Jul 182019
 


Mathew Brady Abe Lincoln 1864

 

Showdown With Trump Looms As House Votes To Block Arms Sale To Saudi Arabia (AP)
House Votes Down Democrat’s Bid To Impeach Trump Over Recent Tweets (AP)
Feds End Investigation Into Trump Org And Hush Money Payments (CNN)
Foreign Purchases Of US Homes Plunge 36%, Chinese Flee The Market (CNBC)
New Zealand’s Armour-Plated Housing Bubble (Hickey)
Extraordinary Collapse In Home Ownership In Sydney And Melbourne (SMH)
Paradigm Shifts (Ray Dalio)
Ray Dalio Says Gold Top Investment During Upcoming ‘Paradigm Shift’ (CNBC)
US Removes Turkey From F-35 Program After S-400 Purchase From Russia (R.)
Chelsea Manning’s Daily Fines for Grand Jury Resistance Increase to $1000 (SP)

 

 

It’s showdowns all the way down. It would be good if they can do this one with a bit more smart. But they’re losing everything so far, so no high hopes. Of course it’s beyond gross to be chanting “send her home” at a rally. But he’s winning it all and they are not. The Democrats need a plan, they need brains, they need to organize.

Showdown With Trump Looms As House Votes To Block Arms Sale To Saudi Arabia (AP)

Congress is heading for a showdown with President Donald Trump after the House voted to block his administration from selling weapons and aircraft maintenance support to Saudi Arabia. The Democratic-led House on Wednesday passed the first of three resolutions of disapproval, 238-190, with votes on the others to immediately follow. Trump has actively courted an alliance with Riyadh and has pledged to veto the resolutions. The Senate cleared the measures last month, although by margins well short of making them veto proof. Overturning a president’s veto requires a two-thirds majority. The arms package is worth an estimated $8.1 billion and includes precision guided munitions, other bombs, ammunition, and aircraft maintenance support.

Read more …

Very predictable and therefore very stupid. It’s no time to start fights you can’t possibly win.

House Votes Down Democrat’s Bid To Impeach Trump Over Recent Tweets (AP)

The House easily killed a maverick Democrat’s effort Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump for his recent racial insults against lawmakers of color, in a vote that provided an early snapshot of just how divided Democrats are over trying to oust him in the shadow of the 2020 elections. Democrats leaned against the resolution by Texas Rep. Al Green by about a 3-2 margin as the chamber killed the measure 332-95. The vote showed that so far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been successful in her effort to prevent a Democratic stampede toward impeachment before additional evidence is developed that could win over a public that has so far been skeptical about ousting Trump.

Even so, the numbers also showed that the number of Democrats open to impeachment remains substantial. About two dozen more conversions would split the party’s caucus in half over an issue that could potentially dominate next year’s presidential and congressional campaigns. “There’s a lot of grief, from a lot of different quarters,” Green, speaking to reporters after the vote, said of the reaction he’s received from colleagues. “But sometimes you just have to take a stand.” Every voting Republican favored derailing Green’s measure.

Pelosi and other party leaders considered his resolution a premature exercise that needlessly forced vulnerable swing-district lawmakers to cast a perilous and divisive vote. It also risked deepening Democrats’ already raw rift over impeachment, dozens of the party’s most liberal lawmakers itching to oust Trump. Recent polling has shown solid majorities oppose impeachment. Even if the Democratic-run House would vote to impeach Trump, the equivalent of filing formal charges, a trial by the Republican-led Senate would all but certainly acquit him, keeping him in office.

Read more …

And here’s another loss. It doesn’t stop.

Feds End Investigation Into Trump Org And Hush Money Payments (CNN)

Federal prosecutors in New York have ended their investigation into the Trump Organization’s role in hush money payments made to women who alleged affairs with President Donald Trump and have been ordered by a judge to release additional information connected to their related probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, according to court documents filed Wednesday. CNN reported Friday that the Manhattan US Attorney’s office had approached the end of its investigation of the Trump Organization and wasn’t poised to charge any executives involved in the company’s effort to reimburse Cohen for money he paid to silence one of the women. That payment constituted an illegal campaign contribution, according to prosecutors. Trump has denied the affair allegations.

“The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance,” US District Court Judge William Pauley wrote in his decision. “Now that the Government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials.” Pauley ordered a copy of the government’s July status report and copies of search warrant materials from the Cohen case to be filed publicly with very limited redactions by Thursday at 11 a.m. ET. The conclusion of federal prosecutors’ investigation of the Trump company’s role in the Cohen matter marks a significant victory for the President’s family business, although it likely doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

There had been no contact between the Manhattan US Attorney’s office and officials at the Trump Organization in more than five months, CNN reported Friday. A lawyer for Trump, Jay Sekulow, said: “We are pleased that the investigation surrounding these ridiculous campaign finance allegations is now closed. We have maintained from the outset that the President never engaged in any campaign finance violation.”

Read more …

I see many Chinese tourists here in Athens. And often think Beijing can’t let that trend continue, because these people can’t pay for their trips in yuan. But yes, it’s easier to start with halting the outflow of larger amounts.

Foreign Purchases Of US Homes Plunge 36%, Chinese Flee The Market (CNBC)

Challenging conditions in the U.S. housing market, along with tighter currency controls by the Chinese government, caused a stunning drop in foreign demand for American homes. The dollar volume of homes purchased by foreign buyers from April 2018 through March 2019 dropped 36% from the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors. The decline was due to a drop in the number and average price of purchases. Foreigners bought 183,100 properties with a total value of about $77.9 billion, down from 266,800 valued at $121 billion in the previous period. They paid a median price of $280,600, which is higher than the median for all existing homebuyers ($259,600), but it was down from $290,400 the previous year.


“A confluence of many factors — slower economic growth abroad, tighter capital controls in China, a stronger U.S. dollar and a low inventory of homes for sale — contributed to the pullback of foreign buyers,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “However, the magnitude of the decline is quite striking, implying less confidence in owning a property in the U.S.” The Chinese were the leading buyers for the seventh consecutive year, purchasing an estimated $13.4 billion worth of residential property. Yet that was a 56% decline from the previous 12 months and comparatively the biggest percentage drop of all foreign buyers. Chinese economic growth slowed to 6.3% in 2019 compared with 6.9% in 2017, when the previous buyer survey began. The Chinese government also tightened its grip on the outflow of cash to purchase foreign property.

Read more …

New Zealand housing, like Australia and Vancouver, depends on the Chinese too.

New Zealand’s Armour-Plated Housing Bubble (Hickey)

New Zealanders usually welcome the praise when overseas authorities describe us as the best in the world. This time, not so much. In the past fortnight, global economic news authorities The Economist and Bloomberg Economics have both declared New Zealand houses to be vastly over-valued relative to both rents and incomes. They describe New Zealand as in bubble territory similar to those seen in other countries before the Global Financial Crisis and vulnerable to the sort of 30-40 percent price crash seen in the likes of Ireland and parts of the US through 2007 to 2010. The Economist’s long-running Global House Price Index was refreshed on June 27 with March quarter data for most countries and showed New Zealand top of the pops when it came to over-valuation relative to incomes and second most over-valued relative to rents behind Canada.

It found New Zealand prices in the December quarter of 2018 to be 57 percent over-valued relative to rents, just above Australia’s 42 percent overvalued in the March quarter. New Zealand was 113 percent over-valued relative to rents, just behind Canada’s 120 percent, The Economist found. New Zealand prices have more than trebled since 1990, while British and American prices are still less than double what they were 30 years ago. “On this basis, house prices appear to be on an unsustainable path in Australia, Canada and New Zealand,” The Economist wrote. “Ten years ago they reached similarly dizzying heights against rents and incomes in Spain, Ireland and some American cities, only to endure a brutal collapse,” it concluded.

[..] New Zealand’s housing market is now worth NZ$1.13 trillion, which is up by more than $1 trillion from NZ$123 billion in 1990. The increase is more than triple because there are more houses with more extras (decks/garages/rooms) added on. That’s $1 trillion in untaxed capital gains, which at the top marginal rate would have generated extra tax revenues of $330 billion, or enough to build nearly 700,000 new state houses or fund the next 14 years of New Zealand Superannuation payments. Our housing market is worth 3.9 times our GDP and more than 7.2 times the value of our stock market. For comparison sake, Australia’s housing market is worth A$6.6 trillion or 3.5 times Australia’s GDP and 3.3 times the value of its stock market. America’s housing market is worth US$33.3 trillion or 1.6 times US GDP and 1.5 times the value of the US stock market.

Read more …

Governments like bubbles.

Extraordinary Collapse In Home Ownership In Sydney And Melbourne (SMH)

The number of people owning their home outright has collapsed by a third as house prices have soared four-fold over the past two decades, leaving a growing number of older Australians shackled to mortgages as they head into retirement. In the mid-1990s, almost 44 per cent of people in NSW owned their home outright, but according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics this has now fallen to just 29.7 per cent. At the same time, the proportion of people in NSW with a mortgage has jumped by more than 30 per cent, with many of those heading towards their retirement years. The swing from ownership to mortgage has occurred over the past 20 years as the median house price in Sydney lifted by 460 per cent, even taking into account the recent market softening.

It’s a similar story in Victoria, where in the mid-1990s more than 45 per cent of people were mortgage-free, but now that figure has fallen to just 31 per cent. Victorians are among the most exposed to changing interest rates, with more than 37 per cent of people holding a mortgage. Two decades ago less than 30 per cent held a housing debt with their bank. Over the same period, the median house price in Melbourne has soared from $126,131 to $806,000. The Northern Territory has the smallest proportion of people who own their home outright, at just 17 per cent. Among the states, just 27 per cent of residents in Queensland and Western Australia enjoy life without a mortgage or rental payments.

Read more …

Dalio channels Minsky: stability leads to instability. He must be aware of that.

Paradigm Shifts (Ray Dalio)

There are always big unsustainable forces that drive the paradigm. They go on long enough for people to believe that they will never end even though they obviously must end. A classic one of those is an unsustainable rate of debt growth that supports the buying of investment assets; it drives asset prices up, which leads people to believe that borrowing and buying those investment assets is a good thing to do. But it can’t go on forever because the entities borrowing and buying those assets will run out of borrowing capacity while the debt service costs rise relative to their incomes by amounts that squeeze their cash flows. When these things happen, there is a paradigm shift.

Debtors get squeezed and credit problems emerge, so there is a retrenchment of lending and spending on goods, services, and investment assets so they go down in a self-reinforcing dynamic that looks more opposite than similar to the prior paradigm. This continues until it’s also overdone, which reverses in a certain way that I won’t digress into but is explained in my book Principles for Navigating Big Debt Crises [..] Another classic example that comes to mind is that extended periods of low volatility tend to lead to high volatility because people adapt to that low volatility, which leads them to do things (like borrow more money than they would borrow if volatility was greater) that expose them to more volatility, which prompts a self-reinforcing pickup in volatility.

There are many classic examples like this that repeat over time that I won’t get into now. Still, I want to emphasize that understanding which types of paradigms exist and how they might shift is required to consistently invest well. That is because any single approach to investing—e.g., investing in any asset class, investing via any investment style (such as value, growth, distressed), investing in anything—will experience a time when it performs so terribly that it can ruin you.

Read more …

Think he means that for pension funds as well?

Ray Dalio Says Gold Top Investment During Upcoming ‘Paradigm Shift’ (CNBC)

Hedge fund kingpin Ray Dalio is seeing a case for gold as central banks get more aggressive with policies that devalue currencies and are about to cause a “paradigm shift” in investing. Dalio, founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, wrote in a LinkedIn post that investors have been pushed into stocks and other assets that have equity-like returns. As a result, too many people are holding these types of securities and likely to face diminishing returns. “I think these are unlikely to be good real returning investments and that those that will most likely do best will be those that do well when the value of money is being depreciated and domestic and international conflicts are significant, such as gold,” the Bridgewater Associates leader said.

“Additionally, for reasons I will explain in the near future, most investors are underweighted in such assets, meaning that if they just wanted to have a better balanced portfolio to reduce risk, they would have more of this sort of asset. For this reason, I believe that it would be both risk-reducing and return-enhancing to consider adding gold to one’s portfolio. I will soon send out an explanation of why I believe that gold is an effective portfolio diversifier.” [..] Dalio’s call comes two weeks before the Federal Reserve is expected to cut its benchmark interest rate by at least a quarter point. That move comes after a three-year cycle of raising rates from the historically accommodative near-zero levels implemented during the financial crisis.

The fresh trends are part of what he labeled a new “paradigm shift” that comes after the last one during the crisis. Investors, Dalio said, are going to need to change their mindset about what will work after the longest bull market run in Wall Street history. “In paradigm shifts, most people get caught overextended doing something overly popular and get really hurt,” he wrote. “On the other hand, if you’re astute enough to understand these shifts, you can navigate them well or at least protect yourself against them.”

Read more …

“Turkey makes more than 900 parts of the F-35..”

US Removes Turkey From F-35 Program After S-400 Purchase From Russia (R.)

The United States said on Wednesday that it was removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, a move long threatened and expected after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile defense system last week. The first parts of the S-400 air defense system were flown to the Murted military air base northwest of Ankara on Friday, sealing NATO ally Turkey’s deal with Russia, which Washington had struggled for months to prevent. “The U.S. and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program,” Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told a briefing.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the move was unfair and could affect relations between the two countries. Lord said moving the supply chain for the advanced fighter jet would cost the United States between $500 million and $600 million in non-recurring engineering costs. Turkey makes more than 900 parts of the F-35, she said, adding the supply chain would transition from Turkish to mainly U.S. factories as Turkish suppliers are removed. “Turkey will certainly and regrettably lose jobs and future economic opportunities from this decision,” Lord said. “It will no longer receive more than $9 billion in projected work share related to the F-35 over the life of the program.”

The F-35 stealth fighter jet, the most advanced aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, is used by NATO and other U.S. allies. Washington is concerned that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information about the aircraft’s stealth system. “The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” the White House said in a statement earlier on Wednesday.

Read more …

One of my greatest heroes. She does what Muhammad Ali did.

Chelsea Manning’s Daily Fines for Grand Jury Resistance Increase to $1000 (SP)

Daily fines against Chelsea Manning for resisting a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks increased to $1000 on July 16. On May 16, Judge Anthony Trenga held Manning in civil contempt and ordered her to be sent back to the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria. The court also imposed a fine of $500 per day after 30 days, and then a fine of $1000 per day after 60 days. From June 16 to July 15, the court fined her $500/day. Those fines total $15,000. If Manning “persists in her refusal” for the next 15 months or until the grand jury’s term ends, her legal team says she will face a total amount of fines that is over $440,000. This excessive amount may violate her Eighth Amendment rights under the Constitution.


In May, Manning’s attorneys filed a motion challenging the harshness of the fines. The federal court has yet to rule on the motion or hold a hearing. The motion asserted there is no “appropriate coercive sanction” because Manning will never testify. She should be released from jail and relieved of all fines. “Ms. Manning has publicly articulated the moral basis for her refusal to comply with the grand jury subpoena, in statements to the press, in open court, and most recently, in a letter addressed to this court,” her attorneys stated. “She is suffering physically and psychologically, and is at the time of this writing in the process of losing her home as a result of her present confinement.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 282019
 
 June 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:41 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Salvador Dali Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion 1930

 

56% Of Americans Are Lying Awake At Night Worrying About Money (MW)
America’s Monopoly Crisis Hits the Military (AC)
US Car Industry Is Killing Itself (WS)
Baoshang Bank Collapse Threatens China’s Economy (ABC.au)
Deutsche Bank Passes Fed Stress Test In Boost For Its US Operations (R.)
Paul Singer Warns A 40% Market Crash Is Coming (ZH)
US Gets No Commitment From NATO Allies For Help On Iran Threat (AP)
Boeing Hopes To Complete 737 MAX Software Fix In September (AP)
Large US Companies Are Getting Bigger While The Small Wither Away (MW)
CIA Finances Another Group of Fraudsters: the Venezuelan ‘Opposition’ (SCF)
Varoufakis: My Proposals Don’t Need Negotiation With Greece’s Creditors (A.)
The First Genetically Modified Animals Approved For US Consumption (AP)

 

 

Brought to you by the world’s richest country.

56% Of Americans Are Lying Awake At Night Worrying About Money (MW)

How are you sleeping lately? Some Americans are feeling uneasy. Consumer confidence fell to a two-year low in June, the Conference Board announced this week. It fell to 121.5 this month from a 131.3 in May. That’s the lowest level since September 2017. “The escalation in trade and tariff tensions earlier this month appears to have shaken consumers’ confidence,” Lynn Franco, senior director at the Conference Board, said in a statement. Continued uncertainty could “diminish” people’s confidence in the economic expansion, she added. Many people are living with wildly fluctuating income, a recent report from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System said.


“Volatile income and low savings can turn common experiences — such as waiting a few days for a bank deposit to be available — into a problem.” Despite unemployment hitting a 49-year low, plus low interest rates and inflation, people are feeling skittish. “A major trade war between the U.S. and China represents our greatest economic risk,” according to Lynn Reaser, chief economist of the Controller’s Council of Economic Advisors. All of these worries are taking their toll. 78% of adults are losing sleep over work, relationships, retirement and other worries, according to a study released Thursday by personal-finance site Bankrate.com. Over half (56%) of Americans are lying awake at night worrying about money.

Read more …

Can’t make anything anymore. And now there are plans to make Europe use US nukes…..

America’s Monopoly Crisis Hits the Military (AC)

Early this year, U.S. authorities filed criminal charges—including bank fraud, obstruction of justice, and theft of technology—against the largest maker of telecommunications equipment in the world, a Chinese giant named Huawei. Chinese dominance in telecom equipment has created a crisis among Western espionage agencies, who, fearful of Chinese spying, are attempting to prevent the spread of Huawei equipment worldwide, especially in the critical 5G next-generation mobile networking space. In response to the campaign to block the purchase of Huawei equipment, the company has engaged in a public relations offensive.

The company’s CEO, Ren Zhengfei, portrayed Western fears as an advertisement for its products, which are, he said, “so good that the U.S. government is scared.” There’s little question the Chinese government is interested in using equipment to spy. What is surprising is Zhengfei is right about the products. Huawei, a relatively new company in the telecom equipment space, has amassed top market share because its equipment—espionage vulnerabilities aside—is the best value on the market. In historical terms, this is a shocking turnaround. Americans invented the telephone business and until recently dominated production and research. But in the last 20 years, every single American producer of key telecommunication equipment sectors is gone.

Today, only two European makers—Ericsson and Nokia—are left to compete with Huawei and another Chinese competitor, ZTE. This story of lost American leadership and production is not unique. In fact, the destruction of America’s once vibrant military and commercial industrial capacity in many sectors has become the single biggest unacknowledged threat to our national security. Because of public policies focused on finance instead of production, the United States increasingly cannot produce or maintain vital systems upon which our economy, our military, and our allies rely. Huawei is just a particularly prominent example.

Read more …

Well, they can still make cars…

US Car Industry Is Killing Itself (WS)

The average age of passenger cars and trucks on the road in the US ticked up again in 2019, to another record of 11.8 years, IHS Markit reported today. When I entered the car business in 1985, the average age had just ticked up to 7.8 years, and the industry was fretting over it and thought the trend would have to reverse, and customers would soon come out of hiding and massively replace those old clunkers with new vehicles, and everyone would sell more and make more. But those industry hopes for a sustained reversal of the trend of the rising average age have been bitterly disappointed:

This rising average age is largely driven by vehicles lasting longer – an unintended consequence of relentless improvements in overall quality, forced upon automakers by finicky customers in an ultra-competitive market where automakers struggle to stay alive. To make it in the US, they have to constantly improve their products, and stragglers that can’t compete are left unceremoniously by the wayside. US consumers are brutal. This unintended consequence of rising overall quality contributes to the dreadful industry problem: The US, despite constant population growth, is a horribly mature auto market. In 1999, so 20 years ago, new vehicle sales reached a record of 16.9 million units.


This record was broken in 2000, with 17.3 million units. Then sales tapered off. By 2007, they’d dropped to 16.1 million units. Then the Financial Crisis hit, GM and Chrysler went bankrupt, Ford almost did, and peak-to-trough, sales plunged 40% to 10.4 million units by 2009. The recovery has been steep, and in 2015, finally the old record of the year 2000 was broken, but barely with 17.48 million units, and in 2016, the industry eked out another record of 17.55 million units. And that was it. Sales have fizzled since then. So far in 2019, the data indicates that sales are likely to fall below 17 million units, according to my own estimates, bringing the industry right back where it had been 20 years ago in 1999:

Read more …

Nothing a little QE won’t fix?!

Baoshang Bank Collapse Threatens China’s Economy (ABC.au)

Up until a few weeks ago the Baoshang Bank’s prospects seemed bright enough. According to Baoshing’s most recent regulatory filing, the smallish lender based in Inner-Mongolia, made a $600 million profit in 2017. It had assets of around $90 billion, non-performing loans were modest — under 2 per cent — and its capital buffers would fit comfortably with the global demands of a Tier1 bank. Then it collapsed. That set off a series of events rarely, if ever, seen in Chinese banking. Regulators seized Baoshang, the first action of its type since 1998. That may have shaken the foundations of Chinese banking, but of far greater significance was the collapse caused by China’s first recorded interbank default.

It is yet to be a “Lehman moment” — where the credit market freezes, banks stop lending to each other and the economy teeters above the abyss —but it has, as Societe Generale’s Wei Yao noted, “triggered severe liquidity tensions in the interbank market”. “The Baoshang incidence has challenged one fundamental belief of China’s financial system; interbank defaults are not possible thanks to 100 per cent implicit guarantees,” Ms Yao said. “Now that credit risks and counter-party risks have finally descended on this very core market in China’s financial system, all the key players in the system have to figure out how to price risks in the new paradigm, and quickly.”

Ms Yao said the understandable consequence was “a big and unpleasant wave of risk repricing”, with major banks shying away from doing business with smaller lenders. And that’s a worry, as small-to-medium sized banks combined have balance sheets as big as the big banks combined, but are far more dependent on interbank funding. The central bank (PBoC) immediately pumped around 600 billion yuan ($125 billion) into the system and halted a run on the banks by guaranteeing 100 per cent of all retail deposits.

Read more …

Not the Onion.

Deutsche Bank Passes Fed Stress Test In Boost For Its US Operations (R.)

Deutsche Bank’s shares rose as much as 4.8% on Friday after Germany’s biggest bank passed an annual health check by the U.S. Federal Reserve, in a boost to its Wall Street operations. But the Federal Reserve placed conditions on the U.S. operations of Credit Suisse, knocking its shares 1% lower after identifying weaknesses in its capital planning. The tests assess whether it is safe for banks to implement their capital plans, including using extra capital for stock buybacks, dividends and other purposes beyond providing a cushion against losses. They are designed to avoid a repeat of the taxpayer bailouts of the 2007-2009 financial crisis.


Deutsche Bank, whose U.S. business has been plagued by litigation, underperformance and regulatory investigations, topped the German bluechip index .GDAX in Frankfurt after its U.S. shares were up as much as 6% in after-the-bell trading on Thursday following the Fed’s news. The German bank maintained a large presence on Wall Street after the 2007-2009 financial crisis, while Credit Suisse made big cuts. But Deutsche’s efforts to compete with U.S. rivals have been hampered by litigation and regulatory investigations. Deutsche Bank Chief Executive Christian Sewing, who is battling to turn the bank around, said the Fed’s decision was “excellent news” in a memo to staff on its website. “Achieving success here was one of the key goals we set a year ago. It is a huge step forward for our business in the U.S. and globally. A strong operating platform in the Americas is essential to our clients,” he said.

Read more …

Lowballing.

Paul Singer Warns A 40% Market Crash Is Coming (ZH)

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, billionaire investor and Elliott Management founder, Paul Singer, warned that the global economy is heading toward a “significant market downturn” cautioning that “the global financial system is very much toward the risky end of the spectrum.” While Paul Singer’s traditionally downcast outlook is hardly surprising, as it permeates every investor letter published by the successful investor who has been particularly clear in the past decade that the Fed’s monetary experiment will end terribly, he sees two particular reasons why the economy is approaching a tipping point: “global debt is at an all-time high.

Derivatives are at an all-time high and it took all of this monetary easing to get to where we are today and I don’t think central bankers, or policymakers or academics are in any better shape to predict the next downturn and I think we are the high end of the risk spectrum.” He then ominously added that “I’m expecting the possibility of a significant market downturn.” How bad would the crash be? According to the Elliott Management CEO, there will be a market “correction” of 30% to 40% when the downturn hits, although unlike Goldman – which gave a timeline of 12 months in which the next major market will materialize, Singer said he couldn’t predict the timing.

In the panel discussion, Singer also said the market meltdown late last year after interest rates spiked in the 4th quarter was the first hint of a pending slump, as it indicated that the Federal Reserve and other central banks were now victims of their policies, something he has been warning about for years. “December supported the notion that they’re trapped,” he said. “What they should have done, and what they should do now, is try to restore the soundness of money. They should not be cutting rates right now. They should be calling on the congresses and parliaments around the developed world to take steps to deal with the economic slowdown in growth.”

Read more …

Europe likes Iran just the way it is.

US Gets No Commitment From NATO Allies For Help On Iran Threat (AP)

NATO allies gave the U.S. no firm commitments that they will participate in a global effort to secure international waterways against threats from Iran, acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Thursday, wrapping up his first alliance meeting. Esper said the U.S. will come back next month and provide reluctant allies more details on exactly how the Iranian threat has escalated in recent months, and how nations can work together to deter further aggression. “At the end of the day what our ask is here, near term, is to publicly condemn Iran’s bad behavior,” Esper said as he prepared to leave Brussels. “And in the meantime, in order to avoid a military escalation, help us maintain the freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, in the Persian Gulf and wherever.”


Esper, who didn’t have high expectations for firm commitments coming in, got little of either, though he said that some allies privately expressed interest in hearing more. Esper’s visit to NATO, just days after he took over at the Pentagon, came amid sharply increased tensions between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic. The Trump administration has blamed Iran for recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, as well as bombings in Iraq. Iranian forces also shot down an American drone that it said had flown into its airspace, which the U.S. disputes. Earlier this week, as he headed to NATO, Esper said his goal was to persuade allies that the confrontation with Iran is a global challenge requiring an international response, and that it is “not Iran versus the United States.”

Read more …

“There are many families here who will not want to participate in mediation until they know what Boeing knew, when they knew it, what they did about it, and what they’re going to do about it..”

Boeing Hopes To Complete 737 MAX Software Fix In September (AP)

Boeing says it expects to finish work on updated flight-control software for the 737 Max in September, a sign that the troubled jet likely won’t be flying until late this year. The latest delay in fixing the Max came a day after the disclosure that government test pilots found a new technology flaw in the plane during a test on a flight simulator. The plane has been grounded since mid-March after two crashes that killed 346 people. Preliminary accident reports pointed to software that erroneously pointed the planes’ noses down and overpowered pilots’ efforts to regain control. A Boeing official said Thursday that the company expects to submit the software update to the Federal Aviation Administration for approval “in the September timeframe.”

Once Boeing submits its changes, the FAA is expected to take several weeks to analyze them, and airlines would need additional time to take their grounded Max jets out of storage and prepare them to fly again. Airlines were already lowering expectations for a quick return of the plane, which has been grounded since mid-March. Southwest Airlines, the biggest operator of Max jets, announced Thursday that it has taken the plane out of its schedule for another month, through Oct. 1. Earlier this week, United Airlines pulled the plane from its schedule through early September.

While Boeing engineers continue working on the plane’s software, company lawyers pushed Thursday to settle lawsuits brought by the families of dozens of passengers killed in the October crash of a Lion Air Max off the coast of Indonesia and the March crash of an Ethiopian Airlines Max near Addis Ababa. Boeing and the families of Lion Air Flight 610 victims agreed to mediation that could lead to early settlements. However, the families of some Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 passengers are resisting mediation. “There are many families here who will not want to participate in mediation until they know what Boeing knew, when they knew it, what they did about it, and what they’re going to do about it to prevent this kind of disaster from occurring again,” said Robert Clifford, a Chicago lawyer who filed lawsuits on behalf of nearly two dozen victims of the Ethiopian crash.

Read more …

Concentrate.

Large US Companies Are Getting Bigger While The Small Wither Away (MW)

FTSE Russell will rebalance its suite of indexes at the close of trade Friday, and the changes will reflect several broad trends in equity markets over the past year, including the resilience of large-capitalization companies, the dismal performance of smaller U.S. firms, and the emergence of new, highly valued technology companies that promise to, or already have, revolutionized their respective industries. “We reconstitute the Russell indexes annually to accurately reflect equity markets,” said Catherine Yoshimoto, director of product management at FTSE Russell, in an interview. “All the companies are ranked by total market capitalization and the break point between the [large cap] Russell 1000 and [small cap] Russell 2000 are reset.”


The dividing line between the large cap index and the small fell this year, from a capitalization of $3.7 billion to $3.6 billion, as a result of the poor performance of small cap companies, which shrunk in average market capitalization from $2.5 trillion to $2.4 trillion, as the small cap index fell 6.3% over the past 12 months, versus a 7.5% rise in price for larger companies. Steven DeSanctis, equity strategist at Jefferies told MarketWatch that today’s environment — with rising labor costs, material costs and new trade barriers — is especially difficult for small companies to navigate. He estimates that earnings for Russell 2000 companies fell 14.5% in the first quarter of this year on 3.4% of sales growth, while the second quarter will likely show small-cap earnings falling 11.5%, on 3.6% of revenue growth. “Small cap companies are getting squeezed at the margin,” he said. “A lot of companies have revenue growth but falling profits.”

Read more …

The story gets uglier by the day.

CIA Finances Another Group of Fraudsters: the Venezuelan ‘Opposition’ (SCF)

Once again, the Central Intelligence Agency has been caught financing a group of grifters and fraudsters at the expense of the American taxpayers. In the latest case, just another in the agency’s 72-year history, the Trump administration-appointed ad hoc board of CITGO, the US subsidiary of the state-owned Venezuelan oil company, PDVSA, stands accused of steering $70 million of escrowed funds, earmarked for PDVSA’s fiscal year 2020 bond, to the pockets of CIA-supported officials of the Venezuelan opposition “Popular Will” party headed by the so-called “interim president” of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó.

In addition to Guaidó, who is accused by the legitimate Venezuelan government of money laundering, treason, and corruption, other Popular Will leaders under investigation by both the Venezuelan Attorney General and the US Justice Department include Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó’s envoy in Washington; Rossana Barrera and Kevin Rojas, Guaidó’s emissaries in Cucuta, a Colombian-Venezuelan border town; Sergio Vargara, Barrera’s brother-in-law and a Member of the Venezuelan Congress; Guaidó’s “ambassador” to Colombia, Humberto Calderon Berti, opposition businessman Miguel Sabal; and Guaidó’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero. Over two dozen other Popular Will leaders are also under investigation for fraud involving money earmarked by the Trump administration, particularly Iran-Contra scandal felon and current Trump special envoy for regime change in Venezuela, Elliot Abrams.

Barrera and Rojas are accused of spending money given to the Popular Will by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), a longtime CIA financial pass-through, for “humanitarian relief” for alleged massive numbers of Venezuelan refugees in Colombia. The Popular Will grifters reportedly used the aid money, including that which was raised by Virgin Group’s billionaire founder and obvious CIA dupe Richard Branson, for expensive hotels, fancy restaurants, nightclubs, prostitutes, and clothing.

Read more …

Varoufakis is way ahead of his time. Elections July 7, but he’ll be lucky to get any seats at all.

Varoufakis: My Proposals Don’t Need Negotiation With Greece’s Creditors (A.)

– Reduction of the public debt with an embedded growth clause: the higher the national income, the more creditors will receive, and the reverse. Varoufakis said that this will force lenders to become partners in the recovery of Greece.

– Ending austerity by a drastic reduction of surpluses. Varoufakis said that Syriza and ND have pledged to return to the lenders the equivalent of at least 7,000 euros per capita each year from the so-called primary state surpluses. MeRA25 will unilaterally reduce these surpluses by 60-100 pct, depending on the recovery rate, he added.

– Abolition of obligatory prepayment of 100% of taxes, and capping the VAT rate at 18% for cash purchases, 15% for using a credit card. Reduction of corporate tax: e.g. from current 29 pct, to 26 pct for large businesses, 20 pct for medium-sized ones and 15 pct for small businesses; capping profits on SMEs at 50 pct tax (currently at 75 pct).

– Public extra-bank reliant payment system allowing free digital transactions among citizens, businesses and the state, benefitting all: e.g. by mutual debt cancellation, tax deductions, funding of anti-poverty programs, reducting the hold of private banks and the European Central Bank on citizens and state alike.

– Establishment of a public management company of private debt, so that non-performing loans (NPLs) are transferred from banks to this organisation, in exchange for government guarantees not counted towards public debt. In addition, a ban on loan sales, foreclosure auctions, especially of primary residences and small businesses.

– Inclusion under the Foundation of Social Insurance (IKA) of all freelancers who work more than 8 hours a week for the same employer. Incentives towards start-up entrepreneurs with a 5-year exemption from taxes and insurance contributions.

– Conversion of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund to a Development Bank, abolition of all privatizations, and use of public property as collateral to create investment flows in the public sector; the new bank’s shares will be owned by insurance funds, boosting their capitalization.

Yanis Varoufakis insisted that these measures would be implemented without negotiation with Greece’s lenders and financial institutions, and underlined that the creditors might react by bringing back GRexit scenarios. In this case, which he ruled out, “it will cost them 1 trillion euros.” “If we continue to apply Syriza’s fourth memorandum there will be no young people left in our country,” concluded Varoufakis, who also reiterated that his party will not give a vote of confidence to either Syriza or New Democracy, but will nevertheless support any bill it considers fair.

Read more …

Mass suicide.

The First Genetically Modified Animals Approved For US Consumption (AP)

Inside an Indiana aquafarming complex, thousands of salmon eggs genetically modified to grow faster than normal are hatching into tiny fish. After growing to roughly 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) in indoor tanks, they could be served in restaurants by late next year. The salmon produced by AquaBounty are the first genetically modified animals approved for human consumption in the U.S. They represent one way companies are pushing to transform the plants and animals we eat, even as consumer advocacy groups call for greater caution. AquaBounty hasn’t sold any fish in the U.S. yet, but it says its salmon may first turn up in places like restaurants or university cafeterias, which would decide whether to tell diners that the fish are genetically modified.

“It’s their customer, not ours,” said Sylvia Wulf, AquaBounty’s CEO. To produce its fish, Aquabounty injected Atlantic salmon with DNA from other fish species that make them grow to full size in about 18 months, which could be about twice as fast as regular salmon. The company says that’s more efficient since less feed is required. The eggs were shipped to the U.S. from the company’s Canadian location last month after clearing final regulatory hurdles.

As AquaBounty worked through years of government approvals, several grocers including Kroger and Whole Foods responded to a campaign by consumer groups with a vow to not sell the fish. Already, most corn and soy in the U.S. is genetically modified to be more resistant to pests and herbicides. But as genetically modified salmon make their way to dinner plates, the pace of change to the food supply could accelerate. This month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to simplify regulations for genetically engineered plants and animals. The move comes as companies are turning to a newer gene-editing technology that makes it easier to tinker with plant and animal DNA.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 262019
 
 June 26, 2019  Posted by at 9:46 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Pablo Picasso The muse 1935

 

Iran Says It Will Never Pursue A Nuclear Weapon (ZH)
Iran Foreign Minister Accuses Bolton Of Plotting For War (R.)
NATO Calls On Russia To Destroy New Missile, Warns Of Response (R.)
Mueller To Testify Before Two House Committees July 17 (AFP)
A. Gary Shilling Says The US Is Already In A Recession
Housing Market Slump Could Drive Global Growth To A Decade Low (MW)
Merrill Lynch Caught Criminally Manipulating Precious Metals Market (ZH)
Apple Doubles Down On Buybacks (Axios)
Italy’s Gold Now Belongs To The ECB (ZH)
Investors With $34 Trillion Demand Urgent Climate Change Action (R.)

 

 

“How many people have you killed with a nuclear weapon? How many generations have you wiped out with these weapons?”

Iran Says It Will Never Pursue A Nuclear Weapon (ZH)

Following Iran’s statement that diplomacy with the United States is “closed forever” after Washington sanctioned the Supreme Leader and other key officials, including on the foreign minister himself – making it practically hard to actually “do” diplomacy given sanctions also have the impact of restricting travel for the nation’s top diplomat – FM Javad Zarif slammed America’s track record with nukes. “You were really worried about 150 people? How many people have you killed with a nuclear weapon? How many generations have you wiped out with these weapons?” Zarif said Tuesday in reference to Trump’s calculus that he refrained from ordering last Thursday night’s readied military strike against Iran when informed 150 people would die.


“It is us who, because of our religious views, will never pursue a nuclear weapon,” Zarif added. Indeed it’s been long understood that since Iran’s Islamic revolution the Ayatollahs have been consistently against nuclear weapons on moral grounds, citing Koranic principles. The US remains the only country in the world to have ever deployed nuclear weapons in a wartime situation, dropping two on Japan at the end of WWII. Though scholars generally agree that the overwhelming destruction on Hiroshima and Nagasaki made counting impossible, conservative estimates tend to be at over 200,000 dead and wounded total wrought by the twin atom bombs dropped over those cities. And of course, the overwhelming majority of the Japanese dead and wounded were civilians.

Read more …

How dare he.

Iran Foreign Minister Accuses Bolton Of Plotting For War (R.)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton of plotting for war against Iran in a tweet on Tuesday. “Wanna know why those with proven record of detesting diplomacy are suddenly interested in talks? Just read @AmbJohnBolton’s 2017 recipe for destroying the #JCPOA,” Zarif wrote, adding a link to a 2017 article written by Bolton in the National Review. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, is the landmark 2015 nuclear deal Iran signed with world powers. “Iran never left the negotiation table. #B_Team dragged the U.S. out, while plotting for war,” Zarif added. Zarif has in the past said that a “B-team” including Bolton, an ardent Iran hawk, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, could goad Trump into a conflict with Tehran.

Read more …

An excuse for more rockets on Russia’s border.

NATO Calls On Russia To Destroy New Missile, Warns Of Response (R.)

NATO urged Russia on Tuesday to destroy a new missile before an August deadline and save a treaty that keeps land-based nuclear warheads out of Europe or face a more determined alliance response in the region. NATO defense ministers will discuss on Wednesday their next steps if Moscow keeps the missile system that the United States says would allow short-notice nuclear attacks on Europe and break the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). “We call on Russia to take the responsible path, but we have seen no indication that Russia intends to do so,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference. “We will need to respond,” Stoltenberg said.


He declined to go into more details. But diplomats said defense ministers will consider more flights over Europe by U.S. warplanes capable of carrying nuclear warheads, more military training and the repositioning U.S. sea-based missiles. The United States and its NATO allies want Russia to destroy its 9M729/SSC-8 nuclear-capable cruise missile system, which Moscow has so far refused to do. It denies any violations of the INF treaty, accusing Washington of seeking an arms race. Without a deal, the United States has said it will withdraw from the INF treaty on Aug. 2, removing constraints on its own ability to develop nuclear-capable, medium-range missiles.

Read more …

Brought to you by the Trump 2020 re-election committee.

Mueller To Testify Before Two House Committees July 17 (AFP)

Former US special counsel Robert Mueller is to testify in public about his report into Russian electoral interference, paving the way for a historic television moment in which Democrats will attempt to make the case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment before the American people. The scrupulously tight-lipped Mueller will appear at back-to-back hearings on July 17 of the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, which announced Tuesday that the prosecutor had agreed to abide by subpoenas for his testimony. “Russia attacked our democracy to help Trump win. Trump welcomed and used that help,” House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff said on Twitter.


“As Mueller said, that should concern every American. And now, every American will get to hear directly from Mueller.” Trump’s apparent response to the announcement came swiftly in a two-word tweet in which he complained, without referring to Mueller, of “Presidential Harassment!” The Mueller report released in April outlined numerous contacts between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and government-linked Russians, as well as evidence that the president tried on several occasions to stymie the investigation. The Democrats have been split on whether to launch impeachment proceedings against the Republican president but — fearing that much of the country is unaware of the Mueller report’s contents — have been asking major figures in the probe to testify in public on its findings.

Read more …

He says it will be mild.

A. Gary Shilling Says The US Is Already In A Recession

Gary Shilling, an economist and financial analyst who is credited with predicting several recessions over the past 40 years, thinks the U.S. is in a relatively mild slump. “I think we’re probably already in a recession but I think it will probably be a run-of-the-mill affair, which means real GDP would decline 1.5% to 2%, not the 3.5% to 4% you had in the very serious recessions,” Shilling, president of economic and financial research firm A. Shilling & Co., said in a recent interview broadcast this week by Real Vision. In such a tempered slide, he says, “Stocks probably wouldn’t fall” but if they did, they likely would tumble about 22% — similar to other recent recessions. That, he says, would take the Standard and Poor’s 500 index about 200 points below it’s Christmas Eve nadir of 2,351.


His view is at odds with the vast majority of economists who expect the economy to grow a solid 2% to 2.5% this year after expanding at about a 3% clip last year and in the first quarter. Shilling points to: • Declining industrial production, a result of a weak global economy and the Trump administration’s trade war with China. • Feeble job growth of 75,000 in May, along with downward revisions to prior months. • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s recession probability chart, which shows about a 30% chance of a downturn the next 12 months, up from about 10% early this year. That data is based on an inversion of the yield curve, which has shown rates on 3-month Treasury bonds topping 10-year notes recently – a sign that investors don’t have much faith in the longer-term outlook. Inversions do herald recessions but often two years in advance.

Read more …

China: $6.8 trillion in household debt, a 70% rise in personal debt from just three years ago.

Housing Market Slump Could Drive Global Growth To A Decade Low (MW)

The global housing market is showing cracks. Those fissures could spread throughout the world-wide economy, potentially sending world-wide gross domestic product, or GDP, to its lowest annual pace of in 10 years, according to research from Oxford Economics, led by economists Adam Slater, and John Payne in a research report dated June 24. “A combined slump in house prices and housing investment in the major economies could cut world growth to a 10-year low of 2.2% by 2020 – and to below 2% if it also triggered a tightening in global credit conditions.” the Oxford Economics researchers wrote.

A decade since the 2008-09 U.S. housing bubble imploded, sparking a global financial crisis, worries about the health of the global housing market persist. An Oxford Economics’ proprietary gauge of housing conditions in the globe shows that home prices have declined by 10% and investments in houses have shrunk by 8%. Housing prices across the globe have come in to focus as a protracted tariff squabble between the U.S. and China ripples throughout the global economy, compelling a number of central bankers to entertain the idea of lowering benchmark borrowing costs in an effort to stimulate, or just maintain, economic expansion.

The Federal Reserve last Wednesday signaled a willingness to lower federal-funds rates, currently at 2.25%-2.50%, if financial conditions worsen. In China, a decade long housing boom has sent home values to the lofty levels, with buying in the region underpinned by some $6.8 trillion in household debt, according to the Bank for International Settlements, a 70% rise in personal debt from just three years ago, with much of that tied to residential mortgages. Oxford Economics says data show that residential investment in China is slowing as are starts for new construction also ebb

Read more …

Nopbody goes to jail, nobody even pays a fine. A broken system indeed.

Merrill Lynch Caught Criminally Manipulating Precious Metals Market (ZH)

On Tuesday after the close, the CFTC announced that Merrill Lynch Commodities (MLCI), a global commodities trading business, agreed to pay $25 million to resolve the government’s investigation into a multi-year scheme by MLCI precious metals traders to mislead the market for precious metals futures contracts traded on the COMEX (Commodity Exchange Inc.). The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office. In other words, if the Merrill Lynch Commodities group was an individual, he would have gotten ye olde perp walk.

As MLCI itself admitted, beginning in 2008 and continuing through 2014, precious metals traders employed by MLCI schemed to deceive other market participants by injecting materially false and misleading information into the precious metals futures market. They did so in the now traditional market manipulation way – by placing fraudulent orders for precious metals futures contracts that, at the time the traders placed the orders, they intended to cancel before execution. In doing so, the traders intended to “spoof” or manipulate the market by creating the false impression of increased supply or demand and, in turn, to fraudulently induce other market participants to buy and to sell futures contracts at quantities, prices and times that they otherwise likely would not have done so.

Over the relevant period, the traders placed thousands of fraudulent orders. Of course, since we are talking about a bank, and since banks are in charge of not only the DOJ, and virtually every other branch of government, not to mention the Fed, nobody will go to jail and MLCI entered into a non-prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a combined – and measly – $25 million in criminal fines, restitution and forfeiture of trading profits.

Read more …

Stock manipulation

Apple Doubles Down On Buybacks (Axios)

Apple again led S&P 500 companies in buybacks, spending a new record $23.8 billion in Q1, more than doubling its spend from the previous quarter, data from S&P Global shows. Apple has long been a buyback behemoth. The company holds 8 of the 10 all-time records for quarterly buybacks, and has spent more than $75 billion on buybacks over just the past year. It has spent $234.7 billion over the most recent 5-year period, and $284.3 billion over the last 10-year period. Apple accounted for 23% of share buybacks made by the top 20 S&P 500 companies. The big picture: While Apple has increased its buyback spending, other S&P 500 companies have slowed from 2018’s record pace.


Companies bought back just $205.8 billion worth of their own shares, a 7.7% decline from Q4 2018, S&P reported. That ended the streak of 4 consecutive quarters of record buybacks. Yes, but: Buybacks rose 8.9% from Q1 2018, which set a record at the time. Outside analysis of the broader stock market, beyond just the S&P, shows announced buyback spending was higher in Q1 2019 than Q4 2018. Ratings agency Moody’s warned last month that companies are spending more on share buybacks and dividends than they were paying in taxes before the 2017 tax cut. The tax savings “can be wiped out entirely by even a modest change in share buybacks,” Christina Padgett, senior vice president at Moody’s, told Axios at the time.

Read more …

Italy has quite a lot of it.

Italy’s Gold Now Belongs To The ECB (ZH)

As the squabbling over Italy’s populist government’s plans to blow out its budget deficit to finance an agenda of tax cuts and social spending (including a ‘citizen’s income’ that’s essentially UBI-lite) crowded the headlines, the issue of who owns the 2,451 metric tons of gold reserves held by the Bank of Italy has been quietly ignored – at least, outside of Italy. But that might be about to change. On Tuesday, the ECB asked the League, the dominant party in Italy’s ruling coalition, to remove a reference to the Bank of Italy holding gold as an “exclusive title of deposit” according to Bloomberg. Translation? If Italy is not allowed to have title to Italian gold, then Italy’s gold now belongs to the ECB.

Today’s escalation over Italy’s gold “title” comes two months after the WSJ reported that Italy’s ruling populists pushed ahead with efforts to seize control of the central bank and its gold reserves. Complaining that hundreds of thousands of small individual investors lost billions of dollars after several Italian banks failed in recent years, the current Italian government depicted the central bank as a symbol of a technocratic elite aloof from the needs of ordinary Italians. “We need a change of course at the Bank of Italy if we think about what happened in the last years,” said Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5 Star Movement. Shortly thereafter, 5 Star lawmakers asked parliament to pass two draft laws.

One law would instruct the central bank’s owners, most of them private banks , to sell their shares to the Italian Treasury at prices from the 1930s.The other law would declare the Italian people to be the owners of the Bank of Italy’s reserve of 2451.8 metric tons of gold, worth around $102 billion at current prices. “The gold belongs to the Italians, not to the bankers,” said Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy, a far-right opposition party that supports both bills. “We are ready to battle everywhere in Italy and to bring Italians to the streets if necessary.” So far there has been no fighting but if indeed Draghi just told Italy that its gold now belongs to the Frankfurt-based central bank we expect that to change..

Read more …

So how much are they willing to pay?

Investors With $34 Trillion Demand Urgent Climate Change Action (R.)

Investors managing more than $34 trillion in assets, nearly half the world’s invested capital, are demanding urgent action from governments on climate change, piling pressure on leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies meeting this week. In an open letter to the “governments of the world” seen by Reuters, groups representing 477 investors stressed “the urgency of decisive action” on climate change to achieve the Paris Agreement target. Almost 200 nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Current policies put the world on track for at least a 3C rise by the end of the century.


The letter comes ahead of a June 28-29 G20 summit in Japan and as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urges countries to back more ambitious climate goals. “There is an ambition gap… This ambition gap is of great concern to investors and needs to be addressed, with urgency,” a statement from the investors accompanying the letter said. Governments were urged to strengthen their Paris Agreement targets by 2020; phase out thermal coal power and fossil fuel subsidies by set deadlines; set a robust global carbon price by 2020 and improve climate-related financial reporting. “It is vital for our long-term planning and asset allocation decisions that governments work closely with investors to incorporate Paris-aligned climate scenarios into their policy frameworks and energy transition pathways,” the statement said.

Read more …

 

Arundhati Roy:

 

 

 

 

 

Jun 132019
 


Caravaggio The Denial of St. Peter 1610

 

UK Government Signs Julian Assange’s Extradition Papers (SBS)
ABC Raids A Wake-Up Call To Journalists Who Left Assange Swinging (SMH)
The Thought Police Are Coming (Chris Hedges)
A Recession Shock Could Wipe 30% Off US Stocks – Oxford Economics (MW)
The Fed Can’t Save Us –John Rubino (USAW)
1/3 of Americans Need A “Side Hustle” To Make Ends Meet (SHTF)
Trump Says Foreign ‘Dirt’ Not Election Interference (ZH)
John Bolton’s Long Goodbye (Kiriakou)
UK Labour Loses Vote To Prevent Future Tory PM Forcing Through No Deal (Ind.)
Leaked Cabinet Note: UK Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit On October 31 (Ind.)
Macron Wants EU Ties With Moscow Independent of NATO & US (RT)
Australia Approves Vast Coal Mine Near Great Barrier Reef (AFP)
You May Be Eating A Credit Card’s Worth Of Plastic Each Week (R.)
Troubling Levels Of Glyphosate In Foods Marketed To Children (RT)

 

 

Does the UK still operate under the rule of law? Does any western nation?

UK Government Signs Julian Assange’s Extradition Papers (SBS)

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today that he has signed Julian Assange’s extradition order. “The final decision is now with the courts,” Mr Javid said. It is unclear whether the WikiLeaks founder will be sent to Sweden or the US. It was earlier reported that the US had formally submitted an extradition request to the UK for the WikiLeaks founder. Mr Assange faces an 18-count indictment that accuses him of soliciting and publishing classified information and of conspiring with former Army private Chelsea Manning to crack a Defense Department computer password. That indictment, which includes Espionage Act charges, was issued by the Justice Department last month and is pending in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.


The extradition request had been expected ever since US authorities first announced a criminal case against Mr Assange. [..] The United States will detail all the charges against Mr Assange when it seeks his extradition in a London court on Friday, the editor of the whistleblowers’ website said on Tuesday. “The American authorities, the Department of Justice, will present the evidence in support of their extradition demand,” Kristinn Hrafnsson told reporters. The US Justice Department confirmed on Tuesday that it had submitted a formal extradition request. The 47-year-old Australian is not expected to attend Friday’s hearing but could take part from prison via video link, although it will be largely procedural. The “first real confrontation of arguments” in court will not be for several weeks or months, Mr Hrafnsson said.

Read more …

“Assange, the outsider, did much more than that, he laid the path for the future of journalism, where journalists would be expected to produce primary source documents, wherever possible, and horror of all horrors, share them with the public.”

ABC Raids A Wake-Up Call To Journalists Who Left Assange Swinging (SMH)

The federal police raid on the ABC last week produced an unexpected benefit. Journalists are being forced to decide: whose side are they on. And where do they stand on fundamental issues of disclosure and the public’s right to know? When the executive producer of Australia’s most highly regarded current affairs program Four Corners retweeted that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was “Putin’s bitch” – a tweet she later removed – it said much about the state of journalism in Australia. The re-post, echoing a view held by many Australian journalists, followed a Four Corners interview with Hillary Clinton in which she was given full rein to attack Assange. Clinton was angry that WikiLeaks had revealed through a series of leaked Democratic Party emails that the party executive had given her help to defeat her main rival Senator Bernie Sanders for the party’s nomination – and helped the campaign of Donald Trump.

While the former presidential candidate was challenged on emails relating to her controversial involvement with the Clinton Foundation, never once was it pointed out that the Democratic Party emails revealed how she had been an active beneficiary of deeply unethical behaviour inside the party. What state have we reached where Assange, a journalist, facing his next extradition hearing in London on Friday, should be so reviled? It is dangerous territory for journalism. The insults thrown by Trump that journalists were the enemy of the American people might have been self-serving, but clearly the old notion that journalists mainly represent ordinary people against the powerful is in many cases something of the past. Just as the political parties have shifted to the right, so too have many journalists.

What so enrages the journalists’ “club” is the challenge from those who question their power, journalists like Assange. His revelations threatened them. But Assange, the outsider, did much more than that, he laid the path for the future of journalism, where journalists would be expected to produce primary source documents, wherever possible, and horror of all horrors, share them with the public. The internet made this possible, but for those who were holding out against the inevitable rise of this new form of communications, it posed a huge threat to the old order. Assange was not interested in off-the-record briefings from government insiders. He wanted to show the original documents to practise what he called Scientific Journalism.

Read more …

Very strong from Chris Hedges. A talk Tuesday, June 11, at an event held in London in support of Julian Assange.

The Thought Police Are Coming (Chris Hedges)

Ask the Iraqi parents of Sabiha Hamed Salih, aged 15, and Ashwaq Hamed Salih, aged 16, who were killed by shrapnel in Baghdad on July 31, 2004, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the man and his two young daughters who saw their wife and mother shot to death and were themselves wounded in a car fired upon by U.S. Marines in Fallujah on July 22, 2005, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the parents of Huda Haleem, an 18-year-old girl, and Raghad Muhamad Haleem, a 5-year-old boy, shot dead by U.S. soldiers on June 2, 2006, in Iraq’s Diyala province what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the parents of the 15-year-old boy choked with a wire and then shot to death by U.S. Marines in Ramadi on Aug. 10, 2006, what they think of Julian Assange.

Ask the relatives of Ahmed Salam Mohammad, who was shot dead on Nov. 27, 2006, when U.S. troops attacked a wedding party near Mosul, an attack that also left four wounded, what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the families of the over one dozen people shot to death with .50-caliber machine guns by bantering U.S. Apache helicopter crews in east Baghdad in July 2007—the crew members can be heard laughing at the “dead bastards” and saying “light ’em up” and “keep shooting, keep shooting”—a massacre that included two journalists for Reuters—Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh—what they think of Julian Assange. Ask the then 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his 5-year-old sister, Doaha, both wounded, whose 43-year-old father, Saleh, was shot to death from the air as he attempted to assist one of the wounded men in the Baghdad street what they think of Julian Assange.

There is nothing like the boot of the oppressor on your neck to give you moral clarity. None of these war crimes, and hundreds more reported to the U.S. military but never investigated, would have been made public without Julian, Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks. That is the role of journalists—to give a voice to those who without us would have no voice, to hold the powerful to account, to give the forgotten and the demonized justice, to speak the truth. We have watched over the last decade as freedom of the press and legal protection for those who expose government abuses and lies have been obliterated by wholesale government surveillance and the criminalizing of the leaking and, with Julian’s persecution, publication of these secrets. The press has been largely emasculated in the United States. The repeated use of the Espionage Act, especially under the Obama administration, to charge and sentence whistleblowers has shut down our ability to shine a light into the inner workings of power and empire.

Governmental officials with a conscience, knowing all of their communications are monitored, captured and stored by intelligence agencies, are too frightened to reach out to reporters. The last line of defense lies with those with the skills that allow them to burrow into the records of the security and surveillance state and with the courage to make them public, such as Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Jeremy Hammond, now serving a 10-year prison term in the United States for hacking into the Texas-based private security firm Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor. The price of resistance is high not only for them, but for those such as Julian willing to publish this information. As Sarah Harrison has pointed out: “This is our data, our information, our history. We must fight to own it.”

Even if Julian were odious, which he is not, even if he carried out a sexual offense, which he did not, even if he was a poor houseguest—a bizarre term for a man trapped in a small room for nearly seven years under house arrest—which he was not, it would make no difference. Julian is not being persecuted for his vices. He is being persecuted for his virtues.

Read more …

Make it an even 60%.

A Recession Shock Could Wipe 30% Off US Stocks – Oxford Economics (MW)

[..] they’ve got a couple of grim worst-case scenarios. One envisages the U.S. economy slowing sharply from the third quarter of this year, then falling into recession as corporate profits, hitting business and investor sentiment. The fallout from this could trigger a 30% drop in the S&P 500 in the third quarter. Within a year the U.S. would be in recession, with the Fed cutting interest rates aggressively to “stave off the worst of the shock,” says the economic forecasters. The other downbeat scenario pictures bleak fallout from a trade-war escalation.


The U.S. slaps a 25% tariff on China and Mexico imports, and a 10% blanket tariff on Europe goods, and 25% on non-North American cars. Based on those assumptions, U.S. stocks could be 15% lower by late 2019, the firm says. But let’s leave things on a happy note. Under yet one more scenario they predict further stimulus from China, de-escalation in trade tensions supportive policy from central banks and much improved investor sentiment across the globe. All that good news could mean a boost in the high single digit percentage ballpark by the first quarter of 2020.

Read more …

The Fed is not trying to save “us”.

The Fed Can’t Save Us –John Rubino (USAW)

“The next recession is overdue because this is the longest expansion on record. . . . We loaded up car buyers with sub-prime loans. Students now have $1.5 trillion of student debt. Credit card debt is at record levels. Government debt is at record levels. Corporate debt is at record levels. . . . All of these guys have borrowed more money than they ever have in history. So, the idea we are going to convince people to borrow a lot more money by lowering interest rates is at best problematic and at worst insane. We are headed that way because they have no other tools. So, when things slow down, they are going to start cutting again and printing money and buying up assets with that money. We’ll see if it works again. It shouldn’t have worked the last time. . . . We are in a range of unexplored numbers. . . . How much further can this go? Is there a limit out there? We are going to find out in the next recession.”


Rubino is not impressed with the Federal Reserve’s latest promise to slash interest rates and print money to save a teetering economy. Rubino contends, “The markets ought to be terrified by this, but in the U.S. because the rates are not yet zero, the market is not yet terrified. We are not far from 0%. . . . The Fed can’t save us. We’re at the point now where we would be at a 1930’s style depression or a Weimar Germany hyperinflation or something new and equally bad. We have taken on insane amounts of debt, more than any society in history has ever tried to take on. So, we just don’t know what is going to happen. If the central banks cannot stop the next recession, we will find out what happens when this much debt goes bad. . . . The Fed’s biggest fear is that things will spin out of control, and they won’t have the tools to stop it.”

Read more …

Is all income tax “theft”?

1/3 of Americans Need A “Side Hustle” To Make Ends Meet (SHTF)

Imagine a world in which you could keep every single penny that the fruits of your own labor produced. That would be a world without income taxation making it much easier for the average American to get by. Instead, we live in a world where nothing goes untaxed. About 1/3 of Americans say that their expenses are so high that after the theft of the federal government from their paychecks, they need a “side hustle” to make ends meet. According to Bankrate, side hustlers make $1,122 per month on average from their part-time work — up from $686 last year. But if Americans were given the right to no longer be stolen from, and got to keep their own money, most wouldn’t need a side hustle or part-time work to get by.


Nearly half, 45%, of U.S. workers earn additional income outside of their primary career, a recent Bankrate survey found. This includes 48% of millennials. The percentage of Gen Xers and baby boomers with a side hustle is slightly lower, coming in at 39% and 28%, respectively. “A lot of people are working side hustles because even though the economy is strong, wages are stagnant,” Amanda Dixon, an analyst at Bankrate, told MarketWatch. “For a lot of Americans, expenses are rising, but there are no raises at work.” And heaven forbid the government stops raiding our income. That won’t be a suggestion the lapdog media will toss around either. However, if humans own themselves, they have the right to the fruits of their labor regardless of the edicts of the political elitists.

Read more …

Not Tyler’s best headline. Why use the word ‘dirt’? ‘Info’ will do.

Trump Says Foreign ‘Dirt’ Not Election Interference (ZH)

President Trump told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos in an Oval Office interview that he might not call the FBI if foreign governments offered damaging information against his rivals in the upcoming 2020 election. While initially suggesting it would be absurd to call the FBI instead of taking the information, Trump said “I think maybe you do both,” adding “I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening.” “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

Trump also pushed back on the notion that opposition research provided by a foreign government would be considered election interference – saying “It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it,” adding “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.” President Trump lamented the attention on his son, Donald Trump Jr., for his role in the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. Stephanopoulos asked whether Trump Jr. should have taken the Russians’ offer for “dirt” on then-candidate Hillary Clinton to the FBI. “Somebody comes up and says, ‘hey, I have information on your opponent,’ do you call the FBI?” Trump responded.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do,” Trump continued. “Oh, give me a break – life doesn’t work that way.” -ABC News When Stephanopoulos pointed out that FBI Director Christopher Wray said that a candidate should call the FBI in regards to foreign-sourced oppo-research, Trump said: “The FBI director is wrong, because frankly it doesn’t happen like that in life,” adding “Now maybe it will start happening, maybe today you’d think differently.” Trump then claimed that “if you go talk honestly to Congressmen, they all do it, they always have,” adding “That’s the way it is, it’s called oppo-research.”

Read more …

“My people think there could have been a violation. I view it differently.”

John Bolton’s Long Goodbye (Kiriakou)

[Bolton] said in a Wall Street Journal podcast that he believes five countries are spreading “lies about dysfunction in the Trump administration.” Those countries are North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and China. That’s laughable. What Bolton is saying is that there is a vast and incredibly well-coordinated international conspiracy that includes some of the most important countries in the world, the main purpose of which is to embarrass him. That sounds perfectly rational, right? Of course, a more rational person might conclude that Bolton has done a terrible job, that the people around him have done a terrible job, that he has aired his disagreements with Trump in the media, and that the President is angry about it. That’s the more likely scenario.

Here’s what my friends are saying. Trump is concerned, like any president is near the end of his term, about his legacy. He said during the campaign that he wanted to be the president who pulled the country out of its two longest wars. He wanted to declare victory and bring the troops back from Afghanistan and Iraq. He hasn’t done that, largely at the insistence of Bolton. Here we are three years later and we’re still stuck in both of those countries. Second, my friends say that Trump wants to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen war, but that Bolton has been insistent that the only way to guarantee the closeness of the U.S. relationships with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is to keep providing those countries with weapons, aerial refueling planes, and intelligence support.

Third, the mainstream media has accused Bolton of being the reason behind the failure of Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Bolton towed a hard line, so much so that the North Korean media called him a “war monger” and a “human defect” once the summit ended. This week Trump told reporters gathered on the White House south lawn that Kim had “kept his word” on nuclear and missile testing. This was a direct contradiction of Bolton, who had said just hours earlier that the North Koreans had reneged on their commitments to the U.S. Trump said simply, “My people think there could have been a violation. I view it differently.”

Read more …

All it takes is 11 votes. Out of 607.

UK Labour Loses Vote To Prevent Future Tory PM Forcing Through No Deal (Ind.)

Opposition MPs have lost a critical vote on a bid to prevent a future Conservative prime minister from forcing through a no-deal Brexit. Labour introduced a motion paving the way for parliament to block a chaotic Brexit by seizing control of the Commons timetable on 25 June. But MPs rejected the cross-party effort by 309 votes to 298, in a blow to hopes of preventing a Brexiteer prime minister from taking the UK out of the EU without a deal in October. Eight Labour MPs voted against the cross-party motion and a further 13 did not vote. Ten Conservative backbenchers rebelled to back the motion. Jeremy Corbyn could be heard admonishing Tory MPs when the result was called, saying: “You won’t be cheering in September.”


The move came after several Tory leadership hopefuls refused to rule out suspending parliament to prevent MPs from blocking a no-deal Brexit in September. Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, and Esther McVey, the ex-work and pensions secretary, have both said parliament could be prorogued to ensure the UK leaves by the 31 October deadline. Sir Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, said: “This is a disappointing, narrow defeat. “But this is just the start, not the end of our efforts to block no deal. Labour stands ready to use whatever mechanism it can to protect jobs, the economy and communities from the disastrous consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

Read more …

All they did was bicker for 3 years. Of course they’re not ready.

Leaked Cabinet Note: UK Not Ready For No-Deal Brexit On October 31 (Ind.)

It will take “six to eight months” to build up supplies of medicines for a no-deal Brexit, a leaked cabinet note says – undermining Boris Johnson’s threat to crash out of the EU on 31 October. The warning says the pharmaceutical industry needs that period of help from the government “to ensure adequate arrangements are in place to build stockpiles of medicines”. It also says that it would take “at least 4-5 months” to make traders ready for the new border checks that might be required, including incentives to register for fresh schemes. The note was revealed by The Financial Times as Mr Johnson – the overwhelming favourite to succeed Theresa May – launched his campaign on a pledge to leave the EU on 31 October “deal or no deal”.


It states that, while government departments had delivered around 85 per cent of their “core no-deal plans”, many of those provided only “a minimum viable level of capability”. Prepared for a cabinet discussion on 21 May, it was never circulated because Ms May was concentrating at the time on her doomed attempt to force through her withdrawal agreement. After that attempt collapsed, the prime minister announced her plans to resign – throwing the country into the uncertainty of the Tory leadership race. Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, seized on the note, saying: “This lays bare the utter cynicism of Boris Johnson and his ilk. “They are prepared to talk up crashing out of the EU to further their chances in the Tory leadership contest, despite government documents showing this would lead to shortages of medicines and chaos at our borders.”

Read more …

Europe must distance itself from NATO. A tall order. Trump just sent another 1,000 US troops to Poland from Germany.

Macron Wants EU Ties With Moscow Independent of NATO & US (RT)

Europe should think outside NATO dictates and restore relations with Russia, French President Emmanuel Macron stressed, calling for a “strategic debate” with Moscow over mutual areas of concern. “Europe… must build new rules of trust and security with Russia, and should not only agree with NATO,” Macron said in an interview with the Swiss television channel RTS. “It needs to build [relations] only between Europe and Russia.” While noting that disagreements between Moscow and Brussels do exist, in particular over Ukraine, Macron insisted that Russia’s role in world affairs cannot be underestimated.


Europe, the French president stressed, needs Moscow to solve major security issues, as Russia’s highly successful anti-terrorist campaign in Syria has shown. “We need to have a strategic debate, so this week I will have another, long and intense conversation with Vladimir Putin, as the president of France and the G7,” Macron stressed. “There is disagreement among us, but we work together.” “It would not be good to leave Russia to China,” he added, reminding that Europe should “never forget the price [the Soviet Union] paid” in World War II to free the continent from Nazi Germany.

Read more …

A lost people. A lost country. Nothing there.

Australia Approves Vast Coal Mine Near Great Barrier Reef (AFP)

Australia approved Thursday the construction of a controversial coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef, paving the way for a dramatic and unfashionable increase in coal exports. Queensland’s government said it had accepted a groundwater management plan for the Indian-owned Adani Carmichael mine — the last major legal hurdle before construction can begin. The project, fiercely debated for almost a decade, comes as investors and even energy companies are moving away from fossil fuels amid concern about the climate. Opponents warn it will create a new generation of coal exports — which will be burned in India and China — contributing to further degrade the planet.


The vast open cut mine is slated to produce up to 60 million tonnes of coal a year, boosting Australia’s already vast exports by around 20 percent. Coupled with the construction of a railway link, it could open up a swathe of Queensland to further exploitation and new mining projects. “If all the coal in the Galilee Basin is burnt it would produce 705 million tonnes of climate pollution each year, which is more than 1.3 times Australia’s annual pollution from all sources, including cars, industry, energy and agriculture,” said the Australian Conservation Foundation.


The Adani coal mine has been under fierce debate – and protest – for almost a decade (AFP Photo/PETER PARKS)

Read more …

“In the United States, 94.4 percent of tap water samples contained plastic fibers..” And bottled water is 20x worse.

You May Be Eating A Credit Card’s Worth Of Plastic Each Week (R.)

Plastic pollution is so widespread in the environment that you may be ingesting five grams a week, the equivalent of eating a credit card, a study commissioned by the environmental charity WWF International said on Wednesday. The study by Australia’s University of Newcastle said the largest source of plastic ingestion was drinking water, but another major source was shellfish, which tended to be eaten whole so the plastic in their digestive system was consumed too. “Since 2000, the world has produced as much plastic as all the preceding years combined, a third of which is leaked into nature,” the report said.


The average person could be consuming 1,769 particles of plastic every week from water alone, it said. The amount of plastic pollution varies by location, but nowhere is untouched, said the report, which was based on the conclusions of 52 other studies. In the United States, 94.4 percent of tap water samples contained plastic fibers, with an average of 9.6 fibers per liter. European water was less polluted, with fibers showing up in only 72.2 percent of water samples, and only 3.8 fibers per liter.

Read more …

We don’t give a damn about what happened to our kids. That’s just a pose.

Troubling Levels Of Glyphosate In Foods Marketed To Children (RT)

The Environmental Working Group has released findings of research showing “troubling levels of glyphosate, the cancer-causing ingredient in the herbicide Roundup” in food products including children’s breakfast cereals. The Washington, DC-based advocacy group said in a statement released June 12 that the chemical, was detected “in all 21 oat-based cereal and snack products sampled in a new round of testing.” Furthermore, all of the products but four were found to contain levels higher than EWG’s safety threshold for child consumption, which is 160 parts per billion (ppb). The products “Cheerios” and “Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch” were found with the highest glyphosate levels with 729 ppb and 833 ppb respectively.


The findings follow two previous research studies conducted with independent labs conducted last year. Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, was acquired by the German agro-chemical giant Bayer in 2018. “The glyphosate levels in this report are far below the strict limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect human health,” a Bayer spokesman told RT when contacted for comment. “Even at the highest level reported by the EWG (833 ppb), an adult would have to eat 158 pounds of the oat-based food every day for the rest of their life to reach the strict limits set by the EPA.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 022019
 


Pablo Picasso The bathers 1918

 

Russia Suspends INF Treaty In ‘Mirror Response’ To US – Putin (RT)
US Payrolls Surge By 304,000, Smashing Estimates Despite Shutdown (CNBC)
Big Trouble in Little China (Schmid)
How Fast Housing Markets in Sydney & Melbourne Are Coming Unglued (WS)
Venezuela To Sell Gold Reserves To UAE Without Russia’s Help (RT)
Italy Rejects Guaido, Says Venezuela is a Sovereign State (Telesur)
Whitehall Begins ‘Serious Work’ On Customs Union With EU (Ind.)
Judge Considers Gag Order On Roger Stone And Prosecution (BBC)
America’s Kurdish Allies Risk Being Wiped Out – By NATO (Graeber)
Rigging the Science of GMO Ecotoxicity (Latham)

 

 

US arms producers eye their ultimate bid for trillions in development fees. But Russia is not fazed at all.

“Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic..”

Russia Suspends INF Treaty In ‘Mirror Response’ To US – Putin (RT)

President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is halting its participation in the Cold War-era INF nuclear agreement after Washington’s decision to suspend it. Russia will develop missiles previously forbidden under its terms. “Ours will be a mirror response. Our US partners say that they are ceasing their participation in the treaty, and we are doing the same,” the Russian president said in Moscow on Saturday in reference to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). “They say that they are doing research and testing [on new weapons] and we will do the same thing,” Putin said during a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

The Russian leader emphasized that while Moscow’s offers on modernizing the 1987 treaty and making it more transparent “are still on the table,” no more talks should be initiated with the Americans to try and save it. “Let’s wait until our partners mature sufficiently to hold a level, meaningful conversation on this topic, which is extremely important for us, them, and the entire world,” Putin said. In December, the Trump administration threatened to quit the agreement, which limits nuclear and conventional land-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500km within 60 days, unless Russia stopped allegedly violating it with its 9M729 missile, which Washington claims exceeds the permitted range.

Moscow denied that it had broken the treaty, and offered additional mutual inspections during failed talks in Geneva last month. On February 1, Washington officially confirmed that the bilateral agreement signed by Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan will be suspended for 180 days. Washington also signaled intentions to entirely withdraw from it afterwards. During the meeting in front on the cameras on Saturday, Lavrov insisted that Moscow “attempted to do everything we could to rescue the treaty.” This included “unprecedented steps going far beyond our obligations,” he said, accusing Washington of systematically undermining the INF Treaty at least since the late 1990s.

Read more …

“December’s big initially reported gain of 312,000 was knocked all the way down to 222,000..”

US Payrolls Surge By 304,000, Smashing Estimates Despite Shutdown (CNBC)

Job growth in January shattered expectations, with nonfarm payrolls surging by 304,000 despite a partial government shutdown that was the longest in history, the Labor Department reported Friday. The unemployment rate ticked higher to 4 percent, a level where it had last been in June, a likely effect of the shutdown, according to the department. However, officials said federal workers generally were counted as employed during the period because they received pay during the survey week of Jan. 12. On balance, federal government employment actually rose by 1,000. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected payrolls to rise by 170,000 and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 3.9 percent.

In all, it was a powerful performance at a time when economists increasingly have said they expect growth to slow in 2019. January marked 100 months in a row of positive job creation, by far the longest streak on record. Stock futures and Treasury yields jumped in response to the better-than-expected report. The news was not all good, though, as data revisions pushed previous numbers lower. December’s big initially reported gain of 312,000 was knocked all the way down to 222,000, while November’s rose from 176,000 to 196,000. On net, that took the two months down by 70,000, bringing the three-month average to 241,000. That’s still well above the trend that would be common this far into an economic expansion dating back 9 1/2 years.

Read more …

“Real GDP fell by 1.7 percent and 0.6 percent in Q3 and Q4 respectively compared with the official figures showing growth of 6.4 percent and 6 percent..”

Big Trouble in Little China (Schmid)

There are those who think “China will take over the world” with its technocratic central planning. Then there are those who say its debt bubble is so gigantic, the economy will crash and burn. The truth, probably, lies somewhere in the middle. And it looks like we are getting closer to know the truth. Official GDP growth, is of course on track at 6.6 percent for the year 2018, stellar among industrial and even emerging economies. But nobody believes these figures, even though they are the worst since 1990. “Real GDP fell by 1.7 percent and 0.6 percent in Q3 and Q4 respectively compared with the official figures showing growth of 6.4 percent and 6 percent,” Enodo Economics chief economist Diana Choyleva wrote in a note to clients about the annualized growth during the past two quarters of 2018. According to Choyleva, China is experiencing an unofficial recession.

While this doesn’t mean the crash and burn scenario is unavoidable, the flurry of official and unofficial economic indicators flashing red make the “take over the world” scenario quite unbelievable for the intermediate future. No matter which official indicator you look at, the Chinese economy is in decline. Retail sales growth is barely above 5 percent, the lowest level since 2003 with automobile sales crashing 13 percent. Total imports in U.S. dollar terms are down 7.6 percent in December of 2018 as compared to the year before.

The main problem of the Chinese economy is debt and overcapacity. Debt has blown up to 300 percent of GDP through the state-controlled banking system. The financing went into building trains, roads, airports, apartments, shipyards, anything that can be built. And while some of the stuff is undoubtedly useful, a lot of it is not. If it’s not useful or sustainable, it won’t generate the returns necessary to service said debt. This problem could have been nipped in the bud, but Chinese central planners wanted ever more steel mills and high speed trains and push back the day of reckoning when most of the unprofitable companies would go bankrupt. So in order to keep the gravy train running, more debt had to be issued to build more stuff.

Read more …

TEXT

How Fast Housing Markets in Sydney & Melbourne Are Coming Unglued (WS)

“Can we still describe this as an orderly slowdown in housing conditions?” mused CoreLogic Asia Pacific’s head of research Tim Lawless about the Australian housing market today. Over the last three months, the index for Sydney dropped 4.5%, and the index for Melbourne 4.0%, the “largest rolling quarterly fall since at least the 80’s.” Across the metro area of Sydney, prices of all types of homes combined, according to CoreLogic’s Daily Home Value Index, fell 1.35% in January from December, the third month in a row with a monthly decline of over 1%. The 4.5% decline over the past three months pencils out to an annual rate of decline of 17%. The index is now down about 12% from its peak in July 2017. Note the accelerating decline over the past three months:

The 12% drop from the peak in July 2017 pushed the index back where it been in July 2016 – which shows how crazy and unsustainable the price boom had been on the way up. Now it is getting unwound at a slightly slower pace on the way down. Over the 12-month period through January, the index fell 9.7%, with house prices down 10.9% and condo prices down 6.9%. At the same time, the number of homes of all types listed for sale in the Sydney metro jumped by 24%. [..] In the Melbourne metro, the second largest market in Australia, the housing bust is also taking on momentum, instead of slowing down, but started about four months behind Sydney’s. According to the CoreLogic Daily Home Value Index, since the peak in November 2017, prices of all types of homes fell about 9%, which pushed prices back to January 2017 levels. Note the acceleration over the past three months:

Read more …

US sanctions deprive Maduro of food and medicine. Seen as a way to create a revolt.

Venezuela To Sell Gold Reserves To UAE Without Russia’s Help (RT)

Caracas plans to sell 29 tons of gold to the United Arab Emirates in return for euro in cash, Reuters cites a senior government official as saying. The money is needed to provide liquidity for imports of basic goods.
According to the official, the sale of the nation’s gold began with the shipment of 3 tons on January 26, following the export last year of $900 million in unrefined gold to Turkey. The source denied Moscow’s involvement in the operation after rumors circulated this week that mysterious Russian-operated airplanes arrived in the country and planned to leave with Venezuelan gold on board. That is incorrect, according to the official. Caracas reportedly needs cash for imports of basic products that it sells to the population at subsidized prices.

A possible explanation for the payment for the gold in euros is US sanctions, which restrict Venezuela’s use of the dollar. Venezuela’s central bank reportedly began to sell gold reserves to allied countries after supplies of unrefined gold from small mines began to run low. The bank held 150 tons of gold in January 2018. By the end of November holdings had fallen to 132 tons between the central bank’s vaults and the Bank of England, according to central bank data. The Bank of England has refused to return an estimated 31 tons of Venezuelan gold worth $1.2 billion. Bankers in Britain are allegedly concerned that Venezuelan officials would sell state-owned gold “for personal gain.”

Read more …

“..this same mistake was made in Libya, and everyone today recognizes it. We must prevent the same thing happening in Venezuela.”

Italy Rejects Guaido, Says Venezuela is a Sovereign State (Telesur)

On Thursday the Italian Government withdrew from the position assumed by the European Parliament and informed that it does not recognize Juan Guaido as “president in charge” of Venezuela. “Italy does not recognize the self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido,” Italy’s Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, Manlio Di Stefano, said. The senior official explained that Italy is “totally against” that a country or a group of countries “can determine the internal policies” of a sovereign State. “This is called the principle of non-intervention and is enshrined by the United Nations,” Di Stefano said. He also expressed the Italian Government’s concern to prevent a warlike confrontation in the South American nation and stressed that “this same mistake was made in Libya, and everyone today recognizes it. We must prevent the same thing happening in Venezuela.”

Last Wednesday the Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, warned the international community that it is not “prudent” to support one of the opposing parties in Venezuela, since “an invasive attitude would generate more division in the world.” “We do not consider it opportune to rush to recognize investitures that have not gone through an electoral process,” said Conte. Nevertheless, violating international law, and adding to the U.S.-driven coup d’état, the European Parliament approved a resolution Thursday that recognizes Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s “interim president.”

Read more …

With just 56 days left, great moment to start.

Whitehall Begins ‘Serious Work’ On Customs Union With EU (Ind.)

Whitehall officials have begun “serious work” on the UK staying in a permanent EU customs union as a route to rescuing the Brexit deal, despite Theresa May ruling out the move, The Independent can reveal. Preparations are underway at a high level, amid a belief the beleaguered prime minister will be forced to offer the potentially crucial compromise to Labour. Ms May has repeatedly rejected a customs union – fearing a further revolt by anti-EU Tories – but some cabinet ministers are pushing her to accept that the red line will have to be dropped if her deal is to be rescued. They believe it could tempt scores of Labour MPs to back the deal when it returns to the Commons, even if Jeremy Corbyn himself still refuses to drop his opposition.

Now a well-placed Whitehall source has told The Independent: “There is serious work going on about a customs union. We need to be prepared, so we are ready if the politics moves in that direction.” Although the prime minister has not yet been won over, she will come under fierce pressure if, as expected, the EU rejects her plea to replace the backstop – before fresh Commons votes in just 12 days’ time. The concession of a customs union is unlikely to be enough to persuade Mr Corbyn to throw his weight what he is determined to brand “a Tory Brexit”, but many Labour MPs are expected to switch sides. Furthermore, despite inevitable Tory outrage, some Conservative MPs could be persuaded that a customs union would make it less likely the Irish backstop they oppose – designed to guarantee an open border – will ever be needed.

Read more …

“To storm my house with greater force than was used to take down (Osama) bin Laden or El Chapo or Pablo Escobar, to terrorise my wife and my dogs, is unconscionable..”

Judge Considers Gag Order On Roger Stone And Prosecution (BBC)

The judge overseeing the criminal case against ex-Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone says she is considering a gagging order on both him and the prosecution. Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the case was “a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign”. Mr Stone has been charged on seven counts by special counsel Robert Mueller, including witness tampering and lying to Congress. He denies any wrongdoing and has made frequent jibes against Mr Mueller. Mr Stone, 66, a longstanding ally of the president, has previously vowed to resist any gagging order, saying on Tuesday: “I will fight and the deep state is in panic mode.”

Mr Mueller is overseeing an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and whether Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Moscow. President Trump denies collusion, calling the investigation “a witch hunt”, and the Kremlin denies any meddling. At a court hearing in Washington on Friday, Judge Jackson cited a number of “extrajudicial statements by the defendant”. She said that if a gagging order was imposed, Mr Stone would still be able to talk to the media about issues not connected to the case. She asked both sides to respond to the possible order by 8 February. The charges against Mr Stone are linked to an alleged Russian-led hack into the emails of Democratic Party officials. The information contained in the emails was released by Wikileaks during the 2016 campaign.

Since his arrest, Mr Stone has given a string of media interviews. He has been highly critical of his arrest, describing it as political theatrics. “To storm my house with greater force than was used to take down (Osama) bin Laden or El Chapo or Pablo Escobar, to terrorise my wife and my dogs, is unconscionable,” he told reporters. He has accused Mr Mueller of running a politically motivated “inquisition”. In an interview with Reuters, Mr Stone dismissed the charges as “process crimes” with no intentional lies. He said any failure to disclose emails or texts had been an “honest mistake”. In a phone interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on his radio programme Infowars, Mr Stone said he intended to “fight for my life”.

Read more …

“This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members. ”

America’s Kurdish Allies Risk Being Wiped Out – By NATO (Graeber)

Remember those plucky Kurdish forces who so heroically defended the Syrian city of Kobane from Isis? They risk being wiped out by Nato. The autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava in Northeast Syria, which includes Kobane, faces invasion. A Nato army is amassing on the border, marshaling all the overwhelming firepower and high-tech equipment that only the most advanced military forces can deploy. The commander in chief of those forces says he wants to return Rojava to its “rightful owners” who, he believes, are Arabs, not Kurds. Last spring, this leader made similar declarations about the westernmost Syrian Kurdish district of Afrin. Following that, the very same Nato army, using German tanks and British helicopter gunships, and backed by thousands of hardcore Islamist auxiliaries, overran the district.

According to Kurdish news agencies, the invasion led to over a 100,000 Kurdish civilians being driven out of Afrin entirely. They reportedly employed rape, torture and murder as systematic means of terror. That reign of terror continues to this day. And the commander and chief of this Nato army has suggested that he intends to do to the rest of North Syria what he did to Afrin. I am speaking, of course, of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is, increasingly, Turkey’s effective dictator. But it’s crucial to emphasize that these are Nato forces. This not only means they are supplied with state-of-the-art weaponry; it also means those weapons are being maintained by other Nato members. Fighter jets, helicopter gunships, even Turkey’s German-supplied Panzer forces – they all degrade extremely quickly under combat conditions.

The people who continually inspect, maintain, repair, replace, and provide them with spare parts tend to be contractors working for American, British, German or Italian firms. Their presence is critical because the Turkish military advantage over Northern Syria’s “People’s Defense Forces” (YPG) and “Women’s Defense Forces” (YPJ), those defenders of Kobane that Turkey has pledged to destroy, is entirely dependent on them. That’s because, aside from its technological advantage, the Turkish army is a mess. Most of its best officers and even pilots have been in prison since the failed coup attempt in 2016, and it’s now being run by commanders chosen by political loyalty instead of competence. Rojava’s defenders, in contrast, are seasoned veterans. In a fair fight, they would have no more problem fending off a Turkish incursion than they had driving back Turkish-backed Jihadis in the past.

Read more …

Precautionary principle. The only response.

Rigging the Science of GMO Ecotoxicity (Latham)

Researchers who work on GMO crops are developing special “artificial diet systems”. The stated purpose of these new diets is to standardise the testing of the Cry toxins, often used in GMO crops, for their effects on non-target species. But a paper published last month in the journal Toxins implies a very different interpretation of their purpose. The new diets contain hidden ingredients that can mask Cry toxicity and allow them to pass undetected through toxicity tests on beneficial species like lacewings (Hilbeck et al., 2018). Thus the new diets will benefit GMO crop developers by letting new ones come to market quicker and more reliably. Tests conducted with the new diets are even being used to cast doubt on previous findings of ecotoxicological harm.

The resulting crops are usually called Bt crops. Cry toxins kill insects that eat the GMO crop because the toxin punches a hole in the membranes of the insect gut when it is ingested, causing the insect to immediately stop feeding and eventually die of septicaemia. Cry toxins are controversial. Although the biotech industry claims they have narrow specificity, and are therefore safe for all organisms except so-called ‘target’ organisms, plenty of researchers disagree. They suspect that Cry toxins may affect many non-target species, even including mammals and humans (e.g. Dolezel et al., 2011; Latham et al., 2017; Zdziarski, et al., 2018).

The Cry toxin mode of action, we and others have noted, does not necessarily discriminate between species. Any organism with a membrane-lined gut is, in principle, vulnerable if it consumes the GMO Bt crop. In these Bt crops the leaves, straw, roots, nectar, and pollen, all typically contain Cry toxins. Therefore, most organisms in agricultural landscapes will at some point in their life-cycle be exposed to GMO plant material. As pollinator declines and a more generalised insect apocalypse have revealed, the question of the effects of such crops on biodiversity is far from trivial.

—————

GMO Cry toxins
Cry toxins are a family of highly active protein toxins originally isolated from the gut pathogenic bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Latham et al., 2017). They confer insect-resistance and up to six distinct ones are added to GMO corn, cotton, and other crops (Hilbeck and Otto, 2015).

Read more …

Jan 152019
 
 January 15, 2019  Posted by at 9:52 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Ivan Aivazovsky Moonlight c1850

 

May Faces Crushing Brexit Defeat Despite Last-Minute Plea To MPs (G.)
100 Of May’s Own MPs Set To Vote Against Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)
No-Deal Brexit Means ‘Social And Economic Catastrophe’ -Banks (Ind.)
Brexit Preppers: ‘I Don’t Trust The Government To Look After Me Or My Dog’ (G.)
Global Economy Fears Grow As China And Eurozone Slump (G.)
Hunting for Golem (Jim Kunstler)
FBI Investigation Of Trump As National Security Threat Is A Serious Danger (GG)
Trump Reportedly Said He Wanted To Pull The US From NATO (CNBC)
WikiLeaks Starts Suing Guardian Over Assange-Manafort Fake News Story (RT)
Antarctic Losing 500% More Ice A Year Than In 80s – NASA (Ind.)
Wildlife: The Real Crisis At The US-Mexico Border (PI)
98% Of Ground Insects Vanish From Puerto Rican Rainforest In 35 Years (G.)

 

 

““We have an instruction from the British people to leave and it’s our duty to deliver on that..”

May Faces Crushing Brexit Defeat Despite Last-Minute Plea To MPs (G.)

Theresa May appears to be on course for a crushing defeat in the House of Commons as Britain’s bitterly divided MPs prepare to give their verdict on her Brexit deal in the “meaningful vote” on Tuesday. With Downing Street all but resigned to losing by a significant margin, Guardian analysis pointed to a majority of more than 200 MPs against the prime minister. Labour sources said that unless May made major unexpected concessions, any substantial margin against her would lead Jeremy Corbyn to call for a vote of no confidence in the government – perhaps as soon as Tuesday night. But since Conservative MPs are unlikely to offer Corbyn the backing he would need to win a no-confidence vote, he would then come under intense pressure to swing Labour’s weight behind a second referendum.

Cabinet ministers have not yet been told how May plans to keep the Brexit process on track if her deal is defeated – and they remain split on how she should proceed. Leavers are convinced that the prime minister should return to Brussels and press for fresh concessions, while remainers hope she will seek a compromise with Labour. On Monday, May issued one final call to parliament to back her, urging MPs to “take a second look” at her deal and stressing that it was the only option on the table that could deliver an “orderly” exit from the EU. But there was little evidence of movement after her speech.

[..] There is growing speculation at Westminster that whichever course May pursues, she will be forced to announce that she will ask the EU27 to extend article 50. The prime minister refused to rule out doing so categorically on Monday, saying only that she didn’t believe it should be necessary. “We’re leaving on 29 March. I’ve been clear I don’t believe we should be extending article 50 and I don’t believe we should be having a second referendum,” May said. “We have an instruction from the British people to leave and it’s our duty to deliver on that, but I want to do it in a way that is smooth and orderly and protects jobs and security.”

Read more …

Her own party turns against her, but May’s plans when she loses: fly to Brussels. She should leave and never come back.

100 Of May’s Own MPs Set To Vote Against Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May has made a desperate last-ditch plea begging her own MPs to back her Brexit plans in the face of an expected historic defeat. The prime minister beseeched Conservative MPs at a closed meeting to think of the future of their party and compromise, with around 100 of them considering voting against her. But Brexiteers still left the meeting determined to reject her plans, while Ms May also now faces up to 12 separate attempts from rebel and opposition MPs to re-shape her strategy before the final vote on Tuesday. She gave no indication as to her course of action if she loses, but Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn spoke to his own MPs in a room nearby restating his determination to call a motion of no confidence and trigger an election.

After 19 months of negotiation, a dozen EU summits and countless hours taking questions at the despatch box, Ms May will finally put her Brexit deal to a vote of the Commons on Tuesday. With her final chance to address all MPs coming shortly before the vote due after 7pm, she held a private gathering of Tories on Monday night to try to win over rebels. [..] Much of the opposition to her deal to focuses on the hated “Irish backstop”, which would come into play if no future trading arrangement is in place by December 2020, and could keep the UK in a customs union indefinitely. [..] On Monday night, Ms May’s deal suffered its first official parliamentary defeat in the House of Lords as peers voted by 321 votes to 152 to reject it.

Read more …

Every possible outcome will mean chaos.

No-Deal Brexit Means ‘Social And Economic Catastrophe’ -Banks (Ind.)

A no-deal Brexit would be an economic and social “catastrophe”, a senior banking industry leader has warned. Stephen Jones said leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreement could lead to a 1930s-style economic depression, with widespread job losses, homeowners unable to afford their mortgages, and mass defaults on loans. “A no-deal Brexit on 29 March, where we crash out of European Union, is a catastrophe,” the head of the UK Finance trade body told Channel 4 News. “It’s a social catastrophe, it’s an economic catastrophe.” The devastation caused by a disorderly exit would not just hurt the banks’ bottom lines, but hit ordinary people, he warned. “I don’t wish to be labelled a doom mongerer… but if our economy contracts by 10 per cent that’s 1930s-style contraction,” he said.

“That is a massive increase in credit card losses, mortgage losses, vehicle loan losses. “This is about jobs, this is about people not being able to pay their mortgages, not being able to pay back their loans, and that’s really bad news and it’s an outcome we can avoid.” Mr Jones, who leads the British banking sector’s lobby group, added: “I think there is a real risk of No Deal happening by accident… if the prime minister’s deal is voted down, we are in totally uncharted territory.” Asked if he backed Mrs May’s deal to prevent a no-deal scenario, Mr Jones would only say he backed a “solution that avoids a no-deal Brexit”. He added: “It’s not a great deal, there’s an awful lot of money being paid for a political declaration, which quite frankly is not worth the paper it is written on.”

Read more …

People unsure whether epilepsy drugs for their children will be available.

Brexit Preppers: ‘I Don’t Trust The Government To Look After Me Or My Dog’ (G.)

[..] it’s not just about food for Elgarf and her family. One of her four-year-old twins, Nora, who has been sitting happily on her mum’s lap as we talk, has a rare brain condition called polymicrogyria. She has lots of prescriptions, but without two of them – Epilim and Keppra – for her epilepsy, she would have multiple seizures a day. “She can’t do without them,” says Elgarf. Both Epilim and Keppra are imported. If she could stockpile these medicines, she would. But they are controlled, and she can only get a month’s supply at a time. “It should be all right,” she has been told by doctors and the pharmacists. But when it’s your daughter’s life that’s at stake, “it should be all right” isn’t good enough.

Many of the people who join the Facebook group have concerns about medicines, Elgarf says. There are a lot of diabetics and coeliacs among them. What they need is some reassurance. “We need to know for certain they have got a proper plan in place for anybody who depends on meds.” She has heard rumours that the most critical medicines may have to be collected from central hubs, which would be stocked on the basis of lists provided by GPs. [..] Helena, who has a politics degree and works for a charity, doesn’t come across as crazy. None of the people I speak to do. Informed: tick. Cautious: tick. Organised: tick. Very organised, in Helena’s case: she has – and shares with me – a spreadsheet, colour-coded according to what is fully purchased (eg tinned tomatoes and loo paper, alongside a note that the average person uses 110 rolls a year), part-purchased (eg cereal), waiting delivery (powdered coconut), or pending testing (dried falafel mix).

Falafel! I’m going straight round to Helena’s. She also has booze and biscuits. Brexit party in Cardiff on Friday 29 March, everyone. And she’s got makeup! We’re going to be looking good as the good ship Britannia goes down. Helena is not just prepping for herself. She is doing it for her dog, Charlie, too. And while she has about three months’ worth of supplies for herself, she is looking at more like a year for the dog, as she doesn’t see that pet food will be a priority. “I don’t really trust the government to look after me; I certainly don’t trust them to look after my dog,” she says. As well as dog food, there are treats and toys on the spreadsheet. Charlie is going to enjoy a hard Brexit.


Helena’s dog, Charlie, with his Brexit stockpile. Photograph: Gareth Phillips for the Guardian

Read more …

Brexit will shake the markets.

Global Economy Fears Grow As China And Eurozone Slump (G.)

Fears are growing over the state of the global economy after China recorded a shock fall in exports, while European factory output declined by the biggest margin in almost three years. In a sign that the worldwide slowdown is gathering pace, official figures showed Chinese exports were down 4.4% in December – the largest fall since 2016 – on the back of faltering demand in most of its key markets. Imports fell 7.6% to reflect waning domestic demand. The unexpected downturn for the biggest global exporter of manufactured products came as eurozone industrial output shrank in November.

The EU statistics office, Eurostat, estimated industrial production slipped 1.7% in November compared with the previous month, and 3.3% on the year, reflecting the struggles facing several European economies in recent months. The latest snapshot confirmed disappointing readings of industrial output in several major eurozone nations, raising the prospect of some of the EU’s biggest economies, including Germany and Italy, slipping into recession in the second half of 2018. Several major European economies, including the UK, have struggled with faltering levels of car production in recent months as factories adjust to handling new vehicle emissions tests introduced after the VW scandal.

Read more …

Link to transcript of Lisa Page’s testimonies is here.

Hunting for Golem (Jim Kunstler)

As another president once remarked in a different context — LBJ speaking to a hanger full of grunts in Vietnam — “go on out there, boys, and nail that coonskin to the wall!” That was around the time the war was looking like a lost cause, with 1000 soldiers a month coming home in a box and even the Rotarians of Keokuk, Iowa, starting to doubt the official story of what exactly we thought we were doing over there. It was also, arguably, around the time America stopped being, ahem, “great” and commenced the long, nauseating slide into idiocracy and collapse. The news media has taken LBJ’s place in today’s Wile E. Coyote phase of our history, cheerleading the congressional hunt for the glittering golden scalp of You-Know-Who in the White House.

[..] The CBS 60 Minutes Show took its turn last night with a puff piece on Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), incoming chairman of the House oversight Committee, which, CBS interlocutor Steve Kroft delighted in pointing out, “can investigate any [old] thing.” And so, Rep. Cummings will be the ringmaster of this new “Greatest Show on Earth,” aimed at climaxing in an orgasmic impeachment operation. Mr. Kroft could hardly contain his glee onscreen. The facts say something a bit different about the actual reality-based Russia Collusion case, namely, that it’s been a two-year smokescreen to cover the collective ass of a rogue leadership in the Department of Justice and its step-child, the FBI, who deliberately and repeatedly broke the law in dishonestly pursuing a way to annul the 2016 election result.

It also reflects darkly on the Obama White House and its participation in all this huggermugger. Wads of information around this matter also came out in the past week — which you can be sure the news media would not touch — including congressional testimony from last July with former FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, revealing that the traffic controller for the so-called Steele Dossier was one John Carlin, Assistant Attorney General at the time, and formerly then-FBI Director Robert Mueller’s chief-of-staff. Ms. Page herself characterized Mr. Carlin as “a political appointee.” Was he Mr. Mueller’s clean-up man?

Read more …

Glenn Greenwald makes a valid point comparing the Trump probe with those of Henry Wallace and George McGovern by Hoover. What he misses out on, though, is how they differ: unlike in the cases of Wallace and McGovern, the FBI is now used not just to smear a politician, but to try and oust a president.

FBI Investigation Of Trump As National Security Threat Is A Serious Danger (GG)

It is not difficult to understand what is so ominous and even tyrannical about the FBI investigating domestic political figures whose loyalties they regard as “suspicious,” and whose political career they regard as a “national security threat,” simply because those politicians express policy positions about U.S. adversaries that the FBI dislikes or regards as insufficiently belligerent. It’s the FBI’s job to investigate possible crimes under the law or infiltration by foreign powers, not ideological sins. If a politician adopts policy views that are “threatening” to U.S. national security or which is unduly accommodating to America’s adversaries or “enemies,” that’s not a crime and the FBI thus has no business using its vast investigative powers against a politician who does that.

That’s why it’s so easy to see that Hoover’s investigative scrutiny of Henry Wallace, and George McGovern, and an endless array of domestic dissenters, was so anti-democratic and dangerous. If a politician adopts “threatening” policy views or is too subservient toward or accommodating of a foreign adversary, it’s the job of the American voting public or Congress in its political oversight and lawmaking role to take action, not the FBI’s job to criminalize policy differences through investigations. It should not be difficult for a rational brain free of partisan muck to see this same principle at play when it comes to the FBI’s investigation of Trump on the ground that he may be, in the eyes of FBI officials, a “national security threat.”

Even if you’re someone who hates Trump’s overtures toward Russia or even believes that they are the by-product of excessive subservience to the Kremlin, the dangers of having the FBI take on the role of investigating that rather than the political wings of the U.S. political system should be obvious – as obvious as they are in the case of Henry Wallace and George McGovern. [..] The person elected by the U.S. electorate to make foreign policy for the United States and to determine “America’s interests” was Donald Trump, not the FBI. It’s the role of elected officials in the White House and Congress, not the unelected police agents who report to them, to decide what is and is not in “America’s interests.” If Trump’s foreign policy is misguided or “threatening,” that’s a matter for the Congress and/or the American public, not the FBI.

Read more …

More so-called revelations. It’s never been a secret what Trump thinks of NATO in its present form: he thinks the US pays too much. But now the NYT presents this as some dark conspiracy story.

Like the Guardian, the New York Times has moved beyond caring about its credibility: both think there are enough people swallowing everything they get served up.

Trump Reportedly Said He Wanted To Pull The US From NATO (CNBC)

U.S. President Donald Trump privately said several times last year that he wanted to withdraw his country from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, The New York Times reported on Monday. The newspaper’s findings, which cited unnamed senior administration officials, are likely to resurface worries of a breakdown in the military alliance that was created in 1949 by the United States, Canada and some European nations. Those concerns were first sparked last year when the U.S. leader hinted that he could leave the 29-member defense bloc without Congressional approval. At the time, Trump was pushing member countries to increase spending. Since then, however, the Republican has backtracked on that threat.

After a chaotic NATO meeting in July 2018, Trump claimed that allies had committed to his request and said that U.S. withdrawal from the organization would be “unnecessary.” Responding to the New York Times’ report, a White House official repeated some of Trump’s remarks from July when the president said Washington’s commitment to NATO is “very strong” and the alliance is “very important.” As the Times notes, a weakened NATO is thought to be a major geopolitical goal of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s dislike for participation in international organizations is well known to global leaders by now. Early in his White House tenure, the president withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord and a massive Pacific trade pact.

Read more …

If the Guardian, or another British paper, runs an entirely false story like this about you or me, we would need to raise a similar amount just to defend ourselves from such smear.

WikiLeaks Starts Suing Guardian Over Assange-Manafort Fake News Story (RT)

WikiLeaks says it has collected enough funds to file a lawsuit against the Guardian for publishing an uncorroborated story about alleged meetings between former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Julian Assange. The whistleblowing website has thanked all its supporters who contributed to its GoFundMe campaign, launched on November 27 following the publication of an article by the Guardian, which claimed that US President Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort had held secret talks with Julian Assange at least three times in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where the Australian has been holed up since 2012.

The donations have recently hit the $50,000 threshold, enabling the whistleblowing site to formally launch proceedings against the renowned British newspaper, WikiLeaks said, calling on its supporters to keep the money flowing. “Legal action will now commence (but more is required to complete),” it tweeted on Monday. When it launched the campaign, WikiLeaks set up the ambitious target of $300,000. It has so far raised $51,749. WikiLeaks seeks to challenge the Guardian in court over its source-based ‘bombshell,’ co-authored by its former Moscow correspondent Luke Harding, alleging that Manafort had traveled to London three times over four years prior to the publication of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) email leaks.

The report relies on Ecuadorean intelligence sources and documents provided to the Guardian by the country’s intelligence agency. In its GoFundMe appeal, WikiLeaks suggested that the intelligence agency might have deliberately fed the British publication false information, which it was happy to take at a face value. WikiLeaks also noted that it was not the first time the Guardian put out a false story about Assange.

Read more …

Just the tip of the iceberg. Happy driving.

Antarctic Losing 500% More Ice A Year Than In 80s – NASA (Ind.)

The Antarctic ice sheet is losing six times as much ice each year as it was in the 1980s and the pace is accelerating, one of the most comprehensive studies of climate change effects on the continent has shown. More than half an inch has been added to global sea levels since 1979, but if current trends continue it will be responsible for metres more in future, the Nasa-funded study found. The international effort used aerial photos, satellite data and climate models dating back to the 1970s across18 Antarctic regions to get the most complete picture to date on the impacts of the changing climate. It found that between 1979 and 1990 Antarctica lost an average of 40 gigatonnes (40 billion tonnes) of its mass each year.

Between 2009 and 2017 it lost an average 252 gigatonnes a year. This has added 3.6mm per decade to sea levels, or around 14mm since 1979, the study shows. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak,” Professor Eric Rignot from University of California, Irvine and lead author of the study published in Nature Geoscience. “As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-metre sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries.”

Read more …

“..the wall “may very well lead to the extinction of the jaguar, ocelot … and other species”..”

Wildlife: The Real Crisis At The US-Mexico Border (PI)

While debate swirls around the border wall — whether it’s immoral, whether it even works — one huge impact, while understood, is just not being discussed: The wall is already an ecological catastrophe, devastating rare and endangered species, carving up critical habitats, exacerbating flooding, even worsening climate change. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that the wall “may very well lead to the extinction of the jaguar, ocelot … and other species” in America. This is tragic, as the 2,000-mile border, stretching from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico along the Rio Grande, passes through three mountain chains, North America’s two largest deserts, and the Tijuana Estuary, a salt marsh that offers habitat for 400 species of birds.

An astonishing 25 million acres of protected public lands lies near the border on the American side, including wildlife refuges, national parks, and wilderness areas with large refuges on the Mexican side as well, all created by the long, hard work of many organizations and agencies aiming to protect land that is biologically unique and fragile. It’s a diverse area, too: A 2011 study documented 134 mammal, 178 reptile, and 57 amphibian species living in the wall region; 56 of these species that already been hurt by the wall, including five that are at risk for extinction, one the jaguarundi, a small cat.

The jaguar, that cat’s bigger cousin, is the poster child for the wall’s ecological impact. Once hunted to extinction in the U.S., jaguars in northern Mexico have been spotted moving back into Arizona. Protected both here and in Mexico, its U.S. recovery plan — written by the federal government (!) — calls for free movement of these 300-pound predators across the border. The few cats that have reclaimed their American habitat will not recover if they cannot return to Mexico to find mates.


Fernando Llano / AP

Read more …

And there’s no panic. There’s hardly any concern. The web of life is disappearing and we watch TV.

98% Of Ground Insects Vanish From Puerto Rican Rainforest In 35 Years (G.)

Scientist Brad Lister returned to Puerto Rican rainforest after 35 years to find 98% of ground insects had vanished “We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” said Brad Lister. “We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.” His return to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico after 35 years was to reveal an appalling discovery. The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout the mountainous national park had collapsed. On the ground, 98% had gone. Up in the leafy canopy, 80% had vanished. The most likely culprit by far is global warming.

“It was just astonishing,” Lister said. “Before, both the sticky ground plates and canopy plates would be covered with insects. You’d be there for hours picking them off the plates at night. But now the plates would come down after 12 hours in the tropical forest with a couple of lonely insects trapped or none at all.” “It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rainforest,” he said. “We began to realise this is terrible – a very, very disturbing result.” Earth’s bugs outweigh humans 17 times over and are such a fundamental foundation of the food chain that scientists say a crash in insect numbers risks “ecological Armageddon”. When Lister’s study was published in October, one expert called the findings “hyper-alarming”.

The Puerto Rico work is one of just a handful of studies assessing this vital issue, but those that do exist are deeply worrying. Flying insect numbers in Germany’s natural reserves have plunged 75% in just 25 years. The virtual disappearance of birds in an Australian eucalyptus forest was blamed on a lack of insects caused by drought and heat. Lister and his colleague Andrés García also found that insect numbers in a dry forest in Mexico had fallen 80% since the 1980s. “We are essentially destroying the very life support systems that allow us to sustain our existence on the planet, along with all the other life on the planet,” Lister said. “It is just horrifying to watch us decimate the natural world like this.”

Read more …

Aug 172018
 
 August 17, 2018  Posted by at 9:37 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Brick factory at Tortosa 1909

 

Emerging Markets and US Treasuries (Albert Edwards)
Asia the Next Source of Downside Systemic Risk for Financial Markets (WS)
Trump Says US ‘Will Pay Nothing’ To Turkey For Release Of Detained Pastor (R.)
Lira Rallies As Turkey Pledges Spending Cuts To Avoid IMF Bailout (G.)
Turkish Tremors Will Cause Shocks In Britain (Times)
$125,000: The Pension Debt Each Chicago Household Is On The Hook For (WP)
Russian Oil Industry Would Weather US ‘Bill From Hell’ (R.)
NATO Repeats the Great Mistake of the Warsaw Pact (SCF)
Italy’s NATO Racket… A Bridge Too Far (SCF)
Google Staff Tell Bosses China Censorship Is “Moral And Ethical” Crisis (IC)
Jury in Paul Manafort’s Case Asks Judge to Redefine ‘Reasonable Doubt’ (BBG)

 

 

From an email sent to Mish.

Emerging Markets and US Treasuries (Albert Edwards)

Turkey has discovered that high and rising foreign-denominated debt never sits well with a huge current account deficit and a reluctance to raise interest rates. The problem though is that this is not about Turkey or even EM. It is as always, about the Fed. When the most important person in the free world starts lobbing macro hand-grenades in an effort to drain the swamp, the financial markets will always eventually react badly. No, I am not talking about President Trump with his tweets about imposing tariffs on Turkey. I am actually talking about Fed Chair Jerome Powell draining the global liquidity swamp.

Make no mistake, whatever the macro-idiosyncrasies of Turkey, the key to the current turmoil that is spreading into EM generally, is Fed tightening and the strong dollar. As we have repeated ad infinitum, since 1950 there have been 13 Fed tightening cycles, 10 of them ended in recession and the others usually saw the EM blow up – such as the 1994 collapse in the Mexican peso. The Fed always tightens until something breaks. It is usually its own economy, but sometimes it is the EM’s. And when the liquidity tide goes out we always find out who is swimming naked. If it hadn’t been Turkey it would eventually have been someone else.

To be sure the unfolding EM crisis has been building for many years. And just as investors ignored the naysayers in the run-up to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), they have ignored the IMF and BIS, who have been cautioning for some years about the explosive build-up in EM debt and especially dollar-denominated debt. According to the BIS, total dollar-denominated debt outside the U.S. reached $10.7 trillion in the first quarter of 2017, and about a third of this debt is owed by the EM nonfinancial sector. EM specialists, the Institute of International Finance (IIF), have also warned about this build-up in EM foreign-denominated debt. They too note that the EM corporate sector has been leading the explosion of debt, with Turkey standing out for the increase in its exposure since the GFC. Turkey has never managed to escape membership of ‘The Fragile Five’ EM country club.

 

Read more …

Dollar shortages.

Asia the Next Source of Downside Systemic Risk for Financial Markets (WS)

“Except for an expected short-term reprieve, we expect these tighter USD conditions to remain in place for the rest of the year,” the strategists write. “That is unless policy makers react soon to stimulate financial markets with liquidity.” “Southeast Asia stands out again as in 1997/8, with a large amount of USD denominated debt outstanding,” the write. “The only difference is then Asia had fixed exchange rates and now they are floating! We believe Asia will be the next source of downside systemic risk for financial markets.” The chart below shows dollar-denominated debt in the EMs, in trillion dollars. This does not include euro-denominated debt which plays a large role in Turkey. The fat gray area represents Asia without China:

Asia’s dollar-denominated debt, relative to its foreign exchange reserves and exports, has risen significantly since 2009, they note. The chart below shows the ratio between dollar-denominated debt and foreign exchange reserves in Asia, with China (green line) and without China (black dotted line). Values over 50% mean that there is more dollar-debt than foreign exchange reserves:

“This leaves these nations susceptible to a shortage in USDs,” they write: “Notably, the Asian nations that have amassed record amounts of USD debt are also home to the largest technology companies i.e. Tencent (China), Alibaba (China), TSNC (Taiwan), Samsung (South Korea). The tech sector is now 28% of the MSCI EM index. The rally in the US Dollar, dented global growth prospects, credit growth in China slowing down and escalating political tensions from the US leaves these nations very exposed to a shortage in USDs.”

Read more …

More sanctions. Yesterday’s relief is gone.

Trump Says US ‘Will Pay Nothing’ To Turkey For Release Of Detained Pastor (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday the United States “will pay nothing” to Turkey for the release of detained American pastor Andrew Brunson, who he called “a great patriot hostage.” “We will pay nothing for the release of an innocent man, but we are cutting back on Turkey!” Trump said on Twitter. The U.S. warned Turkey on Thursday to expect more economic sanctions unless it hands over Brunson, as relations between the two countries took a further turn for the worse. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured Trump at a Cabinet meeting that sanctions were ready to be put in place if Brunson was not freed. “We have more that we are planning to do if they don’t release him quickly,” Mnuchin said during the meeting.

The United States and Turkey have exchanged tit-for-tat tariffs in an escalating attempt by Trump to induce Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan into giving up Brunson, who denies charges that he was involved in a coup attempt against Erdogan two years ago. “They have not proven to be a good friend,” Trump said of Turkey during the Cabinet meeting. “They have a great Christian pastor there. He’s an innocent man.” Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, had issued a blunt warning to Turkish ambassador Serdar Kilic when he met him on Monday at the White House, an administration official said on Thursday. When Kilic sought to tie conditions to Brunson’s release, Bolton waved them aside and said there would be no negotiations.

Read more …

But that was yesterday. Today, the lira’s lost 4% already.

Lira Rallies As Turkey Pledges Spending Cuts To Avoid IMF Bailout (G.)

Turkey’s finance minister sparked a recovery in the lira after he addressed thousands of international investors, pledging to protect beleaguered local banks and cut public spending to prevent the country defaulting on its loans. Berat Albayrak, who has faced criticism for failing to tackle the country’s growing financial crisis, spoke to around 6,000 investors on a conference call to rebuff concerns that a funding squeeze on Turkey’s banks and a damaging trade war with the US would force him to seek a rescue bailout from the IMF. Albayrak, who was appointed as finance minister last month by his father-in-law, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Turkey will not hesitate to provide support to the banking sector, which was capable of accessing funds itself during the current turmoil in financial markets.

He added that deposit withdrawals by panicked investors remained low and manageable. “We are experiencing unfavourable conditions but we will overcome,” he said. The Turkish lira was up 4% against the US dollar following the conference call and after reassuring words from the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, that Turkey’s stability was important. However, Albayrak’s attempt to shore up confidence in the lira was quickly undermined by the US Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who reportedly told president Donald Trump in a cabinet meeting that he was preparing further sanctions against Ankara. The lira slipped back to settle at just 1% up on the previous day.

Read more …

It’s not Spain or Italy. It’s Britain.

Turkish Tremors Will Cause Shocks In Britain (Times)

There are many strange things about Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but one of the oddest is his pet theory about interest rates. The Turkish president believes that high borrowing costs produce high inflation. “The interest rate is the cause and inflation is the result,” he said a few months ago. “The lower the interest rate is, the lower inflation will be.” No, you didn’t misread that. In defiance of economic orthodoxy (not to mention centuries of experience) which says that high interest rates tend to reduce inflation, President Erdogan believes the opposite. As one economist put it, this is a little like believing that umbrellas cause rain.

The Turkish president’s eccentric attitude towards monetary policy is not the only reason his country is now facing an economic crisis, but it is at least part of the explanation. Over the past decade or so, Turkey became one of the great bubbles of the modern era. Housing bubble? Check. Debt binge? Check. Yawning current account deficit? Check. Runaway inflation? Check. These traits alone qualified the Turkish economy for crisis candidacy some time ago. But as always, saying a country is due a crunch is far simpler than predicting when and how. And Turkey may well have muddled through a little longer were it not for four critical ingredients.

[..] Who is most exposed to this looming crisis? Conventional wisdom says Spain and Italy, whose banks have Turkish subsidiaries. However, this slightly misses the point, since much of that lending is in lira. Those banks should be able to survive even the loss of their stakes. The real question is: who has been lending Turkish companies all this foreign exchange debt? That brings us to the sting in the tail. For when you dig through Turkish treasury data, as the Deutsche Bank economist Oliver Harvey has, you discover that the country that lent most to Turkey, both short and long term, was the UK. That’s right: Britain, or more specifically the City of London, is by far the most exposed to a collapse in the Turkish economy.

Read more …

Creative accounting 101.

$125,000: The Pension Debt Each Chicago Household Is On The Hook For (WP)

Chicagoans have no idea how much pension debt Illinois politicians have saddled them with. Officially, Windy City residents are on the hook for $70 billion in total pension shortfalls from the city and its sister governments plus a share of Cook County and state pensions. But listen to Moody’s Investors Service, the rating agency that’s been most critical of Chicago’s finances, and you’ll get a different picture. Moody’s pegs the total pension debt burden for Chicagoans at $130 billion, nearly double the official numbers. (Yes, by chance the number is eerily similar to the official shortfall of $129 billion facing the five state-run pension funds. But don’t confuse the two.)

That’s scary news for Windy City residents. Barring real reforms, concessions from the unions or bankruptcy, Chicagoans can expect to be hit with whatever series of tax hikes politicians will try to enact to reduce that debt. That $130 billion is the total Moody’s calculates when adding up the direct pension debt owed by the city government, Chicago Public Schools, the park district and Chicago’s share of various Cook County governments and the five state pension funds. Moody’s takes a more realistic approach to investment assumptions than the city and county governments take.

Read more …

Russia’s had time to prepare.

Russian Oil Industry Would Weather US ‘Bill From Hell’ (R.)

Stiff new U.S. sanctions against Russia would only have a limited impact on its oil industry because it has drastically reduced its reliance on Western funding and foreign partnerships and is lessening its dependence on imported technology. Western sanctions imposed in 2014 over Russia’s annexation of Crimea have already made it extremely hard for many state oil firms such as Rosneft to borrow abroad or use Western technology to develop shale, offshore and Arctic deposits. While those measures have slowed down a number of challenging oil projects, they have done little to halt the Russian industry’s growth with production near a record high of 11.2 million barrels per day in July – and set to climb further.

Since 2014, the Russian oil industry has effectively halted borrowing from Western institutions, instead relying on its own cash flow and lending from state-owned banks while developing technology to replace services once supplied by Western firms. Analysts say this is partly why Russian oil stocks have been relatively unscathed since U.S. senators introduced legislation to impose new sanctions on Russia over its interference in U.S. elections and its activities in Syria and Ukraine. The measures introduced on Aug. 2, dubbed by the senators as the “bill from hell”, include potential curbs on the operations of state-owned Russian banks, restrictions on holding Russian sovereign debt as well as measures against Western involvement in Russian oil and gas projects.

Read more …

Too expensive.

NATO Repeats the Great Mistake of the Warsaw Pact (SCF)

Through the 1990s, during the terms of US President Bill Clinton, NATO relentlessly and inexorably expanded through Central Europe. Today, the expansion of that alliance eastward – encircling Russia with fiercely Russo-phobic regimes in one tiny country after another and in Ukraine, which is not tiny at all – continues. This NATO expansion – which the legendary George Kennan presciently warned against in vain – continues to drive the world the closer towards the threat of thermonuclear war. Far from bringing the United States and the Western NATO allies increased security, it strips them of the certainty of the peace and security they would enjoy if they instead sought a sincere, constructive and above all stable relationship with Russia.

It is argued that the addition of the old Warsaw Pact member states of Central Europe to NATO has dramatically strengthened NATO and gravely weakened Russia. This has been a universally-accepted assumption in the United States and throughout the West for the past quarter century. Yet it simply is not true. In reality, the United States and its Western European allies are now discovering the hard way the same lesson that drained and exhausted the Soviet Union from the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 to its dissolution 36 years later. The tier of Central European nations has always lacked the coherence, the industrial base and the combined economic infrastructure to generate significant industrial, financial or most of all strategic and military power.

[..] When nations such as France, Germany, the Soviet Union or the United States are seen as rising powers in the world, the small countries of Central Europe always hasten to ally themselves accordingly. They therefore adopt and discard Ottoman Islamic imperialism. Austrian Christian imperialism, democracy, Nazism, Communism and again democracy as easily as putting on or off different costumes at a fancy dress ball in Vienna or Budapest. As Russia rises once again in global standing and national power, supported by its genuinely powerful allies China, India and Pakistan in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the nations of Central Europe can be anticipated to reorient their own loyalties accordingly once again.

Read more …

Case in point: the cost of NATO and Russiagate.

Italy’s NATO Racket… A Bridge Too Far (SCF)

What should be a matter of urgent public demand is why Italy is increasing its national spending on military upgrades and procurements instead of civilian amenities. As with all European members of the NATO alliance, Italy is being pressured by the United States to ramp up its military expenditure. US President Donald Trump has made the NATO budget a priority, haranguing European states to increase their military spending to a level of 2 per cent of GDP. Trump has even since doubled that figure to 4 per cent. Washington’s demand on European allies predates Trump. At a NATO summit in 2015, when Barack Obama was president, all members of the military alliance then acceded to US pressure for greater allocation of budgets to hit the 2 per cent target.

The alleged threat of Russian aggression has been cited over and over as the main reason for boosting NATO. Figures show that Italy, as with other European countries, has sharply increased its annual military spending every year since the 2015 summit. The upward trend reverses a decade-long decline. Currently, Italy spends about $28 billion annually on military. That equates to only about 1.15 per cent of GDP, way below the US-demanded target of 2 per cent of GDP. But the disturbing thing is that Italy’s defense minister Elisabetta Trenta reportedly gave assurances to Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton that her government was committed to hitting its NATO target in the coming years. On current figures that translates roughly into a doubling of Italy’s annual military budget. Meanwhile, the Italian public have had to endure years of economic austerity from cutbacks in social spending and civilian infrastructure.

Read more …

But the company’s become a secret service.

Google Staff Tell Bosses China Censorship Is “Moral And Ethical” Crisis (IC)

Google employees are demanding answers from the company’s leadership amid growing internal protests over plans to launch a censored search engine in China. Staff inside the internet giant’s offices have agreed that the censorship project raises “urgent moral and ethical issues” and have circulated a letter saying so, calling on bosses to disclose more about the company’s work in China, which they say is shrouded in too much secrecy, according to three sources with knowledge of the matter. The internal furor began after The Intercept earlier this month revealed details about the censored search engine, which would remove content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

It would “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, leaked Google documents disclosed. The search platform is to be launched via an Android app, pending approval from Chinese officials. The censorship plan – code-named Dragonfly – was not widely known within Google. Prior to its public exposure, only a few hundred of Google’s 88,000 employees had been briefed about the project – around 0.35 percent of the total workforce. When the news spread through the company’s offices across the world, many employees expressed anger and confusion. Now, a letter has been circulated among staff calling for Google’s leadership to recognize that there is a “code yellow” situation – a kind of internal alert that signifies a crisis is unfolding.

The letter suggests that the Dragonfly initiative violates an internal Google artificial intelligence ethical code, which says that the company will not build or deploy technologies “whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.” The letter says: “Currently we do not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment. That the decision to build Dragonfly was made in secret, and progressed with the [artificial intelligence] Principles in place, makes clear that the Principles alone are not enough. We urgently need more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes: Google employees need to know what we’re building.”

Read more …

Don’t be surprised if he’s aquitted.

Jury in Paul Manafort’s Case Asks Judge to Redefine ‘Reasonable Doubt’ (BBG)

A Virginia jury deliberating the fraud charges against President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort sent a note with four questions to the judge in the case. Near the end of the first day of deliberations on Thursday, the jury asked whether a report of foreign bank and financial accounts, known as an FBAR, needed to be filed by a person with less than a 50 percent ownership. Manafort is charged with four counts of failing to file FBARs for offshore companies. The jury also asked about the definition of a shelf company.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III replied that the jurors should rely on their collective memory. The jury also requested that the judge redefine “reasonable doubt.” Ellis replied that the government wasn’t required to prove its case beyond “all doubt,” just to the extent that a person would consider reasonable. Finally, the jury asked if the exhibit list could be amended to include the indictment. The jury was excused for the day and is to return Friday to continue deliberations.

Read more …

Jul 242018
 
 July 24, 2018  Posted by at 9:01 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Félix Vallotton Sunset, Bronze-Purple 1911

 

Wildfire Kills At Least 50 Near Athens, Families Flee To Beaches (R.)
Ecuador ‘Close To Evicting’ Julian Assange From UK Embassy (Ind.)
NATO Trumped (SCF)
Dying Groundskeeper Testifies In Monsanto Roundup Cancer Trial (G.)
Russia Attacked Us (Jim Kunstler)
Cost To Insure Tesla’s Debt Rises On Growing Default Fears (R.)
The Low-Priced Home Shortage Continues (CNBC)
Exposing the American Okie-Doke (CP)
End ‘Botched’ Brexit, Corbyn Calls On UK To Back His Vision (R.)
Over-Promising Has Crippled Public Pensions (WirePoints)
Rubens Nudes Fall Foul Of Facebook Censors (G.)

 

 

Yesterday around noon the skies here in Athens started turning brown. We learned this was due to a wildfire west of the city. In late afternoon winds began picking up, a lot. Then this happened throughout the evening and night, in a wildfire at the exact opposite side of the city. Latest number of dead is now 54. 26 of them died together just 30 meters from the beach.

Wildfire Kills At Least 50 Near Athens, Families Flee To Beaches (R.)

A wildfire killed at least 50 people and injured more than 150 as it swept through a small resort town near Athens, with huge flames trapping families with children as they fled. The fire which hit Mati, 29 km (18 miles) east of the capital, late Monday afternoon was by far the country’s worst since flames devastated the southern Peloponnese peninsula in August 2007, killing dozens. People scrambled to the sea as the blaze closed in close to the shore. Hundreds were rescued by passing boats but others found their way blocked by smoke and flames. “I was briefed by a rescuer that he saw the shocking picture of 26 people tightly huddled in a field some 30 meters from the beach,” Nikos Economopoulos, head of Greece’s Red Cross, told Skai TV.

“They had tried to find an escape route but unfortunately these people and their kids didn’t make it in time,” he said. A Reuters witness also saw several bodies in the area. Mati is in the eastern Rafina region, a popular spot for Greek holidaymakers, particularly pensioners and children at camps. The 26 deaths came on top of more than 20 casualties reported by government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos earlier on Tuesday. He said more than 88 adults and 16 children were injured.

Read more …

They’re walking this back a little bit.

Ecuador ‘Close To Evicting’ Julian Assange From UK Embassy (Ind.)

Speculation about Mr Assange’s future has grown this month after the Sunday Times said senior officials from Ecuador and Britain have been in discussions since last week about how to remove him from the embassy after revocation of his asylum. “The situation is very serious. Things are coming to a head,” the source, who spoke on condition on anonymity, told Reuters. He said the latest information from inside the embassy was, “It’s not looking good”. However, both the Ecuadorean government and British government sources played down suggestions there was likely to be any imminent movement to break the stalemate.

“The Ecuadorian state will only talk and promote understandings about Mr Assange’s asylum, within the framework of international law, with the interested party’s lawyers and with the British government,” Ecuador’s foreign ministry said in a statement ahead of the visit. “At the moment, due to the complexity of the topic, a short or long-term solution is not in sight.” A British government source also said there was no sign of immediate progress. Last month, Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan told parliament that they were increasingly concerned about Mr Assange’s health. “It is our wish that this is brought to an end, and we would like to make the assurance that if he were to step out of the embassy, he would be treated humanely and properly,” Mr Duncan said. “The first priority would be to look after his health, which we think is deteriorating.”

Read more …

“If you don’t get up to 2% (or is it 4%?) and quickly too; I warned you. Goodbye. If you do get your spending up, then you don’t need us. Goodbye.”

NATO Trumped (SCF)

Indicators of European NATO members’ actual readiness and combat capability are stunning; the latest being “Only 4 of Germany’s 128 Eurofighter jets combat ready — report”; “Ground force: Half of France’s military planes ‘unfit to fly'”. “Britain’s ‘withered’ forces not fit to repel all-out attack”. “Europe’s Readiness Problem”. Obviously they’re not expecting a Russian attack any time soon. NATO is, as I have argued here, a paper tiger. It is questionable whether NATO members can conduct any operation without the USA providing satellite navigation and observation, air defence suppression, airborne command and control, inflight tankers, heavy lift and ammunition resupply to name a few deficiencies. So, either the Europeans are not worried; or, as Trump likes to say, they are free riders.

Six months ago I suggested that Trump may be trying to get out of what I called the “Gordian knot of entanglements”. President Trump can avoid new entanglements but he has inherited so many and they are, all of them, growing denser and thicker by the minute. Consider the famous story of the Gordian Knot: rather than trying to untie the fabulously complicated knot, Alexander drew his sword and cut it. How can Trump cut The Gordian Knot of American imperial entanglements? By getting others to untie it. He stomps out of NATO leaving them quaking: if you say Russia is the enemy, why do you act as if it isn’t; and if you act as if it isn’t, why do you say it is? And firing, over his shoulder, the threat: 2% by next January.

I believe it is a threat and a very neat one too: If you don’t get up to 2% (or is it 4%?) and quickly too; I warned you. Goodbye. If you do get your spending up, then you don’t need us. Goodbye.

Read more …

Their best shot may be if they can prove that Monsanto suppressed scientists.

Dying Groundskeeper Testifies In Monsanto Roundup Cancer Trial (G.)

Dewayne Johnson said that if he had known what he knew now about Roundup weedkiller, “I would’ve never sprayed that product on school grounds … if I knew it would cause harm … It’s unethical.” Johnson, a former school groundskeeper in northern California who is terminally ill, was testifying Monday in his landmark suit against Monsanto about the cancer risks of the company’s popular weedkiller. He is the first person to take the agrochemical company to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the Roundup brand is linked to cancer. He spoke for the first time during the trial in San Francisco, detailing his use of Monsanto’s products, his extensive exposure to herbicides, and his belief that the chemicals caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a blood cell cancer.

He also described the suffering he endured as skin lesions took over his body. “I’ve been going through a lot of pain,” said Johnson, a father of three who goes by the name Lee. “It really takes everything out of you … I’m not getting any better.” His doctors have said he may have just months to live. Johnson’s lawyers have argued in court that Monsanto has “fought science” over the years and worked to “bully” researchers who have raised concerns about potential health risks of its herbicide product. At the start of the trial, the attorneys presented internal Monsanto emails that they said revealed the corporation’s repeated efforts to ignore expert’s warnings while seeking favorable scientific analyses and helping to “ghostwrite” positive papers.

Thousands have brought similar legal claims across the US, and a federal judge in California ruled this month that hundreds of cancer survivors or those who lost loved ones can also proceed to trial. Johnson’s case has attracted international attention, with the judge allowing his team to present scientific arguments about glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide.

Read more …

“We await the fabled “moment of truth” when the avenging angel of price discovery returns and shatters the illusion that accounting fraud equals prosperity.”

Russia Attacked Us (Jim Kunstler)

The Helsinki summit meeting has the look of a turning point in Mr. Trump’s political fortunes. One irony is that he may escape his enemies’ efforts to nail him on any Russia “collusion” rap only to be sandbagged by financial turmoil as the dog days of summer turn nervously toward autumn. Events will cancel the myth that his actions as president have produced a booming economy. If anything, the activities that make up our economy have only become more vicious rackets, especially the war industries, with all their inducements to counter the imagined Russia threat.

The financial markets are the pillars of the fantasy that the US economy is roaring triumphantly. The markets are so fundamentally disabled by ten years of central bank interventions that they don’t express the actual value of any asset, whether stocks, or bonds, or gold, oil, labor, currencies, or the folly known as crypto-currency. We await the fabled “moment of truth” when the avenging angel of price discovery returns and shatters the illusion that accounting fraud equals prosperity.

The revelation that Mr. Trump is not an economic genius will spur a deeper dive by chimerical Democrats into nanny state quicksand. They will make the new fad of a Guaranteed Basic Income the centerpiece of the midterm election — even though many Democrats will not really believe in it. They are pretending not to notice how broke the USA actually is, and how spavined by unpayable debt. The lurking suspicion of all this is surely behind fantasies such as Russia attacked us, the displacement of abstruse and impalpable fear onto something simple and cartoonish, like the President of the United States.

Read more …

“The CDS is saying that there are a lot of people betting this company is going out of business…”

Cost To Insure Tesla’s Debt Rises On Growing Default Fears (R.)

The amount investors must pay to insure their debt holdings in Tesla Inc against declining credit quality rose on Monday to its second-highest price ever, implying the company is at a greater risk of default following a report that sparked concern that Tesla may need to raise funds. Insurance on Tesla’s debt, which is sold as a credit default swap contract, increased from Friday by 13 cents to $5.96 per $100 of Tesla debt. That followed a Wall Street Journal report on Sunday that Tesla had turned to some suppliers for a refund of previously made payments in a bid to make a profit, citing a memo sent by a Tesla global supply manager.

A Tesla spokesperson said on Monday that the company had no comment on the credit default swaps, but said in a statement in response to the WSJ story that Tesla had asked fewer than 10 suppliers to reduce capital expenditure project spending. Tesla said that any changes with these suppliers would improve future cash flows but not affect its ability to achieve profitability in the third quarter. Company founder and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk may be obligated to tap debt or equity markets again this year, according to analysts, though he has said he would do neither. [..] It cost $5.96 to insure $100 of Tesla’s debt, plus an upfront cost of around 18%, representing a total of 24.1% of the face value of the 2025 bond on Monday. “The CDS is saying that there are a lot of people betting this company is going out of business,” said Thomas Graff, head of fixed income at Brown Advisory.

Read more …

Trying to outdo Orwell. First blow a ginormous bubble and then claim there are not enough cheap homes.

The Low-Priced Home Shortage Continues (CNBC)

The nationwide housing shortage continues but is especially troublesome for homebuyers with a budget of $250,000 or less, Susan Wachter, professor of real estate and of finance at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, told CNBC on Monday. Rising labor, land and material costs are slowing down the supply, “except at higher prices, which is simply not affordable for the great middle, and that’s where we see the hit in … existing sales,” Wachter said on “Power Lunch.” Sales of existing homes are down for the third month in a row due to a shortage of properties, which results in higher prices and pushes some potential buyers out of the market.

Existing home sales fell 0.6% in June, or 2.2% from June 2017. And as prices for new home construction increase, construction in general is on the decline. Housing starts, or the number of new residential housing projects, decreased in June, plunging 12.3%. The loss represents the third month in a row of declines or a nine-month low. “That sets a price point for the existing sale market as well,” Wachter said. And with inventory at historic lows and a lack of new construction, existing homeowners are holding on to their homes longer, Wachter noted.

Read more …

I’ll leave this here.

Exposing the American Okie-Doke (CP)

The “founding fathers” deliberately arranged a system of governance that would protect the wealthy minority from the majority. Over time, as it fused with capitalism, this arrangement transformed the US government into a market. Railroad tycoons and robber barons forced their way into this market during the Gilded Age. Big business controlled the “public agenda” throughout the 20th century, with multinational firms taking root in the 1980s and 90s. Ronald Reagan ushered in the neoliberal era, which amounted to an all-out corporate coup of American politics. And, in 2010, the Supreme Court placed its stamp of approval on this system with its Citizens United decision, allowing anonymous donors unlimited access to politics through Political Action Committees (PACs).

In other words, the US government has been a traded commodity for a long time, in many ways since the beginning of the country’s founding. Wealth determines elections (over 90% of the time the campaign with the most money wins). Politicians are commodities that are bought by capitalists. Legislation is a commodity that is bought by lobbyists (employed by capitalists). This is the case for both parties and all politicians (because it is built into the system). The point: If you still believe your 5th-grade textbook and think you have a say in determining public policy in the US, you are furious right now. Because you believe democracy exists and that it was hijacked by a foreign government. However, if you realize democracy (or a republic) does not exist, the Russia/Trump revelations mean only one thing: the traded commodity known as the US government has gone global, following all of the other capitalist markets that have been globalized over the past 40 years.

Read more …

Anyone convinced by Corbyn?

End ‘Botched’ Brexit, Corbyn Calls On UK To Back His Vision (R.)

British opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn will call on the government on Tuesday to back his vision for a new customs union with the European Union to avoid a “botched” Brexit leaving the country “in hock to Donald Trump”. Unveiling a Labour Party campaign to boost manufacturing and keep public contracts in Britain, Corbyn will also increase the pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May over her Brexit plans by suggesting she back his vision of “a brand new customs union”. May is struggling to sell what she calls her business-friendly Brexit to not only the competing factions in her governing Conservative Party but also across Britain just over eight months before the country is due to leave in March.

But Corbyn also faces dissent in his party, with many Labour lawmakers and members calling for him to back a second referendum on any deal and support keeping the closest possible ties with the EU by staying in its single market and customs union. “Theresa May and her warring cabinet should think again, even at this late stage, and reconsider the option of negotiating a brand new customs union,” Corbyn will tell the EEF manufacturers’ organisation in the city of Birmingham. “A botched…Brexit will sell our manufacturers short with the fantasy of a free trading buccaneering future, which in reality would be a nightmare of chlorinated chicken, public services sold to multinational companies and our country in hock to Donald Trump,” he will say, according to excerpts of his speech.

Read more …

Extensive report h/t ZH

Over-Promising Has Crippled Public Pensions (WirePoints)

The real problem plaguing public pension funds nationwide has gone largely ignored. Most reporting usually focuses on the underfunding of state plans and blames the crises on a lack of taxpayer dollars. But a Wirepoints analysis of 2003-2016 Pew Charitable Trust and other pension data found that it’s the uncontrolled growth in pension promises that’s actually wreaking havoc on state budgets and taxpayers alike. Overpromising is the true cause of many state crises. Underfunding is often just a symptom of this underlying problem. Wirepoints found that the growth in accrued liabilities has been extreme in many states, often growing two to three times faster than the pace of their economies. It’s no wonder taxpayer contributions haven’t been able to keep up.

The reasons for that growth vary state to state – from bigger benefits to reductions in discount rates – but the reasons don’t matter to ordinary residents. Regardless of how or when those increases were created, it’s taxpayers that are increasingly on the hook for them. Unsurprisingly, the states with the most out-of-control promises are home to some of the nation’s worst pension crises. Take New Jersey, for example. The total pension benefits it owed in 2003 – what are known as accrued liabilities – were $88 billion. That was the PV, or present value, of what active state workers and retirees were promised in pension benefits by the state at the time. Today, promises to active workers and pensioners have jumped to $217 billion – a growth of 176% in just 13 years. That increase in total obligations is four times greater than the growth in the state’s GDP, up only 41%.

Read more …

Oh yes, we really need censorship by a bunch of poorly educated kids.

Rubens Nudes Fall Foul Of Facebook Censors (G.)

Rubens nudes have entranced those visiting the world’s great art galleries for some 400 years. Contemporaries on whom the Flemish master is said to have had a profound impact include Van Dyck and Rembrandt … but none of this has passed muster with Facebook’s censors. In a move that has prompted a semi-playful complaint to the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, it has taken down a series of promotions on social media for the Belgian region of Flanders because they feature works by the artist famous for his Baroque paintings of voluptuous women and cherubs. Advertisements containing sexually oriented content, including artistic or educational nudes, apart from statues, are prohibited on the site.

In an open letter signed by most of the museums in Flanders, the Flemish tourist board, Toerisme Vlaanderen, has written to Zuckerberg to ask for a rethink. “Breasts, buttocks and Peter Paul Rubens’ cherubs are all considered indecent”, the letter says. “Not by us, but by you … Even though we secretly have to laugh about it, your cultural censorship is making life rather difficult for us.” Posts removed have even included an advert featuring Rubens’ The Descent from the Cross, in which Jesus is naked in his loincloth. The Flemish tourist board has pushed its point by releasing a short video in which the “nude police” drag away visitors at the Rubens House in Antwerp to stop them from gazing at the implicated paintings.

Read more …

Jul 222018
 


Paul Gauguin The Vision after the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel) 1888

 

Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange (Greenwald)
In Historic First, DOJ Releases Carter Page FISA Application (ZH)
Breannan And The 2016 Spy Scandal (Strassel)
UK To Refuse To Pay Brexit Bill Without Trade Deal (AFP)
Warning On Australia’s Looming Interest-Only Crisis (SMH)
German Industry Groups Warn US On Tariffs Ahead Of EU-US Meeting (R.)
NATO: Doomed To Destruction By Its Own Growth (SCF)
Hundreds of Syrian ‘White Helmets’ Evacuated By Israel to Jordan (R.)
Our Vanishingly Pleasant Land (McCarthy)

 

 

This is physically sickening. Checked front web pages of BBC, Guardian and Independent today: not a word. Hence: another gag order. Yes, there are journalists who don’t like Assange, but it’s not about liking him. It’s about your own freedom to speak. Guess that’s already gone then. I feel sick to my stomach.

Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange (Greenwald)

Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno traveled to London on Friday for the ostensible purpose of speaking at the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit (Moreno has been using a wheelchair since being shot in a 1998 robbery attempt). The concealed, actual purpose of the President’s trip is to meet with British officials to finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange, in place since 2012, eject him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and then hand over the WikiLeaks founder to British authorities. Moreno’s itinerary also notably includes a trip to Madrid, where he will meet with Spanish officials still seething over Assange’s denunciation of human rights abuses perpetrated by Spain’s central government against protesters marching for Catalonia independence.

Almost three months ago, Ecuador blocked Assange from accessing the internet, and Assange has not been able to communicate with the outside world ever since. The primary factor in Ecuador’s decision to silence him was Spanish anger over Assange’s tweets about Catalonia. A source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office, unauthorized to speak publicly, has confirmed to the Intercept that Moreno is close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized, an agreement to hand over Assange to the UK within the next several weeks. The withdrawal of asylum and physical ejection of Assange could come as early as this week. On Friday, RT reported that Ecuador was preparing to enter into such an agreement.

The consequences of such an agreement depend in part on the concessions Ecuador extracts in exchange for withdrawing Assange’s asylum. But as former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa told the Intercept in an interview in May, Moreno’s government has returned Ecuador to a highly “subservient” and “submissive” posture toward western governments.

Read more …

The only thing left on the menu is nothingburgers.

In Historic First, DOJ Releases Carter Page FISA Application (ZH)

The Department of Justice late Friday released via the FBI’s FOIA Vault a redacted copy of the Carter Page FISA warrant application and several renewals, which accuse Page of being a Russian spy, as summarized by the New York Times – which obtained a copy of the materials through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Of note, in the nearly two years since the application was filed, Page hasn’t been charged with any of the allegations contained within it. The previously top-secret document is the first such release by the DOJ in the 40 years since the surveillance law was enacted. In April, the DOJ said they were “processing for potential redaction and release certain [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] materials related to Carter Page,” after watchdog group Judicial Watch and several other organizations filed similar lawsuits.

The application reads in part: “Identity of the target The target of this application is Carter W. Page, a U.S. person, and an agent of a foreign power, described in detail below.” “The F.B.I. believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government,” the warrant application continues. A line was then redacted, and then it picked up with “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law. Mr. Page is a former foreign policy adviser to a candidate for U.S. president.” -NYT. The document then concludes that Page was allegedly “collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government,” which they viewed as probably cause to spy on him – and again, which Page has never been charged with.

Page – who has repeatedly denied being a Russian spy, said in April that the FISA application was “beyond words,” and a “Joke,” while claiming that he has never served as an agent for a foreign government. We would also note that he hasn’t been charged as one. Page was targeted months earlier by FBI informant Stefan Halper, who formed a relationship with Page and several other Trump aides as part of the Obama administration’s active counterintelligence operation on the Trump campaign. While President Trump has characterized the entire counterintelligence operation as a “witch hunt,” an increasing chorus of frustrated GOP lawmakers have begun to echo his sentiment, as we are now in month 18 of post-inaugural investigation by the Department of Justice.

Read more …

When intelligence becomes partisan political, that’s a big problem.

Breannan And The 2016 Spy Scandal (Strassel)

Mr. Comey stands accused of flouting the rules, breaking the chain of command, abusing investigatory powers. Yet it seems far likelier that the FBI’s Trump investigation was a function of arrogance and overconfidence than some partisan plot. No such case can be made for Mr. Brennan. Before his nomination as CIA director, he served as a close Obama adviser. And the record shows he went on to use his position—as head of the most powerful spy agency in the world—to assist Hillary Clinton’s campaign (and keep his job).

Mr. Brennan has taken credit for launching the Trump investigation. At a House Intelligence Committee hearing in May 2017, he explained that he became “aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons.” The CIA can’t investigate U.S. citizens, but he made sure that “every information and bit of intelligence” was “shared with the bureau,” meaning the FBI. This information, he said, “served as the basis for the FBI investigation.” My sources suggest Mr. Brennan was overstating his initial role, but either way, by his own testimony, he was an Obama-Clinton partisan was pushing information to the FBI and pressuring it to act.

More notable, Mr. Brennan then took the lead on shaping the narrative that Russia was interfering in the election specifically to help Mr. Trump – which quickly evolved into the Trump-collusion narrative. Team Clinton was eager to make the claim, especially in light of the Democratic National Committee server hack. Numerous reports show Mr. Brennan aggressively pushing the same line internally. Their problem was that as of July 2016 even then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper didn’t buy it. He publicly refused to say who was responsible for the hack, or ascribe motivation. Mr. Brennan also couldn’t get the FBI to sign on to the view; the bureau continued to believe Russian cyberattacks were aimed at disrupting the U.S. political system generally, not aiding Mr. Trump.

Read more …

The UK already agreed to pay it.

UK To Refuse To Pay Brexit Bill Without Trade Deal (AFP)

Britain will only pay its EU divorce bill if the bloc agrees the framework for a future trade deal, the new Brexit Secretary warned in an interview published Sunday. Dominic Raab, who replaced David Davis after he quit the role earlier this month in protest over the government’s Brexit strategy, said “some conditionality between the two” was needed. He added that the Article 50 mechanism used to trigger Britain’s imminent exit from the European Union provided for new deal details. “Article 50 requires, as we negotiate the withdrawal agreement, that there’s a future framework for our new relationship going forward, so the two are linked,” Raab told the Sunday Telegraph.

“You can’t have one side fulfilling its side of the bargain and the other side not, or going slow, or failing to commit on its side. “So I think we do need to make sure that there’s some conditionality between the two.” The British government has sent mixed signals so far on the divorce bill. Prime Minister Theresa May agreed in December to a financial settlement totalling £35 to £39 billion ($46-51 billion, 39-44 billion euros) that ministers said depended on agreeing future trade ties. But cabinet members have since cast doubt on the position. Finance minister Philip Hammond said shortly afterwards he found it “inconceivable” Britain would not pay its bill, which he described as “not a credible scenario”.

The country is set to leave the bloc on March 30, but the two sides want to strike a divorce agreement by late October in order to give parliament enough time to endorse a deal. Raab met the EU’s top negotiator Michel Barnier for the first time on Friday, where he heard doubts over May’s new Brexit blueprint for the future relationship. But Barnier noted the priority in talks should be on finalising the initial divorce deal. A hardline stance by the British government on the financial settlement could complicate progress, with Raab insisting on the link with the bill and a future agreement. “Certainly it needs to go into the arrangements we have at international level with our EU partners,” he told the Telegraph. “We need to make it clear that the two are linked.”

Read more …

Australia’s bad, but not the only country with an interest-only problem.

Warning On Australia’s Looming Interest-Only Crisis (SMH)

Australia’s version of the sub-prime crisis that ushered in the global financial crisis could be looming, with a significant number of the 1.5 million households with interest-only loans likely to struggle with higher repayments, experts warn. Martin North, the principal at consultancy Digital Finance Analytics, said interest-only loans account for about $700 billion of the $1.7 trillion in Australian mortgage lending and it was “our version of the GFC”. “My view is we’re in somewhat similar territory to where the US was in 2006 before the GFC,” Mr North said.

Craig Morgan, managing director of Independent Mortgage Planners, said one in five people who took a loan two or three years ago would not qualify for the same loan now, because of the crackdown on lending by the regulator and ongoing fallout from the Royal Commission into financial services. “In the last six months lenders have had this lightbulb moment of what ‘responsible lending’ means,” Mr Morgan said. One of the triggers for the GFC was rising defaults from over-leveraged borrowers who were unable to refinance when their honeymoon rates ended. However, the sub-prime lending in the United States before the GFC included large mortgages being given to people without jobs or on minimum wage.

“This is absolutely not ‘sub-prime’ in the US definition but there were people [in Australia] who were being encouraged to get very big loans on the fact that principal & interest was impossible to service but they could service interest-only,” Mr North said. “We also know that some interest-only loans were not investors but they are actually first-home buyers encouraged to go in at the top of the market.” The Reserve Bank has previously warned $500 billion in interest-only loans are set to expire in the next four years, causing a significant jump in repayments of 30-40 per cent when borrowers are forced to start paying back the principal.

Read more …

The car industry may be too complex for simple tariffs.

German Industry Groups Warn US On Tariffs Ahead Of EU-US Meeting (R.)

German industry groups warned on Sunday, ahead of a meeting between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.S. President Donald Trump, that tariffs the United States has recently imposed or threatened risk harming the U.S. itself. The U.S. imposed tariffs on EU steel and aluminum on June 1 and Trump is threatening to extend them to EU cars and car parts. Juncker will discuss trade with Trump at a meeting on Wednesday. Dieter Kempf, head of Germany’s BDI industry association, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper it was wise for the European Union and United States to continue their discussions.

“The tariffs under the guise of national security should be abolished,” Kempf said, adding that Juncker needed to make clear to Trump that the United States would harm itself with tariffs on cars and car parts. He added that the German auto industry employed more than 118,000 people in the United States and 60 percent of what they produced was exported to other countries from the U.S. “Europe should not let itself be blackmailed and should put in a confident appearance in the United States,” he added. EU officials have sought to lower expectations about what Juncker can achieve, and downplayed suggestions that he will arrive in Washington with a novel plan to restore good relations.

Eric Schweitzer, president of the DIHK Chambers of Commerce, told Welt am Sonntag he welcomed Juncker’s attempt to persuade the U.S. government not to impose tariffs on cars. “All arguments in favor of such tariffs are … ultimately far-fetched,” he said.

Read more …

Pentagon just delivered $200 million in deadly weapons to Ukraine. Madness.

NATO: Doomed To Destruction By Its Own Growth (SCF)

In the 1960s, Marvel Comics writer Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby in the United States created a superhero with a novel twist. He was called Giant-Man, and the bigger he got, the weaker he became. Today that character is a prophetic parable about the future of the post- Cold War “super-NATO” that has expanded to include 29 nations compromising more than 880 million people. First it absorbed all the former Warsaw Pact member states in Central Europe. Then it absorbed the three tiny and virulently anti-Russian Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia. Now NATO is looking to embrace former Soviet Georgia and Ukraine.

As if all this was not enough, some genius at NATO Supreme Headquarters in Brussels came up with the idea of calling the alliance’s June 2016 military exercises in Eastern Europe ANACONDA. An anaconda is a gigantic carnivorous snake in the Amazon rain forest that first encircles its victims, crushes them to death and then devours them. What message was Russia meant to take from such tasteless nomenclature? However, it will not happen. Far from burying Russia, the US-led NATO alliance has been burying itself instead through its reckless, unending and remorseless growth. The curse of Giant Man is upon it. When the comic book hero Giant Man grew to 50 or 60 feet tall, he collapsed under his own weight. Such a fate is already happening to NATO.

The fundamental problem of the NATO alliance is that it is simultaneously too big and too diverse. The bigger it gets, the weaker it gets. This is because, with every state that joins the Alliance, the only militarily significant power within it, the United States, takes on an additional commitment to defend it. What does the United States get in return for its reckless bestowal of such earth shaking commitments? It gets nothing at all. When a tiny nation like Lithuania or Estonia boasts about meeting the 2 percent of GDP defense spending requirement of NATO this is ludicrous. The armed forces and GDP’s of such countries are so small as to be nonexistent. The much larger nations in the Alliance in Western Europe make no pretense of coming remotely close to their two percent defense spending pledge.

Read more …

No, not a daring escape, as I read somewhere. Negotiated by Russia.

Hundreds of Syrian ‘White Helmets’ Evacuated By Israel to Jordan (R.)

About 800 members of Syria’s White Helmets civil defense group and their families were evacuated via Israel to Jordan on Sunday from southwest Syria, where a Russian-backed Syrian government offensive is under way, media said. In a statement, the Israeli military said it had completed “a humanitarian effort to rescue members of a Syrian civil organization and their families … due to an immediate threat to their lives”. It said they were transferred to a neighboring country, which it did not identify, and that the evacuation came at the request of the United States and several European countries.

Israeli media identified the Syrians as belonging to the White Helmets organization. Officially called the Syrian Civil Defense but known by their distinctive white helmets, the group has operated a rescue service in rebel-held parts of Syria. Jordan’s official Petra news agency said on its website the kingdom “authorized the United Nations to organize the passage of about 800 Syrian citizens through Jordan for resettlement in Western countries”. The agency identified the Syrians as civil defense workers who fled areas controlled by the Syrian opposition after attacks there by the Syrian army. Petra said they would remain in a closed area in Jordan and that Britain, Germany and Canada had agreed to resettle them within three months.

Read more …

Poison to feed ourselves.

Our Vanishingly Pleasant Land (McCarthy)

It’s bizarre: in what seems like a display of obtuseness on a nationwide scale, it is still not generally realised or admitted that across huge swathes of the land, the biodiversity that at the end of the second world war was giving animation and vibrant life to the countryside as it had always done has simply vanished. By the government’s own admission, farmland birds have declined by 56% just since 1970; and the wild flowers have gone, and the butterflies have disappeared in their turn. Farewell to the spotted flycatcher, adios to the corncockle, goodbye to the high brown fritillary: what remains may be green, at least in spring, but that is mainly the pesticide-saturated crops; in wildlife terms, the landscape is now grossly impoverished, beyond any other one in Europe.

In his important new book, Cocker, one of our leading Nature writers, tackles head-on this remarkable twin phenomenon of destruction and ignorance, and he does so on an ambitious scale, seeking to explain and understand it by looking back in detail over a century of growing conservation efforts by individuals, charities, quangos and governments. How have they failed? In particular he is preoccupied with a paradox: how can our Nature have been so devastated, when there are more people who are members of green organisations in Britain than anywhere else? How can it have happened at the very moment in history that saw the rise of a new popular philosophy, environmentalism?

The simple answer is that this moment in history also saw the rise of intensive farming, a juggernaut beyond the power of green groups to control – and indeed beyond the power of individual governments once the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union was fixed in place. It is modern industrial agriculture, above all by its immense reliance on poisons to boost crop yields, that has wiped out the wildlife of our countryside on a scarcely believable scale.

Read more …

Jul 132018
 
 July 13, 2018  Posted by at 9:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Vincent van Gogh View of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer 1888

 

Stock Markets See the US Winning the Trade War, Defying Propaganda (WS)
A Decade On, Pre-Crisis Mortgages Linger For Big Banks, Homeowners (R.)
Fed’s Escape From Crisis Holdings Could Hit Dead End (R.)
Social Security, Medicare To Add Another $50 Trillion to Our National Debt (JM)
China’s Record Trade Surplus With US Further Inflames Trade Tensions (R.)
Approval Of Brexit Negotiations Lowest On Record (Orb)
No Brand Of Brexit Can Command A Commons Majority (G.)
Donald Trump Is Right. NATO Is A Costly White Elephant (G.)
Trump Ready To Help Some NATO States Buy US Arms (R.)
Who Wants To Disrupt Strategic Balance In The Black Sea Region? (SCF)
Germany Puts Last Bailout Tranche to Greece on Hold (GR)
Europe’s Remarkable Ability To Remain In Denial (Varoufakis)
US Judge Asked To Create Mental Health Fund For Migrant Children (R.)
Facebook Users Marked With “Treason” Label (ZH)

 

 

“Now they had a fig leaf – the threat of future tariffs – behind which to hide their long-planned offshoring strategies.”

Stock Markets See the US Winning the Trade War, Defying Propaganda (WS)

The trade war talk has been going on since the presidential campaign but markets just brushed it off and rallied. In 2018, the trade war verbiage moved to the foreground. But until June 14, the administration vacillated between thinking about tariffs and putting the trade war “on hold,” depending on who was doing the talking or tweeting. This vacillation ended on June 14 (Thursday) evening, when it was reported that Trump had approved to hit an initial list of $50 billion in goods (1,300 products) from China with tariffs of 25%. At the time, the administration was also preparing a second list of products, accounting for another $100 billion in imports from China.

On the evening of June 19 (Monday), Trump threatened to hit another $200 billion of imports from China with tariffs of 10%. And on Tuesday, the Shanghai stock market plunged. Markets were taking it seriously. Since then, Corporate America’s propaganda machine – the same that for the past two decades had extolled the unrivalled virtues of offshoring production to cheap countries – fired up the mainstream media, which launched into incessant, deafening, repetitive, and manipulative coverage of how these tariffs would hurt US jobs more than anything.

Two glorious examples are Harley-Davidson and GM, which had been laying off workers and shutting plants in the US for years as they were offshoring production to cheap countries. For example, in July 2017, Harley-Davidson announced layoffs in the US as it was building a factory in Thailand. GM has been laying off workers in the US since 2016, even as it opted to produce more models in Mexico. Now they had a fig leaf – the threat of future tariffs – behind which to hide their long-planned offshoring strategies.

Read more …

TBTF banks have no incentive to come clean.

A Decade On, Pre-Crisis Mortgages Linger For Big Banks, Homeowners (R.)

A decade on big U.S. banks are still running down and selling off crisis-era mortgages, a process executives point to as weighing on loan growth. Eager to see a turning point in loan books, analysts count these portfolios as one factor, along with home equity loan runoff and new mortgage demand, to watch for when deciphering the true loan growth picture as U.S. second-quarter bank earnings start on Friday. Wells Fargo and Bank of America executives have flagged portfolios from prior to the 2008-2009 crisis era where banks are no longer originating similar new products when they are asked to predict a turning point in consumer loans. “These are portfolios of a bygone era that were very, very painful for the banks,” said Gerard Cassidy at RBC Capital Markets.

“They are not plain vanilla portfolios, which means they are more costly to manage. It may just not be worth the headache.” Analysts have said higher loan growth is critical to driving bank’s stock prices, but they anticipate only a modest acceleration year over year, driven primarily by commercial and industrial loans, not residential. “Remember that there’s a portion of that book that, again, is pre-crisis,” Chief Executive Tim Sloan said about Wells Fargo’s mortgage book at a May conference. He added the bank continues to examine the older portfolio’s risk-return tradeoff and sells assets when the opportunity arises, factors “that could have some impact” on growth.

Read more …

Backpedalling.

Fed’s Escape From Crisis Holdings Could Hit Dead End (R.)

Not long ago the Federal Reserve expected to quietly shed nearly half of its $4.5-trillion portfolio by around 2022, leaving little trace of the extraordinary steps it took to face down the financial crisis. But an unexpected market kink could force the Fed to scrap the plan two or three years early and permanently leave it holding $1 trillion more than it wanted. The U.S. central bank is making adjustments on the fly and keeping its options open. “I don’t think that’s problematic in any way” to halt the process “somewhat earlier,” William Dudley, the former New York Fed president and key architect of the portfolio strategy, told reporters last month.

Yet if the world’s largest holder of U.S. bonds tossed out its play book and effectively took on a more accommodative stance, the result could be an across-the-board easing of market borrowing costs, the foreign-exchange value of the dollar, and of the growing strains on emerging markets. “The evidence that we have suggests that the ultimate size of the balance sheet will be bigger than what people expected,” said Matthew Luzzetti, senior economist at Deutsche Bank Securities in New York. All of this amounts to the final chapter in the Fed’s unprecedented decision over the last decade to buy some $3.5 trillion in mortgage and Treasury bonds in an effort to boost riskier investments, hiring and economic recovery from recession. In a nod to a stronger U.S. economy, the Fed since 2015 has raised interest rates well above zero and, since October of last year, begun shrinking its balance sheet to a more normal but yet-unspecified size.

Read more …

“As of this year, both programs are in negative cash flow, meaning Congress must provide additional cash to pay the promised benefits.”

Social Security, Medicare To Add Another $50 Trillion to Our National Debt (JM)

The official, on-the-books federal debt is currently about $21.2 trillion, according to the US National Debt Clock. $21.2T is the face amount of all outstanding Treasury paper, including so-called “internal” debt. This is about 105% of GDP and it’s only the federal government. If you add in state and local debt, that adds another $3.1 trillion to bring total government debt in the US to $24.3 trillion or more than 120% of GDP. Then there’s corporate debt, home mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and more. Add it all together and total debt is about 330% of GDP, according to the IIF data I cited in Debt Clock Ticking. We are in hock up to our ears. In calculating debt, however, we don’t factor in Social Security and Medicare. These aren’t yet debt because they have dedicated revenue streams: payroll taxes.

Most Medicare recipients also pay premiums. To date, these revenue sources have covered current expenditures and more, allowing the programs to build up reserves. But that’s about to change. As of this year, both programs are in negative cash flow, meaning Congress must provide additional cash to pay the promised benefits. It will get worse, too. The so-called “trust funds” are going to run dry sooner or later, and it may be sooner. This month’s annual trustee report estimated Social Security will run out of reserves in 2034, and the hospitalization part of Medicare will go dry in 2026. Just for the record, those “trust funds” don’t exist except as an accounting fiction. It is like you saving $100,000 for your child’s education and then borrowing all the money from your child’s education fund.

You can pretend that you have set aside $100,000 for your child’s future education, but when it comes time to make those payments, you’ll have to pull it out of current income or liquidate other assets. The US government has borrowed (or used or whatever euphemism you want to apply) all the money in those trust funds. So, talking about running out of reserves in 2034 or 2026 is rather meaningless. We’ve already run out of reserves. Any time a politician talks about putting a “lock box” around Social Security or Medicare trust funds, he or she is either staggeringly ignorant or lying.

Read more …

Stockpiling ahead of the crash?!

China’s Record Trade Surplus With US Further Inflames Trade Tensions (R.)

China’s trade surplus with the United States swelled to a record in June as its overall exports remained solid, a result that could further inflame a bitter trade dispute with Washington. The data came after the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump raised the stakes in its trade row with China on Tuesday, saying it would slap 10 percent tariffs on an extra $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, including numerous consumer items. China’s trade surplus with the United States, which is at the center of the tariff tussle, widened to a record monthly high of $28.97 billion, up from $24.58 billion in May, according to Reuters calculations based on official data going back to 2008.

Trump, who has demanded Beijing cut the trade surplus, could use the latest result to further ratchet up pressure on China after both sides last week imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on $34 billion of each other’s goods. Washington has warned it may ultimately impose tariffs on more than $500 billion worth of Chinese goods – nearly the total amount of U.S. imports from China last year. The dispute has jolted global financial markets, raising worries a full-scale trade war could derail the world economy. Chinese stocks fell into bear market territory and the yuan currency has skidded, though there have been signs in recent days its central bank is moving to slow the currency’s declines.

[..] China’s exports to the United States rose 13.6 percent in the first half of 2018 from a year earlier, while its imports from the U.S. rose 11.8 percent in the same period. Separate data showed Chinese shipments to U.S. ports rose more than expected in June, suggesting some retailers moved up orders to insulate themselves from the intensifying trade war that threatens to send up costs on a growing number of consumer products. For January-June China’s trade surplus with the United States rose to $133.76 billion, compared with about $117.51 billion in the same period last year.

Read more …

May will have to find something else.

Approval Of Brexit Negotiations Lowest On Record (Orb)

Approval of the Brexit negotiations has seen a significant fall in July – now the lowest on record. Last month 36% approved of the negotiations and it is now 29%. In June, 32% agreed that Theresa May would get the right deal for Britain in the Brexit negotiations – this has now fallen to 26% – the lowest again on record. These 2,027 interviews were carried out before the resignation of Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Read more …

Perhaps the biggest one of a million problems.

No Brand Of Brexit Can Command A Commons Majority (G.)

Theresa May’s new cabinet has now rallied behind her Chequers plan, set out fully in the government’s white paper on future UK-EU relations. However, far from settling the Brexit debate, recent events have given rise to another nightmare scenario that is only just beginning to take shape: that every conceivable Brexit outcome may now not command a parliamentary majority. The conventional wisdom in Westminster is that since the general election last year, there is no House of Commons majority for a hard Brexit. With a working majority of only 13, including the Democratic Unionists, it would take just seven Tory MPs to oppose it. But there are at least 20-30 pro-European Tories minded to do so.

Yet May’s softer Brexit blueprint has also significantly increased the prospect of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs voting against her EU deal when it is put to parliament later this year. In the febrile atmosphere at Westminster this week, there have been rumours that up to 70 Tories could oppose it – especially if, as seems likely, May makes further concessions in order to win the EU’s backing for a bespoke deal, instead of having to choose between a Canada or Norway-style agreement. Hints in the white paper about a preferential system for EU migrants, despite May’s rhetoric about ending free movement of labour, will fuel the Tory revolt.

May’s embrace for a softer Brexit has therefore changed the Commons arithmetic – and the political calculations that come with it. It is now Labour MPs, rather than Tory ones, who may prove critical. In recognition of this, May has been reaching out to Labour MPs in the hope that soft Brexit supporters vote for her deal, neutralising the impact of the Eurosceptics voting against it. In an unusual move, David Lidington, the Cabinet Office minister and May’s de facto deputy, briefed Labour (as well as Liberal Democrat and SNP) MPs on the Chequers plan. But Labour won’t want to save May. Their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, will almost certainly whip Labour MPs to oppose May’s deal, in the hope that the ensuing chaos will result in an election.

Read more …

What I said a few days ago.

Donald Trump Is Right. NATO Is A Costly White Elephant (G.)

Nato was founded in 1949 in response to Stalin’s blockade of Berlin. It was meant to “keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”. Since then, it has welcomed the American nuclear shield, at vast cost to America. Otherwise, its only military achievements have been the breakup of Yugoslavia and the loss of a squalid 17-year war in Afghanistan. Neither has anything to do with the North Atlantic. Nothing better symbolised this than Theresa May’s bizarre gift to Trump this week of 450 British troops for Kabul. Nato was about deterring an attack on Europe from Russia. In 1945, the west agreed the Potsdam settlement, accepting the Soviets’ “sphere of influence” over eastern Europe.

Thus when Russia invaded Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, there was no question of Nato, or Europe, retaliating. The iron curtain was iron. Come 1989 and the collapse of Potsdam Europe, Nato did not approach a broken Russia to agree some new settlement. It did the opposite. To protests from Russia’s weakened leader, Boris Yeltsin, it gathered former Warsaw Pact states under its wing and advanced its border east towards Russia. It embraced Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, then the Baltic states, Romania and Bulgaria. It was like Khrushchev stationing missiles in Cuba. Only Germany counselled caution.

Nato’s provocation was so blatant as to be an open invitation to any new populist leader in Moscow to exploit Russia’s bruised patriotism: hence Vladimir Putin. He and his kleptocratic cronies are virtually a Nato creation. But the fact that America was party to the provocation does not invalidate Trump’s question. What is Nato’s policy beyond needling Russia and feebly relying on the American shield?

Read more …

But in the end, it’s all about money. That’s why NATO still exists. Nothing to do with security.

Trump Ready To Help Some NATO States Buy US Arms (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was ready to help smaller NATO countries to buy U.S. weapons as he pushed them to spend more on their own defense. Speaking after a NATO summit, at which he said nations had agreed on new spending pledges, Trump said some less wealthy members had asked during meetings in Brussels if he could help them buy U.S. arms equipment, but did not name the countries. Asked about pressures on countries with weaker finances, he said, “We have many wealthy countries with us today but we have some that aren’t so wealthy and they did ask me if they could buy the military equipment, and could I help them out, and we will help them out a little bit,” he told a news conference.

“We are not going to finance it for them but we will make sure that they are able to get payments and various other things so they can buy – because the United States makes by far the best military equipment in the world: the best jets, the best missiles, the best guns, the best everything.” Trump claimed a personal victory at the summit after telling European allies to increase spending or lose Washington’s support. The White House has been pushing a “Buy American” initiative which aims to help drum up billions of dollars more in arms business. The initiative has raised concerns in Europe, where some see increased weapons sales as a key goal of Trump’s repeated calls for NATO members to increase their military spending.

Read more …

Americans have no business there. Go home.

Who Wants To Disrupt Strategic Balance In The Black Sea Region? (SCF)

The US-led series of drills in and around Ukraine’s Black Sea coastline is part of NATO exercise Sea Breeze that kicked off on July 9 to last until July 21. The training event involves an international armada representing 19 countries, including such non-NATO states as Ukraine, India, Georgia, the United Arab Emirates and Moldova. All in all, 29 warships, 1 submarine, and 25 aircraft are involved in the exercise held in Odessa and Mykolayiv and the northwestern Black Sea region. The Black Sea regional security is actually an issue paid little attention to. It’s not addressed by an international forum. NATO official documents adopt an openly provocative language to challenge Russia.

The North Atlantic Alliance always emphasizes the Black Sea’s role as a critical intersection. The US-led NATO activities have been intensifying since 2014 to turn the region into another hotbed along with the South China Sea and the Baltic. Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania, three of the six Black Sea countries, are NATO members. Ukraine and Georgia are the bloc’s close partners aspiring for membership. The alliance has a significant military presence in Romania, including a US Aegis Ashore BMD system capable of firing long-range cruise missiles at Russia.

American military presence in Romania and Bulgaria is gradually growing. The US plans to deploy up to 2,500 troops at Novo Selo, Bulgaria. The facility is large enough to accommodate as many as 5,000 servicemen. Heavy tanks deployment is envisaged. The 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, where NATO pledged not to deploy “substantial forces” near Russia, seems to be forgotten. The US Navy’s policy is aimed at ramping up its presence there. The presence of American warships perilously close to Russia’s borders is undoubtedly provocative. For comparison, the Russian Navy does not stage regular maneuvers in the Caribbean Sea with such allies as Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela though nothing prevents it from doing so.

Read more …

First, Berlin forces Greece to keep the islands loaded with refugees. Then it forces them to load more taxes on the already destroyed economies there.

Germany Puts Last Bailout Tranche to Greece on Hold (GR)

Germany blocked a final 15 billion-euro ($17.5 billion) bailout payment to Greece after the government in Athens postponed a value-added tax (VAT) hike on a handful of islands that have been hit hard by the influx of migrants. For the tranche to be unblocked by early August, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos pledged at yesterday’s Eurogroup that the measure to retain the 30 percent VAT discount on Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos will end in January 2019, and that the loss of 28 million euros of revenues will be offset from other sources.

The SYRIZA-led government postponed the VAT hike in the islands without consulting Greece’s creditors. Germany was eager to send a message to Athens that it will not tolerate any deviation from the program in the future. Commentators say that the Eurogroup decision shows how difficult it will be for the southern country to regain financial sovereignty even as it exits an eight-year bailout regime in August.

Read more …

Given how Greece gets treated, denial doesn’t sound like the correct term.

Europe’s Remarkable Ability To Remain In Denial (Varoufakis)

Europe’s establishment is luxuriating in two recent announcements that would have been momentous even if they were only partly accurate: the end of Greece’s debt crisis, and a Franco-German accord to redesign the eurozone. Unfortunately, both reports offer fresh proof of the European Union (EU) establishment’s remarkable talent for never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The two announcements did not come in the same week by accident. The Greek debt implosion, back in 2010, was the ugly symptom of the eurozone’s design flaws, which is why it triggered a domino effect across the continent. Greece’s continuing insolvency reflects the deep disagreements within the Franco-German axis concerning eurozone redesign.

While three French presidents and the same German chancellor were failing to agree on the institutional changes that would render the eurozone sustainable, Greece was asked to bleed quietly. In 2015, the Greeks staged a rebellion, which Europe’s establishment ruthlessly crushed. Neither Brexit nor the EU’s steady delegitimation in the eyes of European voters managed to convince the establishment to change its ways. French President Emmanuel Macron’s election seemed the last hope for the new Berlin-Paris accord needed to prevent a suffocating Italy from triggering the next—this time lethal—domino effect.

Under Macron, new, hopeful ideas were proposed: a common budget for the eurozone; a new safe debt instrument and quasi-federal tax-raising capacities; a common unemployment insurance fund; common bank deposit insurance and a common pot from which to recapitalize failing banks. Moreover, a new investment fund would mobilize idle savings across Europe, without adding to the fiscal stress of member states. A year later, with Italy on a collision course with the EU, the Meseberg Summit between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Macron delivered an agreement on eurozone reform. A few days later, the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers delivered its own “solution” to the Greek debt crisis.

Read more …

Sensible.

US Judge Asked To Create Mental Health Fund For Migrant Children (R.)

A civil rights group asked a federal judge on Thursday to order the U.S. government to provide mental health counseling for the around 2,000 immigrant children separated from their parents by officials at the U.S.-Mexican border. The request by the American Civil Liberties Union follows a chaotic week for U.S. immigration officials, who failed to meet a court-ordered deadline on Tuesday for reuniting children under the age of five. The government “must establish a fund to pay for professional mental health counseling, which will be used to treat children who are suffering from severe trauma as a result of their forcible separation from their parents,” said the ACLU in court papers filed late Thursday.

The group said the cost of the fund could be determined at a future date. The rights group brought the lawsuit that prompted U.S. Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego last month to order the government to reunite families separated at the border. The family separation policy was instituted as part of President Donald Trump’s efforts to curtail illegal immigration. The administration ended the practice last month after widespread protests. The government, in the same court filing on Thursday, acknowledged that it had missed a Tuesday deadline for reuniting the youngest children with their parents, but said it had now complied with the judge’s order.

Read more …

How does anyone make this, too, about Russia? It’s your own people who use this for spying on you. Targeting ‘Russians’ is just a way to divert your attention from that.

Facebook Users Marked With “Treason” Label (ZH)

Beleaguered social media giant Facebook has removed “treason” from their database of the keywords assigned to users for advertising purposes, the company stated Wednesday after Danish state broadcaster DR reported its existence. Company spokesman Joe Osborne replied “National treason was an advertising interest because of its historical significance, but as it is an illegal act, we have removed it.” Facebook tags its more than 2 billion users with a wide variety of keywords depending on their interests – from shopping habits to political and religious views in order to sell more efficiently targeted advertising.

This makes Facebook a sublime sales channel for companies. Categorizing users in areas of interest means that companies with ads on Facebook can buy into an almost perfect audience. Eg. garden equipment for people with special interest in gardens, etc. But categorization also allows intelligence services in all countries to look at the population over the shoulder. DR suggests that the a government such as Russia could have used the “treason” tag to locate around 65,000 Facebook users who had been marked with the keyword. The article notes that they do not know “if the Russian authorities have used Facebook’s “treason” keyword” for nefarious purposes – adding “Only the Russian authorities know that.”

Read more …