to its hypocrisy.” “Here in Moria we have a problem with unaccompanied minor refugees. We have asked Europe to take a share of these children. It refuses to do so,” Mouzalas said. “It’s very easy to act like a prosecutor. Dealing with the situation in a way that helps refugees and migrants is the hard part. And this is what we are expected to do,” he said. “There is no point in wagging your finger. What you need to do is mobilize the procedures and mechanisms in order to improve conditions and solve problems,” he said.

Read more …

And the UNHCR is not beyond blame, either. Pointing fingers at others is always easy, but hard to keep up after two whole years.

UNHCR Calls For Migrant Transfers, Blames Greece For Grim Conditions (K.)

As temperatures drop, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) once more urged Greek authorities to swiftly transfer thousands of refugees and migrants living in cramped and unsafe island camps to the mainland where better conditions and services are available. “Tension in the reception centers and on the islands has been mounting since the summer when the number of arrivals began rising,” UNHCR spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told Voice of America. “In some cases, local authorities have opposed efforts to introduce improvements inside the reception centers,” Pouilly was quoted as saying. More than 15,000 people have been transferred to the mainland over the past year.

Meanwhile, speaking to the New Europe news website, the EU’s special envoy on migration, Maarten Verwey, suggested that Greek authorities were to blame for the grim living conditions inside island migrant camps, as recently documented by American news outlet BuzzFeed and Germany’s Deutsche Welle. “The Commission has made the funding available to ensure appropriate accommodation for all. However, the Commission cannot order the creation or expansion of reception capacity, against the opposition of the competent authorities,” Verwey said, according to New Europe.

Read more …