Aug 012021
 
 August 1, 2021  Posted by at 9:10 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  51 Responses »


Ivan Aivazovsky Lac Maggiore 1892

 

Two Weeks (Denninger)
Vaccinated And Unvaccinated Individuals Have Similar Viral Loads (Medrxiv)
US Reports Almost 200,000 New Covid Cases In Worst Spike Since January (F.)
Why Are Globalists, Governments So Desperate For 100% Vaccination Rates? (AM)
Twitter Suspends Berenson For Postsing Results Of Pfizer Clinical Test (Turley)
Vaccine Mandates May Be Coming – But Will They Be Legal? (Turley)
French Protests Grow Against Extended Health Pass Scheme (R.)
Rare Earth Metals Have Become A Thorn In The Side Of The Green Agenda (RT)
CDC Still Baffled People Are Paying Attention To Them (BBee)

 

 

 

 

Delta Variant: They have NO idea what COVID variant anyone has unless they take a sample, grow the virus in a suitable cell line, and go through the sequencing process to find out what amino acids mutations have happened. Are they doing that in every patient across the world?

 

 

Must see.

Don’t Get Jabbed : JRickey Productions Studio


 

 

Vaccine Truth
@VaccineTruth2 – We think over 500K may have died from the vaccines in the first 6 months of 2021. But there isn’t an excess death bump in the weekly CDC data. But there is a bump in mortician data. So someone isn’t telling the truth. Can anyone help us confirm the anecdote below?

 

 

 

 

Sounds about right. In Britain they already have no idea what to say about falling numbers.

Except for: it’s the vaccines!. But we know it’s not.

Two Weeks (Denninger)

That’s about all their scheme has left, which is why the screaming and threats now. Note that I got jailed by Twatter for wishing that organizations mandating jabs go broke and starve when, in point of fact, they were advancing the very same thing toward their staff: Take a drug or be fired, go broke and starve. Why is this option for them about to expire? They’re about to get lynched and they know it. In another dispiriting setback for the nation’s efforts to stamp out the coronavirus, scientists who studied a big COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts concluded that vaccinated people who got so-called breakthrough infections carried about the same amount of the coronavirus as those who did not get the shots. The problem here is profound: The public was sold on these jabs as a solution; you will neither get seriously ill nor will you spread the virus to others if you get a “breakthrough”, therefore if you take the jab you get your life back.

[..] I was asked for evidence when my daughter started kindergarten that her “childhood” series was done, but never again. Not once. Now is it possible that the school had some “back door” access? Maybe. But never was I specifically asked to provide it beyond original enrollment for kindergarten. Never. It would have been stupid, however, for me not to have her get those shots. Why? Because there I can (and did) look at the data and it was trivially obvious that (1) the protection from them was durable, lasting decades if not life-long, (2) the disease(s) in question were in fact truly dangerous to healthy people and (3) the risk of a bad outcome from the jabs were trivially small. That makes the decision easy and you have to be somewhere off into crazyland to have a serious debate otherwise.

We can debate on the sequencing and timing, but not on a serious statistical level as to the rest. I argued before the first jab went into the first arm that none of this was true for this specific jab. There simply was no data to support the first point; three months is not enough time to determine durability and no amount of arm-waving can change that. The disease, by that time, was proved to be of trivial to statistically zero risk when it comes to healthy individuals, especially young healthy individuals, and there are effective and immediate treatments you can choose to use if infected (despite the screaming of many.) And third, the risk of adverse outcomes from the jabs was wildly higher, by several hundred times, that of other commonly used vaccines and this was with active interference in reporting the adverse effect rate.

Those who point to “flu shot mandates” in certain occupations are lying about their effectiveness too. We know that the morbidity and mortality profile from influenza has not been materially altered with the widespread use of flu vaccines. Yes, the CDC claims otherwise, but systemic review has repeatedly found confidence intervals that cross null. Cherry-picking results when statistical significance is not demonstrated with a strong “p” value is fraud. In other words the “mandates”, which in other than health-care workers are all “soft” and always have been (recommendations rather than actual mandates) all stand on the basis that statistically-speaking the flu shot has a vanishingly small risk of doing harm; therefore you can argue that since it’s almost never dangerous there’s no argument against it. That’s very different, however, than making an argument for it.

Finally, the history of attempting coronavirus vaccination is that it never works. We have tried before in both men and beast. We’ve never succeeded. Coronaviruses are notorious for both evading vaccination attempts and with their vaccine candidates being non-sterilizing, which in all viruses put evolutionary pressure on them and result in mutations that evade the protection. The problem with viruses in this regard is that their replication is exponential; while mutational evasion of protection for bacteria with antibiotics typically takes years or even decades to occur because bacteria replicate in a binary fashion, that is 1 becomes 2, which becomes 4 and so on with viruses 1 becomes 1,000 and if that one winds up in recombination due to cross-infection with something else at the same time then while the odds of a productive mutation are no higher than they are with any other the outcome when you get a productive mutation is much more-likely to result in escape and transmission because the replication factor is so large.

Read more …

Vaccines are useless.

Vaccinated And Unvaccinated Individuals Have Similar Viral Loads (Medrxiv)

SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.617.2 (delta) is associated with higher viral loads [1] and increased transmissibility relative to other variants, as well as partial escape from polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies [2]. The emergence of the delta variant has been associated with increasing case counts and test-positivity rates, indicative of rapid community spread. Since early July 2021, SARS-CoV-2 cases in the United States have increased coincident with delta SARS-CoV-2 becoming the predominant lineage nationwide [3]. Understanding how and why the virus is spreading in settings where there is high vaccine coverage has important public health implications.

It is particularly important to assess whether vaccinated individuals who become infected can transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others. In Wisconsin, a large local contract laboratory provides SARS-CoV-2 testing for multiple local health departments, providing a single standard source of data using the same assay to measure virus burdens in test-positive cases. This includes providing high-volume testing in Dane County, a county with extremely high vaccine coverage. These PCR-based tests provide semi-quantitative information about the viral load, or amount of SARS-CoV-2 RNA, in respiratory specimens.

Here we use this viral load data to compare the amount of SARS-CoV-2 present in test-positive specimens from people who self-report their vaccine status and date of final immunization, during a period in which the delta variant became the predominant circulating variant in Wisconsin. We find no difference in viral loads when comparing unvaccinated individuals to those who have vaccine “breakthrough” infections. Furthermore, individuals with vaccine breakthrough infections frequently test positive with viral loads consistent with the ability to shed infectious viruses. Our results, while preliminary, suggest that if vaccinated individuals become infected with the delta variant, they may be sources of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to others.

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Worldometer reported fewer than 100,000 cases on the same day. And newsnodes.com has 59,000. Cui bono?

US Reports Almost 200,000 New Covid Cases In Worst Spike Since January (F.)

There were 194,608 new Covid cases reported around the U.S. on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University, bringing the seven-day rolling average for new cases above 103,000, the highest it’s been since Feb. 7. More than 48,000 people are now hospitalized with Covid in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which remains well below the more than 130,000 who were hospitalized during January’s record peak. The seven-day rolling average for deaths is around 300, according to the New York Times, up from an average of 175 deaths a day earlier this month.

A number of counties and cities across the U.S. have reversed course after easing restrictions earlier in the pandemic, with several reinstating mask mandates, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control urged people in places with high transmission rates to wear masks in public indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status, which could lead to more mask mandates. President Joe Biden announced Thursday that his administration will require all federal workers, contractors and members of the military to get vaccinated against coronavirus or submit to frequent testing — a precedent that could add to the momentum for vaccine mandates at private companies and the local government level.

The highly contagious delta variant is now responsible for nearly all Covid-19 cases in the U.S., leading to what public health officials have called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” But while the vast majority of those being hospitalized and dying from Covid-19 are unvaccinated, concerns are growing over how easily the fully vaccinated might unwittingly spread the virus. A CDC study released Friday found that 74% of cases in a recent outbreak of the delta variant in Massachusetts were among vaccinated people, and they had viral loads as high as unvaccinated people who were infected. The study was a factor in the CDC’s tightening of its masking guidelines.

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I’m not buying into the scary Great Reset thing. They may have the money, but they ain’t got the brains.

Why Are Globalists, Governments So Desperate For 100% Vaccination Rates? (AM)

My concern is that Klaus Schwab’s reset agenda is impossible to enforce in a permanent way unless the human population is greatly reduced over a short period of time (a generation or two). Globalists are constantly talking about population control and reduction. Elites like Bill Gates are famous for it. Is it any wonder that they would devise a plan to institute it? What if, as many experts have suggested, the vaccine side effects create this condition of a diminishing population? What if they are meant to? We will not know for certain for a couple of years at least as autoimmune disorders and infertility take time to become visible in a population. The average timeline for actually diagnosing an autoimmune disorder is 4.5 years. Infertility can take six months to a year to diagnose.

If a large population of millions of people remain unvaccinated after the next couple of years, then they will represent a sizable and undeniable control group. A control group is a group of subjects that act as a pure sample untouched by a drug or vaccine experiment. If the vaccinated group becomes ill or dies from specific conditions and the control group does not have those same conditions, then that is a pretty good sign that your vaccine or drug is poison. The 50% of Americans and smaller percentages in other nations are a control group for the experimental vaccines. If something goes wrong with the vaccines, then we will be the proof. I suspect this is what the elites are really afraid of.

They have to force us to be vaccinated as well – ALL of us, so that there is no control group and thus no proof os what they have done. They could simply blame mass health disorders on covid itself, or some other false culprit. If the vaccines are a Trojan horse that causes widespread illness or infertility, and the globalists get caught because a control group exists, then it will mean outright rebellion along with ropes and lampposts for them. Their “Great Reset” will fall apart. To be sure, this might happen anyway. Vaccine passports are the line in the sand for most people. We are even seeing extensive protests and riots in places like Italy, France, UK and Australia over the draconian passport scheme. The US, though, is where the biggest fight will take place, in my opinion.

We have an armed population, millions upon millions of trained combat veterans and civilians, a military with around 70% conservatives and independents and a historical understanding of asymmetric warfare. As we have seen in places like Afghanistan, tanks, jets, missiles and drones are no guarantee of victory against a guerrilla force. Vaccine passports are not going to happen here. We simply won’t allow it.

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Some things take more than a purely legal view.

Twitter Suspends Berenson For Postsing Results Of Pfizer Clinical Test (Turley)

Just yesterday, we discussed the censoring of a commentator by Twitter for merely expressing an opinion over the need for a “pause” on any federal mandates on Covid-19 as new research is studied. Now, a former New York Times science reporter, Alex Berenson, has been suspended for simply quoting the results from a clinical trial by Pfizer and raising questions over any vaccine mandate. In the meantime, the White House accused both the Washington Post and New York Times of irresponsible reporting on Covid, but surprisingly Twitter has not suspended those accounts. It is the license of the censor. Twitter is unwilling to let people read or discuss viewpoints that it disagrees with as a corporation. Many on the left, however, have embraced the concept of corporate speech and censorship.

It turns out that the problem with censorship for many was the failure to censor views that they opposed. With the “right” censors at work, the free speech concerns have been set aside. I have little ability to judge the science on such questions. However, I welcome the debate. Yet, rather than answer such critics and refute their arguments, many people focus on silencing anyone with dissenting viewpoints like Berenson. Berenson has been effectively confined to Substack by Big Tech due to his discussing dissenting views on the science surrounding Covid-19. His latest offense against Big Tech came when he posted the results published by Pfizer of its own clinical data. He claimed that the research showed little difference in morality between those in the trial with a vaccine and those given a placebo.

[..] Now all three posters (Berenson, The Post, and The Times) were citing studies and accused on not putting them into context. However, only Berenson was suspended. Obviously, none of these posters should be suspended and Twitter should not be enforcing one of the largest censorship programs in history. However, the silence of free speech supports, academics, and journalists to this hypocrisy is deafening. The rise of corporate censors has combined with a heavily pro-Biden media to create the fear of a de facto state media that controls information due to a shared ideology rather than state coercion. That concern has been magnified by demands from Democratic leaders for increased censorship, including censoring political speech, and now word that the Biden Administration has routinely been flagging material to be censored by Facebook.

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No, but there’ll always be a judge who says they are.

Vaccine Mandates May Be Coming – But Will They Be Legal? (Turley)

There clearly are good reasons why many companies and schools demand vaccinations to rejoin workplaces or classrooms. As expected, those rules have been upheld, including a recent favorable ruling for Indiana University. More concerning are those calls to use mandates to make life miserable for anyone who still has doubts. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told her citizens that they will have fewer “freedoms” until they consent. Some in the media have echoed these calls, and some private organizations are following the same strategy. The NFL, for example, has been openly making life “a living hell” for NFL players who prefer to be tested but not vaccinated.

For the most part, the motivation behind government and private mandates are hard to litigate. Courts tend to defer to measures ostensibly protecting others from risk of illness; even in criminal cases, the government has been allowed to conduct “pretextual traffic stops” if it can cite an objective basis. There may be new legal challenges ahead, however. First, those with religious or medical concerns can challenge mandated vaccination programs. CNN’s Don Lemon this week called for barring unvaccinated people from offices and businesses, insisting “It has nothing to do with liberty. You don’t have the freedom and the liberty to put other people in jeopardy.” In truth, there are constitutional questions when you force people to take medications or vaccinations that violate their religious beliefs or that fail to satisfy a rational basis.

States also are moving to counter private mandates or to bar mandatory masking rules; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) just signed an executive order allowing parents to ignore masking orders for their children in the state’s public schools. That could force the hand of the Biden administration on implementing federal mandates or executive orders — a conflict that would raise core federalism issues. The federal government is on shaky ground in mandating hood behavior or inactivity. In 2012 in NFIB v. Sebelius, Chief Justice John Roberts declared that “Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority.”

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Hot August for Macron.

French Protests Grow Against Extended Health Pass Scheme (R.)

Thousands of people have protested in Paris and other French cities over a mandatory coronavirus health pass for entry to many public venues, introduced by the government as it battles a fourth wave of infections. Protesters injured three police officers in Paris, a police spokesperson said. The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said on Twitter that 19 demonstrators were arrested, including 10 in Paris. It was the third weekend in a row that people opposed to President Emmanuel Macron’s new Covid-19 measures have taken to the streets. The number of demonstrators has grown steadily since the start of the protests, echoing the “yellow vest” movement that started in late 2018 against fuel taxes and the cost of living.


An interior ministry official said 204,090 had demonstrated across France, including 14,250 in Paris. This is about 40,000 more than last week. “We’re creating a segregated society and I think it is unbelievable to be doing this in the country of human rights,” said Anne, a teacher who was demonstrating in Paris. She declined to give her last name. “So I took to the streets; I have never protested before in my life,” she added. “I think our freedom is in danger.” Visitors going to museums, cinemas or swimming pools are already denied entry if they cannot produce the health pass showing they have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or have had a recent negative test. Parliament approved a new law this week that will make vaccinations mandatory for health workers and extend the health pass requirement to bars, restaurants, trade shows, trains and hospitals.

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No, they’ll destroy the entire agenda. Green equals dumb these days.

Rare Earth Metals Have Become A Thorn In The Side Of The Green Agenda (RT)

Many regions, including within the EU, do indeed have an abundance of these resources. However, they either lack the expertise in extraction and processing, or perhaps more wisely, lack the willingness to destroy and blacken their landscape and poison their citizens. And that brings us to the highly ironic price of the proposed ‘green initiative’ – that of extreme pollution and abject environmental disaster. There are many highly toxic derivatives that come from the extraction and processing of these metals. It is highly disruptive to ecosystems, while releasing hazardous acidic and radioactive by-products into the atmosphere and the water table.

Rare earth ore often contains radioactive thorium, but in order to process, the metal requires an even deadlier cocktail of toxins. Processing a single ton produces 2,000 tons of toxic waste. In Baotou, there is now the world’s largest mine tailings pond. It is a vast death-lake of poisonous, grey, slime, and for 20 years it has been leaking its toxic contents into the groundwater supply. In Bayan Obo, where the Baotou rare earths are processed, sheep grow abnormally (they grow extra rows of teeth, are unable to close their mouths and their wool is ugly). Crops wither and the drinking water has a horrid smell which blackens gums and teeth. Locals die from cancer at an inordinate rate. The mine itself is a massive, apocalyptic black crater – much larger than the lonely nearby apartment block – 1,000 metres deep and spanning 48 sq km. It is a landscape of smoky smelters and dark, lifeless, mud.

China has introduced new, stricter environmental regulatory policies as of late, and is showing signs of simply becoming sick of poisoning its own land and people in pursuit of these minerals. It has attempted to outsource its own production to corporate-colony-mines in Africa, where no doubt – if successful – invaluable rare wildlife already nearing extinction can look forward to poisoned water, radioactive waste, and smoke-stack horizons. Looking at the rare-earth metals situation brings up many tricky and politically unwelcome questions about our supposed low-carbon future. How will we handle waste water for that level of demand? Who exactly will be willing to poison themselves and their land, at the lowest prices going? How can a limited mineral resource be considered a sustainable solution? And how can it be considered environmental when it is one of the most polluting processes imaginable?

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“The CDC is a group of bureaucrats used to working a 9-to-5 job of complete pointlessnes..”

CDC Still Baffled People Are Paying Attention To Them (BBee)

The CDC has once again changed course, recommending that people wear masks indoors, even those who have received the COVID-19 vaccination. Many people have reacted angrily to this decision—greatly confusing the CDC, which is used to being completely ignored. “This whole pandemic has been bizarre for us,” said CDC spokesman Dexter Park. “Normally, we put out recommendations like only cook a steak well-done and only fry eggs over-hard, and people don’t even pay enough attention to make fun of us, so people acting like what we say during the pandemic matters is really confusing.”


The CDC is a group of bureaucrats used to working a 9-to-5 job of complete pointlessness, making lists of recommendations that are fated to be crumpled up and thrown in a wastepaper basket. Thus, the pandemic turning them into experts whose opinions matter has caught them completely by surprise. “People keep saying our suggestions on masking are dumb and make no sense,” said CDC regulator Lyle Howell. “But that’s all of our suggestions on everything. We have to keep making recommendations, though, to justify our existence and get a budget. But no one listens to them—not even us. So can’t you all just go back to ignoring us and stop yelling at us? I’m just here until I get my pension.”

Read more …

 

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Bill Maher

 

 

Children
https://twitter.com/i/status/1421239009334923275

Tucker children Kansas

 

 

 

 

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Feb 282021
 
 February 28, 2021  Posted by at 10:21 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  35 Responses »


Dome ceiling at the Ambassadors’ Hall in the Royal Alcazar of Seville, Spain 1427 (click to enlarge)

 

Vaccine Passports Are A Technical And Ethical Minefield (FT)
I’ve Had The Covid Jab – And All It Cost Me Was My Freedom (Hitchens )
First Vaccine To Fully Immunize Against Malaria Builds On RNA Tech (AT)
Czech Leader Asks Putin For Sputnik V Vaccine Without EU Certification (RT)
Biden Says US Will ‘Never’ Accept Russia’s Annexation of Crimea (Antiwar)
Putin, Crusaders, & Barbarians (Escobar)
Second Former Aide Accuses Gov. Andrew Cuomo Of Sexual Harassment (NYP)
The Danger of the Administrative State (AIER)
Can The US Become Self-Sufficient In Rare Earth Materials Again? (F.)
India Targets Climate Activists With the Help of Big Tech (Naomi Klein)
Why Bill Gates Is Now The US Biggest Farmland Owner (NYP)
Unmasking Bitcoin Inventor May Send Cryptomarket Into Tailspin – Coinbase (RT)

 

 

 

 

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.
– Virginia Woolf

 

 

Promising title, missed opportunity.

Vaccine Passports Are A Technical And Ethical Minefield (FT)

Vaccine passports are essentially certificates that link proof of vaccination to the identity of the holder, a potential silver bullet to return to our pre-Covid-19 lives. Before the pandemic, the EU was working on plans for cross-border electronic certificates to replace the paper booklets that many travellers carry. At this week’s EU summit some leaders pressed for further steps towards coronavirus passports. A recent Royal Society report that I led came up with 12 different criteria that would need to be satisfied to make such passports feasible. This is a complex ecosystem that requires an understanding of everything from immunity and infection to technology, ethics and behavioural factors. But the underlying question must be: what would a vaccine passport be used for?

The head of Heathrow airport has called for digital health certificates to reboot international travel. Estonia and Iceland already link e-vaccination certificates to travel and exclusion from quarantine. Greece is pressing the EU to move quickly. There are precedents such as the airline industry group Iata’s travel pass initiative. But would these certificates only be required for international travel or could they be needed for getting a job, attending a football match, or buying some milk? Israel recently introduced a green pass heralded as “the first step back to an almost normal life”. It opens entry to gyms, cinemas, hotels and meets some our technical criteria such as verifiable credentials, portability, (attempts at) security for personal data and interoperability. It is valid for six months after a second dose and for “those who have recovered from coronavirus”.

But this could be problematic. Current vaccines protect against severe disease, but we do not yet know whether they stop transmission, how quickly immunity wanes or if they are compromised by emerging variants. Whether someone who has “recovered” meets immunity criteria remains a question. In addition to an expiry date, we would need the ability to revoke a vaccine passport. Israel’s warning of severe punishment for forgery is another reminder of what could go wrong. There is also the question of mission creep. Recall the UK’s early digital contact tracing app, which raised concerns about privacy, government surveillance and private sector data sharing. Or consider the technical problems with the Tawakkalna app, introduced in Saudi Arabia, which is used for entry into many places but recently froze.

All vaccine passports have the potential to block people from essential goods and services and exclude those who lack identification or do not own or cannot afford a smartphone. The RS criteria for a workable vaccine passport included equity, ethics and non-discrimination. That means we must ask who would we exclude? There is higher vaccine hesitancy among ethnic minorities and the jabs are being rolled out by age. Plus some people are excluded entirely: children, pregnant women and those with allergies.

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Using popular writers to soften resistance? “I’d tried to fight against it but I lost.”?

I’ve Had The Covid Jab – And All It Cost Me Was My Freedom (Peter Hitchens)

So sorry, Your Majesty, but I have had my first Covid vaccination for wholly selfish reasons. I did not do it for the good of others but for my own convenience. And I will have my second for the same purpose. A very important part of my family now lives abroad and I am deeply tired of not being able to see them. I get the strong sense that any sort of travel, and plenty of other things, will be impossible if I don’t have the necessary vaccine certificate. I hope it becomes known as the Blair Passport – as it is largely the warmongering Creature’s idea and people will come to hate it, as they have come to hate so many of his actions. So I have been more or less forced to have an immunisation I would not normally have bothered with.

Don’t, if you are wise, dare call me an ‘anti-vaxxer’. I have, in a long life, been injected against tetanus, smallpox, TB, polio, diphtheria and yellow fever. I’m a fiend for preventive medicine and the precautions I take when I’m in malarial areas are so elaborate my companions laugh at them – from swallowing horrible protective medicines to blasting my hotel room with ultra-strength death sprays to exterminate any possible mosquitoes. These are all terrible diseases and I think it’s wise to do this. And if you think Covid is as dangerous as them, I certainly don’t want to put you off the jab. Indeed, I don’t want to put you off in any way. It’s your business, not mine, and not even the Queen’s. I dislike her growing habit of getting involved in politics and I’d feel the same if she supported any cause I liked.

Of course my selfish injection didn’t hurt. I’m a blood donor (so also please don’t call me selfish), used to far bigger needles in my arm, for a lot longer. But I did feel a pang of regret and loss. For me, the vaccination was a gloomy submission to a new world of excessive safety and regulation. I’d tried to fight against it but I lost. The New Jerusalem, in which we allow the state to boss us around even more, in the name of our own good, is now coming into being.

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Now test it properly. Yes, that takes years, we know.

First Vaccine To Fully Immunize Against Malaria Builds On RNA Tech (AT)

Consistently ranked as one of the leading causes of death around the world, malaria doesn’t have an effective vaccine yet. But researchers have invented a promising new blueprint for one — with properties akin to the novel RNA-based vaccine for COVID-19. Making a vaccine for malaria is challenging because its associated parasite, Plasmodium, contains a protein that inhibits production of memory T-cells, which protect against previously encountered pathogens.

If the body can’t generate these cells, a vaccine is ineffective. But scientists recently tried a new approach using an RNA-based platform. Their design circumvented the sneaky protein, allowed the body to produce the needed T-cells and completely immunized against malaria. The patent application for their novel vaccine, which hasn’t yet been tested on humans, was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Feb. 4. “It’s probably the highest level of protection that has been seen in a mouse model,” said Richard Bucala, co-inventor of the new vaccine and a physician and professor at Yale School of Medicine.

The team’s breakthrough could save hundreds of thousands of lives, particularly in developing nations. In 2019 alone, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria and 409,000 deaths worldwide. Of those deaths, 94% were in Africa, with children being the most vulnerable. “It affects societies and populations that have the least amount of resources and expertise to manage these infections well,” Bucala told The Academic Times. “We need new vaccines, and we need more tools.” Novartis Pharmaceuticals and the National Institutes of Health funded the work. GlaxoSmithKline is an assignee on the patent, which if approved, will allow the company to produce the vaccine and make it available to the public.

At present, the only vaccine to prevent malaria is called RTS,S. Approved two years ago, this vaccine is the result of nearly two decades of research, but is only about 30% effective. And after four years, that figure drops to 15%.“It doesn’t work very well,” Bucala said. “And the research studies all have the conclusion that the people who fail to mount a vaccine response, or who get reinfected, have poor memory T-cell responses.”

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“According to data from Johns Hopkins University, its death rate per 100,000 people is currently the worst in the world.”

Czech Leader Asks Putin For Sputnik V Vaccine Without EU Certification (RT)

Czech President Milos Zeman says he has sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking for a Sputnik V vaccine shipment. Zeman said that Prague won’t insist on EU agency approval for use of the jab. Speaking to CNN Prima News on Saturday, Zeman revealed that the letter to the Russian leader was penned in agreement with the country’s PM Andrej Babis. The Czech leader said that he expects Putin to approve the request. “If I am properly informed, this request will be granted,” he told the channel. Zeman noted that the jab will need to be certified by the local regulator, the State Institute for Drug Control (SUKL), before the Russian vaccine can be rolled out. He added that its seal of approval will be “enough” to launch the vaccination campaign.

Zeman’s statement appears to run contrary to that of his top health official, Jan Blatny, who has been health minister since October, representing Babis’ pro-EU Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) populist party. Earlier this month, Blatny ruled out the possibility of the Czech Republic importing Sputnik V on his watch unless it is first greenlighted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Amid a spike in coronavirus infections, believed to be driven by a new, highly contagious variant, the Czech government extended a state of emergency on Friday, which will now run until March 28. Under the newly extended emergency, the authorities are expected to tighten curbs on the freedom of movement, including the imposition of bans on non-essential travel to other countries.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said the sweeping travel ban will be enforced by the military and the police. The restrictions will also see nurseries and schools for disabled children shut their doors, and people will be banned from leaving their municipalities other than for essential purposes. “We have to do it to prevent a total collapse of our hospitals,” Babis said on Friday, warning that if the lockdown is not properly enforced, “the whole world will watch Bergamo in the Czech Republic.” The country, with a population of 10.7 million, has reported some 1.2 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 20,000 fatalities from the virus. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, its death rate per 100,000 people is currently the worst in the world.

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It makes zero difference. You lost.

Biden Says US Will ‘Never’ Accept Russia’s Annexation of Crimea (Antiwar)

President Biden released a statement on Friday marking the seventh anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea where he said the US will “never” accept Russian sovereignty over the peninsula. “The United States continues to stand with Ukraine and its allies and partners today, as it has from the beginning of this conflict,” Biden said. “The United States does not and will never recognize Russia’s purported annexation of the peninsula, and we will stand with Ukraine against Russia’s aggressive acts.” Left out of Biden’s statement was the reason for the Russian annexation.


In 2014, the US-orchestrated a coup in Ukraine. The largely ethnic Russian population of Crimea rejected the new nationalist anti-Russian government in Kyiv that even had neo-nazis in its midst. Polls after the annexation show the majority of Crimeans were in favor of joining Russia. The Biden family benefited greatly from the coup. Shortly after the change in government, President Biden’s son Hunter landed a high-paying job on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company. President Biden tapped an architect of the Ukraine coup for a high-level position in the State Department. Victoria Nuland, the wife of neoconservative Robert Kagan, is the nominee to be the under secretary of state for political affairs.

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“Orthodox Christian, thus appealing to swaths of the West; consolidated as major Eurasian power; a military, hypersonic superpower; and boasting unrivaled diplomatic skills, appreciated all across the Global South.”

Putin, Crusaders, & Barbarians (Escobar)

Moscow is painfully aware that the US/NATO “strategy” of containment of Russia is already reaching fever pitch. Again. This past Wednesday, at a very important meeting with the Federal Security Service board, President Putin laid it all out in stark terms: “We are up against the so-called policy of containing Russia. This is not about competition, which is a natural thing for international relations. This is about a consistent and quite aggressive policy aimed at disrupting our development, slowing it down, creating problems along the outer perimeter, triggering domestic instability, undermining the values that unite Russian society, and ultimately to weaken Russia and put it under external control, just the way we are witnessing it transpire in some countries in the post-Soviet space.”

Not without a touch of wickedness, Putin added this was no exaggeration: “In fact, you don’t need to be convinced of this as you yourselves know it perfectly well, perhaps even better than anybody else.” The Kremlin is very much aware “containment” of Russia focuses on its perimeter: Ukraine, Georgia and Central Asia. And the ultimate target remains regime change. Putin’s remarks may also be interpreted as an indirect answer to a section of President Biden’s speech at the Munich Security Conference. According to Biden’s scriptwriters, “Putin seeks to weaken the European project and the NATO alliance because it is much easier for the Kremlin to intimidate individual countries than to negotiate with the united transatlantic community … The Russian authorities want others to think that our system is just as corrupt or even more corrupt.”

A clumsy, direct personal attack against the head of state of a major nuclear power does not exactly qualify as sophisticated diplomacy. At least it glaringly shows how trust between Washington and Moscow is now reduced to less than zero. As much as Biden’s Deep State handlers refuse to see Putin as a worthy negotiating partner, the Kremlin and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have already dismissed Washington as “non-agreement capable.” Once again, this is all about sovereignty. The “unfriendly attitude towards Russia,” as Putin defined it, extends to “other independent, sovereign centers of global development.” Read it as mainly China and Iran. All these three sovereign states happen to be categorized as top “threats” by the US National Security Strategy.

Yet Russia is the real nightmare for the Exceptionalists: Orthodox Christian, thus appealing to swaths of the West; consolidated as major Eurasian power; a military, hypersonic superpower; and boasting unrivaled diplomatic skills, appreciated all across the Global South. In contrast, there’s not much left for the deep state except endlessly demonizing both Russia and China to justify a Western military build-up, the “logic” inbuilt in a new strategic concept named NATO 2030: United for a New Era. The experts behind the concept hailed it as an “implicit” response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s declaring NATO “brain dead.” Well, at least the concept proves Macron was right.

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Your daily Cuomo drip drip.

Second Former Aide Accuses Gov. Andrew Cuomo Of Sexual Harassment (NYP)

A second woman has accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment, according to a new report. Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former aide to Cuomo, told The New York Times that the governor asked her inappropriate personal questions, told her he was open to relationships with women in their 20s, and left her feeling that he “wanted to sleep with me.” Bennett, who worked as an executive assistant and health-policy adviser, told the Times the interactions took place in the spring, as the coronavirus pandemic flared. Cuomo, 63, never made any physical advances, she said. Still, she described a June meeting in Cuomo’s Albany office, during which he griped about being lonely during the pandemic and whined he “can’t even hug anyone.”

Cuomo, 63, then pressed her: “Who did I last hug,” she said. She tried to dodge the question by saying she missed hugging her parents. “And he was, like, ‘No, I mean like really hugged somebody,’” she said. “I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And [I] was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.” Bennett, who grew up in Westchester County, is around the same age as Cuomo’s oldest daughters. She said she told the governor how she had once played soccer against one of his girls. When she told Cuomo in May of her experience as a sexual-assault survivor, he seemed fixated by the revelation, she said.

She told a friend via text message: “The way he was repeating, ‘You were raped and abused and attacked and assaulted and betrayed,’ over and over again while looking me directly in the eyes was something out of a horror movie,” according to the Times. “It was like he was testing me.” Cuomo told her he was lonely since his relationship celebrity chef Sandra Lee, his girlfriend of 14 years, ended in 2019. He stressed to her that Lee was “out of the picture,” and referred to “wanting a girlfriend, preferably in the Albany area.” “Age doesn’t matter,” he told her, as he asked about her feelings about age differences in relationships — a conversation she told a friend about at the time, in a text reviewed by the Times.

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It’s not just the state. Hospitals often have more managers and administrators than doctors and nurses.

The Danger of the Administrative State (AIER)

The chilling narrative about the growth of the administrative state, which is essentially the regulatory apparatus of the executive branch, is usually confined to specialist professions. The ever-present danger of a slowly expanding and unaccountable apparatus of bureaucrats that threatens to sap the life out of American society and drown it in a sea of paperwork is typically a concern that only keeps policy wonks and lawyers up at night. Although many lawyers probably celebrate this dystopian vision because they benefit from the compliance fees. The regulatory state not only threatens to make society that much slower and dreary with its excessive onslaught of regulation but it also makes us poorer. Robert Samuelson writes for the Washington Post that

“No one really knows by how much, but “there is ample evidence that regulation has expanded and that this expansion has limited economic growth,” as Ted Gayer and Philip Wallach of the Brookings Institution recently wrote. One study estimates that regulation has shaved 0.8 percent off the U.S. annual growth rate, which — if confirmed by other studies — would be huge.” The regulatory state refers to organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service, and all the other three-letter agencies in Washington, DC. If you would like to see how long the list of agencies is, take a look at the Federal Register, to which there are 455.

That number is absolutely mind-boggling and you don’t need a fancy degree in political science like I have to say that society can function without their oversight. A paper by Peter Strauss at Columbia Law School notes that there are currently over 2 million civilians employed in the federal government alone. He notes that for context, “The first Congress to meet once the Constitution was ratified created a Post Office and Departments of War, Navy, Foreign Affairs, and Treasury, each in unique ways suited to its responsibilities; this new government employed few civil servants to manage all its affairs. The first serious count of federal civilian employees, in 1816, reported that they numbered 4,837.”

The drastic expansion of the administrative state has come at a cost to not only our liberty, which is slowly being eroded by a sea of paperwork and regulations, but it also undermines our democracy. According to Article 1 of the Constitution, the legislative branch or Congress is supposed to be the primary law-making body of our government. That is because if there are bad laws or laws society doesn’t like, we can hold people accountable. However, more and more power has been shifted to the executive branch because of the growth of the administrative state. Even the judicial system is losing power to the administrative state after the establishment of a legal doctrine known as Chevron Deference, which binds the court system to defer to the administrative agency’s interpretation of a rule, not the Constitutional interpretation of a sitting judge.

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These things are dirty.

Can The US Become Self-Sufficient In Rare Earth Materials Again? (F.)

The extraction process involves crushing the ore and milling it into granules, followed by some range of mechanical separation processes which might involve using magnetic sorting, gravity separation, or floatation. This is then usually followed by acid leaching, baking, or a solvent extraction step. This is why we don’t like processing it in the U.S. – it creates toxic wastes which have to be dealt with. Sometimes you get radioactive elements with it, like radium and thorium in the waste streams, which makes it even worse. So when we export it to China for processing, we really are exporting a lot of pollution with it.

China is the largest provider in the world today. It has three major ore deposits in Inner Mongolia, Sichuan, and Shangdong Provinces, as well lower grade deposits mainly in Jianxi, Guangdong, Fujian, and Guanxi Provinces in which the rare earths are adsorbed onto the surface of clay minerals. Though these lower-grade “weathered crust elution deposits” have lower concentrations of the actual rare earth elements, they are easier to extract. Dissolving them in salt water or ammonium sulfate solutions, and then precipitating them out with oxalic acid or ammonium bicarbonate – inexpensive chemicals – does the trick. It is a much less expensive process than extracting from ores, which has given Chinese producers a significant cost advantage.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the U.S. led the world in research on rare earths, but by the 1980s funding for the chemistry, separation technology, and processing was reduced. Low-pricing from China made U.S. mining and processing uncompetitive, and the Mountain Pass mine was closed in the 1990s, only to be reopened in 2013 after China restricted supplies. Could the U.S. become self-sufficient again? Bokan Mountain, on Prince of Wales Island in southeastern Alaska, is the site of a project by Nova Scotia-based Ucore Rare Metals. The company is trying to extract dysprosium, terbium, and yttrium over the projected 11 – 15 year life of the mine. From the 1950s – 1970s, the area was the location of a uranium mine, so the contaminated soil and waste rock today mark a Superfund site.

NioCorp. is also trying to develop a mine for rare earths and niobium in Elk Creek, Nebraska. In addition to rare earths, it could be one of the world’s largest sources of niobium, a critical ingredient in high temperature alloys used in jet and rocket engines, as well as in low-temperature superconducting wire. Bear Lodge, in the northeast corner of Wyoming, is another prospective mine development. Lynas Corp. and Texas Mineral Resources Corp. are also building processing plants in the U.S. MP Materials also plans to begin domestic processing in 2022.

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They’re everywhere.

India Targets Climate Activists With the Help of Big Tech (Naomi Klein)

The bank of cameras that camped outside Delhi’s sprawling Tihar jail was the sort of media frenzy you would expect to await a prime minister caught in an embezzlement scandal, or perhaps a Bollywood star caught in the wrong bed. Instead, the cameras were waiting for Disha Ravi, a nature-loving 22-year-old vegan climate activist who against all odds has found herself ensnared in an Orwellian legal saga that includes accusations of sedition, incitement, and involvement in an international conspiracy whose elements include (but are not limited to): Indian farmers in revolt, the global pop star Rihanna, supposed plots against yoga and chai, Sikh separatism, and Greta Thunberg. If you think that sounds far-fetched, well, so did the judge who released Ravi after nine days in jail under police interrogation.

Judge Dharmender Rana was supposed to rule on whether Ravi, one of the founders of the Indian chapter of Fridays For Future, the youth climate group started by Thunberg, should continue to be denied bail. He ruled that there was no reason for bail to be denied, which cleared the way for Ravi’s return to her home in Bengaluru (also known as Bangalore) that night. But the judge also felt the need to go much further, to issue a scathing 18-page ruling on the underlying case that has gripped Indian media for weeks, issuing his own personal verdict on the various explanations provided by the Delhi police for why Ravi had been apprehended in the first place. The police’s evidence against the young climate activist is, he wrote, “scanty and sketchy,” and there is not “even an iota” of proof to support the claims of sedition, incitement, or conspiracy that have been leveled against her and at least two other young activists.

Though the international conspiracy case appears to be falling apart, Ravi’s arrest has spotlighted a different kind of collusion, this one between the increasingly oppressive and anti-democratic Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Silicon Valley companies whose tools and platforms have become the primary means for government forces to incite hatred against vulnerable minorities and critics — and for police to ensnare peaceful activists like Ravi in a high-tech digital web. The case against Ravi and her “co-conspirators” hinges entirely on routine uses of well-known digital tools: WhatsApp groups, a collectively edited Google Doc, a private Zoom meeting, and several high-profile tweets, all of which have been weaponized into key pieces of alleged evidence in a state-sponsored and media-amplified activist hunt.

At the same time, these very tools have been used in a coordinated pro-government messaging campaign to turn public sentiment against the young activists and the movement of farmers they came together to support, often in clear violation of the guardrails social media companies claim to have erected to prevent violent incitement on their platforms.

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Gates is all about money.

Why Bill Gates Is Now The US Biggest Farmland Owner (NYP)

Late last year, Eric O’Keefe was researching a mysterious recent purchase of 14,500 acres of prime Washington state farmland. His magazine, The Land Report, tracks major land transactions and produces an annual list of the 100 biggest US landowners. Sales of more than a thousand acres are “blue-moon events,” O’Keefe noted, so this one stood out. And Eastern Washington has some of the richest, most expensive farmland in the country. But the purchaser of record was a small, obscure company in Louisiana. “That immediately set off alarm bells,” O’Keefe says. He assigned his research team to dig a little deeper. Soon they came back with the answer: The Louisiana company was acting on behalf of Cascade Investment LLC, the secretive investment firm that manages most of the huge fortune belonging to Bill Gates.

O’Keefe knew Gates had been acquiring farmland for years, mostly through various Cascade subsidiaries. The mogul’s holdings include large tracts in Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, California, and about a dozen other states. With the Washington state acreage and other recent additions to his portfolio, O’Keefe calculated, Gates now owns at least 242,000 acres of American farmland. “Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, has an alter ego,” O’Keefe wrote: “Farmer Bill, the guy who owns more farmland than anyone else in America.” The Land Report scoop made headlines. Many stories focused on Gates’ longstanding interest in climate change and sustainability and suggested those concerns might be driving the land purchases. Newsweek called him a “sustainable agriculture champion.”

[..] Investment guru Michael Larson, who has worked with Gates since 1994, runs the Washington-based Cascade Investment, as well as supervising the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s nearly $50 billion endowment. “The arrangement is simple,” The Wall Street Journal wrote in a 2014 profile. “Mr. Larson makes money, and Mr. Gates gives it away.” Larson and his team are famously tight-lipped. Cascade employees almost never speak to the press. According to the Journal, they are even discouraged from using Facebook and other social-media platforms. Larson sees to it that Gates’ wealth is sensibly, even conservatively, invested.


He’s the new MacDonald: Bill Gates owns hundreds of thousands of acres across the United States — including 242,000 acres of farmland — making him the country’s top agricultural landholder, according to Eric O’Keefe’s The Land Report. NY Post graphic/Mike Guillen

According to public records, the billionaire’s portfolio includes shares in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, a Coca-Cola bottling company, and the tractor manufacturer Deere & Co., among other non-flashy investments. Larson also makes sure Gates keeps his eggs in a wide variety of baskets. His portfolio is diversified, in other words. And that’s where the land purchases come in. Most of us imagine farmers tilling the soil that has been in their families for generations. But many farmers lease at least some of the land they cultivate. According to Bruce Sherrick, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, about 60 percent of row-crop farmland in the Midwest is leased. The landowners can include investors like Gates.


For investors who know what they’re doing, agricultural land offers financial stability in uncertain times. “Farmland has had a remarkably consistent ability to hedge against inflation,” Sherrick says. And it tends to be “negatively correlated” against other investments, he adds: If the stock market is going down, the return on farmland is likely to be going up. But farmland isn’t easy to buy.

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“At bitcoin’s current value, Nakamoto’s fortune could exceed $50 billion..”

Unmasking Bitcoin Inventor May Send Cryptomarket Into Tailspin – Coinbase (RT)

The largest US cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, which is getting ready to go public, has named bitcoin’s developer, known to the world as Satoshi Nakamoto, as one of the major risks to its business.In its IPO filing sent to the Securities Exchange Commission earlier this week, Coinbase listed Nakamoto, an individual creator or a group of people thought to be behind the creation of the world’s largest cryptocurrency, as one of the recipients of the document. However, the same anonymous inventor could pose a risk to the entire “cryptoeconomy.”


According to the filing, if the identity is revealed or if Nakamoto’s bitcoins are transferred, the prices of the most valued digital coins, bitcoin and ethereum, may deteriorate. The creator, or a group of creators, are believed to hold around 1.1 million bitcoin, which account for around five percent of all bitcoins that can be ever mined. At bitcoin’s current value, Nakamoto’s fortune could exceed $50 billion, making him almost as rich as Chinese entrepreneur and the founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma. Since Nakamoto published the white paper titled ‘Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ in 2008, various theories have emerged about his identity. However, little is still known about him.

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Apr 082015
 
 April 8, 2015  Posted by at 9:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  1 Response »


Mathew Brady Three captured Confederate soldiers, Gettysburg, PA 1863

US Dot-Com Bubble Was Nothing Compared to Today’s China Prices (Bloomberg)
The Coming $10 Trillion Loss in Paper Wealth (John Hussman)
The Great American Invasion Into Europe’s Debt Market Has Begun (Bloomberg)
Fed Needs Europe’s Permission To Raise Rates (CNBC)
US Failure to Stop China Bank Unmasks Fight Over World Finance (Bloomberg)
15 Years Of Stimulus – Nothing To Show (David Stockman)
IMF Sees Low Potential Economic Growth Around World (Reuters)
Consumer Credit in U.S. Increases on Jump in Non-Revolving Debt (Bloomberg)
Scathing Assessment: “The UK Economy Is A Ticking Time Bomb” (Simon Black)
Russia Rules Out Joining The QE Gang (CNBC)
As Greece Battles a Debt Crisis, Its Banks Issue More Short-Term Debt (NY Times)
German Economy Minister Calls Greek War Reparations Request ‘Stupid’ (Guardian)
Greek Defense Minister: We Cannot Keep ISIS Out If EU Keeps Bullying Us (KTG)
What You Need To Know About Putin’s Meeting With Tsipras (RT)
Greek Cash Crunch Results In Significant Reduction Of Imports (Kathimerini)
Draghi’s Doom Loop(s): More Than Just Rentiers’ Euthanasia (Parenteau)
Got A Million? Auckland Homes Are For You (NZ Herald)
The Worst Place On Earth: A Dystopian Lake In China (BBC)

Xi and Li are moving ‘wealth’ from the housing casino to the stocks roulette.

US Dot-Com Bubble Was Nothing Compared to Today’s China Prices (Bloomberg)

The world-beating surge in Chinese technology stocks is making the heady days of the dot-com bubble look almost tame by comparison. The industry is leading gains in China’s $6.9 trillion stock market, sending valuations to an average 220 times reported profits, the most expensive level among global peers. When the Nasdaq Composite Index peaked in March 2000, technology companies in the U.S. had a mean price-to-earnings ratio of 156. Like the rise of the Internet two decades ago, China’s technology shares are being fueled by a compelling story: the ruling Communist Party is promoting the industry to wean Asia’s biggest economy from its reliance on heavy manufacturing and property development. In an echo of the late 1990s, Chinese stocks are also gaining support from lower interest rates, a boom in initial public offerings and an influx of money from novice investors.

The good news is the technology sector makes up a smaller portion of China’s equity market than it did in the U.S. 15 years ago, limiting the potential fallout from a selloff. The bad news is that any reversal in the industry will saddle individual investors with losses and risk putting an end to the Shanghai Composite Index’s rally to a seven-year high. “Chinese technology stocks do resemble the dot-com bubble,” Vincent Chan, the Hong Kong-based head of China research at Credit Suisse Group AG, Switzerland’s second-biggest bank, said in an interview on April 2. “Given stocks fell 50 to 70% when that bubble burst in 2000, these small-cap Chinese shares may face big corrections when this one deflates.”

China’s government is boosting spending on science and technology as a faltering industrial sector drags down economic growth to the weakest pace in 25 years. In March, Premier Li Keqiang outlined an “Internet Plus” plan to link web companies with manufacturers. Authorities also plan to give foreign investors access to Shenzhen’s stock market, the hub for technology firms, through an exchange link with Hong Kong. Among global technology companies with a market value of at least $1 billion, all 50 of the top performers this year are from China. The sector has the highest valuations among 10 industry groups on mainland exchanges after the CSI 300 Technology Index climbed 69% in 2015, more than three times faster than the broader measure.

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“..this is just temporarily overvalued paper masquerading as something durable”

The Coming $10 Trillion Loss in Paper Wealth (John Hussman)

Financial assets now represent over 82% of the net worth of both households and U.S. non-financial corporations (Data: Federal Reserve Z.1 Flow of Funds). Except for periods where total net worth had itself retreated (for example, 2008-2010), the concentration of private net worth on financial assets, rather than real assets or productive capital, has reached the highest extreme in history in recent years. In our view, this is just temporarily overvalued paper masquerading as something durable. The previous extreme – again, outside of periods where net worth itself had retreated – was not surprisingly in Q1 of 2000. We are rather helpless observers to this, as we were prior to the last financial crisis, and as we were prior to the technology collapse – despite the same conviction each time that the imbalances and elevated valuations would end badly.

There a strong correlation between private net worth and U.S. market capitalization. Examining the data, we find that the change in private net worth per dollar of change in U.S. market cap is actually about 1.5. That means that stocks have not only a direct impact on total private net worth, but an indirect effect, as many privately held assets such as corporate debt and junk bonds are also correlated with stock price fluctuations. At about $23 trillion in U.S. non-financial equity market capitalization, and over $100 trillion in total U.S. private net worth, a standard, run-of-the mill bear market decline in stocks on the order of 30% would likely be associated with total paper losses in the private sector on the order of $10 trillion.

Meanwhile, much has been made about “cash on the sidelines” held by corporations, where the sum of currency, bank deposits and foreign deposits of U.S. nonfinancial corporations has surged by $700 billion since 2008. What’s typically left out of this observation is that the debt of those same corporations has surged by $1.5 trillion over the same period. As my friend Albert Edwards and his colleagues have demonstrated, much of this debt issuance has been used to finance stock repurchases instead of expanding investments in productive capital. While this process may feel right in an environment of low interest rates and a belief in permanently rising stock prices, it has made corporate balance sheets much more vulnerable to debt refinancing risk down the road, particularly if earnings fall short or credit spreads rise as they have in prior cycles.

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“They’ve found, courtesy of Draghi, a new source of financing that is plenty cheap.”

The Great American Invasion Into Europe’s Debt Market Has Begun (Bloomberg)

Just when debt-addicted American companies were starting to worry that Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen was going to take their proverbial punch bowl away, along came Mario Draghi. The ECB president has made borrowing so cheap in the region that foreign corporations are selling record amounts of debt. Forget the deeper, bigger U.S. corporate-bond market. Borrowing in euros is all the rage these days because it’s about 2 percentage points less expensive to do so. About 65% of the record €60 billion of investment-grade bonds sold in March came from overseas companies, according to a March 27 Bank of America report. And a lot of those sellers are based in the U.S.

“The appeal of Europe is likely to continue throughout 2015,” Fitch Ratings analysts Michael Larsson and Monica Insoll wrote in an April 1 report. They predict non-European issuers will sell twice as much euro-denominated debt this year than they did in 2014. The trend comes down to basic math. Yields on investment-grade bonds in Europe have fallen to 0.99%, compared with 2.9% on those in the U.S., according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data. Debt is so cheap in Europe that U.S. companies are saving money even if they buy currency hedges that have gotten expensive as the dollar’s soared versus the euro, according to Fitch.

And it’s not just top-rated companies. Speculative-grade borrowers including Huntsman and IMS Health have also headed to Europe to raise cash, according to Fitch. “Riskier credits also achieve a larger discount than stronger names, and this is likely to boost the U.S. high-yield footprint in Europe,” the Fitch analysts wrote. Stimulus-driven “search for yield is pushing European investors into embracing a wider range of credits.” Yields of 4.3% on euro-denominated high-yield bonds are about 2.2 percentage points lower than those on dollar-denominated notes, Bank of America Merrill Lynch data show. So even if the Fed does hike interest rates this year, it may not matter too much to U.S. corporate borrowers. They’ve found, courtesy of Draghi, a new source of financing that is plenty cheap.

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“Are we asking the permission of the Europeans for our central bank policies? I’m not sure, but the market’s saying [we are].”

Fed Needs Europe’s Permission To Raise Rates (CNBC)

The market is sending signals that the Federal Reserve may not make much headway raising interest rates during the next two years—even if central bankers are intent on doing so, Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. market strategist at RBC, said on Tuesday. The Fed will not be able to raise its federal funds rate above 1.5% by the end of 2017, Golub said. If it tries to do so, the dollar will start to rise, putting pressure on the economy and causing the central bank to retreat. “I would love to see the Fed be able to move toward 2%, but with free money in Europe, it’s very hard for them to get tighter,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “Are we asking the permission of the Europeans for our central bank policies? I’m not sure, but the market’s saying [we are].”

The Fed faces the challenge of raising rates at a time when European central bankers are suppressing rates by purchasing large amounts of bonds. That monetary policy disparity is expected to send investors flocking to U.S. bonds for higher yields, which would drive up the value of the dollar. The greenback has already run up too far, too fast, Golub said, and while he believes the United States remains strong compared with other economies, no country can weather a 20% move in its currency in eight months without experiencing disruptions. That said, Golub views the lower-for-longer rate policy as bullish for stocks. With investors looking for returns outside the bond market, he sees U.S. equities, excluding the energy sector, returning 12 to 14% in 2015.

“If you look at the average year that you don’t have a recession, the market’s up 18%,” he said. “As long as recessionary risk is away, there’s no reason you won’t get double-digit price returns on the market. People are way too bearish.” Mark Grant, managing director at Southwest Securities, said it would be a “huge mistake” for the Fed to raise interest rates, noting that $5 trillion of bonds around the world have negative interest rates and more than 20 central banks have lowered rates in the last six months. The dollar has been “ravaged” by the European Central Bank’s stimulus program, he added. “For us to raise interest rates in this kind of environment would just be really the wrong, wrong thing,” he said. While the U.S. unemployment rate stands at 5.5% and companies are beginning to raise wages, Europe is essentially exporting deflation, Grant said. Lower oil prices are adding to the deflationary pressures, he said.

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“..it’s a real snubbing..”

US Failure to Stop China Bank Unmasks Fight Over World Finance (Bloomberg)

The Obama administration’s vain attempt to prevent allies from joining China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is feeding a growing perception that U.S. influence in Asia is declining and America is losing its 70-year grip on global economic institutions. “This past month may be remembered as the moment the United States lost its role as the underwriter of the global economic system,” former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers wrote in an April 5 column in which he also blamed Congress for domestic politicking that has rendered the U.S. “increasingly dysfunctional.” The administration’s campaign against China’s new investment bank stands in contrast to its push for greater regional leadership to battle Islamic extremists, remedy climate change and address other global issues.

And while administration officials argue that domestic economic realities limit America’s ability to police the world, they’re trying to resist the reality of China’s growing economic clout, said a U.S. official who requested anonymity to speak frankly. The U.S. “knows only too well that China is rising and that it wants to reshape the global order, and it is trying to prevent this from happening.” said Tom Miller at Gavekal Dragonomics. That’s leaving the U.S. increasingly isolated. Although the administration has refused to join the $100 billion AIIB and urged others to follow suit, allies such as Australia, the U.K., South Korea, Germany and France are among the more than 40 countries that have joined the new bank, which will fund infrastructure in Asia and be fully established by year’s end.

The U.K. decided that “seeking to ensure that governance is robust from the inside is the best way forward” with the AIIB, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters in Washington March 27. The U.S. has argued that the new bank would lack the lending standards of the World Bank. Despite its chilly relations with China, Japan hasn’t ruled out joining, and Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Tuesday in Tokyo that he’ll meet his Chinese counterpart, Lou Jiwei, in Beijing in June. “The most damaging part of this at the moment is the reaction of the allies; it’s a real snubbing,” said Mathew Burrows, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who’s now director of the Strategic Foresight Initiative at the Atlantic Council. “I think we fumbled badly, but I’m not convinced that there was any way to get the Chinese to back down on this institution.”

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Well, not for the people, that is. But what if that was never the intention?

15 Years Of Stimulus – Nothing To Show (David Stockman)

At some point 15 years ought to count for something. After all, it does amount to one-seventh of a century. And during that span we have encompassed several business cycles, two financial crises/meltdowns and nearly a non-stop blitz of “extraordinary” policy interventions. To wit, a $700 billion TARP, an $800 billion fiscal stimulus, upwards of $4.0 trillion of money printing and 165 months out of 180 months in which interests rates were being cut or held at rock bottom levels.

You’d think with all that help from Washington that American capitalism would be booming with prosperity. No it’s not. On the measures which count when it comes to sustainable growth and real wealth creation, the trends are slipping backwards—– not leaping higher.

So here’s the tally after another “Jobs Friday”. The number of breadwinner jobs in the US economy is still 2 million below where it was when Bill Clinton still had his hands on matters in the Oval Office. Since then we have had two Presidents boasting about how many millions of jobs the have created and three Fed chairman taking bows for deftly guiding the US economy toward the nirvana of “full employment”.

Say what?

When you look under the hood its actually worse. These “breadwinner jobs” are important because its the only sector of the payroll employment report where jobs generate enough annual wage income—about $50k—- to actually support a family without public assistance.

Moreover, within the 70 million breadwinner jobs category, the highest paying jobs which add the most to national productivity and growth——goods production—-have slipped backwards even more dramatically. As shown below, there were actually 21% fewer jobs in manufacturing, construction and mining/energy production reported last Friday than existed in early 2000.

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“..the problem of the zero lower bound if adverse growth shocks materialize..” Huh?

IMF Sees Low Potential Economic Growth Around World (Reuters)

The world’s growth potential took a big hit after the 2007-2009 financial crisis and is likely to lag for years, implying that interest rates should likely stay low for quite a while, the International Monetary Fund said in a study on Tuesday. Potential growth, which gauges how fast economies can grow over time without hitting inflationary speed bumps, already was slowing in richer economies before the financial crisis due to aging populations and a drop in technological innovation. But declines in private investment and employment growth cut annual potential growth in these countries to 1.3% between 2008 and 2014, half a percentage point lower than before the crisis, according to the IMF study.

The study, part of the Fund’s twice-yearly World Economic Outlook, could frame the discussions over how to boost growth when the world’s economic policymakers gather in Washington next week for the IMF and World Bank’s spring meetings. Over the next five years, advanced economies’ annual growth potential should increase to 1.6%, still below pre-crisis growth rates, making it more difficult to cut high public and private debt, the IMF said. With interest rates low, “monetary policy in advanced economies may again be confronted with the problem of the zero lower bound if adverse growth shocks materialize,” the IMF said.

It also said weak demand in the euro zone and Japan could prompt even lower potential growth than forecast. The study comes ahead of the Fund’s global economic forecasts next week. In emerging markets, potential annual growth fell to 6.5% from 2008 to 2014, about 2 percentage points lower than before the crisis, and is expected to fall further to 5.2% over the next five years as populations age, structural constraints curb capital growth, and productivity slows. A projected drop in growth potential for China, the world’s second largest economy, could be even deeper as it transitions away from an investment-led economy to a consumption-based one, the IMF said.

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Student debt and subprime auto. What a swell recovery this is.

Consumer Credit in U.S. Increases on Jump in Non-Revolving Debt (Bloomberg)

Consumer borrowing in the U.S. increased in February as the value of non-revolving debt climbed by the most since July 2011. The $15.5 billion advance in household credit followed a $10.8 billion gain in January that was smaller than initially reported, Federal Reserve figures showed Tuesday in Washington. A surge in non-revolving loans such as those for automobile purchases and education more than offset the biggest drop in revolving credit since November 2010. Consumers burned by mounting debt during the recession will need to see economic improvement in the way of wage gains and job growth to feel more comfortable boosting their borrowing. While households have been willing to take out loans for education and vehicles, they’ve remained reluctant to break out the plastic for other spending.

The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a $12.5 billion February gain. Estimates of the 31 economists ranged from increases of $5.5 billion to $16 billion. The report doesn’t track debt secured by real estate, such as mortgages and home equity lines of credit. Revolving debt, which includes credit-card spending, decreased by $3.7 billion in February after a $1 billion decline the month before, the figures showed. Non-revolving credit, such as that for college tuition and the purchase of vehicles and mobile homes, increased by $19.2 billion after January’s $11.8 billion gain. Lending to consumers by the federal government, mainly for student loans, rose by $6.4 billion before adjusting for seasonal variations after surging $27.9 billion in January.

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“Or we could blame the voters who punish at the ballot box any party that tells them anything other than good news..”

Scathing Assessment: “The UK Economy Is A Ticking Time Bomb” (Simon Black)

Despite being an otherwise staid, traditional news service, the professional banking division of the Financial Times recently released an utterly scathing assessment of the British economy. It was entitled, “The UK economy is a ticking time bomb,” and the editor didn’t pull any punches in completely shattering the conventional fantasy that ‘all is well’, and that advanced economies can simply print and indebt their way to prosperity.

“What is the problem? Quite simply, the key numbers are terrible. According to the OECD, after five years of ‘austerity’ the UK’s budget deficit is 5.3%, down from 11.2% in 2009. “In other words, it has gone from being close to meltdown to a situation that is merely dreadful. “Since the government is spending more than it earns, it is hardly surprising that it is borrowing more, and that the debt-to-GDP has risen from 68.95% in 2009 to 93.30% in 2013, again according to OECD figures.

“As the UK is currently growing it should really be running a budget surplus, providing it with the means to run deficit financing during the next downturn. “This is one of the tenets of the Keynesian philosophy that underpins a lot of left-of-centre economic thinking. “Unfortunately Europe’s political parties of all persuasions have bastardised Keynes’ ideas – running deficits in both good and bad times – so as to render them almost meaningless.

“To make matters worse the UK, again similar to most advanced economies, is an ageing society with pension, welfare and healthcare systems that are wrongly structured and financially unsustainable.” “We can blame the politicians for failing to be honest with the electorate about the challenges ahead. “Or we could blame the voters who punish at the ballot box any party that tells them anything other than good news and wants to hear that taxes can be cut, spending raised and the budget balanced all at the same time.”

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“The banking sector maintains a substantial capital buffer and the banking sector is able to counter serious shocks even if crisis phenomena deepen.”

Russia Rules Out Joining The QE Gang (CNBC)

The Russian central bank has ruled out joining its global counterparts with a massive bond-buying despite the country sliding into a recession this year. Speaking at a banking conference in Moscow, Russian Central Bank Chair Elvira Nabiullina said that a QE package wouldn’t be applicable for the country and would increase inflation and heighten capital outflows, according to the Dow Jones news agency. The country is due to post negative GDP growth of around 4% in the coming year. Russia has been hit hard by the dramatic fall in oil prices and international economic sanctions following its intervention last year in Ukraine. The Russian ruble has experienced a major selloff due to the economic concerns and was one of the worst-performing currencies of 2014 despite emergency measures by the country’s central bank.

The bank has produced several rate cuts this year and has also performed market interventions by selling its U.S. dollar reserves in the hope of boosting the price of the ruble against the greenback. Nabiullina said Tuesday that she expected a rapid decline in inflation for Russia, if there are no unforeseen shocks, after a weak ruble caused consumer price growth to soar to around 16% in recent months. She also said that the banking sector was strong enough to weather financial difficulties, according to Reuters, and said the bank was ready to continue cutting interest rates as inflation rates fell. “On the whole, we judge the situation in the banking sector as stable,” she said, according to the news agency. “The banking sector maintains a substantial capital buffer and the banking sector is able to counter serious shocks even if crisis phenomena deepen.”

The ruble has actually appreciated this year against the greenback and was higher for the session after Nabiullina’s remarks, close to a 2105 high. Higher oil prices have been seen as the main driver for Russian assets, which have staged a small rebound in recent weeks. Russia’s five-year credit default swaps – the price it costs to insure its debt over a 5-year period – have fallen to multi-month lows in recent sessions and Sberbank – one of its biggest lenders – has recently posted better-than-expected results.

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“..there appears to be no restriction on the banks using these bonds to tap credit from their own central banks..”

As Greece Battles a Debt Crisis, Its Banks Issue More Short-Term Debt (NY Times)

A strange thing is happening as Greece struggles to avert bankruptcy: Its troubled banks are loading up on more debt. These short-term bonds, which have been issued by the country’s largest banks and carry the guarantee of the Greek government, are not being sold to foreign investors. They are being issued to the only entity that would dare buy them: themselves. In the last four months, some of Greece’s largest banks, including Piraeus, Alpha and Eurobank — have self-issued more than €13 billion euros’ worth of these government-guaranteed bonds. Wounded by vanishing deposits and bad loans, Greek bank bonds are about as toxic an investment as can be found. The banks are on life support via an emergency lending program overseen by the ECB, via which they have access to short-term loans from their own central bank.

But to secure this credit line, about €71 billion (more than half the deposits outstanding in Greece), these banks need to provide collateral to the Greek central bank. As was the case in Cyprus during its banking crisis, when a financial system implodes, finding acceptable collateral to swap for desperately needed loans can be difficult. The solution has been for the banks to manufacture and issue billions of euros of short-term bonds, which — because they carry the guarantee of the Greek government — can be used as collateral to secure much-needed cash from the ECB. As long as the bank’s problem is access to short-term funds and not solvency, such machinations can work. In the last year or so, Greek banks have issued more than €50 billion worth of these securities at artificially high interest rates (the higher the rate, the more valuable the collateral becomes in securing loans).

But the strategy has been controversial, and it was criticized by none other than Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, who a year ago described the practice as a “hidden bailout from European taxpayers.” Mr. Varoufakis, then a relatively unknown economist, argued that the loans were a potent risk for Greece, which would have to assume responsibility for them if the banks failed. The practice has also been flagged by two German economists as a questionable way for troubled eurozone economies to extract funding from the central bank. Uncomfortable with the amounts of bonds being issued, the ECB said that, as of March, it would no longer accept such paper. But there appears to be no restriction on the banks using these bonds to tap credit from their own central banks, and they have done so. The most recent case occurred Tuesday, when Piraeus, Greece’s largest bank, issued a €4.5 billion note at 6%, which matures in July.

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The Germans will pay the price for using words like that. At least their opposition gets it: ‘It’s disgraceful’.

German Economy Minister Calls Greek War Reparations Request ‘Stupid’ (Guardian)

Germany’s economy minister has branded Greece’s demand for €278.7bn in WWII reparations as “stupid”, but the German opposition said Berlin should repay a forced loan dating from the Nazi occupation. The Greek deputy finance minister, Dimitris Mardas, made the demand on Monday, seizing on an emotional issue in a country where many blame Germany, their biggest creditor, for the tough austerity measures and record high unemployment that accompanied two international bailouts totalling €240bn. Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s minister for economic affairs and vice chancellor, said Greece ultimately had an interest in squeezing a bit of leeway out of its eurozone partners to help Athens overcome its debt crisis.

“And this leeway has absolutely nothing to do with world war two or reparation payments,” said Gabriel, who leads the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior partner in the ruling coalition with chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives. Berlin is keen to draw a line under the reparations issue and officials have previously argued Germany has honoured its obligations, including a 115-million deutschmark payment made to Greece in 1960. A spokeswoman for the finance ministry said on Tuesday that the government’s position was unchanged. Eckhardt Rehberg, a budget expert for the conservatives, accused Athens of deliberately mixing the debt crisis and reform requirements imposed by Greece’s international creditors with the issue of reparations and compensation.

“For me the figure of €278.7bn of supposed war debts is neither comprehensible nor sound,” he told Reuters. “The issue of reparations has, for us, been dealt with both from a political and a legal perspective.” But Greece’s demand for Germany to repay a forced wartime loan amounting to €10.3bn found support from the German opposition, with members of the Greens and the far-left Linke party saying Berlin should pay. Manuel Sarrazin, a European policy expert for the Greens, and Annette Groth, a member of the leftist Linke party and chairman of a German-Greek parliamentary group, told Reuters that Berlin should repay a so-called occupation loan that Nazi Germany forced the Bank of Greece to make in 1942.

Berlin and Athens should “jointly and amicably” take any other claims to the International Court of Justice, Sarrazin said. Groth went further, saying: “If you look at Greece’s debt and the ECB’s bond purchases every month, it puts the figure of €278.7bn into perspective.” She said the German government should, at the very least, talk to Athens about how it came up with that figure. “The German government’s categorical Nein certainly cannot be allowed to stand. That’s disgraceful, 70 years after the end of the war,” Groth said.

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Not what he says. He’s talking about if Greece is thrown out.

Greek Defense Minister: We Cannot Keep ISIS Out If EU Keeps Bullying Us (KTG)

For a second time within a couple of weeks, Greek Defense Minister and leader of coalition government junior partner Independent Greeks, Panos Kammenos, warned that if the European Union keeps undermining the coalition government and the country exits or is forced to exit the Euro, “waves of migrants: will stream from Turkey to Europe and among them there would be ISIS “radicals.” Speaking to THE TIMES, Kammenos said:

“The gross meddling into [Greek] domestic affairs isn’t just unheard for European standards, it’s unethical and it’s dangerous. If Greece goes, then a lot more than financial stability and the euro is at stake.” “If Greece is expelled or forced out of the eurozone, waves of immigrants without papers, including radical elements, will stream from Turkey and head towards the heart of the West,” Kammenos told The Times.

German government coalition partners, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and “European anonymous sources” have repeatedly and even blatantly expressed the wish that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gets rid of nationalist Kammenos and make a coalition with austerity-friendly To Potami and/or even PASOK. Panos Kammenos described these statements and efforts as “bullying” committed by Brussels and Berlin in order to force Greece into “a full and complete economic surrender.” “Europe must realize that maintaining Greece stable, the West front against the Islamic State (ISIS) is safe. But if expelled or forced out of the eurozone, waves of immigrants without papers, including radical elements will stream from Turkey, heading towards the heart of the West. If these waves of immigrants increase, then the threat of incoming extremist elements will grow not for Greece but for the whole of the West.“

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“Wait, does Russia have the money for this? Yes and No.”

What You Need To Know About Putin’s Meeting With Tsipras (RT)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. Greece could ask Moscow to bankroll a bailout, Gazprom could agree to a gas discount, or the two sides could talk about how to sidestep EU sanctions. The new 40-year-old leader of one of the world’s most indebted countries with meet with Putin on Wednesday, just one day before the country is due to repay €463.1 million to the IMF. The Greek Prime Minister arrives in Moscow on Tuesday. Is Russia going to bail out Greece? Rumors have been abuzz that Athens and Moscow are plotting a secret bailout ever since the idea was first floated by Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov days after the Syriza party won the elections in January. Russian daily Kommersant reported that Moscow is ready to offer indirect financial help, citing an unnamed government source.

“We are ready to consider the issue of allowing Greece a gas discount: under the contract, the gas price is linked to the oil price that has gone significantly lower in recent months,” as Kommersant cites a Russian government source. “We are also ready to discuss the possibility of allowing Greece new loans. But in turn we are interested here in reciprocal moves, in particular in terms of Russia getting certain assets from Greece,” the source added, without specifying the sort of assets he was talking about. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said that his country “will never ask for financial assistance from Moscow,” in an interview with Zeit online in early February. Wait, does Russia have the money for this? Yes and No.

Government officials have hinted that Russia’s help, if provided, would be indirect. Most economists around the world are more positive about the Russian economy, but everybody agrees it will contract this year between 4 and 3%. Most recently S&P improved its economic outlook for Russia, saying it’ll return to growth in 2016 and add 1.9%. In the first quarter of 2015, the economy expanded 0.4%, and the Russian ruble, which lost nearly 50% in 2014, is now the best performing currency of the year. Though Russia ‘s economy isn’t as strong as it was two years ago, and growth is near zero, it still has a lot saved up for a rainy day – $356 billion in currency reserves as of April and over $150 billion split between the country’s oil reserve funds, the National Reserve Fund and National Welfare Fund. If the Russian economy goes nose first into a recession, these funds are expected to keep the financial situation stable for 2-3 years.

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14.6% YoY.

Greek Cash Crunch Results In Significant Reduction Of Imports (Kathimerini)

Imports posted a decline for a second consecutive month in February, sliding 14.6% compared to the same month in 2014. When fuel products are excluded, the yearly decline amounts to 6.7%, according to data released on Tuesday by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). The reason for the drop does not point to any increase in the economy’s self-sufficiency. Rather, as exporters announced on Tuesday, it is mainly due to the lack of liquidity available to Greek enterprises and the pressure on them from foreign suppliers. A key component in this drop is the remarkable decrease in fuel product imports, which is connected to the decline in production activity and the return to economic contraction after a year of relative growth in 2014. There was also a fall in ship imports.

ELSTAT announced that the total value of imports in February amounted to €3.44 billion, against €4.04 billion in February 2014. Imports had contracted by 16% year-on-year in January, reaching €2.14 billion against €3.74 billion a year earlier. Therefore, in the first couple of months of the year there was a total contraction of 15.3% in revenues, or 11% excluding fuel products. Notably, the biggest drop concerned imports from third countries and not from the European Union. Third-country imports declined 31.2%, while imports from within the EU fell by just 6.7%. This suggests that EU imports could constitute a safety cushion for Greece.

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“Draghi may have signed a mutually assisted suicide pact with finanzkapital in the eurozone.”

Draghi’s Doom Loop(s): More Than Just Rentiers’ Euthanasia (Parenteau)

The recently adopted QE approach by the ECB, in concert with the negative deposit policy rate (NDPR) introduced last summer, has set off a number of nested disequilibrium dynamics that may unwittingly introduce a material increase in systemic risk for the eurozone, and perhaps beyond. Lord Keynes anticipated what he termed ”euthanasia of the rentiers”, as he expected active monetary policy would be successful in reducing long-term interest rates, and the share of the population living off of bond coupons would eventually just wither away. By way of contrast, if the following assessment is correct, Draghi may have signed a mutually assisted suicide pact with finanzkapital in the eurozone.

The logistics of implementing QE (including questions about adequate bond supply for the ECB to purchase, as well as the related market “liquidity” concerns), or whether or not QE represents what Lord Turner refers to as “open monetary financing”, are not the real problem, or at least not the most compelling ones. Rather, the implementation of QE with a large and increasing share of the bond market displaying negative yields to maturity (NYTM) presents a number of serious challenges to financial stability in the eurozone. To cut to the chase, the ECB’s QE and NDRP measures may be setting investors up for a discontinuous price event, much like what was experienced in the equity market meltdown back in October 1987.

Even if a disruptive yield spike is avoided, or even contained and reversed by ECB heroics, pursuing QE under NYTM market conditions may lead to a significant dampening down of bank and insurance company profitability. In the extreme, the solvency of key eurozone financial institutions could once again come under question. This could further complicate the ECB’s chances of achieving their 2% inflation goal, as it may dampen the bank lending channel as a key transmission mechanism for unconventional monetary policy. The entire set up, in other words, begins to take on many of the characteristics of Andrew Haldane’s Doom Loops. In this case, however, the ECB may unintentionally be setting off nested Doom Loops that will feed on each other, and thereby magnify systemic risks quicker than investors and policy makers might otherwise imagine possible.

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It gets crazier by the day.

Got A Million? Auckland Homes Are For You (NZ Herald)

One in four houses sold by Auckland’s biggest real estate agency last month fetched more than $1 million. According to Barfoot & Thompson, which released the record-breaking sales figures yesterday, 420 of the 1597 houses sold cost buyers seven figures. At the same time, sales prices increased almost 4% since February, taking the average price of a residence in Auckland to an all-time high of $776,729. The cost is 9% higher than the median for March last year and $17,000 higher than the previous record average price set in December. It indicates the city’s housing market is showing no signs of letting up, as first-home buyers scramble to get on the property ladder.

Barfoot & Thompson managing director Peter Thompson said March was always the most active month for property sales, but last month set a string of new highs. In one fortnight alone, the company sold more than 400 properties each week, the highest two weeks’ trading in its 92-year history. Only March 2003 had bigger sales, when 476 residences sold in seven days. Last week, agents sold a two-bedroom house in Sussex St in Grey Lynn for $1.5 million – 39% above its council valuation. “Buyers remain convinced that with a stable economy, low interest rates and restricted housing availability, buying at current prices is manageable,” said Mr Thompson.

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Makes your phone work.

The Worst Place On Earth: A Dystopian Lake In China (BBC)

From where I’m standing, the city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and chimneys reaching up into grey, washed-out sky. Between it and me, stretching into the distance, lies an artificial lake filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge. Dozens of pipes line the shore, churning out a torrent of thick, black, chemical waste from the refineries that surround the lake. The smell of sulphur and the roar of the pipes invades my senses. It feels like hell on Earth. Welcome to Baotou, the largest industrial city in Inner Mongolia. I’m here with a group of architects and designers called the Unknown Fields Division, and this is the final stop on a three-week-long journey up the global supply chain, tracing back the route consumer goods take from China to our shops and homes, via container ships and factories.

You may not have heard of Baotou, but the mines and factories here help to keep our modern lives ticking. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals. These elements can be found in everything from magnets in wind turbines and electric car motors, to the electronic guts of smartphones and flatscreen TVs. In 2009 China produced 95% of the world’s supply of these elements, and it’s estimated that the Bayan Obo mines just north of Baotou contain 70% of the world’s reserves. But, as we would discover, at what cost? Rare earth minerals have played a key role in the transformation and explosive growth of China’s world-beating economy over the last few decades. It’s clear from visiting Baotou that it’s had a huge, transformative impact on the city too. As the centre of this 21st Century gold-rush, Baotou feels very much like a frontier town.

In 1950, before rare earth mining started in earnest, the city had a population of 97,000. Today, the population is more than two-and-a-half million. There is only one reason for this huge influx of people – minerals. As a result Baotou often feels stuck somewhere between a brave new world of opportunity presented by the global capitalism that depends on it, and the fading memories of Communism that still line its Soviet era boulevards. Billboards for expensive American brands stand next to revolution-era propaganda murals, as the disinterested faces of Western supermodels gaze down on statues of Chairman Mao. At night, multicoloured lights, glass-dyed by rare earth elements, line the larger roads, turning the city into a scene from the movie Tron, while the smaller side streets are filled with drunk, vomiting refinery workers that spill from bars and barbecue joints.

Even before getting to the toxic lake, the environmental impact the rare earth industry has had on the city is painfully clear. At times it’s impossible to tell where the vast structure of the Baogang refineries complex ends and the city begins. Massive pipes erupt from the ground and run along roadways and sidewalks, arching into the air to cross roads like bridges. The streets here are wide, built to accommodate the constant stream of huge diesel-belching coal trucks that dwarf all other traffic.

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