Mar 092020
 


 

‘Fake Wealth’ Set To Pop (ABR)
Global Markets Plunge 7-8%, Oil Falls 30% To $30 (G.)
Goldman Cuts Brent Forecasts To $30 On Price War, Virus (R.)
Gig Economy Workers Can’t Afford To Be Ill (G.)
Plummeting Oil Prices And Mortgage Rates Could Boost Consumers (CNBC)
More Countries Will Adopt Italy’s Measures – Austria PM (G.)
Leaked Italy Quarantine Plans Create Chaos, Threaten To Spread Virus (ZH)
Charities Preparing To Feed Children If Schools Shut Over Coronavirus (G.)
NYC Asks Commuters to Stay Off Public Transit ‘If You Can’ (NBC)
A Perfect Storm Of Nationalism And Financial Speculation (Varoufakis)
Tyre Wear Produces 1,000 Times More Harmful Pollution Than Car Exhausts (BW)
Putin Saves Erdogan From Himself (Escobar)
Fiona Hill Says Putin Has America ‘Exactly Where He Wants Us’ (CNN)

 

 

As I wrote yesterday in The Virus is a Time Machine, it’s not about the number of deaths or cases, it’s about the disruption. Today, stock markets are down 7-8%, and oil plummeted 30% to $30. At your service. “Fake Wealth” is popping, say some.

Italy has an oversized role today so far, but there are a number of countries that could take off at any time now. As I said in that article, US, Germany, France, Spain appear to be in a phase where for instance Italy was about a week ago.

Something odd about the numbers today is that COVID2019.app puts South Korea at 8,100 cases, while the other two have it at around 7,400. It must be hard getting the numbers right, and on time.

 

Cases 110,607 (+ 4,120 from yesterday’s 106,487)

Deaths 3,831 (+ 231 from yesterday’s 3,600)

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

Smart cookie.

‘Fake Wealth’ Set To Pop (ABR)

Sharemarket and property investors are about to experience a reckoning that sweeps away the pretence of “fake wealth and artificial economy”, Lucerne Investment Partners portfolio manager Jerome Lander says. In a note to clients issued on Monday, Mr Lander said investors were “reacting in horror to the reality of the coronavirus as it begins its exponential growth around the world”. His note came as the Australian sharemarket was experiencing its biggest one-day fall since the global financial crisis, with the S&P/ASX 200 plunging 6 per cent to a 14-month low of 5840.90 amid a collapse in oil prices. “This is a truly frightening pandemic with significant ramifications which much of the developed world is unlikely to cope with well,” Mr Lander said.

“The reality is ICUs [intensive care units] are likely to be overrun around the world and people will increasingly seek to avoid social contact and hide at home in order to avoid contracting the deadly virus.” Mr Lander said a 10 per cent ICU admission rate for Italy’s 1492 cases of coronavirus was a “truly horrifying statistic”. Underlying economic weaknesses was being expose, he said. “One bubble after another is at risk of popping, as the fake wealth and artificial economy of the last few years explodes in the face of a devastating global recession.” With sharemarkets now “crashing, with delusional housing prices likely to follow”, he predicted central banks would shortly attempt to restore order to financial markets through so-called quantitative easing.

“Unlimited QE is likely but won’t help alter the destruction from the pandemic,” Mr Lander said. “These are truly dangerous times for all investors, but particularly for those holding large amounts of overvalued equity and property assets at fake economy prices.”

Read more …

Trillions upon trillions in fake wealth are going POOF. And the central banks that created the fake wealth will throw more fake money at the walls.

Global Markets Plunge 7-8%, Oil Falls 30% To $30 (G.)

Global stock markets have suffered their biggest falls since the 2008 financial crisis while the oil price crashed amid panic selling because of the double threat of a coronavirus-driven global recession and an oil price war. The FTSE 100 index in London plunged 8.5% to 5,911 points, losing 550 points, when trading began on Monday morning. Germany’s Dax tumbled 7.5% and Spain’s Ibex lost 7%. Asian markets also recorded huge losses as fears over the world economy were exacerbated by the shock decision by Saudi Arabia over the weekend to ramp up oil production in an attempt to drive rivals such as Russia and the US out of the market.

The price of Brent crude oil fell almost 30% to $31.14 on Monday, its biggest decline since the start of the Gulf war in 1991. Some experts expect it to fall further unless the Saudis and Russians return to the bargaining table. Turmoil spread on international markets as the coronavirus epidemic deepened around the world. Italy, the worst-hit country in Europe, was plunged into chaos as government plans to quarantine more than 16m people – more than a quarter of its population – were leaked to the media. Italian bond yields jumped on Monday. The number of people infected by coronavirus worldwide has passed 110,000.

Stock markets in Asia Pacific experienced the worst wave of selling since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 heralded the onset of the global financial crisis. With fears growing of a recession in Australia because of the virus, the Australian share market closed down 7.4%. The Nikkei in Japan fell more than 5%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Sen lost 3.9% and the Shanghai stock exchange dropped just over 3%. US 10-year government bond yields fell to fresh record lows and the Japanese yen and gold soared as investors rushed into safe haven investments.

Read more …

Putin stopped supporting MbS. Isn’t that a good thing? How much do we like MbS?

Goldman Cuts Brent Forecasts To $30 On Price War, Virus (R.)

Goldman Sachs cut its second- and third-quarter Brent price forecasts to $30 per barrel, citing the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia and a significant collapse in oil demand due to the coronavirus that has killed more than 3,500 globally. Oil fell by the most since 1991 on Monday after Saudi Arabia started a price war with Russia by slashing its selling prices and pledging to unleash its pent-up supply onto a market reeling from falling demand because of the virus outbreak. “The aggressive cut to Saudi’s Official Selling Prices and Russia’s reluctance to be pushed into a deal on Friday point to a low probability of an immediate (OPEC+) agreement,” Goldman said in a note dated March 8.

A three-year pact between OPEC and Russia ended in acrimony on Friday after Moscow refused to support deeper oil cuts and OPEC responded by removing all limits on its own production. “While we can’t rule out an OPEC+ deal in coming months, we also believe that this agreement was inherently imbalanced and its production cuts economically unfounded,” the bank said. Goldman’s base case is now for no such deal, it said. Goldman’s base case is now for no such deal, it said. Lower oil prices will start creating acute financial stress and declining production from shale as well as other high cost producer, the bank said.

There will be a negligible response from U.S. shale producers in the second quarter, but output will fall in the third quarter by 75,000 barrels per day (bpd) and a further 250,000 bpd in the fourth quarter of 2020, the bank said. This will not prevent, however, a third-quarter supply surplus of 1.2 million bpd. “At that point, the fundamental rebalancing could require oil prices falling to operational stress levels for high-cost producers with well-head cash costs near $20/bbl,” it said.

Read more …

Home deliveries are set to double, but the people working the field don’t get paid anything. The future’s so bright…

Gig Economy Workers Can’t Afford To Be Ill (G.)

Shane Stephen, a Deliveroo rider, pulls a snood over his mouth and nose as he manoeuvres his mountain bike down a narrow side-street in central London. It is his makeshift defence against coronavirus. “If I catch something I’m screwed,” explains the 23-year-old. “Gig economy workers can’t afford to be ill. My bank balance is literally £4 something right now.” Stephen – like tens of thousands of other couriers and drivers in the UK – is classed as self-employed and therefore not entitled to any sick pay. He stands to gain nothing from Boris Johnson’s pledge last Wednesday to give coronavirus-hit workers statutory sick pay from the first day off work rather than the fourth. Yet Stephen and other gig economy couriers could be called on to deliver food and other essentials to self-isolating households when the virus reaches its peak.

Some industry analysts foresee the number of home deliveries doubling if people are told to work from home and avoid large gatherings under the government’s so-called social-distancing strategy, which will kick in if the virus continues to spread across the country. Unions representing gig economy workers, such as the GMB and Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), fear couriers with coronavirus symptoms may keep working. “Many will carry on because they need to put food on the table and pay the rent. They will then come into contact with other people and spread the virus,” says Mick Rix from the GMB, which represents thousands of couriers. “This would be going against everything the government is trying to achieve at the moment.”

[..] Josh Lane (not his real name) jumps into his DPD Local van after making a delivery in Tottenham. He cleans his hands with hand sanitiser. “I’m in a rush, but I’m doing my bit,” he says through the rolled-down window. However, the 30-year-old cannot afford to stop work if he contracts the virus. “It’s like a flu and I’ve worked through flu before. If you’re self-employed you have to continue working,” he says. “It’s not about me. I’ve got three children. I’m not about to make them starve because of coronavirus. If I’m physically able to work, then isolation is not happening for me.”

Read more …

The kind of stuff that stumps me: “This resiliency of the consumer will once again support equities and most likely show that this current market reaction is a ‘blip’..

These people have zero connection to reality.

Plummeting Oil Prices And Mortgage Rates Could Boost Consumers (CNBC)

As the deadly coronavirus spreads across the globe, oil prices are down 30% for the year and the average rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage has fallen to an eight-year low. It’s positive news for consumers in the short term, even as some economists warn that the virus could tip the U.S economy into recession as the outbreak escalates. The drop in mortgage rates and oil prices could boost consumer confidence, which rose less than expected in February just one day after the stock market had one of its worst days amid virus concerns. A boost in consumer confidence, in turn, could ease those recession fears. “The U.S. economy is 70% consumer driven,” said John Kilduff, founding partner of Again Capital.

“A drop in gasoline prices acts like a tax cut, freeing up money to spend in other sectors of the economy, especially discretionary sectors, such as travel and leisure and dining.” The relentless pace of headlines related to the coronavirus, however, could ultimately act as a psychological break on any boost in confidence that low oil prices and mortgage rates might deliver to the consumer. “The question is whether the fear factor attributable to the virus will overwhelm any positive impact from lower gasoline prices and lower mortgage rates,” said Edward Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research. “That’s hard to answer, but it seems to me that fear is winning the tug of war currently as evidenced by the drop in stock prices and the panicky responses of governments, the media … and the public,” he added.

[..] Jeff Kilburg, founder and CEO of KKM Financial, said that the short-term reaction to lower oil prices will translate into lower prices at the pump for Americans, and that in combination with historically low mortgage rates will provide substantial strength for consumers in the second quarter. “This resiliency of the consumer will once again support equities and most likely show that this current market reaction is a ‘blip,’ not the end of this bull market … and certainly not the beginning of a recession,” Kilburg said.

Read more …

Absolutely right. Will I be able to get to Greece in time?

More Countries Will Adopt Italy’s Measures – Austria PM (G.)

Austria’s chancellor has said other European countries will be forced to adopt containment measures as drastic as Italy’s, after Rome placed a quarter of the population in lockdown in an effort to halt the rapid spread of the coronavirus. As the head of the World Health Organization praised Italy’s “genuine sacrifices”, Sebastian Kurz said the situation in Austria, which has reported 99 Covid-19 cases, was under control and the measures it had adopted were appropriate for the time being. He said EU leaders and health ministers were in close contact over their countries’ handling of the epidemic [..] “It will be important to decide which steps to take when,” Kurz said. “You can close schools for one or two weeks and this is urgently necessary in Italy. It will happen in other European countries. The decisive question is when to do it.”

The difficulty will be in balancing the need to head off a peak in infections that could paralyse public health systems against excessive economic damage, he said. “You have to consider carefully when to adopt these measures, because a national economy cannot handle this over too long a period.” Speaking to French radio, the EU commissioner for the single market, Thierry Breton, said European countries were “each acting according to the latest available data in their countries. The virus has spread faster in some places than in others, so naturally the measures in each differ”. In the US, Anthony Fauci, the head of the infectious diseases unit at the National Institutes of Health, said Americans , and particularly those who are vulnerable, may have to stop attending big gatherings. Nor could large-scale quarantines be ruled out, he said.

The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, tweeted his appreciation for Rome’s efforts after the government published a decree barring people from entering or leaving vast areas of northern Italy without good reason until 3 April. The quarantine zones are home to about 16 million people and include the regions around Venice and the financial capital, Milan. Cinemas, theatres and museums will be closed nationwide and leave has been cancelled for health workers as the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said the country was facing a national emergency.

Read more …

You announce an upcoming travel ban, so what do people do? Travel.

Leaked Italy Quarantine Plans Create Chaos, Threaten To Spread Virus (ZH)

Italians have become inured to alarming news over the past month as the outbreak has spiraled out of control in Lombardy. But following a flurry of uncontrolled leaks warning about an imminent lockdown as part of the government’s planned emergency decree, restaurants and bars started emptying out and many fled to the train station, where they hopped trains to get out of the region, especially those who had plans to travel elsewhere that were being interrupted by the lockdown. According to an SCMP reporter in Padua, packed bars and restaurants quickly emptied out as news of a coming lockdown hit, as many people rushed to the railway station. Travellers with suitcases, wearing face masks, gloves and carrying bottles of sanitising gel shoved their way on to the local train.

This appears to have been a phenomenon across the North. The video shows passengers with large bags packed heading toward a cross-country train to take them out of the quarantine zone and into the Italian south, where the virus has penetrated, but infection numbers and deaths remain much lower than in the north. This could be terrible news for the impoverished south: experts have repeatedly warned that southern Italy – best known as an agricultural and fishing center rife with organized crime – doesn’t possess the medical infrastructure to handle a surge in life-threatening cases of pneumonia. While Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly insisted during his seemingly never-ending series of press conferences that the panic is worse than the virus itself, in Italy, the situation is rapidly deteriorating on both fronts.

One epidemiologist described the series of panic-provoking leaks as “pure madness.” Fortunately, Italian markets were closed during the panic, and now people have more or less accepted the new rules. But at this point, the horse is already out of the barn. Panicked Italians are now traveling around the country, potentially bringing the virus with them. “The draft of a very harsh decree is leaked, sparking panic and prompting people to try and flee the [then] theoretical red zone, carrying the virus with them,” wrote Italian virologist Roberto Burioni on Twitter. “In the end, the only effect is to help the virus to spread. I’m lost for words.”

Read more …

Even before the virus, Britain’s reality is devastating: ““or so many families now, schools are the first line of defence against hunger..“

Charities Preparing To Feed Children If Schools Shut Over Coronavirus (G.)

A charity led by the archbishop of Canterbury is preparing to help feed children if schools are closed by coronavirus, amid fears the withdrawal of free school dinners could leave up to 3 million children at risk of hunger. Feeding Britain, which runs food poverty schemes in 12 areas of England including Cornwall, Leicester, Barnsley and South Shields, is exploring how to set up emergency programmes similar to those used to feed the poorest children during the summer holidays. The Akshaya Patra Foundation, which serves thousands of hot meals to children every summer in London boroughs, is also “prepared to enter crisis mode”, while food projects in Bristol and Huddersfield said they were exploring how their schemes to feed hundreds of children in school holidays could be adapted to help cope with emergency closures.

“For so many families now, schools are the first line of defence against hunger,” said Andrew Forsey, the national director of Feeding Britain, whose president is the Most Rev Justin Welby. “In many cases it is breakfast as well as lunch, so if the schools close it’s two meals we have to find. There is early-stage planning going on around ensuring supplies of food and the extent of voluntary support that could be drawn upon if some schools do need to close.” Downing Street said on Tuesday that school closures would be among “distancing strategies” used if the virus became established in the UK. On Thursday, Italy closed all of its schools and colleges for a month.

[..] An immediate challenge is likely to be finding a way to deliver meals in a way that maintains the distance between people that school closures are meant to achieve. The Bristol project said it could involve delivering food parcels door-to-door. Forsey also said panic-buying that cleared supermarket shelves could hinder efforts as many free meal programmes relied on retailers’ donations.

Read more …

“106 people in New York have confirmed cases of Coronavirus. But- “As of Saturday only about 120 people in New York City had been tested..”

The dumbest advice ever. “Take the next train”.

NYC Asks Commuters to Stay Off Public Transit ‘If You Can’ (NBC)

City and state officials issued new travel suggestions amid growing novel coronavirus cases in the tri-state area. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio asked sick people to stay off public transit, especially subways and buses. Their warnings included a suggestion to avoid dense crowds on buses, subways and trains, or take alternate travel if possible. “If you take the subway and you are able to wait for a less packed train, please do. If you have the option of walking or biking, please do. Buses can be crowded too, but less than subways, so please use these if you can,” de Blasio said. “Move to a train car that is not as dense. If you see a packed train car, let it go by. Wait for the next train. Same if you’re taking a bus,” Cuomo said.


Avoiding public transit is not an option for most New Yorkers and they’re not afraid to let the mayor know. “Happy to ride a bike to work. Can you make it so people don’t die in Queens while biking? Vehicular deaths are a public health crisis too,” one Twitter user said in response to de Blasio’s announcement. In the city’s other effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, transit workers started to disinfect subway turnstiles, station handrails, MetroCard and ticket vending machines daily and other frequently used parts of the system, according to a statement from Transport Workers Union President Tony Utano. The deep clean extends to Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and Access-A-Ride services as well. In addition to the daily cleaning, the MTA says its full fleet of subway trains and buses will undergo sanitization every 72 hours.

Read more …

I think Yanis is getting ahead of himself. What the situation will be once the pandemic is over is so murky right now we must all be very cautious about predicting anythig.

A Perfect Storm Of Nationalism And Financial Speculation (Varoufakis)

Nationalism and speculation have seldom had a better opportunity to combine forces as the one riding today on the coattails of Covid-19, known as the coronavirus. When Covid-19 leapfrogged from China to Italy, even ardent Europeanists normally appreciative of open borders joined the deafening calls to end freedom of movement across Europe’s national borders – a longstanding demand of nationalists. Meanwhile, the money men speculating on government debt are performing a classic flight from Italian to German government bonds, seeking the financial safety that only the continent’s hegemon can offer during any crisis. As if in a bid to remind us of the great contradiction of our times, Covid-19 is illuminating gloriously the freedom of money to transcend a borderless financial universe while humans remain as fenced in as ever.

Meanwhile in the United States, President Trump is combining his standard call for taller walls with a fresh instruction to moneymen to “buy the dip” in Wall Street, rather than to follow their natural instinct to seek refuge in the boring but safe bond markets. A great deal will depend on whether financiers believe Mr Trump or not, and not just because this is an election year. If speculators do believe the American president, Wall Street will recover swiftly even before the epidemic subsides. The forces of xenophobic financialisation will then have triumphed and America’s progressives will face an uphill struggle on every political front. As for the European Union, ruling elites will breathe a sigh of relief that a new depression was avoided and return to managing as best as they can the economic stagnation of recent times, tinged this time with a large dose of additional, coronavirus-reinforced, xenophobia.

Will Wall Street follow Mr Trump’s advice to “buy the dip”? For now, the large players are in two minds. The drop in the stock market does not worry them as such. Their concern is that the recent bull market was running on increasingly suspect debt and that Covid-19 may have pricked a bubble that was going to burst anyway. Similarly in Europe, the worst spectre hovering over investors’ heads is that large corporations, relying for too long on free money from the European Central Bank, may be downgraded from investment to junk-grade – especially so at a time of stagnant domestic demand and a collapsed Chinese import market.

Read more …

Maybe electric cars should run on electric tires?

Tyre Wear Produces 1,000 Times More Harmful Pollution Than Car Exhausts (BW)

Car tyres could be doing more damage to our health than the fumes from exhaust pipes, according to the results from a new test. Measurements found that 5.8 grams per kilometre of harmful particles are emitted by tyres as they wear when a car is being driven. That compares to 4.5 milligrams per kilometer produced from exhaust pipes of the latest vehicles on sale today – meaning harmful tyre outputs are higher by a factor of over 1,000. Assessments were conducted by UK-based experts Emissions Analytics, which specialises in calculating the pollution produced by cars in real-world driving.


The type of emissions tyres have been found to produce is harmful particulate matter that is almost impossible to see with the naked eye. It’s made up of microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter – also known as PM2.5 – pose the greatest risk to our health. Exposure can affect both the lungs and heart, with numerous scientific studies linking them to a variety of problems. This includes premature death in people with heart or lung disease, nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function and wider respiratory symptoms.

Read more …

But there are videos of Turkish troops destroying Greek fences to let migants pass. Erdogan is in Brussels today.

Putin Saves Erdogan From Himself (Escobar)

At the start of their discussion marathon in Moscow on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with arguably the most extraordinary diplomatic gambit of the young 21st century. Putin said: “At the beginning of our meeting, I would like to once again express my sincere condolences over the death of your servicemen in Syria. Unfortunately, as I have already told you during our phone call, nobody, including Syrian troops, had known their whereabouts.” This is how a true world leader tells a regional leader, to his face, to please refrain from positioning his forces as jihadi supporters – incognito, in the middle of an explosive theater of war. The Putin-Erdogan face-to-face discussion, with only interpreters allowed in the room, lasted three hours, before another hour with the respective delegations.

In the end, it all came down to Putin selling an elegant way for Erdogan to save face – in the form of, what else, yet another ceasefire in Idlib, which started at midnight on Thursday, signed in Turkish, Russian and English – “all texts having equal legal force.” Additionally, on March 15, joint Turkish-Russian patrolling will start along the M4 highway – implying endless mutating strands of al-Qaeda in Syria won’t be allowed to retake it. If this all looks like déjà vu, that’s because it is. Quite a few official photos of the Moscow meeting prominently feature Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu – the other two heavyweights in the room apart from both Presidents. In the wake of Putin, Lavrov and Shoigu must have read the riot act to Erdogan in no uncertain terms.

That’s enough: now behave, please – or else face dire consequences. A predictable feature of the new ceasefire is that both Moscow and Ankara – part of the Astana peace process, alongside Tehran – remain committed to maintaining the “territorial integrity and sovereignty” of Syria. Once again, there’s no guarantee that Erdogan will abide. It’s crucial to recap the basics. Turkey is deep in financial crisis. Ankara needs cash – badly. The lira is collapsing. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is losing elections. Former prime minister and party leader Ahmet Davutoglu – who conceptualized neo-Ottomanism – has left the party and is carving his own political niche. The AKP is mired in an internal crisis.

Erdogan’s response has been to go on the offensive. That’s how he re-establishes his aura. Combine Idlib with his maritime pretensions around Cyprus and blackmail pressure on the EU via the inundation of Lesbos in Greece with refugees, and we have Erdogan’s trademark modus operandi in full swing. In theory, the new ceasefire will force Erdogan to finally abandon all those myriad al Nusra/ISIS metastases – what the West calls “moderate rebels,” duly weaponized by Ankara. This is an absolute red line for Moscow – and also for Damascus. There will be no territory left behind for jihadis. Iraq is another story: ISIS is still lurking around Kirkuk and Mosul.

[..] No NATO fanatic will ever admit it, but once again it was Russia that just prevented the threatened “Muslim invasion” of Europe advertised by Erdogan. Yet there was never any invasion in the first place, only a few thousand economic migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Sahel, not Syrians. There are no “one million” Syrian refugees on the verge of entering the EU. The EU, proverbially, will keep blabbering. Brussels and most capitals still have not understood that Bashar al-Assad has been fighting al Nusra/ISIS all along. They simply don’t understand the correlation of forces on the ground. Their fallback position is always the scratched CD of “European values.” No wonder the EU is a secondary actor in the whole Syrian tragedy.

Read more …

To think there were scores of people who said Hill made so much sense. Very simple questions that remain unanswered: what exactly do the Russians do according to her, and how exactly does that divide Americans? Never an answer, other than “US intelligence believes that…”

Fiona Hill Says Putin Has America ‘Exactly Where He Wants Us’ (CNN)

President Donald Trump’s former top Russia adviser is warning that President Vladimir Putin has America “exactly where he wants us.” “Putin, sadly, has got all of our political class, every single one of us, including the media, exactly where he wants us. He’s got us feeling vulnerable…on edge, and he’s got us questioning the legitimacy of our own systems,” Fiona Hill told CBS’ Lesley Stahl in an interview set to air on “60 Minutes” Sunday. The interview marks the former top White House official’s first since testifying in the impeachment inquiry into Trump. During congressional hearings in the inquiry, Hill warned that the Republican defense of the President — by peddling Ukraine conspiracy theories — was in danger of extending Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Hill, who left the Trump administration last summer, has studied Russia for decades and is a critical biographer of Putin, authoring or co-authoring a number of books on Russia, including two editions of a book titled “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. In the interview, Hill said Russia understands how to exploit American divisions. “The Russians didn’t invent partisan divides. The Russians haven’t invented racism in the United States,” Hill said. “But the Russians understand a lot of those divisions, and they understand how to exploit them.” Russian interference in the last presidential election — which the US intelligence community believes was aimed at boosting Trump’s candidacy and hurting his opponent, Hillary Clinton — led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Part of the election interference included a Russian government-linked troll operation that sought to help Trump’s candidacy and undercut that of Clinton in part by posting messages in support of Sanders. Concerns over the Kremlin’s role in US politics have continued. The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with. In February, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders also said his campaign was briefed about Russian efforts to help his operation. It was unclear how Russia was attempting to help the Vermont senator.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

Today is International Women’s Day. So of course the DNC changes its rules yet again, this time to bar its only remaining female candidate from participating in the next debate.

 


 

 

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Mar 082020
 


Unknown Daniels-Wells Pontiac, 3055 Broadway, Oakland CA 1938

 

Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing (Atl.)
US Airport Screeners, Health Workers Plagued By Fear And Anger (R.)
One Tests Positive After Conference Also Attended By Trump, Pence, Pompeo (X.)
Nebraska Woman Rushed To Bio-Containment Unit In Specialized Isolation Pod (DM)
Italy To Quarantine Whole Of Lombardy Due To Coronavirus (O.)
Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine (O.)
Head Of Italy Players’ Union Calls For Soccer To Stop (R.)
Lebanon To Default On Foreign Debt Payments For First Time (BBC)
IMF Deal Would Spark ‘Popular Revolution’ In Lebanon – Hezbollah (R.)
US Blocks UN Statement Backing Syria Ceasefire (Ditz)
Top Saudi Royals ‘Arrested For Plotting With Americans Against King’ (RT)
Saudi Arabia Starts All-Out Oil War (ZH)

 

 

 

Cases 106,487 (+ 3,943 from yesterday’s 102,544)

Deaths 3,600 (+ 99 from yesterday’s 3,501)

 

Lovely. North America moves its clock 3 full weeks ahead of Europe. I lose an hour every morning.

Meanwhile, the virus continues its march unabated. In virus time.

 

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

South Korea has tested 200,000+ people, it says. The Atlantic could only confirm 1,895 tests in the US.

Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing (Atl.)

It’s one of the most urgent questions in the United States right now: How many people have actually been tested for the coronavirus? This number would give a sense of how widespread the disease is, and how forceful a response to it the United States is mustering. But for days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has refused to publish such a count, despite public anxiety and criticism from Congress. On Monday, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, estimated that “by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed” in the United States. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence promised that “roughly 1.5 million tests” would be available this week.

But the number of tests performed across the country has fallen far short of those projections, despite extraordinarily high demand, The Atlantic has found. “The CDC got this right with H1N1 and Zika, and produced huge quantities of test kits that went around the country,” Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, told us. “I don’t know what went wrong this time.” Through interviews with dozens of public-health officials and a survey of local data from across the country, The Atlantic could only verify that 1,895 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States, about 10 percent of whom have tested positive. And while the American capacity to test for the coronavirus has ramped up significantly over the past few days, local officials can still test only several thousand people a day, not the tens or hundreds of thousands indicated by the White House’s promises.


To arrive at our estimate, we contacted the public-health departments of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We gathered data on websites, and we corresponded with dozens of state officials. All 50 states and D.C. have made some information available, though the quality and timeliness of the data varied widely. Some states have only committed to releasing their numbers once or three times a week. Most are focused on the number of confirmed cases; only a few have publicized the number of people they are capable of testing. The Atlantic’s numbers reflect the best available portrait of the country’s testing capacity as of early this morning. These numbers provide an accurate baseline, but they are incomplete. Scattered on state websites, the data available are not useful to citizens or political leaders. State-based tallies lack the reliability of the CDC’s traditional—but now abandoned—method of reporting.

[..] Our reporting found that the capacity to test for the coronavirus varies dramatically—and sometimes dangerously—from state to state. California claims the highest testing capacity of any state, and has tested the most individuals so far. As of yesterday afternoon, it had tested 516 people, with 53 positive cases, a spokesperson for the Department of Health told us. The department now has the capacity to test 6,000 people every day, and it expects that capacity to expand to 7,400 people a day starting today, the spokesperson said. Washington State, the site of the country’s largest outbreak thus far, can test roughly 1,000 people a day. The state health department’s laboratory can test 100 people a day; the rest of the testing is being done at the University of Washington’s Virology Lab.


Officials have found 70 positive cases in Washington so far, though a genetic study has estimated that there may be hundreds of untested people who have COVID-19 in the greater Seattle area. Oregon, situated between the California and Washington hot spots, can test only about 40 people a day. Texas has 16 positive cases, according to media reports, but the health department’s website still lists only three cases. The Texas Tribune has reported that the state can test approximately 30 people a day.

Read more …

Everyone up and down the food chain of command should tell their superiors they’ll do it, but only if he/she will be standing there next to them doing the same job, with the same gear and the same protection.

US Airport Screeners, Health Workers Plagued By Fear And Anger (R.)

As coronavirus cases exploded across the world, federal medical workers tasked with screening incoming passengers at U.S. airports grew alarmed: Many were working without the most effective masks to protect them from getting sick themselves. Screeners with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked their supervisors this week to change official protocols and require stronger masks, according to an internal document reviewed by Reuters. On Friday evening, they learned their worst fears were realized: Two screeners, both working at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), had tested positive for the virus. “Sad news,” a senior quarantine official at the CDC wrote in an email Friday evening to colleagues about the two workers.

The email, reviewed by Reuters and not previously reported, said the two screeners will be quarantined until March 17. “Let us keep our colleagues at LAX in our thoughts.” The news was not surprising to some CDC screeners. “It was bound to happen,” said a veteran CDC medical official involved with screening who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They are assuring us we are safe. If we were safe, screeners would not be getting sick.” The struggles within the CDC, an agency that advises the country’s health systems about how to protect people against the virus, underscore the difficulties confronting health workers across the nation and illustrate a challenge for the Trump administration, which has faced criticism over its response to the outbreak.

[..] The CDC recommends that so-called “secondary” screeners, who meet with passengers who have traveled to certain countries, such as China, wear a surgical mask, gloves and eye protection, Nordlund said. Secondary screeners are advised to stand six feet away from passengers they observe and do not wear the sturdier N95 masks, also known as respirators, because they aren’t exposed to symptomatic travelers, she said. N95 masks are designed to protect screeners from the smaller pathogens such as coronavirus which can penetrate deeper into the lungs. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, surgical masks are not designed to block very small particles, such as those transmitted by coughs and sneezes, and do not provide complete protection because of the loose fit.


Nordlund said that CDC’s guidance calls for screeners who meet with people exhibiting obvious signs of illness to wear N95 respirators and other protective gear. But people infected with the coronavirus do not necessarily exhibit obvious signs of illness. “Surgical masks won’t protect us from getting the virus – they just protect us from infecting someone else,” the CDC medical official involved in screening said. “We want to know why we can’t wear N-95 masks. It’s crazy.” “You might as well have a tissue over your face for all the good it will do,” the official added.

Read more …

Getting close.

One Tests Positive After Conference Also Attended By Trump, Pence, Pompeo (X.)

An attendee at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which U.S. President Donald Trump also attended, has tested positive for COVID-19, the American Conservative Union (ACU) said on Saturday. The exposure occurred prior to the conference held in National Harbor, U.S. state of Maryland, just south of Washington D.C., said the ACU, a conservative grassroots organization, in a statement. A New Jersey hospital tested the person, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the positive result, said the statement. “The individual is under the care of medical professionals in the state of New Jersey, and has been quarantined,” it said. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the gathering, which took place from Feb. 26 to Feb. 29.


Also present at the event were a number of administration and cabinet officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, and newly-appointed White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Saturday that the White House is aware of the attendee testing positive for the virus. “At this time there is no indication that either President Trump or Vice President Pence met with or were in close proximity to the attendee,” Grisham said in a statement. “The president’s physician and United States Secret Service have been working closely with White House Staff and various agencies to ensure every precaution is taken to keep the First Family and the entire White House Complex safe and healthy.”

Read more …

Yeah, sure, going for the cheap effect. But this woman is just 36 years old, not 86. Maybe the photo can bring this home.

Nebraska Woman Rushed To Bio-Containment Unit In Specialized Isolation Pod (DM)

In Nebraska, there were dramatic scenes as a woman who tested positive for the virus was rushed from a community hospital to the nation’s leading biocontainment unit at he University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha. The 36-year-old Nebraska resident was photographed being transported to the facility in a hi-tech isolation pod late Friday. The woman, who is the first person in Nebraska to test positive to coronavirus, is ‘very seriously ill’, according to doctors who spoke with Omaha.com Saturday. A chest CT scan conducted yesterday showed the coronavirus is evolving into acute respiratory distress syndrome (ADRS). The syndrome, which is characterized by a rapid onset of widespread inflammation in the lungs, is often fatal. People with ARDS suffer severe shortness of breath and often are unable to breathe on their own without support from a ventilator.


The woman reportedly traveled to England with her father February 18 to February 27. She began to feel ill on February 25, two days before she flew back to the United States. Doctors say they are still trying to piece together where she went and who she had contact with in the 10 days since she arrived back from overseas. According to doctors, her symptoms were quite mild until this Thursday, when she arrived at a local emergency room. As her condition took a turn for the worse Friday, a decision was made to move her from Omaha’s Methodist Hospital to the to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. [..] the woman was place in an isolation pod, made of heavy duty plastic and complete with a dozen ports for ventilators and other tubes. Medics donned plastic face shields, rubber gloves and rain boots as they moved her from the ambulance in a stretcher.


A woman who tested positive with the coronavirus is brought to the University of Nebraska Medical Center on Friday. She was transferred from Omaha’s Methodist Hospital in an isolation pod inside an ambulance ©AP

Read more …

Things move fast: mere hours after the closure of Lombardy is reported, a new report says a “Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine” in 11-14 provinces.

Italy To Quarantine Whole Of Lombardy Due To Coronavirus (O.)

The Italian government is to lockdown the northern region of Lombardy, as it battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus. A draft decree would extend the quarantined areas, so-called “red-zones”, ordering people not to enter or leave the region. The country is grappling to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of Covid-19, which has claimed 233 lives and infected a total of 5,883 people. Italian authorities announced that a new decree containing draconian measures would be approved later on Saturday. It will include the power to impose fines on anyone caught entering or leaving Lombardy, the worst-affected region, until 3 April. People may be allowed in and out for serious reasons. The decree provides for banning all public events, closing cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos and pubs. Religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings will also be banned.


Rome is also considering prolonging the closure of schools across the country until 3 April, while major sporting events, such as Serie A football games, will be played behind closed doors. The number of coronavirus cases in Italy leapt by more than 1,200 in a 24-hour period, the civil protection agency said on Saturday. It is the biggest daily rise since the outbreak began two weeks ago. The number of cases in the country rose to 5,883 on Saturday from 4,636 announced on Friday, with the spread showing little sign of slowing. In total there are now 5,061 cases, not including those who have died or recovered. The northern regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto are the hardest hit, representing 85% of cases and 92% of recorded deaths. “We will win this battle if our citizens adopt a responsible attitude and change their way of living,” the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Angelo Borrelli, told a press conference.

Read more …

Ben Hunt: “Italy is a time machine that shows us our future.”

Quarter Of Italy’s Population Put In Quarantine (O.)

Italy has formally locked down more than a quarter of its population in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, as the outbreak reached Washington DC and a political convention attended by Donald Trump and Mike Pence. More than 5,800 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Italy, after an alarming increase of more than 1,200 in a single 24-hour period. Two hundred and thirty-three people have died. Almost 100 countries are now responding to outbreaks. In the early hours of Sunday, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree enacting forced quarantine for the region of Lombardy – home to more than 10 million people and the financial capital, Milan – and multiple other provinces, totalling around 16 million residents.

Affected provinces include Venice, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Pesaro and Urbino, Alessandria, Asti, Novara, Verbano Cusio Ossola, Vercelli, Padua, and Treviso. The lockdown decree includes the power to impose fines on anyone caught entering or leaving Lombardy, the worst-affected region, until 3 April. It provides for the banning of all public events, closing cinemas, theatres, gyms, discos and pubs. Religious ceremonies such as funerals and weddings will also be prohibited, and leave for healthcare workers has been cancelled. Rome is also prolonging the closure of schools across the country until at least 3 April, while major sporting events, such as Serie A football games, will be played behind closed doors.

Read more …

And forget about soccer Eurocup, Olympics etc.

Head Of Italy Players’ Union Calls For Soccer To Stop (R.)

The President of Italy’s players’ union (AIC) has called for soccer to be stopped in the country amid reports that the entire region of Lombardy will be locked down as part of efforts to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. The Italian government has ordered all sporting competitions to be played behind closed doors until April 3 in a bid to control the spread of the disease, which has killed around 200 people in the country. And tough new measures are expected to be approved on Saturday that will tell people not to enter or leave Lombardy, home to around 10 million people, as well as 11 provinces in four other regions.


Damiano Tommasi, head of the players’ union, responded to the news on Twitter by posting a link to the story and issuing a plea to stop games from going ahead. He wrote: “Let’s stop the league!! Do we need anything else? Stop football!!” Tommasi also issued a statement on the AIC website earlier in the day outlining his concerns for players’ welfare. “There is a risk for players and we must take all precautions for the security of those who play: on the pitch you certainly can’t stay at a distance of one meter away. “But every measure must be taken to guarantee the safety of everyone at the stadium, including staff and personnel, to reduce the risks.

Read more …

A long time coming.

Lebanon To Default On Foreign Debt Payments For First Time (BBC)

Lebanon is to default on a foreign debt payment for the first time in its history as the country struggles with a major financial crisis. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Lebanon would not be making a bond payment of $1.2bn due on Monday. “The debt has become bigger than Lebanon can bear, and bigger than the ability of the Lebanese to meet interest payments,” Mr Diab said. Lebanon has been struggling since the value of its currency plummeted. The Lebanese pound has been losing value against the dollar for months, in part because the country’s banks have been reluctant to convert local pounds to dollars – leading to an increase in demand for the latter.


This issue with foreign exchange has led to importers having difficulty accessing goods, which have become more expensive. Those with savings have also been affected by the drop in value of the local currency. In a live televised address on Saturday, Mr Diab said that negotiations to restructure the country’s debt, which stands at more than $30bn, would continue “with all creditors… in a manner consistent with the national interest”. Mr Diab added that more than 40% of the population could soon be in poverty as Lebanon tackles its worst economic crisis in decades.

Read more …

From a few days ago, before the default was announced. France is heavily involved. And the IMF deal should be there any moment now.

IMF Deal Would Spark ‘Popular Revolution’ In Lebanon – Hezbollah (R.)

Hezbollah believes that terms required by any IMF bailout package for Lebanon would spark “a popular revolution”, a senior official said on Tuesday, rejecting such a step and calling instead for a “national solution” to a deep economic crisis. Lebanon is in the throes of an unprecedented economic crisis, the result of long-entrenched corruption and bad governance that have landed the state with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens. Hezbollah, a heavily armed Shi’ite group which is backed by Iran and designated a terrorist organization by Washington, is one of the main backers of a new government that has sought technical but not financial aid from the International Monetary Fund.


Long-standing financial backer France said last week it was looking at options to support Lebanon, including through an IMF program if Beirut sought one. Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah told Reuters the group was against the type of terms typically imposed by the IMF as part of a bailout such as taxes, privatization, reducing the size of the public sector and halting subsidies. “The position is not toward the Fund as an international financial institution but on the terms offered to Lebanon, because they will lead to a popular revolution,” he said. “Our position is against this type of program and not against the Fund as an organization.”

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Most notable: Erdogan keeps the peace for now.

US Blocks UN Statement Backing Syria Ceasefire (Ditz)

The ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib Province took effect on Friday, and has been holding so far. With every other nation on board, the US blocked a joint UN statement backing the ceasefire, saying it was “premature” to do so. The ceasefire was brokered by Turkey and Russia, and that’s almost certainly the problem from the US perspective. The US broadly refuses to back any Syria agreements Russia is involved in. US officials had also been loudly backing Turkey’s military offensive in Idlib, and probably aren’t happy that Turkey has made a deal not to go to war. US officials weren’t super on board with directly participating in a Turkey-instigated war, but were only too happy to give lip-service to it. Having the UN back a ceasefire, even if it is one not expected to necessarily survive, is usually the norm, though the US may find, in seeking backing for its Afghan deal, they may face similar resistance.

Read more …

RT adds a “nice” twist. There are rumors that King Salman has either already died or is about to, and MbS is consolidating his power before his death leads to a revolt.

Top Saudi Royals ‘Arrested For Plotting With Americans Against King’ (RT)

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has had his relatives arrested for plotting a coup against him and King Salman with the help of “foreign powers, including the Americans,” Western media claim. RT asked Middle East analysts to weigh in. Three senior members of the Saudi Royal family were arrested on Friday, several Western media outlets have reported, citing sources. The list of detainees includes prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew and former crown prince, and Nawaf bin Nayef, the younger half-brother of Prince Nayef, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has allegedly accused them of treason, namely “conducting contacts with foreign powers, including the Americans and others, to carry out a coup d’etat” against King Salman and his son, Reuters, which has also picked up the news, added, citing own sources. While Western media is not above publishing unverified rumors about the ‘regimes’ they dislike, some of which have turned out to be utterly fake, there is no easy way to verify reports on the secretive world of Saudi court affairs. One has to bear in mind the possibility someone in Riyadh has purposefully fed the news to the media. While the reports of the high-profile arrests have yet to be confirmed by Saudi Arabia, they wouldn’t be unprecedented.


The allegations of foreign involvement may be meant for domestic consumption in Saudi Arabia and nothing to do with international politics, believes Sergey Balmasov from the Moscow-based Institute for the Near East. “What other foreign meddler could they have named? Accusing, for example Iran would have not been credible,” he explained. The US has great influence in the Saudi military and intelligence services, thanks to decades of training their members, Balmasov added. So if the US as a nation were actually determined to effect a regime change in Saudi Arabia, “a different person would have now been in the palace.” If the US really needed this, a bloodless coup would have happened already, and I’m sure many Americans wouldn’t have even noticed.

Read more …

Sorry, but no. Putin started this by refusing OPEC+ production cuts. Saudi merely reacted to that.

Saudi Arabia Starts All-Out Oil War (ZH)

With the commodity world still smarting from the Nov 2014 Saudi decision to (temporarily) break apart OPEC, and flood the market with oil in (failed) hopes of crushing US shale producers (who survived thanks to generous banks extending loan terms and even more generous buyers of junk bonds), which nonetheless resulted in a painful manufacturing recession as the price of Brent cratered as low as the mid-$20’s in late 2015/early 2016, on Saturday, Saudi Arabia launched its second scorched earth, or rather scorched oil campaign in 6 years. And this time there will be blood.

Following Friday’s shocking collapse of OPEC+, when Russia and Riyadh were unable to reach an agreement during the OPEC+ summit in Vienna which was seeking up to 1.5 million b/d in further oil production cuts, on Saturday Saudi Arabia kick started what Bloomberg called an all-out oil war, slashing official pricing for its crude and making the deepest cuts in at least 20 years on its main grades, in an effort to push as many barrels into the market as possible. In the first major marketing decision since the meeting, the Saudi state producer Aramco, which successfully IPOed just before the price of oil cratered launched unprecedented discounts and cut its April pricing for crude sales to Asia by $4-$6 a barrel and to the U.S. by a whopping $7 a barrel in attempts to steal market share from 3rd party sources, according to a copy of the announcement seen by Bloomberg.


In the most significant move, Aramco widened the discount for its flagship Arab Light crude to refiners in north-west Europe by a hefty $8 a barrel, offering it at $10.25 a barrel under the Brent benchmark. In contrast, Urals, the Russian flagship crude blend, trades at a discount of about $2 a barrel under Brent. Traders said the Saudi move was a direct attack at the ability of Russian companies to sell crude in Europe. Confirming the obvious, Iman Nasseri, managing director for the Middle East at oil consultant FGE said “Saudi Arabia is now really going into a full price war.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 042020
 


DPC North approach, Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Canal 1915

 

 

 

WHO Raises Global Mortality Rate For COVID-19 Up To 3.4% (CNBC)
Maybe Jay Powell’s Not Cut Out For This Fed Chair Thing (Shazar)
Airlines Rush To Boost Demand As Coronavirus Shreds Crisis Playbooks (R.)
Market Mayhem Exposes Fears About Oil Companies (CNN)
China’s Funding Breakdown Emphasises Economic Imbalances (SCMP)
CIA Has Been Attacking Multiple Chinese Bodies For 11 Years (PDaily)
Court: Clinton Must Testify On Email Scandal (Turley)
Napolitano: Hillary Clinton Faces A Catch-22 Over Private Email Server (Fox)
The Establishment Struggles With The “Nightmare” Of Authenticity (Turley)
Russia Says Turkey Does Not Meet Terms Of Pact In Syria’s Idlib (R.)
Russia Says Turkey Trying To Push 130,000 Refugees From Syria Into Greece (R.)
EU Pledges €700 Million To Help Greece Fight Migrant Influx From Turkey (F24)
Planet Plastic (Rolling Stone)

The virus has been reported in 81 countries and counting (+ Diamond Princess).

First cases in last 48 hours:

– Chile
– Argentina
– Liechtenstein
– Ukraine
– Gibraltar
– Morocco
– Senegal
– Tunisia
– Latvia
– Jordan
– Andorra
– Portugal
– Indonesia
– Saudi Arabia

This is from Worldometer (I include them daily, see below), yesterday afternoon. They change to a “new day” at a for me odd time, which would make the numbers unclear. Check the huge increases in cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea -which added aother 435 cases today-. Also, WA state is a cluster. 9 deaths in no time. US cases up to 128 now. Virus may indeed, as has been suggested, have been around for 6 weeks.

 

 

• Germany reports 46 new cases
• Iran: 300,000 “volunteers” and soldiers, 54,000 prisoners out on bail
• Oregon officials warn up to 500 cases may be in state already
• Italy mulls cancelling all sporting events for a month

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate at 6%):

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

And of course there’s Joe Biden’s huge win. CNN and the Dems act as if they own the world and he’s about to beat Trump. Last night, CNN switched to one of their people in one of the Super Tuesday states, and he started off saying: “The Republicans are getting vey nervous…”

Why on earth would they, though? I’ve always maintained the Hunter affair makes him unfit, but there’s more. He’s a desperate choice by those who’ve held the reins in the party for decades. We’ll see stuff like this repeated 1000 times:

 

 

As we already saw yesterday, the mortality rate is very diffrent from one location to another. Much higher in the US and Italy than in South Korea?! Same virus?

WHO Raises Global Mortality Rate For COVID-19 Up To 3.4% (CNBC)

World health officials said Tuesday the mortality rate for COVID-19 is 3.4% globally, higher than previous estimates of about 2%. “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. In comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected, he said. The World Health Organization had said last week that the mortality rate of COVID-19 can differ, ranging from 0.7% to up to 4%, depending on the quality of the health-care system where it’s treated. Early in the outbreak, scientists had concluded the death rate was around 2.3%.

During a press briefing Monday, WHO officials said they don’t know how COVID-19 behaves, saying it’s not like influenza. They added that while much is known about the seasonal flu, such as how it’s transmitted and what treatments work to suppress the disease, that same information is still in question when it comes to the coronavirus. “This is a unique virus, with unique features. This virus is not influenza,” Tedros said Monday. “We are in uncharted territory.” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said Monday that the coronavirus isn’t transmitting the same exact way as the flu and health officials have been given a “glimmer, a chink of light” that the virus could be contained.


“Here we have a disease for which we have no vaccine, no treatment, we don’t fully understand transmission, we don’t fully understand case mortality, but what we have been genuinely heartened by is that unlike influenza, where countries have fought back, where they’ve put in place strong measures, we’ve remarkably seen that the virus is suppressed,” Ryan said.

 

Read more …

Unless you think his job is to transfer money to Fed member bannks.

Maybe Jay Powell’s Not Cut Out For This Fed Chair Thing (Shazar)

For 10 days, while the markets were cratering as if they themselves had contracted a very serious case of coronavirus, Fed officials made all of their Fed-y reassuring mouth sounds: We’re keeping an eye on things, we’ll do something if it’s warranted, but it’s not yet, so just calm down. And then the markets did, soaring yesterday and continuing that rise today. At least until, after watching everyone else—including the White House, which although it wants to make clear thinks this whole China-virus or whatever things is totally overblown and invented like climate change to hurt the Dear Leader, did think that Jay Powell & co. were doing their typically horrible job containing a thing that Larry Kudlow said was already contained and oh yea doesn’t exist anyway—overreact for a week and a half, the Fed decided it would like to go a little nuts itself.

“The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark rate by a half percentage point on Tuesday morning, delivering a booster shot to stem potential economic disruptions from the spreading coronavirus epidemic with its first between-meeting move since the financial crisis…. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell at a press conference following the rate cut said the central bank “judged that the risks to the U.S. outlook have changed materially” and that the Fed “can and will do our part, however, to keep the U.S. economy strong as we meet this challenge.” Well, if Powell’s goal was to get the panic-selling on Wall Street to resume, he did his usual heckuva job.

“Stocks initially shot higher, propelling the Dow Jones Industrial Average up more than 300 points. But within 15 minutes, stocks’ initial gains gave way to jerky up-and-down trading action—with the blue-chip average and Treasury yields falling to session lows after Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged the limits of the central bank’s actions in a press conference…. The Dow fell 510 points, or 1.9%, to 26194, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were down 1.7% and 1.6%, respectively. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note, a benchmark for everything from mortgage rates to student loans, slipped to 1.036%.”

Read more …

Much of that industry is set to go under.

Airlines Rush To Boost Demand As Coronavirus Shreds Crisis Playbooks (R.)

The rapid spread of coronavirus cases worldwide is complicating a standard strategy used by airlines when disease, disaster or conflict hit travel destinations: lower fares and redirect flights to trouble-free areas. For now, some airlines have resorted to suspending change fees for new ticket reservations in the hope of winning over hesitant travelers until it becomes clearer where coronavirus outbreaks are localized and which routes could benefit from price drops. While lower fares have proven effective in the past in reviving demand, aviation consultant Samuel Engel said, “The pocketbook only works so far against emotion.” The coronavirus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has spread around the world, with more new cases now appearing outside China than inside.

JetBlue Airways Corp, which does not fly to Asia, was the first airline to launch free rebooking options last week, as it became clear that cases were not isolated to China. JetBlue pulled together and announced its plan in a matter of hours, President Joanna Geraghty told Reuters. “We tried to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and think about what we would want if we were, for example, booking a spring-break trip right now,” Geraghty said. U.S. majors have since followed suit with varying waivers on change fees for new reservations to many destinations, a switch from a previous policy that covered only pre-booked flights to areas hardest-hit by the coronavirus.

[..] with none of the offers so far guaranteeing money-back refunds, travelers say the policies are not enough. “I understand that there are a lot of question marks right now for the industry on how this will unfold, but I don’t feel like there’s a truly customer-friendly policy out here,” said Amanda Elman-Kolb of Chicago, who has put on hold plans for a family trip to Europe in August. Declining demand to fly abroad is not limited to U.S. travelers. International travel to the United States will fall 6% over the next three months amid coronavirus concerns, the largest decline since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Travel Association forecast on Tuesday.

Read more …

And then came cratering demand due to the virus… Putin’s said he’s fine with $40 oil. Few others are.

Market Mayhem Exposes Fears About Oil Companies (CNN)

Oil prices have plunged into yet another bear market in response to demand destruction caused by flight cancellations, factory shutdowns and slowdowns in passenger traffic. Natural gas is sitting near a four-year low. The commodities crash will intensify the financial stress facing oil and gas companies that have piled on debt to capitalize on the shale boom. Energy stocks, already the biggest losers of last decade, are getting crushed. ExxonMobil and Chevron, two giants built to withstand weak oil, have plunged more than 20% apiece this year. “It’s making an already bad situation worse,” said Spencer Cutter, credit analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. The pain is more acute among independent exploration and production companies, some of which are highly leveraged.

Marathon Oil, Devon Energy and Noble Energy have all seen a third of their market values vanish this year. The turmoil has formed deep cracks in the junk bond market. Alarmingly, the gap between high-yield energy debt and ultra-safe government bonds has blown out to levels unseen since 2016, when oil prices crashed to $26 a barrel. The junk ratings for these energy companies aren’t new — only concerns about their financial health are. Cutter found that about one-third of the junk bonds in the Bloomberg/Barclays high-yield energy index are trading at distressed levels (roughly 10 percentage points above benchmark Treasuries, compared with just one percentage point for companies with strong credit ratings). That includes the bonds of companies including Chesapeake Energy, Whiting Petroleum, California Resources and Range Resources.

At those levels, highly leveraged oil and gas producers have effectively been locked out of the junk bond market. To raise cash, they will have to slash costs, sell assets, accept harsh borrowing terms from a hedge fund or seek a financial lifeline through a merger. Some debt-riddled oil companies won’t survive at all. “You could see a wave of bankruptcies,” said Cutter, the Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. The bill is coming due on a mountain of debt in the coming years. North American exploration and production companies have roughly $86 billion of debt maturing by 2024, according Moody’s Investors Services. More than half of those maturities, 62%, are in junk bonds.

Read more …

“After decades of pursuing balanced development nationwide, China now aims to concentrate resources on the best-performing provincial and municipal economies rather than pumping money into poor areas to help them catch up..”

China’s Funding Breakdown Emphasises Economic Imbalances (SCMP)

Cash from China’s financial system flowed mainly to the affluent Pearl River and Yangtze River Deltas in 2019, while funding for hard hit rust-belt provinces dried up, according to new figures published by its central bank. The figures offered fresh evidence of an increasing unequal financial landscape in the world’s second biggest economy. Rich areas continue to absorb more funds and talent to become richer, while poor areas lag behind. This imbalance presents a significant challenge for Beijing, as it attempts to navigate the wider issues that come with slowing economic growth.

Guangdong, the economic powerhouse adjoining Hong Kong, topped the list of provincial funding compiled by the People’s Bank of China, receiving 2.92 trillion yuan (US$417 billion) in the form of bank loans, bond issuance, and trust investments. This was 11.4 per cent of the national total. Guangdong accounts for 8.1 per cent of China’s population and 10.9 per cent of economic output. In second place was Jiangsu, China’s second largest provincial economy, which received 2.41 trillion yuan, followed by Zhejiang, another economic heavyweight, on 2.22 trillion. China’s capital of Beijing was the only northern region to feature high up in the rankings, absorbing 1.46 trillion yuan in financial flows. Hubei, meanwhile, the epicentre of the coronavirus, was in 10th position, with funding of 873.4 billion yuan (US$125 billion) last year.

Funding from China’s banking system, the bond market and even the shadow banking network is often key to regional economic growth. China’s southwesterly Yunnan province, for example, registered a nationwide high 8.1 per cent in gross domestic product growth. Over the same period, its fundraising rose by 43.5 per cent year-on-year to 492.6 billion yuan. [..] The disparity is also a product of a shift in policy by the Politburo, the 25-member decision-making body headed by President Xi Jinping, taken last summer. After decades of pursuing balanced development nationwide, China now aims to concentrate resources on the best-performing provincial and municipal economies rather than pumping money into poor areas to help them catch up.

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Is this a veiled attack on WikiLeaks?

CIA Has Been Attacking Multiple Chinese Bodies For 11 Years (PDaily)

A hacking group affiliated with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been attacking multiple Chinese bodies for 11 years, a new report found. According to the report by Chinese tech giant 360 Security Technology released on Tuesday, the attack by the group, coded by 360 Security as APT-C-39, has conducted a series of attacks against China’s aviation industry, scientific research institutions, petroleum industry, large-scale internet companies, and government bodies for more than a decade. The report analyzed “Vault7,” a trove of documents on cyber weapons disclosed by WikiLeaks in 2017. The report said that the group started launching advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks against China as early as September 2008 and they mainly targeted provincial regions like Beijing, Guangdong, and Zhejiang.


The Chinese tech giant was able to make the link thanks to Joshua Adam Schulte, a former CIA employee who played a core role in developing many of the CIA’s hacking tools and cyberspace weapons and participated in the development of Vault 7. Schulte provided evidence to 360 Security Technology and the trove of documents, the authenticity of which was confirmed by US prosecutors, became key to confirming that APT-C-39 was affiliated with the CIA, the Global Times reported, It has been proven repeatedly that the United States has been conducting large-scale, organized, and indiscriminate cyber theft and surveillance activities against foreign governments, businesses, and individuals, China’s defense ministry spokesperson said at a press conference on Friday.

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“..she will not be able claim the privilege against self-incrimination on the original alleged offenses since the statute of limitations has passed.”

Court: Clinton Must Testify On Email Scandal (Turley)

In a remarkable turnaround, Hillary Clinton will have to testify after all on the email scandal. Clinton has never been subject to true examination on the issue under oath. Instead, she was allowed to meet with investigators shortly before being cleared during the Obama Administration. D.C. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that her prior answers were insufficient and cursory. One interesting twist is that she will not be able claim the privilege against self-incrimination on the original alleged offenses since the statute of limitations has passed. While she would have been unlikely to do so, she would have evoked on a crime that could be prosecuted.

Ironically, it will be the Trump Administration that will have to defend her in opposing such demands since they are handling the litigation as it relates to her prior public service as Secretary of State. This surprising order follows the disclosure by watchdog group Judicial Watch last December that the FBI released “approximately thirty previously undisclosed Clinton emails.” Judicial Watch has argued that the State Department “failed to fully explain” where they came from. Lamberth decided that Clinton has not answered the troubling questions related to her email system:

“As extensive as the existing record is, it does not sufficiently explain Secretary Clinton’s state of mind when she decided it would be an acceptable practice to set up and use a private server to conduct State Department business. The court believes those responses were either incomplete, unhelpful, or cursory at best. Simply put, her responses left many more questions than answers.” While I expect that Clinton will have a lot of “I do not recall” answers given the passage of time, such examinations come at a risk of false statements under oath. Moreover, Judicial Watch can refresh her money with documents.

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“..Hillary Clinton could potentially fight a ruling that she must sit for a sworn deposition before a federal judge, but she would have to ask Attorney General William Barr for help..”

Napolitano: Hillary Clinton Faces A Catch-22 Over Private Email Server (Fox)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could potentially fight a ruling that she must sit for a sworn deposition before a federal judge, but she would have to ask Attorney General William Barr for help, Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explained Tuesday. In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Napolitano said that the former presidential candidate would have to ask Barr to file an appeal on her behalf because the Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers would be representing her in the matter. [..] “Judicial Watch has been trying to get copies of these documents [under The Freedom of Information Act]. When they looked at the documents, some of which have been prepared by Mrs. Clinton, you heard what the judge said: the answers were deceptive, misleading, and generated more questions than they answered.


Therefore, he ordered her to be deposed.” “She has never been deposed under oath on this,” he continued. “She was interrogated, but not under oath, in a secret interrogation by the FBI three days before they exonerated her.” Additionally, he noted, this deposition will also be videotaped. “She can’t plead the fifth, right?” asked host Ainsley Earhardt. “She can’t plead the fifth because the statute of limitations to prosecute her for failure to safeguard state secrets has come and gone. She can’t be prosecuted for that,” he replied. “She could be prosecuted if she lies under oath in this deposition. She is represented in the deposition by lawyers form the Justice Department.” “The same Justice Department that would prosecute her if she lies under oath,” he added.

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Very true. No authenticity left in the DNC.

The Establishment Struggles With The “Nightmare” Of Authenticity (Turley)

Heading into Super Tuesday, the media appears at its collective wit’s end. After the victory of Joe Biden in South Carolina, many attempted to portray a new day until the they faced polls in the morning showing Bernie Sanders again surging in states from California to Texas to even Massachusetts (where Elizabeth Warren is struggling to win her own state). Described as the “nightmare scenario,” the media and political establishment in Washington is back to clutching its pearls and speaking of a convention strategy to block Sanders, including Warren whose campaign calls such a move the “final play.”

The continuing support win for Bernie Sanders has sent the D.C. political and media establishment into vapors. On the eve of Super Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke all lined up to endorse Joe Biden to try to stop the momentum for Sanders. Others are growing more and more shrill. Democratic strategist James Carville proclaimed the winner to be Valdimir Putin. His point was that both Sanders and Trump continue surging despite unrelenting attacks in the media. The fact is that many in Washington still cannot compute why so many voters will not listen to them about Sanders and Trump. The reason is that they are valued for the one thing that the establishment cannot offer: authenticity.

[..] Authenticity is a word rarely applied to Trump, but it remains his greatest selling point outside Washington. While rarely acknowledged, Trump has fulfilled many of his campaign promises with his push on immigration, the wall, taxes, Jerusalem, renegotiating NAFTA, dropping the Iran deal, rolling back regulations, opening areas like the artic to drilling, finishing the Keystone pipeline, gutting Obamacare and other promises. More importantly, he does not try to pretend what he is not: honest or moral. He openly talks about delivering wealth and having people vote their pocketbooks. He is the ultimate car salesman who you don’t trust but still want to get a good deal from.

Bernie Sanders is genuinely authentic. Indeed, Sanders seems immune from changes from clothing or political styles. There was never a popular time to be socialist but Sanders never budged. To the contrary, he praised Castro and spent his birthday in the Soviet Union during the cold war. He changes his positions at the speed of tectonic plate shifts. That is why you can hate socialism but love Sanders because you know (like Trump) exactly what you are getting. Elizabeth Warren in comparison was known as a pro-corporate, anti-consumer academic for much of her career before being a champion of the downtrodden.

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Russia comments from the sidelines for now. Why would it help Europe when the MH17 “trial” is to start next week?

Russia Says Turkey Does Not Meet Terms Of Pact In Syria’s Idlib (R.)

Russia accused Turkey on Wednesday of failing to meet its obligations under a pact to create a demilitarised zone in Syria’s Idlib province and of helping militants instead. The RIA news agency quoted a Russian defense ministry spokesman as saying “terrorist” fortifications had merged with Turkish outposts in Idlib, resulting in daily attacks on Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria. Turkey had amassed troop numbers in Idlib equal to a mechanised division, violating international law, the Russian spokesman said. The Russian accusation came on the eve of a Thursday meeting in Moscow between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. They are expected to try to de-escalate tensions that have brought Turkey and Russia dangerously close to direct military confrontation.

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No link to Idlib. Just human pawns.

Russia Says Turkey Trying To Push 130,000 Refugees From Syria Into Greece (R.)

Russia on Tuesday said that Turkey was trying to push 130,000 refugees from Syria into Greece, the Interfax news agency cited the Defense Ministry as saying. The two thirds of these refugees – that Turkey is pushing from temporary camps in Syria – are Afghans, Iraqis and Africans, not Syrians, it added.

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In case you didn’t get yet that in Brussels it’s all exclusively about money.

EU Pledges €700 Million To Help Greece Fight Migrant Influx From Turkey (F24)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would provide Greece with “all the support needed” as it struggles with an influx of migrants allowed to cross from neighbouring Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that “millions” of migrants would soon head for Europe. EU chiefs on Tuesday pledged millions of euros of financial assistance to Greece to help tackle the migration surge from neighbouring Turkey, warning against those wishing to “test Europe’s unity”. Flying by helicopter over the Greek-Turkish border, where thousands of desperate asylum-seekers have tried to break through for days, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would provide Greece “all the support needed”.

“Those who seek to test Europe’s unity will be disappointed,” von der Leyen said, standing alongside Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the chiefs of the European Council and European Parliament. “We will hold the line and our unity will prevail.” The European Commission president said the bloc would provide 700 million euros ($777 million), half of it immediately, to help manage the migrant situation. In addition, the EU border agency Frontex will deploy a rapid intervention team including an additional 100 guards backed by coastal patrol vessels, helicopters and vehicles, she said. “Our first priority is making sure that order is maintained at the Greek external border, which is also the European border,” von der Leyen told journalists.

“I am fully committed to mobilising all the necessary operational support to the Greek authorities,” she said, adding that Greece was acting as a “shield” for Europe.

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Hopeless?!

Planet Plastic (Rolling Stone)

More than half the plastic now on Earth has been created since 2002, and plastic pollution is on pace to double by 2030. At its root, the global plastics crisis is a product of our addiction to fossil fuels. The private profit and public harm of the oil industry is well understood: Oil is refined and distributed to consumers, who benefit from gasoline’s short, useful lifespan in a combustion engine, leaving behind atmospheric pollution for generations. But this same pattern — and this same tragedy of the commons — is playing out with another gift of the oil-and-gas giants, whose drilling draws up the petroleum precursors for plastics. These are refined in industrial complexes and manufactured into bottles, bags, containers, textiles, and toys for consumers who benefit from their transient use — before throwing them away.

“Plastics are just a way of making things out of fossil fuels,” says Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network. BAN is devoted to enforcement of the Basel Convention, an international treaty that blocks the developed world from dumping hazardous wastes on the developing world, and was recently expanded, effective next year, to include plastics. For Americans who religiously sort their recycling, it’s upsetting to hear about plastic being lumped in with toxic waste. But the poisonous parallel is apt. When it comes to plastic, recycling is a misnomer. “They really sold people on the idea that plastics can be recycled because there’s a fraction of them that are,” says Puckett. “It’s fraudulent. When you drill down into plastics recycling, you realize it’s a myth.”

Since 1950, the world has created 6.3 trillion kilograms of plastic waste — and 91 percent has never been recycled even once, according to a landmark 2017 study published in the journal Science Advances. Unlike aluminum, which can be recycled again and again, plastic degrades in reprocessing, and is almost never recycled more than once. A plastic soda bottle, for example, might get downcycled into a carpet. Modern technology has hardly improved things: Of the 78 billion kilograms of plastic packaging materials produced in 2013, only 14 percent were even collected for recycling, and just two percent were effectively recycled to compete with virgin plastic. “Recycling delays, rather than avoids, final disposal,” the Science authors write. And most plastics persist for centuries.

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Jan 062020
 
 January 6, 2020  Posted by at 10:57 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Esther Bubley Soldiers with their girls at the Indianapolis bus station 1943

 

Gold, Oil Soar, Shares Slip As US And Iran Rattle Sabers (R.)
Iraqi PM Claims Soleimani Was On Peace Mission When Assassinated (GZ)
Iraqi Parliament Calls For Expulsion Of Foreign Troops (AlJ)
Boeing Reports “Previously Unreported Concerns” With Wiring In 737 MAX (CNN)
Why We’ll Never Get Rich By Putting Cash Away For A Rainy Day (Bell)
Fed Focuses On Repo Market Exit Strategy After Avoiding Year-End Crunch (R.)
PBOC Says Its Prudent Policies Will Continue (CD)
Trump Admin Pressed Dutch Hard To Cancel China Chip-Equipment Sale (R.)
Handwritten Note Found In Jeffrey Epstein’s Jail Cell (CBS)
Ghislaine Maxwell Under 24-Hour Guard By Former US Navy Seals (DM)
Victoria’s Secret Models Got Much Thinner Over Last 23 Years (WBUR)
Ricky Gervais Skewers Hollywood’s A-List (R.)

 

 

With war cries rulling the waves, “investors” wonder where their money is safest: with a sweat-shop using company that buys back its shares all the time, or with gold. Given volumes, governments, central banks also appear involved.

Gold, Oil Soar, Shares Slip As US And Iran Rattle Sabers (R.)

Tensions in the Middle East after the killing of a top Iranian general by the United States pushed an index of Asian shares off an 18-month high on Monday as investors pushed safe-haven gold near a seven-year high, and oil jumped to four-month peaks. The United States detected a heightened state of alert by Iran’s missile forces, as President Donald Trump warned the United States would strike back, “perhaps in a disproportionate manner,” if Iran attacked any American person or target. Iraq’s parliament on Sunday recommended all foreign troops be ordered out of the country after the U.S. killing of a top Iranian military commander and an Iraqi militia leader in a drone strike on a convoy at Baghdad airport.


Spot gold gained 1.6% to $1,579.55 per ounce in jittery trade to reach its highest since April 2013. Oil prices extended gains on fears any Middle East conflict could disrupt global supplies. Brent crude futures rose $1.9 to $70.50 a barrel, while U.S. crude climbed $1.5 to $64.57. “The risk of further escalation has clearly gone up – given the direct attack on Iran, Iran’s threat of retaliation and Trump’s desire to look tough – posing the threat of higher oil prices,” said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital. “Historically though oil prices need to double to pose a severe threat to global growth and we are long way from that.”

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Max Blumenthal takes a bit much as gospel: “Iraqi PM Reveals…”

Iraqi PM Claims Soleimani Was On Peace Mission When Assassinated (GZ)

At a January 3 State Department briefing, where reporters finally got the chance to demand evidence for the claim of an “imminent” threat, one US official erupted in anger. “Jesus, do we have to explain why we do these things?” he barked at the press. Two days later, when Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi addressed his country’s parliament, Trump’s justification for killing Soleimani was exposed as a cynical lie. According to Abdul-Mahdi, he had planned to meet Soleimani on the morning the general was killed to discuss a diplomatic rapproachment that Iraq was brokering between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Abdul-Mahdi said that Trump personally thanked him for the efforts, even as he was planning the hit on Soleimani – thus creating the impression that the Iranian general was safe to travel to Baghdad.


Soleimani had arrived in Baghdad not to plan attacks on American targets, but to coordinate de-escalation with Saudi Arabia. Indeed, he was killed while on an actual peace mission that could have created political distance between the Gulf monarchy and members of the US-led anti-Iran axis like Israel. The catastrophic results of Soleimani’s killing recall the Obama administration’s 2016 assassination of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansur, a Taliban leader who was eager to negotiate a peaceful end to the US occupation of Afghanistan. Mansur’s death wound up empowering hardline figures in the Taliban who favored a total military victory over the US and triggered an uptick in violence across the country, dooming hopes for a negotiated exit.

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Again: who gets what they wanted?

Iraqi Parliament Calls For Expulsion Of Foreign Troops (AlJ)

Iraq’s parliament has passed a resolution calling on the government to expel foreign troops from the country as Iran-US tensions escalate following the killing of a top Iranian military commander and Iraqi armed group leader in a US strike in Baghdad. In an extraordinary parliamentary session on Sunday, parliament called on the government to end all foreign troop presence in Iraq and to cancel its request for assistance from the US-led coalition which had been working with Baghdad to fight ISIL. “The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory,” the resolution read.


“The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason.” Parliament resolutions, unlike laws, are non-binding and the move would require new legislation to cancel the existing agreement. Ahead of the vote, chants of “No, no, America…long live Iraq”, rang out inside the hall, before Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also called on parliament to end foreign troop presence. “Despite the internal and external difficulties that we might face, it remains best for Iraq on principle and practically,” said Abdul Mahdi in an address to parliament ahead of the vote.

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Latest proposal: mandatory simulator trainning for all pilots. That’s what started the whole charade, so a nice round circle.

Boeing Reports “Previously Unreported Concerns” With Wiring In 737 MAX (CNN)

[..] as part of a December audit of the plane’s safety ordered by the US Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing found “previously unreported concerns” with wiring in the 737 Max, according to a report earlier Sunday from the New York Times. The company informed the FAA last month that it is looking into whether two sections of wiring that control the tail of the plane are too close together and could cause a short circuit — and potentially a crash, if pilots did not react appropriately — the Times reported, citing a senior Boeing engineer and three people familiar with the matter. A Boeing spokesperson confirmed the report to CNN Business on Sunday, saying the issue was identified as part of a “rigorous process” to ensure the plane’s safety.


“Our highest priority is ensuring the 737 Max meets all safety and regulatory requirements before it returns to service,” the spokesperson said. “We are working closely with the FAA and other regulators on a robust and thorough certification process to ensure a safe and compliant design.” The spokesperson said it “would be premature to speculate” whether the discovery will lead to new design changes for the plane, or further extend the timeline for its recertification. It will be a challenge for Boeing’s new chief executive, David Calhoun, who officially takes over the job on January 13 after former CEO Dennis Muilenburg was ousted on December 23. “A change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders,” the company in December.

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We would still do much better if central banks wouldn’t strangle interest rates.

Why We’ll Never Get Rich By Putting Cash Away For A Rainy Day (Bell)

Norway has a wealth tax. Now, I’m in favour of a greater role for wealth taxes but, whatever your view, there’s at least one benefit we should all appreciate: lots of data on who owns what. Recent research delves into this Norwegian data mine and helps us investigate the popular view that those with more wealth build it up by saving more. You might call this the “wealth as the reward for doing the right thing” view of the world. But the research finds it’s nonsense – Norwegians save around 7% of their income, however much they may own. Despite saving the same proportion as those with much less, those with lots accumulate more. Why? Because we can accumulate wealth by the rising value of assets, such as property and shares.


The wealthier have more assets and more capital gains. These are banked, not consumed, so the gap grows. This is a huge deal, explaining 80% of wealth growing faster than income in Norway. The UK has also seen a wealth boom from rising house prices. These unexpected windfalls – rather than active savings like paying off a mortgage – explain 82% of increased property wealth since the early 1990s. Yet we pretend that wealth comes from savings and we ignore these capital gains when considering who is doing well, and so we make a dog’s dinner out of taxing them. It’s time we woke up to where wealth has actually come from in modern Britain … and Norway.

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They can only exit repo if they support banks somewhere else.

Fed Focuses On Repo Market Exit Strategy After Avoiding Year-End Crunch (R.)

Wall Street’s worst fears of a year-end funding squeeze never materialized thanks in large part to the quarter-trillion dollars the Federal Reserve stuffed into the market to ensure nothing became gummed up. The question now, though, is what it will take for the U.S. central bank to withdraw from its daily liquidity operations in the $2.2 trillion market for repurchase agreements, or repos – after it became a dominant player in a short three months. “The repo operations are a band-aid, but the wound isn’t healed fully,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, an interest rate strategist at TD Securities. The New York Fed began injecting billions of dollars of liquidity into the repo market in mid-September, when a confluence of events sent the cost of overnight loans as high as 10%, more than four times the Fed’s rate at the time.

A month later, the Fed moved to expand its balance sheet – and boost the level of reserves – by snapping up $60 billion a month in U.S. Treasury bills. The Fed will continue pumping tens of billions a day into the repo market through at least the end of January. Its ability to exit from the repo market after that time will depend on how long it takes the central bank to make the balance sheet large enough so there are adequate reserves in the banking system – and the repo operations are no longer needed. “It seems implausible to me that the Fed will be able to stop their repo operations by the end of January,” said Mark Cabana, head of U.S. rates strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Minutes from the Fed’s December policy meeting released on Friday showed its staffers expected repo operations to be “gradually” reduced after mid-January. However, staff members also said the central bank may need to continue offering some repo operations until at least April, when tax payments could reduce the level of reserves. Another challenge for Fed officials: Deciding just how big the central bank’s balance sheet, which is currently about $4 trillion, should be.

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Michael Pettis on Twitter: “So far “prudent policies” has meant that for several years China has generated nearly five times as much debt per unit of GDP as the rest of the world — even more if you think GDP growth has been overstated on a comparable basis.”

PBOC Says Its Prudent Policies Will Continue (CD)

China will maintain a prudent monetary policy while keeping it flexible this year to ensure reasonably adequate liquidity, and it will strengthen adjustments to support economic growth, the People’s Bank of China, the central bank, said in a statement on Sunday. [..] The PBOC will promote credit financing for small and private companies, it said in its statement. Last year, it increased large commercial banks’ loans for small and micro companies by more than 30 percent, leading to a drop in lending costs of 1 percentage point. “These targets have been over-fulfilled,” it said.

The central bank is aiming this year to “win the battle of preventing and reducing large financial risks” and reiterated its role as “the lender of last resort”, which means the it will provide money to financial institutions that are experiencing financial difficulty to prevent their collapse. Last year, financial regulators took over Baoshang Bank in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and provided liquidity to prevent the spread of financial risks. To support liquidity and improve commercial bank’s asset quality, the PBOC will supplement commercial banks’ capital in 2020 through issuance of perpetual bonds — a credit instrument having no date to pay back.

Other risk-control measures will be taken for internet and real estate financing, and a macro-prudential regulatory system will be built to supervise cross-border capital flows, according to the central bank. Regulatory control over monetary policy operations is expected to continue to strengthen in China. “Monetary easing, if any, is expected to be limited and should not translate into relaxed regulatory control over the riskier types of leverage, which is positive to system stability,” said Rowena Chang, associate director of Non-Banks Asia Pacific at Fitch Ratings, an international rating agency.

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Military use is a deal killer.

Trump Admin Pressed Dutch Hard To Cancel China Chip-Equipment Sale (R.)

The Trump administration mounted an extensive campaign to block the sale of Dutch chip manufacturing technology to China, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lobbying the Netherlands government and White House officials sharing a classified intelligence report with the country’s Prime Minister, people familiar with the effort told Reuters. The high-level push, which has not previously been reported, demonstrates the importance the White House places on preventing China from getting hold of a machine required to make the world’s fastest microprocessors. It also shows the challenges facing the U.S. government’s largely unilateral efforts to stem the flow of advanced technology to China.

The U.S. campaign began in 2018, after the Dutch government gave semiconductor equipment company ASML, the global leader in a critical chip-making process known as lithography, a license to sell its most advanced machine to a Chinese customer, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Over the following months, U.S officials examined whether they could block the sale outright and held at least four rounds of talks with Dutch officials, three sources told Reuters. The effort culminated in the White House on July 18 when Deputy National Security Advisor Charles Kupperman raised the issue with Dutch officials during the visit of Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who was given an intelligence report on the potential repercussions of China acquiring ASML’s technology, according to a former U.S. government official familiar with the matter.

The pressure appears to have worked. Shortly after the White House visit, the Dutch government decided not to renew ASML’s export license, and the $150 million machine has not been shipped. [..] The ASML machine uses extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light beams, generated by lasers and focused by giant mirrors, to lay out extraordinarily narrow circuits on slabs of silicon known as wafers. That in turn makes it possible to create faster and more powerful microprocessors, memory chips and other advanced components, which are critical for consumer electronics and military applications alike. Only a few companies, including America’s Intel, South Korea’s Samsung and Taiwan’s TSMC, are currently capable of manufacturing the most sophisticated chips.

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Curious: CBS puts a whole team on this for 5 months, and then writes about a note that says nothing, instead of photos that say a lot. Bloody neck, bloodless noose.

Handwritten Note Found In Jeffrey Epstein’s Jail Cell (CBS)

While Epstein surrounded himself with a collection of powerful and high profile figures, the wealthy financier lived a majority of his life in privacy, avoiding television appearances and media interviews almost entirely. And though the federal charges brought against Epstein in July served as a gateway into learning more about the secretive life the 66 year-old led, filled with a controversial plea deal, luxurious travels around the world and alleged sex abuse rings, public intrigue about Epstein, who neglected to give any public statements following his arrest, has heightened.


In the course of a five-month investigation, 60 Minutes obtained photos of Epstein’s cell after his apparent suicide. Also found was a note, giving the world a look into what Jeffrey Epstein may have been thinking in his final days. The note was written on yellow lined paper with a blue ballpoint pen and there were complaints about jail conditions. The note says that one guard “kept me in a locked shower stall for 1 hour.” “[Another prison guard] sent me burnt food.” “Giant bugs crawling over my hands. No fun!!” Epstein’s apparent discomfort about jail conditions comes as no surprise. According to Bruce Barket, Epstein’s former cellmate’s lawyer, Jeffrey Epstein and his legal team took up one of the two attorney visiting rooms “all day, every day.”

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No, I don’t know how credible the Daily Mail is here. But it’s good to keep the conversation going.

Ghislaine Maxwell Under 24-Hour Guard By Former US Navy Seals (DM)

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, is being guarded round the clock by former US Navy SEALs amid concern that her life is in danger, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. A source says ex-special forces are shuttling the 58-year-old friend of Prince Andrew from one safe house to another across the American Midwest following ‘credible death threats’. She is now the principal focus of an FBI investigation and is said to hold the key to the truth about the Duke of York’s relationship with the disgraced financier and whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl. The Duke has repeatedly denied these allegations and any suggestion of wrongdoing.


While Miss Maxwell has never been accused by the authorities of criminal wrongdoing, Epstein’s alleged victims have portrayed her as his ‘madam’ and ‘fixer’. A source said: ‘There has been so much rubbish written about Ghislaine. The reality is she receives multiple, credible death threats on a daily basis. The hate mail is sometimes 2ft high. ‘She is constantly moving. Her life is in danger. She is being guarded by the best of the very best and that includes former US Navy SEALs. She’s not under the protection of any government. She’s on her own.’ Asked about reports last week that Miss Maxwell was being sheltered in Israel and supported by wealthy friends, the source said: ‘I only wish. This is costing her a fortune. She moves constantly. The reports are just b*******.’

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The reason Victoria’s Secret had no 2019 show is Epstein. But interesting that as America gets fatter fast, models go the opposite way. Neither looks very healthy.

Victoria’s Secret Models Got Much Thinner Over Last 23 Years (WBUR)

Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Neelam Vashi says she is fascinated by women’s waist-to-hip ratio, the hourglass curve from the narrowest point of the waist to the widest point of the hips. She was curious, she says, to see whether previous cross-cultural findings that men tend to prefer women with a 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio would hold true across time in a group known for beauty — models in the famed Victoria’s Secret fashion show. So Vashi, an assistant professor of dermatology at Boston University and director of the Cosmetic and Laser Center at Boston Medical Center, and colleagues analyzed the measurements of models who walked the runway at the now-defunct fashion show over 23 years, from 1995 to 2018.

She found that the 0.7 ratio — roughly a 24-inch waist divided by 35-inch hips — did hold true for the models, a nice confirmation of her hypothesis. But the results from other measures the team examined were surprising — and, she says, concerning. “Overall, these models became slimmer and their dress size decreased,” says Vashi. “The ratio stayed the same, but each one of those measurements did decrease.” And as Victoria’s Secret models got thinner, the average American woman’s measurements grew — with the average woman now at least a size 16. Concern over that rising disparity comes across in the research paper’s title, which begins: “Unattainable Standards of Beauty.”

“These findings represent an ideal of beauty that continuously moves further away from the characteristics of the average American woman,” says a news release accompanying the study. In 2019, with ratings low, Victoria’s Secret canceled the fashion show, saying it needed to evolve and be rethought for a new media era. As a cosmetic dermatologist, Vashi focuses on enhancing people’s looks, she says, but she also hopes people recognize that Victoria’s Secret models, “have bodies that are just not attainable by an average person.” Though that hasn’t stopped some from trying. The study notes a dramatic recent rise in cosmetic surgery, “with buttock and lower body lift [procedures] increasing by 4295% and 256%, respectively, since 2000.”

[..] The study found that bust measurements dropped from 32.9 inches in the 1990s, to 32 inches 20 years later. Waist size dropped from 24.7 inches to 23.6 inches, and hips shrank from 34.9 inches to 34.4 inches. Average dress size dropped from 5.2 to 3.7. The research also found the models became more racially and ethnically diverse. “To decrease a dress size from 5.2 to 3.7, that’s a significant difference,” Vashi says. “To slim an inch off one’s waist — that’s very hard to do.”

Read more …

And then you realize you really couln’t get one single American to say it. Painful.

Ricky Gervais Skewers Hollywood’s A-List (R.)

British comedian and actor Ricky Gervais returned to host the Golden Globe awards on Sunday, cracking scathing jokes about Hollywood’s elite that got both laughs and disapproving looks from the A-list audience. Gervais last hosted the Globes four years ago, before the #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite movements shined a spotlight on the underrepresentation of women and minorities in Hollywood. He said the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hands out the Golden Globes, had planned to have a segment honoring celebrities who died in 2019, “but when I saw the list of people who died, it wasn’t diverse enough.”


Gervais also called out Hollywood actors as hypocrites for giving impassioned political speeches at awards shows while working in movies or television series produced by major tech and media corporations. “You say you’re woke, but the companies you work for – I mean, unbelievable – Apple, Amazon, Disney. If ISIS started a streaming service, you’d call your agent, wouldn’t ya?,” he asked. “So if you do win an award tonight, don’t use it as a platform to make a political speech. You are in no position to lecture the public about anything. You know nothing about the real world. Most of you spent less time in school than Greta Thunberg. “So if you win, right? Come up, accept your little award, thank your agent and your God” and leave the stage, he concluded, using an expletive.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Nov 072019
 


Ivan Shishkin Midday. Near Moscow 1869

 

 

“In theory they were sound on Expectation
Had there been situations to be in;
Unluckily they were their situation”
– W.H. Auden

 

 

And drawn back again into energy… I did a little interview on the topic this week, and that was a little too little. Can’t cover it all in 5 or 10 minutes, even though that is mostly because people understand so precious little. We fool ourselves non-stop 24/7 on the topic, just the way industry and politics like it.

A wee step back: “The only clean energy is the one that isn’t used.” I’ve seen that attributed to Nicole, and that’s fine. But at the same time, I see terms like “clean energy”, “zero-emissions” and “zero-carbon” fly by all the time, used to depict things that are not clean at all. Perhaps less polluting, but that’s only perhaps; we’re experts at discounting externalities.

Still, we do still realize that without oil and gas there would be no wind turbines and solar panels, don’t we? How much carbon waste is generated in the production process of the two may be up for grabs, if only because that’s nobody’s favorite topic, but it’s a whole lot more than zero. More for solar, I would guess, because mining of rare earth metals is a pretty dirty process.

 

But in the end, the only aspect that I find really interesting, and that everybody appears to ignore, is why we produce so much waste. If you were hell-bent on designing a contraption aimed at wasting as much energy, and generating as much waste, as possible, you would have a hard time competing with the automobile.

Your run of the mill internal combustion engine uses maybe 10% of the energy you put in at the gas station, and you use it to transport yourself in a contraption that is 20x heavier than you are. That leaves you with just 0.5% of the energy embedded in the gasoline that is effectively used.

And that’s not all: before the gas reached the station, there was an entire process of extraction, refining, multiple transport steps. And before the car reached the store, it had already generated over a third of all the waste it will in its ‘lifetime’. If ever you need a way to demonstrate that people are not very smart, look no further.

Angela Merkel this week said she wants 1 million car charging points in Germany by 2030 (the country is way behind). And she may mean well, but for a physicist it’s still disappointing. If anyone could understand that replacing petrol powered cars with electric ones is a very poor deal, it should be her.

 

But sure, Germany has some very large carmakers, and she needs to appease them. Cars run the economy, after all. Or, rather, that’s not quite right, it’s in fact generating waste that runs the economy. Which is the only sensible conclusion we can draw after seeing that way less than 0.5% of energy is efficiently used in and by a car.

And for people like Merkel, practical politicians with ties to industry, that means you have to keep them running. And help the media and industry in convincing people that electric cars, produced by BMW, Merc and VW, is a great way to save the planet. Still, making those things requires enormous amounts of oil and gas.

If a car that runs on an internal combustion engine generates a third of the waste produced in its ‘lifetime’ before it hits the store, I bet you the ratio is worse for electric cars, because again of mining of rare earth metals and other components. And then they run on electricity generated by coal or gas or oil plants, or wind that we saw is not clean, or even nuclear, which produces the ultimate lethal form of waste, which we can still not safely store.

 

We need an entirely different approach, and I find it both very hard to understand and very disappointing that I don’t see this reflected as their no. 1 item by the climate rebellion and the various Green New Deals. That is, we must reduce our consumption of all forms of energy, not just oil and gas, and we must do it in a drastic fashion.

Luckily, we can start with the automobile, that contraption [seemingly] aimed at consuming as much energy, and generating as much waste, as possible. But even if we would achieve a 50% increase in efficiency there, we would still hover around that same 0.5%. Still crazy after all these years.

That won’t work. But there are other options. We presently live in cities and towns that are designed exclusively around those cars with their abysmal efficiency rates. In many if not most places, over half of what once was, and could be again, public space, has been turned into car space. There are no kids playing in the streets anywhere anymore.

If you talk about waste or pollution, that too could be labeled as such. In only 100 years, or even just 50, not only have most city populations exploded, both through birth rates and migration, all those extra people and the ‘original’ population now demand space for their vehicles that are 20x their weight and size.

And the car makers keep on advertizing ‘lifestyle’ ads with wide open roads and smily happy people. If I can repeat myself “If ever you need a way to demonstrate that people are not very smart, look no further.”

 

Now, mind you, if and when I say something that sounds like: we can do this, I am a lot more skeptical than most of you. This is because as I wrote three weeks ago in Energy vs DNA, we are driven by nature, by our DNA, it doesn’t matter how you define it, to maximize our energy consumption. Not on an individual level, but on a group level.

There’s still the trifle little matter of how all systems, all organisms, deal with energy (sources). Now, according to Alfred J. Lotka and Howard T. Odum, in what they and others have labeled the 4th law of Thermodynamics, all systems and organisms of necessity (DNA/RNA driven) seek to maximize their use of energy, for pure survival reasons: the one that’s most efficient in its ability to exploit and utilize -external- energy sources will survive. (another word for this is: Life)

In that article I also quoted Jay Hanson:

Why can’t we save ourselves? To answer that question we only need to integrate three of the key influences on our behavior: 1) biological evolution, 2) overshoot, and 3) a proposed fourth law of thermodynamics called the “Maximum Power Principle” (MPP). The MPP states that biological systems will organize to increase power generation, by degrading more energy, whenever systemic constraints allow it.

But then that takes me right to a quote I’ve used a few times before, from Herman Daly and Kenneth Townsend:

“Erwin Schrodinger (1945) has described life as a system in steady-state thermodynamic disequilibrium that maintains its constant distance from equilibrium (death) by feeding on low entropy from its environment—that is, by exchanging high-entropy outputs for low-entropy inputs. The same statement would hold verbatium as a physical description of our economic process. A corollary of this statement is that an organism cannot live in a medium of its own waste products.”

 

Note that the Maximum Power Principle is quite mute on efficiency. It talks about being efficient in grabbing the resource, not in using it. That only matters if you MUST be efficient. The oil extravaganza we discovered in Pennsylvania and Baku in the 1850s has left us without any reason to be efficient. And there is precious little reason to believe we will suddenly change that behavior BEFORE we hit a wall (or, rather, THE wall).

And also note that Daly and Townsend talk about waste in general, waste as in what is left over once we have “consumed energy”, when we have used a low entropy “source” and turned it into a high entropy one, i.e. one that is useless to us (though trees live off of CO2, we have no use for it). In that regard, replacing one form of energy with another, as electric cars seek to do, is a very dubious undertaking.

The only approach that makes any sense, is to use and consume vastly less ‘energy’. From a rational point of view, that would seem an easy thing to do: it should be possible to transport yourself at a higher efficiency rate than 0.5%. But at the same time, that’s not at all what we are doing.

We, like all organisms, are obeying the Maximum Power Principle: we grab all the energy we can, and we use it in whatever way we can. Got to be a bit careful with the term “we” perhaps, if only because if by some miracle we might drastically reduce our energy consumption, which physics says should be no problem -though biology might disagree-, we would leave a lot of oil, or other energy forms, available to for instance the Chinese, who could use it against us.

Very much a part of the Maximum Power Principle: competition between species leads to maximum ‘power grabs’ (for survival), but also competition within species (same reason). What you have in your possession, they do not.

 

I very much welcome any and all thoughts and contributions and disagreements on this topic. But do note I’ve been on it for many years.

 

 

I will return to Jerusalem, my holy city, and live there. It will be known as the faithful city… Once again old men and women, so old that they use a stick when they walk, will be sitting in the city squares. And the streets will again be full of boys and girls playing.
– Zechariah 8:3-5

 

 

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Oct 292019
 
 October 29, 2019  Posted by at 9:00 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  22 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Palm trees on Martinique 1887

 

 

A few -seemingly?!- contradictory items I noticed this morning. First, the oil the US is smuggling, stealing -take your pick- from Syrian oil fields.

On the one hand, we have U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper claiming that the revenue from the stolen oil goes to the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, which partly uses it “guard prisons that hold captured Islamic State fighters.”

US Military Envisions Broad Defense Of Syrian Oilfields (R.)

The United States will repel any attempt to take Syria’s oil fields away from U.S.-backed Syrian militia with “overwhelming force,” whether the opponent is Islamic State or even forces backed by Russia or Syria, the Pentagon said on Monday. The U.S. military announced last week it was reinforcing its position in Syria with additional assets, including mechanized forces, to prevent oilfields from being taken over by remnants of the Islamic State militant group or others. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper offered some of his most detailed remarks to date about the mission at a news briefing on Monday.


“U.S. troops will remain positioned in this strategic area to deny ISIS access those vital resources. And we will respond with overwhelming military force against any group that threatens the safety of our forces there,” Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. Pressed on whether the U.S. military mission included denying any Russian or Syrian government forces access to the oilfields, Esper said: “The short answer is, yes, it presently does.” He noted that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, relied on that oil income to fund its fighters, including the ones guarding prisons that hold captured Islamic State fighters. “We want to make sure that SDF does have access to resources in order to guard the prisons, in order to arm their own troops, in order to assist us with the defeat-ISIS mission,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

But on the other hand, the Saker quotes “official representative of the [Russian] Defense Ministry” Igor Konashenkov saying “the income of smuggling goes to the personal accounts of US PMCs and special forces.” (PMC=Private Military Company)

Russian Defense Ministry Shows Evidence Of US Oil Smuggling From Syria (Saker)

As the official representative of the Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov noted, the Americans are extracting oil in Syria with the help of equipment, bypassing their own sanctions. Igor Konashenkov: “Under the protection of American military servicemen and employees of American PMCs, fuel trucks from the oil fields of Eastern Syria are smuggling to other states. In the event of any attack on such a caravan, special operations forces and US military aircraft are immediately called in to protect it,” he said.


According to Konashenkov, the US-controlled company Sadcab, established under the so-called Autonomous Administration of Eastern Syria, is engaged in the export of oil, and the income of smuggling goes to the personal accounts of US PMCs and special forces. The Major General added that as of right now, a barrel of smuggled Syrian oil is valued at $38, therefore the monthly revenue of US governmental agencies exceeds $30 million.

You be the judge. Which of the two accounts is more credible? The Saker report also says the US has been stealing the oil for a very long time. At $30 million a month. So is it the benign “guarding ISIS prisoners” or the less benign Blackwater et al?

 

 

Secondly, Pelosi’s sudden shift towards legitimizing the 34 day old “impeachment inquiry”, which comes in a document that at the same time says it already is perfectly legit. So why the move? Is it to assure Trump is provided with his “due process rights”? Can he subpoena witnesses now, is that what this means?

Or does this have to do with the lawsuit former deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton, Charles Kupperman, filed on Friday, and on which a federal judge has yet to rule? Do the Dems have the idea they’ll lose that one?

Do note House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) saying the vote would “ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward”. 34 days of operating in secret in a basement and then you have the gall to talk about transparency? 34 days of selective leaking to friendly media but now we’re getting a “clear path forward”? I would tend to agree with Kevin McCarthy that “this process has been botched from the start”. Nothing partisan about that, just imagine what the NYT and WaPo would be writing if the GOP would be doing secret testimonies of Obama-era FBI, CIA and White House staff.

Oh, wait a minute, Schiff may have opened the door to just that! Is that a factor in Pelosi’s 180º?

‘We Will Not Legitimize The Sham Impeachment’ (ZH)

Update: House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) responded to Monday’s announcement, tweeting “It’s been 34 days since Nancy Pelosi unilaterally declared her impeachment inquiry. Today’s backtracking is an admission that this process has been botched from the start. We will not legitimize the Schiff/Pelosi sham impeachment.”

[..] House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Monday that a vote will be held this Thursday “that affirms the ongoing, existing investigation that is currently being conducted by our committees” as part of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to the Washington Post. House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said the vote would “ensure transparency and provide a clear path forward” as their investigations continue. The resolution will authorize the disclosure of deposition transcripts as well as set forth due process rights for President Trump, according to Pelosi. It will also establish a procedure for open hearings.

[..] The announcement comes after former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman – who served as a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton – filed a Friday lawsuit seeking guidance from a federal judge as to whether he should follow the advice of the executive branch, which has instructed him not to attend, or Congress, according to the Post. As the judge has yet to rule on his request, Kupperman declined to appear.

“House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), meanwhile, said that a former deputy national security adviser had “no basis in law” to skip a deposition Monday and that his failure to appear was further evidence of Trump’s efforts to obstruct Congress.” -Washington Post. Kupperman was on the line when President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky held a July 25 discussion in which Trump requested investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden, as well as allegations of Ukrainian election meddling in 2016 to benefit Hillary Clinton.

There’s another case, that of former Trump lawyer Don McGahn, who is in the same legal split between the Dems subpoena and the White House order not to comply with it. Several people have testified in Adam Schiff’s secret basement despite the order. McGahn has his lawyers talking to the DOJ -for quite some time too-, and Kupperman’s lawsuit asking a judge to decide seems to make sense.

DOJ Negotiating With Democrats To Allow Don McGahn To Testify (RS)

According to Politico, lawyers from the Department of Justice have been in talks with the House committee responsible for drafting articles of impeachment, about the possibility of letting former White House Counsel Don McGahn testify — despite the fact that the current White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, has stated the administration will not cooperate with the investigation.


“In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances,” Cipollone wrote to House Democrats on October 8, in a letter that was loaded with political rather than legal arguments. But that same day, Justice Department lawyers were in talks with the House Judiciary Committee about McGahn possibly testifying. And they subsequently held four more meetings on October 11, 15, 21 and 24.

 

 

Lastly, a curious item from the Sydney Morning Herald. It notes that the Australian government has figured out that Julian Assange has “high-profile and loyal supporters”. But highly curiously, Australian officials told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday that diplomats had not heard back from Assange’s lawyer since writing to her last week asking that she raise with him their offer of consular assistance.

What? Jennifer Robinson, the lawyer is question, has been banging on Australian political doors for years in order to get assistance. And now this statement? Who are these people? Some people over there are belatedly waking up, but it may all largely be posturing. Until we see actual help on its way, don’t believe a word they say.

Assange Legal Team Asks For Australian Government Help Amid Growing Health Fears

Julian Assange’s British legal team has requested Australian diplomatic help as fears grow for his health and mental state in a London prison. [..] Australian officials told a Senate estimates hearing on Thursday that diplomats had not heard back from Assange’s lawyer since writing to her last week asking that she raise with him their offer of consular assistance. The 48-year-old is fighting US attempts to extradite him to face 17 counts of spying and one of computer hacking in relation to WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of classified Pentagon files regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Barrister Greg Barns, an adviser to the Australian Assange campaign, told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald his UK lawyers on Friday requested consular assistance following a recent inquiry from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “Julian’s lawyers are asking for the Australian government’s assistance in dealing with their client’s inhumane conditions in Belmarsh prison which has led to, and is continuing to cause, serious damage to Julian’s health,” Mr Barns said. [..] The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) passed a motion at its national conference on Saturday calling for the Australian government to do “all it can” to bring Assange home and resist US attempts to extradite him.

ALA national president Andrew Christopoulos said it was an important issue about the rule of law and protecting an Australian in a vulnerable position overseas. “This is about standing up for the rule of law, fairness and the freedom to expose wrongdoing,” he said. “The reported decline of Julian Assange’s physical and mental health heightens the need for urgent government intervention. The government has intervened in cases like this before and should do so in this circumstance.” If the case goes to a series of appeals, Assange could remain in a UK jail until at least 2025.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne last week acknowledged the publicity around the case and that Assange had high-profile and loyal supporters. She said it was important to let the legal process run its course. “He has been offered consular services … like any other Australian would,” Senator Payne told the Senate committee. “I think it’s important to remember that as Australia would not accept intervention or interference in our legal processes, we are not able to intervene in the legal processes of another country.”

 

 

 

Obviously, this map is far from complete.

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 192019
 
 October 19, 2019  Posted by at 7:48 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn Landscape With the Rest on the Flight into Egypt 1647

 

Hmm, energy. Is it a good idea I be drawn back into the subject? We used to do so much on the topic, Nicole Foss and I, in the first years of The Automatic Earth, and before that at the brilliant Oil Drum, where we had all those equally brilliant oil professionals to guide us on. So why revisit it? Well, for one thing, because a friend asked.

And for another because things -may have – changed over the past 15 years or so. Not that I think the peak oil idea, which is that we reached the peak in 2005 or so, changed. Yeah, unconventional oil, shale, fracking etc., came about, but that has nothing to do with peak oil. Just look at the EROEI (energy return) you get from shale. You go from 100:1 to, if you’re lucky, 5:1. You can’t build a complex society on that.

It’s not an accident that shale oil firms are going broke all over; even ultra low interest rates can’t save them. But all that still doesn’t come close to scratching the surface of our energy -or oil, for that matter.- conundrum.

 

I’ve never understood what the idea behind the Extinction Rebellion is. Or, you know, that they know what they’re talking about. Do they know the physics?

The general idea, yeah, but not how they aim to reach their goals. Far as I can tell, it’s about less CO2 -and methane, supposedly- emissions, but I don’t get how they want to achieve that. I’ve read some but not all of their theories, and it’s not obvious. It feels like they want less of various things, only to replace them with something else. Like they think once oil is gone, you can put wind and solar in its staid, and off we go. Tell me how wrong I am. Please do.

I have the same with the various Green New Deals. What do they want? How do they aim to achieve their lofty goals? I looked at the Wikipedia page for a Green New Deal, and it tells me it’s an American thing, “invented” recently by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and some other people. But I know that’s not true, because other people had the same idea with the same name in the UK 10-12 years ago.

And then Yanis Varoufakis also has a thing he labels “Green New Deal”, a global one no less, but in a recent article, I didn’t get many specifics of that either.

Let’s go with AOC and friends’ points as Wikipedia lists them:

“Guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the United States.”

What’s not to love?

“Providing all people of the United States with (i) high-quality health care; (ii) affordable, safe, and adequate housing; (iii) economic security; and (iv) access to clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and nature.”

I’m in.

“Providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States.”

Sure, Why only the US though?

“Meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.”

Now, wait, there are no zero-emission sources. And none that are fully renewable.

“Repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, including by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible.”

Okay, yeah. But what does “The Infrastructure” mean? Is that just power lines, or does it include all roads, highways etc.?

“Building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and smart power grids, and working to ensure affordable access to electricity.”

Right. Great. Sounds good. Where would the electricity come from, though? From so-called zero-emission sources., which don’t exist?

“Upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification.”

Not sure I like the term “Electrification” in there, but yeah, bring it on. The term “Upgrading” is not what we use, however, we say “Retrofitting”.

“Overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in (i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; (ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; and (iii) high-speed rail.”

Now you’re getting serious. But what does this mean? We already covered the zero-emission thing, that’s obvious nonsense, but how about public transportation? Do you envision closing down cities to cars? Or do you actually think electric cars are zero emission? Alternatively, do you know they’re not but you use the word regardless?

“Spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible.”

Sure, if you want to clean up your environment, “Spurring Massive Growth” is just what you want to hear. Good lord.

“Working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”

Call me nuts, and I have no reason to believe you haven’t already, but the no.1 thing that has to vanish from US Ag is not pollution or emissions but the chemicals used to kill all other life so that your lettuce can grow. And don’t get me started on antibiotics or the creatures they are used on.

 

That, Green New Deal, may be your biggest fault line. But you know, overall, you give me the idea that you don’t understand the territory you’re operating in. You’re just saying stuff that you think people will believe in and follow. Like Trump or Hillary or any politicians do.

 

Best rest assured, we haven’t even started yet. There’s still the trifle little matter of how all systems, all organisms, deal with energy (sources). Now, according to Alfred J. Lotka and Howard T. Odum, in what they and others have labeled the 4th law of Thermodynamics, all systems and organisms of necessity (DNA/RNA driven) seek to maximize their use of energy, for pure survival reasons: the one that’s most efficient in its ability to exploit and utilize -external- energy sources will survive. (another word for this is: Life)

And then you say you must use less energy? Or you want to shift from oil to energy sources with less density, like solar or wind? Be careful, because this says you’re putting your odds of survival at risk.

This is what my teacher Jay Hanson, who tragically died earlier this year before I ever had the chance to meet him, said about this in 2013:

Today, when one observes the many severe environmental and social problems, it appears that we are rushing towards extinction and are powerless to stop it. Why can’t we save ourselves? To answer that question we only need to integrate three of the key influences on our behavior: 1) biological evolution, 2) overshoot, and 3) a proposed fourth law of thermodynamics called the “Maximum Power Principle” (MPP). The MPP states that biological systems will organize to increase power generation, by degrading more energy, whenever systemic constraints allow it.

Biological evolution is a change in the properties of populations of organisms that transcend the lifetime of a single individual. Individual organisms do not evolve. The changes in populations that are considered evolutionary are those that are inheritable via the genetic (DNA/RNA, etc.) material from one generation to the next.

“Natural selection” is one of the basic mechanisms of evolution, along with mutation, migration, and drift. Natural selection explains the appearance of design in the living world, and “inclusive fitness theory” explains what this design is for. Specifically, natural selection leads organisms to become adapted as if to maximize their inclusive fitness. The “fittest” individuals are those who succeed in generating more power and reproducing more copies of their genes than their competitors.

You’re in tricky territory, guys. Reversing the history of (wo)mankind or the system that gave birth to her/him is not easy. Perhaps not impossible, but certainly very hard. You’d have to go against the DNA/RNA embedded in you, and then rephrase it at a molecular level. Like you all, I have certain -perhaps illogical- hopes that it can be done, but my hopes are not high. How do you beat nature? And would you really want to if you could?

There’s so much more to say on the topic of energy, but if you’ll excuse me, I’ll leave it at this for now. I’ll get back to it soon. Of course I understand that the jump from Greta and AOC to “Maximum Power Principle” is a big one, but for some people perhaps that’s just what they need. And for others it’s not, I get that. But it’s still what it is.

 

Note: nowhere in the Green New Deal et al do I see that we should do less, use less, move less, but shouldn’t that be the no.1 priority? Build gadgets, cars, homes, cities, that use much less energy? Retrofit everything to use 90% less energy?

The thing about that is, however, that it appears to violate the Maximum Power Principle. See what I’m getting at?

 

 

 

 

Sep 232019
 
 September 23, 2019  Posted by at 10:59 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Paul Gauguin The Seine at the Pont d’Iena 1875

 

Half of Americans Expect A Recession To Hit In The Next 12 Months (MW)
Negative Interest Rates Are The Price We Pay For De-Civilization (Deist)
British Travel Firm Thomas Cook Collapses, Stranding 600,000 Tourists (R.)
No-Deal Brexit Will Have ‘Seismic’ Impact – European Car Industry (G.)
Oil Set To Spike As Saudi Repairs At Abqaiq May Take “Up To Eight Months” (ZH)
Trump Doubles Down On Call To Investigate Biden (Hill)
Trump Hit By Election Dirt From Ukraine… Forget? (RT)
Ted Cruz Insists Iran Wants To Nuke American Cities (RT)
Facebook Declares It’s A ‘Publisher’, Walking Into Legal Trap (RT)
World at a Crossroads (Sergei Lavrov)

 

 

“..21% of Republicans said a recession will likely happen within a year, while 74% of Democrats said a recession is coming..”

Half of Americans Expect A Recession To Hit In The Next 12 Months (MW)

There are more Americans expecting an economic downturn now than there were just before the start of the Great Recession. A Gallup poll released Friday painted a gloomy picture: people are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the economy and bracing for a recession. • 49% of poll participants said a recession will likely arrive in the next 12 months. In October 2007 — two months before the Great Recession began — 40% of poll participants felt the same way. • For the third straight month, a growing share of Americans said the economy is deteriorating, going from 37% in July to 48% in September. At the same time, fewer people said it’s improving, slipping from 54% to 46%. • Republicans are rosy and Democrats are downbeat: 21% of Republicans said a recession will likely happen within a year, while 74% of Democrats said a recession is coming in that time. Independents were evenly split.


Gallup noted it conducted the poll from September 3 to 15, as the latest round of Chinese tariffs took effect, but before the latest interest rate cut. Consumer perceptions weren’t totally glum. Though 49% of people told Gallup a recession is either fairly likely or very likely, another 50% said a recession isn’t too likely, or not likely at all. After all, there’s still a record-breaking 10-year bull market and a 3.7% unemployment rate, which is around a 50-year low. Like consumers, market experts are also divided. Some brush off recession talk, but others say a downturn will happen by the end of 2020.

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“If in fact negative interest rates can occur naturally, without central bank or state interventions, then economics textbooks need to be revised on the quick.”

Negative Interest Rates Are The Price We Pay For De-Civilization (Deist)

“Calculation Error,” which Bloomberg terminals sometimes display, is an apt metaphor for the current state of central bank policy. Both Europe and Asia are now awash in $17 trillion worth of negative-yielding sovereign and corporate bonds, and Alan Greenspan suggests negative interest rates soon will arrive in the US. Despite claims by both Mr. Trump and Fed Chair Jerome Powell concerning the health of the American economy, the Fed’s Open Market Committee moved closer to negative territory today — with another quarter-point cut in the Fed Funds rate, below even a measly 2%.

Negative interest rates are just the latest front in the post-2008 era of “extraordinary” monetary policy. They represent a Hail Mary pass from central bankers to stimulate more borrowing and more debt, though there is far more global debt today than in 2007. Stimulus is the assumed goal of all economic policy, both fiscal and monetary. Demand-side stimulus is the mania bequeathed to us by Keynes, or more accurately by his followers. It is the absurd idea, that an economy prospers by consuming and borrowing instead of producing and saving. Negative interest rates turn everything we know about economics upside down.

Under what scenario would anyone lend $1,000 to receive $900 in return at some point in the future? Only when the alternative is to receive $800 back instead, due to the predicted interventions of central banks and governments. Only then would locking in a set rate of capital loss make sense. By “capital loss” I mean just that; when there is no positive interest paid, the principal itself must be consumed. There is no “market” for negative rates. The future is uncertain, and there is always counterparty risk. The borrower might abscond, or default, or declare bankruptcy. Market conditions might change during the course of the loan, driving interest rates higher to the lender’s detriment. Inflation could rise higher and faster than the agreed-upon nominal interest rate. The lender might even die prior to repayment.

Positive interest rates compensate lenders for all of this risk and uncertainty. Interest, like all economics, ultimately can be explained by human nature and human action. If in fact negative interest rates can occur naturally, without central bank or state interventions, then economics textbooks need to be revised on the quick. Every theory of interest contemplates positive interest paid on borrowed capital. Classical economists and their “Real” theory say interest represents a “return” on capital, not a penalty. Capital available for lending, like any other good, is subject to real forces of supply and demand. But nobody would “sell” their capital by giving the buyer interest payments as well, they would simply hold onto it and avoid the risk of lending.

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150,000 Brits stranded, as are 140,000 Germans. 50,000 stranded in Greece alone.

British Travel Firm Thomas Cook Collapses, Stranding 600,000 Tourists (R.)

Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel firm, collapsed on Monday, stranding hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers around the globe and sparking the largest peacetime repatriation effort in British history. Chief Executive Peter Fankhauser said it was a matter of profound regret that the company had gone out of business after it failed to secure a rescue package from its lenders. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said Thomas Cook had now ceased trading and the regulator and government would work together to bring the more than 150,000 British customers home over the next two weeks. “I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years,” Fankhauser said in a statement released in the early hours of Monday morning.


“It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful.” The government and aviation regulator said that due to the scale of the situation some disruption was inevitable. “Thomas Cook has ceased trading so all Thomas Cook flights are now cancelled,” the CAA said. The demise of Thomas Cook marks the end of one of Britain’s oldest companies that started life in 1841 running local rail excursions before it survived two world wars to pioneer package holidays first in Europe and then further afield. The firm now runs hotels, resorts and airlines for 19 million people a year in 16 countries. It currently has 600,000 people abroad, forcing governments and insurance companies to coordinate a huge rescue operation.

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Who are UK firms/factories going to sell their cars to?

No-Deal Brexit Will Have ‘Seismic’ Impact – European Car Industry (G.)

The European car industry has warned of catastrophic effects of a no-deal Brexit, saying it would have a “seismic” impact on making cars in Europe. In a rare joint statement, chiefs from 23 automotive business associations across Europe joined forces to caution against a brutal exit from the bloc by Britain, where auto giants BMW, Peugeot PSA and Japan’s Nissan have factories. “Brexit is not just a British problem, we are all concerned in the European automotive industry, and even further,” said Christian Peugeot, head of French automotive industry association CCFA in the statement.

Reaping the benefits of the EU’s single market, carmakers have supply chains that criss-cross the English Channel and Britain is the destination of around 10% of vehicles assembled on the continent, according to industry data. British prime minister, Boris Johnson, has rattled nerves with his vow to leave the European Union on 31 October come what may – with or without a trade deal with Brussels. “The UK’s departure from the EU without a deal would trigger a seismic shift in trading conditions, with billions of euros of tariffs threatening to impact consumer choice and affordability on both sides of the Channel,” the joint statement said.

A chaotic Brexit would land a “severe” blow against the industry’s just-in-time supply chains that stretch across international borders and depend on zero administrative hassle, the associations warned. “The EU and UK automotive industries need frictionless trade and would be harmed significantly by additional duties and administrative burden on automotive parts and vehicles,” said Bernhard Mattes, the head of Germany’s auto lobby VDA.

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Catch 22: tell the world everything will be fine in no time, but without causing prices to plummet.

Oil Set To Spike As Saudi Repairs At Abqaiq May Take “Up To Eight Months” (ZH)

[..] the WSJ reported that it may take “up to eight month”, rather than 10 weeks company executives had previously promised, to fully restore operations at Aramco damaged Abqaiq facility, suggesting the crude oil shortfall will last far longer than originally expected. The official reason for the delay: the supply-chain is unable to respond to the Saudi needs. Specifically, Aramco is” in emergency talks with equipment makers and service providers, offering to pay premium rates for parts and repair work as it attempts a speedy recovery from missile attacks on its largest oil-processing facilities.” Following a devastating attack on its largest oil-processing facility more than a week ago, Aramco is asking contractors to name their price for patch-ups and restorations.

In recent days, company executives have bombarded contractors, including General Electric , with phone calls, faxes and emails seeking emergency assistance, according to Saudi officials and oil-services suppliers in the kingdom. “One Saudi official said costs could run in the hundreds of millions of dollars”, the WSJ reported. The unofficial, and more likely, version: Aramco is unhappy with how quickly oil prices dropped after the “Iranian attack”, and since its objective from the very beginning – especially with its IPO looming – was to get oil prices higher, and with its reputation to prevent “outside shocks” in tatters, it is now creating its own bottlenecks in restoring output.

Hinting at the second explanation is the fact that until now, Saudi officials and Aramco executives had been consistent in communicating statements aimed at reassuring oil markets that the state-owned company will recover quickly while continuing to supply customers as usual. Just yesterday, Aramco’s CEO Amin Nasser reiterated production would be back to its precrisis level by the end of the month. “Not a single shipment to our international customers has been missed or canceled as a result of the attacks,” he said.

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Rightly so. Same goes for Trump, of course.

Trump Doubles Down On Call To Investigate Biden (Hill)

President Trump on Sunday doubled down on his call for former Vice President Joe Biden’s dealings with Ukraine to be investigated amid reports of a whistleblower who is said to have raised concerns about the president’s interaction with a foreign leader who may have been Ukraine’s president. “Now the Fake News Media says I ‘pressured the Ukrainian President at least 8 times during my telephone call with him.’ This supposedly comes from a so-called ‘whistleblower’ who they say doesn’t even have a first hand account of what was said,” the president tweeted Sunday evening.

“Breaking News: The Ukrainian Government just said they weren’t pressured at all during the ‘nice’ call. Sleepy Joe Biden, on the other hand, forced a tough prosecutor out from investigating his son’s company by threat of not giving big dollars to Ukraine. That’s the real story!” he added. On Friday, multiple outlets reported that Trump had pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son Hunter Biden during a July call. Trump has not denied that he urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden. Earlier Sunday, speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump insisted there was no quid pro quo involved in the talks with the Ukrainian president, calling it a “perfect conversation.”

Instead, Trump has questioned why the media is not paying more attention to the Democratic front-runner’s actions. He also criticized the whistleblower, saying the official had caused a “false alarm.”

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No, I do remember.

Trump Hit By Election Dirt From Ukraine… Forget? (RT)

Scroll back to August 2016. The Trump versus Clinton campaigns are in full swing, polls give the Democrat a win, but the Republican is not far behind. So, a pair of Ukrainian officials – a US-linked MP and the head of a freshly created anti-corruption bureau – conspire to illegally leak to the US media material about an ongoing probe into ousted President Viktor Yanukovich and his party. At least that’s how a Ukrainian court in October 2018 described what they had done. In particular, the two leaked photos of a handwritten ledger allegedly showing cash payouts by Yanukovich’s party with the name of Paul Manafort on it.


The same Manafort who was Trump’s campaign manager at the time and was later tried and sentenced for tax evasion and bank fraud as part of the Robert Mueller investigation. There are serious questions about how reliable this leaked ledger was in the first place and how extensive the conspiracy was. The two Ukrainian officials may have acted alone, or on behalf of senior figures in their government wishing to score some points with the perceived future leader in Washington. There are claims of some coordination with people in DC, or rather, the DNC. Whichever the case, one thing is clear: what the Kiev court described was a case of foreign interference in the American election.

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Ted smokes the good stuff.

Ted Cruz Insists Iran Wants To Nuke American Cities (RT)

Ted Cruz insists Tehran’s grand dream is to nuke American cities and that Iran nuclear deal is to blame for the attack on Saudi oil facilities. The argument was mocked for making no sense, but the hawkish US senator doubles down. The Texas legislator and one of the most vocal cheerleaders of Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran went to the pages of New York Post on Friday to warn the public of an imminent danger. More international sanctions against Iran may soon be dropped under the 2015 nuclear deal, which means Tehran is drawing closer to obtaining nuclear weapons that “could incinerate American cities with a single flash of light.”


America must act now and invoke the so-called snapback mechanism outlined the nuclear deal to keep the sanctions in place and also cut Iran entirely from the global financial system, Cruz said. If you are somewhat puzzled by this line of argument, you are not alone. After all, how can Trump use the nuclear deal, from which he withdrew in the first place, to cudgel Iran more? And what Tehran may hope to win by killing millions of American civilians even if it had the capability to do it?

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Just became an interesting court case.

Facebook Declares It’s A ‘Publisher’, Walking Into Legal Trap (RT)

Facebook has invoked its free speech right as a publisher, insisting its ability to smear users as extremists is protected, but its legal immunity thus far has rested on a law which protects platforms, not publishers. Which is it? Facebook has declared it has the right, as a publisher, to exercise its own free speech and bar conservative political performance artist Laura Loomer from its platform. Even calling her a dangerous extremist is allowed under the First Amendment, because it’s merely an opinion, Facebook claims in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Loomer. But Facebook has always defined itself as a tech company providing a platform for users’ speech in the past, a definition that has come to appear increasingly ridiculous in the era of widespread politically-motivated censorship.


Now, the not-so-neutral content platform has redefined itself as a publisher equipped with a whole new set of rights, but bereft of the protections that have kept it safe from legal repercussions in the past. “Under well-established law, neither Facebook nor any other publisher can be liable for failing to publish someone else’s message,” Facebook’s motion to dismiss Loomer’s defamation suit reads, justifying its decision to ban her from the platform. It also points out that terms like “dangerous” or “promoting hate” cannot be factually verified and are thus constitutionally protected opinions for a publisher, while also claiming it never applied either term to Loomer, despite banning her from its platform under its “dangerous individuals” policy.

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Lavrov’s long speech at UN this week, via Dmitry Orlov.

“Sergei Lavrov is a world-class diplomatic heavyweight and Russia’s foreign minister. As the saying goes, if you don’t deal with Lavrov, you’ll end up dealing with Sergei Shoigu, defense minister.”

World at a Crossroads (Sergei Lavrov)

The defeat of fascism in 1945 had fundamentally affected the further course of world history and created conditions for establishing a post-war world order. The UN Charter became its bearing frame and a key source of international law to this day. The UN-centric system still preserves its sustainability and has a great degree of resilience. It actually is kind of a safety net that ensures peaceful development of mankind amid largely natural divergence of interests and rivalries among leading powers. The War-time experience of ideology-free cooperation of states with different socioeconomic and political systems is still highly relevant. It is regrettable that these obvious truths are being deliberately silenced or ignored by certain influential forces in the West.

Moreover, some have intensified attempts at privatizing the Victory, expunging from memory the Soviet Union’s role in the defeat of Nazism, condemning to oblivion the Red Army’s feat of sacrifice and liberation, forgetting the many millions of Soviet citizens who perished during the War, wiping out from history the consequences of the ruinous policy of appeasement. From this perspective, it is easy to grasp the essence of the concept of expounding the equality of the totalitarian regimes. Its purpose is not just to belittle the Soviet contribution to the Victory, but also to retrospectively strip our country of its historic role as an architect and guarantor of the post-war world order, and label it a “revisionist power” that is posing a threat to the well-being of the so-called free world.

Interpreting the past in such a manner also means that some of our partners see the establishment of a transatlantic link and the permanent implanting of the US military presence in Europe as a major achievement of the post-war system of international relations. This is definitely not the scenario the Allies had in mind while creating the United Nations.

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Bruce Springsteen turns 70 today.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 182019
 
 September 18, 2019  Posted by at 9:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  10 Responses »


Henri Matisse Antibes 1908

 

Fed Concludes First Repo In A Decade Amid Liquidity Panic (ZH)
Big Banks Score Win As FDIC Proposes Easing Post-Crisis Derivatives Rules (R.)
Oil Steadies After Saudi Pledges To Restore Output Lost In Attacks (R.)
Without Accountability, There Can Never Be Trust in Our Government (Cates)
House Panel Asks Boeing CEO To Testify October 30 on 737 MAX (R.)
Ethiopian Crash Victims Want 737 MAX Documents From Boeing, FAA (R.)
Editorial Mistake My Ass (Mish)
Democrats Urge New Probe Of Kavanaugh, Impeachment Inquiry (R.)
Trudeau Reassures Allies Amid Alleged Spying Case (BBC)
Catastrophic Effects Of Working As A Facebook Moderator (G.)
US Government Is Suing Edward Snowden For His Book Profits (Verge)

 

 

Oh yeah, let’s save the bankers again….

Fed Concludes First Repo In A Decade Amid Liquidity Panic (ZH)

Update 4: It’s over: after a torrid 30 minutes in which the NY Fed first announced a repo operation, then announced the repo was canceled due to technical difficulties, then mysterious the difficulties went away just minutes later, at precisely 10:10am, the Fed concluded its first repo operation in a decade, which while not topping out at the $75 billion max, was nonetheless a significant $53.15 billion, split as follows: • $40.85BN with TSYs as collateral at a 2.1% stop out rate • $0.6BN with Agencies as collateral at a 3.0% stop out rate • $11.7BN with Mortgage-backed securities as collateral at a 2.1% stop out rate. While the Fed did not disclose how many banks participated in the operation, it is safe to say it was a sizable number.


Worse, the result from today’s unexpected repo operation, we can now conclude that in addition to $1.3 trillion in ‘excess reserves’, a Fed which is now cutting rates and will cut rates by 25bps tomorrow, the US financial system somehow found itself with a liquidity shortfall of $53 billion that almost paralyzed the interbank funding market. Oh, and for those wondering why the Fed did a repo, the answer is simple: it did not want to launch QE just yet. But make no mistake, once repo is insufficient, the Fed will have no choice but to escalate to the next step which is open market purchases. Which brings us to the bigger question of how long such overnight repos will satisfy the market, and how long before the next repo rate spike prompts the Fed to do the inevitable, and restart QE. At least president Trump will be delighted.

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And while we’re saving their multi-million bonuses, let’s throw them some more bones,..

Big Banks Score Win As FDIC Proposes Easing Post-Crisis Derivatives Rules (R.)

A U.S. banking regulator on Tuesday proposed easing a rule requiring banks to set aside cash to safeguard derivatives trades between affiliates, marking one of the biggest wins for Wall Street lenders under the business-friendly Trump administration. The proposal, by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, could potentially free $40 billion across the nation’s largest banks, according to a 2018 survey by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA), the global trade group that has been lobbying for the rule change for years.


The proposal is subject to public comment and will likely face resistance from Democratic lawmakers and consumer groups, who have warned that chipping away at regulations put in place following the 2007-2009 financial crisis could sew the seeds of the next one. Countries across the globe introduced a slew of rules to rein in the global over-the-counter derivatives market after big bets on credit swaps brought firms including Lehman Brothers and AIG to their knees.

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Was there any damage at all? Didn’t I read that they hit a bunch of empty tanks?

Oil Steadies After Saudi Pledges To Restore Output Lost In Attacks (R.)

Oil prices were little changed on Wednesday, steadying after Saudi Arabia said it will restore by the end of the month production lost in weekend attacks on its facilities. Prices plummeted 6% on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said the country had managed to restore oil supplies to customers to where they stood before the attacks on its facilities that shut 5% of global oil output by drawing from its huge inventories. But tension in the region remained elevated after the United States said it believed the attacks on the world’s top oil exporter originated in southwestern Iran. Iran has denied involvement in the strikes.


Brent crude oil futures were flat at $64.55 a barrel by 0732 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures were down 15 cents, or 0.1%, to $59.19 a barrel, after sinking 5.7% on Tuesday. “Considering limited spare (production) capacity outside Saudi Arabia and risks of renewed attacks on Saudi energy infrastructure, a risk premium is likely to stay on oil prices in the foreseeable future,” UBS analysts said in a note. Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said on Tuesday that average oil production in September and October would be 9.89 million barrels per day and that the world’s top oil exporter would ensure full oil supply commitments to its customers this month.

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Not sure Bill Barr is your man.

Without Accountability, There Can Never Be Trust in Our Government (Cates)

The Watergate scandal, at its heart, was about political operatives working on behalf of the Nixon administration (informally known as “The Plumbers”) attempting to plant bugs in the phones of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, so they could spy on key Democratic campaign communications. A little-remembered fact is that bugs had been successfully planted earlier; the burglars were returning to plant a new set in the phones because the first set never worked properly. It was during this second foray into DNC headquarters in the middle of the night that they were caught by an observant security guard.

So the Watergate scandal was based on an attempt to spy on political opponents, but no evidence ever surfaced that any successful spying was actually done. The first set of listening devices never functioned, and the operatives were caught while trying to replace them. That won’t be the case in the Spygate scandal, because this wasn’t an off-the-books dirty tricks group like The Plumbers running an operation against the Trump campaign. This was the federal government itself, making use of the official engines of its intelligence and law enforcement agencies and surveillance courts to spy on a political campaign and, then, a presidency. And it’s because this scandal is so much worse than Watergate that the persons responsible for it must be held accountable for their actions.

[..] The crimes here amount to a deliberate attempt to subvert the federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies and turn them into political engines of partisan policy to shield political friends and destroy political enemies. After covering up serious crimes committed by their political friends, these key government officials used their offices to manufacture crimes to use as a pretext to investigate and punish their political enemies. Unless this behavior is punished with the utmost severity, no one will ever be able to place trust in the federal government. The ball of accountability will soon end up in the court of U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

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I for one have little faith in Congress in this case. Not that I have much faith in Congress in general.

House Panel Asks Boeing CEO To Testify October 30 on 737 MAX (R.)

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee formally asked Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg on Tuesday to testify on the now grounded 737 MAX that has been involved in two deadly crashes since October 2018 that killed 346 people. The panel’s chair, Representative Peter DeFazio, also asked John Hamilton, the chief engineer of Boeing’s Commercial Airplanes division, to appear. Both executives have been asked to testify on Oct. 30. Last week, DeFazio asked Muilenburg to make several employees available for interviews as part of a congressional probe into the design, development and certification of 737 MAX aircraft. “Boeing has received the Committee’s invitation and is reviewing it now. We will continue to cooperate with Congress and regulatory authorities as we focus on safely returning the MAX to service,” a Boeing representative said in a statement.

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But will they get them? Boeing will just claim they would reveal company secrets.

Ethiopian Crash Victims Want 737 MAX Documents From Boeing, FAA (R.)

A lawyer for victims of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 said on Tuesday he wants Boeing Co and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to hand over documents about the decision to keep the Boeing 737 MAX in the air after a deadly Lion Air crash last October. A week after Lion Air Flight 610 nose-dived into the Java Sea, killing all 189 aboard, the FAA warned airlines that erroneous inputs from an automated flight control system’s sensors could lead the jet to automatically pitch its nose down, but the agency allowed the jets to continue flying. Five months later, the same system was blamed for playing a role when ET302 crashed on March 10, killing all 157 passengers and crew and prompting a worldwide grounding of the 737 MAX that remains in place.


“The decisions to keep those planes in service are key,” Robert Clifford of Clifford Law Offices, which represents families of the Ethiopian crash victims, said at a status hearing before U.S. Judge Jorge Alonso in Chicago. Nearly 100 lawsuits have been filed against Boeing by at least a dozen law firms representing families of the Ethiopian Airlines crash victims, who came from 35 different countries, including nine U.S. citizens and 19 Canadians. Families of about 60 victims have yet to file lawsuits but plaintiffs’ lawyers said they anticipate more to come. Most of the lawsuits do not make a specific dollar claim, though Ribbeck Law Chartered has said its clients are seeking more than $1 billion.

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The entire Kavanaugh thing is empty, just two women trying to sell a book. Trump said he should sue them. But as a Supreme Court judge, perhaps he shouldn’t.

Editorial Mistake My Ass (Mish)

As details emerge in the New York Times Kavanaugh scandal, it’s very clear the NYT repeatedly made serious errors On September 14, the New York Times resurrected unsubstantiated and graphic rumors about Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in a purposeful smear article Brett Kavanaugh Fit In With the Privileged Kids. She Did Not. The article was by disgraced NYT authors Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly to promote their upcoming book “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.” I do not normally report on sleaze but to understand what the NYT did, I have to. Here is one controversial paragraph: “We also uncovered a previously unreported story about Mr. Kavanaugh in his freshman year that echoes Ms. Ramirez’s allegation. A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student.”


The NYT later added this correction. “The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident. That information has been added to the article.” Making matters worse for itself, the NYT came out and blamed it all on an “editing error”. Reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly said in an interview on MSNBC that they wrote in the draft of their Sunday Review piece that a woman who Kavanaugh was said to have exposed himself to while a student at Yale had told others she had no recollection of the alleged incident. Their editors, they say, removed the reference. “It was just sort of. . . in the haste of the editing process,” said Pogrebin.

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But this is where the non-story leads to. Kamala seeks a way to reinvent her campaign, the rest just follows.

Democrats Urge New Probe Of Kavanaugh, Impeachment Inquiry (R.)

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris on Tuesday urged a House of Representatives panel to investigate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, while a Democratic lawmaker filed an impeachment resolution in the wake of new allegations of sexual misconduct by the conservative judge when he was in college in the 1980s. The moves by Harris, one of 20 Democratic presidential candidates, and Representative Ayanna Pressley, a progressive on the left of the party, signaled impatience among some Democrats with congressional leaders unenthusiastic about pursuing Kavanaugh’s impeachment, though their efforts appeared unlikely to spur action.

Harris said in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler that the panel should “hold Mr. Kavanaugh accountable for his prior conduct and testimony.” Nadler on Monday faulted the FBI’s probe of prior sexual misconduct allegations against Kavanaugh ahead of his narrow confirmation by the Senate in October 2018, saying in a radio interview it “apparently was a sham.” But Nadler also said his panel had its “hands full” with investigating Republican President Donald Trump. In her letter to Nadler, Harris suggested the House Judiciary Committee could create a task force and retain outside counsel if it did not have the time or resources to pursue an inquiry of Kavanaugh now.

Harris and several other Democratic presidential candidates called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment after the New York Times published an essay over the weekend detailing what it described as a previously unreported incident of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh. Others include former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro; U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker; South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg; and former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke.

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Only a Five Eyes spy chief. And whaddaya know, there’s Bill Browder again. See from yesteday: The Magnitskiy Myth Exploded.

Trudeau Reassures Allies Amid Alleged Spying Case (BBC)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has moved to reassure allies in the wake of an alleged spying case with possible international implications. A senior intelligence official was charged last week with violating national security laws. Cameron Ortis had access to information coming from Canada’s global allies, the RCMP national police force said. Canada is in close contact with its intelligence partners over the case, Mr Trudeau says. “We are in direct communications with our allies on security,” the prime minister said while campaigning in Newfoundland on Tuesday. “We are also working with them to reassure them, but we want to ensure that everyone understands that we are taking this situation very seriously.” Canada is a member of the Five Eyes – the intelligence alliance that also includes the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.


Mr Ortis, who was a director general with the police force’s intelligence unit, is accused of breaching the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code. The charges filed against him include the “unauthorised communication of special operational information”, possessing a device or software “useful for concealing the content of information or for surreptitiously communicating, obtaining or retaining information”, and breach of trust by a public officer. [..] Mr Ortis was looking into allegations that Russian tax fraudsters had laundered millions of dollars through Canada, a US financier told Reuters. Bill Browder, a high-profile critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he had met Mr Ortis twice in Canada in 2017 after alerting the RCMP to the matter.

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What exactly would you say is Facebook’s role in our society? How about in your life?

Catastrophic Effects Of Working As A Facebook Moderator (G.)

They describe being ground down by the volume of the work, numbed by the graphic violence, nudity and bullying they have to view for eight hours a day, working nights and weekends, for “practically minimum pay”. A little-discussed aspect of Facebook’s moderation was particularly distressing to the contractors: vetting private conversations between adults and minors that have been flagged by algorithms as likely sexual exploitation. Such private chats, of which “90% are sexual”, were “violating and creepy”, one moderator said. “You understand something more about this sort of dystopic society we are building every day,” he added. “We have rich white men from Europe, from the US, writing to children from the Philippines … they try to get sexual photos in exchange for $10 or $20.”


Gina, a contractor, said: “I think it’s a breach of human rights. You cannot ask someone to work fast, to work well and to see graphic content. The things that we saw are just not right.” The workers, whose names have been changed, were speaking on condition of anonymity because they had signed non-disclosure agreements with Facebook. Daniel, a former moderator, said: “We are a sort of vanguard in this field … It’s a completely new job, and everything about it is basically an experiment.” John, his former colleague, said: “I’m here today because I would like to avoid other people falling into this hole. As a contemporary society, we are running into this new thing – the internet – and we have to find some rules to deal with it.

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Pay him in Bitcoin.

US Government Is Suing Edward Snowden For His Book Profits (Verge)

The Justice Department has filed a civil lawsuit against Edward Snowden that would recover all proceeds of his recently released memoir, the department announced on Tuesday. The charges coincide with the official publication of the book, which is titled Permanent Record. Snowden’s memoir was allegedly not submitted to the CIA or NSA for pre-publication review, a required practice among former employees of intelligence agencies. As such, the department considers the book a breach of Snowden’s fiduciary obligations, and names the publishers as co-defendants in the suit.


Given the still-classified programs and materials discussed in the memoir, it is unlikely that the book would have been approved for publication by the agencies. Snowden remains a de facto fugitive from the US government, and would likely face charges under the Espionage Act if he returned to the country. But the new civil case could nonetheless cause problems for Snowden, potentially enjoining his publishers from releasing any of the proceeds from the book. Crucially, the suit does not seek to block the release of Snowden’s memoir, as doing so would be illegal under the First Amendment.

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From Notes on the Next War, 1935

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 162019
 
 September 16, 2019  Posted by at 9:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Night fishing at Antibes 1939

 

Oil Explodes 20% Higher, Biggest Jump On Record (ZH)
Trump Says US ‘Locked And Loaded’ As Iran Blamed For Saudi Attack (AP)
Liquidity Dies in Darkness (Rivelle)
‘Very Difficult’ For China’s Economy To Grow 6% Or Faster: Premier Li
China’s August Industrial Output Growth Grinds To 17.5-Year Low (R.)
General Motors Faces Strike By Almost 50,000 Staff (BBC)
OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Files For Bankruptcy Protection (R.)
Industrialized Militaries Are A Big Part Of The Climate Emergency (IC)
Farming Subsidies Destroy The World (G.)
The World’s Most Important Political Prisoner (Craig Murray)

 

 

It went down a little after, but then the war threats started.

Oil Explodes 20% Higher, Biggest Jump On Record (ZH)

Shanghai Oil futures are halted limit up.


Source: Bloomberg

With traders in a state of near-frenzy, with a subset of fintwit scrambling (and failing) to calculate what the limit move in oil would be (hint: there is none for Brent), moments ago brent reopened for trading in the aftermath of Saturday’s attack on the “world’s most important oil processing plant”, and exploded some 20% higher, to a high of $71.95 from the Friday $60.22 close, its biggest jump since futures started trading in 1988. As Bloomberg notes, “for oil markets, it’s the single worst sudden disruption ever, surpassing the loss of Kuwaiti and Iraqi petroleum supply in August 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbor. It also exceeds the loss of Iranian oil output in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Furthermore, in light of news that the Saudi outage could last for months, this could be just the start. As a reminder, according to Morningstar research director, Sandy Fielden, “Brent could go to $80 tomorrow, while WTI could go to $75… But that would depend on Aramco’s 48-hour update. The supply problem won’t be clear right away since the Saudis can still deliver from inventory.” Of course, should Aramco confirm that the outage – which has taken some 5.7mmb/d in Saudi output after 10 drones struck the world’s biggest crude-processing facility in Abqaiq and the kingdom’s second-biggest oil field in Khurais – will last for weeks, expect the crude juggernaut to continue until the price hits $80, and keeps moving higher.


Source: Bloomberg

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Does any of this make any sense to you?

Trump Says US ‘Locked And Loaded’ As Iran Blamed For Saudi Attack (AP)

The U.S. government produced satellite photos showing what officials said were at least 19 points of impact at two Saudi energy facilities, including damage at the heart of the kingdom’s crucial oil processing plant at Abqaiq. Officials said the photos show impacts consistent with the attack coming from the direction of Iran or Iraq, rather than from Yemen to the south. Iraq denied Sunday that its territory was used for an attack on the Kingdom and U.S. officials said a strike from there would be a violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. The U.S. officials said additional devices, which apparently didn’t reach their targets, were recovered northwest of the facilities and are being jointly analyzed by Saudi and American intelligence.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, did not address whether the drone could have been fired from Yemen, then taken a round-about path, but did not explicitly rule it out. The attacks and recriminations are increasing already heightened fears of an escalation in the region, after a prominent U.S. senator suggested striking Iranian oil refineries in response to the assault, and Iran warned of the potential of more violence. “Because of the tension and sensitive situation, our region is like a powder keg,” said Iranian Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh. “When these contacts come too close, when forces come into contact with one another, it is possible a conflict happens because of a misunderstanding.”


[..] “Amid all the calls for de-escalation, Iran has now launched an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” Pompeo wrote. “There is no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.” [..] U.S. officials previously alleged at least one recent drone attack on Saudi Arabia came from Iraq, where Iran backs Shiite militias. Those militias in recent weeks have been targeted themselves by mysterious airstrikes, with at least one believed to have been carried out by Israel. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi on Sunday dismissed Pompeo’s remarks as “blind and futile comments.” “The Americans adopted the ‘maximum pressure’ policy against Iran, which, due to its failure, is leaning toward ‘maximum lies,’” Mousavi said in a statement.

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“Trouble is, while loanable funds can be created without limit, the things that can be purchased with these funds is finite.”

Liquidity Dies in Darkness (Rivelle)

If democracy dies in darkness, so does liquidity in that embodiment of economic democracy, i.e., the capital markets. When information is scarce, investors must color in between the lines. That which is not known nor well quantified must be assumed or modeled. The door is therefore open to different investors reaching quite different conclusions about the underlying value of an asset leading, of course, to illiquidity. More so perhaps than any other in history, this cycle is the wellspring of the theories and actions of the central bankers who, in their infinite wisdom, determined that they could model interest rates better than markets could price them. Central banks have flooded the system with what they call “liquidity” but which are actually nothing more–nor less–than electronically conjured “loanable funds.”


Under the banner of “doing whatever it takes,” trillions in loanable funds were created so that now $17 trillion in global debt is priced to yield less than nothing. The magic trick of inverting economic logic with negative rates results from the capacity of the central banks to create unlimited quantities of loanable funds at no cost. Trouble is, while loanable funds can be created without limit, the things that can be purchased with these funds is finite. But, “free money” not only makes loans cheap, it also erodes the capacity of lenders to ask for such reasonable terms as traditional loan covenants and basic financial disclosure.

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Preparing the people for bad news?!

‘Very Difficult’ For China’s Economy To Grow 6% Or Faster: Premier Li

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said it is “very difficult” for China’s economy to grow at a rate of 6% or more because of the high base from which it was starting and the complicated international backdrop. The world’s No.2 economy faced “certain downward pressure” due to slowing global growth as well as the rise of protectionism and unilateralism, Li said in an interview with Russian media which was published on the Chinese government’s website, gov.cn. China’s GDP grew 6.3% in the first half of the year, and Li said the economy was “generally stable” in the first eight months of the year.


“For China to maintain growth of 6% or more is very difficult against the current backdrop of a complicated international situation and a relatively high base, and this rate is at the forefront of the world’s leading economies,” Li was quoted as saying. Analysts say China’s economic growth has likely cooled further this quarter from a near 30-year low of 6.2% in April-June. Morgan Stanley says it is now tracking the lower end of the government’s full-year target range of around 6-6.5%.

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4.4% it is.

China’s August Industrial Output Growth Grinds To 17.5-Year Low (R.)

The slowdown in China’s factory and consumer sectors deepened in August, with industrial production growing at the weakest pace in 17-1/2 years, a sign of increasing weakness in an economy lashed by trade headwinds and soft domestic demand. Production rose 4.4% in August year-on-year, slower than the 4.8% growth in July. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast output would rise 5.2%. August’s data is the slowest growth since February 2002. [..] The data also showed retail sales growth at 7.5%, below the 7.9% expected in a Reuters poll and the 7.6% increase in July.


Fixed-asset investment for the first eight months of the year rose 5.5%, according to data published by the National Bureau of Statistics, compared with a 5.6% rise forecast by analysts. Data last week showed factory-gate prices fell at their fastest pace in three years and analysts predict that producer deflation will continue to worsen in the coming months. It also follows a factory survey that showed activity shrank for the fourth straight month as the U.S. trade war dragged on. China’s imports of unwrought copper also fell 3.8% year-on-year in August, a metal with wide use in infrastructure, power and consumption.

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America’s dying unions.

General Motors Faces Strike By Almost 50,000 Staff (BBC)

Almost 50,000 General Motors workers have been called out on strike after the car giant failed to reach a pay and conditions deal with the United Auto Workers union (UAW). “We do not take this lightly. This is our last resort,” UAW vice-president Terry Dittes told reporters in Detroit. The sides had set a Saturday night deadline to reach agreement. The strike – from midnight (04:00 GMT) on Monday – is the first at GM, America’s biggest carmaker, since 2007. In that strike, a two-day stoppage cost $300m (£240m). The union’s previous four-year contract with GM expired this weekend, and the two sides had been holding negotiations on wide-ranging issues, including wages, healthcare, profit sharing, and job security.

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Right after the Sackler family had transferred their billions to safe locations.

OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Files For Bankruptcy Protection (R.)

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday night, succumbing to pressure from more than 2,600 lawsuits alleging the company helped fuel the deadly U.S. opioid epidemic. Purdue’s board met Sunday evening to approve the long-expected bankruptcy filing, which the company is pursuing to restructure under terms of a proposal to settle the widespread litigation. Purdue, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in a federal bankruptcy court in White Plains, New York, reached a tentative deal to resolve lawsuits with 24 states and five U.S. territories, as well as lead lawyers for more than 2,000 cities, counties and other plaintiffs, the company said.


Two dozen states remain opposed or uncommitted to the proposed settlement, setting the stage for contentious legal battles over who bears responsibility for a public health crisis that has claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 people between 1999 and 2017, according to the latest U.S. data. Thousands of cities and counties, along with nearly every state, have sued Purdue and, in some cases, its controlling Sackler family. The lawsuits, seeking billions of dollars in damages, claim the company and family aggressively marketed prescription painkillers while misleading doctors and patients about their addiction and overdose risks.

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I’d rather have a look at overall pollution, not just emissions.

Industrialized Militaries Are A Big Part Of The Climate Emergency (IC)

A British doctor who co-authored two studies on the environmental impact of U.S. military operations in Fallujah said that the city’s population suffers “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.” Much of this impact can be blamed on the use of depleted uranium munitions by U.S. forces. Despite vowing to cease their use, a study by the independent monitoring group Airwars and Foreign Policy Magazine found that the military continued to use the toxic munitions during its most recent bombing campaign in Syria. The fact that fossil fuel emissions have been the major driver of climate change adds another grim irony to these wars.


For decades, the heavy U.S. military footprint in the Middle East has been justified by the need to preserve access to the region’s oil reserves. The industrial extraction of those same reserves has been one of the major drivers of global carbon dioxide emissions. In other words, we have been killing, dying, and polluting to ensure our access to the same toxic resource most responsible for our climate disruption. It took this perfect symmetry between industrial warfare and industrial exploitation of the earth to bring about the unspeakable emergency we now face.

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$1 million every minute. And look at the sugary crap we’re eating.

Farming Subsidies Destroy The World (G.)

The public is providing more than $1m per minute in global farm subsidies, much of which is driving the climate crisis and destruction of wildlife, according to a new report. Just 1% of the $700bn (£560bn) a year given to farmers is used to benefit the environment, the analysis found. Much of the total instead promotes high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from the overuse of fertiliser. The security of humanity is at risk without reform to these subsidies, a big reduction in meat eating in rich nations and other damaging uses of land, the report says. But redirecting the subsidies to storing carbon in soil, producing healthier food, cutting waste and growing trees is a huge opportunity, it says.

The report rejects the idea that subsidies are needed to supply cheap food. It found that the cost of the damage currently caused by agriculture is greater than the value of the food produced. New assessments in the report found producing healthy, sustainable food would actually cut food prices, as the condition of the land improves. “There is incredibly small direct targeting of [subsidies at] positive environment outcomes, which is insane,” said Jeremy Oppenheim, principal at the Food and Land Use Coalition (Folu), the collaboration of food, farming and green research groups that produced the new report. “We have got to switch these subsidies into explicitly positive measures.”


He said the true global total was likely to be $1tn a year, as some subsidies are difficult to quantify precisely: “That trillion dollars of public funding is available and is a massive, massive lever to incentivise the farming community across the world to act differently.”

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“..all the excuses for Assange’s imprisonment which so-called leftists and liberals in the UK have hidden behind will evaporate.”

The World’s Most Important Political Prisoner (Craig Murray)

We are now just one week away from the end of Julian Assange’s uniquely lengthy imprisonment for bail violation. He will receive parole from the rest of that sentence, but will continue to be imprisoned on remand awaiting his hearing on extradition to the USA – a process which could last several years. At that point, all the excuses for Assange’s imprisonment which so-called leftists and liberals in the UK have hidden behind will evaporate. There are no charges and no active investigation in Sweden, where the “evidence” disintegrated at the first whiff of critical scrutiny. He is no longer imprisoned for “jumping bail”.

The sole reason for his incarceration will be the publishing of the Afghan and Iraq war logs leaked by Chelsea Manning, with their evidence of wrongdoing and multiple war crimes. In imprisoning Assange for bail violation, the UK was in clear defiance of the judgement of the UN Working Group on arbitrary Detention, which stated:

“Under international law, pre-trial detention must be only imposed in limited instances. Detention during investigations must be even more limited, especially in the absence of any charge. The Swedish investigations have been closed for over 18 months now, and the only ground remaining for Mr. Assange’s continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the UK, which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post facto justify the more than 6 years confinement that he has been subjected to since he sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador. Mr. Assange should be able to exercise his right to freedom of movement in an unhindered manner, in accordance with the human rights conventions the UK has ratified,”


In repudiating the UNWGAD the UK has undermined an important pillar of international law, and one it had always supported in hundreds of other decisions. The mainstream media has entirely failed to note that the UNWGAD called for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – a source of potentially valuable international pressure on Iran which the UK has made worthless by its own refusal to comply with the UN over the Assange case. Iran simply replies “if you do not respect the UNWGAD then why should we?”

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