Feb 062024
 


Claude Monet Houses of Parliament, Sunset 1904

 

“Don’t Be STUPID!!!”: Trump Slams Senate Border Bill (ZH)
Texas Stripped of Powers in Border Security Bill (NW)
Speaker Johnson: New Supplemental Funding Bill Even Worse Than Expected (Sp.)
Senate’s Border Deal Teeters On Brink Of Collapse (Pol.)
The Supreme Court Laid the Seeds for the Immigration Crisis (Turley)
Jake Sullivan Refuses To Rule Out Attacks On Iranian Soil (MEE)
Nicaragua Taking Germany, Canada, UK, Netherlands To ICJ For Genocide (AlM)
UN To Probe UNRWA For ‘Neutrality’ (RT)
Zaluzhny Agrees To Be Ukraine’s Ambassador To UK – Lawmaker (TASS)
Kremlin Warns West Against ‘Deeply Illegal’ Asset Seizure (RT)
Brace for Impact (Kunstler)
Trump Facing ‘Long’ Prison Sentence – DNC Lawyer Marc Elias (RT)
Judge Dismisses Alvin Bragg’s Felony Case Against Vax Card Forgers (PM)
The Overthrow of Men (Paul Craig Roberts)
US Panicking Tucker Carlson Will Continue Objective Reporting in Russia (Sp.)

 

 

 

 

Trump border bill

 

 

Schumer

 

 

DeSantis

 

 

Texas AG Ken Paxton: “The Biden-Senate immigration bill is complete disaster. “The open borders policies it enshrines would destroy our country. In addition to encouraging nearly 2 million illegal aliens annually to enter the country, paying out over $1 billion to the toxic NGOs that settle illegal immigrants all over the nation, empowering Mayorkas to abuse the asylum process on his arbitrary whim, and ending catch-and-release, this bill that gives Biden and Mayorkas everything they want does something far more sinister.

It requires that legal challenges to these provisions be heard by the highly partisan Washington, D.C. courts. They know exactly what they are doing: Texas has been able to create major slowdowns to Biden’s open borders doctrine because our Constitutional system allows us to sue the federal government in fair venues. What Biden, Mayorkas, and the Senate uniparty in the swamp want to do is PREVENT the Texas AG and all other state AGs from acting as a check on the federal government’s tyrannical abuses of power. That is unthinkable. It is un-American. This bill is an unacceptable mess that no serious leader could even think about passing.”

 

 

Tucker Russia

 

 

“After that one puff on Joe Rogan Podcast, Elon Musk agreed, at NASA’s request, to do 3 years of random drug testing. Not even trace quantities were found of any drugs or alcohol. Last month, even NASA said there isn’t any evidence of drug use.”

 

 

Elon Musk: “Many states automatically register anyone with a driver’s license to vote (no citizenship verification), ballots are then mailed out and “ballot harvesters” pick them up mail them in, making fraud traceability impossible..”

 

 

 

 

“..It takes the HORRIBLE JOB the Democrats have done on Immigration and the Border, absolves them, and puts it all squarely on the shoulders of Republicans..” “Don’t be STUPID!!! We need a separate Border and Immigration bill. It should not be tied to foreign aid in any way, shape or form!”

“Don’t Be STUPID!!!”: Trump Slams Senate Border Bill (ZH)

The Senate’s $118 billion spending package, of which more than $60 billion would go to Ukraine, allows 1.5 million illegal migrants into the country per year, hobbles states like Texas by requiring legal challenges be arbitrated in DC courts, and funds NGOs who facilitate human trafficking to the tune of billions, is ‘dead on arrival’ according to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA). The bill’s most ardent supporters are a coalition of establishment all-stars, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and lead GOP negotiator, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) – who was censured last week by the Oklahoma GOP for striking such a crappy border deal with Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ). As Punchbowl News puts it, the bill’s Sunday night release was like “pouring gasoline on the fire that is the Senate GOP internal war,” as “Senators and aides publicly and privately questioned whether a majority of the Republican Conference would back it.”

Some GOP Senators and outside conservative groups even called for an immediate leadership change over the package. During a Sunday evening press call, Lankford said critics of the proposal had already come out against it before the text was released. “If we have a crisis on our southern border, and we do… we should address that and do what we can to be able to solve that problem — not just hope that the problem gets better or hope that an election solves the issue,” Lankford said – completely ignoring the fact that President Joe Biden could close the border with the stroke of a pen, today, without $60 billion going to Ukraine and 5,000 migrants allowed in per day.

Lankford said in response to these statements that he’s “a little confused… at how it could be ‘worse than expected.’” The Oklahoma Republican added he wants to huddle with the speaker’s team. Of course, Johnson’s statement will undoubtedly cause some on-the-fence GOP senators to vote against the bill. “We’re at the beginning points of information,” Lankford asserted, dismissing the House GOP criticisms. “There are some people who just read Facebook posts… They made their decision based on the Facebook posts, not the text.” According to Donald Trump, “We need a Separate Border and Immigration Bill. It should not be tied to foreign aid in any way, shape or form.”

“Only a fool, or a Radical Left Democrat, would vote for this horrendous Border Bill, which only gives Shutdown Authority after 5000 Encounters a day, when we already have the right to CLOSE THE BORDER NOW, which must be done,” he said on Truth Social. “This Bill is a great gift to the Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party. It takes the HORRIBLE JOB the Democrats have done on Immigration and the Border, absolves them, and puts it all squarely on the shoulders of Republicans,” the former president continued. “Don’t be STUPID!!! We need a separate Border and Immigration bill. It should not be tied to foreign aid in any way, shape or form!”

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“This would prevent plaintiffs – like the State of Texas – from filing suit in Texas federal courts. This is corrupt..”

Texas Stripped of Powers in Border Security Bill (NW)

Conservatives have attacked a provision of the new border security bill that would only allow legal challenges to be made in Washington D.C. The bill would strip the power of Texas and other states to challenge some of the its provisions in their local federal court. Conservative commentators were quick to denounce the provision, contained on page 221 of the bill. Bill Shipley, who was a federal prosecutor for over 20 years, decried the its court provisions on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday. “This would prevent plaintiffs – like the State of Texas – from filing suit in Texas federal courts. This is corrupt,” he wrote. After outlining the provisions under which immigrants can seek judicial review of a deportation order, the bill states:

“The United States District Court for the District of Columbia shall have sole and original jurisdiction to hear challenges, whether constitutional or otherwise, to the validity of this section or any written policy directive, written policy guideline, written procedure, or the implementation thereof.” The right of judicial review for illegal immigrants about to be deported has proved controversial. In 2022, a Louisiana federal judge blocked the Biden administration from ending Title 42, a pandemic-related border restriction that allows for the immediate expulsion of asylum-seekers and other migrants. Reacting to the latest provisions in the border security bill, conservative writer and self-style “deportation scientist” Mike Howell wrote on X that the bill “puts far left DC district court in charge.” Lawyer and author, Kurt Schlichter, wrote: “This is amazing” on X in response to the provision.

President Joe Biden’s administration secured a significant win over Texas Governor Greg Abbott in late January after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to allow the temporary removal of razor wire installed by Texas along the southern border. The removal will remain place while litigation over the issue proceeds. The decision sparked anger among Republicans who support the measures taken by Abbott and his administration to fight illegal immigration in the state. Tensions over the measures escalated as the federal government raised environmental and humanitarian concerns about the deterrent. The Texas governor, an outspoken critic of Biden over immigration issues, has vowed that the fight “is not over” and called the razor wire “an effective deterrent” in a post on X, formerly Twitter, despite the legal blow. He also issued a statement declaring Texas’ “right to self-defense.”

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“As the lead Democrat negotiator proclaimed: Under this legislation, ‘the border never closes..'”

Speaker Johnson: New Supplemental Funding Bill Even Worse Than Expected (Sp.)

US House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday that the proposed $118 billion supplemental funding bill with aid for Ukraine and Israel, as well as border security and national security measures, “is even worse than expected” and “will be dead on arrival.”Earlier on Sunday, the Senate, after weeks of negotiations with the White House, released the $118 billion national security supplemental bill that includes some $60 billion in additional aid for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, and about $20 billion for border security, among other priorities.

The proposed legislation would also immediately deport migrants who enter the US illegally, further restrict asylum eligibility, provide $650 million to build more border wall, and require a shutdown of the border to illegal migrants when illegal crossings exceed an average of 5,000 a week. “I’ve seen enough. This bill is even worse than we expected, and won’t come close to ending the border catastrophe the President has created. As the lead Democrat negotiator proclaimed: Under this legislation, ‘the border never closes,'” Johnson said on X (formerly Twitter), adding that the bill “will be dead on arrival” if it reaches the House.

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“Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who struck the deal, even suggested he might vote against moving forward if his colleagues weren’t ready to move..”

Senate’s Border Deal Teeters On Brink Of Collapse (Pol.)

The Senate’s bipartisan border and foreign aid deal is already close to failure, with Republicans preparing to block debate on the bill this week — and potentially for longer than that. The President Joe Biden-backed agreement is getting pummeled from the left and right, but it’s internal GOP angst that’s fueling the likelihood of a filibuster during an expected test vote on Wednesday. After Senate Republicans met for 90 minutes on Monday night to discuss the border deal that a trio of senators forged over the past four months, few of them emerged willing to say they would vote to advance the $118 billion package. Several members of GOP leadership came out against the legislation in the past 24 hours, further boxing in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican, who supports the agreement linking border policy changes with aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, called Monday’s meeting an “interesting discussion.”

Inside the room, McConnell told Republicans that if they didn’t like the direction that the bill is going, they should vote against moving forward this week, according to two people briefed on the meeting who were granted anonymity to speak candidly. According to two attendees, McConnell did not forcefully whip for or against the bill. He instead discussed the specific policies and politics of the legislation, which is opposed by Speaker Mike Johnson and former President Donald Trump. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who struck the deal, even suggested he might vote against moving forward if his colleagues weren’t ready to move. “That’s not voting against the bill,” Lankford said of voting to filibuster the bill from coming to the floor. “So that’s not the final passage. That’s the beginning point.”

It’s a stunning turnabout from just a few months ago, when Republicans demanded border security policy changes to pair with $60 billion in Ukraine aid requested by Biden. Now Republican support for the legislation is vanishingly hard to find, with just a handful of GOP senators in support. Even moderate Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she was unsure if she would vote to advance the bill. Lankford added that he’s not sure how much time members will actually want to evaluate the proposal — if that timeline goes beyond Wednesday. Many Senate Republicans want an open amendment process that could drag out debate indefinitely, if leadership allows it.

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“The southern border in 2024 is, constitutionally, suffering no more an “invasion” than the Capitol riot in 2021 was an “insurrection.” There is a difference between the colloquial and constitutional meaning of such terms.”

The Supreme Court Laid the Seeds for the Immigration Crisis (Turley)

The upcoming impeachment vote on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has caused a deep rift even among his critics, including some Republican members of Congress. Many view Mayorkas as an unmitigated disaster as Homeland secretary. The massive numbers of migrants crossing the border has become a growing economic and security threat to the entire nation. I have previously expressed my disagreement with the two articles of impeachment, which present their own inherent dangers to the underlying constitutional standards. But whatever happens in the House, the real crisis is not the employment status of Mayorkas. It is what brought the House to seriously consider this extreme remedy in the first place. The seeds of this disaster were planted by the Supreme Court over a decade ago, in Arizona v. U.S., if not earlier.

In that case, a 5-3 majority ruled against a state seeking to enforce immigration laws in light of what it described as a vacuum of federal action. The court declared that the states were preempted or barred from taking such action. While giving the state a small victory in allowing state officers to investigate the immigration status of a suspect with reasonable suspicion, it left little room for independent state action in the area.Despite President Obama’s orders giving some migrants effective immunity from enforcement (such as the youths that came to be known as “DREAMers”), he actually deported a significant number of illegal migrants. At the time, many of us asked where the line would be drawn in the future, often raising the hypothetical of a president who abandons enforcement entirely or to a large extent.

It took a decade, but that hypothetical seems dangerously close to reality. Mayorkas is carrying out the policies of President Biden, who continues to praise his work and the worst record of enforcement in history. One of the first things that Biden did when coming into office was to seek to shut down policies and construction used to deter unlawful migration. At the same time, both Biden and Mayorkas were widely viewed as supportive of those crossing the border as many Democratic cities declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented migrants pursued by ICE. Now, even some Democrats are now criticizing President Biden for his lax policies and the failure to do more in securing the border, as hundreds of thousands pour into the country. Most are promptly released, and many are not even asked to appear for eight years at an immigration proceeding.

For the states, desperate times call for desperate measures. For example, Texas recently declared that it was acting unilaterally under Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the Constitution. That provision reserves the right of self-defense for a state that is “actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.” The current crisis is a practical invasion, overwhelming towns and cities across the country. No state faces a greater danger than Texas. However, “invasion” was clearly meant in the traditional sense of a foreign power or army. Similarly, “such imminent danger” was referencing “such” an invasion. The southern border in 2024 is, constitutionally, suffering no more an “invasion” than the Capitol riot in 2021 was an “insurrection.” There is a difference between the colloquial and constitutional meaning of such terms.

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“He said the two countries were “fuelling chaos, disorder, insecurity and instability” by supporting Israel in its war in Gaza..”

Jake Sullivan Refuses To Rule Out Attacks On Iranian Soil (MEE)

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has refused to rule out air strikes on Iranian soil in the wake of a barrage of attacks on Iran-linked groups across the Middle East. Speaking to NBC News on Sunday, Sullivan was repeatedly asked if the US was considering attacks on Iran. “Well, sitting here today on a national news programme, I’m not going to get into what we’ve ruled in and ruled out from the point of view of military action,” he said. “What I will say is that the president is determined to respond forcefully to attacks on our people. The president also is not looking for a wider war in the Middle East.” Pressed again on the question, he continued to avoid a direct answer. “I’m not going to get into what’s on the table and off the table,” he said, before adding the strikes were “the beginning, not the end” of Washington’s response.

The US, along with the UK, launched strikes on Yemen’s Houthis overnight, hitting dozens of targets, just a day after they hit a number of Iran-linked groups in Syria and Iran. Speaking to reporters on Sunday, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed the strikes on Houthi targets were in self-defence, adding he would not “hesitate to protect British lives.””Since the last set of strikes, we have seen the Houthis continue to attack shipping in the Red Sea,” Sunak said during a visit to Northern Ireland. “That is obviously unacceptable. It is illegal. It puts innocent people’s lives at risk and it has economic consequences. It includes attacks, by the way, on British-linked vessels. And that is why we have acted again in self-defence, in a proportionate way, and together with our allies.

“I have been clear that I won’t hesitate to protect British lives, British interests, and our diplomatic efforts are focused on bringing de-escalation and stability back to the region.” Iran-aligned groups have launched more than 160 rocket and drone strikes against US troops in Iraq and Syria since mid-October following the 7 October attacks on southern Israel and Israel’s decision to go to war on Gaza. Meanwhile, the Houthis, have mounted dozens of attacks against merchant ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, severely disrupting traffic through one of the world’s most important maritime trade routes. The Houthis have promised to continue disrupting Red Sea traffic until Israel stops its attacks on the residents of Gaza and allows humanitarian aid and basic supplies to enter the besieged enclave.

A Houthi military spokesperson said on Sunday that the rebel group, also known as Ansarullah, would not be deterred, adding that the strikes on Yemen would “not pass without a response and consequences.” Iran on Sunday warned that the strikes across the region appeared to “contradict” the stated desire by the leaders of the US and UK that the fighting in Gaza not expand into a regional war. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanani, said in a statement that the attacks were “in clear contradiction with the repeated claims of Washington and London that they do not want the expansion of war and conflict in the region”. He said the two countries were “fuelling chaos, disorder, insecurity and instability” by supporting Israel in its war in Gaza, which has so far left at least 27,365 people dead, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

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“..the countries supporting “Israel” are obligated to cut off supplies to it “from the moment the state becomes aware of the existence of a serious risk of committing genocide.”

Nicaragua Taking Germany, Canada, UK, Netherlands To ICJ For Genocide (AlM)

The Nicaraguan government started Monday proceedings to take Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Canada to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for their complicity in the genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza by providing the Israeli occupation with the weapons and means to carry out the horrendous act. The executive authority in Nicaragua published an official statement in which it revealed that it warned the governments of said Western powers that they might be jointly complicit in the “flagrant and systemic violations” of the Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and international humanitarian law in the Gaza Strip. In its note verbal, Nicaragua urged the four states to immediately cease the provision of arms, munitions, and technologies to “Israel” because it might use them to facilitate or commit violations of the Genocide Convention in Gaza.

The memorandum underlined that the countries supporting “Israel” are obligated to cut off supplies to it “from the moment the state becomes aware of the existence of a serious risk of committing genocide.”This has been achieved, the memorandum adds, since “the International Court of Justice issued, on January 26, a preliminary ruling in which it considered it reasonable that the Genocide Convention had been violated by Israel in Gaza.” The court recognized the right of Palestinians in Gaza to be protected from acts of genocide, adding that the Palestinians are a protected group under the Genocide Convention.The Court ordered “Israel” to take all measures to prevent genocide acts in Gaza, ensure its forces do not commit genocide, and take measures to improve the humanitarian situation.

“Israel” is required to submit a report to the court within a month, detailing its actions to comply with the order. Furthermore, it must implement measures to prevent and punish direct incitement of genocide in the context of its war on Gaza. South Africa hailed temporary measures issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the genocide lawsuit against “Israel” at the Hague, describing them as a “decisive victory” for the international legal system. A French left-wing legislator praised the temporary measures, describing the verdict as “historic”, noting that it “clearly established the risk of genocide in the Gaza Strip.”

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All they need to do is cast a doubt. There is nothing to replace the UNRWA.

UN To Probe UNRWA For ‘Neutrality’ (RT)

The United Nations has said it will investigate its own agency for Palestinian refugees to ensure “neutrality” following allegations by Israel that at least 12 UN staffers assisted in the Hamas-led terrorist attack of October 7. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced the move in a statement on Monday, saying he had established an “independent review group” to probe “allegations of serious breaches” at the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The UN chief said the probe would seek to “identify the mechanisms and procedures that the Agency currently has in place to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations or information indicating that the principle may have been breached.”

Though Guterres stopped short of outlining the alleged breaches, Israeli officials have repeatedly accused 12 UNRWA workers of involvement in last year’s Hamas cross-border raid, which killed around 1,200 people in Israel and saw more than 200 taken hostage by Palestinian militants. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz later hailed the decision, saying “We will submit all evidence highlighting UNRWA’s ties to terrorism and its harmful effects on regional stability.” Guterres previously acknowledged that nine of the 12 UN staffers allegedly linked to Hamas had been fired, while two remained unidentified and another had since been killed. Though the Israeli allegations have yet to be independently confirmed, more than a dozen countries have already opted to sever funding to the refugee agency, including the United States, Sweden, Britain and Germany.

Last week, a spokesman for the US State Department said that $300,000 set aside for UNRWA would be withheld pending the results of the investigation. Around $121 million had already been distributed to the agency since October 1, as Washington typically devotes up to $400 million to the office each year. While the review panel will focus on UNRWA’s “neutrality,” Guterres noted that a separate investigation into Israel’s charges would continue under the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services. He also went on to stress the agency’s critical role in Gaza, saying that more than 2 million people “depend on it for their survival amidst one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world.”

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I haven’t seen this confirmed anywhere else.

Zaluzhny Agrees To Be Ukraine’s Ambassador To UK – Lawmaker (TASS)

Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny has reportedly agreed to be Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom and will leave Ukraine within days, lawmaker Yevgeny Shevchenko said. “I would like to say that according to my sources, Zaluzhny has agreed to be the ambassador to Great Britain. He is highly likely to go there and we know that those who leave the country as ambassadors are political retirees. None of them has ever returned to their former positions, this is Ukraine’s tradition. I hate to disappoint any Zaluzhny fans,” he said in an interview with Vadim Karasev, director of Ukraine’s Institute of Global Strategies. According to the lawmaker, if Zaluzhny opts to stay in Ukraine he has every opportunity to achieve great things in politics after resigning. “If he opts to be ambassador, he is not a politician any longer, 100% If he stays in Ukraine and begins to build a political career, he has good prospects, very good prospects,” Shevchenko said, adding that Zaluzhny’s resignation could be expected on February 8 or somewhere around there.

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said in an interview with Italy’s RAI television channel that he was looking at reshuffling the defense ministry. Reports about Zaluzhny’s potential dismissal appeared in the Ukrainian mass media and on social networks on January 29, when Zelensky allegedly suggested that Zaluzhny step down voluntarily. According to former lawmaker Borislav Bereza, Zaluzhny was offered a post as Ukraine’s ambassador to a European country, but turned this offer down. Ukraine’s media and social networks continue speculating about Zaluzhny’s future. Some say that his resignation stems from the failure of Ukraine’s “counteroffensive” in the summer of 2023 and Zaluzhny’s political ambitions. A number of foreign media outlets confirmed reports about Zaluzhny’s dismissal, citing their own sources.

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“Encroachment on someone else’s property undermines the foundations of the entire economic system..”

Kremlin Warns West Against ‘Deeply Illegal’ Asset Seizure (RT)

Anyone who seizes Russian assets will face long-lasting consequences, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned on Monday. His comments came after the Financial Times reported that G7 nations are considering using frozen Russian funds as collateral to finance Ukraine. In an article published on Saturday, the newspaper claimed the Belgian government has proposed a plan under which Western governments would raise debt to finance the Ukrainian government, and then demand that Russia repay that debt. If Moscow failed to do so, the G7 would then seize frozen Russian assets being held in Europe and the US. The plan is seen as a way to circumvent the legal issue of confiscating Russian assets, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told the outlet. The idea is reportedly now the “leading option” to unlock frozen Russian funds and send them to Ukraine. However, none of the countries in question has officially confirmed any such plans.

Commenting on the reported proposal, Peskov said it would be “deeply illegal” and stressed that Russia will defend its interests. “There will be very, very long – for many decades – judicial prospects both for those who make these decisions and for those who implement them,” the spokesman warned. “Encroachment on someone else’s property undermines the foundations of the entire economic system,” Peskov added. At the same time, the presidential spokesperson insisted on waiting for official statements on the FT’s claims, noting that “even the most serious publications, unfortunately, make many mistakes.” Shortly after Moscow launched its military operation against Ukraine, the US and its allies froze an estimated $300 billion of Russian central bank assets, most of which are being held in Europe.

Since then, Kiev and its Western allies have floated the idea of seizing the assets and using them to fund the Ukrainian government. However, financial experts have warned that any such move could seriously damage the reputation of Western economic institutions and the euro’s standing as a global reserve currency, and would drive away foreign investors. Nevertheless, Brussels announced last week that EU member states had reached an agreement to transfer the income generated by Russia’s funds to Kiev without touching the assets themselves. Moscow, meanwhile, has repeatedly warned that any actions related to its assets by the US and its allies would amount to “theft” and would violate international law. The Kremlin has also cautioned that any seizures would trigger a tit-for-tat response from Russia.

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“..liable to inform Americans that their own political leadership is a party of mental illness..”

Brace for Impact (Kunstler)

“Joe Biden’s” victory dance in South Carolina — down on the ol’ Democratic Party Plantation, where they grows votes — didn’t last long. By Sunday, a rogue satellite named Tucker Carlson was spotted orbiting over Russia, Russia, Russia, a country you have to say three times so that people get how serious it is. Carlson threatens to actually sit down in the same room with Putin, Putin, Putin — the antithesis of “Joe Biden,” since Putin actually operates as head-of-state — and convey Mr. P’s thoughts and opinions to the citizens of America via the rascally social media platform called “X.” Do you realize the danger of exposing Americans to what this Putin might say? Hearing him express his thoughts about the world situation in a leisurely format — which Putin does regularly among his own people (I’ve seen him do it!) — is liable to inform Americans that their own political leadership is a party of mental illness.

Even without this new provocation of a Carlson / Putin colloquy, folks in the land of the free and the home of the brave have begun to grok just how insane things have gone under “Joe Biden” blobism. And that darn conversation comes just egg-zackly at the moment when our Senate is attempting to package a bill tying a $60-billion taxpayer gift to Ukraine with a “border security” law that will forbid more than 8,500 foreigners on any given day to enter the USA illegally. Sweet deal, huh? Er. . . maybe not. On the House side of Congress, Speaker Mike Johnson says, “No way, José.”

So, do you really want to chance this Putin guy actually explaining calmly and clearly to folks here how our own State Department cooked up this war in Ukraine, and keeps it going month after month? Figures such as the ex-conservative Bill Kristol (now blob cheerleader), want to prevent the Tucker Carlson satellite from re-entering the USA after its Moscow visit. Mr. Kristol is apparently under the illusion that we are at war with Russia. Somebody please inform him that this is just not so. Strictly speaking, Russia is just another European nation that Americans can visit on a visa. That’s a fact, Jack. And if you happen to be there, and you’re a journalist, and Putin, Putin, Putin agrees to an interview, well. . . you sit down and talk to the guy. . . and record it. . . and let people around the world decide what to think about it.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds a little. . . I dunno. . . fascist-y to me. Which is the dirty secret of the Party of Mental Illness that folks in the USA are beginning to grok. All their blather about “our democracy” is a smokescreen for the lust to shutdown free speech at all costs and push everybody around. It will be interesting to see who shows up at the jetway when Mr. Carlson actually does land back in America. The FBI, you think? With a set of leg-irons (like they did with Peter Navarro)? Mr. Putin might also explain how immigration works in Russia, Russia, Russia, where you have to fill out an application, explain who you are, and be evaluated as worthy to enter. Not everybody makes the grade. But, surprise, surprise, surprise, not everybody seeks to enter a country with good intentions. Can you imagine that? The Party of Mental illness in America does not believe that anyone can have less than good intentions. At least that’s what they pretend (because they are mentally ill). So, anyone at all can drift across the Mexican border into the USA. They call that “diversity and inclusion.” It’s a thought problem.

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Hillary’s counsel.

Trump Facing ‘Long’ Prison Sentence – DNC Lawyer Marc Elias (RT)

Former US President Donald Trump could be sent to prison “for a long time” when a verdict is delivered in his upcoming trial over alleged mishandling of sensitive government documents, an attorney linked to the US Democrats has warned.Last June, Trump was charged with 37 felony counts amid claims that he illegally retained highly sensitive national security information at his South Florida residence. These included top-secret details of Washington’s nuclear capabilities and its strategies in the event of an attack on the US or its allies. Prosecutors, led by Special Counsel Jack Smith, claim that Trump rejected requests by federal officials to return the documents – some of which were stored in publicly accessible locations in Mar-a-Lago, including in an unsecured bathroom.

Trump has denied all allegations of wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty to the charges. “People forget how damaging the evidence is in that Florida case,” Marc Elias, who represented the Democratic National Committee (DNC) between 2009 and 2023, said on MSNBC’s The Weekend on Sunday.“It is literally about a former president of the United States stealing highly classified sensitive documents from the United States government, treating them cavalierly, showing them to people, storing them willy-nilly.” Elias said that the evidence, when it is delivered in the trial in over three months’ time, could be “devastating to him politically, adding that “it puts him in real prospect of going to prison for a long time.”

The indictment marked the first time that a former US president faced criminal charges from a federal government he once led. Trump received another federal indictment in August 2023 over his alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 US presidential election.He also faces separate charges over allegations of falsifying business records in New York, and for a conspiracy to undermine election results in the US state of Georgia.Trump, who is the clear frontrunner to claim the Republican nomination to challenge likely Democratic candidate Joe Biden in November’s election. In a head-to-head poll published by NBC News on Sunday, Trump beat Biden by five points, 47%-42%. However, the same poll found that in the event that Trump is convicted of a felony Biden would lead by 45%-43%.

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“..Bragg and his office almost daily “move to dismiss significantly more serious counts or entire indictments” and avoid harsher penalties for far more violent and convicted felons..”

Judge Dismisses Alvin Bragg’s Felony Case Against Vax Card Forgers (PM)

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg attempted to charge two New York residents with felonies for having false vaccine passports while he has let off others charged with far worse crimes scot-free. New York State Supreme Court Justice Brendan T. Lantry dismissed the felony charges against the residents, identified as J.O. and R.V. in the decision, who had bought the forged vax passports, usurping Bragg’s decision. The judge said the two were among 16 others that Bragg had “cherry-picked” to prosecute, according to the case. Lantry slammed Bragg in the decision decided at the New York Supreme Court on Jan. 30. The judge wrote in the opinion, “Clearly, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree (Penal Law § 170.25) is not among the most serious crimes in the New York Penal Law, nor are the factual allegations against Defendants R.V. and J.O. particularly serious in nature.”

“Moreover, the factual allegations — that the Defendants purchased fake COVID-19 vaccination cards so that they could provide same to their employer (R.V.) and school (J.O.) — do not rise to the level of the majority of the crimes adjudicated in Supreme Court, New York County, namely homicide, sexual assault, drug sale, robbery, burglary, and other violent and non-violent serious felony offenses,” Lantry continued. The judge expanded on the decision that Bragg and his office almost daily “move to dismiss significantly more serious counts or entire indictments” and avoid harsher penalties for far more violent and convicted felons. Bragg also recently allowed a group of all but a single illegal immigrant to be released without bail after they allegedly beat up two NYPD officers. He later defended this saying that the video evidence was not enough to hold the foreign nationals. NYC government officials, including Bragg, have faced increasing scrutiny over the government’s lackluster effort to control crime in the city as well as the high influx of illegal immigrants.

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“If Putin or Xi just gave one little push the West would collapse like a house of cards.”

The Overthrow of Men (Paul Craig Roberts)

In my lifetime I have watched the complete overthrow of American men. The only role that they have left is to be a hate object for feminists. I think the overthrow was initiated with the 1964 Civil Rights Act as implemented, contrary to the statutory language in the law, by the EEOC bureaucracy. Congress explicitly prohibited racial quotas, but the EEOC under the leadership of Alfred Blumrosen put in place a regulatory system that, at first, under the name of “affirmative action” gave racial preference to blacks in university admissions, hiring, and promotion. Soon after the preferences were extended to women, and later to the handicapped and now to sexual perverts. The consequence of Alfred Blumrosen is that white heterosexual males are second class citizens in law. They have been denied for a half century the 14th Amendment’s protection of equality under the law. Initially, the impact was limited, but as time passed more and more American men were held back in order to advance those with racial and gender preferences.

Feminists went on and on about a “glass ceiling,” and American men, weakened by their demonization, invited them on boards and into executive offices. This has gone on for so many decades that today a male CEO or University president is an endangered species, as exemplified by the recent controversy over Ivy League students’ protests against Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians. The three Ivy League university presidents called before Congress to explain why they had allowed students to commit anti-semitism by protesting Israel’s massacre of Palestinians were all women, with the President of Harvard being a black woman with plagiarism problems. Today many corporate boards are more concerned about whether they have enough women and blacks than they are with profits and the corporation’s future. Having pushed men aside, they started on boys. Boys could no longer be Boy Scouts. They had to take in girls or it was ruled discrimination against females.

But Girl Scouts didn’t have to take in boys. Boy’s Little League baseball had to take in girls or it was discrimination. Next school playground fights between a bully and one not content to be bullied, were no longer left to completion by the playground monitor–standing up for yourself was regarded as part of growing up. Today the police are called, and what was normal in my day has been criminalized. Boys cannot even play cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians without severe punishment. If a 6 year old points his finger and says bang-bang, the cops are called, and parents are told that their son is a sociopath who is dangerous to his classmates. When was the last men’s club extinguished for discrimination? When was the last men’s college extinguished? I went to three–Georgia Tech, the University of Virginia, Merton College, Oxford University. They are now sexually integrated, and their character is lost. Merton College now has female wardens (presidents).

Once the alumni from the past are dead, no one will have a memory of a men’s space. It will become a mythology like a unicorn. When boys don’t want to be boys: What is proof of men’s demise is that today in America boys find themselves so demonized as misogynist and racists and treated as society’s problems that some would rather be girls than boys and, often with their mother’s urging, subject themselves to chemical castration and breast implants. No male in the past could possibly have preferred to be a girl than a boy. The question for feminists who have aided and abetted the overthrow of the American male is: who is going to protect you as the society you helped to destroy comes crashing down on your heads?

The delegitimizing of the white heterosexual male is the same throughout the remnants of Western civilization. In Sweden there are reports that white Swedish men stand aside while immigrant-invaders rape Swedish women in public, because if they interfere they might be arrested for a hate crime. The British government, which is no longer British, has a tradition of protecting immigrant-invaders against the British people instead of protecting the British people against immigrant-invaders. What is happening conflicts with the protective mentality of white men. But they are prohibited from providing the protection. The Western World is devoid of maleness. Even the West’s war ministers are women. A couple of years ago I posted photographs of NATO’s European war ministers and Shoigu. If memory serves, every European war minister was female. If Putin or Xi just gave one little push the West would collapse like a house of cards.

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“..they will now see Putin as not only a human being, but also a very intelligent leader that is actually doing what’s best for his people. And that is everything that the American public wants.”

US Panicking Tucker Carlson Will Continue Objective Reporting in Russia (Sp.)

Maverick US journalist Tucker Carlson has raised eyebrows after being spotted in Moscow this week, with observers speculating Carlson has arrived to interview Russian President Vladimir Putin. The popular American commentator has so far remained coy about the reasons for his visit, but he has expressed his willingness to speak with Putin in the past, allegedly making him the target of surveillance from US intelligence agencies. As Russiagaters melt down over the prospect Carlson will undermine US regime propaganda by practicing real journalism, geopolitical analyst and journalist Fiorella Isabel joined Sputnik’s The Critical Hour program Monday to discuss the situation. “The fact that this targeting [of Carlson] is happening in the way it is happening now signifies a fear from the United States,” said Isabel.

“They are fearful of a conversation that somebody like Tucker Carlson and Vladimir Putin could have because Tucker Carlson did leave Fox [News]. And since he did leave Fox, so much has happened in the world where, as you all were talking about before, there are major escalations, not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but also obviously with Iran via Israel-Palestine and via, of course, Ukraine.” “The United States is involved in every single one of these conflicts,” noted the journalist. “And I think that the aim is to really show what Moscow is like, what the Russian people are like, and give a different perspective.” Isabel speculated Carlson was indeed likely to speak with Putin while in Moscow, adding “I don’t think he would come for anything less.”

She also noted that Carlson has previously spoken with other leaders sometimes considered controversial in the United States, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. “What we’re looking at here is that the United States and their proxies are clearly afraid of the response that such a popular figure like Tucker Carlson might have with an audience, in response to Vladimir Putin, who we have been told is this boogeyman and he is evil, and there is no redeeming quality to him,” said Isabel. “But based on Putin’s speeches and the things he says that many Western audiences don’t get to hear, that will drastically change, I think, a lot of people, or at least impact them in a way, in a time where we’re on the brink of a catastrophic nuclear event I think,” she added.

Tucker CNN

“I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. So I think that’s why at this pivotal moment, the powers that be are extremely afraid of this interview, to the point where they’re saying that they’re going to go after Tucker Carlson in a legal way for simply being here and trying to attempt to do journalism.” “They have gone so far off from what journalism was supposed to be that they don’t recognize that this is actually what you’re supposed to do, talk to adversarial figures or people that you may disagree with,” noted the analyst. Host Garland Nixon noted that demonization of foreign leaders is a traditional tactic of US propaganda as Americans are conditioned to revile figures like President Bashar al-Assad in Syria or President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. The “danger” of Carlson’s interview, he noted, is that Putin would be humanized before an American audience.

Co-host Wilmer Leon agreed, arguing that Americans would see that Putin is not “crazy,” “unhinged,” or “evil.” Isabel noted that Putin has made highly subversive arguments for American audiences, questioning the fairness of US elections and noting that US foreign policy generally remains unchanged as new presidents enter the White House. “So I think, when Americans would view or hear somebody like Vladimir Putin, especially Americans that haven’t actually gotten a chance to listen to any of his speeches, they will be perhaps blown away in the sense that they will [say], ‘wow, this guy makes a lot of sense. And he just simply is saying what’s on our minds,’” said Isabel. “And I think that fear is what the West would fear, because they will now see Putin as not only a human being, but also a very intelligent leader that is actually doing what’s best for his people. And that is everything that the American public wants.”

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Aug 202015
 
 August 20, 2015  Posted by at 9:37 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


NPC “Largest electric locomotive and Congressman John C. Schafer” 1924

China Stocks Slump Again Despite Government Support (Reuters)
China Strengthens Yuan By Most In 2 Months; Massive Liquidity Injection (ZH)
China Central Bank Injects Most Funds Since February (Bloomberg)
Is This The Great Crash Of China? (Steve Keen)
China’s August Scare Is A False Alarm As Fiscal Crunch Fades (AEP)
Should We Be Afraid Of China’s ‘Value Chain’? (CNBC)
Eurozone: The Case Against ‘Cash For Reform’ (Martin Sandbu)
Greece’s First Privatization Deal Since Third Bailout Hits Snag (Bloomberg)
Fresh Doubts Raised Over Privatization Of 14 Greek Airports (Xinhua)
Stiglitz: “Deep-Seatedly Wrong” Economic Thinking Is Killing Greece (Parramore)
Dutch Lambast Greece For Creating ‘Complete Chaos’ (Telegraph)
European Bailout Fund To Disburse First Greek Tranche On Thursday (Reuters)
The Fisherman’s Lament – A Way of Life Drowned by Greece’s Crisis (WSJ)
Get Used To Cheap Oil, Derivatives Markets Say (Reuters)
As Canada’s Oil Debt Soars to Record, an Industry Shakeout Looms (Bloomberg)
Cheap Oil’s Making It Tough for Ethanol to Pay the Bills (Bloomberg)
Banks Have Treated Our Housing Market Like A Ponzi Scheme (David)
Rebels In Ukraine’s Donetsk Plan Referendum On Joining Russia (Xinhua)
China’s Building a Huge Canal in Nicaragua, But We Couldn’t Find It (Bloomberg)
British Police Head To Calais To Stymie Migrant Smuggling Activity (Guardian)
Refugee Chaos in Macedonia: ‘Life-Threatening for Women and Children’ (Spiegel)

Shanghai closed down another 3.42%. Capital is taking the Concorde out of the country.

China Stocks Slump Again Despite Signs Of Government Support (Reuters)

China stocks tumbled again in late trading on Thursday, underscoring fragile investor confidence in the market as worries about the world’s second largest economy persist. Trading volumes were thin, suggesting many investors stayed on the sidelines. Shares were marginally lower in the morning, as statements by a slew of companies that the government had invested in them boosted some counters. But in mid-afternoon, prices began to drop. The CSI300 index of the largest listed companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen fell 3.2%, to 3,761.45, while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 3.4%, to 3,664.29 points.

The SSEC is now down about 7% since China devalued the yuan by nearly 2% on Aug. 11. On Wednesday, the indexes had reversed sharp losses to end higher, as roughly 30 Chinese listed companies, many small caps, disclosed holdings by government-backed investors in an apparent attempt to sooth market panic following the previous session’s 6% tumble. “Even as the government has the will to put a floor under the market, whether it has the ability to do so is in doubt,” said Hou Yingmin, analyst at AJ Securities, citing adversities including an anaemic economy, capital outflows and ugly technical patterns. “Without fresh money inflows, any rebound is not sustainable.”

Most sectors fell, with transport and real estate shares leading the decline. Analysts have said further yuan depreciation would trigger fresh capital outflows, putting pressure on the property market. But investors nevertheless bet on companies with investments from state-backed investor Central Huijin, and state margin lender China Securities Finance Corp (CSFC), which was tasked with propping up share prices during crisis.

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Not looking good for Beijing.

China Strengthens Yuan By Most In 2 Months; Massive Liquidity Injection (ZH)

The PBOC set the Yuan fix 0.08% stronger – the biggest ‘strengthening in 2 months, which is interesting because following The IMF’s confirmation of a delay to Yuan inclusion in the SDR basket to Oct 2016 (pending a year-end decision and asking for more flexibility), Offshore Yuan forwards notably devalued (shifting 350pips higher to 6.65, the highest/weakest Yuan in a week) pricing a 20 handle (or 3%) devaluation by August 2016. Overnight saw another CNY110bn liquidity injection rescue from The PPT in the afternoon session (saving SHCOMP from a close below the 200DMA) and tonight we see promise to recap Ag Bank along with another CNY 120bn reverse repo injection. Shanghai margin debt declined for a 2nd day in a row and Chinese stocks look set to open weaker.

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“Authorities have to walk a thin line between boosting exports and satisfying the IMF’s requirements for the yuan to obtain reserve status, while at the same time ensuring financial stability.”

China Central Bank Injects Most Funds Since February (Bloomberg)

China’s central bank injected the most funds in open-market operations since February as intervention to prop up the yuan strained the supply of cash and drove a key money-market rate to a four-month high. The People’s Bank of China pumped a net 150 billion yuan ($23 billion) into the financial system this week, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s the most since before the Chinese New Year holiday, when seasonal demand for cash spikes. The authorities are providing another 170 billion yuan through loans and an auction of deposits. The injections come after China surprised investors by devaluing the yuan last week and shifting to a more market-oriented exchange rate. Under the new system, PBOC intervention has partly replaced the daily reference rate’s role in guiding currency moves.

Yuan purchases risk driving borrowing costs higher at a time of slowing economic growth unless the monetary authority releases additional cash. “Front-end rates have been edging up, likely resulting from tighter liquidity conditions amid intervention,” said Frances Cheung at Societe Generale in Hong Kong. “The PBOC needs to step up its open-market operations to offset the liquidity withdrawal on the foreign-exchange side.” Authorities have to walk a thin line between boosting exports and satisfying the IMF’s requirements for the yuan to obtain reserve status, while at the same time ensuring financial stability. The overnight repurchase rate, a gauge of liquidity in the banking system, rose three basis points to 1.80% as of 1 p.m. in Shanghai, according to a weighted average from the National Interbank Funding Center. That’s the highest since April 23 and reflects increased demand for cash.

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“..it is more heavily indebted than America was when its crisis began—even relying on official statistics which undoubtedly understate the real situation..”

Is This The Great Crash Of China? (Steve Keen)

Banks in the West effectively ignore what the government wants: in the West, the political class is effectively subservient to the financial class. But in China, despite its economic transformation, the political class remains dominant: any Chinese entity that ignores a government directive does so at its peril. Things are not as they were in the 1980s, when every answer to every question that I and my group of touring Australian journalists asked began with “We followed the directives of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China”.

But it’s still not good for your health to flout Central Committee policy. So the Chinese banking system and its satellites lent like crazy to any company and many individuals, and one of the biggest credit bubbles in history—possibly the biggest ever—took off. In 2010, the increase in private debt in China was equivalent to 35% of GDP. That dwarfs the rate of growth of credit in both Japan and the USA prior to their crises: Japan topped out at just over 25% per year, and the USA reached a “mere” 15% of GDP per year.

As I have argued for a decade now, crises begin when the rate of growth of credit slows down in heavily indebted countries. China was not heavily indebted in 2008, which is why it could take the credit growth path out of the Global Financial Crisis. But now it is more heavily indebted than America was when its crisis began—even relying on official statistics which undoubtedly understate the real situation—and the momentum of debt may well carry it past the peak level reached by Japan after its Bubble Economy collapsed in the early 1990s.

So China is having its first fully-fledged capitalist crisis. To date its response to it has been to try to sustain the unsustainable: to transfer the bubble from housing to the stockmarket, and to keep the stockmarket rising like some production target for wheat from the bad old days before the fall of the Gang of Four. It can’t be done. At some point, the Chinese government is going to have to make the transition from generating a credit bubble to trying to contain its aftermath.

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Ambrose is the odd one out.

China’s August Scare Is A False Alarm As Fiscal Crunch Fades (AEP)

The situation in China is desperate but not serious, to borrow an old Viennese saying. Countries with a tight exchange controls and state banking systems may come to grief in the long-run, but they do not face the sort of financial collapse seen in the US and Europe in 1931 or 2008. China’s central bank (PBOC) has already warned that it will deploy the coercive might of the Communist regime to stop anybody smuggling money abroad under false pretexts, invoking laws covering “money laundering and terrorist financing.” It said violators will be “severely punished”. They will be sent to the proverbial asbestos mines of Sichuan. This is the sort of liberalisation that Xi Jinping does best. Given the sanctions and given that China has a trade surplus of $600bn or 6pc of GDP – and is therefore accumulating foreign exchange at blistering pace, ceteris paribus – there is no chance whatsoever that reserve losses will spin out of control.

Jens Nordvig from Nomura says China has $3.65 trillion reserves to cover foreign currency debts of $1.135 trillion, a ratio of 322pc. This a far cry from the East Asia Crisis in 1997-1998 when the ratio was 59pc in Malaysia, 33pc in Thailand, 27pc in Indonesia, and 22pc in Korea. All these countries had current account deficits. China most emphatically does not. “We think the authorities will remain in control of the situation. This may mean that the worst shock effect is behind us, although ultimately the economic data will provide the final verdict,” he said. On cue, the economy is already coming back to life after hitting a brick wall over the winter. Credit growth jumped to a 31-month high in July. The monetary base has grown at a 20pc rate over the last three months, implying an economic spike later this year.

It is worth remembering what has just happened in China. The country is recovering from a ferocious monetary and fiscal shock. The authorities refused to react as falling inflation caused one-year lending rates to ratchet up to 5pc in real terms from zero in late 2011. This was deliberate, of course. Premier Li Keqiang intended to break the back of the property bubble and wean the country off its $26 trillion credit dependency. But pricking bubbles is no easy task. The authorities overshot. The crunch came just as fiscal policy went awry. Budget spending contracted in the first quarter. This was certainly not intended. While details remain murky, it appears that banks refused to roll over short-term loans used by local governments to finance a raft of existing projects.

They feared that these loans were no longer covered by a state guarantee under new rules. “It caused huge disruption,” said Capital Economics. At the same time, the regions saw a sudden-stop in lending for new projects as well. Local governments were prohibited from fresh bank borrowing in January. Under the so-called “debt swap” plan there was supposed to be a seamless transition from loans to bond issuance, but the bond market was not up and running until May. This is why China crashed into a recession in the first half of the year. Wisely or not – depending on your economic religion – the Communist Party has now reverted to stimulus as usual. The local governments issued almost $200bn of bonds over the two months of July and August. Beijing coyly describes its fiscal spending as “proactive”. Turbo-charged would be another way of putting it.

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I’m not.

Should We Be Afraid Of China’s ‘Value Chain’? (CNBC)

The devaluation of the yuan may have a tougher impact on global companies than previously imagined, as China’s drive to produce and consume higher-quality goods intensifies. The shockwaves of the People’s Bank of China’s devaluation of its currency are still resonating around the world’s markets, but in the medium to long-term, it’s manufacturers who may hurt the most. Western companies from Apple to Burberry will face a tough time finding out whether they can rely on their cachet in China even when their goods becoming more expensive. China’s wealth has grown by leaps and bounds since the gradual opening up of its economy began in the 1980s.

Its per capita GDP in 2014 was $12,608.87, when adjusted for purchasing power, more than double what it had been just a decade before. The Chinese leadership’s current five-year economic plan (2011 to 2015) is specifically aimed at moving the economy’s fast-paced growth away from the low-cost manufacturing it had become famous for, towards consumption. Tactics included greater investment in research and development, higher-end manufacturing, and services targeted at the country’s burgeoning middle class.

In May, the Made in China 2025 plan has been billed by Premier Li Keqiang as an attempt to “redouble our efforts to upgrade China from a manufacturer of quantity to one of quality.” He pledged in May to “seek innovation-driven development, apply smart technology, strengthen foundations, pursue green development” – all of which is aimed at avoiding the “middle income trap”, where a country gets stuck at a certain level of economic development. Worryingly for those countries which have done well out of exporting to China in recent years, the plan includes sourcing 70% of key components within China’s borders by 2025.

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“Euro area policymakers have lived on one myth after another..”

Eurozone: The Case Against ‘Cash For Reform’ (Martin Sandbu)

“Euro area policymakers have lived on one myth after another,” says Ashoka Mody, a former deputy director at the International Monetary Fund. “A process of groupthink coalesces around these myths: ‘We know it’s not going to work but we need to make it work and we need to seem supportive’ — and before you know it they start to believe it. And because there is no democratic accountability, they are free to make one error after another in terms of economic and political logic.” The eurozone establishment has largely internalised the idea that “cash for reform” is necessary to keep the euro together.

The most direct challenge to it, from Greece’s Syriza party, was defeated when other countries — most notoriously Germany — made clear they would rather force Greece out of the euro than consider alternatives to offering refinancing in return for control over fiscal and reform policies. The idea that “there is no alternative” also motivates the efforts to “complete” Europe’s economic and monetary union. These efforts at deeper integration, epitomised most recently in the so-called “Five Presidents’ Report” — written by the heads of the most influential eurozone and EU institutions — proceed from the notion that the euro was flawed at birth and needs significant repairs to function properly. [..]

This article examines four widely-held preconceptions about Europe’s single currency. First, that the euro eroded the export competitiveness of the weaker countries. Second, that the resulting debt made official bailouts necessary. Third, that a monetary union can work only in the presence of a “fiscal union” — large budget transfers between countries to insure against downturns. And fourth, that the weaker countries must undergo deep structural reforms to be able to stay in the euro.
Each of these claims has had an outsize influence on policy. The research reported below shows that they should not be taken for granted.

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Fraport is rumored not to have paid its Greek VAT in many years.

Greece’s First Privatization Deal Since Third Bailout Hits Snag (Bloomberg)

Greece’s first privatization agreement since the country’s third bailout hit a snag just one day after the government announced the deal’s approval. A government council overseeing state asset sales said on Tuesday that Fraport AG and a unit of Greece’s Copelouzos Group had won a 40-year concession to operate 14 regional airports for €1.2 billion. Fraport commented afterward that the decision was “not tantamount to the conclusion of a contract but rather offers a basis for the resumption of negotiations.” The Greek government said Wednesday that it had approved the contract based on previous agreements, and that any effort to seek a renegotiation “wouldn’t be limited to the issues raised by the company.”

Fraport is “working toward a positive outcome,” said Joerg Machacek, a company spokesman. The airport deal is meant to be the first in a series of privatizations that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed to undertake in return for the third bailout package worth as much as €86 billion. The most pressing matter is obtaining funding to avoid a default Thursday when Greece must pay €3.2 billion to the ECB. Under the current proposal, Fraport would invest €1.4 billion to upgrade the airports by the end of the concession. The German company would also pay an annual lease of €22.9 million for the airports, which include the holiday islands of Mykonos and Santorini.

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It’s simply a bad bad deal. Strike it.

Fresh Doubts Raised Over Privatization Of 14 Greek Airports (Xinhua)

Fresh doubts were raised on Wednesday after the government finalized a €1.23 billion deal with the German consortium Fraport-Slentel on Tuesday to privatize 14 regional airports in Greece. The sale of the airports’ operation rights for 40 years was the first privatization to be concluded under the third bailout that was ratified by the Greek parliament on Friday. It was also the first privatization to be carried out since the left-led government coalition assumed power after the general elections in January. The announcement sparked mixed reactions in Greece. Some members of opposition parties welcomed the deal as a step towards boosting development. At the same time, they criticized the government for wasting precious time by delaying decisions for months.

Meanwhile, the ruling SYRIZA party’s hardliners denounced the “sell off” in a statement. Left Platform accused the government of “handing a great gift to the German government in return for the new catastrophic bailout.” The president of the Federation of Greek Civil Aviation Workers (OSYPA), Vassilis Alevizopoulos, warned of strike actions and lawsuits in Greek and European courts to “safeguard Greek public interests,” speaking to local VIMA radio station on Wednesday. Critics argued that the funds the German consortium would invest in the upgrade of the airports under the contract were insufficient and the cost will undoubtedly be transferred to travelers. In this climate of prolonged economic and political uncertainty in Greece, the German investors would most likely seek “more guarantees” from the government, Kathimerini reported.

However, Greek government sources stressed that if the consortium should wish to renegotiate the contract, there would be an in-depth dialogue on all issues. The agreement on the concession of the 14 airports that included the airports of Thessaloniki in northern Greece, and airports on islands such as Corfu and Mykonos, was initially scheduled to close in late 2014, but was frozen in the pre-election period. SYRIZA, which initially opposed the entire privatization program since the beginning of Greek bailouts in 2010, had previously said that the terms of the tender would be reviewed. But according to Tuesday’s official announcement, no amendments were made on the finalization of the privatization. [..]Greek ministers argued that privatizations would take place under changed conditions in comparison to the past “to benefit Greek economy and people.”

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“..the MoU is really a “surrender document” that eclipses the country’s economic sovereignty and ensures that Greece’s depression — already deeper than America’s Great Depression — will get worse.”

Stiglitz: “Deep-Seatedly Wrong” Economic Thinking Is Killing Greece (Parramore)

Bad economic ideas inflict untold human suffering. When they come cloaked in a fog of Orwellian obfuscation, their poison and effects can spread with little hindrance. The public is misled. Power plays are hidden from view. In Greece, where suicide rates have risen sharply in the wake of austerity measures, people lose hope. Joseph Stiglitz, who has been following the Greek crisis closely and is recently returned from Athens, sets himself to the task of cutting through the fog. His plain English and fearless use of moral language to expose the ugliness behind economic and political abstractions lend clarity to a situation that is not just bringing a nation to its knees, but threatening to destroy the European project and bring on a future of conflict and hardship.

In discussing Greece’s Third Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and its draconian terms, Stiglitz observes that the MoU is really a “surrender document” that eclipses the country’s economic sovereignty and ensures that Greece’s depression — already deeper than America’s Great Depression — will get worse. An economy that is seeing youth unemployment reaching up to 60% is likely to lose another 5% in GDP. That is over and beyond the 25% plunge in GDP the country has been hit with since the imposition of austerity measures. Socially conservative Germans, Stiglitz warns, are doubling down on the discredited notion that austerity policies help economies recover in times of crisis.

In reality, the insistence on keeping wages down, stripping away bargaining power from workers, forcing small business owners to pay taxes a year in advance, and cutting pensions will only hamper demand and lead to a deepening spiral of debt. (Stiglitz emphasizes that hardly any of the money loaned to Greece has actually gone to help the Greeks themselves, but rather private-sector creditors – namely German and French banks). Reflecting on a recent panel at Columbia University with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble followed by a dinner, Stiglitz said, “My heart goes out to Greece, even more so after meeting Schäuble.”

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The Dutch are clueless. They blame SYRIZA for what’s ailing Greece. For Pete’s sake, get a life.

Dutch Lambast Greece For Creating ‘Complete Chaos’ (Telegraph)

German MPs voted to back a third bail-out for Greece on Wednesday as Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte fought back a no confidence vote over his decision to support the €86bn rescue plan. After a three-hour debate, Berlin’s Bundestag approved a new rescue package for Greece with a majority of 454 votes to 113. Eighteen MPs also abstained, marking Angela Merkel’s biggest insurrection during her decade in office. Of her ruling CDU/CSU parliamentarians, 63 MPs voting against the package, more than the 60 coalition MPs who voted “no” in an initial vote in July. But the approval was enough to secure the disbursement of €13bn from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) – the eurozone’s bail-out fund.

However, less than €1bn will go directly to the Greek government and €3.2bn will be used to immediately pay back a maturing bond held by the ECB on Thursday. It is the first injection of rescue cash to the Greek economy since August 2014 after eight months of ill-tempered talks and political crisis in the eurozone. EU policymakers hailed the agreement on Wednesday evening. Pierre Moscovici, the euro’s economics chief, said the deal would mark a “new chapter based on reforms, fairness and shared trust” between Greece and its creditors. Ratification from the German parliament was crucial in securing the deal. Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s finance minister, told lawmakers that a deal was in the “interest of Europe”, but admitted that backing for a third bail-out deal was “not easy” and there was “no guarantee of success”.

“If Greece stands by its obligations and the programme is completely and resolutely implemented, then the Greek economy can grow again,” he said. “The opportunity is there. Whether it will be used, only the Greeks can decide.” Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who is also president of the Eurogroup, said reaching an accord was difficult. “Greece has seen decades of bad policies and six months of complete chaos,” he told his parliament. The Dutch backlash was led by right-wing politician Geert Wilders, who has called for the Netherlands to withdraw from the European Union. “Today we are here to prevent Dutch PM Rutte from indulging in his favorite hobby: sending money to Greece, this time €5bn,” Mr Wilders told the Dutch parliament on Wednesday.

Mr Wilders said Mr Rutte had reneged on a pledge in September 2012 that “enough is enough” and that Greece would get no more financial help from the country. “He’s the Pinocchio of the low countries. This is betrayal,” said Mr Wilders. “We need this money to support health care and the elderly. This government hates the elderly.” Mr Rutte said he took “responsibility” for his comments, but defended the government’s decision to back a bail-out, claiming that “no-one could have foreseen” in 2012 how the situation in Greece would evolve. “The new Greek government has caused great damage,” he said.

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Crucial for Greece: bank recapitalization. The rest is circle jerk only.

European Bailout Fund To Disburse First Greek Tranche On Thursday (Reuters)

The European Stability Mechanism will disburse the first tranche of funds from Greece’s bailout loan on Thursday, the Greek finance ministry said after the ESM board approved a rescue of up to €86 billion on Wednesday. Athens will receive €13 billion on Thursday morning, the ministry said, of which about €12 billion will be used to pay down debt, including an earlier bridge loan and money owed to the ECB. “Nearly one billion euros will be made available to the Greek state, a sum that can be used to pay arrears,” the finance ministry said in a statement.

The new bailout package of up to €86 billion for 32.5 years includes up to €25 billion to recapitalize Greek banks, of which 10 billion will be immediately available, according to the ministry. Athens needed the funds in time to make a €3.2 billion debt payment to the ECB on Thursday. The initial €13 billion tranche will be paid in cash, while the €10 billion euros for the recapitalization of banks will be sent to a segregated account in the form of ESM notes.

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“..economic pain was designed into the Greek rescue. Unable to devalue Greece’s currency, the bailouts’ architects—other eurozone countries and the IMF—tried to push down prices and wages in a process called “internal devaluation.”

The Fisherman’s Lament – A Way of Life Drowned by Greece’s Crisis (WSJ)

Dimitris Stathakis, 75 years old and wearing no shoes, is at work on the aft deck of the North Aegean, a fishing boat docked in the Greek port of Nea Michaniona. The boat’s 14-man crew is prepping for a night at sea. Bags of ice are tossed aboard. Someone brings a delivery of white Styrofoam boxes. It is baking hot. Mr. Stathakis has his shirt on his head to keep the sun off. He is mending nets with flicks of a plastic shuttle and assessing the state of a profession he took up in his teens. “This is the end,” he says. “This is the worst. There is no life anymore.” The fisherman’s lament is as old as the seas. And Greeks have earned a living from fish for eons. It is the country’s second-largest agricultural export, behind fruit and nuts but ahead of olive oil and cheese.

Six years of economic crisis, however, have left this way of life in a shambles. A collapse in household buying power has demolished demand for fish, and with it fishermen’s income. Aquaculture companies, once a shining star in the marine economy, are drowning in debts. Fish processors are struggling with high costs for finance and relentless price pressure among strapped shoppers. Few think the woes will end soon. The Greek government has signed up to a new bailout, with more years of belt-tightening ahead. The first notches came last month, in laws rushed through parliament at the behest of Greece’s creditors: Fishermen face higher pension contributions, while fish processors face new, higher taxes on processed food.

Meantime, Greek banks are only dribbling out cash to customers—further strangling already weak demand. Sales at North Aegean Sea Canneries SA, one of Greece’s largest fish processors, dropped 20% at the beginning of the crisis. The company is facing a long recovery. Nikolaos Tzikas, an owner, says he had hoped to crawl back to 2011 levels this year. “Now,” he says, “I don’t know.” The travails of Greece’s fish industry show how years of crisis and bailouts have left the country’s economy in worse shape than before—and why the next episode may well meet the same fate. In a way, economic pain was designed into the Greek rescue. Unable to devalue Greece’s currency, the bailouts’ architects—other eurozone countries and the IMF—tried to push down prices and wages in a process called “internal devaluation.”

The hope was that lower costs would make Greek industries nimbler and more competitive, juicing a sustained economic recovery. Instead, the loss of income has killed consumption. People are too poor to buy stuff and the banks too weak to give them credit, and the effects ripple up the economic chain. “Internal devaluation did not do any good for the Greek fishing, aquaculture and processing sector,” says Lamprakis Avdelas, a fishing expert at a government-affiliated institute in Athens.

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“..the price of oil in five years’ time has collapsed in recent months.”

Get Used To Cheap Oil, Derivatives Markets Say (Reuters)

Oil prices will stay low for years to come, derivatives markets say, keeping a lid on inflation and helping boost global growth. Oil has more than halved in value over the last year, thanks to huge oversupply, and many oil companies, particularly in the United States, say they may soon have to rein in production, tightening supply, unless the market recovers. That has led many analysts to predict that oil – on average around 5% of companies’ costs – will see price rises later this year or in 2016, pushing up inflation. But oil derivatives tell another story. Contracts for delivery of crude oil in the future on the big commodities markets such as the New York Mercantile Exchange and the InterContinental Exchange show the price of oil in five years’ time has collapsed in recent months.

U.S. crude now costs around $42 a barrel for delivery next month, and only about $20 more for delivery in 2020. Prices of oil for future delivery are usually much more stable than volatile near-term prices, holding their value even when the spot market crashes. But the recent oil-price rout looks different. Prices for all futures months for years to come, also known as the futures price “curve”, have come down sharply. “The curve is saying prices will stay low for some time,” said Amrita Sen, oil analyst at consultancy Energy Aspects.

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All that’ll be left is the lethal tailings ponds.

As Canada’s Oil Debt Soars to Record, an Industry Shakeout Looms (Bloomberg)

Canadian energy companies’ debt loads are the heaviest in at least a decade, boosting concern that some won’t survive the collapse in crude prices. Trican Well Service, Canada’s largest fracking service provider, said last week it may be unable to continue because it’s in danger of breaching the terms of its debt. It’s the latest firm to see crude’s descent to a six-year low sap the cash flow needed to meet financial obligations. Oil’s plunge has pushed a measure of the average debt burden among Canadian energy firms to the highest since at least 2002, and another measure of their ability to make interest payments to the third-lowest level in a decade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Facing some of the highest production costs in the world and carrying more debt than U.S. peers, the Canadian industry has become ripe for acquisitions. “Your ability to be an ongoing entity is certainly decreased,” said Jason Parker, head of fixed-income research at Bank of Montreal. “You’ll see larger, more financially affluent entities coming in and picking away at those properties.” Energy companies in the Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite Index had an average of 3.1 times more debt than earnings as of their latest quarterly report, the highest ratio in Bloomberg data going back to the middle of 2002. That measure, a gauge of a firm’s ability to repay its obligations where a higher number indicates greater difficulty, has surged this year amid the global oil glut that’s depressed prices and earnings.

Another ratio, measuring how much greater earnings are than interest expenses, plummeted to the third least in a decade at the end of last year, suggesting there’s less money to service the borrowings. The heavy crude that many Canadian firms pump sells at almost the widest discount in a year relative to the U.S. benchmark. At $24.22 per barrel on Wednesday, the price is below the cost of production for many companies. For James Jung, who rates the debt of Canadian oil companies at DBRS Ltd. in Toronto, that divides the country’s industry into winners and losers, with those who have stronger balance sheets and lots of cash in a position to take advantage as more peers struggle with debt.

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That’s one Ponzi industry I wouldn’t mind seeing killed off.

Cheap Oil’s Making It Tough for Ethanol to Pay the Bills (Bloomberg)

Cheap crude oil may make it hard for ethanol companies to pay their bills on time. The lowest oil prices in six years are hitting biofuel producers two ways: They’re making ethanol less attractive as a blend for gasoline, and emboldening the arguments of petroleum backers who say the U.S. law mandating consumption of the fuel alternative is obsolete, Standard & Poor’s Ratings said in a report Wednesday. “The most noteworthy trend in the energy industry during the past year has been the precipitous decline in commodity prices, and chief among these has been plummeting oil prices,” Michael Ferguson, a credit analyst at S&P, wrote. “The lower oil prices may present a difficult rationale for blending ethanol.”

Crude oil has fallen 57% in the past year to $40.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest since March 2009. Gasoline has plunged 42% and ethanol has dropped 31%. Regulatory support has also waned. In May, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed reducing the amount of ethanol required to be mixed with gasoline from statutory levels set in 2007, citing changing driving habits and fuel use since then. That’s not reason enough to abandon the policy, according to Growth Energy, a Washington-based trade group. “Cheap gas and cheap oil is never a certainty, and often it is the exception,” Tom Buis, chief executive officer of the lobby, said in an e-mailed statement.

The Renewable Fuels Association, also a Washington-based trade group, said the S&P report “is really out of step with the realities of the market place today.” Low-priced crude oil lowers gasoline costs and makes ethanol less attractive for blending beyond government mandates. An additive, ethanol is used to boost gasoline supply and lower prices. “Consumers are saying, ‘I’ve already got cheap gas, why do I need this ethanol?’” Ferguson, the report’s author, said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

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Australia.

Banks Have Treated Our Housing Market Like A Ponzi Scheme (David)

Australia’s big four banks are among the largest and most profitable financial institutions in the world. Despite this, it is mathematically impossible that these banks, primarily focused on domestic retail operations, could be as big and profitable as they currently are without one of the following taking place: either each of these banks, in their individual capacity, has solved (at the same time, in the same country, and as a first in the history of banking) the ultimate recipe for infinitely profiting from an exponentially-growing stock of private debt; or they are all engaged in activity which is incredibly risky. Looking at the balance sheets of these four banking leviathans they have clearly taken on abnormal sums of risk to invest in a single, all-in, one-way bet on the housing market.

As my colleague Philip Soos and I told the House of Representatives’ economics committee inquiry into home ownership last week, the evidence suggests that on the back of irrational exuberance, Australia is experiencing what can only be described as a classic debt-financed speculative housing bubble with every metric that evidenced the bubble in the US and Ireland present within our economic system today. Between 2002 and 2015, the mortgage books of National Australia Bank, ANZ, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac grew by 388%, 435%, 475% and 554% respectively. Put another way, the big four’s mortgage books escalated from a combined $242bn to a whopping $1.13tn, surging at such a consistent rate it would make Bernie Madoff proud.

What the Australian banking system has developed is an uninterrupted growth model which shares a similar risk profile as a Ponzi or pyramid scheme by lending ever-larger sums of debt to homebuyers and property investors year after year. If this growth model is interrupted, however, and banks cannot expand their mortgage books further, housing price inflation halts and will then plunge.

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Only choice left that will stop the shelling.

Rebels In Ukraine’s Donetsk Plan Referendum On Joining Russia (Xinhua)

Leaders of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” are planning to hold a referendum on seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia, the Donetsk-based Ostrov news agency reported Wednesday. The referendum is scheduled to be held in two to four weeks after the Oct. 18 local elections, said the news agency. The ballot papers for the referendum designed in the colors of the Russian flag have already been printed, it said. Neither the rebel leadership nor the Ukrainian authorities have commented on the report yet.

In July, leaders of pro-independence insurgents in Donetsk region said they would hold local elections on Oct. 18 without Kiev’s supervision as they believed that the Ukrainian government has not fulfilled its obligations under the Minsk peace agreement. Last week, violence in eastern Ukraine has sharply escalated after several weeks of relative calmness. On Sunday night, at least 11 people, including nine civilians, were reportedly killed in Donetsk region, marking the worst casualties in the conflict since early June.

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Hilarious.

China’s Building a Huge Canal in Nicaragua, But We Couldn’t Find It (Bloomberg)

Deep on the southeastern side of Lake Nicaragua, along a bumpy dirt road that climbs gently through lush-green forest, sits the tiny town of El Tule. It is quintessential rural Central America: Chickens roam outside tin-roofed homes while pigs stand tied to trees, awaiting slaughter; the sound of drunk locals singing along to ranchera music greeted visitors on a recent rain-soaked afternoon. The village, if you listen to Nicaraguan officials, is a key point in what will be the biggest infrastructure project the region has ever seen, the construction of a $50 billion canal slated to run 170 miles from the country’s east to west coast. Awarded two years ago by President Daniel Ortega to an obscure Chinese businessman named Wang Jing, the concession calls for El Tule to be ripped up, erased essentially, in order to make way for the canal right before it plunges into the lake and then meets the Pacific Ocean a few miles later.

The idea is that the waterway will attract many of the larger vessels that the Panama Canal — located just 300 miles to the southeast — has historically struggled to accomodate. A construction deadline of 2020 has been set. Yet a four-day tour through El Tule and surrounding areas slated for crucial initial development only seemed to corroborate the belief, harbored by many analysts inside and outside Nicaragua, that this project isn’t going to get done. The townspeople haven’t seen any signs of canal workers in months. And the work that was done was marginal. A handful of Chinese engineers were spotted late last year making field notations on the east side of the lake; early this year, a dirt road was expanded and light posts were upgraded at a spot on the west side where a port is to be built.

Juharling Mendoza, a 32-year-old local entrepreneur, is so convinced that the project won’t proceed that he’s constructing a two-story house with three guest rooms and an attached convenience store just outside of El Tule. He says bluntly: “There isn’t going to be a canal.”

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These people are completely nuts. Sending dogs on refugees says it all.

British Police Head To Calais To Stymie Migrant Smuggling Activity (Guardian)

British police will be deployed to Calais to target people-smuggling gangs as part of a new agreement aimed at alleviating the ongoing migrant crisis at the French port. In the first visit to Calais by a UK government minister since the crisis escalated at the start of the summer, home secretary Theresa May will travel to the town on Thursday to confirm a joint declaration with Bernard Cazeneuve, the French minister of the interior. Their deal will see officers from the UK based in a new command and control centre in Calais alongside their French counterparts and Border Force personnel. The work of the police contingent will be led by two senior commanders – one from the UK and one from France. They will report regularly to May and Cazeneuve on the extent of immigration-related criminal activity on both sides of the Channel.

Officials said the move was aimed at disrupting organised criminals, who attempt to smuggle migrants illegally into northern France and across the Channel into Britain, by ensuring intelligence and enforcement work is more collaborative. Britain and France will also work jointly to ensure networks are dismantled and prosecutions are pursued, sources said. Fresh measures included in the new agreement include: • The deployment of extra French policing units and additional freight search teams, including detection dogs • The investment of UK resources including fencing, CCTV, flood lighting and infrared detection technology to secure the Eurotunnel railhead • The tightening of security within the tunnel itself, with Eurotunnel helping to increase the number of guards protecting the site • The creation of a new “integrated control room” covering the railheads at Coquelles • A security audit to be carried out by specialist French and British police teams to underpin the design of the improvements.

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The moral bankruptcy of Europe.

Refugee Chaos in Macedonia: ‘Life-Threatening for Women and Children’ (Spiegel)

A dangerous bottleneck has formed in the Macedonian border town of Gevgelija, an important hub for refugees traveling to Western Europe. Those trying to reach the trains here face extreme heat, dangerous crowds and police bullying. It’s Monday, earlier this week, and what can be seen unfolding along the route to Macedonia is no less than mass migration, with around 200 people making their way along the Balkans route to Western Europe on this day alone. They have come here from Aleppo, Homs, Kobani, Tartus, Hama and Damascus. Indeed, much of Syria’s population appears to be fleeing at the moment, as they attempt to make their way to safety. The group walks along the railway tracks that lead from the Greek village of Idomeni to the town of Gevgelija in Macedonia.

“Good luck, Kobani!” a family from Damascus calls out as they pass by a group of Syrian Kurds. “Good luck, Damascus,” they respond. But they don’t make it very far. They soon encounter five Macedonian police officers waiting along the tracks on the dusty, trampled earth. They order the people to wait without telling them why or for how long. The Syrians take off their backpacks and set them on the ground. Women and children look for a place in the shade. Over the next five hours, the waiting group swells to around 400 people. Not all are Syrians. A few Iraqis have also made it here. Some are now claiming to be Syrian, which would give them greater chances of success with their asylum applications and expedited procedures. A Syrian man points to eight young men and women from Africa.

“Everyone here is from Syria now, even those people over there,” he says, grinning. The people here all have at least one thing in common: They arrived in Europe during recent days via one of the Greek islands located near the Turkish coast – Kos, Lesbos or Chios. Each day, around 1,000 to 1,500 people arrive on the islands, a greater number than ever seen before. Most want to continue on to Western Europe as quickly as possible. The massive surge of refugees has created a dangerous bottleneck on the main route through the Balkans.

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