Mar 142019
 


Pablo Picasso Studio with plaster head 1925

 

Zugzwang Brexit : How the UK Can Escape The Checkmate/Stalemate (English)
May Issues Final Warning To Tory Rebels: Back Me Or Lose Brexit (G.)
EU On No-Deal Brexit Motion: ‘Like Titanic Voting For Iceberg To Move’ (G.)
‘No Delay From EU – Or We Elect 73 Nigel Farages Into European Parliament’ (RT)
US Grounds Boeing 737 Max Planes, Citing Links Between 2 Fatal Crashes (CNBC)
Battle Brews over Who Should Analyze Black Boxes from 737 Crash (Fort.)
US Lawmakers Emerge From Whitaker Meeting With Conflicting Accounts (R.)
Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings (VIPS)
Paul Manafort Sentenced To 43 Additional Months (ZH)
Greek Financial Crisis Still Evokes Pain, Fear On The Streets Of Athens (CNBC)
Sharp Rise In Arctic Temperatures Now Inevitable – UN (G.)
Coca-Cola Produces 200,000 Plastic Bottles A Minute (G.)

 

 

Nice different view of things: in chess, you can be forced to make a move (Zugzwang), even if your position gets worse. Buit there is a way out: forfeit the game, stop playing.

Zugzwang Brexit : How the UK Can Escape The Checkmate/Stalemate (English)

The EU referendum has plunged the United Kingdom into a chaos so unprecedented, that only a fool would bet on the final outcome. What is clear is that each move to try to break the political deadlock has merely shoved the nation into further bedlam. With just two weeks to go before the March 29th deadline – the country is like that coach in the final scene of 1969 crime caper The Italian Job. Any move in any direction risks sending the whole thing tumbling down a cliff, while staying put is likewise not an option. In short, all attempts to resolve the crisis simply make matters worse. The Germans have a word for this. “Zugzwang” is a term used by chess masters to describe the situation where a participant is compelled to play, even when it is clearly not in their interests to do so.

“Zugzwang Brexit” is where we are now at. Consider May’s potential moves. The EU rightly insists it is up to the UK to find a solution – but with her deal voted down, no viable alternative on the table and the EU leaders unwilling to debate the matter further what alternatives does the PM have? It is far from certain that the EU 27 would grant the UK extra time. Even if they did, an extension of Article 50 would merely kick the can further down the road. A second referendum could go either way. If ‘Leave’ were to win again we would be back at square one. If Remain won but not by a considerable margin then the issue would not be satisfactorily resolved. A No Deal Brexit would heap ruin on the country and only serve as an ‘I told you so’ for Remainers as we disappeared down the plughole of global relevance.

If the polls are to be believed a General Election would be unlikely to deliver a result very different to that of 2017 and further uncertainty – possibly lasting years would ensue. Labour’s leadership anyway remain committed to Brexit. So What Can be Done? Well there is a way out of ‘Zugzwang Brexit’ – but it is the political equivalent of forfeiting the game. The UK could revoke Article 50 and simply accept that the country has failed to reach political accord. May has twice failed to get her deal through the House of Commons and it seems likely that any further version, negotiated by any of her successors would meet a similar fate.

By revoking the mechanism by which a member state leaves the EU – dignity and sanity could momentarily be restored and the country could dampen the fuse of the ticking time bomb which Theresa May so recklessly and foolishly lit. That would be in the public’s interest, in the nations’ interest, in the interest of jobs and industry and the UK economy. As such – it’s unlikely to happen.

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“Seething Brexiteer Tory MPs lining up on ERG’s WhatsApp group in their dozens to vote against Govt A50 motion tonight, and John McDonnell confirms to #r4Today Labour will amend it – leaving it no hope of passing. Then what?”

May Issues Final Warning To Tory Rebels: Back Me Or Lose Brexit (G.)

Theresa May will attempt one final desperate roll of the dice on her Brexit deal, issuing a stark warning to mutinous Brexiters that they must approve her offer by next week or face a long article 50 extension. The prime minister was humiliated yet again amid chaotic scenes on Wednesday night in parliament, as her cabinet ruptured three ways and MPs inflicted two more defeats on the government to demand no deal should be taken off the table permanently. In an unprecedented night of Tory splits, four cabinet ministers, Amber Rudd, David Mundell, David Gauke and Greg Clark, defied their party’s last-minute whip and refused to vote against the government’s own motion, after it was amended to rule out any prospect of no-deal Brexit.

Six other cabinet ministers also splintered to back a separate proposal for a “managed no deal”, despite the prime minister’s warning that the plan was doomed. After her defeat, May signalled she would gamble one last time on forcing through her Brexit deal, bringing forward a motion on Thursday on delaying Brexit which would “set out the fundamental choice facing this house”.= If MPs agreed a deal, she said, the government would request a “short, technical extension” to article 50, a hint that May plans a third meaningful vote next week. Without an agreed deal, she said, there would be a “much longer extension” that would require the UK to take part in European parliament elections. “I do not think that would be the right outcome,” May said.

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“..the EU’s deputy Brexit negotiator, Sabine Weyand, told EU ambassadors that she feared the Commons was “divorced from reality”..”

EU On No-Deal Brexit Motion: ‘Like Titanic Voting For Iceberg To Move’ (G.)

Brussels has said a vote by UK MPs to block a no-deal Brexit in any circumstances is a meaningless move, with one senior EU negotiator describing it as “the Titanic voting for the iceberg to get out of the way”. A European commission spokesman offered a withering assessment of the decision by MPs to ignore Theresa May’s assertion that no deal was the default position unless there was a deal in place by the time of the UK’s departure. “We take note of the votes in the House of Commons this evening,” the spokesman said. “There are only two ways to leave the EU: with or without a deal. The EU is prepared for both. To take no deal off the table, it is not enough to vote against no deal – you have to agree to a deal. We have agreed a deal with the prime minister, and the EU is ready to sign it.”

MPs voted by 312 to 308 to support a backbench amendment ruling out a no-deal Brexit and striking out a phrase in a government-backed motion noting that no deal remained the default position in UK and EU law if an agreement was not ratified. They then voted on the amended motion, which won by a majority of 43. On Thursday, MPs will vote on whether to request an extension of the article 50 negotiating period beyond 29 March until 30 June. But the commission is pushing member states to take an uncompromising position. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, speaking to the European parliament in Strasbourg earlier on Wednesday, questioned whether the EU should offer extra time for talks, leading officials to prepare for all options to be on the table at a leaders’ summit next week.

“Why would we extend these discussions?” Barnier asked. “The discussion on article 50 is done and dusted. We have the withdrawal agreement. It is there.” During a private meeting before his public comments, Barnier advised senior MEPs that at present there was no consensus among the EU’s member states over an extension, let alone on the conditions that would be attached. At the same time, the EU’s deputy Brexit negotiator, Sabine Weyand, told EU ambassadors that she feared the Commons was “divorced from reality”. Quoting private remarks by the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, Weyand concurred with his description of the decision to vote for no deal as “like the Titanic voting for the iceberg to get out of the way”.

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What powers would UK MEPs have in case a temporary extension comes into play? Interesting question.

‘No Delay From EU – Or We Elect 73 Nigel Farages Into European Parliament’ (RT)

The UK Parliament is set to seek postponement of Brexit, but Brussels may be reluctant to grant it. One argument against may be a potential poison pill in the form of Eurosceptic MEPs, voted in by offended Britons in May. The dramatic week of Brexit votes in the UK Parliament draws to a conclusion on Thursday. Earlier, MPs rejected both the deal negotiated with the EU by Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet, and the option to leave the EU with no deal at all, which the government asked to leave on the table to keep pressure on Brussels. MPs are now set to vote on whether London should ask for a delay in exiting the union.

While a disorderly Brexit would hurt the EU, several top European officials warned that no delay would be granted unless Britain comes up with a clear and substantial plan, which it would try to achieve if given more time. But European bureaucrats may have more reasons not to tolerate Britain dragging its feet, MEP from Scotland David Coburn told RT. If we end up staying beyond a certain period, we have to take part in the European elections. Then what you are going to see is 73 Nigel Farages returned to the European Parliament. It would make the government of the EU impossible. They would probably want to throw us out, I should think.

The next European election is scheduled for the end of May. The UK’s share of the seats would be 73 if it remained part of the EU – with both Britain and the EU making contingencies for this scenario. Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party, is still technically an independent MEP, as is David Coburn, even though they belong to the newly-formed Eurosceptic Brexit Party. [..] “People are becoming more and more angry about the European Union. And more and more people, who previously voted for ‘Remain’, are now supporting ‘Leave’,” he said. “I think people do not like the way that Britain has been treated by the EU.”

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Bopeing will be sued like nuts by airlines. They pay $121 million for the brand new thing and then can’t fly it. Orders are over 5000.

US Grounds Boeing 737 Max Planes, Citing Links Between 2 Fatal Crashes (CNBC)

The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday grounded all Boeing 737 Max jets in the U.S., citing new evidence that showed similarities between two fatal crashes of the popular planes that have killed 346 people in less than five months. The move marks a stunning turnaround for the U.S., which has stood by the American-made aircraft as dozens of countries around the world grounded the planes. The crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on Sunday came less than five months after a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 — the same type of plane — plunged into the Java Sea minutes into the flight from Jakarta, Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board. Both planes were new, delivered from Boeing just months before their doomed flights.

The FAA said the grounding will remain in effect while it investigates the crash. “An FAA team is in Ethiopia assisting the NTSB as parties to the investigation of the Flight 302 accident,” it said in a statement. New satellite data shows the plane’s movement was similar to the October crash, the FAA’s acting administrator Daniel Elwell told reporters on a call Wednesday. The agency also took physical evidence into account, but Elwell declined to elaborate. “It became clear the track was very close and behaved similarly to the Lion Air flight,” Elwell told reporters on a call Wednesday. “My hope is the FAA, the carriers, the manufacturers and all parties will work very hard to make this grounding as short as possible so that these airplanes can get back up in the sky.”

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US standing in the world.

Battle Brews over Who Should Analyze Black Boxes from 737 Crash (Fort.)

Ethiopia’s aviation authority is unable to read the black box recorders from the Boeing 737 Max plane that crashed Sunday, but a row is brewing over just where the flight recorders will be sent for analysis. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is pushing to have its experts analyze the data and voice recorders, which were partly damaged, the Wall Street Journal reports, but Ethiopian authorities would prefer to work with the U.K.’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch to ensure that U.S. experts won’t have undue influence in the probe of the American-made plane. Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told WSJ that the U.K., France and Germany were being considered as destinations for the black boxes, as was the European Union Aviation Safety Agency based in Cologne.

He added that a decision would be made Wednesday. Aviation authorities worldwide are anxiously awaiting the data from the black box recorders, hoping it will give answers as to why Boeing’s (BA, +0.55%) best-selling model has been involved in two major crashes in the past six months. Ethiopian Airlines’ recently acquired Boeing 737 Max 8 was flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya, when it crashed six minutes into its flight, killing all 157 people on board. The Lion Air plane that crashed 12 minutes into its flight in Indonesia in October, killing 189 people, was the same model.

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Wow. 180º different accounts of one and the same meeting. A good journalist should be able to get a good story out of this.

US Lawmakers Emerge From Whitaker Meeting With Conflicting Accounts (R.)

U.S. lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee emerged from a closed-door meeting with former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Wednesday with conflicting accounts of their conversation with the controversial Trump ally. Whitaker was called to Capitol Hill to clarify his testimony at a combative Feb. 8 committee hearing, during which he denied speaking with President Donald Trump about a federal case involving Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, who met for two hours with Whitaker and the panel’s top Republican, Representative Doug Collins, said Whitaker no longer denied speaking to Trump about Cohen or about the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.

“Unlike in the hearing room, Mr. Whitaker did not deny that the president called him to discuss the Michael Cohen case and personnel decisions in the Southern District,” the New York Democrat told reporters. Nadler also said Whitaker told the lawmakers that he was involved in conversations about U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman’s recusal from the Cohen investigation in the Southern District of New York and about whether its campaign finance case involving hush money payments to two women who claim they had affairs with Trump had gone too far. Nadler’s committee is seeking evidence that Trump may have urged Whitaker to put the investigations under the supervision of Berman, a Trump donor and former law partner of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani who is recused.

But Collins, a Georgia Republican, contradicted much of Nadler’s account. “He (Whitaker) said that he had not talked with the president about Mr. Cohen at all,” Collins told reporters. Collins described Whitaker’s conversations about Berman and the campaign finance case as questions for his personal staff. “(Whitaker) had no conversations with the Southern District of New York,” he said. Collins also dismissed a Nadler statement that Whitaker was involved in conversations about firing one or more U.S. attorneys as “normal personnel issues.”

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US intelligence continues to ignore its own veterans. There’s a long list of them. But their message doesn’t rhyme with official standpoints. I’ve said it before, Mueller’s account relies on hacking Russians and Assange. And he’s a coward and a liar for doing that.

Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings (VIPS)

MEMORANDUM FOR: The Attorney General Media reports are predicting that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is about to give you the findings of his probe into any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump. If Mueller gives you his “completed” report anytime soon, it should be graded “incomplete.” Major deficiencies include depending on a DNC-hired cybersecurity company for forensics and failure to consult with those who have done original forensic work, including us and the independent forensic investigators with whom we have examined the data. We stand ready to help.

We veteran intelligence professionals (VIPS) have done enough detailed forensic work to prove the speciousness of the prevailing story that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking. Given the paucity of evidence to support that story, we believe Mueller may choose to finesse this key issue and leave everyone hanging. That would help sustain the widespread belief that Trump owes his victory to President Vladimir Putin, and strengthen the hand of those who pay little heed to the unpredictable consequences of an increase in tensions with nuclear-armed Russia. There is an overabundance of “assessments” but a lack of hard evidence to support that prevailing narrative.

We believe that there are enough people of integrity in the Department of Justice to prevent the outright manufacture or distortion of “evidence,” particularly if they become aware that experienced scientists have completed independent forensic study that yield very different conclusions. We know only too well — and did our best to expose — how our former colleagues in the intelligence community manufactured fraudulent “evidence” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

We can prove that the conventional-wisdom story about Russian-hacking-DNC-emails-for-WikiLeaks is false. Drawing largely on the unique expertise of two VIPS scientists who worked for a combined total of 70 years at the National Security Agency and became Technical Directors there, we have regularly published our findings. But we have been deprived of a hearing in mainstream media — an experience painfully reminiscent of what we had to endure when we exposed the corruption of intelligence before the attack on Iraq 16 years ago.

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No love lost for Manafort. But sending him away for years while people like the Podestas walk free, doesn’t sound fair.

Paul Manafort Sentenced To 43 Additional Months (ZH)

Lobbyist and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was sentenced to more than six years in prison by a federal judge in the District of Columbia on two conspiracy counts. Manafort pleaded guilty last fall to the two charges which encompass a host of crimes – including money laundering and obstruction of justice. Manafort was sentenced to 60 months on count one, with 30 months of that overlapping a 47 month sentence handed down last week in a separate trial in Virginia – and 13 months on count two. In total, he will serve 90 months in prison, or 7.5 years.

Manafort asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson for leniency during Wednesday’s hearing, saying that the criminal charges against him have “taken everything from me already,” and asking that Berman Jackson not impose any additional prison time beyond the sentence handed down last week. Jackson agreed with Manafort that the original 19-24 year sentencing guideline “overstates the seriousness of this offense.” “I am sorry for what I have done and all the activities that have gotten us here today,” said Manafort in a calm and steady voice as he read from a prepared statement. “While I cannot undo the past, I will ensure that the future will be very different.”

[..] Before reading her decision, Berman Jackson reamed Manafort – saying that there was no good explanation for granting the leniency Manafort had requested.”What you were doing was lying to Congress and the American public,” said Berman Jackson, adding that Manafort had “contempt for” and “believed he had the right to manipulate these proceedings.” “Saying I’m sorry I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency,” the judge said, adding that Manafort’s defense that there was “no collusion” with Russia is not related to the case.

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A few days ago the IMF talked about how great Greece is doing. BS. 2% growth from nothing is still nothing.

Greek Financial Crisis Still Evokes Pain, Fear On The Streets Of Athens (CNBC)

Greece’s financial crisis is still hurting the hopes and dreams of the people that live in the Mediterranean nation. The country has been in economic turmoil for most of the last decade. Years of financial mismanagement alongside a culture of clientelistic politics, where goods and services were exchanged for political support, culminated in a long-term recession.= “I still think the crisis exists. It’s more than in one field now, (it’s) not only (a) financial crisis, but it’s a crisis of our values … I don’t think it’s better now … it is really a stressful period for Greece,” Stavros Dimopoulos, a 23-year-old university student told CNBC in Athens.

Different governments in Greece borrowed above the country’s capacity and its public debt pile became so high that in 2010 investors were no longer willing to keep on financing the Greek government. The end result: George Papandreou, the prime minister at the time, saw no other way out but to ask for a bailout — without even consulting with other European leaders. Since August, the Greek government has tried to show that austerity is over, by providing additional funds to the lower and middle classes. But ordinary Greeks told CNBC they haven’t seen a massive difference in their lives. “We love our city, we love our weather, we love the Greek people, but we are scared and afraid in a way, because the situation is not that good,” Dimopoulos said about him and his friends.

“We have to try harder and harder to make our own money … Sometimes we are talking (about going) abroad: If it is going to be better for us to leave Greece or if it is going to be better to stay in Greece and try harder. It is in our minds.” [..] 2019 is expected to be the country’s third consecutive year of growth, at a pace of about 2.2 percent. Still, this growth doesn’t seem to be making ordinary Greeks happy about the economy. Nikolas complained there hasn’t been a significant improvement for people and there’s still way too many taxes. “Some people have good jobs if they are in the civil service, but the others are suffering, they are paying like 85 percent taxes, which is very hard to get by. You risk losing your house if you don’t have enough money to pay the taxes,” he said. “(the) long term is hard, we just have to smile, pretend.”

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Maybe it’s an idea to rethink the way the data are made public. It’s a litany of ever more of the same now.

Sharp Rise In Arctic Temperatures Now Inevitable – UN (G.)

Sharp and potentially devastating temperature rises of 3C to 5C in the Arctic are now inevitable even if the world succeeds in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement, research has found. Winter temperatures at the north pole are likely to rise by at least 3C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century, and there could be further rises to between 5C and 9C above the recent average for the region, according to the UN. Such changes would result in rapidly melting ice and permafrost, leading to sea level rises and potentially to even more destructive levels of warming. Scientists fear Arctic heating could trigger a climate “tipping point” as melting permafrost releases the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, which in turn could create a runaway warming effect.

“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic,” said Joyce Msuya, the acting executive director of UN Environment. “We have the science. Now more urgent climate action is needed to steer away from tipping points that could be even worse for our planet than we first thought.” The findings, presented at the UN Environment assembly in Nairobi on Wednesday, give a stark picture of one of the planet’s most sensitive regions and one that is key to the fate of the world’s climate. Last year’s stark warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, setting out the dramatic impacts of 1.5C of global warming, did not include the impacts of potential tipping points such as melting permafrost.

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Coca-Cola produces 3 million tonnes of plastic packaging a year.

Coca-Cola Produces 200,000 Plastic Bottles A Minute (G.)

Coca-Cola has revealed for the first time it produces 3m tonnes of plastic packaging a year – equivalent to 200,000 bottles a minute – as a report calls on other global companies to end the secrecy over their plastic footprint. The data from the soft drinks manufacturer was provided to the campaigner Ellen MacArthur, who is pushing for major companies and governments to do more to tackle plastic pollution. The figures – which the company has refused in the past to disclose – reveal the amount of plastic packaging Coca-Cola produced in 2017. The company did not reveal the scale of its bottle production but when its packaging footprint is translated into 500ml PET plastic bottles, it amounts to about 108bn bottles a year, more than a fifth of the world’s PET bottle output of about 500bn bottles a year.

Coca-Cola is one of 31 companies – including Mars, Nestlé and Danone – that have revealed how much plastic packaging they create as part of a drive for transparency by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Combined, they produce 8m tonnes of plastic packaging a year. But the majority of the 150 companies who have signed up to MacArthur’s global commitment to reduce plastic pollution are still refusing to publicly disclose figures on their own plastic packaging production. These include Pepsi Co, H&M, L’Oréal, Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Burberry – which was heavily criticised last year when it was revealed that the company burned £28m of stock in a year to prevent counterfeiting.


Photograph: Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images

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Feb 282019
 


René Magritte The endearing truth 1966

 

Trump Says Deal With Kim Thwarted By North Korea’s Sanction Demands (R.)
Michael Cohen Predicts Revolution If Trump Loses In 2020 (RT)
Michael Cohen’s Explosive Allegations Spell Danger For Trump On Two Fronts (G.)
Why Trump Will Likely Be Reelected, And What It Means For Global Security (F.)
Regime Change is Urgently Needed…in Washington (OffG)
Venezuela Set For More False Flags (Cunningham)
Disintegration Of Global Capitalism Could Unleash WWIII (Nafeez Ahmed)
China Factory Activity At 3-Year Low, Export Orders Worst In A Decade (CNBC)
Denmark Government Wants Stores To Stop Accepting Cash (RT)
Chinese Dam Project In Guinea Could Kill Up To 1,500 Chimpanzees (G.)
Kenya Announces Death Penalty for Poachers (SAI)
The Endless Sunshine of Planetary Death (HmmD)
World’s Deepest Waters Becoming ‘Ultimate Sink’ For Plastic Waste (G.)
How To Live Happily With The 5,000 Other Species In Your House (G.)

 

 

No, not even that headline is true. Trump wants full denuclearization, and Kim wants full lifting of sanctions. That is complex, that takes trust, that will take a lot more talk. And that’s fine, as Trump recognizes. These meetings should become so common they don’t make the news anymore.

Trump Says Deal With Kim Thwarted By North Korea’s Sanction Demands (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he had walked away from a nuclear deal at his summit with Kim Jong Un because of unacceptable demands from the North Korean leader to lift punishing U.S.-led sanctions. Trump said two days of talks in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi had made good progress in building relations and on the key issue of denuclearization, but it was important not to rush into a bad deal. “It was all about the sanctions,” Trump said at a news conference after the talks were cut short. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that.” The United Nations and the United States ratcheted up sanctions on North Korea when the reclusive state undertook a series of nuclear and ballistic missile tests in 2017, cutting off its main sources hard cash.

Both Trump and Kim left the venue of their talks, the French-colonial-era Metropole hotel, without attending a planned lunch together. “Sometimes you have to walk, and this was just one of those times,” Trump said, adding “it was a friendly walk”. Failure to reach an agreement marks a setback for Trump, a self-styled dealmaker under pressure at home over his ties to Russia and testimony from Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer who accused him of breaking the law while in office. Trump said Cohen “lied a lot” during Congressional testimony in Washington on Wednesday, though he had told the truth when he said there had been “no collusion” with Russia.

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I watched quite a bit of the ‘testimony’ yesterday, increasingly wondering: what are we watching here? Why is this show put on? It was clear from the ‘leaked’ files that Cohen had nothing, as I said yesterday morning. In the Q&A session he had way less than nothing. So yeah, let’s go with the most absurd headline of the bunch.

Michael Cohen Predicts Revolution If Trump Loses In 2020 (RT)

Trump consigliere turned federal informant Michael Cohen shared his fear that there will “never be a peaceful transition of power” if his former boss loses the 2020 election during a congressional hearing some called a ‘circus.’ “You don’t know him! I do!” Cohen insisted plaintively during his testimony before the Oversight Committee of the House of Representatives, before predicting Trump would refuse to step down even if he was defeated in 2020. “He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat,” declared Cohen, who pleaded guilty to charges he lied to Congress regarding the special counsel’s ongoing ‘Russiagate’ probe in November, months after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations and tax fraud. He has been busily feeding information to the various Trump probes ever since.

Despite promising big things – proof that Trump had instructed him to commit crimes, evidence of Trump’s racism, even the holy grail of Russian collusion – Cohen failed to deliver anything tangible to the salivating Democrats on the committee, admitting he had no “real examples” of collusion and instead filling his time on the stand with public displays of repentance over his ten years of service to Trump. “Everybody’s job at the Trump organization is to protect Mr. Trump. Every day most of us knew we were coming in and we were going to lie for him on something. And that became the norm, and that’s what’s happening right now in this country,” Cohen intoned. “This destruction of our civility to one another is just out of control.” Republicans, meanwhile, repeatedly reminded the committee that Cohen had already been convicted for perjury. Rep. Carol Miller (R-West Virginia) denounced the entire affair as a “circus.”

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Things don’t magically become ‘explosive’ or ‘bombshell’ just because opinionated reporters say so. And these lines from Cohen don’t exactly save the narrative:

“Trump’s former fixer cautioned that he could not prove the “collusion..”

“There are just so many dots that seem to lead in the same direction..”

Michael Cohen’s Explosive Allegations Spell Danger For Trump On Two Fronts (G.)

Michael Cohen on Wednesday delivered a sharp warning to Donald Trump and the Republican party that the president faces legal and political peril on at least two fronts. First, the Trump-Russia investigation. Cohen became the first Trump associate to allege that, in 2016, Trump knew in advance that his eldest son, Donald Jr, was meeting Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton – and that WikiLeaks would be releasing emails stolen from Democrats by Russian operatives. Moreover, Cohen hinted that Robert Mueller, the special counsel currently wrapping up a two-year inquiry into whether Trump’s team coordinated with Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, may have proof.

Cohen was asked by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida Democrat forced to resign as party chairwoman over the WikiLeaks disclosures, how they could corroborate his explosive allegations, which are based on remarks he says he overheard in Trump’s office. “I suspect that the special counsel’s office and other government agencies have the information you’re seeking,” Cohen said. Trump denied both allegations in his written answers to questions from Mueller. Cohen also reiterated that Trump lied repeatedly to the American public during the 2016 campaign by saying he had no dealings with Russia. In fact, Cohen has told prosecutors, Trump was keenly pursuing a lucrative tower in Moscow until June 2016.

Trump’s former fixer cautioned that he could not prove the “collusion” with Moscow that the president vehemently denies. Still there was, Cohen said, “something odd” about the affectionate back-and-forth Trump had with Vladimir Putin in public remarks over the years. “There are just so many dots that seem to lead in the same direction,” he said.

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The Democrats may be intent -again- on swamping the field with candidates, only to end up with the establishment candidate. That would mean they haven’t learned a thing in 4 years. Unless Ocasio rises to the occasion (get it? Ocasio->Occasion). But that’s doubtful, 1 year is short. So maybe they should chew on this a little:

Why Trump Will Likely Be Reelected, And What It Means For Global Security (F.)

Donald Trump’s presidency has been so widely derided in the national media that a casual observer might easily conclude his prospects for reelection are dim. However, that is not what the odds makers are saying. They give Trump a solid edge over any Democratic candidate in 2020. The odds makers are right. Trump will probably be reelected if he chooses to run. What follows is an explanation of why the odds favor Trump, and what eight years of his leadership would mean for global security. Let’s start with the factors favoring a second term. First of all, candidates who get elected to the presidency once tend to get reelected if they run. Only two chief executives seeking reelection over the last 50 years—Carter and Bush 41—failed in their bid for a second term.

Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush 43 and Obama all won reelection, even though at least two of them were highly controversial. In fact, the most controversial presidents tend to roll up the biggest reelection victories. Second, Trump has presided over the strongest economy in living memory. Unemployment is at record lows, inflation is nearly non-existent, and new jobs are being created at a startling pace. Anyone who studies presidential politics knows that strong economies are the most important factor driving support for the incumbent. While growth may moderate between now and election day, few economists expect a recession anytime soon. Third, the nation is at peace. Trump has avoided involvement in new overseas adventures, and is pressing to scale back what is left of the operations he inherited from his predecessor.

Critics complain he is too eager to get out of places like Afghanistan and Syria, however the record shows that voters have little patience for foreign military intervention. Unpopular wars are the one issue that can eclipse a good economy in the minds of voters, but at the moment Trump seems to be delivering both peace and prosperity. Fourth, Democrats are busy reminding voters in the middle of the political spectrum why they voted for Trump in 2016. Ever since the Democrats drifted away from their blue-collar base in the 1970s, winning the party’s presidential nomination has required appeals to the Left. While many voters may resent the rich and want more government benefits, those sentiments become muted when the economy is strong.

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What if the entire third world unites against the west?

Regime Change is Urgently Needed…in Washington (OffG)

I am surprised that no one else is saying it, writing it, shouting it at each and every corner: It is not Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Iran that are in dire and crucial need of ‘regime change’. It is the United States of America, it is the entire European Union; in fact, the entire West. And the situation is urgent. The West has gone mad; it has gone so to speak, bananas; mental. And people there are too scared to even say it, to write about it. One country after another is falling, being destroyed, antagonized, humiliated, impoverished. Entire continents are treated as if they were inhabited by irresponsible toddlers, who are being chased and disciplined by sadistic adults, with rulers and belts in their hands yelling with maniacal expressions on their faces: “Behave, do as we say, or else!”

It all would be truly comical, if it weren’t so depressing. But… nobody is laughing. People are shaking, sweating, crying, begging, puking, but they are not chuckling. I see it everywhere where I work: in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. But why? It is because North American and European countries are actually seriously delivering their ultimatum: you either obey us, and prostrate yourself in front of us, or we will break you, violate you, and if everything else fails, we will kill your leaders and all of those who are standing in our way. This is not really funny, is it? Especially considering that it is being done to almost all the countries in what is called Latin America, to many African and Middle Eastern nations, and to various states on the Asian continent.

And it is all done ‘professionally’, with great sadistic craftsmanship and rituals. No one has yet withstood ‘regime change’ tactics, not even the once mighty Soviet Union, nor tremendous China, or proud and determined Afghanistan. Cuba, Venezuela, DPRK and Syria may be the only countries that are still standing. They resisted and mobilized all their resources in order to survive; and they have survived, but at a tremendous price.

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What a failure this has become in a few short weeks.

Venezuela Set For More False Flags (Cunningham)

It seems obvious the whole scenario of delivering US aid into Venezuela from neighboring countries was really intended as a pretext for military intervention by Washington. The government in Caracas had warned of such a contingency in advance, as had Russia, which is allied to President Maduro’s administration. Moscow’s experience in Syria has no doubt given a lot of valuable insights into the American playbook of using false flags for justifying military aggression. The timing of the Lima Group summit – 12 Latin American states along with the US and Canada – was meant to capitalize on the false-flag incident over aid, as well as other deadly clashes at the weekend that resulted in dozens of casualties.

However, the provocation did not go to plan, despite Pence and Guaido’s grandstanding assertions. The other downside for the US regime-change objective in Venezuela is that the Lima Group has for the moment broken ranks over the military option. Pence and Guaido stepped up the rhetoric calling for “all options” on the table – meaning military intervention. But the Lima Group, including US allies Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, issued a statement after the summit Monday rejecting any military action. They are still functioning as lackeys by calling for a “peaceful transition to democracy” and are in favor of the dubious US-anointed opposition figure Guaido, recognizing him as the “interim president” of Venezuela, in accordance with Washington’s desires.

Nevertheless, repudiation of the military option by Washington’s regional allies will be seen as a damper to the momentum for using American force to overthrow the Maduro government. Brazil’s Vice President Hamilton Mourão repeatedly said in interviews that his government would not allow a US military incursion into Venezuela from its territory. The European Union also said it was opposed to any military force being used by the US against Venezuela. The emerging situation therefore puts the regime-change planners in Washington in a quandary. Their sanctions pressure for blackmailing defections in the Venezuelan political and military leadership has failed. So too has the much-vaunted spectacle of delivering US aid.

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So why is capitalism disintegrating? Maybe you should answer that first. Being deeply embedded in academia doesn’t impress me one bit. That same academia has helped lead us to this mess.

Disintegration Of Global Capitalism Could Unleash WWIII (Nafeez Ahmed)

A senior European Commission economist has warned that a Third World War is an extremely “high probability” in coming years due to the disintegration of global capitalism. In a working paper published last month, Professor Gerhard Hanappi argued that since the 2008 financial crash, the global economy has moved away from “integrated” capitalism into a “disintegrating” shift marked by the same sorts of trends which preceded previous world wars. Professor Hanappi is Jean Monnet Chair for Political Economy of European Integration -an European Commission appointment- at the Institute for Mathematical Models in Economics at the Vienna University of Technology. He also sits on the management committee of the Systemic Risks expert group in the EU-funded European Cooperation in Science and Technology research network.

In his new paper, Hanappi concludes that global conditions bear unnerving parallels with trends before the outbreak of the first and second world wars. Key red flags that the world is on a slippery slope to a global war, he finds, include: • the inexorable growth of military spending; • democracies transitioning into increasingly authoritarian police states; • heightening geopolitical tensions between great powers; • the resurgence of populism across the left and right; • the breakdown and weakening of established global institutions that govern transnational capitalism; • and the relentless widening of global inequalities. These trends, some of which were visible before the previous world wars, are reappearing in new forms. Hanappi argues that the defining feature of the current period is a transition from an older form of “integrating capitalism” to a new form of “disintegrating capitalism”, whose features most clearly emerged after the 2008 financial crisis.

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All the way back to 2008. Have we passed China’s peak already?

China Factory Activity At 3-Year Low, Export Orders Worst In A Decade (CNBC)

Factory activity in China contracted to a three-year low in February as export orders fell at the fastest pace since the global financial crisis, highlighting deepening cracks in an economy facing weak demand at home and abroad. The gloomy findings are likely to reinforce views that the world’s second-largest economy is still losing steam, after growth last year cooled to a near 30-year low. Even with increasing government stimulus to spur activity, concerns are growing that China may be at risk of a sharper slowdown if current Sino-U.S. trade talks fail to relieve some of the pressure. The official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell for the third straight month, dropping to 49.2 in February from 49.5 in January, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Thursday.

The 50-mark separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis. Analysts surveyed by Reuters had forecast the gauge would stay unchanged from January’s 49.5. “Unless the trade war truly turns into an extended truce, the weakening trend may not end quickly,” Iris Pang, Greater China economist at ING, said in a note. “As such we expect March’s PMI to fall, too.” Manufacturing output contracted in February for the first time since January 2009, during the depths of the global crisis. Manufacturers also continued to cut jobs, a trend Beijing is closely watching as its weighs more support measures. New export orders shrank for a ninth straight month, and at a sharper rate, amid faltering global demand.

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Exactly what even the central bank in Holland has started warning against.

Denmark Government Wants Stores To Stop Accepting Cash (RT)

The Danish government is considering changing current laws which make it compulsory for the vast majority of stores to accept cash payments. The measure is part of Copenhagen’s push for a completely cashless society by 2030. The law change would allow petrol stations, convenience stores and clothing shops to choose to only accept card and online forms of payment. The anti-crime measure would provide additional security for stores, according to Denmark’s Business Minister Rasmus Jarlov. “Fewer people use cash today, so we think there should be a balance between the difficulty and security risks placed on business owners and the benefits of accepting cash,” Jarlov told the DR broadcaster.

A 2017 law enabled certain types of stores to apply for a dispensation to be cash-free between 10pm and 6am. The minister said that, “If you still want to use cash, I would advise saying so to the stores where you shop. I expect businesses to listen to their customers.” “We are not forcing anyone to stop using cash,” he added. Certain services, including supermarkets, postal services, doctors, pharmacies and other stores with “central societal functions,” will still be required to accept cash. Denmark’s endeavor to move towards a completely cash-free economy has been the subject of heated debate lately; with opponents saying the measure is aimed at placing citizens exclusively under state control. The government has “set a 2030 deadline to completely do away with paper money.”

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OK, this is easy. We get together, UN or something, to make sure such projects don’t happen anymore. We’ll make sure people get electricity from other sources, but we’re done destroying nature for it.

Chinese Dam Project In Guinea Could Kill Up To 1,500 Chimpanzees (G.)

Up to 1,500 chimpanzees could be killed by a new Chinese dam that will swamp a crucial sanctuary for the endangered primate in Guinea, experts have warned. The 294MW Koukoutamba dam will be built by Sinohydro, the world’s biggest hydroelectric power plant construction company, in the middle of a newly declared protected area called the Moyen-Bafing National park. The Chinese company is already facing similar criticism for building a dam in Indonesia that threatens the only known habitat of a newly discovered species of orangutan. Its executives signed a contract this week with local representatives eager to secure a power project that will bring energy and funds to one of Africa’s poorest countries. The flooding of swathes of the park is expected to force the displacement of 8,700 people.

It will also increase the pressure on western chimpanzees, which have declined by 80% in the past 20 years, and are now considered critically endangered – the highest level of risk – by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The highlands of Guinea are home to Africa’s healthiest remaining population of about 16,500 western chimpanzees. In most other countries, this subspecies is either extinct or perilously threatened in populations of less than 100 individuals. The Moyen-Bafing reserve was established in 2016 as a “chimpanzee offset” and funded by two mining companies – Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée and Guinea Alumina Corporation – in return for permission to open mineral excavation sites inside other territories of the primate.

Rebecca Kormos, a primatologist who has been researching the animal for decades, has warned that a dam inside the park would have the biggest impact a development project has ever had on chimpanzees. “I hope Sinohydro will reconsider engaging in a project that could drive the western chimpanzee into extinction. Once a species goes, it’s gone forever,” she said. She estimates 800 to 1,500 chimpanzees will die as a result of the project, either by having their habitats flooded or as a result of territorial conflicts if they try to move.

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Article’s a bit confused about timing, but the idea is one I’ve mentioned before. Stop trading with any country that trades in these materials, and shoot poachers on site.

Kenya Announces Death Penalty for Poachers (SAI)

Najib Balala, the tourism and wildlife minister of Kenya, recently announcedthat those who take the lives of innocent animals through poaching will soon face the death penalty in the African country. While this proposal hasn’t been officially enacted into law yet, Balala told China’s Xinhua news agency that wildlife poaching is on a fast track to becoming a capital offense. Sudan, Kenya’s last Rhino who was 45, lived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya died last year. The species is now extinct due the Chinese demand for Rhino horn. While this measure may seem extreme, it is a last resort attempt to deter people from slaughtering Kenya’s rapidly decreasing wildlife population. Balala reportedly said:

“We have in place the Wildlife Conservation Act that was enacted in 2013 and which fetches offenders a life sentence or a fine of U.S. $200,000. However, this has not been deterrence enough to curb poaching, hence the proposed stiffer sentence.” As compared to recent years, poaching in Kenya is actually on the decline in the present day. According to the country’s tourism ministers, this decrease can largely be attributed to more serious wildlife law enforcement efforts and increased investment in conservation. “These efforts led to an 85 percent reduction in rhino poaching and a 78 percent reduction in elephant poaching, respectively, in 2017 compared to when poaching was at its peak in 2013 and 2012 respectively,” reported the ministry.

However, as Balala pointed out, wildlife poaching has not yet been completely eradicated in Kenya. The Independent reported, “Last year in the country 69 elephants – out of a population of 34,000 — and nine rhinos – from a population of under 1,000 – were killed.” Furthermore, a poacher killed two black rhinos and a calf earlier this month in Kenya’s Meru National Park.


An ‘ordinary’ ivory shop in Hong Kong

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No more clouds.

The Endless Sunshine of Planetary Death (HmmD)

We’re on course to destroy the clouds, they said now. Not just the coral, not just the insects, not just all the wild vertebrates living on land. The clouds. Quanta Magazine, writing about a new Nature Geoscience study on warming and clouds, described the temperature spike known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, when a sharp increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide led to an even sharper increase in temperature—along with “mass extinctions” of ocean life, immense dislocations of land animals, and “flash floods and protracted droughts.” How did the temperature jump out of normal boundaries into a lethal range? Clouds currently cover about two-thirds of the planet at any moment. But computer simulations of clouds have begun to suggest that as the Earth warms, clouds become scarcer.

With fewer white surfaces reflecting sunlight back to space, the Earth gets even warmer, leading to more cloud loss. This feedback loop causes warming to spiral out of control. In computer simulations, researchers found that at 1,200 parts per million of carbon dioxide, the level at which temperatures would be expected to be 4º C above the historical baseline, the atmosphere would become too warm and too turbulent to allow sheets of stratocumulus clouds to form. If the clouds fell apart, the extra sunlight could bring on an extra 8 degrees of warming—for a total increase of 12º C, or more than 21º F. Like the methane-spilling permafrost or the fracturing Antarctic ice sheet, the clouds can’t come back if they’re broken; the runaway heating effect would linger even after carbon dioxide levels dropped. We would have irrevocably ruined the sky.

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“If you contaminate a river, it can be flushed clean. If you contaminate a coastline, it can be diluted by the tides. But, in the deepest point of the oceans, it just sits there.”

World’s Deepest Waters Becoming ‘Ultimate Sink’ For Plastic Waste (G.)

The world’s deepest ocean trenches are becoming “the ultimate sink” for plastic waste, according to a study that reveals contamination of animals even in these dark, remote regions of the planet. For the first time, scientists found microplastic ingestion by organisms in the Mariana trench and five other areas with a depth of more than 6,000 metres, prompting them to conclude “it is highly likely there are no marine ecosystems left that are not impacted by plastic pollution”. The paper, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal, highlights the threat posed by non-biodegradable substances in clothes, containers and packaging, which make their way from household bins via dump sites and rivers to the oceans, where they break up and sink to the floor.

The impact of plastic in shallower waters – where it chokes dolphins, whales and seabirds – is already well documented in academic journals and by TV programmes such as David Attenborough’s Blue Planet. But the study shows this problem is far more profound than previously realised. Researchers baited, caught and examined subsea creatures from six of the deepest places in the world – the Peru-Chile trench in the south-east Pacific, the New Hebrides and Kermadec trenches in the south-west Pacific, and the Japan trench, Izu-Bonin trench and Mariana trench in the north-west Pacific. In all six areas, they found ingestion of microparticles by amphipods – a shrimp-like crustacean that scavenges on the seabed. The deeper the region, the higher the rate of consumption. In the Mariana trench – which goes down to the lowest point on earth of 10,890 metres below sea level – 100% of samples contained at least one microparticle.

The materials included polyester-reinforced cotton and fibres made of lyocell, rayon, ramie, polyvinyl and polyethylene. The breadth of substances and broad range of geographic sites prompted the authors to observe that increasing volumes of global plastic waste will find their way from surface gyres into these trenches. “It is intuitive that the ultimate sink for this debris, in whatever size, is the deep sea,” they noted. Once the materials reach these areas the waste has nowhere else to go, said Alan Jamieson of Newcastle University, the lead author of the paper. “If you contaminate a river, it can be flushed clean. If you contaminate a coastline, it can be diluted by the tides. But, in the deepest point of the oceans, it just sits there. It can’t flush and there are no animals going in and out of those trenches.”

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The other side of the spectrum: celebrate and understand what life is. Should have mentioned EO Wilson, though, I think.

“..we try to kill everything and fill our houses with stuff that’s totally terrible for us. We might kill 99%, but that leaves 1% – and that 1% is never the good stuff.”

How To Live Happily With The 5,000 Other Species In Your House (G.)

The good news is that I will never be home alone again. The bad news – well, it’s not in fact bad news, but it is slightly unsettling – is that I share my home with at least 5,000 other species: wasps, flies, spiders, silverfish and an exotic bunch of wild bacteria. All that information is apparently contained in a patch of grey dust I have just swabbed with my right index finger from a door frame in my living room. It’s like a DNA test of my house, says Rob Dunn, a 43-year-old American biologist who has come to my house in Copenhagen to hunt microbial life. He carries no lab gear and his blue crewneck jumper and striped Oxford shirt are hardly the combat suit of an exterminator. But with every discovery we make, with every spider we find lurking in the corner or each swab of dust, he displays an almost childlike sense of excitement.

He swears and smiles, even whoops with delight: “This dust sample contains bacteria, your body microbes, your wife’s body microbes, your child’s body microbes. If you smoke weed we would find marijuana DNA in there. Everything is visible, but it’s also present in every breath. Every time you inhale, you inhale that story of your home.” [..] When he began working as a biologist he went to the jungle to study wild beasts, but now his research is dedicated to species much closer to home: to the flies, spiders and bacteria hidden in every nook and cranny of our kitchens, bathrooms and basements. To the “jungle of everyday life”, as he describes it in his new book.

Never Home Alone tracks how we have been disconnected from the ecosystems of our homes. It’s a book of hard truths – I now know that I shed 50m flakes of skin every day, providing food for thousands of bacteria, and that cockroaches are basically our perfect interspecies Tinder-match. It also confronts our irrational relationship with cleanliness. Our modern instinct might be to swat a spider on the kitchen worktop or blitz creepy crawlies into oblivion with antimicrobial sprays, but we could be killing useful allies, according to Dunn: “The key thing is that your life is going to be full of life. And your only choice is which life. Our default is that we try to kill everything and fill our houses with stuff that’s totally terrible for us. We might kill 99%, but that leaves 1% – and that 1% is never the good stuff.”

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Celebrate life:

Feb 042019
 


René Magritte Morning star 1938

 

Maduro Warns White House Will Be ‘Stained With Blood’ If Trump Invades (G.)
Regional Bloc Plans Pressure Campaign Against Venezuela’s Maduro (R.)
Austerity And Welfare Cuts Main Driver Behind Brexit Vote (Ind.)
Hard Brexiters Say Only Acceptable Way Forward Is To Remove Backstop (G.)
Theresa May Launches Committee To Find Irish Backstop Alternatives (Ind.)
UK Home Secretary Dismisses Speculation Of Snap General Election In June (G.)
Macron Blames Social Media & Russia For Yellow Vests (RT)
NBC News Claims Russia Supports Tulsi Gabbard (Greenwald)
D-Day For Australian Banks As Bombshell Inquiry Report Set For Release (R.)
MAGA Misses the Eurasia Train (Escobar)
The Chinese Were White – Until White Men Called Them Yellow (SCMP)
Animals And Birds Under Increasing Threat From Plastic Waste (G.)
Bacteria Glues Plastic Together Posing Even Deadlier Threat To Sea Life (Ind.)

 

 

Maduro has been practicing the Trump style.

Maduro Warns White House Will Be ‘Stained With Blood’ If Trump Invades (G.)

Venezuela’s embattled leader, Nicolás Maduro, has warned Donald Trump he will leave the White House “stained with blood” if he insists on pursuing what he called a “dirty” imperialist conspiracy to overthrow him. “Stop. Stop, Trump! Hold it right there! You are making mistakes that will leave your hands covered in blood and you will leave the presidency stained with blood,” Maduro warned during a combative interview with the Spanish journalist Jordi Évole. “Why would you want a repeat of Vietnam?” He also rejected European calls for elections, saying: “We don’t accept ultimatums from anyone. I refuse to call for elections now – there will be elections in 2024. We don’t care what Europe says.” He added: “You can’t base international politics on ultimatums. That’s the stuff of the empire, of colonial times.”

Tens of thousands of Venezuelan protesters streamed through the capital, Caracas, on Saturday to demand the exit of a president who has led the oil-rich South American nation into economic collapse and humanitarian crisis. [..] in his television interview Maduro – who came to power after the 2013 death of his political mentor, Hugo Chávez – signalled that he had no plans to go anywhere. “If the north American empire attacks us, we will have to defend ourselves … We aren’t going to hand Venezuela over,” Maduro said. The UN estimates that more than 3 million Venezuelans have fled overseas in recent years to escape hyperinflation, shortages of food, medicine and healthcare and chronic insecurity. That number is expected to rise to more than 5 million this year.

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Trump and Trudeau, a happy couple. And of course Canada belongs in a regional bloc with Venezuela, it’s right next door.

Regional Bloc Plans Pressure Campaign Against Venezuela’s Maduro (R.)

A major bloc of Latin American nations and Canada will discuss on Monday how to maintain pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to hold new elections as he faces widespread calls to resign after last year’s disputed presidential vote. Sources briefed on the matter said that the 14-nation Lima Group looked set, though, to hold off imposing further sanctions on the Maduro government when it meets in Ottawa. Most group members say Maduro should quit in favour of opposition leader Juan Guaido – who declared himself interim president last month – and are calling for a new presidential election in the troubled OPEC nation.

The United States, which is not a member of the group, also wants Maduro gone. “How can we continue to support the opposition to keep the pressure up on the regime and push for new elections? Certainly that’s something we’ll be looking at,” said a Canadian government official. Maduro, who has overseen an economic collapse and the exodus of millions of Venezuelans, said in an interview that aired on Spanish television channel Antena 3 on Sunday: “We don’t accept ultimatums from anyone,” adding: “I refuse to call for elections now – there will be elections in 2024.” [..] Trudeau spoke on Sunday to Guaido and the two “discussed the importance of the international community sending a clear message regarding the illegitimacy of the Maduro regime,” Trudeau’s office said.

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How the Tories got their Brexit.

Austerity And Welfare Cuts Main Driver Behind Brexit Vote (Ind.)

Welfare cuts and other austerity measures implemented under the Conservatives pushed vital swing voters to back Brexit and won the EU referendum for the Leave campaign, according to a new report. Research published by the Social Market Foundation suggests the best indicator of a person’s referendum vote was not age or education, but happiness or sadness about their personal finances – with unhappy people tending to vote Leave and contented ones preferring Remain. The report, which analysed the level of cuts in each area of the UK alongside each area’s growth in support for Ukip, argues that had it not been for austerity, the referendum would not have turned out the way it did.

It found that in districts that received the average austerity shock, Ukip vote shares were on average 11.62 percentage points higher in the most recent local elections prior to the referendum than in districts with little exposure to austerity. As well as area-level analysis, the report looked at individual-level data and found that some people directly affected by welfare cuts shifted their political support to Ukip and rejected the political establishment. “Households exposed to the bedroom tax increasingly shifted to support Ukip and experienced economic grievances as they fell behind with their rent payments due to the cuts,” the paper stated.

As much as 9 percentage points of the 52 per cent support for Leave – around 3 million votes – was decided by concern about austerity and related issues, the researchers estimated. It suggests that without the effect of the “austerity shock” on welfare and public services, the Leave share of the referendum vote could have been as low as 43 per cent, delivering a comfortable win for Remain.

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Ruled out by EU.

Hard Brexiters Say Only Acceptable Way Forward Is To Remove Backstop (G.)

Hard Brexiters have warned Theresa May that the only proposal they are likely to support to break the Brexit impasse is a version of the “Malthouse compromise”, which envisages removing the backstop from the draft European Union exit treaty. Steve Baker, vice chair of the European Research Group, said that he and other Conservative Eurosceptics could not support the alternative they believed Theresa May favoured – an addendum to the existing EU withdrawal agreement. Baker is one of five backbench MPs who will meet Steve Barclay, the Brexit secretary, on Monday, in the first meeting of a new working group aimed at examining whether technological solutions could eliminate the backstop.

The “Malthouse compromise” – named after the junior minister, Kit Malthouse, who brokered it – is a proposal to replace the unpopular backstop with alternative technological arrangements to prevent the return of a hard border in Ireland. It is supported by Baker, other Eurosceptics and the pro-remain former ministers Nicky Morgan and Damian Green, both of whom will attend further meetings with Barclay on Tuesday and Wednesday. “As far as I’m concerned the Malthouse compromise is the only game in town if we’re going to reach an agreement in Brussels,” Baker said, indicating that only rewriting the draft withdrawal agreement to remove the backstop would satisfy Tory Brexiters.

Last week MPs voted in favour of an amendment in the name of Sir Graham Brady, a senior Conservative, to examine the possibility of new customs arrangements but it is unclear that the necessary technology exists. May also instructed Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, to examine two other proposals that could be taken to Brussels – whether it would be possible to time-limit the backstop or to introduce a unilateral exit mechanism for the UK.

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53 days to go: plenty time to waste.

Theresa May Launches Committee To Find Irish Backstop Alternatives (Ind.)

Theresa May has been accused of “wasting valuable time” in the countdown to Britain’s exit from the EU as she announced plans to establish a Commons group probing alternative plans for the Irish border post-Brexit. Despite the prime minister’s hopes of reopening the withdrawal agreement already being dashed by EU leaders with just 53 days to go until Brexit, the new committee made up of senior Tory MPs will meet for the first time on Monday. Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay is expected to attend the sessions, alongside support from officials at HM Revenue and Customs, the Cabinet Office, and No 10. The group will aim to provide “alternative arrangements” to the backstop – the EU’s insurance policy in the withdrawal agreement that aims to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

[..] But the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, Sabine Weyand, has already dismissed using existing technology as an alternative solution to the question of the Irish border. “We looked at every border on this Earth, every border the EU has with a third country – there’s simply no way you can do away with checks and controls,” she said last week. Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney also rubbished the idea of “alternative arrangements”, adding in The Sunday Times: “This is not a new concept. The EU is committed to trying to agree alternative arrangements to replace the backstop. We want a comprehensive future relationship in place by the end of 2020 so the backstop is never used.

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So they leave on March 29 and hold elections 2-3 months later?

UK Home Secretary Dismisses Speculation Of Snap General Election In June (G.)

Sajid Javid has said “the last thing we want is a general election”, emphasising that the government is still hoping to secure a time limit or unilateral exit mechanism for the Irish border backstop. The home secretary dismissed newspaper reports that Downing Street strategists were considering holding a snap general election on 6 June, if Theresa May cannot get her Brexit deal through parliament before the 29 March deadline. “The last thing we want is a general election, the people will never forgive us for it,” Javid told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show. “They want politicians to get on with the job. They have been given a very clear mandate, now it’s our job to get on with it.”

There are signs that the Conservatives have started to gear up for a possible snap election, with the party’s chief executive, Sir Mick Davis, placing the Tories on a “war footing” last week and increased fundraising activities under the cover of the local elections in May. A poll by Opinium for the Observer showed the Conservatives seven points ahead of Labour on 41%, but few people believe the party would risk going to the country under May’s leadership after the disaster of 2017, when its overall majority was lost. “I know that Conservative party headquarters is planning on only one set of elections, which is the local government elections. The last thing this country wants is an election; they want parliament to deliver Brexit in an orderly way,” Javid said.

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“[far] rightists, leftists, and the Russians.”

Macron Blames Social Media & Russia For Yellow Vests (RT)

Who is at fault for Yellow Vest protests raging in France since November? For President Emmanuel Macron it’s not actual economic problems or his own decisions, but the right, the left, social media and, of course, “Russes.” Macron blasted the nation’s mainstream media for failing to control the narrative and argued that social networks and “the Russians” are driving all content instead, with traditional outlets falling into line. The president’s calculated outburst was published by the weekly Le Point on Friday, just before the Yellow Vests officially marked the 12th consecutive week of staging large-scale protests against the government.

The president dismissed Eric Drouet, the 33-year-old trucker who emerged as a prominent figure in the protests, as “a media product, a product of social networks,” and claimed that the demonstrators are being “advised from outside,” without elaborating. He argued that 90 percent of the chatter online about the Yellow Vests comes from the “[far] rightists, leftists, and the Russians.” Yet, 18 months after bending the French party system to his will and his triumphant win against bien-pensant pariah Marine Le Pen, Macron’s excuses for disappointing expectations are running thin. His first cannonade in what was intended to be a sweeping march of modernity, was a labor reform that he claimed would help small businesses. It was met with protests from unions, public sector workers who said it made firing easier, and those fearing loss of benefits.

In a preview of what has now become the norm, Macron dismissed the opponents of his policies as “slackers.” [..] The government has already suspended the fuel tax hike that caused the traffic law-mandated vests to be put on in the first place, while the president has promised to raise the minimum wage. But for many demonstrators these actions are belated, and do not address underlying issues. “It’s not enough. We still have to fight the current taxes, the ones that have been in place for years. We should have woken up years ago, and now we have to make up for the years we missed,” one of the original and most popular Yellow Vests, Ghislain Coutard, told Deutsche Welle, adding that Macron should “come out of his hole and face” the people.

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It’s a model that works inside the echo chamber.

NBC News Claims Russia Supports Tulsi Gabbard (Greenwald)

NBC News published a predictably viral story Friday, claiming that “experts who track websites and social media linked to Russia have seen stirrings of a possible campaign of support for Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.” But the whole story was a sham: the only “experts” cited by NBC in support of its key claim was the firm, New Knowledge, that just got caught by the New York Times fabricating Russian troll accounts on behalf of the Democratic Party in the Alabama Senate race to manufacture false accusations that the Kremlin was interfering in that election. To justify its claim that Tulsi Gabbard is the Kremlin’s candidate, NBC stated: “analysts at New Knowledge, the company the Senate Intelligence Committee used to track Russian activities in the 2016 election, told NBC News they’ve spotted ‘chatter’ related to Gabbard in anonymous online message boards, including those known for fomenting right-wing troll campaigns.”

What NBC – amazingly – concealed is a fact that reveals its article to be a journalistic fraud: that same firm, New Knowledge, was caught just six weeks ago engaging in a massive scam to create fictitious Russian troll accounts on Facebook and Twitter in order to claim that the Kremlin was working to defeat Democratic Senate nominee Doug Jones in Alabama. The New York Times, when exposing the scam, quoted a New Knowledge report that boasted of its fabrications: “We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the [Roy] Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.’”

[..] In any event, NBC News, to smear Gabbard as a Kremlin favorite, relied on a group that it heralded as “experts” without telling its audience about the major fraud which this firm just got caught perpetrating in order – on behalf of the Democratic Party – to fabricate claims of Kremlin interference in the Alabama Senate race. That’s because the playbook used by the axis of the Democratic Party, NBC/MSNBC, neocons and the intelligence community has been, is and will continue to be a very simple one: to smear any adversary of the establishment wing of the Democratic Party – whether on the left or the right – as a stooge or asset of the Kremlin (a key target will undoubtedly be, indeed already is, Bernie Sanders).

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They’ll just paper it all over.

D-Day For Australian Banks As Bombshell Inquiry Report Set For Release (R.)

The Australian government is due to release on Monday the final recommendations of the independent inquiry that exposed systemic wrongdoing in Australia’s financial sector last year, likely leading to sweeping changes to the country’s banking industry. The big banks, insurers, pension funds and regulators who oversee the financial industry are bracing for a brutal summary of their misdeeds and weaknesses, and a list of tough recommendations including possible criminal charges. The Royal Commission was a quasi-judicial independent body led by a former high court judge that was tasked by the government, reluctantly at first, with investigating financial sector misconduct following a string of banking scandals.

For 11 months its public hearings shocked the country and wiped more than A$60 billion ($43.4 billion) from top financial stocks as investors factored in the prospect of tougher regulation, higher compliance costs and thinner margins. Regulators were also grilled by the commission’s barristers about why they seemed reluctant to crack down on wrongdoing, sometimes penalizing firms with little more than a mildly worded press release. “There will be nothing positive in the recommendations because the banks have clearly breached various obligations in the laws, and obligations to good customer service,” said Matthew Wilson, a banking analyst at Deutsche Bank.

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Pepe appears blind to China’s multiple bubbles. I could see them halt any expansion and close their borders first to sort out the financial mess.

MAGA Misses the Eurasia Train (Escobar)

We should know by now that the heart of the 21st Century Great Game is the myriad layers of the battle between the United States and the partnership of Russia and China. Even the U.S. National Defense Strategy says so: “The central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by … revisionist powers.” The recently published assessment on U.S. defense implications of China’s global expansion says so too. The clash will frame the emergence of a possibly new, post-ideological, strategic world order amidst an extremely volatile unpredictability in which peace is war and an accident may spark a nuclear confrontation.

The U.S. vs. Russia and China will keep challenging the West’s obsession in deriding “illiberalism,” a fearful, rhetorical exercise that equates Russian democracy with China’s one party rule, Iran’s demo-theocracy and Turkey’s neo-Ottoman revival. It’s immaterial that Russia’s economy is one-tenth of China’s. From boosting trade that bypasses the U.S. dollar, to increasing joint military exercises, the Russia-China symbiosis is poised to advance beyond political and ideological affinities. China badly needs Russian know-how in its military industry. Beijing will turn this knowledge into plenty of dual use, civilian-military innovations.

The long game indicates Russia and China will break down language and cultural barriers to lead Eurasian integration against American economic hegemony backed by military might. One could say the Eurasian century is already upon us. The era of the West shaping the world at will (a mere blip of history) is already over. This is despite Western elite denials and fulminations against the so-called “morally reprehensible,” “forces of instability” and “existential threats.” Standard Chartered, the British financial services company, using a mix of purchasing power exchange rates and GDP growth, has projected that the top five economies in 2030 will be China, the U.S., India, Japan and Russia. These will be followed by Germany, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey and the UK. Asia will extend its middle class as they are slowly killed off across the West.

[..] Beijing is realizing it can’t meet its geo-economic goals on energy, security, and trade without bypassing the U.S. dollar. According to the IMF, 62 percent of global central bank reserves were still held in U.S. dollars by the second quarter of 2018. Around 43 per cent of international transactions on SWIFT are still in U.S. dollars. Even as China, in 2018, was the single largest contributor to global GDP growth, at 27.2 percent, the yuan still only accounts for 1 percent of international payments, and 1.8 per cent of all reserve assets held by central banks.

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Our history. A proud story. We bring democracy and freedom and prosperity.

The Chinese Were White – Until White Men Called Them Yellow (SCMP)

How did East Asians come to be referred to as yellow-skinned? It was the result of a series of racial mappings of the world and had nothing to do with the actual colour of people’s skin. In fact, when complexion was mentioned by an early Western traveller or missionary or ambassador (and it very often wasn’t, because skin colour as a racial marker was not fully in place until the 19th century), East Asians were almost always called white, particularly during the period of first modern contact in the 16th century. And on a number of occasions, even more revealingly, the people were termed “as white as we are”. The term yellow occasionally began to appear towards the end of the 18th century and then really took hold of the Western imagination in the 19th.

But by the 17th century, the Chinese and Japanese were “darkening” in published texts, gradually losing their erstwhile whiteness when it became clear they would remain unwilling to participate in European systems of trade, religion, and international relations. Calling them white, in other words, was not based on simple perception either and had less to do with pigmentation than their presumed levels of civilisation, culture, literacy, and obedience (particularly if they should become Christianised). Swedish botanist and physician Carl Linnaeus decided that varieties of homo sapiens could be similarly separated into four continental types, one of which was called homo asiaticus. The colour of that group, he said, was fuscus, which can be best translated as “dark”. This was in 1735.

Evidently there was some difficulty deciding on a precise colour for Asian Man, since the other three types, European, African, and American, could be “unproblematically” identified according to already accepted stereotypes of white, black, and red. In the tenth edition of Linnaeus’ taxonomy, however, published in 1758, fuscus was silently changed to luridus, meaning “lurid”, “sallow”, or “pale yellow”. The reasons for this alteration were never explained, although luridus also appeared in several of Linnaeus’ botanical publications to characterise unhealthy and toxic plants. Was Asian Man also to be viewed as sickly or dangerous?

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Animals and birds? You sure about that?

Animals And Birds Under Increasing Threat From Plastic Waste (G.)

Wildlife and pets are under increasing threat from plastic waste and litter, according to new data from the RSPCA, which shows the number of incidents of animals hurt by plastic litter has risen sharply on previous years. Plastic litter led to 579 cases of damage to wildlife or pets that were reported to the animal charity in England and Wales in 2018, up from 473 in 2015. That rise came against a background of falling damage to animals from other forms of litter, down from 4,968 reported incidents in 2015 to 4,579 last year. Water birds and marine animals were particularly at risk, with 28 incidents involving seals hurt by plastic litter in 2018, compared with five in 2015. Among birds, swans were among the worst affected, followed by geese and gulls.

Plastic has become an increasing focus of concern, as it does not break down in the natural environment and can continue to cause problems in waterways for years. The government has increased charges on disposable plastic bags to discourage their overuse, and businesses from supermarkets to consumer goods companies are changing their practices to use less plastic packaging in response to public concerns. But the biggest source of damage to wildlife from litter comes from angling, according to the RSPCA’s findings, with discarded equipment such as lines, nets and hooks causing more than 3,200 of last year’s reports.

“[Fishing] lines can wrap around necks, causing deep wounds in flesh and cutting off the blood supply,” said a spokeswoman for the charity. “Hooks can pierce beaks or feet, become embedded in skin or get caught in the bird’s throat, and weights can be swallowed causing internal injuries and blockages.”

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It just got a whole lot scarier. Has plastic been banned where you live yet?

Bacteria Glues Plastic Together Posing Even Deadlier Threat To Sea Life (Ind.)

Plastic in the oceans is being turned into an even greater threat to small sea creatures than previously thought because bacteria are sticking particles of it together, scientists have discovered. Glue-like substances secreted by bacteria are sticking tiny bits of plastic to form larger clusters that marine animals could mistake for food, experts fear. They also worry that the clumping could divert the natural flow of food from the ocean surface to the seafloor, leading to deep sea creatures being starved. Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh staged experiments with seawater, adding plastics in conditions simulating the ocean surface. Within minutes, the minuscule pieces of plastic grouped together with bacteria, algae and other organic particles to form larger clumps.

The scientists are said to have been surprised to discover that large masses of biopolymers – molecules made by organisms – formed the bulk of the plastic clusters. About eight million tonnes of plastic are thrown into the ocean each year, research shows. Team member Stephen Summers said: “This is a first step towards understanding how nanoplastics interact with natural biopolymers throughout the world’s oceans. “This is very important, as it is at this small scale that much of the world’s biogeochemistry occurs.” The clumps became visible to the naked eye. “The fact that these agglomerates become large enough to see raises concern, as they are likely to be seen as a food source by small marine animals,” he said.

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Nov 222018
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Study of the Head and Clasped Hands of a Young Man as Christ in Prayer 1655

 

Mortgage Rates Slide May Be Too Late For The Housing Market (MW)
A $9 Trillion Corporate Debt Bomb Is ‘Bubbling’ In The US Economy (CNBC)
Multiple Risks Are Converging on Markets (Rickards)
May In Brussels Dash As Merkel Threatens To Pull The Plug On Brexit Summit (G.)
Salvini Ready To ‘Confront EU’ After Italy’s Budget Rejected Again (G.)
Facebook Admits Targeting George Soros After He Criticized Company (MW)
House GOP To Hold Hearing Into DOJ Probe Of Clinton Foundation (Hill)
Clinton Foundation Donations Plummet 90% (ZH)
Tyres And Synthetic Clothes ‘Biggest Causes Of Microplastic Pollution’ (G.)
Former New York Times Chief Lawyer: Rally to Support Julian Assange (Timm)

 

 

Despite Fed rate hikes, mortgage rates fall. An ominous sign. Maybe we should even say: mortgage rates fall because of Fed rate hikes. Is the pond getting smaller, or are there fewer fish?

Mortgage Rates Slide May Be Too Late For The Housing Market (MW)

Rates for home loans tumbled as turmoil rocked global financial markets, but any reprieve in rates may come too late for would-be home buyers or refinancers. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.81% in the November 21 week, down 13 basis points, mortgage liquidity provider Freddie Mac said Wednesday. That’s the biggest weekly decline since January 2015 and the lowest level for the popular product since early October. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.24%, down 12 basis points during the week. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 4.09%, down from 4.15%. Those rates don’t include fees associated with obtaining mortgage loans.

Fixed-rate mortgages follow the U.S. 10-year Treasury note, although with a slight delay. As a global stock sell-off has raged over the past week, bonds have been the best house in a bad neighborhood. The yield on the benchmark 10-year bond touched a six-week low Monday. Bond yields decline as prices rise, and vice versa. Meanwhile, this week has brought a raft of fresh information on the housing market, little of it cheery. Sales of already-owned homes perked up in October, but are still lower than the year-ago selling pace by more than 5%. Home builders broke ground on more — but not enough — homes. And one fresh data point bears watching: mortgage applications for newly-constructed houses are plunging, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

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Forgive me for presuming there are several such debt bombs.

A $9 Trillion Corporate Debt Bomb Is ‘Bubbling’ In The US Economy (CNBC)

At first glance, it looks like a $9 trillion time bomb is ready to detonate, a corporate debt load that has escalated thanks to easy borrowing terms and a seemingly endless thirst from investors. On Wall Street, though, hopes are fairly high that it’s a manageable problem, at least for the next year or two. The resolution is critical for financial markets under fire. Stocks are floundering, credit spreads are blowing out and concern is building that a combination of higher interest rates on all that debt will begin to weigh meaningfully on corporate profit margins. “There is angst in the marketplace. It’s not misplaced at all,” said Michael Temple, director of credit research at asset manager Amundi Pioneer.

“But are we at that moment where this thing blows sky high? I would think that we’re not there yet. That’s not to say that we don’t get there at some point over the next 12 to 18 months as rates continue to move higher.” [..] Over the past decade, companies have taken advantage of low rates both to grow their businesses and reward shareholders. Total corporate debt has swelled from nearly $4.9 trillion in 2007 as the Great Recession was just starting to break out to nearly $9.1 trillion halfway through 2018, quietly surging 86 percent, according to Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association data. Other than a few hiccups and some fairly substantial turbulence in the energy sector in late-2015 and 2016, the market has performed well.

In fact, Fitch Ratings forecasts bond defaults for 2019 at the lowest since 2013, with leveraged loans at the lowest since 2011. Such high debt levels are “certainly something to take notice of,” said Eric Rosenthal, Fitch’s senior director of U.S. leveraged finance. “In terms of the systemic risk, at the moment it’s not there.” One reason markets worry about debt is that there’s not as much cash around to cover it. The cash-to-debt ratio for corporate borrowers fell to 12 percent in 2017, the lowest ever.

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It’s starting to feel like a siege.

Multiple Risks Are Converging on Markets (Rickards)

Warnings of economic collapse are no longer confined to the fringes of economic analysis but are now coming from major financial institutions and prominent economists, academics and wealth managers. Leading financial elites have been warning of coming collapses and dangers. These warnings range from the IMF’s Christine Lagarde, Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio, the Bank for International Settlements and many other highly regarded sources. Just when we think we’ve seen enough of these, another one arrives. This time it’s the legendary Paul Tudor Jones, who manages Tudor Investment. I’ve met Jones; he’s a cerebral yet polite and mild-mannered manager from Tennessee who has not lost his Southern accent despite decades in Connecticut and an estate on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

What gives Jones’ voice added authority is his longevity in the fund investment world. He’s managed through the 1987 stock crash, the 1994 Mexican crisis, the 1998 Long Term Capital meltdown, the 2000 dot-com crash and, of course, the 2008 financial panic. Jones knows that panics happen, but he also knows they don’t happen all the time. Panics take years to build and usually have specific triggers (even though endpoints can spin wildly out of control). Jones does not treat the possibility of a financial crisis lightly, so his warning deserves close consideration. Jones warns that the next crisis is likely to be triggered by excessive debt, specifically corporate debt, which can be more difficult to manage or bail out than sovereign debt.

At the same time, other gurus are warning that the next panic will emerge from the foreign exchange market, overvalued equities or commercial real estate. Perhaps the real message is that all of these areas are vulnerable and the next crisis will seem to come from everywhere at once. That’s the danger. We’re looking at another debt crisis and global financial panic. Only this time it won’t come from mortgages alone but from all directions at once.

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The original headline talked of 24 hours.

May In Brussels Dash As Merkel Threatens To Pull The Plug On Brexit Summit (G.)

Theresa May is to make an emergency dash to Brussels on Saturday to complete the Brexit negotiations after the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, threatened to pull the plug on the Sunday leaders’ summit. As she emerged from talks in Brussels lasting nearly two hours with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, the British prime minister admitted that there were some major issues to resolve. Merkel had let it be known through her diplomats in Brussels that she was unwilling to negotiate with May on Sunday at the extraordinary Brexit summit. She had demanded a finalised agreement to emerge in good time before the leaders’ meeting.

The development threatened to disrupt Downing Street’s plans for agreement among leaders this month in time for a meaningful vote in parliament in early December. After meeting the European commission president on Wednesday, May said: “We have had a very good meeting this evening. We have made further progress and as a result, we have given sufficient direction to our negotiators. “I hope for them to be able to resolve the remaining issues and that work will start immediately. I now plan to return for further meetings, including with President Junker, on Saturday to discuss how we can bring to a conclusion this process and bring it to a conclusion in the interests of all our people.”

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Salvini and Di Maio said again this morning that they won’t change a letter in their budget.

Salvini Ready To ‘Confront EU’ After Italy’s Budget Rejected Again (G.)

Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini has said he is prepared to confront EU leaders after the European commission rejected his country’s draft 2019 budget for a second time, while calling on them to “respect the Italian people”. Italy is facing sanctions after the commission said in a report that the government of the far-right League and anti-establishment Five Star Movement had seriously violated fiscal rules. Both parties’ leaders have refused to succumb to pressure to change their deficit target of 2.4% of GDP as they endeavour to push through campaign promises, such as introducing a universal basic income, cutting taxes and lowering the retirement age.

Italy has about €2.3tn (£2tn) of public debt and the Bank of Italy warned this month that the cost of servicing the debt could rise to €5bn in 2019 and €9bn in 2020. The government is convinced that the budget would help the Italian economy grow by 1.5% over the next year. However, the economy stagnated in the third quarter. On Wednesday Italy’s national statistics agency, Istat, revised down its growth forecast for the year to 1.1%; in May it predicted 1.4% for 2018. Salvini, who leads the League, responded sarcastically to news of the commission’s report. “A letter from the EU? I’m also waiting for one from Father Christmas,” he told reporters.

Referring to the commission president and economics commissioner, Salvini said he was ready to “confront [Jean-Claude] Juncker, [Pierre] Moscovici or whoever” over a budget he said responded to the needs of Italians.

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But Zuckerberg and Sandberg plead innocent.

Facebook Admits Targeting George Soros After He Criticized Company (MW)

Facebook Inc. admitted Wednesday that it asked an opposition-research company to investigate billionaire George Soros over his criticism of the social network. In an internal memo released publicly late Wednesday, Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s outgoing head of communications and policy, said he was responsible for hiring the company, Definers Public Affairs, to investigate who was behind the “Freedom From Facebook” campaign. “In January 2018, investor and philanthropist George Soros attacked Facebook in a speech at Davos, calling us a ‘menace to society,’” Schrage wrote in the memo. “We had not heard such criticism from him before and wanted to determine if he had any financial motivation. Definers researched this using public information.

“Later, when the ‘Freedom from Facebook’ campaign emerged as a so-called grassroots coalition, the team asked Definers to help understand the groups behind them. They learned that George Soros was funding several of the coalition members. They prepared documents and distributed these to the press to show that this was not simply a spontaneous grassroots movement.” Definers later distributed a document suggesting Soros, a major donor to liberal causes, bankrolled the anti-Facebook campaign, playing into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Soros. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg have denied knowledge of the Definers efforts until after it was revealed by a New York Times report last week. Facebook has since cut ties with Definers.

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A long running but secretive investigation, running concurrently with Mueller’s.

House GOP To Hold Hearing Into DOJ Probe Of Clinton Foundation (Hill)

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Tuesday that House Republicans plan to hear testimony on Dec. 5 from the prosecutor appointed by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to probe alleged wrongdoing by the Clinton Foundation. [..] Meadows, who is also the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said the committee plans to delve into a number of Republicans concerns surrounding the foundation, including whether any tax-exempt proceeds were used for personal gain and whether the foundation complied with IRS laws. Sessions appointed Huber last year to work in tandem with the Justice Department to look into conservative claims of misconduct at the FBI and review several issues surrounding the Clintons.

This includes former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ties to a Russian nuclear agency and concerns about the Clinton Foundation. Huber’s work has remained shrouded in mystery. The White House has released little information about Huber’s assignment other than Sessions’s address to Congress saying his appointed successor should address concerns raised by Republicans. But Meadows said the committee thinks it’s time Huber gives an update to Congress about his findings and expects him to be one of the witnesses at the hearing. Meadows also added that his committee is also trying to secure testimonies from whistleblowers who could have more information about potential improprieties surrounding the Clinton Foundation. “We’re just now starting to work with a couple of whistleblowers that would indicate that there is a great probability of significant improper activity that’s happening in and around the Clinton Foundation,” he said.

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They must have thought for quite a while that there would never be any scrutiny.

Clinton Foundation Donations Plummet 90% (ZH)

The Clinton Foundation saw contributions dry up approximately 90% over a three-year period between 2014 and 2017, according to financial statements. The global charity is currently under investigation by the DOJ, FBI and IRS for a variety of allegations – including whether favors were handed out while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, also known as “pay for play.” The Clinton-led State Department authorized $151 billion in Pentagon-brokered deals to 16 countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation – a 145% increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration, according to IBTimes.

2014

2017

“American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements. Such firms and their subsidiaries were listed as contractors in $163 billion worth of Pentagon-negotiated deals that were authorized by the Clinton State Department between 2009 and 2012.” -IBTimes. Then there was that $1 million check Qatar reportedly gave Bill Clinton for his birthday in 2012, which the charity confirmed it accepted. Coincidentally, we’re sure, Qatar was one of the countries which gained State Department clearance to buy US weapons while Clinton was Secretary of State, “even as the department signaled them out ofr a range of alleged ills,” according to IBTimes.

Then there was the surely unrelated $145 million donated to the Foundation from parties linked to the Uranium One deal prior to its approval through a rubber-stamp committee. “The committee almost never met, and when it deliberated it was usually at a fairly low bureaucratic level,” Richard Perle said. Perle, who has worked for the Reagan, Clinton and both Bush administrations added, “I think it’s a bit of a joke.” –CBS. Meanwhile, according to a November 2016 report by the Dallas Observer, the Clinton Foundation has been under investigation by the IRS since July, 2016, while the Arkansas FBI field office has been investigating allegations of pay-for-play and tax code violations, according to The Hill.

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Like that fleece sweater?

Tyres And Synthetic Clothes ‘Biggest Causes Of Microplastic Pollution’ (G.)

Vehicle tyres and synthetic clothing are the two leading contributors to microplastic pollution from UK households, according to a new report from Friends of the Earth. The report estimates that between 9,000 and 32,000 tonnes of microplastic pollution enter British waterways each year from just four sources. The two leading sources are tyre abrasion, with between 7,000 and 19,000 tonnes entering surface waters each year, and clothing. In the UK an estimated two-thirds of clothing is made from synthetic plastic material, according to analysts from Eunomia, who wrote the report for FoE.

Up to 2,900 tonnes of microplastics from the washing of synthetic clothing such as fleeces could be passing through wastewater treatment into our rivers and estuaries. The scale of plastic pollution from household plastics is of the same magnitude as that from large plastic waste such as bottles and takeaway containers – about 26,000 tonnes of which enters UK waterways each year. The environmental campaign group is calling on the government’s resources and waste strategy – expected next month – to include measures for tackling microplastics as part of a comprehensive action plan. The four key contributors to microplastic pollution in the oceans from UK sources, according to the report, are:

• Vehicle tyres: 68,000 tonnes of microplastics from tyre tread abrasion are generated in the UK every year, with between 7,000 and 19,000 tonnes entering surface waters;

• Clothing: the washing of synthetic clothing could result in the generation of 2,300-5,900 tonnes of fibres annually in the UK – up to 2,900 tonnes of this could be passing through wastewater treatment into our rivers and estuaries;

• Plastic pellets used to manufacture plastic items. Up to 5,900 tonnes are lost to surface waters in the UK every year;

• Paints on buildings and road markings – weather and flake-off results in between 1,400 and 3,700 tonnes ending up in surface water every year.

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There’s a disturbing trend emerging that people are fully blind to. In this piece, and I’ve seen it a lot more recently, the topic is the 1st amendment. To make their well-meaning arguments, writers then pose questions like “What if Assange DID get his info from Russia?” or “What if Assange really DOES hate America?” The response of course is that this would make no difference as far as the 1st amendment is concerned.

But in the meantime the possibility that Assange is indeed a Russian agent who hates all Americans has been introduced into the narrative. That makes these articles effectively part of the smear campaign. There is no indication that either allegation is true, but they are posited by those ostensibly defending him. They don’t help. Or rather, they help smear.

Former New York Times Chief Lawyer: Rally to Support Julian Assange (Timm)

I recently spoke to James Goodale, the famed First Amendment lawyer and former general counsel the New York Times, who led the paper’s legal team in the famed Pentagon Papers case about the dire impact the Justice Department’s move may have on press freedom, regardless of whether people consider Assange himself a “journalist”.

There’s speculation on what Assange could be charged with. There’s a possibility that he could be outright charged under the Espionage Act for the act of publishing classified information. Then there’s the “conspiracy theory” that Assange was engaged in a conspiracy with his sources by asking them or soliciting more information from them that the sources may have gathered illegally. Do you find that type of charge would be just as dangerous as a charge for publishing information?

I do find that that charge would be just as dangerous. As a matter of fact, a charge against Assange for “conspiring” with a source is the most dangerous charge that I can think of with respect to the First Amendment in almost all my years representing media organizations. The reason is that one who is gathering/writing/distributing the news, as the law stands now, is free and clear under the First Amendment. If the government is able to say a person who is exempt under the First Amendment then loses that exemption because that person has “conspired” with a source who is subject to the Espionage Act or other law, then the government has succeeded in applying the standard to all news-gathering.

That will mean that the press ability to get newsworthy classified information from government sources will be severely curtailed, because every story that is based on leaked info will theoretically be subject to legal action by the government. It will be up to the person with the information to prove that they got it without violating the Espionage Act. This would be, in my view, the worst thing to happen to the First Amendment-almost ever.

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Nov 212018
 
 November 21, 2018  Posted by at 10:07 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Jack Delano Lower Manhattan 1941

 

Senate Calls On Trump For Saudi Answers (BBC)
Saudi Arabia Tortured Female Right-to-Drive Activists – Amnesty (AP)
Trump Submits Answers To Robert Mueller Questions In Russia Probe (Ind.)
Trump Wanted To Order Justice Dept To Prosecute Clinton, Comey – NYT (R.)
Dow Plunges More Than 500 Points, Erases Gain For 2018 (CNBC)
Stunned Investors Observe The Market Carnage In Shock (ZH)
A Death Cross Is Forming In US Oil (MW)
Bitcoin Plunges As Much As 16% To Below $4,100, A New Low For The Year (CNBC)
Misguided Share Buybacks Are Hollowing Out Companies’ Balance Sheets (MW)
Bank of England Backs Theresa May’s Brexit Deal, Warns Of No-Deal Dangers (G.)
May’s Brussels Trip Only Start Of ‘Endless’ EU Trade Talks (G.)
UK To Be ‘Frozen Out’ Of 182 EU Decisions During Brexit Transition (Ind.)
Interpol Elects South Korean As Its President In Blow To Russia (G.)
Tax ‘Virgin Packaging’ To Tackle Plastics Crisis – Report (G.)
Dead Whale Washes Ashore In Indonesia With 6 Kilos Of Plastic In Stomach (AP)
Julian Assange Deserves A Medal of Freedom, Not A Secret Indictment (USA Today)

 

 

The indignation over Trump’s comments on Saudi Arabia is shifting into overdrive. Perhaps that’s needed to expose the hypocrisy inherent in them. It’s not Trump, it’s America that has condoned torture and murder by the House of Saud for decades. That started actively assisting the Saudi’s in Yemen under Obama. Trump refuses to be set up by the media and Democrats as the fall guy for $150 oil prices. He’s thinking: let Congress do it, now that it’s blue. If that’s immoral, he’s not alone.

Senate Calls On Trump For Saudi Answers (BBC)

US President Donald Trump has been asked to ascertain whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman played a role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Republican and Democratic leaders of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday sent a letter demanding a second investigation. Mr Trump earlier defended US ties with Saudi Arabia despite international condemnation over the incident. Khashoggi was killed on 2 October inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Trump acknowledged that the crown prince “could very well” have known about Khashoggi’s brutal murder, adding: “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

He later stated that the CIA had not made a “100%” determination on the killing. Following the president’s comments, Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democrat Bob Menendez issued a statement on behalf of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In it they called on Mr Trump to focus a second investigation specifically on the crown prince so as to “determine whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture or other gross violation” of human rights. The request, issued under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, requires a response within 120 days.

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OK, CNN, do your job.

Saudi Arabia Tortured Female Right-to-Drive Activists – Amnesty (AP)

Several activists imprisoned in Saudi Arabia since May, including women who campaigned for the right to drive, have been beaten and tortured during interrogation, Amnesty International has said. Saudi Arabia has detained at least 10 women and seven men on vague national security allegations related to their human rights work, the organisation said on Tuesday. Those detained include Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef, who had campaigned for the right to drive before the decades-long ban was lifted in June. Amnesty said that according to three testimonies it obtained, some of the activists were repeatedly given electric shocks and flogged, leaving some unable to walk or stand properly. In one instance, an activist was hung from the ceiling.

Another testimony said one of the detained women was subjected to sexual harassment by interrogators wearing face masks. The kingdom is at the centre of an international firestorm after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had written critically about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s crackdown on dissent, including the arrests of the women activists. Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered by Saudi agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October. Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East research director, said: “Only a few weeks after the ruthless killing of Jamal Khashoggi, these shocking reports of torture, sexual harassment and other forms of ill-treatment, if verified, expose further outrageous human rights violations by the Saudi authorities.”

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What a waste of resources.

Trump Submits Answers To Robert Mueller Questions In Russia Probe (Ind.)

Donald Trump has submitted written answers to questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. “We answered every question they asked that was legitimately pre-election and focused on Russia,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said in an interview. “Nothing post-election. And we’ve told them we’re not going to do that.” Mr Giuliani said Trump did not plan to answer any questions from Mr Mueller on whether he tried to obstruct the investigation once he won office, such as by firing former FBI Director James Comey last year. “It is time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion,” the lawyer said in an earlier statement on the probe, which Mr Trump has repeatedly called a “witch hunt.”

Mr Trump signed the submission on Tuesday before he left Washington to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Florida, a person familiar with the matter said. Mr Mueller was tasked to probe “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” into possible collusion between Mr Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. [..] Mr Giuliani said in his statement the president had provided “unprecedented cooperation” with the probe over the past year and a half, noting that more than 30 White House-related witnesses had been questioned and 1.4 million pages of material turned over before Mr Trump responded to the pre-election questions in writing. He added that “much of what has been asked raised serious constitutional issues and was beyond the scope of a legitimate inquiry.”

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Not exactly news, is it? Of course there will be an investigation of Hillary, Comey and a whole circus around them. It would be a serious perverson of justice if there isn’t.

Trump Wanted To Order Justice Dept To Prosecute Clinton, Comey – NYT (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two political foes, his one-time presidential opponent Hillary Clinton and former FBI director James Comey, in the spring, but his White House counsel rebuffed him, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. Don McGahn, the White House counsel at the time, wrote a memo to the president outlining consequences for Trump if he did order these prosecutions. The outcomes ranged from the traditionally independent Justice Department refusing to comply, to congressional probes and voter outcry, the Times reported.

The New York Times also reported Trump’s lawyers privately asked the Justice Department to investigate Comey for mishandling sensitive government information and his role investigating Clinton’s use of a private email account and server, but law enforcement officials declined. It was not clear if Trump read the memo or pursued the prosecutions further, the New York Times said. It was also not clear what specific charges Trump wanted the Justice Department to pursue against Comey and Clinton, the Times reported. Trump has publicly railed against Clinton’s private email use during her tenure as U.S. Secretary of State, as well as her role in the Obama administration’s decision to allow a Russian company to buy a uranium mining firm.

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Time to start writing about finance again?!

Dow Plunges More Than 500 Points, Erases Gain For 2018 (CNBC)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 fell sharply on Tuesday and turned negative for the year as a decline in Target shares pressured retailers, while some of the most popular tech shares dropped again. The 30-stock Dow dropped 551.80 points to 24,465.64 and the S&P 500 plunged 1.8 percent to close at 2,641.89. The Dow and S&P 500 were up 1.2 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, for 2018 entering Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite also dropped 1.7 percent to 6,908.82 but managed to hang on to a slight gain for 2018. Tuesday’s declines come after the Dow dropped 395 points on Monday.

Stocks hit their lows of the day after Doubleline Capital founder Jeffrey Gundlach said stocks are still too expensive, adding there has not been a “panic low” yet. The Dow was down nearly 650 points at its session low, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq had both dropped more than 2 percent. Target fell 10.5 percent after reporting weaker-than-expected earnings for the previous quarter. The company also posted lighter-than-forecast same-store sales, which is a key metric for retailers.

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Nah, they’re not investors.

Stunned Investors Observe The Market Carnage In Shock (ZH)

After another abysmal day, in which every single sector in the market closed in the red as stocks tumbled 2%, capping a dreadful two-month stretch since the S&P hit its all time highs exactly two months ago, which has seen both the S&P and the Dow turn red for the year with the Nasdaq just barely holding onto green, while oil crashed 6% slumping to a one year low, junk bonds matched a record streak of losses, the overall market just suffered one of its worst sessions in the past three years. But what is most remarkable is the following chart from Bloomberg which shows the year-to-date return of the best performing asset between US and global equities, corporate bonds, Treasuries, gold and real cash, and according to which 2018 is shaping up as what may be the worst year on record for cross-asset investors. Indeed, nothing at all has worked this year!

The inability of any single asset class to escape the dismal black hole supergravity of devastating losses in a brutal post-BTFD catharsis that has mutated into an equal-opportunity rout, crushing returns across all assets, has left investors reeling, shellshocked and paralyzed, and dreading what may come tomorrow let alone next year when both the US economy and corporate earnings are expected to see their supercharged recent growth rates come crashing back down to earth. “While there’s still no ‘panic in the streets,’ most traders are unconvinced that the selling will slow down anytime soon,” said Instinent’s head of trading Larry Weiss. “The flight to quality is now a flight to cash. It’s tough to convince anyone that now is the time to put money to work.”

[..] Hedge funds, who hoped that “buy the dip” would work one last time and who rushed into the traditional “safety” of tech stocks at the end of October, were whipsawed, and turned net sellers this month, with the group accounting for the most selling among major industries according to Goldman Sachs. Meanwhile, as if sensing the coming storm, Goldman writes that hedge fund net exposures steadily declined throughout 2018, including during 2Q and 3Q while the broad equity market rallied, leaving most investors in the cold. Net long exposure calculated based on 13-F filings and publicly-available short interest data registered 49% at the start of 4Q, a decline from 56% at the start of 2018, and one of the lowest in years.

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Potential volatility in oil is huge. Any little shrapnel of news, Saudi, Iran, Russia, shale, can force prices up 50%.

A Death Cross Is Forming In US Oil (MW)

Oil is already in a bear market, but now a fresh, negative pattern is crystallizing in the commodity that has absolutely bludgeoned bulls over the past two months. January West Texas Intermediate crude on its first full session as the front-month contract, was down a whopping 7.5%, to $52.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and that downtrend has propelled the U.S. benchmark to the brink of forming a death cross—a chart formation in an asset that many market technicians believe marks the point that a short-term decline morphs into a longer-term downtrend (see chart below).

Based on the continuous chart for the most-active oil contract, the 50-day moving average at $67.58 a barrel is less than 0.5% shy of falling beneath the long-term 200-day moving average at $67.25, according to FactSet data. At the current rate of decline, a death cross could occur within a week or two. Both the U.S. contract and the global benchmark Brent oil are in bear market, usually characterized as a decline of at least 20% from a recent peak. In fact, U.S. oil is down 31% from its Oct. 3 peak at $76.41 a barrel.

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Miners are ditching their equipment.

Bitcoin Plunges As Much As 16% To Below $4,100, A New Low For The Year (CNBC)

Bitcoin is still struggling to find a bottom this week. The digital currency dropped as much as 16 percent on Tuesday to its lowest level since Sept. 30, 2017, according to data from CoinMarketCap.com. Bitcoin fell as low as $4,076.59, bringing its total losses in seven days to roughly 30 percent. The cryptocurrency briefly pared those losses and was down about 7 percent in afternoon trading. As U.S. stock markets closed though, bitcoin was still down 12 percent over 24 hours, trading near $4,299, according to data from CoinDesk.

The price plunge came after weeks of rare stability for the world’s largest and best-known cryptocurrency. While global markets churned in October, bitcoin traded comfortably in the $6,400 range — a break from volatility earlier this year. Its total losses this year are now more than 65 percent. ts epic rise last year started right after Thanksgiving as it began to gain status as a household name. Since then, the cryptocurrency has fallen more than 40 percent. Bitcoin first topped $10,000 at the end of November and made it to nearly $20,000 a week before Christmas as retail investors poured in and two regulated exchanges prepared to launch futures markets.

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“With share repurchases in these companies being almost three times their actual investment, one must wonder how much actual U.S. economic growth they are expecting.”

Misguided Share Buybacks Are Hollowing Out Companies’ Balance Sheets (MW)

GE was one of Wall Street’s major share buyback operators between 2015 and 2017; it repurchased $40 billion of shares at prices between $20 and $32. The share price is now $8.60, so the company has liquidated between $23 billion and $29 billion of its shareholders’ money on this utterly futile activity alone. Since the highest net income recorded by the company during those years was $8.8 billion in 2016, with 2015 and 2017 recording a loss, it has managed to lose more on its share repurchases during those three years than it made in operations, by a substantial margin. Even more important, GE has now left itself with minus $48 billion in tangible net worth at Sept. 30, with actual genuine tangible debt of close to $100 billion.

As the new CEO Larry Culp told CNBC last Monday: “We have no higher priority right now than bringing those leverage levels down.” The following day, GE announced the sale of 15% of its oil services arm Baker Hughes, for a round $4 billion. Of course, since that sale values Baker Hughes at $26 billion, and GE paid $32 billion for 62% of Baker Hughes as recently as last year, which looks to me like a valuation for the whole company of $52 billion, GE shareholders appears to have lost half the value of their investment in Baker Hughes in about 18 months. [..] A recent Financial Times article outlined how the five tech companies with the most cash (Apple, Alphabet, Cisco, Microsoft and Oracle) have repurchased an astounding $115 billion of stock in the first three quarters of 2018.

By contrast, the total capital spending of the five companies was only $42.6 billion during the same period. The story then congratulated investors for having done so well out of President Trump’s tax reform, which lowered the corporate tax rate, thus encouraging investment in the United States. With share repurchases in these companies being almost three times their actual investment, one must wonder how much actual U.S. economic growth they are expecting. [..] These share repurchases are misguided in so many ways. First, Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft are valued by the stock market at close to $1 trillion, levels no company has ever reached before. If you ignore the current stock price, a company repurchasing its shares is simply giving away its cash and reducing its share count; it creates no value.

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Dangerously close to a political statement.

Bank of England Backs Theresa May’s Brexit Deal, Warns Of No-Deal Dangers (G.)

Mark Carney has thrown his weight behind Theresa May’s Brexit deal, warning that a no-deal scenario would damage the economy, trigger job losses, lead to lower pay for workers and cause inflation to rise. The governor of the Bank of England said May’s draft EU withdrawal agreement would “support economic outcomes” that would be positive for the British economy, primarily because it would give Britain more time to prepare for whatever final Brexit deal is agreed between Westminster and Brussels. “We welcome the transition arrangements in the withdrawal agreement. It’s at the heart [of the deal],” he told MPs on the Treasury select committee, a week after the prime minister agreed the terms of the deal with the EU.

“[The deal] improves our ability to discharge our function relative to having no deal,” he added. The timing of the governor’s comments could help to support May as she faces tough opposition from across the political divide, following cabinet resignations and Labour’s promise to vote it down in parliament. Carney warned that failure to agree a Brexit deal with Brussels before the March 2019 deadline would deliver a “large negative shock” to the UK economy that would have a persistent effect, lowering growth and causing job losses. He said such an outcome would deliver an “unprecedented supply shock” to the UK economy with few historical or international comparisons. “It wouldn’t be a happy situation to be in,” he said.

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These talks should have started two years ago. And even then.

May’s Brussels Trip Only Start Of ‘Endless’ EU Trade Talks (G.)

When Theresa May goes to Brussels for tea with Jean Claude Juncker on Wednesday afternoon, the two leaders will have in front of them a metaphorical Christmas tree of a political declaration. “And every member state has put a bauble on it”, an EU diplomat said. A seven-page document published last week, offering some heads of terms on the future relationship, is set to more than double to some 20 pages. Calls for more ambitious language around the trade elements have been made. Demands for a Spanish veto over any deal covering Gibraltar have been tabled. And an array of asks on so called “level playing field” commitments in any future trade deal are in the mix.

There is even talk of side-declarations to the political declaration emerging at the special Brexit summit next Sunday to allow member states to feel that they have drawn a line in the sand about the real trade talks to come. “It’s all getting very confusing,” admitted a second EU diplomat. Not to Sir Andrew Cahn, the former chief executive of the government’s UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) department, who was also an aide to Neil Kinnock when vice president of the European commission in the late 1990s. This is, he said, likely to be a mere amuse-bouche to the “continuous endless” talks that will open on the UK’s trading relationship with Brussels after 29 March 2019 as the UK finds its way around the EU’s orbit.

“It is a classic EU negotiation and the member states are performing their normal way,” Cahn said. “The French always come in late to toughen their negotiating position towards the end, and that’s when they can get some additional things. “The Spanish are copying with Gibraltar – although that is partly a function of domestic Spanish politics with Pedro Sánchez [the Spanish prime minister] being vulnerable at home.”

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What, she didn’t tell you?

UK To Be ‘Frozen Out’ Of 182 EU Decisions During Brexit Transition (Ind.)

The UK will be “frozen out” of EU decisions on no fewer than 182 new rules in the months after Brexit, a new analysis says, including over budget spending, road signs and drinking water. The full scale of fresh regulations in the pipeline – during Theresa May’s planned 21-month transition period – exposes the blunder of making Britain “a rule-taker, not a rule-maker”, it warns. During that transition, the UK will be bound by Brussels’ decisions but without any ministers in the EU council, or MEPs in the European parliament, to influence them. Now the campaign for a People’s Vote on the Brexit outcome has examined the decisions expected before 2020, which also include alcohol-taxing and rules for UK investment funds.

“This analysis sets out for the first time the full scale of the UK’s capitulation under this so-called deal,” said Chris Bryant, a Labour supporter of People’s Vote. “The prime minister’s deal would weaken our ability to have a say in over 180 crucial decisions that are going to be made in Europe while the UK is in transition – meaning we have to abide by their rulings but have no say and no ability to protect Britain’s interests. “This dodgy deal will leave Britain frozen out of decision making and forced to pay billions of Euros for the privilege.” The argument goes to the heart of criticism – by both pro and anti-Brexit MPs – that the UK will be a “vassal state” during the transition phase.

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Russophobia continues unabated.

Interpol Elects South Korean As Its President In Blow To Russia (G.)

South Korea’s Kim Jong-yang has been elected as Interpol’s next president, edging out a longtime veteran of Russia’s security services who was strongly opposed by the US, Britain and other European nations. The White House and its European partners had lobbied against Alexander Prokopchuk’s attempts to be named the next president of the international police body, saying his election would lead to further Russian abuses of Interpol’s “red notice” system to go after political opponents. Prokopchuk is a general in the Russian interior ministry and serves as an Interpol vice-president. Kim was chosen by Interpol’s 94-member states at a meeting of its annual congress in Dubai.

He will serve until 2020, completing the four-year mandate of his predecessor, Meng Hongwei, who went missing in his native China in September. Beijing later said Meng resigned after being charged with accepting bribes. Critics say that Prokopchuk oversaw a policy of systematically targeting critics and dissidents during his time in charge of the Russian office of Interpol. On Tuesday, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, threw his weight behind Kim, who is the acting president of the global police body. “We encourage all nations and organisations that are part of Interpol and that respect the rule of law to choose a leader with integrity. We believe Mr Kim will be just that,” Pompeo told reporters.

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If only we move to recycled plastic! Geez, Louise, how about no plastic at all? You can cut at least 50% without changing anything much at all. More recycling is a fake message.

Tax ‘Virgin Packaging’ To Tackle Plastics Crisis – Report (G.)

The government should introduce a new tax on virgin packaging to revolutionise the recycling system in the UK and tackle the plastics crisis, according to a new report. The study, presented to MPs and industry figures at Westminster on Tuesday evening, calls on ministers to impose a fee on packaging materials and offer a rebate for those products that use more recycled material. The WWF and the Resource Association, which commissioned environment consultancy Eunomia to produce the report, said the proposals would transform the UK’s broken recycling system – and drastically reduce the demand for raw materials, including fossil fuels. Dr Lyndsey Dodd, head of marine policy at WWF UK, said: “Our oceans are choking on plastic, 90% of the world’s sea birds have fragments of plastic in their stomach.

Despite the public outcry, more products are being made with virgin, or new, plastic than with recycled plastic.” Last year the Guardian revealed that plastic production is set to increase by 40% over the next 10 years as fossil fuel companies look to use raw materials produced by fracking in the US. The new report follows an announcement in October that the government is launching a consultation on the introduction of a tax on all plastic packaging with a recycled content of less than 30%. [..] Earlier this year the Guardian reported the plastics recycling industry was under investigation for suspected widespread abuse and fraud within the export system. Since China banned the import of plastic waste, the UK has been chasing other markets in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, but these countries are also imposing restrictions due to the stockpiling of waste.

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“..115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two flip-flops, a nylon sack and more than 1,000 other assorted pieces of plastic..”

Dead Whale Washes Ashore In Indonesia With 6 Kilos Of Plastic In Stomach (AP)

A dead whale that washed ashore in eastern Indonesia had a large lump of plastic waste in its stomach, including drinking cups and flip-flops – causing concern among environmentalists and government officials in one of the world’s largest plastic polluting countries. Rescuers from Wakatobi National Park found the 9.5-metre sperm whale late on Monday in waters near Kapota Island, southeast of Sulawesi, after receiving a report from environmentalists that villagers had surrounded the dead creature and were beginning to butcher its rotting carcass, park chief Heri Santoso said. Researchers from wildlife conservation group WWF and the park’s conservation academy found about 5.9 kilograms of plastic waste in the animal’s stomach – including 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two flip-flops, a nylon sack and more than 1,000 other assorted pieces of plastic.

“Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful,” said Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia. She said it was not possible to determine if the plastic had caused the whale’s death because of the animal’s advanced state of decay. Indonesia, an archipelago of 260 million people, is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter after China, according to a study published in the journal Science in January. It produces 3.2 million tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste a year, of which 1.29 million tonnes ends up in the ocean, the study said.

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Can we say the MSM wakes up with this USA Today piece?

Julian Assange Deserves A Medal of Freedom, Not A Secret Indictment (USA Today)

On the same day the Assange indictment scored headlines, Trump awarded seven Presidential Medals of Freedom. No controversy greeted posthumous awards to Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley — unlike the ruckus regarding Miriam Adelson, wife of Republican super-donor Sheldon Adelson. Public Citizen, a liberal nonprofit, howled that the Adelson award “is just the latest sign of [Trump’s] ability to corrupt and corrode all aspects of the government.” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman caterwauled that it was “ludicrous” and “and an insult to people who received the medal for genuine service.” In reality, Presidential Medals of Freedom have routinely been exploited to buttress the political establishment, with bevies of awards for political operators, members of Congress, and pliable foreign leaders.

President Lyndon Johnson distributed a bushel of Medals of Freedom to his Vietnam War architects and enablers, perhaps as consolation prizes for losing the war. (The medal awarded to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, whose lies about the war making progress cost thousands of Americans and Vietnamese their lives, fetched $40,625 at an auction a few years ago.) President George W. Bush conferred Medals of Freedom on his Iraq war team, including CIA chief George “Slam Dunk” Tenet, Iraq viceroy Paul Bremer, and ambassador Ryan Crocker, whom Bush called “America’s Lawrence of Arabia.”

Some of the biggest fabulists of the modern era — including Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney — also pocketed the award.The controversies over Assange and Adelson provide a serendipitous opportunity to update the freedom awards. Because few things are more perilous to democracy than permitting politicians to coverup crimes, there should be a new Medal of Freedom category commending individuals who have done the most to expose official lies. This particular award could be differentiated by including a little steam whistle atop the medal — vivifying how leaks can prevent a political system from overheating or exploding.

Assange would deserve such a medal — as would Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden (who revealed NSA’s abuses), John Kiriakou (who revealed CIA torture), and Daniel Ellsberg (who leaked the Pentagon Papers). Admittedly, there may be no way to stop presidents from giving steam whistle freedom awards to political donors’ wives. Organizations like Wikileaks are among the best hopes for rescuing democracy from Leviathan. Unless we presume politicians have a divine right to deceive the governed, America should honor individuals who expose federal crimes.

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Oct 252018
 
 October 25, 2018  Posted by at 9:22 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Circus 1918

 

Donald Trump Attacks Media ‘Hostility’ After Attempted Pipe Bombings (G.)
CNN President Jeff Zucker Blasts Trump White House After Bomb Threat (THR)
Dow Falls 600 Points And Wipes Out 2018 Gains (MW)
Asia Pacific Shares In Freefall Amid Fears Over Global Economy (G.)
Value of Euro Zone Banks Drops by a Third From 2018 Peak (R.)
Spain’s Mortgage Market Seizes Up, Bank Stocks Sink, Legal Uncertainty Reigns
It’s Not Just Italy – France’s 2019 Budget Also A Concern For Brussels (CNBC)
Tesla Shares Soar On Surprise Third-Quarter Profit (CNBC)
Airbnb Can’t Go On Unregulated – It Does Too Much Damage To Cities (G.)
Brexit Deal ‘Progress Is At 0%’ Until Irish Border Solved – Verhofstadt (Ind.)
May Sets November Date To Trigger No-Deal Brexit Preparations (G.)
Disadvantaged Groups Trapped In Poverty And Excluded From UK Society (Ind.)
Ban Entire Pesticide Class To Protect Children’s Health – Experts (G.)
European Parliament Votes To Ban Single-Use Plastics (Ind.)
Humpback Whales Stop Singing When Ships Are Near (AFP)

 

 

Another crazy story. less than 2 weeks before the midterms some loonie allegedly sent crude explosive devices to Democrats and CNN. Obviously, doesn’t appear to help Trump. Who they all fall over each other to blame, absolving themselves from all responsibility in the process. Some details:

Bombs had ISIS-like logo’s on them
At least some contained shards of glass
They were sent to people who don’t open their own mail
None of the bombs went off
Powder in package to CNN was harmless

Seen a lot more like that on Twitter, many people saying the ‘bombs’ are a joke.

Donald Trump Attacks Media ‘Hostility’ After Attempted Pipe Bombings (G.)

Donald Trump has attacked what he called media “hostility” in a speech to a campaign rally following a wave of pipe bombs sent to senior Democrats, prominent critics and the broadcaster CNN. The US president, who earlier said at the White House he condemned the attempted bombings and that a “major federal investigation” was under way, followed this with a plea for unity during a midterms campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin, later on Wednesday. “Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy itself,” he told the crowd. “We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony. We can do it … Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as morally defective.” But he soon reverted to a familiar scapegoat. The media, he said, has “a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories”.

[..] Trump, who still assails Clinton at rallies while supporters chant “lock her up” two years after he defeated her, took a softer tone in Wisconsin. “Let’s get along,” he told supporters. “By the way, do you see how nice I’m behaving tonight? Have you ever seen this? We’re all behaving very well and hopefully we can keep it that way, right?” He did not mention the intended recipients of the devices by name but spoke more generally, including in language which could be taken to refer to protests against himself and allies. “No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains, which is done often, it’s done all the time, got to stop. We should not mob people in public places or destroy public property. There is one way to settle our disagreements. It’s called peacefully, at the ballot box.”

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Zucker doesn’t take any responsibility for the political climate. Nor do any of the others. 24/7 blasting Trump for two years has had no influence, apparently. Someone should make a database with all Trump articles at MSM that contain positive things about Trump vs those that are negative.

CNN President Jeff Zucker Blasts Trump White House After Bomb Threat (THR)

CNN president Jeff Zucker, who has long sparred with President Donald Trump throughout their decades of knowing each other, lashed out at him in a statement on Wednesday, hours after his network’s New York office was forced to evacuate due to a bomb threat. “There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” Zucker said. “The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.”

The president has been criticized for his slow response to the bomb threat on Wednesday, initially responding only by echoing Vice President Mike Pence’s tweet condemning it. On Wednesday afternoon, Trump spoke directly at a White House event, pledging to take action. “The full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation and bring those responsible for these despicable acts to justice,” he said. “We will spare no resources or expense in this effort. In these times, we have to unify. We have to come together, and send one clear, strong unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.”

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All over the world.

Dow Falls 600 Points And Wipes Out 2018 Gains (MW)

Stocks ended sharply lower Wednesday, as losses accelerated into the close and put both the Dow and the S&P 500 into the red for the year, and the Nasdaq into correction territory. Upbeat results from Boeing were credited with briefly pushing the Dow higher in early morning trading, before investors took an increasingly defensive stance, fleeing for the relative safety of utilities and consumer nondurable shares. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 606.11 points, or 2.4%, to 24,583.42, while The S&P 500 dropped 84.59 points, or 3.1%, to 2,656.10, it’s sixth straight losing session.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq shed 329.14 points, or 4.4%, to 7108.4, a performance that put the index more than 10% below its Aug. 29 all-time high, meeting the widely used definition of a market correction. The loss also marked the worst day for the Nasdaq since Aug. 18, 2011. October is shaping up to be a brutal month for equities, as expected, with the S&P falling 8.9% month-to-date, the Dow down 7.1%, and the Nasdaq falling 11.7% since the start of the month. Wednesday’s session also sent the Dow into losing territory for the year, with the index down 0.6% in 2018. The blue-chip index is also down for five straight weeks, it’s longest string of weekly losses since July, 11 2008, when the market fell for six straight weeks. The S&P 500 also ended the trading day in the red, down 0.7% year-to-date.

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Broad pessimism.

Asia Pacific Shares In Freefall Amid Fears Over Global Economy (G.)

Shares in Asia Pacific have plunged into bear market territory and wiped billions off the values of companies as one analyst warned that the losses could be a harbinger of a wholesale “capitulation”. After the worst day for tech stocks on Wall Street for seven years, markets were in retreat from Sydney to Shanghai as concerns about the global economy and rising borrowing costs were compounded by local factors. In Australia the benchmark ASX200 closed down 164 points or 2.8% as it suffered its fifth straight day of losses. In Japan the Nikkei was off 3.2% and has now dropped around 13% from a 27-year peak of 24,448.07 touched in early October.

A broad indicator of shares in the region – the MSCI Asia Pacific index – has now fallen 20.3% from the year-to-date high set on 29 January, representing an official bear market. The Vix “fear” index, which measures volatility across the market, has spiked sharply this week and was up 21% overnight. “We haven’t thought that selling would be this steep. This sell-off makes us think the market may be set for capitulation,” said Shoji Hirakawa, chief global strategist at Tokai Tokyo Research Center. The contagion looked set to continue into the European trading session with the FTSE100 expected to fall 0.65% at the open.

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Italians, Deutsche. Draghi doing a speech soon.

Value of Euro Zone Banks Drops by a Third From 2018 Peak (R.)

The value of euro zone banks have collapsed by a third since markets touched their peak at the end of January, data showed on Wednesday, as another quarter of disappointing profits at Deutsche Bank dragged the region’s sector down. European banks shares, which have never reclaimed their pre-financial crisis prices, have been the worst performing sector so far in the monetary block this year, down 26.5 percent as investors shed assets seen as most vulnerable to political upheaval. “The fall is not justified by a similar drop in earnings,” commented Farhad Moshiri, an analyst covering European banks at Alphavalue, arguing that political risk had a stronger negative impact than sector results.

Still, Deutsche’s bleak results and revenue forecast on Wednesday, which sent shares down 5 percent for their worst day since end-May, deepened the sector-wide rout. The Spring political crisis in Italy and the following on-going row with the European Commission about the country’s populist government’s budget took a heavy toll, particularly on Italian banks. The latters are heavily exposed to Italian sovereign debt, which has shed value since the country decided to raise spending and put an end to years of fiscal prudence. Slowing economic growth on the continent and elusive monetary normalization, with a first interest rate hike by the European Central Bank (ECB) still far away, also weighed on stock prices.

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A legal issue about taxes on mortgages only makes things worse.

Spain’s Mortgage Market Seizes Up, Bank Stocks Sink, Legal Uncertainty Reigns

In the last five trading days, the shares of Spain’s five largest listed banks have re-energized their plunge that had started at the end of January and now amounts to 40%. The cause for the recent drop? A shock ruling by Spain’s Supreme Court that lenders, rather than mortgage borrowers, should pay the contractual tax on mortgage loans, on the grounds that the lender is the only party with an interest in getting the loan certified by a notary, since this is what enables the bank to begin foreclosure proceedings if the borrower defaults on payments. Even the Supreme Court’s desperate decision last Friday to suspend its own ruling a day after it had announced the ruling, a historic flip-flop that left everything in limbo and its reputation in tatters, failed to stop the rout (data via YCharts):

On Monday, the Supreme Court announced that it won’t decide who has to pay the tax on mortgages — the banks or the borrowers — until November 5. In other words, there will be two more weeks of acute legal uncertainty. This has plunged Spain’s mortgage market into chaos. For years Spanish banks and builders have been desperately trying to breath new life into the market — including, in some cases, by resurrecting 100% mortgages, a high-risk instrument that helped fuel Spain’s madcap property boom. But now, thanks to the pervading legal uncertainty, the market has all but seized up. On Tuesday, sources from a number of large banks told the financial daily Cinco Dias that the only mortgages being signed are with clients who had already arranged to sign the contract before last week’s furor and who don’t mind paying the mortgage tax. “We’re not signing any new ones,” the sources said.

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Italy must insist France gets the same treatment.

It’s Not Just Italy – France’s 2019 Budget Also A Concern For Brussels (CNBC)

Markets have been on the edge regarding Italy’s future spending, but there are other countries challenging European fiscal rules. France, the second-largest economy in Europe, received a letter from Brussels last week, warning that its planned debt reduction in 2019 does not respect the proposals that Paris had agreed previously with the EU. Spain, Belgium, Portugal and Slovenia were also effectively told off by the EU. In the case of France, the 2019 budget plan sees its structural deficit (the difference between spending and revenues, excluding one-off items) falling 0.1 percent this year and 0.3 percent in 2019. Paris had agreed in April to an annual reduction of 0.6 percent of GDP for its structural deficit.

Though the tone of the warning from Brussels to Paris was softer than the tone towards Rome, the two countries have perhaps more similarities than differences. The French 2019 budget “shows that the government relies heavily on very optimistic revenues to achieve fiscal consolidation and that spending is out of control again,” Daniel Lacalle, chief economist and investment officer at Tressis Gestion, told CNBC via email. “In the case of France, it is a very difficult budget to accept by the European Commission because France has not had a balanced budget since 1974 and has missed its own deficit targets more than eleven times,” Lacalle added.

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A curious turnaround. To be continued.

Tesla Shares Soar On Surprise Third-Quarter Profit (CNBC)

Tesla shares soared by more than 12 percent after the company reported a surprise profit for the third quarter as CEO Elon Musk made good on his promise to start turning regular profits in the last half of the year. The company’s earnings report, released after the markets closed Wednesday, also showed better-than expected car sales and a faster timeline on its Model 3 production. The electric car maker said its midsize Model 3 sedan, which it hopes to produce on mass scale, was the best-selling car in the U.S. when measured by revenue and the fifth best-selling car in terms of volume. Musk told analysts on a call it was an “incredibly historic quarter” for the young car company. It was welcome news for investors following an otherwise a tumultuous few months.

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It does. Somone better get serious about this.

Airbnb Can’t Go On Unregulated – It Does Too Much Damage To Cities (G.)

Remember the “sharing economy”? That rhetoric looks more comically disingenuous than ever in light of the news that a single Airbnb user in Barcelona is managing a portfolio of properties that brings in an eye-watering £33,000 a day in high season. Old neighbourhoods are being overrun with short-term tourists and shops selling souvenir tat. Rents for residents are being driven up, in Barcelona as well as Berlin, New York and elsewhere. Airbnb is a parasitic monster that squats over cities and hoovers up vast sums of money through its slimy proboscis. So what can be done?

Airbnb, short for “airbed and breakfast”, originally sold itself as a way for travellers to stay in people’s spare rooms and get an authentic feel of a foreign culture. This friendly idea is still present in the company’s vocabulary – “hosts”, not landlords, and “hospitality” in place of “business” – even though the vast majority of its listings are now for self-contained apartments or houses. In Barcelona, it used to cost €250 (£221) for a short-term rental permit. Now that such permits are no longer being issued, they change hands for up to €80,000. It’s “sharing” for the rich, maybe, but not for the rest of us.

During their early rapid growth, sharing economy companies started operations around the world without regard to local laws on the basis that existing regulations had not envisaged the radical and disruptive new ideas they embodied. But the tide slowly turned as the whizzy tech rhetoric wore off and it became clear that Uber was in fact a taxi company and Airbnb was in effect a hotel business.

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Don’t like Verhofstadt, but it’s time for honesty.

Brexit Deal ‘Progress Is At 0%’ Until Irish Border Solved – Verhofstadt (Ind.)

The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator has rejected Theresa May’s suggestion that a deal is “95 per cent done”, as Brussels warned it will not be bounced into an agreement. Guy Verhofstadt said the withdrawal agreement needed to prevent no deal was “0 per cent done” as far as MEPs were concerned, because of the lack of a solution to the Irish border issue. “Progress on the Brexit negotiations can be 90 per cent, 95 per cent or even 99 per cent,” Mr Verhofstadt said. “But as long as there is no solution for the Irish border, as long as the Good Friday agreement is not fully secured, for us in our parliament progress is 0 per cent.”

The European Parliament has a veto on the final Brexit deal and has said it would kill any agreement that does not prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Speaking in a debate at the parliament’s Strasbourg seat on Wednesday morning, the second in command of the European Commission Frans Timmermans also warned that the block would not “rush a deal through at the expense of our principles”. “As was clear after the European Council the bottom line is that we do not have the decisive progress that we need,” Jean-Claude Juncker’s deputy said. “The good will and the determination to find a deal as soon as possible are there. But it is also clear that we will not rush a deal through at the expense of our principles or our agreed commitments, most notably on the Irish border question.

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Watch the pound when she makes it official.

May Sets November Date To Trigger No-Deal Brexit Preparations (G.)

Theresa May has set a date for Whitehall to trigger a series of no-deal Brexit preparations as her government faces up to the possibility that there will be no agreement with the EU about Britain’s departure. With less than six months to go before the UK leaves the bloc, the cabinet has agreed that a flurry of activity will be triggered in the second week of November as the government prepares to crash out of the EU, informed sources said. Civil servants have also accelerated plans to lay down new laws and secondary legislation so that UK businesses and both British and EU citizens can prepare. The move follows concerns across government that preparations for how the UK might cope with crashing out the EU are still uncertain.

The Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, told cabinet colleagues on Tuesday that Whitehall departments needed to step up their efforts next month and move “from warning businesses to telling them to act”. Whitehall has until now concentrated on the publication of more than 100 technical notices detailing the potential impact on particular industries but not on individual businesses and people. A source said that there would be an acceleration of preparations after MPs return from a short break on 12 November. “We have to get on with no-deal legislation. At the moment, we’re looking at the same legislation for a deal as no deal. In the case of no deal it would need royal assent before we leave. “There will be an awful lot to discuss. It will concentrate minds. Obviously we don’t want to upset the negotiations, but the clock is ticking and it will get harder and harder the later we leave it,” the source said.

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This is Theresa May’s country, her accomplishment.

Disadvantaged Groups Trapped In Poverty And Excluded From UK Society (Ind.)

Britain is a divided nation as the poor are increasingly trapped in poverty and excluded from mainstream society because of their social status, the human rights watchdog has warned. A major report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found a continued decline in prospects for disadvantaged groups has cemented a “two-speed society” in the UK which leaves many behind. The watchdog found that in just three years “alarming backward steps” have left disabled people, ethnic minorities and children from poorer backgrounds struggling to make headway in a society where “significant barriers still remain”.

Charities accused Theresa May of breaking the promise she made in her first speech as prime minister to tackle “burning injustices” in British society. It comes just days before Philip Hammond, the chancellor, is to set out a budget with critics waiting for spending commitments that will deliver on the prime minister’s conference promise that austerity is finally coming to an end. In a speech on Thursday, shadow chancellor John McDonnell will say that schools, councils and the UK’s social care system are “crying out for investment” and called on the government to “stump up the cash”. David Isaac, chair of the EHRC, said Britain was facing a “defining moment in the pursuit of equality”.

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Stop using pesticides altogether.

Ban Entire Pesticide Class To Protect Children’s Health – Experts (G.)

Evidence that an entire class of pesticides threatens the health of children and pregnant women is now so arresting that the substances should be banned, an expert panel of toxicologists has said. Exposure to organophosphates (OPs) increases the risk of reduced IQs, memory and attention deficits, and autism for prenatal children, according to the paper, published in Plos Medicine. More than 10,000 tonnes of OP pesticides are sprayed in 24 European countries each year and usage is higher in the US, where the Trump administration is appealing against a federal court ban on chlorpyrifos, one of the most popular agricultural insecticides.

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, the paper’s lead author and director of the UC Davis environmental health sciences centre, said: “We have compelling evidence from dozens of human studies that exposures of pregnant women to very low levels of organophosphate pesticides put children and foetuses at risk for developmental problems that may last a lifetime. By law, the EPA cannot ignore such clear findings: It’s time for a ban not just on chlorpyrifos, but all organophosphate pesticides.” The meta-review of data and literature on OPs analysed and cross-referenced scores of reviews and epidemiological studies with a UN database that covers 71 countries, and other research material.

In the process, the scientists discovered that US regulators had already quietly banned 26 out of 40 OP pesticides considered hazardous to human health. In Europe, the figure was 33 out of 39. However, 200,000 people still die each year from pesticide poisonings, according to UN estimates, about 99% of them in the developing world. A further 110,000 suicides using pesticides take place each year.

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Not bad, but too late.

European Parliament Votes To Ban Single-Use Plastics (Ind.)

Fragments of plastic have been found everywhere from Arctic sea ice to fertilisers being applied to farmland. Animals as small as plankton and as large as whales are known to eat plastic, and as tiny shards enter the human food chain they seem to be ending up inside humans as well. While much still remains unknown about the impact plastic is having on the environment and human health, environmentalists have called for urgent measures from industry and governments to curb the flow of plastic. “We have adopted the most ambitious legislation against single-use plastics. It is up to us now to stay the course in the upcoming negotiations with the council, due to start as early as November,” said Belgian liberal Frederique Ries, who was responsible for the bill.

Under the new rules, member states would have to ensure that tobacco companies cover the cost of cigarette butt collection and processing in a bid to reduce the number entering the environment by 80 per cent in the next 12 years. Similar measures would apply to producers of fishing gear, who would have to help ensure at least 50 per cent of lost or abandoned fishing gear containing plastic is collected per year. Fishing gear accounts for over a quarter of waste found on Europe’s beaches, and “ghost fishing” is thought to be responsible for thousands of whales, seals and birds dying every year. EU states would also be obliged to recycle 90 per cent of plastic bottles by 2025, and producers would have to help cover costs of waste management.

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But they don’t mean sailing ships.

Humpback Whales Stop Singing When Ships Are Near (AFP)

Humpback whales are famous for their eerie, underwater songs. But researchers in Japan said Wednesday these massive marine creatures stop singing, at least temporarily, when human-driven ships are nearby. Researchers focused on the remote Ogasawara Islands in Japan, some 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of Tokyo, where a single passenger-cargo liner passed through the area once per day. Male humpback whales sing as a way to communicate and attract mates. But by plunging a pair of hydrophones into the water to listen to the whales’ reaction — about 26 of whom were detected in the study area — researchers found that the approach of a ship silenced them.

“The main reaction of humpback whales was to stop singing either when the ship approached or after it passed by,” said the study in the journal PLOS ONE, led by Koki Tsujii from Ogasawara Whale Watching Association and Hokkaido University. Fewer male humpbacks sang in the area within 500 yards (meters) of the shipping lane than elsewhere. “After the ship passed by, whales within around 1,200 meters tended to temporarily reduce singing or stop singing altogether,” said the study. Many whales did not start to sing again until a half hour after the ship was gone from the area. Since ocean noise has been on the rise in recent decades, some experts said the findings raise new questions about what other whale behaviors might be changing due to mounting human presence on the high seas.

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Oct 232018
 


Pablo Picasso Still life 1918

 

Turkey Yet To Share Information On Khashoggi Case With Any Country: FM (R.)
Erdogan To Reveal ‘Naked Truth’ About Khashoggi’s Death (G.)
Turkey Believes MBS Bodyguard Took Khashoggi Body Part To Riyadh (MEE)
Khashoggi Case Has Put Saudi Prince Right Where Erdogan Wants Him (G.)
The Real Reason They Hate Trump (Gelernter)
Twitter Removes More Accounts Affiliated With Infowars (R.)
Facebook And Google Are Run By Today’s Robber Barons. Break Them Up (G.)
EU Regulation Could End YouTube As We Know It, CEO Warns (RT)
By Going Nuclear the EU Has Already Lost Its Battle with Italy (Luongo)
US Judge Affirms Monsanto Weed-Killer Verdict, Slashes Damages
Pesticide-Free Organic Food Lowers Your Blood Cancer Risk By 86% (DM)
Plastic Found In Faeces Of Everyone Who Took Part In Europe-Wide Study (Ind.)

 

 

Timing’s a bit weird. As Erdogan prepares his speech fior noon local time (5am EDT), I’m doing this with what may soon be old news. Trump flew CIA head Gina Haspel to Ankara overnight, did she convince Erdogan not to talk?

Turkey Yet To Share Information On Khashoggi Case With Any Country: FM (R.)

Turkey has not yet shared any information with any country from its probe into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, hours before President Tayyip Erdogan was due to reveal what he has said were details in the case. Mevlut Cavusoglu made the comment in a televised interview with the state-run Anadolu news agency. Cavusoglu also said that Turkey is ready cooperate with any international investigation into Khashoggi’s killing. Authorities have been investigating Khashoggi’s disappearance after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2. After weeks of denial, Saudi Arabia at the weekend said the journalist had been killed at the consulate. Erdogan has said that he would share the information of the investigation in a speech on Tuesday.

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Or so he says.

Erdogan To Reveal ‘Naked Truth’ About Khashoggi’s Death (G.)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears primed to assemble two weeks of leaks, insinuation and police evidence in an explosive speech in the Turkish parliament on Tuesday alleging that the Saudi Arabian government murdered the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Turkish soil. After weeks of leaks by Turkish police implying that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, must have known of a premeditated murder, there was no last-minute sign that the Turkish president would hold back from revealing what he has described as the “naked truth” about Khashoggi’s death. On Monday an aide vowed: “Nothing will remain secret.” Erdogan’s statement to members of his AK party coincides with the opening by the crown prince himself of an investment conference in Riyadh. Aides say Erdogan will address Saudi Arabia’s belated admission that Khashoggi died inside the Saudi consulate, where he was last seen on 2 October.

[..] Erdogan also has the chance in his speech to reveal details of an audio recording that purportedly exists of the moments of Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment. Reports on Monday suggested Saud al-Qahtani, an influential adviser to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, participated in a Skype call to the room in the consulate where Khashoggi was held. A Turkish intelligence source told Reuters that at one point Qahtani told his men to dispose of Khashoggi. “Bring me the head of the dog,” he said. If true, the allegations would confirm reporting in the Guardian on Sunday that Turkey had intercepted the hit squad’s communications.

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The info drip-drip continues to the last minute.

Turkey Believes MBS Bodyguard Took Khashoggi Body Part To Riyadh (MEE)

Turkish authorities believe part of Jamal Khashoggi’s body was transported out of Turkey by one of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s bodyguards, sources have told Middle East Eye. Maher Abdulaziz Mutrib, an intelligence officer implicated in the killing of the Saudi journalist, is thought to have taken the body part out in a large bag, the sources said. Mutrib, who is often seen travelling with the heir to the Saudi throne, left Istanbul on 2 October, the day of Khashoggi’s death, on a private jet that departed at 18:20 local time. His bags were not checked as he passed through the VIP lounge at Ataturk airport and neither was the plane, with tail registration HZ-SK1.

This was because the plane left before the alarm was raised. A second plane was searched from top to bottom and nothing was found, according to the sources. Mutrib, who carried a diplomatic passport, appeared to be in a hurry, they said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Sunday to reveal the “naked truth” over the killing of Khashoggi, saying that he would make a new statement on the case on Tuesday. “We are looking for justice here and this will be revealed in all its naked truth, not through some ordinary steps but in all its naked truth,” Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul.

Erdogan held a phone call with US President Donald Trump on Sunday where the two leaders agreed the Khashoggi case needed to be clarified “in all its aspects,” a Turkish presidential source said. Saudi Arabia, which on Friday finally admitted after 17 days that its officials had killed Khashoggi, says it does not know the body’s whereabouts. Anonymous Saudi officials have told media that the body was rolled into a carpet and handed to a “local collaborator” to be disposed of. However, on Sunday a Turkish source told MEE that Khashoggi’s body was cut into 15 pieces. “They did not roll anything up in anything,” the source said.

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Lots of theories. This one’s an option.

Khashoggi Case Has Put Saudi Prince Right Where Erdogan Wants Him (G.)

At about noon on Tuesday two regional leaders are due to make landmark addresses. In Riyadh, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, will open an investment showpiece declaring the kingdom open for business. In Ankara, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is expected to make a speech that may well shut down the beleaguered kingdom. Such are the stakes when Erdogan takes to a podium to discuss the death of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi that the region may not be the same when he’s finished. Three weeks to the day since Khashoggi vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Erdogan has pledged to table the “naked truth” about what happened to the columnist and critic, whose fate continues to grip both countries and polarise the Middle East.

If he stays true to his pledge, much of the evidence that Turkey has gathered, incriminating Saudi Arabia in a plot to kill Khashoggi, will be revealed: in pictures, video and even bloodcurdling audio said to document his torture and death. Setting the scene on Monday, a spokesman for the ruling party for the first time described Khashoggi’s death as a “complicated murder” that was “monstrously planned”. [..] Erdogan has the Saudis – in particular, the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (AKA MbS) – right where he wants him. Out of crisis has come opportunity for the veteran Turkish leader, who has never warmed to the brash 33-year-old, and thinks even less of his regional allies.

The two men have vastly different visions for the future of the region: Erdogan has been a champion of political Islam both at home and abroad, particularly since the rise and fall of Mohamed Morsi, the ill-fated former president of Egypt who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood. The Turkish president has partnered with Qatar, Riyadh’s regional foe, given shelter to those exiled after Morsi fell, and remained a bulwark for a movement that Riyadh and its ally the United Arab Emirates see as existential threats. But he has remained on the losing end of the struggle for regional power and influence.

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Not entirely my view, but good bits for sure.

The Real Reason They Hate Trump (Gelernter)

He’s the average American in exaggerated form—blunt, simple, willing to fight, mistrustful of intellectuals. Every big U.S. election is interesting, but the coming midterms are fascinating for a reason most commentators forget to mention: The Democrats have no issues. The economy is booming and America’s international position is strong. In foreign affairs, the U.S. has remembered in the nick of time what Machiavelli advised princes five centuries ago: Don’t seek to be loved, seek to be feared. The contrast with the Obama years must be painful for any honest leftist. For future generations, the Kavanaugh fight will stand as a marker of the Democratic Party’s intellectual bankruptcy, the flashing red light on the dashboard that says “Empty.” The left is beaten.

This has happened before, in the 1980s and ’90s and early 2000s, but then the financial crisis arrived to save liberalism from certain destruction. Today leftists pray that Robert Mueller will put on his Superman outfit and save them again. For now, though, the left’s only issue is “We hate Trump.” This is an instructive hatred, because what the left hates about Donald Trump is precisely what it hates about America. The implications are important, and painful. Not that every leftist hates America. But the leftists I know do hate Mr. Trump’s vulgarity, his unwillingness to walk away from a fight, his bluntness, his certainty that America is exceptional, his mistrust of intellectuals, his love of simple ideas that work, and his refusal to believe that men and women are interchangeable.

Worst of all, he has no ideology except getting the job done. His goals are to do the task before him, not be pushed around, and otherwise to enjoy life. In short, he is a typical American—except exaggerated, because he has no constraints to cramp his style except the ones he himself invents. Mr. Trump lacks constraints because he is filthy rich and always has been and, unlike other rich men, he revels in wealth and feels no need to apologize—ever. He never learned to keep his real opinions to himself because he never had to. He never learned to be embarrassed that he is male, with ordinary male proclivities. Sometimes he has treated women disgracefully, for which Americans, left and right, are ashamed of him—as they are of JFK and Bill Clinton.

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On what authority? Jones must sue Jack.

Twitter Removes More Accounts Affiliated With Infowars (R.)

Twitter Inc confirmed on Monday it has removed more accounts affiliated with Infowars, the website of U.S. conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. The company confirmed a CNN report, which said Twitter permanently suspended 18 accounts, partly because of their attempts to help Infowars and Jones circumvent the ban placed on them by Twitter in September. Last month, Twitter permanently banned Jones and Infowars from its platform, saying in a tweet that the accounts had violated its behavior policies. Twitter had said back then that it would evaluate any reports regarding other accounts potentially associated with Jones and Infowars. Tech companies like Apple, Google parent Alphabet and Facebook have also recently banned Infowars and content produced by Jones while payments processor PayPal had ended its business relationship with the website in September.

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The idea is better than the article.

Facebook And Google Are Run By Today’s Robber Barons. Break Them Up (G.)

If Tom Wolfe were still alive, he might be turning his critical pen towards people like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or the Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, playfully describing the disruption that their companies bring to our lives on a daily basis. Just as Wolfe’s novel The Bonfire of the Vanities focused on the financiers whose greed defined the economy of the 1980s, the writer might today focus on the behaviour of these entrepreneurs whose technological innovations are overthrowing the old economy, creating entirely new digital marketplaces. And rather than the greed of the 1980s, ethics might be the focus of Wolfe’s attention. Not the ethics of the algorithms running these businesses, for algorithms don’t have ethics. Even smart algorithms don’t have ethics.

Algorithms are just bits of mathematics. Algorithms do, however, capture the ethics of the people behind them. And there is so much material Wolfe could write about this in 2018. Wind back the clock nearly two years. In October 2016, the investigative nonprofit newsroom ProPublica discovered that Facebook let advertisers exclude black, Hispanic and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing adverts. In the United States, housing and job adverts that exclude people based on race, gender and similar factors are prohibited by the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Facebook admitted this was “a failure” and promised to prevent such discrimination in the future. More than a year later, in November 2017, ProPublica found Facebook was still allowing such adverts to be placed.

[..] This isn’t the first time we’ve faced such problems. In the first industrial revolution, some of the first to benefit were so rapacious they became known as the “Robber Barons”. Chief among them was the industrialist John D Rockefeller, arguably the wealthiest man to live in modern times. Rockefeller was notorious for the unethical and illegal business practices that helped his company Standard Oil control up to 90% of the world’s oil refineries. The History of the Standard Oil Company, published by Ida Tarbell in 1904, described the espionage, price wars and courtroom antics that allowed the company to dominate the oil business. Eventually Standard Oil became so powerful it had to be broken up into 34 new companies.


John D Rockefeller (left). Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

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The EU doesn’t understand what the internet is, how it has changed news and info dissemination. They don’t understand the amount of information, and how it necessitates changes. They’re handing the internet to America and taking it away from their own citizens.

EU Regulation Could End YouTube As We Know It, CEO Warns (RT)

YouTube’s CEO has urged creators on the popular video site to organize against a proposed EU internet regulation, reinforcing fears that the infamous Article 13 could lead to content-killing, meme-maiming restrictions on the web. The proposed amendments to the EU Copyright Directive would require the automatic removal of any user-created content suspected of violating intellectual property law – with platforms being liable for any alleged copyright infringement. If enacted, the legislation would threaten “both your livelihood and your ability to share your voice with the world,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki warned the site’s content creators in a blog post on Monday.

The regulation would endanger “hundreds of thousands of job,” Wojcicki said, predicting that it would likely force platforms such as YouTube to allow only content from a hand-picked group of companies. “It would be too risky for platforms to host content from smaller original content creators, because the platforms would now be directly liable for that content,” Wojcicki wrote. While acknowledging that it was important to properly compensate all rights holders, the YouTube chief lamented that the “unintended consequences of Article 13 will put this ecosystem at risk.” She encouraged YouTubers to use the #SaveYourInternet hashtag to tell the world how the proposed legislation would impact them personally.

[..] The proposal has stirred considerable controversy in Europe and abroad, with critics claiming that the legislation would essentially ban any kind of creative content, ranging from memes to parody videos, that would normally fall under fair use. Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, has opposed Article 13 for months. The measure was advanced in June by the European Parliament. A final vote on the proposed regulation is expected to take place sometime next year. World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have also spoken out against Article 13.

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Playing hardball is all Brussels knows how to do.

By Going Nuclear the EU Has Already Lost Its Battle with Italy (Luongo)

Former Dutch Minister of Finance and former President of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, went on CNBC on Friday to declare all-out financial war on Italy. That’s the way Zerohedge put it. As a ‘former’ big wig it was his job to go out and state the position of those currently in power who can safely hide behind his words. And if you watch the clip from CNBC in the linked article you’ll note that CNBC excised the most important quotes, where Dijsselbloem threatened the Italians that no exit from the euro is on the table. But, why would he say this when Italy hasn’t brought it up at all? In fact, Italy’s leadership has been nothing but supportive of the European Project while standing firm on it adopting fairer rules for member countries.

[..] As always, the heavy-handed Djisselbloem has his thumb on the pulse of the EU’s problems, opening his mouth and making things worse, just like he did with Greece. In Greek negotiations, the EU was calm. It told Greece over and over, “No.” Greece threatened the nuclear option, leaving the euro and its bluff was called. So, Dijesselbloem’s warning is just like Greece’s threats and they are going nuclear on Italy. They have to. The EU has zero leverage over Italy. The so-called populists in charge in Italy know exactly what they are doing. They are killing the EU with kindness. Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio reiterated over the weekend that there is “no Plan B” for leaving the EU. The goal is to reform it from within.

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Nice, but as teh Guardian adds: “The judge said in her ruling Monday that if Johnson did not accept the lower punitive damages, she would order a new trial for Monsanto.”

US Judge Affirms Monsanto Weed-Killer Verdict, Slashes Damages (R.)

A U.S. judge on Monday affirmed a verdict against Bayer unit Monsanto that found its glyphosate-based weed-killers responsible for a man’s terminal cancer, but said the $250 million punitive damages portion of the award had to be reduced. According to a ruling in San Francisco’s Superior Court of California, Judge Suzanne Bolanos said she would slash the punitive damages award to $39 million if lawyers for school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson agreed. Monsanto, which denies the allegations, had asked the judge to throw out the entire original $289 million verdict or order a new trial on the punitive damages portion. A jury on Aug. 10 found the company’s glyphosate-based weed-killers, including RoundUp and Ranger Pro, had caused Johnson’s cancer and that the company failed to warn consumers about the risks.

The verdict wiped 10 percent off the value of the company and marked the first such decision against Monsanto, which faces more than 8,000 similar lawsuits in the United States. “The court’s decision to reduce the punitive damage award by more than $200 million is a step in the right direction, but we continue to believe that the liability verdict and damage awards are not supported by the evidence at trial or the law and plan to file an appeal with the California Court of Appeal,” Bayer said in a statement. [..] Lawyers for Johnson in a statement on Monday said they were still reviewing whether to accept the reduced award or retry the punitive damages portion. “The evidence presented to this jury was, quite frankly, overwhelming,” the lawyers said.

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But we’re still going to poison most of our food, and that of others?

Pesticide-Free Organic Food Lowers Your Blood Cancer Risk By 86% (DM)

Cutting out pesticides by eating only organic food could slash your cancer risk by up to 86 percent, a new study claims. The biggest impact was seen on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma risk, which plummeted among those who shunned chemical-sprayed food, according to the survey of nearly 70,000 French adults. Overall, organic eaters were 25 percent less likely to develop any cancer, and their risks of skin and breast cancers dropped by a third. The finding comes amid a flurry of interest in the cancer risks of pesticides, spurred by this summer’s Monsanto trial, when a jury awarded a cancer-suffering groundsman $250 million after concluding that Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer. The health benefit was far greater for obese people, they found.

However, the diet had no significant effect on bowel cancer – which is soaring in numbers globally – or prostate cancer. ‘Our results indicate that higher organic food consumption is associated with a reduction in the risk of overall cancer,’ lead author Dr Julia Baudry of the Centre of Research in Epidemiology and Statistics Sorbonne, Paris said. ‘We observed reduced risks for specific cancer sites – postmenopausal breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and all lymphomas – among individuals with a higher frequency of organic food consumption. ‘Although our findings need to be confirmed, promoting organic food consumption in the general population could be a promising preventive strategy against cancer.’

Read more …

By the time we acknowledge how bad this is, we’ll be full of plastic already.

Plastic Found In Faeces Of Everyone Who Took Part In Europe-Wide Study (Ind.)

Scientists have discovered up to nine different types of plastic in the faeces of every person who took part in a Europe-wide study. On average, researchers found 20 microplastic particles in every 10 grams of stool, suggesting humans are swallowing them in food. Particles between 50 and 500 micrometres across were found, the most common being polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Diaries kept by each participant in the week before the stool tests showed that they were all exposed to plastic by consuming plastic-wrapped food or drinking from plastic bottles. Plastic in the gut could suppress the immune system and aid transmission of toxins and harmful bugs or viruses, experts believe.

Lead researcher Dr Philipp Schwabi, from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, said: “Of particular concern is what this means to us, and especially patients with gastrointestinal diseases. “While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver. “Now that we have first evidence for microplastics inside humans, we need further research to understand what this means for human health.” The pilot study recruited eight participants from the UK, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia and Austria. None were vegetarians, and six ate sea fish. It is estimated up to 5 per cent of all plastics produced end up in the sea.

Read more …

Oct 192018
 
 October 19, 2018  Posted by at 9:12 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Horsemen on the beach 1902

 

Implosion of Stock Market Double-Bubble in China Hits New Lows (WS)
Trump Trade War Forces Beijing To Retreat From Its Anti-Debt Battle (CNBC)
Italy’s Debt Crisis Thickens (DQ)
Italian Bond Yields Spike To 4-Year Highs As EU Slams New Budget Plan (CNBC)
EU Leaders Ready To Help May Sell Brexit Deal To Parliament (G.)
Tory MP Calls UK Government ‘A Shitshow’ (Ind.)
Greens Surge Across Europe As Centre-Left Flounders (G.)
Male Birds Can Be Good Singers Or Good Looking, But Not Both (NS)
Jurors Urge Judge To Uphold Monsanto Cancer Ruling (G.)
World’s Smallest Porpoise Faces Extinction (AFP)
Microplastics Found In 90% Of Table Salt (NatGeo)

 

 

Tomorrow is a travel day, no posts.

 

 

Up a bit this morning, plunge protection, but Shanghai down 30% for the year. Stocks are not Xi’s worst fear, though, the housing market is, along with debt. And you wonder how this is possible with all the GDP growth numbers.

Implosion of Stock Market Double-Bubble in China Hits New Lows (WS)

Today, the Shanghai Composite Index dropped another 2.9% to 2,486.42. In the bigger picture, that’s quite an accomplishment:

• Lowest since November 27, 2014, nearly four years ago
• Down 30% from its recent peak on January 24, 2018, (3,559.47)
• Down 52% from its last bubble peak on June 12, 2015 (5,166)
• Down 59% from its all-time bubble peak on October 16, 2007 (6,092)
• And back where it had first been on December 27, 2006, nearly 12 years ago.

The chart of the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index (SSE) shows the 2015-bubble and its implosion, followed by a rise from the January-2016 low, which had been endlessly touted in the US as the next big buying opportunity to lure US investors into the China miracle. Investors who swallowed this hype got crushed again:

Over the longer view, the implosion is even more spectacular. Today’s close puts the SSE back where it had first been nearly 12 years ago, on December 27, 2007. This dynamic has created a double-bubble and a double-implosion, with every recovery rally in between getting finally wiped out. The index is now down 59% from its all-time high in October 2007, the super-hype era in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. It is not often that a stock market of one of the largest economies in the world is whipped into two frenetically majestic bubbles that implode back to levels first seen 12 years earlier – despite inflation in the currency in which these stocks are denominated.

Read more …

Betcha China’s foreign reserves are dwindling.

Trump Trade War Forces Beijing To Retreat From Its Anti-Debt Battle (CNBC)

Just as China started to come to grips with the scale of its massive debt accumulation, the impact of the trade war with the U.S. is forcing a retreat. One expert said that could prove “disastrous” for the country’s economy. Years of big-ticket investment projects helped spur double-digit growth in China’s GDP, sending the country into position as the world’s second-largest economy — trailing only the United States. The price tag, however, was a mountain of debt that needed to be drawn down as authorities refashioned growth to a more sustainable model. The plan has been to base the more mature economy on the increasing spending power of China’s rising consumer class rather than old-fashioned investments in infrastructure.

But the trade war is denting China’s economic growth and forcing a rethink in debt reduction — known as deleveraging — as authorities look for ways to juice the economy to make up for hits resulting from U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese exports. Economists increasingly see future tariffs as likely to apply to all shipments from China to the United States, meaning Beijing is set to even further loosen financial taps. That’s already been seen in the form of cuts to reserve requirement ratios for banks, which set the amount of funds they must keep on hand. The recent moves mean banks have more money to lend out, stimulating the economy with more debt.

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To what extent is this Brussels teaching Rome a lesson?

Italy’s Debt Crisis Thickens (DQ)

Italy’s government bonds are sinking and their yields are spiking. There are plenty of reasons, including possible downgrades by Moody’s and/or Standard and Poor’s later this month. If it is a one-notch downgrade, Italy’s credit rating will be one notch above junk. If it is a two-notch down-grade, as some are fearing, Italy’s credit rating will be junk. That the Italian government remains stuck on its deficit-busting budget, which will almost certainly be rejected by the European Commission, is not helpful either. Today, the 10-year yield jumped nearly 20 basis points to 3.74%, the highest since February 2014. Note that the ECB’s policy rate is still negative -0.4%:

But the current crisis has shown little sign of infecting other large Euro Zone economies. Greek banks may be sinking in unison, their shares down well over 50% since August despite being given a clean bill of health just months earlier by the ECB, but Greece is no longer systemically important and its banks have been zombies for years. Far more important are Germany, France and Spain — and their credit markets have resisted contagion. A good indicator of this is the spread between Spanish and Italian 10-year bonds, which climbed to 2.08 percentage points last week, its highest level since December 1997, before easing back to 1.88 percentage points this week.

Much to the dismay of Italy’s struggling banks, the Italian government has also unveiled plans to tighten tax rules on banks’ sales of bad loans in a bid to raise additional revenues. The proposed measures would further erode the banks’ already flimsy capital buffers and hurt their already scarce cash reserves. And ominous signs are piling up that a run on large bank deposits in Italy may have already begun.

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So far the government is sticking to its plans.

Italian Bond Yields Spike To 4-Year Highs As EU Slams New Budget Plan (CNBC)

Italian sovereign debt yields hit fresh multi-year highs Friday morning, as investors grow cautious over lending to the embattled government after it unveiled new budget plans. Ten-year and 30-year bond yields — yields have an inverse relationship to a bond’s price — hit their highest levels since early 2014, according to Reuters, just hours after the European Union warned of rule breaches in Italy’s draft budget. Investors have shown concerns over Italy’s 2019 budget, which was officially sent to the EU this week for analysis. The anti-establishment and partly right-wing government in Italy plans to increase public spending in the country, sticking with campaign pledges before the general election in March this year.

There are strong concerns that the fiscal plan will derail the reduction of the country’s debt pile — which is the second largest in the euro zone, totaling 2.3 trillion euros ($2.6 trillion). Italy’s prime minister has defended its free-spending budget this week, after officials in Brussels criticized the plans and labelled it an unprecedented breach of the EU’s budgetary rules.

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Picked up the graph apart from the article. It says exactly why there won’t be a deal: it’s not possible.

EU Leaders Ready To Help May Sell Brexit Deal To Parliament (G.)

EU leaders are preparing to back Theresa May in building a “coalition of the reasonable” in the UK parliament, in a desperate bid to avoid a no-deal Brexit. Following what has been described by diplomats as a “call for help” by the prime minister at a crunch summit in Brussels, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, stressed that the EU had to pursue “all avenues” to find a deal that can get through the Commons.“I think where there is a will there is a way,” she said. Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, said: “It will be done.” He is understood to have told EU leaders that May needed “help” to sell a deal in parliament.

While ruling out major concessions, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said it was clear that the roadblock to a deal did not lie in Brussels. A potential agreement had been derailed on Sunday when Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, made an unscheduled visit to Brussels to inform the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, that May could not get an agreement past her cabinet or the DUP, on whose votes her government relies.

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A bit of honesty.

Tory MP Calls UK Government ‘A Shitshow’ (Ind.)

A Tory MP has labelled the government “a shitshow” and said he would not vote Conservative. Johnny Mercer, a former army officer, claimed his party was being run by “technocrats and managers” and labelled Theresa May’s Brexit plan a sign of a “classic professional politician”. He vowed to launch a “serious shit-fight” to stop the UK heading “towards the edge of the cliff”. The Plymouth Moor View MP launched the astonishing attack on his own party as he voiced concerns that it no longer shared his values. He told The House magazine: “The party will never really change until you have somebody who is leading the party who has won a seat and knows what it’s like to go out every weekend and advocate for what you just voted for that week.

“We’ve lost this ability to fight, to scrap for what we believe in. Until we get that art back – ultimately our core business as politicians is winning elections. That is our basic core business. “We’ve lost focus on that for some very good, very capable but ultimately technocrats and managers. That’s not what Britain’s about.” [..] in a shock admission, he said that, were he not an MP, he would not vote for the Conservatives. Asked how the Johnny Mercer who left the military in 2012 would vote now, he said: “I wouldn’t go and vote. “Just being honest, I wouldn’t vote. Of course I wouldn’t, no.” He added: “There’s no doubt about it that my set of values and ethos, I was comfortable that it was aligned with the Conservative Party. I’m not as comfortable that that’s the case any more.”

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The political center vanishes everywhere.

Greens Surge Across Europe As Centre-Left Flounders (G.)

In conservative Bavaria, the Greens doubled their vote in state elections to become the second largest party. In Belgium’s local elections they achieved record scores of more than 30% and finished first in several Brussels districts, and runners-up overall. In Luxembourg’s general election they increased their tally of MPs by 50%. The elections in three countries last weekend suggest that as Europe’s historic mainstream parties plummet in the polls and struggle to see off the far right’s challenge, for liberal-minded voters the Greens look like an answer. Offering a pro-EU stance, a humane approach to migration and clear positions on issues such as climate change, biodiversity and sustainability, Green parties in several countries are now polling higher nationally than the traditional centre-left.

“They represent a clear place where people can go who are frustrated with the traditional mainstream parties but who don’t like the far right,” said Alexander Clarkson, a lecturer in European studies at King’s College London. “They offer a very clear counter-model to the positions and arguments of parties like Germany’s AfD. Also they’ve been around for a while now, more than 40 years, and they’ve governed responsibly both locally and regionally. They kind of look like the adults in the room.”

In Germany, where the Greens partner parties from the centre-right to the hard-left in nine of the 16 state governments, recent national polling put the party ahead of the centre-left SPD, Angela Merkel’s coalition partner, with a 17%-plus share of the vote, compared with 8.9% in last year’s federal election. In the Netherlands, the GreenLeft party boosted its representation from four to 14 MPs in elections last year and has advance further since then, from 9% to a second-placed 18% in the polls.

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Fun research.

Male Birds Can Be Good Singers Or Good Looking, But Not Both (NS)

The call of a male peacock is no pleasure to listen to, but its splendid tail means it doesn’t matter. Now an analysis of more than 500 species shows that this is a common trade-off in the bird world: the best lookers aren’t the most talented singers, while the best vocalists aren’t as easy on the eye. Sexual selection is an evolutionary process that shapes traits that animals use to attract mates, and birds are well known to resort to elaborate songs and flashy feathers in the name of reproduction. To investigate which species use which traits, Christopher Cooney at the University of Oxford and his colleagues collected the songs of 518 species, and compared these with their feather colours.

In particular, they looked at how much feathers differed between the males and females of each species – a sign that sexual selection has influenced their plumage. They found that birds in which one sex has more showy plumage than the other tend to have less interesting, more monotonous songs. In species in which the males and females more closely resemble each other, the males sing longer songs over a larger range of musical notes. The reason why bird evolution favours one trait over the other is unclear. It might be that birds living in dense forests with lower visibility rely more on their songs instead of colour to attract mates, but Cooney’s analysis didn’t find any relationship between sexually selected traits and habitat.

Instead, his team think that mate-attracting traits are costly to develop, so a species tends to evolve only one. Alternatively, once one attractive trait has begun to emerge, it may simply be pointless to develop a second.

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“Why do we have a jury system if the judge can just toss it out?”

Jurors Urge Judge To Uphold Monsanto Cancer Ruling (G.)

Jurors who ruled that Monsanto caused a dying man’s cancer are fighting to uphold their landmark $289m verdict, publicly urging a judge not to overturn their decision in a groundbreaking trial. Four California jurors told the Guardian that they were shocked and angry to learn that the judge overseeing their trial had moved to throw out their unanimous verdict, which said the agrochemical corporation failed to warn consumers that its popular weedkiller product posed health risks. The ruling in August, which sparked concerns across the globe about the Roundup herbicide, included $250m in punitive damages to the plaintiff, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, who has terminal cancer.

But San Francisco superior court judge Suzanne Bolanos stunned campaigners and jurors last week when she issued a tentative ruling on Monsanto’s appeal motion, saying she would likely grant a new trial due to the “insufficiency of the evidence”. “I was just gobsmacked and outraged. I was astonished,” Robert Howard, juror No 4, said in an interview on Thursday. “Why do we have a jury system if the judge can just toss it out?” Bolanos hasn’t yet made a final ruling, leading to an unusual public plea from the jurors and mounting pressure on the judge in recent days. Some jurors said they became emotionally invested in the trial and now felt it was their duty to advocate for their decision and fight for Johnson to receive his award.

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The list is endless. They’re all leaving.

World’s Smallest Porpoise Faces Extinction (AFP)

The near-extinct vaquita marina, the world’s smallest porpoise, has not yet disappeared from its habitat off the coast of Mexico, a research team said Wednesday after spotting six of them. The vaquita has been nearly wiped out by illegal fishing in its native habitat, the Gulf of California, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned in May that it could go extinct this year. But “all hope is not lost” for saving the species after the recent sightings, said Lorenzo Rojas of the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), presenting the researchers’ findings. In an 11-day study conducted in late September and early October, marine scientists spotted six vaquitas, including a calf.

The team emphasized that the study was not a full population estimate, which they will present in January after further research. In the last full population estimate, carried out in 2017, CIRVA found there were only 30 vaquitas left. Known as “the panda of the sea” for the distinctive black circles around its eyes, the vaquita has been decimated by gillnets used to fish for another species, the also endangered totoaba fish. The totoaba’s swim bladder is considered a delicacy in China and can fetch up to $20,000 on the black market. Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim have thrown their backing behind the campaign to save the vaquita.

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Select your salt wisely.

Microplastics Found In 90% Of Table Salt (NatGeo)

Microplastics were found in sea salt several years ago. But how extensively plastic bits are spread throughout the most commonly used seasoning remained unclear. Now, new research shows microplastics in 90 percent of the table salt brands sampled worldwide. Of 39 salt brands tested, 36 had microplastics in them, according to a new analysis by researchers in South Korea and Greenpeace East Asia. Using prior salt studies, this new effort is the first of its scale to look at the geographical spread of microplastics in table salt and their correlation to where plastic pollution is found in the environment. “The findings suggest that human ingestion of microplastics via marine products is strongly related to emissions in a given region,” said Seung-Kyu Kim, a marine science professor at Incheon National University in South Korea.

Salt samples from 21 countries in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia were analyzed. The three brands that did not contain microplastics are from Taiwan (refined sea salt), China (refined rock salt), and France (unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation). The study was published this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The density of microplastics found in salt varied dramatically among different brands, but those from Asian brands were especially high, the study found. The highest quantities of microplastics were found in salt sold in Indonesia. Asia is a hot spot for plastic pollution, and Indonesia—with 34,000 miles (54,720 km) of coastline—ranked in an unrelated 2015 study as suffering the second-worst level of plastic pollution in the world.

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Oct 052018
 


Paul Gauguin Contes barbares 1902

 

Economy on Sugar High Before Trade War Worsens (DDMB)
Gundlach Says Treasury Market Is Witnessing A ‘Game Changer’ (MW)
Republicans Aim To Confirm Kavanaugh On Weekend; Protesters Arrested (R.)
Explosive Report Details Chinese Infiltration Of Apple, Amazon And The CIA (ZH)
Mattis Says Russian GRU Caught Red-Handed Hacking OPCW (ZH)
String Of Own Goals By Russian Spies Exposes A Strange Sloppiness (G.)
Elon Musk Mocks SEC as ‘Shortseller Enrichment Commission’ (CNBC)
Elon Musk Accuses BlackRock Of Helping Short Sellers (CNBC)
EU Tells UK To Stop ‘Wasting Time’, Find Irish Border Solution (Ind.)
The Outsized Power Of The City Of London Makes Britain Poorer (G.)
Huge Rise In US Plastic Waste Shipments To Poor Countries After China Ban (G.)

 

 

Later today: Nobel Peace Prize. US jobs numbers. And more Kavanaugh, no doubt.

But first: Stockpiling before tariffs set in.

Economy on Sugar High Before Trade War Worsens (DDMB)

Across the U.S., companies are hitting the panic button. The Trump administration has levied 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, a charge that is expected to rise to 25 percent by 2019. This tops the tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods that were imposed in August, and is an effective tax on U.S. consumers, who will soon be paying more for everything from cosmetics to clothing to cars if they aren’t already. Against that backdrop, it’s becoming clear that many companies are rushing to secure products and materials before prices rise regardless of current demand. You could say they are in panic-buying mode.

The upside is that this behavior bolsters economic growth in the short term. The downside is that there is likely to be a nasty hangover. The noise in the economic data will be amplified by the rebuilding from Hurricane Florence. The estimates of the storm’s damage span from $20 billion to $50 billion. Evidence that panic buying has set in was seen in the September Chicago Purchasing Managers Index report, which is a bellwether for the broader national manufacturing sector. While the results “disappointed,” with the index falling from 63.6 to a still high 60.4 and the new orders component sinking to a six-month low, the inventory component surged above the 60 mark. (In these diffusion indexes, readings above 50 denote expansion.)

To put the stockpiling in context, inventories have only breached 60 twice this year. Such nosebleed readings are so rare that they rank in the 97th percentile over the last 30 years. As per the Chicago PMI: “Firms continued to add to their stock levels, building on August’s marked rise. The scarce availability of inputs continued to encourage stockpiling while forecasts of higher future demand also contributed to the rise in inventories.”

Read more …

Large sums of money are moving.

Gundlach Says Treasury Market Is Witnessing A ‘Game Changer’ (MW)

For investors looking for an inflection point in the bond market, this is it. Jeff Gundlach, chief executive of Doubleline Capital, on Thursday projected that U.S. Treasury yields are likely to rise further and investors should adjust accordingly. The so-called bond king said in an interview with CNN that the 10-year yield could rise to 3.5% and the 30-year could climb to 4%, which are likely to hurt companies sensitive to higher rates, such as auto makers. In a tweet last month, Gundlach had forecast that the 30-year Treasury yield closing above 3.25% two days in a row will signify a “game changer,” a view he reiterated Thursday.

His prophecy has been fulfilled. The 30-year Treasury yield ended at 3.357% on Thursday after rising to 3.316% on Wednesday, according to FactSet. The 30-year yield has “definitively broken above a multiyear base that should, over time, carry us to significantly higher yields,” Gundlach told Reuters. “Also, the curve is steepening a little in this breakout, which is another sign that the situation has changed.” Yields rose sharply this week on the back of strong economic data that supported the widespread belief that the Federal Reserve will maintain its hawkish bias to forestall a possible overheating of the economy.

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Ugliness assured.

Republicans Aim To Confirm Kavanaugh On Weekend; Protesters Arrested (R.)

President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans gained confidence on Thursday that his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, could win Senate confirmation after two wavering lawmakers responded positively to an FBI report on accusations of sexual misconduct against the judge. The report, sent by the White House to the Senate Judiciary Committee in the middle of the night, was denounced by Democrats as a whitewash that was too narrow in scope and ignored critical witnesses. Thousands of anti-Kavanaugh protesters rallied outside the Supreme Court and entered a Senate office building, holding signs such as “Believe Survivors” and “Kava-Nope.”

Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested, including actress Amy Schumer. But Republicans moved forward with plans for a key procedural vote on Friday and a final vote on Saturday on confirming the conservative federal appeals judge for a lifetime job on the top U.S. court. The timing of the vote could be complicated by Republican Senator Steve Daines, whose office said on Thursday he planned to attend his daughter’s wedding in Montana on Saturday, making him unavailable to cast his vote.

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Was reading this yesterday. What a story.

Explosive Report Details Chinese Infiltration Of Apple, Amazon And The CIA (ZH)

The story begins with a Silicon Valley startup called Elemental. Founded in 2006 by three engineers who brilliantly anticipated that broadcasters would soon be searching for a way to adapt their programming for streaming over the Internet, and on mobile devices like smartphones, Elemental went about building a “dream team” of coders who designed software to adapt the super-fast graphics chips being designed for video gaming to stream video instead. The company then loaded this software on to special, custom-built servers emblazoned with its logo. These servers then sold for as much as $100,000 a pop – a markup of roughly 70%. In 2009, the company received its first contract with US defense and intelligence contractors, and even received an investment from a CIA-backed venture fund.

Elemental also started working with American spy agencies. In 2009 the company announced a development partnership with In-Q-Tel Inc., the CIA’s investment arm, a deal that paved the way for Elemental servers to be used in national security missions across the U.S. government. Public documents, including the company’s own promotional materials, show that the servers have been used inside Department of Defense data centers to process drone and surveillance-camera footage, on Navy warships to transmit feeds of airborne missions, and inside government buildings to enable secure videoconferencing. NASA, both houses of Congress, and the Department of Homeland Security have also been customers. This portfolio made Elemental a target for foreign adversaries.

Like many other companies, Elementals’ servers utilized motherboards built by Supermicro, which dominates the market for motherboards used in special-purpose computers. It was here, at Supermicro, where the government believes – according to Bloomberg’s sources – that the infiltration began. Before it came to dominate the global market for computer motherboards, Supermicro had humble beginnings. A Taiwanese engineer and his wife founded the company in 1993, at a time when Silicon Valley was embracing outsourcing. It attracted clients early on with the promise of infinite customization, employing a massive team of engineers to make sure it could accommodate its clients’ every need.

Customers also appreciated that, while Supermicro’s motherboards were assembled in China or Taiwan, its engineers were based in Silicon Valley. But the company’s workforce featured one characteristic that made it uniquely attractive to China: A sizable portion of its engineers were native Mandarin speakers. One of Bloomberg’s sources said the government is still investigating whether spies were embedded within Supermicro or other US companies).

Read more …

Hard to believe. Holland has been targeting Russia for years, can’t trust them when it comes to these stories.

Mattis Says Russian GRU Caught Red-Handed Hacking OPCW (ZH)

Russia is facing new multiple wide-ranging charges of hacking as Western officials on Wednesday alleged its intelligence agencies conducted four high profile cyber attacks, including an attempt to spy on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is the independent body responsible for investigating chemical attacks in Syria and in the UK. The OPCW is headquartered the Netherlands, and according to breaking reports a group that the Dutch government has alleged are Russian operatives may have been caught red-handed in the act. Moscow has dismissed the charges as but more “Western spy mania” while leveling its own accusations that the Pentagon is conducting an illegal and dangerous germ and bio-weapons research program near Russia’s borders.

The BBC reports based on Dutch government statements: “The four suspects identified by Dutch officials had diplomatic passports and included two IT experts and two support agents, officials said. They hired a car and parked it in the car park of the Marriot hotel in The Hague, which is next to the OPCW office, to hack into the OPCW’s wifi network, Major General Onno Eichelsheim from the Dutch MIVD intelligence service said.” Authorities were quick to release photographs of the group’s alleged hacking equipment and computers in the trunk of a car. Police say they are GRU operatives (also known as the Main Intelligence Directorate – the intelligence arm of the Russian military) who planned to intercept login passwords to gain access to OPCW internal files (in what appears to have been a low security environment, given wifi use to store sensitive files).


The Dutch government released the above photo which it says proves Russian spies tried to hack OPCW headquarters

But strangely the four men, identified as spies, were immediately escorted out of the Netherlands as opposed to being detained for further questioning and possible trial. Meanwhile the UK government further accused the GRU of conducting cyber-attacks on private firms in Ukraine and Russia, the US Democratic Party, as well as a small TV network in Britain. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, addressing the charges on Thursday after a two-day meeting in Brussels, said Russia must be held accountable for its attempts to hack the OPCW office.

Read more …

Not only are Russians mean people, they are dumb too. Who believes that?

String Of Own Goals By Russian Spies Exposes A Strange Sloppiness (G.)

It must go down as one of the most embarrassing months ever for Russia’s military intelligence. In the 30 days since Theresa May revealed the cover identities of the Salisbury poison suspects, the secretive GRU (now GU) has been publicly exposed by rival intelligence agencies and online sleuths, with an assist from Russia’s own president. Despite attempts to stonewall public inquiry, the GRU’s dissection has been clinical. The agency has always had a reputation for daring, bolstered by its affiliation with special forces commando units and agents who have seen live combat.

But in dispatching agents to the Netherlands who could, just using Google, be easily exposed as graduates of an elite GRU academy, the agency appears reckless and absurdly sloppy. One of the suspected agents, tipped as a “human intelligence source” by Dutch investigators, had registered five vehicles at a north-western Moscow address better known as the Aquarium, the GRU finishing school for military attaches and elite spies. According to online listings, which are not official but are publicly available to anyone on Google, he drove a Honda Civic, then moved on to an Alfa Romeo. In case the address did not tip investigators off, he also listed the base number of the Military-Diplomatic Academy.

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A judge just oredred Musk and the SEC to explain their settlement.

Elon Musk Mocks SEC as ‘Shortseller Enrichment Commission’ (CNBC)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk mocked the Securities and Exchange Commission in a tweet Thursday, calling the agency the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission,” days after settling fraud charges brought against him by the agency. The tweet, which is missing a word and appears to take a sarcastic tone, says “the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work” and commends the SEC on a name change that did not occur. Musk doubled down on the remark when another Twitter user said Musk needs a “a social team that can get attention without typos and without enraging the Shortseller Enrichment Committee.” The Tesla CEO asked, “Why would they be upset about their mission? It’s what they do.”

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Hardly ever a useful idea to go after short sellers.

Elon Musk Accuses BlackRock Of Helping Short Sellers (CNBC)

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has accused large fund managers such as BlackRock for fueling short sellers, a group of investors he has been criticizing on his Twitter account. In a series of Twitter posts on Thursday night, Musk alleged that BlackRock and other financial firms pocket “excessive profit” from lending shares they hold to short sellers because “they’re suffering a net loss.” Short sellers are investors who bet on the decline of a security, such as a stock. They make money by selling the shares they borrow, and hope the price falls so they can buy them back at a lower price and make profits from it.

Musk also said those funds were “pretending to charge low rates” for their passive “index tracking” products. Fund managers have lowered management fees on certain products due to increased competition in the space. Fidelity Investments said last month it was launching two no-fee index funds, while Vanguard announced in July that investors using its online brokerage platform could trade exchange-traded funds without commission. At the same time, fund managers have been growing their business in securities lending — which is the process of temporarily transferring ownership of shares or bonds to another party, such as short sellers.

The companies earn a fee in return for loaning out their holdings. Securities lending is a lucrative business, according to an opinion piece by Financial Times in April. The newspaper, which cited a regulatory filing, said BlackRock made $597 million in revenue last year from lending securities. Musk hit out at that practice, saying “there is no rational basis” for long-term shareholders to engage in that business. He claimed that doing so “dilutes the shareholder base” while giving short sellers “a strong incentive to attack the company by whatever means possible.”

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The EU should not let Tusk do these things, he’s too easy a target. Let Barnier do the talking.

EU Tells UK To Stop ‘Wasting Time’, Find Irish Border Solution (Ind.)

The EU has told the UK to stop “wasting time” and find a solution to the Irish border row, with just two weeks until the next showdown summit over Brexit. Donald Tusk, the European Council president, turned his fire on Jeremy Hunt for likening the EU to the Soviet Union – accusing ministers of rousing the Tory faithful, instead of striving to reach an agreement. “Unacceptable remarks that raise the temperature will achieve nothing except wasting more time,” Mr Tusk said. “I was a party leader myself for 15 years, so I know what the rules of party politics are. But now, once the Tory conference is over, we should get down to business.”

Speaking alongside Leo Varadkar, the Irish president, Mr Tusk made clear the EU remained “united behind Ireland” in its determination to prevent a return to border posts and checks. But he also made clear his anger at the delay to Theresa May’s promised fresh border proposals – linking it to a reluctance to risk a backlash at the Tory conference. In Birmingham, Mr Hunt, the foreign secretary, triggered fury across the EU by accusing it of trying to keep the UK in a “prison” with behaviour similar to the Soviet Union. After the Salzburg summit, the prime minister accused Mr Tusk of showing disrespect, but he tuned that accusation on the UK, saying: “In respecting our partners, we expect the same in return.

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It sucks too many resources from the ’periphery’. Re: Rome.

The Outsized Power Of The City Of London Makes Britain Poorer (G.)

To argue that the City hurts Britain’s economy might seem crazy. But research increasingly shows that all the money swirling around our oversized financial sector may actually be making us collectively poorer. As Britain’s economy has steadily become re-engineered towards serving finance, other parts of the economy have struggled to survive in its shadow, like seedlings starved of light and water under the canopy of a giant, deep-rooted and invasive tree. Generations of leaders from Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair to Theresa May have believed that the City is the goose that lays Britain’s golden eggs, to be prioritised, pampered and protected. But the finance curse analysis shows an oversized City to be a different bird: a cuckoo in the nest, crowding out other sectors.

[..] A growing body of economic research confirms that once a financial sector grows above an optimal size and beyond its useful roles, it begins to harm the country that hosts it. The most obvious source of damage comes in the form of financial crises – including the one we are still recovering from a decade after the fact. But the problem is in fact older, and bigger. Long ago, our oversized financial sector began turning away from supporting the creation of wealth, and towards extracting it from other parts of the economy. To achieve this, it shapes laws, rules, thinktanks and even our culture so that they support it. The outcomes include lower economic growth, steeper inequality, distorted markets, spreading crime, deeper corruption, the hollowing-out of alternative economic sectors and more.

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Stop producing the stuff. It’s not hard. Stop using it.

Huge Rise In US Plastic Waste Shipments To Poor Countries After China Ban (G.)

Exports of plastic waste from the US to developing countries have surged following China’s crackdown on foreign waste imports, new research has shown. Nearly half of plastic waste exported from the US for recycling in the first six months of 2018 was shipped to Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, according to analysis of US census bureau data by Unearthed, Greenpeace’s investigative arm. The previous year, the US sent more than 70% to China and Hong Kong. This year’s ban on foreign waste imports by China, previously the world’s biggest importer of plastic waste for recycling, has left western countries scrambling to offload its extra plastic waste. The US, along with Britain, Germany, Japan and Mexico, is among the biggest exporters of scrap plastic to China.

Campaigners said the analysis, which Unearthed shared with the Guardian, shows the US is exploiting developing countries where there is no regulatory framework to ensure plastic waste is processed in an environmentally friendly way. “Instead of taking responsibility for their own waste, US companies are exploiting developing countries that lack the regulation to protect themselves,” said John Hocevar, Oceans campaign director for Greenpeace USA. The waste, some of which consists of household recycling produced in the US, includes single-use plastic bottles, plastic bags and food wrappings, said Hocevar. It can, however, contain toxic materials. “It’s a problem for the US and other developed countries to produce, often, toxic material which they can’t or won’t take care of themselves.”

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Sep 132018
 
 September 13, 2018  Posted by at 8:45 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Henri Matisse Landscape with a bench 1918

 

This Will Be The Mother Of All Minsky Moments (Mauldin)
Leaderless World Is Sleepwalking Into A Financial Crisis – Gordon Brown (G.)
UK PM May Calls Special Meeting To Discuss ‘No-Deal’ Brexit (CNBC)
EU Can ‘Certainly Not’ Accept Theresa May’s Single Market Plan – Juncker (Ind.)
Juncker Calls On EU To Seize Chance To Become Major Sovereign Power (G.)
Poland Says It Will Block Any EU Sanctions Against Hungary (R.)
Leaked Video Shows Distraught Google Execs Grappling With Hillary’s Loss (ZH)
John Kerry Accused Of Violating Logan Act In Secret Iran Talks (ZH)
US Destroyer Arrives In Mediterranean As Syria Tensions Rise (RT)
No NGO Rescue Boats Currently In Central Mediterranean (G.)
Two More Potential ‘Garbage Patch’ Zones In World’s Oceans Identified (Ind.)
Florence To Slow Down, Hammer Carolinas and Appalachia for Days (Weather.com)

 

 

The mother of all debt loads.

This Will Be The Mother Of All Minsky Moments (Mauldin)

Dr. Hyman Minsky points out that stability leads to instability. The more comfortable we get with a given condition or trend, the longer it will persist. And then when the trend fails, the more dramatic the correction. Long-term stability produces unstable financial arrangements. If we believe that tomorrow will be the same as last week, we are more willing to add debt or postpone savings in favor of current consumption. Thus, says Minsky, the longer the period of stability, the higher the potential risk for even greater instability when market participants must change their behavior.

[..] I think the mother of all Minsky moments is building. It will not be an instant sandpile collapse, but instead take years because we have $500 trillion of debt to work through. Remember, that debt just can’t be pooped away. It is both money somebody owes and an asset on somebody else’s balance sheet. We can’t just take that away without huge consequences to culture and society.

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All these people responsible for the last crisis are now advising on what to do with the next one.

Leaderless World Is Sleepwalking Into A Financial Crisis – Gordon Brown (G.)

“It is very difficult to say what will trigger it [the next crisis] but we are at the latter end of the economic cycle where people take greater risks. There are problems in emerging markets.” Brown said one area of concern should be heavy commercial and industrial lending by lightly or unregulated shadow banks at a time when US interest rates are rising. “It could arise in Asia because of the amount of lending through the shadow banking system.” He added: “In an interconnected world there is an escalation of risks. We have had a decade of stagnation and we are now about to have a decade of vulnerability.”

Recalling the freezing up of the financial markets a decade ago, Brown said governments had sought to compensate for the lack of trust between banks by cooperating more closely. “In the next crisis a breakdown of trust in the financial sector would be mirrored by breakdown in trust between governments. There wouldn’t be the same willingness to cooperate but rather a tendency to blame each other for what’s gone wrong.

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Waking up at last?

UK PM May Calls Special Meeting To Discuss ‘No-Deal’ Brexit (CNBC)

The U.K. government is set to meet Thursday morning for three-hours to discuss the eventuality of a “no-deal” Brexit. The meeting takes place at a time when the government is also releasing more than 20 documents, outlining some more preparations in case the U.K. leaves the European Union in March 2019 without a deal. This is not the first set of papers outlining what will happen in case the U.K. and the EU do not reach a deal. In late August, the U.K. government said that businesses should prepare for higher barriers to trade, more red tape and potentially higher costs too, if Brexit talks collapse.

All these steps are part of a wider attempt to step up works for the worst-case scenario. The EU has also strengthened its preparations in case the U.K. leaves the bloc abruptly. The U.K.’s Brexit chief, Dominic Raab, warned on Wednesday that the U.K. will not pay the so-called divorce bill, if there is no final deal over Brexit. Raab wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the £39 billion ($50.82 billion) the U.K. owes to the EU, due to previous policy agreements, will not be repaid if there is no deal.

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We know.

EU Can ‘Certainly Not’ Accept Theresa May’s Single Market Plan – Juncker (Ind.)

Jean-Claude Juncker has given his clearest signal yet that the EU will not accept Theresa May’s plan to keep Britain in the single market for goods after Brexit. In his annual state of the union address in Strasbourg, the European Commission president said parts of the single market could “certainly not” be jettisoned for countries outside the bloc. But he said the Chequers proposals could be a “starting point” for the future relationship and that Britain would “never be an ordinary” country for the EU. “We respect the British decision to leave our union, even though we continue to regret it deeply,” he told MEPs. “But we also ask the British government to understand that someone who leaves the union cannot be in the same privileged position as a member state.

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Bigger is better?!

Juncker Calls On EU To Seize Chance To Become Major Sovereign Power (G.)

In his state of the union speech, titled The Hour of European Sovereignty, the European commission president appealed to MEPs and heads of government to give the EU the powers and characteristics traditionally restricted to states. Explaining his expansive vision, Juncker said the EU should aim to surpass the dominance of the dollar in the world economy and challenge China in its attempts to become the ascendant influence in Africa. The EU should be “a global player” as well as a “global payer”, Juncker said, with foreign policy decisions made on the basis of a qualified majority vote in which the will of 55% of member states would win the day.

Through trade deals, the EU’s standards and labour conditions were being exported across the world, he said, and it was time for the continent to further use its “clout” to mould the future. “The geopolitical situation makes this Europe’s hour: the time for European sovereignty has come,” Juncker told the European parliament in Strasbourg. “It is time Europe took its destiny into its own hands. It is time Europe developed what I coined Weltpolitikfähigkeit – the capacity to play a role, as a union, in shaping global affairs. Europe has to become a more sovereign actor in international relations.”

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A crumbling fortress.

Poland Says It Will Block Any EU Sanctions Against Hungary (R.)

Poland, the biggest former communist country in the European Union, said it will oppose any sanctions imposed by the bloc on fellow member Hungary, accused of floating EU rules on democracy. “Every country has its sovereign right to make internal reforms it deems appropriate,” Poland’s foreign ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday. “Actions aimed against member states serve only deepening divides in the EU, increasing citizens’ current lack of confidence to European institutions.” The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to sanction Hungary for neglecting norms on democracy, civil rights and corruption in a first bid to launch the punitive process of the EU treaty’s Article 7.

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AI to save their day?

Leaked Video Shows Distraught Google Execs Grappling With Hillary’s Loss (ZH)

Days after Google was exposed trying to help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 election, a leaked “internal only” video published by Breitbart Senior Tech correspondent Allum Bokhari reveals a panel of Google executives who are absolutely beside themselves following Hillary Clinton’s historic loss. The video is a full recording of Google’s first all-hands meeting following the 2016 election (these weekly meetings are known inside the company as “TGIF” or “Thank God It’s Friday” meetings). Sent to Breitbart News by an anonymous source, it features co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, VPs Kent Walker and Eileen Naughton, CFO Ruth Porat, and CEO Sundar Pichai. -Breitbart

In the video, Brin can be heard comparing Trump supporters to fascists and extremists – arguing that like other extremists, Trump voters suffered from “boredom” which has, he claims, historically led to fascism and communism. He then asks his company what they can do to ensure a “better quality of governance and decision-making.” And according to Kent Walker, VP for Global Affairs, those who support populist causes like the MAGA movement are motivated by “fear, xenophobia, hatred and a desire for answers that may or may not be there.” He later says that Google needs to fight to ensure that populist movements around the world are merely a “blip” and a “hiccup” in the arc of history that “bends towards progress.”

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A dark-grey area at best.

John Kerry Accused Of Violating Logan Act In Secret Iran Talks (ZH)

Though he previously denied it when allegations first surfaced last Spring, former Secretary of State John Kerry has now disclosed he’s personally had semi-frequent face to face contact with top Iranian officials to discuss US-Iran relations since Trump entered office. Kerry confirmed and explained in detail his recent meetings with Iranian Former Minister Javad Zarif in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt to promote his new memoir, Every Day Is Extra.

During the interview Kerry disclosed that he met with Zarif “three or four times” and discussed political issues and challenges between the United States and Iran in what could constitute a significant and clear violation of the Logan Act. Though it’s almost never been enforced, the 1799 Logan Act states that unauthorized diplomacy with foreign powers by private American citizens is a crime. Notably, two Trump-connected individuals that prominent Liberals and editorials demanded be prosecuted under the Logan Act include former national security advisor Michael Flynn and Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

When asked point blank during the radio show about his rumored meetings with top Iran officials, Kerry admitted, “I think I’ve seen him three or four times,” but attempted to claim he was not trying to “coach” Iran on how to navigate President Trump’s pullout of the Iran nuclear deal. Kerry is of course now a private citizen out of government but holds significant clout and influence with the Iran FM as the two hammered out the details of the JCPOA brokered under President Obama in the first place.

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I wouldn’t be too sure Russia will back down again.

US Destroyer Arrives In Mediterranean As Syria Tensions Rise (RT)

With the arrival of another guided missile destroyer to the Mediterranean, the US may have 200 ‘Tomahawks’ ready for a strike on Syria, as Russia warns that jihadist groups in Idlib are planning a fake chemical attack. The USS Bulkeley (DDG-84), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, entered the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar on Wednesday, the Russian news agency Interfax reported citing international maritime monitoring data. A Gibraltar-watcher confirmed the destroyer’s transit on September 12.

With the arrival of the Bulkeley, the US forces in the region have up to 200 ‘Tomahawk’ cruise missiles available to strike targets in Syria if ordered to do so, Interfax reported. Last week, the attack submarine USS Newport News (SSN-750) arrived in the Mediterranean as well. Last week, Russia conducted massive naval maneuvers off the Syrian coast, culminating in marine landing drills and missile launches. The presence of Russian ships in the area was seen as a possible deterrent to further US military action against Syria.

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If a tree falls in a forest…

No NGO Rescue Boats Currently In Central Mediterranean (G.)

Thousands of migrants risk dying at sea because of a clampdown on NGO rescue ships, aid agencies have warned, in what has been their longest period of absence from the central Mediterranean since they began operating in late 2015. Since 26 August, no NGO rescue vessel has operated on the main migration routes between north Africa and southern Europe. Anti-immigration policies by the Maltese and Italian governments, which have closed their ports to the vessels, have driven the sharp decrease in rescue missions. People seeking asylum are still attempting the risky crossing – but without the boats, shipwrecks are likely to rise dramatically.

The last time the Mediterranean was without NGO rescue boats was from 28 June to 8 July 2018, and in those days more than 300 migrants died at sea. The death toll has fallen in the past year, but the number of those drowning as a proportion of arrivals in Italy has risen sharply in the past few months, with the possibility of dying during the crossing now three times higher.

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When we create truly lasting legacies.

Two More Potential ‘Garbage Patch’ Zones In World’s Oceans Identified (Ind.)

Much attention has focus on the plastic floating on the surface, but this accounts for less than 1 per cent of the total plastic thought to be in ocean. To trace the likely fate of the remaining 99 per cent, scientists at Newcastle University used computer models and identified two likely locations for accumulation zones that had previously slipped under the radar. The Gulf of Guinea region and the East Siberian Sea may be hosting large quantities of plastic that cannot be easily viewed from the water surface, as up to 70 per cent of plastic debris is thought to sink and remain on the sea floor.

“There’s a need to find the unaccounted for plastic in the ocean mainly because if we don’t know the extent of the problem, then there’s no way of knowing the potential implications it has,” explained Alethea Mountford, a PhD Student at Newcastle University who led the study. “Once the plastics reach the water column, the greatest impact would be on marine organisms through ingestion and entanglement,” she said.

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A lot of storms. Mangkhut is about to hit the Philippines.

Florence To Slow Down, Hammer Carolinas and Appalachia for Days (Weather.com)

Hurricane Florence continues to expand in size. Hurricane-force winds now extend outward up to 80 miles the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles from the center. This expansion in size only increases the hurricane’s energy and potential for significant storm surge. The National Hurricane Center noted Wednesday evening that while Florence has weakened some, “the wind field of the hurricane continues to grow in size. This evolution will produce storm surges similar to that of a more intense, but smaller, hurricane, and thus the storm surge values seen in the previous advisory are still valid.” Previous large Category 2 hurricanes have done enormous amounts of damage along the U.S. coast.

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Sarah Kendzior tweets:

The best workaround I’ve found to Twitter’s horrible new algorithm is putting this in the search bar:

filter:follows -filter:replies include:nativeretweets

You will get your old chronological timeline back with no “likes” and with retweets from people you actually follow.