Jan 032020
 
 January 3, 2020  Posted by at 11:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Alfred Palmer New B-25 bomber at Kansas City plant of North American Aviation 1942

 

America Just Took Out The World’s No. 1 Bad Guy (CNBC)
US Strike That Killed Iranian Commander Starkly Divides US Lawmakers (CNN)
Erdogan Questions Europe As 250,000 Flee Idlib (ZH)
US Dollar as Global Reserve Currency vs Euro, Yen, Renminbi, & Others (WS)
China Cuts US Dollar Weighting In Key Index To Boost Fortunes Of Yuan (SCMP)
China’s Central Bank Frees Up $115 Billion To Support Growth (SCMP)
What the Fed Did to Calm Year-End Hissy-Fit of its Crybaby Cronies (WS)
Greece, Israel, Cyprus: Turkey’s Libya Troops Bill Dangerous Escalation (R.)
Leaders Of Greece, Israel, Cyprus Ink Deal For Pipeline (K.)
The Terrifying Rise of the Zombie State Narrative (Craig Murray)

 

 

Inevitably, the killing of Qassim Soleimani in Baghdad leads to the confirmation of US party lines’ divide. While the GOP stands behind the decision, the Dems have a hard time reconciling their own contradictions. They are a war party, if you look past Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders, but they can’t be seen to agree with Trump. So the likes of Schumer and Pelosi say that while Soleimani won’t be mourned by any American since he was a really terrible person, Trump should have asked for their permission.

The logic being that this could lead to WWIII, a theme that’s all over the internet, so much it makes one think independent thought is under threat. Be that as it may, the president needs permission to declare war, not to hit an individual. Moreover, since they agree killing the man might have been a good idea, they surely realize that he was in a spot where they could get at him, for a limited amount of time, so asking for permission would heve risked losing the opportunity. Weak.

The following two tweets are worth citing:

Nicole Alexander Fisher: “Pelosi voted for Trump’s NDAA which stripped a provison that would have prevented unauthorized war with Iran. She sided with Trump and warhawks on this, as did 188 other Democrats. 41 Dems like AOC, Ilhan Omar, Tulsi Gabbard, Ro Khanna, and Joe Kennedy voted no.”

Soleimani fought ISIS, Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda etc., along with the US.

Sara Abdallah: “The “no. 1 bad guy” who led the counter-terrorism campaigns that defeated ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; the “no. 1 bad guy” who prevented a jihadist takeover of the Middle East.”

I’m still wondering how CNBC became the no. 1 warmonger for the MSM. This is some headline. As for the Dems and GOP, one would be inclined to say: pick your side. But if you look just a little bit closer, you see there is only one side.

 

America Just Took Out The World’s No. 1 Bad Guy (CNBC)

So, just who is this top Iranian general the U.S. just eliminated? For many of us who watch and analyze news out of the Middle East daily, he was the world’s number one bad guy. Qassim Soleimani has been in control of Iran’s Quds Force for more than 20 years. His current greatest hits include helping Bashar al Assad slaughter hundreds of thousands of his own people in the Syrian civil war, stoking the Houthis in Yemen’s civil war, and overseeing the killing of hundreds of Iraqi protesters recently demonstrating against Iranian influence in their country. But most importantly for Americans, Soleimani was behind the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers during the Iraq War. Last year, the U.S. State Department put the number of Americans killed by Iranian proxies in Iraq at 608 since 2003.


The killing of Soleimani doesn’t have the emotional power of the takedown of Osama bin Laden, and he wasn’t even as well-known to Americans as ISIS founder Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. But in many ways, taking him out means much more in terms of saving current lives. Remember that bin Laden and al Baghdadi were mostly out of business and in hiding at the time of their deaths. Solemani was busier than ever, directing mayhem all over the Middle East and beyond. For example, these last few days have made it clear to the whole world just how much Iran controlled just about all of Iraq and Iraq’s Shia population. It appears Solemeini not only felt justified in being the likely mastermind behind Tuesday’s attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, he also was comfortable enough to travel to Iraq personally to oversee it. But this time, he got too comfortable.

Read more …

No, it doesn’t.

US Strike That Killed Iranian Commander Starkly Divides US Lawmakers (CNN)

The US airstrike that killed Iran Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani generated starkly different reactions along party lines Thursday night, with Republicans heaping praise on President Donald Trump and Democrats expressing concerns about the legality and consequences of the attack. The Pentagon confirmed in a statement that Trump had ordered the strike, saying Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”

[..] Some key members of Congress — such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat who is a member of the congressional Gang of Eight leaders, who are briefed on classified matters — had not been made aware of the attack ahead of time. It’s not clear how many other lawmakers had advance notice of the strike. The Pentagon added that “this strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans” and the US “will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

[..] Democrats pushed back on Republican sentiments about the attack, stressing the potential consequences and lambasting the decision to carry out the strike without congressional authorization. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut emphasized that Soleimani “was an enemy of the United States” in a tweet before stating, “The question is this – as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?” In a more explicit statement, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico said, “President Trump is bringing our nation to the brink of an illegal war with Iran without any congressional approval as required under the Constitution of the United States.”

[..] On the campaign trail, Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden said “no American will mourn” Soleimani but that the strike that killed him is a “hugely escalatory move.” “President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad, and our partners throughout the region and beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “I’m not privy to the intelligence and much remains unknown, but Iran will surely respond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East. I hope the Administration has thought through the second- and third-order consequences of the path they have chosen.”

Read more …

This situation is not likely to improve after the assassination:

Erdogan Questions Europe As 250,000 Flee Idlib (ZH)

As Russian and Syrian jets have dramatically stepped up their bombardment of jihadist-held Idlib over the past three weeks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has again warned a massive wave of refugees is headed into Turkey, but that his country is without help and thus is seeking to prevent the new influx. “Right now, 200,000 to 250,000 migrants are moving toward our borders,” Erdogan said while addressing a conference in Ankara. “We are trying to prevent them with some measures, but it’s not easy. It’s difficult, they are humans too.” This after the UN on Monday said that of Idlib province’s some 3 million civilian population, up to 284,000 are currently on the move.


International reports commonly put the current numbers of Syrian refugees hosted by Turkey at about 3.7 million, which Erdogan has of late constantly reminded Europe of as he seeks support for foreign military intervention in places like northeast Syria and now even Libya. During his latest comments, Erdogan actually put the number of refugees across all provinces of Turkey at a whopping 5 million — which would be larger than many small countries. Crucially, during his speech on Thursday, he alluded to his prior threats to “open the gates” and allow refugees to flood into Europe, starting with Greece and other Mediterranean nations:

“Although they [the West] have more resources than we do, why don’t they accept them, why don’t they open the gates?” Erdogan asked. While also slamming Arab League member states for not acting, he answered his own question with, “We are Turkey. Alone this gives us a power and superiority that nobody has.” In late December, Erdogan reiterated prior provocative threats underscoring that “Turkey cannot handle a fresh wave of migrants from Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday, warning that European countries will feel the impact of such an influx if violence in Syria’s northwest is not stopped,” as Reuters summarized of the statement.

Read more …

Remarkably stable, really.

US Dollar as Global Reserve Currency vs Euro, Yen, Renminbi, & Others (WS)

The US economy and financial system – including being able to maintain and fund the gargantuan trade deficits and fiscal deficits – has become reliant on the dollar being the dominant global reserve currency. And the IMF just released its next installment on how this status has been changing. Total foreign exchange reserves in all currencies combined declined 0.6% in the third quarter from the second quarter to $11.66 trillion, according to the IMF’s quarterly COFER data. US-dollar-denominated exchange reserves – such as Treasury securities, US corporate bonds, etc. held by foreign central banks – ticked down 0.4% to $6.51 trillion. But holdings denominated in other currencies fell faster, and the share of dollar-denominated reserves edged up to 61.8% of total exchange reserves.


The US dollar’s share of total global reserve currencies declines when central banks other than the Fed proportionately reduce their dollar-denominated assets and add assets denominated in other foreign currencies. Over the long term, the recent moves in the dollar’s share are relatively small. There have been huge moves from 1977 through 1991, when the dollar’s share plunged from 85% to 46%, and then huge moves as the share rose again to 70% by 2000:

In October 2016, the IMF included the Chinese renminbi in the currency basket of the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), and the renminbi became officially a global reserve currency. But since then, progress of the currency has been exceedingly slow, and there are no signs the RMB would dethrone the US dollar anytime soon.The creation of the euro came with a lot of hopeful rhetoric that it would reach parity with the US dollar in every way, including as global trade currency, global financing currency, and global reserve currency. [..] During the initial phase of the conversion of European currencies to the euro, the euro’s share of global reserve currencies rose and the dollar’s share fell from 71.5% in 2001 to 66.5% in 2002.

Read more …

Wait, so China is desperate for dollars, and then decides dollars are becoming less important? Yeah, we’ll all believe it.

China Cuts US Dollar Weighting In Key Index To Boost Fortunes Of Yuan (SCMP)

China’s decision to cut the weighting of the US dollar in a basket of foreign currencies used to determine the strength of the yuan will help Beijing’s long-term efforts to weaken the international dominance of the American currency, economists said. The China Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS), a unit of the Chinese central bank, trimmed the weighting of the US dollar on Wednesday to 21.59 per cent from 22.40 per cent in a key yuan exchange index to make it “more representative” of current trade conditions. The new version of the index will be based on 2018 trade data, rather than data from 2015, when the CFETS was first established. The move, which comes amid heightened trade tensions between China and the United States, will help Beijing’s long-term efforts to create an alternative international payments system, economists said.


“The yuan hopes to become a reserve currency, to prevent the situation where the US dollar dominates the global financial system – or the so-called hegemony of the US dollar. This is a longer-term goal … and an inevitable trend,” said Shen Jianguan, vice-president and chief economist at JD Digits, although he added that the adjustment also reflected changes to China’s trading environment. His remarks were echoed by Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at China Industrial Bank, who said the cut would give the yuan marginally more independence against the US dollar. “The yuan should live its own way – now there is too much shadow from other [currencies] hanging over it,” he said.

Read more …

The amount is symbolic.

China’s Central Bank Frees Up $115 Billion To Support Growth (SCMP)

China’s central bank has announced a move to unleash 800 billion yuan (US$115 billion) from the banking system to support the economy, sending a pro-growth message on the first day of 2020. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) will reduce the deposit reserve ratio in financial institutions by 0.5 percentage points from January 6, mainly to offer sufficient funding to the real economy, according to a notice published on the bank’s website. The announcement on Wednesday came after growth continued to weaken while China and the United States prepared to sign an interim trade deal in mid-January. The central bank said this round of funding was partially to offset cash withdrawals before the Lunar New Year, and would not change its stance on monetary policy.


From Monday, the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for big banks will be lowered to 12.5 per cent, while the ratio for medium and small banks will be reduced to 10.5 per cent and 7 per cent respectively. In 2019, the central bank cut the RRR rate three times. “The RRR cut will help boost investor confidence and support the economy, which is gradually steadying,” said Wen Bin, an economist at Minsheng Bank in Beijing, who also expects another cut in China’s new loan prime rate this month. After 18 months of the trade war between China and the United States, the Chinese economy, the world’s second largest, is facing external and domestic headwinds, with growth slowing to 6 per cent in the third quarter, the lowest since 1992. By value of goods, China’s export growth fell 0.3 per cent between January and November 2019, while import growth was down 4.5 per cent for the same period.

Read more …

End the Fed. They lost control a decade ago.

What the Fed Did to Calm Year-End Hissy-Fit of its Crybaby Cronies (WS)

The big fear was that the repo market would blow out again at the end of 2019, as banks would be window-dressing their balance sheets by building up reserves to certain levels. In the process, they would refuse to lend to the repo market. And borrowing pressure on the other side – such as hedge funds or mortgage REITs that borrow cheaply in the repo market to fund long-term bets – would drive up repo rates. At the end of 2018, repo rates blew out, but quickly settled down without the Fed’s involvement. In September 2019, repo rates blew out again. At this point, the rattled Fed started dousing the market with hundreds of billions of dollars to calm the repo market and prevent another year-end blowout.


To do this, the Fed engaged in repo operations and also began purchasing short-term Treasury bills. This calmed the repo market, and at the end of December, repo rates didn’t blow out. But on January 1, the Fed did a huge $64 billion reverse repo, the opposite of a repo, thus draining overnight $64 billion in liquidity from the market. This astounding spike in reverse repo balances showed up on its balance sheet for the week ended January 1, released today:

In a reverse repo, the Fed sells securities and takes in cash, under an agreement to buy back those securities at a fixed price on a set date. A reverse repo drains liquidity from the market. When the reverse repo unwinds on the maturity date, as the Fed buys back those securities, it adds liquidity to the market. Reverse repos are liabilities on the Fed balance sheet. In a normal repo, the Fed buys Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae, under agreements to repurchase them at a fixed price on a specific date, such as the next day or in a longer period. This adds liquidity to the market for the duration of the repo.


When the repo matures and unwinds, the liquidity gets drained. But a new repo can roll this over. Repos are assets on the Fed’s balance sheet. Total repos on the Fed’s balance sheet on January 1 rose to $256 billion, up $48 billion from a month earlier (as of Dec 4 balance sheet):

Read more …

Erdogan is not sitting pretty.

Greece, Israel, Cyprus: Turkey’s Libya Troops Bill Dangerous Escalation (R.)

Turkey’s bill allowing troop deployment in Libya marks a dangerous escalation in the North African country’s civil war and severely threatens stability in the region, a joint statement by Greece, Israel and Cyprus said late on Thursday. “This decision constitutes a gross violation of the UNSC resolution…imposing an arms embargo in Libya and seriously undermines the international community’s efforts to find a peaceful, political solution to the Libyan conflict,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said in the statement.


Turkish parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill that allows troops to be deployed in Libya, in a move that paves the way for further military cooperation between Ankara and Tripoli but is unlikely to put boots on the ground immediately. Turkey’s move comes after Ankara and the internationally recognized government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj signed two separate agreements in November: one on security and military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, infuriating Greece, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus.

Read more …

The exact same countries want to cut a pipeline straight through an area claimed by Turkey. Think there’s a connection?

Leaders Of Greece, Israel, Cyprus Ink Deal For Pipeline (K.)

The intergovernmental agreement signed on Thursday by Greece, Israel and Cyprus for the construction of the EastMed pipeline sent out multiple diplomatic messages. The first of these relates to the endurance of the trilateral cooperation itself. In the 10 years since its inception, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and the prime ministers of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, confirmed that the relationship between the three countries is not circumstantial. Skepticism concerning the situation in Jerusalem after three consecutive national elections which will have been held by March is reasonable. However, it will be very difficult for any Israeli government to roll back years of planning.

The second message concerns Turkey, as the pipeline will link Israel’s reserves with Cyprus, then Crete and mainland Greece through an area that Ankara says belongs to Turkey, according to the pact it signed with Libya’s Tripoli-based government. The EastMed agreement is essentially a legal act stemming from international law as it expresses the will of three sovereign and elected governments (in contrast to that in Tripoli) to deepen their cooperation. At the same time it is a message of cooperation which leaves the door open for Ankara to take part if it decides so. However, signs Thursday were not encouraging as a pair of Turkish F-16s fighter jets made six overflights over Oinousses and the nearby island of Panagia, while the presence of the Turkish fleet around Cyprus remains emphatic.

Moreover, the Turkish Parliament decided on Thursday to approve the deployment of troops to Libya, if deemed necessary. A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said any project that ignores the rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in the region will fail, while Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said the pipeline is an obstacle to efforts for a solution to the Cyprus problem. The third message is to countries such as Italy and Egypt. With the signing of the deal, Athens, Nicosia and Jerusalem showed they were not willing to wait for the perfect conditions to prevail before moving ahead.

Read more …

“..the western powers are now busily attacking the Iraqi Shia majority government they themselves installed, for the crime of being a Shia majority government.”

The Terrifying Rise of the Zombie State Narrative (Craig Murray)

The ruling Establishment has learnt a profound lesson from the debacle over Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction. The lesson they have learnt is not that it is wrong to attack and destroy an entire country on the basis of lies. They have not learnt that lesson despite the fact the western powers are now busily attacking the Iraqi Shia majority government they themselves installed, for the crime of being a Shia majority government. No, the lesson they have learnt is never to admit they lied, never to admit they were wrong. They see the ghost-like waxen visage of Tony Blair wandering around, stinking rich but less popular than an Epstein birthday party, and realise that being widely recognised as a lying mass murderer is not a good career choice.

[..] The security services outlet Bellingcat would publish some photos of big missiles planted in the sand. The Washington Post, Guardian, New York Times, BBC and CNN would republish and amplify these pictures and copy and paste the official statements from government spokesmen. Robert Fisk would get to the scene and interview a few eye witnesses who saw the missiles being planted, and he would be derided as a senile old has-been. Seymour Hersh and Peter Hitchens would interview whistleblowers and be shunned by their colleagues and left off the airwaves. Bloggers like myself would be derided as mad conspiracy theorists or paid Russian agents if we cast any doubt on the Bellingcat “evidence”.

Wikipedia would ruthlessly expunge any alternative narrative as being from unreliable sources. The Integrity Initiative, 77th Brigade, GCHQ and their US equivalents would be pumping out the “Iraqi WMD found” narrative all over social media. Mad Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council would be banning dissenting accounts all over the place in his role as Facebook Witchfinder-General.

Read more …

 

 

 

Include the Automatic Earth in your 2020 charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

 

Dec 152019
 


Theodor Horydczak U.S. Supreme Court interiors, Washington DC 1931

 

 

China Suspends Planned Tariffs Scheduled For Dec. 15 On Some US Goods (R.)
Unpacking The No Deal Not a Trade War Trade War Deal (Balding)
Giant China SEO Announces Largest Dollar Bond Default In Two Decades (ZH)
IG Report Reveals Scandal of Historic Magnitude for the FBI and US Media (GG)
The Bloated Pentagon Budget Should Be Spent on Human Needs (Nation)
The Art of Doublespeak: Bellingcat and Mind Control (Curtin)
WikiLeaks: 20 OPCW Inspectors Dissent From Syria Chemical Attack Narrative (ZH)
Hunter Biden Drugs Charge Kept Under Wraps As Joe Led Drug War From Senate (WE)
One-Third Of Credit Card Debt Is Caused By Medical Expenses (CNBC)
Edward Snowden Speaks Out for Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning (RPI)
Assange Lawyer Discloses Conditions For British Justice TO RETHINK His Extradition (RT)
A Million Times More Microplastic In The Oceans Than We Thought (Wef)

 

 

There is one issue underlying all the talks at this point: China is running out of dollars.

China Suspends Planned Tariffs Scheduled For Dec. 15 On Some US Goods (R.)

China has suspended additional tariffs on some U.S. goods that were meant to be implemented on Dec. 15, the State Council’s customs tariff commission said on Sunday, after the world’s two largest economies agreed a “phase one” trade deal on Friday. The deal, rumors and leaks over which have gyrated world markets for months, reduces some U.S. tariffs in exchange for what U.S. officials said would be a big jump in Chinese purchases of American farm products and other goods. China’s retaliatory tariffs, which were due to take effect on Dec. 15, were meant to target goods ranging from corn and wheat to U.S. made vehicles and auto parts.


Other Chinese tariffs that had already been implemented on U.S. goods would be left in place, the commission said in a statement issued on the websites of government departments including China’s finance ministry. “China hopes, on the basis of equality and mutual respect, to work with the United States, to properly resolve each other’s core concerns and promote the stable development of U.S.-China economic and trade relations,” it added. Beijing has agreed to import at least $200 billion in additional U.S. goods and services over the next two years on top of the amount it purchased in 2017, the top U.S. trade negotiator said Friday.

Read more …

Christopher Balding taught in China for a long time; he knows the country. This is his lenghty analysis of the trade deal.

Unpacking The No Deal Not a Trade War Trade War Deal (Balding)

Having been subjected to such a barrage of horrendous trade war analysis that seems more like literary therapy for the politically frustrated than actual deal analysis, I have opted to write my own analysis of the deal. I will as studiously as possible try to avoid or limit any political opinionating, and stick strictly to the analyzing the deal points within the USTR Fact Sheet and providing what are the likely trade offs, risks, and perspective about each points. Let’s get started.

This deal is about a lot more than agriculture.I’m leading with this one only because it is arguably the most common myth and repeated like the 10 Ten Commandments and divine truth even though it is clearly false on numerous levels. The USTR specifically lists IP protection, tech transfer, agriculture, financial services, currency, expanding trade, and dispute resolution as the major areas. One report in the news quoted a source as saying there were 9 chapters which would come close to matching these general areas. Even within the broader trade purchase aspect, agriculture is not even the main area. Let us please kill once and for all, this deal is just about agriculture.

Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer The two paragraphs on IP and tech transfer in the USTR statement provide scant detail but use relatively ambitious language with regards to Chinese commitments. In IP, China will “address long standing concerns”. In tech transfer, the language is even more ambitious saying China “agreed to end its long-standing practice of forcing or pressuring foreign companies to transfer their technology to Chinese companies as a condition for obtaining market access, administrative approvals, or receiving advantages from the government” and “commits to provide transparency, fairness, and due process in administrative proceedings and to have technology transfer and licensing take place on market terms” and “commits to refrain from directing or supporting outbound investments aimed at acquiring foreign technology pursuant to industrial plans that create distortion.”

Read more …

Borrowed in dollars, can’t pay back in dollars.

Giant China SEO Announces Largest Dollar Bond Default In Two Decades (ZH)

Two weeks ago we previewed what we said would soon be a D-Day for China’s bond market, as a massive commodities trader and Global 500 state-owned enterprise was set for an “unprecedented” bond default. As of last week, this historic default is now in the history books after Tewoo, the closely watched Chinese commodities trader, became the biggest dollar bond defaulter among the nation’s state-owned companies in two decades, in what Bloomberg called a “moment of reckoning” for Beijing as China struggles to contain credit risk in a weakening economy, as bond defaults hit an all time high and are set to keep rising in the coming years.

Last Wednesday, Tewoo Group announced results of its “unprecedented” debt restructuring, which saw a majority of its investors accepting heavy losses, and which according to rating agencies qualifies as an event of default. As a result of the default, until recently seen as virtually impossible for a state-owned company, investors’ perceptions are undergoing a dramatic U-turn about government-owned borrowers whose state-ownership had for years offered an ironclad sense of security. No more: The fact that a state-owned enterprise such as Tewoo has now defaulted on repaying its dollar bonds in full, confirms that Beijing will no longer bail out troubled SOEs, let alone private firms, perhaps due to the strains imposed by the economy which while growing at just below 6%, is slowing the most in three decades.

It also raises concerns over the Chinese province of Tianjin, where Tewoo is based, following a series of rating downgrades and financing difficulties suffered by some of the city’s state-run firms. The metropolis near Beijing also has the highest ratio of local government financing vehicle bonds to GDP in China. As a reminder, Tewoo ranked 132 in 2018’s Fortune Global 500 list, higher than many other conglomerates including service carrier China Telecommunications Corp. and financial titan Citic Group Corp. It had an annual revenue of $66.6 billion, profits of about $122 million, assets worth $38.3 billion, and more than 17,000 employees as of 2017, according to Fortune’s website.

Read more …

Glenn Greenwald has dug deep.

IG Report Reveals Scandal of Historic Magnitude for the FBI and US Media (GG)

Just as was true when the Mueller investigation closed without a single American being charged with criminally conspiring with Russia over the 2016 election, Wednesday’s issuance of the long-waited report from the Department of Justice’s Inspector General reveals that years of major claims and narratives from the U.S. media were utter frauds. Before evaluating the media component of this scandal, the FBI’s gross abuse of its power – its serial deceit – is so grave and manifest that it requires little effort to demonstrate it. In sum, the IG Report documents multiple instances in which the FBI – in order to convince a FISA court to allow it spy on former Trump campaign operative Carter Page during the 2016 election – manipulated documents, concealed crucial exonerating evidence, and touted what it knew were unreliable if not outright false claims.

If you don’t consider FBI lying, concealment of evidence, and manipulation of documents in order to spy on a U.S. citizen in the middle of a presidential campaign to be a major scandal, what is? [..] They are out-of-control, virtually unlimited police state factions that lie, abuse their spying and law enforcement powers, and subvert democracy and civic and political freedoms as a matter of course. In this case, no rational person should allow standard partisan bickering to distort or hide this severe FBI corruption. The IG Report leaves no doubt about it.

[..] It’s long been the case that CIA, FBI and NSA operatives tried to infiltrate and shape domestic news, but they at least had the decency to do it clandestinely. In 2008, the New York Times’ David Barstow won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing a secret Pentagon program in which retired Generals and other security state agents would get hired as commentators and analysts and then – unbeknownst to their networks – coordinate their messaging to ensure that domestic news was being shaped by the propaganda of the military and intelligence communities.

But now it’s all out in the open. It’s virtually impossible to turn on MSNBC or CNN without being bombarded with former Generals, CIA operatives, FBI agents and NSA officials who now work for those networks as commentators and, increasingly, as reporters. [..] The past three years of “Russiagate” reporting – for which U.S. journalists have lavished themselves with Pulitzers and other prizes despite a multitude of embarrassing and dangerous errors about the Grave Russian Threat – has relied almost exclusively on anonymous, uncorroborated claims from Deep State operatives (and yes, that’s a term that fully applies to the U.S.). The few exceptions are when these networks feature former high-level security state operatives on camera to spread their false propaganda,

Read more …

Tulsi to the rescue.

The Bloated Pentagon Budget Should Be Spent on Human Needs (Nation)

Even as our nation fails to allocate adequate resources to feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the sick and protect our planet, the coffers of war profiteers continue to grow. This is why we joined with 102 faith leaders and groups to call upon those who are vying to become our next president to embrace significant reallocations away from the bloated Pentagon budget toward major reinvestments in the needs of our communities. The Pentagon is on track to receive $738 billion next year, despite its inability to account for the money it already has. This includes taxpayer dollars that are redirected to corporate war profiteers, such as a staggering $34 billion contract announced in October for Lockheed Martin’s costly and fault-plagued F-35 fighter jet.

Congress has increased the Pentagon’s budget by $20 billion compared to last year. To put this in perspective, that’s double the amount of the Environmental Protection Agency’s entire budget and one-third of all the money spent on international diplomacy and development. It’s a stark and appalling contrast to the lived reality in our communities. As just a few examples, there are 140 million poor and low-income people living in the United States; about 40 million people in this country face food insecurity; salaries for our nation’s teachers plummeted by more than 4.5 percent over the last decade; we are losing veterans to suicide and drug overdose at alarming rates; and our national infrastructure is crumbling beneath our feet.

Why, then, would our elected officials agree to pump more money into weapon systems that don’t work, endless wars that don’t make us safe, and a refurbishment of our nuclear weapons arsenal that, if employed, can only end in apocalyptic destruction? It’s not just bad policy. We find it immoral. President Eisenhower said more than half a century ago: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

Read more …

Note: Bellingcat is a crucial provider of “evidence” in the MH17 trial that starts in February. It has no credibility left.

The Art of Doublespeak: Bellingcat and Mind Control (Curtin)

In the 1920s, the influential American intellectual Walter Lippman argued that the average person was incapable of seeing or understanding the world clearly and needed to be guided by experts behind the social curtain. In a number of books he laid out the theoretical foundations for the practical work of Edward Bernays, who developed “public relations” (aka propaganda) to carry out this task for the ruling elites. Bernays had honed his skills while working as a propagandist for the United States during World War I, and after the war he set himself up as a public relations counselor in New York City. There is a fascinating exchange at the beginning of Adam Curtis’s documentary, The Century of Self (above), where Bernays, then nearly 100 years old but still very sharp, reveals his manipulative mindset and that of so many of those who have followed in his wake.

He says the reason he couldn’t call his new business “propaganda” was because the Germans had given propaganda a “bad name,” and so he came up with the euphemism “public relations.” He then adds that “if you could use it [i.e. propaganda] for war, you certainly could use it for peace.” Of course, he never used PR for peace but just to manipulate public opinion (he helped engineer the CIA coup against the democratically elected Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954 with fake news broadcasts). He says “the Germans gave propaganda a bad name,” not Bernays and the United States with their vast campaign of lies, mainly aimed at the American people to get their support for going to a war they opposed (think weapons of mass destruction).

He sounds proud of his war propaganda work that resounded to his credit since it led to support for the “war to end all wars” and subsequently to a hit movie about WWI, Yankee Doodle Dandy, made in 1942 to promote another war, since the first one somehow didn’t achieve its lofty goal. As Bernays has said, “The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today.”

 

[..] There is a notorious propaganda outfit called Bellingcat, started by an unemployed Englishman named Eliot Higgins, that is funded by The Atlantic Council (a think-tank with deep ties to the U.S. government, NATO, war manufacturers, and their allies), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) (another infamous U.S. front organization heavily involved in so-called color revolution regime change operations all around the world), that has just won the International Emmy Award for best documentary. The film with the Orwellian title, Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World, received its Emmy at a recent ceremony in New York City.

Bellingcat is an alleged group of amateur on-line researchers who have spent years shilling for the U.S. instigated war against the Syrian government, blaming the Douma chemical attack and others on the Assad government, and for the anti-Russian propaganda connected to, among other things, the Skripal poisoning case in England, and the downing of flight MH17 plane in Ukraine. It has been lauded by the corporate mainstream media in the west. Its support for the equally fraudulent White Helmets (also funded by the US and the UK) in Syria has also been praised by the western corporate media while being dissected as propaganda by many excellent independent journalists such as Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Catte Black, among others.

It’s had its work skewered by the likes of Seymour Hersh and MIT professor Theodore Postol, and its US government connections pointed out by many others, including Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal at The Gray Zone. And now we have the mainstream media’s wall of silence on the leaks from the OPCW concerning the Douma chemical attack and the doctoring of their report that led to the illegal US bombing of Syria in the spring of 2018. Bellingcat was at the forefront of providing justification for such bombing, and now the journalists Peter Hitchens, Tareq Harrad (who recently resigned from Newsweek after accusing the publication of suppressing his revelations about the OPCW scandal) and others are fighting an uphill battle to get the truth out.

Yet Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World won the Emmy, fulfilling Bernays’ point about films being the greatest unconscious carriers of propaganda in the world today. Who presented the Emmy Award to the filmmakers, but none other than the rebel journalist Chris Hedges.

Read more …

Dismantling the OPCW is the only possible way forward.

WikiLeaks: 20 OPCW Inspectors Dissent From Syria Chemical Attack Narrative (ZH)

Late Saturday WikiLeaks released more documents which contradict the US narrative on Assad’s use of chemical weapons, specifically related to the April 7, 2018 Douma incident, which resulted in a major US and allied tomahawk missile and air strike campaign on dozens of targets in Damascus.

The leaked documents, including internal emails of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) — which investigated the Douma site — reveal mass dissent within the UN-authorized chemical weapons watchdog organization’s ranks over conclusions previously reached by the international body which pointed to Syrian government culpability. It’s part of a growing avalanche of dissent memos and documents casting the West’s push for war in Syria in doubt (which had resulted in two major US and allied attacks on Syria). This newly released batch, WikiLeaks reports, includes a memo stating 20 inspectors feel that the officially released version of the OPCW’s report on Douma “did not reflect the views of the team members that deployed to [Syria]”.

This comes amid widespread allegations US officials brought immense pressure to bear on the organization. The Daily Mail’s Peter Hitchens, who saw the leaked documents just prior to WikiLeaks going public with them had this to say: Sources stress that the scientists involved are ‘non-political, utterly uninterested in any strategic implications of what they reveal’. They just ‘feel that the OPCW has a duty to be true to its own science, and not to be influenced by political considerations as they fear it has been’. An internal memo seen by The Mail on Sunday suggests that as many 20 OPCW staff have expressed private doubts about the suppression of information or the manipulation of evidence.

Read more …

This is about 1988. 25 years later, in 2013, Hunter was discharged from the U.S. Navy after testing positive for cocaine. One year after, he landed his job with Burisma. Two years after that, a 2016 police report said that Hunter Biden returned a rental car in Arizona that contained a cocaine pipe and “a small ziplock bag with a white powdery substance inside all sitting on the passenger seat.”

Hunter Biden Drugs Charge Kept Under Wraps As Joe Led Drug War From Senate (WE)

Joe Biden’s son Hunter was arrested on Jersey Shore drug charges in 1988 and had his record expunged at a time when his father was pushing for the incarceration of drug offenders drawn disproportionately from minority groups. Congressional records reveal that Hunter Biden, now 49, was arrested in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, where the Biden family has often holidayed over the years, in June 1988. Hunter Biden, then 18, had just graduated from the prestigious Archmere Academy prep school, which his father had also attended. The former vice president and his wife Jill have often been spotted on trips to Stone Harbor.

The arrest has not previously been reported. Republicans have recently highlighted Hunter Biden’s drug abuse, questioning why it was not taken into account when the lobbyist was appointed to a $50,000-a-month post on the board of the Ukraine oil company Burisma in 2014, when his father, as vice president, was the Obama administration’s lead official on Ukraine. A year after the arrest, Joe Biden gave a speech in which he said the federal government needed to “hold every drug user accountable” because, “If there were no drug users, there would be no appetite for drugs, there would be no market for them.” He neglected to mention the drug use in his own family.

[..] Five months after his son escaped a sentence and had his possession charge kept secret, Biden voted for the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which made crack cocaine, often used by poor, black offenders, the only drug with a mandatory minimum penalty for a first offense of simple possession. But while many minorities were imprisoned for minor drug offenses, the wealthy, white Hunter Biden was allowed to participate in a state diversionary program called pretrial intervention. The program allowed first offenders to “avoid a trial and having the stigma accompanying a guilty verdict,” according to the Rubinstein Law Firm in New Jersey.

Read more …

Advice on how to deal with it, not a statement about how ridiculous this is.

One-Third Of Credit Card Debt Is Caused By Medical Expenses (CNBC)

For millions of Americans, unexpected bills can be summed up in two words: medical debt. Surprise health-care costs have affected about 137.1 million adults in the past year, according to recent research. And many Americans are turning to credit cards to help manage those debt burdens, according to CompareCards.com. The website found that 33% of cardholders are in debt because of medical bills. And nearly 60% said they used a card because they had no other way to pay. If you’re saddled with this debt, you need to take action.


First, start by making sure that you’re getting the best interest rates for your balances. If you have debt sitting on a high-interest card, consider transferring the balance to a 0% credit card. You may also use a medical credit card for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by your insurance. These cards, which are offered by companies like CareCredit, have special financing you may not get on other cards. They’re interest-free for a few months as long as you make your monthly payments on time. After that period, though, be sure to pay the balance off in full to avoid deferred interest that will charged from the original date of purchase.

Read more …

Obama revived the Espionage Act. But he didn’t have the guts to use it against journalists.

Edward Snowden Speaks Out for Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning (RPI)

Last week, Edward Snowden, a whistleblower who has since 2013 escaped similar silencing via retaining sanctuary in Russia, spoke up in strong advocacy for Assange and Manning’s freedom. He did so in an interview with Democracy Now host Amy Goodman. Snowden points out in the interview that the US cases against Assange, Manning, and himself all derive from the Espionage Act, the same Espionage Act that he notes was used against Daniel Ellsberg in the 1970s after Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to media. Pointing as an example to Ellsberg being prevented from even telling a jury at trial why he leaked the Pentagon Papers that revealed the hidden truth about US actions in the Vietnam War, Snowden emphasizes that the Espionage Act “is a special law that absolutely rules out any kind of fair trial.”

Continuing, Snowden discusses in the interview Manning’s revelations of “torture and war crimes, indefinite detention on the part of the United States government in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba” and Snowden’s own “involvement in the revelation of global mass surveillance” as being part of activities by a “new generation” of whistleblowers. Like Ellsberg, Snowden relates that he and Manning were confronted with the Espionage Act “that forbids the jury to consider” if the leaking activity at issue “was something that did more good for the public to know than it did harm to the government in terms of inconvenience or theoretical risks of investigative journalism in a free society.” And Snowden makes sure to emphasizes that the victims of this type of persecution over the last few years extend beyond Manning and himself.

Indeed, the charging of Julian Assange under the Espionage Act Snowden sees as particularly threatening. States Snowden: “We moved from an individual and exceptional case that was not repeated for decades and decades in the Ellsberg instance to something that under the Obama administration he charged more sources of journalism using this special law than all other presidents in the history of the United States combined. And now, under the Trump administration, we have taken one more step. We have gone from the United States government’s war on whistleblowers to, now, a war on journalism with the indictment of Julian Assange for what even the government itself admits was work related to journalism. And this I think is a dangerous, dangerous thing — not just for us, not just for Julian Assange, but for the world and the future.”

Read more …

“December 20 is an important day..”

Assange Lawyer Discloses Conditions For British Justice TO RETHINK His Extradition (RT)

A Spanish judge will question Julian Assange on a Spain-based security firm thought to have spied on him in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. His lawyer hopes it may help thwart the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US. Set for next week, the questioning is part of a criminal inquiry the Spanish High Court is carrying out into UC Global, a private security company suspected of gathering surveillance on Assange and passing it further to US intelligence services. “December 20 is an important day,” Aitor Martinez, a lawyer in charge of defending Assange in Spain, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency. The Spanish judge will go to Westminster Magistrates Court “to receive a video conference testimony from Mr Assange as a victim of the alleged spy plot,” he revealed.

The firm’s name surfaced this summer when El Pais newspaper reported that it was eavesdropping on Assange during his exile at the Ecuadorian diplomatic mission in London. Citing recordings it has had access to, the paper alleged that the firm – tasked to guard the embassy – specifically focused on Assange’s legal matters discussions. Now, Assange’s input is invaluable as it can pave the way to shooting down US efforts to try the publisher on their soil, Martinez explained. “Obviously, once Spanish justice receives such testimonies from Mr. Assange … the British justice should rethink the usefulness of his extradition [to the US],” he argued. As the inquiry progressed, the Spanish High Court arrested the company’s owner David Morales, a former member of the Spanish military, believed to have liaised with the US side.

He was released on bail, but his company’s premises were searched and his bank accounts frozen. As the story unfolded, it emerged that UC Global operatives also monitored Russian and American visitors to Assange, handing their profiles to US intelligence. Morales himself didn’t try to hide his ties to the “American friends.” According to Germany’s NDR broadcaster, which filed a complaint against UC Global for having targeted one of its journalists who visited Assange, Morales allegedly told one of his employees: “From now on, we play in the first league… We are now working for the dark side.” He is said to have traveled up to twice a month to the US to deliver intelligence taken from the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Read more …

And in our own bodies too, if not now then soon.

A Million Times More Microplastic In The Oceans Than We Thought (Wef)

There could be a million times more microplastics floating around our oceans than previously thought, according to new research suggesting existing studies could have seriously underestimated the problem. Some microplastics – defined as fragments measuring less than 5 mm – are too small to be caught in the nets traditionally used to collect samples, making them go unnoticed. But researchers say a new technique has enabled more accurate measurements, capturing pieces smaller than the width of a human hair. The study, led by biological oceanographer Jennifer Brandon of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, published in the science journal Limnology and Oceanography Letters, found the concentration of tiny plastic pieces could be five to seven orders of magnitude greater than previously thought.

These fragments make their way into the world’s waterways and end up in our oceans. More than one-third of microplastics in the ocean come from synthetic fabrics, such as polyester or nylon. Car tyres are the second-leading source, releasing plastic particles as they erode. To more accurately record the level of microplastic pollution in ocean waters, the researchers analysed seawater salps, which are tiny, barrel-shaped filter feeders. These invertebrates inhabit ocean waters to depths of around 2 kilometres. Salps pump salt water through their bodies as they perform a pulsing movement both to feed and to move through the ocean. Filter-feeding in the ocean depths makes them a likely place to find microplastics, the researchers say.

All of the salp samples taken from three different ocean zones had mini-microplastic particles in their stomachs. Since food passes through the creature’s digestive system in two to seven hours, it was an alarming find. “The thing that truly surprised me the most was that every salp, regardless of year collected, species, life stage, or part of the ocean collected, had plastic in its stomach,” Brandon explained to Earther. “A species having 100% ingestion rates is quite extraordinary, and devastating for the food web that eats salps.”

Read more …

 

 

 

Please put the Automatic Earth on your Christmas charity list. Support us on Paypal and Patreon.

Top of the page, left and right sidebars. Thank you.

 

 

 

Aug 032019
 


Dorothea Lange Migrant Father June 1938

 

Russian Assets In America: A Field Guide (RT)
Majority of House Democrats Favor Starting Impeachment Proceedings (R.)
The Rise and Fall of Superhero Robert Mueller (Matt Taibbi)
Obama Looms over the Primary in Invisible Ways (TPM)
Race Hustle (Jim Kunstler)
Tory Rebels Threaten Boris Johnson After Majority Cut To One (G.)
Watch Out Boris Johnson the Chickens are Coming Home to Roost (English)
Pentagon Testing Mass Surveillance Balloons Across The US (G.)
What Would Chinese Military Intervention In Hong Kong Look Like? (ZH)
First Human-Monkey Chimera Raises Concern Among Scientists (G.)

 

 

Russiagate intensifies.

Honorable mentions: Trump, hamburgers, Washington Post.

Russian Assets In America: A Field Guide (RT)

If the mainstream media is to be believed, the Kremlin’s network of hackers and bots could give the Illuminati a run for its money. When its operatives aren’t electing British prime ministers, embarrassing American politicians on debate night and flogging dildos to undermine democracy, they’re overseeing a team of assets earning their borscht openly in the United States. Thankfully, the intrepid detectives in the American press have named and shamed these double agents. We’ve compiled a list here.


Mitch McConnell, alias: Moscow Mitch McTreason

Cleverly posing as a Republican Senator from Kentucky since 1985, Mitch McConnell was outed as a Russian asset by the Washington Post last week when he shot down a trio of bills that would have supposedly beefed up American election security from foreign interference. Never mind that McConnell opposed the bills based almost entirely on partisan disagreements with the Democrats, the Post exclaimed “Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset,” and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough dubbed the southern Republican “Moscow Mitch.” With his nefarious plan exposed, #MoscowMitchMcTreason had no choice but to shrug, and continue about his day.


Lindsey Graham, alias: Leningrad Lindsey

#LeningradLindsey began trending after the South Carolina lawmaker helped push a controversial asylum bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Though the bill had nothing to do with Russia, the nickname stuck. Cleverly, Leningrad Lindsey has spent his career on Capitol Hill posing as a Russia-baiter. Graham has repeatedly called for Russia to “pay a price” for allegedly meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and co-sponsored an anti-Russia “sanctions bill from hell.” With a record like that, nobody would suspect that he was secretly a Russian asset all along. Note too that Leningrad does not exist any more. Perhaps Graham’s treachery dates back to the communist era? Either that or Letnerechenskiy Lindsey didn’t have the same ring to it.

Read more …

I can’t seem to figure out on what specific grounds though.

Majority of House Democrats Favor Starting Impeachment Proceedings (R.)

A majority of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives now favor launching impeachment proceedings against Republican President Donald Trump, after a California lawmaker on Friday became the 118th Democrat to call for the process to begin. “In the past few years, our nation has seen and heard things from this president that have no place in our democracy,” Representative Salud Carbajal said in a statement that accused Trump of “criminal” behavior. “I believe it is time to open an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump,” Carbajal said. The Democrats have a majority of 235 members in the House of Representatives. Support for an impeachment inquiry has jumped by more than two dozen Democrats since former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified on July 24 about his probe of Trump and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

But the total of 118 is still far short of the 218 House votes needed to approve an impeachment resolution, and opinion polls continue to show voters sharply divided over the issue. The House is currently on a summer recess and will not return until Sept. 9. Having a majority of her own caucus favor impeachment could put new pressure on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who opposes impeachment as a politically risky move unless investigators find powerful evidence of misconduct by Trump that can unify public opinion. In a statement issued Friday, Pelosi gave no sign she was about to change her cautious approach. Instead, she outlined in considerable detail her strategy of Democrats continuing to investigate the president, while also moving in court to get access to more evidence.

“Democrats in the Congress continue to legislate, investigate and litigate,” Pelosi declared. “The president will be held accountable.” Democrats opposing impeachment say the best way to remove Trump is by defeating him in 2020, when he is up for re-election. Some Democrats worry that too strong a focus on impeachment could eclipse other issues like healthcare and threaten the re-election of Democrats who pried seats away from Republicans last year in regions where many voters oppose impeachment. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and says he was vindicated by the Mueller report, but the special counsel made clear in his testimony to Congress that that was not the case.

In his report, Mueller described in detail the extensive contact Trump’s team had with Russia during the 2016 election campaign, and how Trump tried to impede Mueller’s investigation. While he stopped short of concluding Trump had committed a crime or that his aides had conspired with Moscow, Mueller did not clear him and indicated it was up to Congress to decide the next steps. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee effectively rebranded their six-month-old oversight investigation of Trump as an impeachment probe last week, when they asked a federal judge for access to Mueller’s grand jury evidence to determine whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Trump.

Read more …

More impeachment nonsense.

The Rise and Fall of Superhero Robert Mueller (Matt Taibbi)

The conspiracy tale has validated every Trump criticism about both crooked media and the deep state. The whole narrative is the brainchild of Clinton hacks, a handful of overzealous intelligence nuts, and a subset of the Democratic Party’s weakest elected minds, in particular murine ex-prosecutor Schiff, a man who should be selling Buicks back in his hometown Burbank. Take a good look at Schiff, at our paranoid outpatient of an ex-CIA chief John Brennan, and at excuse-making Clinton campaign chief Robby Mook (a.k.a. the captain of the Democratic Titanic), and ask if you really want to be re-writing history for those people. They’re making the press accomplices in the most imbecilic effort at political opposition in recent American history.

Hence the desperate public comments and the string of wacked-out stunts, like putting Mueller under oath. Impeachment will be the next adventure in doubling down blind. A significant portion of the original conspiracy theory vanished via a series of under-circulated news reports just in the months since the end of the Mueller probe. Remember the Southern District of New York campaign finance probe that arose in connection with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the one described as a “major danger” to Trump? Remember all that talk about how “Trump can’t run the Mueller playbook on the New York feds?” Experts told us that the Cohen probe posed a “significant threat” of new indictments for Trump and his family.

When that investigation closed with no new charges the same week Mueller testified, the commentariat barely noticed. Same with the Democrats v. Earth lawsuit/publicity stunt, in which the Democratic National Committee sued Trump, the Russian government, and Wikileaks under a RICO claim. Plaintiffs charged the Trump campaign conspired to steal and release DNC emails. But a federal judge tossed the suit on the grounds that the Trump campaign “did not participate in the theft.” Moreover, the Clinton-appointed judge said published documents were “of public concern” and therefore protected like any other journalistic work product. The judge also ruled that allegations about all the non-Russian defendants (including Wikileaks) were “insufficient to hold them liable” for any illegality involved in obtaining DNC emails.

Read more …

More superheroes.

Obama Looms over the Primary in Invisible Ways (TPM)

When Bernie Sanders got into the race in 2016 in many ways his campaign was premised on the idea that Obama had gotten most things wrong. Perhaps his presidency wasn’t a disaster, as my friend argues. But the premises of Sanders’ campaign was that Democrats needed to move in a dramatically different direction and that Obama’s policies and presidency were – while better than the GOP alternative – fundamentally misguided. Sanders was pretty straightforward about this before getting into the race. And he didn’t really hide it once he got in. But in the nature of things, since Obama was a popular incumbent, it wasn’t a point he emphasized during his campaign.

We also know that the entire country has moved left on a number of issues over the last decade (LGBTQ issues and marijuana legalization are just two examples). Democrats, meanwhile, have moved significantly to the left on a much broader range of issues. Some of this is an on-going trend. Some of it is in reaction to Trump, having his extremity lead to a reevaluation of practices that most Democrats didn’t focus much on. Maybe the best example of this is on immigration. As immigration advocates were saying very clearly at the time, the Obama administration deported lots and lots of people. It’s hard to see that in quite the same light after what we’ve all been exposed to about the mechanics of ICE, detention, deportation and everything that goes with it.

But with all of this, there’s a shift that has taken place that manages to be both all but invisible and yet very obvious. Part of it is Sanders deep imprint on the 2020 policy conversation – especially on health care and student debt but on other issues as well. Part of it is the wave of left activism that predates Trump but has intensified under his presidency. But taken together they’ve created a 2020 campaign policy conversation which at least implicitly gives a pretty negative verdict on Obama and his presidency. Perhaps not a disaster as my friend puts it but in many regards a mistake rather than something to build on. That, I think, is the root of Biden’s continuing strength, even with all the bobbles, flubs, the archaic policy histories and all the rest. It’s not just because he was Obama’s Vice President and people like Obama. It’s because the terms of the policy debate are in conflict – when forced together – with where the great majority of Democrats are, which is holding Obama and his presidency in very high regard.

Read more …

“Maybe the Democratic Party should move out of the ghetto it’s built for itself.”

Race Hustle (Jim Kunstler)

The shriekings of “racism” aren’t helping much anymore. Few observers have missed the fact that the city of Baltimore has been run by an African American city hall (Mayor, Police Chief, District Attorney) for many years, with over a billion dollars in additional federal assistance. So, if political power is the answer, how’s that working out? Add some extra shrieking about “white privilege” to explain the situation? How does “white privilege” explain the fact that 86 percent of kids in Baltimore primary schools can’t read and 89 percent can’t do arithmetic to grade level? This, despite the fact that at $15,564 per pupil, Baltimore is fourth highest per student of the 100 largest school districts in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Maybe becoming the party of a national race hustle isn’t such a good idea. The race hustle is wearing out its welcome in American politics, and the more the Democratic Party resorts to race hustling as its chief strategy, the sooner the party will go extinct. That is, if it doesn’t incite some kind of civil war first. Cue the cry, “That’s racist!”

Maybe there is a whole range of human values and human behaviors that have nothing to do with race — like reading to small children and helping them learn the English language so they don’t grow into adults who have to say “know what I mean?” every other sentence because they’ve barely acquired enough language skill themselves to know what they mean. Maybe there’s something called an American common culture that contains values and behaviors worth emulating rather than opposing. Maybe “multiculturalism” wasn’t such a good idea after all. Maybe ghetto culture is not such a precious foundation for a successful life. Maybe the Democratic Party should move out of the ghetto it’s built for itself.

Read more …

‘Even if my career is over, I can’t put my name to this.’

Tory Rebels Threaten Boris Johnson After Majority Cut To One (G.)

Boris Johnson faced a grave threat to his control of parliament on Friday as he was warned that Conservative rebels could cross the House of Commons to foil Brexit in the aftermath of a byelection that reduced his working majority to just one MP. Overnight, the Liberal Democrats’ Jane Dodds won a crucial byelection in Brecon and Radnorshire by a margin of 1,425, overturning the Tories’ previous majority of more than 8,000. The result prompted immediate recriminations across the party. Conservative no-deal sceptics warned about the rapidly growing threat the government could face from the reinvigorated Lib Dems, while insiders blamed Theresa May’s administration for choosing a candidate who had already been ousted for expenses fraud.

One of the most prominent Conservative supporters of a second referendum told the Guardian on Friday he was actively considering defecting to the Lib Dems or sitting as an independent, a move that would leave Johnson at the helm of a minority government. Dr Phillip Lee, the former justice minister, who first suggested he could quit the party in his own podcast, On the House, told the Guardian he was not alone among colleagues considering defecting or resigning if the government pursued no deal. “I have things to think about over the summer, but it is not just me,” he said.

“There are a number of colleagues who are spending the summer reflecting on what is the right way for them to confront this no-deal scenario. Of course, it is difficult for all of us because we joined the Conservative party, but it has morphed into something a lot different to what I joined in 1992.” Although Johnson might be able to rely on Labour Brexiters and independents to vote for a deal, Lee suggested that the government could still be threatened by the many Conservatives in the party’s centre who had been alienated by the number of rightwingers in Johnson’s cabinet. “At the moment Boris Johnson has a very difficult pitch to play and that has been made even harder by the formation of this cabinet,” he said. “There are increasingly people who think, ‘Even if my career is over, I can’t put my name to this.’

Read more …

“[..] the pound has plummeted since his appointment. It is currently the second worst performing currency in the world – after the Madagascan Ariary.”

Watch Out Boris Johnson the Chickens are Coming Home to Roost (English)

[..] a week is a long time in politics and Prime Minister Johnson quickly ran out of hot air. Just saying stuff will happen does not make stuff happen. You can’t strike a better deal if you refuse point blank to meet your opposite numbers. You see, incredibly, instead of setting up meetings with his fellow heads of state and selling his Brexit vision, Johnson has declared that he won’t meet Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron or any of the EU heads unless they scrap the backstop. This is the same ludicrous negotiating tactic he deployed when as Mayor of London he refused to engage with London Underground union reps. It didn’t work then and led to long strikes. It’s even less likely to work now – and the end result will be far more damaging.

Johnson is all about image and image management. His team has already set to work on a £100 million taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign – the biggest of its kind since World War Two – to convince the British people that a ‘no deal’ Brexit will be fine and, failing that, it will be everyone else’s fault. Every single reputable economist disagrees. And so do the markets, which is why the pound has plummeted since his appointment. It is currently the second worst performing currency in the world – after the Madagascan Ariary.

Some Brexit cultists argue that a weak currency is good for the economy. They’re wrong. Unless you’re a hedge fund manager or a holiday lettings firm in Cornwall, a weak pound is a disaster. It’s bad for consumers and calamitous for manufacturers relying on tight margins and supply chains. It’s awful for pensioners, holiday-makers or anyone who has an interest in the British economy functioning. A falling currency is like a failing heart. If it were otherwise, then Madagascar would be the economic powerhouse of the global economy and Italy would have been the envy of the world in the Berlusconi years.

Read more …

Freedom’s just another word for nothing.

Pentagon Testing Mass Surveillance Balloons Across The US (G.)

The US military is conducting wide-area surveillance tests across six midwest states using experimental high-altitude balloons, documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reveal. Up to 25 unmanned solar-powered balloons are being launched from rural South Dakota and drifting 250 miles through an area spanning portions of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri, before concluding in central Illinois. Travelling in the stratosphere at altitudes of up to 65,000ft, the balloons are intended to “provide a persistent surveillance system to locate and deter narcotic trafficking and homeland security threats”, according to a filing made on behalf of the Sierra Nevada Corporation, an aerospace and defence company.


The balloons are carrying hi-tech radars designed to simultaneously track many individual vehicles day or night, through any kind of weather. The tests, which have not previously been reported, received an FCC license to operate from mid-July until September, following similar flights licensed last year. Arthur Holland Michel, the co-director of the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College in New York, said, “What this new technology proposes is to watch everything at once. Sometimes it’s referred to as ‘combat TiVo’ because when an event happens somewhere in the surveilled area, you can potentially rewind the tape to see exactly what occurred, and rewind even further to see who was involved and where they came from.”

Read more …

“even smaller-scale intervention could spark a knee-jerk exodus from the city’s financial markets..”

What Would Chinese Military Intervention In Hong Kong Look Like? (ZH)

According to a new lengthy Bloomberg exploration outlining the possibilities that China’s military could intervene against the now eight weeks-long increasingly violent protests that have gripped Hong Kong streets, a central question now on everyone’s mind is, What will the Chinese military do? Reports began appearing late last week of a Chinese security forces build-up just outside the semi-autonomous city, setting nerves on edge, and this week the chief of the Chinese military garrison in Hong Kong warned that the army stands ready to “protect” Chinese sovereignty. And then there was also the extremely provocative just released “riot control” video, showing People’s Liberation Army (PLA) solders conducing a drill to invade a city in an imagined armed crackdown on protesters and unrest.


The Bloomberg report begins by noting that though Chinese army occupation of Hong Kong remains unlikely, it remains that “even smaller-scale intervention could spark a knee-jerk exodus from the city’s financial markets, drag down property prices and prompt international companies to reconsider their presence in the territory, analysts say.” The major financial hub could suffer “irreparable damage” by such an exodus, along with severely weakening the “one country, two systems” concept in effect since 1997. Chinese military officials, and especially state media have begun floating the argument for “military options” and intervention. Officials also recently described the US as a “black hand” behind the anti-Beijing protests – which began over a proposed extradition bill – something which the US state department dismissed as “ridiculous”.

Read more …

And all the sinners saints.

First Human-Monkey Chimera Raises Concern Among Scientists (G.)

Efforts to create human-animal chimeras have rebooted an ethical debate after reports emerged that scientists have produced monkey embryos containing human cells. A chimera is an organism whose cells come from two or more “individuals”, with recent work looking at combinations from different species. The word comes from a beast from Greek mythology which was said to be part lion, part goat and part snake. The latest report, published in the Spanish newspaper El País, claims a team of researchers led by Prof Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte from the Salk Institute in the US have produced monkey-human chimeras. The research was conducted in China “to avoid legal issues”, according to the report.

Chimeras are seen as a potential way to address the lack of organs for transplantation, as well as problems of organ rejection. Scientists believe organs genetically matched to a particular human recipient could one day be grown inside animals. The approach is based on taking cells from an adult human and reprogramming them to become stem cells, which can give rise to any type of cell in the body. They are then introduced into the embryo of another species. Izpisúa Belmonte and other scientists have previously managed to produce both pig embryos and sheep embryos which contain human cells, although the proportions are tiny: in the latter case, researchers estimate that only one cell in 10,000 was human.

Pig-human and sheep-human chimeras are attractive in part because pigs and sheep have organs about the right size for transplantation into humans. However Alejandro De Los Angeles, from the department of psychiatry at Yale University, said it was likely monkey-human chimeras were being developed to explore how to improve the proportion of human cells in such organisms. “Making human-monkey chimeras could teach us how to make human-pig chimeras with the hope of making organs for transplantation,” he said. “It could teach us which types of stem cells we should be using, or other ways of enhancing what’s called ‘human chimerism levels’ inside pigs.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 172019
 
 July 17, 2019  Posted by at 9:20 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Piet Mondriaan Place de la Concorde 1938-43

 

FBI Spreadsheet Puts A Stake Through The Heart Of Steele’s Dossier (Solomon)
Sic Transit Gloria Mueller (Ray McGovern)
House Floor In Chaos Over Pelosi Speech On Trump Tweets (RC)
House Condemns Trump Over ‘Racist Comments’ Tweeted At Congresswomen (R.)
Republican Support For Trump Rises After Racially Charged Tweets (R.)
Pentagon To Review If It Exposed Americans To Weaponised Ticks (G.)
Bitcoin Tumbles As US Senators Grill Facebook On Crypto Plans (R.)
Twitter CEO Maxes Out Donations To Tulsi Gabbard (RT)
Everything’s Fine Until Suddenly it Isn’t: How a Leveraged Loan Blows Up (WS)
Boris Johnson’s New Plan To Sideline Parliament, Guarantee No Deal Brexit (ZH)
Labour Peers Tell Corbyn: You Have Failed Test Of Leadership (G.)
Berlin Buys 670 Flats From Private Owner (G.)
Freeing Julian Assange: Part Three (Suzie Dawson)

 

 

“.. the spreadsheet found upward of 90 percent of the dossier’s claims to be either wrong, nonverifiable or open-source intelligence found with a Google search..”

FBI Spreadsheet Puts A Stake Through The Heart Of Steele’s Dossier (Solomon)

Over months of work, FBI agents painstakingly researched every claim Steele made about Trump’s possible collusion with Russia, and assembled their findings into a spreadsheet-like document. The over-under isn’t flattering to Steele. Multiple sources familiar with the FBI spreadsheet tell me the vast majority of Steele’s claims were deemed to be wrong, or could not be corroborated even with the most awesome tools available to the U.S. intelligence community. One source estimated the spreadsheet found upward of 90 percent of the dossier’s claims to be either wrong, nonverifiable or open-source intelligence found with a Google search. In other words, it was mostly useless.


“The spreadsheet was a sea of blanks, meaning most claims couldn’t be corroborated, and those things that were found in classified intelligence suggested Steele’s intelligence was partly or totally inaccurate on several claims,” one source told me. The FBI’s final assessment was driven by many findings contained in classified footnotes at the bottom of the spreadsheet. But it was also informed by an agent’s interview, in early 2017, with a Russian that Steele claimed was one of his main providers of intelligence, according to my sources.

Read more …

“..the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.”

Sic Transit Gloria Mueller (Ray McGovern)

As the truth seeps out, there will be plenty of crow to go around. To avoid eating it, the Democrats on the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, the stenographers who pass for journalists at the Times and Post, and the “Mueller team” will need all the time they can muster to come up with imaginative responses to two recent bombshell revelations from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Perhaps the most damning of the two came last Monday, when it was disclosed that, on July 1, Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered Mueller to stop pretending he had proof that the Russian government was behind the Internet Research Agency’s supposed attempt to interfere via social media in the 2016 election.

While the corporate media so far has largely ignored Judge Friedrich’s order, it may well have been enough to cause very cold feet for those attached to the strained Facebook fable. (The IRA social-media “interference” has always been ludicrous on its face, as journalist Gareth Porter established.) Ten days is not a lot of time to conjure up ways to confront and explain Judge Friedrich’s injection of some unwelcome reality. Since the Democrats, the media, and Mueller himself all have strong incentive to “make the worst case appear the better” (one of the twin charges against Socrates), they need time to regroup and circle the wagons. The more so, since Mueller’s other twin charge — Russian hacking of the DNC — also has been shown, in a separate Court case, to be bereft of credible evidence.

No, the incomplete, redacted, second-hand “forensics” draft that former FBI Director James Comey decided to settle for from the Democratic National Committee-hired CrowdStrike firm does not qualify as credible evidence. Both new developments are likely to pose a strong challenge to Mueller. On the forensics, Mueller decided to settle for what his former colleague Comey decided to settle for from CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC despite it’s deeply flawed reputation and well known bias against Russia. In fact, the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.

Read more …

Good read on a pretty nutty spectacle.

House Floor In Chaos Over Pelosi Speech On Trump Tweets (RC)

Amid debate over whether to condemn tweets by President Donald Trump as racist on Tuesday, the House descended into parliamentary chaos, with Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, who was presiding, abruptly dropping the gavel and saying, “I abandon the chair.” It was an extraordinary moment on an extraordinary day, as the House considered a resolution condemning Trump’s tweets from the weekend that told four freshman Democrats from the House to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Before Cleaver’s action, House debate had come to an abrupt halt when Georgia Republican Doug Collins took a rare procedural step to “take down” comments by Speaker Nancy Pelosi characterizing Trump’s tweets as racist.


“Every member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us to condemn the president’s racist tweets,” said Pelosi, speaking on the House floor. Collins interjected unsuccessfully, but once Pelosi was finished speaking, made Pelosi an offer. “I was just going to give the gentle speaker of the House, if she would like to rephrase that comment?” he asked. Pelosi responded that she cleared her remarks with the parliamentarian before she read them on the floor. “I ask that her words be taken down,” Collins said as Pelosi walked away from the rostrum to a spattering of applause. “I make a point of order that the gentlewoman’s words are unparliamentary and request they be taken down.” Collins set off a more than hour-long review and debate over Pelosi’s comments before a decision could be rendered.

Read more …

Virtue signalling 101. As if the divide isn’t wide enough yet.

House Condemns Trump Over ‘Racist Comments’ Tweeted At Congresswomen (R.)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to condemn President Donald Trump for “racist comments” against four minority Democratic congresswomen, a symbolic measure aimed at shaming Trump and his fellow Republicans who stood by him. The 240-187 vote, which split mainly along party lines, was the culmination of three days of outrage sparked by a Trump tweetstorm that diverted attention from other business in Washington but had little impact on the president’s overall approval rating, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. Trump is seeking re-election next year. Trump had told the group of congresswomen on Sunday to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” [..]


“These comments from the White House are disgraceful and disgusting and these comments are racist,” Pelosi said. “Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets.” Pelosi’s comments put the House into a two-hour limbo after Republicans argued she went too far in her comments and broke debate rules. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy criticized Democrats for remarks that upset the “order and decency” of the chamber, saying: “Today is the day that historians will write about.”

Read more …

Not surprising. The trenches have been dug.

Republican Support For Trump Rises After Racially Charged Tweets (R.)

Support for U.S. President Donald Trump increased slightly among Republicans after he lashed out on Twitter over the weekend in a racially charged attack on four minority Democratic congresswomen, a Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll shows. The national survey, conducted on Monday and Tuesday after Trump told the lawmakers they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” showed his net approval among members of his Republican Party rose by 5 percentage points to 72%, compared with a similar poll that ran last week.


Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, has lost support, however, with Democrats and independents since the Sunday tweetstorm. Among independents, about three out of 10 said they approved of Trump, down from four out of 10 a week ago. His net approval – the percentage who approve minus the percentage who disapprove – dropped by 2 points among Democrats in the poll. Trump’s overall approval remained unchanged over the past week. According to the poll, 41% of the U.S. public said they approved of his performance in office, while 55% disapproved.

Read more …

Craziest topic in a long time. Lyme comes from an army lab.

Pentagon To Review If It Exposed Americans To Weaponised Ticks (G.)

The US House of Representatives has called for an investigation into whether the spread of Lyme disease had its roots in a Pentagon experiment in weaponising ticks. The House approved an amendment proposed by a Republican congressman from New Jersey, Chris Smith, instructing the defence department’s inspector general to conduct a review of whether the US “experimented with ticks and other insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975”. The review would have to assess the scope of the experiment and “whether any ticks or insects used in such experiment were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design”.


The amendment was approved by a voice vote in the House and added to a defence spending bill, but the bill still has to be reconciled with a Senate version. Smith said the amendment was inspired by “a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at US government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Plum Island, New York, to turn ticks and other insects into bioweapons”. A new book published in May by a Stanford University science writer and former Lyme sufferer, Kris Newby, has raised questions about the origins of the disease, which affects 400,000 Americans each year. Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons, cites the Swiss-born discoverer of the Lyme pathogen, Willy Burgdorfer, as saying that the Lyme epidemic was a military experiment that had gone wrong.

Read more …

“..a U.S. senator said Facebook was “delusional” to believe people will trust it with their money.”

Bitcoin Tumbles As US Senators Grill Facebook On Crypto Plans (R.)

The cryptocurrency market took a beating on Tuesday with bitcoin losing over 10% in value after U.S. lawmakers grilled Facebook on its cryptocurrency plans, as political and regulatory scrutiny of digital coins intensifies. The social media giant is fighting to get Washington onside after it shocked regulators and lawmakers with its announcement on June 18 that it was hoping to launch its own digital coin called Libra in 2020. David Marcus, the company’s top executive overseeing the planned Libra project, answered questions from the Senate Banking Committee. During the hearing, a U.S. senator said Facebook was “delusional” to believe people will trust it with their money.


Facebook’s Libra plan, which is seen as a major step for wider adaptation of virtual currencies, has helped stoke this year’s rally in bitcoin, ethereum and other digital coins. “Libra is essentially slammed in the Senate,” said Lennon Sweeting, head trader at Coinsquare Capital Markets Ltd. “It’s just headline-driven volatility.” Digital currencies will likely recover with bitcoin returning to a $11,000-$12,000 trading range, Sweeting said. At 2:56 p.m. (1856 GMT), bitcoin fell 11.69% to $9,582.12 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange. It fell below $10,000 for the first time in two weeks.

Read more …

And the next moment Jack’s twisted head erased Julian Assange’s Unity4J support.

Twitter CEO Maxes Out Donations To Tulsi Gabbard (RT)

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has donated thousands of dollars to anti-war Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard – and Twitter users and mainstream media journalists are (rather ironically) up in arms about it. Dorsey gave the maximum donation of $5,600 to Gabbard’s campaign a day after her appearance during the first Democratic presidential campaign in June, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings, reported on by BuzzFeed. Of all the Democrat contenders for the 2020 nomination, the Hawaii congresswoman has been a favorite punching bag for US journalists, who have accused her of being “pro-Russia” due to her anti-intervention foreign policy stances. She has also been consistently targeted for meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad during a 2017 trip to the war-torn country, with the media deriding her as an “Assad apologist” ever since.


BuzzFeed’s own story on Dorsey’s donations even smacks of disbelief, claiming that Gabbard is “probably best known for her visit to Syrian dictator” Assad, despite the fact that she is obviously well-known for other things, like being a high-profile congresswoman and Iraq war veteran. Later, BuzzFeed notes that Dorsey also scandalously “faved a bunch of tweets” from and about Gabbard. Needless to say, Dorsey’s own conspiracy machine – also known as Twitter – kicked into high gear, with people accusing him of being a Russian-bot-loving Assad apologist whose donations are “disappointing.”

Read more …

”And there are $1.3 trillion of them.”

Everything’s Fine Until Suddenly it Isn’t: How a Leveraged Loan Blows Up (WS)

Golden Gate Capital – the private equity firm now infamous for asset-stripping its portfolio company Payless ShoeSource into bankruptcy and liquidation – strikes again with another of its portfolio companies, Clover Technologies, whose $693-million leveraged loan has suddenly gone to heck. Slices of that leveraged loan are traded like securities. But because leveraged loans are loans, not securities, the SEC doesn’t regulate them. No one regulates them, though the Fed wrings its hands about them periodically. And there are $1.3 trillion of them.

The market for them is very illiquid, even during good times, and before Clover disclosed some issues on July 9, the loan still traded at 97 cents on the dollar, according to Bloomberg. This was the day investors, such as leveraged loan mutual funds and institutional investors that held these slices, suddenly woke up with the foul odor of debt restructuring and bankruptcy in the air. Within just a few days, the price of the loan plunged 35% to 62.625 cents on the dollar. The loan was “covenant-lite,” giving fewer protections to investors and allowing the company and its owners to get away with all kinds of things. This included the absence of certain disclosure requirements.


Not that we feel sorry for investors that suddenly got whacked: They knew that leverage loans are risky, that they’re issued by junk-rated over-leveraged companies with iffy cash-flows, often to fund their own leveraged buyout by a PE firm, and to fund special dividends back to the PE firm. Both factors apply to Clover’s leveraged loan. Investors don’t care. They’re chasing yield no matter what the risks, in a world where yield has been repressed by central-bank policies.

Read more …

Cheap tricks is what you need?!

Boris Johnson’s New Plan To Sideline Parliament, Guarantee No Deal Brexit (ZH)

The British pound tumbled to its weakest level in more than two years on Tuesday as fears of a ‘no deal’ Brexit continued to weigh on GBP, which has been steadily sinking during the Tory leadership contest that many expect will send Boris Johnson, a committed Brexiteer, to No. 10 Downing Street. And on Tuesday, Johnson – who said last night that he wouldn’t accept any time limits (both he and his rival Jeremy Hunt ruled out such a measure), unilateral escape hatches or any other kind of elaborate device to make the Irish Backstop more palatable – gave investors one more reason to worry: Sky News reports, citing anonymous sources from within Johnson’s campaign, that the candidate could delay a customary speech by the Queen that marks the beginning of the Parliamentary session – this would render MPs unavailable on Oct. 31, the day the UK is set to leave the EU.

Though Johnson’s rival Jeremy Hunt has said he’s open to another brief delay, Johnson’s position is that on Halloween, Brexit will finally mean Brexit. There have been some negotiations to work out an alternative to Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, but thanks to the inevitability of dealing with the hated Irish Backstop – which conservatives argue would effectively allow Europe to annex Northern Ireland – talks have once again been fraught. As Sky explains (for our American readers), Parliament is typically out of session for between one and two weeks ahead of the Queen’s speech – meaning MPs would in effect be unavailable to stop a no-deal Brexit immediately before October 31.

Johnson’s campaign confirmed that the delay is one option being explored, but insisted that no final decision had yet been made. But others pointed out that this move would scupper the chances of a last-minute deal, since Parliament wouldn’t be there to approve it. With an orderly Brexit is looking less likely by the day – even as some remainer Tories join the struggle to thwart their own future leader. And for anybody trying to discern what might happen next, well, BBG has put together yet another complicated Brexit flow chart.

Read more …

The Labour Blairites prefer Boris over Corbyn.

Labour Peers Tell Corbyn: You Have Failed Test Of Leadership (G.)

More than sixty Labour peers have taken out an advertisement accusing Jeremy Corbyn of having “failed the test of leadership” over his handling of antisemitism complaints within the party. The peers, including more than a dozen former ministers such as Peter Hain, Beverley Hughes and John Reid, have addressed the advert in the Guardian to Corbyn directly, saying: “The Labour party welcomes everyone* irrespective of race, creed, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (*except, it seems, Jews). This is your legacy, Mr Corbyn.”

Representing about a third of Labour’s members in the House of Lords, the signatories told Corbyn the party was “no longer a safe place for all members” and claimed that thousands have resigned their membership “because of the toxic culture you have allowed to divide our movement”. The advert has been taken out amid a backlash within the party about the leadership’s response to a BBC Panorama documentary that aired last week, in which eight former staff members accused the Labour of failing to tackle complaints about antisemitism properly and allowing Corbyn’s office to get involved in disputes.

Labour strongly denied any interference by the leader’s office, complained to the BBC and said the claims were made by “disaffected former officials including those who have always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, worked to actively undermine it, and have both personal and political axes to grind”. In the advert, the 64 Labour peers state that Corbyn has not opened his eyes, taken responsibility or told the whole truth when it came to acknowledging the scale of complaints about antisemitism afflicting the party. “We are not asking if you are an antisemite. We are saying you are accountable as leader for allowing antisemitism to grow in our party and presiding over the most shaming period in Labour’s history,” they said.

Read more …

Government and central bank blow housing bubble, city must come to the rescue.

Berlin Buys 670 Flats From Private Owner (G.)

The state of Berlin has bought back 670 apartments on the historic Karl-Marx-Allee from a private owner after decades of property privatisation in the German capital. A 1950s prestige project for socialist East Germany, the grand boulevard that stretches from the city centre to Friedrichshain in the east has been the frontline of a months-long fight over gentrification and rising property prices. The struggle erupted last November when the property management firm Predac announced its intention to offload 700 apartments on the road to Berlin’s largest property company, Deutsche Wohnen. Fearing rent increases, tenants organised protest marches and hung banners from their apartments, eventually pushing the city senate to block the sale.


After months of legal wrangling, the senate confirmed on Monday that three blocs containing more than 670 apartments would instead be purchased by the state-owned housing provider Gewobag. While the price of the sale was not confirmed by either side, the move to renationalise the buildings on Karl-Marx-Allee is likely to come at a steep cost, with estimates ranging between €90m-€100m (£80m-£90m). Berlin’s mayor said the move was indicative of a wider strategy to reacquire housing stock sold to private investors in the 1990s, following rapid rises in rental costs in the city in recent years. “Berliners should be able to continue to afford living in the city,” said Michael Müller. “That is why it was and continues to be our intention to buy up apartments wherever we can, so that Berlin can regain control of its property market.”

Read more …

10,000 words on how to be an activist.

Freeing Julian Assange: Part Three (Suzie Dawson)

The movement to free Julian has already been a long battle but is likely to continue for many years to come. The movement to free Nelson Mandela was eight years to fruition, but some thirteen years of prior groundwork before that. Mandela was in prison for over a quarter century before being celebrated as a Nobel laureate or ascending to the Presidency of South Africa. These emancipation struggles are intergenerational. Nor are they guaranteed victories. There are no easy wins – they are hard. They are meaningful. And that’s why each win is so precious. Sometimes the same battle has to be won over and over again. At every stage, we individually and collectively have been, are and will be opposed by monied, institutional powers vastly greater than ourselves. To outmanoeuvre them takes great savvy.


It takes staunch, unmoving, determined activists willing to sacrifice the comforts of a conventional existence in service to greater principles. To be an activist like that, takes 50% natural talent and personal efficacy and 50% skill learned through experience, modelling and nurturing by other activists. I’m very lucky to have had both, and in this article I will attempt to pass on as much as I can of what I have learned, just as others did for me. In my nearly eight years of activism, I have traversed a rocky road fraught with peril and packed full of hard-learned lessons. I’ve gone from green, idealistic and largely oblivious, to jaded, seasoned and discerning. To varying extents, every other activist is somewhere along that path as well. Some are far, far more advanced than myself. (Julian would be a great example of this.)

Read more …

 

Apollo 11 U.S. Customs form after first moon landing

 

 

 

 

Jan 112019
 
 January 11, 2019  Posted by at 10:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Hieronymous Bosch The Haywain Triptych c.1516 (click to enlarge)

 

The Stock Market Just Got Off To Its Best Start In 13 Years (MW)
78% of US Workers Live Paycheck To Paycheck (CNBC)
Fed’s Powell Says He Is ‘Very Worried’ About Growing Amount Of US Debt (CNBC)
Trump Digs In As Shutdown Continues (BBC)
Michael Cohen To Testify Publicly Before Congress In February (G.)
China Set To Lower GDP Growth Target In 2019 (R.)
Can The Chinese Consumer Be Resurrected? (Jim O’Neill)
Why I Asked May If She Is On The Side Of Putin Or The People (Moran)
May’s Brexit Deal ‘Threat To National Security’ – Former MI6 Chief (Ind.)
May Begs Unions To Help Salvage Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)
US Defenses No Match For Russian Hypersonic Missiles – Retired US General (RT)
Bases, Bases, Everywhere… Except in the Pentagon’s Report (Turse)
Oceans Warming Faster Than Expected, Set Heat Record In 2018 (R.)
Julian Assange’s Living Conditions Deteriorate (Cassandra Fairbanks)

 

 

And there’s still people who claim the stock market reflects the economy.

The Stock Market Just Got Off To Its Best Start In 13 Years (MW)

Things are coming up roses in the stock market, lately. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 index and Nasdaq Composite Index are off to their best starts to a year since 2006 after a powerful series of gains. The Dow closed up 0.5% on Thursday, pushing its year-to-date gain to 2.89%, which would mark the best first seven days to a year since 2006, when stocks burst 3.04% higher over the same period. The S&P 500 rose 0.5% on the day and has returned 3.58% thus far this year, its best start since a 3.68% gain 13 years ago, while the Nasdaq Composite booked a 0.4% gain, enough for a 5.3% year-to-date advance, representing its best seven-session to kick off a year since its 5.72% rise also in 2006.

A late-session rally helped to solidify Thursday’s gains, coming after investors digested comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who pronounced at the Economic Club in Washington on Thursday afternoon that the economy is in good health, while adding that the central bank would be cognizant of stresses to financial markets amid rate hikes. The comments were a reiteration of Powell’s remarks last week during a broad panel discussion of current and former Fed bosses that helped to placate anxious investors and reverse what was shaping up to be another dismal year.

Read more …

Why is everybody quoting a 2017 report?

78% of US Workers Live Paycheck To Paycheck (CNBC)

The partial government shutdown, which began Dec. 22, has now stretched well into the new year. President Donald Trump said Friday that it would continue for “months or even years” until he receives the requested $5 billion in funding for a border wall. The shutdown has left approximately 800,000 federal workers in financial limbo. Around 420,000 “essential” employees are working without pay, while another 380,000 have been ordered to stay home, according to calculations provided to CNBC by Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University. In some cases, the furloughs have forced government employees to tap into their savings, rely on credit cards or crowdsource funds to make ends meet.

Government workers are far from alone in feeling stressed about not getting paid. Nearly 80% of American workers (78%) say they’re living paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2017 report by employment website CareerBuilder. Women are particularly vulnerable: 81% of them report living paycheck to paycheck, compared with 75% of men. Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, tells CNBC that the group has heard from hundreds of frantic federal employees. “They’re scared,” he says. “They don’t know how they’re going to put food on the table.” Various #ShutdownStories making that point have gone viral on Twitter.

It’s not merely those earning low wages who are struggling. CareerBuilder reports that nearly 10% of Americans with salaries of $100,000 or more live paycheck to paycheck as well. That means that many workers aren’t able to put anything significant into savings. More than 50% of respondents say that they save less than $100 per month. And a comparable 2017 survey from GOBankingRates found that 61% of Americans don’t have enough money in an emergency fund to cover six months’ worth of expenses. [..] more than 70% of all respondents say that they’re in debt, and a quarter of workers say they weren’t able to make ends meet at the end of every month of the past year.

Read more …

Which his own Fed has encouraged like nobody else could.

Fed’s Powell Says He Is ‘Very Worried’ About Growing Amount Of US Debt (CNBC)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is concerned about the ballooning amount of United States debt. “I’m very worried about it,” Powell said at The Economic Club of Washington, D.C. “From the Fed’s standpoint, we’re really looking at a business cycle length: that’s our frame of reference. The long-run fiscal, nonsustainability of the U.S. federal government isn’t really something that plays into the medium term that is relevant for our policy decisions.” However, “it’s a long-run issue that we definitely need to face, and ultimately, will have no choice but to face,” he added. The Fed chief’s comments came as the annual U.S. deficit reaches new sustained highs above $1 trillion, a fact many economists worry could spell trouble for future generations.

Annual deficits have topped $1 trillion before, but never during a time of sustained economic growth like now, raising concern about what would happen if a recession hits. Total U.S. debt is about $21.9 trillion, of which $16 trillion is owed by the public. In part because of continued rate increases under Powell, the interest cost on that debt could start to become a bigger and bigger burden. Wall Street’s “bond king” and respected financial prognosticator Jeffrey Gundlach said in December that the Fed seems to be on a “suicide mission,” raising rates while the government deficit increases as a share of GDP. Normally when the deficit is expanding, the Fed would be lowering interest rates.

Read more …

View from the MSM: Trump digs in, not the Dems.

Trump Digs In As Shutdown Continues (BBC)

US President Donald Trump has threatened again to declare a national emergency to fund a border wall without Congress’s approval. “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” he told reporters. The White House has denied reports it is looking at diverting funds set aside for reconstruction projects. A political row over funding the wall has left the US government partially shutdown for 20 days, leaving about 800,000 federal employees without pay. President Trump has refused to sign legislation to fund and reopen the government if it does not include $5.7bn for a physical barrier along the US-Mexico border.

But budget talks have come to a standstill as Democrats – who control the House of Representatives – refuse to give him the money. Republican leaders insist the party stands behind the president, although some Republican lawmakers have spoken out in favour of ending the shutdown. On Thursday, Mr Trump visited a border patrol station in McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. He said that if Congress did not approve funding for the wall, he would “probably… I would almost say definitely” declare a national emergency to bypass lawmakers. But such a move is likely to face legal challenges. The money would also have to come from funds allocated by Congress for other purposes – which some Republicans would also oppose.

Read more …

Planning a huge media spectacle. Imagine all the readers and viewers… Trump keeps on giving. Bread and circuses it is.

Michael Cohen To Testify Publicly Before Congress In February (G.)

Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer and aide Michael Cohen says he has accepted an invitation from a top House Democrat to testify publicly before Congress next month. His testimony before the House oversight and reform committee on 7 February will be the first major public oversight hearing for Democrats, who have promised greater scrutiny of Trump after winning control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections. Cohen said in a statement: “I look forward to having the privilege of being afforded a platform with which to give a full and credible account of the events which have transpired.”

The New Yorker, who is to begin a three-year prison sentence in March, is a pivotal figure in investigations by the special counsel Robert Mueller into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, and by federal prosecutors in New York into campaign finance violations related to hush-money payments to two women who say they had sex with Trump. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s chair, said the panel would avoid interfering with Mueller’s investigation. “We have no interest in inappropriately interfering with any ongoing criminal investigations, and to that end, we are in the process of consulting with Special Counsel Mueller’s office,” Cummings said in a statement.

Read more …

But not to the 1.67% predicted by professor Xiang Songzuo, I’m sure.

China Set To Lower GDP Growth Target In 2019 (R.)

China plans to set a lower economic growth target of 6% to 6.5% in 2019 compared with last year’s target of “around” 6.5%, policy sources told Reuters, as Beijing gears up to cope with higher U.S. tariffs and weakening domestic demand. The proposed target, to be unveiled at the annual parliamentary session in March, was endorsed by top leaders at the annual closed-door Central Economic Work Conference in mid-December, according to four sources with knowledge of the meeting’s outcome. Data later this month is expected to show the Chinese economy grew around 6.6% in 2018 — the weakest since 1990. Analysts are forecasting a further loss of momentum this year before policy support steps begin to kick in.

“It’s very difficult for growth to exceed 6.5% (this year), and there could be trouble if growth dips below 6%,” said one source who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. As the world’s second-largest economy loses steam, China’s top leaders are closely watching employment levels as factories could be forced to shed workers amid a trade war with the United States, despite a more resilient services sector, policy insiders said. Growth of about 6.2% is needed in the next two years to meet the ruling Communist Party’s longstanding goal of doubling gross domestic product and incomes in the decade to 2020, and to turn China into a “modestly prosperous” nation. [..] Local governments could be allowed to issue up to 2 trillion yuan worth of special bonds in 2019, up from 1.35 trillion yuan last year, they said.

Read more …

Goldman Sachs to the -image- rescue.

Can The Chinese Consumer Be Resurrected? (Jim O’Neill)

Last week, Apple published a letter to shareholders revising down its expected revenues for the first quarter of 2019, citing an economic slowdown in China, which has become an increasingly important market for iPhone, Mac, and iPad sales. Though tech industry analysts are debating whether internal dynamics at Apple might also explain the change, the company’s new guidance nonetheless adds to the evidence that Chinese consumption is slowing. A sustained decline in Chinese consumption would be even more worrying than the current US-China trade dispute.

Given that US trade policies and other external influences should not have much effect on domestic Chinese spending, the problem may be more deeply rooted in China’s economic model. To understand what is at stake, consider all that has changed just within the past decade. At the end of 2010, domestic consumption accounted for around 35.6% of Chinese GDP, according to official Chinese data. That was remarkably low compared to most other economies, not least the US, where consumption accounted for almost 70% of GDP. In nominal dollar terms, China’s domestic consumption thus was around $2.2tn, or almost five times lower than that of the US ($10.5tn).

Yet China’s high overall growth rate meant that Chinese consumers could potentially play a much larger role, with far-reaching benefits for global brands such as Apple, BMW, Burberry, Ford, and many others. As of 2017, Chinese consumption as a share of GDP had risen to 39.1%, representing just over $5tn in nominal dollar terms. That is an increase of almost $3tn in just seven years. And though Chinese consumer spending still lagged far behind that of the US ($13.5tn in 2017), the gap has narrowed. If China were to continue on the same trajectory in terms of nominal GDP growth and domestic consumption, its consumer spending could increase by another $2tn by 2020, putting it at around half that of the US. Chinese consumers would be more relevant to the global economy than anyone except Americans.

Read more …

From time to time you wonder what’s more hysterical, the Brexit mayhem or the UK’s fabricated Russophobia. This is pretty unbelievable, but it’s become normal.

Layla Moran is a Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon.

Why I Asked May If She Is On The Side Of Putin Or The People (Moran)

For all the farcical invoking of Blitz spirit, Brexit isn’t merely an absurdist experiment in English nationalist nostalgia – it is the most audacious example yet of a futuristic Russian nationalism that seeks to divide and rule Europe. If we can be judged by our friends then Brexit has no stauncher ally than Vladimir Putin. After all, Donald Trump has proved unreliable. But Putin? It is hard to think of anyone who has done more for the cause (and that is not to take anything away from the years of Brexit monologues by Tory MP Bill Cash). Russian bot farms have been exposed as having supported the Leave campaign. This comes on top of allegations of iffy Russian money funding Brexit campaigns, and Arron Banks’ almost comical inability to explain his donations to Leave.

Comical, that is, if his scarcely thought through Brexit wasn’t driving Britain to what Hilary Clinton has called the single biggest act of deliberate self-harm a nation has ever committed. As if Russian interference in the original referendum was not shocking enough, it is still going on. The Channel 4 drama Brexit: The Uncivil War might have relegated Russian involvement to the briefest postscript, but in reality Putin is still in the trenches fighting for a hard Brexit. At a recent press conference Putin attacked the idea of a referendum on the deal, claiming the original result should be respected. Oh, the irony! Putin, the arch kleptocrat, giving advice on democracy. “Don’t steal Brexit,” he seemed to demand, while probably stealing (sorry, being gifted) another superyacht.

It should have been sufficiently chilling to make even Boris Johnson pause for thought. And all while using the Brexiteer message script of delivering the will of the people. As any student of Russian history could tell you, “the people” are often invoked by the Kremlin, including when justifying the mass murder of innocent people. But rarely does the Kremlin actually ask “the people” for anything so radical as an opinion. For Putin, “the people” are to be manipulated and even killed for his own ends. And Putin’s ends are clear. He wants a weak and divided EU. Ultimately, he seeks to break it up, with the Eastern bloc – brought into the European fold by Margaret Thatcher’s single market – dragged back into the lair of the Russian bear.

Read more …

And why not? If all else fails, scare them.

May’s Brexit Deal ‘Threat To National Security’ – Former MI6 Chief (Ind.)

The former head of MI6 has warned Theresa May’s Brexit deal will “threaten the national security of the country”, in a call for Tory MPs to reject it. The agreement would “place control of aspects of our national security in foreign hands”, claims Sir Richard Dearlove, in an extraordinary letter to Conservative associations. It has also been signed by Lord Guthrie, a former chief of the defence staff, in a bid to stiffen grassroots resistance, ahead of next Tuesday’s vote.= Sir Richard and Lord Guthrie, who are both prominent Leave supporters, write: “Please ensure that your MP votes against this bad agreement.” The prime minister, a former home secretary, has insisted her agreement would protect national security by retaining existing cooperation arrangements during the 21-month transition.

However, she was forced to acknowledge the UK was likely to lose direct access to vital EU security databases after 2012, under the proposed long-term arrangements. In their letter, the ex-security chiefs argue the deal is dangerous because it would weaken membership of Nato and existing “close” defence and intelligence ties with the US. “This withdrawal agreement, if not defeated, will threaten the national security of the country in fundamental ways,” it says. Downing Street hit back immediately, insisting the letter was “completely wrong” and that the Brexit deal offered the broadest security agreement the EU has with any of its partners. But both sides of the Brexit divide seized on the intervention, arch-Brexiteer Owen Paterson calling it a “devastating warning”.

Read more …

After Tuesday all bets are off.

May Begs Unions To Help Salvage Her Brexit Deal (Ind.)

Theresa May has called the leaders of Britain’s biggest unions for the first time since becoming prime minister in a desperate bid to find backing for her Brexit deal. The calls to Unite leader Len McCluskey and the GMB’s Tim Roache – whose unions are Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest financial backers – mark just how far she is being forced to go in the hope of finding support for the deal expected to be rejected by MPs next week. She was scorned by second referendum-backing Mr Roache, who joked after his call that he was “glad the prime minister finally picked up the phone”. The unprecedented move came as she also sought to convince Labour MPs to back her by promising new commitments to maintain workers’ rights in line with EU standards after Brexit.

But expectations that she is heading for a heavy defeat on Tuesday simply grew further, with some estimates suggesting that opposition has actually grown since she delayed the vote on her deal in December. Capitalising on the deep Tory divisions, Mr Corbyn instead invited Conservative MPs to back a motion of no confidence in the government which he is promising to table if Ms May’s plans are defeated. Downing Street confirmed the calls to Mr Roache, whose union has 620,000 members, and Mr McCluskey, representing more than 1.4 million, and admitted it was the first time she had spoken to either of them since her arrival at No 10. The Independent understands the prime minister also attempted to call Dave Prentis, leader of Unison which also has some 1.4 million members, but could not get through because Mr Prentis was travelling.

Read more …

Click here for the original Hill article.

US Defenses No Match For Russian Hypersonic Missiles – Retired US General (RT)

A retired general and chief of staff has warned that the US’ missile defense systems are “simply incapable” of stopping the latest generation of Russian hypersonic missiles – some of which fly at 27 times the speed of sound. Now retired, Maj. Gen. Howard ‘Dallas’ Thompson was once Chief of Staff at US Northern Command in Ohio. In a column published by The Hill on Thursday, Thompson argues that military leaders have neglected to develop proper defenses against the hypersonic threat. There have been some calls for the US to pursue hypersonic weapons in defense policy circles, but America has lagged behind China – which conducted more tests in the last year than the US has is a decade – and Russia, which successfully tested such a missile in December. The ‘Avangard’ missile flew at Mach 27, and will be deployed in 2019.

At present, the US Missile Defense Agency’s sensors and radars are designed for one purpose: to counter an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fired by an adversary like Iran or North Korea. ICBMs have a predictable flight path, and the US’ Patriot and Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) batteries stand a reasonable chance of intercepting and destroying any incoming missiles. Not so with hypersonics. Missiles like ‘Avangard’ fly low and fast, evading radar detection. They can also engage in evasive maneuvers to dodge surface-to-air rockets or missiles, further lowering the chances of a successful interception.

“The stark reality is that our current missile defense systems, as well as our operational mindset, are simply incapable versus this threat,” Thompson wrote. The retired General’s words are backed up by a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, which concluded that there are “no existing countermeasures” against the threat. Thompson claims that a massive collaborative program between the Department of Defense and arms companies is needed to counter Russian and Chinese advances. “Countering this threat will require U.S. investment in an extensive defensive architecture,” he wrote. “…a highly robust ‘family of systems’ that nonetheless must be envisioned, designed, developed and deployed in a completely holistic manner.”

Read more …

800 bases, of which 300 are unreported?!

Bases, Bases, Everywhere… Except in the Pentagon’s Report (Turse)

Within hours of President Trump’s announcement of a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, equipment at that base was already being inventoried for removal. And just like that, arguably the most important American garrison in Syria was (maybe) being struck from the Pentagon’s books — except, as it happens, al-Tanf was never actually on the Pentagon’s books. Opened in 2015 and, until recently, home to hundreds of U.S. troops, it was one of the many military bases that exist somewhere between light and shadow, an acknowledged foreign outpost that somehow never actually made it onto the Pentagon’s official inventory of bases. Officially, the Department of Defense (DoD) maintains 4,775 “sites,” spread across all 50 states, eight U.S. territories, and 45 foreign countries.

A total of 514 of these outposts are located overseas, according to the Pentagon’s worldwide property portfolio. Just to start down a long list, these include bases on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, as well as in Peru and Portugal, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. But the most recent version of that portfolio, issued in early 2018 and known as the Base Structure Report (BSR), doesn’t include any mention of al-Tanf. Or, for that matter, any other base in Syria. Or Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or Niger. Or Tunisia. Or Cameroon. Or Somalia. Or any number of locales where such military outposts are known to exist and even, unlike in Syria, to be expanding.

[..] According to David Vine, author of Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, there could be hundreds of similar off-the-books bases around the world. “The missing sites are a reflection of the lack of transparency involved in the system of what I still estimate to be around 800 U.S. bases outside the 50 states and Washington, D.C., that have been encircling the globe since World War II,” says Vine

Read more …

The reporting on the issue seems broken.

Oceans Warming Faster Than Expected, Set Heat Record In 2018 (R.)

The oceans are warming faster than previously estimated, setting a new temperature record in 2018 in a trend that is damaging marine life, scientists said on Thursday. New measurements, aided by an international network of 3,900 floats deployed in the oceans since 2000, showed more warming since 1971 than calculated by the latest U.N. assessment of climate change in 2013, they said. And “observational records of ocean heat content show that ocean warming is accelerating,” the authors in China and the United States wrote in the journal Science of ocean waters down to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). Man-made greenhouse gas emissions are warming the atmosphere, according to the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, and a large part of the heat gets absorbed by the oceans.

That in turn is forcing fish to flee to cooler waters. “Global warming is here, and has major consequences already. There is no doubt, none!” the authors wrote in a statement. Almost 200 nations plan to phase out fossil fuels this century under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit warming. [..] Data due for publication next week will show “2018 was the warmest year on record for the global ocean, surpassing 2017,” said lead author Lijing Cheng, of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He told Reuters that records for ocean warming had been broken almost yearly since 2000. Overall, temperatures in the ocean down to 2,000 metres rose about 0.1 degree Celsius (0.18F) from 1971-2010, he said.

Read more …

Another issue on which reporting seems broken. We’re not getting anywhere.

Julian Assange’s Living Conditions Deteriorate (Cassandra Fairbanks)

I last visited Assange in March, days before the Ecuadorians placed the award-winning journalist in isolation for allegedly violating a draconian ban on all public political comments. [..] In order to visit the publisher last year, I simply organized it with him and his lawyer and went. This time I was required to provide details about my social media, my employer, and my reason for visiting in advance of my arrival and hope to be approved. If I wanted to bring my cell phone, I would have had to provide the brand, model, serial number, IMEI number and telephone number. Providing these details to a foreign nation with extreme surveillance seemed unwise, so I left it behind.

[..] Currently, Assange cannot even have a simple visit with a friend without it being monitored by some shadowy state actor. It’s like a scene from the Stasi spy drama The Lives of Others. While Ecuador presents this surveillance operation as a mission to “protect and support” Assange, this is contradicted by the fact that he isn’t even allowed to confidentially speak with a reporter and friend without being recorded. In May, the Guardian reported that there are “extraordinary reports” from these spies that include daily logs of Assange’s activities inside the embassy, even noting his “general mood.”

As John Pilger pointed out after his visit with Assange on New Year’s Eve, it could be any newspaper publisher or editor stuck in that embassy. For the crime of publishing journalism, Assange has not only had to give up his freedom, but also any semblance of privacy. It’s impossible to overstate how unsettling it feels to have multiple lenses pointed at you wherever you stand. Unable to speak privately, even with a noise machine attempting to muffle the microphones from picking up conversations, we resorted to passing notes. Assange is not only barred from sharing his views online under the new regulations — thanks to the constant surveillance, he can’t even do so among his friends in the embassy where he is arbitrarily detained.

If we value the principle of the freedom of speech — we must do something to stop this madness. While we do not know what Assange has been charged with by the U.S. as it remains under seal, we do know that it is related to his work as a publisher, the only publisher with a record of 100% accuracy. His dedication to truth is so profound that he has never once had to issue a correction or retraction.

Read more …

Nov 152018
 
 November 15, 2018  Posted by at 10:17 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Jean-Francois Millet In the Auvergne 1869

 

UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigns (BBC)
Final Say Referendum On Table As May Blows Debate Wide Open (Ind.)
Brexit: A Split Cabinet, A Split Party And A Split Nation (G.)
Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Solves Nothing: Open Warfare Is About To Begin (G.)
The Race To 6% Mortgage Rates (WS)
The Fed Will Continue Tightening Until Everything Breaks (Smith)
Amazon’s Long Game Is Clearer Than Ever (Taibbi)
Amazon’s Alexa Might Be A Key Witness In A Murder Case (Vox)
Lockheed Martin Awarded $22.7 Billion Pentagon Fighter Jet Contract (AFP)
Japan Cyber Security Minister Admits He Has Never Used A Computer (AFP)

 

 

UPDATE: Half an hour after I posted this Debt Rattle, two more ministers have evidently resigned: Esther McVey and Suella Braverman. That makes 4 so far today who have left the May government, and 22(!) over the past 2 years.

 

Inevitably, a lot of Brexit stuff today. Somewhat curiously, Mr. Raab ostensibly negotiated the deal May presented yesterday, and because of which he resigned this morning. He won’t be the last. He wasn’t the first either, junior Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara was ahead of him.

Meanwhile, May faces Parliament today and the EU has announced a meeting on November 25 to secure the deal. But who will represent the UK there? Because as prominent Tory Anna Soubry said: “Raab’s resignation marks the end of PMs Withdrawal Agreement. This is v serious the PM will clearly be considering her position.”.

UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigns (BBC)

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has resigned saying he “cannot in good conscience support” the UK’s draft Brexit agreement with the EU. Theresa May announced on Wednesday evening that she had secured the backing of her cabinet for the agreement, after a five hour meeting. But several ministers were understood to have spoken against it. And there are suggestions of moves among Conservative backbenchers to force a no-confidence vote in her. Mr Raab – a Leave supporter who was promoted to the cabinet to replace David Davis when he quit in protest at Mrs May’s Brexit plans – is among a group of senior ministers thought to be unhappy with the agreement.

He was closely involved in drafting the agreement, which sets out the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU. In his resignation letter, Mr Raab said he could not support it because the regulatory regime proposed for Northern Ireland “presents a very real threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom”. And, he added, the “backstop” arrangements aimed at preventing the return of a hard Irish border would result in the EU “holding a veto over our ability to exit”. “Above all, I cannot reconcile the terms of the proposed deal with the promises we made to the country in our manifesto at the last election,” he told the prime minister.

The BBC’s Norman Smith said Mr Raab’s departure puts pressure on other cabinet members to quit, raising the prospect of a “domino effect” that could end in the break-up of the cabinet. Remain-backing Conservative MP Anna Soubry tweeted: “Raab’s resignation marks the end of PMs Withdrawal Agreement. This is v serious the PM will clearly be considering her position. My own view is that we need a Govt of National Unity and we need it now.” Earlier on Thursday, Shailesh Vara quit as minister of state for Northern Ireland, saying he cannot support Mrs May’s agreement, which he said “leaves the UK in a halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally be a sovereign nation”.

Read more …

But this may turn out to be the main takeaway from May’s deal: opening up the option of a second vote.

Final Say Referendum On Table As May Blows Debate Wide Open (Ind.)

Theresa May has admitted Brexit can be stopped, with her senior officials accepting a new referendum on Britain’s departure from the EU is possible. The unprecedented admission from the top of government came as the prime minister revealed her cabinet had begrudgingly backed the draft Brexit deal struck by negotiators earlier this week. But speaking outside Downing Street, she issued a stark warning to Tory rebels that threats to tear down the proposals and her leadership could mean there is “no Brexit at all”. There are widespread claims that angry backbenchers are preparing to launch a bid to topple the prime minister within days, while speculation that cabinet ministers could still quit is rife.

Eurosceptics are likely to be further enraged by a clause in the 585-page draft deal allowing an unspecified extension to the Brexit transition – with the text simply saying it could run until “20XX”. Ms May emerged from the black door of No 10 to confirm tentative cabinet support following an intense five-hour cabinet meeting, at which almost 30 of her top ministers spoke. In a short statement she targeted a warning directly at those intent on bringing the deal down, saying: “When you strip away the detail, the choice before us is clear.

“This deal, which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings back control of our money, laws and borders, ends free movement, protects jobs, security and our union – or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all.” Asked later how the PM felt there could be ‘no Brexit’, her spokesman said: “You should see that through the prism of parliament, in that the main opposition party has actively said that Brexit can be stopped, there is a People’s Vote movement which we have set out our opposition to, and any other number of important votes that will have to occur between now and the 29th of March.” It is the first time Downing Street has so clearly stated not only that Brexit is not a foregone conclusion, but that a new vote is possible.

Read more …

At what point can we label this “chaos”?

Brexit: A Split Cabinet, A Split Party And A Split Nation (G.)

Theresa May will launch a high-stakes battle to sell her Brexit deal to parliament on Thursday, after clinching the support of her deeply-divided cabinet during a fraught five-hour meeting in Downing Street. Emerging from No 10 on Wednesday night, May said she believed “with my head and my heart” that her deal was the best one for the UK – and the only alternatives were no deal, or no Brexit. She said her ministers had taken a “collective” decision, to press ahead with finalising the deal in Brussels, which she will then have to bring back to parliament for approval; but it was clear there had been significant dissent. There were a series of dissenting voices from Brexit supporting ministers, as the meeting overran its intended length by two hours.

One Whitehall source said the environment secretary, Michael Gove, had been the only leaver to speak in favour. “This is a decision that was not taken lightly, but I believe it is firmly in the national interest,” May said, adding that cabinet had held “a long, detailed and impassioned debate”. Cabinet sources said Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, made the most impassioned interventions against the draft agreement and warned of chaos should the government lose a meaningful vote in parliament. May twice refused a request from McVey to hold a vote in the room. One cabinet source said that McVey was “shouted down” by the cabinet secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill.

Liz Truss, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said they were “caught between the devil and the deep blue sea”. Up to 11 cabinet ministers were said to have spoken out against the deal. Supportive voices came from the communities secretary, James Brokenshire, and the education secretary, Damian Hinds. [..] The documents confirmed one key concession that has enraged Brexiters: the UK will not be able to unilaterally exit the Irish backstop. Instead that decision would rest with a joint, independent arbitration committee with an equal number of British and EU representatives, as well as outside members. The EU and the UK “decide jointly within the joint committee that [the backstop] … is no longer necessary,” the draft agreement said.

Read more …

“..May said that her deal would give us back “control of our money, laws and borders”, while protecting business and jobs. None of that is true. ”

Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Solves Nothing: Open Warfare Is About To Begin (G.)

Now the arm-twisting, the bribery and the for-the-good-of-the-country cajoling of every last MP begins in earnest. Pinned to the wall, each must finally reveal their true colours; some will be principled, some not: Tories must reckon if the future is with Theresa May and her deal, or with Brextremists in their constituencies. Any Labour would-be defector must reckon whether their local party could ever forgive them for voting to keep this government in power. Meanwhile, Brexit mis-selling continues unabated. In her statement this evening, May said that her deal would give us back “control of our money, laws and borders”, while protecting business and jobs. None of that is true. Nowhere is there any evidence to be found in the lengthy withdrawal deal.

For the foreseeable, we are in a customs union we cannot leave without EU permission and our borders are open to EU citizens. We are paying £39bn, business has no certainty for future investment and as for jobs – well, let’s just cross our fingers and hope. May pretends that some distant sunlit trade deal, hazily sketched, will one day emerge from the political declaration that accompanies the deal. Will it be in two years, 10 years, sometime, never? No one knows. All the devilish dilemmas remain. All the impossibilities are as impossible as they were on referendum day – but now they are solemnly written down on paper.

We can’t have frictionless EU trade without a customs union, but that stops us buccaneering the globe for those exclusive deals with Mauritania or wherever else Liam Fox chooses to turn to. Ireland stands where it did: preserving an open border, made possible by the Good Friday agreement, means the UK must stay close to the EU forever. Scotland is righteously rebelling: David Mundell, with his crucial 13 Scottish Tory votes in parliament, will not countenance continued EU rights to fish in our waters; Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, protests at Scotland being denied Northern Ireland’s competitive advantage of effectively staying in the single market – a special status the DUP also objects to. Today takes us closer to fracturing the union.

Read more …

Your guess is as good as the IMF’s. Contact your local bookmaker.

IMF Says No-Deal Brexit To Cause 8% Hit To UK Economy (Ind.)

The UK economy could face a long-run hit of up to 8 per cent of GDP in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the International Monetary Fund has warned. That’s the equivalent of around £6,000 per British household. “A scenario in which future trade between the UK and the EU is governed by [World Trade Organisation] rules is estimated to bring about output losses of around 5 to 8 percent compared to a no-Brexit scenario in the long run (with an average of about 6 per cent),” the IMF said. However its economists also warned that this assumed a smooth transition to WTO rules and that the impact of a chaotic no-deal Brexit in the short-term next March could be more severe, leading to a “sharp fall in asset prices”, a “hit to consumer and business confidence” and another sterling depreciation.

“Directors emphasised the importance of a timely agreement with the EU, accompanied by an implementation period to avoid a cliff-edge exit in March 2019 and to allow firms and workers time to adjust to the new relationship”. Delivering its full annual health check on the UK on Wednesday, the Washington-based Fund also said that the British economy would be around 3 per cent weaker even if it successfully secured a “Canada-style” free trade deal with the rest of the European Union “due to lower trade, migration and productivity”.

Read more …

6% is very low historically, and lethal today.

The Race To 6% Mortgage Rates (WS)

The average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) and a 20% down-payment rose to 5.17% for the latest reporting week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today. This is the highest average rate since September 2009 (chart via Investing.com): Many people with smaller down payments and/or lower credit ratings are already paying quite a bit more. Top-tier borrowers pay less. Thus, mortgage rates have moved a little closer to the next line in the sand, 6%, which is still historically low.

At that point, the interest rate would be back where it had been in December 2008, when the Fed was unleashing its program of interest rate repression even for long-dated maturities via QE that later included the purchase of mortgaged-backed securities (MBS), which helped push down mortgage rates further. Now the Fed is shedding Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities, and we’re starting to see the impact on mortgage rates: The difference (spread) between the 10-year yield and the interest rate of the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has widened sharply.

Since the beginning of the year: The 30-year mortgage interest rate has risen 95 basis points, or nearly 1 percentage point (from 4.22% to 5.17%). The 10-year Treasury yield has risen 71 basis points (from 2.46% to 3.17%) The spread between the two has widened from 176 basis points on at the beginning of January to 200 basis points now. In other words, mortgage rates are climbing faster than the 10-year Treasury yield, now that the Fed has begun the shed mortgage-baked securities. This is expected. It’s part of the QE unwind – it’s part of the Fed exiting the mortgage market and pulling its support out from under it. But 6% is still low:

Home prices in many markets have risen far above the home prices back in 2008 and 2009, and far above even the local peaks during Housing Bubble 1 in those markets now that they have developed into a fully blooming Housing Bubble 2. Home prices as a whole averaged out across the US have surged 11.5% above the crazy peak of Housing Bubble 1:

Read more …

Good piece from Brandon Smith.

The Fed Will Continue Tightening Until Everything Breaks (Smith)

Fed propaganda asserts the lie that the bank is audited annually by the Government Accounting Office (GAO), but this is NOT an audit of Fed financial actions and policy initiatives. Rather, it is an audit of minor expenditures. Knowing how many pencils and desks the Fed purchases in a year does not help us to understand the bank’s influence over our economic security. All other audits of the Fed are done internally by the Fed’s own Board of Governors. This is hardly transparent or independent. The only time the public has gained access to even a partial government audit of Fed activities was during the audit of TARP. This alone exposed trillions of dollars in bailouts and overnight loans to various banks and corporations, many of which were foreign.

The GAO did nothing in terms of regulatory action against the Fed after it was revealed that they were funneling trillions in capital into foreign corporations. All they did was make a ledger of the transactions, and remained silent on the rest. I remind readers of this history and the conditions surrounding Fed actions because I want to drive the point home that, for now, the Fed and other central banks dictate the rules of the game. Some may say this has changed with the election of Donald Trump, but I disagree. If anything, as long as Trump is in office, the Fed will chase higher interest rates and steeper balance sheet cuts. They will not stop until markets break. And, the only solution (shutting down the Fed entirely) also comes with a set of extreme fiscal consequences.

There is a wall of cognitive dissonance when some in the public are confronted with this notion. They prefer to believe in a set of standard lies rather than accept that the Fed is a saboteur of our financial system.

Read more …

Big Tech’s ultimate power lies in their connections with US intelligence. Dangerous.

Amazon’s Long Game Is Clearer Than Ever (Taibbi)

The Washington Post seemed happy about Amazon’s decision to divide its new headquarters between New York and Crystal City, Virginia, outside of D.C., noting the amazing benefits both communities will receive by the arrival of the web-retail behemoth. The company expects to create 25,000 jobs in Northern Virginia by 2030, and generate $3.2 billion in tax revenue, in addition to investing $2.5 billion. Who better to trumpet the virtues of this job-creating, capital-investing deal than the richest person in modern history, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos? He sounded pleased as heck to be part of all the wonderfulness.

“We are excited to build new headquarters in New York City and Northern Virginia,” Bezos told the Post — which he owns — adding: “The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.” Rather quickly after the “HQ2” announcement was made, MarketWatch ran a piece pointing out that moving to Northern Virginia might have other benefits for Amazon: HQ2 in the D.C. area could help Amazon snag a $10 billion Pentagon contract. Yes, the company has increased the odds that it will be awarded one of the all-time lucrative defense deals, the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, providing cloud services and a platform for Department of Defense operations, instantly becoming one of the biggest federal contractors.

The deal has been a source of controversy for a while. In July, a pair of Republican members of Congress, Steve Womack of Arkansas and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, sent a letter to Glenn Fine, acting Inspector General of the Defense Department. In it, they claimed the contract was essentially pre-delivered to Amazon. Among other things, the JEDI award can only go to a provider that meets Defense Information Systems Agency Impact Level 6, a requirement that has to do with security/secrecy clearances. “The highest level of cloud security” is how one congressional source explained Level 6 to me. Although the lawmakers did not single out Amazon, they did say only one private provider meets that requirement, and numerous reports say that provider is Amazon Web Services.

Vanity Fair ran a piece this past summer noting other deal requirements — like a prerequisite of $2 billion in cloud revenue — ruled out all but a few competitors. “The deal appeared to be rigged in favor of a single provider,” the magazine wrote, adding that Amazon Web Services had ties to Trump Defense Secretary James Mattis. Amazon already had another recent win on the defense-contracting front with the passage of the so-called “Amazon Amendment,” which makes Amazon the go-to portal for the government’s online purchases. This was included in last year’s Defense Authorization Bill. That amendment will cover $53 billion in annual government purchases, enriching the firm even more.

Read more …

Why would anyone want one in their homes?

Amazon’s Alexa Might Be A Key Witness In A Murder Case (Vox)

Last week, a judge in New Hampshire ordered Amazon to hand over recordings of an Echo smart speaker found in the home where a double murder took place last year in Farmington. Authorities believe the recordings may provide information that could put the murderer behind bars. If Amazon does hand over the private data of its users to law enforcement, it won’t just involve the tech company in a murder case. It will also be the latest incident to raise serious questions about how much data tech companies collect about their customers with and without their knowledge, how that data can be used, and what it means for privacy.

Last January, Timothy Verrill was charged with first-degree murder by the New Hampshire attorney general in the deaths of two women, Christine Sullivan and Jenna Pellegrini. Police found the women’s bodies in the backyard of Sullivan’s boyfriend, Dean Smoronk, whom local New Hampshire media reported Verrill knew. Verrill was spotted on home surveillance video with both Sullivan and Pellegrini. He was also seen on video hours later buying cleaning supplies at a store and returning to the house. After Smoronk called 911 to report his girlfriend missing, police found the bodies and seized an Amazon Echo speaker in the kitchen, next to the spot where police believe Sullivan was killed.

According to AP, prosecutors believe the Echo might have useful information to make the case against Verrill, whose trial begins May 2019, including details about what happened during and after the murder, such as “possible removal of the body from the kitchen.” [..] While it’s entirely possible the Echo speaker will have nothing recorded that relates to the case, it also may very well have pertinent info. The speaker is initiated with four wake-up words — “Alexa”, “Echo,” “computer,” and “Amazon” — and records after hearing these words, even when it’s not being spoken to. These recordings are then stored on an Amazon server, accessible to the company, and to owners via the Alexa app.

There’s plenty of evidence that the devices record more than what Amazon says. After a woman in Portland found out that her Echo speaker had recorded a conversation she had with her husband and sent it to a random contact, Amazon admitted that its Alexa technology can misinterpret household noises like conversations, TV soundtracks, and music as wake-up calls and start recording. The speaker also starts recording a few seconds before a command is issued, meaning there’s likely more private information in the recordings than customers are aware of.

Read more …

US is preparing to sanction Turkey for not bying these boondoggles.

Lockheed Martin Awarded $22.7 Billion Pentagon Fighter Jet Contract (AFP)

The Pentagon on Wednesday announced it had awarded Lockheed Martin a $22.7 billion contract for 255 F-35 fighter jets. Of the aircraft, 106 are destined for the US military: 64 F-35As for the Air Force, 26 F-35Bs for the Marines, and 16 F-35Cs for the Navy, while the rest are destined for foreign customers, the department said in a statement. A major Pentagon supplier, Lockheed Martin will receive a $6 billion advance for the order, due to be completed in March 2023. Most of the work on the jets will be performed in the US, with some will be carried out in countries including Britain and Italy.

Launched in the early 1990s, the F-35 program is considered the most expensive weapons system in US history, with an estimated cost of some $400 billion and a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years. Once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft’s lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5 trillion. According to Pentagon figures from early October, 320 F-35s have been delivered worldwide, including 245 in the US.

Read more …

Brilliant.

Japan Cyber Security Minister Admits He Has Never Used A Computer (AFP)

A Japanese minister in charge of cyber security has provoked astonishment by admitting he has never used a computer in his professional life, and appearing confused by the concept of a USB drive. Yoshitaka Sakurada, 68, is the deputy chief of the government’s cyber security strategy office and also the minister in charge of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that Tokyo will host in 2020. In parliament on Wednesday however, he admitted he doesn’t use computers. “Since the age of 25, I have instructed my employees and secretaries, so I don’t use computers myself,” he said in a response to an opposition question in a lower house session, local media reported.

He also appeared confused by the question when asked about whether USB drives were in use at Japanese nuclear facilities. His comments were met with incredulity by opposition lawmakers. “It’s unbelievable that someone who has not touched computers is responsible for cyber security policies,” said opposition lawmaker Masato Imai. And his comments provoked a firestorm online. [..] one Twitter user [..] joked that perhaps Sakurada was simply engaged in his own kind of cyber security. “If a hacker targets this Minister Sakurada, they wouldn’t be able to steal any information. Indeed it might be the strongest kind of security!”

Read more …

Oct 092018
 
 October 9, 2018  Posted by at 9:02 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Ford Madox Brown Finding of Don Juan by Haidee 1873

 

 

World Leaders ‘Have Moral Obligation To Act’ After UN Climate Report (G.)
US Economists Win Nobel Memorial For Work On Climate And Growth (G.)
Nobel Prizes in Economics, Awarded and Withheld (NC)
The End Of The World Will Save Theresa May From Brexit (Ind.)
Stock Markets Stage Sharp Sell-Off Amid Fear Of Italy-EU Budget Fight (G.)
QE Party Is Drying Up, Even at the Bank of Japan (WS)
Higher Rates Will Hurt Stocks Far More Than You Think (SA)
Pakistan Seeks Bailout From IMF (WSJ)
IMF Not Concerned About China’s Ability To Defend The Yuan (R.)
Sharp Slowdown In Consumer Spending Cools UK Retail Sales (G.)
Google Drops Out Of Bidding For $10 Billion Pentagon Data Deal (R.)

 

 

Groundhog Day. They just want to get (re-)elected. Which won’t happen if they tell people to cut their driving and flying.

World Leaders ‘Have Moral Obligation To Act’ After UN Climate Report (G.)

World leaders have been told they have moral obligation to ramp up their action on the climate crisis in the wake of a new UN report that shows even half a degree of extra warming will affect hundreds of millions of people, decimate corals and intensify heat extremes. But the muted response by Britain, Australia and other governments highlights the immense political challenges facing adoption of pathways to the relatively safe limit of 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures outlined on Monday by the IPCC. With the report set to be presented at a major climate summit in Poland in December, known as COP24, there is little time for squabbles. The report noted that emissions need to be cut by 45% by 2030 in order to keep warming within 1.5C.

That means decisions have to be taken in the next two years to decommission coal power plants and replace them with renewables, because major investments usually have a lifecycle of at least a decade. Mary Robinson, a UN special envoy on climate, said Europe should set an example by adopting a target of zero-carbon emissions by 2050. “Before this, people talked vaguely about staying at or below 2C – we now know that 2C is dangerous,” she said. “So it is really important that governments take the responsibility, but we must all do what we can.” The UK, which has gone further than most nations by cutting its annual emissions by 40% since 1990, will need to step up if the more ambitious goal is to be reached.

Read more …

Both think adapting to climate change is easy.

US Economists Win Nobel Memorial For Work On Climate And Growth (G.)

Two American economists at the forefront of work on climate change and the role of governments in boosting growth have been jointly awarded the prestigious Nobel Memorial prize for economics. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said William Nordhaus and Paul Romer were being honoured for their research into two of the most “basic and pressing” economic issues of the age. Nordhaus made his name by warning policymakers during the first stirrings of concern about climate change in the 1970s that their economic models were not properly taking account of the impact of global warming and he is seen as one of the pioneers of environmental economics.

The Yale economist was honoured a day after the latest UN warning on global warming said that urgent and unprecedented changes were needed to keep climate change to a maximum of 1.5C (2.7F). The co-winner – Romer – is seen as the prime mover behind the endogenous growth theory, the notion that countries can improve their underlying performance if they concentrate on supply-side measures such as research and development, innovation and skills. [..] Responding to news of his award, Romer said it was perfectly possible for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, in line with the latest recommendation of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Once we start to try to reduce carbon emissions, we’ll be surprised that it wasn’t as hard as we anticipated. The danger with very alarming forecasts is that it will make people feel apathetic and hopeless.

“One problem today is that people think protecting the environment will be so costly and so hard that they want to ignore the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist. Humans are capable of amazing accomplishments if we set our minds to it.” [..] Nordhaus has been a prominent advocate of the use of a uniformly applied carbon tax as the best way to put a true cost on the use of burning fossil fuels and so reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The committee that awarded the prize said he was the first person to design “simple but dynamic and quantitative models of the global economic-climate system, now called integrated assessment models (IAMs). “His tools allow us to simulate how the economy and climate would co-evolve in the future under alternative assumptions about the workings of nature and the market economy, including relevant policies.”

Read more …

This is useful h/t Yves. Peter Dorman on how Martin Weitzman, who has a far more aggressive take on economics and climate, was snubbed so Nordhaus’ light version would get the attention.

Nobel Prizes in Economics, Awarded and Withheld (NC)

Nordhaus was widely expected to be a winner for his work on the economics of climate change. For decades he has assembled and tweaked a model called DICE (Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy), that melds computable general equilibrium theory from economics and equations from the various strands of climate science. His goal has been to estimate the “optimal” amount of climate change, where the marginal cost of abating it equals the marginal cost of undergoing it. From this comes an optimal carbon price, the “social cost of carbon”, which should be implemented now and allowed to rise over time at the rate of interest. In his first published work using DICE, from the early 1990s, he recommended a carbon tax of $5 a tonne of CO2, inching slowly upward until peaking at $20 in 2085. His “optimal” policy was expected to result in an atmospheric concentration of CO2 of over 1400 ppm (parts per million) at the end of this planning horizon, yielding global warming in excess of 3º C. (Nordhaus, 1992)

Over time Nordhaus has become slightly more concerned with the potential economic costs of climate change but also more sanguine about the prospects for decarbonized economic growth, even in the absence of policy. In his latest work he advocates a carbon tax of $31 per tonne in 2015, increasing at 3% per year over the following century. This too would result in more than 3º warming. To give a sense of how modest his suggestion is, consider that, in the same paper, Nordhaus calculates that the most efficient carbon tax to limit warming to 2.5º is between $107-184 per tonne depending on assumptions. The target of the Paris Accord is 2º, and most scientists consider this an upper bound for the amount of warming we should permit.

What do these “optimal” tax numbers mean? Based on the carbon content of gas, each $1 carbon tax translates into a one cent tax on a gallon of gas at the pump. If we adopted Nordhaus’ suggestion for carbon pricing, the result would be minuscule compared to the year-to-year fluctuations in energy prices due to other causes. In other words, while his prize is being trumpeted as a statement from the Swedish bankers on the importance of climate change, in fact he is a key spokesman for the position, rejected by nearly all climate scientists, that the problem is modest and can be solved by easy-to-digest, nearly imperceptible adjustments to energy prices. If we go down his road we face a significant risk of a climate apocalypse.

Read more …

The benefits of climate change.

The End Of The World Will Save Theresa May From Brexit (Ind.)

Brexit has been in its “something will turn up phase” for some time now and possibly, at last, something has. This is meant to be Theresa May’s “Hell Week”, with important post-Brexit proposals to be published in both Brussels and the UK, both of which will of course necessitate demented rows within her own party (current “strategies” include threatening to vote down the Budget), but Hell Week could hardly have got off to a better start. The most sensible reading of Hell Week is that it looks likely to end with May agreeing to keep the UK in the EU’s customs union until 2022. In the circumstances, the prime minister will not have failed to notice that, according to this morning’s report from the UN’s IPCC, that is a mere eight years before all of the planet’s inbuilt life preserving systems are currently scheduled to turn against humanity in act of vengeance that will be swift and total.

To borrow briefly from the probability-based lexicon of the climate science community, let’s take a look at the likelihood of Brexit being concluded by then in any meaningful way. Even in the unlikely event of Britain voting to leave the European Union, right up until around 8am on 24 June 2016, the latest point at which it was all meant to have been sorted out was 24 June 2018. But when David Cameron decided not to trigger the two-year Article 50 process “straight away” as he had consistently claimed he would, but resigned instead, that date was eventually pushed back by May to 29 March 2019, expanding Brexit by 37.5 per cent.

Then, in March 2018, the Brexit “transition period” was agreed to last until until 31 December 2020, and now, just seven months later, that deadline has been extended until the next general election in 2022, a further eighteen months. At the most conservative estimate, that gives Brexit a rate of expansion of around two hundred per cent, or four years for every two. If the depth to which it can be kicked into the long grass can be maintained on this exponential gradient, May has every reason to be optimistic that tornadoes of sulphuric gas will be moving freely over the Irish border long before she has to deliver any acceptable proposals for how to avoid the reintroduction of customs infrastructure across it.

Read more …

Not the only issue.

Stock Markets Stage Sharp Sell-Off Amid Fear Of Italy-EU Budget Fight (G.)

Global stock markets staged a sharp sell-off on Monday amid growing concerns over a budget showdown between Italy and the EU and the prospect of weaker growth in the Chinese economy. Italian borrowing costs jumped and the euro dropped on foreign exchanges as the war of words between Rome and Brussels escalated, while shares on Wall Street and other major international markets declined amid growing concerns over the US-China trade war. Italian bond yields jumped by as much as 30 basis points to the highest levels since early 2014 after the Italian deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, attacked the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the economics commissioner, Pierre Moscovici, as enemies of Europe.

Speaking at a news conference with the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, he said the country would not cave to pressure from the financial markets or retreat from its plan for government spending. “We are against the enemies of Europe — Juncker and Moscovici — shut away in the Brussels bunker,” he said. Brussels has told Italy it is concerned over the plan because it would mean the nation running a larger budget deficit – the gap between income from taxes and government spending – than previously planned for the next three years. Rome is to submit its draft budget to the commission, the EU’s executive arm, which will check whether it is in line with EU rules by 15 October.

Read more …

When the easy money goes, how do we keep the bubbles inflated?

QE Party Is Drying Up, Even at the Bank of Japan (WS)

As of September 30, total assets on the Bank of Japan’s elephantine balance sheet dropped by ¥5.4 trillion ($33 billion) from a month earlier, to ¥537 trillion ($4.87 trillion). It was the fourth month-over-month decline in a series that started in December. This chart shows the month-to-month changes of the balance sheet. Despite all the volatility, the trend since mid-2016 is becoming clear: Abenomics became the economic religion of Japan in later 2012, and “QQE” (Qualitative and Quantitative Easing) was an integral part of it. So has the “QQE Unwind” commenced? Are central bankers, even at the Bank of Japan, getting cold feet about the consequences?

At BOJ policy meetings, concerns have been voiced over the “sustainability” of the stimulus program, according to the minutes of the July meeting, released on September 25. So the BOJ staff “proposed measures to enhance the sustainability of the current monetary easing while taking into consideration, for example, their effects on financial markets.” And “flexibility” has been proposed as solution to those concerns. The minutes reiterated that the BOJ would continue to buy Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) in “a flexible manner” so that its holdings would increase by about ¥80 trillion a year. But this is precisely what has not been happening, in line with this “flexibility.”

Over the past 12 months, the BOJ’s holdings of JGBs rose by “only” ¥26.2 trillion – not ¥80 trillion. And they declined in September from the prior month (more in a moment). Shortly after the minutes had been released, BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, once the most reckless among the money printers, changed his tune and said in a speech that, “in continuing with powerful monetary easing, we now need to consider both its positive effects and side-effects in a balanced manner.” The Fed has already whittled down its balance sheet by $285 billion since it started its QE unwind last October. The ECB has tapered its QE from a peak of buying €85 billion a month to buying €15 billion currently and will end it altogether in December. The discussion has switched to raising rates and unwinding QE.

Read more …

Like the graph.

Higher Rates Will Hurt Stocks Far More Than You Think (SA)

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell thinks the economy is awesome. And he has no problem telling us so. What Powell will never discuss, however, is the “way-too-low-for-way-too-long” stimulus that the central bank engaged in to get here. In particular, the Fed has kept the neutral rate of interest far beneath the rate of inflation (CPI) for an entire decade. Consumers, corporations and Uncle Sam predictably borrowed as if there’d never be consequences. What consequences? Asset bubbles. Stocks, bonds, real estate, collectibles, cryptos, alternatives, everything. Straight across the Ouija board.

Perhaps ironically, we have seen this streaming video before. “Too-low-for-to-long” rate policy in the previous economic expansion (11/01-12/07) created an environment whereby the quality and the quantity of household mortgage debt became toxic. Granted, mortgage debt is less of an issue in the current credit cycle. Nevertheless, total household debt levels may not be sustainable at higher average interest costs. Meanwhile, the federal government is making households look downright responsible.

Long after the Great Recession ended, the country averaged $1.07 trillion in deficits (2010-2017). We’ve now hit $21.5 trillion in our national debt. Uncle Sammy’s bar tab won’t be getting smaller anytime soon. The new tax law, which has provided a near-term kick start for economic growth (GDP), will keep the trillion-dollar deficit train running for years to come. None of this would be so ominous were it not for the rapid-fire advance of interest expense. Interest expense alone accounts for 11% of the federal budget. Just interest. No debt repayment. Tack on higher interest rates to new borrowing needs? Pretty soon interest expense will surpass the money that goes to the Department of Defense (13.6%).

Read more …

Belt and Road. Silk Road.

Pakistan Seeks Bailout From IMF (WSJ)

Pakistan, the flagship country for China’s global infrastructure building initiative, said Monday that it needed a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, amid growing concerns that Beijing’s program is pushing recipient countries into financial crisis. The fiscal constraints of an IMF program would also undercut the promises made by Prime Minister Imran Khan’s new government, which include millions of new jobs and the establishment of a welfare state.

But a ballooning trade deficit and fast-depleting foreign exchange reserves left the Pakistani government no other choice, officials said, after markets were spooked by the government’s recent suggestions that it might try to make do without the fund. “Uncertainty was growing and the stock market was falling,” said Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, the Information Minister. “We decided to end the uncertainty.” The Pakistani request for an IMF loan could further test already-strained U.S.-China relations. In July, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the U.S. didn’t want to see any IMF lending to Pakistan “go to bail out Chinese bondholders or—or China itself.”

Read more …

Growing at 6.9%(?) and still in need of pretty extreme support. I’d be concerned.

IMF Not Concerned About China’s Ability To Defend The Yuan (R.)

IMF Chief Economist Maurice Obstfeld said on Tuesday that he was not concerned about the Chinese government’s ability to defend its currency despite the recent depreciation of the yuan. “No, I don’t think it’s a problem,” Obstfeld said when asked about the issue on the sidelines of a news conference at the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Bali. But Obstfeld also told the news conference that Beijing would face a “balancing act” between actions to shore up growth and ensure financial stability. China’s yuan currency has faced strong selling pressure this year, losing over 8% between March and August at the height of market worries, though it has since pared losses as authorities stepped up support.

On Tuesday, China’s central bank fixed the yuan’s official mid-point for trading at 6.9019 per dollar, edging close to the psychologically important 7.0 barrier and helping to send Asian stocks to a 17-month low. A U.S. Treasury official on Monday repeated that the Trump administration was concerned about the yuan’s recent weakening as the department prepares a semi-annual report on currency manipulation due out next week. Obstfeld said financial markets have overly emphasized short-term movements in China’s currency, adding that the yuan has often quickly recovered from periods of volatility in recent years.

Read more …

Reading this, I kept thinking: what sharp slowdown? Where is it? Not in the numbers…

Sharp Slowdown In Consumer Spending Cools UK Retail Sales (G.)

Britain’s retailers experienced a sharp slowdown in consumer spending last month, bringing to a close the World Cup-inspired summer spree on the high street. According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the accountancy firm KPMG, growth in total sales dropped to the weakest level in almost a year. Total sales grew at an annual rate of 0.7% in September, compared with 2.3% growth during the same month a year ago. The BRC said this was the lowest growth rate since October 2017. Excluding new store openings, like-for-like sales dropped by 0.2% in the year to September, compared with a 19.9% increase for the same period a year ago.

The latest snapshot for the retail sector comes before the important autumn and winter shopping periods, vital for industry profits, when sales of gifts and electrical goods are lifted by the Black Friday sales event in November and shoppers buying Christmas presents. Retailers have been hit hard by a combination of problems that have led to job cuts and store closures across Britain. The ongoing shift to online shopping has increased competition, while sluggish wage growth and high levels of inflation have damaged the spending power of British households. Sales of stationery, footwear and clothing fell last month, while retailers sold more computers, jewellery, furniture, home accessories and food.

Read more …

If this doesn’t scare you…

Google Drops Out Of Bidding For $10 Billion Pentagon Data Deal (R.)

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Monday it was no longer vying for a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the U.S. Defense Department, in part because the company’s new ethical guidelines do not align with the project, without elaborating. Google said in a statement “we couldn’t be assured that [the JEDI deal] would align with our AI Principles and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.” The principles bar use of Google’s artificial intelligence (AI) software in weapons as well as services that violate international norms for surveillance and human rights.

Google was provisionally certified in March to handle U.S. government data with “moderate” security, but Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp have higher clearances. Amazon was widely viewed among Pentagon officials and technology vendors as the front-runner for the contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, or JEDI. Google had been angling for the deal, hoping that the $10 billion annual contract could provide a giant boost to its nascent cloud business and catch up with Amazon and fellow JEDI competitor Microsoft. That the Pentagon could trust housing its digital data with Google would have been helpful to its marketing efforts with large companies. But thousands of Google employees this year protested use of Google’s technology in warfare or in ways that could lead to human rights violations.

Read more …

Sep 022018
 
 September 2, 2018  Posted by at 9:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Salvador Dali Portrait of Picasso 1947

 

Is The US Economic Boom Beginning To Fizzle Out? (Coppola)
Former Eurogroup Head Dijsselbloem Says Demands On Greeks Were Too Heavy (R.)
The IMF Abetted The European Union’s Subversion Of Greek Democracy (Mody)
Ethiopia Debt Woes Curtail China Funding (R.)
May Vows No Compromise With EU On Brexit Plan (BBC)
Pentagon Cancels Aid To Pakistan Over Record On Militants (R.)
Monsanto-Bayer: Eliminating The Name Will Not Erase The Criminal History (CD)
What’s Happening To Our Weather? The Answers Are Hiding In Arctic Air (G.)

 

 

Bit short today. I think because all the focus is one two funerals I don’t care much about. In one, a bishop grabs boobs, in the other the one person not invited gets all the attention.

Is that a surprise?

Is The US Economic Boom Beginning To Fizzle Out? (Coppola)

President Trump is not going to be too happy with the New York Fed’s latest nowcast for Q3 2018. The staff projection, based upon the latest data, shows annualized quarter-on-quarter GDP growth slowing to 2% per annum. At the end of 2017 it was 4%, and even at the end of Q2 it was 3%.

The Atlanta Fed’s nowcast, which calculates GDP growth in the same way as the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, also shows GDP growth slowing in Q3, though from a higher level. The Atlanta Fed’s growth estimate for Q3 is 4.1%. President Trump will no doubt be happy with this, but not so happy with the fact that at the beginning of August the estimate was 5%.

So what has gone wrong? Why are the nowcasts suggesting that U.S. economic growth is beginning to slow? The indicators that go into the NY Fed’s nowcasts have been gradually turning red for some time now. There appears to be something of a downturn going on in the housing market; both new starts and sales have fallen. Exports have fallen and imports have risen, apparently because of worsening terms of trade, most likely due to the strong dollar. Most recently, manufacturers have drawn down inventories, and there is a fall in orders and shipments for durable goods. There are no dramatic drops, but it all adds up to a gradual economic slowdown.

Read more …

How long have you realized this, Jeroen, and what have you done to repair it?

Former Eurogroup Head Dijsselbloem Says Demands On Greeks Were Too Heavy (R.)

Euro zone countries have asked for too much from the Greek people in return for international bailout loans, former Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said in an interview on Dutch television on Saturday. “On reforms, we have asked a lot from the Greek people, too much,” Dijsselbloem told current affairs program Nieuwsuur. “Reforms are hard enough to accomplish in a society with a well-functioning government, but this was obviously not the case in Greece.” Greece emerged from the biggest bailout in economic history on Aug. 20, after receiving 288 billion euros in financial aid since 2010, with the European Union as its biggest lender.

During the crisis, the Greek economy shrank by a quarter, pushing a third of the population into poverty and driving thousands to move abroad. “Greece is obviously not a success story,” Dijsselbloem said. “Their crisis has been so deep, that you can’t call it a success.” Dijsselbloem chaired the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers from 2013 until the beginning of 2018, and led dozens of lengthy emergency meetings during which bailouts for Greece, Cyprus and the Spanish banking sector were grudgingly pieced together.

Read more …

Sister act.

The IMF Abetted The European Union’s Subversion Of Greek Democracy (Mody)

European authorities never allowed a conversation around the core imperative of reducing Greece’s debt burden. Syriza formed a government on January 25, 2015. On January 31, Erkki Liikanen, governor of Finland’s central bank and, in that capacity, a member of the ECB’s Governing Council, threatened that the ECB would stop funding Greek banks if the Greek government did not agree to the terms of the creditors. And on February 4, the ECB decided Greece’s fate. In an aggressive move that took everyone by surprise, the ECB cut off funding to Greek banks, preemptively immobilizing the Greek government before it could begin negotiations with its creditors.

The ECB withdrew an earlier arrangement under which Greek banks used their government bonds as collateral (security) to obtain funds for running their day-to-day operations. Although Greek government bonds had a junk rating and normally only higher-rated bonds qualified as collateral, the ECB had waived that requirement to help the banks stay afloat. With its February 4 decision, the ECB revoked that waiver. Greek banks could now borrow only from the Greek central bank under an Emergency Liquidity Arrangement (ELA); ELA funds carried a higher interest rate and, moreover, could be turned off at any time, thus choking the Greek financial system.

Stock prices of Greek banks fell sharply, and two days later, the rating agency S&P pushed the government bonds’ rating further into junk territory. With continuing deposit flight from Greek banks and the threat of a financial meltdown, the Syriza government rapidly lost all leverage before it could use its economic argument in a political negotiation.

Read more …

More Belt and Road.

Ethiopia Debt Woes Curtail China Funding (R.)

Ethiopia has been lauded by experts from China’s ruling Communist Party as a “model country” in Beijing’s $126 billion Belt and Road initiative to build rail, road and sea links tying China to Eurasia and Africa. But as the Horn of Africa nation of 100 million people faces debt distress, there are signs that China, a major creditor, is slowing financing to Ethiopia as doubts grow over the profitability of some infrastructure projects there. “The intensifying repayment risks from the Ethiopian government’s debt reaching 59 percent of GDP is worrying investors,” China’s mission to the African Union in Addis Ababa said on its website in July.

It said that Chinese investment in the country was cooling and that the China Export and Credit Insurance Corp was reducing the scale of its investment there. Against a backdrop of rising worry over African indebtedness to China, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will visit Beijing for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which starts on Monday. He is due to meet Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and is expected to court investment from Chinese firms into Ethiopia’s agro-industrial and pharmaceutical businesses, China’s Xinhua news agency said. Ethiopia has been a top destination for Chinese loans in Africa, despite its lack of natural resources, with state policy banks extending it more than $12.1 billion since 2000, according to the China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington (SAIS).

Read more …

Not your call, Theresa.

May Vows No Compromise With EU On Brexit Plan (BBC)

Theresa May has insisted she will not be forced into watering down her Brexit plan during negotiations with the EU. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the prime minister says she will “not be pushed” into compromises on her Chequers agreement that are not in the “national interest”. But Mrs May also warns she will not “give in” to those calling for a second referendum on the withdrawal agreement. She says it would be a “gross betrayal of our democracy and… trust”. The People’s Vote, a cross-party group including some MPs, is calling for a public vote on the final Brexit deal. The UK is on course to leave the EU on 29 March and the government had previously ruled out another referendum.

The prime minister writes that the coming months are “critical in shaping the future of our country”, but that she is “clear” about her mission in fulfilling “the democratic decision of the British people”. She adds that following the Chequers agreement in July – which led to the resignation of two cabinet ministers – “real progress” has been made in Brexit negotiations. While there is more negotiating to be done, Mrs May writes: “We want to leave with a good deal and we are confident we can reach one.” The government has been preparing for a no-deal scenario, even though this would create “real challenges for both the UK and the EU” in some sectors, she says. But the PM adds: “We would get through it and go on to thrive.”

Read more …

Just as they’ve voted in Imran Khan, who once suggested he might order the shooting down of U.S. drones if they entered Pakistani airspace, [and] has opposed the United States’ open-ended presence in Afghanistan.

Pentagon Cancels Aid To Pakistan Over Record On Militants (R.)

The U.S. military said it has made a final decision to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan that had been suspended over Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against militants, in a new blow to deteriorating ties. The so-called Coalition Support Funds were part of a broader suspension in aid to Pakistan announced by President Donald Trump at the start of the year, when he accused Pakistan of rewarding past assistance with “nothing but lies & deceit.” The Trump administration says Islamabad is granting safe haven to insurgents who are waging a 17-year-old war in neighboring Afghanistan, a charge Pakistan denies. But U.S. officials had held out the possibility that Pakistan could win back that support if it changed its behavior.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in particular, had an opportunity to authorize $300 million in CSF funds through this summer – if he saw concrete Pakistani actions to go after insurgents. Mattis chose not to, a U.S. official told Reuters. “Due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy the remaining $300 (million) was reprogrammed,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said. Faulkner said the Pentagon aimed to spend the $300 million on “other urgent priorities” if approved by Congress. He said another $500 million in CSF was stripped by Congress from Pakistan earlier this year, to bring the total withheld to $800 million. The disclosure came ahead of an expected visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top U.S. military officer, General Joseph Dunford, to Islamabad. Mattis told reporters on Tuesday that combating militants would be a “primary part of the discussion.”

Read more …

8,000 lawsuits. And Bayer is not a US company, big difference.

Monsanto-Bayer: Eliminating The Name Will Not Erase The Criminal History (CD)

Cancelling out Monsanto’s name and keeping only that of Bayer, does not mean forgetting the wrongdoings of a company which, according to the verdict of the Monsanto Tribunal of The Hague, is stained with crimes of ecocide. With Bayer’s official takeover of Monsanto, the giant multinational also inherits its liabilities. On the eve of the start of the integration process, Monsanto has been held liable for causing cancer through the use of its glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup and ordered to pay $289 million of damages to the plaintiff Dewayne Lee Johnson in the first landmark case, settled in California in mid August 2018. The jury also found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression.”

According to Reuters, the number of lawsuits brought against Bayer’s newly acquired Monsanto is approximately 8000 in the US alone. UN experts Ms Hilal Elver, Special Rapporteur on the right to food and Mr. Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, defined the ruling “a significant recognition of the human rights of victims, and the responsibilities of chemical companies.” Revelations in reports published last year, most notably the “Monsanto Papers” and the “Poison Papers“, have shed light on strategies of big agrochemical groups to expand their empires: from lobbying, interference in government agencies’ proceedings, attacks in collusion with institutions on independent science, to mega mergers and acquisitions.

For the first time part of these documents were shown to a jury, which were able, among other things to also see that, “at least starting 20 years ago, Monsanto has known that their product can cause cancer, and has gone out of its way to ignore it and/or fight any science that suggests a link”, as declared to Democracy Now by Brent Wisner, the lead trial counsel for Dewayne Lee Johnson in his lawsuit against Monsanto. Added to this, in the same week, California’s Supreme Court rejected a challenge by Monsanto to the state’s decision to include glyphosate in its Proposition 65 list of carcinogens.

Read more …

How clean is the air?

What’s Happening To Our Weather? The Answers Are Hiding In Arctic Air (G.)

I am standing on the ocean. Ahead of me, the world is split into two perfect halves: blue sky above, white sea ice below. The view is clean and simple, but a continuous waltz of swirling and shunting is hidden inside those two colours: the inner workings of the Arctic engine. This place is special for many reasons, and to appreciate one of the most unusual all I need to do is to live; to breathe. The air is -2C, but the air coming from my lungs is invisible. The familiar wisps of cold breath that I associate with crisp winter air in Britain are absent. They cannot form here. And that anomaly is connected in a fundamental way to our presence here, on a scientific expedition to study this environment. For two months, the Swedish icebreaker Oden is home to 74 of us, living and working at the top of the world to tap into the stories that the blue and the white have to tell.

The Arctic has held on to its mystique for centuries. Many western explorers have pitted their wits, strength, and endurance against this environment, while traditional Arctic communities have learned to work with the complexities of the ice rather than against them. Those of us who live well south of the Arctic circle hear a lot about how the white in the north is changing, but less about how it is. It’s hard to construct a secondhand mental image of what it’s like here. There are no landmarks and you cannot step in the footprints of the past. This is an ocean with an icy shell that cracks and shifts as it’s pushed by the wind, breaking apart into separate floes or piling up to form ridges.

Read more …

Apr 182018
 


Francesco Hayez The Death of the Doge Marin Faliero 1867

 

 

Dr. D’s swift response to my essay yesterday, Every Kingdom Divided Against Itself. On the mechanisms by which empires fall. They’re always similar and familiar.

 

 

Dr. D: Wonderfully said. Since no one will report, here’s what happened to that airstrike. The one where we declare a victory and go home (or try to).

They targeted 10 sites, yet after the Pentagon said it was a perfect mission, they only reported on 4. Who were the other 6?


Duwali airbase – 4 missiles fired, 4 shot down
Dumayr airbase – 12 missiles fired, 12 shot down
Baley airbase – 18 missiles fired, 18 shot down
Shayrat airbase – 12 missiles fired, 12 shot down
Marj Ruhayyil airbase – 18 missiles fired, 18 shot down
Damascus international airport – 4 missiles fired, 4 shot down

Sounds like an amazing ad for Russian military hardware and Russian alliances, and an amazing warning to warhawks in the Pentagon to check themselves.

And hold on: wouldn’t bombing a major chemical weapons manufacturing facility lead to a cloud of nerve and/or other gas killing every civilian within 20 miles? I.e. the entire capital city? Or did they know that there was nothing there already which is why they were confident it could not lead to an incident that would be recorded as the worst chemical attack of all time? You know, chemically attacking 1.7 million Syrians to save 10 Syrians from chemical attacks?

Yet this illegal, reckless, and (intentionally?) futile attack is NOT ENOUGH for CNN, MSNBC and their ilk. Denouncing Trump for bombing Syria, they also denounced him for NOT bombing Syria. Adequately. Or fully mobilizing the entire U.S. military for a ground invasion.

Or whatever, as weasel-faced chicken hawks, they wouldn’t openly say what they wanted, only that Trump openly bombing a nation outside the U.N. without a declaration of war as they themselves demanded, was pointless and weak. Which is why they also wanted it, in side-by-side front page articles? Or like Veruca Salt they want a pony AND an oompa loompa?

 

This IS weak, and like the late Soviet Union, it IS divided, no one IS in charge, clearly, as we see: the FBI, Justice, Pentagon, CIA, all make it a point of honor to openly, proudly disobey direct orders from their boss, and with him their real employer, the American people who elected him. And which they worked tirelessly to election tamper and deny and/or remove him.

And that’s perfectly okay with everybody. Is that normal for everyone in a business, a platoon, to directly countermand all direct orders? It is these days, and not just with Trump. Once you throw off the Logos, every man does what is right in his own eyes, they are not restrained by petty law and custom, by order and precedent, for they will be as the most high.

This is as true down at Taco Bell as in Federal Court, in the Justice Department, true in police departments, schools, hospitals, and even public lavatories. Order, rules, are whatever some official wants them to be during the 5 minutes they meet you. An hour later, the rules, your punishment, even their description of reality itself is all different. Railroad one guy: it’s legal, commendable! Railroad the next guy? It’s draconian, the death penalty.

Look at someone wrong? Have an opinion? Lose your life, liberty, property, reputation and career. A Celebrity? Poor dear: no matter how many felonies, how many killed, or how often wrong, it never matters. Not just saying that, the number of police acquitted for killing unarmed citizens exceeds Parkland by leagues. And this licence is given not just to judges and investigators but by the people themselves.

 

We have an Emperor Nero or early Robespierre government. There is no logic in them. No Logos. When you expel Logos actively, joyfully, you get the anti-Logos: pure random chaos, disorder, violence, and death. No one can work with anyone, trust anyone, restrain anyone, work together, or plan. You get the Reign of Terror and the purges of the Lion’s Mouths under the Council of Ten.

This was well engineered to bring down the U.S. in a repeat of the Russian Revolution of 1918, and it’s going relatively well. When the people themselves have no order, it’s hard enough to hold the people. But when the government doesn’t either, and fights itself while lying, there’s less hope than ever.

Because while government can be reformed, it takes generations of work to re-instill the Logos, rules, law, customs, order, consequences, back into the people. Sometimes it seems nothing can purge them of these delusions of theft and power but fire.

But one way or the other, we’re in it now. The Civil War is at home. Syria is just an example of our domestic war. Remember the L.A. Times reporting the CIA-imbedded resistance openly shooting the Pentagon-imbedded Kurds? Two agencies killing each other with bullets? That went on every day before and since, politically, socially, economically, and now militarily.

The airstrike in Syria — real or fake — is that war. A war of order and law vs unrestrained will-to-power. And that battle of Logos and anti-Logos is worldwide.

 

 

Apr 052018
 
 April 5, 2018  Posted by at 12:11 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Herbert Ponting Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition, Antarctica 1911

 

Something must be terribly wrong with the world. A few days ago Elizabeth Warren agreed with Trump on China, now Bernie Sanders agrees with him about Amazon. What’s happening?

 

Bernie Sanders Agrees With Trump: Amazon Has Too Much Power

Independent Vermont senator and 2016 presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders echoed President Donald Trump in expressing concern about retail giant Amazon. Sanders said that he felt Amazon had gotten too big on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, and added that Amazon’s place in society should be examined.

“And I think this is, look, this is an issue that has got to be looked at. What we are seeing all over this country is the decline in retail. We’re seeing this incredibly large company getting involved in almost every area of commerce. And I think it is important to take a look at the power and influence that Amazon has,” said Sanders.

A backlash against Facebook, a backlash against Amazon. Are these things connected? Actually, yes, they are connected. But not in a way that either Trump or Sanders has clued in to. Someone who has, a for now lone voice, is David Stockman. Here’s what he wrote last week.

 

The Donald’s Blind Squirrel Nails An Acorn

It is said that even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn, and so it goes with the Donald. Banging on his Twitter keyboard in the morning darkness, he drilled Jeff Bezos a new one – or at least that’s what most people would call having their net worth lightened by about $2 billion:

“I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” You can’t get more accurate than that. Amazon is a monstrous predator enabled by the state, but Amazon’s outrageous postal subsidy – a $1.46 gift card from the USPS stabled on each box – isn’t the half of it.

The real crime here is that Amazon has been exempted from making a profit, and the culprit is the Federal Reserve’s malignant regime of Bubble Finance. The latter has destroyed financial discipline entirely and turned the stock market into the greatest den of speculation in human history. That’s why Bezos can kill established businesses with impunity.

The casino allows him to run a pernicious business model based on “price to destroy”, rather than price for profit and a return on capital. Needless to say, under a regime of sound money and honest capital markets Amazon would be a far more benign economic creature. That’s because no real investors would value AMZN’s money-loosing e-Commerce business at $540 billion – nor even a small fraction of that after 25-years of profitless growth.

The bubble economy, the everything bubble, that we have been forced into, with QE, ultra-low rates, central banks buying trillions in what at least used to be assets, and massive buybacks that allow companies to raise their ‘value’ into the stratosphere, has enabled a company like Amazon to kill off its competition, which consists of many thousands of retailers, that do have to run a profit.

It’s a money scheme that allows many of the most ‘valuable’ tech companies to elbow their way into our lives, in ways that may seem beneficial to us at first, but in reality will only leave us behind with much less choice, far less competition, and many, many fewer jobs. Once it’s done someone will mention ‘scorched earth’. But for now they are everybody’s darlings; they are, don’t you know, the tech giants, the brainchildren of the best that the best among us have to offer.

They don’t all work the exact same way, which may make it harder to recognize what they have in common. For some it’s easier to see than for others. It’s also difficult to list them all. Here’s a few: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google (Alphabet), Tesla, Uber, Airbnb, Monsanto. Let’s go through the list.

 

Apple ? Yes, Apple too. But they make real things! Yes, but just as Apple CEO Tim Cook seeks to distance his company from the likes of Facebook on morals and ethics, he can’t deny that Apple sells a zillion phones to a large extent because everybody uses them to look at Facebook and Alphabet apps until their faces are blue. If data ethics are the only problem Cook sees, he’s in trouble.

Silicon Valley infighting shows that the industry does have an idea what is going wrong, in ways that should have already led to many more pronounced worries and investigations.

 

Silicon Valley Rivals Take Shots At Facebook

Mr. Cook, who has long sought to differentiate Apple on privacy matters, contrasted its focus on selling devices with Facebook and Google’s ad-based businesses that are built on user data. Asked what he would do if he were Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Cook replied: “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”

[..] Days earlier, François Chollet, an artificial intelligence engineer at Google, sought to draw a line between his company and Facebook. He tweeted that Google products like search and Gmail help users “to do more, to know more.” Facebook’s newsfeed, he wrote, “manipulates your worldview and seeks to maximally waste your time.”

[..] In January, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, whose company sells business software services, said that the addictive nature of social media means it should be regulated like a health issue.“I think that you do it exactly the same way that you regulated the cigarette industry,” Mr. Benioff told CNBC when asked how Facebook should be regulated. Some of the most cutting rebukes have come from people who know Facebook well.

In November, Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, said that Facebook executives, including himself, were “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology” by designing a platform built on social validation. Mr. Parker didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Facebook generally hasn’t responded to the criticism, but it did after sharp comments from its former vice president of growth, Chamath Palihapitiya. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works,” Mr. Palihapitiya said at a talk at Stanford University in November.

I would expect to hear a lot more of that sort of thing. Big Tech is changing the world in more ways than one. And spying on people Facebook-style is merely one of a long list of them. So yes, Apple certainly also belongs in that list. Facebook doesn’t build the devices people use to see what their friends had for breakfast, Apple does that. Moreover, Apple profits hugely from stock buybacks, so it fits in Stockman’s bubble finance definition of Amazon, too.

The failure of politics to investigate, and act against, those dopamine-driven feedback loops which exploit a vulnerability in human psychology in order to maximally waste your time and sell you product after product that you never (knew you) wanted is downright bizarre. Politicians only started talking about Facebook when a topic connected to Trump and Russia was linked to it.

 

Amazon: Trump can’t act fast enough on the tax situation and the US Postal deal. Not that that will solve the issue. Amazon, like all the companies on my list, can only be cut down to size if and when the everything bubble is. They are, after all, its children.

The most pernicious aspect of the Amazon ‘business model’, which all these firms share, and all are able to live by thanks to the central banks and the “greatest den of speculation in human history” they have created, is the prospect of world domination in their respective fields. They all hold in front of speculators the promise that they can crush all competition, or nearly all. Scorched earth, flat earth.

 

Facebook: their place in the list is obvious. What is it, 2.5 billion users? And what they don’t have is divvied up between them and Google when they buy up apps like Instagram. Officially competitors, but they have the exact same goals. And, like me, you may think: what’s the problem, just ban them from collecting all that data. Facebook has no reason to know, at least not one that serves us, where you were last Friday, and with whom. And just in case you missed that bit, they do.

But there their connection to the intelligence world comes in. Their platforms are better than anything the NSA has ever been able to develop. So we can say we don’t want Zuckerberg and Alphabet spying on us, but our own spies do want to do just that. That makes any kind of backlash much harder to succeed. And it doesn’t matter if you delete your Facebook account, they’ll find you anyway. Friend of a friend. We all have friends who are on Facebook, rinse and repeat.

The only hope there is, with Facebook as with the other companies, is for investors and speculators to dump their holdings in massive numbers. And that will only happen when the central bank Ponzi collapses. And it will, but by then we have a whole new set of problems.

 

Google: largely the same set of issues that Facebook has. Its tentacles are everywhere. Former CEO Eric Schmidt’s connections to the Pentagon should be really all you need to know. The EU may have issued all sorts of complaints and fines on competition grounds, but that makes no difference.

The one country with an effective response to Google and Facebook is China, that has largely banned both and built its own versions of their products. Which allows Beijing to ban people from boarding planes, buying homes etc., if their ‘social credit’ is deemed too low. If you want to be scared about where Big Tech’s powers can lead, look no further.

 

Tesla: Elon Musk has built a fantasy (and maybe I should put Paypal in this list too) on what everyone thinks must be done to ‘save the planet’ (yeah, build cars…) by grossly overstating the number of cars he can build, and financing his growth on not only speculation, but also on spectacular amounts of government subsidies (politicians want to save the planet, too).

And now he needs additional financing again. He will probably get it, again, but the Amazon backlash might have people take another look. One fine day… Fits David Stockman’s complaint to a t(ee), doesn’t have to make a profit. Musk has perfected that model.

 

Uber and Airbnb: why anyone anywhere would want to send money generated in their community, by renting out cars and apartments in that same community, to a bunch of people in Silicon Valley, is beyond me. Someone should set this up as an international effort that makes it easy for a community, a city etc., to provide this kind of service and make the profits benefit their own cities.

But like Amazon, they are free to run any competition into the ground because no profits are required until they have conquered the world. And then they can go nuts. It may look like a business model, but it isn’t. It’s a soon to be orphaned bubble child..

 

Monsanto: less obvious perhaps as an entry in the Big Tech list, but very much warranting a spot. And of course it stands for the entire chemical-seeds field. From Agent Orange to your children’s dinner plate. Monsanto has more lawyers and lobbyists on its payroll than it has scientists, but then its lofty goals outdo even those of Google or Amazon.

Facebook may focus on your addiction to human contact, but Bayer, DuPont, Syngenta et al have decided to make your food so addicted to their chemicals that they will in the future profit from every bite served on your table. How they will grow that food long term without any insects, bees or birds left is unclear, but they don’t seem to care much. As for profits? Monsanto seeks to rule the world, and for now care as little about profits as they do about insects.

 

Zuckerberg may claim that he only wants to improve Facebook’s service, but when that is done through for instance the 2012 so-called Transmission of Anger experiment in which the company tried to alter their users’ emotional states -and succeeded-, by manipulating their friends’ postings, that claim becomes pure ridicule. Selling off user data to scores of developers doesn’t help either. But do you see Congress tackling him in any serious way next week? Neither do I.

Because there’s one huge catch to the scenario that David Stockman -and I- painted, of the whole tech bubble collapsing when the financial bubble does. It is the links tech companies have built to intelligence. A group of Google employees wrote a letter to their CEO Sundar Pichai to protest the company’s involvement in “weaponized AI”, in the shape of Project Maven, a military surveillance engine to-be.

These people undoubtedly mean well, but they’re far too late. They will have to leave the “don’t be evil” company to actually not be evil. Because it’s not a big step from weaponized AI to killer robots. Microsoft is also part of the project, and Amazon is. If you work there and don’t want to be evil, you know what to do.

Yeah, it’s about our safety, and security, and political and military and economic power. But it’s also about spying on people, in even worse ways than Facebook does. So even as the central bank bubble, and the tech bubble, go poof, some of these companies may be saved by their military ties.

That sound you hear is George Orwell turning in his grave.