Sep 272022
 


Marcel Duchamp About young sister 1911

 

This Is the Way the World Ends (Jim Kunstler)
Ukrainian Territories To Be Absorbed Into Russia By Week’s End: Lawmaker (ZH)
All the Young Dudes, Carry the -Russian- News (Escobar)
Zelensky Reveals US Pays Ukraine $1.5 Billion Per Month (RT)
Putin Considering Talks With Kiev On New Conditions – Turkish FM (RT)
German Energy Apocalypse Update V (Eugyp)
Germany Suspects ‘Targeted Attack’ On Russian Gas Pipelines (RT)
The US Is Winning Its War On Europe’s Industries And People (MoA)
West Should Treat Us With Respect – Putin (RT)
Poland Slams ‘Scandalous’ Von der Leyen Warning (RT)
Russia And The US Still Have Time To Prevent A Nuclear War (Trenin)
Orban Says EU Sanctions on Russia Have ‘Backfired’ (R.)
Moscow Tells US To ‘Back Off’ With ‘Aggressive’ Course (RT)
Moscow Grants Russian Citizenship To Edward Snowden (AP)
Roger Waters Pens Open Letter To Putin (RT)
Trouble About The Corona Vaccine Deal: Why Is Von Der Leyen Stonewalling? (MP)
Just 1.5% Of Eligible Americans Have Gotten Updated COVID Booster (ZH)

 

 

 

 

Meloni identity

 

 

 

 

Net Zero

 

 

This one is a bit older.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Madame von der Leyen’s fellow Germans have already been sent to their room without so much as a kartoffelklop, plus no heat or hot showers for you, Hansel and Gretel.”

This Is the Way the World Ends (Jim Kunstler)

The bond market has gone south, and that spells The End for the great game of financialization. The bond market is Moby Dick compared to the little blowfish that is the stock market. The global money system is based on bonds, which are… what? That’s right: loans… promises to pay you X at some future moment. So, what happens when a daisy-chain of promises-to-pay gets broken? Or, perhaps more precisely, when all those promises lose their last shred of plausible reality? Why, the money that these broken promises are denominated in loses its essential cred. Trick question: how much is worthless money worth? (Answer: not enough to pay for a can of Schrödinger’s cat food.) Which is where all this folderol leaves a lot of ordinary people all over Western Civ (and beyond!) trying to scratch up enough increasingly worthless money to feed the family and pay the landlord. Many will never understand what happened. But they will not be any less pissed off at the result.

This is the way the world ends for the hapless phantom known as “Joe Biden” the child-sniffing ectoplasm that haunts the White House these days of late empire. Somehow, the bamboozled nation has so far passively accepted the pranks and punishments laid on them by the backstage managers behind the Figment-in-Chief. Eight-plus percent inflation? No problemo, right? Eighty-five thousand new IRS agents on-board to drive you batshit while destroying your household and your posterity (ha!)? Half the population of South America flooding across the border? (The vibrancy! You no like?) A hundred dollar fill-up at the gas pump, and no heat for you this winter? (But… Netflix!) Drag queens to amuse and edify your children about the delirious realm of sexual pathology. All that…and how about a Russian hypersonic nuclear missile up your ass if the preceding somehow failed to move you? (Because: Russia, Russia, Russia…!)


Meanwhile, a trend is manifesting in other lands. The people of, first, Sweden and now Italy are voting in “right wing” nationalist governments — the horror — sending their equivalent of our Party of Chaos to the showers. This has irked the President of the European Union, one Ursula von der Leyen, no end. She has threatened to send Italy to its room without supper for the effrontry. Of course, Madame von der Leyen’s fellow Germans have already been sent to their room without so much as a kartoffelklop, plus no heat or hot showers for you, Hansel and Gretel. Embrace the suck.

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No way back.

Ukrainian Territories To Be Absorbed Into Russia By Week’s End: Lawmaker (ZH)

With four occupied regions of Ukraine currently in the midst of a five-day referendum on whether to join the Russian federation, a Kremlin lawmaker told state media over the weekend that the territories are likely to be absorbed by Russia on September 30. “Taking into account the preliminary results of the referendums and Russia’s readiness to acknowledge them, the accession of the territories is likely to take place as early as on September 30,” the unnamed member of Russia’s State Duma said to TASS. Voting is set to conclude Tuesday in Donestk, Luhansk and the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, meaning as early as Wednesday or even Thursday announcements of results are likely to trickle out, paving the way for a potential Friday official declaration.


While Russian forces do not yet control the entirety of each of these territories, their annexation would constitute Ukraine losing almost 20% of its geographic territory. Russian President Vladimir Putin might himself make the proclamation following the referendums, which Ukrainian leaders along with Washington have dismissed as a “sham” – saying they won’t be recognized. Russian media reports indicate: The lawmaker said Russian President Vladimir Putin could take part in the procedure on September 30. “I don’t know if he will [participate], but he is likely to do so,” the MP said. Given that on Saturday Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov vowed new territories would be under Russia’s “full protection” – there is more than likely to be a major uptick in the intensity of fighting to follow the referenda results announcement in eastern Ukraine.

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“..after so many years, Moscow is finally fully committed to supporting Donbass all the way to the baby bears coming to Mama for good.”

All the Young Dudes, Carry the -Russian- News (Escobar)

Moscow’s rerouted strategy takes maskirovka – mask, feint, fool the enemy – to another level, actually dropping the mask, plus the velvet gloves. Now it’s all very clear: this is turbo-charged Sun Tzu (“May your plans be dark and impenetrable like the night, and when you move, strike like lightning.”) There will be plenty of strikes like lightning ahead in the Ukrainian battlefield. This is the culmination of a process that started in Samarkand, during the SCO summit last week. According to diplomatic sources, Putin and Xi Jinping had a very serious conversation. Xi asked tough questions – as in you must finish this off – and Putin arguably explained how things would reach the next level.

Yoda Patrushev was on the road to China immediately afterwards – meeting with his Yoda counterpart Yang Jiechi, head of the Foreign Affairs Commission, and the secretary of the Central Political and Legal Committee, Guo Shengkun. Following-up on Samarkand, Patrushev outlined how Moscow will help Beijing militarily when the Empire tries anything funny in the next battlefield: Asia-Pacific. That should happen under the framework of the SCO. Crucially, the Patrushev meetings were requested by the Chinese. So the Russia-China strategic partnership is about to achieve full-fledged cooperation before the going gets tough in the South China Sea. It’s as if Russia-China were on the brink of creating their own CSTO.

And that is happening even as the Chinese leadership continues to express – mostly in private – that war in Russia’s western borderlands is very bad for business (BRI, EAEU, SCO, BRICS+, all of them) and should be wrapped up a.s.a.p. The problem is a swift wrap-up is off the cards. Foreign Minister Lavrov, in New York for the UN General Assembly, has stressed how. “Ukraine has eventually become a totalitarian Nazi sort of state” – unconditionally supported by the collective West. NATOstan has predictably doubled down on its tactics since the non-response response to Russia’s demand for a serious discussion on indivisibility of security, in late 2021: it’s always about shelling Donbass. This could not possibly be tolerated anymore by the Kremlin and Russian public opinion.

Thus the partial mobilization – forcefully proposed by the siloviki and the Security Council for quite a while now, with Kostyukov at GRU, Naryshkin at SVR and Bortnikov at FSB on the forefront. The symbolism is powerful: after so many years, Moscow is finally fully committed to supporting Donbass all the way to the baby bears coming to Mama for good. There are – unconfirmed – rumors in Moscow that the decision was accelerated because GRU has intel on the Americans soon transferring long-range missiles to Kiev capable of striking Russian cities. That’s beyond a red line for the Kremlin – hence Putin’s express mention that every weapon available in Russia’s mighty arsenal will be used to protect the Motherland.

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Lowballing.

Zelensky Reveals US Pays Ukraine $1.5 Billion Per Month (RT)

The Ukrainian government is being heavily supported with American money, with Washington contributing $1.5 billion per month to the budget, Ukraine’s President Vladimir Zelensky has revealed. The sum was mentioned by the Ukrainian leader during an interview with CBS host Margaret Brennan for the ‘Face the Nation’ program, which was aired on Sunday. Currently Kiev runs “a deficit of $5 billion in our budget,” Zelenksy said, adding that “the United States gives us $1.5 billion every month to support our budget to fight” against Russia. Zelensky argued that arming and otherwise helping Ukraine militarily is a “win-win” for the US. He pledged that once Russia is defeated, the Ukrainian people will return to their home country and start paying taxes there, relieving the burden on American taxpayers.

“For the United States, it will be significant savings, but for us, it will be an opportunity to secure our territory and make it safe for our population,” he stated. US President Joe Biden has pledged to help Ukraine “for as long as it takes” to secure a strategic defeat of Russia, which he declared Washington’s ultimate goal in the conflict. Many Americans do not share the president’s view that the situation in Ukraine is crucial. According to the conservative election pollster Rasmussen Reports, it failed to make the top-ten list of issues of concern for likely voters. Earlier this month, the Biden administration asked Congress to authorize some $12 billion in additional aid for Ukraine, including $4.5 billion to support the Kiev government financially beyond September. It asked for $2 billion on top of that, to help Ukraine offset rising energy prices.


The package is expected to be approved on Friday, but some political analysts question whether the cash flows to Ukraine can be sustained after the midterm elections in November. “America can’t afford to provide a blank checkbook to Ukraine when we have inflation, gas prices, a supply chain crisis, all of the above, going on at home,” a GOP lawmaker told Politico, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “That’s what I’m hearing from my voters.” The outlet predicted that if the Republican Party wins the House, Biden will face more resistance to his requests for emergency aid to Ukraine.

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“In the course of negotiations with our president, Putin announced the possibility of returning to negotiations with Kiev, but on new conditions that have appeared,”

Putin Considering Talks With Kiev On New Conditions – Turkish FM (RT)

Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering resuming talks with Ukraine, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday. The top diplomat made the remarks during a press conference in Tokyo where he’s attending the funeral of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated in July. According to Cavusoglu, Putin floated the idea during a conversation with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the recent summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. “In the course of negotiations with our president, Putin announced the possibility of returning to negotiations with Kiev, but on new conditions that have appeared,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying, He didn’t elaborate on the “conditions” specified.

The minister also reiterated Ankara’s desire to stage direct talks between Putin and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky. “Our president will continue his contacts with Putin and Zelensky. Our aim is to bring the two leaders together to ensure that decisions are made at the level of the leaders,” Cavusoglu said. Top Russian officials have repeatedly said Moscow has been ready to talk with Kiev, pinning the blame for the stalled negotiations on the Ukrainian side. Last week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said dialogue is “of course needed,” adding that Putin had already explained that “Ukraine left the negotiations several months ago.”


Apart from declaring the goal of defeating Moscow on the battlefield, Ukrainian officials have also reacted angrily to the referendums on joining Russia, currently ongoing in the Donbass republics and Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions in southern Ukraine. On Sunday, Zelensky warned that should Russia complete the vote, it would “make it impossible, in any case, to continue any diplomatic negotiations” with Moscow.

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“Normally” Eugyppius writes on Covid. But he’s in Germany…

German Energy Apocalypse Update V (Eugyp)

Germany has nationalised the gas importer Uniper, to save it from insolvency in the face of the Gazprom gas stoppage. Robert Habeck’s earlier scheme to save Uniper and other importers involved the imposition of a gas surcharge of 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour on all consumers, but the government appears ready to scrap this plan just days before it was set to go into effect. Instead, some politicians are now talking of capping gas prices, though as far as I can tell, nobody has any idea how. As the pressure builds and the first closures begin, Germany is entering an economic recession, and there are everyday renewed cracks in the political edifice.

Minister President of Saxony Michael Kretschmer (CDU) – no fringe political figure – recently remarked that Germany “cannot do without Russian gas” and acknowledged that EU sanctions are to blame for the shortage, but he stopped short of demanding that Nord Stream 2 be opened; instead, he hopes for a return to Russian gas after the Ukraine war has ended. The Greens in government remain committed to taking Germany’s last nuclear power plants offline by the end of the year, hoping that enough French nuclear plants will return to service over the winter to cover any resulting shortages. It is hard to imagine a more farcical approach to nuclear energy.

Meanwhile, the head mayor of Berlin has suggested that two- or three-hour periods of load-shedding may be necessary to keep the electrical grid functional over the winter. Other experts, while downplaying the risk of uncontrolled outages, have raised the possibility load-shedding as well, confirming that these are very real contingency plans and that we’re being prepared for them. The stated concern is invariably that local or regional gas shortages will cause the widespread activation of electrical heaters and overwhelm the grid, though how exactly this could be anticipated far enough in advanced for scheduled outages is unclear to me. Prices have increased vastly across the economy, and estimates are that up to 60 percent of German households are now committing their entire monthly income to cover the rising cost of living.

The depth of the crisis isn’t fully known, as loan defaults and similar economic signals won’t begin in earnest until 2023. And that’s it. There are no plans from the government, beyond doubtful price-tinkering, regulatory schemes and targeted financial assistance. If you look at those news outlets most guilty of Corona hysteria, like the state-funded Tagesschau or the Süddeutsche Zeitung, you find extremely muted reporting on the crisis. Instead, hyperventilation about Ukraine continues to dominate headlines; pieces on the energy apocalypse are either misleading items like this one, hailing a dip in gas prices, or trivial write-ups about whether cities should cancel their Christmas lighting this year.

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Well, the Russians don’t blow up their own pipelines…

Germany Suspects ‘Targeted Attack’ On Russian Gas Pipelines (RT)

While the loss of pressure in three natural gas pipelines between Russia and Germany is still officially being investigated, Berlin is reportedly no longer convinced it was a coincidence, and suspects a “targeted attack” on behalf of either Ukraine or Russia, the newspaper Tagesspiegel reported on Monday evening. Pressure in one of the Nord Stream 2 lines dropped sharply overnight, followed by the same happening to both Nord Stream 1 pipes on Monday afternoon. Denmark announced that a gas leak was spotted off the coast of Bornholm island in the Baltic Sea and closed the area for maritime traffic, but could not confirm if this was what caused the pressure loss.

According to Tagesspiegel, the German government and agencies investigating the incident “can’t imagine a scenario that isn’t a targeted attack,” according to an anonymous source familiar with their assessments. “Everything speaks against a coincidence.” The outlet explained that a deliberate attack on the bottom of the sea has to involve special forces, navy divers or a submarine. Berlin is reportedly examining two possible scenarios. In the first, Ukraine or “Ukraine-affiliated forces”could be behind the attack. The second option is that Russia did it as a “false flag,” to make Ukraine look bad and drive the EU energy prices even higher.


With Nord Stream offline since late August, Russian gas can only be delivered to Germany and central Europe via the older pipelines going through Poland and Ukraine, Tagesspiegel noted. “We are in the process of clarifying the situation here,” a spokeswoman for the federal ministry of economics told the outlet. “We don’t currently know what caused the pressure drop.” Nord Stream 1 was built in 2011. Construction on Nord Stream 2 began in 2018, and took much longer due to political pressure and economic sanctions from the US. NS2 was finished and pressurized by September 2021. However, two days prior to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, the German government put its certification on indefinite hold, and has categorically refused any suggestion from Moscow – or its own people – to unblock the pipeline.

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“Instead of a real military threat from Russia and China, the problem for American strategists is the absence of such a threat.”

The US Is Winning Its War On Europe’s Industries And People (MoA)

On February 7 Professor of Economics Michael Hudson explained why America’s Real Adversaries Are Its European and Other Allies: “What worries American diplomats is that Germany, other NATO nations and countries along the Belt and Road route understand the gains that can be made by opening up peaceful trade and investment. If there is no Russian or Chinese plan to invade or bomb them, what is the need for NATO? And if there is no inherently adversarial relationship, why do foreign countries need to sacrifice their own trade and financial interests by relying exclusively on U.S. exporters and investors?

These are the concerns that have prompted French President Macron to call forth the ghost of Charles de Gaulle and urge Europe to turn away from what he calls NATO’s “brain-dead” Cold War and break with the pro-U.S. trade arrangements that are imposing rising costs on Europe while denying it potential gains from trade with Eurasia. Even Germany is balking at demands that it freeze by this coming March by going without Russian gas. Instead of a real military threat from Russia and China, the problem for American strategists is the absence of such a threat.” What the U.S. needed was to provoke Russia, and later China, into reacting to U.S. arranged threats in a way that would oblige its ‘allies’ to follow its sanction policies. The rather dimwitted European leadership fell for the trick.


The U.S. arranged for a Ukrainian attack on the rebel held Donbas region. This started on February 17 with intense artillery preparations against Donbas positions as recorded by the OSCE observers at that border. Russia had to react or see the ethnic Russians in those areas getting maimed and killed by Nazi devoting Ukrainians. There was no way to prevent that but by other than military means. On February 22 Russia recognized the Donbas republics as independent states and signed defense agreements with them. The same day the German chancellor Olaf Scholz canceled the launch of the undersea Nord Stream II pipeline which was to transport Russian gas to Germany’s industries and consumers. The Europeans launched a sequence of extremely harsh economic sanctions against Russia which, prodded by the U.S., had been prepared months in advance. Russia’s Special Military Operation, under Article 51 of the UN Charter, commenced on February 24.

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“Without that we won’t even talk to them. Nobody is going to tolerate humiliation..”

West Should Treat Us With Respect – Putin (RT)

Russia and Belarus are countries that are prepared to work with the West but only if there is mutual respect, presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko agreed during a face-to-face meeting in Sochi on Monday. Speaking on tv channel Rossiya 24, Lukashenko said he believes the West’s future lies with Russia, which has “everything they need.” On the other hand, he added, the West has things Russia and Belarus need and are willing to buy, including certain technologies. “What else do they want? They just need to make responsible decisions,” he said said. Putin agreed with the Belarusian leader, insisting the West must “treat us with respect.”

“Without that we won’t even talk to them. Nobody is going to tolerate humiliation,”Lukashenko continued, noting that both Moscow and Minsk were open to working with those who want to live side by side, building relations based on mutual respect. The Russian leader has previously suggested that the West was essentially waging a hybrid war against Moscow and was looking to “weaken, disunite and ultimately destroy”Russia. In a televised address last week, Putin claimed that Western countries openly admit that they “managed to break up the Soviet Union in 1991”and were now aiming to “split Russia into many regions that would be at each other’s throats.”


As a means to that end, Putin claims the West has been intentionally fostering Russophobic sentiments in countries like Ukraine, where he accuses the US and its allies of installing a hostile government and of turning the Ukrainian people into cannon fodder by pushing them into war with Russia. Putin has also warned Western leaders who openly call for a military defeat of Russia that Moscow is prepared to use any means at its disposal to defend itself and to ensure its territorial integrity. US President Joe Biden has hit back at Putin, accusing him of “making irresponsible nuclear threats to use nuclear weapons.”

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“..the president’s remarks were not an attempt to interfere with Italian domestic politics but rather meant to underline the body’s role “as guardian of the [European] treaties with regard to the rule of law.”

Poland Slams ‘Scandalous’ Von der Leyen Warning (RT)

A warning by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that Brussels has tools to discipline Italy if its prospective center-right government fails to cooperate with the EU was “scandalous,” according to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. The remark was a wake-up call for member states, the head of the Polish government said on Sunday, as quoted by state news agency PAP. “Is this the kind of Europe we want? Is this democracy and rule of law? That Eurocrats in Brussels decide what a government should be?”Morawiecki asked. He was responding to von der Leyen’s suggestion that, should the new Italian government fail to meet the EU’s policy expectations, the country could be disciplined.

The top official said “whatever democratic government is willing to work with us, we’re working together,” adding that “if things go in a difficult direction, I’ve spoken about Hungary and Poland, we have tools.” Von der Leyen spoke about Italy on Thursday at Princeton University, after it was suggested that people friendly to Russia could come to power in Rome after the election on Sunday. She was asked what the EU leadership plans to do about it. Morawiecki interpreted the remark as a promise to punish Italy, unless its new government is “in favor of Brussels.” European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer said that the president’s remarks were not an attempt to interfere with Italian domestic politics but rather meant to underline the body’s role “as guardian of the [European] treaties with regard to the rule of law.”


A center-right coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy (FI) party looks set to form a new cabinet following a snap election in the country. The outcome was consistent with opinion polls ahead of the ballot. In mid-September, the European Commission recommended suspending some €7.5 billion of emergency funding to Hungary over alleged erosion of the rule of law in the country. A similar punishment was imposed on Poland last year over controversial judicial reforms adopted by its conservative government.

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“..if – God forbid! – the Kremlin will face what the Russian military doctrine calls “a threat to the existence of the Russian Federation,” its nuclear weapons will not point to some location on the European continent, but more likely across the Atlantic.”

Russia And The US Still Have Time To Prevent A Nuclear War (Trenin)

This October marks the 60th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis, which drew Moscow and Washington into a nuclear showdown that threatened the immediate annihilation of the world. Luckily, the leaders of the time – Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy – had the wisdom to step back from the brink, and then engage with each other on first steps toward jointly managing adversity in the nuclear era. Given the current conflict in Ukraine, which is steadily escalating toward a direct military collision between Russia and the United States, there is a hope that the lessons of the past can also help to end the present confrontation on a peaceful note. However, we should also be mindful of the major differences between the two crises.

On the surface the root cause of both confrontations has been acute feelings of insecurity created by the expansion of the rival power’s political influence and military presence right to the doorstep of one’s own country: Cuba then, Ukraine now. This similarity, however, is almost as far as it goes. The salient feature of the Ukraine crisis is the vast asymmetry not only between the relevant capabilities of Russia and the United States, but even more importantly between the stakes involved. To the Kremlin, the issue is literally existential. Essentially, it is not only the future of Ukraine, but that of Russia itself that is on the table. To the White House, the issue is definitely important, but far less critical. What is in question is clearly US global leadership (which will not collapse within the Western world, whatever happens in Ukraine), its credibility (which can be dented but hardly destroyed), and the administration’s standing with the American people (for whom Ukraine is hardly a top concern).

[..] The problem is that its highly pro-active policy on Ukraine is based on a flawed premise that Russia can indeed accept being ‘strategically defeated’ and, should nuclear weapons be used, their use would be limited to Ukraine or, at worst, to Europe. Americans have a long tradition of ascribing their own strategic logic to their Russian opponents, but this can be fatally misleading. Ukraine, parts of Russia and Europe being hit by nuclear strikes – while the US emerges from the conflict unscathed – might be considered a tolerable outcome in Washington, but hardly in Moscow. [..] So many of Russia’s so-called red lines being breached without consequence from the start of the Ukraine war have created an impression that Moscow is bluffing, so that when President Vladimir Putin recently issued another warning to Washington, saying that “it is not a bluff,” some people concluded that it was precisely that.

Yet, as recent experience demonstrates, Putin’s words deserve to be taken more seriously. In a 2018 interview he said, “Why do we need a world in which there is no Russia?” The problem is that Moscow’s strategic defeat, which the US is aiming for in Ukraine, would probably ultimately result in “a world without Russia.” This probably suggests that if – God forbid! – the Kremlin will face what the Russian military doctrine calls “a threat to the existence of the Russian Federation,” its nuclear weapons will not point to some location on the European continent, but more likely across the Atlantic.

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“Hungary to hold a referendum on the EU’s sanctions imposed on Russia, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announces.

“The sanctions were not decided democratically, but were decided by Brussels bureaucrats and European elites,” he said on Monday.”

Orban Says EU Sanctions on Russia Have ‘Backfired’ (R.)

Hungary should prepare for a prolonged war in neighbouring Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Monday, sharply criticising European Union sanctions imposed on Russia which he said have “backfired”, driving up energy prices. Orban, long at odds with the EU over some of his policies seen in Brussels as anti-democratic, urged a ceasefire to end the war and said the sanctions against Russia were dealing a blow to Europe’s economy. Orban, who was reelected for a fourth consecutive term in April, now faces surging inflation, plunging consumer confidence and the prospect of a recession next year.

He told parliament it was no surprise that governments were falling in Europe, referring to the Italian election on Sunday following which Giorgia Meloni looks set to lead Italy’s most right-wing government since World War Two. “We can safely say that as a result of the sanctions, European people have become poorer, while Russia has not fallen to its knees,” Orban said. “This weapon has backfired, with the sanctions Europe has shot itself in the foot.” “We are waiting for an answer, the entire Europe is waiting for an answer from Brussels on how long we will keep doing this,” he said, adding it was also time to discuss the sanctions with the United States. Orban, whose government is in talks with the European Commission to secure billions of euros in EU funds blocked over rule-of-law concerns, said his government would launch a “national consultation” asking Hungarians about sanctions.


Orban has previously used this campaign tool to shore up domestic support for his Fidesz party on policies such as gay rights or migration. Orban said his government had revised its long-term energy strategy and aims to overhaul the power system and extend the lifespan of the Paks nuclear power plant, with a total of 32 big investments planned to be financed using EU funding. “If the Brussels bureaucrats do not give us this money, which Hungary is eligible for, then we will get the necessary funds from other financial sources,” Orban said, adding Hungary had started talks with the EU and “other international partners”. He did not elaborate.

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“Dozens of nations representing half of humanity either backed Russia’s position on Ukraine or at least acknowledged the merits of Russia’s reasoning..”

Moscow Tells US To ‘Back Off’ With ‘Aggressive’ Course (RT)

The US is taking an increasingly aggressive stance towards Moscow, but no amount of economic sanctions and political pressure can sway it from defending its national interests, a top Russian diplomat said. Moscow’s diplomacy regarding the US is an exercise in “crisis management”, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said in an interview on Russian television on Monday. He described US behavior as being “increasingly confrontational and worrisome.” “We can see how [the Americans] are trying to mobilize their satellites, their vassals to confront Russia in a more aggressive and hardline manner,” the diplomat said. “Washington’s irresponsible, extremely aggressive, extremely assertive course is bringing us all to the dangerous line. We are warning against maintaining this course.”

The brinkmanship has been evident not only when it comes to the crisis in Ukraine, but also in the all-important issue of nuclear non-proliferation and reduction, Ryabkov said. Washington has pretty much dismantled the entire architecture of strategic arms control and is threatening the last remaining bilateral treaty of that kind with Russia, the New START, he pointed out. The core of the problem, the diplomat said, is that the US “does not need agreements, which had been signed on the basis of parity, served not only the security interest of the group [of nations] led by the US, but strengthened the security of entire regions and the world in general. They are not in line with the hegemonic course that the US pursues in the international arena.”

The deputy minister said he didn’t expect US policy towards Russia to change anytime soon, because “there is an anti-Russian consensus of the elites” in the US. But the only viable solution is for Washington to recognize that Russia will not be bullied and act accordingly, Ryabkov added. “Time and time again we’ve told our American interlocutors, to use the most neutral term, that they have to back off and stop escalating the situation,” he said.

European nations, which sided with Washington’s anti-Russian drive, are suffering because of it, the Russian diplomat pointed out. In fact, their subservience to Washington makes them vulnerable to American exploitation, Ryabkov said. “[The Americans] are undermining Europe’s competitiveness, pumping their products into European markets, be they military equipment or hydrocarbons, which the Europeans would rather get from alternative sources under different circumstances,” he said. But Washington lacks global support, regardless of what American officials claim Ryabkov said. Dozens of nations representing half of humanity either backed Russia’s position on Ukraine or at least acknowledged the merits of Russia’s reasoning about it, he explained.

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One of 75, but the only one who gets attention.

Moscow Grants Russian Citizenship To Edward Snowden (AP)

President Vladimir Putin has granted Russian citizenship to former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden, according to a decree signed by the Russian leader on Monday. Snowden is one of 75 foreign nationals listed by the decree as being granted Russian citizenship. The decree was published on an official government website. Snowden, a former contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency, has been living in Russia since 2013 to escape prosecution in the U.S. after leaking classified documents detailing government surveillance programs. He was granted permanent residency in 2020 and said at the time that he planned to apply for Russian citizenship, without renouncing his U.S. citizenship.


Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti that the former contractor’s wife Lindsay Mills, an American who has been living with him in Russia, will also be applying for a Russian passport. The couple had a child in December 2020. Snowden, who has kept a low profile in Russia and occasionally criticized Russian government policies on social media, said in 2019 that he was willing to return to the U.S. if he’s guaranteed a fair trial. He hasn’t commented on being granted Russian citizenship.

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“Just because NATO and the US get to “invade other sovereign countries at the drop of a hat, or for a few barrels of oil,” doesn’t mean Russia shouldn’t hold itself to a higher standard..”

Roger Waters Pens Open Letter To Putin (RT)

Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters has penned a blunt open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, seeking guarantees that Russia will not expand beyond the Donbass and Crimea and will never “invade anyone ever again.” Posted to Facebook on Monday, the missive follows similarly frank open letters to Ukrainian First Lady Elena Zelenskaya. In the letter, Waters asks Putin to affirm he wants an end to the war – something the Russian president has already said on other occasions. He also demands a guarantee that Russia’s “territorial interest” stops at the “security of the Russian speaking populations”of Crimea and the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, citing the need to reassure “some people who think you want to overrun the whole of Europe, starting with Poland and the rest of the Baltic states.”

If Russia does have territorial ambitions beyond eastern Ukraine, Waters writes, “f*** you, and we might as well all stop playing the desperately dangerous game of nuclear chicken that the hawks on both sides of the Atlantic feel so comfortable with, and have at it.” It wasn’t immediately clear if the referendums in the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions on joining Russia qualified for this response. Moscow would also have to promise “not to invade anyone ever again,” Waters told Putin, complaining the launch of Russia’s special military operation in February was not just a “heinous war of aggression,” but an unexpected one to boot. Just because NATO and the US get to “invade other sovereign countries at the drop of a hat, or for a few barrels of oil,” doesn’t mean Russia shouldn’t hold itself to a higher standard, he explained.

“If you were to reply to me,” Waters wrote to Putin, “I would mightily respect you for it, and take it as an honorable move in the right direction towards a sustainable peace.” The progressive rock guitarist’s appeal to Putin followed his previous open letters to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s wife Elena, in which he urged the Ukrainian First Lady to “demand the implementation of your husband’s election promises and put an end to this deadly war,” a reference to Zelensky’s campaign pledge to “end the civil war” in Donbass. He told Zelenskaya she was “tragically mistaken” in her belief that western “support for Ukraine” – namely the continued supply of weapons – would shorten the conflict.

Zelenskaya responded to the musician earlier this month on Twitter, blaming Russia for “invading” Ukraine, “destroy[ing] cities and kill[ing] civilians.” She insisted that if Ukraine stops fighting it will mean the end of its existence, and urged Waters to address his peace appeals to the Russian president instead.

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Google translation from German outlet Morgenpost.

The “talks” between Ursula and Bourla were in WhatsApp (or a similar app), and she gave herself permission to delete all of it. Dead end.

Trouble About The Corona Vaccine Deal: Why Is Von Der Leyen Stonewalling? (MP)

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is under pressure because of a multi-billion dollar mega contract for the delivery of Biontech-Pfizer’s corona vaccine. According to information from our editorial team, the budget controllers of the EU Parliament are preparing a formal reprimand, the displeasure in Parliament is great, the first MPs call for the public prosecutor. It is by far the largest contract in the European Union for the procurement of corona vaccines: In May 2021, i.e. five months after the start of the vaccination campaign, the Commission agreed on the delivery of up to 1.8 billion doses of the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine ( 900 million as an option) for the years 2022 and 2023. According to insider information, the purchase price is a gigantic 35 billion euros.

Not only the volume is spectacular. It is also unusual that von der Leyen apparently personally arranged the contract in talks with Pfizer boss Albert Bourla – the European Court of Auditors speaks of “preliminary negotiations”. Nevertheless, the President of the Commission adamantly refuses to provide any information about her exchange with the Pfizer boss. Now von der Leyen even rebuffed the Court of Auditors – and may have overdone it. The auditors took an interest in the deal as part of a special report on European vaccine procurement. According to her account, von der Leyen conducted the preliminary negotiations with the Pfizer boss in March 2021 without involving the joint negotiating team, as would have corresponded to a Commission decision on the procedure.

The auditors asked the Commission for information about the preliminary negotiations, such as experts involved, timetable, records, details of the agreed terms. After all, this contract will “shape the EU’s vaccine portfolio until the end of 2023”. But the examiners received a rejection: “No information was transmitted,” they write. Internally, the inspectors are stunned: “This behavior is extremely unusual, something like this has never happened before,” says the authority. However, the Court of Auditors cannot enforce anything in this case. The EU Parliament has the lever in its hand. There threatens from the Leyen Trouble. The chair of the Budget Control Committee, Monika Hohlmeier (CSU), calls it “very worrying” that the Commission is refusing to give the Court of Auditors central information for evaluating the preliminary negotiations, especially because of their influence on the proper award procedure.

According to the Court of Auditors, the tender only contained what had previously been informally agreed, Hohlmeier told our editorial team: “The Committee on Budgetary Control will reprimand the Commission here and insist that information relevant to the audit must always be shared with the Court of Auditors without restrictions.” The lack of transparency in the multi-billion dollar contracts has long been an issue in the EU Parliament, also because it plays into the hands of anti-vaccination campaigns. Von der Leyen’s blockade is fueling all sorts of speculation among critics, such as an alleged preference for the US company Pfizer. The Washington-based consumer organization SumOfUs accuses von der Leyen of agreeing to a hefty price increase in her talks with Bourla, even though a discount would have been obvious given the enormous quantity. In fact, with the deal, the price per Biontech vaccine dose rose from EUR 15.50 to EUR 19.50 – the then Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borrisov revealed this out of annoyance at the high costs.

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It’s over.

Just 1.5% Of Eligible Americans Have Gotten Updated COVID Booster (ZH)

Only 1.5% of those eligible to receive the new Covid booster jab – which was tested on just 8 mice, not humans, before the FDA approved it – have taken the updated shot, according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 4.4 million people have taken the tweaked booster shot from Pfizer and Moderna after they were rolled out three weeks ago around Labor Day weekend. The bivalent shots were designed to target both the original Covid-19 strain, and the currently circulating Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, NBC News reports. “I would expect a much higher proportion of Americans to have gotten the booster by this point,” said Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Scott Robers, who said the relatively low uptake was “demoralizing.”

“The fact that this booster came out days before Biden said the pandemic is over is a huge mixed message,” said Roberts, who added that a lack of public awareness surrounding the shots – or the ‘prevailing narrative that the pandemic is ending’ might have hindered the rollout. “Now it’s going to be that much harder to convince those at risk who are on the fence to get a booster.” As of Tuesday, the US had shipped over 25 million boosters to tens of thousands of sites. Approximately 80% of the US population has received at least one shot of the primary Covid vaccine, and almost 68% are considered ‘fully vaccinated’ by the CDC – meaning they’ve received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna’s offering, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.


“[..] experts are still gathering real-world data, since the shots were distributed without results from human trials. Laboratory studies found that the boosters generated strong antibody responses against BA.4 and BA.5, and human trial data showed that a similar vaccine yielded a strong antibody response against the initial omicron strain, BA.1. Authorization of the bivalent boosters for children ages 5 to 11 may be just weeks away, Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said at an event this week with the Covid-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project.” -NBC News Word of the slow uptake comes after Denmark recommended that only those over the age of 50, or who are at risk of developing severe Covid-19, receive the vaccine.

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Trailer

Malhotra

 

 

 

 

 

 

Einstein

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

 

 

Sep 262022
 


Henri Matisse Cap d’Antibes 1922

 

Meloni’s Right-Wing Alliance Wins Clear Majority In Italian Elections (ZH)
Thousands Of Firms In Italy On Brink Of Closure (RT)
The Return of Fascism (Chris Hedges)
Russia Says US “Wrecked” Ukraine Talks, But Peace Is Still Possible (Maté)
Early Turnout Numbers For Referendums On Joining Russia (RT)
Russia Says It’s Not Threatening Anyone With Nukes (Antiwar)
We Might Be Spared Nuclear War But Threat of Home Grown Tyranny Remains (PCR)
Pound Slumps To All-time Low Against Dollar (BBC)
UK To Double Military Spending Amid Cost-of-living Crisis (RT)
The Tories Declare Class War (Craig Murray)
US Facing Natural Gas Shortage – Reuters (RT)
New Zealand Prime Minister Calls for a Global Censorship System (Turley)
Psaki : If Midterms Are A ‘Referendum’ On Biden, Democrats Are Doomed (NYP)
Roger Waters Cancels Poland Concerts After Ukraine War Remarks (RFE)

 

 

Giorgia Meloni has won the Italian elections and is the next PM. The MSM has been loaded full of terms like Mussolini, ultra right wing and fascist. While she speaks of God, country and family. I don’t know exactly who is behind her, and I don’t need to. I have only to look at the mess Mario Draghi has made of Italy.

And more importantly, I look at the lockdowns and vaccine mandates, the unlimited support for the Ukraine nazis, and the cold and hungry winter many people in Europe, not least Italy, will face because of it.

Want to talk fascism? First learn to identify it.

 

 

 

 

Second largest food distribution centre in the world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Meloni’s alliance which includes Salvini’s League and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia will win around 43% of the vote..”

Meloni’s Right-Wing Alliance Wins Clear Majority In Italian Elections (ZH)

Europe’s unelected authoritarian ruler, Ursula von der Leyen, is not going to be happy: according to early exit polls out of Italy’s national election, the right-wing bloc of Giorgia Meloni – which the ultra-left wing press just can’t stop comparing to Mussolini – is set for a historic, if largely expected, victory and a clear majority (if, however, not a super-majority) which will propel Meloni to the top of the Italian government as the country’s next prime minister, ushering in a historic right-wing shift for a country that – like Sweden until two weeks ago – has traditionally been very left-wing. Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which won just 4% of the vote during the last national election in 2018, won the biggest share of the vote in Sunday’s parliamentary elections with around 22.5%-26.5% of the vote according to an exit poll released by Italian national broadcaster Rai.

She is now set to become prime minister but would require approval from junior partners in her coalition to assume the role. According to an exit poll from Rai, Meloni’s alliance which includes Salvini’s League and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia will win around 43% of the vote. The Center-Left alliance will have just 25.5%-29.5% of the vote, while the 5 Star movement has 13.5%-17.5% of the final vote. Italy’s electoral system, which strongly favors parties that run as part of a coalition, is expected to help the right to an ample majority in both houses of Parliament: with 228 votes in the Lower House and 115 seats in the Senate (according to SkyTG24), Meloni will have a majority as just 104 votes are required. As the WSJ notes, the Italian election is “the first big test of the European Union’s political cohesion as it confronts Russia’s attempt to redraw the continent’s post-Cold War order.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s restriction of natural-gas deliveries has sparked an energy-price crunch that, combined with other inflationary pressures, is expected to push much of Europe into a recession this winter.” Meloni replaces former Goldman Sachs partner and ECB technocrat and globalist, Mario Draghi, and will be the country’s first female prime minister. The likely right-wing government will face difficult decisions over how to protect Italian households and businesses from sky-high prices for natural gas and electricity. While Italy’s parlous public finances allow limited scope for fiscal largess, if the UK is any example – and it is – Italy will engage in a similar strategy of targeted and debt-funded fiscal stimulus which will lead to a blowout in Italian debt, a further plunge in the euro and much chaos everywhere.

[..] During the election campaign, Meloni tried to reassure voters and investors that she will keep Italy’s mammoth debt under control and won’t question the country’s foreign alliances or support for Ukraine. Expect all of that to change tomorrow.

Meloni

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Where Meloni comes from.

Thousands Of Firms In Italy On Brink Of Closure (RT)

Over 100,000 businesses in Italy are in danger of closing down due to soaring energy bills, the news outlet Corriere della Sera reported on Saturday, citing Carlo Sangalli, head of the Italian business association Confcommercio. “Already today many companies are reorganizing or reducing services… Between now and the first half of 2023, at least 120,000 small businesses in the service sector are at risk… This is a cautious estimate that does not take into account the largest companies,” Sangalli told the news outlet. According to the official, the situation could lead to the loss of more than 370,000 jobs. Sangalli noted that energy prices in Italy are much higher than in other countries, which puts a strain on small and medium-sized businesses.


“In terms of energy costs, our hotels, bars, restaurants and stores will pay 40-60% more on their bills this year than in Germany, and three times that than in France,” Sangalli said. He noted that the energy crisis may deal the final blow to many businesses that have already been made vulnerable by the Covid-19 pandemic. The official said the country needed “good reforms and good investments” that will “make our country work better and in a simpler way,” and called for some of the support measures introduced during the pandemic to be reinstated. Italy, along with other EU countries, has been battling a record-high inflation. Annual inflation in the country reached 8.4% in August, driven largely by energy costs. Italy relies on imports for nearly 75% of its energy. At the start of this year, it was importing 40% of its gas from Russia, but in July its Russian purchases dropped to 25% due to sanctions.

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Chris is getting too old. He’s glued to the rear view mirror.

The Return of Fascism (Chris Hedges)

Meloni got her start in politics as a 15-year-old activist for the youth wing of the Italian Social Movement, founded after the World War II by supporters of Benito Mussolini. She calls EU bureaucrats agents of “nihilistic global elites driven by international finance.” She peddles the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that non-white immigrants are being permitted to enter Western nations as part of a plot to undermine or “replace” the political power and culture of white people. She has called on the Italian navy to turn back boats with immigrants, which the far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini did in 2018. Her Fratelli d’Italia, Brothers of Italy, party is a close ally of Hungary’s President, Viktor Orban. A European Parliament resolution recently declared that Hungary can no longer be defined as a democracy.

Meloni and Orban are not alone. Sweden Democrats, which took over 20 percent of the vote in Sweden’s general election last week to become the country’s second largest political party, was formed in 1988 from a neo-Nazi group called B.S.S., or Keep Sweden Swedish. It has deep fascist roots. Of the party’s 30 founders, 18 had Nazi affiliations, including several who served in the Waffen SS, according to Tony Gustaffson a historian and former Sweden Democrat member. France’s Marine Le Pen took over 41 percent of the vote in April against Emmanuel Macron. In Spain, the hard-right Vox party is the third largest party in Spain’s Parliament. The far-right German AfD or Alternative for Germany party took over 12 percent in federal elections in 2017, making it the third largest party, though it lost a couple percentage points in the 2021 elections. The U.S. has its own version of fascism embodied in a Republican party that coalesces in cult-like fashion around Donald Trump, embraces the magical thinking, misogyny, homophobia and white supremacy of the Christian Right and actively subverts the election process.

Economic collapse was indispensable to the Nazis’ rise to power. In the 1928 elections in Germany, the Nazi party received less than 3 percent of the vote. Then came the global financial crash of 1929. By early 1932, 40 percent of the German insured workforce, six million people, were unemployed. That same year, the Nazis became the largest political party in the German parliament. The Weimar government, tone deaf and hostage to the big industrialists, prioritized paying bank loans and austerity rather than feeding and employing a desperate population. It foolishly imposed severe restrictions on who was eligible for unemployment insurance. Millions of Germans went hungry. Desperation and rage rippled through the population. Mass rallies, led by a collection of buffoonish Nazis in brown uniforms who would have felt at home at Mar-a-Lago, denounced Jews, Communists, intellectuals, artists and the ruling class, as internal enemies. Hate was their main currency. It sold well.

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“..talks between Ukraine and Russia collapsed after then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Kiev in April and informed Zelensky that Putin “should be pressured, not negotiated with.”

Russia Says US “Wrecked” Ukraine Talks, But Peace Is Still Possible (Maté)

In his Sept. 21 speech announcing an escalation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused NATO states of sabotaging a peace deal that could have ended it months ago. At talks brokered by Turkey in March, Putin said, “Kiev representatives voiced quite a positive response to our proposals… But a peaceful settlement obviously did not suit the West, which is why, after certain compromises were coordinated, Kiev was actually ordered to wreck all these agreements.” Speaking at the United Nations hours later, President Joe Biden criticized the Russian leader but did not address his claim that the US thwarted negotiations. Asked about Putin’s remarks, officials from the White House’s National Security Council (NSC) and the State Department offered differing responses.

An NSC official referred me to the Ukrainian government for comment about “their peace negotiations in the spring.” But overall, the official added, “it is inaccurate that the U.S. discouraged Ukraine from seeking a peace agreement. Throughout this conflict, we have said that it is up to Ukraine to make their own sovereign decisions.” A State Department spokesperson did not address Putin’s rendering of the March-April negotiations, and instead focused on the period before the invasion. “As part of our efforts to deter President Putin from launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine’s sovereign territory on February 24, 2022, the United States consistently spoke of the two paths Russia could choose: dialogue and diplomacy, or escalation and massive consequences,” the State Department wrote. “We made genuine and sincere efforts to pursue the former, which we vastly preferred, but Putin chose war.”

Asked if it had any response to Putin’s account of the peace talks that occurred after the invasion, the State spokesperson did not respond. The Russian government has not offered any additional detail or evidence for Putin’s claim that Ukraine and Russia were close to a “settlement,” and that Kiev’s NATO backers intervened to “wreck” it. But the Kremlin is also not the first to assert it. The claim originated with sources to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who described the episode to Ukrainian media outlet Ukrayinska Pravda. According to their account, talks between Ukraine and Russia collapsed after then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Kiev in April and informed Zelensky that Putin “should be pressured, not negotiated with.”

Johnson also relayed that “even if Ukraine is ready to sign some agreements on [security] guarantees with Putin,” Western nations “are not.” That report was followed this month by an overlooked disclosure from former White House Russia expert Fiona Hill. Citing “multiple former senior U.S. officials,” Hill wrote that “Russian and Ukrainian negotiators appeared to have tentatively agreed on the outlines of a negotiated interim settlement” in April. Russia would withdraw to its pre-invasion position, while Ukraine would pledge not to join NATO “and instead receive security guarantees from a number of countries.”

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I see videos of people ostensibly being forced to vote Russia. Not exactly subtle. But who needs subtlety in an echo chamber?

Early Turnout Numbers For Referendums On Joining Russia (RT)

The referendums on joining Russia are continuing in the Donbass republics and Russian-controlled regions of southern Ukraine. On Sunday, the turnout already reached the required 50% threshold in the Donetsk and Lugansk republics and Zaporozhye Region, with only Kherson lagging behind. In the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), more than 76% of eligible voters have already cast their votes, according to official figures. The referendum in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) is proceeding at a similar pace, with some 77% of voters having shown up at the polling stations. Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, which were largely seized by Russian forces amid the ongoing conflict, have demonstrated a lower turnout.


Still, the latter region has already met the required legal threshold, with some 51.55% of registered voters already casting their ballots, according to the head of the Zaporozhye electoral committee, Galina Katyshenko. Kherson has so far demonstrated lower turnout, with nearly 49% of voters showing up for the referendum. Polls across the two regions and in the Donbass republics are set to stay open for the next two days. Ukraine and its Western backers have rejected the referendums on joining Russia as illegal and have vowed to not recognize them regardless of their outcome. Speaking to US broadcaster CBS on Sunday, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky warned that should Russia complete the referendums, it would “make it impossible, in any case, to continue any diplomatic negotiations” with Moscow.

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It isn’t.

Russia Says It’s Not Threatening Anyone With Nukes (Antiwar)

On Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia wasn’t threatening anyone with nuclear weapons and said Moscow doesn’t want a direct conflict with the US and NATO. “We are not threatening anyone with nuclear weapons,” Ryabkov said. “The criteria for their use are outlined in Russia’s military doctrine.” Russia’s doctrine is that it could use nuclear weapons if it is facing an “existential threat,” and Russian officials have made clear throughout the current war in Ukraine that this is still the policy. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that Moscow could use nuclear weapons to defend its “territorial integrity.” While his comments were a more explicit warning, it still falls in line with the doctrine. But Russian territory is set to expand into Ukraine after referendums that are being held in the Donbas, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia.


Ukraine is planning to launch more counter-offensives against these territories using weapons and intelligence provided by the US and other NATO countries. Ryabkov said that it’s not in Russia’s interest to be in a direct conflict with the US and NATO. “A face-off with the United States and NATO, which is fraught with an open armed conflict, is not in our interests,” he said. “We hope that the Biden administration understands the risks of uncontrolled escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, given the repeated statements by their officials that they don’t plan to send American servicemen to Ukraine,” Ryabkov added. President Biden has repeatedly stated that he won’t send US troops into Ukraine to fight Russia, although there is a CIA presence on the ground, according to a report from The New York Times that was published in June. The report also said special operations forces from Britain, France, Canada, and Lithuania are on the ground in Ukraine.

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“..the referendums that begin today in the liberated areas of Ukraine, which without question will succeed, promise to reduce the threat of Armageddon..”

We Might Be Spared Nuclear War But Threat of Home Grown Tyranny Remains (PCR)

As readers know, I am convinced that Putin’s toleration of insults and provocations has had the effect of encouraging more and worse provocations and not, as he intended, to downplay conflict. As you also know, I am convinced that his “limited military operation” in Donbass designed to protect the Donbass Russians, formerly a part of Russia, from horrible abuse by Ukrainian forces and the neo-Nazi militias, was a mistake. It is a mistake because the West characterized a limited operation as an “invasion of Ukraine,” and used its slow progress as evidence of Russian failure. It is a mistake because the go-slow nature of the Russian offensive in order to minimize the impact on civilian lives and infrastructure gave the West plenty of time to convince itself to get more and more involved with diplomatic support, money, armaments and ammunition, training, and now with satellite information for targeting the Russian forces.

As I see it, Putin has been behaving as British Prime Minister Chamberlain is alleged to have behaved, thus encouraging more aggressive actions. Wanting peace at all costs brings war. As it is no longer possible for the Kremlin to speak of “our Western partners” or to deny that the West is at war with Russia, the Kremlin, trying to avoid a war that it knows would be nuclear, has reached my conclusion of eight years ago that if the areas in today’s artificial borders of Ukraine that require Russian protection were reincorporated into Russia, the conflict would have to cease or become direct Western military aggression against Russia. As Biden says he has no stomach for a war with Russia and will not permit one, and as NATO is incapable of such war, the referendums that begin today in the liberated areas of Ukraine, which without question will succeed, promise to reduce the threat of Armageddon.

Although in my opinion the leadership everywhere in the Western world is Satanic and insane, I do not think the Western governing elites are ready to commit suicide by attacking Russian territory. The West can say it doesn’t recognize the rights of people to self-determination, but if Russia says it is Russian territory, it is. So that you understand, the referendums are Putin’s way of ending the conflict before it widens into nuclear war. Putin’s rescue of the world from nuclear war will not be acknowledged by the Western presstitutes, Washington’s puppet EU and UK governments, or by the puppet who serves as NATO secretary general. But what they think does not matter. Putin, belatedly, is doing his best to save us all from nuclear war. Pray that he succeeds.

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“..historic tax cuts funded by huge increases in borrowing..”

Pound Slumps To All-time Low Against Dollar (BBC)

The pound has fallen to its lowest level against the US dollar since decimalisation in 1971. In early Asia trade, sterling fell by more than 4% to $1.0327 before regaining some ground to around $1.05. That came after UK Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled historic tax cuts funded by huge increases in borrowing. The pound has also been under pressure as the dollar has been boosted by the US central bank continuing to raise interest rates. The euro also touched a fresh 20-year-low against the dollar in morning Asia trade amid investor concerns about the risk of recession as winter approaches with no sign of an end to the energy crisis or the war in Ukraine.


Peter Escho, the co-founder of investment firm Wealthi, said: “All currencies are getting sold off against the US dollar, so there is a large element of US dollar strength. But with the pound, it has really been exacerbated by news that the new government will be cutting taxes, which is inflationary. “Add to that recent energy subsidies and news that the Bank of England might need to have an emergency rate-hike meeting, this all results in a sense of panic,” he added. Some investors think the Bank of England will be forced to take emergency action to halt the pound’s slide. “To stop the bleeding even temporarily, the BOE may well enter ‘whatever it takes’ territory to bring inflation down. An emergency meeting rate hike could happen as soon as this week to regain credibility in the market. We could even see a hike today,” Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management told the BBC.

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Add Chucky the Third and you have a crazy winter.

UK To Double Military Spending Amid Cost-of-living Crisis (RT)

Britain will boost its military spending considerably in the coming years, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has revealed, despite the fact the nation is facing an economic crisis stemming from Covid-19 measures and London’s sanctions on Moscow. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph published on Sunday, Wallace said the British government will shell out at least £52 billion ($56.5 billion) to shore up the military, which is “actually going to grow.” The plans are in keeping with Prime Minister Liz Truss’ campaign promise to boost defense spending. According to the official, Britain’s annual defense budget will amount to £100 billion by 2030. Wallace also took aim at former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and the Treasury for what he described as a “corporate raid” of the armed forces which started back in the 1990s.

He claimed that the Treasury had even tried to “stipulate the size of the Army.” “My department has been so used to 30 or 40 years of defending against cuts or reconciling cuts with modern fighting, they’re going to have to get used to a completely different culture,” the defence secretary noted. Wallace expressed confidence, however, that Sunak’s successor in the office, Kwasi Kwarteng, would show more understanding toward the military’s needs. The defence secretary, who retained his post after Liz Truss defeated Sunak in the race to become prime minister in early September, told journalists that the new leader’s willingness to spend more on the military was one of the key factors for him in deciding which candidate to back for prime minister. “The reason I supported Liz Truss was that the risks we were prepared to tolerate in the middle of the decade are not risks I want to tolerate any more in light of Russian aggression,” Wallace said.

Addressing world leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York, Truss reiterated her campaign pledge to spend 3% of GDP on defense by 2030. According to Bloomberg, the new prime minister reversed former PM Boris Johnson’s plans to slash the military by 9,500 personnel. Commenting on the changes, which are expected to be unveiled by the end of 2022, Downing Street clarified that they were needed to “stand firm against coercion from authoritarian powers like Russia and China.” The decision comes despite the UK government’s interest payable on debt hitting the highest level on record, as reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this week. Inflation, food, and energy prices have also soared, while the British pound and consumer confidence have hit the lowest levelsin decades.

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“The idea of the cap on bankers’ bonuses was to remove the perverse incentive whereby a banker got a bonus of ten years salary by creating “assets” of bad loans..”

The Tories Declare Class War (Craig Murray)

The “cap” on bankers bonuses that the Tories have just removed had been set at double their annual salary. Yes, double ptheir annual salary. So a banker on £320,000 a year could only get an annual bonus of £640,000. That has now been lifted so they will be able to get annual bonuses of millions again. On each million of which they will also benefit from a new £55,000 tax cut. The greatest irony of this is that the first multimillion pound bankers’ bonuses will be going this Christmas to bankers who shorted the pound before Kwasi Kwarteng’s “mini-budget”. The cap on bankers’ bonuses was largely a sop to the public who had bailed out the bankers with public money borrowed – with trillions in interest – from the very bankers we were bailing out.

In effect Gordon Brown created sterling and gave it free to the bankers who caused the collapse, so they could lend it to the public purse and we could pay it back over two decades of public austerity. The idea of the cap on bankers’ bonuses was to remove the perverse incentive whereby a banker got a bonus of ten years salary by creating “assets” of bad loans, with no care whether those loans collapsed or not two years later, as he already had his ten years’ bonus. The Tories have just brought back that perverse incentive. Krug all round in the City!! It’s a bonanza for lap dance club owners and cocaine dealers. It’s a disaster for us. This perverse incentive will be needed to keep any money flowing into UK mortgages.

With the Bank rate sure to exceed 5% in the next few months and inflation continuing, mortgage rates will be in double digits by this time next year, and we are only a couple of years away from mass default and repossession. The wealthy will of course be able to use some of their tax cut money to take advantage of the stamp duty cut and snap up the repossessed properties as buy to let. That is what the Tories call growing the economy. Over 50% of the money from the tax cuts will benefit the top 5% of earners. If wealth inequality were the primary driver of economic growth – and that is the basis of Kwarteng’s economic theory – then how do you explain that the UK already has the second highest wealth inequality in the G7, behind only the USA, yet the lowest economic growth?

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“.. they are up by a whopping 300% from a few years ago..”

US Facing Natural Gas Shortage – Reuters (RT)

Shale producers in the United States are struggling to meet growing domestic and international natural gas demand, according to an analysis by Reuters. The report concluded that a hotter-than-expected summer and a lack of alternative energy sources have left the nation’s inventories below the seasonal average. It added that there were no signs of improvement in the level of inventories, despite the rise in gas prices. The latest data showed that the Permian Shale Basin, which contributes some 12% of US total gas output, and the rig count in the Permian, has been down for two weeks in a row. “Less drilling means less associated gas to add to the national total,” the news outlet reported.


While American energy companies have been exporting liquified natural gas (LNG) to Europe at record rates, calls have emerged lately to reduce those supplies to make sure there is enough for the US market. “With heating season around the corner in both Europe and the United States and with a lot of people in both places using gas for heating, the price outlook for gas does not look good from a consumer’s perspective,” Reuters wrote. The report noted that it is unlikely US gas prices will climb anywhere near European levels, “but they are up by a whopping 300% from a few years ago when gas was cheap because it was abundant.”

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WEF needs to go.

New Zealand Prime Minister Calls for a Global Censorship System (Turley)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the latest liberal leader to call for an international alliance to censor speech. Unsatisfied with the unprecedented corporate censorship of social media companies, leaders like Hillary Clinton have turned from private censorship to good old-fashioned state censorship. Speech regulation has become an article of faith on the left. Ardern used her speech this week to the United Nations General Assembly to call for censorship on a global scale. Ardern lashed out at “disinformation” and called for a global coalition to control speech. After nodding toward free speech, she proceeded to lay out a plan for its demise through government regulation:

But what if that lie, told repeatedly, and across many platforms, prompts, inspires, or motivates others to take up arms. To threaten the security of others. To turn a blind eye to atrocities, or worse, to become complicit in them. What then? This is no longer a hypothetical. The weapons of war have changed, they are upon us and require the same level of action and activity that we put into the weapons of old. We recognized the threats that the old weapons created. We came together as communities to minimize these threats. We created international rules, norms and expectations. We never saw that as a threat to our individual liberties – rather, it was a preservation of them. The same must apply now as we take on these new challenges.

Ardern noted how extremists use speech to spread lies without noting that non-extremists use the same free speech to counter such views. To answer her question on “how do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists” is that you convince people using the same free speech. Instead, Ardern appears to want to silence those who have doubts. While referring to a global censorship coalition as a “light-touch approach to disinformation,” Ardern revealed how sweeping such a system would likely be. She defended the need for such global censorship on having to combat those who question climate change and the need to stop “hateful and dangerous rhetoric and ideology.”

“After all, how do you successfully end a war if people are led to believe the reason for its existence is not only legal but noble? How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists? How do you ensure the human rights of others are upheld, when they are subjected to hateful and dangerous rhetoric and ideology?” That is the same rationale used by authoritarian countries like China, Iran, and Russia to censor dissidents, minority groups, and political rivals. What is “hateful” and “dangerous” is a fluid concept that government have historically used to silence critics or dissenters. Ardern is the smiling face of the new generation of censors. At least the old generation of censors like the Iranians do not pretend to support free speech and openly admit that they are crushing dissent. The point is that we need to be equally on guard when censorship is pushed from the left with the best of motivations and the worst of means.

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Oh, right, MSNBC.

Psaki : If Midterms Are A ‘Referendum’ On Biden, Democrats Are Doomed (NYP)

Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki bluntly admitted that if the November midterm elections are a “referendum” on President Biden, the Democrats will lose. Psaki, who left the White House in May to take a job at MSNBC, said if the midterms focus on the “most extreme” party, mentioning Republican Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene by name, then Democrats will be celebrating on election day. “If it is a referendum on the president, they will lose. And they know that. They also know that crime is a huge vulnerability for Democrats, I would say one of the biggest vulnerabilities,” Psaki said Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”


She said she has been watching the US Senate race play out in Pennsylvania between Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate, and GOP celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, and noted that Republicans are running ads painting Fetterman as soft on crime. What’s been interesting to me is it’s always you follow the money, and where are people spending money. And in Pennsylvania, the Republicans have been spending millions of dollars on the air on crime ads against Fetterman because that’s where they see his vulnerability , Biden’s one-time chief spokeswoman said. So yes, the economy is hanging over everything. But you do have to look at state-by-state factors, and crime is a huge issue in the Pennsylvania race, she said. While Biden’s approval ratings have recently climbed into the mid-40s from the dregs in recent polls, a Washington Post/ABC News survey released Sunday found it remains below that at 39%. The president’s disapproval rating is at 53%, the poll found.

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Peace is not welcome in Krakow.

Roger Waters Cancels Poland Concerts After Ukraine War Remarks (RFE)

Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters has canceled concerts planned in Poland amid anger over his stance on Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine, Polish media reported. An official with the Tauron Arena in Krakow, where Waters was scheduled to perform two concerts in April, said they would no longer take place. “Roger Waters’ manager decided to withdraw…without giving any reason,” Lukasz Pytko from Tauron Arena Krakow said on September 24 in comments carried by Polish media outlets. The website for Waters’ This Is Not a Drill concert tour did not list the Krakow concerts previously scheduled for April 21 and 22.


City councilors in Krakow were expected to vote next week on a proposal to name Waters as a persona non grata, expressing “indignation” over the musician’s stance on the war in Ukraine. Allowing “Roger Waters, an open supporter of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, to play in Krakow…would be shameful for our city,” city councilor Lukasz Wantuch said last week on social media. “Let him sing in Moscow.” Waters wrote an open letter to Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska earlier this month in which he blamed “extreme nationalists” in Ukraine for having “set your country on the path to this disastrous war.” Waters has also criticized NATO, accusing it of provoking Russia.

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Malhotra

 

 


This is not stained glass. It’s a dragonfly’s wing seen up close. Dragonfly wings kill bacteria on contact by ripping apart their cell membranes with sharp nanopillars.

 

 

Bolt

 

 


Hydrosaurus, aka the Sailfin Dragon, is found in the rainforests of the Philippines

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

 

 

Sep 232022
 
 September 23, 2022  Posted by at 8:54 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  117 Responses »


Max Ernst The Angel of the home or the Triumph of Surrealism 1937

 

Nuclear War Is Possible – US Commander (RT)
Ex-US General Warns Russia Of ‘Devastating Strike’ (RT)
Serbian President Warns of “Great World Conflict” Within Two Months (SN)
Medvedev Responds To Military Threat From Ex-US General (RT)
Von der Leyen Is Completely Wrong About anti-Russia Sanctions (Timofeev)
EU To Impose New Sanctions On Moscow – Borrell (RT)
Brussels’ Sanctions Caused Crisis – Orban (RT)
Austria To Reject Russian Gas Ban – FM (RT)
Ukraine: 5-Year Prison Sentence For Anyone Voting In “Sham Referendums” (ZH)
Ukraine Perfect Testing Ground For New US Weapons – Kiev (RT)
Lavrov Puts Spotlight On ‘Impunity’ In Ukraine (RT)
Jamie Dimon: Stopping Oil And Gas Production ‘Road To Hell’ For US (NYP)
A Greek Watergate Threatens the West (Varoufakis)
‘He’s Done’: How Donald Trump’s Legal Woes Have Just Gotten A Lot Worse (G.)

 

 

Poster seen in Amsterdam

 

 

“There is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks. It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman’s body.”

 

 

 

 

Matt Walsh

 

 

CO2

 

 

 

 

 

 

“..the Kremlin would “without a doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people..”

Nuclear War Is Possible – US Commander (RT)

Navy Admiral Charles Richard, commander of US Strategic Command, declared on Wednesday that for the first time since the end of the Cold War, the US faces the possibility of nuclear war with a peer-level opponent. Speaking at an Air Force-organized conference in Maryland, Richard claimed that the US would have to prepare to escalate quickly against possible opponents, including to defend the United States itself. “All of us in this room are back in the business of contemplating…direct armed conflict with a nuclear-capable peer,” he said, according to a Pentagon summary of his comments. “We have not had to do that in over 30 years.”

“Russia and China can escalate to any level of violence that they choose in any domain with any instrument of power worldwide,” he continued. “We just haven’t faced competitors and opponents like that in a long time.” In the eyes of Moscow, the US is currently locked in a proxy conflict with Russia in Ukraine, and has steadily escalated its commitment of weapons, intelligence and financial assistance to Kiev since Russian troops entered Ukraine in February. Russia’s current nuclear doctrine allows for the use of nuclear weapons in the event of a first nuclear strike on its territory or infrastructure, or if the existence of the Russian state is threatened by either nuclear or conventional weapons. American doctrine allows for a nuclear first strike in “extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated this position on Wednesday, declaring that the Kremlin would “without a doubt use all available means to protect Russia and our people,” should Russian territory be threatened. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also warned that the US was “teetering on the brink” of becoming a direct party in the Ukraine conflict, with Washington risking “a direct collision between nuclear powers.” Similar warnings have come from within the US too, most notably from former President Donald Trump, who declared on Wednesday that the conflict, which he said “should have never happened,” could “end up being World War III.”

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These people appear to think they live in the 1960’s.

Ex-US General Warns Russia Of ‘Devastating Strike’ (RT)

The US could destroy Russia’s Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet or its bases on the peninsula if Moscow resorts to using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the former commander of the US Army in Europe, Ben Hodges, has said. In an interview with the Daily Mail on Wednesday, Hodges described the possibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering the deployment of nukes as “very unlikely.” Putin will not do so because “he knows the US will have to respond if Russia uses a nuclear weapon,” he claimed. “The US response may not be nuclear… but could very well be a devastating strike that could, for example, destroy the Black Sea Fleet or destroy Russian bases in Crimea,” Hodges, who was in charge of the US forces in Europe between 2014 and 2018, said.


“So, I think President Putin and those around him will be reluctant to draw the US into the conflict directly.” The comments were made in response to Putin’s address earlier that day, in which he said Russia is fighting “the entire Western military machine” in Ukraine, citing the lavish assistance in lethal aid and intelligence provided to Kiev by the US, UK, EU and others. “If the territorial integrity of our nation is threatened, we will certainly use all the means that we have to defend Russia and our people,”he warned. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the Biden administration took Putin’s words “seriously,”but insisted that it was “irresponsible rhetoric for a nuclear power to talk that way.”

Scott Ritter

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“..nuclear war between the United States and Russia would cause two-thirds of the planet to starve to death within two years..”

Serbian President Warns of “Great World Conflict” Within Two Months (SN)

The President of Serbia has warned that the planet is entering into a “great world conflict” that could take place within the next two months. Aleksandar Vucic made the alarming comments during the first day of the UN General Assembly session in New York. “You see a crisis in every part of the world,” Vucic told the Serbian state broadcaster RTS. “I think realistic predictions ought to be even darker,” he added. “Our position is even worse, since the UN has been weakened and the great powers have taken over and practically destroyed the UN order over the past several decades.” The Serbian leader cautioned that the war between Russia and Ukraine had moved on to a far deadlier phase.

“I assume that we’re leaving the phase of the special military operation and approaching a major armed conflict, and now the question becomes where is the line, and whether after a certain time – maybe a month or two, even – we will enter a great world conflict not seen since the Second World War,” he said. Vucic’s remarks were made on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an immediate “partial mobilization” of troops amounting to 300,000 soldiers. In a public address to the nation, Putin warned that he wasn’t bluffing and that he was prepared to use “all the means at our disposal” to protect Moscow’s territorial integrity. “Now they (the West) are talking about nuclear blackmail,” said Putin. “The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was shelled and also some high positions – representatives of NATO states – who are saying there might be possibility and permissibility to use nuclear weapons against Russia,” he added.

Putin ominously asserted that western powers should “be reminded that our country also has various weapons of destruction, and with regard to certain components they’re even more modern than NATO ones.” As we highlighted last month, a study conducted by Rutgers University found that nuclear war between the United States and Russia would cause two-thirds of the planet to starve to death within two years. 5 billion people would perish, primarily as a result of nuclear detonations causing huge infernos that inject soot into the atmosphere which blocks out the sun and devastates crops. One wonders how a generation that thinks words are “violence” and misgendering someone is stochastic terrorism will react to an intercontinental nuclear war. The mind truly boggles.

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“retired idiots with generals’ stripes” should not attempt to intimidate Moscow..”

Medvedev Responds To Military Threat From Ex-US General (RT)

Moscow may use nuclear weapons to defend its territory, including the Donbass republics and Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions, should they decide to join Russia, former president, Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday. He also warned that “retired idiots” in the Western military should not contemplate strikes on Moscow’s naval bases in the Black Sea. Writing on Telegram on Thursday, Medvedev stressed that the referendums, planned for between September 23 and 27, would definitely take place, and “the Donbass republics and other territories would be admitted to Russia.” The former president went on to say that the Russian military would “significantly reinforce” the defenses of all incorporated territories.

He added that to defend its territories, Russia may use “not only its mobilization capabilities, but also any Russian weapons, including strategic nuclear weapons.” Without naming names, Medvedev cautioned that “retired idiots with generals’ stripes” should not attempt to intimidate Moscow by claiming that NATO could attack Crimea, a peninsula that overwhelmingly voted to unite with Russia in 2014 following a coup in Kiev. “Hypersonic [missiles] are sure to hit targets in Europe and the US much faster,” he warned, adding that “the Western establishment and NATO citizens need to understand that Russia has chosen its own path” and there is “no way back.”

On Wednesday, Ben Hodges, the former commander of the US Army in Europe, said that Washington could destroy Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, that’s based in Crimea, or its bases on the peninsula if Moscow resorts to using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. He noted that it’s “very unlikely” that Russian President Vladimir Putin would order to deploy nukes. Last week, Medvedev accused Western “half-wits” from “stupid think tanks” of leading their countries down the road of nuclear Armageddon with their hybrid war against Moscow. He also warned that the “unrestrained pumping of the Kiev regime with the most dangerous types of weapons,” could prompt Russia to move its military campaign to the next level.

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Ivan Timofeev, Valdai Club Programme Director & one of Russia’s leading foreign policy experts.

Von der Leyen Is Completely Wrong About anti-Russia Sanctions (Timofeev)

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has, as could be expected, called for new sanctions against Russia in connection with the forthcomingreferendums in Donbass and two regions of Ukraine. These concern the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics – which have been de-facto self-governing since 2014 – and the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions. In her opinion, the penalties already imposed on Russia are having an impact.”The sanctions have been very successful. If you look at the Russian economy, its industry is in tatters,” the politician asserted. Let’s allow ourselves to argue a little with Ms. von der Leyen. The key measure of the effectiveness of sanctions is whether they change the political course of the target country.

This criterion has been well researched in both academic and applied literature and few people have any doubts about its veracity. However, Russia has not changed its political course in Ukraine under the influence of the large-scale sanctions of the EU, US and other initiators. Moreover, its position is hardening, as evidenced by this week’s announcements of both a partial mobilization and the referendums. Thus, we can say that the measures are actually having a negative effect in terms of what they are supposed to be doing. Apparently, Ms. von der Leyen links effectiveness to the amount of pain inflicted. In other words, she believes that the greater it is, the better. There are problems here, too. The damage is indeed large. But we are not just sitting still and feeling sorry for ourselves. We are adapting very energetically.

Now, you can criticize Russia’s domestic financial policy and question import substitution as much as you like. And they will not, of course, make ‘everything as it was.’ But it is clear that the economy is shrinking much less than expected, that inflation has, at least so far, been brought under control, and that adaptations in sourcing, helped by domestic production, are mitigating the effects of the sanctions. The economy is simply becoming different. It is changing in terms of focus and quality. In a number of sectors it will “run slower” or limp along. But Russiawill continue to live. Of course, we have already heard the words “the Russian economy is in tatters,” from US President Barack Obama. That was in 2015. Seven years ago.

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10,000 sanctions. A silly game.

EU To Impose New Sanctions On Moscow – Borrell (RT)

The EU has agreed to slap new sanctions on Russia “as soon as possible” over plans to hold referendums in the Donbass republics and Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine on whether to unite with Russia, the bloc’s foreign policy chief said on Wednesday. Speaking after an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers, Josep Borrell said that the bloc had made a “political” decision to impose new sectoral and individual sanctions on Russia. “These restrictive measures would be brought forward as soon as possible against Russia in coordination with partners,” he said. While he did not clarify the details of the new sanctions, he hinted that they would hit the Russian economy, especially the technology sector, while the EU would also blacklist a number of individuals.


He also noted that the bloc would provide Ukraine with security assistance for “as long as it takes.” “Today it’s clear that we will continue to increase our military support and continue to provide arms to Ukraine,” he added. Borrell also commented on recent developments in the Ukraine conflict, accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of “trying to destroy Ukraine” and organizing partial mobilization to support what he called “illegal referenda.” On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization which calls on 300,000 reservists to take part in the conflict with Ukraine. The move comes a day after the two Donbass republics and Russian-controlled Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions decided to hold referendums from September 23 to 27, on whether to unite with Russia.

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Waiting for the first threats to throw him out.

Brussels’ Sanctions Caused Crisis – Orban (RT)

The EU leadership caused a continent-wide crisis by imposing sanctions on Russian energy, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said. The Eurosceptic politician criticized Brussels on his Facebook page on Wednesday evening as he announced a meeting with members of the ruling coalition in the parliament. According to local media, during the closed-door gathering, he blamed EU bureaucrats for the hardships that member states, including Hungary, currently face. Orban told MPs from his Fidesz party and the allied Christian Democrats (KDNP) that if the EU’s sanctions on Russia were dropped, gas prices would go down by one-half, and as a result, inflation would also decline, Magyar Nemzet daily reported.

The Hungarian PM said the EU leadership promised in early summer that the sanctions would hurt Russia’s economy, not people in the EU, but the opposite has occurred, according to the report. Orban predicted that dropping the sanctions would allow the EU to avoid a recession. In November, there will be a meaningful opportunity for the EU to reconsider the restrictions on trading with Russia, Orban reportedly said, and the ruling Hungarian coalition should work hard to have them lifted by the end of the year. The prime minister also lashed out at the Hungarian opposition, accusing them of backing Brussels’ policies without giving a second thought to the damage they are causing to the country, Magyar Nemzet said.

He also outlined a number of measures, such as energy subsidies, which the Fidesz–KDNP government is taking to alleviate the effects of the skyrocketing prices, the newspaper reported. Orban, who was re-elected in a landslide victory in April, is an outspoken critic of the EU leadership. He has called the bloc the main loser in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, in which it sided with Kiev. The sanctions were imposed by Brussels in retaliation for Russia’s decision to send troops into Ukraine in late February.

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Hungary, Serbia, Austria. Next!

“in case of further steps, primarily in the energy sector, with regard to gas, there will be a clear ‘no’ from Austria.”

Austria To Reject Russian Gas Ban – FM (RT)

Vienna will say an emphatic ‘no’ to proposals of a ban on Russian natural gas imports, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said on Thursday, noting that the already adopted EU sanctions packages are comprehensive and may require clarification. “I have said in the past that we should discuss this [possible tightening of sanctions] in an appropriate way, namely behind closed doors, but yes – we have already adopted six large-scale sanctions packages, and now we can think about closing the loopholes,” the FM told ORF while answering a question on whether Vienna’s position has changed regarding the possible strengthening of sanctions against Russia. Schallenberg added that “in case of further steps, primarily in the energy sector, with regard to gas, there will be a clear ‘no’ from Austria.”


Austria, which is heavily dependent on Russian energy and sources around 80% of natural gas from Russia, has been opposing the EU’s plan to restrict imports from Moscow. The Federation of Austrian Industries earlier warned that the suspension of Russian gas supplies would be “a serious blow” to the welfare of the Austrian people as it threatens some 300,000 jobs. According to the president of the federation, Georg Knill, almost the entire food industry depends on the supply of the “blue fuel.” He stated in May that he saw danger not so much in the fact that Russia could “turn off the taps,”but in the decision of the European Union to stop importing Russian gas. In March, the EU rolled out a plan to reduce dependence on Russian gas by two thirds before the end of the year. The proposal is part of a wider plan to become independent from all Russian fossil fuels “well before 2030.”

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Voting Sep 23-27. Percentages predicted run from 80% to 95%, depending on the region. Russia will annex them.

Ukraine: 5-Year Prison Sentence For Anyone Voting In “Sham Referendums” (ZH)

Starting last month Ukrainian lawmakers began seeking to implement severe consequences for those participating in Russia-sponsored referendums in occupied territories of Ukraine. For example, a law is being pushed through parliament which criminalizes obtaining a Russian passport in temporarily occupied territories, Ukrainian sources reported last week, according to Yahoo News. Proposed possible punishments have included losing Ukrainian citizenship, or even lengthy jail sentences. But other officials have argued for a more compromising approach given the necessity of survival in occupied areas. But now the Ukrainian government has reiterated its willingness to impose steep penalties for even participating in any Kremlin-sponsored vote to join the Russian Federation.

Russian President Putin’s Wednesday morning address announcing partial mobilization also affirmed plans to move forward with referendums in the LPR, DPR, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions. Ukraine has responded by warning its citizens that any official who promotes or organizes the voting faces a “prison term of five to ten years” – as well as possible asset seizure by the state, and being barred from employment in select positions for up to 15 years. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk announced this week that a five year prison term is currently being considered for anyone caught participating in “sham referenda” by government authorities:

“Some lawyers believe that those actions fall under Article 110 part 1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, ‘Infringement on Ukraine’s territorial integrity,’ punishable with a prison term of up to five years,” she told the Strana portal on Tuesday. She further called on citizens currently in occupied to territories to “leave, if possible.” Vereshchuk was cited further as follows according to a Russian media translation of her words: “This [may] mean imprisonment for up to five years. So, once again I strongly advise residents of the temporarily occupied territories: do not take a [Russian] passport, do not go to referendums, do not cooperate with the occupiers and leave, if it’s possible,” the official stated.

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Come test them on my country!

Ukraine Perfect Testing Ground For New US Weapons – Kiev (RT)

US defense companies should send their new weapons to Ukraine so they can be tested in actual combat against Russian forces, Kiev’s deputy defense minister, Vladimir Gavrilov, has said. Gavrilov made the suggestion during a speech before hundreds of American defense industry representatives and military acquisitions personnel at the Future Force Capabilities Conference and Exhibition in Austin, Texas on Wednesday. “If you have some ideas, or some pilot projects to be tested before mass manufacturing, you can send it to us and we will explain how to do it. And in the end you will get the stamp, proved by the war in Ukraine. You will sell it easy,” he said, as cited by the Military Times.

According to the deputy defense minister, startup companies, including those involved in anti-drone and anti-jamming equipment, have already brought new technologies to the Ukrainian battlefield. “And they come back with a product that is competitive in the market now because it was tested in a combat zone,” Gavrilov said, without revealing the companies that have worked with Ukraine in this capacity. His comments were made on the day Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization, which he said is necessary because Russia has been fighting “the entire Western military machine” in Ukraine. Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu later stated that around 300,000 reservists are planned to be called up.

In view of this shift in Russia’s tactics, Kiev will require more counter-drone and electronic warfare technologies, armored vehicles, and long-range anti-tank and precision fire weapons, Gavrilov said. Ukraine is now almost entirely dependent on weapons supplied by the US, UK, EU, and other nations, according to Shoigu, as most of the Soviet-made hardware it had before the fighting began in late February has been destroyed by Russian forces.

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8 years, not 6 months.

“..he may be a son of a b*tch, but he is our son of a b*tch,”

Lavrov Puts Spotlight On ‘Impunity’ In Ukraine (RT)

The current crisis in Ukraine was brought about by the West systematically covering up the crimes of the Kiev government since the 2014 coup, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the UN Security Council on Thursday. Lavrov noted that “impunity” is a good term for what has been happening in Ukraine, not since February but since 2014, when US-backed nationalists and neo-Nazis seized power by force. No one has ever been held responsible for the murders on the Maidan, the burning of peaceful protesters in Odessa, or the assassinations of dissidents, he pointed out. Civilians of Donbass have been bombed mercilessly for years and dubbed terrorists and even subhuman, simply for refusing to accept the results of the coup and insisting on their basic human right to speak Russian, Lavrov said.

The Russian foreign minister presented a long list of human rights violations by Kiev that went ignored by various European and global human rights groups, from “burning books, just like in Nazi Germany” to using banned ‘petal’ land mines against civilians this summer. “Such outrages became possible and remain unpunished due to the fact that the US and its allies, with the connivance of international human rights institutions, have been systematically covering up the crimes of the Kiev regime for eight years, basing their policy towards [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky based on the well-known American principle: he may be a son of a b*tch, but he is our son of a b*tch,” said Lavrov.

This was a reference to an apocryphal quote attributed to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and thought to apply either to Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua or Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic – both US-backed dictators. Lavrov also accused the Ukrainian armed forces of using civilians as human shields and said that Russia and the Donbass republics are fighting against the “Western military machine” in Ukraine, with the US and its allies perilously close to being overt participants in the conflict. Moscow has shared evidence demonstrating that the West has sought to turn Ukraine into a forward outpost that could threaten Russia’s security, Lavrov told the UN. “I can assure you, we will not let that happen.”

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Tlaib literally has no idea what she’s talking about. You can’t “save the climate” by bankrupting your economy.

Jamie Dimon: Stopping Oil And Gas Production ‘Road To Hell’ For US (NYP)

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said slamming the brakes on new oil and gas production “would be the road to hell for America” after Rep. Rashida Tlaib asked him to divest in oil. Dimon’s comments came during a House hearing where the far-left Michigan Democrat asked him and other top bank execs if they would commit to no longer investing funds into oil and gas companies to slow down climate change. “Please answer with a simple yes or no, does your bank have a policy against funding new oil and gas products,” Tlaib asked, with Dimon up first. “Absolutely not and that would be the road to hell for America,” Dimon shot back.


Tlaib then slammed JPMorgan-Chase and circled back to criticism Dimon leveled against President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt during the hearing. She encouraged people to cancel their accounts with the major bank. “Sir, you know what, everybody that got relief from student loans — has a bank account with your bank — should probably take out their account and close their account,” an irritated Tlaib said. “The fact that you’re not even there to help relieve many of the folks that are in debt, extreme debt, because of student loan debt and you’re out there criticizing it,” Tlaib said before moving on to the next bank executive on the panel, Citi CEO Jane Fraser, who offered a more diplomatic response.

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Note: this case would be non-existant if the politician who was tapped was not also a European parliament member.

A Greek Watergate Threatens the West (Varoufakis)

The sequence of events leading to the exposure of Greece’s Watergate scandal began in July 2019, immediately after Mr Mitsotakis won the last general election on behalf of New Democracy, our conservative party. One of the very first decrees he issued, as incoming Prime Minister, was one that gave his office direct control over and responsibility for EYP. “Why on earth is the PM taking over the supervision of EYP?”, I remember a parliamentary colleague asking me that very day. It was, indeed, a curious move. Our trepidation only grew following two personnel choices. First, Mitsotakis appointed a nephew of his, Grigoris Dimitriadis, to oversee EYP on his behalf. Secondly, he chose as EYP’s new head Panagiotis Kontoleon, the CEO of the Greek franchise of the private security firm G4 — a man with no record of public service, and whose appointment Mitsotakis could only complete after amending the relevant law to remove the prerequisite that the EYP chief holds a postgraduate degree.

Given his concerted and very public efforts to take complete control of the state intelligence agency, something no other PM had ever done, it became impossible to shift blame to some other minister once the faeces hit the proverbial fan. Of the more than 17,000 wiretaps that EYP admits it has placed during the last year alone, two cases are at the heart of the current scandal. The first is that of Thanasis Koukakis, an investigative journalist who dared look into Greek shipowners’ loans that had been illegally written off by the Bank of Piraeus (one of the banks that Greek taxpayers have had to repeatedly bailout). It turns out that Koukakis was one of EYP’s “subjects of interest”, an outrage that would have probably gone unnoticed without the second, higher profile, case.

It was this case that broke the camel’s back: an investigation begun by the European Parliament’s IT department accidentally revealed that Nikos Androulakis, an MEP belonging to PASOK (the formerly dominant party in Greek politics), was being phone-tapped by EYP. It was explosive news because, at the time his phone was tapped, Androulakis was contesting the leadership of PASOK — a contest that he, eventually, won. The significance of that contest cannot be understated, since its outcome mattered a great deal to Mitsotakis and his governing New Democracy party. Since the middle of the pandemic, opinion polls have persistently suggested that the next election, which must take place by July 2023, will result in a hung parliament. While Mitsotakis’ New Democracy seemed likely to remain the largest party, it was not even close to an absolute majority. PASOK, in third place, was therefore positioned as kingmaker: whoever the party chose to side with would end up in government.

The stakes of PASOK’s leadership race suddenly seemed very high. Of the three main candidates, the one that would almost certainly choose to back New Democracy and Mitsotakis to form a government was Andreas Loverdos — an MP and former minister who had served gladly in New Democracy-PASOK coalition governments between 2011 and 2015. Every newspaper, radio and television station supporting Mitsotakis was rooting for Loverdos to beat Androulakis in the PASOK leadership primary. Is it any wonder that the revelation of EYP’s surveillance of Androulakis was big news? In a period during which the ruling party was rooting for Androulakis’s opponent, the nation’s spy agency — which ruling party’s leader and his nephew controlled and supervised to the full — was tapping Androulakis’ phone!

Read more …

Let’s turn to the Guardian for the real news.

Letitia James ran on “get Trump” and then spent her entire tenure as NY AG trying to “get Trump”, already the most investigated and prosecuted person in the history of the US. She will fail just like the others.

Meanwhile: why did James make this a civil, not a criminal case?

And: if Trump defrauded banks and pension funds, why did none of them ever file a case?

‘He’s Done’: How Donald Trump’s Legal Woes Have Just Gotten A Lot Worse (G.)

Donald Trump’s legal perils have become insurmountable and could snuff out the former US president’s hopes of an election-winning comeback, according to political analysts and legal experts. On Wednesday, Trump and three of his adult children were accused of lying to tax collectors, lenders and insurers in a “staggering” fraud scheme that routinely misstated the value of his properties to enrich themselves. The civil lawsuit, filed by New York’s attorney general, came as the FBI investigates Trump’s holding of sensitive government documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and a special grand jury in Georgia considers whether he and others attempted to influence state election officials after his defeat there by Joe Biden.

The former US president has repeatedly hinted that he intends to run for the White House again in 2024. But the cascade of criminal, civil and congressional investigations could yet derail that bid. “He’s done,” said Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University, in Washington, who has accurately predicted every presidential election since 1984. “He’s got too many burdens, too much baggage to be able to run again even presuming he escapes jail, he escapes bankruptcy. I’m not sure he’s going to escape jail.” After a three-year investigation, Letitia James, the New York attorney general, alleged that Trump provided fraudulent statements of his net worth and false asset valuations to obtain and satisfy loans, get insurance benefits and pay lower taxes. Offspring Don Jr, Ivanka and Eric were also named as defendants.

At a press conference, James riffed on the title of Trump’s 1987 memoir and business how-to book, The Art of the Deal. “This investigation revealed that Donald Trump engaged in years of illegal conduct to inflate his net worth, to deceive banks and the people of the great state of New York. Claiming you have money that you do not have does not amount to ‘the art of the deal’. It’s the art of the steal,” she said. Her office requested that the former president pay at least $250m in penalties and that his family be banned from running businesses in the state. James cannot bring criminal charges against Trump in this civil investigation but she said she was referring allegations of criminal fraud to federal prosecutors in Manhattan as well as the Internal Revenue Service.

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Phone vs life
https://twitter.com/i/status/1573015092828180480

 

 

 

 

Correa

 

 

Monarchs

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.

 

 

 

Feb 042021
 
 February 4, 2021  Posted by at 10:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


MC Escher Balcony 1945

 

‘Deadly Carrot’-Derived Antiviral Could Be Magic Bullet (RT)
5.8 Million Fewer Babies: America’s Lost Decade in Fertility (IFS)
Dallas Fed’s Kaplan: Reddit-Fueled Trading Frenzy Driven Partly By Fed (R.)
Beware Of Social Media-Fuelled Bubbles In Market – French Regulator (R.)
The Stock Market Is Broken, Now for All to See (WS)
The Insiders’ Game (Sacks)
SWIFT Sets Up Digital Currency Joint Venture With China’s Central Bank (R.)
“It Can’t Happen Here” (Rickards)
Andrew Cuomo Was a Villain All Along (NR)
Media Runs Defense as Amazon Caught Stealing Millions From Workers (MPN)
Defense Sec. Orders 60-Day Stand-down To Confront Extremism In Military (MT)
US Admiral Warns Nuclear War With Russia, China a ‘Real Possibility’ (Antiwar)
Xi, Putin Make The Case For Win-Win, Not Zero-Sum (Escobar)
If BlacK Lives Matter Wins Nobel, Rename It ‘Mostly Peaceful’ Prize (RT)

 

 

The Working Class pay taxes.
The Middle Class pay accountants.
The Upper Class pay politicians.

 

 

There’s a new meme in town: #AlexandriaOcasioSmollett. No comment.

 

 

Psaki calls out RT and Sputnik in front of the MSM. It’s too much.

 

 

“..several hundred times more effective than the current arsenal of antiviral treatments and is also effective against combined infections.”

‘Deadly Carrot’-Derived Antiviral Could Be Magic Bullet (RT)

Scientists are extolling the efficacy of a wonder drug in combating not only Covid-19 but influenza and other respiratory illnesses, in what may pave the way for a new generation of medicines to prevent future pandemics. Researchers led by a team at the University of Nottingham discovered that the broad spectrum antiviral thapsigargin has shown to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 (which causes Covid-19), a common cold coronavirus, the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as well as influenza A virus. Acute respiratory infections can be somewhat indistinguishable from one another on initial presentation to a doctor, which may result in lost time in terms of deploying the correct treatment. However, with an effective, broad-spectrum antiviral that can handle many of the main, more serious culprits with ease, it could yield far more positive outcomes for patients and medical practitioners.

Furthermore, it could also turn the tide against spontaneous community outbreaks of certain infections, including the dreaded clusters of Covid-19 which humanity can expect even after widespread vaccine rollout. The researchers, led by Professor Kin-Chow Chang, closely examined the plant-derived antiviral and put it through its paces against a number of pathogens. They found that it triggers a highly effective antiviral immune response against three major types of human respiratory viruses, and works before or during active infection, while preventing a virus from self-replicating for at least 48-hours, a critical component in stamping out community infections.

The drug remains stable in hostile, acidic environments, such as the human stomach, meaning it can be administered orally, without the need for injection or hospital admission, saving precious resources in the process. The researchers also claim the drug, derived from the ‘deadly carrot’ thapsia plant, is several hundred times more effective than the current arsenal of antiviral treatments and is also effective against combined infections. A derivative of the drug has been used in prostate cancer treatment, so concerns about safety in humans have already been allayed.


“The current pandemic highlights the need for effective antivirals to treat active infections, as well as vaccines, to prevent the infection,” Chang said, adding that future pandemics are likely to be zoonotic in nature, either animal-to-human or vice versa, so treating viral infections in humans and animals is crucial to prevent future catastrophe. The drug may mark the beginning of a new generation of powerful, host-centred antivirals, resulting in a holistic “One Health” approach to control both human and animal viruses and, hopefully at least, prevent further pandemics from inflicting such damage on the human race.

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And that’s before suspected COVID influence on -male- fertility.

5.8 Million Fewer Babies: America’s Lost Decade in Fertility (IFS)

Fertility rates have fallen around the world over the last decade—even in countries with generous social welfare states, which experts had long expected to be holdouts in the face of fertility declines. But while demographers often talk about this change in terms of “fertility rates” or “births per woman,” another way to tally the total is in terms of missing births. That is, if the population of women who might have kids changed the way it did over the last decade, and if fertility rates had remained at their 2008 levels (the last time we had replacement-rate fertility in America), how many more babies would have been born?


The answer is 5.8 million babies. Since births in the U.S. actually tend to run around 4 million per year, that’s almost like saying nobody had a baby for a year and a half. Figure 1 below shows the difference between the number of babies actually born to moms of each major racial or ethnic group tracked by the CDC from 2009-2019, and the number that would have been born, had 2008 fertility rates remained stable but underlying population totals changed in the same way.

The lion’s share of “missing babies” would have been born to Hispanic moms. That’s because in 2008, Hispanic moms could expect to have about 2.8 kids on average; now, they can expect to have about 2. Fertility rates declining by almost a third is a huge change, resulting in a loss of 2.7 million Hispanic babies that would otherwise have been born. Non-Hispanic whites make up the second biggest category of missing babies, with almost 2 million missing births. But that’s a bit of an illusion: in fact, non-Hispanic white fertility rates experienced the least amount of decline of any group (from 1.9 children per woman to 1.6; Asian-Americans have always been lower, falling from 1.8 to 1.5). But the number of potential non-Hispanic white moms is very large. Figure 2 below shows the percentage difference between actual births each year, and the expected number of births for that group and year.

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“Some of the current situation you are seeing – one of the factors – is there is a lot of liquidity, and some of that relates to Fed purchases..”

Dallas Fed’s Kaplan: Reddit-Fueled Trading Frenzy Driven Partly By Fed (R.)

Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Robert Kaplan said Tuesday that while the Fed’s massive bond-buying program is creating plenty of liquidity in financial markets, there are no signs of broad market instability at present. “I don’t see anything right now systemic,” Kaplan said in a CNBC interview, responding to a question about a possible link between the Reddit-fueled frenzy in GameStop Corp shares and monetary policy. Kaplan did not comment on GameStop directly, and instead addressed the broader question of how Fed policy affects financial markets.


“Some of the current situation you are seeing – one of the factors – is there is a lot of liquidity, and some of that relates to Fed purchases of $80 billion of Treasuries and $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities every month: I think it’s wise for us to acknowledge that.” The Fed has kept interest rates near zero since last March and has pledged to keep them there until the economy has returned to full employment and inflation has reached, and is on track to overshoot, the Fed’s 2% goal. It has also said it will keep buying at least $120 billion of bonds each month until there is “substantial further progress” toward the Fed’s full employment and 2% inflation goals, a benchmark that Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida has said may not be reached until next year.

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“Customers with direct market access are welcome, but raises questions about… new ways to manipulate markets..”

Let’s stick with the old ways.

Beware Of Social Media-Fuelled Bubbles In Market – French Regulator (R.)

An increase in retail investors flocking to online brokers during the coronavirus pandemic risks creating “bubbles” engineered by social media, France’s top markets regulator said on Wednesday. Robert Ophele, chair of France’s AMF markets watchdog, said the trading frenzy fuelled by posts on the Reddit forum and surge in bitcoin prices have shown how technology and social media can bring “irrationality” to financial markets. “Customers with direct market access are welcome, but raises questions about… new ways to manipulate markets with a social media dimension,” Ophele told an Afore Consulting webinar.

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Step 1: stop calling it a market.

The Stock Market Is Broken, Now for All to See (WS)

It has finally blown into the open for all to see. The stock market has been broken for a while, for a long time, actually. The idea that the stock market is where price discovery takes place on a rational transparent basis, with ups and downs, and some amount of chaos, but free of rampant manipulations – that idea has now totally imploded. What has been visible for a long time but now blew into the open is just how manipulated the market is, by all sides, how overleveraged the big players are because the Fed encouraged them to, and how enormous the risks are, and how crazy the trading strategies are. And the stock market soared to record out-of-whack valuations, in a terrible economy where at least 10 million people have lost their jobs and are still out of work, and where entire industries have gotten crushed.


The whole thing is propped up by stimulus and bailout payments to consumers and companies alike. And then came a new force – or rather the force wasn’t new, but the magnitude was: regular folks ganging together in the social media, particularly on Reddit’s WallStreetBets, and they were deeply cynical about the fake markets and they saw an opportunity, and they conspired to make a ton of money and push some hedge funds over the cliff, by buying long the most shorted stocks, in other words, they conspired to engineer a historic short-squeeze. This coordinated buying by the crowd on WallStreetBets, of a handful of small most-shorted stocks, drove up their prices sometimes by 100% or more in a day, which pushed the hedge funds that were short these stocks to the brink. And it pushed online broker Robinhood to the brink. And it revealed for all to see just how broken the stock market has been.

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“With the Town Square now digitized, centralized, and privatized in the hands of a cartel of Big Tech companies, the protections of the First Amendment no longer apply.”

The Insiders’ Game (Sacks)

Some of us warned of a slippery slope when Parler was taken down and a sitting president was systematically ghosted from every online speech platform. But we could not have foreseen how slippery the slope would be, or how fast we would slide down it. We were told that the curbs on speech of President Trump and his supporters were necessary to prevent further “insurrection” and protect the peaceful transition of power. However, much like the troops and barricades that still ring the Capitol, these speech restrictions remain in place well after the transition of power has occurred. The censorship power is always justified in response to a genuine outrage or crisis, but it is rarely relinquished once the threat passes. Rather it gets weaponized to protect powerful, connected insiders, as the GameStop fiasco illustrates.

How do we suppose Discord chose that moment to enforce its “Community Guidelines” against WallStreetBets? Almost certainly, one of the hedge funds whose ox was being gored combed through their message boards looking for anything that might violate the terms of service. And surely they found it, as these boards contain the same raunchy language you would hear if you visited any trading floor or boiler room on Wall Street. They presumably reported the content to Discord, which took the group down. Did Discord warn WallStreetBets of content violations before last Wednesday? I’m sure they did. Amazon sent such a warning letter to Parler as well. Frankly, such a letter could be, and likely is, sent to every large message board on the web.

The founder of a user-generated content site described it to me as “the One Percent Problem.” Every user-generated content site will have a small percentage of offensive material that gets through, no matter how many content moderators are hired. For example, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube allowed far more content advocating for and planning the Capitol riot than Parler. But instead of acknowledging this, they were eager to blame the upstart, which had recently taken over the top spot in the social networking category in the app store. Scapegoating Parler served the dual purpose of deflecting blame and squashing a competitor. Critics of social networks insist that these sites simply need to double down on censorship in order to finally rid us of problematic speech. But that ignores how social media moderation actually works.


Algorithms set to recognize keywords capture only a small fraction of problematic posts, leaving millions of posts for humans to review. The work is so voluminous that it’s outsourced to far-flung locales where English may not even be the first language. Low-level employees must decipher complicated guidelines while navigating our increasingly Byzantine world of political and cultural hot-buttons. Mistakes are inevitable, and the harder a company tightens the standards to get the One Percent Problem down to 0.1 or 0.01 percent, the more undeserving accounts—from Ron Paul to the Socialist Equality Party—will be swept up in the dragnet. With the Town Square now digitized, centralized, and privatized in the hands of a cartel of Big Tech companies, the protections of the First Amendment no longer apply.

Read more …

The battle against Bitcoin will be fierce.

SWIFT Sets Up Digital Currency Joint Venture With China’s Central Bank (R.)

SWIFT, the global system for financial messaging and cross-border payments, has set up a joint venture with the Chinese central bank’s digital currency research institute and clearing centre, in a sign that China is exploring global use of its planned digital yuan. Other shareholders of the Beijing-based venture include China’s Cross-border Interbank Payment System (CIPS) and the Payment & Clearing Association of China, both supervised by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), according to public information.


The new entity, called Finance Gateway Information Services Co, was established in Beijing on Jan. 16, and its business scope includes information system integration, data processing and technological consultancy, according to the website of the National Enterprise Credit Information Public System. China is a front-runner in the global race to launch central bank digital currencies, having launched domestic trials in several major cities including Shenzhen, Chengdu and Hangzhou. Its digital currency will help increase oversight of money flows, while also raising the efficiency of cross-border payments and facilitate yuan internationalization, HSBC said in a recent report. China’s cross-border payment system CIPS both partners and competes with SWIFT amid growing Sino-U.S. tensions.

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Rickards recognizes the role of money velocity in inflation, but doesn’t explain why he sees it change.

“It Can’t Happen Here” (Rickards)

The Federal Reserve printed $4 trillion in the years following the 2008 crash, expanding its pre-crisis balance sheet of about $900 billion to roughly $4.5 trillion. Many people thought, if hyperinflation were ever going to happen in the U.S., it would have already. Well, it never happened. Today, in response to the pandemic and the economic lockdowns that followed, the Fed has cranked up the printing press to even higher levels. It’s printed almost as much money in one year as it printed in the several years after the financial crisis. On February 26, 2020, the balance sheet was $4.16 trillion. Less than one year later, it’s roughly $7.3 trillion. Meanwhile, America’s M1 money supply spiked 70% last year.

But this blizzard of money-printing has not caused the level of alarm that the post-financial crisis money creation caused. If we didn’t get the hyperinflation then, they say, why should we get it now? Most people are complacent. They have a point. We still have no hyperinflation or even moderate inflation (except maybe in asset prices). But I’ve even argued that we won’t see inflation right away. Inflation is not only a product of money creation but also of money velocity. You can print as much money as you want, but if it’s not exchanging hands and there isn’t much turnover, it won’t lead to inflation. Inflation is at least as much a psychological phenomenon as a monetary phenomenon. And expectations right now are for disinflation.


Because of the lockdowns and their economic fallout, we will likely suffer a recession in the first quarter of 2021. Money velocity is low, so disinflation is the problem in the short term. But that doesn’t mean inflation isn’t coming back or even that hyperinflation isn’t possible once it does. Inflation will return, and when it does, it could be massive and potentially lead to hyperinflation. All this can happen faster than most people think.

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A useful scapegoat is past his best before date.

Andrew Cuomo Was a Villain All Along (NR)

For much of the past year, the mainstream media and Democrats have largely blamed former president Donald Trump and his administration for most of America’s COVID-19 deaths. Trump did indeed fail in certain aspects of coordination, messaging, and inserting politics into the parts of the process where it didn’t belong. He deserves credit, however, for Operation Warp Speed, the initiative that (ultimately successfully) fostered the development of coronavirus vaccines, one of the most successful public-private ventures in modern history. But Trump’s overbearing personality tended to absorb all the attention, leaving little room for real debate on the successes and failures of other politicians, except when the media found time to criticize Republican governors. But serious criticism of Democrats in this period was rare. Until now.

Last week, New York attorney general Letitia James, a Democrat, released a long-awaited report on the state of New York’s response to the coronavirus outbreak as led by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Her findings were stunning in their demonstration of both gross incompetence and outright malfeasance, and were recently reinforced by a New York Times report this week on Cuomo’s leadership failures and staffing troubles during the coronavirus period. The Times now reports that nine leading health-care experts for the state of New York resigned during the last summer and through the fall, all of whom complained that Cuomo had politicized health-care decisions and was ignoring the experts on long-standing plans for the pandemic, including regarding vaccinations.

Why the discrepancy? First, the state refused to count those patients who were transferred to, and later died at, hospitals. Why this loophole? Nobody has ever provided a good answer. Every other state in the country counts these deaths in the nursing-home numbers, because that is the practical and commonsense way to count it. New York specifically chose to be an outlier. The real failure, however, was New York’s unwillingness to be transparent with the data after the fact. For many who analyzed the data in April and May, it quickly became apparent that the state was not being fully transparent on nursing-home deaths. Many individuals were reporting that their family members died at the hospital, but only after getting severely ill at their extended-care facilities first. But somehow the numbers did not appear to bear that out.


An objective observer might be willing to give anyone in charge during such horrific events the benefit of the doubt. New York was at the time the worldwide center of COVID deaths, and it continued in this manner all through the spring. The vast majority of the more than 40,000 deaths in the state occurred during a horrific twelve-week period, when hospitals and health professionals faced war-like situations as patients died left and right.

Read more …

Please don’t send anyone to jail!

Media Runs Defense as Amazon Caught Stealing Millions From Workers (MPN)

It has been a turbulent 24 hours for retail giant Amazon. First, the company’s founder (and world’s richest individual) Jeff Bezos announced that he would step down as CEO. Then, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that the company had illegally stolen more than $61 million worth of customer tips meant for its delivery drivers. Under their contracts, Amazon drivers were supposed to make between $18 and $25 per hour and keep all their tips. However, since at least 2016, the company had been secretly confiscating tips customers sent through an app, using their contributions to reduce their own wage payouts, meaning they were swindling both customers and employees. “In total, Amazon stole nearly one-third of drivers’ tips to pad its own bottom line,” said FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra.

Unlike corporate crime cases in other nations, Amazon will merely be required to pay back the money it took from employees. Thus, it will face no negative consequences, except a possible public relations backlash due to bad press. Yet, instead of grilling Amazon, the media appear to be working hard to run defense for it, downplaying the nature of the crime in their headlines. The word “steal” was noticeably absent from much of the reporting, despite the fact that the original Reuters report used the word in its title — a direct reflection of the FTC’s ruling. Many newspapers instead decided to go with “withhold” instead. Even worse, many more framed the news as a mere allegation, despite the fact that the FTC had made a formal ruling.

Forbes, for instance, led with the headline “Amazon Will Pay $61.7 Million Settlement After Allegedly Withholding Tips From Delivery Drivers.” Others (Daily Caller, Daily Mail) did the same. Meanwhile, in a tweet on the news, Vox claimed that (emphasis added) “Amazon will pay $61.7 million in a settlement over allegations that the company used customer tips to subsidize the hourly wages of some delivery drivers.” Thus, the fact that Amazon had been caught stealing was watered down into a claim that it was merely “subsidizing” “some” of its employees’ wages.


Perhaps the worst offender was business and tech news site ZDNet, whose headline was “Amazon will pay $61.7 million to settle Flex driver tip dispute with FTC,” which obscured the matter into a foggy and very technical sounding financial dispute. Only a very small number of outlets, including Slate and The Huffington Post, echoed the FTC’s decision by using the word “stole” in their headlines.

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The most extreme things in the US military take place in far-away lands.

Defense Sec. Orders 60-Day Stand-down To Confront Extremism In Military (MT)

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called on the services to conduct a 60-day stand-down on the issue of extremism in the military, prompted by the Jan. 6 attack on the the Capitol and subsequent reports of both active-duty and former service members attending a rally calling to overturn the 2020 election and the riot that ensued. Austin held a meeting Wednesday of the service secretaries and Joint Chiefs, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters, to ask them about their concerns and ideas for improving the situation. “Even though the numbers might be small, they may not be as small as we would like them to be, or we believe them to be,“ Kirby said of the prevalence of troops with extremists views, ties or activities. “And that no matter what it is, it is not an insignificant problem.”


Guidance is forthcoming on what Austin expects to see after the 60 days. “It wasn’t a blithe, ‘Hey, just go talk to your people,’” Kirby said of Austin’s direction to the service secretaries and Joint Chiefs. “He was very clear that he wants commands to take the necessary time. And I didn’t hear him be overly proscriptive about that … to speak with troops about the scope of this problem, and certainly to get a sense from them about what they’re seeing at their level.” The Defense Department does not centrally track troops who have been investigated for domestic terrorism or extremist sentiment, and neither do the services, making it difficult to get a read on how prevalent the problem is. Kirby told reporters on Jan. 28 that the FBI opened 143 investigations into troops and veterans in 2020, 68 of those for domestic extremism.

Read more …

The MIC needs orders.

US Admiral Warns Nuclear War With Russia, China a ‘Real Possibility’ (Antiwar)

The head of US Strategic Command (STRATCOM) warned that a nuclear war with Russia or China is a “real possibility” and is calling for a change in US policy that reflects this threat. “There is a real possibility that a regional crisis with Russia or China could escalate quickly to a conflict involving nuclear weapons, if they perceived a conventional loss would threaten the regime or state,” Vice Adm. Charles Richard wrote in the February edition of the US Naval Institute’s monthly magazine. Richard said the US military must “shift its principal assumption from ‘nuclear employment is not possible’ to ‘nuclear employment is a very real possibility,’ and act to meet and deter that reality.”


The STRATCOM chief said Russia and China “have begun to aggressively challenge international norms and global peace using instruments of power and threats of force in ways not seen since the height of the Cold War.” Richard hyped up Russia and China’s nuclear modernization, calling for the US to compete with the two nations. When it comes to China’s nuclear weapons, the US and Russia have vastly larger arsenals. Current estimates put Beijing’s nuclear arsenal at about 320 warheads, while Washington and Moscow have about 6,000 warheads each.

Read more …

Was it Trump’s policies that made them stronger, or was it the way America handled Trump?

Xi, Putin Make The Case For Win-Win, Not Zero-Sum (Escobar)

The best in-depth analysis of Putin’s extraordinary speech , hands down, was provided by Rostislav Ishchenko, whom I had the pleasure to meet in Moscow in 2018. Ishchenko stresses how, “in terms of scale and impact on historical processes, this is steeper than the Battles of Stalingrad and Kursk combined.” The speech, he adds, was totally unexpected, as much as Putin’s stunning intervention at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, “the crushing defeat” imposed on Georgia in 2008, and the return of Crimea in 2014. Ishchenko also reveals something that will never be acknowledged in the West: “80 people from among the most influential on the planet did not laugh in Putin’s face, as it was in 2007 in Munich, and without noise immediately after his open speech signed up for a closed conference with him.”

Putin’s very important reference to the ominous 1930s – “the inability and unwillingness to find substantive solutions to problems like this in the 20th century led to World War 2 catastrophe” – was juxtaposed with a common sense warning: the necessity of preventing the takeover of global policy by Big Tech , which “are de facto competing with states”. Xi and Putin’s speeches were de facto complementary – emphasizing sustainable, win-win economic development for all actors, especially across the Global South, coupled with the necessity of a new socio-political contract in international relations. This drive should be based on two pillars: sovereignty – that is, the good old Westphalian model (and not Great Reset, hyper-concentrated, one world “governance”) and sustainable development propelled by techno-scientific progress (and not techno-feudalism).


So what Putin-Xi proposed, in fact, was a concerted effort to expand the basic foundations of the Russia-China strategic partnership to the whole Global South: the crucial choice ahead is between win-win and the Exceptionalist zero-sum game.

Read more …

Amen.

If BlacK Lives Matter Wins Nobel, Rename It ‘Mostly Peaceful’ Prize (RT)

While 2020 may be remembered as the year Orwell turned over in his grave – and also the year deemed the perfect “match” for Satan – 2021 might well be remembered for the year Alfred Nobel did back flips in his. The Nobel Peace Prize has often generated controversy over many of its dubious nominees and recipients. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger shared the prize with his counterpart, Le Duc Tho, “for jointly having negotiated a cease fire in Vietnam in 1973.” Kissinger won despite his role in the bombings in Cambodia and in the killings in ‘Operation Candor’. President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, inspiring him to bomb seven countries as he managed to out-Bush G.W. Bush. The former Nobel secretary told the AP news agency in 2015 that in awarding the prize to Obama, “the committee didn’t achieve what it had hoped for.” You don’t say?

Yet, one of the biggest jaw-droppers may be a current contender, the corporate-funded Marxist front group, Black Lives Matter. The nomination must make BLM’s sponsors proud. And how much do corporate socialists like Black Lives Matter? As of June 2020, corporate America had pledged BLM over $1.678 billion, led by Bank of America and cheap-labor lover Nike. BLM was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by a Norwegian lawmaker. NBC News reported: “In his nomination letter, Petter Eide, a Socialist Left member of the Storting, Norway’s parliament, wrote that he had nominated Black Lives Matter ‘for their struggle against racism and racially motivated violence.’”

By now, much has been said about BLM’s violent roots. I discovered attempts by BLM (and its enablers) to disguise its history and ideology. But BLM’s scrubbing of its shady past has been to no avail, since its goals and tactics were on full display in the BLM-inspired riots. Protests and riots, including looting and arson, rampaged through the US from May to December 2020. The violence that resulted in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis was the first “multi-state catastrophe event” ever declared for civil disorder by claim-tracking company Property Claim Services, Triple-I has said. BLM demonstrations have included calling for the murder of police officers: “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now!” On August 29, 2015, during a Black Lives Matter march outside the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, a chant rang out: “Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon.” Inspired by BLM, at least two police officers were murdered, one at point-blank range.


On September 16, 2020, Axios headlined: “$1 billion-plus riot damage is most expensive in insurance history.” But noted in the report was the obligatory leftist cover for those who looted and set many cities ablaze. “The protests that took place in 140 U.S. cities this spring were mostly peaceful, but the arson, vandalism and looting that did occur will result in at least $1 billion to $2 billion of paid insurance claims.”

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 022018
 


Frans Masereel Montmartre 1925

 

 

The way ‘news’ is reported through known outlets changes so fast hardly a soul notices that news as we once knew it no longer exists. This is due to a large extent to the advent of the internet in general, and social media in particular. On the one hand this has led to an absolute overkill in ‘news’, forcing people to pick between sources once they find they can’t read or view it all, on the other hand it has allowed news outlets to flood the former news waves with so much of the same that nobody can compare one source with the other anymore.

Once you achieve that situation, you’re more or less free to make the news, rather than just report on it. The rise of Donald Trump has made the existing mass media realize that one-sided negative reporting on the man sells better than anything objective can. The MSM have sort of won the battle versus the interwebs, albeit only in that regard, and only for this moment, but that is enough for them for now; just like their readers, they don’t have the scope or the energy to look any further or deeper.

This is in a nutshell, and we really should take a much more profound look but that’s another chapter, what has changed the news, and what will keep on changing it until the truth sets us all free. This is what drives outlets like CNN, the New York Times and the Guardian today, because it provides them with readers and viewers. Which they would not have if they didn’t conduct a 24/7 war on a set list of topics they know their audience can’t get enough of.

For these outlets, there are are three targets: Assange, Putin and Trump. And it’s especially the alleged links between the three that gets media -and politicians- excited, because if such links exist, the case against the individual targets is greatly reinforced. Trump can be portrayed in a much more damaging light if he’s painted off as Putin’s stooge, Putin becomes an enemy of America, Britain and the EU is he’s deciding elections in these countries (and poisoning people), and Assange can really only be set in a negative light if he aids and abets both of them.

The problem would be evidence. Or it would seem to be, at least. But the news has changed. We are well into the second year of ‘reporting’ on how Trump and Putin have conspired against Hillary, and there is still no proof other than intelligence services swearing on their mothers’ graves that really, Assange, Putin and Trump have targeted our democracies in order to take over control of them by illegal means.

They are the enemy, and you, who are of course on the other side, are their victims. But your trusted media will save you from a grueling fate. Now, if the passing of George HW Bush makes anything clear, it’s how united politicians and media are in praise of him, and against everyone else. The Observer, Guardian’s Sunday sister, puts it ever so eloquently today:

“Whether it’s his shabby efforts to defend Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince accused of ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, his professed “love” for North Korea’s ruthless dictator, Kim Jong-un, or his unashamed kowtowing to Putin, Trump undermines his office.

What a sorry contrast he presents with the dignified former president, George HW Bush, who died this weekend. Bush Sr wasn’t perfect, but he understood what making America great really means.”

It shouldn’t be necessary for anyone to point out that HW was basically a war criminal in thinly veiled disguise, who ordered the bombing of a caravan of civilians in Iraq 27 years ago, as the US had invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein had taken Kuwait egged on by that same US. If you can call that dignified, you have issues.

By the same token, it shouldn’t be necessary for anyone to point out that the umpteenth Guardian hit piece on Julian Assange was just that, and invented from A to Z as well. If, when seeing the headline, you didn’t see that in the first fraction of a second, you haven’t been paying attention; you’re well into the news matrix. By now, everyone should recognize these things for what they are. But it only appears to get harder. It’s what outlets like to report, and readers like to read. It paints the world into a nice neat scheme, in which the bad guys are easy to spot, and you find yourself in a safe and cozy corner.

The problem, though, is that the entire thing is fantasy. The headline Manafort Held Secret Talks With Assange In Ecuadorian Embassy, Sources Say does not contain one iota of truth. But what does it matter? Assange has been cut off from the world, he can’t defend himself. Manafort is about to be thrown in jail for lying. The Russians can’t be trusted on anything, whatever they say must be a lie. And Trump gets so much of this stuff, he wouldn’t know where to begin anymore if he’d want to sue for libel.

One interesting detail about that ‘article’, after we’ve already established that they made it up, we know there’s not a single sign of Manafort having been in London around the time he allegedly met with Assange, is the connection between the Guardian and Ecuador. The paper has stationed people in Quito, the country’s capital. And sources within the Ecuadorian government appear to be feeding them material. Such as the claim that Manafort visited Assange. He wasn’t there. We know that from his passports and surveillance cameras.

The Guardian has a vendetta with Julian Assange, and Ecuador’s new president uses the paper to smear Assange’s name, painting him as an unwashed slob and a cat hater. This is your news, Britain and other anglo readers, this is what it’s come to. Already. And we’re just in the first inning of the game of making up the news as we go along.

The byline of that Manafort/Assange fantasy piece says “Luke Harding and Dan Collyns in Quito”. Now, on May 16 2018 I published an article entitled I Am Julian Assange, in which I referred to no less than three Guardian articles all published the day before, and all with the same topic.

The first one, Revealed: Ecuador Spent Millions On Spy Operation For Julian Assange, lists Dan Collyns, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Luke Harding, Fernando Villavicencio and Cristina Solórzano as authors. The second one, How Julian Assange Became An Unwelcome Guest In Ecuador’s Embassy, lists Luke Harding, Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Dan Collyns.Number three is Why Does Ecuador Want Assange Out Of Its London Embassy?, written by poor lonely Dan Collyns in Quito all by himself.

It seems obvious that ‘Ecuador’ didn’t get sick of Assange. What happened was Ecuador changed presidents. Rafael Correa’s longtime friend and right hand man Lenin Moreno ran for president as his logical successor, only to turn against his former mentor as soon as he was elected. And not long after that, the Guardian has sources in Quito which it could use to smear Assange even further.

 

This way of ‘making’ the news is not limited to the Guardian, and it’s not limited to its coverage of WikiLeaks. We must ask ourselves every step of the way if we can still call this sort of thing ‘news’, ‘coverage’ and ‘reporting’. Let’s hope both WikiLeaks and Paul Manafort sue the paper, but apparently they’ll need a lot of money to do it. An additional layer of protection for fake news.

The Guardian is not just after Assange, and it’s not just Luke Harding writing hit pieces. Here are the paper’s editors on November 30. The fallout of the Manafort/Assange piece has made them sort of careful in that they say: “what we say is probably not true, but imagine if it were! Wouldn’t that be terrible?!”

America’s Compromised Leader (Guardian Op-Ed)

Earlier this week Donald Trump stood on the south lawn of the White House and ridiculed Theresa May’s Brexit agreement as a “great deal for the EU”. He is likely to make the same contemptuous case during the G20 summit in Argentina this weekend, although pointedly there is no planned bilateral. Given the political stakes facing her back home, Mrs May must feel as if 14,000 miles is a long way to travel for the weekend merely to be trashed by supposedly her greatest ally. When this happens, though, who does Mrs May imagine is confronting her? Is it just Mr Trump himself, America First president, sworn enemy of the international order in general and the European Union in particular?

That’s a bad enough reality. But might her accuser also be, at some level, Vladimir Putin, a leader whose interest in weakening the EU and breaking Britain from it as damagingly as possible outdoes even that of Mr Trump?

That prospect is even worse. Such speculation would normally seem, and still probably is, a step too far. The idea that a US president is in any way doing the Kremlin’s business as well as his own is the stuff of spy thrillers and of John le Carré TV adaptations. Yet the icy fact is that the conspiracy theory may now also contain an element of truth.

[..] Days before he took office in 2017, Mr Trump said that “the closest I came to Russia” was in selling a Florida property to a Russian oligarch in 2008. If Mr Cohen’s statement is true, Mr Trump was telling his country a lie. What is more, the Russians knew it. Potentially, that raises issues of US national security. If Mr Putin knew that Mr Trump was concealing information about his Russian business interests, this could give Moscow leverage over the US leader. Mr Trump might feel constrained to praise Mr Putin or to avoid conflicts with Russia over policy. All this may indeed be very far-fetched. Yet Russia’s activities in the 2016 election against Hillary Clinton and in favour of Mr Trump are not fiction.

They prompted the setting up of the Mueller inquiry into links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Another document this week suggests a longtime Trump adviser, Roger Stone, may have sought information about WikiLeaks plans to release hacked Democratic party emails in 2016. There is nothing in the documents released this week that proves that Mr Trump conspired with Russian efforts to win him the presidency.

Yet those efforts were real. For two years, Mr Trump has gone to unprecedented lengths to attack the special counsel. After November’s midterms, he seemed on the verge of firing Mr Mueller. He may yet do so. But this week’s charges suggest that there is plenty more still to be revealed. Mr Trump still has questions to answer from the investigating authorities, from the new Congress – and from America’s long-suffering allies.

You see what they do, and how they do it? Big statement, and then say it’s probably not true. Post Manafort/Assange disaster piece, their lawyers have provided a way to legally make outrageous claims. It’s still smear, and it’s still slander, but they’ve already covered their asses by saying it’s probably a step too far. Still managed to say it though… And hey, what’s not to like about the phrase “..America’s long-suffering allies”?

Also on November 30, the Guardian ran the following piece. Note the headline. And realize there never was a deal. Which the article acknowledges of course. Just not in the headline.

Trump Calls Russia Deal ‘Legal And Cool’ As Mueller Inquiry Gathers Pace

Donald Trump, drawn deeper into an investigation into Russian meddling in US elections, has defended his pursuit of a business deal in Moscow at the same time he was running for president as “very legal & very cool”. Trump appeared rattled this week after Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer, confessed that he lied to Congress about a Russian property contract he pursued on his boss’s behalf during the Republican primary campaign in 2016. The surprise admission cast the president himself as a pivotal figure in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion for the first time. In a series of tweets from Buenos Aires, where he is attending the G20 summit, Trump recalled “happily living my life” as a property developer before running for president after seeing the “Country going in the wrong direction (to put it mildly)”.

Smear Slander Rinse and Repeat. All you need to do is add “it’s probably not true” here and there, and you’re good to go. People claim that the coming age of AI and algorithms is a threat to news dissemination, but at this pace there won’t be much left to threaten.

I think I’ll close with that Observer quote I posted above. It’s just perfect.

Donald Trump’s Growing List Of Failures (Observer Op-Ed)

“Whether it’s his shabby efforts to defend Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince accused of ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, his professed “love” for North Korea’s ruthless dictator, Kim Jong-un, or his unashamed kowtowing to Putin, Trump undermines his office. What a sorry contrast he presents with the dignified former president, George HW Bush, who died this weekend. Bush Sr wasn’t perfect, but he understood what making America great really means.”

Okay, can’t help myself. MbS: not shabby efforts, but a refusal to risk being singled out and be blamed for $400 oil prices by the same Senators who tolerated Saudi behavior for decades. Kim Jong-un: Trump is closer to peace in Korea than anyone in decades. The claim Trump is ‘kowtowing’ to Putin only makes sense if you believe the unproven allegations of collusion. Robert Mueller hasn’t provided any evidence of it in 18 months, but a bunch of guys in a London office know better? As far as the dignity of Bush 41 is concerned, I see no reason to add one single syllable.

I will never get tired of defending Julian Assange. I do get tired of defending Trump, but the media leaves me no choice. There’s a dire need for at least a little balance in what passes for the news, and that balance seems to get further out of reach every passing day. News outlets have resorted to propaganda campaigns against individuals, organizations and even entire nations because it helps them sell copies, ads and airtime.

And frankly, we must prepare for smear and allegations thought up out of thin air just to make a profit, to be used to lock away people for life regardless of what a nation’s laws say, for presidents to be impeached because it suits the owners of papers or TV stations (despite Trump being their meal ticket), and we must for the inevitable endgame, fake news as the reason to start a -nuclear- war.

 

 

Apr 222015
 
 April 22, 2015  Posted by at 9:34 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle April 22 2015


Jack Delano Engineer at AT&SF railroad yard, Clovis, NM 1943

Europe’s Debt Mountain Just Got A Whole Lot Bigger (Telegraph)
$5.3 Trillion Of Government Bonds Now Have Negative Yields (David Stockman)
IMF Needs To Correct Its Big Fat Greek Bailout Mistake (Ashoka Mody)
Mythology That Blocks Progress In Greece (Martin Wolf)
Why the Real Deadline for Greece Is July 20 (Bloomberg)
Greece Buys Six Weeks’ Space With Transfer of City Funds (Bloomberg)
Varoufakis Sees ‘Clear Convergence’ in Greek Creditor Talks (Bloomberg)
Greece Hopes To Strike A Deal With Gazprom Soon (DW)
China Sees First Bond Default by State Firm (Bloomberg)
China Will Keep Growing Because It Has To (Bloomberg)
Hank Paulson Tells China to Be Wary (Sorkin)
Europe Should Protect People, Not Borders (Spiegel)
The Next Era of Campaign-Finance Craziness Is Already Underway (NY Times)
British Regulator Challenges US Over Scrutiny of Buffett’s Berkshire (FT)
‘Pipelines Blow Up And People Die’ (Politico)
Who Is Saudi Arabia Really Targeting In Its Price War? (Berman)
How to Avert a Nuclear War (James E. Cartwright and Vladimir Dvorkin)
UK Financial Trader Arrested Over 2010 Global Markets ‘Flash Crash’ (Guardian)
Metro Vancouver Is Swept Up In A Real Estate Frenzy (Vancouver Sun)
Decisions: Life and Death on Wall Street, by Janet M. Tavakoli (Nomi Prins)
The Food Production System is Criminal (Beppe Grillo’s blog)

“Despite attempts by governments across the bloc to rein in spending..”

Europe’s Debt Mountain Just Got A Whole Lot Bigger (Telegraph)

It’s official. The eurozone is drowning in debt. According to the latest figures from the bloc’s official statistical authority, government debt in the eurozone reached nearly 92pc of GDP last year – the highest level since the single currency was introduced in 1999. Unsurprisingly, debt-stricken Greece is the worst offender, with its public debt topping 177pc of national economic output. Italy is not far behind at 132pc of GDP, with bailed-out Cyprus at 107pc. The figures also show that only four of the eurozone’s 19 countries are below the Maastricht Treaty’s 60pc debt limit. Across Europe as a whole, 16 of out the 26 member states are officially in breach of the debt criteria.

Despite attempts by governments across the bloc to rein in spending, stagnant growth and insipid demand has seen debt ratios on the continent soar. Coupled with the ominous threat of deflation, the advanced world’s debt burden is now the foremost threat facing the global economy, according to the likes of the IMF. Total public and private debt levels have reached a record 275pc of GDP in rich countries, and 175pc in emerging markets. Both are up 30 points since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. But as the woes of Greece have shown, the prospect of mass debt write-offs is not on the cards. In the words of Margaret Atwood and beloved of the IMF: “And then the revenge that comes when they are not paid back.”

Read more …

Part of the game.

$5.3 Trillion Of Government Bonds Now Have Negative Yields (David Stockman)

The level of complacency in world financial markets is downright astounding – even stupid. Today there are two more signs of extreme mania – a brokerage firm calculation that there are now $5.3 trillion of government bonds trading at negative yields and the cross-over of eurolibor into the neither world of negative yields, as well. These deformations cannot be explained with reference to macroeconomic conditions – such as weak growth or a temporary spot of minimal CPI gains. Instead, they are the destructive work of central banks and a few hundred monetary mandarins who have literally usurped control of the entire world economy. And they have done it through a deft maneuver.

That is, by disabling the pricing system in financial markets entirely and displacing market forces with central command and control in the form of pegged money market rates, manipulated yield curves, invitations to speculators to front-run massive central bank bond buying programs and both implied and explicit promises that rising risk asset prices will be favored and facilitated at all hazards. All of this monetary mayhem is being done in the name of an astoundingly primitive Keynesian premise. Namely, that there is insufficient “aggregate demand” in the world and too little inflation in consumer goods and services as measured by the CPI and other consumption deflators; and that these insufficiencies can be magically remedied by ZIRP, massive government debt monetization and the rest of the easy money tool kit .

How? Why, by inducing businesses and households to borrow more and spend more when they are otherwise not inclined to spend income they don’t have; and to rid them of a reluctance to spend even what they can afford because the price of toilet paper, tonic water, TVs and trips to the mall may be going down tomorrow. Here’s the thing. Both of these alleged barriers to spending are postulates of Keynesian economic models, not conditions extant in the real world. Upwards of 85% of US households, for example, are not borrowing because they are already tapped out and trapped in “peak debt”. Even the borrowing rebound that has happened since the 2008 crisis has occurred for reasons that are irrelevant to the central bankers’ Keynesian predicate.

Read more …

Restructuring.

IMF Needs To Correct Its Big Greek Bailout Mistake (Ashoka Mody)

The Greek government’s mounting financial woes are leading it to contemplate the unthinkable: defaulting on a loan from the International Monetary Fund. Instead of demanding repayment and further austerity, the IMF should recognize its responsibility for the country’s predicament and forgive much of the debt. Greece’s onerous obligations to the IMF, the European Central Bank and European governments can be traced back to April 2010, when they made a fateful mistake. Instead of allowing Greece to default on its insurmountable debts to private creditors, they chose to lend it the money to pay in full. At the time, many called for immediately restructuring privately held debt, thus imposing losses on the banks and investors who had lent money to Greece.

Among them were several members of the IMF’s board and Karl Otto Pohl, a former president of the Bundesbank and a key architect of the euro. The IMF and European authorities responded that restructuring would cause global financial mayhem. As Pohl candidly noted, that was merely a cover for bailing out German and French banks, which had been among the largest enablers of Greek profligacy. Ultimately, the authorities’ approach merely replaced one problem with another: IMF and official European loans were used to repay private creditors. Thus, despite a belated restructuring in 2012, Greece’s obligations remain unbearable – only now they are owed almost entirely to official creditors. Five years after the crisis started, government debt has jumped from 130% of gross domestic product to almost 180%.

Meanwhile, a deep economic slump and deflation have severely impaired the government’s ability to repay. Almost everyone now agrees that pushing Greece to pay its private creditors was a bad idea. The required fiscal austerity was simply too great, causing the economy to collapse. The IMF acknowledged the error in a 2013 report on Greece. In a recent staff paper, the fund said that when a crisis threatens to spread, it should seek a collective global solution rather than forcing the distressed economy to bear the entire burden. The IMF’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, has warned that more austerity will crush growth. Oddly, the IMF’s proposed way forward for Greece remains unchanged: Borrow more money (this time from the European authorities) to repay one group of creditors (the IMF) and stay focused on austerity. [..]

Five years from now, the country’s economic and social stress could well be even more acute. The question will be: Why was more debt not forgiven earlier? No one is willing to confront that unpleasant arithmetic, and wishful thinking prevails. Having failed its first Greek test, the IMF risks doing so again. It remains trapped by the priorities of shareholders, including in recent years the U.K. and Germany. To reassert its independence and redeem its lost credibility, it should write off a big chunk of Greece’s debt and force its wealthy shareholders to bear the losses.

(Mody is a former IMF mission chief)

Read more …

I like this: “Forgiveness is inevitable.”

Mythology That Blocks Progress In Greece (Martin Wolf)

The Greek epic continues. It will not end well if the people involved do not recognise they are clinging on to myths. Here are six, each of which poses intellectual and emotional obstacles to reaching a solution.

A Greek exit would help the eurozone. “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” This is the question Henry II is supposed to have asked about Archbishop Thomas Becket. Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, must think much the same of his Greek partners. For the English king, however, the gratification of his wish was a disaster. A similar thing is likely to be true if Greece leaves. Yes, if Greece suffered a calamitous aftermath, populist campaigns elsewhere would be less effective. But euro membership would cease to be irrevocable. Each crisis could trigger destabilising speculation.

A Greek exit would help Greece. Many believe a weak new drachma offers a painless path to prosperity. But this is only likely to be true if the economy can easily expand its production of internationally competitive goods and services. Greece cannot. And the immediate consequences are likely to include exchange controls, defaults, a halt to foreign credit, and more political turbulence. Stable money counts for something, particularly in a mismanaged country. Ditching it carries a cost.

It is Greece’s fault. Nobody was forced to lend to Greece. Initially, private lenders were happy to lend to the Greek government on much the same terms as to the German government. Yet the nature of Greek politics, tellingly described in The 13th Labour of Hercules by Yannis Palaiologos , was no secret. Then, in 2010, it became clear the money would not be repaid. Rather than agree to the write-off that was needed, governments (and the IMF) decided to bail out the private creditors by refinancing Greece. Thus, began the game of “extend and pretend”. Stupid lenders lose money. That has always been the case. It is still the case today.

Greece has done nothing. Greece has undergone a huge adjustment of its fiscal and external positions. Between 2009 and 2014, the primary fiscal balance (before interest) tightened by 12% of gross domestic product, the structural fiscal deficit by 20% of GDP and the current account balance by 12% of GDP. Between the first quarter of 2008 and the last of 2013, real spending in the Greek economy fell by 35% and GDP by 27%, while unemployment peaked at 28% of the labour force. These are huge adjustments. Indeed, one of the tragedies of the impasse over the conditions for support is that the adjustment has happened. Greece does not need additional resources.

The Greeks will repay. This myth derives partly from the refusal to recognise sunk costs. The bad lending and the adjustment to the cessation of that lending both lie in the past. What is open is whether the Greeks will devote the next few decades to repaying a mountain of loans that should never have been made. What makes this far worse is that the debt burden has doubled, relative to GDP, despite a restructuring, since the crisis. Forgiveness is inevitable. Indeed, a report from the Centre for Economic Policy Research notes that excessive debt hangs over the entire eurozone, not just Greece.

Read more …

Is it in Greece’s interest to wait that long?

Why the Real Deadline for Greece Is July 20 (Bloomberg)

Greece probably has until late July to come to an agreement with its creditors. Possible delays in payments to the IMF shouldn’t prompt the European Central Bank to shut off vital liquidity to Greek banks. By contrast, a default on marketable debt, specifically the failure of the Greek government to pay €3.5 billion due to the ECB on July 20, would probably force the central bank’s hand. The Greek government and its creditors are still likely to reach a deal on a list of reforms before that crucial date. Greek banks are relying on liquidity from the ECB to avoid financial collapse. That support is currently provided by the Emergency Liquidity Assistance scheme from the monetary authorities in Frankfurt.

In the event of a sovereign default, the banks, which are large holders of Greek debt, would probably be ruled insolvent because the value of the assets on their balance sheets would fall sharply. Under the rules of the ELA, the ECB would be unlikely to be able to continue providing liquidity to lenders in the beleaguered country – users of the scheme must be solvent. Rolling over Treasury bills of about €11 billion between now and July 20 is unlikely to create a problem, as long as ECB liquidity remains available. The debt management office will probably be able to complete those operations because Greek banks have continued to be loyal buyers of those assets. A more pressing concern is a payment to the IMF. Greece must pay about €774 million on May 12.

Still, a failure to make that payment would be unlikely to cause the ECB to cut off liquidity to the country’s banks. Since the ability to pay depends on the ability to reach an agreement on reforms, that might be considered a matter of liquidity rather than solvency, allowing the ECB to keep funding Greek banks. In addition, the IMF wouldn’t even have to make a public announcement about the country being in arrears until three months have passed since the missed payment, though the country is immediately shut off from the Fund’s resources.

The IMF could still sign off on a “successful conclusion of the review” that would officially end Greece’s second bailout even if the country were in arrears. The four-month extension granted in February stipulates that this must be done by the end of June, though it’s a soft deadline. The “successful conclusion” would release the outstanding tranche of the current European Financial Stability Facility program – €1.8 billion – and the profits from the ECB’s Securities Markets Programme – €1.9 billion%. Those funds from Greece’s euro-area creditors, which sum to €3.7 billion, would be sufficient to repay the IMF about €3 billion that are due between now and July 13.

Read more …

Yeah, but those just make Syriza new enemies.

Greece Buys Six Weeks’ Space With Transfer of City Funds (Bloomberg)

Greek officials expect an order that local governments transfer funds to the central bank will keep the country afloat until the end of May as European policy makers turn up the heat on Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Municipalities’ reserves are estimated at about €1.5 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Officials in Athens ruled out also seizing pension funds and the cash reserves of state companies because there wasn’t a need and the move would unnecessarily fuel anxiety, the person said. With bailout talks stalled, access to cash is becoming increasingly critical. Resistance at the ECB to further aiding the country’s stricken lenders is growing and the ECB is studying measures to rein in emergency funding for Greek banks.

“A bigger effort by the Greek side is needed so that we can close the topic in the interest of both sides,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in Vienna. “The intensity of the talks has increased in the past 4-5 days but not to the extent that they are ripe enough to come to a quick conclusion.” Tsipras may meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Brussels on April 23, a Greek government official said Tuesday. Although a final accord is unlikely at a meeting of euro-area finance ministers in Latvia on Friday, another extraordinary meeting could be called at the end of April if needed.

“The sooner they come up with some kind of an agreement the better, but so far Europe has never missed the opportunity to miss an opportunity,” Standard Chartered Bank Global Chief Economist Marios Maratheftis said in a Bloomberg TV interview. Since Tsipras assumed office in January, Greece has been using up its cash reserves to meet its obligations. Greek lenders are mostly locked out of regular ECB cash tenders and instead have access to about €74 billion of emergency liquidity assistance from their own central bank – an amount that has been reviewed weekly by the ECB.

Read more …

Right.

Varoufakis Sees ‘Clear Convergence’ in Greek Creditor Talks (Bloomberg)

Greece and its creditors are narrowing their differences as officials on both sides recognize that the best chance for success is an accord that leaves them all a bit unsatisfied, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said. “The convergence is absolutely clear, and the institutions are admitting that now,” Varoufakis told reporters in Athens late on Tuesday. Both sides “have invested a huge amount in achieving an agreement, and neither they nor we will let the opportunity slip to arrive at an agreement that’s clearly to the benefit of everyone.” Failure to do so would be “catastrophic,” he added. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday ordered local governments to move their funds to the central bank after failing to make sufficient progress in talks with European and IMF officials to release further bailout aid.

His government needs the cash for salaries, pensions and a payment to the IMF, and is running out of options to stay solvent. Municipalities’ reserves are estimated at about €1.5 billion, which will keep the country afloat until the end of May, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Greece is unlikely to meet the end-April target for it to submit a list of measures to revamp its economy, a European Union official said Tuesday. The euro area now views the end of June to be Greece’s main deadline to unlock aid payments, he added. While an April 24 meeting of euro area finance ministers in Latvia is probably too soon to seal an agreement, “an agreement will come,” Varoufakis said.

Read more …

“The proposed pipeline, which has not been approved by the European Union..”

Greece Hopes To Strike A Deal With Gazprom Soon (DW)

The Greek prime minister and Gazprom chief Alexei Miller held talks in Athens on Tuesday over a multibillion dollar gas pipeline project. Reports said both sides would work towards setting up a “road map” detailing the responsibilities the two parties would commit to in the coming months. Government sources said Athens hoped an agreement would be signed shortly. The proposed pipeline, which has not been approved by the European Union, could deliver Russian gas through Turkey and Greece to Europe. The visit by Miller came after Tsipras met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow at the beginning of April and expressed his country’s interest in taking part in the so-called Turkish Stream gas pipeline project.

The pipeline is expected to transport Russian gas though Turkey and then in to Europe by 2017. Some observers, however, doubt the pipeline will be built on time, or even at all. “The pipeline is of big interest to our country and is among our priorities,” said Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis. “We are continuing talks with the Russian side and we hope to reach an agreement very soon,” he added, terming the talks as constructive. According to the Greek Kathimerini newspaper, Athens stands to earn several billion dollars in advance of the deal.

However, Lafazanis declined to comment when asked by reporters about any advance payments. Talking to reporters after meeting Tsipras, Gazprom’s Chief Executive Alexei Miller also did not make any reference to any advance payments to Greece from the pipeline. Greece is heavily dependent on Russian energy imports and is looking to negotiate a deal with Moscow for the reduction of the price of gas that it imports from Russia. Furthermore, Athens has indicated its interest in becoming a European hub for the natural gas pipeline project.

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Nothing is safe anymore?

China Sees First Bond Default by State Firm (Bloomberg)

A Chinese power-transformer maker became the country’s first state-owned company to default on an onshore bond, signaling the government’s willingness to let market forces decide an enterprise’s fate. Baoding Tianwei, the unit of central government-owned China South Industries Group Corp., said it will fail to pay 85.5 million yuan ($13.8 million) of bond interest due Tuesday. Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd. became the first Chinese developer to default on its U.S. currency debt Monday. Until now, only private-sector companies have defaulted in China’s domestic bond market even as state-owned enterprises have sold the vast majority of debt.

Tianwei’s default highlights a shifting attitude toward financial risk, underscored by Premier Li Keqiang’s pledge to open a cooling economy to market forces and strip power from the government. “It’s probably a start of more defaults in China,” said Qu Qing, a bond analyst at Huachuang Securities Co. in Beijing. “The economic slowdown has given a huge blow to some industries.” Baoding Tianwei’s 1.5 billion yuan of 5.7% April 2016 notes have dropped 7.1% since March 31 to 85.3% of par as of Monday, set for the sharpest monthly decline since they were issued in 2011.

The company will continue to raise payment funds via various means including asset disposal, according to today’s statement posted to Chinamoney.com.cn, the China Foreign Exchange Trade System website. The bonds’ rating is now B versus AA+ at issuance. “Our company suffered huge losses in 2014 and the debt to asset ratio surged quickly,” Baoding Tianwei said in today’s statement. “Our company has lost financing ability and suffered from a capital shortage. We can’t raise enough money to repay interest, despite all the efforts we have made.”

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There’s irony in that headline somewhere.

China Will Keep Growing Because It Has To (Bloomberg)

Can China’s economic policy makers maneuver their way out of this one? Let’s see: there’s a property bubble that’s beginning to deflate, a construction boom that’s now going in reverse and a financial system that’s riddled with bad debts. Oh, and the air is still really dirty. On the bright side, though, Cirque du Soleil and Segway are coming to China. With the success of the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the country has established itself as a global economic leader. And the Shanghai Composite Index has more than doubled during the past nine months. The outside world has a hard time fitting all this evidence together into a coherent picture. Is the stock boom a sign of hope, or a policy-driven bubble?

How about that bond default today by state-owned Baoding Tianwei – is it an indication of new financial maturity or the beginning of a great unraveling? Is the slowdown in construction, however scary for the world’s metal producers, a welcome signal that the economy is moving away from its dependence on exports and infrastructure to more sustainable consumer-driven growth? The common thread here is the Chinese government using every tool it has to keep its long growth run going. As the U.S. and the U.K. grew into industrial powers in the 19th century, they were tripped up every 10 to 20 years by financial crises and economic depressions. Measuring from December 1978, when the Chinese Communist Party “shifted its center of gravity from propagandizing class struggle and organizing political campaigns to economic construction,” China is now in its 37th straight year of economic expansion.

That quote is from a new biography of Deng Xiaoping by historians Alexander V. Pantsov and Steven I. Levine. I’ve just been reading the chapter about Deng’s 1977-78 battle with the charmingly named but otherwise not so great Whateverists, which set the course that China more or less still follows. In the months after founding father Mao Zedong’s death in September 1976, the Whateverist motto was:

We will resolutely defend whatever political decisions were taken by Chairman Mao; we will unwaveringly follow whatever directives were issued by Chairman Mao.

Mao’s handpicked successor, Hua Guofeng, defended these “two whatevers” even as he tried to tweak some of Mao’s decisions and directives. Deng, just rehabilitated after a year on the political outs, saw this as a disastrous approach to governing, given how often Mao had changed his mind and contradicted himself. He dug up an old Mao slogan to back himself up: “Seek truth from facts.” He then endorsed a polemic by several party intellectuals titled “Practice is the Sole Criterion of Truth” that pushed the two whatevers aside as the party’s guiding line.

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I know, I know, Paulson and Sorkin…

Hank Paulson Tells China to Be Wary (Sorkin)

About 340 pages into Henry M. Paulson’s new book on China, a sentence comes almost out of nowhere that stops readers in their tracks. “Frankly, it’s not a question of if, but when, China’s financial system,” he writes, “will face a reckoning and have to contend with a wave of credit losses and debt restructurings.” Mr. Paulson, the former Treasury secretary, knows a thing or two about financial crises, having been the lead firefighter during the 2008 financial collapse, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Mr. Paulson also knows more about China, its politics and the players behind it than most Westerners, having been the former chief executive of Goldman Sachs and one of the first businessmen to seek to establish ties with China more than two decades ago, regularly making trips to the country and befriending top officials.

A crisis in China, even a small one, would be contagious, especially in the United States. Already, fears of a slowdown in China in recent months have led to jitters about the trajectory of the American economy. Mr. Paulson stresses that he’s not saying a crisis is inevitable, and he believes that one can be averted if officials make the right policy decisions. But Mr. Paulson’s anxieties about China have an unnerving similarity to the financial crisis in the United States, and his warnings demand attention. Like the United States crisis in 2008, Mr. Paulson worries that in China “the trigger would be a collapse in the real estate market,” and he declared in an interview that China is experiencing a real estate bubble. He noted that debt as a %age of GDP in China rose to 204% in June 2104 from 130% in 2008.

“Slowing economic growth and rapidly rising debt levels are rarely a happy combination, and China’s borrowing spree seems certain to lead to trouble,” he wrote. Mr. Paulson’s analysis in his book, “Dealing With China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower,” are all the more remarkable because he has long been a bull on China and has deep friendships with its senior leaders, who could frown upon his straightforward comments. Mr. Paulson is hopeful that the book, an eye-opening account that praises China while acknowledging the challenges, will be published there and that the government won’t seek to press him to remove his critique. “I have just begun discussions with a Chinese publisher,” he said. “I will only authorize publication if it is published completely and accurately. I am unwavering on that.”

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Or banks.

Europe Should Protect People, Not Borders (Spiegel)

Workers at the Warsaw headquarters of Frontex, the European border protection agency, track every single irregular boat crossing and every vessel filled with refugees. Since December 2013, the authority has spent hundreds of millions of euros deploying drones and satellites to surveil the borders. The EU registers everything that happens near its borders. In contrast to the claims that are often made, they do not look away when refugees die. They are watching very closely. And what is happening here is not negligent behavior. They are deliberately killing refugees. People have been perishing as they sought to flee to Europe for years now. They drown in the Mediterranean, bleed to death on the border fences of the Spanish North African conclaves of Ceuta and Melilla or freeze to death in the mountains between Hungary and Ukraine.

But the European public still doesn’t appear to be entirely aware of the dimensions of this humanitarian catastrophe. We have become accomplices to one of the biggest crimes to take place in European postwar history. It’s possible that 20 years from now, courts or historians will be addressing this dark chapter. When that happens, it won’t just be politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris who come under pressure. We the people will also have to answer uncomfortable questions about what we did to try to stop this barbarism that was committed in all our names. The mass deaths of refugees at Europe’s external borders are no accidents — they are the direct result of European Union policies.

The German constitution and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights promise protection for people seeking flight from war or political persecution. But the EU member states have long been torpedoing this right. Those wishing to seek asylum in Europe must first reach European territory. But Europe’s policy of shielding itself off from refugees is making that next to impossible. The EU has erected meters-high fences at its periphery, soldiers have been ordered to the borders and war ships are dispatched in order to keep refugees from reaching Europe. For those seeking protection, regardless whether they come from Syria or Eritrea, there is no legal and safe way to get to Europe. Refugees are forced to travel into the EU as “illegal” immigrants, using dangerous and even fatal routes. Like the one across the Mediterranean.

A Darwinist situation has emerged on Europe’s external borders. The only people who stand a chance of applying for asylum in Europe are those with enough money to pay the human-traffickers, those who are tenacious enough to try over and over again to scale fences made of steel and barbed wire. The poor, sick, elderly, families or children are largely left to their fates. The European asylum system itself is perverting the right to asylum.

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One dollar one vote.

The Next Era of Campaign-Finance Craziness Is Already Underway (NY Times)

There may be no political adviser closer to Rand Paul than Jesse Benton. Benton was integral to Paul’s Senate run in 2010 and was a top strategist for both of Ron Paul’s Republican presidential campaigns. When a fellow Kentuckian, Senator Mitch McConnell, needed help with his re-election campaign last year, Rand Paul lent him Benton. Benton also happens to be married to Paul’s niece. So it would have been natural to expect Benton to move into Paul’s campaign headquarters as soon as he declared his candidacy for president. Not going to happen.

On April 6, the day before Paul made his formal announcement, National Journal reported that instead, Benton will be running America’s Liberty PAC, the principal Paul-supporting super PAC — the class of technically independent campaign organization that is free to spend as many millions of dollars as it can raise, without all those nettlesome regulations that limit donations to formal presidential campaigns to $5,400 a person. Then there is the longtime Jeb Bush adviser Mike Murphy. Murphy guided Bush through the rocky shallows of early-stage presidential politics and helped manage Bush’s successful push to lock down most of the Republican Party’s top donors for the 2016 race, effectively sidelining Mitt Romney and hobbling Chris Christie.

Not long ago, it would have been taken as a given that Murphy would join Bush’s formal campaign once it was announced — but people close to the campaign expect he will join Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise, instead. And Gov. Scott Walker’s former campaign manager and chief of staff, Keith Gilkes, announced late last week that he would not be joining Walker’s formal campaign but rather Walker’s super PAC, Unintimidated PAC — this in spite of legal investigations into Walker’s aides’ interactions with outside conservative groups. All these moves point to the next stage in the great unraveling of the presidential campaign-finance system. And they make the few remaining prohibitions against coordination between these “independent” groups and campaigns look trifling, if not absurd.

Outside groups have played influential roles in presidential races for decades. Forerunners of the super PAC include groups like the National Security Political Action Committee, which produced the “Willie Horton” ads against Michael Dukakis in 1988, and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which in 2004 brought false charges that John Kerry lied about his Vietnam War record. That same year, the Democratic-aligned groups America Coming Together and the Media Fund tried to help Kerry with get-out-the-vote operations and campaign ads attacking President George W. Bush.

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Nobody stateside dares touch Warren.

British Regulator Challenges US Over Scrutiny of Buffett’s Berkshire (FT)

British regulators have challenged their US peers over their apparent reluctance to subject Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway to tougher scrutiny as part of a worldwide push to make the financial system safer. The Bank of England has written to the US Treasury asking why Berkshire’s reinsurance operation — among the world’s most powerful — was left off a provisional list of “too big to fail” institutions drawn up by the Financial Stability Board. Regulators have already deemed nine primary insurance companies — including AIG of the US, Germany’s Allianz and UK-based Prudential — globally “systemically important”, a designation that could lead to higher capital requirements. But they have put off saying which reinsurers — groups such as Swiss Re, Munich Re and Berkshire, which provide insurance for insurers — should be included.

The failure to designate reinsurers has angered insurance companies, which argue reinsurers are more important to the financial system. In a separate move that underscores concern about the increased scrutiny brought by designation, MetLife has sued the US government to try to escape being deemed systemically important by Washington. Insurers deemed systemically important on a global level may need to hold more capital to cover unexpected losses and could face a requirement to draw up “living wills” to make them easier to wind down in a crisis. Yet regulators have yet to quantify the scale of the HLA requirements and the consequences of designation remain unclear. The Basel-based FSB was expected to make the reinsurance list public last year. But in November, following consultation with national authorities, it postponed the decision “pending further development of the methodology”.

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“Tens of thousands of miles of pipeline go completely unregulated by federal officials..”

‘Pipelines Blow Up And People Die’ (Politico)

Oil and gas companies like to assure the public that pipelines are a safer way to ship their products than railroads or trucks. But government data makes clear there is hardly reason to celebrate. Last year, more than 700 pipeline failures killed 19 people, injured 97 and caused more than $300 million in damage. Two of the past five years have been the worst for combined pipeline-related deaths and injuries since 2000. To understand the failure revealed by these numbers, POLITICO talked to more than 15 former and current federal pipeline officials and advisers, as well as dozens of safety experts, engineers and state regulators. We reviewed more than a decade of government data on fatalities, injuries, property damage, incident locations, inspections, damages and penalties.

The picture that emerges is of an agency that lacks the manpower to inspect the nation’s 2.6 million miles of oil and gas lines, that grants the industry it regulates significant power to influence the rule-making process, and that has stubbornly failed to take a more aggressive regulatory role, even when ordered by Congress to do so. This is a particularly bad time for a front-line safety agency to take a backseat. The current boom in fossil fuel production has created intense pressure for massive new pipelines like Keystone XL. Many of the pipes already in the ground are more than half a century old. Tens of thousands of miles of pipeline go completely unregulated by federal officials, who have abandoned the increasingly high-pressure lines to the states.

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“Stupid money”.

Who Is Saudi Arabia Really Targeting In Its Price War? (Berman)

Saudi Arabia is not trying to crush U.S. shale plays. Its oil-price war is with the investment banks and the stupid money they directed to fund the plays. It is also with the zero-interest rate economic conditions that made this possible. Saudi Arabia intends to keep oil prices low for as long as possible. Its oil production increased to 10.3 million barrels per day in March 2015. That is 700,000 barrels per day more than in December 2014 and the highest level since the Joint Organizations Data Initiative began compiling production data in 2002. And Saudi Arabia’s rig count has never been higher. Market share is an important part of the motive but Saudi Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali al-Naimi recently emphasized that “The challenge is to restore the supply-demand balance and reach price stability.”

Saudi Arabia’s need for market share and long-term demand is best met with a growing global economy and lower oil prices. That means ending the over-production from tight oil and other expensive plays (oil sands and ultra-deep water) and reviving global demand by keeping oil prices low for some extended period of time. Demand has been weak since the run-up in debt and oil prices that culminated in the Financial Collapse of 2008. Since 2008, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board and the central banks of other countries have further increased debt, devalued their currencies and kept interest rates at the lowest sustained levels ever.

These measures have not resulted in economic recovery and have helped produce the highest sustained oil prices in history. They also led to investments that are not particularly productive but promise higher yields that can [not] be found otherwise in a zero-interest rate world. The quest for yield led investment banks to direct capital to U.S. E&P companies to fund tight oil plays. Capital flowed in unprecedented volumes with no performance expectation other than payment of the coupon attached to that investment. This is stupid money. These capital providers are indifferent to the fundamentals of the companies they invest in or in the profitability of the plays. All that matters is yield. The financial performance of most companies involved in tight oil plays has been characterized by chronic negative cash flow and ever-increasing debt.

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2 generals, one of each.

How to Avert a Nuclear War (James E. Cartwright and Vladimir Dvorkin)

We find ourselves in an increasingly risky strategic environment. The Ukrainian crisis has threatened the stability of relations between Russia and the West, including the nuclear dimension — as became apparent last month when it was reported that Russian defense officials had advised President Vladimir V. Putin to consider placing Russia’s nuclear arsenal on alert during last year’s crisis in Crimea. Diplomatic efforts have done little to ease the new nuclear tension. This makes it all the more critical for Russia and the United States to talk, to relieve the pressures to “use or lose” nuclear forces during a crisis and minimize the risk of a mistaken launch. The fact is that we are still living with the nuclear-strike doctrine of the Cold War, which dictated three strategic options: first strike, launch on warning and post-attack retaliation.

There is no reason to believe that Russia and the United States have discarded these options, as long as the architecture of “mutually assured destruction” remains intact. For either side, the decision to launch on warning — in an attempt to fire one’s nuclear missiles before they are destroyed — would be made on the basis of information from early-warning satellites and ground radar. Given the 15- to 30-minute flight times of strategic missiles, a decision to launch after an alert of an apparent attack must be made in minutes. This is therefore the riskiest scenario, since provocations or malfunctions can trigger a global catastrophe. Since computer-based information systems have been in place, the likelihood of such errors has been minimized. But the emergence of cyberwarfare threats has increased the potential for false alerts in early-warning systems.

The possibility of an error cannot be ruled out. American officials have usually played down the launch-on-warning option. They have argued instead for the advantages of post-attack retaliation, which would allow more time to analyze the situation and make an intelligent decision. Neither the Soviet Union nor Russia ever stated explicitly that it would pursue a similar strategy, but an emphasis on mobile missile launchers and strategic submarines continues to imply a similar reliance on an ability to absorb an attack and carry out retaliatory strikes. Today, however, Russia’s early warning system is compromised. The last of the satellites that would have detected missile launches from American territory and submarines in the past stopped functioning last fall. This has raised questions about Russia’s very ability to carry out launch-on-warning attacks.

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Fishy narrative. 2 questions: 1) if he’s so smart, how come he only made $40 million? 2) why let him continue for another 5 years if they were on to him even before the flash crash?

UK Financial Trader Arrested Over 2010 Global Markets ‘Flash Crash’ (Guardian)

A financial trader who played the world’s futures markets from a small suburban house in Hounslow, west London, has been arrested and faces extradition to the US after supposedly making $40m (£27m) for his alleged role in the so-called “flash crash” of 2010. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said on Tuesday that it was seeking the extradition of Navinder Singh Sarao, 37, who it claims “spoofed” financial markets using commercially available trading software to place $200m of false trades from his home in Hounslow. The US agency added that Sarao’s supposed manipulation contributed to the flash crash on 6 May 2010, when the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 600 points in five minutes and created havoc on Wall Street.

Sarao is expected to appear in custody at Westminster magistrates court on Wednesday. He is accused of duping the market into believing there were a lot more sellers than there really were and profiting from the market movement. He is said to have changed his orders more than 19,000 times before cancelling them. The episode, although not attributed to him, formed the backdrop for the Robert Harris novel The Fear Index. A DoJ spokesman would not speculate on how one person, using widely available commercial software, might have been able to crash the world’s financial markets. Nor would he comment on how an individual, who appears to live in a street populated by unremarkable three-bedroom semi-detached houses, seemed to make such huge rewards from his alleged scheme.

However, the US regulator, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said Sarao and his company had profited by more than $40m. The DoJ detailed a series of supposed coups, including episodes where Sarao is said to have made profits of more than $820,000 during a day’s trading. In an affidavit published by the DoJ in support of its complaint, FBI special agent Gregory LaBerta said Sarao was “a futures trader who operated from his residence in the United Kingdom and who primarily traded through his company, Nav Sarao Futures Limited.

“On numerous occasions between at least in or about April 2010 and in or about April 2014, Sarao spoofed the market and manipulated the intra-day price for … S&P 500 futures contracts on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, including on or about 6 May 2010, when the US stock markets plunged dramatically in a matter of minutes in an event that came to be known as the ‘Flash Crash’.”

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Hongcouver has been crazy for years.

Metro Vancouver Is Swept Up In A Real Estate Frenzy (Vancouver Sun)

It is no exaggeration to use an F-word to describe Vancouver’s current real estate scene. As in, the market is in a Frenzy. Observers describe a perfect storm of forces coming together to create a tempestuous result: A 5.8-per-cent jobless rate in B.C., low interest rates, a devalued Canadian dollar attracting more foreign buyers, and panic over prices going even higher if buying is delayed. Even the particularly vicious winters of recent years in Eastern Canada may be having an impact. Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada warned last Wednesday about the risk of correction in three Canadian property markets — Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary. For the moment, few are heeding the caution.

A press release sent out last week by WestStone Properties, regarding its Evolve condominium project in Surrey, reported sales in a single day (April 11) of 300 condo units, worth $70 million. And get this — project completion is still three years into the future. The release described the purchasers’ enthusiasm: “Excited early buyers who stood in line for hours, grappled for position and swarmed the buying counter in a frenzy that hasn’t been seen in recent years.” Who was buying? Everyone. “Today’s buyers included first-time homeowners, parents purchasing for children and a large number of buyers from throughout Canada, the U.S. and overseas.” The Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board reported earlier this month, bidding wars are taking place with greater frequency.

And Royal Lepage last week cited a rush on Vancouver’s detached homes, resulting from a scarcity of product and high demand to live here. It seems that real estate enthusiasm is not limited to the Lower Mainland. The B.C. Real Estate Association has just reported: “B.C. home sales post the strongest March in eight years. … More homes traded hands last month than any March since 2007.” Property sales jumped 37.6% over March 2014 and sales dollar volume was up 57.1%. In Greater Vancouver, activity was even more robust, with year-over-year sales jumping 53.2%. Association chief economist Cameron Muir says: “Many board areas are now exhibiting sellers’ market conditions, with home prices advancing well above the overall rate of inflation.” The average sale price in March for all types of Vancouver-area housing was $891,000 — up from $801,000 12 months earlier.

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Sounds like a book.

Decisions: Life and Death on Wall Street, by Janet M. Tavakoli (Nomi Prins)

Janet Tavakoli is a born storyteller with an incredible tale to tell. In her captivating memoir, Decisions: Life and Death on Wall Street, she takes us on a brisk journey from the depravity of 1980s Wall Street to the ramifications of the systemic recklessness that crushed the global economy. Her compelling narrative sweeps through her warnings about the dangers of certain bank products in her path-breaking books, speeches before the Federal Reserve, and in talks with Jaime Dimon. She probes the moral complexity behind the lives, suicides and murders of international bankers mired in greed and inner conflict. Some of the people that touched her Wall Street career reflect broken elements of humanity. The burden of choosing money and power over values and humility translates to a loss for us all.

To truly understand the stakes of the global financial game, you must know its building blocks; the characters, testosterone, and egos, as well as the esoteric products designed to squeeze investors, manipulate rules, and favor power-players. You had to be there, and you had to be paying attention. Janet was. That’s what makes her memoir so scary. In Decisions, she breaks the hard stuff down with humor and requisite anger. As a side note, her international banking life eerily paralleled my own – from New York to London to New York to alerting the public about the risky nature of the political-financial complex. Her six chapters flow along various decisions, as the title suggests. In Chapter 1 “Decisions, Decisions”, Janet opens with an account of the laddish trading floor mentality of 1980s Wall Street.

In 1988, she was Head of Mortgage Backed Securities Marketing for Merrill Lynch. Those types of securities would be at the epicenter of the financial crisis thirty years later. Each morning she would broadcast a trade idea over the ‘squawk box.‘ Then came the stripper booked for a “final-on-the-job-stag party.” That incident, one repeated on many trading floors during those days, spurred Janet to squawk, not about mortgage spreads, but about decorum. Merrill ended trading floor nudity and her bosses ended her time in their department. Her bold stand would catapult her to “a front row seat during the biggest financial crisis in world history.” Reading Decisions, you’ll see why this latest financial crisis was decades in the making.

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“Making a vegetable garden is a political statement”.

The Food Production System is Criminal (Beppe Grillo’s blog)

Italian foodstuffs are subject to strict controls in order to guarantee the quality of the end product and the health of the consumer. Thanks to the strictness of these controls and the hard work of small Italian livestock and vegetable farmers and fishermen, the food in our Country is considered to be a source of excellence worldwide. One of the few things that we have left but that we will soon lose even that as soon as the TTIP is approved, a treaty that will allow cheap, low quality US products to find their way onto our tables.

As the crisis deepens, Italian consumers will lower their expectations and purchase chlorine flavoured chickens , beef and pork grown and nourished on hormones and fruit and vegetables with pesticides. Their health will undoubtedly suffer, farmers breeders and fishermen will close up shop and “Made in Italy” foods will become little more than a distant memory. We simply cannot allow this crime against our health! My friend Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement, explains how each and every one of us can sink this Criminal Foodstuff System by supporting our small Italian producers through their purchasing choices.

Blog – Slow Food is at the Expo with this slogan: “SAVE OUR BIODIVERSITY. SAVE THE PLANET. Can you explain to us why biodiversity is such an important asset?

Carlo Petrini – Biodiversity is the real driving force behind human understanding so we have to respect it. If we continue sticking to this foodstuff production model, with this criminal foodstuff system that destroys biodiversity by virtue of the fact that we must favour strong and more productive breeds and cultivars because we are only interested in the bottom line and never in Mother Earth or nature, all we will hand down to future generations is a far, far weaker genetic legacy.

Blog – Let’s talk about the TTIP: you have often mentioned your concern about the effect that this treaty will have on the European food industry. Why is there such a rush to get it approved very quickly? Who will profit from the TTIP? Who will the losers be? What will the long term effects be for Italy and for the consumer? And what about the planet’s equilibrium?

Carlo Petrini – I think that it is dishonest and improper to come up with these treaties in total and absolute secrecy and without involving the community at all. When things are done in secret it usually means that those involved are being dishonest! We must not allow these treaties to be introduced on the backs of millions of farmers, fishermen and food producers that are working all around the world and must be protected like now when they are facing this fetish called the free market, which is anything but free and often destroys the lives of these communities. Now, by virtue of the free market, I am allowed to bring in products made from meat that is not subject to the strict requirements that our breeders have to comply with and is full of chemicals, antibiotics, anabolic steroids and growth hormones, all of which are banned in Italy and in Europe but not banned in the United States.

It is unfair on our breeders because the law should be the same for everyone. We citizens can become co-producers because our choices can lead to certain agricultural choices. If I eat products that come from local small-scale farmers who don’t use pesticides, in other words who farm cleanly, then I’m helping that kind of farming along. If instead I buy and eat products produced by the multinationals, products that perhaps come from elsewhere in the world without any of the rules that our farmers have to adhere to, and perhaps obtained by means of slave labour, then equally I am helping that kind of farming.

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Feb 142015
 
 February 14, 2015  Posted by at 10:49 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


William Henry Jackson Camp wagon on a Texas roundup 1901

Nuclear Specter Redux: ‘Threat of War Is Higher than in the Cold War’ (Spiegel)
Ukraine Right Sector Leader Rejects Peace Deal, Vows ‘To Continue War’ (RT)
Yes, Yellen Can Have It All as She Gets Ready to Raise Rates (Bloomberg)
One Hundred Years of Austerity (Bloomberg)
Greek Government Doesn’t Hold Out Much Hope For A Deal On Monday (Kathimerini)
Hopes Of Greek Debt Deal Rise (Guardian)
Dijsselbloem ‘Pessimistic’ About A Quick Deal With Greece (AFP)
GDP Growth Masks A Broken Eurozone (Guardian)
White House Warns Europe On Greek Showdown (AEP)
Don’t Make Us Do It: ECB Wants a Political Deal on Greece (Bloomberg)
Rising Deposit Outflows Behind Extra Greek Bank ELA Access (Reuters)
Most Of Greek Deposit Outflows To Return If A Deal Is Made (Kathimerini)
Band-Aids for Greece, Ukraine and Global Economy (El-Erian)
Inside The Germans’ Debt Psyche – What Makes Them Tick? (BBC)
Yanis Varoufakis: ‘If I Weren’t Scared, I’d Be Awfully Dangerous’ (Guardian)
Yanis Varoufakis, Greek Bailout Foe (BBC)
US Will Not Become Energy Independent: Total CEO (CNBC)
Russian Gas To Europe Can Be 35% Cheaper: Ministry (RT)
Falling Oil Prices Don’t Scare Russian Energy Firms (CNBC)
German Coal Imports From Russia Highest Since 2006 (RT)
Argentina President Fernandez Charged in Probe of Alleged Cover-Up (Bloomberg)
Farmland Values in Parts of Midwest Fall for First Time in Decades (WSJ)
The Super-Rich Don’t Care About Us. It Will Be Their Downfall (Guardian)

Trust has been eroded to the point of almost being destroyed,” said Nunn. “You got a war going on right in the middle of Europe.”

Nuclear Specter Redux: ‘Threat of War Is Higher than in the Cold War’ (Spiegel)

Deep mistrust has developed between the West and Russia, and it is having a massive effect on cooperation on security matters. In November 2014, the Russians announced that they would boycott the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in the United States. In December, the US Congress voted, for the first time in 25 years, not to approve funding to safeguard nuclear materials in the Russian Federation. A few days later, the Russians terminated cooperation in almost all aspects of nuclear security. The two sides had cooperated successfully for almost two decades. But that is now a thing of the past. Instead, Russia and the United States are investing giant sums of money to modernize their nuclear arsenals, and NATO recently announced that it was rethinking its nuclear strategy.

At the same time, risky encounters between Eastern and Western troops, especially in the air, are becoming more and more common, a report by the European Leadership Network (ELN) recently concluded. “Civilian pilots don’t know how to deal with this,” explains ELN Chair Des Browne, a former British defense minister. “One of these incidents could easily escalate. We need to find a mechanism in which we can talk at the highest level.” Brown, together with Ivanov and former US Senator Sam Nunn, the grandfather of international disarmament policy, published an analysis last week. The trio recommends “that reliable communication channels exist in the event of serious incidents.” In other words, these channels currently do not exist.

Recently Philip Breedlove, the head of NATO Allied Command Operations in Europe, even called for a new “red telephone,” alluding to the direct teletype connection established in 1963 between the United States and the Soviet Union after the Cuban missile crisis. A direct line had been set up between NATO and the Russian military’s general staff in February 2013, but it was cut as a result of the Ukraine crisis. “Trust has been eroded to the point of almost being destroyed,” said Nunn. “You got a war going on right in the middle of Europe. You got a breakdown of the conventional forces treaty, you got the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) treaty under great strain, you got tactical nuclear weapons all over Europe. It’s a very dangerous situation.”

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The narrative that will allow Kiev to keep fighting despote the ceasefire deal. And then claim innocence.

Ukraine Right Sector Leader Rejects Peace Deal, Vows ‘To Continue War’ (RT)

Ukraine’s Right Sector leader Dmitry Yarosh said his radical movement rejects the Minsk peace deal and that their paramilitary units in eastern Ukraine will continue “active fighting” according to their “own plans.” The notorious ultranationalist leader published a statement on his Facebook page Friday, saying that his radical Right Sector movement doesn’t recognize the peace deal, signed by the so-called ‘contact group’ on Thursday and agreed upon by Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia after epic 16-hour talks. Yarosh claimed that any agreement with the eastern militia, whom he calls “terrorists,” has no legal force. In his statement, Yarosh claimed that that the Minsk deal is contrary to Ukraine’s constitution, so Ukrainian citizens are not obliged to abide by it.

Thus if the army receives orders to cease military activity and withdraw heavy weaponry from the eastern regions, the Right Sector paramilitaries, who are also fighting there “reserve the right” to continue the war, he said. The Right Sector paramilitary organization continues to deploy its combat and reserve units, to train and logistically support personnel, while coordinating its activities with the military command of the Ukrainian army, paramilitary units of the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry, he said. The breakthrough Minsk agreement was reached on Thursday following marathon overnight negotiations between Ukraine, France, Germany and Russia, and offer hope the fighting in Eastern Ukraine may come to an end. The talks were part of a Franco-German initiative. President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel visited Kiev and Moscow before meeting the Russian and Ukrainian leaders at the negotiating table in Minsk.

Bluntly rejecting the German and French initiative, Yarosh said President Petro Poroshenko should have turned to the US or UK which “observe a consistent anti-Kremlin policy.” “This could be devastating for the whole agreement,” Lode Vanoost, a former OSCE security consultant, told RT. “It could destroy it before it even starts. Now the fact that they announced it already one day ahead could of course mean that they sort of tried to force some kind of provocation so that the other side would react giving them an excuse to go on. But nevertheless this is indeed a very dangerous situation, yes.” [..] In July last year Interpol put Right Sector leader Yarosh on its wanted list.

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Anyone still thinking she won’t do it?

Yes, Yellen Can Have It All as She Gets Ready to Raise Rates (Bloomberg)

As the job market gains steam, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen faces a massive challenge to adjust her monetary levers just right: She wants to keep the recovery going without stoking a bubble or spurring inflation. It’s a delicate balance that has bedeviled many central bank chiefs in the past. A dramatic drop in U.S. bond yields over the past year might be just what Yellen needs to strike that balance, according to two International Monetary Fund economists. “Having long-term rates at relatively low levels may actually give the Fed more degrees of freedom,” Nigel Chalk and Jarkko Turunen wrote in a blog post Thursday. That’s because low long-term government bond yields would act as a cushion to the Fed raising short-term rates (specifically, by supporting the housing sector). In other words, Yellen would be able to start tightening without having to worry as much about hobbling the economic recovery.

The IMF economists’ point runs counter to some of the prevailing wisdom. The depression of long-term yields was a well-known source of concern for former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who called it a “conundrum” in testimony to Congress in 2005. Many say borrowing costs got too low in the mid-2000s, prompting people and businesses to take on too much debt. That all came crashing down in the form of the 2008 global financial meltdown. Credit is, once again, strikingly cheap. By the end of January, the yield on 10-year Treasury notes had fallen to the lowest since May 2013 (since the end of last month, the gauge has ticked slightly ticked back up). It’s strange because the U.S. economy has regained its status as the main engine of the world economy and analysts expect the Fed to soon start raising rates. The IMF economists note that the so-called term premium – the extra yield investors demand for holding long-term debt over short-term paper – has actually turned negative.

What’s driving this demand for long-term bonds? Chalk and Turunen offer several explanations. It’s possible that low inflation expectations are causing bondholders to require less compensation in the form of higher yields. With major risks ranging from instability in Ukraine to Greece and the Middle East, investors might be running to the safety of U.S. debt. Other reasons could include the recent strength of the U.S. dollar, according to the authors. The real risk is what happens when long-term yields head in the other direction – as occurred in 2013, when then-Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke mused about ending bond purchases sooner than investors expected. The resulting surge in mortgage rates and capital flight from emerging markets came to be known as the “taper tantrum.” “What we should be watching out for is the economic and financial stability fallout that could unfold if U.S. yields snap back upwards in a sudden and unexpected manner,” according to the IMF staff members.

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“”If every similar state saves at the same time by cutting spending, the result is the shrinkage of everyone’s economy since they are one another’s trading partners..”

One Hundred Years of Austerity (Bloomberg)

People have been preaching austerity for a very long time. Ancient Greek philosophers, Jesus’s disciples, Benjamin Franklin—they’re all part of a chorus of voices over the centuries who’ve warned us against the dangers of debt and profligate spending. Fiscal austerity, though, is a modern invention. It wasn’t until after World War I that governments started making serious efforts to address debt and other problems by cutting their spending. One reason is that, until the early 20th century, most countries had such small budgets that there wasn’t much to cut. (The U.S. federal budget on the eve of World War I equalled about 2.5% of the national economy; now, it’s around 20%, and that in turn is much lower than the figure in some other countries.)

Nowadays, fiscal austerity is often associated with the IMF, which has required budget cutting as a condition for bailouts in scores of troubled economies. In other cases, though, governments have embraced austerity for reasons of their own, such as fighting inflation or repaying foreign debt. Some of these efforts—such as Germany’s and Japan’s in the 1930s and Romania’s in the 1980s—were catastrophic failures. Elsewhere, the record has been less clear-cut. The British are still debating the impact of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s budget cuts in the early 1980s. Some countries have recovered fairly quickly after taking IMF-prescribed austerity medicine, while others suffered prolonged economic misery.

Muddying the picture still further, the IMF usually requires structural economic reforms, such as deregulating industries and labor markets, in addition to budget austerity. That, along with such other factors as interest-rate changes and currency devaluations, makes it harder to gauge the effect of austerity. The euro zone debt crisis adds a new wrinkle to the story. Countries pursuing austerity programs frequently have devalued their currencies, which can help spur growth as exports become more competitive. But Greece and other bailed-out European economies can’t devalue, because they’re part of a shared currency.

Mark Blyth, a Brown University professor who has written a book on the history of austerity, warns that it is a “dangerous idea.” The biggest danger, he writes, comes “when everyone tries it at once,” as happened when Japan and Germany cut spending during a global depression. Europe’s recent debt crisis is another example, Blyth contends. “If every similar state saves at the same time by cutting spending, the result is the shrinkage of everyone’s economy since they are one another’s trading partners and sources of income. Perversely, their debt goes up, not down, relative to their shrinking GDP.”

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“Some members, such as Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis have been adamant that the government should stick to its pre-election pledges.”

Greek Government Doesn’t Hold Out Much Hope For A Deal On Monday (Kathimerini)

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras chaired a meeting of his cabinet on Friday night to brief ministers on the state of talks with the eurozone but also to assess his own room for maneuver ahead of Monday’s Eurogroup. With the possibility of the government having to make a compromise with the eurozone over the way forward in the next few days, Tsipras was eager to assess the mood of his cabinet. Some members, such as Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis have been adamant that the government should stick to its pre-election pledges. Overall, the government is not holding out much hope for a solution in Brussels on Monday.

“There have been some positive steps but there is a lot of ground that has to be covered,” said a government source. Sources also insisted that the Greek government would not be willing to back down from its position on certain issues such as labor regulations, privatizations and the lowering of the primary surplus target. Athens believes that the two sides can find common ground on issues like public administration reform, improving tax collection and tackling corruption.

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I don’t think so.

Hopes Of Greek Debt Deal Rise (Guardian)

Greek stock markets have rallied on growing confidence that Athens will reach a deal with its international creditors next week. In the runup to a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday, the new Greek prime minister’s office vowed to do “whatever we can” to come to an agreement over a new support programme for the bailed-out country. Talks between eurozone ministers this week failed to make progress in resolving a standoff over the desire by Greece’s new leftist government to ditch the strict terms of its €240bn bailout programme and the insistence from other eurozone countries, most notably Germany, that the old framework should continue. But on Friday, the new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, appeared to soften his stance. He agreed that Greek officials would meet representatives of the troika of lenders who supplied the bailout money and imposed and policed the terms that came with it.

Previously, Greece’s finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, said the new government would refuse to engage with representatives of troika, made up of the ECB, the EC and the IMF. A government spokesman said Greece was straining to get the pieces in place for a deal on Monday, but he also sought to play down fears time was running out to avert a fresh crisis in the eurozone that would see Greece defaulting on the bailout programme and being forced to leave the single currency. “We will do whatever we can so that a deal is found on Monday,” Gabriel Sakellaridis told Greece’s Skai TV. “If we don’t have an agreement on Monday, we believe that there is always time so that there won’t be a problem.”

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Dijsselbloem has been the worst factor in all this. Expect him to be ousted soon.

Dijsselbloem ‘Pessimistic’ About A Quick Deal With Greece (AFP)

Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Friday he was pessimistic about making progress on resolving a bitter row over extending Greeces bailout at an upcoming meeting of eurozone finance ministers. “At this stage I’m very pessimistic about it,” Dijsselbloem told the NOS public broadcaster when asked whether he thought concrete steps will be taken on Monday at the talks between Greece and its fellow single currency countries in the Eurogroup. “The Greeks have sky-high ambitions. The possibilities, given the state of the Greek economy, are limited,” said Dijsselbloem, who is the Dutch finance minister, ahead of a cabinet meeting on Friday. “I don’t know if we’ll get there by Monday.” Dijsselbloem and Greek PM Alexis Tsipras agreed on Thursday to renew efforts to find a solution on extending Greeces current bailout after talks overnight Wednesday collapsed acrimoniously.

An agreement however was reached to ask “institutions to engage with Greek authorities to start work on a technical assessment of the common ground between the current programme and the Greek government’s plans,” Dijsselbloem tweeted after the meeting. The agreement was made to help discussions set to take place Monday, seen by many as the last chance to seal a deal before Greeces current bailout programme expires at the end of the month. Dijsselbloem however on Friday blasted Greece, saying Athens “for a number of months now has received no loans from Europe, because nothing’s happening.” “We only lend out money when theres real progress and when new reforms are being carried through. For months this has not been the case,” Dijsselbloem said.

“It really is up to the Greek government to take the firsts steps,” he said. Failure to reach a deal on an extension of the bailout or a credit line for Greece by the end of the month means Athens would quickly default and almost inevitably crash out of the eurozone. European sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Wednesday’s eurozone ministers’ meeting had descended into a “total mess”, making a reconciliation between Dijsselbloem and Tsipras necessary to prepare the talks for Monday. Dijsselbloem said: “The Greek government has made it clear that they don’t want to carry on with the programme as it currently stands.” “The Eurogroup has made it clear that there are only possibilities for change as long as the programme remains on the rails.”

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Too much difference between Gernamy and Greece: “Look beyond the figures and the chatter of ivory tower policymakers..”

GDP Growth Masks A Broken Eurozone (Guardian)

Frankfurt’s stock market has reached a new high, topping 11,000 for the first time. According to the latest eurozone GDP figures, Germany enjoyed strong GDP growth in the last three months of the year and helped push expansion across the currency bloc to 0.3% for the quarter and 0.9% for the year. In Portugal and Spain, the headline growth figures improved. Even Italy beat analysts’ expectations after it avoided a decline. So the recovery is real. In fact, say the eurozone’s top policymakers, it’s all going so well the new Greek government should open its eyes and see the warm, golden glow of sunshine appearing on the horizon. Jens Weidmann, the head of the German central bank, was in London on Thursday evening and joined the chorus of top officials bemoaning those who believe the eurozone is entering a long period of Japan-like stagnation.

He urged the Greeks to stop opposing the austerity measures imposed by Brussels and accept wage cuts that have already brought an increase in competitiveness. No doubt the 0.2% fall in Greek GDP in the fourth quarter will be cast as a temporary blip and a lesson that political uncertainty has unhelpful economic consequences. Investors also believe the upbeat story, hence the soaring Frankfurt stock market. The promise of a huge stimulus package from the ECB (which Weidmann believes is unnecessary, such is his confidence) and the fall in value of the euro it has precipitated, when combined with the vast European bailouts funds now available, have convinced global investment funds that Europe is a one-way bet. Look beyond the figures and the chatter of ivory tower policymakers and you will find the story is radically different. Yes, Spain is growing. But its GDP growth in 2014 has made up only around half of its losses in 2013.

It is still an economy in need of major investment to get back on its feet. Unemployment remains at disturbingly high levels and the state is held in contempt in many quarters. Why else would the radical anti-austerity Podemos party be polling ahead of all the established parties at the moment, and its leader be writing in praise of Tsipras (and the Catalonia independence movement still be in full swing)? Weidmann said the policies of austerity he supported would work slowly but staying the course was important. To him, a lost generation of young workers, who were denied skilled training and out of work for several years, is a matter for individual countries. He cannot see that sovereign states under the current arrangements are denied the funds to invest and improve productivity over the longer term. He cannot see that austerity, if only for this reason, is self-defeating.

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“They have asymmetric rules. They need to make it socially fairer..”

White House Warns Europe On Greek Showdown (AEP)

Washington blames Europe for the lack of global recovery and is losing its patience with EMU creditor states that fail to pull their weight The Obama administration has leapt to the defence of Greece, warning Germany and Europe’s creditor powers that they must meet Athens half-way to avert a potentially dangerous rupture and a euro break-up. Caroline Atkinson, the US deputy-national security adviser, said the eurozone authorities had imposed the main burden of adjustment on the weaker deficit states and should do more to accept their share of responsibility for the euro crisis. “They have asymmetric rules. They need to make it socially fairer,” she said. “It is important for creditors to take into account that Greece has had a very sharp drop in incomes, real wages, and output as well as a big rise in unemployment,” she told a gathering at Chatham House in London.

“Greece has moved into primary surplus. How much more fiscal consolidation is necessary?” she said. The comment will be music to the ears of Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who wants a cut in the EU-IMF Troika target for the primary surplus to 1.5pc of GDP from 3pc this year and 4.5pc next year. Mrs Atkinson said the White House is relieved that “both sides” are starting to pull back from the brink, a clear warning that Washington is just as exasperated with the high-handed approach of eurozone creditors as it is with the leftist Syriza government in Athens. “We believe it is strongly in the interests of the Greek people and Europe more generally that Greece and its creditors work out a compromise for Greece to stay in the euro and thrive in the euro,” she said.

The two sides have toned down the rhetoric slightly and agreed to start technical talks but each is in a different cognitive universe on the core dispute over austerity and debt relief. The US administration does not share the widespread view in Europe that there is little risk of contagion if the European Central Bank cuts off liquidity support for the Greek banking system and forces the country out of the euro. President Barack Obama has seized on the Greek crisis to push for a broader reflation strategy in Europe. “You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression. At some point there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts,” he said earlier this month.

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Draghi doesn’t like being accused of taking political decisions. Even though he’s taken many already.

Don’t Make Us Do It: ECB Wants a Political Deal on Greece (Bloomberg)

The European Central Bank is sending a message to the euro-area’s leaders: don’t make us pull the trigger on Greece’s banks. After the Frankfurt-based ECB blessed the expansion of so-called Emergency Liquidity Assistance to the debt-stricken country’s lenders by about €5 billion euros on Thursday, officials are insisting that continued support is contingent on political talks over Greece’s bailout. Greek stocks and bonds rallied Friday, after PM Alexis Tsipras hinted at progress. The ECB does not want to be pushed into a position where it is making decisions on the future of the Greek banking system – and the country’s membership of the euro – without political cover from European capitals.

If talks on a “bridge” financing deal for Greece break down again, ECB President Mario Draghi will have to weigh whether to ration funds further or threaten a veto, just as he did in Cyprus two years ago. “Ending ELA would be a very last-resort type of intervention, paramount to a nuclear option,” said Henrik Enderlein at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. “The ECB would never really want to use it, as it is basically the same as pushing Greece out of the euro area.” ELA is funding provided by national central banks at their own risk, and is extended against lower-quality collateral than the ECB itself will accept.

Greece’s lenders now have access to about €65 billion in such funds, according to a euro-area central bank official. The expansion from €60 billion euros was reported Thursday by German newspaper FAZ. Tsipras said yesterday that his government aims to reach a six-month bridge agreement leading to a “new contract” with international creditors. In 2012, as Greece stumbled toward its second international rescue and a debt-writedown, banks ran up a tab of as much as €158 billion euros in local central bank and ECB funding. That suggests the ECB will allow a much greater extension of the emergency line, as long as politicians are seen as being on the path to agreement.

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More political decisions by an allegedly ‘neutral’ central bank. First cut them off, then feed them bite-sized carrots.

Rising Deposit Outflows Behind Extra Greek Bank ELA Access (Reuters)

The ECB allowed Greek banks access to extra emergency financing from the Bank of Greece because deposit outflows have picked up and to make sure they have liquidity while tense talks take place in Brussels next week, Greek banking sources said on Friday. The ECB on Thursday raised the cap on what Greek banks can get from the Bank of Greece through the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) window by about €5 billion to €65 billion. The extension will run until Feb. 18 when the ECB Governing Council will reappraise the situation. One banking source said that there was a mix of reasons for the action. “Some banks likely needed to tap more ELA,” said the senior banker at one of the country’s four top banks. “(But) I believe the ECB wanted to allow some headroom, liquidity comfort until Feb. 18.”

He said recent daily outflows were in the region of €300 million to €500 million on average. Another executive at a big bank cited a similar figure. “Outflows continued this week, the situation showed a deterioration in the last days,” he said. “When you see €400-500 million of outflows a day, this shows a developing trend.” He added that outflows may have gone as high €1 billion on some days. Euro zone finance ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday in an attempt to forge a deal which will allow for Greek funding over a period in which Greece’s large debt will be renegotiated. Failure to reach a deal before the end of February, when Greece’s current bailout ends, could lead to Greece being ejected from the euro zone – hence the nervousness of Greek banks and depositors.

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The outflow problem isn’t all that bad.

Most Of Greek Deposit Outflows To Return If A Deal Is Made (Kathimerini)

The bulk of deposits withdrawn from Greek bank accounts in the last two-and-a-half months due to political and financial uncertainty has stayed inside the country, stashed away in safe deposit boxes, mattresses and investment products. Banks estimate that only a small part, about 20%, of the funds that came out of depositors’ accounts has been sent to banks abroad. As banks sources have stressed, if the government agrees terms with its creditors next week, confirming the European course of the country and putting an end to uncertainty, most of the €20 billion that has left local banks since end-November could return, and quickly.

Bankers believe that some 50% of the deposit outflows, i.e. some €10 billion, has stayed in the country in the form of disposable cash and can be found in safe deposit boxes, mattresses etc, as many households have chosen to keep their cash at hand due to the ongoing uncertainty. Another 30%, or €6 billion, has been deposited in investment products. The 20% of deposit outflows that has gone abroad, amounting to some €4 billion, mostly concerns corporate funds and some of it has gone to subsidiaries of Greek banks in other countries, such as in Cyprus, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Malta, etc.

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The purpose behind all this is more centralization, and that will cause ever stronger reactions.

Band-Aids for Greece, Ukraine and Global Economy (El-Erian)

This week, three sets of meetings sought to defuse three distinct threats to the global economy. All of the gatherings featured suspenseful atmospheres, dramatic posturing and some public tantrums. And their outcomes were similar, too: The participants ended up just buying time, without doing much, if anything, to begin to address the underlying causes of the unfolding crises. In the first instance, President Francois Hollande of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany traveled to Minsk on Wednesday to compel the Russian and Ukrainian presidents to stem the escalating violence in eastern Ukraine that has claimed about 5,000 lives. After a tough all-night negotiation session, they agreed Thursday to a cease-fire to take effect this weekend.

Earlier Wednesday, the finance ministers of the euro zone countries gathered in Brussels to try to find common ground on Greece. After seven hours of discussions, they weren’t even able to settle on a road map for future negotiations. But with both their finance ministers playing tough and signaling seemingly unbridgeable negotiating positions, Merkel and the newly elected prime minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, were subsequently able to show leadership and be “presidential.” On Thursday, both declared themselves willing to compromise, providing much needed political cover for the finance ministers’ negotiations that are set to resume Monday (preceded by technical preparations starting today).

Earlier in the week, some of those ministers had joined their central bank colleagues in Istanbul for a meeting of the Group of 20. The agenda included policy actions to strengthen a global economy that, with the exception of the U.S., has been losing steam. In their communiques, they reaffirmed prior commitments and renewed their encouragement of central banks to continue pursuing unconventional monetary policies. Yes, some progress was made in all three meetings, but they mainly just kicked the can down the road. At best, they were holding operations that risk resulting in failure if they aren’t quickly supplemented by more comprehensive agreements.

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It’s not the 1920’s.

Inside The Germans’ Debt Psyche – What Makes Them Tick? (BBC)

Germany is the world’s fourth largest economy, the beating heart of the eurozone and guardian of financial discipline. So when it comes to money – and especially debt – what makes Germans tick? The election of Greece’s left-wing government on a promise to reduce the country’s mountain of debt has created a standoff with Europe’s economic powerhouse. And it has thrown Germany’s ultra-conservative attitude to debt into sharp focus. Germany’s extreme debt aversion is even rooted in the German language itself, says Prof Marcel Fratzscher, head of Germany’s leading Economic Research Institute. “The German word for debt – ‘schuld’ – is the same as the German word for ‘guilt’,” he explains. “To get into debt you have done something bad and that describes the German people’s attitude quite well.”

The German way is to “save now, have later” rather than “have now, pay later” – and that is not just the older generation talking. On the streets of Berlin young Germans told us what they would do if they won a million euros. A new car, a holiday, a new outfit? “I would save it for when I need it,” came a typical reply. That habit of saving money is the key to understanding another characteristic of Germans – fear of inflation. Popular wisdom says that this is due to the scars left by hyperinflation in the 1920s, when the exchange rate escalated out of control. One US dollar went from being worth four Deutschmarks to four trillion. There may be some residual echoes of that period but it is nearly 90 years ago now and Germans have moved on. The real reason is to be found in the German love of saving.

Inflation is the enemy of savers. So for a nation full of them, the idea of lowering interest rates and printing money holds a double threat – it reduces the rate you get on your savings, while any potential future inflation would mean that those same savings allow you to buy less. The good news for Germany is that inflation hasn’t arrived and, although interest rates are low, the related weakness of the euro has kept German exports like cars and machinery competitively priced. Indeed education, engineering and exporting success is the source of considerable German pride. Economists credit the post-war economic miracle – or “Wirtschaftswunder” – to a set of crucial, interlocking principles[..]

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“We constantly hear, ‘if you don’t sign on the dotted line there is going to be Armageddon’. My answer is ‘let it happen!’

Yanis Varoufakis: ‘If I Weren’t Scared, I’d Be Awfully Dangerous’ (Guardian)

In the space of three short weeks, he’s been christened Europe’s man of the moment, compared to heroes great and small, likened to a rock star, hailed as a sex icon, feted by fashionistas, and in Germany, no less, portrayed as the greatest action man to bestride planet earth since Bruce Willis set Hollywood alight in Die Hard 6. Few have had their demeanour and dress code so dissected; when he posed with George Osborne in Downing Street, his tieless, leather-jacketed look standing in stark contrast to the Chancellor’s, the press was as breathless as if a supermodel had blown in. “Britain,” declared no less venerable an authority than the Daily Telegraph, “is crying out for a politician who looks like Yanis Varoufakis. It’s quite a change in lifestyle. Has it gone to his head? The response is immediate. “I can assure you, Helena, I did not engineer it in any way. I am not promoting it. They go on about me riding a bike, but I have been riding a bike since I was 15. I just am who I am.” [..]

Even by the standards of those who have occupied the sixth floor of the finance ministry before, Varoufakis’ tenure comes at an unusually onerous time. With the country’s €240bn bailout – the biggest in global history – set to expire at the end of February, and the Greek electorate having overwhelmingly rejected austerity, Greece is at a crossroads. In a climate of high-octane pressure – though her language was more emollient, the German chancellor Angela Merkel showed little sign this week of giving in anytime soon – the possibility of political blunder, or accident, grows with each day. Athens owes some €25bn in repayments, this year alone, and what is certain is that it does not have that kind of money. When I ask Varoufakis if he has a plan B, for all negotiators surely have a credible alternative, he looks at me wide-eyed. “We constantly hear, ‘if you don’t sign on the dotted line there is going to be Armageddon’. My answer is ‘let it happen!’ There is no fall-back plan. That is my plan B. ”

What if it does happen, I ask, as images of the chaos bankruptcy would surely entail flicker across my mind. “Well, that is like asking me what happens if a comet strikes planet Earth. I have no idea. None!” he shoots back. Varoufakis is the first to say that no one should grow too fond of power. He has no desire to be on the sixth floor of the finance ministry longer than necessary. He has dispensed with the policemen assigned to protect him, the army of advisers that come with the job (let go to make way for the rehiring of the ministry’s sacked women cleaners), and each of the three cars deployed to him. If he lost the job, he says, he wouldn’t mind. “When interlocutors threaten me with the fall of this government, because they do, I say: ‘Make my day,’” he smiles. “I mean, I really don’t want to be in this office … I will go back to my book about Europe, which is half-finished. It’s very difficult to find an ending when I am still in this job.”

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“Simple logic dictates that if you cannot even conceive the possibility of leaving a negotiation, then it is preferable never to enter one..”

Yanis Varoufakis, Greek Bailout Foe (BBC)

Greece’s left-wing Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis is leading the offensive to persuade the nation’s creditors to end austerity and forgive part of its debt. Mr Varoufakis, 53, is not only a well-respected political economist, but a charismatic man and natural charmer. A few weeks after his appointment, he has become something of a global celebrity. That is hardly surprising for Greeks – after all, Mr Varoufakis got more votes than any other candidate in the 25 January general election that swept the leftist Syriza party into power. In the wake of victory he immediately embarked on a European tour that took him to London, Paris, Rome and Berlin. The sight of a shaven-headed, athletic minister refusing to tuck his shirt into his trousers or wear a tie – even while visiting 11 Downing Street – fascinated business reporters, fashion editors and gossip columnists.

Even the German media – among Greece’s sternest critics – seemed impressed. ZDF television anchor Marietta Slomka said “he is someone you could imagine starring in a film like Die Hard 6”, and conservative daily Die Welt ran the headline “What makes Yanis Varoufakis a sex icon”. In his home country, a new word was coined – “Varoufitses” – to describe women who idolise Mr Varoufakis. At the time of writing, Mr Varoufakis had 128,000 Twitter followers, a number of devoted fan pages on Facebook, and he has inspired a video game “Syrizaman Vs Troika”. His eurozone colleagues may not find him quite so charming. In his first meeting with them on 11 February he refused to approve a common statement by the Eurogroup that implied Athens would seek an extension of its bailout. “Simple logic dictates that if you cannot even conceive the possibility of leaving a negotiation, then it is preferable never to enter one,” he wrote in a blog entry back in May 2010.

Mr Varoufakis showed signs of defiance and non-conformism from a very early age. That includes deliberately misspelling his name Yanis, writing it with only one “n” since elementary school. “I had an aesthetic problem with the double “n”,” he said. “So I decided to write my name with one. My teacher gave me a bad grade, which made me very angry and I’ve kept writing my name with one “n” ever since.” Mr Varoufakis was born on 24 March 1961 in Athens. He is a graduate of the Moraitis private school, which has nurtured many members of Greece’s political and economic elite. His father, 89-year-old Giorgos Varoufakis, is chairman of Halyvourgiki, a Greek industrial giant. This background of relative privilege did not prevent Mr Varoufakis from becoming a libertarian Marxist, who has said that “Karl Marx was responsible for framing my perspective of the world we live in, from my childhood to this day”.

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So let’s put that myth to rest.

US Will Not Become Energy Independent: Total CEO (CNBC)

Despite the so-called U.S. shale revolution and American aspirations for energy independence, the CEO of major oil giant Total told CNBC he was not convinced it would happen any time soon. “The U.S. is still relying on oil from the Middle East. It is not true the U.S. will be independent in oil – they continue to import,” Patrick Pouyanne, the new chief executive of French oil giant Total, told CNBC this week. He stressed that the U.S. “will not get” energy independence because it still consumes far more oil than it produces. “For me, the world today is interdependent. This idea that you could be (energy) independent – especially when you are the U.S., where you have many world companies; a country that is probably benefiting the most from the globalization of the world – is just something that is strange to me, I don’t believe in that,” Pouyanne added.

Oil prices have fallen dramatically in recent months – and at one point were down around 60% from highs in June 2014, on the back of a glut in supply and lack of global demand. Brent crude is currently trading around $59 a barrel and U.S. crude is at $51. OPEC has been blamed for the volatility in prices after it refused to cut production to support the cost of oil. Many saw its inaction as a bid to retain market share in the face of increased competition from U.S. shale oil producers. American oil production has grown steadily from 5 million barrels per day in 2005 to 8.6 million last year, according to the U.S. Energy information Administration.

If OPEC was hoping a low oil price would put the brakes on U.S. oil production, it might have worked. Some 87 rigs were deactivated in the week ending February 6, according to oilfield services company Baker Hughes, after a drop of 90 rigs over the previous seven days. It marks the largest absolute reduction in a single week since Baker Hughes started keeping records in 1987. But Pouyanne said that, despite anger from some at OPEC’s “game of chicken,” the U.S. was still a major oil importer and its economy was benefitting from a lower oil price.

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“The average price of Russian gas supplied abroad will be $222 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2015. It could mean a 35% price cut for Gazprom supplied gas to Europe..”

Russian Gas To Europe Can Be 35% Cheaper: Ministry (RT)

The average price of Russian gas supplied abroad will be $222 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2015. It could mean a 35% price cut for Gazprom supplied gas to Europe, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development has forecast. The price for Russian gas started to decline last year, as the contract price for Gazprom supplies are directly linked to falling oil prices, according to Vedomosti. Gas prices respond to the dynamics of oil prices with a lag of 6-9 months. In summer 2014 the company expected $350 per 1,000 cubic meters, in the end the average turned out to be $341, while the price of Brent in the second half of 2014 lost more than 50%. Next week, the management of Gazprom plans to present to the board of directors stress tests of a financial plan with an oil price of $40 and $50 per barrel based on the Ministry’s forecast.

Gazprom is expected to increase supplies to Europe to 160 billion cubic meters compared to 146.6 billion in 2015. At the same time revenue will decrease by $14.3 billion to $35.5 billion if the ministry’s prediction comes true. However, the figures may change in a planned outlook revision in April and September; Vedomosti say citing the ministry. Gazprom’s sales to Europe accounted for almost 70% of company revenues in 2014. In recent years, the average price in the EU, according to calculations by Vedomosti, was 5 to 14% higher than the overall average sales price. However, $222 per 1,000 cubic meters may be unprofitable for Gazprom in view of growing production costs, said Michael Krutikhin a partner at RusEnergy, as quoted by Vedomosti.

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“..at $110 oil and 33 rubles to the U.S. dollar, Russian upstream free cash flow for the companies his group covered was roughly the same as now, with oil near $60 and 60 rubles per U.S. dollar.”

Falling Oil Prices Don’t Scare Russian Energy Firms (CNBC)

Low oil prices are hurting the Russian state as tax revenue tumbles along with crude. But Russia’s energy firms aren’t feeling the same pain, and they may in fact weather the cheap oil storm better than their international peers. Experts point to two major factors helping the companies in a low-price environment: Moscow’s tax rate on producers shifts lower as the price of oil falls (meaning the cost is mostly borne by the state), and most of the oil companies’ expenses are denominated in rubles. Together, those factors largely offset any negative impact from oil prices, Goldman Sachs energy analyst Geydar Mamedov wrote in a recent note.

The currency point is key: Russian energy companies’ expenditures are largely conducted in rubles because there is a strong local oilfield services sector, and their revenues are dollar-denominated. So as the Russian currency has fallen against the dollar, the firms have been nearly totally insulated from oil’s price decline. “In the short term, there is definitely a natural buffer built into the system through the ruble,” Ildar Davletshin, Renaissance Capital oil and gas analyst, told CNBC. “The ruble has halved over the past 12 months; that’s a natural hedge against weak oil prices.” Mamedov noted that at $110 oil and 33 rubles to the U.S. dollar, Russian upstream free cash flow for the companies his group covered was roughly the same as now, with oil near $60 and 60 rubles per U.S. dollar.

Meanwhile, while many international oil companies outside Russia are cutting back on production, Mamedov wrote that he does not expect to see a slowdown in Russian upstream activity. (Russian refiners, on the other hand, could take a hit because of how the tax scheme works). In fact, Goldman predicts that Russian production will increase to 532 million tonnes in 2015 from 527 million tonnes in 2014. Despite those short-term positives, Davletshin said he “wouldn’t be too optimistic” in the medium or long term. Local costs may catch up with the currency differentials as inflation accelerates, and sanctions are hurting the companies by depriving them of international technology-sharing opportunities, he explained. “I’m not saying Russia cannot move on its own, but it will take longer,” he said.

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Germany only plays green.

German Coal Imports From Russia Highest Since 2006 (RT)

Germany imported more than 12 million tons of coal from Russia in 2014 – the biggest volume in 9 years, despite calls for energy independence and a switch to renewables. Coal imports from Russia increased 6.6% in 2014, at 12.6 million metric tons, Germany’s Federal Statistics Office reported Friday. This is about a third of the country s total coal imports. At a time when geopolitical relations between the two countries are strained, Germany continues to pump money into a country that the US and other European countries are bent on economically isolating. Poland, also a Moscow naysayer, is Russia’s second biggest coal importer in the EU. Another country that had sworn off Russian coal, but ended up buying the cheap energy to heat homes and factories, was Ukraine. Kiev bought some 50,000 metric tons in December.

Russian coal has become even more attractive to Europeans since the ruble depreciated more than 50%, which means importers spend less dollars and euro. The devaluation of the ruble and the decline in oil prices has placed Russian thermal coal exporters among the most competitive suppliers to both the Atlantic and Pacific markets, says Diana Bacila, a coal analyst at Oslo-based Nena, an independent energy analysis firm. About 50% of German electricity comes from coal, with the rest coming from natural gas and nuclear energy. Germany is also Russia’s biggest gas client, importing over 25 billion cubic meters per year. The recently completed Nord Stream pipeline, which feeds directly from Russia to Germany, has a capacity to deliver 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

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This is serious.

Argentina President Fernandez Charged in Probe of Alleged Cover-Up (Bloomberg)

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was formally accused by a prosecutor of trying to cover up the alleged involvement of Iranian officials in the bombing of a Jewish center that killed 85 people. In a document filed to a federal court, Prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita said Fernandez, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, lawmaker Andres Larroque and other government supporters tried to remove Iranian officials from Interpol lists in exchange for trade preferences with the Islamic republic. Pollicita’s 62-page statement was posted on the prosecutor general’s website. The charges will overshadow Fernandez’s last 10 months in office as she struggles to revive growth in South America’s second-biggest economy and repair relations with investors after last year’s default.

The accusations come one month after former prosecutor in the case, Alberto Nisman, was found dead in his apartment with a bullet to the head. Investigators have yet to determine if it was suicide or murder. “This could be a seismic change for Argentina’s political environment,” said Carl Meacham, Americas program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “You have an economic crisis on the horizon and you marry that with a political crisis, it could be a disaster for Argentina.” Fernandez, 61, has denied the accusations against her and said last month that Nisman may have been murdered in order to sully the image of her government.

Judge Daniel Rafecas must now decide whether the evidence of a cover-up is admissible and whether to pursue the case, said Hernan Munilla Lacasa, a professor in criminal law at the Universidad Catolica Argentina in Buenos Aires. Fernandez can be called on to testify, though as president she has the right to do so in writing and not in person. Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich early Friday said the accusations and a march planned for Feb. 18 to commemorate Nisman’s death were part of a “judicial coup” against the president. “The Argentine people should know that we’re talking about a vulgar lie, of an enormous media operation, of a strategy of political destabilization and the biggest judicial coup d’etat in the history of Argentina to cover up for the real perpetrators of the crime,” Capitanich said at his daily press conference.

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Asset prices cannot hold.

Farmland Values in Parts of Midwest Fall for First Time in Decades (WSJ)

Farmland values declined in parts of the Midwest for the first time in decades last year, reflecting a cooling in the market driven by two years of bumper crops and sharply lower grain prices, according to Federal Reserve reports on Thursday. The average price of farmland in the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s district, which includes Illinois, Iowa and other big farm states, fell 3% in 2014, marking the first annual decline since 1986, the Chicago Fed said. Prices for cropland during the fourth quarter remained steady compared with the previous quarter, according to the bank’s survey of agricultural lenders, though half of all respondents said they expect farmland values to decline further in the current quarter.

In the St. Louis Fed’s district, which includes parts of Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas, prices for “quality” farmland gained 0.8% in the fourth quarter compared with year-ago levels, despite lower crop prices and farm incomes in the region. A majority of lenders in the district expect values to cool in the current quarter compared with the first quarter of last year, reflecting reduced demand for land amid tighter profit margins for farmers. The reports spotlight an overall slowdown in the U.S. farm economy and in the appreciation of farmland prices. Crop prices had soared for much of the past decade, fueled by drought and rising demand for corn from ethanol processors and foreign importers. The gains pushed agricultural land values so high that some analysts warned of a bubble.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected net U.S. farm income this year would fall to $73.6 billion, the lowest since 2009, from $108 billion in 2014. Prices for corn, the biggest U.S. crop by value, have tumbled more than 50% since the summer of 2012, when they soared to record highs amid a severe U.S. drought. Growers produced the nation’s largest corn and soybeans harvests ever last autumn, helped by nearly flawless weather over much of the growing season. In the Chicago Fed district, farmland values in the latest quarter dropped in major corn-producing states like Illinois, Iowa and Indiana compared with year-ago levels, while land values in Wisconsin increased slightly and were unchanged in Michigan.

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Marie Antoinette all over again.

The Super-Rich Don’t Care About Us. It Will Be Their Downfall (Guardian)

The news this week that a bank helped wealthy customers to dodge taxes should not come as a surprise to many. The super-rich have long held some profoundly distorted ideas about the world. They are more than averagely likely to believe their achievements are the product of their superior brains and hard work. They may believe the Selfish Gene rhetoric that those with the best genes rise to the top of the pond, and at the bottom is genetic sludge. They are oblivious to any evidence to the contrary. They have no idea that had they been born on a sink estate they too would have sunk. This is partly because the super-rich are no longer exposed to data and experiences that contradict their worldview. Flitting between their various homes around the world, they know nothing of our lives.

They have never, ever had to sit on the phone waiting for the next available customer support agent – “your call really matters to us” – to not fix their phone/internet/energy bill issue. Of particular concern is that they only consume media that support their worldview. Recently, an Oxbridge-educated CEO in all seriousness told me that there has been no increase in inequality in this country. My jaw was slack with amazement when another told me that “inner London secondary pupils have the best exam results of any in the world”. They are living in the la-la land that Polly Toynbee and David Walker painstakingly exposed in their book Unjust Rewards. Consider your response to the following information. About 15,700 under-two-year-olds live in a family that is classed as homeless, according to a new report.

Homelessness adversely affects parental responsiveness, and early responsiveness has been proved to affect the capacity of the brain to process positive experiences. My response to this would be: “Since early care profoundly affects the size and content of our brains and subsequent mental health, government should act to eradicate involuntary homelessness. If Thatcher had not sold off the council housing stock this problem would be far less. A Labour government should reverse that policy.” When I put that to a super-rich man whom I know, he said: “It’s a shame there are so many babies with homeless parents but it is not the role of the state to house them. My charity does not directly address this issue but I am sure there are others that do. The role of government is to leave people like me free to create jobs which will enable those parents to earn enough to pay rent and live in decent accommodation.”

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